Oh, so I just logged on and there's no odds for the division winners. Also, Pit has no win-total line. Presumably they were all taken off the board after the motorcycle accident. I'll comment on 'em anyway, then post again when they're back up.
By the way, totally off topic, but I can't stop thinking about this: why is there still no Ann Coulter sex tape? And does this glaring absence represent the failure of the Internet alone or the failure of our society as a whole?
Baltimore RavensI fucking hate the Baltimore Ravens. How can you be in the same division as the Bengals and still have the worst uniforms? Props for incorporating the Maryland flag into the shoulder patch, but that's it. Ray Lewis and Tony Siragusa can go to hell. And fuck that smug little shit Brian Billick hard.
I've hated them ever since they beat the Jets in the final week of whatever year they won the Super Bowl (1999?). It was the Al Groh year. One more win would have clinched a spot in the playoffs and the Jets managed to lose the last two or three that year. Then Groh quit to take the Virginia gig, freeing up the coach's chair for Herm Edwards. Herm I liked.
But so get this, remember how the Ravens had such a vaunted defense that year? They managed to win twelve games without scoring an offensive touchdown in the entire month of October. Do you remember that? Then they benched Tony Banks and won the Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer. They actually had the number two ranked defense that year, behind the Titans, whom they beat in the playoffs. And after the end of the regular season, some clown from the Ravens' D complained to a reporter that the Cowboys, who were already out of it, had played a bunch of scrubs in the final game of the season, allowing the Titans to hold on to the top spot. Conveniently forgetting. of course, that his own squad had just given up over 500 yards to the Jets that same week. The only reason Baltimore won that game was because Jermaine Lewis scored on kick returns twice, which is a shitty way to lose. But Vinnie and the Jets ran five wide and waltzed up and down the field every time the Jets had the ball. And all for naught.
Last year the Ravens had the highest win-total line in the league at 10; I took the under and counted my winnings before the season even began. Predictably, the Ravens stunk. This made me happy. This year they might be a little better; I'm thinking middle of the road. But keep in mind, my predictions are biased, because I hate them.
Let's see, they got McNair, who's the first real QB they've had since like... Bernie Kosar? You might count Grbac, and that's totally legit, but he sucked for the Ravens, bad enough that he retired in shame after one year. I'm pencilling in McNair for six starts before he gets hurt and they're stuck with Boller again. Jamal Lewis should be a lot better, having had a chance to stay in shape this off-season, rather than spending it in prison for cocaine trafficking. Seriously, these guys are like the Raiders with worse uniforms. If he falters they signed Mike Anderson, coming off 1,000 yards and 12 TDs last year for Denver, which I think is a terrific move.
So the Ravens have basically an above-average running game and one of the league's best defenses. Which is pretty much what TB has, and last week I picked them as a long-shot contender, whereas I'm picking the Ravens to hover around .500 all year. You want logic? Read SI. Better yet, don't watch football.
Baltimore, by the way, is the birthplace of B-Club! And home of Rod Lee! Who's so fucking underground he doesn't even have a website. Not one that I can find, anyway.
Total wins: 8
Sounds about right. I'll say three division (sweep Cle, split Cin or Pit) two AFCW (Oak, SD or @KC), one NFCS (@NO or Atl) and at least one of Buf and @TN. That's seven or eight. Skip this.
Division title: NL
Actually, after all that ranting about how they suck, I was actually gonna take this if the odds were long enough (like double-digits long) 'cause hey, you never know, but now there's no odds, and I'll bet you 1-1 they're nowhere near as high as I'd like, so hell no.
Super Bowl champ: 22-1
I find it baffling these are so short. Baffling.
Cincinnati BengalsLet me say right off the bat that I think Carson Palmer's comin' back strong and he won't miss a beat. 'Cause let's face it, any prediction about the Bengals this year hinges on how healthy you think Palmer'll be, and anyone making said prediciton has absolutely no information on said topic. So we're all just fumbling around here, and my coin came up heads for healthy.
Having said that, I don't think they'll be as good as they were last year. Breakout teams usually have a "market correction" of sorts the following year (Manning's third year in Ind, StL after they won the SB, etc.), and I think Cincy will too. I still think they're a playoff team, but they'll struggle a little early on before rattling off a bunch of wins late.
The personnel is basically the same. They lost Kim Herring but signed Dexter Jackson, which is basically a wash. They signed Sam Adams, but he's not really an impact guy anymore. The only significant loss is Kitna, who gets replaced by Doug Johnson and Anthony Wright, which is a serious downgrade, but that only matters if Palmer's still hurt (or gets hurt again).
On a side note, rumour has it that Marvin Lewis has collected a few questionable character guys on this team, and doesn't really discipline them much off the field. Prediction: it bites him in the ass sometime this year. I'm thinking late November, the team struggling to keep up in the division, last thing they need is some negative headlines to distract them... and someone gets arrested in a barroom brawl down at the Flats the week they play Cleveland. Watch for it.
By the way, I think the Afghan Whigs were from Cincinatti.
Total wins: 9
Probably right around there. They won eleven last year (which surprised me when I looked it up, I remembered them winning more), and I think they'll slip back a little this year, so nine seems just about right. Let's say four division (split Pit, drop one at home that they have no business losing to Bal or Cle that winds up being emblematic of the season as a whole), two AFCW (SD and Oak), three NFCS (lose to @TB or Car) and then... NE and @Ind. Sorry guys, I think the ride stalls at nine.
Division title: NL
I think they'll be favoured to win it and they won't.
Super Bowl champ: 17-1
Not this year, but I think it'll happen with this generation of players before too long.
Cleveland BrownsPoor Cleveland. This is football-crazed town. I remember reading a comment from Peter King a few years ago in which he said that he was in Cleveland one day in June the morning after the Indians had won a dramatic extra-inning game to take first place in the AL Central for the first time all year, and the main story in the sports section of the Plain Dealer was a personal profile of the Browns' back-up QB. And what do these loyal fans get in return for their undying support? An insult. Year after year. 31 wins in the last five seasons.
I really thought Butch Davis was going to take this team places a few years ago, especially after he snuck into the playoffs one year, but the real problem was the front office. Now that Policy's gone, I think Crennel will get it done. Seriously. Eventually. But not this year.
He's installed a 3-4, of which I'm a big fan, and drafted a bunch of LBs, including one named "D'Qwell", which is just what they need. So far so good, but this offense is still a draft or two away; they need to upgrade every ball-handling position. I mean, William Green is still on the roster.
By the way, I can't stand the term "skill position" because it implies that blocking isn't a skill, whereas it's probably the most exacting discipline on offense, but I can't think of anything better than "ball-handling position", which sounds ridiculous. I'm completely open to suggestions.
Cleveland is the birthplace of the Rock n' Roll concert, of which Alan Freed's Moondog Coronation Ball in 1952 was the first one. This is so deeply ingrained in the culture of Cleveland that the Cavaliers' mascot is a giant dog. Run and tell y'mama 'bout that.
Total wins: 61/2
Let's say two division (split Bal and Cin), two AFCW (say, @Oak and KC?) one NFCS (NO or Atl), one or both of NYJ and @Hou. Total: six or seven. No thanks.
Division title: NL
Super Bowl champ: 90-1
Look at this, Cle gets 90 and Bal gets 22. Are they really that far apart? I don't see it.
Pittsburgh SteelersI think Jerome Bettis is a bigger loss than Randle El. They drafted a couple wideouts early on, but didn't really sign a true goal-line back. Neither Parker nor Staley has what it takes to be a between-the-tackles bruiser. Which means I guess they're relying on Big Ben getting a few more questionable calls. Or something.
Other than that, well, they're the champs, but they were hardly the best team last year, they just got hot at the right time. Which is not to take away from their achievement, but I don't think they're poised for a repeat. Having said that, based on Bal and Cle sucking and Cin's inevitable leveling off, I think they'll take the division without much resistance. Overall, opposite of Cin: roaring out of the gate, limping through December.
Pittsburgh, by-the-by, is the home of stunt-rock legends Don Caballero, which Damon Che thinks is still a real band, even without Ian Williams. Sure thing, fella.
Total wins: NL
Presumably off the board since the accident. Will probably be ten or eleven. I'm thinking five division (split Cin), three AFCW (lose @SD), three NFCS (lose TB or @Car), plus one more (Mia or @Jac). That's eleven. Depending on the line, I might take over. Might not. Your move, Vegas.
Division title: NL
I think they'll win it, but, I also think they'll get <1 odds, which I won't take. But if it's 3-2 I will. Vegas?
Super Bowl champ: 12-1
Doubt it. I don't see these guys repeating. Like I said, I think they'll sputter down the stretch, then maybe even lose at home to a wild card. Oh well. We'll always have Detroit.
RecapI think it's a two-team fight between Pit and Cin; Pit takes an early lead as Cin struggles, Cin makes a late surge as Pit runs out of gas, but still comes up short.
The picks: NONE! But close to half of 'em aren't even up there, so whadaya want?