2014 NFL PREVIEW
Philadelphia Eagles 11-5
Last season as the Eagles became comfortable to Coach Chip Kelly's up tempo system they began to become one of the most exciting offenses in the game. Despite the loss of DeSean Jackson, they can be even better this year as Darren Sproles gives the Eagles another weapon in the backfield. The only question is can Nick Foles prove he belongs with the league's next generation of top level quarterbacks. Foles is nearly perfect match for Kelly and should be even better as the Eagles win the NFC East again.
Dennis Allen-Oakland Raiders
Tom Coughlin-New York Giants
Jason Garrett-Dallas Cowboys
Doug Marrone-Buffalo Bills
Joe Philbin-Miami Dolphins
Ron Rivera-Carolina Panthers
Coaches who will be looking for work after the season
Dallas Cowboys 8-8
In each of the last three seasons, the Cowboys went into the final game of the regular season with a chance to win the NFC East, but came up short each time. This season it may be much harder for Dallas to make it to the final game as their defense took a hit in the off-season with the departure of DeMarcus Ware and the season ending injury to Sean Lee. The defensive defincies will put more pressure on Tony Romo and that is never a good thing for the Cowboys.
New York Giants 5-11
This will be a make or break season for Big Blue as they have missed the playoffs in the last two seasons after winning the Super Bowl. The Giants overestimated their team after being perhaps the worst team to win the Lombardi Trophy. They have attempted to fill holes by signing veterans, but with Eli Manning looking uncomfortable with the team's new offensive, things could get bleak early in the Meadowlands as changes could be plentifully in the off-season.
Washington Redskins 6-10
Coming off a terrible second season for Robert Griffin III, the Redskins have revamped their offense under new Coach Jay Gruden. However, after struggling in the pre-season some have begun to call for him to be benched in favor of Kurt Cousins. A quarterback controversy is the last thing that is needed in Washington. The defense should be better, but unless RGIII can get back on track it's going to be another long season for the Redskins. Look for Cousins to get some starts if Robert Griffin III struggles early.
Detroit Lions 9-7
The Lions looked well on their way to winning the NFC North after beating the Packers on Thanksgiving. However, a stunning December collapse left them outside the playoffs and cost Coach Jim Schwartz his job. The Lions discipline has always been questionable with Schwartz; new Coach Jim Caldwell who took the Colts to the Super Bowl should be able to improve that. The Lions have the pieces and if they fall right, they can make the playoffs.
Minnesota Vikings 6-10
With their new stadium under construction, the Vikings will begin a two year stay at the campus of the University of Minnesota, playing a full home season outdoors for the first time in over 30 years. The construction of their new stadium is a great metaphor for the team as they hope Teddy Bridgewater can be the quarterback of the future, while hoping Adrian Peterson can hold up and still be one of the best backs in the league. This year is about putting the foundation together and staying somewhat competitive in a strong division.
Green Bay Packers 12-4
Despite suffering major losses due to injuries last season the Packers still managed to win the NFC North. One would think that the Packers could not possibly have another fight with injury bug this year. In addition an improved defense with the addition of Julius Peppers could make the Packers a serious threat to win the Super Bowl. The NFC is stacked this year and January should be interesting with the Packers being at the fore front of teams capable of winning it all.
Chicago Bears 8-8
The Chicago Bears have long been a team with a rich tradition in defense that has not always had the great offense. The Bears this season will really on a talented offense, and hope it can make up for holes in the defense, particularly with the loss of Julius Peppers to their arch rivals in Green Bay. Quarterback Jay Cutler can put up numbers, but he can't seem to win the big game and the Bears are no better than a .500 team as currently constructed.
Atlanta Falcons 10-6*
Last year the Falcons were perhaps the most disappointing team in the NFL as they followed a trip to the NFC Championship Game by posting a nightmarish 4-12 record. Matt Ryan is a strong quarterback and despite the retirement have one of the best receiver duos with Roddy White and Julio Jones. The loss of Sean Weatherspoon could be costly to the defense, but the Falcons are more like the team that went 13-3 in 2012, and should have bounce back and make the playoffs.
Carolina Panthers 5-11
The Panthers with a powerful defense made a big step forward last year, posting an 12-4 record. However, losses on offense with the team basically replaces their entire receiving core leaves them quite vulnerable. Add the fact that as the season begins, Quarterback Cam Newton is already dealing with an injury. If there is ever a more obvious team to take a big step backward I have not seen it. Often reaching the top in the NFL is like playing chutes and ladders, this season the Panthers will be hitting the chutes hard.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7-9
Despite gerrish new uniforms, optimism is high in Tampa Bay, as the Buccaneers made Coach Greg Schiano walk the plank and replace him with Lovie Smith, who has brough back the spirit of the teams in the early 2000s that were a perenial Super Bowl contender. Quarterback Luke McCown looks comfortable in the system and shoulld be able to find some success, with the Buccaneers talented group of receivers, but playoff success is a year or more away.
New Orleans Saints 11-5
The Saints are another of four teams in the NFC that may be better than any of the teams in the AFC. Needless to say they are team to beat in the NFC South, as they have one of the best home records in the NFL over the last few years, winning all eight games at the Superdome last year. However, take Drew Brees and the Saints outside and they can have problems. The Saints have a decent defense, but if they are going to win the Super Bowl they need to play better outside the Superdome.
Arizona Cardinals 8-8
Despite enjoying just their second ten win season in the last 40 years, the Arizona Cardinals ended up on the outside looking in when the playoffs began. They even managed to win a game over the Seahawks in Seattle. The Cardinals have a strong secondary, and Carson Palmer when he is on can connect with Larry Fitzgerald. However, with a much tougher schedule it is hard to imagine the Cardinals can match their ten win season and as last year showed anything less means another season wandering the desert, plus no team that hosted the Super Bowl has made the playoffs since 2000.
Seattle Seahawks 11-5
Despite the loss of some pieces of last year's team, the Seahawks are in strong position to become the first team in a decade to win back-to-back Super Bowls. The biggest key to them repeating may just be their Coach Pete Carroll who is often team's biggest booster on and off the field. Their home field edge should continue to be strong and Quarterback Russell Wilson may be getting even better. However, will the new rules focusing more on defensive holding hurt their top ranked secondary led by Richard Sherman and can unhappy Marshawn Lynch keep kicking it into beast mode. If either falls short the Seahawks will not repeat.
St. Louis Rams 5-11
As the Rams enter their 20th season in St. Louis, rumors persist they may be going back to Los Angeles. The Rams are armed with one of the best front sevens in the NFL led by Chris Long and James Laurinaitis. However, the loss of Quarterback Sam Bradford will be too much to overcome, especially playing in the toughest division in the NFL. Expect it to be a long season for the Rams, especially if the Baseball Cardinals cant go deep in October to keep the pressure off.
San Francisco 49ers 11-5*
Over the last three years, the 49ers have come agonizingly close to winning the Lombardi Trophy, reaching the Super Bowl once in three straight NFC Championship Game appearances. The only question this season is; will the 49ers off field troubles derail their hopes? They have the right mix and a bounce here and a bounce there and they could be a dynasty. The key is surviving the early part of the season with Navarro Bowman recovering from injury and Aldon Smith suspended nine games. If they can do that I see them finish strong and stunning the Seahawks in a NFC Championship rematch as San Francisco wins Super Bowl 49er.
New York Jets 9-7*
This could be a make or break season for the Jets, as Coach Rex Ryan is clearly on the hot seat after three straight seasons without the playoffs. The Jets have some positives with a outstanding front line on the defense led by reigning Rookie of the Year Muhammad Wilkerson. They have a safety net if Geno Smith struggles, with Michael Vick on the sideline. Chris Johnson gives them a solid running back to carry the offense. The only worry is a banged up secondary. However, if they hold it together they can steal a playoff spot.
New England Patriots 12-4
Over the last decade plus, the AFC East has been the domain of the New England Patriots. The Pats have had one of the best 13 year runs in NFL history, with three Lombardi Trophies in five Super Bowl appearances, eight AFC Championship Games and 11 division titles. With the Jets, Dolphins and Bills each are middle of the pack teams, it hard to see the Patriots losing their spot on top of the East this season, as they can again be one of the best teams in the AFC.
Buffalo Bills 5-11
Two decades ago the Bills were coming off four straight trips to the Super Bowl; they were the AFC power in the 90's, since they have vanished like pogs and grunge music. The Bills last playoff game was the Music City Miracle following the 1999 season, and they don't look any closer this year as their ownership situation remains in flux. Quarterback E.J. Manuel has a lot to prove in his second season, as the Bills will begin the season without Kiko Alonso.
Miami Dolphins 7-9
After a tumultuous season, the Dolphins have rebuilt their offensive line. However, with the health of Center Mike Pouncey a question mark coming off hip surgery the line still has a long way to go before it can be called reliable. Ryan Tanneyhill spent most of last season on his back and in year three, needs to begin to make strides if he is going to be the Dolphins franchise quarterback. Add some suspensions on defense and a tough early schedule and the Dolphins will need to climb out of a hole if they are to make a playoff run and they have not shown the ability of overcoming adversity in recent years.
Pittsburgh Steelers 8-8
Even though the Steelers finished the season strong last season, there has to be concern about the holes left by departing and retiring players. LaGarrette Blount could fill that hole at Running Back, but he is often unfocused and inconsistent. Despite the Steelers system always seeming to get the best of those type players his arrest during the preseason has to raise an alarm. The Steelers are great at retooling, and could be a player away from regaining the top spot in the AFC North, but they won't get there this year.
Cincinnati Bengals 11-5
The Bengals have proven they could win in the regular season, but they have had nothing but failure in the playoffs, losing each of their last three years. The Bengals have not won a playoff game in 24 years and their season will hinge on whether they can win in the postseason this year. The AFC North is a division in transition, with the Steelers and Ravens on the decline, while the Browns are starting over. The division is the Bengals to lose, and as long as Giovani Bernard, Andy Dalton and A.J. Green lead the offense and their defense stay healthy it's hard to see them not winning it for the second straight season.
Baltimore Ravens 6-10
There have been many complaints that the two game suspension given to Ray Rice for knocking out his future wife was too lenient and the NFL has agreed coming up with a tougher six game suspension for future first time offenses. There will be calls for the Ravens to suspend Rice the additional four games, but missing him for two division games to start the season could be crippling enough. The Ravens defense is a shell of the unit that won the Super Bowl two years ago and QB Joe Flacco's contract is a huge burden on the team. It's time to rebuild in Baltimore; the Ravens are in for a long year.
Cleveland Browns 4-12
When the original Browns left for Baltimore, the NFL promised they would keep their history and return as an expansion team. They did in 1999, but to say these Browns are the same as the old Browns is a lie. Like a fake Louie Voutton handbag sold in Time Square the Browns a cheap knockoff. Instability has been a problem as they change coaches and quarterbacks with regularity. As the season starts Brian Hoyer will be the starter, but the calls for Johnny Manziel will be too hard to ignore and Hoyer won't be able to last. Manziel could be great, but he also can blow up in the Browns face. Given the Brown track record Johnny Football is more likely to be the next Ryan Leaf and not a franchise QB. Also consider the year long suspension of Josh Gordon and its another year of misery for the Charlie Browniest team in the NFL.
Indianapolis Colts 12-4
Andrew Luck year one, the Colts snuck into the playoffs. In year two the Colts won the AFC South and won a playoff game. Can the Colts continue to climb the NFL ladder as Andrew Luck begins his third season. The Colts do have the pieces, to make a significant run, although they will need Trent Richardson to show he was worth trading for if they are to become a complete team. Everything is moving in the right direction in Indianapolis and the Super Bowl could be around the corner. I see them taking the next step to the AFC Championship, but their old Quarterback Peyton Manning could be the biggest road block for the Colts.
Jacksonville Jaguars 7-9
The Jaguars are clearly moving in the right direction as Coach Gus Bradley looks to use the formula used by his mentor Pete Carroll with the Sehawks. The Jaguars have even added a few players off the champions' roster. However, the biggest addition may be Quarterback Blake Bortles, who was picked with the third overall pick. It won't be long before Bortles replaces Chad Henne as the Jaguars starter, and it looks like he could be there for the next decade no matter where the team is playing.
Houston Texans 6-10
Last season was nothing short of a disaster for the Houston Texans, who lost 14 straight after opening the season with two wins. The Texans lost most of their games with their offense as Matt Schaub tossed nearly one pick six in every game while RB Arian Foster and WR Andre Johnson broke down. Schaub is long gone, but Foster and Johnson are a year older. Ryan Mallet will eventually become the starter for new Coach Bill O'Brien, but the Texans offense will still be the weak spot. Their defense meanwhile might be very scary with Jadevon Clowny and JJ Watt, especially if Brian Cushing stays healthy. If the Texans can get any offense at all they could quickly become a factor in the AFC South.
Tennessee Titans 5-11
I think it is clear that Jake Locker is not the answer in Tennessee; the problem is the Titans don't have anybody better. The Titans also lost Running Back Chris Johnson, who despite losing a strep is considerably better than Shonn Greene. The Titans have a new Coach in Ken Whisenhunt who has been good in the past at developing quarterbacks, but the pieces he has this year won't get them very far as they will be undoubtedly be looking at the NCAA this year for their QB of the future.
San Diego Chargers 10-6*
Last year was a big year of comebacks for the Chargers as Phillip Rivers rebounded of a pair of poor seasons and regained his All-Star form, winning Comeback Player of the Year. The Chargers defense was also solid last season, keeping the Broncos record breaking offense under 30 points in all three meetings. The Chargers could be even better this year with Keenan Allen looking to become an elite receiver in year two. Antonio Gates may be in the twilight, but remains a threat at Tight End, while the Chargers running game should improve with the addition of Donald Brown.
Kansas City Chiefs 6-10
No team's success was done with smoke and mirrors more than the Chiefs, who started 9-0. However, of the nine teams they beat only one finished the year with a winning record, and that was the Eagles who at the time the Chiefs played them had yet to figure out Chip Kelly's system. The Chiefs lost 6-of-their last eight games, the two wins against teams with losing records. All six losses came against teams that made the playoffs. The Chiefs schedule is much tougher this year and they will come back to earth hard.
Oakland Raiders 2-14
Decay is the only way to describe the Raiders. They playing in a crumbling stadium, with the old sayings "Just Win Baby" and "Comitment to Excellence" fading on the peeling cracked walls. Ever since their loss in Super Bowl XXXLVII the Raiders have been in a tail spin and this may be when they hit rock bottom. Rumors have Owner Marck Davis considering moving the team to San Antonio or back to Los Angeles. Meanwhile they will likely rotate quarterbacks as Derek Carr will quickly replace Matt Schaub, but like Schaub himself the rest of the roster are basically players off other teams scrap heaps and well past their prime. No team has a more depressing situation.
Denver Broncos 13-3
The window is closing in Denver, and the window is closing for Peyton Manning to win another Super Bowl. Last year was a dream season for Denver that was turned upside down by one horrific Sunday. Unfortunately for them that horrific Sunday was the Super Bowl. The Broncos have the horses to return to the big game, and this could be the last chance cafe, because there may not be much gas in the tank after this year's run. However, as long as Manning is at the top of his game the Broncos will be the team to beat, especially that they have made improvements on defense.
Coach of the Year
Comeback Player of the Year
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Defensive Player of the Year
Offensive Player of the Year
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers
Predictions Made: September 1, 2014
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