It’s the same every year: The MLB pennant chase heats up, the Pittsburgh Pirates have a firesale and Brett Favre retires/unretires. That can mean only one thing – the NFL is back. While many of the television NFL prognosticators seem to make their season projections with a blindfold and a dartboard, we here at Not In HD have a much more scientific method – the Magic 8-Ball.
There are 20 answers given by the Magic 8-Ball. Conveniently,we have 20 questions that desperately need answered as we head into our favorite time of the year.
But before we consult the Magic 8-Ball, here are my picks. They may be influenced by the fact that I’m currently in a hotel in Minneapolis and spent the past three hours at the Mall of America, bombarded by millions and millions of unsold purple Brett Favre Vikings jerseys. The Vikings run the ball and stop the run better than anyone, but it won’t matter to the Patriots. After last year’s 16-0 season (the 2008 calendar year doesn’t exist in the minds of Patriot fans), the Patriots are ready for another run.
AFC Divisional Winners NFC Divisional Winners
East: Patriots 13-3 East: Giants 11-5
South: Titans 11-5 South: Panthers 10-6
North: Steelers 12-4 North: Vikings 11-5
West: Chargers 10-6 West: Cardinals 9-7
AFC Wild Cards: NFC Wild Cards:
Colts 10-6 Falcons 10-6
Ravens 10-6 Eagles 10-6
AFC Champions: Patriots
NFC Champions: Vikings
SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS: New England Patriots
And now, to the Magic 8-Ball:
1) Will the Patriot offense return to 2008 form?
Magic 8-Ball Says: Outlook good.
Even when replacing Brady with Cassell last year, the offense was still formidable. With Brady healthy, the Patriots will be right up there with the Saints for the most explosive offense in the league.
2) Will the Lions win a game this year?
Magic 8-Ball Says: Reply hazy, try again.
No team had ever gone 0-16 before last season. What are the odds that the SAME team could go 0-32? Is that possible? No way. Not possible. So I started looking at the Lions schedule to see who they could beat.
And I kept looking.
The Redskins at home in Week 3? The Rams at home in Week 8? Maybe at home against the Browns or Bengals? Now that the Lions have committed to starting Matt Stafford, I see him improving enough throughout the season that the Lions steal at least one game. Because no team can go 0-32, can they?
3) Will Brett Favre make the Vikings better?
Magic 8-Ball Says: Don’t count on it.
How can I pick the Vikings to make the Super Bowl, yet say that they’re no better with Favre? They couldn’t throw before and they still probably can’t throw. But when you have the best run defense, the best offensive line and the best running back in the game, it won’t matter. Favre might surprise us and give the Vikings something that resembles an aerial attack, but in the end, this team is good enough to win as it is.
4.) Will T.O. implode in Buffalo?
Magic 8-Ball Says: Without a doubt.
The bigger question is: Will anyone care?
The only media personality we know of in Buffalo, is Jim Carrey’s character from Bruce Almighty. Trent Edwards is serviceable at best. The Bills are in an extremely competitive division with the Patriots, Jets and Dolphins, so when the Bills start losing and T.O. isn’t getting targeted 15 times a game, he’ll make sure everyone knows that getting him the ball will solve the problem. And by “everyone” I mean both reporters covering the game.
5.) Is this Wade Phillips’ last season in Dallas?
Magic 8-Ball Says: Better not tell you now.
I didn’t pick the Cowboys to make the playoffs. Again. And that simply isn’t acceptable for Jerry Jones, especially in the year the Taj Mahal of football opens. If the Cowboys don’t make the playoffs, or possibly even if they do, but fall short of the Super Bowl, there could be a new coach in Dallas next year.
6.) Will Adrian Peterson run for 2,000 yards?
Magic 8-Ball Says: Most likely.
When you put the best NFL back behind the best O-line in the league, anything is possible. While I’ve already mentioned that Brett Favre doesn’t necessarily make the Vikings better through the air, he will at least have the respect of defensive coordinators. That should mean more running room for AD. Unless he misses significant time due to injury, look for Peterson to threaten the 2,000 yard mark.
7.) Will the Wildcat formation revolutionize the NFL?
Magic 8-Ball Says: My sources say no.
It adds some excitement to the game, for sure. But it’s just a fad, something to throw in for a different look. Look at all the best teams in the NFL – the Patriots, Steelers, Giants, Colts, Cardinals, etc… Notice that none of them run or even hint that they might use the wildcat. It’s a gimmick offense designed to even the playing field when playing superior opponents.
8.) Will the Dolphins really miss the playoffs after winning 11 games last year?
Magic 8-Ball Says: You may rely on it.
The Dolphins are a solid team of veterans, however, they performed as well as they possibly could last year. There aren’t a whole lot of guys with ‘upside’ on the team. Their best players have reached their full potential (Porter, Pennington, Brown) and the only guy I could potentially see as a breakout player is Ted Ginn Jr. Playing in a tough division, look for the Dolphins to take a step backwards this year.
9.) Can anyone other than the Chargers win the AFC West?
Magic 8-Ball Says: Yes – definitely.
Ummm, let me shake this thing again. We’re going to have to agree to disagree.
Raiders? Chiefs? Broncos? I don’t think so. The Chargers could tank the first half of the season, finish 8-8, and still win the division. Of course, that formula worked last year. They might be able to win this division at 7-9.
10.) Will Jay Cutler finally give the Bears a legitimate offense?
Magic 8-Ball Says: It is certain.
Cutler may not win the MVP. He might not throw for 4,000 yards and 35 TDs. But he’s a good QB. With Matt Forte continuing to develop, the Bears will finally have a decent offense. If only they had this offense a few years ago when the defense was clearly the best in the league. They may have missed their Super Bowl window.
11.) Will Darren McFadden have a breakout year?
Magic 8-Ball Says: Ask again later.
Will anyone on the Raiders ever have a breakout year? Darren McFadden would probably be a formidable back on any other team in the NFL. He’s very talented. However, the Black Holethat is the Oakland Raiders, is trying to prove that it can even engulf the greatest talent – on their own team. Outside of McFadden, the Raiders have no viable offensive talent. I’m not sure whether that helps or hurts Run DMC.
12.) Will Brady Quinn finally start for the Browns?
Magic 8-Ball Says: Signs point to yes.
Mangini announced that he has finally chosen a starter – but won’t say who it is. The Browns clearly are not a playoff team, so they might as well see what they have in Quinn. It’s time for the Browns to pick a guy and send the other one packing. If only they’d done this after the 2007 season, maybe they could have gotten something for Derek Anderson.
13.) Will Drew Brees throw for 5,000 yards this year?
Magic 8-Ball Says: Very doubtful.
The reason is simple: He won’t have to.
The best offense in the NFL in 2008 could be even better with everyone healthy. The role of Reggie Bush is now more clearly defined and Pierre Thomas is ready to step up his game. Look for the Saints to score a ton, but be a little more balanced than last year.
14.) Is Larry Fitzgerald the best receiver in the NFL?
Magic 8-Ball Says: It is decidedly so.
This was a softball question for the Magic 8-Ball. Not only is Fitz the best, nobody else is even close.
Randy Moss? Too old.
Reggie Wayne? No single great natural skill.
Calvin Johnson? Still learning.
Fitzgerald is the whole package and he finally put it all together at the end of last season.
15.) Will Kyle Orton be on the sideline with a clipboard by December?
Magic 8-Ball Says: Yes.
No punches for the Magic 8-Ball.
He was booed during his first preseason game. He’s turnover prone and offers little in terms of upside. By December, the season will be over for the Broncos, and they’ll be looking for the future. Brandon Marshall could be lobbying for a new QB by Week 2.
16.) Will Knowshon Moreno will rookie of the year?
Magic 8-Ball Says: Concentrate and ask again.
If he can stay healthy, Moreno will have a better chance than anyone else. He was practically handed the starting job, while guys like Donald Brown, LeSean McCoy and Beanie Wells will all be fighting for carries. Sanchez and Stafford will be given a chance to play right away, but rookie QBs are rarely successful (with a few recent exceptions).
17.) Is the NFC East the best division in the NFC?
Magic 8-Ball Says: My reply is no.
The East has long been the best division in the NFC, but the torch has been passed to the South. The Saints, Falcons and Panthers have the potential to make deep playoff runs, while the Buccaneers finished 9-7 last year. The NFC East still has no easy wins, but the South is a better division overall.
18.) Is DeAngelo Williams an elite NFL back?
Magic 8-Ball Says: Cannot predict now.
We’ve been waiting on Williams for a few years and in 2008 he finally delivered. Some of us gave up a season too early (*cough Ben Bates*) and while Williams has the skills to be elite, he also has a very good (but injured) backup in Jonathan Stewart. Will he be a feature back, or will he be 50-percent of perhaps the best two-back system in football?
19.) Can Anthony Gonzalez replace Marvin Harrison?
Magic 8-Ball Says: As I see it, yes.
The Colts have long had two 1,000 yard/ ten touchdown receivers. In 2004, they had three. Last year, Harrison went down halfway through the season, giving Anthony Gonzalez a larger role in the offense. Gonzalez had six receptions for 97 yards, in the playoff loss to the Chargers. With a full offseason to concentrate on his new role, look for a 1,000 yard, eight touchdown season from the former Buckeye receiver.
20.) Can Mark Sanchez lead the Jets to the playoffs?
Magic 8-Ball Says: Outlook not so good.
The NFL is usually tough on rookie quarterbacks, despite the 2008 successes of Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan. It’s especially tough on QB’s who only started one season in college. Add that to playing in both a difficult division and conference and things aren’t looking good for Sanchez. He’s looked pretty good in preseason, but that means very little once the regular season starts. Sanchez could impress, but it won’t be enough to make the playoffs.
Agree with the Magic 8-Ball? Disagree? Have any predictions of your own?