My mistress is returning Thursday night. I have missed her so. This summer was especially tough on our relationship because I wasn’t sure if or when she was going to come back, especially once the lawyers got involved.
But now, all is well, and she is returning, right on schedule. I’m so happy and excited to have her back in my life.
I’m talking about the NFL of course!
Seriously, I love NFL football, and I'm getting totally jazzed for the upcoming season. As I write this we are less than 24 hours away from kickoff.
All the experts around the league are putting out their predictions for the year, so as we count down the hours until Kickoff Thursday night, here are mine.
1. Down South: The entire NFC will be down this year. Tampa will struggle to reach 8-8, Atlanta (13 wins) and New Orleans (11 wins) will win less games than they did last year. One of the pervasive myths of the NFL is that the difficulty of your scheduled is influenced by last years performance. Busted! The 2011 season has yet to have a game played, and 14 of the 16 games for 2012 are already locked in. Only two games are determined by your finish. The NFC South last season played an NFC West division that was bad from top to bottom. They played two games against my beloved Panthers who were having a terrible season.
2. Make Mine a Ham(string) Sandwich: Both Frank Gore (SF) and Chris Johnson are out of the lineup with soft tissue injuries, likely pulled hamstrings before Week 4. They sat all virtually all of the abbreviated training camp, and now expect the flip the switch and go all out in the regular season. That is a recipe for disaster.
3. Point of No Return: No less than 5 teams which made the playoffs in 2010 will miss the playoffs in 2011. When you see my predicted playoff teams you’ll notice Kansas City, Seattle, Pitt, Indy, Chicago all missing.
4. In Luck: The 49ers and Seahawks will battle for the worst record in the league and the right to draft Andrew Luck, but ultimately, I think the 49ers will take the prize. Neither of these teams has a good starting quarterback. Travaris Jackson and Alex Smith are not NFL starters. I hold out hope for Seattle only because I expect that at some point, they will turn to former Clemson Tiger Charlie Whitehurst who actually might be halfway decent.
5. The Heart of Rock and Roll: The surprise team of the year is not the Detroit Lions as all the sport yaks are predicting. No the surprise team this year in the Cleveland Browns. Colt McCoy in Pat Shurmur’s West Coast Offense and a cotton candy soft opening schedule will lead to a fast start for Cleveland and give confidence to a young team that has a tough road down the stretch. But they will be ready and eventually challenge for the AFC North division crown.
6. We Cam Do It: Cam Newton wins Rookie of the Year. This may be a little bit of homerism (gee, ya think!) but I’ve been impressed with Cam during the preseason. If he has a decent year, which I
7. Corn on the Kolb: Kevin Kolb will show this year that he is, in fact, a JAG (just another guy). There is a parade of former Eagles quarterbacks who have gone on to ignominious careers once they leave the all powerful gaze of Andy Reid. Does the name A.J. Feely ring a bell for you? Donovan McNabb? Yeah. What amazes me is that other teams still let Reid scam them out of draft picks for average quarterbacks that Reid makes look good.
8. Man(ning) Down: No, not Peyton (I’ll talk about him in a minute) Eli Manning will have the worst year of his career and fans will be calling for his head. He lost security blankets Steve Smith and Kevin Boss. Not that I put too much weight on the preseason, but the Giants made the Panthers (the Panthers!) look good. Gonna be a long year in the Big Apple.
9. Steelers Rust: I know everyone is talking about their old defense, but the real problem is the Super Bowl hangover. Teams that lose the Super Bowl struggle the next year, regardless of how invincible they look in the preseason. Mendenhall will go down early in the year with an injury and Big Ben won’t be able to carry the load all by his lonesome. They will miss the playoffs.
10. Go West, Young Man: Before the end of the 2012 season. the Jacksonville Jaguars will have announced they are moving to sunny California to be the Los Angeles team.
One last item, Make It a Tom Collins: How many sport yaks are going to be rethinking the greatness of Peyton Manning if Kerry Collins can run the offense to any semblance of what Manning could coming out of retirement. Could Manning be a system quarterback? We’re about to find out.
Division Winners, Wild Card and Doormats:
NFC East: Winner: Dallas Cowboys, Wildcard: Philadelphia Eagles
Doormat: New York Giants
NFC North: Winner: Green Bay Packers, Wildcard: Detroit Lions
Doormat: Chicago Bears
NFC South: Winner: New Orleans Saints
Doormat: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
NFC West: Winner: St. Louis Rams
Doormat: San Francisco 49ers
AFC East: Winner: New England Patriots, Wildcard: New York Jets
Doormat: Buffalo Bills
AFC North: Winner: Cleveland Browns, Wildcard: Baltimore
Doormat: Cincinnati Bengals
AFC South: Winner: Houston Texans
Doormat: Jacksonville Jaguars
Winner: San Diego Chargers
Doormat: Kansas City Chiefs
San Diego Chargers Beat Dallas Cowboys 31-24