Anthony Beers, Contributing Writer
The NFL regular season kicks off this week with the defending champion New York Giants taking on the Dallas Cowboys. After a long offseason, fans are ready to see if their team will be Super Bowl bound, but predicting a team’s Super Bowl chances before the season has even began is not an easy task. However, I was up for it and made predictions of how this season might turn out.
NFC East: The Giants should remain the champion of this division, but it is not going to be easy. The NFC East is extremely competitive every year and the Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins have all had successful off seasons. With the experience of head coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning, the Giants should be able to stay on top of the East. (Giants 10-6, Eagles 9-7, Cowboys 8-8, Redskins 7-9).
NFC South: The New Orleans Saints dominated the division last year with record-breaking numbers from quarterback Drew Brees, but following an offseason that was dominated by their bounty scandal mixed with an already weak defense, the Saints will struggle to win this division again. As long as Brees is healthy they always have a chance, but this year the NFC South should belong to the Falcons because of their completeness as a football team on offense and defense. (Falcons 11-5, Saints 9-7, Panthers 7-9, Buccaneers 5-11).
NFC North: Aaron Rodgers conducted the Green Bay Packers’ offense masterfully last year and led them to a 15-1 regular season record. The Chicago Bears upgraded their offense by acquiring big-play wide receiver Brandon Marshall, and the Detroit Lions are coming off their first playoff appearance in over a decade. However, there is no question that Green Bay is the favorite to win this talented division for the second straight year. (Packers 13-3, Bears 10-6, Lions 9-7, Vikings 4-12)
NFC West: After just missing a trip to the Super Bowl, the San Francisco 49ers upgraded their passing attack by adding receivers Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, but whether their passing game accelerates this year or not, the 49ers should win the division due to their already dominant defense and aggressive running game. The Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks are looking to compete this year after some mediocre seasons, but it is unlikely anyone will challenge San Francisco(49ers 12-4, Seahawks 8-8, Cardinals 7-9, Rams 5-11).
AFC East: The team everyone has been talking about this offseason is the New York Jets, after their controversial trade that landed quarterback Tim Tebow. The truth of the matter is this division will remain in control of the New England Patriots who, after losing the Super Bowl, will not be slowed down. Head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady are simply on another level and New England’s offense will remain dominant and their young defense has improved, which will keep them on top. (Patriots 13-3, Bills 9-7, Jets 6-10, Dolphins 4-12).
AFC South: This division will be fought between the Houston Texans and the Tennessee Titans, but the Texans are favorites to win it. Their athleticism on offense between running back Arian Foster, wide receiver Andre Johnson and quarterback Matt Schaub, will allow the Texans to pick up right where they left off last season. (Texans 12-4, Titans 10-6, Colts 6-10, Jaguars 3-13).
AFC North: Three teams made the playoffs out of this exciting division last year and the competitiveness should continue. The Baltimore Ravens defense and run game has carried them for the past decade and that won’t stop. However, with a tough Pittsburgh Steelers team and the rise of a young team in the Cincinnati Bengals, can Baltimore remain on top of this division? The answer is yes…for now. (Ravens 11-5, Steelers 10-6, Bengals 8-8, Browns 6-10).
AFC West: Peyton Manning is the new sheriff in town after he signed with the Denver Broncos. Manning knows what it takes to win and he is in good company with head coach John Fox. However, the fact remains that Manning was out of football for a year and has to learn to play with an entirely new team for the first time in his career. He should be able to compete, but to come out and win the division against a Raiders team that has depth in more areas is a tough prediction. With a healthy Darren McFadden, the Raiders are dangerous. (Raiders 11-5, Broncos 9-7, Chargers 7-9, Chiefs 6-10).
Playoff Seeding Predictions:
Wildcard Matchups: Eagles 35 Falcons 28: The Falcons have had problems in the first round of the playoffs for the past three years. If they match up against Andy Reid’s resurgent Eagles with loads of playoff experience, the Eagles will come out on top. Giants 21 Bears 17: Both teams will have impressive defenses this year, but going with Big Blue is the safe bet with Manning running the offense. Ravens 34 Titans 13: Chris Johnson’s running ability will help bring the Titans back into the playoffs, but a matchup against the run-stopping Ravens will result in their demise. The Ravens win this one easy. Steelers 24 Raiders 23: There always seems to be one jawdropping wild card game with an exciting finish. This one is it. With the Raiders finally back in a playoff game, Big Ben Roethlisberger does what he does best in the final two minutes in front of a hostile Raiders crowd, squeaking out a win.
Divisional Playoff Matchups: Packers 35 Eagles 21: The offensive firepower of the Packers will prove to be too much against the Eagles’ defense. The Packers underpermformed in the playoffs last year and they simply will not let that happen again. Giants 21 49ers 20: In what would be a repeat of the NFC championship matchup last year, the results would not be much different. Defense will dominate and it will come down to whoever keeps their cool in the final minutes. Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning know a lot more about keeping their cool than head coach Jim Harbaugh and quaterback Alex Smith, as the Giants go on to win. Patriots 28 Steelers 21: This time the Steelers are stopped by a Patriots team that will have a much improved defense. If Big Ben gets another chance to move the offense to win the game, expect the Patriots to make a clutch stop. Texans 31 Ravens 24: The Texans are here to play this year; they are a frequent favorite in the AFC. Times will change as the Texans offense proves to be too much for a Ravens defense whose days are numbered.
Championship Matchups: Giants 31 Packers 28: In another playoff matchup between these two teams, this year the Packers bring their game and have fewer turnovers and mistakes. But, the Giants are 5-0 all time in championship games and know what it takes to win. The Giants’ defense is one of the few with the ability to slow down the Packers with their pass rush and will do so to reach a second straight Super Bowl. Texans 28 Patriots 24: In a shocking upset, the Texans show that they are finally ready to be a Super Bowl contender. The weapons on an exciting Texans offense are enough to challenge the Patriots on a stage as big as the AFC Championship, as they advance to their first ever Super Bowl.
Super Bowl Matchup: Giants 24 Texans 17: The Giants again? Yes, repeats have not happened recently but they are currently ranked number one in the CBS power rankings for a reason. If the Giants can escape their chaotic division in the NFC East, they can go on another run. In the past four years, the Giants have went on two incredible Super Bowl runs that no one even fathomed possible. If the Giants’ defense shows the consistency that it did in the final six games of last year’s incredible run, then to rule the Giants out of a repeat is shameful.
Are they the obvious choice? No, but predicting a Super Bowl champion before things unfold is an impossible art. Every year there are teams that shock everyone with their unanticipated success or failures. The one thing fans can agree on with the upcoming season is that it’s about time. Let the games begin!