Kevin Aherne (@KAherne17)
We are just days away from the kickoff to the 2014 NFL Season, and as always, there will be some interesting developments and surprises that unfold in the weeks ahead.
You can call me daring, crazy, or even stupid, but here are 11 bold predictions for the upcoming football season:
The 49ers will regress significantly in 2014. Harbaugh's expiring contract will become a distractions, and Colin Kaepernick's development will take a step backwards. Expect Niner fans to start clamoring for backup QB Blaine Gabbert by their bye week in Week 8.
10. Welking away
We have seen the end of Wes Welker's NFL career. Three concussions in 10 months will prove too much for the 33-year old receiver.
9. Wherefore art thou, Romo?
With the help of Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray, Tony Romo will have a career season--and the Dallas Cowboys will win the NFC East. Yes, I know, I just said something nice about Romo. It will never happen again, I promise.
8. It's in the Cards
Carson Palmer will lead the NFL in passing yards. The Cardinals will still be mediocre (9-7ish) due to a pedestrian defense, but with a year under his belt in Arizona, and familiarity with Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd will lead to big numbers. Expect big things from newcomer Ted Ginn, Jr. as well.
7. Great googly-moogly
Kansas City will prove that 2013 was an anomaly, and fall back to earth this season. Jamaal Charles won't play a full season, and Alex Smith won't come close to equaling his career output from last season. In fact, the Chiefs will be cellar-dwellers, even behind the lowly Oakland Raiders.
6. Super Mario
Mario Williams will be the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He put up respectable numbers last year (38 tackles, 13.0 sacks), and with the additions of Brandon Spikes and Keith Rivers to Buffalo's front seven, Williams will be freed up to post monster numbers in 2014.
5. Bortle Rocket
Blake Bortles will be the AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. While this isn't a very bold prediction per se, the Jags have never had a ROY on either side of the ball. Jacksonville will be awful this year, but the lack of pressure on their first-year QB will give him the opportunity to thrive.
4. MegaTron Legacy
Calvin Johnson will add another piece of hardware to his trophy case. Expect he and Matthew Stafford to continue working in tandem in support of Megatron's first AP Offensive Player of the Year Award. The Lions will put forth a strong showing in 2014, making the Playoffs for just the second time in more than ten seasons.
3. Failure to launch
Rex Ryan will be the first coach to be fired this season. Expect the Jets to be 1-7 at the halfway point of the season (Schedule: OAK, @GB, CHI, DET, @SD, DEN, @NE, BUF), leading way for Ryan's departure. Entering the season with a 46-40 record, he will round out his tenure at 47-47.
2. RGIII to QBII
Robert Griffin III may be the Week 1 starter for Washington, but a slow start will lead first-year head coach Jay Gruden to bench him in favor of Kirk Cousins by Week 5. Cousins is the better option under Center, and the Skins will rebound nicely and make the Playoffs.
1. Say what?!?
Buffalo Bills will win the AFC East. Yes, you read that correctly. The Buffalo Bills will make their first postseason appearance of the millennium in 2014 behind stellar play of E.J. Manuel, C.J. Spiller, and a formidable defense. The Patriots will be really good this year, but expect the Bills to rattle off 12 to 13 wins.
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