The 2014-15 NFL season is in the books, and the Patriots are crowned champions. So what's in store for the next season? In this column, we serve up FIVE fearless predictions for the upcoming season.
Well, the 2014-2015 season is in the books. It's a bit of a stretch before the next season gets underway, there's a long offseason to get through, Combine, the 2015 NFL Draft and Free Agency to sort before the league's franchises convene for training camp in the summer, but it's never too early to start making predictions.
1) The 2015-2016 season is Johnny Manziel's last season with Cleveland Browns
When Johnny "Football" Manziel vowed to shake things up in the NFL, most could be forgiven for assuming he was referring to the game. An ambition to make a significant contribution to his team and an impact as a rookie, along the lines of Andrew Luck and that ilk. Fast forward through the 2014-2015 season: the craziness, the parties, the drugs, the alcohol, the missed practices, the generally irresponsible behaviour by a player that is supposed to be setting the standard in the locker room, and the Browns we're living a nightmare. To say, his was a rocky rookie season, is the understatement of the season, aptly capped off by the a$$ whooping he got courtesy of the Bengals in his first NFL start. Is it any wonder quotes by teammates have surfaced, referring to Johnny Football as a "100 percent Joke."
The latest development in the Manziel saga is the report he's entered rehab. Clearly, the quarterback has a support system, which we're not knocking. But it's going to be down to him to stick to the program and completely reinvent himself for the next season. As it stands, he's partied his way out of the NFL conversation as a promising rookie, and maybe even partied himself out of an NFL job already.
2) The Seahawks Will Enjoy Their Worst Home Record
The Seahawks have sparkled behind Russell Wilson at home, going 26-2 at Century Link Field during his tenure. With Seahawks' salary cap flexibility set to expire and Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch in line for hefty new contracts, there are going to be some serious changes in Seattle during the offseason. (There's also speculation about whether Marshawn Lynch is going to retire before the next season gets underway). With the core in danger of splitting and a tough schedule in 2015-2016, partly down to a competitive and demanding NFC West division, the Seahawks could be on the way to one of their worst home records.
3) The Bucs Will Have A Winning Season
Tampa Bay Buccaneers are one of the teams to spot in the coming season, along with Jacksonville Jaguars and the Oakland Raiders -- three of the worst teams in the NFL 2014-2015 season. Of this triplet, the Bucs would appear to be the choice NFL pick to turn things around. In Lovie Smith's second season with the Chicago Bears, he led them from a 5-11 season to an 11-5 season the following year. Overcoming a 2-14 season is probably going to be a bigger challenge, but there have been positive rumblings coming from Tampa Bay already, which augur well. They also have the top draft pick in the coming 2015 NFL draft, where many believe they'll pick NFL odds on fave Jameis Winston as the No.1 draft pick. Let's not forget, the scheduling for the next season is going to be advantageous enough as well.
4) Eli Manning and the Giants Are Dark Horse Super Bowl Contenders
Both Lombardi Trophies Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin clinched were behind schedules that saw them draw AFC East competition (2007 and 2011). In 2015...drum roll....they've drawn the AFC East. Hmmm....a sign of things to come? The Giants are after a disappointing season, but there were plenty of positive signs that could click together properly in the next season. Most notably, the emergence of Odell Beckham Jr. who is after a standout rookie season, one of the best in NFL history (91 catches, 1,305 yards and 12 TDs).
5) Green Bay Packers To Win Super Bowl 50
Green Bay Packers are after a solid season and very nearly made it to Super Bowl 49, but for a bizarre, improbably rally by the Seahawks. The Packers sit advantageously on the Super Bowl 50 betting board as the third favourites for your NFL picks. Shading them now may be one of the best moves ahead of the NFL 2015-2016 season. Packers aren't threatened by free agency (unlike Seattle). They'll be bringing back most of their key players, including Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson and C. J. Matthews, amongst several others. With everything in place and the best quarterback in the game (the MVP) it's only a matter of building on the momentum and executing in the coming season.