2014 NFL Schedule: W-L Predictions for Every Team

Michael Schottey@SchotteyNFL National Lead WriterApril 24, 2014

2014 NFL Schedule: W-L Predictions for Every Team

0 of 32

    Morry Gash

    This is what's going to happen in the upcoming NFL season. Let's not even play the games. 

    Of course, that is crazy talk. Anything can happen in just about every NFL game, so these predictions are just that—predictions. This is a projection of what the season could look like from my perspective based on the release of the NFL schedule. 

    A lot is going to happen between now and the regular season in September. Players are going to be injured. Little-known athletes are going to come out of nowhere to become role players for their teams. More free agents are going to be signed. 

    Oh, and there's this little thing called the draft. 

    Right now, every single team is going to ostensibly get better in about a month. So, the question is: Which teams are going to get better incrementally and which will get better by larger margins? The crazy amount of variability is almost assuredly going to shake up these projections by the preseason. 

    So, why do this?

    In short, we've known who was playing whom for a long time, but now we see how the when plays into that knowledge. The New York Jets, for instance, will play the top two AFC seeds from a year ago, the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots, in a five-day span in mid-October.

    Coach Rex Ryan said of the quick turnaround, via Darryl Slater of The Star-Ledger, "Obviously, that's a huge challenge. We'll be up for it. You're facing the two best teams in the AFC last year. We'll have a lot of football to play up until that, and hopefully we're hitting our stride when we play those two teams."

    And now that we can start to piece together the when, we know more about the upcoming season than ever before. Rather than go around the same ridiculous NFL draft rumors that anonymous executives are spouting, it's a perfect time to take the league's temperature.

Buffalo Bills

1 of 32

    Gary Wiepert

    Projected Record: 4-12

    Schedule (Wins are in bold)

    • Week 1: @Chicago Bears
    • Week 2: Miami Dolphins
    • Week 3: San Diego Chargers
    • Week 4: @Houston Texans
    • Week 5: @Detroit Lions
    • Week 6: New England Patriots
    • Week 7: Minnesota Vikings
    • Week 8: @New York Jets
    • Week 9: Bye
    • Week 10: Kansas City Chiefs
    • Week 11: @Miami Dolphins
    • Week 12: New York Jets
    • Week 13: Cleveland Browns
    • Week 14: @Denver Broncos
    • Week 15: Green Bay Packers
    • Week 16: @Oakland Raiders
    • Week 17: @New England Patriots

    How That Record Improves: Quarterback EJ Manuel needs to perform in a very big way, as do many of the young players in the receiving corps. C.J. Spiller, too, has a lot of untapped potential that he should start showing on a more consistent basis. If most or all of that clicks, the wins will pile up. 

    How Things Hit Rock Bottom: Rock bottom will occur if the Bills have to move forward with a new plan at quarterback. Goal No. 1 for 2014 is making sure Manuel is the guy.

    Bottom Line: Bills fans won't appreciate this sort of record in head coach Doug Marrone's second year, but Buffalo has a tough schedule, and there are a lot of question marks on a roster that needs tons of help in the draft.

    Projected Finish in Division: Third

Miami Dolphins

2 of 32

    Bill Wippert

    Projected Record: 3-13

    Schedule (Wins are in bold)

    • Week 1: New England Patriots
    • Week 2: @Buffalo Bills
    • Week 3: Kansas City Chiefs
    • Week 4: @Oakland Raiders
    • Week 5: Bye
    • Week 6: Green Bay Packers
    • Week 7: @Chicago Bears
    • Week 8: @Jacksonville Jaguars
    • Week 9: San Diego Chargers
    • Week 10: @Detroit Lions
    • Week 11: Buffalo Bills
    • Week 12: @Denver Broncos
    • Week 13: @New York Jets
    • Week 14: Baltimore Ravens
    • Week 15: @New England Patriots
    • Week 16: Minnesota Vikings
    • Week 17: New York Jets

    How That Record Improves: A rough schedule only improves if the Dolphins can consistently win on the road, where their easiest matchups exist. 

    How Things Hit Rock Bottom: This looks a lot like rock bottom for the Dolphins already. Head coach Joe Philbin would likely find himself fired midseason, and Ryan Tannehill (whom I like as a franchise quarterback) would become expendable.  

    Bottom Line: The Dolphins are a better team than this record indicates, but it's difficult to trust them before they prove they can take care of business.  

    Projected Finish in Division: Fourth

New England Patriots

3 of 32

    Lynne Sladky

    Projected Record: 12-4

    Schedule (Wins are in bold)

    • Week 1: @Miami Dolphins
    • Week 2: @Minnesota Vikings
    • Week 3: Oakland Raiders
    • Week 4: @Kansas City Chiefs
    • Week 5: Cincinnati Bengals
    • Week 6: @Buffalo Bills
    • Week 7: New York Jets
    • Week 8: Chicago Bears
    • Week 9: Denver Broncos
    • Week 10: Bye
    • Week 11: @Indianapolis Colts
    • Week 12: Detroit Lions
    • Week 13: @Green Bay Packers
    • Week 14: @San Diego Chargers
    • Week 15: Miami Dolphins
    • Week 16: @New York Jets
    • Week 17: Buffalo Bills

    How That Record Improves: It's tough to improve on this record, but special things could happen for the Patriots this season if some of the younger offensive skill position talent clicks at the right time.

    How Things Hit Rock Bottom: Tom Brady gets hurt or declines further rather than rebounds from last year's performance. Also, the defense regressing from last year seems unlikely with cornerback Darrelle Revis in the fold, but upheaval in the front seven could bring a slight decline.

    Bottom Line: People seem more down on the Patriots than last year's performance actually warranted. Look for them to get back on track.

    Projected Finish in Division: First

New York Jets

4 of 32

    Jonathan Bachman

    Projected Record: 6-10

    Schedule (Wins are in bold)

    • Week 1: Oakland Raiders
    • Week 2: @Green Bay Packers
    • Week 3: Chicago Bears
    • Week 4: Detroit Lions
    • Week 5: @San Diego Chargers
    • Week 6: Denver Broncos
    • Week 7: @New England Patriots
    • Week 8: Buffalo Bills
    • Week 9: @Kansas City Chiefs 
    • Week 10: Pittsburgh Steelers
    • Week 11: Bye
    • Week 12: @Buffalo Bills
    • Week 13: Miami Dolphins
    • Week 14: @Minnesota Vikings
    • Week 15: @Tennessee Titans
    • Week 16: New England Patriots
    • Week 17: @Miami Dolphins

    How That Record Improves: Michael Vick needs to hit his stride, and early, or Geno Smith has to take huge steps forward from a good final stretch in 2013. Eric Decker, meanwhile, needs to prove he's a viable No. 1.

    How Things Hit Rock Bottom: If Vick gets hurt (or is ineffective), it will force Geno Smith to play. If Smith falls on his face, the Jets will be rebuilding again in 2015.

    Bottom Line: Another good draft could push the defense to new heights, but deficiencies on offense and the lack of a capable starting cornerback could deep-six this team early.

    Projected Finish in Division: Second 

Baltimore Ravens

5 of 32

    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Projected Record: 11-5

    Schedule (Wins are in bold)

    • Week 1: Cincinnati Bengals
    • Week 2: Pittsburgh Steelers
    • Week 3: @Cleveland Browns
    • Week 4: Carolina Panthers
    • Week 5: @Indianapolis Colts
    • Week 6: @Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    • Week 7: Atlanta Falcons
    • Week 8: @Cincinnati Bengals 
    • Week 9: @Pittsburgh Steelers
    • Week 10: Tennessee Titans
    • Week 11: Bye
    • Week 12: @New Orleans Saints
    • Week 13: San Diego Chargers
    • Week 14: @Miami Dolphins
    • Week 15: Jacksonville Jaguars
    • Week 16: @Houston Texans
    • Week 17: Cleveland Browns

    How That Record Improves: The defense was improved in 2013, but another step forward from the younger players on the D could put them into the 13- to 14-win range.

    How Things Hit Rock Bottom: A Joe Flacco nosedive would hamstring the Ravens from a team-building perspective as well as in the win-loss column.

    Bottom Line: Ozzie Newsome never seems to take very long to restock the shelves, and the Ravens should be back in the playoffs in 2014.

    Projected Finish in Division: First

Cincinnati Bengals

6 of 32

    Tom Uhlman

    Projected Record: 10-6

    Schedule (Wins are in bold)

    • Week 1: @Baltimore Ravens
    • Week 2: Atlanta Falcons
    • Week 3: Tennessee Titans
    • Week 4: Bye
    • Week 5: @New England Patriots
    • Week 6: Carolina Panthers
    • Week 7: @Indianapolis Colts
    • Week 8: Baltimore Ravens
    • Week 9: Jacksonville Jaguars
    • Week 10: Cleveland Browns
    • Week 11: @New Orleans Saints
    • Week 12: @Houston Texans
    • Week 13: @Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    • Week 14: Pittsburgh Steelers
    • Week 15: @Cleveland Browns
    • Week 16: Denver Broncos
    • Week 17: @Pittsburgh Steelers

    How That Record Improves: Andy Dalton needs to take advantage of all the weapons this team has given him. The defense will have Geno Atkins back and be trying to rebound. 

    How Things Hit Rock Bottom: Bengals players seem to tune Marvin Lewis out every couple of years, and it remains to be seen how much the now-departed Mike Zimmer was holding things together on the defensive side of the ball. 

    Bottom Line: Having two new coordinators isn't going to make for an easy transition, but the Bengals have the opportunity to strike in a shaky AFC North. I have them finishing second, but first is by no means out of the question. 

    Projected Finish in Division: Second 

Cleveland Browns

7 of 32

    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Projected Record: 2-14

    Schedule (Wins are in bold)

    • Week 1: @Pittsburgh Steelers
    • Week 2: New Orleans Saints
    • Week 3: Baltimore Ravens
    • Week 4: Bye
    • Week 5: @Tennessee Titans
    • Week 6: Pittsburgh Steelers
    • Week 7: @Jacksonville Jaguars
    • Week 8: Oakland Raiders
    • Week 9: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    • Week 10: @Cincinnati Bengals
    • Week 11: Houston Texans
    • Week 12: @Atlanta Falcons
    • Week 13: @Buffalo Bills
    • Week 14: Indianapolis Colts
    • Week 15: Cincinnati Bengals
    • Week 16: @Carolina Panthers
    • Week 17: @Baltimore Ravens

    How That Record Improves: The Browns need to find a quarterback—scratch that, the quarterback in the draft. Another decade of upheaval and mediocrity at the position isn't helping anyone in Cleveland. 

    How Things Hit Rock Bottom: Aren't we there? Missing on both first-round picks or waiting for their guy at quarterback, and missing out on him would be even worse. Still, things can't be that much worse. 

    Bottom Line: Browns fans want, and deserve, a better team, so this projection will likely make a few people nervous or (more likely) irate. With a great draft, though, the Browns have as good a chance as anyone to make this early prediction look foolish. 

    Projected Finish in Division: Fourth 

Pittsburgh Steelers

8 of 32

    USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Record: 6-10

    Schedule (Wins are in bold)

    • Week 1: Cleveland Browns
    • Week 2: @Baltimore Ravens
    • Week 3: @Carolina Panthers
    • Week 4: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    • Week 5: @Jacksonville Jaguars
    • Week 6: @Cleveland Browns
    • Week 7: Houston Texans
    • Week 8: Indianapolis Colts
    • Week 9: Baltimore Ravens
    • Week 10: @New York Jets
    • Week 11: @Tennessee Titans
    • Week 12: Bye
    • Week 13: New Orleans Saints
    • Week 14: @Cincinnati Bengals
    • Week 15: @Atlanta Falcons
    • Week 16: Kansas City Chiefs 
    • Week 17: Cincinnati Bengals

    How That Record Improves: The defense is a bit of a revolving door, so that needs to be closed permanently with more young additions. Failing that, the offense needs to be better in a big way, both on the run and the pass. Last season, some of the pieces were there but just didn't click. 

    How Things Hit Rock Bottom: The Steelers' standards allow for a rocky patch every so often, but a six-win season would not only be a backslide from last year, but also proof that this isn't just a rough spell. 

    Bottom Line: The Steelers have an interesting mix of good young talent, but the veterans fell off a cliff sooner than many in that front office probably expected. The new guard will need to fill that gap. 

    Projected Finish in Division: Third

Houston Texans

9 of 32

    USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Record: 7-9

    Schedule (Wins are in bold)

    • Week 1: Washington
    • Week 2: @Oakland Raiders
    • Week 3: @New York Giants
    • Week 4: Buffalo Bills
    • Week 5: @Dallas Cowboys 
    • Week 6: Indianapolis Colts
    • Week 7: @Pittsburgh Steelers
    • Week 8: @Tennessee Titans
    • Week 9: Philadelphia Eagles
    • Week 10: Bye
    • Week 11: @Cleveland Browns
    • Week 12: Cincinnati Bengals
    • Week 13: Tennessee Titans
    • Week 14: @Jacksonville Jaguars
    • Week 15: @Indianapolis Colts
    • Week 16: Baltimore Ravens
    • Week 17: Jacksonville Jaguars

    How That Record Improves: Honestly, that's already a pretty big improvement and—at least to some extent—assumes a solid addition at the top of the draft. It also factors in a healthy Brian Cushing at linebacker (maybe for a whole year this time?) and a team that is more ready for "any given Sunday" than it was last year under Gary Kubiak. 

    How Things Hit Rock Bottom: Rick Smith got a bit of a pass this past offseason when he missed on some players in the past (remember big free-agent acquisition Ed Reed?). If the draft doesn't pan out as planned, this team could be right back up top next offseason with a new man at the helm. 

    Bottom Line: Find a quarterback, or seven wins is a pipe dream. 

    Projected Finish in Division: Second

Indianapolis Colts

10 of 32

    USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Record: 12-4

    Schedule (Wins are in bold)

    • Week 1: @Denver Broncos
    • Week 2: Philadelphia Eagles
    • Week 3: @Jacksonville Jaguars
    • Week 4: Tennessee Titans
    • Week 5: Baltimore Ravens
    • Week 6: @Houston Texans
    • Week 7: Cincinnati Bengals
    • Week 8: @Pittsburgh Steelers
    • Week 9: @New York Giants
    • Week 10: Bye
    • Week 11: New England Patriots
    • Week 12: Jacksonville Jaguars
    • Week 13: Washington 
    • Week 14: @Cleveland Browns
    • Week 15: Houston Texans
    • Week 16: @Dallas Cowboys
    • Week 17: @Tennessee Titans

    How That Record Improves: This projection is admittedly bullish thanks to the return of wide receiver Reggie Wayne and the continued ascent of quarterback Andrew Luck. It could get even better if the Colts find a run game. 

    How Things Hit Rock Bottom: Even a disastrous showing in terms of record wouldn't be considered rock bottom unless Luck regresses considerably. Anything less than first place will be considered a disappointment, though.  

    Bottom Line: The Colts are in the catbird seat once again in the AFC South, and it would take a dramatic turnaround from one of the other teams to change that anytime soon. 

    Projected Finish in Division: First 

Jacksonville Jaguars

11 of 32

    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Projected Record: 6-10

    Schedule (Wins are in bold)

    • Week 1: @Philadelphia Eagles
    • Week 2: @Washington
    • Week 3: Indianapolis Colts
    • Week 4: @San Diego Chargers
    • Week 5: Pittsburgh Steelers 
    • Week 6: @Tennessee Titans
    • Week 7: Cleveland Browns
    • Week 8: Miami Dolphins
    • Week 9: @Cincinnati Bengals 
    • Week 10: Dallas Cowboys
    • Week 11: Bye
    • Week 12: @Indianapolis Colts 
    • Week 13: New York Giants
    • Week 14: Houston Texans
    • Week 15: @Baltimore Ravens
    • Week 16: Tennessee Titans 
    • Week 17: @Houston Texans

    How That Record Improves: Either the Jaguars need to find a quarterback to supplant Chad Henne or Toby Gerhart has to outperform every reasonable expectation. 

    How Things Hit Rock Bottom: The slow but sure rebuild in Jacksonville is real, but a misstep (like a draft bust or Gus Bradley somehow losing the team) would send Jaguars fans into a self-loathing spiral. 

    Bottom Line: I'm consistently "high" on the decision-makers in Jacksonville, but there is still plenty of work to do. Progress is the name of the game, and shortcuts aren't going to help anyone. 

    Projected Finish in Division: Third 

Tennessee Titans

12 of 32

    Wade Payne

    Projected Record: 2-14

    Schedule (Wins are in bold)

    • Week 1: @Kansas City Chiefs
    • Week 2: Dallas Cowboys
    • Week 3: @Cincinnati Bengals
    • Week 4: @Indianapolis Colts
    • Week 5: Cleveland Browns
    • Week 6: Jacksonville Jaguars
    • Week 7: @Washington
    • Week 8: Houston Texans
    • Week 9: Bye
    • Week 10: @Baltimore Ravens
    • Week 11: Pittsburgh Steelers
    • Week 12: @Philadelphia Eagles
    • Week 13: @Houston Texans
    • Week 14: New York Giants
    • Week 15: New York Jets
    • Week 16: @Jacksonville Jaguars
    • Week 17: Indianapolis Colts

    How That Record Improves: Jake Locker needs to show improvement he hasn't shown since his freshman year of college, and consequently, some of those pass-catchers need to contribute as well.

    How Things Hit Rock Bottom: This is pretty much it for a team with a new head coach, and this record will almost ensure Tennessee of a top quarterback pick in 2015. If the defense backslides as well, however, the rebuilding plan could take a lot longer to implement. 

    Bottom Line: Change is finally happening in Tennessee following Mike Munchak's mostly inept regime. Rome wasn't built in a day, though. 

    Projected Finish in Division: Fourth 

Denver Broncos

13 of 32

    Julio Cortez

    Projected Record: 12-4

    Schedule (Wins are in bold)

    • Week 1: Indianapolis Colts
    • Week 2: Kansas City Chiefs
    • Week 3: @Seattle Seahawks
    • Week 4: Bye
    • Week 5: Arizona Cardinals
    • Week 6: @New York Jets
    • Week 7: San Francisco 49ers
    • Week 8: San Diego Chargers
    • Week 9: @New England Patriots 
    • Week 10: @Oakland Raiders
    • Week 11: @St. Louis Rams
    • Week 12: Miami Dolphins
    • Week 13: @Kansas City Chiefs
    • Week 14: Buffalo Bills
    • Week 15: @San Diego Chargers
    • Week 16: @Cincinnati Bengals
    • Week 17: Oakland Raiders

    How That Record Improves: Twelve wins would already make up a solid season for the Broncos, but they're hoping an improved defense and continued MVP-caliber play from Peyton Manning assure them of the AFC's top seed.

    How Things Hit Rock Bottom: Forget about the Super Bowl for a second (don't worry; the flashbacks will be back shortly) and reminisce about how the Jacksonville Jaguars gave Manning and company everything they could handle. Teams will be gunning for Denver, and the Seahawks and Jaguars showed them how. 

    Bottom Line: As long as Manning is playing at a high level, this is one of the best teams in football, as well as one of the best offenses in this era. 

    Projected Finish in Division: First 

Kansas City Chiefs

14 of 32

    Reed Hoffmann

    Projected Record: 11-5

    Schedule (Wins are in bold)

    • Week 1: Tennessee Titans
    • Week 2: @Denver Broncos
    • Week 3: @Miami Dolphins
    • Week 4: New England Patriots 
    • Week 5: @San Francisco 49ers
    • Week 6: Bye
    • Week 7: @San Diego Chargers
    • Week 8: St. Louis Rams
    • Week 9: New York Jets
    • Week 10: @Buffalo Bills
    • Week 11: Seattle Seahawks
    • Week 12: @Oakland Raiders
    • Week 13: Denver Broncos
    • Week 14: @Arizona Cardinals
    • Week 15: Oakland Raiders
    • Week 16: @Pittsburgh Steelers
    • Week 17: San Diego Chargers

    How That Record Improves: This assumes the same sort of "beat the teams you should beat" record that the Chiefs had last year and the same great defense/competent offense combination. With a step forward from either unit, things could be even better. 

    How Things Hit Rock Bottom: The offensive line is full of question marks, and it's very possible the offense ends up taking a step back rather than forward. 

    Bottom Line: This is a tenuous projection with a nice schedule, albeit Cleveland loses just about every game against the NFC West. A record of 11-5 is the potential, but I wouldn't be at all surprised with eight or nine wins either. 

    Projected Finish in Division: Second

Oakland Raiders

15 of 32

    Marcio Jose Sanchez

    Projected Record: 4-12

    Schedule (Wins are in bold)

    • Week 1: @New York Jets
    • Week 2: Houston Texans
    • Week 3: @New England Patriots 
    • Week 4: Miami Dolphins 
    • Week 5: Bye
    • Week 6: San Diego Chargers
    • Week 7: Arizona Cardinals 
    • Week 8: @Cleveland Browns
    • Week 9: @Seattle Seahawks
    • Week 10: Denver Broncos
    • Week 11: @San Diego Chargers
    • Week 12: Kansas City Chiefs
    • Week 13: @St. Louis Rams
    • Week 14: San Francisco 49ers
    • Week 15: @Kansas City Chiefs
    • Week 16: Buffalo Bills
    • Week 17: @Denver Broncos

    How That Record Improves: A lot of old guys need to play better than they've played in recent years. The free-agency spree was a bit of a crutch, but if some of the pickups regain old form, the Raiders will at least be a tougher out than they've been. 

    How Things Hit Rock Bottom: If Matt Schaub plays like he played last year (or worse), the whole franchise could come tumbling down around Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen's heads. The Davis family isn't known to have a whole lot of patience. 

    Bottom Line: The Raiders look to be climbing out of the muck and mire of Al Davis' final years, but a setback could mean more rebuilding by a new regime. 

    Projected Finish in Division: Fourth 

San Diego Chargers

16 of 32


    Projected Record: 8-8

    Schedule (Wins are in bold)

    • Week 1: @Arizona Cardinals
    • Week 2: Seattle Seahawks
    • Week 3: @Buffalo Bills
    • Week 4: Jacksonville Jaguars
    • Week 5: New York Jets
    • Week 6: @Oakland Raiders
    • Week 7: Kansas City Chiefs
    • Week 8: @Denver Broncos
    • Week 9: @Miami Dolphins
    • Week 10: Bye
    • Week 11: Oakland Raiders
    • Week 12: St. Louis Rams
    • Week 13: @Baltimore Ravens
    • Week 14: New England Patriots 
    • Week 15: Denver Broncos
    • Week 16: @San Francisco 49ers
    • Week 17: @Kansas City Chiefs

    How That Record Improves: This is a tough schedule for the Chargers, but if Philip Rivers plays like he played last year, 10 wins isn't out of the realm of possibility. If the defense regains its form, 11 or 12 wins is a fringe hope. 

    How Things Hit Rock Bottom: I don't foresee any regression from Rivers because of Ken Whisenhunt's departure, but any faltering from the offense would put far too much pressure on a questionable defense. For all their success last year, the Chargers still need a great draft to shore things up. 

    Bottom Line: Eight wins seems almost like a cop-out, but a bunch of tough road games and some even tougher opponents on the home slate make this season look a bit like murderers' row for a Chargers team that is struggling to get back to legitimacy. 

    Projected Finish in Division: Third

Dallas Cowboys

17 of 32

    Gus Ruelas

    Projected Record: 6-10

    Schedule (Wins are in bold)

    • Week 1: San Francisco 49ers
    • Week 2: @Tennessee Titans
    • Week 3: @St. Louis Rams 
    • Week 4: New Orleans Saints
    • Week 5: Houston Texans
    • Week 6: @Seattle Seahawks
    • Week 7: New York Giants
    • Week 8: Washington
    • Week 9: Arizona Cardinals
    • Week 10: @Jacksonville Jaguars
    • Week 11: Bye
    • Week 12: @New York Giants
    • Week 13: Philadelphia Eagles
    • Week 14: @Chicago Bears
    • Week 15: @Philadelphia Eagles
    • Week 16: Indianapolis Colts 
    • Week 17: @Washington

    How That Record Improves: The Cowboys have talent on both sides of the ball, but they have failed to close out games time and again. People love to blame Tony Romo, but he's the constant here. The record only gets better if the people around him start picking up some slack rather than dropping the ball. 

    How Things Hit Rock Bottom: Rock bottom for the Cowboys seemingly looks different than any other team. It means another year at or slightly below mediocrity that allows owner/general manager/radio host/professional meddler Jerry Jones to continue to prove he's not the problem. 

    Bottom Line: Years of salary-cap mismanagement and scheme overhaul left the Cowboys little recourse to improve before the draft. That means staying static could be a best-case scenario. 

    Projected Finish in Division: Third 

New York Giants

18 of 32

    Kathy Willens

    Projected Record: 8-8

    Schedule (Wins are in bold)

    • Week 1: @Detroit Lions
    • Week 2: Arizona Cardinals
    • Week 3: Houston Texans
    • Week 4: @Washington
    • Week 5: Atlanta Falcons
    • Week 6: @Philadelphia Eagles
    • Week 7: @Dallas Cowboys
    • Week 8: Bye
    • Week 9: Indianapolis Colts
    • Week 10: Seattle Seahawks
    • Week 11: San Francisco 49ers
    • Week 12: Dallas Cowboys
    • Week 13: @Jacksonville Jaguars
    • Week 14: @Tennessee Titans
    • Week 15: Washington
    • Week 16: @St. Louis Rams
    • Week 17: Philadelphia Eagles

    How That Record Improves: Eli Manning needs to play a lot better, and the new offense must click almost immediately. The Giants have mediocre talent across the board and didn't play above that level in 2013. 

    How Things Hit Rock Bottom: Tom Coughlin continuing his steady descent into retirement is almost a sure thing at this point, but a sharp drop-off or public displays of disaffection from the team's star players would pull the rug out from a Giants team that is trying desperately to give him one last hurrah. 

    Bottom Line: The Giants got better, if only slightly, this offseason, but there's plenty of work left to do. That's just player acquisition as well, which is an important distinction because the coaching has left a lot to be desired in recent years from head coach and coordinators alike. 

    Projected Finish in Division: Second 

Philadelphia Eagles

19 of 32

    Michael Perez

    Projected Record: 11-5

    Schedule (Wins are in bold)

    • Week 1: Jacksonville Jaguars
    • Week 2: @Indianapolis Colts
    • Week 3: Washington
    • Week 4: @San Francisco 49ers
    • Week 5: St. Louis Rams
    • Week 6: New York Giants
    • Week 7: Bye
    • Week 8: @Arizona Cardinals
    • Week 9: @Houston Texans
    • Week 10: Carolina Panthers
    • Week 11: @Green Bay Packers
    • Week 12: Tennessee Titans
    • Week 13: @Dallas Cowboys
    • Week 14: Seattle Seahawks 
    • Week 15: Dallas Cowboys
    • Week 16: @Washington
    • Week 17: @New York Giants

    How That Record Improves: Chip Kelly's offensive juggernaut hits its stride early and downs opponents often. While much as been made about the Eagles defense this offseason, it's still all about who has more points on the board.

    How Things Hit Rock Bottom: Quarterback Nick Foles was great last year and outplayed just about everyone's expectations. He'll have to take the next step, though, with a year of tape on him and the offense. Any regression would be fodder for the critics. 

    Bottom Line: With the Eagles' successes last year, it's easy to forget this is still a pseudo-rebuilding team. Anything from 10-12 wins seems likely, but this is still about staying the course for 2015 and beyond than immediate gains in the upcoming season. 

    Projected Finish in Division: First


20 of 32

    Evan Vucci

    Projected Record: 4-12

    Schedule (Wins are in bold)

    • Week 1: @Houston Texans
    • Week 2: Jacksonville Jaguars
    • Week 3: @Philadelphia Eagles
    • Week 4: New York Giants
    • Week 5: Seattle Seahawks 
    • Week 6: @Arizona Cardinals 
    • Week 7: Tennessee Titans
    • Week 8: @Dallas Cowboys
    • Week 9: @Minnesota Vikings
    • Week 10: Bye
    • Week 11: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    • Week 12: @San Francisco 49ers
    • Week 13: @Indianapolis Colts
    • Week 14: St. Louis Rams
    • Week 15: @New York Giants
    • Week 16: Philadelphia Eagles 
    • Week 17: Dallas Cowboys 

    How That Record Improves: Quarterback Robert Griffin III needs to be better than he was last season, plain and simple. The defense—still coached by Jim Haslett—needs to be even better yet. There was a lot of atrocious football in Washington last season, and some of the offenders are still there. 

    How Things Hit Rock Bottom: One of the biggest reasons RGIII failed was because he didn't transition from the college-style playbook (read: crutch) he was allowed in his rookie season into the West Coast-style passing attack that the Shanahans have used forever. Washington's new offense will have similar principles, and RGIII will have a full/healthy offseason to learn them. 

    If he doesn't, things are going to be bad in a hurry. 

    Bottom Line: Look, the name stuff has nothing to do with the product on the field (regardless of how you feel about it), but if Washington wants to give people something else to talk about, start winning more football games. 

    Projected Finish in Division: Fourth 

Chicago Bears

21 of 32

    USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Record: 11-5

    Schedule (Wins are in bold)

    • Week 1: Buffalo Bills
    • Week 2: @San Francisco 49ers 
    • Week 3: @New York Jets
    • Week 4: Green Bay Packers
    • Week 5: @Carolina Panthers
    • Week 6: @Atlanta Falcons
    • Week 7: Miami Dolphins 
    • Week 8: @New England Patriots 
    • Week 9: Bye
    • Week 10: @Green Bay Packers
    • Week 11: Minnesota Vikings 
    • Week 12: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    • Week 13: @Detroit Lions
    • Week 14: Dallas Cowboys
    • Week 15: New Orleans Saints 
    • Week 16: Detroit Lions
    • Week 17: @Minnesota Vikings

    How That Record Improves: The passing game is set, but if the running game and offensive line continue to jell like they did last season, the offensive side of the ball is going to be truly special. If the defense gives them anything—literally almost anythingwe're talking about a potential top seed in a tough NFC.

    How Things Hit Rock Bottom: The defense is a known liability, but quarterback Jay Cutler and wide receiver Brandon Marshall are both wild cards. A few losses, and things could derail for this team. 

    Bottom Line: The Bears are probably a year or two away from being one of the best teams in football, but that defense fell apart and needs to be fixed sooner rather than later. 

    Projected Finish in Division: Second 

Detroit Lions

22 of 32

    Rick Osentoski

    Projected Record: 8-8

    Schedule (Wins are in bold)

    • Week 1: New York Giants
    • Week 2: @Carolina Panthers
    • Week 3: Green Bay Packers
    • Week 4: @New York Jets 
    • Week 5: Buffalo Bills 
    • Week 6: @Minnesota Vikings
    • Week 7: New Orleans Saints
    • Week 8: @Atlanta Falcons
    • Week 9: Bye
    • Week 10: Miami Dolphins
    • Week 11: @Arizona Cardinals 
    • Week 12: @New England Patriots 
    • Week 13: Chicago Bears
    • Week 14: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    • Week 15: Minnesota Vikings
    • Week 16: @Chicago Bears
    • Week 17: @Green Bay Packers

    How That Record Improves: New head coach Jim Caldwell has promised to get quarterback Matthew Stafford's mechanics and consistency right. With a healthy and competent offense, the sky is the limit. That's a big "if" though...

    How Things Hit Rock Bottom: Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in any sort of holdout situation, regression from Stafford, injuries to running back Reggie Bush or receiver Calvin Johnson—it's all possible. If it all happens at the same time, this is a two-win team. 

    Bottom Line: While critics focus on the defensive deficiencies, this team was built around an offense driving the train. Last year, that offense failed. Now, with a new offensive head coach, another receiver brought in as a top free-agency signing and targeting every receiver and tight end at the top of the draft, that trend is continuing. 

    The offense needs to come through. 

    Projected Finish in Division: Third 

Green Bay Packers

23 of 32

    Mike Roemer

    Projected Record: 12-4

    Schedule (Wins are in bold)

    • Week 1: @Seattle Seahawks
    • Week 2: New York Jets
    • Week 3: @Detroit Lions
    • Week 4: @Chicago Bears
    • Week 5: Minnesota Vikings
    • Week 6: @Miami Dolphins
    • Week 7: Carolina Panthers
    • Week 8: @New Orleans Saints
    • Week 9: Bye
    • Week 10: Chicago Bears
    • Week 11: Philadelphia Eagles
    • Week 12: @Minnesota Vikings
    • Week 13: New England Patriots
    • Week 14: Atlanta Falcons
    • Week 15: @Buffalo Bills
    • Week 16: @Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    • Week 17: Detroit Lions

    How That Record Improves: With a healthy Aaron Rodgers at quarterback and a legit pass-rusher like Julius Peppers giving the defense some teeth alongside linebacker Clay Matthews, this team is looking to rebound in a big way. 

    How Things Hit Rock Bottom: Obviously, going to the quarterback bullpen didn't work out last year, so the team needs to keep Rodgers healthy and upright. Peppers is already on the decline, and a scheme shift might not help that very much. 

    Bottom Line: The Packers were one of the best teams in football entering a 2013 season where just about nothing went right. This season, the ball needs to bounce their way a little more often, but it's foolhardy to forget that this is still one of the best teams in the NFL. 

    Projected Finish in Division: First

Minnesota Vikings

24 of 32

    USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Record: 4-12

    Schedule (Wins are in bold)

    • Week 1: @St. Louis Rams
    • Week 2: New England Patriots
    • Week 3: @New Orleans Saints
    • Week 4: Atlanta Falcons
    • Week 5: @Green Bay Packers
    • Week 6: Detroit Lions
    • Week 7: @Buffalo Bills
    • Week 8: @Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    • Week 9: Washington
    • Week 10: Bye
    • Week 11: @Chicago Bears
    • Week 12: Green Bay Packers
    • Week 13: Carolina Panthers
    • Week 14: New York Jets
    • Week 15: @Detroit Lions
    • Week 16: @Miami Dolphins
    • Week 17: Chicago Bears

    How That Record Improves: Competence under center might be too much to ask for, but the defense should see a boost with new head coach Mike Zimmer at the helm. A strong running game and defense have led this team to the playoffs (or close) before—but it's a long shot. 

    How Things Hit Rock Bottom: Quarterbacks Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel both remain with their heads where the proverbial sun doesn't shine, and the box gets stacked against running back Adrian Peterson. Defensive boost or not, the offense needs to score some points. 

    Bottom Line: Once upon a time, the Vikings were a good team with a bad quarterback. Now, they're a bad team with a big ol' question mark at quarterback. That isn't progress. 

    Projected Finish in Division: Fourth 

Atlanta Falcons

25 of 32

    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Projected Record: 6-10

    Schedule (Wins are in bold)

    • Week 1: New Orleans Saints
    • Week 2: @Cincinnati Bengals
    • Week 3: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    • Week 4: @Minnesota Vikings
    • Week 5: @New York Giants
    • Week 6: Chicago Bears
    • Week 7: @Baltimore Ravens
    • Week 8: Detroit Lions
    • Week 9: Bye
    • Week 10: @Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    • Week 11: @Carolina Panthers
    • Week 12: Cleveland Browns
    • Week 13: Arizona Cardinals
    • Week 14: @Green Bay Packers
    • Week 15: Pittsburgh Steelers
    • Week 16: @New Orleans Saints
    • Week 17: Carolina Panthers

    How That Record Improves: A fully intact passing game and a solid rushing attack would be a nice change of pace from 2013, but in a stacked NFC South, the Falcons defense needs to take a couple of leaps and bounds forward. Getting a pass rush would help. 

    How Things Hit Rock Bottom: Rock bottom was last year. Anything that looks like that will get Mike Smith fired as head coach. 

    Bottom Line: Falcons fans want a quick turnaround from last year, but many of the issues on the roster were starting to become evident the year before (yes, even while the team was making the playoffs). I trust the decision-makers in Atlanta, and the quarterback play is legit, but expectations need to be managed. 

    Projected Finish in Division: Fourth

Carolina Panthers

26 of 32

    Chuck Burton

    Projected Record: 10-6

    Schedule (Wins are in bold)

    • Week 1: @Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    • Week 2: Detroit Lions
    • Week 3: Pittsburgh Steelers
    • Week 4: @Baltimore Ravens
    • Week 5: Chicago Bears
    • Week 6: @Cincinnati Bengals 
    • Week 7: @Green Bay Packers
    • Week 8: Seattle Seahawks
    • Week 9: New Orleans Saints
    • Week 10: @Philadelphia Eagles
    • Week 11: Atlanta Falcons
    • Week 12: Bye
    • Week 13: @Minnesota Vikings
    • Week 14: @New Orleans Saints
    • Week 15: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    • Week 16: Cleveland Browns
    • Week 17: @Atlanta Falcons

    How That Record Improves: The Panthers need to find some more receiving talent—either wide receivers and/or another tight end—in the draft. If they strike gold, Cam Newton would be awfully happy. 

    How Things Hit Rock Bottom: Of course, there are also needs along the offensive line and in the defensive backfield to worry about. A team built around a strong front seven needs plenty of depth and rotational talent there as well. Suffice it to say, general manager Dave Gettleman has plenty of work left to do. 

    Bottom Line: Playoffs or not in 2013, there has to be a deliberate road to rebuilding, and it looks like Gettleman is taking that path by not overpaying players and continuing to build through the draft. Fans need to be prepared for a slight step back in 2014 in order to facilitate more long-lasting gains in the future. 

    Projected Finish in Division: Second 

New Orleans Saints

27 of 32

    John Froschauer

    Projected Record: 13-3

    Schedule (Wins are in bold)

    • Week 1: @Atlanta Falcons
    • Week 2: @Cleveland Browns
    • Week 3: Minnesota Vikings
    • Week 4: @Dallas Cowboys
    • Week 5: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    • Week 6: Bye
    • Week 7: @Detroit Lions
    • Week 8: Green Bay Packers
    • Week 9: @Carolina Panthers
    • Week 10: San Francisco 49ers
    • Week 11: Cincinnati Bengals
    • Week 12: Baltimore Ravens
    • Week 13: @Pittsburgh Steelers
    • Week 14: Carolina Panthers
    • Week 15: @Chicago Bears
    • Week 16: Atlanta Falcons
    • Week 17: @Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    How That Record Improves: I'm not going to say this is pie in the sky, but it's already pretty fantastic for the Saints to bounce back so quickly. Last year, they had a top-10 offense and defense, so this has them improving on that and continuing to hold serve with their incredible home-field advantage. 

    How Things Hit Rock Bottom: This offseason, the Saints jettisoned a lot of old offensive players who were once huge parts of the system. If the replacements for guys like running back Darren Sproles and wide receiver Lance Moore don't fit neatly into the system (not only in terms of production but also comfort with quarterback Drew Brees), there could be speed bumps.

    Bottom Line: Safety Jairus Byrd is going to help redefine this defense. As mentioned, the Saints were already statistically great last season, but it might be time to start talking about them among the San Franciscos and Carolinas of the world. 

    Projected Finish in Division: First 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

28 of 32

    Chris O'Meara

    Projected Record: 8-8

    Schedule (Wins are in bold)

    • Week 1: Carolina Panthers
    • Week 2: St. Louis Rams
    • Week 3: @Atlanta Falcons
    • Week 4: @Pittsburgh Steelers
    • Week 5: @New Orleans Saints
    • Week 6: Baltimore Ravens
    • Week 7: Bye
    • Week 8: Minnesota Vikings 
    • Week 9: @Cleveland Browns
    • Week 10: Atlanta Falcons
    • Week 11: @Washington
    • Week 12: @Chicago Bears
    • Week 13: Cincinnati Bengals 
    • Week 14: @Detroit Lions
    • Week 15: @Carolina Panthers
    • Week 16: Green Bay Packers
    • Week 17: New Orleans Saints

    How That Record Improves: The team has been overhauled from a free-agency perspective in three straight big-spending offseasons, and now it has revamped the coaching staff as well. The talent is there (it was last season too), but the big question will be how quickly the Bucs can get things to mesh. 

    How Things Hit Rock Bottom: Josh McCown was brought in to be the starter at quarterback, but there's a capable young backup in Mike Glennon waiting in the wings. That said, lacking at the QB position while still winning a bunch of games because of other talent is a recipe for long-term mediocrity. 

    Bottom Line: There's little question that the Buccaneers are heading up the food chain in the NFL, but the NFC South is a rough division, and the rest of their schedule isn't doing them a lot of favors. Baby steps.

    Projected Finish in Division: Third

Arizona Cardinals

29 of 32

    Rick Scuteri

    Projected Record: 6-10

    Schedule (Wins are in bold)

    • Week 1: San Diego Chargers
    • Week 2: @New York Giants
    • Week 3: San Francisco 49ers
    • Week 4: Bye
    • Week 5: @Denver Broncos
    • Week 6: Washington
    • Week 7: @Oakland Raiders
    • Week 8: Philadelphia Eagles
    • Week 9: @Dallas Cowboys
    • Week 10: St. Louis Rams
    • Week 11: Detroit Lions
    • Week 12: @Seattle Seahawks
    • Week 13: @Atlanta Falcons
    • Week 14: Kansas City Chiefs
    • Week 15: @St. Louis Rams
    • Week 16: Seattle Seahawks 
    • Week 17: @San Francisco 49ers

    How That Record Improves: There's potential greatness in the passing game if the offensive line coalesces. Carson Palmer isn't quite Drew Bledsoe, but he's trending that way. If he can stay upright and fire long passes down the field, this team could hum toward nine or 10 wins. 

    A whole lot would need to go right, though. 

    How Things Hit Rock Bottom: The NFC West isn't getting any easier, so while it's simple to say the Cardinals have gotten better, so has just about everyone on their schedule. A step back defensively—what they hang their hat on—and a misstep offensively could put this team right back into the top 10 of the draft order. 

    Bottom Line: This team largely is going to go as Palmer goes. The defense will bail him out of a few games, yes, but the Cards will need a near-superhuman effort for him to be much better than .500 in the best division in football. 

    Projected Finish in Division: Fourth

St. Louis Rams

30 of 32

    L.G. Patterson

    Projected Record: 7-9

    Schedule (Wins are in bold)

    • Week 1: Minnesota Vikings
    • Week 2: @Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    • Week 3: Dallas Cowboys
    • Week 4: Bye
    • Week 5: @Philadelphia Eagles
    • Week 6: San Francisco 49ers
    • Week 7: Seattle Seahawks
    • Week 8: @Kansas City Chiefs
    • Week 9: @San Francisco 49ers
    • Week 10: @Arizona Cardinals
    • Week 11: Denver Broncos
    • Week 12: @San Diego Chargers
    • Week 13: Oakland Raiders
    • Week 14: @Washington
    • Week 15: Arizona Cardinals 
    • Week 16: New York Giants
    • Week 17: @Seattle Seahawks

    How That Record Improves: A defense that is driven by a fantastic defensive line has given the likes of Seattle and San Francisco everything they could handle in recent years. It's not absurd to think this team could catch lightning in a bottle with a few well-placed turnovers. 

    How Things Hit Rock Bottom: Not to repeat much of what I said about Arizona, but the defense is a bit of a known commodity in St. Louis. It's the offense (read: quarterback Sam Bradford) that is the unknown variable. By all reports, the Rams aren't looking for QB help at the top of the draft, so he'll get to prove he's the guy.

    If he falters or gets injured again, the Rams will be drafting high for reasons other than traded picks. 

    Bottom Line: Put this team in the AFC, and it's a bona fide playoff team. Since we can't do that, Rams fans will have to hope for a few lucky ball bounces and trust in the coaching staff to have this group as prepared as humanly possible every single week. 

    Projected Finish in Division: Third

San Francisco 49ers

31 of 32

    Marcio Jose Sanchez

    Projected Record: 12-4

    Schedule (Wins are in bold)

    • Week 1: @Dallas Cowboys
    • Week 2: Chicago Bears
    • Week 3: @Arizona Cardinals 
    • Week 4: Philadelphia Eagles
    • Week 5: Kansas City Chiefs
    • Week 6: @St. Louis Rams
    • Week 7: @Denver Broncos
    • Week 8: Bye
    • Week 9: St. Louis Rams
    • Week 10: @New Orleans Saints
    • Week 11: @New York Giants
    • Week 12: Washington
    • Week 13: Seattle Seahawks 
    • Week 14: @Oakland Raiders
    • Week 15: @Seattle Seahawks
    • Week 16: San Diego Chargers
    • Week 17: Arizona Cardinals 

    How That Record Improves: The 49ers have more draft picks than any other team, and a few well-placed additions (or trading up for one elite player) could have a monumental impact on the rest of the league. The 49ers already have a deep team with a ton of talent. It's scary to think they could get even better. 

    How Things Hit Rock Bottom: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick isn't as sure a thing as his press clippings might suggest. Sure, he didn't have his favorite receiver for most of last season, but he needs to take a big leap forward if the 49ers are going to be legitimate perennial contenders. 

    Bottom Line: San Francisco plays a lot of marquee games next season, but this record is just winning what it should at home and playing decently on the road. If the 49ers can find a way to win at New Orleans or Denver, Seattle may be looking up at its rivals to the south. 

    Projected Finish in Division: Second 

Seattle Seahawks

32 of 32

    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Projected Record: 14-2

    Schedule (Wins are in bold)

    • Week 1: Green Bay Packers
    • Week 2: @San Diego Chargers
    • Week 3: Denver Broncos
    • Week 4: Bye
    • Week 5: @Washington
    • Week 6: Dallas Cowboys
    • Week 7: @St. Louis Rams
    • Week 8: @Carolina Panthers
    • Week 9: Oakland Raiders
    • Week 10: New York Giants 
    • Week 11: @Kansas City Chiefs
    • Week 12: Arizona Cardinals
    • Week 13: @San Francisco 49ers
    • Week 14: @Philadelphia Eagles
    • Week 15: San Francisco 49ers
    • Week 16: @Arizona Cardinals
    • Week 17: St. Louis Rams

    How That Record Improves: The Legion of Boom is going to take care of things on defense, and quarterback Russell Wilson had a very underrated season last year with so little help around him. With some potential new additions in the draft (and a healthy Percy Harvin), the offense could shoulder just as much of the load. 

    How Things Hit Rock Bottom: Last season, the Seahawks had some very close calls on the road and will need to fix that while still keeping up their stellar home-field advantage. With a few of those close games going the wrong way or not holding serve as much at home, the Seahawks could find a much different outcome. 

    Bottom Line: In the end, though, the Super Bowl champions haven't lost a lot from last season. They should be right back in the hunt in 2014. 

    Projected Finish in Division: First

    Michael Schottey is an NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff on his archive page and follow him on Twitter