NFL 2014 Preview: The Other 30

And now for the teams not worthy of playing the opening game during a Pharrell concert. The 2013 season was an exciting one, with Chip Kelly and Marc Trestman being two of the best offensive minds to join the league in years. And it might have been the last year you could even look at a receiver without drawing a penalty. After Thursday’s opener, there’s only 265 games left until the Super Bowl.

The Seahawks and Packers were covered on Thursday…

AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills

Everyone’s favorite pun based team in the NFL is still living in the glory days of the 1990s, when they ALMOST won something. They went all in on Sammy Watkins, as if they’re one player away. They’re one player away from being ten players away. And probably a coach. And if Bon Jovi gets his way, an owner. Lou Saban ain’t walking through that door. Saban of course being the coach of their back to back championship teams. Oh, you don’t remember. Don’t feel bad, your parents don’t remember either. It was 1964 and 1965 – before the summer of love, before the Bills drafted OJ Simpson, before Dairy Queen invented the Blizzard.

Miami Dolphins

Stephen Ross, the most Hyman Roth looking of the NFL owners. And he’s a Florida businessman. No holes in that analogy, eh? But Jeff Ireland was never cut out to be Ross’ Johnny Ola. Ireland helped finish Bill Parcells undercover mission to dismantle the Dolphins organization from the inside. Mission accomplished. Lost: Most of the offensive line. Added: Bill F. Lazor, previously the Eagles QB coach, who’s bringing a little of that Chip Kelly magic to the sunny climes of South Florida. The jury is out on Ryan Tannehill, but getting rid of Mike Sherman usually works wonders. Probably a make or break year for Joe Philbin.

New Jersey Jets

Rex Ryan. One of the greatest defensive minds of our time, yet seems to know nothing about offense. He’s the polar opposite of Sean Payton. And that’s not good enough. It’s entertaining, but that’s all it is. Rex was done around the time he got that insane Sanchez tattoo. This year’s QB situation of Smith/Vick looks worse than the Sanchez/Tebow debacle. The D that was built around Revis is now built around…Dee Miliner? Might be the last year of Rex in charge. I’ll miss his press conferences.

New England Patriots

If Gronk stays healthy, the Patriots win the Super Bowl. If Gronk gets hurt, the Patriots lose in the AFC Championship. Another year of Belichick coaching circles around the competition has been guaranteed going on a decade now, with 2008 and 2013 being the high points in watchability. Writers will bitch about the lack of quotes and injury info, but that’s why the Hoodie is so hard to beat. While Rex is giving press conferences, and the Dolphins are maybe hiring Dan Marino again, and the Bills are packing the steel horse for Toronto, the Patriots will just continue being the only dependable viewing experience in the NFL. They change the offense and defense every week. They go for it on 4th and short. They don’t waste challenges. They don’t waste timeouts. They don’t take their foot off the gas. The rest of the division continues to doubt this logical approach. Herman Edwards, Eric Mangini, Gregg Williams, Mike Mularkey, Dick Jauron, Chan Gailey, Dave Wannstedt, Jim Bates, Nick Saban, Todd Bowles, Cam Cameron, Tony Sparano, have all been fired in vain since Belichick took over. We might as well add Doug Marrone, Joe Philbin, and Rex Ryan to the list, because they add themselves every week. Logan Mankins got significantly worse in pass protection last year. Belichick traded Mankins and his 10.5 mil cap hit for a young TE with a 0.5 mil cap hit AND a draft pick. It’s not cold hearted. It’s a complete lack of sentiment. And that’s the only way to win with a salary cap and free agency and constant injuries. Some players understand this: Vince Wilford agreed to redo his contract so the same thing wouldn’t happen to him. Another great year for the Patriots, the only Super Bowl or bust team in the NFL for the 11th consecutive year.

AFC NORTH

Cincinnati Bengals

You think NFL head coaches are special? The 2nd longest tenured coach in the NFL is Marvin Lewis. He has ZERO playoff wins in ELEVEN SEASONS. His overall record is 90-90-1. Clearly, the owner of the Bengals doesn’t give a shit. At least they keep our attention with cheerleader scandals. They lost both the OC (Gruden to the Redskins) and the DC (Zimmer to the Vikings), which is usually a sign of trouble. They believe in Andy Dalton for whatever reason. So IF they make the playoffs, they’ll lose. As Sam Wyche said, mid-riot, “You don’t live in Cleveland, you live in Cincinnati!” But it’s practically the same.

Cleveland Browns

The only reason Johnny Manziel rolled up that dollar bill was to do cocaine. I don’t care, and it can’t possibly help him read a defense or throw a spiral, bet let’s call a spade a coke-snorting spade. Their latest Head Coach That You Don’t Need to Know Because He’ll be Fired After One Season is: Mike Pettine. He’s worked for Rex Ryan, so the defense will be good, and offense will suck. Jordan Cameron is a good TE, John Gordon is a good WR who can’t stop doing drugs. Joe Haden is better than Richard Sherman. They’ll miss the playoffs again and fire the coach.

Baltimore Ravens

No one deserves to have their grave pissed on. But if someone DID deserve to have their grave pissed on, it would be Art Modell. Or maybe we could just point out that Cleveland is shitty and you woulda moved to Baltimore, too. Bodymore, Murderland. Free stadium, fresh crabs, The Wire references. It’s like a fucking paradise compared to Cleveland. But Ray Rice beat the shit out of his fiance, John Harbaugh doesn’t mind, Goodell doesn’t really mind, the ghost of – oh FUCK IT, PISS ON THAT GRAVE BRO! Let it rain down! Players get suspended a year for marijuana and just 2 games for beating their special lady unconscious and dragging her by her hair ON CAMERA? It’s like Eddie Vedder sang that time, “Society, you’re a crazy breed.” oh, but the Ginger Hammer says it was collectively bargained. Unions, yay! The defense will be solid but unable to overcome Joe Flacco’s contract.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Ben Roethlisberger is still a rapey dude, shielded by the Rooneys. But I’m not a woman, so while i’m offended by his actions, i’m not personally at risk. What is at risk is the reputation of Troy Polamalu, who really tailed off, eh? Dick LeBeau is still brilliant, but the GM isn’t providing the same quality, so LeBeau falls victim to a hack like TIM TEBOW. If any NFL coach could have starred in Juice, it’s Mike Tomlin. And Tomlin coaches about as well as Tupac would have. Tomlin threw a challenge flag on the OPENING KICKOFF of a playoff game.  And he won’t be fired for another 20 years, cause that’s how the Rooneys roll. Can they go 8-8 for a 3rd straight year? I bet they can. Overrated owner, coach terrible at game management, unreliable often injured QB, shaky secondary, shooting for 8-8? No wonder the Steelers and Cowboys have such history. (back when there weren’t many teams, no free agency, no salary cap, they had 2 of the 6 decent coaches in football…yada yada). If you’re a Steelers fan, just go to Primanti’s, enjoy your “sandwich”, and drink a bit more. And stay away from Roethlisberger if you’re an attractive female.

AFC SOUTH

Indianapolis Colts

What is there not to love about Andrew Luck? The beard, the running, the smarts, the architecture degree. But his offensive line is probably gonna suck again. Chuck Pagano needs to get off the leukemia meds and coach ‘em up! I’m assuming that Jim Irsay driving around with loads of cash means he and Pagano are running a drug smuggling ring. I don’t see another option. Either way, Luck will incredibly pull some games out at the end, but they’ll lose in the playoffs. If they get there. Much will depend on whether Trent Richardson can get more than 2.9 yards per carry.

Jacksonville Jaguars

I don’t wanna write this. And you don’t wanna read it. So let’s just deal with the Seahawks getting BETTER without Gus Bradley, drink in owner Shad Khan’s mustache, and applaud the Jaguars for NOT signing Timothy Richard F Tebow, ticket seller extraordinaire. And for somehow being among the most quickly evolving franchises in terms of open mindedness, with Shad Khan’s son running the analytics department…it might not help, and it probably won’t in Jacksonville, and if it does work the local yokels will still prefer college football. But they have pools and a big ass TV!

Houston Texans

Not since Jerome Brown and Reggie White (early 90s Eagles) has a DT/DE combo been so feared! Or maybe Dan Hampton and Richard Dent (85 Bears). Nice try, dad. Or Mean Joe Greene and LC Greenwood (70s Steelers). Or Merlin Olsen and Deacon Jones? I hear you, grandpa. But now it’s a passing league, you say! Good luck with that. If JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney are half as good, they’ll be dominant simply because you can’t double both of them. But it’s a team game, you say! I AGREE with you. Their offense, whether headed by Ryan Fitzpatrick or another guy – probably less bearded, less educated, but otherwise interchangeable – handing off and checking down should be dreadful. Bill O’Brien made people forget about the troubles in the football building at Penn State, but that’s child’s play compared to the shame the Texans felt last year, with the pick sixes, Arian Foster’s whining, and then coach Gary Kubiak having a goddamn heart attack ON THE FIELD. Technically, Kubiak (who has a haircut I’m certain is modeled on Jack Nicholson’s hair from Wolf) went to the hospital on a stretcher as a precaution due to collapsing, but I’m no doctor, so I’ll interpret that as educated-speak for “basically a goddamn heart attack”.

Tennessee Titans

Do you believe in Jake Locker and Ken Whisenhunt? If you do, please sober up and/or explain yourself. I know Whiz went to the SB with Kurt Warner. Without Kurt Warner, he was an embarrasment. And Locker can’t even stay healthy long enough to show us if he’s good or bad. The loss of legendary bird-flippin’ Bud Adams still hurts. Ask the average non-Titans fan what city the Titans play in, and you’ll get a very unsure “Memphis?” just as often as you’ll get a “Nashville?” or hell maybe a “Rocky Top!”. To hell with Tennessee, except for Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Dollywood: it’s like Disneyworld, but shorter lines and less creeps. And less everything, but you get the point. Mike Munchak was a great player, but a horrible coach. So maybe Whiz gets a first year bump.

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos

This will be the best team Peyton Manning has coached since the 2010 Colts. Lots of big numbers, followed by a playoff disappointment. For 11 of the last 13 years, that’s all you’ve needed to know. The offense will be fine without Wes Welker, if he ever returns from concussions and suspensions. Emmanuel Sanders should be fantastic with defenses worried about WR Thomas and TE Thomas. The defense should be better than last year, with the additions of Aqib Talib and DeMarcus Ware. John Fox will continue to be one of the worst in-game coaches in the history of football.

San Diego Chargers

The Mike McCoy bandwagon is still tempting because of the great work he did with both Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning. But Philip Rivers is still a d-bag who talks trash and has too many children and throws back-breaking interceptions. Keenan Allen should put up big numbers in a lot of close losses. Eric Weddle looks crazy and does a great job, but the Chargers were last place in DVOA last season.

Kansas City Chiefs

Story time: In the third quarter of the Chiefs @ Colts playoff game in January, with the Chiefs leading 38-10, I told a friend who had bet on the Chiefs to cover and was already spending his winnings, “Only Andy Reid can blow this lead.” AND THEN HE DID. In classic Andy Reid style! Tragically comic, I reckon is the term I’m looking for. That’s what I said at my buddy’s funeral a few days later.

Reid, a man who burns timeouts  worse than any coach in history, will continue to disappoint anyone who’s paying attention to the coaching. They paid Alex Smith way too much money, so it’s all downhill from here.

Oakland Raiders

Raiders – The Raiders are even worse than you think. Love the addition of Khalil Mack. Hate everything else. Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen have suffered through the repercussions of others’ sins. And now, finally with cap space and money to spend, they’ve done just as poorly. Chaotic free agency, deciding to anoint Matt Freaking Schaub as their starting QB, and now benching Schaub before Week 1. Same old, same old in Oakland.

NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys

The perennial train wreck that is the Cowboys are back in style. Due to Jerry’s mismanaging the salary cap they were forced to part ways with their best defensive player Demarcus Ware. Then Sean Lee tore an ACL during OTAs and will miss the entire season. They did nothing to improve on the defensive side of the ball in the off season, so their defense is likely going to be terrible, even if Rod Marinelli really is a good defensive coordinator.  Their o-line looks to be pretty good again and should be able to keep Romo upright to throw back-breaking pick sixes week after week. They might even be able to run the ball, but the interceptions could escalate quickly as they trail in most games this year. No worries in the owner’s suite though; turns out billionaires can get a suite full of strippers to salve their wounds before, during and after all these fruitless also-ran seasons. Jerry loves the glitz and glamour more than winning. Good for him. Jason Garrett will continue to ice his own kicker, burn timeouts, and throw when a run would win the game. But he’ll do it with glitz and glamour, so Jerry won’t fire him.

New Jersey Giants

It seemed a great idea to “put a lid on the offense” and have Eli focus on short passes instead of chucking it deep every play. While it’s hard to learn much from the preseason, so far Eli looks terrible trying to execute this shorter style of offense. On top of that, they just signed a 29 year old running back to a four year deal and his backup is Peyton Hillis. On defense, they were quietly good last year, coming in 6th overall on defensive DVOA, but they lost a lot of players from that team. They signed DRC, which is hard to argue with except in the abstract way that last year he was on a one year deal, played great, and his own team didn’t want to re-sign him. Best case the offense is a little better than last year, and the defense is probably not quite as good. A third straight year of missing the playoffs looks like a safe bet.

Philadelphia Eagles

Everybody’s favorite to win the NFC East this year is the Eagles. Sure, they lost Desean Jackson, and I don’t expect them to do that without skipping a beat, but the division is terrible and Kelly seems like the kind of coach that constructs his offensive game plans around the skill set he has to work with. He makes Nick Foles look competent, so it’s hard to question him on offense at this point. Unbalanced lines, packaged plays, it’s a beautiful thing to watch. On defense, they still have suspect corners and safety play. But that shouldn’t prevent another division win.

Washington Noble and Horribly Wronged Native Americans

The excitement of having another Gruden in a head coaching position was immediately tempered as soon as Jay kept Jim Haslett as defensive coordinator. Griffin is apparently going to keep taking hits, unable to save himself even during meaningless preseason games, so odds are he won’t last the season. We’ll see if Gruden’s offense can make as much hay in the running game as Shanahan’s did. If not, the play action pass will suffer and so will RGIII. Then once he’s out, Cousins will come in and prove once again that he is also not the answer. On defense, somehow it’s still the Jim Haslett Show. Orakpo looked bad last year and he was playing for a contract. No more London Fletcher to get people in the right place. Brandon Meriweather will probably be suspended for head hunting, so who know what happens at safety? And who cares? The owner is the worst casual racist this side of, well, all his fans that wear feathers and warpaint and scream racial slurs.  And if you think it’s not a slur, check out Dan Snyder’s “Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation.” There’s a reason it’s not the “Washington Redskins Redskins Foundation.” I’d call Snyder a kike but then I’d be stooping to his level. So I’ll just call him a douchebag.

NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears

Marc Trestman in intriguing, and he should have a good O line this year to go along with the best pair of WRs in the NFL Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey. But the GM gave a big contract to Jay Cutler, signed Jimmy “Pickles” Clausen to be the backup for an oft injured starter, signed Santonio Holmes – last seen sabotaging his own team, AND didn’t bring back Devin Hester. It’s hard to get a read on this year’s Bears. They spent a lot on defense this offseason, but it’s not clear what they got for that. They brought in Lamar Houston, Jared Allen and Will Young in free agency and drafted some young tackles. The secondary seems particularly wretched, which is bad news for teams in a division with the Packers. They were a blown coverage from winning the division and making the playoffs last year.

Detroit Lions

The Lions opted to let all that apparent offensive talent rot on the vine when they hired Jim Caldwell. Between Caldwell’s utterly predictable play calling and Stafford’s goofy side-arm throws every now and then, they look poised to continue their streak of underwhelming performances. Calvin Johnson must go home every night, sit silently and shake his head. They didn’t have a lot of money this offseason, and the few moves they made were focused on offense, bringing in Golden Tate, among others, to suffer at the hands of Caldwell and Stafford. They made virtually no moves to improve their defense, which was terrible at defending passes last season. Also, Nick Fairley showed up too fat to play. While most analysts seem to still be expecting Stafford to, “improve,” I reckon he’s largely done improving. Will Caldwell call a timeout to HELP his opponent win? He’s done it twice, so don’t bet against him.

Green Bay Packers

Posted Thursday…

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings hired a defensive coordinator as head coach and then went and drafted a supposedly high-octane QB from the rough-and-tumble American Athletic Conference. If Cassel and/or Bridgewater don’t play well enough to get that ninth man out of the box, it could be a long year for Adrian Peterson. Corradelle Patterson showed flashes in ’13, he’ll need to make a lot of plays to keep the Vikings from another year in the gutter. Maybe Zimmer will at least improve their defense, which certainly needs it without Jared Allen. I don’t really have any expectations for this team at this point, other than hoping Zimmer turns out to be a good head coach. Two years outdoors in the Minnesota weather before moving indoors to the new stadium could play havoc with roster construction. On the bright side, they’ve still got Ragnar.

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons

What do you say about a team with a vegan general manager? Throw in the most vanilla offensive playbook this side of Marty Schottenheimer and a defense which has schematic and personnel problems weekly, and you’ve got another disaster brewing. Dimitroff’s tenure in Atlanta has been largely forgettable. He brought in Pioli to help out this year, and instead of signing the usual retreads, they restricted their signings to retreads from the Chiefs. The offensive line is likely worse than last year given the loss of Baker, so the running game will likely remain at the bottom of the league and will ensure those fantasy staple WRs are always well covered.  If they manage to go 8-8, the front office will tout it as a success because they haven’t had back-to-back losing seasons, Blank will issue extensions all the way around, and the national media will continue to wonder why people are loathe to support this team.

Carolina Panthers

Idiot Ron became “Riverboat” Ron became “Analytical” Ron by getting gutsy on some fourth downs last year, and good for him. Maybe he learned something. But probably not. This team had probably the worst offseason in the league this year, replacing their questionable WRs from last year with…Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery? No, seriously. And Tiquan Underwood, who’s already been cut. They had two offensive lineman retire and got a third round draft pick to try to replace one of them. On defense they brought in Thomas Decoud, Roman Harper and other even less successful players. Cam Newton’s got nothing to work with on offense and their defense is going to be awful. It’s Luke Keuchley, girlfriend beater Greg Hardy, and what? I’m sure we’ll still see the Superman move every time Cam scampers for a two yard gain, but this year should be a huge step back. Maybe enough to get Rivera fired. He’ll be back to being a great linebackers coach soon enough.

New Orleans Saints

I don’t think Brees will be playing until he’s 45, but he probably has another “middle of the road” 5,000 yard season. This team is too good to bother really breaking down that much. They have a good chance to sweep their terrible division, which is hard to do even when the other teams are bad. They might be thin on the o-line, but Brees is like Manning, he is effectively part of the offensive line the way he gets the ball out so quickly with so few mistakes. And what little they need to run the ball, their passing game sets it up. Brandin Cooks could put up huge numbers and then watch Jimmy Graham get his TD. Their corners are also suspect, but I imagine Rob Ryan will continue to work wonders and pound shots at dive bars after home wins. Adding Jairus Byrd certainly won’t hurt. It’s all for naught if they can’t get home field in the playoffs.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Oh, boy! Lovie Smith is back and he’s chosen Josh McCown as his starting QB.  The offensive line appears to be in shambles, with Nicks having retired in the wake of a staph infection, so despite having what should be two good receivers in Jackson and Evans, I doubt McCown is going to have time to get the ball to them down field, and the running game will be non-existent. They traded for legend Logan Mankins, but the fact that the Pats let him go says enough about where they feel his talent is right now. Plus, Jeff Tedford as OC? Lovie does a good job of putting together a credible defense and they let Revis go so they could add more pieces for the same money, which seems smart given that Lovie doesn’t play much man. Another long year, but hopefully without MRSA.

NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals

I’m intrigued by head coach Bruce Arians and would like to see him continue to succeed, but I expect this team to take a step back this year. On defense they lost Dansby to free agency and Washington to another violation of the substance abuse policy, and they haven’t really been able to do much to replenish the linebacking corps. Patrick Peterson is the best man cover guy this side of Revis, but he’ll be asked to do more while Matthieu gets healthy. On offense, they’ve still got Fitzgerald, but also still have Carson Palmer under center. Arians and team managed to put together an impressive 10 wins last year.

San Francisco 49ers

The apparently maniacal duo of Jed York and  Trent Baalke reportedly attempted to trade head coach Jim Harbaugh this offseason. That is just straight up fucking nuts. No other phrase for it. Sure, he’s a cry baby, but he’s turned that team into a perennial contender with a questionable quarterback. They must consider him questionable, too, given the opt-out and incentive laden “extension” they gave him this offseason. Their offensive line and defensive line are both among the best in the league. Can they find someone to replace the injured NaVorro Bowman while he recovers and Aldon Smith while he’s suspended? The answer will determine how far they go.

Seattle Seahawks

posted Thursday…

St. Louis Rams

I used to respect and defend Jeff Fisher. Coming into this season, that started to erode when he made no attempt to shore up the QB position. Bradford is clearly a bust, and now he’s injured and out for the season. This team is probably going to have a vicious defense under Gregg “3G” Williams, but they won’t be able to score any points. It’s just hard to believe that bounty of draft picks for RG3 has yielded no viable QB in St. Louis.

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