Predicting the 2010 NFL Season: Packers All the Way
According to Webster's dictionary, the first known use of the word "prediction'' was in 1561, perhaps in connection with the caber-tossing competition in Northumberland.
In the 21st century, it's something NFL fans take very seriously -- at least those folks who keep track of everyone's predictions, so at the end of the season, the Super Bowl and awards decided, they can call out those who erred.
And we all do of course.
For the record, I erred on the big one last season when I didn't have the Saints in the playoffs, then had the temerity to pick the Giants as my Super Bowl winner (looked OK when they were 5-0) and was duly chastised in public by a blogger. He didn't note that I correctly pegged Percy Harvin as the Offensive Rookie of the Year.
For the record, I don't take these things very seriously. I take them as fun to have in a business where fans and pundits (self-appointed or otherwise) know as much as the "experts''
This year I'm in the position I always take: "Once I commit, I commit.'' Even if it's too early.
Example: I was asked way back in June to pick my Super Bowl teams.
That was when folks seem to assume that Dallas would waltz to 19-0, winning the title at home. I don't go with conventional wisdom, so I picked the Packers to win the NFC and maybe the title (I forget whether I did or not). Now the Packers are the popular choice and a friend derided me for going with conventional wisdom. I am changing my AFC pick from Miami to Baltimore -- I just threw the Dolphins in for the heck of it and they didn't have a very good preseason.
One team I'm not picking is the Jets, even with Darrelle Revis back, a predictable development -- guys who hold out usually show up the last week. The Revis holdout never bothered me in regards to the Jets' fortunes as much as:
1. They're weak at the most critical position in football: Owner.
2. Mark Sanchez is in his second year and still is making rookie (well, second-year) mistakes at QB.
3. They made it to the AFC title game last season but wouldn't even have made the playoffs if the Colts hadn't tanked a game to them in the 14th week.
But I've written too much about a team that hasn't sold out yet and which Woody Johnson won't concede remains (and will remain) the No. 2 team in its market -- the Jets were still advertising to sell tickets at "Jets Stadium'' (a presumptuous and erroneous name) during the Notre Dame-Purdue game on Saturday.
So here, for entertainment purposes only, is what I think will happen during the 2010 NFL season:
AFC East: Patriots. Bill Belichick remains the best coach in football and Tom Brady one of the two best quarterbacks. Other than Brady, the talent may not be up to the Jets' level. But Brady over Sanchez is a given.
AFC North: Ravens. Now they have offense. The secondary is a big question but the pass rush isn't, and that can make up for problems in the back. Cincinnati is good; Pittsburgh average, even with Ben.
AFC South: Colts. Who else? This makes it seven in eight years. Tennessee usually contends for a wild-card spot and the Texans have some outstanding players (Mario Williams, Andre Johnson, DeMeco Ryans), but not enough good ones, although Owen Daniels coming back helps.
AFC West: Raiders. The first three winners are the obvious ones; the division stinks and San Diego's holdouts, especially Vincent Jackson, are disruptive. (Patrick Crayton's not a great replacement.) Losing Elvis Dumervil kills Denver and Kansas City is still rebuilding with a quarterback, Matt Cassel, who's still a question mark. Remember!!! We're having fun here.
AFC wild cards: Jets, Bengals. I'll give the Jets that much.
NFC East: Cowboys. The OL is a problem, but the other three teams have more question marks than Dallas, whose fans keep bashing Tony Romo for some reason. Come on, folks. The Giants are probably the second best and might challenge Dallas, if they straighten out the defense. Kevin Kolb is still a question in Philly. Are the Redskins, with little offensive talent, better with Donovan McNabb than they were with Jason Campbell? Yeah, because the Mike Shanahan-Jim Haslett combination is better than Jim Zorn and whomever.
NFC North: Packers. If the OL and secondary hold up, Green Bay beats out the Vikings, where it's hard to imagine Brett Favre surviving a full season -- streak or no streak. Detroit is better and Chicago thinks it is.
NFC South: Saints. We often overlook the defending champions. We shouldn't. With Matt Ryan moving into Manning-Brady-Brees territory, Atlanta is coming. But Carolina needs an offense and Tampa needs everything.
NFC West: 49ers by default, even with Alex Smith at QB because the defense is solid. Maybe at 8-8. Derek Anderson's inconsistency replaces Kurt Warner's accuracy in Arizona; St. Louis was so far down, it will take years to get back up, and Seattle and Pete Carroll seem to be confused. That's being kind.
NFC Wild Cards: Vikings, Falcons.
Please don't set this in stone. There are probably 20 to 25 teams that could contend for the postseason ... including Detroit. The Lions have two great rookies, Ndamunkong Suh and Jahvid Best; a second-year QB, Matthew Stafford, who will be a star; and a wide receiver, Calvin Johnson, who already is one. Louis Delmas will be standout safety if he isn't already, although he's hurting and the secondary is otherwise a complete turnover.
Hold me to this? Bash me? Hey, it's a wide-open league, which is just how Roger Goodell and his folks like it.
MVP: Given that it's hard for anyone but a quarterback to win it, make it the Packers' Aaron Rodgers, who may be the league's best QB anyway.
Offensive Player of the Year: Chris Johnson of the Titans says he'll run for 2,500 yards. OK, I'll hold him to it. But if he does, he won't make it to 1,500 any time in the future, because it takes too many carries to get there. (I heard my old friend Mike Wilbon say that first and I agree wholeheartedly. For all his hoops talk, Mike's a good football guy from the days he was on the beat.)
Defensive Player of the Year: Jay Ratliff, Cowboys. If I didn't pick him, it would be Haloti Ngata of the Ravens or Kevin Williams of the Vikings. Love disruptive DTs.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Tie. Jahvid Best, RB, Lions; Mike Williams, WR, Bucs. Williams has the disadvantage of an inexperienced QB and a bad team and a questionable past at Syracuse that dropped him to the fourth round. But he's a stud. Hey, I'll get ripped for not picking Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego. If he wins, I'll take credit for mentioning him.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: If he stays healthy, Mr. Suh will win it. But I don't like obvious picks (Not literally, I love Suh). So I'm picking Packers safety Morgan Burnett, a third-rounder who is solidifying the Packers secondary in place of the injured Atari Bigby. A second-rounder, a third-rounder and a fourth-rounder. Perfect.
Coach of the Year: Mike Singletary, 49ers. Sometimes he goes overboard as he did when he dropped his pants in his first year as a coach. He went overboard as a player, overachieved, and landed in the Hall of Fame.
Comeback Player of the Year: Justin Tuck, Giants. Flozell Adams cheapshotted him in the second game last year and he played the entire season with one arm. Had six sacks after getting 12 in 2008. He'll get back to 12 this year. Besides, he's a good guy.
SUPER BOWL PREDICTION: Packers 32, Ravens 31