Silverman: NFL Season Preview — Predicting Division Winners And Super Bowl
By Steve Silverman
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The Seattle Seahawks are the class of the NFL, and they are poised to become the NFL’s first repeat Super Bowl champions since the New England Patriots accomplished the feat following the 2004 season.
There are plenty of reasons for their success, and perhaps the biggest reason is the partnership of general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll. Schneider has kept the Seahawks’ roster stocked with young, hungry and talented players who must compete just to win a roster spot, let alone the starting position they had last year.
While other teams baby their way through training camp, the Seahawks push their players hard and get them in top shape for their early-season games. While they have concerns about preseason injuries, they don’t let those fears interfere with their plans.
Meanwhile, Carroll is the rare coach who can push his players and motivate them to go the extra mile without inspiring hatred and resentment. The best coaches in the game’s history — Vince Lombardi, Don Shula, Chuck Noll, Tom Landry, Bill Parcells and Jimmy Johnson — have all been respected by their players. None of them were well-liked or loved. It’s fair to say that Carroll is, and he is a breed apart.
While one Super Bowl title does not qualify Carroll to rate with the big dogs of coaching history, a second title just might.
The Seahawks go into the season as favorites to repeat. Here’s our look at how the season will play out.
New England Patriots – The presence of Darrelle Revis gives this defense an edge that it had been missing, and a healthy Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski lead this team back to the top of the division.
New York Jets* – Rex Ryan continues to chase the Pats and Bill Belichick the way Ahab chased the whale. While he won’t catch them, the Jets return to the playoffs.
Buffalo Bills – Plenty of individual talent, but the Bills can’t find the consistency to build a winning season. Big improvement from E.J. Manuel at quarterback.
Miami Dolphins – Head coach Joe Philbin will have some big wins, but quarterback Ryan Tannehill won’t be able to string good games together.
Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals have shown they can win regular-season games and earn their postseason appearances. Now it’s time for Andy Dalton to show he is playoff ready.
Baltimore Ravens – Look for the Ravens to get a huge lift from ancient wide receiver Steve Smith. He will quickly become one of Joe Flacco’s best offensive weapons.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Another season out of the playoffs could mean the end for Mike Tomlin. The Steelers are stagnating and Ben Roethlisberger can’t do much about it.
Cleveland Browns – By the time they get to Week 6, the cry will be “Here’s Johnny.”
Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck will be the best quarterback in the NFL in 2015. He’ll have to settle for being No. 3 (behind Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers) this year.
Tennessee Titans – Head coach Ken Whisenhunt is one of the most creative minds in the game. He will find a way to help Jake Locker make this team competitive — if the quarterback can stay healthy.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Don’t be shocked if the Jaguars become the most improved team in the league. Blake Bortles will be the starting quarterback before September is out and Gus Bradley is a brilliant coach.
Houston Texans – Look for the Texans to get off to a decent start and then fall apart in the second half of the season. Selfish players rule the roost in Houston.
Denver Broncos – Manning can’t go on forever, but he does have at least one more great season in him.
San Diego Chargers* – Philip Rivers and Mike McCoy formed a perfect partnership last year, and they continue to grow this year. Right on the Broncos’ heels.
Kansas City Chiefs – Some excitement on offense thanks to Jamaal Charles, but the Kansas City defense will struggle once again.
Oakland Raiders – Quarterbacks and coaches continue to change on a regular basis, and that keeps silver and black from gaining any traction.
Philadelphia Eagles – Fully respect what Chip Kelly accomplished last season, but getting rid of DeSean Jackson will hurt. Eagles will merely survive this weak division, not thrive.
New York Giants – After last year’s disaster, look for Tom Coughlin to get his team off to a much better start. Still, Eli Manning must answer questions for the Giants to make a run at a playoff spot.
Washington Redskins – Jay Gruden should have a good situation because Mike Shanahan and his oppressive regime is over. However, Robert Griffin III does not look ready to play with the best in the league.
Dallas Cowboys – The defense is simply abominable. Any struggling offense that gets to play the Cowboys will get well in a hurry.
Green Bay Packers – There’s nothing like the sight of a healthy Rodgers to make head coach Mike McCarthy smile. Second-year running back Eddie Lacy takes some of the heat off the quarterback, and the Packers run away with the division.
Detroit Lions – It’s addition by subtraction as Jim Schwartz is gone. New head coach Jim Caldwell may not be a high-level leader, but he’s good enough to make the Lions a winning team.
Minnesota Vikings – First-year head coach Mike Zimmer has an electric personality and knows more about defense than any other leader in the league. This team will soon be challenging for the playoffs.
Chicago Bears – Despite all of the talent on offense, the defense is slow and undistinguished. It will be too easy to move the ball against the Bears in crunch time.
New Orleans Saints – The Saints have become one of the most consistent teams in the league, and they will recapture the NFC South after loaning the division title out the last two seasons.
Atlanta Falcons* – Not good enough to win the division, but a bounce-back year for the Falcons as they return to the playoffs thanks to WRs Julio Jones and Roddy White.
Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton starts the season with rib problems, and that’s a problem. Look for one injury or another to follow the quarterback around all season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Lovie Smith is a decent coach and his players will fight to the end for him, but this division is too tough.
Seattle Seahawks – This team will be even better than a year ago because Russell Wilson continues to improve. Percy Harvin will become a game-breaking wide receiver this year.
San Francisco 49ers* – Injuries and suspensions will hurt the Niners early in the year, but they will be on their game by the start of the playoffs.
Arizona Cardinals – Offensive difficulties keep the Cardinals from climbing up the ladder.
St. Louis Rams – The Rams have the team speed and defensive talent to cause problems, but the competition is too much for them.
* — wild-card teams
AFC Championship game:
New England over San Diego
NFC Championship game:
Seattle over Green Bay
Super Bowl XLIX:
Seattle over New England
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