2015 NFL PREDICTIONS
2015 NFL PREDICTIONS
New England Patriots
Fresh off a SuperBowl win, NE let CB Brandon Browner walk and doesn’t come to terms with CB Darelle Revis and he signs with NYJ. Right there the DEF is going to get worse. Then DT Vince Wilfork signs with HOU. RBs Ridley & Vereen also signed other places as well. But the biggest news is that as of right now QB Tom Brady will be suspended the first four games of the season because of his role in Deflatgate. That means QB Jimmy Garoppolo will star vs PITT, @BUFF, JAGS, BYE & @DAL. If I was HC Bill Belichick I would be a little nervous about the upcoming yr. He may not show it, but inside he may have some sleepless nights. SuperBowl hero Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan step up into the CB roles and may have to go back to a zone coverage. SS Devin McCourty & FS Patrick Chung were resigned but the CBs will be in trouble. On the D-Line, DT Malcom Brown was drafted in the 1st round out of Texas to replace Wilfork. The LB is a solid bunch with Dont’a Hightower, Jerod Mayo & Jamie Collins. DEs Rob Ninkovich & Chandler Jones have their highs and lows. But on DEF it is the CBs this yr that are the concern. On OFF QB Jimmy Garoppolo is getting the chance of a lifetime to show what he has. He will start those four games no matter what, unless he really stinks. TE Rob Gronkowski is ALL-PRO and takes defenders down with him. He looks to be fully recovered from his injuries and is ready to add some more bling to his collection. WR Julian Edelman has really come into his own after Brady FAV Wes Welker left. On the other side is WR Brandon LaFell who had his best yr as a pro with NE in 2014 and continues to mature. The O-Line did a great job in 2014 only giving up 26 sacks down from 40 in 2013. No matter what the for NE to be successful a great O-Line is very important for NE. Ridley and Vereen are gone but RB James White looks ready to step into their 3rd down playmaking slot. What a year a difference makes for RB LeGarrette Blount. After being let go by PITT during the season in 2014, he gets picked up by NE and wins the SuperBowl. Can’t get any better than that. Plus he is signed for 2015. RBs Jonas Gray & Brandon Bolden will handle reps to give Blount a rest. But it comes down to the DEF in the secondary and how Garoppolo handles the first four games whether or not NE can make a return to the playoffs and even the SuperBowl. All the other teams have gotten better in the AFC EAST and all them would like to be able to knock NE out of the top. This will be a big yr for NE to see if they can face adversity from all sides.
PROJECTED 2015 (10-6)
Ok, HC Doug Marrone takes BUFF to their 1st winning season in sometime and then what does he do? He declares himself a FA and gets no HC offers. He settles for the OC of the JAGS. Tough luck, Doug. Who comes in? None other than Rex Ryan formerly of the NYJ. New OC & DC are added to the staff as well. But Rex has basically the same problem in BUFF as he did in NY, no proven QB. Kyle Orton led this team in 2014 but decided to retire. That leaves EJ Manuel and well traveled Matt Cassel as the top QBs in camp. RB C.J. Spiller left for NO but RB Lesean McCoy was picked up in a trade with PHILLY. This gives BUFF an explosive offensive weapon that they didn’t have before. Fred Jackson & Bryce Brown are still durable to give Lesean some rest when he is not running wild against opposing teams. The TE position for the Bills was by committee and was a big hole on OFF. TE Charles Clay who was acquired from MIA gives the OFF another added weapon when moving the ball downfield and needed pass protection on the outside. WR/PR/KR Percy Harvin was released from his contract with NYJ and followed Rex to BUFF where he will definitely be used more on an OFF that was pretty predictable in 2014. RG Richie Incognito was signed to shore up the O-line and hopefully give some veteran leadership to a squad that gave up 39 sacks. On DEF, BUFF has improved in all areas to rank #4 TOT DEF in 2014. DE Mario Williams is finally earning those BIG $$$ he signed for before the 2012 season. In 2014 Mario had 14.5 sacks, the most in his career and he attained ALL-PRO status for the 1st time. On the otherside DT Marcell Dareus had his 1st ALL-PRO season with 10 sacks. DE Jerry Hughes doesn’t get as much attention but he has had 10 sacks in each of the last two seasons and is a force on this team. The secondary on this team is very underrated and is one of the best in the league. This yr they should get the recognition that they deserve and BUFF will make the playoffs for the 1st time since 1999. The only question mark I have is at QB.
2014 (9-7) √ PROJECTED 2015 (11-5)
OK, this team is stuck in mediocrity. HC Joe Philbin is entering his 4th yr with the team and his record is 23-25. He is 7-9, 8-8 & 8-8. This is the yr he needs to get to at least 9-7 to show that there has been improvement with this team and it is heading in the right direction. QB Ryan Tannehill was given a big contract in the off-season so we know he’s not going anywhere. But gone are WR Mike Wallace, who never panned out and WR Brian Hartline who had an off year in 2014. In return is WR Greg Jennings who is looking to regain his form when he was in GB and WR Kenny Stills who seemed to be inconsistent with the game plan in NO. Also, WR DeVante Parker was taken in the 1st round out of Louisville who with his size 6’3” 209 should give opposing secondaries something to worry about. WR/PR Jarvis Landry is an effective weapon but he needs to hold onto the ball a little more. He had 7 fumbles in 2014 and as a return man that could change a game instantaneously against the FISH. RB Lamar Miller will again get most the carries for MIA but the O-Line still needs to work together as unit to protect Tannehill and open up the running game. Tannehill was sacked 58x in 2013 and sacked 46x in 2014. ON DEF DT Ndamukong Suh was signed to some big money to put a lot of pressure on opposing O-Lines. If he gets double-teamed like he did in DET that will leave a pathway for LDE Cameron Wake to get to the play in a hurry. Wake had 11.5 sacks in 2014. Just think how many he would have if he had a clear lane? RDE Olivier Vernon is no slouch either with 6.5 sacks in 2014. The secondary held its own last yr & CB Brent Grimes earned a trip to the Pro-Bowl. But they need more if they want to make it to the playoffs. The OFF needs to open it up more and take some chances with Tannehill. This team may squeak into the playoffs if it gets to ten wins and that’s what they may need if Philbin is going to keep his job. This team doesn’t play against too many good teams in 2015 so they should end up with a good season and at least a playoff berth, otherwise you will see major changes for 2016.
PROJECTED 2015 (10-6)
New York Jets
My prediction about 2014 was correct. If it was a disastrous yr for the JETS(which it was at 4-12), Rex would be gone. He is gone but not too far away in BUFF. DT Sheldon Richardson is suspended for the first 4 games due to substance abuse. That will cost the JETS one game. New HC Todd Bowles was the DC at ARZ last yr and looks to turn things around for NYJ. The DEF on this team is pretty solid. CB Revis is back and so is CB Cromartie. But I think Cromartie is overrated and at times has cost teams games with his mistakes. Plus he has lost a step and was used more as a nickel back in ARZ last yr. S Marcus Gilchrist was signed from SD & CB Buster Skrine was signed from CLEVE. The DEF is not the problem on the JETS and should be in the top 5 in the NFL for 2015. It’s the OFF I’m worried about. Besides C Nick Mangold, the O-line has been inconsistent and gave up 47 sacks in 2014. A better O-line would take some pressure off Geno. RB Chris Ivory is the workhorse for the JETS but they also signed RB Steven Ridley from NE to help out on 3rd downs. WR Brandon Marshall was acquired to hopefully give Geno Smith more choices when he is scrambling. QB Michael Vick is gone but in his place is the human turnover, Ryan Fitzpatrick and 4th round draft choice Bryce Harper from Baylor. The big question mark is Geno. There are times when he looked lost and made some very bad decisions as QB for the JETS. His best game was Rex’s last game vs MIA in 2014 when it really didn’t matter. If Geno does not show some type of improvement with all the talented people around him, the JETS will not be better than mediocrity as other teams in the AFC EAST has improved their chances for 2015.
PROJECTED 2015 (8-8)
Le’veon Bell is a great talent and is very important to the success of the Pittsburgh Steelers. That noted, he is suspended for the first 2 games of the 2015 season due to substance abuse. Plus, when he is not in the lineup as was the case in the playoffs vs BALT in 2014, PITT becomes a one-dimensional team. To share the load PITT brought in RB DeAngelo Williams from CAR who can hopefully fill in for Bell and give him that needed rest during games. It would also take some pressure off the rest of the OFF as well. WR Antonio Brown had an ALL-PRO yr in 2014 and has become Big Ben’s favorite target. But PITT needs to spread the ball around as not to become to predictable for opposing DEFs. The O-Line for PITT is solid as protecting Big BEN and opening up lanes is their specialty. C Maurkice Pouncey returned to ALL-PRO status in 2014 after being injured for the yr in the first game of 2013. Big Ben was sacked 33x but, to the defense of the O-line there were times when Ben held on to the ball too long. He has to throw it away if nothing is opening up instead of taking the sack. DEF may be a question here especially in the secondary where S Troy Polamalu & Ike Taylor both retired. DC Dick LeBeau left and Linebackers coach Keith Butler takes over. There will be some unfamiliar names in the secondary this season and there will be a transition but the Steelers need to stay focused if they are to stay atop the tough AFC North. The PASS DEF went from #9 in 2013 to #27 in 2014 so there is a lot of work to be done. While the DEF is making some changes the OFF will be asked to execute better and score more. PITT had a very nice draft as they drafted where they needed most, DEF. OLB Bud Dupree who was drafted in the 1st round out of Kentucky quickly gives that position some depth. The two CBs and S that were drafted will be asked to help out a lot in passing situations throughout the season. All in all this team should make the playoffs again. In 2014, I had PITT winning 10 games and they won 11. If they stay healthy it should be another successful yr for HC Mike Tomlin.
PROJECTED 2015 (10-6)
After a down yr in 2013, QB Joe Flacco bounced back in 2014. BALT made the playoffs, beat @PITT but lost @NE. Even with all the controversy around RB Ray Rice, BALT managed a nice season. Joe will have a new OC in Marc Trestman(former HC in CHI) to help run the OFF. The O-Line is solid for BALT as they only gave up 19 sacks and the RUSH OFF went from #30 in 2013 to #8 in 2014. RB Justin Forsett may have found a home with his first Pro-Bowl selection in his 1st yr with BALT. But he will be 30 yrs old during the season and that’s when it’s time to invest in someone younger. BALT drafted RB Javorius Allen in the 4th round out of USC as the slotted backup to Forsett and to keep his legs fresh. After WR Jacoby Jones & WR Torrey Smith departed, BALT drafted WR Brehad Perriman in the 1st round out of UCF. He replace Torrey as the deep threat and with his size 6’2” 212 Ilbs., he should develop into something special. He will complement WR Steve Smith who seems to get stronger with age. On DEF, LB Elvis Dumervil regained ALL-PRO status with 17 sacks. LB Terrell Suggs also had a nice yr with 12 sacks. These two are the leaders on DEF that ended up being #4 against the RUSH in 2014. Longtime Raven DT Haloti Ngata left for DET and will be replaced by second yr man Timmy Jernigan. BALT has high hopes for Timmy as he recorded 4 sacks in his rookie yr as a backup. The secondary was a trouble spot for BALT as they finished wit the #23 PASS DEF. CB Jimmy Smith was cruising along when he suffered a foot sprain that required surgery. CB Ladarius Webb suffered a back injury that hampered him for a number of games as well. Hopefully both will be fully recovered for the season. In the safety position, FS Kendrick Lewis was brought in from HOU to take over the departing Darian Stewart. BALT hopes that the FS position has become stronger. Will Hill & Matt Elam will compete for the SS position. BALT is in the tough AFC North and with all the rest of the teams making moves to get better, BALT which has a tough schedule remain playoff contenders as long as everyone covers their assignments and stay healthy. BALT only signed one new player in the off season so they are depending on some of the same players and some draft picks. We’ll see if that was the right way to go early on as they are tested wk 1 in DEN.
2014 (10-6)√ PROJECTED 2015 (10-6)
For the first four seasons of QB Andy Dalton’s career, the Bengals have made the playoffs, only to lose the first game and be done. They have won 9, 10, 11 & 10 games respectively but they need something extra to take them to the next level. The O-Line for CINNCY is pretty solid as Dalton was only sacked 21x. They also opened many running lanes as RB Jeremy Hill & Giovani Bernard combined for over 1,800 yds and 14 tds. They also had 70 receptions which made them bigger threats out of the backfield. What is needed on OFF for CINNCY is more big plays from their QB & WRs to really scare opposing DEFs that this team is for real. WRs A.J. Green & Marvin Jones need to step it up in big games and put a little fear into opposing secondaries. On DEF CINNCY regressed from being #3 TOT DEF in 2013 to #22 TOT DEF in 2014. Their PASS DEF & RUSH DEF also regressed as well. CINNCY had a total of 20 sacks in 2014 after having 43 sacks in 2013.The intensity was just not their in 2014. To get the DEF going, DE Michael Johnson returns after an injury filled season in TB. Bringing back Johnson allows CINNCY to put back DE Wallace Gilberry into the specialist role where he was most successful in 2012-2013. This is also a big season for DE Marcu Hunt who was a project for the Bengals when they drafted him out of SMU two years ago. They are expecting big things from him this season. They are a lot of guys coming back from injuries on the DEF that are looking to show what they have in 2015. The secondary is a solid bunch but still need to bring that intensity on the corners. CB Dre Kirkpatrick is an emerging star in the secondary and should not be taken for granted by opposing QBs. CINNCY must get over the hump of those first round losses if they want to show the rest of the league that they are for real. Dalton must retain the confidence to lead this team further into the playoffs if he wants to be an elite QB. So far his stats in the postseason are nothing to write home about. HC MarvinLewis has been in CINNCY for quite some time but, if they are not able to get over the hump in the playoffs you may see a change at the position.
2013 (11-5) √ 2014 (10-6)√ PROJECTED 2015 (10-6)
In 2014 after week 11, the Browns were riding high at 7-4 and looking ahead to possibly turning the tide upward after many losing seasons. But the bottom fell out and the Browns lost five straight to finish 7-9. The QB carousel continues as Brian Hoyer is gone after playing in 14 games and Johnny Manziel should be done with rehab and ready to go when training camp begins. Johnny will serve as the backup to newly signed and recycled Josh McCown, recently of TB by way of CHI, to try to get this ship righted. WR Josh Gordon is suspended for all of the 2015 season and he is probably not coming back to CLEVE even after his suspension is over. On OFF, the Browns had the worst third-down success rate in the NFL in 2014 so they went out and signed a few WRs that they hope will turn that statistic around. Dwayne Bowe was signed from KC and Brian Hartline was signed from MIA. To help in the TE dept where CLEVE has been highly lacking, Rob Housler was signed from ARZ and is looked to shore up the line and start at TE. After C Alex Mack went down with an injury last season, the Browns run game suffered sverely. CLEVE drafted Cameron Erving out of FSU to play right guard or right tackle in case Mack goes down. In the backfield, RBs Terrance West, Isaiah Crowell & (R) Duke Johnson will have to play well to take pressure off QB McCown and let him find the form that made him a sought after FA after the 2013 season. On DEF, the secondary is solid with Pro Bowlers CB Joe Haden, SS Donte Whitner & FS Tashaun Gipson. However, CB Buster Skrine signed with NYJ but CLEVE picked up CB Tamon Williams from GB. In 2014 the PASS DEF for CLEVE was #8. But the RUSH DEF was dead last at #32 and needs improvement. CLEVE drafted mainly Defensive line help and NT Danny Shelton out of WASH will fit right in against the run. OLB Nate Orchard out of Utah is slated to start and CLEVE should have better depth this yr than in years past. PR Travis Benjamin is always capable of breaking one as he should get more chances this yr than last. If CLEVE’s DEF can get opposing teams OFFs off the field quicker without giving up points they may have a shot to break even or go above .500 this year. They play the tough NFC WEST and their schedule doesn’t really have any easy games but, this is a big yr for HC Mike Pettine to show everyone that the Browns are improving.
PROJECTED 2015 (8-8)
OK, QB Andrew Luck has gone three straight yrs at 11-5. 1st yr wild card, 2nd yr divisional, 3rd yr AFC Conference Championship. Last two years big losses to NE. Lucky for INDY they play in the AFC SOUTH where if they have a loss they can get right back on track by thrashing whoever they play next. Everyone is sold on Luck. I compare him to Brett Favre. Luck takes chances when he tries to make something out of nothing and late in games when he is playing better teams and losing, he makes matters worse by taking chances which cost him. The two biggest off-season signings for INDY came with RB Frank Gore and WR Andre Johnson. If both still have gas in the tank INDY should have a go-go OFF that will be hard to contain. WR T.Y. Hilton was selected to the Pro-Bowl in 2014 and has become a favorite target of Luck. INDY drafted WR/PR/KR Phillip Dorsett in the 1st round out of MIA to round out the WR core. The O-Line has gotten better in the three yrs that Luck has been the QB. They went from giving up 41 sacks in 2012, to 32 sacks in 2013, to 29 in 2014. The RUSH OFF has been stagnant but, hopefully Frank Gore will add new life to the departed and never acclimated Trent Richardson. On DEF, the last two seasons have seen marked improvements against the run and the pass. OLB Trent Cole will join OLB Robert Mathis to form one of the best pass rush tandems. Hopefully Mathis is recovered from his Achilles tear. The RUSH DEF is where the Colts added in the off-season. They added DE Kendall Langford from STL as a run stuffer and DT David Perry who was drafted in the 5th round out of Stanford should help in key rushing situations. FS Dwight Lowery comes over from ATL to fill a hole left by FS Leron Landry. Vontae Davis and Greg Toler are solid at the CB position and a couple of draftees will help out in definite pass situations. But all in all INDY is lucky that they play in the AFC SOUTH and their schedule in 2015 is not that tough. Besides DEN, NE & PITT none of INDY’s other opponents in 2015 had more than nine wins. They should make it deep into the playoffs with ease as long as they stay healthy and Luck doesn’t get crazy.
PROJECTED 2015 (11-5)
So if only J J Watt could play QB too, HOU would go 16-0. Is there anything this guy can’t do? He had an INT for a TD, a FUMB for a TD, a safety, and caught 3tds. Plus, he had 20.5 sacks. 1st pick of the draft, DE Jadeveon Clowney was a non-factor after injuring his knee and only playing in 4 games. Also, he is a long way from starting week 1 vs KC. 3 QBs played the bulk of the games for HOU in 2014. Case Keenum & Ryan Fitzpatrick are gone, which leaves Ryan Mallet & former CLEVE QB Brian Hoyer signed in the off-season to compete for the QB position. The O-Line is a solid bunch who only gave up 26 sacks in 2014. Longtime WR Andre Johnson left for INDY as Cecil Shorts was signed from Jacksonville and Nate Washington was signed from TENN. This should give whoever is the QB some more options. The TE position for HOU was used more as pass blocker and rush blocker than a receiver and probably added to the fact that HOU QBs were not sacked a lot. RB Arian Foster had his usual Pro Bowl season but probably wonders when this bunch will make it further into the playoffs. The PASS DEF went from #3 in 2013 to #21 in 2014 so HOU signed FSs Steve Brown from NYG & Rahim Moore from DEN to help out 1st round draft choice CB Kevin Johnson out of Wake Forest. NT Vince Wilfork joins HOU for veteran leadership up the middle as he was a stall worth in NE. We’ll also see if ILB Brian Cushing has regained his form after two knee operations that sidelined him in 2012 & 2013. Jonathan Joseph & Kareem Jackson are solid at CBs and are playing their 5th consecutive season together. Don’t need to mention J J Watt because he’s All-World. Good thing HOU plays in the AFC South because not only is their schedule not too tough but they should improve on 9 wins in 2014.
PROJECTED 2015 (11-5)
After a disastrous 2014 campaign where the TITANS finished 2-14, they were able to secure highly touted QB Marcus Mariota from Oregon with the 2nd pick in the draft. Marcus will try to eventually turn a round a team that has been mediocre for quite a number of seasons. Season 2 under HC Ken Whitehurst should be considerably better than 2014 where the Titans lost their last 10 games. In 2014, three different QBs suffered 50 sacks. In the RB position it has not been projected who will be the starter as people need to be tested in training camp. RB/KR/PR Dexter McCluster was wasted last yr as the Titans underused him and didn’t find a role for him. Hopefully this yr he is used to his full talents. The O-Line was part of the problem as TENN was #26 in RUSH OFF in 2014 while allowing all those sacks. TE Anthony Fasano was signed from KC to help with the line and give Mariota another option. WRs were upgraded as well as Harry Douglas was brought in from ATL & Dorial Greene-Beckham was taken in the 2nd round from Missouri. Beckham has big play potential at 6’ 5” and 237 Ilbs. But the O-Line which had injuries and inconsistencies has to do their job to protect Mariota and open up lanes for the RBs. On DEF, longtime DC Dick Lebeau came to TENN as the new Asisstant HC/DC and should add some zip to a lackluster crew on DEF. TENN was #31 on RUSH DEF and at times it looked like opposing teams were running at will. CB Perish Cox was signed from SF to hopefully upgrade the secondary along with Da’Norris Searcy who was imported from BUFF to fill the SS position. For the rest of the front seven you may see the same gang except for DT Angelo Blackson who was drafted in the 4th round out of Auburn. The TITANS have a long way to go before contending for a playoff spot even in the AFC SOUTH but, at least they are trying to make moves in the right direction. However, keeping the same front seven may be a big mistake when facing teams that like to run. I don’t think TENN will be .500 but they should improve where they are showing signs of progress. It will be a long yr in TENN
PROJECTED 2015 (6-10)
This is the 3rd yr for HC Gus Bradley. He must show some improvement with this team or he will be gone after the season. This team revolves around QB Blake Bortles. In 2014 he was sacked 55x. That is way too many times, he must get rid of the ball sooner and he must make better decisions. Now that he is done with his rookie season, he can only go up after being the worst statistical QB in the NFL in 2014. The JAGS are invested in him because they believe he can turn this team around. The OFF has to get better as it has been close to the bottom in TOT OFF the last three years. The JAGS made major changes in the OFF-season to give Bortles every chance to succeed. In are new OC Greg Olsen & Assistant HC/OFF line Coach Doug Marrone. TE Julius Thomas is in from DEN. Also signed are RT Jeremy Parnell from DAL, C Stefan Wisniewski from OAK and drafted G A.J. Cann from South Carolina. The O-line needed big help in protecting Bortles. The WRS also need to step it up in getting open and catching balls. If the OFF can stay on the field longer the DEF will not be so tired and be able to make stops. On the other side of the ball the DEF is equally bad. The DEF was hit with a critical blow when LB Dante Fowler, the 3rd pick in the draft suffered a torn left ACL in rookie minicamp. The JAGS made some free agent signings on DEF because they needed to shake things up. DE Chris Clemons & DT Sen’drick Marks have been solid but other than that it’s been mostly down hill for the DEF. MLB Paul Posluszny is coming off a torn chest muscle injury and there are questions marks concerning who will step up on DEF. The secondary for the JAGS has guys that need to step up and prove themselves or it’s going to be long season in Jacksonville. If there aren’t any significant improvements in JAG land in 2015, owner Shahid Khan will definitely clean house.
PROJECTED 2014 (6-10)
San Diego Chargers
For the last 5 yrs SD has been average at best. I had them at 9-7 and they beat all the bad teams and lost to the good ones. QB Philip Rivers walks around like he won the SuperBowl when he can’t even lead his team to the SuperBowl. The book on him is if you put enough pressure on him he will make mistakes. The running game for SD was #30 in 2014 because of key injuries to RB Ryan Mathews and RB Danny Woodhead. RB Brandon Oliver stepped in nicely as a rookie and should carry more of the load in 2015 along with 1st round draft choice out of Wisconsin, Melvin Gordon. RB Ryan Mathews departed but, Woodhead should be back to full strength after recovering from his injuries in the off season. SD will be without TE Antonio Gates for the first 4 games because of a suspension related to PEDS. That position may be filled by committee until he gets back and back into game form. But with a solidified backfield maybe that will take some pressure off Rivers. Big target WR Eddie Royal left for CHI but WRs Stevie Johnson & Jacoby Jones signed on to give SD some firepower in the WR dept. OG Orlando Franklin was brought in to secure the O-line even more as Rivers was only sacked 36x. The rest of the draft choices for SD were on DEF and SD needs to improve their RUSH DEF which was #26 in 2014. SD could have ended up at 7-9 if it weren’t for a last second win vs STL and a collapse by BALT in @BALT. However, this team must play better in its own division and against the better teams if they want to get to the SuperBowl. The secondary is solid with CB Brandon Flowers & S Eric Weddle leading the charge. SD doesn’t have an easy schedule in 2015 and it remains to be seen if they can turn the corner on mediocrity. For this team to move further, Rivers has to play better against the better teams. He’ll have plenty of chances in 2015 or it will be a lost season.
2014 (9-7)√ PROJECTED 2015 (9-7)
In 2014 DEN & Peyton were cruising high. But then in WK 11 they ran into STL and it looked like the Broncos and Peyton were never the same. Peyton & DEN were rocked in STL and even though the Broncos ended up 12-4, something about Peyton was never quite the same. His mechanics were showing a decline and in the DIV round of the playoffs at home vs INDY, Peyton missed some passes that he surely made previously in his career. Hence, DEN lost and some changes were made. HC John Fox was out and in comes Gary Kubiak. Gary is a competent coach but never took HOU to the promised land as its HC. Also DC Jack Del Rio took the OAK job and Wade Phillips is back. On the OC side Adam Gase is out and Rick Dennison is in. Also, in 2014, DEN brought in some key players who fit nicely and were supposed to bring DEN a SB win. Everyone was playing the part but Peyton didn’t look the same the rest of the way after STL. I compare him to Brett Favre and his last yr in the NFL. TE Julius Thomas departed for Jacksonville and was replaced by Owen Daniels from BALT. The TE position is very important to Peyton for added passing protection. The DEF is solid for DEN and they had a very good draft that will give them depth at key positions on DEF. The O-Line was shaky at times during the season and that was what they needed to fill but they didn’t address. The Broncos definitely have the personnel but it comes down to Peyton and he is not getting any younger. A lot of people are riding high on DEN but my gut tells me that they will have a down yr.
PROJECTED 2015 (8-8)
Kansas City Chiefs
In 2014, KC ended the yr at 9-7 after going 11-5 in 2013. They didn’t make the playoffs in 2014 after making them in HC Andy Reid’s 1st year in KC. This will be Andy’s 3rd yr in KC and he needs to get back on track. KC had a tougher schedule in 2014 than in 2013 and in 2015 KC plays against eleven teams that went over .500 in 2014. On the OFF side, the passing game is pretty bad to non-existent in KC. They let WR Dwayne Bowe walk and picked up WR Jeremy Maclin from PHILLY that should add some speed to the mix. KC went without a td thrown to a WR all season. That should definitely change in 2015. TE Travis Kelce had a nice yr and should have a better one in 2015. QB Alex Smith was sacked 45x while running for his life and the O-Line has to do a better job but C Rodney Hudson who signed with OAK may be sorely missed. RBs Jamaal Charles is the workhorse but Knile Davis is ready and willing to come in when Charles is overworked. All in all the OFF has to take it up a notch if KC is to think about getting to the playoffs. Plus, they need to throw more TDs to their WRs. The PASS DEF was #2 in 2014 led by OLB Justin Houston & Tamba Hali who had 22 & 6 sacks respectively. The KC secondary is top notch as they get little credit for stopping teams cold. In 2015, KC drafted CB Marcus Peters in the 1st round out of WASH. He is slated to be a starter at CB. They also signed S Tyvon Branch from OAK to really solidify the secondary for KC. But it’s the guys up front on DEF that need to get with it. KC had the #28 ranked RUSH DEF in the NFL in 2014 and in 2015 led by NT Dontari Poe they need to tighten things up. We’ll see what happens but the OFF definitely needs to be spread it out more and be unpredictable or teams will be waiting to pounce.
PROJECTED 2015 (10-6)
The Raiders had another disastrous season win wise in 2014, what a shocker. So what do they do? Clean house, again. Out is HC Dennis Allen and in comes HC Jack Del Rio. In 2014, OAK was #32 in TOT OFF, #26 PASS OFF & #32 RUSH OFF. RB Darren McFadden went to DAL & Maurice Jones-Drew retired. RB Latavius Murray will be slotted in as the starting RB and acquired from WASH, Roy Helu Jr as the backup. Marcel Reece who was selected to his 3rd Pro-Bowl will continue as FB. QB Derek Carr had a decent rookie campaign in 2014 and will be asked to keep the OFF up-tempo with new OC Bill Musgrave who was OC under PHILLY’s HC Chip Kelly the last three seasons. The O-Line did a great job protecting Carr last yr but needs to open more running lanes for a balanced offensive attack. Raiders must get more production out of their RB for them to be successful. The WRs in 2015 should be exciting to watch. In the 1st round OAK drafted Amari Cooper out of Alabama and they signed former 1st round draft choice Michael Crabtree formerly of the 49ers. Hopefully Crabtree will return to the form that made him a highly touted draft choice. For the TE position, OAK in the 3rd round, drafted Clive Walford out of Miami(FL). Walford is expected to start at TE. The OFF must improve if OAK wants to make some noise in the AFC WEST. On DEF there is new DC Ken Norton Jr. FS Charles Woodson doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. SS Nate Allen was brought in from PHILLY to shore up the other S position. OAK did a lot of restructuring and acquiring of new talent to shore up the front seven. LB Khalil Mack had a solid rookie season in 2014 and looks to build on the 4 sacks he had and OAK feels that they can build around him to make the DEF respectable. Players were brought in from other teams to turn OAK’s DEF around. With the improved personnel and the solid drafts that the Raiders have had the last two seasons, the dividends should start to pay off in wins. It is not out of the question that the Raiders should be somewhere around .500. They only have 5 games in 2015 against opponents that were sub .500 in 2014 but other games are winnable if they stay focused. I would like to see some upsets by OAK in 2015.
PROJECTED 2015 (7-9)
Guess what? Everyone and including me thought DAL would have a bad yr in 2014. We were all wrong. DAL basically stayed with e same guys on DEF and they actually improved from #32 TOT DEF in 2013 to #19 TOT DEF in 2014. The RUSH DEF went from #27 in 2013 to #8 in 2014. DAL went 12-4 and beat DET @HOME in the playoffs before losing @GB. Tony Romo regained his form and was voted to the PRO-BOWL. RB Demarco Murray gained ALL-PRO honors with an incredible yr but will be elsewhere for 2015. Instead it will be RB by committee as Darren McFadden, Joseph Randle and others try to duplicate what Murray had accomplished in 2014. But I doubt it. Without a balanced attack going forward Romo will be pressured from all sides. Without Murray, Romo will get sacked more as well. WR Dez Bryant signed his big contract and probably will want to show everyone why he is worth it, so look for him to have big numbers. TE Jason Witten is a force whether he is catching passes or blocking and they need him as Romo will be passing a lot this yr. The other Wrs on DAL find open spots when Dez is double-teamed by opposing secondaries. The O-Line for DAL is solid and certainly will need to give Romo protection. On DEF the biggest signing was DE Greg Hardy. Hardy wil be serving a four game suspension but is a big addition to a DEF that is getting better. The D-Line for DAL was banged up last yr as multiple guys went don with injuries and backups filled the rotation. This yr everyone starts fresh as WLB Sean Lee comes back after missing all of 2014 and two injury seasons before that. He is a vital part of the DEF as MLB Rolando McClain will be suspended for the first games for substance abuse. The CBs on DAL are nothing special so that’s why they drafted CB Byron Jones in the 1st round out of Connecticut to challenge Carr & Claiborne. CB Orlando Scandrick has been the most reliable CB as a nickel back so you may see Jones in the starting lineup come wk 1. This team is capable of 11 or 12 wins but we will see who ends up as the #1 RB as the season progresses.
PROJECTED 2015 (11-5)
New York Giants
2015 will be the last yr that Tom Coughlin is the HC of the NYG. QB Eli Manning has had 2 straight mediocre seasons and he has the audacity to be looking for an extension after this season. The only impressive win that NYG had in 2014 was late in the season @STL. They lost @JAGS after being up 21-0! Hopefully WR Victor Cruz is ready to go after a season ending knee injury in Wk 6. Rookie WR Odell Beckham JR filled in unbelievably and earned a trip to the Pro-Bowl. With the two of them healthy it will be hard for opposing DEFs to cover them and WR Reuben Randle and all of a sudden very reliable TE Larry Donnell. The O-Line is solid barring injuries and 1st round draft choice OL Ereck Flowers out the Miami(FL) should fit in nicely at RT. To help out the running game, RB Shane Vereen was signed from NE. He’ll be great on 3rd downs when the G-MEN need that play to continue the drive. RB Rashad Jennings is coming back from injury that limited him in 2014 so we’ll see if he’s back to 100%. DC Steve Spagnuolo makes a return trip to the G-MEN after being their DC during their SuperBowl run in 2007 and the non playoff season of 2008. On DEF we all know about JPP and whether or not he’ll make it to wk1 but, he’s a vital part of this DEF. Although, most of his 12.5 sacks were against sub .500 teams late in the season. He is a big question mark going into the season. In the secondary S Antrel Rolle left fro CHI which leaves a big hole in the coverage situation. CBs Prince Amukamara & Dominique Rodgers Cromartie have to really step it up if the Giants have a chance. G-Men will be starting a rookie at FS, Landon Collins drafted in the 2nd round out of Alabama and he will be tested early. At times in 2014 it looked like the GIANTS were putting absolutely no pressure on the opposing OFF and their RUSH DEF was ranked #30. That will not fly in 2015 as their schedule is tougher than in 2014 and if everyone on this team does not play to their potential, the Giants may just clean house after the season. 2015 could go either way.
PROJECTED 2015 (9-7)
In 2014 PHILLY was cruising along at 6-2 and QB Nick Foles goes down. Mark Sanchez comes in and does a mediocre job but PHILLY is still winning. At 9-3, leading the NFC East the bottom falls out and PHILLY loses 3 in a row all but knocking them out of the playoffs. PHILLY ends up 10-6 and goes home early. HC Chip Kelly who is entering his 3rd season in PHILLY is coming off back to back 10 win seasons. He is in charge and trying to mold the team in his vision. But fans in PHILLY want more and they want a championship which they haven’t had with the Eagles since 1960. Right away Chip is making deals. He steals RB Demarco Murray from DAL. He signs RB Ryan Mathews from SD. He makes the blockbuster trade of QB Nick Foles for injury plagued QB Sam Bradford. Out the door go RB Lesean McCoy, WR Jeremy Maclin, DE Trent Cole, just to name a few. The PASS DEF for PHILLY in 2013 & 2014 which was #32 & #31 respectively and couldn’t make the big stops, desperately needed change. To help in that area they signed CB Byron Maxwell from SEA & CB Walter Thurmond from NYG. LB Kiko Alonso was acquired in the trade for McCoy with BUFF. PHILLY had a good draft and they addressed their concerns with the secondary and made sure they have depth going into the season. PHILLY is hoping that WR Nelson Agholar who was drafted in the 1st round from USC, becomes a downfield threat to take some of the people away from the line of scrimmage so PHILLY can get their run game going. RB/PR Darren Sproles is always exciting to watch and always seems to get a 1st down when PHILLY needs it most. QB Mark Sanchez was resigned but we are all aware of his problems with mechanics and getting sacked. But the one variable on this team is QB Sam Bradford. If he is healthy, PHILLY should have a good yr. If he gets injured, it becomes a lost yr. My prediction will be on Sam playing the whole yr.
2014 (10-6)√ PROJECTED 2015 (11-5)
After 2012 when RG III led WASH to a 10 win season and into the playoffs, there seemed to be a lot of promise that this was a stepping stone upwards after so many disappointing seasons in Washington. RG III, hampered by injuries and not given enough time to heel, the Redskins went on to win only 3 games in 2013 and 4 games in 2014. After 2014, O-Line Coach Bill Callahan was stolen away from DAL where he did wonders protecting Romo. In 2014, the SKINS O-Line gave up 58 sacks on 3 diff QBs. Bill should have his hands full with this bunch. RG III has been anointed the starter by 2nd yr HC Jay Gruden, so the O-Line has their work cut out for them. OL Brandon Scherff drafted from Iowa in the 1st round will be most definitely starting at RT a week spot for the SKINS. Protecting the QB is a major priority here and G Arie Kouandjio drafted from Alabama in the 4th round should also be of great help as well. This team is into long term rebuilding and will not be seeing the playoffs in 2015. To shore up a PASS DEF that has been absolutely terrible for a few yrs, the SKINS signed CB Chris Culliver from SF, S Dashon Goldson from TB & S Jeron Johnson from SEA. All are scheduled to start right away. Three new DLs were also signed to go along with a new DC Joe Barry who replaced Jim Haslett. This team has definitely made the right moves by drafting players and signing some helpers but not blowing up the team as in years past. As long as RGIII has protection he will be able to get the ball to the receivers and RB Alfred Morris will be able to run wild. But, just because RG III has been anointed the starter and with Cousins and McCoy still on the roster, RG III may not have a long leash so he needs to be smart about his decisions. This team is not ready to challenge PHILLY or DAL for the top of the NFC EAST but there should be some definite improvement over the last 2 yrs.
PROJECTED 2015 (7-9)
Green Bay Packers
My prediction about GB for 2014 was right on the money. But in the conference championship up in SEA with the lead 19-7 and the ball with about 6:00 minutes to go, HC Mike McCarthy turned into a rookie HC at best. GB should have went to the SuperBowl but we all know what happened. Needless to say, QB Aaron Rodgers probably has a burning desire to slaughter everyone this yr and get back to the SuperBowl. With him at the helm, the OFF is indestructible. He does not make mistakes. GB drafted QB Brett Hundley in the 5th round of UCLA as a possible heir apparent or for future trade. But, for Rodgers to leave the field it will only be when he cannot play this game any longer. The O-Line has become a much better unit and Rodgers was only sacked 28x in 2014 after being sacked 51x in 2012. (Rodgers was out for most of the yr in 2013 with injury). Special teams should get a lift this yr as return man Ty Montgomery was drafted in the 3rd round to help get better field position. NT B.J. Raji is coming off a season ending injury in training camp and should be ready to plug up the middle. LB Clay Mathews was playing the inside in 2014 it helped tremendously against the pass and the run and recorded 11.0 sacks. ILB Jake Ryan drafted in the 4th round out of Michigan will be inserted inside so that Clay could go back to the outside. OLB Julius Peppers was nice surprise for GB after coming over from CHI recording 7 sacks and 2 INTS for TDs. The CBs are a little bit of a question mark because of the departed Tramon Williams & backup Davon House, so we’ll see how that goes. The schedule is favorable for GB as their two toughest road games are @DEN & @ARZ. As long as Rodgers stays healthy this team should go deep into the playoffs or even the SuperBowl.
2014 (12-4)√ PROJECTED 2015 (13-3)
OK, in 2014 DET goes 11-5 after I said they would go 7-9. Plus, they even made the playoffs where I have to admit they were robbed. DET hasn’t had back-to-back winning season since Barry Sanders was the RB. The trick will be if this teams moves forward or backwards. On OFF WR Golden Tate really blossomed and had better stats than Megatron who missed three games due to injury. RB Joique Bell had an average yr but might be asked to do more now that RB Reggie Bush moved on SF. RB Ameer Abdullah drafted in the 2nd round out of Nebraska may pick up where Reggie left off but we shall see. This team has been more of Pass first, Run second kind of team. But a better balanced attack would take pressure off Stafford and less sacks, 45. To reduce the sacks and rebuild the O-Line, DET drafted OG Laken Tomlinson in the 1st round out of Duke. He replaces OG Rob Sims who left via free agency. 2nd yr C Travis Swanson steps in for 14 yr vet C Dominic Raiola who departed via free agency. RT LaAdrian Waddle is coming off ACL surgery so you see there needs to be some consistency on the line in the upcoming season if the sack number is to be reduced and the running game gets going. On DEF DT Ndamukong Suh took the money and ran to MIA. He was replaced by DT Haloti Ngata from BAL. But, SUH usually was double teamed which left openings for others to make the play. DT Nick Fairly left, so did DT C.J Mosely & DE George Johnson went to TB. DET was #2 TOT DEF in 2014 with #1 RUN DEF so we’ll see if any of the guys that DET signed in the off-season will bring the intensity that the guys that left had. In the secondary SS James Ihedigbo & FS Glover Quin are solid. We’ll see how the CBs work out. All in all for the Lions it comes down to the revamped O-Line and how the running game gets going. Plus, the beginning of the season is brutal for DET but, if they get through that they may have another winning season. But we’ll see.
PROJECTED 2015 (8-8)
OK, QB Teddy Bridgewater had an exciting rookie campaign. He will be the starting QB going forward but the O-Line has to be better at protecting the QB. They gave up 51 sacks to three different QBs in 2014. The RUSH OFF for MINN actually was better even though RB Adrian Peterson only played for 1 gm in 2014. The RUSH OFF went from #18 in 2013 to #14 in 2014. Peterson is back for 2015 and is probably ready to show everyone that the yr off didn’t slow him down. Bridgewater needs to stay a little more patient in the pocket and let things develop instead of taking off and possibly getting hurt. He is their QB as Matt Cassel is now in BUFF. OC Norv Turner will have a full training camp to work with Teddy as the starter and Teddy should be ready for wk 1 at SF. WR Greg Jennings left for MIA and in return they got moody WR Mike Wallace who didn’t pan out in MIA. Hopefully he can return to PRO-BOWL form in MINN without creating any waves. WR/KR Cordarelle Patterson is always exciting to watch and he is a playmaker with exciting speed. The O-Line is still shaky going into training camp. They had some injuries but guys have to step up or it will be a long yr in MINN. ON DEF, the secondary is getting 1st round draft choice out of Michigan State, CB Trae Waynes who will be slotted in as a starter for MINN. He is 6’0” with 4.31 speed. RDE Everson Griffin broke out in 2014 with 12 sacks and 39 tackles. He had replaced Jared Allen at the position and proved to MINN that it was a wise choice to let Jared walk. The DEF for MINN really came through in 2014 despite some injuries and the secondary did their job as well. MINN lost 4 games by 3 points or less in 2014 and with a better O-Line they may be winning those games instead of losing them. The PASS DEF for MINN was ranked #7 in 2014 with much improvement from #31 in 2013. The DEF must keep the pressure while not allowing opposing offenses to run wild on them as in the past. Also, the VIKINGS must start to find a way to beat GB & DET if they want to turn the corner on the franchise. Making the playoffs would be the first step and is not far from reality for 2015.
PROJECTED 2015 (10-6)
The Marc Trestman experiment is over but the team seems to be going in the opposite direction. New HC John Fox, formerly of DEN, has his hands full with a bunch of seemingly underachievers. The DEF was #30 in 2013 and management was determined to turn things around. LB Jared Allen was brought in to help out, turning down SEA. I’ll bet he wishes he would have signed there instead. Other guys were brought in also to shore up the DEF. So what happened? In 2014 they ended up #30 again. Leader CB Charles Tillman was injured early and ended his season and in the off season signed with CAR. CHI lost their last 5 games and ended up 5-11. RB Matte Forte seems to be the only constant in the backfield for this team. TE Martellus Bennett is coming into his own having his 1st Pro Bowl selection in 2014. CHI again made a lot of off-season moves to shore up the DEF but guys are coming in from different places used to different systems, same problem they had in 2014. One of their best DB’s Chris Conte departed for TB. Problems also continue with playing teams within their own division who are constantly getting better. Also, the O-line is not very consistent and problems continue with protection and opening running lanes. But the one constant that boggles the mind is QB Jay Cutler. A lot of people feel that it was a bad idea to give him the big money and so much guaranteed. He is known to make a lot of bad decisions and fumbled the most times in his career in 2014. We’ll see if things change for the better in 2015. WR Eddie Royal was signed from SD and replaces the colorful WR Brandon Marshall who was traded to the NYJ. Too many new faces in CHI and too many guys leaving has been a problem and it continues into 2015. Don’t think things will all of a sudden look up for the Bears in 2015.
PROJECTED 2015 (6-10)
HC Mike Smith is out and Dan Quinn is in. Dan was the DC for the Seattle Seahawks as they went to the SuperBowl the last two years. New DC Richard Smith will have his hands full as ATL’s DEF went from #27 in 2013 to dead last at #32 in 2014. The PASS DEF was #32 LY and can only get better. Raheem Morris was hired as DEF Passing Game Coordinator because the PASS DEF has been so bad. Hopefully 3rd yr CB Desmond Trufant can lead the secondary to a better performance than it did in 2014. HC Quinn was influential in drafting CB Jalen Collins, in the 2nd round from LSU and is slated to start at the other corner. Also drafted to help out the DEF and slated to start are DE/LB Vic Beasley drafted in the 1st round & NT Grady Jarrett drafted in the 5th round both out of Clemson. ATL will have to put pressure on opposing QBs and close up the lanes if they want to make stops. On OFF, new OC Kyle Shanahan comes in to get things going. However, there is a big hole in the RB position as Steven Jackson & Jacquizz Rodgers are both gone. This leaves ATL without a proven RB and not too many options to consider. The O-line for ATL has been shaky the last 3 yrs and with no one for Ryan to hand the ball off to opposing DEFs and going to look to blitz him more than ever. PR-KR-WR Devin Hester caught more balls as a WR than he has in recent years and expect to see more of him at the position when ATL needs to advance the ball. Not only is he exciting to watch but he gets his teammates pumped up as well. WRs Julio Jones and Roddy White are very dependable when healthy and should be ready for 2015. QB Ryan is very good at finding the open man when he has the time but with no proven RB he may have to throw more than in the past and DEFs will be waiting. Also, with the departure of TE Tony Gonzalez after 2013 it is TE by committee until someone steps up. ATL doesn’t have a very hard schedule and they play the NFC South tough so they should be in the mix for the playoffs at the end of the season but, we’ll see.
PROJECTED 2015 (8-8)
CAR ended 2014 7-9 and made the playoffs. In the wacky NFC South it seems that every year someone new ends up on the top of standings. But this teams runs with QB Cam Newton, make no mistake about it. When he is healthy and on track, he is dangerous to every DEF that faces him. He is a very big threat to run at any time which makes DEFs around the league keep someone near the line in case he tries to take off running but, many times to no avail. A healthy CAM is a dangerous CAM and that is what CAR is hoping for 2015 as they try to recapture what hey started in 2013 with a 12 win season and a trip deep into the playoffs. RB Jonathan Stewart will be the lead RB as Deangelo Williams departed for PITT. TE Greg Olsen has come into his own as being a very reliable receiver and blocker earning his 1st Pro Bowl selection and 1000 yd receiving season in 2014. OTs Jonathan Martin & Michael Oher were brought in to sure up the O-line and give Cam much needed protection. WR/PR Ted Ginn Jr is back after his 1 yr stint in ARZ. He is an explosive weapon and will look to give CAM that needed long receiving threat. On DEF DE Greg Hardy’s suspension in 2014 left a big hole in the DEF for CAR that they never recovered from. He’ll be with DAL in 2015 when his suspension is over. LB Luke Kuechly is a consistent ALL-PRO and with LB Thomas Davis these two seem to be all over the field. CB Charles Tillman was signed from CHI to give the DBs some leadership along with returning veteran SS Roman Harper. Offensively, CAM needs to stay healthy and this teams needs to get better to make a big run into the playoffs.
PROJECTED 2015 (11-5)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
OK, what a disaster 2014 turned out to be. TB goes 2-14 and gets the 1st pick in the draft. QBs Mike Glennon & departed Josh McCown were sacked 52x. TB drafts QB Jameis Winston first out of Florida State. Even with his off the field problems TB took Winston. Since the O-Line did such a great job protecting the QB in 2014, TB drafted OL Donovan Smith in the 2nd round out of Penn State and will fill him in the LT position. They also drafted in the second round, OL Ali Marpet out of Hobart College and have him slotted for the RG position. WR Mike Evans has turned out to be a very reliable receiver when he was drafted out of Texas A&M last yr. He was a favorite of Johnny Manziel and has become a playmaker. WR Vincent Jackson is still reliable and these two should get more passes if the O-Line can give Winston some time. The RBs are a tandem of James, Rainey & Martin and we’ll see who steps up for 2015. The DEF went a little backwards in 2014 so hopefully with HC Lovie Smith in his 2nd yr with TB, things will start to shape up. S Dashon Goldson left for WASH and was quickly replaced by Chris Conte from CHI. The defensive foundation is anchored by DT Gerald McCoy & MLB Lavonte David who will lead the DEF ship forward as in past yrs.DE George Johnson who was acquired from DET will probably be asked to rush the passer more in TB than he did in DET. But it all comes down to that O-Line for TB. If they are able to gel and give some time and open up some lanes, maybe TB can win some games. Their schedule is not that bad and they may be able to beat a few teams but we’ll see.
PROJECTED 2015 (7-9)
New Orleans Saints
In 2013 new DC Rob Ryan turned a DEF that was #32 in 2012 into a DEF that was ranked #4 in the NFL in 2013. But in 2014 the DEF reverted to being very bad and ended up #31. Dennis Allen has been brought in as Senior Defensive Assistant to help Ryan out. SAINTS were plagued by blown coverage assignments and alignment errors all throughout the season that led to disastrous losses even at home in the DOME. CB Brandon Browner was signed away from NE to help right the ship. Even though Browner averaged a Pass Interference Penalty per game LY at NE he is still better than anyone in the secondary that NO has. The Draft was DEF heavy for the SAINTS and they are looking to these guys to contribute right away. ILB Dannell Elerbe was signed from MIA. FS Jarius Byrd hopefully will be fully recovered after suffering a knee injury that sidelined him after only four games in 2014. LB David Hawthorne will move into the starting spot for Curtis Lofton who left for OAK. If this unit doesn’t turn around in 2015 the SAINTS will probably blow up the DEF after the season. This team was cashed strapped as they were heading into 2015 $30 million over the cap. After signing Brees’s favorite target TE Jimmy Graham to a 4 yr, 40 million dollar contract, they shipped him to Seattle for highly regarded C Max Unger. Then WR Kenny Stills was shipped to MIA because it seemed he had differences with the play calling. However, RB C.J. Spiller was picked up from BUFF in an effort to lighten the load for RB Mark Ingram. But what the OFF comes down to is Brees. Without Stills & Graham (his favorite WR), Brees is going to have to spread that ball around. LY, Brees was hurried into some awful INTs that he should never have made. With C Unger protecting him up front and the OFF line pretty solid, Brees should have more time to sort his passes out. The RBs should take a little of the load off Brees and the SAINTS should bounce back in the unpredictable NFC SOUTH.
PROJECTED 2015 (11-5)
Ok, so we all know what happened in the SuperBowl last yr but it was not HC Pete Carroll’s fault as everyone has pointed out. It was actually Russell Wilson’s fault because if he didn’t like what he saw at the line he should have called an audible. Also, others say they should have just run RB Marshawn Lynch into the line. Well, SEA had that situation 5x in 2014 ran Lynch 5x and only scored once. Nothing in football is a sure thing. Wilson needs to get rid of the ball quicker. In 2014 Wilson was sacked 42x and fumbled a career high 13x. He was saved in the NFC Championship game after throwing 4INTS that should have lost the game. He is in the last yr of his rookie contract so it’s in his best interest to get this team back and deep into the playoffs. RB Marshawn Lynch signed a contract extension and will be back after having another monster season. RB Robert Turbin filled in nicely when Lynch needed a rest. To help the OFF in the TE position, Jimmy Graham was acquired from NO for C Max Unger. The departure of Unger is not as bad as people think because C Patrick Lewis started four games brilliantly in 2014 for the injured Unger, making Unger expendable. Plus, LG Alvin Bailey replaces the departed James Carpenter. Bailey played three different positions on the line in 2014 and was very effective. Also, even though SEA doesn’t have any star WRs they all have sure hands to catch anything Wilson throws them. On DEF, SEA was #1 TOT DEF & #1 PASS DEF for the 2nd consecutive yr. This yr they lost CB Byron Maxwell to PHILLY but everyone else is intact. Need I mention them? CB Cary Williams was acquired for the departed Maxwell. The secondary was pretty banged up at the end of last season so we’ll see if they have fully recovered. The front seven is very much underrated but a solid core of guys that do everything right. Led by All-PRO MLB Bobby Wagner, they are a tough tandem to beat. However, SEA has a very tough road schedule and early in the season is when they are most vulnerable. In 2014 after starting the season at 3-3 with two of their losses on the road, they went 9-1 the rest of the season. If they start that way out in 2015, they may not recover, especially in the tough NFC WEST.
2014 (12-4)√ PROJECTED 2015 (11-5)
St. Louis Rams
The upward advancement of the RAMS took a backseat in 2014 as they finished 6-10 after going 7-9 in 2013. The RAMS used 3 diff QBs after Sam Bradford was injured in training camp. The O-Line did a terrible job as the QBs were sacked a total of 47x. The expected DEF actually disappointed in 2014 and only starting showing signs of life in the second half of the season. Right away in the off season a blockbuster trade was made of QB Sam Bradford for PHILLY’s QB Nick Foles. Both QBs are coming off season endings injuries but Bradford has been plagued his whole career and comes with a bigger price tag. Nick Foles had a great 2013 where he threw 27tds against 2INTs. The Rams are hoping that he comes back close to those numbers. RAMS also have a new OC Frank Cignetti & QB Coach Chris Weinke. In the 1st round the RAMS drafted RB Todd Gurley from Georgia who will be their primary RB. Tre Mason will be backup and Zac Stacy left to pursue other teams. But the O-Line was tweaked to make sure that the running game gets 1st priority. G/T Garrett Reynolds was brought in from DET to take the RG spot. OT Rob Haverstein was drafted in the 2nd round out of Wisconsin to start at the RT position. For the RAMS to be successful the O-Line has to gel and take pressure off Nick Foles. Too many times in 2014 the QB didn’t have enough time to get the play going and it cost the RAMS dearly. On DEF DEs Chris Long & Robert Quinn are the bookends in a 4-3 scheme with DT Aaron Donald coming off a ticket to the Pro-Bowl. To solidify the DEF further RAMS picked up DT Nick Fairly & LB Akeem Ayers for depth and the pass rush option. The CBs can be a problem at times. Janoris Jenkins takes big chances by making big plays and giving up big plays. E. J Gaines who was a rookie in 2014 hopefully has matured enough and stepped up his game. But the question remains, how the O-Line comes together in 2015 will determine whether or not the RAMS have a winning season. The DEF has many quality players that will make many plays but the O-Line needs to do its job so that the OFF & new RAM QB Nick Foles can do theirs. This may be the first season in a while where they RAMS are above .500 but it won’t be easy. By, the way, is this the last season in STL before they move back to L.A.?
PROJECTED 2015 (9-7)
In 2014, ARZ showed everyone that the NFL is a quarterback driven league. QB Carson Palmer goes down for the season and the backup Drew Stanton comes in. Drew can’t do what Carson can do and then he goes down. Ryan Lindley then comes in and doesn’t win a game or the game in the playoffs. Unfortunately for ARZ this team’s success is firmly on the shoulders of Carson Palmer’s health. If Carson stays healthy, ARZ has a chance to go deep into the playoffs. Asking them to improve on an 11-win season is a very tough task considering they are in the NFC WEST. ON OFF, protecting Palmer is job #1. The O-Line went from giving up 41 sacks in 2013 to 28 in 2014. To take pressure off Palmer the run game has to get better in ARZ. In 2012 the RUSH OFF was #32, in 2013 #23 and in 2014 back down to #31. It can’t rely solely on the QB. The O-Line will be fortified with the addition of Pro-Bowler LG Mike Iupati from SF and the expected development of former 1st round draft choice RG Jonathan Cooper. C A.Q. Shipley was acquired from INDY to replace C Lyle Sendlein who left via FA. RB Andre Ellington is coming back from a knee injury and a hernia in 2014 and hopefully will be at full strength for wk 1. He is an explosive back and anything he can contribute would take a load off Palmer. But to keep Ellington fresh RB Stephan Taylor or 3rd round pick David Johnson from Northern Iowa will need to run 10-12x per game. WR position has Larry Fitzgerald at #1 but did not have a #1 type season in 2014. The best thing for AZ is to spread the ball around and not be predictable with their passes. WR John Brown has emerged as a viable long threat for ARZ to spread out opposing secondaries. On DEF, the biggest move was made by the DC Todd Bowles, who took the HC of the NYJ. He will be sorely missed as he came up with defensive schemes that kept opposing offenses guessing. New DC James Bettcher will have his hands full with all the personnel that went elsewhere after the 2014 campaign. The first issue is that ARZ does not have an edge pass rusher. The draft didn’t give them any help, so someone from within is going to have to step up. Plus, a lot of contributors from the DEF left for other places. This leaves backups and guys signed from other places to fill in the gaps. The guys that ARZ signed don’t really jump off anyone’s hot list so that’s a concern. The strength of the DEF is in the secondary even though CB Antonio Cromartie left for NYJ. The tandem at S, Tyrann Mathieu and Deone Bucannon could both be Pro-Bowlers. They are just that good. But with all the losses on DEF, just being average and a healthy Palmer may give them a 10 win season. HC Bruce Arians will have to some type of magician with a DEF that has been shredded and not too much help from FA and the draft. But he’s done more with less.
PROJECTED 2015 (10-6)
San Francisco 49ers
After the 2014 season ended in SF it was like a huge going out of business sale. Instead of moving forward to the SuperBowl, the bottom fell out in SF. They lost a lot of games they should have won and for 2015 SF has cleaned house. Out, HC Jim Harbaugh, in Jim Tomsula. Out DC Vic Fangio, in Eric Mangini. Out OC Greg Roman, in Geep Chryst. Multiple players on both sides of the ball either left or retired notably, RB Frank Gore, LB Patrick Willis & WR Michael Crabtree. QB Kaepernick at times looked like he regressed instead of progressed. The PASS OFF has been #30 for the last 2 yrs and SF has had trouble scoring in the red zone. At times it looked like they couldn’t score no matter where you placed the ball. They must get TE Vernon Davis more involved in the OFF. On certain occasions in 2014 it looked like SF was purposely not involving Davis. On OFF SF added RB Reggie Bush & WR Torrey Smith but these guys don’t realize that it will only get worse in SF before it gets better. LY SF barely beat some teams they would have normally rolled over and their schedule for 2015 doesn’t get any better with Opponents from the AFC North on their schedule. The DEF is still solid but not dominant like it was a few years ago. With the departures and retirements on DEF it will be interesting how this team matches up with the tough NFC WEST and the rest of the league. SF has a rough schedule and is slotted to finish 4th in the NFC WEST. Disaster in SF for 2015.
PROJECTED 2015 (5-11)