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Schultz makes predictions for the upcoming NFL season

Chris Schultz
9/3/2011 3:21:42 PM
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The big man checks in with his NFL predictions heading into the 2011 regular season. See who he likes to win each division, and then check out who he thinks will advance in the playoffs and eventually win the Super Bowl. Schultzie also makes predictions for MVP, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, and picks his top offensive and defensive players for each conference.

NFC East

Any of three teams could win this division in 2011. Rex Grossman has expressed confidence that his Washington Redskins will surprise; but without proven depth, they are destined for fourth.

Can the Eagles win with all the new free agent talent? Can Tony Romo be the best quarterback in the division? And can the Giants cut in half their turnovers from last year - from 42 to 21?

The ability of Michael Vick to make it happen all on his own can not be underestimated. Andy Reid knows how to mesh talent and egos.

Predicted order of finish: 1. Philadelphia Eagles 2. Dallas Cowboys 3. New York Giants 4. Washington Redskins

NFC North

The best quarterback in football is Aaron Rodgers and he may have the best tight end in football, Jermichael Finley. Even if the Packers get hit by injuries, they can win - that was proven last year.

The most inconsistent quarterback in the division is Jay Cutler. There is no guarantee he will have a great year of football, especially compared to Rodgers.

Minnesota could surprise, but Donovan McNabb is with a new team and a new system, so patience is a priority. Detroit is the popular pick, especially when you consider they had 18 players on Injured Reserve last year - eight of which were starters, but they're not ready yet.

Predicted order of finish: 1. Green Bay Packers 2. Detroit Lions 3. Chicago Bears 4. Minnesota Vikings

NFC South

Tough division to pick accurately because, similar to the NFC East, any of three teams could win the South. Carolina will finish last: a lot of reasons there.
Tampa Bay could win the division, they are very young, very hungry, and head coach Raheem Morris is a good motivator. New Orleans should improve on the 28th ranking on run defence, but will it be a dramatic change or just a subtle one?

And Matt Ryan in Atlanta has Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Tony Gonzalez as primary receivers. The division games this year will determine the NFC South.

Predicted order of finish: 1. Atlanta Falcons 2. New Orleans Saints 3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4. Carolina Panthers

NFC West

I like St. Louis. Steve Spagnuolo as a head coach has gone through a process of finding the right people to fit his system. This should be the year he sees tangible results.

The next three teams, Arizona, San Francisco, and Seattle all have unknown quarterback situations. But Seattle is a playoff team: experience helps; the Cardinals still have Larry Fitzgerald, who is the best in the business; and San Francisco will have a new head coach.

Predicted order of finish: 1. St. Louis Rams 2. Seattle Seahawks 3. Arizona Cardinals 4. San Francisco 49ers

AFC East

The New York Jets have to win the division and have a top two record in the conference to have the critical two home games in the 2012 playoffs. If they don't, they could make it all the way to the AFC Championship and lose again for a third time. New England won 14 games, but for the second year in a row, lost in the divisional playoff round at home (Ravens in 2009, Jets in 2010).

Miami and Buffalo are very similar, but I think Ryan Fitzpatrick is a solid quarterback - not spectacular, but solid. New England is still the best in the division. Even if the Jets play with polish and aggression, Tom Brady wins the East, again.

Predicted order of finish: New England Patriots 2. New York Jets 3. Buffalo Bills 4. Miami Dolphins

AFC North

The Pittsburgh Steelers will win the division, and it may be easy. The Ravens may be in a rebuilding year and the key players are one year older. We will know a lot after Week One - Baltimore at Pittsburgh.

Cincinnati has Andy Dalton, a new quarterback; a new offensive coordinator; new everything. I would not be surprised if Carson Palmer came back very soon, knowing the job is his if he wants it.

The Browns are a wild card, they could end up anywhere from second to fourth in the division, but I think it is second. Mike Holmgren is a proven winner and Pat Shurmer is similar to Jim Schwartz in Detroit: quiet, but effective.

Predicted order of finish: 1. Pittsburgh Steelers 2. Cleveland Browns 3. Baltimore Ravens 4. Cincinnati Bengals

AFC South

If the Houston Texans don't win the division this year, then change will be a reality. Wade Phillips will improve the defence and Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, and Arian Foster are a trio of excellence.

Tennessee is rebuilding at quarterback, but every other aspect of the team is competitive. Jacksonville has an opportunity to surprise, but we say that every year.

Peyton Manning: how soon can he return from injury, and how effective will he be? If soon, and if effective, they can win again in 2011. But I think this is a major problem.

Predicted order of finish: 1. Houston Texans 2. Tennessee Titans 3. Indianapolis Colts 4. Jacksonville Jaguars

AFC West

If the San Diego Chargers improve their special teams, they can win the division. And I think that is exactly what will happen.

Kansas City is the surprise last year that has to prove it again this year. Last year, they only had two playoff teams on their schedule. This year they have six, including last year's final four: Pittsburgh, Chicago, Green Bay, and the New York Jets.

Between Denver and Oakland, logic says the Raiders because they swept the division last year. But also remember, they were 2-10 outside the division, so it balances out. I will take the Broncos to finish third, and will find out as early as the Week 1 Monday Night Double-Header (Oakland at Denver) if I'm right.

Predicted order of finish: 1. San Diego Chargers 2. Kansas City Chiefs 3. Denver Broncos 4. Oakland Raiders

Playoff Predictions

AFC: 1. San Diego Chargers (West) 2. New England Patriots (East) 3. Pittsburgh Steelers (North) 4. Houston Texans (South) 5. New York Jets (Wild Card) 6. Kansas City Chiefs (Wild Card)

Wild Card round winners: Jets over Texans, Steelers over Chiefs

Divisional round winners: Chargers over Jets, Patriots over Steelers

Conference Championship: Chargers over Patriots

NFC: 1. Green Bay Packers (North) 2. Atlanta Falcons (South) 3. Philadelphia Eagles (East) 4. St. Louis Rams (West) 5. New Orleans Saints (Wild Card) 6. Dallas Cowboys (Wild Card)

Wild Card round winners: Cowboys over Eagles, Saints over Rams

Divisional round winners: Packers over Cowboys, Saints over Falcons

Conference Championship: Packers over Saints

Super Bowl: San Diego Chargers over Green Bay Packers

Player Award Predictions:

MVP: AFC - QB Philip Rivers (Chargers) NFC - QB Aaron Rodgers (Packers)

Coach of the Year: AFC - Norv Turner (Chargers) NFC - Steve Spagnuolo (Rams)

Rookie of the Year: AFC - LB Vonn Miller (Broncos) NFC - WR Julio Jones (Falcons)

Top Offensive Player: AFC - LB Jerod Mayo (Patriots) NFC - LB Curtis Lofton (Falcons)

Schultzie's Dark Horse Teams: AFC - Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans NFC - New York Giants, Detroit Lions, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Chris Schultz

Chris Schultz

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