This week leading up to the launch of the NFL's 2014 season has seen the Water Cooler Quarterbacks champing at the bit to see the season start. As a result, the discussions have tended to bounce around a variety of topics. So, here are "Fourteen Thoughts For NFL 2014."
#1 - Thank God It's Football Season Again
The long drought is over. We have suffered through the arid wastes of the off season that falls between the NFL Draft and the beginning of the regular season. During those long, lonely months, we paid lip service to other sports by doing things like:
Rooting for Team USA during the 2014 FIFA World Cup -- you know, that other sport that tries to lay claim to the name "futbol" in some countries, and by
Rooting on favorite baseball teams (okay, okay, it was only two of us, a Los Angeles Angels fan and a San Francisco Giants one) but for our opinion on baseball, take a brief look at George Carlin's words on the subject, which can be found here.
The time of the training camps and the preseason gave us a small relief but let's be honest . . . most of that time was spent watching a bunch of players who aren't going to make the active rosters of teams.
In any event, none of the above gave us the same satisfaction that we derive from arguing . . . errrr . . . discussing all things NFL (with a decidedly Broncos-centric view, given that I'm writing these articles).
#2 - The Broncos will steamroll the NFL
The general consensus among the Water Cooler Quarterbacks is that 2014 should prove to be the Orange and Blue's year. We are anticipating that Denver will steamroll their opponents on the way to:
- A fourth, consecutive AFC West Title (don't forget they won one with Tim Tebow at the helm)
- A second consecutive AFC Championship
- A Super Bowl win
The only real debate among us was just how many new records Peyton Manning and the Broncos' offense will set along the way.
#3 - Kansas City and Seattle will not fare nearly as well as they did in 2013
There are one or two facts that we believe are often overlooked when discussing the success of those two clubs in 2013.
Chiefs: In 2013, the Chiefs faced four (out of thirteen opponents) that finished with a winning record and only four teams that appeared in the 2013 playoffs. Their opponents posted an average record of 7-9-0. We must also remember that, following a 9-0 start, the Chiefs lost five of their last seven regular season games along with their lone playoff game. In 2014, they will be facing six teams that posted winning records in 2013, their opponents had an average record of 9-7-0 in 2013 and they must take on five teams that were in the 2013 playoffs.
Seahawks: The newly tweaked (not twerked) defensive rules (Illegal Contact and Defensive Holding) are widely believed to have been aimed specifically at the Seahawks. It is not a stretch to believe that this will affect their defense by either: forcing them to modify the way they play, or more likely, seeing opponents' drives extended by the now flag-happy officials. In additon, the Seahawks -- like the Chiefs -- faced just four teams with winning records in 2014 and their opponents had an average record of 7-9-0. In 2014, they must take on seven teams that appeared in the 2013 playoffs, as well as eight teams that posted winning records and a collection of opponents that averaged 9-7-0 in 2013.
#4 - The Dallas Cowboys will be horrible
This sentiment actually came from the lone Cowboys fan in the group. He believes that the "Boys" will be fine on offense, so long as Tony Romo remains healthy. If Romo goes down, all bets are off. His opinion of the Boys' defense was . . . well . . . they're not very good (actually, he used a word that begins with an "s" and might refer to what one does with a straw when drinking a soda or milk shake).
#5 - The 49ers should "go ahead and put a fork in it"
This view was expressed by the group's lone Niners fan. He is of the opinion that:
When the fact that LB Aldon Smith will be suspended for nine games and DT Ray McDonald most likely facing a suspension of six games (pending investigation by the NFL) is combined with the fact that both LB NaVorro Bowman and NT Glenn Dorsey are projected to miss the first half of the season due to injuries, the Niners will not be able to dominate opponents and that a Colin Kaepernick-led offense is not up to the task of carrying the team. As a result he is falling into despair regarding his team's chances before a single down has been played.
#6 - The NFL's new emphasis on Illegal Contact is ridiculous
There will be contact . . . after all, isn't NFL football a contact sport? That aside, the problem with the new rule is that it has been penalizing "incidental contact that does not affect the route being run." Not all contact should be illegal. Trying to mug the offensive player, yes. Holding onto him or taking him off his feet, yes. Bumping him, not so much. By the same token, if calls are going to be made on defensive players for incidental contact, shouldn't there be "fouls" called on offensive players who initiate contact and/or who "flop" in the hopes of drawing a flag?
#7 - John Elway will be named the NFL's Executive of the Year
This may well be a "gimme" if the Broncos win the Super Bowl.
#8 - The NFLPA seems to manage to be on the wrong side of major issues
The NFL stands up, says "We screwed up when it comes to discipline for domestic abuse and here's how we're not only going to penalize it, but here are the supports we are going to put into place to help our players." Instead of enthusiastically endorsing the new policy, the NFLPA's stance has seemed to be more one of quiet acceptance, with some complaints about how it was made part of the personnel policy rather than the CBA -- which according to some reports was a topic the NFLPA did not want included in the CBA -- and has quietly stated that the union reserves the right to protest cases in which the NFL does not follow "due process."
#9 - We've decided that we're tired of the myriad of media outlets trying to make headline grabbers out of non-events
Seriously, headlines about the signings of backup quarterbacks and practice squad players. Really?
And while we're on the topic of the media -- why not stories about the foundations, charities and community work supported by a large number of NFL players rather than the constant trail of stories about who's been arrested or suspended?
#10 - Fantasy Football has little (if any connection) to the reality of NFL football
How else can we explain the fact that former NFL QB Tim Tebow (who is currently not on any team's roster in any capacity) is now owned by more ESPN Fantasy Football teams than the Jacksonville Jaguar's starting QB Chad Henne? In fact, Henne's backup, Blake Bortles is on more teams than Henne. Not only that, but some of those fantasy teams have Tebow slated as a starter. Seriously?
#11 - The Madden 15 Curse
This year, the question about the Madden curse is not whether or not it will strike cover player Richard Sherman of Seattle, but rather whether or not it portends ill for Cleveland Browns rookie LB Christian Kirksey.
In case you have somehow managed to miss it: Madden 15 has Kirksey listed not as a Brown but rather as a member of the Tennessee Titans. In addition, the game has morphed Kirksey's 6' 2" frame into a 1' 2" one with the game's graphics engine rendering him at that height. Thus Kirksey has been nickednamed "The Tiny Titan."
Video captures of a Ravens running back leaping over the diminutive 14" figure, and then Kirksey being squashed by a diving Titans defender are well-worth chasing down.
#12 - When will NFL players just man up and take responsibility for their mistakes?
Anyone else tired of hearing NFL players using the adult equivalent of "the dog ate my homework" to try and get out of discipline by legal authorities, the league and/or their teams?
Among some of the more common (and in some cases amusing ones): It was a tainted sample/the process is flawed; I was injured at the time; She told me she was of legal age; I slipped/tripped over a sack/the family dog; It was secondhand smoke; I was drinking at home; I'm colorblind; I didn't know the gun was loaded. And our personal favorite: I was on medication because I'm an overtrained athlete.
#13 - The impact of injuries/suspensions on the Broncos
Gary Davenport, writing for bleacherreport.com (the full text of his article can be found here) made this observation about the Broncos 2014 season opener:
"With Welker out, Manning will be short one of his top targets in the passing game, leaving him with only star wide receiver Demaryius Thomas . . . And tight end Julius Thomas . . . And free-agent acquisition Emmanuel Sanders . . . And promising rookie Cody Latimer . . . Whatever will he do?"
#14 - Outrageous prediction for 2014
Johnny Football will replace Brian Hoyer early in the season and lead the Browns to a playoff appearance (please note: not everyone -- read most of us -- did not agree with that prediction).
LET THE SEASON COMMENCE
OH, AND GO BRONCOS!!!!!!!!!!!