2021 NFL Preview & Prognostications

Just a few days ago I was pretty excited about the return of football with capacity crowds and business as usual, but now The Sickness has grabbed headlines again and it seems as though that sense of normalcy could be in jeopardy. At the moment no sweeping proclamations have been made, but stay tuned. In the meantime we shall proceed.

The biggest news outside of Covid related chaos is the NFL’s expansion to a 17 game regular season. To achieve that teams played one less pre-season game, so the only people really affected are the fringe players trying to make a team’s roster. There are always old faces in new places, teams with new coaches, and overhyped rookies looking to become the next Joe Montana, Walter Payton, Randy Moss, or Lawrence Taylor, and we’ll have a much better idea in a few months how all of that might shake out. For now it’s all guesswork, but atleast it’s fun, and I am glad that I feel encouraged enough to bring back this preview after a one year hiatus. As always the team’s record from the previous season is in parentheses, with the predicted record for this season following it. And remember…no wagering. I am not a professional and most of the time I’m not very good at this.

North

Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1) 10-7

Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) 10-7

Cleveland Browns (11-5) 9-8

Baltimore Ravens (11-5) 8-9

I think Bengals’ QB Joe Burrow is the real deal, and he’s going to surprise a lot of people. The Browns might be a bit of a surprise too, but I don’t believe it will be in a good way. Everyone assuming they are the presumed division champs will likely be wrong. Am I undervaluing the Ravens?? Perhaps. But every team can’t have a winning record and make the playoffs, and in a highly competitive division my vibe is that Baltimore will run into some problems and fall short of expectations (actually those problems have already began with the loss of starting tailback JK Dobbins to a torn ACL).

East

Buffalo Bills (13-3) 11-6

New York Jets (2-14) 8-9

New England Patriots (7-9) 8-9

Miami Dolphins (10-6) 7-10

The Bills have to be considered amongst the favorites in the conference. To be honest I thought QB Josh Allen was a bad choice as the 7th overall pick in the draft a few years ago, but he’s doing a pretty good job of proving me wrong thus far. There’s no reason to believe Buffalo won’t dominate a division that is a mess otherwise. I think the Jets may have finally found a decent quarterback, and they also added some other pieces on both sides of the ball that make me think they won’t be the dumpster fire we’ve come to expect. The Patriots aren’t the same team without Tom Brady, and I’m not as confident in their rookie signal caller Mac Jones as I am in New York’s rookie quarterback Zach Wilson. The Dolphins might take a step back this season, but I hope they aren’t dumb enough to give up on second year QB Tua Tagavailoa. I believe they are building a solid team around him and good things are ahead, but it might take another year to gel.

West

Los Angeles Chargers (7-9) 11-6

Kansas City Chiefs (14-2) 10-7

Las Vegas Raiders (8-8) 7-10

Denver Broncos (5-11) 7-10

No one has been talking about the Chargers this offseason, and that might be a good thing. I always prefer to sneak up on people rather than have the pressure of lofty expectations. QB Justin Herbert acquitted himself quite well in his rookie campaign and there’s no reason to expect anything less this year. The Raiders & Broncos aren’t going to be any better than they were a year ago. I expect both teams to utilize multiple quarterbacks and need their defense to lead them to some victories. The stunner here is the KC Chiefs. Most talking heads will consider them legit Super Bowl contenders, but I think they’ll lose a dogfight for the division, sneak into the playoffs as a wildcard, and be watching the Super Bowl at home like the rest of us.

South

Tennessee Titans (11-5) 12-5

Indianapolis Colts (11-5) 11-6

Houston Texans (4-12) 5-12

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15) 5-12

The Colts acquired QB Carson Wentz from Philly in the offseason, but will that do them any good?? Wentz can’t seem to stay healthy, and at the moment it’s a tossup as to whether he’ll be ready to go Week 1. That leaves the door open for Tennessee. RB Derrick Henry is a stud & receiver Julio Jones came over from Atlanta a few months ago. He’s 32 years old, but with AJ Brown in the lineup Jones won’t have the pressure of being the top wideout. Replacing tight end Jonnu Smith won’t be easy, and that may be the chink in the armor of the Titans’ offense. I’m not sure what to make of the Titans’ defense, although they did add former Steelers’ linebacker Bud Dupree. Watch time of possession in their games. I think they’ll dominate that and win a bunch of low scoring grinders. Everyone has heard more than enough about the Deshaun Watson situation in Houston and there are still a ton of questions. Will they trade him?? Will he be suspended for a big chunk of the season?? If Tyrod Taylor takes most of the snaps I think the Texans are in for a long season. I don’t have much faith in the Jags either, although I think new head coach Urban Meyer will build around rookie QB Trevor Lawrence and have his team in the playoff conversation a year or two from now, but losing first round draft pick Travis Etienne in the preseason doesn’t bode well for this season.

Playoff Teams: Bengals, Bills, Chargers, Titans, Colts, Chiefs, Steelers

AFC Champion: Tennessee Titans

 

East

Washington Redskins (7-9) 10-7

Dallas Cowboys (6-10) 9-8

New York Giants (6-10) 7-10

Philadelphia Eagles (4-11-1) 5-12

I’m still not buying the Cowboys as legit Super Bowl contenders, although I believe QB Dak Prescott will be just fine returning from the ankle injury that torpedoed his season last year. I suppose the Giants could surprise me and be much better than they were a season ago, but my vibe is that they are just kind of treading water. It blows my mind to see how far the Eagles have fallen since winning the Super Bowl less than five years ago. Can Jalen Hurts make the leap from excellent college quarterback to solid NFL starter?? I think Philadelphia has a bunch of very good players on both sides of the ball, but they have lacked cohesion the past few seasons and I’m not sure that’s going to change. That leaves Washington as the favorite. Is their enough FitzMagic left in the 38 year old signal caller now playing for his ninth NFL team?? Having an elite defense led by Chase Young, Montez Sweat, & Landon Collins will certainly help.

West

Arizona Cardinals (8-8) 11-6

Los Angeles Rams (10-6) 10-7

Seattle Seahawks (12-4) 9-8

San Francisco 49ers (6-10) 7-10

This race is going to be fun to watch. Arizona & the Rams both made moves this summer, and whether or not they work out well one has to give them credit for not standing pat. Los Angeles thinks they have a better chance of advancing in the playoffs with 33 year old veteran QB Matthew Stafford than with 2016 top overall pick Jared Goff, who they shipped to Detroit. I think it might be a positive chain of events (eventually) for both guys. The Rams lost starting RB Cam Akers to injury but traded for former Patriot Sony Michel so I don’t believe the team will be negatively affected all that much. The defense, led by All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald, should be stout. Having said that, I am giving a slight edge to the Cardinals, who added receivers DeAndre Hopkins & AJ Green and have a defensive unit featuring newly acquired defensive end JJ Watt, first round LB Zaven Collins, and a very talented secondary. Seattle has won 10+ games seven out of the past eight years and Russell Wilson is still one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but I feel like they’ll drop off just enough to miss the playoffs. ‘Frisco needs to decide on a quarterback, and once they do that I think they can get back on track, but that might be a couple of years from now.

North

Minnesota Vikings (7-9) 9-8

Green Bay Packers (13-3) 9-8

Chicago Bears (8-8) 6-11

Detroit Lions (5-11) 1-16

Or as ESPN’s Chris Berman used to call it, The Norris Division. I am sure I don’t have to rehash the Packers/Aaron Rodgers drama that has dominated offseason news, but I think it might be just enough of a distraction to cost them the division. The Lions have stunk most of my nearly five decades on the planet and I don’t think that will suddenly change in 2021. Much like the 49ers the Bears have a quarterback conundrum. Conventional wisdom says the smart thing to do is start either journeyman Andy Dalton or former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles under center, but we all know the pressure from fans & the media will lead to rookie Justin Fields being handed the keys to the kingdom. That decision will likely pay off down the road, but it creates chaos right now. So why am I so high on the Vikings?? I don’t know to be honest. Kirk Cousins isn’t spectacular, but he can be a very good quarterback at times and he has solid weapons at receiver & running back. The secondary could be one of the best in the NFL, and guys like Danielle Hunter & Anthony Barr should disrupt opposing offenses often. It won’t be pretty, but I think the Norris goes to the Vikes by a nose.


South

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) 13-4

New Orleans Saints (12-4) 8-9

Atlanta Falcons (4-12) 6-11

Carolina Panthers (5-11) 5-12

I’ve stopped waiting for Tom Brady to fall of a cliff. That whole regimen of 25 glasses of water per day, fruit smoothies, fish, and lots of veggies apparently works because he proved a year ago that he deserves much more credit for the Patriots “dynasty” than Bill Belichick. I don’t expect much to change this season, and it helps that the rest of the division will probably struggle. New Orleans has named Jameis Winston as their new starting QB after the retirement of Drew Brees, and Winston is going to have to prove himself before I start to believe in him. I don’t anticipate much improvement by the Falcons or Panthers. Carolina must stop opposing defenses from stacking the box to stifle premier RB Christian McCaffery, and for that to happen former Jets first rounder Sam Darnold will need to finally live up to his potential. Atlanta got rid of receiver Julio Jones and I’m just not impressed by what remains.

Playoff Teams: Redskins, Cardinals, Vikings, Bucs, Cowboys, Rams, Packers

NFC Champion: Green Bay Packers

 

Tennessee Titans 24

Green Bay Packers 19

Top Five Picks in 2022 NFL Draft

1 Detroit Lions

2 Houston Texans

3 Jacksonville Jaguars

4 Carolina Panthers

5 Philadelphia Eagles

 

2019 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…Week 8

It is weekends like this when I really feel the need to look for a different job. There is so much action I’m going to miss. Of course there’s also the fact that I haven’t been able to go to church in over a year, but that’s a whole other story. Y’all are here for football, right?? A week ago Zach & I both went 5-3, which is pretty good for us. I understand that much of the attention in the sports world is focused on the impending World Series, but luckily for The Manoverse I can multitask. There are some big games that we are ignoring this week (atleast in this space) for various reasons, but I think we have cobbled together a worthy lineup. Enjoy.

My Season:        26-18

Zach’s Season:  21-23

 

 

 

 

 

TCU (-3)                       at                         Kansas State

The talking heads like to promote the Big Ten & SEC, and credit where it is due…those two conferences are a lot of fun. But let’s not totally overlook the Big 12. At the moment 9 out of 10 teams have a winning or even record, and the games are usually exciting to watch. Both the Horned Frogs and the Wildcats are 3-2. Both are trying to rebound from a loss. Both had a bye last week. It’s interesting that TCU is the favorite, but I’m going to disagree with the oddsmakers and believe that the home field will make a difference. Conversely, Zach likes TCU’s offense better & thinks they’ll get the job done.

My Pick:     Kansas St.

Z’s Pick:     TCU

 

 

Baylor                          at                         Oklahoma State (-3)

More Big 12. Sorry…deal with it. The Bears are undefeated, lead the conference, & got a big double OT victory over Texas Tech a week ago. The Cowboys are coming off a bye week and trying to rebound from a loss to the aforementioned Red Raiders. Baylor is good, but I have to once again lean in the general direction of the home favorites. Zach believes Baylor’s offense is too fast for OK St. to keep up.

My Pick:     Oklahoma St.

Z’s Pick:     Baylor

 

 

 

Boise State (-6)                    at                         BYU

The Broncos are who we thought they were…undefeated and in the Top 15. They haven’t got a prayer of being a playoff team, but winning their conference and playing in a New Year’s bowl game is a nice consolation prize. The Cougars are 2-4 and might not play in any kind of post-season game. This the exactly the kind of late night matchup that I used to look forward to, but instead I’ll be asleep before kickoff because I have to get up so damn early on Sunday morning. At any rate, BYU may not get blown out on their home field, but neither do I expect them to win and the six points seems more than manageable for Boise. Zach likes Boise in a rather mundane defensive struggle.

My Pick:     Boise St.

Z’s Pick:     Boise St.

 

 

 

Miami                           at                         Buffalo (-17)

Yes ladies & gentlemen…it’s true, the Buffalo Bills look like they might actually be a good football team. I don’t know if they’ll make the playoffs (they’re not winning the division), but we’ll let the good folks in upstate New York enjoy their moment. Conversely, the Dolphins may or may not be tanking to secure the #1 overall pick in next year’s draft so they can snag Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa, but either way they are winless and I don’t think Ryan Fitzpatrick nor Josh Rosen can save them. The points make me a little nervous, but this is the perfect opportunity to make a statement and prove they’re for real, so I’m going to ride with Buffalo. Zach believes Miami might have enough FitzMagic to atleast cover the points.

My Pick:     Buffalo

Z’s Pick:     Miami

 

 

 

Arizona                        at                         NY Giants (-3)

We knew this was going to be a learning curve season for the Cardinals with a rookie head coach & a rookie QB. All things considered they haven’t fared that badly and the folks in Arizona have reason to be somewhat encouraged. The new norm for the Giants is rookie quarterback Daniel Jones at the helm, and even though the initial excitement has dissipated he too has shown that the future doesn’t have to be bleak for the G-Men. It’ll be interesting to watch the growth & evolution of these two young signal callers in the next few years, but for now I expect a sloppy game with lots of turnovers & mistakes. Defense will win the day, and I think the return of RB Saquon Barkley is enough to secure the home team a close victory. Conversely, Zach foresees a big game from Kyler Murray and an upset for the Cards.

My Pick:     NY Giants

Z’s Pick:     Arizona

2018 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 16

Not only has the action already began this week in the NFL with an entertaining last second upset of the KC Chiefs by the LA Chargers, but there are actually Saturday games, which is pretty cool. For our purposes I am trying to avoid focusing exclusively on the handful of division leaders & playoff contenders, so this week we’re venturing off the beaten path a bit and showing some love for a few teams that are having a tough season, or atleast not achieving the level of success they expected. Speaking of subpar seasons…last week Zach was 0-5, while I was 2-3. Yikes. We’ll just move forward and hope for better things this time.

My Season:     49-48

Z’s Season:     40-58

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miami        `                  at                          Minnesota (-7)

One of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal football week ago was Miami’s miracle upset of the New England Patriots. Can the Dolphins keep rolling?? I suppose they’re still in the hunt for the AFC’s final wildcard, although that’ll be a tall mountain to climb. The Vikings are in much the same situation in the NFC, but it feels a lot different because expectations were so high for them coming into the season. They’ve lost three out of their last four, and just feel like a team heading in the wrong direction. I don’t know if Miami will get the outright victory, but The Vibes are telling me it will be closer than a touchdown. Zach thinks momentum is squarely with Miami and beliees they’ll get the win.

My Pick:     Miami

Z’s Pick:     Miami

 

 

 

Tennessee                  at                NY Giants (-2.5)

The Titans are in that AFC logjam for the final playoff berth, and they’re riding a two game winning streak. Last weekend Tennessee RB Derrick Henry singlehandedly torpedoed my dynasty league playoff hopes, which was a tough pill to swallow. The Giants are in the cellar of the NFC East and already strategizing about which “quarterback of the future” they’ll select in the first round of the NFL Draft. Having said that, the Giants do have the home field and Henry won’t repeat last week’s success. Zach likes Giants’ RB Saquon Barkley, but doesn’t think the team will get over the hump until they replace aging quarterback Eli Manning. He believes the Titans will score a close victory.

My Pick:     NY Giants

Z’s Pick:     Tennessee

 

 

 

Arizona                         at                          Atlanta (-8.5)

The Cardinals could be looking at the #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, and the Falcons aren’t much better. No one is expecting anything from this game, which of course means it will end up being one of the best of the weekend, right?? I don’t know if Arizona can pull off an upset on the road, but I think they’ll stay within a touchdown. Zach is going out on a limb and predicting that Atlanta can cover the points.

My Pick:     Arizona

Z’s Pick:     Atlanta

 

 

 

Detroit                           at                          Buffalo (-2.5)

I’ve lost track of who is behind center for the Bills. Josh Allen?? Derek Anderson?? Matt Barkley?? Nathan Peterman?? AJ McCarron?? It’s tough to be a Pittsburgh Pirates fan every summer, but it can’t be much fun for the folks in Buffalo having to endure the mess that the Bills have become. Atleast the Lions know that Matthew Stafford is their starting QB…for all the good that’s done them the past decade. I’m not sure what we can hope for from a matchup of teams with a combined record of 9-17, but it’s December and the game is in Buffalo so I assume the home field has to mean something. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Buffalo

Z’s Pick:     Buffalo

 

 

 

Washington                           at                Jacksonville (-6.5)

I thought the Jags would fall off a bit from last year’s impressive playoff run, but wow…they’ve totally dived off the cliff. I suppose that’s another team that will be looking to draft a quarterback in the first round. Meanwhile, the Redskins have a different kind of quarterback issue. Alex Smith is lost for the season due to an injury, and his career might be over. Josh Johnson?? Mark Sanchez?? It makes the Bills’ depth chart look good in comparison. I think this will be a low scoring game with lots of running the ball, punts, & perhaps a turnover or two to make the difference, and I’m going with the Redskins to score a mild upset. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Washington

Z’s Pick:     Washington

2017 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 18

It’s the last weekend of the NFL regular season and our final week of picks as well. After last week’s action in which I was 3-2 and Zach was 2-3 (that last second garbage TD for Philly was my favorite Christmas gift) we are all tied up for the season, which I’m sure has never happened before. So y’all know what I’m thinking?? That’s right…bonus picks!! It’ll be almost nine months before we get to do this again, so why not end 2017 with a bang?? All of these games have playoff implications, and I’ll do my best to lay it all out there as easily digestible as possible. Every NFL game will be on Sunday afternoon…no Thursday, Sunday, or Monday night games…which means that watching RedZone will be even more fun than usual. Say a little prayer for the bladder of host Scott Hanson. Yes, I realize Sunday is New Year’s Eve, but I rarely go out & do anything fun that night anyway, and anyone who is going to party won’t be getting started until long after the games are over, so the afternoon NFL lineup is really something to be excited about. Happy New Year Manoverse. May your 2018 be filled with joy, good health, & lots of fantastic football.

My Season:        51-50

Z’s Season:        51-50

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cincinnati          at      Baltimore (-9.5)

The Bengals aren’t going to the playoffs unless they buy a ticket, and this is very likely Marvin Lewis’ last game as their head coach after 15 up & down seasons in which his players spent more time in prison than the post-season. However, the Ravens’ playoff outlook is much rosier. Win & they’re in, but even if they lose this game they can still get into the playoffs if either Buffalo or Tennessee loses. The points make me a little nervous, and as a Steelers fan it’d warm my cockles to see Baltimore lose…but The Vibes are telling me they win big at home. Zach agrees on all counts. We’d both prefer to see Baltimore ousted from the playoffs, but it’s probably not going to happen.

My Pick:     Baltimore

Z’s Pick:     Baltimore

 

 

 

Jacksonville      at      Tennessee (-3.5)

The Jags have already won the division and are locked into the #3 spot in the AFC, but Tennessee has some work to do. The Titans would secure a wildcard with a victory…but a loss would mean that their only path to the playoffs would be losses by both the Los Angeles Chargers and the Buffalo Bills. That’s not necessarily far-fetched, but winning this game would certainly be a simpler solution. Jacksonville looked vulnerable in last week’s loss to San Francisco, but will that happen two weeks in a row?? Technically they have nothing to play for, but momentum heading into the post-season is important. If this game were being played in Florida it’d be a no-brainer, but playing at home with their backs against the wall might just be enough to motivate the Titans to a mildly surprising win. Conversely, Zach believes Jacksonville’s defense will come thru in the clutch and score them a close win.

My Pick:     Tennessee

Z’s Pick:     Jacksonville

 

 

 

Oakland             at      LA Chargers (-7.5)

The Raiders have had a disappointing season for sure…but a victory to end the year could certainly be good karma going into an offseason in which they’ll have the 11th pick in the draft and expectations will probably be high again for 2018. Conversely, the Chargers are still very much in the playoff hunt. They have to win this game and hope that the Titans & Bills both lose, which is a tall order. Either way they can only control what they do & how they play, and I think they’ll do just that. Zach didn’t learn a thing from the Eagles’ last second touchdown last week and is again picking the Raiders to atleast cover the points.

My Pick:     LA Chargers

Z’s Pick:     Oakland

 

 

 

New Orleans (-7)                  at      Tampa Bay

The Saints will be in the playoffs, but they’re still battling for a division title. They need a win to secure that crown. A loss coupled with a Carolina victory would make New Orleans a wildcard team. Tampa will have a Top 5 pick in the NFL Draft and has nothing to play for but pride. Is that enough?? I don’t think so…not even at home. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     New Orleans

Z’s Pick:     New Orleans

 

 

 

Carolina             at      Atlanta (-4)

The Panthers have to win and hope that the Saints lose. That’s the only way they win the NFC South…otherwise they’ll be a wildcard team. The Falcons…who represented the NFC in the Super Bowl a year ago and held a significant lead before an epic choke job…must win to secure a wildcard berth, or they could conceivably lose and still get in if Seattle also loses. I think this might be the best game of the weekend, and I’m going to pick the mild upset. Zach thinks Atlanta is just too erratic and has issues winning big games.

My Pick:     Carolina

Z’s Pick:     Carolina

 

 

 

Arizona               at      Seattle (-9)

The Cardinals are playing for pride and a .500 record. The Seahawks must win and hope for a Falcons loss to sneak into the post-season. If Seattle gets into the playoffs I think they can be a very dangerous opponent, but will they get there?? They can’t do anything about the Falcons, but they can go out & win this game. However, The Vibes are telling me the points are a bit much and it might be a lot closer than anyone expects. Zach disagrees and thinks Seattle will win easily.

My Pick:     Arizona

Z’s Pick:     Seatttle

 

 

 

Buffalo (-3)                  at      Miami

The Dolphins have been even more mediocre than I thought they’d be. Surely QB Jay Cutler will be gently pushed back into retirement after the season ends. Conversely, the Bills have been a huge surprise. I never thought they’d even be in the playoff discussion, but here they are with a chance…a very small chance. They must win this game and hope for a Ravens loss, or if Baltimore wins then losses by both Tennessee & the Chargers will do the trick. The biggest Bengals fans in the world might not be in Cincinnati on Sunday…they’ll be in Buffalo (or Bills personnel in Miami). As much as it pains me to say it, I think the road ends painfully for the Buffalo Bills this weekend. Zach believes otherwise.

My Pick:     Miami

Z’s Pick:     Buffalo

 

2015 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 3

kickoff_footballA half point. A stinkin’ half point!! That’s all that separated your humble Potentate of Profundity from perfection. Alas, the Michigan St. Spartans won by only 3 points…not the required 3.5. That’s just how it goes sometimes. Anyway, what that means is that I went 4-1 last week, while Zach was hot on my heels at 3-2. The lesson: don’t go against BYU. They’ve got God on their side. And Donny & Marie. We can’t forget them.

Overall Records:   Me = 8-2      Z= 4-6

The college schedule is mostly unappealing this week as supposedly good teams continue to play what amounts to pre-season games against foes like Troy, Georgia St., & SMU. Some teams, like my WV Mountaineers, have an early bye, which has got to drive coaches crazy. If I were in charge all byes would be concentrated within a three week period no earlier than Week 6 of the season. Unfortunately I am not in charge of anything outside of The Manoverse, to the general detriment of mankind. At any rate, we’re leaning a bit more on the NFL than I’d prefer to at this point, but we do what we gotta do. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

Georgia Tech (-2.5) at Notre Dame
NotreDame1The Ramblin’ Wreck, aka the Yellowjackets, are often overlooked during the season, until, all the sudden, they’ve won 10 or 11 gatechlogocos-3games and are playing in a major bowl game. However, after just obliterating their first two opponents and scoring over 130 points in the process, they are actually favored against the Irish…in South Bend. Trust me, I checked that three times. I can only assume that this is an overreaction to Notre Dame losing starting QB Malik Zaire to a season ending broken ankle. Well okay…I suppose the fact that they needed a last second TD to defeat lightly regarded Virginia last week has a lot to do with it as well. If this game was being played in Atlanta I’d be inclined to go with the boys in Vegas, but regardless of the injury situation I just can’t imagine the Irish not defending their house. Zach, on the other hand, likes Tech’s triple option offense and thinks it’ll confuse Notre Dame.

My Pick – Notre Dame
Z’s Pick – Georgia Tech

 

 
Auburn at LSU (-7.5)
Auburn looked absolutely awful last week, needing overtime to beat 1-AA Jacksonville St. Meanwhile, LSU was just happy to get out on the field after LSU_Helmet_2Mother Nature scratched their first game. The Tigers never trailed but definitely let their foot off the gas in the 4th quarter in a narrow victory over Mississippi St. To be honest I don’t think anything we’ve seen thus far presents a particularly accurate picture of these two teams, so I’m relying on my pre-season vibes, which means that I like LSU more. Zach concurs, opining that LSU will dominate and win by 17.

My Pick – LSU
Z’s Pick – LSU

 

 
New England (-1) at Buffalo
I don’t even know what to say about the Patriots. I think maybe the safest thing…in an effort to keep my blood pressure in check…is to say as little as Buffalo_Bills_Helmetpossible. The Bills, on the other hand, pulled off maybe the biggest upset in the opening weekend of the NFL by easily defeating the Indianapolis Colts. I, along with what I would have to think is a huge portion of the general NFL fanbase, would love to see Buffalo or anyone else challenge New England for the AFC East division crown, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It is interesting that the Bills aren’t getting the usual home field bump and are actually underdogs in Orchard Park. I suppose the Patriots have theoretically earned that respect, although I’m not sure how anyone can respect an organization full of filthy cheaters. At any rate, I’ve got to go with my heart in this one. This is your shot Rex Ryan. Is your team for real?? This is a huge opportunity for Buffalo to prove their legitimacy and for QB Tyrod Taylor to validate himself as a worthy NFL starter. Zach isn’t a big Rex fan, but also thinks that the Steelers beat themselves last week more than anything against the Patriots. He likes Buffalo’s defense to make the difference.

My Pick – Buffalo
Z’s Pick – Buffalo

 

 
Dallas at Philadelphia (-4)
Dallas scored a narrow victory in Week 1, while Philly’s comeback fell short in a loss that wasn’t as close as it looks on paper. The Eagles get the philadelphia_eagles-3715requisite home field advantage, but I’m not sure any of that matters when these two teams meet. Cowboys’ WR Dez Bryant is out for atleast a month after suffering a broken foot last weekend, and that’s a huge difference maker. Add to that the fact that Eagles’ RB DeMarco Murray, who ran for only 9 yards on 8 carries (and one of those was for 8 yards), will be motivated to come out strong against his old team. Philadelphia surely won’t throw the ball as much as they did against Atlanta. I think this will be a fantastic game, and I have to go with the home team. Zach concurs.

My Pick – Philadelphia
Z’s Pick – Philadelphia

 

 

Seattle at Green Bay (-3.5)
The Sunday night game on NBC features two of the NFC’s top teams and Super Bowl favorites. Green Bay had no problem conquering the Chicago Green_Bay_Packers_HelmetBears in Week 1. Conversely, the Seahawks suffered a surprising overtime loss to the St. Louis Rams. It’d be really interesting if Seattle went 0-2. Will that happen?? If this game were being played in the Pacific Northwest I’d say no way. However, the Packers win over 80% of their games at Lambeau Field during the Aaron Rodgers era and Seattle hasn’t won there since 1999. I have to go with Green Bay. Zach likes the Packers as well…in an overtime thriller.

My Pick – Green Bay
Z’s Pick – Green Bay

2014 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 3

Better late than never. Simmer down. No worries. Our first game doesn’t kick off until 10pm EST Saturday night.

There are few things more frustrating than being right and still losing. However, when I began doing these picks I decided that it would be far too prosaic to just do straight win/lose, that the element of the point spread had to be incorporated to increase the complexity of the challenge. Unfortunately, as I am sure hardcore gamblers know all too well, this also means that sometimes the spread can reach up and bite one in the butt. Such was the case last week when the Denver Broncos beat the Indianapolis Colts by 7 points instead of 7 ½ points. Even more infuriating is the fact that at one point the Broncos led the game 24-7. Denver letting their foot off the gas resulted in a loss for me and a win for Zach, making me 2-3 for the week and him 3-2. I am rather competitive so this kind of ticks me off. Thanks a lot Peyton Manning. At any rate I suppose I just need to move on and hope for better things this week. The season thus far shapes up like this:

Me = 4-7
Zach = 6-4

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Nebraska (-10.5) at Fresno St.
The Huskers barely escaped what would have been a devastating loss to 1-AA (I kick it old school) McNeese St. last week. Meanwhile, the normally solid & nebraska-cornhuskersentertaining Bulldogs come into this game 0-2, having been hammered by an average of 35 points. Double digit spreads make me nervous, but I’ll go with the favorites here. Zach thinks Nebraska will win by 4 TDs.

My Pick – Nebraska
Z’s Pick – Nebraska

 

 

Nevada at Arizona (-15.5)
nevadaThe Wolfpack are one of those teams that no one likes to play. They are usually a solid bowl team and seem to play “bigger” teams tough, pulling off the occasionalcollege_arizona_90 upset. They did go 4-8 in 2013, but come into this game 2-0, including an impressive victory over the PAC 12’s Washington St. Cougars last week. The Wildcats….as much as it physically & emotionally hurts me to say it…have been pretty decent under head coach Rich Fraudriguez and come into this game 2-0 as well, although they had a difficult time defeating Texas-San Antonio last week. It is likely that Arizona holds serve on its home field this week, but the large point spread gives me pause. For that reason I’m going to pick Nevada. Zach, apparently unware of Nevada’s 2-0 record, thinks they suck and reluctantly picks Arizona, even though he hates their coach as much as I do.

My Pick – Nevada
Z’s Pick – Arizona

 

 

Miami at Buffalo (even)
Buffalo_Bills_HelmetNo result from the first week of NFL action was as shocking to me as the Dolphins upsetting the New England Patriots. But the Bills pulled off Miami_Dolphins_Helmeta pretty big surprise themselves by beating the Chicago Bears. Now look, let’s be honest…the Patriots are still winning the division. However, both of these teams (as well as the New York Jets) ae looking to make the jump up to a solid wildcard contender that wins 9 or 10 games. This game will tell us a lot about both teams. The folks in Vegas seem to think they are evenly matched, which both simplifies and complicates things. I’m going with Buffalo because of the home field advantage. Zach doesn’t believe that Miami’s victory last week was a fluke and believes they will be a serious playoff contender.

My Pick – Buffalo
Z’s Pick – Miami

 

 

Seattle (-5.5) at San Diego
The defending Super Bowl champions looked quite impressive in their season debut, soundly defeating the Green Bay Packers. Meanwhile, the Chargers lost a seattle-seahawks1heartbreaker last week to the Arizona Cardinals. As much as I’d love to go with the underdogs here I just can’t pull the trigger. I thought Seattle might ease off the throttle and fall back just a little bit this season, but so far that prediction looks like it might be wrong. Zach concurs.

My Pick – Seattle
Z’s Pick – Seattle

 

 

NY Jets at Green Bay (-8)
The Packers began the season on the receiving end of the previously mentioned beatdown at the hands of the Seahawks. The Jets took care of the Oakland Green_Bay_Packers_HelmetRaiders. I like Green Bay to rebound here, especially in the friendly confines of the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. The points are a bit much for my taste, but if Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense are firing on all cylinders it shouldn’t be a problem. Zach agrees.

My Pick – Green Bay
Z’s Pick – Green Bay

Winning & Musing…..Volume 2.13

Not a lot of stories to cover today, but alot to say about the few big stories that there are…..

 

 

What a long strange trip it has been for Lance Armstrong. I didn’t watch the show because I would rather soak my private parts in scalding hot vinegar while simultaneously being beaten in the face with a bat made of thumbtacks rather than provide Satan’s favorite talk show host Oprah with the 021323-lance-armstrongratings for her “network” that she so desperately craves, but one would have to have been hiding in a cave somewhere in Afghanistan this past week not to know that after years of vehement denials Armstrong finally admitted to using illegal performance enhancing drugs. The strange dichotomy with Armstrong is that he cannot so easily be discarded into the trash heap of shunned former athletes who have been proven to be megalomaniacal cheaters. ESPN’s Stuart Scott, who continues to fight cancer to this day, offered a passionate defense of Armstrong on Mike & Mike in the Morning this week, saying in essence that the things that have been accomplished & the people who have been helped by Armstrong’s Livestrong charity are far more significant than the fact that he cheated to win a meaningless (in the grand scheme of life) bike race that few armstrong-lance-110609-8colpeople in America care about anyway. It strikes me that it is a contradiction that applies…to varying degrees…to nearly all of us. Very few people are all bad or all good. I know lots of good people who have some major flaws, and I have been acquainted with people in my life that I didn’t particularly like for one reason or another who nevertheless had families & friends who I am sure wouldn’t hesitate to enumerate the person’s vast array of positive traits. Right now it is easy to dump on Lance Armstrong, but just like other famous folks that we love to hate…Barry Bonds, the Kardashian twits, Lindsay Lohan, etc…I suspect that if we met him or them in person they’d make a generally favorable impression. Such is the everlasting complexity & imperfection that is humanity.

 

 

Now that the NFL coaching carousel has stopped spinning it is time to make a snap judgment about what each of the teams who fired & hired were able to accomplish. Of course no one ever knows exactly how these things are going to play out because there are so many variables that go into building a successful football team. It is difficult to gauge if a retread will be more or less effective in their new job as compared to former gigs and it is nearly impossible to forecast whether or not a fresh face will be a great coach or a complete bust. It is all just a big ol’ shot in the dark that can go one way or another based on countless things big & small. But hey, we’ll give it a shot anyway.

Grading the recent NFL coaching hires:

Arizona Cardinals          Bruce Arians          B

As a Steelers fan I have an appreciation for what Arians was able to accomplish as offensive coordinator fromLouisville_Cardinals 2007-11 and one also cannot underestimate his role in guiding the Indianapolis Colts to the playoffs this season while head coach Chuck Pagano was battling cancer most of the year. The Cardinals must get a legitimate starting QB and either Beanie Wells or the oft injured Ryan Williams has to seize the primary RB role. If those things happen Arians could have tremendous success down the road.

Buffalo Bills                    Doug Marrone       B-

This isn’t Marrone’s first rodeo in the NFL, as he spent several years as an assistant with the NY Jets & New BuffaloBillsRedOrleans Saints before being the head coach at Syracuse the past few years, a program which looked like it might be on its way back to respectability in 2012 after a decade as a bottom feeder. It isn’t a sexy hire for the Bills, but it just might be effective, especially if they can grab a franchise QB in this year’s draft.

Chicago Bears               Marc Trestman       B-

Trestman has been on & off the NFL radar for years. He’s had effective stints as an offensive bears2coordinator/quarterbacks coach with the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Oakland Raiders, & Miami Dolphins…among others…stretching back over two decades. More recently he has won two Grey Cups as a head coach in the CFL. The general consensus is that if anyone can help QB Jay Cutler fulfill his potential it is Marc Trestman. We’ll see.

Cleveland Browns       Rob Chudzinski      C-

To be perfectly honest the grade was initially a D. The Browns really needed to make a splash with the hiring of 365752their 7th coach in 14 years and, with all due respect, Chudzinski doesn’t even come close. However, he scored a major coup by snagging Norv Turner as offensive coordinator. Turner is one of those guys who doesn’t quite seem to have what it takes to be a head coach but he is an excellent assistant. I don’t know if anyone can really turn around the lowly Browns, but if the new ownership & management has some patience and maintains consistency instead of changing coaches like people change socks then maybe this thing has a puncher’s chance of working.

Jacksonville Jaguars    Gus Bradley        C+

Who?? Bradley was most recently the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks, a group which allowed their opponents only a nugget more than 15 points per game in 2012, making them one of the league’s top defenses. Jacksonville_JaguarsKudos to the Jags for going with a fresh face rather than a tired old retread. However, it’ll all be for naught if they don’t have the balls to pull the plug on the Blaine Gabbert failure ASAP and either trade for a young QB with potential (names like Matt Flynn, Ryan Mallett, & Kirk Cousins immediately spring to mind) or make the right selection with the 2nd overall pick in the draft. A note to the Jags: if the KC Chiefs pass on QB Geno Smith you should probably follow suit. FYI…the + is because the dude is named Gus. I like guys named Gus. It’s a solid, tough, manly name…unlike Blaine.

Kansas City Chiefs      Andy Reid          B

I am of the opinion that a confluence of events lined up juuuust right (or wrong I guess) to sabotage Reid’s last couple of years with the Philadelphia Eagles. By no means do I believe he is a bad coach. The untimely death of his son during training camp due to a drug overdose seems to have been completely glossed over, but in hindsight kc-chiefs-logomaybe he would have been wise to take this past season off to deal with that loss, and no one can convince me that it did not have a deleterious effect. I think the change of scenery will be a good thing, and because the AFC West is a weak division there may be rapid dividends. Everything hinges on the quarterback situation. It might not be a bad idea for the Chiefs to sign a veteran band-aid (Jason Campbell, David Garrard, Kellen Clemens, Rex Grossman, & Matt Moore are all available) in addition to drafting a rookie QB. Now the question is should they use the top overall pick for that purpose. My answer would be no. I’d grab a big time left tackle with that choice and take a QB in the 2nd round.

Philadelphia Eagles        Chip Kelly           A-

The minus is only because of the poor way the hire was handled, with Kelly initially saying he was going to stay at Oregon then changing his mind 2 weeks later after the Eagles had interviewed practically everyone but Jerry eaglesGlanville and the reanimated corpse of George Allen for the job. The history of college coaches transitioning to the NFL is hit & miss. Guys like Jimmy Johnson, John Robinson, Jim Harbaugh, &  Bobby Ross pulled it off. Others…Steve Spurrier, Nick Saban, & Dennis Erickson just to name a few…not so much. My money is on Kelly being successful. The Eagles are a solid organization with good support from ownership who have been a perennial playoff team until the past couple of seasons. Kelly isn’t exactly starting from scratch. If he can turn Nick Foles into a decent starting QB and take advantage of the considerable talents of players like RB LeSean McCoy & WR DeSean Jackson then we might just see a fairly quick turnaround. The NFC East is traditionally a tough division, but the Cowboys are a mess, the Redskins don’t know what the immediate future holds due to the knee injury to RGIII, and the NY Giants seem to have plateaued.

San Diego Chargers         Mike McCoy           C

McCoy spent the past few years as the offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos, which means his potential is difficult     to gauge. Before this year he had to rely on guys like Kyle Orton & Brady Quinn as his QBs and was San_Diego_Chargers_Helmet3forced to endure the Tebow circus in 2011. Then in 2012 Peyton Manning came along, and who in the world could possibly screw that up?? Having said all that, this is, like the situation in Jacksonville, another case where a newcomer is being given a shot rather than hiring some failed harbinger of mediocrity. I have to give props to San Diego for rolling the dice, but there just isn’t enough data to offer a proper evaluation just yet.

 

 

I have been searching for the right words to assess the Manti Te’o story at Notre Dame. It seems to me that there are two possibilities. Either he was in on the whole thing, which makes him a filthy liar, or he was made a fool of by a few tricksters who perpetuated this joke for no apparent reason other than boredom & cruelty since there doesn’t seem to be any tangible gain to be gotten. After much consideration I am leaning toward the latter probability. And while that would absolve Te’o of any responsibility in regards to straight up lying to the American public, it still leaves one with the inescapable impression of him as an emotionally crippled 12 year old masquerading as a man. teoEither way he appears to be a rather pathetic human being with some curious mental issues who is under the delusion that a woman you’ve never met can be considered your girlfriend. What is almost as amazing to me is that I’ve heard multiple talking heads…football “experts”…say that all this is unlikely to have any significant negative impact on his NFL Draft status. Really?? I’m sorry, but linebackers aren’t that tough to find. I’d rather take some unknown kid out of a small school in the 4th or 5th round, sign him for peanuts, and give him an opportunity to shine than guarantee this wackjob big bucks just because he played for almighty Notre Dame. I am sure that won’t happen though. I sure as hell pray that the Steelers don’t take him because if they do I will lose all faith in the intelligence of their front office.

 

 

 

 

2012 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 3

 

I’m a day or two late this week with picks, probably because I am still trying to block out the memory of last week’s debacle.  I had been hopeful that I’d get better at this whole thing as we moved forward, but the second go ‘round was definitely a step back, as I went 2-5. The 49ers & Maryland Terrapins, both underdogs that I picked to win, bailed me out a little by rewarding my confidence. However, I was way wrong on my other picks. I picked Texas A&M, Nevada, Missouri, Oklahoma St., and the Buffalo Bills all to win. All lost. Not much to say about the situation other than I’ll just have to do better this week.

Last week                            2-5

Season                                 6-8

 

 

 

Alabama (-20)                   at            Arkansas

The Tide is rolling into Fayetteville 2-0, while the Razorbacks are 1-1 and reeling from the last weekend’s upset loss in overtime to Louisiana-Monroe. I have no doubt that ‘Bama will win. I have a sneaking suspicion that they could actually compete with a good many NFL teams. However, the question becomes the spread. Does Arkansas have enough pride to not only bounce back from last week’s defeat but also defend their home turf against total annihilation?? I think they do. Alabama will win, but not by 20 points. God help me, I’m taking Arkansas.

 

 

 

Florida                                  at            Tennessee (-3)

Both teams come into this highly anticipated rivalry game at 2-0, but this is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. The Gators have dominated the series lately, winning 7 straight. I put the Vols in my pre-season Top 25 because I think it’s time for their backward slide into irrelevance to stop. This would be a great game for them to have my back. It looks like the boys in Vegas agree with my thought process, and the fact that the game is being played in Knoxville tips the cap as well. I’m going with the favorites and my pre-season vibes, which Tennessee has so far reinforced.

 

 

USC (-9)                               at            Stanford

Another matchup of two 2-0 teams, and yet another situation where the real season starts here. Southern Cal is among the favorites to compete for the national title, while Stanford is regrouping after losing QB Andrew Luck to graduation & the NFL. I see no reason why the Trojan train will be derailed at this point, even though they aren’t the home team. I think USC wins comfortably.

 

 

Notre Dame                       at            Michigan State (-6)

The Spartans enter this annual rivalry at 2-0 and with the home field advantage. The Fighting Irish have thus far been as advertised. I’m still a little bit uncomfortable with the QB situation in South Bend, but it has actually worked out quite well to this point. However, if we are really being honest the first two weeks of the season haven’t really told us all that much about either team, and this will be when we find out who’s a contender and who’s a pretender. The vibes are telling me that the Spartans will be the victors, and even though the vibes haven’t proven to be all that accurate this year I’ll still go with them.

 

 

Baltimore                            at            Philadelphia (-2)

The Ravens are among the favorites in the AFC, and a big victory over the Bengals to open the season did nothing to dissuade anyone from that notion. The Eagles had a much less impressive 2012 debut, barely getting by the lowly Cleveland Browns. The home field advantage has surprisingly made Philly slim favorites. I’m not sure I buy that, so I’ll go against the grain and, as much as it makes this Steelers fan physically ill, pick the Ravens. Ugh.

 

 

New Orleans (-3)             at            Carolina

The Saints got victimized last weekend by rookie QB Robert Griffin III’s remarkable first NFL game, which was probably the biggest surprise of the inaugural week of the 2012 season. Meanwhile, it was the same old story for the Panthers, with QB Cam Newton putting up good numbers in a loss. I’m really quite stunned that New Orleans is only a 3 point favorite. I suppose last week’s loss, combined with the huge crush the masses have on Newton and Carolina having the home field are contributing factors. I think that’s all poppycock, and even though I picked New Orleans to have a mediocre season and Carolina to make the playoffs I have to go with the Saints here.

 

 

Washington (-3.5)           at            St. Louis

The Redskins look like they have the real deal with signal caller RGIII, who, as noted above, got his NFL career off to a rousing start with a shocking victory over the New Orleans Saints. The Rams made a game of it but ultimately fell to the Detroit Lions last weekend. There is a temptation to believe that Griffin will be knocked off his pedestal and be made to look more like the rookie that he is, and that will almost certainly happen eventually. But I don’t think it’ll occur this week. Washington should get a fairly easy victory here.

 

 

 

 

2012 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…Week 2

Before we forge ahead into this week’s picks let’s take a look back at last week. I went 4-3 in my inaugural round. Tennessee easily handled NC State, Northwestern edged Syracuse but didn’t cover the 1.5 point spread winning by just 1 point (a pyrrhic victory that I am sure I felt much better about than the Orangemen), Michigan St. beat Boise St. but didn’t cover the 7 point spread just as I predicted, and Northern Illinois fell to Iowa but easily stayed within the 9 point spread losing by only 1. On the flip side Clemson defeated Auburn by a touchdown, Miami upended Boston College, and I was way wrong about Michigan, as they were handily dismissed by Alabama. I can certainly do better, but for my first jump into the pool I’ll take it.

This week we add the NFL into the mix as their season gets underway. Enjoy the games, enjoy the tailgates, be safe, and remember…no wagering.

 

 

 

Temple  (-10.5)                                 at            Maryland

The Owls easily dispatched 1-AA Villanova last week, while Maryland barely defeated tiny little William & Mary 7-6. Maybe my early support of the Terrapins is misguided?? We will know more after this game, because I don’t care that Temple has gone to a couple of bowl games recently and has been welcomed back into the desperate Big East…it’s still Temple. If Maryland loses by double digits to Temple then Maryland head coach Randy Edsall should just go ahead and get his resume ready now because his days are numbered. Fortunately for him I think his team will wake up and atleast make this a competitive contest if not an actual victory.

 

 

Florida                                at            Texas A&M (-2.5)

The Gators started their season by beating Bowling Green in solid yet unspectacular fashion, while the Aggies had their game against Louisiana Tech postponed due to Hurricane Isaac. So instead of beginning their maiden voyage in the SEC against a cupcake like so many college teams do nowadays, A&M dives in headfirst against a prominent conference foe. However, this game is being played in College Station, and the current Florida Gators don’t really resemble the team that was so successful during the Steve Spurrier or Urban Myer eras. I think this will be a good, close game and really enjoyable to watch. However, at the end of the day I think the newcomers will make a statement against their highly respected brethren and easily cover the points.

 

 

South Florida                     at            Nevada (even)

The Bulls had no problem with UT-Chattanooga in week 1, while Nevada surprised some folks by defeating the Cal Golden Bears. To be honest that “upset” didn’t shock me all that much, and it was a pick I almost made here. I regret now not pulling the trigger. Ah well…c’est la vie. This is the rare “even money” matchup, meaning there is no point spread. That uncomplicates things I suppose. There is a very valid concern that the Wolfpack might suffer a hangover from their previous big victory, but I don’t think that’ll happen. Having home field advantage should give Nevada the edge needed to pull away for the win.

 

 

Georgia (-3.5)                    at            Missouri

Here we have a 2nd team making their SEC debut. The Tigers bolted The Big 12 for the SEC just like Texas A&M, and got their season started last week by destroying SE Louisiana. The Bulldogs were highly ranked in most pre-season polls (except mine), and got things off to a good start a week ago with a solid win over Buffalo. I am obviously not quite as sold on Georgia as a lot of folks, and honestly I don’t really have an exact reason for that. I just think that there are a lot of great teams in the SEC and someone’s got to be the proverbial odd man out. I have chosen Georgia to fill that role. I may be right, I may be wrong…who knows. But we will have a better idea of which after this game. Missouri having the home field advantage is once again a key factor in my pick. Their fans will be fired up and so will the team. Can emotion & momentum trump talent?? I think it can, especially when the talent gap isn’t all that huge. I’ll take Missouri in this one, and I think it’ll be a really fun game.

 

 

Oklahoma St. (-13.5)      at            Arizona

The Cowboys obliterated Savannah St. 84-0 in week 1, which sparked an interesting debate amongst the talking heads about the morality and the actual physical hazard involved when a much superior team plays a woefully overmatched cupcake. That is an interesting topic that maybe I’ll pontificate about some other time, however Oklahoma St. has a taller mountain to climb this week in the Wildcats, who edged the Toledo Rockets by just a touchdown last week in the opening volley of the Fraudriguez era in the desert. I do think that Fraudriguez will have much more success (not to mention a longer leash) at Arizona than he did at Michigan, but traditionally it takes a couple of years to install his system, so don ‘t be surprised if the ‘Cats suffer a couple of dismal seasons before things click. I am a bit tentative about this game because of the nearly 2 touchdown point spread and the fact that the game is being played in Tucson, factors that would normally lead me to pick the underdog. However, I am going with the vibes and picking Oklahoma St. to cover.

 

 

Buffalo Bills                       at            NY Jets (-3)

Ahhh….our first NFL pick. Pro football is a bit more difficult to gauge than college because the league has been so successful in creating parity over the years. A team may be horrible one year but become Super Bowl contenders the next…or vice versa. Changing a coach, signing or losing a few free agents, and drafting a big time star can all change the fortunes of an NFL franchise…for better or worse…in the blink of an eye. There is rarely such a thing as a huge upset in pro football. It definitely keeps things interesting, but it poses a unique challenge in prognostication. It seems like just yesterday Jets coach Rex Ryan was confidently predicting a Super Bowl for his team (heck…knowing Ryan maybe it WAS yesterday), but the truth is this team has some issues. I don’t think QB Tim Tebow adds anything to the mix except controversy, and even if starter Mark Sanchez overcomes all the haters the fact is that he has no reliable weapons. Meanwhile, the Bills added defensive sack master Mario Williams, who I think once & for all has proven that he was indeed a better #1 overall pick than either QB Vince Young (currently unemployed) or RB Reggie Bush (currently wasting away in Miami with the miserable Dolphins) would have been. I know he is only one player, but to me he transforms that defense. I think Buffalo is going to surprise a lot of folks this year, and it all starts this week.

 

 

San Francisco 49ers         at            Green Bay Packers (-5)

This is most assuredly one of the marquee contests in week 1 of the NFL season, and may be a preview of the NFC Championship game. The Packers, after 2 stellar seasons and a victory in Super Bowl XLV (that’s 45 for those of you from the backwoods of Kentucky visiting the big city for some vittles & ammo), stumbled in last year’s playoffs against the eventual World Champion NY Giants, while the 49ers also lost to the Giants in the conference title game, a heartbreaking overtime defeat. That means both teams will be angry and out to prove something, which should provide a very entertaining game for fans to watch. The question is, which team will be angrier and more resolute?? After much debate with The Voices I have decided to go with the supposed underdogs. I like the 49ers defense more, and I believe in the old adage that defense wins championships.

 

 

 

 

2009 NFL Preview – AFC

The word for this year’s NFL season is parity. Yes…..I realize that’s not an original thought. You hear it dozens of times from all the talking heads on ESPN, CBS, Fox, and NBC…..your friendly neighborhood purveyors of NFL action. But honest to God I really believe it to be the case this year. There are a few teams (Cleveland, Kansas City, Detroit) that continue to wallow in the land of dreadful despite all the usual machinations such as new coaches and noteworthy free agent signings or trades. And there are a few elite teams (Pittsburgh and the New York Giants for example) that continue to ride the tasty wave of success with no signs of decline. But the vast majority of the league seems to be atop a high wire, where a key injury or bad move by the coach will dictate the fickle difference between 7-9 and 11-5 but no amount of tinkering will make them neither elite nor awful. It’s one of the reasons we love the NFL…..it’s unpredictable and somewhat random. That being said, here’s my take on how we might see the season unfold. As always…please, no wagering. I don’t claim to actually be good at this.

We’ll take a look at the AFC first, and then I will post a look at the NFC in a few days:

AFC EAST

Miami Dolphins 11-5

Bill Parcells is large and in charge. And his head coach Tony Sparano seems like a true disciple. That’s a good thing. There’s a sense of stability in Miami that hasn’t been present for awhile, and in the NFL stability is usually a positive trait. The big question will be whether or not The Wildcat offense is something the rest of the league has figured out, or if the Dolphins can add enough new twists to keep it  fresh.

New York Jets                      10-6

The Jets are on the right path. I have a good feeling about rookie QB Mark Sanchez. Sure he’ll have some growing pains, but he can’t be any worse than what the departed Bret Favre was the second half of last season. New coach Rex Ryan is a defensive guru, so that side of the ball should see improvement.

New England Patriots       10-6

I can’t explain it, but I just sense the magic slipping away in Foxboro. I’m not convinced that Tom Brady is as healthy as desired, and a running attack featuring a three headed monster of Laurence Maroney, BenJarvis Green, and Fred Taylor just isn’t that overwhelming. I’m not saying New England will be a bad team, but I think they are in for much more of a dogfight in their division than most folks seem to believe.

Buffalo Bills                          4-12

No, I do not think that Terrell Owens is the savior this team needs. Though he’s been quiet thus far it is likely only a matter of time before he becomes the divisive force he’s been everywhere he’s played. Unfortunately for the Bills they are not in a position of strength where they can withstand such distractions. Dallas and Philadelphia thrived despite T.O.’s antics. Buffalo will not. Plus, this division is just too tough. The Bills may be looking at 6 losses just within their own division, and then they have games against Tennessee, Atlanta, and Indianapolis. Dick Jauron is a decent coach with the misfortune of being hired by subpar teams. Time to update the resume again Dick.


AFC SOUTH

Indianapolis Colts               10-6

The Colts, much like the Patriots, have been the cream of the crop for a long time. Did you realize that Peyton Manning is 33 years old and a veteran of 11 years?? Chinks in the armor have slowly developed over the past couple of years, but they have merely downgraded Indy from elite status to extremely good. And some of these emerging concerns aren’t so much a function of this team getting worse, but a recognition of other teams’ improvement. This division used to be Indy’s for the taking, but it has gotten quite competitive. The Colts have a new coach and Marvin Harrison isn’t around for Manning to throw to anymore. However, at the end of the day I still feel like no one is up to the task of dethroning the kings just yet…..until they get to the playoffs of course.

Tennessee Titans                10-6

Speaking of dethroning, Tennessee did do exactly that last year to the Colts. But I don’t believe they can pull off another 13-3 season. The defense is always above average, but the loss of DT Albert Haynesworth in free agency will have an impact. On offense the question is whether Kerry Collins, who up until last season had the aura of career backup, can continue his magic carpet ride. And what about Vince Young?? He all the sudden became a headcase in 2008 which is what allowed Collins to emerge as a star. The running attack is solid with the fleet of foot Chris Johnson and the bruising (and apparently sober) Lendale White. Whomever ends up being the QB has a few folks to throw to now thanks to the additions of free agent WR Nate Washington and first round choice Kenny Britt.

Houston Texans                  9-7

I keep waiting on the Texans to break through, but they continue to be just so-so with occasional flashes of potential. I’m not sure Matt Schaub is the answer at QB, and another receiver is needed so defenses can’t just key on Andre Johnson. Steve Slaton proved all the talking heads who said he wasn’t feature back material wrong, but I do believe the running game would benefit from adding a big battering ram for goal line and short yardage situations. Defensively this team just seems to be missing a piece or two. Being in the same division as Indianapolis and Tennessee doesn’t help matters, but that’s out of anyone’s control. The best game plan in Houston might be to sit tight and continue to improve one player at a time until that inevitable day when Peyton Manning retires.

Jacksonville Jaguars           7-9

I think the Jags will be slightly better than last season, but not much. The team took significant steps to improve the offensive line, and I’m of the opinion that that is the vital foundation of any good football team. RB Fred Taylor absconded to New England in a desperate attempt to win a ring, so Maurice Jones-Drew (some people call him The Space Cowboy, some call him The Gangster of Love) is the man now, and that’s probably a good thing. Veteran wideout Torry Holt will bolster the receiving corps along with a seemingly rejuvenated Troy Williamson who is determined to shed the “bust” label with which he has been saddled. There are two threads on which Jacksonville’s season hangs. The first is the defense. They are usually among the league’s best, but dropped off noticeably in 2008. The other is QB David Garrard. Once upon a time Garrard had a Randall Cunningham vibe. Last year it was more like Richie Cunningham. Nothing has happened this offseason to make me believe a momentous turnaround is on the horizon.


AFC NORTH

Pittsburgh Steelers                        11-5

Full disclosure…..I am a lifelong diehard Steeler fanatic. Admittedly it is hard for me to be completely objective when talking about my team. But I’m going to give it the old college try and leave it up to the reader’s discretion as to whether I’m on point or completely delusional. The Steelers are the defending Super Bowl Champions…..but let’s look deeper. They won last year despite having what was almost unanimously regarded as the league’s toughest schedule. They won despite both star RB Willie Parker and first round draft choice Rashard Mendenhall having major injuries and having to rely on third string RB Mewelde Moore. They won despite having an offensive line that no one was expecting to be very solid. So, extrapolating some logic from those statements, one could possibly surmise that with an easier schedule, both top runners healthy, and an offensive line that gelled better than anyone expected and now has an extra year of experience the Steelers might be even better in 2009. But not even I am willing to go that far. Defending Super Bowl champions haven’t had much luck the past decade or so, and this team did suffer some personnel losses. Will Limas Sweed validate being a high draft choice last year by stepping into the 3rd receiver role vacated by Nate Washington?? Will free agent signee Keiwan Ratliff be a suitable replacement for departed cornerback Bryant McFadden?? I’m not sure about the answers to those questions right now. Plus, the target is bigger than ever and one team in particular, the hated Ravens, will be gunning for the champs. But I get the sense that Mike Tomlin won’t let his team become unfocused, so to be honest I’m not all that concerned. I am predicting another banner year for the black n’ gold.

Baltimore Ravens                           10-6

The Ravens were oh-so-close last year. It’s rare when an 11-5 record doesn’t lock up a division title. QB Joe Flacco had a surprisingly proficient rookie season and the defense was as intimidating as everyone has come to expect. I don’t expect much of a drop off this year. It will be interesting to see how the departure of defensive coordinator Rex Ryan (the new head coach of the New York Jets) affects the chemistry. My guess is not much, atleast not in any measurable dynamic. I suppose a sophomore slump is possible for Flacco, but it is unlikely. Ray Lewis isn’t getting any younger, but he’s still got a couple great years in the tank. In almost any other division in the league Baltimore would be a runaway choice to come out on top. They just have the misfortune of playing in the same division with the only defense better than theirs.

Cincinnati Bengals                          8-8

A lot of folks derisively call them The Bungles, and it is a richly deserved bad reputation. They’ve had a lot of issues both on and off the field. Carson Palmer is theoretically healthy and fully recovered from past injuries which should help tremendously. Still, questions…and doubts…abound. I personally don’t believe that Laverneous Coles is an upgrade or even an even swap for departed receiver TJ Houshmandzadeh, and when your team is relying on underachieving Cedric Benson to carry the rushing load that’s a bad sign. The team drafted an OT with the 6th overall pick in the draft, but first he held out until late in the pre-season and then he broke his foot in practice, so there goes that idea. Long removed from the Super Bowl hay days of Boomer Esiason, Chris Collinsworth, and  Icky Woods, the modern day Bengals just seem snakebitten. I really like coach Marvin Lewis, who had much success as a defensive coach in Pittsburgh, Washington, and most notably Baltimore.  But I’m not sure even the re-animated corpses of Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry combined could polish this turd. It’s a testament to the talent of Palmer (and having Oakland, Kansas City, Detroit, and Cleveland – twice, on the schedule) that I’m even predicting a .500 finish.

Cleveland Browns                          6-10

I’m a Steelers fan so I hate the Browns, but I missed them when they were gone from the league for a few years. I was glad when they were reborn. But holy cow have they been dreadful since that triumphant return. They just can’t seem to find even a glimmer of hope, a small buoy in a raging sea of mediocrity. Atleast the Bengals have Palmer. The Browns pinned all their hopes a couple years ago on Notre Dame alumnus Brady Quinn. I never thought Quinn was that good even in college, and he hasn’t been good enough to seize the reins for the Browns. If you aren’t good enough to be the clear cut starting QB for such a bad team then you aren’t good enough period. New head coach Eric Mangini is a Bill Belichick disciple, which has been proven to mean diddly squat. Former Browns coach Romeo Crennel was a Belichick guy too, and that didn’t work well at all. Mangini himself was run out of New York, although I think maybe the Jets pulled the trigger a bit prematurely. Maybe some guys are meant to be really well respected coordinators and aren’t necessarily head coach material. Being in the same division with the Steelers and Ravens is just brutal.


AFC WEST

San Diego Chargers           14-2

Predicting the best record in the NFL for San Diego is as much about the atrocious division they play in than anything else. There are probably even a handful of college teams that could beat the three other teams in this division this season. San Diego has been a rather good team the past few seasons, and I don’t expect that to change. Yes, Ladainian Tomlinson has lost a step. But that’s like saying it’d take Mike Tyson 5 rounds to knock out Michael Spinks rather than the 1 round it took him 20 years ago. So what?? Shawne Merriman should be fully healthy now, so the defense will be better than it was in 2008. Philip Rivers just signed a fat contract, which might make him lazier but instead I believe it’ll make him relaxed and more effective. Vincent Jackson needs to step up and be the go to receiver many have thought him capable of being, and big time TE Antonio Gates needs to stay healthy. I truly believe that last year’s 8-8 season was a mirage, a one time off year that can be attributed to injuries to a few key players. That is unlikely to happen two straight seasons.

Denver Broncos                  8-8

The Josh McDaniels era hasn’t exactly gotten off to a rousing start…..and they haven’t even played a game yet. McDaniels is another of the aformentioned branches on the Belichick coaching tree, one that hasn’t proven very fruitful thus far. I don’t think this guy is going to change that fact. The whole Jay Cutler debacle was an inauspicious launch for the new regime, and even though Cutler undoubtedly acted like a petulant child the blame must be shared by coach McDaniels. I understand wanting “your guy” as a new coach. I get it. But it wasn’t as if Cutler was a bad quarterback. It’s not even like the Broncos were a bad team. They were 8-5 last year and then lost the final 3 games. If they would have won the last game they would have been in the playoffs. The biggest issue was the defense, which ranked near the bottom in most categories. The coach obviously miscalculated what bringing in QB Matt Cassel, whom he had worked with in New England, would do to Cutler’s psyche. Cassel didn’t even end up with the Broncos, but that didn’t matter. The damage was done and Cutler whined his way out of Denver and into a pretty decent gig with Chicago. The Broncos?? Well…they ended up with Kyle Orton. It’s akin to having Russell Crowe lined up to star in your new movie but he drops out and you end up with Keanu Reeves. This will not end well. They did draft what most considered the top RB in the draft in Georgia’s Knowshon Moreno, and he’ll be backed up by Correll Buckhalter and Lamont Jordan. Not a flashy running attack but it should be effective. I atleast like this trifecta more than New England’s. Some pieces were added on defense thru the draft and free agency, but I don’t see any real difference makers. In 2008 the Broncos finished with a .500 record, and I’m generously predicting the same record in 2009, which begs the question…why exactly did they fire Mike Shanahan??

Oakland Raiders                 5-11

Al Davis is still alive and kicking, and that is bad news for the once mighty Raiders. Seriously, what has happened to this team?? It is one of the premiere franchises in the NFL…..infamous, successful, bold. But the aging and apparently crazy Davis has turned them into a laughing stock. The man is 80 years old. Someone needs to make him retire. I’m just not impressed by anything the Raiders have to offer. They have a new coach. Whatever. They have Jamarcus Russell as the QB of the future and brought in Jeff Garcia to be a mentor and capable backup. Sorry…..still doesn’t stir anything within my soul. Even Darren McFadden is an overhyped RB who’ll get you 2 yards but just look flashier doing it than most other backs. They didn’t draft anyone inspiring either. It’s just more of the same from a team that seems to have no direction.

Kansas City Chiefs              3-13

Speaking of no direction, that brings us to the Chiefs. All you need to know about this team is that their new head coach is apparently going to attempt to be the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator too. The man is clearly a control freak and in over his head. The jury is still out on Matt Cassel, the newly acquired starting QB. Cassel wasn’t even a starter in college at USC, where he backed up both Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. Last season he got his opportunity with the Patriots after Tom Brady went down with a knee injury. I get the fact that almost anyone is an upgrade over Brodie Croyle and Tyler Thigpen, but the fact is that we are talking about a guy who shined for only one season and that happened to be with one of the best supporting casts in football. The road to hell is paved with the short lived careers of football players who were really good for a year or two. Running back Larry Johnson has seen his production dramatically curtailed the past two seasons, and he is on the threshold of 30, the age when rushers traditionally begin a steep decline. Perennial all-pro tight end Tony Gonzalez got tired of losing and demanded a trade, so he’s now in Atlanta with the Falcons. There just isn’t much good news for the Chiefs. If Cassel proves himself more than just a one year wonder, and if Johnson has a career renaissance or possibly Jamaal Charles steps into that spot and breaks out, then maybe this team can do better than last season. But my gut instinct is that improvement will not manifest itself until next season.