2011 NFL Playoff Picture – Preposterous Preseason Prognostications

by on December 15th, 2014
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Generally, I don’t start looking at the playoff picture until Week 10/11, and, even then its way too early to know how things will settle.

At this stage, we know very little. For example, will Peyton Manning miss 1, 2, or 10 games with a neck injury? Will the new additions to the Eagles gel quick enough for them to win some early season games? How badly does losing Asomugha hurt the Raiders chances of running the table again in the AFC West?

With more questions than answers at this point, its foolish to try and predict who will appear in the playoffs. But, I’ve been forced to do it for a new football pool I’ve joined (www.flyingham.com) so, I’m sharing the thought process with you as well.

I’ll have to acknowledge a few problems here; the biggest is that there is usually a huge turnover in playoff teams from one season to the next, somewhere in the 50% range, and I’m going more status quo in my approach here, with two new teams jumping in in the AFC (Texans, Chargers) and 2 new playoff teams in the NFC (Rams, Cowboys). I’m projecting improvements from some other teams, but, not enough to make the leap for the two competitive wildcard positions (i.e. the Lions, who could easily finish 9-7, 10-6).

With that said, I think that the logic is pretty sound.

First, I’m a Pats fan, but, I can’t pick them not to win that division again. They’ve made upgrades to both their offensive and defensive lines, should show improvement at receiver and running back, and I’ll trust Belichick knows what he is doing with the secondary. There is a lot to like here before you even get to Tom Brady.

The Jets should have little trouble repeating their wildcard placement, though, and may just win the division if they can do better than a split against the Patriots during the regular season.

I think that the Ravens, though their defense continues to age and was a bit of a problem last year, will leapfrog the Steelers in the North, but, much like the AFC East, this one could go other way and the second place team should be able to squeeze in to the wildcard position.

The big shakeup comes in the South, where, even with Peyton Manning for a full 16 games I can’t feel great about the Colts. The division is fairly open, but, there is a new staff and scheme and too much turmoil in Tennessee, and I’ve never been a Garrard/Jaguars apologist, so, I think its time that the Texans with their explosive offense and improving defense (though, with a change in scheme to Wade Phillips’ defensive system, it may take some time to adjust early) make the leap into the second season.

Also, I like the Chargers to learn from last year’s mistakes, and, with a full roster to start the season (welcome back Vincent Jackson) make their way back to the post season. I’m trying to be high on the Raiders, and, I think they’ll continue to grow – but, are they ready to supplant the Chargers? I don’t see it coming in 2011.

Moving to the NFC, its impossible not to like the Eagles to win the East. There is a lot to be said about finding cohesion with all the new pieces coming together, and, there are question marks with health – including, but not limited to the big name behind centre – but, even if the Eagles start slow, or go through a dry patch due to injury they’ve got a lot of depth on both sides of the ball and are the favourites to win the East in my eyes.

The Cowboys have a shot at the division, judging by their success with Jason Garrett at the helm late last season, and the return to health of Dez Bryant and Tony Romo, along with the hopeful emergence of Felix Jones as an every down back. The injury situation in New York, and the quarterback quandary in Washington gives both of these division front runners an easy crack at 4 wins the way I see it.

I can’t like Chicago to win the NFC North again, in fact, I can see them slipping all the way to 3rd in the division. With Green Bay coming off their Super Bowl victory, and coming into camp with a somehow more impressive roster (return from injuries, largely) than in February when they won it all, they’ve got to be seen as the top dog. The Lions have a lot of health questions, but, their improving/maturing defense and high impact players on the offensive side of the ball make them a good candidate for a winning season. The problem is that 10-6ish isn’t likely going to be enough to capture the 2nd wildcard spot.

The Falcons and Saints should both make the playoffs out of the NFC South. Atlanta has a lot of tough road games on the slate, and, they seemed to be a better team at home last season, but, I still like them to walk into the playoffs with the division crown and a first round bye, with the Saints close at hand.

In the NFC West, I’m happy to predict that the division winner should be able to compile a winning record this year. The hype is all over the Rams, with young talent at every position, and I’m on the bandwagon as well. They face Philly, the Giants – road game – and the Ravens in the season’s first 3 weeks, and its pretty easy to see them coming through that stretch at 1-2 at best, but, I like the Rams to beat up on their division and use the strength of that record to propel them into the playoffs. The Cardinals would be a candidate here too, if their defense didn’t look so suspicious.

So, there it is, with hazy justification included.

Lets hope I’m right, so I can say you saw it here first, and, because there’s money on the line…


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