2014 AFC Team Previews: Getting in Tune for the Season
No one knows hype like the NFL knows hype, and they proved it again last weekend.
The 2014 NFL grindfest and season-ticket extortion exercise that is its pre-season was shrouded momentarily by Johnny Cleveland and all he brings to the show. Believe it, that's a ton! Manziel's mere presence in the Browns' glorified scrimmage in Detroit produced the highest-rated practice-game broadcast the NFL Network had ever staged.
So chill, Manziel haters. Looks like the circus is gonna be in town early and often.
Just remember, you can't spell NFL without $, because they'll sue you if you don't.
The league even tried to add a bit of faux emotion with two 'heavyweight' bouts right out of the gate, featuring a Super Bowl rematch between Denver and Seattle last Thursday. That same night, Harbaugh Bowl II was played in Baltimore, with older brother John getting the best of his younger brother, 49ers head coach and former Michigan QB Jim Harbaugh.
With fantasy football drafts right around the corner, we’ll spare you any player rankings, sleepers, busts, keepers, players to avoid due to legal trouble, etc. Instead, we’ll review every AFC team, top to bottom, complete with theme songs, because sports and music go hand in hand, right?
All 32 teams kick off their quest towards Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Arizona on 1 Feb 2015, and one thing is clear, somebody from the AFC has to play an NFC juggernaut.
Denver Broncos: Bob Marley ~ Redemption Song
They bucked the ghosts of Super Bowl XLVIII with a decisive victory over the Seahawks, 21-16. Let’s see them travel to Century Link Field in September and beat the Hawks -- and the 12th man -- on the road. Actually, they accomplished nothing other than winning a home pre-season game over the defending Super Bowl champs that happened to kick their ass when chips were on the table. Come to think of it, a Broncos-Seahawks Super Bowl rematch would be pretty sweet, and only a victory over the Seahawks in SB XLIX would provide true redemption for the Broncos.
Kansas City Chiefs: Radiohead ~ Let Down
Arrowhead Stadium faithful got a nice treat last year when the Chiefs were the Cinderella AFC playoff team -- predicted by yours truly, incidentally, at two different fantasy football drafts -- led by RB Jamaal Charles and a stellar defense. However, that stellar defense forgot to show up against the Colts in the playoffs, allowing the largest comeback in playoff history. The 1992 Houston Oilers ain’t got nothing on us! Experts predict the 2014 version of the Chiefs will regress back to the median, or mean, or bell curve ... oh what the hell, they’re not going to be as good because Charles signed a huge contract extension and RBs seem to go into purgatory once this happens.
Oakland Raiders: Too $hort ~ No Love From Oakland
The sad state of affairs that has become the Oakland Raiders took a strange twist this off season as owner Mark Davis met with officials in San Antonio about possibly building a stadium so star kicker and wannabe Stay Puft Marshmallow Man Sebastian Janikowski would no longer be forced to kick off on the Oakland Athletics' dirt infield. Of course, the A’s found the stadium to be state of the art -- considering what passes for art in Oakland, anyway -- and signed a new 10-year lease city since San José is clearly out of the question. I can’t wait for the first sewage backup of the year and listen to Janikowski’s reaction to getting ready for a game, ankle deep in ass juice.
San Diego Chargers: Stereophonics ~ Stuck in a Rut
What you were expecting, the San Diego Super Chargers song? These are theme songs for 2014, not 1979 when disco was still ruling the airwaves. Damn, humanity owes the Ramones, big time! Anyway, where were we? Oh yeah. Since 2010, the Chargers have gone 9-7, 8-8, 7-9, and 9-7 with a loss in the divisional round of the playoffs in their last three post-season appearances. Will QB Phillip Rivers lead them to the promised land? Does LB Mantei Te'o really have a girlfriend? News at 11 …
Baltimore Ravens: Pink Floyd ~ Don’t Leave Me Now
No matter how hard their PR department works overtime and writes pre-empted, calculated post-game interviews for RB Ray Rice, questions about his indictment on third-degree aggravated assault charges against his then-fiancée and now-wife will linger all season long. Commissioner Roger Goodell only exacerbated the situation by only suspending Rice for the first two games, which led to another PR disaster regarding women’s rights, domestic violence, medical marijuana advocates, and even sportswriters, stating the obvious that the NFL doesn’t value women. At least the San Antonio Spurs do.
Cincinnati Bengals: Katy Perry ~ Roar
QB Andy Dalton was rewarded with a huge 6-year, $115million contract that was meant with snickering, disdain, bewilderment, and mockery. Are they reverting to the Bungles? Did they ever really shake that label? Perhaps the criticism will cease once Dalton figures out how not to throw multiple INTs in a playoff game. What happened to America being a forgiving society? Speaking of which, Bengals fans weren't too kind with their decision to run out onto the field to Katy Perry's Roar last season and quickly pulled the plug on that experiment. They should've pulled the plug on Akili Smith that quickly.
Cleveland Browns: The Eagles ~ New Kid in Town
A stiff competition is brewing in northern Ohio as to which jersey will be the top seller, Johnny Manziel or Lebron James? Has King James even picked a jersey number yet? Word has it he had to file an appeal in US trademark court -- or was it a sport court? -- to ask Michael Jordan permission to wear No 23. Whatever, just buy a Ryne Sandberg jersey and call it good. If the Browns get WR Josh Gordon back for any part of the year, watch out. They actually made some good moves in the off season, including a new head coach, Mike Pettine, but more importantly, RB Ben Tate and SS Donte Whitner will have a bigger impact.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Jane’s Addiction ~ Been Caught Stealing
Growing up in the great Puget Sound area, aka. Seattle, we as a community are still bitter about Super Bowl XL in Detroit, which was the single worst officiated game in football history. It all started with an offensive pass interference call on Seahawks WR Darrell Jackson negating a TD and spiraled quickly from there. Seattleites don’t refer to Pittsburgh as the “Stealers” for nothing.
Houston Texans: Oasis ~ It’s Getting Better Man
With the number one pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Houston Texans took the best defensive player since Lawrence Taylor.
JadeveonClowney and DE JJ Watt may be the best pass rushing tandem since the Minnesota Vikings' Purple People Eaters. It will be considered progress if the Texans don’t have the #1 overall pick in 2015.
Indianapolis Colts: The Beatles ~ Help!
Former Colts great and future HOFer Edgerrin James reached out to RB Trent Richardson and said he’d be glad to mentor him and offer his guidance and support. Judging by the pics of Edge from Colts camp, he might move ahead of Richardson on the depth chart, but really, thanks for helping out a young kid! Swapping stories of life as the star RB on campus at the University of Miami should be just what the doctor ordered for Richardson, as the former Alabama RB looks to re-launch his career. If they even knew what classes they were registered for, they were way ahead of most of the student athletes.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Guns N’ Roses ~ Patience
Head coach Gus Bradley has been quietly stockpiling talent in northern Florida, and I’m picking the Jaguars as the most improved team in the AFC. Although they won’t make the playoffs, they will be über-competitive. Bradley is taking every player the Seahawks cut, which isn’t such a bad strategy. Rookie QB Blake Bortles will likely get Bradley Coach of the Year honors or fired by Veteran’s Day. Only time will tell, like it always does. Thank you, Mr Einstein.
Tennessee Titans: KT Tunstall ~ Hopeless
If Bortles is going to make or break Gus Bradley, Titans QB Jake Locker holds the key to Ken Wisenhunt’s future, even though he is in his first year at the helm in Nashville. Of course, the Titans are also relying on Charlie Whitehurst as a backup QB. Rookie RB Bishop Sankey might be the bright spot on offense as RB Chris Johnson was jettisoned to New York ... the Jets, that is. Don’t expect the Titans to make the playoffs. Making the top five in the NFL draft is more likely.
Buffalo Bills: Bon Jovi ~ Livin’ on a Prayer
After watching one of the most intense and electrifying -- literally -- baseball games ever between the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners, and watching this city become part of British Columbia with the annual fan invasion whenever the Jays are in town, I say they should move the Bills north of the border, change all beer prices to Loonies to really confuse the fans, and have all four major sports in the largest city in Canada. I hear the weather is delightful this time of year. Especially under a roof.
Miami Dolphins: Bobby McFerrin ~ Don’t Worry Be Happy
South Beach should be a much happier place this year with the bullying/harrassment scandal between offensive lineman Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito in the rear-view mirror. The racist, hate-filled text messages between the two players crossed the line of bro's ragging on each other ,and it forced the Dolphins to trade Martin and suspend Incognito. Bringing in a new RB -- Knowshon Moreno -- from Denver was their big offseason acquisition. The Dolphins could sneak into the playoffs, but it would require light years of development from Ryan Tannehill in a very short window, by like Week 2. Otherwise, no one in this division is making it past the Patriots.
New England Patriots: Rolling Stones ~ Sympathy for the Devil
Brady vs Manning still remains a marquée matchup, and they rarely disappoint, meeting in the AFC title game last year. New England will win the AFC East by default and would probably finish last in the AFC North. Bill Belichick remains one of the best coaches -- and perhaps the most despised, hated, and misunderstood -- so he has that going for him, which is nice. Sharp Dressed Man by ZZ Top was briefly considered, as Belichick rocks the hoodie like no other. However his callousness and general likeability put the Stones, classic in the sub-heading instead.
New York Jets: U2 ~ I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
That line goes for a QB, head coach, RB, and possibly a kicker. Free agent signing WR Eric Decker had better be a difference maker, but with Geno Smith and Michael Vick throwing him passes, he may have to improvise even more than he did in Denver last year. RB Chris Johnson gets thrown into the mix, and the result is a typical Rex Ryan-assembled team. Competing for roster spots like this only works in Seattle.