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NFL Regular Season Recap: Preseason Picks Turn To Mush

Posted on January 05, 2010 by Dean Hybl
Pittsburgh Steelers vs Tennessee Titans

Neither the Tennessee Titans or Pittsburgh Steelers were able to live up to early expectations.

This is the time of year that sports writers and bloggers tend to dread, the time to look back at season predictions and analyze for the world to see just how much, or how little, you got right during the recent NFL season.

When the season began in September with a Thursday night matchup between the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers and the Tennessee Titans, many expected at least one of those two teams to be contending for a spot in Super Bowl XLIV.

But, in a year full of surprises, one of the biggest is that neither of those teams will be among the 12 squads vying for a trip to Miami.

When I peered into my crystal ball in early September I predicted the Patriots, Ravens, Colts and Chargers would win divisions in the AFC with the Titans and Texans earning wild card spots. In the NFC, my division picks were the Giants, Packers, Falcons and Seahawks with the Bears and Eagles earning the wild card spots.

I then predicted Baltimore would edge the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game with the Packers defeating the Falcons in the NFC title game.

My Super Bowl pick was for the Packers to defeat the Ravens.

While I had more than my share of miscues, believe it or not my Super Bowl matchup could still actually happen, though it is a bit of a long-shot at this point.

Turns out I was right about the Ravens and Patriots meeting in the playoffs. Only they will be playing in the first round, rather than for a trip to the Super Bowl.

Though the Patriots have the home field and edged the Ravens earlier this season, I tend to believe the Ravens will pull off the upset. The loss of Wes Welker will hurt the Patriots and I believe the Ravens will remember their earlier loss and make the plays down the stretch to defeat a New England squad that has been very inconsistent this year.

I managed to get three of the four AFC division winners right with the Colts and Chargers joining the Patriots as division champs. Chances are I am not the only football prognosticator who failed to pick the Cincinnati Bengals to win the AFC North. In fact, I really thought this might be the last year for Marvin Lewis. Instead, he did a great job and got the Bengals back into the playoffs.

Peyton Manning and the Colts opened the season with 14 straight victories.

Peyton Manning and the Colts opened the season with 14 straight victories.

While the Ravens and Patriots have had good years, the class of the AFC has unquestionably been the Colts and Chargers. The Colts won their first 14 games and the Chargers have rebounded from a sluggish start to become the popular Super Bowl choice from the AFC.

My picks for the NFC were quite awful, but the fickle nature of the NFC made it very difficult for anyone to accurately pick the top teams. Only three of the six playoff teams from a year ago made the chase again this year.

Two division winners, the Cowboys and Saints were pretty much dismissed at the start of the season as perennial underachievers.

As it turns out, the Saints were the hottest team in the NFC early in the year with 13 straight wins. Known recently for December collapses, the Cowboys won their final three games and enter the playoffs as a dark-horse contender.

The Minnesota Vikings proved that the late acquisition of Brett Favre was a good one as they went 12-4 to earn a first round playoff bye. The Packers won seven of their final eight games, but lost twice to Minnesota.

The Arizona Cardinals repeated as winners of the NFC West, but they will not be able to sneak up on anyone this time around.

With losses in their final three games, it looks as if the Saints may have peaked too early. However, with a week off and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, the Saints could still be a contender for their first-ever Super Bowl bid.

Dallas has shed their image of the December fade, but until they actually win a playoff game, they will still have a major load on their back. Wade Phillips will be playing for his job against the Eagles and Tony Romo will be playing with the goal to change his reputation as a playoff choker.

Tis The Season For Coaching Changes

The day after the end of the NFL regular season is always the least favorite day of the year for coaches of teams not in the playoffs.

Jim Zorn was fun to watch as a quarterback in Seattle. However, he was never able to get the offense moving as the head coach in Washington.

Jim Zorn was fun to watch as a quarterback in Seattle. However, he was never able to get the offense moving as the head coach in Washington.

Already, Jim Zorn is out in Washington, the Buffalo Bills have again cleaned house and word is the Raiders may be looking for another coach soon.

A year after a number of former Super Bowl winners were surprisingly fired, this year there are again a number of veteran coaches on the hot seat.

After consecutive losing seasons and facing an apathetic fan base, it would not be a total shock if Jack Del Rio receives his walking papers in Jacksonville. Considering that he never reached the highs that Tom Coughlin did during his tenure with the Jaguars, Del Rio may not have earned another season to get Jacksonville back to the playoffs.

In addition to Tom Cable in Oakland, three other coaches in their first full season coaching their current squad could be on their way out.

With Mike Holmgren now calling the shots in Cleveland, it is questionable whether even a four-game winning streak to end the season will save the job for Eric Mangini.

Considering how bare the cupboard was left in Tampa Bay, it would be amazingly unfair if first year head coach Raheem Morris does not receive at least one more season in Tampa.

However, Morris has the unfortunate situation of being with a franchise that likes to make the big splash and bringing in Bill Cowher or some other big-name coach would make the Bucs much more interesting next season than if Morris is back for another year.

It seems likely that Jim Mora will receive a second season in Seattle, but with a 5-11 record and some upheaval within the organization, there is no guarantee.  Since there will be someone new running football operations, if that person decides that he wants to bring in his own coach, Mora could be one and done in his second stint as a head coach.

It is unclear whether Lovie Smith has earned the chance to return to Chicago for another season.

It is unclear whether Lovie Smith has earned the chance to return to Chicago for another season.

Two coaches with Super Bowl resumes are also on the bubble. Improvement over the last few weeks of the season may have saved the job for John Fox in Carolina.

The same may be true for Lovie Smith in Chicago as the Bears finished with consecutive victories. However, a 7-9 record in a season with high expectations could end up being enough to convince ownership that it is time for a change.

Surprisingly, there are two playoff bound coaches who may need to produce some victories to ensure a return in 2010.

In Dallas, Jerry Jones has said that he is pleased with Wade Phillips, but if they cannot defeat Philadelphia at home in their playoff opener, you can bet that Jones will be looking through his Rolodex for another coach.

After making the AFC Championship Game a year ago and then winning 13 games this season it is possible that Norv Turner has already secured another season with the Bolts. However, if they lose their playoff opener it could open old wounds and get the Chargers management wondering if Turner is the guy who can lead them to the promised land.

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