2014 NFL Predictions

 

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2014 NFL Season Predictions

Alright guys, FUTBAW season is on the horizon which means it’s time to make some groundbreaking predictions for the upcoming NFL season, and by groundbreaking, I mean pretty much the same as what everyone else is saying. BUT NOT TOTALLY.

Here are your division and playoff predictions for the 2014 NFL season, by me.

NFC EAST

Philadelphia Eagles 11-5

Dallas Cowboys 7-9

Washington Redskins 6-10

New York Giants 5-11

Analysis: What a horrible division this is. Nick Foles could get ebola and the Eagles would still win this division by 5 games.

Losing DeSean Jackson is going to hurt, but the Eagles still have the most well rounded offensive attack by far among this crop of teams. With Shady McCoy racking up those fantasy points and Foles continuing to develop, the Eagles should run roughshod on the terrible defenses in the NFC East.

Defensively, the Eagles aren’t great and especially weak in the secondary. The front seven is going to have to lock down opponents rushing games in order to stop other teams from scoring in the 30s on them. The good news is if they are forced to win a shootout, they probably can.

The Cowboys….holy shit their defense is bad. They already had the worst defense in the league, did almost nothing to improve it, AND lost DeMarcus Ware. Good luck. At least they have some shiny parts offensively which will keep them competitive, but they won’t sniff the playoffs unless Jason Garrett can get more with less on that side of the ball.

Washington will be better, I guess (not that you could get much worse) because RG3 at least appears to be back to full health after the debacle that was last season. I’m expecting Jackson and Griffin to be one of the more explosive duos in the league and if Alfred Morris can balance out their running game they could put up big yards.

The problem is on defense, while there isn’t anything horrible going on per say, there isn’t exactly much that jumps out on your either. Plus you have an unproven HC in Jay Gruden, and it just doesn’t seem like they can make a jump from 3-13 to playoff team this season.

The Giants have fooled me too many years now. When I think they will be good, like last year, they totally suck. When I think they will suck, they are great. So expect them to make the playoffs this year.

On paper though, that would be a hell of a surprise. Eli is regressing and now has to learn an entirely new system. David Wilson had to retire, so rookie Andre Williams and Rashad Jennings are your rushing attack. That doesn’t exactly set the world on fire. Plus, Hakeem Nicks, Justin Tuck and others are now gone. Defensively they got better in the secondary but have a weak front seven that leaves much to be desired.  The Giants won’t be horrible and that 5 could maybe turn into 6 or 7 wins but that is their ceiling.

AFC East

New England Patriots 12-4 (Fuck you, Patriots)

New York Jets 9-7

Miami Dolphins 7-9

Buffalo Bills 7-9

Analysis: Jesus guys. Sometimes I feel like the rest of the NFL just has some kind of handshake agreement with Bellichick and Robby Kraft that they won’t illegally tape their practices and in return they will allow New England to get nominally better each season through free agency and the draft.

How the fuck did the Patriots manage to score Darelle Revis, Will Smith, Brandon Browner, and Patrick Chung on defense? Ugh. Tommy also gets Gronk back and I have to stop writing about this because I am getting angry.

As a Jets fan, I literally don’t know what to expect this season. Some pundits have them as high as 11-5, others have them as low as 5-11. The latter is total bullshit, and shows the extreme media bias against the Rex Ryan Jets, similar to last year when they were projected to be the worst team in the league and went 8-8.

There is no way they get less than 7 wins this year, their front seven is too good for that, and they have improved their offense a ton by signing Eric Decker, and Chris Johnson. Still, it comes down to two things that will determine their fate.

1.) If Geno Smith (or Michael Vick) emerges as a competent Quarterback that is capable of bailing a team out with a big drive when they need one. 2). If their secondary can survive losing Antonio Cromartie, and suffering a myriad of injuries. I could see the Jets making the playoffs, but it will be close.

The Dolphins are just kind of there this season. They didn’t get any worse, but you can’t really convince me they got that much better either.

Their offensive line is improved, but their skill players remain questionable. Knowshon Moreno will compliment Lamar Miller in the backfield but that isn’t exactly a scary duo for opposing lineman. Ryan Tannehill is proven to basically be an average NFL QB. Not totally sucky, but not a Pro Bowler either. Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline are a solid duo, but behind them the options are limited.

Their defense is average as well, just like the rest of this team. Sure they could sneak into the playoffs, but there’s nothing particularly exciting about them.

The Bills might finish with the same record than Miami but they are infinitely the more fun team to watch. E.J. Manuel will assuredly get better this year, and Sammy Watkins is going to make some big plays. C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson are once again a solid duo, and defensively their front four is very formidable.

Despite this, they are still a year away from truly contending. Manuel needs another year or two under his belt, Doug Marrone is still figuring this out as well, and their secondary is questionable at best. Plus, losing Kiko Alonso was a huge blow.

NFC North

Green Bay Packers 10-6

Detroit Lions 9-7

Chicago Bears 8-8

Minnesota Vikings 4-12

Analysis: The NFC North is kind of shady this year. It’s like it’s trying to trick you with big names into thinking it’s a good division but in reality it’s kind of average all across the board.

The Packers are probably the best team but it’s not like they don’t have some gaping holes of their own. The good news is they have Aaron Rodgers, still have a good receiving core, added Julius Peppers, and improved their secondary in the draft. The bad news is, they went 8-7-1, and didn’t exactly seem to care all that much about rounding out their weaknesses, especially defensively.

Detroit is a sleeper here that could possibly unseat the Pack. You know Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson are going to put up big numbers, plus Reggie Bush is there to add even more explosiveness in the backfield.

The question will be can they stop enough people to win games. Like Dallas, there offense might have to win them every game they play in this year. The difference is that Kyle Van Noy and Ndamukong Suh will at least keep their run defense respectable.

Chicago is the Miami of the NFC. They exist and on paper could make the playoffs, but they’re kind of boring. Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall are Budweiser, and Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace are Bud Light. The former has a slightly better reputation and will fill you up more, but in the end their basically the same thing. Alshon Jeffery and Matt Forte will have to be the differences if this offense is going to match Green Bay and Detroit.

Jared Allen is nice, but it only at the very best equals losing Julius Peppers, and the rest of their additions don’t really scream playoffs to me. The Bears haven’t gotten worse, but I don’t think they’ve gotten any better either.

Minnesota is still a disaster. It totally sucks that Adrian Peterson’s talents are being wasted on a team with no shot to make the playoffs. Teddy Bridgewater  (assuming he unseats Matt Cassel) will have to be better in his first year than he has any business being if this team is going to win more than 5 games.

I really like Mike Zimmer and I think he’ll do what he can with this defense, but they just have very few playmakers especially after losing Jared Allen. The rebuilding process shall continue for the Vikings in 2014.

AFC North

Cincinnati Bengals 10-6

Pittsburgh Steelers 10-6

Baltimore Ravens 8-8

Cleveland Browns 6-10

Analysis: The AFC North is an extremely tough division race to call. Other than the Browns, you could make a case for any of the other three teams and have a lot of great points.

Pittsburgh is a bit of a wild card after dropping to 8-8 last season, they could surge and return to playoff form, or they could falter. I’m going with the first one for now. Big Ben is what he is at Quarterback, and he will always give his team a chance to win. Now that he has an emerging Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount in the running game, Roethlisberger can get away with only having to throw 20-25 times a game if that.

The big question will be if their always stout defense will allow them to play that type of smash-mouth football. Losing Ryan Clark and Lamarr Woodley certainly doesn’t help, and the Steelers will have to rely on a lot of young players to win games on defense. Their best hope is that Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor can stay healthy and have productive seasons.

Cincinnati is probably the favorites going in, but the reason I only have them tying for the divisional lead here is that they remained relatively stagnant for a team that in my mind over-performed last year.

For a guy that signed a $100 million extension, Andy Dalton still might only be the third best QB in the division and he still hasn’t won that playoff game.

Still, the talent is there for another playoff run. Dalton still has A.J. Green to throw too, and a solid offensive line. The defense led by Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap is solid as well. Still, the Bengals lost both of their coordinators this offseason which has to mean a little something.

Some people really like Baltimore to break through again this season but I am not one of them. I won’t go into the “distraction” narrative too much with the Ray Rice situation, but the fact is they will miss him for at least two games, and when he comes back he is dealing with all of that and was woefully underproductive last year. Their big free agent signing is Steve Smith who is about 6 years past his prime, and their offensive line is incredibly suspect.

Defensively they have maybe the best overall defense in the division, but can they score enough points to make the playoffs? Last year the answer was no, and I don’t expect that to change unless Joe Flacco can morph back into 2012 playoffs Joe Flacco.

Cleveland may still suck, but at the very least they are exciting this year. There hasn’t been this much hype surrounding a rookie Quarterback since Tim Tebow, so Johnny Football will have a lot to prove once he eventually takes over the starting job from Brian Hoyer.

It’s unfortunate for him Josh Gordon won’t be there, as that would have been a really fun combination. The rest of the offense is totally lackluster, and even if Manziel turns out to be a star he doesn’t have enough around him yet.

The good news for the Browns is that their defense is the best it’s been in years with Paul Kruger, Justin Gilbert, Donte Whitner, and Joe Haden. The other three teams might be stronger now, but give it a year or two and we might be talking about the Browns as divisional champs if they keep their core together.

NFC South

New Orleans Saints 11-5

Tampa Bay Bucaneers 8-8

Carolina Panthers 7-9

Atlanta Falcons 4-12

Analysis: Despite not winning the division last year, the Saints are clearly the class of the NFC South in 2014. We all know how good they will be on the offensive side of the ball, with Drew Brees being coached by Sean Payton, which is always a dangerous duo. Jimmy Graham is one of the best receivers in football (despite being labeled as a tight end). Brandin Cooks will be yet another weapon for Brees to have, and the Saints are nearly unbeatable at home.

They aren’t too shabby on defense either with the addition of Jarius Byrd and Champ Bailey to go along with a very solid front seven capable of putting heavy pressure on the opponents QB.

After New Orleans, any of the other three teams could potentially emerge. Tampa Bay seems the most likely of the bunch because of their stout defense, led by players like Adrian Clayborn and Alterraun Verner. Offensively is the biggest question mark, but if Doug Martin can contribute back to what he was two seasons ago that will be a big help. They have a great receiving core too with Vincent Jackson now playing beside Mike Evans.

What will keep them out the playoffs however, is their Quarterback play. Josh McCown was brought in, but it is foolish to think he will replicate what he did in half a season last year, after he has been a below average QB his entire career prior. Mike Glennon has potential, but the Bucs may have already shook his confidence by making him backup McCown to start the year.

Carolina was a great team last season, but the Panthers front office decided to fuck the entire thing up in the offseason. First they lose Steve Smith and Brandon Lafell and they don’t even replace him at all with a quality Wide Receiver in free agency. The best two wideouts with experience on the Panthers? Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant. Yikes.  Kelvin Benjamin may be a nice wideout but he could be literally the only target for Cam Newton. The offensive line won’t help too much either.

Defense will keep Carolina in the hunt for a while as their front seven remains one of the best in the NFC. However, you have to wonder if they will be able to make up for what they lost on the offensive end.

Finally, the Falcons, remain prime for mediocrity. Losing Tony Gonzalez, is going to be a major blow to Matt Ryan and the passing game. Julio Jones and Roddy White are still there, but the former is coming back from a major injury, and the latter is coming off a down season. The O-Line is a major work in progress as well and Matty Ice could end up on the ground a bunch this season. On defense, the Falcons are highly questionable with almost no high impact players anywhere to be found.

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts 12-4

Houston Texans 6-10

Jacksonville Jaguars 5-11

Tennessee Titans 4-12

Analysis: Holy shit this division is awful. The Colts are going to sleepwalk into 5 or 6 wins here as the rest of this division is pure crap.

For their part, Indy is a solid team that will be a Super Bowl contender. Andrew Luck has proven to be an elite Quarterback, and adding Hakeem Nicks will sure up an already solid group of wideouts. They have to hope Trent Richardson can emerge from behind his shell though, or they might have wasted a first round pick on him.

They have improved on defense too, with Arthur Jones and D’Qwell Jackson joining the fray. Still that side of the ball will have to be better if they’re going to beat Denver and New England in big playoff games.

Houston will be better, not that they could be much worse. The Matt Schaub era is finally over, and the Ryan Fitzpatrick (???) era has begun. Really, Texans? Schaub has at least gotten his team to the playoffs and made a pro bowl before, Fitz has done none of those things and will throw approximately 326 interceptions this year.

At least Houston will have a beastly defensive front. J.J. Watt being joined by Jadeveon Clowney is outright terrifying for opposing offensive lines. Brian Cushing and Jonathan Joseph are still there too. It’s a shame this defense is being wasted on an offense with a career backup at starting QB, a running back with his best days behind him, and a top WR that wants to be anywhere else but there this season.

 When/if will Jacksonville’s breakthrough come? Not this year. They will likely be more competitive with Gus Bradley at the helm but the Jags still don’t really have a roster worth a damn.

Paul Posluzny is still the only real player of note on defense, and offensively they are relying on Chad Henne to keep them competitive until Blake Bortles is ready on offense. Marquise Lee and Allen Robinson could be good ball catchers but they are still unproven, and their secondary could struggle big time outside of the division.

The Titans are the definition of a vanilla team. If the Titans disappeared from existence tomorrow, would anyone notice? Jake Locker can’t stay healthy to save his damn life, and they provided him with the ample backup that is Charlie Whitehurst. Chris Johnson is gone, Alterraun Verner is gone, they have no one at all to replace them. A good offensive line can’t do much if you have a Quarterback that can’t throw and a running back that can’t run.

NFC West

Seattle Seahawks 14-2

San Francisco 49ers 12-4

Arizona Cardinals 9-7

St. Louis Rams 8-8

Analysis: People seem to think that the Seahawks will take a step back this year for some reason. Why? Sure, they have lost a little bit on defense, but their core is still there. The Seahawks are one of the youngest teams in the league. Somehow, despite winning a blowout in the Super Bowl, they seem to have the mentality that they still have something to prove. I think they’ll be dominant this year, only losing twice or three times perhaps all in the division.

That’s not to say San Francisco will be too far behind. There really isn’t any question in my mind these are the best two teams in the NFC and they should meet again in the NFC Championship game or Divisional Round.  The problem is one of them will have to play two road games, while the other will play at home.

The Niners, like Seattle are stacked at every position. Marshawn Lynch is the biggest question mark for the Seahawks, while the 49ers’ is how their secondary will react to losing some of their better players.

Poor poor Rams and Cardinals. In any other division they would be serious contenders for a wild card spot, maybe even a surprise divisional win.  I still think they both are, but it’s going to be much harder playing the six divisional games they will have to play.

It’s basically a miracle that the Cardinals managed to go 10-6 last year, and it’s a bummer that they didn’t get to go to the playoffs. Carson Palmer had a career resurgence and there is no reason to expect anything less this year. He still has Larry Fitzergald to throw to plus Michael Floyd and John Brown. However, their running game will struggle.

Defensively, having Patrick Peterson is obviously a huge boost and Deone Bucannon should help in the secondary. Their front seven has potential but is lacking in some parts. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Arizona sneak into the playoffs but it will be tough.

St. Louis is another team people expect to improve this year. Tayvon Austin is definitely exciting as a playmaker but that’s about it as far as wideouts go. The running game with Zac Stacy and Tre Mason is also a bit underwhelming. Sam Bradford will need to play like the #1 overall pick that he was this year if he’s going to make up for the lack of talent on offense.

Defensively however, the Rams are loaded, and that’s why they are a sexy playoff pick this year. Their pass rush is phenomenal and they should put heavy heavy pressure on opposing offensive lines to stop them from getting to the quarterback.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Rams won 10 games and I wanted to give them a better prediction, but the NFC West is just too brutal.

AFC West

Denver Broncos 13-3

Kansas City Chiefs 9-7

San Diego Chargers 6-10

Oakland Raiders 4-12

Analysis: Denver is still the best team in the AFC people. A lot of pundits seem to be down on the Broncos coming into this year, I guess because they get blown out in the Super Bowl? I don’t know, they dominated the regular season and there is little to no reason they won’t do the same this season.

Peyton just had a historic season, and he has a plethora or weapons that may see the Broncos score in the 40s several times. They also have taken steps to improve defensively, Aqib Talib and DeMarcus Ware have joined and their defense will only have bend and not break to be good enough.

A lot of people also expect Kansas City to fall back, which they might, but perhaps not as much as you think. With their defense remaining solid, Alex Smith’s productivity and Jamaal Charles health will be the biggest factors in determining whether or not Kansas City can make a playoff return.

The Chargers somehow managed to sneak in and even win a playoff game last year, but I would be shocked if the same thing happened again. Phillip Rivers played out of his mind last season, and I admit, their offense is promising. Malcom Floyd, Keenan Allen, and Antonio Gates are all back and the backfield is packed with talent.

However, the defense will be the downfall of the Chargers this year. San Diego had only 17 takeaways last year, and they will need Dwight Freeney to be better than he has been the last 5 years or so to have a serious play-maker up front. San Diego has basically the same roster as a season ago, so they really could go either way, but I just have a gut feeling that they will take a step backwards.

Oakland….well they tried I guess. I mean I can’t fault them for signing all the big name free agents they did, they are at least showing the fan base they are trying to get better. I just don’t think they are going to help them win football games. Matt Schaub is way way over the hill as is MJD in the backfield. Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley will be nice defensively, and Khalil Mack could be a star.

Still, it’s not enough. Schaub will ultimately be a failure, and the offense will not be able to score regularly enough to secure victories. Plus, the veterans who were brought in to win now may begin to get frustrated when the games aren’t going their way. The Raiders have enough talent to pull off a few upsets and hang around in a lot of games, but at the end of the day I can’t see them winning all that much.

PLAYOFFS

AFC

BYES

1. Denver Broncos

2. New England Patriots

WILD CARD ROUND

3. Indianapolis Colts def. 6. New York Jets

5. Pittsburgh Steelers def. 4. Cincinnati Bengals

Analysis: Yes, I have the Jets making the playoffs, screw you, it is a totally logical prediction with them improving a whole one game from last season after adding Chris Johnson, Eric Decker, Breno Giacomini and Michael Vick.

Why did I pick the Bengals to win the division if I’m only going to pick them to lose in the WC round you might ask? Because the Bengals are fucking terrible in the playoffs! Another first round exit here will assuredly mark the end of Marvin Lewis, right?

Anyways, the Colts offense will be too much for the Jets secondary, and until Andy Dalton and co. prove me otherwise, I am not picking Cincy in a playoff game.

NFC

Byes

1. Seattle Seahawks

2. New Orleans Saints

WILD CARD ROUND

3. Philadelphia Eagles def. 6. Detroit Lions

5. San Francisco 49ers def. 4. Green Bay Packers

Analysis: Lions over the Cardinals via tiebreaker for the final wild card spot, but I still think the Eagles are prime for a deeper run this year. San Fran will have to win two or three road playoff games again if they can’t beat Seattle in the west,  but they still have the talent to overcome that especially against a suspect Green Bay defense.

DIVISIONAL ROUND

AFC

1. Denver Broncos def. 5. Pittsburgh Steelers

3. Indianapolis Colts def. 2. New England Patriots

NFC

1. Seattle Seahawks def. 5. San Fransisco 49ers

3. Philadelphia Eagles def. 2. New Orleans Saints

Analysis: Denver easily over Pittsburgh in that matchup as the Broncos I think will be locked in this postseason knowing it might be their last real chance at a Super Bowl.

Picking Indy on the road to beat the Patriots is a tough call. The Colts got their chance last year and did nothing with it as Tommy Terrific blitzed through their defense en route to a twenty point blowout. Still, I feel as though the Colts are just primed for a breakthrough this season. Andrew Luck is getting that much better and has more weapons around him, and the defense should be more disciplined. This one is a coin flip really, but if it’s close I’m always picking against New England.

Unfortunately for football fans in this totally made up scenario, we are denied the Seahawks-49ers as an NFC Championship game and instead have to waste it on being a divisional round game. Again, there is very little separation between these teams, if the 49ers win the division and get to play at home, they might be my pick. As it stands in this scenario, the Seahawks are playing at home, and they get the win.

Like the Patriots, there just seems to be something missing from picking the Saints to be a Super Bowl team this year. The players are all there, but maybe it is a recent history of postseason failure that just doesn’t get me excited about the Saints hosting a divisional playoff game, especially against an up and coming team like the Eagles.

Nick Foles is probably just as good if not better than Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III, and Andrew Luck, but for whatever reason he doesn’t get talked about in the same way as those other young Quarterbacks. I think that Chip Kelly will figure out how to outscore New Orleans and pull off the upset in this one.

CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES

AFC

3. Indianapolis Colts def. 1. Denver Broncos

NFC

1. Seattle Seahawks def. 3. Philadelphia Eagles

Analysis: Okay, so I’m buying in pretty hard to Andrew Luck, i’ll admit it. Still the primary reason for picking the Colts in this one is that I don’t want to pick a rematch considering how boring/unlikely that is.

Given the two games I have picked here, the Colts have a better chance of stealing one than the Eagles do. Peyton Manning losing in an AFC title game against his former team in possibly his last game is equal parts sad and poetic, but I think at the end of the day it will come down to a two minute drill where Andrew Luck elevates himself into the elite class with an 80 yard drive to kick the game winning field goal after a back and forth contest. 38-35.

On the other side, I’m just not buying any arguments that the Seahawks aren’t far and away the best team in the NFC again. That defense is stifling, and when the offense needs to produce they always do. The Eagles magical run is ended as Foles and McCoy get stuffed by the stout Seattle D. Seahawks win 28-14.

SUPER BOWL XLIX

Seattle Seahawks 27

Indianapolis Colts 20

Analysis: Could this be the beginning of a dynasty? The parody is high in this era of NFL football, but the Seahawks have set themselves up very nicely for a long run of success.

They have an even keeled, smart Quarterback who’s numbers won’t jump off the page but can get the job done and make the big play. They have top ten running back if he can stay healthy, they have a good offensive line and decent wideouts capable of at least scoring enough points to compliment their defense.

On D they have the best CB in football, a great group of LB’s and capable big men up front. All of this is wrapped up by a head coach that knows exactly how to manage big personalities, and perhaps the best home field advantage in sports.

It won’t be easy for Seattle to get back and win the Super Bowl again this year, but they seem to be to be the heavy favorites.

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