The 2014 NFL season is not going to start until September, but in reality, the season never really stops. It barely has a chance to pause, as the combine gets going, then the draft, and do not forget about all the off the field drama of the summer months. Players who get their names in the news in June or July have likely done something illegal or at least very dumb. The upcoming season will be thrilling as usual. The NFL never disappoints with the overall product. Even a blowout in the Super Bowl, like last season’s game, does not diminish the greatness of the regular season and the playoffs. There are always a few stories that standout from each season. Here are five stories that could be the ones that are remembered at the end of 2014.
Johnny Manziel takes his team to the playoffs. This possibility is not far-fetched at all. J-Football could land in Houston, which is a team that should have been in the playoffs last season. I could see the rookie quarterback just playing all out and confusing defenses because they have no NFL film on him yet. He could surprise coordinators and defenses alike with his speed and elusiveness. There is something about the kid and even though he may not be a long term star, he can be a one hit wonder like Tebow was in Denver.
Seattle could be another headline that reads, “Hawks Roll Back into Super Bowl“. It is not easy to repeat as champions in any pro sport, especially the NFL. Teams get beat up over extra-long seasons, players get fat and satisfied, coaches lose their freshness with the teams, etc. The Seahawks could be the exception to that rule with the leaders they have on staff. Pete Carroll is the most enthusiastic head coach in the NFL without a doubt, so he will find ways to motivate the champs. At QB they have a young guy who could naturally feel like it is easy to win the Super Bowl, since he did it as a second year player. However, Russell Wilson is just not that type of man. He is well beyond his years in preparation and work ethic. Wilson may rival Andrew Luck for best QB of his generation when their careers reach a finale.
Of course you cannot have an NFL season without Peyton Manning gobbling up huge slabs of media time. The headlines are going to be endless….. Will Peyton get back to the big dance, does the Broncos’ regular season even matter, and the typical question of – is this going to be the last season for Manning. The media loves Manning and the only thing they love more is to talk about #18. Who am I to blame them? I am talking about the guy right now and he is nowhere near a football. If Manning can get back to the Super Bowl, I do wonder how it would be different. If they ran up against Seattle again, I doubt things would change much. But a different opponent with a lesser defense would likely get beaten by the high powered Broncos.
Jadaveon Clowney is not going to go quietly into that good night of 2014. His performance, good or bad, will fill up ESPN air time as well as endless articles about the freak from South Carolina. He is the best defensive player since, fill in your favorite bone crusher, and his exploits on the field in 2014 will resonate for years. If he is a bust then a team will suffer for wasting a top 10 pick for him. If he regularly thrashes opposing linemen on his way to brutalizing their quarterback, then he will draw attention for the right reasons on the field. I expect him to dominate and he will give Johnny Manziel a run for his money when it comes to rookie jersey sales. Clowney took some heat last year for allegedly under performing, so I can see him working hard to erase any doubts that the public may have about him and his abilities.
Last but not least on the list of possible highlights for 2014, is the San Francisco 49ers and their head coach Jim Harbaugh. The 49ers have played in the last three NFC title games and have went to one Super Bowl in that time span. That’s not too shabby and there is no reason to think they cannot be at the top of the heap in the NFC again this year. If the organization can keep themselves from trading their coach, like they almost did a couple months ago in a strange set of events, then the Niners will be fine. Harbaugh, I can imagine, is hard to deal with for management. He is strong willed, a natural born coach, a former QB, and a pure leader, so he does not like taking orders from on high. He is essential to the team’s success, so upper management better learn to deal with the man. The team is intriguing as a headline grabber because of their success on the field, their brilliant young QB, and their head case / head coach. San Fran is maybe the best choice for top story of 2014. They have been on one heck of a run in the past three years. If they can get everything together at the right time, they could be holding the Lombardi Trophy, come 2015.
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