Monday, September 8, 2014

NFL Season Preview

The time has come for expansion. I love both college and pro football, but if I had to choose one to watch for the rest of my life, I wouldn't hesitate to say college. I've been meaning to try and incorporate some NFL articles into my blog, but it is so difficult when already trying to crank out a few college articles a week. As such, I'm bringing my friend Justin on board to start writing some articles for the NFL season. He helped me out a lot with some pre-draft scouting and wanted to continue writing. So, with the NFL season already having got underway last night, here is Justin's preview for each team, along with the projected records of each team.



Baltimore Ravens- (9-7)
What an offseason for the Ravens and Ray Rice.  John Harbaugh will definitely have his work cut out for him this year, but I have a feeling that he will get his team back to where it needs to be to get back into the playoffs.  They need to revert to the smash mouth football that we are so accustomed to seeing from the Ravens.  With Ray Rice suspended for the first 2 games this season and everything that has happened to him, I could see that being a huge motivating factor for him getting back to the Ray Rice we were so accustomed to, excluding last season.  Hopefully they don’t let Joe Flacco air it out all over the place, but at least they added Steve Smith and Owen Daniels on offense and added the beast that is C.J. Mosely on D.  That defense will be just as good as it has been and with the influx of youth that is so desperately needed, but it will once again come to that inept offense and Average Joe Flacco.

Cincinnati Bengals- (11-5)
What a deal for Andy Dalton!  But let’s be serious, what a boneheaded move by the Bengals.  What exactly did they pay Dalton for?  To be an average quarterback?  Luckily, looking closer at the contract, they can move on from Dalton if they so choose because the majority of the guaranteed money is in the first two seasons.  But let’s get back to the team.  You still have A.J. Green and as long as he remains an elite wide receiver, this offense will have to run through him.  They also added a stud cornerback in Darqueze Dennard to improve that already staunch defense.  But we cannot forget about one of my guys to watch this year: Giovanni Bernard.  This kid is going to be a stud, especially in a division when the Steelers and Ravens did not get better and the Browns have not proven anything.  Bernard had a pretty decent rookie season last year and is now the guy after Cincinnati released Benjarvus Green-Ellis.  It is the Bengals division to lose this year.

Cleveland Browns- (8-8)
Manziel or Hoyer?  What a team to watch this year and what a reality show it could turn out to be.  Head coach Mike Pettine will have his media rooms full everyday asking when “Johnny Cleveland” will be thrust into the starting lineup.  Either way, it’s going to be fun and the entire football universe is going to be paying close attention to the team from Cleveland, which is definitely a change from the norm for them.  With all of the talk about this offense this offseason, we have completely forgotten about how great that defense is and how much better it can get.  They added Donte Whitner to add some more POP to that defense as well as Justin Gilbert to be that playmaker on the opposite side of Joe Haden.  This secondary could rival what the Seahawks have, but lets talk about that offense.  Brian Hoyer will start for the first three games this year.  Then after they head into the bye week with a record of 1-2, in comes Johnny Football to add a little spark into that Josh Gordon-less offense.  The Browns will definitely be a team to keep an eye on this year, especially if Manziel takes the game seriously and works on improving his mechanics and not taking off and running if the first pass option isn’t there.

Pittsburgh Steelers- (8-8) This team has been in need of a youth movement for years and now that they let Ryan Clark and LaMarr Woodley walk, they can now get to it.  The additions of Ryan Shazier and Stephon Tuitt will add a nice mix of speed and power to get the Steelers back into their old ways of grinding football.  The main thing holding the defense back will be their secondary.  The once great Troy Polamalu is now a liability in the backfield as his cover skills have deteriorated and he is still as injury prone as ever.  Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount should pair up nicely, as per their arrest record, and be a nice 1-2 punch.  But, Big Ben has this air around him that always reassures Steelers fans that everything will be okay and they usually are but I cannot see them making the playoffs this year.  It is a steep hill they will have to climb but if anybody can do it, Big Ben can.


Houston Texans- (10-6) Was Ryan Fitzpatrick really an upgrade over Matt Schaub?  I tend to think not but despite that the Texans will be the team with the quickest turnaround.  This defense was stout AND then they added Jadeveon Clowney.  With J.J. Watt tutoring Clowney and staying on him, Clowney could become the next perennial superstar in a very short amount of time.  Both defensive players could have double-digit sacks, and then add Whitney Mercillus and Brian Cushing to the mix and it makes a recipe for disaster for opposing quarterbacks this season.  Houston’s season is going to come down to their offense.  Andre Johnson is not happy and Arian Foster can’t stay healthy.  Luckily enough, the defense will be great enough to win them games and keep them close in the others.  Bill O’ Brian is also a hell of a coach and knows how to get the most from his offensive players so maybe he can figure out what to do with Fitzpatrick and get those Texans back into the playoffs.

Indianapolis Colts- (12-4) The Colts are bringing out the big guns this year.  They are a team on a mission to absolutely crush anybody in their path.  Don’t believe me?  That offense is going to be even better in Andrew Luck’s third year.  The team added Hakeem Nicks to an already damn good receiving core, which includes a healthy Reggie Wayne and a T.Y. Hilton, who came on very strong last year and still produced despite being covered like a number one wide out.  Trent Richardson is going to improve, especially after addressing the offensive line in the draft with Jake Mewhort.  The Colts also added one of my favorite players to watch: D’Qwell Jackson.  Jackson is an absolute stud at the linebacker position and has played in every single game in the last three seasons.  This team will go through Andrew Luck and he is going to take them deep into the playoffs this year.

Jacksonville Jaguars- (7-9) Be forewarned, I am a Jaguars fan.  So this may be a little biased but I truly believe this team is on the up and up.  While the team is not very deep, it can definitely remain competitive in every game they play in this year.  Led by head coach Gus Bradley, this team is motivated and will do whatever it takes to win, and you have to love a team like that.  The Blake Bortles debate is on.  He looks like a very good quarterback with tremendous upside and if worked into the lineup at the right time, this team could be one to watch out for.  The defense will make large strides again this year.  Young and fiery, the defense plays with a swagger that stems directly from Bradley.  The interior offensive line will hold the team back as it is apparent that they cannot block anybody.  The wide receivers are young and need to stay healthy so as to practice together and be ready for next year when Bortles will be the starting quarterback.  But until then, this team will go with Chad Henne as the starter for at least the first five games and depending on the record, everything will probably be reevaluated.  I am actually excited to be a Jaguars fan this year.

Tennessee Titans- (4-12) The definition of mediocrity for the last few seasons has been the Tennessee Titans.  Since 2009, they have won 8, 6, 9, 6, 7 games respectively.  The team needed to change something around to get over that hump and they hope that head coach Ken Wisenhunt will get them there.  Jake Locker’s career has been full of injuries and I don’t expect that to change.  Thankfully they drafted Zach Mettenberger who has actually looked quite good.  If the season starts going south early, I expect Mettenberger to get thrust into the starting lineup to give the team a little spark with his big arm and Justin Hunter’s playmaking ability.  With the addition of Bishop Sankey, this team has a bunch of young, talented and exciting players for some years to come.


Buffalo Bills- (6-10) Sammy Watkins is an absolute animal, but there is only so much a rookie wide receiver can do.  I really liked how E.J. Manuel looked last year before getting hurt.  He showed some good poise and good pocket presence as a rookie so we will see how much he has progressed going into his second season.  The defense would probably be improved had it not lost one of the best young linebackers in the game, Kiko Alonso, to a season ending ACL injury.  They added Brandon Spikes but lost Stevie Johnson and Jairus Byrd, so it seems to me that they will be roughly in the same position as they were last year, minus a first round draft pick.  They still have the two headed, injury riddled monsters at the running back position, C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson.  Both running backs have top ten talent but they cannot seem to stay healthy.  Maybe this is the year that actually happens but it’s such a tough sport to play with a soft body.

Miami Dolphins- (7-9) Now is the time for Ryan Tannehill to take that step forward and become an elite quarterback that he has the potential to be.  The Dolphins made improvements to a horrendous offensive line that allowed Tannehill to get sacked 58 times.  They signed big offensive tackle Branden Albert to help solidify the line but the loss of Mike Pouncey is a huge detriment.  They also picked up free agent running back Knowshon Moreno, who is also pretty good at pass protection, but I cannot see him duplicating what he did in an offense with Peyton Manning at the helm.  The team is still young and has a pretty consistent defense in a sub par division this year.  Miami could easily take my projected 7-9 record and win 9 games, making them a borderline playoff team but a lot of those wins will be dependent on the Tannehill to Mike Wallace downfield exchange.

New England Patriots- (10-6) Besides wide receiver, this team addressed the majority of their needs. But they went ahead and let Aqib Talib go and then instantly filled and upgraded the position by signing Darrelle Revis.  This move makes the defense that much better because Revis’s Island is still a sure thing.  The other defensive back positions were filled with the signings of Brandon Flowers and Patrick Chung.  Although for some reason, the Patriots seem reluctant to draft a marquee wide receiver, which is probably their greatest need, and decided to stick it out with Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson.  Enjoy that again this year, Brady.  The Patriots absolutely need Rob Gronkowski to stay healthy this year as his presence on the field demands the extra attention that these young wide receivers need in order to be matched up and win their one on one matches.  The defense will be vastly better with all of their players back from injury (notably Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo) and by drafting Dominique Easley.  Tom Brady is still leading that team and if he can get down the timing with his receivers, they could absolutely make another run deep into the playoffs.

New York Jets- (8-8) This is just another mediocre team that Rex Ryan and John Idzik has assembled.  Maybe Chris Johnson has a little bit left in the tank after taking the last few seasons off with the Titans but that remains to be seen.  Eric Decker, while valuable with the Broncos because of his ability to win his one on one matchups, is going to be one of the center points for defensive coordinators to key on.  That could be a tough hill for him to climb, especially without Peyton Manning throwing him the ball now.  Mike Vick comes in to help Geno Smith with his development but he may end up being the better option halfway into the season, as Rex will be trying to keep his job.  They lost their top cornerback in Antonio Cromartie and in to try and fill his shoes are Kyle Wilson and Dee Milliner.  Rex Ryan is a great defensive mind but I just do not believe he has what it takes to be the Super Bowl winning head coach he has so often predicted he would be.  If this team doesn’t make the playoffs, Ryan has to be canned and the rebuilding process will begin.


Denver Broncos- (13-3) The Broncos were absolutely embarrassed in the Super Bowl.  The offense got dominated at every position by that tough Seattle defense and the Denver defense was manhandled at the line.  So what does John Elway do to make sure that doesn’t happen again?  Make the team better at every position.  The Broncos went out and signed Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward and also drafted Bradley Roby in the first round to shore up that secondary, picked up DeMarcus Ware to find another way to rattle the quarterback, and also let an aging liability that is Champ Bailey go.  The Broncos are even better than they were before and oh, by the way, they still have Peyton throwing anywhere and everywhere he wants to.  Eric Decker may have been allowed to walk but they still signed Emmanuel Sanders and still have their top receivers coming back from last season, with the exception of Wes Welker for 4 games (who took whatever is it that he took).  Although their schedule is way tougher than last year, I actually see that as a good thing.  They play against the NFC West, which means they will be up against great defenses like the Seahawks, Rams, Cardinals, and 49ers.  This team will be challenged week in and week out and we will know by the end of the season if this will be another Super Bowl contender.  The Broncos are my pick to win the Super Bowl this year.  The team got better and is more motivated to kick the crap out of everybody who lines up against them.  That is a scary thought.

Kansas City Chiefs- (8-8) The Chiefs will live and die by Jamaal Charles again this year.  It is always so incredibly hard to let it ride on just one guy but I believe Charles can handle it again this year.  The biggest obstacle they have to overcome is losing three starters on the offensive line through free agency.  Three guys that were integral to Charles’s 1980 yards from scrimmage last season.  That is a big void to fill.  Kansas City will also be up against a much more brutal schedule this year and if anything happens to Charles, the team could be staring into the face of a less than .500 record.  Dwayne Bowe has taken the last few years off and has killed fantasy teams in the process.  If only he could find some motivation but it will be another lackluster year from him, especially with Alex Smith only throwing 10 yard out and in passes.  Special teams could be a big upgrade for this team.  Everybody is gushing over De’Anthony Thomas and his electrifying speed.  We will see if everything he has done in the preseason translates over to the regular season.  Playing against the teams in the NFC West, I do not anticipate the Chiefs making the playoffs this year.

Oakland Raiders- (4-12) The RAAAIIIDERSSSSSS will once again be the Raiders.  Another year, another losing record, and another chance at a complete overhaul in the front office.  It seems like everything this team does, works against them and I have a hunch that the same will happen again in the upcoming season.  This year they signed a bunch of “wiley ole veterans” and hope that they mesh well with the influx of rookies and young players on the team.  They do have quite a bit of talent on the roster and signed some big names like James Jones to help with the receivers, Justin Tuck to help with the defensive line, and LaMarr Woodley to help with the linebackers.  Also, if (and when) Darren McFadden goes down this year, Maurice Jones-Drew may have a chance at a little revitalization in a new uniform.  Khalil Mack may prove to be a lone bright spot on this team as he could become the next stud pass rushing linebacker and Derek Carr has a shot at reclaiming the family name by playing well this year and proving he can stare into the face of blitzes.  But everything this team and head coach Dennis Allen does backfires, so it will be interesting to see how it all blows up in Oakland this year.

San Diego Chargers- (9-7) This could be a huge year for Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers.  They hit big time on their rookie wide out selection in Keenan Allen, who is primed to have an even bigger year this year, and the team did not really lose any key players through free agency.  They drafted one of my favorite players to watch last year in Jason Verrett and are getting back players who had injury issues and trouble staying on the field last year in Dwight Freeney and Manti Te’o.  There is also a player to watch on offense who is primed for a breakout season, the tight end Ladarius Green.  He is big, fast, and strong and stands at 6 foot 6, 240 pounds with 4.4 speed.  Those numbers are Calvin Johnson-esque, but he just needed to take some time to sit behind Antonio Gates and develop.  Especially with Gates nearing the end of his Hall of Fame career, it is setting up nicely for Green to breakout.  Rivers’ pass happy offense will help put Green and Allen on the map of fantasy football and real football as they look to scratch and crawl their way into the playoffs.


Chicago Bears- (11-5) Defense, defense, defense.  The epitome of the Bears and their tough-nosed, smash mouth way of doing things went completely awry last year.  It was historically bad for a team that is consistently known for their suffocating defense.  The Bears were smart in letting Julius Peppers leave and in to fill his shoes, and in my opinion surpass them, is Jared Allen.  Allen is of the best players in the league to watch.  His energy and work ethic is unmatched by anybody and he gives it all he can on every single play.  Not exactly what you would say about Julius Peppers.  They also added Lamarr Houston, Willie Young, and Ryan Mundy to the defense while adding Kyle Fuller and Will Sutton through the draft.  That defense is going to be very much improved, which is necessary considering Aaron Rodgers is back and ready for another season.  This team will run through that offense though.  Jay Cutler will be throwing to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, in another year of Marc Trestman’s offense.  Matt Forte is ready to handle his usual workload again.  Look for the Bears to be a Super Bowl contender as they try to have teams travel to Soldier Field in the cold of January.

Detroit Lions- (8-8) I honestly feel bad for Calvin Johnson.  He is our generations Barry Sanders in the fact that he may never win a Super Bowl despite being by far the best player at his position in the league.  And the Lions do not get any better annually.  Matthew Stafford has great stats because he can throw to Calvin Johnson but that is because Johnson created his own separation.  Thankfully, the Lions went out and signed Golden Tate to take away some of the triple coverage away from Megatron.  Eric Ebron could be a very nice addition to the offense next year but he will have a steep learning curve, as do most rookie tight ends, this year.   That defense is going to once again bring down the team.  The secondary is atrocious and they get to go up against Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler twice a year.  That alone could be four losses because of that group.  Rashean Mathis was a good corner in his tenure with Jacksonville but he has lost a step on his relied upon speed and ballhawking ability.  That just screams, “Throw at me”.  But all in all, Detroit will be average once again and in a division with Rodgers and Cutler, it will be very tough for them to see the playoffs unless drastic changes are made to improve that secondary.

Green Bay Packers- (12-4) Look out NFL defenses!  Aaron Rodgers is back and looking better than ever. He is making all his throws and is looking as if he is in mid-season form already.  Especially with him having Jordy Nelson, getting Randall Cobb back, and drafting Davante Adams, the offense should be firing on all cylinders.  Eddie Lacey is that big stud running back that Green Bay has been missing so now instead of Rodgers throwing fade routes to the back of the end zone, Lacey can pound it inside for the touchdown once they are in the red zone.  Green Bay also upgraded their defense quite significantly as long as they can motivate Julius Peppers and get him yearning to get that Super Bowl Championship he should so desperately desire.  Especially paired with Clay Matthews rushing off the edge, Peppers could be in line for a huge season with the one on one match ups he should get.  They also drafted Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to shore up that secondary.  Expect this Packers team to go deep into the playoffs.  That week one matchup vs. Seattle keeps looking better and better (Editor’s Note: lol, maybe not).

Minnesota Vikings- (6-10) Just like every year since 2007, this team’s overall win/ loss record will be on the shoulders of Adrian Peterson.  There is no denying his greatness, but it is a large task to overcome especially in the NFC North where they have to play the Packers and the Bears twice.  They could very easily start the season 0 and 5 and then put in Teddy Bridgewater to see what they have for their future.  Cordarrelle Patterson could turn out to be an absolute beast at wide receiver.  Big, strong, and moves extremely well with very sure hands.  If Bridgewater ends up panning out, these two could become a nice, young tandem for years to come.  Mike Zimmer takes over a team that has finished in last place three out of the last four years and Aaron Rodgers is not going anywhere.  So to be competitive in this division the Vikings will have to play fantastic defense, which happens to be Zimmer’s specialty.  Every year he put out top-notch defenses and I expect him to do that with this Minnesota unit.  I was not the biggest fan of Anthony Barr coming out of college, but if anybody can make him into the player that he could become, it’s Zimmer.


Atlanta Falcons- (6-10) This may be the year that Mike Smith gets fired.  In addition to switching from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense, they lost their top playmaking linebacker in Sean Witherspoon for the year.  At a position of weakness for the team, losing their top player at that position can only mean bad things to come.  They signed former first rounder Tyson Jackson who had a pretty decent year last year but the defense still needs plenty more help.  The offense could make a nice rebound this year after they get star wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones back from injury.  Those two players could make a world of a difference, especially with Harry Douglass coming off a career year last year and Matt Ryan still slinging the ball around.  The run game leaves a lot to be determined.  Steven Jackson did not play much last year after being hampered by a slew of injuries and early round pick Devonta Freeman could overtake the starting job.  The offensive line play was shaky last year and then they signed big time prospect Jake Matthews out of Texas A&M.  Matthews is now on the verge of switching from right tackle to left tackle after Sam Baker went down.  All in all, the team is mediocre at best and will need career years from both star wideouts if Mike Smith aims to keep his job.

Carolina Panthers- (7-9) What is this team doing?  Does Juan Rivera not understand how continuity works on offense?  Cam Newton had a great year last year and then in the blink of an eye, his entire receiving core is gone.  Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, and Ted Ginn Jr. are all gone.  Insert first round pick Kelvin Benjamin and former Philadelphia Eagle Jason Avant.  Greg Olsen is still an option and he could be in line for a huge year as being the only receiver Newton has any continuity with.  This team could very easily be 3-8 heading into their bye week because of the degree of difficulty of their schedule.  From September 21st to November 16th, the Panthers play the Steelers, Ravens, Bears, Bengals, Packers, Seahawks, Saints, Eagles, and Falcons.  What a stretch of quality teams but hey that’s football.  The defense looks to build off of last year where they were one of the top defensive units.  Luke Kuechly is an absolute beast and should lead the team in tackles again this year.  They still have Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy rushing off the edge, even though Hardy is still waiting to hear about his potential multi game suspension.  This could be a major blow to the team as Hardy has a combined 26 sacks in the last two seasons.  This team faces an uphill battle as they have a rough schedule and a brand new look on offense.

New Orleans Saints- (13-3) The Saints have one of the friendliest schedules of any team this year.  Two of their most difficult games are against the Packers and the 49ers and will be played at home in the Superdome.  And as we all know, the Saints have a 12th man of their own in that stadium, not to the extent of the Seahawks but it’s still pretty damn impressive.  Drew Brees and Sean Payton are back to lead this prolific offense and the tandem between Brees and Jimmy Graham look to build on from last years record setting numbers.  Insert Brandin Cooks, the speedster from Oregon State who has 195 receptions for 2,881 yards and 21 touchdowns in the last two years.  Now Cooks has Brees throwing him the rock.  On the other side of the ball, New Orleans instantly upgraded with the signing of Jairus Byrd to cover the free safety position.  The Saints now have one of the best one-two punches with Byrd and strong safety Kenny Vaccaro.  Thankfully they cut the downtrodden Champ Bailey as to let Keenan Lewis and Patrick Robinson cover the outside corner spots.  Cameron Jordan looks to step up into the elite level at the defensive end position as he is going to explode for even more sacks than he got last year.  I look for the Saints to go deep into the playoffs as long as they have home field advantage and their defense builds off of last year.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers- (7-9) Greg Schiano took this team and pummeled it into the ground.  Players didn’t respect him and there were a slew of other mishaps that kept him from keeping his job.  In comes former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith.  His smashmouth way of playing the game is something the Buccaneers could transition to and become competitive very quickly and easily.  He has his running back in Doug Martin but at quarterback he has journeyman Josh McCown.  McCown had a great year last year in Marc Trestman’s offense.  In Trestman’s offense, McCown was throwing to three targets that were over 6 foot 4 in Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Martellus Bennett and now in Tampa Bay, McCown has tall targets yet again in Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins.  He could have a very good season if his rookie wide out and tight end transition seamlessly from college to the pros.  On the defensive side of the ball, through free agency, the main piece that the Bucs lost was Darrelle Revis.  Revis, while having a very productive career, demanded way too much money for a team that was looking to rebuild quickly.  The money the team saved from cutting Revis allowed them to sign McCown, Michael Johnson, Alterraun Verner, and Evan Dietrich-Smith. I think any team would take that trade off.  This team will be on the outside looking in, especially in the NFC.


Dallas Cowboys- (6-10) Well here we go Dallas fans.  I believe this is Jason Garrett’s last year coaching “America’s Team”.  The team is pretty lackluster all around.  The defense was horrible last year and to make matters worse, they released DeMarcus Ware and lost Sean Lee to a torn ACL.  What a great start.  Then they lost Demarcus Lawrence, the guy they planned on replacing Ware, for at least 8 weeks.  The Cowboys are on fast track to being a very mediocre team, which is something they have traditionally been good at the past few years.  This offense is still led by Tony Romo, Jason Witten, and Dez Bryant.  I expect Bryant to take another step forward this year, and hopefully another step forward in maturity.  Maybe Romo can stay fully healthy this for the entire season.  I do not see this team being able to win more than 8 games this year.  Jerry Jones NEEDS to give up control of the team.  Sure he won plenty back in the 1990s but he won those Super Bowls with teams created by Jimmy Johnson.  Jerry Jones will continue to ruin this team until somebody steps in and does something

New York Giants- (5-11) There is big trouble for Big Blue.  The Giants are in the middle of transitioning from experienced veteran leaders to a younger team attempting to conform to Tom Coughlin’s no nonsense dictatorship coaching style.  I believe this could implode in his face, as players do not respect the authoritative coaching style as much anymore.  Along with that little issue, Eli Manning is now working with a new offensive coordinator in a new system for the first time since he came into the league.  And he was mediocre at best in that system.  In the preseason, Eli and his receivers had pretty bad timing.  The routes looked like they were ran too short or Eli missed something.  It is a new system and there is usually an adjustment period so maybe they will get it together in time to try and make a run for the NFC East title.  Rashad Jennings could have a nice little breakthrough year with the Giants.  He was a pretty serviceable back whenever Darren McFadden would go down with whatever injury decided to pop up.  One thing going against Jennings is the new look at offensive line.  The last remaining member of the 2007 Super Bowl line just retired so it is time to start over on that front.  The defense will be just okay this year.  The secondary looks to be pretty solid but the linebacking core does not seem to be up to snuff for those bold Giants defenses of the past.

Philadelphia Eagles- (11-5) Round 2: Chip Kelly vs. NFL defenses.  Kelly “changed” the way offenses are ran.  Bold statement by some experts.  I wouldn’t go that far but he has definitely sped it up and with another year gone by, the offense looks to be even faster and more efficient.  Nick Foles blew up last year.  He came from relative obscurity to a superstar in the matter of a season.  His touchdown to interception ratio was unreal: 27 touchdowns to only 2 interceptions.  There is also this little running back named LeSean McCoy who led the league in rushing last year and looks to build off of that.  The team lost DeSean Jackson to free agency but Jeremy Maclin is back to help shore up the receiving core.  The defense needs some of their former high draft picks to step up and make some plays.  Guys like Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham were drafted because they had the ability to make plays but they have not done enough of that.  Maybe this year is the year.  The Eagles are the scariest team in the NFC East and that offense will role over all the defenses in their division.

Washington Redskins- (6-10) Robert Griffin III has to do a better job this year at many things.  The main thing is he has to protect his body.  There were way too many instances in preseason, yes PRESEASON, of him trying to gain extra yards by staying in bounds and forcing a couple extra hits.  Don’t be a hero Robert.  He also has to stop turning the ball over as noted by his 16 turnovers last year.  This team is not comprised of just one player.  They also signed big time free agent DeSean Jackson to give RG3 another weapon in addition to Pierre Garcon and the up and coming tight end Jordan Reed.  The defense looks to be pretty stout on the front 7.  Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo could both produce double-digit sack seasons, along with Jason Hatcher who had 11 sacks last year.  The pass rush could be there and good enough to help out the somewhat bland secondary led by DeAngelo Hall and Ryan Clark.  The Redskins could swing more wins their way if RG3 plays like he did his rookie season and stays healthy but that’s why we play the game.


Arizona Cardinals- (6-10) Poor Darnell Dockett and poor Cardinals.  The Cardinals just lost one of the best and most disruptive defensive tackles in the game.  This comes as a massive blow to a very good defense with such great players like Calais Campbell and Patrick Peterson, two of the premier players at their position.  This proves to be tough for Arizona as they are looking to make the playoffs in the NFC but that would be a difficult task even if they were not in a division with the 49ers, Seahawks, and the up and coming Rams.  To try and replace Dockett, the Cardinals signed Tommy Kelly but I don’t believe that will be enough to get them over the hump in the division they are in.  The offense, for as much as I trust Bruce Arians and his way of operating an efficient offense, is just not there.  The offensive line play is shaky at best and Carson Palmer is just a mediocre quarterback, even with the future hall of famer Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd catching his poor throws.

San Francisco 49ers- (12-4) Is it just me or is Jim Harbaugh having a tough time controlling his team?  There always seems to be some type of dysfunction that goes on but that will always be an issue with player coaches (something Bill Belichick rarely has to deal with).  But this team will once again be in the thick of things in the toughest division in all of the NFL.  Colin Kaepernick will be leading an offense that looks to be better than it was before with the addition of Stevie Johnson and a young Carlos Hyde (with a potential reemergence of Marcus Lattimore).  The defense will be just as good as last year, even while missing NaVarro Bowman for half the year and losing three cornerbacks and Donte Whitner.  This roster is full of talent and depth at the majority of positions and will once again have Seattle in their way to impede the season and make it extremely difficult to win the division.  Although, once Colin Kaepernick is in the playoffs, he turns on the jets and reaches a whole other level of quarterback.

Seattle Seahawks (13-3) This team is definitely a dynasty in the making.  No other team in the NFL may have more talent, depth, and a great energy that stems from the coaches on down to the players and the fans.  There are perennial superstars at almost every position on the team and they are mainly young players.  Although they did lose quite a bit of quality players through free agency, there is depth behind those players so they really didn’t lose a whole lot.  They are also getting Percy Harvin back this year, and maybe he will actually stay healthy for a season.  They also drafted Paul Richardson out of Colorado to give Russell Wilson even more weapons to work with.  Marshawn Lynch looks to build off of last season where beast mode was fully into effect.  And lets talk about that defense: Sherman, Thomas, Avril, Bennet, Wright, Wagner.  You can go on and on and on.  Russell Wilson and that offense doesn’t have to do much to put up points when the defense is forcing three and outs and giving the offense great field position.  Pete Carroll is in charge of an amazingly talented and young team and so far he is doing all the right things to make sure this team is in position to win week in and week out.  As long as everybody is as hungry as they were last year, this team will be in the Super Bowl again.  The road to the playoffs runs through Seattle.

St. Louis Rams- (7-9) Well, Sam Bradford went down along with the Rams’ hopes of reaching the playoffs.  Don’t let my projected 7 and 9 record fool you.  This is a damn good team with plenty of depth on defense.  The offense is a little shaky, even when Bradford is healthy.  Zac Stacy is a pretty good running back and it does not seem like he will have much competition as Tre Mason has not looked good so far in camp.  The receivers are young and unproven.  Tavon Austin will need to have a monster year if this team has any hopes of being in the running for a wild card spot, as long as he has learned the playbook by now.  Kenny Britt is definitely an interesting signing.  The former first round pick could ignite a nice spark for the team being that big bodied red zone threat.  Chris Long and Robert Quinn lead that fearsome defense along with James Laurinaitis, Janoris Jenkins, and Alec Ogletree.  All young, premier players at their respective positions.  This team has a great nucleus of players that desperately need a quarterback to lead them.  Sam Bradford is not the answer and neither is him tearing his ACL… AGAIN.  It is time the Rams go in a different direction at that position and Shaun Hill is definitely not the answer.

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