Thursday, September 10, 2009
I have arrived back from vacation just in time to kick off this year's NFL season. There are many interesting story lines going into this season that could play a huge part on its outcome. How will Brett Favre fare in Minnesota? How will Michael Vick effect the Eagles? Can Big Ben repeat as Super Bowl Champ despite his tumultuous offseason? Can Tom Brady return to MVP form after a year off? Taking all of these things into account, I now offer you my AFC predictions for the NFL season in 2009.
The New England Patriots will once again become the class of the AFC East with Tom Brady back from injury, an arsenal of new offensive weapons and several new young defensive players. With an offense featuring Brady, Welker, Moss, Fred Taylor, Laurence Maroney and Joey Galloway, I don't see how the Pats will ever score less than the competition. The Big question will be on defense. Can the secondary of Meriweather, Bodden, Springs and Sanders stop the top offenses? How big will the trade of Richard Seymour be? Despite these questions I expect the Pats to go about 13-3 and take the AFC East.
Miami should improve off of last year's successful campaign. The offense is pretty much the same, but Ted Ginn Jr. should breakout as a big play receiver this year. The defense will only gain from the additions of Jason Taylor, Sean Smith and Gibril Wilson and could become one of the league's best. The Dolphins will only go as far as Rad Chad's arm will take them though. I see them at about 10-6 this year with a chance for a wild card berth.
In Buffalo, everyone is abuzz with the addition of 35 year old prima donna Terrell Owens. While he could make their offense very dangerous with Lee Evans and Marshawn Lynch, how long before he throws a temper tantrum? Moreover, the offense lost Pro Bowl LT Jason Peters to the Eagles, which will not help. On defense, the Bills added Aaron Maybin, which could give them a formidable front line. The return of Paul Posluszny from injury will also help their linebacking corps. In another division the Bills might do better, but I have them at about 8-8 or 7-9 this year and missing the playoffs.
Finally we have the Jets. Their certainly is hope in New York, but it is still a few years from fruition. The Brett Favre fiasco led them to draft Mark Sanchez, but I doubt he is going to repeat the success of Stupid Flacco Hair or Matty Ice (both 4 year players in college). Also, with Thomas Jones already unhappy, I sense trouble in the locker room. On defense, the addition of Lito Sheppard (speaking of cry babies) will strengthen the secondary, but this team just does not have enough fire power to compete in this division. Especially with a rookie QB. Bill Billabill will give Sanchez nightmares in the two games against the Pats. Look for the Jets to go 5-11 and begin to stockpile young talent. Sorry Dave.
The reigning Super Bowl champs are primed to make a run at a repeat. Their lineup on both sides of the ball is almost exactly the same as it was last year, and WR Santonio Holmes only promises to get better, RB Willie Parker is healthy, and Troy Polamalu could be Defensive MVP. Lookin' tough. Expect the Steelers to be challenged by the Ravens, but ultimately come out atop the AFC North at around 12-4. Free Ben Roethlisberger.
Baltimore finally has what they have been searching for for about 12 years, a reliable QB to go with their amazing defense. Through the years, guys like Tony Banks, Elvis Grbac, Kyle Boller, Jeff Blake, Anthony Wright and Randall Cunningham have all failed to provide enough offensive support for the awesome Ravens D. This year, they come in with hope. An offense featuring Flacco and his stupid hair, the three headed monster of Ray Rice, Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain, Derrick Mason, Todd Heap and Mark Clayton will certainly be enough to outscore opponents. The Ed Reed and Ray Lewis led defense will not be a question mark for the team either. Looks for the Ravens to make the playoffs again this year going 11-5 or 10-6.
Cincinnati has always been a sexy team, but has never lived up to the hype. I don't see them doing so this year either, despite how awesome they all looked in Hard Knocks. The Bengals offense should be upgraded with a healthy Carson Palmer, but they lost T.J. Houshmandzadeh in the offseason and Chad Ochocinco might have lost his mind this year. Moreover, nobody will respect RB Cedric Benson in the backfield, leading to more blitzes on the fragile QB. The defense will be improved with the additions of guys like Ray Maualuga, Roy Williams and rising star Keith Rivers, but it will still not be enough to do any real damage in the AFC North. This could be Marvin Lewis' final year in Cincy. Look for improvement, but not enough as the Bengals go about 7-9.
Which brings us to Cleveland. I already am starting to despise the Mangenius for his stupid secret starting QB plan. He is further proving that Bill Billabill's lackeys are nowhere near as talented as Bill Billabill himself. As a matter of fact, the Browns website would have you believe that they don't have any quarterbacks at all. Regardless, Brady Quinn will only have Braylon Edwards to throw to this year, and I suspect he will be double covered. Jamal Lewis has gotta be on his last legs at RB, and Kellen Winslow was traded out of town in the offseason. That offense doesn't sound too good. On defense, their only stud is Brodney Pool (born 5/24/1984). The Mangenius gets off to a rocky 5-11 or 4-12 start to bring up the rear in the AFC North.
The AFC South could be one of the closest races of any conference with no team really separating itself from the pack, but I see the Houston Texans making the playoffs for the first time in their franchise history. Provided Matt Schaub can stay healthy, the offense should have no problem scoring with guys like Andre Johnson, Steve Slaton, Owen Daniels and Kevin Walter. However, it is the Texan defense that I think will push them over the edge. Newcomer Brian Cushing joins studs Mario Williams, Amobi Akoye and DeMeco Ryans to make a very intimidating front 7. That pressure should be enough to make the secondary better as well. I see the Texans going about 10-6, which will be enough to take the AFC South.
The only other team that could make a run at this division is the team that has been winning it for years: Indy. Their offense is certainly high powered with guys like Mr. Manning, Reggie Wayne, Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, Anthony Gonzalez (big sleeper in '09) and Dallas Clark, but their O-line is getting old and rickety. So is their defense for that matter. Moreover, the loss of Tony Dungy could spell disaster for this team. The Colts will probably go about 10-6 or 9-7 and possibly challenge for a wild card spot on the back of Peyton Manning.
Tennessee I forecast taking a big step back this season. The loss of $100 million man (ridiculous) Albert Haynesworth will lessen the impact of guys like Kyle VandenBosch et al., which in turn will put more pressure on the secondary. However, this guy should someday be a star. On offense, I don't think Kerry Collins can repeat what he did last year. Defenses won't respect Collins and in turn bring more guys up to stifle Lendale White and Chris Johnson. Fans might be calling for Vince Young early into the season. I see the Titans going about 7-9 this year and missing the playoffs.
Jacksonville is just a big old mess. I really don't think David Garrard is the answer at QB, and Torry Holt will disappoint in a Jaguars uniform, just like every other Jaguars receiver besides Jimmy Smith. Maurice Jones-Drew might suffer as well form the loss of Fred Taylor to spell him, watch out for injury here. On defense, the Jags added stud Derrick Harvey to the line, but everyone other than him is pretty bad. I see the Jags as a 6-10 type team.
If the AFC South was the closest race, look for the AFC West to be the most distant. The Chargers will win this division pretty easily. Rivers, Tomlinson, Sproles, Jackson, Chambers, Gates and Co. are all healthy and primed for another big offensive year in San Diago. Meanwhile, Shawne Merriman is back to strangling strength and ready to lead that suffocating Chargers "D" past any small asian women that get in their way. The Chargers once again have the total package. They will probably go about 13-3, but fail in the playoffs as usual.
Next in the AFC West, I like the Raiders. Their offense has got some stars ready to breakout with JaMarcus Russell at QB, Darren McDadden at RB and Derrius Heyward-Bay burning up the sidelines. Moreover, their defense will become even better with the addition of Pro Bowl DT Richard Seymour. The Just Win Baby era is not quite back yet, but the Raiders are certainly headed in the right direction. Look for them to go about 8-8.
The Chiefs look like they have some upside, but they are still a long way from contending. I don't think Matt Cassel is ready to be a leader in KC and has already injured himself due to his fat and flabby O-line. His inexperience will make Larry Johnson and Dwayne Bowe's jobs a lot harder and the entire offense will suffer. On defense, the Chefs will be better with guys like Tyson Jackson, Glenn Dorsey, Tamba Hali, and Mike Vrabel in their front 7, but it will not be enough to counteract the offense. New Head Coach Eric Haley will struggle in his first year as the Chiefs go about 6-10.
Last and certainly least, we have the Broncos. Josh McDaniels has ruined this team (see previous article). Now they have no franchise QB, and their franchise receiver is ready to leave town. Good luck Knowshon Moreno! The Broncos defense is also pretty weak with Champ Bailey and D.J. Williams as the only bright spots. Josh McDaniels will battle Eric Haley for who is the worst Bill Billabill protege and ultimately lose. I see the Broncos going about 3-13 this year and being one of the worst teams in football.
NFC Predictions to come tomorrow. Let me know what you think!