Disappointing doesn't even begin to describe the 2007 NFL season for the New Orleans Saints. After experiencing a Cinderella season in '06, the Saints became the consensus pick to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLII. A horrible start proved to be too deep of a hole for this team to dig out of, so New Orleans won't get a chance to recapture last year's post-season. If the Saints want to avoid ending up in the same position next time around, they'll definitely need to do some soul searching.
After completely undershooting everyone's expectations last year, the Bengals still haven't found a way to play as a team and keep everyone focused on the game. Carson Palmer has already called for some major shake-ups in the personnel department, but the players of Cincinnati are going to have to do some major soul searching to correct what's wrong, because you can't turnover the entire roster in on off-season.
The Panthers once again proved to be inconsistent as well as injury prone. There's not much you can do about this team's penchant for fragility on the field, but they can definitely aim to bring their "A" game every week. Just like the other two teams above, it's going to take a little soul searching to correct what's wrong.
The reason I've been bringing up "soul searching" so much, is because I believe that each of these teams had the talent to be in the post-season this year. The reason they aren't is due to their mental state and their ability to work as a team. Their front office can wheel and deal all off-season long to improve the team, but these three won't be experiencing any type of real success until their players become dedicated to bringing their best to every game.
The lone playoff participant of the bunch, the Jacksonville Jaguars have some soul searching to do as well. In order to reach the Super Bowl, they will likely have to win three incredibly difficult road games in Pittsburgh, New England, and Indianapolis. I don't think it's possible to come up with a more difficult road to the title game with the way the conferences are currently constructed. Although they've been extremely overlooked all season, the Jaguars are, without question, a Super Bowl caliber team. But if they're going to claim their franchise's first AFC Championship, it's going to take a lot more than just toughness on the football field. It's going to take toughness from within. If the Jaguars can find that and channel it, I may very well be in for a scary Divisional Round game next weekend...
Well, turns out that I matched my worst record ever in predicting the 12 playoffs teams before the season began by going a wretched 4 for 12. Just for the ease of my own personal record keeping, here's how I've fared in the past:
I'm really kicking myself this year for breaking the "No more than 7 teams can return to the post-season" rule. Like a fool, I picked eight to return. Don't ask me why I felt that this would be the first year in NFL history that law would be broken. (The actual number this year was six, by the way) I definitely deserve this horrendous record after doing that. Just to show how off-base I was, I had mentioned in my season preview that four teams were "gimmee" picks and I only needed to go three for eight the rest of the way to get over .500. Three of those were successful calls in the Patriots, Colts, and Chargers. The Bears were the lone disappointment of the three. However, if you do the math, that means I went 3/4 in the "gimmee" picks, and a putrid 1/8 in the remaining picks. Talk about stinking up the joint!
Making picks before the season starts is always a tough thing to do. That's why I like to make a set of Week 2 predictions after we've gotten the chance to take a quick glimpse at everybody. This year some of my correct predictions were the Redskins making the playoffs, the Broncos and Texans not making the playoffs, and that's about it. The other six that I botched were the Packers and Steelers not making the playoffs, the Saints making the playoffs, the NFC West being a tight race, and the Jets just missing out on the playoffs (they were never even close!). That puts me at a pretty poor three for nine. However, I'll be more than happy to deal with my bad predictions as long as I can get the last remaining one, that has yet to be determined, to come true...
"The Patriots are going to finish 19-0!"
Seahawks over Redskins, Buccaneers over Giants
Cowboys over Buccaneers, Packers over Seahawks
Packers over Cowboys
Chargers over Titans, Jaguars over Steelers
Patriots over Jaguars, Colts over Chargers
Patriots over Colts
Super Bowl XLII:
Patriots over Packers - my lone Super Bowl loss as a Patriots fan, finally revenged in the biggest title game in NFL history!