Ah, there’s nothing like putting your neck on the line.
Last year was my best year here on FOXSports.com for picking playoff teams. Of course, one of my bold picks was that Indy, with the retirement of a Hall of Fame coach, would take a step back. About that …
I predict history this year — first time since realignment that three teams will make the playoffs from the same division in both conferences.
Cue up the Cowboys fans, point Steelers Nation in my direction, bear it, Chicago, and fire up the Vikings message boards.
It’s our sixth annual preseason predictions here on FOXSports.com (with a Schein Nine for each division).
Redskins 10-6 (wild card)
Eagles 9-7 (wild card)
1. Mike Shanahan, Kyle Shanahan, Bruce Allen and Donovan McNabb replace a quarterbacks coach masquerading as a head coach, a bingo caller, a talk-show host pretending to be a general manager and a quarterback who was destined to fail with a new system every year. That’s progress.
2. Don’t underestimate how much better the Redskins are at offensive tackle.
3. Before the Cowboys fan base fires off nasty tweets to my Twitter account (twitter.com/AdamSchein), go through the schedule. Look at your tackle position. Look at safety. Remember how you historically handle expectations. I debated eight or nine wins.
4. The Cowboys clearly have the worst head coach in the division.
5. Philadelphia’s defense will be much better with a healthy Stewart Bradley, the addition of Ernie Sims, draft picks Brandon Graham and Nate Allen and a full calendar of Sean McDermott running the defense.
6. New Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell is energetic, aggressive, and demands accountability. He is the anti-Bill Sheridan and instantly makes the Giants better.
7. The upside of Antrel Rolle and a healthy Kenny Phillips is to be the best safety combo in the NFC.
8. Donovan McNabb will have a better year than Kevin Kolb.
9. Expect Kevin Kolb to have a very good first year, DeSean Jackson to become a star and both Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy to break out. My only hesitation for Philly is the interior of the offensive line.
1. Vikings fans are going to be livid! That’s fine. Look at the defensive gurus Brett Favre faces in the first half: Gregg Williams, Mike Nolan, Rex Ryan, Bill Belichick and Dom Capers are in the group. Not a good recipe for success for a grandpa at quarterback coming off surgery, sans his best receiver in Sidney Rice.
2. Mike Martz says he is committed to the run. If you believe that, I have an island to sell you in the Caribbean.
3. The Green Bay Packers will have the best offense in the NFL. Aaron Rodgers will win MVP. Jermichael Finley will make you a genius in your fantasy league.
4. Mike McCarthy told me this was the best offseason program the Packers have had since he’s been there. And the commitment and crispness has continued into August.
5. I’m not worried about the Packers’ O-line. Bryan Bulaga stabilizes the unit. And Aaron Rodgers says he takes responsibility for several sacks and he has learned how to get rid of the ball quicker.
6. Green Bay’s special teams scare me on every level. McCarthy says the coverage will be cleaned up with an emphasis on eliminating holding penalties. We’ll see.
7. The Lions are the second-most improved team in the NFC. Jahvid Best will be in the mix for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
8. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson will combine on several majestic plays. And they better. While Detroit truly improved its front four on defense, the back seven is shaky, to put it nicely.
9. The return of E.J. Henderson is a big deal for the Vikings defense. Leslie Frazier deserves to be an NFL head coach. Wonder if the Bears will call at the end of the year?
1. Michael Turner told me this offseason that he blamed himself for Atlanta’s not making the playoffs. He lost weight and is prime to get back to his 2008 form.
2. The Falcons defense scares me on every level. The health and productivity of Peria Jerry really frightens me.
3. Atlanta was a tough final omission for the playoffs. The quarterback is destined to be a star. Mike Smith is an excellent head coach.
4. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis told me his group of linebackers for 2010 is akin to his running backs last year. Loomis said: “Everyone a year ago thought we needed more at running back. Now everyone thinks we need help at linebacker. I didn’t think that was the case then. I don’t think that’s the case now.”
5. I think the leadership of Drew Brees, Jon Vilma, Sean Payton and Gregg Williams will pave the way into the uncharted waters of being the defending Super Bowl champs. New Orleans rightly celebrated hard in the offseason. I think the Saints are ready for 2010.
6. I don’t like Carolina’s depth at receiver or on defense.
7. I really like John Fox as a head coach, but I think he is doomed.
8. I’m rooting for Matt Moore. I think he earned the job in Carolina. But we will see Jimmy Clausen before we should.
9. The Bucs are paper-thin on every level, starting with the head coach and staff. The Josh Freeman injury doesn’t help matters.
1. I considered 0-16 for the Rams after the Donnie Avery injury. But I’m in a good mood and an optimist by nature.
2. I think I get credit for the Cards as a sleeper pick at this stage.
3. Arizona doesn’t have a top 32 quarterback in the NFL. But I love Beanie Wells as a breakout star. And the rookies will help this club in every phase. The Cards do an excellent job of drafting and nurturing players.
4. Ken Whisenhunt is the best head coach in the division. His staff is underrated.
5. I have a total man-crush on Patrick Willis, my Defensive Player of the Year. And the Niners will have a top 10 defense. But will they make enough game-changing plays?
6. Who is Alex Smith? I still have no idea.
7. Give Seattle another year to rebuild an underrated mess. In Pete Carroll, John Schneider and Scot McCloughan, they have the right guys to turn it around for 2011.
8. If Charlie Whitehurst is the answer, I’d love to know the question. Even Norv Turner acknowledged to me he got a kick out of my radio rant wondering why Seattle would make the trade.
9. Leon Washington will get back to the form he showed with the Jets.
Patriots 10-6 (wild card)
Dolphins 10-6 (wild card)
1. I usually get ripped for thinking the Bills always have a chance. Not the case this year. I don’t like the choice for head coach. I don’t love the staff. I’m concerned about the offensive line. I think the quarterback is talented but suffers from a lack of confidence.
2. But Buffalo did do one thing right in drafting C.J. Spiller, my pick for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
3. The Dolphins defense is vastly improved with Mike Nolan taking over, and the club added Karlos Dansby, Koa Misi and Jared Odrick. The second-year cornerbacks will play even better.
4. Chad Henne is going to surprise you with how many yards he throws for this year. Brandon Marshall changes everything.
5. The Patriots have no running attack. And Logan Mankins is certainly stubborn enough to hold out for an entire season. But Tom Brady is flat-out amazing. Wes Welker is healthy. I like the young tight ends.
6. The Patriots will be much better than you think. I like the young defensive backs. I love a healthy Jerod Mayo.
7. Even if Darrelle Revis didn’t play a down, the Jets defense would still lead them to wins. Antonio Cromartie needed a change of scenery. Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine do a great job. But the Calvin Pace injury is a big deal. Ryan and Pettine love this cat. Pace is an underrated pass rusher.
8. Mark Sanchez spent time this offseason working with my radio co-host Rich Gannon. The two big areas Sanchez needs to improve? Third-down and fourth-quarter efficiency.
9. I think LaDainian Tomlinson bounces back in a major way.
1. Some people are high on the Browns. Take a look at the schedule from Weeks 3-17. I just don’t get the optimism, until Jon Gruden or Mike Holmgren take over for Eric Mangini next year.
2. I have the Steelers going 1-3 without Ben Roethlisberger. Two wins in the first quarter of the season, max.
3. I really have a lot of concerns about Pittsburgh’s offensive line without Willie Colon, passing attack without Santonio Holmes and the special teams.
4. Why would I trust T.O. to be on good behavior all year long?
5. The Bengals fascinate me. But the mega-egos scare me. I still love Carson Palmer. The Bengals’ corners are underrated. Mike Zimmer is an excellent coordinator on defense.
6. Joe Flacco, Anquan Boldin and the Ravens’ passing attack will thrive.
7. Ray Rice, Michael Oher and the Ravens’ running attack will dominate.
8. Ed Reed’s health and happiness have me very concerned. The secondary is weak by Baltimore’s standards. But I trust the front seven. John Harbaugh and his staff do a great job.
9. Mangini’s being on thin ice is documented. But could Marvin Lewis leave on his own accord? Will Bruce Arians survive another non-playoff year as Steelers offensive coordinator?
1. I made the mistake last year of overanalyzing how a bad running attack and coaching changes could affect the Colts. I’ll never do that again, as long as Peyton Manning is under center.
2. Losing Brian Cushing for four games takes a huge bite out of the Texans defense.
3. I’m sorry. I still don’t trust Vince Young. And I don’t like the Tennessee passing attack.
4. I call the Jaguars “America’s team” because they consistently finish at the bottom of the Harris Interactive Poll for popularity. It’s a fun shtick on my FOXSports.com videos and on Sirius NFL Radio. That’s why Maurice Jones-Drew signed Adam Schefter’s bus “America’s team” this summer. Deal with it, Dallas. It’s funny.
5. Can David Garrard steer a team to the playoffs and take them to the next level? I have my doubts. Based on their offseason comments, so do coach Jack Del Rio and owner Wayne Weaver.
6. If the Jags struggle and fail to sell seats, with a work stoppage looming, this could equal damage beyond repair for football in Jacksonville.
7. A healthy Bob Sanders changes everything for the Colts defense.
8. Texans WR Andre Johnson is my Offensive Player of the Year.
9. I acknowledge the upside of a Jeff Fisher-coached team is always the playoffs, regardless of the makeup of the roster. But I just don’t see it.
1. Denver just cannot survive the loss of its best player on defense, star linebacker Elvis Dumervil.
2. San Diego won’t have a classic regular season with the Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill holdouts looming large as distractions and hurting on game day.
3. New offensive coordinator Hue Jackson and new quarterback Jason Campbell will make the Raiders offense respectable and credible for the first time in years.
4. Ryan Mathews is a lock for 1,200 yards playing for Norv Turner.
5. Thomas Jones and Dexter McCluster will make an impact for Kansas City on offense. The Chiefs defense holds them back.
6. For the first time in forever, the Raiders will beat the Chargers in a regular-season game.
7. Don’t be surprised if the all-star coaching staff in Kansas City gets this team closer to eight wins. I just didn’t have the guts to pull the trigger.
8. Tim Tebow will play more than you expect.
9. The hot seat for Josh McDaniels will be boiling by the conclusion of the season.
AFC title game: Indy over Baltimore
NFC title game: Green Bay over New Orleans
Super Bowl: Green Bay over Indy
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