1. The Chicago Bears Struggle
An old defense. An improved, but not great offensive line. A lack of receivers not named Brandon Marshall (I don’t buy the Martellus Bennett hype). A coach who has spent the last 8 years in Canada. A tough schedule (Cinci, NO, NYG, @Wash, Balt, @StL). Take the under 8.5 wins and don’t pick them to make the playoffs.
2. Ryan Tannehill Joins the QB Discussion
Tannehill wasn’t great last year (27th in QB rating, 19th in QBR), but he didn’t have the teams that Wilson (1st in DVOA), Kaepernick (4th), and Griffin (9th) had. But with a full season under his belt, and a Miami team that should be better, and also plays in a lousy division, he will make the QB discussion a 6-man conversation (Luck and Newton are the other two guys I hadn’t mentioned yet).
3. A QB Will Not Win Offensive Rookie of the Year
Three of the last four Offensive Rookie of the Years were QBs (RG3, Cam Newton, Sam Bradford and Matt Ryan). The last time a non-QB/HB won the award was Anquan Boldin in 2003. That ends this year when either St. Louis WR Tavon Austin or Houston Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins will steal it this year.
4. Chiefs struggle
The trendy pick to make the playoffs won’t. Andy Reid missed the playoffs the last two years after only missing it twice the prior 11 seasons. Everyone assumes that Reid’s players quit on him and that he can just get back to winning ways. Alex Smith was in the conversation for all-time draft busts before Jim Harbaugh showed up and he went 13-3 as the starter in 2011. He was so great that he lost his starting job part of the way in 2012 and never got it back. Chiefs backers are saying to forget Reid’s recent history and forget 5 of Smith’s 7 seasons and assume this team will be good. Seems like a stretch.
5. Chicago Bears LB Jon Bostic Wins Defensive Rookie of the Year
Bostic was the 7th LB taken in the draft. This award is mostly won by linebackers. Pittsburgh Jarvis Jones is a favorite, but has injury concerns. St. Louis LB Alec Ogletree has potential but baggage. Bostic could be the emerging star that turns the Bears defense around, but when it’s all over, Bostic is going to make a bunch of highlight reel plays that make an impact.
6. St Louis Makes the Playoffs
On the podcast, I predicted they would take the other wildcard spot (along with the Seahawks), but it’s possible they will finish 2nd and still take a wild card slot. They finished 15th in DVOA last season, and had the 7th best defense on the same rankings. Their offense could be better after adding Jake Long, Jared Cook and draft picks Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. A lot of people think too much is being made of the Rams, but they were a lot better than people thought last year.
7. Jason Garrett and Rex Ryan Get Fired
The list of coaches on the “hot seat” is pretty short since so many new guys were hired this offseason. Of course any coach is vulnerable if a team really falls off, but really the list is short. So picking Garret and Ryan to get fired isn’t that crazy. In fact, there might not be another guy on the “hot seat” at all right now. The Cowboys have their bye week during the 11th week, which allows the prediction “he will be gone before Thanksgiving” to make sense. The Jets bye week comes a week earlier, week 10, but it’s possible that Ryan doesn’t last that long. The Jets season begins: TB, @NE, Buff, @Tenn, @ATL, Pitt, NE, @Cin. Buffalo is likely the only game they will be favored in, and they could possibly lose every one of these.
8. There Is Very Little Playoff Turnover
Of the 12 teams that made the playoffs last year, 9 of them will be back next season. The Colts will regress in every way that people are predicting, and the Dolphins will likely take their place. In the NFC, the Redskins will struggle keeping Robert Griffin III on the field and will lose the division to the Giants. And the Vikings will be worse without Percy Harvin and with a tougher schedule and lose their wild card spot to the Rams.
9. Arizona and Oakland Battle It Out for Worst Record
These teams finished 5th and 6th in the NFL last season. The Chiefs should be better than 2 wins, even if they aren’t as good as most think. Detroit better win more than 4 or the city might actually fall into the lake. Philadelphia should be close or about the same to 4 wins. That just leaves Jacksonville as a real threat. Oakland just handed the keys to Terrelle Pryor despite trading for Matt Flynn, who might end up setting a record for biggest contract without ever starting a game, which means they are thinking long term. Arizona is going with Oaklands QB last year, Carson Palmer, and might be better than they were, but their division is so tough they just won’t be good.
10. Neither of the Harbaugh Brothers Make the Super Bowl
Not a huge limb here. Most think the Ravens are a fringe playoff team at best, but most also think the 49ers are the favorite in the NFC (or co-favorite with the Packers for some). Jim Harbaugh might be on the cusp of stealing the crown for “best football coach in the world” from Bill Belichick in the very near future, but he is going to have to wait a bit longer for that Super Bowl ring.