Set your ringtone to the Monday Night Football theme, throw on your favorite player’s jersey and fly your favorite team’s flag because the NFL is back and set to start on time.
Many NFL fans such as myself were worried all summer about whether they would be able to see their favorites in action this fall. There were many times when it looked like the season might not start on time or would even lose regular season games.
The thought of an NFL season underway always gets me thinking about the playoffs and which teams I think will make this year’s NFL playoffs.
AFC West —The Kansas City Chiefs are the only team I see coming out of the AFC West. I think this because frankly the Raiders are the Raiders, the Broncos have too many uncertainties with the “Tebow thing” and the Chargers have been on a downward slope the past few seasons. The Chiefs will feature one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL with great players in almost all skill positions. The only thing that could hinder this team could be what happened in 2003 when they possessed a great offense and a subpar defense.
AFC North — I see the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers making the playoffs this year. The Browns and Bengals can’t even be put into the conversation. Both teams will continue their winning ways this year and once again make the playoffs.
AFC South — This is my one upset pick in the AFC. I’m going with the Houston Texans to win the south this year. I don’t see Peyton Manning being as effective this year as in every year of his career. He simply doesn’t have weapons around him, and he’s coming off an injury resulting in neck surgery. If the Colts would make the move to pick up Randy Moss sometime before the midway point of the season, I would instantly change my mind. The Texans looked like a playoff lock at the beginning of last season and fizzled off toward the end. The offensive trio of Matt Schaub, Arian Foster and Andre Johnson is one of the most explosive in the NFL and will help to carry this team into the playoffs.
AFC East —I’ll admit it, I am a huge New England Patriots fan and have never picked against them, no matter what the odds were. Ochocinco has always been my favorite NFL player, and I was ecstatic when he joined the Patriot family. The team boasted the best record in the NFL last season and returns key players, including many young ones who will mature. Being a Patriots fan, I have a strong hatred for the New York Jets and everything about them, including loudmouth coach Rex Ryan. Even with that I have to give respect when it is due and say I think the Jets will also makes the playoffs.
NFC West — I hate to say it, but the NFC West didn’t deserve a playoff team last year and won’t be worthy of one this season. The NFC is becoming highly competitive with the west being left in the dust. That being said, I think the Rams will emerge as the conference champions with a record at or one game above .500.
NFC North —This conference is probably the conference I had the hardest time picking. I like what Jim Schwartz is doing with the Detroit Lions, and I’m a believer in (a healthy) Matt Stafford. I really wish I could say the Lions would make the playoffs this year, but I think they’re one season away from making the playoffs for the first time since 1999. If the Chicago Bears weren’t in the ultra competitive NFC, I would see them as a playoff lock, but I can’t see this team being able to overcome the depth of talented teams in the NFC. The defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers are a playoff lock and will be an even better regular season team this season.
NFC South — The NFC South was another conference I had difficulty with. The Panthers will be a non-issue in playoff consideration from the time of kickoff of their first game of the season. I believe the Saints will be at least a nine win team, but I think they will nearly miss the playoffs. The Buccaneers are an up-and-coming team in the NFL and will be able to make the playoffs behind a young team led by Kansas State alumnus Josh Freeman. The Atlanta Falcons are going to be a premiere team in the NFL with Matt Ryan having multiples weapons in Julio Jones and Roddy White.
NFC East — The Eagles are going to be good, scary good. Even if an injury to Michael Vick occurs, I believe Vince Young (who holds a 30-17 record as starter) is capable of leading this team into the playoffs. However, I believe the “dream team” will stubble in the postseason much like the Miami Heat did and miss out on the Super Bowl so many people have locked them to win. No matter what Rex Grossman believes, the Washington Redskins will not be close to playoff consideration in one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL in recent years. The New York Giants are a team that has been on a downward slope since their upset Super Bowl win in 2008. I don’t see them finishing above .500. My surprise team of this season is the Dallas Cowboys. “America’s team” has had the talent for years but hasn’t been able to put it together. I believe Jason Garret and Rob Ryan are the coaches who will be able to put this talent together to produce a playoff team.
My Super Bowl pick is the Cowboys against the Patriots. I think the Eagles will fall flat in the playoffs, and the Cowboys will prove they are the team that their roster says they can be. As I said before, I have never picked against the Patriots and won’t start now. I can see Brady, Belichick and company hoisting their fourth Lombardi trophy on February 5 in Indianapolis. As a supporter of Tom Brady in the Brady/Manning rivalry, I will find the Super Bowl victory even sweeter being on Peyton’s home turf. I’m looking forward to the NFL season and seeing how my picks play out.