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NFL Predictions for 2009: Who's Going to the Playoffs?

Kevin Roberts@BreakingKevinSenior Writer IMay 12, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - MAY 1: Quarterback Donovan McNabb #5 of the Philadelphia Eagles looks on during minicamp practice at the NovaCare Complex on May 1, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)

It's still early in the offseason, but I'd like to put my stamp on my official preseason playoff predictions.

It seems everyone out there is doing all types of player rankings (as am I) or power rankings, which leaves this writer thinking, "why not me, too?"

The big questions are what teams won't repeat as playoff contenders, as well as whether or not there will be any huge surprise teams to crack the rotation—such as the Arizona Cardinals from 2008.

It's a waste of time to predict what team's will have what records, as injuries, roster changes, and coaching philosophy hasn't taken it's full effect, and probably won't until mid-season.

However, with the draft in the books, the first big wave of free agency done and over with, it's time to take a breather from the Brett Favre-sage, among other things, and ponder what 12 teams will vie for a title next season.

Spoiler Alert: The Lions aren't one of them.

AFC

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New England Patriots

A healthy Brady means a wild, and crazy "bunch". The offense was fine without him—but it just wasn't the same.

With more depth added on defense through the draft, we will start to see somewhat of a rebuilding project, all while this team makes a fun for the Super Bowl.

Verdict: Division Winner

New York Jets

The only huge question mark is the quarterback position. Leave the defensive decisions to the mastermind, Rex Ryan.

If their running game can help out rookie Mark Sanchez (who will be the starter), then they have a real chance to get close to 10-6, and nab a wild-card spot.

Verdict: Wild Card

Buffalo Bills

The new addition of Terrell Owens will do more than the experts think, but the playoffs? That's a bit of a reach.

Owens' presence will allow Trent Edwards and Lee Evans to develop faster, and the Bills offense should grow, as a whole. There are too many question marks with their pass rush and overall depth on defense, though.

Verdict: Just Miss Out

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins weren't built to go 11-5 last year, but an easy schedule and a scorned quarterback led them to a remarkable season.

They'll probably regress to somewhere between 6-10 and 9-7, but not without steady improvement from their receivers. 2010 will be their season to strike.

Verdict: Just Miss Out

Pittsburgh Steelers

Ben Roethlisberger and co. are too tough and determined to have a Super Bowl-hangover.

With Willie Parker healthy, they'll have a solid ground game to rely on, once again, which will open things up for rising star, Santonio Holmes.

Verdict: Division Winner

Baltimore Ravens

We should see steady improvement from Joe Flacco in his second season, but then again, that's what everyone said about Rick Mirer.

I believe in the Flacco buzz, but he doesn't have elite offensive weapons, and his defense is aging.

Verdict: Just Miss Out

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals are more prepared to win now, than people give them credit for.

They still have solid receivers and a Pro Bowl-type quarterback in Carson Palmer. Clearly their main issues are on defense, but if Cedric Benson can run like he did in the final three games last season, they could push for a wild card.

Verdict: Stuck in Mediocrity

Cleveland Browns

It's never good when you aren't even sure who your starting quarterback is. To make matters worse, they have a receiver who drops passes, no tight end, and no true weapons to rely on.

It'll be a rough first year for Eric Mangini.

Verdict: Bottom of the Barrel

Indianapolis Colts

Eventually this team has to drop-off, right?

With Tony Dungy, Tom Moore, and Marvin Harrison all gone, it's the perfect time for the Colts to fall away from being contenders.

But they have Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, and Dallas Clark.

Just those three players are good enough for them to win the division.

Verdict: Division Winner

Houston Texans

If Matt Schaub can stay healthy (that's a big "if"), then there could be good things coming Houston's way.

They have elite options at every offensive position, and are backed by a consistently improving defense.

Verdict: Wild Card (Finally)

Tennessee Titans

When you lose Albert Haynesworth, there's bound to be a drop-off.

Teams will be able to key in on their running game, as Kerry Collins isn't the most difficult quarterback to game-plan against.

Verdict: Just Miss Out

Jacksonville Jaguars

Letting go of Fred Taylor was a bolder move than you'd think. Maurice Jones-Drew can handle the starting gig-that's not the problem.

But after seeing their offensive line depth (or lack thereof) exposed, they're now risking the same thing happening to their running back corps.

And as for those receivers; do you really think Torry Holt can rescue them in one season?

Verdict: Cellar

San Diego Chargers

A healthy group of offensive weapons, as well as a revitalized Shawne Merriman, could realistically place this team right back where they left off in 2007.

They're still one of the most talented teams in the league, so the rest falls on Norv Turner.

Verdict: Division Winner

Denver Broncos

I, unlike many others, actually believe in Kyle Orton. He put up solid numbers last season, despite being hurt and not having many elite weapons.

Now he's walking in with a good running scheme, as well as Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, and Tony Scheffler as top targets.

Verdict: Just Miss Out

Oakland Raiders

I'm not buying that JaMarcus Russell can progress enough to stave off the veteran, Jeff Garcia.

Garcia is old, but he brings accuracy, leadership, and poise. The Raiders will win at least five games if Garcia is starting.

Darren McFadden stepping into the starting role can only help their chances.

Verdict: Not Even Close

Kansas City Chiefs

I'm on the Matt Cassel bandwagon, but not necessarily for 2009. He has new weapons, a new environment, and it will take time to adjust.

Larry Johnson remains a huge question mark, as does this defense.

Can they improve on their league-low 10 sacks? God, I hope so.

Verdict: Dead Last

NFC

Philadelphia Eagles

As long as cancer-stricken defensive coordinator Jim Johnson hangs around, their defense will be right near the top again.

New weapons Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy won't be starting, but will eventually find ways to make an impact.

Verdict: Division Winner

Dallas Cowboys

If Roy Williams can step-up, we shouldn't see any drop-off in Tony Romo's production.

And if Dallas does what everyone knows it needs to in order to win (run the ball), then they have a shot at the division, too.

Verdict: Wild Card

New York Giants

Eli Manning doesn't have a dependable target-yet. This could make him grow, or make him squirm.

Losing Derrick Ward could hurt a lot if Brandon Jacobs goes down at all again.

Overall, they still have a very good team. However, the NFC East is brutal, and their tough schedule on the outside of it will wear them out.

Verdict: Just Miss Out

Washington Redskins

They showed glimpses of true talent and a desire to win, but they're not there yet.

Unfortunately, that will mean Jim Zorn will be gone, and the franchise will look to move on from Jason Campbell.

Verdict: Bottom of the Barrel

Green Bay Packers

Even if Brett Favre comes back, the Packers still have a very good shot at taking over this division.

It's going to be a hard fight throughout the season, but their defense should improve enough to help them get to 10-6, which will be good enough to win the North.

Verdict: Division Winner

Chicago Bears

Jay Cutler will have to adjust, just like Matt Cassel, and it may be even more difficult, considering his limited receiving options.

That chemistry and development will take time. Their defense will keep them above .500, but there are too many other teams with better core groups.

Verdict: Just Miss Out

Minnesota Vikings

I don't care if they won their division last year. The Packers won it in 2007, but I didn't see them winning it in 2008, did you?

Quarterback, quarterback, quarterback.

The Vikings are solid all across the board, but there's little-to-no faith in either one of their current signal callers. If Favre jumps aboard, they have a shot at the division.

Verdict: Just Miss Out

Detroit Lions

Matthew Stafford will play eventually, but the odds are Culpepper plays the first few games. Once the Lions are 0-5 again, management will have nothing to lose, and they'll plop the rookie in.

There needs to be a lot of improvement throughout the entire team just to win 2-3 games next season.

Verdict: Cellar

New Orleans Saints

There is a common theme in the NFC South: whatever team finishes last this year, finishes first the next. So far, so food.

The Saints definitely have the offense to match-up with any team, but what about their defense? Common upgrades at each position should have them competing at a high level on both sides of the ball.

Verdict: Division Winner

Atlanta Falcons

While many feel the Falcons will fall in Matt Ryan's second try, I think they'll only get better.

With the addition of future Hall of Famer tight end, Tony Gonzalez, as well as improvement from Roddy White and Michael Jenkins, this offense can only get better.

Verdict: Wild Card

Carolina Panthers

It's back to mediocrity after we saw a taste of what the Panthers can do. The only problem is, their defense is only average, and they have an extremely tough schedule.

Is Julius Pepper staying or going? Consider he's the glue holding that average defense together, that may be the make-or-break question.

Verdict: Just Miss Out

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

They don't have a quarterback, and they're starting over, almost completely.

I like their offense with Derrick Ward, Antonio Bryant, and Kellen Winslow, but that won't be enough.

Telling Jeff Garcia to take a hike was a mistake.

Verdict: Cellar

Arizona Cardinals

Arizona won't have any lingering effects from their Super Bowl loss. They know better than that.

They're aware that they were an average team going into the post-season, so they are already concentrating on simply getting better.

They retained Warner, got rid of Edgerrin James, and now all that's left is to resolve the Anquan Boldin situation. If they can do that, they have this division. They probably have it, anyways.

Verdict: Division Winner

Seattle Seahawks

This time around, no more tears, Seattle.

(Name the boy-band!)

Matt Hasselbeck should return to form, or at least close to it, and they should actually have some healthy/productive receivers this season.

There are still question marks on their offensive line and with their running game. They can get back to 7-9 or 8-8, but probably won't compete for the division.

Verdict: Just Miss Out

San Francisco 49ers

Mike Singletary has the right idea. Defense wins championships. Hell, he should know.

However, he's actually building a solid offense. Now, about that quarterback thing...

Verdict: Stuck in Mediocrity

St. Louis Rams

No, they won't be this year's Miami Dolphins.

Marc Bulger may have Chad Pennington's No. 10, but he just isn't what he used to be.

For me, it's as simple as that. If Bulger starts, the Rams lose.

Summary

The AFC representatives for the NFL Playoffs will be:

Patriots

Jets

Steelers

Colts

Texans

Chargers

As for the NFC...

Eagles

Cowboys

Packers

Saints

Falcons

Cardinals

And the Super Bowl?

The Eagles will push past Green Bay and Arizona in the playoffs to meet up with the Patriots, where Randy Moss will finally get that elusive ring.

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