2011 NFL Prediction: 32 Bold Statements for the 2011 Season
Like every season in the NFL, the 2011 season will have surprise teams that make a run, and teams that were expected to make a run flop early. Nobody can truly predict the outcome of the NFL season, but here are 32 statements about every NFL team that I believe will happen this year. They will be presented in the order they will pick in the 2012 NFL draft.
1. The Washington Redskins Will Be the Worst Team in the League
In 2010, the Redskins looked like they may be turning a corner with Donovan McNabb at quarterback and Mike Shanahan as their new head coach. However, like things have gone in Washington in recent years, these acquisitions went south, and the Redskins found themselves with a 6-10 record.
This year, they are supposedly starting John Beck at quarterback, a player who was their third string quarterback last year, and has seen very little starting time outside of being on the 1-15 Miami Dolphins team. The Redskins are making a big mistake starting John Beck at quarterback, and despite the many opportunities they had to do so, they never drafted a quarterback or acquired a quarterback with starting potential.
2011 will finally be the year that the Redskins fall all the way to the bottom of the league. They will have to press the restart button once again in 2012. The good news is, with the first pick in the draft, they get Andrew Luck.
Projected Record: 3-13
2. Ryan Fitzpatrick Will Prove He Is NOT the Answer at Quarterback in Buffalo
Last year, Buffalo came into 2010 with little to no expectations, and while they finished with a 4-12 record, they fought hard in nearly every game they played. If they had gotten a few breaks here and there, Buffalo could have had a winning record, which would have been a huge surprise.
What was a surprise for the Bills last year was Ryan Fitzpatrick, who took over the job from Trent Edwards. Fitzpatrick played well, helping keep the Bills in many of their close games last season, although frequently the Bills would fall short.
Fitzpatrick is a smart, efficient quarterback, but he will not have the same season in 2011. Fitzpatrick has had a shaky career from the start, throwing for 44 touchdowns and 42 interceptions, and I do not believe that one solid year by Fitzpatrick proves that he is starter material in this league.
In 2011, Fitzpatrick will struggle, and the Bills will realize that if they have a chance to compete, they will have to find another answer at quarterback.
Projected Record: 3-13
3. Cam Newton vs. Jimmy Clausen Will Get Ugly in Carolina
The Panthers have many issues, and quarterback is one of them. Drafting Cam Newton with the first pick was a risky move, and what makes it even more risky was the fact that they drafted another quarterback, Jimmy Clausen, the previous year. Although Clausen struggled, he clearly wants to start, and of course, so does Cam Newton.
Clausen and Newton are both very competitive, confident players, and both want the starting job. They even had a standoff over wearing the number two earlier in the year, and if they have issues with each other regarding a jersey number, it may be very difficult if they want to coexist.
Quarterback competitions have the potential to tear apart a team, and with a team that is rebuilding and has so many other issues, it could hurt Carolina in the long run.
Projected Record: 4-12
4. Peyton Hillis Will Succumb to the Madden Curse
Last Year, Peyton Hillis was a breakout star, a cult hero in the NFL. His popularity caused him to land the Madden cover, which was voted on by NFL fans. While the Madden cover is a great honor, it has the dubious distinction of cursing the players that were on it: Donovan McNabb, Shawn Alexander, Brett Favre, and Troy Polamalu are just a few of these players that struggled the year after they were on the Madden cover.
This year, Peyton Hillis will go down with a season-ending injury and will be placed on IR, and the Browns, although a promising team, will finish at the bottom of the division.
Projected Record: 4-12
5. This Year, the Oakland Raiders Will Be Swept by Every Team in the Division
The Oakland Raiders were the laughingstock of the NFL just a few years ago, but improved in 2010 with an 8-8 record, and in the process swept their division. While many people buy the Raiders as contenders, I do not.
While the Raiders were 6-0 in their division, they were also 2-8 outside their division. In the offseason, they lost key players in Robert Gallery, Zach Miller and of course Nnamdi Asomugha. They also had a quiet draft where they didn't draft in the first round and reached on their second round pick. They also lost backup QB Bruce Gradkowski, who could have been valuable if Jason Campbell doesn't perform.
Combine their personnel issues with the fact that they are starting the season with a new head coach, and I just don't think the Raiders will be competitive at all this year. In fact, they will finish at the bottom of the division this year.
Projected Record: 5-11
6. The Seahawks Will Go from First to Worst
The Seattle Seahawks made an improbable run last year, winning the division with a 7-9 record, and beating the defending champion Saints in the wildcard round. They were not expected to do so last year, and with their many personnel changes this year, I wouldn't expect them to do so this year, either.
In terms of personnel changes, losing Matt Hasselbeck should be at the top of the list. Hasselbeck was the leader of the offense for 10 years, and while he isn't what he used to be, he was key in not only the Seahawks having a chance to make the playoffs, but also in the Seahawks upsetting the Saints.
Losing Hasselbeck will hurt, and acquiring Tarvaris Jackson to replace him will not help. Jackson is a struggling quarterback who couldn't hold on to a starting job against Gus Frerotte, and the Seahawks clearly could have done better to replace Hasselbeck.
The Seahawks also lost Lofa Tatupu, a star player and leader on their defense. This will certainly hurt them as well. And while they have acquired talented players like Sidney Rice, Robert Gallery and Zach Miller, I feel that the losses of Hasselbeck and Tatupu will be too much for the Seahawks to overcome.
The Seahawks are clearly in a rebuilding mode, and this year might not be fun to watch for Seahawks fans.
Projected Record: 5-11
7. The Andy Dalton Era in Cincinnati Will Show Promise
The Bengals are another team that is rebuilding. After losing Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco, they are having to start fresh with a new quarterback and wide receiving tandem: Andy Dalton to A.J. Green. The problem is, both of these players are rookies.
Dalton and Green could very well bring the Bengals back into relevance, and I believe that this year, Cincinnati will show promise with these two young players. However, because their franchise seems to be rebuilding, and Dalton and Green are so young, they will not be brought back into relevance quite yet.
Projected Record: 6-10
8. Tim Tebow Will Start the Season, but Kyle Orton Will Finish It
Another quarterback controversy that is brewing is between Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow in Denver. Orton was the starter last year, but Tebow was a first round pick by Denver and the fans and the organization want Tebow to start. However, many Broncos players have voiced that they want Orton to start, and Orton, despite the team's poor record last year, put up strong numbers, and appears to be the leader of the offense.
The Broncos tried to trade Orton away, but trade talks broke down and now the Broncos are stuck with two quarterbacks who both want the job. I believe that John Fox will be pressured for Tim Tebow to start the season, but with Tebow still young and inexperienced, he will not play to expectations, and Orton will gain the starting job back.
The Broncos are moving in a positive direction, but they need to work out their quarterback situation first.
Projected Record: 6-10
9. The Tony Sparano-Chad Henne Era Will Come to an Abrupt End
The Dolphins are a team with some promise, but right now, they are a mess. They have a coach who they publicly tried to replace, and a quarterback that they also publicly tried to replace. Both coach Sparano and quarterback Chad Henne are not very good, and won't lead the Dolphins to a lot of success.
Like last year, the Dolphins will show flashes of a good team, but will ultimately fail once again, and Sparano, who has already been shown to be on a short leash, will be let go, perhaps before the end of the season, and his quarterback, Chad Henne, won't be far behind.
Projected Record: 6-10
10. The David Garrard Era Will End in Jacksonville
David Garrard and the Jacksonville Jaguars have been a perennially mediocre team that, while they always have a chance to make a run, are never able to do so. Garrard is a talented quarterback with a good arm, but hasn't been able to lead the Jaguars to a lot of success.
This year will be the same story, but the only difference this time is the Jaguars have a quarterback of the future in Blaine Gabbert, who they can turn to in 2012, when they feel that the David Garrard era is over, and it is time to move on to greener pastures.
Projected Record: 7-9
11. Donovan McNabb and the Vikings Will Be Plagued by Injuries, Not Poor Play
Last year, both Donovan McNabb and the Vikings had difficult years, for similar reasons. McNabb suffered through a season of poor play that was partially due to a very weak team around him. The Vikings suffered through a season of poor play as well, due to an aging team with a very aging quarterback in Brett Favre.
This year will be a little different, though. McNabb and the Vikings will play well, at least at first, but the injury bug will hit. The Vikings are an aging team, and McNabb is an aging quarterback. McNabb will go down with an injury sometime during the season, and the Vikings will fade away from contention, and finish last in the NFC North.
Projected Record: 7-9
12. 2011 Will Be the Last Year Alex Smith Will Be a Starter
Alex Smith has been given countless chances as the starter for the 49ers, but has never truly lived up to the expectations of being the first overall pick in the draft. While many people thought the 49ers would go in a different direction this year, they decided that Smith was still their best option at quarterback, although they did draft Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the second round.
Smith is an average quarterback at best, and will play like one. The 49ers won't be at the bottom of the NFC West this year, but they will be third, which will not be acceptable for Jim Harbaugh, and as a result, the 49ers will finally move on from Smith by the end of the season.
Projected Record: 7-9
13. Matt Hasselbeck Will Prove That He Still Has Something Left
Matt Hasselbeck was dumped by the Seahawks, and many feel that, after several seasons of declining play, he is just about done. However, I feel that in the right situation, Hasselbeck still is a very efficient and accurate quarterback.
Last year, Tennessee's big problem was at the quarterback position. This year, however, I feel that the quarterback position will be the least of the Titans' problems. The problem for Tennessee in 2011 will be their defense, which has been declining in recent years after losing Kyle Van Den Bosch in 2010, and losing Jason Babin this year.
Under Hasselbeck, the Titans will improve, but they still have some work to do.
Projected Record: 8-8
14. Tom Coughlin Will Be Unemployed by the End of the 2011 Season
As a coach, Tom Coughlin has proven that he can lead his team to success. However, in recent years, he has become less respected and less liked in the locker room due to his sometimes brash, abrasive personality.
In the last two years, the Giants have gotten off to great starts to the season, but have flopped by the end of the season. This year, the Giants will run into the same problem, as they start off the season with a lot of promise, but choke at the end of the season, finishing third in their division.
Locker room tensions will rise to a boiling point, and Tom Coughlin will finally be let go from New York by the end of the season.
Projected Record: 8-8
15. Matt Stafford Will Be the Undoing of the 2011 Detroit Lions
The Lions are quickly becoming contenders in the NFL, with the acquisition of Nick Fairley already adding to their stout defensive line. They have also built up their offense, improving both their receiving corps and running game.
However, their biggest problem might be their quarterback. Matt Stafford, despite being a very good quarterback, has had a history of injuries, and with a weak offensive line, this problem could continue. While I feel that the Lions will no longer be perennially in the basement of the NFC North, they haven't quite reached the level of being a playoff contender, especially with the questionable health of their quarterback.
Projected Record: 8-8
16. The Cardinals Will NOT Win the NFC West
With the acquiring of Kevin Kolb, and many other players, the Cardinals have been busy in free agency, and are already becoming the favorites to win the NFC West. However, despite the high price they paid for Kevin Kolb, it is still safe to question whether or not he will actually pan out. He is 3-4 as a starter, and obviously, has had both good and bad games.
While I don't feel that Kolb will be a complete bust for the Cardinals, I feel that, at least in his first season, he will struggle a bit, and at the very least, he will need time to grow. The Cardinals will certainly improve on their 5-11 record last year, but they will still have some work to do.
Projected Record: 8-8
17. Off-the-Field Issues Will Plague the Steelers on the Field
The Pittsburgh Steelers are perennial Super Bowl contenders, but it seems that in recent years, every year they make the Super Bowl, they follow that year with a clunker of a year. After winning Super Bowl XL, the Steelers followed up that season with an 8-8 record. After winning Super Bowl XLIII, the Steelers followed up that season with a 9-7 record and missed the playoffs.
I feel that with everything that has happened to the Steelers in the offseason, from players getting arrested to players making negative comments about their own teammates, they will be due for a fall next year, and while they may finish with a winning record, they will miss the playoffs, and will have some work to do to reestablish that locker room chemistry that seems to go up and down by the year.
Projected Record: 9-7
18. Mike Martz Will Be the Reason the Bears Miss the Playoffs
The Mike Martz-Jay Cutler pairing may have worked last year, but I think that it is due for a major fallout this year. For instance, Martz's offensive philosophy of not emphasizing quarterback protection could be disastrous for Cutler, who is already dealing with a weak offensive line, despite the acquisition of Gabe Carimi.
Martz has historically not valued tight ends, which could be one of the reasons Greg Olsen was traded to the Panthers. Unfortunately for Cutler, Olsen was one player that Cutler had very good chemistry with, and the old adage "a tight end is a quarterback's best friend" is certainly true with Cutler, who needs all the receivers he can get.
In 2011, the Bears defense will be the reason they win games. The offense will continue to struggle with turnovers and poor quarterback protection. Because of this, they will miss the playoffs.
Projected Record: 9-7
19. Matt Cassel Will Improve, but the Chiefs Will Not
The Kansas City Chiefs showed alot of promise last year, proving they could be a perennial contender. And while I think they will play well and be a contender this year, I feel that they will fall just short of the playoffs in a competitive division.
Matt Cassel is a quarterback on the rise with an increasing number of weapons around him, and I think that he will get better next year. However, I feel that they Chiefs didn't do a lot to improve this year, through the draft or free agency, so they will find themselves at a very similar place next year.
Projected Record: 9-7
20. The Falcons Will Regret Drafting Julio Jones
The Falcons proved last year that they had an explosive offense that could put up points, and a defense that could keep up and win games when needed. They were explosive at home on their way to a 13-3 record, but found themselves getting blown out in their home stadium against Green Bay, 48-21.
Green Bay exposed Atlanta's defense as Rodgers picked them apart, but in the 2011 draft, the Falcons didn't go after defense, they gave up a king's ransom to move up in the draft to acquire Julio Jones, a wide receiver. While the Falcons now have two explosive receivers and a talented quarterback, they gave up way too much for an offensive player when they already had a great offense to begin with.
Although Atlanta did bring in Ray Edwards in free agency, I feel that the Falcons still have plenty of holes on defense to exploit. The Falcons will regret not addressing their defense in the draft, and as a result, they will fall back next year, and will just miss the playoffs.
Projected Record: 10-6
21. The Rams WILL Win the NFC West
The Rams will surprise some people by stepping up and winning the division. They almost did it last year, which surprised people then, as the Rams were an atrocious 1-15 before they acquired Sam Bradford. As long as Bradford continues to get some weapons around him, I feel he will continue to help improve the Rams as a team, and I feel that the acquisition of Mike Sims-Walker in free agency could help Bradford greatly.
While I do feel the Rams are on the rise, and will make the playoffs this year, I do not feel they are quite ready to make a legitimate playoff run, as there are many teams in the NFC that are superior to them.
Projected Record: 9-7 (NFC West Title)
22. Peyton Manning Will Miss Games, and the Colts Will Pay the Price
Peyton Manning's neck injury could be the most interesting story of the NFL offseason. It has been reported that he has a long way to go to recover, and he could even miss games. Although Manning has 208 consecutive starts under his belt, that streak could come to an end.
I feel that Manning will miss at least the first two or three games of the season, and in that span, the Colts will find it very difficult to get a win without Manning under center. As a result, Manning will be starting the season with a losing record, and will have to play catch up.
I feel that although Manning will have a very difficult road to the playoffs, he will find a way to make it there. However, they will not win the division; they will have to go into the playoffs as a wildcard team, and as a result, will have a difficult time winning on the road. The Colts will sneak into the playoffs, but will be eliminated early in the hunt.
Projected Record: 9-7 (AFC wildcard)
23. The Cowboys Will Return to the Playoffs...and Fall Short Again
Under Jason Garrett, the Cowboys are in better hands than they were with Wade Phillips. They are better disciplined and better coached, and will have a better shot at making the playoffs than last year. However, because they are in a difficult division, it will not come easy. They will lose the division, but will go in as a wildcard.
Dallas fans will be disappointed with another early playoff loss, and people will continue to question Tony Romo and how he responds to the big games. However, Romo will have a good regular season, and will continue to be the starter for the Cowboys amidst the questions.
Projected Record: 10-6 (wildcard)
24. The Texans Make the Next Step and Finally Win the AFC South
The Texans were one of the worst teams in the league last year in terms of defense, but one of the best in terms of offense. The Texans were smart to work on their defense this year, acquiring Jonathan Joseph in free agency, as well as drafting almost all defensive players. They also brought in Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator, and, despite his troubles in Dallas, he has proven to be a very good defensive mind.
The Texans will have the fortune of the Colts struggling early in the season, and will take the opportunity to win the division. Unfortunately, I do not feel they will go deep in the playoffs, as they are an inexperienced team who has never even been to the playoffs in franchise history.
The Texans are taking steps to become legitimate contenders, and this year, despite an early playoff loss, will be a big step in the right direction.
Projected Record: 11-5 (AFC South title)
25. The Running Game Will Be the Story of the 2011 Saints
The New Orleans Saints may have lost Reggie Bush, but they acquired both Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles in the offseason. I think Ingram will prove to be a great running back, and will not be the disappointment that some saw Reggie Bush as. They also have Pierre Thomas in the backfield, who has proven to be a very productive running back.
Although Drew Brees and the Saints passing offense will have another good year, I feel that the Saints running game has the potential to be even better. With all that said, the Saints won't win the division. As good as their offense is, their defense can still be questionable. However, they do make the playoffs as a wildcard team, and unlike last year, they do not lose in the first round.
Projected Record: 10-6 (NFC wildcard)
26. Norv Turner Will Be in the Hot Seat After Another Playoff Disappointment
There is no doubt that the San Diego Chargers are a talented team, but they have a habit of underperforming at the beginning of the season, and then in the postseason. They were the No. 1 ranked offense and defense, but failed to make the playoffs in 2010.
At some point in the near future, I do think that the Chargers will get over the hump and win the Super Bowl. But I have doubts about head coach Norv Turner, who has never been the most successful head coach, particularly in the playoffs.
I think that the Chargers have a great regular season, and will win a playoff game next year, but they will again fall short, leading to questions in San Diego regarding Norv Turner's future.
Projected Record: 11-5 (AFC West title)
27. Raheem Morris Wins Coach of the Year as the Buccaneers Win the NFC South
This may be the biggest shock of the playoffs to some, but I do think that the Bucs will be in the playoffs next year. Their head coach, Raheem Morris, brought the 3-13 team in 2009 to a 10-6 team last year. He is a young coach with a lot of energy, and the young and increasingly talented team responds very well to him.
There is the point that Tampa Bay only won 10 games last year because of an easy schedule. I feel that Tampa Bay will only continue to improve on last year, on both offense and defense, and in 2011, will make a surprising playoff run.
Projected Record: 11-5 (NFC South division title)
28. The New England Patriots Will Experience Deja Vu...
The 2010 Patriots were 14-2 last year, only to be stunned by the New York Jets in the playoffs. The Patriots will continue to be contenders for a long time, and it wouldn't surprise me at all to see them win several more Super Bowls.
However, in recent years, they have not been successful in the playoffs. This all started with their upset loss in Super Bowl XLII to the New York Giants. And it would not surprise me at all to face the Jets again in the playoffs, a team that plays very well against them, and like last year, will be fired up to beat them.
Playoff Record: 12-4 (AFC East division title)
29. ...And so Will the Jets
The Patriots and Jets will suffer an oddly similar fate to what happened last year: The Jets beat the Patriots in the divisional, but the Jets, for the third straight year, fall in the AFC title game. The Jets are a very talented team, with a stifling defense and a head coach who is one of the best defensive minds in football, but their offense can be easily stopped, especially by the team that will beat them to get into the Super Bowl...
Projected Record: 12-4 (AFC wildcard)
30. The Green Bay Packers Will Make a Repeat Run...to the NFC Title Game
The Green Bay Packers may be the most talented team in the NFL. The fact that they were able to win a Super Bowl with 6 starters on injured reserve speaks volumes to the depth of their talent. I have no doubt that they will win the NFC North division, and make another strong run to the Super Bowl in their quest to repeat.
The problem is how difficult it can be to repeat. It rarely ever happens, as the Super Bowl team becomes the hunted in many NFL teams' eyes. While I do feel that the Packers will be able to overcome any issues they may have in their quest to repeat, I feel that they will meet a team in the NFC Championship that is not only hungry to finally win a championship, but looking for revenge after Green Bay ended their season last year...
Projected Record: 12-4 (NFC North division title)
31. "The Miami Heat of the NFL" Will Suffer a Similar Fate
With all of their huge acquisitions in free agency, the Eagles are being dubbed "the Miami Heat of the NFL". I seriously do believe that the Eagles are going to be very difficult to stop next year; their defense got a lot better with Nnamdi Asomugha, Cullen Jenkins and Jason Babin, while their offense improved with Ronnie Brown and Vince Young. If they can keep Asante Samuel happy, and bring back Desean Jackson, they will be a serious force to be reckoned with.
After getting beaten twice by the Green Bay Packers last year, I believe that the Eagles will want more than anything to get revenge on the Packers, and will beat them in a very close NFC title game. I also predict that Andy Reid and the Eagles will advance to Super Bowl XLVI, but, like the real Miami Heat, will be heartbroken in the championship game.
Projected Record: 12-4 (NFC East Title)
32. The Baltimore Ravens Will Be Super Bowl Champions
The Pittsburgh Steelers have gotten the best of the Baltimore Ravens for past few seasons, beating them twice in the playoffs, and beating them every time their quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is on the field. The Ravens have proven they can win playoff games, and that their defense is one of the best in the league. However, they still have not been able to get past the Steelers.
With the Steelers struggling this year, I feel that this will be the perfect year for the Ravens to finally take the AFC North crown. They will play well in the playoffs, and face the Jets, an equally impressive defensive team, in an epic AFC Championship showdown. In the end, the Ravens offense will prove to be superior to the Jets' offense, and the Ravens will advance to the Super Bowl, where they will face the Philadelphia Eagles.
Everyone will assume that Andy Reid will finally get his Super Bowl ring, but the Ravens are able to shut down the Eagles' explosive offense, and the Ravens, in somewhat of a surprise, will be Super Bowl XLVI champions.
Projected Record: 13-3 (AFC North champions)