To my readers and NFL fans, I hope you had a great Labor Day weekend. I hope all of you stayed safe during the final weekend without real NFL games that both count and matter. I know that I am ready for Thursday evening, September 4, 2014, when the 2013 defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks begin the defense of their title against the 2010 Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers in Seattle on NBC. I don’t cheer for either team, but I will be grateful for the game to return, especially considering the off season that the sport has just experienced.
To give an overview of what to expect from the upcoming season and a little commentary on the off-season, I think that it is going to be a very exciting year. As an observer (and a fan, as we writers enjoy the NFL) of the sport, I am going to watch very closely when it comes to the officiating. After all, the NFL’S Competition Committee is now demanding that violations like Defensive Holding, Defensive Pass Interference, and Offensive Pass Interference, and Hits to the Head, to be called as points of emphasis.
The funny thing is that these rules have been in place for 40 years. I’m all for player safety, and all that. However, during the preseason, the games took forever, because the referees were throwing flags at any little hit. It slowed down the game. I know that the rookies, and guys trying to make the team had to learn, but I thought there were too many flags. That being said, I don’t think the flags will fly as much in the regular season, as the starters will have adjusted their games. However, the ticky tack calls have to go.
Anyway, now that I have given a bit of an overview, and some commentary on some off season issues, I am going to give my prediction for the 2014-15 NFL Season, Post Season, Super Bowl Pick and a couple of Post Season Awards. I hope that you are going to enjoy the blog. Good luck to all your teams for the season.
The Cincinnati Bengals won the division last year. Once again, they lost in the playoffs against the San Diego Chargers. QB Andy Dalton got paid a large contract this past off season. Considering that he’s yet to win a playoff game, I am not sure he deserved the contract. However, he and his trusted wide receiver A.J Green looked great in the preseason games. RB Giovanni Bernard also is looking fantastic. The defense looked very good. Can Dalton take the next step? The team has a great chance to win the Division.
The Cleveland Browns’ home stadium is nicknamed “the factory of Sadness.” I’m afraid that it will continue to live up to that moniker. It’s a shame, because their defense looks to be decent enough, at times, to keep them in games. It’s their offense that has been nonexistent. Their latest debacle is their lack of a good wide receiver. They didn’t get on in the draft in May, even though they KNEW about Josh Gordon’s 1 year suspension, which was just upheld. They just released Nate Burleson. The team drafted a celebrity QB in Johnny “Football” Manziel. Brian Hoyer will start, but for how long will he have the job? Cleveland is a mess. No chance.
The Baltimore Ravens missed the playoffs entirely last year. I find it interesting that it happened the season after QB Joe Flacco was paid that huge salary, when Flacco led the Ravens to their 2nd SB title I think it happened because of the loss of many players, especially Anquan Boldin.
This year, the team looked like a better team. I am going to see if there’s a lot of offensive improvement with new Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak. What also will be interesting is the impact of Ray Rice’s suspension on the team, and how he will be used when he comes back. It’s my understanding that RB Bernard Pierce may be used more than Rice.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have me worried. I am still not sold on Todd Haley as offensive coordinator. I am glad that Ben Roethlisberger is finally given control of the offense. However, I am wondering to whom is Ben going to throw the ball? They have Antonio Brown, and a bunch of rookies. The arrests of the two top running backs, LeGarrette Blount and Le’Veon Bell are not helping matters. Luckily for the team, both are playing Week one against the Browns.
I am not sure about the defense. There’s a mix of young and old guys. Special teams were always a huge issue, and still are. I am really in the dark with this team. That said, if the team can somehow get its act together, I think the Steelers can grab a wild card seed.
Records for the AFCN Teams:
Division Winner: Bengals
The Buffalo Bills have been absent from the playoffs for over a decade. From looking at the team during the pre-season, and their off-season, I don’t see that changing this year. I am not impressed with the offense. QB E.J. Manuel is just not cutting it as a starting QB. I know he’s coming off surgery that curtailed his rookie season last year. However, he didn’t appear to have a great grasp of the offense in the pre-season games I saw him play. The bright spots were the running game and the defense that may keep the team in games. I don’t see this team contending for the division, much less the playoffs.
The Miami Dolphins have looked to be in pretty good shape this pre-season. Their defense has looked like it could be pretty decent this year. The defense could keep the team in games. Problems for the team lay on the offensive side of the ball. I am not confident that the offensive line has recovered from the Incognito debacle from last year. Mike Pouncey, one of the team’s top offensive linemen, is recovering from injury. The offense added RB Knoshown Moreno (former Denver Broncos), which would help out QB Ryan Tannehill. The team still has WR Mike Wallace (former Pittsburgh Steelers) . The real question for the team is will Tannehill finally be able to take the next step, and take the team to the playoffs? I have seen flashes from Tannehill, but no signs of the Second Coming of the brilliant Dan Marino.
The New York Jets and their boisterous head coach Rex Ryan are chirping and beating their cheasts. As annoying as it can be, it’s very refreshing. That is how they are. They tried being subdued last year, and it didn’t work. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
As for their prospects, they have a very good defensive line. After all, Ryan is a defensive guy. Their defensive weakness may be their secondary, as they have a bunch of injuries back there. Their offense is decent. . I see that QB Geno Smith has a much better control of the offense, and has improved his ball security. Backup QB Michael Vick can play in a pinch. The team got Eric Decker from the Broncos, and he should help them out. How much more does newly acquired RB Chris Johnson have left? Chris Ivory is pretty good also. The team will be kept in games by the defense. I am not all that impressed.
The New England Patriots are the team to beat in this division. Most recently, they traded their 6 time Pro Bowl LT Logan Mankins to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a 4th round pick and TE Tim Wright. I think the trade will be fine. Mankins evidently would not take a pay cut, and Coach Belichick felt that Mankins was not playing to his contract. Belichick has a philosophy that its better to let guys go 1 year too early than 1 year too late.
The team finally were able to trade backup QB Ryan Mallett to the Houston Texans for a conditional 7th round pick. I am very impressed with rookie QB Jimmy Garropolo. He did a very good job in the preseason. At first, I was a bit skeptical about him, from reading reports about his practices ,but I felt good about him when I saw him play.
As far as the Patriots’ prospects for the 2014 season, I am really liking what I am seeing. The defense is going to be fantastic. There are doubts about Vince Wilfork’s ability to return from his Achilles rupture that he suffered last season. Well, from my observation, he looks awesome. Darrell Revis is going to be awesome in the secondary. DE Chandler Jones is going to have a monster year.
On the offense, Tom Brady has been sharp as a tack during his practices up in Foxborough, and in pre-season. Reports of his decline, and reports of him no longer being an “elite” quarterback have been greatly exaggerated. WR Kenbrell Thompkins and Danny Amendola (provided he can stay healthy) are in for very good years, as Brady is starting to trust them. Julian Edelman will have a great year also. Aaron Dobson looked good in the 4th pre-season game, and the returning TE Rob Gronkowski should definitely improve the offense.
The good news concerning Gronkowski is that he’s reportedly ready for Week 1 (Coach Belichick is trying to pump the brakes on that. ). Considering his injury, that is impressive. I don’t expect a lot at first. Opponents will have to plan for him. Tim Wright is expected to help in the offense. However, I definitely expect the Patriots to be in the mix of Super Bowl contenders.
Records for the AFCE Teams:
Division Winner: Patriots
The Indianapolis Colts are the kings of the mountain in this division. Andrew Luck is a rising young QB, who has lead the team to the playoffs since he entered the NFL, and last year, brought the Colts back to win his first playoff game against the Chiefs. What’s next?
Well, wideout Reggie Wayne returns from the ACL tear he suffered last season. How will he be? Will RB Trent Richardson finally step up? Will the offensive line protect Luck? The defense might suffer a bit without Robert Mathis, due to his 4 game suspension (ridiculous, I might add). I do think the team has enough power to win the division, even with owner Jim Irsay’s 6 game suspension. At least Irsay can’t use his twitter.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are a mess. I really don’t know what to say. That QB rookie Blake Bortles is doing a great job, but they are going to sit him? Why? Chad Henne is just keeping the seat warm. I don’t see a ton of talent on the team. I wondered what on earth happened to this team. It USED to be a very good team. Now, it’s like a dilapidated car.
The Houston Texans went 2-14 last year. I could not believe my eyes when I saw then QB Matt Schaub throwing pick 6s like they were going out of style. Well, they have dumped Schaub and Coach Gary Kubiak, and have QB Jack Fitzgerald and Bill O’Brien as head coach. Arian Foster is still the RB, and after a bit of a dispute, WR Andre Johnson came back. The team drafted Jadeveon Clowney, and finally paid J.J. Watt. I don’t think they’ll make the playoffs, but they’ll be a bit better.
The Tennessee Titans have me scratching my head. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt has his work cut out for him. I’m not sure if QB Jake Locker is a starting QB. He just shows flashes. He gets hurt quite a bit. Charlie Whitehurst is not that much better either.
Nate Washington is a marginal WR at best. Michael Oher comes from the Ravens to help on the offensive line. The defense is not that much to write home about. The leader on defense is the infamous Bernard Pollard. I don’t see this team going anywhere.
Records for the AFCS Teams:
Division Winner: Colts
The Denver Broncos reloaded both on offense and on defense (particularly defense) this past off-season, because of the 43-8 Secretariat-like beat down they got from the Seahawks in Super Bowl 48. They added DeMarcus Ware , T.J. Ware, and Aqib Talib to bolster their defense. Even though they lost Eric Decker on offense, they got Emmanuel Sanders (who got into hot water by praising his new QB Peyton Manning, but burying his former QB Ben Roethlisberger.).
As far as their prospects, I have no doubt that this team will be in the mix for a Super Bowl run. Per the “experts,” the Broncos are the prohibitive favorite to win it all. Why not? They have Manning and all those weapons. They got some upgrades at the defensive position. Wes Welker just had his 3rd concussion, and that bugs me.
The San Diego Chargers, in my opinion, have been fool’s gold. What I mean is that they seem to have high expectations put on them, and they don’t come through. They have started slow lately. They go into slumps. I don’t know what to do with them this year. They were lucky to be in playoffs last year. Rivers and company need to start faster. I am not sold on them.
The Kansas City Chiefs are probably the second best team in this division. Andy Reid is having great success with this team. Alex Smith is doing well as a QB. He also got paid. The team has a really good defensive scheme. They will be without WR Dwayne Bowe for the first week due to Bowe’s one game suspension on the offensive side. The question for this team is that can they get past that playoff collapse to the Colts, or will it linger?
The Oakland Raiders that I remembered were brutes, and rough and tough teams. The wars they’d get into with the rival Steelers would blow people’s minds. What’s happened to them? It seems like it is a place where careers go to die.
QB Matt Schaub lost the starting job to a rookie. Let me say it again, A ROOKIE. Come on, man! QB Derek Carr is going to start for the Raiders. Hey. I am all for starting the best guy, even if he is a rookie (earth to the Jaguars), but Schaub, come on. I know you have the elbow issues, but this is for your starting job. Anyway, outside of David Carr, I didn’t see much of the Raiders to give me much hope.
Records for the AFCW Teams :
Division Winner: Broncos
The Chicago Bears almost made the playoffs last season. However, a returning Packers QB Aaron Rodgers ruined all that. The questions that surrounds this team concern QB Jay Cutler, head coach Mark Trestman, and that defense.
Can Trestman get the headstrong Cutler to be the QB the team needs? Can Cutler ever be a top echelon QB? Sure, he has Brandon Marshall, but who else will step up? Can the offensive line protect him? The defense is also a question mark.
The Detroit Lions have been a walking disaster for a long time. Now, they have some semblance of a team that did make the playoffs fairly recently. They have the best WR in the game in Calvin Johnson. They have an excellent defense. They have a very good QB in Matthew Stafford
Can new head coach Jim Caldwell get the team in the right direction, or are Lions fans going “to lose their minds in Detroit, Rock City” again? Yes, my readers, I had to throw in a KISS reference.
The Green Bay Packers are the cream of the crop in this division. QB Aaron Rodgers should be back in form to lead the Packers. It looks like they’re going to be emphasizing the running game. Ed Lacey is going to be a beast this year. I expect the passing game to do well, even though I am worried about the offensive line. The defense may have some problems with B.J. Raji gone for the season, even though they do have Clay Matthews, but I still think they’ll win the division.
The Minnesota Vikings are very intriguing. They looked good in pre-season. Matt Cassel will be the starting QB. Cassel had a very good command of the offense
Rookie Teddy Bridgewater did make up some ground. I think Bridgewater is in a good situation. They have Adrian Peterson as their top RB. Head coach Mike Zimmer will have the defense looking better.
Records for the NFCN Teams:
Division Winner: Packers
The Dallas Cowboys are going into the season with the 32nd ranked defense from last year. QB Tony Romo is coming off of back surgery. My concern is how healthy will Romo be to lead the offense. He will have help from WR Dez Bryant and Romo’s trusty friend, TE Jason Witten, amongst others. I just am concerned about his overall health. This team needs Romo to be healthy.
I mean, that Cowboys defense is that bad. Losing guys like DeMarcus Ware doesn’t help. I do commend them for signing Michael Sam to the team’s practice squad. Hopefully, he’ll get a chance to play one day, as the team needs help on defense badly.
The Philadelphia Eagles are in the second year of head coach Chip Kelly’s tutelage. Once again, Kelly has the team in this constant up tempo offense. QB Nick Foles is the starter, as QB Michael Vick is now with the Jets. In the pre-season, the offense looked to be in excellent shape. LeSean McCoy is going to be hard to stop. If Jeremy Maclin stays healthy, he will be a beast. RB Darren Sproles will be a nightmare for opposing defenses. The only thing that I see that may hurt the team is the defense. I wasn’t all that impressed with it. DeMeco Ryans has been the spotlight, but others need to step up.
The New York Giants are a mess on almost every side of the ball. I think it’s fair to wonder how on earth did this team with QB Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin as head coach win one Super Bowl, never mind two. The Giants have been out of the playoffs for the past four years. What is wrong with this team? They’ve looked terrible in pre-season
QB Eli Manning and the entire offense looks terrible. They are very slow to learn this new West Coast style offense. The defense doesn’t look much better. There are some bright spots. I just don’t see much happening for them this season.
Washington looks excellent on defense. They look like a top defense, and were very impressive in pre-season. Jim Haslett has the defense ready for a good year. Washington also looks like they could make some noise on the offensive side of the ball. RB Alfred Morris looks like he could have a big year.
The season could fall on the shoulders of starting QB Robert Griffin, III. Is he physically and mentally back to form? Will he slide to protect himself from unnecessary hits? Is Griffin at peace with what happened between him and the Shanahans? Can Griffin move on from his experience with the Shanahans? Is Griffin going to cooperate with current coach Jay Gruden, and not worry about what the doubters say? I am not so sure, and I like RGIII.
Records for the NFCE Teams:
Division Winner: Eagles
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a new coach in Lovie Smith. Overall, they did look promising in pre-season. They upgraded their offensive line by trading for Logan Mankins from the Patriots. Their defense has looked good with guys such as Gerald McCoy and Da’Quan Bowers. WRs Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson should solidify the offense. I’m not sure about the QB position. Josh McCown, who filled in for Jay Cutler last season, is just alright. He doesn’t light the world on fire.
The Atlanta Falcons had a disastrous year last season. They had injuries and the offensive line could not protect QB Matt Ryan to save their collective lives. With many of the injured players back, and better line protection, I expect better play from the team. They looked good in the pre-season. I think they may get a wild card.
The Carolina Panthers won the division last year. However, with QB Cam Newton coming off ankle surgery and suffering from a rib injury he got in a pre-season game, the team may have a rough start. On top of that, Newton is going to be throwing to brand new receivers, as all his former receivers are gone. I do feel though that the team’s formidable defense will keep the team in games.
The New Orleans Saints looked very good this pre-season. QB Drew Brees looked to be in excellent form. His receivers were in excellent shape, especially star TE Jimmy Graham. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has the defense in great shape as well. I’m expecting a great deal from this team.
Records for the NFCS Teams:
Division Winner: Saints
The Arizona Cardinals were 10-6 last year, and just missed the playoffs. From looking at them this pre-season, if QB Carson Palmer doesn’t cut down the turnovers, they will miss them again. They do have a very good offense otherwise.
The team also has injuries to the defense that will hurt them. They lost DT Darnell Duckett to an ACL tear for the year. Who knows when FS Tyrann Mathieu will return from last year’s ACL tear. I do feel that with head coach Bruce Arians’ guidance, the team could qualify for the playoffs. With so many questions, I’m not that confident.
The San Francisco 49ers, after 3 seasons of being in the playoffs, including a Super Bowl appearance, were seen by many as the second or third best team in the NFC. They’ve had a great run under coach Jim Harbaugh. Well, now there’s a lot of questions surrounding the team.
Are the tensions between 49ers management and Harbaugh over the coach’s distracting the team? Will the loss of Navarro Bowman for another several weeks harm the defense, which will be without Aldon Smith who will be suspended for 9 games due to his off field antics?
QB Colin Kaepernick got paid a big contract, but he and the offense looked horrible in the pre-season. Can the offense get going? They had a hard time scoring in the pre-season. I think they will somehow make the playoffs, but they still worry me.
The St . Louis Rams drafted Michael Sam. He didn’t make the team, but was signed to the aforementioned Dallas Cowboys practice squad. That was not the only big thing that happened to the Rams. In the pre-season, they once again lost QB Sam Bradford for the season, as he re-tore the ACL in the same knee from which he was just returning.
QB Shaun Hill will be the starting QB. Well, Hill will have WR Kenny Britt as a target. WR Tavon Austin may also be a good target also. The defense is pretty solid, with James Laurinaitis leading the way. I don’t think they’ll make the playoffs, though.
The Seattle Seahawks are the team with the target on their collective backs. After all, they are the defending Super Champions, and all their opponents will be playing them hard. They lost a few players, but I watched them in pre-season, and they look formidable, both on offense and on defense.
Can WR Percy Harvin stay healthy all season? Will the offensive line hold up? Will the team keep their collective egos in check? Will the defense mind their manners, so to speak, concerning these “points of emphasis” rules.
No Super Bowl champion has repeated as champion since the 2003-04 New England Patriots. From what I have seen from Seattle in pre-season, they certainly have the potential to do so. Of course, having the potential and doing it are two separate things. After all, it is hard to get to the Super Bowl as it is. We will see if Seattle has what it takes to get back.
Records for the NFC West:
Division Winner: Seahawks
NFL MVP: Peyton Manning (Bronco)
DPOY: J.J. Watts (Texans)
OPOY: Adrian Peterson (Vikings)
Playoffs Teams :
AFC Championship Game:
The New England Patriots vs the Denver Broncos
Winner: The New England Patriots
NFC Championship Game:
The Seattle Seahawks vs the Green Bay Packers
Winner: The Green Bay Packers
My Super Bowl 49 prediction is the following:
The Green Bay Packers (NFC) vs The New England Patriots (AFC)
Winner of Super Bowl 49:
The New England Patriots
Super Bowl MVP: QB Tom Brady