Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Playoff predictions

Today I'm going to do what no football writer should ever do. I'm going to attempt to make predictions as to who will win the playoffs. This is probably one of the most futile tasks ever attempted. Invariably a string of injuries and unforeseen circumstances come up from nowhere to bite you in the butt further down the line. But I'll have a go. First of all let's look at the 12 teams that made up the playoffs last year; Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, New Orleans Saints, Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles. Now if history has taught us anything, it's that approximately half of all these teams will not make it back to the playoffs. That's six teams that potentially have to drop somewhere. But then you never know. History has also taught us of late that the bottom team in the NFC South will bounce back to win the division, but then unlike the 2009 Saints, the 2010 Buc's don't have the number one ranked offense from the previous year. My best guess is to go through them division by division and see where we end up. NFC North I'll start here because I'm fairly confident with this one. I'm backing the Green Bay Packers. Their offense is finding a rhythm under Aaron Rodgers and towards the end of last year their defense did the same, if you look past the freak shoot out with the Cardinals (and as the refs did, some very dubious calls). The Bears seem destined to prop up the pile, the Lions and Vikings fighting it out for second. NFC West I'm not so hugely confident with this one. I'm almost sure that the Cardinals and the Seahawks will bomb, but the Rams have actually looked pretty good with Bradford at the helm. They look like a proper NFL offense for a change. Even their defense jerked into life in the pre-season. But I'm going with the hotly tipped San Francisco 49ers. This is the year that my team returns to the playoffs with a combination of stout defense and Alex Smith feeding a steady stream of passes to Vernon Davis once more. NFC East I'm sure it's not going to be the Redskins. I've lost a bit of confidence in Philadelphia. I'm not sure if the Eagles can beat their divisional opponents. That leaves the Cowboys and the Giants and looking at their schedule, I think it's a matter of who wins their two meetings as to who wins the division. And I'm tempted to edge it and say.... New York Giants. I think their pass rush is panning out better than many of us hoped and that will be a key factor. If the Cowboys don't win it, they're destined to get a wild card I think. NFC South No we come to the real crunch time. Forget Tampa. Done. Forget New Orleans (what?). The Super Bowl champions are not going to get 9 interceptions out of Darren Sharper this year. They are not going to have the Dolphins throw away a big lead for them. They're not going to have the Redskins miss a chip shot field goal. They may even finish under .500. So it falls then to the Panthers and Falcons, and again it comes down to who will win the head to head. I cannot believe I'm saying this. I cannot believe I'm about to do it. But.... (sigh)... Carolina Panthers win the division. Their defense i think will have a better pass rush than Atlanta. And if they keep working those tight ends and that running game, they can do a lot of damage on offense. Of course, being the Panthers they can always spite me by being terrible, but even the Panthers cant be that cruel can they? You bet your a** they can. I hate the Panthers. That leaves one spot for an NFC wild card left (if we assume the runner up in the NFC East will take one spot) so who is the other team? I'm taking the Vikings. Even with a banged up old man at QB, the Vikings still possess a ferocious pass rush and Adrian Peterson. I think they ride in just behind the Packers in the North. Moving on then to the AFC, starting in the easy division. AFC East New England Patriots. There. Done. Honestly looking at the schedules and thinking about just how bad the Jets are offensively, I now have visions of them ending up picking in the top 5 next year in the draft. They've got Revis back in the fold now (I should probably have done a news segment on that) but everything else about them looks shaky as hell right now. I think the Bills might actually be the team that gives New England the closest run. Yeah. The Bills. That's how desperate it's looking. AFC South Tennessee Titans. That's another one down. Lets be real here. When Kerry Collins was removed as the QB and the Titans got their first string secondary back, they looked mighty impressive. They went back to looking like the Titans team that breezed to the division title in the '08 season. I see them repeating that feat in 2010. As for the Colts, I have them at possibly 9-7.... AFC West I'm pretty sure that both Kansas and Oakland will continue to struggle a little. For me it's down to the Chargers and the Broncos and again I think it's a head to head battle that will decide the division. And I'm leaning towards.... the Denver Broncos. The Chargers are missing Vincent Jackson and their defense is still a little unsteady. I think Kyle Orton has a handle on the Broncos offense now and is set for a good year. Broncos win the AFC West AFC North Cleveland? Forget it. Pittsburgh? I think they struggle too much early on and have trouble recovering. So it's down to the Bengals and the Ravens. Looking at them both, I just get this gut feeling that the Bengals have better depth. With the Ravens picking up T.J. Houshmandzadeh they've added another great weapon to their offense, but I just think the Bengals have more in the tank. Cincinnati Bengals win the division, Ravens take a wild card. That leaves one wild card spot left. And I'm leaning towards either the Chargers or the Colts. All things considered, I think the Colts will probably just nudge it, maybe even by as little as strength of schedule. So, there we go. Let's have a look at my list of 2010 playoff teams: New York Giants San Francisco 49ers Green Bay Packers Carolina Panthers Dallas Cowboys Minnesota Vikings Cincinnati Bengals New England Patriots Tennessee Titans Denver Broncos Baltimore Ravens Indianapolis Colts That's seven teams making the playoffs again (Packers, Cowboys, Vikings, Bengals, Patriots, Ravens, Colts) and five new teams (Giants, 49ers, Panthers, Titans, Broncos). That's not bad. The history books would ask me to look again and find one new team, but I'm pretty happy with that line up. Until week one of course, when it all begins to blow up in my face (led by the Panthers no doubt). Have a great day everyone.

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