2011 NFL Predictions: A Bold Prediction for All 32 Teams
I like to go out on a limb. More importantly, I like accountability.
I get so sick of shows like Pardon the Interruption and Around the Horn where they make predictions and guarantees and never have to answer for them. They just move on to the next one.
To change this, I am going to put myself out there and later on in the season I will revisit these predictions and score myself.
Given that I can not see the future as clearly as I would like (judging by the size of my apartment you would have a guess that I am no Nostradamus), many of these are bound to be off.
But I will promise you this: These are no run-of-the-mill predictions.
The Buffalo Bills Will Go .500 in Their Division
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At times, I really liked what I saw from Buffalo last year. Ryan Fitzpatrick plays the game with a certain amount of toughness, and C.J. Spiller showed flashes of brilliance.
In the draft, they worked on their defense, and given how bad they were against the run, this is sure to improve.
Their pass defense was excellent, so if they can get on the same page against the run, this team could surprise some people.
I already think this team is better than Miami, and I would not be shocked if they took a game or two from New York.
Matt Moore Will Be Starter in Miami by Week 5
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Chad Henne is not that good. Trust me, he isn't.
And it's not that I hate the guy; I am a Michigan fan through and through, and nothing would make me happier than for Henne to prove me wrong.
But he has not improved since his freshman year in college at some basic things. He is not accurate, he has no feel for pressure in the pocket and he has a terrible habit of throwing costly interceptions.
Matt Moore is not a great quarterback. In fact, in a lot of ways he is pretty average at best. But he is accurate, and he is a leader.
Moore doesn't have the arm strength that Henne has, which in a lot of ways helps him. He doesn't get cute about what throws he can make or not. He knows his limitations and plays within them. Kind of like Shaun Hill.
Heck, Moore may even win the job out of camp.
Chad Ochocinco Will Have a Renaissance Year, Haynesworth Will Flop with Pats
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Some people have unfairly called Chad Ochocinco a bad apple. He really isn't. The guy doesn't drink, doesn't party and his only addiction is Twitter.
Off the field, he is a mouse. Heck, on the field he has never been anything but a playful loudmouth.
He really is the antithesis of Albert Haynesworth, who can't help but get into trouble.
This is why Chad will work, and Fat Albert won't.
Chad wants a challenge, and will thrive as the Pats' deep threat.
Haynesworth will want to do it his way, and the Pats could bounce him by midseason.
The fact of the matter is that we will know fairly quickly if Haynesworth is going to work, but Chad will take a little bit of time. But he will have a good year in New England.
Plaxico Burress Will Have 10 Touchdowns with Jets
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This kid is motivated, and his biggest asset doesn't go away with some time off.
The Jets need a big possession receiver near the red zone, and Burress has always been great at catching balls in traffic.
Sure, he hasn't had that many touchdowns since 2007 and has only done it one other time.
But the Jets offense should continue to improve with a more balanced attack, and as Sanchez continues to mature, he will find a new toy in the 6'6" Burress.
Mark Sanchez, meet the fade route in the end zone.
The New York Giants Will Get Passed by the Cowboys
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This Giants defense is heading in the wrong direction quickly. I hate the game of chicken they are playing with Osi, and the running game should take a step back.
Add to that the possibility that Eli Manning may have another up-and-down year, and this team could struggle heading down the stretch.
The good news for New York fans is that they will know pretty quickly if their team is any good. Their first seven games only have one really tough game, at the Eagles.
But if they go anything but 5-2 out of the gates, they are in real trouble as the second half of the schedule is a killer.
The last game of the season could decide this when they host the Cowboys.
Michael Vick Will Only Start About Half the Season
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This year there will be added pressure on the Eagles and Michael Vick. As a result, he will be led to taking more chances on his feet. Given his slight frame and the fact that he is a year older, this will definitely lead to more injuries.
As a result, Vick could be limited to only eight games as the starter.
I hope Vince Young is ready!
Washington Will Drastically Improve on Defense
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The Redskins had an incredibly porous defense last year, ranking near the bottom in all categories.
To address this, they went to the draft and upgraded their line.
This unit will take time to gel, but by the end of the year they will be the strength of the team—luckily, since the offense will stink.
Tony Romo Will Be an MVP Candidate
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Sure, the kid is pretty much Hollywood at this point and sure, he plays a ton of golf, but Tony Romo will have a great year this season.
He finally has some continuity in the offense, with a unit that ran the ball much more effectively late last year.
And while I think Dez Bryant could be a train wreck off the field, he is tremendously talented on it and should take another step forward. Add to that a healthy Jason Witten and you could have a very good Cowboys team.
Tim Tebow Will Be the Third-String QB in Denver
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I know, this is probably the most divisive athlete in sports right now. It's hard to figure out just why. Some say it is a religious thing. Others say it is a blowback from the media coverage. Some even say it is because he comes across as squeaky clean and people want to throw some dirt on him.
Hard to say exactly what it is, but the fact of the matter is that this is a public relations nightmare for Denver. The previous regime was in love with the kid. The fans want him. He has a cult-like following.
But the truth of the matter is that he is not the best quarterback on the roster. Kyle Orton is.
And he might not be as ready to contribute as Brady Quinn is.
The point is that coaches that want to keep their job will play the best player available, regardless of what the fans think. And right now that is not Tim Tebow.
Oakland Will Be a Contender in the West
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There is a lot to like about what Oakland is doing these days. There also have been some typically Oakland-like curious moves.
They have built a very good defense, and while their offensive line could still use some work, they sure can run the ball.
Their season hinges on Jason Campbell. It also hinges on the pass defense, which should struggle now that their top corner is no longer there. The defensive line is going to have to put some big pressure on the opponents in order to make up for this loss.
But with Denver still struggling, Kansas City playing a ridiculously hard schedule and San Diego as puzzling as ever, Oakland could have the inside track here.
Kansas City Will Improve, but Win Fewer Games
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This is kind of a strange thing to claim since it seems to fly in the face of logic and reason.
But Kansas City should run the ball nearly as effective as they did last year, which was amazing. They also will see improved defensive play and the passing game will only be helped by the rookie Baldwin.
The problem is that their schedule is probably the worst in football. They play the Patriots, Colts, Steelers, Jets and Packers. And that doesn't include games against their division, including the Raiders who swept them this year.
Given this schedule, it is hard to see them win more than eight or nine games. But statistically they will be much improved.
Norv Turner Will Finally Get Fired This Year
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The Chargers fans must think that they are stuck in some version of purgatory or at least Groundhog Day. Every year they struggle out of the gate, and then they come on at the end of the year.
Each year Norv Turner pulls his fanny out of the fire.
The problem is that this year the schedule remains tough during the second half of the season and is especially tough at the outset.
Add to that a still-unhappy Vincent Jackson, a perpetually injured Antonio Gates, a sure departure of Malcolm Floyd and the loss of Darren Sproles, and you have an offense that should be at least moderately taxed.
Defensively they should still be tough, but the real key is the running game. Can Ryan Matthews become the home run threat that Sproles was? Can Mike Tolbert continue to be the battering ram up the gut?
I'm guessing they miss the playoffs and Norv is sent packing.
Seattle Will Win the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes
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Seattle is building their team the right way, for the most part. Their offensive line figures to be the strength of their team for years to come. However, instead of investing in a decent quarterback, they spent money on another free-agent wideout (seriously Seattle, when will you learn?) and another tight end even though John Carlson is young and talented.
The quarterback situation figures to be a train wreck this year. Charlie Whitehurst is not a starter, and Tarvaris Jackson is strangely worse. While I don't think they are tanking on purpose, I do think they are looking at next year to get their quarterback.
Lucky for Hawks fans, he is a good one.
Sam Bradford Makes the Pro Bowl
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It's hard not to like what Sam Bradford did as a rookie. He proved the naysayers wrong by staying healthy, he never looked rattled and ended up putting up some real nice numbers.
The Rams rewarded him by bringing in Mike Sims-Walker who is sure to provide the help that Bradford needs. I still think they will improve this spot more, and could be a contender to land Terrell Owens late in the year, if they need him.
Bradford will improve a ton this year, and should be looking at about 25 touchdowns against only about 12 picks.
Kevin Kolb Will Be a Bust
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Everyone wants to anoint this kid the chosen one. But remember these two names: A.J. Feeley and Donovan McNabb.
Both looked great in Philly, but fizzled elsewhere. Why? Because Andy Reid is a quarterback savant. He puts them in a position to succeed and they do.
In Arizona with high expectations and a questionable running game, Kolb will have too much pressure on him and will crumble.
Look for no more than 15 touchdowns to go with at least 20 picks.
Frank Gore Will Have a Monster Year
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Jim Harbaugh is a meat-and-potatoes Michigan man. He wants to run the ball and push the opponents around. He also is rebuilding Alex Smith, and will put him in a position to succeed.
In order to do both, he will need a heavy dose of Frank Gore, who wants a better contract.
This is a perfect storm type of situation, and could lead Gore upwards of 1,800 yards rushing if he stays healthy, a big if.
Colt McCoy Will Play Less Than Half the Season
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I will admit, I was surprised quite a bit by how well Cleveland played at times last year. Peyton Hillis turned into the second coming of Kevin Mack, the line played very well and Colt McCoy looked better than advertised.
But this is the AFC North, after all, and the stakes don't get any easier this year.
McCoy looked good at times, but he also took a beating. This isn't going to change, and given the way he scrambles out of the pocket, he is going to get rocked. Seeing as he is built like Drew Brees, this probably doesn't bode well for his durability.
I am predicting that he will be dinged up all year, and will get knocked out of more than his share of games. In fact, if he starts more than half the games I will be amazed.
Baltimore's Offense Will Be Better Than Their Defense
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For the entirety of this franchise's history, the team's identity was defense first, second and third. Through the years, there have been times when the offense was supposed to take the next step only to again rely heavily on the defense.
But this year is different. Quarterback Joe Flacco and Anquan Boldin will have another year to work out the kinks, and if the team indeed signs Malcolm Floyd, they will have that big target that can help in the red zone.
The key here is Ray Rice. If he turns it on and is the threat out of the backfield that he has shown glimpses of being, this offense could be top 10 in both running and passing.
Bengals Will Surprise and Win Eight Games
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I know, they have lost a ton. Carson Palmer, Ochocinco, T.O. and Jonathon Joseph.
But don't sleep on the Bengals; all isn't terrible in Cincy.
They still have some talent on defense, Cedric Benson should have another good year and A.J. Green could be a difference-maker at wideout.
The key will be quarterback. Between Dan LeFevour and Bruce Gradkowski, can they keep Andy Dalton on the bench? I could see the team bringing Dalton along slowly, giving the two vets a chance to steady the ship.
Given how easy their non-division schedule is, eight wins is far from a stretch.
Pittsburgh Will Win 14 Games
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This team could be scary-good this year.
The defense continues to be the strength of the team, but the offense is really going to explode this year.
You will have a full year of Big Ben throwing to his favorite targets, and Rashard Mendenhall should have a chip on his shoulder after last year's disappointment in the playoffs.
Given a weakened Bengals and Browns squad and a Ravens defense that is a year older, Pittsburgh should crush their division.
Green Bay Packers Will Also Win 14 Games
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This is arguably the strongest Super Bowl winner entering their next season that we have seen since Denver over a decade ago.
They return a ton of starters from injury, only Detroit figures to improve in their division and they added some nice pieces in the draft.
The Packers are a very solid pick to return to the Super Bowl.
The Bears Will Win Half as Many Games This Year
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To sum up their offseason, the Bears dropped the face of their offensive line, Olin Kreutz, and signed Roy Williams to bolster their passing game. Any questions?
The rest of their division has gotten better, but their offensive line will be less organized as Kreutz called the coverage and led the ground game. Without him, their running game will take a hit, but more importantly, so will Jay Cutler.
It is nearly impossible to protect a quarterback in Mike Martz's system. And now you are going to mess with your continuity like that? Bad move Chicago, and not even Roy will be able to help you.
They will take a step back and finish last in the division.
Donovan McNabb Will Have a Good Year and Lead Minnesota over .500
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Last year was a disaster. Between the Favre soap opera and plenty of injuries, the Minnesota Vikings took a major step backwards.
While Donovan McNabb is no savior, he does bring stability to the QB position. Couple that with Adrian Peterson, and the offense will definitely be much improved this year.
The defense is still strong, and Jared Allen could have a renaissance year.
Look for Minnesota to battle Detroit for second place in the division, ultimately finishing 8-8.
Matthew Stafford Will Start at Least 14 Games
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Matthew Stafford has been the unluckiest player in football the last couple years. He has progressed on the field, but he just can't stay on the field.
This year that changes and he will start 14 games.
Over his entire career from high school to college, Stafford has always been durable. And while he wasn't playing in the NFL during those years, the SEC is no cakewalk.
This year Stafford will put it all together and show why he should be in the same conversation as Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford as some of the best young QBs in the league.
Julio Jones Will Struggle to Gain 500 Yards
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It is hard to imagine what possessed the Falcons to spend what they did to get Julio Jones.
Sure, he was probably the second-best wideout in the draft, but there was a huge gulf between him and No. 1. A.J. Green will be a star. Jones likely will not.
Jones doesn't play as fast as his 40 time would indicate. Add to that the fact that he missed valuable training time due to the lockout, and he is joining an established winning team.
Jones will not be a solid starter until the second half, and he will disappoint the Falcons faithful.
New Orleans Will Win the NFC South
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The New Orleans Saints were upset in the playoffs last year. And judging by their offseason moves, they didn't like that too much.
The Saints went out and massively upgraded their running game. Mark Ingram will probably take time to develop, but Darren Sproles will be a stud in New Orleans.
I also think Drew Brees will have a big year, and the defense will return to form. Add to that the likely drop-off of Atlanta and Tampa, and this should be a first-place team without a doubt.
LaGarrette Blount Will Make the Pro Bowl
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Last year the Tampa Bay Bucs were the surprise team in the South, winning 10 games behind Josh Freeman and LaGarrette Blount.
Blount in particular was stunning, averaging five yards per carry to go along with 1,000 yards. And that was only during a partial season.
With a full season to run, Blount will rush for at least 1,400 yards and book a trip to Hawaii.
Carolina Will Win Fewer Games Than Last Year
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I don't buy Cam Newton as an NFL quarterback. I don't think he will succeed this or any year playing the position.
I also don't think Jimmy Clausen has the head for the game. This position is a mess in Carolina, as it has been for years.
Add to that the curious free-agent signings, keeping together a core that lost 14 games, and it is hard to see what the plan is in Carolina.
This team might not win a game.
Peyton Manning Will Finally Miss a Game
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I know it has never happened before. And I know how tough he is. In fact, that is part of why it will happen.
I think Peyton will kill himself to come back to play when the season starts. I also think that he will push himself too hard to do it, and will get hurt later in the year. I'm not saying he misses significant time, but it will be at least one game.
Houston Will Finally Win the AFC South
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This will finally be the year they get over the hump.
They improved their secondary, they have one of the best defensive ends in the game and the running game, even if it remains at the status quo, will be one of the best.
Add to that the stellar passing game, and this team will finally win the division.
Tennessee Will Win Three Games
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True, they possess one of the top two backs in the league.
Also true, their quarterback position remains a mess.
I keep hearing these stories about Matt Hasselbeck leading this team to glory. Really? Matt Hasselbeck that is a year older after throwing more picks than touchdowns last year?
Teams are going to stack up against the run and dare Hasselbeck to beat them, which he will not.
Add to that a brutal schedule, and it doesn't look good.
David Garrard Will Keep His Job This Year
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I really don't think things are going to be all that bad for Jacksonville this year.
Therefore, it doesn't make sense to switch to Blaine Gabbert just yet.
I think Garrard will step it up and play with more of a sense of urgency this year, and the Jags could stay in the AFC South picture for the better part of the season.