2011 NFL Preview: Predictions, Playoffs and Super Bowl Champion

I don't really go out on a limb for these predictions like I have in years past. I think with the lockout and shortened off season, teams with continuity hold a huge advantage. Thus I think most of the teams that were good last year will be good this year. Injuries always change those plans, however.

AFC East

1. New England Patriots, 13-3
2. New York Jets, 9-7
3. Buffalo Bills, 7-9
4. Miami Dolphins, 6-10

All the talk will be on the Jets but I think they could be a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. They added Plaxico Burress and had to settle for bringing back Antonio Cromartie. All of these personalities, including Rex Ryan, could be a train wreck. As a Dolphins fan, maybe I am just hoping for the best. My team looks pretty bad. I am not fooled by Chad Henne's decent preseason, he is not a good quarterback. The right side of the line is a mess, and they will really struggle to score points. Fantasy players, make sure to stream the opposing defenses when they go up against the Dolphins. The Patriots recently added Brian Waters, and have veterans hungry for a championship all over the place. They are deep, young and veteran at the same time, and fast.

AFC North

1. Pittsburgh Steelers, 12-4
2. Baltimore Ravens, 11-5 *
3. Cleveland Browns, 6-10
4. Cincinnati Bengals, 5-11

Like the beginning of time it seems, this division will be a two horse race between the Steelers and Ravens. I want to pick the Ravens to make the Super Bowl like I seem to do every year, I really do. But Joe Flacco is 0-6 against the Steelers. If they want to make the big game, he will have to get past the Steelers. Defending Super Bowl champs usually falter the following year, but I don't see a hangover for Pittsburgh. They are too well coached and disciplined.
AFC South

1. Indianapolis Colts, 11-5
2. Houston Texans, 10-6 *
3. Tennessee Titans, 6-10
4. Jacksonville Jaguars, 4-12

I didn't do writeups for this division. These predictions were before I learned about all of Peyton Manning's injury concerns. If they are without him for an extended period of time, forget it. They aren't sniffing the playoffs. Their offensive line is bad, they can't run the ball and every position on defense except for ends are a question mark. The Titans and Jaguars are complete non factors. I wonder what Jacksonville is doing. They trade up to draft a rookie quarterback then pay insane money to Marcedes Lewis and Paul Posluszny. This should be the year the Texans finally get over the hump. We shall see. They have the passing attack, the running game, a good offensive line and talent on the defense, now coached by great coordinator (but horrible head coach) Wade Phillips.

AFC West

1. San Diego Chargers, 11-5
2. Kansas City Chiefs, 7-9
3. Denver Broncos, 6-10
4. Oakland Raiders, 3-13

The two West divisions are easily the worst in football. I expect the Chiefs to take a huge step back. I was generously gave them a 7-9 record, but I could just as easily see 4-12. I think the coordinators did a good job of masking Todd Haley's deficiencies. Of course, his ego ran Charlie Weis out of town and now Matt Cassel should go back to being his usual terrible self. The Broncos and Raiders both have new coaches and holes all over the place. In fact, I picked the Raiders to win the Andrew Luck derby. They have had a ton of top ten draft picks but have virtually nothing to show for it except Darrin McFadden and now a severely overpaid Michael Huff. The Chargers should win this division by default. I gave them 11 wins because of their easy schedule, but the Chargers seem to lose to the easy teams. I could see this division like the NFC West, where the winner is 8-8.

AFC Playoffs

1. New England Patriots
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
3. San Diego Chargers
4. Indianapolis Colts
5. Baltimore Ravens
6. Houston Texans

Wild Card Weekend

Houston Texans @ San Diego Chargers.
Houston: 30, San Diego: 23. The Chargers are the poster children for talented yet annually under performing teams. The Texans are quickly challenging the throne. Someone has to win this division. Norv Turner wins the clueless head coach race by a nose over Gary Kubiak, so the Texans win this game.

Baltimore Ravens @ Indianapolis Colts
Baltimore: 23, Indianapolis: 17. Of course, this is assuming Manning is under center. I still don't think the Colts have enough to win a playoff game. Manning is still great, but there is just no talent around him anymore. All they have is a mid 30's Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark. He cannot do it all alone. The Ravens will win this game and set up a matchup against their familiar foe.

Divisional Round

Houston Texans @ New England Patriots
New England: 41, Houston: 28. Should be a high scoring game, as both offenses can bring it. I just don't think the Texans players have enough experience to hang around in Boston in January. The Pats have disappointed in the playoffs since their Super Bowl loss to the Giants, and could very easily lose this one. In past years I would pick this upset, and I could see it happening, but I have to go with the Pats here.

Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Baltimore: 17, Pittsburgh: 13. Yep, I'm riding with the Ravens again. Even though Flacco has never beaten Pittsburgh. It has to happen sometime, right? The Ravens had a 21-7 halftime lead this time a year ago, but couldn't hold off the Steelers.

AFC Championship
Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots
New England: 31, Baltimore: 24. I am tempted to pick the Ravens here, but I will go with the Pats to make their first Super Bowl in years.

NFC East

1. Philadelphia Eagles, 12-4
2. New York Giants, 10-6
3. Dallas Cowboys, 9-7
4. Washington Redskins, 5-11

The division people like to talk about the most, because of the northeast ties, got even more headlines with the Eagles signing everyone left and right. The target is definitely on their backs, even though Michael Vick struggled down the stretch last year and the team hasn't reached a Super Bowl with this current group. The Cowboys and Giants could also make playoff runs if their defenses can step up. Should be a lot of scoring in this division. On paper the Redskins look pretty bad. Rex Grossman will be the starter, and he really has no business being in the league. Neither does John Beck. They will struggle, especially since they are still trying to find the right personnel for the 3-4.

NFC North

1. Green Bay Packers, 12-4
2. Chicago Bears, 8-8
3. Minnesota Vikings, 7-9
4. Detroit Lions, 6-10

I think the Packers will have this division sown up by the beginning of December. They won the Super Bowl and come back healthier and better then last year. The other three teams all have talent in spots, but way too many question marks to seriously consider for the division title. The Lions are a very popular sleeper pick to make the playoffs. I would love to see it, but I wonder if they can stay healthy. Stafford and Best are serious health risks. And the secondary is still pretty bad.

NFC South

1. New Orleans Saints, 13-3
2. Atlanta Falcons, 11-5
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 6-10
4. Carolina Panthers, 5-11

The Saints might just be my pick to win their second Super Bowl in three years. But the Falcons will definitely be a challenge if the defense can play well enough. I love the Bucs young talent but I think that they will take a step back this year, since the schedule is no longer a complete and utter cake walk. If Cam Newton can perform even average (doubtfully), the Panthers could win 8 games. They have a good running game and a great offensive line. This division has been one of the best in football all decade. They had three winning teams last year and there was a point in recent history where four teams won the division in four years.
NFC West

1. Arizona Cardinals, 8-8
2. St. Louis Rams, 7-9
3. San Francisco 49ers, 6-10
4. Seattle Seahawks, 5-11

The addition of Kevin Kolb may be enough for the Cardinals to rise to the top of the mediocrity. Then again, the loss of Greg Toler and the holes all over the defense and offensive line could be their undoing. The Rams probably have the most talent in the league, but their first half schedule is just brutal. Unfairly brutal, I should say. I had them starting 1-7. In this division, they could come back from that though. They play all six division games during the second half of the season. The Niners are breaking in a rookie coach and have to suffer through yet another year of Alex Smith. It will be a developmental year in San Francisco. The Seahawks added some good young talent, but the quarterback position is just abysmal. It is the worst in the league, even worse then the Dolphins and Redskins. But like last year, I think any team can win this division.

NFC Playoffs

1. New Orleans Saints
2. Philadelphia Eagles
3. Green Bay Packers
4. Arizona Cardinals
5. Atlanta Falcons
6. New York Giants

Wild Card Weekend

Atlanta Falcons @ Arizona Cardinals
Arizona: 24, Atlanta: 21. I am just not as high on Atlanta as pretty much everyone else. I think the Cardinals could equal them on offense, with home field being the difference. For the second straight year Atlanta suffers a humiliating defeat and the NFC West wins a playoff game.

New York Giants @ Green Bay Packers
Green Bay: 38, New York: 20. I think this will be a blowout. The Packers are the best team playing on the first weekend and the Giants might be one of the worst.

Divisional Round

Arizona Cardinals @ New Orleans Saints
New Orleans: 42, Arizona: 21. The Saints will not lose to the NFC Worst playoff team two years in a row. They get to play at home again and the fans won't let them down.

Green Bay Packers @ Philadelphia Eagles
Green Bay: 20, Philadelphia, 17. This should be a great game. It will be very tough for the Packers, as the Eagles secondary could shut down the passing game. But I like the Pack's experience to win out here, as I don't think Vick is the type of quarterback who can lead a team to a Super Bowl.

NFC Championship

Green Bay Packers @ New Orleans Saints
New Orleans: 24, Green Bay, 22. This game kicks off the 2011 NFL season and it concludes the 2011 NFC season. I think both teams are loaded on both sides of the ball and coached extremely well. It will likely come down to the wire, so I give the edge to the home field team.

Super Bowl XLVI

New Orleans Saints: 30
New England Patriots: 24

This game can definitely go either way. I will give the Saints the slight edge playing in the dome at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Jonathan Carrano

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