Who needs magazines and ESPN when you have me … the guy who picked the NY Giants to finish last in the NFC East last year?
Well, I’m back, and here to give you my NFL predictions. If you liked my picks last year, you’ll like them even more this year … as I’ll give YOU (the reader) a chance to best me in the picks. Each week, I’ll have a special guest picker and we’ll go mano-y-mano for pride. Details to come …
The following is the way I predict the AFC season will go. Enjoy watching me either A) Look like a genius (I did predict a Patriots-Chargers AFC championship last year) or B) Be the same guy who thought the Bengals would win their division last year.
Coming Wednesday: My NFC Preview
1) New England Patriots
Why they’ll make the playoffs: I seriously doubt the Patriots will follow the trend of Super Bowl losers not making the playoffs the next year. As painful as going 18-1 was last year, they’re still the best team in the NFL … just maybe not as powerful as last year. Brady is limping into the season, and they’re 0-3 in preseason (which means nothing, but still). Expect them to drop one to the Jets this year, and maybe get upset … but they’ll still dominate most games.
2) NY Jets
Why they’ll make the playoffs: Brett Favre.
Look, the Jets were not a horrible team last year … they just didn’t have a QB. Pennington is gone and Kellen Clemens is where he belongs (a backup), and now stars like Thomas Jones and Laveraneus Coles have Favre to help them shine. A lot of people are picking 8-8, 9-7 for the Jets … I think they’ll be even better.
3) Buffalo Bills
Why they’ll be mediocre: A team of rookies and first-year starters last year surprised everybody, falling in a few heartbreakers (remember the Cowboys game?) This year, they’re less of a surprise and while they may be a little better, they’re still in a division with the Pats, the improved Jets and a Dolphins team with Bill Parcells helping run the show. It’ll be tougher.
4) Miami Dolphins
Why they’ll be better than 1-15: Had the Dolphins not won that last game, they would have been the worst team in NFL history. So we can’t expect TOO much this year … though they’ll be better — Pennington’s an upgrade over last year’s carousel at QB, Ricky Williams joins Ronnie Brown in the backfield and Joey Porter can be the leader now on a defense that got rid of Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor.
1) Pittsburgh Steelers
Why they’ll make the playoffs: A suddenly weak division. The Browns are decent enough, but the Bengals and Ravens are taking a step back. Cleveland’s closing in, but Pittsburgh still has the better team. I love the pick of RB Rashard Mendenhall to backup Willie Parker, and a stronger Troy Polamalu will shore up the defense. I believe, however, that of the division winners, Pittsburgh is the worst.
2) Cleveland Browns
Why they’ll battle for the playoffs: It’s possible the Browns’ season was a fluke last year, but they got better on defense (Shaun Rogers) and QB Derek Anderson enters his first full season as a starter with a wild rookie year under his belt. They have a tough test in the opener at home against Dallas … if they win that, it’ll be a great season.
3) Baltimore Ravens
Why they’ll slightly stink: Their best receiver is 35 years old, and Troy Smith, Joe Flacco (who I actually like, mostly because of his name) and Kyle Boller are battling for quarterback. The defense still has Ray Lewis, but it won’t be enough this year.
4) Cincinnati Bengals
Why they’re still the Bungles: Wow, what a cruddy preseason … they possibly lose Chad Johnson with a shoulder injury and the team seems to be in disarray. Add to that a pretty bad defense and a quarterback who’s not quite living up to the potential … they either take this huge step back this year or they surprise us all. I’m picking the former.
1) Jacksonville Jaguars
Why they’ll top the Colts: Call this my first out-on-a-limb pick. I think the Jags have the experience, the coaching and the team to take the division from the Colts this year. QB David Garrard doesn’t get the credit Vince Young, Tony Romo or Phillip Rivers get, but he could be as good as or better than all three young guns. The Taylor, Jones-Drew backfield is lethal and with Jack Del Rio coaching, you know the defense is tough.
2) Indianapolis Colts
Why they’ll be 2nd: It’s not that they’re necessarily a worse team … I just think the Colts know how to approach a season now, and they’re not afraid to let up on the gas if they know the playoffs are in hand. They’re a Peyton Manning injury from being 6-10, and as we saw with Dwight Freeney’s and Marvin Harrison’s injuries last year, there isn’t a ton of depth behind them and stars like Bob Sanders and Joseph Addai.
That said, once they’re in the playoffs, they’re a force.
3) Houston Texans
Why they’re not over the hump yet: They have to play the Colts and Jags twice each, and they still don’t have a running game.
For all the firepower Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson bring to the offense, they’re hurt by having a starter named Ahman Green in the backfield. The defense, anchored by Mario Williams, is better, and there’s the possibility of a Colts upset down the line … but I think Houston’s still a year or two away from that elusive playoff berth.
4) Tennessee Titans
Why they’re last in the division: It’s a tough, tough division, and Vince Young may not be what everybody had hoped. The difference maker though (the guy who could make this an 11-5 team) is East Carolina rookie Chris Johnson, who’s looked amazing in the preseason.
1) San Diego Chargers
Why they’re winning the division: They’re in a fairly weak division with Oakland and Kansas City in rebuilding years, and they’ve still got tons of talent on offense. One of my favorite picks was back-up running back Jacob Hester from LSU, who’s looked strong in the preseason and will be a nice alternative to LT in the backfield. The big question mark is Shawn Merriman’s knee … which that alone could take away a win or two if he’s out.
2) Denver Broncos
Why they’re battling for the playoffs: Everything’s on Jay Cutler this year, it seems, and I think he’s good enough to handle the pressure. It will be interesting to see if RB Selvin Young is ready to carry the load, and Bronco fans need to hope the defense improves on its run-stopping ability (30th in the league last year).
They’re not a dominant team, but they’re better than Oakland and Kansas City and should be in it to th end.
3) Oakland Raiders
Why they’re better this year: I’ve never been sold on Jamarcus Russell at QB, but I am excited about Darren McFadden in the backfield, which should bolster that offense. If the offensive line can hold up, Oakland will outscore people this year. I don’t know a ton about the defense, and maybe that’s not a good sign (or maybe I just don’t watch much west coast football).
4) Kansas City Chiefs
Why they’re worse this year: You’ve got Brodie Croyle throwing to Tony Gonzalez (yay) and Dwayne Bowe and Devard Darling (meh). Larry Johnson suddenly isn’t the dominant force he was, and the defense leaves a lot to be desired.
WILDCARDS: Indianapolis Colts, NY Jets
Round 1: Colts over Steelers, Jets over Chargers
Round 2: Patriots over Jets, Colts over Jaguars
Round 3: Patriots over Colts
Super Bowl: Patriots