I meant to check in with these earlier; but here are my NFL predictions for the 2008 season…..
New York Jets
Overall, I expect the Pats to come back to earth a bit, but still win the division with an 11-5 or 12-4 record. They will still score points; but need to find another receiver to have the dynamic 3 receiver offense they used last year. Also, their lack of depth in the secondary will hurt them. Both Buffalo and the Jets will finish around .500; but it will not be enough in a feisty AFC to get to the playoffs. Brett Favre will make the Jets fun to watch, but they could use some better weapons. Buffalo will continue to make strides, but Trent Edwards is not a playoff quarterback yet. The Dolphins will win 2-4 games, and that will somehow be a good thing.
Pittsburgh will win this division with no more than 9 wins. However, Cleveland and Cincinnati will likely win 6 games apiece. Pittsburgh will again be steady, but not spectacular. Santonio Holmes should be a bright spot, and their defense will remain stout. Cleveland will take a step back; but I think it will be due to injuries-including one at the QB position. I get the feeling Brady Quinn might show signs of being more like Matt Leinart than Carson Palmer when he does get the chance to play. Cincinnati will win games just based on the ability to score; but cannot win consistently unless they learn to play defense. The Ravens are staring at a very long, possibly 4-12 year.
Indianapolis (Wild Card)
Houston (Wild Card)
The AFC South benefits from playing the AFC North this year. There should be 4 wins for many of these teams. The Jags and Colts should both be north of ten wins again; but I’m guessing it is Jacksonville at 13-3, and Indy at 12-4. The Jags will again run the ball well and play very tough defense, but I think they will go vertical a bit more this season as well, with David Garrard continuing to develop. No major differences for the Colts, except their anchors are a year older. Houston can squeeze into the playoffs with 9 wins, and I think they will. Matt Schaub appears destined to become a QB who can be relied on. Tennessee will still be around .500, but a lack of playmakers will keep them out of the playoffs. (Note to Titans: if Jeff Fisher wasn’t your head coach, you might win 4 games with the roster you have put together).
The Chargers are going to win this division going away, but I don’t think it will be because of Phillip Rivers. (Not to beat a dead horse, but this team with Drew Brees as QB would have already won a Super Bowl and might win another 2). They will finish 11-5 or 12-4, but not having a true playmaking QB will keep them from getting past the AFC’s best in the playoffs. Denver might well finish 2nd, but I am not convinced they will be a .500 team. I still don’t know that Jay Cutler is a winning QB, and I’m not sure they can just get anyone to rush for 2,000 yards anymore. Oakland will progress with Darren McFadden in the lineup, but JaMarcus Russell isn’t ready to be a winning QB yet either.
Wild Card playoffs:
San Diego beats Houston
Indianapolis beats Pittsburgh
Jacksonville beats Indianapolis
San Diego beats New England
Jacksonville beats San Diego
Philadelphia (Wild Card)
New York Giants
The Cowboys will just plain have too many weapons not to win. I don’t like them as a trendy Super Bowl pick; but they have too much on both sides of the ball to not win games. I think they’ll win 10, which will be enough in a tough division. The Eagles are a Super Bowl contender if Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook stay healthy; as they have just plain too much depth in their secondary to not win. But they will inevitably have to deal with injuries, so I’ll project them to win 9 and squeak in with a Wild Card. The Giants will not be able to steal wins without getting the same constant pressure on the QB. They will fall back to somewhere around .500. And the Redskins do not look like they’ll be good at all. There has to be a question mark regarding whether or not Jason Campbell will ever really be a NFL quarterback.
Minnesota will win this division, but will not be as good as the 10-13 wins many people think they are capable of being. I believe they will win the division at 9-7; as they will run the ball and play good defense. Aaron Rodgers will have his ups and downs in Green Bay, and in the end; that will leave them at 7-9. Chicago’s ongoing QB issues will keep them from winning more than 6 games. The Lions will win 5; but they will throw a lot of deep passes.
Carolina (Wild Card)
The Saints, if healthy, are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Jeremy Shockey will open up their offense even more, and should allow Drew Brees to go to Marques Colston the way he did two seasons ago. The defense will be improved, even if not stellar. That will be enough to win 12 games in what will again be an inferior conference. Carolina will be good on both sides of the ball, but injuries will likely cost them a game or two. I think they finish with 10 wins. Tampa will take a step back just because the other teams in the division will be better. I imagine they’ll win 7 games. Atlanta will suffer, but will hopefully see some positive things from Matt Ryan and Michael Turner to build on for the future.
This is a terrible division. Seattle will win 10 games by default, and Arizona will remain in the playoff hunt by likely finishing around .500. But Seattle still doesn’t have the type of dynamic receivers needed to match their very good defense as a Super Bowl contender. Arizona doesn’t have the defense, especially at corner. St. Louis ABSOLUTELY does not have the defense. San Francisco has Patrick Willis. Expect neither the Rams nor the Niners to win more than 5 games.
Wild Card Playoffs:
Philadelphia beats Seattle
Carolina beats Minnesota
New Orleans beats Philadelphia
Dallas beats Carolina
New Orleans beats Dallas
Super Bowl XLIII:
Jacksonville beats New Orleans
Okay, that’s it. Just for fun. Good to see the season kicked off. I will get back to the College Football beat now!