One. Hour. I’m all jittery and no it’s totally not from that double-shot latte I had this morning. The worst summer in the history of the NFL is finally over and it’s time for some FOOTBALL! (No people, preseason isn’t real football.) I know how agonizing it is for you all to wait so long for my super-accurate predictions every year, but as I’m sure you’ve learned by now – good things come to those who wait (and that I love my cliches…and sidebars in parentheses).
This season promises to continue on the wonderful warpath of parity. There’s a whole mess of favorites, an even larger mess of teams from which we have no idea what to expect, and surprisingly few guaranteed disasters. Even the Bills are looking to prove that a Harvard man can be a viable fantasy quarterback, and maybe War Damn Cam Newton will eagle his way through the toughest schedule in the NFL (insert groan). So without prolonging your wait any longer, here goes the 2011 dheerja.com season predictions!
NFC East: COWBOYS
Ohhhhh boy. Yeah I just did that. Way to start off with a doozy, eh? Well let’s be honest, the Giants are fading into complete insignificance in the shadow of Gang Green. They made zero offseason moves of note and lost entirely too many players to other teams and injury. 2007 might as well be 1969. The Redskins actually don’t seem that bad…wait did you say Rex Grossman? Isn’t he in the UFL by now?! It really boils down to the Eagles and Boys, and if the Miami Heat have taught us anything this year it’s that you can’t call yourselves a Dream Team before you’ve played a single game. The sporting gods do not approve and you will be doomed. DOOMED! But in all seriousness the Eagles have some serious holes on their team and I don’t see Vick lasting past week 10. Oh and didn’t Tony Romo get married this summer? That’s some pretty serious motivation to keep playing into January, nobody likes the ball and chain.
NFC West: CARDINALS
The NFL needs to take a serious look at adopting the EPL’s relegation system. You could make a strong case for kicking all four of these teams out, they’re a goddamn embarrassment! Neither the Niners nor Seahawks have a strong enough team to make up for their giant question mark at QB, and their tough schedules will only result in massacre. I think the Rams are a better team than the Cardinals, and I like Sam Bradford a lot more than unproven Kevin Kolb. But the Rams have a brutal early season schedule, while the Cards are coasting, and in the NFC West that’s pretty much the only thing that matters.
NFC North: PACKERS
The defending champs aren’t going anywhere. They have zero major changes in their roster from last year, and they’re only getting healthier and stronger. They won the Superbowl with a battered team, and their explosive offense and stellar defense will coast them to a division title barring any awful injuries. The Lions are the ultimate trendy “sleeper” pick right now, and I can’t say I don’t love the potential there but it’ll be tough to beat out the Pack. Stafford’s shoulder will single-handedly haunt the city of Detroit until he makes it through a season, and if he does I can see this team nabbing a coveted NFC wild card spot. I don’t think the Bears will surprise us again like last year, and the Vikings just aren’t going anywhere with McNabb. Rebuilding time!
NFC South: FALCONS
As much as I judge the Falcons for trading away everything they had in the draft for Julio Jones, I still really love this team, going three years strong now. If Julio pans out with the way he’s been performing this preseason he’ll be a welcome addition to an already threatening passing game. The Saints will always be in the running under the wonderful Sean Payton, but I think injuries will hold them back just enough to let Atlanta take the division. The Bucs would be my pick for the surprise of the NFC this year, but I think they need one more year to really get there. Carolina won’t be last year’s Carolina, but that’s pretty much the only positive thing we can say.
AFC East: JETS
Finally I’m taking the plunge. I can’t pick the Patriots this year, I just can’t. The Jets are in a position that I love – nobody has aggressively high expectations for us like last year, and we’ve finally settled into the mold of a consistent, solid team. Our offseason was average, especially compared to last year’s upgrades, and I still die a little inside every time I hear Nnamdi’s name, but we made some solid moves to build back weaker areas. The biggest concern here is sheer lack of depth, and any major injuries would completely tank this team. Obviously the Patriots are the favorite for this division, but I think our slightly easier schedule will edge us out over the evil team from the evil state. Oh and you heard it here first – the 2011 Panthers are the one and only Miami Dolphins! (mwauhahaha.)
AFC West: CHARGERS
This team has way too much going for it. Vincent Jackson looks stellar, as does the rest of the passing game, and the defense is solid as always. They’re also in the AFC West which is ALMOST as bad as the NFC West. Almost. The Chiefs could take it again but I think Matt Cassel severely under-performs this year, and last season was most definitely a direct product of a disgustingly easy schedule. The Raiders have somehow managed to make their team worse, but at least all their players have GREAT 40 times! Poor Jason Campbell is going into his second year in Oakland, over/under on how many games til Al Davis the dementor sucks the life out of him? Or how about the over/under on how many games til Denver succumbs to the golden boy and throws Orton to the dogs? No GQ cover for you Kyle.
AFC North: STEELERS
I hate this team. I hate that they stood in the way of our first Superbowl since 1969. I hate that they have an incredible ownership that leads this franchise to Superbowl after Superbowl, spoiling Pittsburgh fans yet again. It’s just impossible to not pick this team that will only improve from last year’s run. The Ravens look spotty this year and I think they lost their best shot at a Superbowl run last season. Both the Bengals and Browns have the potential to surprise us, but it won’t happen this season with an inexperienced Dalton and an annoying Colt McCoy. This is a great division though and will definitely provide some competitive games this year.
AFC South: TITANS
With Peyton out for the season this race will be a close one between the Texans and Titans. Houston is the fan favorite, as always, but the Titans have an incredible offensive line to protect Hasselbeck from his usual injuries. Chris Johnson is signed and ready to roll, and Tennessee has the potential to rival Houston’s explosive offense, whose running game will take a step down without Vonta Leach blocking for Foster.
Get pumped. Get your face on. Game time.