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SI.com's 2011 NFL Season Predictions

SI.com's NFL Season Predictions
NFL Playoffs
Peter King
 AFC     NFC 
 East AFC Championship NFC Championship East 
 North     over         over     North 
 South         South 
 West  Super Bowl  West 
  Wildcard        over        Wildcard  
  Wildcard           Wildcard  
 
Don Banks
 AFC     NFC 
 East AFC Championship NFC Championship East 
 North     over         over     North 
 South         South 
 West  Super Bowl  West 
  Wildcard        over        Wildcard  
  Wildcard           Wildcard  
 
Jim Trotter
 AFC     NFC 
 East AFC Championship NFC Championship East 
 North     over         over     North 
 South         South 
 West  Super Bowl  West 
  Wildcard        over        Wildcard  
  Wildcard           Wildcard  
 
Chris Burke
 AFC     NFC 
 East AFC Championship NFC Championship East 
 North     over         over     North 
 South         South 
 West  Super Bowl  West 
  Wildcard        over        Wildcard  
  Wildcard           Wildcard  
 
Damon Hack
 AFC     NFC 
 East AFC Championship NFC Championship East 
 North     over         over     North 
 South         South 
 West  Super Bowl  West 
  Wildcard        over        Wildcard  
  Wildcard           Wildcard  
 
Kerry J. Byrne
 AFC     NFC 
 East AFC Championship NFC Championship East 
 North     over         over     North 
 South         South 
 West  Super Bowl  West 
  Wildcard        over        Wildcard  
  Wildcard           Wildcard  
 
Andrew Perloff
 AFC     NFC 
 East AFC Championship NFC Championship East 
 North     over         over     North 
 South         South 
 West  Super Bowl  West 
  Wildcard        over        Wildcard  
  Wildcard           Wildcard  
 
Tom Mantzouranis
 AFC     NFC 
 East AFC Championship NFC Championship East 
 North     over         over     North 
 South         South 
 West  Super Bowl  West 
  Wildcard        over        Wildcard  
  Wildcard           Wildcard  
 
Season Awards
 
Peter King
 MVP Off. Player Def. Player Off. Rookie Def. Rookie Coach 
 
Philip Rivers
Chargers
 
Philip Rivers
Chargers
 
DeMarcus Ware
Cowboys
 
Andy Dalton
Bengals
 
Von Miller
Broncos
 
Jim Schwartz
Lions
 
 
Don Banks
 MVP Off. Player Def. Player Off. Rookie Def. Rookie Coach 
 
Aaron Rodgers
Packers
 
Aaron Rodgers
Packers
 
Ndamukong Suh
Lions
 
Julio Jones
Falcons
 
Von Miller
Broncos
 
Jim Schwartz
Lions
 
 
Jim Trotter
 MVP Off. Player Def. Player Off. Rookie Def. Rookie Coach 
 
Philip Rivers
Chargers
 
Arian Foster
Texans
 
Ndamukong Suh
Lions
 
Mark Ingram
Saints
 
Von Miller
Broncos
 
Jim Schwartz
Lions
 
 
Chris Burke
 MVP Off. Player Def. Player Off. Rookie Def. Rookie Coach 
 
Tom Brady
Patriots
 
Drew Brees
Saints
 
LaMarr Woodley
Steelers
 
Julio Jones
Falcons
 
Von Miller
Broncos
 
Steve Spagnuolo
Rams
 
 
Damon Hack
 MVP Off. Player Def. Player Off. Rookie Def. Rookie Coach 
 
Aaron Rodgers
Packers
 
Aaron Rodgers
Packers
 
Ndamukong Suh
Lions
 
Julio Jones
Falcons
 
Von Miller
Broncos
 
Bill Belichick
Patriots
 
 
Kerry J. Byrne
 MVP Off. Player Def. Player Off. Rookie Def. Rookie Coach 
 
Aaron Rodgers
Packers
 
Jamaal Charles
Chiefs
 
Ndamukong Suh
Lions
 
Mark Ingram
Saints
 
Von Miller
Broncos
 
Jim Schwartz
Lions
 
 
Andrew Perloff
 MVP Off. Player Def. Player Off. Rookie Def. Rookie Coach 
 
Drew Brees
Saints
 
Andre Johnson
Texans
 
Darrelle Revis
Jets
 
A.J. Green
Bengals
 
Von Miller
Broncos
 
Steve Spagnuolo
Rams
 
 
Tom Mantzouranis
 MVP Off. Player Def. Player Off. Rookie Def. Rookie Coach 
 
Philip Rivers
Chargers
 
Jamaal Charles
Chiefs
 
DeMarcus Ware
Cowboys
 
Mark Ingram
Saints
 
Von Miller
Broncos
 
Jim Schwartz
Lions
 
 
Best Team That Won't Make the Playoffs
 
King
The offense will be top-five, Mario Williams will transition well to the 3-4, and look out for Brooks Reed making a pass-rush impact. That won't be enough, though.
Banks
Jason Garrett and Rob Ryan will make a difference in Dallas this season, but a strong start won't be quite enough to offset a rough schedule at the close of the year, leaving the Cowboys at 9-7 and just out of the playoff money.
Trotter
The playoff run has to end at some point. This is it.
Burke
If this is finally going to be the Texans' year, someone has to be out. And I don't think the Jets are as good as the five other teams I have in.
Hack
The Giants were quiet as church mice during the post-lockout free agent period. That, and the turnover bug, will be enough to keep them out of the postseason.
Byrne
Same problem as last year: Tons of talent, but turnovers, lack of discipline and poor situational football doom the G-Men.
Perloff
The G-Men have had a tough preseason, losing cornerbacks Terrell Thomas and Prince Amukamara to injury, and tight end Kevin Boss to free agency. But their outstanding defensive line still makes them a tough opponent. They're just not consistent enough offensively to fend off the Eagles and Cowboys.
Mantzouranis
Even if you forget about Manning's injury worries, the Texans are simply a more talented, well-rounded team. Add in that infamous neck and a patchwork offensive line, and it appears to be the end of the Colts' AFC South stranglehold.
 
Team With the Worst Record
 
King
I trust Andy Dalton. Just not this year, in a new offense, with no offseason program and having to outscore teams because the defense will be, at best, middle of the pack. And if Carson Palmer comes back, how exactly is learning a new offense in the middle of a season an elixir?
Banks
Starting a rookie at quarterback will be only one of the reasons the Bengals bottom out at 3-13. But that earns them the Luck-y chance to start another rookie quarterback next season.
Trotter
No established QB + young receivers + no pass rush = Andrew Luck.
Burke
Carolina actually made some headway in free agency, but the QB situation is too unstable. This franchise will be far better in 2012 than 2011.
Hack
A rookie quarterback in the league's most violent division adds up to 3-13 for the Bengals.
Byrne
The Bills couldn't score points last year (17.7 PPG) but made up for it with one of the league's worst defenses (26.6 PPG). They looked no better in the preseason and still have a poor QB situation, with a staff of ho-hum journeymen. It all spells another long season for tortured Bills fans.
Perloff
Don't let the Panthers' decision to give big contracts to DeAngelo Williams and Charles Johnson fool you into thinking this team is improving. Neither player merited that kind of investment, and new coach Ron Rivera has a limited pool of talent. Carolina faces the toughest schedule in the league based on last season's record, and quarterback Cam Newton will struggle even more than most expect.
Mantzouranis
It was a tough call, but the Bengals' roster is sad, and their schedule doesn't boast any immediately winnable games. Not saying they'll go 0-16, but Lions fans should get the champagne ready just in case.
 
Star Who Has A Subpar Season
 
Tony Gonzalez :: Vern Verna/Landov
King
Reggie Bush, Dolphins: I like Bush -- if used properly. I think Miami views him as an every-down back, which his injury history suggests is a big mistake. We shall see.

Banks
Osi Umenyiora, Giants: He's only 29, but it's tough to like any of the vibes surrounding the veteran New York defensive end these days. Between his preseason knee surgery and the bitterness over his contract, this has lost year written all over it.

Trotter
Tony Gonzalez, Falcons: QB Matt Ryan already had a dominant wideout in Roddy White, and now he'll want to show off his new toy, rookie wideout Julio Jones. That'll mean fewer balls for Gonzalez.

Burke
Brian Urlacher, Bears: The linebacker is still an intimidating force and will probably top 100 tackles again, but he's definitely lost a step.

Hack
Tony Gonzalez, Falcons: The best tight end of his generation still has great pride, work ethic and hands -- but the hands of time are undefeated.

Byrne
Peyton Manning, Colts: The future first-ballot Hall of Famer has gone through a steady statistical decline since his record-setting 2004 season. His passer ratings each year: 121.1 (2004); 104.1 (2005); 101.0 (2006); 98.0 (2007); 95.0 (2008); 99.9 (2009); 91.9 (2010). Now add huge concerns over the health of the 35-year-old Indy Ironman.

Perloff
James Harrison, Steelers: The Steelers' linebacker has been one of the two or three most dominant defensive players of the last five years, but he's 33 and coming off back surgery. He also has a big target on his back from the NFL for illegal hits. That hasn't slowed him down in the past, but combined with physical issues, it could finally start to affect his play. The Steelers have a great defensive scheme under Dick LeBeau and if Harrison does decline, someone else will likely step right in and add to their fierce pass rush.

Mantzouranis
Michael Turner, Falcons: His running style makes him more prone to injury and earlier decline. And with the Falcons looking to up their explosiveness, expect rookie Jacquizz Rodgers to take on a pretty prominent role in the Falcons' backfield.
 
Non-Star Who Has Breakout Season
 
Jahvid Best :: Detroit Free Press/MCT/Landov
King
Antonio Brown, Steelers: Last season, who was one of Ben Roethlisberger's go-to guys in the playoffs? This sixth-rounder from Central Michigan. It continues.

Banks
Danny Amendola, Rams: He's already Sam Bradford's security blanket on every pass route, and now this Wes Welker clone (he even went to Texas Tech like Welker) is poised to put up far more than the 689 yards receiving and three touchdowns he produced in 2010.

Trotter
Matthew Stafford, Lions: The former No. 1 pick always has had the talent. This year he'll have the good health to show it off.

Burke
Jahvid Best, Lions: With Mikel Leshoure's injury, Detroit needs Best to be a dynamic weapon in the offense, and he's capable of filling that role.

Hack
Julio Jones, Falcons: A young and talented receiver joins a high-powered Falcons offense. It's a perfect fit.

Byrne
Josh Freeman, Buccaneers: The Bucs quarterback had a statistical breakout year in 2010 (95.9 passer rating and a Tom Brady-esque 25 TD, 6 INT). But now it's time for the public to notice that the best "young gun" in the game today resides in Tampa, not Baltimore or Atlanta.

Perloff
Jimmy Graham, Saints: Drew Brees spreads the ball around, but Graham stood out as a primary target during the preseason. The second-year tight end is a former basketball player like the Chargers' Antonio Gates, and at 6-foot-6, 260 pounds, Graham is an impossible matchup for any defensive position. With Jeremy Shockey gone, Graham should reach 1,000 receiving yards and be a major weapon in the red zone.

Mantzouranis
Mike Sims-Walker, Rams: After posting solid numbers for the anemic Jags, he's the No. 1 option for an emerging quarterback and coordinator known for his aerial prowess.
 
First Coach To Get Fired
 
Marvin Lewis :: Frank Victores/US Presswire
King
None: I do not believe a coach will be fired before the end of the regular season. After such a tumultuous offseason, no owner will be dumb enough to scapegoat a coach before early January.

Banks
Jack Del Rio, Jaguars: Del Rio and Houston's Gary Kubiak are in a two-man race to see who can stave off termination for another year in the AFC South. The Texans might have a 9-7 record in them this season, but I don't think the Jags do.

Trotter
Tony Sparano, Dolphins: Hate to see this, but expect a third straight losing season in Miami. That is usually a precursor to a pink slip.

Burke
Marvin Lewis, Bengals: There doesn't seem to be any sign of hope in Cincinnati, unless you count Andy Dalton. Eventually, the Bengals will have to make a change.

Hack
Marvin Lewis, Bengals: Just two years ago, the Bengals looked built for the long haul. They could be looking for a new head coach before Thanksgiving.

Byrne
Tony Sparano, Dolphins: The Dolphins made a hard charge in the offseason at Jim Harbaugh. The team has shown no signs of improving in Sparano's three years, the offense was abysmal in 2010, the quarterback situation is desperate and 1-4 out of the gates is possible.

Perloff
Jack Del Rio, Jaguars: Ironically, the reason the Jags have remained a middle-of-the-pack team and not fallen into disarray is because the coaching staff has done such a great job. But the wheels have to fall off in Jacksonville at some point, and Del Rio will be pressured to play rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert. The Jags may decide to start their rebuilding effort early and let Del Rio go before the end of the season.

Mantzouranis
Marvin Lewis, Bengals: At least, he should be the first to get fired, but Lewis should have also been fired at the end of 2010. Getting a new contract after last year, which would now require a buyout from the cheap Bengals if Lewis were to be fired, could save the coach again.
 
Game I'm Looking Forward To Most
 
Aaron Rodgers :: Kirby Lee/US Presswire
King
Eagles at Falcons, Sept. 18: Count the number of Michael Vick jerseys in the stands. I bet they exceed the Matt Ryan jerseys. This will be a social experiment as much as a football game, Vick's first game back as a starter in the Georgia Dome since you-know-what.

Banks
Patriots at Jets, Nov. 13: With all due respect to the annual Colts-Patriots showdown of superpowers in Week 13, the Patriots at Jets on Sunday Night Football doesn't have to take a backseat to any game. Not with the level of drama and smack talk that has prevailed in their five meetings since Rex Ryan took over in Gotham.

Trotter
Saints at Packers, Sept. 8: National TV. Thursday night. Season opener. Last two Super Bowl champs. Excellent QBs. Attacking defenses. Creative play-callers. What more could you want?

Burke
Patriots at Steelers, Oct. 30: Tom Brady just seems to have the Steelers' number. Watching Brady match up with that Pittsburgh defense is always entertaining.

Hack
Saints at Packers, Sept. 8: Tough to beat Lambeau Field in September -- or this marvelous matchup of the last two Super Bowl champions.

Byrne
Patriots at Steelers, Oct. 30: The two dominant teams of the past decade size each other up in a midseason rumble on the eve of Halloween. The Patriots were No. 1 in scoring offense in 2010, the Steelers No. 1 in scoring defense. New England dominated last year's midseason meeting, but Pittsburgh went on to claim the conference title.

Perloff
Eagles at Falcons, Sept. 18: The Eagles were the preseason's most fascinating team and the Falcons are a fashionable Super Bowl pick. We'll see where both teams are in this nationally televised Sunday night game. Michael Vick playing his former team will grab the headlines, but Philly's revamped defense against what should be a potent Falcons offense will provide the real drama.

Mantzouranis
Saints at Packers, Sept. 8: Obvious? Sure. But how can you argue with the last two champs, at Lambeau, to kick off the season? Bonus: Both teams attack mercilessly on both sides of the ball. Should be entertaining.
 
More Coverage
 
BANKS: Pre-Regular Season Power Rankings
KING: Projected standings for all 32 teams, playoff picks
BANKS: 20 bold predictions for 2011
KING: Week 1 picks
BURKE: Busting myths about the 2011 season
ROSENBERG: The 2011 Hateability Index
GALLERIES: NFC All-Storyline Team | AFC All-Storyline Team
STAFF: Previews, burning questions for every division
STAFF: Observations, notes from every training camp
 
 

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