As the 2010-11 NFL Season approaches, I decided to release my coveted predictions for the upcoming season. Last summer was an exciting off-season, which saw free agents jumping ship, coaches hired, coaches fired, Brett Favre retiring and un-retiring yet again, contract holdouts, blockbuster trades, calls for more rule changes and a bunch of other goodies. Now it is finally here. Are you ready for some football?
The AFC East will reign as the toughest conference in the NFL. Every team, including the lowly Bills, has improved, and every team is well-coached. Expect any AFC East battles throughout the season to be bloody ones, as it is a division filled with defensive-minded teams.
Miami Dolphins: (10-6) – I am a Dolphins fan, but this surprise pick for Miami to finish atop the tight AFC East is because I just think they are that good, not because of my loyalties. If players like Ronnie Brown and newly acquired Brandon Marshall can avoid the injury bug, as well as Chad Henne continuing in his development, the Dolphins offense can be very dangerous. And let’s not forget who introduced the Wildcat back to the NFL. Their defense may not be as good as the Jets, but bringing in Karlos Dansby was probably a more significant move than the Marshall signing and he will anchor this defense to the division crown.
*New York Jets: (10-6) – Football people all over America are picking the Jets to win the division, and the Super Bowl. Even without Darrele Revis, who recently ended his holdout, they looked mighty tough. With Revis, their defense becomes capable of being one of the greatest ever. Shonn Greene is the real deal, and with Ladanian Tomlinson as his backup, their rushing offense is solid. With the signing of Santonio Holmes, they have improved their receiving corps, but he will be out for the first four games with a suspension. I have never been a huge Braylon Edwards fan. The guy drops balls more consistently then he catches them. I think they will struggle a little at the beginning, but they should finish strong.
New England Patriots: (8-8) – I don’t like to ever count out Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, or the New England Patriots. But with the defense not what it used to be, all of the powerhouse teams in the AFC East they will have to play twice a year, and a tough schedule, I think they will not be going to the playoffs this year. And now Randy Moss is unhappy that the team hasn’t resigned him. With Wes Welker returning from injury, this team just will not be the Patriots we are used to seeing.
Buffalo Bills: (5-11) – The Bills will always be the Bills apparently, but Chan Gailey is going to have them at least functioning as a football team. C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch are an impressive trifecta to have at running back. However, you need a quarterback to play in this league, and especially this division. I don’t think Trent Edwards is that QB. With no real wide receivers to speak of either, the five wins I predict will be a real challenge.
The AFC North is also going to be a grimy division. Just as with the AFC East, which all the experts have handed the crown to the Jets already, they seem to want to do the same here for the Ravens. Not this one.
Cincinnatti Bengals: (12-4) The addition of Terrell Owens has to make the Bengals the team to beat. They went undefeated versus this division last season without him, and with a still shaky Carson Palmer. As long as Cedric Benson and the defense can continue to dominate, then the addition of Owens and a rejuvenated Palmer will mean the Bengals win back-to-back AFC North division championships and who knows what else they can do.
*Pittsburgh Steelers: (10-6) The Steelers still have a solid team, but losing Santonio Holmes to the Jets and Ben Roethlisberger to suspension is going to have them stumbling out of the gate a little bit. But the luckiest thing to happen to the Pittsburgh faithful was the injury to Byron Leftwich, effectively forcing them to go with the untested Dennis Dixon, whose speed adds a whole new dimension to this team. If Rashard Mendenhall and Mike Wallace continue to develop, the Steelers will be tough.
Baltimore Ravens: (9-7) I have always disliked the Ravens, but that has no effect on why I am picking them a distant third, and out of the playoff picture. They addressed their most glaring need, which was at wide receiver, with the off-season signing of Anquan Boldin and the recent acquisition of T.J.Houshmandzadeh. I think Boldin is too injury-prone and not a real number-one anyway, while Houshmandzadeh is a good slot receiver who will help but is by no means the answer. Ray Rice at RB appears to be the real deal, and even with a hurt Ed Reed, Baltimore’s defense is always a top-ten outfit. My real problem with the Raiders is Joe Flacco. I just don’t believe in him, but I have been wrong before. Either way, I just don’t think they are as good as everyone says.
Cleveland Browns: (6-10) Out with Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn, and in with Jake Delhomme? I have always been a Delhomme fan and for a year I guess it’s a decent fix. He wants to prove he still has something in the tank, and the Browns need a QB. They finally got rid of Jamal Lewis and will see this season if Jerome Harrison is the real deal, Joshua Cribbs and the wildcat offense should be interesting. I like the combo of Mike Holmgren and Eric Mangini. I think this franchise will begin to get better, just not this year or even next. I am sure Cleveland fans are sick of hearing that.
The AFC South will continue to belong to Peyton Manning and the Colts. Also home to the best running back and wide receiver in the NFL last season, the Johnsons (2,000 yard rusher RB Chris Johnson and WR Andre Johnson of the Texans).
Indianapolis Colts: (13-3) With Peyton Manning running the show, the question is not whether they will make the playoffs or finish atop their division. That answer is always going to be yes. The question is will they go undefeated. And that answer is no. The competition in the division alone, but also in the NFL, is extreme. This is basically the same team that went to the Super Bowl last year. It looks like finally Anthony Gonzalez will return, but in his absence the young core of receivers in Indy began to blossom under Manning’s tutelage. Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon will be a little more seasoned, and then there is always Reggie Wayne. Joesph Addai, along with Donald Brown, will keep defenses somewhat honest with their adequate running game. So I guess the real question is: Will Manning and the Colts be headed back to the Super Bowl? I wouldn’t bet against them.
Houston Texans: (10-6) The time has come for the Texans. They have grown slowly. Year after year, they get a little bit closer. Last year’s 9-7 record was their first winning season. Can they take the next step and get to the playoffs this year. Nope. The competition is a little too stiff, but they will improve. They have a very good defense and a very good offense, but it is basically the same unit that last year disappointed. They have the same clouded confusion at RB with Steve Slaton, Arian Foster and the recently added Derrick Ward. And they still have no one to complement Andre Johnson in the receiving corps. Add a brutal schedule that starts with the Colts, who are notoriously strong in September. If they can somehow start strong, specifically with a win versus the Colts, whom they have beaten exactly once in sixteen tries, then maybe they can steal a wild card. But I don’t think that will happen.
Tennessee Titans: (8-8) Chris Johnson is amazing and when he says his goal is 2,500 yards rushing, well I believe him. But aside from him, they just don’t have the pieces. This year is more about finding out if Vince Young is indeed their QB of the future. There has been talk of trading for Albert Haynesworth, which would help their defense, but they still need so much more to battle for the division crown. Not this year Titans fans.
Jacksonville Jaguars: (3-13) Lots of people seem to think the Jags will turn the corner this year. I am not one of them. I think Maurice Jones-Drew has been and will continue to be overused. Can’t blame the Jags for overusing him since they have no one else on their offense even worth mentioning here, so let’s just say, Jack Del Rio will be the first coach canned this year.
This is probably the weakest division in the AFC, and it is still pretty stacked with talent. And there will still always be entertaining football in the AFC West as all of these teams really hate each other.
San Diego Chargers: (10-6) – The Chargers are clearly the class of the division, and now that LT is gone, this is truly Phillip Rivers team. With the drafting of Ryan Matthews, the Chargers should be set for years to come in their running game. But I still think they need work and now with no Vincent Jackson (who I thought was overrated anyway), they are even thinner at WR. But they are good enough to take the division, and depending on how Matthews does, they could surprise.
Kansas City Chiefs: (9-7) – The Chiefs will be the biggest surprise of the 2010 NFL Season. Jaamal Charles is the real deal and with the addition of Thomas Jones, they have a dynamic duo at RB. Matt Cassel will have more tools to work with and should return to at least a partial version of the guy who took over for Brady a couple of years ago. Chris Chambers and Dwayne Bowe are one of the stronger receiver duos in the league. But the real strength of the team is the defense, anchored by Mike Vrabel and Zach Thomas. Are they strong enough to overtake the Chargers – probably not. But they will at least have a winning record.
Oakland Raiders: (6-10) – How the Raiders managed to win five games last year baffles me. I just remember them plain sucking. Well either way, the addition of Jason Campbell ought to be interesting. He is a decent QB who kind of got blamed for all of Washington’s inadequacies. The fact is he is light years ahead of JaMarcus Russell. But they have no receivers and their RB situation is still filled with question marks. Still they will be more competitive.
Denver Broncos: (5-11) – Without Brandon Marshall, I think the Broncos kind of suck. Kyle Orton is well, Kyle Orton. Knowshon Moreno is decent, but I don’t think he is a top-ten RB in this league. And the jury is still out on Eddie Royal. The only thing this team has going for them is an adequate defense and the mile high air eight games a year.
The NFC East is going to be a roller-coaster ride, as it usually is. All four teams could realistically battle for the NFC East crown, assuming those bumbling folks in Washington DC can get their act together.
Dallas Cowboys: (12-4) – The Cowboys time is now. Gone is Parcells. Gone is T.O. Tony Romo is now a seasoned vet in this league with all of the drama he has went through thus far. Their three-headed monster of Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice are in their primes. Miles Austin has began to show he belonged in the NFL, and now he will have Dez Bryant along with Roy Williams as a potentially tough three-headed beast of their own. The defense is strong. Heck, even the Super Bowl is going to be in Dallas. The NFC East is tough but Dallas will surprisingly stream-roll through to the crown.
Philadelphia Eagles: (9-7) – I also happen to be an Eagles fan, so it was tough to watch them trade Donovan McNabb to the Skins. But they are still a pretty good team without him. It seems like Kerry Kolb is the man, but I anticipate a QB controversy will develop as soon as a few losses start piling on, perhaps by Week 5 or 6. Michael Vick is too good to be wasting away his talent playing the clipboard. Either he will start or get traded away. Will DeSean Jackson be as good without McNabb? Is LeSean McCoy able to carry the load as a featured back? Is the defense still a playoff-caliber unit? I think some of these questions will be a yes but some will be a no.
NY Giants: (9-7) – The Giants are a bit of an unknown. Supposedly, last year’s 8-8 record was due to injuries. That team was 5-0 before stumbling the rest of the way. This is basically the same team, so logically, they should be better. I think their defense is fantastic. But the offense is filled with many question marks. How is it that Steve Smith went from the “other” Steve Smith to “the” Steve Smith. He had a decent season but come on. Their running back situation is still clouded. Is Ahmad Bradshaw the number one, or is it Brendon Jacobs? And who is Eli Manning really? I still feel like the jury is out on that one. Either way, they miss the playoffs as well in the ultra-competitive NFC East.
Washington Redskins: (8-8) – Bringing in McNabb was the best idea the Skins have had since the 90s. But a stroke of genius was bringing in Mike Shanahan. The no-nonsense coach will bring stability to the franchise that countless others have failed at since Joe Gibbs first stint as coach. I think Haynesworth and Shanahan will work out their differences and the defense will come along. This team will surprise many and get a .500 record.
The NFC North figures to be one of the toughest divisions in football this year as well. Even the lowly Lions will put up a good fight, and expect high-octane passing games and the good ol’ smashmouth football that we expect from the NFC North.
Green Bay Packers: (10-6) – A popular pick to go to the Super Bowl these days, the Packers will wrestle control of this division. Aaron Rodgers will battle the likes of Brady, Manning and Brees for the “best QB” title this season. If Ryan Grant, Greg Jennings and Donald Driver can stay injury-free, then this team will be an offensive powerhouse. They also have a stellar defense. Expect classic battles with Favre and the Vikings, but expect Rodgers and company to push Favre and the Vikings aside for the division crown on a tiebreaker.
*Minnesotta Vikings: (10-6) – Brett Favre is back…again. We all knew he would come back and we all know the Vikings are better with him then without. But don’t expect this to be another rosy chapter in the cinderella story book of Favre. I expect this to be the conclusion. The only question is, how will this book end? My bet is he fights and claws his way to a wildcard birth and from there, anything is possible. But does he have enough left? Well he has a stifling defense and a certain Adrian Peterson along for the ride. AP is probably not too happy that Chris Johnson is stealing some of his thunder, so I expect him to have a crazy-good year. But as with any good story, there has to be some tumultuous storms hurdled towards the legend that is Favre, and in this story that comes in the form of Sidney Rice missing half the year and Percy Harvin getting severe migraines every time he steps on the field. I love a good story. I love a good ending.
*Chicago Bears: (9-7) – My surprise pick for the playoffs, Da bears. I think Mike Martz is going to get that offense functioning, starting with Jay Cutler. Even at third best QB in his division, behind Rodgers and Favre, he is still going to have a heck of a year. Expect Devin Hester to fall down the depth chart as Johnny Knox explodes on the scene. And most importantly, expect Matt Forte to return to form, and put together a Marshall Faulk-type-year circa 1999. Just don’t expect them to do much in the playoffs.
Detroit Lions: (3-13) – The Lions will be a much improved team, albeit by only one game in the standings. I think they will put up fights more often than not with the Matthew Stafford-Calvin Johnson connection running smoothly. I expect Jahvid Best to provide a bit of a running game, and the defense to improve. But I also expect the Lions to be battling for a chance at the 2011 number one pick.
The NFC South will still belong to the Saints, who brought a Super Bowl championship to New Orleans. This division will also bring us the worst team in football, the Bucs. A lot of mediocrity in between.
New Orleans Saints: (12-4) – Well, I can be honest and say, I didn’t see the Saints winning it last year. I am a bit more of a believer now, but I still don’t see this group repeating. Not to say they are a fluke. They will easily run through the weak NFC South. This is basically the same group. Expect Brees to have a bit of a Super Bowl hangover and not put up his usual crazy statistical years, but they will still win and usually win big.
Atlanta Falcons: (9-7) – The Falcons ought to be one of the better teams this year, but there just isn’t room for everyone in the playoffs. I am thinking Michael Turner will have another big year, but I am not sold on Matt Ryan yet. The question will be how this defense responds, and whether Roddy White can have another great year from the wideout position. One of the trickier teams to figure out.
Carolina Panthers: 6-10) – Some experts are predicting the Panthers will make some noise this year. I believe the noise will sound a lot like six wins. Matt Moore has a lot to prove but luckily he has a dynamite running game with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart who both had over 1000 yards rushing last season. Will the real Steve Smith please stand up? Yup, he is still right here in Carolina, and he and this team will go out swinging.
Tampa Bay Bucs: (0-16) – No point writing much here. This team has a little talent here and there, but I can’t see them winning a game.
It looks like the end of the run for the Arizona Cardinals, and the beginning of the 49ers return to the top of the NFC West. And Seattle and St. Louis are just there.
San Francisco 49ers: (13-3) – The 49ers will win this division because Alex Smith has finally arrived. He will finally justify them taking him number one all of those years ago. Vernon Davis, Frank Gore and Michael Crabtree as well as an intense defense will have the 49ers gain the best record in the NFC.
Arizona Cardinals: (8-8) – The Cardinals still have a formidable team, but Kurt Warner was one of the best ever, and Derek Anderson is not. Everyone thought Matt Leinart was going to take over, but they released him about a week before the season began, thus elevating Anderson to the number one role. Anderson, who was signed in the off season, seems like he could be a good fit, but no one will mistake him with Warner. They still have a good defensive core, though they lost Dansby to the Dolphins. and Boldin to the Ravens, but that is kind of like addition by subtraction. With Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston, they are still more than capable at the receiver position. Look for them to run the ball more with Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower.
St. Louis Rams: (7-9) – The Rams will sneak up on a few people this year. I think Sam Bradford is going to be something special in this league. Steven Jackson is underrated and he will have a good year. But they are short on receiving, as Donnie Avery is out for the season. Their defense is still weak, but I think seven games is unattainable.
Seattle Seahawks: (2-14) – I think if it wasn’t for the Tampa Bay Bucs, this would be the worst team in football. I thought they were bad to begin with but with T.J. Houshmandzadeh gone now, they literally don’t have much to work with. Let’s hope the world doesn’t end in 2012 because it will be at least that long before Seattle is good again.
SUPER BOWL PREDICTION:
Minnesota Vikings 45 Cincinnati Bengals 30
And Favre wins the Super Bowl MVP, and can ride of into the sunset, finally retiring and making the media write about something other than Favre’s latest retirement news.
Hope you enjoyed our look at the upcoming NFL season. Remember to check out a few of our other NFL previews here: