Sep. 5, 2011
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With the season less than week away, it's time to make predictions for the 2011 season. Without further ado...
AFC Wildcard round
Jets over Ravens, Steelers over Texans
AFC Divisional round
Patriots over Jets, Chargers over Steelers
AFC Championship Game
Chargers over Patriots
Eagles over Cowboys, Packers over Saints
MVP: Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Michael Vick
Let's be clear on one thing: this is not an endorsement, merely a prediction of the artist formerly known as Ron Mexico continuing his rags-to-riches-to-rags-to-riches ride. The only player in the history of the NFL to score a pair of 100 million contracts is at the helm of the latest Dream Team. He will either continue his ascent, or suffer a breathtaking fall. The media loves a good redemption story, even if it's hard for many to swallow. Still.
Offensive player of the year : San Diego Chargers Quarterback Philip Rivers
This is the year Rivers finally joins that pantheon of current QB greats and is mentioned in the same breath as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. Rivers might even steal a few MVP votes along the way as he embarks on a 5,000-yard passing season. Finally, Rivers should take San Diego where not even Dan Fouts could - atop a stage holding the Lombardy Trophy. And yes, we realize Norv Turner is still the Chargers coach.
Defensive player of the year Detroit Lions Defensive Tackle Ndamukong Suh
And for his encore, Suh, the 2010 NFL defensive rookie of the year and All-Pro with 10 sacks, will lead a Motown revival that ends with a trip to the playoffs. You know he's not only feared but respected in the trenches when he's already being accused of dirty play. He's that mean, that nasty and, yes, that good. He's a game-changer who also intercepted a pass as a rookie and will only get better.
Offensive rookie of the year: Bengals Quarterback Andy Dalton
Oh how I wanted to go with Atlanta receiver Julio Jones here, what with his sliding into a high-powered offense that propelled the Falcons to the NFC's top seed last year. But Dalton will be a starting NFL quarterback from Day 1, and that carries a lot of weight. And he'll pile on a lot of stats, relatively speaking. At least, if he survives playing for one of the more woeful squads in the league in the Bengals.
Defensive rookie of the year: 49ers Linebacker Aldon Smith
The sexy pick is Denver linebacker Von Miller, the No 2 pick of the draft. But Smith will be playing in more meaningful games, albeit in a much worse division. Still, Smith was a frenetic presence this preseason for the 49ers in wracking up 19 tackles, tied for second-most on the team, and getting a team-high 3 12 sacks. Smith, the seventh overall pick of he draft, should continue that production.
Comeback player of the year: Green Bay Packers Tight End Jermichael Finley
A right knee injury ended Finley's 2010 season after just five games. And still, the Packers went on to win the Super Bowl. With Finley back, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has a dependable security blanket back at his sideand in the flat, and underneath. Finley figures to benefit from Rodgers' rise to prominence, and the proof will be in the numbers Finley puts up as a pass-catching tight end for the defending champs.
Coach of the year: Detroit Lions' Jim Schwartz
Quick, name the head coach of the Lions. And no, it's no longer Wayne Fontes. To steal a line from the Mel Brooks cult classic "Spaceballs," May the Schwartz be with you. Lions fans will be singing the third-year Lions coach praises this fall and winter as he leads Detroit, with a big help from his ferocious defensive line and an opportunistic offense, to its first playoff berth since 1999.