NFL Predictions 2009

Michael Barone

The 2009 NFL season is set to open tomorrow night with a possible playoff preview between the Titans and Steelers. This Charger Bulletin preview takes a brief look at the eight divisions and predicts playoff teams for each.

Patriots Raiders Trade
Recently traded New England Patriots defensive tackle Richard Seymour (93) breaks through a block during a football game against the Miami Dolphins in Foxborough, Mass.

AFC East: Patriots QB Tom Brady is back, as New England hopes to regain their form of two seasons ago. The Jets made two key offseason moves; drafting promising rookie QB Mark Sanchez and bringing in the defensive minded head coach, Rex Ryan. The Bills kept pace by making a surprising splash of their own this offseason, signing controversial WR Terrell Owens to boost their disappointing offense. The Dolphins had a quiet off season and while they were the division champs last year, the league did Miami no favors by giving them the hardest schedule in the league. Our predicted winner is the Patriots.

In the AFC North, the reigning Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers appear ready to defend their title against both the division and league. Opposing them will be the stingy defense of the Baltimore Ravens, who will once again rely on their defense to keep them in the playoff hunt. The Bengals have definitely improved since last season but they have the misfortune of playing both the Steelers and Ravens four times this season. This could very well equal four losses for Cincinnati. Rounding out the division should be the Cleveland Browns. Their season highlight might just be naming a starting QB: Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson. Regardless, our predicted winner is the Steelers.

The AFC South is always unique. A trendy pick for most will be the Houston Texans, whose season will most likely be decided between week 9 and week 12, when they play Indianapolis two times and Tennessee once. Indianapolis should again challenge for the division title, and may have the upper hand thanks to the consistent performances they will receive from QB Peyton Manning. The Titans will still depend on their defense this season despite the loss of DT Albert Haynesworth, but the offense needs to improve to equal their success of last season. By playing in a division with three potential playoff teams, the Jaguars will have a challenging game to play almost every week. We predict the Colts, but would be completely unsurprised to see the Titans clinch a wildcard spot.

Easily the weakest division in the conference, the West will undoubtedly be won by the Chargers. As long as San Diego wins within their own division, they will be able to separate themselves from the rest of the pack out west. Several off field controversies (head coach, Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall) could make it a long season on the field for the Broncos. The Oakland Raiders look to improve on last season’s 5-11 record and might just have enough young talent to do it. The Chiefs have improved themselves with the addition of QB Matt Cassell, but it is not enough to get out of the cellar of the AFC West.

Finally we reach the NFC and the east, a competitive division that could see any of the four teams on top, likely to be decided by head to head matchups. With a solid defense and ground attack headed by RB Brandon Jacobs, the Giants have a strong shot at the division. Similar to NYG, the Cowboys feature a strong defensive unit anchored by OLB DeMarcus Ware, and a two headed rushing attack lead by Marion Barber and Felix Jones keeping Dallas in the hunt. The Eagles signing of Michael Vick may pay dividends when McNabb and Vick are on the field together, creating matchup problems for opposing defenses. The Redskins will benefit from the offseason addition of Haynesworth, unfortunately they were unable to land a proven QB. Although a clear cut winner is largely impossible, we will go with the Eagles, and the Giants slotted in wildcard.

For the North, which holds a constant source of headlines in the offseason, this wide open division could have three potential suitors at the top. Minnesota looks to be the most complete team in the division thanks to a shutdown defense and an offensive attack headed by QB Brett Favre and RB Adrian Peterson. The Bears finally found a franchise QB in Jay Cutler, an addition that will immediately open up the running game thanks to his ability to throw the deep ball. The Packers own one of the leagues easier schedules facing off with some of the weakest pass defenses in the league, good news for QB Aaron Rodgers. Last and still least will be the Detroit Lions who will need a lot more then Matthew Stafford to save their season. The Charger Bulletin casts its vote with the Vikings.

Welcome to the NFC South. Unlike last season, the Falcons will not sneak up on anybody. QB Matt Ryan and RB Michael Turner will help the Atlanta combat the stiff competition they will receive from division rivals Carolina and New Orleans. The Panthers will look to flashy RB DeAngelo Williams to shoulder the load as they muscle through the league’s second toughest schedule. The Saints will compete in an offensive showdown on a weekly basis, relying on gunslinger QB Drew Brees to keep them in most contests. The schedule does not favor Tampa Bay with low expectations, a scramble at the QB position and issues throughout the depth chart.

Prepare to see the Falcons in the playoffs come December and January.

Finally in the NFC West, the Cardinals might have the strongest passing attack in the league, more than enough to lock up the division title. San Francisco is a team that will benefit from playing in a weak division such as this. If the 49ers beat the teams they should (Rams twice, and Lions once), they could maybe hang around long enough to get a wildcard spot. Despite the addition of 1st round pick, LB Aaron Curry, the Seahawks will still struggle on the defense, after allowing 24.6 ppg last year. Seattle must score at a high rate to win games, which given their offense, seems unlikely. Although the Rams are in for another tough year, their current young talent combined with another top draft pick next year could have things looking up in St. Louis.

Our vote still lies with the Cardinals.

Tune in to the start of the NFL season, and the remainder, to see if The Charger Bulletin got it right!