First off, I want to once again wish my readers a happy, healthy, and safe new year, and that this my first blog post for 2013. I look forward to continue moving forward with my life goals, primarily when it comes to my writing. Maybe this year, I'll work on exploring the publishing market.
To kick off the new year, I am going to go over my predictions that I made about the regular NFL season and include some additional responses. These will include updated playoff predictions, as well as updated possibilities for new head coaching slots. I'm not going to do team by team predictions as I did in September, but instead division by division. We shall get started...
With the exception of the Jets going 6-10 instead of 5-11, I was spot-on with the entire division. I was sure that the Patriots would snag the division, the Dolphins would go in an upward direction with Joe Philbin creating a foundation, starting at the quarterback, the Bills would not have the right tools to improve, and the Jets would collapse due to their awful chemistry and how Rex Ryan has shed his attitude throughout the entire team. The Patriots remain flawless and should have a decent run into the playoffs, the Dolphins could very well be a playoff contender during the decade, the Bills really need to find more defensive weapons and determine whether or not Ryan Fitzpatrick is the answer to quarterback, and the Jets... they need to move on from Rex Ryan. He may have led them to AFC Championship twice, but they're becoming a hot mess. What I expect at this point is a strong run for the Pats.
Not as successful with regard to the numbers. I thought the Titans would be going in the right direction, but instead took steps back. I expected the Texans to return to the playoffs, which they did, and saw incredible improvement. They could have easily locked up the one-seed, but are unfortunately in somewhat of a downward spiral. I expected the Colts to improve, but what they did this season was just incredible. Andrew Luck proved his worth as Bruce Arians proved he is an excellent, top of the line coach, who could lead in an emergency event, such as when Chuck Pagano had to step aside to deal with his leukemia. The Colts are in the playoffs and very well deserved. The Jaguars were just awful and that was my most accurate prediction. I said 3-13, they were 2-14, so the numbers weren't too far apart. The team needs to start over yet again and pick up Tim Tebow to lead the team. Tebow is incredibly popular in Florida, he will increase their sales, and he will make them a notable team again, even if they have 8-8 seasons or just sneak into the postseason. The only other answer is to pack their bags and go to Los Angeles.
This is roughly accurate, but not incredibly so. I expected the Ravens and Steelers to be hot and dominant, competing for the division while easily reaching the postseason. This didn't happen to be the case, as the Ravens barely picked up the division, while the Steelers were lucky to reach .500 and go 8-8. The Bengals proved that they are a hot team with a good quarterback in Andy Dalton and nicely orchestrated offense and defense under Jay Gruden and Mike Zimmer, respectively. The Browns remain irrelevant once again, never being able to mold into form since returning to the league in 1999. Since returning, they made the playoffs once in 2002, and lost out in the first round.
Some major points I seemed to miss on this one. The biggest was that I gave the Chiefs too much credit and the Broncos too little. The Chiefs looked like they had a decent team coming together with just the right tools and a good fit with head coach Romeo Crennel. Unfortunately, these pieces never came to form, and when Matt Cassel was unable to play, Brady Quinn took his place. Unfortunately, Quinn has yet to prove his worth in the NFL. As for Crennel, his five seasons as head coach (not counting the three games as interim last season) showed no results, no postseason appearances, and a 10-6 showing in 2007 that wasn't strong enough. The Broncos, on the other hand, I expected to see deliver, but not to the extent that they would come out with the best record and an easy division win. It turns out that Peyton Manning is still an excellent quarterback, the offense weapons are intact, and the defense is a force to be reckon with (keep in mind the defense makes up much of the reason they were successful last season, not Tim Tebow). The Chargers remained inconsistent and the Raiders... were just the Raiders. At least Dennis Allen should be getting another chance as the head coach, which is not a common opportunity in this day and age when you can appear in a Super Bowl one season and be fired in the next.
The one detail I got partially right in the NFC East was that this was a competitive division battle. The detail that wasn't as accurate was the exact teams and the number of teams that were competing. I felt that all of these teams had a chance at the division. It turns out that three competed, because the Eagles showed their worst record throughout the Andy Reid-era. In fact, this team could have easily been 0-16, given that each of their four wins were by the skin of their teeth. They were poorly coached, poorly arranged, and just rusty. Everybody deserves to go. The Giants were able to win some key games, but unfortunately bombed when it came to capitalizing on a lead in the division. I felt they could do it, but unfortunately, they could not. The Cowboys and Redskins were the teams fighting for the division, which I expected the Cowboys to do once again, but the Redskins showed that their rookies, Quarterback Robert Griffin III and Running Back Alfred Morris to be specific, could create a new era for the team. Mike Shanahan has finally showed his worth and his son, Kyle, has shown why he is from one of the best offensive-minded families and that he will eventually coach a team some day.
Predicting a rising team in the south has proved costly once again. I thought the Panthers would come out with a good record. Unfortunately, they could not. They were unable to win crucial match-ups or come back at the end to win the big one. The Falcons proved they are the best team in the NFC... or at least the team that could come out with the best record in the NFC, but still more consistent than they ever were. The Buccaneers have entered a new and optimistic direction under Greg Schiano, while the many issues with the Saints proved to be an obvious cost for the team that was under two interim head coaches. This could potentially be a hot division going into 2013, but that all depends as to whether or not things remain in place.
This division is still quite intense. I predicted a three leg race to the playoffs, only I thought it would be the Packers winning the division, and the Lions getting the wildcard slot over the Bears. Instead, the Vikings and the Lions are easily reversed. The interesting thing I saw with the 2012 Vikings is the same thing I saw with the 2011 Bengals. I deemed that both teams would be the worst and easily claim the first pick in the draft, because they were both did not stand on a stable foundation. It turns out that both teams made it into the playoffs as the sixth seed in their conference. We have yet to see whether to Vikings, who are doing quite well at the moment, excel or lose out. It will all come down to a Packers vs. Vikings match-up, only this time in Green Bay and not Minnesota. With regard to the Lions, they have plenty of talent, but are unable to win games. The decision is going to come down to whether or not Jim Schwartz should remain the play-caller. He had a 2-14, 6-10, 10-6 (which ended in a wildcard loss to the Saints), and 4-12 this time. The attitude of the team seems a bit more sour, but that's up to the fan to decide.
Two seasons ago, the NFC West was the worst overall division of all time. They were so bad that the winner of the division, which happened to be the Seahawks, went 7-9, which was the first time a team with a negative record made the playoffs. This season, it happened to be one of the best divisions, where both the 49ers and Seahawks had eleven wins and are two of the strongest teams at the moment we speak. The Rams, which I predicted would go 6-10 in an upward improvement from the Steve Spagnuolo era, turned out going 7-8-1 and proving that they are willing to take it down to the wire under new head coach Jeff Fischer. The Cardinals, as I rightfully predicted, were a hot mess. The Kolb vs. Skelton matchup proved to hurt the team more and more and even a third quarterback, Ryan Lindley, got into the mix of things. They look like the only team in this division that needs serious help.
My Updated Playoff Predictions
While I will deem my original predictions still in the game, I will create a new set of predictions that include every team that is currently in the playoffs...
Bengals@Texans- The Bengals look to be warming up, while the Texans are simply cooling down. The Texans are, however, the hotter looking team with regard to what they have to offer. The Bengals are looking for their first postseason win since the 1990 season, but the Texans look like they have a lot more to prove. Texans 29, Bengals 23
Colts@Ravens- It could be easy to say that the Colts are young and that the Ravens have a bit more fire to excel further into the playoffs. At the moment, it's going to come down to the Colts and their young but fiery offense and the Ravens and their experienced defense. Both have a lot to prove, but the winner gets a one way ticket to New England. Ravens take it in a close on. Ravens 24, Colts 17
Vikings@Packers- The Packers may have unintentionally made the right decision to lose this game to the Vikings. On many occasions, by losing a regular season game, you gain an advantage of causing the other team to underestimate you when the real game matters. The other advantage the Packers have is that they're playing in Lambeau Field and they're playing in Lambeau Field against a dome-based team. Packers 41, Vikings 31
Seahawks@Redskins- The Cowboys and Redskins were playing for an opportunity to win the division... and play the hottest team in NFC at the moment we speak. The Seahawks are on fire with new rookie quarterback Russell Wilson and the rest of their competitive weapons. This will likely be the statement win during wildcard weekend. Seahawks 45, Redskins 16
Ravens@Broncos- This is bound to be a competitive, defensive match-up, and Peyton Manning can either win big or falter to the pressure that the playoffs have been known to give him. If it was the Broncos and Colts (which is still a possibility), that would be an ultimate match-up with plenty of viewers. Either way, I see the win going to Manning and the Broncos. Broncos 24, Ravens 14
Texans@Patriots- The Texans once again see a round they couldn't get passed against the team that has proved to be the most consistent visitors of the playoffs within the last ten years only next to the Colts. This may very well be where the Texans meet their match and pay the unfortunate price. Patriots 37, Texans 10
Packers@49ers- This will be indeed a competitive match-up between two of the teams that are currently known for putting up strong records. I say the Niners squeak one out, being a bit more intact during the postseason and this will be one game that goes to overtime. 49ers 31, Packers 28 OT
Seahawks@Falcons- During the Mike Smith era, the Falcons are 0-3 in the postseason. Then you meet the Seahawks, a team that is doing incredible as we speak. This team seems to be the team that is going to prove their worth throughout the postseason and catch the eyes of football fans throughout the country. Seahawks 41, Falcons 35
Seahawks@49ers- This is looking more and more like the hottest divisional match-up this season. It's grueling and I expect it to become even more grueling in the playoffs. Head coaches Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh (for the Hawks and Niners respectively) are going to be fighting to the end in this one, where the Niners will see their second overtime match-up. Unfortunately, I see the Hawks coming out with the edge on this one. Seahawks 48, 49ers 42 OT
Patriots@Broncos- This will be one of the hottest match-ups in a long while, as the two top seeded teams duke it out... and Peyton Manning once again goes up against Bill Belichick and the Patriots on his road to the Super Bowl. The Broncos have all the pieces together in what could be another run to Super Bowl XLVII and it looks like they very well will. Broncos 35, Patriots 28
Super Bowl XLVII
Denver Broncos vs. Seattle Seahawks- Toward the last few weeks of the season, this was the match-up I was predicting. These are the teams that are putting up wins when it matters most and should do so leading in to the Super Bowl. Both teams have a golden opportunity. For Peyton Manning, he could make a statement that Joe Montana tried to do when going to the Chiefs, but falling short with an AFC Championship loss. For Russell Wilson, he could be the first rookie quarterback to win the Super Bowl, as the furthest a quarterback has ever made it in the playoffs was to the championship. For John Fox and Pete Carroll, they'll be eyeing a Super Bowl title to their name that they have yet to earn. My pick is the Denver Broncos to come out on top, as they have the polished offense and a defense that's a force to be reckoned with. It looks like they have everything in place and should create a solid run like they did during the 1997 and 1998 seasons under Mike Shanahan. Broncos 34, Seahawks 24
With my Super Bowl predictions intact, I will also give my projections as to which team should pick up which coach. I am going to additionally predict that Ron Rivera and Mike Mularkey DO get fired from the Panthers and Jaguars, respectively, because they will be getting new general manager's that want to determine the direction for their team. I correctly predicted that Reid, Shurmur, Turner, and Whisenhunt would be let go. While I pondered Gailey and Mularkey, I guessed they would stay. Here are my picks for each team.
Buffalo Bills- This team seems to alternate between offensive and defensive coach. If they are looking defensive, they should look at Lovie Smith, who built an empire with the Chicago Bears and made them consistently competitive for the first time since the Mike Ditka era. If they're looking offensive, my pick would be Mike Sherman, currently the Dolphins offensive coordinator. He was passed up when they went with Dick Jauron, but now may be the time to allow him to make the Bills consistently competitors, which is what Sherman did with the Packers.
Cleveland Browns- Andy Reid should be the Browns top candidate. The Browns are likely to do anything to rebuild the team if that means providing the coach with control, then so be it. Joe Banner is already a new guy on the block and he and Andy Reid are on terms from the Eagles. Reid can provide the building blocks the team needs to make a run in the playoffs and even bring Michael Vick with him if he wishes. They need to pick someone who's acclaimed. That's the way to go.
San Diego Chargers- People connect Andy Reid to this job. I disagree. The Chargers need to pick up somebody who is going to provide a flow to the team and provide them with just the right charge. My picks are either Jon Gruden (if you can get him out of the Monday Night Football booth) or Bruce Arians, who was able to help rejuvenate the Colts. The Chargers have it in them, they just need that extra spark. Bruce Arians, I see, as the best possible option to doing so.
Kansas City Chiefs- This one is a bit more difficult. Kirk Ferentz, who has connections with Scott Pioli, is being deemed the frontrunner due to his connections. What the Chiefs need is someone who should get things done immediately. Possibilities include on a coordinator market, someone like Mike McCoy or even Kyle Shanahan, who while young looks like he could create a direction for the team.
Philadelphia Eagles- The Eagles will likely be looking for a big, immediate name. Chip Kelly is the immediate name that's popping up. Though if Kelly chooses up to come in to the league, the Eagles should look at resurrecting Brian Billick from the booth, or perhaps Jon Gruden.
Chicago Bears- The Bears could either take the direction of looking offensive or defensive. While Mike McCoy looks like a logical decision, Vic Fangio or Mike Zimmer on the 49ers or Bengals look like picks that could suit them quite well. While they may want to answer their offensive questions, they could always find an offensive coordinator like Norv Turner to serve as a coordinator and help solve those problems. Someone like Fangio or Zimmer are likely to provide them with the fire they need.
Arizona Cardinals- Andy Reid could very well pick up this job, as it would allow him to reunite with Kevin Kolb. However, I'm looking at Ray Horton as a more likely possibility. I think they will not want to let him go and a head coaching job will be what they have to offer.
Jacksonville Jaguars- The Jags need someone that's going to provide impact to the team. Seeing that they will likely make their move when things tend to die down, I think they want someone young and with fire, like Jay Gruden or Kyle Shanahan, who come from that kind of background.
Carolina Panthers- Bill Cowher has been connected to this job, because he has a home in this area. However, I'm not incredibly sure if he really wants to return to the NFL. If they want to look in house, they could choose Rob Chudzinski. If their intention is to go with someone completely new, they may find it to their advantage to look like Mike McCoy or look elsewhere at coaches such as Pete Carmichael Jr. (Saints offensive coordinator), Dirk Koetter (Falcons offensive coordinator), or another coach that suits their needs.
For each of these teams, they should also look at Mike Holmgren's interest in returning to the league. While his tenure as a Browns executive was short and unsuccessful, his success with the Packers and Seahawks saw success in plenty of ways. Otherwise, each team will be looking for a long-term situation or at least someone that will provide a lasting impact.
For now, the playoffs are under way and show be an exciting ride! Who will win? We'll just have to wait and see...