The bye week seems like a good time to take a look at where the NFL currently stands and make some wild guesses at what will happen for the rest of the season.
Giants – 6-2, 5-0 Conf., 1-0 Div.
Eagles – 5-3, 3-2 Conf., 0-1 Div.
Redskins – 4-4, 4-2 Conf., 2-0 Div.
Cowboys – 1-7, 0-5 Conf., 0-2 Div.
The Giants are on a roll but something tells me they can’t keep pace with the Falcons/Saints once they hit their divisional games. Philly looks like they have the once offense in the East to put a scare into the G-Men. Redskins will fade as Shanahan lets McNabb twist in the wind. Cowboys seem to have already thrown in the towel and could be playing spoiler for a top three draft pick. Division winner: Giants, Wild Card: Eagles.
Rams – 4-4, 3-3 Conf., 1-1 Div.
Seahawks – 4-4, 3-2 Conf., 2-1 Div.
Cardinals – 3-5, 2-4 Conf., 1-1 Div.
49ers – 2-6, 0-5 Conf., 0-1 Div.
I’m not counting out the Cardinals or the 49ers completely (Okay, yes I am), but this looks like a two horse race between the Rams and the Seahawks. Which QB has the better chance to succeed? Hasselbeck, the cagey veteran QB with new addition Marshawn Lynch, or Bradford, who has the better O-line and Stephen Jackson behind him? Flip a coin. Heads, it’s Rams. Division Winner: Rams, Wild Card: No.
Packers – 6-3, 4-2 Conf., 2-1 Div.
Bears – 5-3, 4-3 Conf., 2-0 Div.
Vikings – 3-5, 3-2 Conf., 1-1 Div.
Lions – 2-6, 2-5 Conf., 0-3 Div.
Much like the Saints, the Packers are winning despite a rash of injuries. Are they deep/lucky enough to keep it up til the cavalry arrives? The Bears still haven’t found their identity and the Lions’ bad luck (Stafford out again) continues. If the Vikings turn their funeral pyre around (this week’s improbable win and Sidney Rice will certainly help), this division is wide open, but to catch up three games with only eight left sounds like too high a mountain. Division Winner: Packers, Wild Card, No.
Falcons – 6-2, 4-1 Conf., 2-0 Div.
Saints – 6-3, 5-2 Conf., 3-1 Div.
Buccaneers – 5-3, 3-2 Conf., 1-2 Div.
Panthers – 1-7, 1-6 Conf., 0-3 Div.
Toughest division in the NFC. Hey, great job Bucs, but here comes the big fade. Panthers are already kicking the tires on Bill Cowher and Andrew Luck. The best two teams in the conference will be playing “Who blinks first?” on their way to a 12/27/10 showdown in Atlanta that will decide which team is a number one seed, and which is number five. The Saints just ran this horse race last year with Minnesota on their heels the last half of the season. The Saints have proven their depth by winning without a bevy of their key players; can Atlanta match them if their injury luck runs out? Watch for Atlanta to crack under the pressure. Division Winner: Saints, Wild Card: Atlanta.
Jets – 6-2, 4-1 Conf., 3-0 Div.
Patriots – 6-2, 5-2 Conf., 2-1 Div.
Dolphins – 4-4, 2-4 Conf., 1-2 Div.
Bills – 0-8, 0-6 Conf., 0-3 Div.
Okay forget the Bills, and you can probably forget the Dolphins too, just not enough talent to overtake the Pats and Jets. I want to bet against the Jets, but they just keep winning. Their defense will keep them in any game, but has Sanchez matured enough to beat Brady down the stretch? I think not.
Division Winner: Patriots, Wild Card: Jets.
Chiefs 5-3, 4-3 Conf., 1-1 Div.
Raiders 5-4, 3-2 Conf., 3-0 Div.
Chargers 4-5, 3-3 Conf., 0-2 Div.
Broncos 2-6, 1-5 Conf., 0-1 Div.
Chargers seem to be starting their annual late season run. The Chiefs and Raiders are both playing solid defense and running the ball well, while the Broncos are in a tailspin. If it comes down to QB play, don’t you have to take the Chargers? Screw that. Division winner: Chiefs, Wild Card: No.
Ravens 6-2, 6-2 Conf., 2-1 Div.
Steelers 6-2, 4-1 Conf., 2-1 Div.
Browns 3-5, 2-3 Conf., 1-2 Div.
Bengals 2-6, 1-4 Conf., 1-2 Div.
That Saints loss to the Browns doesn’t seem so bad this week, does it? The Bengals are dangerous, but too inconsistent to stay in the playoff picture. Ravens and Steelers both make the playoffs, but I’ll give the edge to experience here. Division Winner: Steelers, Wild Card: Ravens.
Titans 5-3, 2-3 Conf., 1-0 Div.
Colts 5-3, 3-2 Conf., 1-2 Div.
Jaguars 4-4, 3-3 Conf., 1-1 Div.
Texans 4-4, 3-2 Conf., 1-1 Div.
Colts seem to have come down to earth somewhat due to injuries. Can Manning carry this team all by himself? Jaguars and Texans have too many question marks to take seriously. Titans take a gamble on Moss. Will it open things up for Chris Johnson? I say yes, but when will Randy will pull another “Raaaaaaandyyyyyyy!!!” Division Winner: Colts, Wild Card: No.
THE JIM MORA MEMORIAL “PLAYOFFS? PLAYOFFS!!!??” MIDSEASON PREDICTION
I was wondering what it must be like to have to play in a cold weather stadium in January. I personally hate the cold, and they always say that warm weather/dome teams are at a significant disadvantage in say, Giants Stadium or Lambeau Field in January. That was certainly true in the championship game at Chicago four years ago, So I tried taking this year’s Madden Saints on a test drive at the Giants and at the Packers in the snow. Guess what? In virtual reality, it didn’t make a difference. Both games end up easy Saints victories. Playing at the Falcons is another story. Tough game in a tough environment. Here’s to hoping the Saints can catch Atlanta before the season is over.
Wild Card Weekend: 3. Colts vs. 6. Ravens, 4. Chiefs vs. 5. Jets.
Divisional Weekend: 1. Steelers vs 6. Ravens. 2. Patriots vs. 5. Jets.
Conference Championship: 1. Steelers vs. 2. Patriots. – Steelers win, 20-16.
Wild Card Weekend: 3. Packers vs. 6. Eagles, 4. Rams vs. 5. Falcons
Divisional Weekend: 1. Saints vs. 3. Packers, 2. Giants vs. 5. Falcons
Conference Championship: 1. Saints vs. 2. Giants – Saints win 38-21.
Super Bowl: Saints over Steelers 35-17.