I couldn’t help myself. I finished the Fall Movie Preview then I did the Fall TV Preview and I realized I just had to do a football preview too. Don’t worry, I’m sure I wont feel compelled to do a college football preview(…it’s too late anyway, we already have played a week of that season, right?).
|Boom or Bust – There Is No In-between|
Having already written up previews for the fall movie season and the new fall TV season it is now time to do the most important and impossible preview of them all, the NFL season. How hard is it to accurately predict what might happen over the course of the next 5 months? Last year ESPN.com had 12 “experts” make predictions for all the playoff teams in each conference, what teams would represent each conference in the Super Bowl, the league MVP, Coach of the Year, Offensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Rookie of the Year (19 predictions in all). They’re success rate was only 43.8% (and that is giving them credit if a team they picked to win their division still made it in as a wild card). Only one expert was right on more than half of their prediction (Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com). Only one of the twelve picked the Giants to make the playoffs and not one person predicted the 49ers would win the west (9 out of the twelve picked the Rams as the eventual NFC West champs). I don’t mean this to sound like I am saying the ESPN guys are morons, all I am saying is this prediction business is nearly impossible and being right has almost as much to do with luck as with expertise, which is why I feel perfectly comfortable making my prediction.
|New England Patriots||12-4|
|New York Jets||9-7|
I am not one of those conspiracy people who think it is fishy that the Super Bowl representative from the AFC ended up with the easiest schedule in football. That does not change the fact that they did. My guess is they lose one to the Bills, one to the Jets and go 3-2 against the Ravens, 49ers, Texans, Seahawks and Broncos. As for the rest of the division this feels to me a lot like Rex Ryan’s first Jets team. Everybody is writing them off, saying how bad their offense is, talking about how the whole “Tebow thing” is going to blow up in their faces, and there is no doubt they will look dreadful at times, but I think they pull it together just enough to eek out 9 wins, get into the playoffs and win a game nobody thinks they should. The Bills are a trendy pick, but they have been a trendy pick before and this team doesn’t feel demonstrably different to me. Anyone that watch Hard Knocks this year has to be way down on the Dolphins. Not since the hey day of Dave Campo has a coach looked as incompetent on that program as Philbin did.
My pick of Baltimore has nothing to do with my having Joe Flacco on my fantasy team. I don’t know why, but I see the Steelers falling off slightly this year. Cinci feels like one of those teams that is just good enough to have a nice season if the schedule is favorable and if the schedule isn’t favorable they don’t look too good. If the Browns had gone with McCoy I may have been tempted to put them in the spot I have the Steelers in now, but, as with Miami, they have gone with the young guy because they think they are supposed to.
I am neither the first nor the last person to say it, but the Texans may have been the best team in football last year. Injuries ultimately derailed their playoff run, but you can’t help but wonder if a Matt was their QB in Baltimore instead of a TJ if 2011 might have been their year. The Titans were sneaky good last year, so sneaky that they almost got into the playoffs and it would not shock me if they snuck into a spot this year (a classic non-pick pick). The Colts will be better, because they have to be better, but don’t go crazy because Luck looked like a more athletic version of Manning in preseason, it was just the preseason, I mean Blaine Gabbert looked good in the preseason.
|San Diego Chargers||8-8|
|Kansas City Chiefs||6-10|
The only thing that seems certain about the AFC west is that all of the teams will finish with in a game or two of .500. Having said that it is hard to pick against the conundrum that is Peyton Manning. And I am finding it funny that the new narrative seems to be that he sucked in 2010, he led a team that went 2-14 last year to 10 wins. Maybe he wasn’t 2006 Manning, but he was still a top 5 QB in the league and if Denver has a top 5 QB they’ll win this division. The Chargers and Raiders have become the same team to me, they will both win some games that will get their respective fan bases super excited, then they will lose games that will have the sam people scratching their heads and they will each blow one game on something unpredictable and stupid that will cost them the playoffs. And if you want to know who really wasn’t that good in 2010 it was the Chiefs (not Manning). They had one of those classic “everything went right” years and won the division, how many “everything went right” season does any franchise have in them? Two, three maybe four, over the history of the franchise.
AFC Wild Cards
New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers
I am worried that Houston let some lineman go and that Arian Foster became a vegan, but they are the most complete team in the AFC. They can sling it around and be explosive, they can ground it out and shorten the game and they can shut people down. If you are curious, the other team I really thought about picking here was the Jets. If LaRon Landry is close to what he once was that secondary is ridiculous, and some of those young d-lineman will start to look better when QB’s have to hold onto the ball a second longer. As for the Tebo/Sanchez thing, my mind keeps going back to Tebow’s freshman year in college where Chris Leek was the starting QB, took something like 80% of the snaps that year and they had Tebow come in at the goalie or sporadically to change things up. Tebow gets the credit (unfairly) for leading that team to a National Championship, and eventually Sanchez may grow sick of it, but if this experiment is going to work, that is how it will work.
|New York Giants||9-7|
A couple of years ago every team in the NFC East finished .500 or better, they will be close to that again this year. I like the Eagles because I always like that team that everyone picked a year too early, I also really like the team that nobody want to sneak into the playoffs last year, I like the team with a ton of playmakers on offense and a defense that really started to find itself. I like the Eagles. The Cowboys big win on opening night was fun to watch and Romo looked great, but did that really look like a team that had solved all of their problems? I didn’t think so. The Giants are doing their Giants thing, bumbling around trying to figure things out and survive injuries and have ELI barely get them into the playoffs all by himself well they will try to turn it on and make another run. Somehow, with all the talk of 5 rookie QB’s starting week 1 and Russell Wilson in Seattle and Luck throwing so much in Indianapolis that is is like we have forgotten about RGIII. I still think he will be the Offensive Rookie of the Year.
|Green Bay Packers||12-4|
The Packers and Aaron Rogers are just really, really good. They have flaws and are beatable come playoff time, but in the regular season 12 games is a conservative estimate. There has been a lot of talk about the Lions regressing this year as if everything went right last year. I say, look for Suh and the rest of that defense to take a good step forward this season. Chicago, on the other hand, may be better on offense with the addition of Brandon Marshall, but that defense is getting old and the offense wont be good enough to carry the d when it has to. The Vikings just aren’t good.
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||10-6|
|New Orleans Saints||9-7|
The NFC South is a lot like the NFC East, everyone is good, maybe not great but definitely good. Tampa Bay reminds me of last years 49ers. They were a hot pick last year and they disappointed (people forget that the 49ers were the hot pick for the NFC West in 2010). They changed their coach, brought in some veterans and are starting the season way under the radar. Look for Josh Freeman to prove last season was the anomaly. The Saints have had too much happen to think they can be great and too much talent to think they will be lousy. The Falcons are the John Lester of the NFL — every year we talk about talent, every year we talk about breaking through and every year they fall short when it matters most. Cam Newton will still have flashes of brilliance but that team has some real shortcomings, particularly on defense and they really need a second receiver. (maybe if they didn’t have 5 running backs they could find a quality #2 WR).
|San Francisco 49ers||11-5|
|St. Louis Rams||4-12|
The 49ers defense has become what the 49ers offense was during their SuperBowl years, dominant. The question for the 49ers is can their offense become what their defense was during those year, much better than anyone realized. The Seahawks bandwagon is getting really full (Bill Simmons made him a SuperBowl pick on Grantland.com). There are good reasons for it. They were pretty good last year and got better as the year went on and they did that with a QB situation that made Arizona’s seem stable. Still, does anyone really think Marshawn Lynch will repeat what he did last year? Russell Wilson wasn’t a Tebow-like winner in college (Tebow wasn’t even a Tebow like winner), he was a good college quarterback, that’s it. I do love the fact that Pete Carroll was true to his word and let people win spots based on performance and not paycheck and I think this team could be pretty good, but SuperBowl? The Cardinals are wasting one of the best offensive weapons in the game (does Kevin Kolb have to go down as the most disappointing free agent pick-up in NFL history? I think he does). And the Rams, I don’t know what the Rams are doing.
NFC Wild Cards
Seahawks and Giants
San Francisco 49ers
The Giants sneak in to the playoffs and scare everyone until Green Bay dismantle’s them in the second round. I could really see the Eagle, Packers or 49ers winning this thing, so I went with my heart and team I still root for.
Post Season Awards
Coach of the Year
Robert Griffin III