If Rob Gronkowski remains healthy, the Patriots can expect to be playing in Arizona on Feb. 1, 2015. Credit: Getty Images
As much as there is an annual cry for the day after the Super Bowl to be declared a National holiday ... or rather, a National hangover day, Opening Day in the NFL also deserves consideration for time away from work. Watching pro football is without question America’s pastime these days, and the NFL isn’t shy about stringing us along. Week 1 of the NFL season has the most games spread out over a five day timeframe of the entire year, with the action beginning Thursday night and stretching all the way into next Tuesday morning. So, break in that special spot on the couch. It’s football season.
A few 2014 predictions:
The Patriots will win Super Bowl XLIX Ten years after beating the Philadelphia Eagles to win their last Super Bowl, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will once again hoist the Lombardi Trophy, again at the expense of the Philadelphia Eagles. The main reason why the Pats couldn’t keep pace with the league’s elite last year was because of numerous injuries to key players. Rarely are the football gods that cruel, injury-wise, to one franchise in back-to-back years.
Aaron Rodgers will win league MVP A quarterback has won the league MVP award in six of the last seven years. In other words, it takes a historic season by a running back to swipe the award from a signal-caller. Defenses will be kept honest when playing Green Bay as Eddie Lacy’s running ability will allow Rodgers to pick opponents apart.
Biggest surprise: The Philadelphia Eagles win the NFC There’s going to be many weeks this season in which people say, “Wow, this Chip Kelly guy is just that good.” But the biggest reason the Eagles will be in Glendale, Arizona in 150 days is because of the teams they play. The NFC East as a whole is down once again and the Eagles play the 12th easiest schedule in the NFL. Plus, NFC favorites, the Seahawks and 49ers, are due to regress this season.
Biggest bust: The 49ers miss the playoffs Things are unraveling in San Francisco. It would have been hard enough for a team to make the NFC Championship game for a fourth straight year, but the Niners haven’t done themselves any favors this offseason. Half of their defense is either injured or in legal trouble and their coach nearly landed in Cleveland.
Biggest storyline: The year of the PED Soon to be gone are the days of people looking the other way when a football player is “roided up.” There’s already some concussion discussion fatigue going on and people will need something new to rail against. Perhaps Wes Welker shifted the discussion single-handedly. Alleged Molly use will give way to talk about the NFL’s true drug of choice: HGH.
We like the Pats over the Eagles in Super Bowl XLIX but there’s plenty to figure out before we get there:
• AFC playoff teams: Patriots, Broncos, Texans, Bengals, Chargers, Jets • NFC playoff teams: Eagles, Packers, Falcons, Seahawks, Bears, Cardinals • AFC title game: Patriots over Chargers • NFC title game: Eagles over Packers • Rushing champion: LeSean McCoy, Eagles • Passing yards champion: Matthew Stafford, Lions • Receiving yards champion: Julio Jones, Falcons • First head coach to be fired: Doug Marrone, Bills • Coach of the year: Chip Kelly, Eagles • Team with the worst record: Jacksonville Jaguars • Offensive rookie of the year: Brandin Cooks, WR, Saints • Defensive rookie of the year: Ryan Shazier, LB, Steelers
Follow Metro Boston sports editor and columnist Matt Burke on Twitter:@BurkeMetroBOS