Lets get right into this: my picks for the NFL season.
Now that my baseball picks have been just a hair to the right of mediocre, I've decided to try my hand and NFL picks. We'll start with the NFC and go East to West.
- Eagles: a healthy McNabb, good receiving core, and defense make them my pick for the top spot in the NFC East. The addition of Michael Vick helps their case, because even if you don't know where or when he's going to play, you still have to prepare for him.
- Giants: good defense, good running game, okay QB, and iffy receivers. They'll probably push for a wild card slot, but I don't think they get past the Eagles in the division.
- Redskins: as usual, good defense, spotty and oft-injured offense. They'll probably finish 8-8 or 9-7 if they get really lucky.
- Cowboys: I have them coming in last in the division, as I believe the inaugural season in Taj-Ma-Jerry will end below .500. Another November/December collapse and a few tight games put they Cowboys in a tough spot, and probably puts Wade Phillips out of a job.
- Packers: Aaron Rodgers is a good QB. He's got a good team around him, good protection and a good defense. With all that goodness Green Bay should make a solid run at the playoff
- (or 3) Vikings: The Great Waffler (Favre) and the schism not-withstanding, the Vikes have a good team. Great running game, excellent defense, decent receivers. No QB to speak of. Favre is already hurt, and if it gets worse, look for the Vikes to fall right out of the playoffs.
- (or 2) Bears: Da Bears added some key people. Most notably QB Cutler. However, I still question his consistency, especially if things look bleak at the end of the season. I like the Bears to make a lot of noise in the NFC North, but I don't think they'll take the division.
- Lions: The Lions will win more games than last year. Not terribly difficult given they went 0-16 in 2008. I think Stafford is the best of the rookie QBs and if he makes friends with Calvin Johnson, the Lions might win four or five games. They've made some good moves, they just need to maintain this upward movement.
- Falcons: I like their offense, and the defense isn't bad. Matt Ryan should improve in his sophomore season, with additional weapons, they'll make a run at the playoffs.
- Saints: They'll be the same team they've been the past few years. They'll be a great offense, decent defense, and I have them as the second wild card team with the G-men.
- Panthers: Right now the Panthers have more questions than answers. In a tough division, questions aren't good things to have. Going 0-4 in the preseason hasn't provided me with any confidence. But hey, they'll probably be better than the Bucs.
- Buccaneers: They just fired their offensive coordinator, they have a QB who's only just been named the starter, and they have a rookie coach. Tampa Bay, welcome to a rebuilding year.
- Seahawks: They are the one shining light in a dismal division. With healthy starters returning and some good moves, Seattle will certainly improve on their wins of last season and make a run in the playoffs.
- 49ers: I love Mike Singletary. I really do, and his no-nonsense attitude goes a long way in my book, and I like his style. They're my dark horse team. I'm not sure about them, they could wind up going 5-11 or worse, but I feel like they have a better season in them.
- Rams: With a rookie coach and Bulger as the QB, St. Louis won't win that many games. However, the defense looks like it'll be much better and next year, look out, the Rams could be back in playoff contention.
- Cardinals: It's hard to imagine last year's NFC champ at the bottom of the division, but I just don't trust them. I have more faith in the Madden Curse taking our Fitzgerald and and the Superbowl hangover taking care of the rest of the team. Call me crazy, but that's where the Cards fall. (A shameless pun, I know)
Now for the AFC.
- Patriots: Tom Terrific is back at the helm, everyone is mostly healthy, the running backs got better, even if the position is by committee. The defense is definitely younger with the departures of Vrabel, Bruschi and Harrison, and the young guys are making their mark. OJ Mayo looks poised to have a terrific sophomore season, and the rest of the defense looks much more promising. Of course with an offense that can score, the pressure is off the defense.
- (or 3) Dolphins: The Wildcat is great, but everyone knows its coming and lots of brilliant defensive minds have figured out a way to neutralize it. The Dolphins are a good team but their schedule is brutal. I think they miss the playoffs this year.
- (or 2) Jets: I never have faith in a rookie QB. Especially one who only played one year in college. I remain skeptical until I am proved wrong. They defense is good, the running game is excellent, but the young QB and a new coach leaves me with too many questions.
- Bills: Despite the addition of T.O., the Bills don't have much going for them. Look for the Bills to have a below .500 season. I have to give Buffalo props, though. That's a dedicated fan base.
- Ravens: This was the toughest division to call. Honestly, I considered skipping this division all together. Right now, I think the Ravens are the team to beat in the AFC North. Especially now that Polamalu has fallen to the Madden Curse. I like Flacco and the Ravens defense. For now. If they don't win the division, they're my Wild Card.
- Steelers: The Steelers D is nowhere near as impressive without Polamalu, he's the leaders and the heart. And they don't exactly have an easy schedule the few weeks he's out. And while he doesn't make or break the defense, it is a big loss. And I think Big Ben is just waiting for an injury. I don't trust the Steelers. If they don't win the division, they're my wild card.
- Bengals: Everyone's back, healthy, and they play in one tough division. Palmer and the Bengals will probably be above .500, but will most likely miss the playoffs.
- Browns: The Browns, with "Mangenius" at the helm should be an interesting team. For one, Mangini tried to hide his starting QB from the press...not smart, and unless you are Parcells or Belichick, you aren't going to pull it off. Besides, everyone guessed he'd pick Quinn anyway. The Browns will be sub-.500 with Derek Anderson finishing the season as the starting QB.
- Texans: This is my big, crazy pick for this season. The defense has improved and if that offense stays healthy, it'll be prolific. Besides, with the division rivals facing other issues, the Texans, I think, will sneak in and take the division lead. And I love Andre Johnson, he's the best receiver in the league.
- Titans: The Titans handed the game to the Steelers on Thrusday, but they looked good. I like them as my second wild card team. Good defense, good offense, just a stable, steady team.
- Colts: What a shocker, but the Colts will just miss the playoffs this year. A new coach and new coordinators makes for an unhappy Manning and the injury bug has already bitten pretty in the secondary, and I don't like their defense against the run. It doesn't help that they play in a division with some stellar running backs. They miss the playoffs, but no one misses Peyton Manning, because he'll do a record number of commercials with his time off.
- Jaguars: The Jags are looking at blackouts. They probably won't have a packed house at home the entire season. They'll play well, as I expect everyone in this division to be at or above .500, but I don't think they'll make a playoff push this year.
- Chargers: If they don't win this division, that might be the biggest shocker of the season. Despite the big Merriman- Tequila distraction, the Chargers are a good team. But I wouldn't look for this to be "their year". I just don't think its going to happen for them under Norv Turner.
- Broncos: They'll probably struggle right out of the gate, but with Marshall taken care of and McDaniels making a strong stand as a coach, watch for Denver to start getting better as the season goes on, barring major injury. Marshall and Royal are such a good 1-2 punch even Kyle Orton can't mess them up too bad.
- Chiefs: With Matt Cassel hurt, the Chiefs will start off slow. However, with Pioli, the genius who helped build the Patriots, really starts to work, you should see a marked improvement in the Chiefs. Too bad that won't happen this year.
- Raiders: If I had a 5 I'd put them there. Despite the wise addition of Richard Seymour, the Raiders still have Al Davis. That team will never succeed with him at the helm, unless they get a head coach who will stand up to Davis and not get fired for it.
NFC Wild Card:
The Falcons defeat the Giants and Vikings (or Bears) lose to the Saints.
NFC Division Round:
The Falcons squeak by the Seahawks and the Eagles defeat Saints
The Eagles beat the Falcons.
AFC Wild Card:
Houston loses to San Diego and the Steelers beat the Titans.
AFC Division Round:
The Patriots beat San Diego and the Steelers fall to the Ravens.
The Patriots beat the Ravens.
In a rematch of 2004's Superbowl, the Patriots win their fourth ring. Call me a homer, but at least this could happen.