Every year before the NFL season begins, I predict each of the 256 games on the NFL schedule, and from those predictions I come up with the records each of the 32 teams would have if the season progressed as I predicted. Invariably some of my predictions are WAY off, but it’s usually not the ones people criticize me for in early September.

(be sure to check out the polls at the very bottom of this article)

AFC East

Buffalo Bills (4-12)
The Bills don’t have a lot going for them, and they inexplicably traded away Lee Evans – arguably their best offensive weapon – during the pre-season. Things don’t look good for the Bills, but at least they’ll get one of the top draft picks next year. Unlike some of the other lower-tier teams, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Bills got more than 4 wins this year, because they were far better last year than their record indicated.

Miami Dolphins (6-10)
I’m not convinced that the Dolphins are better right now with Reggie Bush and rookie Daniel Thomas (who I have on my fantasy football team) at runningback than they were last year with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. They did upgrade at backup QB, but that’s nowhere near enough to get them to 8 wins.

New England Patriots (13-3)
It shouldn’t surprise anyone if the Patriots get 13 wins this season. The only criticism I’d expect from people on this one would be if people think the Patriots will get more than 13 wins and surpass the Jets.

New York Jets (14-2)
The defense continues to stay in the NFL’s elite, and the offense kept all its key weapons and upgraded at Wide Receiver when they exchanged players in the #17 jersey – signing Plaxico Burress and getting rid of Braylon Edwards.

AFC North

Cincinnatti Bengals (1-15)
With a non-stud rookie QB, no more Ochocinco, no more Terrell Owens and failing to upgrade at runningback, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if the Bengals end up with the top overall pick next season.

Cleveland Browns (4-12)
I liked the direction the Browns were going in previous seasons, but they keep making moves (or failing to make moves) that stop me from being excited about the Browns. I think Peyton Hillis won’t have anywhere near the same level of success this year that he did last year.

Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3)
The offense and the defense are both near the top in the league, and the only thing standing in their way to win the division is the Baltimore Ravens.

Baltimore Ravens (14-2)
This could be the year that the Ravens return to the Super Bowl, because I’m having a tough time finding their weaknesses, especially now that they’ve added Lee Evans to an already talented offense.

AFC South

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14)
I thought they took the right step by drafting a guy who could be their next franchise quarterback, but then they get rid of the veteran QB (Garrard) who was going to give their rookie a chance to learn the position. Maurice Jones-Drew might have a better year than last year, but it’s not going to help the Jaguars get out of the top 10 when they draft in April 2012… and I’m betting they’ll be in the top 3.

Tennessee Titans (7-9)
I like their quarterback situation, but their runningback situation doesn’t excite me at all. Sure, Chris Johnson is one of the top 2 or 3 runningbacks in the league, but he held out and that makes the odds a lot higher that he’ll fall to injury early in the season. At the very least, he’ll be rusty – either physically or mentally.

Houston Texans (9-7)
Aside from Arian Foster, I don’t know a lot about what the Texans have to offer. They do seem to improve year to year, but I don’t think this is the year where they’ll overtake the Colts for the division.

Indianapolis Colts (11-5)
The return of Peyton Manning  might still not have a date attached to it, but Kerry Collins can help this very talented team manage in his absence. The Colts think his return is coming soon enough that they took him off of the PUP list, meaning they think he’ll return before week 6.

AFC West

Denver Broncos (3-13)
Any success Denver had last year can be attributed to the heightened play of Brandon Lloyd, and I don’t foresee him keeping up that productivity this season. Even if he does, I don’t see Denver getting anywhere near 8 wins, and six might be stretching it.

Oakland Raiders (5-11)
Another year in this offense means that Jason Campbell, the wide receivers and most importantly the runningbacks will all likely be improved. Unfortunately for Al davis and company, losing the top cornerback in the NFL to free agency means their defense will not be improved. If others have reason to be optimistic about the Raiders this season, I’d love to hear it because I have a soft spot for the Silver & Black.

Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)
I like what the Chiefs have been doing the past couple years, and I think they’ll make it two years in a row making the playoffs… but it’ll have to be as a wild card team if my predictions hold up.

San Diego Chargers (10-6)
Based on tie breakers, the Chargers are winning the AFC West in my predictions, although i don’t have as much to be optimistic about for them as I do for the Chiefs. To be honest, I think I gave the Chargers a couple extra wins based on the hype from NFL analyst talking heads.

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys (6-10)
I’ll openly admit that as a life-long fan of the Washington Redskins, I don’t even attempt to be optimistic about the Dallas Cowboys, but nothing they’ve done have given me any reason to think they’ll get to 8 wins. They had similar veteran contract issues going into this pre-season that other teams dealt with a year ago, and the moves they made because of that is going to leave them trying to figure out how to compete. Still, their head coach did a much better job last year than expected, and I wouldn’t be totally shocked if the Cowboys rallied to a couple more wins than I’m predicting… though I am hoping they don’t even manage to win 6 games.

New York Giants (6-10)
With the injuries that the Giants are dealing with, added to the weak points they had last year, and the improved Redskins and Eagles, the Giants will be lucky to hit 8 wins this season. I’ll be totally shocked if they make the playoffs because i think they have a lot more questions to deal with than most people are crediting them with.

Washington Redskins (9-7)
Whenever people around town ask me how I think the Redskins will fare this season, I tell them that I think 8 wins is a reasonable expectation. When I go through the schedule and try to keep my “homerism” to a minimum, I still end up crediting them with an additional victory. They’re much improved on defense and should easily be in the top half of the league, and the offense should be at least a little improved given the depth they added.

Philadelphia Eagles (11-5)
I’m NOT a fan of any Philadelphia sports teams, but I can certainly admit that the Eagles added some great pieces to an already tough team. I don’t think Mike Vick will finish the season without suffering injury, and they’re likely to wish they hadn’t replaced Kevin Kolb with Vince Young.

NFC North

Minnesota Vikings (5-11)
If I had to pick which team I’d be the most mistaken about in my predictions, I’d definitely pick the Minnesota Vikings. It’s highly possible that Donovan McNabb will lead them to the playoffs, but with the improved Lions and already tough Bears and Packers, the Vikes are going to have a tough time in their division and they didn’t improve in enough areas to give me reason to think they’d make the playoffs.

Chicago Bears (6-10)
Last year the Bears got deep into the playoffs, but they still felt like pretenders instead of contenders to me. I’m definitely predicting they take a step back this season.

Detroit Lions (11-5)
Once you’re done laughing, I’ll make my point. Seriously, top laughing, or you’ll miss a much improved team. With a healthy Matthew Stafford and Jahvid Best, the offense is going to be improved – and one of the top ten in the league. The defense is also quietly improving itself into one of the top ten units as well. All that adds up to being more than just an average team.

Green Bay Packers (12-4)
While the reigning Super Bowl champions are one of my favorites to go deep into this year’s playoffs, I’m not going to list them as an elite squad just yet.

NFC South

Carolina Panthers (2-14)
Adding Cam Newton seems like a long-term coin flip to me on whether or not he’ll be a viable option for years to come, but I have no qualms about saying he’s got a lot to learn this year, and it’s likely going to be painful for Panthers fans. On the upside, they will likely win one or two more games than I’m predicting and they won’t be faced with the opportunity to draft Andrew Luck because they likely won’t have the #1 overall draft pick.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-7)
Year after year I have trouble figuring out how good the Bucs are going to be. Their defense doesn’t strike me as being anything above average, and I’m not excited about any of the “weapons” in their offense. Still, They’ll be above average, if not a potential playoff team.

New Orleans Saints (13-3)
Losing Reggie Bush doesn’t bother me, and they’ve got plenty of offensive weapons, but I’m not sold on their defense being able to remain in the top half of the league.

Atlanta Falcons (13-3)
This could very well be the Falcons’ year. They added another weapon to their already potent offense, and their defense is seriously underrated.


NFC West

Seattle Seahawks (5-11)
I have no clue what the Seahawks are doing out in the Pacific Northwest, especially at quarterback, and I just don’t think they’ve got the weapons to do enough to even be in the top half of a very weak NFC West division.

St Louis Rams (6-10)
I like what the Rams have been doing in the past couple years, improving their defense and the addition of Sam Bradford as their franchise QB, but I don’t see enough weapons on their team on offense – especially with an aging runningback.

San Francisco 49ers (7-9)
My sense tells me that the 49ers probably won’t even get to 7 wins, especially if my concerns about their QB situation are valid. They could easily finish behind the Rams and/or the Seahawks in this division, and there’s no doubt in my mind that they will finish behind the team I’ve predicted will win the division.

Arizona Cardinals (9-7)
Though I really like the addition of Kevin Kolb at QB, they’re going to regret getting rid of Tim Hightower and Steve Breaston. They could win more than 9 games if their defense is better than average… though I’m not predicting it.


Given how things finished in each of the conferences, here’s how the playoffs shape up and shake out.

New England Patriots @ Indianapolis Colts

Peyton Manning will be super motivated, having missed out on part of the season due to his neck issues, and by this point in the year he will be firing on all cylinders and keyed up to beat the Patriots, especially because this game will be played in Indianapolis because the Colts are going to win their division and the Patriots will be a Wild Card team. One-and-done for the Patriots continues.

San Diego Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs

This one comes down to whichever team wins the division and gets the home playoff game. The Chiefs will advance past the first round of the playoffs this year unlike what happened when they faced the Ravens in Wild Card Weekend last year.

Detroit Lions @ Philadelphia Eagles

If there’s one thing that the Eagles are going to have trouble with, it’s a dynamic defense with a good pass rush, and that’s what I think the Lions will be… unfortunately I don’t think Detroit’s secondary will be able to stop the Eagles wide receivers from scoring on them, and Nnamdi Ashomuga will slow down Megatron enough to give the Eagles the win in a game which will be closer than many think.

New Orleans Saints @ Arizona Cardinals

The Saints are the much better team, and it’s not going to matter that this game will be played in Arizona, because the Cardinals won’t have anywhere near enough to out match the Saints.

Kansas City Chiefs @ New York Jets

The Chiefs can be proud of making it to the second round of the playoffs, but that’s where it ends for them as they get totally out-matched by the Jets.

Indianapolis Colts @ Baltimore Ravens

As well as I think the Colts will be playing at this point in the season, I think the Ravens just have more weapons and a better defense, and it’ll be close, but Baltimore has the home field advantage and fate seems to be on their side.

New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons also seem to be destined for bigger things than they’ve already achieved, and I think they’ve got more tools than the Saints and this should be the year that Matt Ryan works his way into the discussion as one of the top QBs in the league.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Green Bay Packers

Assuming the weather is going to be cold in Green Bay and they don’t suffer injuries at any of their primary offensive positions, I still like the Packers to knock out the Eagles despite all the great additions the Eagles made to their squad in the offseason.

Conference Championships

Baltimore Ravens vs New York Jets

My mind is spinning trying to determine which of these teams would get home field advantage in this game, and this is a tough game to call because the teams are both top tier and we don’t know where the game would be played. Having advanced late into the playoffs two years in a row, I’ll predict that the third time is a charm and the Jets will advance to the Super Bowl.

Green Bay Packers @ Atlanta Falcons

It’s hard to explain why I have a strong feeling about the Falcons this year, but I don’t have any trouble picking them against the reigning Super Bowl champions. The Packers were prone to letting teams get far too close (and even beat them), and the Falcons are going to have enough talent and cohesion to win their conference.

Super Bowl

New York Jets vs Atlanta Falcons

The Jets have a superior defense to nearly all the teams in the NFL, but their offense could be somewhat questionable, especially when facing a high quality defensive opponent. Though I think this will be a low scoring game, I think the Jets offense won’t have enough fire power to let them over-come the Atlanta Falcons.

For another look at how the playoffs might shake out when February 2012 rolls around, check out the article written by GuysNation author Nathan with his perspective.