2014 NFL PREDICTIONS
New England Patriots
As long as Tom Brady is the QB this team always has a shot at reaching the SuperBowl. I predicted LY that this team would go 12-4. They made it to the AFC Championship game again but lost @DEN. In the off-season they let oft-injured CB Talib go and they signed CB Darrelle Revis. This is definitely an upgrade. They also signed CB Brandon Browner but he will not be around for the first four games. CB Patrick Chung was brought back as well because this secondary LY was torched and they would not be able to get back to the SuperBowl with a secondary that didn’t get help. Hopefully DT Vince Wilfork is healthy after his season ending injury LY because he is a force on the DEF line. The WRs have had a nice learning yr with Brady and should be better equipped this yr. Just in case, they signed WR Brandon Lafell from Carolina. In the draft, NE took DT Dominique Easley out of Florida who looks to start right away. In the 2nd round they took QB Jimmy Garoppolo from Eastern Illinois who could be groomed to replace Brady in a few years. However, in my mind I think the running game took a hit when they let RB LeGarrette Blount sign with PITT in the off-season. This guy showed he was a beast and he will surely be missed. Right now, none of the other teams in the AFC have improved that much so that they are a serious challenger to NE. I see this team possibly getting past DEN and making it to the SuperBowl. As long as they stay healthy and the DEF plays like it did in those early SuperBowl years.
2013 (12-4) √ PROJECTED 2014 (13-3)
New York Jets
It seems that HC Rex Ryan has gone back to his old virtues of talking smack with the media again. LY the JETS went 8-8 and missed the playoffs. They were given a couple of gifts during the season and the outcomes could’ve gone the other way. This team was decent @HOME, 6-2 but, horrible on the road, 2-6. Gone are QB Mark Sanchez and his butt fumble circus and is CB Antonio Cromartie who cost the JETS some games over his JETS tenure. In the off-season WR Eric Decker was signed from DEN and RB Chris Johnson was signed from TENN. TENN let him go because they felt he wasn’t worth $12 mil and his skills were eroding. QB Micahel Vick was also signed to backup Geno Smith. It all comes down to Geno. At times he looked predictable and uncertain and at times he looked like he was growing into the job. Well, with Vick thinking that he does have some chance at the starting job, Geno better be looking good in camp and in the preseason if he wants to start WK 1. CB Dee Milner is proclaiming that he is the best CB in the NFL when he’s not even the best CB on the JETS. So far he’s been a big disappointment. The secondary has always been a concern under Rex because they seem to give up the long ball. This DEF is great vs the RUN but has problems covering multiple WRs. On paper, this team looks better than last yr but the OFF line and the secondary are still question marks. Geno has to stay calm and not get flustered and the JETS will have a good season possibly with a playoff shot. If this yr is a disaster HC Rex Ryan is gone.
PROJECTED 2014 (8-8)
LY, I had the FISH at 9-7, they finished 8-8. After beating NE late in the season they had a chance in the last 2 games to get that ninth win but to no avail. But MIA’s Achilles heal as I said throughout LY is their OFF LINE. Tannehill was sacked 58x. At times the O-Line looked like a POP-Warner team out there and could not generate a little protection for the OFF to get anything going. But Tannehill is getting better and to help with the run game and pass protection (he’ll need it) MIA signed RB Knowshon Moreno from DEN. He is a bruising back once he gets started and should take a lot of pressure off Tannehill. For the O-LINE they signed LT Brandon Albert and LG Shelley Smith. In the draft they took RT Ja’Wuan James out of Tennessee to help on the other side. CB Brent Grimes was voted to the Pro-Bowl after his 1st yr in MIA after 6 yrs in ATL and has shown full recovery after a torn Achilles sidelined him in 2012. The RUN DEF went a little south LY for the FISH as the PASS DEF certainly got better but for this team to win some games, PASS protection for Tannehill is #1 and not letting teams score at will late in games. FISH don’t play well vs AFC EAST and if they want to make the playoffs they need to win more of those games. I’m still optimistic that MIA can finish with a winning record.
PROJECTED 2014 (9-7)
BUFF has had three straight seasons with just six wins. EJ Manuel is the starter at QB with backup either to Jeff Tuel or Thad Lewis. I don’t know why someone hasn’t picked up Thad Lewis? This guy played decently when EJ was injured in 2013. The durability of EJ concerns the BILLS. BUFF’s problems stem from making big mistakes. This team is in most of the games that they play but it’s that one big mistake that turns the game around. They traded WR Stevie Johnson away while drafting WR Sammy Watkins out of Clemson with the 4th pick in the 1st round. The PASS DEF was outstanding LY @ #4 but the RUN DEF was #28. Former Lions HC Jim Schwartz takes over as DC and he plans on being very aggressive with the likes of DE Marcell Dareus 7.5 sacks, DT Kyle Williams 10.5 sacks, DE Mario Williams 13.0 sacks and OLB Jerry Hughes 10.0 sacks. This group needs to know when the run is coming and stop them in their tracks. LB Brandon Spikes was signed in the off-season and he is looking to prove himself for a long term deal. ON OFF the RB tandem of Spiller and Jackson is working well as long as both stay healthy. They are a nice 1-2 punch for the running game and can be used as extra WRs. RB Bryce Brown was added in the backfield from PHILLY to complement these two in depth. EJ Manuel needs to play smart, stay healthy and this team has a chance for respectability and a plus .500 team for the first time in a long time. And finally, Ralph Wilson, the only owner that the BILLS have ever known died in March and the family is presently selling the team. Fans would like the new owners to keep the team in Buffalo but, nothing is guaranteed. I think the BILLS can win a few more game than LY. Their schedule looks winnable except 2 straight @DEN & GB.
PROJECTED 2014 (9-7)
LY, I said BALT wouldn’t make the playoffs after winning the SuperBowl in 2012. I was right on. Even though in the off-season the DEF was shredded after the SuperBOWL win, BALT’s DEF actually improved in the ratings. After QB Flacco signed his mega deal, his number went down. He had 19 Tds but 22 INTS, his highest ever. TOT OFF was #29 & the running game was awful too, #30. The OFF line couldn’t open up holes for anyone and the OFF at times couldn’t score. LY, TE Dennis Pitta was injured most of the season and Flacco couldn’t use him as his favorite safety valve. In the off-season they signed longtime Panther WR Steve Smith who plays like he always has something to prove. TE Owen Daniels was also signed to help shore up the OFF. The OFF Line added C Jeremy Zuttah who should be able to give Flacco his protection and help with the running game. In the draft, BALT selected LB C.J. Mosley out of Alabama who looks to be a probable starter on the weak side. The rest of the draft for BALT was directed at concerns on OFF & DEF that had BALT missing the playoffs for the 1st time in six years. All teams play each other tough in the AFC North and the schedule for BALT is not that necessarily as tough as others but with the upstart Bengals, do they have enough to make the playoffs? By the way, did I mention the distraction with Ray Rice?
PROJECTED 2014 (10-6)
This team got a little older last year and after two straight 8-8 years some changes needed to be made. The DEF tailed off LY as opponents seemed to score at will. In the off-season S Ryan Clark, OLB LaMar Woodley & DE Al Woods went other places and PITT picked up CB Bruce McCain, S Mike Mitchell & OLB Arthur Moats. How much better this DEF is, will be tested very shortly. On OFF, RB LeGarrette Blount was picked up to help out an anemic RUN OFF that was #27 LY. They also picked up WRs Darrius Heyward-Bey & Lance Moore to give Big Ben more options. The edges of the OFF line are a little worrisome for PITT which could lead to some unexpected sacks. C Pouncey is coming back from a major injury so we’ll see how he holds up. SS Troy Polamalu has taken a lot of hits and the plan of many teams is to go right at him. PITT’s schedule is not really that tough but it depends how the newcomers and the guys coming back from injuries perform. A possible return to the playoffs is likely for this team but BIG BEN must lead the charge.
PROJECTED 2014 (10-6)
LY, CINNCY goes 8-0 @HOME but 3-5 on the road, then blows the first game in the playoffs for the 3rd yr in a row, this time at home. At least they are consistent. But QB Andy Dalton in the playoffs is 0-3 with 1 td & 6 INTS. Then he gets rewarded with a big contract. The team’s DEF improved considerably over 2012 by shutting teams down at home and at times on the road. They had a nice win @ SD but collapsed @HOME in the playoffs vs SD. The AFC North is a tough DIV no matter what the record of the teams are. CINNY does not play the DIV well and especially on the road where 3 of their 5 losses on the road were in the DIV. This team is solid but it comes down to Dalton. The team didn’t really get too involved in the off-season free agent market, signing guys that would complement particular areas. For the draft, they took guys that CINNCY could groom to be starters in the future. QB AJ McCarron out of Alabama was taken in the 5th round and can be groomed to be an eventual replacement of Dalton if he continues his postseason woes. Heaven knows backup Jason Campbell is not the answer. This season’s schedule is not kind to CINNCY having to play @NE, @INDY, @ NO & DEN. Plus, in their last seven games, five are on the road with a 3-game away streak. This team should win the North but let’s see how far they make it in the playoffs.
2013 (11-5) √ PROJECTED 2014 (10-6)
LY, the Browns had a QB carousel. Weeden, Hoyer and Campbell all took shots at QB. However, Hoyer looked good but had a season ending injury. Campbell and Weeden were released in the off-season. This team played close all season but came up short too many times. CLEVE DEF was respectable at #9 but was on the field too long. In the secondary CB Joe Haden can’t do it all by himself so in the draft they took CB Justin Gilbert with the eighth pick out of Oklahoma St. He should be a starter. QB Johnny Manziel was drafted with the 22nd pick in the 1st round, thanks to the trade of RB Richardson to INDY LY. However, the jury is still out on how Manziel will turn out. It’s all up to him. Right now Hoyer is the starter and looks to turn this team around. WR Josh Gordon is suspended for all of 2014 so Nate Burleson, Miles Austin Earl Bennett and Andrew Haskins were signed to help with the receiving corps. RB Ben Tate was signed as well to add to the backfield for a departing McGahee. S Donte Whitner from SF was signed to help the secondary. He got some big money so hopefully it will work out. New HC Mike Pettine takes over with a lot of optimism and has to get this team moving in the right direction with some stability. LY, I predicted that this team would win five games, they ended up winning four. I see improvement in the personnel hopefully, it will all come together in wins.
PROJECTED 2014 (8-8)
A total disastrous season for the Texans LY at 2-14. Many people including me, had this team getting close to the Superbowl. Did anyone see that coming? QB Matt Shaub (aka Tony Shaloub) showed everyone that he was just average, was benched then released after the season. But look who they brought in as a replacement, QB Ryan (the human turnover too) Fitzpatrick. This guy is terrible. However, they did pick up a possible QB of the future in Tom Savage in the 4th round from PITT. New HC from Penn State, Bill O’Brien comes in to turn the ship around. We all know that the Texans picked DE Jadeveon Clowney with the 1st overall pick out of South Carolina. This will help take some of the pressure off ALL-World DE JJ Watt and with a healthy ILB Brian Cushing the DEF will be hard to stop. Plus with a #3 PASS DEF not too many teams will be able to throw the ball against this team. RB Arian Foster is coming off back surgery so we’ll see early on if he’s fully recovered. WR Andre Johnson has said that he wants to stay. It all comes down to the QB. HOU has a soft schedule TY & luckily, they play TENN & JAGS 2x each.
PROJECTED 2014 (8-8)
In the two years that Andrew Luck has been the QB he has led this team to the playoffs, deeper each time. But, if you look at INDY’s schedule the last 2 seasons you will find not too many tough games and not that many vs top QBs. However, Luck’s ability to put a loss behind him is fantastic, Luck after an SU loss, 10-0 SU. INDY’s RUSH DEF is still pathetic and any good running team can run all day on them. INDY wasn’t that proactive in the off-season but they did sign a couple of guys to shore up their DEF. They also signed oft-injured WR Hakeem Nicks to give Luck another option when he is scrambling around. Also, Luck is not afraid to run the ball himself which could lead to him taking off before things open up down the field. Luckily, INDY plays in a DIV where the other three teams are in serious rebuild mode. They need to continue to beat up on these teams if they want to get a higher seed for the playoffs. In 2014 the schedule gets tougher for INDY as they play @DEN, PHILLY, CINNCY & NE all playoff teams. RB Trent Richardson who was traded for during the 2013 season now has a full training camp to get acquainted with his OFF so hopefully he will have a breakout season which will take some of the load off Luck. With the tougher schedule that INDY has, this team needs to play tougher or it will be a long season. They should win the DIV but they may be very banged up by the end.
PROJECTED 2014 (10-6)
This team has had one winning season in the last five. QB Jake Locker has been injured and at oft-times inconsistent. The OFF-Line is a contributory factor as TITANS QBs were sacked 37x. The newly departed RB Chris Johnson had his 2nd worst rushing season with the TITANS as this team clawed its way to seven wins. Is Shonn Greene the answer at RB? This team will find out or Locker will be throwing the ball a lot and finding out if he is the one to take this team back to the playoffs. This is a big season for Locker, he needs to show big improvement otherwise TENN will be looking for a new QB come 2015. Also, TENN plays very badly vs AFC SOUTH. This is a weak DIV and the former HC Munchak went 6-12 SU vs AFC SOUTH in his 3yr tenure. They need big improvement in the DIV if they want to make a statement. In the of-season TENN signed explosive WR & PR Dexter McCluster. He should give the TENN OFF some better field positions to work with. Plus, he will see more passes thrown to him now that WR Kenny Britt left in the off-season. The DEF improved LY vs the RUN & the PASS but are now switching from a base 4-3 DEF to a hybrid 3-4 scheme under new DC Ray Horton. New HC Ken Whisenhunt brings some new excitement to TENN in that he did lead the Arizona Cardinals to the SuperBowl with Future Hall of Fame QB Kurt Warner. TENN made some moves to tighten their OFF-LINE by signing RT Michael Oher and drafting RT Taylor Lewan out of Michigan. But the OFF comes down to Locker. With no real threat to his job as the starter (Ryan Fitzpatrick signed elsewhere this season) Locker has to show some maturity and the ability to lead this team and take it to the next level otherwise it will be a long season in Nashville.
PROJECTED 2014 (7-9)
I was right on the money LY with my prediction for the JAGS. This team has won just 6 games the last 2 yrs. WR Justin Blackmon is suspended for the yr and that leaves Cecil Shorts as the star receiver for the JAGS. RB Maurice Jones-Drew left for more money and they acquired DE Chris Clemons from Seattle to add something to the DEF. In the draft they took QB Blake Bortles from UCF with the 3rd pick in the 1st round. They drafted a couple of WRs to give Bortles some weapons who is slated to be the starter. If he doesn’t pick things up quickly it will be another very long season for JAGS fans. This team LY was #31 TOT OFF & #27 TOT DEF but they seem to play TENN & HOU tough so there is some light at the end of the tunnel. However, it is a very long tunnel and I don’t see a plus .500 year for the JAGS this yr. I think the JAGS could scratch out a few more wins this yr than LY if they find someone to run the ball and the DEF doesn’t look like they are just standing around.
2013 (4-12) √ PROJECTED 2014 (6-10)
So the Broncos made it to the SuperBowl where I did predict that SEA would beat them. I wasn’t surprised that the DEF for SEA would keep Peyton rattled which it did. DEN had the #1 OFF in the NFL and Peyton broke all kinds of records. But, the DEF got a pass because DEN was so far ahead that other teams were already playing catchup and had to throw on every down. DEN lost only 3 games LY, @INDY, @NE & SD. WR Eric Decker signed elsewhere in the off-season and so did workhorse RB Knowshon Moreno. Return specialist Trindon Holiday also went elsewhere and this might prevent DEN from having great field position after a punt, we’ll see. But to try to shore up the DEF DEN signed CB Aqib Talib. In my opinion, DEN overpaid for the often injured CB. The y picked up DE Demarcus Ware from DAL to shore up the line where he will be a vocal leader. S TJ Ward was also added from CLEVE for the secondary. Also on OFF for the departed WR Decker, Emmanuel Sanders was signed. In the draft DEN selected CB Bradley Roby out of Ohio State in the 1st round. If CB Chris Harris is not recovered from his torn knee ligament, Roby may get the start. As long as Peyton is healthy, this team is looking at a deep run into the playoffs and even at a shot at the SuperBowl. Their schedule is not that tough.
2013 (13-3) √ PROJECTED 2014 (13-3)
San Diego Chargers
LY, the Bolts had a nice season. They had nine wins and made the playoffs where they beat @CINNCY but lost @DEN. In their own DIV they beat KC twice, DEN once and OAK once. QB Phlip Rivers had some nice games but this team knows it can do better. LY, SD lost to HOU, TENN, OAK & WASH. These losses should not happen. If SD wants to go deeper into the playoffs they must beat the easy teams. This year their schedule actually gets much tougher and they can’t rely on miracle comebacks to beat these proven winners. They did pick up CB Brandon Flowers who couldn’t come to terms with KC. This will hopefully uplift their secondary. The Chargers have a nice set of WRs but their RB Ryan Mathews is turning 33. Danny Woodhead was a nice addition LY and is a great safety valve for Rivers. The OFF line has always been a problem for Rivers who in turn gets sacked a lot. They need to give him time so that things can open up on OFF. The PASS DEF was #29 LY and if SD wants to make it back to the playoffs they need shore up their secondary. They drafted CB Jason Verrett out of TCU in the 1st round and he is slated to be a starter. Even if this team stays healthy they will have a tough stretch late in the season when they play STL, @BALT, NE, DEN @ SF. We’ll see but I’m not predicting miracles.
PROJECTED 2014 (9-7)
Kansas City Chiefs
HC Andy Reid took this team further than anyone expected in his 1st yr in KC. However, they did not beat anyone with .500 or better record the whole yr and were bounced from the playoffs in the wildcard game after having a big lead. In the off-season they lost some of their playmakers DB/KR Quintin Demps to NYG & WR/KR Dexter McCluster to TENN. RB Jamaal Charles had a great season and signed a nice deal in the off-season. He will probably be asked to do more after getting some big money. But the schedule gets tougher for KC TY. Last yr they played a 2-14 schedule and it was light except, for their games vs AFC West opponents. LY the DEF played well except in big games. Guys like OLBs Justin Houston & Tamba Hali have to show up in big games not just in the little ones. Plus, with a suspect secondary, the PASS DEF was #25, it doesn’t look good. Not to mention that Pro Bowler CB Brandon Flowers was released doesn’t help their secondary woes. For KC the DEF has to play every game like it’s a playoff game or good teams will not take them seriously. QB Alex Smith plays a very controlled OFF where he is not asked to make big decisions. But, put pressure on him and it’s lights out. With a tougher schedule TY, I don’t see how KC gets to eleven wins this season.
PROJECTED 2014 (7-9)
This is the team that the NFL forgot. But fortunately the players haven’t. This is where players go when no other team will give them the money they are looking for. OAK went on a spending spree. The Raiders signed QB Matt Shaub, OL Kevin Boothe, WR James Jones, RB Maurice Jones-Drew, CB Carlos Rodgers, DE Justin Tuck & DE LaMar Woodley just to name a few. They also had a great draft where they took LB Khalil Mack out of Buffalo, yes Buffalo and QB of the future in the 2nd round, Derek Carr from Fresno State. The rest of their draft was mostly DEF guys that should fit in nicely. OAK has a very tough schedule TY. Besides facing SD & DEN 2x each, they face SEA, STL, ARZ, NE & SF. Matt Schaub needs to MAN UP and return to the form that led HOU into the playoffs. If all of OAK’s signings perform and the DEF plays decent they could be hovering around .500 this yr. That would be a big improvement. I’m going to go out on a limb on this one.
2013 (4-12) √ PROJECTED 2014 (7-9)
New York Giants
The G-MEN started the season 0-6 and ended up 7-9 but don’t get ready to say that they salvaged the season. HC Tom Coughlin should have been let go already but instead they basically said the job is his until he doesn’t want it anymore. Here is analysis of the GIANTS seven wins LY. MINN-no QB, @PHILLY- no Foles, Matt Barkley was the QB, OAK-Big Deal, GB-no Rodgers(Tolzien), @WASH(No D), @DET(losers), WASH(No RGIII). QB Eli Manning had his worst yr as the GIANTS QB and the O-LINE was atrocious. All their RBs were injured and they had to bring in RB Peyton Hillis who was retired and working as a teacher. When they played any team with a QB with a pulse, they lost and lost big. In the secondary CB Antrel Rolle seemed like the only one playing DEF and DE Jason Pierre-Paul played through an injury plagued season. In the off-season, NYG was very busy. Some big names departed, DE Justin Tuck, WR Hakeem Nicks, G David Diehl retired. For the O-LINE G Geoff Schwartz & C J.D. Walton were signed to plug up the protection and open up some running lanes. RB Rashad Jennings was signed to definitely take some pressure off Eli and to get the running game back. To help on Special Teams RS Quintin Demps & Trindon Holliday were signed by the G-MEN to get better field position after kicks. CBs Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie & Walt Thurmond were signed to help shore up the secondary. DE Robert Ayers & LB Jameel McClain were signed to take pressure off a hopefully healthy JPP. A lot of personnel signed elsewhere but hopefully for NYG these guys will pay huge dividends. All eyes will be on Eli to see if he bounces back from a season where he had a career high 27 INTs. New OC Ben McAdoo brings a West Coast OFF that Eli and the rest of the team will have to get used to. The TE position is still a question mark so that will be done by committee. We’ll see how all these new GIANTS respond but, it should be a bounceback year for the G-MEN.
PROJECTED 2014 (10-6)
No one could have predicted that HC Chip Kelly’s 1st season in Philly would be this good. But with QB Vick getting injured and then released after the season, who would have thought that Nick Foles would come on like gangbusters and play they way he did? They lost in the 1st round of the playoffs to NO which I should have seen coming. But all in all the season was a success. They released WR Desean Jackson after he had his best season and signed QB Mark Sanchez as a backup. Hopefully, Mark will never see any playing time. The OFF for Philly is not a problem, they can score points. The DEF, especially the PASS DEF was #32 LY. Knowing that this is a pass happy league, PHILLY went out and signed a few guys to shore up their secondary. CB Nolan Carroll, S Malcolm Jenkins & S Chris Maragos (a nickel back) were added to stop people. OLB Marcus Smith from Louisville was drafted in the 1st round and has great potential. All-everywhere OFF guy Darren Sproles was stolen after being released by NO. This should give PHILLY another explosive weapon for HC Chip Kelly’s OFF. The NFC EAST was in a down yr LY and the only team that played +.500 ball was PHILLY. Now if PHILLY can make some stops on DEF they should be really good and fun to watch.
PROJECTED 2014 (10-6)
It was obvious to everyone that RGIII was not quite recovered from his devastating knee injury at the end of 2012. This team is not quite the same without a healthy RGIII. After a 10-6 team in 2012 where he led the Skins to the playoffs, nothing worked & WASH went backwards with a 3-13 record in 2013. RGIII was shutdown after the 13th game of the season to heel and hopefully he is 100 percent and ready to storm the league like he did in 2012. The biggest acquisition that WASH has made this off-season is definitely the signing of former PHILLY WR Desean Jackson. He is coming off his best season and has some thing to prove to PHILLY that chose to release him. Jackson gives another explosive option that will be teamed with WRs Pierre Garcon, newly signed WR Andre Roberts & WR Santana Moss. RB Albert Morris is a workhorse who helps take some of the pressure off RGIII and is looking for a straight 1000+ yd season. The O-Line is going to have to do a better job in protecting RGIII and opening holes up for the RBs. QBs were sacked 43x in 2013 up from 33x in 2012. DC Jim Haslett has been given full control of the DEF under new HC Jay Gruden. He was frequently overruled by previous HC Mike Shanahan who seemed to lose reign on the team in 2013 and was ultimately fired. This is good news because at times in 2013 it looked the DEF couldn’t stop anyone. OLB Brian Orakpo is going to have a big year if he wants the big contract so you’ll know you will see a lot of him. Team leader LB London Fletcher has retired S Ryan Clark & CB Tracy Porter were signed to help shore up the secondary. Backup QB Kirk Cousins has shown that he can fill in adequately when RGIII was shutdown but this team revolves around the explosiveness of RGIII. He plays well, SKINS win, he doesn’t play well, SKINS lose. We’ll see what happens.
PROJECTED 2014 (9-7)
Last year this team had the worst DEF in the NFL ranked #32. Their PASS DEF was rated #30 and their RUSH DEF was rated #27. They were lit up all the time. So what happens, their DEF leader DE Demarcus Ware goes to DEN & MLB Sean Lee is out for the yr. No replacements ready and the same secondary is still in place from LY. The Cowboys missed a golden opportunity to draft hometown FAV QB Johnny Manziel with the 16th pick instead opting for G/T Zack Martin out of Notre Dame. QB Tony Romo is coming off surgery for herniated discs and has not been able to lead the Cowboys successfully into the playoffs. They picked up (the human turnover) QB Brandon Weeden as the backup to Romo. Cowboy fans better hope that Romo stays healthy. RB Demarco Murray is great when he is healthy and All-World TE Jason Witten has lost a step. This OFF is going to rely more on a, hopefully more matured, WR Dez Bryant. The OFF may look good but the DEF is going to give up a lot and Romo is terrible at late season decisions. Jerry Jones is without a doubt the worst owner in football and if DAL has another disappointing season he should at least hire someone that knows what they are doing.
PROJECTED 2014 (6-10)
Green Bay Packers
Whether or not you believe it, this team revolves around Aaron Rodgers. He was injured very early in the 8th game against CHI and didn’t come back until wk 16. GB went 2-5-1 SU in those gms an Rodgers put on his Superman outfit to beat the Bears in CHI to get into the playoffs. QB Matt Flynn was brought back after Scott Tolzien wasn’t working out and was able to win a great comeback game @DAL. RB Eddie Lacy was a pleasant surprise in his rookie yr which will take some of the heat off Rodgers. WRs Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are solid and are signing guaranteed deals so that Rodgers can have some reliable guys when he is in a pinch. On DEF FS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was drafted in the 1st round to start and help out the PASS DEF. DE/OLB Julius Peppers was signed to help out a RUSH DEF that was #25 LY. OLB Clay Mathews is coming off an injury and hopefully he will be ready to go. NT B.J. Raji is back with a 1-year deal so he’ll be looking to do well for that long term deal. But as long as Rodgers stays healthy, this team will go deep into the playoffs.
PROJECTED 2014 (12-4)
LY, this team was a bitter disappointment. Give Kudos to HC Marc Trestman as he weaved this team through games with the worst Run DEF in the NFL at #32. At times it looked like you could drive a Mack truck through the DEF line and no one would get a hand on it. Plus giving a big contract to oft-injured QB Jay Cutler will, in my mind, bite them in the ass. QB Josh McCowan played exceptionally well as a fill in for five games when Cutler was injured, throwing 13tds & 1 INT. He completely dismantled the Dallas Cowboys on a Monday night in Chicago in front of the whole country. Well, CHI better hope that Cutler doesn’t go down because Josh signed elsewhere in the off-season. Also, Cutler has been accused of holding the ball too long that’s why he gets sacked a lot. The OFF is solid with RB Matt Forte, WRs Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall & TE Martellus Bennett. The OFF line really improved LY, one factor that lead to Forte having his best yr ever. On DEF DE Jared Allen was signed to a deal to replace the overpriced and rarely seen DE Julius Peppers. Also signed were Des Lamar Houston & Willie Young so Allen won’t feel like he’s out there alone. Stopping the run in CHI used to be their bread & butter and with LY’s atrocious performance by the DEF line, something had to be done. In the draft, CB Kyle Fuller of Virginia Tech was taken as the eventual leader of the secondary but will probably be used in nickel situations this year. They also added DTs Ego Ferguson from LSU & Will Sutton from Arizona State who will be rotated in to make sure a return to the worst RUN DEF in the NFL is not repeated. If all things go as planned, CHI should be competing with GB for the NFC North title and a trip to the playoffs.
PROJECTED 2014 (11-5)
LY, I predicted that the Lions would go 6-10. Guess what? They finished 7-9. This team underachieves because I believe Stafford and Megatron are head cases. They underperform when it’s a big game and perform well when the game is meaningless. So HC Jim Schwartz is out and out of all the possible guys to bring in, DET goes with Jim Caldwell. This guy is a loser. He couldn’t win at Wake Forest and he couldn’t win with Peyton Manning in Indy. This team is one sided. LY, it’s all OFF and no DEF. So they sign WR Golden Tate to take some of the heat off Megatron. DT Ndamukong Suh is in the last yr of his contract so you know he is going to perform. The secondary is suspect and the draft for DET was average except that they drafted the top TE in Eric Ebron from North Carolina. RB Reggie Bush is looking forward to his second yr in DET and should do well out of the backfield. All the weapons are on OFF and on paper the team looks like it should do well but, Caldwell will find a way to mess it up as will Stafford who I think is overrated. Guys are making big money on this team and they don’t win.
PROJECTED 2014 (7-9)
LY, this team couldn’t stop anyone on DEF. The DEF was #31 with the PASS DEF at #31. At times it looked like they were just standing around. They had three different QBs and went from 10 wins and a playoff berth in 2012 to 5 wins in 2013. HC Leslie Frazier went from looking good to looking at the door. RB Adrian Peterson went from 2097 yds rushing to 1266 yds rushing. But going forward, MINN can not rely completely on Peterson for their OFF. In is new HC Mike Zimmer. It was highly anticipated that MINN would draft a QB with the 9th pick in the 1st round but, Blake Bortles had already been taken. They instead chose OLB Anthony Barr out of UCLA. QB Teddy Bridgewater out of Louisville who was earlier in the year projected to be a very high 1st round pick fell fast and was picked by MINN at #32. Most of the draft picks for MINN were on DEF and are going to be groomed to be future starters. MINN couldn’t come to terms with DT Jared Allen so he signed elsewhere. New OC Norv Turner joins this team and he has his work cut out for him. This team was #23 PASS OFF with a QB by committee situation. Cassel and Ponder are the QBs until Bridgewater is ready. He might come in sooner if these two start out disastrous. If the QBs don’t turn the ball over too much, there might be some improvement with this team from LY. This team is not going to the playoffs just yet but, could start to turn things around in an upward direction. One big factor that may deter any upward mobility is the fact that for the next two years they are playing outdoors at TCF Bank Stadium as the new Metrodome is built. The VIKES are not known as an outdoor team and this may hinder their play late in the season when it’s mighty cold outside.
PROJECTED 2014 (5-11)
New Orleans Saints
I’ve always said that this team is a tail of two teams and they keep proving me right every year. At home in 2013, 8-0 SU, away, 3-5 SU. Something happens when they leave the dome. Everyone knows it but NO tries to deny it. The year they won the SuperBowl, the SAINTS won all their playoff games at home. In the off-season there was a stampede of personnel leaving NO. But the biggest name to leave on OFF was RB Darren Sproles. He is the sort of guy that every team should have facing 3rd down. Watch how the OFF is different this yr without Sproles. On DEF DC Rob Ryan turned this squad from #32 TOT DEF in 2012 to #4 TOT DEF in 2013. He definitely should have been named Coach of the Year. I know it goes to HC’s but he did a tremendous job. DE Cameron Jordan & OLB Junior Galette flourished under Ryan’s system to produce 24 ½ sacks between them. Teams should not take the SAINTS DEF for granted. On OFF, the line is ordinary and Brees may be scrambling a little more this yr than in the past. However, the draft was kind to the SAINTS in that they drafted guys who may not start right away but will fill some holes by the recently departed. If this team is to be considered for the SuperBowl, they have to win more on the road.
PROJECTED 2014 (10-6)
This team surprised everyone, including me in 2013. Their DEF shutdown teams against the run and the pass. After starting the yr 1-3, they went 11-1 the rest of the way. However, the party may be over in Carolina. The retirement of LT Jordan Gross on the blind side may have left a hole to big to fill that puts QB Cam Newton in a position to throw the ball or run the ball sooner than he would like. Right now they don’t have a legitimate replacement for Gross. Then, the mass exodus of reliable WRs for Cam of Ted Ginn, Brandon LaFell & longtime reliable Steve Smith is going to hit Cam hard. When Cam is on he is great, when Cam is off, well you know what happens. He doesn’t recover as well as others and if you glance at a Panthers game and see Cam sitting with the towel over his head, chances are that he and the Panthers are not doing well. They signed some WRs in the off-season but I don’t see them replacing the three that left. They also drafted WR Kelvin Benjamin out of Florida State who will hopefully be groomed into a #1 WR. But, that will be in due time. There is a stretch of the season where they play 5 straight 2013 playoff teams and that will be a real test to see whether 2013 was a fluke or if this team is for real. Scoring may be a problem for this team but the DEF will keep teams in check. We’ll see.
PROJECTED 2014 (8-8)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Greg Schiano era in TB is finally over. I said that this guy was fraud from the very beginning and he proved it to everyone. In 2013, the team started out 0-8 and ended up 4-12. They had the #32 TOT OFF w/ #32 PASS OFF. New HC Lovie Smith takes over as does new OC Jeff Tedford & new DC Leslie Frazier. QB Mike Glennon had a decent 2013 but late bloomer Josh McCowan was signed for 2 yrs as the starter in TB. He certainly came of age while filling in for Cutler in CHI. TB QBs were sacked 47x LY, so a revamping of the O-Line was the 1st order by the new GM & coaching staff. Gone are G David Joseph, T Donald Penn & C Jeremy Zuttah and in are T Anthony Collins, C Evan Dietrich Smith and from the draft G Kadeem Edwards from Tennessee State. These guys should open some holes for the RBs of Doug Martin, Bobby Rainey, Mike James & 3rd round draft choice Charles Sims. McCowan should have some nice targets with 1st round draft choice WR Mike Evans out of Texas A&M, a favorite of Jonny Manziel, and veteran WR Vincent Jackson. 2nd round draft choice TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins looks to help out on the line and become an extra target for McCowan. On DEF, CB Darelle Revis is gone but is anchored by All-Pros DT Gerald McCoy & MLB David Lavonte who had 9.5 sacks & 7.0 sacks & 5 INTS in 2013 respectively. Added to the mix is Michael Johnson, DT Clinton McDonald & CB Alterraun Verner for the departed Revis. This DEF is going to be very good and if the OFF comes together this could be a nice yr for TB. Not too bad of a schedule for TB and I see a positive foundation being laid down in TB by the new GM & coaching staff.
PROJECTED 2014 (10-6)
After missing the SuperBowl by a hair in 2012, everything fell apart for ATL in 2013. Injuries happened to key players on both sides of the ball and QB Matt Ryan looked stoic out there with no one to throw to. This team barely beat Washington and Buffalo and only beat STL and & TB by 7 & 8 points. If this team is healthy they can do some serious damage but they are not making a SuperBowl run. They acquired KR/WR Devin Hester to get the return game going. TE Tony Gonzalez retired and Levine Toilolo will have to step up because Ryan has gotten used to a reliable TE when he can’t find anyone open. There will be a number of rookies on DEF starting that were taken in this yr’s draft. (ATL drafted 4 linebackers) The OFF line for ATL has always been a big question mark and we’ll see if ATL was able to sure it up so that Ryan will not be throwing under a lot of pressure. If WRs Julio Jones and Roddy White come back healthy and stay healthy, ATL will be able to lead in games instead of catching up. Also, the running game needs to come back strong if ATL has a chance. RB Stephen Jackson was injured most of the yr and looked like he didn’t have much left. This yr he needs to prove why he was signed. This is HC Mike Smith’s 7th season with ATL and he needs to show vast improvement over last yr’s team. If the team is healthy and they can’t produce, he may be gone. Their schedule doesn’t look easy but, this is a crucial year for Smith.
PROJECTED 2014 (9-7)
Last year I had Seattle at 11-5. I said if they were to go anywhere they needed to improve their road record well, they did. Seattle went 6-2 on the road and finished 13-3. They went to the Superbowl with the #1 Defense and blew Peyton Manning and Denver out of the water. However, in the off-season, the DEF for Seattle has been picked apart. Some key losses on DEF are CB Brandon Browner going to NE. DE Chris Clemons going to JAGS, CB Walter Thurmond going to NYG. However, with CB Richard Sherman & FS Earl Thomas, I wouldn’t worry too much about this secondary. SEA had the #1 PASS DEF LY, and I see a repeat this barring any injuries. On OFF, WR Golden Tate went to Detroit and Sidney Rice retired. RB Marshawn Lynch is in a make or break yr. He wants the big money so he’s going to have to prove himself all over again. The only WR that is explosive is Percy Harvin and he played one game LY outside of the SuperBowl. The NFL hasn’t had a repeat winner in the Superbowl since DEN in the late 90s. The personnel that have replaced those that have left are not of the same caliber and the NFC WEST is very tough. Plus, this is the last yr of the rookie contract for QB Russell Wilson so he needs to have a great yr to get the big money. He is very good at not turning the ball over and he doesn’t make many mistakes. SEA will have to open the vaults for him come next yr. The draft wasn’t all that good for Seattle but they were looking to add some WR help for Russell Wilson so that he needn’t scramble around so much. However, Seattle has proven in recent yrs that some of their picks in the later rounds turned out to be gems. Seattle should make a nice run into the playoffs.
PROJECTED 2014 (12-4)
San Francisco 49ers
The last three yrs have been just misses for the 49ers. Lost in the NFC Championship, Lost in the SuperBowl and lost in the NFC Championship. Kaepernick signed a big deal but it really comes out to 1 yr deals. However, the window of opportunity for the 49ers with this group is not going to last forever and the rest of the NFC West is not just sitting around. In the off-season they lost SS Whitner to Cleveland and CBs Rogers & Brown to Oakland. They picked up some nice WRs in Stevie Johnson & Brandon Lloyd to help out Kaepernick when he scrambles. This DEF is solid and SF can win anywhere. They had a very good draft with 1st rounder S Jimmie Ward out of No. Illinois. They picked up some secondary guys that should help cover the gaps left by the departed. SF should make another run deep into the playoffs but the window is closing and they need to win now. But on DEF, the injury that ILB NaVorro Bowman sustained in the NFC Championship game has left a hole on DEF and they do not know when he will be back. OLB Aldon Smith’s off the field problems may lead to a suspension. Also, HC Jim Harbaugh is in the last yr of his contract and it may look like he will be gone after this season. He has done a fantastic job in SF and he should not be able to walk away. He gets the most from his guys and has that winning attitude.
PROJECTED 2014 (11-5)
St. Louis Rams
This team gets better and better under HC Jeff Fisher. I had this team projected at 8-8 LY and they finished 7-9. If they plan on going anywhere they have to play better in the DIV, LY 1-5. But this team is making great strides. On DEF, DE Robert Quinn has become a monster with 19 sacks LY. In the 1st rd of the draft they picked up OL Greg Robinson from Auburn & DT Aaron Donald from Pitt. The secondary for the Rams is a little inexperienced and may get burned at times but the rest of the DEF is solid. Added to the receiver corps is Kenny Britt from TENN who should add some explosiveness along with Tavon Austin. RB Zac Stacy has become a pleasant surprise and with the addition of RB Tre Mason from Auburn it should be a 1-2 punch. It all comes down to QB Bradford. He is in the last yr of his deal and with a healthy and productive Bradford the Rams could make a nice run. The OFF Line is coming off some key injuries but Bradford has to make the right decisions. On Special Teams K Zuerlein can make it from anywhere. It will be interesting because the Rams are in the toughest division and they have not played against them well. HC Fisher needs to keep everyone pumped.
PROJECTED 2014 (9-7)
LY, HC Bruce Arians showed everyone why he deserved to be a HC in the NFL. In 2012, he led INDY to wins while HC Chuck Pagano was battling cancer. He was handed the reins to this team and turned the Cardinals into one of the biggest surprises in the NFL. Barely missing the playoffs by being in the toughest DIV, the NFC WEST, they shocked Seattle @SEA in Wk 16 but lost the following week @HOME to SF thereby barely missing the playoffs. QB Carson Palmer had a nice yr although he did throw the most INTS in a season for his career. He needs to be a little more selective in cutting down his turnovers. He was also sacked 41x which leads to believe that he is holding the ball too long and the OFF_LINE needed some holes to be filled. But, what really drove this team in 2013 was the ARZ’s RUN DEF that went from #28 in 2012 to #1 in 2013. This made the biggest difference in the win total. DEs Calais Campbell & Darnell Dockett play at very high levels even if they don’t get voted to the Pro Bowls. CB Patrick Peterson is All-World and good luck to any QB that thinks they can get the football by him. CB Antonio Cromartie was picked up in the off-season but he has lost a step and is motivated to prove otherwise. FS Tyrann Mathieu is coming back off a knee injury so we’ll see if he’ll be ready for Wk 1. On the O-Line, LT Jared Veldheer was signed. LG Jonathan Cooper, the team’s top pick in 2013 is coming off a season missing broken leg and should definitely help shore things up. Rookie RB Andre Ellington was a pleasant surprise in that he is very versatile whether running or catching the ball and should be a safety valve for Palmer. But the biggest jolt is to Special Teams where WR/RS Ted Ginn was signed to make sure that ARZ has better field position when Palmer takes over the OFF. Ginn can take some of the defensive pressure that future Hall of Famer WR Larry Fitzgerald routinely gets on game days. Besides playing in the NFC WEST, the schedule for ARZ is not that bad as others but, to make it to the playoffs they need a better DIV record.
PROJECTED 2014 (10-6)