30 September 2013

Mercy Killing?

Eagles 20, Broncos 52, Sunday, September 29, 2013

Why the title of this post? That was my thought when John Fox took Peyton Manning out of the game early in the fourth quarter.

I mean, come on, we all knew this was going to be ugly. But this was UGLY. U-G-L-Y you ain't got no alibi UGLY.

Stud of the week: seriously, dude, I don't even know. Everything was a mess. The offense couldn't score in the red zone. Alex Henery missed another field goal. The defense was like: "Did you see Peyton Manning? He's so DREAMY..." when they weren't celebrating the fact that, I don't know, they actually managed to make a tackle for once. Jeff Maehl? And I can't even find a picture of his TD, so I guess you'll just have to enjoy this photo from training camp.

We're in the midst of getting our floors refinished, so Chef Spouse moved both the TVs and his iMac down to my Philadelphia Eagles woman cave. Which means we were able to watch all three of the NFC East games in the 4 pm timeslot yesterday. After watching the Giants get whupped by the Chiefs at 1 (mark my words, Andy Reid will sweep the NFC East this year). I gotta say: our division is NOT GOOD.

Going into the season, I was hoping the Eagles would go 8-8. One, if they can manage that, they might just win the division. Two, I'm increasingly uncertain they can even go 8-8. Every phase was a failure.

OK, I get it: they've won a divisional game, lost to two 4-0 teams, and dropped a game they could've won to the 2-2 Chargers. It was the tough part of the schedule. And the NFC East is so putrid this year that the Eagles could grab six wins in the division (it's not impossible).

And, going from bad to worse, how exactly did we manage to draw the idiot twins to cover the game, with the Cowboys playing the Chargers in San Diego? BGN points out that Joe Buck is just unlikable, and Troy Aikman sounds "sleepy." Uh, he was the Cowboys QB in '90s. He's not sleepy - he's not bored - he's STONED.

26 September 2013

2013 Week 4 Picks

The Eagles are traveling to Denver to face the Broncos this week.

They have, quite literally, NO chance.

To quote Jimmy Kempski:
The Eagles got shredded Week 2 by a QB (Philip Rivers) who got his team up to the line quickly, identified the defense, then checked to a more favorable call. Peyton Manning is the master at that.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/red_zone/Week-4-NFL-picks.html#PQwj3tUPGmLeR875.99
The Eagles got shredded in Week 2 by a QB (Philip Rivers) who got his team up to the line quickly, identified the defense, then checked to a more favorable call. Peyton Manning is the master of that.
The Eagles got shredded Week 2 by a QB (Philip Rivers) who got his team up to the line quickly, identified the defense, then checked to a more favorable call. Peyton Manning is the master at that.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/red_zone/Week-4-NFL-picks.html#PQwj3tUPGmLeR875.99
To which I say: Yes. Yes, he is.

My prediction? This is gonna go down like one of those college games when a football powerhouse school takes on some poor little A&M school and whups the hell out of them. It's possible Peyton hangs 100 points on the Eagles, assuming he doesn't get too tired to keep throwing the football.

In the rest of the matchups:

49ers at Rams: The 49ers are not quite what we were all expecting, but I don't see them going down to a lesser divisional rival, even on the road.

Ravens at Bills: I didn't think the Ravens off-season roster changes were going to hurt them too much. I'm beginning to think I was wrong. I've got the Bills. Crazy talk? Maybe crazy like a fox.

Bengals at Browns: I'm going Bengals, but I think this is going to be a close, low-scoring game.

Bears at Lions: I know the Lions are undisciplined, but I also think they've got this. Emo quarterback has to reappear at some point, right? Lions.

Seahawks at Texans: When you look at the stats, these are some evenly matched teams, but the Seahawks are putting up points while shutting down opposing offenses, and I think they're going to do it again this week. Seahawks.

Colts at Jaguars: The only way the Jaguars manage to win a game this season is if they can convince the NFL honchos to re-do the schedule so they can play the Giants. (I'll be here all week. Try the veal!) Colts.

Giants at Chiefs: Speaking of, Chiefs. Go Big Red!

Steelers at Vikings: Continuing our "bad teams" theme, this is the Worst Game of the Week. I know the Steelers are a pale shadow of themselves this year, but the Vikings? Can't see them losing this one, even with AP in there because their run defense is still pretty stout. Steelers.

Cardinals at Buccaneers: Cards. New guy's going to need a little time to get up to speed in Tampa.

Jets at Titans: Am I on the Geno Smith bandwagon? Not yet, but I'm at least taking it out for a test drive. Jets.

Redskins at Raiders: No wait. Maybe THIS is the Worst Game of the Week. Also, Raiders. The Redskins stink, at least so far.

Cowboys at Chargers: I can't believe the NFC East will go 0-4, and I'm sure the rest o the NFC East teams will lose, so I guess I'm calling Cowboys. Yuck.

Patriots at Falcons: I've got the Pats. Their offense is starting to come together, and their defense is only allowing an average of 11 points per game. I'm pretty sure Tom Brady could top that throwing to me.

Dolphins at Saints: The Dolphins are surprising a lot of people this year (including me), but they're playing at the Superdome. Geaux Saints!

On bye: Packers, Panthers

20 September 2013

As I Was Saying...

Eagles 16, Chiefs 26, Thursday, September 19, 2013 

Turnovers, to quote BGN, are not good. And boy howdy, was last night NOT good. Five, if I counted correctly. It was like, "We don't want the ball. No really, we insist - you take it. Please." all night long.

Stud of the week: Jason Avant, Mr. Hands, who not only got in the end zone for the first time since 2011 and made at least one key tackle (that I recall) on yet another Vick pick, but accomplished a truly impressive circus catch, tipping an uncatchable ball back to himself and coming down with it.

We had a week in which the D progressed (5 sacks, at least covering some of the receivers some of the time), while the  O and special teams regressed back to 2012. Picks, Jason Kelce snapping the ball into his own ass, fumbles, muffed punts, missed field goals - we had it all, if by "all" you mean "every single thing you would not want to see you team do ALL in one football game."

And speaking of, what the hell is wrong with Alex Henery? He's missed two totally makeable field goals in the past two games, neither of which was a blow out (in other words, in times when those three points would have mattered). Makes me highly nostalgic for David Akers, as does his tackling technique, or lack thereof.

Other things about last night that sucked:

Michael Vick staring down receivers in the pocket, which may have (totally did) contributed to his two picks. And have I ever mentioned how much I wish the Eagles could have gotten Eric Berry in the 2010 draft? I know he was gone long before the Eagles picked, but we have had no answer at safety since Wolverine. Ah, BDawk, how I miss you, too.

Andy Reid on the visitors' sideline in red. I know it was time, and I'm sorry, but I loved the guy, and that just hurt.

Riley Cooper. You know, when the other team is blanketing DJax, someone has to step up. And by "someone" I mean you, Riley. Jeremy Maclin is not coming to save you. Pull it together, man.

Chip Kelly. Random two point conversion. WTF?

But possibly the worst moment of the evening was Shady going down clutching his shin and/or ankle. To quote Chef Spouse:

Fortunately, it appears to have been a false alarm.

Two more notes. One, we were watching the game from a sports bar in NOLA, so the sound was a little funky, but the halftime ceremony retiring #5 seemed awkward. Quoting a tweet I saw: "Weirdos gotta be weird." And that certainly was the case with Donovan. Still, he was the best QB in Eagles history - and that's not opinion, that's fact - and I'm well pleased that the team retired his number. It's an honor he absolutely earned. Even if the retirement ceremony was as uncomfortable as talking to your parents about your sex life.

Finally, we have one hope to hold on to. Quoting Tommy Lawlor: "Just how bad is the NFC East this year? Teams are 0-7 in non-division games. Yikes. Good news…we’re still in the hunt for the title. First team to 9 wins gets the crown."

Ouch. Also, helpful. Also, I might have to take back all the smack I talked about the NFC West a few years ago.

19 September 2013

2013 Week 3 Picks

Big night for the Eagles. Retiring #5, Andy Reid is back in town, the team's on a 7 game home losing streak.

On the one hand, the Eagles offense is still smokin' hot. Part of that is because they've faced the Redskins and the Chargers. The Chiefs are not the Redskins or the Chargers. In fact, although it's early on, their defense is looking outstanding.

In the meantime, Alex Smith is still the guy who got benched for Colin Kaepernick last year - competent, but hardly explosive. Then again, the Chiefs are playing smart, disciplined football on either side of the ball (kind of like the Eagles used to do in Andy's early years in Philly).

I think this game comes down to the fact that, even with a new look offense, Andy Reid and his coaching staff know these guys. And Chip, Bill, Pat, and Dave don't know the Chiefs players nearly as well.

Pains me to say it on such a big night, but I've got the Chiefs.

In the rest of the matchups:

Texans at Ravens - Both of these teams are struggling more than I expected them to so far, but I give the edge to the Texans, who are at least playing reasonably well on both sides of the ball.

Giants at Panthers - I've got the Giants, who are desperate for a win at this point.

Packers and Bengals - Call me crazy, but I'm going with the Bengals. I think they'll have good success shutting down the Packers high powered offense.

Rams at Cowboys - I have the Rams. The Cowboys are playing like there's liquid Xanax in the cooler rather than Gatorade.

Browns at Vikings - The Browns are looking pretty good on D so far, and they did just trade for Trent Richardson to shore up their run game, but they are NOT good at stopping the run. You know what the Vikings are really good at? Running. I think that gives them the edge.
 Buccaneers at Patriots - The Pats are struggling, too, but they still have Tom Brady, and I think that will make the difference.

Cardinals at Saints - If they were playing in Arizona, maybe. But they're at the Superdome, so I'm going Saints.

Chargers at Titans - This is an interesting matchup. The Chargers are as strong on offense as the Titans are on defense. But the Titans can't score, and the Chargers can't defend. If the Bolts can give Philip Rivers another week of a clean pocket, I think they have this one.

Lions at Redskins - This is a must-win game for the Skins. If they get lucky and Reggie Bush can't go, maybe. But I don't see them shutting down Megatron, and I think the Lions can do enough on D to slow down a still-shaky RGIII. Lions.
 Falcons at Dolphins - I'm going with the Falcons, but this one is, I think, going to be a much closer game than most people might think, with both Matt Ryan and Ryan Tannehill going to the air a lot.

Bills at Jets - I think the Jets will make it two in a row with a divisional matchup at home.

Jaguars at Seahawks - That's not even fair. Poor Jags. Proverbial snowball's chance in hell. Seahawks.

Colts at 49ers - 49ers, who, I'm sure, are royally pissed after losing to the Seahawks last week.

Bears at Steelers - Jay Cutler seems to have finally managed his emotional issues (at least for now), while, as Steely McMeow advised, Ben Roethlisberger should refuse to play for the rest of the season and just forfeit the money, because he's going to get killed out there. Bears.

Raiders at Broncos - Speaking of not fair, at least I'll have my Monday night free, since I'm not wasting 3+ hours on this mess. Broncos.

16 September 2013

They Are Who We Thought They Were

Eagles 30, Chargers 33, Sunday, September 15, 2013

After week one, we were all like: "Hey! Maybe the Eagles D isn't too bad!"


Turns out, the Skins are just that bad this year.

Stud of the week: Michael Vick, clearly, who had a career day with 428 yards, two thrown TDs, one run TD, and no turnovers. DJax had a good day, too, as did Shady, with a career receiving day. And I love to see DJax blocking - all heart!

Sure, there were a few misfires between Vick and Jackson - hard to believe someone could overthrow DJax, but there you are - and an ugly pass to Jason Avant that even Mr. Catches Everything couldn't handle. But normally, you would think that, if your team could score 30 points, all would be well. And in 10 games this week (well, ok, 11, because even though MNF has just started, I doubt either the Bengals or the Steelers will top that), that would have been the case.

As we all suspected, the offense rules and the defense drools. 

But the defense was just awful. My reconstruction of the sideline discussions among the defensive coaching staff:

"Let's blitz up the middle!"

"Go for it!"

"That didn't quite work."

"Hey! What should we call next? How about a blitz up the middle!"


"Hm. Another big completion for the Chargers."

"What's up on the next play call?"

"How about a blitz up the middle?"

"Make it so!"

"This is looking a little rough. What do you think we should do?"

"I know - let's try...A BLITZ UP THE MIDDLE!"

How many times do you have to try to get pressure on Philip Rivers, fail, and keep at it? Why didn't someone say, "You know, that whole blitzing up the middle thing isn't going so well for us. Why don't we try covering the receivers for a change?"

Everyone's making a big deal about the sideline signs. The defensive coaches, when they weren't busy trying to get the corner backs to steal second, showed, among other things, a Rocky defense and a Ben Franklin defense.

As far as I can tell, the Rocky defense means: "Let Philip Rivers beat up on you like Apollo Creed beat on Rocky Balboa at the end of the original Rocky." I'm guessing the Ben Franklin defense is, "Cover the Chargers' receivers like you spent the entire morning and afternoon at the bar with Ben Franklin, trying to keep up."

The Chargers receivers were running WILD in the secondary. Most times, the Eagles' safeties and CBs weren't even in the same time zone. It was some sorry-ass playing. Blown coverages, blown assignments, blown tackles and some unlucky calls (yes, I know Malcolm Floyd controlled the ball the whole way through that sideline circus catch. On the other hand, HE FAILED TO GET TWO FEET DOWN IN BOUNDS. JEE-ZUS.). And you can rattle Philip Rivers. But only if you can get to him. The Eagles did as well getting to him with three guys as they did when they brought the house, which is to say, not at all. Oh? And Nate Allen? Should be traded to the Jaguars. Stat. (They are my new "getting sent to the woodshed" team, taking over from the Raiders. Who beat them this week, by the way.)

Dear God, this is going to be a rough year.

At least we have the consolation that every team in the scrub NFC East division lost this week.

Oh - and I've got the Chiefs on Thursday night, if anyone's asking.

13 September 2013

2013 Week 2 Picks

This week, the Eagles host the Chargers in their home opener.

I had this one circled on my calendar (well, figuratively speaking anyway - my calendar's electronic) as a W even before the season started.

Yes the Chargers hung with the Texans, at least for three quarters, but I didn't see anything that, to me, indicates that they'll be able to overcome their historic problems coming east and playing in the early game, particularly not against the Eagles better-than-expected defense and lightening fast offense. Shoot out? Bring it.


In the rest of the matchups:

Jets at Patriots: I swear I had this one picked before the Pats actually won it (have I mentioned lately how much I hate Thursday night football?). But after their first two outings this season, I have to point out that they're lucky they play in the weakest division in the NFL, because they look only slightly better than their dreadful divisional rivals. It was so bad, I clicked on the "Jets/Patriots Highlights" link on the NFL website and got a 404 error. (Nerd joke. I'll be here all week. Try the veal.) And Tom Brady needs to stop acting like a two-year-old who was just asked to share his favorite toy.

Rams at Falcons: The Rams may be better than I was expecting this year. The Falcons are every bit as good as I was expecting, and they're at home. Falcons.

Cowboys at Chiefs: The Cowboys may be the better team (although after last week's slop-fest against the Giants, who can tell?), but Andy Reid has had their number for years. I'm going with my heart on this one and picking the Chiefs.

Dolphins at Colts: Given how much trouble the Colts had handling the Raiders last week, I'm strongly tempted to go with the upset pick here...Aw, what the hell. Dolphins.

Titans at Texans: Texans.

Redskins at Packers: Packers. Both teams are coming off disappointing losses in week one, and the playoff chances of teams that start 0-2 are not good. I think RGIII is going to have a hard time avoiding Clay Matthews, and I think ARodg is going to light up the Skins secondary.

Browns at Ravens: Ravens. They got spanked by the Broncos last week, and they may have lost too much to win the division again (which would be problematic for my pre-season picks), but they haven't lost THAT much.

Panthers at Bills: Panthers. The Panthers are looking better this year (freshman Cam, not sophomore Cam, and a pretty decent D, at least so far), and the Bills are looking like, well, the Bills.

Vikings at Bears: Bears. I'm not sold on their defense without Brian Urlacher (spirits, not skills), and I've never been sold on Jay Cutler, but I'm really not sold on the Adrian Petersons. (What? He's basically their entire team at this point.)

Saints at Buccaneers: Saints. No way the Bucs can score enough points to keep up.

Lions at Cardinals: This is a tough one. The Lions looked pretty mortal last week, and the Cards looked surprisingly good against the Rams. But I just can't go against the Megatron/Reggie Bush combo pack.

Jaguars at Raiders: Worst Game of the Week. Jaguars.

Broncos at Giants: And Round 3 in the Manning Bowl goes to Peyton. Broncos.

49ers at Seahawks: Best Game of the Week. Also, even though the 49ers looked stronger last week than the Seahawks, as I was discussing with one of my friends at lunch today, CenturyLink Field is one of the few places that provide a consistent and meaningful homefield advantage. Also, I picked them to win the division this year. Seahawks.

Steelers at Bengals: After last week's embarrassing loss to the Titans, the big question on the NFL Network this week has been: are the Steelers in trouble? Yes, yes, they are. Bengals.

10 September 2013

Color Me Shocked

Eagles 33, Redskins 27, Monday, September 9, 2013 

Going into the game, there was no reason to think the Eagles could win. Sure RGIII is coming off a major injury, but the Skins are the defending NFC East champions opening the season at home against a division rival that went 4-12 last year.

Meanwhile, the Eagles have a new head coach,  new offensive and defensive coordinators, a new special teams coach, a new offense, a new 3-4 defensive scheme (with players acquired during a 4-3 era), and a bunch of new players, particularly on defense. 

So no way the Eagles win this one, right?

Not exactly.

Stud of the week: there are PLENTY of candidates, believe me (or believe Bleeding Green Nation)
but I think I have to go with Mychal Kendricks, who was *so* all over the field it seemed like there might have been two of him. Or more.

All the talk on SportsCenter and the NFL Network today has been about how fast the Eagles were on offense (well,  that and Ndamukong Suh's $100K fine). How fast were they? They were so fast for the first 3 quarters that Jon Gruden didn't have time to run his mouth, for which we should all be grateful.

In the fourth quarter, the Eagles slowed down. Too much. And Chip Kelly knows it, based on today's interviews. So that's reassuring. Everyone still has something to learn.

In the meantime, Shady McCoy nearly had a career night and looked like he was a player in Madden most of the night, leaving the Redskins defense chasing his shadow and scratching their heads.

DeSean Jackson had a great night too, with over 100 yards and a TD.

Michael Vick looked solid and may have finally found the right offensive scheme. Two things that worried me: him clutching his groin after that 36 yard fourth quarter scramble and the fact that more than once, he was blocking for McCoy or Bryce Brown, which is ballsy and honorable and all that good stuff, and scares the shit out of me.

The defense looked much better than they were in the pre-season, at least until they started giving too much cushion in the fourth quarter. But they've actually learned to tackle! And all that blitzing felt like a return to the JJ years. Also, Patrick Chung really should have picked that final Leonard Hankerson TD. Gotta work on that, buddy.

Excitingly, we also saw outstanding special teams play. Donnie Jones punted well, and in many cases, the ball was coming down close to the goal line and the Eagles had a player behind the Redskins player to prevent the touchback and force either a fair catch or a catch and run. And when a Skins punt returner did run, everyone else was there to stop him cold. We even had a "do it again" 48-yarder from Alex Henery on a night when usually reliable Kai Forbath missed from 40.

Ultimately, the Eagles benefited from the element of surprise - and blazing speed - on a night when RGIII was rusty. Teams, and defensive coordinators, will figure this out eventually. And RGIII got better by the quarter. But for now, a victory feels awfully sweet.

05 September 2013

2013 Week 1 Picks

Trying to choose picks this early in the season is a pain in the ass. All you have to go on is who got traded where this year (useless), rumors (useless), and teams' performance in the preseason (worse than useless). Might as well just flip a coin.

Also, can I talk about how much I hate Thursday Night Football?  I understand that the NFL Network wants to be able to broadcast a weekly game, but that doesn't mean it's not bullshit.

OK, enough grousing. On to the picks.

This week, the Eagles will be coming to DC to open the season on MONDAY Night Football (the only real weeknight for football). Cool Web Dude and I were chatting about the game a few weeks ago, and he opined that if, coming off winning the NFC East for the first time since 1999 and seeing their season end so disastrously, the 'Skins lose this game, it would likely start a downward spiral that would kill their entire season. Fortunately for him and 'Skins fans around the world, there's no way that happens. Redskins.

Ravens at Broncos: Think the Broncos are plenty pissed after having to look at Joe Flacco's mug on [Corporate] Stadium at Mile High? Me, too. Broncos.

Dolphins at Browns: I expect both teams to be dramatically improved this year, but I expect the Fins to be more improved. Dolphins.

Vikings at Lions: Reggie Bush AND Megatron versus Adrian Peterson? Gotta go Lions.

Raiders at Colts: Chef Spouse's company has started a You-Pick-Em league this year with some sweet prizes on the line (Top prize? Two tickets to Super Bowl 48, and, no, I am not kidding), so he's in, or, to be more precise, he'll be picking my picks in his You-Pick-Em league. One of their weekly tie breakers is to choose which team will score the fewest points that week and which team will score the most. At least this week, those will both happen in the same game. Colts.

Chiefs at Jaguars: The new look Chiefs are a bit of a mystery at this point, but the Jags aren't. They suck. Chiefs.

Buccaneers at Jets: Also bringing the suck? The Jets. Buccaneers.

Falcons at Saints: There is NO WAY the Saints drop their season opener at home to their biggest rivals. Saints.

Titans at Steelers: The Titans are on their way up, and the Steelers are on their way down, but Heinz Field is one hell of a homefield advantage. Steelers.

Bengals at Bears: Interesting matchup here. I've picked the Bengals for the playoffs, and although I don't have the Bears, too, lots of others do. The Bengals get by on the strength of their defense, and the Bears defense is their weakness now that Urlacher and Lovie are gone. I'm going with Bengals here, but this could be a low-scoring game.

Seahawks at Panthers: The Panthers are dead meat. Seahawks.

Patriots at Bills: I really *want* to pick the Bills, but I also really want to win those tickets to Super Bowl 48. Patriots.

Packers at 49ers: This should be a great game. I've got the 49ers - homefield again - but this one could go either way.

Cardinals at Rams: I think Carson Palmer is going to REALLY REALLY enjoy playing with Fitz. REALLY. And the Rams are YOUNG. Cardinals.

Giants at Cowboys: Still not getting that whole "earth opens up and swallows the stadium" wish, am I? I think Giants, but this one really is a coin-toss.

Texans at Chargers: The Texans could go to the Super Bowl this year, and the Chargers, well, will not. Bet on it, and on the Texans.

03 September 2013

Picks for 2013

Back once again for your later (or immediate) mocking pleasure, my pre-season picks for this year's playoffs:

AFC East: Patriots

I don't love the Patriots this year. Well, I never love the Patriots, but you know what I mean. Huge amount of offensive personnel turnover, lots of offseason drama, and may I remind you that, ever since Belichick's cheating was uncovered, they've done precisely dick in the playoffs? Still, who else are you going with in this sad-sack division? The Dolphins? They've upgraded this year, but not that much. The Jets? With poor widdle Mark Sanchez always one snap away from being benched, Darelle Revis off to Tampa, and headcase Rex Ryan leading the circus, whose weight loss has additionally turned him into a real pill? The Bills? Get serious. They're likely to be starting an undrafted rookie at quarterback, at least initially. So the Pats take it by default.

AFC North: Ravens

Can the Ravens repeat? Probably not the Super Bowl win, but potentially at least their divisional title. The Bengals are the sleeper agent in this division, and, I think, could see the playoffs thanks to their outstanding defense, but I don't think they'll snatch the North from the defending champs.
AFC South: Texans

Gotta go with my former Team of Destiny here. Still love them to top the Colts this year, still love them as a Super Bowl pick. And the Titans and the Jags would have to get reassigned to AFC East to even hope to be contenders.

AFC West: Broncos

The Raiders remain a hot mess, and the Chargers aren't far behind at this point. Much as I'd love to pick the Chiefs, and I do think they will be much improved this year under Andy Reid (they could scarcely be worse), I just can't see going with anyone but the Broncos.

AFC Wildcard: Colts and Bengals

And I think there's a reasonable chance the Colts take South and the Texans go wildcard, slightly less so for a Ravens/Bengals flip.

NFC East: Redskins, with an asterisk

The Redskins are the putative favorites, but the question on everyone's mind is: how is RGIII's knee REALLY doing? He's young and stubborn, and I'm getting the feeling that maybe Mike Shanahan isn't quite as careful with his players as he should be. On the other hand, getting Brian Orakpo back is going to help, too. And Kirk Cousins isn't terrible. But it all comes down to: can the Skins keep RGIII healthy for 16 games? (Doesn't that sound familiar, Eagles fans?) If not, this one goes to the Giants. The division is too weak to produce a wildcard team, though.

NFC North:Packers

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Milwaukee with a client. The first night I was there, my main contact took me and a few of her colleagues out to dinner. It was all ladies, and they mostly weren't big football fans, so I tried to keep from geeking out too much on them. But they did ask what I thought were their Packers' chances this year. Divisional win, no contest. As you know, I love the Lions, but no consistency (although I am excited to see what Reggie Bush can do for them). I don't think Adrian Peterson can pull off back to back 2000 yard seasons. And I don't think Lovie Smith was the problem with the Bears. Their problem rhymes with Make Multer. The competition here isn't quite as sorry as it is in the AFC East, but none of these teams can reasonably compete with ARodg, who may be becoming, in his unassuming way, a legendarily gifted quarterback.

NFC South: Saints

Sean Payton's back. Did he bring the Saints' mojo with him? I think the answer is yes, although it will be interesting to see if Rob Ryan fares any better in New Orleans than he did in Dallas. I'm not discounting the Falcons (see below), or, for that matter, the Buccaneers, who are also much better this year, or even the Panthers, if Cam Newton can regain his rookie magic. But I gotta go with my heart here.

NFC West: Seahawks

Is the NFC West the toughest division in football at this point? Well, not if you include the Cardinals and, to a lesser degree, the Rams. But the 49ers and Seahawks both remain excellent teams. My qualms about the 49ers come down to: will lightening strike twice? I don't think they're quite good enough to repeat, and, as long as Russell Wilson has another good year, I think the Seahawks can ride an outstanding defense to a divisional title.

NFC Wildcard: 49ers and Falcons

I think both teams have a better than average chance of swapping with the divisional opponents I've picked. 

Team of Destiny

After last year's embarrassing 4-12 finish, I'm going with my Eagles. The offense retains the potential to be outstanding, particularly as they get accustomed to the Chipster. The special teams appears to be much improved. Admittedly, it would've been impossible to get worse, but they do seem to be making significant progress under Dave Fipp. The defensive shift from 4-3 to 3-4, with 4-3 personnel (Trent Cole, don't lose heart!), and their nearly complete lack of a secondary means that opposing teams will put up a lot of points, and I expect plenty of shoot-out games. But, depending on how the next few offseasons go, and what happens with the quarterbacks, I see the Eagles being ready to make some noise in the postseason again before too long.

Don't like my predictions? Check out:

NFL Network
Sports Illustrated
Bleacher Report
More Sports Illustrated