Nearly seven months removed from Super Bowl XLVI and after the last grueling month of preseason football, we’re less than 24 hours away from the start of the regular season. Unlike the other major sports, the NFL gets bigger and bigger every year – more coverage, higher TV ratings, broken Twitter records – and this season should follow the same trend.
And what a great spot that the league is in, compared to the other major sports. They play the least amount of games in the least amount of time, yet consistently make headlines year-round, for one reason of another. Take the last 12 months for example:
September 2011-February 2012: Regular and post-season
Late February 2012: The over-hyped (yet somehow watchable) Draft Combine
March: NFL Free Agency begins. Among the headlines this year – one of the greatest QBs in history switching teams.
April: The Draft
May and June: The only real NFL-less months. No major scripted events, but something always comes up (holdouts, Seau death, etc.).
Late July: Training camp begins.
And here we are again. A wild 2011 season in the books, and another set to begin.
I hate predictions. I hope most writers do. But they seem mandatory. They’re an easy way to make headlines without actually doing…well anything, really. Being right doesn’t make you knowledgable and being wrong doesn’t matter, either.
They’re cheap, I guess is what I’m getting at. So without further ado, here are my division champion predictions.
AFC East: New England Patriots
AFC North: Baltimore Ravens
AFC South: Houston Texans
AFC West: Denver Broncos
NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles
NFC North: Chicago Bears
NFC South: Atlanta Falcons
NFC West: Seattle Seahawks
I would explain my reasoning behind the picks, but they literally took a minute to make. Moving on.
Before I actually get to the picks, I wanted to just remind everyone how unpredictable the NFL is. You can’t go off of past season or preseason performances and pretend to have any idea of how the regular season will play out. Most of last year’s playoff teams will be lucky to return this season. There’s just too much turnover on a weekly basis, let alone over an entire season.
Take Week 1 of last season: 11 of the 32 starting quarterbacks aren’t starting this season under center. (McNabb and Grossman started for their respective teams. Seriously, just a year ago.) Also, two of the teams that started 3-1 finished last in their division. Points to who ever can name them.
All in all, there isn’t a ton that we can take away from the first regular season games either. So it’s best to just sit back and do what you’ll be doing for the next 20 Sundays or so. Our teams are all undefeated and playoff bound at the moment. Now let’s pick:
New York Giants over Dallas
Can Dallas keep Romo upright? The Giants D-line says no.
Chicago over Indianapolis
Five years from now, when Andrew Luck has turned the Colts into a playoff contender again, he’ll look back on his debut against Chicago’s brutal defense and laugh about it.
Philadelphia over Cleveland
Five years from now if Brandon Weeden is still leading the Browns offense, he’ll also look back on this game and laugh.
New England over Tennessee
As unpredictable as the NFL season can be, one thing should remain the same: New England will be near the top.
Kansas City over Atlanta
Remember when Atlanta was crushed by the Bears in Week 1 of last year? But only one of them made the playoffs? I’m envisioning something similar to that.
Minnesota over Jacksonville
Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder go head-to-head begin their second seasons. It could be close, but more weapons and Jared Allen should propel the Vikings.
New Orleans over Washington
Pretty excited to see if RGIII is as advertised, but already we know that Brees is.
Buffalo over New York Jets
The addition of Mario Williams and a healthy Fred Jackson have some analysts predicting playoffs in Buffalo. Not sure if I agree, but they should be in most games.
Detroit over St. Louis
The pressure is on for Sam Bradford this season. I for one hope he can deliver. As for Detroit, they have to prove that last season wasn’t a fluke.
Houston over Miami
Houston gets back their first-(and second, and third) string quarterback, but loses Mario Williams. Also up for debate is where Ryan Tannehill will be in five years from now.
Green Bay over San Francisco
San Fran is coming back with more offensive weapons, but Green Bay’s are still well intact.
Seattle over Arizona
I’m not fully on the Russell Wilson bndwagon, but I’m certainly not on board with (insert AZ quarterback here).
Carolina over Tampa Bay
Ronde Barber was among the league leaders in missed tackles last season. The last thing you’d want to do is move him to safety. I rarely ever pick Carolina to win, but Cam Newton and the offense had no problem carving them up last season.
Pittsburgh over Denver
I like Peyton against anyone (still). I also like Pittsburgh against anyone. Something’s gotta give, right?
Baltimore over Cincinnati
They may not be thought of in the same light as New England, but Baltimore shouldn’t miss a beat this season either.
Oakland over San Diego
When’s the last time Oakland didn’t start the season on Monday night? Nonetheless, I see Palmer throwing it to the right team.
Record for Week: 8-8