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NFL Predictions '10: Trying to Ride a Yo-Yo

2010 prognostications are rolling in and I'm ready to stick my neck out and risk my prognosticating decapitation.

Actually, my 2009 predictions were pretty good.  I got five of the six NFC teams correct and four of the six AFC competitors on the money.  Long-time readers know I use two heuristics to inform my picks.  First, I go in with the understanding that half of last year's field likely won't make it.  It seems that every year the NFL manages to turn over half the field from the year before.  

The second is my faith in the "fantastic four" model. Every year since 2000, an average of four teams which had losing records the year before wind up in the playoffs.  Here's the 2008 crop:

  • Miami:  1-15 in '07, 11-5 in '08;
  • Atlanta, 4-12 in '07 to 11-5 in '08;
  • Baltimore: 5-11 in '07 to 11-5 in '08;
  • Carolina: 7-9 in '07 to 12-4 in '08

Last year, I proferred a "fantastic three" figuring that only three losers were ready to make the jump and that some 8-8 squads would make the big jump.  In fact, only two teams made the loser-to-playoff lead, but I got both the Bengals and the Packers correct.

This year, finding those diamonds in the dross might be a big more difficult.  There were only 11 teams which finished below .500, as parity increasingly pulls more teams towards the 8-8 mediocrity belt.  My challenge will be to find those teams which make this year's big leap.

If the trend continues, three to four teams from this swarthy bunch will keep on playing into late January:

  • St. Louis, 1-15 last year
  • Detroit,  2-14 last year
  • Tampa Bay, 3-13 in '09
  • Washington , 4-12 in '09
  • Seattle, 5-11 in '09
  • Kansas City, 4-12 in '09
  • Oakland, 5-11 in '09
  • Cleveland, 5-11 in '09
  • Buffalo, 6-10 in '09
  • Miami, 7-9 in '09
  • Jacksonville, 7-9 in '09

How many of these '09 turkeys will soar this season?  I offer these predictions, with playoff teams in italics and the fantastics in bold:

NFC East

  1. Dallas 
  2. Washington
  3. Philadelphia
  4. New York

NFC North

  1. Packers
  2. Vikings
  3. Bears
  4. Lions
NFC South
  1. New Orleans
  2. Carolina
  3. Atlanta
  4. Tampa Bay
NFC West
  1. San Francisco
  2. Arizona
  3. Seattle
  4. St. Louis
AFC East

  1.  Miami
  2. New England
  3. New York
  4. Buffalo

AFC North
  1. Baltimore
  2. Pittsburgh
  3. Cincinnati
  4. Cleveland
AFC South
  1. Tennessee
  2.  Indianapolis
  3.  Houston
  4.  Jacksonville

AFC West
  1. San Diego
  2. Denver
  3. Oakland
  4.  Kansas City
Not quite the 50% turnover.  I have five of the twelve turning over, with the Redskins, 49ers, Dolphins, Titans and Steelers crashing the party.  On the big jumper side, I have only two teams, Washington and Miami, making the leap.

In two of the last three years, that fantastic four has been a fantastic two, and in those seasons, a group of 8-8 teams from the previous season were the big jumpers.  I'm looking at the Titans and 49ers to take that next step, or in Tennessee's case to make the big step back, having fallen five games from 13-3 two seasons ago.  

Many of the big jumpers are yo-yo  teams.  The Packers went from 13-3 to 6-10 and back to 11-5 last year.  Jeff Fisher lost his guys temporarily last September and October but they started winning late.   I think he'll have their full attention from day one this time.  

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