2014 NFL Preview and Predictions

Aaron Rodgers

AFC West

San Diego Chargers 10-6: Thanks to a furious finish to the ‘13 season, the San Diego Chargers stole the final Wild Card spot in the last game of the regular season. After relatively disappointing seasons by Philip Rivers and Ryan Mathews in 2012, both players were instrumental in the rebound of 2013. It is extremely possible that the Chargers overreached by their late-season heroics, but it’s equally as likely that Philip Rivers may have found his stride. Perhaps simply due to an expected step back from Denver and Kansas City, San Diego appears to have the highest floor in the AFC West.

Denver Broncos 9-7: In a world where it seems inconceivable that Peyton Manning may lose seven games in the regular season, consider how incredibly over-the-top the 2013 Broncos performed. Most points, most touchdowns, most passing yards were a few of the many records broken by the most dynamic offense seen in years. The 2013 Broncos were a sight to see, but another year brings another opportunity for poachers. Seattle completely exploited the Broncos in the Super Bowl, and they will have to face the second-most difficult schedule throughout the year. But why am I skeptical that Peyton Manning and the Broncos can’t overcome the Super Bowl Loser hangover (often times, as powerful as the Super Bowl Winner hangover, itself)?

Peyton Manning. Two years ago, no one knew what to expect from Manning coming off an entire missed season and a neck surgery. He certainly proved the naysayers wrong, going 26-6 over two seasons, but he is 38 years old. It’s risky to base a prediction on potential injuries or bad health, but I would argue it’s more irresponsible to assume that the most important player on his team could continue the act of defying Father Time forever. At one point this season, Peyton Manning will get banged up, and the Broncos will suffer.

Oakland Raiders 7-9: With the addition of Matt Schaub and Maurice Jones-Drew, the Raiders effectively have recreated the 2009 AFC All-Star team. Unfortunately for them, both players have their better days behind them, and they are merely a stopgap for the development of the younger men on the roster. To further this, the Raiders announced that Derek Carr will start on Opening Day, making him the first rookie quarterback to start a game in 2014. With the influx of talent, the Raiders should be better than they have been of late, but not good enough to do anything special.

Kansas City Chiefs 6-10: The Chiefs were the surprise team of 2013, adding nine wins from their 2012 total en route to a playoff berth, relying heavily on stout defense and the ability of quarterback Alex Smith to limit turnovers. Looking deeper into the defensive statistics, the Chiefs managed to hold opponents to the fifth fewest points in the NFL, but allowed the 24th most yards. They walked a dangerous tightrope and erased a 9-0 start with a 2-5 finish. Like most teams, they are neither as good as their best streak nor as bad their worst. But they aren’t a playoff team.


The playoffs, in all sports, are largely random. This is especially true when each round is decided by a single game. The trend that tends to fight randomness the best is the man under center – the quarterback. When in doubt, the better quarterback gives his team the best chance to win the mini-tournament that is the NFL playoffs. Under that premise, Aaron Rodgers should capture his second championship in 2014, as the Green Bay Packers defeat the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIX.

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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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