Trying to pick who will win all eight NFL divisions, who makes the wild cards, who wins the conference championships and goes all the way to the Super Bowl is a very challenging and foolish thing.
In writing columns for any popular website, you are going out on a limb suggesting Team A is better than Team B because of X reason. But it shouldn’t be taken as gospel or someone being foolish if they predict Team A to win it all. In reality, it’s a crapshoot at best, picking who has the best key players at key positions, if not a complete guess. Maybe it’s an educated guess, but it’s still a guess.
With that being said, here are my predictions. I highly suggest you do not go to Vegas with these picks and expect to win anything.
I disagree with the pundits who predict that Baltimore will win the AFC North simply because they won it last year and until knocked off, they stay on top. It’s too easy to just say the Ravens will win the North, or the “sexy” pick of the Bengals to win it all, because if they did, they can say, “See! See who I picked and I was right!”
Well, Nostradamus Scot here is seeing the AFC North being a tight three-team race. I think the Ravens could start off hot with the Bengals right there with them and the Steelers staying in the chase. Somewhere around midseason is where the separation will begin. Baltimore will take a huge step backwards and finish third while the Bengals will win the North.
- Bengals – 10-6 **
- Steelers – 10-6 *
- Ravens – 9-7
- Browns – 5-11
Probably the overall weakest division features the Patriots, who will win it once again – and maybe by default. The Dolphins are so-so, the Bills could have quarterback trouble, and as for the J-E-T-S, Rex Ryan might not be their head coach for very long. The Patriots still have Tom Brady and as long as he’s healthy, he can guide the team to victories that most other teams would lose. He is one of the best for a reason and that carries a lot of weight.
The Dolphins added Mike Wallace this offseason in hopes he will help to score more touchdowns, but they are still suspect in too many areas and might barely finish above .500. The Bills are going with E.J. Manuel at QB, and while he could get better as the season goes on, he could really struggle to gain his footing. The Jets will start Geno Smith behind center and I’ve predicted he might be a worse flop than Ryan Leaf.
- Patriots – 12-4 **
- Dolphins – 8-8
- Bills – 6-10
- Jets – 5-11
The South consists of a team built to win now (finally!), a team who could surprise a lot of people, a team that could finish better than expected and a team who could be the worst in football. The Texans are clearly the class of the South and have been since the day Peyton Manning left for Denver. QB Matt Schaub might not be the best in the league but he knows how to utilize his weapons and allow them to make him look great. Running back Arian Foster will again lead the rush game along with Ben Tate as his backup, while the Texans will also have wide receiver Andre Johnson returning to form. The defense is solid and since they get to play the other teams twice, they could win more games inside their own division than they do outside of it.
The Colts could shock a lot of people as Andrew Luck comes into his second season and he’s establishing himself as a big QB with some serious weapons. If their aging defense goes younger, they could be right there in the thick of the wild card race. The Titans could be better than most people think they will be; however, that doesn’t mean they will have a winning record or go to the playoffs, it just means they might be on their way back to respectability. As for the Jaguars, much like the J-E-T-S, they will fight for the No. 1 overall pick at next year’s NFL Draft.
- Texans – 11-5 **
- Colts – 10-6 *
- Titans – 7-9
- Jaguars – 4-12
How will the West be won? Simple. Manning passes short. Manning passes long. Manning throws for a TD. Game over, Manning and the Denver Broncos win again. Obviously, the Broncos have all the tools to win the West and none of the other teams will be serious contenders. Maybe the Chiefs or the Chargers can surprise people enough to make the playoffs as a wild card but I doubt it.
The Raiders are starting Terrelle Pryor in Week 1, that should tell you how they will do this year. The Chiefs will rely heavily on the hopeful return to superstardom for Jamaal Charles, but I’m not completely sold that Alex Smith is the answer there or if Phillip Rivers will perform anywhere close to fellow 2004 first-rounders Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning. With that being said, this division will give other teams fits and, Broncos excepted, these teams will beat each other up.
- Broncos – 12-4 **
- Chiefs – 9-7
- Chargers – 8-8
- Raiders – 5-11
AFC Playoff Predictions
AFC first-round bye: Denver and New England
AFC wild card round: Pittsburgh at Cincinnati; Indianapolis at Houston
AFC divisional round: Cincinnati at Denver; Houston at New England
AFC championship: New England at Denver
Check out City of Champions on Friday for Eric’s NFC predictions and his Super Bowl winner.