The NFL playoffs finally heat up, as a wild finish in Dallas and a tight game in Kansas City go some way to making up for the blowouts that preceded them.
07 Sep 2006
OK, let's start with this basic rule: picks are essentially silly. We know that every season in the NFL, there are going to be teams that improve and decline for reasons that nobody predicted. Even sillier than picking the divisions is picking conference champions or the Super Bowl winner. Let's say we think the Denver Broncos have the best chance of any team in the AFC to make it to the Super Bowl. Perhaps we think they have a 20% chance to make it, and we think that six other teams have a 10% chance to make it, and eight other teams have a 2.5% chance to make it, and they will also play some games in Buffalo this season. OK, so we pick Denver to win the AFC. Even based solely on this opinion, there is four in five chance the pick will be incorrect. So we are all going to be mostly wrong.
We're going to make picks anyway, because that's part of running a football site: you make picks.
You will find picks here from most of the members of the of the Football Outsiders staff. On each table you will also find picks based on the DVOA Projection System, which you can read about here, and a staff consensus. As many of you know, for two straight years, we've had the most accurate picks of any experts from any magazine, website, or television network, as tracked by King Kaufman of Salon.com. So we feel a little bit of pressure to make it three in a row. We've been known to do the impossible like Broadway Joe, so let's see if we can make it happen.
|Bill Barnwell||Patriots||Steelers||Jaguars||Chargers||Colts, Dolphins|
|Bill Moore||Dolphins||Bengals||Colts||Broncos||Patriots, Steelers|
|Mike Smith||Patriots||Steelers||Colts||Broncos||Jaguars, Chargers|
|Mike Tanier||Patriots||Steelers||Colts||Broncos||Chargers, Bengals|
|DVOA Projections||Patriots||Bengals||Colts||Chargers||Chiefs, Broncos|
|FO Consensus||Patriots||Steelers||Colts||Broncos||Dolphins, Bengals|
With the easy schedule both teams get to face, those Dolphins-Patriots games will be very important. I think there's going to be some defensive regression in Cincinnati and Indianapolis, although I don't think it will be enough to cost the Colts a playoff spot. The projection system likes the Chiefs, but their passing game is a house of cards that's very close to falling apart due to age and all the retirements and injuries along the offensive line. Speaking of injuries, the Broncos were strong and balanced last year but people don't realize how few injuries they had. The only major ones were to Champ Bailey and Darrent Williams, and the odds of another season that injury-free are pretty small. I think the Chargers will sneak out the AFC West title, but there's no way they're going to make the Super Bowl with that secondary. At some point in the playoffs, Manning, Brady, or Roethlisberger will just destroy them. If Haloti Ngata and Dewan Landry play well right away, the Ravens could overcome the deterioration of their offensive line and make the playoffs. I don't think it will happen, but it's a reasonable possibility.
I really think the AFC is going to be a conference of haves and have-nots this season. The Jets, Chiefs, Bills, Browns, Texans, and Raiders are all going to be ugly teams. None of them are going to go 0-16, but they're going to have about 40 wins to split between the six of them, and that may be generous. The Titans and Ravens are in the next group of teams who should be mediocre, but might not have enough to make a playoff run. The Bengals are the X-Factor here; they could win five games or twelve -- I'm leaning towards the latter. That leaves a pretty 2005-looking group of teams to contest the '06 playoffs. The Broncos, on the other hand, I've flip-flopped on since I said they'd win more than 10 games in Scramble. The record of teams with the hardest schedule in football, as good as they are, is just so poor that I have to say they'll go 9-7 and barely miss out. I am also guessing I might be the only member of the staff to pick the Jags to win the AFC South; I think the Colts are so good that they'll make the playoffs, but the absence of Edgerrin James as a pass-blocker is going to hurt them. They're going to have to modify their offense, and that's going to take a while for them to settle into.
The AFC East is a tale of the haves and have-nots. I can tell you that the Bills and the Jets will not win the division, but can't tell you necessarily who will. I think there's a decent chance that the Dolphins and the Patriots could tie atop the division. My call is that Miami wins the tie-breaker and pushes New England to the wild card spot. As for the North, Carson is back, and will retain the division title for the Bengals despite the second-hardest schedule. The Steelers settle for the wild card again. Indy's easy pass schedule will more than make up for the change in running backs, and Jacksonville's tough early schedule is their undoing. Denver emerges from the West over the Chargers since I think a "rookie" QB will cause the Chargers to lose at least one game that they shouldn't. Such fact could be a re-do of last year, pushing the Chargers out of the playoffs altogether.
In the East, while I'm not ready to assign "Last Hurrah" status to Belichick's crew, he may have to pull off his best coaching job yet to leapfrog Miami and make serious noise in the playoffs. Laurence Maroney will help by having a monster season. The Dolphins will benefit from Daunte Culpepper's arrival and Ronnie Brown's ascendance, though marginal questions on the offensive line and in the secondary might be the things that set 2006 as their "almost" year. To be sure, Nick Saban is putting together quite a team, but they're also one Culpepper injury away from Harrington as their starter. Ouch. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, like the Pats and Fins, will beat each other's brains in while an otherwise underwhelming division looks on. Last year, the Bengals took the division, while the Steelers were the belles of the ball in the postseason. This year, I think Pittsburgh will be more consistently successful in the regular season. I like Steve McNair at the helm in Baltimore, but that O-line will test his scrambling skills often. The Colts don't have any real competition in the South - I've been drinking the Jacksonville Kool-Aid for the past couple of years, but I'm less convinced this time. Denver may very well wind up being the class of the AFC with an extremely well-balanced team. Their competitors for the division title have been waylaid by a formerly great O-line falling apart with alarming speed (Chiefs) and too-early reliance on a young quarterback with great potential (San Diego).
The Chargers will finally get over the hump and win the AFC West. The Ravens will surprise and win the North, with Steve McNair and their big play defense leading the way. The Colts
will, of course, win the AFC South. And the New England Patriots will hold off Miami for the AFC East title, mainly (and unsurprisingly) due to Tom Brady. Cincinnati will start slow but close out strong to win a wild card spot, while Miami will hold off Denver for the other wild card when Ronnie Brown ends up among the league leaders in rushing.
I'm not exactly going out on a limb here. I'm picking five teams to make it back to the playoffs, with San Diego replacing Cincinnati as the only new team this year. I don't feel real good about taking the Chargers because I'm not sold on Philip Rivers, but I feel good enough about Rivers' supporting cast that I think they'll eke out a wild card spot.
I think the Colts are going to fall back to the pack this year, and at one point I was leaning toward picking the Jaguars in the AFC South, just for genius points. But they are weak at the skill positions, and I consider Mike Tice a negative influence on any team he's coaching at this point (if the Jaguars offense slips this year, Tice will make it clear that it's Carl Smith's fault). I wouldn't be surprised if the Steelers win the AFC North at 10-6, because all three of their division opponents will be strong this year. The Patriots may be the weakest of the four division winners, but they are the easiest pick.
For all the talk of parity in the NFL, the AFC features four excellent franchises who should continue to play at a high level this season. New England, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, and Denver have combined for three losing seasons this decade. In the West, I'm taking the Chargers over the Broncos only because the Broncos have to play the Patriots and Colts, while the Chargers get the Bills and Titans. Of course, that means I think Rivers will be good. Denver gets one wild card spot, while the other one is up for grabs between Miami, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Jacksonville, and Kansas City. I'm going with Baltimore largely due to an irrational faith in Steve McNair. I justify it by looking at point differential. The Ravens scored 265 and gave up 299 a year ago. The Ravens two quarterbacks combined for 9.0 DPAR. Steve McNair had 51.3 with a weaker receiving corps. With no other changes, that looks like a 9-7 team to me. I'll assume one good break for 10-6 and the sixth seed.
I'm very tempted to take Miami in the East, but I think New England has enough to hold off Nick Saban and Co. for one more season. I'm not crazy about some of New England's recent personnel moves, but they've certainly earned the benefit of the doubt. Pittsburgh and Cincinnati should be a dogfight all year, while Denver coasts in a weak AFC West with Plummer keeping Jay Cutler on the bench all season. There won't be a 16-0 run by the Colts, but they'll still roll to the South title and be better prepared for the postseason without the "will they or won't they" questions about going undefeated. They'll have home-field once again. Miami and the Bengals grab the wildcards ahead of Jacksonville, Baltimore, and San Diego.
For the third consecutive year, I'm taking the Patriots in the East. I know the Dolphins are the sexy pick, but as long as Tom Brady's in New England, I'll continue to pick them to win the division. Despite the serious knee injury, Carson Palmer looks to be in 2005 mid-season form, but I still have questions about the Bengals' run defense. The Steelers will win the North, but just like a season ago, the top two teams in the division could have identical records. The Colts will continue their string of South Division titles, even with Edgerrin James now in Arizona. The Jeff George signing will put the Raiders over the top -- in the Ideas That Seemed Perfectly Logical After Dropping Acid category. They will still finish last in the West and the Broncos will somehow manage to repeat as division champs even with Ashley Lelie now in Atlanta. The Dolphins and the Bengals will grab the wild card spots, just beating out the Jaguars and the Chargers.
Parity is dead. The same teams will make the playoffs this year as made the playoffs last year, except that San Diego edges Jacksonville because this year they don't have a schedule hard enough to crack a diamond. Carson Palmer is fine, and the Bengals take the division ahead of Pittsburgh, who doesn't lose too much production but a lot of chemistry without Jerome Bettis and Antwaan Randle El. The Colts and Patriots are default selections in divisions that still won't provide them much competition. Jacksonville is overrated, and Miami doesn't yet have all the pieces in place. San Diego wins the West over the Chiefs, who finally (like I thought they would last year) succumb to age on offense, and the Broncos, who simply face a tougher schedule.
|Bill Barnwell||Eagles||Packers||Panthers||Seahawks||Bears, Cardinals|
|Bill Moore||Eagles||Bears||Panthers||Seahawks||Cowboys, Cardinals|
|Mike Smith||Cowboys||Bears||Panthers||Seahawks||Redskins, Falcons|
|Mike Tanier||Eagles||Bears||Panthers||Seahawks||Falcons, Cowboys|
|DVOA Projections||Eagles||Bears||Panthers||Seahawks||Redskins, Falcons|
|FO Consensus||Eagles||Bears||Panthers||Seahawks||Cowboys, Falcons|
I feel very confident in my division picks. The wild card picks, not so much. I think the Falcons will really step it up on defense, although Ed Hartwell's continued aches and pains worry me. My biggest struggle is with the second NFC wild card. Does Washington's dismal preseason really matter? I'll put my faith in "enough to make Philadelphia the division favorite, not enough to make a different team a better playoff pick."
Let me first start by saying that I could easily see the Seahawks going 6-0 and the Cardinals 4-2 in the NFC West. God, the rest of that division is stinky. That's the basis for their selections, with the Cardinals squeaking in and Adrian Wilson getting some MVP noise thrown in his direction. Come on -- you can't see the FOX pre-game features with Jimmie Johnson heading to Arizona, showing off the brand-spanking-new stadium, and asking Denny Green how he does it again and again? You want to believe. I want to believe. Let's believe together. The Packers, on the other hand, is just simply because someone has to win that division, and the Bears' locker room appears to be really divided right now. I think they'll pull it together late enough in the season to win a wild card spot, but if you could see the FOX trip to Arizona, well, you can sure see a FOX feature on Brett Favre's final run coming up.
I pity the third- and fourth-best teams in the NFC East. Those teams will beat each other up while someone else slips into the last wild card spot. Philly could emerge with a huge first half of the season, and to keep up, Dallas has to finish strong, including needing a big win in Atlanta. Philly takes the division and Dallas takes the card. Foster's slants, ISOs, sweeps and dives will lead Carolina in the South [OK you really don't need to print that]. Michael Vick's new season of just "being himself" doesn't do much to improve Atlanta's standings. Chicago has the easiest schedule in the NFL and no one else has a real chance. Similarly, Seattle's easy schedule and lack of competition locks it up for them. My biggest struggle was the last wild card spot. It could go to almost anyone. There's so much potential for a surprise winning record among so many teams. Just to shake things up, I'm going to close my eyes and say ... Arizona.
The NFC East? Flip a freakin' coin, get out the Ouija Board, and see where the darts fly. Virtually equal arguments could be made for and against each team winning this division, though I see parts of Dallas' defense -- and Terry Glenn's redux of 2005's fine season -- overcoming the season-long distraction of He Who Shall Not Be Named. The Giants will back into the playoffs behind their defensive front seven and Tiki Barber, while Eli Manning officially replaces Brett Favre as the player for whom the most announcer excuses are made (yes, there is a public ceremony). Chicago wins the North by default, behind the veteran presence/youthful fire of "Rex Griese, Midwest Superhero". Tampa Bay is my official "I Don't Know Why, But They Scare The Heck Out Of Me" team of 2006... a good core group, a young quarterback on the rise, a coach who's better than has recently been thought, and a division that won't as tough as some believe. This may be where the mojo lies, as the last remnants of the divorce between the McKay/Ruskell and Gruden/Allen camps finally dissolve. Tampa Bay's only real competition is Carolina, who I'm docking one point based on the fact that so many preseason prognosticators see them as the NFL's Sexy Beast. That always makes me pull back. The Seahawks could sleepwalk through the NFC West and win it -- for the second straight year, this will be the NFL's weakest division.
Arizona will push the Seahawks, but there's no keeping Seattle from a division title. In the South, the Panthers will hold off the Bucs and Falcons due to solid play in every facet of the game. The North will be won by the Vikings thanks to a solid ground game and the only consistent quarterback play in the division. The East will be won by the Giants after Brunell falls apart, T.O. starts Bledsoe-bashing, and the Eagles lament their continual problems at wideout. The Cardinals will make it as a wild cards thanks to a powerful offense and a rejuvenated fan base. Tampa Bay will be the other wild card due to a maturing Chris Simms, the workhorse Cadillac, and that Monte Kiffin defense.
I'm one of the last people left who thinks the Terrell Owens-Bill Parcells marriage is going to work out just fine. The two guys might not like each other, but they don't have to be buddies, they just have to coexist. I like the Cowboys' chances to come out of a division where the four teams are pretty close to evenly matched. Losing Steve Hutchinson means the Seahawks won't have the best line in football anymore, but I think they're still a cut above the rest of the conference.
There are so many have-nots in the NFC that it's hard to make any surprise picks. In the NFC East, I am following my heart when selecting among the four .500 caliber choices. The Bears and Seahawks have such easy divisions that both could go 12-4 despite some clear weaknesses. The Falcons and Cowboys are the best second place teams in the NFC, but they may not have the best records come January. I just didn't want to go on record saying the Vikings or Cardinals were good enough for playoff berths.
Seattle is as much of a lock to win their division as Philadelphia was a year ago. I'll bet on the Seahawks repeating despite the Super Bowl Loser and Madden curses. The Bears play an easier schedule than the Bill Snyder's old Kansas St. teams. I think the Eagles bounce back without the distractions. A losing season should be the wake-up call that Mike Vick needed, and the run defense has to be better. Vick was much better a year ago than in 2004 (12.9 DPAR compared with -18.5). I think he gets into the Pro Bowl because he actually belongs this year. One Wild Card goes to Carolina, who still will struggle to run the ball. The last spot goes to Arizona. They have a very easy schedule, and while Edgerrin James will average about 3.6 per carry, his overall presence is a massive improvement. I had Washington here but am worried about Portis.
The NFC East should be fun to watch; all four clubs are potential playoff teams. But they'll also beat each other up. Dallas wins with the best balance of offense and defense with the Eagles grabbing a wildcard. The wheels appear to be coming off the Washington offense. They won't be as bad as they've looked in the preseason, but I still expect to see Jason Campbell starting at some point. The Giants are in for a drop-off as Tiki Barber hits the wall and Eli Manning looks more like the Eli of last season's second half. I just don't like his mechanics. Chicago wins the North by default, with Brian Griese at QB by about Week 6. Same thing for Seattle, which goes virtually unchallenged in the West. Carolina is the NFC's best team, but won't have home-field thanks to the South vs. West schedule comparison. Tampa Bay sneaks into the final playoff spot, with just enough offense from Chris Simms to complement a defense that is still very good, but not great.
The Eagles are the favorite in the East because Terrell Owens is now in Dallas, and the Cowboys won't make the playoffs because, well, Terrell Owens is now in Dallas. If the Redskins can make it through the season without losing a single starter to injury, they'll make the postseason. Seeing that Clinton Portis and Shawn Springs are recovering from, ahem, injuries, things don't look good. The Bears will clinch the North by Thanksgiving, but to make it interesting, they could start Kyle Orton and have things wrapped up by Christmas. Steve Smith will recover fully from his hamstring injury and the Panthers will win a hotly contested South Division. The Seahawks should mop up in the West, and if any other team in the division wins seven games they should be given an automatic playoff berth. Atlanta, New York, Tampa Bay, and Washington will battle for the two wild card spots with the Falcons and Giants prevailing.
The Eagles went through the perfect storm last season, and they came out the other side intact, the only casualty the 2005 season. They're right back where they were in all those years they made the playoffs but not quite the Super Bowl. And unlike those seasons, their receiving corps is so good that they didn't feel they needed to keep Todd Pinkston. Chicago and Seattle are obvious front-runners in bad divisions. Carolina might be the best team in the NFC, but they have uncertainty at linebacker, running back, and, the deification of Steve Smith notwithstanding, wide receiver. It's hard to call the wild cards in the NFC because the good teams are all in the East and South, and those divisions play each other. Dallas is probably the best of the rest there, mostly because the Cowboys have better depth than the Redskins or Giants. The Buccaneers' passing game may take a step back this year, and so may the Falcons' running game. Arizona is a playoff contender as a mediocre team with an easy schedule. The NFC West and North offer much low-hanging fruit.
Aaron Schatz: New England. Once again this year, there are many more candidates for AFC Champion than there are for NFC Champion. I've been planning to pick Pittsburgh to repeat as Super Bowl champion, but I'll be honest, this Ben Roethlisberger appendicitis thing is just enough for me to change my mind. You can't plan on marching through the playoffs without a first-round bye for two straight years, and the Steelers schedule is a lot harder early than it is hard. They need to be healthy now. The Patriots aren't the best team in the conference, but the schedule should get them one of the top two seeds, and while Bill Belichick doesn't have any magic beans, he is the best game strategist in the league. (The Miami schedule is just as easy, and Nick Saban is also an excellent coach, so if the Dolphins can beat out the Pats for the AFC East title, don't be shocked to see them in the Super Bowl..)
Bill Barnwell: New England. If Deion Branch doesn't show up, I reserve the right to change my mind, but I have a lot of faith in that front four shutting teams down.
Bill Moore: Cincinnati. Tough call, but I say the Bengals get redemption.
Doug Farrar: Denver. I think this will be the year Jake Plummer puts any remaining doubts to rest by out-dueling Carson Palmer and the Bengals in the AFC Championship game. Peyton waits again. If Manning the Elder wins a Super Bowl, I think it will be much like Elway did -- same team, different coach, years later, and in a system to which he contributes but does not dominate.
Mike Smith: Pittsburgh. I see the Steelers' offense relying more on shorter passes, both to the wide receivers and to the running backs. Willie Parker and Verron Haynes both have talent as receivers, and Hines Ward is tough over the middle.
Mike Tanier: Denver. At some point, the Broncos are going to slip out of their 11-5 purgatory and have a good postseason hot streak. They are dead even with the Steelers and Patriots when it comes to talent and coaching. I am just going with the team that lost the least this off-season.
Ned: New England. Maybe I'm just trying a reverse jinx, but I think the Patriots will get one of the top two seeds. They won't lose in Foxboro, and given the history, you have to like their chances against Pittsburgh or Indianapolis in the AFC Championship game.
Russell: Indianapolis. They have an Eagles-in-2004 feel to them. People will tend to write them off after the crushing disappointment of last year, but the I think that loss ends up being the thing that gets them over the hump this year, perhaps in a rematch against Pittsburgh.
Ryan: Indianapolis. The Colts finally get over the hump. Well, they at least win the AFC Conference championship, anyway. Thanks to a little-known off-season rules change that requires every league game to be played in the RCA Dome and the PA announcer to pipe in crowd noise when the opposing offense is on the field, Indy makes quick work of the Patriots and Steelers. Finally.
Tim: Denver. The Broncos are the most complete team in the AFC. After they adjust early to the loss of Gary Kubiak et al, they will be the team to beat in the playoffs. Indianapolis and San Diego are their main challengers, but I don't trust either of them. Something about Marty Schottenheimer and Peyton Manning not being able to win in the playoffs...
DVOA Projections: Indianapolis.
FO Consensus: Indianapolis.
Aaron Schatz: Carolina. I know how strongly the numbers point to Seattle, but after what happened last year with the Eagles, I just can't get myself to pull the trigger on picking them to get back to the Super Bowl. If the Carolina defense can somehow solve its third down problems, it will be the league's best. Jake Delhomme's not a great quarterback, but he gets it done. Keyshawn was the perfect free agent addition. The offensive line is very strong. Everybody knows how I feel about DeShaun Foster, but passing is more important than rushing.
Bill Barnwell: Seattle. If Deion Branch ends up here instead, this pick feels even stronger. The Seahawks are at the peak of their success cycle, and they have this shot and (maybe) another left before their time is up. They are going to be able to outscore opponents and remain competent enough on defense to advance.
Bill Moore: Seattle. Seahawks-Panthers redo. Same results.
Doug Farrar: Tampa Bay. I can see the Seahawks with the home field setup in the postseason again, due to wars of attrition in the East and South, and Chicago's offense. But the kinds of depth players who helped Seattle win the NFC last year are already starting to suffer injuries. I think the Bucs will surprise a lot of people and take the conference.
Ian: The New York Giants make a surprise Super Bowl run.
Mike Smith: Seattle. The Super Bowl Losers' Curse has five consecutive years behind it, but this is the year the Seahawks break it.
Mike Tanier: Carolina. I really like the Panthers' depth at most positions this season. I also love their approach on both sides of the ball, and I think they will surprise some opponents this season with a more daring offense.
Ned: Seattle. History says it won't happen, but this team should be as good as a year ago. The defense will be better as the young players improve. If Darrell Jackson isn't himself all season, that could be a major loss. Russell: Carolina. I love, love, love what the Panthers have done in the off-season. Keyshawn Johnson was a good solider in Dallas the last two years; he'll happily complement Steve Smith in Carolina for a shot at a second ring. DeAngelo Williams was a great draft pick who should see plenty of time after the inevitable DeShaun Foster injury. The defense is a terror, even more so if Kris Jenkins is healthy and has his head on straight.
Ryan: Carolina. The Panthers will again meet the Seahawks in the conference finals, but this time they'll have a backup game plan other than "Jake, throw the ball to Steve, no matter the coverage."
Tim: Chicago. The Bears are a pretty good team with a really easy schedule, so they have a great shot to be the #1 seed in the NFC playoffs. This year they'll know to put two guys on Steve Smith, so failing to reach the Championship Game would be a surprise. Rex Grossman and Brian Griese have the advantage of not being Kyle Orton, so Chicago has a real chance to be a competent offense.
DVOA Projections: Seattle.
FO Consensus: Seattle.
Aaron Schatz: Carolina. It would be revenge for Super Bowl XXXVIII. I have to admit that no team really stands out to me as the prohibitive Super Bowl favorite this year.
Bill Barnwell: New England. The Seahawks are going to be able to outscore opponents and remain competent enough on defense to advance. That is, until they run into the Patriots. You don't need Adam Vinatieri if you can win by more than a field goal, and the Patriots will be able to keep Matt Hasselbeck in check long enough for Chad Jackson to break the game open with a couple of big plays.
Bill Moore: Seattle. Second time's a charm.
Doug Farrar: Denver. Nine years after his first Lombardi Trophy, Mike Shanahan gets his third.
Ian: Indianapolis wins Manning Bowl II.
Mike Smith: Pittsburgh. They weren't the best team in the league last year. They will be this year.
Mike Tanier: Carolina. I swear, I'm not picking a Panthers-Broncos Super Bowl because I am dreaming of writing an NFL Rundown about The Two Jakes. I just see the Panthers as a team that has very few weaknesses to cover up and enough playmakers on both sides of the ball to scare any opponent.
Ned: Seattle. New England's Stephen Gostkowski misses a game-winning field goal, and the Seahawks win in overtime.
Russell: Carolina. I think this is the same Super Bowl matchup I picked last year. Carolina's defense will follow the Pittsburgh model from last year's playoffs to terrorize Manning into a difficult day, while Jake Delhomme finds Steve Smith running free for a couple of scores to give the Panthers the title.
Ryan: Carolina. John Fox will get his Super Bowl after the near miss in 2003. If John Kasay puts another kick-off out of bounds late in the fourth quarter with the game on the line, Keyshawn Johnson is contractually obligated to kill him, so this shouldn't be an issue.
Tim: Denver. I would take any of the AFC playoff teams against any of the NFC playoff teams. That goes double for the Broncos.
DVOA Projections: Seattle.
FO Consensus: Carolina or Seattle, which is strange since we all agree the AFC is still the stronger conference.
|Aaron||Bill Barnwell||Bill Moore||Doug||Ian||Mike Smith||Mike Tanier|
(Notes Mike Tanier: The Buffalo Bills select someone other than Brady Quinn because Wilson and Levy are sound asleep.)
Aaron Schatz: Ohio State over Auburn
Bill Barnwell: Miami over Ohio State. (Yes, he knows Miami already lost once.)
Doug: Ohio State over Notre Dame
Ian: Ohio State over Notre Dame
Mike Smith: Ohio State over West Virginia
Mike Tanier: Iowa over Auburn
Ned: Florida over Ohio State
Russell: USC over Auburn
Ryan: Ohio State over Notre Dame
Tim: Notre Dame over West Virginia
Vinny: Florida over Oregon
FO Consensus: Ohio State over Notre Dame
Aaron Schatz: Matt Leinart, second half fantasy stud. Michael Vick improves and becomes an average passer. Hot team at the end of the season: San Francisco. DeAngelo Williams is the starting running back for Carolina in Super Bowl XLI.
Bill Barnwell: Kris Jenkins stays healthy all year. The Bengals totally melt down and win six games. Matt Hasselbeck wins NFL MVP. Greg Lewis takes a huge leap forward and catches 80 passes. Osi Umenyiora gets three sacks. Michael Strahan plays five games, LaVar Arrington four. Jon Kitna makes it to the Pro Bowl (context is everything!), but the Lions still win seven games. Matt Millen gets fired.
Bill Moore: I hate trying to pick surprises because you have to pick something that by definition has a low probability of happening. Nevertheless: Philly goes into their bye week 8-0. The Giants and the Jaguars each start 1-5. Reggie Bush has a mediocre season. Curtis Martin plays in at least one game before retiring at the end of the season. Aaron Rogers starts a game for the Packers. Phillip Rivers makes San Diego fans forget Drew Brees (but as mentioned above, his inexperience will cost the team a game this year that consequently kills their chance to make the playoffs). Deion Branch will suit up as a Patriot -- even if not by the first game. T.J. Houshmandzadeh will catch more TD passes than Chad Johnson. Terry Glenn will score more TDs than Terrell Owens. Speaking of Owens, his "model citizen" status will be the new T.O. media blitz of the season, and he will never shrug openly that Bledsoe could get him the ball when he was open (that last part will never happen). Finally, all FO readers will fully comprehend our motives and objectives as it relates to their own team and will stop trolling the comment boards with posts like "why do you hate..."
OK, that will never happen either, but we can hope.
Doug Farrar: I've already mentioned Tampa Bay. Baltimore doesn't improve significantly even with McNair, and Brian Billick's future is openly questioned. Brett Favre will actually play out the season, which will be a surprise to me. Matt Leinart inadvertently leads the Cardinals in rushing yards, while Edgerrin James' profile finds its way onto many milk cartons in the Phoenix area. The 49ers ride a bit of a hot streak in the second half of the season, as Alex Smith takes Trent Dilfer's tutelage to heart and begins to get with the program. As a result, Dilfer is officially crowned this generation's Steve Deberg.
Michael David Smith: The Colts' offense doesn't miss Edgerrin James. Bill Cowher signs a contract extension during the season. Brett Favre voluntarily relinquishes his starting job in December. Vince Young and Matt Leinart both get playing time late in the season, but Young looks like the more polished passer.
Mike Tanier: The Chiefs will fade badly this season. Look for the Titans and Browns to play near-.500 ball much of the year. The Vikings are kidding themselves if they think they are contenders; they'll be about 3-9 when they put Tavaris Jackson in. Michael Vick will miss one game, and Matt Schaub will throw for 230 yards and 2 touchdowns in a close loss. In the off-season, the Redskins will trade their number one pick to Atlanta for Schaub. Somehow, the Broncos will get involved and get a fourth-round pick out of the deal. Schaub will be promoted over Jason Campbell on the depth chart, and he'll hold onto the starting job until October 2007, when Dan Snyder will lure Brett Favre out of retirement with a $22-million contract ... wait, I've revealed too much.
Ned Macey: The NFC starts to close the gap on the AFC. Philip Rivers has a higher DPAR than Drew Brees and Eli Manning. Jake Plummer plays well and keeps his job all year. The Raiders do not finish in last place, but the Cowboys do. The Rams offense is better with Mike Martz in Detroit. TO misses McNabb a lot more than McNabb misses TO. Edgerrin James is not in the Pro Bowl, but the Colts also have to play on Wild Card Weekend. As stated above, Mike Vick becomes one of the ten best quarterbacks in football.
Russell Levine: Chad Pennington will complete 300 passes ... for 2,000 yards. Michael Vick has his worst season. Philip Rivers has a better year than Drew Brees. The Lions are competitive every week and Rod Marinelli gets coach-of-the-year consideration. The steroids/HGH issue not only fails to go away, but starts to become a story nearly as big as baseball.
Ryan Wilson: The Steelers move away from a power running game and rely more on Ben Roethlisberger. Alex Smith will have a better season than J.P. Losman, and Charlie Frye will have a better season than both of them. Antwaan Randle El and Troy Brown will have a higher QB rating than Jeff George. The Raiders will sign Jason Whitlock to serve as Jack Haley to Jeff George's Dennis Rodman. Tony Kornheiser will do well on Monday Night Football and will actually make Joe Theismann's head explode before Week 12. Mike Williams will move to tight end before the end of the season. Willie Andrews will have more receptions than Deion Branch. Brett Favre will throw 30 interceptions -- and come back for one more year.
Tim Gerheim: The Ravens finish last in the AFC North. A good quarterback alone does not a playoff contender make. Brian Billick is the only coach fired in the 2007 off-season. Wali Lundy wins the Offensive Rookie of the Year award for a seven-win Texans team, while Reggie Bush wins no awards on a three-win Saints team that doesn't even have five offensive linemen available to dress for Week 17. Tony Kornheiser criticizes Brett Favre in the third quarter of Green Bay's Monday night game against Seattle after Thanksgiving, and he and Joe Theismann get into a knock-down-drag-out in the booth. No one notices, because the game is a blowout by halftime and nobody watches the second half.
117 comments, Last at 12 Feb 2007, 1:12am by Jason Mulgrew aka The Mul Dawg aka Lord J Rocka