Here are some of my predictions for the upcoming NFL Season:
NFL MVP: Many are considering dual threat QB Colin Kaepernick for the Super Bowl favorite 49ers as the general consensus for the MVP, but I think it will go to another player. Broncos QB Peyton Manning will look to add to his trophy case a 5th MVP award in his sencond year in Denver. Surrounded by quality receivers such as Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas, and Wes Welker, Manning has many viable receiving options. He put up stellar numbers last year despite having a weakened arm. This year, his arm is strenghthened and the Broncos lost their starting tail back, Willis McGahee. Denver will utilize a pass heavy offense and Manning is one of the greatest QB’s in NFL History. I think he captures his 5 MVP award in yet another excellent season.
Super Bowl Matchup:
The San Francisco 49ers are stacked with talented players in their prime, and they are hungry for a SB Title after falling 5 yards short last year. Colin Kaepernick will look to improve on an impressive 2012 campaign. From the AFC, early favorites are the Broncos, led by Peyton Manning and Von Miller, and the Patriots, who hope to ride the golden arm of Tom Brady all the way to 4th Championship. The Patriots are sunk if Brady goes down, the team is short on depth and has lost several top receivers. The Broncos are weakened by the loss of Elvis Dumervil but will triumph over the rest of the weak AFC to meet the 49ers in the Super Bowl.
Winner: Niners 42-Broncos 35.
Comeback Player of the Year: Alex Smith. After being benched in favor of Colin Kaepernick after a concussion, Smith was dealt to the Kansas City Chiefs. Smith has a Pro Bowl Caliber reciever in Dwayne Bowe and a decent rushing offense in Jamaal Charles. Look for 3,750 yards and 20-25 touchdowns. Smith excels at not turning the ball over, which was a major issue for KC last year. The Chiefs hope to improve to 6-10.
Other Canidates: Sam Bradford, Micheal Vick
Suprise Team of the Year: Arizona Cardinals
NFC: The Cardinals stumbled last year behind a weak defense and poor QB play. In the offseason, they signed Carson Palmer, a huge upgrade over John Skelton and Kevin Kolb. Palmer loves to throw deep, which should fit like a glove in the Cardinals offense. Larry Fitzgerald is among the elite receivers in the league, and the addition of Rashad Mendenhall gives them a legitamite rushing threat. The secondary looks much improved with young cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu.
Other Canidates: Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay Bucaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Carolina Panthers.
Breakout Player of the Year: Blaine Gabbert.
Gabbert has struggled during his first two seasons as Jacksonville’s signal caller. He has matured and developed into a quarterback who makes fewer mistakes. It’s unlikely he will fufill the potential that had Jaguars fans excited when they drafted him 10th overall out of Missouri this season, but he should develope into a competent game manager who shows flashes of potential. Gabbert struggles in pressure situations, but he is a very talented player and just 23 years old. Maurice Jones-Drew is back to provide support from the run game, and Gabbert has 2 solid receiving options in Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts. Look for an 7-9 season out of the improving Jaguars.
Worst Dropoff (Team): Dallas Cowboys.
Dallas went 8-8 last year, but a repeat of .500 is unlikely this year. With a team full of head cases and whiners, they can be painful to watch. Dez Bryant fails to capatalize on his incredible talent and instead makes more headlines for arrests than touchdowns. Tony Romo seems to be made of glass, and the defense is weak outside of DeMarcus Ware. Doug Free is a consistent headache at right guard for Coach Jason Garret. Jason Witten, the most reliable receiving option, is an injury concern. It looks like the Cowboys will be in the cellar of the NFC East.
Other Canidates: Oakland Raiders (from bad to worse), Baltimore Ravens.
Worst Dropoff (Player): RG3.
We all love Robert Griffin the third, but expecting a performance that will match his rookie season is unlikely. Head coach Mike Shanahan can be fickle, and he and Redskins management are concerned about how well Griffin’s slender 6’2″ frame can hold up againts the bruisers of the NFC like Jason Pierre Paul and Justin Tuck. Hoping to avoid another knee injury, the coaches will look to limit his time outside the pocket, and as a result, his rushing numbers will take a dip. RG3 may be rusty after a preseason in which he didn’t take any snaps. I think he will still be a sucessful quarterback, but his stats will take a hit as the Redskins look to rely on running backs Alfred Morris and Roy Helu to take the strain off of RG3.