If there is one thing that the current age of free agency and parity has taught me it’s that change is inevitable.
This is why I can say with absolute confidence that six of the twelve teams who made the playoffs last season will sit at home while six new teams take their place.
I have done the math folks, and the results may be shocking to some.
I have gone over the last ten NFL seasons and added up the changeover from year to year.
Starting with the 2000 NFL season (which I compared to the 1999 season) there were 57 teams who have made the playoffs after not getting in the season before. Fifty seven new teams out of a total of 108 slots.
I didn’t get out the calculator, but if 54 are 50% of 108, I’d say that we are pretty close to a 50% changeover rate.
The numbers are pretty even in both conferences. Twenty seven slots have been filled by new teams in the AFC, and thirty slots have been filled with new blood in the NFC.
Given this recent history I have decided to go with the odds and safely predict that half of last year’s playoff contenders will be replaced this season. The fun part is predicting who is in and who is out.
I have decided to give you my opinions as to who replaces who. I’ll start in the AFC.
Who is in: New England.
This has to be by far the easiest pick. If you take a team coming off an 11-5 season and add Tom Brady to the mix you should feel pretty confident. I know that the jury is still out until we see Brady in action, but barring a major set back I think it’s safe to say that New England will return to form this year.
Who is out: Miami.
I like their coach. I like their GM. I like their players. I’m just not convinced that Chad Pennington can put together back to back great seasons. I’m not sure he can put together two back to back injury free seasons. And I can see the Wildcat coming from a mile away.
Who is in: Cincinnati.
This is one that could go either way. I like that Carson Palmer is back, but I don’t like that T.J. Whosyourmamma is gone. But I think that they have improved defensively and will definitely be very competitive this year.
Who is out: Baltimore.
Sorry guys, I just don’t trust second year QB’s to repeat their Rookie success. Even Big Ben couldn’t strike gold twice in a row (although a certain bike crash may have factored in to the situation).
The defense is older, Derrick Mason may retire, and their RB’s just don’t scare me.
Who is in: Houston.
I am invoking my Arizona Cardinal rule with Houston. It’s time to poop or get off the pot.
The talent is there on offense and defense, and I like their coaching staff. If they don’t realize their potential I won’t have them on this list this time next year.
Who is out: Tennessee.
The Colts lost much of their coaching staff, while the Titans lost several key free agents. I chose the Titans because of their QB situation.
I trust Peyton Manning to hold his team together. I’m not convinced that either Kerry Collins or Vince Young can return the Titans to glory. The little things will add up this year and Tennessee will be left on the outside looking in.
Who is in: Washington.
This division is a crap shoot. I don’t know who will bludgeon their way into the playoffs in this division. But I do know that it is usually a different team each year.
The Redskins have a recent history of taking a season off following playoff seasons. Since they took last season off (but still came tantalizingly close) I think they stick with the trend and get a wild card this year.
Who is out: Philadelphia.
File this under “you heard it here first.”
Every “expert” is predicting a Philly division title. I just don’t see it.
Their top two stars have injury issues (including Westbrook, who has already had surgery before the start of training camp). They have two new starters on their offensive line. They have a very young WR corps, and they lost two people who were the heart of their defense.
I’m talking about Brian Dawkins and Jim Johnson. Dawkins they can live without, but not having your defensive guru (who I hope has a quick recovery) will throw you through a loop.
Who is in: New Orleans.
We all know what the offense can do. The reason I think they will get over the hump is the acquisition of Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams. He is a system coach who has a history of maximizing player potential. He didn’t succeed in Jacksonville last year, but given the sorry state of the Jaguars offense it was almost impossible for anyone to succeed.
Who is out: Carolina.
It pains me to say this. I really like Carolina. But they have the same history as the Redskins. One good year is always followed by a bad year.
I think their running game may be one of the league’s best, but I don’t trust their defense. Also Jake Delhomme has injury concerns.
Who is in: Seattle.
This is my most confident prediction (after New England). Seattle was a good team that was decimated by injuries last year.
I love what they did in the draft, and I love the pick up of T.J. Houshmanilli in free agency. If Hasselbeck returns to form I think the Seahawks will return to the place they are accustomed to: division champs.
Who is out: Arizona.
I know, I know. They return lots of talent. They came within two minutes of winning the Superbowl.
History is not on their side though.
In the last ten years only one team who had lost the Superbowl the year before has made the playoffs the following year. That team was the 2006 Seattle Seahawks.
Besides historical jinxes I have more tangible reasons for an Arizona setback.
They don’t have a great defense. They are serviceable at best, but does anyone really trust them to hold a fourth quarter lead?
They also don’t have a running game. This means that they can’t control the clock, which puts the game into the defense’s hands to win. Yikes!
Also, I love Kurt Warner, but the odds of him reproducing what he did last year at his advanced age with his injury history are only slightly greater than getting a royal flush in poker.
I have gone out on many limbs today. If I am right I will remind every one that I told them so.
If I’m wrong I will write an article stating that I was misinformed. Stay tuned.
I’ll see you in January.