What kind of schmuck writes an NFL preview column after having watched the teams perform in Week 1? This kind, since you ask. Sort of. Truth is, the following prognostications were written before this weekend’s action began, despite being published today … which will be much more believable in five months, when you see exactly how wrong they were. And off we go:
» NFC EAST: Philadelphia, Dallas, Washington, N.Y. Giants: The Cowboys seem to be all the rage, but I don’t see what all the fuss is about. If Donovan McNabb stays upright for 16 games, they win the division and punish teams in the playoffs. I like Jason Campbell in D.C. a heckuva lot better than I like Eli Manning in New York.
» NFC NORTH: Chicago, Green Bay, Detroit, Minnesota: A lot is riding on the broad shoulders of Cedric Benson in Chicago — he’ll be counted on to save Rex Grossman from having to win games with his arm. The Pack is the bestsilver-medal contender in a weak division, despite what could be a high-scoring offense in Detroit. Adrian Peterson will be the offensive Rookie of the Year for the Vikings, but he’ll need help.
» NFC SOUTH: New Orleans, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Atlanta: The Saints will score points like they’re free, and it will be up to their defense to win the takeaway battle to get them victories most weeks. Carolina may have QB issues, but they still have weapons who can strike quickly. Jeff Garcia may be Jon Gruden’s new Rich Gannon, but he won’t have as many weapons to help him as Gannon once did, and the Falcons have Joey Harrington. Sorry.
» NFC West: St. Louis, Seattle, Arizona, 49ers: I’ll avoid the temptation to pick the Cardinals higher as I did a year ago, but new coach Ken Whisenhunt will have them in the title picture. The Seahawks have holes and the Rams have one of the most underappreciated offensive tandems in Marc Bulger and Steven Jackson the NFL has to offer. And the Niners? Alex Smith gets better and Frank Gore’s a beast, but the defense won’t hold up.
» WILD CARDS: Dallas, Seattle
» NFC CHAMPION: Philadelphia
» AFC EAST: New England, N.Y. Jets, Buffalo, Miami: The Pats were seconds away from the Super Bowl and had the best offseason in the NFL. Tom Brady will reach 4,500 yards and be the league MVP. The Jets smell the least-funky in a stinky remainder of the division. The Bills will be horrible, yet still finish in front of the Fish. Miami, needing help in every area, took a punt returner and wannabe wideout with the ninth pick in the draft. Ugh.
» AFC NORTH: Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cleveland: Either the Bengals or Ravens will disappoint, while the Steelers and Browns seem easy to handicap. Pittsburgh will shake off a fluke season from Ben Roethlisberger and finish second, while the Browns will improve by at least three wins under coach Romeo Crennel. The call here is for the Ravens to stumble early, putting the egomaniacal Brian Billick on the hot seat, while the Bengals take a step toward true title contention.
» AFC SOUTH: Indianapolis, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Houston: The defending champs are back for more and Peyton Manning will not disappoint. Vince Young, in his first full season as a starter, will carry Tennessee to the runner-up platform by himself. J-Ville will regret its quarterback choice (David Garrard) and Houston still has far to go.
» AFC WEST: San Diego, Denver, Kansas City, Raiders: What does a 14-2 team do for an encore? Duplicate it, followed by a real run in the playoffs. Jay Cutler is growing ever more confident in becoming the Broncos’ unquestioned leader, while Kansas City and Oakland struggle mightily to avoid the division cellar.
» Wild Cards: Pittsburgh, Denver
» AFC Champion: New England
» Super Bowl Champion: New England
There you have it … and if you think I’m wrong now … wait until you see my NBA predictions in November. Ugh.
Sports personality Bob Frantz is a regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.