NFL Preview 2012

The NFL is the most popular sport in America for a lot of reasons, but one of them is chaos. It is hard to rule out more than a few teams when making your preseason playoff predictions. This just isn’t true in other sports. In what NFL city aren’t fans saying, “This could be our year!” (OK, maybe not in Cleveland, Minnesota, Jacksonville, or Indianapolis.)

For the past nine seasons and 11 of the last 12, a team has gone from worst to first within its division. In each season since 1996, at least five teams made the playoffs that didn’t qualify the previous year. The average playoff turnover rate over that span is 50 percent (six teams)!

We can say with confidence that nearly half of this year’s playoff teams will be new arrivals. That keeps NFL fans across the country interested, at least until Week 8. Once the playoffs start, the single-game elimination format adds to the surprises. Who saw the Giants coming last year?

When it comes to preseason predictions, the so-called NFL experts do such a poor job not because they guess the wrong “surprise” teams, but because they are usually afraid to pick enough of them. They stick with the big favorites and, for the most part, fill in the remaining spots with playoff teams from the previous season. This is not only boring, but unwise. Here at andrewjkahn.com, we (I) swing for the fences. Below you will find my playoff picks as well as other useful information to get you ready for the start of the NFL season. If there’s not a question mark or exclamation point at the end of the subhead, don’t bother reading.

Who will go from worst to first?

Starting with the NFC, the last place teams in the East, North, South, and West, respectively, were: Washington, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, and St. Louis. In the AFC, the divisional doormats were Buffalo, Cleveland, Indianapolis, and Kansas City.

When in doubt, expect extra chaos from the Wild Wild West, if for no other reason than those are the two weakest divisions in football. So will the most dramatic improvement come from the AFC’s Chiefs or the NFC’s Rams, which finished 2-14 last season? Wait, the Rams won two games last year? I think that’s asking for a little too much improvement. I know Sam Bradford missed a lot of games, but look at the games he missed and ask yourself if St. Louis was going to win those games anyway. I’m going with the Chiefs.

What about the other “surprise” playoff teams? 

Here’s what I’m predicting (asterisk indicates new playoff arrival):

NFC:
1. Green Bay
2. Philadelphia*
3. Atlanta
4. Seattle*
5. Detroit
6. Chicago*

AFC:
1. New England
2. Baltimore
3. Houston
4. Kansas City*
5. Cincinnati
6. Tennessee*

San Francisco, New Orleans, and the New York Giants are replaced in the NFC, while Pittsburgh and Denver are not in my AFC picture. I can’t say for sure I’ll be correct; in fact, I’ll probably be wrong. But by picking to the turnover trend, at least I’m giving myself a chance. Go ahead and replace two teams from last year and see how well you do. By the way, Baltimore over Atlanta in an all-avian Super Bowl.

Ray Rice, 2013 Super Bowl champion and a high school teammate of the writer.

This is a man’s game!

Of course, if you’re looking for a more scientific way to pick your Super Bowl champ, maybe you want to consider a team from this list: Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, New York Giants, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, and Pittsburgh Steelers. Those are the six franchises without cheerleaders. Green Bay does occasionally have cheerleaders, but they are from local colleges. Five of the last seven Super Bowls have been won by teams without cheerleaders; the fewer distractions, the better. With their world-famous cheer squad, oversized video board, and fancy amenities, it’s no wonder the Cowboys haven’t made the playoffs since 2009.

Has a fantasy football conversation ever involved two people who are actually paying attention to each other?

Surely you’ve heard that Nobody Cares About Your Fantasy Team, but this is more true than we realize. Even when it seems someone is interested, they still aren’t. Here is how a conversation between you and another fantasy owner might look:

You: Should I start Shonn Grenne or Isaac Redman in my flex spot this week?

Your “friend”: I drafted Greene last year; he sucked.

You: Yeah, but Greene faces the Bills, I’m not sold on their run D.

Friend: Did you see that Deadspin article on the Bills? Hilarious.

You: No, send it to me. But what do you think: Greene or Redman in Week 1?

Friend: Should I trade Carson Palmer and Donald Brown for Flacco and Santonio Holmes?

You: Maybe. Depends who else you have at running back. But listen, who should I start? I need to set my lineup by midnight.

Friend: Did I miss Shark Week?!

I have online conversations like this with my friend Munoz from time to time. He’ll start talking about the Mets and I’ll be too discouraged to talk about them, and besides, I have a funny story to tell him about a co-worker. If I showed you a transcript of our conversation you would have no idea we were talking to each other.

Tebow Time!

Tim Tebow was a national phenomenon when he was still in college. He played his first two professional seasons in Denver, not exactly a big market, and yet his popularity soared. Now Tebow comes to the media capital of the world. I’m not sure what to expect of NFL coverage this season, but if a talking head or two explodes I wouldn’t be surprised. Of the hour-long Sunday night SportsCenter, I’m setting the Over/Under for non-Tebow-related minutes at 8.5.

Already Tebow has taken control of the New York newspaper back pages from the Yankees, not easy to do in the summer. For the record, I’m happy Tebow is a Jet. Mark Sanchez’s career numbers show his passes are just slightly more likely to be completed than to fall incomplete and are nearly as likely to be intercepted as they are to be caught for a score. If you’re trying to make sense of that last sentence just realize Sanchez is not much better at passing, statistically, than his much-maligned backup, a guy who wouldn’t play QB in your family’s backyard Thanksgiving game.

Oh yeah, there’s another New York football team!

Has a defending Super Bowl champion ever been less hyped entering the season than the Giants? My friend and Big Blue diehard Griff has been telling me this for weeks and I have to agree. Off the top of my head, and with no statistical backing, here are teams that have gotten more offseason coverage than the Giants: Eagles, Cowboys, Redskins, Packers, Bears, Saints, Panthers, Patriots, Jets, Dolphins, Bills, Steelers, Colts, and Broncos. The reason? Eli Manning doesn’t appear in enough advertisements. By the way, was anyone else surprised that the Giants open the season on a Wednesday (against Dallas)? If anything, I would have thought the President of the United States would have moved his speech to accommodate the NFL.

Does anyone understand Quarterback Rating?

If QB Rating was a college course, no football players would take it. On second thought, a lot of football players would take it because it has to do with football. But they would fail. Unless the college in question is North Carolina.

Pay the zebras! 

If Roger Goodell is serious about player safety—and, you know, quality officiating—he will end the referee lockout today. Instead, it appears replacement refs will be working Week 1. The only positive that would come out of a prolonged lockout: middle-aged men won’t be so self-conscious without Ed Hochuli out there showing off his biceps every Sunday.

Miami has its next Dan Marino! 

…or maybe its next third-string wide receiver. The ninth overall pick of the draft, Ryan Tannehill from Texas A&M, will be one of those things for the Dolphins, with no foreseeable middle ground. You heard it here first. By the way, despite criticizing Tannehill in my college preview as well, I have nothing against the kid. In fact, I remember a charming feature on Tannehill and his wife last season on ESPN’s College GameDay. Their apartment was tiny; no special housing privileges were given to the Big Man on Campus. Tannehill seemed like a genuinely nice guy and I became a fan. Oh, wait, I think that was actually Case Keenum, Houston’s quarterback.

Your quarterback is gay!

By doing a Google search for “(insert quarterback’s name) is,” hitting the space bar, and recording the next suggested word, here is what I learned:

  • Six quarterbacks are “overrated.” Five of them make sense: Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, and Tony Romo are all established stars while Cam Newton was last year’s No. 1 overall pick and a rookie sensation. The sixth is Christian Ponder. Personally, I think he is properly rated.
  • Five QBs are “gay.” Whether this means Googlers are asking or telling is unclear, but the QBs associated with this result make me think it’s the former, if you know what I mean (wink wink): Tom Brady, Alex Smith, Josh Freeman, Michael Vick, and Griffin III.
  • Four QBs are “a bust”: Sam Bradford, Blaine Gabbert, Matt Cassel, and, despite not taking a single regular season snap, Tannehill. Man, he is just getting crushed on this website.

No two results were the same after that. Here are the others, which range from cruel to factual to bizarre: Jay Cutler is a cat. Philip Rivers is a jerk. Ryan Fitzpatrick is amish. Matthew Stafford is fat. Matt Ryan is getting swole (a slang term for getting muscular). Matt Schaub is injury prone (not a good sign for Texans fans). Sanchez is terrible (a worse sign for Jets fans). Brandon Weeden is old. Carson Palmer is how old. Drew Brees is selfish. Andrew Luck is ugly. Russell Wilson is what nationality. Andy Dalton is a ginger. John Skelton is. (Skelton produced no results, which is, in a way, extremely fitting.) Jake Locker is from.

That leaves two quarterbacks whose results their fans can be proud of: Eli Manning is elite. Joe Flacco is the best. Who knew? And since I know you’re asking, Tim Tebow is gay.

Take that!

Doug Martin was a sophomore running back at Boise State in 2009, when LeGarrette Blount punched a Boise player in the face after the Broncos had beaten Oregon, a move that essentially ended Blount’s college career. Martin exacted a bit of revenge on behalf of Bronco Nation by beating out Blount for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ starting running back job. If I were Martin, I’d watch my back in the film room.

Whoop!

Chris Berman joins the Monday Night Football broadcast booth for the Week 1 match-up between San Diego and Oakland. This will cause Twitter to explode. It’s been a while since Boomer called a game, but if he can shake off the rust he should be fine. He will have to make due with partner Trent Dilfer though, a downgrade from his Longest Yard color man, Little Joe.

You bet it is!

The NFL and gambling go together, as Rob Schneider’s character said in Big Daddy, like lamb and tuna fish. You’ve got fantasy football, pick ’ems, knockout/survivor pools, and dozens of other betting-based contests, including one I invented but won’t blog about until I figure out how to capitalize on it financially. As for Week 1, go with Chicago in Survivor and Minnesota -4.5 against the spread. You’re welcome, degenerate!

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