A first look at the NFL season



- Follow Ethan on Twitter @Ethanhamm!


So, I was getting a bit bored last night and decided to do a full-blown, game-by-game NFL season prediction. My results actually were a bit surprising, and I think that Patriots fans will be pleasantly surprised as well.

Ready to see my findings? Here we go...

AFC East

1. New England - 11-5
2. Miami - 8-8
3. New York - 8-8
4. Buffalo - 4-12

At the end of the day, I was not able to place the Patriots any lower than 11-5, and there are even a couple of losses that I threw in there due to the team resting starters. Call me optimistic, but there are not too many teams out there that match up well against us. I had us losing to the Dolphins on the road, the Colts, the Chargers, the Packers, and the Dolphins at home (because, by Week 17, I would hope that we rest our starters.) The rest of the games, while difficult, I think are eminently winnable because we are able to compensate for our weaknesses adequately. No other team that we face is built to pass the ball pell-mell against our young secondary, and not too many of the other teams utilize a speed running game that would tear up the middle of our defense. Our schedule is relatively favorable despite the big names. The Jets and the Dolphins are both stellar teams, and the Dolphins come in second due to a tiebreak. The Jets were actually the ones in contention for a wild-card spot until the last week of the season, when the Bills came to the Meadowlands and pulled a massive upset. Yes, it could happen. Remember, Mark Sanchez is the Jets quarterback.

AFC North

1. Pittsburgh - 11-5
2. Baltimore - 10-6 -> WILD CARD
3. Cincinnati - 5-11
4. Cleveland - 4-12

This division started out packed, but I think there is a clear divergence of talent between the top two and bottom two teams. Pittsburgh rode out the Dennis Dixon era going 2-2 against decent competition, and Baltimore got off to a slow start sans Ed Reed. However, both teams ended up making the playoffs. I am not high on the Bengals this year due to a tough schedule and the unknown entity that is Carson Palmer. They will probably do better than 5-11, but not by too much; I think 6-10 or 7-9 would be more likely possibilities. I actually like Jake Delhomme more than a lot of other people, and I think that Cleveland will be able to pull out at least one "WTF" win this season. However, he's still Jake Delhomme.

AFC South

1. Indianapolis - 11-5
2. Tennessee - 9-7 -> WILD CARD
3. Houston - 9-7 
4. Jacksonville - 4-12 

I feel bad for Houston. I really do. I am a huge proponent of eventual progression, and the only reason that Houston does not make the playoffs in my projection is that Indianapolis would choose to rest their starters for the last game of the regular season (vs. Tennessee.) Which stinks for the Texans, since it gives the Titans the divisional tiebreaker necessary to make the playoffs. I am a fan of both teams though, despite the fact that they are polar opposites of each others in terms of playing style. I think Indianapolis takes a step back this season; that defense simply is not good enough to be sustainable. I also think that if there was one season where Peyton Manning would suffer a mysterious ACL injury Week 1, this would be the year. I am not high on Jacksonville at all, and I think that they will end up with a top 5 pick after the season.

AFC West

1. San Diego - 12-4
2. Oakland - 8-8
3. Kansas City - 6-10
4. Denver - 4-12

San Diego is not this good, but their schedule is this weak. As I said earlier, I have them beating the Patriots in the first meeting although I could 100% see the Patriots pulling that game out; I just do not want to be accused of being a super-homer. Oakland is a team that is good enough to win some games in their division but not good enough to make the playoffs this year. I think Michael Bush could have a massive season as their running back. Kansas City wins 6 games on the back of a weak schedule, and Denver has Tim Tebow behind center by Week 10.

NFC East

1. Dallas - 14-2
2. Washington - 8-8
3. Philadelphia - 7-9
4. New York - 4-12

This division is not strong outside of the Cowboys, who end up with the best record in the NFC. I do not think that the Giants are as bad as 4-12, but I also think that they are the weakest team in the division. Their record is probably closer to 6-10, but for the purposes of this projection I have them at 4-12. That defense just is not all. The Eagles and Redskins are both potentially frisky, and I think that Lesean McCoy could break out this year for Philly.  The Skins have McNabb behind center and should be good enough to contend for a playoff berth.

NFC North

1. Green Bay - 13-3
2. Minnesota - 11-5 -> WILD CARD
3. Chicago - 6-10
4. Detroit - 5-11

The Packers are going to be great this season with Rodgers behind center and a ton of weapons at his disposal. I am buying the Vikings hype as well; I think Favre stays healthy for one more season, and the combination of he, Peterson, and that dastardly defense is too good for some of the opposition they will face. The Bears get off to a weak start but finish strong (just like last season,) and the Lions look a bit better under Jim Schwartz.  

NFC South

1. New Orleans - 12-4
2. Carolina - 10-6 -> WILD CARD
3. Atlanta - 9-7
4. Tampa Bay - 7-9

I really like all of the teams in this division. The Saints are going to be solid as long as Brees is starting at QB. The Panthers are my sleeper team; their defense looks tenacious and I am a believer of Matt Moore. Plus, that running game is as devastating as any in the NFL. Atlanta comes up just short again as defensive faults prevent them from taking the next step. Tampa Bay is a team that I am tabbing as a surprise; I think Josh Freeman develops immensely as the season goes on, Mike Williams becomes a legitimate number one target, and the young defense develops quicker than most anticipate. Look out for the Bucs to play spoiler against some good teams.

NFC West 

1. San Francisco - 10-6
2. Arizona - 7-9
3. St. Louis - 5-11
4. Seattle - 3-13

With the number one pick of the 2011 draft...the Seattle Seahawks select Jake Locker. A fitting end to a disappointing first season for Pete Carroll. This division is not strong at all, and I think the Rams may get off to a nice 2-2 start in September. I'm still not 100% sold on Bradford, but he has impressed me this preseason. The Niners make the playoffs by default for being the "least bad" of the division, and Frank Gore is a top 5 fantasy back. Derek Anderson eventually finds a groove in Arizona, but not before he has played the team out of the playoff hunt.

So, those are my predictions. As for my Super Bowl pick...I think that Dallas could come home and beat their AFC competition in Jerry's World for the Lombardi Trophy. Stranger things have happened, and if Tony Romo was to ever win a title, this would be the year. It will be fun to see what happens.

Below, I also made a cursory first round mock draft for 2011 (with trades!) I hope that you enjoy, and I will be back after the Patriots' game next week to analyze what they did right, or wrong, against the Bengals.

(No Andrew Luck in this draft.)

1. Seattle – Jake Locker, QB

2. Denver – Robert Quinn, OLB

3. Cleveland – Cameron Heyward, DE

4. Buffalo – Ryan Mallett, QB

5. Jacksonville – A.J. Green, WR

6. St. Louis – Adrian Clayborn, DE

7. Detroit – Patrick Peterson, CB

8. New York Giants – Jared Crick, DT

9. New York Jets (from Cincinnati) – Julio Jones, WR

10. Chicago – Gabe Carimi, OT

11. Kansas City – Michael Floyd, WR

12. Arizona – Cliff Matthews, OLB

13. Tampa Bay – Ryan Williams, RB

14. Philadelphia – Marcel Dareus, DT

15. New England (via Oakland) – Mark Ingram, RB

16. Cincinnati (from New York Jets) – Akeem Ayers, OLB

17. Washington – Prince Amukamara, CB

18. Miami – Greg Romeus, OLB

19. Houston – Stephen Paea, DT

20. Atlanta – Aaron Williams, CB

21. Tennessee – Kris O’Dowd, C

22. Baltimore – Quan Sturdivant, ILB

23. San Francisco – Travis Lewis, ILB

24. Indianapolis – Ras-I Dowling, CB

25. Carolina – Ryan Broyles, WR

26. Minnesota – Matt Reynolds, OT

27. Pittsburgh – Nate Solder, OT

28. Detroit (from New Orleans) – Anthony Castonzo, OT

29. Green Bay – Brandon Harris, CB, Miami (FL)

30. San Diego – Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh

31. Jacksonville (from New England) – Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State

32. Dallas – Zach Brown, ILB

Here is also a super early mock for the rest of the Patriots' picks. Don't ask me how they will get so many; they just will. That is how Bill operates. All fall within my Patriot prospect perameters that I have posted in the past. Feel free to read both parts if it piques your interest.

1.     Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama

2a.  Jarvis Jenkins, DT, Clemson

2b. Ryan Kerrigan, OLB, Purdue

3a.  Stefen Wisniewski, C, Penn State

3b.  Mark Herzlich, OLB, Boston College

4.  Jerrell Jernigan, WR, Troy

5. Harold Ayodele, NT, Emporia State

6a. Zach Hurd, OG, Connecticut

6b. A.J. Jones, ILB, Florida

7a. Mark Starr, OT, Colorado State

7b. Austin Barrick, OG, Georgia Tech

7c. Tyrod Taylor, QB, Virginia Tech

The views expressed in these FanPosts are not necessarily those of the writers or SBNation.

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