I'm jumping on the bandwagon and going to predict who wins each division and then the Super Bowl in the NFL this season. While I am doing this, I will admit that this has become a problem with sports journalism.
People always want to hear predictions and projections for the season, or each week. When the columnist, reporter or whoever it makes a wrong call, they are ripped into. It also causes readers and viewers to think less of that columnist or reporter, because they couldn't correctly predict what happened. We have all done it. We make fun of these journalists that are supposed to know more than anyone about certain teams, yet here they are making wrong picks, and we feel like we know more about the sport than they do.
I am as guilty as anyone with this idea of thinking I'm better than beat reporters and national columnists. It's easy for us to think we're smarter. We're not on national television or in large circulation papers making predictions. When we're wrong, only a handful of people hear it. When we're right, we let everyone who will listen know that we were right.
If experts, broadcasters and writers stopped making predictions, it would be a good thing. But until then, here are my picks!
AFC East: The Patriots are going to runaway with this division. Their secondary is weak and they don't run the ball well, but the offense is way too explosive for anyone in that division to compete with them. Brady and Moss won't be setting records like they did two seasons ago, but they will do enough to make it to the AFC Championship game.
AFC South: No Dungy? No problem. Peyton Manning will coach the Indianapolis Colts to another division title. Losing Marvin Harrison is going to be a good thing for the Colts. Last year he was not effective. Now Anthony Gonzalez has a chance to shine. His preseason wasn't good, but it's the preseason. No one cares.
The Tennessee Titans will challenge for the division, but I expect a drop this year. Six of their 14 wins last season were by 10 points or less. Subtract the havoc that Albert Haynesworth wreaked on opposing offenses and I think they only win 10 games this season. It will still be enough for a Wild Card.
AFC North: The Steelers are going to win this division again. This is not a homer pick, just the truth. The Bengals and Browns are going to suck again this year, leaving the Ravens and Steelers to fight it out again.
The Steelers will take it because their defense is better, and Ben Roethlisberger is the better quarterback with better weapons. The Steelers also have a soft schedule on paper. Only six of their 16 games are against playoff teams from last year, four of those six are at home and one of them is against the Miami Dolphins in January.
The Steelers will go 13-3 and win the Super Bowl. OK, that last one might be a homer pick, but I really think the AFC comes down to them or the Patriots.
I almost forgot the AFC West because it is so terrible. The San Diego Chargers will win this division. They could probably win it with six wins, but they'll get 11 this season. Which will be more than Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos combine for.
NFC East: The only team I like in this division is the Philadelphia Eagles. The Giants can run the ball well, but I am not confident in Eli Manning and his unproven receivers. I think teams will stack the box and force the Giants to throw. Of course, this could blow up in my face and Domenik Hixon and Hakeem Nicks step up, but I don't think they will.
Meanwhile, the Eagles are good on both sides of the ball. Despite not having a go-to receiver, they make it work with what they have. Brian Westbrook will be great when he plays and Shady McCoy do well enough when Westbrook misses a few games. The Eagles' defense will also be playing their hearts out for the recently deceased Jim Johnson.
The Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys will just be meh this year and will have new head coaches next season.
NFC South: This is the hardest division to pick. There is no dominant team here. It's the Saints turn this year. The offense is just too good to miss the playoffs for a third straight year. Drew Brees might throw for 10,000 yards this year.
The Atlanta Falcons will be solid enough to grab a wild card and the Carolina Panthers might kill Jake Delhomme before the year is through. Seriously, he might just go missing come December.
NFC North: A 39-year-old quarterback with a partially torn rotator cuff is not the answer. Therefore, the Green Bay Packers will take the North this year. Aaron Rodgers has a full season under his belt and is only going to get better this year. Ryan Grant is healthy and had a full camp and the defense should be better. Add all that up and I smell a run at the NFC Championship.
The Minnesota Vikings will get a wild card, though. Not so much because of Brett Favre, but more so because the defense and running game. Adrian Peterson is a freak and will carry that team. The Vikings will run the ball a lot more and take the ball out of Favre's hand. But teams will still have too much respect for him to stack the box. Favre will still cost them two games, though.
NFC West: Why do teams out west stink so much? Seriously, only one team in this division is going to have a winning record. The Arizona Cardinals will win this division with 10 wins. No matter who is quarterback, this team is going to have a great offense and will be fun to watch. Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin is the best receiver tandem in the league, and this division is just bad.
The Seattle Seahawks did get T.J. Houshmandzadeh (didn't even need to look up the spelling!) but their offensive line is in shambles. Their best lineman, Walter Jones, had knee surgery is late August and will miss at least four games. He could be out all year. Matt Hasselbeck will be under constant pressure and they won't get eight wins.
The San Francisco 49ers are OK, but they still don't have a quarterback that can lead you to the playoffs.
So there you have it. The Steelers, Patriots, Chargers, Colts, Titans, Ravens, Eagles, Saints, Packers, Cardinals, Vikings and Falcons will make the playoffs. The Steelers will then beat the Packers in the Super Bowl.
We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off - Jermaine Stewart