Because we’re legally mandated to do so, we made our standard predictions at the beginning of the season. But since the majority of preseason predictions aren’t even close to right, we did so reluctantly.
And now, we’re already looking back on those prognostications with dread. We had the Dolphins going 9-7; same for the Rams. We had the Bucs going 11-5 and the 49ers finishing dead last in the NFC West. And maybe worst of all, we had Philip Rivers pegged as the offensive player of the year.
That said, we did have Houston winning the AFC South, and that was before we knew the fate of Peyton Manning in Indy. Six of our eight division winners are currently leading, tied for the lead or within a half-game of the lead in their divisions.
So we don’t want to completely rewrite our predictions, but we definitely feel the need to make some tweaks. Here are our revisions at the midway pole…
1. New York Jets (11-5)
2. New England Patriots (11-5)*
3. Buffalo Bills (9-7)
4. Miami Dolphins (4-12)
I had a really tough time predicting the division winner here. I think it’ll come down to division record, and the Jets should have that edge if they win at home this week.
1. Baltimore Ravens (12-4)
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)*
3. Cincinnati Bengals (9-7)
4. Cleveland Browns (4-12)
In the end, that final drive at Heinz Field will make Baltimore’s season. Without that, they might only be a wild-card team. Or worse.
1. Houston Texans (10-6)
2. Tennessee Titans (6-10)
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11)
4. Indianapolis Colts (1-15)
I love the Texans, but they’ve let me down so much in the past and they have some real tough games coming up. Still, they’ll cruise in the terrible AFC South.
1. San Diego Chargers (9-7)
2. Oakland Raiders (8-8)
3. Kansas City Chiefs (6-10)
4. Denver Broncos (5-11)
San Diego should beat Oakland this week and the Raiders’ schedule is deadly coming in. And let’s face it, the Chargers are easily the most talented team in a division that has a three-way tie at the top.
1. Dallas Cowboys (10-6)
2. New York Giants (10-6)
3. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)
4. Washington Redskins (4-12)
The Cowboys get the edge because they’ll have a stronger record within the division (I think they’ll split the season series). I don’t think Dallas is a lot better than the Giants, but they have a significantly easier schedule. Philly’s the best of the batch, but the hole’s too deep.
1. Green Bay Packers (14-2)
2. Detroit Lions (11-5)*
3. Chicago Bears (10-6)*
4. Minnesota Vikings (3-13)
I think Green Bay loses at least once, and I’m looking at that Thanksgiving game in Detroit. The Lions and Bears both have wild-card spots in their future.
1. New Orleans Saints (11-5)
2. Atlanta Falcons (10-6)
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9)
4. Carolina Panthers (4-12)
That Week 1 loss to the Bears costs the Falcons a playoff spot. Atlanta has to travel to Houston and Carolina in the second half, while the Saints only have to go to Tennessee and Minnesota.
1. San Francisco 49ers (13-3)
2. St. Louis Rams (4-12)
3. Seattle Seahawks (4-12)
4. Arizona Cardinals (4-12)
It wouldn’t completely shock me to see the Niners finish 7-1, and if they can do that they might actually steal the top seed from Green Bay. Seriously.
AFC wild-card: (3) Texans def. (6) Patriots; (5) Steelers def. (4) Chargers
NFC wild-card: (3) Saints def. (6) Bears; (5) Lions def. (4) Cowboys
AFC divisional: (5) Steelers def. (1) Ravens; (3) Texans def. (2) Jets
NFC divisional: (1) Packers def. (5) Lions; (3) Saints def. (2) 49ers
AFC championship: (3) Texans def. (5) Steelers
NFC championship: (1) Packers def. (3) Saints
Super Bowl XLVI: Packers 34, Texans 30
A team with 10 or fewer wins has gone to the Super Bowl in three of the last four years, and this year I’m rolling the dice on the Texans. It’s probably crazy, considering that Houston has never even been to the playoffs and won’t have top pass rusher Mario Williams for the remainder of the year, but I’ve got a strange feeling about them. They’re playing lights-out defense and a lethal offense will only get better when Andre Johnson returns. A tough schedule will prevent them from earning a higher seed and the seemingly unbeatable and playoff-tested Packers will prevent them from winning their first Super Bowl, but I can see them turning into the story of the year nonetheless.
P.S. My original prediction of Atlanta over Pittsburgh is still alive and well, with both of those teams in playoff contention. If that plays out, I’m still taking credit. Cry about it.