It is a major bummer that the summer is ending. However, that could only mean that it is the return of my Autumn Mistress. Well, the National Football League. We had a nail biter of a summer because there was a hint that the season might be in jeopardy. The player’s union and the NFL owners took the summer to play each other while working out a new collective bargaining agreement. In the end, the players and owners realized that weekend warriors like me and my friends were so good for business that they had to make sure there was a football season this year.
As I say every year, I am not a fan of Fantasy Football. If you do not know what that is, you are better for not knowing. I like rooting for teams, and for wins and losses. Statistics are only so useful to me, and I know enough to see their purpose. So without too much technical analysis here is my read on the upcoming 2011 NFL season.
The American Football Conference (AFC)
This is the easiest conference to call in the NFL. I can pencil in four teams to make the post season (playoffs). The New England Patriots, New York Jets, Baltimore Ravens, and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Only six teams make the playoffs in each conference, so with these four already penciled in, the last two teams are sort of a toss up. I like the Indianapolis Colts, but they are not a sure thing this season. The San Diego Chargers are also a trendy pick this year. The Houston Texans are also being talked about. I take the Chargers and Colts to be the last two teams to make the post season in the AFC.
The National Football Conference (NFC)
Here is where the math gets fuzzy. I would say that the Atlanta Falcons are a team to pencil in. After that, it gets quite murky. The Green Bay Packers would be a logical pick since they won it all last year. You have to remember they were the very last team to qualify for the playoffs last year. They were one bad game away from watching the post season on a couch. Are they better this year? Not really. What you have in the NFC are a bunch of good teams with the potential to make a run. I like the New Orleans Saints because the scheduling Gods did them a huge favor by giving them an easy schedule this year. So my gut tells me that the Falcons will be joined by the Saints in the post season. I like the Philadelphia Eagles to win their division. The Packers will make it back to the post season with either the Chicago Bears or Detroit Lions in the NFC North division. Yes, I said the Lions, and you better look the hell out. As for the NFC West, the St Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers are in for a season of absolute futility. The team in the NFC west that can win 8 games will win that division. I like Arizona.
The Oakland Raiders
There is more hope this year than last year. The Raiders won all 6 of their division games last year. They have a shot to win the AFC West. Of course, their defense took a hit when a key member of that unit went and signed with another team. The Raiders will not stink this year, but don’t be looking for a Super Bowl berth this year.
The San Francisco 49ers
Everything will be flowers and speeches if Alex Smith somehow pulls off the challenge of playing like an NFL quarterback. The Niners have a decent defense, and good offensive weapons. However, last year proved to the Niner Faithful that a struggling quarterback makes an offense look like a snake with its head cut off. I don’t know what is worse for Niner fan; the losing, or the losing in the worst division in the NFL. If you can’t win in the NFC West, your team belongs at home by the end of December.
The Washington Redskins
Speaking of futility, we have the Redskins. Proving that blowing it up every year to start over only ensures you will never sniff the playoffs, the Skins are in borderline disarray this season. The only hope is that the purging of the aging veterans is a sign that they want to build a team with younger player that will develop into great pros. The Redskins are a season or two away from being a middle of the pack team. How patient will the fans be in the nation’s capital? We will find out. Pops, how are you holding out?
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last season was so awesome for me. I prepared myself for a dreadful season as a very young team took more lumps on the way to future greatness. As I sat in Candlestick Park last year and saw my Baby Bucs rip the hearts out of the Niner Faithful I savored it because I knew then that this team was becoming something special. I am still a realist, and I know that the Bucs still have a huge mountain to climb just to get back to 10 wins like they had a year ago. They reside in the NFC South with the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints. I expect this year to be a tough one, but I look to the future.
So to recap… in the AFC I like the Patriots, Jets, Raven, Steelers, Colts, and Chargers to make the post season. I think the Jets finally find a way to win the AFC championship and get the Super Bowl.
In the NFC I like the Falcons, Saints, Packers, Bears, Cardinals, and Eagles to make the playoffs. I think that the Falcons get their head screwed on right this year and get back to Super Bowl for the first time since 1998.
New York Jets vs. Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl