Oakland Raiders Make the Playoffs and 10 Other Bold NFL Predictions
If you listen to NFL analysts close enough, you will hear increasing rumblings of a belief that the Oakland Raiders can and will make the playoffs this season.
That prediction is only one of many that are catching momentum now that the NFL preseason schedule enters its third full week of games.
With the regular season drawing closer with every passing day, more predictions are coming to the forefront including these 10 bold predictions which could shape the landscape of the National Football League in 2010.
Raiders Make The Playoffs
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There is still a lot of work to be done in Oakland between now and January but maybe, just maybe, the Raiders can put it all together in a weak AFC West and claim a wild card spot.
Oakland finally has an experienced quarterback under center in Jason Campbell. Yet, it will come down to whether or not former top pick Darius Heyward-Bey develops into a legit threat in the Raiders offense and the improvement in the Raiders' front seven on defense.
The Raiders pass defense is already strong enough, but the success of the defense hinges on the ability to slow the running game which Oakland did not do in 2009.
The AFC West is likely to go the Chargers. However, the Raiders schedule features the weakened NFC West in addition to a softer AFC West. A few favorable bounces and the Raiders could sneak in with the final last spot.
The Colts Lose 5 Games or More
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The Colts have won at least 12 games in every season since 2003. They are so good at winning 12 games it has become an effortless venture for the defending AFC Champions. That run ends this season. The Colts are scheduled against the NFC East and play in a strengthening AFC South.
Meanwhile, the Colts face injury questions along the offensive line and on defense. Center Jeff Saturday, tackle Charlie Johnson and defensive end Dwight Freeney, among others, have all been limited in practice time and are coming off injuries that disrupted their 2009 seasons.
There are still more questions than answers regarding Anthony Gonzalez's return from a serious knee injury and will Peyton be strong enough to make Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie as dangerous as he made them last year?
Lions Supplant The Bears
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While this prediction doesn't have much bearing on the top-heavy NFC North, the fact that the Lions will overtake the Bears for third place in the division will be an ego-bruising moment in Chicago.
Matthew Stafford enters his second season with more offensive weapons around him in Nate Burleson and Jahvid Best. On defense, Ndamukong Suh becomes a steady rock which the Lions defense can build around.
This is a team on the rise while the Bears are still trying to find their identity under Jay Cutler. 2010 is the time the Lions give the Bears a taste of their own medicine.
Cardinals Still Win The West
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There has been a lot of questioning about Matt Leinart's ascension to the starting role in Arizona. Will the Cardinals offense remain as strong as it was under Kurt Warner (or any semblance of it?). Can the play makers make the same plays without Warner's strong arm?
There is a belief that now is the time for the San Francisco 49ers to get back to the top of the NFC West--but it won't be in 2010. Matt Leinart will surprise doubters by keeping the Cardinals offense in a slimmed down yet effective model of last year's offense coinciding with the emergence of Beanie Wells who will take pressure off Leinart.
That formula will produce a third straight divisional crown for the Cardinals.
Brett Favre Will Miss Time
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Brett Favre had one of the best seasons of his career in 2009. That will not be the case this year. There is only so much you can test fate and karma and Favre has stretched to the limit with his annual retirement dance.
Favre has played more consecutive games than anyone in NFL but that streak will come to an end this season. Whether is re-injuring his surgically repaired ankle or another ailment which will come his way, Favre will not have the gracious storyline that made his 2009 season so extraordinary.
Chris Johnson Will Not Exceed 1,500 Yards
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Titans running back Chris Johnson became the sixth player in NFL history to rush for over 2,000 yards last season. He has publicly stated his goal is to reach 2,500 yards in 2010. Not only will he fail to reach that mark, but Johnson will not eclipse 1,500 yards this season.
One year after being worked like a workhorse, the Titans are putting more faith and confidence in the passing game through Vince Young. The more Young succeeds, the more pressure it removes from having to feed the ball to Johnson. Johnson will still a be a very productive running back, but greater offensive balance will decrease his total numbers on the ground.
T.O. Out-Produces Ochocinco
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The Bengals have played three preseason games and so far it has been the new guy, Terrell Owens, outproducing Chad Ochocinco.
The Bengals offense struggled with inconsistencies a season ago and need to take measurable steps to improving that before it returns to the big air show that reigned in 2005. That means it is Owens, not Ochocinco, who will develop into Carson Palmer's first option. That fact combined with rookie Jordan Shipley's emergence as a security blanket will mean less touches for Ochocinco in general.
The Saints Defense Becomes a Problem
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The Saints won the Super Bowl last season, but some may forget that they hoisted the team's first Lombardi Trophy while ranking 25th in total defense last season. The Saints' defense was timely with turnovers more so than it ever was commanding.
That kind of fortune rarely repeats in back-to-back seasons which means the Saints defense must muscle up and improve. That is easier said than done. The Saints must replace Scott Fujita and Charles Grant on defense and hope that Sedrick Ellis can step up and become a play maker.
The inability to stop people shouldn't get too much worse in 2010, but the Saints must have answers and improvements in the event the defense doesn't generate as many takeaways as it did last season.
The Patriots Make Brady Wait
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady wants a new contract. His price tag? At least $50 million guaranteed or at least that is what he'll go for on the open market after 2010 top draft pick Sam Bradford signed for nearly that much.
Across the table is the Patriots brass which are currently in no rush to dole out big dollars to their future Hall of Fame quarterback and franchise icon. Impending labor disputes and a possible lockout will encourage Patriots ownership to weather the storm with Brady's current contract situation until there is a greater perception on what will happen with the league's future in 2011.
That leaves both sides in quite a conundrum. The Patriots' balking stance may be enough to persuade Brady to leave New England for greener pastures in 2011 whenever the next season may take place.
Yet, the Patriots can't possibly afford to lose the franchise's historical star over yet another front office-generated financial dispute.
Either way, Brady will not see new money until at least Week 8 of the upcoming season.
The Longest Year Yet In Buffalo
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The Bills have been bad over the last five years, but they have not been as bad as 2010 forecasts. Buffalo, which went 32-48 over the last five seasons, enters 2010 with the biggest question marks yet at quarterback and their schedule does the team no favors.
The Bills are lined up with the NFC North and AFC North which offers the prospects of a 1-7 or 0-8 stretch in itself. Combine that with an increasingly difficult AFC East and the Bills will lose 12-plus games for only the second time in the last 25 years.