Football is still a couple of months away, but the offseason has brought a lot of movement and some impact rookies. Here is how I see the football landscape shaking out in 2014 with my 32 bold predictions.
Also: Which Rookie Wide Receivers Will Be Best In 2014?
Andre Ellington will have a true breakout season as the lead back in Arizona. It was obvious last season that Ellington had the tools to be a beast, but he was never afforded an opportunity.
Despite many expecting the Falcons to have a bounceback season, they will disappoint again. The departure of Tony Gonzalez hurts and the team is old in many spots. Injuries weren’t the only problem last year; don’t expect to see the Falcons in the playoffs.
Steve Smith goes over 1000 receiving yards opposite Torrey Smith. Steve Smith has not had a legitimate weapon to shift coverage from him since Muhsin Muhammad and he will flourish in Gary Kubiak’s offense.
C.J. Spiller will return to relevance and put up big numbers in 2014. A return to health will mean the signature explosiveness of Spiller will once again be on display.
Cam Newton will find a way to lead Carolina to a winning record despite a terrible receiving corps. He will be working with several second tier wide receivers and a promising but raw rookie. Despite this, the Panthers defense and Cam Newton will push the team into the playoffs.
Alshon Jefferey will be the number 2 wide receiver in the league behind Calvin Johnson. At least 1200 yards and 7 touchdowns. This spot would have been occupied by Josh Gordon if he had played.
Jeremy Hill earns the starting nod with Giovanni Bernard serving as a change of pace back. Hill will put up solid numbers in the neighborhood of 900 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Johnny Manziel will struggle in his first season without Josh Gordon to target. There will be highlight reel plays, but ultimately the offense will be ugly to watch.
The Cowboys defense finished dead last in the league in 2014, so this may not be a truly bold prediction. Either way, they were awful last year and they lost Sean Lee and Demarcus Ware. Train Wreck.
The ‘boys won’t win many games but Terrance Williams and Dez Bryant both eclipse 1000 receiving yards.
Denver will miss Knowshon Moreno more than expected. Fumbles and missed blocks will keep Montee Ball from being a feature back and Denver becomes a true running back by comittee team.
Green Bay Packers:
Which brings us to the team that will win the NFC North. Julius Peppers and Clay Mathews will combine for more sacks than any tandem in the NFL, including Demarcus Ware and Von Miller.
Ryan Fitzpatrick will bring some surprise stability to the quarterback position. The Texans will narrowly miss the playoffs but Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins will have big years thanks to Fitzpatrick.
Donte Moncrief is the offensive rookie of the year.
I wrote about Moncrief in my last article, but I cannot emphasize how high I am on his mixture of ability and situation. He may very well be the Colts number 1 wide receiver by the end of the 2014 season. (For fantasy football purposes watch out though, the touchdown passes will be going to Hakeem Nicks.)
Toby Gerhart scores double digit touchdowns in his first season as a starting running back. Gerhart has big time talent but has been stuck behind Adrian Peterson for his entire career.
Mike Wallace makes a comeback in Ryan Tannehill’s breakout season. Wallace goes for 1100 yards and 8 touchdowns while Tannehill eclipses 3000 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Cordarelle Patterson enters the spotlight, filling the role formerly occupied by Percy Harvin. Teams will be unable to key in on Adrian Peterson with the threat of Patterson through the air and on the ground.
New England Patriots:
The Patriots win the division narrowly but don’t make it out of the first round of the playoffs. The addition of Darelle Revis offsets the loss of Aqib Talib, but Brady is on the downslope and so are his weapons.
New York Jets:
Chris Johnson’s stats are only slightly better than Bilal Powell’s by the end of the season. Johnson is not what he used to be and Powell is a crafty runner.
LaMarr Woodley returns to form and comes close to double digit sacks, but finished the season with 9. In an easier division this roster could get to the playoffs, but the Broncos and Chiefs will see that it does not happen.
Desean Jackson is not missed as Lesean McCoy and Darren Sproles will both finish the season with over 1000 total yards. Nick Foles continues to develop and finished the year as a top 5 quarterback.
The Steelers have another disappointing season and finish under .500. Roethlisberger lost a lot of red-zone help in the offseason and the roster just is not good enough for a postseason run.
San Diego Chargers:
Philip Rivers suffers a big regression and the Chargers finish 7-9.
After facilitating Philip Rivers’s resurgence in 2013, Ken Whisenhunt has moved on to Tennessee. Rivers has struggled with consistency and this move will set him back. Combine that with Ryan Mathews having trouble staying healthy and the offense could be in trouble. The Charger defense was average at best last year and in 2014 they won’t have a potent offense to bail them out of jams.
San Francisco 49ers:
Colin Kaepernick has a below average season and the 49ers get knocked out early in the playoffs. Kaepernick is not a championship quarterback.
St. Louis Rams:
Sam Bradford will have a healthy season and put up franchise quarterback numbers. Expect something in the area of 3200 yards and 25 touchdowns.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Josh McCown will excel with Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans to target. This tandem presents similar targets to Marshall and Jefferey in Chicago and McCown was excellent there.
The Titans offense will be revitalized by the arrivals of Ken Whisenhunt and Bishop Sankey. Jake Locker will take a big stride forward in 2014 and the Titans offense is in the top 10.
Although he was a luxury in Philadelphia, Washington desperately needed Desean Jackson. Pierre Garcon and Desean Jackson will both finish the year with over 1000 receiving yards, regardless of who the quarterback is.
There are the bold predictions for each NFL team. Look for an article revisiting these predictions following the 2014 season and feel free to weigh in with your own opinions.