Predicting the Records of All 32 NFL Teams
I’m a simple man with simple tastes. I like black label Jack Daniel’s and Nathan’s hot dogs. I have an unhealthy obsession with Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, a boyhood dream of owning a haberdashery in South London and a crazy, stupid love for all things NFL. For purposes of this exercise, I’ll focus on football. With the long-awaited 2011 season hours away from kicking off, now seems like the ideal time to make some bold predictions.
Instead of picking playoff participants and Super Bowl combatants, which any pigskin prognosticator can do, I’m gonna get my hands filthy and take a stab at forecasting the final records of every single team in the league. I don’t use scientific formulas, mathematical theorems or Magic 8-Balls. My preparation regimen involves reading a bunch of stuff and watching a bunch of preseason games. Then I pretty much wing it. As I said, simple. Keeping this in mind, let’s get crackin.’
- New England Patriots (13-3) – I’m not sold on their young defense, but with another potent offensive attack led by Golden Boy Tom, it probably won’t matter. Resigning Logan Mankins was their smartest offseason move. Weeks 8-13 include road games against the Steelers, Jets and Eagles, and home battles with the Giants, Chiefs and Colts. How they navigate this stretch will ultimately determine their seeding. As long as Albert Haynesworth doesn’t kick Bill Belichick in the melon, the Pats should be phat, yo.
- New York Jets (10-6) – The defense will be its normal bruising self, but is Plaxico Burress really an upgrade over Braylon Edwards? The dude just got sprang from the pokey, is 34 years old, and seems destined to be sucking on an oxygen tank by Week 6. Dustin Keller and Derrick Mason should prevent defenses from blanketing superlative Santonio Holmes. Can Shonn “My first name is misspelled” Greene carry the load or will Rex Ryan switch on the L.T. bat signal? Bottom line: Mark Sanchez channels Rex Grossman too much for me to trust this team.
- Buffalo Bills (7-9) – If you believe Hahvad man Ryan Fitzpatrick can duplicate his numbers from a season ago, well, you probably have a Community College diploma. The good news is he won’t have to — not with a potential top 15 defense wreaking havoc like a lake-effect snow storm in February. The addition of veterans Shawn Merriman and Kirk Morrison, along with Sumo-sized rookie defensive tackle Marcell Dareus clogging rush lanes, should bolster a front seven that already boasts All-Pro Kyle Williams. Also, don’t underestimate the value of ex-Jet Brad Smith; his name might be plain, but he’s got mad skillz, brah.
- Miami Dolphins (4-12) – Tony Sparano could be the first head coach fired. Scratch that. Tony Sparano will be the first head coach fired. Chad Henne is a spaz and their “lead” running back is Reggie Bush. Cue the alarms. A 1-4 start is inevitable with matchups against New England, Houston, San Diego and the Jets lying in wait. With only Brandon Marshall a threat in the passing game and no functioning ground game, the ‘Phins will be hard pressed to dodge disaster in 2011.
- Houston Texans (11-5) – Fire up the barbecue and spit-shine them cowboy boots ’cause the Texans are going to the playoffs. Yee-hawww! Two additions on defense will help these Lone Star losers finally turn a corner in the division: cornerback Johnathan Joseph and son of Bum, Wade Phillips. Joseph isn’t Nnamdi Asomugha, but he brings a life-preserver to a Category 5 secondary. Phillips’ signature 3-4 alignment will pressure opposing quarterbacks and force turnovers. He sucks as a head coach, but as a D-coordinator, he’s a-okay. His Chargers units ranked 11th, 13th and 7th overall from 2004-2006. As for the offense, uh, it’s good… really good. So good they can lose Arian Foster and not miss a beat. His name is Ben Tate. His name is Ben Tate. His name is…
- Indianapolis Colts (6-10) – Peyton Manning’s broken twig of a neck isn’t Indy’s only problem. Joe Addai is held together with baling wire and bubble gum. Dallas Clark’s wrist looks worse than Luke Skywalker’s at the end of Empire Strikes Back. Reggie Wayne has lost a step. And head coach Jim Caldwell’s zombie-like demeanor ain’t helping the sitch. Smile a little, Jim. The combo of Kerry Collins and Curtis Painter will be fine. No, really. Step away from the ledge, Jim. C’mon, buddy. Jim? NOOOOOO!!!
- Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12) – Quick, name a current Jaguar defensive player… I’ll wait… sorry, time’s up. I guessed Jeff Lageman. Evidently he’s been retired since 1998. Oops. Head coach Jack Del Rio has never won a playoff game and last posted a winning record in 2007. Luke McCown and Blaine Gabbert are the quarterbacks. Mighty mouse Maurice Jones-Drew has a balky knee. Their best receiver is Mike Thomas. They play in a city that doesn’t know or care they exist. Los Angeles Jaguars has a nice ring to it.
- Tennessee Titans (4-12) – Welcome to the Mike Munchak era. Chris Johnson got paid. Kenny Britt got arrested (twice). Jake Locker got drafted eighth overall in April. To help ease the transition from old to new guard, they signed 35-year-old quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who tossed 44 interceptions in his last 35 starts. The Titans are one of those “if” teams. IF CJ2K regains his 2009 form… IF Kenny Britt grows a brain… IF Jared Cook realizes his potential… IF the young defense matures. Too many ifs is never a good thing.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) – Recent history has not been kind to Super Bowl losers. However, the last time Pittsburgh was defeated in the Big Game they won the then AFC Central and advanced to the divisional playoffs. There’s just too much talent on this team to not be good: Roethlisberger, Mendenhall, Wallace and a ferocious defense led by cyborg safety Troy Polamalu. Barring a rash of significant injuries, Mike Tomlin’s crew will be back in the thick of a conference title. Unfortunately, this also means we’ll have to endure another season of obese western Pennsylvanians waving those god-awful Terrible Towels. I can’t wait.
- Baltimore Ravens (9-7) – Say goodbye to Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, Willis McGahee, Le’ Ron McClain, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Dawan Landry. Say hello to Lee Evans, Ricky Williams, Vonta Leach and Bernard Pollard. Ray Lewis is 36. Ed Reed is 32. The backup quarterback is Tyrod Taylor. The negatives clearly outweigh the positives. Head coach John Harbaugh has yet to miss the playoffs in three seasons. Consider that streak over.
- Cleveland Browns (8-8) – An influx of promising young talent during the last two years has some forecasting sunny days for Cleveland in 2011. While it’s too soon to deem the Brownies worthy of a postseason berth, I do like the direction they are heading. First-year head coach Pat Shurmur helped develop both Donovan McNabb and Sam Bradford, so Colt McCoy is in good hands. A lack of quality receiving options is a concern, but rookie wideout Greg Little and tight end Evan Moore are capable of inflicting damage on opposing defenses.
- Cincinnati Bengals (2-14) – Repeat after me Bengals fans. Andrew Luck to A.J. Green for the touchdown! Just keep saying that over and over while watching your beloved Bungals get mauled on a weekly basis. Hard to blame Carson Palmer and his dead arm for not wanting to tread through Mike Brown’s muck and mire anymore. You know it’s been a rough offseason when Ced Benson being released from jail early constitutes a “feel good” story. The over/under on games before Marvin Lewis gets canned is seven.
- San Diego Chargers (12-4) – Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me six times, I’m a fuc*ing moron. Should the Bolts orchestrate another miraculous faceplant, at the very least they’ll be fun to watch. Rivers, Gates, Vinnie J, Mal Floyd and the backfield duo of Tolbert and Mathews equates to points o’ plenty. A Week 2 trip to New England and a Week 9 visit from the champion Packers will tell us all we need to know about Norv’s boys. I feel like Jesse Pinkman trying to shake meth when I pick the Chargers to do something. Here I go again. Next stop, rehab.
- Denver Broncos (10-6) – Until last season’s dreadful 2-14 campaign, John Fox had never coached a team with a record worse than 7-9. His defense first, run oriented style might be boring, but it’s exactly what the Broncos needed after wunderkind Josh McDaniels capsized the franchise. First-round stud Von Miller paired with a healthy Elvis Dumervil should ignite the pass rush. Kyle Orton is steady, if not spectacular. Knowshon Moreno and Willis McGahee will combine for 350 carries. A porous run defense is a concern, but I have a sneaking suspicion the Broncos will spring a handful of upsets.
- Oakland Raiders (6-10) – One highly respected NFL scribe predicts this team to reach the AFC Championship game. I just don’t see it, but not for a lack of looking. Nnamdi Asomugha and Zach Miller are gone. The offensive line is a work in progress. The secondary is a mess. None of their speedy receivers are proven. I love the front seven and footies, but that’s about it. On paper, these Raiders are worse than the ones that went 6-0 in the division last year.
- Kansas City Chiefs (5-11) – The Chiefs were so horrid in their first three preseason showings, Todd Haley played his starters into the second half of the exhibition finale. Guess what happened. Matt Cassel cracked a rib, tight end Tony Moeaki suffered a season-ending knee injury and they still looked like ass. Well played, Mr. Haley. The vibes surrounding the Chiefs are not pleasant. Matchups with the Patriots, Steelers, Colts, Bears, Jets and Packers spells doom. On the bright side, the eats at Arrowhead Stadium are delicious.
- Philadelphia Eagles (11-5) – The offseason champs will take some time to get their act together. I foresee a lot of “What’s wrong with the @#$%& Team?” headlines in September and early October. A junkyard O-Line and question marks at linebacker and safety will prevent the Birds from reaching the promised land in ’11. That being said, this roster is oozing with talent. Dynamic skill positions, a trio of Pro Bowl corners and an experienced coaching staff is more than enough to capture another division strap. Other things to expect: a Mike Vick injury, a Casey Matthews benching and Andy Reid butchering clock management.
- Washington Redskins (9-7) – Color me stupid, but I like what’s going on in D.C. right now. The addition of first-round pick Ryan Kerrigan, running back Tim Hightower, defensive tackle Barry Cofield and safety Oshiomogho Atogwe will pay dividends throughout the season. John Beck and Rex Grossman should be serviceable under center, although neither will scare dominant defenses. Mike Shanahan is a master at fielding average teams; he’s posted records of 7-9, 8-8 or 9-7 seven times in his career. Make it eight.
- Dallas Cowboys (8-8) – You can hire a defensive coordinator with Rob Ryan’s pedigree, but unless you have players capable of adjusting to his aggressive 3-4 scheme, it means bupkis. The ‘Boys have two legit stars on defense: DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff. Everyone else is just a guy. Will a potent offense be enough to lift them from the ranks of mediocrity? No. The lack of depth on the roster is astounding. Jerry Jones is already penning another chapter in his never-ending book of excuses.
- New York Giants (6-10) – Big Blue’s defense resembles a triage unit. Terrell Thomas, Brian Witherspoon, Marvin Austin, Jonathan Goff and Clint Sintim are out for the year. Top draft pick Prince Amukamara is sidelined with a broken foot. Osi Umenyiora is recovering from knee surgery. Wait, I’m not done. Steve Smith and Kevin Boss exited via free agency. The team has no viable third receiver. Eli Manning looked sketchy in the preseason. Tom Coughlin is weeks away from a total meltdown. I could go on and on but you get the point. The G-Men are on life support.
- New Orleans Saints (12-4) – The 2009 champs added Heisman Trophy-winning Mark Ingram and booted Heisman Trophy-losing Reggie Bush out the door. Defensive tackles Aubrayo Franklin and Shaun Rogers provide girth up the middle. Second-year tight end Jimmy Graham has been tagged for superstardom. An improved ground attack will balance the offense and lessen the need for Drew Brees to force the issue, as he often did in 2010 when he chucked a career-high 22 interceptions. Who Dat Nation, get your dancing shoes ready.
- Atlanta Falcons (10-6) – The fabulous Falcons identified number two receiver as their biggest weakness after flopping in the playoffs, so they shipped five draft picks — including a pair of first-rounders — to Cleveland to acquire Alabama monster wideout Julio Jones. I can only assume owner Arthur Blank and general manager Thomas Dimitroff were asleep last January when Aaron Rodgers and the Packers torched their pathetic defense to the tune of 442 yards and 48 points. This ain’t fantasy football, folks. Jones looks like a keeper, but he’s not the solution to Atlanta’s problems.
- Tampa Bay Bucs (7-9) – Despite a geyser of cap space, the young Bucs elected to stand pat in free agency. Offensive line help and another playmaker are still needed. Say sayonara to underrated linebacker Barrett Ruud and oft injured running back Cadillac Williams. Last year’s surprising 10-6 team took advantage of the league bottom feeders in padding its win total: the Panthers, Browns, Bengals, Cardinals, Redskins and 49ers all stunk. Beating the Packers, Bears, Texans and Colts presents a much bigger challenge. Winning consistently from season to season is what separates the elite from the also-rans. The Bucs aren’t quite there yet.
- Carolina Panthers (5-11) – For better or worse, the Panthers present rests in the hands and feet of Cam Newton. He’s nowhere near ready to call signals on a professional field, but new head coach Ron Rivera has limited options behind him. A three-deep backfield and rising front seven will keep them competitive on occasion. Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey are already becoming fast friends with Newton, but scoring touchdowns won’t be easy.
- Green Bay Packers (13-3) – A Super Bowl letdown is possible, especially when the truncated offseason is taken into account. However, Aaron Rodgers is too damn good to let that happen. They overcame injuries to Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley, so finding the cure for a Title Town hangover should be a breeze. On a team with few weaknesses, the biggest hurdle to jump will be living up to the hype. I suggest opponents kidnap Clay Matthews and shear those lengthy locks. Dude is like Samson.
- Detroit Lions (10-6) – I know, I know, the Lions bandwagon is filled to capacity. I don’t care, I’m squeezing in. Sometimes all it takes is a couple of guys to transform a perennial loser into a sudden contender. Ndamukong Suh and Matthew Stafford are those guys. Suh plays in beast mode from start to stop. Stafford is a Philip Rivers in the making. The rest of the NFC better cross their collective fingers this team is again ravaged by injuries because they are teetering on the precipice of awesomeness.
- Chicago Bears (8-8) – Words that best describe the Bears: bland, catatonic, comatose, dismal, forgettable, tepid. How the hell did this team reach the NFC Championship game? Lovie Smith gets it done with smoke and mirrors. Their defense is sound, special teams are solid, but any offense led by the combo of Jay Cutler and Mike Martz is a powder keg waiting to explode. They’ll probably steer their way back to the postseason, but I just can’t bring myself to endorse such a yawn-inducing team.
- Minnesota Vikings (5-11) – Donovan McNabb is here to save the day. Yeah, because that worked out so well in D.C. I feel sorry for Adrian Peterson. His prime years have been wasted. My advice to AP would be exit stage left and sign with a team that has a chance of winning the Super Bowl. The defense is aging and the offensive line is patchwork at best. Lest I forget, new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave last held that position with the Jaguars in 2003 and 2004. His offenses ranked 25th and 29th. Gulp.
- St. Louis Rams (10-6) – Like last season, any of the four Western squads could seize the division. It’s a toss-up, but I’m rolling with Bradford’s lads. The Rams have quietly assembled an impressive mix of hungry youngsters and savvy vets. Bradford, Chris Long, Danny Amendola, Jason Smith, Robert Quinn and Lance Kendricks are the future, but the likes of Al Harris, Ben Leber, James Hall, Fred Robbins and Quintin Mikell are what makes this team dangerous. Offensive guru Josh McDaniels turned Kyle Orton into a semi-star. Imagine what he can do with Sam.
- Arizona Cardinals (8-8) – Once and for all we’re going to learn if Kevin Kolb is the real deal or merely a product of the Andy Reid quarterback factory. I think he’ll be decent, not great. The trading of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and season-ending injury to Greg Toler leaves the secondary painfully thin, although phenom Patrick Peterson is waiting in the wings. If Chris Wells can shed his tutu and tiara, the offense will be credible. Methinks the Cards are still a year away from making noise.
- Seattle Seahawks (6-10) – Two words: Tarvaris Jackson. I’m still flummoxed Pete Carroll pegged the ex-Viking dud to lead his team to glory. Why not just sign Derek Anderson? T-Jack has never thrown for 2000 yards or double-digit touchdowns in a season; he can’t read a defense; he’s fumbled 15 times in 20 starts; his career completion percentage is 58.7%. I’m no scout by any means, but Jackson’s resume reeks of failure. A steady running game would help. Too bad Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett and Leon Washington are the backs.
- San Francisco 49ers (6-10) – Ever have a next-door neighbor whose dog crapped in your yard, rummaged through your garbage and dug up your flower beds? It’s very annoying. Well, that dog is Alex Smith. He just won’t go away. With Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Braylon Edwards and to a lesser extent, Michael Crabtree, all this team needs is a competent quarterback. Smith is the antithesis of competent. Jim Harbaugh will be reconsidering his decision to leave Stanford by Week 6.
I can’t resist. Super Bowl: New Orleans over San Diego (back to rehab).