I've posted several times on our baby brother's Blog Site, Indy Cornrows, but never on Stampede Blue. So, why not jump in head first with some pretty bold predictions?!
After watching some of the HOF game, I couldn't contain myself! The 2009-2010 NFL season has officially begun! I'm breaking down all eight divisions with a little blurb on my thoughts on where they stand compared to each other as well as where I believe each team will finish from 1-4 along with a best guess final record (it's an educated guess based upon home/away divisional match ups, official Vegas over/under wins, and non-division opponents).
I've put a double asterisk (**) next to the two wild card teams. I also gave my predictions for the AFC and NFC Championship game as well as the Super Bowl. Keep in mind, history tells us only about half the teams that make the playoffs any given season go back the following season. This year, I have 7 going back. So, there are going to be some new faces on the list of playoff teams.
At the very least, this ought to get some conversations started! Here goes...
1. Arizona (10-6)
2. Seattle (7-9)
3. San Francisco (6-10)
4. St. Louis (2-14)
This division plays the NFC North and AFC South. It's probably the weakest division in the NFL. There's only one legitimate team from this division (Arizona) and the other three are all fielding brand new head coaches and are at some form of rebuild mode. I don't trust any of them to be in playoff contention. With that said, even Arizona will have to prove they're not a one year deal. I believe Seattle makes the biggest leap in the standings. San Francisco's QB issues will not be resolved all season and they lose one more game than last year as a result. St. Louis is making all the right moves, but they still are too young to be competitive. I don't see an improvement on their win/loss totals from last year.
1. Chicago (10-4)
2. Minnesota (9-7)
3. Green Bay (8-8)
4. Detroit (3-13)
This division plays the NFC West and AFC North. It's an up-and-coming division. However, they'll never be considered a top division as long and Detroit is a part of it. But, they have 3 teams that could be vying for a playoff spot. There hasn't been a repeat champion since the 2005 and 2006 seasons. Chicago regains the throne in large part to their massive upgrade at quarterback. Minnesota has balance, even without their QB position solidified. I believe Sage Rosenfels is enough of an upgrade to keep them competitive. But, at the end of the day, it's Sage Rosenfels. He single-handedly turned (literally) the Colts' season around last year. He will lose more games than he wins for the team. Their defense and running game will need to pick up the slack. Green Bay is the next in line to sit atop the league. But, they're two seasons away. Their offense is dynamic and the defense is young and full of talent. A change in defensive schemes from a base 4-3 to a 3-4 will have it's growing pains. One win in Detroit has to be considered a success from last year. I'll give them 3. Matthew Stafford is the real deal and will eventually get this team to roar again, but that's a long ways away.
1. New York Giants (13-3)
2. **Philadelphia (12-4)
3. **Dallas (10-6)
4. Washington (9-7)
This division plays the NFC South and AFC West. In my book, they are the strongest division in the NFC, if not the entire NFL from top to bottom. It don't know if it's ever happened in the NFL, but it's entirely possible for all four teams to end the year with double-digit wins. I see the Giants as the only team to win more than 3 divisional games, so they get the top spot. They are the most complete team in the NFC. Philadelphia looked really good in the playoffs last year and I believe they've only gotten better over the off season. Their defense got younger but still remains very talented. Dallas suffers a bit from the 'new stadium' curse that seemed to plague the Colts last season. They have the best offense in this division, but probably the 3rd best head coach. Wade Phillips will lose them a few games as a result of poor play calling. Only when they learn that Marion Barber is a top-5 running back, will they meet their true potential. They still end up with the 6th best record in the conference. Having 9 wins in the NFC West will win the division almost every year, but it's only good enough for 4th place in the NFC East. Washington has too many questions on the offensive side of the ball to run with the top 3 teams.
1. Atlanta (11-5)
2. Carolina (7-9)
3. New Orleans (6-10)
4. Tampa Bay (5-11)
This division probably has the toughest non-divisional schedule playing the NFC East and AFC East. Like the NFC East, they're a deep division from top to bottom, but not quite as strong. Because of their schedule, every team but Atlanta takes a step backward in wins from last season. Atlanta is not a one hit wonder. They got better on offense over the off season with the addition of Tony Gonzalez and their defense will continue to make strides. There's no reason they can't win 11 games again this year. Carolina takes a big step backward this season. Delhomme just cannot be trusted, and defenses will key in on DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart this year. Their defense is solid, but will need to force more turnovers than last year's squad (only 25 takeaways) to compete. New Orleans boasts a top offense, but a putrid defense. As long as Jason David is a starting cornerback for an NFL team, you cannot take them seriously. Tampa is the only team in this division who is in full rebuild on both sides of the ball. They had one of the oldest defenses last year and have decided to do away with many of their aging vets. They have a solid running game, but too many questions at the quarterback position to win more than 5 games.
1. San Diego (10-6)
2. Kansas City (8-8)
3. Oakland (7-9)
4. Denver (3-13)
This division plays the AFC North and NFC East. It's probably the second weakest division in the NFL. What is it with the NFL's Western Divisions? Much like it's NFC cousin, the AFC West is a one-team division. Aside from San Diego, all three teams are amidst some major overhauls. On top of that, I believe they'll end up with the worst team of 2009, the Denver Broncos. I gave them 3 wins - vs. Oakland, Cleveland, and Kansas City, but those won't be easy wins. They could easily go 0-16 thanks to their brutal schedule. San Diego always looks good on paper, but their head coach is Norv Turner and LT is one year closer to retirment. Their defens is spectacular, and will win a bunch of games. Philip Rivers will have his way passing the ball. He's set for another stellar year. Kansas City is my surprise team of the West. They leapfrog both Oakland and Denver to become the division's second-best team. Their defense is underrated and Cassell is a nice addition to the offense. Gonzalez is gone, but Dwayne Bowe is in line for a Roddy White-esque breakout season. Oakland will improve behind its stellar run game. Assuming he starts, Jeff Garcia will win some games for them, but something is bound to go wrong for the Silver and Black. It always does! There's not much to like in Denver aside from Knowshon Moreno, Brandon Marshall, and Eddie Royal. Their defense can't stop anyone and Kyle Orton is their new QB. Look for Marshall and Royal to have below-average seasons, which will lead to the departure of Marshall in the off season.
1. Pittsburgh (14-2)
2. **Cincinnati (10-6)
3. Baltimore (8-8)
4. Cleveland (4-12)
This division plays the AFC West and NFC North. It's a very tough division that's top-heavy. Year after year, they all beat each other up. This division seems to continue to pump out two teams into the playoffs. This year will be no exception, but the second team is a bit of a surprise. Pittsburgh is the class of the North and the rest of the AFC. They will have the target on their backs, but with the league's best defense, they'll gladly take that challenge. Cincinnati is this year's Miami. They will have the biggest turn around as far as wins (Kansas City also has a +6 change in wins from last year, but Cincinnati will make the playoffs). With a healthy Carson Palmer and an stealthy defense, this team returns to the magical season of 2005 (let's just hope it doesn't end the same way!). Baltimore is an every-other-year type of team. They rely too heavily on a defense engineered to take the ball away. Unfortunately, they're in an inbetween year. Cleveland and Brady Quinn are one year away from being contenders within the division. A solid defense and a great offensive line will only get you a handful of wins. They haven't gotten consistent play from the QB, WR, and RB positions to be competitive. Maybe Mangini will turn this team around.
1. New England (13-3)
2. Miami (9-7)
3. Buffalo (9-7)
4. New York Jets (6-10)
This division plays the AFC South and the NFC South. It is a division on the rise. But, they're still one or two seasons away from being the best in the AFC from top to bottom. A certain healthy QB from Beantown will make his team much better than their 11-5 record last season (yikes!). Their defense has been putting parts together every year. Will this be the year it backfires on them? Probably not, but we can only hope! Miami falls back to earth with a more respectable 9 win campaign. Their offense is revolutionary and will win them many games. Tough competition from the AFC South and NFC South will force them to earn all 9 wins. Buffalo is the team on the rise in this division. With the addition of T.O, they could quite possibly have the second best offense in the division behind New England. However, they'll need to rely on their defense to keep them in games which they're not quite ready to do. New York brings in a new head coach and quarterback. As a result, hey become the new Baltimore Ravens of the AFC - a fearsome defense, solid running game, and capable quarterback play. Except, they won't win as many games.
1. Indianapolis (13-3)
2. **Houston (11-5)
3. Tennessee (9-7)
4. Jacksonville (8-8)
This division plays the AFC East and NFC West. From top to bottom, this is the strongest division in the AFC. Much will be said about the Colts and how this may be the year they fall off the map with all the regime changes. I don't see it. But, I'm probably being biased. I don't care. Until it happens, they still have the talent on the field to be a 12-win team. I just don't see them getting beat by any NFC West teams, nor do I see them losing any games against the AFC East. That's 7 wins. They play all the AFC's 2nd place teams from last year (Denver, Baltimore, and New England). They have Denver's and Baltimore's number. Chalk up two more wins, and they're up to 9. New England is a toss up, so to avoid the talk of going undefeated altogether, I'll give New England the win. Now, all Indy needs to do is sweep either Tennessee, Jacksonville, or Houston and go 1-3 against the other two teams to get their 12 wins. Though this division is no longer a cake walk for the Colts, going 3-3 within the division is still a doable task. I cannot see them sweeping two of the three teams like they've been accustom to doing year in and year out. Jacksonville is the team they sweep giving them 2 more wins to get to 11, and they split with Houston and Tennessee to put them at 13 wins for the year and 3 losses. Houston is my dark horse to make some serious noise within the division and the AFC this year. Their defense is starting to scare teams and they have built an Indy-lite offense behind Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, Steve Slaton, and Owen Daniels. 13 wins for Tennessee was a fluke last year. Their defense lost it's loudest voice over the off season and their offense still didn't address their deficiencies at wide receiver. Kerry Collins won't be on point like he was last year. Teams will figure out how to slow down Smash and Dash, leaving them very one-dimensional. Jacksonville improves from 5 wins a year ago, but still has too many positions in question. Fred Taylor signed with New England, so Jacksonville no longer has the two-pronged running attack. Torry Holt was added to a super-thin receiving corp. The big question for Jacksonville is can David Garrard play consistently enough to keep them in games.
Now, onto the playoffs...
1. New York Giants
Wild Card Round (HOME TEAM): Dallas over CHICAGO, Philadelphia over ARIZONA
Divisional Round (HOME TEAM): Dallas over NEW YORK GIANTS, Philadelphia over ATLANTA
NFC Championship (HOME TEAM): PHILADELPHIA over Dallas
3. New England
4. San Diego
Wild Card Round(HOME TEAM): NEW ENGLAND over Cincinnati, Houston over SAN DIEGO
Divisional Round (HOME TEAM): PITTSBURGH over Houston, INDIANAPOLIS over New England
AFC Championship (HOME TEAM): PITTSBURGH over Indianapolis
Super Bowl XLIV
Philadelphia vs Pittsburgh
In the battle over Pennsylvania - the City of Brotherly Love vs. the Steel City - love always wins and Philly finally gets their championship!
This is my take. I can't wait to hear from other Colts fans where they REALISTICALLY think we'll finish when all the dust settles. In my heart they go all the way and get another ring, but my mind is telling me they just don't have enough to get through Pittsburgh en route to the Super Bowl. Hopefully I'm wrong!