2011 NFL Season Predictions: The Obvious and the Not-So Obvious

Jeffrey BoswellAnalyst IMay 27, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO - SEPTEMBER 20:  Reggie Bush #25 of the New Orleans Saints runs past Patrick Willis #52 of the San Francisco 49ers to score a touchdown at Candlestick Park on September 20, 2010 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

New Orleans Saints vs. Green Bay Packers

In the NFL's season opener on September 11th featuring the last two Super Bowl champions, the Saints outlast the home-standing Packers, 38-34.

Reggie Bush's dynamic 75-yard punt return late in the fourth quarter is the game-winning score. An overjoyed Bush celebrates bravely with a Lambeau Leap into a sea of Packers fans, and the Green Bay faithful are surprisingly receptive, making Bush feel quite welcome with a bounty of cash and gifts.

The Saints falter late in the year and finish 8-8, good for third in the NFC South. The Packers win the NFC North and lose in the divisional round to the Lions.


Miami Dolphins vs. New York Jets

In the October 17th Dolphins/Jets contest at the Meadowlands in New York, strength and conditioning coach Bill Hughan outdoes former Jets coach Sal Alosi when he slips Miami running back Ricky Williams a hit of LSD after Williams is tackled out of bounds on a first-quarter sweep play.

As "tripping" incidents go, Hughan's misstep easily overshadows Alosi's in infamy and Hughan is fired the following day and charged with felonious assault. Although Williams, known to drop acid as easily as he drops charges, forgives Hughan.

The Dolphins upset the Jets 24-22, as Williams rushes for 121 yards and a score and—despite his impairment—passes with flying colors, tossing a short touchdown pass to Brian Hartline.


Peyton Manning

After offseason neck surgery leaves him scarred and unable to practice, Peyton Manning teams with Under Armour and the estate of Charles Nelson Reilly to develop a fashionable line of moisture-wicking neckerchiefs.

Manning introduces the product at VH1's Fashion Week in September, and sales skyrocket thereafter, with Under Armour neckerchiefs becoming a worldwide phenomenon, sported by influential people ranging from Snoop Dogg to Perez Hilton to Sarah Palin to Muammar Gaddafi.

In a related note, the Tim Tebow-endorsed Jockey line of men's thongs, dubbed the "Jockey Strap," is a monumental failure and is pulled from retailers' shelves after only a week on the market.


New Road Warriors

At TNA's Hardcore Justice pay-per-view card in August, world tag team champions Beer Money, Inc. face a surprise challenge from none other than the team of A.J. Hawk of the Packers and the Rams James Laurinaitis.

The newly-formed tag team, known officially as the "New Road Warriors" and unofficially as "Hawk and Animal's Son," captures the belts when Laurinaitis shoulder-blocks James Storm for the pin at the 9:34-mark.

Their reign is short-lived, as Hawk and Laurinaitis lose the belts the following night in Memphis to Beer Money, and immediately turn on each other, initiating a feud that culminates in Green Bay on October 16, when the Packers host the Rams. Afterwards, Laurinaitis defeats Hawk in an arm wrestling match arranged by Vince McMahon.


Chad Ochocinco

After Chad Ochocinco rides a bull for 1.5 seconds in May, the Bengals wide receiver goes one better in early June when he "shoots the bull" for eight consecutive hours in a marathon Twitter session, a stunt performed to raise awareness for Ochocinco himself.

Ochocinco has a tough year, facing the opposite problem than that of quarterback Carson Palmer: He wants to be in Cincinnati, but no one else does. Cincinnati finishes 5-11, last place in the AFC North.


Antonio Cromartie

Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie leads the AFC with nine interceptions, and at the team's year-end awards banquet, dedicates one pick to each of his children. Cromartie also records eight tackles on the year and, in turn, dedicates one each to his children's mothers.


Kanye West

Kanye West, at the behest of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, reprises his 2008 hit "Love Lockdown" as "League Lockout," a song Goodell emails to every NFL player with a message urging them to tailor a swift end to the lockout.

The move backfires, and players accuse both Goodell and West of selling out to "the man."

The lockout ends on June 29th after President Barrack Obama authorizes a group of mediating operatives, known as "Deal Team 6," to intervene.


Ben Roethlisberger

On July 23rd, Ben Roethlisberger weds his fiancé, Ashley Harlan, in a lavish ceremony at the Hilton at South Padre Island, Texas. Security is tight at the event, particularly in the bathrooms.

Guests are treated to a post-ceremonial meal of nachos and Jello shots. Steelers teammate Troy Polamalu plays the "Wedding March" on the piano, while traitorous teammate and terrorist sympathizer Rashard Mendenhall shocks invitees by playing an original piece called the "Perp Walk" on the kazoo.

A blissful Roethlisberger has his finest season, crediting it to the "steady peace" matrimony has offered him. The Steelers finish 11-5, tied with the Ravens for first in the AFC South.


Detroit Lions vs. Chicago Bears

In the November 13th Lions/Bears contest at Soldier Field, Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson creates another rules headache for the league when he takes a short pass along the sideline from Matthew Stafford and hops on one leg 65 yards downfield before being shoved out of bounds by Charles Tillman at the Bears one-yard line.

Officials originally call the catch legitimate, but after minutes of deliberation, it is overturned.

Stafford raises his arms in disgust, and separates his right shoulder in the process.

Johnson leads the league in receptions and touchdown catches. The Lions finish 10-6, second in the NFC North, and reach the NFC championship game, where they fall to the Falcons.


Christina Aguilera

Pop diva Christina Aguilera, determined to repair her reputation after February's Super Bowl fiasco, campaigns to sing the national anthem at November 20th's Eagles/Giants game at the Meadowlands.

Aguilera is given the chance and makes history, as her rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner" becomes the first to be subjected to the NFL's replay policy. After further review, Aguilera's invitation is overturned.


Tom Brady

Tom Brady leads the NFL with 37 touchdown passes, including five in Week 6 during a 35-24 win over the 4-0 Cowboys.

Brady shows classic poise in the pocket, but his gutsiest play comes on a 15-yard TD pass to Deion Branch, in which Brady takes a vicious hit from DeMarcus Ware that knocks Brady's helmet off. However, Brady's machismo loses a bit of its luster when his flying helmet reveals pigtails and ribbons adorning his luxurious mane.

In January, Brady is honored in People magazine's "Most Beautiful People" issue, appearing in both the male and female categories.


Super Bowl XLVI

In Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, the Atlanta Falcons beat the New York Jets, 24-21, winning on Matt Bryant's 53-yard field goal as time expires.

A disappointed-yet-gracious Rex Ryan makes his way to the Falcons locker room after the game, not only to shake Bryant's hand, but to get a good look at the foot that won the Super Bowl.


Sebastian Janikowski

Oakland's Sebastian Janikowski boots a 66-yard field goal as time expires to beat the Chargers 26-25 on November 10th, breaking the NFL record for longest field goal.

The veteran Raider kicker earns a free trip to Disney World, and while there, an intoxicated Janikowski goes berserk while in line for the Dumbo ride. Janikowski slugs an attendant and a chase ensues involving park security, police and several Disney mascots. Janikowski eludes them all and ironically slips a "Mickey" in the process, but later turns himself in to authorities.

Janikowski is banned from Disney World, but is selected to the Pro Bowl, while the Raiders win the AFC West with a 9-7 record.


Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam is chosen to perform at halftime of Super Bowl XLVI, and during the band's set, lead singer Eddie Vedder gives a shout-out to Al Davis, celebrating his 50th year with the Oakland Raiders. The band then plays their 1991 debut single, "Alive."


Houston Texans

The Houston Texans finally break through and win the AFC South title, defeating the Colts twice on their way to an 11-5 record, earning the AFC's No. 3 seed.

In the Wild Card round, however, the Texans host the sixth-seeded Colts at Reliant Stadium, and fall to the Colts 38-14 behind 356 yards passing and five touchdown throws from Peyton Manning, a performance that earns the Texans defensive backfield the dubious nickname "The Burn Unit."

Gary Kubiak is fired as head coach, and the Texans soon name Kyle Shanahan as his successor.


Larry Fitzgerald

Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald endures another difficult season, as the Cardinals again suffer quarterback issues. While he is nowhere near the league lead in receptions, Fitzgerald, always the consummate teammate, leads the NFL in receptiveness to quarterback play not meeting the standards of a superstar wide receiver.

When asked how he handles his dilemma, Fitzgerald, a deeply spiritual man, replies that he prays to higher powers, notably Kurt Warner and God, in that order.


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