The 2014 NFL season is about to kick off, with many cities possessing playoff aspirations. While some teams are far closer to realizing their fans lofty goals, others will quickly come to the realization that the hopeful season plans are quickly fading.
Here is a breakdown of each division’s projected standings along with playoff predictions and award recipients.
New England Patriots (12-4)
Miami Dolphins (9-7)
New York Jets (6-10)
Buffalo Bills (6-10)
Summary: The Patriots have re-tooled over the past couple of years; becoming younger and more athletic. The team added one of the league’s best cornerbacks (Revis). There is ample talent on the roster for another deep playoff run; pending the health of Rob Gronkowski. The addition of Knowshon Moreno to the backfield will take some pressure off Ryan Tannehill; keeping the Dolphins in the hunt for a playoff spot up until the final week. New York and Buffalo have too many questions to be a serious contender in 2014.
Cincinnati Bengals (11-5)
Baltimore Ravens (10-6)
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-9)
Cleveland Browns (6-10)
Summary: Johnny Football will instill hope for Browns fans, but their stoudt defense alone will not get the team out of the division basement. Look for Manziel to start after their bye week if the team gets out to a slow start. Cincinnati and Baltimore are the deepest and best teams in the division; while the Steelers are still a team in transition. Despite having two playoff teams, both have key personnel issues to be serious contenders.
Indianapolis Colts (12-4)
Houston Texans (9-7)
Tennessee Titans (7-9)
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12)
Summary: Andrew Luck and the Colts are the clear class of the league. Reggie Wayne returning will make their offense even more dangerous. How well the defense plays will determine how far they advance in the playoffs. The Texans will rely on their physical defense to remain in playoff contention. Tennessee and Jacksonville have much more work to do to in order to ascend the standings. Blake Bortles will start the season on the bench but will emerge to be this season’s best rookie quarterback.
Denver Broncos (14-2)
San Diego Chargers (9-7)
Kansas City Chiefs (8-8)
Oakland Raiders (5-11)
Summary: The Broncos have the league’s best offense and improved their defense through the addition of DeMarcus Ware. A top seed in the conference is theirs for the taking, provided they remain healthy. San Diego and Kansas City suffer from being in the same division as the Broncos, but their teams are playoff-caliber regardless. Oakland made several roster additions (Maurice Jones-Drew, James jones) and will start a rookie quarterback in Week 1. They will be more competitive; but are still a team that ended the season with a significant talent deficiency versus the rest of the division.
AFC Playoff Teams: Patriots, Bengals, Colts, Broncos, Ravens, Chargers
Philadelphia Eagles (11-5)
Washington Redskins (10-6)
Dallas Cowboys (5-11)
New York Giants (4-12)
Summary: The Eagles have a lightning fast offense and possess perhaps the most dangerous offensive weapon (McCoy). A healthy RG3 struggled in the preseason but is a game-changing player. How well the defense plays will determine whether they are playing meaningful games in late December. Dallas and New York; perennial competitive rivals will be in rebuilding mode beginning this season. So long as the Cowboys personnel decisions are made by Jerry Jones, the Cowboys will not be a serious playoff team. New York will find difficulty competing this season, and will likely result in the end of Tom Coughlin Hall of Fame coaching career.
Green Bay Packers (12-4)
Chicago Bears (10-6)
Detroit Lions (8-8)
Minnesota Vikings (3-13)
Summary: Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are better overall in a traditionally ultra-competitive NFC North division. The Bears have tons of offensive weapons but still are unproven defensively. Detroit is in a make-or-break season; with quarterback Matthew Stafford’s long-term future in the balance. Minnesota is rebuilding, allowing Jarred Allen to depart their defense via free agency. A conservative passing attack again will put all the pressure on Adrian Pederson to carry the load.
New Orleans Saints (11-5)
Atlanta Falcons (10-6)
Carolina Panthers (8-8)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9)
Summary: The Saints will again be an elite offense and will edge the Falcons for the division crown; in doing so claim the only playoff spot from the South. Atlanta has a great passing attack, but Matt Ryan has yet to prove he is an elite quarterback in this league. A solid defense in Carolina will be relied on heavily to make up for a lack-luster passing attack. New coach Lovie Smith will help the Buccaneers be more of a division threat; but a questionable quarterback position will result in another disappointing season.
Seattle Seahawks (12-4)
San Francisco 49ers (11-5)
Arizona Cardinals (6-10)
St. Louis Rams (4-12)
Summary: Two of the league’s best defenses will again be on display. How well quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson perform will determine whether Seattle or San Francisco claims the division.. Arizona will be a tough team to face but are handicapped by being in the same division as the Seahawks and 49ers. St. Louis’ playoff hopes ended as soon as Sam Bradford limped off the field.
NFC Playoff Teams: Eagles, Packers, Saints, Seahawks, 49ers, Bears
AFC Champion: New England Patriots
NFC Champion: Green Bay Packers
Super Bowl Champion: New England Patriots
Most Valuable Player: Aaron Rodgers
Offensive Player of the Year: Peyton Manning
Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Brandin Cooks (WR – Saints)
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Jadeveon Clowney (Texans)
Coach of the Year: Marc Trestman (Bears)