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Dublin: 19 °C Wednesday 30 July, 2014

Gridiron season preview: welcome to the NFL, rookie

Steven O’Rourke is back to take a look at each division to see which teams will make the playoffs and who’ll be looking for a new head coach before December.

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Josh Morgan is driven out of bounds by San Diego Chargers defensive back Antoine Cason.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Josh Morgan is driven out of bounds by San Diego Chargers defensive back Antoine Cason.
Image: Denis Poroy/AP/Press Association Images

Steven O’Rourke is back and here, ahead of the return of his regular weekly columns tomorrow, he takes a look at each division to see which teams will make the playoffs and who’ll be looking for a new head coach before December.

AFTER A SUMMER of discontent, when it seemed as if both sides were so deeply entrenched that no movement would be possible, common sense finally prevailed and TheScore agreed to take me back as their American football columnist.

Oh, and the owners and players saw some sense too which means that sleep deprivation will, once again, become a way of life for those of us that slip between time zones to indulge our passion for American football.

The first week in September is also the only time of year when hope and expectation can take the place of logic and even fans of teams as bad as the Oakland Raiders, like myself, can dream of January football and a shot at Super Bowl glory.

For 31 teams, those dreams will be shattered. For some, like the aforementioned Raiders, that will happen quite early but for one, this weekend is just the first step towards immortality.

Well, until next season at least.

AFC North

Most observers expect both Baltimore and Pittsburgh to make the playoffs this year, with the majority predicting the Steelers to win the division for the sixth time in nine years. However, the Cleveland Browns are improving and could, with a healthy Colt McCoy, potentially crash the party. The Bengals, however, can consider 4-12 a good season.

AFC South

The Colts won this division with a 10-6 record last season but, with Peyton Manning injured, will do well to place third this year. Their loss should be Houston’s gain but I’m not convinced by the Texans and I expect a Titans team with Chris Johnson back in the fold to push them all the way.

There’s no Super Bowl challenge coming from this division either way.

AFC East

Perhaps the easiest division to predict in the NFL, the AFC East will once again be decided between the New England Patriots and the New York Jets. The Patriots won 14 games last year without anyone really noticing and, with some clever/outrageous – delete as appropriate – preseason signings, they could do just as well this year. Buffalo will remain as awful as usual while it will be another season of ‘re-building’ for the Dolphins.

AFC West

The problem with the AFC West is that the teams struggle to win any games outside of it. The Raiders went 6-0 in the division last year, and ended with an overall 8-8 record. The Chargers are the class act in the division and should make the playoffs comfortably.

No matter where Tim Tebow ends up playing, the Broncos, like the Raiders and Chiefs, can forget about the post-season already.

NFC North

There are many who think the Green Bay Packers are a better team than the one that won the Super Bowl earlier this year and will repeat that success this season.

I’m not so sure, however, and, while they will make the playoffs, I’m convinced the Detroit Lions will win the division. Great defence will always beat great offence and the Lions are complimenting their outstanding D-Line with an improving offence.

NFC South

Another strong division, the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons are the obvious favourites for divisional success. I’m not sold on the Falcons though and expect Tampa Bay, with the exceptionally talented Josh Freeman at quarterback, to ruffle a few feathers. The Panthers, meanwhile, should be happy with three wins this year.

NFC East

On paper, this is a really strong division. However, nobody has ever thrown a touchdown or made a sack on paper. The Eagles have been incredibly busy in the pre-season, creating a so-called dream team. If Vick stays healthy for 16 games, they’ll walk this division. Expect the Giants to be snapping at their heels though.

NFC West

The worst division in football, it does, unfortunately, still have the right to send a team to the playoffs. Genuinely, when Sam Bradford and Kevin Kolb are the two best Quarterbacks in a division you know you’re in trouble. The Rams should hopefully post an 8-8 record this year to top the division. That really is as good as it gets for the West.

Playoff Predictions:

AFC

  • New England Patriots
  • Baltimore Ravens
  • Houston Texans
  • San Diego Chargers
  • New York Jets
  • Cleveland  Browns

NFC

  • Philadelphia Eagles
  • Detroit Lions
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • St Louis Rams
  • Green Bay Packers
  • New York Giants

What do you think?

Steven O’Rourke is the Offensive Co-ordinator of Tullamore Phoenix American Football Club, winners of the IAFL DV8s national title in 2010 and 2011. Tullamore are always recruiting new players so, if you’d like to play football and not just read about it, Steven would love to hear from you.

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