I have a great disdain for all preseason prognostications. It’s not because they are inevitably wrong or because they are poorly thought out, but rather most writers will seemingly look at last years standings, and press copy and paste. Certainly the writers adjust for players lost/retired and those drafted, but I challenge you to read any article predicting division winners and playoff participants and count how many playoff teams from the previous year are predicted to make the playoffs once again. Try as I might, my picks aren’t that original.
The NFL is the ultimate meritocracy. You draft well, you sign good players in free agency, and you will compete for a playoff spot. If you draft poorly (Detroit), and throw good money after bad players (Washington), you will wallow in mediocrity.
Previous division winner: New England Patriots
2010 division winner: New England Patriots: The Bills are too far away. The Jets have a good defense and questions on offense. They are overrated and over-hyped. Miami will play tough football, but they are missing key pieces on both sides of the ball. They may run a similar scheme as the Cowboys, but they lack a Romo, a Witten, and a Ware.
The Patriots are back to being boring. The offense has been so dynamic the last few years, that it is no longer a story for the mainstream media. The defense is near to completing their youth movement (partly due to all the veterans getting traded, cut, or injured), and there are few better game day coaches than Bill Belicheck.
Previous Division Winner: Cincinnati Bengals
2010 division winner: Ravens: The Browns defense was adequate last year. Delhomme may be a better option than Quinn and Anderson, but not by much. Whether Mangini can be a good head coach still remains to be seen. The Steelers will have Polomalu roaming deep centerfield and they will make the playoffs, but starting 2-2 with one of the losses being to the Ravens will put them in a severe disadvantage. As for the Bengals, I don’t see the offense imploding because of Terrell Owens. I simply doubt the Bengals are good enough to repeat as division champions in one of the better divisions in football.
As for the Ravens, they are young at key positions on offense, QB, RB, and WR; they also have a surplus of talent at the offensive line. Their defense has been perpetually old for the past 5 years. Every year it is expected that Ray Lewis and Co. will hit the wall and the team will implode. Every year I’m wrong so why should I finally be right in 2010?
Previous Division Winner: Indianapolis Colts
2010 division winner: Texans: This is based on one caveat. If the Texans win against the Colts in week one, I expect the Texans to win the division. If the Colts win, I predict the Titans to win the division. The Colts will be formidable and will make the playoffs; however, there are two components to losing a Super Bowl. The first is the disappointment that the players feel about losing and the amount of time it takes for them to get past that; the second is the fact that the players have to play 3 more physical games. The first is emotional trauma that no other team has to suffer; the second is a physical trauma that most other players in the league are not subject to.
As for the Titans, they are a capable team. Chris Johnson has his sights set on 2,500 yards. I’m not sure he exceeds 1,300. Historically, running backs who broke 2,000 yards do not come close to repeating their performance. Consequently, if Johnson isn’t as dynamic, there is little chance that Vince Young will pick up the slack. I believe the Titans will finish near 8-8, but they will miss the playoffs. The Jaguars don’t merit discussion. Jack Del Rio will be looking for work next year; he is a victim of mediocre QB play. Leftwich and Garrard did not pan out and Del Rio will join a long list of defensive minded coaches whose teams underperformed because of sub-par offenses.
Previous Division Winner: San Diego Chargers
Raiders: There is no reason for the Chargers not to repeat as division winners. While the Chargers may have still have two prominent holdouts, they are a deep team and can replace the players without missing a beat. The Broncos fell apart late last season due to injuries, the Chiefs are still rebuilding around a quarterback who did a good Tom Brady impersonation for one season. Thomas Jones still has gas in the tank and the Chiefs won’t be the pushover they were the year before. The fact of the matter is the only safe bet in the AFC West are the Chargers, which is why I’m picking the Raiders. The Raiders are the most talented bad team in the NFL and there is always a team that comes from the bottom of the barrel to surprise the league. On the other hand, it wouldn’t be surprising if Al Davis fires Tom Cable in the 2nd week of the season and cuts Jason Campbell in week four. Barring the complete unexpected, pencil in the Raiders as your surprise team for 2010.
Tomorrow I’ll cover the NFC. After week 8 when both the Raiders and Texans are 2-5, I’m sure I’ll look foolish.
Topics: Baltimore Ravens, Bill Belicheck, Brady Quinn, Buffalo Bills, Byron Leftwich, Chris Johnson, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, David Garrard, Denver Broncos, Derrick Anderson, Eric Mangini, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jack Del Rio, Jake Delhomme, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, Ny Jets, Oakland Raiders, Ray Lewis, Romo, San Diego Chargers, Tennesse Titans, Terrell Owens, Vince Young, Ware, Witten