The NFL season is now 3 months away… I know, seems like a long time.. But September will come quicker then you think… Now that the NFL draft is over, and most teams have their rosters/starters settled… it’s time for the 2014 NFL Season Predictions. Below I have broken down division-by-division results, as well as the NFL Playoff predictions and NFL awards.
Patriots (12-4) – On offense, the return of Gronk is critical. This is arguable one of the better Receiving Corps Tom Brady has had … With Gronk returning…he joins Edleman, Amendola and LaFell as the starting core..With Aaron Dobson ready to breakout at the WR position. The RB position is decent, but with fumble and injury history, Vereen and Ridley are a fragile pair. The Patriots improved greatly on defense. Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo return from injury, Revis and Browner come in to give the Patriots a competitive secondary, and a pair of young defenseman (Easley and Jones) have the ability to be big play makers. Jamie Collins proves to be legit and Rob Ninchovich has always been solid. Look for the Patriots to pick apart the AFC East and make a deep playoff run.
Bills (7-9) - The Bills fall victim to a pretty tough schedule. A healthy EJ Manuel has a bevy of offensive targets (including newcomer Sammy Watkins to pair with Robert Woods and Mike Williams), along with the stud RB pair of Spiller and Jackson. The Offensive line improves to pad the duo’s stats. Brandon Spikes joins a nasty front seven with a breakout candidate (Kiko Alonso). The secondary is shaky with decent CB depth but a weak safety core. Look for the Bills to compete in 2015-2016
Dolphins (6-10) - The only way the Dolphins compete for a playoff spot is if the RB duo of Moreno and LaMar Miller do incredible behind the improved Offensive Line. Look for Tannehill to have another decent year, but not improve greatly. Solid secondary (adding Finnegan) with limited depth, and a very weak Front 7. The Dophins won’t be able to compete with the offensive firepower in the AFC.
Jets (6-10)- The Jets gain a couple solid offensive targets (Signing Eric Decker, Chris Johnson and drafting Jace Amaro), but the QB complexion once again ruin the Jets season. I understand what they are trying to do by bringing in Michael Vick, but there is no way that pans out… They either have to ride out Geno Smith’s growing pains, or move on to a durable QB that can lead this team to some wins. Their Three-Man front of “Snacks”, Wilkerson and Richardson will be incredible to watch as well as the breakout of Dee Milliner…But with a weak O-line and thin defense… It’s a recipe for another mediocre season for J-E-T-S
Ravens (8-8)- In possibly the weakest division in the NFL this upcoming season… The Ravens narrowly beat out the Browns for the playoff spot. The receiving core of Torrey and Steve Smith at WR and Pitta and Daniels at TE will carry Joe Flacco and the Ravens throughout the season. The uncertain future of Ray Rice (Suspension or no suspension) and below average Offensive Line will bring down the Offense a bit. On Defense, they aren’t as formidable as they were a few years ago… Ngata is still in town, and the linebacker set of Suggs, Mosley, Smith and Dumerville can be a real bright spot for the Ravens this year, but past that the Defense isn’t very intimidating. The Ravens will limp into the playoffs.
Browns (7-9)- Many believe Johnny Manziel will be a distraction for the Browns, but at the end of the day…It’s a football decision. Hoyer is a formidable Quarterback, and Manziel is likely to start the latter half of the season and give the Browns a few exciting wins to put them in the race for the AFC North crown. If Josh Gordon is able to play for at least some of this season.. It may change things for the Browns, but losing him for the year (Suspension) is going to hurt. Jordan Cameron will prove to be the most important piece of the offense in Gordon’s absence. Whitner, Hayden, Gilbert, Dansby, Kruger, Mingo and Taylor make the Browns defense one of the best in the AFC and could carry the team to a few wins while the QB situation is resolved and Gordon is out. Look for the Browns to take over this division in the near future.
Bengals (5-11)- The Bengals had a very poor off-season. The return of Geno Atkins is exciting, but how reliable will he be returning from a torn ACL. The secondary (including rookie Darqueze Dennard) pair with the Front 7 to make a solid all-around Defense. Andy Dalton will decline, and may end up losing the end of the season to A.J McCarron. Dalton hasn’t proven to be the franchise QB he appeared to be in his rookie campaign, and past Green, the offensive firepower is no where good enough to compete
Steelers (4-12)- The Steelers have a few possibly breakout players in Le’Veon Bell (A formidable three-down back) and rookie Stephon Tuitt…But past that, I do not believe Big Ben, Antonio Brown and Heath Miller will be enough to put together enough wins. Though old, their secondary remains strong…but the Front 7 has slowly declined over the past few years. Look for the Steelers to go into rebuild mode next off-season.
Colts (12-4)- This team has the potential to be the best Offense in the AFC. Andrew Luck has another year under his belt (Including a humbling playoff run), and has a set of weapons. Trent Richardson looks to rebound and Ahmed Bradshaw will prove to be a solid backup. With the return of Reggie Wayne and the addition of Hakeem Nicks.. The trio of Wayne, Nicks and Hilton could be deadly. A pair of solid TE compliment the whole package very well. They added a few pieces on defense (Including DT Arthur Jones), but with the uncertainty of how Robert Mathis will do after he returns from his suspension… The Colts will be involved in plenty of high scoring affairs.
Texans (7-9)- With the return of Brooks Reed, and the addition of Clowney and Nix to the defensive line… Look for the Texans to return to a very strong defensive unit. Bill O’Brien will have some issues with his Offense including an uncertain QB position, a Hot/Cold running back like Arian Foster and a temperamental and possible trade target Andre Johnson. Look for the wideout Hopkins to have a breakout season. There are a few other weak spots such as TE depth and O-Line. The Texans will miss out on a playoff spot, but all signs point upwards for Houston.
Titans (4-10)- In a make-or-break season for Jake Locker, I don’t think the Titans have enough star-power to have a winning season. Locker should get plenty of passing attempts with a weak RB pair and a set of young studs (Hunter and Britt) at WR. The offensive line is very strong (Added Michael Oher) and Ken Wisenhunt should be a solid replacement in Tennessee. Look for Locker to have a decent season and get a contract from a team for next year. The defense and very weak depth will prevent the Titans from jumping Houston or Indy.
Jaguars (3-13)- Plenty of potential in Jacksonville with rookies Lee and Bortles along with newcomer Allen Robinson. Beyond the top tier defensive line and prospects of a solid Offensive line (Joeckel returning), their isn’t enough there for the Jags to succeed in the 2014-2015 season. I believe they finally have a set of young studs that could be franchise cornerstones, but it will definitely take a year or two to become competitive.
Broncos (11-5)- The Broncos saw a lot of turnover this off-season, but the overall talent level is about the same. On Offense, Emmanuel Sanders is a very solid replacement for Decker and the Thomas Brothers should have another amazing year, but losing Moreno is a big loss. Monte Ball was a perfect back-up to Moreno, and the pair were dominant together. Monte Ball as the feature back will likely not garner the same results. The return of Ryan Clady and Chris Harris are very important to the teams success and the additions of Ware, Ward and Talib should make the defense very fun to watch. Look for the Broncos to hit a few rough patches, but look just as good as last year.
Raiders (9-7)- This is the year the Raiders make the playoffs. Matt Schaub will come in and have a solid season (Similar to the one he had two years ago with the Texans). He is a great game-manager (much like Alex Smith), and will also be a solid teacher to rookie Derek Carr. The Raiders offense has a decent amount of potential with Jones, Streater and Moore at the WR position… The RB duo of McFadden and Jones-Drew could be very good if both stay reasonably healthy. The O-Line isn’t great, but it should be good enough to keep Schaub safe in the pocket. The Defense is what will bring the Raiders to the Playoffs…With the addition of Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley and Antonio Smith through Free Agency and Khalil Mack through the draft, the Front 7 could be very deadly. Look for Mack to win Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. DJ Hayden needs to have a breakout year, and if they can squeeze something out of Carlos Rodgers, that could be a great under the radar pickup. Look for the Raiders to have a Jekyll and Hyde type of year with streaks of wins and losses.
Chargers (8-8)- The Charges boast the must intact offense in the AFC… The core of offensive weapons stayed the same through the off-season. The Matthews and Woodhead combo in the backfield should continue to take some pressure off of Phillip Rivers…Who will have plenty of targets to throw to… Keenan Allen should have a great Sophomore campaign and pairing him with Vincent Brown and Malcolm Floyd will be a solid WR set. Antonio Gates doesn’t seem to age and Ladarius Green should have a breakout year and possibly take over as the lead TE. On Defense, the return of Melvin Ingram is huge along with the addition of Dwight Freeney. Both of those guys are potentially fragile, but if they stay healthy, they can be the anchors of the Chargers’ D. Between rookie Attaochu and sophomore Manti Te’O, the Chargers need a big contribution from at least one of them to make up for the weak secondary to compete for a playoff spot.
Chiefs (6-10)- The Chiefs will rely very very heavily on the performance of Jamaal Charles… If he goes down with an injury or under performs, the Chiefs offense could be one of the worst in the AFC. The defense stayed basically the same, so expect that unit to carry the Chiefs through the season. With the lack of offensive talent or a skillful QB, I don’t think the Chiefs can catch lightning in a bottle two seasons in a row.
Giants (11-5)- Look for Eli Manning to have an incredible bounce back year, and take advantage of the array of young talent the Giants put around him. At running back, Rashard Jennings is the most underrated at the position and rookie and Heisman candidate Andre Williams should have a lot to prove after being passed on by so many teams in the draft. At WR, Odel Beckham, Randle and Jernigan should compliment main-stay Victor Cruz. Look for Beckham to become Eli’s favorite target. The offensive line is also young, but has plenty of potential. On Defense, look for the secondary to be the bright spot (Thurmond and Rodgers-Cromartie improve the unit by a lot) and look for Pierre-Paul to return to dominance. The Giants come out on top of the crowded NFL East and are a Dark Horse in the Playoffs.
Eagles (10-6)- With a full year under his belt, Nick Foles becomes a Top 6 or 7 QB in the league. The RB pairing of McCoy and Sproles will be his go-to offensive weapons with Sproles getting plenty of throws out of the backfield. The WR core isn’t monumentally worse then last year, but replacing DeSean Jackson with Jordan Matthews is not a great trade off. The TE combo should help round out a talented offensive unit. The O-Line is intact and is one of the best in the league… Look for the Eagles to be a top scoring team. The Defense is overall just okay.. The secondary is underrated but the Front 7 isn’t going to put a scare into anyone. Look for the tough schedule of having to play 6 games in the NFC east as the reason the Eagles don’t earn a top seed in the conference.
Redskins (8-8)- RG3 can only improve from last year, and even if he returns to his Rookie form… That should be a good sign for Redskins (Or whatever they will be called by then) and their fans. The Offense will be a very talented squad… Alfred Morris should have a solid year, and the addition of DeSean Jackson and the return of Jordan Reed should make it easy for RG3 to have a solid season. They used the draft for depth purposes… Rookies Moses, Long and Trent Murphy could make solid contributions to the Redskins season. Their average Front 7 and weak secondary will make it a roller-coaster season for Washington.. Look for them to make a strong playoff push, but fall short.
Cowboys (5-11)- The bright spot this year will be Dallas’ offensive line and RB DeMarco Murray… The trio of Free, Martin and Smith should open up the flood gates for Murray to have a pro bowl season. Tony Romo will have his two favorite targets (Bryant and Witten) all year, but the emergence of Gavin Escobar and Terrence Williams as second year players should be interesting to watch with Romo at the helm. Their defense is bottom of the league awful… With Sean Lee going down for the season, the Cowboys lost a vital piece to them being able to slow down teams. The CB pair of Carr and Claiborne will prove to be the bright spot of the Cowboys D, but look for this to be another painful season for Jerry Jones’ boys.
Lions (12-4)- The O-Line remained the same from last season, and with the emergence of Joique Bell last year… Bush and Bell should be a nice duo for the Lions Offense. Golden Tate and Eric Ebron become two new toys for Matthew Stafford, who should have a Drew Brees like season. The great trio of Ziggy Ansah, Suh and Fairley as well as rookie Kyle Van Noy… Detriot’s front 7 should be another nasty bunch. The weak link for the Lions is the Secondary, but I doubt it will be a huge downfall for the overall success of the team. Look for the Lions to give their fans the season they have been waiting for.
Packers (10-6)- The Packers didn’t make any big splashes in Free Agency, but had a great draft. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and the other rookies could play big roles for the Packers this season. Look for Lacy to become a Top 5 running back this season and Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson to have stellar seasons in their contract year. The Front 7 is getting older, but they should still be able to compliment the much improved secondary to assure the Packers are a better Defense this year.
Bears (9-7)- The Bears would likely be a 11 or 12 win team if they were in any other division. The 4 meetings with the Juggernaut Packers and Lions will prove wearying for Chicago. The O-Line is improved a bit, and Forte will continue to dominate… Jay Cutler also has the best 1-2 punch in the league at WR in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery… but past Bennett, there is not much depth on Offense. On defense, Jared Allen was a big addition along with LaMar Houston and rookie Kyle Fuller. The secondary is talented, but there are no play makers.
Vikings (6-10)- There are two reason why the Vikings won’t have a winning season… They are in a dominant division, and they have two Mediocre QBs on their Depth Chart. Matt Cassel is an excellent backup Quarterback, but was never meant to be a starter. Bridgewater is one of the most overrated QBs drafted in recent history (Probably why he dropped all the way to 32) … The turmoil of the QB debate will distract from a generally talented team. A solid O-Line to give AP another amazing campaign in the backfield, and the solid pairing of Jennings and Patterson, would be a great set of weapons for a better QB, but the Vikings have continued to choose below average talent for the position. The defense should be fun to watch with rookie Anthony Barr (Could be the next Von Miller), The very solid secondary and a skillful front 7 (Including Sharif Floyd, Griffen and Robinson). The Vikings won’t be able to match up to the Bears, Packers and Lions this year… but look for them to be in the hunt next year.
Saints (12-4)- This could be another year where Brees flirts with a number of QB records. Although they suffered a slight decrease in talent at the running back position (Losing Sproles) … Thomas and Ingram should be able to fill in the limited role a RB needs to play in a Drew Brees/Sean Payton offense. The strong Offensive line will give Brees plenty of time to throw to his weapons. These weapons include established talent such as Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston as well as two young studs at WR that could make a big impact for the Saints Offense (Kenny Stills and Brandin Cooks). Their Front 7 is very thin and weaker then most NFC teams… But their secondary makes up for it with the addition of Jarius Byrd and Champ Bailey to pair with their breakout safety Kenny Vaccaro.
Bucs (9-7)- Three 6’5” talented targets give newcomer Josh McCown a handful of reliable targets to help him make a transition to the Bucs Offense. These three targets are Rookies Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Vincent Jackson. Their deep Offensive Line will help Doug Martin have another strong year and give McCown time to throw to his big weapons. On defense they lose CB Darrell Revis but replaced him with stud Alterraun Verner for half the price. The defense has a few young cornerstones that can take it up to the next level and give Tampa a chance to give New Orleans some headaches.
Falcons (6-10)- Matt Ryan loses his reliable target Tony Gonzalez which leaves him with new TE Toilolo who is primarily a blocking Tight End which might prove as a troubling transition for Matty Ice. His trio of WR targets ( Jones, Douglas and White) will be the concentration of the offense. The RB position is potentially deep, but unless Jackson or rookie Devonta Freeman can make a solid contribution, Rogers will not be able to provide enough to make the Falcons offense two-dimensional. With the exception of a few play makers, the defense is very poor and thin, and will cause the Falcons to suffer another losing season.
Panthers (4-12)- The terrible offensive line and the big downgrade in WR talent project plenty of sad Cam Newton post-games this year. The running back pair of Stewart and Williams has never been more then a great compliment to Cam Newton’s offense. The new WRs they brought in for Newton include rookie Kelvin Benjamin, who has a hill to climb if he wants to be a consistent pro in the NFL… Tiquan Underwood is a WR to watch, he has shown flashes of being a solid Wide Receiver and could play a roll in Cam’s offense. The awesome Front 7 (including Hardy, Lotulelei and Kuechly) might not be enough to ignore the weak secondary.
49ers (11-5)- An improved offense will make up for the slight decline in the 49ers D. The addition of rookie Carlos Hyde and WR Stevie Johnson give Colin Kaepernick a few more targets in his already fluid offense. Frank Gore should start declining in the next year or so, but should still be able to contribute enough to be a featured back. Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree will lead the team in offensive production. The uncertainty of the 49ers two studs on the defensive line are what will keep them from flirting with a 14+ win season. Bowman (injury) and Aldon Smith (suspension) will miss a majority of the season… and Aldon Smith seems to have become a head case which could prove bad for the rest of his career. That being said, the 49ers still have a stacked Defense that is lead by Patrick Willis, Smith, Brooks, Ward and Reid. The 49ers will have another successful season despite their two missing stars and a great division.
Seahawks (10-6)- The only significant addition to the Seahawks is the completely healthy version of Percy Harvin. The Seahawks lost an array of players through Free Agency including Walter Thurmond, Brandon Browner, Golden Tate and others. On offense, Harvin and Lynch should lead the charge. Russell Wilson will have to come down to earth sometime soon and I think it will show a bit this year. The depth on Defense despite losing some big pieces continues to show true with an incredibly talented Linebacker core and the Legion of Boom should stay strong with Sherman, Thomas and Chancellor, but the Seahawks will not be the same team as last year.
Cardinals (10-6)- Cardinals first round draft pick Deone Bucannon could join Petterson, Cromartie and Mathieu to create the new Legion of Boom. Potentially the best secondary in the NFL this season, paired with an above average Front 7 make the NFL West the best defensive division hands down. On Offense, The WR set of Fitzgerald, Ginn, Floyd, rookie John Brown and TE Rob Housler (Dark Horse for a Pro-Bowl selection) create a great set of weapons. The issue is that Carson Palmer is the Quarterback. If the Cards had a formidable starting Quarterback, they could be looking at a division title, but they stuck with Palmer through the off-season. Look for Bruce Arians and the Cardinals to give San Fran and Seattle a run for their money.
Rams (2-14)- With a very young trio of WRs (Austin, Givens and Pettis) , Sam Bradford (If he stays healthy) could have another difficult season trying to turn the Rams into a winning ball-club. Look for Zac Stacy to be the bright spot on the Rams this year with the great O-Line and lack of veteran weapons needed for Sam Bradford to succeed. The Front 7 is very talented (Including Quinn, Brockers, Langford, Donald, Chris Long) but the secondary is definitely lacking play-makers. As a side note, with the Rams rebuilding and trying to grow as a team.. The large amount of press the Michael Sam campaign brings could also prove distracting for some younger players. Look for the Rams to compete for a Top 3 draft pick.
(3) Broncos over (6) Chargers
(5) Raiders over (4) Ravens
(6) Packers over (3) 49ers
(4) Giants over (5) Seahawks
(1) Patriots over (5) Raiders
(2) Colts over (3) Broncos
(1) Saints over (6) Packers
(4) Giants over (2) Lions
(1) Patriots over (2) Colts
(1) Saints over (4) Giants
Saints over Patriots
The 49ers and Seahawks reign in the NFC takes a year off as the Giants and Packers return to glory and take down the Juggernauts. In the AFC, The weak Wild Card round is highlighted by the Broncos winning a close game against the Chargers (Similar to this past year) and the Raiders upsetting the Ravens.
In The Divisional round, The Patriots take care of business with Oakland (Old rivalry renewed) and the Colts win an epic Shootout ending Peyton’s run and ruining the chance for Peyton v. Brady in another AFC championship. In the NFL, The Saints win a high scoring game with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, and the Giants take down the favorite Lions in a route.
In the Conference Finals, The Patriots beat the Colts by 2 scores redeeming themselves and returning to the Super Bowl. In the NFC the Saints defeat the Giants comfortably… ending the Giants magical run and stopping the Patriots chance at getting revenge on the Giants for their two Super Bowl Defeats.
Super Bowl 49 becomes an instant classic as Drew Brees and Tom Brady square off in a QB battle of the decade. Both throw for 3+ Touchdowns, but Brees and the Saints win on a final drive touchdown.
MVP- Drew Brees
Coach of the Year- Tom Coughlin
Offensive Player of the Year- Adrian Peterson
Comeback Player of the Year- Eli Manning
Defensive Player of the Year- Patrick Willis
Offensive Rookie of the Year- Sammy Watkins
Defensive Rookie of the Year- Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Thoughts? Who do you think will be in the big game