What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
As we find ourselves on the verge of another NFL season, it is time for the degenerate gambler in me to preview the carnage. Let’s face it, the NFL is comprised of three classes: Really Good, Mediocre, and Lousy. This means NFL predictions are pretty easy to get reasonably correct. For example, the online sports book experts find it easy to predict the AFC East standings each year. As long as quarterback Tom Brady is healthy and playing for a non-senile head coach Bill Belichick in New England, that will be your division favorite. Another point that should be obvious is that if you are reading this article and expecting anything more clever than a sports book expert, maybe you shouldn’t be gambling in the first place.
Having said that, here’s how we see these teams come January (playoff teams noted in green).
The Patriots looked invincible last season until the New York Jets and Giants found their Achilles’ heel yet again. The Jets beat the Patriots twice and the Giants won the Super Bowl based on one dirty little secret about the Patriots. Once you take away their running game, their offense suddenly can’t create plays.
The Brady/Belichick offense needs at least the threat of a running game to keep the opposing safeties honest. Once the defensive secondary can cheat back into pass coverage, a lot of the “easy” passing lanes Brady depends on slam shut like a steel bear trap.
The Jets got worse, the Bills got better, but neither did enough to really make a difference. The Jets get the second spot in the AFC East by default; the Bills and Dolphins are both in that “Lousy” category. The Jets season hinges on two things: the defense has to live up to expectations by being the dominant unit it should be, and Mark Sanchez has to not suck. Frankly, it is time for Sanchez to prove he is worthy of the star status he has been accorded. If he finally shows us he is the “San-chise,” another deep play-off run is possible. But it isn’t likely…get ready for Tebow-Mania – The New York Edition.
The Ravens defense used to be radioactive to offenses, but like all radioactive elements, eventually they pass their half-life and the decay becomes noticeable. This may not be the year that happens, but it is getting more likely with time. Not to mention, the Ravens are no longer offensively-challenged. Now that Ray Rice is locked up, expect this to be the year Joe Flacco shows that he is a Top 5 quarterback in this league.
Flacco isn’t flashy, but he’s never thrown more than 12 interceptions in a single season. Quarterbacks that don’t give the ball away are infinitely more valuable than those who toss 20+ interceptions. This is also the year the Bengals force a changing of the guard in this division. At the same, Cincinnati is young and full of talent and the Steelers are old and already hurt. The constant will be the Browns, who will prove yet again to be a non-factor.
Once again, here’s another division winner by default. This division goes to the Texans largely because the Titans are depending on an unproven rookie Tebow-esque quarterback in Jake Locker, a now-unreliable Chris Johnson by default, and Kenny Britt is a variable nobody needs. Jacksonville is just plain bad, and I don’t even want to picture that team without Maurice Jones-Drew. Lastly, while it may be the dawn of the Luck era in Indianapolis, the offensive line still looks weaker than no-alcohol beer and the defense acts more like the express lane at the toll-booth.
Welcome to the AFC “7-9 Division,” or as I like to call it, the “Somebody’s got to win it” Division. Here’s another default situation which drives me nuts. Every year, I get sucked in by the Chargers, only to watch them underperform. Those days are over, because I will never say a kind thing about the Chargers ever again as long as that organization doesn’t realize that Norv Turner is to football coaches as Benito Mussolini is to successful fascist dictators.
As I said before about the AFC West, nobody is really good enough to win this division. The Chiefs look the best on paper, but they have so many question marks nobody can tab them for sure. We already know the Chargers won’t be a factor, thanks to Norv the Numbskull. The Raiders have the usual Raider drama, and I refuse to annoit the Denver Mannings because I am not convinced that Peyton’s neck won’t explode at some point during the season., although they will likely be a play-off team.
Granted, the Giants are once again the defending Super Bowl Champions, which is less a function of their talent level and more a product of the fact Patriots are the league’s new big-game choke artists.
However, the Giants are still the class of this division.
As a life-long Eagles’ fan, I hate Michael Vick as my quarterback because he excels at getting the crap beaten out of him, which helps explain why he gets progressively worse as the season progresses. Not to mention he is age-wise already north of 30, and I don’t know of too many athletes that aged like wine; running quarterbacks age like milk.
Then there’s the Cowboys. To buy this team, I need to do two things that make me nervous. First, I have to buy Tony Romo as a quarterback who can win a game that means something; here’s a guy who is also past 30 who I keep hearing “needs to live up to his potential.” Isn’t there a point where you realize this is what you get, there is nothing in terms of “potential” left to live up to?
The only thing for sure about this division is that the Redskins will be a vortex of inter-galactic suckittude; the kind that generates such a gravitational pull it threatens to collapse under its own mass. Robert Griffin III has no chance to solve all the problems this team has; his best chance might be if he shot Mike Shanahan in the back of the head.
When healthy, the Packers are amongst the best team in the league. But since the advent of the salary cap era, there have been very few truly complete teams, and Green Bay is no exception to that rule. They are really a green and yellow version of the Patriots; they have a big-time quarterback, an offense built around that quarterback, and they both like to lose to the Giants.
Meanwhile, three hours to the south lies the enigma known as the Chicago Bears. How can a team have so many ex-head coaches on its staff (Mike Martz, Rod Marinelli, and Mike Tice) and not know that a key to a successful offense is not letting the other team turn their quarterback into lawn mulch? It is easy to beat on Jay Cutler, but’s let’s be fair, he could sue his offensive line for non-support.
If there’s a guy in Chicago who should be getting called out, it’ s Lovie Smith. He’s done the least with the most talent of nearly any coach in this league, and yet his job never seems to be in danger. One can make an argument that a coach who didn’t have his head up his ass could have won two Super Bowls with the Bears during the Lovie regime, but nobody ever seems to mention that…
I don’t care what anybody says, I don’t buy the Lions. Sure, Calvin Johnson is a freak show, but I’m convinced that Matthew Stafford is a one-trick pony and Jim Schwartz is one of the worst coaches in the league. The Lions have no discipline and they play really stupid football far too often.
This will be the second year of the post-Favre debacle in Minnesota; an era that will continue to be marked by 5-win seasons and a continued failure to understand the value of the quarterback position and the talent required to make a winner. Oh, and Adrian Peterson will never be the same. Get used to it.
This division is an exercise in the process of elimination. The Saints are a question mark after having been nuked by Kommissar Goodell. Drew Brees still captains one of the most potent offenses in the league, but nobody has noticed the offensive line isn’t what it used to be. The Panthers are like a race-car engine; will its’ main Cam-shaft hold up? Cam Newton isn’t going to surprise anybody this season; NFL defenses are going to be geared to stop him as he really represents the motor that drives the Panther offense. Then, there’s the sad state of affairs in Tampa. The Buccaneers might use their pirate ship to sail for Cuba to plead for asylum.
Remember a few years ago when we had to live through all the belly-aching that went on about how a team with a losing record shouldn’t be in the playoffs? Yeah, the 7-9 record of the SeaHacks won fair and square, the SeaHacks won under the architecture provided, and the people who bitched the loudest about the NFL playoff system are the same ones who beat on college football for not having a playoff.
That won’t be a problem this year, since the 49ers may very well be the best team in the league. They are certainly the most complete. They have a solid offensive line, a great defense, and a coach who has been a winner at every level he’s competed. The million dollar question is this: Can Alex Smith repeat last season’s performance in which he finally looked like a legitimate NFL quarterback? The rest of this division can be summed up by the Mettalica classic…Nothing Else Matters.