Last year’s Super Bowl was probably the worst one ever. What was being called one of the best of all-time before it even started ended up to be a massive blowout, with Seattle being the victors. Hopefully we’ll never have to witness such a sad sporting event again, but it’s okay because football is back and I am pumped. I’m pumped for the NFL season to start and I’m pumped for my second year of fantasy. First, the AFC North.
GET: S Danieal Manning, OT Marshall Montgomery, OT Will Svitek, DE Sam Montgomery, QB Jason Campbell, CB R.J Stanford, LB Dontay Moch
LOSE: DE Michael Johnson, WR Andrew Hawkins, OT Anthony Collins, CB Brandon Ghee, FB Chris Pressley
RE-SIGNS: LB Vincent Rey, WR Brandon Tate, G Mike Pollak, S Taylor Mays
DRAFT: 1st round: CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State 2nd round: RB Jeremy Hill, LSU 3rd round: DE William Clarke, West Virginia 4th round: C Russell Bodine, North Carolina 5th round: QB AJ McCarron, Alabama 6th round: OLB Marquis Flowers, Arizona 7th round: WR James Wright, LSU CB Lavelle Westbrooks, Georgia Southern
SUMMARY: The Bengals are now the undisputed powerhouse of the AFC North or are they? Based off last year, it sure seems that way but the Bengals aren’t known for their clutch performances. The loss of DE Michael Johnson hurt, but they made up for it by stealing S Danieal Manning in free agency and drafting Michigan State standout CB Darqueze Dennard to bolster an already superb defense. Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap will fill the void that the loss of Johnson will leave as will LB Vontaze Burfict, who led the league in tackles last year with 171. They also bolstered the offensive line and the backfield by drafting LSU’s Hill. However, the Bengals failed to draft a WR until the seventh round when of all the needs this team had, that was probably the most important one. Marvin Jones will start at the second WR spot and he has 69 receptions for 913 yards in his whole career, most of which he accumulated last year. A.J. Green is a top-5 receiver in the league easily, but he’s the only aerial threat this team has, limiting the skills of their franchise quarterback Andy Dalton, who the Bengals signed to a bloated 6 year, $115 million deal. That’s nearly $20 million a year to throw the ball to A.J. Green. That is preposterous. If Green can’t have an effect on the game, this team’s offense dwindles like a feather in the wind…heavily. RB Giovanni Bernard will takeover the backfield as the primary back this year, which will give the Bengals another offensive outlet, but this team’s dire need of vertical threats will continue to limit this team’s progression in the playoffs until the front office decides to get a decent receiver to put opposite of Green.
SCHEDULE PROJECTED RECORD: 10-6
Week 1: @ BAL Week 2: vs. ATL Week 3: vs. TEN Week 4: BYE Week 5: @ NE Week 6: vs. CAR Week 7: @ IND Week 8: vs. BAL Week 9: vs. JAC Week 10: vs. CLE Week 11: @ NO Week 12: @ HOU Week 13: @ TB Week 14: vs. PIT Week 15: @ CLE Week 16: vs. DEN Week 17: @ PIT
GET: S Mike Mitchell, WR Lance Moore, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, DT Cam Thomas, RB LeGarrette Blount, LB Arthur Moats
LOSE: LB LaMarr Woodley, S Ryan Clark, DE Ziggy Hood, WR Emmanuel Sanders, WR Jerricho Cotchery, RB Jonathan Dwyer, TE David Johnson, DE Al Woods
RE-SIGNS: LB Jason Worilds, OT Guy Whimper, S Will Allen, OL Cody Wallace
DRAFT: 1st round: LB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State 2nd round: DE Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame 3rd round: RB Dri Archer, Kent State 4th round: WR Martavis Bryant, Clemson 5th round: CB Shaquille Richardson, Arizona C Wesley Johnson, Vanderbilt 6th round: OLB Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA DT Dan McCullers, Tennessee 7th round: TE Rob Blanchflower, Massachusetts
SUMMARY: The Pittsburgh Steelers started last season 0-4 and the fans went crazy. The Steelers responded to their cries and to the adversity, going 8-4 in their remaining 12 games and falling just short of a wild-card spot. The Steelers season could be summed up in their last play against the Miami Dolphins, when Antonio Brown’s last second miracle was nullified because he stepped out. However, if anything, the season did show the Steelers weren’t going to just quit and try and get a first round pick. This team still has talent and they showed that last year. Antonio Brown was second in the league in receiving and 2013 second round pick Le’Veon Bell had a huge effect when he was on the field. However, injuries did hamper him some and that is something to watch out for in 2014. However, the Steelers grabbed speedster RB Dri Archer from Kent State and signed powerback LeGarrette Blount to a two-year deal, which should get them out of the 28th slot that they occupied for total rushing yards last year. They also drafted to fix their needs, drafting LB Ryan Shazier and DE Stephon Tuitt to finish up their young linebacking core and d-line. This team is struggling to stay under the salary cap and some of that is their own fault, like paying LB Jason Worilds close to $10 million to play one season in the black and gold, but the team is making ends meet. Wide receiver is a need for every team in the AFC North and the Steelers are no exception, but if Bell, Ben and Brown stay healthy and the defense holds moderately steady, the Steelers will be in the hunt for a wild-card spot once again.
SCHEDULE PROJECTED RECORD: 8-8
Week 1: vs. CLE Week 2: @ BAL Week 3: @ CAR Week 4: vs. TB Week 5: @ JAC Week 6: @ CLE Week 7: vs. HOU Week 8: vs. IND Week 9: vs. BAL Week 10: @ NYJ Week 11: @ TEN Week 12: BYE Week 13: vs. NO Week 14: @ CIN Week 15: @ ATL Week 16: vs. KC Week 17: vs. CIN
GET: WR Steve Smith, TE Owen Daniels, RB Justin Forsett, S Darian Stewart
LOSE: CB Corey Graham, OT Michael Oher, S James Ihedigbo, LB Jameel McClain, TE Ed Dickson, DE Arthur Jones, WR Tandon Doss
RE-SIGNS: TE Dennis Pitta, OT Eugene Monroe, LB Daryl Smith, WR Jacoby Jones, LB Albert McClellan, NT Terrence Cody
DRAFT: 1st round: LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama 2nd round: DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida State 3rd round: S Terrence Brooks, Florida State TE Crockett Gilmore, Colorado State 4th round: DT Brent Urban, Virginia RB Lorenzo Taliaferro, Coastal Carolina 5th round: G John Urschel, Penn State 6th round: QB Keith Wenning, Ball State 7th round: WR Michael Campanaro, Wake Forest
SUMMARY: I thought Ray Rice was overrated long before his disastrous season last year. I just thought he would fail sooner than he did. Nonetheless, he was not the only problem the Ravens faced. After letting playoff hero WR Anquan Boldin go to San Franciso, their receiving core was decimated by injuries. TE Dennis Pitta suffered a dislocated and fractured hip, WR Jacoby Jones was concussed after a collision with one of his own teammates, leaving QB Joe Flacco to throw to WR Torrey Smith, who had a fantastic year, a year I capitalized on in fantasy. Ray Rice’s failed to do much of anything, rushing for only 660 yards and Flacco’s limited targets led to one of the Ravens having one of the lowest-scoring offenses in the league (25th, 20 ppg). The Ravens defense kept the team in the wild card hunt till the end though and made sure the team broke even at season’s end. The front office made some big moves shortly after, signing longtime Panther WR Steve Smith and veteran TE Owen Daniels. RB Justin Forsett will join RB Bernard Pierce in carrying the backfield duties if Rice struggles again. Baltimore also did fantastic in the draft, drafting LB C.J. Mosley from Alabama and Florida State DT Timmy Jernigan in the first two rounds to sure up an aging defense. The secondary for this team is this though, as third round pick S Terrence Brooks will start at free safety with second year S Matt Elam. This team will battle tooth and nail with the Steelers for second, but the Steelers have the younger team, so I have to go in Pittsburgh’s favor.
SCHEDULE PROJECTED RECORD: 8-8
Week 1: vs. CIN Week 2: vs. PIT Week 3: @ CLE Week 4: vs. CAR Week 5: @ IND Week 6: @ TB Week 7: vs. ATL Week 8: @ CIN Week 9: @ PIT Week 10: vs. TEN Week 11: BYE Week 12: @ NO Week 13: vs. SD Week 14: @ MIA Week 15: vs. JAC Week 16: @ HOU Week 17: vs. CLE
GET: S Donte Whitner, LB Karlos Dansby, RB Ben Tate, CB Isaiah Trufant, WR Andrew Hawkins, WR Miles Austin, WR Nate Burleson, OT Paul McQuistan, WR Earl Bennett, FB Chris Pressley
LOSE: DB TJ Ward, LB D’Qwell Jackson, OL Shawn Lauvao, OL Oniel Cousins, QB Jason Campbell, QB Brandon Weeden
RE-SIGNS: OL Alex Mack, K Billy Cundiff
DRAFT: 1st round: CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M 2nd round: OT Joel Bitonio, Nevada 3rd round: OLB Chris Kirksey, Iowa RB Terrance West, Towson 4th round: CB Pierre Desir, Lindenwood
SUMMARY: The Cleveland Browns traded RB Trent Richardson to the Colts to start off the season and that was the highlight of the season for them aside from WR Josh Gordon’s record receiving year despite his two-game suspension. However, Gordon can’t stay out of trouble and with a likely year-long suspension on the way, the Browns signed a lot of pass catchers during free agency, such as WRs Andrew Hawkins, Miles Austin, Nate Burleson, and Earl Bennett. They grabbed S Donte Whitner and drafted CB Justin Gilbert to boost a secondary that surprised a lot of people last year with a eighth place ranking. Even with Gordon’s heroics, the offense only managed a measly 19.8 points per game, which is why the team failed to win. Heisman Johnny Manziel may give something for Cleveland fans to rally behind, but at the end of the day, it’s all about LeBron in Cleveland and for good reason. The Browns lost their best linebacker in D’Qwell Jackson and while the defense has made great strides, the offense’s advancements have been baby steps in comparison. Especially considering RB Ben Tate’s durability concerns, don’t expect this team to be a dark horse threat.
SCHEDULE PROJECTED RECORD: 5-11
Week 1: @ PIT Week 2: vs. NO Week 3: vs. BAL Week 4: BYE Week 5: @ TEN Week 6: vs. PIT Week 7: @ JAC Week 8: vs. OAK Week 9: vs. TB Week 10: @ CIN Week 11: vs. HOU Week 12: @ ATL Week 13: @ BUF Week 14: vs. IND Week 15: vs. CIN Week 16: @ CAR Week 17: @ BAL
AFC West AFC East AFC South NFC North NFC West NFC East NFC South