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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

NFL Preseason Predictions

Hallelujah, friends!  The wait is over!  The NFL season kicks off in a few hours.  That means it is time for Wild Banshee to post her official NFL Predictions.  But first, a little background.  I did not make these picks off-the-cuff, willy-nilly.  I did this one team at a time.  I went through each team's schedule and projected their record.    This process caused the long delay in getting these picks published.  It also caused some surprises for me even though I'm the one making the predictions.

AFC East:  It feels boring to pick the Patriots to win this division.  But, I cannot run a self-respecting sports blog and go any other way with this pick.  I believe the Jets are going to take a serious step back this season.  I think the Bills will be respectable again this year, but they will not be in the Patriots class.  And, while I don't think the Dolphins will be an utter embarrassment, they will be seriously over-achieving if they make it to a .500 record.  And, I'm not trying to say that the Pats will win the division by default.  The Patriots were 13-3 last year and have added offensive talent in the offseason.  They are in a strong position to secure the top seed in the AFC.  Division winner: New England Patriots.


AFC North:  Last season, three teams from this division made the playoffs.  I do not believe that will be the case this year.  Wild Banshee's first bold prediction of this column is that the Steelers will take a step back and miss the playoffs this year.  An aging defense, a makeshift offensive line and a menagerie at running back will be too much to overcome in a division that includes the Ravens, the Bengals and an improving Browns squad.  I believe the Bengals can replicate their 9-7 record and that it will be enough to snag a wild card slot in the AFC.  But, the Ravens are the class of this division and a serious Super Bowl contender.  Division winner: Baltimore Ravens.  Wild Card: Cincinnati Bengals.


AFC South:  Aside from the Houston Texans, this division is just flat ugly.  The Texans will be in the hunt for the best record in the AFC.  No one else in the division will get a sniff at a winning season.  The Colts will be better than they were last season, but that's not saying much.  I think the Jaguars have reason to be hopeful as Gabbert and Blackmon grow up together.  But, this season will be rough.  The Titans are a bit of an enigma, but I think they will have to steal a few upset wins to make it to eight wins.  Division winner: Houston Texans.


AFC West:  This was my favorite division to analyze.  I strongly considered each of the four teams as a potential division winner.  I really think nine wins will be enough to win the division.  And I think the team that does it will be the Oakland Raiders.  That is Wild Banshee's second bold prediction of this column.  The Chargers have long been the class of this division, but I think that poor personnel decisions will finally catch up to them this year.  I see the Bolts in the six or seven win range.  I think the Broncos made an excellent decision in bringing Peyton Manning to the Mile High City.  But the Broncos still do not have a dependable running back, and their defense over-achieved in a few clutch spots last year.  I think they will also have a losing record.  I think the Chiefs will capitalize on the weaknesses in Denver and San Diego.  They were a playoff team in 2010.  Last year's season got derailed by injuries before it even got rolling.  This year will be a bit of a bounce back for Kansas City.  At 8-8, I believe the Chiefs will earn a wild card slot in the AFC.  Division winner: Oakland Raiders.  Wild Card: Kansas City Chiefs.



NFC East:  This division has been considered the best division in the NFC for several years.  The NFC East has sent multiple teams to the playoffs for four of the last five years.  But, here comes Wild Banshee's third bold prediction of the column.  That will not happen this year.  And, it will be the New York Giants who will be sitting at home this year when the playoffs start.  The dirty little secret is that the Giants played lousy defense last season.  I think that will continue.  And I think they will miss Brandon Jacobs on the field even if they won't miss him in the locker room.  The Redskins will make some big strides forward, but they are not playoff quality yet.  And, the Cowboys will continue to be the Cowboys ... over-hyped and under-achieving.  Meanwhile, the Eagles will go about their business quietly this year and win the division.  Vince Young and his bold predictions are gone.  And Desean Jackson can concentrate on football instead of his contract.  Mike Vick's health is still a concern, but they do seem to have a capable backup in Nick Foles.  Division winner: Philadelphia Eagles.


NFC North:  This will be the toughest division in all of the NFL ... hands down.  I do not see the Vikings as being a .500 team, but I think Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen alone make them a formidable opponent every week.  The Lions were the sexy pick last season.  They have enough talent to make the playoffs again.  I still believe that they are a team on the rise overall, but I think they take a small step back this season.  I think that the Packers will win the division, but I think the Bears will give them a battle right down to the final week of the season.  In fact, I see both teams having 13+ wins this season.  Division winner: Green Bay Packers.  Wild Card: Chicago Bears.

NFC South:  This division has a lot of interesting story lines.  Tampa Bay is excited about their rookie running back Doug Martin, their new head coach and the fact that Josh Freeman decided not to get fat this offseason.  But, I think the Bucs are still a year or two away from contention.  Then there are the Panthers.  If the Panthers were in the AFC, I think they would make the playoffs.  But, they are not.  I think they will be a highly-competitive .500 team that misses out on a wild card.  That bring us to the Saints and the Falcons.  The Saints have ruled this division for a while, but they have had all sorts of distractions this offseason.  Meanwhile, the Falcons have stayed out of the headlines and have shown some offensive improvement.  Frankly, I view this division as a toss-up with both teams making the playoffs.  Division winner: Atlanta Falcons.  Wild Card: New Orleans Saints.


NFC West:  I think this division will be much-improved from last season.  At the end of the season, the records might not reflect that, but I think the quality of play will be on the rise.  However, that statement does not apply to the Arizona Cardinals.  I think the Cardinals will be an abomination ... possibly the worst team in professional football.  But, the Rams will be competitive again.  I see them right around the .500 mark.  Same with the Seahawks.  I do not see any reason for the 49ers to regress this season.  I think they will win the division and be a tough out for anyone in the playoffs.  Division winner: San Francisco 49ers.

So there you have it.  The official Banshee Sports NFL predictions.  I hope you enjoy reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it.  And, by all means, post your thoughts and questions in the comments section below.


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