After a 3 month hiatus, I am back.
I know not many people read this thing, but that's never been the point. It's good to simply write for the sake of writing. The practice of putting words together to communicate to an audience, even if the audience is 3 real people and a bunch of spam trolls, is still beneficial. In fact, it has probably helped me in my real job, where I have become the guy on staff who writes pretty much everything.
But for purposes of this blog, I'll stay away from topics of religion, politics, marriage, parenting, alleviating poverty, eating organically, or anything like that. In fact, I will pretty much stick to the 2013 NFL season, which is fast approaching.
Normally, by this time in the year I would have ingested every detail of the NFL, and could recite the first, second and third string tight ends of each team. But for a multitude of reasons, this year is different. I'm far busier at work, I have two rascally kids, and I've been following baseball quite closely. But, I've still got my NFL opinions, whether they are well-founded or not.
So without much more ado, let's begin with my 2013 season preview, breaking down each team and predicting their records. Soon we'll dive into fantasy rankings, prop bets, and soon enough, the week 1 picks.
First, the AFC East.
Amazingly, each of these teams began the 2102 season with a 3-3 record. The Dolphins were actually 4-3 at one point, and their defense appeared to be one of the league's best.
Then, the rest of the season happened. The Pats won 9 out of 10, scoring an average of 37 points in those games, and solidifying Tom Brady's dominance once again. Meanwhile, the rest of the division fell apart, not just losing games, but routinely getting embarrassed. Mark Sanchez delivered the play of the year, the famous Butt Fumble, which has ranked as ESPN's Worst of the Worst for something like 45 weeks in a row, and could conceivably hold that crown for decades to come. (Seriously, you'll never get tired of watching this.)
In reaction to some dismal 2012 seasons, the AFC cleaned house.
The Jets traded their keystone player, Darrelle Revis, to the Bucs for 60 cents on the dollar, and drafted Geno Smith to eventually replace Sanchez. This is almost certainly Rex Ryan's last season in
unless the Jets somehow make the playoffs.
But rumor has it, Rex is not dismayed; he has guaranteed Super Bowl victories
for the next 12 seasons. We'll see what
happens. New York
The Bills fired Chan Gailey and brought in the severely underqualified Doug Marrone, who brought along his equally underqualified offensive coordinator from
. The new
defensive coordinator is Mike Pettine, who was Rex Ryan's right hand man with
the Jets. Then the Bills used the 16th
overall pick to make Syracuse 's EJ Manuel the new
face of the franchise. This seems like the
definition of a reach, but anything is an upgrade over Kevin Kolb and Tavaris
Jackson. The defense remains very
solid. CJ Spiller is poised for a huge
State can grind out ugly wins. Buffalo
But, Tom Brady will be Tom Brady, so let's not panic. In fact, let's pencil Danny Amendola into the Pro Bowl game right now. Plus, the running game should be pretty solid and the defense is getting better, ever so slowly.
The AFC East should be a repeat of last season, but with a little more disparity.
will win double digit games again, though I'd say 10 or 11 is more
reasonable. will emerge as the Pats' closest
contender, going 9-7 and barely missing a wildcard spot. Miami
will endure Manuel's growing pains, but they can scrap together 5 or 6 wins
with a decent defense and running game.
The Jets are as good a contender as any for the Johnny Football
Sweepstakes, as they really don't have any strengths. It'll be interesting to see how Rex deals
with the Geno/Sanchez drama. Wait, no. Actually it won't. Buffalo
Next, the AFC North.
I'm still trying to figure out how
won the Super Bowl. Having watched the
38-35 double-OT playoff game in Baltimore Denver, it was
was not the best team in the league, or even the best team in the AFC. Not even close. But whatever.
Congrats on the $52 million guaranteed, Joe Flacco. Should be enough money to get your eyebrows fixed. Baltimore
But to be fair,
was very good last year, and John Harbaugh deserves a ton of credit for
building a well-balanced roster. Losing
Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, who combined for 22 Pro Bowl seasons in Baltimore , is a blow to the defense, more in
terms of leadership than actual play. But gaining Elvis Dumervil, Chris Canty and
Michael Huff might have actually made the defense better overall. Baltimore
Offensively, the loss of Anquan Boldin will be manageable, as long as Tandon Doss can live up to his potential. Dennis Pitta is out for the year, which hurts a lot. But despite Flacco's absurd contract, this is still Ray Rice's offense, and as long as he's there, they'll be solid. Probably not Super Bowl bound again, but at least playoff-bound.
For no good reason, I refuse to believe in the Bengals. Probably has something to do with Andy Dalton's red hair. I just don't get it. A.J. Green is spectacular, and the defense keeps getting the job done, but I don't buy them making a third straight playoff appearance.
Ben Roethlisberger will have to cope without Mike Wallace, but it's widely understood that Ben never liked Wallace anyway. His favorite target, other than Hines, has always been Heath Miller, for some strange reason. Ben is always trying to tell us how invaluable Heath is, and we never get it. It's a very codependent relationship, akin to Jim Leyland and Don Kelly. Antonio Brown, a major bust for all my fantasy teams last year, will become Ben's #1 receiver, and former Spartan Le'Veon Bell should take over the #1 RB job, though it'll continue to be a timeshare. The offensive line is very young and raw, but good. Ben will continue to make them look bad though, with his stupid reckless playing style which always seems to work.
And then there's lovable little Cleveland, who only made 2 picks in the first six rounds of April's draft, and will run out Brandon Weeden as their quarterback once again.
The dude's going to turn 30 midway through this season, and he has less real-game experience than Dalton, Ponder, Locker, Gabbert or Newton, all of whom are age 24 and under. It's sad, but kind of cute, to see
thinking they can compete with a 29-year old sophomore under center. Cleveland
The Browns do have a budding star in Trent Richardson, and a stud in Joe Thomas, but the rest of their offense is barely passable as NFL talent. The only defensive player worth mention is CB Joe Haden, a shutdown corner trapped on a terrible team, which seems to be a new trend.
There shouldn't be a lot of turnover in the AFC North, as the Browns did nothing to improve and the Ravens kept their core. I expect to see
and Cincy flip-flop in the
standings, with the Steelers making a run at the playoffs. Pittsburgh
Now, onto the AFC South, where the Texans have reigned for the past two years in the post Peyton Manning era. But very quickly, a new Colts quarterback may be ready to stake his ownership of the division for the foreseeable decade. Is this the year Andrew Luck begins his supremacy over the AFC South? Or does
still hold the
I'm inclined to lean towards Indy this year, but I can't discount
just because of my love of Andrew Luck. The Texans had a very solid offseason, losing very few important
players, and (finally!) adding a legitimate receiver next to Andre Johnson. #27 overall pick DeAndre Hopkins from Clemson
should finally give them a deep threat that scares opposing secondaries. And
with the offensive line intact, the rushing attack of Arian Foster and Ben
Tate should continue to dominate. Houston
But as you will hear Mark Schlereth say approximately 85,000 thousand times between now and Christmas, "it's a quarterback league." And the Colts have the best quarterback in this division. Maybe one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
My crush on Andrew Luck has been well documented since his junior season at Stanford, and he might have actually surpassed by expectations last season. However, because Russell Wilson and RG3 were also incredible (not to mention Colin Kaepernick, and the freakish comeback season Peyton had, and the usual brilliance of Rodgers and Brady), Luck flew under the radar. With no running game and a horrible defense, Andrew Luck won 11 games and shattered Cam Newton's record for passing yards by a rookie.
Yes, RG3 and Wilson had higher completion percentages and fewer INTs. But they also were on teams with fantastic running attacks, and each threw the ball 393 times, compared to 627 attempts for Luck. And for a little in-depth analysis, consider this: Luck's average pass traveled 10.2 yards through the air - the farthest in the NFL. As a rookie.
So, I actually like the Colts again. I think they can win 10+ games despite their lack of talent on defense, in the running game, on the offensive line, and pretty much everywhere except quarterback.
However, this still seems to be
division to lose. With Foster, J.J.
Watt, and a bunch of studs on defense,
they should be able to beat up on the lousy teams on the schedule and win at
least 10 games easily. Houston
As far as
... neither team did enough to improve upon their records from last year. I wouldn't be shocked to see the Jags go
0-16. Their insistence on "building
around" Blaine Gabbert is reminiscent of the Lions' woeful plight under
Joseph Harrington. My heart goes out to
any Jags fans that may or may not exist.
The AFC West was a complete mystery heading into last season. A lot of people, including myself, liked the KC Chiefs an awful lot. WalterFootball.com actually wrote that they had, "arguably the best roster in the NFL, excluding the quarterback position." And I didn't completely disagree.
Then, they went 2-14, scoring a preposterously low 13.2 points per game, and warranting a complete overhaul. They certainly weren't as bad as 2-14 indicates - injuries and horrible coaching played a big role - but when you go 0-12 in the AFC, all your coaches are fired and you bring in Andy Reid. That's just what happens.
With the #1 overall pick, the Chiefs weren't forced to take a QB, thanks to the trade for Alex Smith, who in case you didn't know, is the best quarterback in the NFL.
(Seriously, I don't usually like to waste my time with this sort of vociferous nonsense, but when Doug Pederson, the guy who led
to a District
Title in 2007, makes a claim about who the best QB in the league is, you better
listen.) Calvary Baptist
So, the Chiefs were able to spend the #1 pick on a franchise left tackle in Eric Fisher, and they added a couple of decent CBs in free agency with Dunta Robinson and Sean Smith. Plus they still have Jamaal Charles and a better-than-you-think offensive line to help Alex Smith mange games, which he can do quite well. But don't expect much from Dwayne Bowe, who finally got the big contract ($26 million guaranteed) that he's been crying about for two years; he will respond with a serious of "injuries" and uninspired play. You can take that prediction to the bank.
So, while KC will inevitably improve in Andy Reid's first season, let's keep expectations low and say 7 wins.
The Broncos enjoyed a miraculous 13-3 season and #1 seed in Peyton Manning's comeback season, and would have been Super Bowl bound if they didn't allow a 70-yard ridiculous hailmary to
in the playoffs. Now, expectations for
Peyton are sky-high and the addition of Wes Welker makes Baltimore the unquestioned favorites in the
AFC. In fact, Bovada.com has their
over/under currently at 11.5 wins, the highest mark in the league. Denver
Despite the loss of Elvis Dumervil,
has one of the most solid defenses in the AFC, anchored by stud Von Miller, who
has 30 sacks in 2 seasons and could chase Michael Strahan's record this year.
With Shaun Phillips, Robert Ayers, Terrance Knighton and rookie Sylvester
Williams, John Elway assembled one of the best front 7s in football while
simultaneously losing one of the best pass rushers. The secondary's not
amazing, but Champ Bailey should still have at least one more good season in
him. Denver probably won't repeat their 13 wins from last season,
but they are an easy pick to win the division. Denver
The Chargers FINALLY ended the Norv Turner era, and hired Mike McCoy, the Broncos' O-Coordinator. But with the rapidly declining Phillip Rivers, the whopping bust that is Ryan Matthews, and a decimated receiving crew, there's no reason to expect
to improve on
last year's 7-9 record. In fact, they
might fall all the way to the basement of the AFC West. San Diego
On the positive side, the Chargers drafted Manti Te'o, which means they just became one of the easiest teams to make fun of.
, it's another
chapter in the era of crappy quarterbacking. Oakland
Since drafting JaMarcus #1 overall in 2007 (the next John Elway, according to Mel Kiper), the Raiders have trotted out the following starting QBs: JaMarcus, Daunte Culpepper, Andrew Walter, Charlie Frye, Bruce Gradkowski, Jason Campbell, Kyle Boller, Carson Palmer (24 games), and Terrelle Pryor.
Now, after riding themselves of
they've acquired Matt Flynn, who, amazingly, was JaMarcus Russell's backup at LSU for 3 years. Flynn, who did throw for 6 TDs against the
Lions in the stupidest game in NFL history, has a measly 141
career passing attempts - 36 fewer than Andrew Luck had after 4 games in the
NFL. Flynn is a five-year veteran, by the way. Carson
With an always-injured Darren McFadden, an average at best offensive line, and a bunch of receivers with great 40 times but lousy hands, Flynn has very little to work with. And as for the defense ... they are retaining only 2 of 11 starters from 2012. That's astonishing.
Bad drafting, bad trades, bad coaching, and bad scouting ... those are only a few of the Raiders' problems. There has also been bad plenty of bad play on the field. Despite a pretty easy schedule, they can't be expected to win more than 3 or 4 games.
So to sum up the AFC, it looks like this:
Not real creative, with the only playoff change being the Steelers instead of Bengals. But it's a QB league (ughh) and the AFC is clearly a conference with some very good QBs and very bad QBs.
If I have to pick an AFC Champion at this point, I will go with
Let's move on to the NFC, starting with the East.
By winning their last 7 games, the Redskins claimed the division at 10-6, thanks in large part to collapses by the Cowboys and Giants. Only Philly finished below .500, at a measly 4-12. Overall it was a pretty competitive, albeit loathsome division.
The big question is the status of RG3's right knee, which was surgically reconstructed in January. To simplify things, if RG3 is full strength, the division belongs to
. If he's not, all bets are
Of course, we're hearing everything from "He'll never walk again" to "He's faster than ever." There is really no way to know what shape his knee is in until week 1. Which makes
an impossible team to
With a healthy RG3, Alfred Morris should have another solid season, provided Mike Shanahan doesn't revert to his old ways and play RB roulette all year long. But with an ailing RG3, Morris will watch his numbers plummet. With no running game, the whole offense goes kaput, as they don't have the vertical threat to stretch the defense. No disrespect to Pierre Garcon, Santana Moss, Josh Morgan, and Fred Davis, but they are best suited to complement a run-first offense.
If RG3 is healthy, however, Garcon could be a candidate for a huge breakout year, benefiting from plenty of broken plays and
's knack for keeping his eyes
downfield while on the run. Griffin
Defensively, I wouldn't expect much of anything from the Skins, except that having Brian Orakpo back will help. Since predicting their record is intertwined with predicting
's status, I'll just say a safe 8-8. Griffin
The Giants stand the best chance of unseating
and winning the division, as they have stability at the QB position, on the
O-line, and with their coaching staff.
They also have a great defensive line anchored by Pierre-Paul, and a
better secondary than people think. With
Eli putting together another unspectacular but steady season, they should find
their way to 9 or 10 wins and a playoff berth. Washington
offensive weapons and a good defense on paper, they aren't built for the
trenches, and they aren't well coached.
If DeMarco Murray could stay healthy, I'd like them a whole lot more. But I don't think he can. And when Romo is chucking the ball 40 times a
game, it's not good news for Dallas .
He averaged 36 passing attempts in their wins, and 45 in their losses. That doesn't seem like a great omen. Dallas
The Eagles, in their first season without Andy Reid since Bill Clinton was President, are trying to rebound off a hideous 4-12 season in which the players completely and utterly quit. It was one of the saddest displays of effort I have ever witnessed. It can't possibly be as bad this year. Having stud left tackle Jason Peters back will be a huge help. Drafting Lane Johnson and putting him at right tackle strengthens what was already an above average O-line.
But losing Jeremy Maclin for the year is a big problem, and having four new starters in the secondary is never a good thing. Further, Philly has no idea who their quarterback is, whether they'll run a 3-4 or a 4-3 defense, or who they'll be throwing the ball to, aside from trouble-making idiot DeSean Jackson. Sounds like a 6-10 season at best.
, I'm thinking
between 7 and 9 wins, as usual, with some sort of perennial playoff
In the NFC North, we have to consider the Packers heavy favorites (11-5 last year), even though the Bears and Vikings also won double-digit games last year.
Aaron Rodgers is so much better than the 11-5 record, specifically the 2-3 start to the season, that
produced in 2012. He showed this in two
playoff games, going 49 for 72 for 531 yards, 3 TDs and 1 pick, good for a 97.6
passer rating, which is especially impressive considering one game was against
San Fran's amazing defense. Green Bay
In fact, let's not forget that
played well enough to win that game, if not for Colin Kaepernick's super-human
181 rushing yard performance. Green Bay
, with an
improved running offense (supposedly) and a much better defense than people
think, I am expecting 12 or more wins.
The loss of left tackle Bryan Bulaga is unfortunate, especially in a
division with Julius Peppers and Jared Allen, but Aaron Rodgers is at his best
when he's on the run, so the Pack will be fine as long as he stays
healthy. Green Bay
The second best team in the North, unfortunately, is the Bears. Jay Cutler is a colossal tool and they have a coach who hasn't been in the NFL since 2004, but they have the best roster from top to bottom. They improved the offensive line in a big way (Cutler will still make them look bad by holding the ball too long and having terrible pocket awareness), and they have perhaps the league's best RB/WR combo in Forte and Marshall, as well as WR Ashlon Jeffery who could emerge as a big-play threat.
Defensively, the Bears will probably be better without Brian Urlacher; Lance Briggs has been their best linebacker for about the last 8 seasons, and will continue to play at a Pro Bowl level. With Peppers and Shea McClellin rushing the passer, and two stud corners in
and Tillman, the
Bears defense is built to be one of the best in the NFL. Between that and a strong running offense,
they can win a lot of games, if Cutler can stop pouting, turning the ball over,
and acting like a douche. 8 to 9 wins is
probably a good bet for them. Jennings
There is a ton of optimism flying around in
surrounding the Lions, but I haven't bought into it just yet. I still see a team loaded with more problems
than answers. It begins with Matt
Stafford. The guy just doesn't have
hyper-competitive winner in his DNA. He
strikes me as lazy, entitled, overly casual, and having a relatively low
football IQ. In terms of arm strength,
he is elite. But in terms of accuracy,
pocket presence, footwork, mechanics, intangibles, clock management, and
leadership ability, I'd say he's below average in each category. Especially mechanics and footwork. If I have to watch him stumble around the
pocket and flick stupid sidearm passes to Pettigrew all season, I will buy a closet full of Shaun Hill jerseys. Michigan
But the problems of this team go way, way beyond
Stafford. The second biggest issue is poor
coaching. The Lions have taken on the
personality of their head coach, which is to say they are undisciplined, overconfident,
and smug. Also, not intelligent. They are quick to celebrate good plays on
1st and 10, but they disappear on 3rd down.
They are over-reactive instead of over-prepared, and they buy into their
own hype when they haven't done anything to deserve it. In other words, I'm not a big fan of Jim
But personality aside, he's just not a good football coach. He does not prepare his team well, they have way too many penalties and mental errors, and he gets routinely outcoached by everybody. Halftime adjustments? Who needs them? Let's just make angry faces at everybody.
Then, there's the problem of losing 3 out of 5 starting offensive linemen. Backus, Cherilus and Peterman weren't great, but are Reiff, Warford and Hilliard improvements? No. Youth and a lack of continuity are not good traits on the O-line, especially when the QB has no pocket awareness.
Everyone is hailing Reggie Bush as the solution to all the Lions' woes, which I find funny because 2 years ago he was an injury-prone wimp who couldn't run between the tackles and thought flipping into the endzone was the pinnacle of existence. Now, he's the second coming of Barry Sanders? Really?
I do like the prospect of a pass-catching RB on this offense, as it allows
Stafford a reliable checkdown option other than pathetic
Pettigrew. Bush - if he stays healthy,
which he won't - could lead all running backs with about 90 catches. But he won't stay healthy, and then we're
back to Leshoure's 3 yard runs and hoping for Joique Bell to do something.
Another instance of fan hyperbole is going on with the receivers. "Burleson and Broyles are going to take the pressure off Calvin Johnson this year, and put up huge numbers!" Really? Based on what? "They've had a great training camp!" Give me a break. Anybody can have a great training camp against the Lions secondary. Neither of those guys should be relied on for more than 50 catches and 500 yards, and more likely, a home on the IR. If either guy stays healthy and is consistently productive, it'll be a nice surprise. But let's not be stupid and expect it. And don't get me started on Pettigrew. I don't even want to think about that jackass.
Defensively, we did improve. Quinn will be an upgrade to the secondary, and we retained Chris Houston which was huge. I actually really like the rookie CB Darius Slay; in fact, I think he'll be a better rookie than #5 pick Ziggy Ansah, who unfortunately has bust written all over him. Hope I'm wrong, but not going to drink the Ziggy koolaid until I see him do something.
Fairley and Suh are great talents with small brains. I'm interested to see which guy gets suspended first. My money's on Suh, but it could go either way. We're not going to miss KVB or Avril very much, as the DTs will continue to draw double and triple teams, allowing the new crop of DEs to rush the passer at full speed. Hopefully Ziggy, Willie Young, Jason Jones, and/or Devin Taylor can take advantage of our excellent DTs and record some sacks. Not holding my breath on any of those guys.
As you can tell, my attitude towards the Lions is pretty awful this season. I guess I'm finally tired of playing the optimist every summer, trying to figure out how it could go right. Let's just call it what it is: a poorly-coached, undertalented team with a couple superstars, one of which can't keep his head on straight. And a quarterback who I just don't like very much.
In short, I feel bad for Calvin Johnson. It's gonna be another year of the same. More than 4 wins, yes, but we're not mature enough as a team to compete with the rest of the NFC. In fact, I could see the team quitting on Schwartz midway through the year if it becomes apparent that he's going to get canned. Let's say they go 7-9. That sounds about right.
The Vikings are the classic example of a great RB trapped with a terrible QB. Christian Ponder made some of the worst throws in the NFL last year, and was completely incapable of throwing the deep ball. Now, without Percy Harvin, he'll be even less effective. I'm not expecting much from Greg Jennings, who can't stop making comments about the Packers. I'm wondering if all those Old Spice commercials went to
head and made him think he was cooler than he really is. his
will be one of the toughest teams in the NFL to beat on a weekly basis because
nobody can stop Adrian Peterson. How
stupid we all were to doubt him last year, thinking the ACL surgery would slow
down the best running back since Barry.
AP has a real chance to retire someday as the hands-down best RB ever,
if he can stay healthy for another 5 or 6 seasons. Minnesota
To complement AP, the Vikes have an excellent defensive line, which is a good combination for keeping games close and slow-moving. This is
's best chance
for replicating last year's 10-6 record.
Their secondary is young and below average, and their passing offense
stinks. Oh, should mention the
offensive line is excellent, anchored by Matt Kalil, who is on his way to being
the best tackle in football. Minnesota
To me, the one team that stands out and could rise above the rest would be
because of what we've seen Drew Brees do before. Matt Ryan is great, but Brees' ceiling is
higher. Ryan relies on great receivers
and good blocking; Brees can make
something out of nothing. New Orleans
lost some key
players on defense, namely John Abraham (32 sacks the last 3 seasons, now a
Cardinal), and Dunta Robinson & Brent Grimes (a solid CB tandem, now a
Chief and Dolphin). They also lost 2
starting offensive linemen, and didn't really do anything to improve the team,
other than replacing Michael Turner with Steven Jackson, which is like
replacing a knee injury with a hip injury.
Julio Jones will continue to evolve into a FItzgerald-esque star, and
will outscore plenty of teams, but I
think they'll drop down to 9, maybe 8 wins. Atlanta
, I'm seeing a
make or break year for Cam Newton. He
came across as immature and petulant for most of 2012, but then concluded the
year with a stretch of brilliant play and 4 straight wins. Unfortunately, he has almost nothing to work
with offensively. A bunch of overpaid
running backs, barely adequate receivers, not a great O-line. And the defense is worse. Possibly the worst secondary in the league,
which bodes poorly against a division with 3 prolific, vertical offenses. I could actually see Carolina Carolina
backsliding into a miserable 4-12 season, but I think Cam
is too athletic and competitive to let that happen. Let's say he gets them to 8-8.
And then there's
who really can't be taken lightly. For one thing, they added the best shutdown
corner of the past decade, a guy who can shut down half the field. Last offseason, they revamped their offense
with Vincent Jackson, a stud guard in Carl Nicks, and a jackpot rookie in RB
Doug Martin. They also got guard Gabe Carimi, who I love, and former #3 pick
Gerald McCoy, who returns from injury.
Then, there's safety Mark Barron (a stud) and OLB Lavonte David (the
best pick from the 2nd round last year, and the guy I wanted the Lions to take
instead of Broyles). It's almost a certainty
that no team has drafted better than Tampa
over the past 3 years. Then, they
turned 2013's picks into Revis, while still getting a starting CB in the 2nd
round and a backup QB in the 3rd round.
In short, Tampa 's
GM is doing everything right. Tampa
But, "it's a quarterback league." So, all the pressure's on Josh Freeman to play like it's 2010 (95.9 rating) and not 2011 (74.6 rating). Now that he has a full year of Doug Martin doing this kind of stuff, he'll be a lot more comfortable and see a lot less guys in deep coverage. I like the Bucs to win 10 games and make the playoffs.
And that leaves the NFC West, which was generally considered the worst division in the history of sports up until about 2 years ago, when it genetically mutated into the best division in football. I don't know what happened in
but 5th round nobodys like Richard Sherman suddenly became in the conversation
for best CB in the league. Lazy busts
like Marshawn Lynch started running like Arian Foster with dreads and power.
And 3rd round rookie afterthoughts like QB Russell Wilson became among the best
young quarterbacks in the game, finishing with only one vote fewer than Andrew
Luck for Rookie of the Year. What an
insane, incredible, confusing transformation for the Seahawks, who are suddenly
the second best team in the NFC, according to Vegas. Seattle
Vegas' best team in the NFC is
and rightfully so. Who wants to face
Colin Kaepernick, a guy who runs like Denard Robinson and throws like Justin
Verlander, with the calmness of a Manning.
He's a freak of nature, and truly, honestly, might be the best
quarterback in the NFL as soon as right now.
His ceiling is unlimited; he also might fall back to earth and be a
backup by the end of the year. Has there
ever been a larger range of both upside and downside for a player who's only started
San Fran probably has a slightly weaker roster than
, from top to bottom, only because of
Seattle's elite running game and secondary. But San Fran
has the best front-7 in football by a mile, and an A+ offensive line. Plus, they added Nnamdi Asomugha in free
agency, who, if he can reclaim any of his former shape, will be a tremendous
asset. Oh, and they got Anquan Boldin,
which helps at least somewhat. Seattle
Both San Fran and Seattle should be penciled into the playoffs, meaning the rest of the NFC is competing for 1 wildcard spot. This is bad news for
and many other teams. The best case
scenario is that Detroit Arizona and overachieve, making things
difficult for the Rams and 'Hawks, and bringing them down into the 9-11 win
range. But I don't see it. No disrespect to the Rams (who I think are
very solid) and the Cardinals (actually, wait, I do disrespect them) - but the
top two teams in the NFC West are just too dang good. I think St. Louis
goes 12-4 and San Fran goes 13-3. Seattle
The Rams were extremely stingy on defense last year, ranking above average in rushing yards allowed, passing yards allowed, and points allowed, and tying with
league-lead in sacks with 52. This is
quite a transformation from the previous year, when they ranked 22nd, 31st,
26th, and 16th in those same areas. Denver
Jeff Fisher is just a good coach who gets the most out of his players. With a really good draft class, a fantastic D-line, a new franchise left tackle, and perhaps the best kicker in the league, the Rams can grind their way to 8 wins at least. But it all hinges on Sam Bradford, who is running out of excuses. The last #1 overall pick in the old CBA,
Bradford is still
trying to earn his unthinkably ridiculous $86 million dollar deal. After 3 seasons, he boasts a 15-26 record, a
77.3 passer rating, and zero playoff appearances. This is the year he better get something
done. Too bad he's in the NFC West.
I'm not going to spend much time on
. If they want to make Carson Palmer their
quarterback, they don't deserve my time.
Great defense, great Larry Fitzgerald, horrible everything else. I think they'll repeat 5-11. Arizona
So to recap the NFC, we have:
So, by these predictions, the top 5 picks in the 2014 draft will belong to the AFC. And the playoffs would feature the 12-4 Seahawks going on the road in round one, sparking all kinds of controversy. I like
Bay to get to the Super Bowl and beat .
Not a sexy pick, but a smart one. Denver
Stay tuned for my thoughts on fantasy football ... and less than a month til week one picks!