Those who know me know my love of the Socratic method, and that answers with any meaning are only arrived at after excessive probing and questioning. It is in the Socratic method that I provide you with predictions for all 32 teams.
Dallas Cowboys 12-4
- What if Tony Romo is healthy all season long?
- What if their two shutdown corners actually do their job?
- What if all the attention paid to the abundant storylines of their three division foes makes for six winnable games?
New York Giants 9-7
- Is Eli really THAT good?
- Wasn’t it just two seasons ago that the G-Men lost to the Eagles on a last play punt return touchdown by DeSean Jackson?
- Can someone please explain how a four-man front got that kind of consistent pressure for six game win streaks that run from December through February two out of the last five years without blitzing?
Washington Redskins 8-8
- Will DC sweep the Eagles and the Giants and be swept by the ‘boys?
- Will RGIII out-luck Luck or end up on the IR by Week 9?
Will “the Mastermud” Shanahan still have job in January?
Philadelphia Eagles 5-11
- Will Mike Vick survive to start 10 games?
- Will Andy Reid last the season?
- Or will Philly just finally win it all? (I can’t help an aside… there is nothing more fatalistic than a Philly fan in any sport. So I LOVE this story line of Super Bowl or bust for the ‘Iggles. The NFC is so strong, and Andy Reid so suspect in clutch moments, I see it all collapsing. But if it doesn’t collapse, the Eagles are as strong as anyone to win it all).
Detroit Lions 11-5
- Will Detroit sweep the Pack for the first time since the Lincoln Presidency?
- Will Matt Stafford throw for 8000 yards (4000 to Megatron) if he can somehow play 16 games for a second straight season?
- Who will Jim Schwarz challenge to a pay-per-view coach’s cagematch the Saturday before the Super Bowl (since they won’t be in New Orleans)?
Green Bay 10-6
- Quick aside for some preaching amidst the questions… Cheeseheads used to be an endearing species of sports fan, but it became far less so under Aaron Rodgers. Don’t count me in the Rodgers fan club. Many forget that Rodgers had not one, but two concussions in 2010, and he plays with a single chin strap (compare his head gear to either Manning for instance). Safety net Matt Flynn is now in Seattle. You need look no further than Indianapolis last year to see the perils of teams being built around the modern quarterback. My concern with Rodgers is that he plays with fire. He runs the ball a fair amount. Name another quarterback with a touchdown signature dance. Ever. He doesn’t have a great offensive line and they drafted six defensive players this year which likely means it will be up to Rodgers, a highly talented and capable, but still-mortal, quarterback, to make plays and take chances in high-scoring, last-possession-wins shoot outs this year. There is no way he will be plus three dozen on touchdowns over interceptions a 2nd straight year, that was a combination of great skill and a ridiculous amount of luck. Due to his mobility and the expectation for Arena Ball points out of the offense, I fear he will take chances. The Packers won the Super bowl in 2010 despite more than a dozen players on IR in February. They were far more lucky in the injury department in 2011 and went out after round two. If they get in as a wild card, disrespected and questioned, bet heavy on them. But 10-6 could leave them in the long winters of Lambeau and out of the tournament.
Chicago Bears 10-6
- How will Brandon Marshall avoid any more meetings with Roger Goodell?
- How can defensive-minded Lovie Smith run a team that should score 450 points… and might give up 500?
- Will Chicago have 2 1000 yard rushers, a 100 catch receiver, a 4500 yard quarterback… and still miss the playoffs?
Minnesota Vikings 3-13
- Quick: Name Minnesota’s coach?
- After Ponder to Harvin… what is there?
- When was the last time Jered Allen actually tackled a running back running off guard (I mean 22 sacks in a year is amazing, but when you rush the quarterback every single down, running the ball right at Allen is a pretty easy tactic. See Tebow, Tim)?
New Orleans Saints 12-4
- With a defense gashed by suspensions, The Saints will be in a bunch of barn burners. Is it possible Drew Breese closes in on 6000 yards this year?
- Rising to the occasion for bounties and over-blitzing were hallmarks of the Gregg Williams defense. With him gone, could fundamentals like tackling (see NFC Championship game) return?
- Has there been a team more prepped to play with a chip on their shoulder and actually succeed, than this year’s version of the Saints? Did I mention the Super Bowl this year is in New Orleans and no team has ever “hosted” the Super Bowl, ever? Would a New Orleans over the Broncos and Peyton Manning (and New Orleans native) be Roger Goodell’s dream (or worst nightmare?).
Carolina Panthers 11-5
When did Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson learn to throw such a catchable ball?
- When will someone relicense Tecmo Bowl for the unique playmaking abilities that are Cam Newton?
- Can Ron Rivera please field a defense of incompetents so Cam has to roll up freakishly huge numbers all 16 weeks?
Atlanta Falcons 10-6
- With great expectations come even greater playoff disappointments. Will Atlanta ever will a playoff game with Mike Smith and Matt Ryan together?
- With the addition of the hurry-up to their routine, will Mike Smith still call the same “Ryan over guard” sneak on every 3rd & 1 and 4th & 1 they face all season long?
- Playing in easily the best division in football, why exactly are great things expected of this team every year when they lack either swagger or a killer instinct?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7-9
- While likely last place in this division, how many other divisions would they be a contender to win?
- Does Josh Freeman have only this season to redeem himself for the final 10 game implosion he suffered last year?
- How on earth is Vincent Jackson really worth $55 million? What team ever made such a signing, and then at the Super Bowl in February pointed to it as “the reason we got here”?
Seattle Seahawks 10-6
- Is the NFC West improving or regressing?
- Will Matt Flynn start Week 17? That’s always fun.
- Is Pete Carroll really capable of taking a team to the playoffs in two out of three years?
San Francisco 49ers 10-6
- Despite coaching at smart San Diego and brainiac Stanford… doesn’t Jim Harbaugh know when he’s sounding Clintonian and hypocritical (“It’s an erroneous perception that we were flirting with Peyton Manning,” Harbaugh said Wednesday. “I keep hearing that over and over again. It’s silly, and it’s untrue. It’s phony. Even the perception that we were pursuing him … we were evaluating him.”)?
- Mike Singletary is canned and the Niner defense turns into one of the best ever with mostly his players?
- By “taking the next step” after settling for 44 field goals (on 52 attempts) last year, is that step forward… or backward?
Arizona Cardinals 5-11
- What did Ken Whisenhut do to deserve this quarterback situation?
- What did Larry Fitzgerald do to deserve this quarterback situation (well, I guess even Forbes thinks he shrewd) ?
- Outside of Whisenhut and Fitzgerald, who cares?
St Louis Rams 4-12
- How much does it stink to have Sam Bradford regressing, and the top two quarterbacks next year in the draft are Matt Barkley (Marinovich! Palmer! Leinart! Sanchez! Go Trojan QB’s!) and Landry Jones (see Sam Bradford. Go OU Sooners!)?
- Who among Stan Kroenke’s 16 rookies could be named a captain? Oh wait, that’s one of Stan’s Colorado teams that just names a 19 year-old captain.
- As an heir to the Wal*Mart fortune, is there a P&L based-motive to get the average player age at Arsenal under 23? I see a trend with Kroenke’s global sports enterprises.
New England Patriots 13-3
- Which one loss will send all of New England into a spiral about Bellichek having “lost his touch” combined with Brady “getting over the hill like Pappi”?
- If you picked Gronkowski for your fantasy team, do you keep a voodoo doll or Aaron Hernandez in your drawer?
- Please explain how you can go 3-9 and be disgracefully canned in Denver, hired within 2 months as an offensive coordinator, be investigated by the NFL for illegal meetings with a quarterback during a lockout, precede to aid that quarterbacks rapid regression behind one of the worst offensive lines in decades, and then weasel into the playoffs with a whole other team the same year as a “special offensive assistant” on a team that ends up in the Super Bowl while the guy you’re eventually replacing as coordinator sucks up his pride under the double-death sentence at Penn State
Buffalo Bills 8-8
- Is it possible to miss the playoffs 14 straight seasons and not play in either Detroit or Cincinnati?
- Why will the pass rush of Mario Williams matter when the opposition will often play from ahead and try to grind out the clock?
- Is there really a third reason to tune-in for Bills football ’12?
New York Jets 5-11
- Which team would you most enjoy seeing Rex Ryan be the defensive coordinator for in 2013?
- What’s the over/under on Santonio Holmes just flat abandoning the team and moving to Aruba by December?
- Tim who?
Miami Dolphins 3-13
- Is owner Stephen Ross actually from a CBS crime series, or just accidentally a composite of creepy clueless ownership types?
- How will Joe Philbin adjust from having Aaron Rodgers and a handful of household name playmakers to Ryan Tannenhill and…, oh yeah, there’s a guy who pitches Subway sandwiches, and I think he won the Heisman several years ago, but I forgot his name?
- Is it really possible that Don Shula won more games than any other head coach and is synonymous with the same “storied franchise?”
Cincinnati Bengals 12-4
- Can a young offense overcome two of the most fearsome (but aging) defenses four times a year?
- Is Andy Dalton set for a sophomore slump?
- Can a defensive-minded coach actually get his team to play meaningful defense?
Baltimore Ravens 11-5
- Why are some teams better and more dangerous when less is expected of them? (See Harbaugh family)
- Can the Ravens play at least 0.500 ball with an aged Ray Lewis and injured Terrell Suggs and just plan on being healthy enough for a run in November and December?
- If Joe Flacco isn’t overrated, than how come he doesn’t strike fear in any other team’s fan base?
Pittsburgh Steelers 11-5
- Why are some teams better and more dangerous when less is expected of them? (See Pittsburgh’s last three runs to the Super Bowl)
- Can the Steelers play at least 0.500 ball with an aged defense (average age of 30.1), an injured James Harrison and heavily concussed Polamalu, and just plan on being healthy enough for a run in November and December?
- If Big Ben isn’t under-rated, than how come he constantly makes plays while receiving a pounding unlike any other quarterback in the league?
Cleveland Browns 3-13
- If you can put up with the political ad at the beginning of the YouTube clip, the “Factory of Sadness” says so much more than I can about Brandon Weeden starting ahead of Colt McCoy.
Indianapolis Colts 9-7
- Is Andrew Luck really that good or is this just the privilege of a 2-14 schedule?
- Are the Colts for real, or is the AFC South just that bad of a division?
- Is the AFC South the worst division in football or is that the AFC West?
Houston Texans 8-8
- Are the Texans going to take three steps backwards, or is Ben just scheming a way to have Mike McCoy gone and Gary Kubiak be Peyton Manning’s OC in ’13?
- On the other hand, even with Arian Foster, Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub, how do you survive losing your top two defensive players (both Pro Bowlers) and one of the best guards in football and expect to improve?
- In the game of Running Back Roulette that is Fantasy Football, is Arian Foster really such a blue chip?
Tennessee Titans 8-8
- The NFL has structured itself to achieve parity; are the Titans chronically confusing that with mediocrity?
- How big of a jump will Jake Locker have to make in order for this team to make the playoffs?
- Will a modern running back make the Hall of Fame? I call it the Curse of TD. Case in point, Chris Johnson. After almost breaking Eric Dickerson’s season rushing record, Johnson has regressed dramatically. It appears he may be a far less special Terrell Davis. TD has the record for the most rushing yards in his first four seasons, but he ran for 100 yards in a game once after he broke 2000 yards in a season in 1998. Despite being the most dominant post-season back in history (8 games, 8 100 yard performances, two Super Bowl Wins, one Super Bowl MVP), but he is dismissed as a flash in the pan performer, even though he (and to a lesser degree Mike Shanahan) reinvented the position into a high-mileage, high-production, career-killing machine. Jamal Lewis, Priest Holmes, LaDainian Tomlinson, all had similar magnificent runs (without any postseason success) that last no more than four years, and only Tomlinson could possibly be considered for enshrinement (if he gets in, it would make TD’s exclusion a greater travesty). Ray Rice, Maurice Jones-Drew, Arian Foster, All-Day… take notice.
Jacksonville Jaguars 3-13
- Last year, I predicted Jacksonville as “(7-9) plucky, just not very good. Jacksonville has the advantage of always being overlooked and that is good for three wins a year. But they have nothing to build from and no destination to organize their team around… other than maybe Los Angeles.” Since that time, they were one of the worst teams in the league, changed ownership, had their single star hold out all of training camp, and signed a licensing agreement with London. None of the questions worth asking about the Jacksonville Jaguars pertain to the game of football.
Denver Broncos 11-5 (Slightly less obvious questions than the usual Lindsey Jones/Mike Kils/Post fodder)
- Shouldn’t Von Miller adapt his speed game to tight end coverage, as few other linebackers possess his speed, he’s already outside, and he appears to have no interest in the running game?
- Is it possible that Derek Wolfe could be the first great Broncos DT/DE since Trevor Pryce, who was a key cog in the Broncos two Super Bowls?
- If John Elway gets his team to the Super Bowl, is Ozzie Newsome officially displaced as the best Hall of Fame player turned GM?
Kansas City Chiefs 7-9
- How were they not compelling enough to convince Kyle Orton to stay around as a potential starter when he’s now choosing to back-up Tony Romo?
- Will their big three return to game form after all suffering what just 15 years ago were career-threatening injuries?
- Will I ever give the Chiefs a lick of respect (which they apparently deserve as they play at Sports Authority likes it’s a friendlier version of Arrowhead).
San Diego Chargers 6-10
- Will anyone else crack a smile when they see the headline “Turner done in San Diego”
- Which one player’s injury will be looked at as a tipping point for San Diego’s perpetual underachievement this year?
- How deep is the pattern of underachievement when you Google “San Diego Kicker” and these are the results you get?
Oakland Raiders 3-13
- I beat this drum earlier, but doesn’t the sight of Carson Palmer make you at least a bit suspicious of the likely Number One pick and fellow USC QB Matt Barkley?
- How good does Ndami Asmougha’s agent look for that contract clause that got him out of his Oakland deal?
- Can Dennis Allen, a good guy who maybe should have waited for a better opportunity, do enough to keep himself employed into 2013?