2010 NFL Predictions
By Joe Platania
The present-day age of parity, the lack of a salary cap for the first time in 16 years and the looming labor negotiations should all contribute to make the 91st National Football League season one of the most wide-open and unpredictable fans will ever see.
Despite all the on-field attrition and off-field maneuvering, there will be two teams lining up at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas Feb. 6 to play for the Vince Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XLV.
Which teams will make it there?
Baltimore (predicted finish: 11-5): Injuries to the defensive backfield and offensive line means lower seed and at least one road playoff game.
Cincinnati (10-6): Good, young defense but fourth-toughest schedule and Terrell Owens-Chad Ochocinco circus, too?
Pittsburgh (7-9): Too many distractions, offensive line problems and young defensive backs.
Cleveland (5-11): A few signs of life under Mike Holmgren and Eric Mangini, but division is too tough.
New England (12-4): Secondary got younger and the Pats still have Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Wes Welker, etc.
Miami (11-5): Chad Henne-Brandon Marshall combo should blossom; Mike Nolan takes over defense.
New York Jets (8-8): A lot of money spent and bluster spewed forth, but a step back is likely.
Buffalo (6-10): Haven't made playoffs since losing "Music City Miracle" in '99.
Indianapolis (13-3): O-line has questions, but for the most part, the Colts’ roster is stacked again.
Houston (10-6): Talented enough to tackle league's toughest schedule.
Tennessee (7-9): Keith Bulluck, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Kevin Mawae are all gone; this is a team in transition.
Jacksonville (5-11): Another rebuilding club; pass rush had just 14 sacks in '09.
San Diego (12-4): Still the division's best all-around team despite Pat O'Neill/Vincent Jackson discontent.
Oakland (8-8): Good defensive draft and a less-oppressive work climate could lead to wins.
Denver (6-10): Plenty of marquee quarterbacks on roster, but none of them stand out.
Kansas City (6-10): The Chiefs, with the help of numerous ex-New England minds, start their climb north.
Playoff seeds: 1. Indianapolis, 2. New England, 3. San Diego, 4. Baltimore, 5. Miami, 6. Houston
Minnesota (12-4): Hard to find a weakness anywhere, but secondary could be a concern.
Green Bay (11-5): Taking Brett Favre over above-average Aaron Rodgers to decide race. Detroit (6-10): The Matthew Stafford-Jahvid Best-Ndamukong Suh triumvirate leads a promising youth movement.
Chicago (5-11): Jay Cutler was never that good and he'll get worse this year.
Dallas (12-4): If healthy, the only other thing that could derail this team is placekicking.
N.Y. Giants (9-7): Defense wrecked by injuries last year, new coordinator should help.
Philadelphia (8-8): Kevin Kolb is good, but he's no Donovan McNabb. Maybe next year ... Washington (4-12): Albert Haynesworth mess and O-line troubles won't help McNabb succeed.
New Orleans (13-3): One of best offenses plus defensive coordinator (Gregg Williams) bode well for the defending champs.
Atlanta (11-5): Easier schedule, Matt Ryan at quarterback and the underrated Dunta Robinson at cornerback.
Carolina (6-10): D-line no longer that strong; can either Jimmy Clausen or Matt Moore lead?
Tampa Bay (6-10): Josh Freeman must get better to save young head coach.
San Francisco (10-6): Lots of status quo with 'Niners including offensive system.
Arizona (8-8): Matt Leinart gets his chance, but without Kurt Warner's supporting cast.
Seattle (5-11): Pete Carroll finds out Washington and Washington State aren't on the schedule.
St. Louis (2-14): Even with Steven Jackson, the Rams are a pathetic 6-42 since '07.
Playoff seeds: 1. New Orleans, 2. Dallas, 3. Minnesota, 4. San Francisco, 5. Atlanta, 6. Green Bay
AFC: Baltimore over Miami; San Diego over Houston
NFC: Minnesota over Green Bay; Atlanta over San Francisco
AFC: Indianapolis over Baltimore; San Diego over New England
NFC: New Orleans over Atlanta; Dallas over Minnesota
AFC: San Diego over Indianapolis
NFC: Dallas over New Orleans
SUPER BOWL XLV: Dallas over San Diego
Issue 152: August 2010