Wednesday, September 8, 2010

NFL Predictions 2010: Favre returns to Green Bay for NFC Championship showdown

Football is back!

I've probably made that announcement a couple-hundred times since, well, sometime in April when the NFL Draft was getting underway. The statement will become 100% accurate Thursday, though, when Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings return to New Orleans for a rematch of last season's NFC Championship game with the Saints.

Week by week during the season, I'll be posting my picks for the games each week. With all the variables that come into play during the year, those picks may end up being a bit inconsistent with the ones you'll see below. This, more or less, is just my feeble attempt at predicting how the season will go overall with, of course, a healthy dose of Chiefs optimism.

After looking through the schedule a few times, here's what I came up with:

Final Standings

AFC East
  1. *-New England Patriots 15-1
  2. x-New York Jets 10-6
  3. Miami Dolphins 6-10
  4. Buffalo Bills 2-14
There seems to be this consensus among fans and "experts" that the Jets are primed to take over this division. I just don't see it, at least not yet. Mark Sanchez is still young and interception-prone. Also, there's no telling how much of an impact the loss of Thomas Jones will have on the Jet rushing attack. Shonn Greene is an impressive young runner, but he still needs a capable back - not LaDanian Tomlinson - to spell him. Meanwhile, the old faithfuls in New England (Tom Brady, Randy Moss, and Wes Welker) are alive and well, and seem to have something to prove. Don't be surprised if Brady's bunch comes close to replicating their almost perfect 2007 season in 2010.

AFC North
  1. z-Baltimore Ravens 14-2
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers 7-9
  3. Cincinatti Bengals 6-10
  4. Cleveland Browns 4-12
With quarterback Ben Roethlisberger facing a four-game suspension, it's tough to see the Steelers re-emerging as a force in the North. And remember, Big Ben can't even practice with the team until his suspension has been served. So even when he returns, who knows what kind of impact he'll have, especially if the team struggles in his absence. On the other hand, the Ravens addressed possibly their only weakness, wide receiver, by acquiring Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh during the offseason. Fans in Baltimore are dreaming big, and they absolutely should be.

AFC South
  1. z-Indianapolis Colts 14-2
  2. Houston Texans 9-7
  3. Tennessee Titans 8-8
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars 7-9
The Colts are still the elite team in this division. The Texans have slowly improved in the past two or three years, but still cannot compete with the level of talent in Indianapolis. This goes for the Titans and Jaguars as well. Both of these teams are almost identical - elite runners, solid defenses, suspect quarterback play - and won't be able to distinguish themselves because of it. This division and the NFC East are probably the most talented divisions overall, and therefore the toughest to judge.

AFC West
  1. z-San Diego Chargers 12-4
  2. x-Kansas City Chiefs 9-7
  3. Oakland Raiders 6-10
  4. Denver Broncos 5-11
A lot has been made of the offseason in San Diego, but the AFC West is still the Chargers' to lose. The team will be without big-play wide receiver Vincent Jackson until at least week four because of an on-going contract dispute. The latest on that situation, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, is that Jackson "is not going to be a Charger again", and the team would like to trade him. Also, they'll be relying on rookie running back Ryan Mathews who was drafted this year to replace Tomlinson. For the Chiefs, hopes of a turn-around rely heavily on their Monday night opener against the Chargers. San Diego has come out of the gates slow the past few seasons, and you'd have to think if a young team like the Chiefs are going to make any noise 2010, it'd have to start with a statement in the first game against a division rival.

NFC East
  1. z-Dallas Cowboys 11-5
  2. New York Giants 10-6
  3. Philadelphia Eagles 7-9
  4. Washington Redskins 5-11
This was easily the toughest division to predict. Is it just me, or does it seem like the Cowboys, Giants, and Eagles just rotate spots every year? I'm leaning on Dallas to win the division for the second consecutive season. Last season, Big-D was second only to the Jets in scoring defense, and quarterback Tony Romo probably has the best receiving options in the division. The Eagles went from good to average by trading away quarterback Donovan McNabb, and the Redskins, in acquiring him, went from very bad to still pretty bad.

NFC North
  1. *-Green Bay Packers 13-3
  2. x-Minnesota Vikings 12-4
  3. Chicago Bears 5-11
  4. Detroit Lions 3-13
Many are expecting big things from quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers this season, and for good reason. The offense has weapons galore - as shown in a 59-24 blowout victory over the Colts during the preseason - and the defense is fast and full of playmakers. Also, Rodgers is nearing that peak point in his career where many of the elite quarterbacks make the step from good to great. The Vikings certainly have their share of question marks, including Brett Favre and his depleted receiving corps, but any team that has Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen lining up for them is a contender.

NFC South
  1. z-Atlanta Falcons 12-4
  2. x-New Orleans Saints 11-5
  3. Carolina Panthers 5-11
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3-13
Falcons' quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Michael Turner both missed time last season after having impressive campaigns in 2008. If healthy, expect both to return to form and have big years, helping the Falcons make a run at the division. The defending Super Bowl Champion Saints aren't falling off any cliffs, though it'll be hard for the defense to replicate last year's turnover anomaly this season. In 2009, the team too often relied on game-changing turnovers to decide the outcome of games. Without them, the division may slip from their grasp in 2010.

NFC West
  1. z-San Francisco 49ers 11-5
  2. Seattle Seahawks 6-10
  3. Arizona Cardinals 5-11
  4. St. Louis Rams 3-13
This is, by far, the weakest division in football. It's likely that none of these teams, if placed in any other division, would finish the season with a winning record. Nevertheless, the 49ers should be ready to take over. The defense has emerged as one of the league's best, and the offense has standouts at running back and tight end in Frank Gore and Vernon Davis, respectively. While still very talented, I just don't see the Cardinals winning many games with quarterback Derek Anderson at the helm.

(* = clinched division and home-field advantage; z = clinched division; x = clinched wild card)

Wild Card Round

Colts over Chiefs - Kansas City, for the third consecutive time in their last three playoff appearances dating back to 2003 (and fourth time out of the last five dating back to 1995), will be eliminated by a more talented and experienced Indianapolis squad. (My prediction for these two teams to face eachother in the playoffs again was purely a coincidince.)

Chargers over Jets - San Diego will get some redemption from last season's heartbreaking playoff loss to the Jets with a blowout victory this time around.

Saints over Cowboys - Drew Brees will outplay Romo, and shortly after the game Jerry Jones will fire head coach Wade Phillips. Let the Bill Cowher rumors begin.

Vikings over 49ers - An overpowered 49ers team will be ousted by the Vikings early, ending what should be considered a successful season in San Francisco.

Divisional Round

Ravens over Colts - Joe Flacco outplays Peyton Manning? No. But the Ravens outplay and outcoach the Colts in route to their second AFC Championship appearance in three years.

Patriots over Chargers - New England outlasts San Diego in a shootout, and head coach Norv Turner will be fired as a result of repeated playoff letdowns.

Packers over Saints - The Packers, looking a lot like the 2009 Saints, oust New Orleans, ending their title defense.

Vikings over Falcons - Favre and the Vikings return to the NFC Championship game after a tough battle with a good Atlanta team.

Championship Round

Ravens over Patriots - Brady, Moss, and company can't overcome a balanced attack from Baltimore.

Packers over Vikings - Favre says goodbye to Green Bay and the NFL after coming up a game short of the Super Bowl yet again.

Super Bowl

Ravens over Packers - Baltimore, with the help of the "big three" - clutch quarterback play, solid run game, and consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback - will hold off the league's best offense and win Super Bowl XLV.


MVP:  Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Offensive Player of the Year:  Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens

Defensive Player of the Year:  DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys

Offensive Rookie of the Year:  Dexter McCluster, Kansas City Chiefs

Defensive Rookie of the Year:  Rolando McClain, Oakland Raiders

Coach of the Year:  Mike Singletary, San Francisco 49ers

Comeback Player of the Year:  Brian Urlacher, Chicago Bears

1 comment:

  1. I like your outlook for the Chiefs, though your optimism is a bit on the high side; This team is still a year (and another good pass-rusher) away from wildcard contention. You will be sick on Monday Night when you see Rivers drop back to pass and see that he has 3 1/2 seconds back in the pocket, checking off his receivers, running to the 1st down marker giggling. Minnesota will not be as good as you think--- I would LOVE to see the NFC Championship you project, but they are very susceptible to a letdown year. Dallas (hate to admit it) is Green Bay's kryptonite this year-- whoever wins homefield advantage will take that conference. I like the Baltimore pick in the AFC, but think that you should tack on 4 more losses to New England, still AFC East champs, but on-the-road in the postseason. Yes, Steelers will have a mighty dropoff-- Peter King projects them as SB Champions, and I think to myself: Is that guy high?