Predicting 10 NFL Stars Who Will Turn out Robotic Numbers This Season
When it comes to winning in the NFL, there's nothing like consistency.
Sure, it's nice when a player like Cam Newton flashes his talent and leads the Carolina Panthers to the playoffs with a 12-4 season. All the signs are there for Newton to have another strong showing in 2014, but he could just as easily slip back down the ladder.
The same holds for Nick Foles after his remarkable season with the Philadelphia Eagles. It seems likely that the Philadelphia offense will get even better in head coach Chip Kelly's second season, but there are no guarantees.
In this piece we look at the NFL stars who have metronome-like consistency. They produce big seasons year in and year out (barring injuries), and the 2014 season should be no different.
The following 10 players are almost robot-like when it comes to production, and their coaches are counting on them to remain at that high level.
QB Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
2013 Stats: 450-of-659 for 5,477 yards, 55 TDs, 10 interceptions
Peyton Manning may not break records in 2014 like he did last year, but his command of the Denver offense and his ability to find open receivers will not change. Manning can diagnose the weak spots in every defense he sees, and his talented offensive teammates are good enough to get open consistently. That's all that Manning needs.
He will deliver the ball before the pass rush can get to him and he can throw the ball accurately even if he has lost a few miles per hour off of his fastball. Additionally, losing in the Super Bowl to the Seattle Seahawks should provide Manning with all the motivation he needs to have a top-notch 2014 season.
2014 numbers (predicted): 401-of-632 for 4,569 yards, 42 TDs, 17 interceptions
QB Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
2013 Stats: 193-of-290 for 2,536 yards, 17 TDs, 6 interceptions
Aaron Rodgers (fractured collarbone) was sidelined for nearly half the season last year, and he was not able to produce the numbers that the Packers have gotten used to since he became the team's starting quarterback prior to the 2008 season.
As long as Rodgers stays healthy, he should be one of the game's best players once again. He is in the prime of his career and is hungry to win another Super Bowl championship. No quarterback in the game has a better arm than Rodgers, and he is capable of dominating every time out.
He should have enough support from the running game and a better-than-expected defense, so won't be forced to carry the Packers every week. However, he will put MVP-type numbers on the board in 2014.
2014 numbers (predicted): 331-of-515 for 3,987 yards with 38 TDs, 13 interceptions
QB Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
2013 Stats: 446-of-650 for 5,162 yards, 39 TDs, 12 interceptions
Few teams are more dependent on their quarterback than the New Orleans Saints are on Drew Brees. Brees has brilliant command of the Saints offense, and his ability to deliver the ball quickly and accurately is a given every time he takes the field.
That's one of the main reasons his teammates have so much confidence in him. They know that if they do their jobs, Brees will do his and put the ball in a position where it can be caught and a big play can be accomplished.
In addition to his skill at throwing the football and avoiding the pass rush, he is also a leader and an inspirational figure. His teammates genuinely love and support him, and the enjoyment factor of playing with Brees has to be taken into consideration.
2014 numbers (predicted): 430-of-650 for 5,055 yards with 45 TDs, 18 interceptions
RB LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
2013 Stats: Rushing—314 attempts, 1,607 yards, 9 TDs; Receiving—52 receptions, 539 yards, 2 TDs
It was an exceptional season for LeSean McCoy as he used his speed, quickness and instincts to give the Eagles a credible rushing attack. In addition to raising his profile, his ability to run with the football took significant pressure off of quarterback Nick Foles.
McCoy is the best combination running back in the league. He has wonderful hands that allow him to make adjustments on poorly-thrown passes with ease.
Head coach Chip Kelly knows that McCoy's all-around ability is likely the key to his team's success, and there's no reason to think the head coach will back off on his running back's workload this season.
2014 numbers (predicted): Rushing—288 attempts, 1,397 yards, 10 TDs; Receiving—67 receptions, 713 yards, 5 TDs
RB Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
2013 Stats: Rushing—279 attempts, 1,266 yards, 10 TDs; Receiving—29 receptions, 171 yards, 1 TD
Adrian Peterson is the NFL's standard-bearer when it comes to running back play in the NFL. His combination of power, explosiveness and finishing ability gives him the ability to do things on the field that only the game's all-time greats have been able to accomplish.
This year, Peterson and his teammates will play for a firebrand of a head coach in Mike Zimmer. He is the inspirational type, and he will get everyone on the Vikings to play with the maximum effort that Peterson regularly displays. If the Vikings can get some consistency out of the quarterback position, this team could surprise quite a few observers.
Peterson had some doubts when the coaching change was made, but he is now fully committed and is a strong bet to lead the NFL in rushing for the third time in his career.
2014 numbers (predicted): Rushing—336 attempts, 1,724 yards, 13 TDs; Receiving—21 receptions, 155 yards, 1 TD
RB Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks
2013 Stats: Rushing—301 attempts, 1,257 yards, 12 TDs; Receiving—36 receptions, 316 yards, 2 TDs
The Seahawks have a team of hard-nosed stars that fit head coach Pete Carroll's image, but it's difficult to say that any player means more to the team than Marshawn Lynch.
When Lynch turns on "Beast Mode," it means that he is simply not going to be stopped when the Seahawks need a hard yard or two for a first down or a touchdown. Lynch has that super-aggressive gene that tells all of his opponents that he is the toughest man on the field and he is not going to be stopped.
It looked like Lynch might miss a good portion of training camp when he decided to hold out, but the Seahawks were not about to let that happen and gave him the raise that he demanded. That wouldn't work for every player, but Lynch gives the Seahawks the powerful identity they need to take with them every time they take the field.
2014 numbers (predicted): Rushing—288 attempts, 1,101 yards, 10 TDs; Receiving—31 receptions, 269 yards, 2 TDs
WR Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
2013 Stats: 84 receptions, 1,492 yards, 12 TDs
Johnson missed two games last year with nagging injuries (knee and finger), and that's why he failed to crack the century mark in receptions. Don't expect that to happen again.
It's hard to come up with any receiver in the history of the game that has had the physical tools that Johnson brings to the table. His size, strength and athleticism make him nearly impossible to stop, and if new Detroit head coach Jim Caldwell can help quarterback Matthew Stafford correct some of his errors, Johnson will have yet another huge year.
Some of the NFL's faster defensive backs can stay with Johnson on medium and long routes, but none of those players have the strength to battle him on an every-down basis. He is the most talented receiver in the game and he should have another memorable season
2014 numbers (predicted): 101 receptions, 1,648 yards, 11 TDs
WR Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears
2013 Stats: 100 receptions, 1,295 yards, 12 TDs
Brandon Marshall has had two brilliant seasons since arriving in Chicago and has clearly emerged as one of the top receivers in the game. He was quite productive in earlier stints with Denver and Miami, but he has been consistent and mature with the Bears.
Marshall has an excellent rapport with quarterback Jay Cutler, and while many have criticized the Bears quarterback for various reasons (lack of toughness, inaccuracy in the clutch, turning the ball over at key moments), his teammates laugh at those criticisms. Nobody supports Cutler more than Marshall, who comes up with big catches in key situations for Chicago.
The Bears are shooting for the playoffs and may be able to make a run at the defending NFC North champion Green Bay Packers. They are depending on Marshall to have another big year to help make that happen.
2014 numbers (predicted): 105 receptions, 1,359 yards, 12 TDs
DE J.J. Watt, Houston Texans
2013 Stats: 10.5 sacks, 7 passes defensed, 80 tackles
Even though the Texans endured a nightmarish season in 2013, there was no downturn in J.J. Watt's game.
When opposing offenses prepared for the Texans, the first order of business was finding a way to contain or slow down Watt—there's no stopping him—and that meant regularly double-teaming him. Any other strategy usually means disaster.
Watt has an array of moves to complement his athleticism, quickness and overwhelming power. However, his greatest asset is his nonstop motor that he combines with a nasty mean streak. While the Texans have much to prove this year, Watt is clearly the best all-around defensive end in the NFL.
2014 numbers (predicted): 16 sacks, 14 passes defensed, 73 tackles
LB Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers
2013 Stats: 104 tackles, 3.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
A good argument can be made that LB NaVorro Bowman has taken over as the best and most important player on the 49ers' aggressive defense. However, Bowman suffered a torn ACL injury in the NFC Championship Game against the Seattle Seahawks, and it may take him until midseason to recapture his top form.
Patrick Willis has been a dynamic tackler and run-stopper for years. He is not a fancy player who will provide a lot of extras in terms of sacks or pass defense, but he is one of the strongest linebackers in the league and will always lay a nasty hit on opposing ball-carriers.
Willis' top asset is that he loves to hit and punish opponents, and his teammates are quick to follow his lead. He's not about to slow down this year.
2014 numbers (predicted): 113 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles