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26 Aug 2003

Football Outsiders 2003 Season Predictions

So, it is time to make our predictions.  Most websites give predictions based on nothing but feel.  Since FootballOutsiders.com is pledged to develop objective analysis of the NFL, we have to run some numbers.

We have developed the first version of what we hope will eventually be a pretty good prediction tool.  Our formula asks the question, "If every team in the NFL performs in 2003 exactly as they did in 2002, according to our offensive and defensive efficiency formulas, what will the standings look like?"

We've taken the DVOA for each team, and adjusted that based on the 2003 schedules.  That gets turned into points scored and allowed, which using the Pythagorean theorem gets turned into a won-loss record.  There's also a variable in there that moves every team's record towards .500, reflecting the effects of aging and the draft and general entropy.

Of course, there isn't a single team in the NFL that is going to be the same in 2003 as it was in 2002.  This formula doesn't take into account teams that had a larger-than-normal amount of player movement.  It doesn't take into account that half of last year's Jets are now Redskins.  It doesn't take into account injuries, like Michael Vick's leg and Priest Holmes' hip.  It doesn't take into account new coaches, including those named after fish.

That's why we've paired our objective predictions with subjective predictions.  What kind of football website would we be if we didn't all make predictions?  Each member of the Football Outsiders staff has chosen which teams will make the playoffs this year and picked a Super Bowl champion.  Those picks are listed after the objective formula numbers.  We also list a composite of the staff picks.

As you see, we have some pretty different views on what's going to happen this year.  Some of us provided comments, others not.  Pat thinks Tommy Maddox is still unproven.  Aaron thinks anyone who still doubts Tommy Maddox needs to have his head examined.  You'll have to decide which of us is most on the ball here.  We all admit that our picks are based on a combination of head and heart, and if any of us could really pick this year's division champions we would be living in Las Vegas instead of writing for this website and working our regular jobs.  Who knows, perhaps the computer will know more than any of us.

By the way, when you look at the objective predictions, you can see that the formula really feels that strength of schedule has a huge effect on the wild card races, picking both western divisions to be super-strong this year thanks to their games against the two northern divisions. Since the computer's projection is based on last year's performance, it still says Oakland and Tampa Bay are the teams to beat.  Let's be honest, though: a Super Bowl rematch is not likely.


AFC East: Miami 10-6, New England 9-7, New York Jets 8-8, Buffalo 7-9.
AFC North: Pittsburgh 9-7, Cleveland 9-7, Baltimore 7-9, Cincinnati 4-12.
AFC South: Indianapolis 8-8, Tennessee 8-8, Jacksonville 8-8, Houston 4-12.
AFC West: Oakland 11-5, Kansas City 11-5, Denver 10-6, San Diego 7-9.

Yes, the system really does predict a three-way tie in the AFC South and no team finishing with a winning record.  Since the prediction is actually for a winning percentage, not a number of wins, the system has Indy (.493) more likely to win more games than the Titans (.482) or Jaguars (.478).  Pittsburgh and Oakland are listed first in their divisions for the same reasons.  Kansas City and Denver would be the wild cards in this scenario.

NFC East: Philadelphia 10-6, New York Giants 7-9, Washington 6-10, Dallas 5-11.
NFC North: Green Bay 9-7, Minnesota 7-9, Chicago 6-10, Detroit 5-11.
NFC South: Tampa Bay 11-5, Atlanta 9-7, New Orleans 8-8, Carolina 6-10.
NFC West: Seattle 11-5, San Francisco 10-6, St. Louis 9-7, Arizona 7-9.

Well, there are your big surprises.  The system is very down on the Giants, who play a much more difficult out-of-division schedule this year and outperformed their DVOA numbers last year anyway thanks to some lucky big plays.  The system is very high on the Seahawks, going as far as giving them a first-round bye.  Remember that Seattle underperformed last year's Pythagorean projection, while San Francisco overperformed, and add to that the NFC West's easy schedule this year.  Heck, the system even gives Arizona seven wins.  The wild cards here would be San Francisco and either St. Louis (.569) or Atlanta (.561).

OK, that's what the numbers say.  What do we say?


Based on two points each time chosen for a division, one point each time chosen for a wild card.

AFC East: Miami
AFC North: Pittsburgh
AFC South: Indianapolis
AFC West: Oakland
Wild Cards: New England, Kansas City

NFC East: Philadelphia
NFC North: Green Bay
NFC South: Tampa Bay
NFC West: St. Louis
Wild Cards: New York Giants, San Francisco


(Bruce would like to make clear these are the subjective picks of a hardcore Patriots fan, not a football journalist.)

AFC East: New England
AFC North: Cleveland
AFC South: Tennessee
AFC West: Oakland
Wild Cards: Miami, Denver

NFC East: Philadelphia
NFC North: Green Bay
NFC South: Tampa Bay
NFC West: St. Louis
Wild Cards: New York Giants, Atlanta

SUPER BOWL: New England over Philadelphia


AFC East: Miami.  Great signings this off-season, other than Brian Griese.
AFC North: Pittsburgh.  Tommy Maddox could lead the AFC in passing yards.
AFC South: Indianapolis.  Clearly the elite of a horrible division.
AFC West: Oakland.  The old guys will hang on for one more year.
Wild Cards: San Diego and New England.  Chargers are my AFC sleeper, neck and neck with the Raiders for the division title.  Just like last year, there will probably be eight teams fighting for the last slot going into week 17, Pats win the tiebreaker this year.

AFC First Round: San Diego over Oakland, Miami over New England
AFC Second Round: San Diego over Indianapolis, Pittsburgh over Miami
AFC Championship: Pittsburgh over San Diego, as Pittsburgh contains LaDanian Tomlinson enough to win a low scoring battle.

NFC East: New York Giants.  Jim Fassel finally puts together the successful offense Giants fans were promised when he was hired 6 seasons ago.
NFC North: Minnesota.  Someone has to win the NFC North. 
NFC South: Tampa Bay.  No reason they shouldn't run over everyone in their division again.
NFC West: San Francisco.  I'm very down on the NFC West this year.  The 49ers are the safest pick.
Wild Cards: Carolina and Philadelphia.  Carolina is my NFC sleeper, as they should now have a competent offense to complement great defense.  Philadelphia lost too many players in the off-season.  A new stadium won't help the Eagles either.  McNabb should still be good enough to get them to 9-7, though.

NFC First Round: San Francisco over Philadelphia, Carolina over Minnesota (I'm driving the Panther bandwagon this season.)
NFC Second Round: Giants over San Francisco, Tampa Bay over Carolina (I can't drive the bandwagon past the Bucs.)
NFC Championship: Giants over Tampa Bay.  Giants are the most complete team in the NFC.  The Bucs stop here!

SUPER BOWL: New York Giants over Pittsburgh.  In his first public interview since calling Bill Parcells a "homo", Jeremy Shockey insults the Pope while accepting his Super Bowl MVP award.  Hilarity ensues.

Biggest Surprise, Team: Carolina
Biggest Surprise, Player: WR Derrius Thompson, MIA
Biggest Bust, Team: Green Bay Packers
Biggest Bust, Player: WR Peerless Price, ATL


AFC East: Miami
AFC North: Pittsburgh
AFC South: Indianapolis
AFC West: Kansas City
Wild Cards: Buffalo, Denver.

NFC East: Washington
NFC North: Green Bay
NFC South: Tampa Bay
NFC West: Seattle
Wild Cards: San Francisco, New York Giants

SUPER BOWL: Kansas City over Tampa Bay

Biggest Surprises: Seattle wins NFC West.  Marvin Lewis leads Cincinnati to a marginally respectable 7-9 record.

Biggest Busts: Philly and Oakland both miss the playoffs.  Arizona goes 0-16 and is demoted to the PAC-10.


AFC East: Miami

They may start to suck come December, but the Dolphins should already be cruising by then.  Not handing the ball to Ricky Williams at the end of last year when they were ahead of the Pats was probably the worst coaching move I've ever seen in my life.  Dave may look stupid, but he won't make a mistake like that again. The Pats seem to be a popular pick to win this division and advance in the playoffs, but I don't think they have what it takes to make it to the postseason.  When the locals are clamoring for Kevin Faulk to be your starting tailback, you know you're in trouble. In case you didn't know this already, I hate Drew Bledsoe.  I've never before seen a quarterback who so relies on the talent around him to be good.  If his team is playing poorly, he stinks; if his team is playing well, he's great.  I don't think the rest of the team in Buffalo is good enough to make the playoffs this year. And then come the poor Jets, who probably would be up in second place if Chad hadn't broken his wrist.  Vinny!  Vinny!  Vinny!  You SUCK!

AFC North: Cleveland

I'm rather high on Cleveland this year.  After watching Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb play last year, the decision this season was a slam-dunk, and they made the right one.  William Green is the real deal, and opposite Quincy Morgan are about 50 Cleveland wide receivers that will be picked up off the waiver wire in fantasy leagues at some point this season.  The defense isn't great, but it's good enough to get this team the division title.  Not that they'll have a great record doing it. Pittsburgh has also got a great offense this year, but this team once known for their defense is now pretty bad at it.  Their cornerbacks suck ass, and will be the bane of their entire season.  Normally one or two people don't decide your whole team's fate, but I think this is a rare exception where their pass coverage on defense will do them in to the tune of an 8-8 season. I'm gonna pick a HUGE upset -- I think Cincinnati won't finish in last!  Corey Dillon is always -- well, Corey Dillon.  They've now got a passing game to speak of, and I think that Marvin Lewis will make the defense good enough to beat the hapless Ravens twice. Which is why I'm labeling the Ravens as potentially one of the worst teams in the NFL this upcoming season.  Who are they starting at QB?  Who cares?  They suck. 

AFC South: Indianapolis

This is gonna be a tough division.  But I think that the Colts will win it.  I think Tony Dungy's had enough time there that he's gonna get the defense going the way he'd like.  I think the always explosive Colts offense will get them the division title.  And I think they'll get slaughtered in round 1 of the playoffs. I think Jacksonville will surprisingly finish ahead of Tennessee, but finish just short of a wild card berth.  Watch Byron Leftwich replace Mark Brunell six weeks into the season and start a Chad Pennington-like run to the playoffs this year. Tennessee is always solid, but being solid won't be enough this year against the Colts and Jags.  It will be enough to beat... The poor Texans, dumped into one of the toughest divisions in football.  David Carr hasn't proven to me that a better team around him will make him an above average quarterback, and I don't think Stacey Mack is enough to lift this team out of the basement.  Man, they really enjoyed the Tony Boselli era, huh? 

AFC West: Oakland, Denver and Kansas City wild cards

This is the division to beat in the AFC.  I bet both wild cards come out of this division.  Is that even mathematically possible?  Who knows, but I bet it happens. Winning the division will be the Oakland Raiders.  I hate the Raiders, but they simply have too much talent to not win the division.  Look for Rich Gannon and Charlie Garner to have another great year, with Jerry Porter busting out in a big way. Finishing second will be the Kansas City Chiefs.  Yet another potent offense, though not much defense to speak of.  But a healthy Tony Gonzalez will go a long way to making this offense better than it was last year -- which would be damn good. Finishing third will be the Denver Broncos.  They'll always have that huge homefield advantage, and now Jake Plummer takes the reins from Brian Griese.  Hmm... Griese's problem was bad interceptions in key situations.  Plummer is different from this how? And despite arguably the best running back in the NFL, the Chargers will finish last due to a poor defense and a quarterback who's still a few years away from being really effective.

AFC First Round: Kansas City over Cleveland, Oakland over Denver
AFC Second Round: Miami over Kansas City, Oakland over Indianapolis
AFC Championship: Miami over Oakland

NFC East: Philadelphia

I think the Eagles take this division in a cakewalk.  A healthy McNabb is simply the toughest to defend quarterback in football; especially when you consider his ability to throw on the run so effectively.  The Eagles defense is a strong unit, and the rest of the Eagles offense just needs to be decent role players. The Redskins did a pretty good job this offseason.  Signing a top WR to play opposite Rod Gardner made a lot of sense.  But having a QB and a RB that haven't really proven anything isn't going to get you to the NFL playoffs.  I look for this to be a team that sheds the Dan Snyder "buy a champion immediately" mentality and be a serious contender in a few seasons.  Not now though. The Giants have a lot of weapons on offense; even Ike Hilliard looks like he may have a great year.  But then you realize that the Giants play a killer schedule when it comes to pass defenses, and their running game only gets going when their passing game is working.  The Giants seem like the team that will beat the bad teams, but lose to the good ones.  They play too many good ones to make the playoffs. You may think Bill Parcells will have the 'Boys in the playoffs, but the reality is that historically he doesn't have a good first season with his new teams.  And often he's inherited teams with a decent amount of talent, which I can't say about the players in Dallas.  Bottom line: Dallas is gonna suck this year.

NFC North: Minnesota

Minnesota may have a really bad defense, but for some reason I think that this is the year Moss and Culpepper pull it together and dominate.  Moe Williams does nothing but produce when he touches the ball, and Onterrio Smith is looking like a solid back for the early downs.  Even D'Wayne Bates showed flashes last year; I wouldn't be surprised to see him end up with 800 yards and 8-10 touchdowns.  Throw in the fact that the rest of the division just doesn't impress me, and I think the Vikings take the title. The Packers are pretty much the same team every year.  Favre is Favre, solid running game, solid defense.  Except that Favre doesn't seem to be as good as he used to.  Whenever I watched him last year, it seemed like he was forcing balls too much, not getting rid of the ball when he needed to, and simply not playing smart football.  Maybe because he's already won a title he's really thinking about hunting for deer instead of football when he's on the field.  One thing is for sure; he's AWFUL when he plays on turf.  I'd advise starting the Minnesota team defense against him in Minnesota; he's that bad on turf.  For some reason the team always seems to play only as good as he does, and this year I don't think it'll be that good. Everyone loves Brian Urlacher.  How couldn't you?  He's a wrecking ball that makes highlight-reel tackles every week of the season.  Too bad his team sucks. Oh, and you didn't expect me to predict the Lions ahead of last place, did you? 

NFC South: Tampa Bay, New Orleans wild card

As much as I want to pick a team other than Tampa to win this division as a counter-jinx, I can't bring myself to do it.  Especially with the injury to Michael Vick; I might have had an excuse for picking another team with him playing a full season.  But for all the obvious reasons, I don't see Tampa failing to repeat as division champs. New Orleans may have their ups and downs, but they sure as hell had Tampa's number last year.  They've shown that when properly motivated and prepared they can beat almost anyone.  To me, they're the "not top tier team that no one wants to play".  And for good reason; when Aaron Brooks turns it on, he turns it ON. Carolina somehow finished strong last year, despite a horrid start to their season.  Their defense played amazingly well, while their offense played amazingly bad.  Enter Stephen Davis.  Him leaving Washington was a no-brainer -- Spurrier wants to pass, and Davis is the kind of guy you should give the ball to 20-25 times a game to be effective.  I think he'll have a solid season in Carolina, and the defense will play well again.  Unfortunately, they're still starting a quarterback that's on no one's fantasy rosters for a reason. And despite the fact that Michael Vick is "only" out 4-6 weeks, I'm predicting Atlanta to finish last.  I personally broke the same bone that he did sliding into second last year in a softball game.  I still can't walk down a staircase without instinctively reaching for the handrail.  I don't see his injury as just a 4-6 week thing; I think he's gonna rush back sooner than he should and probably be less effective than Doug Johnson.  I like the rushing tandem of Dunn and Duckett, but I still think this team is headed for the basement. 

NFC West: Seattle, St. Louis wild card

Hard to explain why, but I'm a big Matt Hasselbeck fan.  Two years ago I predicted he'd break out in a huge way.  Apparently I was a year-and-a-half too early.  He tore it up over the latter half of last year, and I don't see any reason for that not to continue.  I think the entire Seattle offense has a huge year, as does the team.  I predict a division title. St. Louis' offense sure isn't what it used to be.  But I get the feeling that's gonna change -- I don't know why, I just do.  I think Warner and company will return to being the Greatest Show on Turf, and the Rams will return to prominence.  Seattle will hold them off for the title, but St Louis should be a wild card team that no one wants to play in the playoffs. I can't possibly support San Francisco after their ousting of Steve Mariucci.  I just don't get it.  I don't think the team gets it either; and their no-name defense is gonna cost them big time.  They might not even finish that far ahead of... The Arizona Cardinals, who simply put have very little talent.  I think them signing Emmitt Smith was one of the dumbest pickups I've ever seen; especially since Marcel Shipp showed so much promise last year.

NFC First Round: Seattle over St. Louis (probably 90-87), New Orleans over Minnesota
NFC Second Round: New Orleans over Tampa Bay, Seattle over Philadelphia
NFC Championship: Seattle over New Orleans

SUPER BOWL: What the heck, let's say last year was a fluke, since a team that people expected to be good actually won.  This year another team comes out of nowhere to win it all, more along the lines of the Ravens or Patriots.  Seattle over Miami.


AFC East:  Miami.  I had the Jets until the Pennington injury.
AFC North: Baltimore.    Who can pick Pittsburgh any more?
AFC South:  Indianapolis.    Then one and done in the playoffs, as ever.
AFC West: Oakland.  Aged but still ornery.
Wild Cards: Tennessee, New England

NFC East:  N.Y. Giants.  Shockey's antics prove inspirational.
NFC North:  Detroit.   Joey Harrington shocks the world!
NFC South:  Tampa Bay.  Vick's out, 'nuff said.
NFC West:  San Francisco.  Ugh -- I don't like anyone here.
Wild Cards: Dallas, Philly.  Parcells works his magic!

SUPER BOWL: New York Giants over New England

Biggest Surprise: I picked Detroit, didn't I?


AFC East
MIA 10-6 -- Gotta love how their defense has improved, they now have a capable backup, regardless if that's Fiedler or Griese, and Ricky is right in his prime.
NE 9-7 -- Patriots are primed for another run.  Youth might get them in trouble here and there, they seem to be missing a whole lot on offense, but any time you have Belichick scheming the defense, you have a really good chance.
BUF 8-8 -- I'm sticking with my "Drew Bledsoe for first half MVP" theory.  It seems every year he comes flying out of the gate with phenomenal first half numbers, but then in the second half he becomes Tony Banks.  Josh Reed isn't ready to replace Peerless Price yet and even with an injury, McGahee should push Travis Henry to a 1400 yard season.
NYJ 7-9 -- I just don't see anything there.  They lost their main receiver in Coles, Curtis Martin is a year older, Pennington is gone, and the Jets have a first place schedule this year.  It could be ugly for both New Jersey teams.  I do think Vinny can win a few games, so they won't go 3-13.

AFC North
CLE 9-7 -- Is Kelly Holcomb the real deal?  No.  But Couch is worse.  Someone has to win 9 games in this division, so why not Cleveland.  William Green finished strong last year and he should be a big factor to improving the Browns.
PIT 9-7 -- Another team without a real quarterback.  Tommy Maddox really helped this team last year, but couldn't just about anyone after Kordell Stewart couldn't tell the difference between his receivers and defensive backs?  If Maddox falters and there's locker room controversy over the Bus being #2, 9-7 could be a great year for this team.
BAL 7-9 -- Is Ray Lewis all this team has?  Is he still dominant?  Yep, and sure.  And a steady defense should be enough to push this team to seven wins, but the glory days are already a faded memory.
CIN 4-12 -- You gotta love the loyalty and heart of Corey Dillon to stick with this team.  He claims he wants to win the Super Bowl with the Bengals but I don't think he's going to see it in his career.  This should be that last horrible year for the Bengals though, before Palmer takes over next season.

AFC South
TEN 10-6 -- The Atlanta Braves of football.  They're always around, but never quite win the big one (ok, the Braves won it once in their run) but any time you've got McNair, Eddie George and a Freak running around, you'll do just fine. A very weak division and should get 5 easy wins over division opponents.
IND 8-8 -- Peyton never could beat Florida, and I'm also predicting that he won't ever win anything in the NFL either.  Edgerrin James wants out of this team, but there is enough talent to be an average team. Vaderjagt was right.
JAC 7-9 -- Has there been a Pro-Bowl level quarterback who faded as fast or as hard as Brunell?  Jimmy Smith being out certainly can't help, and having a coach who hasn't even been a linebackers coach for a Pop Warner team will cost them games.  But they are better than the Texans.
HOU 6-10 -- Steady improvement.  Texans fans just need to hope that David Carr can continue to remain healthy despite the pounding that he takes. Maybe they'll make a splash and steal Drew Henson away from the Yankees and/or trade him to really improve their needs at many spots.

AFC West
KAN 10-6 -- To me, this division is the most competitive from top to bottom. Priest Holmes, Trent Green (Indiana alum!), Tony Gonzalez, they have above average players all over the field and should win enough games to take this division.
OAK 9-7 -- Oldland.  No, its not quite true that the Raider players are supplementing their income with social security payments.  But they're close!  They still have talent and they know that this will surely be the last year of their run.  They were the bridesmaid last year, feel like they got screwed two years ago, so they will give it one strong push to get to the hallowed ground in 2003. 
SD 9-7 -- The exact opposite of the Raiders.  Young talent.  Brees, Tomlinson, and new addition David Boston will make the Chargers tough to stop.  A great pick to go far in 2004.  But this is only '03.
DEN 7-9 -- They washed that Griese QB out of their hair and let a Snake into their den.  Plummer will be out to prove that Arizona's troubles weren't his fault, and the gunslinger should love having Clinton Portis running behind him and the thin air letting him throw bombs.  In a different division, Denver could do well.  But they're not and they won't.

NFC East
PHI 11-5 -- Probably the most bottom heavy division in football and its too bad for Philly.  Great teams do great things against other great teams. Philly doesn't have a foil.   They should run away with this division early and never look back.
NYG 8-8 -- Fassel and Dayne's necks are both on the line.  I don't know if a .500 record is enough to save either one, but this Giants team will not be a good one.
WAS 7-9 -- Go back to college.  Spurrier is not a pro coach.  Spurrier is the NFL's version of Rick Pittino.  Some rumors already are popping up that the Tennessee Volunteers could be looking to bring Spurrier home. After the experiment of trying to bring all the former Gators to DC didn't work, now the 'Skins are trying to bring the Jets to DC.  That won't work either.
DAL 7-9 -- There's always a Tuna effect in the first year.  His teams improve.  Not greatly, but enough for him to prove how good he is.  All things will be smooth this year, look for Troy Hambrick to break out, if whoever the QB is can find some receivers to open up the field. Defenses might as well put eight in the box here and force Hutchinson/Carter/Romo to beat them through the air.

NFC Central
GNB 11-5 -- The swan song for Favre.  He's got rings, but he wants one more. Ahman Green is ready to prove he belongs among the elite backs in the league and there isn't any other quality in this division.  Plus, you gotta love DB Mike McKenzie's dreadlocks flopping around from under his helmet on a snowy cold day in Lambeau.
MIN 9-7 -- Culpepper to Moss.  The underappreciated Moe Williams.   He isn't Robert Smith, but he is good. Chris Hovan.  He learned from one the the nuttiest sack men around, John Randle and even tries to paint his face like Randle when the league overlooks it.  Should be a decent year for the Vikes.
CHI 8-8 -- After a 16 game road trip last season, the Bears finally get to come home to Soldier Field.  After 3 bad seasons and one good 13-3 season mixed in, this team is out to prove that they're good.  They have Anthony Thomas but they believe they improved by bringing in Kordell Stewart and changing around the offense to let him run.  The players are unhappy with the Ted Washington move and those things make them an average team.
DET 5-11 -- Poor Joey Harrington.  I like him, he's good, but no one else on this team is.

NFC South
NOR 11-5 -- Aaron Brooks, Deuce McAllister and lots of receivers.  They gave up Ricky Williams and they got better.  Let's see, has anyone ever discussed that phenomenon before?  Probably.  But that's a different subject.  I don't look for the World Champions to repeat, not even in their own division.
TAM 9-7 -- Its just too hard to repeat in the NFL, especially without an offense.  Warren Sapp's contract is up this year, so I would expect him to possibly finally break that sack record that he keeps yapping about. Sapp and Keyshawn both said they are nothing without their rings, well, they got 'em now, but can they repeat?  No.
ATL 8-8 -- How can anyone really predict what the Falcons are going to do this season when its still up in the air if Vick is gone for 6 weeks or the whole season.  Clearly if he misses the whole season, they could challenge Carolina for the cellar.  If he misses four games and they can split those, Vick could come back and win 8 or 9 more.
CAR 6-10 -- Still rebuilding.  Yeah, they picked up Stephen Davis, but as this site has shown, teams have to first be winning to really use a running back effectively.  The player on this team that I really like is Dan Morgan.  The LB from Miami who found a way to get the NCAA allow him 6 seasons in college.

NFC West
STL 10-6 -- The greatest show on turf is back.  Warner is healthy, he still has all his weapons and he's ready and will go far this season.  The defense is intact and I won't be surprised to see the Rams head back to the Super Bowl.
SF 8-8 -- Hey, you gotta pick at least one surprise, right?  Well this is it.  A bad year for the Niners.  Something will go wrong, whether its an injury to Garcia or Owens or they'll just hit a spell of bad luck, I don't like the Niners' chances this season.
SEA 7-9 -- Was the success in Green Bay because of genius Mike Holmgren or Brett Favre?  I think that question has been answered.  Holmgren is just another coach, as Seattle has let him also shop for the groceries. Hasselbeck should be able to finally step up and replace Dilfer and Shaun Alexander is a very good running back.  What else is there really to say about this team?  Oh, Koren Robinson is ok too.
ARI 3-13 -- This team just flat out stinks.  They replace Jake Plummer with Jeff Blake.  That's a downgrade.  They lose David Boston and Martay Jenkins and replace them with your next door neighbors.  Then they have promising running backs in Thomas Jones and Marcel Shipp, but they let Jones walk and bring in a 53 year old Emmitt Smith for a couple years. Aaron's numbers show this team winning 7 games this year.  I think 3 wins could be a struggle. 

AFC First Round: New England over Cleveland, Oakland over Tennessee
AFC Second Round: Oakland over Miami, KC over New England
AFC Championship: KC over Oakland

NFC First Round: St. Louis over Tampa Bay, New Orleans over Minnesota
NFC Second Round: Philadelphia over New Orleans, St Louis over Green Bay
NFC Championship: St. Louis over Philadelphia

SUPER BOWL: St. Louis over Kansas City


AFC East: New England (Miami takes another famous December Dive...)
AFC North: Pittsburgh
AFC South: Tennessee
AFC West: Oakland
Wild Cards: Kansas City, Miami (...but manages to stay in the playoffs this time)

NFC East: Philadelphia
NFC North: Minnesota
NFC South: Tampa Bay
NFC West: San Francisco
Wild Cards: Atlanta, New York Giants

SUPER BOWL: Philadelphia over Pittsburgh as Pennsylvania goes crazy.

Biggest Surprises: Cincinnati and Detroit won't suck nearly as much as people think...we're talking 8-8 seasons.  Minnesota will begin to return to their former selves so that they can choke in the playoffs instead of just the regular season.

Flops: Green Bay...no more magic.  Portis not as good as last year. Oh, and Seattle will still be mediocre.


AFC East: Miami.  As a Patriots fan, I want to say that Miami will fold again, that Wannstedt can't coach, that the Pats will take the division.  But the odds are that Miami won't fold again, that Wannstedt won't go pass-wacky, and the Dolphins now have a real backup quarterback and a pretty good second wide receiver to go with great defense.
AFC North: Pittsburgh.  I don't understand fantasy sites that have Tommy Maddox listed around the 20th best quarterback.
AFC South: Indianapolis.  I agree with the prediction system, this division is mired in mediocrity.
AFC West: Oakland.  Every year I think they'll get old, and every year they don't.
Wild Cards: New England, and either Kansas City (if Priest Holmes is healthy for at least 10 of the 12 AFC games) or Denver (if he isn't).

NFC East: Philadelphia.  I think the lost players here are overrated, and McNabb is a force of nature.
NFC North: Green Bay.  I can't see why not.
NFC South: Tampa Bay.  Still dominant on defense.
NFC West: St. Louis.  I agree fully with the idea of Seattle as a breakout team, but it is hard to discount the Rams if Marshall Faulk is back to top shape.  The danger is that if Warner is not back to top shape, Martz will be stubborn and not switch to Bulger immediately.
Wild Cards: Seattle, who will upset their first round opponent (Green Bay, probably) and Atlanta.

SUPER BOWL: Atlanta over Miami.  Atlanta has an underrated defense, Reeves is a damn good coach, and Vick has intelligence and an arm even if his legs aren't 100 percent when he returns.  The injury is the kind of thing that pulls a team together, like the Bledsoe injury for the Pats of 2001, and Doug Johnson will keep this team strong until Vick returns. Strange to pick a wild card, but Baltimore did it, and you are talking about the only team to ever beat the Packers at Lambeau during the playoffs.  If Brad Johnson gets injured, the Falcons probably beat out Tampa for the division title.  As for the AFC representative, if I'm going to go with the idea that Miami won't fold this year, I guess I have to go with the idea that they'll make it through the playoffs without folding.  They seem to have the right combination to win the Super Bowl: powerful running back, great defense, and smart quarterback who "plays within himself."  Of course, nothing says Wannstedt won't screw it up at the end, which is why I'm taking Atlanta.  If, by some small chance, Vick is out for the year, pretend that I said "Tampa Bay repeats."

Biggest Surprises: Seattle is good on both offense and defense, the latter being the bigger surprise.  Doug Johnson plays very well (except against Tampa Bay, of course).  One Arizona receiver emerges as a fantasy star because of the Cards' easy schedule and the fact that they will play from behind a lot.  Kordell Stewart has a great fantasy year and still doesn't win much.  Ted Washington mistakenly eats Dan Klecko, confusing him with a turkey sandwich.

Biggest Busts: Baltimore is horrible on both offense and defense, not counting players named "Lewis."  Kerry Collins and Amani Toomer are a resistible force against immovable pass defenses like the Falcons, Bucs, Dolphins, and Pats.  Dallas still sucks, because it takes the Tuna a year to flush out the system and install his guys.  Brian Urlacher really misses Roosevelt Colvin.  The Titans' passing game falls apart, and you see a lot more of rookie running back Chris Brown by the end of the year.

Posted by: admin on 26 Aug 2003

1 comment, Last at 12 Aug 2005, 1:17am by HLF


by HLF (not verified) :: Fri, 08/12/2005 - 1:17am

Even more interesting now...