It's football season, and though I think it's crap that the Super Bowl champions have to open their season on the road tonight, I'm nonetheless excited. With that, here's a full rundown of my thoughts on the upcoming season, division by division, playoff teams in bold:
New England Patriots - Normally they run away with the division. This year, I think they walk away with it. They are vulnerable like never before, but I just don't see any other team in this division stepping up to challenge.
Miami Dolphins - They'll be okay. They have some up-and-coming pieces, but ultimately, I think they just aren't ready.
Buffalo Bills - I love my Bills. I love the new coach. I love CJ Spiller. I think I love EJ Manuel. I love everything they've done from the end of last season until now...but they will not be good this year. The defense is seriously lacking, and I think this year's group of rookie QBs proves that the success of last year's group was a fluke.
New York Jets - They will suck and I will laugh and laugh and laugh.
Cincinnati Bengals - I'm not usually one to pick against the Super Bowl champs at least winning their division the next season, but I think the Bengals are going to be good. It all rides on Andy Dalton to take a developmental step forward, but if he does, this could be one of the league's best teams.
Baltimore Ravens - Earning a Wild Card birth, the Ravens won't be as hurt by all their departures as everyone thinks. Ray Rice is still there and combined with Bernard Pierce they have a nice backfield. Joe Flacco isn't an all-time great, but has proven he has what it takes to win.
Cleveland Browns - I'm banking on Brandon Wheedon taking a step forward this year, now that it seems he has some decent receiving talent, and combined with Trent Richardson, their offense should be at least competent, which it hasn't been since Derek Anderson had that one good season like 10 years ago. The defense is always solid, and if Baltimore DOES struggle with all their losses, this could be a surprise playoff team.
Pittsburgh Steelers - The once smash-mouth Steelers have no running backs, a terrible offensive line, and an aging defense that seems to get more and more injury prone. Big Ben keeps them competitive, but this is just not a good football team right now.
Houston Texans - I think the only thing not to like about this team right now is how little they've changed...that means all signs point to an 11 to 12 win season, followed by a mediocre playoff run. They will be one of the league's best regular season teams, but I'm not sure they have what it takes to step to the next level and become Super Bowl contenders. I think Gary Kubiak holds them back with his overly conservative coaching.
Indianapolis Colts - One of my "surprise" picks. This team will NOT make the playoffs this year. Last year's team somehow won 12 games, despite having an overall negative point differential for the season. This year, they will be a better team, but win fewer games, if that makes sense. I can't see them winning as many last-second miracles as last year.
Tennessee Titans - They are better than the Jaguars, but what does that mean? Chris Johnson will have a bounce back year, but without a quarterback, this team is left floundering
Jacksonville Jaguars - Two words: Blaine Gabbert. If not for him, this could be a competitive team. I like MJD to have a good year, and they have two good receivers...but Blaine Gabbert SUCKS.
Denver Broncos - A trendy pick, but I just don't see anyone in the AFC challenging them. They are too stacked with talent on offense, and though missing Von Miller will hurt early in the season, seasons are made at the end, not the beginning.
Kansas City Chiefs - Alex Smith is no Peyton Manning, but he may look like it in comparison to Matt Cassell. I think this team steps up to the plate and, on virtue of getting to beat up two bad teams in San Diego and Oakland, gets enough wins to be Wild Card #2.
San Diego Chargers - This team is in shambles, and fans have Norv Turner to thank. They might be a little less of a clusterf**** without him, but they just aren't going to pull themselves out of their tailspin. They've lost too much talent and Philip Rivers is a headcase.
Oakland Raiders - The Raiders are heading into the season with TWO punters on their roster. Is there really anything else we need to say about them?
New York Giants - This was the toughest division to pick, but ultimately, I think they bounce back with a healthy WR-corps. Either that, or fans will be calling for Coughlin's head again, which means they'll win a Super Bowl next season.
Washington Redskins - RGIII, more like RG-bustedknee. Not my best material, but this team lives and dies by Griffin's leg, and I think it's a dead year.
Dallas Cowboys - Jerry Jones will continue to hold this team back. Jason Garrett is not an NFL head coach. Tony Romo will suffer the wrath as a result.
Philadelphia Eagles - I'll never pick the dog killer. That said, I am curious to see how the new offense will play, but I think Vick will get hurt (as usual) and that will be that.
Green Bay Packers - Is it possible to dislike this team? I love me some Aaron Rodgers, and they MIGHT actually have a running attack this year. Go Pack, Go.
Chicago Bears - This is more of a pick to satisfy the past 20 years of NFL history, which states that there will be some new blood in the playoffs.
Minnesota Vikings - Adrian Peterson can carry this team far, but Christian Ponders noodle-arm will hold them back from truly competing.
Detroit Lions - I like a lot about the Lions...but I hate their head coach. He's probably the worst in football, and the team will continue to have disciplinary problems and lose games because of it as long as he is the coach.
New Orleans Saints - This team is ready and raring to run up the score on every opponent they face. Good sportsmanship went out the window when Sean Payton got that full year suspension. He and Drew Brees are going to make the NFL pay by embarrassing people week after week by racking up 60 points.
Atlanta Falcons - Matt Ryan will take this team far. He took a step forward last year and proved that this is a potential Super Bowl team.
Carolina Panthers - If I wanted to get whacky, I'd pick this team to make the playoffs. But I'm a realist, and I know that their only hope is if Cam Newton EXPLODES. I think he'll have a good year, but I don't see them competing in this division.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers - I just don't like this team. I think Doug Martin slumps back, Josh Freeman just isn't a good QB, and I don't see anything that makes me think they'll win more than 6 or 7 games.
Seattle Seahawks - Marshawn Lynch will carry this team far, and Russell Wilson will add the little oomph they need to win a few games from decent quarterback play. This looks like the old Chicago Bears teams that would win on virtue of their defense...and you know what they say about defense and championships...
San Francisco 49ers - A victim of the "new blood in the playoffs" rule I set out for myself. I also think a victim of injury, and frankly, middling quarterback play.
St. Louis Rams - I want to like this team...but I can't. I hope they hold onto Jeff Fisher, because I think he's a good coach, but they've lost a lot of talent and not replaced it with much, and I think it's another disappointing season.
Arizona Cardinals - meh. Not much to talk about here. One of the lesser NFL teams is in for another lesser season. Ho-hum.
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME:
Denver defeats Houston
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME:
New Orleans defeats Seattle
Denver defeats New Orleans.
I am ready for some football.
Week 1 Suicide Pick: