The 2010 NFL Regular Season is finally upon us with tonight's opener between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints.
That being the case, I thought it was time to post my annual predictions for the NFL standings, playoffs, and major awards.
You can check out my 2009 predictions here, which I'm sure include its share of embarrassing prognostications.
2010 Final Standings
(playoff seeds in parentheses...just like this sentence)
1. New York Jets (3)
2. New England Patriots (5)
3. Miami Dolphins
4. Buffalo Bills
1. Baltimore Ravens (2)
2. Cincinnati Bengals (6)
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
4. Cleveland Browns
1. Indianapolis Colts (1)
2. Houston Texans
3. Tennessee Titans
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
1. San Diego Chargers (4)
2. Denver Broncos
3. Oakland Raiders
4. Kansas City Chiefs
- A lot of people (read: Dolphins fans) expect the Jets to suck simply because they are being hyped so much. Sorry guys, but a lot of that hype is warranted, and there is no reason the Jets should be bad this year—especially now that they have Darrelle Revis back. Who knows what will come of Mark Sanchez's development, but he has weapons all around him on offense, a great offensive line, and the best defensive in the NFL.
- I also expect the Patriots to be competitive despite not being nearly the powerhouse they once were. They still have some good pieces, primarily centered around Tom Brady and Randy Moss, and the best coach in football. I think the Dolphins have too many concerns to compete this year. They are better than the Bills, though.
- The Ravens are as good as ever, and they have the advantage of the Steelers entering the season pretty depleted. I see the Steelers stumbling out of the gate and failing to fully recover, while Carson Palmer leads the Bengals' offense to a wild-card spot.
- You'd be a fool to bet against Peyton Manning, and I don't plan on it. As good as Chris Johnson is, I'm not a fan of Vince Young. I like Matt Schaub to lead his team to a second-place finish, falling just short of the playoffs.
- The Chargers have lost some big names and are without a few more, but they are still the most talented team in a pretty bad division. Denver will compete but doesn't have the pieces in my view, while I can't realistically see Kansas City or Oakland making great strides in 2010.
1. Dallas Cowboys (3)
2. Philadelphia Eagles (6)
3. New York Giants
4. Washington Redskins
1. Green Bay Packers (1)
2. Minnesota Vikings (5)
3. Chicago Bears
4. Detroit Lions
1. New Orleans Saints (2)
2. Atlanta Falcons
3. Carolina Panthers
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1. San Francisco 49ers (4)
2. Seattle Seahawks
3. Arizona Cardinals
4. St. Louis Rams
- The NFC East is always a tough division to predict. I like Dallas and Philly the best, but I think Kevin Kolb stumbles a bit. McNabb is going to make Washington a lot better, but I don't think the team has all the pieces yet. The Giants end up as the tough-luck last-place team.
- The Packers might be the most complete team in the NFC and have the best quarterback in the conference in Aaron Rodgers. The Vikings are a talented team as well and should push for a wild card spot, if not the division title. I'm a Jay Cutler fan and I think he'll be better with Mike Martz, but the rest of his team isn't good enough.
- The Saints are bringing back pretty much the same team that led them to the Super Bowl in 2009, so you can't bet against them. Atlanta's getting better but will fall just short this season. I'm not sure Matt Moore is going to be good enough to make Carolina competitive this year. I love Josh Freeman's make-up and work ethic, but he doesn't have the talent around him right now.
- The NFC West is by far the most difficult division to predict. The Cardinals lost some big pieces in the offseason and are no longer the clear-cut leaders. I'm not a huge fan of Alex Smith, but the Niners have some talent around him on offense and a good front seven that should help them compete. I don't expect much from a Seahawks team lacking talent, and Sam Bradford will have a tough time making the Rams competitive in 2010 regardless of how good he looks.
2010 NFL Playoffs
Wild Card Round
New York Jets (3) over Cincinnati Bengals (6)
New England Patriots (5) over San Diego Chargers (4)
Dallas Cowboys (3) over Philadelphia Eagles (6)
Minnesota Vikings (5) over San Francisco 49ers (4)
Indianapolis Colts (1) over New England Patriots (5)
New York Jets (3) over Baltimore Ravens (2)
Green Bay Packers (1) over Minnesota Vikings (5)
New Orleans Saints (2) over Dallas Cowboys (3)
Indianapolis Colts (1) over New York Jets (3)
Green Bay Packers (1) over New Orleans Saints (2)
Super Bowl XLV
Indianapolis Colts over Green Bay Packers — The two best quarterbacks in the NFL lead their teams to the Super Bowl, I have to go with the best ever in Peyton Manning. He has all his returning tools on offense, and if Bob Sanders can stay healthy, the defense is going to be more than adequate. He'll rectify the team's Super Bowl loss to the Saints here.
Super Bowl XLV MVP
QB Peyton Manning, Colts — No one has ever played the quarterback Peyton Manning, and I say he shows up when it counts most.
Regular Season Awards
QB Aaron Rodgers, Packers — Rodgers tore apart the NFL last season despite getting little help from his offensive line. Young targets like Jermichael Finley, James Jones, and Jordy Nelson are only getting better, and his line couldn't be much worse than it has been, so I expect a repeat performance.
Offensive Player of the Year
RB Chris Johnson, Titans — Johnson is aiming for 2,500 yards on the ground in 2010, and while I don't think he'll quite get there, I do expect a big year.
Defensive Player of the Year
DE Jared Allen, Vikings — Consistently one of the best pass-rushers in football, I'm predicting a monstrous season from Allen in 2010.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
RB Ryan Mathews, Chargers — Perhaps no rookie (excluding quarterbacks like Sam Bradford) will be the centerpiece of their team's offense quite like Mathews in San Diego. He's going to be given the ball a ton and should put up great numbers.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
LB Rolando McClain, Raiders — One of my favorite prospects coming out of the draft, I consider McClain a notch or two below Patrick Willis coming out of the draft. I expect him to rack up the tackles and make plays from Day One.
Coach of the Year
Mike McCarthy, Packers — If McCarthy can get his offensive line to halfway do their jobs in protecting Aaron Rodgers, the Packers are in for a big year. He'll deserve some credit for coming to Green Bay, getting the most out of Aaron Rodgers, and changing defensive schemes to create a quality unit.
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Chris J. Nelson majored in journalism at Georgia State University and is currently a programming coordinator for Turner Sports in Atlanta. He operates his own Miami Dolphins website, The Miami Dolphins Spotlight, and he can be followed on Twitter here.