20 years ago, Americans chose baseball over football as their favorite spectator sport. by a 2-1 margin. Now, the poll results have been completely reversed. I believe that a major reason is that because of the economics, every team has a legitimate chance to be a winner. 29 of the 32 teams made the playoffs at least once this decade and all 32 had at least one winning season. It is not uncommon for a last place team to win the division the next year. In baseball, almost half the teams come into Spring Training knowing that they have no chance to win.
Let's take a look at last year's division winners in the NFL:
AFC: Miami, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, San Diego
NFC: New York, Minnesota, Carolina, Arizona.
Only 3 of these teams repeated and the remaining 5 missed the playoffs altogether.
Here's what I predicted in 2009:
AFC: New England, Pittsburgh, Indy, San Diego (wild cards: Baltimore, Houston).
NFC: New York, Green Bay, Atlanta, Arizona (wild cards: New Orleans, Philly).
I thought Carolina, Miami and Tennessee would fall off this year and I was right on that but on others I was dead wrong.
I expected Favre to flop in Minnesota, picked Pittsburgh to repeat as champs. Cincy as this year's surprise team? I never saw that coming.
This year's playoffs:
In the AFC, I see San Diego and Indy clearly better than the remaining 4. I thought that New England had the best chance to pull off an upset and I still do even though they are banged up a bit. I see Baltimore as the next most dangerous team while I see little chance of Cincy and NYJ going anywhere. I'm picking San Diego to go all the way and I'm really pulling for them. Rivers is often overshadowed by other QBs but I think he's as good as any (he's also originally from Alabama) Indy essentially threw the last 2 games so I hope they lose the first round.
A rundown on the teams:
Indy- Peyton Manning leads a loaded team.
SD- riding a 10 game winning streak with momentum and tons of talent
New England- underdogs are a new role for them but never count out Brady
Cincy- upstart and under the radar but I don't think they're as talented.
Balt- tough schedule, proven to be competitive but I don't see them upsetting 3 in a row.
NYJ- rookie QB with more INTs than TD, going nowhere but keep an eye on them in 2010. They'll be a Super Bowl contender if Sanchez develops into a solid NFL QB.
The winner of the Balt/NE game has the best chance to do some damage.
My odds: NYJ: 50:1, Cincy, 20:1, Balt, 12:1, NE: 8:1, Indy: 3:1, SD: 5:2
Cincy over NYJ (yes, I saw the last game), NE over Balt
Indy over Cincy, SD over NE (upset a a real possibility)
SD over Indy (I would pick Indy over NE)
Every team here is dangerous and has a real shot at making it to the Super Bowl.
NO- lost 3 in a row but let us not forget the first 13 games.
MIN- faded toward the end of the season but got back on track. Favre has been written off too many times as washed up but don't count them out. You've got to admire how well he's played at his age (I'M A MAN, I'M 40!) If Adrian Peterson gets hot again, this team could blow away anyone.
DAL- finished this season strong but have a history of choking in the playoffs
AZ- My Christian brother Kurt Warner is the one that I am pulling for more than anyone and they've proven that they can get hot when it matters most.
GB- solid team all around, won 7 of 8 to finish the season and the one loss was by 1 point.
PHI- strong experienced that played through a tough schedule.
PHI: 12:1, DAL: 10:1, AZ: 10:1, GB: 9:1, NO: 7:2, MIN: 3:1
PHI over DAL (upset pick), AZ over GB- because of playoff experience NO over PHI, MIN over AZ/ If GB beats AZ, I'd pick them to upset NO but not MIN
MIN over NO
Super Bowl: SD over MIN.
For the record, I've made playoff predictions before and have been dead wrong so don't put too much stock in this. There will probably be more upsets that I predicted. In each of the last 4 years, at least one team that played in the wild card round made it to the Super Bowl.