In 25 previous seasons of NFL predictions I have accurately forecast the Super Bowl winner twice: the 49ers in 1994 and the Packers in 2010. I ain't braggin'. That's an 8 percent incidence of being right. That would put my odds of being right this time at roughly 12-to-1.
But being a glass-half-full guy I can tell you my chances this time are exponentially better than, for example, the 500-1 odds against someone being born with 11 fingers or toes. Also, I give myself a better shot than the Dolphins have of winning in Seattle Sunday. There's that law of averages thing, too.
So, unbroken and only slightly bowed, I give you my 2016 NFL divisional forecast. (Do not be fooled by others' lame attempts at this. Ours is the real lame attempt!)
Wild-card teams are indicated (by WC), and division picks are followed by my doomed Super Bowl prediction:
▪ AFC East: Patriots 12-4, Jets 8-8, Dolphins 7-9, Bills 7-9 – This division continues as Snow White & the Three Dwarfs, and Patriots missing Tom Brady for four games won't dent that narrative. The upside? Tight three-way battle for second place! But, alas, an eighth straight year with no postseason for Miami.
▪ AFC North: Steelers 12-4, Bengals 9-7 (WC), Ravens 8-8, Browns 2-14 – Pittsburgh, when at full strength, has chance to be Super, and Cincy should make playoffs again (uh oh). Meanwhile: “Cleveland: Making the Dolphins Look Good Since 1999.”
▪ AFC South: Jaguars 10-6, Texans 9-7, Colts 7-9, Titans 3-13 – Indy is division's betting fave, but, sorry, I don't trust overrated (and overpaid) Andrew Luck or his Colts. I said Jacksonville was my AFC “it” team on the rise and I'm stickin' with it.
▪ AFC West: Broncos 10-6, Chiefs 9-7 (WC), Raiders 9-7, Chargers 4-12 – Denver, K-City and ascending Oakland could make this league's most interesting three-dog divisional fight. And Raiders in playoffs for first time since 2002 wouldn't shock.
▪ NFC East: Cowboys 9-7, Giants 8-8, Redskins 7-9, Eagles 3-13 – Winner of New York-Dallas opener will set tone here, with a Washington falloff expected and Philly rebooting. Do not write off 'Boys because Tony Romo is out. In Dak We Trust!
▪ NFC North: Packers 13-3, Vikings 9-7 (WC), Lions 5-11, Bears 4-12 – Lots of money going on Green Bay to win it all, and hard to argue. Minny survives loss of Teddy Bridgewater. Detroit and Chicago aspire to make climb to medicority.
▪ NFC South: Panthers 12-4, Buccaneers 8-8, Falcons 7-9, Saints 6-10 –No serious challenger here to Cam Newton's Carolina, but Tampa will be better than most believe. Wouldn't Drew Brees with a defense be an interesting concept?
▪ NFC West: Seahawks 12-4, Cardinals 11-5 (WC), Rams 7-9, 49ers 4-12 – You could argue Seattle and 'Zona give this division the two best teams in NFL. Mark this, though: Los Angeles will be good, fast, if Jared Goff, when he plays, is what they hope he is.
▪ Super Bowl: Steelers over Packers. There. I said it. Those are two of only about six teams with a real shot, and I'm hunching Big Ben is due to add a third ring to the ones he won in 2005 and '08 and narrowly missed in '10. Truly sorry, Pittsburgh. That's just the way I feel.