WOOOOOOOO! Summer is over and with Wednesday's Cowboys-Giants game, so is the NFL Preseason. Thank God. Preseason football is the absolute worst. It's like a nicotine patch compared to a pack of cigarettes. Watching preseason football--or even preseason football highlights--just reminds you how much you miss the real thing. And now the real thing is BACK.
Honestly, I didn't realize how much I missed football until Wednesday night.
Just look at Rob Ryan here.
What a goddamn legend. It's impossible not to kinda love this sport when you remember that it features people like Rob Ryan in prominent decision-making positions.
Not that everything about the NFL is awesome. At halftime of the Cowboys-Giants game NBC ran an interview where Tony Dungy was overlaughing his way through a softball interview with Peyton Manning, and I remembered why sometimes this sport makes me homicidal. But then there's Rob Ryan, always there to remind us why the football's the greatest. I wish every broadcast had a Rob Ryan cam all game, just so we could all have a constant reminder that he exists and is a real human being.
Anyway, to celebrate the NFL's return this weekend, here are some BOLD PREDICTIONS for what happens in the NFL this year. In no particular order and founded on only a thin layer of logic...
Remember Jay Cutler? Everyone thinks the Lions are going to build one last year's playoff berth and the Packers are still the best team in the league, but the Bears are quietly just as terrifying as either team. It really can't be overstated how horrible Cutler's receivers were the past few years, and now he's got Brandon Marshall, Devin Hester can finally live in the slot where he belongs, and Matt Forte can wreak havoc in the backfield. And the Bears defense is still rock solid. Plus, they got rid of Mike Martz, which is always a step in the right direction.
Everyone Jinxed Cam Newton. There's no bigger Cam groupie than me, but everyone in the world has picked the Panthers as the "breakout" team in 2012, and Cam as an MVP candidate, and... I don't know, it just seems a little too good to be true. Cam Newton is basically the real-life Willie Beamon, and I feel like 2012 will be the part of the movie where all the success goes to head and he's filming 10 different commercials before some insane linebacker saws his car in half and he remembers what's really important. (Unrelated: Steve Smith is totally the real-life Rod Tidwell.) Anyway, the Panthers are totally going 7-9 this year.
Greg Schiano will be a massive failure in Tampa. Seriously, they hired Greg Schiano. What a waste of two or three years. Sometimes it feels like the NFL should just excommunicate all the teams from Florida and Ohio to put everyone out of their misery. Or at least move the Cardinals to Ohio so we can have all our horrible franchises in one place.
Roger Goodell will do something stupid and piss off everyone. The amazing thing about Roger Goodell is his ability to find new and creative ways to abuse his power. One minute he's singling out James Harrison with irrational fines, the next he's colluding with owners to enforce a secret salary cap, and then he goes and suspends Saints players without showing us any evidence of wrongdoing. He's already off to a good start in 2012 with the completely unnecessary refs lockout. WHAT'S NEXT?
Saints against the World. So Drew Brees is basically coaching New Orleans this year, right? At least until Joe Vitt gets back? This season's going one of two ways for the Saints--either Brees gets hurt and it all goes to hell by October, or they're going 14-2 and going to the Super Bowl. And God that would be glorious. So I'm going with the second option.
The Raiders Will Win The AFC West. I pick the Raiders to win the AFC West every year, and one of these years it's gotta happen, right? The Chiefs are probably the favorites out there, but we can never pick the Chiefs because Scott Pioli sure sounds like the worst person in the world. He's the Billy Gillispie of NFL GMs. Just a scorched-earth bastard who needs to be fired and sent to Siberia.
Dez Bryant WON'T Do Something Ridiculous. Ah, the Dez rules:
• A midnight curfew. If he's going to miss curfew, team officials must know in advance;
• No drinking alcohol.
• He can't attend any strip clubs and can only attend nightclubs if they are approved by the team and he has a security team with him.
• He must attend counseling sessions twice a week.
• A rotating three-man security team will leave one man with Bryant at all times.
• Members of the security team will drive Bryant to practices, games and team functions.
The best part is that Dez has never really gotten in trouble. He got thrown out of a Dallas mall, and he had a run-in with his apparently insane mother, but it's not like he's had a series of arrests. All of which is to say, seeing the Cowboys treat him like the Hannibal Lecter of strip club patrons, you gotta think the trouble we DON'T know about is probably ten times as insane as anything that's been made public. It's HARD to live like Michael Irvin in the internet age, but goddamnit, Dez is gonna give it his best shot.
The Lions And 49ers Will Go 8-8 This Year. It just feels right for them. Every year there's an overachieving team from the previous season that crashes back to earth, and this year it's the 49ers and the Lions. San Francisco's going to get murdered in Green Bay Sunday, Matt Stafford will be on the injured list by October, and the rest will follow from there.
The Bengals Will Go 5-11 This Year. At least the 49ers and Lions were actually good teams. The Bengals were pretty mediocre even when they won, so, yeah. They're still the Bengals.
De'Anthony Thomas Is Jesus in Pads And Cleats. This is neither a prediction nor an NFL-related insight, but it needs to be said that De'Anthony Thomas is the most exciting football player on earth. Every time ESPN sticks us with one of those horrible matchups on Monday Night Football we should all go to YouTube and watch Black Mamba highlights.
Dream Team Part Deux. The Eagles can't possibly be as big of a disaster as they were last year. It just can't happen. If Michael Vick doesn't break any limbs, they're going 12-4. Oh and also ...
The Giants Will Miss The Playoffs. BOLD PREDICTIONS. COORS LIGHT COLD HARD FACTS.
The Patriots And Packers Will Both Go 13-3 And Lose In The Playoffs. They are probably the two best teams in football, but neither team's built to dominate in their freezing cold home stadiums in January, and plus, it just wouldn't be the NFL if the favorites actually met in the Super Bowl. While we're here, a reminder: The NFL Playoffs are basically the NCAA Tournament. It's not even surprising anymore when the best teams lose. That's just how things work in the parity era. The Giants, for instance, are Michigan State during the 2000s, the crappy team that always manage to sneak in to the Sweet 16 and then shock everyone and end up in the Final Four. This also means that the NFL regular season is every bit as meaningless as the college hoops season, so keep that in mind, too.
Poor RG3. Why couldn't he have gone to the Browns? The Browns aren't cursed, they're just stupid. The Redskins are f***ing cursed because of Dan Snyder. No splashy move he ever makes will work out. I don't know how it's going to go wrong for RG3 this year and beyond, but something horrible's going to happen, and it sucks because he seems pretty great. Speaking of the Redskins ...
It says a lot about the Jets as an organization when they import both Tim Tebow and Tony Sparano to implement the Wildcat offense, an offense that the rest of the NFL solved FOUR F**KING YEARS AGO. This organization has no earthly idea what it's doing. Woody Johnson will just throw any shitty idea at the wall and go with it if he thinks he can get on the back page of the Post by doing it. You can smell the desperation as they attempt, in vain, to match the prestige and success of the Giants. It's pathetic. The Jets are the Redskins of the AFC.
Yep, exactly. The Jets are the Redskins. Not even Rex can save them from three years' worth of stupid signings and terrible drafts. It's too bad DeAngelo Hall can't play for both of these teams.
SLEEPER ALERT (1/2). I know I said the NFL should just delete all the teams from Florida, but I actually think the Jaguars will be the surprise team in the AFC this year. Their defense is much better than people realize, MJD and Rashad Jennings will be dominating on the ground, and hey who knows maybe Blaine Gabbert's not horrible? They play in the worst division in football and have a manageable schedule, and ... 9-7 and a wild card berth feels like a strong possibility.
SLEEPER ALERT (2/2). Sadly, the Seahawks aren't technically a sleeper anymore since everyone in America is on the Russell Wilson bandwagon, but I'm sticking with them regardless. Wilson is already built to succeed, Marshawn and Robert Turbin will form a badass tandem that wreaks havoc all year long, they've got the best home field advantage in the NFL, and the defense in Seattle is secretly one of the best young units in the league. Or so I hear. I don't actually know. But it SOUNDS right, and that's all matters with a sleeper pick. I'm picking them to go to the NFC Title Game.
MVP Pick. Jay Cutler winning an NFL MVP would be the funniest thing ever, so we'll go with him, even though Ray Rice or Drew Brees would be much smarter picks here.
Defensive Player of the Year. DeMarcus Ware should win this every year.
Coach of the Year. The Bill Clinton of football coaches, PETE CARROLL.
Super Bowl Favorites (1/2). /Googles to see whether the Ravens fired Cam Cameron
/Sees they didn't, for some reason.
/Proceeds ahead anyway.
Flacco is better than people will ever admit, Ray Rice is the best all-around running back in football, and even if the defense is perpetually overrated, they're still better than 95 percent of the other defenses in the NFL. It's either them or Houston coming out of the AFC this year -- because we're definitely not picking the Patriots -- and I feel pretty good about going with the better coach, the better QB, the better running back, and Ed Reed, the best everything.
Super Bowl Favorites (2/2). The Saints, because not only was Gregg Williams stupid enough to put some of the bounty rules in writing, but he was also just a terrible, terrible defensive coordinator. The defense can't possibly be as bad as they were last season, and the offense will be phenomenal so long as Breesus stays healthy. While we're here, though, it should be noted that an objective observer could pick the Bears, Eagles, Giants, Cowboys, Falcons, Packers, Seahawks, 49ers, and maybe even the Lions to run the table and end up in the Super Bowl. Including the Saints, that's 10 potentially Super Bowl-ish teams. But some of them have to suck, hence the 49ers, Giants, and Lions skepticism. Either way, the NFC is frightening this year.
Super Bowl Pick. Ravens over Saints.
Teams That Are Totally Awful
These are teams that we'll all avoid on Sunday Ticket each week. I have no idea who's even playing quarterback for the Browns or Cardinals this year, and I don't want to Google it to find out.
Teams That Are Only Kind Of Awful
Maybe an even sadder group than the first one.
Bad Teams With Famous Quarterbacks That Could Be Fun
All these teams will be entertaining, if only to watch good quarterbacks try to compensate for horrible supporting casts. One of them could definitely sneak into the playoffs (but not the Redskins.)
Good Teams Last Year That Will SUCK This Year
Just feels like this is the year the Steelers finally fall apart and go 6-10 and everyone realizes Ben Roethlisberger is not actually a good quarterback.
Good Enough To Get In But Not To Win
No idea what to make any of these teams. The Cowboys looked great Wednesday night, but we're keeping them in this group just to be safe.
Teams That Can Definitely Possibly Win The Super Bowl
Hey, look at all these awesome teams.
And ... Okay then. Football season! All hail Rob Ryan the hobo Football King!