To wit: When it’s suggested that perhaps the Broncos could be hamstrung by age-related issues and an overabundance of changes on defense, Simms snaps back with a sarcastic, “Yeah, that’s good stuff. You go with that theory.” He pegs the Broncos as the front-runner in a top-heavy AFC, pointing to the upgrades at wide receiver (with the addition of Wes Welker in the slot) and in the interior of their defensive line. He thinks they’ll claim the AFC West title long before the season ends: “I want to know the person who’s going to pick against the Denver Broncos.”
Simms doesn’t expect anywhere near as much consensus around his belief that the 2013 Baltimore Ravens will be superior to the 2012 version, who just happened to win the Super Bowl. “On paper, they’ve done it. They could be a better team after losing so many players and making so many changes,” he explains, pointing to younger, faster personnel on the defensive side of the ball.
His other potential AFC contender, not surprisingly, is the New England Patriots, who have claimed the AFC East as their own personal fiefdom during the last decade or so. As opposed to recent seasons past, however, Simms sees some competition in the form of a stealthily upgraded Miami Dolphins squad. In particular, he likes the addition of field-stretching receiver Mike Wallace and the expected continued development of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who enters his second season.
“Having success in the NFL as a quarterback is a little easier to do now than it was in the past,” Simms explains. “People go, ‘Oh, it’s so complicated!’ and yeah, there’s a lot of stuff going on. But there are also a lot of easy plays and gains — screens, formations — where you can get guys open easier than you could years ago.”
To an extent, he believes this has contributed to the quick success of the two quarterbacks — Seattle’s Russell Wilson and the San Francisco 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick — who he expects will duke it out for NFC supremacy over the next half-decade. Simms doesn’t just think Wilson and Kaepernick will match their out-of-nowhere 2012 performances; he thinks they’ll exceed them. “They have the talent, they have a year’s experience and they both play for really good football teams,” he says. That means trouble for the other franchises assigned to the suddenly strong NFC West — sorry, St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals fans — but it also could prevent a few of last season’s contenders from taking the proverbial next step.