My 2010 NFL Predictions

My 2010 NFL Predictions
M.D. Wright

It’s about that time! Time for the prognosticators, the haters who can’t be subjective, the realists who can criticize their team’s own players as harshly as they can the team they hate most and all the talking head to roll out their division-by-division breakdowns. So in that vein, here are mine.

As those of you know, I never predict who wins the Super Bowl, because it’s really hard to say how things will play out. Maybe one year I will finally do it ha.

Here is how I see the standings play out:

AFC East
New York Jets (11-5).
The Jets are loaded on defense, and once Santonio Holmes returns from his 4-game suspension, the Jets have a solid WR corps and their running game. They may be SOMEWHAT overhyped (this will always be a Giants town, and most people, even some Jet fans, will admit this), but to think they won’t win the division and won’t have a nice playoff run — with or without Revis — is just foolish.

Miami Dolphins (10-6).
They’re flying below the surface on the east coast because of the Jets’ hype and the simmering negotiation talks between the Patriots and Tom Brady, but the Dolphins have quietly built a solid team since Bill Parcells’ arrival. Their QB situation is questionable, but otherwise, on both sides of the ball, the Dolphins are solid, if not unspectacular. And they can beat anyone on almost any day in any area and that’s about the best compliment you can pay a team.

New England Patriots (9-7).
Oh they’ll have a good offense, but given how this will be Randy Moss’ last season in Foxborough and very well possibly Brady’s as well, you have a sense of urgency for them. However, that doesn’t translate to the defense, because they’re really not that good on that side of the ball. And this record prediction is fair, given their offense is good enough to win 12, but their defense is average at best, and will let them down 2-3 times. Not a hard prediction and has nothing to do with my distaste for the team.

Buffalo Bills (4-12).
They’ve done nothing to improve this team, from their wacky GM who is a wannabe funnyman, to the coaching situation, to personnel. Their rookie RB draft pick is already their best player. That tells you that you have a bad team.

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens (12-4).
To me, they’re the team to beat outside of Indianapolis in the AFC. Too often, people base their “predictions” solely off LAST YEAR. That is erroneous at best. The Ravens lost 4 games in the last minute last year, including two games where their WRs dropped game winning touchdowns. Think about that. They’ve improved their offense immensely this offseason, and while their secondary is worrisome and Ray Lewis’ age (35) being a real issue now (Bradshaw ran right by him last week in a play that Ray would’ve ENVELOPED 5 years ago), I believe they’re still better than everyone in the AFC besides Indianapolis.

Cincinnati Bengals (10-6).
The Bengals won’t be great, because I just don’t think Carson Palmer ever was/is/will be all that. He’s DECENT, but he’s had better WR corps than he has this year and barely did anything with it (granted their defense was awful at the time, and it is borderline stellar now). The Bengals can potentially be lethal on both sides of the ball, but their offense will sputter early, surge in the middle of the season and collapse late, as Terrell Owens’ career ends with him yelling at Carson in a blowout that costs the Bengals the 6 seed in the AFC playoff race.

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7).
I love how people rate them so highly. I don’t care what Leftwich and Dixon have done in the preseason, they’re not going to win games for this team. Their running game is only average. They’re already missing Willie Colon, probably their best lineman. Roethlisberger is going to miss 4 games (should be 8 or the entire season — and yet he’s pleading to have it reduced after getting a slap on the wrist with the 4 games to begin with, since THAT was reduced from 6), their WR situation took a major hit, whether they will accept it or not. Santonio Holmes is the reason Roethlisberger and his supporters can even make the “Ben has 2 rings, though” statement. The other main reason? James Harrison — who looks dumb old now. They may be getting Polamalu back 100%, but I don’t believe in their defense being dominant like it once was. And they will have to pass the ball much less than they did last year in order to be effective. Injuries aside, that was the main reason they were middling last year. Rashard Mendenhall is nothing special at RB, so what is the justification for the prognosticators picking them so highly? 9-7 is on point.

Cleveland Browns (3-13).
They have no quarterback. The end.

AFC South
Indianapolis Colts (16-0).
The Colts are like a Maserati. Their consistency is so boring. Their precision is world-class. Their haters (follow the analogy), wish they had a machine this fluid, and hate the driver and the team is taken for granted in many circles because the expectations have been so Super Bowl-or-Bust for the past decade. Nevertheless, their division is not a cakewalk. The Texans have given them fights the past 3 seasons, the Titans always play them tough (but never score enough) and the same for Jacksonville. The Colts just know what it takes to win. And while the detractors are quick to dismiss the “Any Given Sunday” nature of the NFL, they have to admit that with an MLB format, the Colts are the equivalent to the late 90s Yankees. I don’t even need to mention their players and who does what, because they’re all back, PLUS guys who missed nearly all of 2009 from the team that made it to the Super Bowl when people figured they probably were short-handed.

Jim Caldwell blinks his eyes on the sideline for once this year, and he learns from last year and doesn’t “rest” his starters this time.

Houston Texans (11-5)*.
The asterisk is for their relative health. Schaub is always hurt every year it seems. The one year he was healthy, Johnson was dinged up quite a bit. Now their defense has caught up a bit. The Texans can score with anyone; especially at home. They’re a fun team to watch unless they’re playing YOUR guys.

Tennessee Titans (10-6).
Vince knows how to win. But here’s what you have to realize about this team: their defense is a joke. They miss Haynesworth. And they just let the other guy who made any real plays on the defensive line (Vanden Bosch) go to Detroit. Their back seven has a couple of playmakers, but if you have to cover guys for 5 seconds every other passing play, I don’t care WHO you are, you’re going to struggle.

That leads to more Vince keepers, running plays and having to pass more to come from behind (which the Titans will do quite a bit of in 2010). Chris Johnson will have to settle with 60% of his ridiculous goal, which is still a good number. But 2,500 yards rushing only comes from having a dominant defense, playing with a lead 90% of the time or more and being blessed with exceptional endurance to carry the ball the requisite 400 times that it will require to be able to do that.

The last guy to carry the ball 400 times immediately tore his ACL and was never the same the year afterward.

Jacksonville Jaguars (7-9).
Del Rio’s swan song. They haven’t gotten better. Their defense is as bland as it can get outside of Rashean Mathis. Their offense is dull outside of Maurice Jones-Drew. Hard to understand what the Jaguars’ goal is; winning a division or doing what their NFC South twins, the Atlanta Falcons have already done the past two seasons: PER-FECT MEDIOCRITY.

AFC West
Oakland Raiders (10-6).
Most people fail to realize how many games the Raiders lost to awful officiating and last second blunders last year. They could have very well won 9 games last year. Seriously. And that’s not even considering JaMarcus Russell. Their defense is very good, not great. But their offense will have some stability this year. They have one of the better tight ends in the game and their running game by committee may preserve the oft-injured whole lot of them.

San Diego Chargers (10-6).
People are way too high on them. They’re about as top-heavy as a team can get. Have people truly looked at their roster defensively? They have Shaun Phillips, who is by no means a game-changer and Quentin Jammer, who is solid, but nothing exceptional. Shawne Merriman looks like he’s three steps slow since coming off steroids. Jamal Williams’ exit hurts what was a stellar defense two years ago. They were a sieve at times last year, but now they’ve gotten rid of several of the players who made them great (Antonio Cromartie being another) and they haven’t improved the positions that were already weaknesses even before.

They’re pass-happy, and if Ryan Mathews doesn’t get off to a good start, they’re going to be in a lot of 38-34 games (hopefully not with Ed Hochuli’s crew calling the game).

And yet the Bolts are my 2nd team and I’m saying this. However, I get accused of biases? Laughable.

Kansas City Chiefs (7-9).
They can make some leaps this year. They’re not really good in any area, but they were terribly nicked up all over the place last year. And 7-9 is “not really good” territory, so… yeah.

Denver Broncos (5-11).
Josh McDaniels’ wannabe Bill Belichick act might have crossed the line by trying to make an example out of WR Brandon Marshall, then as an added “stick it to him (pause — I assume for McDaniel — I hope, anyway ha)” goes and gives a guy who toes the company line a huge contract, only for him to possibly miss the season with a freak shoulder injury. Orton won’t have another ’09. They don’t have Marshall for one. They have a bunch of misfit, short WRs running around. And since they gave away TE Tony Scheffler also, they will be breaking in another player new to their offense.

Yet and still, Champ Bailey might still be the best overall cornerback in every facet of the position (and as a former CB, I am allowed to speak authoritatively about this) in the NFL and never says a word about his stupid organization wasting the last couple of his prime years with a coach possessing a Napoleonic Complex. Pitiful. All to pull rank and show Who’s Boss, you throw a season away, when you learned some things over the first half of ’09 that could have been built upon in 0’10.

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys (12-4).
Just imagine if they actually had a coach. Wade Phillips always looks like he just found out he missed the last bus out of Texarkana and whoever gets left behind gets hung by his thumbs then raked over hot coals. Is that what you want as coach, a yes-man with no clue outside of his 3-4 defense, Jerry? The Cowboys have a chance to seize the moment. The NFC is wide open (Saints are the worst of one hit wonders, just watch this year — because they THINK they were good more than they were LUCKY last year) and the Cowboys could have the best offense in the conference. But their defense is shaky in my eyes. Their LB corps is going to get beat quite a bit. That nullifies the three real playmakers they have on that side of the ball: DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff and Mike Jenkins, because they’re going to be too busy rushing the QB, trying to stuff the run and in coverage downfield (respectively) to check on those underneath plays. In other words, the Cowboys’ D is going to look a lot like the Giants’ defense did just before the Giants officially quit on former Defensive Coordinator Bill Sheridan in the first Philadelphia game. A lot of bending, a lot of “uncharacteristic” missed plays and tons of yards given up underneath and down the seams. But their offense can be potentially LETHAL (even with a joke of a left tackle protecting QB Tony Romo’s blind side).

New York Football Giants (11-5).
Not going to write much, because I’ve written about the Jints extensively this offseason. Eli returns all the play makers he had last year, plus Jacobs and Bradshaw are healthy — they were both truly INJURED and played through it all last season. The Giants’ only concern offensively is their Center situation. Shaun O’Hara was showing signs that he was about at the end of the line during last season when he got pushed around like a midtown turnstile during peak hour. That was the reason the running game faltered — for those of you fake “experts” who parrot what the ESPN talking heads say. Take it from those of us who watch every second of all 16 games and we’ll tell you the real issues.

New Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell has been holding his cards all preseason, so all judgment about the defense (especially naysayers who think ’09 has anything whatsoever to do with 0’10, considering an actual scheme in place, key players healthy for once and bolstered secondary) has to be withheld until a meaningful game — aka revenge vs. the Flying Matt Moores Week 1 — is played.

Washington Redskins (7-9).
McNabb has looked shaky all offseason. I expected more from a Shanahan offense, but he has a bunch of has-been at RB. Not good. Their defense is actually very good, but in recent seasons (and this one won’t be much better, just slightly) they spend FAR too much time on the field to be as effective as they can potentially be. Makes for a 7-9 team.

Philadelphia Eagles (6-10).
Too much youth at far too many positions. They have exactly two playmakers on defense, one of whom can be taken away with blocking schemes (Cole). Their linebackers are a joke. You used to fear the Eagles and their defense, because they’d blitz every down if the late Jim Johnson so pleased. And they loved to do it. Like Carl Banks said tonight (criticizing the Giants for blowing a blitz opportunity), it’s “like free steak!”

But those days are gone. Ernie Sims (FROM???) is their best LB and he is one of those freelance guys who has always been out of position since he entered the NFL.

Too much inexperience and far too many expectations being thrust upon your unproven QB and RB who hasn’t logged a full season of carries, but will be forced to do so for the most part in 2010? DeSean Jackson had his fun in ’09, but will not be sneaking up on anyone for big games this year. They live for the big play too much, don’t run the ball frequently enough to be effective in sustaining drives. And unless Kolb shows something that he hasn’t yet — i.e. exhibiting some McNabb-in-his-prime type ability, this team is going to lose a few because of youth alone, and because the top two teams in the division are simply better and more talented than them, and they won’t be a good road team. 6-10.

NFC North
Minnesota Vikings (12-4).
I do not like Brett Favre. But he’s going to prove why he’s so regular-season good (yes, that is a subtle jab at him, for those who are slow). They’re going to be missing his favorite target, young Sidney Rice, for half the season. Enter old, but still YOUNG Javon Walker (he’s only 31 — even though he was nearly BEATEN TO DEATH two years ago and out of football last year). Favre has rapport with him and their defense can get one more year out of Fat Pat before it’s going to be time to replace him. Out of both conferences, the two teams whose window to win is RIGHT NOW OR NEVER, as presently constructed — are the Vikings and Patriots. Favre most certainly won’t be back regardless of what happens after this season and aforementioned with New England, Randy Moss is almost certainly not going back to Foxborough and Tom Brady might even be gone (unless the Patriots do something un-Patriot-esque and actually dole out big money to a guy who will indeed be 34 when his new contract kicks in).

But the Vikes will get a 1,700 yard season with young AD and their defense will be healthy — remember they missed Antoine Winfield for vital parts of games at times last year.

Green Bay Packers (11-5).
Their defense is not as good as the stats indicate. Woodson is getting long in the tooth. Typically, the great ones have that one upshoot in stats before they begin to decline rapidly. He’ll be solid this year, but in 2011, LOOK OUT. Al Harris gets burned more than Elvis Patterson, although Pack fans won’t admit it. Their secondary is legit, though. Their linebackers are nothing special, although Nick Barnett thinks he is. They get sacks, though, and that’s what makes them look better than they do. Not even an ALL-TIME WORST Giants (and I’m not exaggerating; I’ve been a Giants fan all my life and I’ve talked to Giants fans who are in their 70 and they say that was by FAR the worst Giants’ D they’ve ever seen, even the late 60s and 70s teams weren’t THAT horrid) D from ’09 ever gave up 51 points last year. C’mon son!

Offensively, they can do it. Rodgers can pass for 5,000 yards this year. No joke. And do it with ease. Plus 400-500 rushing and 35 overall TDs. And for my fantasy teams’ sake, I hope he does. But while that will definitely win them 11 games, their defense couldn’t shut down the other teams that are in that 27-32 PPG echelon (Saints, Cowboys, Giants, Vikings — all playoff teams this upcoming season).

Detroit Lions (7-9).
They escape the cellar for the first time in years, which results in bragging rights against the Bears, but that’s about it. Not playoff-ready yet. They have some pieces in place, however. I love what their GM is doing — the first SMART one they’ve had in my lifetime. They have a good QB-RB-TE-WR thing going, and Sweet Lou Delmas is going to be good on defense. Ndamoku Suh might end up being a combination of a more trim/fit/but just as dominant prime-Gilbert Brown and Big Cat Leon Lett. And for guys who love to hold onto the ball too long (yes, Rodgers, I’m talking about YOU), LOOK OUT.

Give them another season and they’re playoff-bound, as the Vikes come crashing down to 9-7 post-Favre.

Chicago Bears (5-11).
They’ve given me no reason whatsoever to be excited about them. Cutler is Cutler. He’s set in his ways. He’s a poor man’s Favre, and he’s going to throw 20+ INTs because he thinks he can fit passes where they shouldn’t be going. That’s what guys with arms do. That’s what us guys with speed do, we’ll spot a guy 5 steps or try to steal a base, or lolly-gag in a trot (like Deion Sanders used to do, and STILL catch up and get INTs DEAR GOD), because we think they can compensate with ability. Cutler is not gonna change. Favre hasn’t, at age 41, why would Cutler?

The Bears have a solid, but not GREAT RB, and their defense is full of names, all of whom are oft-injured, past-their-prime, or just don’t care. NFL heads know who each one of the three those are I am talking about.

Knock it off with the playoff talk.

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons (10-6).
More mediocrity this year, but they’re healthy unlike last year. I think they can run the ball (three RBs!) enough to take pressure off Ryan and needing to make 20 plays a game. Their WRs are decent, not great. And they’re smallish on both lines. That is part of the reason they’re nothing special. The key about them is they know their roles and should have beaten the Saints twice last season (for those who watched the games, they know this is true).

New Orleans Saints (10-6).
Oh, they’ll still score, but that defense is NOT as good as it looked last year. And you can’t come onto the field saying “Well, we KNOW we’re gonna get 3 takeaways per game” (which is what they did last year on average), because it just doesn’t happen that way. No one on that team is THAT good to be reliant upon such occurrences this season. Darren Sharper is smart and a ball hawk, but he’s also 35 and long in the tooth like Bugs Bunny. You look at that team individually and as a unit and you scratch your head to figure out how they pulled that off last year.

Given how many games the refs out and out GAVE them last year (Redskins, the luckfest vs. Miami, taking 17 points from the Giants during a period of the game where it was still a one-score game, crucial last second mistakes by Atlanta), and knowing they won’t get nearly 50 takeaways again, 10-6 fits.

Carolina Panthers (8-8).
Ha. The Flying Matt Moores. I dare you to name 3 defensive starters for them. Or even 3 starters for them outside of the aforementioned and the world renown Steve-89. And I’m spotting you the RBs, so you just gotta name one.

I ain’t think you could do it.

And people think this team is going to actually make the playoffs, beat the Giants Week 1, and have a better record than the Giants ha?

I’m being NICE with 8-8. 2-6 with Moore, 6-2 (somehow) with Clausen.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9).
Give Morris a chance to bring in his own regime. He spent last year playing with 80% of Gruden’s former players. He got rid of a couple more this week and his implemented his own system. They get an incomplete.

Josh Freeman might have the biggest arm (in terms of throwing distance) in the NFL. And he’s actually playing pretty well. They have a ways to go defensively, though. They’ll be in EVERY game.

NFC West
San Francisco 49ers (10-6).
It’s their division to lose. They’re not even that good, but you don’t have to be with their division opponents.

Seattle Seahawks (8-8).
The Seabags will be “better” than last year, but truthfully, they just don’t have anything on defense that is going to help them get over that 2-win hump they’d need to be a playoff team and actually win a playoff game. Matthew Hasselbeck’s days are numbered.

Arizona Cardinals (5-11).
Talk about REAL MVPs. I touted Kurt last year, and you’re about to see why he was their MVP (if not the LEAGUE’S) this year. Talk about teams landing with a thud after a playoff run the prior year. It’s one thing for the Giants to go thud out of nowhere, because it made no sense. But the Cards — are universally EXPECTED to falter this year.

However, with the NFL, they could fool us all and still win the divsion.

I’m going with my gut though. 5-11.

St. Louis Rams (5-11).
Sam Bradford may make those of us who have called him a bust before he even played a PRESEASON game — look like fools. Or maybe he won’t. He’ll benefit from Steven Jackson a bit, but they are sorely missing playmakers on both sides of the ball. They get an incomplete also.

I just wonder if Spags will come back to New York once Coughlin retires…


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