NFL Kicks Off 2015 Season Tomorrow

Joe Kazmar – For The Record

Both Lone Star State National Football League franchises are hopeful of improving over their 2014 season results when the Houston Texans recorded seven more victories but didn’t make the playoffs while the Dallas Cowboys made the playoffs after missing out several times.

Both Texas teams will be in action at their home stadiums Sunday with the Texans hosting the Kansas City Chiefs and favored by a single point while the Cowboys will be favored by a touchdown when they take on the New York Giants on NBC Sunday Night Football that kicks off at 7:30 p.m.

Neither team will have the same running attack that helped them post winning records last season. The Cowboys lost DeMarco Murray, who signed a free-agent contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, while the Texans will be without star running back Arian Foster, who went down with a groin injury during training camp.

Last season Murray helped the Cowboys end a string of mediocre seasons with a record-setting performance and a 12-victory campaign that resulted in their first division title in five years.

Murray’s absence will put more pressure on veteran quarterback Tony Romo’s passing game. In fact, Dallas obtained former Beaumont West Brook and Texas Aggie running back Christine Michael from the Seattle Seahawks last weekend for a conditional 2016 draft pick to help lighten the work load on Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle.

The addition of Murray to the Eagles’ stable of talented running backs puts them as the solid favorites to win the NFC East Division. The New York Giants should be improved with the Redskins still appearing to be in a state of confusion.

OUR PROJECTED FINISH—1. Philadelphia 2. Dallas 3. NY Giants 4. Washington.

The Green Bay Packers appear to be the strength of the NFC North Division with the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings all hopeful of qualifying for a possible playoff position.

But with Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target Jordy Nelson out with an injury, it could possibly level the playing field for the other three members of this division.

OUR PROJECTED FINISH—1. Green Bay 2. Detroit 2. Chicago 4. Minnesota.

The NFC South looks to be wide open with all four members appearing to be much improved over last season. If the New Orleans Saints come up with a better defense than they’ve shown over the past couple of seasons, they could very easily go to the head of the class.

Carolina has always had a stout defense, but has had trouble putting points on the scoreboard. Jameis Winston should help Tampa Bay show marked improvement IF he learns to stay in the pocket and Atlanta looks fairly solid once again.

OUR PROJECTED FINISH—1. Atlanta 2. New Orleans 3. Carolina 4. Tampa Bay.

Everybody claims the Seattle Seahawks will not be as strong as they’ve been the past three years, but they still look talented enough to win the NFC West Division again. Hopefully Orange native Earl Thomas’ shoulder injury will be healed so he can play at his usual pace and Kam Chancellor will come to his senses and report to the team. San Francisco has always given the Seahawks’ fits, but that was before they ran off their head coach last year.

The St. Louis Rams’ offense only had one way to go and that was up, but they could be a force to reckon with. Arizona quietly remains solid in all phases of the game.

OUR PROJECTED FINISH—1. Seattle 2. Arizona 3. St. Louis 3. St. Louis.

As far as the Houston Texans are concerned, they may have to depend on J.J. Watt, Vince Wilfork and the rest of the defensive unit to put points on the scoreboard. The offense appears to be one huge question mark with new quarterback Brian Hoyer and replacement backs for injured Arian Foster.

It seems as if the Texans are chasing the Indianapolis Colts each season in the AFC South Division and this year looks no different. The Colts get better every year with Andrew Luck at quarterback and this year he has former Texan All-Pro Andre Johnson as his favorite target.

Jacksonville and Tennessee should battle it out for the division cellar.

OUR PROJECTED FINISH—1. Indianapolis 2. Houston 3. Jacksonville 4. Tennessee.

Most of the focus this winter has been on the New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady and the four-game suspension for “Deflate-gate”  that was recently overturned. Expect to see Brady leading his team tomorrow when New England hosts the Pittsburgh Steelers in the season lid-lifter.

Buffalo Bills’ new head coach Rex Ryan has made some roster moves that have left the football world scratching their noggins. It will be interesting how this works out.

The New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins could surprise this season and get into the thick of things in the AFC East before it’s over.

OUR PROJECTED FINISH—1. New England 2. Buffalo 3. Miami 4. NY Jets.

The usual dogfight between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals  should once again take place in the AFC North Division.

And never count out the Pittsburgh Steelers, who appear to be getting older and could be in the hunt. The Cleveland Browns still appear to be a year or two away from being a team to reckon with.

OUR PROJECTED FINISH—1. Cincinnati 2. Baltimore 3. Pittsburgh 4. Cleveland.

The Denver Broncos with ageless Peyton Manning at the controls should be the team to beat in the AFC West Division. But don’t count out the Kansas City Chiefs with Coach Andy Reid calling the shots.

San Diego could make some noise while the Oakland Raiders could step it up under new head coach Jack Del Rio.

OUR PROJECTED FINISH—1.Denver 2. Kansas City 3. San Diego 4. Oakland.

KWICKIES…A double-bogey on the 16th hole by third-round leader Henrik Stenson enabled playing partner Rickie Fowler to go ahead by a stroke and win the Deutsche Bank Championship Monday afternoon at the TPC Boston course and catapult closer to the $10 million bonus in the FedEx Cup standings. The 26-year old Fowler didn’t disappoint his huge fan base as he played consistently the entire four days.

The Houston Astros are currently involved in their most crucial road trip as the season continues to wind down. The Astros began a three-game series at Oakland on Monday, move on to play the unpredictable LA Angels and then conclude the 10-game sojourn with four games against the second-place Texas Rangers. The ‘Stroes have maintained their three-game lead over the Rangers through Sunday’s victory, but things could change rapidly with a few losses which I hope doesn’t happen.

It was quite a shock watching news clips of the two Texas high school football players from San Antonio John Jay who kamikazied a game official at Marble Falls High last weekend. Not only should they be suspended for the season but they also should be arrested for assault.

Temple University’s 27-10 upset victory over Penn State last week marked the first time the Owls defeated the Nittany Lions since 1941. Temple scored 24 unanswered points against a usually-stingy Penn State defense.

It seems almost a miscarriage of justice the way a Jefferson County daily newspaper purposely overlooks the West Orange-Stark Mustangs in their dinky Top 10 football poll of area high schools. The first two weeks the Mustangs were in the middle of the pack with schools like East Chambers picked No. 1 while the ‘Stangs are No. 4 in the statewide Class 4A polls. I daresay that if East Chambers and West Orange-Stark played 20 times, the Mustangs would win them all—and that’s using their junior varsity in the second half.

JUST BETWEEN US…This year’s annual Labor Day Golf Tournament at Sunset Grove Country Club in Orange was shortened to 18 holes due to inclement weather and played Monday. The results are as follows:

CHAMPIONSHIP FLIGHT—1. Patrick Prince 2. Michael Prince 3. Cory Romero.

FIRST FLIGHT—1. Jason Jarrell 2. Todd McLane 3. Bart Williams.

SECOND FLIGHT—1. Dwayne Mims 2. Ernie Dyer 3. Ken Ruane.

THIRD FLIGHT—1. Clay Richards 2. Craig Couvillion 3. Kelly Cordova.

FOURTH FLIGHT—1. Oliver Seastrunk 2. David Winfrey 3. Bob Hoepner.

FIFTH FLIGHT—1. Dave McClenan 2. Scott Garvie 3. Ronnie LaSalle.

LADIES FLIGHT—Carla Grissom (first net), Brooke Brasseaux (first gross).