On Monday, I wrote a column reviewing my NFL Preview Picks for the AFC. Naturally, I had to follow this up with a review of the NFC. If you thought that I was bad with the AFC, you should see the disaster that was the NFC. I even threw in a Tara Reid joke in my original NFC column; I was that desperate. Luckily, those days are behind me, as evidenced by my Keanu Reeves/Shane Falco joke in the last column. Your little sportswriter is growing up.
1. Philadelphia Eagles 10-6 (My Pick: 11-5, first)
Did I say my NFC picks were bad? Well, we are not to that section yet, but I was pretty much right on with this pick (not to brag or anything). In my original column, most of my concerns about this team were based on how well I thought Kevin Kolb would do. Obviously, Mike Vick got the majority of the playing time for the Eagles this year, pushing Kolb to the bench and making me look like a jackass for bashing a Mike Vick draft pick in my fantasy draft column.
What Vick did this season is pretty incredible, and definitely unprecedented. Can you imagine if the highest-paid player in any other sport had killed dogs, then come back as strongly as Vick did? Well, with baseball that is not possible. A-Rod would be as hated if he killed dogs or not, and he still would fold under the pressure. With basketball, that kind of thing already happened with Kobe’s alleged rape. But apparently, that never happened if you listen to the Colorado justice system, which is too strong to give into bribes from high-profile athletes or anything like that.
The problem is, Vick is bound to break down in the playoffs. It could be in the first quarter of the Wild Card Round, or the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. He will break down. And it will not be pretty.
2. New York Giants 10-6 (My Pick: 8-8, third)
I am from the New York metro area, and you can only imagine the mood everyone is in right now. Giants fans are not like Jets fans. Most have been life-long fans, and not bandwagon-hoppers like Jets fans. What am I saying? They all are bandwagon-hoppers. Don’t believe me? Come to the area in a down year. There is a severe lack of football fans. But when the teams are doing well, look out!
Anyway, the way the Giants are not allowed to be in the playoffs is an all-out tragedy. The Giants may have choked away the playoffs, but they deserved it more than the Seahawks (whom we will get to later). Obviously, the NFL will do nothing about this situation, even though most fans would vouch for a playoff system without sub-.500 teams.
Then again, I don’t really care.
3. Dallas Cowboys 6-10 (My Pick: 10-6, second)
Let’s just see what I said in my preview:
The bandwagon for this team left the station in about May, but I did not board with everyone else. This team will score points, there is no doubt about that. But they are one Felix Jones or Marion Barber injury away from relying solely on the pass, and I am not sure the Cowboys receivers other than Miles Austin are ready for that. Their defense is average at best. I do think if this team should stay healthy, they will be good. Tony Romo is far better than people give him credit for. It just falls back on the injury issue.
This team did have one key injury that affected them throughout the season, other than Tony Romo’s collarbone. That was the mental health of their previous head coach, Wade Phillips. It was no coincidence that once he left, the Cowboys started to actually play football. Without a competent leader in charge, it became apparent that the Cowboys had little chance after Week 1.
Then again, it is the Cowboys, and I do not like them.
4. Washington Redskins 6-10 (My Pick: 5-11, fourth)
Speaking of coaches with mental health issues, what in God’s name was Mike Shanahan thinking this season? Besides poorly handling the Fat Albert Haynesworth situation, the worst thing he did was the whole issue with Donovan McNabb, obviously. Why would you even sign him?
By the way, no football situation should ever be that bad that you have to resort to Rex Grossman. That just is not possible. Apparently, McNabb had cardiovascular troubles. Just give him a damn inhaler, Mike. It should not be that big of a deal.
Does anyone remember this Redskin subplot in training camp, which I briefly wrote about:
They also will have some kind of ugly, mutant running back combo which will include either Larry Johnson, Willie Parker and Clinton Portis, all three who are past their prime. It would be like filming a movie today with Ralph Macchio and Tara Reid. Guys who had lots of potential previously, but just lost it due to overexposure and just being plain annoying. And the movie would probably go straight-to-DVD.
Other than my forced pop culture reference, something else stands out about that paragraph. The combined stats for the trio: 59 rushes, 229 yards. Willie Parker did not have a single yard, and Johnson had two. Sure McNabb was bad, but when Ryan Torian and Kelian Williams are your leading rushers (and do not even combine to get 1,000 yards), there will be trouble.
1. Chicago Bears 11-5 (My Pick: 7-9, third)
In my preview column, I was really down on Jay Cutler. He might have done bodily harm to himself if he saw what I wrote about him, but luckily this column has a small audience. Calling someone “The M. Night Shamalyan” of professional football is not exactly a confidence booster.
He proved me wrong (except in a few moments where he had hot flashes of his previous INT past) for the most part, and has played conservatively underneath the resurgent Mike Martz. Like Cutler, Martz has been hit-or-miss throughout his career. If Cutler is the M. Night of quarterbacks, then Martz has to be the M. Night of coaches. Somehow, two negatives have created a positive.
This gives me hope that The Last Airbender 2 will be a success. Actually, I never saw the first one. So never mind. Maybe all M. Night needs, is to get a great producer/writer who will do some of the work for him. It is desperation time, M. Night. If that is your real name.
2. Green Bay Packers 10-6 (My Pick: 12-4, first)
My Super Bowl Champs (non-Steeler edition) probably would have topped out at 12-4 if not for an unfortunate Aaron Rodgers concussion. Here was my love letter to the Pack:
I love this team. Really, I do. It was not just their 59 point outburst they had this preseason against the Colts, but a collection of things. They can score probably better than anybody in this league. They provide the most formidable receiving corps since New England's 2007 explosion. Their defense is "eh" at best but the offense will keep them in every single game. If you want to beat the Packers, you are going to have to score at least 30, and that is something Packers fans have not heard in about ten years. I also like their running back Ryan Grant a lot, and he gives the Packers a lot of depth on the offense side of the ball. It will be a huge year for the Packers in a division that seems to be getting worse and worse every single day.
If you couldn’t tell, I thought that their offense was going to be pretty good. Grant ended up getting hurt, which made the team even more pass-oriented, if that is even possible.
I still like the Pack in the playoffs, and I would not be surprised if they somehow got to the Super Bowl. There’s my two cents.
3. Detroit Lions 6-10 (My Pick: 5-11, fourth)
Like I said, this was a team on the upswing. Okay, I said "uprise" originally, but I like swing better. Without the brittle Matthew Stafford for most of the season, the Lions still managed to get six wins with the likes of Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton leading the way.
N. Suh (too much effort to spell his first name) posted Rookie of the Year numbers, and their offense was surprisingly explosive. The future of this team, however, depends on whether or not Stafford can keep it together for at least half a season. Good God, really? I cannot remember a player who was this injury-prone. Sometimes I feel like my sister is playing quarterback for the Lions, except she has a rocket arm in this case.
You can tell Stafford really wants to play, and will play through injury. But maybe he will just be one of those guys (Griffey Junior, Ralph Sampson) who gets hurt putting on their shoes. Hey, Griffey Junior missed part of his rookie season because he slipped in the shower, so Stafford has a lot to live up to in that department.
4. Minnesota Vikings 6-10 (My Pick: 9-7, third)
Yikes. Here is what I originally wrote about the Vikings:
Can't you see Brett Favre pulling a GOB Bluth after he heard that Sidney Rice would be out eight weeks? "I've made a huge mistake". Not only that, but Percy Harvin cannot think clearly, and now Javon Walker has been brought in to save the franchise. That last part was not a joke. Their defense is getting old, including the 74 year old Williams brothers anchoring the defensive line. Depending on where you stand, that anchor reference could be good or bad. But still, when you have Adrian Peterson, you will still win football games. Even if Brett Favre plays the season on one good foot and one disgusting foot with his ankle the size of LeBron James' ego, that should still be good for a couple of wins. The injuries kill this team, probably worse than any one in the NFL
Ah, yes, I love the Arrested Development reference too, and also confused about what I meant regarding an anchor. The injuries also killed this team like I said they would, but like the Cowboys, I did not account for a major injury.
The mental health of Brad Childress! Was there anything Childress could do? With him and Brett Favre together, it was like the Incompetent Summit. All you needed was Wade Phillips, and there would be a party!
Back to Favre quickly, as hopefully I will never, ever, have to speak of him again. Thanks for ruining my fantasy season, jerk. That is all.
1. Atlanta Falcons 13-3 (My Pick: 10-6, second)
If Matt Ryan can take the famous "jump," where a quarterback becomes great, Atlanta should be a great team. If Michael Turner can stay healthy, Atlanta should be a great team. The problem with Atlanta is that it relies heavily on those two "ifs," both of which are currently 50-50 at this point. But you have to believe that if both "ifs" can come true, they will give New Orleans hell.
Matt Ryan: 3,705 yards, 62.5 percent, 28-9 TD-INT, 91.0 QB Rating
Michael Turner: 334 rushes, 1,371 yards, 12 TD
Ryan made the “jump.” Turner stayed healthy. They gave New Orleans hell. They are unbeatable at home, almost reaching Qwest Field levels of dominance. They were the best team in the NFC record wise, but personnel wise, something seems to be missing. They do have the best receiver in football (Roddy White), and their offense is pretty well put together.
Something just is not there on defense. Remember the old saying “Defense Wins Championships?” I am sure you have heard that so many times you currently want to throw your computer out a window. Maybe some of you even did. Point being, it is a true statement. I am not sure that the Falcons have it all together on defense.
Quick Note: The main reason I hope they get knocked out of the playoffs is so that we do not have to hear the ridiculous “Matty Ice” nickname for the next six months. There is no nickname I hate more in sports. What playoff record does Matt Ryan have to make this up? No media person even calls him Matt Ryan anymore. I hate it. Grr.
2. New Orleans Saints 11-5 (My Pick: 12-4, first)
They spent most of the year arguing that a Super Bowl hangover does not exist. But for the first half of the year, the Saints were still feeling the effects of a wild night. The offense seemed dysfunctional at times, and the defense was consistently letting them down. Fortunately for Saints fans, they appear to be the hottest team in the NFC entering the playoffs. Great. We just finished cleaning up New Orleans. And that is Katrina I am talking about (Ba-DUM-kis! That was a drum).
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10-6 (My Pick 3-13, fourth)
Uhh, roll the clip:
It appears that Josh Freeman's fractured thumb should be ready in time for the season opener, but does that really matter? Honestly? Their running attack is weak, their best passing option is Kellen Winslow (Gah!). They have an above-average secondary led by Ronde Barber, but they have one of the worst defensive lines in the game and put no pressure on the quarterback whatsoever. Maybe they'll wear those orange jerseys this year, those are always fan favorites.
At least I was right about the jerseys. Everyone loves those. But seriously, how wrong was I about Josh Freeman. He appeared to be the NFC’s version of Ben Roethlisberger come clutch time. Sure, he would screw things up for three quarters, but enter the fourth, he is on. Both are tough to bring down, and both always seem to make the key plays. Am I really talking about Josh Freeman this way?
Even though he really had few receiving threats (although Mike Williams: Tampa Edition was a nice touch), Freeman always seemed to make plays. They are really, really young, and their immaturity would catch up with them at times. But come next year, it is likely a changing of the guard could happen in the NFC South. Or not. I don’t know, I’m just guessing here.
4. Carolina Panthers 2-14 (My Pick: 4-12, third)
Somehow, the Panthers managed to be even worse than I thought they would. Their two-headed running monster of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart failed miserably, with Williams being put on injured reserve in November after a slow start, and Stewart being unable to gain any traction without Williams.
Jimmy Clausen was forced to throw 300 passes this year, and put up some of the worst stats by a rookie in history. But can you really blame him? That team has almost no weapons, and their line folds like me in the playoffs of my fifth grade little league (I gave up a walk-off homer. Very traumatic for emotionally unstable 11-year-old me). Now, with no Andrew Luck, this team will not be getting better any time soon.
1. Seattle Seahawks 7-9 (My Pick: 3-13, fourth)
I would still pick the Seahawks in last if another season started tomorrow. The fact that they made the playoffs is really a travesty on the national level. How can we allow the Seahawks to make the playoffs over two 10-win teams? What is this, communist Russia?
Not every team is equal. It is not like the Seahawks were playing in the toughest division, either. In fact, they played in the easiest one. In my preview column, when I said, “I can’t name three players from this team,” that still rings true to this day.
2. St. Louis Rams 7-9 (My Pick: 5-11, third)
Once again, maybe I am too high on this team. That is weird to say for a team that I project to only win 5 games, but it is true. Their number one receiver is out for the season, and that kills Sam Bradford's first season right there. Not that it was going to be all that great anyway, with the horrific offensive line and what not. I do think Bradford was the clear choice at number one, and the Rams needed a franchise player, due to the inevitable fact that running back Steven Jackson's legs will eventually fall off. Now all they need is a receiver, an offensive line, a defensive line, linebackers, a secondary, a kicker, a coach, some fans, a better stadium, and hope. But we're getting somewhere.
Like most people, I clearly overrated injured wide receiver Johnnie Avery’s value to the Rams. Apparently I thought he was Marvin Harrison circa 2004. Bradford played strong, and seems to be a clear lock for Offensive Rookie of the Year. I would say in three years (or maybe two), the Rams actually become a legitimate playoff contender, and not just because they play in the lowly NFC West. Say they draft an offensive lineman in the first round. That has to be good for one win right there. We could easily see 8-8 or 9-7 next year, if Bradford continues to improve and does not suddenly get Matt Stafford Syndrome.
3. San Francisco 49ers 6-10 (My Pick: 12-4, first)
12 wins? What? Believe it. But I hate myself for this pick. They will live off of going 6-0 in the horrible division that is the NFC West. They get the Rams, Rams and Seahawks six times this season. Six!
Ugh. The Niners really made me eat my words this season. This team still probably has the most talent of the NFC West, and they were 4-2 within the division. But 1-7 on the road is not getting it done. Also, can we officially anoint Alex Smith as a “Draft Bust”? How many freaking chances is America going to give this guy? It is ridiculous at this point.
Are Niners fans happy about Mike Singletary leaving? Let’s just put it this way: The celebration hasn’t ended.
4. Arizona Cardinals 5-11 (My Pick: 7-9)
Once again, another “what-the-hell-was-I-thinking” pick. How would I ever think that Matt Leinart would be good enough for even a single win? I even brought up the fact that hey, “at least (Derek) Anderson has experience”. So what? He is one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL? I can’t take it anymore. This has to stop.
NEW ORLEANS (-10) v. Seattle
NEW YORK (+2.5) v. Indy
BALTIMORE (-3) v. Kansas City
GREEN BAY (+2.5) v. Philadelphia
Yeah, I got all the away teams winning. Yikes.