2021 Sammy Awards: Part Deux

Welcome back to The Sammys!! If you missed out on Part 1 please check it out then join us right back here. Give a rousing ovation to our host, renowned comedian Dave Chappelle!!

After some thought-provoking comedy from our host it’s time for our next award, and making his debut on our stage is a driver in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series. He has won only one race in 119 starts in the course of six years, but he’s only 28 years old and we feel like his future is bright. It was that single win in October 2021 that made him marginally famous, albeit not for the reason he likely preferred. Y’all know what to do as we proudly introduce Brandon Brown!! Let’s go Brandon!!!! And the nominees are:

The Thrill of Victory Award

Brady Wins Another Super Bowl

On February 7, 2021 Tom Brady’s decision to leave New England after two decades paid off, as he led his new team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to a convincing 31-9 victory over the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs. Brady earned his seventh Lombardi Trophy and was the game’s MVP for the fifth time.

The Tide Rolls…Again

On January 11, 2021 the Alabama Crimson Tide won their sixth National Championship in twelve years by administering a 52-24 beatdown to the Ohio St. Buckeyes, who shouldn’t have been in the playoff in the first place.

Baylor’s Madness

After COVID forced the cancellation of March Madness in 2020 the tournament returned a year later, with Gonzaga, Houston, Baylor, & UCLA ending up in the Final Four. The Baylor Bears beat the previously undefeated Gonzaga Bulldogs on April 5, 2021 to earn their first ever National Championship.

Helio’s 4th Indy 500

COVID also affected the Indianapolis 500 in 2020, causing it to be delayed until August. I missed it because I completely forgot about it being rescheduled. Thankfully the Indy 500 returned to its familiar Memorial Day Weekend spot in 2021, with dynamic 46 year old Brazilian Helio Castroneves following in the footsteps of legends AJ Foyt, Al Unser Sr., & Rick Mears by capturing his fourth Borg-Warner Trophy.

Milwaukee Wins NBA Title

In July 2021 (because the season was delayed slightly & reduced by ten games) the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Phoenix Suns in six games (4-2) to win their first NBA title since Lew Alcindor (aka Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) had led them to a championship in 1971. “The Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo was named Finals MVP, fulfilling the potential so many had seen in him throughout his nine year career.

Braves Win Another World Series

Selective memory is funny. I really thought the Braves had won several World Series back in the 1990’s when I truly despised them. However, it turns out that in five appearances they only won once in that time span (they’d won the Series two previous times decades before I was born). That made their 2021 victory more palatable, and it also helped that they defeated the Houston Astros, who I still consider cheaters that should’ve been stripped of the championship they “won” in 2017. To be honest I didn’t watch much of this Series, which the Braves won in six games, 4-2.

and the Sammy goes to…..

Milwaukee Bucks. It was just nice to have a Finals that didn’t include the LA Lakers, Golden St. Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs, or Miami Heat. Lebron James was nowhere to be found. It was a fresh matchup involving teams that aren’t usually around at the end. The Bucks hadn’t won a title in fifty years, so kudos to them.

To present our next award we are happy to welcome a young lady who has been enjoying her freedom the past few months. She may never recapture the success or popularity that she enjoyed two decades ago, but seems to be in a good place in her life. She’s a pretty decent follow on Instagram and we sincerely hope her loneliness is no longer killing her. Get on your feet for Grammy Award winning pop princess Britney Spears!! And the nominees are:

Favorite Podcast or Viral Videos

Broken Skull Sessions w/ “Stone Cold” Steve Austin

Former WWE Champion “Stone Cold” Steve Austin has segued nicely from opening up a can o’ whoopass in the wrestling ring to a variety of entertainment projects that keep him in the pop culture consciousness. While I don’t particularly care for his Broken Skull Challenge on CMT or Straight Up Steve Austin on USA Network, I do like his Broken Skull Sessions, which is just a conversation between Austin and another wrestling legend or current star. I you’re a wrestling fan it’s not a bad way to spend 60-90 minutes of your evening.

Tipsy Bartender

Bartender Skyy John is still slinging drinks online. Sometimes his creations are kind of wacky, and lately he’s altered his format a bit, but I still must give him a shoutout. If he eliminates the stupid music that’s all the sudden become a thing and gets back to entertaining us with his infectious personality while preparing those crazy concoctions that’d be nice.  

Oral Sessions w/ Renee Paquette

Formerly known as Renee Young in WWE, Paquette has moved on but hasn’t totally escaped pro wrestling. That’s probably not going to happen since she’s married to AEW star Jon Moxley (aka Dean Ambrose) and the couple welcomed a baby girl just a few months ago. Oral Sessions differs from Austin’s show in that occasionally Paquette will interview someone outside of the wrestling realm, usually an MMA fighter, although she had her mother on once as well.

Men with the Pot

Calm down, it’s not what it sounds like…it is a cooking show, but can’t be compared to anything you’ll see on Food Network. These are simple, brief, minimalist videos made by two Polish dudes in Ireland. They’re usually about 5-10 minutes in length and show some tasty vittles being cooked out in the wild, almost like a virtual camping trip. Unlike most food-centric programs that focus on the personality of the host (I’m looking at you Guy Fieri, Emeril Lagasse, & Bobby Flay) Men with the Pot doesn’t even show us who’s cooking. Perhaps we’ll see a hand or a leg, but otherwise there is no talking, no music, and no other sounds besides veggies being chopped, meat sizzling in an iron skillet, the gentle flow of a babbling brook, and the lovely chirping of birds. Oh, and the food always looks amazing!!

Food Dolls

Another cooking show that’s also rather austere & oddly soothing. The two hosts are lovely Egyptian-American sisters who would most certainly thrive as phone sex operators if this gig ever falls thru. The videos are usually a minute or less, meaning you’ll need to hunt down the recipe if you actually want to make the dish yourself. That being said, I don’t know about y’all, but as much as I enjoy watching other people cook on television or online I rarely attempt to actually cook the food they make. I don’t know why I enjoy such programs, but I do.

and the Sammy goes

Men with the Pot. I’m going to contradict myself. With Tipsy Bartender it’s all about the host and his extroversion. However, sometimes the direct opposite is a nice change of pace. Have you ever listened to ambient music to fall asleep?? Thunderstorms. A crackling fireplace. Gentle rain. Men with the Pot is exactly like that, only with food. Its charm is the lack of a host…no one talking or laughing or yelling or drawing attention to themselves. The food is the focus, and it’s mesmerizing.

To present our next award we thought “what the hell” and decided to utilize NASCAR driver Brandon Brown for a second time. Let’s go Brandon!!!! And the nominees are:

The Agony of Defeat Award

Simone Biles

I don’t generally pay attention to gymnastics, and I assume I’m not alone. It’s something we notice every four years when The Olympics come around. If you were to ask me who the best gymnast of all time is I’d throw out names like Mary Lou Retton (total WV bias) & Nadia Comaneci (because I’m old), but this past summer talking heads really tried to sell the idea that the title should belong to 24 year old Simone Biles. I guess recency bias is a real thing. But something odd happened on the way to immortality…saying she “felt the weight of the world” on her shoulders (which is sort of the whole point of Olympic competition), Biles withdrew from the team finals, individual all-around finals, and almost all the individual event finals that she’d qualified for, although she did end up winning a bronze medal in the balance beam competition. Team USA won the team silver, which likely would have been a gold medal had Biles led the group like she was supposed to do. Every talking head & soccer Mom jumped to the defense of Simone Biles and discussion of mental health issues came to the forefront (the only good thing to come out of the situation), but the only thing I could think was how I had never seen a world class athlete fold like a cheap suit on such a grand stage. Quite frankly it was embarrassing. We’ve all heard the phrase “if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen”, and Simone Biles couldn’t so she did. She quit on her team & her country. I wish the young lady well in her future. I’m sure she’ll be fine, but sadly her legacy is forever tarnished.

The Cleveland Guardians of the Galaxy

The PC Police continue to destroy American culture piece by piece, and in 2021 it was MLB’s Cleveland Indians turn to be cancelled. The franchise announced that they’d be abandoning the Indians nickname and become the Cleveland Guardians, which is about as stupid of a choice as they could have possibly made.

Urban Meyer

He may be a good football coach, but to call Urban Meyer enigmatic would be kind. He’s well-travelled, which is a nice way of saying he’s an unreliable job hopper who bolts at the first sign of trouble. However, his departure from the Jacksonville Jaguars before the end of his first season at the helm was not Meyer’s choice. In October video of the coach being a bit too cozy with a woman other than his wife in a Columbus, OH restaurant went viral. To make matters worse, the Jags had just lost a game in Cincinnati, but Meyer didn’t go back to Jacksonville with the team, which is why he was in Columbus. Then in December accusations of mistreatment of players emerged, most notably former kicker Josh Lambo saying that Meyer literally kicked him in the leg. That was the final straw and the team decided to cut its losses. Will Urban Meyer land on his feet?? Probably. Some college team will give him another chance eventually, or he’ll land a TV gig.

147th Kentucky Derby

In 2020 the Kentucky Derby was another sporting event impacted by COVID, as it was delayed from its usual spot on the calendar in early May until September, and even then there were no fans in the stands, which was weird. 2021 saw a return to relative normalcy (Churchill Downs allowed 60% capacity). Unfortunately the outcome was marred by controversy, as winner Medina Spirit tested positive for an illegal substance after the race. An investigation is still ongoing (why such a process takes more than eight months is baffling) and sadly the horse died in December.

The Olympics

The “2020” Summer Olympics in Tokyo were delayed until 2021 (I’ll give you three guesses as to why and the first two don’t count), and the event was made even less interesting than usual by the fact that no spectators were allowed at the venues. I don’t think I watched one second of The Olympics, and I don’t feel bad about that.

NIL & The Transfer Portal

In case you’ve been curious, NIL stands for “name, image, & likeness”. Last summer the NCAA instituted new rules that allow collegiate athletes to be paid thru marketing deals in which they can now take advantage of whatever level of fame they have achieved. The transfer portal was actually created in 2018, but didn’t cause much of a buzz until 2021 when additional rules went into effect allowing any athlete to transfer without having to sit out a year. For now they’re allowed to transfer once, but I expect that to be tweaked in the future. Essentially this is collegiate free agency, with the additional carrot of getting paid being dangled just to make things interesting. And while I believe that these rules were created with the best of intentions what we are now seeing are unintended, chaotic consequences, like Oklahoma’s freshman QB Caleb Williams entering the portal despite having supplanted a presumed Heisman candidate under center and leading his team to an 11-2 record. There are so many tentacles to this thing that recruiting has been rendered moot. It doesn’t matter what team lands a kid out of high school because that player can ditch his team for a better deal, whether that means more playing time, a higher profile program, or a better marketing deal. College sports are farm clubs for the NFL, NBA, & (to a lesser extent) MLB now. That’s probably been true for awhile, but they aren’t even pretending to hide it anymore.

MLB All Star Game

Thanks to ESPN and other sports media the worlds of sports & politics collide more & more these days. The 2021 All-Star Game was scheduled to be played in Atlanta, but then Georgia had to go & pass an election integrity law requiring voter ID and other measures to ensure fair elections. Integrity & fairness are abhorrent ideas to liberals, so heads exploded. Somehow this turned into MLB moving the All Star Game to Denver. I didn’t watch, I don’t know who won, and I don’t care.

Tiger Woods

We all know it’s been a rough decade for Tiger Woods. His personal life got messy and various ailments derailed his legendary golf career. At one time it seemed like a lock that he’d shatter Jack Nicklaus’ record of winning 18 major titles (U.S. Open, The Masters, British Open, PGA Championship). When everything imploded for Tiger in 2009 he had won 14 majors in twelve years. He had begun to make a bit of a comeback, culminating in winning his fifth Masters in 2019 at age 43. That victory provided a glimpse of the old Tiger and made us believe that maybe…just maybe…he still had an opportunity to catch The Golden Bear. Unfortunately, on February 23, 2021 Tiger rolled his vehicle near Los Angeles and suffered significant injuries to both of his legs. Even Woods himself admits now that his days as a full-timer on the PGA Tour are over and, though he’ll likely still play in as many majors as possible, his pursuit of Nicklaus will probably fall short.

and the Sammy goes to…..

NIL & The Transfer Portal. The guise of “student-athletes” has been laughable for a long time, but it was still fun to pretend that these young people were amateurs. That’s finished now, atleast when it comes to football & basketball. High school quarterback Quinn Ewers matriculated to Ohio St. and was so highly touted that he signed a $1.4 million NIL deal. He got into one game with the Buckeyes…two snaps in garbage time…and was beaten out for the starting gig by redshirt freshman CJ Stroud, who was a Heisman finalist. So Ewers took his ball & went home to play for Texas, where he’ll probably be the starter next season. But don’t worry, cause he’s sitting on a million Gs after accomplishing literally NOTHING. Does anyone see an issue with that?? NFL legend Deion Sanders is now the head coach at 1-AA/FCS Jackson St., and Coach Prime made waves by recruiting five-star cornerback Travis Hunter. To the surprise of almost everybody Hunter chose Jackson St. over Florida St., Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma, and others. Rumors have swirled that he also has a $1.5 million NIL deal on the table, although that is unconfirmed. Does anyone actually think the young man will stay more than a year at Jackson St.?? I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t enter the portal a year from now and end up at one of the elite schools that recruited him in the first place. It’s crazy. It’s a free-for-all. And I don’t think any of it is good for collegiate athletics.

To present our next award The Sammys are turning to a trio of actors known primarily for their television work, specifically in daytime dramas. Two gentlemen left their longtime roles on ABC’s General Hospital after Disney (perhaps the world’s most evil corporation, ironically) imposed silly vaccine mandates and they refused to bow to the pressure. They are joined by a beautiful young lady whose departure from General Hospital in 2020 was not her choice. She has since become one of my favorite follows on Instagram, especially after her family adopted a beautiful pug puppy that reminds me so much of my dearly departed Rocco. You may know them as Jasper Jacks, Jason Morgan, & Lulu Falconeri, but we’re pretty excited to give it up for Ingo Rademacher, Steve Burton, & Emme Rylan!! And the nominees are:

Favorite Movie

Coming 2 America

The long overdue sequel to the 1998 classic starring Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, & James Earl Jones finds Prince Akeem of Zamunda returning to New York City to find the son he never knew he produced. Hilarity ensues…kind of. I didn’t hate it, but it doesn’t measure up to its predecessor. Is nostalgia a good enough reason to create…anything?? I don’t know, but it’s an interesting question to ponder. At any rate, Murphy isn’t as funny as he might have been three decades ago, but I’ll take Eddie Murphy at half speed over most of the people kids believe are funny nowadays.

The Addams Family 2

The Addams Family has spawned TV shows, cartoons, movies, and just about everything else you can imagine. In 2019 they returned to the big screen in computer animated form, and this is the sequel to that film. It’s mildly entertaining but mostly forgettable. My perspective is biased by the fact that, right around the time this movie hit theaters, our local community theater produced a high quality stage production of The Addams Family Musical that had been nominated for a Tony Award in 2010. The musical I saw (twice) was far superior to this movie.

Spider-Man: No Way Home

The third installment of Marvel’s Spider-Man franchise dives into something called The Multiverse. I’m not a comic book nerd so I can’t give you a detailed explanation, but I’ll just say it’s pretty trippy. I have never seen any of the MCU movies other than the Spider-Man flicks, all three of which I have enjoyed immensely. At this point I am sure most everyone has either seen the movie or read spoilers, but I won’t go there. Suffice to say that it is well-written with fine performances, has a lot of action, and isn’t a bad way to spend a couple of hours. It is exactly what good popcorn cinema should be.

American Underdog

I’m a sucker for a good biopic, and I understand why some would think Kurt Warner’s story is interesting enough to be made into a movie. That being said, despite the fact that Warner is an NFL Hall-of-Famer, two-time League MVP, and one time Super Bowl MVP, my initial reaction to hearing about the film was “They made a movie…about Kurt Warner??”. That’s a good thing though because I set the bar low and didn’t have any kind of grand expectations, making it that much easier for the finished product to exceed them, which it did. American Underdog isn’t going to be remembered in the same conversation with the greatest sports movies or even the best biopics, but it’s entertaining enough.

King Richard

As much of a sports nut as I am tennis has never frosted my cupcake. I know just enough about the game & its personalities to carry on a reasonably intelligent conversation, but that’s about it. However, you’d have to have been living under a rock the past couple of decades not to have heard of Venus & Serena Williams, who have become two of the best players of all time. The movie isn’t about them though…not really. Their father, Richard, is the ultimate helicopter parent, but he is portrayed in such a way that we don’t hate him. He dreams up a life plan for his girls when they are just babies, and he’s hellbent & determined to follow thru. He wants them to be professional tennis players and is willing to make sacrifices to make that happen. We’ve seen similar stories, but usually the parents are depicted as self-centered & borderline abusive. Richard Williams isn’t either of those things really…he’s just doggedly single-minded and sort of crazy, but in a sympathetic, non-threatening way. Is the film an accurate portrayal of Richard?? Who knows?? It is a really good movie though, and if Will Smith doesn’t win the Academy Award for Best Actor it will be a crime.     

Tom & Jerry

If you are of a certain age and grew up watching Tom & Jerry cartoons you’ll enjoy it well enough, but that’s as far as I can go. The technology is cool, putting the titular twosome in real world places & backgrounds that are not animated. The issue I have is that Tom D. Cat and Jerome A. Mouse are supporting characters in their own movie. The plot revolves around a down-on-her-luck 20-something who deceives her way into a job at a swanky hotel just as it is preparing to host a lavish celebrity wedding. The whole thing could’ve been a lighthearted rom-com without any critters and not changed all that much. But their cat & mouse game (I could NOT help myself) does drive the story to the point that the wedding is destroyed (literally), so I suppose that’s the idea. At the end of the day though there is way too much humanity for an alleged animated film.

In the Heights

Lin-Manuel Miranda could retire as the dude who gave us Hamilton and that would be enough, but he’s back with what can best be described as a love letter to the Latino community, specifically Washington Heights in New York City’s Upper Manhattan. The music is lively & fun, and the performances are fantastic. I am sure those from a similar background that identify closely with the story love the movie more than me, and I mean that respectfully. I enjoyed it and liked the music, but understand completely that I am not the target audience. Miranda set the bar impossibly high with Hamilton, and while In the Heights tries mightily, it falls short of the mark.

and the Sammy goes to…..

King Richard. I’m not really a huge Will Smith fan. His filmography is hit & miss for me, but when he hits he knocks it out of the ballpark. I think it helps that I’m not really into tennis, know very little about the lives of The Williams Sisters, & had no preconceived notions about Richard Williams. That being said, I found Smith’s performance enthralling and the tale itself fascinating. Rotten Tomatoes has it rated 91% fresh, and I have to agree.

It’s time or another break, but we’ll be  back soon with the exciting climax of the 2021 Sammys!!

Winning & Musing…Volume 2.21

Sadly football season is now over. Atleast we have Modified March Madness, the Daytona 500, & golf on the horizon, right?? The sports calendar may have its lulls, but they never last for long. 

 

 

 

 

Congratulations to the new Hall of Fame inductees: WR Calvin Johnson (Detroit Lions), who could’ve played atleast five more seasons and might’ve been considered the greatest receiver ever if he’d been on a perennial championship contender. O-Lineman Alan Faneca (Pittsburgh Steelers). DB John Lynch (Tampa Bay Buccaneers). QB Peyton Manning (Indianapolis Colts & Denver Broncos), who I will always consider a superior quarterback to Tom Brady. DB Charles Woodson (Oakland Raiders & Green Bay Packers), whose combined success in college & the NFL is probably under appreciated. WR Drew Pearson (Dallas Cowboys), who should have been in the HoF thirty years ago. Pittsburgh Steelers scout Bill Nunn, who played a huge part in building the 1970s dynasty. Former Oakland Raiders head coach Tom Flores. Not making the cut: O-Lineman Tony Boselli, linebackers Zach Thomas, Clay Matthews, & Sam Mills, and receivers Torry Holt & Reggie Wayne. 

 

 

A few friends posted on social media the day before the Super Bowl expressing total indifference about the Big Game. Actually I have several friends like that – absolutely no interest in sports whatsoever. To each their own, but honestly I’m very thankful to be a sports fan. Watching ball games, golf, & car races on TV has helped me thru some dark times at various points in my life. This past year I have observed several of my Facebook friends doing outdoor activities like fishing & hiking, and I’m a bit jealous. Such things are basically pandemic proof, which I’m sure has been a blessing for them. Unfortunately I’ve never been physically able to be outdoorsy, so I’ve relied heavily on simply being a sports fan. 

 

 

Real Time Super Bowl Thoughts:  

  • H.E.R.?? 👀 Stupid moniker, but she can sing, play guitar, & has a nice rack. 
  • I’m not a country music fan, but I might have to check out this Eric Church guy. Nice job on the anthem, although two voices aren’t necessarily a good thing. The lady singing kind of overpowered him. 
  • You mean that poet’s 15 minutes aren’t up yet?? ⌚️ Guess I can’t blame her for striking while the iron is hot. 
  • The Door Dash commercial with The Muppets is cute. 
  • “Jumping offside really does help you get to the QB sooner.” That’s some Booger McFarland level insight from Tony Romo 🤣.
  • Matthew McConaughey, Doritos, & Queen…an oddly compelling combination. Will Ferrell’s GM commercial is amusing. How can you have a group of Bud Light Legends without Spuds McKenzie or The Frogs?? Maybe that’s Budweiser?? I don’t know. On the rare occasion I drink beer I prefer good beer 🍺.
  • TB 7, KC 3 at the end of the 1st  Q. More defense & smash mouth football than most expected, and I’m okay with that. 
  • Mountain Dew Melon?? No thanks 🤢.
  • BIG 2nd Q goal line stand for the KC defense!!
  • The Jason Alexander Tide commercial is low key brilliant if you get the background music joke. TMobile, Gwen Stefani, & Blake Shelton…okay, I get it. Not bad 🤷🏻‍♂️.
  • 21-6…Tampa leads at the half. The Chiefs are making too many mental errors. 
  • A reasonably entertaining halftime show. I’m sure people far younger, allegedly way cooler, and more familiar with The Weekend than me will hype it as the best ever, but I’m nostalgic for the days of Prince, Michael Jackson, & Justin Timberlake. 
  • The Uber Eats Wayne’s World spot just made me sad. Wayne & Garth are looking old 👀.
  • Gronk is a freakin’ beast. I can’t hate on him like I do Brady. 
  • Dear Ashton Kutcher: Don’t. Ever. Sing. Again.
  • Tampa is up 31-9 at the end of Q3. If anyone but KC was the opponent I’d be changing the channel, but with Mahomes I feel like anything can happen.
  • “Only” 25k fans in a stadium that can seat over 65k. Will this event come to be known as a “super spreader”, or is that kind of thing over now that we have a new President?? 🏟
  • Blaine Gabbert now has more Super Bowl rings than Dan Marino, Dan Fouts, Jim Kelly, Warren Moon, & Fran Tarkenton…combined. Life isn’t fair. 
  • I hope Jason Pierre-Paul doesn’t celebrate with fireworks 🎇.
  • As a proud alumnus of Marshall University I can put aside my disdain for TB12 long enough to be happy for Bucs’ offensive coordinator & former Herd QB Byron Leftwich.
  • 31-9 Final. Tampa wins. The fallacy of The Patriots Dynasty has been exposed.  Belichick really is that coach who went 36-44 with the Cleveland Browns. It was Brady all along. He now has more titles than any franchise in NFL history, let alone individual players. Bastard. 
  • One thing the NFL does better than the other pro & even college leagues: the whole deal is over by 10:30pm. It’s Sunday night & people have to go to work in the morning, so the average fan doesn’t want to stay up until midnight. 

2016 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 17

football-introducing-the-science_1Before we move forward with this week’s picks I must correct an oversight on my part. The past couple of weeks we’ve been dealing strictly with NFL games because I indicated the college football season was over except for the bowl games. The problem is that isn’t exactly true. There are playoff games going on at the FCS, Division II, & other “lower” levels of NCAA football. We wouldn’t pick those games because neither Zach nor myself are knowledgeable at all about any of the teams involved, but I feel like it is important to recognize that those games exist. As a student at Marshall University in the early 90’s I witnessed multiple 1-AA playoff games and was privileged to be in the stadium when my Thundering Herd won the national title in 1992. There are a lot of football snobs out there that only acknowledge “big boy football” as played by the SEC, Big Ten, Notre Dame, Florida State, etc., but the football played in other divisions can be just as exciting & fun to watch, and there have been no shortage of players from lesser known smaller schools that have made an impact in the NFL. Their putrid 2016 season notwithstanding, part of me has often wished Marshall would have stayed in 1-AA/FCS. Since moving up the best they have been able to do is battle for a MAC or C-USA conference title and then play in some prosaic December bowl game that no one cares about or remembers. As a fan it was much more interesting to see my team move thru a 16 team playoff and have an opportunity to play for a championship. At any rate, I felt it important to recognize those other, often overlooked & marginalized, levels of college football. Last week both Zach & I were at our mediocre best, he at 2-3 and I at 3-2. Average seems to be our thing this season. A few NFL teams have already clinched playoff berths, but these last few weeks will see a lot of jockeying for position. Since Sunday is Christmas Day much of the action will take place the day before, which is fine with me. Merry Christmas fellow football fans. I sincerely wish all of you a most delightful holiday.

My Season:        47-46

Z’s Season:        33-60

 

 

 

 

 

Indianapolis      at      Oakland (-4)

raidersThe Raiders are already in the playoff field, while the Colts really need to win their final two games and even then face an uphill battle. I’d really Indianapolis_Colts_Helmetlove to pick Indy since I predicted that they’d win the division, but it just doesn’t feel like the chips are falling in their favor. I think Oakland is just too good. Zach has apparently been infected with my Vibes. He’s picking the upset though he doesn’t really know why. Good luck with that dude…it rarely works out well for me.

My Pick:     Oakland

Z’s Pick:     Indianapolis

 

 

Tampa Bay        at      New Orleans (-3)

tampa-bay-buccaneersThe Bucs still have an opportunity to win their division, but winning their last two games is probably necessary. Even a wildcard spot is going to be tough. Conversely, the Saints can only play spoiler and have to win out just to finish at .500. I don’t expect any surprises and neither does Zach.

My Pick:     Tampa Bay

Z’s Pick:     Tampa Bay

 

 

Minnesota                    at      Green Bay (-6.5)

After beginning the season 5-0 the Vikings have lost 7 of the last 9 games. Their defense is still formidable, but they’ve sputtered offensively and QB Sam Bradford no Green_Bay_Packers_Helmetlonger looks like a long term answer in case Teddy Bridgewater is unable to make a successful comeback. The Packers have had a roller coaster season but are riding a four game winning streak and have an outside shot at the playoffs…maybe even a division title. These are simply two teams going in opposite directions and I see no evidence the tide will turn this week. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Green Bay

Z’s Pick:     Green Bay

 

 

Denver                at      Kansas City (-4)

kc-chiefs-logoI told y’all the Chiefs were going to the playoffs, and a win here would probably secure a spot. Denver’s quarterback situation has torpedoed anybroncos-4759 chance they had of achieving the success they had last year. Peyton Manning retiring has that effect. Although it does look like they made the right choice to let Brock Osweiler walk in free agency. There will be no upset here, atleast in my opinion. Conversely, Zach thinks Denver, with their back against the wall and in a dogfight for a playoff spot, will get the job done.

My Pick:     Kansas City

Z’s Pick:     Denver

 

 

Detroit                 at      Dallas (-7)

Detroit_Lions_HelmetThe Cowboys are going to win their division before the inevitable postseason crash & burn. The Lions have snuck up on everybody, but they dallas-cowboys-logo2have Green Bay hot on their trail and need to win out to secure a division title. This is your Monday night game and I am predicting an early start to Dallas’ certain demise. Zach disagrees. He predicts it’ll be a blowout for the favorites.

My Pick:     Detroit

Z’s Pick:     Dallas

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

2012 NFL Preview & Prognostications

There’s nothing like cutting it close, right?? Just a few hours before the 2012 NFL season officially kicks off (on a Wednesday…weird) I am here with my always stellar & 100% accurate predictions. Well…okay…my vibes aren’t always all that precise, but I keep trying!! I am not really predicting anything all that wacky this year because I think we pretty much know who the haves & have nots are in professional football. There are always a few mild surprises, and of course a couple of injuries here & there can change everything in the blink of an eye, but not withstanding the unforeseeable I believe that this season will mostly adhere to conventional wisdom, but in a fun kind of way. As always I do not condone wagering, especially with my track record. Seriously, the only thing financially riskier than using my football forecast for monetary gain is trusting President Obama and his economic braintrust. Each team’s 2011 record is shown in parentheses, with my prediction for 2012 immediately following.

 

 

NFC East

*Philadelphia Eagles      

(8-8)                      12-4

*Dallas Cowboys             

(8-8)                      10-6

New York Giants             

(9-7)                      8-8

Washington Redskins    

(5-11)                    7-9

Last year the Eagles signed a bunch of big time free agents and bloviated a bit too much about being a team of destiny…then proceeded to fall flat on their face. If…if…QB Michael Vick can stay healthy in 2012 they may finally fulfill their potential. Everybody knows that another disappointing season will cost Coach Andy Reid his job and I don’t think anyone really wants to see that happen. The Cowboys will be in hot pursuit and should make the playoffs. I really like new Redskins field general Robert Griffin III but he is a rookie quarterback and I think we need to lower expectations for a couple of years. A year ago I predicted that the NY Giants wouldn’t “be nearly as good as most others seem to think they will”. They promptly went out and won their 2nd Super Bowl in 5 years. However, I will not be deterred!! Actually if you look closely at last year the Giants went 9-7, backed into the playoffs, then got hot at the right time. That is unlikely to happen again, and I think it far more probable that they will have a similar record in 2012 and fail to reach the postseason rather than actually having a dramatically better regular season this time around.

 

NFC North

*Green Bay Packers      

(15-1)                    11-5

Chicago Bears                   

(8-8)                      9-7         

Detroit Lions                     

(10-6)                    9-7

Minnesota Vikings          

(3-13)                    2-14

I just don’t see this division as being in any doubt. The Packers may have stumbled last year in the playoffs, but they are still among the elite franchises in the NFL and have the best QB in the game. Their aerial attack is so good that their defense just has to be solid, not spectacular. The Bears & the Lions will both be decent and in the midst of the playoff hunt, but I’m just not all that impressed…yet. Give the Lions another year or two. I like young Vikings QB Christian Ponder, and of course when healthy Adrian Petersen is among the best running backs in the business, but there’s really nothing else to be excited about. And if AP doesn’t recover as well as hoped for from knee surgery it could be a v-e-r-y long year for the guys in purple.

 

NFC South

*New Orleans Saints     

(13-3)                    9-7

*Carolina Panthers         

(6-10)                    9-7

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

(4-12)                    7-9

Atlanta Falcons                                

(10-6)                    7-9

I do not believe that a team can go through the turmoil that the Saints have experienced this offseason and not be affected. Their head coach is suspended for an entire year, and the guy they picked to fill in is suspended for the first 6 games. So for nearly half of the season they are being led by a 3rd string head coach. For most teams that would be a fatal blow, but this team has an ace in the hole…QB Drew Brees. There is a school of thought that Brees will lead this team in blitz of anger and dominate their opponents en route to glory just to prove a point and piss off Commandant Fidel Goodell. That sounds like a fun theory, but I don’t believe it’ll be quite that easy. Fortunately for fans in The Big Easy their team plays in a rather mediocre division. I do think QB Cam Newton, in his 2nd year, will surprise a lot of folks and lead his team to the playoffs. The Buccaneers will improve but when a team goes 4-12 there’s really nowhere to go but up. I like new Bucs coach Greg Schiano, but there will be an adjustment…this ain’t The Big East anymore. The surprise might be in Atlanta, where I’m just not sold on the Falcons. QB Matt Ryan will be a free agent after the 2013 season, and by then I think he’ll be ready to flee The Peach State.

 

NFC West

*San Francisco 49ers     

(13-3)                    12-4

St. Louis Rams                  

(2-14)                    8-8

Seattle Seahawks           

(7-9)                      8-8

Arizona Cardinals            

(8-8)                      5-11

Much like the NFC North this division isn’t really all that competitive. The 49ers fell just short of The Super Bowl in coach Jim Harbaugh’s inaugural season…I don’t think winning the division is at the top of their list of goals. I believe the Rams will be much improved and will rebound from last year’s horrible season. The Seahawks are relying on undersized rookie QB Russell Wilson to lead them, which may pay dividends 4 or 5 years from now, but will only result in mediocrity for now. The Cardinals are a mess. A year ago I stated that “I’m sold on new Cardinals QB Kevin Kolb” and predicted a division title. I am not sure what kind of drugs I was on that day. Needless to say I was way…way…way wrong. Is john Skelton the answer?? Hell no. The fans in the desert have to be praying that their Cards can somehow get ahold of USC quarterback Matt Barkley in next year’s draft, and I think they’ll finish in a spot that’ll allow them to do just that. Fortunately they have WR Larry Fitzgerald locked in thru 2018, so atleast they have that going for them.

AFC East

*New England Patriots

(13-3)                    11-5

Buffalo Bills                        

(6-10)                    8-8

New York Jets                  

(8-8)                      7-9

Miami Dolphins                

(6-10)                    3-13

As much as I would love to see the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era come to a devastating end, sadly I don’t think it’s quite that time just yet. The Patriots should run away with the division and be amongst the heavy favorites to contend for The Lombardi Trophy. I really like what the Bills have done with their defense, especially the addition of Mario Williams. However, I do not believe that head coach Chan Gailey nor QB Ryan Fitzpatrick are the long term answers in Buffalo. There is an old adage that says if you have two quarterbacks then you have none, and I think that is exactly the conundrum the NY Jets find themselves in. Tim Tebow, as much as one might appreciate & respect his faith, morality, and personality, is nothing more than a huge distraction in regards to the on-the-field product. Also, RB Shonn Greene, even though he runs behind possibly the best offensive line in football, has not proven that he can be an elite tailback in the NFL. Oh, and whoever winds up being the quarterback doesn’t really have much of anyone to throw to besides head case Santonio Holmes, a #2 receiver trying desperately to convince everyone he is better than he is. And then we have the Miami Dolphins. Anyone who watched HBO’s Hard Knocks this summer can verify that this team is going to be bad…very bad. I think ownership made a horrible mistake hiring Joe Philbin as the new head coach. Philbin seems like a perfectly nice man, but traditionally very nice men don’t make successful NFL coaches. Rookie QB Ryan Tannehill has potential, but he has absolutely no one to throw to outside RB Reggie Bush.

 

AFC North

*Baltimore Ravens         

(12-4)                    11-5

*Pittsburgh Steelers      

(12-4)                    10-6

Cincinnati Bengals           

(9-7)                      9-7

Cleveland Browns           

(4-12)                    2-14

The Bengals did a lot better last year than I predicted, and quarterback Andy Dalton acquitted himself quite nicely. That being said, I don’t think we’ll see anything better in Cincy this season. Note to Bengals fans: “upgrading” from RB Cedric Benson to RB Benjarvus Green-Ellis is kind of like buying a Whopper instead of a Big Mac…better, but still not the steak that you really should spring for. The Browns will be even more horrible than usual. I don’t really understand giving up on QB Colt McCoy in favor of 28 year old rookie Brandon Weeden. It seems like a curious decision, but hey, it’s the Browns…they aren’t known for their smart decisions. So the division undoubtedly will come down to the Ravens and Steelers…again. The Ravens are on borrowed time because after Ray Lewis & Ed Reed are done I think the team will decline. Complicating matters in 2012 is the fact that linebacker Terrell Suggs tore an Achilles tendon last spring and will miss most or possibly all of this season. That would seem to tip things in the Steelers’ favor, but desperation can be a tremendous motivator. As a diehard Steelers fan I have some significant concerns about my team, including the uncertainty at RB (starter Rashard Mendenhall suffered a torn ACL at the end of 2011 season and may or may not be ready to return), an aging & injury riddled defense, a new offensive scheme under coordinator Todd Haley, and an unfortunate pre-season knee injury to promising 1st round pick OL David DeCastro. I do not think that the Steelers will be bad at all, but neither will they be elite.

 

AFC South

*Houston Texans            

(10-6)                    9-7

Tennessee Titans            

(9-7)                      9-7

Indianapolis Colts            

(2-14)                    6-10

Jacksonville Jaguars       

(5-11)                    4-12      

Lots of talking heads are jumping on the Texans bandwagon, and admittedly they do have a solid QB in Matt Schaub and one of the best RBs in the league in Arian Foster…not to mention big time receiver Andre Johnson. But I don’t think it’ll be a walk in the park for Houston. I really like Titans QB Jake Locker, and I think RB Chris Johnson will rebound from a subpar 2011. If Locker has a target or two step up to solidify the passing game I think the boys in Music City will be in the thick of the battle to the very end. Another quarterback I really like is Colts rookie Andrew Luck. In time I believe he will follow a similar path of success to that of his predecessor in Indy Peyton Manning. However, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and improving by just a few games would be a significant reason for optimism. The Jaguars offseason has been dominated by the holdout of RB Maurice Jones-Drew, who magically decided to end the standoff immediately following the end of the pre-season. That does not bode well. I do like rookie WR Justin Blackmon, but I’m just not sure second year signal caller Blaine Gabbert is the right man to deliver the ball. NFL owners & fans have an increasingly short attention span, and Gabbert will need to show remarkable improvement to prevent a loud clamor for his ouster. I think it is very likely that the Jags will be players in the Matt Barkley Sweepstakes.    

 

AFC West

*Denver Broncos            

(8-8)                      10-6

*Kansas City Chiefs        

(7-9)                      9-7

Oakland Raiders              

(8-8)                      8-8

San Diego Chargers        

(8-8)                      6-10

There’s a new sheriff in town in Denver, and his name is Peyton Manning. The Broncos made the playoffs last season with Tebow at the helm, so surely they will be just as good and probably better under the skilled leadership of an actual NFL quarterback. KC is getting alot of buzz these days, and I do think the two headed RB monster of Jamaal Charles & Peyton Hillis can be an effective tandem, but my question is whether or not QB Matt Cassel is the right man for the job. The Raiders just seem to be treading water…neither all that great or too awfully bad. The surprise may be the Chargers, who I picked to win The Super Bowl last year. I was way off base obviously, and am now pretty much convinced that the party is over in San Diego and head coach Norv Turner will soon be enjoying an early retirement.

 

 

 

AFC Championship                          Baltimore            vs.          New England

My six playoff teams are noted (*), and I am not even going to try to get cute with the championship selections. Football fans would love to see another Ravens-Patriots matchup, even though just like last year I would be humbly asking God if there is any way both teams could lose. I don’t think the results will be much different, and we’ll see the damn Patriots in The Super Bowl yet again.

 

NFC Championship                         Green Bay           vs.          Carolina

The predicted playoff teams are noted (*), and I think it’ll come down to the Packers (no surprise) versus the Panthers (kind of a surprise), with Green Bay taking Cam Newton to the woodshed. Don’t worry Carolina fans…his time will come, just not yet. Making it this far only to be demolished by Aaron Rodgers will be a great lesson for the young man and will benefit him tremendously in 3 or 4 years.

 

 

Super Bowl

New England  Patriots                   vs.          Green Bay Packers

As much as I hate to admit it, this one would be a classic. I daresay that it would even be a shootout. The TV folks would LOVE that. In the end though I think the Packers have too much firepower and will win the highest scoring Super Bowl of all time 42-38.

 

Winning & Musing…..Volume 2.12

 

It’s the Super Bowl Edition!!!!

 

 

My Super Bowl XLVI (that’s 46 for those of you in McDowell County WV) prediction…

NY Giants  –  31                  New England Patriots  –  30

Giants’ RB Ahmad Bradshaw will be the MVP. The commercials will suck. Kelly Clarkson will not screw up the anthem like Christina Aguilera did last year. I will not watch that old ho Madonna’s halftime show. NBC will find a way to have Tim Tebow be a part of the pre-game coverage.

 

I just can’t get caught up in all the manufactured hoopla surrounding National Signing Day or anything involving college recruiting. How many 5 star athletes have gone to a big time school only to never be heard from again?? Conversely, how many completely overlooked players have gone on to win national championships, all kinds of awards, and play at a high level in the pros?? I am completely against putting any 18 year old kid on a pedestal and making them a superstar before they’ve accomplished anything significant.

 

At first glance the hiring of (now former) Rutgers coach Greg Schiano to be the head man for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers seems odd & out of left field. But it’s just as possible that it will turn out to be an inspired choice. The other options for Tampa were retreads like former Packers and Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman or Brad Childress, who was a total failure as coach of the Minnesota Vikings. Personally I’m a fan of giving a fresh face the opportunity. Worst case scenario?? Schiano is a bust who goes back to the ranks of college coaching three years from now and the Bucs have to go thru the same process again. However, I think there just might be a chance that this marriage works out quite nicely.

 

Conversely…

Good call by Florida International coach Mario Cristobal NOT to bolt The Sunshine State for Rutgers as Schiano’s replacement. At best it would have been a lateral move, and actually I think it would have been a step down. Just sit tight Coach Cristobal…you’re shot at a big time opportunity will come.

 

Speaking of head coaches…

I’m willing to bet that most Lakers fans would agree with me when I say that the hiring of head coach Mike Brown looks like it may have been a mistake.

 

I mentioned earlier that I will not be watching Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime performance. She has just never frosted my cupcake, even when she was young & hot. Anyway, I am a solutions oriented kind of guy, so I would like to suggest some ideas for future Super Bowl halftime shows:

                Van Halen

                Journey

                George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic

                Genesis

                Toby Keith

                Billy Joel

                Lynyrd Skynyrd

                Bon Jovi

                Garth Brooks

                Metallica

                Duran Duran

                Carrie Underwood

                White Stripes

                Guns n’ Roses

You’re welcome.

 

Age, financial issues, and various other concerns really do seem to be converging in Pittsburgh. I hope I’m wrong, but it seems more than possible that the Steelers may be entering one of those down cycles that can cripple a franchise for 3-5 years.

 

I will admit that I have been rather disdainful of NY Giants QB Eli Manning in the past. He just kind of seemed like a nerdy little milquetoast riding the coattails of his famous family. But he has won me over. Is he in the same league as his more famous & more talented older brother Peyton?? I can’t go quite that far just yet. However, he has finally cemented his spot as one of the elite signal callers in the NFL and taken his rightful place alongside fellow 2004 1st Round picks Ben Roethlisberger, Phillip Rivers, Larry Fitzgerald, Vince Wilfork, and Steven Jackson as examples of “getting it right” (as opposed to ’04 top picks like Robert Gallery, JP Losman, Roy Williams, and Chris Perry…yikes).

 

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.