Saturday, August 29, 2009

Some NFL Predictions for 2009

This has nothing to do with stocks, but I always wanted to be a sports columnist so I figure, at the risk of alienating readers across the country,"why not?" Plus hundreds of people make meaningless predictions about the stock market at the beginning of each year, so why not do the same thing at the beginning of my favorite sports season of the year. Here we go and I apologize if I offend anyone out there. Remember, every year is full of surprises and the "chalk" picks rarely work in the NFL.

AFC East

#1) Patriots (12-4) - I don't think they're as invincible as two years ago, and avoiding injuries will play a major role in their success, but the talent is still obvious and really, who is going to challenge them in this division?

#2) Jets (8-8) - If the Jets had a better supporting cast, I think they could win with a rookie quarterback much like my Steelers did during Big Ben's rookie year. The defense is stacked, but with no receivers and a solid but not spectacular running game, I don't see it.

#3) Dolphins (6-10) - The Dolphins benefited from a last place schedule last year and the suprise factor that the Wildcat formation brought to their offense. They play a first place schedule this year, and teams have had a year to study their offense. I don't think it will be as successful this time around.

#4) Bills (5-11) - When will teams ever learn? Signing T.O. means disaster. Possibly the most overrated player in the NFL in my opinion. One of several teams I will mention that don't have a quarterback and in the NFL, that's a problem. Have looked horrible this pre-season.

AFC North

#1) Steelers (12-4) - I know I will sound like a homer, but when a Super Bowl champion returns 20 of 22 starters, and the two new starters have the potential to be better than the men they are replacing, you can't pick against the Steelers. Main concern for me as a fan is the health of Big Ben. The o-line still looks shaky, but the schedule should be much easier this year.

#2) Ravens (11-5) - Baltimore is a nasty team that may be better than they were last year. They did lose Bart Scott, but that D still has so many parts that it will be formidable. Look for Haloti Ngata to get much more national attention this year. Biggest question is whether Joe Flacco can grow from his rookie year and win games for this team when they need him to instead of just not losing them. If he does, this team can win the Super Bowl.

#3) Bengals (8-8) - If Carson Palmer stays healthy, I think this could be a sleeper playoff team. The talent is starting to develop on the defensive side of the ball. If Palmer gets injured, I don't think they stand a chance, however.

#4) Browns (4-12) - Perhaps I will be wrong, but I get the sense Cleveland is a team without a plan and without strong direction. They have a potentially strong o-line, but a headcase is their best offensive player and the battle between two mediocre quarterbacks probably doesn't really matter in the long run.

AFC South

#1) Colts (10-6) - I think this out of all the divisions is the hardest to predict. I think top to bottom, it is still among the most talented. Indy is a very solid team that always has a chance, especially when your quarterback is Peyton Manning. I think the loss of Tony Dungy will be bigger than people realize, although I think the Colts will still be very competitive.

#3) Texans (9-7) - Going out on a limb here predicting the Texans to come out with a wild-card based on their 8-4 finish last year. This is a very young team with a lot of potential - perhaps it will come together this year.

#2) Titans (8-8) - Tennessee is talented as well but I have a feeling things won't come together for them as easily as it did last year. Kerry Collins is a year older, and their defense is going to miss Albert Haynesworth. I don't think they will fall apart - just having a feeling with a first-place schedule they struggle a bit more.

#4) Jaguars (7-9) - I think the Jaguars will bounce back a bit but they have probably the weakest passing game in the NFL and in a tough division, I still think they struggle.

AFC West

#1) Chargers (13-3) - The Chargers are always among the most talented teams in the NFL and hung tight last year although their record was disappointing. Getting a healthy Shawn Merriman and LT back should be enough to put them back in the Super Bowl hunt. Playing in the worst division in the NFL doesn't hurt either. Coaching is the question here.

#2) Raiders (6-10) - There is some talent here but this is probably the most dysfunctional organization in all of professional sports and I'm sure they will mess up any success they may have anyway.

#3) Chiefs (6-10) - Some young talent here as well but I am curious how Matt Cassell plays without the supporting cast he had in New England. This could be a really good team in 2011, but right now I don't think they are there yet.

#4) Broncos (3-13) - I think this year could be a disaster. The whole offseason was a circus and it looks like the new 32-year old coach hasn't a clue as to how to handle a team. Too many distractions and really, they aren't that good talent-wise either.

AFC Playoffs

Seeds: 1 - Chargers, 2 - Steelers, 3 - Patriots, 4 - Colts, 5 - Ravens, 6 - Texans
First Round - Patriots over Texans, Ravens over Colts
Second Round - Steelers over Patriots, Chargers over Ravens
Championship - Chargers over Steelers

NFC East

#1) Cowboys (11-5) - Just a hunch - I think they will be much better without T.O. and Romo can relax a bit more. Coaching is still an issue but talent-wise, they match up with the Eagles and Giants. They are probabaly due for a good year too.

#2) Giants (11-5) - The Giants' defensive line is scary good and this will be a tough team to play with their power running game. As long as they stay healthy, they have a shot at the Super Bowl. However, their passing struggles last year when Plaxico left were large, and they haven't solved that yet from what I see. They need several young receivers to step up.

#3) Eagles (8-8) - This seems to be a popular Super Bowl pick and talent-wise, I would agree. However, I have a feeling the Michael Vick thing may blow up in their face, and they have already suffered many pre-season injuries. I think it is a disappointing season.

#4) Redskins (6-10) - Defense looks good but I just don't think Jason Campbell is a playoff-caliber quarterback. He will hold them back and in this division, not having an offense to go with a good defense is too much to overcome.

NFC North

#1) Packers (11-5) - This is my sleeper pick for the entire season, and I think Aaron Rodgers will get some MVP votes when it is all said and done. The offense looks very strong and the switch to the 3-4 with Dom Capers as coordinator was a good move. Every year a team comes out of nowhere and this is my pick this year.

#2) Bears (8-8) - Jay Cutler was a nice pickup but really, who is he going to throw to? The Bears strike me as a good team but not anything special, so a .500 finish seems about right.

#3) Vikings (6-10) - I think the Brett Favre move has disaster written all over it, both on and off the field, and I think Vikings fans will be very disappointed this year. I am wondering if the Favre move will cost Brad Childress his job.

#4) Lions (3-13) - Just not much talent here - perhaps Jim Schwartz can get this franchise on track, but it will be a while. They have pieces (Calvin Johnson, Kevin Smith) but just not enough.

NFC South

#1) Saints (11-5) - The acquisition of Gregg Williams as defensive coordinator is a big one, as the Saints' D has been the only thing holding them back. The offense is obviously very strong, and this trendy Super Bowl pick from past seasons also seems due for a breakout year to me.

#2) Falcons (8-8) - Sort of like the Dolphins, I think the Falcons pullback a bit this year with a second year quarterback and a very young defense. They also have a lot of pieces but I just don't see the amazing story happening two seasons in a row.

#3) Panthers (7-9) - After his five interception performance in last year's playoff game, questions will linger throughout this season unless Jake Delhomme plays mistake-free football. As soon as he has a multi-interception performance, the questions will start again. He's not wired for conservative, mistake-free play, and therefore I think the Panthers struggle, even with their strong running game.

#4) Buccaneers (4-12) - I just don't see much talent here and I expect the Bucs to struggle, perhaps for a few years. Another situation where a very young coach is coming into a team that is lacking personnel and I don't think that's a good mix.

NFC West

#1) Seahawks (10-6) - I don't think too many people are thinking this team has the potential to do anything this year, but they had so many injuries last year that I think the chances of a bounce back are good. If Hasselbeck is healthy, then a passing game with Branch, Houshmanzadeh, and Carlson is pretty darn good.

#2) Cardinals (10-6) - Typically, the losing Super Bowl team goes on to struggle the following year, but as long as Kurt Warner stays healthy, I don't think the Cardinals will struggle too much. I am interested to see if the late-season run gives them the confidence they need to be more consistent throughout the year.

#3) 49ers (7-9) - They may be a bit better this year, but this is another team with no quarterback and I really don't think you have a chance in this league if you don't have one. There is young talent here and Mike Singletary looks like a great coaching prospect, but I still think they are a year or two away.

#4) Rams (2-14) - I think the Rams will be fighting with the Broncos, Bucs, and Lions for the first pick in next year's draft (although the Broncos already traded theirs to the Seahawks). Beside Steven Jackson, there isn't much talent on offense, and the defense is lacking playmakers as well. This will be another major rebuilding project.

NFC Playoffs

Seeds: 1 - Saints, 2 - Packers, 3 - Cowboys, 4 - Seahawks, 5 - Giants, 6 - Cardinals
First Round - Cardinals over Cowboys, Giants over Seahawks
Second Round - Cardinals over Saints, Packers over Giants
Championship - Packers over Cardinals

Super Bowl - Chargers over Packers

There you go. I hope my Steelers can pull off a repeat, but realistically that is a lot to ask and I doubt it happens. I will check back on this as the season progresses to see how I do, and if nothing else, maybe this will get some discussion going in the comment section. The market doesn't seem to be doing that, so why not football? Good luck during the upcoming week if you're trading heavily. I will have a video up later today.

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