My predictions so far this year have been laugh out loud wrong. Rams going to the NFC Championship? Chargers winning the Super Bowl? The Vikings 8-8? Yeah, no. Naturally, that means I should do more useless non-forecasting...
Prediction #1 - Bengals Make The AFC Title Game
Every year there's a team that's not nearly as good as their record reflects because of an easy schedule. That was the Bears last year, and the Bengals are shaping up to fit that mold in 2011. Here's who they've beaten so far: Cleveland, Buffalo, Jacksonville, Indy, Seattle, Tennessee.
Their schedule does get a lot tougher from there: Pittsburgh twice, Baltimore twice, and Houston. But they also have Cleveland, St. Louis and Arizona, three very winnable games. So all they have to do is go 1-3 against Pitt/Balt and they're a 10 game winner. Here's the thing though...
The Bengals really aren't that bad. They remind me of the Jets the past couple years: young but competent QB (giving too much credit to The Sanchize here, I'd rather have Dalton), a top 5 defense against the run, a shut down corner (Leon Hall), some receivers who can do some things, and a competent running game. There's not much flash with the Bengals. They're all meat and potatoes. I'd argue the AFC is as wide open as its ever been since the Raiders made the Super Bowl in 2002, and a meat-and-potatoes team is good enough to get it done this year.
Look at the rest of the AFC this year. San Diego's offense blows and their defense isn't good enough to bail them out. Oakland is the most penalized team in the league (again) and their quarterback just came off the street two weeks ago. New England's defense can't stop anyone. The Jets make too many huge mistakes. Houston is soft and their defense may be a mirage considering they've barely had to play from behind at all this year. Baltimore still has Joe Flacco. I would not be surprised to see a Pittsburgh/Cincy AFC title game.
Prediction #2 - Bears Make The NFC Title Game, Again
Again, this is more of a statement on the rest of the NFC than it is an endorsement of the Bears. The East is awash in mediocrity (don't sell me the Giants, too many injuries). The Saints are your classic "good at home, lousy on the road" team. Atlanta's defense is not good - Chicago already kicked their ass this year 30-12. The only other serious teams out there are Green Bay obviously, and San Francisco, who are a complete wildcard thanks to Alex Smith and the offense. I'm going with the more experienced team and banking on a NFC Championship rematch. And maybe another appearance from Caleb Haine, just for comedy's sake.
Prediction #3 - Lions, Eagles Miss The Playoffs
Detroit looks to me like a classic case of a team that peaked too early. They looked great against the Bears in a playoff atmosphere at home on a Monday night, but the next two games against San Fran and Atlanta were lardass ugly. Granted they did just destroy Denver 45-10 as they were supposed to, but I think that's their destiny - beat bad teams, lose to good teams.
As for the Eagles, what more can you say about those frauds at this point? Name a linebacker on that team. I watch an obscene amount of football (and play an absurd number of trivia quizzes on sporcle.com) and I have no idea who any defenders are beyond Trent Cole, Cullen Jenkins and their "rock star" defensive backs, who have all looked like a bucket of horseass so far. Their offense has to be clicking 100% every game for them to have a chance, and so far that's only happened a handful of times.
Prediction #4 - Vikings Beat Packe--Nope, can't do it. I'll only go this far...
Prediction #4 - Vikings Cover -14.5 Spread At Lambeau
Final score - Packers 41, Vikings 31