Season Preview Yields Interesting Predictions

The season preview and fantasy football guide is currently in bookstores and on newsstands. Included is a poll of the and NFL Experts, which produced some interesting results. Eric Hartz takes a look.

Annual subscribers have received their copy of the FOX Fantasy Football Guide and Pro Football Preview.

It's chock-full of info on how to dominate your fantasy football league this fall, with draft-day tips and analysis, position rankings, mock drafts and more. Also included is the Pro Football Preview, which includes storylines for each team, as well as a detailed breakdown of each squad written by the team experts.'s panel says Houston will grab the AFC South title in 2009
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One of the most interesting parts of the magazine is the NFL Experts Survey, a panel of 25 writers, including yours truly, as well as many of the other team publishers, NFL Expert Chris Steuber, and FOXSports Fantasy Experts John Halpin and Mike Harmon.

The questions ranged from Super Bowl picks to hottest cheerleaders and everything in between. Some of the picks concern the Colts, and those will be examined here — but first, some predictions are a little odd.

Teams love to play the "no respect" card, but both the Colts and Super Bowl champion Steelers will be able to after reading these selections.

First, six teams got votes to win the Super Bowl. New England was the favorite with 39 percent of the vote, while Philadelphia got 21 percent and San Diego and the New York Giants each had 11 percent. Somewhere in the other 18 percent, the Cowboys and Colts also got votes — no love for the Steelers to repeat.

That's not a huge surprise, as it is a tough task to repeat as champions, but things get really strange — even shocking — when you look at the division winners.

Six of the eight divisions had consensus winners. Atlanta and Carolina split votes in the NFC South, and the NFC West was split between Arizona, Seattle and San Francisco.

The other divisions are pretty much chalk — New England, San Diego, Baltimore, the New York Giants, and a slight surprise in Green Bay — until one gets to the AFC South.

There, the consensus pick to win the division is the Houston Texans.

No, that's not a typo.

Not the Tennessee Titans, who won the division last year and have made the playoffs two years running.

Not the Indianapolis Colts, who have won five of the last six division titles.

Not even the Jacksonville Jaguars, who went to the AFC Championship game just two seasons ago and have re-tooled after a disaster of a 2008 season.

No, the consensus pick for the AFC South title by the panel was the Texans, a team which has not only never won the division, but is the only team in the league to never earn a playoff berth.

Of course, the Texans are the league's youngest team, as 2009 will be only their eighth season in the NFL.

And, while many have predicted that this is the year they would make the step from a middle-of-the-pack team to a playoff team — they won the "sleeper team" category as well, with 18 percent of the vote — to see them picked ahead of stable, successful franchises like Indianapolis and Tennessee was jaw-dropping.

The season is yet to play out, and seeing if this prediction comes true will be one of the most interesting parts of it.

Also noteworthy for Colts fans among the panel's picks:

  • The Colts, along with the Titans, were in the "also receiving votes" category for AFC Champion, behind New England (a clear favorite at 54 percent), Pittsburgh and San Diego (14 percent each).

  • Peyton Manning is in a large group mentioned for Offensive and league MVP, but was behind Tom Brady, Donovan McNabb and Adrian Peterson in both categories.

  • The Colts will have the third-best offense, according to the panel. Indianapolis collected 14 percent of the vote in that category, behind New England (29 percent) and Arizona (25 percent).

  • The AFC South was projected to be the third-toughest division, behind the NFC and AFC East, and Manning was in another large group in the "Fantasy MVP" category — however, Adrian Peterson was the only player to get a large number of votes, with 43 percent choosing the Vikings' star running back.

  • Manning did get top billing in two categories, however. He was a clear favorite in the "If you could have one player to start a franchise" category with 36 percent (Brady and Matt Ryan were next with 18 percent each), and the "favorite player" category. In a diffused vote, Manning got 14 percent, edging Peterson and Kurt Warner, who each got 11 percent.

  • In the "Best Rivalry" category, 21 percent of voters picked the Steelers-Ravens, but Colts-Patriots came in tied for second with Eagles-Giants (14 percent).

To see the rest of the poll — which includes the toughest places to play, best uniforms, best cheerleaders and more — as well as the Colts preview, along with comments from other experts, you'll have to pick up your own copy of the magazine, which is on sale at bookstores and on newsstands now.

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