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September 4, 2014 / galatianssixnine

2014 NFL Regular Season Predictions

Here are my predictions as to how each division will play out over the 2014 NFL regular season. As always, I make these picks mostly on gut and my limited knowledge of each team. It’s just for fun. I did terrible last year, so here’s hoping I look less stupid this year…


AFC North

Ravens
Steelers
Bengals
Browns 

I think the Ravens will be back on the upswing. Flacco got the dreaded I-just-got-paid-so-now-I-need-to-prove-I’m-worth-it disease and naturally sucked it up. Not to mention the fact that the Ravens were essentially rebuilding due to losing key components of their Super Bowl team of two years ago. This is more of a hunch pick, but I’m putting trust in Jon Harbaugh, who is still one of the best coaches in the league.

The Steelers are being pegged by a lot as old and washed up…but for some reason, I just can’t put them lower than second. Last year they finally got their acts together halfway into the season and finished the stretch 6-2, which almost put them into the playoffs at 8-8. Again, I believe in the coach, and I think Tomlin will bring the Steelers back to a winning record.

The Bengals are mostly everyone’s pick to win the division. I’m not buying it. Andy Dalton just got paid (see: Flacco), and his offensive coordinator is now the head coach in Washington. They also lost some pieces on defense. But mostly, I’m predicting Dalton to have a down year and the Bengals to look like the ’13 Ravens.

The Browns will forever be last until they prove me otherwise. I went out on a limb last year on them. I have learned my lesson. Your move, Cleveland. Also, Manziel is a joke.


AFC East

Patriots
Dolphins
Jets
Bills

This one is pretty simple and boring. The Patriots are good, everyone else is bad. I may be underselling the ‘Phins, but I doubt anyone is going to disagree with the fact that the Pats will win the division, and the Bills will come in last. It’s become as dependable as ESPN obsessing over the Cowboys. The Jets overachieved last year with Geno Smith. I still don’t really know what to think of this team…they now have Michael Vick, who is now Geno’s backup and may be good for a thrill or two until becoming the full time starter and subsequently handing the job back to Geno when he gets hurt. Also their defense will probably be pretty decent again. But the offense? Eric Decker? Eh…


AFC West

Broncos
Chargers
Chiefs
Raiders

Again, this one is fairly simple. Unless Manning is injured, the Broncos will run away with this one. The Chiefs had a nice story last year, but I just can’t put my faith in Alex Smith behind a questionable offensive line. True, Andy Reid alone will likely keep them in contention, but I just like how the Chargers have steadily gotten better. I think Rivers will have another good 

year. They seemingly have a tough schedule, but it’s hard to say that when no games have been played yet.

 

The Raiders might actually get even better…but that’s a big maybe. Right now Oakland looks like a retirement community of has-beens. Maybe Matt Schaub will stop throwing pick-sixes, and if he doesn’t, maybe Derek Carr will be the draft steal a lot of people thought he’d be. Maybe Maurice Jones-Drew will return to dominant form. Maybe Zombie Al Davis will haunt the streets of Oakland, moaning “Just brains, baby!” A ton of question marks, but also a good amount of potential.

AFC South

Colts
Titans
Jaguars
Texans

Another division with a little-disputed front-runner. The Colts are just flat-out better than everyone in the South, while the others are in rebuilding mode. The bottom three may be pretty interchangeable. I can see arguments for them all finishing 

second, and I can see arguments for them all finishing dead last with the first pick in the draft. I was very tempted to put Jacksonville second…but I seem to rank them higher than they should be every year. They are much improving, but I think we all can agree that Blake Bortles will be starting by the halfway point, which means that Chad Henne will suck enough to lose the job. I think they’ll get 6-8 wins.

The Titans have a new head coach, which is always tricky. Also, Jake Locker hasn’t really shown much to firmly establish his role as their QB of the future. It’s put up or shut up at this point. I say they get 8ish wins.

The Texans will have a great pass rush…but that’s it. No QB, a washed up running back, and a new head coach. That no offense thing will kill ya. I haven’t seen enough to think that Houston can get more than 6 wins.


NFC North

Packers
Bears
Lions
Vikings

This one’s tough, as it has been the last few years. This time I’m going to give the edge to the Packers. The thing I’m hesitant with with every team in this division is defense. You have three potential high-powered offenses and three suspect defenses. I’m going with the Packers simply because of the quarterback, and consistency with the head coach. If Rogers stays healthy 

the whole way through, I think Green Bay takes the crown. The Bears could also win the division. I would just rather trust Rogers over Cutler.

 

Then there’s the Lions, who have only one consistent player on their team (Megatron). Stafford needs to stay healthy and needs to cut back on the boneheaded mistakes (much like Cutler). They have a new head coach that is determined to make sure that happens. We’ll see…but to me Detroit is too much of a wild card.

 

The Vikings still are questionable at QB, and is another situation where the first-round rookie will likely end the season as the starter. Matt Cassel hasn’t been good since New England, and they are in one of the toughest divisions in football. At least Adrian Peterson will give us plenty of highlights. Who knows, though. Maybe Teddy Bridgewater will come in and save the day at some point midseason.


NFC East

Eagles
Giants
Cowboys
Redskins

Another toughy. I always seem to get this division way wrong. Here’s the thing about the Eagles – I’m going under the assumption that Nick Foles is not a one-hit wonder and that Chip Kelly still has tricks up his sleeve to keep defenses guessing. Right now my gut is telling me that with a year’s worth of tape, defenses across the league will 

have the gimmicky, quick offense figured out and will handle the Eagles much better. I’m ignoring my gut.

 

The next three are interchangeable. This is yet another situation where I can see arguments for every team 2-4. Each team has a ton to prove, and again I’m going with the head coach. Coughlin is the better of the three, and while you never know what you get with the Giants, I feel like they’re the safer pick. Eli may throw 30 interceptions, but they still may get hot at the end of the year and win the Super Bowl. Who knows.

The Cowboys are a dumpster fire waiting to happen. So much talent, but they always underachieve. From now on, I’ll keep them at 3 or lower until they prove they can live up to their hype. The Redskins have a new coach, and he’s an up-and-coming offensive Gruden, but I just don’t know what to think about RGIII. He still hasn’t learned to slide, and his good-boy, team-first attitude seems to have changed to whiny baby who gets his coach fired. I just can’t take them seriously until we know if he truly can sustain a high level of play. Also, LEARN TO SLIDE!!


NFC West

Seahawks
Cardinals
49ers
Rams

The Seahawks are the reigning champs, and they’re one of the youngest teams in the NFL. Why wouldn’t they repeat? Well, this is the NFL after all, so they very well could get hit with the injury bug or just completely collapse for some unforeseen reason. Either way, they still look pretty dang good. To be the man, you gotta beat the man…and they are the man. The very young, overachieving man that still looks like he can get even better with age. Of course, this is what people said about the Packers a few years ago when they won the Super Bowl…

 

I expect a lot of this.

In one of my surprise picks, I have the Cardinals finishing above the 49ers. This is more about the 49ers tanking than the Cardinals getting better (though I believe both are happening). I don’t know…it’s just the Niners are losing players left and right to suspension, on top of the fact that Frank Gore was starting to show his age, on top of the fact that I just don’t trust Colin Kaepernick. How he does this year will be very telling as to how well he’ll do in his career. He just got paid and, while the contract is very incentive-based, I wonder how he will do now under the pressure of a big paycheck. I’ll admit this is more based on hunch than anything…but hey, that’s what this yearly prediction is all about.

The Rams lost Bradford and they have no one to back him up. They may have the number one pick this year. At least their defense looks solid?


NFC South

Saints
Falcons
Buccaneers
Panthers

Man this was tough. I am pretty confident in the Saints taking the division this year, but the bottom three can make a great case for second place. I can see any of those three teams going 10-6 just as well as I can see them go 4-12.

I picked the Falcons second because of a few factors- the head coach, the quarterback, and the pressure. Of the three teams, Mike Smith is the most established and the most successful head coach (within the division…this is Lovie Smith’s first year). I do believe that last year was the fluke, and not the previous five, where Atlanta had winning seasons. Of the three, Atlanta has the best quarterback. In fact, of the three, Atlanta has the best passing offense. Their defense and run game will keep them out of first place (and likely the playoffs), but this year will see the most offense the NFL has ever seen through the air, and the Falcons are built for that. And finally, they just have too much to prove. Smith’s seat is getting warm, and if they don’t win this year he may get fired (which would be ridiculous, by the way). I think he’s just too good of a coach. I think they’ll bounce back.

Then there’s my beloved Buccaneers. Last year I was way too optimistic about them (although I still think I made a great case for them without knowing just how bad Josh Freeman’s attitude was). This year, I’m trying my hardest to stay realistic. We have a new head coach who was a former coach under the Dungy era, and we have a completely revamped defense. The Bucs attacked their holes on defense in free agency, attacked their holes on offense through the draft, and attacked their holes on the O-line through trades. They want to win, and they want to win now. This is not a “rebuilding year,” if you ask Lovie. I firmly believe this team is capable of having a winning season. My hope is that they go 8-8. The problem is that their biggest question marks are on the most important positions – QB and the offensive line.

Josh McCown was a serviceable pickup, considering what they had. McCown had a great stretch last year backing up Cutler and throwing for 13 TDs and 1 pick…but he’s a journeyman quarterback for a reason, right? So which Josh McCown are we going to see? The one we saw last year light it up with big receivers? Or the one we saw every year previous? That’s too much of a question mark for me to put my faith in his ability to lead Tampa Bay back into the playoffs. I hope he has some Brad Johnson in him and proves he can succeed in the right system. The offensive line, even with Logan Mankins, is a work in progress…for all we know, McCown may not even have any time to throw.

Annnd the Panthers
Those who know me well know I’m a big hater on Carolina…and believe me, I really tried to put them higher to make myself look better…but I just don’t see them making the playoffs this year. They were the luckiest team in the NFL last year, with every late bounce going their way. Also, Cam Newton is battling offseason injuries, which could put them in a hole to start the season as he doesn’t play at 100%. While I think he’s an overrated QB, he is still the best one on their roster, and they will falter without him doing what he does. Carolina also has a shakey O-line, so-so, aging running backs, and unproven nobodys at wide receiver. Their defense is solid…but that’s about it. I’m thinking they may have around 6 wins this year.

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