NFL predictions: How divisions will be won and who is going to the playoffs
NFL 2014 predictions: Who is punching a playoff ticket?
From left, Drew Brees, Marshawn Lynch, Peyton Manning and Giovanni Bernard will likely have something to say about the Lombardi Trophy race.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images,Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images,Ezra Shaw/Getty Images,Christian Petersen/Getty Images / Getty Images North America
By Alex Marvez
As kickoff of the NFL season approaches, FOXSports.com will preview how the year will play out, from the regular season standings to round-by-round postseason predictions. Today, we start with the division winners and playoff seeds in parentheses. When you're done, feel free to let us know what you think about our picks.
First, the bad. I once picked the Lions to make the playoffs. Instead, they finished as the only 0-16 franchise in league history. That painful experience taught me not to get carried away with how a team performs in the preseason (Detroit was 4-0).
The good? I've learned. Don’t fall in love with every team you see first-hand during training camp. Success from the previous year doesn’t guarantee a repeat the following season in a league where roughly a half-dozen playoff teams change annually and there is usually a worst-to-first success story.
Now, onto the picks:
1. New England (1):Yaaawn. At this point, a 12th consecutive season with double-digit wins is taken for granted.
2. Miami: The Dolphins have enough talent to make a playoff run, but improvement by third-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill and an overhauled offensive line is a must.
3. New York Jets: Rex Ryan is a good head coach, but this roster smacks of a fourth consecutive season without a winning record.
4. Buffalo: Second-year quarterback E.J. Manuel still looked like a rookie during the preseason and recently signed veteran Kyle Orton isn’t the answer under center.
1. Cincinnati (2): This is the division’s most complete team – and one poised to finally win in the postseason after three consecutive first-round losses.
2. Baltimore (6): Re-tooling the offense should push the Ravens back into the postseason for the sixth time in seven years.
3. Pittsburgh: The Steelers fell just short of the playoffs in 2013. Expect the same this season without significant defensive improvement, especially in the secondary.
4. Cleveland: Playoffs? Ha! Progress will be marked by whether the Browns can win more than five games for the first time since 2007.
1. Indianapolis (4): Thanks to quarterback Andrew Luck, the Colts will make the playoffs. How far Indianapolis advances depends on improvement in the ground game and run defense.
2. Tennessee: Quarterback Jake Locker has quietly enjoyed a quality preseason. This is a dark-horse playoff contender if he stays healthy and the Titans improve upon a shaky preseason defensive effort.
3. Jacksonville: The Jaguars are still a year away from being a bona fide playoff contender. But at least Jacksonville has found its franchise quarterback in rookie Blake Bortles.
4. Houston: A defense led by J.J. Watt and rookie Jadeveon Clowney should be downright nasty. It had better be based upon how shabby Houston is shaping up to be on offense.
1. Denver (3): For 42 years, no team that suffered a Super Bowl loss has rebounded to win a championship the following season. The high-powered Broncos have a legitimate shot at ending the streak.
2. San Diego (5): A second-round playoff appearance last season wasn’t a fluke. The Chargers will push Denver for AFC West supremacy.
3. Kansas City: Offense usually isn’t a concern on an Andy Reid-coached squad. It is for the 2014 Chiefs because of a leaky offensive line and shaky wide receiver corps.