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2008 Season Predictions

September 3rd, 2008

Another NFL season is upon us and what do I have to offer? Once again, it’s an assortment of utterly useless predictions. That’s right. This is where I try to project what will happen over the course of five months in a sport that’s all but impossible to predict a week at a time.

Which promising team will tank for reasons that everyone will say they should have recognized come November or December? I don’t know. Which one will collapse under the weight of one or two key injuries? Don’t ask me. Which team that looks right now like it’ll be lucky to win half a dozen games will manage twice that? If I knew, I’d be on my way to Vegas.

So why bother? Because it’s kind of fun, I guess. And because everybody else does it. (Don’t talk to me about jumping off bridges. No one gets hurt guessing at football results.) Plus, you know, on the off chance I get one or two things right, I’ll have something to crow about come January. So there’s that.

Regular Season Records
If you’ve been down this road with me before, you know that I don’t bother to predict a final record for every team in the NFL. Even I have better sense than that to pretend I’m capable of doing that with anything approximating accuracy. What I do instead is list a range of numbers that represent the total wins I think each team is likely to achieve. And those usually end up being somewhere between slightly and way off the mark. So what’s the point in the hedge? Again, you’ve got me. Still and all, here’s what I’m sort of expecting to see, division by division.

AFC East

New England Patriots, 13-15
The big question, to my mind, is how back-to-back West Coast trips twice during the season (that is, four total trips out west paired up thusly: Oct. 5 & 12, San Francisco and San Diego, and Dec. 7 & 14, Seattle and Oakland) will affect the Pats. If they manage to win three of those games, they have a shot at 15 wins total.

Buffalo Bills, 7-9
Another season, another mediocre finish with flashes of brilliance for the Bills.

New York Jets, 6-8
Brett Favre probably makes the Jets a better team. The Jets may even win twice as many games as they did last season. For whatever that’s worth.

Miami Dolphins, 4-6
The Dolphins very well may become the second best team in the AFC East. Next year.

AFC North

Cleveland Browns, 10-12
Ten wins didn’t get the Browns into the playoffs last year. It might not get them in this season either. Eleven or twelve, on the other hand, wins the North. If they can come out strong and avoid creating a quarterback controversy, the Browns should be able to win some games they would have lost a season ago. And if that happens, the division is Cleveland’s.

Pittsburgh Steelers, 9-11
The Steelers can win the division or they can miss the playoffs. And the difference, I suspect, will be whether Ben Roethlisberger can play well enough to prevent opposing D’s from stacking the box.

Baltimore Ravens, 6-8
Starting a rookie quarterback because you’ve decided to get it over with and turn the page is tough enough. Starting a rookie QB because no one else is healthy is something else entirely.

Cincinnati Bengals, 5-7
Same old story with the Bengals: Lots of talent, zero discipline. And that still doesn’t cut it in the NFL.

AFC South

Jacksonville Jaguars, 11-13
I don’t see any reason to believe the Jags will be any less dangerous than they were a year ago. Do you?

Indianapolis Colts, 10-12
A three-time Pro Bowl center isn’t an easy player to replace, which is why I believe the Colts will get off to a rough start without Jeff Saturday, who’s out for at least the first six weeks and maybe the first eleven. Indy will turn it around, because they’re a great football team. The question is, will they turn it around in time to overtake Jacksonville?

Houston Texans, 8-10
I expect the Texans to be a better team this season than they were last. Unfortunately for them, the AFC South is maybe the second best division in the NFL.

Tennessee Titans, 6-9
Like the Texans, the Titans could probably win the NFC West or South, but they’ll have trouble in this division and with four games against bruising AFC North opponents.

AFC West

San Diego Chargers, 9-12
For most teams, year two under Norv Turner would be a complete mess. For a team with this much talent, it’s probably just the beginning of the end. And it’s not like there’s another sure-shot good team in the division to worry about.

Denver Broncos, 8-10
If the Chargers stumble early while dealing with injuries and the Broncos come on strong, you could see a race to the finish line in the division. If not, you can at least expect Denver to be in the Wild Card mix until late in the season and to be labeled the team to watch in 2009.

Oakland Raiders, 3-6
The Raiders defense, once again, is loaded with potential. But potential is meaningless when you spend 45 minutes a week on the field.

Kansas City Chiefs, 2-5
Rebuilding year or no rebuilding year, if Herm Edwards survives this season, it’ll be a miracle.

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys, 11-13
You can like the Cowboys. You can hate the Cowboys. But you have to respect the Cowboys. This is a tough and talented football team that should be on a mission after letting it all slip away at the end of 2007.

Philadelphia Eagles, 10-12
If Donovan McNabb can stay healthy, and the Eagles can once again resist the temptation to rely on the pass, the Eagles have a shot at the division title.

Washington Redskins, 6-9
Because this is what the Redskins do.

New York Giants, 6-9
The Giants’ solution to their problems at defensive end is to raid an already thin linebacking corps. That might not be a great idea.

NFC North

Green Bay Packers, 10-11
Somebody’s gonna win this division. Might as well be the Packers. (If Brett Favre were starting at QB, they’d probably have run away with it.)

Minnesota Vikings, 10-11
Somebody’s gonna win this division. Might as well be the Vikings. Adrian Peterson alone should be enough to get you eight or nine wins. All Tarvaris Jackson’s gotta do is figure out how not to lose two others and the Vikes are golden.

Chicago Bears, 3-6
If I knew the Bears had an issue at quarterback going into the off-season, how come the Bears didn’t know it?

Detroit Lions, 2-4
The only thing entertaining about the Lions most seasons is figuring out why they suck. (That is, you know, beyond the whole Matt Millen thing.) Not having a defense is the place you’ll probably want to start this season.

NFC South

Tampa Bay Buccaneer, 10-12
In a stronger division, the Bucs miss the playoffs. In this one, they take the title.

New Orleans Saints, 8-10
The Saints defense should be marginally improved from 2007. Which will be good for one or two more wins. And if the offensive line can hold, they might find another win on top of that.

Carolina Panthers, 6-9
I’m not sold on the Panthers. I just have this idea that one talented defensive end does not constitute a pass rush.

Atlanta Falcons, 3-6
The good news for Atlanta fans is that things appear to be changing for the better. If Matt Ryan pans out, next season could be fun.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals, 9-11
Every season I pick a team other than the Seahawks to win this division. And every season, the Seahawks prove me wrong. This year’s victim is Arizona. Just because.

Seattle Seahawks, 8-10
And now the Seahawks will win 13 games. Just to spite me. I know it. The bastards.

St. Louis Rams, 3-6
A defense is a good thing for an NFL team to have. You’d think the Rams might have learned that by now.

San Francisco 49ers, 3-6
At least Mike Nolan will be remembered as a snappy dresser.


Might as well get into how the playoffs probably won’t go, right? Let’s start with our seedings:

1. New England
2. Jacksonville
3. Cleveland
4. San Diego
5. Indianapolis
6. Pittsburgh

1. Dallas
2. Tampa Bay
3. Green Bay
4. Seattle
5. Philadelphia
6. Minnesota

Wild Card Playoffs

Indianapolis defeats San Diego
Cleveland defeats Pittsburgh

Minnesota defeats Green Bay
Philadelphia defeats Seattle

Divisional Playoffs

Jacksonville defeats Cleveland
New England defeats Indianapolis

Dallas defeats Minneapolis
Philadelphia defeats Tampa Bay

Conference Championships

New England defeats Jacksonville

Dallas defeats Philadelphia

Super Bowl XLIII
New England defeats Dallas, 23-20

That’s about what I’ve got for you. Except to predict, again, that most of my predictions will turn out to be wrong.

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