Monday marks the kickoff of opening week for the 2010 NFL season.
Indeed, it is a great day (especially if you’re off due to the holiday).
What better way to begin such a great week than with OBOD’s 2010 season predictions, right?
(Note: These are only my predictions. I don’t speak for Adam and Gene. Besides, I’m almost sure those two will jump in with their thoughts before the week’s over.)
After pouring over the schedules for each NFL team – these are the things you do with your free time when you’re still single – I’ve determined how I think each of the 32 squads will finish in the standings. I’ll also be giving you my playoff and Super Bowl predictions, because those just worked so well for me last year.
Upon further review, I was a bit surprised how things shook out and, in some ways, these predictions differ greatly from my power rankings post from mid-June. Why? Because, well, I wrote that in mid-June.
Okay, no more explaining. Let’s tee this thing up.
Enjoy (or, at least, don’t laugh at me too much):
1. New England Patriots (11-5) – The Pats went through a bit of a down year in ‘09, finishing 10-6 with an ugly first round playoff exit. The youth movement on defense will pay off in year two and, as Adam said last week, Tom Brady and Randy Moss will be supremely motivated as both are playing for new deals.
2. Miami Dolphins (10-6) – Despite pulling off a pair of big offseason moves (trading for Brandon Marshall and signing Karlos Dansby), the Dolphins aren’t getting as much pub as I think they should be. They’re a physical, hard-hitting team and the offense (i.e., Chad Henne) will be much better now with Marshall on board.
3. New York Jets (10-6) – Everyone’s darlings, the Jets, finishing third? You bet. While I love the defense now that Darrell Revis is back on board, I don’t like Mark Sanchez anywhere near as much as I did earlier in the summer. He’ll have to make a big leap for this team to see the postseason again.
4. Buffalo Bills (1-15) – “And with the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Bills select Jake Locker, quarterback, Washingon.”
1. Baltimore Ravens (13-3) – I love just about everything Baltimore did this offseason, from trading for Anquan Boldin to its stellar draft class. The defense is thin in the secondary, but the offense will make up for it by being much, much better this season. Look for Joe Flacco to emerge in a major way.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) – If you think I’m too high on this team, think again. Despite all the injuries and an obvious Super Bowl hangover last year, the Steelers still finished 9-7, barely missing the playoffs. The health pendulum should swing back their way this year and, once Nasty Ben returns, this team will roll.
3. Cincinnati Bengals (9-7) – The Bengals were such a great story last year, fighting through adversity and tragedy the entire way before winning the division. This time around, though, things won’t end so well. The defense should take a step back and there’s no way Cedric Benson sneaks up on people like he did in ‘09. Carson Palmer will be better with T.O. and rookie Jordan Shipley at his disposal, but that won’t be enough.
4. Cleveland Browns (2-14) – First LeBron. Then the Indians. And now the Brownies winning just twice this year? Sadly, Cleveland fans, that appears to be the case. Sometimes there is no silver lining in the clouds.
1. Indianapolis Colts (13-3) – As I wrote in the power rankings post, Indy had its typical offseason. In other words, things were very quiet. But as long as that Manning guy is the quarterback, I will simply not bet against this team in the regular season. Even I’m not that stupid (okay, I was last season, but I’ve changed my ways).
2. Tennessee Titans (11-5) – That sound you hear is Adam laughing his head off somewhere (remember, I had the Titans going to the Super Bowl last season). I’m cool with that, because I think the Titans are sneaky good and will surprise a lot of people this year. They closed last season really strong, have the best running back in the league (Chris Johnson) and will tailor the offense to Vince Young’s strengths.
3. Houston Texans (9-7) – For the first time in, seemingly, forever, I am not picking the Texans to make the postseason. The offense is (once again) mighty, but the defense is (once again) pretty mediocre. Until Houston gets serious about its defense, it will not make the playoffs.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11) – Outside of signing Aaron Kampman, I don’t like a single thing the Jags did, particularly in the draft, which was horrendous. The five wins come as a result of Maurice Jones-Drew’s presence – and nothing else.
1. San Diego Chargers (12-4) – The dual Vincent Jackson/Marcus McNeill holdouts have been a major distraction, yes, but surprisingly, I still like this team. The Bolts have a top-five quarterback, good enough defense and a cakewalk schedule (their own divisional slate plus the NFC West). And keep an eye out for receiver Malcolm Floyd.
2. Oakland Raiders (8-8) – I have not lost my mind. The Raiders are better than you think. They run the ball well and Jason Campbell is a good fit for the downfield passing attack. The defense is quickly getting better and the team plays really hard for Tom Cable. How is this happening? My guess is that Al Davis secretly died about a year ago and has been replaced with a robot in order to keep up appearances.
3. Denver Broncos (7-9) – Who are the real Denver Broncos? The team that was the national darlings for the first half of ‘09 or the team that ran out of gas soon after? The latter, especially with no Marshall and no Elvis Dumervil. Simply put, neither side of the ball is very good.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (6-10) – The Chiefs had a nice little offseason for themselves, particularly in the draft. In the years to come, that will pay dividends. This year, however, it only pays off in a small improvement. Hey, anything’s better than watching the Royals, right? You guys liking all these AL Central jokes?
1. Dallas Cowboys (11-5) – I’m not quite as high on this team as everyone else seems to be, but Dallas finished 11-5 last year and basically brings back the same team so a similar result appears likely this year. Still not sure about the offensive line or the secondary, but Dez Bryant will be an impact player as the season goes on and that will help big-time.
2. New York Giants (9-7) – No “Giants winning the Super Bowl” predictions from me this time around, gang. The defense, as a whole, concerns me too much to make such a claim again. Hakeem Nicks is a freak, though, and will make “The Leap” this season.
3. Philadelphia Eagles (8-8) – Kevin Kolb’s time has finally come. How will he fare? Good, for the most part, especially as the season goes on because of all the talent Philly has at the skill positions. The Eagles went young on defense and will also improve there as things progress. Philly takes a step back this year to jump much further ahead in the future.
4. Washington Redskins (3-13) – To some, it might seem inconceivable that a team ran by Mike Shanahan and led on the field by Donovan McNabb could finish so poorly. Not this guy, though. The o-line is weak sauce, as are the skill positions. The defense won’t be so bad, but that won’t matter if McNabb and Co. can’t score.
1. Green Bay Packers (12-4) – I could tell you why I think the Pack will win this division, but how’s about you read what I wrote last Friday, instead? I think that sums it up nicely.
2. Minnesota Vikings (11-5) – As much as I wanted to have the Vikings finishing with a worse record, it’s simply not possible. They have too much talent overall to warrant that. Brett Favre will not be as good as he was, but I expect Adrian Peterson to be better than he was last year. And that defense isn’t shabby, either. Excuse me – I need to go throw up.
3. Detroit Lions (6-10) – Really like what the Lions did during the offseason. Instead of trying to improve everywhere – a classic mistake bad teams often make – they simply put emphasis on a pair of key spots (defensive line and the skill positions). That will pay off. Matthew Stafford’s got big-time potential. Detroit’s still a year away, but it is getting a whole lot closer.
4. Chicago Bears (4-12) – Quick – name me the team that spent over $100 million in free agency and will actually be worse for it? If you guessed the Bears, you’re right. Mike Martz is maybe the most overrated coordinator in league history and all those seven-step drops he calls will get Jay Cutler killed behind that terrible o-line. The defense is bad across the board and won’t be helped much by a player (Julius Peppers) who only shows up about one-third of the time. The Lovie Smith Era is about to end.
1. New Orleans Saints (12-4) – Defending champions have had a hard time getting back to the same level the next year, recently, but that shouldn’t be a problem with the Saints. They have the best coach-quarterback tandem in all the land and will be aided by a schedule befitting a king (i.e., it’s a really weak schedule). How weak? The NFC West and their divisional slate, plus a game against Cleveland.
2. Atlants Falcons (11-5) – Whenever a team closes the previous season strong, that usually carries over (unless you’re Cleveland). Atlanta did this last year, mainly for the sake of pride as it had already been eliminated from the playoffs. You have to love that – and Matt Ryan in year three plus an improved defense.
3. Carolina Panthers (7-9) – A hard team to really peg right here. Carolina was better when Matt Moore took over at quarterback, but the Panthers seem dead set on handing over the reigns to Jimmy Clausen sooner rather than later. That could spell trouble, plus the defense won’t be as good as it usually is. The running game is strong enough to keep this team around .500, though.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-15) – The Bucs are going realllllly young this season on both sides of the ball. The youngsters will definitely get a shot to play significant time, as well, which bodes well for the future. For the present? Not nearly as much. It’s going to be a tough fall, but at least Tampa fans have the Rays.
1. San Francisco 49ers (10-6) – Many are giving the Niners this division by default – it is the worst in football and maybe all of professional sports, after all - but if you look closer, this team could be pretty good. San Fran has established an identity on defense (tough, hard-hitting) and should have a sneaky good offense. Alex Smith doesn’t have to be great; he just can’t be atrocious. I like dem odds.
2. Arizona Cardinals (6-10) – If you’re looking for the team that will experience the biggest dropoff this season, head to the desert. Arizona lost a boatload of talent on both sides of the ball (Kurt Warner, Boldin, Dansby, Antrel Rolle) and is replacing it with…um…hang on a second…Derek Anderson? Wait – that’s it?
3. Seattle Seahawks (4-12) – Pete Carroll takes his endless energy from SoCal to Seattle (because he wanted the challenge, not because of those looming NCAA sanctions, remember). He’ll need every ounce of it as the Seahawks are in for a rough year. Simply put, there just isn’t a whole lot of talent on this team. At least it won’t rain a lot or anything.
4. St. Louis Rams (2-14) – Last – and certainly least – are the Rams once again. I’m coming around on Sam Bradford more and more and Steven Jackson is a truly fantastic player. Outside of that? Not. A. Whole. Lot.
Wild card round – (6) Pittsburgh over (3) San Diego and (4) New England over (5) Tennessee
Divisional round – (1) Baltimore over (6) Pittsburgh and (4) New England over (2) Indianapolis
Championship game – (1) Baltimore over (4) New England
Wild card round – (3) Dallas over (6) Atlanta and (4) San Francisco over (5) Minnesota
Divisional round – (1) New Orleans over (4) San Francisco and (2) Green Bay over (3) Dallas
Championship game – (2) Green Bay over (1) New Orleans
Super Bowl XLV – February 6, 2011, Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Green Bay Packers 27, Baltimore Ravens 20 (Jinx? I ain’t afraid of no jinx!)
Those are my predictions. As always, feel free to chime in with yours.