by Ryan Meehan
Football is here again, and it seemes like it’s been forever since it’s graced our television screens with its presence. Here at FOH the best way for us to deal with such a glorious event is to write an extremely long article that hopefully has enough witty remarks to hold your interest the whole way through. So without further ado here is the breakdown by division, and we’ll start with the AFC since a team representing that conference won the most recent Super Bowl.
Over the past several seasons the AFC East has been pretty easy to decode: Patriots walk away with the division easy. But this year a lot of energy has been focused on Miami and what they will hope to be able to do with newly acquired Mike Wallace lining up at receiver. The Jets are going to blow and it is going to be really, really funny. Buffalo is a non factor as one might expect.
New England 11-5
Miami Dolphins 9-7
New York Jets 6-10
Buffalo Bills 3-13
It’s chalk, but it’s chalk because it’s true. New England will get out fine -hopefully for their sake. The Jets I’m picking to go 6-10 only for the sole reason that I’d like to see them float around .500 for the last couple of weeks, only to suffer a total of double digit losses. I’d love to see them at 13 losses (or better yet 14) where I have the Bills, who are putting some serious weight on Tuel’s shoulders. (Editor’s note: Tuel may or may not have two shoulders to begin with)
The biggest changes out on the Denver Broncos’ hitching post have been the loss of Elvis Dumervil, the six game suspension for Von Miller after he was caught hanging out with Miley Cyrus’ “chemist”, and of course the health of newly acquired Ex-Patriot Wes Welker. Now, you look at the Welker situation and it’s pretty apparent that his health is going to be in question. But that will be a hard sell when it comes to expecting any sympathy should they visit New England in the postseason. The Patriots have had to deal with all of the Gronk-related stuff, so they likely don’t want to hear complaining about a guy they just let go. Denver will win the division, and will lose their last game only because it won’t make a difference as they would already have it clinched. They will get banged up early, just like last year. And just like last year, I would assume that they will hit a winning streak in which Peyton Manning looks every bit as good as he’s always been.
Denver Broncos 10-6
Oakland Raiders 7-9
Kansas City Chiefs 6-10
San Diego Chargers 4-12
I can not even put into words how good it feels to put the San Diego Chargers this low on the totem pole, to really be confident in doing so, and to know in the back of my mind the chance that I am right is really high. Some of the other wins in this division are just kind of gifts, and that’s where you get Oakland at 7-9 and the Chiefs comfortably winning six games. Upon closer examination, I could see four wins for San Diego being a tall order for this season.
The AFC North had previously been a division where three of the teams were legitimate contenders. However in recent years the Steelers have seen Hines Ward retire, James Harrison jump ship and the Ravens win the Super Bowl with the same lineup they’ve been losing to for the better part of the decade. Now the AFC North is a very different place – The Bengals and the Ravens sort of own that division, and the Steelers have sank to a level where a great coach is going to end up getting fired by the end of the year. So out of the two on the top, I would say that the Bengals have the best chance at remaining solid throughout the entire year. I understand the Ravens are Super Bowl champions until someone takes that away from them, but Cincinnati is very impressive overall without having the world’s flashiest quarterback. And that seems like it’s an consistent overall theme within this foursome.
Cincinnati Bengals 11-5
Baltimore Ravens 10-6
Cleveland Browns 7-9
Pittsburgh Steelers 5-11
The Browns should be much better. Weeden has the starting gig, which is precisely why they drafted him so now it’s go time. An improved defense and running game should lead to them being able to see .500 over the fence. This division plays the NFC North this year and I can see those matchups being very evenly squared away. As previously mentioned, the Steelers are old. It will be a very strange thing to see a franchise like Pittsburgh watch the same game from home that they played in just three years ago, knowing that they’ve all been on vacation for five weeks already. But this Steelers team is a very different one, and it kind of makes you wonder how Ben Roethlisberger is going to look in an Arizona Cardinals uniform come 2016.
Let’s be honest here – There is really only one team that deserves to be at the top of this division. With all that happened for the Colts last year and being able to ride an unbelievable wave of motivation to make it to the playoffs, I have to say that feel good story likely won’t repeat itself. The Texans are by far the most dominant team in the South, and it will show this year because while the rest of the AFC teams are kicking the crap out of each other the Texans will rise to the top of the AFC and finish with the best record.
Houston Texans 13-3
Indianapolis Colts 8-8
Tennessee Titans 5-11
Jacksonville Jaguars 3-13
There are any number of analogies that one could make when referring to the bottom half of the AFC South. I look at the Tennessee Titans as kind of the rich kid who spent all of his dad’s money really fast after pops died. He still owns the family business but customers who have been by his family’s side for decades are now looking elsewhere for the goods and services that were once able to rely on him for. The Jaguars on the other hand are like the Asian guy that owns the electronic store around the corner. When you come in to pick up your receiver after he’s ignored your phone calls for a month, he says that someone broke in and stole it. But when you call the police, magically the device reappears and he’s back to being the same con artist motherfucker you regret doing business in the first place. In other words the Titans are just lazy and go to the bar too much, whereas the Jaguars are just as shady as the fans that live in that God-forsaken shithole.
Now on to the NFC, where the defending conference champion San Francisco 49ers will be defending their honor by opening up against the Green Bay Packers. So let’s begin by taking a look at the NFC West.
For years, this division was the laughingstock of the entire league. Over the past couple of years, there has been quite a bit of impressive play that is coming out of the sector of the league which just three years back produced a team that we can only hope will be the last division champion with a losing record in NFL history.
But oh how times have changed…The Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers look to be light years ahead of their peers in the rest of this conference. The battle that will ensue between Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick should give us at least a half decade’s worth of entertainment. It could end up being just like the matchups we used to see between Brett Favre and Troy Aikman, only except for Colin and Russ ain’t done gon’ put der deick in yer sheep when ya ain’t lookin’! (Yeehaw!) But seriously, as a guy who really doesn’t have any general preference who comes out ahead I can’t wait to see both of those teams being really successful in the next couple of years.
Seattle Seahawks 11-5
San Francisco 49ers 11-5
St. Louis Rams 6-10
Arizona Cardinals 5-11
This is truly going to being thoroughly enjoyable. I can’t remember another race that I have been so excited about outside of my favorite team’s division. On the other hand, the Rams and the Cardinals are going to truly define what it means to be a “work in progress”. I actually think that Sam Bradford is a decent NFL quarterback, and that there have been a series of unfortunate situations which have contributed to his lack of being able to translate that into a win total higher than 7. Remember when the Cardinals started last year 4-0? Neither do a lot of us. Carson Palmer is their starting quarterback, and aside from Larry Fitzgerald there’s more legitimate stars on an episode of “Comics Unleashed” than there is on the Arizona Cardinals’ depth chart. They’re fucked – It could end up be one of the longest seasons in the history of that franchise, and they’ve had a lot of them.
This year at SBM we were all given the task of covering one division and breaking it down. Since I have always been a die hard New York Giants fan, I chose to examine the NFC East and the results are here: http://sportsblogmovement.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/2013-nfc-east-preview/ Last year the Washington Redskins surprised everybody – Not only were they able to win a division which had produced a Super Bowl champion just seven months before, but they were able to do so with a rookie quarterback who takes a lot of chances. I expect them to do the same this year, but this year I expect the Giants to sink to the bottom of the division. The Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys should be neck and neck a majority of the year. Washington has a killer running back in Alfred Morris that seemingly nobody is talking about, and their defense seems to be operating at a playoff level. My reasoning behind Dallas finishing higher than they have been finishing is that they really have nowhere to go but up. Last year they were 8-8, and no matter how much active hatred I have for the Cowboys I can honestly say that I can’t see them not finishing above that mark. I truly believe that the Cowboys will get back into the playoff mix this year and that Tony Romo could put up MVP type numbers. Now that he’s finally got his money, he really has no other choice.
Washington Redskins 10-6
Dallas Cowboys 10-6
New York Giants 8-8
Philadelphia Eagles 6-10
Let’s start with the Giants – Big Blue has Civil War-era injury issues. Running back David Wilson should have the best season of his life if he can hang on to the football, and if he doesn’t the Giants are in deep shit because they have no backup now. Andre Brown broke his leg for the second year in a row, so he’s out for the year. Victor Cruz is still having issues that could create an even bigger hole in the Giants’ not so large pool of options, and David Diehl is injured as well. Their home opener is September 15th against the Broncos, and as a promotion if you bring your wheelchair or crutches every injured player will autograph them using speech-to-text-to-Sharpie technology. But enough about the G-Men, they won’t be a factor in the 2013 NFL season unless they play spoiler late in the year.
For the record, I find 6-10 to be an extremely generous pick for Philly and really the only reason I’m sticking with it is because I must have edited the other article when I was half asleep and I get off on consistency in publishing. My father is the consummate cynical Giants fan, and he seems to think that it’s possible that the Giants could finish in last place. I’m not willing to go that far because I believe the Philadelphia Eagles could easily be a 13 loss team. Vick could be the most talented and mobile quarterback in the world, and probably was in his prime. But even a 747 doesn’t stay in the air very long once it’s out of gas. The point of that poorly constructed analysis is that if the Eagles can’t protect Michael Vick, he’s going to be so worn out it won’t matter how talented he is. And one look at their running game is highlighted by LeSean McCoy, who scored a whopping two touchdowns all of last year. Comparatively, he fumbled four times and lost three of them if that gives you any indication of where he’s currently at in his career. From there, they will have to rely on Chris Polk, James Casey, Bryce Brown, and Zach Ertz to carry the football in what will be a very experimental offense at the NFL level. I don’t know what that sounds like to you, but to me it sounds like most of the running game behind Michael Vick is going to consist of a whole lot of Michael Vick. At this point, once the Eagles are out of playoff contention their scouts had better be paying real close attention to college football this year. And on the other side of the ball? Let’s just say that if you look up Chip Kelly in the dictionary it simply says “Not Buddy Ryan”. Stay tuned, shit’s about to get real.
Last year the New Orleans Saints suffered the consequences of getting penalized for something that was going on in a lot of clubhouses before they got caught doing it. Bounties in the NFL were about as common as empty prescription bottles of herpes medication at Billy Idol’s house in the mid-eighties. Although there was not exactly a rotund amount of information that was made public, they were guilty enough to actually warrant having their head coach suspended for the entire year. Linebacker Jonathan Vilma was also suspended for long enough to ensure that the Saints wouldn’t make the playoffs, which in fact they didn’t.
Where the Saints once held such prominence, there was now a very large void in the top spot of the NFC South. That top spot was taken by the Atlanta Falcons, who finished 13-3 and clinched home field throughout the playoffs in a year where they didn’t even lose two games in a row.
Now what I am about to say doesn’t seem like it is going to make a whole lot of sense given what I just told you. It’s my own personal belief that the Saints are going to show up and rip everyone in sight to shreds. I think their view on this whole thing is they were singled out for what is quite common behavior, and that they are going to make the rest of the league pay. I would not be shocked to see the Saints win their first 6 or 7 or even 8 games. Atlanta will still be good – but just that – good.
New Orleans Saints 12-4
Atlanta Falcons 10-6
Carolina Panthers 6-10
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6-10
Before you start hurling feces in my general direction, please do not be alarmed. Every year a team that is supposed to be a lock for the playoffs doesn’t end up getting in and this year I believe that Atlanta is that team. I just get this really bad feeling about 2013 for Matt Ryan. I think it’ll be an off year for him even though he is surrounded by a great squad. I hate to be the bearer of what might be bad news for Falcons fans, but this all comes down to a matter of trust. If that’s so, then I’d rather put all of my personal information in a folder, give it to either Edward Snowden OR that woman that Bradley Manning thinks he is nowadays and point to some girl in the distance, then say “Make sure Tracy over there in the sundress gets that” before I’d pick Matt Ryan. My credit rating would drop 225 points before they could even start the celebration by searching tranny porn on their cell phones. I’ll explain this further in the overall NFC playoff picture introduction.
Now that I’ve tried to dig myself out of that hole, Carolina I think will get better but I have also have a weird feeling about them – that one of their key players is going to get injured and that player’s name will rhyme with “Spam Tootin”. Tampa might be the most confusing team that you don’t care about because every time you go to research them you end up giving up and slapping a losing record on them. This whole division makes me feel more uneasy than finding out Long John Silver’s is releasing a breakfast menu.
This division takes place in my backyard. Living about 3 hours from Chicago, you’ll hear all sorts of ridiculous things said about how the Bears have the potential to be a perennial Super Bowl contender. And usually you’ll hear it from a guy who’s had about 15 Old Styles and should probably be in bed instead of giving you his picks. But as much as I have previously expressed my disdain for blind faith in heavy eyelids and diabetes, I have to say that the Bears will probably will the NFC North this year. I say this because although the Packers are a good team, they have some serious issues that are going to need correcting should they get to the postseason, which I don’t believe they will. The Brian Bulaga injury had to be the most under-reported disappearance of services in the NFL’s new “Twitter Era”, and the fact that people everywhere haven’t kept talking about this is beyond me.
Chicago Bears 11-5
Green Bay Packers 9-7
Detroit Lions 6-10
Minnesota Vikings 5-11
The Lions will rid themselves of Jim Schwarz, and it’s probably for the better. Until ownership realizes that fucking nobody wants to go live in Detroit and coach that team when the rest of the division possesses that much skill. Nothing against Adrian Peterson as he is incredible, but the two teams that bring up the rear in this division are the very definition of how obsessed we are with fantasy football in this country: Both teams will have guys that put up great fantasy numbers, and they will both not get into the postseason. That’s because most FF league rules are too simple for their own good, and most don’t take into account things like special teams turnovers or overall crime rate. The Vikings are going to have to eventually come up with some type of alternate plan that doesn’t involve Christian Ponder, because in that division he is a distant number four and Matthew Stafford has curly hair. Not a good place to be at all.
The Patriots and the Texans will end up getting to skip a week of playoff intensity, which they will both need by that point. That means That the three will be the Bengals, and in this simulation they’ll end up playing the Dolphins. The Broncos would then renew their last year’s playoff matchup, just a week early. And since I am picking the Broncos to win week one, that means that in this scenario they would have head to head which would give them the home field advantage in this game.
AFC Wild Card Round:
Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals
In the end, the Bengals are a better team that a lot of AFC teams on most good days. The Dolphins are still on the way up, so it’s going to be a year or so before they can make this a competitive game.
Bengals 28, Dolphins 18
Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos
Like I said, I can see this one played at Invesco Field since the Broncos won in week .67 so I am taking them by almost a touchdown. There’s no way Peyton screws this up two years in a row. I mean, I want to believe that he will but when it comes down to it I think he’ll prevail.
Broncos 31, Ravens 26
AFC Divisional Playoffs:
Denver Broncos at Houston Texans
When I do predictions I really get excited when I can say that I hope a certain game is on in a certain place. I think that if CBS for some God-forsaken reason has the Saturday Night game (I doubt that they will) this could set some kind of record for people in cowboy hats drinking Southern Comfort. I’d love to see this game as the Saturday night game, but it probably won’t happen so we’ll have to wait until Sunday to see Peyton Manning struggle to pick apart a defense like Houston who just doesn’t take any shit from anybody. I see a team in the Texans who know that if they can get a week off, they are just one win away from a game that might end with them finally getting to the Super Bowl.
Texans 27, Broncos 24 (OT)
Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots
This game I can see having a potential for sloppiness, with the Bengals running a set of pretty spastic defensive looks that you’ll be used to by week nineteen. But I think after it’s all said and done, they are still stuck in this kind of no-man’s land that they have been under Marvin Lewis. Bengals fans, you can look at it this way: At least you didn’t lose to the Texans three years in a row. This year, we’ll save losing to the Texans for the team who just beat you…
Patriots 28, Bengals 22
AFC Championship Game:
New England Patriots at Houston Texans
Where does my logic come from on this one? Well, Dubsism and I compiled a list of ten things to watch for in the NFL in 2013 and “The impending collapse of the New England Patriots”. It might not be this year, it might be next year. It might be whenever…the point is that there are teams in the AFC that can give the Patriots a run for their money whereas five or six years ago they’d never had a prayer.
But eventually teams grow up and certain teams can do great things. The Harbaugh brothers were in the Super Bowl last year, so as much as you can sit here and talk about Kubiak on the hot seat that seat is going to be uber-comfortable should he get to the Super Bowl which I believe he will.
And don’t get me wrong, by no means do I think that New England is a bad team, but this thing is getting close to capsizing and I think that this will be the January where you see things start to change as far as the Patriots being the target in the AFC. It’s already started to happen with last year’s AFC Championship (really, the Ravens should have beat the Patriots in TWO straight AFC Championship games) but it’s time for the torch to be passed. I believe Matt Schaub will now be responsible for carrying that torch, as there is going to be a changing of the guard in that conference.
Texans 19, Patriots 13
In the NFC, the way I have my picks set up I do believe that Seattle and the Saints will get a bye. This will mean San Francisco is the three seed with the Bears shortly behind them. Assuming those four teams are a lock to make the postseason (which I think most people would agree that they are) that leaves whoever wins the NFC East and three other teams that I expect to be of playoff caliber.
Now this where it gets complicated: Since I picked the Redskins to finish first in the NFC East, that makes 5. This leaves the Atlanta Falcons, the Green Bay Packers, and the Dallas Cowboys fighting for one playoff spot. As I stated before, somebody is going to be left out. As crazy as it sounds, I have predicted an NFC playoff scenraio where both Atlanta and Green Bay are left out of the picture. When both of those teams end up playing in the NFC Championship game, then you can smear my name all over God’s green earth. Until then, you’re just going to have to trust me on this one.
NFC Wild Card Round:
Washington Redskins at San Francisco 49ers
This is sort of a no-brainer and I think everybody realizes that although Griffin has some of the slicker moves at points, San Francisco is just a lot deeper than Washington is. Without meaning any disrespect, this is one of the divisions in which I believe there’s been a changing of the guard so the Skins will get another chance to make their mark with a young QB.
49ers 25, Redskins 13
Dallas Cowboys at Chicago Bears
This is where it gets a little confusing because I realize that in my NFC East preview on SBM, I said that the Dallas Cowboys were going to win a playoff game. Also I mentioned above that I prefer consitency when it comes to journalism, so this entire piece just became a total contradiction. Unless you’re reading it backwards, in which case it probably makes perfect sense.
What the fuck was I talking about? Oh yes, the possibility of a Bears / Cowboys plyoff matchup. I just think that although the Cowboys are a little better than the Bears are, on a neutral surface (that is, one not owned by Jerry Jones) they will likely lose. Plus, it makes what I have set up for the next round more interesting.
Bears 27, Cowboys 22
NFC Divisional Playoffs:
Chicago Bears at New Orleans Saints
This would also be a fantastic Saturday Night game. The Bears in the building where they won their only Super Bowl, now staring down the barrel of the gun that is the “Who’s better, Cutler or Brees” conversation that I just made up for the sake of this pick. The Saints are a better team than the Bears. It’s more than just math, it’s what I keep stressing about them “getting back” at the rest of the league and the fact that I could probably use the same trust example regarding Drew Brees and just subsitute Matt Ryan’s name for Jay Cutler. Saints win this one at home easy in the Big Easy.
Saints 33, Bears 17
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
Let’s be honest, this is what the American public wants to see. Three games a year is the maximum possible amount of times the Seahawks can play the 49ers, and anyone who calls themselves a football fan and doesn’t have their head positioned squarely inside of their asshole wants to see that number average as close to three as it can get.
As we move forward with the remainder of the NFC picks, keep in mind that I believe this one wil be so close that you can go ahead and consider the Seahawks in San Francisco’s place should they win this game. These two teams are going to be more competitive than any other pocket in the NFL in the next five years, so get your cereal ready. And by “cereal”, I mean “popcorn bowl full of 2% milk and Oreos”.
49ers 24, Seahawks 22
NFC Championship Game:
San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints
This is also a recent thriller because of the Wild Card game a couple of years back that ended with that Vernon Davis catch. This time, the Saints will have the better record so they’ll host the game. Unfortunately for them, the results will be the same. Even with all of the momentum and drive that the Saints will have going into this year, even with all of the insanely ludicrous stats that Drew Brees will put up for your stupid fantasy football team, The Niners are just deeper this year.
49ers 29, Saints 26
Super Bowl XLVIII – New Jersey:
Houston Texans vs. San Francisco 49ers
If this looks familiar, it’s because this is the same Super Bowl I picked last year. After being very disappointed with last year’s game and considering that it was very anticlimactic, it’s my belief that the end of the 2013-2014 NFL season is going to be a fucking blast. I hope I’m right, and you should hope I’m right as well. So I have the 49ers returning to the Super Bowl at the end of this year. And let’s get this straight: I do believe that as so goes the NFC West goes, the division winner goes, so this could easily be a game that features the Seattle Seahawks. And that would also be a great game.
When I was deciding who to pick for the AFC, I thought about how the two teams that the media tells us are supposed to be at the top of this conference are having “personnel issues” like failing drug tests all the way down to minor crimes like murder. I can’t help but notice that with all of the blowhards like Peter King from Sports Illustrated jocking the Pats and Broncos, that most everybody has seemed to have forgotten that the Houston Texans are still stacked. I see a lot of similarities between the fire that is lit underneath Gary Kubiak and the fire that was lit in BOTH Super Bowl years for Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants. Quite simply put, Kubiak may be gone if the Super Bowl isn’t part of the ending to this story and that’s why the Texans will be there in the Meadowlands in February.
But regardless of the fact that the Texans have JJ Watt, one of the most underrated running backs in the past twenty years, Ed Reed looking to add to his legacy, and Matt Schaub looking to start his own – I have to pick the 9ers. There’s just something about them that seems unstoppable to me, and I have to believe that coming just five yards from pulling it off last year is something that cannot just evaporate from your short term memory without wanting to go out and do everything possible in order to finish the job. Your 2013-2014 NFL Super Bowl XVLIII champions are the San Francisco 49ers.
Prediction: 49ers 21, Texans 18
Now there is a lot of stuff on the postseason segment of this piece that you may think is just rehashing a lot of recent playoff matchup. And for the most part, that’s true. But the truth is, nobody knows who is going to end up being this year’s Indianapolis Colts. Hell, it could even be the Colts again. Or, it could be no one such as I am suggesting. That’s why this is not an exact science…
And that’s not even counting for “What if I’m way off base about the Falcons or Green Bay?” discussion. Fact is most NFL year long previews feature teams from the previous postseason as participants. It’s finding out who will rise that’s the fun part, and that’s why we love the NFL so much. So here’s to tradition, as well as the establishment of new things that we will soon find out we love about the game. Here’s to getting the most out of this year’s NFL, and having fun watching the games with family and friends.
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