2009 AFC Predictions
By David A Laneof Predictem.com
This year’s good AFC teams are not all that obvious. As much as I can say that NFL football is unpredictable, one team continually defies the norm, at least so far. Sure we all know which one that is but thats not to say that Brady and company have a lock on things in any way. Truth is, there are a lot of good teams in the conference, any of which can end up playing for a championship in Tampa Bay on February 1st.
AFC East: The New England Patriots have been winners for quite some time, not all too coincidentally, coinciding with the admission of Tom Brady into the game as a replacement for injured quarterback Drew Bledsoe.
Missing last season showed us a ton about how valuable Brady is to this franchise despite the fact that the team still finished 11-5- the best record ever for a team that missed the playoffs. Hes back and if he can stay healthy, the Pats will be too and “should” be favorites to win the AFC as well as the Superbowl despite losing a slew of coaches.
In New York, the Jets not only fired their coach but lost their QB Brett Favre who couldnt find the magic in 08. New coach Rex Ryan has all but chosen rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez to be his starter over Kellen Clemens, a move he might soon regret; remember Matt Leinart? The Jets close out their stadium in New Jersey as a loser once again with a 6-10 record.
Ten years of not making the playoffs at all- worst in the NFL- including three in a row in which they finished 7-9 and you have to know that Im talking about the Buffalo Bills, who, without bad luck would have no luck at all. Though they have added Terrell Owens, theyll finish worse this season at 5-11, finally breaking their string of seven win seasons, and might just win one game within the division this year (0-6 last season).
The Miami Dolphins played some great football last season, becoming one of the best turnaround stories of all-time going from 1-15 to 11-5 in one season. That being said, the fish definitely had a more than favorable schedule last year which helped build their confidence to epic proportions- but in an awakening of sorts they will falter from being divisional leaders mainly because Chad Pennington has never been very consistent at quarterback and his team is just not as hungry as last years 9-7 finish. I predictem them to miss the playoffs despite having a very good defense.
The next division in my breakdown is the AFC North, one
that has produced three Super
Bowl winners in the last nine years- none of which include the Cincinnati
Bengals or the Cleveland
Browns who will continue to be doormats in the division (and the league).
Ravens keep winning with defense and last years rookie quarterback
sensation Joe Flacco, despite losing a ton of coaches again themselves-
a statement that says the rest of the league thinks a lot of this organization-
and with one of the easier schedules in the league, expect the wins to continue.
Losing the AFC Championship game last season to division rival the Pittsburgh
Steelers will definitely add fuel to the rivalry fire- Ravens go 12-4.
The Steelers are back to defend their Super Bowl Championship and regardless of the allegations pointed at quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the show will go on. Despite winning it all, the schedule still looks very favorable for them as their schedule is even easier than the Ravens, a fact that says they should easily coast back to the playoffs again this season even though they lost some key contributors on defense. They will tie with the Ravens for the division at 12-4 and lose the division title by virtue of the NFL tie-breaker, however, will make the playoffs as a Wild Card.
The AFC South has also proven to be a very competitive
division, one in which most intra-divisional games are played close to the
vest, the quality of play is good, and the games are usually hard fought
battles. The 2008 Tennessee Titans played some of the best regular season
football theyve ever played going 13-3- Best in the NFL. One large reason;
the defense gave up only 234 points for the season- second best to the Steelers
(223)- was largely caused by another large reason- Albert Haynesworth, who
was healthy and in a contract year, and who was also lost to free agency.
Despite what happens on either side of the ball for the Titans, you cant
lose the best defensive tackle in the league and expect it not to hurt you,
they finish 9-7.
Peyton Mannings Indianapolis Colts team looks worthy of being divisional champ in a major way although hell be missing his perennial go-to receiver Marvin Harrison and not to mention his head coachs overall career record is 26-63- all at Wake Forest, at the collegiate level. This proves once again its not what you know but who you know- Caldwell was Mannings quarterback coach for the past seven seasons. The Colts will find it more difficult to move the ball but the defense will keep them in most games- something you used to never be able to say about Colts teams- as they win 10 games and just do beat out the Titans for the division title.
The all important AFC West was the AFC-less in 08, as an 8-8 record was good enough to win a division which was the only time in NFL history that has happened, by the San Diego Chargers.
Since the Denver Broncos got rid of their quarterback by trading for Bears QB Kyle Orton, their coach Mike Shanahan, by going for New Englands former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, and so far gotten rid of wide receiver Brandon Marshall by suspending him for conduct detrimental to the team, things arent looking up for them. Continual disarray like this has them looking more like the Raiders, who in fact have no chance in the division this year- even if the division was the PAC-10. The Broncos will finish 6-10 as the chaos will continue in Denver.
Like the Raiders, the Kansas City Chiefs have fallen on hard times and wouldnt expect much more than a 4-12 record, which would be 2 games better than last season. This leaves the San Diego Chargers, who once again can sleepwalk through the early part of the season, to take the division without even breaking a sweat. With an offense led by quarterback Philip Rivers that is capable of going to the Super Bowl and a defense with a healthy Shawn Merriman that can stop most anyone, this team has proven it can go far in the playoffs though its yet to prove it can win there. They finish 11-5 or better this time, carving up their division like they should done have last year.
My prediction for the 2009 Super Bowl pits the Carolina Panthers against the New England Patriots in a game that will go back in forth in a thrilling offensive contest with the Panthers taking the game late.
Regardless of how it turns out, the fun is watching it all play out because this league is about as unpredictable as any out there (see the AZ Cardinals making it to the Super Bowl in 08).
If last season taught us anything its that a major injury to any one key player can change the outcome of the whole season, keep that in mind as you enjoy the 2009 NFL.
Be sure to check out my 2009 NFC Predictions as well!