Between Thursday's Saints-Vikings game, Sunday's official opening day, and the glorious Monday Night Football double-header, this week has been one big Man-Christmas. Football is back and it's as great as ever.
Quarterback battles have been won, preseason subplots are settled and coaches have built their gameplans. Basically, it's go time. During the next six months, your team will succeed and it will fail. Your favorite player will have weeks where he goes off and weeks where he disappears, and your fantasy team will crush and be crushed. But it's the rollercoaster ride that brings us back year after year in our battered, wing-stained jerseys.
For the brand new adventure that is this season, I've set about the task of reviewing each team's schedule and predicting their wins and losses. Some of the results will shock and surprise. Some are a little more well, predictable.
So get a bag of chips, a soda or a beer and see how the NFL version 2010 will play out from Division champions to the MVP to the 45th Super Bowl victor.
With Darrelle Revis settled back in as the best player on the best defense, it will be the Jets winning the AFC East in 2010. The Pats are back in (almost-) full force and the 'Phins are much improved, but the Jets defense will still be tops and the offense should be good enough to win plenty of games. Needless to say, the Bills won't be a factor.
New York Jets: 11-5
New England Patriots: 10-6
Miami Dolphins: 10-6
Buffalo Bills: 4-12
Team I'm Too High On: Miami Dolphins
Breakout Player: C.J. Spiller
Division MVP: Tom Brady
The North has been ruled with a Steel Fist for decades, but an ominous Raven circles in the sky. 2010 will be the year Baltimore's offense becomes the anchor for the Black and Purple. Pittsburgh and Cinci will be competitive but neither will make the playoffs. Cleveland will push for the No. 1 pick.
Baltimore Ravens: 11-5
Pittsburgh Steelers: 9-7
Cincinnati Bengals: 8-8
Cleveland Browns: 2-14
Team I'm Too Low On: Cincinnati Bengals
Breakout Player: Joe Flacco
Division MVP: Joe Flacco
Get ready for this bold prediction: The Colts will win the AFC South! Whoa!
The Colts are a betting man's dream. Or nightmare. They are the picture of consistency and will hold off a Titans/Texans insurgency. The Texans pick the wrong year to have their most successful season. Jacksonville's struggles shouldn't surprise anyone and David Garrard could find himself in the hot seat quickly.
Indianapolis Colts: 12-4
Tennessee Titans: 11-5
Houston Texans: 10-6
Jacksonville Jaguars: 2-14
Team I'm Too High On: Indianapolis Colts
Team I'm Too Low On: Jacksonville Jaguars
Breakout Player: Arian Foster
Division MVP: Peyton Manning
Kind of like the Colts, you can just pencil the Chargers into the playoffs annually. That won't change in 2010. Double digit wins and high scores in the Bolts future as always. The division as a whole will improve and consistent bottom-dwllers Oakland and Kansas City will provide a few suprises along the way. Respectability isn't a word you normally associate with the AFC West. That will change this year.
San Diego Chargers: 10-6
Kansas City Chiefs: 8-8
Denver Broncos: 7-9
Oakland Raiders: 6-10
Team I'm Too Low On: Oakland Raiders
Breakout Player: Legedu Naanee
Division MVP: Philip Rivers
I'm a Jets fan. It's tough for me to be nice about the Giants. Okay...ready?
The Giants will win 11 games.
Phew. That was tough. But yeah. Forget the Cowboys and Eagles. Forget Romo and McNabb, and definitely forget Kolb. The G-men piece together a messy puzzle and throw for a ton of yards. Also, don't be surprised if the entire division is .500 or better.
New York Giants: 11-5
Dallas Cowboys 10-6
Washington Redskins: 8-8
Philadelphia Eagles: 8-8
Team I'm Too High On: New York Giants
Breakout Player: Hakeem Nicks
Division MVP: Eli Manning
That's what people in Green Bay are saying since Aaron Rodgers became the elite passer Mike McCarthy believed him to be. He and Greg Jennings will run the NFC North like it's 1964.
That guy who was in "There's Something About Mary" will claw his team above .500 and into yet another postseason. The rest of the division will not be competitive.
Green Bay Packers: 13-3
Minnesota Vikings: 9-7
Detroit Lions: 4-12
Chicago Bears: 4-12
Team I'm Too Low On: Chicago Bears
Breakout Player: Jahvid Best
Division MVP: Aaron Rodgers
Surprise! The Saints continue to distance themselves from the 'Aints and win the NFC South in 2010. The rest of the division is halted by a harsh schedule and won't recieve the wildcard they fully expect. A promising Tampa Bay team struggles simply because the mountain is too tall to climb
Most importantly, Drew Brees escapes the Madden Curse and competes for Peyton's MVP.
New Orleans Saints: 15-1
Atlanta Falcons: 7-9
Carolina Panthers: 7-9
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 4-12
Team I'm Too High On: New Orleans Saints
Breakout Player: Mike Williams
Division MVP: Reggie Bush
The Gold Coast Rush is back! The mirage in the Arizona desert will dissapate into the embarassment it was so many years ago. Patrick Willis and a Forty-Niners offense that finally has some chemestry will lead Singletary's army to a division title.
Sam Bradford's rookie year will be the catalyst to the rebirth of Rams football, and Pete Carrol's re-debut will compete for the first overall pick.
San Francisco 49ers: 11-5
Arizona Cardinals: 5-11
St. Louis Cardinals: 5-11
Seattle Seahawks: 5-11
Team I'm Too Low On: Arizona Cardinals
Breakout Player: Alex Smith
Divisional MVP: Patrick Willis
I'm going out on a limb for these five bold predictions:
1) For the first time, Eli Manning will throw more touchdowns than his older brother Peyton.
2) Ken Whisenhunt will be the first coach surprised to find himself on the hot seat.
3) Hofstra's Kareem Huggins will be this year's Jamaal Charles.
4) Michael Vick will finish the year as the Eagles starter and will be invited to the Pro Bowl.
5) Not only will Chris Johnson become the first running back with consecutive 2,000 yard seasons, he'll actually eclipse his yardage from 2009.
NFL MVP: Drew Brees
Offensive Player of the Year: Chris Johnson
Defensive Player of the Year: Patrick Willis
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Jahvid Best
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Gerald McCoy
Coach of the Year: Mike Singletary
1. Indianapolis Colts (South Division Winner)
3. Baltimore Ravens (North Division Winner)
6. New England Patriots (Wild Card)
4. San Diego Chargers (West Division Winner)
5. Tennessee Titans (Wild Card)
2. New York Jets (East Division Winner)
1. New Orleans Saints (South Division Winner)
3. San Francisco 49ers (West Division Winner)
6. Minnesota Vikings (Wild Card)
4. New York Giants (East Division Winner)
5. Dallas Cowboys (Wild Card)
2. Green Bay Packers (North Division Winner)
No. 3 seed Baltimore takes care of the Patriots in Round One using the secret edge they have over Bill Belichick. Vince Young plays magic man in an exciting win over Phil Rivers in San Diego.
In Round Two, Baltimore battles and Ray Rice knocks Peyton Manning and the Colts out. Chris Johnson fights through a tough Jets defense to the conference finals.
In the AFC Championship, Chris Johnson runs wild through an exasperated Baltimore defense to Dallas and the Super Bowl.
The storyline of the First Round of the NFC playoffs wlll be split between Brett Favre's 237th career postseason game, and whether or not the Cowboys can play the Super Bowl at home.
Neither will play out very well.
The three seed, San Francisco will put a defensive blockade on the Old Man of Minnesota, effectively ending his career (we can only hope). Big Blue, the four seed, will falter to Romo's bro-mo's as the Dallas home game becomes more intriguing.
Sadly, Drew Brees shows his grit, sending the 'Boys packing. Green Bay punishes the Niners in a classic NFC rivalry to meet Brees' crew in the championship game.
Rodgers continues his epic playoff run with an impressive game, carrying the Pack to Super Bowl 45.
The people of Dallas will be devestated when their long-time nemesis, the Green Bay Packers, lift the Lombardi trophy in the Cowboys' own stadium.
Their opponents, the Tennessee Titans will come out hot behind a Vince Young touchdown scamper, reminiscent of his National Championship-winning run with Texas, and a Chris Johnson 65-yard TD run.
Trailing 14-0, the Packers surprisingly turn to their defense and ground game. They are forced into this because of Aaron Rodgers' struggles.
Tennessee's secondary will manage to slow Rodgers to the tune of 256 yards and one touchdown. And the newly coronated NFL-Elite quarterback will throw a major anti-clutch pick-six, bringing the Titans within three points in the fourth.
But Rodgers second-hand man, Ryan Grant, will torch the Titan defense for 177 yards and three touchdowns, one in the first half and two huge scores in the second half. His final breakaway TD will save Rodgers behind as the Pack recovers the Lombardi trophy to the tune of 31-21.