It’s August 1st and I’m sure everyone knows what that means. Football season is in the air. We are exactly five weeks and some odd hours away from the defending Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens travel to Denver to face Peyton Manning and the Broncos, the same team that knocked them out of the playoffs some nine months ago.
My good pal Allen @allen_strk and I will be back in the next few weeks to discuss the hot topics, big questions and predict a few games in our weekly piece that we did all of last season.
We just concluded an eight week special piece on my radio show, Macho Men Radio, called ‘8 Divisions In 8 Weeks’ where we broke down one division each and every week. To prepare for that piece I put all 32 teams schedules into a Microsoft Excel sheet and went game by game determining winners. I threw in some upsets and also took into play that these two things have happened in each of the last 10 seasons: There has been a team that has went from worst to first in a division every year and on average there are at least 4 to 5 new playoff teams each year than from the year prior.
After doing my research I have ranked the teams in order from 1-32. I will lay them on you with a brief opinion and the record that I have them projected at. Here we go!
32. New York Jets (3-13)- They may have drafted alright, but neither Mark Sanchez nor Geno Smith will find more than 3 wins with their schedule. Chris Ivory might be a surprise at running back, but losing one of the best corners in the NFL and not having any decent targets for your young QB’s will give you a chance to take the #1 Pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13)- Slow and steady wins the race. In Jacksonville’s case, there won’t be many wins. Their problem stems from the Quarterback position. Blaine Gabbert was a bust and Chad Henne might not be the guy there. They’ll be in good shape to draft Teddy Bridgewater from Louisville next season.
30. Oakland Raiders (4-12)- Now it’s time for Matt Flynn to prove if he really is a quarterback of the system or if he’s a future leader of the Oakland Raiders. Hopefully he can stay healthy and play all 16 games. Oakland may surprise some people, but then again…they’re the Raiders and they probably won’t.
29. Arizona Cardinals (4-12)- Remember last season when the Arizona Cardinals were 4-0 last season and atop the NFC West? Yeah, neither do I. They lost 11 of their last 12 and Larry Fitzgerald had his worst season in his 9 seasons in the NFL. This year brings a bit of change to the Cardinals offense. Carson Palmer makes Fitzgerald’s fantasy football stock go up and who knows what to think of Rashard Mendenhall at running back. It’ll be another tough year for Arizona.
28. Dallas Cowboys (5-11)- Alright, I’m ready to be ridiculed for this one. Dallas has been an 8 win team the last two seasons and I have them falling off by 3 games. I think they have a tough schedule. I don’t think they’ll have an effective running game and I don’t have any faith in Tony Romo. Sorry Cowboys fans. Note to Jerry Jones: Stop making decisions.
27. Tennessee Titans (5-11)- Tennessee might have a couple other wins on their schedule but I’m not a firm believer that Jake Locker will be a solid starter in the NFL. Chris Johnson is the one guy in the NFL that I wouldn’t touch in fantasy football. Do I need to justify myself with any other reasons why the Titans won’t be a titanic team this season? They might be more like the boat with the same name.
26. Buffalo Bills (5-11)- They were a sneaky playoff pick last season and ended up disappointing tremendously. New Head Coach Doug Marrone surprisingly drafted EJ Manuel in the first round of the draft. This could be a matter of just getting a new guy in line (See: Wilson, Russell) to lead a team with talent. I don’t think that’s the case here, but hey, crazier things have happened.
25. San Diego Chargers (5-11)- I don’t think the stock has been any lower on Philip Rivers and Company than it is this year. Ryan Mathews played in 12 games last season and has yet to play a full season entering his 4th year in the league. I personally believe that this will be a rough season for the Chargers and next season Rivers might have a change of scenery while the Chargers rebuild.
24. Carolina Panthers (6-10)- Cam Newton can’t win all the games by himself and lord knows if he pouts about it he won’t win six games.
23. Philadelphia Eagles (7-9)- I don’t believe the Eagles will be as bad as they were last season but I don’t believe they will be as good as a lot of people are saying they will be. The loss of Jeremy Maclin will hurt more than people think. If they can get solid play from whoever their quarterback will be, they should be an average club.
22. Detroit Lions (7-9)- The Lions are the team in the NFC North that I can’t figure out. Sure, they could win 10 games, but they could also win 5. It all comes down to if their defense can come together and perform at a higher level than last season and if Matthew Stafford can connect on more than 20 touchdowns. You cannot throw for 5,000 yards and 20 touchdowns. Keep your eyes on Reggie Bush playing indoors on a fast track, he might have a huge season!
21. Minnesota Vikings (7-9)- Last season the Vikings surprised everyone and made the playoffs. We will find out for sure how invested the franchise is in Christian Ponder this season. The Vikings have a BRUTAL stretch between Weeks 6 and 16 in their schedule. They could very well start the season off with 4 or 5 wins by Week 6 or 7, but once they start to lose games, and trust me, they will. Will they pull the plug on Ponder if he’s the reason? Adrian Peterson will not rush for 2,000 yards this year, he’ll be around the 1,500 mark or less. There is no way this team reaches the playoffs this season. Not. A. Chance.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-9)- The Steelers should hope that they stay healthy this season because that is their only hope of contending this season. They’re aging and they don’t have a lot of depth at some key positions. They are hoping that their run game will pan out but I really believe that their time as a power in the AFC is coming to an end. Especially when I have the next team ranked ahead of them.
19. Cleveland Browns (8-8)- Hey look, another pick of mine that’s gotten some heat. Cleveland has more talent that people give them credit for. They brought in Paul Kruger and Quentin Groves at linebacker and drafted Barkevious Mingo at the same position. Defensively, I believe they will be in better shape than most think and if Trent Richardson stays healthy, he should be a threat that throws off defenses.
18. St. Louis Rams (8-8)- How good is the NFC West? (Sans the Arizona Cardinals) The addition of Jake Long is an investment in Sam Bradford and I loved their draft. A pair of receivers from West Virginia and a projected top Linebacker in the draft in Alec Ogletree. The future is bright for St. Louis. They will be a thorn in the side of many opponents this season, including their division rivals. Hey John Canton, how you doing?
17. New Orleans Saints (8-8)- The Saints defense was abysmal last season and even though Drew Brees is on the field, which guarantees at least 8 wins, Drew Brees’ defense is on the field which should more than likely guarantee 8 losses.
16. Washington Redskins (8-8)- The Redskins caught fire last season. They started off 3-6 and finished the season on a 7 game winning streak to make the playoffs. If it weren’t for a 1 point victory over the Giants, they would have been watching the postseason and RG3 wouldn’t have had a knee injury. The Redskins will come back to earth this season and 8 wins might be a stretch. They got hot and won too quickly because this season, they won’t be division champs.
15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-7)- The Bucs were on the cusp last season and now with adding a big name in Darrelle Revis to their secondary they should be able to close out on some close games. 5 losses last year were by 7 points or less. Doug Martin needs to run the ball like he did last year for them to achieve the success they had, but in my humble opinion, the Buccaneers will be flirting with a playoff spot.
14. Baltimore Ravens (9-7)- Profootballtalk.com ranks the Raven’s as the #3 team in the NFL. That statement is utterly preposterous. I’ve given them the respect that they’ve earned as Super Bowl Champs, but even I think their 9 wins is a bit high. It will be a completely new look on defense and with his fat new contract in hand, Joe Flacco’s expectations are at an all-time high. He needs to put up numbers like he did in the playoffs all season long.
13. Kansas City Chiefs (9-7)- Last season I had the Kansas City Chiefs winning the AFC West. They won 2 games. I ate crow and have been ridiculed by my radio co-host and best friend @RealCMAC24 for the past year or so. I believe they are one of the favorites to at least make the playoffs this season and if Alex Smith can manage the offense and let Jamaal Charles carry a majority of the load, they should be a potential playoff team.
12. Miami Dolphins (9-7)- Depending on how New England can come together and embrace the plethora of change on offense, the Dolphins could be that sneaky team that bumps them out of first place. While I think the Dolphins will be competitive and may strike gold with a playoff spot, I think they’re a year or two away from dethroning the Patriots.
11. Indianapolis Colts (10-6)- The Colts don’t look to be going anywhere after having a year off between the ending of the Peyton Manning Era and the start of the Andrew Luck Era. They have the right coach to bring them back to the playoffs and if the Texans aren’t careful, the Colts have a legitimate shot of knocking them off and stealing the division. It almost happened last year.
10. Chicago Bears (10-6)- The best thing to happen to both Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall was the hiring of Marc Trestman as head coach. These two guys will have big years if Trestman can carry over his CFL success to the NFL. The Bears should be a playoff team.
9. San Francisco 49ers (10-6)- Yes, another pick I’m sure I’ll get some flak for. I think this team has a bit of the ‘Eagles Dream Team Syndrome’ approaching. They did pick up some names that will contribute. I personally believe that this season Colin Kaepernick will fall off a bit. The read option will go the way of the Wildcat and other gimmicks that have taken the NFL by storm. Michael Vick was tremendous when he started in the league and minus the dog fighting, he got figured out. I think Kaepernick will have to use his arm much more and the Niners will fall off.
8. New York Giants (10-6)- The Giants were their typical selves last season. Inconsistent play and injuries hurt (no pun intended) this team’s chances of reaching the postseason. I believe they’ll be the favorite heading into this season. Not in the NFL or NFC…but the NFC East, that’s good, right?
7. Houston Texans (11-5)- There’s been talk that the Texans window is closing and while I don’t disagree with that statement, I believe the window is closing faster than anticipated with the success of the Colts last season. This team is built to make a run and with the additions of Ed Reed on defense and drafting DeAndre Hopkins as another weapon on offense. Now is not the time for mediocre football for Houston.
6. Green Bay Packers (11-5)- What? You’re surprised I didn’t put my team closer to #1? I’m a homer, but I’m also realistic. The Packers didn’t do anything via free agency but despite losing Greg Jennings on offense they still made a huge mark by drafting running backs Eddie Lacy and Jonathan Franklin. They will add another dimension that has been missing from the Packers in recent years. Defensively, I think their weakest point is at linebacker, but if they can stay healthy, Nick Perry and Clay Matthews on the outside will be a tremendous pass rush and hopefully rookie Datone Jones will help on the defensive line. When you’ve got Aaron Rodgers, you’re guaranteed 8-10 wins.
5. Cincinnati Bengals (11-5)- The AFC North is the Bengals to lose this season. The addition of James Harrison on defense is a big move. If Harrison can stay healthy, he has a good shot of being very productive. Andy Dalton and AJ Green continue to grow as one of the up and coming QB/WR tandems in the NFL and keep your eyes on the rookie running back Giovani Bernard from North Carolina. He and BenJarvus Green-Ellis can be a fairly effective two headed monster.
4. New England Patriots (11-5)- Much like Rodgers and Brees to their respective teams, whenever you put Tom Brady on the field, your team should win at least 8 games in a season. Brady lost almost all of his receivers from a year ago and Rob Gronkowski might not be healthy to start the season. Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen can catch the ball and remember, they also have Leon Washington and LeGarrette Blount. Brady and Coach Hoodie will make it work.
3. Seattle Seahawks (11-5)- I was high on Seattle going into last season and I’m high on them as well. Even though they’ve lost Percy Harvin for a majority of last season, we need to keep this in mind: They did not have Harvin last season and most of their offseason additions came on the defensive side of the ball. They will be okay as long as Russell Wilson doesn’t have a sophomore slump.
2. Denver Broncos (12-4)- Denver was on the wrong side of a hot Baltimore team in the playoffs and is the favorite in the AFC. Putting Wes Welker on the same sideline as Peyton Manning is almost unfair. Peyton has a fantastic receiving corp and a rookie running back in Montee Ball. Four losses might be a stretch.
1. Atlanta Falcons (12-4)- This is the best team in the NFC. Matt Ryan just got paid and he’s got some great weapons. Stephen Jackson wants to prove that he’s got a few years left. They addressed their defense in the draft and through free agency. The Falcons are ready to contend.
Those are my picks. I’m sure some of you will love them and I’m sure some of you will hate them. Before you take to the comment bar below and take to Twitter, I would like you to keep in mind what I stated before.
In the last 10 years, a team has gone from worst to first each season and there are usually at least 4 to 5 new playoff teams from the prior season every year. It’s not made up, it’s been a proven fact over the last decade or more. So, if you don’t think that I’ve got some of those surprise teams picked to have a good year, who do you think will take their place?
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