For the past two days, I’ve been telling you who is going to make the playoffs. I selected eight teams from each conference as likely candidates.
Today, we focus on the 16 teams I think are doomed. Some of these picks are obvious. The sporting world will be stunned if some of them make the postseason. Others are teams that have a shot but will likely end up short.
But take note, because in January I’ll check out how I did. Then you can throw rotten fruit at me for being wrong. Unless I’m right.
Atlanta Falcons: There’s a lot of talent in the ATL, and they’re looking to build on last season’s unexpected success. But the Falcons have never had two consecutive playoffs seasons. Ever. I’ve got to bet that way until they break the streak.
Baltimore Ravens: Of all the teams I left off the list, this was the hardest decision. The Ravens are sure to give people fits again this season, and it might seem insulting to say the AFC runner-up won’t make the playoffs. But Willie Anderson isn’t there to anchor the line this year, I suspect Joe Flacco will have a sophomore slump, and it’s been 10 years since Ray Lewis was a Super Bowl MVP. I know the guy’s been tough, but how much longer can he do this? I think Baltimore comes up a few short at the end of the season.
Buffalo Bills: Okay, this is pretty simple. If you fire one of your coaches before the season starts, you have a huge managerial problem. Seriously. How could Dick Jauron not know Turk Schonert wasn’t his man before training camp? You don’t win in the NFL with that kind of decision-making.
Cleveland Browns: The Browns got the Mangenius to run the show, but even he can’t resurrect this stinker in a single season. He’s got a quarterback controversy (that he shouldn’t have), his best receiver is in Tampa Bay, the defense has holes, and they don’t have a feature running back. Things might start to gel for the Browns late in the season, but it’ll be too late if they do.
Dallas Cowboys: I just don’t believe in these guys. There’s a lot of talent here, but the Cowboys find ways to let things slip away when it really matters. Maybe the loss of T.O. will be as good for them as it was for the Eagles, but I just don’t see them making the plays when the season is on the line.
Denver Broncos: A new head coach has to establish things are going to be different. However, alienating your franchise quarterback by trying to trade for a guy who hadn’t earned a starting job since high school before settling on a guy who couldn’t win the Bears’ top start doesn’t make for a winning combination. Remind me how this is better than Mike Shanahan’s two Super Bowl victories.
Detroit Lions: The Lions should win a few games this year. That’ll be progress. Matt Stafford’s in for a rocky ride.
Houston Texans: There’s a lot of talent on this team, and I like Gary Kubiak. But the Texans play in the toughest division in the league, and I just can’t bet on them until they prove it. Maybe this year they will, but I’m not holding my breath.
Kansas City Chiefs: Remember what I said about Buffalo? They have a lot a more talent than the Chiefs. Todd Haley’s first season at the helm is going to be painful.
Minnesota Vikings: Brad Childress has an awesome defense and the best running back in the league. All he needed was a franchise quarterback. Too bad he signed Brett Favre. Favre passed the playoffs away last year and the Super Bowl the year before. Opposing cornerbacks should be licking their chops.
New York Jets: Like the Browns, the Jets have a highly regarded new coach. They’ve also got a top-five draft pick at QB. Sanchez has shown some promise, but I don’t see him as the second coming of Dan Marino, who led the Dolphins to the Super Bowl his rookie season. It’s a steep learning curve in the NFL, and the AFC East is no place to try to make it in one season.
Oakland Raiders: This team is a train wreck. The coaches are punching each other’s lights out, they overpaid for their No. 1 draft pick, and there still doesn’t seem to be any sort of a plan. Al Davis is one of the greatest owners in NFL history, but he’s soiling his legacy. It’s time to step down, Al.
San Francisco 49ers: Frank Gore is a great runner, but he’s languishing in San Fran. The 49ers play in a weak division, so it’s possible they might make a run at the playoffs, but I still haven’t seen enough pieces in place to believe it’s going to happen.
St. Louis Rams: Like the Browns, the Rams have a new head coach with an excellent reputation. Like the Browns, St. Louis is a year away from being able to cash in on that pedigree.
Tampa Bay: Remember what I said about Buffalo and Kansas City? My opinion hasn’t changed. Raheem Morris might get a mulligan for being a rookie head coach, but it still isn’t going to get the Buccaneers to the playoffs.
Washington Redskins: I love Jim Zorn, but he’s got an owner who keeps throwing ridiculous contracts at guys who made their reputations elsewhere. Daniel Snyder keeps trying to buy a championship, but it just doesn’t work that way in the NFL. A high-priced free agent should complete the puzzle you built through the draft. Until Snyder proves he’s figured that out, I can’t make myself bet on the ’Skins.