The third installment of the Sports Unbiased 2014/2015 NFL Predictions series is here. This week the staff was asked to predict who the best AFC and NFC teams will be this season. They were also asked to look into their crystal balls and predict which coach will be fired first along with what playoff team from last year will not return to the playoffs this season. Finally, without restriction, they were asked to predict a major surprise during the upcoming year.
The following writers weighed in-Brian Reese, Jared Cortes, John Yeomans, Jason Culley, and Chris Markham. Each member of the staff that participated did so without contact from others. If you have not reviewed the first article in this series, you can check it out by clicking NFL 2014/2015 Predictions- Divisions, Playoffs, Super Bowl and Awards. The second article can also be found by clicking 2014/2015 NFL Predictions- Best Quarterback, Receiver and Running Back. Let’s get to it.
Who will be the best team in the AFC in 2014/2015?
Brian Reese: Indianapolis Colts – The 2014/2015 season will be a breakout year for Andrew Luck and the Colts. I fully believe they will not only be the best team in their division, but the entire AFC. Trent Richardson, T.Y Hilton and the newly acquired Hakeem Nicks will shine in a Andrew Luck led offense.
Jared Cortes: Denver Broncos – With the additions made this NFL off-season, the Denver Broncos will be repeating as the best team in the AFC. A secondary that will be a hundred times better than last year’s, a revitalized Demarcus Ware up front with Von Miller, and of course, Peyton Manning will lead this team to the promised land yet again.
Chris Markham: New England Patriots – The Patriots, after improving in some weak spots in the off-season, are my pick to be the best team in the AFC. Defense was a major issue for New England last year and they addressed it dramatically. If Brady’s weapons can stay healthy, they will win the conference.
John Yeomans: Denver Broncos – The way Peyton Manning got embarrassed in the Super Bowl you know he is ready for redemption this season, especially with “The Sheriff” inching closer to retirement. With Demarcus Ware joining a healthy Von Miller to bring the heat and T.J. Ward, and Aqib Talib coming to improve a secondary in need (ranked 27th against the pass in 2013), the Broncos could be just as lethal on defense this season. Plain and simple the offense is poised to break records again with playmakers across the board, so why bet against them?
Jason Culley: Indianapolis Colts – The Colts have one of the great young quarterbacks in the game today with Andrew Luck. He is looking forward to the return of a healthy Reggie Wayne, who tore his ACL last season. Hilton was the main man last year and will again be a primary target of Luck. In addition they brought in former New York Giants’ wider receiver Hakeem Nicks to solidify the receiving corps. The question will be can Trent Richardson return to his rookie form after a disappointing 2013 season, I say he can and he will.
Who will be the best team in the NFC in 2014/2015?
Brian Reese: New Orleans Saints – The Saints will once again reign supreme in the South this season and will represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Jimmy Graham was labeled a tight end this off-season, but will put up Pro Bowl receiving numbers. The addition of Brandin Cooks will be the best addition to the offense and give Drew Brees versatility along with Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas carrying the ball.
Jared Cortes: San Francisco 49ers – I believe, despite being in probably the toughest division in football (NFC West), that the San Francisco 49ers will be the team to beat in the NFC. A healthy Michael Crabtree with Anquan Boldin and newly acquired Stevie Johnson at his side will surely help against the fabled Seahawks secondary. Not to mention another amazing draft by 49ers personnel, the 2014-2015 NFC will be San Francisco’s to win.
Chris Markham: San Francisco 49ers – The 49ers will be playing in 2014 with a large chip on their shoulder. They have been painfully close in years past, and after being denied a third trip in a row by Richard Sherman’s fingertips, they will be hell-bent on making a return. All the pieces are there, and they’ll make it work.
John Yeomans: Green Bay Packers – Injuries took a toll on the Packers last season as Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cobb and many others missed games with injuries during the season, still Green Bay managed to squeak into the playoffs with an 8-7-1 record. With everybody now healthy and much needed beef added on defense, with the additions of Julius Peppers and rookie Ha Ha Clinton Dix, the Packers should be on top of their game this season. The NFC is filled with teams worthy of conquering the division, still call it a sixth sense, but when the dust settles I see the Packers coming out on top.
Jason Culley: Detroit Lions – The Lions have a new coach for the 2014 season, Jim Caldwell. Caldwell has been part a few coaching staffs with Super Bowl experience and the Lions faithful are hoping he brings that winning attitude with him to Detroit. New additions Golden Tate and rookie Eric Ebron should take some of the pressure of Calvin Johnson, who despite a sensational season last year, was hobbled by injuries down the stretch.
What’s going to be the biggest surprise in 2014/2015?
Brian Reese: The Washington Redskins will make the playoffs – For all intensive purposes, the Redskins are not going into the season as the favorite in the NFC East, even with the addition of DeSean Jackson. They were an abysmal 3-13 last year, but I see them getting to 10 wins with the addition of Jackson, the emergence of Jordan Reed as a weapon from last season, the continual rise in production of running back Alfred Morris and the return of a healthy RG3.
Jared Cortes: Bright future in Cleveland – This may very well be my hometown bias but I have to go with the upstart Cleveland Browns as the surprise of the 2014/2015 season. A tough new regime and a potential top-5 defense will shock some opponents this year, though being in one of the toughest top to bottom divisions in the NFL will probably keep them out of the playoffs. Still, you can’t count out a team with Johnny Manziel on it.
Chris Markham: Panthers miss the playoffs – The year after the Panthers had their most successful season in team history, in 2003 when they lost in the Super Bowl, they missed the playoffs with a 7-9 regular season record. Losing Steve Smith isn’t going to help Carolina shake that “every-other-year” trend.
John Yeomans: The Seahawks Struggle – The Seahawks did what they should of done, which is make sure their marquee players are signed long term but because of this they could not afford to keep everyone. Seattle does not have the depth that they had in years past in the secondary and on the defensive line. Then on offense, quarterback, Russell Wilson is very short on pass catchers with Golden Tate in Detroit and Sidney Rice retiring, which has Seahawks fans crossing their fingers and hoping Percy Harvin stays healthy. Now I’m not saying Seattle won’t make it to the playoffs, but they will have many analysts worried for most of the season.
Jason Culley: Darren McFadden stays healthy – This is the season Darren McFadden stays healthy! The Oakland Raiders brought in former Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew this season and head coach Dennis Allen has already said the two will be in a running back by committee backfield. This hopefully can keep McFadden from sustaining any of those nagging injuries he has been plagued with in his NFL career.