Before it gets too late, here are some notes and predictions I jotted down before Week 1's games.
NY Jets 12-4
Notes: Before the season, Rex Ryan issued a challenge to the rest of the league if they were tough enough to beat the Patriots, who steamrolled through the regular season last year. Expect one of the league's top rivalries to continue with the division winner being whoever sweeps through the Bills and Dolphins...The Bills still have a ways to go before being a legitimate contender, but there is hope going forward into 2012...The Dolphins are slowly becoming a laughingstock and a near shoe-in top 5 pick for the 2012 Andrew Luck Sweepstakes. Between a lame duck head coach, a lame duck quarterback, and a front office committing blunder after blunder, this season reeks of turmoil.
Notes: With 8 games against a weakened AFC South and a dreadful NFC West, a first round bye seems easily attainable for Pittsburgh, who remains a cut above Baltimore...The Ravens are surely a talented team with one of the league's top Front Sevens and the ability to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. I'm still not sold on Joe Flacco against elite defenses in the playoffs...Colt McCoy flew through the preseason, but I don't buy him as the longterm answer. The dearth of weapons surrounding him and a mediocre defense does not help either...I for one thought Carson Palmer's abilities were dwindling by the second the past three years, but his situation was poorly handled to say the least. To say the least, this team is going to struggle this year.
Notes: To say this division is gift-wrapped for the Texans might be the understatement of the year. Nobody denies the talent on this team, but for whatever reason Houston could not make the leap year after year. I would be hardly surprised if the defense finishes in the top 15, and the only thing preventing a division title is Gary Kubiak...Tennessee is tough team to get a read on this year. Having a new head coach and offensive system during a locked out offseason is difficult, but Matt Hasselbeck, while on his last legs, gives the team some much needed competence that Kerry Collins could not provide the past two seasons....Speaking of Collins, with the Swiss cheese line in front of him in Indianapolis, the statuesque QB is going to fall harder than Humpty Dumpty this year. The trickle down effect Peyton Manning's absence has on the team rivals the trickle down effect of Reaganomics. Nobody else hides a team's weaknesses better than #18...Any team putting their hopes behind Luke McCown is not seriously competing for the upcoming season. Consider this year a rebuilding one with its eyes on building a team around 2011 1st round pick Blaine Gabbert.
Notes: Much like the Incredible Hulk, nobody wants to see Philip Rivers when he is angry. He and the rest of the Chargers are out for blood after surprisingly missing the playoffs last year. The division will be wrapped up shortly after Thanksgiving...Kansas City has to be the 2011 playoff team least likely to return to the playoffs. I'll eat my hat if Matt Cassel comes anywhere near to his 2010 numbers. Expect a step back against a tougher schedule...Losing Nnamdi Asomugha certainly hurts, but Oakland is far from the joke it was from 2004-2009. The team's level of discipline will determine if it wins as low as six games or as high as nine or ten...The biggest question in Denver is if and when Tim Tebow takes over the reins. With an extremely soft Front Seven, Kyle Orton will do his thing and rack up garbage statistics while his team continuously plays from behind.
Notes: During August, no team was hyped up more than the Eagles, and yet I still do not consider them more talented than Green Bay or New Orleans. I expect them to win the division, but between a shoddy linebacking corps and an overrated offensive line, the division won't come as easy as hoped...Is any team a bigger mystery than the Cowboys? Nobody doubts Dallas's talent, but this isn't college football; there is more to winning football games than simply being more talented than the other team...The hate piled on the Redskins this offseason got to be a little ridiculous. I was a giant fan of their defensive acquisitions and picks in April's draft. I don't know if they'll be able to hang around late in the season, but there is definitely reason for optimism in Washington...I'll bet my life savings that Tom Coughlin is not the coach in 2012. Things will spiral out of control pretty quickly for the Giants and this will chalk up as a lost season.
Notes: Green Bay is going to quickly pick up where they left off last year. Talented, deep, balanced, and well-coached, this is the best team in the NFL...Detroit will be this year's surprise team. When healthy, Matthew Stafford will prove to be the best QB drafted in the last five years. They are ready to take the next step...I usually tend to undersell Chicago, but I find it difficult to see them going back to the playoffs this year. Teams change drastically over time, but something should be said about the fact that the Bears have only strung together one set of back-to-back winning seasons in the past twenty years...No team has a larger discrepancy between perception and actual ability than the Vikings. The only thing saving this team is if it invents a time machine to 2008 for all of its players. Doc Brown eagerly awaits.
Notes: I was a big fan of the Saints's offseason pickups of Aubrayo Franklin, Shaun Rogers, and rookie Cameron Jordan. The defense is far from elite, but for a high scoring offense, the defense complements it pretty well. Expect a bounce-back year for Brees and Co....Atlanta is a team slowly transitioning into a passing offense, so it will be interesting to see if they struggle with their identity from time to time. I worry about the defense come playoff time, but they are stable enough to at worst win a wild card berth...Tampa Bay has been a popular playoff pick this season, but I'm not buying it. 2010 was certainly a pleasant surprise, but I question Josh Freeman's surrounding talent, most notably LeGarrette Blount, as well as the lack of experience on defense. As promising as Freeman's progress has been, I cannot see him keeping up with New Orleans and Atlanta in a shootout...I was more than happy to see Ron Rivera name Cam Newton as his QB, who will have his struggles at times but also prove that he is the longterm answer. However, Rivera has his work cut out for him on the defensive side of the ball. The offensive line is dangerously thin, and an extended loss of Jordan Gross, Ryan Kalil, or fragile Jeff Otah would prove to be indispensable.
Notes: The biggest question for this division this year is if the champion will have a winning record. It won't be pretty, but I think the Rams will take care of business...Acquiring Kevin Kolb was music to Larry Fitzgerald's ears. They are definitely capable of winning the division, but I question the defense and offensive line to consistently hold up...Even with the presence of head coach and former NFL QB Jim Harbaugh, Alex Smith is a total lost cause. Hesitant in the pocket, inaccurate, and unwilling to throw down the field will prove to be his pitfalls yet again. Harbaugh cannot wait to groom a new QB...Last year was a pleasant surprise for Seattle, but they are still in the middle of rebuilding. This year could be ugly, even though I like the team's prospects in future years.
Wild Card Round: Jets over Ravens; Patriots over Texans; Eagles over Lions; Falcons over Rams
Divisional Round: Jets over Chargers; Patriots over Steelers; Saints over Eagles; Packers over Falcons
Conference Championship: Jets over Patriots; Saints over Packers
Super Bowl XLVI: Saints over Jets
MVP: Philip Rivers
Defensive MVP: Clay Matthews
Coach of the Year: Jim Schwartz
Comeback Player of the Year: Elvis Dumervil
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Mark Ingram
Defensive Rookie of the Year: JJ Watt