The NFL season is nearing the final playoff push and the competition (both individually and collectively) is getting intense. Back in September, I outlined predicted outcomes for the 2014 NFL season. While some teams and players have lived up to there initial pre-season billing, there have been some surprises. Below is my initial predicted team finishes and individual outcomes, with a revisited placement for each.
Predicted AFC Playoff Teams: Patriots, Bengals, Colts, Broncos, Ravens, Chargers
Revisited AFC Playoff Teams: Patriots, Bengals, Colts, Broncos, Ravens, Browns
Comment: The Browns? Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Clause; and the Browns are battling for the final playoff berth with the likes of the Steelers, Ravens, Chiefs and Chargers. With games in hand against the Bengals and Ravens, the “Brownies” (have to admit, that name does not impose fear in anyone) have a legitimate shot at not only the playoffs but a division crown. But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves here. We are talking about a city that has not tasted championship champagne in 50 years.
Predicted NFC Playoff Teams: Eagles, Packers, Saints, Seahawks, 49ers, Bears
Revisited NFC Playoff Teams: Eagles, Packers, Saints, Cardinals, Seahawks, Cowboys
Comment: The Cowboys have risen from the ashes thanks to a solid offensive line and a great running attack. DeMarco Murray is the league’s top rusher and he has given Dallas balance to take pressure off QB Tony Romo having to make all the big plays. Less pressure on Romo, more success for the Cowboys. While Dallas has impressed, the Arizona Cardinals have exceeded just about anyone’s expectations and will ride a great defense to a division crown.
Predicted AFC Champion: New England Patriots
Revisited AFC Champion: New England Patriots
Comment: File this under the category of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Once again the Patriots are the elite team in the league. Coming off seven straight wins, New England has all but clinched their division and have a two game lead on the conference’s best record. The next two road games (Green Bay, San Diego) will determine whether the Patriots are simply the conference’s best or league’s best team
Predicted NFC Champion: Green Bay Packers
Revisited NFC Champion: Green Bay Packers
Comment: See comment from AFC. The Packers shook off a rough start (1-2) to ascend the conference standings. The Eagles and Cowboys pose the most daunting task in their return to the Super Bowl, but home field advantage will be the key differentiator.
Predicted Super Bowl Champion: New England Patriots
Revisited Super Bowl Champion: New England Patriots
Comment: Not changing course here. New England has a much improved secondary and one of the leagues most dominant receiving target (Gronkowski). Barring injuries, New England will win their sought after fourth Super Bowl title in the Belichick-Brady era.
Predicted Most Valuable Player: Aaron Rodgers
Revisited Most Valuable Player: DeMarco Murray
Comment: This is a neck-and-neck battle, with the likes of Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck among the candidates. It is because of the Cowboy’s success; and his emergence as an elite running back that the nod goes to Murray.
Predicted Offensive Player of the Year: Peyton Manning
Revisited Offensive Player of the Year: Andrew Luck
Comment: How can Murray be an offensive player and the MVP but not be the offensive player of the year? Simply Luck is on pace to threaten most of the league passing records, but his team was already expected to be a Super Bowl contender; unlike the Cowboys.
Predicted Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt
Revisited Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt
Comment: Watt does it all, including catching touchdown passes on offense. Whether it is pass rush, or dropping back to defend the pass, Watt is a player that commands a double team on every snap. There may be some with more impressive stats, but Watt is the most dominant in the game.
Predicted Offensive Rookie of the Year: Brandin Cooks
Revisited Offensive Rookie of the Year: Mike Evans
Comment: Cooks was having a solid season in New Orleans, but a broken thumb has derailed his rookie campaign. Mike Evans has proven to be a legitimate #1 receiver in the NFL while playing for a weak Tampa Bay Buccaneers team.
Predicted Defensive Rookie of the Year: Jadeveon Clowney
Revisited Defensive Rookie of the Year: C.J. Mosley
Comment: The league’s leading tackler among rookies (and 6th overall in the league), the Ravens linebacker has played a pivotal role in the transformed Baltimore defense.
Predicted Coach of the Year: Marc Trestman
Revisited Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians
Comment: Arians has taken a team with key injuries and led them to the conference’s best record; in perhaps the toughest division in the NFL I might add.