Analysis

NFL 2014 predictions

With the new NFL season set to kick off on Thursday night, we offer our picks for the playoff teams, surprise clubs, and the Super Bowl XLIX champion.

Our picks for playoff teams, surprises, Super Bowl

Quarterback Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos will try to erase last season's Super Bowl drubbing at the hands of Seattle. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Projecting an NFL season is a fool's game. Between the short schedule, the injuries, and the unpredictable bounces of the ball, it's hard enough guessing what will happen this week, let alone at the Super Bowl five months from now. You're going to look dumb.

But here we go anyway. At the risk of future ridicule, three of our biggest NFL fans — Jesse Campigotto, Tony Care and Chris Iorfida — offer their picks for the 2014 playoff teams, the clubs most likely to rise and fall, and the Super Bowl XLIX champion. Plus, each guy offers some commentary below.

Here's the link to last year's predictions so you can have a laugh or two. But, hey, we nailed a few as well.

Here's what we see for this season. Have something to say about our picks? Let us know in the comments section.

PREDICTIONCAMPIGOTTOCAREIORFIDA
AFC EastNew EnglandNew EnglandNew England
AFC NorthCincinnatiPittsburghCincinnati
AFC SouthHoustonIndianapolisTennessee
AFC WestDenverDenverSan Diego
AFC Wild CardsIndianapolis, San DiegoCincinnati, San DiegoDenver, Pittsburgh
AFC riserHoustonPittsburghJacksonville
AFC fallerKansas CityKansas CityKansas City
AFC ChampionshipDenver over New EnglandNew England over DenverSan Diego over New England
NFC EastN.Y. GiantsPhiladelphiaPhiladelphia
NFC NorthGreen BayGreen BayGreen Bay
NFC SouthNew OrleansNew OrleansTampa Bay
NFC WestSeattleSeattleSeattle
NFC Wild CardsSan Francisco, ChicagoDetroit, San FranciscoSan Francisco, Detroit
NFC riserAtlantaDetroitTampa Bay
NFC fallerCarolinaCarolinaDallas
NFC ChampionshipNew Orleans over SeattleSeattle over New OrleansPhiladelphia over Green Bay
Super Bowl XLIXDenver over New OrleansSeattle over New EnglandSan Diego over Philadelphia

Explain yourself

Campigotto: Wish I had more room for risers and fallers in the NFC. I love Chip Kelly and his tactics, but I think the defending NFC East champion Eagles take a step back. Nick Foles is not posting a 27/2 TD/INT ratio again, and Philly was lucky in the injury department last year. I see the Giants as their mirror image: Eli Manning is not throwing 27 interceptions again (22 was the next-highest total) and New York was ravaged by injuries last year. Meanwhile, the Plexiglass Principle applies to Carolina, and I don't buy trendy Arizona. Not with Carson Palmer at QB. I also think there's a chance the 49ers miss the playoffs (brutal division, aging roster, NaVorro Bowman's knee injury, Aldon Smith's nine-game drug suspension, rumours of coach Jim Harbaugh almost being traded in the off-season) but I pencilled them in anyway because, still, there's too much talent there and Harbaugh is one of the three best coaches in the league. As for the Super Bowl pick, with the league's crackdown on physical defence evident in the pre-season, great passing offences will have a leg up. Peyton Manning's Broncos and Drew Brees's Saints are the best.

Care: I won’t be doing any bragging for picking Seattle over Denver last year, simply because Campigotto constantly reminds me how terrible I’ve been in other years. Having said that, I like the Seahawks even more in 2014. Receiver Percy Harvin — if he can stay healthy — will add a dimension to the offence that’s going to make QB Russell Wilson and the rest of the unit more dangerous. And do I even have to say how great the defence is? I also like the Saints a lot, but no NFC team is going into CenturyLink Field and beating Seattle in January. Denver got all the ink with its free-agentsignings, but New England made the more impactful additions. Corners Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner — after he serves his four-game suspension — along with the return of DT Vince Wilfork make the Pats the clear favourites to come out of the AFC. In the end, Seattle will be the first team to hoist consecutive Lombardi Trophies in a decade. As for my beloved Cowboys: Let’s just say I’m already scouting college ball in preparation for the 2015 draft. You suck the life right out of me, Jerry Jones.

Iorfida: The Pats have no competition in their division and will be better than the team that made it to the AFC final in January. The Titans and/or Jags (4-4 to end '13) will benefit from Indy's first 10 games being a brutal stretch. Denver's terrific, but the Chargers have weapons too, and more snarl on defence. The Lions and Bucs will benefit immensely from bringing in experienced, nice-guy coaches to replace hotheads. Dallas will emphatically break their streak of 8-8 seasons, but not in a good way. Seattle's bid to repeat will fall to a varied offence like Green Bay or Philadelphia. The Super Bowl will pit the game's two next great coaches — Chip Kelly and Mike McCoy. Chargers win.

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