2021 PIGSKIN PICKS OF PROFUNDITY…WEEK 7

Well, it’s been a pretty big week for football, and not necessarily in a good way. Jon Gruden is gone from the Las Vegas Raiders. Alabama isn’t perfect. Neither is Urban Meyer 😳. I don’t feel the need to address any of that right now though. Closer to home our struggles continue, although it should be noted that Zach (4-3) has drawn even with me (3-4) for the season. We’re not going to chase wins this week because it’s not a sprint…it’s a marathon.

My Season: 17-24

Zach’s Season: 17-24

Florida (-10.5)  at LSU

This feels like it should be a bigger game. It typically is, but with the Bayou Bengals sitting at 3-3 and the losers of two straight games while the 4-2 Gators are inconsistent & unreliable it just doesn’t feel as impactful as one would hope. Even the points are weird. I’m way too lazy to research it, but not only is LSU being an underdog in Death Valley unusual, but how often do we see a double digit spread when these teams meet?? I don’t believe Ed Orgeron will be the Tigers’ head coach next season, but I do think his team will rise up & play tough at home. Can they win?? I don’t know, but either way the game will be decided by less than ten points. Zach agrees.

My Pick: LSU

Z’s Pick: LSU

BYU at Baylor (-6)

This is the sleeper game of the week for me. The Cougars dropped several spots in the rankings after a surprising home defeat at the hands of Boise St., but they’re still 5-1. They were never going to be in the playoff conversation. Meanwhile, the Bears are also 5-1 and making some noise in the Big 12 with both Oklahoma & Texas visiting Waco in the next few weeks. My Dad would point out that momentum is with Baylor and he wouldn’t be wrong, but since I like to go against the grain, and since I picked BYU to be a Top 10 team, I’m predicting an upset, and Zach concurs.

My Pick: BYU

Z’s Pick: BYU

Miami (FL) at North Carolina (-3)

What in the world has happened to the Tar Heels?? I opined in my pre-season poll that I wasn’t all in on the UNC hype train and predicted an 8 win season, but I still thought they’d be a ranked ball club. Perhaps they still could be when it’s all said & done, but right now they are 3-3 and just lost to 2-4 Florida St. Meanwhile, the ‘Canes are 2-3 after losing starting QB De’Eriq King to a shoulder injury a few weeks ago. Much like the Florida-LSU game this matchup should be a bigger deal, but it’s just not. I think Mack Brown is smart enough to know that an ACC title is still possible, especially with Clemson having a down year, and he’ll have his guys ready to play. Zach foresees a boring game (he’s probably right) and doesn’t have any faith in Carolina’s defense.

My Pick: UNC

Z’s Pick: Miami

Miami (-3) at Jacksonville

It’s the battle of Florida!! Yeah, I know…I’m not buying it either. Hopefully Urban Meyer can pull himself away from lap dancing bar floozies long enough to prepare his winless team to play, but who knows anymore. Conversely, the 1-4 Dolphins may get starting QB Tua Tagovailoa back this week, and that might just be enough. I’m going to venture out on a limb, assume the best in regard to Tua, and predict a comfortable win for the visitors. Conversely, Zach flipped a coin and is predicting a memorable first NFL win for rookie QB Trevor Lawrence & his Jags.

My Pick: Miami

Z’s Pick: Jacksonville

Minnesota at Carolina (-1)

Let’s be honest…the NFL is a PR machine. The league wants television ratings, merchandise revenue, and lots of good publicity, so there is a hierarchy. We all know the teams that get the most attention…Dallas, the New York teams, whoever Tom Brady plays for, Pittsburgh, Green Bay, the California teams, Da Bears. That’s just the way it is. However, every season there are solid teams that fly under the radar because their TV market and/or pedigree isn’t considered relevant. Such is the case with the 2-3 Vikings, who are better than their record but will never get much respect as long as Aaron Rodgers plays in the same division, and the 3-2 Panthers who have to contend with the aforementioned Brady in their division. Despite that impertinence I am looking forward to this being a great game. I predicted the Vikings would win the NFC North, so I’m picking the upset. Zach really likes Carolina and thinks they’ll win big.

My Pick: Minnesota

Z’s Pick: Carolina

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

 

2017 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 17

To be honest, after the events of last weekend I wasn’t sure if we were going to continue these picks. I’ve been increasingly irritated by the NFL for awhile now, and things reached a crescendo on Sunday. I was pretty devastated and was not only ready to stop doing picks but seriously pondered quitting all of my fantasy football leagues too. Fortunately I have gotten to know myself pretty well over the years, and understand that when I get upset I always cool off after a day or two. It helped that I won a tight playoff game in my dynasty league and am playing for a championship this weekend. I’ve been in that particular league for over 15 years and have enjoyed it immensely, so I’m not quite ready to give it up. I really love doing these picks with my nephew as well, and can’t imagine not doing them anymore. So…we press on. Both Zach & myself went 2-3 last weekend, meaning that I’ve got some work to do to get back the season lead. We’ll see how it goes these next couple of weeks.

My Season:        48-48

Z’s Season:        49-47

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miami                  at      Kansas City (-10)

Chiefs’ rookie RB Kareem Hunt was a stud for me in my dynasty league the first quarter of the season, but then he disappeared for a couple of months. Fortunately for me & KC he came up big last week and will hopefully do so again on Christmas Eve. The Chiefs lead the AFC West, but the surprising Los Angeles Chargers are hot on their heels. The wildcard field is rather crowded, which makes winning the division crown that much more important. The Dolphins aren’t going to the playoffs despite winning 2 out of their past 3 games, but they can play a spoiler role. Arrowhead Stadium is a pretty raucous home field, and I don’t think Miami has the talent to overcome Kansas City, but the points bother me just a bit. I’m a little nervous about it, but it’s another “go big or go home” moment. Zach thinks Kansas City is a little too inconsistent and he’s very uncomfortable with the double digit points.

My Pick:     Kansas City

Z’s Pick:     Miami

 

 

 

Atlanta                at      New Orleans (-5.5)

The NFC South is probably the most interesting division in the league at the moment. I wasn’t sure the Falcons were going to rise to the occasion after a bumpy first half of the season, but they’ve won four of the last five and look like a serious playoff contender. The problem is that the Carolina Panthers & the Saints have been just as good. Actually they’re both a game better and lead Atlanta by a game. I’m pretty confident that two of them are going to make the playoffs, but I’m not sure about all three. The Falcons won the first matchup between these two teams in Atlanta by a field goal, and I wouldn’t be surprised if…one way or another…it’s that close again. Zach likes Drew Brees to get the job done.

My Pick:     Atlanta

Z’s Pick:     New Orleans

 

 

 

L.A. Chargers (-7)      at      NY Jets

When did the Chargers become a playoff team?? Well okay, they’re not there yet…but they are in the conversation, which very few would have predicted a few months ago. Conversely, the Jets are just as awful as everyone knew they’d be. Their quarterback situation is pedestrian at best, and I’d be shocked if they didn’t use their first round pick in the draft to improve that position. Having said all that, this is the NFL, so anything can happen…but will it?? The game is being played in New York (well alright…New Jersey) in December, so maybe that could make a difference. Possibly. I don’t know. Zach doesn’t like the Jets’ chances with Bryce Petty under center.

My Pick:     NY Jets

Z’s Pick:     L.A. Chargers

 

 

 

Jacksonville (-4.5)     at      San Francisco

Everybody’s been talking about two other teams in the AFC, but while no one has been paying much attention the Jags have won ten games and already clinched the AFC South. They’re on a three game winning streak, and rookie RB Leonard Fournette has been as good as advertised, much to my surprise since I predicted he’d be a bust. The old axiom is that defense wins championships, and in Jacksonville their defense is quite formidable. So with a great defense and a solid running game it hasn’t really mattered that their quarterback is still Blake Bortles. Meanwhile, in ‘Frisco the quarterback does matter because the 49ers have won three straight with newly acquired Jimmy Garoppolo under center. That’s not going to save their season, but with the QB situation looking good and a Top 5 draft pick next spring the future looks positive. I think this will be a low scoring grind…good ol’ smashmouth football with turnovers and special teams making a difference, and I smell an upset. Zach likes Garoppolo…but he likes Jacksonville’s defense better.

My Pick:     San Francisco

Z’s Pick:     Jacksonville

 

 

 

Oakland             at      Philadelphia (-9)

What the heck happened to the Raiders?? Most “experts” thought they’d be a solid playoff team and maybe even win their division. Instead they are two games below .500 and aren’t getting anywhere near the playoffs. The story is much different in Philly, where they’ve already won the NFC East and are looking to clinch home field throughout the playoffs. I thought the loss of QB Carson Wentz might have a negative impact, but the Eagles beat the NY Giants last week with Nick Foles under center, and I see no reason to doubt they can do it again. I don’t believe in Philly as a Super Bowl contender, but I do think they’ll win this game pretty easily. Zach…much to my surprise…thinks this will be a close game, so he’s going with the underdogs to atleast cover the points.

My Pick:     Philadelphia

Z’s Pick:     Oakland

2014 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 9

Your humble Potentate of Profundity hasn’t been feeling well. It’s a long story that I won’t bore citizens of The Manoverse with, but tonight after a couple of mugs of hot tea there seems to be a slight break in my misery, so I figured I’d better get this done now. Just please keep me in your prayers. I wish I had the robust faith of my brother The Owl and my buddy Don, but the truth is that sometimes my “blessed assurance” can occasionally falter. I’ve obviously still got some work to do there. Anyway…..

Last week I went 3-2 while Zach went 2-3. If you’d like all the details check out last week and see for yourself. Sorry…I’m feeling slightly better but still not as verbose as usual. Our season records are 21-22 for myself and 20-22 for Zach. I wasn’t feeling like Mike Tyson has been punching me in the groin for hours a few days ago when I chose this week’s games, so for some strange reason y’all get bonus picks this week. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

Texas at Kansas St. (-10)
I like Texas head coach Charlie Strong and think he’ll eventually get the Longhorns turned around even if by the time he does the table is set for his fortunatekansas-state-dm successor. However this season they pretty much stink. Meanwhile, Wildcats’ head coach Bill Snyder, who I believe was born during the Millard Fillmore administration, has his team leading The Big 12 (which has 10 teams) and still with an outside shot to make it to the national title playoff. I think K St. easily covers the spread on their home field. Zach concurs.

My Pick = Kansas St.
Z’s Pick = Kansas St.

 

 
Ole Miss (-3.5) at LSU
The Rebels come into this game as a Top 5 team. I was under the impression that the Bayou Bengals kind of sucked this season but apparently they have snuck lsu_logo-9547into the Top 25. I suppose I should pay more attention. Anyway, I am picking the upset, as is Zach. Great minds think alike.

My Pick = LSU
Z’s Pick = LSU

 

 

 

USC at Utah (even)
USC_Trojans2How often is USC vs. Utah a game with even odds?? I’m not buying it even if the Utes are at home. Zach, however, thinks Utah is very utahtalented and is picking them to win the game in double overtime.

My Pick = USC
Z’s Pick = Utah

 

 

 

Ohio St. (-13) at Penn St.
Apparently the NCAA doesn’t believe that all the child molestation that occurred at Penn St. is a big deal, as earlier this season they were all like “You remember Penn_State_logo111111those sanctions that were going to set Nittany Lions football back a decade?? Ehhhh…forget it. Play ball!!”. Regardless of how one feels about that particular ruling the fact is that the Penn St. football program hasn’t gone that far in the crapper, atleast not far enough to get beaten by two TDs in Happy Valley in what I assume will be a nationally televised game. Zach agrees.

My Pick = Penn St.
Z’s Pick = Penn St.

 

 

 

Texas Tech at TCU (-22.5)
The Horned Frogs come into this game as a Top 10 team and are really only one improbable Baylor comeback away from being undefeated. Conversely the RedTexas-Tech-260x300 Raiders are a sub-.500 team that doesn’t seem to play all that well against legitimate competition. That being said, I am not comfortable with a 3+ TD spread. Zach thinks TCU will win…but only by 17. He’s probably right.

My Pick = Texas Tech
Z’s Pick = Texas Tech

 

 

 

Philadelphia at Arizona (-2.5)
The surprising Cards get the slight home field nod but this is essentially a pick ‘em. I am not yet convinced that Arizona is for real so I have to go with the underdogs.eagles Zach agrees.

My Pick = Philadelphia
Z’s Pick = Philadelphia

 

 

 

Miami (-5) at Jacksonville
Miami_Dolphins_HelmetHey it’s the Battle of Florida!! I remain convinced that the Jags are headed in the right direction with rookie QB Blake Bortles under center, butJacksonville_Jaguars they still need more pieces. The Dolphins aren’t a serious playoff contender yet but I think they’ll get the job done against less than stellar competition. Zach is predicting a big rushing day from former Michigan Wolverine QB/WR Denard Robinson and thinks Jacksonville will score the upset victory.

My Pick = Miami
Z’s Pick = Jacksonville

 

 

 

Minnesota at Tampa Bay (-3)
Zach doesn’t know this but he’s flying solo on this one. Because of a slight error made earlier in the season he has had one less game on his record than me forvikingshelmet1 several weeks. We’ll even things up now. These two teams are a combined 3-10 thus far and I’d rather take a nap or surf YouTube for…well…anything…than watch them do battle. Zach, because he is probably feeling better than me, has an even funnier (yet depressing) visual, saying that he’d “rather see Oprah Winfrey & Dr. Phil together on Dancing with the Stars” than watch this game. That boy has some good genes. Anyway, he apparently did “eeny meeny miney moe” and is going with the Vikings. That’s cool with me.

My Pick = n/a
Z’s Pick = Minnesota

2013 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 3

This is going to be short & sweet. I am an odd mix of somewhat busy and extremely unmotivated. Why?? I don’t know exactly, although I believe it has something to do with my diet and the fact that I have fallen completely off the wagon with my weight loss effort. I may enjoy eating pasta & candy more than salad & oatmeal, but the truth is I feel much more energetic and healthy when I eat the right things. Anyway, that is a subject for another day. We’re here to talk about football, right?? Last week I had what I think is my best week ever with these picks, going 4-1. Only the Chicago Bears stood between me & perfection. Meanwhile, Zach went 2-3. The Cincinnati Bengals let him down just like they did me, plus he chose South Carolina and the Atlanta Falcons who both lost. So that makes our season record as follows:

Your Humble Potentate of Profundity      =             6-4

Zach             =             5-5

This week we are NFL heavy. I just didn’t see a lot of college football that really revved my engine. With all NCAA teams now playing 12 games it means that many are still going up against cupcakes in the third week before their conference schedule begins. Fortunately I think that’ll change next week. In the meantime…..

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Alabama (-8)     at            Texas A&M

Well okay…there is one intriguing college football game. My question is “Will it be all that interesting??”. The Tide dominated Virginia Tech in their opener and then AlabamaCrimsonTide2had last week off. Think about that…they’ve had 2 weeks to prepare for this game. The Aggies are 2-0 after beating down two inferior foes, but no one has really been talking about their football team. For months now it’s been the Johnny Manziel show in College Station, TX. He’s the anti-Tebow…a good quarterback who can actually throw the ball, but seemingly not a very good person. To be honest I’m sick to death of hearing about Johnny Football. The NCAA totally wussed out by suspending him for one half of one game for allegedly getting paid to autograph memorabilia, which sent a totally wrong message. I am normally an underdog kind of guy, but I find myself hoping ‘Bama teaches this petulant, spoiled, arrogant punk a lesson Saturday…and I think that just might actually happen. Zach loves Johnny Football (kids…what’re ya gonna do??) but thinks The Tide will roll.

My Pick:               Alabama

Z’s Pick:                Alabama

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Miami                   at                            Indianapolis (-3)

Why do so many NFL games have a 3 point spread?? It’s kind of a gutless call by the oddsmakers. I understand that giving the home team a 3 point advantage is a Indianapolis_Colts_Helmetbaseline. And I certainly get that parody is a big thing in pro football. But sometimes one team is clearly better. The Colts began their season with a solid yet unimpressive win over the Raiders. Conversely, Miami handled the lowly Browns pretty easily. I think QB Andrew Luck has a big game this week, and I look for Ahmad Bradshaw to seize the running back job. Zach concurs.

My Pick:               Indianapolis

Z’s Pick:                Indianapolis

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Dallas                    at                            Kansas City (-2.5)

The Cowboys began their season with a nice win over their division rival NY Giants. The Chiefs had no problems at all against the horrible Jacksonville Jaguars. Evenkc-chiefs-logo considering the home field I am a bit surprised that KC is favored in this one. I really like QB Alex Smith and think he landed in a pretty good spot after being pushed out of San Francisco. And let us not overlook the fact that Chiefs’ head coach Andy Reid is very familiar with Dallas since he faced them many many times as coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. I’m going to go with the favorites here since…all other things being equal…the oddsmakers seems to know something the rest of us don’t.

My Pick:               Kansas City

Z’s Pick:                Kansas City

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Detroit                  at                            Arizona

You might be saying to yourself…”Where are the odds??”. Well…this is the rare game that is being called as even. The poor Cardinals can’t even get the nominal nodDetroit_Lions_Helmet for the home field. Both of these teams have been trying to dig themselves out from the hole of mediocrity for what seems like decades. Oh there was that one magical Super Bowl season for Arizona back in 2008, but other than that they’ve only had one additional winning season from 1998 til now. The Lions have shown sporadic signs of success but can’t ever seem to get over the hump. They had ten straight losing seasons until last year when they made the playoffs. The Cardinals seem to have a solid defense, and the quarterback situation has been patched up…for now…with Carson Palmer. But I think the Lions are a more complete team right now. Zach has no doubt that Detroit wins this one.

My Pick:               Detroit

Z’s Pick:                Detroit

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Denver  (-5.5)     at                            NY Giants

You may have heard about Peyton Manning and how he began his 2013 season…7 touchdowns and nearly 500 yards against the defending Super Bowl champions. broncos-4759The Giants narrowly lost their opener to the Cowboys. The Giants’ starting RB can’t stop fumbling and injuries are beginning to take their toll already. If this wasn’t “The Manning Bowl” no one would care about a game that really isn’t in question.

My Pick:               Denver

Z’s Pick:                Denver

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.