Thursday, September 10, 2009

NFL Predictions

With the Titans set to play at Pittsburgh on Thursday night at 8:30pm ET on NBC to start off the 2009 NFL season, I thought I would do what I've done a couple of other times now prior to new sports seasons beginning and make some predictions for the upcoming year in the NFL. Now, I should start off by pointing out that, even though my preseason baseball picks this year were utterly crushing as of the last time we looked about 60% of the way through the season, in general my strength in picking teams and games has always lay in the second half of the NFL season. Generally speaking, with as much parity as there is in the NFL, and with the worst teams continually getting the best picks in the draft year in and year out, I find the first several weeks of picking NFL games usually to be more or less a joke. So much changes year to year in this game, moreso than in any of the other professional sports, that making picks like this before the season even starts can only go so far. That said, it seems like a fun thing to do, and if you're as excited for football as I bet most of you are out there, this ought to be a nice introduction as the season kicks off just a few hours from now.

Rather than pick each individual team, as at the moment I am far too lazy to go and look up every team's 2009 schedule right now, I am going to do instead a quick writeup of each division with reference to individual teams as necessary.

Starting with always the best division in football, for the past 177 years running:

NFC East

This one does seem to be the Eagles' division to lose, and with Andy Reid's track record of solid NFC East performance, the addition of the unknowable Mike Vick, and the Giants' loss of their only real attack wideout, I have to agree with most of the pundits out there that the Eagles will pull this one out. 11-5 or so will probably get it done for Philly, while the Giants should still be a good team thanks to their excellent defense and solid running game, leading me to expect around 9 wins for the G-Men in 2009. Contrary to what some so-called experts are estimating, I believe this will be a down year for the hateful Dallas Cowboys, as the ineptitude and lackadaisical attitude towards practice and discipline exhibited by head coach Wade Phillips combined with the loss of the team's primary deep threat in the volatile Terrell Owens will finally combine to cap this team's wins at a maximum of 8 and a missed playoff berth. Bringing up the rear will be a horrible Redskins squad that once again Daniel Snyder has managed to keep firmly planted in the cellar while still finding people to throw hundreds of millions of dollars at. 4-6 wins for the Skins is probably the best that this severely hampered offense can hope for for 2009.

NFC North

The NFC North is definitely one of the most interesting conferences to watch this season, as Brett Favre makes the triumphant return to throw for Minnesota that he very overtly wanted all along since leaving the Packers a couple of years back. Everybody seems to love the Vikings this year, except for me. I mean, they do have a proven solid defense, especially against the run, and of course Purple Jesus coming out of the backfield, but for some reason I'm just not feeling it much for them in 2009. The Vikes finished 2008 with a 10-6 record and a miracle playoff berth, and I am expecting something similar at 10 wins or so from them this year. But with Brad Childress at the helm and Brett Favre slinging the ball around like he doesn't care which team catches it, and with the Packers and Bears both likely improved since last season (the Lions as well, for that matter, though that ain't saying much), the upside is definitely limited for this team in my view. Another interesting spot is the Packers, under second-year quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The Packers only had 6 wins last year, though they seemed to play better than that, and this year I think they will nab closer to 8 wins than 6, although I still think the playoffs may be elusive for Brett Favre's old teammates. A better chance of making the playoffs I think will be in Chicago, where the Bears will look to improve on last year's 9-6 record with new stud quarterback Jay Cutler at the helm. Although the Bears' defense looked highly suspect throughout much of the 2008 season, I believe the Bears will find a way to win 10 games this year and give the Vikes a run for their money in the division in 2009. And then there are the Lions. I'll just go out on a crazy limb and predict not one but two wins for the worst franchise in sports right now, and let's hope they can at least win something after the debacle that was the 2008 Detroit Lions' season.

NFC South

Everybody loves the Panthers in the NFC South, just like they do every year, and with good reason. Carolina is always strong on defense, they have a great running game, Delhomme generally manages the offensive side of the ball well, and John Fox continues to be one of the best head coaches in the game. The Panthers nabbed 12 wins in 2008 and I look for them to come up with another 11 or 12 victories in 2009 and be in position to win their second straight division crown. The only thing likely standing in their way will be the Falcons, who I expect to improve as quarterback Matt Ryan and runningback Michael Turner add another season of experience under their belts, sending the Falcons also towards 11 wins and a showdown with Carolina to take the division. Tampa Bay, who finished with 9 wins in 2008, is likely to be a couple of games worse than that this year, while I am thinking that Drew Brees will once again be able to manufacture enough offense in New Orleans to win 8 or 9 games for the Saints, but probably not enough to make the playoffs for the second straight year.

NFC West

The NFC West is another interesting conference, mostly because you've got the reigning NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals leading the way again in the upcoming year on most pundits' predictions. Well, I'm going to be going in a different direction with my own guesses for the West, going instead with the very reliable recent indicator that the team losing the superbowl in one year has only made the playoffs at all I think twice in the last 10 years or more. So I'm going to predict a down year for the Cards in 2009, probably at least somewhat due to injury to their studly but aging quarterback Kurt Warner and the ever-present unhappiness of Anquan Boldin at wideout, and call for 8 or 9 wins for last year's superbowl runner-ups. Giving the Cardinals the best push for the division title I think will be Mike Singletary and his upstart San Francisco 49ers, who I could see winning this division with 9 wins for the first time in years after I noticed real improvement in this team during 2008 under Singletary's smashmouth approach to playing the game and no-nonsense coaching style. Unfortunately, I'm not expecting much from the other two teams in this division, starting with the Rams and their 2-14 record in 2008. Although Steven Jackson will probably continue to be a decent option coming out of the backfield and catching some passes, this team is old with a capital "O" at quarterback, and they lost aging wide receiver Torry Holt to boot in the offseason. I will predict an improvement over 2008's win production for the Rams, but maybe only with 4 wins or so, while the Seahawks I think can improve somewhat from last year's dismal 4 wins as long as qb Matt Hasselbeck can stay healthy, so let's go with 6 wins for the Seahawks in another playoff-missing season out of the Pacific northwest.

AFC East

The last time we saw the New England Cheatriots with a full-strength Tom Brady at quarterback, they were hands down the best team in the NFL and on their way to embarrassing their cheating-ass selves by going undefeated all through the regular season for the first time in nearly 30 years but then getting crunched by the Giants in the superbowl. As much as all of us want to see a bunch of lying, cheating weasels like these shitheads pull a Lions and go 0-16 in 2009, I can't escape the fact that the Cheats are looking more like a 14-win team this season. They've got a couple of tough game on their schedule, but the Cheatriots should easily take the division down despite some interesting storylines with their other competitors. One team I am expecting another solid season from is the Dolphins, who actually shocked the world by going worst-to-first and winning the division in 2008, and although I don't think Bill Parcells' team in South Florida will quite equal that win total again, I do expect 10 wins and another playoff appearance from the Dolphins even though almost nobody else out there is willing to make such a prediction heading into the 2009 NFL season. And being a New Yorker, there is tons of hype in this area about the Jets this year and about first-round draft pick and new starting quarterback out of USC, Mark Sanchez. I have to admit that Sanchez has looked decent so far in a few preseason games, but in the end I have to go against the local media and expect a tough season for a rookie quarterback and rookie head coach Rex Ryan, probably 6 or 7 wins is my guess. And last but probably least as well are the Buffalo Bills, who went out on a limb and signed Terrell Owens in the offseason which just goes to show how desperate they are to get some kind of a spark on offense. Unfortunately I just don't see the Bills as having the quarterback strength in Trent Edwards, the running game or the defense to win more than 5 games in 2009.

AFC North

Once again this is going to be two great teams and two shit teams battling it out in the AFC North. Last year's superbowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers ended the 2008 regular season with 12 wins, and I expect another similar 11-win season in the 2009 campaign from the champs. The Ravens surprised everybody in 2008 with a high-powered offensive attack led by Joe Flacco, who with another year under his belt is I think likely to lead his team and that still-powerful defense to perhaps 12 wins and a division title this year in Baltimore. The Bengals are always talking big about coming back and making a strong push for the playoffs, and Carson Palmer has shown himself to have the arm to lead a good air attack, but with Ocho Cinco still being an ass and declining in skills, and with TJ Houshmanzadeh now gone from the team, Chris Henry and a defense that's been horrible for years under head coach Marvin Lewis is not enough for me to rely on more than 4 or 5 wins. And the Browns I think are likely on a similar track for 5 or maybe 6 wins in 2009, as I have more respect than many for coach Eric Mangini but I just don't think Brady Quinn will have enough to get it done, especially without prolific tight end Kellen Winslow on the team any longer.

AFC South

The Titans ran away with this division in 2008, led by one of the league's best head coaches in Jeff Fisher, and I see nothing standing in the way of them once again capturing 11 or 12 wins and the division title. It's always tempting to pick Indianapolis and Peyton Manning, but last year Indy struggled their way to 12 wins, and they lost their head coach in addition to leading receiver Marvin Harrison who at this point remains unsigned by any NFL team, while Joseph Addai also seems far shakier heading into this season than he did prior to the 2008 campaign began. I'm thinking 10 wins for the Colts and a struggle to make the playoffs for the first time in a while from this team which I think is finally ready for a truly down year. A lot of the experts out there are enjoying picking the Houston Texans to make a playoff run in 2009, and I do think this team is slowly improving both on offense and on the defensive side of the ball, but I still think the Texans will be hard pressed to improve upon last year's 8-8 record and I am not seeing them finding their way into the playoffs out of this division. Jacksonville is another team who some people are picking for an unlikely playoff run, and with Maurice Jones-Drew still in town there's no reason they should be as bad as last year's 5-11 record would indicate. Still, I think 8 wins for Houston and Jacksonville are probably the top either team can hope for in a crowded division and an always-stacked AFC come playoff time in 2009.

AFC West

And lastly, we have the AFC West, where everybody and their mother is picking the San Diego Chargers to run away with the division. While it's certainly not that I think the Chargers are the end-all be-all of football teams heading into 2009 -- they were pretty horrible all through the first half of 2008 if you recall, with LaDainian Tomlinson suddenly looking old coming out of the backfield and with a defense that didn't do much to stop anyone in at least half of their games last season -- but the rest of the competition in this division is so awful that it is hard to imagine the Chargers not winning a good 11 games and easily claiming the division title early on. First-year coach and Bill Belichik disciple Josh McDaniel came into Denver this offseason after longtime coach Mike Shanahan was fired, and he promptly managed to alienate -- eventually forcing the trade of -- star quarterback Jay Cutler, getting back nothing in return. Now he has also alienated star wideout Brandon Marshall, and even though the two sides seem to be talking again now, I think we are seeing a sign of what is to come for what I expect to be a very long, 5-win season in Denver. And I still think with those 5 wins will probably be enough to keep the Broncos ahead of both the Chiefs and the Raiders, with the Chiefs probably nabbing 3 or 4 wins under new quarterback Matt Cassell, and the Raiders taking their horrifying quarterback situation and ridiculous draft picks yet again this year to a likely 2 or 3 wins like usual for the team out of Oakland, California and run by the craziest old man in sports.

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Blogger VinNay said...

You're giving my Bills 5 wins? That's pretty optimistic.

10:58 PM  
Blogger 1Queens Up1 said...

I think KC is going to surprise people this year, however, I predict a 6-10 finish, good for 2nd place in the division.

12:17 AM  
Blogger OES said...

get over the patriots and the cheating scandal plzzz. you're just being stubborn now.

1:41 AM  
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Blogger PokahDave said...

You Pats haters are so deranged. It's downright comical.

3:53 AM  

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