I realized yesterday that in the list of upcoming posts I forgot an important one: football predictions. The first week of the season is over and now it is time for me to briefly pontificate on the subject of who is worth talking about during backyard Burbanian cookouts. This is a service I provide to those of you who don't follow the NFL but still want to be able to make light conversation with the spouses of your own spouse's work friends....and folks at weddings and the like.
Now, I do watch football. I like its complexity. I like its larger-than-life elements. I also like the fact that I have never played it myself, which means I don't have any negative schoolboy baggage to cart around. Finally (and perhaps the biggest reason) I like it because it is on Sunday afternoons and there are days when all I want to do after church is have a beer and watch 250 lb humans pound the living snot out of each other. I'm not proud of this, but it's true...
Traditionally, I select four divisions. This gives me the opportunity to concentrate on the game while also leaving plenty of time for work and family. Here are the first two divisions I will be profiling. They are both back from last year because they are quite good and fun to watch...
AFC (American Football Conference) East
As a Patriots fan of long standing, this is my "home division". I am very fortunate in that it is also the most fun to watch. There is some turmoil in it right now, but that will sort itself out shortly. The Patriots are the defending division champs though the Jets (who play in New Jersey) have done better in the playoffs. The competition between these two teams will be stiff. Neither has much to complain about. Basically the Pats have the edge over the Jets when they are playing other teams. The Jets, however, always play well against the Pats and usually win. If New England expects to make it to the Super Bowl, they really need to figure out what to do about their division rival.
The other two teams are the Buffalo Bills who have been very bad for a very long time and the Miami Dolphins who have tended to be pretty good, but not good enough in a tough division. This year you can expect this situation to reverse.
The Bills defeated a (horrible) Kansas City Chiefs team in the first week. Somehow, the usually incompetent front office in Buffalo realized that for them doing nothing in the offseason is much better than doing something, so they return with a good coach and a good QB, both acquired by accident in previous years. The Dolphins on the other hand lost their opener to the Patriots. Yes, the Pats are a good team, but the crazy-humiliating game had more to do with the poor play of an apparently out of shape defense than with anything else. Chad Henne (QB) did pretty well as did their new star running back Reggie Bush. That said, they are using the frail Bush as an every-down back so you can expect him to be injured soon...
Patriots (They are just better)
Jets (I think they will miss the playoffs this year)
Bills (Again, the path of least resistance will pay off)
Dolphins (Management should look at Buffalo's new model)
At the BBQ: You cannot go wrong saying things like "The Pats/Jets are looking good this year". If you are feeling a tad brave, though, you could say "I think the Bills will surprise some folks".
NFC (National Football Conference) North
OK, these guys will also be close. The Green Bay Packers are the reigning NFL champs and the universal darlings of the sports world. That's nice. I don't think they will win the division, though. It could have easily been the Chicago Bears in the big game if not for the injury to their QB Jay Cutler. Elsewhere in the sports section I discuss said injury which--apparently--some folks feel wasn't serious enough to require his exit from the game. I think they are wrong. I feel Cutler will come out of the firestorm stronger. Also, the balanced offense of the Bears ("balanced offense" means that they run the ball as well as they throw it) will put the division in their grasp once again (they won it last year).
The other two teams are experiencing a changing of the guard not unlike that of the AFC East. The Minnesota Vikings are coming out of a truly horrendous experience that ultimately culminated in the final days of the Brett Favre story. Newbies will have to google Brett. I don't have the time to get you up to speed. Now they have a new coach and a new (to them) QB in Donovan McNabb, who threw for a whopping 39 yards Sunday. That is really bad. He will improve. This has been a weird opener for many players as the prep time was reduced because of the lockout. Still, I cannot see them defeating the Detroit Lions who are finally getting their acts together. In fact, the Lions could mess things up for the current champs if the Packers are not too careful...and Lions QB Matthew Stafford stays healthy.
Bears (If they stay balanced)
Packers (They will still make the playoffs, though)
Lions (They will also win the Thanksgiving Day game against the Packers)
Vikings (Play in a dome and have the only cheerleaders in the division. Coincidence?)
At the BBQ There is plenty of good stuff here already. However, as a general rule, you could mention how good McNabb can be and question the general strength of his "receiving corps" (ball catchers) and the "offensive line" (the big guys up front). Also you can start any statement about the Bears with "I know people don't like Cutler, but..." and people will nod sagely. Actually that works for McNabb, too. The other two QBs (Rodgers and Stafford) are super-popular prom-kings.
There ya go , my people...good luck this fall!
Update: Apparently the Dolphins fired Benny Sapp, a Cornerback (that's on the defense) basically on the strength of one failed effort on his part. Here is a link. It looks like the Dolphins have some serious management issues.
Finally: Here is the link to my defense of the aforementioned Jay Cutler.