Alright, enough of this.
We've suffered through an offseason, watched the draft come and go, kept up on minicamps and OTAs, gone through training camp reports and downloaded the Preseason Live app to watch meaningless exhibition games.
With all of those meaningless games out of the way, I thought now would be as good a time as any to present to you, dear readers, my picks for the 2012 NFL season. I look forward to your level-headed comments and reasoned debates in the comments section.
2012 Final Standings
These teams always end up beating each other up, and this year will be no different. The Giants have the best quarterback and head coach, which are probably the two most significant components for winning in today's NFL.
The Eagles edge out the Cowboys for the wild card, only because I have an unexplainable belief that they will get to the quarterback more often than the Cowboys. The Redskins have an exciting young quarterback and an underrated defense that will keep them in games.
The Packers almost went undefeated with one of the worst passing defenses in NFL history. They look to have added just enough pass rush to take the pressure off of their evolving secondary.
The Bears have enough talent to push the Packers, especially on offense. The Lions can score with anyone, but that secondary will give up as many points, if not more. As for the Vikings, they'll be a tough out on every team's schedule, especially at home, but they're at least a year away from seriously competing.
The Falcons have the playmakers on offense, but I worry about their ability to keep Matt Ryan upright. The Panthers should have the Rookie Defensive Player of the Year in Luke Kuechly, but the defense is still a big question mark. I really like what new Bucs head coach Greg Schiano has done in building his first NFL roster, but they are still a year away.
I tend to think the "49ers and everyone else" mentality when it comes to the NFC West has gotten a little out of control. The Niners are immensely talented, but they had a lot break right for them last season.
The Seahawks have made up the gap and should be an equally tough out this year. The Rams have a good quarterback, a very good running back and a decent collection of talent up front on defense (Michael Brockers injury notwithstanding). The Cardinals should continue the improved play we saw on the defensive side of the ball last year, but their quarterbacks will sink them.
The Patriots should have an improved pass rush, which in turn should improve what was a pretty porous secondary last year. Brady and company look to be as potent as ever.
The Bills spent a bunch of money because they think they're on the cusp of being a contender. I tend to agree. The Jets will showcase an excellent defense and a suspect offense. I just don't see how they'll score points. The Dolphins are serious contenders for the first overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft.
I have to admit, I'm still not 100 percent on board with the Ravens' use of the no-huddle, but they looked good doing it in preseason. Of course, that's preseason. Every year, everyone writes the Steelers off, and every year they win 10 to 12 games. I think they'll be as good as ever.
The Bengals have to start beating the better teams on their schedule. If and when they can do that consistently, I'll take them seriously as contenders. The Browns—oh, the Browns. They have a decent defense and a rookie quarterback who will be going through major growing pains in 2012.
The Texans are Super Bowl contenders (I never thought I'd type that sentence). They have an offense that can score at will and an incredibly stout front seven on defense.
The Titans will be a better team than the one they fielded in 2011, but they'll end 2012 with a worse record. The Jaguars aren't as bad as many people think—they just need another year before they can compete with the big boys.
As for the Colts, they're not as far away as people think, and they'll upset a team or two before the year is done.
The Chiefs? Yes, the Chiefs. They have the most complete team, as crazy as that sounds. They should be able to score a bunch and rush the passer with four. That's key in today's NFL. Manning and the Broncos will be fun to watch, but ultimately I don't see this being a dynamic offense consistently throughout 16 games.
For the Chargers, Philip Rivers is set to have a bounce-back year, and the defense should only improve, especially on third downs. The Raiders will probably win more games than any other last place team—for all that matters.
NFC Wild Card Games
Seahawks over Eagles
AFC Wild Card Games
Steelers over Chiefs
Ravens over Bills
NFC Divisional Games
Saints over Seahawks
Packers over Bears
Texans over Steelers
Patriots over Ravens
Patriots over Texans
Packers over Saints
Packers over Patriots.
Call me a homer. Accuse me of going with chalk. But the fact remains that I have waited four months to find a reason the Pats and the Pack won't meet in New Orleans for the right to bring home the Lombardi Trophy, and I have yet to find one.