With the NFL Season beginning tonight it is time for my season predictions. I will start with the NFC and move on to the AFC…remember all of these picks are for fun and shouldn’t be taken seriously in anyway.
*-denotes a Wild Card Team
1. Cowboys 13-3
The Cowboys are perhaps the most talent team in the NFL and I think that’s going to be proven throughout the regular season.
2. Giants 9-7
The Giants look to be a team that is going to be fairly solid but not spectacular in any facet of the game; I do believe Hakeem Nicks and Ahmad Bradshaw are due for breakout years.
3. Eagles 8-8
After dealing Donovan McNabb to a division rival the Kevin Kolb era has officially begun. I think he may have a good season with one of the best collections of skill players in the NFL but like Aaron Rodgers two years ago I think the team may struggle in his first season under center.
4. Redskins 7-9
A lot of distractions are circling around Washington but I think with the additions of Mike Shannahan and Donovan McNabb the Redskins will improve but not enough to make the playoffs. Redskin fans better hope that McNabb can stay healthy behind a subpar offensive line.
1. Saints 12-4
I don’t believe the Saints will suffer from a post Super Bowl hangover; Drew Brees and this offense will be right on schedule. They may lose a few games more games then last year due to the fact their defense won’t have the same ability to turn opponents over and create field position for Brees and company.
2. Falcons 10-6*
Atlanta may be the best team almost nobody is talking about. I see a big bounce back year for Michael Turner and a breakout year for Matt Ryan in his third season.
3. Panthers 6-10
The Panthers can run the ball and I believe Matt Moore will be a surprise at quarterback but with the loss of Julius Peppers the Panthers defense will be this teams Achilles heel all season.
4. Buccaneers 4-12
Tampa Bay will have an improved defense with the addition of Gerald McCoy but they also have a ton of holes at almost every other position. The rebuilding process has begun and Bucs fans better hope that Josh Freeman is ready to take the next step….quickly.
1. 49ers 9-7
The 49ers are slowly building a very solid team under Mike Singletary; the brunt of the expectation in the Bay Area will fall squarely on the shoulders of quarterback Alex Smith. Smith has a plethora of weapons with Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, and Frank Gore and solid defense on the on the other side led by All World linebacker Patrick Willis, so there are no more excuses for Smith or the 49ers if they don’t take the next step.
2. Cardinals 8-8
It is difficult to win in the NFL without a quarterback and the Cardinals are going to run Ravens/Browns castoff Derek Anderson and BYU product Max Hall so…..good luck. I think the Cardinals will have a fairly solid defense led by Defensive Tackle Darnell Dockett but the offense is going to turn the ball over a ton and have trouble moving the ball when not giving it to the other team.
3. Rams 3-12
Good luck Sam Bradford, you looked good in the preseason but the #1 overall pick will quickly learn there is a big difference between the pre and regular season. The Rams have nobody for Bradford to throw to, their line is awful, and Steven Jackson may take a few weeks off in the middle of the season to rest his surgically repaired back. With those prospects it is going to be a struggle for the Rams to win more than three games.
4. Seahawks 2-14
First of all, thank you Pete Carroll for the cornerback and wide receiver you gave to us. Honestly I believe Carroll is building a team the right way and there are going to be A LOT of growing pains in this first season but eventually they will be able to compete in this very poor division. But for this year Seattle will be battling for the #1 overall pick in next years draft not a playoff spot.
1. Packers 13-3
The Packers have the best offense in the NFL and Aaron Rodgers will continue to prove he is in the Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady conversation as the best quarterback in the NFL. Jermichael Finley is in for an absolutely gigantic year and could be the #1 fantasy tight end when all is said and done. The Packers should complement their high powered offense with an attacking, opportunistic defense. There is a serious case to be made that the Packers are the best team in the NFL and barring a major injury they should cruise into the playoffs.
2. Vikings 10-6*
Brett Favre is finally back and just as he did his best receiver Sidney Rice went down for a minimum of eight weeks after hip surgery. I think teams are going to batter and beat old #4 into submission this year with Saints Defensive Coordinator Greg Williams giving teams the blueprint in last seasons NFC Championship game. The defense will be stout as ever and Adrian Peterson will have a big season so even if #4 doesn’t make it through 16 games the Vikings ability to run the ball and stop the run will carry them into the playoffs.
3. Lions 8-8
Matthew Stafford and Megatron are going to absolutely blowup this season and lead the Lions to respectability. Helping to speed up the rebuilding process will be defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch but the secondary and linebacking corps have MAJOR questions that will force the Lions into a lot of shootouts.
4. Bears 5-11
Mike Martz will help Jay Cutler to a better second season in the second city but he has very little to throw to and his offensive line is pretty awful. The defense should be improved with the addition of Julius Peppers and a healthy linebacking corps; but Cutler’s turnovers and a lack of explosive skill players will lead the Bears to the cellar in the NFC North.
1. Patriots 11-5
I have some major questions about the Patriots secondary but fortunately for Pats fans Tom Brady and company have the ability to beat any team in a shootout. I think Brady will need Wes Welker to be healthy for Brady to return to his form of three seasons ago and “The Hoodie” will need to do his best job to keep Randy Moss happy but I just believe that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are too good of a combination to count out.
2. Jets 10-6
Rex Ryan has some high hopes for this team and rightfully so because they are loaded almost everywhere…..but the two places where they have questions will be the two reasons this team doesn’t make the playoffs. Mark Sanchez’ decision making and inability to stay away from the big turnover will directly lead to 2-3 looses this season. Also with the loss of Calvin Pace I wonder where Rex is going to get any pass rushing help off the edge. If Rex can’t get pressure off the edge I think he will not be able to do all of the things he wants to on defense and Revis Island may be exposed a little more than people think. The running game will be stout again running behind the best offensive line in football and look for L.T. to have a big bounce back year.
3. Dolphins 9-7
If Chad Henne can have the type of breakout season people are predicting with Brandon Marshall than the Dolphins could supplant the Jets in this division but I am not completely sold. The running game will be great as usual with Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown poised to have a big year coming back from a season ending foot injury. Karlos Dansby will need to prove he was worth the big money Miami gave him in the offseason but I believe the Dolphins defense led by Mike Nolan will be a middle of the pack unit that won’t lose games for this team.
4. Bills 2-14
The Bills are awful that’s pretty much all I can say…..CJ Spiller should be a shot in the arm when he can find open space but they have virtually no talent anywhere on the field. Two wins may be generous for a team that could battle for a winless season.
1. Colts 11-5
The Colts have Peyton Manning and that is good for ten wins a season but he will struggle to remain upright unless Joseph Addai and/or Donald Brown can manufacture any type of ground game. I think this division is gaining on the Colts but Peyton Manning and their bookend defensive ends will hold everyone off for one more season. I see a breakout season for wide receiver Pierre Garcon who is a scary replica of Reggie Wayne.
2. Titans 10-6*
Vince Young has had a rollercoaster of an NFL career but I believe this season he will become more of an NFL quarterback and less of a throwing running back. Chris Johnson would help any quarterback as he’ll draw a majority of the attention from opposing defenses and create one on one matchups for receivers on the outside. Tennessee doesn’t have a lot of big names on the defensive side of the ball but Jeff Fischer always seems to coach up his defense and they should be a top-10 unit again this season.
3. Texans 8-8
I want to give the Texans double digit wins and put them in the playoffs but I just have too many questions about this team on the defensive side of the ball. Mario Williams, DeMeco Ryans, and Brian Cushing (once he returns from his 4 game suspension) are all Pro Bowl caliber players but that is about all Houston has on that side of the ball. The offense will once again be as explosive as any in the NFL and Arian Foster should bring some stability to the running game, but one big caveat is Matt Schaub will need to stay healthy for this team to have any shot at the playoffs.
4. Jaguars 4-12
People in Jacksonville don’t care about the Jaguars and outside of fantasy owners that have Maurice Jones Drew neither does the rest of the country. The Jaguars are going to be pretty awful on both sides of the ball and will be irrelevant in an ever improving division.
1. Chargers 10-6
Phillip Rivers has some issues going into this season with the holdouts of his blindside tackle Marcus McNeill and his #1 target Vincent Jackson so his numbers are probably going to take a hit. The team is going to need to lean on rookie Ryan Matthews to carry more of the load than his predecessor L.T. could last year. The defense is intact and should be a top-10 unit with a strong ability to get to the quarterback. Honestly I believe this is the beginning of the end for the Chargers as the “big dogs” in the AFC West and General Manager AJ Smith may not be long for his job if this team collapses in the next two years.
2. Raiders 9-7
Oh boy did I want to pick the Raiders to shock the world and make the playoffs but I think they are one season away. Jason Campbell will stabilize an offense that has struggled with Jamarcus “Purple Drank” Russell under center and the combination of Michael Bush and Darren McFadden could be huge this season. Drafting Rolando McClain will give the Raiders a stud middle linebacker that will become the unquestioned leader of what is a very up and coming defense. The Raiders have a real shot at unseating the Chargers at the top of this division and should be fighting for a playoff birth right down to the wire.
3. Chiefs 5-11
Jamaal Charles looked like Barry Sanders the last quarter of the season and if he can keep up that type of production for 16 games this team could be dangerous but I don’t think it will happen. Head Coach Todd Haley is a constant tinkerer that will sub Charles in and out for Thomas Jones who was a stud behind a great offensive line in New York but could struggle behind a subpar line in Kansas City. Matt Cassel is going to prove what I knew from the beginning he is a good backup and a serviceable starter with Randy Moss and Wes Welker on the outside but he is a below average quarterback on an average team. The defense will need top-5 picks Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson to prove they aren’t busts this season if this team is going to take the next step on defense. On the positive side watch out for diminutive rookie Dexter McCluster who will be an all purpose dynamo and a big time weapon all over the field.
4. Broncos 3-13
Josh McDaniels is going to learn this season he isn’t Bill Belichick and that a mass exodus of your top playmakers isn’t a good thing for a football team. I am a believer in Kyle Orton as an NFL quarterback when he has a go to receiver, the only problem for Orton this season is his go to receiver is in Miami. The defense is going to struggle with the losses of coordinator Mike Nolan to Miami and pass rusher Elvis Dumervil to a torn pectoral muscle. Overall the outlook is grim in Denver and fans could be calling for the “Mile High Messiah” by mid-season if things are as bad as they seem. Jabar Gaffney is a potential bright spot and could be a PPR monster in fantasy leagues.
1. Ravens 12-4
The Ravens are potentially the best team in the NFL and they are going to get the chance to prove it on the field. The team opens up with 3 very tough road games against the Jets, Bengals, and Patriots in the first six weeks of the season; I think we will have a better idea where this team is after these games. Even though the schedule looks tough Joe Flacco is poised to have a breakout season with the additions of Aquan Boldin, TJ Houshmandzadeh, Ed Dickson, and Dennis Pitta. Ray Rice and Willis McGahee should be strong running behind a big, athletic offensive line that needs Jared Gaither to take off his diaper for them to be as good as they can. Haloti Ngata, Kelly Gregg, Trevor Pryce, and Mount Cody will combine with a loaded linebacking corps led by Ray Lewis to create one of if not the best front seven in football. The secondary has some major questions but I think the addition of Josh Wilson will help and if Ed Reed returns after week 6 they should be OK. This is a team primed to make a serious run to and through the playoffs and I have very high hopes for this team.
2. Bengals 11-5*
The addition of Terrell Owens and tight end Jermaine Gresham will bolster a passing game that was almost nonexistent last season and should open up big holes for Cedric Benson in the running game. The defense should be as good as last season with perhaps the best pair of corners in the league and stud USC linebackers Keith Rivers and Rey Maualuga ready to breakout this season. If Marvin Lewis can keep all of the teams “personalities” in check, something that is easier said than done, the Bengals should contend for the AFC North crown for a second consecutive season.
3. Steelers 9-7
The four game suspension of Big Ben is going to put the Steelers in a hole that I think they will struggle to get out of. I believe they will be a dangerous team down the wire as they compete for a playoff spot but I just don’t know if they will be able to in a loaded conference. Troy Polamalu is back and healthy and he should lead a defense that will keep this team in every game but in the end I think they just miss out on the playoff for a second consecutive season.
4. Browns 2-14
Last season Jake Delhomme looked awful in Carolina and I don’t know how he will be any better this season in Cleveland. Jerome Harrison looks like a potential breakout talent running behind a better than advertised offensive line but I don’t think they have enough talent to finish out of the basement of the AFC North. Defensively the Browns should be better with the addition of cornerback Joe Haden but the additions on defense won’t be enough to take this defense out of the bottom half of the NFL.
So here are my playoff seeds:
1. Packers 13-3
2. Cowboys 13-3
3. Saints 12-4
4. 49ers 9-7
5. Vikings 10-6
6. Falcons 10-6
1. Ravens 12-4
2. Colts 11-5
3. Patriots 11-5
4. Chargers 10-6
5. Bengals 11-5
6. Titans 10-6
Come back tomorrow when I make my playoff predictions and reveal my award winners. Please feel free to argue and attack all of my picks but remember that injures make any prognostication impossible in the NFL.