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NFL Predictions are a dime and dozen, and most of them turn out to be inaccurate and completely meaningless. But they’re fun. So, why not?
In the end, it all boils down to hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in February. The NFL boasts of unparalleled parity this decade, but if you look closely enough, you can still pick out the haves and the have-nots.
And that is my goal with these predictions. I’ve created several categories. Each category rates a team’s chances to win the Super Bowl. Now, don’t get confused, and don’t email me about my lunacy—there are some teams that I rank as having a better chance to win the Super Bowl, but actually having a worse record than a competing team. My way of thinking is that simply because you win your division, you don’t have a better chance to win the Super Bowl than a wild card team. There are also several teams that have a greater downside, yet a greater upside than some middling teams. The Categories:
0% Chance. Literally. Absolutely Impossible. Can’t Happen.
Miami Dolphins: Bill Parcells and company have just begun a total rebuild project. Coming off a 1-15 season, the Dolphins obviously have nowhere to go but up, but “up” won’t be very far in 2008.
Baltimore Ravens: Their struggles finding a quarterback are almost mind boggling. It’s a week before the season starts, and I’m not sure they have a clue who is going to be under center week one. Further, I’m not sure they care. The defense is no longer even close to being capable of carrying this team.
Atlanta Falcons: I like what the front office is doing. I think they had a good draft, and I’m a big Matt Ryan fan. But like all rookie QB’s, he is going to have to take his medicine, and the personnel around him isn’t up to snuff either.
San Francisco 49ers: If this isn’t rock bottom for the 49ers, I don’t know what is. The first overall pick in the draft just got beat out by a journeyman named O’Sullivan. Ouch.
St. Louis Rams: Both lines are in the process of being rebuilt. The skill position players are still above average, but they don’t have the depth in that area that they’ve had in the past. They won’t be quite as miserable as they were last year, but they aren’t going to be competing for anything either.
Kansas City Chiefs: I like the plan. Draft, draft, draft. But KC has a long, long, long way to go. Brodie Croyle is not the answer.
Oakland Raiders: I think there’s a little more talent here than people realize. But how can I say this politely? I think Jamarcus Russell was an awful pick. I think he is going to be a total bust and will stunt the growth of the rest of the offense.
They Should Really be in the 0% Category, but I’ll be Nice and give them a 0.5% Chance
Buffalo Bills: The Bills are significantly better than all of the teams they are lumped with here. And they may very well be better than a few teams I rank ahead of them. But this team lacks the necessary offensive firepower to have any chance at winning a championship.
Cincinnati Bengals: I am a huge Carson Palmer fan, and he alone makes them semi-respectable. But Marvin Lewis has done a poor job since their playoff run in 2005. Quite simply, he has failed at his greatest strength—building a defense. He is the defensive version of Brian Billick.
Detroit Lions: Defense should be improved, but they are spinning their wheels with Jon Kitna.
Chicago Bears: I actually think the Bears may move the ball a bit better than people expect this year. Kyle Orton was the correct choice at QB. But the Bears defense fell off big time in 2007, and I was not impressed watching them this pre-season. That unit looks like a shell of the squad that led them to the Super Bowl two years ago.
Only In Dreams….But Sometimes Dreams Come True
New York Jets: Since the last time he played in a Super Bowl, Brett Favre is 3-6 in the post-season with 14 TD’s and 18 INT’s. Making the playoffs in the AFC is a tall order, and even if the Jets squeeze in, they won’t last long.
Cleveland Browns: I just can’t decide if last year’s offensive explosion was a fluke. The Browns have been horrid in the pre-season. I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt in my official predictions, but the chances of this team making noise in the playoffs are very slim.
Tampa Bay Bucs: Jeff Garcia is a great story, and a solid QB. But his upside is tapped out. He is extremely limited, and as long as he is the QB, Tampa Bay won’t be able to hang with the big boys. Of course, if they had an all-time great defense like they did in 2002, I’d give them a much better shot, but their current unit is very good, not great.
Tennessee Titans: The clock is ticking for Vince Young. Why does Tennessee refuse to get him any weapons on the outside?
Denver Broncos: This seems to be an organization in a funk of mediocrity. Jay Cutler looks very promising. The rest of the roster looks very middling.
Houston Texans: Houston has an extremely good chance to make the playoffs this year—a better chance than 99% of prognosticators will give them. But if they do make the playoffs, it will be a short visit. A team headed in the right direction though.
Highly Unlikely, But if Everything Falls Into Place……
Philadelphia Eagles: Very overrated team heading into the season. The predictions of 12-4 or better are way off base. The Eagles front seven on defense is unproven at best. And once again, Brian Westbrook will be the only major weapon for Donovan McNabb to utilize. I could be totally wrong, but I think the Andy Reid/McNabb Eagles had their window…and then it closed. Still a highly competitive team, but not a major threat.
Washington Redskins: Very tough team to read. Lots of talent, but also lots of question marks. If Jason Campbell doesn’t make strides this year, then Washington is probably looking at starting over at QB, and essentially starting over, period. But if Jim Zorn can pull the right strings with Campbell, the Redskins have enough around him to compete.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Curious off-season for the Steelers. Also, an unfamiliar look for this team. The Steelers have always prided themselves on dominating games upfront on both sides of the ball, but this current team is based on finesse. The offensive line was a problem last year and Pittsburgh did little to address it. The defense put up good numbers last year, but they were unable to get a key stop in the playoffs against Jacksonville. Not totally sold on this unit.
Minnesota Vikings: There is something about the Vikings OTHER than Tavaris Jackson that gives me pause. Maybe it’s Brad Childress? For some reason, I just see this being a team that falls short of the hype every year.
Arizona Cardinals: Yes, if things fall into place, Arizona could be in the Super Bowl. No, I’m not on crack. Slowly, they’ve built a quality offensive line and with Kurt Warner running the show from the beginning, the Cardinals have a great chance to challenge Seattle in the NFC West.
Seattle Seahawks: This team reminds me a bit of the Eagles. The window was there…they came close, and now it’s shut. The defense continues to get better, but the offense is beginning to regress.
A Much Better Chance Than You Think
Green Bay Packers: Lost amidst the Favre Soap Opera was the fact that GM Ted Thompson has done a remarkable job building a solid young core in Green Bay. Favre was excellent in the regular season last year, but he was given entirely too much credit for the Packers 13-3 record. Thompson has assembled a good team—and they should only get better. No one will ever make Packers fans “forget” Favre, but by mid-season, Aaron Rodgers will have them wondering what they were so upset about.
Carolina Panthers: This is a vote for John Fox. The man is a very good coach. The past two years have been a disappointment in Carolina, but Fox didn’t forget how to coach. They’ve added new pieces, the defense looks much stronger, and Jake Delhomme is healthy. A dark horse Super Bowl contender.
New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees is the real deal. If the Saints can find their running game, they may very well boast the best offense in football—at least one that can compete with the Patriots. And when you have those kinds of weapons, you are a threat to win the NFC.
New York Giants: Funny that we have to find them in this category, seeing they are defending champs. But few people are paying much attention. Unfortunately for the Giants, the injury to Osi Umenyiora will have a crippling effect on their dominant defensive front. If he was healthy, I’d put the Giants in an even higher category. The big question is whether or not Eli Manning got lucky last year or if he came of age. I tend to think it was the latter.
If They Can Survive Each Other….
Indianapolis Colts: Still a beast. Peyton Manning is still money in the bank, and if Dwight Freeney is healthy, the Colts defense is top tier. Tony Dungy knows what he’s doing—don’t expect much of regression from the Colts.
Jacksonville Jaguars: The Colts are their biggest hurdle towards the next level. If the Jags want to make a serious Super Bowl run, they will need to secure playoff games at home. In order to do that, they must find a way to beat the Colts in the South. Should be a entertaining season-long race.
If Coaching Didn’t Matter………
The next two teams have head coaches that have combined for 16 seasons at the helm of various teams. In those 16 seasons, they have combined for a total of 3 playoff victories.
Dallas Cowboys: You can make a strong argument that Dallas is more talented than New England. The Cowboys are loaded- everywhere. There is not an obvious weak point on the team, other than perhaps the secondary, which could get a major boost from Adam Jones. Dallas simply fell apart in the 4th quarter of their playoff loss to the Giants. Dallas beat the Giants twice during the regular season and at points in that playoff game, they moved the ball at will. But when gut check time arrived, the Giants responded, the Cowboys folded. The Cowboys only obstacle between now and the Super Bowl is themselves. But that may prove to be too much.
San Diego Chargers: Norv Turner exorcised some demons last year when the Chargers went into Indianapolis and beat the Colts in the playoffs. And they gave the Patriots a decent game in the AFC Championship despite injuries to significant offensive players. However, Turner has a long way to go before he can exorcise all of his head coaching demons. I, for one, still have my doubts.
A League of Their Own
New England Patriots: 18-1. People can focus on the “1” all the want, but the “18” is a clear sign to me that New England will be right back where they were in 2007. Maybe going undefeated won’t be as paramount to them, but finishing the big game will be. I see absolutely no logical reason why the Patriots shouldn’t be the overwhelming favorites to win Super Bowl XLIII.
New England Patriots 13-3
New York Jets 8-8
Buffalo Bills 8-8
Miami Dolphins 5-11
Cleveland Browns 9-7
Pittsburgh Steelers 9-7
Cincinnati Bengals 7-9
Baltimore Ravens 3-13
Indianapolis Colts 11-5
Jacksonville Jaguars 11-5
Houston Texans 9-7
Tennessee Titans 7-9
San Diego Chargers 11-5
Denver Broncos 8-8
Oakland Raiders 6-10
Kansas City Chiefs 4-12
Division Winners (in order): Patriots, Chargers, Colts, Browns
Wild Cards (in order): Jaguars, Texans
Colts over Texans
Jaguars over Browns
Patriots over Jaguars
Colts over Chargers
Patriots over Colts
Dallas Cowboys 12-4
New York Giants 9-7
Philadelphia Eagles 9-7
Washington Redskins 8-8
Green Bay Packers 10-6
Minnesota Vikings 9-7
Detroit Lions 7-9
Chicago Bears 6-10
Carolina Panthers 10-6
New Orleans Saints 10-6
Tampa Bay Bucs 7-9
Atlanta Falcons 3-13
Arizona Cardinals 9-7
Seattle Seahawks 8-8
San Francisco 49ers 5-11
St. Louis Rams 5-11
Division Winners (in order): Cowboys, Panthers, Packers, Cardinals
Wild Cards (in order): Saints, Giants
Packers over Giants
Saints over Cardinals
Saints over Cowboys
Packers over Panthers
Packers over Saints
Super Bowl XLIII
New England 38
Green Bay 17