A lot has happened since I last sat down to write a blog — Brett Favre returned to football, this time without the man tears … the Pacers swiped Darren Collison from the Hornets … Rex Ryan dropped a couple f-bombs on HBO … Tim Tebow rocked the monk cut … and this poor kid botched the worst play in football history.
Missed out on all those, oh well. But with less than 24 hours to go until the NFL season kicks off, it looks like now’s the time to finally dust off the blog and make some stupid picks. Better late than never, right?
AFC EAST: New England
Am I the only one who thinks the Jets’ offseason spending spree will not turn into a division title? LaDainian Tomlinson and Jason Taylor were past their primes a couple years ago. Two-thirds of the NFL’s top rushing group from 2009 — Thomas Jones and Leon Washington — are gone. The Jets’ defense should be strong again, but Darrelle Revis has to have some rust after his holdout. I’ll take Tom Brady, Randy Moss, a healthy Wes Welker and the under-the-radar Patriots — if their defense holds up.
AFC NORTH: Baltimore
I like the Ravens’ moves. Anquan Boldin (if healthy) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (if motivated) should compliment Baltimore’s already-dangerous offensive core of Joe Flacco and Ray Rice. The defense is aging but always seems to perform. Cincinnati could be in the mix for a wild card spot, Pittsburgh takes a few steps back, and Cleveland stays in the gutter.
AFC SOUTH: Indianapolis
I picked the Titans last year and look what happened: Tennessee started the season 0-6, got rocked 59-0 by New England, and had its division title hopes dashed before the leaves started to fall. I learned my lesson — don’t pick against the Colts in the AFC South. There are definitely question marks (offensive line, secondary, special teams) but aren’t we saying that every year about the Colts? The offense is still one of the best in the business.
AFC WEST: San Diego
Stability at quarterback can go a long way in the NFL. San Diego’s Philip Rivers hasn’t missed a start since inheriting the position in 2006. During that span, the Chargers have gone 46-18 and made the playoffs each year. For added prespective, the Oakland Raiders have started seven QB’s since ’06 (JaMarcus Russell, Bruce Gradkowski, Charlie Frye, Andrew Walter, Josh McCown, Daunte Culpepper, Aaron Brooks) gone 16-48, and haven’t even sniffed the postseason. I’ll take the Chargers.
NFC EAST: New York Giants
My first surprise pick. Many forget the Giants started last season 5-0, beat Dallas twice, and if not for an October meltdown would have likely cruised to the division title. Dallas has the third-toughest schedule in the league (its opponents went 139-117 in ’09) and faces ridiculous expectations from both its owner and fan base year in and year out. The pressure of winning the Super Bowl in their home stadium will be too much for the Cowboys and quarterback Tony Romo … who isn’t exactly Mr. Clutch. Eli Manning is still the best QB in the division.
NFC NORTH: Minnesota Vikings
Tough pick. Minnesota and Green Bay have equally top notch defenses, strong rushing attacks, and potent passing games. I’ll give the slight edge to the Vikes and Adrian Peterson — if he can cure his bad case of fumblitis.
NFC SOUTH: Atlanta Falcons
I’ll go with the upset here. The Saints should be good again, but their ’09 season would be tough for any team to top. Matt Ryan to Roddy White is one of the most dangerous QB-receiver combos in the league, and Michael Turner can be a top-five running back if healthy. Atlanta needs it’s mediocre defense to step up.
NFC WEST: San Francisco 49ers
Do I have to pick this one? The Rams are still rebuilding, the Seahawks are holding a fire sale, and the Cardinals just cut their “QB of the future” Matt Leinart in favor of Derek Anderson, a guy who couldn’t lock down the starting job in Cleveland. That leaves the 49ers because ….. Frank Gore is pretty good?