For the second year, I am making a futile attempt to predict the totally unpredictable NFL season. Given the mostly lousy job I did last year, I am changing my approach a little. First, I’ve not wasted my time trying to predict the winner of each game. That took far too long and didn’t really work all that well. Instead, the records are my own estimation of about how good (or bad) each team is this year. Second, while I have attempted to be realistic in my regular season predictions—for example, I don’t have the Redskins going 14-2 and clinching the number one seed—once I get to the playoffs I’ve thrown out any illusion of objectivity and instead played out what I would like to happen.
So first, my predictions for the regular season.
(Key: #1 SEED, Division Champion, Wildcard.)
NEW ENGLAND 12-4 (1)
Miami 9-7 (6)
NY Jets 3-13
The Patriots are still the class of this division, and will remain so until Tom Brady retires or his arm falls off. The Dolphins will get a marginal return on their off-season binge—just enough to squeeze into the postseason. The Bills are a car wreck in slow motion and only the circular pie-fight that is the New York Jets will keep them out of the cellar.
Cincinnati 11-5 (4)
Pittsburgh 10-6 (5)
Everybody do “The Ickey Shuffle,” because this is finally the Bengals’ year to win the division! The Steelers will oscillate between good and mediocre, but win enough close games to grab a wildcard spot. The Ravens will experience a post-Super-Bowl letdown, and the Browns will remain “a factory of sadness.”
Houston 11-5 (3)
A decade of the Colts winning every year followed by a decade of the Texans (likely) winning every year—this might be the most boring division in pro football. So Houston wins again. (Shocker!) Indy slumps slightly due to a harder schedule, but still pulls out a winning record. Tennessee is mediocrity personified, and Jacksonville will continue to stink until they scrape up a NFL-caliber quarterback. A high second rounder plus a fourth for Kirk Cousins will look like a great deal to the Jags by season’s end.
Denver 12-4 (2)
Kansas City 8-8
San Diego 6-10
Another snoozer of a division. The Broncos are loaded as always and will dominate the weakest divisional opposition in the league for a second straight season. The Chiefs will get a boost from Andy Reid, Alex Smith, and a last place schedule to rise to .500. The Chargers are due for a blow-up and rebuild (and probably a move to LA too), and all that’s left of the Raiders is a smoking crater.
Washington 10-6 (4)
NY Giants 10-6 (6)
No longer the best division in football, “The Beast” is still the most interesting one. The Redskins will win a season-long three-way battle for the division with a razor-thin road upset over the Giants in Week 17. The Giants will win some convoluted tiebreaker for the last wildcard spot as a consolation prize. The Cowboys will finish 8-8 again—as they will every year until Jerry Jones is planted in the cold, cold ground. The Eagles will show flashes of potential under rookie coach Chip Kelly—just enough to briefly raise Philly-fan hopes before dashing them to pieces for yet another year.
Green Bay 12-4 (2)
The black and blue division is more black and blue than ever. The Packers are the class of the field as always and will win it yet again—as their league-leading offense puts up so many points that their pathetic defense won’t matter. Da Bears will give their fans glimpses of past glory, but not quite enough to get to the postseason. The Vikings remain “AP et al.” and the Lions will field Megatron, a handful of thugs, and a whole bunch of JAGS (not to be confused with the Jags from Jacksonville, who are much, much worse).
New Orleans 11-5 (3)
Tampa Bay 6-10
“Lassez le bon temps rouler!” The Saints will bounce back from Bountygate to keep the good times (and the NFC South title) rolling for yet another year. The Falcons will look good as always—a few close losses short of dominance, but never quite there. The Panthers will begin to show promise, staking their claim for next team up in 2014. Meanwhile the Bucs will collapse, and be in the market for a new QB come draft day. Let’s start a bidding war for Kirk Cousins!
SAN FRANCISCO 12-4 (1)
Seattle 12-4 (5)
St. Louis 8-8
The Niners will pull off their third straight title in the toughest division in football, staking their claim as the best team in the league. The Seahawks will remain a juggernaut at home (8-0) and a frustrating mediocrity on the road (4-4). The Rams will continue their RGIII-trade-fueled path to future success, but aren’t quite there yet, and Arizona will blow the whole thing up and start over again. And that’s team three in the “Trade for Cousins” sweepstakes!
That’s how I see the regular season shaking out, and if all you want are my objective opinions I suggest you stop reading now. Just picking the twelve teams that will qualify is hard enough. Not knowing which teams might be on a roll or limping in with numerous injuries makes it all but impossible to pick the winners of individual games that may or may not happen months in advance.
So I am throwing out any pretense of objectivity. I have no idea who will win the Super Bowl. Instead, I give the obvious answer to who I want to win, and show a possible path for them to get there.
The Ravens and Giants both won in similar circumstances. Who says it can’t happen again?
Miami @ Houston
Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati
In the wildcard round, Miami’s brief Cinderella run ends in Houston. The Steelers ruin the Bengals division title celebration, and “The Ickey Shuffle” is be mothballed for another 25 years.
Pittsburgh @ Denver
Houston @ New England
In the divisional round, the Texans earn their first trip to the AFC Championship after upsetting a flat Patriots team, and the Broncos beat the Steelers without Tim Tebow (which come to think of it makes more sense).
Houston @ Denver
In the conference championship, the Texans’ Super Bowl dream ends as the Broncos give Peyton a shot at an elusive second championship. The Broncos travel to their first Super Bowl in fifteen years, and no one’s smile is bigger than John Elway’s—so big that he’ll be mistaken for the team mascot.
(Sorry, John, that was low. But you don’t care—you’re going back to the BIG GAME!)
Seattle @ Washington
NY Giants @ New Orleans
In the wildcard round, the Redskins get revenge over the Seahawks for last year’s playoff loss, and the Giants pull a road upset in New Orleans. Funeral bands fill the French Quarter afterwards and everyone gets drunk.
NY Giants @ Green Bay
Washington @ San Francisco
In the divisional round, the Redskins settle another score edging the Niners in a close game to make up for the close loss at Fed Ex on November 25 (which is my birthday by the way—I’ll feel better after the rematch). Meanwhile, the Giants almost pull off an upset over the Packers, briefly fueling hopes for an all NFC East NFC title game, but the Pack pull out a win and everyone at State Farm® does a Discount Double Check.
Washington @ Green Bay
The road win streak—and score settling—continues as the Redskins beat the Packers in the NFC Championship (in overtime) to make up for a Week 2 shootout loss during the regular season. RGIII and company travel to New Jersey, which is a good thing for once because that’s where the Super Bowl is being played for some inexplicable reason.
Super Bowl XLVIII
February 2nd, 2014
Met Life Stadium
East Rutherford, New FRICKING Jersey!
The Washington Redskins vs. The Denver Broncos
This game would be so hyped. Mike Shanahan vs. his old team. Peyton’s shot at a second ring. A generational matchup at quarterback, and possible passing of the torch. RGIII following in the footsteps of Doug Williams, the only African American quarterback to win a Super Bowl. And then there’s the inevitable name protest. You know it will happen. You know that PETA will demand that the Broncos change their name, arguing that it encourages breaking horses and rodeo abuse.
Back to the game. The Broncos are favored by 7.5 and most of the national media picks them to win. But the Redskins are looking for once more chance at redemption and one more chance to take back a regular season loss.
Will they do it?
You know what I think . . .
It’s good to believe again.