Editor's Note: This post was originally published on September 2, 2010.
I haven't had much to write about lately, especially since I've been waiting (and wanting) to do a column about the ever-interesting Tiger Woods, but I am waiting until he regains his championship form and returns to the real-life golf version of The Terminator that we all know and love (or hate, for all the Phil Mickelson fans). So really, that leaves football, which excites me. I had my fantasy football draft about a week and a half ago and have been recklessly trying to get people to sign up for my football pool on ESPN.com, to relatively no avail. So I'm going to go ahead and do my best to project out this NFL season with playoffs and some fantasy relevance when I feel it's important.
1. San Francisco 49ers 11-5 Last Year: 8-8
This team really took off in the second part of last season after it made the switch to Alex Smith as it's starting quarterback. Mike Singletary is an excellent defensive coach, and will continue to coach this talented defense to it's potential. Their schedule is incredibly easy, and their division is equally as weak. I've penciled them in for 11 wins, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them get to 12.
2. Arizona Cardinals: 7-9 Last Year: 10-6
This team has a lot of departures to overcome, most notably Kurt Warner at the quarterback position. They've also lost Anquan Boldin, Karlos Dansby, and Bertrand Berry, each a key player for the Cardinals. Can they repeat their success as of late? I'm not so sure, especially not with Derek Anderson running the show in the desert.
3. Seattle Seahawks: 6-10 Last Year: 5-11
I've gone over their schedule about five times now, and I just can't believe I'm giving this team one more win than they had last season. Can Pete Carroll get it done with an NFL squad? Who knows, but I have them starting the season off the season 2-8 and then finishing 4-2, with wins against St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Arizona, and Carolina.
4. St. Louis Rams: 1-15 Last Year: 1-15
My poor Rams. I told myself I would disown them if they took Sam Bradford instead of Ndamakong Suh in the draft, and they went and took a quarterback with tons of injury risk instead of a defensive lineman that wants to break the opposing quarterback's neck. If Bradford looks good early on and they surprise some people, I'm going to have a hard time not watching them.
1. Green Bay Packers: 13-3 Last Year: 11-5
This team is one of the best offensive teams in the league. So many weapons offensively, especially in the passing game. With Aaron Rodgers gaining another year of experience under his belt and having Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley to throw to (not to mention Ryan Grant to keep defenses honest), I expect this team to beat Minnesota at least once this year and take the division.
2. Minnesota Vikings: 12-4 Last Year: 12-4
This is assuming Brett Favre stays healthy all season long. I actually think they win their season opener in New Orleans and get off to a good start with wins at home versus Miami and Detroit. If for some reason Favre gets injured, this record could easily plummet to 8-8. That's how much Favre means to this team.
3. Chicago Bears: 7-9 Last Year: 7-9
This team's biggest problem last season was it's offensive line, which resulted in a lack of a running game and tons of sacks. Well guess what? Nothing's changed! The offensive line is still horrendous, which is going to lead to Jay Cutler having to make a lot of quick decisions. I have him on my fantasy team because I'm hoping Mike Martz can get SOMETHING out of him, but other than that, I don't see a whole lot changing from last season, which means tons of sacks and lots of interceptions. I'm just hoping the touchdown and yardage offset the turnovers, for my sake.
4. Detroit Lions: 2-14 Last Year: 2-14
How much difference does a beast of a defensive lineman make? I tried to find another game that maybe the Lions could eek out, but I just couldn't do it. I think they copy their record from a year ago, although I DO think Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson hook up a few more times for some prime time touchdowns. On the bright side, at least Lions fans don't have to see Matt Millen at the helm anymore, which means things could be looking up in a few seasons.
1. Dallas Cowboys 11-5 Last Year: 11-5
Dallas plays in probably the toughest division in the league, but I don't think Washington is THAT much better than they were last year. The Giants look too vanilla to me, and I think the only team that has a chance at beating the Cowboys this season in their division is Philadelphia, despite the loss of Donovan McNabb. How 'bout them Cowboys?!
2. Philadelphia Eagles 10-6 Last Year: 11-5
So the Eagles lose two pieces of the last decade or so in Brian Westbrook and Donovan McNabb. Big deal. Westbrook has almost nothing left in the tank, and Kevin Kolb is going to be a more than capable replacement for McNabb. Andy Reid will continue to air out the ball, but I don't think DeSean Jackson has the same monster year that he did in 2009. Look for more mid to short route completions to Brent Celek, Jeremy Maclin, and LeSean McCoy out of the backfield.
3. New York Giants 7-9 Last Year: 8-8
My concern with the Giants is that they're just too...blah. Brandon Jacobs has regressed, the defense looks bad, and...I don't know. I'm really going with my gut on this one. A few of their offensive lineman are injured, and the most memorable part of their preseason was Eli Manning getting gouged in the forehead. Not a very good omen for the upcoming season.
4. Washington Redskins 7-9 Last Year: 4-12
Can Donovan turn Santana Moss into DeSean Jackson of 2009? Can Mike Shanahan take another running back off of the scrapheap and make him into a 1,000 yard rusher? These are questions that Redskins fans are hoping will be answered in a positive manner this year. I realize this team has the potential to be a lot better than last season, but I just can't put them ahead of any other team in the division. If they make the playoffs, it'll be a surprise.
1. New Orleans Saints 12-4 Last Year: 13-3
Last season I did nothing but pick against the Saints. I didn't want to be a part of the bandwagon fans, and I finally got burned on my Super Bowl pick. Their schedule is pretty easy this year, and I think they will cruise to 10 wins, and have the upside of 13-14 wins this season; the rest of this division is just not that good.
2. Carolina Panthers 8-8 Last Year: 8-8
Carolina seems like one of those teams that doesn't have the talent to make it to the super bowl, but also shouldn't be taken too lightly, hence the 8-8 record. They lost Julius Peppers and Jake Delhomme to free agency, but given the way Delhomme played last season, I can't see that being anything but a good thing. Maybe we'll see Jimmy Clausen before the end of the season, maybe not. But I expect the majority of their offense to come from their two stellar backs in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathon Stewart, both of whom have a lot to gain if their counterpart gets hurt.
3. Atlanta Falcons 7-9 Last Year: 9-7
I feel uneasy about this record; it's almost as if I'm writing them off too soon. This was a playoff team two years ago with rookie Matt Ryan running the offense and Michael Turner carrying them all the way to the playoffs. Last season, Turner got injured and Ryan went into the dreaded sophomore slump. I feel like they should be a 10-6 team, but I just can't muster the strength to put them there.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1-15 Last Year: 3-13
This team is just terrible. The Bucs, Rams, and Lions are the worst teams in the league, with the Bills, Browns, and Seahawks not too far behind them. You know your favorite team is bad when they don't have any viable starters for a 10-team fantasy football league. Kellen Winslow is an exception, but that's only because of the depth of the tight end position this season.
1. San Diego Chargers 11-5 Last Year: 13-3
Both Western divisions in either league were terrible last year, and haven't improved this year, except for the teams at the top of the division. San Diego had virtually no running game last year, but fixed that problem by trading up and drafting Ryan Mathews, who is in great position to be a fantasy monster. It doesn't look like Vincent Jackson will be suiting up for them at all this season, but I don't think that will matter much. Every single receiver on this team is huge, and Rivers still has a go-to-guy in Antonio Gates. Go ahead and crown them the division winners again, and don't be surprised if Malcom Floyd or Legedu Naanee has a breakout year.
2. Denver Broncos 8-8 Last Year: 8-8
This team got off to a scalding start last year, and the wheels just came off midway through the season. They lost Brandon Marshall, and who knows what to expect from Knowshon Moreno. Their cornerbacks were old last season, and it finally caught up with them. I feel like 8-8 might be too high of a ranking., especially without Elvis Dumervil.
3. Oakland Raiders 6-10 Last Year: 5-11
Despite the addition of Jason Campbell, I still don't like the Raiders. They have a lot of good young players and a good mix of good veteran players (I just used the word 'good' for a 6-10 team three times in one sentence. Maybe my rankings too low), but they keep throwing Darren McFadden out there instead of the better Michael Bush, and the volatile Tom Cable is still the head coach. I think this team's ceiling for wins is eight.
4. Kansas City Chiefs 5-11 Last Year: 4-12
Why did they add Thomas Jones? Seriously, Jamaal Charles was the fantasy football MVP of the second half last season. They should have tried to shore up that offensive line in order to maybe give Matt Cassel some more time to find open receivers. They brought in a Belichick protege in Romeo Crennel to run the defense, but I don't know how much better a coach alone can make a team when the team isn't very good.
1. Baltimore Ravens 11-5Last Year: 9-7
One of my favorite teams last year. Kind of weird that they're bringing in Anquan Boldin to team with their young elite quarterback, but only because I'm used to the Ravens of old; control the clock and win with defense. They still have Ray Lewis headlining this defense and a strong young fantasy stud running back in Ray Rice, so no worries about those aspects of the game. Baltimore should be able to win 11 games and the division.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers 10-6 Last Year: 9-7
I hate this team, probably more than any other team in the league. It pains me to put them at 10 wins and second in the division, but they're the Steelers. They still have James Harrison, Casey Hampton, and Troy Polamalu. They'll be without Big Ben Roethlisberger due to his extracurricular activities off the field, but they'll be 2-2, or even 3-1 coming out of those first four games. They lost Santonio Holmes, but that's okay because Mike Wallace is extremely talented and is a good fantasy sleeper for this season.
3. Cincinnati Bengals 5-11 Last Year: 10-6
This team last year was the New York Jets of the AFC North. Towards the end of the season they stumbled a bit and choked in the playoffs. As much as it pains me to say, I think the knee injury totally affected Carson Palmer's career from that moment forward. He just isn't as accurate, and also seemed to choke against the Jets last year as well. I just think they played over their heads last year and also get the AFC East on the road this year. Tough, tough schedule.
4. Cleveland Browns 3-13 Last Year: 5-11
If I have Cincinnati at 5-11, I can't imagine Cleveland being better than that, or even equal to it. They get the Pats and Jets at home, so maybe they can steal one of those games, but ugh. Their big offseason addition was Jake Delhomme, and not LeBron James. Count me as a non-believer.
1. New York Jets 11-5 Last Year: 9-7
They added Antonio Cromartie and were this year's feature for Hard Knocks on HBO. They also added LaDainian Tomlinson (which the jury is still out on), but they've failed to sign Darrelle Revis to a new contract. If they can sign Revis, 11 wins should be an automatic. With this offensive line, I think Shonn Greene is going to have a monster year. He might not get 300 carries, but I'd assume his 180-190 carries will be enough for him to rack up the stats.
2. New England Patriots 9-7 Last Year: 10-6
I am a former hater of the Patriots. I hated them while they were winning their Super Bowls, only because they beat the Rams in 2002. It started with the "Tuck Rule" game against the Raiders, and ended with stupid Adam Vinatieri kicking that ball through the uprights at the end of the game. It ended when my fantasy football team three years ago featured Tom Brady AND Randy Moss during their record-breaking season. So I don't hate them, but I still love when the Colts beat them. It gets me every time.
3. Miami Dolphins 9-7 Last Year: 7-9
The Dolphins are a typical Bill Parcells team. Even though he's not coaching it, he still has a hand in what happens on the field. He hand-picks his players, he hand-picked his coaching staff, and the reason being is because they most resemble the play style that he likes. The Dolphins might never be an elite offensive team, but the players that are on the field will make up for what they lack in talent with hard work. They acquired Brandon Marshall during the offseason, and he has a lot of potential to vault Chad Henne to a great year in fantasy.
4. Buffalo Bills 2-14 Last Year: 6-10
How was this team 6-10 last year? They had Fred Jackson rush for 1,000 yards, but both of their quarterbacks were terrible and unexciting and the Terrell Owens experiment didn't work out. This year it looks like rookie C.J. Spiller will be the focal point of the offense, unless Chan Gailey decides that the team needs to give Jackson and Marshawn Lynch some ill-advised extra touches. This team's ceiling is 5 wins, and that's generous.
1. Indianapolis Colts 13-3 Last year: 14-2
How has this team only won one Super Bowl since Peyton Manning has been the quarterback? That's astounding to me, and after losing the perfect season AND the Super Bowl last season, I can only imagine the kind of fire that Manning will come back with in order to get back to that threshold this season. As long as the big three of Manning, Robert Mathis, and Dwight Freeney can stay healthy for the playoffs, they are my favorite for the Super Bowl this year.
2. Houston Texans 8-8 Last Year: 9-7
Schaub to Johnson, all day long. What's good for the Texans is that it looks like Owen Daniels' torn ACL injury is fully healed and should enable him to play in Week 1. Last year he was on his way to a 1,000 yard year until he blew his knee out. With all the attention that Andre Johnson should be commanding, Daniels and 4th year man Jacoby Jones should see a decent amount of passes flying their way. Ben Tate is out for the year, but it looks like Arian Foster is the real deal. Pick him up in later rounds if you're in need of a running back.
3. Tennessee Titans 7-9 Last Year: 8-8
Can Vince Young return them to their winning ways? I don't think so. I still say the guy is not a viable NFL starting quarterback, but then again I'm old fashioned and I may have some bias against him because of the whole Rose Bowl thing. All that aside, the guy just seems to win when he's in the game. It aggravates me to no end, but he just does. With that being said however, this team wasn't the defensive shutdown unit that we've seen in the past, and can Chris Johnson really do THAT again? He says he wants to rush for 2,500 yards, but color me skeptical.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars 6-10 Last Year: 7-9
That's odd, I have every team in this division getting worse by one full game this year. The Jaguars remind me of the Seahawks for some reason, even though Seattle doesn't have a running game. They are just mediocre; they have no fans, nothing really to get excited about, they have to go to San Diego, Kansas City, New York, and Dallas to play on the road, not to mention their other three division rivals. They were 2-6 on the road last season, and the only road game that they might be the favorite in is at Buffalo in Week 5.
Indianapolis Colts over Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback, Green Bay Packers
Rookie of the Year
C.J. Spiller, Running Back, Buffalo Bills
Defensive Player of the Year
Ndamukong Suh, Defensive Tackle, Detroit Lions