2009 NFL Predictions
New England Patriots (12-4): I haven't forgotten 2007. The last time Tom Brady was healthy, the Patriots had the greatest offensive season in the history of the NFL. While I don't see a 16-0 repeat, I do see New England running away from the rest of the pack in the East.
Miami Dolphins (9-7): I'm not totally buying into their division-winning season last year, but I'm not dismissing it either. Miami is very solid on both sides of the ball, but the Ravens did expose them in the playoffs last year, and I suspect that will happen a bit more often in 2009.
New York Jets (8-8): They Jets had a very nice off-season adding Mark Sanchez at QB and Rex Ryan as their head coach. These two men will infuse the organization and I could see the Jets making a big push in 2010. I think they surprise some people this year, but also take some lumps in the process.
Buffalo Bills (6-10): The Bills are stuck in neutral. When you sign an aging wide receiver and fire your offensive coordinator two weeks before the season starts, it's a clear sign to me that you lack direction and conviction in what you are doing. This looks like a shaky ship to me right now and I don't think Dick Jauron will be around to right it.
Baltimore Ravens (11-5): I expect big things from Baltimore this year on the heels of their somewhat surprising run to the AFC Championship Game in 2008. Joe Flacco was impressive in his rookie season and he should only get better from here. Their defense is still formidable, and the offense is slowly starting to help. It will be battle with Pittsburgh for the North.
Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6): I see the Steelers struggling to repeat. When they won the Super Bowl in 2005, they stumbled a bit the following season and missed the playoffs. This year will be similar, although I do see them squeeking into the post-season.
Cincinnati Bengals (8-8): Possibly my biggest "surprise" pick of the season. Quietly, Cincinnati finished the season strong last year and I like the fact that Mike Brown decided to stick with Marvin Lewis. Carson Palmer is healthy again and I see their offense approaching what they did in 2005. The North is too tough for the Bengals to make a serious playoff run, but don't be shocked if they factor in the equation.
Cleveland Browns: (7-9): Much like Cincinnati, I see the Browns making big improvements under Eric Mangini. But the their schedule is pretty brutal and I do not think they'll be ready to compete with the Ravens or Steelers in the North.
Indianapolis Colts (10-6): The Colts have become the easiest playoff pick of any team in the NFL. As long as Peyton is in charge, you can pretty much lock the Colts into 10+ wins. I have some concerns about the defense and the coaching transistion, but Indy will once again find themselves amongst a handful of AFC teams vying for the Super Bowl.
Houston Texans (9-7): The Texans have a deadly run-pass combo with Steve Slaton and Andre Johsnon. If Matt Schaub stays healthy (a big if), the Texans could post some of the best offensive numbers in the league this season. Making the playoffs for the first time in franchise history won't be easy, but I think the Texans squeeze in.
Tennessee Titans (9-7): This is an admittedly, "disrespectful" pick. As good and as tough as the Titans have been under Jeff Fisher, I find their off-season approach to sometimes be a bit "arrogant." It's as if they believe they can plug anyone into their system and succeed. And while that has proven highly effective in the regular season, their performance against the Ravens in the playoffs last year would seem to signal to them that at least a few tweaks were needed. Instead, they bring back virtually the same team from last year, minus Albert Haynesworth. I just don't know how long an offense can tread water with Kerry Collins-- I see some of those close wins from last season turning to close losses in 2009.
Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11): This may very well be the beginning of the Jags' farewell tour in Florida. Rumors continue to circulate that they will be in Los Angeles by 2012-- I don't think the on-field results this year will do anything to squash those rumors.
San Diego Chargers (9-7): The Chargers will take advantage of a pathetic division, and crusie to the playoffs-- but they won't be there for long.
Kansas City Chiefs (7-9): I SO want to take the Chiefs as my major surprise pick of the year, but the Matt Cassel injury gives me pause. Also concerned about the upheaval in the coaching staff this close to the start of the season. I think the Chiefs are headed in the right direction, but I don't have the guts to pick them to win the division quite yet.
Denver Broncos (4-12): I'm not sure Josh McDaniels could have possibly gotten off to a worse start than he has in Denver. Jay Cutler was being a baby, but McDaniels should have been diplomatic and found a way for it to work. One of the hardest things to do in the NFL is find a young QB with franchise-type potential. Cutler fit that mold and now the Broncos have to start from scratch in their QB search. The offense will suffer mightily minus Cutler and the defense had major holes in the first place. Going to be a long year in Colorado.
Oakland Raiders (2-14): In a word, embarrassing. The Raiders make all of the other bottom-feeders (including the Lions) happy because they seem to absorb the majority of the punchlines around the league-- and with good reason. From their curious decision to retain Tom Cable as head coach to their curious draft selection of Darius Heyward-Bey to Cable's physical assault on an assistant coach to their dreadful pre-season, the Raiders are in shambles. The NFL may need to step in and do something about Al Davis- seriously.
Division Winners (in order): Patriots, Ravens, Colts, Chargers
Wild Cards (in order): Steelers, Texans
Wild Card Playoffs: Colts over Texans
Steelers over Chargers
Divisional Playoffs: Patriots over Steelers
Ravens over Colts
AFC Championship: Patriots over Ravens
New York Giants (11-5): A very good argument could be made that the Giants were on their way to back-to-back Super Bowl titles before Plaxico Burress shot himself and theoretically shot the Giants season. Given an entire off-season to account for his departure, I see the Giants once again rising to the top of the NFC East. New York may have the fewest weaknesses of any team in the league, and their offense could be a tad on the boring side this season, but they will be able to run the ball against anyone, and Eli will make plays when necessary. The Giants are the class of an otherwise (slightly) overrated division.
Philadelphia Eagles (9-7): Not buying the hype-- at least not all of it. While I find the Eagles glut of talent on the offensive side of the ball intruiging, I'm just not sure how they are all going to be able to make an impact. I don't see Michael Vick having an impact either way, and I until Brian Westbrook stays healthy for an entire year, I'll continue to have doubts about the overall potency of their attack. The Eagles are a solid team, but an overrated one.
Dallas Cowboys (9-7): If Wade Phillips wasn't their coach, I'd predict good things for Dallas in 2009. I really like the overall mix they have and I think Tony Romo could flourish now that the offense appears to be distraction-free. Similar to the Giants, the Cowboys don't have any glaring weaknesses, but Phillips has proven throughout his career that he will more often than not find a way to finish on the low side of expectations.
Washington Redskins (8-8): Not sure there is a more average team in the NFL thesedays. Similar to the Cowboys, even if the upside is 10-6 or 11-5, the Redskins will most likely find a way to finish with 8 or 9 wins and miss the playoffs. The defense has the potential to be stellar, but Jim Zorn and Jason Campbell have a long way to go on the other side of the ball.
Green Bay Packers (10-6): I think I may have been a year off on the Packers. I predicted them to win the NFC last season and they rewarded my confidence with a 6-10 season. But looking deeper, I think their results last year may have been an anomoly. The offense was fantastic last year and a healthy Ryan Grant will only make them better. Defensively, they made some major upgrades and invested draft choices. I don't think Green Bay makes me look foolish this time around.
Minnesota Vikings (10-6): In the longrun, I'm just not sure Brett Favre makes them any better. More interesting? Certainly. But not necessarily better. As a matter of fact, I think they may have been better off sticking with Sage Rosenfels. Having said that, Favre will make some plays and he certainly has a bevy of playmakers with which to work. The Vikings will be a playoff-caliber team in a tough division.
Chicago Bears (9-7): Finally, the Bears have a QB. Jay Cutler will man that position for years to come for the Bears, and eventually, I see him leading them to big things. But right now, the Bears defense isn't quite up to the task of the keeping pace with the Packers and Vikings in the North-- but if the defense improves, the Bears could take the division.
Detroit Lions (2-14): They won't lose them all this year, but they'll sure try.
Atlanta Falcons (11-5): It wasn't a fluke last year. The Falcons are legit. Matt Ryan will be better this year and the Falcons boast a very impressive and well balanced offensive attack. The South is another quality division, and the Falcons have the horses to take it this year.
New Orleans Saints (10-6): If you don't like Drew Brees, you are insane. His numbers are getting silly, and I don't see him slowing down anytime soon. The Saints will be in a number of shootouts this year, and as long as Brees is their gunslinger, I like their chances.
Carolina Panthers (9-7): While the Falcons and Saints each boast high-powered passing games with dynamic QB's, the Panthers passing game is slowly disappearing. Just not sure how long they can win in spite of Jake Delhomme, despite the fact that their running game is arguably the best in the league.
Tampa Bay Bucs (3-13): After this season, the Bucs may want to bust out the old, homoerotic pirate logo-- this team will be very reminiscent of those dreadful teams of the 70's and 80's.
Seattle Seahawks (9-7): Seahawks aren't getting much attention entering this season, but many may be forgetting that Matt Hasselbeck spent most of last season on the mend, which helped open the door for the Cardinals to win the West. Seattle has holes, but the division is weak and Hasselbeck should make a huge difference.
Arizona Cardinals (9-7): Check the history books-- recent history tells us that Super Bowl losers have a terrible time making it back to the playoffs. The Cardinals will benefit from a weak division, but they may suffer from inflated expectations.
San Francisco 49ers (7-9): While the majority of the blame falls on Michael Crabtree himself for not signing with the 49ers, you must place some blame on the organization for not doing their homework. And the bottom line here is that a team that desperately needs some youthful infusion on offense has basically thrown away a first-round pick.
St. Louis Rams (4-12): Steve Spagnuola was a good hire and I seem him getting the Rams turned around, but this year, there are simply too many holes to fill-- the defense is virtually talent-less.
Division Winners (in order): Giants, Falcons, Packers, Seahawks
Wild Cards (in order): Vikings, Saints
Wild Card Playoffs: Packers over Saints
Vikings over Seahawks
Divisional Playoffs: Giants over Vikings
Packers over Falcons
NFC Championship: Giants over Packers
Super Bowl XLIV
New England 30
New York Giants 24
A great rematch of two years ago. Once again, the Patriots will enter as favorites (although by a much smaller number). This time, the Giants won't catch them off-guard and the Patriots offense won't be stymied like they were in 2007. A good game that will once again go down to the wire- New England gets their revenge.