Archive for the ‘NFL’ Category
I’m always terrible at this. Don’t listen to me.
Full game predictions here
1. Patriots (12-4)
2. Bills (10-6)
3. Jets (7-9)
4. Dolphins (5-11)
Tom Brady starts the season suspended but even though every single one of his back-ups has gone on to be terrible at every other team, there’s no reason to think they will totally sink. The worst that can happen is that they lose all those games he’s missing for, but even then, knowing the Patriots, they’ll just win every other game he’s there for instead. We aren’t getting rid of them any time soon, no matter how many daft trades Bill Belichick makes.
Meanwhile, they finally do it! I’m tipping Sexy Rexy Ryan and his walking gif of a brother to guide the Bills back to the play-offs for the first time since 1999 and to end the longest play-off drought in the NFL. The title would be handed over to the Browns, obviously.
The Jets…went 10-6 last year? Really? That’s not happening again any time soon. I’d say 8-8 is the ceiling. I can’t see there not being a drop-off in Todd Bowles’ second season, especially as (I think) they’re still holding about 18 quarterbacks on their roster at the moment. Or something like that. None of them are actually any good.
The Dolphins are crap and will continue to be so for a while yet. The frustrating thing for them is they continue to be not crap enough for good draft picks, although that’s probably a blessing in disguise as they would waste them anyway. It says a lot about how bad the NFL is at the moment that this Dolphins team continues to win more than a couple of games a season.
1. Steelers (12-4)
2. Bengals (11-5)
3. Ravens (9-7)
4. Browns (2-14)
The Steelers have an annoyingly good team at the moment and I don’t see them losing the division. As long as Roethlisberger doesn’t get mashed into a million pieces (and to be fair, that’s not exactly out of the question), they should go deep into the play-offs, as you’ll see later.
The Bengals have a toughish opening which may affect them through the rest of the season as they could be playing catch-up in the division – away to the Jets, away to the Steelers, home to the Broncos, home to the Dolphins (OK, that should be easy), and away to the Cowboys. Given how good the Steelers are now, that puts them in the prime position for their annual Wild Card Round defeat. The Bengals are the Arsenal of the NFL – the yearly “this is the year the Bengals push on to the Super Bowl” routine followed by the standard loss in their first play-off game never gets old.
The Ravens can’t possibly be as bad as last year, but I’m not convinced they can immediately jump back to being the Ravens of old – I mean in terms of performance, rather than pure evil, which they will no doubt continue to be. Joe Possibly Elite Flacco should be a steady enough hand to guide them to at least .500.
I feel like I might have been generous to the Browns giving them 2 wins. Or any wins at all. They are baaaaaaaaaad. The rotting remains of RG3 can’t save this team. I’ve predicted the unfortunate victims of this dross to be the Giants and the Chargers, both in Cleveland. Even that is optimistic.
1. Colts (11-5)
2. Texans (8-8)
3. Jaguars (7-9)
4. Titans (3-13)
There are massive question marks over the Colts after last year but I still think they will be passable enough in what is a desperately mediocre division. A functioning Andrew Luck is still comfortably the best QB here, possibly even the best QB in the AFC. They still should make the play-offs.
There’s a certain amount of “the Texans are improving” stuff going around but their QB is Brock Osweiler, who lost his spot in the Broncos team to a man who couldn’t feel his arm and was hobbling around on one leg. Lamar Miller is an improvement at running back on the basis that he’s healthy. JJ Watt is coming back from injury. Clowney’s a bust. It’s all on the defence and Hopkins. I don’t see them making the play-offs.
The Jaguars also have a bit of hype about them, but this is the Jags that we’re talking about. The moment they look vaguely decent, their best players will spontaneously combust on the field and they will return to being 2-14 terrible. I don’t see this team getting above .500 before the inevitable move to London.
The Titans are coached by Mike Mularkey. They will still be terrible. I find it hard to give a shit.
1. Chiefs (11-5)
2. Broncos (8-8)
3. Raiders (8-8)
4. Chargers (4-12)
In the current AFC, the Chiefs have enough good players, a good enough QB and a good enough coach to do reasonably well. The problem is they will forever be stuck at “OK-to-mildly-good”. Even when they got the first pick of the draft, they spent it on a mediocre offensive lineman. They are Vimto – nice enough as a one-off but I could never drink it on a regular basis.
The Broncos have Mark Sanchez at quarterback. They will not be good.
The Raiders are upwardly mobile but I’m not sure they’re ready to make the next leap, even with the Broncos in decline and a bang average AFC in general. They might scrape the last wild card spot but I really doubt it. Amari Cooper will be really good, though.
The Chargers are treading water until Spanos gets the stadium he wants, be it in San Diego, Vegas, San Antonio or some other gullible metropolis willing to sell its soul to the devil for an NFL presence for about 15 years. The same goes for the Raiders to a point, but at least the Raiders have some vaguely promising prospects. The Chargers are still relying on Christianity’s Philip Rivers. Once Rivers is gone, this team will nosedive.
1. Cowboys (9-7)
2. Washington (7-9)
3. Eagles (6-10)
4. Giants (6-10)
The Cowboys are an easy candidate for bouncing back now that Romo and Dez are healthy again. The problem is Romo and Dez usually aren’t healthy for very long. Dez is a walking questionable status. He may already have past his peak at 27. I have him in fantasy. This is not good. Meanwhile, Romo’s body continues to fall apart. Once his sternum gives way in week 4, rookie Dak Prescott will be thrust in and, err, that’s a risk. But this is a crap division which they should still win.
The Washington football team is still bang average. Kirk Cousins is yet to be traded. They got rid of Alf Morris and Matt Jones is now injured. Dan Snyder is vile and also chasing a new stadium. And yet – AND YET – it’s still very plausible that they could win the division. Fuck the NFC East. It’s terrible.
Chip Kelly’s finally gone. So is DeMarco Murray (why did they do that thing again? That was dumb). Doug Pederson was a really unconvincing appointment. Sam Bradford is a really unconvincing QB. OL Lane Johnson is suspended. This team has very little going for it, without being as abysmal as several other teams. But at least Kelly’s gone.
Tom Coughlin is also gone, removing the final traces of sanity from the Giants. This may be the year they finally plunge off the deep end. Ryan Nassib is now entering his fourth year as Eli Manning’s back-up, and not once has another team looked to trade for him, which is not a good sign. Behind him is Logan Thomas, who the Cardinals couldn’t even trust ahead of Ryan Lindley when they lost Carson and Stanton two years ago. JPP has half a hand and can’t tackle any more, and they lost their leader in sacks. They are very reliant on Manning and Beckham. Far too reliant.
1. Packers (14-2)
2. Vikings (10-6)
3. Bears (7-9)
4. Lions (4-12)
Disclaimer: I am a Packers fan. But then I’m normally pessimistic about my team’s chances (in any sport), so this is essentially a prediction for us to 16-0 and win the whole thing. With Jordy Nelson coming back, we should be stronger. At the very least, I can’t see us losing the division. We do seem all set for another heartbreaking loss in the latter stages of the play-offs.
But for Blair Walsh, the Vikings could have eliminated the Seahawks last year. Could have. But they didn’t (and anyway it was a weird game in freezing conditions). They have some good parts to this team and should still get a wild card spot but I can’t see them finishing ahead of the Packers this time. I like Teddy Bridgewater and I wish he could throw the ball.
When Jay Cutler has his annual injury which keeps him out of 2-3 games, the Bears will have to turn to Brian Hoyer or Connor Shaw – not one shit ex-Browns QB but two. Did they come as a buy one get one free deal? Also they got rid of Matt Forte. It’s all on Alshon now, guys? D’you think the other teams might pick up on that? Not sure, myself.
RIP Megatron. RIP any need to be interested in the Lions.
1. Panthers (13-3)
2. Falcons (7-9)
3. Saints (7-9)
4. Buccaneers (3-13)
The Panthers will regress, no doubt, but they are still by far the best team in a terrible division. I’ve got them going 5-1 in the division but that could so easily be 6-0. Cam is still Cam, one of the best QBs in the NFL. And they have Kelvin Benjamin coming back. I don’t see them not being good again
The Falcons are such a non-entity. 7-9 just seems the right final outcome for them. I don’t see them winning 9 games. I don’t see them being terrible. Matt Ryan is alright. Julio Jones is still there. Devonta Freeman is still there. And they still lack talent in every other area. Meh.
The same goes for the Saints, although I think they may be more prone to a complete collapse. With Sean Payton and Drew Brees they still should prove to be a difficult opponent, especially at home. But if Brees hits the cliff (it’s the final year of his contract and he’s now 37), the back-up plan is Luke McCown. Ugh.
The Bucs are so nondescript I accidentally left them out of this originally. Says it all really.
1. Seahawks (13-3)
2. Cardinals (13-3)
3. Rams (7-9)
4. 49ers (2-14)
The Seahawks will never go away now. Their nauseating tedious bluster which supposedly passes for “character” is here to stay. This is the image the team will maintain, regardless of however they build their team from now on. If there was any karma, Russell Wilson would fall off the pitch straight into Richard Sherman’s lap, ending both their seasons. But that won’t happen. They’ll stay good.
Apparently the Cardinals got to the NFC Championship Game last year. The Cardinals are good again now? Really? Carson Palmer won’t allow that to stay that way for long. Don’t worry – he’ll either return to mediocrity or lose a leg in time for them to lose in the play-offs again, so we won’t have to consider the prospect that they might actually win the Super Bowl, which will never happen. (Fate tempted sufficiently there, I think – I’d actually quite like them to win it, or at least get to the Super Bowl, because that would be infinitely preferable to the Seahawks AGAIN)
So the Rams are in Los Anguluss now, yeah? Good, it won’t make any difference. Jeff Fisher is still the head coach. He’s been head coach since 2012. Nothing has changed. No forward progress. Nada. Same old. It’s Case Keenum or a rookie at QB, so they’ll be relying on hurly burly from Gurley then. Another great player wasted on a bang average team.
And finally we come to the Santa Clara 49ers, who have come down faster than the walls of Candlestick Park. Colin Kaepernick is now no longer preferable to Blaine Gabbert, who lost his starting job in Jacksonville to Chad Henne. By that extension, Chad Henne would be starting QB here. Maybe new signing Christian Ponder does have a shot here…nah, that’s probably a bit too far. Either way, this team is still terrible and it will be a lot of fun watching them be terrible, because this is an awful organisation and Chip Kelly is a fraud.
Wild Card Round
Chiefs beat Bengals
Colts beat Bills
Cardinals beat Cowboys
Panthers beat Vikings
Steelers beat Chiefs
Patriots beat Colts
Seahawks beat Cardinals
Packers beat Panthers
Steelers beat Patriots
Seahawks beat Packers
Super Bowl LI
Seahawks beat Steelers
Ugh, that’s depressing.
Cincinnati @ Miami: Cincinnati
Kansas City @ Buffalo: Kansas City
Atlanta @ Carolina: Carolina
Minnesota @ Dallas: Dallas
New Orleans @ New York Jets: New Orleans
Tennessee @ St Louis: Tennessee
San Diego @ Washington: Washington
Philadelphia @ Oakland: Philadelphia
Tampa Bay @ Seattle: Seattle
Baltimore @ Cleveland: Baltimore
Pittsburgh @ New England: New England
Indianapolis @ Houston: Indianapolis
Chicago @ Green Bay: Green Bay
Washington @ Minnesota: Minnesota
Seattle @ Atlanta: Seattle
Cincinnati @ Baltimore: Cincinnati
Detroit @ Chicago: Detroit
Philadelphia @ Green Bay: Green Bay
St Louis @ Indianapolis: Indianapolis
Oakland @ New York Giants: New York Giants
Buffalo @ Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh
Jacksonville @ Tennessee: Tennessee
Carolina @ San Francisco: San Francisco
Houston @ Arizona: Arizona
Denver @ San Diego: Denver
Dallas @ New Orleans: New Orleans
Miami @ Tampa Bay: Miami
Seattle @ Arizona: Seattle
Tampa Bay @ Atlanta: Atlanta
St Louis @ Carolina: Carolina
Cincinnati @ Detroit: Detroit
San Diego @ Jacksonville: San Diego
Houston @ Kansas City: Kansas City
Buffalo @ Miami: Miami
New England @ New York Jets: New England
Dallas @ Philadelphia: Philadelphia
Chicago @ Washington: Chicago
San Francisco @ Tennessee: San Francisco
Cleveland @ Green Bay: Green Bay
Baltimore @ Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh
Denver @ Indianapolis: Denver
Minnesota @ New York Giants: New York Giants
Carolina @ Tampa Bay: Tampa Bay
San Francisco @ Jacksonville: San Francisco
Dallas @ Detroit: Detroit
Cleveland @ Kansas City: Kansas City
Miami @ New England: New England
Buffalo @ New Orleans: New Orleans
New York Giants @ Philadelphia: Philadelphia
Pittsburgh @ Oakland: Pittsburgh
New York Jets @ Cincinnati: Cincinnati
Arizona @ Atlanta: Atlanta
Washington @ Denver: Denver
Green Bay @ Minnesota: Green Bay
Seattle @ St Louis: Seattle
I’ll just whip through these this time:
Buffalo @ Cleveland – Cleveland
New Orleans @ Chicago – New Orleans
New England @ Cincinnati – Cincinnati
Detroit @ Green Bay – Green Bay
Seattle @ Indianapolis – Seattle
Baltimore @ Miami – Miami
Philadelphia @ New York Giants – Philadelphia
Jacksonville @ St Louis – St Louis
Kansas City @ Tennessee – Tennessee
Carolina @ Arizona – Carolina
Denver @ Dallas – Denver
San Diego @ Oakland – San Diego
Houston @ San Francisco – San Francisco
New York Jets @ Atlanta – Atlanta
New York Giants @ Chicago – Chicago
Green Bay @ Baltimore – Green Bay
Cincinnati @ Buffalo – Cincinnati
Detroit @ Cleveland – Cleveland
St Louis @ Houston – Houston
Oakland @ Kansas City – Kansas City
Carolina @ Minnesota – Minnesota
Pittsburgh @ New York Jets – Pittsburgh
Philadelphia @ Tampa Bay – Tampa Bay
Jacksonville @ Denver – Denver
Tennessee @ Seattle – Seattle
New Orleans @ New England – New Orleans
Arizona @ San Francisco – San Francisco
Washington @ Dallas – Dallas
Indianapolis @ San Diego – Indianapolis
I’ve been busy in the second half of this week, but I can assure you that my prediction for Kansas City-Philadelphia was for a Kansas City win – I already have predictions for all 17 weeks done just in case, though they may need an increasing number of tweaks as the season goes on. I’ve already made two changes for this week, but still have more home wins than the average Mark Lawrenson set of Premier League predictions.
Houston @ Baltimore: Houston relatively comfortably
Green Bay @ Cincinnati: Green Bay by a healthy margin
New York Giants @ Carolina: Carolina to pick up their first win but it’ll be tight
St Louis @ Dallas: Dallas by a score
Cleveland @ Minnesota: Minnesota easily, now that Cleveland are tanking for Teddy
Tampa Bay @ New England: Tempted to go for an upset but I’ll go for a safe New England win
Arizona @ New Orleans: Might be tighter than I originally thought but New Orleans
San Diego @ Tennessee: A narrow Tennessee win
Detroit @ Washington: My one change, as I’ve switched to a comfortable Detroit win
Atlanta @ Miami: Perhaps a surprise, but I’ve got a narrow Miami win down, and have since pre-season
Buffalo @ New York Jets: Buffalo but it could be close
Indianapolis @ San Francisco: San Francisco comfortably
Jacksonville @ Seattle: Seattle obviously
Chicago @ Pittsburgh: The other change I’ve made, as I’m now going for a Chicago win
Oakland @ Denver: Denver easily
San Francisco @ St Louis: San Francisco but it’ll be close
Baltimore @ Buffalo: Baltimore but judging by recent performances, it could be a tight one
Cincinnati @ Cleveland: Cincinnati should be comfortable winners
Chicago @ Detroit: Detroit to inflict a first defeat on Chicago
Seattle @ Houston: Two teams with 100% records but I’m going for the home team Houston
Indianapolis @ Jacksonville: Indianapolis by a lot of points
NY Giants @ Kansas City: Another win for Kansas City
Pittsburgh @ Minnesota: Minnesota win at Wembley
Arizona @ Tampa Bay: Tampa Bay finally winning, providing Freeman’s still the QB
New York Jets @ Tennessee: Tennessee to win a battle of the average QBs
Philadelphia @ Denver: Denver to put a lot of points on the board
Washington @ Oakland: Washington, though it might be close
Dallas @ San Diego: Despite San Diego’s recent positive form, I think Dallas will edge it
New England @ Atlanta: The first test for the new New England offense, but I think they’ll fail. Atlanta
Miami @ New Orleans: Originally I had a Miami win but I think I’ll change that to a narrow New Orleans win
This seems to be a fashionable thing to do. Here’s my bandwagon-jumping attempt to decide which teams are hot and which are a sack of shit, with their records after week 2:
1. Seattle (2-0)
2. San Francisco (1-1)
3. Denver (2-0)
4. Green Bay (1-1)
5. Houston (2-0)
6. New Orleans (2-0)
7. Atlanta (1-1)
8. New England (2-0)
9. Chicago (2-0)
10. Kansas City (2-0)
11. Miami (2-0)
12. Cincinnati (1-1)
13. Detroit (1-1)
14. Indianapolis (1-1)
15. Dallas (1-1)
16. Tennessee (1-1)
17. Baltimore (1-1)
18. St Louis (1-1)
19. Philadelphia (1-1)
20. San Diego (1-1)
21. Minnesota (0-2)
22. Washington (0-2)
23. Arizona (1-1)
24. Buffalo (1-1)
25. Carolina (0-2)
26. Tampa Bay (0-2)
27. New York Giants (0-2)
28. Pittsburgh (0-2)
29. New York Jets (1-1)
30. Cleveland (0-2)
31. Oakland (1-1)
32. Jacksonville (0-2)
There’s no time like the first time. This is my first full season watching the NFL fan. On the one hand, I’m inexperienced at this thing. On the other, I’d like to think that I’ve got a different perspective on these things. I see a lot of the professional pundits love the established teams, whereas because I’m new to this business, I’m just calling it as I see it without context, which could work both ways. So I’m going to take advantage of this and throw out a few risky predictions. If they don’t come off, I can pass it off as inexperience. If they do, I look like a genius.
5 things I think will happen
1. Oakland will be bad. Very bad
The way I see it, while the NFL is incredibly competitive with loads of very good teams (and that’s something we can be grateful for), there are a few bad teams, and there’s a bit of a gulf developing between the very good and very bad teams. This could be one of those seasons where a team goes 0-16. And if any team is going 0-16 this year, it’s the Raiders.
The Raiders have a very inexperienced quarterback who has looked ropey so far. Their best offensive player always gets injured. Their offensive line is non-existent. I don’t see where the points are going to come from, and they don’t look great defensively either. In their division, they face Philip Rivers, Alex Smith and Peyton Manning. I’d say they have about 3 winnable games on their schedule at the most – San Diego at home, Jacksonville and the New York Jets. I struggle to see how they can score more points than a team that’s better than that.
2. The Ravens won’t make the play-offs
I think there’s a realistic chance that Baltimore won’t make it to the post-season. The Giants dropped off quickly last season despite not losing a load of key personnel like the Ravens have. The Bengals look worthy challengers, the Browns have improved, you can’t write off the Steelers, and there are a few decent contenders for wildcard spots. But it’s not just that.
I watched America’s Game last night, and while I know documentaries of that sort are going to focus on the emotion and narratives rather than the sporting detail, it really demonstrated how much of the Ravens’ push for the Super Bowl was helped over the line by the unity of the team in the wake of a number of events, including Art Modell’s death, Ray Lewis’ retirement, and a number of players coming to the end of their contracts. Even if that only added an extra 2 or 3 per cent to their performance, that was the difference. This year, they won’t have that, and that could be the difference between 10-6 while peaking at the right time and 8-8 with no wildcard spot.
3. The Cardinals will pick in the top 5 of the 2014 Draft
The schedule for Arizona is very tough this year. Not only are they the odd one out in arguably the strongest division in the NFL, but they also have to face the NFC South teams, Detroit, Philadelphia and the AFC South teams. Their one saving grace is that they only have to travel to their weaker opponents – they go to Jacksonville, Philadelphia, Tennessee, Tampa Bay and, in probably the toughest trip, to New Orleans, whereas they will welcome the Colts, the Texans, the Falcons, the Lions and the Panthers.
However, I’m not convinced by the signing of Carson Palmer, who the Raiders were happy to let go in favour of signing a QB they are now making their back-up because he’s not good enough to start. They have also lost their top draft pick, Jonathan Cooper, to injury, while 6th round pick, wide receiver Ryan Swope, has retired due to concussion issues. That basically leaves them at 7 draft picks, which isn’t ideal for a team that has lost 11 of its last 12 games. They’re not in as big a mess as the Raiders, the Jets or the Jaguars but they’re in that group just above them, mainly because of the schedule.
4. This will be a classic season
I did follow last season at a distance, and I realised come the end that it had been a very good season. The teams in the money rounds were playing at a very high standard, and the games were more often decided by individual brilliance rather than mistakes. I remember discussing this with my friends, cynically remarking “but 3 of the 4 teams in the Championship Games are the same as last season.” The response I got was “yeah but this is totally unexpected.” And I see the point now. A bit.
This year will be even better, though. Many of the teams are in something of a transition phase – the Steelers and Giants, two of the top teams of the last decade, are on the decline without being terrible, possibly along with the Ravens who have already been hit by losses this year; the Bengals and Seahawks are on the way up; and there are a group of teams who could be the next to hit the latter category, on the verge of becoming good again. As well as that, the NFL has a new generation of quarterbacks who are in the process of becoming big stars, while Brady and Peyton Manning enter the last few years of their career, the “savour it while you can” stage.
5. British interest in the NFL will continue to grow quickly
I’ve noticed the NFL gradually becoming fashionable again in the last 6 or 7 years. The TV coverage of the Super Bowl got ramped up, the “alternative” kids in school started talking about it, and then the NFL decided to stage games at Wembley. Maybe I’m completely wrong on this and the level of interest has been relatively stable since the 1980s, but I get the feeling the NFL’s popularity here has increased a lot since Super Bowl XLII (Pats-Giants, which had some great narratives that people could engage with even if they weren’t familiar with the sport), which was certainly the first one I took an interest in.
If you mention the NFL to most British football fans, though, they usually react cynically – “American rubbish” etc. And yet the same people will probably bemoan the lack of parity in the Premier League, or about how money is ruining everything – the exact two things that aren’t happening to the NFL, because of the “we’re only as strong as the weakest team” mantra. It’s everything British football fans want from the Premier League, and I think people are starting to wake up to that.
Yes, it’s a bit corporate on the surface, the game does take time to get used to, and it does feel a little distant over there on the other side of the Pond, literally and metaphorically. But it’s becoming more relevant. Each year the coverage here of the Super Bowl increases a little, and I think that’s a sure sign of more people being interested. That this is coinciding with a new era for the NFL – new teams at the top, a new generation of superstars, and potential international expansion – is only going to help that transition from minority sport to something a sizeable number of people follow.
My (safe) predictions
1. New England Patriots*
2. Miami Dolphins
3. Buffalo Bills
4. New York Jets
1. Cincinnati Bengals*
2. Baltimore Ravens
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
4. Cleveland Browns
1. Houston Texans*
2. Indianapolis Colts*
3. Tennessee Titans
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
1. Denver Broncos*
2. Kansas City Chiefs*
3. San Diego Chargers
4. Oakland Raiders
1. Washington Redskins*
2. Dallas Cowboys
3. New York Giants
4. Philadelphia Eagles
1. Green Bay Packers*
2. Minnesota Vikings
3. Detroit Lions
4. Chicago Bears
1. Atlanta Falcons*
2. New Orleans Saints*
3. Carolina Panthers
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1. San Francisco 49ers*
2. Seattle Seahawks*
3. St Louis Rams
4. Arizona Cardinals
AFC Wildcard Games
New England (3) beat Kansas City (6)
Cincinnati (4) beat Indianapolis (5)
NFC Wildcard Games
Atlanta (3) beat New Orleans (6)
Seattle (5) beat Washington (4)
AFC Divisional Playoffs
Houston (1) beat Cincinnati (4)
New England (3) beat Denver (2)
NFC Divisional Playoffs
San Francisco (1) beat Seattle (5)
Green Bay (2) beat Atlanta (3)
Houston (1) beat New England (3)
San Francisco (1) beat Green Bay (2)
Super Bowl XLVIII
San Francisco beat Houston
Brace yourselves, loyal readers (yes, all three of you): I’m trying to show I know things about another sport. Emphasis on “trying” – it’s my first “proper” season of following the NFL so expect many of these predictions to be wildly inaccurate. I’m getting the first two weeks out of the way in one go and at least two weeks before most of the games even take place because I feel like it. To the seasoned American football analyst, these probably appear the equivalent of Mark Lawrenson’s Premier League predictions, but I don’t care.
Baltimore at Denver
Ah, the first Thursday night game, a rematch of last year’s classic play-off game, etc. My gut feeling on this is that the Ravens are weaker having lost so many personnel from last year – even though the actual ability of the squad may not have dropped (especially factoring in the return to full fitness of the likes of Ngata and Webb), the unity of the squad will have been disrupted and they won’t be on the same psychological high that they were during the play-offs when they had momentum and had Ray Lewis barking them on. So I fancy Denver to win this comfortably.
New England at Buffalo
Insert bland platitudes about the Patriots’ tight end situation here. But even though Tom Brady doesn’t have many targets to throw to, Buffalo currently have doubts about who is supposed to be doing their throwing to begin with, with EJ Manuel having a “minor knee procedure” and Kevin Kolb out with “concussion-like symptoms”. This is only going one way – I’m going for the easy prediction and saying New England will batter the Bills.
Seattle at Carolina
My season preview tells me the Panthers are projected to finish 4th in NFC South, and comfortably so at that. I think that’s a bit harsh, though admittedly I’m having a hard time working out who they could finish above. It could be quite a competitive division. The Seahawks, on the other hand…well, so much has been said about how wonderful they are going to be. We’ll see. But I’ll go with Seattle here, though it won’t be a total rout.
Cincinnati at Chicago
Said season preview reckons the Bears will finish 3rd again in NFC North. Again, I think the criticism within it is a bit harsh – they collapsed last year but still looked to be a good team overall, and 10-6 isn’t a dreadful record. I detect a certain amount of cynicism about Marc Trestman, which you can neither prove nor disprove at this stage. As for Cincinnati, I think they could potentially edge out the Ravens to win their division. But despite that, it’s at Soldier Field, so I’m going for a marginal Chicago win here.
Miami at Cleveland
That season preview thinks Miami will finish behind Buffalo. I found that a bit amusing. I fancy the Dolphins for a wildcard spot this year. Yes, I know, you shouldn’t read much into the free agency haul, but they are a team on the up (even if it’s gradual). I think they could surprise this year. As for the Browns, they seem to be making small improvements to the team but I’m not sure it’s enough of a step forward in a tough division. And I think they’ll lose this one too – going for Miami to start strongly with the benefit from the new signings.
Minnesota at Detroit
NFC North is such a good division this year. Any of the four teams could conceivably be in the play-offs come January. I think this will be a close contest. Detroit seem to be making some effort to cure their issues of last year, and even then they weren’t too far off the pace. Minnesota ended last season well, and Adrian Peterson and all that, but there are still doubts about Ponder. I’m going for a slightly surprising win for Detroit.
Oakland at Indianapolis
The Raiders are a mess. The Colts aren’t. Indianapolis will win easily.
Kansas City at Jacksonville
I like where the Chiefs are going. They already had half a good team last year. They were just lacking the half that would stop them losing 14 matches. And they had other issues as well… Jacksonville were pretty woeful too but there is less cause for hope there than in Missouri. Kansas City to win comfortably in their first game under Andy Reid.
Atlanta at New Orleans
I can’t really talk about Bountygate and Sean Payton and all that. So I’ll just say this – New Orleans will be better this year, and Atlanta may not be. The component parts may be there for the Falcons but they had such momentum last year it might prove tough to replicate their form, especially with such a tough schedule this time. As it’s in the Superdome, I’m going for New Orleans.
Tampa Bay at New York Jets
Oh come off it, you know what’s going to happen here. Tampa Bay.
Tennessee at Pittsburgh
This is an intriguing one. The Titans may be a bit more competitive this year, while the Steelers are a team on the decline with their key players of their previous generation now likely to be past their peak. I’m going for Tennessee, which might shock those American pundits who talk up the big teams all the time.
Green Bay at San Francisco
I don’t want to have to predict a Packers defeat, but this isn’t too far removed from the situation at this point last year. Green Bay have tried to fill some of the holes in their game from last year, but the 49ers could equally claim to have improved. All rests on Kaepernick… I think San Francisco will win this by a similar margin to the first game last year.
Arizona at St Louis
The Cardinals are my dark horse shout to be picking first in the 2014 Draft. They’re in a very tough division and I’m not convinced by their roster – having an ageing Carson Palmer at the helm of the offense wouldn’t fill me with confidence if I was a fan. Meanwhile, the Rams enter their second season under Jeff Fisher after being more competitive than perhaps expected in his first there. St Louis at home should take this with room to spare.
New York Giants at Dallas
The Giants, like the Steelers, are probably past their peak, and they have begun to shed some of their successful generation. I think they’ll continue to slip this year. As for Dallas, I’d be surprised if they don’t finish at least 2nd with the Giants and the Eagles struggling, and I’d be surprised if they didn’t win this too.
Philadelphia at Washington
Pundits have said this depends on whether Robert Griffin III is back. If he is, Washington will win comfortably. If he isn’t, Washington will win by a small amount. So Washington, obviously.
Houston at San Diego
The second Monday night game starts at 03:20 on Tuesday morning here. So I guess I’ll miss another Houston win. The Chargers are another team in decline and it’ll take another couple of years to turn them around, while the Texans aren’t too far from a first Super Bowl appearance, especially in a weak AFC.
New York Jets at New England: New England easily
St Louis at Atlanta: Atlanta but it’ll be close
Cleveland at Baltimore: Baltimore but they’ll have to work quite hard for it
Carolina at Buffalo: Carolina comfortably
Minnesota at Chicago: Chicago marginally
Washington at Green Bay: Green Bay, the margin depending on the Redskins QB
Tennessee at Houston: Houston by a healthy margin
Miami at Indianapolis: Indianapolis but not by much
Dallas at Kansas City: Kansas City but another close game
San Diego at Philadelphia: San Diego but could go either way
Detroit at Arizona: Detroit by a single figure margin
New Orleans at Tampa Bay: New Orleans comfortably
Denver at New York Giants: Denver with ease
Jacksonville at Oakland: Jacksonville because they are slightly less bad
San Francisco at Seattle: Seattle but much closer than last year
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati: Cincinnati with a narrow win