As I was sitting back earlier yesterday evening and filtering out whatever it was that my girlfriend was yelling at me for... I had a random change of heart about how I was going to approach my 2009 NFL Prediction/Preview article. As I was looking at and also picking winners from Super John's simply SUPERB (CLICK HERE TO GET IT – seriously, it's A+ stuff!) NFL season schedule, I realized that while we can have a pretty firm and grounded grasp on say – the first half of the season – there are just WAY too many outside factors that come into play such as injuries, player suspensions, and of course, Cinderella stories, to try and accurately make any kind of educated and realistic end-of-season type prediction.
Traveling further upon this train of thought, not only did I actually try to convince myself that predicting the first ten weeks of the season would be fun – but I actually thought it would be just as satisfying and intellectually filling as a full season preview. Don't bother asking me why I thought this was a good idea. It was probably a mix of being yelled at for not washing the entire house with a toothbrush and being hypnotized by the whole NFL schedule on one sheet of paper.
Yeah, but ANYWAY, after I went through and picked every game for the first ten weeks and mapped out the standings I was left with... well, I was left with some predicted Week 10 standings.
Thankfully though, common sense prevailed and I realized that I was heading down a rocky and spike-stripped trail that would probably only succeed in leading me to waste countless hours of my time predicting perhaps the most obscure point throughout an entire NFL football season. That's right. I have returned, ladies and gentleman!
As with all my write-ups, please feel free to shower me with praise or disagree vehemently while questioning how I've managed to even figure out how to get on a computer and use the Internet. Unfortunately, there is no in between...
First up in Part 1? The National Football Conference (also known as the NFC).
Cue the predictions!
1. Bears (12-4)
2. Packers (8-8)
3. Vikings (7-9)
4. Lions (4-12)
Off-season occurrence that could shake up all of 2009: The Bears acquisition of former Broncos QB Jay Cutler.Wild card/Sleeper team of the division: Minnesota Vikings
A lot of people might think that I'm taking the Cutler deal as a sure-sign that the Bears will turn things around. If that's what you were thinking, than you, sir, are correct!
Cutler is a GREAT quarterback with an absolute CANNON for an arm and he also now has one of the best all-around backs in the league behind him in Matt Forte. If not THE best all-around back – but we'll wait a bit longer to anoint him with that title.
Either the Bears are going run away with it or it is going to be an absolute, drag-em-out brawl, reminiscent of the AFC and NFC South over the past few years or so, with everyone in the seven to nine win margin range.
The Packers can really go either way. They had a solid draft and have some playmakers and potential stars on either side of the ball. Also, they now know that Aaron Rodgers is no bum, so that's always a good thing, of course.
The Vikings' quarterback situation is still pretty wide open as I highly doubt Sage Rosenfels will end up leading this team to the promised playoff land. Tarvaris Jackson, on the other hand, could go balls to the wall this off-season and forcefully take over the reins while being the QB everyone thought he could be. He showed flashes of brilliance at the end of last year but let's not get ahead of ourselves shall we? Or we could. IT'S ONLY JUNE FOR GOODNESS SAKE! AHHHHH!
Still though, with a stellar offensive line and arguably the best running back in the league in Adrian Peterson, all the Vikings would really need would be to not lose games on the defensive side of the ball and also hope the receiving corps of Berrian, Harvin and Rice can help carry a passing game that will be led by one of two quarterbacks – both of which are questionable signal callers in their own right.
As for the basement team: surprise, surprise! It's the Lions! At least they're heading in the right direction after throwing off an ill-intentioned team strategist and GM Matt Millen. Hopefully he's not on Football Night in America again this year, as that would not make ANY sense at all and probably cause half of Detroit to throw their televisions out their windows. We can't be having that, NBC!
Unless, of course, you ask him questions each week that center on how he'd run certain teams into the ground; that would definitely have some good time potential!
1. Falcons (11-5)
2. Panthers (10-6)
3. Saints (7-9)
4. Buccaneers (5-11)
The Buccaneers are to quarterbacks as chocolate is to...? Uhmm... what?!Wild card/Sleeper team of the division: New Orleans Saints
This is pretty much the same thing as last year, with the Falcons and Panthers running away with the season's race while the other two teams sulk deeper into the depths of despair and losing. You could practically flip-flop the Falcons and Panthers for that #1 spot that will probably take at LEAST 11 wins in order to be able to wear the crown.
Also, I said last August that Deangelo Williams would break out during the season, much to the chagrin of some very loyal Jonathan Stewart owners. Well, they both had great seasons so I'm not trying to suggest who won the argument, but I AM suggesting that Deangelo Williams is going to have another stellar year, if not a better one, and NOT just because he's one year away from his contract year with a pretty tasty incentive bonus to work towards.
If you didn't notice it last season, Deangelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart have learned to feed off each other. They've both realized that they're too good to be replaced by the other and have accepted this fact while, at the same time, trying to playfully outdo each other each and every game. Don't get me wrong, I think Stewart will have another solid year, but I think Williams will come out on top stat-wise at the end of the year thanks to more experience, more wisdom, and a career and attitude changing experience in which he realized he had to work his tail off to succeed in the NFL and could not just rely on pure talent.
As for the Stewart vs. Williams' argument, I'm personally against debating anymore. They're two unique talents who are both going to have good games that are better than the other, and any time spent trying to argue who is better than the other could be better spent on looking forward to when you next get to watch them again. I was 100% pro Deangelo Williams last year, I'm not going to lie, but after many a game spent trying to root against him I eventually just stopped and wondered what tine the world was wrong with me. If you're a football fan than you can delight in watching both of these guys play – regardless of which is on your fantasy team. I'm aware that fantasy loyalties can complicate matters, but unless one of them gets injured, I think it’s been made pretty clear that they’re both going to get their fair share of pigskin touches.
All they really need is for Delhomme to continue on and stay injury-free and what we've got is a Panthers team who's fully ready to take any and all comes for the NFC South title. Not to mention just THINKING about the Panthers vs. Falcons divisional race (at least from the outset of the season) already has me giggling like a little schoolgirl.
As for the other two teams, the Saints definitely have the talent and could explode at JUST the right time. If Reggie Bush's surgery went well than they may be that dark horse candidate that everyone loves to pick come pre-season. They're certainly an INTERESTING pick, that's for sure. By interesting, I don't mean that I'd bet money on them mind you. Just... interesting – like -- bet your buddy $20 they'll win at least 8 games interesting. I just got the shivers.
Last and probably... deservedly... least... the Tampa Bay Buccaneers! I dunno, I just don't see them doing ANYTHING unless they somehow nab a veteran QB like Brett Favre or Michael Vick. Rookie Josh Freeman has some potential for sure, but he's no Joe Flacco and he's no Matt Ryan. Although he does have a fairly strong offensive line to help with protection and joining him on any credit card commercial deals he decides to film. It's up in the air if he'll even be starting though, and I just don't see Byron Leftwich leading this team ANYWHERE but downtown-Charlie-Brown-into-the-ground. This looks like it may be shaping up to be one of those classic, "Start the veteran until the season's practically gone and hopeless, then just throw in the rookie signal caller to learn the ropes, get roughed up for the rest of the season, and throw Peyton Manning early in his career type interception totals."
Then again, you never know. Freeman COULD be the next Joe Flacco or Matt Ryan – but I just don't think so. Kellen Winslow Jr. would certainly help matters, though... if he doesn't break both his legs trying to jump in front of and wave down a taxi or something. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if I heard that story break on Sportscenter in a few minutes. Would you? '
1. Redskins (11-5)
2. Cowboys (10-6)
3. Giants (9-7)
4. Eagles (7-9)
Best chances to be the "least in the NFC Beast"? Eagles by a mile.Wild card/Sleeper team of the division: WHAT?! There is NO such thing as a sleeper team in the NFC Beast!! RAWWRG SMASHH!
Out of all of the divisions for each of my annual NFL previews, I ALWAYS completely whiff on the NFC East predictions and they end up being the exact opposite of what I predict they'll be. You may all now commence your future divisional bets on the Eagles if you wish.
Now to explain the method behind my madness:
While Jason Campbell hasn't certainly been the ideal starting QB, especially for a franchise like the Redskins who have no problem with spending the equivalent of the gross national capita of a small country on an injury prone role player, I for one have seen him show flashes of brilliance over the past few years. And even more so last season! He's certain not to take the Redskins courtship of Jay Cutler lightly and with his contract up at the end of the season, I wouldn't be surprised in the least if he had a monstrous, breakout year.
He has the weapons on offense to put up plenty of points on the board on a good day and now has some defensive playmakers to step it up on the defensive side of the ball. If all goes well (although judging from my previous NFC Beast predictions it will instead go horribly wrong) then I can honestly see the Redskins taking the NFC East crown. I really can. Seriously, I'm not trying to talk myself into this pick at all. No way!
The Cowboys on the other hand just remain an enigma per the usual. While Terrell Owens departure will surely be felt, it probably isn't going to make THAT much of a difference considering how old he was getting and how often he dropped passes that hit him square in the hands. I'm not saying the guy wasn't a game breaker and an occasional game changer or anything, but I AM saying that he's a diva who whines like a little biatch when things don't go his way. And how quickly we've all forgotten about Roy Williams! His skills were overshadowed a bit with the arrival of Calvin "The Freak" Johnson, but from what I remember of him, he used to be pretty good.
All the Cowboys doom and gloom can stop. They're going to be fine. And even if they DON'T turn out okay this season, all that really means is that we can all rejoice and dance around because who DOESN'T love to see the Cowboys lose and then subsequently make fun of Cowboys fans right after? Seriously! Who's with me! Anybody? No?
The Giants are still the Giant, sans Plaxico Burress, which, to ME, is a pretty big sans. He was there best receiver and played a HUGE role in their Super Bowl win. So there's that. It's up in the air as to how it's really going to affect them. I personally can't wait to see Brandon Jacobs pound the rock though – it's truly a joy to see him run the football and also run full grown men flat over. Good times!
As for the Eagles, I just get the feeling that they're on the decline rather than on the up-and-up. Brian Westbrook is going to lose his magical powers sometime soon and I'm projecting that it least starts this season.
All in all though, this could be McNabb's last hurrah in an Eagles uniform and while I picked them to finish last, I'm not going to be double-taking if McNabb starts slinging balls left and right and sixty yards downfield. No matter what happens, we can be sure that the NFC Beast will live up to its billing as one of the most tough, exciting, and action packed divisions throughout all of the league. Plus, you can call it the NFC Beast which is just hilarity in its purest form. '
1. Cardinals (10-6)
2. 49ers (8-8)
3. Seahawks (7-9)
4. Rams (4-12)
The only certainty in the NFC West this coming season: It will, in fact, RAIN in Seattle. Write it down!Wild card/Sleeper team of the division: Do I have to? Uhmm... well... if I HAD to pick a sleeper team – like if you had a gun to my head and I HAD to pick a sleeper team – I guess I'd take the Niners. 'Cause Mike Singletary is the man and will have them playing their hearts out each and every week. Too bad they don't have a steady QB option though -- unless of course, you consider Damon Huard a steady QB. HAHAHA!
Now that the Seahawks' marathon streak of winning the NFC West – which lasted what... 42 straight years in a row or something – has been broken, the NFC West is at least worth following now. Well, maybe not the Rams but we can still hope can't we? Hey, I wonder If Marc Bulger will be out of the concussion section of the St. Louis Hospital in time to start the season. What? Have the Marc Bulger has a horrible offensive line jokes and gets concussions and breaks his ribs all of the time jokes been done to death? LIES! Some jokes just never get old!
The Cardinals look to be the juggernaut that will take the divisional crown this year, but as we all know, this is the NFL and in the NFL, we're always a split second away from someone's MCL, ACL, TCL, ZCL or ABCDEFG getting torn apart or severed. One of those injuries to Fitzgerald and bam – we might start thinking someone else has a chance in the division. Maybe...
But for now, it's looking like the Cardinals got it on lockdown unless Matt Hasselbeck bounces back and greedily snatches the crown back once again for the Seahawks. Knowing Matt Hasselbeck though, I wouldn't put that past him at all. He seems like a very greedy person.
The 49ers are definitely a wild card and a promising prospect for a deep sleeper pick if ONLY because Mike Singletary is the MAN! They need to fix the QB situation though because no matter how much heart and ferocity everyone else is playing with, that same heart and ferocity can't complete passes and throw for touchdowns. Surprising, I know, but trust me -- it's true!
The Rams could potentially come out of nowhere and surprise everyone but I'm convinced that Marc Bulger cannot and will not drop back to pass anymore WITHOUT preparing himself for broken ribs, a broken hand, or just a good old concussion. Good job offensive line! Way to fail your job in such a RIDICULOUSLY pathetic way that you may have mentally scarred your poor QB for life.
Definitely a good two years at the office for you guys though, and by good, I mean absolutely, positively, horrifically, disgustingly bad. Good thing they brought in some new blood that hopefully understands that they're job is to PROTECT the QB – not let him become a weekly staple at the local emergency room every Sunday night.
I understand that sacks are unfortunately a part of the game, but the poor guy went through TWO years in a row where he wasn't just sacked often, but he was sacked by people who were very often no longer being held back by the lineman. AKA he got hit HARD when he got sacked.
I hope the offensive line is successfully patched up at long last and we can finally see the Marc Bulger of old. But I just highly, highly doubt it. I don't know why.
Translation: He's not coming anywhere NEAR my fantasy squad. Sorry, Marc. You burn me once? Shame's on your offensive line. You burn me twice? Shame's on your offensive line. You burn me THRICE? Nice try offensive line but I'm going to make fun of your torrid performances until the day that I no longer want to anymore.
Revenge at its finest!
Stay tuned for the AFC focused Part 2... sometime in the next few days. So stay tuned!