Sunday, August 24, 2014

NFL 2014 preview, part 1

This year, we're doing things a wee bit differently. We will cover each division, but in the best interests of time and clarity, we'll cover the Eastern division in each conference in this chapter, and then, the North, and so on.

AFC East: As we noted before the division is New England's to lose. As long as owner Robert Kraft has a position on the competition committee, the Patriots are going to get a lot of preferential treatment, especially at home. That shouldn't be allowed to happen, especially now that Crybaby Brady was exposed last year as a sore loser on a couple of occasions, particularly at Carolina. Tom Brady is entering his 15th season, but his lack of decorum in the loss to the Panthers was demonstrated on ESPN, and led to the zebras pacifying Brady at home six nights later by swallowing their whistles in the 2nd half vs. Denver to help the Patriots pick up a win. The Broncos collected a receipt 2 months later, but that isn't enough. It never is.

So, the race is for second place and a possible wild card berth. I haven't seen Miami play yet, nor have I seen the New York Jets, but in the case of the latter, the tabloids are having a field day. Seems coach Rex Ryan, in his 6th year, has found his missing swagger. In effect, GM John Idzik swapped quarterbacks with Philadelphia, as Mark Sanchez signed with the Eagles after their former starter, Michael Vick, was picked up by the Jets to be the new mentor to second year QB Geno Smith. Buffalo? Sure, they have an exciting rookie wideout in Sammy Watkins (Clemson), but he got hurt a week ago and didn't impress in the Hall of Fame game against the Giants 3 weeks ago. See what I mean about the Pats being a default favorite to win the division again?

Projected order of finish:

1. New England

2. Jets

2. (tie) Miami

4. Buffalo

NFC East: The big story in the division, of course, isn't the defending champions from Philadelphia. No, the Eagles are flying under the radar, despite the above mentioned free agent swap of QBs with the Jets. I had seen an internet headline suggesting the Eagles were already listening to offers for Sanchez, but if anyone can resurrect his career, it would be coach Chip Kelly, who brought a winning attitude with him from Oregon and promptly won the division. Sanchez shouldn't have any pressure on him, now that he's clearly a backup behind starter Nick Foles and probably also 2nd year backup Matt Barkley, like Sanchez a USC product. In fact, Barkley succeeded Sanchez as the QB at USC. Talk about serendipity.

The reason the Eagles are "under the radar" in the preseason is because of the ongoing jibba-jabba over Washington and owner Daniel Snyder's refusal to change the team name. Phil Simms has already gone on record as saying he won't use the name, and he has a Thursday night game to call involving Washington early in the season. Same goes for coach-turned-NBC analyst/moral watchdog Tony Dungy. Snyder is trading on more than 75 years of tradition, figuring that if it ain't broken, you don't fix it. Normally, that would be true, but Snyder's defiance is flying in the face of the PC Police.

Here at The Land of Whatever, we have two solutions for Mr. Snyder to consider. On the one hand, and I suggested this in a letter to The (Troy) Record, Snyder can resurrect a dormant franchise name that baseball's Nationals turned down. Like, considering that team names are commonly shared among pro, college, and high school teams, and even teams in different sports (i.e. Cardinals), why not call them the Washington Senators?

Enough digression. What can get Washington over the hump and back to the playoffs would be new coach Jay Gruden, brother of ESPN analyst Jon. Jay's no stranger to championships, by the way, having been successful in the Arena league with Tampa Bay for a number of years. If he can duplicate what Kelly did last year in terms of changing the culture in the locker room, Snyder will be less of a distraction.

Meanwhile, the New York Giants are surprising everyone by going 4-0 in the preseason to this point. Most of it has to do with 2nd year backup Ryan Nassib (Syracuse) injecting fresh energy into the offense, and that means starter Eli Manning, in his 11th year, needs to stop taking offers for stupid commercials that actually make him look bad and start proving he can still be the leader that directed Big Blue to 2 Super Bowls. I am afraid, however, that Manning has dropped further off the scale than folks thought would happen to his pizza baron brother. First sign of trouble, the faithful at the Meadowlands will be calling for Nassib. Count on it. In Dallas, you'd have to consider sending Jerry Jones to the sanitarium for continuing to put his faith in Tony Romo at QB, because we've seen it every year. Romo cannot close the deal. One playoff appearance in the Romo era would have led to a change in any other city, but in Dallas, where they let defensive lineman DeMarcus Ware walk, Jones still calls the shots because he's too selfish and won't spend the money to hire a GM who actually knows more about football than he does.

Projected order of finish:

1. Philadelphia

2. Washington

3. Giants

4. Dallas

Of course, I could be wrong.

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