OK, it is time for me to decide on the other two divisions to follow this year and the decision is a difficult one. I have written about this before. Last year, I chose the AFC West and the NFC West. As such, I selected the two worst divisions in football. The NFC West, in particular, was unimpressive. They managed to produce the first team ever to win their division with a losing record. That cannot be rewarded. The only reason to follow the AFC West is to keep tabs on the crazy in Denver where the incumbent Kyle Orton (not brilliant but reliable) may be replaced by Tim Tebow based at least partly on Tebow's evangelical street-cred. This is interesting in a sociology of religion kind of way...but it feels too much like work.
Also, all the teams were so bad that it was a freefall to the bottom. That creates a difficult environment for making rational decisions.
Therefore the west is out and they are being replaced by the AFC North and the NFC South.
This year, the turbulence for these teams is restricted--for the most part--to the field. The Pittsburgh Steelers have tended to put the cap on this division, leaving the Baltimore Ravens to fight for a Wild Card spot. This year we find the Ravens already one game up on the Steelers. In fact, they beat the Steelers 35-7. Both these teams are very good, but I do not see Pittsburgh getting ahead of Baltimore. Besides, I don't like (Steelers QB) Ben Rothlisberger and my mother-in-law lives in Maryland.
The other two teams are...well...really, really bad. They both play in Ohio, which is all you need to know about them. However, I do have some other useful information for those awkward social situations I mentioned earlier. Both teams are in a rebuilding phase and who "wins" third place may very well come down to injuries. The Cleveland Browns are slightly ahead in the rebuild and their QB, Colt McCoy seems to have that "special something" sports people call "intangibles". Yeah, I know, he has best sports name since Speed Racer. Still, I like him. The Bengals beat the Browns this past Sunday but Colt shouldn't loose any sleep over it.
Ravens (Say "hi" to Gramma, kids!)
Steelers (Will get the wild card and "play angry" but will lose to the Ravens...again)
Browns (Because someone has to come in third)
Bengals (They are on a five-year plan to mediocrity. Let's hope they make it)
For the BBQ No one pays attention to the Browns and Bengals so you are safe making things up about them. The Browns have the best uniforms in the NFL. For years they have been trying to get brown to go well with orange.
Where I come from, one is not allowed to say nice things about the Steelers. There are reasons for this that a quick google search will get you up to speed on. If there is a pause in the conversation and it is your turn to talk, you cannot go wrong by saying "well, it is really hard to beat that Raven's defense" at which time someone will say "yeah, and Flacco is no slouch either." Joe Flacco is Baltimore's QB. It is true. He is not a slouch.
Also fun: The Ravens are named after a certain poem by Baltimore's favorite son Edgar Allan Poe...which is awesome and might get some of you on safer conversational ground.
I just can't do it...
...There is no reason to pay any more attention to the NFC. Sure, there are the Saints, who everyone wishes would win another championship game. There is also the entire NFC East to consider. However, the Cowboys play in the NFC East and we do not want to encourage them...
So how about...
The AFC South?
This is fun. These folks have had the unthinkable happen to them. Peyton Manning, the best Quarterback in football (yes, he truly is) has injured his neck and will not be playing this year. I personally hope he retires. No one should risk another neck injury. I would be unable to watch his games for the potential catastrophe implied in every offensive play. The absence of Peyton means that the Indianapolis Colts will not win their division this year.
So where does that leave us? The Houston Texans are the logical choice. However, I am going with the Jaguars of Jacksonville. Call it a hunch but I think that their somewhat old-fashioned offense (that means they are a running team) will keep the defense fresh (it takes longer for running teams to score). Also, they seem to "want it more". Perhaps this is because they will all be fired at the end of the year if they don't make the playoffs. I am not making that up! Sure, no one goes to their games and the owners would like to move to LA...but think of the earthquakes! The Texans are always the next-big-thing. My bet is that they stay that way.
Wait, there is another team, isn't there? That would be the Tennessee Titans. They, too, have a decent running game, but there other parts aren't quite as good. They lost their coach. They are rebuilding. Also, their QB situation is tenuous. Placeholder Matt Hasselbeck is ancient. Yes, the Jaguars have a placeholder, too. But I think Luke McCown is better than people give him credit for. Yes, I just said that. If you are feeling brave, you can say that, too.
Colts (Contrary to popular belief, they are more than Manning...but they don't make the playoffs)
Texans (Maybe they beat the Colts...)
Titans (Hopefully they don't injure RB Chris Johnson. They will want him next year)
At the BBQ: It may be best to avoid talking about these folks. If you absolutely must, remember that the "Jaguars will surprise people this year" and "the Colts are such a finesse team".
There you have it: three AFC divisions and one from the NFC. Good luck in all your sacred fall endeavors...
How Could I Forget? All of New England will curl up in front of the TV tonite for A Football Life: Bill Belichick. You can too!