This is my opinion. If you disagree with my opinion, then that's what the comments pop-up is for. I've purposely not included predictions of records; it's just too hard to determine exact records with all the different variables involved. I'm gauging my predictions based on my overall impressions of the team and their prospects this year. I'll make playoff picks after I complete each division. And away we go!
1. Philadelphia Eagles—Owens may not shut up, but he also wants to prove that he's worth the money they're not going to pay him. This will almost certainly be his last year in Philly, but in any case, he's playing for a new contract. McNabb will have another huge year, and their defense is still the best in the conference. An easy pick to win the East.
2. Dallas Cowboys—Bill Parcells in his third year overseeing the resurrection of Drew Bledsoe. I have it on good authority that Julius Jones is going to have a huge year. With a weak schedule, it looks like playoff time for the wild-card Cowboys.
3. Washington Redskins—Will Joe Gibbs decide to return exclusively to NASCAR? Probably, after this group underachieves again this year. You know, there's a reason that Jacksonville decided to discard Mark Brunell.
4. New York Giants—No quarterback and a sociopath for a head coach: it couldn't happen to a nicer gang of alleged football fans. I hope this group goes 0-16.
1. Atlanta Falcons—This is a team on the rise, with a hungry young head coach, an improving defense and the most exciting athlete in professional sports in Michael Vick (and yes, that includes LeBron James). Don't be surprised to see Atlanta in Detroit come January.
2. Carolina Panthers—After getting off to an atrocious start last season, Carolina just missed a wild card berth with a late-season surge. A year removed from their Superbowl hangover, Jake Delhomme should revert to his free-wheeling gunslinger style, and their defense will dominate games. My solid pick for one of the two wild-card spots.
3. Tampa Bay Bucanneers—Do you really want to stake your season on Brian Griese? I wouldn't, either.
4. New Orleans Saints—Everybody's sentimental favorite this year, for obvious reasons, but they're not going to be able to overcome playing the entire season on the road, not to mention the possibilities of moving permanently to San Antonio, a real probability if they have to demolish the Louisiana Superdome. Oh, and Jim Haslett still looks like Boggs from The Shawshank Redemption.
Coming tomorrow: NFC North and West predictions
p.s. Scott Stevens retired from the NHL today, forever crushing the hopes of St. Louis Blues fans that he may someday return to wear the note. The Stevens decision was the biggest screw-job in the history of professional sports: it was completely disproportionate, unfairly biased toward an East Coast team (what else is new), and dealt a blow to the Blues franchise that they never really recovered from. Idiotic decisions like this help explain why the NHL has been reduced to a minor-league sport. Now I have to watch clip footage of Stevens hoisting the Cup in a NJ Devils sweater. Thanks, ESPN—I have to go puke now.