The NFL kicked off tonight – Football is really here!

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????It’s officially football season!!! College football kicked off last week, and tonight the NFL had its first game between two strong teams – The Green Bay Packers and The Seattle Seahawks, the 2013 Super Bowl winners & NFL champions (I will never use the popular term “World Champions” – that’s a rant for another day, but let me just say…it’s called American football by the rest of the world for a reason). Happy Happy!

Two main thoughts in this post: A few comments inspired by tonight’s’ game and my thoughts on the 2014 NFL Season.

RUNNING BACKS: After watching the game tonight, I have a thought for all the commentators this summer who said that the running back position was losing value in the NFL – did you SEE this game? Marshawn Lynch ran for over 100 yards. His Green Bay counterparts, Eddie Lacy and James Starks, also gained significant offensive yards (They didn’t reach 100 because, in my opinion, the Green Bay offense wasn’t on the field long enough and they were, after all, playing Seattle.) Tonight, the running backs tonight were key in opening the field for the passing game. I know we aren’t seeing as many traditional half-backs and full-backs, but it’s simply a shift. We have also seen the tight end position shift in the last 15 years. Running backs aren’t going away; they will continue to be a critical element in the strategic plan for offenses.

RANDOM SIDE NOTES ABOUT TONIGHT’S GAME: As a Broncos fan, I found slight comfort in Chris Collinsworth’s comment that he was seeing Green Bay have the same problems with Seattle’s rushing defense. Also, shout out to Clemson’s Byron Maxwell for the great defensive play for Seattle! Green Bay keyed in on him to avoid the insanely talented Richard Sherman and he rocked it.

2014 NFL EXPECTATIONS: What teams do I expect to make it to the playoffs and who will be making the first picks in the 2015 NFL draft (because they finish last)? When discussing this topic today on his ESPN radio show, I heard Colin Cowherd make an interesting point. He said the bad teams don’t know they are bad, so everyone shows up ready to win; there’s no way to estimate scores right now. I was talking with my Dad about this today in trying to decide what teams I would select in our “Pick ‘em” pool. He had a similar point to Cowherd; teams like Cleveland, Jacksonville, and Oakland aren’t sitting at practice saying, “Gees, we stink. Let’s just quit.” They are practicing hard, making plays, expecting to win. It’s only after they try to implement their plays against much stronger teams and then can’t make adjustments do they realize their limitations.

Having said that, I have my opinions: First, I think we saw tonight that Seattle is still one of the best teams in the NFL and Green Bay should still be a top competitor. I believe in my Broncos and our awesome QB Peyton Manning (PFM as he’s known in Denver), despite the challenges ahead in September. Tom Brady and the Patriots are always a safe bet, especially if he doesn’t need to recruit receivers off the street like last year. I expect big things from New Orleans and Indianapolis – Andrew Luck is already a top QB in his 3nd year in the NFL. Very unusual. Other teams that seem to keep getting stronger are Kansas City, Philadelphia and Arizona. It really comes down to execution and tenacity for those teams.

I’m curious to see what Cincinnati andDetroit do; they have lots of talent, but can they be a solid team? Plus, Cincinnati has lost their outstanding wide receiver for the year because he couldn’t stay away from weed. Tampa Bay has some interesting new talent and a new coach; will this be a formula for success? I’m definitely keeping an eye on them. I’m also keeping my eyes on Buffalo because I’m partial to the volume of Clemson players, including #4 draft pick Sammy Watkins and running back CJ Spiller. Tennessee has also peaked my curiosity; a new coach, a couple of old QB’s and a talented rookie QB, and a decent defense.

Teams that I expect to have some fantastic games, some terrible games, and end up with a mediocre season are San Diego, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Carolina, Dallas, and Baltimore. All have some great players, but they just aren’t looking to be great teams. I think they are each due some big moves in order to make it to the Super Bowl. I also include Miami in this group of “so-so” teams because they appear to still be rebuilding.

Teams that I think will struggle are Oakland, Jacksonville, Atlanta, NY Giants, NY Jets, Houston, Washington, Minnesota, and St. Louis. I’m just not convinced that the moves they made over the off season are enough to bring success. Most are struggling for a quality QB to lead the team, but a few have amazing QBs with a weak team around them. Cleveland belongs in this group; Sorry Johnny Football – or Johnny Cleveland as you’ve now named yourself (tacky) – but you are not the savior of the city. That was, is, and always will be LeBron’s role.

Football is here! Yay!

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