Five Bold NFL Predictions


Stop by and grab a cold one, I feel like making some bold predictions (BTW-best use of office supplies ever!). Photo by Muteboy.

I don’t get a chance to sit at the local bar and talk football very often because I’m always writing about it. At the moment I’m feeling like having a long neck on a stool. Since I can’t, I’m at least going to imagine what I would be talking about with a friend of mine if the subject of the NFL came up during our conversation. Pull up a stool and order a drink.

5. The kick off rule will limit returns, but the average yardage per return will increase: I think the NFL Rules Committee’s decision to move the starting point of kickoffs was a slick maneuver to lower the rate of concussions that occur on kicks. A little too slick if you ask me. It smacks of the scene in the cinematic bible of dysfunctional behavior Office Space where Lumbergh lacks the stones to fire Milton so he moves Milton’s desk to the basement. Just eliminate kick offs if player safety is that much of a concern. Deal with the fall out and move on.

Since they can’t do it, it’s just karma that their incompetent decision-making on this matter will get a back-handed reward. Average kick return yardage will rise after excluding touch backs from the equation. Why? I’m betting that there will be a dynamic where special teams units get lax with their coverage. That, or as NFL coaches tend to do, they will discover a solution.

4. More “Tea cup” running backs will make their presence felt: Remember that little childhood song? I’m a little tea cup short and stout…(I’ve had a couple of beers before you joined me at the bar) Maurice Jones-Drew and Ray Rice are tea cups. Watch for more guys from the 5’6″ club: Cardinals LaRod Stephens-Howling, Eagles Dion Lewis, and Falcons Jacquizz Rodgers. All three of these running backs can play. Howling is extremely tough and capable creating some wondrous plays. The problem is he can get too undisciplined with this elusiveness. He was the most elusive back of his draft class when he left Pitt. His fellow alum Lewis left school a far more disciplined runner with more strength to finish plays. I think he has terrific vision and I won’t be surprised if the Eagles figure out by mid season that they need to get Lewis on the field more often. Rodgers is the most powerful of the three. I like Lewis’ vision just a bit more, but Rodgers might be the most capable of handling a higher workload than his draft status might indicate. Watch these three players, you’ll be hearing from at least two of them. My prediction: Rodgers gains 700 total yards and Lewis becomes the change of pace to LeSean McCoy and has at least three strong statistical performances.

3. Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown will have a 1000-yard season: Ben Roethlisberger loves Brown’s development and predicts big things for him this year. With Emmanuel Sanders nursing that foot injury, Jerricho Cotchery waiting in the wings for Hines Ward’s demise (which will continue to be slower than everyone has been expecting for the past five years), and Mike Wallace earning more bracket coverage, I think Brown becomes one of Roethlisberger’s go-to guys. Brown was always a great athlete and his skills after the catch border on the electric. He was still a raw player at the position coming out of Central Michigan but according to Roethlisberger Brown has learned to recognize and process coverages and it’s showing up in his game.

A good example of how important this is to an offense is last night’s game in New York. Giants WR Victor Cruz is going to be part of the team’s three-receiver sets as the slot man. In these sets, Jon Gruden astutely showed that these 11 personnel sets are designed to give the QB a simple pre snap read. If the lone weak side receiver (Hakeem Nicks) is in single coverage, Eli Manning will target him – most likely deep. If the defense plays Cover 2 the QB is going to the slot receiver. Last night, Cruz was hesitant with his read. Although he made the catch, his hesitancy cost him a first down and he got reamed by offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride.

Brown’s improvement with processing information is why he’s shining. His decisiveness maximizes his ability to play like the athlete he is. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the second-most productive receiver in Pittsburgh this year.

2. John Beck passes for 3500 yards and 20 touchdowns: Beck was sharp against the Indianapolis Colts (14-17 for 140 yards) leading the team to a 16-0 start. Beck demonstrated what I’ve seen from him his entire college career – the ability to play with poise on the move. Let’s remember that Mike and Kyle Shanahan have an offense that likes to have a mobile quarterback capable of executing play action rolls and sprints to move the pocket and buy time. When in Denver, Shanahan used a similar offense to guide Jake Plummer to career years, including a Pro Bowl invite:

Yr

GP

GS

Comp

Att

Pct

Pyds

Tds

Ints

2003

16

11

189

302

62.6

2182

15

7

2004

16

16

303

521

58.2

4089

27

20

2005

16

16

277

456

60.7

3366

18

7

Although the interceptions were a problem in 2004, Plummer earned 4000 yards and threw for nearly 30 scores. His completion percentage each year was above his career average. Beck is a strong fit with this offense and has better physical skills and conceptual talent (once he gets more playing time) than Grossman. This is why Grossman is described as a “fiery competitor.” It’s another way of saying passionate, but not as cerebral as you want to see from a starting quarterback. Beck has that cerebral quality and it’s going to show up this year.

I’ll tell you another thing, if Beck plays to his talent and Joe Flacco doesn’t there are going to be a lot of angry Ravens fans.

1. Von Miller wins rookie of the year: I know people think he would be better off statistically as a 3-4 linebacker, but I don’t think John Fox is stupid. As ESPN’s Bill Williamson noted in April, John Elway thinks of Derrick Thomas when he see Von Miller. The rookie and DE Elvis Dumervil are going to wreak havoc this year because the Broncos understand that Miller will be best used in a scheme to exploit offensive weaknesses by moving him around. I haven’t studied the Broncos defense scheme, but I can’t imagine how this won’t happen. In a class of splendid rookies on offense – Mark Ingram, A.J. Green, Randall Cobb, and Julio Jones – Miller is the player to watch.

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7 comments

  1. Miller looks much more comfortable as a SLB than I thought he might. Doubt he has a huge impact vs the run, but he’ll be more than good enough in coverage and sooner than expected. And he’s shown everything expected of him as a rusher on passing downs already.

    Looks much, much better than Aaron Curry, who was felt to be a better all-around linebacker with pass rush upside.

    Going to make the “can’t draft a guy you’ll put at 4-3 OLB in the top five” crowd quiet down or go out of their way to note that he’s not the usual case.

  2. Always love exceptions to the rule. It’s how you win. Glad the Broncos recognized it in him.

  3. Love the article and your analysis (here and elsewhere). Just wondering why you think tea cup RBs will outperform though…?

    • I just like their talent individually and saw that they had those dimensions in common with each other. It’s more of an entertainment-analysis type piece. Bold predictions being a fun thing more than a hang your hat and build a strategy off them approach.

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