2019 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…Week 16

The NFL is heading down the regular season home stretch, which means a few things. There was no Thursday night game, which made for a rather boring evening. The good news is that there are Saturday games now, so pay attention to the schedule so you don’t miss any action. The playoffs are taking shape, so several games involve teams playing for their post-season lives or atleast jockeying for seeding. Zach (3-2) bested me (2-3) last week, and kudos to him for picking the Atlanta Falcons. He may not have predicted the surprising upset, but he knew something was amiss. Merry Christmas to all who take time to stop by our cozy little corner of the info superhighway on occasion. The Manofesto continues to be labor of love and the best therapy this guy could ever dream of having.

My Season:        54-40

Zach’s Season:  48-46

 

 

 

 

 

New Orleans (-3)                  at                Tennessee

The Saints are obviously in the playoffs already, but they’re still battling the 49ers, Seahawks, & Packers for the NFC’s top seed. It’s a different story for the Titans. They could a) win the AFC South, b) make the playoffs as a wildcard, or c) not make the playoffs at all. Normally I put a lot of stock in a team with so much at stake, but not only is New Orleans clearly a better team, but they also have something to play for as well. Tennessee will likely make a game of it on their home turf, but I think the favorites win by atleast a touchdown. Zach agrees. He believes Titans’ RB Derrick Henry will have another nice game, but it won’t be enough to overcome a better one from Drew Brees.

My Pick:     New Orleans

Z’s Pick:     New Orleans

 

 

 

 

Carolina              at                Indianapolis (-7)

Fans here in West Virginia are excited because former Mountaineers QB Will Grier will get his first career start for the Panthers. Grier was chosen in the third round of last spring’s draft but was beaten out by Kyle Allen…an undrafted free agent with a year of pro experience…for the backup job. That decision proved to be noteworthy after starter Cam Newton got injured early in the season, and Allen did well for awhile. However, at 5-9 the powers-that-be in Carolina have decided it’s time to see what Grier can do. Newton is injury prone, expensive, 30 years old, and a free agent, so the future may be now for the Carolina Panthers. The Colts are familiar with quarterback issues, although to be fair Jacoby Brissett seems to be a solid NFL starter. Brissett hasn’t been Indy’s problem…it’s all the damn injuries. Trust me…I have TY Hilton & Marlin Mack on more than one fantasy team and their frequent absences have killed me. At any rate, s much as I’d love to see Grier do really well and get a leg up on becoming Carolina’s next starting QB I have to believe that Indianapolis will take care of business on their home turf. Conversely, Zach has no faith in Indy and thinks Carolina will control the clock & eat up yards on the ground to score a mild upset.

My Pick:     Indianapolis

Z’s Pick:     Carolina

 

 

 

 

Dallas (-2.5)                 at                Philadelphia

This is it…the epic battle of two 7-7 teams for the NFC East crown. I don’t think it matters which team actually makes it to the playoffs…whichever one gets there will likely be bounced in the first round by a really good wildcard. Jerry Jones has probably already made his decision to fire Jason Garrett, but it’d be really entertaining to watch ol’ Jerry’s head explode when the Cowboys miss the playoffs. The Eagles have fallen mightily since winning the Super Bowl a couple of years ago, but hey might be able to find a silver lining in an otherwise subpar season by winning the division. Zach thinks the Cowboys are too inconsistent and won’t be able to follow u last week’s big win with another.

My Pick:     Philadelphia

Z’s Pick:     Philadelphia

 

 

 

 

Kansas City (-5.5)      at      Chicago

I had such high expectations for the Bears this season, but they’ve severely underachieved and QB Mitch Trubisky has regressed to the point that I’m not sure his stay in Chicago will last all that much longer. Conversely, the Chiefs have been as advertised and are probably thinking Super Bowl. The talking heads like to point out cracks in KC’s armor, but I’m just going to go ahead and put this out there…I think they can beat both the Baltimore Ravens & the New England Patriots. I’m not saying it’ll be easy, but I am opining that it is possible. As far as this game goes, a lot depends on Trubisky. Every once in awhile he does show up & play like the high first round pick that he was, and if that happens this could be a really fun game. However, it is more likely that Trubisky is as unimpressive as he’s been most of the season and the Chiefs win by double digits. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Kansas City

Z’s Pick:     Kansas City

 

  

 

Green Bay                   at                Minnesota (-4.5)

Everyone has kind of forgotten about the Packers while fawning all over the 49ers, Seahawks, & Saints, but they are 11-3 and could still be the top seed in the NFC. But…but…the Vikings are only one game behind, so the NFC North is up for grabs and will probably be decided by this game. I am intrigued by the points. I know it’s a home game for Minnesota, but it feels like the oddsmakers are giving them a lot of respect. This is the Monday night game, and Aaron Rodgers is only 7-8 on Mondays, which seems weird. I’m far too lazy to look it up, but it feels like he usually has a good game but his team somehow lets him down. Will that happen again?? I don’t think so, and neither does Zach.

My Pick:     Green Bay

Z’s Pick:     Green Bay

2019 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…Week 15

Another Thursday night, another night making picks while actually watching football. Thank God the Thursday NFL game is usually not one we choose to discuss. That may change though since we’ll be strictly NFL the rest of the way. We both did fairly well picking last week’s conference title games. I was 5-2, while Zach was 4-3. We’ll be posting our annual College Football Bowl-A-Palooza in the coming days (I believe the first bowl game takes place next Friday), but as usual they are a separate entity from these picks. At any rate, I hope The Manoverse is having a pleasant holiday season and doing most of your shopping online. Enjoy.

My Season:     52-37

Zach’s Season:     45-44

 

 

 

 

 

Houston                      at                         Tennessee (-3)

I don’t think many football fans are surprised that the AFC South is up for grabs this late in the season, but there probably aren’t many that thought the Titans would be in the mix. I predicted they’d go 5-11 & finish dead last in the division, which was obviously way off base. Even more curious is the fact that they’re doing it with Ryan Tannehill under center after former first round pick Marcus Mariota was benched. I guess when you have a beast at running back like Derrick Henry that helps a whole lot. Let’s not shortchange the Texans though. At 8-5 they are tied with Tennessee atop the division. This is the first of two meetings in three weeks between these teams, which is peculiar scheduling indeed. Tennessee gets the requisite home field bump, but I’m still not sold on Tannehill. If Houston’s defense can keep Henry in check I think they walk away with a comfortable victory. Zach is a little concerned about Houston in the wake of their shockingly poor performance a week ago against Denver, but he thinks they’ll rebound and score the upset.

My Pick:     Houston

Z’s Pick:     Houston

 

 

 

Miami                           at                         NY Giants (-3)

I’m really trying to avoid focusing on the same half dozen teams these last few weeks so this unappealing game makes the cut. Giants’ rookie QB Daniel Jones is probably going to be back after missing last week’s game with a sprained ankle, but whether it is he or Eli Manning under center makes very little difference. The Dolphins are likely going to miss out on the #1 overall pick in next spring’s draft, but I’m not sure if that’s a positive or a negative. Both teams are a mess and might stay that way for the next couple of years. I hope this turns out to be a tight game decided late in the 4th quarter (or overtime)…otherwise it’s basically just a waste of everyone’s time. That being said, The Vibes are telling me to go with Miami. Zach thinks there may be a bit of FitzMagic left for the Dolphins and is also picking the upset.

My Pick:     Miami

Z’s Pick:     Miami

 

 

 

LA Rams                     at                         Dallas (even)

Jerry Jones is almost as bad of an owner as the clown that owns my Pittsburgh Pirates, although in a totally different way. Wherein Pirates’ ownership has neglected the franchise for years & refuses to spend money necessary to compete, Jones actually cares too much and thinks he’s way smarter than he is. The Cowboys would improve dramatically if he’d step down as general manager and let people who know what the hell they are doing run the team. That’s not going to happen though, and head coach Jason Garrett will be the sacrificial lamb. The funny thing is they might still make the playoffs since the entire NFC East is atrocious. The Rams aren’t going to be in the playoffs. On one hand that’s not surprising given the whole Super Bowl Curse thing, but on the other hand it is a dramatic departure from a year ago when head coach Sean McVay & quarterback Jared Goff were celebrated flavors of the month. It’s interesting that the ‘Boys can’t even score the usual three point home advantage…seems like the folks in Vegas have lost faith in them. It’s a tall order for the Rams to head into Texas with nothing to play for and face off against a team fighting for its life & a coach desperate to save his job, but that’ll make it all the more delightful when the visitors get the win. Zach concurs and foresees a blowout.

My Pick:     LA Rams

Z’s Pick:     LA Rams

 

 

 

Atlanta                         at                         San Francisco (-10.5)

I predicted that the 49ers would make the playoffs, but I had no idea they’d be this good and a legit Super Bowl contender. Conversely, the Falcons are much worse than I expected. Frisco isn’t going to lose at home, but the points are a bit of a concern. Double digit spreads are unusual in the NFL. Having said that, the Niners have won 7 of their 11 victories by ten points or more, so I’ll roll with it. Zach thinks the Falcons are slowly figuring things out, but sees Frisco scoring the victory…just not by ten points.

My Pick:     San Francisco

Z’s Pick:     Atlanta

 

 

 

Indianapolis                         at                         New Orleans (-9)

Indianapolis should title their 2019 highlight video “What If?”. What if Andrew Luck would have stuck around?? What if receiver TY Hilton hadn’t missed half the season with a calf injury?? What if RB Marlon Mack wasn’t so injury prone?? They are a better team than their record shows, but much like my Pittsburgh Steelers the deck has been stacked against them all season long and they just can’t catch a break. On the flip side the Saints have already clinched their division and have to be kicking themselves for that last second loss to San Francisco that’s going to cost them home field in the presumed NFC Championship (although anything can happen). I like Indy. They have potential and will probably be back in the playoff conversation next year, but it’s just not meant to be right now and they’re going up against a well-oiled machine. The points give me brief pause, but I like the Saints to get the job done on Monday night. Zach agrees.

My Pick:     New Orleans

Z’s Pick:     New Orleans

2014 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 10

Okay friends…your humble Potentate of Profundity is woefully behind so this is going to be quick & dirty.

 

But first allow me to vent…..

 

I was really looking forward to the new college playoff, but now I’m not so sure. First of all, if there are going to only be 4 teams in the playoff why is the selection committee doing a Top 25?? This on top of the AP & Coaches’ polls seems redundant. Secondly, why is the committee doing their poll on a weekly basis?? It’s the very definition of excess. So many of these teams are going to be playing each other in the coming weeks and knocking one another out of the race, so any & all debate right now is kind of useless. Why wouldn’t the committee do a Top 10 and announce it…at the most…every other week?? Also, though I am admittedly biased since Marshall University is my alma mater, to not have the Herd anywhere in their poll is a huge insult by the committee. Look, I know Marshall’s schedule is weak. I am not one who believes they should be anywhere near the playoff even if they finish the season undefeated. I am hoping that East Carolina, Colorado St., & Boise St. all lose another game and Marshall is the clear choice to represent the non-power conferences in a New Year’s Day bowl game. I think it is the best case scenario. However, to not even rank them as one of the Top 25 teams is wrong. I think it is becoming clear that we are heading for a split wherein the 5 power conferences (SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Pac 12, & Big 12) will play for a national title and all other football programs will either drop down to the 1-AA/FCS level or be placed into their own division with their own title game. As it stands teams in conferences like the MAC, AAC, Sun Belt, C-USA, & Mountain West have very little to play for because, as is being proven with Marshall, even an undefeated record will not garner a team enough respect to be considered a championship contender.

 

Anyway, you came here for some picks. Last week I went 4-3 while Zach went 5-3. That brings both of our season records to 25-25. Let’s see if either one of us can get above .500.

 

 

 

 

East Carolina (-7) at Temple
templeI need the Pirates to lose this game…plain & simple. The highest ranking non-power conference team at the end of the season gets to go to East_Carolina_Pirates2either the Orange or Fiesta Bowl and I want that spot to go to my Thundering Herd. Right now East Carolina seems to be getting more love even though they’ve lost a game. I don’t know anything about the Owls except for they always sucked when my WVU Mountaineers used to play them every year. I need them to not suck enough to win this game. Zach…apparently not aware of the stakes…is picking the Pirates to win by 40. Dammit.

My Pick = Temple
Z’s Pick = East Carolina

 

 

 

Arizona at UCLA (-6.5)
ucla_bruins2I had the Bruins as a Top 10 team in my pre-season rankings but they’ve suffered a couple of losses and bounced in & out of the rankings. ArizonaWildcatsMeanwhile the Wildcats have had a nice season (as I predicted) and could eventually sneak into the Top 10. I think the ‘Cats play better as underdogs but despite the point spread they aren’t sneaking up on anyone anymore. A victory here could save UCLA’s season. Zach still thinks Arizona has some magic left and is calling for the upset.

My Pick = UCLA
Z’s Pick = Arizona

 

 

 

Auburn at Ole Miss (-1.5)
Both of these teams currently hold a playoff spot so this game should be an elimination game. However the talking heads are so in love with the SEC that their auburnteams are kind of like one of those killers in slasher films…never really dead no matter how many times they get taken down. That’s one reason why I have very little interest in the game. It should matter but I’m not sure it does so I don’t really care. I remain convinced that the sports media would have a collective orgasm if they could somehow finagle an all-SEC playoff…no matter how much ESPN’s Colin Blowhard tries to convince me otherwise. I suppose I’ll take Auburn. Zach thinks Auburn is a bit overrated (he’s probably right) but believes they’ll rise to the occasion.

My Pick = Auburn
Z’s Pick = Auburn

 

 

 

Arizona at Dallas (-3.5)
It is looking more & more like the Cardinals are for real. And I guess the Cowboys are as well…atleast until they choke in the playoffs. Since I have a deep & nflarizonacardinalslongstanding disdain for Dallas I suppose I’ll take Arizona. Zach dislikes Dallas and their idiotic owner Jerry Jones as much as I do.

My Pick = Arizona
Z’s Pick = Arizona

 

 
Indianapolis (-3.5) at NY GiantsIndianapolis_Colts_Helmet
Last week my favorite fantasy team…my decade old dynasty league team…went into the weekend undefeated. I started QB Philip Rivers as I had most of the season because Ben Roethlisberger isn’t usually a great fantasy QB. Big Ben proceeded to torch the Colts like villagers hunting down Frankenstein. If I would have started him my team would have set league records that might never be broken and of course remain undefeated. None of that happened though. However, I don’t think Indianapolis will have another week like that. I believe they’ll score a fairly easy victory. Zach agrees, although he thinks it’ll be a close contest.

My Pick = Indianapolis
Z’s Pick = Indianapolis

2014 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 7

Last weekend was a bloodbath. There’s no other way to soft sell it. One of the keys to success in the prognostication arts is being able to predict big upsets and last week college football had more than its fair share…very few of which I saw coming. As a fan it was lots of fun to watch, but for the purpose of these picks it was viciously humbling. I ended up going 3-4. Both Zach & I picked Arizona & Virginia Tech correctly, and I was happy to see Nebraska stage a late comeback to atleast cover the points even though they didn’t win. Zach was 4-3 and picked both Mississippi St. and Notre Dame correctly. We both completely whiffed by picking LSU & Alabama. You know it’s a wacky year when both of those teams lose in the same day. So the season records look like this:

Me = 15-18
Zach = 16-16

There are several big college games again this week but I prefer to have a little variety and not pick games involving the same teams week after week. With the NFL this is somewhat unavoidable because there are only 32 teams, but the NCAA has a much bigger selection from which to choose and so we shall.

 

 

 

 

 

TCU at Baylor (-8.5)
The Horned Frogs are 4-0 and coming off a surprising upset of Oklahoma. Baylor is now a legitimate part of the national playoff conversation but they need to keep baylorwinning. I am sure TCU will put forth their best effort, but don’t believe they are an authentic Top 10 team. This game is in Waco and the home team should roll to a solid double digit victory. Zach likes the Bears’ high powered offense and expects that it’ll be hard for TCU to get revved up for another big upset so soon.

My Pick = Baylor
Z’s Pick = Baylor

Louisville at Clemson (-10.5)
Louisville-CardinalsThe Cardinals have represented themselves rather well in their inaugural season in the ACC. They are 5-1 and currently in 2nd place in theirclemson division. I must admit I did not think they’d be that successful this season, especially after losing QB Teddy Bridgewater to the NFL. Conversely Clemson is 3-2 and hasn’t done well against stiff competition. They lost a lot of talent to the NFL and it has shown. I don’t think Louisville will win this game, but I do think they’ll play good enough to cover the points. Zach disagrees and thinks Clemson will win in a blowout.

My Pick = Louisville
Z’s Pick = Clemson

 

 

Denver (-8) at NY Jets
8 point spreads in the NFL are almost like 20 points in the collegiate ranks. Theoretically these guys are all professional athletes and no team should get shellacked denverby 2 or 3 touchdowns. However we all know that it does happen. This spread is especially insulting to the Jets since they are the home team. However, I do agree that the Broncos are a team on a mission…Super Bowl or bust…and that New York is a hot mess without a good starting QB and with a head coach who has to feel the noose tightening. I’d be surprised if the game isn’t essentially over at halftime and Peyton Manning isn’t chillin’ on the sidelines by the 4th quarter. Zach concurs.

My Pick = Denver
Z’s Pick = Denver

Dallas at Seattle (-8)
seattle-seahawks1I know everyone is jumping on the Dallas bandwagon, but I’m not buying it. They are 4-1 but three of their wins are over teams with a dallas-cowboys-logo2combined record of 4-10. Simmer down Cowboys fans…no need to be more obnoxious than usual just yet. Philadelphia is still going to win the division. Meanwhile the defending champs are 3-1 and I think their early season loss to the San Diego Chargers will actually prove beneficial. It’s really easy for champions to become complacent but the Seahawks got a wake-up call and now seem to be back on track. I think this will be an easy win for Seattle. Zach isn’t a Cowboys fan but does believe that there is good reason for folks to have high expectations. He thinks Dallas is a solid playoff team and will atleast cover the points in this one.

My Pick = Seattle
Z’s Pick = Dallas

 

 

NY Giants at Philadelphia (-2.5)
philadelphia_eagles-3715The Giants are another team that everyone suddenly has renewed faith in, although it’s a bit more understandable in their case. They have aGiants Logo history of bouncing between being a playoff contender and a bottom dweller as effortlessly as Marty McFly travels thru time. On the flip side the Eagles are 4-1 but haven’t been quite as dominating as some (including me) expected. RB LeSean McCoy is only averaging 55 yds/game. To call that underwhelming would be like calling President Obama somewhat of a disappointment. Philly’s defense isn’t that good either, ranking 24th in the league against the run and 29th in passing defense. This is the Sunday night game and I think it’ll be a high scoring back & forth kind of contest with the home team getting the victory late in the 4th quarter. Zach agrees that it’ll be close but believes it will be the Giants that score late to seal the victory.

My Pick = Philadelphia
Z’s Pick = NY Giants

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.