The morning air is crisper, and that can only mean one thing – the start of football season is upon us. Before the start of the season last year, I made an attempt to demonstrate my football predictive prowess. Looking back on the results, I’m not sure why I’m going to try it again. Making predictions about a football season is a fool’s game. I know that, but I just can’t resist. Like last year, I’ll take a stab at how I see teams finishing the year, as well as a few storylines that I think will play out over the season.
For this post, I’ll cover how I see the teams finishing by division (* indicates my pick for the wildcard playoff spots)
NFC East: Eagles, Giants (*), Cowboys, Redskins
Why it’ll happen this way: My Eagles bias is shining through here. If I can’t pick my own team to win the division, I don’t want to play. I think they’re high risk/high reward this year but I’m picking with my heart. I think the Cowboys and Redskins battle for the cellar as a result of both having porous offensive lines. If RGIII is even half-way decent and the Redskins can continue to run the ball, they could move up.
Why I’ll be wrong: Vick gets hurt and misses multiple games. Eli really is an elite QB. I’m almost expecting this to be the case.
NFC North: Packers, Bears (*), Lions, Vikings
Why it’ll happen this way: Picking the Vikings to finish last feels like shooting fish in a barrel. Green Bay has the most talent and their defence can’t be as bad as last year. I’ve got the Lions 3rd as I think they’re thin in a couple of places and could really be exposed on defence with a small number of injuries. I’ve got the Bears grabbing one of the two wildcard spots with a much improved offence.
Why I’ll be wrong: The Packers’ weaknesses on the offensive line and on defence could be their downfall like in the playoffs last year. The Lions stay completely healthy and outscore their horrible defence. The Bears o-line plays as poorly as it does last year. I won’t be wrong on the Vikings.
NFC South: Falcons, Saints, Panthers, Bucs
Why it’ll happen this way: Here’s my upset pick – the Saints fall from top spot and miss the playoffs as the offseason turmoil catches up with them. Last year, while their head coach and offensive play caller was off the sidelines recuperating from a knee injury, the offense lacked its normal zip and aggressiveness. I see that occurring this year. Top to bottom, I see this being a tight division won with 10 or 11 wins.
Why I’ll be wrong: The Saints play with an “eff-you” attitude as a result of the turmoil. The Falcons struggle in pass defence.
NFC West: 49ers, Seahawks, Rams, Cardinals
Why it’ll happen this way: The 49ers could win this with their defence alone. The Seahawks have a nice young o-line but have 2 unproven QBs with potential. Overall weakness in QB protection hurts both the Rams and Cardinals. Both of those teams just don’t have the depth to compete over a full season.
Why I’ll be wrong: Much of the 49ers success last year was as a result of dominating the turnover battle (they were +28) – this typically owes itself to a bit of luck. They can’t repeat this and that esults in them slipping back to the pack. The Seahawks get QB play like they haven’t had in a couple of years.
AFC East: Pats, Bills (*), Jets, Dolphins
Why it’ll happen this way: No one else in the division has the level of talent of New England so they should wrap up a division title fairly early. My heart is picking the Bills as one of the AFC wildcards this year. The Tebow/Sanchez show will keep the Jets interesting (in a soap opera way, not a football way). The Dolphins will have yet another unwatchable season as they play for 2013.
Why I’ll be wrong: The Bills play like the Bills have for the past decade and their investments in the defensive line don’t pan out. Tebow’s connection to a higher power interferes with the outcomes of the Jets games like it did with last year’s Broncos.
AFC North: Steelers, Ravens (*), Bengals, Browns
Why it’ll happen this way: Another pick with my heart (and to stay on the good side of my love), I’ll pick a minor upset of Pittsburgh beating out Baltimore for the division title. The Ravens do enough for a wildcard. I don’t like the overall offensive balance on Cincinnati, but they’ll again have one of the top defences that will keep them in the wildcard hunt until the end. The Browns are just plain sad.
Why I’ll be wrong: The Steelers defence plays to its age early in the season and/or Ben gets hurt behind what is shaping up to be a truly horrid offensive line. Flacco performs as a top tier QB (Ravens upside) or the defence shows its age and really misses Suggs at LB (Ravens downside). The Bengals defence finishes in the top 5 of the league and the Steelers/Ravens fall off for the reasons above. If the Browns move higher than 4th, I’ll be dumbfounded and happy for the people of Cleveland.
AFC South: Texans, Titans, Colts, Jags
Why it’ll happen this way: Houston walks away with the division as there’s no one even close to them in terms of talent. The minor surprise is that the Colts are respectable this year after their disastrous 2011/12 with a new QB who can makes things happen. I could even see them get to 2nd place with the Titans struggling with their offence. I truly feel sorry for Jags fans.
Why I’ll be wrong: Injuries of the proportion Houston suffered last year. Chris Johnson doesn’t regain his quickness and the Titans end up without a run game and an inaccurate almost rookie QB.
AFC West: Chiefs, Broncos, Chargers, Raiders
Why it’ll happen this way and why I’ll be wrong: This will be a hotly contested division and I can honestly see anyone winning this. I really like the Chiefs defence but have concerns about their ability to consistently score points. Manning makes the Broncos a fun team to watch but I’m not sure if they’ll score enough points this year as he gets used to a new system (or if he can make it through all 16 games). I don’t trust the Chargers or their head coach. The Raiders are the Raiders – if they get the run game going, they might make it to 8-8. I fully expect this division’s prediction to be my worst when I look back at the end of the season. This could be a division where 8-8 wins it. I don’t think anyone gets to 10 wins.