BSB’s 2014 NFL Preview

For those of you unfamiliar with the preview, instead of the typical, been-done-again-and-again season previews, we like to make a game out of our previews, along with being informative. What we do is kind of a draft process, where we try and decide whether we think a team will get better or worse from last year’s record. Then, at the end of the year, we see who did a better job of predicting. It’s interesting to see just how different the seasons of some teams turn out, in retrospect. Check out our past previews to see what I’m talking about. Doogan took our first one in 2008, 17-15, but Bry responded with a come-from-behind 17-15 win in the 2009 version. In 2010, Doogan won by the familiar 17-15 score and followed that up in 2011, with a dominating 19-13 victory to become the first back-to-back winner of the NFL preview. Having not won since 2009, Bry came back with a vengeance in 2012, winning 21-11.  However, Doogan took the title right back in 2013 with a pretty easy 18-14 win (post reposted just below this one updated with last year’s results).  This is now the seventh NFL preview we’ve done (which is HARD to believe) with Doogan holding a 4-2 all-time lead.  Bry needs this one and, fortunately for him, will get the #1 pick to try and do it.

1). BRY – Houston Texans – OVER 2 wins: It seems general practice in these things that the #1 pick is almost always the Over on one of the worst teams in the NFL the previous year.  I will not buck that trend, as there seems no way that the Texans can’t pick up 3 freaking wins.  I mean they have 5 games on their schedule that are against either the Jags, the Titans, or the Raiders.  Even if they go 2-3 in those 5, they only need to find one more win in the other 11 games.  With the addition of JaDaveon Clowney and the subtraction of Matt Schaub, this team HAS to be better than 2-14.

2). DOOGAN – Washington Redskins – OVER 3 wins: I’ll stay right there with you on a the bottom-feeders.  The defense looks like it will suck again, but there’s definitely reason to think the offense will be improved.  Our old friend D-Jax is a massive upgrade over the receivers they had opposite Pierre Garcon last year.  It’s a nice collection of weapons on offense, and a new coaching regime should be able to improve on what they produced last year.  I know there’s some hand-wringing going on over RGIII but he’ll probably be fine.

3). DOOGAN – Atlanta Falcons- OVER 4 wins: I don’t think I’m as bullish on the Falcons as many (I don’t think they’re a playoff team), but there’s no reason to think they aren’t better than a 4-win team.  They had injuries all over their offense last season, and with Julio Jones and Roddy White healthy, and with some new additions to the O-Line, they should be back to where they were in 2012, which means about 70 more points scored over the course of the season.  But the underrated story was the decline of their defense last year.  They’ve made some veteran additions there, but I’m not sure they’re good enough to turn it around.  They’ll hover around .500.

4). BRY – Carolina Panthers – UNDER 12 wins: Well, you took my next two picks.  Is it a bad sign that I already think this is getting tough?  I’m usually bullish on the Panthers, but not this year.  Their receiving corps is dreadful, unless you think the rookie Kelvin Benjamin can have a big year (and, if you know anything about rookie WRs, you don’t think that).  And, Cam is starting the season banged up.  Throw in the fact that every other team in this division looks markedly improved and you’ve got too much against this team for a really good defense to carry them anywhere near 12 wins again this year.  I think they’ll be lucky to hit 9 or 10, but more likely in the 7 or 8 area.

5).  DOOGAN – Kansas City Chiefs – UNDER 11 wins: There were five that stood out to me as “easy” calls, this being the 5th.  We’ll see how many actually turn out to be that easy.  This is a situation where the Chiefs were obviously not as good as the 11 wins indicates.  Not only did they finish the regular season 2-5 after the 9-0 start, but of all those 11 wins they beat exactly one playoff team (the Eagles way back in Week 3).  They won’t get the favors from the schedule this year, especially matching up with the NFC West.  That’s bad news for the offense, who lost a couple offensive line starters and versatile playmaker Dexter McCluster and replaced them with…basically nothing.  A strong (if maybe overrated) defense and a very pedestrian offense against a tough schedule.  They’ll be under .500.

6). BRY – Green Bay Packers – OVER 8 wins: There are few organizations in sports (and maybe none in the NFL) as well-run as the Green Bay Packers.  They have the history coupled with constant relevance.  They have a rabid fanbase that is pure, loyal, and local.  And, most importantly, they have – in my opinion – the single best football player on the planet.  They missed that player for 9 games last year and still won the division.  I’m not sold on the Lions or Bears and the Vikings are most likely not going to play a role in the division race, so I don’t see much chance that this division is not won by the guys from Green Bay.  Put me down for 10 or 11 wins, a division title, and quite possibly a surprise trip to the Super Bowl.

7). DOOGAN – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – OVER 4 wins: Felt a lot better about this one when I remembered the massive upgrade they made at head coach, going from Greg Schiano to Lovie Smith.  Smith is a proven defensive coach, so I’m not too worried about the loss of Darrelle Revis.  On offense, Josh McCown takes over at QB after playing really well in place of Jay Cutler in Chicago last year.  Granted, McCown won’t have the weapons he had with the Bears, but the cupboard isn’t bare with Vincent Jackson and 1st-Round pick Mike Evans in the receiving corps.  They also made some solid improvements on the O-line with two free agent additions and the big trade yesterday that netted them All-Pro guard Logan Mankins from New England.  They can definitely get to 8 wins.

8). BRY – Cleveland Browns – OVER 4 wins: I think this is the third straight year that I have taken the Browns and the Over.  And, this will probably be the third straight year that I get it wrong.  You know how hard it is to get worse in the NFL 3 straight years?  Well, this year I’m taking them not because of Johnny f’ing Football (that guy sucks), but because I think they might have a Top 5 defense.  Yes, top 5.  They did lose the underrated D’Qwell Jackson, but that might be a bigger deal for the Jackson Greys than the Cleveland Browns.  Joe Haden is an ELITE corner.  Justin Gilbert – their first-round pick – could walk right in and be adequate on the other side.  Barkavious Mingo is in his second year and a possible stud in the making.  And, they added some attitude with Donte Hitner (formerly Whitner, but officially changed his legal name because he “hits” so hard).  And, I think with what they lack in offensive weapons, they can negate some of that with their elite offensive line, including Joe Thomas – maybe the best O-lineman in football.  I’ll be realistic and only ask for 6 wins, but that’s more than 4.

9). DOOGAN – San Francisco 49ers – UNDER 12 wins: Not my usual move to go Under this early on a really good team, but I see red flags all over the place with this team.  First, the more concrete problems.  Three of their four starters in the secondary have left in free agency and the replacements are a mix of unproven and past their prime (Antoine Bethea).  At linebacker, Aldon Smith is a disaster off the field and we’ll see if he even plays the 11 games he did last year.  All-Pro freak Navorro Bowman (PSU alum, I must add) is out for at least half the year and will not be 100% when he does come back after blowing out his knee.  So, all of a sudden, this great defense has some real concerns.  I don’t like the Kaepernick off-the-field distractions.  Not good from your quarterback.  And, finally, there’s been so many rumors about Harbaugh wanting out and trying to get to a new team.  Who knows, but where there’s smoke there’s fire and it’s a distraction and also maybe says something about how Harbaugh views this team moving forward.  OK, that’s my long-winded way of saying the Niners are dropping from 12 wins to 10 this year.

10). BRY – Cincinnati Bengals – UNDER 11 wins: Doogan, I think you’ve literally taken my next pick every single time.  But, anyway, let’s continue my recent trend of duplicating wrong picks I made last year.  I took the Bengals Under-10 last year, and they won 11.  So, I’m doubling-down here this year.  They might still win this division (though, I would definitely take the field), but I think that Mike Zimmer made more of a difference than people may realize on the defensive side.  I think that they take a slight step back defensively and nothing forward offensively.  Plus, 11 is a pretty big number in a relatively tough division.  10, tops, for this Bengals team.

11). DOOGAN – Denver Broncos – UNDER 13 wins: I don’t feel great about this at all, and they burned me last year, but I’ll go for it again.  Peyton threw a ridiculous 55 touchdowns last year.  Can the offense keep up that sort of production?  Every historical precedent says no.  Peyton’s a year older, Eric Decker is gone, Welker already has another concussion this year, there are legit questions with the running backs.  I know, Manning is not like other mere mortals and even at 38 he can probably take guys like Emmanuel Sanders and Monte Ball and make them stars.  But the schedule will get tougher this year as they matchup with the NFC West.  Logic says they’ll step back to 11-5.

12). BRY – Arizona Cardinals – UNDER 10 wins: I really don’t know what to think about the Cardinals.  Their defense seems terrific, but they lost Daryl Washington for the season due to a drug suspension, and I think they may have overachieved a little bit last year.  But, even if they’re the ’85 Bears or ’91 Eagles, they play in the best division in football with Carson Palmer at QB.  10 seems like an awfully big number to me.

13). DOOGAN – Detroit Lions – OVER 7 wins: They have a basically league-average defense in Detroit with just about all the same guys back from last year.  A great front led by Suh and Ziggy Ansah, with some shaky secondary play.  On offense, you think of them as really good but they somehow ranked just 13th in the league in points last year.  Put those things together and 7 wins makes sense.  I’ll bet on the offense improving.  I’m not totally sold on Stafford and maybe he’s the problem, but they have the best receiver in the league, two nice running backs, and they’ve added solid Golden Tate opposite Megatron and 10th overall pick Eric Ebron at tight end.  They look more like a 9-10 win team.

14). BRY – Seattle Seahawks – UNDER 13 wins: The defending Super Bowl champs look fantastic in the preseason and are the odds-on favorites to win again this year.  And, I think that if you gave me the same odds on every team to win the Super Bowl, I would probably take Seattle.  But, winning the Super Bowl and winning 13 regular season games are two very different things.  13 is just a huge number.  And, the past decade or so hasn’t been too kind to teams coming off Super Bowl appearances.  I think they still win the NFC West rather handily and probably even homefield advantage.  But, I think there’s a better chance of 12-4 or worse than another 13-3 season.

15). DOOGAN – Indianapolis Colts – UNDER 11 wins: The Colts have two big things going for them:  Andrew Luck and playing in a really weak division.  But what else do they really have?  They made no significant improvements to their roster in the offseason, apparently operating under the assumption that their young core will just get better and they already won 11 games, so why worry?  That’s just not really how it works in the NFL.  Especially when you have Reggie Wayne trying to come back from a blown knee at age 35 and Robert Mathis coming off a monster season, but one in which he was suspended late for performance-enhancing drugs.  Throw in the fact that Houston figures to be much better as a divisonal foe, and it’s easy to see these guys dropping to 9-7.

16). BRY – Minnesota Vikings – OVER 5 wins: I don’t think the Vikes are all that good, and I don’t think they’re a playoff team.  But, I do think that they have a relatively workable schedule, one of the best players of our generation, and a pretty low bar of 5 wins.  Plus, we don’t know how much this new outdoors Minneapolis homefield is going to treat them in November and December.  The Vikes won’t be all that relevant, but I think 5 wins is probably the low-end of their possibilities.  Put me down for a 6-10 or 7-9 Vikings team.

17). DOOGAN – New York Jets – UNDER 8 wins: There’s some talk around the Jets this season that goes something like:  Hey, Geno Smith looked good in the preseason.  And he has Chris Johnson and Eric Decker as new weapons to use.  And the defense is always good.  So…they should be pretty good, right?  Admittedly, not a ton of people are buying into that talk, and I’m not one of them.  I’ll believe it when I see it with this offense, and the defense was actually NOT all that good last year (19th in points allowed), and they’ve made no improvements to that side of the ball.  I’ve never been a big Rex Ryan believer, and I think this is his final go-round at the Meadowlands.

18). BRY – Pittsburgh Steelers – OVER 8 wins: If you’ve focused predominantly on the Eagles this preseason, then (a) I don’t blame you, they look great and (b) you might have a warped sense of who the Steelers are this year.  They looked really bad in the all-important 3rd preseason game against the Eagles.  So bad, in fact, that they kept their first teams out there well into the second half against all the Eagles #2s – and still couldn’t get anything done.  But, I think that that game was an anomaly, and I actually might declare the Steelers as my pick to win what should be a pretty intense 3-team race in the AFC North.  I think Roethlisberger is an underappreciated star (and world-class human being, obviously), and the team looked really good down the stretch last year.  They lost Emmanuel Sanders to Denver, but he wasn’t that important.  And, the under-the-radar aspect of their 8-8 2013 season is that they had NO running game.  But, this year Laveon Bell could make the leap, and they added a nice complement in LaGarrette Blount (all blunt jokes aside).  And, maybe the biggest upgrade should be on a defense that started to look old last year, but added some key pieces, including first-round pick, Ryan Shazier, who, by all accounts looks like a star from the jump.  And, they have the best d-coordinator to ever live still running that side of the ball.  I think they win the division, which means at least 9 wins.

19).  DOOGAN – Dallas Cowboys – UNDER 8 wins: Can Dallas go 8-8 for the fourth straight year?  Fortunately, I don’t think so.  I can’t deny that they have a decent enough offense, even if Romo is the biggest choke artist in sports at the moment.  But this defense might be worst in football, and that’s just not gonna get you a winning record.  I used to really hate Jerry Jones, but I’ve come around on him.  In fact, I hope he keeps owning (and making football decisions for) the Cowboys for a long, long time.

20). BRY – Jacksonville Jaguars – OVER 4 wins: This is not a good team…at all.  But, 5 wins are not that many in a league of parity.  And, they looked pretty solid at the end of the year last season – when they actually had legitimate NFL quarterback play.  This year they will start with the serviceable Chad Henne and probably enter the incredibly promising rookie, Blake Bortles (who has been excellent in the preseason).  I also think that – gasp – Toby Gerhart might actually be an upgrade to the aging MJD.  The defense is still a work in progress, but coming along – particularly on the defensive line, where they have a stable of excellent “big uglies” to rotate in.  Put me down for 6 wins down in Jacksonville this year.  Fortunately, one of them will NOT be Week One.

21).  DOOGAN – New England Patriots – UNDER 12 wins: Damn you, Bry.  I really tried not to end up betting against the Pats.  I looked hard at every other team still on the board here, but I just couldn’t leave this big number out there anymore.  You waited me out on this one.  It’s Belichick.  It’s Brady.  There’s no reason to think they can’t win 12 games.  But most of the numbers left on the board are just so hard to call one way or the other.

22). BRY – St. Louis Rams – UNDER 7 wins: Yep, I waited just long enough (I had them next up, too).  Instead, I’ll bet on double-digit losses from the worst team in a division before they lost their starting QB for the season.  Granted, Sam Bradford isn’t exactly an extreme difference-maker, but he is better than Shaun Hill, and the margin for error for this Rams team isn’t much in this division.  Their defense is terrific, but I still see 6-10 for this team.

23).  DOOGAN – Baltimore Ravens – OVER 8 wins: This division is very hard to predict, and it won’t be at all surprising if only one team ends up above .500.  If we’re just looking at franchise pedigree, it’s fair to bet against the Bengals being that team for the second straight year.  That leaves us with the Ravens and Steelers.  Bry has already hitched his wagon in this division with the Steel.  I’ll go with the Ravens to recover (somewhat) from their Super Bowl hangover of a year ago and scrap their way back atop the AFC North.

24). BRY – Chicago Bears – OVER 8 wins: I already have the Overs on the Packers and Vikings, and Doogan has the Over on the Lions, so I guess it’s fair to say that we think the NFC North will be vastly improved.  I do not like this defense all that much, as the worst defense in Bears history lost Julius Peppers.  But, the offense could be sensational.  The weapons around a healthy Jay Cutler are tremendous with top-5 RB Matt Forte and two elite wideouts in Marshall and Jeffrey.  Throw in a solid (but lazy) TE in Martellus Bennett and a lottery card in Santonio Holmes, and I think this offense could be one of the best in football.  Does that mean a division title or a dozen wins?  Probably not.  But, I could see 9+ as more likely than .500 or below.

25). DOOGAN – Miami Dolphins – OVER 8 wins: Part of my plan for this pick (and my Pats Under pick) is to have the Dolphins knock off the Pats at home this Sunday.  There’s obviously an opening for somebody to be the second-best team in this division, and while there’s obviously no guarantee that that second place team will have a winning record, I’ll say Miami pulls it off.  A pretty decent defense combined with a young quarterback who now has two full years of starting experience, minus the circus sideshow of whatever happened with that Martin/Incognito thing last year.  A lot of easy wins on the slate (Bills and Jets twice, Raiders, Jags, Vikings).  9-7 season for the Fins.

26). BRY – Oakland Raiders – OVER 4 wins: This is probably the worst team in football, and they were not made any better in the short-term when they named rookie 2nd-round pick Derrick Carr as the starter Week One against the Jets.  They are an old, cap-strapped team that doesn’t have any talent or any real hope for the future.  BUT…the NFL is a league with a very strong pull towards mediocrity, so I will just pray that this team somehow scrapes out 5 wins in the process of being the worst team – on paper – in the league.

27). DOOGAN – Philadelphia Eagles – UNDER 10 wins: We’ve reached the point where if you asked me to throw out my best guess for how many games any of the teams left will win, I’m pretty sure I would say the exact number that they won last year.  I wouldn’t say I’m “down” on the Birds (like I was last year), because I think they’ll win 10 games and the division and be a tough out in January.  BUT, I look at this schedule, and I just think 9 wins is more likely than 11.  You can talk about the division being easy, but NFC East games are usually pretty tough, and there may be no total pushovers in the bunch.  Throw in four games against the NFC West and road games at Green Bay and Indy, and you can find a lot of losses out there if you’re looking for them.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the defense makes a big improvement, but I don’t have a ton of reason to think that’s coming.

28). San Diego Chargers – OVER 9 wins: I got talked into this one by Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders.  Apparently, the arrows are all pointing in the right direction for the Chargers and he said “It wouldn’t shock me if they were 13-3.”  Huh?!?!?!?  But, I will take his word for it because I agree with Doogan in that every pick left of the board looks like it will hit the number.  But, the Chiefs are falling back and the Raiders stink, so the Chargers are clearly the 2nd-best team in the division.  Yes, they get the NFC West, but this is a relatively young team with a potential star coach in Mike McCoy (who should have been coach of the year last year, in my opinion), so I guess I’ll take the Chargers for double-digit wins…cringe.  PS…Doogan, I would have gone OVER on the Birds, so thanks for keeping the site relatively objective.

29). DOOGAN – New Orleans Saints – UNDER 11 wins: Starting in ’09 and skipping the season where Sean Payton was suspended and everything went crazy for them, the Saints win totals have gone 13, 11, 13, 11.  So, does that mean they’re headed for 13 wins this year?  Very possibly!  Are those numbers a good reason to go Under here on 11?  No!  But whatever, when you think the number is right it makes sense to go below on a big number.  Can the Saints defense match the solid year they had last year?  Maybe, but they were the worst defense in the league two years ago, so we’ll see.

30). BRY – Tennessee Titans – OVER 7 wins: We’re just throwing darts here, right?  I like Jake Locker (and, I might be the only one…), and I think the AFC South is the worst division in football.  4 games with Jacksonville and Houston will help, and I don’t think Indy is unbeatable.  Plus, they get to play the second-worst division in the league, the NFC East, as well.  I think 8 wins is more likely than 6 wins, so I’ll take the Over on 7.

31). DOOGAN – New York Giants – UNDER 7 wins: I actually feel pretty good about my last pick here, and not just because of Under on the G-Men.  It would be hard to argue that this team is really any good, so Under on a mid-range number seems pretty clear.  The O-Line was a disaster last year and they’ve brought in new people, but that doesn’t mean it’s fixed.  They have nobody at running back and a rookie starting at wide-out opposite Victor Cruz.  I don’t see a mid-30’s Eli being able to do much with this group around him.  They lost Linval Joseph and a still-decent Justin Tuck from a defense that was already pretty poor.  Probably the farewell tour for Tom Coughlin at the Meadowlands.

32). BRY – Buffalo Bills – UNDER 6 wins: Yeah, I have been weighing the Giants Under for about 10 picks now, but just couldn’t do it because I feel like I make that pick every year, and every year I look like a Giants hater (which is totally true).  But, as I am stuck here with the last pick, I would love to call a push here, as 6-10 sounds exactly right.  But, honestly, for a 32nd pick, this isn’t terrible because there is no way this team wins 7+, so I just have to dodge 6-10 to get a point here, which is probably a coin flip.  E.J. Manual stinks – as evidenced by their signing of Kyle Orton out of retirement.  But, the defense is probably good enough to make me sweat this out.

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