The 2006 NFL season is almost upon us. And as a nation of football fans sweats its way through another August awaiting the first game of the season (Dolphins vs. Steelers, Thursday September 7th, 8:30pm EST) we're bombarded with a plethora of season previews — training camp specials, scouting reports, fantasy league previews, each one boldly prognosticating which players and teams will have the best seasons and why. We hear the same five to ten teams mentioned as potential Super Bowl Champions over and over again until we find ourselves repeating them in our sleep: "Colts, Steelers, Seahawks, Panthers, Cowboys..."
Personally, I'd rather talk about the handful of teams that are going to be just plain, flat-out awful.
Why? Because it makes me feel good that my favorite team isn't one of them, and also because — thanks to the many gambling options an NFL fan now has — knowing who the dregs of the league are is just as important as knowing the good teams.
Buffalo Bills: Just a year ago, Bills fans had a lot to be happy about. The great defense, Willis McGahee and up-and-comers like QB J.P. Losman and WR Lee Evans almost had people in Buffalo forgetting about the impending winter. The future was bright indeed. Now? The D wasn't as good as everyone thought, it looks like Kelly Holcomb will be your QB, and a long, cold winter is right around the corner.
Look on the bight side: McGahee's still pretty good and—McGahee's still pretty good.
Cleveland Browns: When was the last time something went right for this franchise? Sure, Reuben Droughns had a solid 2005, but the Browns are starting the season with the inexperienced Charlie Frye as their QB. He'll be throwing to Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow — equally as inexperienced and coming off injuries. Of course, given the fact they're wearing orange helmets, there's a solid chance any one of these three could end up on a stretcher in the near future. Just ask LeCharles Bentley. The newly-acquired free agent center went down with a knee injury on the first day of practice. The first day! Seriously, when are the Browns going to get the kind of media attention the Red Sox used to get for being cursed?
Look on the bright side: By the time Browns fans realize how miserable this team is, Lebron James and the Cavs will be taking center stage in Cleveland.
Green Bay Packers: If there's a Bears fan who isn't positively giddy about the demise of the Packers, I haven't met him. Coming off a stellar 4-12 season, the Pack enter this one with a nicked-up Ahman Green and a QB who probably should've retired. Perhaps Favre came back so he could make history; he's just 23 interceptions shy of setting the all-time career mark. Did I mention this team also traded their promising, unhappy WR Javon Walker to Denver? The big question isn't whether or not Green Bay misses the playoffs, it's when will Favre retire? Will he ever retire? Or will the he roam the icy tundra of Lambeau Field until the football has to be pried from his cold, dead hands.
Look on the bright side: The Packers play three of the teams on this list. So, who knows? Maybe they might actually win six games.
NY Jets: Rookie coach; bad defense; fragile quarterback; old, fragile running back who probably won't start the season — sounds like the perfect recipe for the Jets to seriously contend for the number one overall draft pick in April. If Chad Pennington makes it through this season without getting injured, I'll give every Jets fan a dollar. Imagine being the fan of a team whose running back situation is so awful, they made a trade with the Browns for perennial underachiever and injury magnet Lee Suggs. Now imagine that Suggs failed the physical and was sent back to Cleveland. Oh wait, this actually happened. All this misery and it's only August. J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets!
Look on the bright side: Once the NBA season gets underway, Isiah Thomas and the Knicks will make Jets fans forget about how bad the Jets are.
Oakland Raiders: Oakland has everything they need to make a serious run at the Super Bowl. Just ask a Raiders fan, he'll tell you. Raider-fan delusions aside, they do have one of the best wide receivers in football. Unfortunately, Aaron Brooks is throwing him the ball. Brooks was a serviceable QB a couple years ago, but last year he was awful. And I don't think Randy Moss barking at him and taking plays off is going to help his confidence any. Their defense is bad, and having to face running back studs LaDainian Tomlinson and Larry Johnson twice, it's bound to be statistically the worst D in the league.
Look on the bright side: You still have the scariest fans in professional sports—by far.
San Francisco 49ers: After watching the 49ers put together good football team after good football team for so many years, I can't help but enjoy their current situation: God-awfulness. Alex Smith might be the future, but his current running back tandem of Barlow and Gore is mediocre and his WRs are even worse. What they do have is the highest-paid tight end in the NFL. Of course, he hasn't played a down yet, but let's not let that get in the way of the Niners being number one at something.
Look on the bright side: If you want to feel good about the Niners, you can always break out the wine and cheese, and watch Montana, Young and Rice on all those Super Bowl highlight tapes.