Yee-haw! Football is back. It seems like yesterday that Peyton Manning was faceplanting like only he can in Super Bowl XLVIII. Ah, the memories. Much has happened in NFL circles since the Seahawks hoisted Lombardi in February. To reap: The Raiders hilariously traded for Matt Schaub and his pick-six magic show, Aldon Smith went Al-Qaeda at LAX, Colts owner Jim Irsay — wearing a shirt from The Electric Horseman — got pinched with a briefcase of pills and cash, Jimmy Graham tried and failed to become a wide receiver, Cleveland added Johnny Football to their quarterback clown car, Ray Rice played Punch-Out with his fiance, the Falcons made Hard Knocks unwatchable, Half Baked star Josh Gordon was suspended for the season, and Wes Welker ingested some bad drugs.
Well, at least nobody killed a guy. So there’s that. Let’s all congratulate Roger Goodell for cleaning up murder in the NFL.
Roger Goodell: A true humanitarian.
‘Tis the season for football forecasters and pigskin prognosticators to wax poetic about which teams will ascend to the mountain top and which ones will join the Raiders in the league’s toxic fume-filled sewer. For better or worse, I am no stranger to publishing predictions. However, I don’t take the lazy route and simply pick the playoff participants. Any jackass can do that. I’m no jackass (stop laughing!). To ensure I look like a genius (or a complete and utter fool) by January, I am going to predict the win-loss records of all 32 franchises for the 2014 season.
Without further ado…
New England Patriots (12-4) – They will look like best team in the league when the calendar flips to October. Then Rob Gronkowski will have his arm severed by Danny Amendola’s flying tibia after Amendola is shattered by Cincinnati’s Vontaze Burfict. Have no fear, Darrelle Revis is here! Since the East is shitty, and Tom Brady is
dreamy cool under pressure, the Pats will reach 12 wins for the fifth straight year. Chandler Jones leads the AFC in sacks.
New York Jets (9-7) – Now that “Butt-Fumble” is out of the picture, Jets Nation can brace for the beginning of the Geno Smith era (gulp). According to General Manager John Idzik, signing a white wide receiver and a washed-up former 2000-yard rusher are the tools necessary to achieving championship glory. I love the front seven, but the secondary could be the worst in football (look out, Dallas). Still, ol’ foot fetish Rex Ryan should be able to massage 9 wins from gang green.
Miami Dolphins (7-9) – New offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was with the Eagles in 2013, so the Dolphins are poised to rack up a shit-ton of yards and points. Right? Listen, I like Lazor. The guy has a bright future. What he doesn’t have is LeSean McCoy, a dominating offensive line, and Chip Kelly’s brain. The Fish will improve on last year’s 26th ranked offense, but not enough to offset Joe Philbin’s stone-faced ineptitude. That said, the defense looks legit.
Buffalo Bills (5-11) – Reaching for E.J. Manuel in the first round of the 2013 Draft was stupid then and it’s even stupider now. C.J. Spiller needs a FRAGILE sticker. Rookie Sammy Watkins is already banged up. Linebacker Kiko Alonso is done for the year after tearing an ACL. Jon Bon Jovi is trying to buy the team. And you thought the lake effect snow in Buffalo was perilous. I can’t envision a scenario where this team isn’t a disappointment.
Cincinnati Bengals (11-5) – Will Andy Dalton be better or worse without Jay Gruden? Dalton don’t care, ’cause he got paid, yo! It’s kinda sorta insane, but Marvin Lewis is entering his 12th year as the Bengals head coach. His career coaching record screams MEDIOCRE! 90-90-1, including 0-5 in the postseason. The defense will be studly again, even if Geno Atkins takes a few games to find his mojo. A.J. Green and Gio Bernard are dynamite. The rest of the offense is, uh, okay?
Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6) – Cheech and Chong running back duo. Touchy feely quarterback. A punter named Brad Wing. What’s not to like about the Black and Gold? Big Ben’s boys scored at least 27 points in six of their last nine games in 2013. That doesn’t mean jack squat in 2014, but I found it to be an interesting statistic nonetheless. An 0-4 preseason record is indicative of nothing, although the receiving corps beyond Antonio Brown is an unsolved mystery.
Baltimore Ravens (8-8) – Leads the NFL in starters named Smith (4). Will and Maggie approve. Bad news is Ray Rice can’t run anymore. Good news is Ray Rice excels at knocking out chicks in elevators. Or maybe that should be the other way around? Moving on… the front seven is beginning to show some age, but there is promising depth lying in wait like C.J. Mosley, Arthur Brown, and Timmy Jernigan. Bottom line: Joe Flacco still kinda sucks.
Cleveland Browns (6-10) – If you draft a celebrity college signal-caller who the fanbase is gushing over, you might as well start him Week 1. Alas, freshman head coach Mike Pettine pegged journeyman Brian Hoyer over shiny new toy Johnny Manziel. Because reasons. If Josh Gordon wasn’t banished until 2015, the Brownies would’ve been fun to watch. The defense will be a Top 10 unit and offensive line remains a strength. Too bad the front office dolts ignored wide receiver in a wide receiver rich draft.
Indianapolis Colts (10-6) – If you removed Andrew Luck from the Colts, they would be a 4-12 team at best. The offensive line is a dumpster fire. The running backs are the definition of unreliable. The wide receivers are either A) old, B) injury-prone, or C) inconsistent. Their best defender, Robert Mathis, is suspended for the first four games. But they reside in the AFC’s weakest division, so the playoffs are in sight. Unless a calamity befalls Luck. Nah, the football gods won’t let that happen to the chosen one.
Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8) – That’s right, folks. The Jags are gonna ruin a lot of Sundays for those who, ahem, enjoy wagering on point spreads. Blake Bortles and his howitzer right arm will be starting by Week 4, and Gus Bradley’s youthful defense will be tougher and cockier than they deserve to be. I like the addition of Toby Gerhart (Mike Alstott 2.0) and rookie Marqise Lee could be this year’s Keenan Allen. Better catch these guys early, because by November they will be scaring opponents shitless.
Tennessee Titans (7-9) – If I trusted Jake Locker would play a full schedule, I’d have the Titans pushing for a playoff berth. Sure, the running game blows and the defense lacks elite talent, but Ken Whisenhunt’s offensive wizardry cannot be underestimated. He helped resurrect the careers of both Kurt Warner and Philip Rivers and will have a similar effect on Locker, if Locker puts an end to his reckless tendencies.
Houston Texans (6-10) – Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ryan Mallett? Really? Newb head coach Bill O’Brien may be a quarterback savant, but I find it difficult to believe either one of those bozos can be morphed into a consistently competent option under center. Arian Foster is one step away from the Cuckoo’s Nest. Andre Johnson is aging and bitter. The offensive line is borderline horrendous. If everyone stays healthy, the front seven will be frightening with the addition of Jadeveon Clowney. I can see them dropping a few 16-10 borefests.
Denver Broncos (11-5) –The defense added a trio of big-ticket free agents in hopes of avoiding another embarrassing beatdown like the one Seattle delivered. Peyton Manning’s three-ring pointsapalooza lost Eric Decker, Knowshon Moreno, and possibly Wes Welker if he suffers one more concussion. Montee Ball and Emmanuel Sanders will be suitable replacements, but expecting historic offensive numbers for a second consecutive season would be foolish. No Lombardi for you!
San Diego Chargers (10-6) – With Norv Turner’s putrid stench long gone, Philip Rivers once again looks like an elite quarterback. Yeah, they still have the painfully unreliable Ryan Mathews in the backfield, but look everybody — they signed ex-Colt Donald Brown! Next stop, Phoenix in February. Keenan Allen can straight up ball and a weak secondary should be bolstered by Killers frontman/renowned Mormon Brandon Flowers, and rookie Jason Verrett.
Kansas City Chiefs (7-9) – They tanked at the end of 2013, choked away a 38-10 lead in the playoffs, and have now been rewarded with games against Seattle, San Francisco, New England, Arizona, Pittsburgh, and four against the Broncos and Chargers. Good luck with that. If anything unsettling befalls Jamaal Charles, this team is monumentally screwed. Like Cleveland, the bumbling front office failed to draft any pass catchers, despite a glaring need.
Oakland Raiders (4-12) – Just when you think this once storied franchise couldn’t sink any lower into the chasm of futility, they trade for Matt Schaub. On the plus side, they did draft Derek Carr, who actually has a pro arm. The receiving corps stinks and the blight that is Darren McFadden is still darkening the roster. The “revamped” defense would make an awesome 2010 All-Star squad. Unfortunately, it’s 2014. I’ll take a dump in a box and mark it guaranteed that the Raiders won’t win more than five games (I got spare time).
Philadelphia Eagles (11-5) – I’m going against my normal fatalistic outlook for the Iggles, which is bound to bite me in the dumper. Nick Foles will regress, none of the “big” receivers will stay healthy and/or create separation, the defense will again give up acres of yardage, and at least three footies will end up being used. Ah, @#$% it, I’m still all in. Why? Because I firmly believe Chip Kelly is the future of coaching rather than a passing fad. Brass balls prediction: Shady wins MVP.
Dallas Cowboys (8-8) – If it’s possible for a defense to rank 33rd among 32 teams, this Cowboys D will do it. Tony Romo and his surgically repaired back will probably have to score 40 points a week. Dez Bryant fantasy owners rejoice! Jason Garrett has surpassed 9 lives at this point, but he’ll somehow dodge the monumental collapse that’s been awaiting this franchise for nearly a decade. It’s Dallas. They finish .500 every year.
Washington Redskins (7-9) – Could RG III be another Vince Young? While I don’t think he’ll plummet to quite those depths, his wild inaccuracy and penchant for getting bounced around like a bowling pin lends credence to the notion that he isn’t the superstar savior he was crowned as a rookie. Jay Gruden has plenty of playmakers at his disposal, but something tells me the word “underachievers” will be tossed around a lot from now until December.
New York Giants (5-11) – We can all agree that Christian Ponder sucks, right? Ponder started 36 games between 2011 and 2013 and totaled 34 interceptions. Not good. Well, Eli Manning has started 48 games since 2011 and totaled 58 interceptions. Let’s stop pretending he’s actually good just because he fell ass backwards into two Super Bowl titles. Eli is terrible. Big Blue has no business being anything but the worst team in the NFC. That said, I won’t be shocked if they win the damn division.
Green Bay Packers (12-4) – The Packers are so charmed they managed to draft an Alabama running back who isn’t a bust. I’m skeptical the defense is poised for a major rebound. Julius Peppers a 3-4 OLB? Fail. Aaron Rodgers can do no wrong, though. Trips to Seattle and New Orleans are daunting, but the rest of the schedule is chock-full of winnable games. The offense could be this year’s Broncos.
Minnesota Vikings (10-6) – Climb aboard the Purple and Gold bandwagon. There’s plenty of room. Mike Zimmer should’ve been a head coach years ago. He will elevate the league’s worst scoring defense to middle of the pack. Norv Turner is lousy at running a team, but he knows how to move the chains. Even with a Cassel-Bridgewater QB combo, Peterson, Patterson, and Rudolph are all in for big seasons.
Chicago Bears (8-8) – Considering the wealth of offensive weapons, I should be much more enamored with da Bears than I am. I just don’t trust Jay Cutler to last a full season, nor am I overly thrilled with the big name free agent upgrades on defense. They will be fun to watch, especially for fantasy enthusiasts. Problem is they are usually good for two or three head-scratching defeats that will ultimately crush their playoff aspirations.
Detroit Lions (6-10) – I wanna believe in the Lions, I really do. Any team with a stud the caliber of Calvin Johnson deserves to make a Super Bowl run. They just can’t find the right head coach or the right players to shore up a perpetually awful defense. Jim Caldwell seems like a nice man, but he’s not the solution to this organization’s coaching woes. Stafford will throw for a ton of yards, Megatron will make fantastic touchdown grabs, the secondary will get slashed and burned, and Detroit will miss the playoffs… again.
New Orleans Saints (12-4) – Might be the most complete team top to bottom in the NFL. Offensive line and wide receiver depth are small concerns, but Drew-Brees-to-Jimmy-Graham and rising defensive stars like Cameron Jordan, Kenny Vaccaro, and Junior Galette make the Cajuns a legit Super Bowl threat. As long as Rob Ryan doesn’t institute some unheard of Bounty incentive program for injuring opposing players, the Saints will be just fine.
Atlanta Falcons (9-7) – I put the Falcons in the same category as the Cowboys and Bears. Offense is pepperoni pizza, defense is liver and onions. I follow the NFL obsessively and live less than three hours from Atlanta, and they have two defensive starters I have never heard of. Steven Jackson is old and injured, the offensive line is allegedly better, and Tony Gonzalez works for CBS. Nine wins is very generous.
Tampa Bay Bucs (8-8) – Lovie Smith knows defense, so the Bucs will be tough to score on in 2014. The trade for Logan Mankins helps, but the offensive line is still a disaster. Is Josh McCown another Rich Gannon or a product of Marc Trestman? I’m inclined to lean toward the latter. Some weeks they will look amazing, other weeks they will look shockingly inept. That’s a .500 team if I ever saw one.
Carolina Panthers (6-10) – Red flags have been sprouting since the 2013 season ended. Their two best O-linemen retired. Cam Newton underwent ankle surgery. Greg Hardy was charged with slapping around his ex-girlfriend. They have only one wide receiver of note and he’s a rookie. The running backs are the same aging, injury-prone guys. The secondary lost three starters. They play Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Green Bay, Seattle, New Orleans, and Philadelphia from Weeks 4-10. HOO-BOY!
Seattle Seahawks (14-2) – I take little stock in preseason records or stats, but holy shit did the defending champs look super fantastic in August. Sure, Marshawn Lynch is on the verge of imploding, and Percy Harvin is a good bet to miss at least 8 games, and the defense lost some key depth, and the offensive line is still piss poor. Don’t care. About any of it. Seattle is a juggernaut of power, intimidation, and confidence. Dethroning them will take a herculean effort.
Arizona Cardinals (10-6) – No Daryl Washington. No Darnell Dockett. No Karlos Dansby. No problem. Even though I think Carson Palmer’s arm is one tweak away from disintegrating, I am backing ‘Zona. The offensive line finally appears to be functional, Andre Ellington has Brian Westbrook-like skills, and Patrick Peterson is a beast on the back end. The Cardinals are ready to turn up the heat with a sizzling aerial attack that toasts opposing secondaries and melts scoreboards!
San Francisco 49ers (8-8) – That sound you hear is the rug being pulled out from under Jim Harbaugh. NoVarro Bowman and Aldon Smith will miss more than half the season. Ray McDonald did Ray Rice proud by abusing his pregnant fiance. Frank Gore is really old. Colin Kaepernick is really inaccurate. The margin of error for the 49ers has shrunk significantly. Four straight playoff berths? Not gonna happen. Bye, bye, elder Harbaugh.
Saint Louis Rams (5-11) – Poor Sam Bradford. Dude works his way back from a shredded ACL only to tear it again in a pointless preseason outing. So, it’s deja vu all over again, except this time around Shaun Hill will be the sacrificial backup under center. Good news is the defense will be absolutely terrifying. Maybe Jeff Fisher can Panthers his way into the playoffs by pitching shutouts and small-balling. If he does, he’s Coach of the Year.
Super Bowl XLIX: Seahawks over Patriots