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Contenders and Pretenders. The 2015 NFL Season.
It's barely August.
I haven't even seen a pre-season game yet.
Obviously, this won't be completely accurate and I'm destined to get a few terribly, terribly wrong.
However, at this moment, these are my opinions.
You are entitled to your own.
Consider this piece, disclaimed.
These teams, try as they may, are not going to be competing for the Lombardi trophy in 2015.
These are the teams who won't break .500 this year, and will likely be picking high next April.
The San Francisco 49ers
If the 49ers want to be contenders this year, it's pretty obvious what they have to do.
Hop in the time machine, head on back to the 80's, grab Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, Roger Craig, and Joe Montana.
Of course, even if they did do that, all those legends would probably retire.
This off-season was disastrous for the 49ers.
They've lost Frank Gore, Chris Culliver, Michael Crabtree, Chris Borland, Justin Smith, Ray McDonald, Anthony Davis, and Patrick Willis, as well as their entire coaching staff.
The coaches they've hired, from Tomsula to Geep Chryst are not reassuring the fans.
Keep in mind that all of these changes happened to a team that finished 8-8 and even lost to my Raiders.
I wouldn't be optimistic about this season if I were a 49ers fan.
The Cleveland Browns
When the competition for your starting quarterback position is between Johnny "Stupidface" and anyone named McCown... It's not a good sign.
The defense will be solid, but there are so many unanswered questions on offense, they play in such a tough division, and they have an impossible schedule.
I wonder what kind of shenanigans would occur in a locker room featuring Johnny Manziel and Cardale Jones.
The Chicago Bears
The Bad News Bears took a huge step back this year, when they got rid of Brandon Marshall and tried to replace him with Kevin White.
Early reports out of Bears camp are not overly positive about White, and he's already being bogged down by several injuries.
Unless Matt Forte has a freakish year, I'm not optimistic about the Bears.
The Jacksonville Jaguars
They're just cursed.
I don't know what it would even take to make this team good.
Bortles has a year under his belt, but in a year where Bridgewater and Carr showed a lot of potential... Bortles just didn't.
The Oakland Raiders
The Raiders offense looks like it'll be much improved this year, but there are just too many questions on defense.
An inexperienced secondary and a nonexistent pass rush are not good fellows.
Unless Latavius Murray has a breakout season, and that opens up a prolific passing attack, the Raiders are gonna have a rough 2015.
The Tennessee Titans
The Titans made some big moves by drafting a guy they believe can be their QB of the future, but there are just too many holes that haven't been filled, and who knows when Mariota will be ready?
The AFC South belongs to the Colts.
The Washington Redskins
I think the Redskins might be the worst team in football.
They have a solid receiving corps, but there are so many questions everywhere else.
In a NFC East that could belong to anyone, I don't have high hopes for the Washington *Insult Political Movement Everyone Forgot About*
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs have some pieces, but I absolutely hate the selection of Jameis Winston.
I hate his decision making on and off the field and I think he's going to give Jamarcus Russell a run for his crown.
These teams have a little more hope than the cellar teams, but I wouldn't quite call them a stellar team.
These teams might be wild card contenders, but for the time being, my hopes aren't high.
The Buffalo Bills
The Bills have plenty of pieces.
Their defense is great, the addition of LeSean McCoy can't be bad, and Sammy Watkins is on his way up.
The problem is that Rex Ryan has no idea how to run an offense and... well...
Who the hell is the quarterback?
You've gotta compete with Tom Brady, folks.
The New York Jets
This answer is almost identical to the Bills.
They've got defensive pieces, and a couple of stud receivers.
But WHO IS THE QUARTERBACK?
The Atlanta Falcons
For years, I've never been able to understand why the Falcons aren't better.
Matt Ryan is a good quarterback, Julio Jones is an incredible receiver, and they've had decent defenses.
But yet... They've never been able to get over the hump.
Now Tony Gonzales is gone, they have questions on the offensive and defensive line, and Roddy White is on the way out.
I just don't have faith in them.
These teams could be contenders as the year progresses, but they aren't the franchises I'd put money on.
The San Diego Chargers.
The Chargers have a talented roster, and by all means, should be a competitive team in an AFC West that is up for grabs, but locker room issues are dangerous.
Rivers might be getting his contract extension soon, but Weddle isn't, and he's easily their best defensive player.
The rest of the division made huge progress this off-season, did San Diego do enough to stay competitive?
The Kansas City Chiefs
Losing Dontari Poe is huge for this team.
A big man with back problems is not what you want if you're a team that relies heavily on that player.
The addition of Jeremy Maclin is big, and might be enough to revive what might have been the most boring passing offense in the NFL last year, and the return of Eric Berry is an awesome surprise.
But they need to prove they can mix things up on offense and stop the run without Poe.
The Arizona Cardinals
It took ten years for Carson Palmer to return to form after his last injury, will he be able to return?
The Cardinals were one of the biggest surprises last year, will they be able to repeat the success this year?
The Rams improved drastically, the Seahawks went out and grabbed Jimmy Graham...
The Baltimore Ravens
Who the hell is going to catch passes for the Ravens?
Grandpa Steve Smith?
Rookie Maxx Williams?
Seriously, who the hell is going to catch passes?
Someone has to.
Gone is run game guru, Gary Kubiak, now you've got pass game psycho, Marc Trestman.
The defense should still be solid, and the offense will be reliable, but... How are you gonna beat the AFC elites?
The Cincinnati Bengals
I feel like the sun has set on the Bengals. They had an exotic offense, a dangerous defense, and a vulnerable AFC North.
And they failed to cash in on their opportunity.
Andy Dalton's numbers weren't even pedestrian last year, they don't have a workhorse at runningback, and A.J. Green is having problems staying healthy.
They might be able to get away with winning the division, but right now, I don't see them getting past the wild card round.
The Houston Texans
The Texans have the best football player in the NFL on their team.
He's the man.
And the rest of the defense is pretty solid too.
Offensively... It's a different story.
Which former Brady-backup will be taking snaps? Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett?
Can Arian Foster stay healthy?
Who is going to catch passes after DeAndre Hopkins?
A lot of questions for a team that will be trying to compete with Andrew Luck and his Colts.
The New Orleans Saints
The Saints are in trouble.
They're in cap hell, they don't have any elite weapons, and they just had to cut their best defensive player.
They're lucky the NFC South is such a bad division, or I don't think they'd have a chance at all.
The Saints lost their game-breaker in Jimmy Graham, and I feel like other teams around the league have begun to take notice of their "small ball" offense.
Passing yards don't win titles, folks.
The Carolina Panthers
The Panthers offense is a problem.
Kelvin Benjamin is good, but outside of that, this offense loses games.
Without Greg Hardy, the Panthers defense did take a step back, but Luke Kuechly keeps the team afloat.
The Philadelphia Eagles
Nobody really knows with the Eagles, do we?
Their quarterback has a bum knee, their runningback took over 400 carries last year, and it seems like every big name player they had has been traded away.
Not to mention... Tebow.
This team is impossible to predict.
We're gonna have to wait and see...
The Detroit Lions
The Lions still have tons of potential.
I mean... Hey, Calvin Johnson!
But... Megatron isn't getting any younger. And while Stafford has had flashes of brilliance, he hasn't been good enough to consistently carry the team.
Not to mention... They tried to replace Nick Fairley and Nd.... Suh with an ancient Haloti Ngata....
It'll be interesting to see how the team competes with Minnesota and Green Bay.
On The Way Up
If these teams aren't contenders this year, they're pretty damn close.
The St. Louis Rams
I tried to write a really long description for how good the Rams will be, but I got sacked like 17 times.
That defensive line... It's just not fair. Too much talent. I could play corner for that team behind that pass rush.
Foles and Gurley made very dangerous additions to an offense that is separating the Rams from being serious contenders.
The Pittsburgh Steelers
Big Ben, Bell, and Brown make for explosive triplets on offense with a defense that might just be coming into it's own in a very winnable division.
The Minnesota Vikings
From 1-53, the Vikings might have more young talent than any other team in the league.
You've got Bridgewater under center with speedsters Mike Wallace and Cordarrelle Patterson catching passes, the return of Adrian Peterson, and a talented defense... The sky is the limit.
The Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins are an enigma.
They've got their franchise QB in Ryan Tannehil, a solid core on defense, and plenty of weapons on offense. With Brady missing the first four weeks... This is their best chance to win the division.
The Dallas Cowboys
I still have plenty of questions about the Cowboys defense, but they did make some huge additions to the Cowboys defensive line, especially the troubled Greg Hardy.
Not to mention, they have arguably the best offensive line in the league, a healthy Tony Romo, and Dez Bryant just signed a huge deal.
Plus... The NFC East...
The New York Giants
The Giants offense could be very, very good this year.
Victor Cruz, Odell Beckham Jr, the ever inconsistent Rueben Randle, and whatever is left of James Jones give Eli Manning plenty of receiving options.
Sure, the loss of JPP hurts the defense, but with an offense like that... in a division like that? They'll win some big games.
The Denver Broncos
I think that Denver was very smart by hiring Gary Kubiak. Kubiak is a run-game genius, and as Peyton Manning begins a not-so-graceful decline, a run game will be huge.
I still don't think they can make a serious title run, especially depending on Geriatric Manning, but there's no reason they can't win the AFC West.
You're looking at the conference championship teams... again.
The New England Patriots
OH BUT THE AFC EAST GOT SO MUCH BETTER.
OH BUT BRADY IS SUSPENDED FOR FOUR GAMES.
OH BUT THEY LOST REVIS AND BROWNER.
Folks. I've given up trying to predict when the gravy train will end for the Patriots.
As long as Tom Brady is under center in New England, they're going to be in the title conversation.
The Seattle Seahawks
This might be it folks.
The Seahawks are inches from cap hell, and pretty soon, they're going to start losing the bigger pieces of this team.
The Legion of Boom is still running strong, Marshawn Lynch is still rocking the backfield, and the addition of Jimmy Graham adds another level to the Seahawks offense as he easily becomes their best pass-catcher.
The Green Bay Packers
The Packers have the best receiving corps in the NFL, they play in a shaky division, and Aaron Rodgers is still under center. They need to prove they can play well on the road and in primetime if they want to make a run at the Lombardi, but if anyone can do it...
The Indianapolis Colts
The Colts have all the pieces they need.
They have one of the best cornerbacks in the league in Vontae Davis, Robert Mathis is returning to rush the passer, and they compliment T.Y. Hilton with Andre Johnson and Frank Gore on offense.
With Andrew Luck under center, the sky is the limit for Indianapolis, they just have to prove they can beat New England.