Friday, December 09, 2005

The NFL Stretch Run: Predicting A Fantastic Finish

We are 3/4 of the way through the regular season, and the two most important races (for the playoffs, and your pick of Heisman winners from USC), are starting to clear up a bit. Still, there’s enough to be worked out that I feel it’s time to weigh in with predictions for the stretch run. Plus, the less said about my pre-season predictions, the better (A Patriots-Vikings Super Bowl? Ugh). So here’s my chance to redeem myself.

The Reggie Bush/Matt Leinart Sweepstakes

1. Houston Texans (1-11)
They seem to find more and more creative ways to lose each week. The team’s short on talent and luck. However, with Tennessee, Arizona, and San Francisco on the schedule, there are plenty of opportunities to win a game. They can’t screw up all three of them, can they?
Prediction: 2-14

2. New York Jets (2-10)
Can they win a game with Brooks Bollinger at QB? They have Oakland, Miami, New England, and Buffalo remaining – not exactly a murderer’s row. Still, I’m thinking no.
Prediction: 2-14

3. San Francisco 49ers (2-10)
They’re bad. There’s no other way to put it. The only game they should have a chance of winning is against Houston in Week 17, and knowing my luck they will win it, just to take themselves out of the Reggie Bush running.
Prediction: 3-13

4. Green Bay Packers (2-10)
Speaking of bad, can the Pack lose to both Detroit and Baltimore? Yes.
Prediction: 2-14

5. New Orleans Saints (3-9)
A tough finish, except for a matchup with Detroit.
Prediction: 4-12

6. Tennessee Titans (3-9)
I think they lose to the Texans in the unofficial ‘Houston Bowl’, a fitting end to a lackluster season.
Prediction: 3-13


With these standings, the bottom 3 would be the Jets, Texans, and Pack, in some particular order. I wish I could figure out the tiebreakers, but I have no idea. In any case, this should ensure that Reggie Bush is the Number 1 pick if he declares, since all 3 teams have a QB to build around – assuming Pennington bounces back and Carr isn’t cut. And on the outside looking in are the 49ers. Sigh.

Now, let’s examine the playoff contenders in each conference, with their current standings.

AFC
1. Indianapolis Colts (12-0)
They have a tough finish to the schedule, with a visit to Jacksonville, a home game with San Diego, a visit to Seattle, then a tune-up with Arizona in the dome. Jacksonville always plays them tough, but may be in over their heads starting a backup QB and RB. San Diego’s playing well, but may have difficulty putting up enough offense, and Seattle’s been the beneficiary of a lot of luck against their toughest opponents. I think Indy’s talented enough to run the table, and will do just that.
Prediction: 16-0, home-field advantage.

2. Denver Broncos (9-3)
Their only remaining opponent with a winning record is San Diego, who they visit in Week 17. They should breeze by Baltimore, Buffalo, and Oakland on the way there, though the Raiders always play them tough.
Prediction: 12-4, Bye Through the First Round

3. Cincinnati Bengals (9-3)
A relatively easy schedule with Cleveland, Detroit, Buffalo, and Kansas City remaining. Only a road game with the Chiefs looms as a difficult test, especially since KC may have much to play for in Week 17, and the Bengals very little. Good teams win the games they should, and I see the Bengals doing that on the way to the playoffs. But whether or not they have anything to play for, they won’t get past KC in the final game.
Prediction: 12-4, 3rd Seed in the AFC

4. New England Patriots (7-5)
They’ve effectively locked up the AFC East, and by default, the 4th seed in the AFC. The remaining schedule has them at Buffalo, hosting Tampa Bay, at the Jets, and hosting Miami. Two soft road games + 2 warm weather teams visiting Foxboro = 4 wins.
Prediction: 11-5, Home Field in the Wild Card round.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars (9-3)
A tough game hosting Indy is followed by the soft landing of San Francisco, Houston, and Tennessee. Pencil them in for the 5 spot.
Prediction: 12-4, Wild Card Berth

6. San Diego Chargers (8-4)
A tough finish hosting a feisty Miami team, followed by road games at Indy and KC, and a home game with Denver to finish. Are they up to the challenge? I think so. They’ll lose to Indy, but that’s it.
Prediction: 11-5, Wild Card Berth

7. Kansas City Chiefs (8-4)
A tough final stretch with four potential playoff teams looming – on the road against Dallas and the Giants, then home games with San Diego and Cincinnati. They’ll squeeze out a win at Dallas, but drop the next 2 to come short of the playoffs.
Prediction: 10-6, better luck next year

8. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5)
Right now, they’re on the outside looking in, and need a win over Chicago to get reestablished. Ben Roethlisberger is hurting, and the option of going to Tommy Maddox doesn’t fill anyone with confidence (least of all, Tommy Maddox himself). I see them getting by the Bears, but dropping one on the road to a hot Minnesota Vikings club next week. They’ll beat Cleveland and Detroit to salvage a 10-6 record, but come up short of the playoffs.
Prediction: 10-6, a January full of golf.

NFC
1. Seattle Seahawks (10-2)
San Francisco, Tennessee, Indianapolis, Green Bay. Three softies, and one great team. Guess how this will break down.
Prediction: 13-3, the road to Detroit goes through the Northwest

2. Chicago Bears (9-3)
A big test on the road at Pittsburgh this week, then a home game with Atlanta, and road games at Green Bay and Minnesota, which could be for the NFC North Title. Guess what? The Bears bandwagon is about to grind to a screeching halt. Mike Vick will be game in Soldier Field, and Minnesota will benefit from the comfort of the Dome. They’ll get the win over Green Bay they need to sow up the division, but they’ll be backing into the playoffs.
Prediction: 10-6, NFC North Title and 4th Seed

3. Carolina Panthers (9-3)
Tough finish with Tampa, New Orleans, Dallas, and Atlanta. They’ll run the table before being stopped in the Dome by Vick and the Falcons.
Prediction: 12-4, with a breather through the wild card round

4. New York Giants (8-4)
There’s no reason that the Giants shouldn’t run the table against Philly, KC, Washington, and Oakland. But, the G-Men have shown a tendency to lose games they shouldn’t (Minnesota, Seattle), so I think they come up short against Oakland in the final week of the season with playoff seeding on the line.
Prediction: 11-5, the 3rd seed in the NFC

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-4)
Tough finish at Carolina and New England, then home dates with Atlanta and New Orleans. Too bad they’ll be out of it before the final game of the season.
Prediction: 9-7, blame it on injuries.

6. Dallas Cowboys (7-5)
At home against KC, then on the road at Washington and Carolina will knock them out of playoff contention before the final game of the year at home against the Rams.
Prediction: 8-8, disappointing finish.

7. Atlanta Falcons (7-5)
I think they’ve underperformed this year, and will step up when they need to. Look for big wins over New Orleans, Chicago, Tampa and Carolina to head into January on a high note.
Prediction: 11-5, Wild Card Berth

8. Minnesota Vikings (7-5)
They should beat St. Louis and Baltimore, while dates with Pittsburgh and Chicago will prove difficult. I’m calling an upset loss to St. Louis this week, followed by a strong finish over Pitt, Baltimore, and Chicago to squeak into the playoffs.
Prediction: 10-6, Wild Card Berth

9. Washington Redskins (6-6)
They’re barely hanging on right now, but should benefit from a win at Arizona this week. After that, they can take Dallas on the road, but will be stopped by the G-Men.
Prediction: 9-7, no luck this year.


Final Playoff Seedings
AFC
1. Indianapolis
2. Denver
3. Cincinnati
4. New England
5. Jacksonville
6. San Diego

NFC
1. Seattle
2. Carolina
3. NY Giants
4. Chicago
5. Atlanta
6. Minnesota

2 Comments:

At 12:46 PM, Blogger Gary Freedman said...

Rock on!

 
At 1:25 PM, Blogger Alex said...

I alluded to my pre-season NFL predictions, and since I never posted them here, I think this is an opportune time to share them.

Here we go:


AFC
East
New England 12-4
Buffalo 9-7
NY Jets 8-8
Miami 4-12

North
Baltimore 11-5
Pittsburgh 10-6
Cincinatti 9-7
Cleveland 5-11

South
Indianapolis 13-3
Jacksonville 8-8
Houston 7-9
Tennessee 7-9

West
San Diego 8-8
Denver 7-9
Oakland 7-9
Kansas City 7-9

NFC
East
Philadelphia 13-3
Dallas 8-8
NY Giants 6-10
Washington 6-10

North
Minnesota 10-6
Green Bay 7-9
Chicago 5-11
Detroit 3-13

South
Carolina 11-5
Tampa Bay 10-6
Atlanta 8-8
New Orleans 7-9

West
Arizona 10-6
St. Louis 9-7
Seattle 8-8
San Francisco 2-14

Wildcard Teams: Pittsburgh, Cincinatti, Tampa Bay, St. Louis

Wild Card Round
Baltimore over Cincinatti
Pittsburgh over San Diego

Minnesota over St. Louis
Tampa Bay over Arizona

Divisonal Round
New England over Baltimore
Indy over Pitt

Minnesota over Carolina
Philly over T-Bay

Conference Finals
New England over Indy
Minnesota over Philly

Super Bowl
New England over Minnesota
MVP: Corey Dillon, RB, New England

Individual Awards
Offensive Player: Peyton Manning, QB, Indy
Defensive Player: Julius Peppers, DE, Carolina
Coach of the Year: Dennis Green, Arizona
Rookie of the Year: Cadillac Williams, Tampa Bay

On most of these counts...what was I thinking? And yes, I'll accept your invitation to a pick'em or fantasy league if you need to take someone's money.

 

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