First of all, I would like to say, it’s great to be back in the MSF camp! And, in the spirit of our old rivalries, I am required to let our chief and editor, Jerod Morris, know how much his Dolphins and his Madden skills both lack the ability to win.
Now, let’s move on to what really matters, the NFL season, which is finally here! Every year (as much as I love spring and summer) the days between February and August seem to take longer and longer to pass as we wait to see our favorite gladiators battle it out on the gridiron to make it to the biggest stage, in the greatest game known to man.
Since it’s my first article back, I figured a good ol’ fashioned “I’ll Tell You This” would be in order.
1. The Patriots still rule the AFC East
I’ll tell you this: Regardless of all of the offseason drama with Aaron Hernandez, the injuries and incessant party life of Rob Gronkowski and the departure of Wes Welker, the New England Patriots won’t suck. Trust me, as a die-hard Colts fan, nothing pains me more to say.
The Jets are still a sideshow, and although they have passed the Tebow Bug on to the Pats, let’s be honest, there is no and will never be any quarterback controversy in New England. Head coach Bill Belichick will find a use for Tebow (most likely at tight end or some sort of hybrid H-back role). The Bills still have no solid base for building a team, and in my opinion drafted the wrong guy, way too early, to build their franchise around in E.J. Manuel.
The wild card is Jerod’s Dolphins. The Fins made some great offseason moves bringing the likes of former Steelers standout Mike Wallace, who is a much improved target for second year quarterabck Ryan Tannehill. I am one of those who thinks Tannehill – while he may not be a top tier guy – is still more than passable, and likely better than at least half of the league’s starting signal-callers. However, with a porous offensive line and a question mark in the backfield following the loss of Reggie Bush to the Detroit Lions, my gut tells me that it will still be a year or so before Miami can truly challenge the Pats for the AFC East title.
2. Will young quarterbacks shine or struggle?
We had a historic year of successful rookie quarterbacks last year. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Tannehill and Colin Kaepernick (who was a second year player but we will allow in this conversation) all shined. But who of these young stars will improve their performances, and who will fall victim to a sophomore slump?
I’ll tell you this: of the five young quarterbacks, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson will have the most disappointing season.
Now I know I am going to get a lot of flak for this, but hear me out.
Percy Harvin, who was brought in to enhance Wilson’s abilities, is now out for a large portion, if not all of the 2013 season. To complicate matters, Wilson’s other two main targets, Sidney Rice and Golden Tate, are already battling preseason injuries. The running game will be solid, and will probably be used a lot to help mask Wilson’s struggles, but I fear that the combination of injuries, Wilson’s diminutive stature, and the fact that defenses now have plenty of film to study, will hold Wilson back.
Mind you, I still think Seattle will fare well this year, and likely make the playoffs. I just believe that it will be on the back of a strong defense.
3. Old faces, new places
One of my favorite things about the preseason of NFL football is looking at all of the changes to the league, and taking an “educated guess” on what may transpire as the year progresses. So these last two segments will be all about predictions.
The NFL had quite a shake up this offseason. Players like Ed Reed and Dwight Freeney, who had spent their entire amazing careers in one place, forever associated with success in that place, find themselves dawning new colors in an attempt to ride off into the sunset with another ring. But the great thing about an offseason that sees so many big names find new homes is that we gain the excitement of new teams coming from the ashes to become super powers in the NFL.
I’ll tell you this: The team that will surprise more than any other this year in the NFL will be the Arizona Cardinals.
Whoa, now. Calm down. Let me explain.
First of all, for the first time since Kurt Warner dawned the red bird on his helmet, phenom wideout, Larry Fitzgerald will have a half-way decent quarterback to fling passes in his direction. Now I’m guessing not too many folks think that Carson Palmer has anything left in the tank. But lets remember his days of throwing to Chad Johnson, another premier receiver at the time. As a matter of fact, Palmer was instrumental in bringing the Bengals franchise out of the gutter.
Since those days, who has Palmer had to throw to?
Last year, he threw for over 4,000 yards, with 22 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 85.3, which was just below his career average in Cincy (86.2). By the way, that was in Oakland. With the Raiders. Surprised?
Let’s not be so quick to dismiss the best move Arizona made, which was hiring Bruce Arians as their head coach. Arians is a great leader as he proved in Indianapolis last year. He understands the game of football, his players love him, and if you look at his coaching history, he wins football games.
Arizona is going to surprise some folks, and may even squeeze into the playoffs. I don’t expect the Cardinals to win their division (it may quietly be the toughest division in football), but don’t fall asleep on them, they just may be the dark horse of this year’s NFL.
4. Super Bowl predictions
Now what would a preseason I’ll Tell You This be without a Super Bowl Prediction? So without further ado:
NFC champion: San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers got even better in the offseason. Even with the loss of Michael Crabtree for a good portion of the season, the 49ers made great additions like Anquan Boldin, and (if he can stay healthy) Austin Collie. Kaepernick will continue to impress in his second year on the field, and no one can deny, that defense could be the best in football.
As weird as this may sound, I think this is a make or break year for Peyton Manning’s legacy. He had troubles winning playoff games in Indianapolis, despite one Super Bowl win and an additional appearance. But after a loss in his first playoff game in Denver, Manning – who may be the greatest regular season quarterback of all-time – can stop at nothing short of a Super Bowl appearance to be considered one of the all-time greats.
In every game, there must be a winner.
Manning is a winner. The addition of Wes Welker to an already talented receiver core makes that offense almost unfair. I’ll tell you this: The Denver Broncos will win the Super Bowl.
Here’s all that matters. Football is back, and we are in for what I anticipate to be one of the most entertaining seasons we have ever witnessed. Buckle in, it’s going to be one hulluva ride.
Follow Myles B. at @djMylesB on twitter
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