We’re nearing the time of the summer (it is summer now, right?) where everyone and their brother is going to come out with a “bold predictions” column for the 2014 NFL season. Might we do one of those down the road? Sure, why not? But for now no one’s ready to truly lay it all on the line — or at least they shouldn’t be in late May.
Instead, let’s take a look at ten scenarios, five from the AFC and five from the NFC that could play out this year. There’s no pressure to put your mortgage on any of the following, but they are at least things to consider. The NFL more than any other league is widely unpredictable season after season. So rather than dismissing something as “there’s no way that can happen,” take a second, relax, realize it’s almost the weekend and try to envision the following going down.
While we’re not willing to guarantee any of them, you can put pretty good odds on at least a few of these playing out. After all, who had Atlanta and Houston finishing last in their respective divisions a year ago? No one, that’s who. And did anyone see the Panthers and the Chiefs in the playoffs? Please send us a 2013 pre-season predictions link if so.
With that in mind, here are ten things that wouldn’t shocked us if they occurred during the 2014 season or postseason.
10. San Diego, not Denver, wins the AFC West
The Chargers were very strong against the Broncos a season ago, going 1-2 but being a few plays away from going 3-0. The high-powered Denver offense scored just 28, 20 and 24 points against San Diego in three contests, and never seemed to establish themselves as the all-time great group they were in most other games. Philip Rivers seems to be completely rejuvenated under Mike McCoy and the Chargers have a (third place) schedule that’s a chunk easier than the Broncos’ (first place) slate this year. It’s likely going to take an 11-5 campaign from the Bolts, but if they can at least split with Denver and in a perfect world steal the other game, they’ve got a chance of being crowned AFC West champs in 2014.
9. Atlanta is the NFL’s most improved team
As mentioned above no one envisioned the Falcons, a Super Bowl pre-season pick by many, being so bad in 2013. Injuries derailed their season and spiraled Atlanta to a dismal 4-12 finish. But, Julio Jones and Roddy White are back, Matt Ryan’s ready to prove the doubters wrong and the defense likely won’t be starting multiple (sometimes un-drafted) rookies again. What’s the ceiling for this team? We’ll say flipping the record and going 12-4. While that might not happen — the Falcons finishing 11-5 or 10-6 and finding themselves back in the playoffs wouldn’t shock us at all. An improvement of six, seven or eight wins would almost assuredly make Atlanta the most improved team in the NFL.