Thursday, September 4, 2008

2008 NFL Predictions

Back when I didn't take this blog seriously, I tossed out some predictions for the 2006 NFL season. My next post -- eight months later -- reviewed those predictions, which, like most NFL predictions, were extremely hit and miss. But hey, when everyone else is tossing out half-educated guesses, why shouldn't I join in and contribute to the noise (and bandwidth usage)? So, here are my 2008 NFL predictions, which I'll revisit in five months after the Super Bowl so you can all laugh at how crazy I was.

Remember: Each year, about four of the eight division winners fail to repeat. Any season prediction that says seven out of eight division winners will repeat is a) cowardly and b) probably wrong. Thus, I am contractually bound to name at least four new division winners on the season. Three were fairly easy for me. The fourth was a tough one and will probably be wrong, but nothing ventured...

y-Division Winner
x-Wild Card

AFC East
1. New England-y
2. Buffalo
3. NY Jets
4. Miami

Tough to go against the Patriots. They could lose four games off their 2007 win total and still finish win the best record in the AFC. The Bills and Jets will make some noise, but they're not ready for prime time just yet. The less said about the Dolphins, the better, though there is some hope for the future with the young players they're stockpiling.

AFC North
1. Cleveland-y
2. Pittsburgh
3. Cincinnati
4. Baltimore

I'm not enamored with Cleveland, especially their offense, but I'll go with them anyway because I think they have better line play (offensive and defensive) than Pittsburgh, a team in a bit of a transitional period as they try to rebuild their offensive line. Cincinnati will continue to be an enigma, looking great one week and lousy the next and probably finishing 7-9 or 8-8. Baltimore lost its HOF offensive tackle and will be starting either a rookie (Joe Flacco) or second-year fifth-round pick (Troy Smith) at QB. Not good.

AFC South
1. Indianapolis-y
2. Houston-x
3. Jacksonville
4. Tennessee

As with New England, I can't go against Indianapolis, though I think it's possible they only win 10-11 games this year. And here's my first big surprise. Houston goes to the playoffs, largely on the strength of their young defense, led by Mario Williams, DeMeco Ryans, and Amobi Okoye. Jacksonville is probably the most overrated team in football -- David Garrard is good, but nobody actually consistently throws fewer than 1% of their passes for interceptions. That's going to have to balance out. And speaking of QBs and interceptions, Vince Young is like Michael Vick without the passing skills, and that's not very good.

AFC West
1. Denver-y
2. San Diego-x
3. Kansas City
4. Oakland

Here's my "division winner I'm changing because I have to, not because I want to" pick. With all the injuries they've suffered, not the least of which is Shawne Merriman, I think the Chargers slip a little this year. Oakland and KC aren't ready to compete (though with their stellar draft, I think the Chiefs are closer than a lot of people thing), so I'll go with Denver, which is probably as crazy a choice as the Houston pick.

NFC East
1. Dallas-y
2. Philadelphia-x
3. NY Giants
4. Washington

I don't think Dallas is a 13-3 team, but the rest of the division doesn't do anything for me. I'll give Philly and Donovan McNabb one more chance at greatness in the playoffs, though. I think everyone agrees that the Giants were a bit of a fluke last year, and with their losses on the defensive line, they'll be lucky to break .500. Todd Collins somehow captured lightning in a bottle and got the Redskins to the playoffs. They'll be lucky to avoid double-digit losses this year.

NFC North
1. Minnesota-y
2. Green Bay-x
3. Detroit
4. Chicago

Minnesota was the busiest team in the offseason and, with the losses suffered by the rest of the division, could have the easiest road in their division of all the teams. I think Aaron Rodgers will be decent, and the Packers' running game and defense will keep them solidly in the mix all year and probably lead to 9 or 10 wins and a playoff spot. Detroit's got some nice weapons on offense (Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams), but they won't get to 10 wins (sorry, Jon Kitna). Chicago could be a trainwreck; they have Devin Hester and Brian Urlacher and...uh...anyone?

NFC South
1. New Orleans-y
2. Tampa Bay
3. Carolina
4. Atlanta

If Reggie Bush stays healthy, New Orleans could have the most potent offense in the league this side of New England. He's not an every-down back, but his receiving skills make him a dangerous weapon. I'll probably get ripped for this (again), but I just can't believe in Tampa Bay. How old is Jeff Garcia? 38? Truthfully, I think Carolina could be worse than Atlanta. Jake Delhomme started off nice last year before being lost for the season, but he's not a 111.8-rating kind of guy. If Julius Peppers doesn't rebound from his lousy 2007, it could be another long year for Panther fans. At least Atlanta knows they're rebuilding, though they'll be lucky to win five games.

NFC West
1. Seattle-y
2. Arizona
3. St. Louis
4. San Francisco

You don't know how badly I want to pick against Seattle. Can Julius Jones really be the answer at RB? And Bobby Engram and Nate Burleson are your top WRs? But I've given up trying to believe in Arizona until they definitively show me they can get it done. They might go 8-8, they might go 4-12, they might go 12-4. I think all are equally likely, but I'm just not going to jump on their train. A full year of Steven Jackson will do much to cure the Rams' ills. JT O'Sullivan will probably put up nice numbers in San Francisco, now that he's got Mike Martz running the offense, but ask Jon Kitna how that worked in Detroit.

And now we come to the final part: my predictions for conference champions and the Super Bowl winner. More than a few pundits are picking you-know-who to win the NFC and even the Super Bowl; ESPN's Mike Greenberg picked a Minnesota/Jacksonville Super Bowl, with Minnesota proving triumphant (though, you know, that would be a rather boring game, with probably about 75% running plays and no passes deeper than 15 yards).

Me? I just have trouble doing it. I know I put $10 on the Vikings to win the Super Bowl. And maybe this news, on the eve of the new season's start, is some kind of omen. But...but...if I make that prediction, and they fall short, I'll feel disappointed (and feel like a homer). The pressure, the pressure....

AFC Champion: New England
NFC Champion: Minnesota

Super Bowl Winner: New England

There. I feel better now. Or maybe worse. I'll let you know in February.

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