What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
As we find ourselves on the verge of another NFL season, it is time for the degenerate gambler in me to preview the carnage. Let’s face it, the NFL is comprised of three classes: Really Good, Mediocre, and Lousy. This means NFL predictions are pretty easy to get reasonably correct. For example, the online sports book experts find it easy to predict the AFC East standings each year. As long as quarterback Tom Brady is playing for head coach Bill Belichick in New England, that will be your division favorite. Another point that should be obvious is that if you are reading this article and expecting anything more clever than a sports book expert, maybe you shouldn’t be gambling in the first place.
Having said that, here’s how we see these teams come January (playoff teams noted in green).
The Patriots looked invincible last season until the New York Jets found their Achilles’ heel. Once you take away the Patriots running game, their offense suddenly can’t create plays. However, the Pats’ seem to have addressed that by solidifying the offensive line. Otherwise, the Patriots needed to make two major changes; they needed help in the defensive secondary, and they needed size in the running game. Danny Woodhead is a great story, but he’s a munchkin, and teams had him figured out by the playoffs. Brandon Meriwether is a fraud, and has been for a while. This is why the Patriots drafted defensive back Ras-I Dowling and running back Shane Vereen. When you stop to consider the Patriots’ past success at player scouting and development (don’t make me break out the Tom Brady cliché yet again), it is safe to assume that the Patriots solved their problems.
But don’t sleep on the Jets. The Jets get the second spot in the AFC East by default; the Bills and Dolphins are both in that “Lousy” category. The Jets season hinges on two things: the defense has to live up to expectations by being the dominant unit it should be, and Mark Sanchez has to not suck. Frankly, it is time for Sanchez to prove he is worthy of the star status he has been accorded. If he finally shows us he is the “San-chise,” the sky is the limit for the Jets. If not, expect another playoff loss.
The Ravens defense used to be radioactive to offenses, but like all radioactive elements, eventually they pass their half-life and the decay becomes noticeable. This may not be the year that happens, but it is getting more likely with time. If the Ravens are going to make a move and snatch this division from the Steelers, that defense needs to stay healthy and give us one more season of nuclear-powered destruction. Anything short of that, and we may very well be seeing those damn Terrible Towels deep into the playoffs.
This division goes to the Texans by default. Tennessee has a new head coach, and I have no faith that Matt Hasselbeck is the cure to all that ailed the Titans. Jacksonville is just plain bad, and I can’t sell on the Colts fast enough. If you saw Indianapolis in the pre-season, you saw the lack of Peyton Manning is only one problem this team has. The offensive line couldn’t block a hat, the defense acts more like the express lane at the toll-booth, and head coach Jim Caldwell couldn’t find his balls with both hands. However, in all fairness, it’s not like the Texans have ever shown they know where their balls are either; they’ve never once showed they have what it takes to win.
Here’s another default situation that just drives me nuts. Every year, I get sucked in by the Chargers, only to watch them underperform. I honestly wish I could say with confidence San Diego can’t win this division, but who else can? The Raiders didn’t lose a division game last year, but they also have a new head coach, question marks all over the roster, and the usual Raider drama. The Chiefs showed what they were in that seal-clubbing they took at the hands of the Ravens in the playoff last season, and they didn’t get better since then. Do I even need to mention the Denver Tebows?
We could call this division the NFC Over-Rated. I swear to god, the next person who refers to the Eagles as “dream team” will get kicked in the neck (I say this as a lifelong Eagles fan). They have some serious issues on the offensive line, and I will give you even money Michael Vick proves to be a bust on that big contract he just got. Don’t forget he got the crap beaten out of him last season and lost five games due to injury, plus he got progressively worse as the season went on. Not to mention he is age-wise already north of 30, and I don’t know of too many athletes that aged like wine; running quarterbacks age like milk.
Then there’s the Cowboys. To buy this team, I need to do two things that make me nervous. First, I have to buy Tony Romo as a quarterback who can win a game that means something; that’s compounded by the fact he plays behind an offensive line that at times can look like five matadors in silver and blue. Secondly, I need to see head coach Jason Garrett take this team out of the gate as “the man;” last year I suspect he got a bump in performance out of that team just for not being
fat Bob Newhart Wade Phillips.
As far as the Giants are concerned…well, let’s just say the difference between Tony Romo and Eli Manning is pure, uncut luck. Without one David Tyree catch against his helmet as the best possible time, we are likely dogging the drunken, non-misshapen-headed Manning as badly as we dog Romo now. Besides, that one catch lengthens the time before I will see Tom Coughlin standing by a freeway on-ramp holding a sign which says “will be an asshole for food.”
The only thing for sure about this division is that the Redskins will be a vortex of inter-galactic suckittude; the kind that generates such a gravitational pull it threatens to collapse under its own mass.
The Packers return better as defending champs not because they added tons of talent in the off-season; rather because they are entering with all the talent they lost due to injury. Let’s face it, the 2010 Packers were so beat up last year they looked like the battered women’s shelter by Mike Tyson’s house. If they can learn to slip that “I’m off my Lithium again” left-hook the NFL season can throw, the Packers will prove to be more than a Buster Douglas-type one-trick pony.
Meanwhile, three hours to the south lies the enigma known as the Chicago Bears. How can a team have so many ex-head coaches on its staff (Mike Martz, Rod Marinelli, and Mike Tice) and not know that a key to a successful offense is not letting the other team turn their quarterback into lawn mulch? It is easy to beat on Jay Cutler, but’s let’s be fair, he could sue his offensive line for non-support. If there’s a guy in Chicago who should be getting called out, it’ s Lovie Smith. He’s done the least with the most talent of nearly any coach in this league, and yet his job never seems to be in danger. One can make an argument that a coach who didn’t have his head up his ass could have won two Super Bowls with the Bears during the Lovie regime, but nobody ever seems to mention that…
If Wal-Mart made a cheap, Guatemalan-made version of the New York Jets, it might just be the Detroit Lions. Let’s look at the common components:
The Saints may very well be the most complete offense in the NFC. Drew Brees and Sean Payton make the brainiest quarterback-coach combination since Joe Montana and Bill Walsh. Not only did the running game get better simply by the subtraction of Reggie StolenHeisman-KardashianReject, the addition of running back Mark Ingram and “I’m gonna smash you in the mouth” center Olin Kreutz, makes for a physical ground game to go with the Brees and Company Flying Circus.
Every since draft day, we’ve known the Falcons think they are “that one piece away,” and they think that piece is wide receiver Julio Jones. Honestly, I would be more concerned about the impending breakdown of running back Michael Turner; in the past few seasons he’s touched more balls than the lady who does the lottery drawings.
Welcome to the NFC 7-9 Division, or as I like to call it, the “Somebody’s got to win it” Division. Honestly, I loved all the belly aching that went on about how a team with a losing record shouldn’t be in the playoffs despite the fact the SeaHacks won under the architecture provided, and the people who bitched the loudest about the NFL playoff system are the same ones who beat on college football for not having a playoff. Plus, it was these very same people who bitched about my solution for the college playoff issue who stole the line form the “Poll and Bowl” crowd about this being about the “best teams, not just those who win a bad division.”
That was until the SeaHacks knocked out the Saints. Then it all stopped. It really doesn’t matter, because one of these teams will be in the playoffs whether you like it or not.