I'm excited to write yet another NFL Preview. As a warning, my previous picks are not great, by any means. In 2010, I picked Baltimore over ATL (both at least made the playoffs, and ATL was a surprise 1-seed), In 2009, I picked San Diego over Green Bay, but both lost in the divisional playoffs; in 2008, I picked Dallas over New England, and neither made the playoffs; in 2007, I picked New England over New Orleans - the Pats at least went undefeated, interestingly, New Orleans did win a couple of years later finally; in 2006, I had Indy over Giants - I actually hit the Colts, and the Giants ended up winning in 2007; in 2005, I had Carolina over Indy, but Indy lost in that crazy game to Pittsburgh, and CAR stumbled in the conference championship; and 2004 is not archived anywhere but I'm sure it was poor.
So... if past seasons are any indication, my PREDICTED super bowl losers (every year but 2008), end up ascending to win the Super Bowl the next season! It's a rather strange phenomenon that I wasn't aware of until just now.
AFC - I think the Pats, Jets, Steelers, Ravens, and Chargers are all HEAVY favorites to make the playoofs...
3-New England - Another year, another 1st round exit. In 2010, it was their hated rivals, the Jets. In 2009, it was Baltimore who just thrashed the Patriots. In 2008, they somehow didn't make the playoffs. In 2007, they got upset by the Giants. It will be interesting to see what the Patriots do this year, because, as always, the only goal is to win the super bowl. Maybe less emphasis on the regular season? Not sure what the answer is, because there is no simple answer for their dilemma.
5-NY Jets - They are still bona fide contenders... but I still think the Pats can perform better over a season than the Jets.
Buffalo - Should be fun to watch at least, because QB Ryan Fitzpatrick played great in the 2nd half last year, as did WR Stevie Johnson
Miami - The QB situation is shaky, so I have to downgrade them to last place prediction.
2- Baltimore - Added WR Lee Evans opposite WR Boldin which is an upgrade. Should be contenders all season.
6-Pittsburgh - Made the Super Bowl last year, and lost. In the last decade, only two teams (seattle, and Arizona) were able to make the playoffs the year after losing in the super bowl. The Steelers seem too good though... and barring injury, I'm guessing they'll grab the last spot.
Cleveland - Pro Bowl guard Steinbach is out for the season, and they are starting a rookie in his place. The defensive linemen have 2 rookies and another starter with few NFL experience. Plus a new coach means the Browns are still in transition.
Cincy - really in transition! Their surprise division title in 2009 seems like some kind of mythical fantasy.
4-Houston - I'm getting suckered in once again, that this year, will finally be the year for the Texans! I'm banking on Manning's health being a major reason why (plus the Texans somehow got lucky and drew Indy for the 1st season)
Indy - It's a really bad division, and the other 2 teams drafted rookie QBs who may play this year, so the colts still get 2nd place.
Tennessee - I like Hasselbeck stepping in with RB Chris Johnson and their defense to edge out the Jags for the cellar.
Jacksonville - They spent lots of money in the offseason, but the QB situation is unsettled so I'm not sure what to expect.
1-San Diego - The Chargers finished last year 1st in offensive yardage, 1st in defensive yardage, but had a -6 turnover differential (23rd) and gave up a bunch of return TDs, resulting in a disappointing 9-7 finish. That's pretty much worst-case scenario (in terms of turnovers and special teams), so I expect the Chargers to do big, BIG things this year!
KC - It was fun seeing them unexpectedly win the division then get creamated in the playoffs by Baltimore. Just remember that this year when they play more to their level.
Oakland - there are slight rumors of Oakland being a surprise team this year. They finished in the top-10 in offense and defense, surprisingly. Still couldn't tell you exactly what the WR depth chart is. They actually were 7-5 with QB Jason Campbell starting, who posted another 84 QB rating. He really is consistent, not great, but if he plays a little bit, Oakland can make things interesting.
Denver - Kyle Orton has been playing well, but this year, they have John Fox as the coach, so the offense won't be nearly as offensive (but the defense won't be nearly as porous).
NFC - I think Philly, GB, ATL, New Orleans are HEAVY favorites to make the playoffs. This leaves one wildcard for Chicago, Tampa, Giants, Cowboys, Lions; and one division title for the NFC West...
NFC East -
2 - Philly - Philly just went on a crazy shopping spree during the offeseason, picking up the best available DB Asomugha, the Giants best WR Steve Smith (who's recovering from a knee injury), among others. This team is downright scary, so long as Vick is healthy.
6-Cowboys - they can't be any worse than last year defensively, plus they finished the season 5-3. This is a team to watch, because offensively they are just flat out dangerous.
Giants - they had to rebuild the offensive line after dumping out 3 starters. They lost their top CB to injury. I smell lots of trouble here and the tailspin from that DeSean Jackson punt return TD that ruined their season last year looks to be irreversible.
Redskins - should be the worst team in the league with either John Beck or Rex Grossman at QB. It needs to be mentioned, John Beck wasn't able to enter practice the 1st day back because not even security recognized him!
NFC North -
3-GB - Still a very solid team. Earn a super bowl title and they were worthy of it.
Lions - If Stafford stay s healthy, this could be the surprise team of the year!
Bears - played over their heads for a division title... then got ousted by GB in the playoffs.
Vikings - McNabb is the QB temporarily which should provide shaky results.
1-NO- Should rebound from their sub-par showing during the season and loss to 7-9 Seattle in the playoffs.
5-ATL - Solid team still. Gave up too much for WR Julio Jones, but they clearly are in super bowl or bust mode.
TB - Young team built almost entirely through the draft. Division is brutal, so it's hard to say what their chances are of breaking through.
CAR - They hired Rob Chudzinski as offensive coordinator, who was the off. coordinator for the Browns in 2007. You know who else he brought with him? QB Derek Anderson, who had that one magic-in-a-bottle season! They claim they are starting #1 pick Cam Newton, but honestly, with just Jimmy Clausen standing in the way, we may not be that far away from seeing lots of 2007 Browns highlights!
NFC West - (last year, had a 7-9 champ!)
4- St. Louis - I fully expect Sam Bradford, reinvigorated by new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels (who's now had offensive success at New England and St. Louis), to help lead the Rams to a division record with at least 8 wins. You heard it hear first!
Arizona - Could pull off a big surprise depending on how well Kolb plays with Fitzgerald and the other young WRs (Breaston is now gone too).
Seattle - I'm not sure why they signed WR Sidney Rice AND QB Tarvaris Jackson. T. Jackson is their starter now... and I'm not sure what to expect. He has 20 starts, with a 10-10 record. I'm not too optimistic though.
SF - New coach Jim Harbaugh (of the first borther combination in NFL coaching history), as is work cut out for him. He's planning on starting QB Alex Smith only temporarily.
3- New England vs. 6- Pittsburgh - Well, here's something that will cure New England's playoff drought... the Steelers. The Pats own them for reasons I can't determine.
Pick: New England
4- Houston vs. 5-Jets - The Texans make the playoffs... but I don't think the run will last long.
1 -San Diego vs. 5-Jets - LT and Antonio Cromartie get to play their old team! Okay, seriously though, the Chargers can handle this task. I'm sure of it.
2- Baltimore vs. 3 - New England - This game is a doozy. I'm sure the Pats will be fired up by their loss in 2009. I love revenge and payback!
Pick: New Engalnd
1-SD vs 3- New England - in the last decade, the Chargers have lost to the Pats twice in the playoffs. Because I love revenge, I think this is the year the Chargers break through!
3-GB vs 6- Cowboys - the packers will win a wildly entertaining game, forcing Tony Romo to puke in his mouth.
4-St Louis vs 5- ATL - An old NFC West showdown! ATL makes sure their run lasts more than one game this time.
1- NO vs. 5 - ATL - These divisional matchups are complete tossups. However, I picked ATL to lose in the super bowl last year, so they are destined for great things.
2-Philly vs. 3- GB - It's only fitting that the Eagles draw the Packers again. Last year's game went to the wire. I don't see why this would be any different, except with a new outcome.
2-Philly vs. 5-ATL - Vick vs his old team. This could fetch the highest ratings of any playoff game ever. No matter what the outcome, it sure will be a great game on both offense and defense.
ATL over SD - If only because I've become self-aware that my picks are able to forecast the future! Honestly, you can make a case for any of NE, Jets, Steelers, Ravens, Chargers, Philly, GB, NO, or ATL winning the super bowl, and it would be completely reasonable!
Good luck to everyone and hope we have a great season!