6 Bold NFL Predictions For 2011 (Including Playoff Picks)

It’s true what they say about preseason sports predictions being a lot like assholes. “Everyone’s got ‘em, and most of ‘em stink.” (Or something like that.) Yet here I am, sitting down to type out my bold predictions for the 2011 NFL season.

And I have to admit, I’m actually feeling rather emboldened by how my bold predictions for 2010 turned out.

Remember how Brett Favre returning was supposed to give the Vikings one more shot at glory? I correctly predicted they would not make the playoffs, and they didn’t.

Remember how last year was going to be the year for the Houston Texans, the one when they finally overtook Peyton and the Colts? I correctly predicted that a) they would beat Indianapolis in Week 1, but then that b) they’d let their fans down once again. How is that for specificity?

There were other hits (that Chris Johnson wouldn’t lead the league in rushing coming off of his 2,000 yard season) and a few misses (Dolphins and 49ers in the playoffs? What was I thinking…?) but all in all I’d say it was a pretty successful stab at predicting a wildly unpredictable league.

So here we go again: six bold predictions for the 2011 NFL season.

First, let’s start out with the playoffs.

Bold Prediction #1 for the 2011 NFL Season:

2010 playoff teams the Colts, Chiefs, Falcons, Seahawks, and Bears will not make the playoffs in 2011.

Every year there are 5-6 playoff teams from the previous season that don’t make it back the next season, and a few of last year’s playoff participants are easy to dismiss.

  • Before being exposed as playoff frauds by Baltimore, the Chiefs fattened up on a rather easy schedule last year, plus they benefited from the Chargers’ numerous injuries. Also, Todd Haley gets a little too distracted by things that are irrelevant.
  • The Seahawks only made the playoffs because the rest of the NFC West was so bad, and they responded by jettisoning Matt Hasselbeck in favor of Tarvaris Jackson. WIN FOREVER!
  • The Bears’ major improvements this year are Roy Williams and Marion Barber. Living in Dallas, I know how ecstatic the Cowboys were to get rid of both; and I’m sorry, but I just don’t trust the Lovie Smith-Jay Cutler combo.

Dismissing the Falcons and, especially, the Colts was not so easy however.

Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta is coming off a very solid 13-3 season, and they would seem primed to be even better with Julio Jones being added to an already solid offense. Plus, in three seasons at the helm Mike Smith’s worst record is 9-7 and he’s led the Falcons to the playoffs two out of the three years. So why my trepidation?

First off, did you know Atlanta has never made the playoffs two years in a row? It’s true. Also, the Falcons’ schedule is not the most inviting. They don’t get to feast on the NFC West this year (they were 4-0 vs the West last year), replacing those cupcakes with four games against the four playoff caliber teams of the NFC North. Plus, while I like and trust Matt Ryan, I do not particularly trust Atlanta’s defense, which was 30th in scoring defense last year…with, again, four of those games coming against the NFC West!

bold-predictions-for-2011-nfl-season-playoff-picksIndianapolis Colts

This is the toughest of all the bold predictions. The Colts make the playoffs every year, so how can I say they are going to miss the postseason this year? Well, the Atlanta Braves used to win the NL East every year too, but ultimately the year came when they didn’t, and such runs usually end when a team’s lynchpin stars get hurt or start to decline; and based on what we saw last year, and so far during the preseason, such a time may be nigh for the Colts.

Peyton Manning, of course, has the neck issue and we have no idea when or how he’ll play. And this comes on the heels of a 10-6 season that was shaky for Manning and the team even with Manning supposedly in good health. Manning entering 2011 injured does little to assuage fears I would have had about the Colts even if Manning’s health were not in question. Not to mention, the Colts have offensive line issues, continue to have a questionable running game, have the catatonic and uninspiring Jim Caldwell as First Assistant to Peyton Manning, and their defense was 28th in scoring last year. Plus, I think the Houston Texans are actually, finally, really, legitimately, no…seriously, ready to seize their opportunity.

Would I be shocked if Peyton played all 16 games and the Colts made the playoffs? Of course not. But for the first time in a long time, I think there are enough question marks that it’s more likely to not happen than happen.

Bold Prediction #2 for the 2011 NFL Season:

2010 non-playoff teams the Texans, Chargers, Cowboys, Rams, and Lions will make the playoffs in 2011.

Again, a few of these are easy.

  • Everything went wrong for the Chargers last year, but with a little better fortune in terms of health and even just marginal improvement in special teams, San Diego will dominate a weak AFC West.
  • If I don’t think the Colts will make it, there is only one logical choice to come out of the AFC South: the Texans. With a healthy Andre Johnson and what should be an improved defense, plus the ability to fatten up on the bumbling Titans and Jags, it’s time. This team has paid its dues.
  • The Rams are the only NFC West team that has its head coach-QB combo intact from last year, and that QB happens to be the best one in the division. I’d be shocked if St. Louis doesn’t comfortably win the NFC West this year.

Now to state my case for the other two:

Dallas Cowboys

Am I drinking the Jason Garrett Kool-Aid because I live in Dallas? Maybe. But the Cowboys did go 5-3 last year once Garrett took over, and that was with Tony Romo on the bench and Roy Williams and Marion Barber still around wasting snaps. Romo is back, Williams and Barber are gone, and the Cowboys have a decidedly new attitude that should help some of their other talented but overpaid/underperforming players live up to their contracts. And in a season of uncertainty, I like QB-coach continuity. Romo and Garrett have a lot of experience together, and that will help.

Plus, the NFC East faces the NFC West this year, so the Cowboys get to enjoy what the Falcons were able to enjoy last year. And a midseason stretch with home games against Buffalo, Miami, and Seattle in three out of four weeks should put Dallas in prime position to make a move come November and December.

ndamukong_suh-bold-predictions-2011-nfl-season-playoffsDetroit Lions

This one makes me nervous. Very nervous. I essentially chose the up-and-coming but unproven Lions, along with their porcelain QB, over the proven Falcons and their rock solid third-year signal caller. What the hell is wrong with me?

Call it a hunch.

Sure, it makes me nervous to trust Matthew Stafford and Jahvid Best to stay healthy for 16 games – which I do think needs to happen for this prediction to come true – but I have to think that at some point it will happen, so why not this season? The Lions and their fans have suffered so much, you have to think the sports gods while throw them a bone at some point…right? Right?

Taking karma and sports gods nonsense out of the equation, there are actually plenty of legit reasons to like Detroit. Ndamukong Suh is the obvious one, because he’s unblockable and his attitude seems to have positively infected the entire franchise. Plus, Jim Schwartz has taken the Lions from 0-16 (the year before he arrived) to 2-14 and then last year’s 6-10 record. If they make another 3-4 game improvement, the Lions will sit at 9-7 or 10-6, right on the doorstep of the playoffs. By the power of Suh and the grace of Stafford’s shoulder, I say they get in.

So, for the record, my playoff picks are:

  • AFC: Jets, Patriots, Ravens, Steelers, Texans, Chargers
  • NFC: Eagles, Cowboys, Packers, Lions, Saints, Rams

Bold Prediction #3 for the 2011 NFL Season:

Fantasy players beware: Arian Foster will not only not lead the NFL in rushing in 2011, he won’t lead the Texans in rushing in 2011.

Last year, I benefited from Arian Foster’s rapid rise to stardom in a number of fantasy leagues. This year, you won’t find him on any of my teams, even the keeper league I had him in (I traded him for teammate Andre Johnson), because I do not think he’ll come close to duplicating his 2010 production.

Sure, it’s somewhat foolhardy to predict injuries for a player, but none other than the great Will Carroll has been pointing out all offseason that Foster is an injury risk because of his 2010 workload (327 carries, almost 400 total touches). And wouldn’t you know it, Foster has already gotten hurt a couple of times already this preseason.

And don’t forget: Ben Tate, a 2nd round pick in 2010, was supposed to be the guy last year for Houston, not the undrafted Arian Foster. With Tate back in the mix, he was poised to siphon off some carries from Foster this year anyway. If Tate gets a chance to play in Foster’s absence, and shows that he is more talented (as his draft position suggests), and if Foster struggles to stay healthy, then the Texans could very well have a new, unexpected back leading them in rushing in 2011. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Bold Prediction #4 for the 2011 NFL Season:

The “Dream Team” Philadelphia Eagles will be playing on the first weekend of the playoffs…if they make the playoffs at all.

I almost chose the Eagles as one of the 2010 playoff teams that would not return this season. Why? The two main reasons are that I don’t trust Michael Vick over the course of a full season, and I don’t trust teams that enter seasons with inordinate amounts of undeserved hype.

However, I ultimately could not get past two facts when I looked at the Eagles’ prospects for this season:

  • Andy Reid. Look at the man’s annual consistency in a league set up to promote parity. He’s among the most underrated head coaches in any sport during my lifetime.
  • The schedule. The Eagles get to face the not-so-mighty NFC West this year, plus they get games against the Dolphins and Bills, two of the AFC’s weaker teams. And playing Washington twice doesn’t hurt.

So I do think the Eagles will make the playoffs, but they are not going to run roughshod over the NFL on their way to a first round bye like some people seem to think they will.

philadelphia-eagles-michael-vickVick is a nagging or season-ending injury waiting to happen, with wild card Vince Young rather than the steadier Kevin Kolb now Vick’s backup. Plus, Vick was not as good last season as people seem to think he was. (Remember, there is a difference between spectacular and good.) Vick threw 6 INTs over the team’s final five games, when the pressure was really on, and he had a number of others dropped throughout the year. Andy Reid teams go as the quarterback goes, and I don’t trust Vick to play consistently enough week-in and week-out to lead this team to the 13-3 or 14-2 record it will take to get a bye.

Having Reid, a favorable schedule, and a still-solid defense (14.7 points per game allowed this year, with Nnamdi added to the mix) will get Philly into the postseason, but they are going to have to win three games to get to Indianapolis for the Super Bowl in February. (P.S. I don’t think they’re going to do that either.)

Bold Prediction #5 for the 2011 NFL Season:

The New England Patriots will lose their fourth straight playoff game and be one-and-done again.

Here’s a stat you may or may not have realized: the Patriots a sterling 35-13 over the last three regular seasons, but they are without a playoff win. In fact, since going 18-0 on their way to Super Bowl XLII, the Patriots are 0-3 in the playoffs, losing that game to the Giants, getting pummeled by the Ravens in ’09, and then being smacked in the mouth by the Jets last year.

And while I think the Patriots’ regular season success will continue – a product of yet another year of the Belichick-Brady combo – I think their sudden playoff futility will continue as well. The Patriots without a motivated Randy Moss simply do not have enough offensive playmakers to beat really good defenses in the one-game scenarios presented in the playoffs. Plus, while the Patriots’ defense improved last year, it is still devoid of the veteran leaders that led the franchise to its three Super Bowls under Belichick.

The AFC is loaded with very good teams. The Jets, Ravens, Steelers, and Chargers are all capable of winning home-field advantage, and I think all four have what it takes to give Belichick and Brady their fourth straight playoff loss.

Bold Prediction #6 for the 2011 NFL Season:

The Cincinnati Bengals will control the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes come April 2012.

The Bengals actually have a pretty nice schedule this season. Two games against Cleveland, one versus each team in the NFC West, plus games against Denver, Tennessee, and Jacksonville seem pretty inviting don’t they? Even for a team coming off a 4-12 season, that would seem to be a nice slate of games to rebound from a 4-12 record with.

I don’t think it will matter.

The Bengals had one of the worst offenses in the NFL last year, finishing 28th in points, 28th in yards, 31st in passing yards, and 22nd in rushing yards. And now they are breaking in rookies at QB and WR, which leaves Cedric Benson as the unit’s primary building block and most accomplished player.

Oh boy.

I just can’t see any reasons not to expect this to be a completely lost season in Cincinnati, another in a long line of completely lost seasons in Cincinnati.

The only upshot is that there is a clear-cut franchise QB waiting for whatever team has the top draft choice in 2012. I think Cincinnati will be that team, and they will have to decide whether to a) take Andrew Luck one year after drafting Andy Dalton in the second round or b) trade the pick for what I would expect to be a rather large bounty from a team like Miami or San Francisco or Washington that is desperate for a franchise QB to build around. At least they’ll have a season of watching Andy Dalton play before making the decision.

My guess: they would take Luck after being underwhelmed by Dalton, but that’s definitely silly to speculate about with so much to happen before then. (Although I guess you could say that everything in sports is silly to speculate about, just try to keep it to yourself so I don’t feel like I wasted my time with the 2500 words of pure speculation that comprise this post…)

**********

So, what do you think? Which of these bold predictions do you agree with? Which ones do you think are total bunk?

And what are your bold predictions for the 2011 NFL season?

We’ve got two weeks before the season starts, so there is plenty of time for conjecture. The comment section awaits.



About Jerod Morris

I love words. I write for Copyblogger and founded MSF, The Assembly Call, & Primility. I practice yoga, eat well, & strive for balance. I love life. Namaste. Say hi on Twitter, Facebook, & G+.

Comments

  1. Allow me to make a prediction….I predict that I no longer read another article by you because your predictions are idiotic

    • just wait says:

      agree

    • Well, perhaps instead of a drive-by comment that does nothing to further the conversation, you should offer your own predictions. It's easy to say someone's predictions are "idiotic" but it's rather lame to do so and then not offer any of your own. Now, if you just happen to think that predictions in general are idiotic, fine. I even said in the article it's a rather silly endeavor to begin with. But it sounds like you take particular exception with what I predict will happen, which is fine, but please either offer your alternatives, or make good on your promise not to read another article on this site. You won't be missed.

  2. drewlange says:

    So if I read this right, you have the Saints, Packers, Rams, Eagles, Cowboys and Lions in the playoffs? Okay…..cool. Not a fan of the Giants this year?

    And I really hate the "never made the playoffs twice in a row before" stat. They had also never had back-to-back winning seasons until Mike Smith showed up. Did you know until two years ago the Saints had never even won a postseason game, and they just happened to go win the Super Bowl.

    Basically, I find your logic behind leaving the Falcons out of the playoffs unsatisfactory.

    • See…now THIS is the kind of rebuttal I like! Well said Drew. Frankly, I'm not a huge fan of the "never made the playoffs twice in a row before" stat either, but it was a case of trying to find evidence to support what I think is going to happen rather than the other way around. I just have a bad "feeling" about Atlanta this year, more so due to another year of mileage on Michael Turner, their tougher schedule, a defense that isn't quite ready for primetime, and overblown expectations that seem to rely way too much on a rookie WR. As with the Colts, I would not be shocked at all if the Falcons do make the playoffs, but every year there are a small handful of teams that we think will make the playoffs that don't. They seem like a good candidate to me to be that team in a very deep NFC. (Note: I think the Vikings are a playoff darkhorse that few are looking at, if McNabb can just play at a satisfactory level.)

      • drewlange says:

        Funny. I just started a post on why the Vikings will make the playoffs

        • So the saints lost an NFC Championship to Chicago a few years ago, wonder how they did that without winning a playoff game.

          • drewlange says:

            You are right. Sorry, slipped my mind. Lucky for me the Saints aren't in the midwest and don't have to worry about it.

  3. nickfoshizal says:

    Sooooooooooo whos the super bowl winner in your mind. just curious.

    • Great question. I think the I like the Steelers and the Chargers the most in the AFC, and I like the Saints and the Packers the most in the NFC. Since previous year's Super Bowl teams rarely make it back the next year, I'll side with history and put the Chargers and Saints in the Super Bowl, with the Saints winning another one now that the 2010 hangover has worn off. (But I reserve the right to change this prediction multiple times up until kickoff on Super Bowl Sunday.)

  4. carlton webster says:

    Jerod,

    Its my third season with you. I absolutely love the feedback you give and will hopefully be riding your advice to a championship. I'm in a 12 person league that is super competitive. New rules this year, no negative points for turnovers. No penalty for fumbles or ints. Passing td's are 4pts, 1pt every 25 passing yards. Rushing and Receiving td's are 6pts, 1 pt every 10 yards. Standard kicking and defense scoring.

    Any advice would be great. I'm wondering the most about the QB position and if I need to adjust for the lack of INT downside. I was leaning for one of the elite 6 QB's, but with the new scoring, I might take RB/WR the first few rounds and wait on someone like Stafford or Bradford. Thanks!

    • INTs can fluctuate from year to year with QBs, so I wouldn't worry about them too much. Just get the best overall value taking into consideration all stats. I am absolutely fine with waiting on your QB this year. You can get guys like Eli Manning (underrated in fantasy), Bradford, Stafford, even Ryan and Schaub later in drafts. If you can wait and load up on stud RBs and WRs through the first 3-4 rounds, I think you will be better served than reaching for a QB.

  5. dukefan302 says:

    in my opinion these are very nice perdictions. i think the colts wont make the playoffs but im notnso high on your atlanta pick. also i think the rams will not only make the playoffs but win a game or two there as a 3 or 4 seed

    • I think that might be a tad optimistic for the Rams, but not outlandish. I'd give Bradford one more year of seasoning and the defense one more year of growth. But the Rams are definitely headed in the right direction.

      Trust me, not picking Atlanta is the one that makes me very, very, very nervous. We'll see. There is a very good chance that four months from now I'll have a lot of "I told you so" comments on this post!

  6. Research Is Fun says:

    Is anyone using this guy's info to run their fantasy team? If so, I'd like to set up a league that involves money with you. Thanks.

  7. From my specific NFL fan perspective I hope you are correct about the Rams AND the Colts. My next tattoo "Bradford4eva" in cursive

  8. Like your post. Will clarify on the Texans running back situation. Tate wasn't supposed to be The Guy last year in Houston. Never. Had a rough camp too. Kubiak wants his rookies to earn time to get on the field and doesn't trust them with pass protection. Foster had a great camp last year. Will add that Kubiak will want to give Foster the ability to earn his next contract. He did that with Dunta Robinson. Did that with Owen Daniels. All that being said, hamstrings are hard to quickly recover from.

    • Thanks for the clarification. I always thought Tate was going to be the starter, or at least a major contributor if not The Guy, before he went down. If he doesn't get hurt last year, how do you think the carries would have shaken out coming out of training camp?

  9. PaulLewisville says:

    Good piece. I agree with most of your thoughts except Atlanta. I don't think Atlanta will make the playoffs for an entirely different reason: defense. They traded away too many draft picks for their WR and didn't have enough draft picks to fix their poor defense. Coaches have had all off-season to see how to score against Atlanta and that planning will carry through this year because of minimal changes in defense.

    • Sounds like we're on the same page. As I mentioned, I don't trust Atlanta's D…which was 30th in scoring defense last year. I know their offense will be better this year, but they face a tougher schedule so they better stop some people.

  10. Andy Dalton has looked really good for bengals, i bet they would consider trading that pick. My guess is San Fran will throw a tons for who ever owns the first pick next year.

    • You know, I would have thought that too regarding San Francisco but they also spent a 2nd round pick on a QB in Colin Kaepernick that they are apparently very excited about. Who knows though; you'd have to think with Harbaugh's history with Luck that he wouldn't be able to pass it up. It will be fascinating to see what happens if a team with a QB gets the #1 pick. They could command a pretty large bounty for it.

  11. After reading your 2010 picks and 2011 picks back to back you sound like every hack sports reporter writing a predicition column, trying to claim your predicitions are bold when I have already read them 20 times before today. Did you submit your resume to ESPN yet? Fucking tool.

    • If you would, please point me to another column that predicts the Colts to miss the playoffs, the Falcons to miss the playoffs, Arian Foster to not lead Houston in rushing, and that takes a stab at who will get the #1 pick.

      Also, before you come to someone else's prediction column and call them a "fucking tool", please point me to where you went out on a limb with your own predictions. Otherwise, you're just a drive-by commenter offering no value to anyone but yourself.

    • all i can say is that this is the third year since i first stumbled upon this site and i keep coming back. i can honestly say that jarod single-handedly won me my main league two years ago and after that i was sold. this guy knows his stuff and even when he's off, at least there is some logic to the picks. still the most accurate predictions i've come across. on the plus side, being a fucking tool is not such a bad thing to be. it's better than being a masonry tool or some sort of dental tool.

      • Well, I can say that this is the third(plus) year since I first founded this site, and I keep coming back, and this is my favorite comment ever. Thank you Doogie. You not only defended me, you made me laugh out loud. Nothing can top that!

  12. This year's last to first division winner will be the Minnesota Vikings. McNabb comback player of the year!

  13. Excellent post. Thought provoking and well explained. I have only a few disagreements.

    #1 The Falcons are making the playoffs as they go 10-6. They have too many proven players to carry them.
    #2 The Lions will not make the playoffs as they go 8-8. They don't have enough proven players to win late.
    #3 Foster leads the Texans, but not the league. Adrian Peterson will. Favorable schedule, and Vikes will run plenty.
    #4 Eagles are definately making the playoffs, and will get a bye. Packers have a much more difficult schedule.
    #5 Nope, Patriots are too good, very deep. Homefield advantage, and Super Bowl bound.
    #6 Close, but Bengals get the Bills at home, and will squeak out a win. Luck goes to Buffalo.
    #6

    • What do I love about this comment? You begin with "excellent post" – which I assume is a manifestation of your appreciation for me going out on some limbs – and then you respectfully but forcefully disagree with most of my assertions!

      Internet commenters: take note. If you comment like jdc15, you actually get taken seriously. Otherwise, you are just wasting breath being angry.

      Honestly, I can't argue too much about ATL and DET. There is very little difference between a 10-6 team and an 8-8 team, so you could very well be right. I'm going more off hunch with those two than anything I can logically explain. But the funny thing about the NFL is that at least 2 playoff spots every year seem to go against logic.

      As for the Pats…I don't know. I think they are a better regular season team than playoff team. Right now, I'd rank them #5 in the AFC, behind the obvious top 4. They need to add a playmaker to make me believe they can win come playoff time.

  14. My bold prediction is that the Packers miss the playoffs! 10-6 as Rodgers and that defense comes back down to Earth a little bit. Vikings win the NFC North and Bears finish dead last.

  15. Dude, this was my first time reading your blog and I have to say, whether or not I agree with your predictions or opinions, I'm digging this just because of the way you respond to the comments. I love how you tell people to add to the conversation and are willing to dialogue. Pretty cool, keep it up. Oh, and I completely disagree about your Bears prediction; not for any valid reason, just because I'm a Bears fan. Having said that, wouldn't surprise me if they stunk on ice. But I've got a feeling that something cool could happen. Looking forward to going through the season with you.

    • Thanks Curtis! Much appreciated. One thing we like around here is honest, open dialogue, especially front different viewpoints. Hard to do that though when people just want to criticize and call names rather than actually discuss and debate.

      As to the Bears, I can't say I'd be shocked if they make the playoffs again…especially since they won the North last year and damn near made the Super Bowl, but signing Barber and Williams just rubbed me the wrong way, and I can't imagine it makes them better at all. In fact, I think those two guys, who the Cowboys were so happy to get rid off, could actually make the Bears worse. Not what you want to say about a team's major offseason acquisition! (But I appreciate your faith in your team! That's how it should be!)

  16. SF may own the pick and if Cincy gets off to a hot start against 4 weak opponents, some confidence, who knows.

  17. HAHA So much for most of your bold predicitons. Cincy has already won too many games to come close to getting luck (not like they need him now though)

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