This is my favorite blog post of every year. I've always loved making NFL predictions, as wrong as they always are. I'm pretty sure the last time I picked the Super Bowl champion in the preseason was when I picked the Packers to win it all way back in 1996. But that's not the point. The goal is to get myself fired up for the new season.
Last year the New York Giants won the Super Bowl with a mere 9-7 record. Had Victor Cruz not "given himself up" in a game against the Arizona Cardinals, the Giants would have finished 8-8 and not made the playoffs. In all sports these days, things are getting bizarre, with teams barely making the playoffs and then winning it all. Will we see an 8-8 team win the Super Bowl this year?
The NFC is FAR superior to the weak AFC. The NFC has the last 3 Super Bowl champions, the Saints, Packers and Giants, all of whom are still Super Bowl contenders. Add to them the 49ers, the Falcons, the Lions, the Eagles, the Cowboys and even the Bears, Seahawks & Panthers as possible sleepers. The NFC is totally stacked and any of those teams I mentioned there can win it all.
As for the AFC? The Patriots & Steelers remain powerhouses, while the Ravens are aging quickly, they might have a bit left in the tank. Otherwise, who have you got? Peyton Manning may never be the same. Someone has to win the AFC West & AFC South, it's a requirement. But for all you who championed the AFC for all those years in the mid-2000s, my, how the tables have turned.
Time for predictions for each team's record, and then of course the playoff picks.
1. New England: 14-2
It's a requirement that the Patriots win the #1 seed. That's their own Super Bowl. Once the playoffs come around, you never know what you're going to get from the Pats.
2. New York Jets: 8-8
Wow is this division an embarrassment. The Patriots virtually get 6 free wins. Rex Ryan will win enough to keep his job.
3. Buffalo: 5-11
As much as I'd love the Bills to return to power, it isn't happening for a long time.
4. Miami: 4-12
Good luck, Philbin.
1. Pittsburgh: 13-3
After wearing shirts that said "Property of the Baltimore Ravens" all last year, the Steelers won't get any challenge from the Ravens this time around, and the division will be easily theirs.
2. Baltimore: 9-7
The Ravens' defense is on life support right now with how old they are. How many of them will still be playing next year?
3. Cincinnati: 8-8
It was nice of the Bengals to show up last season and make the playoffs for the 2nd time in 3 years. Unfortunately, that should do it for their success.
4. Cleveland: 4-12
Every 2 years, the Browns have a new "plan" in place that's going to get it turned around. None of them work.
1. Tennessee: 9-7
Because someone has to win this division.
2. Houston: 8-8
There's a lot of talent in Houston, there's just not a history of success.
3. Indianapolis: 4-12
It'll take a lot of Luck to get things turned around in Indy.
4. Jacksonville: 2-14
How to get things turned around in Jacksonville? Why not hire the guy who led the Falcons to no offensive points in their playoff game against the Giants?
1. Oakland: 9-7
Because someone has to win the division.
2. Denver: 8-8
This team got some really good breaks last year. Whether it was divine intervention or the kinship of all living things, I tell you, at that moment, the Broncos were a playoff team. But now it's got to happen all over again, with Peyton Manning as a real question mark.
3. San Diego: 7-9
Remember when the Chargers decided that Philip Rivers was a better choice than Drew Brees? More on that later.
4. Kansas City: 5-11
I had a dream that the Chiefs were a plot point in "The Empire Strikes Back." About as bizarre as dreams get.
1. Philadelphia: 12-4
The Eagles return to being a powerhouse, a year late after their "Dream Team" was a nightmare. Keep in mind that they won the last 4 games of the season last year and would have been in the playoffs had the Giants lost one more game.
2. Dallas: 10-6
The Cowboys will be much improved this year and very much in the mix.
3. New York Giants: 9-7
By the end of the year, people will be calling for Tom Coughlin to be fired.
4. Washington: 5-11
I have absolutely no idea whether Robert Griffin III will succeed or not, but the team will still be awful.
1. Green Bay: 12-4
No one could have seen last year's run toward near perfection coming, nor than could anyone have seen the bomb they laid in the playoffs coming. More on the Packers in their own post later.
2. Chicago: 9-7
The Bears will be much improved and challenge for a playoff spot.
3. Detroit: 9-7
Another playoff contender, though who knows what to expect in Detroit.
4. Minnesota: 3-13
Here's one thing to count on: failure in Minnesota.
1. New Orleans: 16-0
That's right, after all the Bountygate stuff, the Saints do the same thing the Patriots did during the Spygate season. They take out their aggressions on every team on their schedule. Drew Brees passes for over 6,000 yards, and the Saints run up the score mercilessly on their opponents. Brees breaks every record in the books as the Saints cruise through an undefeated season.
2. Carolina: 9-7
I don't think anyone's sleeping on the Panthers anymore. We'll see what we get from them, I expect a positive run if not a wild-card spot.
3. Atlanta: 7-9
Someone has to suffer if the Saints go hogwild. That team is the Falcons, who continue to disappoint under Matt Ryan.
4. Tampa Bay: 5-11
The Buccaneers missed the playoffs in 2010 in part because they didn't play as hard of a schedule as the Packers and Giants. From a tiebreaker to the team falling apart, now let's see how long it takes for them to recover.
1. San Francisco: 12-4
I'd like to say the 49ers are going to be the biggest disappointments in the league, but their division is just way too weak. Someone's got to win it, it might as well be the team with overwhelmingly the most amount of talent.
2. Seattle: 9-7
Whoever their quarterback is, I expect the Seahawks to make some noise, but fall short of the 49ers and first place.
3. Arizona: 6-10
More struggles in the desert.
4. St. Louis: 6-10
A long long way to go for Jeff Fisher, who should have went to Jacksonville.
AFC Playoff Teams:
1. New England (14-2)
2. Pittsburgh (13-3)
3. Oakland (9-7)
4. Tennessee (9-7)
5. Baltimore (9-7)
6. Houston (8-8)
NFC Playoff Teams:
1. New Orleans (16-0)
2. Green Bay (12-4)
3. Philadelphia (12-4)
4. San Francisco (12-4)
5. Dallas (10-6)
6. Carolina (9-7)
AFC Wild-Card Round:
#3 Oakland 23, #6 Houston 17
#5 Baltimore 14, #4 Tennessee 13
AFC Divisional Round:
#5 Baltimore 20, #1 New England 16
#2 Pittsburgh 38, #3 Oakland 10
AFC Championship Game:
#2 Pittsburgh 34, #5 Baltimore 17
NFC Wild-Card Round:
#3 Philadelphia 41, #6 Carolina 31
#4 San Francisco 27, #5 Dallas 17
NFC Divisional Round:
#1 New Orleans 45, #4 San Francisco 21
#2 Green Bay 31, #3 Philadelphia 26
NFC Championship Game:
#1 New Orleans 48, #2 Green Bay 27
Super Bowl XLVII:
New Orleans 38, Pittsburgh 21 (MVP: Drew Brees)
MVP: Drew Brees
Offensive Player of the Year: Drew Brees
Defensive Player of the Year: Patrick Willis
Offensive, Defensive Rookies of the Year: Who cares?
Coach of the Year: Bill Belichick (as always)