Training camps bring optimism, wild predictions
NFL training camps all over the nation have kicked off this week, and while these summer practice sessions aren’t all that exciting unless a rookie is supplanting a veteran or a superstar holds out, they do inspire hope that won’t necessarily be around a few weeks into the regular season.
As players, new and old, trickle into their respective camps, optimism blossoms across the football landscape. Blind faith replaces the gut-wrenching feeling of disappointment residing in 31 of the 32 fan bases. Incoming rookies and free agents bring a renewed hope, and veterans coming off breakout years make believers out of even the most skeptical fans.
With this burgeoning optimism come wild predictions for the upcoming season like the Rams contending in the NFC West or that Matt Flynn is the answer in Oakland.
So, along those lines, I’m going to make some predictions of my own, knowing full well that these are way too early in the season and will likely make me look silly by week 10.
Let’s start with the teams in our region.
The 49ers are poised for another Super Bowl run, returning much of the team that got them there last year. With Colin Kaepernick entering camp as the No. 1 guy in San Francisco, he will be able to find chemistry with his receivers earlier than previous seasons. The question is who those receivers will be. Last season’s top receiving threat, Michael Crabtree, is out with a torn achilles. Kyle Williams and Mario Manningham are both coming off injuries and come into camp on the active/physically unable to perform list. The 49ers have dominated a weak NFC West division the last few years, but with Seattle and St. Louis looking much better, it will be tougher to make it three straight division titles. I predict the 49ers will still win the west, but by a slight margin, going 11-5 and beating out the Seahawks at 10-6.
For the Raiders, the outlook is not so pretty. Last season they finished 4-12 and made very few improvements to their squad. Bringing in an old and much slower Charles Woodson won’t help much, Matt Flynn had one good game in Green Bay before getting beat out by a third-round pick in Seattle, so having faith in him would be misguided, and the losses of Tommy Kelly along with Richard Seymour make the Raiders vulnerable on defense. I predict they will come out and play hard, win some games against better teams but also lose plenty they should win or at least have the opportunity to win. But in the end, the Raiders finish 6-10, generously.
A few other predictions. Adrian Peterson will not come close to 2,000 yards rushing as no running back in history has ever run for more than 2,000 yards in a season more than once. If defenses didn’t respect you after the injury, they do now.
The sophomore slump will affect Robert Griffin III and Russell Martin but not Andrew Luck. RGIII is coming off a terrible knee injury, and he along with Alfred Morris will not catch defenses sleeping this season. Martin was a pleasant surprise in Seattle, and with Percy Harvin as an added weapon, one would think Martin is set up for a strong second year, but sometimes adding a ball-hungry player like Harvin who is also often injured can cause disruption in the offense. Andrew Luck is a pure passer who doesn’t need schemes or offenses to cater to him. That future Hall-of-Famer could throw for 3,500 yards and 20 touchdowns for any team in the league.
My sleeper pick for a deep run into the playoffs is the Dallas Cowboys. America’s team was 8-8 last season and missed the playoffs. I’m putting them in the NFC championship game against the 49ers.
My top-tier team that falls on its face will be the Ravens. They lost their heart (Ray Lewis) and soul (Ed Reed) on defense, as well as their No. 1 receiver on offense in Anquan Boldin. I pick them to go 9-7 and barely miss the playoffs.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Hank Sowell’s introduction to the game of golf came early as a set of clubs was among the gifts he received on his very first birthday.