They say those who forgethistory are condemned to repeat it, and that may very well be true. But when one’s history at predicting the NFL season is the rough equivalent of France’s history at defending itself, sometimes it’s better to forget.
So if it’s okay with you, let’s agree to remember 9/11 … remember your wife’s birthday … remember where you left your car keys … and remember the Alamo. But whatever you do, please, don’t bother remembering last year’s NFL preview column. Trust me — your ignorance of my past delusions will make this year’s prognostications much more believable. Off we go …
NFC East: Philadelphia 10-6, N.Y. Giants 9-7, Dallas 8-8, Washington 5-11: Philly’s preseason acquisition of Donte Stallworth gives Donovan McNabb what he needs: a field-stretching wide receiver who can break open games without breaking apart locker rooms. Eli Manning will progress in New York, but he’s not yet in Peyton’s Place. And in Dallas, Bill Parcells’ T.O.-induced heart attack is tentatively scheduled for Week 7.
NFC North: Chicago 11-5, Minnesota 8-8, Detroit 7-9, Green Bay 4-12: The Bears play defense the way few others do. So as long as Rex Grossman and Brian Griese don’t get cute at quarterback, the Bears will ugly their way to the division crown. The rest of the North is mud.
NFC South: Carolina 12-4, Tampa Bay 9-7, Atlanta 7-9, New Orleans 5-11: If Jake Delhomme stays upright, the Panthers will light it up and return to the NFC title game — and beyond. The Bucs will beat the Falcons for the silver medal, simply because Chris Simms will grow at quarterback, and Michael Vick, well, he’d make a helluva cornerback.
NFC West: Seattle 12-4, Arizona 9-7, St. Louis 8-8, San Francisco 5-11: The Seahawks and Panthers are the class of the conference, and it will be a tremendous title game. The Cardinals will finally arrive with Matt Leinart taking over by Week 8. He’ll propose to Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin by Week 10.
NFC wild cards: Tampa Bay, N.Y. Giants
NFC Champion: Carolina
AFC East: New England 10-6, Miami 10-6, Buffalo 7-9, NY Jets 4-12: The Dolphins are a trendy pick with Culpepper at the helm, but the Patriots are still the Patriots. Doug Gabriel will soften the Deion Branch blow in a hurry. The Bills aren’t ready for prime-time, and the J-E-T-S suck, suck, suck.
AFC North: Pittsburgh 11-5, Baltimore 10-6, Cincinnati 9-7, Cleveland 5-11: The defending champs will miss the Bus, but they’ll ride Big Ben’s Harley to the crown. The Ravens and Bengals could flip-flop spots here in the conference’s best division.
AFC South: Indianapolis 13-3, Jacksonville 9-7, Tennessee, 6-10, Houston 4-12: The Colts may have lost James, but they still have the “edge.” His name is Manning. Byron Leftwich has green targets in J-ville, and a back who can’t stay healthy. The dynamic Vince Young will lead the Titans to the division title — but not this year.
AFC West: Denver 10-6, Kansas City 9-7, San Diego 9-7, Oakland 5-11: The Broncos are beasts, and Jay Cutler’s presence will make Jake Plummer a better player. L.J. will run wild in K.C., while L.T. will miss Drew Brees in S.D. The Raiders? They had J.G. in camp for a week. U.C.?
AFC wild cards: Miami, Baltimore
AFC Champion: Indianapolis
Super Bowl Champion: Indianapolis: Peyton Manning is just too good to live in “can’t win the big one” ignominy forever.