The New Orleans Saints head into the 2010 season as the defending Super Bowl champions, and football fans across America are anticipating their teams taking home the Lombardi Trophy this year. This slideshow includes every team's projected record and each division's projected standings. I looked over each team's schedule and picked who would win each game, so the total wins and losses are even. There are also my complete playoff predictions including my pick to win the Super Bowl. Feel free to leave comments on what you think and if you have any writing tips.
1. New York Jets(12-4)
2. Miami Dolphins(10-6)
3. New England Patriots(9-7)
4. Buffalo Bills(2-14)
The Jets, according to sources, have settled their contract issues with Darrelle Revis, and with all the pieces set in place, they're destined to win the AFC East.
The Dolphins could be the dark horse if Chad Henne exceeds expectations, and trading for Brandon Marshall helped his cause.
The Patriots are no longer the Super Bowl contenders they used to be with an aging team, declining defense, and some dynasty team players no longer in New England, but Tom Brady isn't ready to call his career quits, and being in a contract year should help him and Randy Moss work their magic.
The Bills stunk it up again in the draft, and their QB situation continues to be a nightmare. Maybe being the first pick in the 2011 draft will open their eyes.
1. Indianapolis Colts(13-3)
2. Houston Texans(11-5)
3. Tennessee Titans(7-9)
4. Jacksonville Jaguars(3-13)
The Colts' offensive line is becoming a concern, and Bill Polian neglected to draft a left tackle, but Peyton Manning always finds ways to win, as the Colts have won 12+ games seven seasons in a row.
The Texans are quietly becoming playoff contenders with Matt Schaub joining the elite QB discussions, and if their running game can do at least decent, the Texans should make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
The Titans finished strongly last season, but with the Texans starting to challenge the Colts, they now have two tough teams in the division to face.
The Jaguars have possibly the laziest head coach in the NFL in Jack Del Rio, and that seems to reflect on the team as well. This may be the year Del Rio loses his job if the Jaguars hit rock bottom.
1. Baltimore Ravens(12-4)
2. Cincinnati Bengals(8-8)
3. Pittsburgh Steelers(8-8)
4. Cleveland Browns(3-13)
Joe Flacco has looked excellent in the preseason, and he looks ready to lead the Ravens to the AFC North title and possibly the Super Bowl. Receiving weapons, including Anquan Boldin, have been added for him, and Ray Rice is a rushing threat that should make his job easier. The defense looks ready to repeat last year's production.
The Bengals are one of the most inconsistent teams in the NFL when it comes to records. Before they went 10-6, they went 4-11-1. Their team is much improved from 2008, but Marvin Lewis is a bad coach. His team has a load of criminals, and he has zero playoff wins. Plus, Carson Palmer has looked awful in the preseason, even after the Bengals have dipped into free agency and the draft for receivers and a tight end. Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens should get along fine since they're friends, but Palmer at QB will get the Bengals nowhere. His frequent injuries have clearly taken a toll on his body. The Bengals are my top candidate for the biggest disappointment of all teams.
The Steelers have a long season ahead of them with Ben Roethlisberger having been suspended for six games. Their top lineman, Willie Colon, is out for the season, so the protection issues will likely continue. Even though the defense has usually been the key point of the Steelers' success, Big Ben will be missed in his time out because he's about as clutch as they come. Inexperience at QB will lead to a rough start for the Steelers, but they should finish strong and win eight or nine games.
The Browns have a bad QB situation. Jake Delhomme is past his prime, and Seneca Wallace is nothing more than a backup. They're in rebuilding mode and will not be fighting for a playoff spot this season. Colt McCoy has looked awful in the preseason, but don't be fooled by the media speculation that he'll be cut.
1. San Diego Chargers(11-5)
2. Oakland Raiders(8-8)
3. Kansas City Chiefs(6-10)
4. Denver Broncos(3-13)
The Chargers have Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill holding out for contract extensions, and Jackson is being discussed in trade rumors, particularly with Seattle. Philip Rivers is in for a tough season if he can't get his No. 1 receiver and left tackle back. He should still put up solid stats though, and the running game is much improved with Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate Ryan Mathews replacing the departed LaDainian Tomlinson. The AFC West isn't a competitive division, so the Chargers should come away with another title.
The Raiders surprisingly had a good draft this year, and they finally disposed of JaMarcus Russell, who is possibly the biggest draft bust ever. Jason Campbell is a major upgrade, and the receiving unit should improve now that they have a decent QB. The running game looks to be strong with Michael Bush on the verge of a breakout season. The defense looks to be solid as well.
The Chiefs spent $63 million on Matt Cassel, and he hasn't lived up to his contract, but with an improved offensive line, he should improve this season, and because Dwayne Bowe is reportedly shining in practice, so a bounceback is near for him. Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones should provide a good dual threat in the backfield, but Todd Haley needs to utilize Charles more properly. If the Chiefs don't improve this season, Haley may no longer be in Kansas City.
The Broncos have had a rough offseason with Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler being traded, and their top defensive player Elvis Dumervil is likely out for the season. Kyle Orton has a lot to prove if he wants to prove he deserved the extension he received. All eyes are on Tim Tebow even though he won't likely receive much playing time this year. Josh McDaniels will need wins to justify trading important players, or he'll be run out of Denver.
1. Dallas Cowboys(13-3)
2. Washington Redskins(10-6)
3. New York Giants(9-7)
4. Philadelphia Eagles(7-9)
The Cowboys are back in their annual Super Bowl hype. They've failed to come close to it though, but they made a step forward by winning their first playoff game in 15 years. Tony Romo seems to be more focused on football now and seems capable of leading the Cowboys to the big game, and Miles Austin had a breakout season and should repeat his production with Dez Bryant opposite him. Wade Phillips is a terrible coach though, and he's arguably a factor in the Cowboys' playoff drought continuing the past few years. If the Cowboys don't make a deep playoff run, his job will likely be gone.
The Redskins received Donovan McNabb in a trade and have Mike Shanahan as the new head coach. Both of their presences should bring more wins to Washington. The offensive line should be better too with Jammal Brown. Trent Williams has a lot to live up to being the fourth overall pick. The defense will be running the 3-4 scheme, so Andre Carter's transition should be interesting to watch. Brian Orakpo should transition smoothly since he has experience in the 3-4 from Texas.
The Giants fell apart after a 5-0 start, and their once dominant defense is now mediocre, but there's hope for a rebound with Keith Bulluck providing leadership and Perry Fewell being hired as the new defensive coordinator. Eli Manning had his best season statistically, but the defense didn't help. Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks provide a solid receiving unit and are still growing.
The Eagles will likely go through a rebuilding season with Kevin Kolb taking the reins at QB. Andy Reid seems hopeful about him as the future of the franchise though. The rush defense was restocked in the draft with Brandon Graham being added along with two defensive ends. Graham should help improve the pass rush and take pressure off of Trent Cole.
1. Atlanta Falcons(12-4)
2. New Orleans Saints(11-5)
3. Carolina Panthers(8-8)
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers(5-11)
The Falcons winning the NFC South is my bold prediction for this season. Yes, the Saints are the defending Super Bowl champions, but the Falcons had key injuries last season, and Michael Turner was out of shape, but now he's back in shape and ready to match his '08 numbers, and Matt Ryan is healthy and should post career-highs in his stats. The receiving unit and the offensive line are both solid and should make the Falcons' offense potent. The defense seems to be improving too. Sean Weatherspoon is a candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year. He has excellent leadership skills and a great locker room presence, and he should post lots of tackles. Curtis Lofton is a Pro Bowl middle linebacker. Dunta Robinson's signing should improve the pass defense as long as he stays healthy.
The Saints are coming off a Super Bowl win. I'm predicting a Super Bowl hangover. They have a potent offense, but their defense is questionable. Everything went right for them last year. The defensive line lost Charles Grant, and Alex Brown isn't an upgrade. Will Smith had an outlier season and won't likely get 13 sacks again. The pass defense may decline too. Darren Sharper is aging and won't likely repeat last year's production.
The Panthers had problems at QB last year, and now Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen are battling for the starting job. Moore performed well after Jake Delhomme was benched, but he has much to prove if he wants to be a full-time starter. Julius Peppers was let go in free agency, so the rush defense will likely experience a dropoff.
The Buccaneers had major problems in their rush defense last season, but they upgraded their line by drafting Gerald McCoy and Brian Price, and they drafted Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn to give Josh Freeman more weapons at receiver. The Buccaneers are still rebuilding and won't likely finish any higher than last place.
1. Green Bay Packers(12-4)
2. Minnesota Vikings(9-7)
3. Chicago Bears(8-8)
4. Detroit Lions(4-12)
The Packers are coming off a heartbreaking playoff loss, but their starters are returning, and Aaron Rodgers looks ready to cement his status as an elite QB and make a deep playoff run. He's done a great job at filling Brett Favre's shoes, but he had problems last season in holding on to the ball for too long and getting sacked too much, but he appears to have corrected the problem in the preseason games, and the offensive line, which was partly to blame for Rodgers' sack woes, has more depth and is looking better. The Packers look to possibly have the most potent offense in the NFL. The defense is an area of concern though. The pass defense was torn apart by the Cardinals, but if the unit stays healthy, it should improve, and the rush defense is looking as strong as it did last season.
The Vikings got Favre back, but expecting him to repeat last year's production is crazy. He's banged up on his ankle, and Sidney Rice being out for half the season and Percy Harvin's migraine problems aren't helping matters at all. Adrian Peterson needs to hold on to the ball better, or he could cost the Vikings a few games. The rush defense looks to be strong again with Jared Allen, the Williams Wall, and Ray Edwards returning. The pass defense is a questionable area though.
The Bears' upcoming season is make or break for Lovie Smith. The Bears dipped heavily into free agency and landed Julius Peppers, who should improve the pass rush, but may decline as he's aging and isn't always fully motivated, and a hefty contract may very well lead to that. Jay Cutler had a terrible season in his first year with the Bears. He threw 26 interceptions and had a subpar receiving unit. The offensive line is bad too. Matt Forte had a sophomore slump, but Chester Taylor's a great blocker and 3rd-down back, so Forte could bounce back.
The Lions have the most hope they've had in a long time. Matt Stafford looks ready to be the franchise QB, but the offensive line has made his job difficult. The offense should improve with Jahvid Best in the backfield, and Nate Burleson should take double teams off Calvin Johnson. The defense is shaky though, but Ndamukong Suh should improve the rush defense, and Jim Schwartz is a defensive-minded coach, so it should improve each year. Schwartz seems to have a plan for the Lions, and they could contend in 2011.
1. San Francisco 49ers(10-6)
2. Arizona Cardinals(7-9)
3. Seattle Seahawks(4-12)
4. St. Louis Rams(2-14)
The 49ers are pretty much a lock to win the NFC West. Alex Smith looked better, and the offensive line was restocked in the draft. The running game is solid with Frank Gore at running back. There's not a new offensive scheme change anymore, so there's no more excuses for Smith to mess up, so he must step up. The defense is improving too, so if Smith does at least decent, the 49ers could win a playoff game.
The Cardinals may have had the worst offseason of any NFL team. They lost Kurt Warner, Karlos Dansby, and Anquan Boldin. The QB position is now a problem. Matt Leinart looks awful, and Derek Anderson doesn't seem like he'll ever repeat his outlier season in Cleveland. This will definitely be a rebuilding season for the Cardinals.
The Seahawks have Pete Carroll as their new head coach, and he's inheriting a rebuilding project. Matt Hasselbeck is no longer the QB he used to be, so the offense will likely continue to struggle, but Russell Okung looks like the franchise left tackle, and Golden Tate upgrades the receiving unit. Earl Thomas should help improve the pass defense, but the defense is still rebuilding.
The Rams selected Sam Bradford to be their new franchise QB, and he looked great in his preseason start, so there's a glimmer of hope for the future. The offensive line should improve too with Rodger Saffold being selected in the draft, but Jason Smith needs to step up and stay healthy. The receiving unit is a nightmare, but Mardy Gilyard has talent and could make an early impact. The defense is still shaky, but James Laurinaitis had an excellent rookie season and looks ready to lead the defense.
Ravens over Dolphins, Texans over Chargers
The Ravens win this one because Joe Flacco has the playoff experience that Chad Henne doesn't have. Ray Rice is a big rushing threat too, and he can also catch. The Ravens have better defense too, but the Dolphins have a solid defense too.
The Texans will win their first playoff game after they make it to the playoffs for the first time. Matt Schaub is an excellent QB. Although Rivers has more playoff experience, he has a tendency to choke in the playoffs, and Nate Kaeding misses key field goals. Andre Johnson will be difficult for the Chargers' defense to contain too. The Chargers have a mediocre defense, but the Texans have an improving defense.
Falcons over Redskins, Saints over 49ers
Donovan McNabb will lead the Redskins to the playoffs, but he isn't the ideal QB to have when there. Matt Ryan is 0-1 in the playoffs, but he appears ready to take the next step forward, and the Falcons have the better team. They have better receivers, a better running game, and may possibly have the better defense this season.
The 49ers won't win a playoff game with Alex Smith going against Drew Brees, and Smith isn't ready to survive an intense environment like the playoffs. The Saints' offense is much better, and their running game matches up with the 49ers'.
Colts over Texans, Ravens over Jets
The Texans will have a great season, but they won't hold up against the Colts. Peyton Manning has the playoff experience, and the offense is deadly. The Texans will put up a fight in this game though.
This game will be the shocker of the playoffs. The Jets are a trendy pick to win the Super Bowl, but the Ravens are the team to beat along with the Colts, and Flacco has just as good of a playoff record as Mark Sanchez, and he's a big question mark for the Jets. He hasn't performed well aside from his Cinderella playoff run. The Jets have a dominant defense, but the Ravens' is nearly just as good.
Packers over Falcons, Cowboys over Saints
Two potent offenses face off in this game, but the Packers' superior defense gets the edge, and Rodgers is the superior QB.
This is a tough game to pick, but the Cowboys get the slight edge in this one. Their defense will be better than the Saints', and Romo looks ready to win another playoff game. The receiving unit matches up with the Saints, and the running game is a threat as well. I wouldn't be surprised at all if the Cowboys are one-and-done again though since Wade Phillips is the head coach.
Ravens over Colts
The Colts are the better team on paper, but that's not how football is measured. If it was, the Colts would be Super Bowl champions. Manning doesn't have a great playoff record, and their defense isn't as good as the Ravens'.
Packers over Cowboys
This will be an epic NFC Championship, but Mike McCarthy will outcoach Wade Phillips, and Rodgers, assuming he improves from last year, will outperform Romo. The receiving units are both excellent, and both defenses are solid, but the edge goes to the Packers. Charles Woodson is a playmaker, and the Cowboys don't have a playmaker like him in the secondary. This game will be by seven points or less.
Packers over Ravens
Two great defenses will face off here. The Packers have the better pass defense, and if their rush defense does as well as last year, the defense could be better than the Ravens'. Rodgers is a better QB than Flacco, and the receiving unit for the Packers is better than the Ravens'. This would definitely be a close game though.