Predictions. Why do I make them? The off chance of being right is more than offset by the reality that almost everyone's predictions about everything are a middling effort. Still, this is what I do. So with no further fanfare, here are my predictions for this year's NFL season. I'm going to list order of finish and my reasoning and then my playoff picks -- I'm not going to pick regular season records only to have the Thunderstick weigh in and tell me that my math is wrong. Wild Card teams get denoted with an asterisk.
1. Patriots -- D will be weak early on, but will cohere, the O will be strong, and they are able to play the disrespect card, Belichick's favorite card to play.
2. Dolphins* -- They improved more than the Jets did in the offseason and they are flying below the radar.
3. Jets -- Did I miss something? This team needed the Colts and Bengals both to roll over just to get to 9-7 and slip through to the playoffs last year. They had a nice run in the postseason and they have a really good D, but finding Rex Ryan amusing and wondering about how well the rest of the league will respond to his running his yap are two separate things.
4. Bills -- This is a terrible, terrible team. CJ Spiller will get used and abused, because they will not be able to throw the ball consistently.
1. Ravens -- Now this might be the team that the Jets want to be. They will be stout on defense and will have a legitimate offense with loads of weapons. And I know that Ray Lewis and co. take issue with everyone anointing the Jets as champs in waiting.
2. Steelers* -- Peter King's choice for the Super Bowl might be lucky to make the playoffs. Roethlisberger's absence surely isn't going to help their cause.
3. Bengals -- But they may be the most amusing team in the league. Unless you're Carson Palmer when both TO and Ochocinco feel they aren't getting the ball enough in November.
4. Browns -- I just feel bad for my many friends who are Cleveland fans. How can you not?
1. Colts -- Look, I'd love to be able plausibly to come up with some other scenario. But seeing Manning choke away another postseason has its own rewards.
2. Texans -- The Texans are always on the verge of becoming. For now they are still becoming a team that's not going to the playoffs.
3. Titans -- I wonder if Vince Young's gonna get handed a Heisman in the next few weeks.
4. Jaguars -- Hard to believe Jacksonville has an NFL team and LA doesn't.
1. Chargers -- The best of a bad bunch out west.
2. Chiefs -- Consider this a vote of solidarity for Matt Cassell.
3. Raiders -- Just be less horrible, baby.
4. Broncos -- Not a stellar offseason, which follows a not stellar second half of last season. But at least they picked Tebow in the first round. That should bear lots of fruit . . .
1. Cowboys -- It's always funny to approach a new football season and listen to Cowboys fans insist they are going undefeated and will win the Super Bowl. Michael Irvin isn't walking through that door (with scissors to stab a teammate in the throat).
2. Eagles* -- My guess is the McNabb trade will prove to be a wash for the Eagles, and that's probably a pretty good outcome for them.
3. Giants -- Boring and mediocre is no way to go through life, fellas.
4. Redskins -- The best part is that I am certain Skins fans started talking Super Bowl as soon as they acquired McNabb. It's in their dna. (I actually think this will be a pretty good division top to bottom).
1. Packers -- Not sure I buy the Aaron Rodgers MVP talk, but this will complete the cycle of Rodgers supplanting Favre on the team, in the division, and in the conference.
2. Vikings -- The Saints will kick the shit out of the Vikings tonight and I suspect that will begin an ugly final season (seriously) for Favre.
3. Bears -- Closer to 4th than to 2nd.
4. Lions -- One of these years this won't be an automatic choice.
1. Saints -- This team isn't winning the Super Bowl again, but they are likely to win the division again and for now they remain pretty likable.
2. Falcons* -- I think last year, not two years ago, was the outlier. This will be a pretty good team. And this is also a vote for Matt Ryan.
3. Panthers -- They should have a good 1-2 running attack, and Matt Moore is fairly serviceable. They aren't good enough for the postseason, but they are also not awful.
4. Buccaneers -- If you do not live within 100 miles of the Tampa-St. Pete metropolitan region you cannot tell me five specific things about the Tampa Bay Bucs.
1. 49ers -- Holy shit this is a woeful division.
2. Seahawks -- I mean awful. (Though to be fair, the whole "Pete Carroll was a terrible head coach in the NFL" narrative is kind of bullshit.)
3. Cardinals -- Matt Leinart must have been really awful in the locker room because his numbers were better than Derek Anderson's. I still think Leinart's going to be a serviceable NFL quarterback.
4. Rams -- Sam Bradford will be good someday. But this team is going to make this first year unpleasant for him.
Wild Card Round: Colts over Dolphins, Patriots over Steelers
Divisional Round: Ravens over Colts, Patriots over Chargers
Conference Championship: Ravens over Patriots (yes, I do think this is a first for me, picking against the Pats. My heart says they can do it. But since no one on earth is picking the Pats there is no way that I can pick them to win it all and not come across as even more of a homer than usual.)
Wild Card Round: Eagles over 49ers, Cowboys over Falcons
Divisional Round: Packers over Cowboys, Saints over Eagles
Conference Championship: Packers over Saints
Super Bowl: Ravens over Packers
Kickoff in just a few minutes. WOO HOO!