(*Note: Our preview is broken up into four tiers for clarity and easy consumption. The teams below in tier 4, have no playoff expectations, but are hoping to field a respectable team. All would be ecstatic with a 7-9 record, but understand that being in the Jadeveon Clowney sweepstakes is likely their future.)
The bottom of the NFL pit is filled with the broken fibulas, deferred dreams and outdated resumes. Each year there are a group of teams who through ghastly draft choices, mismanaged free agent signings and too many fools in decision-making positions, find the dawn of a new season to be proof positive of their failings. Regardless of what best-case scenario speeches given or new trick play gadgetry installed, their season will come apart at the seams before the Autumnal Equinox even has a chance to take place. These are those teams. (Law And Order “Dun-Dun.”)
Oakland Raiders— Outside of Darren McFadden, who on this roster keeps opposing teams working late nights in their film rooms? You’re still struggling to come up with a name aren’t you? The fact that former Ohio St QB Terrelle Pryor is in the running to start is only a positive if you’re a broken Raiders fan grasping for a straw. There are shoulder shrugs and down the roster, plus they even got rid of star punter Shane Lechler. It’s going to be a long season in the Bay.
Jacksonville Jaguars—Shake your head in agreement if you feel me on the notion that this is the most irrelevant franchise in the League. I’ve never met one single Jags fan in my life. Remember, this is a team that up until recently suffered local TV blackouts on a regular basis. Point being, there’s a lot not to like here. Franchise back Maurice Jones-Drew is on board and healthy again and they’re hoping to get something from their rookies, but then what? A shaky QB in Blaine Gabbert, a WR with a taste for the sauce in Justin Blackmon and a bunch of “maybe men” on defense add up to a 3-13 type of storm brewing in northeastern Florida.
NY Jets –The new GM wants to fire Rex Ryan, but doesn’t want to pay him for it. He also wants to get rid of Mark Sanchez, but the same hurdle exists. Not to mention, the cabinet is mostly bare talent-wise. Does Santonio Holmes have anything to offer? Will they continue with Center Nick Mangold as the best player on the team? Will rookie CB Dee Milliner provide an adequate replacement for Darrelle Revis? There are more questions than answers for the other team at MetLife Stadium. This thing might get Miley Cyrus ugly.
Cleveland Browns –– RB Trent Richrdson has ability, is fun to watch and will be a top ten back in no time. He’ll be the Browns’ version of Kyrie Irving. Rookie LB Barkevious Mingo went through a scare in training camp with a lung injury, but is said to be recovering well. Second year QB Brandon Weeden is on the clock with showing what his upside looks like, and if he falters, the team will be in the hunt for their play caller of the future yet again. On the flip side, corner Joe Haden is a star in the making. If they weren’t in the AFC North, maybe we could talk with optimism. But this is where they are and going even 2-4 in the division will be cause for a celebration. Stealing LB Paul Kruger from the Ravens will help, but there are just too many holes to fill.
Buffalo Bills — It’s real on these Ralph Wilson Stadium streets. Every time Bills fans get a flicker of hope like they did two years ago with a 5-2 jump off and the hot start of then QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, someone comes over and blows the candle out. Angry and hurt that they haven’t made the postseason since Hillary Clinton was the First Lady, this year’s Draft was a reason for Bills fans to get amped. QB EJ Manuel looked good all through the summer and write-ups were positive, and then he got hurt. Making matters worse, presumed back-up Kevin Kolb suffered another concussion and now the opening day starter looks to be Jeff “The Tuel-Man” Tuel. If you said who, don’t feel bad, even his college coach is surprised. They have some attack dogs at the RB spot, and Stevie Johnson can still play, but after that who knows. Defensively they have some issues with stopping the run, and safety Jairus Byrd has plantar fasciitis so keeping scores low will be a problem. If they can get Manuel up and going early enough, maybe they can get this thing moving in the right direction. However, if they lose some early “should wins,” it’s going to fall apart all over again.
Tennessee Titans — What exactly is the plan here? Seems like this franchise has been spinning in circles for the last few seasons with no change in sight. They brought safety Bernard Pollard over from BMore to help shore up the secondary, but outside of him, this defense scares no one. QB Jake Locker has yet to prove anything and though Chris Johnson is still dangerous on the outside, the unbalanced passing game will result in a lot of frustrated Sundays for him and anyone who got hustled into drafting him on their fantasy team. The biggest news here is that former Saints DC Gregg “I Am BountyGate” Williams apparently has a damn good agent.