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IT’S GAME TIME: AFC, NFC predictions

The Oracle football fanatics give 10 NFL season predictions:

[one_half] By David Sauer

1. Three teams will switch quarterbacks by week eight

The chances that Brian Hoyer, Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick start all 16 games are pretty slim. Cleveland plays the Steelers, Saints and Ravens before getting a bye in week four. The three early games will either cement Hoyer as the starter or force the Browns to make the switch to you-know-who. Geno Smith is on a short leash for the J-E-T-S. It won’t take much for the New York tabloids to start calling for Michael Vick. Houston’s trade for Ryan Mallet spells doom for Fitzpatrick. His interception prone game will have him holding a clipboard early.

2. The Miami Dolphins will be a wild card team

The Fins needed to win one of their last two games to make the playoffs in 2013. They lost both. The locker room lost the harassment distraction that was Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito on the offensive line. They can only get better up front. The Dolphins are capable of winning nine or 10 games, and have to with head coach Joe Philbin and quarterback Ryan Tannehill on the hotseat.

3. The AFC North will be the most competitive division in the conference

Most of the divisions in the AFC have a favorite. The AFC North is an exception. The Bengals and Ravens are the favorites in the North, and they will take this division battle down to the wire. No other division has two teams so closely matched. The Ravens are better this season. A new offensive coordinator and weapons for Joe Flacco will help. The Bengals are deep on both sides of the ball. If Andy Dalton can prove he’s worth the money late in the season Cincy will make a deep playoff run. This will be an exciting division to watch.

4. Jamaal Charles will be the AFC MVP

Charles had his best season last year. His 19 touchdowns led the NFL and made fantasy owners rejoice. Only injuries have been able to stop Charles in recent seasons. If he can stay healthy Charles will match his 2013 numbers. He is clearly THE offensive weapon on the Chiefss roster. Andy Reid will continue to be feed Charles the ball and MVP numbers in 2014.

5. Patriots make Super Bowl

This year’s AFC Championship game will look a lot like it did last year. The AFC title went to the Broncos in 2013, but this year, the Patriots will overcome the odds makers. Rob Gronkowski, Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo are healthy. Brady will be more comfortable with a more experienced receiver group than the one he had last year, and the Patriots will have their best secondary in over a decade. This mixture is a recipe for Super Bowl success. [/one_half]

[one_half_last] By Russell Dorsey

1.  RGIII will not return to form this season

Robert Griffin III has stuggled since returning from ACL surgery in 2013. RGIII came back from the injury too soon. He was clearly not ready and this attributed to his his poor play. His inability to stay healthy stems from his in ability to make smart decisions. RGIII’s legs are his strength and his weakness. Running out of bounds, throwing the ball away, and sliding when he does run to extend the play will keep him playing and reduce the number of mistakes he made in 2013. If Griffin doesn’t adjust to keep himself healthy on Sundays, it will be another long season in Washington.

2. Jay Cutler will make the Pro Bowl

The Chicago Bears quarterback is often criticized for his sideline demeanor and “pouty” faces during games rather than praised for his stellar play. Cutler’s skills aren’t in question, but whether or not he can harness those skills and become an elite quarterback is. Cutler has all of the pieces to the puzzle going into his sixth season with the Bears. He could easily eclipse 4,000 yards passing and 30-plus touchdowns with weapons like Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffrey, Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte at his disposal. It’s up to him to put the puzzle together between his ears.

3. The 49ers will not make the playoffs

The 49ers lost to the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks in the NFC title game in 2013. The Niners lost inside linebacker Navarro Bowman to a torn ACL and MCL in that game.  He will likely be out until the playoffs at the earliest. They will also be without outside linebacker Aldon Smith who is facing a nine-game suspension for multiple conduct issues. It will be hard to overcome being without their leading tackler in Bowman and sack leader in Smith. The San Francisco offense has proven to be very inconsistent. This many question marks will be too much to overcome in a tough NFC West.

4. Saints WR Brandin Cooks will win Offensive Rookie of the Year

If you haven’t heard of speed demon, wide receiver Brandin Cooks, get ready because you will soon. Cooks won the Biletnikoff award for being the nation’s top college receiver. He adds a much needed speed element to the Saints offense after losing running back Darren Sproles in free agency. Cooks will benefit from playing with one of the elite quarterbacks in the game and established veteran targets Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston. Cooks will easily be the team’s third receiver week one, and look for him to make a splash in the run and gun New Orleans offense.

5. Seahawks will be NFC representative in the Super Bowl

There is only one team in the NFC that strikes fear into their opponents, and the Seattle Seahawks are that team. They are still the most complete team in the NFL and will win the NFC barring injury. All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman and the Seahawks are looking to repeat as Super Bowl champions. Don’t be surprised if they are the first team to repeat since the New England Patriots did it in 2004-2005. [/one_half_last]

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