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NFL Week 1 and Season Predictions: I’ve Gone Off the Rails

September 9, 2013

By Ross Mitchell

Note: I was way behind on my deadline so I didn’t edit this for grammar or spell check.  Seriously, if I were any later Vince would beat me up.

So I tried writing the article a multitude of different ways.  From the perspective of a fan to my typical jaded attitude toward the media.  Ultimately I decided that I’m happy football is back.  Both collegiate and professionally.  I love waking up on Saturday and catching whatever games happen to be one: Northwestern vs. Iowa, Ohio State versus Michigan State, Kansas State v. Texas, and Texas A&M vs. Florida, all at the same time.  Followed by USC versus Stanford, The Bedlam game, and Indiana versus Purdue.  Cap it off with Alabama-LSU and Oregon versus UCLA, and you have yourself a nice little Saturday.  But as much as entertaining as that can be, the it all comes down to Sunday.  Red Zone, Fantasy Football, and the NFL.  You know the feeling.  You know what I’m talking about.  Sitting on your sofa, starring into the TV, pretending the world doesn’t exist outside of 16 NFL stadiums and from wherever the pizza delivery guy appeared.  It’s glorious.  Glorious.

 Below are my week one picks.  I wasn’t able to get the spread to accommodate the degenerate gambler who follow this blog (you shouldn’t bet, there, now I can’t be sued).  I’ve included what I think about each team in the upcoming season and finally my season predictions; team record, individual awards, and how the post season will play out.  In the end, football is back.  And we are all so, so happy.

 (Home teams in bold)

Denver Broncos over Baltimore Ravens

Denver: Lofty expectations for the men from Mile High.  Lots of turnover too.  The defense will struggle while Von Miller serves his six-game suspension.  However, they should be fine with perhaps the most potent offense in the league.  If you were to ask me which is more likely, Peyton Manning throwing for 5,000 yards or Peyton Manning not throwing for 5,000 yards, I’d take the former.

Baltimore: This team could absolutely win the Super Bowl again.  Yes they’ve been bitten by the injury bug, yes there are a lot of new faces.  But the pass-rush featuring Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil should be better than last year.  As will the defense as a whole.  And I think we can stop questioning Joe Flacco now.  I see a return to the playoffs, and career bests by Torrey Smith and some guy named Ray Rice.

Note: I wrote this before Peyton Manning went insane and threw for 75 touchdowns.

New England Patriots over Buffalo Bills

New England: Quiet offseason in Foxboro.  Not much to report about.  In all seriousness, on the field, it going to be hard for anyone to challenge the Patriots for the division crown.  Not because New England are world beaters.  But because they have a competent offense and defense.  No one else in that division an claim that.  Tom Brady will be fine, so will Rob Gronkowski.  But for everyone who says Danny Amendola will just step in and replace (and surpass) Wes Welker’s production, I say to you, “hahahahahaha”.

Buffalo: I said when E.J. Manuel was drafted the Bills wasted their first round pick.  I said that they failed to learn their lesson after firing Chan Gailey and hiring Doug Marrone.  So far I’m willing to admit that Manuel looks not only competent, but good.  I’m not sold on Marrone yet.  The Bills are an interesting team because C.J. Spiller has such high upside, but until the defense shows a hint of reliability, I can’t trust them to win week-in and week-out.

Carolina Panthers over Seattle Seahawks

Game Note: One of the more underrated stats in the NFL are how bad teams are when traveling cross-country in early games.

Carolina: When Cam Newton first broke into the league he was as successful as any quarterback (not just rookie quarterback) we have seen.  He simply dominated.  Much of that was attributed to Carolina’s ability to run the football and the defense’s inability to hold a lead.  They ran early, passed late.  Toward the second half of the 2011 season, and the first half of 2012, Carolina got away from what made them successful.  They were a pass heavy team and in turn, Cam earned the “turnover prone” stigma.  Now with a defense that could elevate to elite status this season, Carolina is on the verge of returning to the postseason.  However, I think they fall just short.

Seattle: I’m not in love with Seattle like everyone else is.  In fact I think people still see them as the offensive juggernaut that beat up two bad teams and blew out the 49ers when San Francisco was playing for nothing in Week 16.  Imagine that, Pete Carroll running up the score on people.  Nor does anyone want to see that offensively, the Seahawks have made minimal, if any improvement (until (if) Percy Harvin returns).  Or that one of their 11 wins was the Failmary, I love Russell Wilson.  But he, like RGIII, Andrew Luck, and Colin Kaepernick, will now draw the ire of every defensive coordinator in the league.  Lots of things went right for Seattle in 2012.  Will the same thing happen in 2013?

Chicago Bears over Cincinnati Bengals

Chicago: Lovie Smith, fired.  Brian Urlacher, retired.  Lots of change on the lakefront.  Despite going 10-6, the Bears failed to qualify for the playoffs.  General Manager Phil Emery replaced Smith with CFL Coach and offensive/quarterback guru Marc Trestman.  He replaced Brian Urlacher with veteran D.J. Williams and impressive rookie Jonathan Bostic.  Most importantly he has attempted to repair an offensive line that in recent memory, actively tried to kill quarterback Jay Cutler.  The defense appears to be an elite unit once again, and the offense is bursting with potential.  But that doesn’t translate into wins.  Personally, I’m as big of a Jay Cutler supporter as you will find, yet I have no reservations saying he was bad for long stretches last season.  Nor do I have any hesitation saying he has to experience both team and individual success this season if he wants the lucrative contract every player in the NFL so desires.  A lot rides on his shoulders this season, specifically his right one.  He finally has the tools around him to reach his potential.  Interesting correlation.

(However, even if he bad this season, that validate all the unnecessary criticism he has received in the past.  Most of his struggles were due to external factors, not because he is the updated version of Jeff George, or he doesn’t care, or he’s soft, or whatever inaccurate statement is tossed out there.)

Cincinnati: I love the Bengals.  They’re my pick to win the AFC.  Geno Atkins is this season’s breakout defensive player (though he’s already the best defensive tackle in the game).  James Harrison will revitalize his career in the tiger stripes.  The defense as a whole is stout.  The coaching staff is as good as they come.  Giovani Bernard has offensive rookie-of-the-year ability.  Andy Dalton might be the most underrated quarterback in the NFL, with a top-five offensive line protecting him.  And A.J. Green is a game-breaker.  They could win this game by 21.  They could lose by 21.  Regardless, I expect the Bengals to take a tremendous step forward, playing in as late as early-February.

Cleveland Browns over Miami Dolphins

Cleveland: If it weren’t for the aforementioned Bengals, I’d pick the Browns to be my worst-to-first team.  Instead (and don’t ask me to explain this because I can’t) I have them finishing third behind Cincinnati and Baltimore.  But they will be better.  And they could surprise.  Say what you will about Norv Turner the head coach, Norv Turner the offensive coordinator has experienced decades of success.  Brandon Weeden will benefit from his ingenuity, as will Trent Richardson and the Browns young-but-talented receiving core.  The defense is solid, led by shutdown cornerback Joe Hayden, Super Bowl champion Paul Kruger, and rookie Barkevioius Mingo.  My mother considered naming me Barkevious, then the anesthetic kicked in.  Lastly, the Browns could have the best offensive line in the league.

Miami: Remember how unlikeable the Dolphins’ coaching staff was on Hard Knocks in 2012?  They’re still there.  Remember how valuable Reggie Bush was to the Dolphins offensive?  How everything ran through him?  He’s not still there.  Neither is their bookend offensive tackle Jake Long.  Instead they added Mike Wallace, who is in my opinion the best “take-a-top-off-a-defense” receiver in the league, and moved Jonathan Martin from right tackle to left.  A lot of people are high on the Dolphins.  I’m not.  I think the rift between the players and coaches will increase beyond repair.  I think Joe Philbin is fired by the end of the season and the Dolphins finish last in the division.  Because honestly, tell me what the Dolphins do well?  Tell me what their strengths are?  Even if you can, nothing can counteract talent like poor leadership.

Detroit Lions over Minnesota Vikings

Detroit: The NFC North is wide open in my opinion.  Literally every team has a realistic shot at winning 10 to 12 games.  Each team has question marks, each team has strengths.  For the Lions there strength, obviously, is their offense.  Last year Matthew Stafford set an NFL record, becoming the first quarterback to pass the ball 9,000,000 times per game.  Their weaknesses are lack of discipline, the secondary, and to a lesser extent, the running game.  I say to a lesser extent because the Detroit offense is truly indicative of the modern-day NFL.  Instead of trying to be something they’re not and sign a between-the-tackle ball-carrier, they inked Reggie Bush.  While Bush is certainly capable of getting gritty yardage, he is perhaps the best pass-catching running back in the NFL.  Look for Detroit to supplement their runs with swing passes and screens.  Put Bush in open space.  And oh yeah, toss the ball up to some guy named Calvin Johnson.  Matthew Stafford threw for 20 touchdowns last season, Calvin Johnson had 4 touchdowns.  Expect both to double, at minimum.  As far as the other weaknesses go, Glover Quin is an upgrade at safety and Darius Slay is a promising cornerback.  In terms of discipline, that comes from the coaching staff.  Jim Schwartz and company had better improve upon the brain-fart that was last season, or they will be out of a job.

Minnesota: I don’t know if you know this but Adrian Peterson isn’t human.  Example: I blew my shoulder out over ten years ago.  I still lack full range of motion.  Adrian Peterson blew out his knee in Week 16 of the 2011 season, then proceeded to fall eight yards short of the single-season rushing record.  And while Peterson lacks my athleticism, his success was nothing short of remarkable.  Did I say lacks my athleticism?  Because what I meant is I get winded tying my shoes.  The Viking defense, headed by Jared Allen and Chad Greenway is more than reliable, while Greg Jennings is the best pure receiver the Vikings have had since Randy Moss.  But the biggest question mark remains the quarterback, Christian Ponder.  Personally, I think Ponder can be good this year.  Do I expect him to be Peyton Manning or Tom Brady?  No.  But it’s his third season.  He made tremendous strides from Year One to Year Two, much like Joe Flacco, much like Andy Dalton.  He can win help win games.  And defenses keying in on stopping Peterson, even a slightly improved Ponder should be able to capitalize on unsuspecting defenses.

Indianapolis Colts over Oakland Raiders

Game Note: The Raiders are involved in this game so they’ll probably lose.

Oakland: There isn’t much to look forward to for the Raiders.  You might say that this season will be played…in a black hole!  Apologizes.  That was terrible.  But not as terrible Oakland’s team.  Boom!  Take that millionaire professional athletes!  This season will be highlighted in Week 3 when Sebastian Janikowski makes his annual trip to the thin-air of Denver, Colorado, and tries to achieve his never-ending-dream of kicking a 70-yard field goal.  Besides that…maybe Terrelle Pryor turns into a dynamic playmaker?  Maybe the defense proves to be an up-and-coming unit (I do like rookie D.J. Hayden a lot).  Maybe Darren McFadden plays well in a contract year?    Maybe all these things happen.  Even if they do, what’s the ceiling?  8-8?  9-7?  My guess is come the NFL Draft (that now for some reason is in May), the Raiders have yet another top-five overall pick.

Indianapolis: T.Y. Hilton is a potential pro-bowler.  He is a candidate for most improved player of the year.  However, I’m not in love with the rest of the team.  While I do think Andrew Luck will improve his overall game, I’m not in love with the Colts offense.  Yes, I know Pep Hamilton was his college offensive coordinator and now calls the plays for the Horseshoe.  I know that they have implemented a series two tight-end set to take advantage of Luck’s strengths as a passer.  But, Pep Hamilton is his offensive coordinator.  He has no experience as a play-caller on an NFL level.  He is replacing Bruce Arians, the man who should have won coach of the year last season.  The man who has proven success on multiple teams with multiple quarterbacks on the professional level.  With respect to Pep Hamilton, he’s not an upgrade over Bruce Arians.  As far as the defense goes, Chuck Pagano a brilliant defensive mind, but what is that team’s identity?  Who are their playmakers?  At this point, I’m not ready to call Indianapolis a playoff team.  They’re the last team out.

 Kansas City Chiefs over Jacksonville Jaguars

Game Note: I don’t care.

Kansas City: Did you hear?  They’re remaking the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Raw Deal.  It’s starring Alex Smith as the quarterback with the highest completion percentage in the NFL, including going 18/19 in his final performance, before getting injured then replaced by a more dynamic playmaker.  He then watches his team make it to the Super Bowl (or one win further than the previous season) before being traded to the 2-14 Kansas City Chiefs.  I’ve had multiple conversations about Alex Smith this offseason.  Why?  I don’t have a good excuse.  He is what he is, and that’s a productive quarterback who can win games if used correctly.  He won’t have eye-popping stats, nor will he turn the ball over.  If you are going to quantify his numbers or compare his athleticism, he’s going to fall short.  But if you’re trying to run an efficient offense be content in the postseason, find me a quarterback the past two seasons with more wins.  That being said, the Chiefs should be much improved this season.  I have them going 8-8 and I freely admit that could be a few wins less of which they are capable.

Jacksonville: Can we stop with all the Blaine Gabbert hate?  Seriously.  He’s not the world quarterback in NFL history.  He’s not even the worst starting quarterback in the league.  Was he drafted too high?  Sure, but that can be said for almost every quarterback ever taken.  That’s the way the business works.  QB Inflation, get used to it.  That being said, Gabbert improved his completion percentage by 7.5%, as well as his yards per game by 18.4 yards and touchdown-to-interception ratio to 3:2.  He’s not a finished product.  He has room for growth.  Again, I don’t pretend he is a world beater, but let’s not write the book on his career while he is still in the early chapters.  As far as the Jaguars go, I think they will be a “good-bad team”, or a team one year away from being competitive.  Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon are promising receivers, and I truly believe Luke Joeckel has pro-bowl ability.  A healthy Maurice Jones-Drew and the Jaguars offense could be better most…  On second thought, I’m not going to finish that sentence.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers over New York Jets

Game Note: The defenses will score more touchdowns than the offenses.  Can I start Darrelle Revis at WR in my fantasy football league…leagues…seven leagues?

Tampa Bay: If anyone drops the “Tampa Bay had the best run defense in the league” argument, your counter should be, “that’s because everyone and their mother was passing on them, to the tune of 297.4 yards per game”.  That was the worst in the league.  Yes, worse than the Saints, if that’s even possible.  To their credit, the Bucs went out and addressed their needs through the draft and free agency, signing Dashon Goldson, trading for Darrelle Revis, and drafting Mark Barron.  What was the worst secondary in the league in 2012 could be the best in 2013.  However, while the passing yards against should decrease significantly, I don’t expect the Bucs to have the top rushing defense in consecutive.  On offense, Doug Martin is a special talent, and Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams are the most underrated receiving combination in the NFL.  But I don’t think this team finishes above .500.  I’m not a Greg Schiano fan.  I like Josh Freeman but he can be his own worst enemy.  Ultimately, they strike me as a very mediocre team.

New York Jets: Speaking of mediocre…or, not good enough to be mediocre, the Jets!  I’ll keep this brief.  Bad offensive line, quarterback controversy, no offensive weapons, coach on the hot seat.  There is a strong chance the defense returns to being an elite unit, good enough to win games against teams with otherwise equal talent.  But unless the defense starts housing interceptions and fumble recoveries on a game-by-game basis, we are looking at perhaps the most offensively inept franchise since, well, the Jets.

New Orleans Saints over Atlanta Falcons

New Orleans: The Saints are out for blood this year.  After the “Bountygate” debacle and his year-long suspension, Sean Payton is going to do everything and everything to get back at Roger Goodell for tarnishing his reputation and denying him millions of dollars.  The best way to do that?  Force Goodell to hand him the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season.  Look, I’m not stating anything we don’t already know when I say that New Orleans has one of the elite offenses in the NFL.  Drew Brees is my pick for league MVP this season.  The big question mark has to be the defense.  But they don’t need to be world-beaters.  They just need to be middle of the pack and opportunistic.  Quite honestly they can’t be any worse than last season, because statistically last season they were the worst defense, ever.  I see that happening.  In fact I see the defense being flat out good.  Just how good?  Check out my picks at the bottom.

Atlanta: Mike Smith is Jay Peterman.  Seinfeld reference.  That show ended in 1999, which is also the last time the Falcons went to the Super Bowl.  Last season was there chance.  They had the 49ers right where they wanted them and couldn’t seal the deal.  The window has closed.  The Falcons might be competitive, but I think the ship has sailed.  Am I out of metaphors?  Yes I am.  While I love Roddy White and Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez and Matt Ryan, I’m not nearly as excited about Steven Jackson as everyone else.  Mainly because the Falcons’ line can’t run block.  And how did the defense, which was borderline average, get better?  One of my bold predictions for the season, is that Atlanta finishes under .500.  At the end of the year I’m certain I will look like an idiot, but I’m confident it won’t be because of this pick.

Tennessee Titans over Pittsburgh Steelers

Tennessee: The Titans offensive line looked ridiculous in the preseason.  The best comparison I can make is to the complete and utter decimation Alabama inflicted on Notre Dame in the national championship game.  There were holes wide enough for me to run (waddle) through.  So good in fact that I believe Tennessee will vie with the Cleveland Browns as the most improved offense in the AFC.  Chris Johnson and Shonn Greene are a dynamic and versatile backfield.  Jake Locker is poised for a huge step up in his production.  And Kenny Britt (if his knee is back to 100%) and Kendall Wright can both spread the field and take the top off a defense.  I was so excited about Tennessee I originally had them going 9-7 and finishing as my sixth playoff and second wild card team.  Then I remembered the defense.  Ouch.

Pittsburgh: It’s weird.  I think Mike Tomlin is as good of a coach as there is in the NFL.  I still think Ben Roethlisberger is an elite quarterback.  That defense remains formidable.  But I can’t get excited about the Steelers this season.  Maybe it’s the feeling that they’re due for a bad year.  Maybe I’m 100% wrong about this and they make another deep playoff push.  But whether it be a lack of a clear number one running back in a run-heavy system, the questions on the offensive line, the good but not great receiving core, or how highly I hold the other teams in the division, I’m convinced Pittsburgh will struggle this year.

Arizona Cardinals over St. Louis Rams

Arizona: Since the NFL has gone to the eight-division format, a team that enters the season having finished last in their division has gone on to win their division the following year.  The popular choice in 2013 is the Kansas City Chiefs.  I’ve even heard a few people say the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Detroit Lions.  I’m going against the grain.  Powerfully against the grain.  I’m going against the two teams most experts have picked as the perennial favorites to win the NFC (San Francisco and Seattle).  That’s right, I’m picking the Arizona Cardinals to win the NFC West.  Commit me now.  Here’s my thinking: 1) there is an actual NFL quarterback on the roster.  Yes Carson Palmer throws a lot of picks, but he throws for a lot of yards and touchdowns too; 2) the offensive line is better, as is the running game, with the return of Levi Brown and addition of Eric Winston and Rashard Mendenhall; 3) this is the breakout defense of the 2013 season.  Patrick Peterson is the best cornerback west of the Mississippi River.  And the Honey Badger, Tyrone Mathieu is going to win defensive rookie of the year.  This game in particular might be a tall task, considering the Rams pass rush (I said the offensive line is better, not good), but I’m going to stick to my guns.

St. Louis: The Rams are another team that people think will break out this season.  I see them as a .500 club.  I like the defense, I like Sam Bradford, I like Jake Long and the offensive line.  But I don’t like a team that has a multitude of big-play, rookie wide receivers topping their depth chart.  Tavon Austin and Chris Givens can blow by a cornerback almost at will, but can they run crisp routes?  Can they make the difficult catches across the middle of the field on 3rd-and-7?  Eventually, yes.  But there are going to be growing pains.

San Francisco 49ers over Green Bay Packers

San Francisco: Boy that Colin Kaepernick sure was impressive in the 10 games he played in on the Niners way to (and-including) the Super Bowl.  San Francisco better hope he’s just as good and doesn’t struggle now that teams have spent all season scheming against the read-option.  I will give him credit, he was outstanding.  He was given an opportunity and he thrived.  But I’m not ready to call this guy a hall-of-famer like so many others.  I’m not ready to call him elite.  Same with Luck, same with RGIII, same with Russell Wilson.  I want to see a player excel for more than just a handful of games before I anoint them as something special.  Just look at Cam Newton.  He was “nothing we’ve ever seen” and will “revolutionize the game” in 2011.  In 2012 he was a pouter, a poor passer, and turnover prone.  A good fantasy quarterback but we’ll wait and see on his actual NFL career.  However, the Niners defense is the best in the NFL.  Their line is fantastic, as is the ageless (and often overlooked) Frank Gore (who should be in the Hall of Fame himself if he manages to win a ring before he retires).  It will be another strong season on the Bay.

Green Bay: Message to everyone who thinks Green Bay is better when they run the ball more; You’re taking the ball out of Aaron Rodgers hand.  Running the ball does not correlate with success.  You don’t need to do it to be successful in the NFL anymore, that’s a fact.  Being able to run for a yard when you need a yard is important, as is keeping a defense honest by running the ball, but Adrian Peterson ran for almost 2,100 yards and the Vikings barely made the playoffs.  Aaron Rodgers had his worst season in three years and the Packers won the division.  Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin might enable the Packers to run the ball more effectively when they do run the ball, but the Packers running for the sake of running is just about the worst idea I’ve ever heard.  Now, on a whole, I see the Packers taking a step back in 2013.  The defense lost their leader (Charles Woodson) and the offensive line has gone from bad to worse with the injury of Brian Bulaga.  However, a step back for the Packers is still a 10-win season.

Dallas Cowboys over New York Giants

Dallas: Tony Romo’s a good quarterback.  He dropped an extra-point seven years ago.  Time to move on, they would have gotten trounced by the Bears the next week anyway.  He throws some backbreaking interceptions every now and then.  So does every quarterback.  The Cowboys haven’t made the playoffs in recent history because of the defense.  Because of the lack of a running game.  Because of sheer bad luck.  I do think it’s hilarious that, heading into Week 17, they’ve had the opportunity to win the division three years in a row, and all three years they’ve lost to the three other teams in the division (the Eagles in 2010, the Giants in 2011, and the Redskins in 2012).  But it might all be worth it if that translates into a Super Bowl in 2013.  The defense has to play more consistently for the Cowboys to reach the playoffs, and DeMarco Murray has to stay healthy, especially in November and December (and early January).  I think they will, and Jerry World hosts its first postseason game in its short but wildly over-zealous history.

New York Giants: The Giants are hard to figure out.  They will dominate New England, Denver, and San Francisco, only to lose to the Panthers, Eagles, and Dolphins.  Perhaps they’re a microcosm of today’s NFL, a week-to-week team that can truly win or lose on any given Sunday.  Or they’re mediocre.  A lot rides on David Wilson’s shoulders this season now that he’s receiving the lion’s share of the carries.  Even more fall on Eli Manning’s.  Again, I think the Giants are an average team, but if any one squad can sneak into the playoffs and catch fire at the right time, it would be the G-Men!

Washington Redskins over Philadelphia Eagles

Washington: I just want Rex Grossman to play.

Philadelphia: Someone explain to me how Chip Kelly’s high tempo offense will revolutionize the game when the Eagles are constantly going 3-and-out?

Houston Texans over San Diego Chargers

Houston: Arian Foster is fine physically.  Andre Johnson isn’t washed up.  Matt Schaub is good enough to win a Super Bowl.  The defense is one of the best in the league.  Houston is a Super Bowl contender.  The question is whether or not they are able to take the next step.  I think they will be, making yet another deep playoff run.

San Diego: I used to loath Phillip Rivers.  I was the first one to say he was a product of the talent around him and he in fact did not make those around him better.  Now that he has no talent around him I can see that I was wrong.  He’s not mobile, which means he needs a good line to excel.  He makes receivers and tight ends play to a higher level than they are otherwise capable, but if he can’t get the ball off because he’s flat on his back, the point is moot.  I wonder if he will be in another uniform at the end of the season, as I don’t expect the Chargers to be very good this year.  However, I fully admit that the defense might be better than I give them credit for, and they could sneak into that final playoff seed in the otherwise awful AFC (I think Cincinnati, Houston, Denver, New England, and Baltimore are all playoff caliber teams.  The final spot is a crapshoot between Miami (though I don’t like them), Kansas City, Indianapolis, and dark horses like Cleveland, San Diego and Tennessee).

And now my season predictions.  I took some long shots because why not:

AFC

East

(4) New England Patriots              (10-6)

Buffalo Bills                                        (6-10)

New York Jets                                    (6-10)

Miami Dolphins                                (5-11)

North

(1) Cincinnati Bengals                      (12-4)

(5) Baltimore Ravens                        (10-6)

(6) Cleveland Browns                         (9-7)

Pittsburgh Steelers                             (7-9)

West

(2) Denver Broncos                          (12-4)

Kansas City Chiefs                              (8-8)

San Diego Chargers                         (6-10)

Oakland Raiders                               (3-13)

South

(3) Houston Texans                         (11-5)

Indianapolis Colts                               (9-7)

Tennessee Titans                                (7-9)

Jacksonville Jaguars                          (3-13)

NFC

East

(4) Dallas Cowboys                           (10-6)

Washington Redskins                       (9-7)

New York Giants                                 (8-8)

Philadelphia Eagles                          (4-12)

North

(3) Chicago Bears                             (11-5)

(6) Green Bay Packers                   (10-6)

Detroit Lions                                        (8-8)

Minnesota Vikings                             (7-9)

West

(2) Arizona Cardinals                       (11-5)

(5) San Francisco 49ers                   (11-5)

Seattle Seahawks                               (8-8)

St. Louis Rams                                     (8-8)

South

(1) New Orleans Saints                   (11-5)

Carolina Panthers                               (8-8)

Atlanta Falcons                                    (7-9)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers                   (6-10)

MVP: Drew Brees

DMVP: Geno Atkins

Coach of the Year: Sean Payton

Offensive Player of the Year: Peyton Manning

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Giovanni Bernard

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Tyrone Mathieu

Most Improved Offensive Player: Mark Ingram

Most Improved Defensive Player: Shea McClellin

Comeback Player of the Year: Alex Smith

Playoffs

 AFC Wild Card

3. Houston Texans over 6. Cleveland Browns; 5. Baltimore Ravens over 4. New England Patriots

NFC Wild Card

3. Chicago Bears over 6. Green Bay Packers; 4. Dallas Cowboys over 5. San Francisco 49ers

AFC Divisional Playoffs

1. Cincinnati Bengals over 5. Baltimore Ravens; 3. Houston Texans over 2. Denver Broncos

 NFC Divisional Playoffs

1. New Orleans Saints over 4. Dallas Cowboys; 3. Chicago Bears over 2. Arizona Cardinals

AFC Championship

1. Cincinnati Bengals over 3. Houston Texans

NFC Championship:

1. New Orleans Saints over 3. Chicago Bears

Super Bowl XLVIII

1. New Orleans Saints over 1. Cincinnati Bengals

Super Bowl MVP: Drew Brees

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