Another NFL season is upon us, so lets take a look at some talking points and projections.
1. The Refs
I won’t bore you with the particulars of the negotiations. You don’t care and neither do I.
What we do care about is the game being officiated competently. Nothing that has occurred during the preseason has me confident that the scabs are going to miraculously become good officials.
The NFL is making a huge mistake here, and it won’t take long before a laughable gaffe forces their hand amid intense media and fan pressure. Wouldn’t be surprised if we see it tonight.
2. The Saints & the Bounty Suspensions
Their situation is quite unique. And while there is a considerable outcry that the punishment was too harsh, the penalties easily could have been avoided had they heeded the first warning from the league.
So how will their season play out?
I can’t see New Orleans overcoming the loss of their head coach. I’m not expecting a complete implosion, but .500 football wouldn’t surprise me.
Expect a toned-down version of their high-powered offense, featuring more Mark Ingram.
3. The N.Y. Jets Circus
The Jets are no strangers to attention, with their (bordering on clownish) head coach making boisterous predictions the last three years.
So for the hell of it, they added one of the most polarizing players in NFL history to the team during the offseason.
Their every move is scrutinized (thanks, World Wide Bully), to the point that fans are tired of the coverage before the season has even begun.
This is how it will play out: Sanchez is ineffective, but Tebow rescues the team and the locker room. Tebow then gets hurt & Sanchez bombs again.
Enter Greg McElroy, who gets a chance and plays brilliantly, leading the team to the playoffs.
4. Surprises & Disappointments
Tampa Bay – last year they quit on Raheem Morris, but Greg Schiano will have them playing up to potential.
Chicago – Brandon Marshall was a huge get, and a healthy Matt Forte makes this offense formidable for the first time in years. I’m not as high on the defense as most, but I expect the Bears to win the division.
Buffalo – slowly but surely, they’ve added some pieces on defense that should make them tough to move the ball on. If Ryan Fitzpatrick can replicate last years hot start, this team should win 9 and challenge for a wildcard.
Baltimore – the defense is aging and missing their best player. The offensive line is average at best. Cincinnati is a better football team.
San Francisco – they got every break imaginable last year on their way to 13 wins. I don’t think the defense can play better, and the schedule is tougher. And then there’s Alex Smith. 10 wins would surprise me.
Denver – OK, technically I’m forecasting the same 8-8 record. But everywhere you look, the media has them as division champs and a ten win team. I don’t see it. Adding a QB that hasn’t thrown a pass in 18 months (and has admitted his arm strength isn’t what it used to be), doesn’t change who they are. Which is an average team.
MVP – Eli Manning
Offensive POTY – Brandon Marshall
Defensive POTY – Lamar Woodley
Offensive ROTY – Justin Blackmon
Defensive ROTY – Luke Kuechly
Coach of the Year – Mike Tomlin
6. Playoff Picture
For the 16th consecutive season, last year saw at least five teams make the playoffs that hadn’t qualified the season before. Might as well make it 17.
1. New England
4. San Diego
5. New York
2. New York
4. San Francisco
6. Green Bay
Photo courtesy of the reviewjornal.com
Tags: Brandon Marshall, Eli Manning, Greg McElroy, Greg Schiano, Justin Blackmon, Lamar Woodley, Luke Kuechly, Mark Ingram, Mark Sanchez, Mike Tomlin, N.Y. Jets, National Football League, New Orleans Saints, NFL, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tim Tebow