By Hamish Girvan
The preseason is just about through and the Fantasy Football drafts have started
The storylines don’t get any bigger than the countdown to the NFL season
The regular season begins on September 5th and the divisional predictions for the 2013/14 season are hence with
The New England Patriots are the perennial favourites yet again however Quarterback Tom Brady’s main weapons are either in Denver with another team, having surgery or in jail. Coach Belichick is still the Zen master of coaches and will not want to miss out on another close run at the championship. Expect the usual deep run. The New York Jets still have a quarterback controversy however this year instead of only having one issue, in incumbent Mark Sanchez, they have new draftee and the accompanying attitude of Geno Smith to contend with. Watch this space. Trading away their best defender in Darrelle Revis to Tampa was also an odd decision. More off field headlines then on again predicted. The Miami Dolphins look reasonably settled however they don’t seem to have to have improved their roster much. Prediction is they will sweep divisional rivals the Jets and Bill’s however that’s about it. The Buffalo Bills have a new coach out of the college system in Doug Marrone. Drafting quarterback Eli Manual in the first round raised eyebrows however his pre-season form has looked OK before he picked up an injury. They could be a surprise package. They need to be. The last playoff appearance for the Bills – 1999.
The Houston Texans have gone recent seasons as contenders however their playoff runs have been brief. This could be make or break for Coach Kubiak’s team. Defensive monster J J Watt made his mark last season and will want the rest of his team to rally this season as well. The Indianapolis Colts surprised last season with rookie quarterback Andrew Luck taking his team to a playoff spot. There is no reason as to why they cannot do it again in what will be Coach Pagano’s first full season at the helm. The Tennessee Titans again don’t look they will be a force and fantasy league favourite Chris Johnson will probably be their only hit. The Jacksonville Jaguars are possible favourite for one thing only – first pick in next year’s draft.
The favourites for Superbowl this year are the Denver Broncos and word is Peyton Manning is looking sharper than he did last season. He also has ex Patriots crowd favourite, receiver Wes Walker, to throw to. The Kansas City Chiefs have well respected coaching brain, Andy Reid, at the helm so an improvement of the two wins last season is a given. They could be a surprise package with ex 49ers Quarterback Alex Smith calling the shots. The San Diego Chargers will more than likely become under achievers yet again with an offensive line that can’t protect playmaker Philip Rivers. The Oakland Raiders have had a major clean out coaching staff wise however the culture of egos and broken expectations will still exist.
This will be one of the toughest and even divisions this season. Current Superbowl champions the Baltimore Ravens having released a number of their title winning veterans and are building their team around Quarterback Joe Flacco whose recently signed Multi-million contract extension makes him one of the NFLs highest paid. The Cincinnati Bengals are relatively unchanged from last season however there is a better consistency seen in their pre season form. They are looking like favourites for the division. The Pittsburgh Steelers always touch and uncompromising may not be as strong as usual however they will be as competitive as the rest. The Cleveland Browns have been perennial losers, not having a winning season since 2007. They are rebuilding and have a new coaching team and although not really contenders will more than likely provide the odd upset.
The coldest of all divisions. The Green Bay Packers have been as consistent as ever in the last few years and are odds on for another run in the post season. Quarterback Aaron Rogers is rated the best in the NFL in most polls however their offensive line is still questionable in terms of protecting him. The Minnesota Vikings surprised many by making the playoffs last season as a wildcard team. This season they will be as good if not better with running back Adrian Peterson wanting to break that 2000 yard rushing milestone. The Chicago Bears have a new coach in Marc Trestman and a new offence system. It’s a massive season for quarterback Jay Cutler going into the last year of his contract. The Detroit Lions regressed last season from their playoff appearance the season before and Coach Schwartz will be in the hot seat. Their ill-discipline has cost them games however they will be hoping Reggie Bush will provide some big rushing yards as an off season acquisition.
In what was the weakest division two seasons ago it is now one of the strongest. Last season’s Superbowl runner up, the San Francisco 49ers, will be looking to go one step further and have made a number of off season acquisitions. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick had a breakout season once he got the starting role and is rated one of the best in the league. The Seattle Seahawks performed ahead of expectations, and with strength on offence in quarterback Russell Wilson, and defence led by maverick safety Richard Sherman, they will be a test for anyone. The St Louis Rams are a sleeper team in the NFL. Well respected and experienced coach Jeff Fisher goes into his second season and his focus will be on defence. They will be tough to score against. The Arizona Cardinals started last a season with four straight wins then folded. A coaching change gives Bruce Arians a real chance at head man after babysitting the Indianapolis Colts last season. Arian’s is an offensive guru and has brought in veteran quarterback Carson Palmer to run the show. They could provide a few surprises.
The Atlanta Falcons recently have promised much however have fallen at the final hurdle. They have stayed relatively stable for this season and Matty ‘Ice’ Ryan will want to prove he can take his game to the next level. The New Orleans Saints welcome back head coach Sean Payton after his bounty gate ban. Payton gets the best out of quarterback Drew Brees and coaches a potent offence. Much maligned defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan, is there to stop the flood of points the Saints conceded last season making them the worst in the NFL last season. The Carolina Panthers are a team under pressure. Seen as a potential contender they flopped with quarterback Cam Newton having a second season slump. Make or break for both players and coaching staff in this organisation. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be looking to improve on last year and have recruited Deville Revis, rated as the best in the league, as their prime player acquisition at Safety. Already being written off they have plenty of motivation to prove critics wrong.
The strength in teams in this division changed considerably last season with the Redskins winning the division for the first time since 1999. The hype around quarterback Robert Griffin III and his knee reconstruction has provided more off season news lines then any of their plans for the defence of the division title. It could end in tears. The New York Giants went from Superbowl champs the season before to not making the playoffs last season. They will want to readdress that this season and always build a team around playing when the weather gets colder and the football gets tougher. The Dallas Cowboys always are in a make or break season playoff wise. Having again missed out last season owner Jerry Jones surely will have to make personnel changes at all levels if the same scenario occurs this season. There is always such high expectations and hype about “them Cowboys” every season. The interest in the division will be the Philadelphia Eagles and new head coach Chip Kelly. Kelly brings a college style offence based around a running quarterback. Not expected to be competitive this season they should be entertaining to watch.
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