2021 PIGSKIN PICKS OF PROFUNDITY…WEEK 5

We didn’t pick the Clemson game last week, but please indulge me while I give myself a rare pat on the back. In my pre-season poll I pondered the question “Could it be that the ACC is getting better just as the (Clemson) Tigers aren’t quite as elite as they have been??”. It didn’t go down exactly like I thought it would, but yeah…I called it!! No playoff for Clemson this season. Now, if only my weekly picks in these games were as accurate. Sadly both Zach (2-3) and myself (1-4) struggled again last week, so I’m going against my better judgement by chasing wins with bonus picks. Y’all are welcome, even though it may just blow up in our faces.

My Season: 11-15

Zach’s Season: 10-16

Florida International at Florida Atlantic (-10.5)

I can’t be the only one who gets these two teams mixed up, so let’s take a little climb up the learning tree. The 2-2 Florida Atlantic Owls call Boca Raton (45 miles north of Miami) home, represent Conference USA, and are coached by Willie Taggart (former head coach at Oregon & Florida St.). The 1-3 Florida International Panthers are out of Miami, also play in C-USA, and their head coach is Butch Davis (who has also coached for Miami, North Carolina, & the Cleveland Browns). I don’t think there’s much of a home field advantage to be had, and in rivalry games like this most other conventional rules can be tossed aside. So it comes down to vibes and what assumptions one can make based on what we’ve seen thus far. FAU lost to Florida & Air Force, allowing both teams to score 30+ points. FIU has only played one game against top tier competition, and that was a four TD+ loss to Texas Tech. This feels like a relatively low scoring, tight game to be decided by turnovers, penalties, & special teams. Something along the lines of 28-24, which means that I don’t like the spread at all and will take the underdogs to cover. Zach concurs. 

My Pick: Florida International 

Z’s Pick: Florida International

Cincinnati (-2.5) at Notre Dame 

I had to look at those odds multiple times utilizing a few different sources. Sure, Cincy is a solid team that had two consecutive 11 win seasons before last year’s abbreviated campaign in which they logged 9 victories before narrowly losing to Georgia in the Peach Bowl. They handled a well regarded Indiana team last week. I am by no means saying that the Bearcats aren’t good. However, they’re an AAC team typically not on the same level as a program like Notre Dame. Not only that, but this game is in South Bend and the 4-0 Irish have given no one any reason to doubt them outside of being pushed into overtime by Florida St. in the season opener. Hell, they took Wisconsin’s best punch a week ago and still won by 4 TDs, so what am I missing?? Why is Cincinnati favored in this game?!?!?!?? It sounds pretty insane to me, so I’m going with the home team to score the “upset”. Conversely, Zach believes the Bearcats are for real and this is their opportunity to prove they belong in the playoff conversation. 

My Pick: Notre Dame 

Z’s Pick: Cincinnati 

Ole Miss at Alabama (-14.5)

Well, atleast we don’t have to worry about Clemson in the playoff, so it’ll be fresh to some degree. Now if only we could see the Tide lose a couple of games and fall out of contention, how cool would that be?? Unfortunately that’s probably not going to happen. ‘Bama has won four games by an average of 29 points, although it should be noted that they’ve not faced anyone with a pulse other than Florida, a game they only won by two points. The Rebels are 3-0 and have also beaten up on clearly inferior competition. In attendance will be highly touted recruit Arch Manning, Peyton & Eli’s nephew. It is my understanding that both Ole Miss & Alabama are high on his list, so it’ll be interesting to hear down the line how this game affected his decision. At any rate, if it were being played in Oxford I might be tempted to pick the upset. Enigmatic Rebels’ head coach Lane Kiffin spent a few years as ‘Bama’s offensive coordinator awhile back so obviously he’d love to snatch a shocking victory. However, with the game being contested in Tuscaloosa I just don’t see it happening. The only question is if the home team can cover the points, and I believe they will. Zach’s man crush on Nick Saban makes his choice easy. 

My Pick: Alabama

Z’s Pick: Alabama 

Arkansas at Georgia (-18.5)

I didn’t think the Razorbacks were legit, but I was wrong. They handled Texas A&M and moved into the Top 10. Unfortunately they now must travel to Athens and challenge the undefeated #2 Bulldogs. I’d be really surprised if Georgia loses, but can they cover?? The points feel a bit disrespectful. Having said that, it feels like a “go big or go home” moment, and I did pick Georgia to be a playoff team and thus far they’ve done nothing to dissuade me, so I’m counting on them to notch a three touchdown victory. Zach respects Georgia’s defense & team speed, but he doesn’t like the spread and thinks Arkansas will keep it close.

My Pick: Georgia

Z’s Pick: Arkansas 

Detroit at Chicago (-3)

Good Lord the Bears were awful a week ago. At the time of publication it is unknown whether the Bears’ starting QB will be rookie Justin Fields, Andy Dalton, or Nick Foles…but does it matter?? Conversely, the Lions are coming off a last second loss to the Baltimore Ravens in which it took the longest field goal in NFL history to beat them. Can they use that heartbreaking defeat as motivation?? If they were playing a playoff caliber team I might have doubts, but the Bears aren’t that, so I think Detroit scores the mild upset. Zach agrees on all counts. 

My Pick: Detroit 

Z’s Pick: Detroit 

Seattle at San Francisco (-3)

In my NFL Preview I predicted that the NFC West would be fun to watch, and so far they have not disappointed. This game might end up being a factor in a few months when deciding a playoff spot, and don’t think for a second these teams don’t realize that. Seattle lost to the Minnesota Vikings last weekend, while ‘Frisco was on the losing end of an unsurprising Aaron Rodgers miracle, so both clubs will be looking to rebound. I think the home field actually does make a difference, so I’m picking the Niners. Zach, on the other hand, believes potential league MVP Russell Wilson will lead his team to victory. 

My Pick: San Francisco 

Z’s Pick: Seattle 

Arizona at LA Rams (-6)

Staying in the NFC West, these are the teams I believe will be battling for the division crown at the end, so it’s a pretty big early season matchup. Both are undefeated, but obviously that’ll change for one of them. It looks like the trade for QB Matthew Stafford was a wise move for the Rams, while the Cards have developed into a seemingly complete team. This is a tossup for me, but whoever wins I think it’ll be by less than a touchdown. Zach foresees a close game but believes the home team will cover. 

My Pick: Arizona 

Z’s Pick: LA Rams 

Tampa Bay (-6.5) at New England

It’s the Brady Bowl. I’m sure the folks in Boston & Tampa are pumped, but personally I’d rather see both teams lose. That being said, I think it’s been well established by now that the “Patriot Dynasty” was more about Brady than it ever was about Belichick. The oddsmakers seem to agree since the home team is a near touchdown underdog. The Sunday Night Football folks at NBC are probably going to be disappointed because I think this one will be over rather quickly and the defending Super Bowl champs might win by 4 or 5 TDs. Zach concurs.

My Pick: Tampa Bay 

Z’s Pick: Tampa Bay 

2018 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 18

Well sports fans, we’ve reached the end of the road. Another season of picks will soon be in the books. I know the non-sports types out in The Manoverse will be happy about that, and rest assured that there is plenty of content on the drawing table for 2019, provided that I can stay motivated and not give in to my more apathetic tendencies. For those of us that love football there are still a few college bowl games and the NFL playoffs on the horizon. Zach (4-1) smoked me (1-4) last week, which means that it is still mathematically possible (though not likely) for him to win the season crown, while I’ve got some work to do to finish the year above water. I briefly pondered doing a big season ending blowout where we would pick every game on the schedule, but decided against it, though you’re still getting bonus picks. There are no Thursday or Monday night games, meaning that everything is happening on Sunday afternoon except the Sunday night game on NBC. So RedZone will be even more fun to watch than usual. The playoff situation in both conferences is mostly settled, though there are a couple of berths to decide as well as some seeding to resolve. Happy New Year friends. Thanks for reading what we have to say here, and as always don’t ever hesitate to leave comments. I look forward to more fun in 2019.

My Season:     51-56

Z’s Season:     47-61

 

 

 

 

Chicago              at                Minnesota (-5)

If the Bears beat the Vikings and the Rams lose to the 49ers, Chicago would be the NFC #2 seed based on their victory over Los Angeles a few weeks ago. However, if the Rams win (or tie) the Bears are the #3 seed regardless of the outcome of this game. With a win the Vikings could be the #5 seed if the Seattle Seahawks lose or the #6 seed if Seattle wins. Minnesota could even make the playoffs if they lose this game…if the Philadelphia Eagles also lose (or tie). I feel like Chicago has been the more consistent team this season, but with their backs against the wall & the home field I’m riding with the Vikings this week. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     Minnesota

Z’s Pick:     Minnesota

 

 

 

LA Chargers (-6.5)               at                Denver

Will the Chargers be the AFC West champs and the #1 seed…or a wildcard #5 seed?? To win the division they need the KC Chiefs to lose (or tie). The Broncos are 6-9, and head coach Vance Joseph might get fired this week regardless of the outcome, although I have to assume an upset victory could help his cause. Denver has the home field, and they did beat the Chargers back in November…but I just don’t think that’s going to happen again. Zach thinks the Broncos are clearly a better team at home, and he’s a little uncomfortable with the points.

My Pick:     LA Chargers

Z’s Pick:     Denver

 

 

Philadelphia (-6.5)                at                Washington

The media has to be pulling for Philly because let’s face it…another improbable playoff run with Nick Foles under center would be a cool story. However, the Eagles have to win and hope Chicago beats Minnesota. I suppose that’s not too far-fetched, and I’d like to see it happen. Can the Redskins play spoiler?? It’s possible, but I’m going to say no. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Philadelphia

Z’s Pick:     Philadelphia

 

 

Jacksonville                at                Houston (-7)

The Texans could be the #1 seed in the AFC if they win this game and the Chiefs, Chargers, & Patriots all lose, but the odds are against all of that happening. If only New England loses (or ties) then Houston could be the #2 seed. They might end up as the #3 seed with a loss and a tie in the Indianapolis-Tennessee game…an unlikely scenario…or if they win and all of that other stuff doesn’t happen (much more probable). If Houston loses and Colts/Titans doesn’t end in a tie they’ll fall to the #6 seed. Meanwhile, the 5-10 Jags are left to wonder where it all went so wrong this season and can begin the process of evaluating free agent quarterbacks and who they might be able to snag with their first round draft pick. We both feel like Houston should win by a comfortable margin.

My Pick:     Houston

Z’s Pick:     Houston

 

 

Oakland                       at                Kansas City (-13.5)

The Chiefs can win the AFC West and secure the #1 seed with a victory or if they tie and the Chargers lose (or tie). I think there are some other possibilities, but it probably doesn’t matter because if KC can’t beat the 4-11 Raiders at Arrowhead they’re in big trouble anyway. Zach doesn’t like the points at all and believes Andy Reid tends to choke in big games.

My Pick:     Kansas City

Z’s Pick:     Oakland

 

 

 

Cleveland                              at                Baltimore (-6)

There will be no bigger Browns fans on Sunday than Zach & myself. What it boils down to is this: if the Ravens win they are the AFC North champs and depending on what happens with a couple of other teams could be the #2, #3, or #4 seed, eliminating my Steelers in the process. If Cleveland wins Baltimore is eliminated from the playoffs and the Steelers are in. A year ago I would have already been in a mood of quiet resignation, but I think there’s a chance that the Browns could actually pull this off. Zach believes in Browns’ QB Baker Mayfield to do just enough to lead his team to victory in a low scoring defensive struggle.

My Pick:     Cleveland

Z’s Pick:     Cleveland

 

 

 

Indianapolis (-2)                  at      Tennessee

This is the Sunday night game on NBC, and it should be really fun. Atleast these two teams will have the advantage of knowing exactly where they stand before kickoff. The Colts have to win to get into the playoffs, and they’d either be the #3, #4, or #6 seed, depending on other outcomes. It’s a must-win for the Titans as well, and they could land anywhere from the #2 to the #6 seed in the AFC. After a rough start Indy has won 8 out of their last 9, and I have heard a couple of talking heads state that they’re the team no one wants to face in the playoffs. Tennessee is riding a four game winning streak but QB Marcus Mariota has been battling injuries. Regardless of Mariota’s status I trust Colts’ QB Andrew Luck much more, and I think he’ll find a way to lead his team to a hard fought victory. Zach foresees a high scoring affair, with Indy coming out on top.

My Pick:     Indianapolis

Z’s Pick:     Indianapolis

 

2018 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 15

The college football season is over except for the playoff and of course a plethora of bowl games. Zach & I will do our annual Bowl-A-Palooza picks soon, but as always they do not count as part of our totals. We both finished the NCAA portion of our season strong, with him going 4-3 and me having my best week in awhile at 5-1. It’s all NFL all the time from here on out, and Zach is going to have to be nearly perfect to climb above .500 and take back the season lead, while I am keeping my head above water for the moment.

My Season:     47-45

Z’s Season:     40-53

 

 

 

 

 

Baltimore                     at                Kansas City (-6.5)

I have a feeling that those who will feel the biggest negative impact after the shocking release of running back Kareem Hunt are fantasy owners (like myself), while the Chiefs will be just fine. Hunt’s stupidity likely cost me a playoff spot in my dynasty league, and I am currently pondering how to proceed because his situation is far different from the infamous Ray Rice debacle. Rice was 27 years old and had a lot of miles on his legs. Hunt is four years younger, which is a big deal in the NFL. I have a feeling another team will give him a shot at redemption…perhaps as soon as next season. At any rate, KC got along just fine without him last weekend and I see no reason to expect anything less going forward. The Ravens are all the sudden right there fighting my floundering Steelers for the AFC North lead. Rookie backup QB Lamar Jackson has led the team to three straight victories, but starter Joe Flacco is reportedly healthy again, so it’ll be interesting to see how things go with all of that. Kansas City has one of the best home fields in the league, so I’m going out on a limb and picking the favorites to cover. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Kansas City

Z’s Pick:     Kansas City

 

 

 

Denver (-5.5)                at                San Francisco

In my season preview I predicted that the Broncos would go 2-14, opining that it feels as though “they’re on the edge of the cliff” and “it might get worse before it gets better”. Denver  is currently 6-6, including a three game win streak, so they’ve certainly surpassed my expectations. The 2-10 49ers have been riddled with injuries & other calamities all season, so it is difficult to have much faith in them at this point. They do have the home field, but I don’t think it’ll make much difference. Denver might not make it all the way to the playoffs, but I think their current hot streak will continue for now. Zach expects big rushing yards for Denver in a victory.

My Pick:     Denver

Z’s Pick:     Denver

 

 

 

Carolina (-1.5)             at                Cleveland

In my season preview I said that for the Browns “winning more games than they’ve won in total over the past couple of seasons would be cause for optimism”. Mission accomplished. They are 4-7-1 and I’m pretty sure they’ll get the six victories I projected for them. Conversely, I had the Panthers going 12-4 and winning the NFC South, but they have fallen far short of those lofty expectations. At 6-6 they are four games out of the division lead and battling about a half dozen other teams for a wildcard spot. On top of that there seems to be having some shoulder issues. Cleveland has the home field, and The Vibes are whispering “upset” in my ear. Conversely, Zach thinks the Browns are the perfect opponent for Carolina to right the ship against.

My Pick:     Cleveland

Z’s Pick:     Carolina

 

 

Indianapolis                at                Houston (-4.5)

The AFC South is falling just about the way I expected it to, with the exception of the sudden ineptitude of the Jacksonville Jaguars, although not even that is a total surprise since I predicted that they wouldn’t win the division. Colts’ QB Andrew Luck seems to be getting back to his old self, even if the team’s 6-6 record might not indicate that. Meanwhile, the Texans are on a roll, having won nine in a row after an 0-3 start. I see no reason to expect that winning streak to end now, although I think Indy will put up a good fight. Zach expects a high scoring affair but thinks Houston will snag the win.

My Pick:     Houston

Z’s Pick:     Houston

 

 

 

LA Rams (-3)               at                Chicago

The old adage is that “defense wins championships”, and this might be a good example…or not. The Rams have one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL, while the acquisition of DE/LB Khalil Mack has the folks in Chicago remembering the good ol’ days of the infamous ’85 Bears defense. The Rams are averaging about 35 points per game, while Chicago’s defense has only given up 30 or more points three times (all losses).Having said all that, what may be more interesting to watch in this game is the Bears’ offense versus the Rams’ defense. The Bears get QB Mitch Trubisky back after he’s missed the past couple of games with a shoulder injury. L.A.’s defense has a front three consisting of Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, & Ndamukong Suh, with Dante Fowler at linebacker and both Aquib Talib & Marcus Peters in the secondary. Not too shabby. I believe this will be a relatively low scoring game…something like 24-21…with the Bears getting a big upset at home. Conversely, Zach foresees a huge, multi-TD win for Los Angeles.

My Pick:     Chicago

Z’s Pick:     LA Rams

2018 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 12

It is weeks like this that I am thankful for these silly little football picks that we do. Have you ever experienced one of those moods when you don’t necessarily feel bad but you just don’t have much…pep?? I call it a funk. Perhaps others would refer to it as a malaise or melancholy. It’s not quite depression, but kind of depression light. I get this way on occasion, especially when there is a time change. I’m always able to shake it off eventually, and with the holidays fast approaching I’m confident that I’ll get my mojo back soon enough. Until then there is football, and last week wasn’t half bad for me (5-3), but Zach (3-5) might have a different perspective. At any rate, we’re back to our normal five games for now, with the balance being tipped in the NFL’s favor for once since the college schedule is atrocious. Really Alabama?? You’re playing The Citadel in November?? That’s shameful. The Tide ought to lose their #1 ranking just for that.

 My Season:        30-34

Z’s Season:        26-38

 

 

 

 

 

 

Syracuse           at      Notre Dame (-9.5)

I’m old enough to remember when Syracuse was legitimately good back in the late 80s & early 90s, but they haven’t had a nine win season since 1997. However, they are currently 8-2 and a Top 15 team. The Orangemen aren’t going to be a playoff team or make it to the ACC title game, but could they derail the National Championship dreams of the undefeated Irish?? This is a “neutral site” game being played at Yankee Stadium, which is a good thing because I just can’t enjoy watching games that emanate from The Carrier Dome. It looks too much like an Arena League game and I can’t take it seriously. At any rate, as much as I’d love to see an upset and the resulting playoff upheaval I’m not buying into the Syracuse hype. They’ve played three decent opponents and lost two of those games. I’d love to be wrong, but I think we’re looking at a blowout situation here. Conversely, Zach remembers Syracuse upsetting Clemson a year ago and thinks anything can happen in college football. He won’t go so far as to predict the upset, but believes that ‘Cuse will keep things close enough to cover the points.

My Pick:     Notre Dame

Z’s Pick:     Syracuse

 

 

 

 

Arizona               at                Washington State (-10.5)

I must admit that my initial reason for including this game was purely selfish. I figured it’d give me something to watch that I actually have a stake in during a boring Saturday night at work. But then I remembered that I’m actually off Saturday night!! I’ll probably watch anyhow since it might actually be rather entertaining. The 5-5 Wildcats don’t have the best results, but they are usually fun to watch. Conversely, the Cougars are 9-1 and still have playoff hopes if the dominoes fall just right. The points look a little risky, but I think the home team will cover. Zach thinks Arizona might be building something good for the future, but feels like State is clearly the better team right now.

My Pick:     Washington State

Z’s Pick:     Washington State

 

 

 

 

Houston (-3)                at               Washington

I’m starting Deshaun Watson at QB in my dynasty league this week over Ben Roethlisberger & Marcus Mariota, so the Texans better have a big game. They have taken the lead in the AFC South and have won six straight games after an alarming 0-3 start, so momentum is there. Meanwhile, the Redskins also lead their division, but since the other three teams are terrible I’m not sure it means all that much. It is interesting that the home team has been deemed the underdogs by the oddsmakers, but I am inclined to agree. Zach thinks Washington is overrated while Houston is on a roll.

My Pick:     Houston

Z’s Pick:     Houston

 

 

 

 

Minnesota                    at                Chicago (-3)

Who’d have believed a couple of months ago that the Bears…even with the home field…would be favored in this game?? However, after trading for sackmaster Khalil Mack things have gone very well for the division leaders, especially with second year QB Mitch Trubisky looking like a legit first rounder. Conversely, the Vikings have been somewhat disappointing. At 5-3-1 they are hardly awful, and could take the division lead with a victory, yet I can’t help but feel like they’ve underperformed thus far. Chicago is certainly capable of scoring 30+ points, but I don’t think that’ll happen against Minnesota’s defense. This feels like a 21-ish to 17-ish kind of game, and I’m going to trust Kirk Cousins to get that one extra score on Sunday night.. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Minnesota

Z’s Pick:     Minnesota

 

 

 

 

Kansas City                at                LA Rams (-2.5)

This game was supposed to be played in Mexico City on Monday night, but apparently raging wildfires in Los Angeles are still less of a threat than a football field in Mexico that looks like the golf course at the end of Caddyshack after Bill Murray bombed the hell out of it trying to kill the gopher, so back to California it is. Could this be a Super Bowl preview?? Maybe. The Patriots, Steelers, & Saints might all have a say in that particular debate, but right now the Chiefs & Rams look like the two best teams in the NFL. Los Angeles suffered their first defeat a couple of weeks ago, but are averaging about 34 points per game with RB Todd Gurley already near the 1000 yard rushing mark. KC can score a lot of points too, so I’d definitely take the over in this one. With two prolific offenses I assume the outcome will be decided by special teams & turnovers. I’m sure ESPN would love a high scoring shootout that comes down to a last second field goal, and I wouldn’t mind either. It’s pretty much a pick ‘em game, but I think I like the underdogs to pull off a mild upset, and so does Zach.

My Pick:     Kansas City

Z’s Pick:     Kansas City

2014 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 17

I have to be honest. Choosing which games we are going to pick has become difficult. College football is, of course, over. The NFL is down to the nitty gritty. We have a good idea of which teams are definitely in the playoffs and which teams certainly will not be playoff bound. The real interest lies in the handful of teams who are fighting for just a couple of playoff spots. However, I don’t want to just keep talking about the same half dozen teams every week. That’s redundant & tedious for both myself and The Manoverse. Ah well…there are worse problems, right?? At any rate, last week Zach went 2-3, while I went 3-2. Zach’s faith in Johnny Football proved to be misguided, while we both underestimated how far the San Francisco 49ers have gone off the rails. That brings my season record to 50-41, while Zach is currently 46-45. I think it’s pretty cool that both of us are still above .500. Hey ESPN…call me!!

*

Buffalo (-5.5) at Oakland
raidersNeither team is going to the playoffs. The Bills aren’t mathematically eliminated, but they are definitely fighting an uphill battle. To be fair Buffalo_Bills_Helmetthough they have shown improvement. It looks like they don’t believe QB EJ Manuel is the answer, so they’ll likely have to address that issue in the offseason. Conversely, even though they seem like they have their quarterback of the present & future with Derek Carr, the Raiders are a mess. They’ll be looking to hire a big time coach in the offseason. As far as this game goes I am going to go with the upset. Call it a gut feeling. Zach thinks Buffalo will win easily.

My Pick = Oakland
Z’s Pick = Buffalo

Detroit (-8) at Chicago
The big sports news this week is that the Bears are benching QB Jay Cutler and starting Jimmy Clausen. It’d be shocking if that is a long term answer. Will Cutler Detroit_Lions_Helmetbe with the Bears next season?? Can head coach Marc Trestman keep his job?? I have no idea. Meanwhile, the Lions are in a dogfight for both their division lead and a wildcard spot. They have a lot riding on this game and I don’t think they’ll mess it up. Zach concurs.

My Pick = Detroit
Z’s Pick = Detroit

Indianapolis at Dallas (-3)
The Colts have already clinched their division. The Cowboys lead their division and need to win atleast one more game. This is going to be a shootout. I expect the Indianapolis_Colts_HelmetPalace in Dallas to have a playoff atmosphere. However, I also expect Andrew Luck to have more bullets in his gun than Tony Romo. Zach agrees.

My Pick = Indianapolis
Z’s Pick = Indianapolis

Seattle (-7.5) at Arizona
ss1The defending champion Seahawks are still in the playoff hunt, but the Cardinals have clinched the division title. However, the Cards are azcdown to 3rd string QB Ryan Lindley. I have no doubt that Arizona will put forth their best effort, and eliminating Seattle from playoff contention would be sweet for them (and every other NFC playoff contender). I just don’t believe that a Seattle team with everything on the line will go down easily. Zach, on the other hand, is all in on the Cardinals despite their shaky quarterback situation.

My Pick = Seattle
Z’s Pick = Arizona

Denver (-3) at Cincinnati
The Bengals took care of business last week by knocking that arrogant jackass Manziel down a peg or two, but now it’s time for them to lose. Cincy is just a half denvergame in front of Pittsburgh & Baltimore in the AFC North, and both of those teams have very winnable games this week. The Broncos have already clinched their division and I suppose it’s not out of the question that they could take their foot off the gas these last couple of weeks. I hope they wait until next week versus Oakland to do that. Zach concurs.

My Pick = Denver
Z’s Pick = Denver

2014 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 4

I am so mad at myself. Sometimes something is so obviously staring one right in the face that we too easily look past it. Such was the case last week. There was a fantastic opportunity for me to go 5-0, which I think would have been the very first time in three years that has happened. I am far too lazy to research the archives in order to verify that fact. At any rate, instead I ended up going 3-2. Why?? Well, first of all, the Green Bay Packers only beat the NY Jets by 7 points. The spread was 8. That one wasn’t so much my fault as it was a Packers team who basically phoned it in and may have actually lost were it not for the inexplicable ineptitude of the Jets coaching staff. Then there was the major upset…the San Diego Chargers defeating the Seattle Seahawks. I should have seen it coming. There was no way the Seahawks were going to go undefeated. That just doesn’t happen. I am the guy who said in my NFL Preview that “Super Bowl Champions oftentimes slip a little the following season” while predicting a rather pedestrian 10-6 record for Seattle. At the same time I called the Chargers “sneaky good” and also predicted a 10-6 record as well as a playoff berth. The Seahawks had dismantled Green Bay in the opening game of the season while San Diego lost a heartbreaker to the Arizona Cardinals. Seattle-San Diego was a home game for the Chargers & a classic trap game for the Seahawks, and they fell into the trap. I should have seen it coming but I didn’t. The good news for me is that while I went 3-2 Zach went 1-4, which means our season thus far looks like this:

Me = 7-9
Zach = 7-8

********************

Iowa at Pitt (-6.5)
iowaI ranked Iowa 14th in my pre-season Top 25, but after a last second loss to in-state rival Iowa pittSt. they have some work to do if they’re going to fulfill that prophecy. Meanwhile, the hated Pitt Panthers have gotten off to a solid 3-0 start, including a victory at Boston College. Heinz Field isn’t much of a home advantage for the Panthers since there are usually only a few dozen people there on Saturdays, including vendors and homeless people hoping to score some scraps from discarded Primanti Brothers wrappers. Most folks in The ‘Burgh wait to spend their hard earned money on Sunday at the Steelers game. Pitt seems like they may be the real deal, but who knows?? I think this will be a close game and it is undoubtedly pivotal to both teams’ seasons. I’m going to support my own pre-season prediction by going with the Hawkeyes. Using the logic that Boston College beat USC and Pitt beat Boston College so therefore Pitt must be a legitimately good team (which actually does make sense) Zach is picking the Panthers to pound the ball with their rushing attack and win easily.

My Pick = Iowa
Z’s Pick = Pitt

Florida at Alabama (-14.5)
Where is the love for ‘Bama?? Are we just so use to them being a top team that we don’t even feel the need to discuss themflorida gators image anymore?? Is there a bit of Tide fatigue amongst the masses?? The answer is probably yes on both counts. However, this game should receive a fair amount of attention. Florida isn’t back to its Spurrier/Urban Meyer heyday just yet, but they are 2-0. Yes it took them 3 overtimes to beat Kentucky last week. I think they may have been looking ahead just a bit. Anyway, if this game were at The Swamp it’d be really intriguing, but alas it is in Tuscaloosa. Therefore I believe there is probably not much of a doubt that Alabama will win. The question is by how much?? I am probably going to regret this, but I guess maybe I am one of the doubters. I think the Tide rolls, but by less than 14 ½ points. Zach has a man crush on Nick Saban but agrees with my assessment that this will be a close game.

My Pick = Florida
Z’s Pick = Florida

Clemson at Florida St. (-20)
There are no shortage of folks who already have had the #1 ranked Seminoles on upset alert. They were less than clemsonimpressive in a season opening victory over Oklahoma St., a game in which the Cowboys narrowed their deficit to within a touchdown with 2 minutes remaining but ran out of time to make anything else happen. Add in the fact that Florida St.’s quarterback, Heisman Trophy winner, upstanding citizen, scholar, gentleman, & all around class act Jameis Winston is suspended for the first half of this game because he is a moron. Meanwhile, the Tigers are 1-1 after a season opening loss to Georgia followed by dismantling an overmatched junior high team last week. I honestly don’t know how Clemson is still in anyone’s Top 25. They certainly haven’t earned such accolades. However, that could change with this game. Heck, if the game were being played at Memorial Stadium in South Carolina I might actually give them a puncher’s chance to win. However, it is in Tallahassee. The point spread does concern me just a bit. Florida St. has put up only 37 points in each of its first two contests. I think Clemson will be overmatched but motivated, while I am not sure the apprehension of the doubters has reached enough of a crescendo for Florida St. to pay much attention…yet. Zach not only agrees but is boldly predicting an outright Clemson victory. That boy has a set of brass ones. He gets it from his mother’s side of the family.

My Pick = Clemson
Z’s Pick = Clemson

Denver at Seattle (-5)
For anyone who may have been hiding out in one of those bomb shelters from the 60’s recently, this is a rematch of last denverseason’s Super Bowl. In that game the Seahawks’ defense made living legend Peyton Manning look like…well…Eli Manning and cruised to a 43-8 victory that was even more underwhelming than Bruno Mars’ halftime show. But the beauty of the NFL is that every season is new and teams can change…both for the good and the not so good…at the drop of a hat. The Broncos made notable improvements to their defense, while Seattle lost a few pieces, although I don’t think it’s had a significant impact so far. Adding intrigue to this game is the fact that the defending champions, as previously mentioned, were upset last week. Could they really lose two games in a row?? Is Denver as good as their 2-0 record indicates?? The revenge factor for the Broncos cannot be overlooked, but neither can the anger of the Seahawks after a tough loss. This is a hard game to figure out, but I’m going to roll the dice on Manning and go with the underdogs. Zach concurs.

My Pick = Denver
Z’s Pick = Denver

Chicago at NY Jets (-2.5)
Jets-Pin-ProThe Bears spoiled the opening of their brand new stadium for the San Francisco 49ers last chicago-bears-logo13Sunday night and looked pretty good in doing it, especially in the 4th quarter. But let us not forget that they lost their season opener at home in three OTs to the Buffalo Bills. The Jets are 1-1 as well. So basically no one really knows what to expect in this game. New York gets the nominal home field advantage but I’m not sure that means much. This is the story of two quarterbacks. The Bears’ Jay Cutler is, in my opinion, overrated. The Jets’ Geno Smith…a former WV Mountaineer…has potential and occasionally shows flashes but has been disappointing to some. I look for this to be a defensive battle defined by turnovers and lots of smashmouth football. Which QB will make the least mistakes?? Which one will make a blunder at the worst possible time?? Whose running game will dominate?? This is the Monday night game so I suppose I’ll stay up past my bedtime to find out. In a flip of the proverbial coin I’m going with the Jets. Zach disagrees and is picking the Bears.

My Pick = NY Jets
Z’s Picks = Chicago

2013 Pigskin Picks of Profundity – The Final Week

Okay, so first we have to clean up a little bit of business. Due to my own procrastination & indolence I completely forgot to actually write last week’s entry. I’d chosen the games. Zach had made his picks. But I got sidetracked with Christmas hustle & bustle and was left in a situation where the only option was to skip church to write the thing and that just wasn’t going to happen. You’re going to have to trust me here folks, which won’t be a problem when you see our less than stellar results. If I was going to lie to you I’d give us better numbers. The games we picked were Colts/Chiefs, Cardinals/Seahawks, Bears/Eagles, Patriots/Ravens, & Saints/Panthers.  Both Zach & I took Kansas City, Seattle, New England, & New Orleans. In the one game we differed he took the Chicago Bears and I took the Philadelphia Eagles. I ended up going 2-3, while Zach went 1-4. That makes our season records look like this:

                              

    Me =  41-45

   Zach = 37-48

That means that I have to be perfect this week to finish with a .500 record. Zach…well he’s playing for pride. Let me take this opportunity to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed doing these picks this season. It’s all in good fun and there is no money or anything else on the line. Thank God, since obviously we aren’t very good at this.

*****

Baltimore   at  Cincinnati (-6.5)

Baltimore has to win (I think) to secure a wild card berth. The Bengals have already sewn up the AFC North. Normally that’d give me pauseCincinnati_Bengals_Helmet since one team has something to play for and the other does not, but in this case my vibes are telling me that Cincy will want to establish a strong presence going into the playoffs. I don’t think they’ll take their foot of the gas against the Ravens. Zach concurs.

*****

San Francisco (-1) at  Arizona

The Cardinals have to win this game to sneak into the playoffs. The 49ers need the victory for a chance at a division title. The crowd in 10517112-san-francisco-49ersPhoenix will be rockin’, but I just don’t think they have enough to overcome the 49ers, who seem to be hitting their stride at the perfect time. Zach concurs.

*****

Kansas City at   San Diego (-10)

I’m a little bit stunned at the point spread. I realize that the Chargers have the home field and that they must win to get a wild card. kc-chiefs-logoConversely, the Chiefs playoff position isn’t going to change either way and there is a good chance that they will rest most of their starters. The spread is still too high though. Zach is picking Kansas City as well, although to be honest both of our picks are a wee bit of wishful thinking since we are Steelers fans and need the Chargers to lose.

*****

Green Bay (-3)  at   Chicago

QB Aaron Rodgers is back for the Packers and that’s enough for me as well as the oddsmakers. This will decide the NFC North (or as Green_Bay_Packers_HelmetESPN’s Chris Berman calls it The Norris Division), and despite losing 5 out of their last 8 games (and tying in another) Green Bay can…and will…win another division crown. Zach believes it’ll take some time for Rodgers to knock off the rust but that he’ll be fine by the 4th quarter when it really counts.

*****

Philadelphia (-6.5)  at    Dallas

Well…atleast we know Tony Romo won’t be throwing any late game interceptions. I am not sure who Romo’s absence hurts more…the eaglesCowboys or the Eagles. Kyle Orton is a capable backup, but unfortunately for him Dallas’ defense is still horrible. A few months ago no one thought Philly had a chance at division title. They’ll be hungry to prove the doubters wrong. Zach thinks the Eagles not only win but win big (by 24 points!!).

*****

 

Winning & Musing…..Volume 1.13

Welcome to the first W&M in nearly 6 months and the first edition of 2013. There are a few loose ends to tie up, plus some football playoff action to cover. Enjoy!!

 

 

 

laces-football-grassI went 3-4 in the last week of the Pigskin Picks of Profundity, making my final overall record 46-71-1. That’s a 39% winning percentage. In baseball that’d get me a batting title & a probable MVP, but in football it makes me about as successful as the Buffalo Bills. I’m already looking forward to next season when there’s nowhere to go but up.

 

 

I did slightly better with my college bowl picks, going 18-17 for a 51% winning percentage. Heck, 51% would get me elected President of the United States!!

 

 

p1_brentMuch too much has been made of ESPN talking head Brent Musberger katherine-webb-aj-mccarron-girlfriendfawning over Alabama QB AJ McCarron’s beauty queen girlfriend during the national title game. I happened to catch Musberger’s comments (Monday Night Raw was in commercial), and didn’t think he came across as anything remotely close to a creepy old man. He simply pointed out a lovely young lady. Have we gotten so eaten up by political correctness that we cannot give proper recognition to beauty when we observe it?? Shame on ESPN for “apologizing” for the comments. I got your back Brent…even if your employer doesn’t.

 

 

I have no issue with no one being voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year. The fact is that guys010311_HoF like Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Jack Morris, & Edgar Martinez were very good players but not Hall-of-Famers, and there was no way in Hell that known cheaters like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, & Mark McGwire were going to get voted in. Maybe someday…but not now. A case could conceivably be made for Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, Tim Raines, & Dale Murphy, and I think that most if not all of that foursome will get elected eventually, but I won’t lose any sleep over them not getting in this time.

 

 

So I guess they resolved the NHL labor dispute and an abbreviated season will begin shortly. I still don’t care.

 

 

The NCAA football playoff cannot get here fast enough for me. I hadn’t planned on watching much of the BCS (emphasis on the BS) national championship game between Alabama & Notre Dame anyway because I generally need an underdog to root for and that game didn’t provide one, and as it turned out I certainly didn’t miss much. In contrast, just think of what might have occurred if we’d had a 4 team playoff between those two teams, Oregon, and either Florida or Kansas State. Surely Oregon would have given Alabama a little bit more of a fight in the title game…maybe.

 

 

I would be remiss if I did not address the huge letdown that was the 7-6 season for my hometown West Virginia Mountaineers. I hesitate to say the following but it is the honest truth. Before the season I told my Dad and I believe my nephew Zach that I thought the step up in competition from the Big East to the Big 12 would be a bigger deal for the Mountaineers than most seemed to be expecting and that I wouldn’t be surprised if they went 6-6. I kept that opinion on the down low because most folks in my orbit were caught up in the hype of a possible national championship run and a strong WV-Logo-and-Mountaineer2Heisman candidacy for QB Geno Smith. You may have noticed that the ‘Eers were not ranked in my pre-season Top 25, but other than that I just kind of kept my negative vibes to myself. Hindsight is 20/20 and I regret not shouting my prediction from the rooftops because I would have looked like a genius. I must admit that I was sincerely hoping I might be wrong and it looked like I could be after WVU began the season 5-0, including an impressive win at Texas. However, it is difficult to overcome a horrendous defense that ranks 117th in points allowed and makes every opponent’s pedestrian QB look like Johnny Unitas. Even after all that though I thought the Mountaineers would crush Syracuse in their bowl game for a variety of reasons, but I was way off base. Getting out of the Big East was surely a necessity, but in retrospect it might have behooved the powers-that-be to be a little more patient and wait for an eventual ACC invite, because it looks like it’s going to be a rough road for WVU in the Big 12.

 

 

The NFL coaching carousel is always entertaining. I think the KC Chiefs made a great hire in Andy Reid, who is a solid head coach who just needed a change of scenery. The firing of Lovie Smith by the Chicago Bears was mildly surprising, especially since the truth is that it doesn’t matter who the head coach is while headcase Jay Cutler is the QB. Cutler simply does not have what it takes to lead an NFL team to greatness. Lovie will land on his feet just like Reid did, and whoever hires him will instantly become better.

 

 

Speaking of the Chiefs…

They are “on the clock” with the first pick in April’s NFL Draft and all the “experts” seem to think they TCU v West Virginiajust won’t be able to pass up WV Mountaineer QB Geno Smith. As a lifelong Mountaineer fan I am here to give a friendly warning to the Chiefs…run. Trade the pick, choose a can’t miss offensive lineman, or roll the dice on USC signal caller Matt Barkley. Geno has bust written all over him. He reminds me a little bit of Akili Smith, who wowed scouts during his senior year at Oregon in 1998 with 3700 yards passing & 32 TDs, was taken 3rd overall in the 1999 draft by the Cincinnati Bengals (ahead of guys like Edgerrin James, Champ Bailey, & Ricky Williams), then proceeded to only throw for 2200 yards & 5 touchdowns over the course of the next four years. Yes most of the disappointment of this past WVU season can be laid at the feet of the Mountaineer’s porous defense, but Geno came up small in a lot of games and in some important moments. I have a strong suspicion that he’ll be a huge regret to any team that picks him very high in the draft.

 

 

I chose only half of the NFL’s playoff field correctly in my season preview last fall, but we still may be on track for my predicted Super Bowl matchup of Green Bay vs. New England, although at this point I would actually much prefer a Denver vs. Seattle game.

 

 

2012 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 16

And now the end is near, and so I face the final week of the NFL regular season. Regrets?? I have a few…a few too many to mention. One thing I know for certain is that my career in the prognostication arts is pretty much dead in the water. After going 1-6 last week…my worst week thus far…my overall record stands at 43-67-1. I honestly thought my skills would improve over the course of the season, but I was wrong even about that. At any rate I am already looking forward to next season when I am pretty sure my eldest nephew Zach will be joining me in making picks. He’s a busy college student with an actual life so that plan could change. I’m going to try to finish strong because since my fantasy season is already over and the Steelers are out of the playoffs this is the only motivation for me to pay much attention to football this weekend.

 

 

 

Houston (-6.5)                  at            Indianapolis

Both clubs are going to the playoffs, but home field or atleast a first round bye is on the line for the Texans, who Indianapolis_Colts_Helmetreally stunk it up last week against the Minnesota Vikings. The game is in Indy and really the pressure is off rookie QB Andrew Luck because they have already secured a playoff spot. Colts’ coach Chuck Pagano will make an undoubtedly emotional return to the sidelines after missing most of the season due to undergoing cancer treatments. I am a sucker for a nice story, and an Indianapolis victory would certainly be that (as well as soften the blow of a probable first round exit), so I’ll go with Indy.

 

Chicago (-3)        at            Detroit

Bottom line…the Bears must win this game to atleast have a shot at the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Lions are in thechicago-bears-logo13 midst of a 7 game skid and have been a huge disappointment this season. I’d love to be able to pick Detroit, and it would not shock anyone if they won, but logic dictates that Chicago be the choice here, even if the NFL is often as illogical as anything out there.

 

NY Jets                                 at            Buffalo (-3.5)

Who the hell is playing QB for the Jets this week?? I have not only lost track but I have lost interest. Neither team BuffaloBillsRedis going anywhere near the playoffs unless they buy a ticket, but they are playing for NFL Draft position even if that is something that no one will dare mention for obvious reasons. The Bills are at home and know who their QB is even if he isn’t very good, so that’s the pick.

 

Philadelphia      at            NY Giants (-6.5)

This will probably be the last game for Andy Reid as the Eagles’ head coach. The Giants can still make the playoffseagles with a victory, although they’d also need both the Dallas Cowboys & Chicago Bears to lose. Not impossible but a lot to ask for. I keep picking the Giants and they keep letting me down, so let’s go with a bit of a twist. I think it likely that New York wins the game, but a valiant effort by Philadelphia means it’s closer than a touchdown so the Eagles are the pick.

 

St. Louis               at            Seattle (-11)

The red hot Seahawks could actually win their division with a victory coupled with a 49ers loss. That would St_Louis_Ramsobviously affect playoff seeding. Meanwhile, the Rams have shown flashes of something positive here & there this season but will nevertheless finish mired in mediocrity. I see no reason to go against Seattle at this point except for the huge point spread, which gives me pause. I think Seattle probably wins but not by double digits, making St. Louis the pick.

 

Green Bay (-3.5)               at            Minnesota

The Packers are in the playoffs but are still on the prowl for a first round bye. Minnesota is in with a win & likely Green_Bay_Packers_Helmeton the outside looking in with a loss. I’d love to pick the Vikings (purple is one of my favorite colors), but Green Bay is on a roll right now and has looked rather unstoppable. As much as I dig a good underdog story I think this is a case where the favorites easily dominate.

 

Dallas                    at            Washington (-3.5)

Wow…when was the last time a Cowboys-Redskins game actually meant something?? Washington has been given the nominal nod by the folks in Vegas because of the home field, but otherwise this is essentially a toss-up. Can Dallas QB Tony Romo finally win a big game?? Can anyone stop rookie sensation RGIII?? I think it is technically possible that both teams could make the playoffs (analyzing playoff scenarios is like doing calculus with a dallas-cowboys-dallas-cowboys-15496395-1280-1024hangover AND a high fever), but for the sake of simplicity let’s just assume that the winner is in and the loser goes home. I am certain that, despite the Cowboys’ claim of being America’s Team, TV ratings & public interest would be far better served with a Redskins playoff berth. I know that as a lifelong quasi-hater of the Cowboys I wouldn’t mind seeing them lose. Washington is riding a 6 game winning streak. So what does that all add up to?? Unfortunately The Voices are telling me it probably means a Dallas victory, and as y’all know I always listen to The Voices.

 

 

 

2009 NFL Preview – NFC

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’ve already dissected the AFC…now it’s the NFC’s turn:

NFC EAST

New York Giants                 13-3

The Plaxico Burress debacle dominated the Giants off season. As unfortunate as that situation was, I believe that the loss of Burress and the other starting WR Amani Toomer will actually benefit the team, as the replacements…some combination of Domenick Hixon, Steve Smith, rookie Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, and Sinorice Moss…have the potential to be a significant upgrade (and far less of a headache than Plax). Some may say the running game suffers a bit by the departure of Derrick Ward to Tampa, but personally I think it provides clarity. I’ve seen the NFL evolve from running back tandems in my childhood to the era of one feature back and back around to tandems the past few years, but I’ve never thought a three back system is a good thing. It’s just too muddled and confusing. There’s no way to get three running backs involved successfully and keep them all happy, especially if all three really are talented enough to be the primary runner. In New York it is now clear that Brandon Jacobs is the #1 option  and Ahmad Bradshaw is his backup, albeit one who’ll see his fair share of action. That will be helpful to the offense. On the defensive side of the ball the return of defensive end Osi Umenyiora can only make an already strong defense even more imposing.

Philadelphia Eagles            10-6

I’m not a big Donovan McNabb fan. He may be one of the most overrated football players in the past half century. That being said, this is always a top level team and one that’s a legitimate threat to win every single game. The defense had a rough offseason, losing safety Brian Dawkins and CB Lito Shepperd and also enduring the sad death of defensive coordinator Jim Johnson. Offensively Jeremy Maclin was drafted to be a bookend WR with last year’s pleasant surprise DeSean Jackson, and some additions were made to bolster the offensive line. The Eagles made headlines of their own by signing QB Michael Vick, who is looking for a fresh start after spending the past couple of years…..away. I’m not too concerned about the defense…..Philly just seems to be one of those teams, like Pittsburgh and Baltimore, that is perennially strong on the defensive side of the ball, with age and free agency and other factors never seeming to have a significant negative impact. And the offense will be better as more weapons have been added. But for some strange reason this is a team that has a hard time reaching the pinnacle, getting to the Super Bowl only twice in the past 30 years despite making the playoffs in over half of those seasons. I see no reason why 2009 will be much different…..they will have a successful season, make the playoffs, and then fall short of the goal.

Dallas Cowboys                  10-6

One word springs to mind…..overrated. The Cowboys are the professional equal of Notre Dame, living off an overblown reputation largely earned decades ago and having a bloated sense of self worth. I’m not saying this isn’t a good team, it’s just not a great team. Jerry Jones hasn’t become the complete joke that Al Davis has, but give it a few more years and I’m sure it will happen. The Cowboys have a shiny new billion dollar stadium that has puffed up the egos of Cowboy Nation even further, but that ain’t gonna win ball games. Much like the Eagles, the Cowboys will have a solid season and then fall apart at some point in the playoffs. The offseason departures of Terrell Owens, Pacman Jones, and Jessica Simpson will be addition by subtraction, but it still won’t be enough.

Washington Redskins        7-9

There seems to be an undeniable correlation between ownership and success, or lack thereof, on the field. Jerry Jones and Al Davis are wack jobs and their teams are either God awful or heading in the wrong direction. The Rooney Family are held up as model citizens and owners, and the Steelers have won two Super Bowls in the past few years. Coincidence?? Of course not. That brings us to Daniel Snyder, a self made billionaire who epitomizes the fact that just because you have the ability to make money doesn’t mean you know diddly squat about football. He’s another one of these owners that, instead of hiring knowledgeable football gurus to run his team, thinks it’s his right and privilege to make all the decisions himself. I suppose it is technically his right and privilege, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. He has continuously tried to buy success by signing aging free agents to big money contracts, only to have those moves not pay much of a dividend on the field. 2009 does have the potential to be different, as most would agree that DE Albert Haynesworth was a quality signing. But the jury is still out on QB Jason Campbell, head coach Jim Zorn, and a receiving corps that is unimpressive to say the least. The division is super tough, and I just don’t see this team being able to get over the hump quite yet.


NFC SOUTH

New Orleans Saints           9-7

I’m not sure if the NFC South is mediocre or just the quintessential embodiment of the aforementioned parity. Picking this division really is like pinning the tail on the donkey. There is no right or wrong answer. I really like Drew Brees though, so the Saints get the nod in a virtual coin flip.

Carolina Panthers              9-7

I don’t like QB Jake Delhomme nearly as much as I like Drew Brees. That’s it, that’s the x factor, the tie breaker. The defense is always strong, and most pundits seem to not believe this team will be much different than the one who won 12 games last season. But I see that they have tough out-of-conference games against Miami, New England, and the Jets, plus they start the season against Philly, Dallas, and Atlanta. That may be 6 losses right there.

Atlanta Falcons                   8-8

One step forward, two steps back. Everyone fell in love with rookie QB Matt Ryan last season, with good reason. He was impressive. No significant changes were made in the offseason with the exception of adding future Hall of Fame TE Tony Gonzalez, and that’s what bothers me. This feels like a team to me that believes they’ve arrived, that believes last season erases a track record of mediocrity, that no further changes need to be made. But history proves otherwise. In 1998 the Falcons went 14-2 en route to the Super Bowl before falling to the Broncos…..the next season they went 5-11. In 2002 they were a playoff team…..the following season: 5-11. In 2004 the Falcons won 11 games and made it to the NFC title game where they lost to the Eagles…..the next year they were a .500 team. Achieving success isn’t foreign to the Atlanta Falcons, but sustaining success seems to be an issue.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers    8-8

There’s a new sheriff in town for the Bucs. There’s also a new QB. Pretty much everything is new. It’s rebuilding time in Tampa. The division is a tossup so maybe this team will surprise some folks, but on paper it doesn’t look promising.


NFC NORTH

Minnesota Vikings             12-4

The Vikings acquired a new QB recently, some guy whose name escapes me right now. But whoever he is, a lot of people expect him to be the final piece of the puzzle for a team who has had an above average defense for awhile now and last year added Adrian Peterson who quickly established himself as one of the top running backs in the league. I concur.

Green Bay Packers             10-6

Last season was a tumultuous one for the folks in Titletown. This offseason has been rather uneventful in comparison. Aaron Rodgers is firmly ensconced as the QB, and in 2008 he acquitted himself quite nicely. There’s no reason to believe that he won’t be even better this year. The biggest question I have is RB Ryan Grant. Is he a one year wonder?? If he proves to be legit then The Pack will be a formidable force. 3 of their first 5 opponents are Detroit, Cincinnati, and St. Louis, so there is potential for a hot start. There are tough non-divisional games against Baltimore, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and Arizona. If Green Bay can manage to win 3 of those then it’s on, it’s on like Donkey Kong baby. And then of course there is the division…..6 games against Minnesota, Chicago, and Detroit. We can safely assume 2 wins against the hapless Lions, so if they can split the other 4 games that’d possibly get them to 10 wins which may be good enough for a wild card playoff appearance.

Chicago Bears                      8-8

Move on, there’s nothing to see here. Everyone is making a big deal out of the fact that the Bears significantly upgraded the QB position. Okay, I will submit to that fact. They swindled the Broncos in acquiring Pro Bowl QB Jay Cutler for the ill fated Kyle Orton, and I missed exactly how this happened but somehow Rex Grossman ended up in Houston doing exactly what he was destined to do, ride the pine. But quite honestly I’m not buying the Cutler hype. He acted like a complete jackass in whining his way out of Denver, which I know has nothing much to do with his on the field ability but it still makes me question his leadership skills and mental & emotional makeup, something that is vital for the quarterback position. Bret Favre has been around long enough and achieved at a level that somewhat justifies his diva attitude. Jay Cutler hasn’t proven himself worthy of carrying Favre’s luggage, atleast not yet. And even if people a bit less neurotic than me can put all that aside, there’s still that issue that Cutler has no one to throw to in Chicago. When the Bears add a couple of meaningful pieces to the receiving corps then maybe I’ll become a believer. Until then they have an awesome defense, an above average running back in Matt Forte, an overrated QB with an attitude problem, and no one to catch the ball. I believe in the axiom that defense wins championships…..Baltimore and Pittsburgh have proven that. But Minnesota’s defense is just as good if not better than Chicago’s, and offensively there’s just no comparison. Non division games against the Steelers, the Cardinals, and the Ravens will be super tough.

Detroit Lions                        4-12

Hey, atleast they’ll not go winless again this year. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so no one expects a quick turnaround in Motown. If QB Matthew Stafford proves to be the real deal and they continue to add pieces to the offense and the defense then maybe we can expect something approaching respectability for the Lions in about 3 or 4 years. I suspect by then there will be yet another new coach and a bunch of new players, but that’s a long way away. In 2009 winning 4 games will be a welcome improvement.

NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals               10-6

A year ago at this time no one was picking the Cardinals to go to the Super Bowl. Not only did they go but they darn near won the thing. Ohio State’s Beanie Wells replaces the departed Edgerrin James at running back, a risky move considering Wells’ injury history. I also don’t believe Kurt Warner is the long term answer at quarterback. Matt Leinart needs to shape up or ship out. But for now, in 2009, there is a belief that Warner can atleast keep things moving in a positive direction. Do I think the Cards will make it back to the Super Bowl?? No, I don’t. But they should be able to maintain dominance in their division and make the playoffs.

Seattle Seahawks               9-7

I’ve always believed that Seattle was better on paper than in reality, but they aren’t as bad as they played last year. The injury bug bit and bit hard in 2008. If they can avoid that this season they instantly become better. Jim Mora Jr. takes over as head coach after Mike Holmgren decided not to return, so that should freshen things up a bit. Receiver TJ Houshmandzadeh finally escaped Cincinnati and will be hungry to prove he is a legitimate #1 WR as well as see what it’s like to actually be part of a winner. It will be interesting to see who emerges as the primary running back, Julius Jones or the newly signed Edgerrin James. Even if they run a tandem it’s not a bad duo. A couple of additions were made on the defensive side of the ball, and how quickly that group gels could decide on which side of .500 the Seahawks finish. I’m optimistic they will rebound from last year’s aberration and once again be in the playoff hunt.

San Francisco 49ers          6-10

Deciding between Alex Smith and Shaun Hill in the starting quarterback competition is like going to a restaurant and having the choice of beef broth or unsalted crackers…..uninspiring, uninteresting, unappetizing, and not fulfilling in any way. After establishing themselves as one of the all time elite franchises during the glory years of Joe Montana, Steve Young, Jerry Rice, Bill Walsh, and George Seifert the 49ers have now slipped into Bengals/Browns/Lions territory, which I find sad. They drafted WR phenom Michael Crabtree with their 1st round pick and he has subsequently held out all summer and may hold out all year and go back into the draft next year. No matter how it shakes out long term, within the framework of this season it’s a wasted choice and eerily reminiscent of something that might happen to Cincinnati and not to great teams like Pittsburgh, New England, or Indianapolis. I like Mike Singletary as a coach just as I fondly recall his fierce talent as a player, but I think the problems in San Francisco start upstairs and until those issues are resolved the coaches and players are just pawns in a perpetually losing situation.

St. Louis Rams                     5-11

Wow…what has happened to the Rams?? It wasn’t that long ago that The Greatest Show On Turf was appearing weekly at a stadium near you, but the Dick Vermeil/Kurt Warner/Torry Holt era is over and done. Even offensive tackle Orlando Pace is gone. I’m a big fan of QB Marc Bulger, who is a former West Virginia Mountaineer, and I think Steven Jackson is among the league’s best running backs when he is healthy. But beyond those two the cupboard is pretty bare and the Rams are in full on rebuild mode. Nothing happened in the offseason to give anyone any reason to believe a dramatic turnaround is imminent after last season’s 2-14 epic failure. I suspect more turnover…..perhaps a new QB or even a very quick and sudden end to Steve Spagnolo’s short tenure as coach..…will occur before this team begins to show signs of a full recovery.