I'm not going to lie, the 2010 season has so many storylines that interest me that I am more excited for this season of football more so than any other season I have been an avid watcher. Off the top of my head, the things I want to watch out for this year are:
I cannot, in good faith, predict anything about the Steelers season seriously. I assume that just like every other fan in the universe, I am biased towards my team, even if I don't necessarily think that is the truth. Because of that, this post will have only my predictions as far as the NFL goes.
- Do the Jets break the mold and show you can just assemble the most absurd amount of talent you can and make it fit together somehow? Ever since Rex Ryan has come to town in 2008, he has done nothing but upgrade talent at every position, no matter the cost. It all adds up to massive potential.
- Does Matt Ryan show his sophomore slump was the exception to the rule? Matt Ryan impressed a lot of people in his rookie campaign, but his sophomore try was one fraught with nagging injuries and a January spent at home.
- Is Alex Smith going to maintain his confidence from last year? It looked like last year Alex Smith finally put it all together and showed he could get the job done with a competent set of receivers.
- Jason Campbell has a new home in Oakland. Will it pan out? He was kicked shamelessly kicked out of Washington after a less than stellar stint there. It might be noteworthy that he has had more offensive coordinators/consultants than years in the league.
- The NFC South in general. I am really interested who will win this league. The no-brainer is the Saints to repeat, but no team has repeated as NFC South crownholder since it's inception. I know the past is not necessarily an indication of the future, but the Panthers and Falcons are wildly talented in spots, and even the Bucs can surprise you.
- The Packers. Will they meet expectations and show that they can get it done and go somewhere in the playoffs? There is a lot of promise for this team, but Aaron Rodgers is inexperienced in the playoffs.
- Both of the Easts. The AFC East and the NFC East are shaping up to be the most competitive divisions this year. In the NFC, any of the 4 teams could rise up and grab that title, something few divisions can boast. It's AFC counterpart has three contenders, as NYJ, NE, and MIA will all be closer in talent level.
And now, if you're not too awfully bored by now, my predictions and a half-assed statistical analysis of them:
- I say there is good reason that the Redskins can't put it together and win, and the Jets will fall due to the same reasons. The cardinal difference between the two situations is that the Jets have a semicompetent owner. Looking at their schedule, the Jets start out with three tough teams in a row, in the name of BAL, NE, and MIA. If the Jets come out of that stretch 1-2 and frustrated, they might lose a divisional game to the Bills. It's possible and plausible that the Jets come out of the first 4 games at 1-3. If they are, I think the divas will being to battle, causing the locker room to become a mess that not even Rex Ryan can fix. The Jets also face the Packers, Steelers, and Bengals, three more potential losses. I don't think that the difference in ownership will be enough to overcome a tough schedule and the Jets finish with a 8-8 or under record.
- I actually didn't watch Matt Ryan that much this last year, but I have been watching what I can find of him on the internet. He looked great in some spots, average to below average in some spots. I don't have a lot of analysis for this one, but I think that Matt Ryan surpasses his rookie numbers this year.
- My gut says that Alex Smith finally gets it. Under that assumption, you have to look at the rest of the 49ers offense this year. They have a rebuilt and solid looking offensive line, especially if Iupati beings to get it together in pass coverage. They have a top 5 running back in Frank Gore, behind what I think will become one of the best run blocking lines this year. They have a rising superstar receiver in Crabtree, a solid receiver in Josh Morgan, and Ginn Jr is at least a deep threat. You can't forget about Vernon Davis. Some might not be sold on Crabtree, but I definitely am a big fan. Let's look at his situation. Last year he missed all of training camp, pre-season, and the first 5 games of the year. He shows up in week 6 with a week of practice and cooly averages 56.8 yards a game and nabbing two touchdowns. Wide receiver is widely regarded as needing a few years to put everything together. It's my prediction that with a whole training camp and preseason under his belt, he really puts up some nice numbers this year. 1000 yards and 8 TD's isn't out of the question for this receiver's first full year. As a starting quarterback I find that wins are the best indicator of success, so I'm going to say that the 49ers win 9 or more games and take the NFC West.
- My gut says that the Raiders will love what they got in Jason Campbell, who now has some of the fastest receivers in the league to hit slants to all day. If the offense can get a running game going with McFadden, Jason can guide the Raiders to their first winning season in almost a decade.
- The NFC South has a lot of under appreciated talent. Despite Matt Ryan rebounding and the Panthers being a little tougher than some critics are giving them credit for, the Saints will repeat for the first time as NFC South champs.
- I said earlier today somewhere that the Packers were a well coached team with a budding franchise quarterback. They are transitioning smoothly to the 3-4 D and if this year they can at least slow down any elite QB, they will be just fine. Don't forget Ryan Grant was top 5 in rushing yards last year and Aaron Rodgers chipped in 400 yards of his own. The Packers finish a top the NFC North this year and at least make it to the NFC Championship game.
- I would have to do an entire post analyzing all the angles of predicting the winning of a division. Without any of that and skipping right to my instincts, I have the Patriots find a way to narrowly win the AFC East, and the Cowboys win the NFC East.