Enjoy it while it lasts, this could be the last first game of the NFL season that we see for more than a year. The lockout is looming over next season and I can’t quite imagine an autumn without football. What do the normals do on Sundays in the fall? Will I become a garage sale junky? Will I sit in front of the television with crackers, peanut butter, jelly, and muenster and pretend there’s football on anyway?
What will become of Scott Hanson? Rich Eisen? No doubt Joe Theismann will find a way to infect my life somehow. Which reminds me, before we get started, a big “Why did you have to go and do that?” to the NFL Network for adding Theismann to their broadcast booth for their slate of games this year. I just can’t fathom that there was a majority of people in any room in America that agreed that this would benefit ratings and/or pleasure. Onto the season.
Everyone seems to write a season preview, some people even have a catch or a twist to it. Bill Simmons might relate this season to 20 quotes from an 80’s guy movie or 90210. I’m new to this whole thing so I’ll do it straight up plain, only my predictions will be correct. Here it comes!
The Division will be won by the Ravens. It’s going to be damn close again, and I feel a Ray Lewis injury coming, but the Ravens will pull it off. It is said that your weaknesses are exposed in the playoffs, and the Ravens’ weakness is undoubtedly their defensive backfield, which doesn’t bode will if they wind up playing the Colts or Patriots in January. They’re in one of the more competitive divisions, even the Browns will improve, and they’re playing the Marino and Sapp divisions as well. That will keep them from getting a first round bye. They’ll learn a lot about themselves in a three week span in December when they play the Steelers at home, travel to Houston, then come home to play the Saints. They end the season at home against the Bengals which may end up deciding the division.
The Elway Division will be won by, wait for it, wait for it….the Chiefs! Believe it. It happens every year, some team that no one saw coming winds up winning their division and getting knocked out in the first or second round of the playoffs. Do you think the Chiefs have any chance of winning the division? Hell no. Will they? Yes. Why? Because they have no chance too. Ahh, but they do. They have the talent on offense, Matt Cassel just has to listen to Charlie Weis and put it all together. Bowe, Chambers, Thomas Jones, Jamaal Charles, Dexter McCluster.
A ridiculously confident and arrogant coaching staff, a stud rookie safety, a not great division, match-ups against the Rice and Unitas division. The Chiefs are a Phillip Rivers injury away from having this division won by the beginning of December. The only impediments that I see are an early week 4 bye and Tim Tebow’s super powers. Other than that you are free to call Vegas and place your bets.
The Unitas Division will be won by the Colts. Sorry, Houston, it’s not your time yet. Barring the Peyton Manning injury, which I’ve been feeling for the last two years, it’ll be same old, same old. We’ll actually know a lot after Sunday. The Texans are apparently treating this home game against the Colts like the Super Bowl, so maybe Peyton will wind up choking it away, but it’s only one game. The Texans and Titans will battle it out for the wild cards, though.
There’s no telling what will happen in my beloved Marino Division. I just don’t see it happening for the Jets, Rex Ryan’s mouth can’t play games. I lived in central New Jersey for 30 years and have heard the “Jets have great expectations” song far too many times. This feels like a “worst team money can buy” type of season for them. Ultimately it all comes down to Mark Sanchez and he’s not there yet. Sure there’s a ton of talent, but it’s been said and repeated on Hard Kocks, where’s the leadership? Is L.Tom going to crumble in the playoffs again? Is Santonio Holmes really the leader of your offense? Was it Allen Faneca and Thomas Jones? That leaves the Patriots, the Dolphins, and the other team. If I’m going by talent, it’s the Patriots just because of their offense. Actually, just because of their passing game if Randy Moss is happy. That defense is pretty bad. And don’t think that Tom Brady’s car accident today isn’t an omen. If I’m going by strength of schedule, it’s the Dolphins hands down. Minus a week 14 game at the Jets and the season finale in Foxboro, the Dolphins finish the season with home games against the Bears, Browns, Bills and Lions, and travel to Oakland. Those are all games that Chad Pennington, yes Pennington, can win. I worry about Chad Henne, I hope he does well, but if it has to be Pennington, he can win in December. January’s another story.
AFC Division Winners: Ravens, Chiefs, Colts, Dolphins
AFC Wild Cards: Houston, Cincinatti
In the NFC, the Rice Division will be won by the 49ers. I want to pick someone crazy here, but I don’t have it in me. Sure, Derek Anderson could be the Derek Anderson that took the Browns to the playoffs, and I could weight 180 pounds, be employed, and know how to play the piano while ice skating. It’s not happening. That does have a better chance of happening, though, than Pete Carroll being a successful NFL coach. I will listen to country and western music every waking minute of every day for two months if the Seahawks make the playoffs. Even with Alex Smith at quarterback, I just don’t see anyone else preventing the 49ers from winning the division. Games against the Sapp and Elway Divisions will keep them from getting a first round bye, though.
The Sapp Division is a toughy. They get games against the Division and the Rice Division and the games played in the division are usually close. I don’t see what can stop the Saints, other than having to be lead by Chase Daniel if disaster strikes and Brees gets hurt. The Bucs still seem too young, but could wind up being the NFC team that no one saw coming. The Falcons should be steady all year and one or two games will decide their fate. The Panthers got extremely young in the off-season and could win 2 or 11 games, I wouldn’t be surprised with either. Plus they cut their ginger quarterback, sot there goes that karma. John Fox is a goner after the season unless he wins the Super Bowl, so I can see him gambling non-stop all season, why not? I’m still picking the Saints to win the division, though.
I want to go nuts and say the Lions will claim the Butkus Division, but I won’t. Maybe next year, or 2012 I mean.
Maybe they’ll wind up winning the division on December 20, 2012 and that will trigger all of the Mayan end of the world hullabaloo. That date is a Thursday, so there’s a chance they win a game on the NFL Network’s slate and Joe Theismann says one word too many and Quetzalcoatl comes back, removes Joe from the planet, and enlightenment reigns in the Theismannless New World. Sign me up. Anyway, the Packers seem primed to roll straight through to a first round playoff bye and I’m on board. They do get the task of playing the Marino and L.T. Divisions, but so do Favre and Cutler and I like Aaron Rodgers’ chances better than the other two. I’m a Favre doubter this year. Maybe I shouldn’t be, maybe he’s as good as he was last year. Maybe Brad Childress realizes he’s got a great running back and they’ll overwork him all season and let Favre take over in the playoffs. Maybe they ride Peterson, until midseason when Sidney Rice comes back and lines up next to the newly acquired Vincent Jackson and Vikings plow through everyone and wind up stealing the division. I don’t think they’ll win the division, but I think Peterson and the defense should be enough to earn them a wild card whether it’s Favre or Tarvaris Jackson under center.
It’s going to be a chippy season in the L.T. Division and I’m certain all of the local media markets will have field days whenever they play each other. I’m already planning my media hibernation when Donovan McNabb goes back to Philadelphia in week 4. Other than the big McNabb trade, Albert Haynesworth’s conditioning test, and a new, not so windy stadium for the Giants, not much has changed in this division. The Cowboys have loads of talent, but can’t seem to put it all together. The Giants are the Giants, they’ll make it look like they’re in every game whether they are or aren’t. If McNabb winds up throwing the ball to Vincent Jackson, the Redskins have a chance, I don’t see it happening if they have to depend Mike Shanahan’s Super Committee of Running Backs Committee (MSSCRBC).
That leaves the Eagles, their still blitzing defense, their wretched fans, and Kevin Kolb. Kolb looked great in two games last season, not so much this preseason. I see the Eagles being middle of the road, the Cowboys putting it together enough for a wild card, and the Giants winning the division.
NFC Division Winners: 49ers, Saints, Packers, Giants.
NFC Wild Cards: Cowboys, Vikings.
AFC Championship Game: Baltimore over Cincinnati in Baltimore
NFC Championship Game: Packers over Saints in Lambeau
Super Bowl: Packers over Ravens
League MVP: Drew Brees, 2nd place – Scott Hanson of the Red Zone Channel.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Jahvid Best
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Kyle Wilson
Coach of the Year: Todd Haley
Major injury that ruin your fantasy season: Maurice Jones-Drew.
Under performers of the year: Chris Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald via Derek Anderson, the Jets, Mike Martz.
Over performers of the year: The Browns, both Mike Williams, the Panthers defense, Gus Johnson.