The Freshtake staff is young, intelligent and incredibly confident group of men who consider ourselves more/less experts on the sports we write about. With that being said I decided to challenge the staff to post their individual picks for the eight division winners and four wildcard teams that make it to the playoffs in January.
This is a tradition myself and Mykhal have had for the past few years and will serve as a source of ego stroking at the end of the season. So sit back and watch and wait for the inevitable trash talking.
Lets start with the easiest division to predict, the AFC East. It’s obvious that the Patriots will win this division. It would be pointless to argue so let’s talk about second place. The
2011 All-Star team New York Jets will win second place. This prediction hinges on whether or not the Jets feel the urgency we as fans feel to give the Patriots a valid opponent in the division. I think they will. I think they put themselves in that “Island of Misfit Toys” mindset that got the Seahawks a championship and ride it out. They wont get a wildcard spot but Rex Ryan will live to coach another day.
Next up, how about the AFC West. Has anyone ever wondered how a Pro Bowl team would do in a regular season? The Denver Broncos are about to show us. An embarrassed Broncos squad will run through the regular season in a way that only Peyton Manning can. This is where I’m supposed to say the Kansas City Chiefs are going to win second place and a wildcard spot. I’m not going to say that. The Inconvenient Truth about the Chiefs run last year is that they had the benefit of the easy schedule that comes with being the worst team in the league. The San Diego Chargers are going to win second place and a wildcard spot. The surprise team of last season is a year better and a year hungrier.
Speaking of the previous season’s worst team in the league, let’s talk about the Houston Texans and the AFC South. The Texans, IF THEY CAN STAY HEALTHY, could find themselves with the second wildcard spot. This is a very hard hitting defense combined with a Pro Bowl running back and wide receiver. The biggest boost for Houston came over the weekend when it was announced that QB Ryan Mallett was traded to the Texans from the Patriots. Let’s ignore the fact that Mallett has spent three years learning from arguably the best head coach-starting QB combination in history. When Mallett was drafted, his first QB coach was current Texans’ head coach Bill O’Brien.
Rounding out the AFC, will be the hard-to-predict AFC North. Before Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon’s year long suspension because of repeated weed use was announced, all four teams were in the running. Pittsburgh Steelers RBs Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount will at some point be punished for their weed use so I’m counting them out as well. This leaves the Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens to fight over first place. The loser of the fight will likely get second place and the second wildcard spot if the Texans don’t stay healthy. The Bengals are currently the favorite to come out on top in this division.
Moving to the NFC there isn’t really an easy division to predict in the bunch but for you, I’ll try anyway. We’ll start in the NFC South. As much as it pains me to say, the New Orleans Saints have the division locked down. The Atlanta Falcons lack a defense and I can’t bring myself to trust a Carolina Panthers team with no receivers. However, I’m looking at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to surprise a lot of people and win second place with a good shot at that second wildcard spot even though they won’t be the ones to get it.
Next is the NFC North. This is the Green Bay Packers’ division to lose. The team is stacked at virtually every position and should be in the conversation of Super Bowl favorites. Second place will feature the annual dogfight between the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions. Neither team has shown enough “clutch-ness” to win my support. Neither of those teams will ultimately walk away with the second wildcard spot.
Let’s go to the second hardest to call division in football, the NFC West. Anyone that knows me knows that I love everything about the Seattle Seahawks these days. There’s to much parity in the NFL for me to commit to believing they’ll repeat as Super Bowl Champions but they will repeat as NFC West Champions. Second place and our first wildcard spot will go to the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers are good enough to win a division, it just so happens that they have to share NFC West with the Seahawks.
We end these previews with the NFC East. This is my favorite division in the NFL. These games are the most fun to watch. There’s trash talking, there’s long standing rivalries and there’s usually a lot of points on the board. I’m picking the Philadelphia Eagles. This team is just to talented not win again, barring injuries. I have a rule that whoever is playing the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17 will win either the division or the second wildcard spot. This year that team is the Washington Professional Football Team. The Washington team has talent everywhere including a healthy RGIII and a scorned DeSean Jackson. Health on the defensive side of the ball is what has done this team in in the past and if they can stay healthy this year they will be a team to watch.
Just to recap my picks are:
AFC North – Cincinnati Bengals
AFC South – Indianapolis Colts
AFC West – Denver Broncos
AFC East – New England Patriots
AFC Wildcard – San Diego Chargers and Houston Texans
NFC North – Green Bay Packers
NFC South – New Orleans Saints
NFC West – Seattle Seahawks
NFC East – Philadelphia Eagles
NFC Wildcard – San Francisco 49ers and Washington Professional Football Team