NFL: 5 Bold Predictions for the 2014 Season
As fans wait for training camp and the NFL season to begin many people have started making their predictions about how the 2014 season will play out. This is the time of the year where fans and experts like to look at every team and their offseason moves to try and pinpoint what they think will happen.
This time last year, many people would have laughed at the thought of the AFC West sending three teams to the playoffs or the Falcons and Texans each picking in the top six. There is no doubt that this season will bring more surprises. You'll see a team or two shock the world and a couple of teams really disappoint.
You'll see some players decline and you'll see a rookie or two break out. The parity in the NFL is what makes this league great. Any team or player can go from the bottom and reach the top.
So what's going to happen this year? Let's find out.
Colin Kaepernick Wins MVP
It's not easy to lose a Super Bowl and then lose in the NFC Championship to one of your most hated rivals. There is one thing that is very evident when you look at the last two years for the 49ers and Kaepernick: The coaches trust him and they want the ball in his hands.
Look for Kaepernick to have the best season of his career as a passer and as a runner. The 49ers have added more weapons to help the the young quarterback and he'll have more help than ever before.
Steve Johnson, Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis will help open up the field and should be the most reliable group he's had to throw to. A backfield of Frank Gore, Carlos Hyde and Marcus Lattimore will only help boost his success.
Even though Kaepernick plays in the tough NFC West, there is no reason he shouldn't eclipse 4,000 yards passing in 2014. With his receivers and backs opening up running lanes, it could be possible for him to get close to 1,000 yards rushing.
We've seen Kaepernick have big performances in the playoffs, and he is capable of making plays with both his feet and his arm. This should be the year he claims his spot as the best player and quarterback in the NFL.
Prediction: In 2014, Kaepernick will have 4,123 passing yards, 32 pass TDs, 12 INTs, 879 rushing yards and 10 rushing TDs. The 49ers will win the NFC West and get a first-round bye.
Dallas Cowboys Will Pick in the Top 10
2014 could be the year that Cowboys fans finally accept that their team isn't that good and the team needs to make some drastic changes. The Eagles, Giants and Redskins all seem to have gotten better this offseason and the Cowboys schedule isn't exactly a cakewalk this year.
Of course the NFL schedulers set it up so they play the Saints in Dallas inside a dome and the Bears in Chicago in December—both conditions that are favorable to the Cowboys' opponents. The Cowboys schedule is not favorable and this is a team that could implode if they start off slow.
The Cowboys have a history of choking and letting their fans down late in the season and late in games. This could be the first season that they let their fans down gently before Week 11 when they reach their bye week. A 3-7 or 4-6 record at that point seems very likely.
The loss of Sean Lee will hurt the Cowboys defense and losing a player like DeMarcus Ware won't help either. They were not only solid contributors for years but they were leaders on and off the field. Leadership has been a concern for this team and it may be even more of an issue in 2014.
The Cowboys lead the league in dead money in 2014 with over $23 million, meaning that a large portion of their 2014 available funds are tied up with players no longer on the team. It's going to be a different kind of year for the Cowboys in 2014 and it should lead them to a top-10 pick in the 2015 NFL draft. Let's hope Jerry Jones keeps his head level and doesn't let this franchise slip into darkness for too long.
Prediction: Dallas will go 6-10.
Giovani Bernard Will Win Offensive Player of the Year
Giovani Bernard is going to have a strong year in 2014. The young running back should see success in both the running and passing game under offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. His versatility makes him dangerous and the play-calling this year should be much more exciting for the Bengals.
The Bengals front office has put together a solid offense that features A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard. Their new offensive coordinator, Jackson, has shown the ability to get the most out of his players and also isn't afraid to be aggressive with his play-calling.
How good is new offensive coordinator Jackson?
In 2010 and 2011, he called the plays for the Oakland Raiders and they were a top-10 offense both years. In one of those years, Jason Campbell and Bruce Gradkowski were the quarterbacks. Jacoby Ford and Louis Murphy were the leading wide receivers and Darren McFadden was the featured back. So yes, Jackson is a solid play-caller.
When you pair up a great play-caller with a player of Bernard's ability, only good things will happen. The NFC North no longer has the defensive strength it was once known for. The strongest defense in the division belongs to the Bengals.
Bernard should have the type of year that you would expect from LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles. Bernard should start drawing comparisons to LaDainian Tomlinson, Marshall Faulk and perhaps even Barry Sanders, who was his favorite player growing up.
Prediction: Bernard will have 1,200 rushing yards, 14 rush TDs, 62 receptions, 900 receiving yards and six TD receptions. The Bengals win win the AFC North and finish with the best record in the NFL.
Raiders' Rod Streater Becomes a Household Name
If you don't know who Rod Streater is yet, you will by the end of the 2014 season. Streater was an undrafted free agent that was signed by the Raiders in 2012. In his first two seasons, he has shown the ability to make plays and run good crisp routes.
Last season, he was poised to become the first Raiders receiver to reach 1,000 receiving yards since Randy Moss did it in 2005, but he came up short. That may not sound impressive to most, but when your starting quarterbacks are Terrelle Pryor, Matt Flynn and Matt McGloin it gets a little more noteworthy.
Streater, at 6'3", has come to camp looking bigger than the previous seasons. His offense now features a much improved line and three quarterbacks who can throw the ball well. If you are looking to find a gem in your fantasy league this year, make sure you pick up Streater.
He should eclipse the 1,000-yard receiving mark this year, but he should also find the end zone 10 times. Look for him to have a Demaryius Thomas or Dez Bryant-type of impact for the Raiders in 2014. Whether Matt Schaub or Derek Carr starts, Streater should be found early and often during the regular season.
Prediction: Streater hauls in 88 catches for 1,282 yards and 11 touchdowns.
6 New Teams Make the Playoffs
In 2014, the NFL season should produce six new playoff teams. The competition at each division is getting more intense and the bottom teams are getting better. The AFC West will most likely not send three teams to the playoffs this year and the NFC North won't be as weak.
Most teams that made it to the postseason last year should find it harder to repeat their success this year. The AFC West and NFC West play each other this year—that's five playoff teams in two divisions.
Teams like the Bears, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Steelers, Ravens, Jets, Giants and Lions have all reloaded after a down year or just missing the playoffs. You also can't count out teams like the Texans, Falcons, Raiders, Redskins and Vikings. Recent history shows that teams can go from worst to first in just a year.
One prediction that should come to fruition is that this NFL season should be one of the more competitive in recent years. It's hard to see two teams winning more than 10 games this year. While some teams will reach double-digit wins, there won't be many 12-14 win teams.
Prediction: The following teams will make the playoffs.
NFC: 1. 49ers 2. Eagles 3. Bears 4. Buccaneers 5. Seahawks 6. Lions
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