Greetings and salutations. It is that time of year again where wives get angry with husbands because Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays are off limits due to a ball made of pigskin. For those of you tired of reading and hearing about Johnny Football, I give you this year’s NFL Season Preview. Submit your picks before Thursday night in order to claim official bragging rights at season’s end. All latecomers will be ridiculed and accused of the crime of bandwagon jumping.
1. New England Patriots
The Patriots win this division by default. Buffalo has made improvements on both sides of the ball but their uncertainty at quarterback raises questions to their longevity. New England lost the Gator jailbird whom they invested millions in, has Gronk still recovering from injury, lost their top Wide Receiver in Welker, and a Tom Brady who already injured his knee once in preseason. Despite all of this, the competition in this division is laughable. They will eke out 10 wins en route to yet another AFC East crown. Side note: The Pats also magically avoided the kiss of death by cutting Timmy Tebow (Big Bill must have lost a bet to Josh McDaniel for him to get a look in training camp).
2. Buffalo Bills
The Bills vastly improved their team on both sides of the ball. However, watching The Glass Man Kevin Kolb go down to yet another concussion and watching the FSU QB stud EJ Manuel go down to a minor injury, it begs the question… is this an omen of things to come? The great news is 8-8 might be good enough to grab a wild card slot in the weak AFC. With the lowly Jets and Dolphins below them, expectations are low but the ceiling is high.
3. Miami Dolphins
I have not watched a single down or seen a single highlight of the Dolphins. I only place them here because of what you will read below.
4. New York Jets
If the Jets do not make the playoffs this year, I expect Rex Ryan to be fired. The goodwill from two AFC Championship games has worn off and it is time to put up or shut up. Watching the Jets drama play out week to week at the quarterback position will be fun. Sanchez may or may not go on injured reserve, Geno Smith may be highly overrated, and it came across the wires the Jets signed Brady Quinn to be the mentor for Geno Smith. Don’t forget Darrell Revis is gone too. Ladies and gentlemen… this is your 2013 New York Jets.
1. Denver Broncos
Who decided to hand the Broncos an easy route to the playoff? The Broncs drew the AFC South and the unfortunate NFC East. Broncos go 11-5 en route to the AFC title. Manning looks great and the addition of Wes Welker gives him a go to Wide Receiver.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
I really cannot tell you whether the Chiefs will be good or not. Jamaal Charles is a great back but his age started showing in his limited preseason appearances. I also am not sure what to make of Alex Smith as their quarterback. That said they are far better than either of the two teams below them.
3. San Diego Chargers
If the Redskins are any indicator, the Chargers will have a 4-6 year downturn due to the destruction led by one Norv Turner. I know the preseason does not count but their starters looked dreadful and Phillip Rivers looked particularly awful. The only thing saving them is a decimated Raiders team.
4. Oakland Raiders
The Raiders hit the self-destruct button to rebuild. I cannot blame them personally and wish them well in their future endeavors.
1. Cincinnati Bengals
That’s right sports fans. I am not picking the Ravens to repeat as conference champions. Watching the offseason moves and the progression of the Red Rifle has been fascinating. Their defense is improved and their offense started to gel at the end of last season. I am jumping on the bandwagon and there is room for you too.
2. Baltimore Ravens
Too many losses on both sides of the ball. Losing the heart and soul of the team in Ray Lewis is going to hurt them this year. I think the Ravens have a solid year but picking them to win the division this year is a bit dicey.
3. Cleveland Browns
The Browns might actually be ok. Recent GM hire Mike Lombardi did a good job in the draft and assembled a decent roster while getting rid of some of the dead weight. While this year won’t be a picnic, I expect the Browns to look better next year. Lombardi is a decent football mind and he will have them on track for the first time since they were resurrected after the Baltimore fiasco.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
Every time I count the Steelers down, they Hulk up, shake their finger, punch their opponent three times, whip their opponent into the ropes for the big boot, and finish them off by dropping the big leg drop for the 1-2-3. This year won’t be the case. Much like when the Undertaker Tombstone Piledrove Hulk Hogan on the chair at Survivor Series 1991, the Steelers mojo dies this year. Their defense is old and beat up and they did nothing to help their offense and putrid offensive line. I don’t expect better than 4-12 for the Steelers.
1. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts really were a good team last year despite my penchant for picking against them most weeks. With (Andrew) Luck on their side and a favorable schedule against the AFC West and South… Welcome back to relevance post-Manning Indianapolis.
2. Houston Texans
It is time to close the book on Matty S. He puts up average – above average numbers but when has he won a truly clutch game in the playoffs? That’s right, never.
3. Tennessee Titans
More of the same from last year. Quarterback struggles, mediocre play by Chris Johnson, and an above average defense carry them to more wins than they should have.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
I cannot even waste more space on this team…
1. Philadelphia Eagles
I know I am asking a lot of Chip Kelly and an aging Michael Vick but this feels like the sexy pick. I hate making it but by gosh, who else is there? The Redskins overachieved last year and injured the quarterback we have been looking for since 1993. The Cowboys will be the Cowboys and the New York Giants are the sixth seeded wonder team.
2. New York Giants
I went back and forth on whether the Redskins belonged in this spot but could not bring myself to do it with the quarterback situation. Is RG3 healthy? Can he be the RG3 of last year? The answer is probably not. The Giants will do what the Giants do, win big games and lose letdown games where they look sluggish and out of shape.
3. Washington Redskins
Why you ask? They are just good enough to go 7-9 as listed above. They have the ability to win the division but until we see RG3 on the field, making plays, and not getting hurt, there are too many unknowns.
4. Dallas Cowboys
Jerry’s offseason decisions were laughable. Let’s give Romo, a guy who has yet to win a clutch playoff game, a huge multi-million dollar deal. While we are at it, let’s do nothing to help the worst defense in the NFC East. Brilliant. Keep it up Jerry! I hope you live to 120!
1. Seattle Seahawks
Welcome to the toughest division in the NFL. Who knew? Last year this division consistently provided great games and two playoff teams. This year will not be much different. I like the Sea Chickens because they will probably not lose at home. They have games against their divisional foes, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Tampa Bay, Minnesota, and New Orleans. Their non-conference road games include Carolina, Houston, and Indianapolis. With that schedule, they can easily go 11-5 and beat out the 49ers via tiebreakers to claim the crown.
2. San Francisco 49ers
I think this year shows a regression to the mean for “Das Wunderkind” Colin Kaepernick. He an unknown last year and with more game film available for study, teams will find ways to exploit his weaknesses. Their defense is decent but when matched up against Seattle, I have to knock them down a peg or two.
3. Arizona Cardinals
The ‘Cards really had a nice offseason. People make fun of the Carson Palmer trade but he is world’s better than any of the bozos they used last year. Larry Fitzgerald will see more catches and the backfield is slowly growing on me. If their defense steps up, they may be a contender.
4. St. Louis Rams
Sorry, I’m not feeling the Goats.
1. Green Bay Packers
They win by default more than anything. Picking Minnesota is becoming sexier and sexier as the weeks go by but I’m not biting. The Vikings had unbelievable output from Adrian Peterson and subpar output from Christian Ponder. The Vikings also had one of the best turnover ratios last year and won too many games on fluky turnovers. One or two bounces the other way and they would have never made the playoffs. The Packers look like the Packers, though I would be concerned if Aaron Rodgers gets hurt as their backup situation got dicey with the addition of Seneca Wallace.
2. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikes are a true mystery. There is no way they will get as lucky as they did last year but the Lions have many question marks that make me wary to place them higher.
3. Detroit Lions
The Lions have the potential to be the best team in the NFC North. However, their undisciplined nature will cost them too many games despite a great offensive performance.
4. Chicago Bears
Jay Cutler gets worse instead of better. The hype machine is all behind Jay Cutler, so I’m expecting him to be the same old Jay and stink up the NFC North.
1. Atlanta Falcons
There are two things I know, I dislike the Falcons and their fan base, and I dislike Matty Ice almost as much. The Falcons get lucky playing the Patriots, Sea Chickens, and Redskins at home and their road schedule is laughable. Sadly, they go 13-3.
2. New Orleans Saints
The return of their coach and a healthy offensive line will allow Drew Brees to tee off on opposing defenses. The Saints have a favorable road schedule and I expect them to go 12-4 en route to the playoffs.
3. Carolina Panthers
I really have not studied them enough to give an opinion. Therefore, we will call this a wild guess.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I do not like their coach, quarterback, running back, or defense. Therefore, it is a safe pick.
Wild Card Weekend
Buffalo Bills @ Cincinnati Bengals
Baltimore Ravens @ Indianapolis Colts
Indianapolis Colts @ New England Patriots
Cincinnati Bengals @ Denver Broncos
New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos
Wild Card Weekend
New Orleans Saints @ Green Bay Packers
San Francisco 49ers @ Philadelphia Eagles
Green Bay Packers @ Atlanta Falcons
San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks
Green Bay Packers @ Seattle Seahawks
Seattle Seahawks vs. New England Patriots
SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS
I know, it is a longshot but they have a favorable schedule, will probably play at home throughout the playoffs, and have a tough defense. Tom Brady will have a poor Super Bowl showing because his no name receivers choke in the big game.
Get your picks in by Thursday night. It’s a rule.