When you are struggling with your picks and whatnot, the best thing you can do is watch the games so you can at least start to get a feel for the team. Unfortunately, I was on a plane for the early games last Sunday and my woeful performance looks set to continue. At least I am not the Dolphins, Rams, or Colts, right? So not only were my picks pretty poor last week (5-7-1), I did not even gain any knowledge about some of the many teams I am clueless on. So what does a man do when he doesn’t have teams figured out and in’t making much progress? He makes predictions for the rest of the year! Not weak predictions like “The Packers will get the 1 seed”, but predictions like “The Bengals, Bills, and Bears are making the playoffs”. Let’s get to the first few more obvious one.
Prediction 1: The AFC South, AFC East, NFC West, and NFC North are all decided, but we will see at least 2 wild card teams from these divisions.
The only one that I am really going out on a limb with here is the Texans in the AFC South since they hardly inspire confidence and Jacksonville’s defense looks pretty good, but good luck convincing me that Jaguars offense can be 2.5 games better than Houston the rest of the way. They have comparable schedules the rest of the way and the Texans with Andre Johnson are a completely different team from the Texans without Andre Johnson. As far as the other divisions, the Patriots, 49ers, and Packers would have to spontaneously combust to not win their division. However, between the Lions, Bears, Bills, and Jets, we will likely see 2 playoff teams. We will get to that a little later.
Prediction 2: The Giants finish no better than 3-7, the Cowboys finish 7-3, and the Eagles fire their defensive coordinator after Week 9 when Matt Forte gashes them for 300 all-purpose yards.
The Giants have a brutal 2nd half schedule (@NE, @SF, @NO, vs GB, @NYJ, 2 vs DAL) and the Cowboys have a pretty easy schedule (2 vs PHI, vs SEA, vs MIA, @WAS, @ARZ, 2 vs NYG). 10-6 may seem a bit high for a team with such a penchant for collapse, but I see them winning 10 games, getting the 4 seed, and bowing out in the first round. As far as the Eagles coordinator predictions, i do not think that is too outlandish either since he has done a pretty bad job and that Bears game seems like as good a time as any to hit the eject button. No wild card teams here.
Prediction 3: San Francisco wins 12 games and gets a first round bye.
I do not necessarily think this team is THAT good, and I am still coping with the idea of a prediction predicated on Alex Smith playing well and the 49ers exceeding expectations, but they only have 2 genuinely difficult games left (@ BAL, vs PIT) along with a potentially tough game at Arizona (even though they are garbage because it is right before the Pittsburgh game) and maybe a loss at Seattle in Week 16 when it is all wrapped up. Not to mention that they could beat Baltimore or Pittsburgh because of how inconsistent each team has been (though Pittsburgh looks pretty solid now). 12-4 gets them the 2 seed and a matchup with the Saints (probably) in the first round. Saints blitzing + Alex Smith + a 49ers team that has gotten way too much hype for it 12-4 record and boom goes the dynamite on Jim Harbaugh’s boys.
Prediction 4: The Dolphins blow a golden opportunity and win within the next 3 weeks. The Colts blow it and beat either Jacksonville in Week 10 or Carolina in Week 12. The Rams beat Arizona in Week 12 and realize that Sam Bradford has a bruised rib or arm fatigue. Something serious enough to keep him sidelined the rest of the year but not bad enough to hurt his trade value. The ensuing 1-15 draft coin flip tiebreaker gets better ratings than any single episode of TerraNova.
The Dolphins have the least room for error here since they get the Giants, Redskins, Carson Palmer Raiders, and maybe-good-maybe-crap Chiefs coming up, but I believe in them and think they can get out of that no better than 1-3. When you sign JP Losman, you are really in it to win it. The Colts probably have the easiest path, though they have to avoid beating Chris Johnson’s lifeless corpse twice and avoid two games with Jacksonville. Apart from that? New England, Baltimore, Atlanta, Houston, jackpot. As long as division rivals play them as tough as they usually do, the Colts should be golden. Sadly, I kind of think Curtis Painter can win a game on his own (somehow) and they get one. St. Louis is set up pretty nicely too with games against New Orleans, Pittsburgh, and two against San Francisco. The only issue is that it is hard to not just accidentally win a game against the NFC West, so they will probably fall into one entirely because of Steven Jackson. 1-15 times 3 is coming, and you cannot stop it from happening. I could see three 2-14s as well, but that is a much less entertaining prediction.
Just a side note, the Cardinals are the dark horse in the race and if they weren’t so much better at home, I would say they have a legitimate shot.
Prediction 5: The Lions are finished.
Matthew Stafford is clinging to his health again and the schedule is about to get nasty. At Chicago, who seems to have figured it out a little, 2 against a Green Bay team that is a little overrated but still much better than the Lions, at New Orleans, and a maybe-tough game against the Chargers in Week 16. 8-8 is all they have. Maybe 9-7 but it will not be enough.
Prediction 6: The Bills go 10-6, get a wild card spot, and win a playoff game (likely against the AFC West Champion).
They have a really good offense, a fairly weak defense that seems fairly opportunistic and a schedule that feature 2 more vs Miami, and games with Washington, Tennessee, and Denver. Even if they only go 4-1 in those game, they still get to play the Jets twice (they can win one at least), Dallas, and the Chargers, all of which are winnable. I am not sure if Ryan Fitzpatrick is worth what they just paid him, but they can get to 10-6, win that playoff game and set themselves up for a massive disappointment next year. Moreover, with the Bills in, that means the Ravens, Jets, Bengals, and Chiefs/Chargers are fighting for one spot.
Prediction 7: San Diego still wins the AFC West by default, and does so going 9-7 and impressing no one.
Can the Raiders catch them relying on Carson Palmer? No. Can the Chiefs surprise them this week, and sneak out to 6-3? Absolutely, but then they have to play New England, Pittsburgh, Chicago, New York Jets, and Green Bay before a game in Denver that they always struggle with. I am ok even giving the Chiefs 8 wins but they are not good enough to go much higher than that. I guess we have to consider Tebow too, bu they have a somewhat difficult schedule and I am still not sure Tebow is the miracle worker he seems. San Diego gets the 5 seed, plays the Bills in the first round and loses.
Prediction 8: The Bears (11-5), Ravens (10-6 or 9-7) and Falcons (10-6 or 9-7) are the other Wild Card teams.
Maybe the most surprising thing about this prediction is that I love the Bears in the 2nd half of the year. If things break right, and I think they will, they beat the Eagles, beat Detroit in Chicago, maybe beat San Diego, then get Oakland, KC, Denver, Seattle, Green Bay, and Minnesota. Green Bay is a loss unless they have it all wrapped up, but apart from that there is no game in there that they cannot win. They even get Seattle and KC at home to avoid tough road trips. If Mike Martz swallows his pride and keeps protecting Jay Cutler (risky I know) the Bears could run to 11-5.
With the Ravens, I am just assuming they will not lay too many more eggs like the one in Jacksonville and win their winnable games. That gets them to 9-7 or 10-6 without much trouble. The Falcons have a somewhat tougher go of it with 2 games vs New Orleans, a potentially tough trip to Houston, and a Week 17 matchup with steady-Eddie Tampa Bay, but with how they have looked lately, I could see them beating New Orleans in Atlanta, handling Indy, Jacksonville, Minnesota Tennessee, and Carolina. Even if one of those doesn’t go their way, that gets them to 9 wins with the game at Houston up in the air and the Tampa Bay game undecided. Atlanta gets the 2nd Wild Card spot.
Result of the Predictions:
(1) New England 13-3 — Fairly easy remaining schedule, despite flaws still best in AFC
(2) Pittsburgh 11-5 — Very manageable schedule and I think they go into the playoffs as the experts’ pick
(3) Houston 10-6 — They will struggle to win the division but are sneaky good
(4) San Diego 9-7 — Default division winners and an early exit leads to Norv Turner’s overdue exit
(5) Buffalo 10-6 — No more Norwood!
(6) Baltimore 10-6 — They pull it together and the defense is amazing.
Houston over Baltimore, Buffalo over San Diego. New England over Buffalo, Pittsburgh over Houston, Pittsburgh over New England.
(1) Green Bay 13-3 — Undefeated is out of the way early enough that they coast to the finish
(2) San Francisco 12-4 — Discussed above
(3) New Orleans 11-5 — Supremely talented but inconsistent so far.
(4) Dallas 10-6 — They are better than they are given credit for, but not that good.
(5) Chicago 11-5 — Discussed above
(6) Atlanta 10-6 — Discussed above
New Orleans over Atlanta, Chicago over Dallas. Green Bay over Chicago, New Orleans over San Francisco, New Orleans over Green Bay (this one makes me nervous given New Orleans’ inconsistency so far).
Pittsburgh over New Orleans for the Super Bowl.
Week 9 Picks
Indianapolis (+8.5) @ Tennessee
Indy isn’t as bad as it looked last week and Tennessee probably is as bad as it looked last week. If Chris Johnson can’t run against this defense, then Nashville PD will be forced to arrest him for stealing the Titans money. Spoiler alert, there is an open bunk in Cell Block B with his name on it. Indy can keep this to a touchdown or less.
Jacksonville (+9.5) @ Houston
This has letdown game written all over it for Jacksonville and I think Houston will win. However, Jacksonville has kept just about everyone close lately, so there is no reason Houston cannot win by 7 and win comfortably without covering.
Minnesota @ Carolina (-3)
I like Christian Ponder but I like Cam Newton more.
New Orleans (-13.5) @ St. Louis
AJ Feeley against that defense? Drew Brees against that defense? Sweet.
Arizona @ Baltimore (-12)
Angry Baltimore vs Kevin Kolb? West coast team in an early game on the east coast? Arizona is really bad? Sweet again.
Miami (+9.5) @ New York Giants
This is a little too high for my tastes. Giants win, not convincingly.
Washington vs Buffalo (-5) @ Toronto
Buffalo is kind of good. Washington isn’t anymore and the injuries only make it worse.
Denver @ Detroit (-3)
Tebow scares me a little but I think Detroit can win this without too many worries. Maybe a 4 point margin after a late Tebow TD?
New England (-2.5) @ Pittsburgh
Tom Brady owns the Steelers like Peyton Manning used to own Baltimore.
Cleveland vs San Francisco (-8.5)
Cleveland has to travel across the country to play a team significantly better than it? I feel like it is Christmas in late October!
Cincinnati @ Seattle (+2.5)
I like the Bengals but you don’t pick against the Seahawks in Seattle. The hipster vibe just confounds the other teams.
Dallas (+3) @ Philadelphia
I don’t think Philadelphia is going to pull out of this nosedive for at least another couple of weeks. It is tough to balance Andy Reid’s impressive post-bye record with the possibility of a negative bye-week influence this year, but I will just pick the team I think is better here. What a novel concept.
San Diego @ Kansas City (+3)
This game scares me. A lot. I guess all the better that it falls on Halloween, no? Yeah, I know I completely ignored the Halloween motif for the week. Not a big Halloween fan. Once I stopped getting candy it just seemed like a chore. Once you realize you can spend 5-10 bucks and buy a ton of candy without having to dress up, it is hard to turn back. Anyway, I am starting to doubt San Diego in a big way and Kansas City has some momentum going. They win this but lose the division.
Five (!!!) teamer: San Francisco (-8.5), New Orleans (-13.5), Buffalo (-5), Baltimore (-12), Indianapolis (+8.5)
Last Week: 5-7-1