Culture of Hoops

2015 NFL Season Preview: Top 10 Storylines

Image courtesy of Andrew Campbell/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Andrew Campbell/Flickr.

AFC Division Previews: AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West
NFC Division Previews: NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West
Preseason Power Rankings | Top 10 Storylines | NFL Players on New Teams | Top 10 Offensive Players | Top 10 Defensive Players | NFL Rookie of the Year | Breakout Players | Bust Players

Position Lists: Top 20 By Position List | Top QBs to Target | Top RBs to Target | Top WRs to Target | Top TEs to Target | Top Ks to Target | Top Team D/STs to Target
Sleepers | Shouldn’t Drafts | Rookies | Breakout Players | Draft Strategy

For many reasons, this offseason was easily the biggest in the last 20 years for the sport of American football. Whether it was off-the-field spending or off-the-field trouble, something was happening every weekend for the NFL. This year’s break was dominated by a story blown so far out of proportion it has thrusted itself onto the backburner of NFL storylines. I will mention this witch hunt for its relevance, however minuscule, and its meaning to this season it may have. This top ten will concentrate solely on football, not policy.

I hope you enjoy reading this part of BMF Sports’ 2015 NFL Season Preview as much as I did writing it. Welcome back, football! Oh how I have missed you!

I absolutely did not want to put the ridiculousness that is “deflate-gate” in here, but it’s too relevant in national news to ignore. Whichever side you take one fact remains, it was an equipment violation. A small violation that has gotten blown way out of proportion by national and local media coverage. It takes away from real stories like the skills of different players and the adversity some rookies overcome to achieve success in this wonderful league. It steals the thunder away from football. Unfortunately, at the end of the day it’s been the biggest story in football. So there you go Rodger Goodell, recognition. The other 31 NFL teams should remember though, the last time the New England Patriots were accused of cheating they did not lose a regular season game. Beware league, you’ve been warned.

Now that I have taken the trash out, let’s get to some real NFL storylines!

9. Adrian Peterson is back, could he win comeback player of the year again?
Adrian Peterson was surprisingly the subject of national conversation in one of the most controversial off-the-field issues last season. Not for his insane running abilities, but for his parenting. Once pictures of the “discipline” Peterson dealt to his four year old son were released, everyone had an opinion. Whatever your opinion might be, mine is very simple and football related. Regardless of guilt or innocence, the man can carry the rock with overwhelmingly favorable results.

After being out of football for a full season, Peterson’s body must be healthier than ever. For the first time in his career, a halfway decent and mobile quarterback will be at the helm of this offense taking some heat off of AP. Also, the addition of speedster wide receiver Mike Wallace will limit the options for opposing defenses who want to stack the box. Peterson has lacked a star wide receiver teammate and longed for one his entire professional career. What does any of this have to do with Adrian Peterson winning the Comeback Player of the Year award? Nothing.

The sole reason I believe Adrian Peterson will win that award is because of his new offensive coordinator, Norv Turner. Turner has produced five different season leading rushers: Emmitt Smith ’91-’93, Ricky Williams 2003, LaDainian Tomlinson 2007. Two of those players undoubtedly do not have anywhere near the same ability as Adrian Peterson. With Peterson at Turner’s disposal, a career year could be in store. Peterson paired with Turner is a recipe for the second Comeback Player of the Year award in AP’s career, maybe even a second MVP award.

8. Will all the money spent in Miami make a splash?
The Miami Dolphins could not wait to open their checkbook once this season’s free agency frenzy began.

Problems catching the ball? Throw money at Greg Jennings. He’s not enough? Fire a few bucks at Jordan Cameron. We need defense too? Okay, Ndamukong Suh here’s a blank check. Most of the biggest free agent names ended up taking their talents to South Beach for this season, certainly improving the fishes’ chances of moving out of the ginormous shadow cast by big brother Patriot in the AFC East.

On paper they seem to be the best suited to take down the AFC East dictatorship that is New England but paper doesn’t play football. Only time will tell if making it rain on player contracts will benefit the Dolphins who are currently on an eight season playoff drought.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been named by most experts as the player who will improve most from his sophomore season. With the additions of Greg Jennings and big target tight end Jordan Cameron, along with the development of second year man Jarvis Landry, Tannehill certainly has the talent around him to excel. All that remains is the product to be seen on the field. After all that money being spent, it’s AFC championship or bust for the fish.

7. Chip Kelly’s Eagles flying the nest
While the Miami Dolphins were bringing in big name players, the newly appointed king of the Philadelphia Eagles personnel was shipping key names out. Since assuming control of essentially every roster move in Philly, Chip Kelly has certainly been turning heads all over the league. Releasing DeSean Jackson two seasons ago was one thing, but this offseason seemed as if the power had gone to the offensive mastermind’s head.

Once the Super Bowl was over, Chip was on the phone. After a few weeks, Nick Foles was on his way to St. Louis and Sam Bradford was looking at property in the city of brotherly love. Kelly was only beginning to ruffle the feathers of the faithful Philly fans. Next to be encouraged to spread his wings was none other than LeSean McCoy. Shady was migrating north for the winter to Buffalo for linebacker Kiko Alanzo within weeks of Foles departure.

That move almost incited a state wide riot. At that point Eagles owner and upper management were in full panic mode because all player moves were the responsibility of Kelly, so there was no way out for them. Kelly either knew all along he would land the big fish in free agency, or he was desperate because of the public backlash of his recent moves. So when the news of the Demarco Murray signing was released, the rest of the country heard Pennsylvania let out a sign of release. The loudest of all most certainly was heard from Chip Kelly’s office.

No McCoy, no Jackson, no Foles and that’s without considering the losses on defense. So it’s Bradford to Jordan Matthews and Murray out of the backfield for the highest paced offense ever. Chip better hope they get back to the playoffs or he will be the next Eagle forced to fly the nest at the conclusion of this season.

6. Is there life after Murray?
Demarco Murray in Philly leaves a gaping hole in the backfield of the Dallas Cowboys. Murray finished last year as the league’s best running back by amassing close to 2,000 yards behind one of the league’s best offensive lines. While just about anybody could run well behind that wall of a line in Dallas, Murray is an exceptional talent and will be missed almost immediately, right? It begs the question: Does Dallas know something we don’t?

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones tends to go above and beyond when signing players to his team he feels are a necessity. So why did he let Murray go to his team’s divisional rival? It has to be the workload Murray received in 2014. Last season DeMarco Murray carried the ball 392 times. That’s 185 times more than his previous career high, a lot of punishment even for a 27-year-old body. More carries of course means more hits. Unfortunately, history says that once a running back carries the ball more than 370 times in a season he has a severe drop off the following season.

Whether it’s injury or a lackluster performance, unless your Eric Dickerson 370 carries spells doom for running backs. Larry Johnson carried the rock for an NFL record 416 times in 2006, but played only eight games in the next season. Ricky Williams had 392 carries in 2003 and only 168 carries in 12 games in 2004. You see the trend here? 370 carries in a season is too much for most any back to endure. Both of the players listed above are merely a sample size of the extensive proof that 370 carries is too much.

Cowboy fans need not worry about their backfield because the awesome offensive line would make me look like a pro-bowler. Joseph Randle is a speedy back who will fit in perfectly with that offense. So to answer my own question: Yes, there will be life after Murray. The question is now for Murray and his new team: Will there be life after 370?

Image courtesy of Neon Tommy/Flickr

Image courtesy of Neon Tommy/Flickr

5. History will be unfair to one of these quarterbacks

2015: (1) Jameis Winston (2) Marcus Mariota
2012: (1) Andrew Luck (2) Robert Griffin III
1999: (1) Tim Couch (2) Donovan McNabb
1998: (1) Peyton Manning (2) Ryan Leaf
1993: (1) Drew Bledsoe (2) Rick Mirer
1971: (1) Jim Plunkett (2) Archie Manning

That is the list of the six occasions in NFL history when quarterbacks have been selected number one and two overall in the draft. 2012 happen to be the first time in over a decade it took place when Andrew Luck and RGIII went one and two respectively. History repeated itself at this year’s draft when Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota did the same because history has a funny way of repeating itself, especially with quarterbacks being drafted in those spots. The past tells us that one of the “studs” taken first and second overall will not succeed in the NFL.

For the sake of this argument we are going to remove the 1978 draft of Jim Plunkett and Archie Manning because football has changed mightily since then and it didn’t happen again until 1993. That draft had Bledsoe and Mirer going one and two. Does anybody 30 or younger even know who Rick Mirer is? Exactly. Five years later had Manning and Leaf. Ryan Leaf is in jail, enough said. The very next year it was Tim Couch going first followed by Donavan McNabb. 2012, Luck and RGIII. Every instance only one of these players becomes somewhat successful while the other ends up a backup QB for the Browns or Rams. Which brings us to the one-two combo of this year.

Jameis Winston to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Marcus Mariota to the Tennessee Titans. One and two. Uh-oh, Seminole fans. Bad news, Ducks. One of these college football gods isn’t going to make it as an everyday NFL quarterback. That’s right, history is the best example and has stayed true even with the most recent loser RGIII. Without question, this will be the last season he starts. RGIII is already on his way out as his counter part Andrew Luck gets better each season.

So who will it be this year? Winston or Mariota? Maybe they will both be good, breaking the curse of first and second overall quarterbacks. Maybe not. Better pay attention. The curse will.

4. Is J.J. Watt human?
Once the season finally ended for the Houston Texans, defensive player of the year JJ Watt had one thing in mind. Football. Seriously, football ended and he wanted to get better at football! Anyone who has a job can appreciate that. Watt wanted to do it so to improve his ability on the field he planned to train intensely off the field. He did so by renting a cabin in the middle of nowhere in Wisconsin.

After months of intense training Watt joined back up with his team for voluntary workouts. He then posted this video primarily to scare opposing quarterbacks into submission:


Yup, that’s a man close to 300-pound of muscle jumping from a standing position onto a 61- inch stack of boxes. I was scared and I don’t play professional football. You better believe the rest of the offensive players in the AFC South are. If it is possible, J.J. Watt might be better than he was last year due to his superb physical abilities, a daunting thought if you posses the football against his team.

I’ll be tuning into every game Watt is playing. He single handily kept him team in football games last season, as a defensive end! He had more touchdowns than some running backs. His playing level and skill is second to none in the NFL. Watt is a treat to watch and a wonderful role model for any youth interested in football, but I’ll be watching to see if he can actually decapitate a quarterback.

3. A broken jaw may lead to a better offense.
Fights are a part of the NFL, especially during training camps. More so during training camps, guys are fighting for a job so emotions are running high on the practice field. Every year there are brawls or scuffles that are recorded in nearly every camp in the league. So news about a fight in the New York Jets locker room shouldn’t be surprising, but it’s the Jets.

Only the New York Jets can allow a small financial dispute ($600) to turn into a broken jaw for quarterback Geno Smith. Ex-Jet, now Buffalo Bills linebacker IK Enemkpali hauled off and sucker punched an undersized Geno Smith one day after practice. The punch broke Smith’s jaw and led to facial surgery that will cost Smith six to ten weeks of the regular season. Amazingly, the Jets might be better off with backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm of this offense.

New Jets head coach Jets Chan Galey and Fitzpatrick have a strong history from their time in Buffalo. During which Fitzpatrick had some of the best statistical seasons of his career. Also it’s hard for Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall to not come down with a jump ball with the size both wideouts have. And frankly Fitzpatrick is a better quarterback than Geno Smith.

So this sucker punch could lead to a better outcome in the long run for the Jets. A situation for the new coach, an aging quarterback, and an impatient fan base that could end up working out or lead to an ugly season. Jets fans won’t be thanking Enemkpali yet but that might change mid-season. Geno Smith might be fighting for a job when returns. That broken jaw may only be the beginning of the end for Geno.

2. 40 last year. 50 this year? More?
Andrew Luck is hands down the the next best thing in the NFL. Luck came in and made an immediate impact upon being selected by the Colts first overall in 2012. His entire team can’t stop raving about what an excellent leader he is, and last year, in only his third season, he threw 40 touchdown passes.
He did all this with Reggie Wayne unavailable for most of the season, meaning he tossed 40 scores with only T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Colby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. Aside from Hilton, none of those pass catchers would have caught any balls on any other team last season yet they all had a major part of Luck’s 40. That speaks volumes of Luck’s abilities.

His weapons have only gotten more dangerous. Reggie Wayne is returning for another season in tip-top playing shape, and the young T.Y Hilton is certain to improve. Above all else, the addition of future Hall of Famer Andre Johnson will help catapult Andrew Luck into elite status. Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener have clearly found a home in splitting time in Indianapolis. This season looks to be a historic one for the bearded Luck with the studs in place .

In his rookie season, Luck tossed 23 touchdowns to 18 interceptions. The following year had 23 touchdowns again but cut the interceptions in half. Then there was last year…wow! Luck exploded by chucking 40 touchdowns, unreal numbers for a guy who’s only been around for three seasons.

Peyton Manning’s touchdown record could be in jeopardy.

1. NFL, L.A. bound?
The end of the relationship between the NFL and the city of Los Angeles is nearly old enough to drink. That’s right, no professional football has been played in the city of angels since 1995! Hard to believe, especially for guys my dad’s age. With such a long absence from a major market, talks are getting hotter than they ever have before in NFL offices to bring the product back. Up until the last couple of years the talks have been just that, talks. This season could be the final season of an NFL drought in L.A.

The Rams made Los Angeles their home from 1946 to 1994, leaving serious history behind for the city to be reminded of every time the St. Louis Rams came to play the 49ers or the Chargers. At one point, L.A. proved itself to be a rare market in being able to support two teams.

Los Angeles supported the Rams as well as the L.A. Raiders for 20 years. In 1982, the Raiders made the move from a deteriorating Oakland Coliseum to a brand new stadium for Al Davis and the boys built by the wonderful city. Who wouldn’t make the jump? That’s how it was in L.A. for a couple of decades. If the Rams sucked you could watch the Raiders and vice-versa, but what if both teams are horrible?

That’s what happened in the early 90’s. For their own, separate reasons both the Rams and Raiders couldn’t buy a win and the fan base started checking out on the teams. Before they knew it, people would rather not got to a game than watch either L.A. team take the field. So the Rams were the first to go in 1994 followed two years later by their city splitters. By 1996, L.A. didn’t have to choose between bad teams because they had no teams to watch.

The league is closer than ever to having football back in the big city 19 years after the drought began. Current owner of the St. Louis Rams Stanley Kroenke is a billionaire so it is no surprise that he has prime time landscape in the city of Los Angeles and plans to build a football stadium. Now of course that will not make the NFL go there, but to not have the expense or responsibility of building a stadium will absolutely sway them the way towards L.A.

A lot of moving pieces still have to be put in place before any decision is announced to the public. Another piece of great news for NFL in L.A. is the recent announcement of L.A. having the best chance in the country of hosting the Olympics in 2024 which they would need a stadium for soccer. You listening Kroenke? The door is unlocked. You just need to convince the NFL to help you open it.

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