Now that every team has played at least 8 games (and a handful have played 9), I think it would be nice to dust off the old crystal ball and see if I can’t predict records the rest of the way.
So listed below is my projected order of finish. The first record for each team is their current record, and the second is my prediction for where they stand after week 17.
It’ll make sense when you see it.
AFC EAST: 1. New England (6-2, 12-4, will shake off the Cleveland game, because Bill Belichick won’t be having that), 2. New York Jets (6-2, 11-5, not consistent enough to be true contenders), 3. Miami Dolphins (4-4, 9-7, I’m stretching it perhaps now that Pennington is in), 4. Buffalo (0-8, 1-15, “So, Mr. Locker, do you like hockey and snow?”)
[adinserter block=”2″]AFC NORTH: 1. Pittsburgh (6-2, 13-3, will have a dominant stretch run and crush everything in sight), 2. Baltimore (6-2, 11-5, Flacco is a turnover liability and that won’t help in December), 3. Cleveland (3-5, 6-10, keep playing good teams tough and this Holmgren/Mangini marriage shows promise), 4. Cincinnati (2-6, 4-12, between Carson Palmer‘s mistakes and the overhyped receiver duo, changes are afoot)
AFC SOUTH: 1. Indianapolis (5-3, 11-5, snare the division despite all of the team’s injuries), 2. Tennessee (5-3, 10-6, I’m not convinced that Randy Moss makes them a better team), 3. Houston (4-4, 8-8, miss the playoffs and you can get Gary Kubiak a bottle of resume polish), 4. Jacksonville (4-4, 7-9, unfortunately, they don’t have eight straight games against Dallas coming up)
AFC WEST: 1. Kansas City (5-3, 10-6, team will play better when they see the fire beneath them getting hotter), 2. Oakland (5-4, 8-8, weaker second half, but the team and fans have renewed hope for 2011), 3. San Diego (4-5, 8-8, Norv’s comeback attempt falls short and he’ll look for coordinator jobs), 4. Denver (2-6, 3-13, “Mr. Belichick, former coach McDaniels on line one”)
PLAYOFFS: 1. Pittsburgh, 2. New England, 3. Indianapolis, 4. Kansas City, 5. Baltimore, 6. New York Jets
AFC CHAMPION: New England Patriots
NFC EAST: 1. New York Giants (6-2, 12-4, playing with one collective brain like an efficient machine), 2. Philadelphia (5-3, 11-5, if Vick stays healthy, there’s no reason they can’t contend), 3. Washington (4-4, 7-9, Donovan McNabb‘s confidence will be found in the spring, crumbled up behind a dryer), 4. Dallas (1-7, 5-11, Garrett will drill his team into winning so he can take the job)
NFC NORTH: 1. Green Bay (6-3, 11-5, will still take first despite Rodgers’ down year), 2. Chicago (5-3, 9-7, exit Lovie, enter Martz), 3. Minnesota (3-5, 7-9, playing for themselves, they’ll win a few, but manage to oust Childress), 4. Detroit (2-6, 5-11, baby steps, but they’re getting there)
NFC SOUTH: 1. New Orleans (6-3, 12-4, if anyone can almost run the table through January, it’s the reawakened Drew Brees), 2. Atlanta (6-2, 11-5, injuries are beginning to pile up for an otherwise dominant team), 3. Tampa Bay (5-3, 9-7, a few tough losses will end the team’s improbable run), 4. Carolina (1-7, 3-13, Dallas may get all the credit, but here’s the real worst team in the NFC)
NFC WEST: 1. St. Louis (4-4, 9-7, Sam Bradford is the General Sherman of bad teams), 2. Seattle (4-4, 7-9, starting to resemble their old selves), 3. Arizona (3-5, 6-10, Kurt Warner’s a phone call away, guys), 4. San Francisco (2-6, 6-10, a hard fought late push may not be enough to save Singletary’s job)
PLAYOFFS: 1. New Orleans, 2. New York Giants, 3. Green Bay, 4. St. Louis, 5. Philadelphia, 6. Atlanta
NFC CHAMPION: New Orleans Saints
SUPER BOWL: New Orleans 31, New England 21
But for right now, let’s stick with the present.
In said present, I went 9-4 on the week this past week to continue my healthy season. I don’t know what’s worse: watching New England melt like the wicked witch, or having my upset pick Miami let me down to the point where they’ve gone and done the ‘Do Si Chad’. But that’s the past and, like Mark McGwire, I’m not here to talk about the past.
Onto the future!
WEEK 9: 9-4
FOR THE YEAR: 79-51
14. New York Giants over Dallas
While I feel Jason Garrett will gnash his teeth and aggressively drive the Cowboys to more wins than they’ve seen so far, it’s not going to happen this week. The Cowboys are still trying to figure out their new identity, and they won’t magically find it when the Giants are trying to vie for a chance at home field. It’s going to end up a massacre, as the Giants have doled out lately to hapless foes, but Dallas shouldn’t get discouraged. Garrett’s not going to quit on them.
SCORE: Giants 38, Cowboys 14
13. Indianapolis over Cincinnati
How can a team have such great receiving totals, and yet be so bad? If Carson Palmer were a dodgeball player, his contacts would fall out everytime a ball came whizzing at him at 120 MPH, because no player has ever had such bad luck at the worst times. At least with Indy’s bad luck (their rash of injuries that makes one wonder if a New Orleans priest DID curse them at the Super Bowl), they still manage to win, or at least make the games close. For that reason, if the usual Carson Palmer shows up, give it to Indy.
SCORE: Colts 27, Bengals 10
12. Kansas City over Denver
Time to widen the gap between first and last. Broncos fans would be best served to chant “WE WANT NOLAN!” at Sunday’s game, and the best times would be when Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones are running it through the Swiss cheese defense. Josh McDaniels attempts to imitate Bill Belichick are flattering, but nowhere near accurate, and I’d be surprised if he still had a job come January. As for KC, after the tough loss to Oakland, their other two division rivals are off for the week, so now’s a good chance to pull further ahead.
SCORE: Chiefs 27, Broncos 14
11. Tampa Bay over Carolina
Those Buccaneers almost upended the Falcons at home, which would have really thrown my NFC South projection out of whack. Though the loss stings, they get a nice chance to make up for it against the lousy Panthers. Although I don’t have Tampa making the playoffs, it’s amazing how fast their division became the AFC East: a popularly dominant team (Pats/Saints), an up-and-comer who’ll contend (Jets/Falcons), a turd (Bills/Panthers), and a good team who’s trapped in a tough division (Dolphins/Bucs). Poor Tampa. They still have a chance though, but I think it’s narrow.
SCORE: Buccaneers 24, Panthers 10
10. St. Louis over San Francisco
When a running back breaks through the line and sees all the secondary players engaged by the sidelines, what does he find? Open field! The Rams have a chance to run away with this division, especially if Seattle continues spinning its wheels. The 49ers may have an interesting ace up their sleeve with Troy Smith, and he did end up spanking Denver, but will that be enough to rattle St. Louis’ confidence and excitement? I don’t think so, at least not this week.
SCORE: Rams 27, 49ers 17
[adinserter block=”1″]9. Philadelphia over Washington
Suddenly, that speech Donovan McNabb gave back on October 3 about the Philadelphia Eagles making a big mistake trading him looks kind of laughable. Between the Eagles upending the AFC Champion Colts, and the Redskins having internal issues between McNabb and the Shanahan family, it looks like the balance is shifting just a tad. If Michael Vick plays the whole game, and the Washington Redskins don’t get off to a fast start, you’re going to see a far different result from six weeks ago.
SCORE: Eagles 31, Redskins 17
8. Chicago over Minnesota
After reading the anonymous Viking’s comment about the team trying to win for themselves, not Childress, I may be tempted to go back on this. Perhaps I’d consider it more, given the heart-stopping win that the Vikes put up Sunday on Arizona. But really, with the Bears needing to build on something, and the fact that it’s a home game, I think you’ll see extra pressure on Brett Favre. The Vikings are starting to resemble a good team again in some respects, but leave it to those Bears to undercut them.
SCORE: Bears 21, Vikings 13
7. Seattle over Arizona
Well, someone’s got to win. Whether it’s Seattle, who now realize that special teams don’t win Super Bowls, or the Cardinals who were dialing Kurt Warner’s phone the second Tom Bergeron announced his elimination on Dancing with the Stars, you have two teams in desperation mode. I’ll go with Seattle, because their special teams alone could easily beat a hapless Cardinals team. If I’m Matt Hasselbeck, I have the sad realization that of the four top quarterbacks in that stadium, I’m the best one.
SCORE: Seahawks 23, Cardinals 13
6. Jacksonville over Houston
Give me a good reason why not? The Texans simply can’t finish off opponents, and their defense let San Diego stomp them at inopportune times. So I figure if Jacksonville can play mistake free, they can pull this one out. Secretly, I’m hoping that Maurice Jones-Drew repeats what he did to one roided-up clown (Shawne Merriman) to another (Brian Cushing) and knocks them on their keister. It’s about the only thing that would make me take interest here.
SCORE: Jaguars 24, Texans 17
5. Baltimore over Atlanta
By the time you read this, we’ll know if I was right or wrong. Despite Matt Ryan’s apparent infallibility at home, he’s never had to play the Ravens there. Ray Lewis loves a challenge, and you know he’s champing at the bit to worsen Ryan’s home record. Both teams have been inconsistent at times, and yet remain strong Super Bowl contenders. In a close game, I’d take the Ravens, just because I feel Roddy White’s knee injury is going to make the Ravens’ approach even more aggressive.
SCORE: Ravens 20, Falcons 14
4. Miami over Tennessee
Randy Moss reminds me of a lyric from Johnny Cash’s “Thirteen”: “I was born to bring trouble wherever I’m at”. The Titans certainly wanted to keep their deep threat option going with Kenny Britt sidelined, but is Moss really going to bring a positive attitude to his third team this season? At least the Dolphins, through tough losses, are a cohesive unit, especially on defense. As long as Chad Pennington (yes, he’s back) can prevent turnovers that give Tennessee half a field to work with, they can sneak out with a victory.
SCORE: Dolphins 21, Titans 17
3. New England over Pittsburgh
This game will go a long way in shaping the AFC picture. On the one hand, you have a Steelers team that started strong, but withered against New Orleans and almost let the Bengals back into Monday’s game. On the other side, you have a strong Patriots team that let Eric Mangini take a vengeful dump all over them. For two teams that are among the best of the AFC, they’ve been slipping a bit, and I don’t think either can really afford to lose this game. It’s a toss-up, but I’d give it to the Patriots because A) Belichick is steaming mad over letting Mangini beat him and B) Steelers had the shorter prep week.
SCORE: Patriots 26, Steelers 23
2. Buffalo over Detroit
It’s now or never, Buffalo. You have the Lions that struggle to beat good teams, though they fight to the bitter end. Lately, the Bills have played three solid-to-good teams tough (Baltimore, Kansas City, Chicago), and they remind me of the 2000 Chargers, who went 0-10, and lost a bunch of games by 10 points or less before upending the Chiefs, with America pulling for them. It’s weird having two teams who we like for sentimental underdog reasons, and it’s weird that Detroit is the one we’re rooting against. If the Lions win, they may certainly have company in the 0-16 club.
SCORE: Bills 17, Lions 16
1. Cleveland over New York Jets
It may not be so much of an upset after week one of the “Eric Mangini Revenge Tour” saw a throttling of the Patriots. The second part sees Mangini pitted against his other ex-team, as well as Ryan vs. Ryan. Rob Ryan knows his brother’s tendencies, and you know Mangini’s had the desk lamp in his face all week, grilling him for information. If the Jets defense looks any bit ineffective, now you know why. In the end, Colt McCoy leads the Browns to victory, simply because nobody’s solved his code yet. A victory here bodes VERY well for Mangini being back next year.
SCORE: Browns 21, Jets 20
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