ST. LOUIS, Mo. (FootballStL) -- Being in the prediction business is somewhat foolish when you think about it. No one knows what’s going to happen in the future. A lot of times you could end up being right in what you thought, but it may have happened for a totally different reason.
Predicting what’s going to happen over a 16-game NFL season is all of those things to the 143rd degree. No one has a clue what an NFL season is going to throw at us. That’s what makes sports so fun. You have to embrace the fact the unexpected will occur.
1. Seattle (12-4)
It’s not a coincidence the last eight Super Bowl champions have failed to win a single playoff game the next season. Repeating is hard. So very very hard in this league. The other 31 franchises spend all spring and summer trying to figure out how to not only dismantle your roster but also attack every last weakness. As good as the Seahawks look on paper – most of the starters from last year’s title run are back – history has proven things don’t really go the same way the next year.
The defense will be fantastic again led by Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas. Seattle’s D led the league in interceptions with 28 and limited opponents to an NFL-best 5.8 yards per pass attempt. There’s little reason to believe that unit won’t be top notch again.
Offensively, QB Russell Wilson returns along with RB Marshawn Lynch but gone is Wilson’s favorite target in receiver Golden Tate. I believe that’s going to be significant – despite the fact Seattle drafted a few potential replacements this past May. Chemistry and trust are big between quarterbacks and wide receivers.
It’ll be another nice season for the Seahawks. They may even be able to make a run again. But it won’t be pure dominance simply because of the history with too many recent Super Bowl winners.
Don’t get me wrong. I really like the 49ers. They have a deep roster and one of the best coaches in the league in Jim Harbaugh. But after losing super pass rusher (and Mizzou alum) Aldon Smith for nine games and noticing the running back Frank Gore is on the wrong side of 30 (he’s 31) there are some major issues at key spots for this team.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick can still make a ton of plays and he has some nice targets to throw to. Vernon Davis remains one of the game’s best tight ends and Michael Crabtree is going to break out as one of the league’s top wide receivers one of these years. I’m also a fan of 1st round pick Jimmie Ward, a safety out of Northern Illinois. He’ll make some plays this year on defense.
When all is said and done, however, there will be a few games this year the 49ers lose that looking back they’ll think they should have won. But they won’t simply because they weren’t able to make a play at the end of the game. You can replace role players easily. Replacing stars like Aldon Smith is another matter.
It’ll be a good year but not a great year for San Francisco in 2014.
3.St. Louis (8-8)
This is a big year for the Rams organization. It’s the third season under Jeff Fisher and there is significantly more talent now on the roster than there was when he took over. He’s no longer playing with someone else’s guys. Not that he necessarily was a year ago, or even the first year, but after yet another offseason Jeff Fisher has had ample time to put his stamp on things.
Not having Sam Bradford will be tough, but a lot of people just don’t realize how good Shaun Hill can be. He’ll be a mild surprise for the casual NFL fan this season.
The good will be the Rams front seven on defense. Robert Quinn, Chris Long and 1st round pick Aaron Donald will help terrorize opponents’ quarterback for a full four quarters. The running game with Zac Stacy, Benny Cunningham and Tre Mason should be effective as well.
But there will be some bad. I’m not a big believer in this secondary. Rodney McLeod and T.J. McDonald form was of the lesser talented tandems in the league at safety while there are major depth issues at cornerback. Janoris Jenkins is supremely talented but inconsistent. 2nd rounder Lamarcus Joyner is a dependable nickel corner but won’t be a super star. Some big plays could be had against this unit if the front four doesn’t get to the QB first.
The Rams will be in every game they play thanks to their tough defense – up front – and ball control running style on offense. Some games they’ll find a way to win and some games they won’t. It all adds up to .500 for the season.
4. Arizona (6-10)
The Cardinals will be one of the biggest disappointments of the 2014 season in my estimation. So much went right for them last year, leading to a near playoff berth and a 10-6 record. The same thing won’t happen again this year. Lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same spot.
Carson Palmer had a nice year in 2013 with more than 4,200 yards passing but he also had nearly as many interceptions (22) as touchdowns (24). Palmer’s QBR was 51.9 for the season. That’s the definition of mediocre. At 34 years old he’s showing his age. It won’t be any better this season.
Larry Fitzgerald remains an elite receiver but aside for him there isn’t a whole lot to like on offense. Second year running back Andre Ellington takes over as the starter while being backed up by fellow sophomore Stepfan Taylor.
I really like the secondary with Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie and the Cardinals ranked 1st against the run defensively a season ago so that unit could be solid again. But combine the age and deteriorating offense among key personnel and this could be a long disappointing season for Arizona.