Thursday, September 5, 2013

2013-14 NFL Season Preview

     That time is upon us once again people. That's right, no more watching Dancing With The Stars, no more watching HGTV with your wife, and no more time for Honey Boo Boo, because the National Football League is back at it this week. More importantly, Fantasy Football seasons begin this week, and most of us are still upset about the mistakes we made in our drafts.

     This summer has been an eventful one across all the sports. In the NBA, LeBron James and the Miami Heat won their 2nd consecutive World Championship. In Golf, Phil Mickelson choked away the US Open once again, while also winning his first Open Championship. In Baseball, we have seen Miguel Cabrera and Crush (Chris) Davis dominate the league with monstrous home runs. In College Football, Johnny Manziel has stolen all the headlines: first by being irresponsible, then with accusations of illegally accepting money for autographs

     However, the NFL has still managed to steal the show once again, as Aaron Hernandez topped headlines for weeks after being charged with 1st degree murder. In addition to that, we had two front office employees for the Broncos' suspended for DUIs, the ongoing RGKnee debacle, more butt-fumble news, and another round of Tebow Mania. Now that it is September once again, we can put all of that past us, and focus on the task at hand: winning Super Bowl XLVIII.

     There are a number of teams out there that believe they have a chance to win it all, but many of them, especially those that were in the playoffs last year, have questions surrounding their roster that could disrupt that opportunity. The Ravens have lost a significant amount of fire power since last year. The San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, and New England Patriots all have injuries to their top receiving threat. Many expect the Colts and Redskins to take a step back as their young quarterbacks adjust to a league that will have studied their NFL game tape. And let's face it: The Vikings and Bengals never have a shot. 

     That leaves the top contenders this year as the Broncos, Falcons, Texans, and Packers. Of those four, the strongest case can be made for the Broncos, as they have only improved an offense that was nearly unstoppable last year. Not to say that I believe Peyton Manning will win another ring, but they should be the favorite right now. As per the rest of the league, here's where you stand as of now:

Week 1 Power Rankings

1. Denver Broncos - Despite Peyton Manning's propensity for late game interceptions, I have faith.

2. Atlanta Falcons - Steven Jackson is a big addition to a team that previously had a 250 pound man nicknamed "The Burner"for his apparent inability to burn calories.

3. Green Bay Packers - Losing Greg Jennings and Donald Driver might mean a lot to the franchise, but should not slow this team down one bit.

4. Houston Texans - Between Arian Foster's heart condition and Ed Reed's mysterious hip, you would think more caution would be expressed here.

5. San Francisco 49ers - Ted Ginn's injury is devastating, and Colin Kaepernick may or may not be a Miami Dolphin, but I expect another division title in San Fran.

6. New England Patriots - Losing Gronk for a few weeks is bad, but losing Hernandez forever is an unforeseen dagger. Take into account the loss of Wes Welker, and you have a completely revamped receiving core in Foxboro. Look to see Belichick reinvent the wheel once again.

7. Seattle Seahawks - Russell Wilson impressed me the most of any of the rookies last season. I expect big things for him in the near future.

8. Baltimore Ravens - Joe Flacco is as Eli Manning-esque as they come. That is the only way to quantify the 2013 postseason.

9. Washington Redskins - The knee is good, and RGIII has hashed everything out with the Shannahans. A deep playoff run is possible.

10. Indianapolis Colts - Luck proved everyone right last year with young guys like Vick Ballard and T.Y Hilton. Expect the addition of Heyward-Bey to pay dividends.

11. New York Giants - The Giants tend to be on again off again, they were off last year, so expect a playoff birth.

12. Cincinnatti Bengals - Dalton & Green have the potential to be one of the all time great tandems in football. Whether or not that translates into playoff success remains to be seen.

13. New Orleans Saints - The return of Sean Payton will mark another 10 win season for Brees and Company. His passing stats continue to shatter ever record imaginable. On pace to approach all-time marks.

14. Pittsburgh Steelers - A healthy Troy Polamalu is a winning season in Steel City, its as simple as that.

15. Minnesota Vikings - The addition of Greg Jennings would be great if they still had Percy Harvin. This team definitely has potential to make a run, but that's provided AP reaches his season goal.

16. Chicago Bears - The Bears' offensive stars have reached their prime and should be ready to make a playoff push. The thing is, the same could have been said for the past 5 years.

17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Darelle Revis and Dashon Goldson as well as 2013 2nd rounder Jonathan Banks look to improve the league's worst passing defense.

18. Carolina Panthers - The Panther's have failed to make significant improvements for the second consecutive year. Head Coach Ron Rivera's hot seat is turning into an inferno.
19. Detroit Lions - Adding Reggie Bush to an offense featuring Mega Tron will be very interesting, hopefully it will add another dimension.

20. Philadelphia Eagles - First-year head coach Chip Kelly looks to shake things up with a brand-new offense. Here's to hoping Vick survives more than 10-12 games of it.

21. Tennessee Titans - The old saying goes: If you have two quarterbacks, you don't have one. Good luck starting Jake Locker with a guy like Ryan Fitzpatrick on the sideline.

22. Kansas City Chiefs - This team has 7 former 1st & 2nd round picks on their starting defense, and 9 on offense, yet has failed to accomplish much of anything. See: Detroit Lions 2002-2005

23. St. Louis Rams -Sam Bradford has had tumultuous College & Professional careers to date, but if he improves his statistics from last season they have a chance to finish the season .500 or better.

24. Arizona Cardinals - A lot of hype surrounded the Cardinals this off season with the drafting of the 'Honey Badger', but I will not buy it until he figures out how many drug tests he failed at LSU.

25. Dallas Cowboys - Dez Bryant has improved on his previous season total by 3 receiving touchdowns each year. Expect a big year from him, but not much from the rest of the team.

26. San Diego Chargers - Norv Turner is finally gone. With his curse lifted, Antonio Gates' toe may finally heal.

27. Cleveland Browns - 129 year old second year QB BrandonWeeden leads Cleveland once again... unfortunately.

28. Miami Dolphins - Poised to make some noise this season, but then again they are the Dolphins.

29. Buffalo Bills - Hopefully Bills' Coach Doug Marrone keeps Spiller from getting too sick just yet.

30. New York Jets - Sanchez is hurt, and that actually bodes well for their season.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars - Hard to personify how bad the Jaguars are. Imagine this happens to you. Now think, at least he was out after 6 days. The Jaguars have been like this for years.

32 .Oakland Raiders - Sorry Raider Fans. Maybe another move to Los Angeles will change your fortunes. Just remember, it was only a decade ago that you were in the Super Bowl... oh.

 Fantasy Players To Watch

The first week is always an explosive one, and I expect a few flash-in-the-pan stars to shine on Sunday. Plenty of teams have good match-ups to open the season (See: Patriots' Schedule) but there are a few individuals that stand out as my fantasy players to watch:

1. Christian Ponder - QB Minnesota Vikings

      The Minnesota Lions face the Detroit Lions on Sunday in a game that I fully expect to be a high scoring affair. Most expect Adrian Peterson to continue getting the ball on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd down, but the Lions will bring 8 men into the box to prevent that from translating into success. Ponder will have to take shots down field and abuse this defense the way that every other QB in the NFL has done. Fantasy Prediction: 308 Passing Yards, 3 Touchdowns.

2. Isaac Redman - RB Pittsburgh Steelers

     The Pittsburgh Steelers will host the Tennessee this Sunday in a game that figures to play out in the Steelers' favor. Fantasy owners should be intrigued by the match-up, because Steelers' rookie RB Le'Veon Bell is sitting out this week, giving Redman the bulk of the carries. Horrible Titans run defense will be victimized. Fantasy Prediction: 127 Total Yards, 2 Touchdowns.

3. Golden Tate - WR Seattle Seahawks

     The Seattle Seahawks travel to Charlotte to face the Panthers this Sunday in a game that matches up two of the best young players in the game: Russell Wilson and CamNewton. With 8 men in the box to contain Marshawn Lynch, coveraged rolled towards Sidney Rice, and Percy Harvin out with a hip injury, I look for Golden Tate to have another breakout season and that starts with this game. Fantasy Prediction: 154 Receiving Yards, 2 Touchdowns.

Super Bowl Predictions

     To finish it off, it is only natural that I make a Super Bowl Pick. I tend to defy logic in all that I do, and although it may not make perfect sense there is always a reason to pick a team to win. So for those fans out there cheering for perennial losers, keep reminding your Super-Bowl winning friends that your team is selecting much higher in the draft. 

     I expect the representatives on both sides to be featuring young QBs: Seahawks and Colts. With that in mind, I am going with the Indianapolis Colts as my pick to win Super Bowl XLVIII. Get your popcorn ready football fans, I have a feeling this year will be one for the ages.

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