Saturday, September 10, 2011

Steve's 2011 NFL Predictions

Yes, believe it or not, I still contribute to this site occasionally, even though this is my first post since June and only my 3rd since I posted the final NFL computerized power ranks in February (I plan to do that again this year). I didn't even make baseball predictions. Needless to say, I've been pretty busy, which I'll probably get into more in the coming weeks. I couldn't skip making football predictions though. I think we have a pretty crazy season ahead. We'll see who actually hit the gym and the film study during the lockout and who didn't. As usual for me, I'm going to pick 6 teams to return to the playoffs from last season and 6 new teams.

AFC East
Patriots - Home Field
Jets - Wild Card
Bills
Dolphins

Unfortunately, I feel like the Patriots are going to come in angry over their loss to the Jets in the playoffs last year and just start destroying people like they did in 2007, with Ochocinco in the Moss role. Or it can totally backfire on them. Just because they've turned around some bad character guys like Randy Moss in the past, doesn't mean that a guy like Haynesworth isn't going to personally end their dynasty. I think the Jets will be good enough to be a wild card again this year, and they'll see if they can finally make it past the AFC Championship. The Bills and Dolphins are both going to suck, but I think the Bills will suck less because they have a better QB and new uniforms this year, which always oddly gives teams a boost.

AFC North
Steelers - First Round Bye
Ravens
Browns
Bengals

I think the Steelers run away with this one, with the Ravens and Browns fighting for 2nd. The Browns were feisty last year but Colt McCoy will really need to step up if they want to make a run at the playoffs. The Ravens still have some of their usual offensive issues (unless Ray Rice does as well as Ryan thinks he will) and their defense is still good, but I feel no longer elite. I think they'll hover around 8-8 and miss the playoffs. The Bengals very well could go 0-16.

AFC South
Titans
Texans - Wild Card
Colts
Jaguars

With Peyton Manning likely done for the year, the Colts are going to suffer. So, who is going to step up? Everyone loves the Texans, but they still have some huge issues, mostly on defense. I think one too many wild shootouts is going to cost them this year, but may still be good enough to grab a wild card in an AFC with only 2 or 3 elite teams. So I'm going with the Titans to win this division. If Matt Hasselbeck can at least stay healthy enough to give Jake Locker some quality clipboard time and Chris Johnson and Kenny Britt can get their hands on the ball enough I can see this team pulling off a division title with a more consistent defense than the Texans. The Colts are obviously going to be worse than in the past, but I can still see them finishing 7-9 with the pieces that they have. The Jaguars are a total mess. They should have October 9 circled on their calendar for an epic showdown with the Bengals.

AFC West
Chargers
Chiefs
Raiders
Broncos

The Chargers are an odd team. They always start the season crappy and make a comeback. Last year, their comeback was too late and they missed the playoffs, but they had a ton of injuries. The big question for them lies in their run game, but maybe it won't matter if Rivers can throw to healthy receivers all year. The Chiefs rise last year seemed like an anomaly, but I don't think they will have a huge drop. Everyone loves to write off the Raiders, but for the first time in a while I feel like they are headed in the right direction, maybe toward another mediocre season. They desperately need good QB play. The Broncos are going to be another absolutely awful team this year, especially if they make the mistake of benching Orton for Tebow due to fan request, even though their defense will most likely be costing them games.

NFC East
Eagles - First Round Bye
Giants - Wild Card
Cowboys
Redskins

The Eagles made the most moves in the offseason to make themselves into a Super Bowl favorite on paper, and I think they will deliver by grabbing a first round bye. I can also see this going horribly wrong, with an early season Michael Vick injury and possibly too many egos in the locker room. The Giants barely missed out on the playoffs last year, and this year they bring back another sold team. Also, with his brother out, Eli Manning has a chance to step out of Peyton's shadow and make a name for himself (even though he already won a Super Bowl). The Redskins are going with Rex Grossman and Tim Hightower as their offensive weapons. Shanahan will most likely not make it to the end of the season.

NFC North
Packers - Home Field
Lions - Wild Card
Bears
Vikings

The defending Super Bowl champs are not getting much attention early in the year despite the fact that they bring back almost the same team injury free. Last year, the Packers barely snuck into the playoffs but I feel like they will dominate the NFC this year. We'll see if Michael Vick can win in Lambeau in January again. Call me crazy, but I think the Lions can make the playoffs this year as a wild card. The key is Matthew Stafford's health. He has been impressive when healthy, and the Lions have some weapons with Jahvid Best and Calvin Johnson. Throw in an improving defense, and why can't the Lions make it? The Bears first round bye of last year still seems like a fluke to me, and I think they will be back to a 6 or 7 win team this year. The Vikings have less drama this year but haven't fixed too many of their issues, other than the Metrodome roof.

NFC South
Falcons
Saints
Buccaneers
Panthers

I know its a little crazy to pick a team to repeat as division champ in this division, but I'm going on limb and predicting the Falcons to return to the playoffs as division champs. The Saints played the Packers tough on Thursday, but I'm wondering if the Packers cut through their defense because the Packers are good or the Saints are really bad...I'm thinking the latter. It could be an epic season in fantasy for Drew Brees owners. Tampa was another team that seemed flukey last year. They will be in the playoff hunt but probably won't make it again this year. The Panthers are going to throw Cam Newton out there day one, who hasn't really proven that he can even play QB at all. We'll see how that goes for them...

NFC West
Rams
Cardinals
49ers
Seahawks

I think I need to give this putrid division to the Rams. Sam Bradford has a year under his belt and almost took the Rams to the playoffs last year, and I think they'll be even better this year. The Cardinals adding Kevin Kolb was a step in the right direction, but he hasn't really proven himself to be a good NFL starter yet. In most divisions, I'd pick the Cards for last, but this is the NFC West. The Niners are actually going to start Alex Smith yet again this year. How is this going to end? Is Smith going to have a big retirement ceremony and have the #11 retired 12 years from now after 18 consecutive seasons of guiding the Niners to no more than 8 wins and no playoff appearances? I don't get it. I'm sure Harbaugh would like to be reunited with Andrew Luck, though. Unfortunately for him, there are teams like the Jaguars and Bengals in this league too. The Seahawks consciously went out and acquired Tarvaris Jackson to be their starter. For that alone, I'm predicting them to finish last. Maybe Pete Carroll was afraid Seahawks boosters paying a better QB would look too suspicious and he would be caught again.

So here is my playoff summary:
6 Teams returning: Patriots, Steelers, Jets, Eagles, Packers, Falcons
6 Teams out: Colts, Chiefs, Ravens, Bears, Seahawks, Saints
6 Teams new to playoffs: Titans, Texans, Chargers, Lions, Rams, Giants

Playoff Predictions
Jets over Titans
Texans over Chargers (playoff choker reputation)
Giants over Rams
Lions over Falcons (playoff choker reputation)

Patriots over Texans
Steelers over Jets
Packers over Lions
Eagles over Giants

Patriots over Steelers
Packers over Eagles

So in Super Bowl XXXI rematch, I'm picking the Packers over the Patriots

MVP: Aaron Rodgers
Coach of the Year: Mike Munchak

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