Just like Christmas, it comes every year. I mark it down on my
calendar, circle the date, and wait with eager anticipation for the
festivities to begin. Finally, after all the waiting, NFL Week 2
over-reaction is here! Six years ago I started this annual piece after
a flood of talk about how Buffalo was heading to the Super Bowl and the
Patriots, fresh off a 31-0 defeat to the aforementioned Bills, were
dead in the water. It seriously made me want to vomit. Needless to
say, I felt quite vindicated when Buffalo won at total of four games
over the next fourteen weeks, and New England was left hoisting the
Lombardi Trophy. Since then, I've made it my aim to be the voice of
reason in the tumultuous storm that is the five days between Monday
Night Football the kickoff of Week 3. With the exception of last year
when I was too busy building Bloguin and/or curled up in the fetal
position reliving Bernard Pollard crashing into Tom Brady's knee, I've
taken a step back and surveyed the NFL landscape with a level head.
I've kept my knees from jerking, turned a blind eye to the standings,
and focused on which teams legitimately had a chance to make a run at
the Lombardi. At times, I've been spot-on. Other times, hell
occasionally gets a bit chilly and the Arizona Cardinals end up in the
Super Bowl. What can I say? It's a crazy league, and the only thing
you can know is that you don't know anything. However, if there is any
ounce of logic left in this unpredictable league, here's what we can
expect in 2009...
Prediction #1 - The Jets aren't making the playoffs.
last week we heard a relentless barrage of trash talk from New York.
Usually, that signals imminent defeat for a New England opponent, but
the Jets managed to pull out a victory against the Patriots. In a New
York Minute, Mark Sanchez was hailed as the second-coming of the
Messiah and the Jets catapulted to the upper eschalon of everyone's NFL
rankings. In fact, ESPN's Sports Nation, currently has them as the #5
team in the league. Two weeks ago, Gang Green held the #20 spot in
Bloguin's pre-season rankings . Does beating the Texans, I repeat, the
TEXANS, and eeking out a victory against a team missing their top
defensive player as well as the #1 receiver in the league over the past
two years, and being led by a quarterback recovering from an ACL tear
seem like grounds for such an illustrioius tear to the top of the
rankings? Bottom line, the Jets won the game, but their reward should
be their 2-0 record in the standings. Can we please take back the AFC
East crown that everyone seems so eager to prematurely place on their
heads? If the Jets can somehow take out the hungry Titans and shutdown
the Saints over the next two weeks, then we'll re-visit this
conversation. Until then, my money says they'll be 2-2 by the end of
Before we move on, I would also like to address the 350 lb. sack of
lard they refer to as Rex Ryan. Looking at the current layout of the
AFC, you could certainly make a case for the Jets being one of the Top
6 teams and thus a playoff contender. The reason I feel otherwise is
the precedent that's been set by New York's head coach. You don't win
games by running your mouth. You win them by focusing on nothing else
but the game and letting your play say everything on Sunday. That,
above everything else, is the reason for the Patriots success this
decade. The Jets may have won this week, but mark my words, their
trash-talking circus is going to catch up with them eventually. If you
get yourself caught up in a war of words, start stomping on Terrible
Towels, and creating a frenzy, your going to lose your focus. Nothing
else matters but winning the game. Part of me secretly hoped that if
the Patriots had won, the Bill Belichick would've pulled his fist out
of his hoody and put his three Super Bowl rings up to Rex Ryan's lips.
The other part of me knew Bill was too classy of a guy to do something
like that. You can rag on him all you want for "spygate" and his lack
of personality, but you'll be hard pressed to find a sound byte of the
man saying anything negative or inflammatory about an opponent. Rex
Ryan took the opposite approach the day he was handed his job. We'll
see how this plays out.
Prediction #2 - The Bears will win the NFC North. The Vikings won't make the playoffs.
it comes to determining who's "better", I'll take a win over the
defending champions any day over a pair of wins against the Lions and
Browns. Apparently, I'm in the minority. The Bears looked great in
the pre-season and on paper, so why does one sloppy loss on the road,
at Lambeau Field of all places, suddenly bring them back to the middle
of the pack? Given Green Bay's performance against the Bengals, I see
no reason to believe Chicago is anything but the best team in this
division. On the flip side, do Minnesota's victories tell us
anything? The Vikings could very well be the cream of the NFC's crop,
but, so far, there's been no litmus test for that theory. By all
accounts, they could be the 27th best team in the league and you'd
expect them to have a 2-0 record, given their competition. Until they
actually defeat a team with some substance, which would mean Green Bay
in Week 4, the Vikes will continue to hold a firm position on the
"mediocre" rung of my NFL ladder.
Prediction #3 - The Saints will make the playoffs.
this a bold prediction that directly opposes the incorrect opinion of
the masses? It's not. I just wanted to take a moment to point out
that the last team to put up consecutive 40-point games in the first
two weeks of the season did NOT make the playoffs. That would be the 2001 Indianapolis Colts, for those of you keeping track at home. I
think the Saints are going to light up quite a few teams this year, and
I'm semi-nervouis for Tom Brady's 50 TD's in a season record. However,
nothing is a lock in this league. 93 points in two weeks means nothing
Prediction #4 - The NFC West will give the NFL it's second consecutive 8-8 Division Champion.
we please make a rule where if you fail to achieve a record greater
than .500, you forfeit your playoff spot and we get a third wild card?
Would anybody be opposed to this? Yes, I'm still extremely bitter
that the 11-5 Patriots were left out in the cold last year while the
8-8 Chargers were given a home game, yet at the same time if the Pats
ever won the AFC East with an 8-8 record I'd still hold firmly to my
conviction. Let the best teams play!
Prediction #5 - Tom Brady is not washed-up.
I'll admit, I
was expecting another 2007-esque run from the Patriots. Brady, Moss,
Welker - it seemed like a very simple recipe for success. What I
didn't factor in, actually, what very few people factored in, is that being an
NFL quarterback is not like riding a bicycle. You can't just pick it
up after months of inactivity and speed off without missing a beat. You
would think that notion would be common sense, but the majority of us
were simply lulled by Tom Brady's penchant for being super-human. If
anyone could come back from an ACL tear and look like nothing ever
happened, it would be him. That being said, 17 weeks is plenty of time
for Brady to get his groove back and, come the post-season, I fully
expect the Patriots' muskets to be firing at full-blast. Again, this
may just me being naive, but with a tough loss still bitter in their
mouths, I wouldn't be surprised if the Pats offense started heating up
this weeks against Atlanta.
Prediction #6 - Super Bowl predictions are pointless.
look over the supposed contenders for this year, I see some glaring
flaws with each. Tennessee has been embarassingly sloppy.
Pittsburgh's running game has been non-existent. The Colts have
struggled to pull out victories against two very bad teams and look
pretty soft on defense. The Giants and Ravens look good, but neither have really dominated their sub-par competition. New Orleans is firing on all
cylinders on offense for the moment, but how will the defense hold up?
And I've already brought up Tom Brady's shaky start for the Patriots.
Anyone who gives a claim about which team will be raising the Lombardi
Trophy on February 7th, it talking firmly out of their rear. However,
I will stand in ignorance and hold firm to my pre-season call that the
Patriots will be left standing in the end. The Patriots defense has
looked pretty impressive, even without Jerod Mayo. They've given up
only 16 points per game (Buffalo scored 7 points off a Brady
interception) and look far more reliable than the seive that was their
secondary in 2008. Heading into this year the Pats' D was thought to
be a major liability. After two weeks, it's pretty clear that they're
a competent young bunch. If the Patriots can simply get their offense
going, (and how can they not?), New England is going to be a force to
be reckoned with in January.
Yes, predictions are pointless, and I just spent over 1,500 words
spewing them out. But I believe in Bill Belichick. I believe in Tom
Brady. I believe in our young defense. I believe that Rex Ryan's cholesterol level is in the 300's.
And I believe the New England Patriots are heading towards Super Bowl