It's lonely at the top. That's why a Patriots fan like me, has decided that it's time to go back and experience the way things used to be. As amazing as the past three years have been for me following the Patriots, there's a part of me that misses Sundays being a do or die fight for survival. There's something special about not knowing whether you're going to win this week. And there's nothing quite like pulling an upset. So in order to add a new wrinkle to the 2004 NFL Season and make the most of my NFL Sunday Ticket subscription, I've decided to make the Jacksonville Jaguars and New Orleans Saints my honorary "second" teams for the season in addition to the Patriots. My main reason for doing so, is that I think the Jaguars and Saints have had what it takes to make the playoffs the past few years. However, they've never been able to make the leap. I think this year things could be different. The AFC and NFC South are there for the taking, and the Jaguars and Saints can grab it if they utilize their talents the right way. And so I'd like to follow along with you fellow Jaguars and Saints fans and watch the team finally turn the corner and make the playoffs. So here's to a great season in 2004...just not as great as the Patriots :)
Now for the fun part. Last season I ran my prediction credibility into the ground by becoming overly superstitious. I started putting teams in seemingly ridiculous positions simply because I thought it might help the Pats. It was stupid, I know, but they did manage to win the Super Bowl. Anyway, this year all superstitions are off. In my quest to prove that I do have superior intellect compared to the talking heads on ESPN, I'm going to pick purely based on my personal analysis, no matter what losing streak it may seem to send the Patriots on. Who knows, maybe my perfect selection of all twelve playoff teams turns the head of some ESPN executive who randomly wanders onto this page and I get a great job offer and turn the network around. Stranger things have happened on this site already.
One last note before the picking begins - Everyone who makes pre-season predictions thinks that they're a genius because they managed to select ten or eleven of the previous year's playoff teams to return to the post-season. This NEVER happens. While making predictions that way ensures that you won't look like an idiot when you go 2-10, it also cements the fact that you won't attain perfection. And that's what I'm after. The coveted 12-0. After all, where's the fun in scraping by at 6-6? That's why I'm establishing the rule where only seven of last year's playoff teams at most can be picked for a return performance. I think if this rule were made official by the joint member's of congress, we'd see a little bit better analysis by the media and a little less easy regurgitation of last year's results. So let the games begin!
The Vikes should've had the division wrapped up last season. Since they still haven't gotten the bad taste out of their mouth, look for Minnesota to be on a mission.
The Panthers are the real deal. Look for them to repeat as division champs. My new NFC sleeper pick - New Orleans.
If Bill Parcells is your coach, you're more than likely to improve each season. And if you're the Eagles and you lose key players in the pre-season, you're more than likely to fall down a few notches.
The Seahawks were going to be my sleeper pick in '04. Then they happened to become everyone's sleeper pick in '04, thereby nullifying their ability to actually become a sleeper pick. Therefore, since they made the playoffs last season and I've got to make some cuts, I'm taking them out of the picture entirely. Maybe I'm a little bitter, but maybe all the hype will go to the players heads and they'll fall apart. Maybe.
The Rams play in a division with two weak teams, and they play the AFC East which should be sub-par. That should get them the top spot. Minnesota has a similar situation, but the top two seeds in each conference rarely make the Super Bowl.... I like the Skins and Saints to win enough games to make the post-season.
So far only three playoff teams are penciled in for a return. With the Bengals overtaking the Ravens... "Another one bites the dust, another one bites the dust..."
There are always those bottom dwellers ready to make the leap. Last season, Jacksonville looked like one of them. The Titans always seem to survive the beating they take, but I think they're too banged up. And I've got to cut some more playoff teams.
The only thing that scares me is that the Patriots have a ridiculously easy schedule. Which means that all the other AFC East teams have a ridiculously easy schedule minus the Colts and Chiefs. Of course, they do have to play us twice which will hopefully even things out. But the point I'm trying to make is that for all my bragging, the Pats do have to show up each week. They can't lose the easy games they're supposed to win and come out on top. Otherwise, it will be 2002 all over again.
The Chiefs will come down to earth, now that they don't have the easiest schedule in the league. But the AFC West is looking weak. Another prediction - The Broncos are going to regret trading Clinton Portis.
The Pats and Colts shouldn't have a hard time winning their division, which is weird since they come from the divisions I have sending the wildcards. Basically, I expect the Bengals, Chiefs, Jets, Jaguars, Ravens, and Broncos to all finish with similar records. And since the Broncos and Ravens made the playoffs last year, I'm going with the Jets and Jags. That may seem like a dumb reason, but history's on my side. And history isn't a dumb reason.
Returning playoff teams from last season - 6: Rams, Panthers, Cowboys, Patriots, Colts, Chiefs.
Non-returning playoff teams from last season - 6: Eagles, Packers, Seahawks, Ravens, Titans, Broncos.
There's not much downside to the teams returning. While the Eagles, Packers, Broncos, and Titans are all on the decline. The Seahawks and Ravens were questionable omissions, but I don't think people would be shocked if they didn't make the post-season. Well, maybe all those people who have the Seahawks as their "sleeper".
Panthers over Saints, Cowboys over Redskins
Cowboys over Rams , Vikings over Panthers
Vikings over Cowboys
Jaguars over Bengals, Chiefs over Jets
Patriots over Jaguars, Chiefs over Colts
Patriots over Chiefs
Patriots over Vikings
How do you spell Dynasty?