Sunday, November 7, 2010

Mid-Season Review: Playoff Predictions

Are the Patriots bound for the Super Bowl again?

It's mid-season and time to re-evaluate my pre-season predictions

Here are my playoff predictions from before the season:
Playoffs:
AFC Division Winners: Indianapolis Colts (13-3), Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5), New England Patriots (11-5), San Diego Chargers (10-6). Wild Card: Tennessee Titans (11-5), Miami Dolphins (10-6).

Patriots over Dolphins, Titans over Chargers
Titans over Colts, Steelers over Patriots
Titans over Steelers

NFC Division Winners: New Orleans Saints (12-4), Green Bay Packers (12-4), Dallas Cowboys (10-6), San Francisco 49ers (9-7). Wild Card: New York Giants (9-7), Atlanta Falcons (9-7).

Cowboys over Falcons, Giants over 49ers
Saints over Giants, Cowboys over Packers
Cowboys over Saints

Super Bowl:
Cowboys over Titans

Top 5 Draft Order: 1st. Buffalo Bills, 2nd. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 3rd. St. Louis Rams, 4th. Cleveland Browns, 5th. Seattle Seahawks

Now entering Week 9, things obviously look like they'll shape up a little bit differently. With only one win to this point, we can safely say that the Dallas Cowboys won't be in the Super Bowl this year. Heres some thoughts on how the NFL has shook up so far, followed by my mid-season predictions.

Top of the Class
The Patriots and Steelers have clearly established themselves as the class of the NFL.

While I had the Steelers being one of the top teams before the season, I didn't expect them to lose only 1 game without Big Ben. As a result I've upgraded them by 2 wins. With a very easy schedule upcoming, I expect them to lose only once more this season - likely in a meaningless Week 17.

I was higher than most on the Patriots in the pre-season, giving them an 11-5 record to end the year while most experts pegged them to have 6 losses again.

Yet the Patriots have surprised just about everyone.

New England has no official offensive or defensive coordinators. Their pro-bowl left guard was holding out from the team and his backup, Nick Kaczur, was lost for the season. The Pats also lost significant players like CB Leigh Bodden, S Brandon McGowan and DE Ty Warren  to injuries before the season. Most thought they were going struggle. When they traded away Randy Moss in October, NFL Network's Deion Sanders suggested that the Pats had given up on the year.

However, the Patriots currently sit with the NFL's best record. They've shown some mental toughness that's reminiscent of the Super Bowl years. Now they only get better with Logan Mankins ending his holdout and returning to the lineup. As a result, I see them losing only 3 more times this year.

Slip N Slide
I still see the Ravens as being over hyped and don't see them making the playoffs this year. I'm not very high on Joe Flacco and their trademark defense hasn't been dominant since Week 1.

I also see the Chiefs falling off a little bit, while the Chargers go on one of their traditional late season winning streaks. Many expect the Chiefs to finish at 13-3 because of their cream puff schedule. While I'm a believer that the Chiefs are a good team - they barely have a passing attack. You cannot stay one dimensional for long  in the NFL and this will catch up to them. We'll see a lot more games like that Buffalo game last week (where the two almost tied) and they won't always come out on top. I see them finishing 9-7, just barely falling behind the surging Chargers.

With Anthony Gonzalez being placed on IR that makes 12 on that list for the Colts. Indianapolis has struggled with injuries and if it weren't for Peyton Manning, they could be looking at a sub .500 record right now. Ultimately, I think the lack of depth hurts them at points in the season but that Manning can keep them treading water - which will likely earn him another MVP nod. The Colts will finish a respectable 11-5 but get swept by the Titans, costing them the division.

NFC Breakdown
The two best teams in the NFC, to me, reside in the NFC East. The Giants and Eagles have been extremely impressive so far. The Giants defense has been entertaining to watch and the same goes for the Philly offense - even with two quarterbacks.

The Saints have obviously fallen off this year with the loss of their running backs, Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush. However, their upcoming schedule should allow them to bounce back with a strong second half - allowing them to pass the Falcons and "NFC best" Bucs for first place in the NFC South.

Also, the St. Louis Rams are looking like the best team in the NFC West. Seeing as it won't take a good record to become the division champs - I'll take my chances with Sam Bradford who looks like he'll be a force to reckon with for years to come. I had faith in the 49ers this year but then they lost to the Carolina Panthers. They blew it.

Here's the updated predictions...

Mid-Season Predictions:

AFC Division Winners: Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3), New England Patriots (12-4), Tennessee Titans (11-5), San Diego Chargers (10-6). Wild Card: Indianapolis Colts (11-5), New York Jets (10-6).

Jets over Titans, Chargers over Colts
Steelers over Jets, Patriots over Chargers
Steelers over Patriots

NFC Division Winners: New York Giants (12-4), Green Bay Packers (11-5), New Orleans Saints (11-5), St. Louis Rams (8-8). Wild Card: Atlanta Falcons (10-6), Philadelphia Eagles (10-6).

Eagles over Saints, Rams over Falcons
Eagles over Giants, Packers over Rams
Packers over Eagles

Super Bowl:
Steelers over Packers

Top 5 Draft Order: 1st. Buffalo Bills 2nd. Carolina Panthers 3rd. Dallas Cowboys 4th. Denver Broncos 5th. Arizona Cardinals

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