The comments are a lot shorter this year, which reflects lighter research. Plus there's no additional comments about city histories, etc. In fact, the whole thing's just a little half-assed all around. But that's OK, it's putting one's reputation on the line with a pick that counts.
This is the AFC only because they're the ones playing tonight. NFC goes up over the weekend. Swear. Pinky swear.
Buffalo BillsWins: 71/2 Div: 9-1 SB: 50-1
These clowns actually enough mediocre opponents early (TB, @Mia, Cle and @NYJ in the first six weeks) that they could fool a bunch of people with a strong start. Reality sets in just before and after the bye week (@Car, Hou, @TN, @Jac) and I don't think they recover from the slide. Their first relevant free agent signing in about a decade will probably start running his mouth about the need to upgrade the QB position (no shit, Sherlock) around Thanksgiving, and closing with NE, @Atl and Ind should be enough to wrap up a few employment tenures around Orchard Park. Shame, too; if nothing else, they may have the best top three WRs in the league. Seriously. I'm going with the under for wins, and the other two aren't worth discussing.
MiamiWins: 71/2 Div: 8-1 SB: 50-1
Welcome back to Earth, intrepid wildcats! An opening slate of @Atl, Ind and @SD ought to shatter any lingering illusions of repeating last year's surprise division title, but I have a weird faith in this team to hang tough. If anything, I don't see them quitting, and they may have enough tricks up their sleeves to scratch out an 8-8 finish. It really depends on how well Chad Henne plays from Hallowe'en onward, and who can predict that? Still, I'll take the over. Why not?
BostonWins: 111/2 Div: 4-19 SB: 9-2
Weird schedule. Other than Atl and Bal at home early on, they never really have two strong opponents in a row, unless you rate Mia higher than I do. I guess they'll be a tough out, and they have a way of making the Pats work for it. Everyone seems ready to hand this year's title to these guys, though, and I'm not sure I buy it. Yes, Brady's back, but expecting them to just pick up and continue from the end of 2007 ignores the fact that they jettisoned half their defensive starters this off season. I'm going under (barely), but that division crown's a lock. Skip the SB pick, odds are way too short, especially for a popular favourite.
New YorkWins: 7 Div: 8-1 SB: 45-1
I want to believe this is the start of a brand new era, I really do. My buddy J— made the interesting suggestion that they ought to start Clemens at QB for the first four inevitable losses (@Hou, NE, TN, @NO), then put in Sanchez in response to the fan grumblings about making a change. This way the kid gets a little more valuable clipboard time while the lame duck gets thrown to the wolves in his stead. Alas, the Ryan regime will be making no such canny moves, preferring instead to simply let the rookie sink or swim. I'm guessing sink. Under. And forget the other two.
BaltimoreWins: 81/2 Div: 3-1 SB: 22-1
I'm picking the Falcons to regress to the mean this year, and you'd think the Ravens would be playing out the same storyline, what with the rookie QB sensation drifting into the inevitable sophomore slump, but the difference is that I really don't think the Ravens were playing over their heads last year. They're more like the Steelers after Big Ben's first year: this was a good team with all the pieces in place but QB, and one lucky guy got to stroll in and grab the reins. NFCN's a tough draw, but they still get half their schedule against Cin, Cle and the AFCW. This is the safest over bet yet. And while you're at it, don't be afraid to take that division bet. I wouldn't even rule out the Super Bowl, especially at those odds.
CincinnatiWins: 71/2 Div: 9-1 SB: 80-1
If nothing else, this team should be improved over the past few seasons. But yeah, nothing else. The Bengals aren't going anywhere until Marvin Lewis gets fired, and I'm through being fooled by them in my preseason picks (although I think I said that about Zona last year). Under, no and no.
ClevelandWins: 61/2 Div: 12-1 SB: 80-1
That line seems weirdly high considering how many people are picking them to finish with the worst record in the league. Seems like easy money, even though you and I both know there's no such thing. Still, can you really see these guys winning seven games? Me neither. Best case for Romeo Crennel is they finish strong (@KC, Oak and Jac: 3-0?) and Quinn starts showing promise. Worst case is he never gets a chance to coach that number one pick. Under, no and no.
PittsburghWins: 101/2 Div: 2-5 SB: 9-1
Hard to bet against the champs, but harder still to repeat. These guys have a weird schedule, too. They get TN, @Chi and SD out of the way in the first four games. They still have both Bal games after the bye, but other than that GB looks like their only tough opponent in that stretch, and they get them at home. If they come out of the gate 3-1 or better they should cruise to the over, but I still like Bal to take the division. And skip that SB bet.
HoustonWins: 81/2 Div: 3-1 SB: 40-1
Once again, everyone's picking them to break out this year and make their first ever playoff trip. Sorry, but I'll believe it when I see it. First off, I can't see them winning the division outright, which means they'll need to take a wild card spot, and even though AFCE and NFCW sound like a cakewalk slate of opponents, their schedule is staggered so they never really get an easy stretch. I guess @Cin, SF and @Buf are all pretty winnable, but other than that it's too easy to see them hovering around .500 all year before notching another 8-8 finish. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm still taking the under on this one.
IndyWins: 10 Div: 7-5 SB: 14-1
I've heard a lot of picks for these guys to finally have an off-year, but I'm not buying it. If anything, losing Marvin Harrison and getting Gonzalez more snaps is an upgrade at receiver, they've got new blood in the RB committee, the defense is healthy... and they really can't win another twelve? You can just put me down for over every year until Manning misses a start. This division's too tight to pick, but those SB odds are pretty tempting for a team that's in the running every year.
JacksonvilleWins: 8 Div: 4-1 SB: 35-1
Tough call. What happened here? After they beat Pit in the playoffs two years ago they looked like contenders, but then last year... not so hot. I'm thinking they bounce back, but it's a tough division and man, that schedule ain't doing anyone any favours. Their easiest opponent before the bye is StL, and I think they'll be tougher than you think. They could easily go into their bye week 2-4 or worse. Still, things get easier in the second half, including one relaxing stretch (KC, @NYJ, Buf and @SF) that should get them back over .500 no matter how bad they start. My main worry is that the coaching staff isn't good enough to hold them together through a tough start. I'd like to pick them to go 8-8, but where's the fun in that? Fine, over, but nothing else.
NashvilleWins: 9 Div: 5-2 SB: 20-1
Their schedule is way too tough and their QB way too old to repeat last year's success, but they'll still be tough out. Considering that 10-6 would be considered a disappointment, nine wins seems too low, so for that reason alone I'm taking the under, but I can't give them the other two bets.
DenverWins: 61/2 Div: 9-2 SB: 60-1
Their entire season hinges on whether Kyle Orton was a decent QB stuck in a crappy offense or a crappy QB, period. They open with @Cin, Cle and @Oak, so they should start 3-0, anyway. But a lineup of NE, @SD, @Bal and Pit might be too much for any team to survive, even with a bye halfway in between. I count about eight winnable games on their schedule, and I do think they'll be better than a lot of people are guessing, so I guess I'll take the over.
KansasWins: 6 Div: 8-1 SB: 70-1
They've got the exact opposite of the Orton dilemma on their hands: was Matt Cassel a shaky QB in a good system or a good QB? I have a bad feeling about this one. How about playing the entire NFCE in four straight weeks and following it up with SD? Definitely some winnable games out there, but then again, I count the Chiefs as a "winnable game" on the Browns' schedule as well. Under, no and no.
OaktownWins: 51/2 Div: 10-1 SB: 100-1
Sometimes shit gets so ridiculous it becomes entertaining. Like I was kinda bummed to see Matt Millen go, or to see the Knicks finally fire Isiah, because I'm not a fan of either team and was just enjoying the headlines. I really hope the Cable era ends just as embarrassingly as the Kiffin one, if only so I get to watch creepy YouTube clips of Al Davis press conferences. I just started looking at the schedule and caught myself: why bother? Under, no and no.
Sandy EgoWins: 101/2 Div: 2-7 SB: 10-1
Aaron Schatz is picking these guys to be absolute monsters, like 2007 Pats monsters. If that team won sixteen games, can't this one win twelve? Seriously, that line seems weirdly low. Over, and take that division bet, too. Super Bowl? I'd do it for 15-1, but 10 seems a little light.
I will get the NFC up before Sunday. I already have the lines and odds all typed up, I just need to add pithy comments. How hard can that be?