Let’s be honest. We’ve had a long spring and an even longer summer. After the beat down the Miami Heat took from the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals, sports journalists were forced to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find content.
Well, I have redundantly good news for you. The wait is over.
No more reports about what color toothbrush Lebron James uses. No more hours of having to watch out of shape athletes playing pitch and catch with each other. No more settling for golf highlights. It’s football season.
In honor of the start of the 2014-15 NFL season, we have compiled our absurd, ridiculous, premature predictions for this year’s division, conference and Super Bowl winners. Get ready to grit your teeth and spout obscenities. We’re about to make a lot of people angry. Here goes nothing:
Winner: New England Patriots
Tom Brady and the don of New England, Bill Belichick, will be back in full force this year to cause serious problems in the AFC. Last year, the Pats were able to fly under the radar and make a deep run into the playoffs. Thing is, Brady was practically throwing to himself; his arsenal of receivers were largely no-name or younger players. And with the loss of Hernandez and the injuries Gronkowski faced, it’s shocking the Patriots even made it to the playoffs. This year, Brady has new weapons in Danny Amendola and Brandon LaFell, and he should be seeing Gronkowski back in the mix. The Pats will be right back in the playoffs again this year and will be looking to make another run. Moral or the story? Believe in Brady.
Winner: Baltimore Ravens
The AFC North won’t be the winner for the toughest division in the NFL this year. The Steelers are looking old; they’re dealing with off-field issues with RBs, and they can’t seem to protect Big Ben. The Browns are overhyped. The Bengals biggest concern is the play of Andy Dalton, which seems to be on the decline, despite the explosiveness of star wideout A.J. Green. Our money is on the Baltimore Ravens this year. An athletic defensive line should help alleviate some of the pressure on a thin secondary. And Joe Flacco’s new, veteran weapon Steve Smith should provide yet another option for this pass-happy offense. Expect good ole’ Joe to air it out a lot. And when they’re unable to rain touchdowns, expect the Ravens to keep it close and trust in the clutch play of field-goal aficionado Justin Tucker.
Winner: Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck will prevail in a division focused on rebuilding. With an average-ish defense, the Colts’ quick offense, riding on the shoulders of a fast receiving corps and a smart young quarterback, should make them a playoff team again this year. However, keep your eye on Houston as they continue to recover from last year’s hellish season. If Fitzpatrick can avoid throwing the ball to the other team and Arian Foster can return to form after his injury, Houston could be better than expected. Also there’s this new AFC South kid named Blake Bortles…could be an interesting addition in Jacksonville.
Winner: Denver Broncos
That explosive offense in Denver last year? Yeah, they haven’t changed much. Expect Peyton Manning to pick up right where he left off (prior to that last game in February… *clears throat* ). The Broncos should put up a lot of points this year and roll through their division. The biggest question mark for them is whether they’ve become more well-rounded. Last season they relied on finesse alone to work their way into the Super Bowl and met a buzz-saw in Seattle. But regardless of how much grittier they’ve become this year, their well-oiled offense should be more than enough to close out the AFC West.
Winner: Philadelphia Eagles
Nick Foles is not a joke. And neither is the team speed in Philadelphia. With a backfield consisting of Shady McCoy and Darren Sproles, a receiving corps featuring Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper and one of the better tight-end combinations of Brent Celek and Zach Ertz, the Eagles will be firing on all cylinders under Chip Kelly’s lightening style offense. While they haven’t made a lot of defensive adjustments this year, I expect the Eagles defense to be underrated by opponents and able to create sacks and turnovers in crucial situations. Look for Philadelphia to power through their division and launch the Eagles into the playoffs.
Winner: Green Bay Packers
The NFC North is the toughest division to predict this year. Three of the four teams will rely heavily on the play of their quarterbacks. The Vikings, of course, will rest their hopes on the shoulders and legs of Adrian Peterson. For Minnesota, the lack of even middle-of-the-road quarterback play will likely be their biggest obstacle this season and may be the thing that separates them from the rest of the division. Of the three remaining teams, my gut says that Aaron Rodgers’ crew will get the job done in a close race. Certainly the Bears will have the help of Marshall, Jeffrey and Forte, and the Lions will flex their offensive muscles through Johnson, Bush and Tate. But Stafford and Cutler have both been proven to be mistake prone at times in pressure situations. Look for Aaron Rodgers to emerge as the most consistent quarterback in the division and lead his team to the number one spot with the help of an improving defense and Eddie Lacy’s footwork.
Winner: Atlanta Falcons
After a nightmarish season last year that culminated in the injury and loss of 11 total starters (including Roddy White, Julio Jones, Steven Jackson, Sean Weatherspoon, Asante Samuels, etc.) and resulted in only four wins, the Atlanta Falcons will rebound and win the NFC South in 2014. With the strongest receiving corps in the league fully healthy and Matt Ryan’s protection improved, expect the combination of Jones, White, Douglas and Hester to create some of the worst match-ups for defensive backs in the NFL this year. Question-marks remain defensively, but if Atlanta can roll out an even moderate defense, their offense should have the capability of picking apart the NFC South. Look for the Falcons to have around 10 wins, split the series against the Saints this year and head back into the playoffs as the division leader.
Winner: Seattle Seahawks
Last year was not an anomaly. The Seahawks are for real and are back for more this season. Playing in the toughest division in the league, expect Seattle to have to work for their spot in the NFC West. The Arizona Cardinals will once again possess one of the toughest defenses in the league (even despite the painful loss of Darnell Dockett) along with their improving offense. The Rams with feature one of the toughest defensive lines in pro football and will be carried offensively on the back of stud runner Zac Stacy (however, with Sam Bradford out now for the season, questions are looming for the Rams). The 49ers will struggle this season but will still pose problems for Seattle in a rivalry matchup that has been deemed possibly the best over the past few years in the NFL. Yet, despite the tough competition, Pete Carroll’s well-implemented system, showcasing the intelligent play of Russell Wilson and the absolute brutality of the defensive unit, will lead the Seahawks back into the playoffs this season.
Winner: New England Patriots
You might just assume the Broncos are headed right back to the big show again this year. Well here’s a little stat for you: only two teams have ever won the Super Bowl the year after they lost it. That was last accomplished in 1972 by the Miami Dolphins. Now that stat doesn’t mean the Broncos are incapable of making it to the Super Bowl, right? Absolutely correct. The reason the Broncos won’t make it to the Super Bowl is because the New England Patriots play in their conference. Expect Brady and company to enter the playoffs as poised as ever this year and be right back at the big dance for the sixth time in his career.
Winner: Seattle Seahawks
As we’ve already predicted, the 49ers will shock the world by being less than stellar this season, which will throw off the predictions of about 90% of the blogger “experts” out there who are picking them to go to the Super Bowl in 2015. While the NFC is the tougher of the two conferences, it is hard to bet against Seattle to make another appearance. Injury seems to be one of the only things that could stand in the way of the Seahawks repeating an appearance. Certainly, now that Golden Tate and Sidney Rice are no longer on the roster, playmakers like Percy Harvin would need to be able to contribute to keep the Hawks scoring. But we going to call the repeat appearance based on that D, the 12th Man and the phenomenally well crafted system Pete Carroll has in place there. ** It is worth noting that the potential for an outside team to make the Super Bowl seems most likely in the NFC this year. Don’t be surprised if somehow a team like Philadelphia or Green Bay makes a run at the big game and stuns the league.**
Winner: New England Patriots
Sorry Seattle. Tom Brady will join Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana as the only other quarterback in history with rings covering four fingers. Seattle’s hard-nosed defense will make it tough, but the Pats’ clutch play will get them through for the win. Look for Brady to take full advantage of his newly acquired weapons and Belichick to prove yet again his chess-master-like prowess in outwitting opposing coaches.