Can you feel it? Can you feel that warm fuzzy feeling, the beautiful smell in the air, the twinkling lights, the merriment, the cheer?! No, I'm not talking about Christmas. Well, in a way I am, because tomorrow is kinda like my Christmas. It's the first Sunday of the NFL Season!!! Even though we already watched the Packers get waxed at the hands of the Seahawks on Thursday night, Sunday is the REAL start to the season.
So, it's time to put on our pads, lace up our cleats, and get ready for 17+ weeks of action, emotion, mayhem, and the greatest sport known to man that doesn't rhyme with hurling! Here is my official predictions for the 2014-15 NFL Season ...
AFC East - Believe me when I say, this division is bad. And I mean "The Buffalo Bills just signed a retired quarterback to take over for the first round draft pick from last year" kind of bad. If I had to take a guess, and that's what I do, 3 of the 4 teams in this division will have a losing record. In fact, I'll even go so far to say that the division winner will have more wins than all of the other 3 teams in the division COMBINED! Division Winner - New England Patriots
AFC North - The AFC North is like that annoying family member that you know is going to do 1 good thing all year but you have no idea where and when it will take place. This is a group of mediocre teams who are all good enough to stay in football games but weak enough to potentially lose to a team in the AFC East on a freaky Sunday afternoon. While I think there are 3 squads here that could potentially put together a run (sorry Browns) I'm expecting a clear winner at the end of the season. Division Winner - Cincinnati Bengals
AFC West - There's a lot of talent in this group of 4 teams that not-too-long-ago was the laughing stock of the AFC. However, bring in a healthy Peyton Manning and rejuvenated Andy Reid and all of a sudden this is actually the class of the conference. Despite the suspensions, the Broncos are easily the face of the AFC right now and deserve to keep that podium as long as Peyton's neck isn't removed from the rest of his body. What might surprise you is that I have BOTH of the conference Wild Card births coming from this division. Division Winner - Denver Broncos; Wild Cards - Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers
AFC South - One horse race, no pun intended. Ok, I lie, pun COMPLETELY intended. The only way this division becomes competitive is if the Texans bench Ryan Fitzpatrick and give a much deserved chance to the best backup quarterback in the NFL, Ryan Mallett. Division Winner - Indianapolis Colts
AFC Playoffs - Based on the predictions above, I'm going with the following seedings:
1 - Broncos2 - Patriots
3 - Colts
4 - Bengals
5 - Chargers
6 - Chiefs
How do I see it playing out? In the Wild Card round I think the Colts take out the Chiefs and the Chargers upset the Bengals. In the Divisional round the Broncos will have a hard fought win over their division rival Chargers and the Colts will upset the Patriots in Foxboro. That will setup yet another Peyton-versus-his-former-team game in the AFC Championship with the Broncos heading back to the Super Bowl for the second straight year.
NFC East - As a lifelong fan of the NY Giants, I really want to brag about our division this season. I want to tell you all of the reasons why we're the dominant force in the NFL and we're going to steamroll the competition this year. Unfortunately, my Mom taught me that the worst thing I can do in life is lie. Stupid life lessons. In reality, the NFC East is kind of like the NFC Least in the NFL. The Deadskins are run by a quarterback who will be lucky to stay out of the hospital, the Cowboys have the most under-rated pass tosser in the league but only one legitimate WR to throw it to, and the Giants are the worst team in the history of football to go 5-0 in the pre-season. In fact, I would bet money that the Giants win more pre-season games this year than regular season. On second thought, my G-men will likely win 8 games again ... just enough to miss the playoffs and still get the crappiest draft pick possible. Division Winner - Philadelphia Eagles
NFC North - Now HERE is a division with some talented football players. I'm going to pretend I didn't see the Packers lay an egg on Thursday night (well, maybe partially pretend) and give credit to the Vikings simply for having the best Running Back in the world right now. As much as I absolutely hate his guts, I think Jay Cutler will lead the Bears to their best season in years and Matthew Stafford has more weapons in Detroit than President "W" thought Iraq had about 10 years ago. Watch out for my boy Eric Ebron (Go Heels!) to climb up the depth chart and make a real impact this season alongside Megatron and the Golden One. Division Winner - Chicago Bears; Wild Card - Detroit Lions
NFC West - If I thought the North was talented, that would have to make the West exceptional. Remember a couple of years ago when the winner of the NFC West had a losing record? That seems like generations away right now. Top to bottom, this is easily the best division in all of football and I think 3 of the 4 teams in this group could win any other division this season if they were in them. Ironically, the worst team in the NFL lives in the basement here and could easily find themselves 0-16 come January. This is easily the toughest division to pick and the only thing I'm confident in is that 2 teams from the West will make the playoffs. I'm making this pick with my pre-Thursday night mindset to remain fair for my loyal reading audience. Division Winner - San Francisco 49ers; Wild Card - Arizona Cardinals (Yup, no Seahawks)
NFC South - This division race could potentially be interesting if the Falcons are willing to invest in a fleet of Hummers to replace their offense line and protect Matt Ryan. Between Julio, Roddy, and Harry, Matty Ice has a plethora (you like that SAT word don't you?) of receivers to choose from. He should throw for a lot of yards as long as he stays off his back and doesn't get hurt. He better do that too because his running game will be a joke. Outside of Atlanta, the Bucs would struggle in the SEC and Cam Newton is the most overrated big-shot in the league. Which leaves me one team to win the division by default. Division Winner - New Orleans Saints
NFC Playoffs - This is a tougher puzzle than the AFC, but I see the breakdown as follows:
1 - 49ers2 - Saints
3 - Bears
4 - Eagles
5 - Lions
6 - Cardinals
So who's going to the Super Bowl? Again, I'm playing this out as if I never saw the Seahawks blow up the Pack earlier in the week. In the Wild Card, I like Jay Cutler to finally crumble (as he does and will be traded because of) to the incredible Cardinals defense (beware the Honey Badger) with the Lions overpowering my coach-crush Chip Kelly and his Eagles. That would leave me a rematch between the Niners and Cardinals with the Saints hosting the Lions. I think San Fran will be just a little too powerful for the Cardinals once their offense comes together and I there's something special about this year's Lions team. However, the run for Detroit will end in the Bay when "Kaep" takes the Niners to the Super Bowl after a high scoring NFC Championship game.
Super Bowl - If this thing actually ends up being Denver versus San Fran like I projected above, it could be one of the greatest games ever played. You would have Peyton Manning, likely in his final season with a HUGE chip on his shoulder, taking on a Niners team that is aggressive and hungry to avenge two straight heart breaking playoff losses. When you get to the big game, I truly believe talent wins out, which means my Super Bowl Champion is the San Francisco 49ers. Barely. By a point. Maybe a half a point.
League MVP - It doesn't matter how bad his team is, Adrian Peterson is going to have the best statistical year of any running back in the history of the NFL. Look for him to break the single season rush record by at least 100 yards and prove that he truly is the top guy in the game. There's a couple of guys who can stay in the conversation early (expect Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Matthew Stafford to get consideration) but ultimately none of them will touch "All Day."
Comeback Player of the Year - Tim Tebow. As if anyone else was even an option.
Let's get this thing started ...