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Countdown to the 2014 NFL Season: A Preview of All 32 Teams

The 2014 NFL Season is almost here and with only a few days left until kickoff, our writers Chris and Andrew take a look at what to expect from the league’s 32 teams this year.

NFC South:

Andrew Rogers:

Credit: NFL.com

New Orleans Saints: After attending their training camp this past summer, I have to say I’m excited to see what my team will do. Their defense looked strong in the pre-season with some key plays made by Safeties Kenny Vaccaro and Vinnie Sunseri and their offence has never been in question, what with strong receivers across the board including fast new rookie WR Brandin Cooks. Sure, they’ll have to do a lot to replace the big names they let go at the end of last season, but if anyone can do it, it’s the Payton-Brees dream team.

  • Prediction: They have much easier schedule than last year, but the Saints tendency to lose on the road makes for an unpredictable season. I’ll be ambitious and give them one better than last year: 12-4.

Credit: NFL.com

Carolina Panthers: The Panthers had a great year last season but, like their NFC South counterparts above, their stellar defense took a few hits and with QB Cam Newton’s injury, there may be lingering questions. Still, new WR Kelvin Benjamin seems like a good fit for their roster and TE Greg Olsen and RB DeAngelo Williams are always good offensive weapons so, if nothing else, their offence should still hold it’s own.

  • Prediction: The Panthers topped the Saints at the last-minute going into the playoffs but can they do it again? I doubt it. NO seems to have made more changes in the off-season, so I’ll put Carolina a few pegs below at 9-7 given their tough added games against Seattle and Philly.

Chris Hill:

Credit: NFL.com

Atlanta Falcons: If there is one team that needs to prove themselves in the South, it’s Atlanta. A team that has spent much of the preseason trying to shake off the designation as a “soft” football unit, the Falcons desperately need as many of their stars to stay healthy and productive as possible. Of course, with season (and realistically career) ending injuries to OT Sam Baker and LB Sean Witherspoon, as well as the flimsy hamstrings of veteran RB Steven Jackson, it’s looking more like wishful thinking. Still, this is a make or break year and with a lot on the line, it remains to be seen whether the Falcons will “Rise Up” through adversity.

  • Prediction: 8-8 in a tougher division. Mike Smith and Thomas Dimitroff are duly sacked, and many of the players to emerge from that era begin to see the writing on the wall for their place on the team.

Credit: NFL.com

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tampa Bay has the look of a team in transition, but new head coach Lovie Smith will do everything in his power to get this Buccaneers team up and running in Week 1 against the Panthers. Expect the defense to play physical, with a front 7 that has the potential to dominate the line of scrimmage. It’s safe to assume that former Bears QB Josh McCown will be the starter, and if he can replicate his form of last year, Vincent Jackson and rookie WR Mike Evans may be one of the premier wide-out combos of the NFL in 2014.

  • Prediction: 8-8, tied for 2nd in the division, but ultimately just falling short of the playoffs. It will be another year before the Buccaneers are able to string together consistent performances.

NFC East:

Andrew Rogers:

NFL.com

New York Giants: Nothing in the preseason has given me hope that this recent Superbowl calibre team has made another dramatic turn around after a fairly abysmal season last year plagued by bad defense and turnovers. I think it’s time to replace Coach Coughlin honestly, but we’ll have to settle for new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo and added wide receivers Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham (despite his injury) to help Eli along the road to recovery.

  • Prediction: Better than last year, but not by much. I’ll give them a generous 7-9.

NFL.com

Dallas Cowboys: If there’s one thing that’s consistent about this team, it’s how inconsistent QB Tony Romo is. He has standout games and then ones where he drops the ball in the last quarter and everything goes sour. Until he finds a way to fix that, it doesn’t matter how many good names he has around him like TE Gavin Escobar, perpetually injured RB DeMarco Murray, or WR Dwayne Harris, they’ll still end up behind the leader of the NFC East at the last-minute (so probably the Eagles this season).

  • Prediction: Another tough schedule for an inconsistent team so, like the giants, I’m not giving them much more than 7-9.

Chris Hill:

Credit: NFL.com

Philadelphia Eagles: A betting man would say that the Eagles are primed for even more success than last year. They’d probably be right. Chip Kelly’s offense works in the NFL, especially with the amount of talent that the Eagles have collected. They have had a strong preseason, and with the addition of Darren Sproles, the speedy backfield of the Eagles will be tough to stop. It remains to be seen whether Jeremy Maclin can stay healthy long enough to contribute, but rookie WR Jordan Matthews is supposedly set to surprise the league.

  • Prediction: 9-7, but winners of an otherwise ordinary NFC East. Washington may provide the most competition, but there is no defense in this division that can slow down McCoy and the Eagles offense.

Credit: NFL.com

Washington: Which RGIII is going to show up for Washington: the rookie wonder that took the NFL by storm, or the 2nd year enigma that couldn’t get things going? The 3rd year QB needs to sort out his timing and accuracy, and minimize the big hits, or else he’ll flame out again. Plus, Kirk Cousins is breathing down his neck and if Griffin can’t step up, the pair of QBs might find their roles reverse in 2014.

  • Prediction: 7-9 and a very underwhelming season. RGIII gets benched for a few games, only to rediscover his mojo just in time to put some pressure on the Eagles.

NFC North:

Andrew Rogers:

Credit: NFL.com

Detroit Lions: The pressure is going to be on QB Matthew Stafford to do something this year. Detroit cannot settle for the middle-of-the-road performance they’ve had these past few years, especially with so much promise in their midst. There’s the obvious ones: WR Calvin Johnson and RB Reggie Bush but they’ve also got ex-Seahawk Golden Tate, and newly drafted Eric Ebron to add to the mix, so hopefully they can get something going this year.

  • Prediction: Their toughest challenges are going to be the Packers, Saints and Pats, but other than that, they could pull out some wins. I’ll give them hope for a 9-7.

Credit: NFL.com

Green Bay Packers: In a different way, QB Aaron Rodgers has to prove himself too. An early out in last season’s playoffs has to be a tick off for him, but I’m not worried. New draft Davanto Adams joins Green Bay’s already deep roster with Eddie Lacy, Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson which, on paper, should spell success for the team if they’ve improved since last year.

  • Prediction: Like I said with Detroit, not a bad schedule, so I’ll chock Rodgers & Co. up for 11-5.

Chris Hill:

Credit: NFL.com

Chicago Bears: The Bears were fairly impressive under Marc Trestman. Unfortunately for them, they couldn’t win a “play-in” game against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers last year. However, I think that this year will be much different than last year, with QB Jay Cutler determined to prove that he is worth the huge offseason contract. Look for the offense to blow the roof off of most teams, as Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are simply too explosive of a unit to consistently stop.

  • Prediction: 10-6 and tied for the division lead with Green Bay. They get into the playoffs, but only as a wildcard. Marshall and Jeffrey set all kinds of WR duo records, and Matt Forte leads RBs in receiving touchdowns.

Credit: NFL.com

Minnesota Vikings: All the talk was about Teddy Bridgewater the moment he was drafted. However, Matt Cassel was always going to start at the beginning of the season. He looked good last year and developed a pretty good rapport with WRs Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson. I think the Vikings are marketable improved from 2013, and with Adrian Peterson firing on all cylinders, they may make some noise in their division.

  • Prediction: 9-7 and unlucky to miss out on playoffs, similar to the Cardinals from last season. The NFC North ends up being the best division (record-wise) in the NFC.

NFC West:

Andrew Rogers:

Credit: NFL.com

Arizona Cardinals: The Cards are in a tough division. I don’t envy them for having to play Seattle and San Fran twice a piece but they’ve also a team that can pull out a few surprises. QB Carson Palmer is growing into his own and might look to other weapons like Michael Floyd, Tedd Ginn and Andre Ellington to avoid the predictable reliance on Larry Fitzgerald. If they can establish and offence there, they might have a good season, even with four games that are almost guaranteed losses.

  • Prediction: Factoring in those four “given” losses, I’ll call them at 8-8.

Credit: NFL.com

Seattle Seahawks: A couple of weeks ago, I made a bold prediction that Seattle will win 2 of the next 3 Super Bowls (meaning they’ll have won 3 in four years by 2017). I got a few scoffs after that, but based on their performance in the pre-season, this team is still very much in tact despite a few of the inevitable post-Superbowl Win shakeups. What the team still has is a great core in Coach Pete Caroll, QB Russell Wilson, major threat RB Marshawn Lynch and that defense. They play old=style football and they know what they’re doing, so be afraid, be very afraid.

  • Prediction: I honestly can’t see them finishing any lower than 13-3, given their schedule.

Chris Hill:

Credit: NFL.com

San Francisco 49ers: Judging by the preseason, I’d say that the Niners desperately need to work out this Alex Boone situation. Their offensive line looks very porous, and Colin Kaepernick just isn’t clicking with the rest of his receivers yet. Speaking of, they brought in WR Stevie Johnson open up the offense, but I just don’t see him as being capable of doing that. San Fran is going to have to stick to the ground and pound to make it out of the tough NFC West.

  • Prediction: 9-7 after struggling against their division opponents. This will be the first year that the Niners miss out on playoffs in the Harbaugh era.

Credit: NFL.com

St. Louis Rams: Another year, another season-ending injury to “franchise” QB Sam Bradford. He simply hasn’t been able to stay healthy, and it’s looking like the end of the line for him. The Rams are set to stand by Shaun Hill as his replacement, which might not be such a bad thing. He was a capable back-up in Detroit whenever Stafford went down, and the Rams are a run first offense anyway. However, in a division with hard hitting defenses, rookie OT Greg Robinson is going to have to prove his worth (and fast) or else St. Louis will be down to a third string quarterback before mid-season.

  • Prediction: 7-9 with wins against the Seahawks and Niners. The sad thing about this team is that their division is simply too good for mediocre play to carry them to playoffs. They should ask Commissioner Roger Goodell to put them in the NFC East.

AFC North:

Andrew Rogers:

Credit: NFL.com

Cincinnati Bengals: After that controversial contract QB Andy Dalton signed earlier in the year, he is also under a lot of pressure to perform and there is really no reason he shouldn’t. He has TE Jermaine Gresham, and WRs A.J. Green, Marvin Johns and Mohamed Sanu and they just drafted a great RB from LSU, Jeremy Hill. It doesn’t take a “great” QB to win a Superbowl (the links of Peyton, Brees or Brady), as the Ravens proved in 2013, it just takes a great team effort.

  • Prediction: They always seem to find a way to make the playoffs and to do that, they’ll need something along the lines of 10-6.

Credit: NFL.com

Baltimore Ravens: After their first slide down the rankings in many seasons, this is another team that has to find a way to reclaim their former glory. One-way is to make use of their talented tight ends: Owen Daniels and Dennis Pitta. WR Marlon Brown, the free agent they drafted last year also has the potential to become a big player on the squad, so if they can take that no-name talent and put some firepower around QB Joe Flacco again, they might make a run for it.

  • Prediction: Recoveries usually don’t happen in a year, so I’ll say they have a good season but not great at 8-8.

Chris Hill:

Credit: NFL.com

Pittsburgh Steelers: Pittsburgh haven’t been favorites for the division in at least 2 years. Coming into preseason, that may have changed, but recent arrests of Le’veon Bell and Legarrette Blount could unhinge their season. Depending on how Coach Mike Tomlin handles the situation though, it could strengthen the team and lift them to top the AFC North. Of course, they also need to keep Big Ben standing upright. Last year was the first year that he managed to complete a full season, so look for offensive coordinator Todd Haley to keep using quick slants and screens to get the ball out of Ben’s hand and into the hands of the Steeler’s speedy receiving corps.

  • Prediction: 9-7 and winners of the division. The AFC North is loaded with competition, but a revitalized defense and surprisingly affect passing game help the Steelers sweep the division.

Credit: NFL.com

Cleveland Browns: Funny how much the Browns were in the news this summer. It must have been because of the Josh Gordon suspension. No? Well, maybe it was because of the new coaching staff. Not that either? Instead, Johnny Football has been the leading storyline of any given day. However, anyone who has paid attention to the playing style of QBs Hoyer and Manziel know that Johnny is too raw to start in the NFL. He will get his chance, but he might have to wait on an injury to do so.

  • Prediction: 8-8 and a surprise package in the AFC this year. The suspension of Josh Gordon does hurt, but their defense is still pretty stout.

AFC West:

Andrew Rogers:

Credit: NFL.com

Oakland Raiders: Last year, every other team in the AFC West made the play-offs. The Raiders were the sole failure and some becoming at least competitive in this tough division has to be a goal on the top of their mind. Newly acquired ex-Houston QB Matt Schaub might give them a fighting chance. He had a rough year last year, but that felt more like a fluke than anything. Now he just needs to find a rhythm with RB Darren McFadden, new RB Maurice Jones-Drew and WR Denarius Moore and the rest of the teams rushing and receiving core.

  • Prediction: 6 games again 3 of the toughest teams in the AFC makes for a tough schedule, so I’m pegging them for no better than 6-10.

Credit: NFL.com

Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs had a fantastic year last year. Coach Andy Reid and QB Alex Smith worked so well together and the team had a defense to brag about, but I kind of feel like it might have been, in some ways, a flash in the pan. There is, however, still a strong offence there with RB Jamaal Charles, WR Dwayne Bowe and promising TE Travis Kelce coming off the injured reserve for the first time since the Chiefs drafted him. If all goes well, the Chiefs should still put up a good fight.

  • Prediction: Like I said, not the same team as last year, but also not the worst in the league. I’ll say 8-8.

Chris Hill:

Credit: NFL.com

Denver Broncos: Denver is one of the few teams last year that were assumed to be balanced. However, if you may recall, their defense was pretty average, if not below average. Well, they fixed that. Aqib Talib and Demarcus Ware will be welcome additions to a team that is trying to avenge their humiliating Superbowl loss. If Denver plays as good as they look on paper, watch out!

  • Prediction: 12-4 as Peyton Manning plays lights out and the Broncos finish the regular season as the number 1 seed in the AFC.

Credit: NFL.com

San Diego Chargers: Whether last year was a fluke or not, we will never know. But the Chargers will have to improve their scoring output if they want to dislodge the division favorites Denver. Philip Rivers has been a solid quarterback, and Keenan Allen made a ton of noise as a rookie WR, but it was the consistency of their running game that carried them for large chunks of 2013. In an otherwise uninspiring AFC West, the Chargers will need to stretch the field more to keep opposing defenses honest.

  • Prediction: 8-8; Last year’s playoff berth was a fluke (or a gift) and the Chargers regress, losing both games to the Broncos and another ugly one in Oakland.

AFC South:

Andrew Rogers:

Credit: NFL.com

Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars haven’t been good in a while, but now that they might have a QB in Chad Henne, they can work on building a team around him. They’re not a team devoid of talent: they have RBs Toby Gerhart and new draft pick Storm Johnson, plus newly draft WR Marqise Lee, who will add to the strength of WR Cecil Shorts III. All that makes for a team that could succeed, but not necessarily will. It’s going to take work.

  • Prediction: Not a killer schedule, but for a team on the mend, any schedule might be killer. I’ll go for a (more) respectable 6-10.

Credit: NFL.com

Houston Texans: Another team that crashed & burned last year was the Texans. They’ve got wildcard Ryan Fitzpatrick and newcomer Tom Savage at QB so, it all depends on who they pick and how that person makes use of the big names like RBs Arian Foster and Andre Brown and WR Andre Johnson. Houston once had a great defense too with J.J. Watt leading the pack, but can they rise to that level again?

  • Prediction: Someone in this division has to give Indy a run for the money, right? Maybe it’ll be Houston, or maybe not with only a 7-9.

Chris Hill:

Credit: NFL.com

Indianapolis Colts: If there is one team in the AFC that needs to take the next step, it’s the Colts. 3rd year QB Andrew Luck has essentially been winning without a consistent running game and a fairly dismal offensive line. Trent Richardson looks to be a shadow of whatever it is he was supposed to be, and there is a little uncertainty about the defense. Can they generate enough of a pass rush to get to the underwhelming QBs of their division? Maybe, but they sure aren’t going to be able to stop anyone with their secondary. Of course, the emergence of WR TY Hilton and addition of Hakeem Nicks gives the Colts a legitimate chance at staying in games. But whether they can stay in enough to make the playoffs, hinges on their defensive play.

  • Prediction: 9-7 and 1 win away from making playoffs. The defense simply can’t hold up their end of the bargain and Andrew Luck watches the playoffs from home for the first time in his career.

Credit: NFL.com

Tennessee Titans: Jake Locker is still the starter, but this is the year that he has to prove his worth. Playing the whole season would be one step in the right direction. Getting the best out of WRs Nate Washington, Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright is another step. The passing game of the Titans has begun to emerge since they consistently have found themselves playing catch-up in seasons past, while the running game has taken steps back. It will be interesting to see if rookie RB Bishop Sankey will have a role in the offense. The talented runner is fairly versatile and could give the Titans a bit of a spark if used properly.

  • Prediction: 8-8 and not as good as their record shows. They are unable to close out games and make a ton of costly turnovers that derail their season.

AFC East:

Andrew Rogers:

Credit: NFL.com

New England Patriots: As oppose to pretty much every other team I’ve talked about so far, QB Tom Brady is someone who you don’t need to build a team around. He’ll make it work even without his best weapons there to help him. But TE Rob Gronkowski has promised a full, injury free season and some new players emerged in the pre-season like Julian Edelman, Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley. Whether all this adds up to another deep playoff run for the team, that remains to be seen.

  • Prediction: You can always count on the Pats to finish at the top of the AFC East, since none of the other teams really give them a run for their money so count on something crazy like a 13-3 finish, with them possibly going 8-0 until Denver beats them.

Credit: NFL.com

Buffalo Bills: EJ Manuel is not the white knight that will miraculously make this team good again. After watching a couple of their pre-season games, I found that their defense was problematic, at best. Still, they’ve been adding some promising faces to their team in the past few years with WRs Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and Mike Williams, so EJ has no excuses there, he just needs to get the ball in their hands.

  • Prediction: It’s Buffalo, so how good can they really be? I’ll give them 7-9, at best.

Chris Hill:

Credit: NFL.com

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins haven’t looked bad in preseason and they seem to have banished all of the negativity from the year before. However, the question for the Dolphins then becomes whether Ryan Tannehill can take the leap into a great QB. He certainly has some talent around him, like WR Mike Wallace. Truth be told, they are actually a pretty decent football team.

  • Predictions: 8-8 and rather anticlimactic as the Patriots win the division.

Credit: NFL.com

New York Jets: The front office has decided to roll the dice on Geno Smith for another year. Michal Vick will be backing up the 2nd year signal caller, but I think that this year might be Geno’s year. Though the Jets are going to need all the help the can get, especially at wide-out. Eric Decker’s skills will certainly be put to the test this year, and we will see what RB Chris Johnson still has left in the tank. On the other side of the ball, a once rock solid defensive unit is now just another defensive unit. That won’t make Rex Ryan too happy.

  • Predictions: 9-7 and the surprise of the AFC. Geno Smith plays surprisingly well, but can’t make it a full season under center, paving the way for Michael Vick to take over in the winter.

* * * * *

What are your predictions this year? Let us know in the comments below.

About the Authors

___________________________________________

Andrew Rogers is Editor and staff writer here at “The Hudsucker”. He is a 24 year old law student who lives in Halifax during the school year and Toronto the rest of the year. Besides Law, his brain capacity is taken up by reality show trivia, video game walk-throughs and food factoids. Andrew is also happily in a relationship with an American boy named Elliott. Follow him on Twitter as @sublymonal.

Chris Hill graduated from Georgia State University in 2009 with degrees in Journalism and Creative Writing. He has spent a lot of time working with the media. From engineering radio broadcast for most of Atlanta’s major sports teams to shooting high school football games behind a camera, Chris has a lot of media experience. Besides that, he loves soccer, detective shows, and a buffet list of ‘nerdy’ things that would embarrass his wife. Follow him on Twitter as @ARadioVoice.

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Into the Red Zone: Who’s Making It to the Postseason | The Hudsucker - November 14, 2014

    […] I originally thought to be one of the toughest divisions in the NFC might prove to be, albeit because of their morbidly terrible game play. The NFC South is going to […]

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