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Denver Broncos wide receiver Jordan Norwood (11) can’t make the catch as Carolina Panthers cornerback James Bradberry (24) defends during the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016, in Denver. AP Photo/Joe Mahoney
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The completely Undefeated NFL previews

Forget the X’s and O’s (and the Bears and the Dolphins … ) — here’s everything you need to know

Minnesota Vikings

NFC North

Last Season’s Record: 11-5

Our entire country mourned the devastating death of Prince, but a black cloud of grief continues to loom largest over the place Prince called home — Minnesota. However, as you know, every cloud does have a silver, or in this case, purple lining. My sources tell me that newly minted Angel Prince is running for the position of Vikings Guardian Angel against incumbent and Minnesota-born cartoonist Charles Schulz, creator of the Peanuts comic strip.

How else do you explain the Vikings’ 2016 season ending with a missed kick? Schulz originally authored this gag in 1951, but Vikings fans didn’t appreciate the humor. Accordingly, the Purple One is expected to win in a landslide.

Prince performs during the Pepsi Halftime Show at Super Bowl XLI between the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears on Feb. 4, 2007, at Dolphin Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Under this new guardianship, the offense will push the envelope no matter who’s the quarterback. The Schulz days of the predictable 1950s-style, run-heavy offense will be a thing of the past. The new offense will take risks and always remain a step ahead of contemporaries. Expect a Purple Reign over the NFC North this season. Game blouses.

Predicted Record: 12-4

CarolinA Panthers

NFC South

Last Season’s Record: 15-1

In front of Bank of America Stadium, a 13-foot statue of Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, flanked by two enormous panthers, was unveiled on Richardson’s 80th birthday. The statue, named “The Tribute,” was a gift to Richardson. Todd Andrews, the artist who created the sculpture, said of the panthers depicted in the statue, “one represents the offense, the other the defense.” Well, I guess that means ol’ J. Rich represents the special teams.

Hmm … That could be a problem for the Panthers this season. They will have a tenacious offense, scoring often through the air and on the ground. Their defense will be ferocious and stout. And then there is the special teams, which will not perform like actual panthers. Instead, the unit will perform like an 80-year-old human panther. Early in the season, Carolina’s special teams will be among the worst in the league due to being stricken with arthritis and unpredictable crankiness. However, toward the end of the season, the group will become an asset to the team, taking Carolina to new heights on experience, guile and old-man strength. The NFC South will still belong to Carolina, the rest of the teams in the division can get off their lawn.

Predicted Record: 13-3

New Orleans Saints

NFC South

Last Season’s Record: 7-9

The tragicomedy that has been Tom Benson’s relationship with his daughter and grandchildren has reached new lows. When asked in a deposition about how much of his $2 billion net worth he wants to leave them, he said, “Zero.” The lawyer asked him why. The 89-year-old replied, “Well, they tried to kill me, for one thing.” OK! Attempted murder! This is Shakespearean Hamlet- and Macbeth-level family drama.

The lawyer asked Benson how they tried to kill him, and Benson replied, “By picking on my wife, and when I wasn’t feel[ing] very good, they were very hostile.” Wait, what? Fortunately, Benson survived, though I would have liked to see how the coroner would describe the cause of death. “Death by indirect shade.” But, to be fair, the younger Bensons did make the beef physical when they barged into the family box during a Saints game to physically shake Benson’s third wife, the new heir to the Benson family wealth. In January 2015, the young Bensons attempted to have a court rule Benson mentally unfit and award them control over his estate. Depending on which group of facts you choose to focus on, there is reason to sympathize with either side. But the result is sad, embarrassing and dysfunctional.

Because of that example of leadership, this season the team will have similar issues of dysfunction. One of the assistant coaches will take the role of the Benson’s grandchildren and stage a coup d’état. I am not 100 percent sure who will be the coup leader. But, if I were Saints head coach Sean Peyton, I would keep my eye on tight ends coach Dan Campbell, who got a little taste of power last year when he was named the Miami Dolphins’ interim head coach for 12 games.

Predicted Record: 6-10

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC South

Last Season’s Record: 6-10

Tampa Bay Buccaneers former logo Bucco Bruce was all over Raymond James Stadium as the Buccaneers wore throwback jerseys during the game against the Green Bay Packers on Nov. 8, 2009, in Tampa, Florida.

J. Meric/Getty Images

Despite having won a Super Bowl more recently than the Oakland Raiders, the other pirates by the bay, the Buccaneers will always look up to the Raiders. Born in 1976, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were believed to have been conceived during a drunken one-night stand between the Raiders and the New England Patriots. Sources tell me the Raiders made no attempt to connect with the Bucs and left the Pats alone to single-parent. In 1982, the Raiders moved to Los Angeles to avoid paying child support. Desperate for a father’s love, the Bucs spent their youth dressing in flamboyant colors and winking lecherously at the rest of the NFL.

In a Hail Mary attempt to get their father’s attention, the Bucs pulled some Raider-esque moves. First, they unexpectedly fired the head coach. Then, the Bucs mimicked the Raiders 2000 draft by selecting a Florida State kicker earlier than anyone expected. Many view the Tampa Bay’s drafting of Roberto Aguayo in the second round to be a miscue, but given the success of Oakland’s 2000 first-round selection of Sebastion Janikowski, the Bucs can expect a fruitful season. Thanks, dad!

Predicted Record: 8-8

Black Brown Panthers

AFC North

Last Season’s Record: 3-13

Before their first season in 1945, they needed a name. It was decided they would be the Cleveland Panthers until owner Mickey McBride learned that name was used by a professional football team in a league that only lasted one year. Instead, the team was named after Paul Brown, its first head coach.

Brown coached his last game for the Browns in 1962. Since then, the moniker hasn’t really fit, until now. No, the coach is not Paul Brown, but he is brown. And so is almost everyone else. The Browns have filled almost all of the leadership positions with brown people. The quarterback, head coach, general manager, offensive and defensive coordinators are all black. This is the brownest Browns we have ever seen, but don’t worry, white people, the owner is still white. Given all this blackness, you can expect the Browns to be amongst the highest penalized teams in the league. No, it’s not because they are more prone to commit more infractions. They will break the rules at the same rate as other teams. But for some reason the “Browns” will receive harsher penalties for the same infractions. For some reason, the “Browns” will be pushed back seven yards for a false start rather than five yards.

But despite the inherent disadvantages, the Browns will find a way to persevere. Still I rise. I have a dream. By any means necessary. I may not get there with you … Wait, what were we talking about? Oh, yeah, a football team. They’ll be better. Stay woke, Hue “Huey P. Newton” Jackson.

Predicted Record: 9-7

Tennessee Titans

AFC South

Last Season’s Record: 3-13

Last season, talented running back Demarco Murray languished in Philadelphia. His stats plummeted and he and head coach Chip Kelly were at odds the entire season. My guess is that the miserable Murray spent a lot of last season singing the hook to an early ’90s alternative hip-hop hit:

Take me to another place

Take me to another land

Make me forget all that hurts me

Let me understand your plan

The title of that song is Tennessee. Apparently, the football gods were listening, because Murray ended up in Tennessee. The gods will allow Murray to return to levels of productivity he enjoyed before his short stint in Philadelphia. But it should be noted that the group responsible for the 1992 hit is named Arrested Development. That means the Titans’ 2016 season will be almost identical to the 2015 season. However, despite being looked down upon by the rest of the AFC South, they will remain proud like “Mr. Wendall.”

Predicted Record: 3-13

San Diego Chargers

AFC West

Last Season’s Record: 4-12

Sleeping in the guest room. After more than 50 years of marriage to San Diego, the Chargers and the city of San Diego got into an ugly argument. The argument ended with the Chargers tearfully screaming between sobs, “If you don’t show me that you love me, then I will leave!” To which San Diego replied, “Fine then, leave! Don’t nobody want your a– anyway!”

It seems the city was right. The Chargers became the odd man out in a love triangle between the Rams and the city of Los Angeles. After being rejected by L.A., the Chargers returned embarrassed. San Diego allowed the Chargers back in the house, but has relegated them to the guest room. There is no chance the Chargers can have a productive season while managing the stress of living with their ex and periodically leaving drunken voice mails for L.A., “The Rams don’t you treat right. They will never love you like I would.”

Predicted Record: 6-10

Dallas Cowboys

NFC East

Last Season’s Record: 4-12

So, the Cowboys’ 2016 fate will be determined by a young player. No, not unexpected starting quarterback Dak Prescott. Not even the team’s first-round draft pick, running back Ezekiel Elliott. The Cowboys’ 2016 campaign will not disappoint because of Popeye’s Chicken employee of the year Lucky Whitehead.

In the offseason, fried chicken aficionado Lucky Whitehead applied for a job at Popeye’s. He only wrote two words on the application “HARD WORKER!!” Mic drop. Seriously, what more does the restaurant need to know? His name, age, gender, Social Security number — none of that matters. He is a “HARD WORKER!!” with two exclamation points.

He worked one day at Popeye’s and they named him employee of the year. So apparently he is not just a hard worker, he is also a fast learner and overachiever. He is a difference-maker. His attitude will infect the team. Though working at Popeye’s is in his past, frying birds is in his future. I’m looking at you, Eagles.

Predicted Record: 11-5

Washington Redskins

NFC East

Last Season’s Record: 9-7

The Washington Whiteskins’ (come on, that would be a better name, there’s alliteration) 2016 fate rests on the outcome of the presidential election because the leader of the free world and the local team’s quarterback always have some things in common. (The bold face type makes it true.)

Rex Grossman was one of the quarterbacks during President Barack Obama’s administration. He and Barack share an easily mockable last name and careers that started in Chicago. I have yet to figure out what Obama had in common with three of the four other Washington quarterbacks to start the season since he’s been in office. Maybe you could help me. There was Jason Campbell, Donovan McNabb and Robert Griffin III.

Ummm … I’m stumped. But the theory stills stands.

Depending on the outcome of the November election, Washington fans could expect Cousins to throw a slew of interceptions due to irrational confidence or become a master of the play-action pass because he suddenly develops a talent for deception, or both. Actually, it doesn’t matter who wins. Theory still stands.

Predicted Record: 9-7

New york Giants

NFC East

Last Season’s Record: 6-10

Odell Beckham Jr. is the unquestioned best player on the team, but he has not been called on to be a leader. Now that he is headed into his third professional season, he is a vet and will be followed by many players on the team. He hasn’t been considered team leader, but he has followers nevertheless. Just take a look at hairstyles around the league and the country. Though he didn’t originate the look, he certainly popularized it. His impact on style is reminiscent of another footballer by the name of Beckham from the United Kingdom.

The European football star, David Beckham, has the world wondering what his newest tattoo means.

The meaning of the tattoo on his neck of a horse is clear to me. It means the Giants will be this year’s Broncos, duh. A Manning-led team will win the Super Bowl because of its defense. Wait! Uh oh! It looks like Beckham’s new horse tattoo has the name “Buster,” a nickname for his son, above it. The horse is a colt, not a bronco. Looks like this year’s Giants will be last year’s Colts, a team that falls short of expectations.

Predicted Record: 8-8

Philadelphia Eagles

NFC East

Last Season’s Record: 7-9

Don’t expect much from the Philadelphia Eagles this year. The Eagles, much like their Philadelphia brethren, the 76ers and rapper Meek Mill, are playing the long game. The 76ers have been purposely sucking … But one day, they won’t.

Possibly not purposely, but Meek Mill hasn’t been winning recently, either. He’s been losing his rap beef with Drake. He’s been stuck on house arrest. And Drake — the Canadian rapper who is not on house arrest, but on a North American tour — stopped through Philadelphia and mocked Meek Mill on stage in his own hometown. But Meek Mill might end up victorious. He’s still going strong with Nicki Minaj, the raptress Drake has proposed marriage to in his raps and about whose, umm, curves he sing/raps about at least three times on an album. Rumor has it that Meek Mill and Nicki Minaj are even building a nursery in their California home. So things are looking up for Robert Rihmeek: He’s planning on getting out of Philadelphia soon and will either land Nicki Minaj for a lifetime or some child support from her. Either way, he’s on the come-up.

And so might be the Eagles … But expect nonplayoff seasons, back to back.

Predicted Record: 4-12

Arizona Cardinals

NFC West

Last Season’s Record: 13-3

You would be hard-pressed to find a photo of Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians without his trademark cabby-style Kangol hat. He wears it with everything. Many people close to the team speculated that last season, the Kangol gained more influence over the team. We could see the hat’s old-school influence on the offense. Due to the hat, the Cardinals offense ignored current NFL offensive trends and in an age of short-pass offenses, the Kangol still went for big chunks.

hats

Despite a disappointing season finale in Carolina, Arians is rumored to be ceding more power to the hat. If this is true, we should expect Kangol to bring aboard cabby-hat loyalists Samuel L. Jackson and LL Cool J. Jackson and LL Cool J are not expected to serve any actual function on the team. Their function will be purely symbolic. The two men with three prominent “L’s” in their names will serve as a reminder to the team of the three regular-season losses they suffered last season, forcing them to travel to the East Coast for a conference championship game in Carolina.

Predicted Record: 14-2

San Francisco 49ers

NFC West

Last Season’s Record: 5-11

A large rock in Bernal Hill sits in a perfect location, overlooking the entire city of San Francisco. Like a mood ring for the city, the rock changes colors and messages. The Bernalwood blog has chronicled the many messages of the rock. Mostly, the rock has been festive, changing its colors and patterns to commemorate holidays and other notable occasions. In the past, the triangle-shaped rock has done its best Christmas tree imitation, a sexy Mother’s Day tribute and was purple for Prince’s death. Recently, the rock has let its political views be known. Obviously the rock is liberal, but it publicly struggled with its feelings about Democrats Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Though its opinions can fluctuate, the rock’s message has always been overt, until now. The rock has become the poop emoji. But why? Some speculate the rock is continuing with its political commentary, giving its opinion of the current presidential candidates. But, the rock is actually making its first sports prediction. If you didn’t already know, the rock is here to tell the city of San Francisco what the Chip Kelly-led 49ers will be this season.

Predicted Record: 5-11

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

NFC West

Last Season’s Record: 10-6

Last offseason, at The Rock Church in July 2015, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson recounted the conversation he had with God that led him to the path of abstinence. While pop star Ciara was on tour, Wilson was looking at her in the mirror, when God spoke to him.

God: I need you to lead her.

Wilson: Really? Right now?

God: No, I want you and need you to lead her.

(Then Wilson turned to Ciara)

Wilson: What would you do if we took all that extra stuff off the table? And just did it Jesus’ way? Can we love each other without [sex]?

Wilson hasn’t spoken about his conversations with God this offseason, but this is how I imagine they went:

God: Russ, what it do? Congrats on the wedding!

Wilson: Thank you, God. I am so grateful you told me to wait.

God: Huh?! Wait?! Oh yeah, at Ci Ci’s concert last year. I said “lead her.” I meant lead her to the stage for her performance. Not sure how you got abstinence out of “lead her.” I wanted to clear things up, but you seemed so happy.

This offseason Wilson married Ciara, who shares a son with rapper Future. And through Snapchat, they let us know that the self-imposed draught has ended. Now that Wilson has finally slayed the ghost of Future’s past, I expect a calmer and more confident Wilson. Granted, Wilson’s marital bliss will reduce his rushing numbers this season. But it will afford him the opportunity to rest that right arm.

Predicted Record: 11-5

Los Angeles Rams

NFC West

Last Season’s Record: 7-9

After decades of batting her eyelashes at any NFL franchise unhappy with its current municipal partner, the city of Los Angeles was finally looking to settle down with the right team. But the question was, which one? L.A., the NFL’s 2015 Bachelorette, narrowed the choices to a final three: Chargers, Raiders and Rams.

L.A., very sexy, but not the persuasive as New York, could not sell the teams on the virtues of polyamory. So in the end, the floozy of NFL cities gave only one rose. She spurned the surfer dude Chargers and bad boy Raiders for the old fling that moved to St. Louis. As with most relationships born out of desperation and poorly remembered happiness, this season will start fast with a lot of promise, but turn out to be a failure. L.A. residents are believed to lack emotional or intellectual depth. Whether it’s fair or not, the team will also be labeled as such. They do lack roster depth and that will hold them back toward the end of a grueling season.

Predicted Record: 6-10

Domonique Foxworth is a writer at The Undefeated. He is a recovering pro athlete and superficial intellectual.