We are only a few days into 2016, but even those of us who are unable to see deep into the future can already tell that the year is going to be filled with intriguing and possibly even historic storylines. It will take a lot to match all that took place throughout 2015. Who could have possibly guessed, on January 1 of last year, that the “Deflategate” scandal and the controversy that was the Seattle Seahawks not running the football at the one-yard line would make for international headlines roughly six weeks into 2015? Those stories were just from one organization, the National Football League!
We already know that history will be made in 2016 due to the fact that National Basketball Association royalty Kobe Bryant has announced that he will retire as an active professional player following the current season. Will Bryant be joined by any other sports legends who are beloved by millions of fans? One NFL quarterback who is undeniably in the twilight of his career may have to see the writing on the wall and realize that his playing days are, in fact, over come February. Then again, that man may be able to ride off into the sunset with the Lombardi Trophy in his hand.
20. The WWE Will Monopolize the Pro Wrestling World
Sports entertainment deserves a mention in this piece if only because the industry has had relationships with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the NFL and other competitions. World Wrestling Entertainment unofficially announced its intentions for 2016 when the company “raided” the New Japan Pro Wrestling roster in 2016. As WWE continues to build off of the popularity of the NXT brand, the company is going to need more true talent than ever before. By the end of 2016, the pro wrestling world will be underneath the control of the “Man in the High Castle” of the business. Vince McMahon will rule every significant wrestling entity.
19. Arsenal Will Win the Premier League
This is not a prediction based on Arsenal having such an impressive squad as much as it is a comment on how lackluster the Premier League has been during the current campaign. Leicester City is a great story, but goal difference, if nothing else, could come back to bite them. Manchester City are not the power that they have been in recent memory. Tottenham Hotspur are, well, Tottenham and will thus experience a fall-off once spring arrives. That leaves the Gunners, so long as Arsenal do not suffer a Tottenham-esque collapse. Arsene Wenger silences critics and leaves with his head held high and with a Premier League title.
18. Andrew Luck Will Land a Historic Contract
Andrew Luck was banged up throughout the 2016 NFL season. Do not for a second think, though, that the Indianapolis Colts are not going to secure Luck’s services for the foreseeable future. Luck is, when healthy and playing behind a respectable offensive line that is not hanging him out to dry, the best young quarterback the NFL has had in some time. Unless he suffers a career-changing setback between the publishing of this piece and the beginning of summer, the Colts will have to give Luck what is due to him: A contract worth more than one given to any other player before him.
17. New York Mets Will Not Make the Playoffs
2015 was a memorable year for fans of the New York Mets, as they watched their club get hot at the perfect time and win the National League East. New York then eliminated the Los Angeles Dodgers before sweeping the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series. The Mets came up short in the World Series, and the club followed that up by doing little of note during the offseason despite the fact that the Mets could have one of the best rotations in the NL. New York will pay for not spending, fans will cry out “same old Mets,” and all will be left to wonder why the Mets squandered such a golden chance to be great.
16. There Will Be No Triple Crown Winner
There were, in the final month of 2015, some out there predicting that Nyquist will flirt with completing the Triple Crown of horse racing in 2016. Nyquist may be the next great horse to emerge on the scene, but everybody needs to take a step back and remember how difficult it is for a horse to accomplish this feat. American Pharoah made it look easy, yes, but Pharoah is, to date, unlike any other horse of his time. It may not take 30 years for a different horse to go three-for-three in a year, but those looking at Nyquist to match Pharoah in 2016 are asking a lot.
15. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots Will Win Everything
If there is one thing that Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have shown over the past 16 years, it is that karma is not really a thing in professional sports. It does not matter what allegations are made against Brady and/or against the Patriots. They are still going to win, and that trend will probably continue in 2016. Look for Brady to lead New England to another Super Bowl victory before the all-time great quarterback once and for all notches a closing victory in the “Deflategate” matter. Congratulations go out to Brady for continuing his awesome life.
14. Stanley Cup Television Ratings Will Be Shockingly Low
We are not suggesting that those running the National Hockey League will be in a panic following the Stanley Cup Final. There could, however, be a perfect storm brewing that leads to casual fans choosing to not watch the last series of the 2015-16 playoffs. Not only is the NHL lacking in legitimate star power when compared with the NBA (the NHL needs its own Steph Curry and fast). The hottest team in the NHL at the start of 2016 was the Florida Panthers! Just imagine what would happen if Florida and the Dallas Stars battled it out during the spring. On second thought, don’t. Yikes.
13. Katie Ledecky Will Become a Household Name
Those of you out there who ignore what are known as “Olympic sports” except for one month every four years may not recognize the name of Katie Ledecky. You’ll know who she is before 2016 comes to a close. Ledecky is already a legend of the pool even though she will be just 19 years old during the upcoming Olympics, a world champion and world record-holding swimmer in multiple events. She has been so dominant, in fact, that it is a bland prediction to just suggest that Ledecky will win every event in which she competes. Ledecky will have an Olympics for the ages in 2016, winning more medals and setting more records than any other American.
12. Cristiano Ronaldo Will Announce His Future Move to MLS
Anybody who has been following the rumor trail is probably aware that Cristiano Ronaldo was linked with a potential move to Major League Soccer starting all the way back in the summer of 2012. Ronaldo was, at that time, emerging as the best overall player in the world. The Real Madrid star will turn 31 years old in February 2016, and Father Time will begin catching up with him and impacting his skills. David Beckham knew when it was best for business to join the North American top-flight, and Beckham is set to be in charge of an expansion MLS side. Ronaldo may not be playing in MLS this year, but he could announce his intentions to sign for Beckham FC in 2016.
11. Kobe Bryant Will Take 50 Shots in His NBA Finale
Let’s be honest. The Los Angeles Lakers will not be competing for an NBA Championship by the time that Kobe Bryant suits up to play the final game of his career. What other reason will there be for any fan to watch that contest other than to watch Bryant launch shot after shot after shot? We have, in the past, seen Bryant throw up 40+ attempts in a game. That is nothing compared to the goal that he should have in his career finale. Let them fly early and often, Kobe. You’ve earned it, and it really won’t matter all that much if those shots go in or if you build a condo via bricks on that night.
10. Johnny Manziel Will Start an NFL Game
Assuming that the partying ways of Johnny Manziel will continue but also that Manziel will remain free of any legal problems, the former “Johnny Football” should be given a chance to start an NFL game, if only for this reason: Did you see the list of awful quarterbacks playing in Week 17 of the 2015-16 season? Alex Tanney, no disrespect meant, was given a chance to line up under center. Perhaps the Cleveland Browns will hire a head coach who believes he can save Manziel’s career. Maybe Manziel will end up in Dallas. Whatever happens, those burying Manziel should not put those shovels away just yet.
9. Michigan Football Will Compete For a National Championship
Most knowledgeable football minds expected that Michigan would experience a positive turnaround with Jim Harbaugh serving as head coach. With that said, Michigan immediately becoming a factor in Harbaugh’s first season was somewhat of a surprise. Ohio State and Michigan State have been put on notice as it pertains to 2016. Michigan is back, and the Wolverines will notch some monumental victories en route to earning a spot in the 2017 College Football Playoff Championship. Will Michigan win it all? That prediction will have to be saved for a year from now.
8. Chicago Cubs Will Win The World Series
The Chicago Cubs ran into a juggernaut that was the pitching of the New York Mets in October 2015. That, as has been pointed out earlier in this piece, may not be a problem in the fall of 2016. Theo Epstein has gone out of the way to do what is necessary to attempt to “buy” a championship for the Cubs. Epstein and company should be expecting to see results. The Cubs are, on paper, as complete a team as currently exists in the National League. So long as the roster does not get overwhelmed with the idea of doing what some would say to be unthinkable, the Cubs should be seen as favorites to win the World Series.
7. Ronda Rousey Will Defeat Holly Holm
Before this can happen, Dana White and others within the Ultimate Fighting Championship will need to convince Holly Holm that waiting to fight until her rematch with Ronda Rousey is best for everybody involved. Rousey will also have to inform World Wrestling Entertainment that she is too busy to take on any additional outside projects until she has her night in the cage against Holm. It is not unlikely that Rousey will be the favorite to win the rematch, and with good reason. Do not let one defeat lead to believe that Rousey somehow became a lesser fighter.
6. The Downfall of Serena Williams Will Be Quick
Serena Williams is the greatest women’s player in tennis history, a superstar who was but a few sets away from winning the Grand Slam in 2015. Williams is also human, a human who will be 35 years old once the fall months of 2016 roll around. It is far from a bold sports prediction to suggest that Williams will have her body fail her on multiple occasions in 2016. There is speculation, as of the posting of this piece, that she will not be fully healthy (knee inflammation) when the Australian Open begins. Maybe the boldest prediction in the piece: Williams will not be the top-ranked woman in the world on December 31, 2016.
5. USA Basketball Will Dominate, Mike Krzyzewski Will Retire
The upcoming basketball tournament at the 2016 Summer Olympics should, assuming that Team USA does not suffer catastrophic injuries, be merely a formality. One explanation for why the US will cruise to another gold medal victory will be that Mike Krzyzewski will announce, before the Opening Ceremonies, that this will be the last tournament of his coaching career. Krzyzewski, a living legend of college basketball who injected much-needed life into USA Basketball, deserves to go out on top. Leading what is recognized as the best overall team in the world is a nice way to do just that.
4. Tiger Woods Won’t Play in a Major
One of the hot takes repeatedly being put out there is that Tiger Woods will not play at all in 2016. Woods is so super competitive, however, it is difficult to believe that he would do what is best for his body and take off an entire season if he is able to go for even a round. The man who was, in his prime, the best golfer who ever played the sport is a smart businessman, though, and rushing back for the Masters is not something he needs to do. Woods trying to give it a go before, say, The Open, only to be reminded that his body has once again forsaken him, seems logical.
3. Barcelona Will Repeat as Best Club in the World
It seems as if we cannot go a full year without either Barcelona or Real Madrid sparking yet another “golden era” of Spanish football. Things are not nearly as bad as Real as some have indicated, but Barca will remain the kings of club football up through the 2016 Champions League Final. Adding to this prediction: Neymar will widely be recognized as the new best player in the world. Barcelona, knowing this to be true, will elect to sign Neymar to a historic extension rather than selling the player to Premier League outfit Manchester United. We guess you’ll have to take Gareth Bale, United.
2. LeBron Will Bring Cleveland a Title
Think back to the 2015 NBA Finals, particularly to the final four games during which the Cleveland Cavaliers were without both Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. Even with the “Big Three” down to one and some guys, LeBron James still came close to leading the Cavs to a road sweep of the Golden State Warriors that would have had Cleveland leading the series 2-0 and hosting the next three contests. Even the sports gods that have constantly tortured Cleveland sports fans could not be so cruel as to torment those faithful followers again. The long drought ends in 2016, and it will be thanks to Finals Most Valuable Player: Kyrie Irving.
1. Peyton Manning Won’t Retire
It has to be noted that all bets are off if Manning and the Denver Broncos go on to win the Super Bowl in February. Assuming that the Broncos do come up short, however, it would not at all be surprising to learn that Manning, who has given no indication that he wants to retire after his team’s next defeat, will try to give it a go in 2016. Manning may, however, be dragged kicking and screaming into retirement if doctors and/or family members press him to walk away because of long-term health problems. As long as he can get medical clearance and he isn’t holding the Lombardi Trophy in February, Manning will have at least one more run in the tank.