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NFL Predictions

 

By Adam Hoff

Sometimes you just have that feeling that you can see the future.  A buddy of mine swore that he imagined Martha Stewart going to jail at least five years before it happened, my brother knew (knew) that Arizona was going to win the 1997 NCAA Tournament, and I feel pretty certain that the new 50 Cent movie is going to be sweet.  And so it is with the 2005 NFL season.  I just know what is going to happen.  Period.  In that vein here are my annual predictions for everything ranging from division champs to individual award winners. 

 

We’ll start things off with a power ranking of every team that has been compiled by using a highly complicated statistical system of measurement that is beyond reproach.  You might have seen this in the baseball preview, so you know that it is really just an opinionated set of rankings, but try to ignore that fact.  Here are the Insider “Power Rankings” going into the season, complete with comments about each team.

 

Power Rankings:

 

1. New England Patriots.  Until they stop winning Super Bowls, I'm not going to stop picking them.

2. Indianapolis Colts.  This feels like the year that the Colts break though, but can things really get any better than last season when Manning threw for 49 TDs and their defense led the league in sacks?

3. San Diego Chargers.  The AFC has the best teams this year and while many see the Chargers coming back to earth, I think their young defense will team with Tomlinson to produce a winner regardless of how the QB mess plays out.

4. Carolina Panthers.  This was the best team in the NFC down the stretch last year, but they missed the playoffs due to their horrendous start.  With an extra back to play RB Roulette this time around, they should be able to augment the passing game and the defense with a solid ground attack.

5. Philadelphia Eagles.  TO is a nightmare but they still have elite skill position players and a stingy defense. 

6. Cincinnati Bengals.  The breakthrough team of 2005 has weapons in the air but will get their Ws on the ground and with an improved defense.  

7. Baltimore Ravens.  If they ever get a real QB, watch out.

8. St. Louis Rams.  They could be the most rejuvenated team in the league this year with Stephen Jackson mowing people over from the RB position.

9. Kansas City Chiefs.  Most rejuvenated team, part II.

10. Atlanta Falcons.  They will be average at times in the regular season, but this team is built to win the NFC playoffs.

11. New York Jets.  Better than all but three NFC teams, but will still miss the playoffs in the vicious AFC.

12. Seattle Seahawks.  Now that the expectations are tempered, this team should reach the postseason.

13. Detroit Lions.  Somebody has to win the NFC North and with Green Bay disintegrating, Chicago stumbling along, and Minnesota being coached by Mike Tice, my gut says that somebody is Detroit.

14. Houston Texans.  Andre Johnson is going to make David Carr look like the most improved player in the league.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers.  They are due for a big letdown this year.  BIG.

16. Minnesota Vikings.  They won't be awful but Tice will find a way to keep them out of the playoffs.

17. Dallas Cowboys.  Julius Jones and a solid defense will win a few ugly games. 

18. Buffalo Bills.  Willis McGahee and a terrific defense will win fewer games than the Cowboys thanks to a brutal schedule.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  With Michael Clayton and Cadillac Williams, the Bucs finally have some exciting offensive weapons.

20. Jacksonville Jaguars.  Possibly the most overrated team in the league.

21. Oakland Raiders.  I'm tempted to rate them higher because I really do think the Collins-Jordan-Moss-Porter group will turn into an offensive juggernaut.

22. New Orleans Saints.  They could win the division or lose 12 games, so I'm going to lock them in at 7-9 and assume they will underachieve.

23. Arizona Cardinals.  They will feast on the Giants and Skins and look better than they are.

24. Green Bay Packers.  This will look like the oldest team in the league overnight. 

25. Denver Broncos.  I don't feel good about this pick at all; if Plummer plays well and the running back mess gets sorted out, they could actually challenge for a playoff spot.

26. Washington Redskins.  Year two of the not-so-triumphant return of Joe Gibbs. 

27. Tennessee Titans.  They will score a ton of points and could be the turnaround team of the year if they get off to a strong start.

28. Miami Dolphins.  Good coach, good D, good running backs … horrendous passing game.

29. New York Giants.  Maybe the worst receivers in the league.  Yes, I'm talking to you, Plaxico. 

30. Chicago Bears.  Orton will give them some grit at QB and with a decent running game, they could win 6 or 7 games.

31. Cleveland Browns.  It's going to be a long road back for the Browns, particularly when William Green appears to be the primary ball carrier.

32. San Francisco 49ers.  What a travesty.

 

Divisional Breakdown:

 

NFC East

Philly (11-5)

Dallas (9-7)

Washington (6-10)

NY Giants (4-12)

 

NFC North

Detroit (9-7)

Minnesota (9-7)

Green Bay (6-10)

Chicago (4-12)

 

NFC South

Carolina (11-5)

Atlanta (10-6)*

Tampa Bay (8-8)

New Orleans (7-9)

 

NFC West

St. Louis (10-6)

Seattle (9-7)*

Arizona (7-9)

San Francisco (3-13)

 

AFC East

New England (12-4)

NY Jets (9-7)

Buffalo (7-9)

Miami (4-12)

 

AFC North

Cincinnati (11-5)

Baltimore (11-5)*

Pittsburgh (8-8)

Cleveland (3-13)

 

AFC South

Indianapolis (12-4)

Houston (9-7)

Jacksonville (6-10)

Tennessee (5-11)

 

AFC West

San Diego (12-4)

Kansas City (11-5)*

Oakland (7-9)

Denver (5-11)

 

Now, on to the playoff predictions:

 

NFC.

 

Wild Card Round

Atlanta Falcons over Seattle Seahawks 24-13.

St. Louis Rams over Detroit Lions 31-10.

 

What is a tad bit creepy about these picks is that I went with Atlanta and St. Louis in the first round of the National League playoffs in my baseball preview.  So that is weird.  As for the football version, the Falcons and Rams are both dangerous playoff teams that will use home court advantage to cruise through the first round. 

 

Divisional Round

Atlanta Falcons over Philadelphia Eagles 17-14.

Carolina Panthers over St. Louis Rams 31-27.

 

I want to take St. Louis all the way through the NFC, but the fact that Mike Martz patrols the sidelines is enough to keep me in check.  I think they will make a game of it with the Panthers, but ultimately lose a shootout.  In the other matchup, the Falcons are the perfect team to roll into the Linc and beat the Eagles at their own game. 

 

NFC Championship Game

Atlanta Falcons over Carolina Panthers 24-20.

 

I think this is the year that Vick steps it up just a bit more in the playoffs.  With Michael Jenkins serving as a wideout with actual skills and toughness and a healthy Duckett anchoring the running game, the Falcons should be a vastly superior red zone team this season.  Throw in a tough defense and solid coaching and you've got the makings of a Super Bowl team in the weak NFC.

 

AFC.

 

Wild Card Round

Baltimore Ravens over Indianapolis Colts 20-17.

Kansas City Chiefs over Cincinnati Bengals 33-26.

 

After so many losses to the Patriots, this time Indy gets worked over by Ed Reed and the Baltimore defense.  Jamal Lewis will be in complete control of the clock and the game as the Ravens recapture the look of their 2001 Super Bowl winner.  In the other matchup, the Chiefs win a shootout thanks to the superior experience of Trent Green.  Carson Palmer makes a costly mistake down the stretch, tainting an otherwise terrific first playoff game.

 

Divisional Round

New England Patriots over Kansas City Chiefs 28-24.

Baltimore Ravens over San Diego Chargers 17-7.

 

The Pats hold off the hot Chiefs and the Ravens ruin an otherwise glorious season in San Diego.  I love Tomlinson and don't care much for Ray Lewis, but I see the latter getting the better of the former in this showdown.   

 

AFC Championship

New England Patriots over Baltimore Ravens 13-9.

 

The Pats get back the Super Bowl by outlasting the Ravens in a nasty game played in awful conditions.  Corey Dillon proves to be the difference as he lifts Brady through his first truly terrible playoff game ever.

 

Super Bowl

New England Patriots over Atlanta Falcons 27-13.

 

The biggest game in pro sports turns out to be another yawner and another Patriots Super Bowl title. 

 

And finally, the award predictions:

 

Offensive Rookie of the Year.  I'm tempted to take Kyle Orton, but I'm going to let common sense prevail and tab Carnell "Cadillac" Williams as the best offensive rookie.  Not only is he already Gruden's favorite player in the world, he is by all accounts a skilled and tough runner that should amass impressive numbers.  I still think Ronnie Brown will be the best back in this draft when it is all said and done, but Cadillac looks like he'll get off to the faster start.

 

Defensive Rookie of the Year.  I have an affinity for shutdown corners, so I'm going with Adam "Pacman" Jones.  And yes, I prefer rookies with sweet nicknames. 

 

Coach of the Year.  Give me Steve Mariucci in Detroit.  He will make the key decision to remove Joey Harrington in favor Jeff Garcia and they will win the war of attrition in the NFC North. 

 

Breakout Player.  I like a guy that has had to sit the bench and stew for a few years while waiting for his chance.  No, I'm not talking about Larry Johnson, although he'll be my choice for this award next year.  I've got my eye on Lamont Jordan, who has always run hard and tough and will now be the featured guy in an explosive offense.  1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns aren't out of the question.

 

Comeback Player.  Matt Hasselbeck was dreadful last year, so I'll tab him as a guy that could turn it around.  I also like De'Shaun Foster's chances here if he stays healthy and becomes the #1 guy in the Panthers' backfield.

 

MVP.  No Payton for me.  In fact, no QB at all.  My pick for MVP goes to LaDainian Tomlinson.  I see him getting 2,000 yards on the ground, scoring nearly 20 times, and leading his Chargers team to a terrific season.

 

There you have it; all of my fearless predictions for the 2005-2006 season.

  

Adam Hoff is a columnist for WhatifSports.com and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers of America.  He can be reached at wis.insider@gmail.com.

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