It’s the regular season finale, and almost nobody is locked into place (except for my Philadelphia Eagles, making this coming week rather moot). I must admit, though, the crap games look fun in a “Maybe they’ll beat the crap out of each other for pride” sense.
Beyond that, it’s almost playoff time, and while the word may infuriate Jim Mora, it excites the rest of us. Until, of course, our teams fall one by one, giving one team the Vince Lombardi Trophy, while the rest of the fans grit their teeth and say “we’re so happy for you”.
In 2004 and 2005, an ad ran during halftime of both Super Bowls, with various players and coaches who had long since been eliminated sang “Tomorrow” from Annie. And the ad would end with the words “AS OF TOMORROW, WE’RE ALL UNDEFEATED” imposed on the screen.
And it’s true. February 8 marks a new day for all 32 NFL teams. So with that in mind, I’m going to look into my crystal ball and predict not just week 17 of 2010, but every team’s outlook for 2011.
I’m sure I’ll be wrong on all of them, but what the hell? Let’s have fun!
(NOTE: This is contingent on the Collective Bargaining Agreement being re-ratified, and that’s dependent on the players and owners not being jackwads. So if there’s no NFL season, disregard 80% of this column.)
FOR THE YEAR: 154-86
16. Indianapolis over Tennessee
2011 Colts: The team will go 14-2 or 15-1, because, SHOCKER, the slew of injuries that almost killed them this season won’t happen again. I mean, what are the odds, right?
2011 Titans: Will threaten to make the playoffs, but will fall just short, despite the efforts of Vince Young and first year head coach (insert name of any offensive coordinator under 40 years old who gets hired on the Mike Tomlin/Jon Gruden principle)
Game: Colts need it, and Peyton Manning is going to will them into it. If not, his teammates will be strapped to chairs and made to endure an endless loop of Manning’s commercials like some football version of A Clockwork Orange.
SCORE: Colts 37, Titans 13
15. Atlanta over Carolina
2011 Falcons: After falling just short in the NFC Title game at home, the Falcons go out and get a big name receiver (maybe Randy Moss) to compliment Roddy White, and it inadvertently kills the team. Maybe 9-7, but it’s a far cry from 13-3.
2011 Panthers: Andrew Luck starts by week 6; Jimmy Clausen gets traded to the Vikings to back up Joe Webb “in case something goes wrong” (NOTE: Leslie Frazier is praying to God that nothing goes wrong).
Game: The Falcons can get home field with a win. Therefore, they win.
SCORE: Falcons 34, Panthers 10
14. Baltimore over Cincinnati
2011 Ravens: Ray Lewis suffers an injury that’ll relegate him to a status far below his personal standard (“mere mortal”) and retires after the season. The defense takes years to get back to form.
2011 Bengals: Jordan Shipley and a new wideout (Derek Hagan of the Giants?) surprise the NFL with their versatility, reminding everyone that having faith in Chad Ocho Cinco was a dumb idea.
Game: Ravens have a better chance of winning their division game than Pittsburgh, in what will likely be Marvin Lewis’ swan song.
SCORE: Ravens 31, Bengals 14
13. Pittsburgh over Cleveland
2011 Steelers: Big Ben lives down the controversies and becomes a better man for it. That’s what separates Ben from most criminals: he’s not evil, he’s just horny. There’s a slight difference.
2011 Browns: Colt McCoy, Peyton Hillis, and Joshua Cribbs begin an offensive renaissance for their new head coach, current Seahawks offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates.
Game: Remember how I said Ravens had an easier chance to win than the Steelers? It isn’t THAT much easier.
SCORE: Steelers 31, Browns 17
12. New York Jets over Buffalo
2011 Jets: *spins the Jets controversy wheel* Mark Sanchez……illegitimate father……mother was a liberal arts major at USC…..reveals that Sanchez likes having his nipples tugged on. Quick, alert the NY Daily News! (In case you’re wondering, the wheel is spun every 3-4 months)
2011 Bills: Put it like this: as long as they don’t bungle the draft, and they get players who fit seamlessly, don’t be shocked if they actually threaten to win the division (a la Tampa Bay, Oakland, and Seattle this year). Someone has to have that “surprise surge”, right?
Game: I get the feeling Rex Ryan’s going to grill the Jets into ‘overperforming’ in order to get momentum going into the playoffs. I also think it’ll come back to haunt them.
SCORE: Jets 28, Bills 13
11. New Orleans over Tampa Bay
2011 Saints: Once Drew Brees recovers from his severed spinal cord that he incurs in the playoffs (THE MADDEN CURSE BAY-BAY!!!!!), the Saints should have another solid year.
2011 Buccaneers: They will regress, and Raheem Morris will be 2011’s “Coach who gives a press conference so memorable that the fanhouse types trip over themselves to be the first ones to upload it to YouTube”.
Game: Saints are shooting for the possibility of home field. It’s still feasible. After proving they can win in Atlanta, the Saints are capable of anything at this point. Reggie Bush may even break a gain of four yards or more.
SCORE: Saints 27, Buccaneers 14
10. San Diego over Denver
2011 Chargers: I don’t know what happens exactly, but let’s just say AJ Smith will be working as a “consultant” somewhere after another shortcoming of a year.
2011 Broncos: Tim Tebow: 22 TDs, 18 INTs, 1200 rushing yards, 7,000,000 jerseys sold, one shocking revelation. It may involve not wearing a condom.
Game: The classic blow-off-some-steam game: The Broncos defense sucks, so I’m anticipating a massacre.
SCORE: Chargers 40, Broncos 21
9. New York Giants over Washington
2011 Giants: If Tom Coughlin’s back for 2011, he’s going to have a stroke. I shudder to think what would cause it, if he hasn’t had one yet.
2011 Redskins: More Snyder bungling! More Shanahan insanity! More DeAngelo Hall getting burned like Richard Pryor in the early 80’s! MORE! MORE! MORE!
Game: Giants kinda sorta have to win, and you can damn well bet Coughlin’s had his heels in their butts all week. There’s no way they’ve had a day off.
SCORE: Giants 38, Redskins 17
8. Jacksonville over Houston
2011 Jaguars: There will be rumors that they move, and there’ll be minimal TV coverage, but yet they’ll be hanging in there at the end, fighting for respect that ESPN never seems to give them.
2011 Texans: If they miss the playoffs again, Gary Kubiak’s getting stuffed into a rocket and blasted off. Where to? If you ask Texans fans, who cares?
Game: Jags need it, Texans are used to losing….I think there’s an implied agreement here.
SCORE: Jaguars 24, Texans 14
7. San Francisco over Arizona
2011 49ers: I think head coach Tony Sparano (yes, really. They asked Bill Parcells for his opinion, didn’t they?) leads them further astray. Prepare for Wildcat Westbrook and the Quarterback Carousel of Ineptitude!
2011 Cardinals: Donovan McNabb to Larry Fitzgerald. How does that sound 15 times next season? If they get a consistent defense, they could take the West back.
Game: Might this be the most meaningless game of the week? It’s so meaningless, Fox is trying to get JC Pearson back to call it.
SCORE: 49ers 21, Cardinals 14
6. St. Louis over Seattle
2011 Rams: Give Steve Spagnuolo one more year to crystallize his defense, and the Rams will be beyond the whole “8-8 possible division champion” label, and be more along the lines of “10-6, 11-5 with a possible first round bye”. As long as Sam Bradford and Steven Jackson stay healthy.
2011 Seahawks: In Pete Carroll’s last season, he’ll….oh, you didn’t know? USC is going to fire Lane Kiffin and Pete gets his job back at the conclusion of the probation period. You weren’t aware?
Game: “America’s game! Sunday Night Football!”. Well, as long as it’s a good game, I don’t mind so much. I think it will be too. Rams via offensive explosion.
SCORE: Rams 27, Seahawks 20
5. Kansas City over Oakland
2011 Chiefs: Give me one good reason why the Chiefs can’t become a “team to beat”. They’re my sleeper to make the AFC Title game, before losing to New England, and thus I have them sticking around the top of the heap for a few years.
2011 Raiders: Something tells me this “improving” Raiders team hits a sharp learning curve, and Tom Cable gets the ax. Would be a shame, because they were becoming a sentimental favorite of mine.
Game: Chiefs know they can get that third seed, so Romeo Crennel’ll dial up a pass rush that’s aimed to take Jason Campbell out. Chiefs will go mistake free and see if they can’t get it.
SCORE: Chiefs 24, Raiders 17
4. Detroit over Minnesota
2011 Lions: The Packers have injury issues and the Bears are typically up-and-down. Ask me after the draft, and I’ll see if I can fully talk myself into “at least a wild card” for Detroit. It’s coming together.
2011 Vikings: This one’s a toss up. No Favre, but they’re one big injury (AP, Jared Allen, Antoine Winfield) from further chaos. Besides, we haven’t seen Joe Webb over a long stretch yet.
Game: Lions pull out the upset (though it’s not really one) just to go into the postseason making everyone say “Could the Lions ACTUALLY be for real in 2011?” And it’s possible.
SCORE: Lions 20, Vikings 17
2011 Packers: More than likely a dominant force if everyone’s healthy. If they fail to deliver for some reason (like Clay Matthews’ urine winds up being intergalactic purple), maybe Mike McCarthy gets the hot lamp shined on him.
2011 Bears: Egos and inconsistency. They’ve kept it together in 2010, but the Bears are never steady, it seems. Mike Martz and Jay Cutler are involved; you just know something’s going to go awry.
Game: I sense somebody’s going to get hurt badly in this one, with so much on the line (#1 for the Bears, making the playoffs for the Pack). In an attrition battle, I go with the Cheese.
SCORE: Packers 14, Bears 10
2. Miami over New England
2011 Dolphins: We need a new coach for when Sparano goes, so how about we do what Buffalo did and bring in an ex-head coach that everybody’s forgotten? Say, Mike Mularkey? Enjoy your continued stay in the middle tier, guys!
2011 Patriots: Dominance as usual. Still smarting from losing Super Bowl XLV, though.
Game: Sorry, ladies. After Tom Brady does his opening drive, it’s off to the sidelines with his hoodie and ski cap. If the Dolphins can’t win this one, the residents of South Beach may actually shoot their plane down.
SCORE: Dolphins 20, Patriots 14
1. Dallas over Philadelphia
2011 Cowboys: Jason Garrett survives, but Tony Romo doesn’t. Not having surgery comes back to haunt the boy wonder, who gets messed up again. Then Jon Kitna proves ineffective, but Stephen McGee shows promise. Cue the Romo/McGee debate! Get Ed Werder on line one!
2011 Eagles: Hopefully, they do alright. It’s not easy repeating as Super Bowl champs.
Game: If your team loses to Kevin Kolb, King Dunlap, Darryl Tapp, Omar Gaither, and Dimitri Patterson, then you should be relocated to the CFL for a year. It just seems right.
SCORE: Cowboys 17, Eagles 16
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