AFC 2014 Preview – NFL FootballSaturday, September 6, 2014 19:34
Power ranking of the AFC for the 2014 NFL football season.
2014 AFC PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS
We’re going to dispense with the divisional breakdowns of the last few years and do a power ranking analysis of each conference, starting with the worst teams.
16.) OAKLAND RAIDERS: Hugh Jackson was the best hire anyone named Davis made in the last decade for the once great Raidas. After one year as head coach in 2011, Oakland bettered their previous years offensive output when Jackson was their OC. Both those years’ rankings showed the teamed fielded one of the ten best offenses in the league. In the decade following their Super Bowl appearance in ’02 the Raidas never ranked better than 18th in total offense. Head scratching decisions like firing Jackson just when the team was looking like the Raiders used to look are why Oakland occupies this spot in more than one power ranking
15.) CLEVELAND BROWNS: Any hope Mike Holmgren had for a bust in Canton, must be shattered. His drafting record in Cleveland was a disgrace; only 11 of 28 picks remain on the team. Trent frigging Richardson at number four overall…Brandon Weeden? To be fair, at least half of Holmgren’s picks still with the Browns are elite players—Cleveland may field a top five defense in 2014—but Josh Gordon’s pot problems and flat out whiffing on premium picks in all three years, gives Holmgren authorship of the book on how to maintain a losing NFL franchise.
14.) HOUSTON TEXANS: You can flip these next two teams and make the argument they belong with the next eight teams in our power rankings. Usually teams with new coaching staffs take at least half a season to adjust to new schemes, people, and approaches. We’re betting Bill O’Brien is thinking if his players respond the way teenagers responded during the most devastating scandal in American college football history, the Texans have enough talent to challenge the Colts for the division. Obrien’s performance at Penn State was nothing short of a miracle; he singlehandedly stopped the flood of player blue-chip defections to other schools—the athletes could have played with their new teams that same year—posted two winning seasons, and was named coach of the year. Watch out for the Texans; Romeo Crennel has a lot of talent on defense and that should worry every team in the AFC.
13.) JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: Gus Bradley reminds me of Bill Cowher—minus the spit. By all accounts, his players love him and the Jags are clawing their way to respectability. If by some miracle Chad Henne can be effective, or if Blake Bortles “gets it” sooner than we expect, the Spotted Cats, could make The AFC South the most interesting division in the conference.
12.) BUFFALO BILLS: The Bills almost always have the look of a team perpetually locked into the crosshairs of fate—and the seemingly endless shots seldom make Buffalo’s prospects look better. Last year, E.J. Manuel faced one injury after another. This year, stud linebacker Kiko Alonso, blows an ACL doing a simple practice drill. Former Lions head coach, Jim Schwartz has taken over DC duties after Doug Pettine’s departure to Cleveland, so the question of continuityand consistency need to be answered. Marrone took a huge risk picking Manuel last year and the gamble seemed to be paying off until the kid got hurt. Manuel has the tools to take the next step with the Bills top three rushing attack, but that’s the only good news. The bad news on top of everything else—the team really has no idea where it will be playing six years from now.
11.) TENNESSEE TITANS: Ken Whisenhut’s record with quarterbacks is almost as good as Norv Turner’s or Andy Reid’s. I think Whiz got the shaft from the clueless Bidwells in Arizona. Anybody who thought the Cardinals were going to improve after losing Kurt Warner was seriously delusional. Jake Locker better make a lot of strides quickly. Whisenhut and GM, Ruston Webster, picked Zach Mettenberger on draft weekend for a very good reason.
10.) MIAMI DOLPHINS: A head coach doesn’t deserve the position if he can’t control what amounts to simple childhood meanness in the locker room. Having said that, Joe Philbin did keep the Fish swimming in the same direction last year, although Miami—after beating the Pats—lost their final two games and missed the playoffs. All the Philbin/Dolphin bashing, deserved or not, has obscured the level of talent, cohesiveness, and resiliency the players have shown under Philbin. I think the Dolphins can upset the AFC East apple cart.
9.) NEW YORK JETS: I know, I know…the number nine slot puts the Jets in Wild Card contention and there can be only one reason—given our mocking of Rex Ryan for the last five years—SILENCE! Rex Ryan doesn’t feel the need to overhype an under-manned squad. Geno Smith has legitimate receivers to throw to and the proper use of Michael Vick just might give opposing defenses enough fits to allow the Jets defense to dominate. Rookie safety, Calvin Pryor, can hit you very hard. The defense has a chance for greatness.
8) BALTIMORE RAVENS: The Ratbirds, like their bitter AFC North rivals in Pittsburgh, seldom have to rebuild. With Ozzie Newsome as GM and the generally sane Harbaugh as head coach, the Ravens are in the process of reloading. It might take longer than Baltimore fans want to believe. I’m not buying the Joe Flacco is as great as his contract or the defense will be nearly as great as the defenses the Ravens fielded during the Ray Lewis years. The Wife Beater, Ray Rice, got off with a smack on the head from the NFL’s Idiot in Chief; there have been too many arrests, and the Ravens aren’t as good as they think they are.
7.) PITTSBURGH STEELERS: Neither are the 2014 Steelers. Big Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Munchak are the reasons we rank the Steelers higher than the previous three teams. Roethlisberger knows Todd Haley’s offense, and a much improved offensive line, thanks to Munchak, is going to keep Ben upright. The biggest question mark for Pittsburgh is defense. (In the last 43 years that sentence has been very rarely written.) Four rookies will see significant playing time. If the preseason means anything, the Steelers run defense will stink worse than last year’s horrendous unit. We put the Steelers on the cusp of playoff contention because of a much younger line backing corps and Big Ben’s ability to score 30+ points a game.
6.) KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: Andy Reid is one of my favorite people in the NFL. Last year, he turned around a 4-12 KC team into a 10-6 playoff team. After Bill Belichick, Reid has no peer in the NFL when it comes to finding players to fit his schemes—but taking the gifted and inconsistent tweener, Dee Ford, with the 23rd pick—and leaving stud WR Kelvin Benjamin and two star CBs on the board—had us shaking our head. I’m giving Reid the benefit of the doubt, though. He knows the more pressure he can put on Peyton Manning and Phillip River increases his odds of winning the always tough AFC West.
5.) SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: The Bolts gladly scooped up CB, Jason Verret, the undersized but supremely skilled corner the Arrowheads passed on. Don’t look now, but 2014 might turn out to be the year of lightning. 2013 saw Phillip Rivers and the Bolts field the fifth best offense in the league. They will be better this year. Phillip Rivers is the only elite QB from the ’04 draft without a ring. There are too many holes on defense Brandon Flower can’t fill alone. But, if the defense rises up, San Diego could be dangerous.
4.) CINCINNATI BENGALS: The Bengals have as deep a roster as any team in the AFC. Andy Dalton has improved each year he’s played, and the defense has finished no worse than seventh in the last three years. Add three superb first day drafts to that tantalizing mix and you might be watching the Bengals in the Super Bowl.
The talk of potential and promise has to end for this team in 2014. In 12 years Marvin Lewis has yet to win a post-season game. Andy Dalton has laid three playoff eggs in a row. Patience, stability, and loyalty are one thing. If this Bengal team doesn’t win at least one playoff game, sticking with Lewis would define insanity.
3.) NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Tom Brady is the only reason why the Patriots might sniff a bye. Like Joe Montana, John Elway, and Dan Marino—today, only Brady and Peyton Manning makes average players look great. While Manning took the pressure off coaches like Dungy and Caldwell, Brady helped make Bill Belichick impervious to more lasting disdain for cheating. What’s worse, Belichick took Florida DT Dominique Easly—with both knees on their second ACL—a 3-4 round draft project in the 214 draft’s first round.
If the Patriot defense doesn’t improve significantly, Brady’s window could slam down on Belichick’s fingers. Here’s an interesting breakdown on Belichick defenses —remember, the NFLN and ESPN have showered him with the word genius—since coming to the Pats:
- Average rank = 17th
- Top Ten Defenses = 4
- 20th or lower = 8 seasons
A more interesting stat: In 30 years of coaching, half of them as a defensive coach or DC, Bill Belichick has never had a top ranked defense, only 12 top ten squads, three of his Giants defenses with Parcells achieved the number two spot in the league.
Genius, my ass.
2.) INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: Because of what looks more and more like a disastrous trade for running back, Trent Richardson, the Horseshoes had to wait 58 picks before selecting a much needed offensive tackle and did nothing to bolster the back end of their defense. Andrew Luck could very well be the next Brady or Manning—he better be, or this writer will look awfully silly in about five months.
1.) DENVER BRONCOS: You can drop the previous seven team names in a hat and randomly pick playoff teams—and you probably would get four of them right. In what seems to be a diluted AFC, The Broncos have, at the start of 2014, the deepest and most complete roster.
Come December, maybe the Colts, Pats, Ravens or Steelers find the defenses they’re hoping for, maybe Cincy takes the conference by storm; maybe the Chiefs come together, or the Chargers sneak up on the field as the dark horse.
Until then, the Broncs are the favorites to host the AFCCG at home—and that is no small hurdle for the visitors.
2014 NFL PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS
NFC PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS
NFC West Champion – Seattle Seahawks 12 -4 (Bye)
NFC East Champion – Philadelphia Eagles 11 – 5 (Bye)
NFC South Champion – New Orleans Saints 11 – 5
NFC North Champion – Chicago Bears 10 – 6
Five Seed – Green Bay Packers 10 – 6
Six Seed – Detroit Lions 9 – 7
The NFL looks much different in January than it does in September. That’s why my playoff scenarios might contradict my Power Rankings,
Green Bay’s lack of defense is going to hurt them in the post-season and I’m sorry folk, New Orleans won’t be home for the NFCCG—nor will they be in it.
Wild Card Round
SAINTS crush LIONS
PACKERS beat BEARS
SEAHAWKS murder PACKERS (again)
EAGLES rout SAINTS
The Bald Birds kick the 12th Man in the balls and strafe the vaunted “Hawks defense in a 70 point shootout…
NFC CHAMPIONS – PHILADELHIA EAGLES
AFC PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS
AFC North Champion – Cincinnati Bengals 11 – 5 (Bye)
AFC West Champion – Denver Broncos 11 – 5 (Bye)
AFC East Champion – New York Jets 10 – 6
AFC South Champion – Indianapolis Colts 11 – 5
Five Seed – New England Patriots 10 – 6
Six Seed – Pittsburgh Steelers 9 – 7
Wild Card Round
STEELERS nip JETS
COLTS clout PATS
BENGALS whip STEELERS
BRONCOS beat COLTS
Cincinnati takes it to Manning and the Broncos in overtime.
AFC CHAMPIONS – CINCINNATI BENGALS
The Bengals defense stifles Philadelphia’s high-flying offense
MVP – Giovanni Bernard
WEEK ONE PICKS BEFORE 1:00PM KICKOFFS…
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