The temperatures have plummeted suddenly into the sixties, leaves are beginning to turn and there’s a certain crispness in the air that can only be broken by the perfect spiral of soaring pigskin. That’s right, the greatest time of the year, football season, is upon us again. Despite a 136-day lockout, the excitement around the NFL is at perhaps its highest levels ever.
As the opener draws closer by the minute, the time for me to sit idly by in hopes of avoiding making a Super Bowl prediction is rapidly drawing to a close. Preseason predictions are rarely worth the paper they’re printed on, but in this upside down world of teams sprinting through a nonexistent offseason, the Lombardi Trophy is truly anyone’s game this season.
Some teams have positioned themselves better than others with free agent acquisitions to finish their journey with confetti falling for Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Meanwhile, some teams stood pat in an effort to draw on existing team chemistry to propel them to glory once again. All of these stories, subplots and themes for the upcoming season make for a wild ride for the next six months.
New Orleans Saints 11-5
Atlanta Falcons 11-5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 8-8
Carolina Panthers 3-13
Green Bay Packers 13-3
Detroit Lions 8-8
Chicago Bears 7-9
Minnesota Vikings 6-10
Philadelphia Eagles 10-6
New York Giants 9-7
Dallas Cowboys 9-7
Washington Redskins 4-12
Arizona Cardinals 10-6
St. Louis Rams 10-6
SF 49ers 5-11
Seattle Seahawks 4-12
Houston Texans 11-5
Tennessee Titans 8-8
Indianapolis Colts 8-8
Jacksonville Jaguars 2-14
Pittsburgh Steelers 13-3
Baltimore Ravens 12-4
Cincinnati Bengals 4-12
Cleveland Browns 3-13
New England Patriots 14-2
New York Jets 13-3
Miami Dolphins 5-11
Buffalo Bills 2-14
San Diego Chargers 11-5
Denver Broncos 8-8
Oakland Raiders 8-8
Kansas City Chiefs 6-10
Division Champions: Green Bay Packers (Bye), New Orleans Saints (Bye), Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals.
NFC Wild Cards: Atlanta Falcons, St. Louis Rams
NFC Wild Card Round: Philadelphia Eagles over St. Louis Rams, Atlanta Falcons over Arizona Cardinals.
NFC Divisional Round: Green Bay Packers over Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints over Philadelphia Eagles
NFC Championship: Green Bay Packers over New Orleans saints.
Division Champions: New England Patriots (Bye), Pittsburgh Steelers (Bye), San Diego Chargers, Houston Texans.
AFC Wild Cards: New York Jets, Baltimore Ravens.
AFC Wild Card Round: San Diego Chargers over Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets over Houston Texans.
AFC Divisional Round: New England Patriots over New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers over San Diego Chargers.
AFC Championship: New England Patriots over Pittsburgh Steelers.
Super Bowl XLVI: New England Patriots over Green Bay Packers
NFL Coach of the Year: Ken Wisenhunt, Arizona Cardinals
NFL Offensive MVP: QB Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
NFL Defensive MVP: Nnamdi Asomugha, Philadelphia Eagles
NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year: Mark Ingram RB, New Orleans Saints
NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year: Patrick Peterson CB, Arizona Cardinals
NFL Comeback Player of the Year: Steven Jackson, RB St. Louis Rams
Co-NFL Breakout Players: Ryan Matthews RB, San Diego Chargers
First Pick of the 2011 NFL Draft: Buffalo Bills Select Andrew Luck QB, Stanford.
Matt Lombardo is the Philadelphia Eagles beat reporter and host for 97.3 ESPN in Atlantic City, NJ. Matt can be reached on Twitter @MattLombardoPHL