The “Don’t Bet On It” NFL Bold Predictions: AFC Edition


East:

Buffalo Bills

Thomas says,  The Bills will finish 4-12, behind three different starting quarterbacks”

  • Saturday, the Bills shored up their backup quarterback position, signing veteran Kyle Orton. Head coach Doug Marrone had echoed uncertainty about Jeff Tuel as the team’s only available option behind E.J. Manuel. (Tuel was cut Saturday and signed to the team’s practice squad). As a quarterback not afraid to scramble, Manuel risks injury any time he leaves the pocket. If Manuel misses time this season, expect Orton and another quarterback to complete the rotating cast of characters under center for the Bills, whose offense will look consistently out-of-sync this season.

New England Patriots

Thomas says, Rob Gronkowski will appear in all 16 regular season games”

  • For the past two seasons, the Patriots have been without star tight end Rob Gronkowski for extended periods of time. That will not be the case this season. With Gronkowski returning from a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee, conventional wisdom might be to expect he misses a game or two this season. Gronk’s pride says otherwise, as he has already stated in the media that he will play in Week 1.

Kayne says, “Patriot’s offense will be top five in pass yards throughout regular season”

  • Last season was possibly the most dismal showing this Tom Brady powered passing game has ever seen. Don’t fear though Pats fans! That’s right this year will mark the return of the fear of the Patriots offensive pass game. Skeptics may say that this squad isn’t much different than last year, and I say they are right (with a few exceptions). But you know what? That isn’t a bad thing! Brady and his receiving core have had all of last year to work together on their chemistry and the young guys have had a chance to grow. Oh and did I mention the return of Tom Brady’s Favorite target to the Lineup? With Gronk back we can expect him to be drawing a lot of attention, thus giving the wide receivers more one on one matchups that Brady will be more than happy to exploit. Gronk touchdown spikes: 14±2.

New York Jets

Josh says, “Mike Vick will end the season as the Jets starting quarterback”

  • The Jets are saying all the right things. “Geno is our man”, “In Geno we trust”, etc. But make no mistake: Geno Smith will not win enough games to keep his job. By week 10 it will be the veteran Vick running around the field as starting QB for the hapless Jets. And he might even manage to pull them to a .500 record.

Kayne says, “The Jet’s rush offense will dwarf their pass offense”

  • Now I know what you’re thinking “But Kayne, they just signed Michael Vick and Eric Decker, how could their rush game be better than that?”. And here’s what I have to tell you: The signing of Vick will be the death of this teams pass game. The competition created by this between Geno and Vick will effectively destroy the chances of either QB being productive, much the same way things happened with Sanchez and Tebow. With that said the Jets also signed RB Chris Johnson, who has never failed to rush less than 1000 yards in a season in his six year career. Put Johnson in front of a budding Ivory and with the turmoil at quarterback the rush offense will be night and day compared to the Pass.

Miami Dolphins-

Kayne says, “The Dolphins will finish 9-7 and earn a wildcard spot”

  • Not a single person in their right mind would even suggest the dolphins could get into the playoffs without a wildcard spot with the division dynasty Patriots standing in their way, but with a little luck, some good signings, and what, in my eyes, looks to be a weak division this year besides the Pats, the Dolphins may finally break their five year playoff drought. The most substantial signing for these guys is definitely Knowshon Moreno. With 1000+ yards and 10 scores on the ground and 500+ yards and three scores in the air Moreno is just the kind of offensive weapon the Dolphins need to help a young guy like Ryan Tannehill out. With Moreno and a revamped offensive line this looks to be a career year for Tannehill and a good year for Dolphins fans.

North:

Baltimore Ravens

Thomas says, Joe Flacco will throw for 4,000 yards and 25 TDs, still lose 9 games”

  • Last March, the Baltimore Ravens locked up their Super Bowl winning quarterback for six years, with a contract worth $120.6 million. Fans and media alike voiced the opinion that the Ravens were overpaying. With a dismal 2013, which saw Flacco throw a career-high 22 interceptions, and the Ravens finish 8-8, he did little to prove his detractors wrong. A new season on the horizon, Flacco will look to prove he is worth the money. In 2014, he will do just that, setting a career high in passing yards and tying his high mark for touchdowns. But one man does not make a team. The Ravens will finish 7-9 and miss the playoffs.

Cincinnati Bengals

Thomas says, The Bengals will go undefeated against their divisional opponents”

  • Over the course of the past five seasons, the Cincinnati Bengals have made the playoffs four times. What would help their cause of making this season a fourth consecutive playoff appearance would be a sweep of their divisional rivals- the Browns, Ravens, and Steelers. Taking into account the below prediction for the Browns to struggle offensively, and inconsistent performances last season from the Ravens and Steelers, the Bengals have an opportunity to take the division by the reins if they can capitalize on divisional matchups. Look for the Bengals to tear their way through their AFC North compatriots undefeated en route to a division title and playoff berth.

Cleveland Browns

Thomas says, The Cleveland Browns will have the 32nd ranked passing offense”

  • The battle between incumbent starter Brian Hoyer and brash rookie Johnny Manziel for the starting quarterback job in Cleveland was a major story this preseason. Ultimately, the veteran Hoyer won the job. Not that it will matter who is under center in Cleveland. With news breaking that wide-out Josh Gordon will be suspended for the entire season, tight end Jordan Cameron and veteran receiver Miles Austin will be expected to carry the weight of the Browns unproven receiving corps on their shoulders. When the fans are assuredly chanting Manziel’s name by Week 5, look for the Browns passing offense to be in the midst of sinking to the bottom of the NFL rankings.

Kayne says, “Johny Manziel will win the starting job by mid season and finish slightly above .500”

  • Johny Football!!! Or should I say Johny Cleveland? Whatever he wants to be called he will draw in huge crowds to the Cleveland area that had a massive summer for sports. Manziel may not have won the starting job immediately, but I guarantee by mid season you will see Manziel on the back of the jersey lined up under center. There are some huge questions about his ability to play in the National Football League, but there is one thing that no one questioned that should not be overlooked in this particular discussion: Confidence (read cockiness). This young man from Texas A&M has more confidence than possibly any player to ever suit up in the NFL. I believe he will have the job by mid season and finish with a slightly above .500 record as a starter.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Josh says, Big Ben will throw for the fewest yards in his professional career since 2005″

  • Roethlisberger has taken so many hits over the years that he is due for a decline and 2014 will be that year. Add in the fact that Antonio Brown is his only viable receiving option and it makes for a low passing yard season for the Steelers QB. He will have a completion percentage around his career average if that makes you feel any better.

South:

Indianapolis Colts

Thomas says, The Colts will be Top 5 in rushing yards, Top 3 in passing yards”

  • Andrew Luck has the talent to put up Peyton Manning-esque statistics. In Colts single-season history, Manning holds the top five spots for passing yards. Luck finds his 2012 campaign locked into the sixth position. This coming season, not only will Luck lead the Colts to a top-3 placement as one of the league’s best passing offenses, he will also throw for over 4,500 yards, to take third all-time on the Colts single-season passing yards list. With veteran Reggie Wayne, and newly acquired Hakeem Nicks, Luck has offensive weapons at his disposal. The Colts rushing offense finished 20th in the league last season. That will change in 2014. Trent Richardson will rediscover his rookie form, and rush for over 1,000 yards this coming season, behind a solid offensive line which added left guard Jack Mewhort out of Ohio State in the draft this offseason.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Thomas says, The Jaguars will have a positive point differential, first time since ’07”

  • The Jacksonville Jaguars finished last season tied for the third worst record in the league at 4-12. 2013 marked the sixth consecutive season in which the Jags finished with a negative point differential scoring a league-worst 247 points, while allowing 449 points, the 5th highest total, a -202 point difference. That will change this season. With rookies, quarterback Blake Bortles (who will take the starting job from Chad Henne by Week 4) and wide receiver Marqise Lee, poised to make an immediate impact, and veterans Paul Posluszny and Chris Clemons leading the defense, expect a more potent Jaguars offensive attack and a stout defensive effort this season.

Houston Texans

Josh says, Jadeveon Clowney will pick up 15 sacks this season

  • What’s better than having a dominant DE in JJ Watt? Having another beast lined up on the opposite side. Without a doubt offenses will try to double-team Watt whenever possible, meaning that Clowney just has to beat his man 1-on-1. One has to also believe that having a defensive guru like Romeo Crennel as Defensive Coordinator will provide a spark to the D (particularly pass rush) that Wade Phillips couldn’t. Does this mean the Texans will have a winning season? Very unlikely. But that will not be for lack of effort from Clowney and Watt.

Tennessee Titans-

West:

Denver Broncos

Thomas says, “The Broncos will finish 3rd in the AFC West, miss the playoffs”

  • Okay, okay. Maybe this is a reach. But a longshot prediction is necessary, so hear me out. The Broncos will be without wide receiver/crash-test dummy Wes Welker for at least the first four weeks of the season, following his suspension after testing positive for a banned substance. Peyton Manning missed the entire 2011 season with a neck injury, and has recovered nicely over the past two seasons, including record-setting statistics in 2013. But that injury could certainly come back. The Broncos offense also lost wide receiver Eric Decker to the Jets. With his offensive weapons from last season cut in half (for the time being), Manning will have to make do with what he has at his disposal. The Broncos defense did add Aqib Talib in the secondary and will have a healthy Von Miller, but without as strong an offense, the defense will have to pick up the slack. Maybe, just maybe, the Broncos don’t make the playoffs this year. Maybe Peyton Manning doesn’t play like Peyton Manning. But, like the title of the article says, it isn’t recommended you bet on it.

Kansas City Chiefs

Thomas says, “The Chiefs will win the AFC West behind an MVP-caliber season from Alex Smith”

  • Andy Reid led the Kansas City Chiefs to a winning season and the playoffs in his first year at the helm in 2013. That was following a dismal 2012 that saw the team finish 2-14. With a dominant, top-tier running back in Jamaal Charles, and a defense that finished top-5 in points allowed per game last season, the Chiefs are poised to make another run at the playoffs. This season, though, I expect Charles to take a backseat as the offense’s key weapon- that role, in 2014, belongs to QB Alex Smith. Though the Chiefs lost key offensive linemen to free agency, including Branden Albert and Jon Asamoah, expect Smith to still have good protection. And with that protection, he will improve upon his 3,313 yards passing and 23 TD’s of a year ago. Wide Receiver Dwayne Bowe is suspended for the first game of the season, but will be an important asset in Smith’s success this season.

San Diego Chargers

Oakland Raiders