2014 NFC Team Previews: The Song Remains the Same
In conjunction with the 2014 AFC Team Previews, I proudly present the National Football Conference, where 9-7 might get you last place.
Arizona Cardinals: Metallica ~ Shortest Straw
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they play in the toughest division -- literally and figuratively -- in football. Any time an NFL team with a winning record misses the post-season, it means the other teams in that division were just a tad more awesome than they were. Just ask the 2008 New England Patriots. The Cardinals will host the 2015 Super Bowl, but count on their just being spectators. It’s possible Arizona could even finish in last place this season, depending on the Rams' improvement.
San Francisco 49ers: Tony Bennett ~ I Left My Heart in San Francisco
The Santa Clara 49ers move into brand spanking new Levi Stadium and host the Chicago Bears on 14 September for all the world to see.
It’s such a great stadium that the San José Sharks and Los Angeles Kings have already scheduled a Stadium Series tilt there, and the San José Earthquakes of the MLS will play their home games there. Can Levi’s Stadium be configured into a baseball diamond, too, or does MLB consider Santa Clara to be Giants territory? No mind, the 49ers will again be one of the dominant teams in the entire league, and hosting a NFC championship game would truly get this stadium noticed. Expect the 49ers to improve upon their 30th-ranked passing game with the addition of Stevie Johnson from Buffalo.
Seattle Seahawks: Queen ~ We Are the Champions
Their game against the Broncos got a little testy with CB Tharold Simon being ejected for throwing a punch. It’s pre-season, dudes! The Seahawks racked up 15 penalties for 95 yards during that game, something they’ll need to figure out over the next three weeks. Seattle kicks off the 2014 season at home game against the Packers on Thu 4, Sep. Last time these teams met in the Emerald City, it ended when scab refs blew a TD call at the end of the game. Coincidentally, the referee strike was settled shortly afterward. Meanwhile, the rule changes designed to limit DB contact with WRs is a direct result of Seattle's domination over the Broncos in the Super Bowl. What’s next in this vanilla league? Hushing the 12th Man? Never!
St Louis Rams: Macklemore ~ Same Love
The Rams had one of the best drafts this year, selecting Auburn Tackle Greg Robinson, Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald, and most famously, Missouri LB Michael Sam, the first openly gay football player. This was such an amazing story that Oprah wanted to do a documentary on his upcoming season to tell the story of courage, heart, and the challenges of living in a man’s world. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the millions of dollars Oprah would’ve made on the TV show. Overall, if the Rams do shock the league and make the playoffs, it means Sam Bradford grew by leaps and bounds. The book is still out on him.
Chicago Bears: Geto Boys ~ Mind of a Lunatic
Sorry if this sounds insensitive, but WR Brandon Marshall must stay calm and have a productive, typical Brandon Marshall season if the Bears are going to get past the Packers and win the division. Make no mistake, the only way a team from the NFC North is going to make the playoffs is by being a division winner. Both wild cards are likely going to the NFC West. At least Marshall has been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and has been seeking treatment to deal with his issues. He even wore a pair of bright green Nike cleats last year to promote his foundation and Mental Health Awareness Week. The Bears need to catch some breaks, like Aaron Rodgers getting a bad case of aerial gonorrhea or Adrian Peterson getting sucked into a vortex, and it would help if stud TE Martellus Bennett would stop fighting with teammates and getting suspended.
Detroit Lions: Kid Rock ~ Welcome to the Party
Rather fitting that Robert James Ritchie, aka Kid Rock, is straight outta Detroit, especially since the Redskins have Eminem as their theme song here and no duplicate artists are allowed in these previews. The Lions are taking a page out of the mid-1990s Colorado Rockies teams where they are literally trying to outslug you to win. With obvious needs in the secondary of a defense that ranked 23rd in passing yards allowed per game, and owning the No 10 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, they select North Carolina TE Eric Ebron. So Viginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller, Alabama FS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, or Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard wouldn’t have been better fits? Hopefully, Lions management received a handwritten thank you note or enrollment in the Dessert of the Month Club from the Bengals, as they had to been giddy as a schoolgirl to see Dennard on the board when they picked him at No 24. The Lions shored up their WR core by signing free agent Golden Tate away from the Seahawks because that was clearly a need, too. I'm still waiting for a chance to see the headline, Golden Tate, Warrior; can I buy an S, please? The over/under on their game against the Saints in Week No 7 should be around 112. It’s going to be a fun ride in the Motor City!
Green Bay Packers: Lil Wayne ~ Green & Yellow
With Aaron Rodgers running the show, don’t ever count them out of Super Bowl contention, even if they do play in a tough division. The defense must improve drastically, but a rather favorable schedule towards the end of the season may give them the push they need to win the North. Rough opener on the road in Seattle, but playoff games at Lambeau are even tougher to win for opponents.
Hollywood dropout and rehab regular Lindsay Lohan recently opened up her vault -- so to speak -- and named every celebrity she has slept with, and surprisingly, Aaron Rodgers made the cut, so a case of gonorrhea isn’t out of the question. Don’t worry, Aaron, State Farm is there!
Minnesota Vikings: Lenny Kravitz ~ Does Anybody Out There Even Care
Kudos to the Vikings for having an excellent draft by picking up Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater with the last pick of the first round, paired with UCLA LB Anthony Barr at No 9 overall, it was quite a first round for the Norsemen. When the impressive looking Vikings Stadium opens in 2016, hopefully Bridgewater is the answer at QB and is ready to take Minnesota to the next level. Will they Vikings become the first team to play a 'home' Super Bowl game in 2018? Anything is possible, I suppose, but if they do, the owners will be glad to have a roof on this stadium. Could you imagine media day at the Super Bowl in February in the land of 10,000 Iced-Over Lakes? Me neither.
Atlanta Falcons: Alice In Chains ~ No Excuses
From first to worst, the Falcons' 2013 season was a disaster. They hosted the NFC title game the previous year, losing to the 49ers, and they were one of the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Well, that plan got derailed rather quickly, as they went 1-4 heading into their bye week. They then proceeded to lose five straight, including back-to-back shellackings at the hands of the Panthers and Seahawks. Atlanta addressed the toughness by selecting Texas A&M Tackle Jake Matthews, and son of Oilers HOFer Bruce Matthews. At the very least, Matthews' experience partying with Johnny Manziel in college should prepare him for a professional career.
Carolina Panthers: Tom Petty ~ Free Fallin’
If the Chiefs are expected to be the team that experiences the biggest decline in 2014, then the Panthers are Candidate No 1b. Their entire receiving corps was depleted via free agency, so taking Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin in the draft was a great pick. They still have the best LB in football in Luke Kuechly, along with a stout defense. However, their schedule is brutal; Carolina gets to play the likes of the Ravens, Steelers, Seahawks, Saints (twice), Packers, Bears, and Eagles. If Atlanta improves, those games could prove difficult -- and you know Lovie Smith is going to turn Tampa Bay around rather quickly -- and suddenly we have a division that could rival the NFC West in terms of toughness and logjams. It's surprising the Panthers are still counting on the backfield duo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Seems like they’ve been there forever! Oh, that's right. They have.
New Orleans Saints: Public Enemy ~ By the Time I Get to Arizona
Man, the NFC is loaded! The Saints apparently didn’t feel they had a plethora of weapons to choose from, so they drafted WR Brandin Cooks from Oregon State in the first round. As usual, Drew Brees behind center immediately gives them a puncher's chance at getting to the Super Bowl, and they addressed the defense by signing Jairus Byrd and Champ Bailey to shore up the passing attack. If the Saints do reach the big game, it likely means they had to win two road playoff clashes unless they can cop a bye. Let’s hope they aren’t too battered and bruised by the time they get to Arizona.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Soundgarden ~ Fell on Black Days
Bruce's Boys were one of seven teams to make a coaching change before the 2014 season, hiring former Bears head coach Lovie Smith. Tampa Bay hit a home run in the draft, too, taking Texas A&M WR Mike Evans, Johnny Manziel’s favorite target at College Station, and they got a steal when Washington Huskies TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins fell to them in Round 2. All six of their 2014 draft picks were on the offensive side of the ball; ranking dead last in passing will do that to a club. Put the Bucs at the top of the QB list for the 2015 draft, too, as they're using veteran retread Josh McCown, even thought Mike Glennon showed some promise last season. Since winning the Super Bowl in 2002, Tampa Bay has only had four winning seasons. Based on their 2014 schedule, a fifth highly unlikely this year. OK, it's downright impossible. Give Lovie time, he’ll right the pirate ship.
Dallas Cowboys: Nirvana ~ Something in the Way
'Boys fans, your owner and QB are in the way of you becoming a dominant team again. If Jerry Jones thinks groping a woman in a restaurant elevator is how successful people should act, then maybe it’s time to sell the team to somebody who will take their job more seriously. Perhaps you should’ve drafted Johnny Manziel. Heck, he’s a Texas guy, and Romo had back surgery during the off season. Now CB Orlando Scandrick gets suspended four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy? This is one of the best players in the worst secondary in league history. Dallas has had three straight 8-8 seasons, but they won't get a fourth. Nope, this is going to be a train wreck of a season. Love it!
New York Giants: Beastie Boys ~ So What’cha Want
The G-Men got terrible news this off-season, as RB David Wilson was forced to retire at age 23 due to neck injuries. No word whether Head Coach Tom Coughlin is going to follow him off into the sunset or continue to act and sound like Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino. The Giants have a manageable schedule until they travel to Philly during Week 6, so it’s imperative they get off to a hot start. Rookie WR Odell Beckham Jr needs to be an impact player as Victor Cruz is the only returning starter. Of course, Eli Manning needs to start throwing it to the dudes in the blue and red shirts, unless they’re playing the Patriots.
Philadelphia Eagles: Dr. Dre ~ Xxplosive
Even with the loss of WR DeSean Jackson, this is going to be a fun team to watch. Chip Kelly has developed a more modern version of the run-&-shoot offense, and QB Nick Foles is the gunslinger he needs. Foles proved he’s an elite QB by throwing seven TDs in one game last year. OK, it was against the Raiders, but they're a professional football team. Expect another division title out of Philly. It’s pretty much theirs to lose in a weak NFC East. Never thought I’d say that!
Washington Redskins: Eminem ~ My Name Is
What your name is not going to be is the Redskins for much longer. The saga continues abound as politicians, celebrities, and media debate whether the Washington football franchise should drop the racist Indian slang term. Stubborn owner Daniel Snyder doesn't seem willing to cooperate with anybody. If the Redskins are forced to change their name, likely by congressional action, will Red Man chewing tobacco follow suit? How come nobody makes a stink about that? It’s not going to matter in 2014, as the Redskins are not going to make the playoffs and will hand their 2015 draft pick over to the Rams, again, for QB Robert Griffin III. Let’s see what kind of influence new head coach Jay Gruden can instill in RGIII. If he regresses, this may go down as one of the worst trades in NFL history. At least fans will have a new Jackson jersey to buy soon.