The pageantry. The pomp. The quote unquote inside information, shady handicappers claiming to have the answers to your prayers (for just a mere ten to twenty bucks a month fee to share them with you), and inane over analysis that goes on day in and day out on talk radio, sports blogs, and that cursed four letter network. And that's just the pros!
And while other columns might wanna try and bring you in with fancy words and brilliant insight, I ain't gonna cut it with you like that. I am gonna give you the play as a ten year long career as a handicapper and book maker.
Some weeks I am gonna be up...
Other weeks I might be down...
But in the end I am gonna have you on the plus side of your investments and holding a nut of winnings (rather than taking a nut to buy some time on the vig).
This week, we are going to get the low down on the NFL, make a few predictions, and have a little fun before we get into the serious business of wins and losses...
Most people would look at the NFC East as the toughest division in the NFC, and those people would be right. Not just on a style of playing the game, but also from a handicapping point of view. These are four fairly even teams (for the most part), and on a week to week they can pose some interesting match ups for the sports better.
As for the play on the field, that is not so hard to figure out. You can right away just go ahead and take Washington right out of the discussion. Worthless quarterback, non-existent receivers, and an aging running core are a lot for even Albert Haynesworth to put on his shoulders and carry to the Promised Land. And you may as well lump in Dallas to that mix, as a Terrell Owens free team leaves you putting all your hopes and dreams in the hands of Roy Williams- a wide out who has yet to live up to his first round expectations- and Tony Romo- a quarterback too slack jawed and relaxed to realize that he should have had a Super Bowl ring by now.
This leaves us the Eagles of Philadelphia and the New York Football Giants. The Eagles have a lot of weapons to be sure (and adding Mike Vick to the equation after Week Three only contributes to that). But the Eagles have always had a lot of weapons, and Coach Reid and quarterback McNabb have never shown an ability to harness it all together and win it all (and the one time that they came close, McNabb was too busy puking on his shoes to close the deal). This leaves the Giants going into battle with Eli Manning and three unknowns at receiver being asked to not ruin things too much for Brandon Jacobs and that stout New York Defense alone atop of that division. (It should be noted though that if Philly can get its shit straight, they could very easily take it, but it is highly unlikely)
NFC East Winner: The Giants.
This division is a little more cut and dry than the other divisions of the League. You have one team that is finishing up their rebuilding phase, one team just starting it up, one team that is about to go into rebuilding mode, and one team riding high above them all.
The Bucs, once the gem of the South, have gone full rebuild. With a rookie poised to start before the years out, a rookie head coach who may be in a little over his head, and a team trying hard to redefine themselves to the league, this team will be lucky to go five hundred in their division, let alone for the year. The Carolina Panthers are in the same boat, slowly aging before our very eyes. Once the luckiest man in the NFL, Jake Delholme ended his season last year throwing six picks against the Arizona Cardinals, something that many feel is less a bad game by the aging gunslinger and more an indication of things to come. The zip eventually leaves everyone's fast ball, and for Jake it may be gone. Combined with an aging wide out corps and a defense no where nearly as frightening as they had once been perceived and you have a team on the cusp of a retooling, which never means winning season for the fans to cheer about.
This leaves you with the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints. The Falcons last year started a rookie quarterback (Matt Ryan) and an unproved running back (Michael Turner) and turned a few heads. But in turning heads, they also open eyes. There will not be too much sneaking past opponents for the Falcons this year, but they will still be a force to be reckoned with. And reckoning with the Falcons is what Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints do best. Brees had one of his best seasons yet last year, coming within 14 years of Dan Marino's passing yards record, and did it without his primary target at wide receiver for most of the year. But with Marques Colston healthy, Brees and crew should have no problem working their way through the South.
NCF South winner: New Orleans Saints.
All the off season talk has been about the NFC North this off season. First there was a lot of chatter about Jay Cutler being traded to the Bears (and anyone who is a friend to a Bears fan can attest to this mind numbing chatter about a team that has never passed the ball well was going to win it all with their gunslinger QB...). That was followed by the Detroit Lions using the first pick in the draft to selecting Matthew Stafford, thus hanging all the hopes of a failing franchise and a dying community around the neck of 22 year old. Then there was talk of the other gunslinger, Brett Favre, coming out of retirement yet again to stick it to Packer Nation just one more time... only this time in the purple uniform of the Minnesota Vikings.
This division breaks down easy. The Lions are out. They lost every game last season... do you know how fucking bad you have to be to lose every single game??? I don't care if they drafted Jesus fucking Christ to lead this team; there is little hope in Detroit this season. The Packers will play well, as they always do. But they will also fall short, not having the luck of #4 rubbing off on them anymore.
But don't go cumming in your shorts just yet Viking fan. #4 might be lucky, but he is also 800 years old and, as we saw last season with the Jets, he is falling apart. Despite minotaur running Adrian Peterson's efforts, this will be yet another lost season for the Vikings leaving the division crown to Da Bears, who with their solid offensive staff (say what you will about the whiney cunt, Jay Cutler will add a deep threat to the Bears passing offence, thus opening up their potent running game ever further) and at times stifling defense should be able to more than rise to the occasion.
NFC North Winner: Da Bears...
If the NFC East is the toughest division then the NFC West should be absorbed into the Canadian Football League as quickly as possible. I know that the NFC Super Bowl representative last season was the Arizona Cardinals, but even broken clocks are right twice a day. But the West does get to send a team into the Playoffs, so the least we can do is break down their series of mishaps we will so generously categorize as a season.
Again much as with Detroit, both San Francisco and St Louis were atrocious last season... Not lose every game they played bad, but bad enough for me to be resting rather assuredly that the off season is not long enough for these teams to fix what was wrong. For San Fran, it was an issue of leadership. Who's the coach? Where are his pants? Who's throwing the ball today... With Alex Smith officially being issued the title of "BUST", the Niners have to Shaun Hill as their field general. Underachieving running back Frank Gore and rookie diva Michael Crabtree will be at Hill's disposal to do his best, but His best may not be good enough. For St. Louis, last season was an issue with injury and aging players breaking down combining itself with a stagnant offensive vision and a lack luster defensive unit. Now in a complete rebuilding phase, St. Louis will hope to stay in games on the questionable legs of Steven Jackson, a once amazing running back who has spent the last two years not being healthy.
This brings you to the Seattle Seahags. Aging and under the new leadership of Jim Mora Jr. (who, I might add, was just ever so stellar as the Atlanta Falcons head coach), Matt Hasselsuck and newly acquired free agents Edgerin James and T.J. Houshmandzadeh will hope to better the mediocrity displayed by the Seahawks last season. This brings you to the Arizona Cardinals. The second best team in 2008, Arizona went from zero hero last season, bringing glory and honor to a franchise that once was looked upon as the laughing stock of the NFL and did so by relying on Kurt "Jesus guides my passes" Warner's arm and the amazing talents of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquon Boldin. But even broken clocks are right twice a day. It's bloody hard to make it back to the Super Bowl after losing it the year before. But it is damn near impossible to do so when your star wide out placed himself on the cover of Madden, thus cursing the team.
But curse or no curse, Arizona should tear through this division like a fat kid through cupcakes.
NFC West winner: Arizona Cardinals.