By Joe Osborne
We’ve gone far too long without football, and the time has finally arrived for the NFL season to kick off. The build up to the start of an NFL season is like nothing else. From training camps to fantasy drafts and HBO’s Hard Knocks, no other sport comes close to building the momentum towards the start of a season. The best thing about the NFL is its unpredictability. We often see teams rise from laughing stocks to Super Bowl contenders and see un-drafted nobodies evolve into superstars. Here’s what I think will happen this season.
Arian Foster – Foster quickly made his way up peoples fantasy rankings during the pre-season, and with good reason. Foster absolutely lit it up. On 24 carries, he ran for 138 yards and two touchdowns. Some people may think the pre-season doesn’t matter, but he also showed a glimpse of brilliance in the last two games of last season when the Texans were fighting for a playoff spot. He rushed for 216 yards and three TD’s on 39 carries. Being the starting running back in the Texans up-tempo offense only increases his chances of putting up some big numbers.
Matthew Stafford – Have you even seen this guy throw a ball? He has one of the best arms in the NFL. With his rookie season behind him, along with an improved offensive line and some huge weapons to throw to, Stafford will begin to make the transition to elite quarterback status.
Pierre Garcon – Remember when Marvin Harrison was one of the top receivers in the league, and a young Reggie Wayne was nipping at his heels to surpass him as the teams top receiver? Well, the same process seems to be underway in Indianapolis. Last season Garcon had 12 catches of 25 + yards (5th most in the NFL), was the Colts top receiver during the playoffs and has deadly speed. I’m not saying that Garcon will surpass Wayne as the Colts top receiver, but the guy will put up some big numbers.
Players Likely to Disappoint
Mark Sanchez – For such a high profile player, Sanchez just isn’t that good. In 15 games last season he only threw for over 200 yards four times, compared to Stafford, who did it seven times in only 13 starts. A high profile player on a high profile team with poor stats equals an extremely over-rated player.
Rashard Mendenhall – He had his breakout season last year running the rock hard for the Steelers, but I think he’s over-rated. He only had three 100 yard games and scored seven touchdowns. The Steelers announced that Isaac Redman will be the team short yardage back, which will take away any goal line rushing opportunities for Mendenhall, thus limiting his touchdowns.
Brett Favre – Favre shocked everyone when he had one of the best seasons of his career last season. The results this year won’t be the same. Sidney Rice, who was his top target will be out for at least six games and Percy Harvin has had trouble with severe migraine headaches, which could impact his season. This combined with that fact that the guy can’t play for ever will leave lots of Vikings fans disappointed. The guy’s 40 years-old for god’s sake!
Kansas City Chiefs – The Chiefs are starting to put together a blueprint for a really good team. Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones form one of the league’s top rushing combo’s, Matt Cassel has proven that he can excel in the right system and a young and hungry defense will keep them in a lot of games. It also doesn’t hurt that they’re not exactly playing in one of the league’s best divisions. Expect the Chiefs to be in the mix for a playoff spot come season’s end.
New York Jets – I can’t understand the hype and the lofty expectation for the Jets. Do people forget that they finished 9-7 last season? Do people forget that the Jets last two games of the regular season were played against teams who were resting their starters for the playoffs? Do people forget that one of their playoff wins last year was due to Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding absolutely choking by missing three field goals in a game that the Jets won by three points? Guess who does remember? Me! That’s why I think the Jets won’t even make the playoffs this season. They brought in some big name players, but that doesn’t always translate to success on the field.
Here’s how they’ll finish:
AFC – East Champ – Patriots, North Champ – Bengals, South Champ – Colts, West Champ – Chargers, Wild Card #1 – Ravens , Wild Card #2 – Dolphins
NFC – East Champ – Cowboys, North Champ – Packers, South Champ – Saints, West Champ – 49ers, Wild Card #1 Giants, Wild Card # 2 – Vikings
AFC Championship – Bengals over Colts
NFC Championship – Saints over Cowboys
Super Bowl – Saints over Bengals
Now I know what you’re thinking – The Bengals? Here’s my logic. Traditionally, there’s usually one surprise team that makes the Super Bowl. For example, the Cardinals in 2009, the Giants in 2008 and the Seahawks in 2006. That’s three pretty big surprise teams in the last five seasons alone. (As a side note, didn’t it suck watching the Seahawks in the Super Bowl that year? Probably the least exciting team in recent memory to make it). I think the Bengals will build on what they did last season to have another successful regular season, have a few minor upset wins in the playoffs and make it to the big game. As for the Saints, I actually think they’re better than they were last season. They didn’t lose any key players, and the majority of their top players are in the primes of their careers.
Well, that’s it. The time for talking is done. Now is the time for sitting on the couch and enjoying what should be a great season. Don’t agree with my predictions? Let’s hear who you think will win it all this season. Be sure to check back throughout the season for my thoughts on the hot topics, and of course the latest in fantasy football. Enjoy the games!
Joe Osborne is a sports and entertainment enthusiast who resides in Halifax, Nova Scotia. To read more stories like this, visit WhatUpSports.wordpress.com, or you can follow Joe on Twitter @TheJoeOsborne.