08 July 2006

Over to you, NFC South

Okay, proceeding in no particular order, let's do the NFC South. The south is where country music comes from, you know. The odds and lines are again brought to you by Sportsbook. Oh, and I don't endorse gambling at all. It's a filthy habit.

Atlanta Falcons

Y'know, I've always liked Warrick Dunn. Good back, good guy. Did you know he put up 1,400 yards last year? On like five yards a carry. I like Mike Vick too, but he's not winning a title on his own, and sometimes I think the Falcons management thinks he can. This ain't basketball, Rich; how 'bout a wideout?

Looking over their stats, this is a middle of the pack team in every sense. They got John Abraham, which is good (and certainly will not prevent me from wearing my Abraham #94 Jets jersey for years to come, cherishing the memories); if he puts up 15 sacks in 12 starts it's worth it, and I think he can. Oh they picked up Lawyer Milloy as well, for what it's worth. Still, outside of Vick's time in the 40 this team looks utterly average.

Atlanta, by the way, is the birthplace of crunk, and the home of Li'l Jon.

Total wins: 8
Yeah, at first glance that sounds just about right. Let's break it down. I'll give 'em two division (split NO and TB), two AFCN (Cle, @Bal), like, one NFCE (anybody but @Was, pretty much), then two more gimmes (AZ, @Det). In other words, beating the bad teams, losing to the good ones, just like a mediocre team should. That comes out to seven. Come to think of it, NFCE and AFCN is a pretty tough draw for the whole division. Still, they could easily sweep NO. Or get swept by TB. I'm tempted to say under, but Vick's pretty unpredictable, and you risk getting burned if you bet against him. Skip it.

Division title: 5-2
Ummm... no. If Carolina drops the silver platter, Tampa takes it.

Super Bowl champ: 30-1
I'm not saying the definitely won't win; again, you never know what Vick's gonna pull off. But I mean, come on.

Carolina Panthers

I think taking a whole state as your location name is bullshit. Especially if there's another team there; Florida Marlins? Texas Rangers? Like the other cities just don't count? Tampa gets dissed this way twice, if you count hockey. The only instance in which this acceptable is the Golden State Warriors, which just sounds cool, plus they always suck so they're not really stepping on the Lakers' toes. And I'm not one of those purists yammering about the Orchard Park Bills or whatever; just take the name of the nearest major city.

So when the Panthers and the Patriots met in the Super Bowl a couple years back it was like the ultimate battle of regional poseur-hood. Carolina's bad enough in claiming two states, which is pretty wack; New England claims six. Fuck that. I mean, can you imagine teams calling themselves like, the Midwest Bears? Actually there's too many teams in the midwest for that to work, but how about the Great Plains Chiefs, or the Rocky Mountain Broncos, or the Pacific Northwest Seahawks? Hogwash.

Again, I'm not saying they have to be the Foxborough Patriots, but Boston should (and once did) suffice. And you, Panthers? Charlotte's good enough for the Bobcats; what's your problem? In fact, fuck it, from here on out I'm reassigning locations for the remainder of these previews to any team that needs it, and it starts with the Charlotte Panthers. Say it with me. I won't change the abbreviations, by the way, that's just too confusing, So Charlotte's still "Car" in the other team's previews. Mountains are moved one stone at a time.

Oh yeah, the preview. A lot of people are picking Charlotte to win it all, and why not? Good coach, good management, lotsa talent on the field. Maybe Kris Jenkins'll make it this time. Keyshawn, mark my words, is the missing piece that puts Foster over 1,200 yards this year. Just watch. I really think his value to the running game outweighs that to the passing at this point.

Let me add one more thing here: y'know, the reason season MVPs are always QBs and RBs is because they handle the ball the most. If you watch a few games you'll see their value right away: they can take over games. Last January, I watched one of Charlotte's playoff games (I can't even remember which one) in which Steve Smith really stepped it up, and I can honestly say it was the only time I've ever seen a WR win a game single-handedly. He was a machine. Best WR in football right now. That is all.

Charlotte, by the way, is the birthplace of no significant music (due respect to Asheville, but we're talking about one city here), and the home of lots of shitty bar bands.

Total wins: 10
Probably. Let's break it down: I'm givin' 'em five division (split with TB), three AFCN (losing to Pit or @Cin), two NFCE (no idea which ones, I'm just figuring 50-50), and at least one more (@MN, StL), possibly both of those, which brings us to eleven or twelve. I don't like taking double-digit overs on the win total, but really, most of the NFC blows, and I think the sky's the limit for these guys. Over.

Division title: 5-7
I mean, they'll probably win it, but I don't like less-than-one odds. Besides, I think Tampa's better than people think.

Super Bowl champ: 12-1
Totally feasible, and I like the odds. Let's face it, there's only a few teams for whom we can even discuss this bet seriously, and Car's one of 'em. I'd even say take it at 10.

San Antonio Saints

HA-HA-HA jus' kiddin', Saints fans! Poor Tom Benson. He was probably gonna move this team anyway, but now it'd be a PR nightmare that'd make Art Modell look like a... really good guy!

So, new coach fresh outta Parcells U, new QB, Reggie Bush in the house; looks like a team on the rise, right? Doubt it. They were a crummy team last year before the storm hit, it just gave them a convenient excuse. Don't get me wrong, my dog would be an upgrade over Haslett, and I don't even have a dog. And I blame him for Brooks's failure to ever figure out how to be a pro QB; watch him in Oaktown. But this team's still a good draft or two away from being competitive.

Reggie Bush: tricky to predict. If you watched him play for USC last year, you probably saw a few unbelievable plays in which he ran all over the backfield before seeing an opening, then busted off a thirty-yarder like it was a walk in the park. All well and good in college, but I think a lot of his success was predicated on the fact that he was the fastest guy on the field by a pretty long shot. That gap's gonna narrow in the pros, and I think he's in for a rough adjustment period once those NFL LBs get a crack at him. Don't take him in your fantasy league; he'll go too high. He may very well get it worked out by the end of the year and rattle off 500 yards in December alone, but by then it'll be too late.

New Orleans, by the way, is the birthplace of dixieland jazz, and the home of Louis Armstrong, namesake of the airport. Not to mention Fats Domino. And Stick McGee! I could go on, but you know that. San Antonio may very well be the birthplace of tejano or something, but if it is I don't know about it.

Total wins: 7
Under, baby, way under. I'll be charitable and give 'em two division, say they split with Atl and TB (I know my predictions don't match up from one team to the next, but they're all just hypothetical anyway; that's why I do 'em in groups). Maybe one NFCE if they're lucky, one in AFCN (@Cle or Bal), one more after that (@GB or SF). That's five, and I'm being nice.

Division title: 7-1
No, no, or possibly no.

Super Bowl champ: 90-1
Come on, man, these seem low to me. The division should be at least 10, and the SB 100. That's minimum. And I still wouldn't take 'em.

Tampa Buccaneers

I like Jon Gruden. Good coach. He gets flack for having McKay and Dungy's championship handed to him by Glazer, but then he goes and finally shakes off the Super Bowl hangover and takes the division last year, which I don't think anybody expected. I'm not so high on Chris Simms, but I haven't seen him play in the NFL yet. I just have bad memories of him choking against Oklahoma. On the other hand, it's hard not to respect a 60% passer on some level, even if that is more a system thing than an individual one. And I don't think he'll be asked to carry the offense.

I don't have much to add here, other than to say that if Cadillac Williams makes sixteen starts this team makes the playoffs. Even if he doesn't, they still have Monte Kiffin, and he's not an injury risk.

Tampa, by the way, is the birthplace of death metal, and the home of Deicide, Death, Obituary and many others, as well as Scott Burns and Morrissound Studios, where it all began. HA! You thought this was gonna be another dumb joke one, like Charlotte's, right? Get familiar, kid. Then get Leprosy.

Total wins: 8
My first instinct is to say over, but let's break it down. I'll say four division (split with Car and Atl), two AFCN (@Cle and Bal), two NFCE (anybody). That's eight right there, and I'm being conservative. Throw in @Chi and Sea, of which they should win one (probably not @Chi, which is in December, and we all know about the Bucs in cold weather; but Sea's at home week 17, when the Hawks may be resting starters). So that's nine, and who's to say they can't grab another from Cin or @Pit? Grab that over.

Division title: 3-1
Entirely possible. High expectations can be a bitch, and if Car slips up it's TB's for the taking. Odds are pretty good, too; let it ride.

Super Bowl champ: 30-1
Aaah... y'know? I don't really think they're gonna win it, but man are those odds tempting. I mean, why not? That's the same number as Atl's, and I think TB's got a way better shot. They won eleven games last year and didn't lose anybody significant on the offseason. Granted, the core guys from the defense last time they won (Barber, Brooks, Rice) are all a year older, but so's Simms, and in his case that's a good thing. Am I overrating this team? If so, what am I missing? I can't believe I'm talking myself into this, but I think this is a pretty solid darkhorse pick. What the hell, let's do it. It's only money.


Charlotte probably takes it, but they'll have a harder time fending off Tampa than most people think. I honestly had no idea how much I liked Tampa until I wrote this. Here goes nothin'.

And by the way, picking more than one team to win the SB is totally kosher; I'll probably pick a few more as these previews go on. If you bet a few at good odds and one of 'em wins, you still come out ahead.

The picks: Car > 10, NO < 7, TB > 8, TB 3-1 NFCS, Car 12-1 SB, TB 30-1 SB.

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