28 September 2015

An Ugly Win Is Still a Win

Eagles 24, Jets 17, Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Monday after a win is much better than the Monday after a loss.

Stud of the week: Really want to go with either Darren Sproles (THAT PUNT RETURN) or Jordan
Hicks (10 tackles, a fumble recovery, AND a pick) again. But the way those two are playing, they're going to appear here a lot this season, so I need to spread it around a little. With that in mind, I'm going with Ryan Mathews, who proved that the Birds CAN SO run the ball, even against a good defense. He went over 100 yards on the ground and had a receiving TD. Yes, he dropped a pass on what likely would have been another TD and had a very untimely fumble (where Jordan Hicks and Brandon Bair saved his bacon moments later, and more on Bair in a minute) when the Birds were trying to seal the win, but he ran hard and delivered when the Birds needed it. Whoa Mary, did we need it.

Speaking of Brandon Bair: who is this guy? I counted three batted passes, one that was picked, as mentioned above, at just the right time. And I've never heard of him. So I looked him up. Turns out, he was a UFA who spent three years riding the pine for three different teams, played all 16 games with the Birds last year doing not very much, spent the first two weeks of 2015 inactive, and then had a great game Sunday. I'm guessing he's been spending all that downtime in an adult rec volleyball league, because he was knocking stuff down seven ways from Sunday on, uh, Sunday.

I do have to talk a little more about Darren Sproles, who had two TDs Sunday, including that highlight reel punt return where he made EVERYONE miss. Yes, he got help with some solid blocks, but I'm pretty sure he slipped through all 53 Jets on that run. With the recent announcement that #36 is being considered for the Hall of Fame class this year, Chef Spouse remarked, wistfully, that some of the most exciting words in his football watching career have been: "Westbrook breaks free." I think "Sproles breaks free" may be running a close second. That guy is just insane. I don't know why the Saints (or the Chargers, for that matter) let him go, but thanks y'all!

I also have to talk a little more about Jordan Hicks, who's playing like a stone-cold pro at this point. Rookie shmookie. He keeps this up, he can be my schmoopy. And also, maybe, my next jersey.

Speaking of schmoopies, Byron Maxwell showed up! Billy Davis has been taking some heat in various fan quarters, but the Birds D is actually playing well, allowing only 36 points over the 10 quarters when Julio Jones wasn't spanking them (anyone else still have PTSD from that?), and they're on the field A LOT. Thankfully, Davis has realized that Maxwell needs help to cover the #1 wideout on the other team (Brandon Marshall, for instance) and has started providing it. Memo to Billy: he's not Richard Sherman. You're welcome.

To quote BGN: "My point is that the Eagles' defense (with an assist from special teams) is carrying this team while the offense is still in a funk."

Let's not get crazy - it's not the second coming of Jim Johnson - but how long has it been since any Birds fan has been able to say that? (I'll tell you how long - 12 years, and thanks for the refresher, Tommy!)

Also, the O line kept Sam Bradford clean. So that was good.

I guess we'll have to move to Sam Bradford, who is not playing well. If I can see that he's staring down the receiver from the comfort of my Eagles woman cave, that is not good. And I can. Admittedly, his receivers are not helping him. Dropsies, dropsies, dropsies. He's not throwing picks, so he is an upgrade over Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez. But he's playing like, well, like he hasn't played in years. Which is basically true, but at some point, he needs to stop looking like he just woke up from a bizarre dream and is not sure how he ended up on the football field in pads with a bunch of large men trying to pancake him.

Meanwhile, Jordan Matthews is practically on the side of a milk carton. Next to him are Miles Austin (too early to say "waste of a roster spot?") and Zach Ertz. Brent Celek managed to escape that fate merely because he remains a money blocker. Sigh. The Birds need a passing game, like immediately.

Also, Cody Parkey is now on IR. He had such a great year last year that I'm hopeful that his early season struggles are just the groin injury - which is apparently now much worse - and that when he heals up, he'll be back to 2014 form. In 2016, of course, and welcome Caleb Sturgis! Don't screw up.

But this was, as a number of people have mentioned, a team win. Name players stepped up. No name players stepped up. If Chip can just get Sam Bradford to play like a competent professional NFL quarterback, the NFC East crown is still very much in the Birds' reach.

24 September 2015

2015 Week 3 Picks

Here we go again. The Eagles are 0-2. Several other teams are, surprisingly, 0-2 as well, including the Seahawks, Saints, Colts, and Ravens (plus the Giants, Bears, Lions, and Texans).

On the other hand, raise your hand if you think the Eagles could beat the Seahawks at this point...or the Ravens....or the Colts....


Tommy Lawlor is urging us not to panic - yet - and he's probably right - for now.

[Excuse me while I get myself a drink - it'll help with the whole "not panicking" plan.]

I don't feel good about this game. One, everyone's talking about how the Jets have never beat the Eagles. So jinx right there.

Second, the Jets defense remains excellent. Andrew Luck couldn't figure out the Jets defense last week (see above RE: 0-2). Sam Bradford, I think we can all agree, is no Andrew Luck.

Third, the Jets actually have offense at this point too, now that Rex Ryan left town and IK Enemkpali took out Geno Smith.

I'm picking the Jets. Sigh. 0-3, here we come.

In the rest of the matchups:

DC at Giants: DC shocked the hell out of a lot of people last week, including me, going back to old school ground and pound football of the famous Hogs era to pick up the win over the Rams. Can't really figure them out yet this year - nor can I figure out what is going on with the Giants, giving up fourth quarter leads in two consecutive weeks. I think I'm picking the Giants to win, because I can't imagine they'll go 0-3, which is ironic given that I've just predicted the Eagles will go to 0-3, but apparently, logic has left the building

Falcons at Cowboys: The Cowboys are down their #1 receiver and their starting QB. That didn't stop them from spanking the Eagles, but they will not get past the Falcons so hobbled. Falcons.

Colts at Titans: Speaking of teams that aren't going to go to 0-3, Colts.

Raiders at Browns: I *still* can't believe the Raiders beat the Ravens. I think I'm on the Black Hole Bandwagon, at least this week. Raiders.

Bengals at Ravens: Am I really picking the Ravens to go 0-3 with the Birds? Apparently I am, sticking with my pick to take the division this year, the Bengals.

Jaguars at Patriots: Pats. Also, ouch.

Saints at Panthers: More companions on the 0-3 train! Panthers.

Buccaneers at Texans: Everybody has the Texans, and I suppose I do, too, but I think maybe Jameis Winston figured out some things about the NFL last week, so I wouldn't be surprised to see a Bucs upset win, either.

Chargers at Vikings: Everyone has the Vikings, too, and I just don't see it. I think I'm going Chargers for my upset pick (having a hard time wrapping my head around the Chargers being an upset....)

Steelers at Rams: Steelers

49ers at Cardinals: Cards

Bills at Dolphins: Dolphins

Bears at Seahawks: Here's team that will *not* be on the 0-3 bus. Seahawks (What, you thought I was going to say "Bears?" Not a chance.)

Broncos at Lions: Broncos

Chiefs at Packers: Really want to pick the Chiefs, and if they were playing at Arrowhead, I probably would, but let's be real. Nobody beats the Pack at home. Packers.

21 September 2015

Dazed and Confused

Eagles 10, Cowboys 20, Sunday, September 20, 2015

As in me, at 7 pm last night, and as it what former Oklahoma roomies San Bradford and DeMarco Murray looked like yesterday afternoon.

Stud of the game: Yes, there was one! Continuing the Eagles tradition of the number 58 =
awesomesauce, rookie Jordan Hicks got called on when both Kiko Alonso and Mychal Kendricks went down to injury and turned in an excellent seven tackle, one sack, one forced fumble (that was recovered by Fletcher Cox and led to the Eagles longest drive of the day...which ended in a Bradford pick in the endzone. But that's not Jordan's fault) debut. He and Malcolm Jenkins (who also had a recovered fumble that could've put the Birds in scoring position if Sam Bradford hadn't immediately fumbled it back - also not Malcolm's fault) were pretty much the only bright spots in an otherwise dismal performance.

Where to begin? How about with the offense?

NO run game to speak of.  The thing about an up-tempo offense is that you HAVE to be able to to move the ball on the ground for it to work. A successful running attack is NOT optional. Andy Reid could get away with putting the entire game on Donovan McNabb's arm (and legs) periodically and have it mostly work (a least up through 2008). Sam Bradford, to state the obvious, is not Donovan McNabb. The temptation is to blame new linemen Allan Barbre and Andrew Gardner, but nobody was doing a good job, not even pro bowlers Jason Peters and Jason Kelce. When even Darren Sproles can't get going, there's a serious issue.

Last week, Sam Bradford had a rough first half, and I could feel the early stirrings of panic. What if his flashes in his rookie year with the Rams were the exception, rather than the rule? And then he came out in the second half and played well. Yeah, he doesn't have a big arm, but he got the ball out accurately and quickly, and the pick that ended the game for the Eagles was on Jordan Matthews, not him. Maybe he just needed a little more time than 1/2 of one pre-season game to knock the rust off. Well, this week, he stunk it up. Oh, he had help: pretty much every Eagles wideout dropped at least one pass that was RIGHT to him, and the pick that ended the game for the Birds was once again, not his fault (Zach Ertz, please report to the woodshed). But missing a wide-open Riley Cooper in the endzone? Sam's fault. Throwing a pick RIGHT TO Sean Lee in the endzone? Also Sam's fault.

Chip Kelly's "high-powered" offense put up three points. Don't give me "ten" - that TD at the end of the game was garbage time and you know it (realistically, the whole game was garbage time, if we're being honest - the Birds looked totally overmatched pretty much from the start).

And after being a highlight of the 2014 season, special teams wasn't all that special last week, and this week, allowed Danny McCray to rip through the line and block Donny Jones's punt, giving the Cowboys their first TD and opening up their lead to the ultimate margin of victory, ten points.  At least Cody Parkey knocked through a 46 yarder with ease. See? If he actually has a minute to get set, he's still a good kicker!

The D did play well. Against a team that was missing its top wideout and, after early in the third quarter, it's Pro Bowl, franchise quarterback. Still, they didn't give up an offensive TD until the final five minutes of the game, and that was after they'd been on the field for what seemed like 50 of the elapsed 55 game minutes (see above RE: no run game). But if the offense continually goes three-and-out, they are going to give up points eventually. It's inevitable.

Can the Birds turn it around? I have no idea. The division is weak this year - the Cowboys are hobbled by injury, the Giants are just as bad as the Eagles are (maybe worse), and DC...remains DC (despite their upset win over the Rams yesterday). Does anyone truly believe they're going to the playoffs with Kirk Cousins? So it's still anyone's to take (possibly with 7 wins, oh, the humanity). But watching the Seahawks/Packers game last night, do any of us really believe that, even if the Birds do pull it together to win the division, they are going anywhere in the playoffs? After the past two weeks, and in comparison to the excellent football played last night, they don't even look like a professional football team at this point.

17 September 2015

2015 Week 2 Picks

Home opener for our Birds this week, against the hated Dallas Cowboys.

Several outlets are calling it a must-win game.

"How can that be?" you might be thinking. "It's only week two ,for chrissakes!"

Yeah, but Dallas won last week and, just in case you got blackout drunk in the first half Monday night and are just coming around, the Birds didn't.

I still firmly believe the NFC East is going to come down to these two teams this year because, come on, have you SEEN the rest of the division?

Dez Bryant is out with a broken foot, which is pretty damn lucky considering the fact that the Eagles' secondary remains a work in progress (at least we all hope it's progressing), despite Chip's best efforts to upgrade this offseason. Lots of people are already calling for Bill Davis's head, and while that seems premature after one game, that was one disappointing showing from the secondary. So they should consider Dez's absence a gift.

I feel like Sam Bradford and the receivers started to get in better synch in the second half of the loss in Atlanta, and I'm hopeful that that's carried into this week of practice. And Sam is now on his SECOND game back and it's not in prime time, so I also hope he's not as jumpy. The fact that the Cowboys are missing one of their key pass rushers (Greg Hardy) should help with that, too. Fingers crossed that Kiko Alonzo can cover Jason Witten, because as far as I can tell, he's most of what they have left on offense at this point. And of course, the Birds' sacks - or at least the QB pressure - need to pick up. Matt Ryan had all goddamn day last week.

Pretty much everyone has the Eagles, and I think that's reasonable. The Birds *are* at home, and they have to realize they can't fall two games behind Dallas already. That just WILL NOT do.

I think this will be a close game, but I also think the Ghost of Chuck Bednarik will help the Birds pull off the win.

In the rest of the matchups:

Broncos at Chiefs: Last night the NFL Network broke down last week's game footage of the Broncos win over the Ravens and pointed out that Peyton Manning had almost no completed passes over 10 yards. Don't say I didn't warn you that this year might be a changing of the guard in the AFC West. Chiefs.

Patriots at Bills: I'm taking the Bills to follow up last week's upset of the Colts with an upset of the Pats. Upset pick alert!

Texans at Panthers: Panthers

Cardinals at Bears: Cardinals

Chargers at Bengals: Bengals

Titans at Browns: Titans! Team of Destiny!

Lions at Vikings: Man, MNF killed me this week. SOOOO wrong about both picks. Not only was I wrong with the picks, I was WAY wrong about how the games played out. Will Adrian Peterson return to form? Probably, but I don't think this week. The Lions can put up points, and "grind it out on the ground" is not a winning strategy against them. Lions.

Buccaneers at Saints: Jameis Winston still hasn't proven that he can play, and the Saints are at home. Saints.

Falcons at Giants: Well, given what the Falcons showed last week, I'm going with the hot hands (Matt Ryan and Julio Jones) and picking them to go to 2-0, even if Eli doesn't have another poorly-timed brain fart.

49ers at Steelers: Steelers. Also, can someone please tell the 49ers never to wear their all black uniforms again? They're not quite as fugly as the Steelers bumblebee throwbacks, but almost.

Rams at DC: Rams. Think Jeff Fisher will troll by making all the draft picks the Rams got for RG3 co-captains again? Or has that joke gotten old? Yeah, I don't think so, either.

Dolphins at Jaguars: Oh, hapless Jags. At least the fans who still bother to show up can focus on the pool at your stadium to take their minds off the game. Dolphins.

Ravens at Raiders: Maybe somebody should get the Raiders a pool, too? Ravens.

Seahawks at Packers: The Seahawks have to win this game, and the Packers struggled more without Jordy Nelson last week than I thought they would. But they're still really damn hard to beat at home. Packers. And much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth in Seattle Monday morning (almost as much as will go down in Philly if the Birds lose).

Jets at Colts: Speaking of struggling, what the hell happened to the Colts last Sunday? They should thank the powers that be that they're facing the Jets this week rather than the Pats, which will give them a chance to right the ship. Colts.

15 September 2015

The Not-Quite-Ready for Primetime Players

Eagles 24, Falcons 26, Monday, September 14, 2015

Hm, that did not go quite as planned.

Stud of the week: Could it be anyone BUT Darren Sproles? No, it could not. Leading rusher - by a
LOT and over the two "stud" rushers the Eagles took in free agency - and #2 receiver. All he does is be awesome. Given all the changes in the off season, I no longer have a jersey from a current player. I think I know what I'm asking for from Santa for Christmas. (Or maybe Halloween. Santa totally gives Halloween gifts, right?) Sproles is so little I'll probably wear the same size he does, too. We can be besties!

I think the main story of this game is that the Eagles made a TON of changes in the off season and the team is still in the process of becoming - and playing as - a team. One would hope they'd gotten more of that covered in the preseason, but evidently not. Mind you, that's not an excuse, because the Falcons pretty much completely remade themselves in the offseason too, and well, they won.

It was a tale of good v. evil, and by "evil" I mean some of the shit the Eagles pulled, not the Dirty Birds.

Good Sam Bradford: The second half, where we saw that while he doesn't have a big arm, he does get the ball out fast and hit guys accurately, and when the Eagles really picked up the tempo, he got going and the Falcons were OBVIOUSLY gassed, and bad.

Evil Sam Bradford: The first half, where I found myself thinking "I know he's been rehabbing an ACL, but perhaps he should've played a bit more in the preseason" pretty consistently. I also think that starting his first game in nearly two years on Monday Night Football might have gotten into his head more than a little.

Good Malcolm Jenkins: Tackling Tevin Coleman for a loss on 3rd-and-1 with two minutes to go, forcing a Falcons punt and giving the Eagles one last chance to win it. Which they proceeded to blow, but that wasn't Malcolm's fault.

Evil Malcolm Jenkins: Dropping not one but TWO sure picks that literally hit him in the numbers. That will NOT do.

Good Jordan Matthews: Over 100 yards receiving, and some nice YAC.

Evil Joran Matthews: Missing a slightly high but totally catchable ball (Dude, you're SIX-THREE!), tipping it in the process so it was picked, and ending the game. He Tony Romoed - you know, head buried in hands on the ground - after. Yeah, you better Tony Romo, buddy.

Good DeMarco Murray: Two TDs! First receiving TD of his career! (How is that possible?)

Evil DeMarco Murray: NINE total yards rushing?!?!?!? NINE?!!??!? Do you know how much the Eagles paid for your former Cowboy ass? Pull it together!

Good Ryan Mathews: POWERING through for the (temporary) go-ahead TD while carrying approximately the ENTIRE Falcons D, half the coaching staff, a few fans, the mascot, and one random hot dog seller.

Evil Ryan Mathews: ONE additional rushing yard aside from the TD. ONE. Do you know how much the Eagles paid for your former Charger ass? You also must pull it together!


Evil Kiko Alonso: Illegal contact penalty that wipes out a recovered Falcons fumble? Oh no, sweetie. No, no, no.

Good Byron Maxwell: Uuuuuuhhhh, I'm not really sure. He had a rough night.

Evil Byron Maxwell: Julio Jones OWNED your ass. Yeah, not every team has a Julio Jones (thank GOD), but most of them do have competent receivers. Just a reminder, you were supposed to be an *upgrade* of the secondary. As one of my fellow fans pointed out in a chat during the game last night: "I'd like to return Byron Maxwell. I think the one we got is defective."

Good Chip Kelly: When he shifted to tempo in the second half, the Eagles took over and were KILLING the Falcons D.

Evil Chip Kelly: DO NOT attempt the damn field goal. Before Parkey even missed it, I remarked to Chef Spouse: "This is how we lose the game."

And let's talk about that kick for a moment. Bad Cody Parkey, right? Nope. I don't blame him at all. He's been dealing with a groin injury this summer, and a 44 yard field goal is not automatic for anyone. So they're putzing around on the sideline, all "do we go for it?" "do we take the field goal attempt?" "duh, I dunno..." and then they finally decide "yes, we will take the field goal attempt" leaving poor Parkey about three seconds to run out on the field, get everyone set, get the ball snapped, and take the shot. Or, you know, you *could* take a timeout. You know, of the THREE you have remaining. Meanwhile, the Falcons D was TIRED out there, and the Eagles were moving the ball at will. Not a high percentage move from any angle.

tl;dr Chip's fault, not Cody's.

And his miss didn't lose the game, either. It would've only put the Eagles up by one with over two minutes left. The Falcons would have played out the rest of the game differently if they were trying to score rather than protecting a lead. I'm pretty sure Matt Ryan would've just kept targeting Julio Jones and burning Byron Maxwell, but that's all speculation at this point.

On to the Cowboys - who are without Dez for maybe two months, and thank God for small favors - and the home opener. Honoring Chuck Bednarik. DO NOT screw this up, fellas.

10 September 2015

2015 Week 1 Picks

aka, Wild Ass Guesses, since pretty much everything is speculation at this point

(as opposed to later in the season, when my picks are HIGHLY SCIENTIFIC)

The Eagles kick off the road to Super Bowl 50 on the road against Atlanta on Monday Night Football, which is a good thing, since I'll be in Minneapolis leading a workshop for a client on Sunday. (Who schedules an all day workshop for NFL opening weekend? Seriously, people, it's a good thing I really like you all....)

From what I've heard, the Falcons' D isn't that great this year. Hell, even the Falconoholic calls them "arguably the worst defense in the NFL." Ouch. And if there's one thing the Eagles know how to do, it is, to quote The Chippah:

Apparently, their O-line isn't very strong, either. Against a defense that was third in recorded sacks last year and has probably gotten BETTER since 2014, that is also not a good sign for the Falcons. Or Matt Ryan. Somebody go ahead and book him a two hour massage for Tuesday morning now, before all the good slots are taken.

I think the 700 Level's prediction of a 52-24 blowout may be a tad optimistic (not that I'd be crying in my beer if they're right), but I really don't see how the Eagles lose this one.

Speaking of Wild Ass Guesses, in the rest of the matchups:

Steelers at Patriots: EVERYONE has the Pats, so I suppose I do, too. Not sure what to make of the Steelers this season (yet), and the Pats are at home, Brady will be playing, and I'm guessing they're pissed.

Packers at Bears: Packers. I *did* pick them to win the division.

Chiefs at Texans: Chiefs. Again on the picking a team to win the division, plus I think they're a better team overall, plus Andy Reid.

Browns at Jets: Is it too early for a Worst Game of the Week? Jets.

Colts at Bills: Colts. Although it will be interesting to see how LeSean McCoy performs now that he can set his own bedtime like a grown up. Because that whole sports science thing? Clearly bullshit, right?

Dolphins at DC: Dolphins. And expect DC fans to be crying to get RG3 (currently referred to on HogsHaven as "that bum") back by 4:10 pm Sunday.

Panthers at Jaguars: Panthers

Seahawks at Rams: Seahawks, although I think this might be a closer game than most people expect.

Saints at Cardinals: I've got both these teams winning their divisions (although the Saints mostly for sentimental reasons and because I have NO idea what's going on in the NFC South right now), but seeing as I'm thinking the Cards might be able to sneak the division out from under the Seahawks and I think we can all acknowledge that the NFC West is far stronger than the NFC South, gotta go with them at home.

Lions at Chargers: Chargers

Titans at Buccaneers: So this will be fun - matchup of the number 1 and number 2 picks in the 2015 draft, since according to the latest depth charts BOTH Mariota and Winston are starting. Coin flip on this one, so I'll go with the Titans because Chip wanted Mariota and I was just in Tennessee,

Bengals at Raiders: Bengals. The Raiders remain dreadful. Someone must've pranked them by telling them that the surest route to getting relocated to LA was to suck royally. Guys! Use your heads! Clearly the best way to get relocated is to pay off Roger Goodell and Mark Davis! Maybe you could hold a bake sale or something.

Ravens at Broncos:  Just about everyone has the Broncos, but I'm going with the Ravens, who I think are going to remain a tough team to beat this year. This is my official Crazy Pick.

Giants at Cowboys: Cowboys

Vikings at 49ers: EVERYONE has the Vikings. Have the 49ers really fallen that far that fast? Apparently yes. Vikings.

07 September 2015

2015 Divisional Picks

Although the 2015 season technically begins on Thursday, for us Eagles fans, it's t-minus one week and counting until we see if the proof truly is in the pudding, or if Chip Kelly really has gone around the bend.

Either way, it should be entertaining.

With the season about to start, it's time for to do my annual divisional picks, aka "The Post That Will SERIOUSLY Embarrass Me In January." Of course, in January when the regular season ends, I'll be in Aruba - yes, really - so I doubt I'll care. Well, OK, I'll care a little. But there will be sun, sand, surf, and rum drinks to take my mind off it, so there's that.

AFC East

You know, when the story of the "Great Dynasty" is written someday, I sure hope whoever writes it points out two things. One, the Patriots are BIG CHEATERS. Two, playing in a division that guarantees you six wins a year consistently sure makes it easier to get into the playoffs. Even if you have dumped a bunch of your star players (maybe that's where Chip got the idea?).

AFC North

I'm going with the Bengals again, despite the fact that their solid season last year came to a crashing halt when it met reality (aka "The Colts") in the playoffs.

AFC South

If Marcus Mariota is who he looks like he might be, things could get a lot tougher for the Colts soon. But not this year. See above RE: shitty division.

AFC West

I think Peyton Manning is really on the decline this time, and I think the Chiefs are surging. Or maybe I just can't quit Andy Reid.

AFC Wildcard

Ravens and Dolphins. What? Everyone else in the AFC East can't stay terrible forever, right?

NFC East

The Eagles are totally going to be an unstoppable juggernaut this year. 19-0, baby! Well, at least if they play the way they did in the first half of the preseason game with the Packers, they will. Which is pretty damn unlikely, but I still think they're the class of the NFC East once again. The only team that can contest, reasonably, is the Cowboys, and I just don't see it. Chip is like a guy who just dropped $20,000 on black in Vegas. Let's hope it hits.

NFC North

I know I'm writing a lot about quarterbacks here, but Aaron Rodgers is THE BEST QB in football at this point, in my opinion, and even without Jordy Nelson, that's probably enough for the Packers.

NFC South

Since I have literally no idea what happened in the NFC South this offseason, other than the Bucs drafting Jameis Winston, I'm going with the Saints for no other reason than my love of all things New Orleans.

NFC West

People (and by "people" I mean professional sportswriters) are still really high on the Seahawks, which is understandable given that they NEARLY repeated last year, but I'm pulling out my patented Crazy Pick and going with the Cardinals, who I think are on an upswing, even if Bruce Arians can be a big whiner.

NFC Wildcard

Seahawks (unless they win their division) and, much as it pains me to say it, Cowboys.

Team of Destiny

Tennessee Titans, perhaps influenced by the fact that I spent this weekend visiting friends in Nashville, and people there are SUPER excited about the team this year. Also, Marcus Mariota.

Want to read some fun pre-season commentary? Check out Deadspin's Why Your Team Sucks series (linked to the Eagles edition, for your convenience). And Grantland will be previewing all the teams in the  next few days (cellar dwellers are the only ones up as of this writing).