Let’s face it.
Unless you’re a die-hard baseball fan, July and August are dreadful months for professional sports. Even with the World Cup and its worldwide popularity, LeBron’s 2nd decision and the mass hysteria for Mo’ne Davis and the Jackie Robinson West Little League team from the south side of Chicago, the two months seem to always drag on.
Maybe that is why the NFL is the most hyped-up season of them all, because there is very little going on before the season begins.
By now you have probably partaken in three fantasy drafts, read twenty columns on why your favorite team is going to have a big season, and so on.
And for all the negativity that comes with the NFL offseason (e.g. Ray Rice, Josh Gordon, Aldon Smith and many others) the excitement for the first game on the Thursday night before the season begins never disappoints.
So here is my preview of all 32 teams (And division rankings) with the facts you only need to know going into Thursday night.
1. New England Patriots: If Gronk and the receiving corps stay healthy, the offense will be Top 5. The addition of Revis will aid a defense that Belichick is comparing to his Super Bowl(s) winning groups.
2. Miami Dolphins: Tannehill must make the next step as a QB if Miami has any shot at a Wild Card berth, the defense is mediocre at best, headed for an 8-8 season.
3. New York Jets: Geno Smith must limit his turnovers and become a game changer instead of game manager. Additions of Eric Decker and Chris Johnson need to be breakout performers if the Jets have any shot at the Wild Card.
4. Buffalo Bills: They have one of the best front seven’s in the league, but can EJ Manuel and Sammy Watkins make big plays for an otherwise grounded offense?
1. Philadelphia Eagles: Despite losing WR DeSean Jackson, the trio of McCoy, Foles and Maclin means big plays on offense. If the defense matches its top 5 turnover rank from a year ago and cleans up its mistakes in the secondary, they’re a dark horse candidate to represent the NFC in Glendale, AZ in February.
2. New York Giants: Does anyone remember Eli Manning has won 2 Super Bowls? If the Giants ‘O’ under Manning regains stability and the pass rush shows up this season for the defense, they’re Wild Card bound.
3. Dallas Cowboys: It’s very simple for the Cowboys: Can the elite offense score more points than their historically bad defense gives up?
4. The Washington Football Organization: If RG3 stays healthy for the entire season, and performs at a high level, they’re playoff bound, but that is a big if.
1. Cincinnati Bengals: If Dalton proves his new contract worth, and Giovani Bernard breaks out at RB, they will be division winners once again. If the defense becomes a true dominant force, a deeper playoff run is very likely.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers: Rothlisberger gets more help from the RB’s and WR’s, and the front seven on D is formidable, but question marks in the secondary could ruin all playoff hopes.
3. Cleveland Browns: Week 5 comes around, Johnny gets the go-ahead to start, takes the league by storm, gets the Browns to a respectable W-L record.
4. Baltimore Ravens: Father time is undefeated, and the Ravens D is relying to much on aging Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata to generate a rush. The addition of Steve Smith will be boom-or-bust, I’m going with old age.
1. Green Bay Packers: The balance of Rodgers through the air and Lacy on the ground will put up plenty of points, the additions of Peppers and Clinton-Dix must improve a suspect pass rush and secondary if they have any shot of getting past San Francisco and Seattle.
2. Chicago Bears: With Cutler, Forte, Marshall and Jeffrey, the Bears could have a Top 3 offense this season, they’re a playoff team if the defense can slow down anyone and Cutler stays healthy.
3. Detroit Lions: Stafford and Johnson put up record breaking numbers, but they still won’t stop Cutler and Rodgers from throwing all over them in division play.
4. Minnesota Vikings: Peterson has one more huge year in his legs, eventually Bridgewater will start, and Cordarrelle Patterson will be a breakout star, but there is too much youth on defense to contend.
1. Indianapolis Colts: Luck becomes an elite NFL QB and turns the Colts offense into a 5-wide threat to be reckon with. Coach Chuck Pagano has quietly reconstructed a solid defense in Indy.
2. Houston Texans: They have a lot of question marks everywhere on offense, but they luckily play in the worst division in the league. The duo of Clowney and Watt will have to create a lot of pressure for a lacking secondary.
3. Tennessee Titans: How much confidence do they have in QB Jake Locker and Rookie RB Bishop Sankey? A middle of the pack finish for Music City.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: I think Rookie QB Blake Bortles will become a star in time, but for now they will rely on the mediocre Chad Henne to command the offense.
1. New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees will continue to dominate through the air with TE Jimmy Graham, the defense made key additions in the secondary with Jarius Bryd and Charles Tillman and DC Rob Ryan continues to improve an already above-average defense.
2. Atlanta Falcons: The offense will score plenty of points with Matt Ryan throwing to a healthy Julio Jones and Roddy White. The defense will improve, and the Falcons will be much better than people think.
3. Carolina Panthers: Last year they made big strides as an organization, Cam Newton was superman without a supporting cast and the defense was dominant. This season the defense is still strong, but Newton still has no help and injuries are catching up to him.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tampa is relying on a QB who had a breakout year as a backup in Josh McCown, and hoping RB Doug Martin rebounds after a disappointing year. New HC Lovie Smith will improve the defense and the locker room, but still are a work in progress.
1. Denver Broncos: After getting thrashed in the Super Bowl, the offense will inevitably take a step back (and still lead the league) and the additions on defense in the offseason means they’re all business on a return to the Super Bowl.
2. San Diego Chargers: Phillip Rivers never gets the credit he deserves. he turned WR Keenan Allen into a stud and made the whole offense around him better. With an improved defense, they have showed they can hang with the guys in mile-high.
3. Kansas City Chiefs: A lot went well for the Chiefs last season, until they ran into an incredible Andrew Luck comeback in the playoffs. The defense will still create turnovers and pressure on opposing QB’s but can Jamaal Charles be Mr. Everything once again?
4. Oakland Raiders: They have an improved defense thanks to free-agent acquisitions, but Matt Schaub or Derek Carr is no answer for their lacking offense.
1. Seattle Seahawks: Until proven otherwise, they are the team to beat on both sides of the ball. They’re a brick wall on defense and Russell Wilson is only getting better entering his third year. Repeat?
2. San Francisco 49ers: They quietly went about their business this offseason after the whole Sherman debacle, if LB Aldon Smith can get his life turned around the defense is more than equipped to make Super Bowl return. So is Kaepernick and Co.
3. Arizona Cardinals: They are a playoff team in almost any other division, but they happen to be stuck in the best division in football. Can Carson Palmer and the offense score enough points to beat the best of the west?
4. St. Louis Rams: Losing Sam Bradford hurts, but they weren’t going anywhere with him anyways. RB Zac Stacy is a stud and there D-line is the best in football, and they still might end up with a high pick in next years draft.
Are you ready for some football?