5 bold predictions for the 2014 season
1) Johnny Manziel sees very little playing time during the season: I want to see “Johnny Cleveland” play as much as anyone but I think the powers in Cleveland will take their time and groom him slowly. If he does play it’s out of necessity due to injury.
The Browns own Johnny for five years (and more with Franchise tags) so they can milk his arrival day until next season. If they put him out there this year and he struggles, Browns fans may lose hope once again. Remember, they’ve seen this movie before where the hope of a playoff future is tied to a young arm. So from a development standpoint, marketing and economic philosophy, Browns decision makers will take their time.
2) Big year for Tight Ends: Fantasy football geeks, listen up; Offensive coordinators are busy this off-season designing more multiple TE packages. Don’t be surprised to see some teams using more two TE’s on the field at a time (remember what Harbaugh was doing with TE packages at Stanford).
With defenses spending the last twelve years drafting, coaching and developing corners to cover three and four receiver packages, the pendulum may start swinging the other way. Offenses can create great mismatches by having two and even three TE’s on the field at once. Most defenses don’t have the personnel to defend two big fast and talented TE’s.
I represented a top TE in this year’s draft and was surprised by the teams that were interested in drafting all the top TE’s. Most of these teams already had two good TE’s and wanted more. The top five TE’s taken in this years draft will see plenty of playing time as will those drafted in the first three rounds last year.
3) We will see fewer concussions: Although concussions saw no significant decline last season, I feel like player awareness is higher than ever in terms of avoiding helmet to helmet hits. Constant education, bigger fines for helmet first hits and acceptance of the serious dangers of head trauma seem to have arrived.
The mentality of players was always to hide head trauma when they could, but now they know that nobody is going to think they are weak when they get knocked in the head. With all of the public disclosures from older retired players and coverage lawsuits filed, current players realize it’s something to avoid at all costs.
4) Fewer injuries this season: I’ve taken notice that NFL teams are starting to spend more money and put more resources into the health and well-being of the players. More teams are hiring yoga instructors and body gurus in both the season and off-season. My clients are telling me they are seeing more health options, resources and experts around the building to help them stretch more, eat better and prepare their bodies for the rigors of a season.
I don’t think this is just an NFL owner wanting to take better care of their players. It’s actually coming from the competitive corner from newer head coaches such as Jim Harbaugh, Chip Kelly and Bill O’Brien. Head coaches are getting more involved with things like lunch menus, designer recovery shakes, diet, supplements and bringing outside consultants in to help get the most out of the players bodies. GMs are hesitant on spending their owner’s monies. Coaches on the other hand will spend away.
5) Super Bowl tickets will be astronomical: It doesn’t matter which teams are in the Super Bowl but it will be costly for those looking for tickets. With the Phoenix (Waste Management) Open the same weekend, dependably great weather and a locale in driving range from LA, San Diego and Las Vegas, a warm weather Super Bowl could be explosive. This stinks for the average fan that wants to see his/her team play in the big game because they may not be able to afford it.
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