32 in 32ish: NFL Preview — Dallas Cowboys

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Over the course of 32 days (or so) I will be previewing all 32 NFL teams, followed by an overall season prediction post, leading up to the start of the 2014 season. This post is previewing the Dallas Cowboys.

The Cowboys have finished each of the last three seasons with an 8-8 record, but if their defense is as bad as people think it might be this season, they might not reach the .500 mark this year. The team has never had a winning record under head coach Jason Garrett and another bad season could mean the end of his tenure in Dallas.

The Cowboys’ offense scored the fifth-most points in the league last year, but the defense gave up the seventh-most points, causing the team to lose some high-scoring games including a 51-48 loss against the Broncos. QB Tony Romo had a decent season with 3828 passing yards and 31 touchdowns despite missing week 17 with a back injury. His favorite targets are WR Dez Bryant and TE Jason Witten, who combined to catch 166 balls for over 2000 yards and 21 touchdowns. Rookie WR Terrance Williams had over 700 receiving yards and five touchdowns in just eight starts last year. RB DeMarco Murray ran for more than 1100 yards and nine touchdowns,

Romo is coming off offseason back surgery but is expected to be fully recovered by the start of the season. If he can stay healthy he should have another good year, especially if Williams has a breakout year in his second season, as you might expect him to have after the good numbers he put up last season when he started just half the team’s games. But the defense, which is expected to be even worse than last year, will probably hurt the Cowboys’ win-loss record again this year. The nondivisional games on the schedule that appear to be the toughest for the Cowboys include an opening game against the 49ers, a road game at Seattle, and home games against the Saints and Colts. The offense should be able to put points on the scoreboard, but if the defense is as bad as it could be the Cowboys may be hard-pressed to match their 8-8 records of the last couple years.

Source: http://www.dallascowboys.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

32 in 32ish: NFL Preview — New York Jets

Over the course of 32 days (or so) I will be previewing all 32 NFL teams, followed by an overall season prediction post, leading up to the start of the 2014 season. This post is previewing the New York Jets.

It’s been more than 40 years since the Jets last made the Super Bowl, and with an and an offense that ranked near the bottom of the league last year, it’s not looking like they’ll make it anytime soon without big improvements to the team. QB Geno Smith didn’t have a good year as a rookie in 2013, but if he doesn’t see much improvement this year, the team has a viable backup behind him that they can turn to in veteran QB Michael Vick. It’ll be up to head coach Rex Ryan to manage them in the way that best benefits the team.

Smith ranked 21st in the league last year with 3046 passing yards and his 12 touchdown passes put him 28th in the league, behind quarterbacks like Sam Bradford and Josh McCown who started just seven and five games, respectively; Smith started all 16 for the Jets. Meanwhile, Smith’s 21 interceptions were the fourth worst in the league. Smith’s receiving core wasn’t that good either. The team’s top pass catcher, WR Jeremy Kerley, had just 43 catches for 523 yards and three touchdowns. RB Bilal Powell got the most starts at the position but he finished second on the team in rushing yards to Chris Ivory’s 833. The offseason signing of former Titans RB Chris Johnson — who has never had fewer than 1000 rushing yards in a season — could shake up the position in 2014.

Smith has been named the starter to begin the season but Vick will likely take over the job by season’s end. A team probably doesn’t sign a player like Vick to have him hold a clipboard while Smith plays. The situation at running back should also be interesting. Does Johnson eventually start over the returning guys? The Jets’ schedule is front-loaded with tough games, playing five of their first 10 games against teams that made the playoffs last year before easing a bit after their bye.

Source: http://www.newyorkjets.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

32 in 32ish: NFL Preview — New England Patriots

Over the course of 32 days (or so) I will be previewing all 32 NFL teams, followed by an overall season prediction post, leading up to the start of the 2014 season. This post is previewing the New England Patriots.

The Patriots have been the model of consistency since the turn of the century, making the playoffs 11 times since 2001, including three Super Bowl championships. With head coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady still at the helm of the team, you should expect another successful season for the team. The Patriots have won 12 games each of the last two seasons and a third straight season is definitely possible. If everything goes right for the team, more than a dozen wins isn’t out of the question, especially since their division is a fairly easy one.

Some people considered Brady’s 2013 season to be a disappointment, but his 4343 passing yards put him sixth in the league in that category and his 25 touchdown passes had him missing the top 10 by one. Most teams would probably like to have a quarterback put up those kinds of numbers. Brady’s numbers look even more impressive when you consider that his top target, TE Rob Gronkowski, played only seven games — six starts — and caught just 39 balls. WR Julian Edelman led the team in receptions, with 105 for 1056 yards. The drop-off to the second-most receptions was significant; WR Danny Amendola had 54 catches in just six starts. No running back started more than seven games for the Pats, and that was LaGarrette Blount, who is with the Steelers this season. The team’s returning running backs, Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen combined for just shy of 1000 yards in seven total starts.

If guys like Gronk and Amendola can stay healthy — a big “if” considering their injury histories the last couple of seasons — this offense should be able to compete with any other team in the league. The Pats play a couple tough defenses in the first few weeks of the season, with back-to-back primetime games against the Chiefs and Bengals, who ranked fifth and sixth in defense, respectively, last season. Other obstacles on the schedule include a likely shootout at home against the Broncos before the Pats’ bye. After the bye, they face three games that could be tough: at the Colts, home against the Lions and at the Packers. The Pats finish the season with three divisional games, one against each of their in-division rivals. Again, the AFC East should be the Pats’ to lose if they play anywhere near their expectations.

Source: http://www.patriots.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

32 in 32ish: NFL Preview — Miami Dolphins

 

Over the course of 32 days (or so) I will be previewing all 32 NFL teams, followed by an overall season prediction post, leading up to the start of the 2014 season. This post is previewing the Miami Dolphins.

2013 was not a good season for the Dolphins. The team finished with a .500 record, but that’s not what people are going to remember about the season. What people will remember is the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin bullying scandal that dominated the headlines for much of the season and led to both players leaving the team.

On the field, the offense ranked in the bottom third of the league. QB Ryan Tannehill had decent numbers, throwing for 3913 yards and 24 touchdowns. WRs Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline both had good years. Wallace caught 73 passes for 930 yards and five scores while Hartline caught 76 ballsPatriots for 1016 yards and four touchdowns. TE Charles Clay added another 69 for 759 and found the endzone six times. RB Lamar Miller got most of the running duties, starting 15 games with just over 700 yards and two touchdowns while the number two RB Daniel Thomas ran for 406 yards and four scores.

Looking ahead, with the core of the offense returning from last season — for better or worse — you probably can’t expect much of an improvement over last season’s 8-8 record because the players’ talent is what it is. It looks like the Dolphins should expect to play in a few shootouts with games against teams with strong offensive attacks, such the Packers, Bears, Lions, Broncos and of course two after the division-rival Patriots. It’s looking like a six- to eight-win season for the Joe Philbin-led team.

Source: http://www.miamidolphins.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

32 in 32ish: NFL Preview — Buffalo Bills

Over the course of 32 days (or so) I will be previewing all 32 NFL teams, followed by an overall season prediction post, leading up to the start of the 2014 season. This post is previewing the Buffalo Bills.

It’s been a while since the Bills made the playoffs. It was the 1999 season, to be exact. They haven’t seen much success since then, with only one winning season — a 9-7 record in 2004 — and they’ve gone 6-10 in each of the last three seasons. So head coach Doug Marrone has his work cut out for him if he wants to lead the team to a playoff spot in his second year with the club.

In his rookie season last year, QB EJ Manuel played 10 games — all starts — and didn’t have great results. He averaged fewer than 200 yards per game passing and threw for just 11 touchdowns. His backups, Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel, weren’t great either when filling in for him. As for who the quarterbacks were throwing to, TE Scott Chandler led the team in receiving yards with 655. WR Stevie Johnson, who led his position in receiving yards (597), is no longer with the team after signing with the 49ers in the offseason. The running game was split between RBs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, who had a fairly even split in rushing yards — 933 and 890, respectively — but Jackson had a commanding lead in rushing touchdowns, nine to two.

With the exception of Johnson, most of the offense returns in 2014. Manuel will need a significant improvement over last year’s numbers for the team to have a chance at an improved record over last season. The Bills took WR Sammy Watkins with their first-round pick in this year’s draft. He looks like he could be a playmaker, but he obviously hasn’t done it in the NFL yet so, for now, he is still an unproven commodity. Looking at the Bills’ schedule, they open the season at the Bears with other tough games including a visit to Detroit, a home game against the Chiefs, and back-to-back contests at the Broncos and hosting the Packers. Could it be a fourth straight 6-10 season for the Bills? Maybe. It’s definitely looking like another sub-.500 season in Buffalo.

Source: http://www.buffalobills.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

32 in 32ish: NFL Preview — Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Over the course of 32 days (or so) I will be previewing all 32 NFL teams, followed by an overall season prediction post, leading up to the start of the 2014 season. This post is previewing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After back-to-back losing seasons, the Buccaneers got rid of head coach Greg Schiano and hired former Bears coach Lovie Smith to replace him. It was a tumultuous season at quarterback for the team as QB Josh Freeman started the first three games of the season before being released in early October. The Bucs hope for a better season at the quarterback position this year after signing Josh McCown, who had a good season in relief of Jay Cutler in Chicago last season.

After Freeman threw for just 571 yards and two touchdowns in his three starts in 2013, QB Mike Glennon started the team’s remaining 13 games, throwing for 2608 yards with 19 touchdowns, which are decent numbers but not certainly not Pro Bowl material. WR Vincent Jackson was the team’s leading receiver with 1224 yards and seven touchdowns. In the running game, second-year RB Doug Martin was unable to match the success he had a rookie in 2012 as he was limited to just six games in his sophomore season due to injuries. So the bulk of the running-back duties were handled by Bobby Rainey and Mike James, who combined for fewer than 900 rushing yards and just five touchdowns in nine starts.

Change in the offense was inevitable for 2014 as the 2013 Bucs ranked 30th in points scored and 32nd in offensive yards. If McCown can match the stats he put up in his time on the field in Chicago last year, that should be an improvement over the Freeman-Glennon quarterback combo of a season ago. Likewise, if Martin can return from his injury-plagued season and come close to his 2012 numbers — nearly 1500 rushing yards with 11 rushing touchdowns — it’ll help the team score more and not be near or at the bottom of the league in the key offensive categories. Looking ahead at the schedule, it looks like there are a couple of tough stretches for the Bucs, including back-to-back-to-back games against the Steelers, Saints and Ravens leading up to their week 7 bye. And the Bucs host the Packers and their second game against the Saints in the last two weeks of the season, which could pose a problem if they need to win those games for a playoff spot. But that may be getting a bit ahead of ourselves. While the team should improve upon last season’s 4-12 record, it may not be a playoff team quite yet. But I can see an eight- or nine-win season for Tampa Bay.

32 in 32ish: NFL Preview — New Orleans Saints

Over the course of 32 days (or so) I will be previewing all 32 NFL teams, followed by an overall season prediction post, leading up to the start of the 2014 season. This post is previewing the New Orleans Saints.

The Saints bounced back with an 11-5 record last year after finishing 7-9 in 2012. With Drew Brees at quarterback and one of the best tight ends in the league — if not the best — it’s hard not to expect them to have another good year this season. They finished second in the division last year, but with the defending division champions expected to not do as we,, this year, the NFC South may be the Saints’ to win.

The Saints finished with the league’s 10th-best offense in points scored and 4th best in yards gained last year, so is it any wonder that Brees had another good year? While his 5162 passing yards and 39 touchdowns were both good enough to be second best in the league, behind Peyton Manning’s record-breaking season, they were actually his worst numbers since 2010. Brees did lose a couple offensive weapons in the offseason — RB Darren Sproles and WR Lance Moore — who accounted for more than 100 receptions between them in 2013.

With the losses of veterans like Sproles and Moore come opportunities for younger players. For the Saints, that means more playing time for WR Kenny Stills and RB Khiry Robinson, both second-year players who put up respectable numbers in limited time on the field during their rookie seasons. WR Brandin Cooks, a first-round pick in this year’s draft, is also going to try to make a name for himself as he sees his first NFL action this season. The Saints’ schedule doesn’t look to difficult this year as they have just five games against teams that made the playoffs last season. If the offense does close to what it did last year again in 2014, another double-digit win season shouldn’t be hard for the Saints to achieve. And if they can get 11 or 12 wins, the division title should be theirs.

Source: http://www.neworleanssaints.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com