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Kevin O'Connor's 2014 NFL Season Predictions

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Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

This summer has blown by for me, but that's a good thing. One of my favorite days of the year is finally here with the 2014 NFL Season opener, as the Seattle Seahawks will face off against the Green Bay Packers. I might spend most of my time writing about basketball over on CelticsBlog, but the NFL is my favorite league to follow, and every year I go through every game to make my full season predictions. Click here to see week-by-week picks, or just scroll through to see them in full detail. Let's look into my magic 8-ball!

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AFC

AFC East

1. New England Patriots (1)
15-1
2. Miami Dolphins
6-10
3. New York Jets
6-10
4. Buffalo Bills
2-14

The AFC East is really, really awful...besides the Patriots. I think Buffalo is in for a long season, especially with star linebacker Kiko Alonso out for the year with a torn ACL. I actually expect the Jets to be relatively competitive and for Gino Smith to take a step forward this year -- Eric Decker is better than people think -- but they still don't have enough talent to compete. The same goes for Miami, who really just don't have enough. As for the Patriots, I expect this to be one of their best seasons of the century. Pending good health, they have one of the best defenses in the NFL, which will be complemented by a top offense. I would consider anything less than 12 wins an underachieving season and that's saying a lot.

AFC North

1. Cincinnati Bengals (3)
10-6
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
7-9
3. Baltimore Ravens
6-10
4. Cleveland Browns
2-14

Cincinnati should be pretty good this year with a high-powered offense. Andy Dalton is better than he gets credit for, despite his issues, and I consider them the clear favorite in the North. Pittsburgh has a tough schedule, which is really what I have holding them back this season. I really don't think Baltimore will be any good and well, poor Cleveland. I feel so badly for Brian Hoyer, who appears to be set up to fail. At least LeBron James is back.

AFC South

1. Indianapolis Colts (4)
9-7
2. Houston Texans (6)
8-8
3. Tennessee Titans
8-8
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
2-14

Houston and Tennessee are my two surprise teams this year. I think Bill O'Brien will work his magic in Houston and they'll compete for a Wild Card seed. The same goes for Tennessee, who have one of the easiest schedules in the entire league. But it's not just that: I love their offense this year, which really only needs Jake Locker to stay healthy. Indianapolis will once again struggle running the ball, but it's not Trent Richardson's fault: Look at Pep Hamilton and the offensive line. Andrew Luck should take another step forward, but he's not elite just yet. Jacksonville is in for another disaster of a season and I'm not convinced Toby Gerhart is the fantasy football sweetheart he's billed as.

AFC West

1. Denver Broncos (2)
14-2
2. San Diego Chargers
10-6 (5)
3. Kansas City Chiefs
7-9
4. Oakland Raiders
3-13

Denver has one of the toughest schedules in the league; to that I say: "So what? Have you seen their roster?" Despite losing Decker, I'd argue that Peyton Manning has more weapons on offense. Montee Ball is more dynamic than Knowshon Moreno, Emmanuel Sanders brings a new dimension to the position, Cody Latimer is a promising young rookie, and Julius Thomas is still improving. Defensively, the team obviously got much better too. Like the Patriots, I expect them to come close to a perfect record. I want to like Oakland this season because of their defense, but their strength of schedule is just too much to overcome. The same goes for Kansas City, who is good enough to compete, but they're not nearly as talented as Philip Rivers and the Chargers, one of the league's most underrated teams.

NFC

NFC East

1. Philadelphia Eagles (4)
11-5
2. Dallas Cowboys
8-8
3. Washington Redskins
6-10
4. New York Giants
4-12

A lot of people expect the Philadelphia Eagles to take a step back this year in Chip Kelly's second season, but I don't. I think his offensive style is for real, and they have an underrated defense to balance it out. Dallas will score a lot of points, but that defense is just hideous. Washington will struggle and I won't be surprised if Kirk Cousins is starting at some point. Eli Manning will get exposed once again this season as the Giants have one of the league's worst records.

NFC North

1. Green Bay Packers (1)
15-1
2. Chicago Bears (5)
11-5
3. Detroit Lions
7-9
4. Minnesota Vikings
3-13

I picked the Packers to go 15-1 last year and was way off, but I blame the injury to Aaron Rodgers for derailing their season. They only lost two games that he finished and were dominant with him in the lineup. With one of the deepest wide receiver cores in the league, Rodgers has more weapons to throw to than the casual fans realize. Chicago is stacked on offense but I still don't trust Jay Cutler at all. Either he's going to blow games with interceptions or get hurt at some point, and they don't have Josh McCown to save them this year if that happens. Either way, they're supremely more talented than Detroit and Minnesota. I probably underestimate Detroit a little bit, but all of my reliability concerns with Cutler also apply to Matt Stafford.

NFC South

1. New Orleans Saints (3)
12-4
2. Atlanta Falcons
10-6
3. Carolina Panthers
9-7
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
7-9

I hope that the Saints are for real when they say the plan on going with a more balanced attack this season because Mark Ingram looked incredible in the preseason -- plus we already know what Pierre Thomas is capable of. They should do what they can to preserve Drew Brees instead of unleashing havoc on the league as record-chasers. Atlanta's offense is absolutely deadly, but have you seen that defense? I want to throw up thinking about how bad it is. I love Carolina this year, but they play in a really tough division, especially since I have Tampa Bay stepping up, so they aren't able to crack 10 wins. As the Bucs, McCown will flourish in that offense. Two of my rookie of the year candidates (Kelvin Benjamin and Mike Evans) also come from this division.

NFC West

1. Seattle Seahawks (2)
12-4
2. San Francisco 49ers (6)
11-5
3. Arizona Cardinals
9-7
4. St. Louis Rams
6-10

Seattle and San Francisco are still two of the best teams in the league as far as I'm concerned. If they didn't have to face their own division they'd probably end up with more wins, but as long as you're in the playoffs that's all that matters. I think Seattle could go back-to-back, especially since Russell Wilson will move towards elite status this season. I still say Wilson is like Brees, but with speed. St. Louis will end up being one of the "best worst" teams in the league because of their rushing attack, and I think Arizona will be one of the toughest outs. This division will be great, and any divisional match-up is a must-watch game.

2014 NFL Playoffs

Wild Card Round

Cincinnati Bengals (3) over Houston Texans (5)
San Diego Chargers (5) over Indianapolis Colts (4)
New Orleans Saints (3) over San Francisco 49ers (6)
Philadelphia Eagles (4) over Chicago Bears (5)

Houston will be a darling team this year, but I don't think they'll have enough juice to go far in the playoffs. As mentioned above, San Diego is one of the most underrated teams in the league. As for the NFC, I give the teams who I feel have better offenses moving on, though Philly gets an additional edge because of home field advantage.

Divisional Round

New England Patriots (1) over San Diego Chargers (5)
Denver Broncos (2) over Cincinnati Bengals (3)
Green Bay Packers (1) over Philadelphia Eagles (4)
Seattle Seahawks (2) over New Orleans Saints (3)

I just don't see how New England, Denver, or Green Bay can lose in the Divisional Round this year. They are just so stacked. I think Seattle could lose if they face the right team, but New Orleans is not that team.

Conference Championship

New England Patriots (1) over Denver Broncos (2)
Green Bay Packers (1) over Seattle Seahawks (2)

These picks are as generic as they come, but I have not seen New England-Green Bay picked many places as the Super Bowl matchup. Both of these games, if they actually happen, could end up being instant classics. As much as I want to pick Seattle, I think Green Bay's offense gives them the edge.

Super Bowl XLIX

New England Patriots (1) over Green Bay Packers (1)

I don't pick New England to win the Super Bowl every year, but I do think this is the year for them to finally win it. The stars have aligned in New England. With Chandler Jones possibly entering an elite level, arguably one of the best secondaries in the league, a stud linebacker core, the defense will be amongst the best in the NFL. Perhaps they won't be on Seattle's level from last year, but they should be one of the best in the NFL. Both New England and Green Bay's offenses are basically a wash, but it's the defense that gives the Patriots the edge.

Awards

Most Valuable Player
Aaron Rodgers, Packers
Offensive Player of the Year
Aaron Rodgers, Packers
Defensive Player of the Year
Darrelle Revis, Patriots
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Kelvin Benjamin, Panthers
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Jadeveon Clowney, Texans
Comeback Player of the Year
Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
Coach of the Year
Bill O'Brien, Texans

I picked Aaron Rodgers in my main fantasy league for a reason: I think he'll be a stud. If Green Bay's offense moves as quickly as they say they will -- 75 players per game -- then he's in store for a huge season. Darrelle Revis is better than Aqib Talib, and the voters will realize it when he takes New England to the next level. I think Kelvin Benjamin could catch over seven touchdowns and 60 passes this season. Jadeveon Clowney is in a perfect situation next to J.J. Watt and could wrack up sacks. Rob Gronkowski as comeback player of the year is an easy choice, especially if he keeps up his touchdown pace.

Have fun this season, y'all. Go Patriots!