As I’m struggling through withdrawals from the end of the NFL season, I thought I’d put some thoughts down about the ch, 2 teams that could be huge or busts next year from each side, and my projected 2014 playoff seeds.
The first champion, the winner of the Superbowl, Seattle Seahawks, is in a unique situation. Whereas ESPN commentators are referring to Seattle as poised to win again, it seems more to me as a do or die time. Don’t get me wrong, I think Russell Wilson will win again sometime, but if he cannot do it next year he will have to wait several years, at least, because he along with many other Seahawks have contracts that will expire after next year. These affordable youngsters suddenly get the expensive contracts they deserve.
On the other hand, the Denver Broncos, are in even more dire straits. If Peyton wants to win another Superbowl, which, unfortunately, I don’t think he will: this was his year. Manning is not getting any younger, and barring the Broncos drafting pro-bowl caliber rookies next year on the defense, the Broncos will see little success, especially when considering the competition they will likely face in the AFC. The Colts are only getting better, and the Steelers will be much better next year than they were even at the season’s close. KC, if they play like they did early this year, would be nigh unstoppable. The future looks dim for Manning, unfortunately.
2 Big Hit or Bust teams in the AFC:
The first team that could either be a Superbowl contender or a bust is the Houston Texans. The Texans have a ton of talent on the defense, not to mention the offense, with running back Arian Foster, who was a top 3 running back last year, but he was hurt early on this year. Quite a bit will depend on the draft for the Texans and the coaching staff to an equal extent. If the Texans draft well, they could easily be one of the teams to beat in the NFL. If the staff, however, isn’t up to the task, the Texans are going to be looking at a season, while not quite 2-14, that won’t be going anywhere special.
The other AFC team bursting with potential, even though they did “ok” this year, is the KC Chiefs. After a 7-0 start the Chiefs hit the proverbial titanium wall that was the Denver offense. However, after that game, the Chiefs defense never stepped up like they had been. The Chiefs had a total of 8 players sent to the Pro-Bowl, tied with San Francisco for the most. The Chiefs have a ton of talent on both sides of the ball, it’s just a matter of them not choking.
2 Big Hit or Bust teams in the NFC:
The first team for the NFC is the Washington Redskins. Now, RGIII proved last year (not so terribly much this year) how good of a quarterback he is.. His stats last year were nearly identical to Russell Wilson’s this year, with a team that’s not as good to boot, which tells you how good he is. To top this off, the Redskins just hired offensive genius Jay Gruden as Head Coach, the former offensive coordinator of the Bengals. The Bengals had a powerful offense in the regular season, but fell apart in the playoffs when the test was of player skill more than the coaching staff. The Redskins could easily be the powerhouse of the NFC east.
The other team that has Superbowl contender potential, and then some, is the Detroit Lions. Now, while you are cleaning the beverage you just spat onto your monitor, hear me out. The Lions have a nearly ridiculous set of players on offense, one that rivals the Broncos. In addition to having more than capable players on defense. The difference maker for this team will be, hands down, Jim Caldwell. The Lions are an incredibly disrespectful team, think Richard Sherman minus the playfulness. Caldwell can help Stafford back up to the ranks of the more elite quarterbacks, just a few years ago he was the number 2 in the league. But, more importantly, Caldwell can bring dignity to this team.
Number 1 Seed: Pittsburgh Steelers
Now, before you cry favoritism, hear me out. Pittsburgh ended the season 6-2, against much better teams than their 2-6 start. In addition, Pittsburgh has a relatively easy schedule next year, playing the AFC and NFC Souths. With Pittsburgh replacing the aging defense with its new, young guns, Pittsburgh could be a force to be reckoned with.
Number 2 Seed: Indianapolis Colts
Now, you’re probably thinking, “Why aren’t the Broncos here?”. I’ll get to that. The Colts, this year, were an odd team. They beat all the teams they shouldn’t have (Killed San Francisco, beat Seattle and Denver solidly) and lost to teams they shouldn’t (Arizona, San Diego). Also, with Reggie Wayne back and Andrew Luck only getting better and better, this team’s offense will be dangerous. On the other side, Robert Mathis just led the league in sacks. If the Colts can draft a few successful defensive players in the draft, they will be a very, very dangerous team to play.
Number 3 Seed: Denver Broncos
While some would argue the Patriots are more likely to be here (The Patriots, essentially, have their division on farm), I think the Broncos will squeeze out just enough wins to get ahead. Now, the Broncos aren’t going to be number 2 for one, simple reason: the Broncos play the NFC West next year (Seahawks, 49ers, Cardinals). Now, odds are, they will lose at least 1 or 2 of these games, which is enough to put them under the Colts. Plus, this is honestly an optimistic view of the Broncos season next year, as odds are Peyton won’t play as well as he did this year. Still extremely well, but not record breaking.
Number 4 Seed: New England Patriots
Ahhh, here they are. The Patriots. Now, I’m not necessarily saying they will be terrific, but, at most, they may lose ONE game in their division, even though that isn’t likely. While Brady has faded back into the game manager he used to be, any team coached by Belichick is dangerous. To make matters worse (for fans of other teams in their division), the Patriots have had an emerging star running back in Blount.
Number 1 Seed: New Orleans Saints
Now, I’m sure some readers are noticing and thinking, “Wait a second… his two favorite teams are the number 1 Seeds?!? Foul Play!!” Just hold on, and let me explain. New Orleans was a great team this year, BUT, they had issues on the road. Period. Under Sean Payton’s last two years leading the Saints, he has been 16-0 at home. So playing is not the problem. The fact is, unfortunately, New Orleans is simply a different team on the road. But, the big thing this year is that their road schedule is easy; outside of divisional teams, the best record they face is, ironically, Pittsburgh at 8-8. My prediction for New Orleans, specifically, are road losses to Carolina and Pittsburgh.
Number 2 Seed: Detroit Lions
I’ll pause again whilst you clean your monitor. Good? Ok. As I mentioned before in my Big Hit or Bust teams, the Detroit Lions have everything they could possibly need to make it to the Big Game except for one thing: the Coach. And now, with Jim Caldwell, a superb Quarterback coach, they finally have one, it seems. Caldwell can bring the dignity the Lions need, but even if he doesn’t manage that, there is one thing he can do: make Mathew Stafford better. Stafford has all the weapons a quarterback could ever want: arguably a receiver that could challenge Jerry Rice as greatest ever, Calvin Johnson, the RB pairing of Reggie Bush and Joquie Bell.
Number 3 Seed: San Fransisco 49ers
While the fact that the 49ers are going to be a tough team to beat won’t be any surprise, what may be shocking is that I have them below the Lions in the NFC playoffs. There are a few reasons why. Firstly, the 49ers are in a VERY tough division, facing the Seahawks and the Cardinals twice. However, they also play Denver in addition to the Saints at home. Beating the Saints at home isn’t something you accomplish easily. The 49ers, however, after watching their rivals win the Superbowl, will attack with full force.
Number 4 Seed: Washington Redskins
Though the Eagles won their division this year, the Redskins this next year will not be the same team as this year, not by a long shot. Mike Shanahan, the previous coach of the Redskins, won two Superbowls. However, he did this with a moderately well known Quarterback by the name of John Elway (sarcasm on moderately well known). Jay Gruden is EXACTLY the coach the Redskins need to turn their good offense into a great one.