Getting It on Paper
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.
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.
NY Giants (4-12)
Green Bay (6-10)
Tampa Bay (8-8)
New Orleans (7-9)
St. Louis (10-6)
San Francisco (3-13)
New England (12-4)
NY Jets (9-7)
San Diego (12-4)
Kansas City (11-5)*
Now, on to the playoff predictions:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.