Tailgates are being oiled, grills are being stoked, mischievous mascots are up to no good, pom-poms are being pommed, cheerleaders are wearing as little as possible, drunken fat dudes are painting themselves in their team colors and I still hate your favorite team. Welcome to the Behind The Shades edition of the 2009 NFL Prediction Blog.
For the true football fanatic, the time between the end of the SuperDuperBowl and the first Thursday night game in September is almost sheer agony. Sure you have the “intrigue” of the NFL Draft (Will Mel Kiper’s hair move ? Will Chris Berman use the entire dictionary & a thesaurus to boot ? Will someone get left in the green room long after everyone else is gone ? Has anyone learned how to dress like an NBA draft choice ?) followed by training camp (Who is holding out ? Who is fighting who in the drills, sidelines & bars ? Which unheralded rookie will be the flavor of the week after a breakout 4th quarter in the first preseason game ?) followed by your Fantasy Draft (Which team name is the worst ? Who is going to be picked first ? Who is going to pick the first player who was either arrested or found dead over the offseason ?) but those are all just time fillers until Hank Williams, Jr asks us all “Are you ready for some football ?”. Over the next few pages, because I have a lot of educated opinions & facts to spew, I am going to tell you exactly how the season is going to lay out, unfold & progress. In the many years that I have been offering this service I have yet to be wrong, so with that caveat in place, why don’t we have at it ? The first kickoff is getting closer by the minute.
Now in my world the sun is orange with tints of blue and God looks a lot like John Elway. With that qualifier in place I am once again going to predict that my Denver Broncos will run roughshod over the AFC West and the rest of the NFL on their way to a perfect 16-0 season and another SuperDuperBowl title in Miami. I will give you all a minute to call your bookies in Vegas so you can get your $$$ down as quickly as possible before the odds plummet. Now that you are back let me explain. I am a true fan. I am a true orange & blue fan. I go into every week of the season believing my team will win. I never think they will lose until the clock hits 0:00 and the final gun sounds. So 16-0 sounds perfectly rational to me at this point. Hearing Roger Goodell announce next spring “With the first pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos select….” sounds more realistic but that too is somewhat flawed in that my stupid Donkeys have already traded away their # 1 pick in the this year’s draft so all our losing will come to naught.
In the real world, the sun is yellow and in the AFC Worst it is tinged with blue lightning bolts. The Chargers, loathe that I am to say it, are obviously the cream of this curdled crop of football teams. Their late season run (combined with my donkey’s collapse) confirmed that this team has the tools to win the division again. LTD is going to be a man on a mission as he tries to prove to his detractors that he isn’t old, injured or done. If he does falter, the Bolts do have Darren Sproles but there is a question as to whether he can actually live up to the week to week workload. Luckily for both of them, San Diego does have Phillip Rivers at QB and yes, I would trade Eli Manning again today for him. The Broncos are a team in shambles & disrepair. The whole crybaby saga between Jay Cutler & new coach Josh McDaniels was enough to make anyone sick and now star wideout Brandon Marshall is trying his hardest to get in on the act too. The Donkeys still have a suspect defense thanks to drafting yet another running back. Combine that with either Kyle Orton or Chris “Splenectomy” Simms at starting QB and it is going to be a long season in the Mile High. In Kansas City, the Chiefs faithful are already being tested as their new QB, the walking talking touchdown tossing Ken doll’s stand in – Matt Cassel, is already getting banged up. Maybe the chiefs should let him sit out the opener in Baltimore just to be on the safe side. They aren’t making the playoffs this year anyway so a loss that keeps your franchise qb from being decapitated isn’t going to hurt. They also just fired their offensive coordinator and the new head coach, who’s name escapes me and really is irrelevant anyway, is taking over his duties which is never a good portent for the future. As for the Raiders, well when I went to Oakland to talk to Coach Tom Cable about his chances this year, he threatened to punch me out so I left. Suffice to say, the raiders would have trouble beating Notre Dame.
Over in the AFC Least, Bill Belicheat could probably find a way to steal 10 wins for the Patricheats if he had Boy George at quarterback so I fully expect them to run away with the division now that the walking talking touchdown tossing Ken doll is back from his season ending knee surgery and has married a real life Barbie. There is nothing in the division that should be able to stop them. Especially since Belicheat is above the rules. Down in Miami they are going to be wildcatting it again this year (for those who don’t know, the Wildcat Formation is this year’s featured flavor of the month and even Grandpa Odin up in Minnesota has split out wide in a preseason game) but I don’t think that C-H-A-D chadchadchad is going to be catching anyone by surprise this time. The Fish would have a better chance in the division if they got one of their new owners (Hello Serena !) and lined her up as an outside pass rushing linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme. The J-E-T-S jetsjetsjets have a new coach, a new quarterback and 2 disgruntled running backs. Combine that with a first round pick who is already bringing back memories of Blair Thomas & Johnny “Lame” Jones with his lack of preseason production. The J-E-T-S jetsjetsjets will get plenty of press in NYC but the back page of the Post will still belong to Eli & Company. The Bills added T.O. for one year this past offseason because no one else was willing to touch him. I personally wouldn’t touch him with a Hazmat suit. He really is the classic example of subtraction by addition. Add in the 3 game suspension that Marshawn Lynch has to serve to start the season and the Bills are going to be lucky to be playing catch-up all season long.
The AFC North is going to come down to 2 teams – The Steelers & The Ravens. Cincinnati will only be heard from whenever Chad Ochocinco twitters & tweets which based on his tweet count maybe be more than any of us will ever care to hear about the Bungles. The Brownies are finally going to start their overrated former Notre Dame quarterback, Brady Quinn, who better be better at tossing footballs then he was throwing Subway sandwiches in that ad a few years ago. The Steelers may be defending SuperDuperBowl champs and Big Ben may have stayed off the motorcycles but I don’t think they are going to be strong enough to hold off Ray Lewis and his crew of felons from Baltimore. Joe Flacco isn’t showing any signs of a sophomore jinx through the preseason and the 3 headed running back they have in RiceMcGaheeMcClain will have football fans remembering the days of 3 headed Broncos running backs. These 3 will be better however. If Ray Lewis can stick to killing people on the field instead of off the field, this team could be headed for Miami in February.
The AFC South will probably be the only division in the AFC that will have some intrigue from top to bottom. Any of these 4 teams is actually capable of winning the division and any of the 4 teams is actually capable of falling completely off the map. Last year the Texans were the Flavor of the Month and then went bad like mayo at a hot bbq in August when fragile Matt Schaub went down yet again. That was okay last year because they had Slingin’ Sage Rosenfels as their backup qb but now he’s up in Viking land backing up the Ancient One so when Schaub goes down (like now), they are screwed. Andre Johnson is still a man among boys at WR but Steve Slaton will be this year’s fantasy football bust. The Jags were supposed to be the other contender last year but they played like Fred Taylor’s groin and were never in it. Now that the groin has gone to New England, fantasy owners are happy because it means the UCLA bowling ball that is Maurice Jones Drew will get all the meaningful carries but it really won’t matter in the long run because as long as any team has David Garrard as their starting qb, they aren’t winning the SuperDuperBowl. The Titans got a surprise last year in that Kerry Collins drank from the Fountain of Youth instead of from the Fountain of Booze and stepped up admirably when Vince Young flaked out. They have a crew of no name receivers, two more than capable running backs in Chris Johnson & LenDale White (who goes after the endzone like he goes after a cheezburger) and a decent defense but they always seem to come up a yard short. The Colts have America’s pitchman, Peyton Manning (who has actually shown a hell of a talent for self deprecating humor – we will see him on ESPN or NBC in a few years), at qb and as long as he is upright and can throw the ball downfield to whoever is running under it, the Colts are going to be contenders in the division. I just don’t think they have what it takes to get the job done anymore and that this is a team that is on the downhill side of their once promising run.
Over in the NFC Least you have a division full of teams that I just can’t stand. Dan Snyder has made the redskins unwatchable with his ego & checkbook constantly getting in the way. Jason Campbell at quarterback also makes the redskins unwatchable. Clinton Portis is only watchable now when he is embodying one of his many different personalities. I do own Santana Moss in one of my fantasy leagues so I guess I do have to watch the redskins on Monday mornings in the boxscores but that is going to be it. The Iggles were probably the least disagreeable team in the division once you got past the fact that they were from Philadelphia. I mean the only good thing about Philly is leaving in my book. The cheesesteaks are overrated and the cream cheese is meh. I prefer Neufchatel myself but that is beside the point and totally irrelevant at this time. The Iggles could always be counted on to screw with the Jints at some point in the season and the wars with the cowpokies were always interesting for the number of fans that got arrested, booked & tossed in the stadium pokie. Then they had to go sign Michael Vick. Woof. I wonder if the Iggles play in Cleveland this year. That would be a fun game to watch just for the reaction of the Dawg Pound. No matter how good Michael Westbrook is at RB, he is going to break at some point and McNabb can’t shoulder it all alone – he’s too old & broken for that. The less we say about Jerry Jones & the cowpokies the better. The best thing to happen to them over the offseason was Tony Romo dumping Jessica Simpson. As for the cowpokies new stadium, well, we all know that Jerry Jones is compensating for his shortcomings with the size of his video screen hanging over the field. I hope every punter in the league aims for that thing and that they hit it over & over & over again so that Roger Goodell finally has to tell Jerry to pound sand and raise it. I also need to go back to Dallas to visit so I can give the new Texas Stadium the same single digit salute I gave the old one oh so many times in the past. Now I was brought up in a J-E-T-S jetsjetsjets household so I was taught to hate the Giants (Jints) from an early age. Having all my friends as jints fans made it easier and the fact that they stunk made it even easier still. I continued my hatred of the jints through college and into my years in Denver when I got to watch them beat my Donkeys for their first SuperDuperBowl victory. I reveled in their blowout at the hands of Ray Lewis and the rest of the felons known as the Ravens. I had an even tougher time watching when they beat the undefeated Patricheats even though I wanted the patricheats to lose because the thought of having to live with SuperDuperBowl winning fans (who are also almost ALL Yankees fans too) was almost enough to make me ill. I did enjoy last year when Plaxico shot himself in the leg and I am glad that Gaptooth Strahan finally retired. The jints player I can’t stand the most is the one that is lionized the most often and that is Peyton’s little brother. I really wanted to see the Williams sisters beat them in that oreo commercial. As an aside, now that I think about it, Venus looks like she could be a pretty decent nickelback in an end of the game prevent situation. Have I talked about the jints enough yet ? Can you feel my love for them ? Good, let’s move on.
The happiest person in the NFC North to see Grandpa Hornhead (or Odin or whatever name we finally agree on for the qb that just won’t retire) was probably the new crybaby in Chicago. Da Bears stole an all-pro caliber qb to go with a strong defense and a solid running game. Too bad he doesn’t have anyone to throw to at WR or TE. The Monday Morning Quarterback & Brett Favre Fellatilist (until this season) Peter King of Sports Illustrated actually picked Da Bears to go to the SuperDuperBowl this year. I am picking Crybaby Cutler to break his leg in week 1. Minnesota may have the best RB in the game in Adrian Peterson but the Vikes also have Grandpa Whatever we wind up calling him and you just know that at some critical point in the season, he is either going to break down or throw and interception. The Vikings are going to contend in the Black & Blue and may even make the playoffs but Miami will not be their final destination this year. Green Bay may actually be the most solid team in the division this year. Aaron Rodgers had a year under the microscope and now the spotlights are shining elsewhere in the division. Ryan Grant & Greg Jennings offer more than a 1-2 punch on offense and the defense usually has some dreadlocked defensive back that can hit & make plays. Look for the Cheeseheads to steal the division from the other 2 teams. Notice I didn’t include Detroit ? the Lions may have finally gotten rid of that football idiot Matt Millen but it is going to be years before they are even close to being good again. From a fantasy standpoint, Calvin Johnson is truly godlike and the absolute ONLY reason to even watch this miserable team.
The NFC South is going to be a crapshoot again this year and in a good way for football fans. The Atlanta Falcons are the favorite due to Matt Ryan at QB, Michael Turner (everyone’s # 1 or 2 fantasy pick) at RB, Roddy White at WR and new offensive toy, Tony Gonzalez, at Tight End. The big question is whether the defense can go all Dirty Bird against the high powered offense coming out of the Big Easy. Speaking of the Saints, Drew Brees is one pass happy MoFo who almost caught & passed Mr. Isotoner Glove’s single season passing record and he didn’t have Marques Colston for a good part of the year and he is also still stuck with Jeremy Shockey at Tight End. Reggie bush still hasn’t proven that he deserve all the outrage for not being picked #1 in the draft a few years back which is probably due to his involvement with the publicity seeking attention whores that are the Kardashians. Pierre Thomas has quietly become a quality back and has made fans in the bayou not miss Deuce & his injured knees as much as they did in the past. The Carolina Panthers are a team that never seems to fall too far by the wayside but are also a team that can’t seem to get it finally done either. At least Steve Smith hasn’t gone all Tom Cable in preseason this year and punched anyone out on his defense. Julius Peppers leads that group and for a relative bunch of no names, they do know how to hit & play. DeAngelo Williams had 18 TD’s last year and there is no reason to think he won’t keep finding the endzone this year. Jake Delhomme is still at QB despite how much fans hate him. It seems like he has been in the league a long, long time and that is about all I can say for him. Down in Tampa, QB is one spot where the Bucs have a big question mark. Byron Leftwich is now going to be the starter but Josh Freeman is going to be looking over his shoulder. The rest of the Bucs are a pretty non-descript group which was fine when Jon Gruden was coaching because he enjoyed keeping the spotlight on himself and not his players but now someone, maybe Earnest Graham, is going to have to step up and carry the load for the Bucs to have a chance. They could play spoiler in the division but I think they are going to be looking at a last place schedule next year.
Out in the NFC Worst, the obvious pick is the defending NFC Champs, the Arizona Cardinals but I am not too sure about that. I think Kurt Warner’s glass slipper may not fit him as well this year but as long as he keeps upright long enough to chuck it downfield, both Larry Fitzgerald & Anquan Boldin are threats to haul it in and take it to the house. Tim Hightower is legit at RB and beanie Wells could be a nice 3rd down option for now. 9-7 may actually win this division. Word out of Seattle is that Matt Hasselbeck is upright again and with TJ Who’syourmama now at WR & a potentially healthy Edgerrin James at RB combined with the (stolen from Texas A&M and why would you steal anything from an Aggie ?) 12th Man could result in them having a legit shot at returning to the top. In SF the Niners have a coach in Mike Singletary who can probably suit up and still rip the head off the opposing QB. In a street fight I would even give the edge to Singletary over his East Bay counterpart, Tom Cable, with the Raiders. Alex Smith has been an absolute bust at quarterback (he’s backing up Shaun Hill for god’s sake – bet the Niners can’t wait to shed Smith’s salary cap hit) and no matter how good Frank Gore has been in the past, he can’t do it all for this team. Their only saving grace is that the St. Louis Rams round out this division. Bulger ? Boller ? Does it matter ? All the Lambs can hope for is that Steven Jackson stays healthy and that everyone else in the division sucks. They are a hopeless franchise that won’t be the worst in the NFC only because the Lions are still supposedly playing pro ball.
So now that we know how the regular season is going to turn out, how do I see the Post Season unfolding ? Let’s take a look….
In the AFC, the real challenge is deciding who the 2nd wildcard team is going to be. I see New England & San Diego getting the top 2 seeds based solely on how they will feast on their divisional opponents and pump up their records. Baltimore & most likely Indianapolis will win the North & South respectively. The two wildcard teams will be Pittsburgh and Houston – just squeezing out the Titans (and making everyone in Houston feel some Oiler Pride – LUV YA BLUE – in the process). Of course the ravens will add some black to that blue in the first round as they kill the Texans and the Steelers will beat the Colts in what is really the beginning of the end for America’s pitchman. That would set up the Patricheats hosting the Steely McBeams and the Chargers hosting the Ravens. Now I may be wrong but I haven’t been yet so I see Belicheat & The walking talking touchdown tossing Ken doll beating Big Ben & Troy Polamalou (the Head & Shoulders guys with the Michael Jackson voice) up in New England and the Ravens committing a couple of felonious assaults out on the west coast to set up what should be a classic cold weather, bad weather AFC Conference Championship game. Hard to bet against the Patricheats but I would since I see the Ravens lowering the boom defensively and the 3 headed running back combo pounding it along the ground until the kid from Delaware proves that you don’t have to go to a big school to be a winner. The Ravens will head to Miami as the AFC Champs.
In the NFC, the picture is a little cloudier. Kind of like the stolen cable we had in our frat house my junior year in college. Trying to pick a Number 1 seed out of this mish mash is kind of like throwing darts at balloons at the carnival, you know you are going to hit something but probably not the balloon you aimed for because the weighting is off. I went into this with one team in mind and came out with another one at the end. Unlike the AFC, none of these teams is getting fat & happy on their divisional rivals but I do see New Orleans & Philadelphia (provided Westbrook stays healthy and Vick doesn’t get bit by a dog or the Philly Fanatic) sneaking into the bye week while the Packers & the Cardinals will get to host wildcard games. The Black & Blue Division will spend most of their time beating on each other and I think that in the end, the Falcons will take advantage of that and steal the 6th spot while the Giants will outlast the Cowpokies and take the 5th spot. I see the Pack handling the Falcons as Brett contemplates retirement again from his Mississippi abode and the Giants will end the charade that is the Cardinals. In the next round I see the Saints rouller-ing over the Giants as the ghost of Archie Manning makes Eli do stupid things down on the Bayou while up in Philly, the pack continue their unlikely run. The Conference Championship game will see the revelers on Bourbon Street implode with ecstasy as the Drew Brees finally leads the Saints to the SuperDuperBowl.
And speaking of which, Landshark Stadium in Miami will be rocking & rolling as the impenetrable defense of the felonious Ravens meets the pass happy airborne attack of the Saints. The Ravens, as a franchise, have been here before and they know the taste of victory having savored it in the past. The Saints have only been here as fans in the stands but I am feeling as good about them as I am my SuperDuperBowl menu (which this week just got the addition of Tennessee Tailpipes from Fat Annie’s Truck Stop on 33rd between 6th & 7th – wow). A lifetime of pain & suffering will finally be lifted as the voodoo witch doctors spread some gris gris on Ray Lewis and the Saints emerge as champions by a final score of 23-17 in a game that America watches until the end and not just for the commercials.
So there you have it. Take it to the Bank. Take it to your Bookie. Take it to Vegas. Print it out and follow along this season as each comment unfolds in real life. Remember, I haven’t been wrong yet.
Of course the season starts on Thursday and then all bets are off.
From behind the shades……swampy abides…..