The NFL needs to start up around mid August, spread the season out a little more because every year it is getting more and more difficult to wait so long.
Ok, so in the spring I made a decision that I was no longer going to do these big, long, 3,000 word write up’s for every division for a season preview. From now on, starting with this write up, I’m doing 1 post, predicting the order of each division, keeping it to a max of 3 sentence per team.
I got a few other articles out today, but this is the big one. Predictions for the divisions, playoffs, and awards all in 1 piece so here we go.
1. Philadelphia Eagles
I still don’t know what to expect out of Chip Kelly. Will we see more innovations from him this season? I love them to win the division but more so because the other 3 teams in the division seem to be in a state of flux. I said it to some friends a few weeks back and I’ll say it here….Mark Sanchez is this teams starter by seasons end. If Chip Kelly loved NIck Foles he wouldn’t have gone out and got a guy like Sanchez to back him up. Sanchez has huge talent and Chip Kelly could turn him into the star many expected him to be.
2. NY Giants
I picked the Giants last year when it looked as though there was no clear cut team, and they were horrendous. Eli just isn’t that bad of a QB, and I’m certain he and the entire team will enter this season a lot more focused than they did last. The new west coast offense looked shaky in the preseason, but it’s preseason people. I think Manning will make the adjustments and be fine, but I still don’t see them being better than 8-8.
3. Dallas Cowboys
Everyone will once again be expecting the worst, but they never give you the worst. That trainwreck season just doesn’t happen. No, they end up 8-8 every season because they can’t win the close games. And point to Tony Romo all you want, it is the culture in Dallas. This was happening long before Tony Romo. It is a Jerry Jones thing that simply holds this team back.
4. Washington Red…..
Can’t say the name! Jay Gruden in, kind of an odd hire, he’s definitely not his brother, but this is all about RGIII. If Griffin can get back to being the guy he was in his rookie season, they’ll compete for a playoff spot. But I don’t think he’s going to, and to get him they gave up so many picks to the Rams so they really haven’t been able to add much talent around him. Could be another long season in the U.S. captial.
1. Green Bay Packers
Same old, same old in Green Bay. Rodgers will be amazing, they have a running game now, and it’s all on weather or not their D can step up. Does Julius Peppers have anything left? If he does, he’ll make a huge difference for Clay Matthews in particular. And if Matthews is great, that defense will be too. People are going nuts in fantasy football for Eddie Lacy this season, as they should be. That O-line looks VERY good!
2. Chicago Bears
I’m not as high on this team as others are. I just don’t see what they’ve done to make people think they’ll surpass the Packers if the Pack stay healthy. They couldn’t overtake them last year WITHOUT Aaron Rodgers, why would they jump them if he plays 16 games?! It is a solid team who have an elite offense (weird saying that about the Bears), but it all depends on what the D can give them.
3. Detroit Lions
I don’t love what they did in the draft taking Eric Ebron over some very good defensive players, and I really didn’t like the Jim Caldwell hire. He’s a guy who lived off Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning. This team has crazy good talent, but they need to grow up in a hurry. They’ll look to beat teams 42-38, and will. The problem is that they won’t be able to do it more than 8 times, they really need to get some stops on D.
4. Minnesota Vikings
Maybe I’m nuts, but I feel like this has turned into one of the most boring franchises in the NFL. That isn’t really an insult in some ways, but they’re just boring right now. Teddy Bridgewater isn’t starting, Adrian Peterson may have some good seasons left but he’s past his prime, Mike Zimmer was a good hire but not really a sexy hire, they just aren’t anything real exciting. And they have a ways to go before they become a team worth getting excited about.
1. New Orleans Saints
The offense is going to once again set the world on fire. Drew Brees and Sean Payton are one of the best QB/head coach combo’s maybe in NFL history, and now they have Brandin Cooks to work with who’ll be a perfect fit. Cooks is easily my pick for NFC rookie of the year. If Kenny Vacarro can take his game to the next level this season their D should be good enough to make them an 11 win team. This D is never going to be elite, but solid is good enough to make this team a contender.
2. Atlanta Falcons
Don’t know how last season happened, basically everything went wrong. But that won’t happen again, and with Jake Matthews now in the fold that offense is going to be elite again. Can their D play well enough to get them a wildcard spot or win the division, that is the big question. They really aren’t built any difference from the Saints, but I’ll take Payton over Mike Smith and Brees over Matt Ryan any day.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
People have liked them for a few years now to take a big jump. Even though I have them 3rd in the division I could easily see it happening. Talent all over, huge upgrade with Lovie Smith now running the show, Josh McCowan is the wildcard. I think he’s solid but I will say that Marc Trestman made him look better than he actually is. 3rd in the division, but a 9-7 kind of 3rd is what I’m thinking.
4. Carolina Panthers
I’m just not a believer, still. Great D last season, I love me some Luke Kuechly, but I just don’t think they can duplicate what they did. And now that Cam Newton has virtually no weapons at WR and still has never proven he’s grown up, it just isn’t a mix I like at all. 1st round pick Kelvin Benjamin is an intriguing watch for me. The kid has ridiculous talent and is in a great situation to show his talent, but how will he fair against the league’s top corners?
1. Seattle Seahawks
So they’ll still get 7 wins at home, should win at least 10. Defending champs always have a tougher road the 2nd time around though. But for 1 more season they’re extremely deep and I absolutely love Russell Wilson and believe he is an elite QB. Give me Wilson over Kaepernick any day of the week. For those reasons I can’t see them giving up top spot in the NFC West.
2. Arizona Cardinals
You are reading this correct. I like the Cards to challenge the Seahawks for top spot in the division. Talent on offense with Fitz, Floyd, rookie John Brown is going to make some noise, sneaky good pickup of John Carlson at TE, the O-line looks good, and Carson Palmer maybe didn’t reach his potential but he’s solid. Also we all know the D is one of the NFL’s best led by Patrick Peterson. And if all that’s not enough, Bruce Arians is a hell of a head coach. This team is the real deal.
3. San Francisco 49ers
I think it is about to blow up. Maybe I’m wrong, but I just don’t like the vibe. Jim Harbaugh and GM Trent Balke are at odds and I have my doubts that Harbaugh is back next season. I’m not a Colin Kaepernick guy. Huge talent, but when he has to think the game he’s mistake prone and he lacks maturity. Aldon Smith gone for half the season is going to hurt a lot too. As talented as they are, I just don’t think they can get away with having all these problems in the best division in football.
4. St.Louis Rams
I love the talent on this team. They’re loaded. Best D-line in football. A much improved O-line with Greg Robinson now anchoring things. Big talent at wide out, big talent in the secondary, great linebacking corps, awesome head coach. Of course I haven’t mentioned the QB….which is slightly improved with Sam Bradford out for the year (didn’t expect that did you?!) Hill is solid and I believe won’t make the big mistake. Even with poor Quarterbacking they would win a lot of divisions in this league, but won’t leave the basement playing in this meat grinder.
1. New England Patriots
There is no bigger lock in football than the Pats winning this division AGAIN. I don’t even know what to write here to be honest. I can ramble on about Brady and Belicheck but you know all about them. I think I’ve said it every year for the last 3 seasons but once again the D will be much improved. In fact, with the addition of Revis and a healthy Vince Wilfork it could be elite. 11-5, 12-4, 13-3, take your pick.
2. NY Jets
I GUESS this is the 2nd best team in the division. The Jets are really stuck in neutral. Real good D as always, but Geno Smith I don’t think will ever be the answer. Loads of talent, he’s willing to hang in the pocket, and he is fearless with his throws. But that last part is also the problem. Much like Brett Favre, Smith is overconfident in his arm and it’ll burn him. Might not burn him as much if he had more talent around him, but they aren’t too good on that side of the ball.
3. Miami Dolphins
I spoke about the Vikings being boring, well let’s toss the fish into that category as well. There is just nothing to really get excited about with this football team. Tannehill is ok, I don’t know if he’ll ever be a top 10 guy or a guy who can lead them to a Super Bowl. The offense in general is just ok. The D is just kind of ok. They aren’t BAD, but they don’t seem to be going anywhere and it’s felt like that since Marino retired.
4. Buffalo Bills
At least the Dolphins aren’t the Bills! Some got excited about E.J. Manual last year, but I don’t know if I’m sold him being anything but solid. Rookies look a lot better in today’s NFL than they did 20 years ago. I was one of the few who thought it was a big mistake to trade up to take Sammy Watkins. This team has many needs and now don’t have a 1st round pick….what will be a high 1st round pick, to help fill them. Jury is still out on Doug Marrone, but I did like bringing in Jim Schwartz as their DC. That is where he shined in Tennessee and he has the talent to do it again in Buffalo. But other than that, things look bleak.
1. Baltimore Ravens
I have very little doubt that they’ll not only win back the AFC North title, but that they’ll be a serious Super Bowl threat. Steve Smith has one more good year left in him. Dennis Pitta is now healthy. They took C.J. Mosley in the 1st round to hopefully get some kind of replacement for Ray Lewis. And he is constantly overlooked but can we start praising JOHN Harbaugh as being one of the best head coaches in the game?! I know he’s not a wack job like his brother, but that Super Bowl ring and constant winning would suggest he’s not too bad….
2. Cincinnati Bengals
Talent all over the field on both sides of the football. This is why Andy Dalton gets so much flack. He has 2 high end TE’s, a great O-line, a great running game, a great D, and great weapons on the outside including A.J. Green who doesn’t exactly suck. But it is all about Andy Dalton being able to come through when it matters. Don’t forget, this is only his 4th season so he can improve. I think the worry is that he wasn’t viewed as a kid with a lot of upside even when he was drafted.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
I’ll tell you this, Ryan Shazier is going to be an absolute stud and could be the next Steelers great on that side of the football. He’s versatile, he goes sideline to sideline, and he is a highly intelligent player. They really need an injection of highly skilled youth on that side of the ball because Troy Polomalu is now in the twilight of his hall of fame career. The offense will be pretty much status quo. The running game looked primed to get back to the Steelers run game of old, but La’veon Bell should know that you don’t screw up off the field while playing for this team.
4. Cleveland Browns
Do they have a player other than John Manziel? I’m with Dan Patrick, he’s an adult now (supposedly), so he’s now John Manziel. But John Manziel is starting the season as Johnny clipboard, as he should be. Brian Hoyer coming off the knee injury will be interesting to watch. This team really responded when he took over last season, and they do have some talent. I love their D, and their run game should be real solid if Ben Tate can stay healthy. But, too many if’s here. I EXPECT 6-10.
1. Indianapolis Colts
Some may suggest I have a man crush on Andrew Luck. Well….YEAH I do!! I’ve been in on this guy for a lot longer than most (since Toby Gerhart was stealing his spotlight), and he has made a very average Colts roster a playoff team in his first 2 seasons. He’ll win rings, not just a ring. He’ll win MVP’s, not just a MVP. Other than him they don’t have a lot. He’ll be able to spread it around nicely if Reggie Wayne and Dwayne Allen are healthy. Rookie to keep an eye on here is Donte Moncrief. The kid has big talent and could look incredible because of who is throwing him the ball. This division will allow the Colts to win 12 or 13 games and likely the number 1 seed in the AFC.
2. Houston Texans
So THIS is who I have as the 2nd best team in the division. A team without a QB and who finished 2-14. Ok….the D will be amazing. Watt and Clowney will be fun to watch. And I like Bill O’Brien. He learned for a long time under Belicheck in New England and did an absolutely amazing job at Penn State considering the situation he was in. So he will get the most out of this team. But no QB, Andre Johnson is getting old and wants out, Arian Foster won’t be as good out of Gary Kubiak’s zone blocking scheme, so I don’t know how they’ll score.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
Yes I don’t have the Jags in the basement. I know it’s only preseason, but Blake Bortles looks legit! I could see this kid being in the same class that Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger are currently in. By that I mean maybe not elite, but top 10 guys who can win you a Super Bowl, and really why do you need anything more than that? And I like that they aren’t throwing him to the wolves right away either despite looking so good. Gus Bradley really got them turned around last season, and with more of his Seattle guys now in the fold on D I like this team to make life miserable for the opponents in all 16 games. 5 or 6 wins is all they’ll get, but it’ll be a good 5 or 6 wins, AKA they’re on the right track.
4. Tennessee Titans
I like Ken Wisenhunt as their head coach. In time he will get this team turned around. And they have a GREAT O-line so it’s not as if there is nothing to work with. But Jake Locker simply isn’t a starting NFL QB and until they get one of those this team isn’t going anywhere. They’re kind of like Miami and Minny in that they’re a pretty uninteresting team, but the problem is that those 2 have decent young QB’s. There are a lot of things to like about Zach Mettenberger, but I doubt he is that guy.
1. Denver Broncos
Well they had an impressive offseason but as any Red…Washington fan will tell you, winning the offseason means nothing. I just don’t know what to think because on one hand, man this team upgraded thanks to free agency and guys coming back from injuries! No Super Bowl participant has ever upgraded as much in the offseason as the Broncos did. But on the other hand, dominating free agency rarely works. Then again, when has a Peyton Manning led team ever done it? Best in the West, I think they take a step back in the regular season, which might help them come playoff time.
2. San Diego Chargers
I like this team more than most. I think Phillip Rivers has become a very underrated QB. Mike McCoy was a MASSIVE upgrade at head coach over Norv Turner (I don’t know if I’ll ever stop trashing this organization for letting Norv run the team into the ground the way he did). Nobody talks about their D but they have a lot of talent on that side of the ball. Weems, Butler, Liuget, Flowers, Te’o, Ingram, it’s an underrated group. Rivers is good enough to put points on the board without much on offense, the D I expect to be good, I have this team being the top wildcard team and believe they could make some noise yet again in the playoffs.
3. Kansas City Chiefs
While I’m a big fan of how things look for the Chargers, I still like the Chiefs as well. Most are expecting this team to take a step back after a weak 2nd half and then a disastrous playoff loss to the Colts in which they held a 28 point lead. But they still have a great running game, still have loads of talent on D, Alex Smith is still solid, and Andy Reid is still a great head coach. So while they aren’t really sexy anywhere, they’re real solid everywhere. They’ll challenge for a wildcard spot and I won’t be the least bit shocked if they get one. I believe they’ll have to battle with the Chargers and Bengals to get one.
4. Oakland Raiders
Maybe I’m crazy here but I like what they did in the offseason. A lot of solid vets were brought in, I LOVED their draft, and I think Dennis Allen is a better coach than his record suggests. This is the year for Allen though, we need to see some real improvement for him to keep his job. I’m not sure that I like Derek Carr getting the starting QB gig over a guy like Matt Schaub who was being considered elite by a lot of people (not me) just 2 seasons ago. He was never elite, but that doesn’t mean he can’t play. I do think this team can win 6 or 7 games and if they do get to 7-9 that is a great season considering what they’ve gone through in the last decade plus in Oakland.
NFC Wildcard winners
1. New Orleans Saints
2. Green Bay Packers
3. Seattle Seahawks
4. Philadelphia Eagles
5. Arizona Cardinals – I just love this team and think they have a chance to be the first ever host team to play in the Super Bowl.
6. Chicago Bears – Tough choice between the Bears and the Falcons but I just like the Bears a little more. Just because I’m down on the Niners doesn’t mean I don’t think they’ll be in this mix either.
AFC Wildcard winners
1. Indianapolis Colts
2. New England Patriots
3. Denver Broncos
4. Baltimore Ravens
5. San Diego Chargers – 2nd year in a row they’ll get a wildcard spot, but this time they’ll be the 5th seed. This team might be elite had they fired Norv Turner in 2008 like they should have.
6, Cincinnati Bengals – Only other team I could see being in the mix for these 2 wildcard spots is KC. Having said that, someone will emerge. Safe bet of the year: Bengals lose their playoff game.
NFC Title game – Seattle at New Orleans
Classic offense vs defense tilt, but unlike last year this one will be in the dome in New Orleans and that will be a huge advantage for the Saints. Tough to pick against the Seahawks with all their talent and now all their experience, but defending champs just have such a tough road. Getting this far would be incredible.
NFC Champ – New Orleans Saints
AFC Title game – Baltimore at Denver
I think the road in the AFC is going to be a little more muddy. I think the Broncos start shaky but finish real strong and are the hot team going into the playoffs. Too many new guys on D so it’ll take time to gel. Baltimore is flying under the radar but don’t forget how much experience they have. However, I feel the Broncos once they start to gel will get back to the dance
AFC Champ – Denver Broncos
Super Bowl Winner – Denver Broncos
I must be nuts because I was the guy who was downplaying the Broncos offseason when they made all their big signings. Yet here I am picking them as my Super Bowl winner. But this is more about Peyton Manning looking to prove the doubters wrong in my mind. But lets not forget….Von Miller is healthy, Ryan Clady is healthy, Chris Harris is healthy, it’s not just big name free agent signings. And it’ll eventually gel and win the Super Bowl.
MVP – Andrew Luck
I believe I said this last year as well. Maybe I just will until he wins it, and he will win it….a lot. Easy division, easy schedule, and he clearly takes a below average team and makes them a 12 or 13 win team. Don’t know who might stand out more than that.
NFC Offensive Player of the Year – Drew Brees
If I’m thinking Brandin Cooks will have such a great rookie year, and he has Jimmy Graham, and Mark Ingram is playing for a contract, and on and on and on, then he should be THIS good.
AFC Offensive Player of the Year – Andrew Luck
Again I just think he’ll have an amazing season, and it’ll be the first of many.
NFC Defensive Player of the Year – Patrick Peterson
I think he’s just a LITTLE bit better than Richard Sherman. Doesn’t have Sherman’s drive, but the talent is insane and he shows up a little more on that D than Sherman does.
AFC Defensive Player of the Year – Darrelle Revis
Another corner I know, but I think with how much talent they have already on D, he’ll get the credit for them finally getting back to being a high end D, and he’s a much better fit in New England’s system than he was in Tampa.
NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year – Brandin Cooks
Absolutely no doubt in my mind here. Perfect fit, and with Brees throwing him the ball he’ll put up incredible rookie numbers.
AFC Offensive Rookie of the Year – Sammy Watkins
This is pending on weather or not he’ll stay healthy. But if he does, then he is looking good to win this, if not for any other reason than he’s their number 1 wideout.
NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year – Kyle Fuller
Maybe an under the radar pick here but he’s playing opposite Charles Tillman. That means he’ll get a lot of tackles and a lot of picks with the ball coming his way. And he can really play.
AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year – Jadaveon Clowney
He’ll have major competition from Khalil Mack and Ryan Shazier, but in the end Clowney has a great DC in Romeo Crennel and has J.J. Watt getting all the attention so it should really free him up to do a lot of damage.
NFC Coach of the Year – Jeff Fisher
These awards go to the coach of the team who surprises the most, so I need to take a coach of a team I don’t believe will do well and that of course is Jeff Fisher. No Sam Bradford, toughest division in football, yet loads of talent so I could see them finding a way to surprise many and finish 9-7 and perhaps sneak into a wildcard spot.
AFC Coach of the Year – Dennis Allen
Same deal as above. With all the solid veteran’s they brought into that room, it wouldn’t SHOCK me if they took a big step this season. It all depends on Derek Carr now though.
So these are my 2014 NFL predicitions, as Dan Patrick used to say, guaranteed….to go wrong.
Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups