2014 NFL Preview and Predictions

Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers
Kirby Lee USA TODAY Sports

I don’t aim for shock value.

I believe in my picks. I do, however, feel that the less I expect the assumed outcome, the better I do. That’s when I know I’m onto something.

Surely, as I sit in front of a computer screen one year from now, I won’t be writing about how accurately the masses picked the 2014 NFL season, but rather how quickly I was lambasted for having the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers out of the playoffs.

Oh, and here’s another: “The Seahawks missing the playoffs? Ridiculous.”

No, it’s actually quite plausible. Here’s why.

Don’t forget to check out Sam Spiegelman’s 46 Links: A Know-It-All Guide to the 2014 NFL Season

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles 9-7: This is fun to watch. Minutes into the Eagles’ 2013 opening night game on Monday Night Football, it was hard to ignore the thought in my mind. After dropping the following three games, the Eagles finished 2013 with wins in seven of their last eight games, thanks largely to the play of quarterback Nick Foles. Normally, a long winning streak to end a season is cause for concern, as it indicates that the team got hot at the right time, rather than outperformed their opponent on a consistent basis. That logic does not apply, however, when a rookie head coach is implementing a revolutionary system.

Considering how the Eagles seemed to hit their stride as the season progressed and managed to stay healthy (by design of Chip Kelly’s conditioning program), they are the team most likely to emerge from the otherwise mediocre NFC East.

New York Giants 9-7: Despite how the Giants start their seasons, they tend to always end up in relatively the same place. Since 2004, they have had exactly one losing season (2013). Their 7-9 record marked the worst since the 6-10 campaign of 2004, yet it was largely aided by an unprecedented 0-6 start to the season. The Giants were never as bad as 0-6, nor as good as the 5-1 midseason record, but fell somewhere in between. “Consistently average” is the best way to describe the Giants of the past decade, and little has changed to alter that image.

In the end, the Giants’ offensive line remains an unanswered question for the 2014 season, and until Eli Manning can stay upright and keep the ball out of his opponents’ hands, there is cause for concern. The Giants are, however, the team most likely to vie for the division title with the Eagles.

Dallas Cowboys 7-9: My predictions for the 2013 Dallas Cowboys could be copied and pasted into the ’14 version — lots of talent, subpar coaching, disappointments across the board. The definition of insanity is expecting different results by performing the same task repeatedly. The Cowboys have done little to take any steps forward, and the loss of DeMarcus Ware makes the ’14 Cowboys a slightly weaker version of their ’13 counterparts. Somewhere along the line, they have to put it together.

Washington Redskins 5-11: The Washington Redskins deserve the same exact copy-and-paste theory as the Cowboys. Robert Griffin III is one more year removed from his ACL injury, but is one more season of hard knocks into his career. Suspending reality, let’s imagine that the following statements were true: RGIII plays 16 games this year; RGIII plays a college style of football in the NFL; Jay Gruden will have a more direct positive impact than Mike Shanahan. If all of those comments turn out to be the truth, the Redskins should win north of ten games. Once the check marks start to disappear, so do the wins. Throw in the scary perception around the rumor mill that backup quarterback Kirk Cousins is more suited to win games than incumbent (and expensive) RGIII, and the recipe for disaster is brewing.

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Mario Mergola
Mario Mergola is a writer, avid sports fan, former ESPN Radio producer, husband, and father who specializes in finding the hidden gems of the less-explored option. Follow @MarioMergola

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