Happy Game Day, friends. I know I haven’t posted much lately, but I seem to have reached the busy season at my day job, and being buried is the price of being in the senior position I’m in. As I was discussing today with our HR director, anybody who thinks you can “have it all” is delusional. I’ll try to write more in the coming weeks, particularly as games give me material.
Today I want to offer my own useless take on the season to come. Actually, I suspect that the use I find for it will be to come back and brag on it at year-end, if my prognosticatin’ is anywhere as good as last year’s was. Since two AFC teams kick off the season tonight, here’s the AFC picture as I see it. I’ll hit you with the NFC tomorrow, and then some playoff predictions on Saturday.
I don’t have all the time in the world to devote to this, but it’s better than ESPN’s collaborative blog-a-thon, because at the end of mine, there are 256 wins and 256 losses. (Only a wanker would forecast ties before the season even starts.) Of course, for an accounting guy like me, the debits have to equal the credits.
New England 11-5 (#3 Seed in Playoffs)
New York LOLJets 2-14
I think this division clearly belongs to New England as long as Tom Brady is healthy. Their defense is quietly solid, and they’re going to run the ball well.
Miami has the feel of 2012 San Diego for me – some solid talent on hand, but some questionable free agency moves as the GM tries to save his job.
Buffalo may be on the right track if E.J. Manuel can play. I didn’t love him at FSU - and I saw him in person twice last year - but I think he was poorly coached there.
The LOLJets are a laughingstock, and I view them as the second-worst team in the NFL. What will be interesting is whether Geno Smith can improve from his current state of not-readiness; if he can, then some value will have been extracted from what is going to be an ugly year for our friend Green and White.
Cincinnati 11-5 (#2 Seed in Playoffs)
Baltimore 10-6 (#5 Seed in Playoffs)
I think Pittsburgh has easily the worst roster in the division, from top to bottom, but they have the best QB. That makes it hard to pick them last, but I really think that the other three teams are better.
Cincinnati is loaded with talent, and just needs Andy Dalton to take a medium step to be a legit Super Bowl contender.
Baltimore should eventually be better on defense than they were last year, even as I think their offense is due for a couple steps backward.
The Browns are going to benefit from Norv Turner calling the plays, most especially because his scheme is a perfect fit for Brandon Weeden’s skill set.
As for the Steelers, they’re weak on both lines, and old/slow in the back seven of their defense. I also doubt their ability to generate enough pass rush, unless Jarvis Jones is a quick study. (Rookies rarely play much/well in the Steelers defense.)
Houston 11-5 (#4 Seed in Playoffs)
The Texans again are the class of the division, although I fail to see how they materially improved over last season. I still view them as a well-constructed team that does well-conceived things, but one which is firmly in the second tier in terms of overall talent. When your only meaningful addition is a rookie #2 WR, no, you haven’t graduated to Super Bowl contender status.
The Colts are due to regress to the mean, even as their QB improves in his second year. I don’t think their defense is good enough to make the playoffs again.
I actually see a small measure of promise in Jacksonville; I think the needle is pointed up there in an organizational sense, and I actually think more highly of Blaine Gabbert’s abilities than most people do.
I don’t think much of Jake Locker, though. I think he’s basically the secular, right-handed Tim Tebow; lots of athleticism, not much polish as a passer. I also lack faith in the Titans organization, and I think it’s about to get flushed after this season.
Denver 13-3 (#1 Seed in Playoffs)
Kansas City 9-7 (#6 Seed in Playoffs)
San Diego 4-12
The Broncos have the best overall mix of talent in the AFC, and they should easily win this division. It makes me laugh as all the Denver Post guys put the Broncos at 11-5; look at their schedule, and tell me where there are five losses. I doubt that there’s any suspense about it after Week 10 or so.
I don’t think as highly of the Chiefs’ “6 Pro Bowlers” as most media people do, but I do think they’ll improve for three reasons:
- Alex Smith is better than he’s given credit for, and he’s the #2 QB in the AFCW
- Dave Toub is a superstar as a special teams coordinator
- Andy Reid has a way of getting his teams into the January mix.
The Chargers are undergoing a legit rebuilding job, and I don’t think anybody in that building is deluding themselves that it’s anything other than that. The next time they’re truly competitive, Philip Rivers will have been sent packing.
The Raiders look like they could be the worst team in NFL history. Their roster is so hollowed out, I have a hard time believing that they’ll even be within 10 points of anybody on their schedule this year, let along win a game. I think they’ll be drafting Teddy Bridgewater next year ahead of Jadeveon Clowney. They’ll also have a ton of cap room in 2014. This year, though, they're not far off from the 1976 Buccaneers, especially once Darren McFadden inevitably gets hurt.