Thursday, September 1, 2011

2011 NFL Season Predictions. Write 'em down, son.

Since there’s just over a week until the start of the 2011 NFL season and I’m moving back into college tomorrow and will have less time to write such things, I’m going to make my season projections now instead of later.  Yes, yes, there is still a full slate of preseason games tonight that I’m not taking into account.  Here’s my counterargument: the only players who are likely to be on the first team this season that are playing in these games are not in very good shape (see the Washington Redskins’ quarterbacks). 

Therefore, I will proceed with my season predictions for the 2011 season, one division at a time, making sure to adhere to the partial predictions I made earlier in a post.  OK, I lied; I just couldn’t come up with a good enough rationale to bump 5 teams from the playoffs, so my claim is that THE STREAK STOPS IN 2011.  That’s right, I said it. 

I would insert a report on how my predictions fared last year, except that I didn’t have this blog last year at this time. 


Patriots              12-4 (-2 wins)
Jets                    11-5 (even)
Dolphins            7-9 (even)
Bills                   3-13 (-1 win)

Starting at the bottom, I don’t think that the mini-breakouts of Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (Ivy League shoutout) and WR Stevie Johnson will continue, especially with the loss of WR Lee Evans as a player defenses need to account for.  The Dolphins added some youth and talent at running back and had a good defense last year, but they didn’t pull the trigger on the trade for Kyle Orton that would have made them improve in my eyes.  Yes, the Jets are good, but I haven’t seen enough from Mark Sanchez to make me think they can overtake the Patriots.  I think that the Pats’ loss to the Jets in the AFC playoffs and their beatdown against the Lions in their previous preseason game could really motivate them, but I don’t see Tom Brady improving on a 36 TD / 4 INT year, and they should regress slightly.


Steelers            12-4 (even)
Ravens             11-5 (-1 win)
Browns            6-10 (+1 win)
Bengals            3-13 (-1 win)

OK, so the Bengals went 4-12 last year and lost their top two receivers, a top-flight cornerback, and their franchise quarterback.  Now tell me they’re going to improve.  Come on, don’t be shy, speak up!  Everyone likes Colt McCoy’s improvement over the past year, but a less-than-inspiring group of skill players around him and the loss of their defensive coordinator (Rob Ryan) and a starting cornerback (Eric Wright) should lower their ceiling for this season.  I predicted that the Ravens would miss the playoffs a few weeks ago, but I couldn’t pick a team to beat them for the Wild Card spot, so I’m wimping out a little bit.  As the class of the AFC, the Steelers have an unbelievable amount of speed and talent at wide receiver and a quarterback that can chuck it (who, by the way, missed 4 games last year), and sometimes it’s just that simple.  Oh, and they have that defense thing.


Texans               10-6 (+4 wins)
Colts                   9-7 (-1 win)
Jaguars               5-11 (-3 wins)
Titans                 5-11 (-1 win)

While the Titans did just sign Chris Johnson to end his holdout, their questionable quarterback situation and uninspiring defense put them in the cellar in this division.  Speaking of questionable quarterbacks and uninspiring defenses, the Jaguars have both, but they were 8-8 last year with a largely similar team, so I will give them the credit they deserve and at least put them third in the division.  I called the Colts missing the playoffs, and Peyton Manning’s neck situation makes me feel much better about it.  I still think that Manning plays enough games and well enough to make a run at a playoff spot but miss out.  Lastly, the Texans added some good pieces to their defense that was awful against the pass last year, and still have my boys Andre Johnson, Matt Schaub, Owen Daniels, and that Foster fellow.


Chargers           11-5 (+2 wins)
Chiefs               7-9 (-3 wins)
Raiders             7-9 (-1 win)
Broncos            5-11 (+1 win)

The Broncos had an exceptional season from Kyle Orton and Brandon Lloyd and a similarly poor season from their defense last year, and I think that both of those situations fall back into balance a little more this year.  However, there is still a lot of work to be done.  I think the Raiders still have perfectly average quarterback play and a good enough defense and running game to compete, but the injuries and inconsistency at wide receiver, as well as their failure to repeat a 6-0 division record from last year, will hurt them.  The Chiefs are, in my opinion, the most likely team to miss the playoffs after making it last year, mostly because they had unbelievable years from Matt Cassel and Dwayne Bowe, and we saw in the playoffs what happened when that team played a good defense (they played the whole NFC West last year, keep in mind).  While the Chargers didn’t have as good of a team as their #1 Offense / #1 Defense distinction would indicate (their special teams were awful, causing short drives for the opponent and long ones for them), they have a lot of talent and a great passing game that should help push them to victory over their division rivals.


Eagles                 11-5 (+1 win)
Cowboys            11-5 (+5 wins)
Giants                 9-7 (-1 win)
Redskins             4-12 (-2 wins)

The Redskins get to choose between Rex Grossman and John Beck as their quarterback.  Get psyched, Washington.  Better hope you do worse than I predict and you get the first pick of the draft.  The Giants have a lot of injuries and losses defensively, but they also suffer from Elimanningsucksitis.  Tough to beat that ailment.  The Cowboys have a bevy of talent on offense and a new defensive coordinator to kick them into shape after they basically quit last year, and should greatly improve (and make the playoffs, per my prediction).  And whatever you think of the whole Eagles “Dream Team” thing, you have to agree they have better personnel than last year, and face the NFC West this year.


Packers            12-4 (+2 wins)
Bears                8-8 (-3 wins)
Lions                8-8 (+2 wins)
Vikings            7-9 (+1 win)

This division, in my opinion, is clearly the best in the league this year, pending a surprisingly good year from the Redskins.  I’m of the opinion that Donovan McNabb will undergo a mini-revival with Adrian Peterson lining up behind him, and I think they will be competitive.  Everyone seems to be on the Lions’ bandwagon, but I want to see Matthew Stafford make it through a season first, and would feel better about them if key rookies Nick Fairley and Mikel Leshoure weren’t out for the year.  The Bears surprised many by winning 11 games last year; they won’t surprise anyone by dropping back to earth.  Their offensive line is terrible.  And last but not least, my pick for the Super Bowl Champions, the Packers.  They get Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley back on offense, and had one of the best defenses in the league last year.  I think Aaron Rodgers is in for a monster year – like 4500 yards and 40 touchdowns.


Falcons             12-4 (-1 win)
Saints                11-5 (even)
Buccaneers       10-6 (even)
Panthers            3-13 (+1 win)

The Panthers spent a lot of money in free agency, but they spent most of it resigning their own players.  Didn’t they just lose 14 games?  Shouldn’t the players be responsible for some of that?  I think the Bucs are an up-and-coming team, but Josh Freeman’s TD/INT ratio was too good to be true as far as I’m concerned, so his progression as a quarterback will probably coincide with regression with regards to his luck or the play of successful rookies Mike Williams and LeGarrette Blount.  I considered making the Saints miss the playoffs, but I think that Drew Brees made an inordinate amount of mistakes that cost them games last year, and the addition of Mark Ingram should help keep their balance offensively.  Lastly, I think that the Falcons are definitely the second-best team in the NFC and will look excellent offensively, but I think that there has been a lot of improvement in the NFC that will keep their record down.


Rams                  8-8 (+1 win)
Cardinals            8-8 (+3 wins)
49ers                  6-10 (even)
Seahawks           4-12 (-3 wins)

The Seahawks are my last pick to miss the playoffs, and they do it in dramatic fashion.  They signed Tarvaris Jackson, Sidney Rice, and Zach Miller, but that first guy makes the second two guys a bit less valuable.  Not to mention that the rest of the division appears to have gotten better.  Not included in that improvement are the 49ers, who have the same inconsistent quarterback and not much added.  The Cardinals made the big quarterback splash by trading for Kevin Kolb, and whatever you think of Kolb, he’s way better than what they had at quarterback last year (John Skelton?  Who?).  Lastly, the coronation of Sam Bradford continues, as he takes a ho-hum group of receivers to just enough wins to win a very winnable division.

As a recap, here are my playoff teams:

1. Green Bay Packers
2. Atlanta Falcons
3. Philadelphia Eagles
4. St. Louis Rams
5. Dallas Cowboys
6. New Orleans Saints

1. Pittsburgh Steelers
2. New England Patriots
3. San Diego Chargers
4. Houston Texans
5. New York Jets
6. Baltimore Ravens

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