It's here! It's finally here! The NFL season is less than one week away, and unlike this miserable baseball season, where the Cardinals have been in first place most of the year and still played like losers, I'm going into the NFL season with absolutely no illusions—both of my favorite teams, the Rams and the Vikings, are going to stink like roadkill on a hot August afternoon. But this will not stop me from making my annual preseason predictions, which, like those made by paid "experts" at ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports, CBS, etc. all, are almost certain to be wrong. Since when did being wrong ever stop me? I'll do the NFC in two parts first, then two parts for the AFC, then playoff predictions leading up to Thursday night's kickoff. And away we go...
1) Dallas (12-4)
2) NY Giants (11-5)
3) Washington Redskins (8-8)
4) Philadelphia Eagles (6-10)
I'm picking Dallas for one reason: this is Bill Parcells' third year in Dallas, and he usually takes a team to the Superbowl in his third year. So are they my SB pick? Let's not get ahead of ourselves yet, please. I think Bledsoe's going to have a good year; I think that wide receiver will be a difference maker for their offense, and I think they've got far and away the best defense in the NFC.
This year will be Eli Manning's coming out party, but they have a tough road schedule, and I also have to wonder how much Tiki Barber has left in his tank. Running backs usually from hero to zero in just a few months. Manning's going to have a huge year passing, though, and he'll score enough to balance out a typically tough Tom Coughlin defense keeping games close.
The Redskins have an injured running back, an ancient quarterback and not much else on the defensive side. I just don't think they can score enough points to go better than .500. I'll say the same thing for Philadelphia—other than Donovan McNabb, can you name another offensive starter? Their running back hasn't played in more than two years. They'll give teams defensive trouble, but they'll lose double digits because of their inability to score touchdowns.
1) Carolina (14-2)
2) Atlanta (12-4)
3) Tampa Bay (11-5)
4) New Orleans (4-12)
I hate to pick Carolina because they are the "trendy" SB pick by all the so-called experts, but when you consider their weapons on both sides of the ball with their schedule, I don't see them really losing more than about three games unless they get hit hard with injuries.
This is the year Mike Vick puts it all together and has an MVP-caliber season, along with a powerful running game and an aggressive defense. Atlanta will be the team that nobody else in the league wants to play.
Chris Simms will solidify himself as the starting QB in Tampa, and that defense will be good again, but not really great. I don't think their players are as talented position-for-position as the other teams in the division, but they'll still compete for a playoff spot.
While Drew Brees and Reggie Bush will bring a new level of excitement to a city that needs something to cheer about, but they need a lot more than just two talented stars (a defense would be a good start) to bring a winning record to the Crescent City. Better luck next year, guys.
Tomorrow: NFC North and West