By the way, Pit's win total and the AFCN lines are still off the board. What gives, Sportsbook? Roethcheeseburger's fine, he's starting week 1, post those numbers. On with the show:
Denver BroncosGive it up for Mike Shanahan. He gets a lot of shit for not winning a single playoff game since Elway retired, but damned if he doesn't field a consistently competitive team year after year. Fifty wins over the last five seasons. Then last year he turned a bunch of Browns washouts into a top-tier D-line, turned Jake Plummer into a consistent, conservative QB, and topped it all off by beating the defending champs in the playoffs. Brady n' Bill's first postseason loss, y'know. Ever.
Undefeated at home, too, which I guess you kind of have a leg up on when you're used to playing with no fucking oxygen and the other team have to sit on the sideline in gasmasks between each series, but still, not to be sniffed at. Really, what can you say bad about this team? Okay, I've got one: the RB position is a little shaky. Mike Anderson was their top rusher last year and they cut him, which leaves Tatum Bell, who should have won the job last year but couldn't block a charging housecat, and Ron Dayne, who... well, Ron Dayne. And some other dude's I've never heard of, one of whom I suppose will find a way to grind out 1,000 yards. But if not? They didn't draft anybody. That puts more pressure on Plummer, and the reason they were so successful last year is that they didn't expect Plummer to win games, just not lose them. That and the acquisition of Javon Walker, which helps, and the drafting of Jay Cutler, which doesn't. Actually, this is starting to look like a bad pile of dominoes.
Still, their defense should be just as strong, and everyone else in the division has even bigger flaws. I say smooth sailing as long as Plummer doesn't get a haircut.
I don't think Denver has much of a musical heritage, but Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea was recorded there, even though the band was from Ruston and Athens and Queens, sort of. I mean that right there, that's history.
Total wins: 10
Double-digit lines make me nervous, but I think Denver can beat it. Say we give 'em four division (split SD and KC), three AFCN (losing to @Pit or Cin) and three NFCW (losing to anybody but SF, which is week 17 but I think this division might be too tight to rest starters). That's ten even, which leaves... @NE and Ind. Tough break. They may very well take one of these, but I'll pass.
Division title: 1-1
The favourites, and with good reason, but KC and SD are too good to risk even odds.
Super Bowl champ: 12-1
Very possible. I'd like the odds to be a little longer, like would 15 be too much to ask? I mean this is the same as Car's number, and they're considered a prohibitive favorite. But what the hell, no real reason they can't win, let's take it.
Kansas City ChiefsWhy, Herm, why? We had a good thing going, baby. I mean, we all have our flaws and you had that whole clock thing, but hey man, it's totally understandable to think that there's 100 seconds in a minute. I mean, it makes perfect sense, man. Like, sixty? Where'd that come from? Hel-lo, ran-dom.
But other than a few gameday moments of uuuuh...wha'happen?, I always liked you as a coach. You always had the players fired up to play, you adjusted well week-to-week and year-to-year. The Chiefs are lucky to have you.
But are you really so lucky to have the Chiefs? I mean, you wanted a new contract in New York 'cause you knew you were in for a painful rebuilding, but whadaya think the Chiefs'll be doing in like two years? You gonna trade yourself again? Trent Green is 36, man. And that O-line is like, best in the league, sure, but they've played a total of forty-nine seasons between the five of 'em. T-Gon's got another ten. Truth is, the window may have already closed for the core of this team.
Oh, and also, you should have totally hired Donnie Henderson to run the defense; best move you ever made in New York. Hell, I wanted him to get the top job with the Jets. As it stands he landed in Detroit. Bummer.
Ah yes, Kansas City, rich musical history, widely considered one of the four major jazz centres of the 20th century (New York, Chicago, New Orleans). Check this out. Charlie Parker's from there, man. Charlie Parker. Step to that, Denver.
Total wins: 91/2
Herm kept most of Vermiel's coaching staff intact, so the transition won't be such a big deal. They won ten last year, so why not ten again? Let's see, three division (all splits), two AFCN (@Cle and Bal), three AFCW (losing @StL), one more between @Mia and Jac. That's nine. Pass.
Division title: 8-5
Entirely possible, but I'd want at least 2-1 for them to beat out Den and SD. No thanks.
Super Bowl champ: 20-1
The talent's there, but I don't see it. The division's too tough for them to get a bye week for the playoffs, and the Chiefs always lose in the playoffs anyway.
Oakland RaidersI don't understand this whole recycling-shitty-coaches phenomenon. Buf's hire of Dick Jauron is this year's most egregious example, but it happens all the time. Take Norv Turner. Why? What was the point? Was he just a holding pattern until somebody better came along? Was Art Shell really not available two years ago? I guess the one-word counterargument to this is "Belichick", and don't get me wrong, it's a strong one, but how often does that happen?
So now Al Davis has decided to recycle his own former coach, in this case a pretty good one, and what the hell? It could work. The guy had a winning record his last go-round, and Davis always said he regrets firing him, so maybe this'll work out. All I know about Shell is what I just wrote and that he's a Hall of Fame OL. Decent pedigree, unless you consider that Bill Cowher just became the first ex-player head coach to win a Super Bowl since Mike Ditka. But hey, could be the start of a long-term trend.
As for the team? Plenty of talent, totally disfunctional, just as it's been for the last couple seasons. I like the idea of Brooks-to-Moss, but I liked Collins-to-Moss too, and where'd that get us? I like LaMont Jordan, but let's face it, if he was better than Curtis Martin he woulda started in New York. I liked the Gallery pick a couple years back, but he seems to have underachieved; maybe Shell can teach him a thing or two. The defense has been not good enough to win, not bad enough to rebuild lately, which in a way is the worst position to be in. If you're team's a disaster you can just blow it up and start over; if it's close-but-no-cigar, you do things like hire Gunther Cunningham as the "missing piece". The coordinator, by the way, is a holdover from Turner's staff.
Brooks is an interesting case. He's clearly a million dollar arm, ten-cent head kind of guy, and I think the right coach (ummm... Sean Payton, for instance? Oh well...) could probably make something of him. Shell's offensive coordinator is some guy who used to be the mayor of some town in Idaho. Seriously. Good luck, Aaron.
Oak-town is the absolute epicentre of west coast underground hip-hop, going all the way back to Too $hort and up through the Stones Throw and Hieroglyphics crews. And Hammer! If you ain't listenin' to '93 Till Infinity right this moment... then what, might I ask, are you doing with your life?
Total wins: 61/2
On one hand, this team could be better than a lot of people think; like I said, the talent's there, particularly on offense. On the other hand, this is a killer division, and the Raiders seem pretty destined to finish last. Say they take two division (split SD and KC, and that's being charitable), two AFCN (@Bal and Cle) and two NFCW (@SF and AZ). That's six, then they've got Hou and @NYJ to beat the over. Do-able. Maybe. Let's take the over.
Division title: 10-1
I think these are the longest odds I've seen so far for a division title, and with good reason. The other three will probably battle it out all season long; Oak gets left in the dust.
Super Bowl champ: 90-1
Oddly high, all things considered. Given the overall quality of the team I would have expected something closer to 50. Probably increased by the non-existent likelihood that they'll even survive this division and make it to the playoffs.
San Diego ChargersMarty-ball lives! LDT will get another 300+ carries this year! Draft him in your fantasy league! He'll be washed up by the time he's 29! Just ask Jamal Anderson!
I really wanted this team to re-sign Brees. Then I wanted them to trade Phil Rivers to the Jets. But what can you do? Rivers is the starter, he's got one of the league's best RBs, one of the best receiveing TEs every time a passing play breaks down, and a seriously ques-tion-ab-le O-line. Can't have it all, I suppose, but there's enough pieces in place for him to succeed. Still, he's gonna have to have an all-world year to take this division, and I don't see it.
Unless the defense steps up, and it's not that farfetched. The one-star-per-unit theory goes like this: to build a dominant defense, you need one Pro Bowler on the line, one in the LBs, and one in the secondary. Take TB. Rice, Brooks, Barber. When they won the SB, it was Sapp, Brooks, Lynch. When the Giants went to the SB it was Strahan, Armstead, Sehorn (his one good year, it's worth noting). Bal's got Suggs, Lewis, Reed. Mia used to go to the playoffs with Jay Fiedler as their QB when they had Taylor, Thomas, Madison, and they've struggled since they're secondary fell into disarray. The Chargers play a 3-4, which means their OLBs are the primary pass rushers, so you can have one star on the outside, on on the inside behind a pedestrian line and still pull it off. They've got Merriman (OLB) and Edwards (ILB). The point: if Quentin Jammer finally steps it up, this could be a dominant side. If.
San Diego, by the way, way home to a whole bunch of indie-hardcore bands in the 90s that all sounded vaguely like Fugazi. Sure, you all know the whole Rocket From the Crypt/Drive Like Jehu/Hot Snakes axis, but does anyone remember Inch? Clikatat Ikatowi? Tanner? I always thought Ill Gotten Gains was something of an overlooked classic.
Total wins: 9
Probably. The Chargers look likely to slug it out with KC for second place; no telling who comes out on top. I'll say three division (all splits), three AFCN (they can take Pit at home, but @Cin could be a problem) and two NFCW (SF and pick one). That's eight, and it leaves TN and @Buf. Very winnable. Except that @Buf's in December. Too close to call.
Division title: 5-2
Y'know, they've got a shot... nah.
Super Bowl champ: 16-1
No way. Bottom line here is I can't see them winning enough in the regular season the stay off the road in the playoffs, and I can't see them winning the conference on the road.
RecapDenver's the obvious favourite, but they'll face stiff competition from KC and SD, who will probaly end up battling for second place and a possible wild card.
The picks: Oak > 61/2, Den 12-1 SB.