In every year of MSF’s existence, I have done a “bold predictions” column before the NFL season starts. They are fun to write, and people seem to enjoy them – especially the part where they rip apart my predictions.
And that’s fine. You are welcome, even encouraged, to rip these predictions to shreds. None of it really matters anyway.
But just know that in last year’s column, this was one of my predictions: 2010 playoff teams the Colts, Chiefs, Falcons, Seahawks, and Bears will not make the playoffs in 2011.
What actually happened? Out of those five teams, four missed the playoffs, including the Colts snapping their long string of double-digit win seasons and playoff appearances. And the Falcons may as well have. (24-2? Seriously? Who scores two points in a playoff game?)
That’s an 80% success rate, beeyatches. Hell. Yes.
So…basically what I’m trying to say is that I’m the man, and you better perk up your ears when I start looking into my NFL crystal ball.
(By the way, I implore you – beg you – not to look any further beyond that first prediction in last year’s column. I’m being serious. Why would you need to? I nailed four out of five in Prediction #1. What more proof do you need. PLEASE DON’T SCROLL DOWN AND READ THE REST.)
As I look into my crystal ball this year, I see a number of unexpected events unfolding around the NFL. You get to learn about them first here, before anyone else – hell, before they even happen.
So take these predictions to the bank, or to your bookie, or to wherever you happen to take arbitrary, meaningless, sure-to-be-wrong preseason predictions. I promise I won’t let you down.
Bold NFL Prediction #1:
The Indianapolis Colts will go from worst to first in 2012.
As chronicled here by The Big Lead, at least one team has gone from worst to first to win its division in every season since 2003.
While most pundits think the Chiefs or the Buccaneers are the best bet to have such a super turnaround this season, I am going with the Colts. And all it’s going to take is a little (okay, a lot) of Luck.
If you told me right now that I could have one quarterback in the AFC South to win with this year, I would take Colts rookie Andrew Luck. That might not seem like much of a stretch over Blaine Gabbert and Jake Locker, but I bet Houston Texans fans are up in arms at such flippant disrespect for Matt Schaub.
I like Matt Schaub. He’s a solid NFL starter. But he has also missed at least five games in three out of the last five seasons. And it’s not like he’s been great when he’s been healthy. He’s been good. Solid. But Luck can be that too, even as a rookie.
Plus, in the event that Schaub does get hurt, I am not a member of the T.J. Yates Fan Club. And Andre Johnson isn’t exactly the Cal Ripken of wide receivers. The Texans’ next best receiver is…Kevin Walter?
So while I think Houston can be a legit AFC contender if fortune smiles on them this season, I also think they are a fragile team with the potential to disappoint, especially if anything goes wrong early in the season and pressure starts to mount. Indianapolis, however, with no expectations and no pressure, will essentially be playing with house money all year.
Now back to Luck, the real lynchpin in my bold Colts’ prediction.
Just like Cam Newton and Andy Dalton last year, and like Sam Bradford, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, and other recent rookie quarterbacks, Luck is going to hit the ground running. He has already looked solid in the preseason.
As the most “NFL-ready draft prospect in years” (how many times has that exact phrase been used to describe him?) I don’t think it’s a stretch to expect Luck’s poise and production in his rookie year to belie his inexperience.
And here is another relevant nugget, also courtesy of The Big Lead: “…over the last eight years, nine rookie quarterbacks have started opening week. Six of those teams went on to make the playoffs…” So though some people seem to think starting a rookie QB is a death knell, or a sign that a team is sacrificing their season in the name of just getting their young QB experience, that has not proven true on the field.
Plus, the Colts are not totally devoid of playmakers:
- Reggie Wayne is still around as a veteran presence the young QB can lean on.
- Coby Fleener is a familiar face for Luck with talent at the tight end position.
- Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney are still around to anchor Chuck Pagano’s new-look defense.
Yes, the Colts have tons of roster holes. They were 2-14 for a reason last year. But as Peyton Manning proved, an elite QB can be difference between 10-11 wins and 3-4.
So how much of a difference can a competent QB make? The Colts didn’t have one last year, but they will this year.
If Luck himself can provide a 3-4 game bump just by offering competence under center, and if a few balls bounce the Colts’ way that didn’t last year (and let’s be honest, almost nothing bounced the Colts’ way last year), this team could reasonably find a way to 8-9 wins. The schedule isn’t particularly daunting.
I say it happens. And when it does…
Bold NFL Prediction #2:
The Colts and Broncos will meet in the playoffs.
It’s just too perfect. It has to happen. It would be so much better than any made-for-TV movie, and the NFL always seems to have fortune smile down upon it when it comes to TV.
So let’s say the Colts win the AFC South, as I’ve boldly predicted above. And let’s say the Broncos finish at 10-6 (because Peyton Manning always wins 10 games), but that places them one game behind the Chiefs (more on them in a bit) in the AFC West. If the Colts are the 4th-best division winner (which they would be) and the Broncos are the wild card team with the best record, they would meet in the first round of the playoffs.
With Peyton Manning playing for the opposition in the facility he helped build.
I know it seems unlikely right now, especially the Colts part of it. But if the Colts can somehow hop on a magic mojo carpet ride in 2012 and hold up their end of the bargain, I see the football gods smiling down upon us all for what would be an absolutely epic sports moment.
Forget the game itself. I’m getting chills right now thinking about the roof-lifting roar that Peyton Manning would receive from Colts fans when introduced.
That the stage for Manning’s return to the Circle City would be the playoffs would just make it all the more emotional.
Once the game started, of course, Colts fans would be behind their new guy, and their upstart team. But something tells me it wouldn’t matter.
Peyton, back on his true home turf and wanting to author one final signature Lucas Oil Field moment, would probably carve up the Colts’ secondary like a Thanksgiving turducken. And nothing in football is more beautiful than watching that.
I soooo want this to happen.
Bold NFL Prediction #3:
The Chiefs will also go from worst to first.
I mentioned this in the last section, so I might as well break it out in its own bold prediction.
The Chiefs fell flat last year, but many of the reasons for their downfall will have no impact on this season.
First, Todd Haley is gone, replaced by Romeo Crennel. While Browns fans may snicker at this being referenced as a positive, look closer. The Chiefs played much better with Crennel at the helm at the end of last season, and Haley did not get along with QB Matt Cassel. Really, Haley just isn’t cut out to be a head coach, as the Chiefs learned the hard way.
As for Crennel…well he ain’t Bill Belichick, obviously. But early signs point to him being the right man at the right time with a young, loaded roster in K.C.
Second, the Chiefs return much of its young, loaded roster from injury. Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry, two of the most talented players in the NFL at their respective positions, missed almost all of last season. They are back. Tony Moeaki is also back.
And just look at their depth chart. That is one talented offense. If Cassel’s mind is right – which it should be with Haley gone – then the Chiefs will put up lots of points. If the defense can just be adequate, this team should be able to navigate a decent schedule to a solid winning record.
For the record, I think the Patriots, Ravens, and Steelers will join the Colts, Chiefs, and Broncos in the playoffs. But there is really nothing bold about that.
Now let’s look at the NFC…