So the sports world has been a bit surprised by all the public interest in the NFL since their lockout ended. I don't know why. The new contract is the product of many hours of conversation and compromise in light of the current global financial situation. Neither side chose to paint the other as greedy, godless and un-American beings bent on destruction of our nation. Nor did either side choose spectacular capitulation as a negotiating strategy (yeah, you know what I'm taking about). That meant respectful dialogue, give and take...you know where this is going...
Anyway, so sue me for taking refuge in football prognosticating. It has been a rough week in many respects and it will get rougher.
My first installment has to do with the rather tricky subject of division selection. Regular readers know that I am too lazy to cover the entire league and instead choose two divisions from each conference. Hopefully, they turn out to be the most interesting. Last year was a mixed bag, with the AFC East and the NFC North delivering (though in different ways) and the "Wests" (both AFC and NFC) proving their minor league credentials once again.
At this early date, therefore, I have only decided on two divisions. The other two might get cut...
First the Keepers:
AFC East: The early storyline here is the arms race betwixt the Jets and the Pats. Both teams have made key acquisitions in the last couple of days. Both are viewed as marquee teams likely to challenge for the Super Bowl. The past few years have seen the Pats win the division and the Jets move ahead of the Pats in the playoffs. Very exciting stuff.
Of course, there are two other teams. The Buffalo Bills continue to aggressively pursue a move to Toronto by proving that they could be a reasonable farm team for Toronto's CFL Argonauts. The other team (Miami Dolphins) has so far decided not to compete much this year either, avoiding any temptation to get a quarterback to play for them (Denver's Kyle Orton being the most obvious upgrade). They also have taken on Reggie Bush, a high-quality RB when he is well and when he ummm...doesn't carry much.
Players to Watch: Chad Ochocinco (Pats) and Darelle Revis (Jets)
NFC North The soap opera the Vikings provided us last year should continue for a while longer until QB Donovan McNabb shows what is "left in the tank". I am going out on a limb and saying that there is plenty in there. It will be up to the coaches, though, to scheme in ways that work for him.
The Lions are looking better all the time. However, they haven't given much thought to the offensive line, so we can expect to see a plethora of QB's this year. Jay Cutler of the Bears will get his chance to show that he is not the whiner many people think he is. I never had this opinion of him, actually. However it seems traditional for Bears fans to despise their QB's. Why?
Finally there are the Super Bowl defending Packers. Not a bad lineup of teams and only one (the Vikings) bothers to have cheerleaders.
Players to watch: Donovan McNabb and Jay Cutler
And the other two divisions.
AFC West These teams are traditionally horrible. There is just some really bad football that gets played by these teams. The only reason to watch is because of the odd-but-intriguing elevation of Tim Tebow to sainthood in Denver. If Orton doesn't get traded (he is slightly better than Tebow but doesn't paint bible verses on his eye-black) maybe there will be a QB controversy. Otherwise the Chargers will likely win the division so no real need to watch.
Of course Tebow could turn out to be good which might pull me back. However, I am thinking next season will be a break-out year for him.
NFC West Boring....(snore)...
OK, Tavaris Jackson (Seahawks) may turn out to be interesting...
Here is a link to my post about Cutler and the Myth of Toughness
And the Argos