2015 NFL Preview
Dallas Cowboys 11-5
After their heartbreaking loss in Green Bay last season, the Dallas Cowboys feel this could be the year they make a real run for the Super Bowl. The loss of DeMarco Murray would hurt most teams, but the fact that Murray’s season last year was the result of a superior offensive line keeps the Cowboys on track for having another big season. Even in the years Emmitt Smith help carry the Cowboys to three Lombardi Trophies, he was helped by one of the greatest lines in the history of the NFL. While it’s too early to say their current line is in the same company, it is the best in the league heading into 2015. This is what helped their questionable defense turn things around, and kept pressure off Tony Romo. With that line it’s hard to not imagine another solid season for the Cowboys who again win the NFC East.
Philadelphia Eagles 9-7
Either Chip Kelly is a mad genius or a damn fool, as the Philadelphia Eagles underwent wholesale changes in the off-season. LaSean McCoy, who led the league in rushing in 2013 has been replaced by 2014 rushing champion, DeMarco Murray. The pressure on Murray is going to be immense as he comes to Philadelphia with two strikes against him for his years in Dallas. DeMarco Murray even in his big season last season has been prone to putting the ball on the ground. The Eagles line is nowhere near the Cowboys and Philly fans typically are not too fond of fumbles or too patient and those who fumble. In addition QB Sam Bradford has never been able to stay healthy and if the Eagles struggle early fans could quickly turn against their coach and if things get real bad Chip Kelly could be riding out of town on a rail.
New York Giants 8-8
The New York Giants are in a year of transition as Coach Tom Coughlin could be in his final season. The offense could be the best in team history with Victor Cruz and Odell Beckham Jr. set to give Eli Manning perhaps the best season of his career. However, the defense is nothing short of a mystery. The health of Jason Pierre-Paul is the biggest concern as the Giants leading pass rusher has not even let the team see his hand since he blew off a finger with a firework on July 4th. The finger that JPP lost is the right index finger key at griping and tackling. If he can even tackle without the finger, there is a question and how much damage was done to the rest of the hand. The Giants secondary also looks like it could also be one of the worst in the NFL. Even if the Giants can score 30 points a game can they do much better than 8-8?
Washington Redskins 5-11
The Washington Redskins are a straight up mess. It has become clear that the team has lost faith in Robert Griffin III, but his close relationship with Owner Daniel Snyder prevents them from moving on. Kirk Cousins will be the starter in Week 1, but any slump and the owner will be calling down to Coach Jay Gruden to make a change. It’s not a good situation as the Redskins linemen seem to have turned against RGIII allowing him to get hit hard in the pre-season. The only way things will change in Washington is for Snyder to shut up keep his nose out of the football coach’s business and just count the money. Griffin needs to be traded for his sake and the sake of the Redskins and the team must look at Cousins as the new starter and stick with him and let him succeed or fail with a full 16 game season.
Green Bay Packers 13-3
The Green Bay Packers know that they should have been in the Super Bowl last season as they greatly outplayed the Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game. The Seahawks comeback win was nothing short of a miracle and needed a lot of things to go right or in the case of the Packers go wrong. The loss of leading receiver Jordy Nelson could hurt, but as long as Aaron Rodgers is their quarterback the Packers should have a next man up mentality. Coming off his second MVP Rodgers has clearly established himself as the best quarterback in the NFL and I see another big season and perhaps another MVP as the Packers will be the team to beat in 2015. In the year the Super Bowl turns 50 is there a better team to win it than the one that one the first one a half century ago.
Detroit Lions 9-7
The Lions had one of the best defenses in the NFL last season, but has suffered two big losses as they were unable to re-sign Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. However, they managed to bring in the solid Defensive Tackle Haloti Ngata to help. While Ngata is not as much of game changer as Suh he should help the Lions defense remain strong. The Lions last season showed flashes and could have won their first playoff game in two decades if not for a bad call from the officials. Even with their losses they won’t drop off that much. The offense meanwhile is solid with Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate each providing deep threats for Matthew Stafford. The Lions should be in contention for the playoffs all season and a game here and there could be the difference at the end of the season.
Minnesota Vikings 8-8
The Minnesota Vikings are one year away from moving into their state of the art new stadium in downtown Minneapolis and one year away from being a strong contender in the NFL. The return of Adrian Peterson should help them be more competitive this year and could lead them to the doorstep of the postseason. The only question mark is how much can Teddy Bridgewater develop in his second season at quarterback. There is no doubt that Bridgewater has the physical ability to be a successful quarterback in the NFL, he just needs to learn when to make plays and when to play it safe. I expect to see Teddy Bridgewater to move forward in his progress, but like the team he plays for he is one year away from being truly ready.
Chicago Bears 4-12
Grin and bear it needs to be the motto for the 2015 edition of the Chicago Bears. A franchise that is the very cornerstone of the NFL may be at the lowest point in team history as they again have changed coaches following the failed experiment of CFL import Marc Trestman. John Fox coming off success in Denver is good at building defenses and should soon be able to turn things around in the Windy City. However, it’s going to be a few years before he can work his magic as the Bears may have the worst defense in the National Football League. In addition everyone in Chicago is sick of Jay Cutler who remains by default the starting quarterback and with several losses on offense it could get ugly fast as the Bears will be bidding for one of the top picks with the draft again in Chicago next year.
Carolina Panthers 9-7
The NFC South is a division that has had a colorful history as all four teams have their runs of success and struggles in between. Cam Newton is starting to settle from being a showman to a solid passer and the Carolina Panthers defense led by Luke Kuechly is one of the strongest in the NFL. However, the Panthers continue to suffer losses as leading receiver Kelvin Benjamin is out for the season with a torn ACL. The entire division struggled last year and the Panthers ended up the best of a bad lot at 7-8-1. I see a repeat performance this season, as the division did little to improve. The best players overall are both on Carolina and despite another mediocre season the Panthers will once again wins the South.
New Orleans Saints 8-8
The New Orleans Saints made several adjustments after a disappointing season. The biggest dealing Tight End Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks to improve the offensive line. However, the question now has to be about Quarterback Drew Brees. The undersized quarterback has had a great NFL career and should take his place in Canton, as he helped the Saints overcome Hurricane Katrina bring a winner to the Crescent City. However, as he reaches 36 years old the question has to be how much does he have left? Graham was a key safety net for Brees and without him the Saints offense could struggle. In addition the defense was one of the worst in the NFL last season. It is hard to see the Saints being able to score enough or defend enough to have a successful season.
Atlanta Falcons 6-10
After a December collapse last season that saw them humiliated at home in their last game with the NFC North on the line, changes were made in Atlanta, as Coach Mike Smith was replaced by Dan Quinn. Quinn the former defensive coordinator with the Seahawks hopes to bring the same style of defense that made him successful in Seattle. It is going to take time and the Falcons don’t have the pieces in place to have a strong defense yet. The lack of a reliable running game will make the Falcons offense one dimensional, and for a team that needs to control the clock it’s going to be very hard. Matt Ryan is a solid quarterback, but has trouble winning consistently and it is hard to imagine them being in the playoffs when the season ends, despite big season from Roddy White and Julio Jones.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 5-11
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are all in on Rookie Quarterback Jameis Winston, who is already a Florida State football legend, leading the Seminoles to a National Championship and a playoff appearance in two seasons. However, his maturity on and off the field leave some to worry if he can make the transition to the National Football League. Winston will find out fast it does not come as easy in the pros as it did on the college gridiron. He will learn fast that every player is fast and the game moves at break neck speeds. The question now is can Jameis Winston overcome the bumps in the road and the bad throws to learn how to be a NFL quarterback? His success will certainly ride on his own ability to learn and grow with every loss the Buccaneers suffer this season.
Seattle Seahawks 11-5
The Seattle Seahawks are one bad decision from being a dynasty as they were one yard away from a second straight Super Bowl Championship, when Coach Pete Carroll decided to try a dangerous pass instead of an easy run for a score. The Seahawks offense could be even stronger with the addition of Jimmy Graham, but the holdout of Cam Chancellor could begin pecking away at their top their defense. This could be a key year for the Seahawks as the team that won two straight NFC Championships and nearly won two Super Bowls could soon begin paying the price as their star players look for their pay day and begin to create the salary cap issues that make teams from staying at the top for a long time. The Seahawks could have another run in them if things fall right as a rematch with the Packers could be the most anticipated playoff game this season in the NFC.
St. Louis Rams 10-6*
The St. Louis Rams have been teasing their fans for several years as they often raise their game against the best competition. Last year they defeated both the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks. However, they often play down to their weaker competition and finished 6-10 again. The Rams made some improvements on offense, picking up Quarterback Nick Foles. With their offense improving and being able to move down the field, it will only help their defense improve. With players like Chris Long, James Laurinaitis, Robert Quinn and reigning Rookie of the year Aron Donald, the Rams defense could make life hell for quarterbacks this year. Anything less than making the playoffs should be considered a disappointment in St. Louis, as the Rams could even give the Seahawks a battle for the division crown.
Arizona Cardinals 9-7*
The Arizona Cardinals are a strange team. They have weapons everywhere but can’t stay healthy long enough to do anything with them. Last season they were 9-1 when they started losing quarterbacks left and right and when they backed into the postseason they were forced to start Ryan Lindley. Lindley had perhaps the worst playoff game in NFL history and may go down in history as the worst QB to start a playoff game. Lindley has mercifully moved on, but the Cardinals success once again rides on Carson Palmer. When he plays he is a solid quarterback who can get the ball down the field, but his history of injuries make him rather unreliable. The Cardinals have a strong secondary and can again contend for the playoffs, but in the end Palmer’s ability to play every game will be the deciding factor.
San Francisco 49ers 3-13
Has any team had a worst off-season in the history of the four major professional sports than the San Francisco 49ers? Players retiring, players arrested and simply leaving for greener pastures have striped a team that made three straight NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl look like a team that could be the worst in the NFL in just two seasons. The biggest loss may be Coach Jim Harbaugh whose fights with the front office led him to return to College with his Alma Matter Michigan. The Niners instead of looking for another big name, stayed in house with Jim Tomsula. Judging by his press conferences Tomsula looks like the least equipped head coach since Richie Kotite and Ray Handley. Colin Kaepernick at quarterback has regressed every season. Without the leadership of Harbaugh, could Kaepernick continue to compete? I don’t think so, this year has train wreck written all over it.
Miami Dolphins 11-5
It’s make or break time for the Miami Dolphins. After several seasons of mediocre football the Dolphins have the pieces in place to be a playoff team. Since joining the NFL Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has improved every season, and is on the verge of being one of the top passers in the NFL. The Dolphins have a solid receiver corps, and should be able to put up some points. However, it is their defense that makes them dangerous. The addition of Ndamukong Suh gives Miami a stellar defensive line that along with sack master Cameron Wake give the Dolphins may have one of the top defenses in the NFL. With their offense and defense working together and easy early schedule the Dolphins should be able to get off to a fast start, with most their games at home in December, they should be able to win 11 and take the AFC East.
New England Patriots 10-6*
Cheaters Prosper! That is the lesson learned from the whole defelategate scandal, as Tom Brady got off scot free for tampering with the footballs and not cooperating with the investigation. The Patriots will test the NFL rules again, if they win another Super Bowl than the league will look as legitimate as the WWE. Brady knows now he can be suspended and if he fixes the football again, since he has been “served notice”. If he gets away with is this time than the league will be seen as an embarrassment. The Patriots meanwhile know Roger Goodell is incompetent will try to bend the rules even more now. The only thing that can stop them is the rest of the league. At 38 Brady can’t keep it up and the Patriots defense suffered many losses and they should be stopped. The only way they can win is to cheat and if they do win the NFL will be tarnished even further.
Buffalo Bills 7-9
Rex Ryan has shuffled off to Buffalo and found himself in a familiar situation with a team that has a solid defense, but absolutely no reliable quarterback. Tyrod Taylor is not going to lead any team to the playoffs, nor is E.J. Manuel. LaSean McCoy should be a solid running back as Rex tries to win with ground and pound. However, McCoy has already shown some health issues with a sore hamstring and the release of Fred Jackson could end up being a big mistake as McCoy is unlikely to be able to handle the heavy workload. The Bills will find themselves in a lot of close low scoring games, but in the end when the game is on the line they will come up just short until they can find themselves someone reliable at quarterback who can move the ball down the field.
New York Jets 5-11
Like the Bills, the Jets are a team that could have a defense that can shut people down. However, their quarterback situation is the worst in the National Football League. Geno Smith may be the worst starting quarterback and the fact that he is injured as the season begins is seen by most as a good thing. However, if Ryan Fitzpatrick was any good himself he would not have moved around as often as he did, playing for his fourth team in as many seasons. Smith will eventually return and resume his duties but the fact nobody on the team stood up for him shows he is not very respected in the Jets locker. The Jets also lack a big running back and a solid offensive line which may make them the lowest scoring team in the NFL, all but wiping out the advantage of that strong defense they have.
Baltimore Ravens 10-6
The AFC North could be one of the tightest in the NFL, as there is not much to separate that top three teams. The Ravens though could be strongest as they have the better quarterback. Joe Flacco may not have the flash of other elite quarterbacks, but he knows how to win. He has taken the Ravens to the playoffs in all but one of his first seven seasons, and no quarterback has been better at winning playoff games on the road. The Ravens defense is solid, led by second year Linebacker C.J. Mosely who appears to be on the verge of taking the mantle held by Ray Lewis as the defensive leader in Baltimore. Meanwhile, Justin Forsett has helped Ray Rice become an afterthought. Once in the postseason the Ravens are always a tough out as they nearly stunned the Patriots at Foxboro in the divisional playoffs last season.
Pittsburgh Steelers 8-8
Once again the Pittsburgh Steelers are big question mark entering the season. The only reliable answer is that Ben Roethlisberger is going to have a strong season, and Antonio Brown is going to catch a lot of passes and rack up huge numbers for fantasy players. The defense in Pittsburgh is going to be a scary proposition as they took on heavy losses in the off-season, including losing long time Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau. Meanwhile Troy Polamalu, Brett Kiesel, Ike Taylor and Jason Worilds have all retired. Even though Polamalu and Taylor were on the downside of their careers any team losing four defense starters is going to be in trouble. The Steelers will also be without Running Back La’Veon Bell as the season begins, putting them in a tough situation. Unless Big Ben can lead the Steelers to 30 points per game the Steelers will have a tough time making the playoffs.
Cincinnati Bengals 8-8
The Cincinnati Bengals must be one of the most frustrating teams to root for as they can look like Super Bowl contenders one week, and one of the worst teams in the NFL the next. Andy Dalton is also just as big of enigma at quarterback. Overall he puts up solid numbers, however when the game gets bigger and the spotlight shines, Dalton tends to fail. Nowhere has Andy Dalton played worse than in the playoffs and games in primetime. The heat is going to be on this year as the Bengals hit the 25th anniversary of their last playoff win. Meanwhile, you have to believe that Coach Marvin Lewis is on the hot seat. With the extra pressure added and a team that wilts under pressure already, things could go south in Cincinnati fast in 2015.
Cleveland Browns 5-11
The only thing consistent about the Cleveland Browns is how inconsistent they have been since returning in 1999. This season marks the 20th anniversary of the original Browns moving to Baltimore, and even though they looked the same the Browns of the 21st century have been more like a cheap counterfeit knockoff from China like those Gucci handbags sold on the street. Josh McCown will be the 23rd different starting quarterback for the Browns since returning as it has become crystal clear that Johnny Manziel is not NFL starting quarterback. The Manziel selection last year is another bad decision made on Draft Day. This makes the Kevin Costner movie about the Browns building a winner into a pure fantasy as they continue to wallow in last place, with new uniforms that make them look like a Division 2 Bowling Green.
Indianapolis Colts 13-3
Every year since Andrew Luck made his debut the Colts have move up one step. His rookie year saw him take them from 2-14 to the playoffs. His second season saw Luck win a division and win a playoff game, overcoming a big deficit along the way. His third season, the Colts won two playoff games including one on the road against the Broncos and Peyton Manning. That game marked a changing of the guard in the AFC as now Andrew Luck is the best quarterback. Of course the next step will be beating the Patriots, and with the defending champs losing some defensive pieces the door is open in Indianapolis. The next step is logical that the Colts will gallop to Santa Clara and play in the 50th Super Bowl. Will they win it? Woah horsey its one step at time for the team in Blue and White.
Houston Texans 10-6*
There is no debate that J.J. Watt is the best defensive player in the National Football League. Watt is perhaps the biggest game changer on defense since Lawrence Taylor. Watt is capable of winning games all by himself and with the Texans offense being severely lacking at times he has had to do just that. After rotating through several quarterbacks last year, the Texans hope that they have found the answer in Brian Hoyer. Hoyer was good at times in Cleveland but he could not win enough to keep his job, and he too has had a history of injury. The leash will be short on Hoyer, with Ryan Mallet in reserve. The health of Arian Foster is also a concern as he is going to miss the start of the season with a groin injury. In the end however, the Texans should win enough to get a Wild Card.
Tennessee Titans 4-12
After a disastrous 2-14 season in 2014 there is no place to for the Tennessee Titans to go but up. To start the road back to respectability the Titans selected Quarterback Marcus Mariota, who set records at Oregon winning the Heisman Trophy. Mariota has what it takes to be good in the NFL and I like the fact that he is good at avoiding turnovers. However, with any rookie quarterback there is going to be some growing pains. With experience receivers like Hakeem Nicks and Harry Douglas they are doing their best to set Mariota to succeed. Expect Mariota to have both his good days and his bad days as he learns the pro game. However, the Titans need patience and wait for Marcus Mariota to develop and become a winner in the next few seasons. The Titans don’t have much else to rely on as the entire team needs to be retooled.
Jacksonville Jaguars 4-12
The Jacksonville Jaguars must feel like they are trying to build a foundation in quick sand as they continue to make bad decisions in the draft. Quarterback Blake Bortles struggled badly last season, and is going to need to show signs of improvement if the Jaguars are going to have any hope for the future. Bortles is going to be better than Blane Gabbert, but with few other reliable players around him the situation in Northern Florida is not much different than it was last season or the year before. The defense is not that strong the offense continues to be a disaster and the Jaguars will be a game that most teams look at as an easy win as they again will complete for the top draft pick.
Denver Broncos 10-6
The window of opportunity is quickly closing for the Denver Broncos. At the end of last season Peyton Manning began to look old, as they limped to the finish line. At the age of 39, there is no doubt that Manning will soon be riding into the sunset and his place in the Hall of Fame. The question is can the Broncos make one more run, for Peyton to get a second ring. The Broncos have solid defense and that should make things easier for Manning to succeed. However, I don’t know if you can expect Peyton Manning to have another MVP type season or to be one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL anymore. I expect Manning to struggle at times as the Broncos will need to find other ways to win games, mostly with their defense and C.J. Anderson running the football.
Kansas City Chiefs 9-7
Last season the Kansas City Chiefs made history by not having one Touchdown reception made by a Wide Receiver. The result was a 9-7 season that saw them miss the playoffs by one game. The Chiefs have a decent defense, and can run the ball with Jamaal Charles being one of the most reliable backs in the league. The Chiefs defense should also get a boost from the return of Safety Eric Berry who has been battling Hodgins disease and was declared cancer free at the start of training camp .The Chiefs Tight Ends were the big weapons used by Quarterback Alex Smith. However, if they are to improve they are going to need to open things up. The addition of Jeremy Maclin should help as he is familiar with Andy Reid having played for him in Philadelphia.
San Diego Chargers 8-8
The elephant in the room for the San Diego Chargers resides 120 miles to the north in Los Angeles as the Chargers could be in their final season in San Diego. The battle of getting a new stadium versus moving to a proposed stadium in suburban Los Angeles city of Carson could contribute to being a big distraction and in the recent past teams that have been on the verge of moving have not done well in the National Football League. The Chargers already have a legacy of up and down play that even the slightest distraction could mean disaster. With so many questions about the future on their backs it’s hard to see the Chargers going anywhere but perhaps packing the moving vans at the end of the season.
Oakland Raiders 6-10
The Oakland Raiders are another team whose future home is unknown. The biggest mistake the Raiders ever made was moving to Los Angeles in 1982. The team had an identity and a personality matched the blue collar city of Oakland. The second biggest mistake the Raiders ever made was returning to Oakland 13 years later. In their years in LA the Raiders took on the urban personality that surrounded the Coliseum and matched the Compton lifestyle perfectly. Moving back Oakland a city hit hard by demographic change and loss of manufacturing has seen the area crumble as much as the stadium and the team which has not had a winning season since 2002. The Raiders may in fact be sharing a stadium soon with the Chargers in Carson, or perhaps heading to San Antonio or the moon. There is no reason to believe the Raiders will be much better than a six win team again in 2015.
- 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
- NFL MVP
- Jeff Fisher
- Adrian Peterson
- Leonard Williams
- Todd Gurley
- J.J. Watt
- Aaron Rodgers
- Aaron Rodgers
- St. Louis Rams
- Minnesota Vikings
- New York Jets
- St. Louis Rams
- Houston Texans
- Green Bay Packers
- Green Bay Packers
- Coach of the YearJeff Fisher
- Comeback Player of the YearAdrian Peterson
- Defensive Rookie of the YearLeonard Williams
- Offensive Rookie of the YearTodd Gurley
- Defensive Player of the YearJ.J. Watt
- Offensive Player of the YearAaron Rodgers
- NFL MVPAaron Rodgers
- St. Louis RamsJeff Fisher
- Minnesota VikingsAdrian Peterson
- New York JetsLeonard Williams
- St. Louis RamsTodd Gurley
- Houston TexansJ.J. Watt
- Green Bay PackersAaron Rodgers
- Green Bay PackersAaron Rodgers
FIRING SQAUDCoaches who will be looking for work after the season
- Gus Bradley-Jacksonville Jaguars
- Tom Coughlin-New York Giants
- Jay Gruden-Washington Redskins
- Marvin Lewis-Cincinnati Bengals
- Mike Pettine-Cleveland Browns
- Jim Tomsula-San Francisco 49ers