NFL Preview: Final Thoughts
Less than 48 hours before the majority of NFL teams play their first games (isn't that just a wonderful thing to say?), here are a few follow-up thoughts to the series of previews I did the past few weeks.
• Here, I picked the Bears to win the Super Bowl. I made it clear that I don't think they're the runaway best team in the league or anything, but that their chances are as good as anyone else's in a league filled with parity. I stand by that. The only better-across-the-board teams, in my book, are the Ravens and the 49ers; I'll take Jay Cutler over Joe Flacco and Alex Smith, thank you very much. And the league's best passing teams (New England, Green Bay, New Orleans) all have very serious defensive concerns. Why not the Bears?
• I was probably too generous towards the NFC West. I do expect the Seahawks and the Rams to be markedly better; few other people have them winnng 10 and 6 games, respectively (though Bill Simmons agrees with me, kinda, on Seattle), but I'll stand by those picks. But the 49ers, much as I love 'em, are going to have trouble getting to 12 wins with that schedule. And 6 wins seems high for the Cardinals in retrospect, even though I do believe their defense will be pretty good.
• Those wins I might take away in hindsight from the West would definitely go to the NFC East and the NFC South. I wouldn't change the order of those divisions, I'd just spread a few more wins around. I wouldn't make things more balanced between the conferences, as I firmly believe the NFC is vastly superior to the AFC this season.
• OK, final prediciton time. I have the Patriots, Ravens (via tiebreaker over the Broncos), Packers and 49ers getting byes, with the Broncos, Titans, Steelers, Bengals, Giants, Saints, Bears and Seahawks also making the playoffs. I like both wild-card teams (Chicago and Seattle) to win in round one in the NFC, and for the Broncos and Steelers to win in the NFC. The championship-game qualifiers will be the Ravens and the Patriots in the AFC and the Bears and the Packers in the NFC. Chicago will meet Baltimore, and prevail, in the Super Bowl.