20 years ago, the NFC was in the midst of a dominating run, which saw the conference win 13 straight Super Bowls.
The streak was broken in 1997, from which point the AFC ripped off eight of the next 10, before the Patriots, coming in as overwhelming favorites, lost to the Giants, who came out of nowhere and, to the delight of many, toppled what had appeared to be one of the greatest teams of all time.
Football is a brutal sport, and as a result, the playoffs aren’t decided in seven-game series, where the better team can be expected to prevail.
It’s single elimination, and one bad game, one improbable series of last-second laterals, missed sacks, or one football wedged between a hand a helmet, can be the difference between immortality and a footnote.
The NFC was able to win, after spending more than a decade as the AFC’s weak sister. Will the conference build on that, or will 2008 be another example of one conference’s dominance over the other?
Washington 7.5 W, O (-140) U (+110) Proj. 8-8
Jason Campbell is that guy that was anointed as popular back in grade school and carries that all the way up through graduation, even though he’s really done nothing to deserve it.
Ask anyone and they all say the same thing: “I like Jason Campbell.” “I think he’s going to emerge as a good pro someday.” I say the same things myself.
Next thing you know, he’s tossing a game-killing interception and the week after he gets injured, some 36-year old I’ve never heard of is leading his team on a four-game winning streak and into the playoffs.
New York *OFF* Proj. 9-7
The dreaded “Off board”
If there’s one disappointing development that the Giant’s Super Bowl win has brought to light it’s the evolution of the average fan. After the playoff run, I thought Manning would slip himself into the top 10 and people, as a whole, would over value the Giants. But other than Giants fans, nobody is falling for it. Poor Eli isn’t even a consensus draft pick in 10-team leagues.
(Tonight, take the points, but the Giants win a close one.)
Philadelphia 8.5 W, O (-180) U (+120) Proj. 11-5
Have you seen Quintin “George” Mikell hit? He’s fantastic, the anti-Dawkins if you will. While we’re on the subject of Brian Dawkins, isn’t it time we drop the charade that he’s an elite player?
I’ve got two enduring memories of him over the last few years: Jeff Garcia bowling over him for a game-tying touchdown four years ago, and Santonio Holmes making him look so bad this preseason that Bob Pompeani openly changed his opinion of Dawkins from one of the best safeties in the game to someone who’s showing that “13-year slow.”
Dallas 10.5 W, O (-150) U (+120) Proj. 12-4
I’m still convinced that Nick had Romo on his fantasy team, and Jessica, as one final “screw you”, started dating him. When Nick didn’t seem to care, she showed up to the Philly game in order to knock him out of the playoffs.
What’s that you say?
Why is she still dating him?
Do You Know ain’t going to sell itself...
(It’s out next Monday.)
Chicago 7.5 W, O (+115) U (-145) Proj. 5-11
Of all the transplanted fans who moved out to California and descend upon 5th Street (the bar I used to go to back when I had a life), the Chicago fans have to be my favorites: Same place at the bar, they’re always in jerseys, (Urlacher or Payton), they embrace any and all other Bears fans, and they raise hell during every play. So if I were to wish a winning season on anyone, it would be them.
Unfortunately, their defense isn’t what it used to be, Urlacher’s no longer a great player, and Kyle Orton is backed up by Rex Grossman.
Detroit 6.5 W, O (-120) U (even) Proj. 6-10
They lost the maniac Mike Martz, and with a little luck, they will come to the conclusion that Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson are better receivers than Mike Furrey and Shaun MacDonald.
If they follow this line to its logical end, I expect them to come to the inevitable conclusion that it’s advantageous to get the ball to their better players.
This is similar to when the Cowboys came to the slow realization that Marion Barber was a far superior player to Julius Jones and adjusted their offense accordingly.
Long shot: Receiving Yardage leader for the season: Calvin Johnson, 60-1
Minnesota 8.5 W, O (-190) U (+155) Proj. 9-7
Don’t get roped in by their closing record, or the fact that Tarvaris Jackson threw 65 percent over the last five games. Those trends rarely carry over. They still have questions regarding their pass defense, and their best player has durability issues.
That aside, Tarvaris Jackson isn’t going to win any games that the defense and the running games aren’t going to win themselves. A team can make the playoffs that way, sure, but they’re not ripping off a 13-3 record and running away with the division unless they get extremely lucky (re: 2006 Ravens).
Green Bay 8.5 W, O (-115) U (-115) Proj. 11-5
As long as Aaron Rodgers isn’t horrible, they’ll win the division...well, that and if their corners don’t break down.
I believe in Aaron Rodgers. I believe that my team, the 49ers, should have drafted Aaron Rodgers over Alex Smith, and I believed in Aaron Rodgers when No. 4 did his diva thing and held ESPN (and B/R for that matter) hostage for two months.
I hate Bret Favre.
A wild division that crowns a new champion every year, and guess what.
Atlanta 4.5 W, O (-130) U (even) Proj. 4-12
It’s not the Falcons turn.
Tampa Bay 8 W, O (-140) U (+110) Proj. 9-7
Originally, I had them pegged to win the division by edging out Carolina and New Orleans, but the more I thought on last year’s team, I couldn’t shake the thought that they’ll get hurt, and one way or another, it’ll be just enough to keep them out of the playoffs.
New Orleans 8.5 O(-190) U(+155) Proj. 9-7
New Orleans, sorry about the 2007 Saints. *sniff* Everyone loved them. But they were fatally flawed, and their coach probably belongs on Broadway...you’ll get 'em in 2008...
But how is this a different team then last year? Their defense is still full of holes, (albeit only on the line, amidst the backers, and in the secondary), the running game is still miserable, and they don’t have a solid No. 2 receiver.
I mean, basically, you have Drew Brees, Marques Colston, a running back who’s renown for catching five-yard passes and two disgruntled guys from New York who may never have been as good as they were billed to be in the first place.
(Sean Payton can throw a hell of a mock funeral for a winning season, though.)
Carolina 7.5 W, O (-180) U (+150) Proj. 11-5
Delhomme looks good, Steve Smith seems as psychotic as ever, and Julius Peppers looks ready to play for his new contract. Add to that the running of Williams and Stewart, and what you get is a very intriguing team in a wide-open division.
You want a long shot?
Super Bowl Champs: 40-1
San Francisco 6 W, O (-160) U (+130) Proj. 4-12
Can’t bet against your own team. Which is too bad, because I’d be retired by know if I had been betting against the 'Niners since the Dennis Erickson era seamlessly transitioned into what we have today. Bad for me, but good for you.
St. Louis Rams 6.5 W, O (even) U (-120) Proj. 5-11
I can, however, bet against the Rams.
Interesting long-shot here. Steven Jackson to win the MVP is going off at 60-1. Now, because of the division, it’s not too much of a stretch to see the Ram’s overcoming the fact that they’re horrible and winning somewhere in the vicinity of 10 games, which would take the West.
If this happened, Jackson would almost certainly have to have a monster season, and wouldn’t that put him right in the running?
Seattle 8.5 W, O (-190) U (+155) Proj. 8-8
They can’t run, and Nate Burleson is their No. 1 wide receiver.
(There’s a reason why I almost had an orgasm when my fantasy league’s 07 champ drafted Burleson last weekend.)
Arizona 8 W, O (even) U (+155) Proj. 9-7
Last season, they were two, fluke 49ers losses away from 10-6. Their offensive line will be intact for consecutive years for the first time since 1972. Kurt Warner’s ready for one last hurrah, and Tim Hightower is coming out.
This is a team that’s been held back by their offensive line and quarterback for the past three years, and this is the year they finally get over the hump.
1)Dallas 1)New England
3)Carolina 3)San Diego
5) Philadelphia 5) Jacksonville
6) Minnesota 6) Indianapolis
Wild Card weekend
Carolina over Minn; Phi over Ari; Indy over SD; Pitt over Jack.
Dallas over Philly; GB over Car; Indy over Hou; NE over Pitt.
GB over Dal; NE over Indy.
New England, by a sight.