Now that training camp for NFL teams is underway, it’s time to focus on this upcoming season. Predictions are like assholes, everyone has one, and in most cases they stink. But if you use baby wipes like myself, then they aren’t half bad.
It’s still a little early to try and make those predictions considering we have not seen which teams came out of training camp, and pre-season games with serious injuries. But whatever…
1. New England Patriots (13-3)– Everybody declared the death of a dynasty after the 33-14 blowout loss to Baltimore in a home playoff game. However, the weaknesses that plagued that team have have been addressed through the draft with the selections of Devin McCourty to add an important presence in the secondary as a tackler which they struggled with severely, the same reason they took middle-linebacker Brandon Spikes at his respected area to fill a void that was left ever since Tedy Bruschi was on the downslide of his career.
Offensively this team struggled big time in the red zone, and finishing off drives. Draftees Aaron Hernandez, a very skilled pass catching tight end, and Rob Grownkowski, a huge, strong body that has very good hands, who looks a lot like Ivan Drago. Good tight ends are an asset in the red zone and these two should eliminate the red zone concerns. Two-years removed from his knee-injury, Brady more than likely will be back to his old form of stepping into throws as he is about to get hit, and show off that excellent mobility he exhibits in the pocket to evade defenders, which has made him so great over the years.
2. New York Jets (10-6)– I know everybody is excited to see what the Jets do after their ambitious off-season, but calm the fuck down. Their defense was the best in the league last year, and there is a good chance they will be this year. But in todays NFL, there’s two or three games bound to turn into a shootout, and when the Jets play New England or Indianapolis they need to be able to put up about 27-31 points no matter how good their defense is. The Jets defense is not one that is engineered to stop great quarterbacks. Most of their pressure comes from exotic blitz schemes where they have to sacrifice an extra player so instead of 7 guys in coverage, there is only 6. Great QB’s can sniff that out in their pre-snap reads and hit an open hot-route that more than likely will be open because of the extra guy being sent.
It comes down to what Mark Sanchez can do for the Jets offense, and if he is going to be a liability again this year, then this team will yield about the same results as last year, and unlikely to see the luxury of playing the San Diego Chokers in the Divisional Round, and have their last two regular season games be given to them to receive a playoff spot.
3. Miami Dolphins (9-7)– ‘Karlos Dansby and Brandon Marshal! We’re winning the Super Bowl this year! FINS UP!’ You can cut that noise Miami, Decent offense+Decent defense=9-7. Next.
4. Buffalo Bills (3-13)– What the hell is going on in Buffalo? This team has the absolute worst offensive line in football, and really have nothing else to claim besides that. Chan Gailey is their new Head Coach, and I know everyone is thinking ‘How did Chan Gailey get a NFL Head Coaching job again?’ Easy, he’s the only one crazy enough to coach in Buffalo with a roster like this.
1. Baltimore Ravens (12-4)– They loaded up on offensive needs at receiver by acquiring Anquan Boldin, and Donte Stallworth, also the tight end Dennis Pitta drafted out of BYU could be a serviceable replacement for the aging Todd Heap. With a strong offensive-line, and the emergence of Ray Rice, this team has all of the necessary components for a great offense with the only question mark being at the most important position of all, quarterback. I’m not really sure if Flacco can be the play-making quarterback to take charge of an offense that averages over 28 points per game. Regardless, this teams defense will be up for the task, and the offense will certainly be good enough, it’s just up to Flacco to take this team to the next level.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)– I am assured that Ben Roethlisberger will be granted a shortened suspension of four games instead of six, which absolutely makes no sense considering that he is ‘supposedly’ being punished for assaulting a woman at a bar, and whether he goes through a treatment program or not, it still does not expunge the offense that he is being suspended for.
Either way the Steelers are always competitive, but the first batch of games that Roethlisberger is gone will ultimately determine their season. They could possibly end up going 1-3, and for the rest of the way it will be an uphill climb trying to fight their way into the playoff picture of a very competitive AFC.
3. Cincinatti Bengals (7-9)– The Bengals defense overachieved a bit last year, and it was evident in the playoffs where they were manhandled by the Jets, that this team cannot compete with the league’s elite. They did upgrade considerably on offense by drafting Jermaine Gresham, adding Antonio Bryant, and will have tackle Andre Smith who missed all of last year with a foot injury. I no longer see Carson Palmer as the elite quarterback he once was, so I don’t believe he can take the offense to the next level.
4. Cleveland Browns (4-12)– Colt McCoy will be starting Week 9.
1. Tennessee Titans (11-5)– If it wasn’t for a depleted defense, and if Vince Young was put into the lineup sooner, then this team would have been one of the Wild Card teams last season. They no longer have the veteran presence of Keith Bullock, and Kyle Vanden Bosch, but they did address the void by signing Will Witherspoon, and by drafting Derrick Morgan who they hope can make an instant impact as a pass rusher to assure their biggest weakness on defense.
The combination of Chris Johnson and Vince Young will be a deadly one for Titan opponents, that will be nearly unstoppable. If second-year receiver Kenny Britt can step up and give Young a reliable pass catching target that Tennessee has not had since Derrick Mason, then this team is capable of making a playoff run.
2. Indianapolis Colts (10-6)– For so long the Colts have pumped out 12-win season, after 12-win season, but with an aging Freeney and Mathis on an already questionable defense, a Reggie Wayne with a lot of miles, and the demoralizing defeat in the Super Bowl, I think it’s the perfect time for up and coming division rivals like Houston and Tennessee to capitalize on a vulnerable Colts team.
Another stellar year out of Peyton Manning is expected even as he gets older, but it is unlikely he will exude the same magic he did in the fourth quarters of last season, when almost every competitive team in the AFC has gotten better.
3. Houston Texans (10-6)– This will be the year of Mario Williams. At the end of this season he will come out as a dominating defensive force in the NFL the same way Patrick Willis, and Darrelle Revis are right now, the same way Champ Bailey, and Ray Lewis were a few years back. What we don’t know though is whether Steve Slaton can be a reliable running back that can alleviate the pressure off of Andre Johnson, and make defenses pay for the extra attention towards the league’s best receiver. That will also be the challenge for Matt Schaub and the rest of the Texan offense as well. The defense though is primed for a big season with all of the components they have in place such as the aforementioned Williams, Demeco Ryans, and Brian Cushing.
They do have a brutal schedule, especially in the first few weeks of the season. This team needs to weather that, but if they get in the playoffs they would be a team a lot better than their record would indicate, and be a very dangerous team.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11)– This could be a season of turmoil in Jacksonville with an embattled Head Coach, a lame duck quarterback, an apathetic fan base, and a mediocre football team with a tough schedule. They do have talent at some positions, but not enough.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)– Surprise! Surprise! Well there’s one in the NFL every year, and the Chiefs have a bit of a soft schedule, great additions at the offensive and defensive coordinators with Charlie Weis, and Romeo Crennel, and potential breakthrough guys on the front defensive-line, Glenn Dorsey, and Tyson Jackson. I also expect Eric Berry to have a remarkable impact, even as a rookie.
Matt Cassel is a very capable quarterback who has an improved offensive-line, and key weapons like Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe, and Chris Chambers. With right parts around him, like he had in New England, this guy will produce great results.
2. San Diego Chargers (10-6)– I think this team will finally get some competition they haven’t had in this division in the last few yeas, that could possibly leave them with three losses within the division. Rivers is great, and he’s got giant trees at receiver, but this is a team that always had inflated win totals because their division opponents were atrocious. And Norv Turner is a really bad Head Coach. Ryan Matthews is expected to do big things, but the offensive-line has been regressing, and the defense has not made any big improvements.
3. Oakland Raiders (8-8)– It’s almost unfathomable to consider the Raiders ever being competitive again under Al Davis, but this team has a lot of talent on defense, and Jason Cambell can serve as a quality game manager to help this team win a handful of games.
4. Denver Broncos (6-10)– The defense overachieved last year, and now that defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is no longer there, like a lot of former Bronco personnel who have crossed Josh McDaniels, I think the record will be more indicative of this teams capabilities than last season was.
NFC Division Standings coming soon…