Shots in the Dark — NFL 2009 Predictions

First, I want to get something straight right off the bat: I don’t know what I’m talking about.

I’m not one of those football fans who obsess over a team’s efficiency on third downs of five yards or less in October on the road. I can’t tell you who the third string center is for the Detroit Lions. I don’t know what college the back-up safety for the Giants went to. I just watch a lot of games and like to think I know a good team from a bad team.

So, what you’re about to read is simply gut-instinct feelings about the upcoming NFL season. It is likely highly suspect in its accuracy and probably bound to be completely wrong by Week 8.

* = Division winner
** = Wild card team

AFC EAST
*New England
Miami
New York
Buffalo

Tom Brady’s back and I think he’s going to be out to prove he hasn’t lost anything. Adding Fred Taylor and Joey Galloway is only going to help the offense. Miami’s not going to take a huge step back, it’s that New England is going to be clearly better. Mark Sanchez won’t embarrass himself in New York, but he’s not ready to carry this team to the playoffs yet. And something just doesn’t feel right about Buffalo to me, TO or no TO.

AFC NORTH
*Pittsburgh
**Baltimore
Cincinnati
Cleveland

I didn’t see Pittsburgh getting any worse this off-season, while Baltimore has nobody to throw the ball to that defenses have to really respect. Cincinnati is third simply by the virtue of the Browns not being good enough to be any higher than last.

AFC SOUTH
*Tennessee
**Indianapolis
Houston
Jacksonville

The Titans and Colts will once again duke it out, and I think the loss of Dungy will hold the Colts back a bit. Houston will break .500 this season, but there are simply too many talented teams in the AFC for them to break through. And this season could bring the end of the Jack Del Rio era in Jacksonville — it’s gonna be a long one.

AFC WEST
San Diego
Denver
Kansas City
Oakland

San Diego wins the division because frankly, none of the other teams are good enough to do so. But I’m not picking any Norv Turner coached team to go any farther than just making the playoffs. Denver will run the ball as usual and be decent enough to finish ahead of the train wrecks that will be the Chiefs and Raiders. The Raiders, in fact, may just end up as the worst team in the league.

NFC EAST
*Philadelphia
**New York
Dallas
Washington

I think Michael Vick is going to light a little bit of a fire under Donovan McNabb, and that’ll carry the Eagles to the division title. The Giants’ lack of a go-to receiver is going to allow defenses to beef up to stop the run and put the pressure on Eli Manning, and I don’t think he’s quite up to it yet. Dallas will compete, but did they really get better losing TO? And the Skins will once again prove that you can’t just buy a playoff spot.

NFC NORTH
*Minnesota
Green Bay
Chicago
Detroit

Brett Favre doesn’t need to be BRETT FAVRE. Adrian Peterson will keep him from having to be the whole show, and that should help him stay healthy. Aaron Rodgers will keep the Packers close, but their defensive transition is going to hold them back. The Bears honeymoon with Jay Cutler will end when he realizes his main target is Bernard Berrian instead of Brandon Marshall. Matt Forte and the defense will keep them respectable though. As for the Lions, they’ll win some games, and that’s really all they need to do to show improvement.

NFC SOUTH
*New Orleans
**Atlanta
Carolina
Tampa Bay

The Saints’ defense may be shaky, but that offense can outscore anybody. Of course, that won’t help them get very far in the playoffs. I don’t see Matt Ryan hitting a sophomore slump, especially with Tony Gonzalez around to help him out. Carolina’s going to be that frustrating .500 team that looks great one week and horrible the next. And, yes, my beloved Bucs are probably looking at a 6-win season.

NFC WEST
*Seattle
Arizona
St. Louis
San Francisco

The Seahawks take advantage of the inevitable post-Super Bowl loss slump that will hit the Cardinals, but they’ll still probably go 9-7 in winning the division. The Rams and 49ers still have a ways to go on the road to respectability.

In the end, I think we see the Patriots and the Vikings in the Super Bowl, with New England keeping Minnesota winless in the big game but Favre getting to go out in one last blaze of glory.

Until he decides to come back and play for the CFL next year.

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