God's just showing off now. A week after the return of college football, the guys who can legally sign autographs and get paid off their own name return to action. Before then, The Crew drops off our usual list of far-fetched predictions on what to possibly expect this upcoming NFL season.
For anyone new around these parts, these aren't your normal "The Pats will win the AFC East" type of predictions either. Our variety of hypothesis around these parts are what we like to think are a tad more, how do we say this, "risqué." It's a high-risk, high-reward situation if you will.
We're ready for some football. What we're not ready for are the endless fines Roger Goodell will dish out this year on players making first down gestures and the military salute because, heaven forbid, this game we call football becomes fun anymore. Anywho, check out our list and feel free to formulate your own in the comments. We'd also say "tell us how wrong we are," but we know you don't need any added motivation to do that.
As mandated last year, rep your team and talk your sh*t. Do what fans do.
1. A Non-Playoff Team Will Make A Super Bowl Appearance -- 2012 was the year of the established team. Almost all of 2011's division champs ended up repeating and the Super Bowl saw 2011's conference runner-ups square off. This year, things seem to be heading in a different direction. Great teams are heading back to the mean and bad teams are improving. That's why we think the NFL will go back to the unpredictable form it's held for so long. The Saints, Steelers, Giants, Cowboys, Chiefs and Lions all missed the playoffs last year and any of them has a chance to really right their ships this season. Plus there's always one out-of-left-field team that makes noise. Don't be surprised if you end up surprised by the end of the year.
2. Reggie Bush Will Be Top 5 In All Purpose Yards -- Remember a guy by the name of Jahvid Best? He was a small, quick running back for the Detroit Lions who was hell on defenses when he was healthy. Unfortunately for Best, he was always hurt and has seen his career basically ended by concussions.
Why do we bring this up? Because Reggie Bush is a bigger, just-as-fast and slightly more durable version of Best who will fit perfectly with the Detroit Lions. While Megatron pulls the top off the defense, Bush will have an open field to run rampant. He may not be too dynamic a ball carrier but he may lead the league in receptions or get damn close.
3. Peyton Manning Will Have The Best Statistical Season Of His Career -- Peyton Manning is a four-time MVP and Super Bowl winner, so it'll be hard to top his best season but he just might do it. Manning has arguably never had a receiving core as good as he has now with Thomas, Decker and Welker. Plus, he has a three-headed running attack that should help out.
Throw in a relatively weak schedule and the fact he's one year removed from neck surgery and Peyton may find the groove to have a late-career renaissance...and another run at MVP.
4. No player drafted in the first round wins ROY or makes the Pro Bowl -- Fun fact: the first seven picks of this year's draft were linemen in college. It was that kind of year, with few game-changing skill-position players coming off the board high. And while players like Eric Fisher, Dion Jordan and Barkevious Mingo all have the potential to be great, they won't stand out enough to make that trip to Hawaii or win any Rookie of the Year awards. Same goes with Tavon Austin (let's just say Sam Bradford has a bit more to prove) or DeAndre Hopkins (will be the third option on a team with Arian Foster and Andre Johnson).
Look for Montee Ball to reap the benefits of defenses trying to slow down Denver's excellent passing attack. Look for Ravens rookie linebacker Arthur Brown to crack the starting lineup by mid-season, providing some solid playmaking for a team in need of just that. Hell, look for Tyrann Mathieu to make plays as both a defensive back and a special teams player, excelling in a locker room with his off-field mentor by his side (Patrick Peterson).*
Like every year, rookies will play a huge factor in the NFL. Just don't expect the big games to be first-round picks.
* - More on those two in a second
5. Colin Kaepernick and Russel Wilson Have Sophomore Slumps -- Between the four breakout signal-callers of 2012, two of them have to regress a bit, right? Look for these two NFC West quarterbacks to stumble a little bit trying to regain their lauded form of last year. It really comes down to defensive coordinators having a full offseason to study tape, and if you look at the weapons surrounding Kaepernick and Wilson, the offenses either remained the stagnant (in Seattle's case, thanks to that Percy Harvin injury) or gotten worse (in San Francisco's case, thanks to Michael Crabtree's injury).
And when you consider the incredibly high benchmarks that these young quarterbacks established last year, expecting the same kind of season (Wilson had the fourth-highest quarterback rating in football; Kaepernick led his team to a Super Bowl) is asking a bit much.
6. Adrian Peterson Rushes For Fewer Than 1,400 Yards -- Adrian Peterson came within nine yards of breaking Eric Dickerson’s 30-year-old single-season rushing record. He comes into this season more than a full year removed from his horrific knee injury, and seemingly right in the middle of his prime. So why do we think he’s going to look surprisingly human this year?
Well for one, Pro Bowl fullback Jerome Fulton is going to miss the first three games (including two road games against division foes Detroit and Chicago) serving a suspension for his 2012 violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. In addition to the slow start, the Vikings will lean a lot more on their passing game this season led by third year quarterback, Christian Ponder. History is also not in A.P.’s favor. Of the 2,000 yard rushers, only one, Barry Sanders, was able to gain more than 1,400 yards in the following season.
7. DeAndre Hopkins Is The Best Rookie Wide Receiver, And Puts Up At Least 1,000 Total Yards For Houston -- DeAndre Hopkins is a lucky man. There is nothing a confident receiver loves to see more than single coverage, and the rookie wideout from Clemson will see plenty of it this year playing opposite Texans’ perennial All-Pro Andre Johnson. While he doesn't posses the blazing speed of some of his fellow rookies. He has the best hands and playmaking ability. Expect the versatile Hopkins to exploit matchups throughout the season to the tune of 1,000 yards and 60+ catches.
David D.'s note: Sleeper pick for Kenny Stills to do be in the discussion.
8. Patrick Peterson/Tyrann Mathieu Will State Their Case For The League's Most Exciting Defensive Back/Safety Duo -- Of course this one is a super Stretch Armstrong-reach, especially since the Cards play in the same division as Earl Thomas, Brandon Browner, Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman.
Seattle and San Francisco are receiving all of the buzz heading into the season in the NFC West. It's well deserved, too, seeing as how both are bonafide threats to be playing in February. Both also have a calling card for producing smash mouth, physical defenses. Yet and still, it's Arizona who will boast the most exciting secondary duo in the league this year with Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu. Peterson's already considered one of the most promising (and fastest) young talents in the game. And while the controversy surrounding his name still rings loud, Honey Badger impressed damn-near everyone who witnessed him play this preseason. We won't say we told you so when they give Colin Kaepernick and/or Russell Wilson fits year.
One more thing. Don't be surprised if Peterson has his fair share of snaps on offense this season, too.
9. T.Y. Hilton, The Breakout Wide Receiver -- In other words, he'll become a household name of sorts. Reggie Wayne's still the #1 target in Indy and seems primed and ready for another 1,000 yard season. However, don't be surprised if Wayne's understudy winds up near 1,000 as well. Hilton showed flashes last season finishing with 50 grabs for 861 yards, and with another offseason to build with Andrew Luck and soak up game from Wayne - already one of the NFL's most overlooked greats at his position - up is the only direction to continue in. He's also not a shabby pick up in fantasy football either.
10. Terrelle Pryor Will Have A Better Season Than Tim Tebow Ever Did...And ESPN Won't Give A Damn -- To be fair, it's not as if Tebow ever set the measuring stick of what a quarterback should be in the NFL. Yet and still, former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor will have better production with the Oakland Raiders than Tebow ever faired in the NFL sans that stretch of games he had in Denver. This isn't us throwing Timothy under the bus. Ok, not totally.
All we're saying is watch how little coverage ESPN gives the situation.
11. Alex Smith/Andy Reid Union Will Force Broncos Fans To Sweat Bullets Until The Last Week Of The Season -- The Chiefs as the "surprise" team narrative seems like such a foregone conclusion that it likely won't be surprising at all when they start to win some games. But what will be surprising is just how dominant they'll be. The Chiefs may have been the best 2-14 team in NFL history. They sent six players to the Pro Bowl, so they clearly had talent, just not in the correct positions. Now they have a QB who has the undeniable ability of not being Brady Quinn or Matt Cassel and a coach who has somehow become underrated after a decade of dominance. Wes Welker or not, the Broncos will live in fear of the Chiefs all year.