[This is my column in the Sept. 4 issue of The Commercial Review.]
I never like to try to make predictions in sports.
There are too many variables. A plethora of things can happen during the course of a season to thwart any hope I had of being correct.
But last year, I successfully predicted Seattle would win the Super Bowl.
Additionally, I had eight of the 12 playoff teams correct, although some of them didn’t land in the exact spots I had them slated. For example, I had Seattle as a wild card team, not a division winner, and I didn’t pick Indianapolis to win the AFC South.
Alas, here I am looking to improve on my totals from 2013 and one-up my boss.
There is no doubt there isn’t much in the way of parity in the AFC. The Denver Broncos and New England Patriots — albeit with aging quarterbacks — are still the favorites in the AFC West and East respectively.
I will also go with the other no-brainers, and pick the Colts and Cincinnati Bengals to repeat as division winners. The AFC South and AFC North are relatively weak comparatively to the 2013 division champs, so those are my safe bets.
Against the grain
The NFC is where I find myself straying away from the norm, and it all begins with the NFC North.
Last season I made the bold choice of going with my homer pick, the Detroit Lions, and this year I see no reason to do otherwise. I’ve put my money where my mouth is, betting a friend of mine on the success of the Lions in ’14.
Cam Newton doesn’t have much to throw to anymore with the departure of Steve Smith, and I just have a hunch Seattle won’t be able to win its division again.
The Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers will win the NFC South and NFC West respectively, just as they did in 2012.
Although I did go against the grain with three divisions in the NFC, the Philadelphia Eagles are a team I will agree with most and pick them to win the East.
I’m not going to leave the defending champions out of the playoffs, I just think they will have a tough time repeating. Seattle will edge Green Bay for the No. 5 seed, but the Packers, who will finish second to the Lions in the NFC North, will make the playoffs for the sixth straight season.
The AFC Wild Card teams were a little bit more difficult for me to choose. Despite the fact Pittsburgh will have to deal with possible suspensions to running backs Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount, I feel confident in picking the Steelers as the No. 6 seed.
I don’t see the San Diego Chargers squeaking into the playoffs like they did last year at 9-7, but I do see Alex Smith and his recent big contract making a splash again in the AFC to secure the first wild card spot for the Kansas City Chiefs as the No. 5 seed.
Here is where it gets exciting, since I have things being almost completely opposite from last season, at least in the NFC.
While I do have Detroit making it to the postseason for just the third time in 15 years, it will be the No. 4 seed, host Seattle and lose at Ford Field. Atlanta will take care of Green Bay in the Georgia Dome.
In the AFC, the home teams (Indianapolis and Cincinnati) will win in the wild card round, but only one of those teams will make it to the AFC Championship game.
Peyton Manning and the Broncos will have no problem beating Cincinnati to get back to the conference title game, in which they will face an Indianapolis Colts team that will avenge its division round loss to Tom Brady and New England in 2013.
With the win over Detroit, Seattle will travel to the Bay Area to take on division rival San Francisco, which is where its quest to repeat will end. On the bottom half of the NFC bracket, No. 2 seeded Philadelphia will beat the Falcons at home to make the NFC title game.
The Super Bowl
The Broncos were supposed to win it all last year. Manning put up gaudy numbers as Denver was the best team in the league all season. When the Broncos got to the Super Bowl against Seattle, they got a reality check.
I don’t see the same thing happening this year.
While I think the 49ers will continue to be a contender for the Super Bowl in years to come, and as much as I don’t want to see a Manning get another ring, I can’t help but choose Denver over San Francisco when the two teams meet in Arizona.