ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL!?!?!? Yes it is finally here, no longer do we need to sit and wonder about training camp battles, who our team is going to draft or wonder what the point of pre-season is, no business is about to start and it’s about to get nasty.
2012 was the season of the inexperienced young quarterback, as names like Wilson, Kaepernick and Griffin took the league by storm on their way to the playoffs. However in the end it was won by team of old duffers called the Baltimore Ravens, go figure.
Anyway, because of the way the NFL operates nothing really stands still, and the rosters that battled it out over last season are not recognisable to what we seen last year. With trades, the draft and good ol’ free agency every team will line up with new stars that are looking to make a positive impact on this year’s NFL. So let’s get it going.
New England Patriots
The Patriots had a bad off-season when their once enviable tight end duo was split up for differing reasons. Firstly Aaron Hernandez was jailed (yet to be convicted although highly likely) on murder charges, and then possibly the best tight end in the league Rob Gronkowski cannot stay fit (four on his left forearm, among others) and you have to wonder if he will ever become the dominant force he once was (which is the Patriots fault for rushing him back too often when he wasn’t fully fit, short term thinking that will hurt the player and the team in the long term).
Honestly if it weren’t for the fact that I know better, I would be predicting that the Pats are going to have a bad season, they have an average (at best) defence, no players to catch passes (lost Welker) and have questions over their offensive live. However they do have some pretty boy called Tom Brady and some ugly guy called Bill Belichick, who are both pretty damn good. It also helps the Pats that they just happen to play in the weakest division in football. Pretty much the Pats will once again win the AFC East, unless something unseen happens like Brady out for the season in week 1, although it is very unlikely (Brady don’t take no hits!)
Record prediction: 11-5 —–playoffs
I think the Dolphins may be one of the most over rated teams in the NFL, because not only is Tannehill a sophomore QB that has shown glimpses but nothing truly special, but they also don’t have any skill position players. Who is going to catch the ball? Who is going to run the ball? Exactly nobody, Mike Wallace has major questions over whether he is actually a good receiver or was just in a perfect fit system, behind him is absolutely no one (Hartline? Seriously?). They signed Keller from the Jets, who could have been a really nice pick-up and flourished under the system, but he is out for the season and the Dolphins don’t have any other tight ends to speak of. The running back situation is even worse with no established name on the roster at all, to the extent that of the four RB’s none of them has rushed for 1000 yards in their career never mind in a season. So nobody to run the ball, and nobody to catch the ball, with an inexperienced QB….sounds like a long season.
‘Yea but their defence is gnarly!’ Is it? Look at the roster and it really isn’t. They have a very strong D-line and the addition of Ellerbe to the linebacking core is a nice pick up, but they have a paper thin defensive backfield. When your best D-back is Brent Grimes (who can’t stay fit for a full season) you have to start worrying about whether you are realistically going to be able to defend the pass. This is a team that will play Tom Brady twice this season, and I imagine in both games they will be ripped for big numbers. If you also look at their schedule it is pretty rough as well, I think they are really going to struggle this year.
Record prediction: 5-11
New York Jets
The Jets have a lot of young potential talent on their books; the problem is more that they don’t have many players who are currently playing at their peak. After last years (and the one before) debacle, the Jets have stripped out a lot of their old players and have decided that youth is the future (who knew).
When you look at the Jets you know they are going to have a good defence; Rex Ryan is a defensive genius and will make even an average roster better with his scheming. Now Ryan is taking over the defensive play-calling for the first time in two years, so expect the Jets defence to improve dramatically. The Jets are going to have one of the best and youngest D-Lines in the league and also possess one of the best cornerback corps in the league. The biggest issue for the Jets defensively is that they lack competent safety starters, with only Dawan Landry having previous extensive starting experience. The linebacking corps also aren’t the best and once the surface is scratched there isn’t much behind. However I imagine that Ryan will be able to scheme out of this dilemma because he is an excellent defensive coach.
The Jets have major problems with their offence; they have two new starters in their offensive line (both at guard); there is no established running back (nobody with a 1000 yard season), questions at tight end (can Winslow stay fit? Is Cumberland good enough?), without Santonio Homes (who has his own questions) the Jets have a very inexperienced WR corps and there is something I’m missing…..oh yeah have you seen their quarterbacks? Geno Smith is not ready to start, but is being forced into because of the injury to Mark Sanchez, and the team will go as Geno goes. The Jets have a fairly easy schedule and if they resonate the Colts of 2012, then they have a chance of playoffs (highly unlikely) but it’s more likely they will follow in the footsteps of the Jaguars (in any season, pick your favourite).
Record prediction: 6-10
The Bills are worse than both the Jets and the Dolphins; quite frankly they suck and are going to have a bad season. They are going to have an even worse season because EJ Manuel is starting and he isn’t anywhere near NFL ready, it is going to be worse than a train wreck, mixed with a car wreck which hit a puppy sanctuary; essentially it is going to be pretty bad.
Record prediction: 3-13
I know I’m going to upset a lot of Ravens fans by writing this but you aren’t making the playoffs this season. It seems odd because after all they just won the Super Bowl, but that team was at its maximum and can’t go much further than it did there; if you then add to that the fact that the Ravens have lost a number of key players from that team (Ellerbe, Lewis, and Boldin) it isn’t looking good.
Joe Flacco is possibly the most over rated QB in the league, he is paid like he is elite and is talked about like he is elite, but in no way is this man elite. Yes he played well in the playoffs and yes the Ravens needed to resign him but he got paid way too much all because there is a lack of quality QB’s in the league and Flacco’s agent had them by the scrotum. When you waste so much money on an average player, the whole team suffers and this is what has happened to the Ravens.
Record prediction: 7-9
I really like the Bengals and think they could be outsiders for the Super Bowl, but I do mean outsiders. I like what I see in Andy Dalton, it also helps that he is throwing the ball to AJ Green (my pick for top receiving yards) but also when you have a really strong tight end corps. I think we will see the Bengals put up some big scores as they get pass happy and will be an exciting team to watch this year.
If having a good defence wasn’t enough to wet you appetite, then how about an under rated defence? Well the Bengals have one of those with an excellent D-line and in my opinion the best D-backs in the league. There are depth issues at linebacker but their starters are very solid and there isn’t a team in the league that doesn’t have any depth issues at every position.
Record prediction: 11-5———playoffs
Much like the Ravens, I think the Steelers are going to have a tough year. Obviously Big Ben will always give them a chance to win, but who is going to catch the ball? The receiving corps are paper thin (Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown are your 1-2, not a good sign) and the tight ends are lacking a quality pass catcher (Miller is past his best). It doesn’t look good at RB either and the Steelers will be hoping that one of their RB by committee will step up and take the reins. It isn’t helped further by an O-line that has some talent (Pouncey, De Castro) but has a lot of holes that are worrying.
Defensively it is a bad sign for the Steelers as well, with very few of the players being reliable. On paper the Steelers have a good group of players on defence, but in reality this is an old group that is beginning to creak and crack. Too many of the Steelers stars on D are past their best (Polamalu, Woodley, Foote, Timmons, Clark, Gay, Taylor) and a slow defence is a bad defence. A young fast team could rip this group to shreds, and really they are going to need a defensive masterpiece (which Dick LeBeau is more than capable of) to not have a bad season. One thing the Steelers have got going for them is a softish schedule and this is an experienced group, so could play above the quality of their roster.
Record prediction: 9-7——playoffs
I can hardly remember the last time the Browns were actually good (Derek Anderson/Kellen Winslow/Braylon Edwards year, so very long ago), and this year is going to be no different. The Browns just suck, simple as that. They have a good linebacking corps and Trent Richardson may show flashes of why he was drafted so highly but beyond that it is another bad season for the Browns.
Record prediction: 2-14
The Texans have become one of those teams that make the playoffs every year and are expected to do so every year as well. I think the Texans are a good team, and have a number of star players like Watt, Foster, Johnson and Cushing (to name a few), but the Texans do have an aging roster, and with aging rosters come a greater chance of injuries. The age of the roster is my biggest concern about the Texans, because I don’t have a doubt they will make the playoffs but I think when it comes to the business end of the season I think that they will be too gassed to really make a major impact.
Record prediction: 11-5——-playoffs
The Colts are a young team which surprised many (myself included) when they made the playoffs last year with such an inexperienced starting unit. When you break the Colts offence down into individual talent, there isn’t really that much there; it is a group of has beens and never weres. The one exception in this list is Andrew Luck, and to be honest the Colts will go as he goes; if he builds on his excellent rookie season then this is a play-off team, if he has the dreaded sophomore slump then a losing record could be on the cards. There isn’t that much of a running game and the receivers aren’t that much better either; although last season despite the lack of an outstanding running game the Colts still played very well. The biggest question for the Colts offence is whether Reggie Wayne will be able to replicate last season’s form (after looking done the year prior) and whether the team will be able to get the most out of their young receivers (especially Heyward-Bey).
The defence is another greater than the sum of its parts and really has no star player on the list (players like Mathis are well past their best). You don’t look at the Colts defence and say ‘whoa watch out for this guy’; it isn’t really built in that manner. However when you are in a tight game, sometimes you need that star player that will step up and make the big play that changes or wins the game, and I don’t think the Colts have that.
Record prediction: 9-7——-playoffs
The Titans are a weird team, when you look at their talent positionally; they are actually quite a talented group of players. They have an excellent O-line (Roos, Stewart, Levitre, and Warmack), they have experienced and proven depth in the backfield (Greene, Chris Johnson) and their receiving corps isn’t too shabby either (Walker [TE], Britt, Washington). There is one major problem, and something that the Titans are seriously missing on offence, and no it isn’t that CJ2K hasn’t been the same since his 2000 yard season (which is very true) but rather their QB situation is a total mess. When your options at QB are Jake Locker and Ryan Fitzpatrick (the same guy that wasn’t good enough for the Bills, THE BILLS!), you know you are going to struggle to throw the ball. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you can’t get them the ball then it is a waste of time (look at Larry Fitzgerald), that is how I see the Titans offence, a good offence on paper with a bad QB, and in the NFL that gets you nowhere.
Record prediction: 4-12
The worst team in the league by quite a distance, the Jaguars know that they are in a rebuilding mode after being taken over recently by Shahid Khan. The Jags are a total mess; they don’t have a QB and the defence is average at best. They do have bright sparks in MJD (but who knows if his body or mind will be in the right place this season), Cecil Shorts (concussion problems), Mercedes Lewis and a good O-line, but if nobody can get the ball to the skill players then it doesn’t matter. The Jags are heading for the first pick in the draft, and more worryingly could be heading for a 0-16 season. It will be interesting to see how long it is until the Jags begin plans to move to London (which I assume will happen eventually), the owner Shahid Khan buying Fulham FC (a London team) sent out further signs that he may have serious interest in creating the first Atlantic based NFL team. Let’s be honest Jacksonville shouldn’t have a team in the first place, when cities like LA don’t have one.
Record prediction: 1-15
It is pretty simple when it comes to the Denver Broncos; they have a high scoring offence and a low conceding defence, so not too shabby then. If there is one concern about the Broncos, it would be the health of Peyton Manning. Even the most adamant of Peyton fans surely would agree that towards the end of the season and in the playoffs Peyton had lost some zip off of his passes and definitely had tired from what he saw from the start of the season. It is harsh because Peyton had just come off of major surgeries on his neck and hadn’t played competitive football in almost two years. This can only be two things; he was a little rusty and lacked game fitness which if this is the case he should be better this season, or he is getting old and is no longer the Peyton Manning of a few years ago which would be seriously concerning for the Broncos if they have the goal of winning the Super Bowl (and why wouldn’t they?) The Broncos will be in the playoffs because they have a weak division and they are a good team but one has to question if they can be a force in the playoffs. Currently there are still question marks.
Record prediction: 14-2——playoffs
San Diego Chargers
The Chargers just aren’t that great a team anymore and never seem to have recovered from losing LT (which is odd because he was past his best). When you look at the roster no name jumps out at you as being elite; Rivers was once elite but has slowed down dramatically in recent years and has become a major turnover machine. Maybe it is unfair on Rivers because the players around him aren’t really helping his cause and he is clearly carrying the team on his shoulders and trying to drag them up the rankings. San Diego is a team in transition, and this season they should be looking to build for future seasons.
Record prediction: 7-9
It is hard to talk about the Raiders because they are so unpredictable in terms of either how awful they are or how ok they are. The one thing that the Raiders don’t really do is make the playoffs, and that about them is consistent. You know you don’t have a talented side when your best player is a kicker (which isn’t meant as a slight at Janikowski). Realistically the Raiders aren’t going to do anything; they don’t have any skill players outside of Darren McFadden, who seems to be made out of glass. Another tough season for Raiders fan I’m afraid.
Record prediction: 3-13
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have a very talented roster and their best addition this off-season Alex Smith because the Chiefs have for too long been held back by terrible QB play. The roster was better than 2-14 last year, and they have brought in Andy Reid to try and correct this, the Chiefs could be an outside chance of making the playoffs. The major issue for me about the Chiefs is that this team was way too good to be 2-14 last season, yet they were 2-14 last season. I know that they have a new coach, QB and more star players but I can help but think that when you put so many egos together, the outcome isn’t always positive. This season will be a real test and show whether or not Alex Smith actually has the ability to be a franchise quarterback, it’s put up or shut up time.
Record prediction: 8-8
With RG III, anything is possible for the Redskins. Not the greatest roster in the league, but with one very special player, and with that one very special player the Redskins will win or lose. It does sound harsh to call the Redskins a one man team, because they are better than that, with Alfred Morris and a very strong linebacker corps. However it is hard to not think that if RG III does struggle with his knee issues (which he is not over yet and will play this season wearing a knee brace, which will hamper his mobility and therefore his game) then the Redskins as a team will struggle as well. There is no doubt that RG III can run and throw the ball to a high level, the question is if his ability to run is lowered will that affect his ability to throw because defences will know he is less likely to scramble? It will be interesting to find out and see how RG III is able to mature into a more passing QB than he was last season.
Record prediction: 10-6
New York Giants
The Giants have this weird tendency to bounce in and out of the playoffs despite having a solid roster almost every year. When you have Eli Manning under centre you are always going to have a chance of winning. On top of Eli the Giants have good young players at the skill positions that will keep defences up at night (Wilson, Cruz), and as always one of the best D-lines in the league. A major area of concern for the Giants must be the lack of depth and quality at the linebacker positions (an issue for a number of years), which in a league that is moving more towards passing miss-matching tight ends is not ideal at all.
Record prediction: 10-6——playoffs
It is tough for the Cowboys, not only do they play in what is consistently a very competitive division but they are also their own worst enemies. Dallas always have a talented side but too often they find themselves on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs. The talent is there, the mind-set is not. Jason Garrett has shown that he is not a strong head coach and isn’t willing to take those hard decisions when it really matters, which isn’t ideal when you are playing so many close games within your own division. It also doesn’t help that your QB, Tony Romo is a notorious choker when it comes down to the nitty gritty. It’s just how it is for the Cowboys, a talented roster that just hasn’t got the bottle to win the big one.
Record prediction: 8-8
Possibly the most intriguing team this season in the NFL is the Philadelphia Eagles, thanks to the hiring of Chip Kelly from Oregon. Kelly couldn’t have walked into a better team in the NFL to suit his high paced quick time offence than the Eagles, because the Eagles offence is already built totally towards speed. Vick, Jackson and McCoy are all lightning fast and will flourish in the Chip Kelly system. The biggest issue for the Eagles (like it is for many teams) is can they keep their QB Michael Vick fit? In four seasons with the Eagles Vick hasn’t managed to paly sixteen games in a single season, so it is fair to assume that he is highly likely to miss some playing time at least. The Eagles aren’t totally reliant on Vick but Barkley and Foles aren’t ready to step up and be a starting QB yet.
Record prediction: 10-6——playoffs
Green Bay Packers
The Packers don’t have a running game, they have a leaky O-line and their defence isn’t that great at stopping teams moving the ball, sounds like they shouldn’t be a good team, yet they have a guy called Aaron Rodgers that makes them one of the best. You know that the Packers are going to be there at the end of the season because their passing attack is too prolific and their defence creates turnovers for fun. They play in a tough division (most teams in the NFC do) and the competition for the wildcards in the NFC are highly competitive, so the division games for the Packers are going to be vital.
Record prediction: 11-5——playoffs
The Vikings are that weird occurrence of a team that doesn’t solely rely on their QB, but rather solely rely on their RB. Adrian Peterson ran for over 2000 yards last season and dragged the Vikings almost single handedly into the playoffs against all the odds. As great as AP is, I just can’t see him being able to repeat his feat of the previous season because it has never been done before and there must be a drop off of some kind in his production. The Vikings have a lot of young talent (Kalil, Harrison Smith, Rudolph) and the experience of making it to the playoffs will have been a huge benefit to them, but like many teams the Vikings just don’t have a QB and sadly for them I think it will cost them dearly.
Record prediction: 6-10
The Bears have a great defence (they always seem to as well); they also have a franchise calibre QB who likes to throw the ball to his favourite target the elite WR Brandon Marshall. It all sounds pretty good on paper, but there all also the questions about will the O-line protect Cutler? Who is going to run the ball? Who is going to take advantage of the Marshall double team and find themselves open? In these questions lies the answer to how well the Bears’ season will go, could be playoffs could be nothing.
Record prediction: 9-7
The Lions are an interesting case because last year when Calvin Johnson was tearing the league up and breaking records, the team managed to go 4-12 (go figure). There is no doubt that there is talent on the offensive side of the ball of the Lions, with Stafford, Johnson and the one two punch of Leshoure and Reggie Bush. The Lions have a strong D-line but lack much else defensively; there are also questions of the ability of the O-line to protect Stafford from the oncoming rush. The Lions fall victim to the fact that they play in a tough division and also that they play in the NFC, playoffs aren’t beyond this talent pool but their inconsistencies in previous seasons make me doubt them doing very much.
Record prediction: 7-9
The Falcons have so many offensive weapons to utilise that it is hard to not see them making the playoffs. The passing attack is one of the most deadly in the NFL, with Ryan being able to throw to quality receivers in Julio Jones and Roddy White as well as the legendary (and still elite) tight end Tony Gonzalez. There isn’t an out and out clear favourite to take the running back role, but Steven Jackson could flourish in a pass happy team which will allow him to see more seven man fronts. Defensively the Falcons have a nice front seven, but look a little bit thin at defensive back (not a great thing in a league built on passing).
Record prediction: 10-6
It is pretty simple with the Panthers; it all depends on how Cam Newton has developed. Newton was excellent in his rookie year, but wow did he have a huge drop off in his second year. Clearly teams learned how to play against him, and he didn’t have the composure to deal with it. If Newton has matured and has improved his throwing then the Panthers as a team will improve along with him, if he hasn’t then this team are back to the drawing board and is rebuilding once again. Sadly for the Panthers, I think it is more likely to be the latter of the two.
Record prediction: 5-11
New Orleans Saints
Last season was a disaster for the Saints; after the bounty scandal led to the suspensions of a number of players and more seriously of head coach Sean Payton who missed the entire season. The preseason for the Saints last season was less than ideal; in fact it was a disaster. It didn’t matter how talented Brees is, the Saints were never going to have a good season last year, and 7-9 was quite an achievement.
As far as this season is concerned, it should be back to normalcy for the Saints and I wouldn’t be surprised if they have a massive chip on their shoulder for the unfair treatment they feel they received. I don’t actually think that the Saints have that great a team but what they do have is an impressive passing attack with Coulston, Lance Moore, the returning Meacham and Jimmy Graham. They also have one of the best collections of RB’s in the league (Pierre Thomas, Sproles, and Ingram). The problem is that they don’t have anything particularly impressive to talk about defensively; in fact their defence looks really weak. I think because of their chip on their shoulder the Saints will play above their ability just to stick it to the rest of the NFL and will head onto the playoffs.
Record prediction: 11-5—–playoffs
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs have teased to take the next step to the playoffs since Josh Freeman (the forgotten man of the 2009 draft QB’s) was handed the starting role. Each year it seems that the Bucs show enough potential to make you think that next year they could be contenders but then ultimately don’t follow through. The Bucs added the nice pick up of Darelle Revis (the best corner in the league) for a cheap price, but there are questions about Revis’ fitness and ability to return to previous form after a serious ACL injury. With Revis the Bucs have one of the best defensive backfields in the league, mixed with a solid D-line it could make the Bucs defence tough to play against. On offence they have the electric Doug Martin as well as Vincent Jackson who once again showed what a weapon he is last season. So will Josh Freeman finally step up and take the team by the reigns and finally lead them into the playoffs? I doubt it, but there will be improvement on last year.
Record prediction: 9-7
San Francisco 49ers
Quite simply the most stacked roster in the NFL and the best team in the NFL as well. It doesn’t seem fair that one team should possess so much talent, but the 49ers do. If the 49ers don’t make the playoffs I will eat my face (I won’t but I’m still pretty sure they will make the playoffs). I don’t think I really need to explain why the 49ers are so good, just look at their roster where they have elite talent all over the place. Very good chance of winning the Super Bowl this year after last year’s near miss.
Record prediction: 14-2——-playoffs
The Seahawks are in the unlucky position of being one of the best teams in football who just happen to find themselves in the same division as the best team in football, gutted. The Seahawks have everything; a young talented QB who will be better this year with more experience (imagine that), they have Marshawn ‘the beast’ Lynch (not a nickname given lightly), a good WR corps, nice TE’s, a good O-line, a sack hungry D-line and the best defensive backfield in the league. The only thing you could criticise the Seahawks is they don’t have the best linebackers but it is a small gripe. If it weren’t for the 49ers being so good, we could be talking about the Seahawks being the best team in football.
Record prediction: 12-4—–playoffs
St. Louis Rams
Sam Bradford hasn’t really been able to fulfil the hype that he received before entering the league (not really his fault, the Rams suck). It will be interesting to see how Bradford and the Rams utilise their new weapons in Jared Cook and Tavon Austin, both of whom could add an extra couple of dimensions to the offence. I think in most other division the Rams would be a playoff calibre team, however they play in a division with two of the best teams in the league. Essentially you expect them to lose four games to the Hawks and 49ers, so they need to win at least 10/12 games which is highly unlikely. It’s a shame because the Rams have a good overall team and will be better than a lot of the teams that will make it to the playoffs (especially on the AFC side).
Record prediction: 8-8
The QB situation at the Cardinals last season was a total mess, this season they signed Carson Palmer who was to put it politely well past his best at Oakland last year, an improvement but not by much. They don’t have a great O-line, or a great RB, they have good receivers but they don’t get them the ball enough (poor Fitzgerald, talent is being wasted); the Cardinals have a good front seven and a decent defensive backfield. The problem overall is that the Cardinals are distinctly average and just happen to find themselves in what is the most talented division in football, not exactly ideal.
Record prediction: 4-12
Realistically I don’t think that it is likely that all of my predictions of records and who will make the playoffs will be totally correct, because there is usually a total shocker from a good team and an out of nowhere from a team that is perceived to be poor. It also doesn’t help that when I counted up the win records I got 255-257, which is obviously a mistake, although I’m surprised it is as close as that because I just looked at the games I thought they would win on their schedule, so not too bad.
Anyway here are the teams I have making the playoffs and the seeding’s they have as well.
I’m not going to break it down much further than that because I get the feeling I would be wasting my time because so much will change during the regular season. However at the moment I think the Super Bowl is setting up to be:
Bengals v Seahawks
I really like both teams and I think they are both set for big years. If I were to pick a winner I’d go Bengals. If I were to pick my second favourite it would naturally be the Broncos and the 49ers at the current moment because both teams are the best in their respective conference.
So leave me a comment about what you thought about the post, or what your predictions are for the upcoming NFL season. I feel it is going to be a long one for myself (being a Jets fan), but I’m hoping they might surprise a few people and be this year’s Colts (doubtful but you can only hope). Thanks for reading.