Tuesday, September 2, 2014

NFL 2014 preview, conclusion

With the 2014 season 2 days away, we're wrapping up today.

AFC South:

There is a changing of the guard in Houston. Coach Gary Kubiak is gone, and so is QB Matt Schaub (Oakland). Ryan Fitzpatrick takes over as the starter, and Ryan Mallett was picked up from New England over the weekend to be the backup. Bill O'Brien (Penn State), a former Patriots assistant, is the new head man, and that should prove interesting down the line, assuming the Texans have to face the Pats this year. Bill Belichick ain't exactly very accomodating to former assistants-turned-head-coaches (i.e. Romeo Crennel), if ya get the drift.

Meanwhile, it's year 3 in Indianapolis for QB Andrew Luck, and I'd have to believe Colts fans won't be satisfied with just a division title. Just not sure if they really have the firepower they usually do, on offense or defense. Tennessee picked up Shonn Greene from the Jets last year, so what happens? Chris Johnson bolts via free agency to join Gang Green. Go figure. It's also year 3 for Jake Locker, and while the Titans were on the cusp of a breakthrough last year, it's virtually mandatory this year. And, then, there's Jacksonville, whose new owner is ignoring the fans' pleas to sign Tim Tebow, who played his college ball a few miles away in Gainesville (Florida), and is still a hero there. Maurice Jones-Drew is gone (Oakland), and so is Blaine Gabbert (San Francisco). Blake Bortles may not be ready.

Projected order of finish:

1. Indianapolis

2. Tennessee

3. Houston

4. Jacksonville

AFC West:

After getting shellshocked by Seattle in the Super Bowl, Peyton Manning and the Pizza Salesmen, aka the Denver Broncos, will be motivated to prove that blowout loss was more of an aberration than anything else. However, receiver Wes Welker has been hit with a suspension for using performance enhancing drugs. It ain't enough he was recovering from a concussion. PEDs? Well, he used to play for New England. Makes ya wonder........! Defensively, the rich get richer, with DeMarcus Ware coming over from Dallas.

In addition to Maurice Jones-Drew & Matt Schaub, Oakland drafted Derek Carr, who will be their opening day quarterback, and picked up Lamarr Woodley (Pittsburgh) and Justin Tuck (Giants) to shore up the defensive line. Tuck returns to the Meadowlands right away, as the Raiders play the Jets on Sunday. Lucky, isn't he? Oakland could surprise, creating sleepless nights for both San Diego & Kansas City. The Chiefs signed Alex Smith to a 4 year extension last week, impressed with his work last year. Expect more of the same.

Projected order of finish

1. Denver

2. Kansas City

3. San Diego

3. (tie) Oakland

Wild cards: Kansas City, Cincinnati.

NFC South:

Madison Avenue finally realized the value of New Orleans QB Drew Brees over the last couple of years. Brees has done ads for Procter & Gamble (Vicks Nyquil), Wrangler, and Verizon. Wrangler hired him, ostensibly, to succeed Brett Favre as Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s wingman. Meh. However, the Saints let Darren Sproles go, which was a big mistake. Trust me. Carolina parted with Steve Smith (Baltimore), who had been there seemingly forever. They still have Cam Newton. Enough said. The Greg Schiano era is over in Tampa Bay after 2 seasons, with Lovie Smith back on the sidelines after a year off. However, the Buccaneers lost defensive back Darrelle Revis, who goes back to the AFC East (New England). Bad move. Didn't like what I saw from the defense last year, and this will not help. In Atlanta, Matt Ryan may not be "Matty Ice" anymore, but the Falcons are still a threat to win the division regardless.

Projected order of finish:

1. New Orleans

2. Carolina

3. Atlanta

4. Tampa Bay

NFC West:

Seattle's "Legion of Boom" defense took a hit when Walter Thurmond took the free agency route and went East (Giants). With the noise the "12th Man" generates, I'm wondering if they actually use the Road Warriors' old theme music when they take the field. Digressing. The Seahawks opened some eyes with their dismantling of Denver in the Super Bowl. I'd like to see them do that to New England, and see if Tom Brady cries like a spoiled child after the beatdown. San Francisco looked awful in their first two preseason games, but then turned things around. Could it be that Colin Kaepernick has peaked? Maybe. Mario Manningham returned to the Giants, but I'm not sure he made their opening day roster. The 49ers, though, still have enough weapons on both sides of the ball. Arizona picked up kick returner Ted Ginn, Jr. from the Niners, who should've known better. Carson Palmer, like Kurt Warner before him, has found new life in the desert.

St. Louis made waves drafting Michael Sam in the 7th round. Unfortunately, it now looks like little more than a publicity ploy, as Sam was cut on Saturday, despite 3 sacks & 11 tackles in 4 games. Word is Dallas is taking a flier on Sam, and they do need defensive help. Maybe Jerry Jones is campaigning for sainthood. Naaaaah. The Rams, though, need help on offense, with Sam Bradford gone for the year after a knee injury.

Projected order of finish:

1. Seattle

2. San Francisco

2. (tie) Arizona

4. St. Louis

Wild cards: Washington, Carolina.

Of course, I could be wrong.

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