NFL Preview: AFC PredictionsSeptember 8, 2010
Here are my annual NFL predictions. As usual, I’m probably wrong about most of this, so feel free to mock them. I’ll start off with the AFC.
4. Kansas City Chiefs – The Chiefs are clearly rebuilding, and have one of the youngest teams in the league. This is usually not a good sign for a team’s fortunes, but they might be able to play some close games thanks to their strong running attack. Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones should be able to put up big numbers and shorten games. That can only help their defense, which has potential to be a disaster. If their young talent develops, the future could be bright, but I think they’ll have to wait a couple of seasons.
3. Oakland Raiders – It’s very telling that the Raiders consider Jason Campbell to be a huge upgrade at QB. The Redskins couldn’t wait to get rid of Campbell, yet in Oakland, he’s a step up from former #1 overall draft pick JaMarcus Russell. Campbell has shown flashes of talent, but he doesn’t appear to have much more help here than he did in DC. The running backs are Darren McFadden and Michael Bush, neither of which has been able to stay healthy.
On the other hand, the Raiders defense is actually decent. But it will take much more than decent to get this team into contention.
2. Denver Broncos – This was the AFC’s hot team in the first half of the year in 2009, only to fade badly during the stretch. The team supposedly really liked QB Kyle Orton – but then brought in free agent Brady Quinn and drafted Tim Tebow. Not exactly a sign of confidence.
The team will likely be without their top offensive and defensive players from 2009. WR Brandon Marshall was traded, and DE Elvis Dumervil was injured.
The defense has a lot of older, veteran players. This can be good, as their experience will keep them going strong through tough times. It can also be bad, because old teams tend to slow down as the season progresses. I think the veterans keep this from becoming a complete disaster, but they don’t have enough talent on hand to actually contend for the playoffs.
1. San Diego Chargers – Under coach Norv Turner, the Chargers have proven to be an excellent regular season team. And considering how bad the rest of the division looks, I don’t see them having any trouble winning this division again. Then again, they do have two key players holding out in WR Vincent Jackson and LT Marcus McNeill, so there are potential problems.
The real question about the team comes in the playoffs. Neither coach Norv Turner nor QB Philip Rivers has shown the ability to win in the playoffs. Maybe they’ll learn from their past mistakes, but I see another playoff failure coming.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars – The Jags have one of the AFC’s best running backs in Maurice Jones-Drew. Unfortunately for him, the team doesn’t seem to have too many other weapons on offense. Considering that the team’s defense – primarily the secondary – looks to be weak, this team might need to win a few shootouts. I don’t think they have the personnel to do it.
3. Indianapolis Colts – And here is my radical prediction that probably will look really stupid come the regular season. The Colts – after a sustained run of excellence – will have a bad year. This is based on my guess that after a sustained run of good fortune, they seem due for some bad luck. Not to mention, the usual dropoff by Super Bowl losers.
Super Bowl losing teams usually don’t fare well the next season, and the losing QBs seem to do even worse. Of the past ten SB losers, every QB has had a much worse post-SB career. Therefore, I’m predicting that this is the season when Peyton Manning finally suffers an injury. And since the Colts are pretty much based around Manning, they will suffer as a result.
Of course, it wouldn’t really shock me if the team started off 10-0 and ended up with the AFC’s top seed again.
2. Tennessee Titans – We still have no idea what to think about Vince Young’s pro career. As it turns out, apparently he should have been a Heisman Trophy winner, but apparently, that year’s trophy no longer has a winner.
Anyway, Young has gone from phenom, to headcase burnout, to redemption story. So far, he has looked similar to a young Michael Vick: Doesn’t seem to be able to play a “traditional” QB, but makes enough plays to win games…to a point. As Falcons fans learned, that can take you to the playoffs, but eventually a team will force you to beat them through the air.
Of course, Young has the advantage of having RB Chris Johnson on his team. History has not been kind to 2000 yard rushers in their next season, but since Johnson is relatively young, there’s hope that he won’t see too much of a dropoff.
I think Young and Johnson provide the team with enough offense to get the team a wild card berth.
1. Houston Texans – Sure, every year it seems like someone touts the Texans as a breakthrough team. Back in 2008, I was sure they were going to finally reach the playoffs. I was wrong. But this year, coming off the first winning season in team history, they will finally do it. Keep in mind that in 2009 they went 9-7 with several close losses. As the team matures, I think those losses turn into wins.
QB Matt Schaub has been a better fantasy QB than in real life thus far, but I think he finally starts doing the little things necessary to win football games this year. And thanks to years of high draft picks, the Texans defense is loaded with talent. I think it is that defensive talent that carries the team all the way to the Super Bowl.
4. Cleveland Browns – After seeming to hit rock bottom last year, the Browns finally started playing better at season’s end. Sometimes these things have a way of carrying over. They seemed to make some shrewd offseason moves, and that could lead to some marked improvement.
Unfortunately, one of the moves they made was to bring in QB Jake Delhomme. Delhomme has been awful for the past two seasons. Honestly, the guy has been overrated his entire career, based on a good run to the NFC Championship in 2004. Maybe the team’s running game can minimize the damage, but he had a good running game in Carolina last year, and that didn’t seem to matter much.
The future may be bright in Cleveland, but that is some time away.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers – Everyone seems to think that the Steelers will do just fine while QB Ben Roethlisberger serves his suspension. And because of the NFL’s constant campaign to improve the Steelers’ fortunes, they do seem to have a favorable schedule. It was almost as if the schedule makers took Roethlisberger’s suspension into account, and arranged things so that they would be able to weather his absence.
Despite the seeming advantage, I can’t see this going as smoothly as some predict. Some compare the suspension to having their QB injured. But when a player is injured, he can still attend meetings and practices. Roethlisberger is not allowed to have any contact with the team. I forsee some rough times in his re-integration.
I also remember the way the Steelers collapsed down the stretch last season. That didn’t seem like a team capable of overcoming adversity. Therefore, I see the Steelers falling short of the playoffs.
2. Cincinnati Bengals – People forget that the Bengals won the division last year. It might have been due to two consecutive blowouts to the Jets to end the season that put a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.
In response, they’ve brought in some talent. Unfortunately, they brought in two of the more notorious headcases in the league in Terrell Owens and Adam “Pacman” Jones. Combined with holdovers Ochocinco and Tank Johnson, this team is cornering the market on notorious players.
Here’s the problem with headcase teams. They’ll be running along fine, but once they run into adversity, the team has trouble dealing with it. See the 2008 Cowboys (featuring many of the same players) for a good example.
Despite the talent on hand, the Bengals don’t look good enough that they’ll avoid running into any trouble spots. I think they remain in contention until the end of the season, but they will lose an absolute killer game late in the year to knock them out of the playoffs.
1. Baltimore Ravens – The Ravens offense looks very strong. QB Joe Flacco – despite his troubles when matched against star QBs – continues to develop, and he certainly has enough weapons at his disposal. Ray Rice and Willis McGahee are an excellent running tandem, and Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason, and the newly acquired TJ Houshmandzadeh should give Flacco some good targets.
The problem is with the Ravens defense. Despite the presence of long-term standouts Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, there are questions as to whether this is a championship caliber defense. Opposing QBs could have huge days against the Ravens secondary.
The Ravens may make it to the AFC Championship game, but unless Flacco is capable of outscoring the opposition, they may fall short of the Super Bowl.
4. Buffalo Bills – This is not a good situation right now, as there just doesn’t appear to be much talent on hand. One of their few good players, WR Lee Evans, is wasted because QB Trent Edwards can’t seem to get him the ball on deep routes.
Rookie RB CJ Spiller may provide some excitement for the team, but he looks to be a isolated highlight in what should be a long season. They could very possibly end up with the worst record in the league.
3. New York Jets – So this team has received a little bit of hype, no? Between the surprise run to last year’s AFC Championship game, the appearance on HBO’s Hard Knocks series, coach Rex Ryan’s self-promotion, and the always crazy New York media, this team has been all over the news. Based on what I’ve seen and read, I’d think that this was the greatest collection of football talent ever assembled.
Better slow the hype down, as there may be some problems. Although they made a nice postseason run, the Jets were lucky to make the playoffs last year. QB Mark Sanchez showed promise, but also had a lot of youthful mistakes. Plus, their best player CB Darelle Revis missed the entire preseason with a contract holdout.
I’m not saying the team will be bad. But the hype may be too much pressure for them, and cause them to lose a game they should have won. I think that makes the difference between another playoff spot and staying home.
2. New England Patriots – This will be an interesting season for Tom Brady. Last year, coming off major knee surgery and a missed season, he looked good, but far from his pre-injury Hall of Fame level. Now that he’s another season removed from injury, we’ll see if he’ll go back to being one of the best QBs in the league, or just another good one.
Unfortunately for Brady, WR Randy Moss is disgruntled (and a disgruntled Moss typically causes problems), and his favorite target, Wes Welker, is coming off a knee injury of his own. So we probably won’t see the amazing Patriots offense of 2007.
Past Patriots teams might have been carried by their defense, but this year’s version doesn’t appear strong enough to carry a team to a title. I think that coach Bill Belichick can get this team to the playoffs again, but don’t look for too much when they get there.
1. Miami Dolphins – As opposed to the Jets, the Dolphins have gone under the radar. People don’t seem to think much of QB Chad Henne, but he showed a good deal of promise last year. And the team has done a good job of surrounding him with talent. They obtained an excellent receiver in Brandon Marshall, and their rushing attack should once again be strong.
The Dolphins will sneak up on people and win the division.
Wild Card Round
Ravens over Titans
Dolphins over Patriots
Texans over Dolphins
Ravens over Chargers
Texans over Ravens