Every year, there’s a large group of NFL players who have breakout seasons. They go out and put up numbers so good, that they earn new, substantially larger contracts from the team they played for, or another franchise who believes they’re worth it. But, what has become common place in the NFL, is that those same dudes will go out and under perform to their new salary level (the Albert Haynesworths’ of the world). But, on the other end, you have JJ Watt – a man who earned a 6-year, $100 million dollar contract this summer, who played SO WELL in 2014, it’s possible that he was/is UNDERPAID.
1) JJ Watt is the MVP – and it’s NOT close
As much as we LOVE naming quarterbacks MVP, there was NO player in the NFL as flawless as JJ Watt, who did not play ONE bad game, ALL YEAR. Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Tony Romo have ALL had HORRIFIC performances this year – Watt has had ZERO. Watt is the first man in NFL history to record two season of 20+ sacks (just think of all the great pass rushers in NFL history that are NOT on that list with him). JJ Watt is the first player in NFL history to get 11 sacks over the last five weeks of the season, meaning that he played his best when his team needed wins. Watt led the NFL in tackles for loss, and unlike men like Justin Houston, who recorded the most sacks in the NFL this year, he didn’t have any other formidable pass rushers to partner with, meaning that he faced an inordinate amount of double and TRIPLE teams. He is also the first player in NFL history with a receiving touchdown, a fumble recovery touchdown, an interception return touchdown, and a safety in the same season.
Watt more can you ask for?!
2) Russell Wilson needs to play A LOT better
Because the Seahawks are looking like last years Super Bowl team, and Marshawn Lynch has activated beast mode, it’s funny how people are overlooking Wilson’s inconsistent and shaky play at quarterback. The Seahawks are having a ridiculously difficult time moving the ball, converting on third downs and scoring touchdowns in the red zone. If they want to beat the Cowboys or the Packers, they will need to SCORE points instead of demanding that their D holds the other team to 6-14 points.
3) Cam Newton and the Panthers will NOT be an easy out
With a record of 7-8-1, many people are looking at Carolina as THIEFS, who stole a playoff spot from more deserving teams (i.e the Eagles) and while that may be true, the fact is that they are a dangerous team that will be a tough out in the wild card round. To be honest, I can see them upsetting the Arizona Cardinals especially the way that defence has been playing.
4) The problem with the Detroit Lions
Matthew Stafford is now 0-16 on the road against teams with a winning record. Think about how wild that stat is. As much as he can perform miracles at home (in 2013 against the Cowboys, and in his rookie season against the Browns), he simply can NOT do that on the road. They could have pressed the Packers in week 17 a lot harder than they did, but they couldn’t get it together on offence. Now, on defence, they have to worry about playing the Cowboys in the wild card game without Suh now that he’s been suspended for 1 week because he intentionally stepped on Aaron Rodgers calf. What in the HELL is going on in Detroit?
5) So we’re gonna act like the Chargers don’t always choke?
As much as I HATE the Chargers (yet, fully respect Phillip Rivers) it’s great to see another promising season being brought to a bitter end, but I would like to know when they are going to get called out for choking as much as they do? It seems the Chargers are ALWAYS considered a contender at one point in the year, and then they just BLOW IT.
6) Dear Dallas, thank GOD you didn’t draft Johnny Football
During the 2014 draft, many people (myself included) really thought that the Cowboys were going to take Johnny Manziel with the 16th overall pick in the NFL draft. But, as it turns out, they drafted a pro-bowl lineman in Zack Martin, who has helped the Cowboys O-line to be revered as possibly the best in the league. Johnny Football is getting suspended from the Browns for throwing parties, and Martin is leading his team into the playoffs for the first time in five years. The Cowboys dodged a HUGE bullet.
7) The Bills are POISED to be a great team in 2015
Buffalo definitely had the best defensive line in the NFL this year. The team was solid, ran the ball well and witnessed the explosive potential of Sammy Watkins. This team is definitely ready to be a problem in 2015 – if they can find a quarterback to replace Kyle Orton, who is now officially retired.
Revisiting My Season Predictions from August
Big Ben and the steelers finally have a great combination of experience AND youth. They are talented everywhere and Mike Tomlin won’t allow his team to miss playoffs two years in a row. The Ravens also are experienced AND young and will have another solid season. Cincinnati will struggle WITHOUT Mike Zimmer’s defensive brilliance and Andy Dalton will be exposed by his divisions vastly improved defences. Johnny Manziel will take over for Hoyer midyear when the season is lost and he’ll show flashes of excellence, amidst a sea of mistakes and losses.
1 – Pittsburgh Steelers
2 – Baltimore Ravens
3 – Cincinnati Bengals
4 – Cleveland Browns
Well, I was right that the Steelers would win the division and that the Ravens would make the playoffs. I was half right about Dalton but wrong on the Bengals as a team. And those flashes of brilliance from Johnny Football never really happened.
Denver will be really good with their new and improved defence and Peyton will have another MVP-worthy season. The Chargers will return to the playoffs now that Rivers and coach Mike McCoy are on the same page. Derek Carr will show flashes of being a solid QB while the Raiders improve over last year. The Kansas City chiefs will realize that Alex Smith is NOT who they THINK he is.
1 – Denver Broncos
2 – San Diego Chargers
3 – Oakland Raiders
4 – Kansas City Chiefs
I was right about the Broncos winning the division and Derek Carr showing flashes of being a solid QB, but my prediction that Oakland would be better than Kansas City was wishful thinking at its best. I was dead wrong about the Chargers making the playoffs.
Andrew Luck has another great year but with fewer interceptions and the Colts prove to be the 3rd best team in the AFC behind the Pats and the Broncos. Mallett eventually takes over in Houston and, with that talented defence, leads the Texans to a big improvement over last years debacle of a season. Jake Locker shows flashes for the Titans, but they ultimately are NOT talented enough YET. The Jaguars get beat down and Blake Bortles steps in mid year to prove why he’s the QB of the future.
1 – Indianapolis Colts
2 – Houston Texans
3 – Tennessee Titans
4 – Jacksonville Jaguars
Andrew Luck DID have a great year, but he also DID throw a lot of picks too. Mallett never really got the chance to fully take over the QB job due to injury, but the Texans were much improved. I really didn’t see the Titans falling out with Jake Locker and ending up worst than the Jags.
The Patriots prove to be the best team in the entire AFC. The Jets defence makes them hard to beat, but their shaky offence keeps them a pedestrian team. The Dolphins, still in post-Incognito mode, will struggle to find a new identity. E.J. Manuel has sophomore slump and the talented Bills D does little to reverse their recent misfortunes.
1 – New England Patriots
2 – New York Jets
3 – Miami Dolphins
4 – Buffalo Bills
I don’t deserve much credit for predicting that the Pats were gonna be number one in the AFC as I think MANY people saw that coming. I’m really surprised at how HORRIBLE the Jets played and how much BETTER the Bills look. I new E.J. would struggle, but I never thought he would be benched for most of the season for old-ass Orton.
Aaron Rodgers comes back to the Pack in fine form and has MVP-worthy season. Don Zimmer improves the Vikings defence and their new west coast offence flourishes under eventual starting QB Teddy Bridgewater. The Bears deal with an injury-riddled season and miss the playoffs – again. The Lions struggle with their terrible secondary in a division where a secondary is an absolute must.
1 – Green Bay Packers
2 – Minnesota Vikings
3 – Chicago Bears
4 – Detroit Lions
As much as I knew Rodgers would have an MVP-calibre season, it might seem like I was CRAZY to pick the Vikings as a wild card team. But, in my defence, I would like to say that Teddy Bridgewater DID take over the quarterback position early in the year and he played awesome for the most part. What their 7-9 record WON’T show is that Adrian Peterson missed the year due to his child-abuse court case. Peterson, Bridgewater and Norv Turner would have made an AWESOME combination. The Bears did deal with an inure-riddled season, but who knew the Lions would put it all together like they did?
The Seahawks breeze through this season with high expectations of repeating as NFL champion. The Arizona Cardinals had the BEST run-D in the NFL last year, and now may sport a top 3 secondary in the league as well with Antonio Cromartie joining Pat P and Mathieu. The Niners struggle with Aldon Smith’s suspension, Ray McDonald’s looming suspension, Navarro Bowmans’ injury and Kaepernick’s inconsistency. The Rams have the worst season in the NFL, get the first pick in the draft and take Jameis Winston as Sam Bradford’s replacement.
1 – Seattle Seahawks
2 – Arizona Cardinals
3 – San Francisco 49ers
4 – St. Louis Rams
This may have been the only division I got bang on. Arizona’s amazing D is NOT new. The fact that they shut teams down this year was just a continuation of last year. Kap’s inconsistency definitely hurt the niners. Also, I definitely underrated how good the Rams would be without Bradford. They finished just under .500 and I doubt Jameis Winston is in their future.
Brees and the Saints will put up Madden-like numbers on offence again. Lovie Smith will make the Bucs respectable, and the combination of Evans and Jackson will make QB Josh McCown feel like he’s back in Chicago last year when he had a decent season. The Falcons lack of attention to their defence will be their downfall. The Panthers lack of receivers will hurt them A LOT.
1 – New Orleans Saints
2 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
3 – Atlanta Falcons
4 – Carolina Panthers
I don’t think I could have guessed this division any more wrong than I did. The Saints were pathetic and lethargic on offence this year. Josh McCown was TERRIBLE in Tampa. And Carolina avoided the first-to-worst NFC South curse and won the division. But really, what the HELL happened in New Orleans?
Eagles win the division comfortably as Chip Kelly refines his offensive approach to attack AND manage the game. Eli has a rough year with Manningham on the IR and a shaky backfield. The Cowboys realize that they should have paid Demarcus Ware his money TOO LATE. RGIII struggles and the Redskins defence consistently gets gashed – AGAIN.
1 – Philadelphia Eagles
2 – New York Giants
3 – Dallas Cowboys
4 – Washington Redskins
I definitely missed on this division as well. In my defence, I definitely did NOT see a Nick Foles midseason injury coming. Eli actually did NOT have as much of a shaky year as I thought he would, and Manningham means nothing to a team looking ahead to a Cruz/Beckham Jr. combination in their future. The Cowboys D has actually improved WITHOUT Demarcus Ware, but RGIII has continued to struggle.
With all that said, here are my picks for this week’s wildcard round:
– I have the Colts beating the Bengals (Andy Dalton is gonna be M.I.A. again)
– I have the Ravens beating the Steelers (Pittsburgh’s inconsistency will be their downfall)
– I have the Panthers upsetting the Cardinals
– I have the Cowboys beating the Lions
This Is Your Conscience