Archive for September, 2015

Week Three Picks

September 24th, 2015 Comments off

Well, I managed to fare even worse in week two than I did in week one. So this year’s off to a great start. I went 8-8 straight up, a deplorable 5-11 against the spread in my picks of 2015’s second set of games. That gets me to 17-15 straight up and 11-20-1 against the spread on the season. You’d think things could only get better. But you’d be wrong. They can absolutely get worse. Let’s explore how, shall we?

Here’s what not to expect.

Washington (+4) at NY Giants
The Giants can’t possibly find a creative way to lose yet another game, can they? Seriously. Can they? I’m not sure anything would surprise me at this point. But I’m not counting on it. That said, it appears the Racists may actually have a defense, so I’m certainly not giving four. Let’s say New Jersey by a field goal.

Pittsburgh (-1) at St. Louis
Going into the season, I had the Rams figured for about a .500 team. And when I see a team that way, I tend to assume that they’ll beat the teams they should beat and lose to the teams they should lose to. So far, it’s been just the opposite. And that might spell trouble for the Steelers. But I doubt it. I expect Pittsburgh to bring just enough on both sides of the ball to come away with a victory, though not by a margin one would call decisive. Steelers miss one of their now standard two-point tries and end up winning by six instead of seven (or eight).

San Diego (+2.5) at Minnesota
A second straight road game is never an easy thing, and the Chargers in recent years rarely have been a team that traveled well. But I still think San Diego ultimately has more upside than Minnesota. And I feel better about the Chargers offense than I do about the Vikings’ D. So I’m looking for a San Diego win here, if maybe just by a point or two.

Tampa Bay (+6.5) at Houston
The good news for the Texans, I suppose, is that the Colts have also have lost their first two games — and looked considerably worse than Houston in doing so. And it’s hard to see the 1-1 Titans or Jaguars emerging as the new dominant team in the AFC South. So there’s still time to make a push for the division title. That won’t mean much, of course, if the Texans can’t handle the Bucs at home. But I think they’ll manage this task OK. Texans by four.

Philadelphia (+2.5) at NY Jets
It’s starting to seem like maybe, just maybe, there’s a slight possibility that Chip Kelly, in fact, is not a genius. Maybe. New Jersey by a touchdown.

New Orleans (+7.5) at Carolina
I don’t know if it’s all over for Drew Brees. But it’s pretty clearly all over for the 2015 Saints. Panthers by 10.

Jacksonville (+13.5) at New England
If the 2015 Patriots weren’t clearly out to embarrass as many opponents as possible, a date with the Jaguars, who have surged all the way to so-so, a week before an early bye might have been cause for concern. What we have instead is an opportunity for New England to hang seven touchdowns on an opponent — and perhaps all of them through the air (which would give Tom Brady a piece of yet another NFL record). Patriots by no less than double the spread.

Oh, by the way, in case you were wondering



Cincinnati (+2.5) at Baltimore
Andy Dalton sure is having a great season, isn’t he? That’s the conventional wisdom, anyhow. Through the Bengals’ first two games — a decisive 33-13 road win over the Raiders in week one followed be a somewhat sloppy (though not on Dalton’s part) 24-19 home victory over the Chargers — Dalton has completed 41 of 60 passes for five touchdowns while neither throwing an interception nor taking a sack. Dalton’s per game averages of 30 attempts and 20.5 completions are consistent with his career numbers, as are his 241.5 passing yards per game. But his TD percentage, 8.3, interception percentage, 0, and consequently his passer rating, 120.3, all are considerably better than what we’re used to seeing (in order, 4.8, 3.0, 86.1). It all points to a couple of possibilities. The one you’re hoping for if you’re a Bengals fan is that Dalton, in his fifth NFL season, has come into his own. If that’s true, he’d hardly be the first pretty good quarterback to ascend to another level at this point in his career. The other possibility, though, is that there’s a correction coming. Much as it did last season, when Dalton went the first two games of the season without throwing a pick or taking a sack — though while his 40 of 61 for 553 yards (226.5/game) from those games looks familiar, he threw just two TDs in that span, which kept his passer rating down to 105.4. I can’t see into Dalton’s head. But in watching his play I haven’t spotted anything that strikes me as convincing evidence that something has clicked. So for the moment at hand, I feel like the smart position is to anticipate a correction. Right now, Dalton’s in debt to his career interception and sack averages to the tune of two each. I don’t expect him to complete a regression toward the mean in a single game. But I do think that a visit to Baltimore — particularly with the Ravens going into their home opener desperate for a win, having dug an 0-2 hole with late-game collapses in Denver and Oakland — presents a nice opportunity for a bit of leveling for the Cincy QB. So I’m looking for the Bengals to have a rough afternoon and for the Ravens, whose troubles thus far have had more to do with Joe Flacco than with the defense, to assert their determination to remain a factor in the AFC North. Baltimore by four.

Oakland (+3.5) at Cleveland
The Raiders appear to have an offense. If they could grow a defense, they’d be dangerous. But I don’t see that happening in week three. Cleveland edges out a one-point victory.

Indianapolis (-3.5) at Tennessee
Yeah, I know the Titans have yet to beat a good team. But the Colts have yet to beat any team. And, you know, obscured by the excitement about Tennessee’s shiny new quarterback has been the fact that Bishop Sankey and Dexter McCluster both have been playing pretty good football. And guess what team still can’t stop the run? So, right. I’m taking the Titans. By three.

Atlanta (-2) at Dallas
Like everyone else, I’m totally confident that the Cowboys will be able to overcome the loss of their biggest offensive weapons and find ways to win. Totally, totally confident. Falcons by seven.

San Francisco (+6.5) at Arizona
The Cardinals are better than I thought they were going to be. I only had them pegged for 12 wins this season. More fool me. Arizona by 14.

Chicago (+14.5) at Seattle
I don’t know where the Seahawks are headed this season. But I know that this week they’re finally headed home after opening with a pair of tough road losses. And I feel pretty confident that they’re headed for a win. Especially since I’m pretty sure the Bears are headed nowhere. Seattle by 20.

Buffalo (+3) at Miami
It’s always great when you can see a pair of recent champions square off in the regular season, isn’t it? The Bills and Dolphins both won the Super Bowl in week one. And commenced their hangovers in week two. I suspect the Bills are slightly better positioned to bounce back, having suffered their loss at the hands of an actual good team. Buffalo by four.

Denver (-3) at Detroit
Toward the end of the Broncos’ last game, I wondered aloud whether any of their 2015 opponents wouldn’t self destruct. The answer, as it turns out, is yes. The Lions won’t get the opportunity to self destruct; the Broncos will take care of it for them. Denver by 10.

Kansas City (+6.5) at Green Bay
Where’s this game being played? Pretty much my only question. Packers by a dozen.

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Week Two Picks

September 17th, 2015 Comments off

Not a great start with the picks for me. I went 9-7 straight up, 6-9-1 against the spread. But, you know, here’s where I start digging myself out of the hole. Or maybe just digging a deeper hole. Probably that last thing.

Here’s what not to expect.

Denver (+3) at Kansas City
The Chiefs got their season off to a promising start Sunday in Houston. It’s nice. But it will be meaningless if they don’t make it 2-0. If they want to win the AFC West — hell, if they want so much as slide into January as a potentially dangerous wild card team — the Chiefs have to be able to defend their home turf against a Broncos squad traveling on a short week after a hard-fought home opener. If Kansas City can do that, they’re in the mix. If they can’t, they’re probably headed for another 9-7 finish and seats on the couch for the postseason. It’s really that simple. Simpler still, the way to beat the Broncos continues to be stop the run and force Wobbles McGee to beat you with his noodle arm. Can the Chiefs pull that off? I suspect they can. Kansas City by four.

Houston (+3) at Carolina
I don’t know what to make of this match. That’s got something (a lot, actually) to do with the fact that I don’t know if last week’s flat open had more to do with the Texans or the Chiefs. And if it was the Texans, is a change at quarterback going to fix it? What I do know is that I wasn’t in any way impressed by the Panthers’ win at Jacksonville. If this game were in Houston, I’d probably pick the Texans. It isn’t, and I’m still tempted to pick the Texans. But I’m not going to. Ugh. Panthers by a point.

Tampa Bay (+9.5) at New Orleans
I know the Saints didn’t fare well at Arizona last weekend, but … um … Bucs. If the Tennessee can win by four touchdowns in Tampa Bay, I’ve gotta figure the Saints can beat the Buccaneers by at least two TDs in New Orleans. So let’s say Saints by 14.

San Francisco (+5.5) at Pittsburgh
The Steelers defense is suspect, but I don’t see them giving up 230 yards on the ground. Pittsburgh by a touchdown.

Detroit (+3) at Minnesota
I can’t imagine the Lions blowing a big lead yet again this week. Trouble is, I can’t decide whether that’s because I don’t think the Vikings can overcome one, or because I don’t think the Lions can build one. Coin comes down home team. Vikings by a field goal.

New England (-1) at Buffalo
For the Bills, the key to this game isn’t stopping Rob Gronkowski. It’s stopping Tom Brady before he can get the ball to Gronk (and others). For the Patriots, it’s not about stopping Tyrod Taylor. It’s about stopping Karlos Williams. I’m not sure I think either team can be entirely successful. I think both can do enough to keep this game very tight for at least the first half. But I think the Patriots are more likely to make successful adjustments as the game wears on. So I’ll take New England. Let’s say by six.

Arizona (-1.5) at Chicago
The Bears may be the second best team in the NFC North. By default. I don’t think you get anything for that. Cardinals by eight.

Tennessee (-1) at Cleveland
Works out the Browns are still the Browns. Who ever would have guessed.  Titans by a touchdown.

San Diego (+3) at Cincinnati
I think the Chargers should be able to beat the Bengals. I just haven’t seen anything that leads me to believe the Chargers will be able to beat the Bengals. So … whatever. Cincinnati. By a point. I guess.

St. Louis (-3.5) at Washington
Pretty sure I’ll be picking against the Racists every week this year. Also pretty sure I’d be picking against them this week even if that weren’t the case. Rams by a touchdown.

Atlanta (+2) at NY Giants
It took all of a week — really, just one game (really, just the last couple of minutes of one game) — for me to lose all faith in the Giants this year.  Which means they’re about to go on a 18-0 run through the Super Bowl. Or not. Falcons by four.

Baltimore (-6) at Oakland
Second straight road game for the Ravens. That’s never easy. Except when it is. Second straight home loss for the Raiders. Baltimore by 10.

Miami (-6) at Jacksonville
And speaking of second straight home losses. Dolphins by 14.

Dallas (+5) at Philadelphia
With a win, the Cowboys would take a commanding lead in the NFC East just two weeks into the season. I’m sure they’d love that. But it’s not going to happen. Philly rights the ship with a win by seven.

Seattle (+3.5) at Green Bay
The last time the Packers beat the Seahawks was the last time the two teams met in Green Bay. That has nothing to do with this game. Just something to say other than “the Packers have to beat the Seahawks sometime.” And, you know, Seattle is playing on the road for a second straight week. Packers by six.

NY Jets (+7) at Indianapolis
I think it’s pretty much a given that the Colts defense is going to have trouble stopping Chris Ivory. The good news for Indy, and bad for New Jersey, is that the Colts can still neutralize the Jets running game — by piling up enough points to force New Jersey to the air. Indianapolis by 10.

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Week One Picks

September 10th, 2015 Comments off

Here we go again. A whole new season of pro football out ahead of us. A golden 256 opportunities for me to make an ass of myself with utterly ignorant picks. Or 267 if you count the playoffs. (Of course, I might point out that the last time I made a pick on a game that counted, I had New England beating Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX by a score of 27-23. So that’t not so bad.)

Anyhow, onward. Not much to say about this week’s games, because I can’t even pretend to know anything at this point in the season. Here’s what not to expect.

Pittsburgh (+7) at New England
The Patriots are ready to begin their revenge campaign. The Steelers are going to round into form (offensively speaking, anyhow) soon enough, but not in time for this game. New England by 20.

Green Bay (-7) at Chicago
One team’s quarterback probably will rank among the greatest of all time. The other team’s quarterback may rank among the most overrated of all time. And here we are reminded of the difference. Packers by 10.

Kansas City (+1) at Houston
This is the kind of game the Texans need to win if they’re going to have a shot at the division title. And they’re going to have a shot at the division title. Houston by a field goal.

Cleveland (+3) at NY Jets
Jets win the Super Bowl! Jets win the Super Bowl! Wait. You’re saying it’s just a week one home game against the lowly Browns? Oh. Jets are gonna win the Super Bowl! New Jersey by six.

Indianapolis (-2.5) at Buffalo
The Colts may come out of this looking like a better team than they are. Buffalo doesn’t have the offensive weapons to take advantage of Indy’s defensive shortcomings. The Bills may slow the Colts down for a quarter or a half, but in the end, it’s Indy by a pair of touchdowns.

Miami (-3.5) at Washington
Iffy road team giving three and a half? That doesn’t feel very good. But the Racists actually may be that bad. Dolphins by four.

Carolina (-3) at Jacksonville
I don’t know what to make of either of these teams, but I like the matchup of Carolina’s defense against Jacksonville’s offense better than anything else in this game. So I’ll take the Panthers straight up. It’s a push with the points.

Seattle (-4) at St. Louis
I won’t be shocked if the home dog manages an upset in this game. But I’m not quite ready to pick it that way. Seahawks by a field goal.

New Orleans (-2.5) at Arizona
The Saints offense isn’t ready to overcome the Cardinals’ defense. And won’t be until maybe next season. Arizona by a touchdown.

Detroit (+3) at San Diego
The Lions’ once formidable D isn’t in any kind of shape to slow down the Chargers’ O. Not in San Diego, anyhow. Chargers by eight.

Tennessee (+3) at Tampa Bay
It would be easy to list everything that’s impressive about these two teams, but why bother. What’s important is that there’s slightly less that’s unimpressive about the home squad. What more do you need to know. Bucs by four.

Cincinnati (-3.5) at Oakland
The Raiders are gonna surprise a few opponents this season. Starting this weekend. Oakland by a point.

Baltimore (+4.5) at Denver
Picking this matchup is every bit as simple as it isn’t. You can try to break it down, knowing next to nothing about how either team will fare this season. Or you can just go ahead and take the home team. That’s what I’m doing, though I’m going to hedge just a bit (easy when there’s no actual money on the line): Denver by a field goal.

NY Giants (+6) at Dallas
The Giants may overcome the Cowboys this season. But not in Dallas on the year’s first Sunday night. Cowboys by a touchdown.

Philadelphia (-3) at Atlanta
I don’t care where the game’s being played, the Falcons aren’t ready yet to keep up with the Eagles. Philly by six.

Minnesota (-2.5) at San Francisco
And, once again this week, I’m picking a road favorite. In this case, it’s mostly because I can’t come up with a single reason to believe the home team can manage a win. Vikings by 10.

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2015 NFL Season Predictions

September 9th, 2015 Comments off

This was going to be the year I finally overcame my ridiculous habit of making predictions about professional football games that won’t be played for months to come. Because, a) it’s a damned stupid thing to do; and b) the NFL spent the entire off-season pissing me off and distracting me with its absurd vendetta against Tom Brady, which, among other things, has prevented me from keeping as close an eye as usual on developments around the league. It adds up to me being somehow even less qualified than usual to reach any kind of  judgment about how any team is likely to fare in games played in September, let alone December.

But here we are. Maybe because I can’t help myself. Maybe because I’m itching to think about football again and this is as simple, and low risk, a way to accomplish that as I’m likely to come up with.

As always, even I’m not ridiculous enough to waste my time trying to guess at actual final win-loss records. To my mind, doing that moves you entirely to far away from the honest admission that this is an exercise in semi-educated guesswork. I mean, my balls are as fully inflated as the next guy’s, but neither of them is crystal. So once again, I’ll offer range of how many games I think each team is likely to win. (Or maybe I should say it’s how many games I believe each team is capable of winning. It’s something like that, anyhow.) I’ve got this weird idea that doing it this way gives me a better chance of getting it right even though it totally doesn’t. Last year 15 teams ended up with win totals inside my projected ranges. But, hey, I got the AFC Championship game matchup and outcome right. And I picked the Super Bowl XLIX winner (quite a stretch, I know) though I had the NFC champ wrong. So I’ve got that going for me.

Anyway, I’ve got to start getting football stuff wrong sooner or later. So here goes.

AFC East

New England Patriots, 13-15
I can’t get into health here. Is there reason to be concerned about the number of Patriots players who have been sidelined during the preseason? Sure. Just like there’s reason to be concerned about every team’s ability to get through any season without being undermined by injuries to key players. But that’s about as far as you can take that kind of talk. A football team either is going to stay healthy enough to function through the season or it isn’t.  Of greater concern, at least looking at New England from the outside, is the defensive secondary. Malcolm Butler may well be more than a one-hit wonder (or one pick wonder, I suppose), but he almost certainly isn’t Darrelle Revis. Butler’s not going to take an opponent’s best receiver out of a game by himself. Maybe there’s more to the Patriots secondary than anyone who isn’t part of the team realizes. Or maybe the Patriots feel like their pass rush is going to be powerful and aggressive enough (it sure as hell looks good) that they don’t need a secondary as formidable as the one that helped land them in the position of defending champs. I’m going to have to see it play out for a few weeks before I have any hope of understanding. The good news for New England, of course is that Brady is clearly going into this season loaded for bear. So unless this is the year when the O line disintegrates (which is possible, but not probable), the Pats can be expected to put more than their fair share of points on the board. And when you give your pass rushers a lead to protect, and free them to go hard after the opposing QB, you can usually realize pretty good results. The difference between a strong finish and a solid shot at the AFC one seed and blazing hot finish and a clear path another championship, to my mind, is all in how the secondary comes together.

New York Jets, 7-10
The Jets have a defense. The Jets may have backed into having a semi-talented starting quarterback. And there’s every reason to believe the Jets actually have managed to land themselves a talented, sane head coach. How it all falls apart remains to be seen. It’ll happen, but maybe not before New Jersey pulls off a few surprising wins and positions itself for a postseason berth.

Miami Dolphins, 6-9
I’ll say the same thing about the Dolphins heading into this season that I said heading into last. I think Ryan Tannehill has incredible potential. But no quarterback can complete passes from underneath a defensive end. If the Fins can prevent their quarterback from being killed, they could contend for the postseason. If not, they’ll have to hope their D can help them win a few games while they prepare for life under their next head coach.

Buffalo Bills, 3-8
I’ll believe Tyrod Taylor is a capable NFL starting quarterback when I see it. Until then, I figure this team is good for as many wins as its defense can produce. Might not be many. Might be enough to make the Bills a team to worry about heading into 2016.

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers, 8-12
It’s all about the defense for the Steelers, but not in the way it used to be. Pittsburgh’s offense looks capable of piling on points. Its defense looks like it may allow almost as many. And with relatively few gimmes on the schedule (really, just the two games against the Browns), it’s all a matter of how often the D bends and how often it breaks. That’s the difference between a division title and a shot at the two seed and a seat on the couch for the postseason.

Baltimore Ravens, 7-10
Sooner or later, the old chunking the ball up the field and hoping one of your guys comes down with it thing is bound to catch up with Joe Flacco. I suspect it may be now. And how the Ravens fare will depend on how they, and their quarterback, adjust. Baltimore is a well coached team with a formidable D. That may carry them to a division title despite any struggles Flacco and the O experience. Or it may not.

Cincinnati Bengals, 6-10
Sooner or later, it’s all going to fall apart for Andy Dalton. With the Bengals schedule, it could happen this season. But I don’t think it will. I see the Bengals taking a step back, maybe two, and probably missing the postseason. But a couple of good bounces of the ball, and they could be playing (and losing) on wild card weekend once again.

Cleveland Browns, 2-6
It’s not always easy to predict exactly where it will all fall apart for the Browns. All you can ever say with confidence is that it will all fall apart for the Browns. Then again, maybe this season it’s easier than usual to ID a likely weak spot.

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts, 9-12
The Colts spent the offseason adding offensive weapons with an eye toward helping get Andrew Luck to his first Super Bowl. That would be a reasonable plan if scoring had been a problem for Indy. But the reality is that the Colts offense ranked sixth in scoring last year with 28.6 points per game, just 1.8 behind the league-leading Packers, and 0.7 behind the eventual champion Patriots, who routed the Colts in the AFC Championship. You’d almost think someone would have suggested improving a defense that allowed 23.1 points per game, 14th most in the league, and second most among playoff teams after the Panthers (who backed into the playoffs with a losing record). But apparently not. So, yeah, assuming their O line holds (not a given), the Colts should be able to increase their scoring. Add 5 points a game and they’ll likely lead the league. Add 9.4 and they’ll set a new single-season record. In either case, they’d land among the top 9 scoring offenses of all time. Nice, except only two of the other eight made it to the Super Bowl, and none of them won. So that should work out great. Only, I don’t even expect the Colts to do that well. I think they take a step back this season, possibly even losing the division to the Texans.

Houston Texans, 9-12
Bill O’Brien is on track to become the first former Bill Belichick assistant to succeed as an NFL head coach. And it looks to me like O’Brien’s Texans are headed for a big step — a postseason berth — this season. The Texans fought their way to 9-7 last year. And they appear to be a stronger team heading into the 2015 campaign. I certainly don’t see them taking a step back, and I think with the way their defense is constructed, they’re going to be in a position to earn a split with the Colts, and perhaps to reverse last year’s result by sweeping their rivals. In the former case, the Texans should at least grab a wild card spot. In the latter, they take the South and contend for the two seed.

Tennessee Titans, 3-7
It’s entirely possible that the Titans have solved the quarterback position. Which will be nice as soon as they solve some of the others.

Jacksonville Jaguars, 3-7
The Jaguars may actually make it through the 2015 season without getting Blake Bortles killed. That’s something, right?

AFC West

Denver Broncos, 8-13
The defense is going to keep this team in games no matter what. It’s hard to imagine them missing the playoffs. It’s impossible to imagine them finishing with less than a .500 record. Everything else is about the new offense and how Peyton Manning fares within it. You’d be a fool to write off the Broncos. But I think the folks in Denver may want to hold off on parade planning, at least until week 12-ish.

San Diego Chargers, 9-11
One hates to make the same prediction about a team two years running, but I can’t help it in this case. The Chargers once again have a chance to frustrate Peyton Manning’s attempt to fight his way to one last Super Bowl. The Chargers look formidable on both sides of the ball. If they can avoid the health issues that plagued them last season, they should be able to take advantage of a schedule that puts both of their games against Denver solidly in Manning’s now traditional duck season. Take away the run and force Peyton to try to win with his arm and the Chargers should finish with a division title. If not, they’ll still finish in strong contention for a wild card spot.

Kansas City Chiefs, 8-10
I keep hearing that this is the year the Chiefs overtake the Broncos. And maybe it is. We’ll have a better sense of whether that’s possible when Denver travels to Kansas City for the week two Thursday night game. If you’re going to take the division title away from your biggest rival, you have to be able to beat them when they travel to face you on a short week, right? Me, I think even if KC can get the best of Denver, they’re still destined to finish behind San Diego.

Oakland Raiders, 5-8
The Raiders almost certainly are the most improved team in the AFC West. Of course, that’s due in large part to the fact that they had the most room for improvement. Things are looking up for Oakland, but this team is still a year removed from making a serious push for the playoffs.

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles, 9-12
The Eagles managed 10 wins last season, and they appear to be a marginally better team this year. And they’ve got a few soft spots in their schedule. So, um, let’s pencil them in for 11 wins, which could be enough to earn them a division title, followed by the usual early bow from the tournament.

Dallas Cowboys, 9-11
I seriously underrated the Cowboys last season. Didn’t realize they had discovered that a running game is still part of playing offense in the NFL. This year, I fully realize that Dallas appears to have forgotten that lesson. So I like them to finish a game or two worse than the 12 wins they managed in 2014. Maybe that gives them another division title, but it won’t do much more.

New York Giants, 8-11
Given how many experts are counting them out, you have to like the Giants chances at winning not only the NFC East but the Super Bowl. Because that’s who they are. The Giants are probably a slightly stronger team than the squad that finished 6-10 last season. If they can pair stronger with healthier, they can make a run at the division championship. Don’t be shocked if they find a way to put it together.

Washington Racists, 2-5
What are the two most important elements in building a successful team in the NFL? Good coaching and good quarterback play. So, um, yeah.

NFC North

Green Bay Packers, 12-15
As good as they are, the Packers have no chance of advancing to the Super Bowl this season. How do I know? Because the Packers clearly aren’t going to make it back to the Super Bowl until I (and a bunch of others) stop picking them to get to the Super Bowl. And I just can’t back off. So, sorry, Aaron, I’ll try my best to pick against you next year.

Detroit Lions, 8-10
The Lions were an 11-5 wild card team in 2014 with a stronger defense than the one they bring into the 2015 campaign.

Minnesota Vikings, 8-10
I’m not as confident as some that the return of Adrian Peterson to the lineup means the Vikings are headed to the playoffs. But neither am I inclined to write Minnesota off. If the Vikes can manage six wins over their first eight games, I’ll start to believe. Otherwise, it’s a fantasy.

Chicago Bears, 3-6
It is simply never going to happen for, or with, Jay Cutler.

NFC South

Carolina Panthers, 8-10
A team is going to win the NFC South title. Might as well be the one with the defense. And, you know, Cam Newton.

New Orleans Saints, 8-10
Or maybe it will be the Saints. They’ve got a pretty good quarterback, too. But not much else. I suspect that’s the difference. Again.

Atlanta Falcons, 8-10
Or the Falcons. They couldn’t compete in most divisions in football, but they have a chance to win this one.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 4-8
But not the Buccaneers. Not yet.

NFC West

Seattle Seahawks, 11-14
I hate it when other people say stuff like this, but … you know, the Seahawks came within a single play (more than that, the single greatest play in Super Bowl history) of winning back-to-back championships. And they improved on offense. I don’t know how you pick against a team like that. I sure can’t.

Arizona Cardinals, 10-12
The Cardinals are going to win games the old fashioned way: With a crushing defense and a hard-pounding run-centered offense. That may not get them past the Seahawks, but I think it will get them into the playoffs again. And I suspect they’ll win a game, maybe two, once they get there.

St. Louis Rams, 7-9
The Rams also will win games the old fashioned way. Just not quite so many as the Cardinals. And not enough for it to really matter.

San Francisco 49ers, 3-6
The Niners are just plain headed in the wrong direction.


Let’s just get on with this annual exercise in stupidity, shall we?

1. New England
2. Houston
3. Pittsburgh
4. San Diego
5. Indianapolis
6. Denver

1. Green Bay
2. Seattle
3. Philadelphia
4. Carolina
5. Arizona
6. NY Giants

Wild Card Playoffs

Pittsburgh defeats Denver
San Diego defeats Indianapolis

Arizona defeats Carolina
NY Giants defeat Philadelphia

Divisional Playoffs

Pittsburgh defeats Houston
New England defeats San Diego

Seattle defeats Arizona
Green Bay defeats NY Giants

Conference Championships

New England defeats Pittsburgh

Green Bay defeats Seattle

Super Bowl L (Sorry, I’m just not ready to concede the Arabic numeration yet)
New England defeats Green Bay

So there’s your 2015 NFL season at a glance (or two). Except for all wrong.

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