Oh, one more thing: I bragged in the last post about how little research I did this year, and lo and behold M— caught a royal fuck-up in the AFC picks: I referred to Romeo Crennel as the coach of the Browns. Not only is he gone, he was replaced by the Jets' own Eric Mangini! How could I forget that? Whatever, either way, I maintain that Mangini was an underrated coach who had Favre forced on him and it cost him his job. Would they have made the playoffs with Pennington? Who knows, but he's never missed them when healthy (i.e., every other year; seriously, look it up). Anyway, since I like Mangini, and since it was that surprise playoff run his first year in New York that triggered all that "Mangenius" bullshit, I'm gonna flip-flop and pick the Browns as a big shocking over. So there. On with the show.
DallasWins: 9 Div: 11-4 SB: 16-1
The Wade Phillips era is not scheduled to end well in Dallas, and this could be the year it finally grinds to an overdue halt. It's only partly his fault, though; the fact remains that Tony Romo has a really good golf handicap, which is precisely why he will never win a title. Not that their schedule is that tough, but I think a killer home stretch (@NYG, SD, @NO, @Was and Phi) brings 'em in under. You can ignore those other bets.
New YorkWins: 10 Div: 7-4 SB: 12-1
I have a feeling that Eli is going to regress to basically the same level as his brother: a regular season wonder who racks up twelve wins a year and usually can't get it done in the playoffs. If you squint at their schedule you can see ten wins: @TB, @KC, Oak, AZ, Atl, @Den, Car and @MN makes eight, meaning they just need to split their division games to hit the over. You can take that division bet, too; I can't believe their odds are greater than one. I don't see them winning it all this year, though. Can't explain why, I just don't.
PhiladelphiaWins: 91/2 Div: 9-5 SB: 12-1
Another year, another let-down. How about they start slow, catch fire late, grab a wild card, pull off a playoff upset or two, then crap out just as everybody starts believing in them. Sound familiar? You can throw in a re-run of last season's QB controversy, too, but with a better guest star this year. Still, tough line, because I see them winning just about nine or ten. I'll say over because I've always liked McNabb and I'm a sucker for this team as a result, but I'm not too confident about it. Ixnay on the other two bets, by the way.
D.C.Wins: 8 Div: 6-1 SB: 40-1
Another tough one to call for emotional reasons: it's just so fun to root against Dan Snyder and 'Skins fans in general, but will they actually be any good? They kind of look like and 8-8 team anyway, but I say the tough division outweighs some of the AFCW bottom-feeders on their schedule; under. And no on the others.
Chi-TownWins: 81/2 Div: 9-5 SB: 20-1
A popular pick due to their "massive" upgrade at QB. I have feeling Orton was better than people realise, but as much as I'd love to pick against that snivelling little turd Jay Cutler, their schedule's just too soft to deny them the over. I mean, seriously, Det, @Atl, @Cin, Cle, AZ and @SF all in a row? How do they not go at least 5-1 for that stretch? Here's hoping for a playoff stinker in the first round. And no on the division, by the way. How are their odds better than GB's?
DetroitWins: 41/2 Div: 15-1 SB: 150-1
I've said it before, I'll say it again: I miss Matt Millen already. The crappy drafts, the ridiculous coaching hires, the bizarre public gaffes: the ride was worth the fall, paraphraseth Whitney. So I guess this is the year they start turning it around, but keep in mind that a 4-12 season would be considered a success here. Five wins? Already? I mean, how many days did that Rome job take? They only play four really shitty teams (StL, Cle, @Cin and @SF), and I think StL's a sleeper anyway. Under, no and no.
Green BayWins: 9 Div: 9-4 SB: 22-1
Their win line is higher that Chi's but their odds to win the division are longer. I don't get it either. These guys might be the first 6-10 team to be routinely picked as a powerhouse the following preseason, and I'm not sure I buy it all the way. Lots of 8-8 teams put up good fantasy numbers. Not enough creampuffs on the schedule. I'm gonna take the under, though not without some trepidation. Pencil them in to cruise to the division title and a playoff bye in 2010.
MinnyWins: 91/2 Div: 3-2 SB: 16-1
Easiest pick of the preseason. As a Jets fan, let me assure you that Brett Favre will have no trouble leading this team to the under in both dramatic and predictable fashion. The league even scheduled them to fit the script: open hot with @Cle, @Det and SF; things get shaky in October after a 1-2 run against Bal, @Pit, @GB; it all falls apart with @Car, @Chi and NYG. Under. Bank on it. There you have it folks: the most disappointing division of 2009.
AtlantaWins: 81/2 Div: 11-5 SB: 25-1
Whether you call it "coming back down to Earth" or "regressing to the mean" or "the sophomore slump", it all means the same thing. At one point they play @NE, @SF, Chi, @Dal, @NO, Was, @Car, @NYG. Not all great teams, but that's six road games out of eight, and the two home opponents are no slouches. Under, he typed confidently.
CharlotteWins: 81/2 Div: 23-10 SB: 25-1
Tough call. Their schedule doesn't really tell me much either way. This team looks 8-8-ish as well. Let's just say under and move on.
NawlinsWins: 9 Div: 8-5 SB: 18-1
Popular pick to win the division and more, and it's easy to see why: all they need is a mediocre defense to go with that offense and they're monsters. The schedule starts with Det, @Phi, @Buf, NYJ, NYG and @Mia which, barring those two NFCE games, is pretty light. If they can pull off on of those tough ones that's a 5-1 start, and they never have any really rough stretches; all of the hard opponents are pretty well staggered. Assuming their division opponents are as mediocre as they look, they should have no trouble hitting the over. I'd be a little wary of the other two bets, though: despite what I just said, this is still a pretty close division, and I wouldn't want to pick a winner.
TampaWins: 6 Div: 11-2 SB: 50-1
I've gotten burned picking these guys to do well in the past, but I don't think I'll be making that mistake this time around. Their rookie coach seems confused already; playing the entire NFCE in the first five weeks should get them off on the wrong foot, and I don't see them recovering until it's too late. Under it is.
ZonaWins: 81/2 Div: 7-5 SB: 28-1
Y'know how the Super Bowl loser always seems to have a letdown year the following season and misses the playoffs completely? Keep in mind that the Cards weren't even that good last year, they just won a shitty division and got hot for a couple weeks in the playoffs. I'm not even gonna look at their schedule. Do you really expect anything better than 8-8 out of these guys? Under and let's move on.
Saint LouieWins: 51/2 Div: 11-1 SB: 150-1
This is another team I've accidentally overrated in the past, but this year Aaron Schatz says they're gonna surprise some people, and I have a lot of faith in that guy. If I squint just right can I see an 8-8 team? I think I can. They're offense will be decent enough if it's healthy, and I trust Spagnuolo to whip the defense into average-ness. Combine that with a generally crappy division and they could overcome a generally ball-busting schedule to hit that over. Stranger things have happened. I even like their division odds, believe it or not.
San FranciscoWins: 7 Div: 12-5 SB: 50-1
No QB, their rookie number one WR is holding out, and their coach signals his displeasure with the team's performance by taking off his pants. This team would be going nowhere even if they weren't stuck playing the NFCN and the AFCS. Under.
SeattleWins: 8 Div: 21-10 SB: 50-1
People seem to be picking them to win their division almost by default, which seems feeble until you look at their division. I mean, sure they should hit that over, but it's just as easy to imagine them becoming the first 8-8 division winner since re-alignment. Or, good Lord, 7-9. Let the hair pulling begin. See why I like those odds for StL to take the division? How hard can it be? Let me just conclude by saying that no team from this bunch is winning the big one. Enjoy the games, see you in January for the post-mortem.