JACKSONVILLE, FL - JULY 28: The Jacksonville Jaguars take part in training camp at Florida Blue Health and Wellness practice fields on July 28, 2011 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
With an NFL season storming in fast during this chaos, I'm finally ready to put out my bold predictions for this year. These predictions cover any and all aspects of the league.
1. The Jacksonville Jaguars will win the AFC South and host a playoff game. This has been a long time coming, but the Jaguars on paper seem to be the most complete team in this division. Tennessee will be better with Hasselbeck at QB (most of their pass routes are west coast and he's the quintessential west-coast-offense QB), an improved pass defense with Joseph and Manning will still have trouble adjusting to the 3-4 in Houston, and an aging defense coupled with a slow-to-return Peyton Manning in Indianapolis leaves the least to question in Jacksonville.
2. I'm officially on board with the Lions contending for a playoff spot. Unfortunately, I don't think they'll be there once week 17 ends because of the 3 high powered contenders in the NFC South. Signing Justin Durant was nice, and having a stacked defensive line is a great asset, but the secondary hasn't been addressed. I'm pulling for Stafford to last through a full season; it's hard to see a talented player have so many issues with injuries.
3. No team in the AFC West or NFC West will win the Super Bowl. There just aren't any contenders out on the Pacific. Yes, St. Louis should run away with the NFC West as the Seahawks will take a step back (unless Marshawn Lynch goes "Beast Mode" every game) despite some great signings because the QB situation was not fixed so Sidney Rice has no one to throw to him, and the 49ers will prove me wrong in thinking they are overdue for a playoff appearance but continue to fall flat on their faces with Alex Smith at the helm with his fresh 1-year deal. And in the AFC West there seems to be teams on the rise in the surprising Chiefs (I like the Breaston signing) and Raiders of last year, but the inconsistencies in all 4 teams in this division (don't get me started on the talent San Diego has squandered) means none of them will be hosting the Lombardi Trophy.
4. Josh Freeman will go to the Pro Bowl. I have to admit, I'm infatuated with Freeman's progress from a mobile quarterback with huge question marks out of college to an extremely precise passer who knows just when to rely on his athleticism. His weapons have already developed in receiver Mike Williams, tight end Kellen Winslow, and the emergent LeGarrette Blount. It looks bright in Tampa Bay.
5. The Cincinnati Bengals will have the #1 pick in the 2012 draft. This team is rebuilding, and in shambles. I agree with the picks of A.J. Green and Andy Dalton, cornerstones of a rebuilding offense. A carousel of receivers highlighted by Jordan Shipley, Jerome Simpson, Andre Caldwell, and Quan Cosby, won't make the starting quarterback's job any easier. (rumors are Jordan Palmer will be at the helm until Dalton is thrown in the mix...maybe a long shot). The defense took a huge step back last season. Jonathan Joseph left. Yes, they will start Reggie Nelson (I get a headache typing his name) and reap the rewards, or lack thereof. The defensive line was pushed around and the linebackers look like chickens with their head cut off with the exception of an underrated Keith Rivers. They've done nothing in free agency with the same cap room the Jaguars had. They will have the #1 pick in the 2012 draft.
6. The Jets' overuse of free agents will come back to haunt them. It's fundamentally flawed. You can't sign more veteran free agents then draftees year after year. It's a house of cards that's about to fall. Yes, they got Santonio Holmes back, but their drafting has been questionable the last couple season. They're getting older and older, not younger and younger. Missing out on the Nnamdi sweepstakes has this team reeling. Tomlinson, Bart Scott, the loss of Kris Jenkins, Tony Richardson, and many more are all over 30 and not just by a year. This team may make another run to the conference championship (it's always a possibility) but this team is in decline, and it will show soon enough. I won't go into detail, but the Falcons are in the same boat here. The "play to win now" mentality is an issue for any team.
7. Kevin Kolb won't be the Cardinal's savior. There are a handful of problems in Arizona besides the QB position. Kevin Kolb is certainly an upgrade from Max Hall or Derek Anderson. Yes, Larry Fitzgerald will had someone with awareness to actually throw the ball his way. But, I'm not sold on their running game. Beanie Wells lost his starting job to Tim Hightower last year, but neither impressed with an aging offensive line to throw in. The one-dimensional nature of their offense leaves much to question. On defense, Patrick Peterson was the right pick for them for where they were situated in the draft. He'll be a playmaker with Adrian Wilson behind him at safety. But, an aging d-line with a somewhat overrated Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell, and a decrepit linebacking group with Jerry Porter, Clark Haggans, and Gerald Hayes will make stopping the run difficult. Teams will take Peterson out of the game by just running it down their throat. This team won't be much better this season but on the bright side, they play in the weak NFC West.
There's plenty more that could be had here, but these had the most reasoning behind them. Follow me on twitter @bleedteal4life.
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