Archive for September, 2013

Week Four Picks

September 26th, 2013 Comments off

Yeah, last week didn’t work out so well for me with the picks. It happens. And, for what it’s worth, I’m almost certain to do even worse this time around. So, you know, enjoy. The joke’s on me. Here’s what not to expect.

San Francisco (-3) at St. Louis
Conventional wisdom is the the 49ers will take this game, because (as I understand it) it’s inconceivable that last year’s NFC champions could lose three straight, and, this is the really good one, because they looked a lot better beating Green Bay in week one than they did losing to Seattle and Indianapolis in weeks two and three. (Take a minute to absorb that last bit of wisdom, courtesy of football experts everywhere.) It’s an interesting perspective. But, um, I guess I should point out that in this context when I say interesting, I mean stupid. The Niners may well win this game — they’re favored over a division opponent on the road, after all, and there’s a reason for that — but they’re not going to win it because they played really well in January, or because their offense looked really good three weeks ago. If the 49ers get off the schneid here, it will be because their defense has figured out how to stop giving up 27 points a game and their offense has figured out how to operate without Vernon Davis — or with Davis playing at less than full speed, if that turns out to be the case. (Figuring out how to hold onto the damned ball might come in handy as well.) Limiting St. Louis shouldn’t prove too much trouble. The Rams have a one-dimensional offense that four days ago brushed up against no-dimensional. If San Francisco surrenders four touchdowns this week, they’re in serious trouble. As for getting the offense going, I’m not sure. The Rams haven’t stopped much of anything this season, so they shouldn’t get in the way. But I’ll believe this year’s Niners can operate without Davis at 100 percent when I see it. I suspect San Francisco will be able to do just enough to pull themselves back to .500. And given that they’ll have ten days to recover prepare for Houston, that might actually be enough to right the ship moving forward. But I won’t be shocked if St. Louis manages an upset here, and I’m not willing to give more than a point to the home dogs. Niners win it 24-23.

Baltimore (-3) at Buffalo
Yup, the Ravens defense sure did give up an embarrassing 49 points in the season opener. They’ve allowed a grand total of 15 points in the two weeks since. And I’m pretty sure Peyton Manning won’t be suiting up for the Bills this weekend. So I’m gonna go out on a limb and take Baltimore. By a touchdown, anyhow.

Arizona (+2.5) at Tampa Bay
Will Mike Glennon fare better behind center for the Buccaneers than Josh Freeman has this season? I don’t know. Pretty sure he can’t do a whole lot worse. Glennon also has the advantage of facing a team without much by way of a pass defense (and not much of an offense to balance it), a luxury Freeman never got. So, sure, let’s ride with the rookie. What’s it to me? I’m not actually putting money on these games. Bucs by a field goal.

Pittsburgh (-2.5) vs. Minnesota at Wembley Stadium, London
It’s as if the NFL wanted to prove to the Brits that American football really can be every bit as boring as soccer. At least one of these 0-3 powerhouses is guaranteed not to lose this week. I’ll go with the one no longer quarterbacked by Christian Ponder. Vikings by four.

NY Giants (+4.5) at Kansas City
Oh, boy, Eli. Do you know which team leads the NFL in sacks? Yeah, that’s right. And it can’t be welcome news for a guy playing behind one of the league’s most porous offensive lines, a guy who’s either been sacked or thrown an interception once in every six and a half times he’s dropped back to pass so far this season. Ugly gets uglier as the Giants fall to 0-4 behind yet another blowout loss. Chiefs by 20.

Indianapolis (-8.5) at Jacksonville
For whatever it’s worth, though, at least the Giants aren’t the worst 0-3 team in the NFL. That distinction goes to the squad that’s been outscored 92-28 in it’s first three games. Let’s play the averages and expect the difference to climb to 123-37, which is to say, Indy wins 31-9.

Seattle (-2.5) at Houston
I’m still not entirely sold on Seattle, but there’s no pretending the Seahawks are playing anything less than outstanding football right now. The Texans, on the other hand, have been hovering around the OK mark, looking like they’re trying to find an easy route to disappointing. They’ll cover a good bit of distance here. Matt Schaub throws a pair of costly picks and the Seahawks win by 14.

Cincinnati (-4.5) at Cleveland
The Bengals are certainly the better team in this matchup. But the Browns at least have a defense that should be able to keep it close in their own building. Cincinnati by a field goal.

Chicago (+3) at Detroit
Stay away from the outcome and just bet the over. Bears by six.

NY Jets (+3.5) at Tennessee
Stay away from the outcome and just bet the under. Titans win 16-13.

Washington (-3) at Oakland
The Racists have to win something sometime. Right? And, you know, it’s not like the Raiders have a defense. Actually, it’s not like either team has a defense. But one of them at least is supposed to have an offense. So, sure, Washington by seven.

Philadelphia (+10.5) at Denver
Oh, my god, Peyton. Would you please get over yourself already? You’re actually making me want to root for Michael Vick‘s team. Not that it would do them the least bit of good. Broncos win it 35-17.

Dallas (-2) at San Diego
You know, San Diego, it’s going to be kind of tough for Tony Romo to throw the pick that loses the game if you don’t have anybody who can actually snag an interception. Cowboys by four.

New England (+2) at Atlanta
Tell me whether Rob Gronkowski will be back in the starting lineup for New England and I’ll tell you how this game turns out. I really think it’s that simple. Because as much as Tom Brady may choose to blame himself for the Patriots’ lack of production in the red zone, the truth is that without the guy who led the team in touchdown catches last season — hauling in 11, which matches the production of Brady’s second (Welker, 6) and third (Hernandez, 5) top TD targets — New England is going to continue to struggle to finish drives. If the Patriots defense is for real — and we’ll start to find out whether it is here — they should have an opportunity to limit Atlanta’s scoring. But limit isn’t the same as stop. And the Falcons at home should be able to put up 17 to 21. That means New England’s offense is going to have to produce better than it has through the first three weeks of the season. And they’re going to have to do it through the air, because the Falcons D doesn’t surrender rushing TDs. So, again, tell me about Gronkowski and I’ll tell you about the game. Only, you don’t know any more about whether Gronkowski’s going to play — or at what level — than I do. So I’ll roll the dice. I’ll guess that Gronk’s ready to go and that he’ll be able to contribute. And because of that, I’ll take the Patriots to win it by a field goal.

Miami (+6.5) at New Orleans
Sometimes a team is for real, and sometimes it’s not. Until the Dolphins figure out a way to protect Ryan Tannehill (who’s been sacked a league-high average of nearly five times per game), they won’t be for real. Saints by a touchdown.

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Week Three Picks, Post Thursday Night

September 22nd, 2013 Comments off

Well, I called the upset on Thursday night OK. So that should be it for me and getting anything right this week. Here’s what no to expect today and tomorrow.

San Diego (+3) at Tennessee
Traveling across (or very nearly across) the country for a second week in a row won’t be easy on the Chargers. Neither will the Titans defense. Tennessee by a touchdown.

Cleveland (+7) at Minnesota
Two games in and the Browns have called it a season. That’s gotta be some kind of new record, right? I’m sure it’s doing absolute wonders for team morale. Vikings by 20.

Tampa Bay (+7) at New England
The over/under on this game is 44. Who they hell is Vegas kidding? The two defenses have allowed a combined average of 33.5 per game. And neither team has anything even approaching a complete offense. I’ll be mildly surprised if the total points in this one gets above 30. The Patriots are at home, and they at least have a quarterback (it would be helpful if they also had more than one healthy guy who could catch a ball, but so it goes), so I’ll take them to win. But not by a touchdown. New England 17-13.

Houston (-2) at Baltimore
The Ravens just don’t have it in them to slow down the Texans’ passing attack. Houston by a touchdown.

St. Louis (+3.5) at Dallas
Neither of these teams is going anywhere. That’s about all I can say for sure. And if I were smart, I’d take the home favorite straight up and think about taking the visitors to cover. But I’m not smart. And I simply can never trust a team that believes in Tony Romo. So let’s go with the outright upset. Rams by a field goal.

Arizona (+7.5) at New Orleans
Drew Brees has thrown as many interceptions to this point in the season as he has touchdowns (three each). That’s a statistical anomaly for Brees, and I expect it’s going to get corrected over the balance of the season. That’s too bad for the Cardinals, too, because they’re not winning this game without creating a few turnovers. But who knows, maybe they’ll force a few fumbles. I mean, I’m not staking anything on the possibility, but it could happen. Maybe. Then again, probably not. Saints by 10.

Detroit (pick ’em) at Washington
A second straight road game for the Lions, who suffered a tough loss in Arizona last weekend. Plus, while Reggie Bush may play, he certainly won’t be operating at full speed. If I thought the Racists could get out of their own damned way, I’d pick them without reservation. But I don’t think Washington can do much of anything well right now. So while I’m still picking the home team, I’m doing it with serious reservations. Washington by a single point.

Green Bay (-3) at Cincinnati
There’s a little voice in the back of my head screaming about how the Bengals are going to win this game. But there’s a bigger voice in the front of my head that looks at the Packers offense and screams back (more loudly), “Shut up. No they’re not.” I’m riding with the big voice, partially because he scares me a little. Green Bay wins it straight up. It’s a push with the points.

NY Giants (-1.5) at Carolina
Eli Manning is on track to throw an NFL record-shattering 56 interceptions this season. That won’t hold up, of course, though Eli does look like he’s going to push to top his personal high of 25 in a season (2010). Despite that, and despite the not-unrelated fact that the Giants have given up more points than any other team in the NFL this season, I still see New Jersey as the better squad in this matchup. Because, yes, I know, I’m delusional. Still and all, Giants by four.

Atlanta (+3) at Miami
I agree with the common perception that Miami’s defense — particularly its sacktacular pass rush — will make things very tough on Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense. I’m not so sure I agree with the notion that making things very tough equates to shutting things down. I suspect the Falcons will pull out a win here. Atlanta by three.

Indianapolis (+10) at San Francisco
The Colts may have a shiny new running back (exact level of shininess to be determined), but he’s not going to win them this game. These 49ers don’t lose two straight. And the Colts don’t have enough defense to change that. Niners by 14.

Jacksonville (+19.5) at Seattle
I wonder if the Seahawks, who are coming off a Sunday night beatdown of the division rival 49ers, will be able to care enough about this game to bury the Jaguars the way they probably should. I’m taking Seattle straight up, of course, because the Jags look to me like a team headed for 0-16. But I’ll take Jacksonville to cover. Barely. Seattle by 17.

Buffalo (+2.5) at NY Jets
Neither of these teams is very good. So when I say the Bills are better than the Jets, you understand that what I really mean is less bad, right. Less bad Buffalo wins the turnover battle by one and the game by three.

Chicago (-2) at Pittsburgh
In which Ben Roethlisberger throws no fewer than two picks, one of which goes for six the other way. Chicago 23-6.

Oakland (+15.5) at Denver
Maybe the best thing you can say about the Raiders is that they might not be as bad as everyone expected. Or if you just wanted to focus on the positive, you could point out that the Oakland D has done a pretty good job of getting to opposing quarterbacks. The Raiders have logged nine sacks over their first two games. That’s troublesome news if you’re a team for which protecting the quarterback is even more important than usual and that just lost another key piece of its offensive line. It doesn’t add up to an Oakland upset, mind you, but it might keep it closer than expected. Denver by 13.

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Week Three Thursday Night Pick

September 19th, 2013 Comments off

So, yeah, I’m not getting through all 16 games before kickoff tonight. And, really, I don’t know how much of any value I have to say about tonight’s game. But I’ll say it anyhow. Because who’s gonna stop me?

Kansas City (+3) at Philadelphia
So the question everyone seems to be asking about this game is, how is Kansas City’s offense going to put up enough points to stay in it? It’s the wrong question, and it’s based on the flawed assumption that Chip Kelly‘s system has to succeed in the NFL. It doesn’t. And, while the Eagles sure look fast, a 1-1 record built on a narrow victory over a hobbled and rusty Washington Racists squad followed by a full-on collapse at home against the mighty San Diego Chargers isn’t anything anyone should get excited about. The Eagles have no defense. None. And an offense that runs around like crazy isn’t going to change that. The Chiefs, on the other hand, have a defense. It’s a defense that former Eagles coach Andy Reid built, in part, to stop offenses like Kelly’s. Kansas City also has an offense that’s capable of putting up points, particularly when they face soft Ds like Philly’s. Chiefs in the “upset.” By a touchdown.

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Week Two Picks

September 12th, 2013 Comments off

I think I know a little more this week than I did last. Or I don’t. My top talent as a prognosticator remains my ability to pretend after the fact that I knew something all along. (Bet you don’t know anyone else like that, huh?) Still, if Rex Ryan can continue to charge into this season in the face of certain failure, so can I. Here’s what not to expect in week two.

NY Jets (+11.5) at New England
I don’t know what to make of this damned game. Sure, the Jets are completely awful and insanely lucky to have come away from their home opener with a win over a Tampa team of questionable ability. And, yeah, Tom Brady never has two bad games in a row. But, um, to whom is Brady going to throw the ball? Julian Edelman? Like, all night? So, OK, the Patriots defense ought to be able to handle what the Jets are trying to pass off as an offense, but is the New England D going to put up a few scores? Because if you’re going to win a football game, someone, at some point, has to put points on the board. I’ll be interested to see how the Pats handle this situation, and perhaps as impressed as I’ve ever been if Brady manages as much as 20 completions and 200 passing  yards (which, incidentally, would be his least productive outing in just less than two years). I can’t see the Jets leaving Foxborough with a win, but I’m not giving anything close to eleven and a half points. I’ll go with New England by six, 19-13.

San Diego (+7.5) at Philadelphia
I’m sure traveling across the country on a short week to face an offense that would have their D completely gassed by the end of the first quarter under the best of circumstances is going to work out just swimmingly for the Chargers. Just, just … swimmingly. Eagles by 24. Minimum.

Cleveland (+6.5) at Baltimore
So far this season, the Ravens defense has given up an average of seven touchdowns per game. Try as they might, I think they’ll only be able to cut that average in half this week. (You see what I did there?) Baltimore by 20.

Tennessee (+9) at Houston
Let’s figure the Texans are still catching their breath after needing a furious second half to overcome the Chargers on Monday night. And let’s assume the Titans defense really is what it appeared to be at Pittsburgh. That should mean Tennessee keeps it closer than nine. Maybe more like six or seven? So let’s say Houston wins 23-17.

Miami (+2.5) at Indianapolis
Andrew Luck took four sacks, losing 31 yards, last Sunday vs. Oakland. The Miami defense, meanwhile, chased down Brandon Weeden six times for 45 yards in their road win over Cleveland. Might not mean much. Playing on the road two weeks in a row is always tough. And the Colts aren’t the Browns (though, then again, neither are the Dolphins the Raiders). Or maybe it means it’s going to be a long, difficult day for Luck. I’m picking the upset. Because why not? Dolphins by a field goal.

Carolina (-3) at Buffalo
The Bills had a chance to pull off a huge upset last weekend and let it slip away. A win here over yet another visiting favorite would be far less meaningful, which I suppose is nice since they’re not going to get it. Panthers by four.

St. Louis (+6.5) at Atlanta
The Falcons need to get right. The Rams are due to come back to earth. In the NFL, things are never really that simple, except for how sometimes they kind of are. Atlanta by a touchdown.

Washington (+7.5) at Green Bay
I don’t know if anyplace does prop bets on total sacks, but I’m thinking six, split evenly between the two defenses. I’m also thinking that Aaron Rodgers playing at home is the quarterback most likely to rise above. Packers by four.

Dallas (+3) at Kansas City
Eli Manning may have put up 450 passing yards and four TDs Sunday night, but he also out-Romoed Tony Romo, making a series of stupid mistakes that effectively handed the Cowboys a win. Alex Smith won’t put up the big numbers, but he also won’t commit the big blunders. Chiefs by seven.

Minnesota (+6) at Chicago
Two words: Christian Ponder. Bears win by 14 on the strength of two pick sixes.

New Orleans (-3.5) at Tampa Bay
Three and a half? Really? Maybe that’s on the assumption that the Buccaneers won’t shoot themselves in the foot at home. The only thing is, they won’t need to. Saints by 10.

Detroit (-1.5) at Arizona
I don’t expect Carson Palmer to survive this game. Lions by a touchdown.

Jacksonville (+5.5) at Oakland
Imagine if you lived in Jackonville and — on top of, you know, living in Jacksonville — this was the only game you could get on TV Sunday at 4. How awful would that be? Oakland by 17. That’s right. The Raiders. By 17. Because the Jags really are that bad.

Denver (-4.5) at NY Giants
It’s not about Peyton vs. Eli. It’s about the teams around the two quarterbacks. And in a lot of ways, it’s about a defense that allowed Tony Romo to complete 74 percent of his passes on Sunday night trying to figure out how to stop Peyton Manning, who’s playing on 10 days rest. You know just as well as I do how that turns out. Denver by 13.

San Francisco (+3) at Seattle
All I can say with confidence is that this should be one hell of a battle. And that I’m glad it’s on in prime time. I’ll take the home team to edge out a win, but only by a point.

Pittsburgh (+7) at Cincinnati
Something tells me this whole not having a center thing is going to prove troublesome for the Steelers. Just a hunch. Bengals by 12.

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Week One Picks, Part Two

September 8th, 2013 Comments off

OK, so the Ravens weren’t able to keep it close on Thursday night after all. I knew Baltimore wouldn’t have last year’s defense on the field. Just didn’t know how great the drop off would be. Let’s see how wrong I am about every other team in the NFL. Here’s what not to expect in the rest of week one.

New England (-10) at Buffalo
Yes, yes, yes. Tom Brady has a whole new group of receivers and what’s he going to be able to accomplish and all that. Very nice. Let’s talk about it in week three when the Patriots play a team that’s in a position to beat them. Right now what matters is that the Bills are depleted, banged up, and starting a rookie quarterback who missed the last two weeks of the preseason with an injury. That’s not what one calls starting from a strong position. Even running the ball on something like 60% of their offensive snaps, New England wins by no fewer than 17.

Tennessee (+6.5) at Pittsburgh
The Titans may well be headed in the right direction while the Steelers are either going the opposite way or standing still. But these teams won’t pull even for a while yet. Pittsburgh by a touchdown.

Atlanta (+3) at New Orleans
Green Bay at San Francisco is clearly the game of the day, but this is easily the game of the early afternoon. Over/under is 55 and if I were betting (which I’m not), I’d be betting the over big. New Orleans gets the ball last and wins it by a point.

Tampa Bay (-3.5) at NY Jets
Giving three and a half to Tampa in your home opener? Looking good, Rex. Looking real good. Bucs by a field goal.

Kansas City (-3.5) at Jacksonville
The Chiefs have a quarterback. I think. Which is more than anyone can even consider saying about the Jaguars.

Cincinnati (-3) at Chicago
I know the games in Chicago, which is a famously tough place to play, and all. But the Bengals are simply better than the Bears by a good bit more than three points. Cincinnati by 14.

Miami (+1.5) at Cleveland
It’s hard to break your fans’ hearts when expectations are consistently low. So the Browns are going to have to artificially raise them. This seems like a good game to start with. Cleveland by four.

Seattle (-3) at Carolina
I’ve said already that I expect the Seahawks to fall apart under the weight of Russell Wilson‘s stature. But not today. Wilson’s too smart, and his team is too talented and too well coached, to lose to the Panthers. Even cross-country travel won’t change that (though it might slow things down a bit). Seattle by six.

Minnesota (+4) at Detroit
At some point, Adrian Peterson is going to figure out (for real) that no matter how great he may be, his team can’t succeed with Christian Ponder behind center. And then all hell’s gonna break loose. Lions by three.

Oakland (+10.5) at Indianapolis
So what do you think, Mr. Clowney? Are you ready to be an Oakland Raider? Colts by 14.

Arizona (+4.5) at St. Louis
In which it starts to become clear that Carson Palmer, in fact, is not going to save the Cardinals. St. Louis by six.

Green Bay (+4.5) at San Francisco
Is it possible that this week one game might not only preview the NFC Championship but determine where that late-January meeting takes place? Absolutely. These are both terrific football teams that should be in the hunt from end to end as long as they stay healthy. Still and all, I suspect both offenses may have some difficulty getting started. The Packers’ O line is going to have a hard time keeping Aaron Rodgers upright. And Colin Kaepernick is going to have difficulty finding open targets. The 49ers are better positioned to overcome their offensive obstacles today, so I’ll take them to win. But I’m thinking the difference works to to something more like a field goal.

NY Giants (+3.5) at Dallas
I know the Giants have their problems — on O line, along the defensive front, at running back …  — but I’m pretty sure the Cowboys are still relying on Tony Romo at quarterback. And that’s all that really matters. New Jersey by a pick six.

Philadelphia (+3.5) at Washington
I keep hearing about how Michael Vick is the perfect quarterback to execute Chip Kelly‘s offense. So I guess I’ll look forward to seeing the Eagles in the Rose Bowl. Meanwhile, since RG3 is sort of healthy for now, I’ll take the Racists to win this one by a touchdown.

Houston (-4) at San Diego
I like the scheduling strategy on display here. If you’re going to have the last game of week one kick off at 10:20 p.m. Eastern, you might as well make it a game that’s likely to be over by halftime. Or perhaps by the end of the first quarter. Texans by 20.

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Week One Picks, Part One — Season Opener

September 5th, 2013 Comments off

It’s kind of shocking, when you consider that I count down the days starting 12 second after the Super Bowl ends, the way the first game of every NFL season somehow manages to sneak up on me. But it does. And it did. Which is why I haven’t finished my picks for week one. (Even though, hell, I don’t know what I’m talking about in week one anyhow.) So here’s a start. And I’ll have to get to the rest later.

Baltimore (+7.5) at Denver
I’m sure sports fans in Baltimore are just beside themselves with delight at the fact that the Ravens are starting their title defense on the road so that the Orioles can continue their ongoing slide out of wild card contention at home. Even better, they get to see their Ravens travel to a city where road teams almost never win. Still, I’m not sure all hope is lost for Baltimore. No one’s talking much about it, but the Broncos aren’t as solid on the offensive line as Peyton Manning would probably like them to be. And that’s not a great position to be in with whoops-he’s-not-a-Bronco-anymore Elvis Dumervil, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata and Chris Canty coming to town. I expect to see Manning get chased around more than a bit tonight — and to make some mistakes and get that frustrated Peyton expression as a result. I also expect the Ravens offense to be able to get some things done against an undermanned Denver D. Does that mean I think the Ravens pull off the upset? I don’t know. Opening game in Denver; that’s a tough row to hoe. I won’t be shocked if Baltimore comes out with a win, but I’m expecting to see Denver pull out a tight one. Let’s say Broncos by a field goal.

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2013 Season Predictions

September 5th, 2013 Comments off

I wasn’t going to do season predictions for 2013.

Because why bother? In early September no one has any idea what the NFL landscape is going to look like in early October, let alone early February. So what’s the point?

But I’m mentally ill or something. Can’t stop thinking, “You do it every year.” So with hours to go before the season get under way, here we go. Down and dirty.

(As always, I’m not doing the predicting final records thing. That’s too absurd even for my diseased brain. So once again, I’ll give an estimated range of how many games I think each team is likely to win. Even then, I’m going to be wrong more often than I’m right.)

AFC East

New England Patriots, 11-13
Yeah, lots of new faces on offense. But the guy lining up behind center is still Tom Brady (still the greatest quarterback in NFL history). And the defense should be better. And the AFC East is still a giant bloody mess. I’m thinking 6-2, possibly 5-3 over the first eight games while they feel their way around the new offense, and 7-1, possibly 6-2, over the second half of the season. That should be good for a division title and quite possibly a bye week.

Miami Dolphins, 5-7
The Dolphins look to me like the second best team in the division. They’re certainly headed in the right direction, building a team around Ryan Tannehill.  But they’re not as far along as some seem to think. And quarterbacks are prone to sophomore slumps.

Buffalo Bills, 3-6
The Bills have some growing still to do.

New York Jets, 3-5
So long, Rex.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens, 10-12
It’s all about Joe Flacco in Baltimore this season. The defense isn’t carrying the team this year. Either Flacco’s doing it, or it’s not getting done. My money’s on Flacco doing it.

Cincinnati Bengals, 9-12
The Bengals are the team just about everyone’s picking to carry the AFC North this season. And there’s good reason for that. They were good enough to qualify for the playoffs a year ago, and they’ve improved over the off-season. Second-round draft pick Giovani Bernard is going to be a beast. And the D should be formidable. But I’m not going to believe in Andy Dalton until Andy Dalton gives me really good reason to believe. So I’m hedging and saying wild card again.

Pittsburgh Steelers, 7-9
The Steelers are supposed to be back in the mix this season. I’m not sold. I think they’re headed for another middling season.

Cleveland Browns, 4-5
You can count on the Browns to win four or five games every season. Must make it thrilling to be a sports fan in Cleveland.

AFC South

Houston Texans, 11-13
Another impressive season. Another AFC South title. And another spectacular mid-January collapse.

Indianapolis Colts, 8-10
The Colts never looked like an 11-5 team to me last season, even when they got to 11-5. This season they take somewhere between a half step and a full step back.

Tennessee Titans, 7-8
The Titans are probably a better team this season than they were last. By a win. Maybe two.

Jacksonville Jaguars, 1-4
Yup. It’s the Jaguars.

AFC West

Denver Broncos, 10-12
Have  you heard? This is the season when Peyton Manning is going to lead the Broncos to the Super Bowl (as opposed to choking majorly in his first playoff game — because, you know, that was such a fluke for him). I’ll be interested to see if Manning manages to survive the first part of the season, playing behind a center who is unproven to say the least. Assuming he does, and figuring in the six gift victories the Broncos get by playing in the AFC West, which is every bit as much of a mess as the AFC East, I can’t see how Denver fails to win its division. After that, I’m not so sure.

Kansas City Chiefs, 6-9
I suppose there’s something to be said for being the second best team in the AFC West. I’m just not sure what that something might be.

San Diego Chargers, 4-6
The Chargers can be thankful, at the very least, that they’re not the Raiders. Which is to say, they at least have hope that they can blow it all up at the end of the season and start rebuilding.

Oakland Raiders, 2-4
The Raiders can’t be thankful that they’re not the Raiders.

NFC East

New York Giants, 9-12
If I thought Robert Griffin III had the remotest chance of surviving the season, I’d be picking Washington to win the NFC East. But he doesn’t. So I’m taking the best team in the division with a quarterback who doesn’t expose himself to a demolition derby on every snap.

Washington Racists, 4-13
Pretty wide range, I know. RG3 stays healthy, the Racists are the classless class of the division. He goes down, it’s a horror show. And he’s going down. The question is when.

Philadelphia Eagles, 6-8
I’ve got this crazy thing about NFL teams needing to have quarterbacks.

Dallas Cowboys, 4-7
Or, let me restate that, I’ve got this crazy thing about NFL teams needing to have good quarterbacks.

NFC North

Green Bay Packers, 12-14
You know that thing I was just saying about quarterbacks? Yeah.

Minnesota Vikings, 7-9
Like, sometimes, even when you have maybe one of the all-time greatest running backs, not having a good quarterback can drag you down.

Chicago Bears, 6-8
You can even have a killer running back and a stout defense and have your legs cut out from under you by an unreliable quarterback.

Detroit Lions, 6-8
Or you could have a quarterback and an amazing wide receiver, and maybe a player or two on defense. But you have to build a team around them, or you end up stumbling there, too.


NFC South

New Orleans Saints, 11-13
The Falcons are supposed to win the NFC South. But the Saints are going to win the NFC South. Because … yep, quarterback. Matt Ryan‘s really good, but Drew Brees is better. It’s not really that simple, except for how it kind of is.

Atlanta Falcons, 10-12
What I just said.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 6-8
People keep telling me Josh Freeman is better than I think he is. And then I watch Freeman play and I’m certain that he’s exactly as good as I think he is, which is to say he’s average most of the time, good some of the time, and awful too much of the time. What’s the word I’m looking for? Oh, right, it’s uneven. Consistently inconsistent, if you prefer.

Carolina Panthers, 2-6
I like Cam Newton as a football player. But he’s one football player. Not 11. And certainly not 22.


NFC West

San Francisco 49ers, 9-12
I don’t think the 49ers need to worry about a Super Bowl hangover. I think they need to worry about a dropoff in talent at the wide receiver position. They’re not as talented a team as they were last season and they’re not taking anyone by surprise. That said, I don’t buy into the notion that the Seahawks are poised to unseat the Niners. I think San Francisco still edges out a division title.

Seattle Seahawks, 8-10
Sooner or later, Russell Wilson‘s height is going to catch up with him. I’m thinking it starts in the second half of this season.

Arizona Cardinals, 6-8
Carson Palmer hasn’t been anything more than an OK-ish quarterback for about five years now. Not sure why everyone seems to believe another change of scenery is likely to change that.

St. Louis Rams, 5-7
The Rams certainly appear to be headed in the right direction. They’ve got some distance to travel still, though.


Sure, why not? Because, you know, I totally predict now who’s gonna be playing well in January. Can’t everyone?

1. Houston
2. New England
3. Baltimore
4. Denver
5. Cincinnati
6. Indianapolis

1. Green Bay
2. New Orleans
3. San Francisco
4. NY Giants
5. Atlanta
6. Seattle

Wild Card Playoffs

Baltimore defeats Indianapolis
Denver defeats Cincinnati

San Francisco defeats Seattle
Atlanta defeats NY Giants

Divisional Playoffs

Denver defeats Houston
New England defeats Baltimore

New Orleans defeats San Francisco
Green Bay defeats Atlanta

Conference Championships

New England defeats Denver

Green Bay defeats New Orleans

Super Bowl XLVIII
New England defeats Green Bay

And there you have it. The 2013 NFL season just as it won’t happen.

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