The 2009-10 NFL season kicks off play this weekend in what should be another exciting football season. Here are my predictions for regular season records and playoff match-ups.
This division will be stronger then last year with the return of Tom Brady and the arrival Terrell Owens. The Jets will play rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez, who one day will be a solid player, but needs to play at an extremely high level for his team to have any chance at succeeding. The Patriots will be the best team in the division and I see them having a strong season leading up to the playoffs. The Miami Dolphins will continue to progress as a franchise under Bill Parcells and have a legit shot at a wild card birth.
The Pittsburgh Steelers return as defending Super Bowl champs and look to have another very successful season. Their running game will continue to develop and their defense is relentless. The Ravens are a young team led by quarterback Joe Flacco who will continue to develop into a prime-time player. There are some question marks at the running back position where Ray Rice could emerge as the starter. I don’t expect much from the Cincinnati Bengals or the pathetic Cleveland Browns.
Tennessee is a team that has high expectations coming into this season. I like the Titans' “Smash and Dash” duo of running backs in Chris Johnson and LenDale White and believe those two players can lead the Titans into the playoffs. The Indianapolis Colts are clearly the best team in this division, where Peyton Manning will once again lead his team into the playoffs. The Jacksonville Jaguars are a dark-horse team in this division, Maurice Jones-Drew is a dynamic running back but their passing game will remain an issue. The Houston Texans are a young team who will continue to improve, their three man rotation on Matt Schaub, Steve Slaton and Andre Johnson is always fun to watch.
The Chargers have lots of talent on both sides of the ball. LaDanian Tomlinson is now in his 30s and needs to return to form if the Chargers are to have a shot at the Super Bowl. Phillip Rivers continues to improve as a play caller and the Chargers should be able to make a run in the playoffs. The Kansas City Chiefs will be better than last year, but will still struggle on both sides of the ball. I refuse to even discuss the Oakland Raiders current situation; they don’t even deserve to show up for one game all season.
Another difficult division with four strong teams who all have a shot at the playoffs. Even with the departure of Plaxico Burress, the Giants remain the best team in the division. Eli Manning has numerous weapons at his disposal and the running game anchored by Brandon Jacobs should continue to flourish. The Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles come into the season with numerous question marks. Dallas has lost Terrell Owens and the Eagles went out and signed Michael Vick. Both teams are strong on many levels and both have a serious chance at making the playoffs. The Redskins had a strong offseason and were able to land big man Albert Haynesworth, who is an absolute beast on the defensive line. Don’t count the 'Skins out in this division, however in the end, the Giants and the Cowboys will earn playoff berths.
The Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings are two teams who have made major offseason moves in hope of improving. The Bears made a major trade by acquiring Jay Cutler and the Vikings decided to make the move and sign Brett “Old Man” Favre. Green Bay is now the best team in this division where all eyes in cheese country will be on Aaron Rodgers. Greg Jennings is an unbelievable wide receiver and with Rodgers, the Packers will be heading back to the playoffs. The Vikings are an interesting pick for the playoffs. With Adrian Peterson in the backfield their running game may be the best in the league. As much as I am sick of hearing about Favre, he will make the Vikings a better team and gives them a chance at a successful season. The Detroit Lions will once again be at the bottom of the division, but it will be exciting to see Calvin “Megatron” Johnson catch the deep ball from Matt Stafford.
This is a division that contains four young teams who all have room to grow over the next few seasons. The Atlanta Falcons are clearly the favorites to win this division and the addition of Tony Gonzalez only makes them stronger on offense. Matt Ryan and Roddy White are an exciting combination, and Michael “The Burner” Turner is a powerhouse in the backfield. Both the Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints have strong players on both sides of the ball, while also lacking some important pieces. Both teams could have a shot at the playoffs if they play well, but it will be a long road to Miami for either club. Tampa Bay has improved their running game significantly but their quarterback position is up in the air and their defense is aging quickly. I look for the Falcons to run the table in this division while making it back to the playoffs.
After coming off an unbelievable Super Bowl run, the Arizona Cardinals are ready for another succesful season. If Kurt Warner can stay healthy, he has plenty of weapons around him in Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin to go back to the playoffs. The Seattle Seahawks will be better then last year and the free-agent signing of TJ Houshmandzadeh can only help. The San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams are still in the rebuilding process and both will continue to struggle this year. This is the Cardinals division and they should have no problem finishing on top.