Over at nfl.com, there's a nice article for things to watch for this season - http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000385062/article/xlix-things-to-watch-throughout-the-2014-nfl-season
and I really like it, but it's missing something and that maybe is a predictive outlook from events that have occurred during the off season until now.
The team that jumps out to me is SF, w/the recent suspension of DE/LB Aldon Smith for 9 games, the unavailability of LB Bowman for at least 6 games (much more likely 10-12 games), and the ineffectiveness of the SF offense in preseason, I suspect SF will not reach 10 wins this year.
In fact they may lose their first game of the season @DAL, due to an offense that can't score and a D that can't contain without their All-Pro players. Sure DAL D looks really weak this season, but their O appears to be the best they have had for several seasons. DAL is known to swoon in DEC, not in SEPT. This should be an interesting opener for DAL and SF.
ARI may pull into the #2 slot of the NFC West despite all the unfavorable things that have occurred during the off season. Yes Dockett with his season ending injury and LB Washington with his suspension appears to be eerily similar to SF. That leaves perhaps STL with a window of opportunity and for their well travelled QB Shaun Hill. STL played well at times for the past couple of seasons, but untimely penalties really hampered their efforts. If their youthful players can get into a better mindset, I would believe they will make the ascent to at least the #2 position in the NFC West and perhaps a playoff spot
Another team, that may ascend or descend is ATL. Last season injuries really derailed this team, this season they appear to be much healthier and may challenge NO (who appears to be the top dog in NFC South, due to CAR O looking like a work in progress).
Earlier prior to training camp, I was thinking TB would be on the upswing as well, except this preseason, their OL appears to have some real issues. Though they have recently traded for All-Pro LG Mankins, will this be enough? They also picked up a guard from KC (presumably for RG), but they haven't had time to gell together (due to lateness of acquisitions), which would lead me to believe that TB could be 0-4 (vs CAR, vs STL, @ATL, @PIT) at the start of this season.
It's hard to believe that either NYG will be any better this year, NYJ seems to be in the same realm and I'm afraid the other NY team, BUF, will also be struggling due to O woes. You could also categorize the teams from Florida in this manner as well. JAC, MIA and TB appear to have a better than average defense, but their offense lack that scoring ability with a QB-WR or QB-TE that is insync. They may all need to rely on a running game and here the nod may go to TB or perhaps even JAC over MIA for a decent running game.
California is the only other state with 3 NFL teams and OAK, SF and SD all appear to have issues. OAK may be the bottom of the barrel this year. SD does have an offense, but recent injuries to defense, leads me to believe they'll need to win high scoring games. SF appears ready for the downslope trend, but I may be exaggerating their demise to soon...
just a few thoughts on this upcoming season....