Kids are returning back to school, the last days of summer are upon us and at least part of the country is moving one day closer to having to break out those snow shovels again. But it’s all well and fine for one reason. Football is back! The college season is already underway and come Wednesday, the guys who get paid (legally) to knock each other around for a living bless us with their presence with Dallas traveling to New York for the NFL’s season opener.
Seeing as how none of us here at The Crew work for ESPN, we’re not going to provide an in-depth, team-by-team analysis. Instead, we’re just going to make off the wall predictions. Those always seem to be more fun anyway. Having said that, the following 12 pages are statements that will either prove eerily true come February, or completely wrong. Either way, we’re going to laugh about them regardless.
As always, participation is welcomed. Rep your team in the comments, talk your sh*t. You know, do what fans do.
1. There Won’t Be Any Surprise Teams This Year
The NFL has a great surprise story every year…except for this year. The powerhouses are set and they’ve only gotten stronger. Don’t expect a shocking Browns or Jags run this season. It’s time for the heavyweights to duke it out.
2. Calvin Johnson Will Be A Legitimate MVP Candidate, Ndamukong Suh Remains Public Enemy #1
Hopefully being on the cover of Madden doesn’t provide its usual dividends for Calvin Johnson. All things considered, the guy is the best receiver in football and a freak of nature with no known weaknesses to his game. Megatron will be a MVP candidate this year if this Lions team stays healthy (and we hope they do). Unless opponents begin to quadruple team him – which even then may not work – buddy could be looking at one of those 1500 yard seasons with 16 or 17 touchdowns. He’s just that damn good.
Meanwhile, his teammate, Ndamukong Suh, will continue to prosper as one of the NFL’s finest defensive lineman and a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. However, he’s going to gather so much money in fines this year even Rasheed Wallace will probably shake his head in disbelief.*
* – Look for a new unofficial stat to be tracked this year – C.D. (concussions delivered) – which Suh will lead the league in.
3. Houston Picks Up Where They Left Off Before Matt Schaub’s Injury – Super Bowl Bound
Make no mistake about it: if the Texans could have been healthy last year then they would have cruised to the Super Bowl. They’re healthy this year (for now), and despite losing personnel, Wade Phillips is going to come back with a stronger defense than before. Expect the Texans to make a strong push in a sadly weakened AFC.
4. Yet Another Disappointing Season For Larry Fitzgerald Is On The Horizon
And not in a sense that he, himself, will disappoint. It’s just the fact we’re watching one of this generation’s great receivers waste his prime years having had the likes of Derek Anderson, Kevin Kolb and John Skelton throwing him the pill since Kurt Warner retired. Granted, Larry somewhat dug this hole, too, by signing that extension, but sheesh. This leads to the next point…
…the Cardinals will tank the season by Week 6 and officially make themselves the front runners for the Matt Barkley sweepstakes, unless Miami doesn’t beat them to it. Worry not though Cardinals fans, the 49ers were predicted to tank last year and go after Andrew Luck and they ended up being two fumbled punts away from the Super Bowl. Look at the glass half full, no?
5. Tom Brady Will Break Drew Brees’ Passing Record
The Patriots are riding a perfect storm towards legacy inflation. Weak schedule? Check. Pass happy offensive coordinator? Check. Weak running game? Check. Expect Brady to put up insane numbers to Welker, Hernandez, Gronk and the newly acquired Brandon Lloyd. Brees’ record doesn’t stand a chance.
6. Michael Vick Won’t Play More Than 10 Games
Look, let’s get one thing clear. We’re not wishing any ill will on Mike. By all accounts, he seems like a guy at peace with himself now and is committed to staying on the right path in life. And for that, we will applaud Vick until the cows come home. Plus, we really, really want that Vick vs. Cam Monday Night Football showdown in Week 12 to live up to the hype.
With all that said, Vick’s got six games against the Redskins, Cowboys and Giants, all teams who have been known to get to the quarterback quite often. Couple that into the fact the NFC East plays the AFC North this year and Vick will square up against those Ravens and Steelers defenses, too.
Yep, if our math is correct, Mike Vick will be running for his life for at the very least half of the season. Eagles fans better pray buddy learns how to slide at some point between now and Week 1.
7. This Is Rex Ryan’s Last Year As The Jets Head Coach
The Jets have barely been able to put together a scoring drive all preseason. Add in the Tebow clusterf*ck and the sideshow act and we’ll have a Jets team in disarray. Just wait and see which team boosts its defense with Rex at the helm next year.
8. This Replacement Refs Thing Is Going To Blow Up In Our Faces
It’s a tough job being a ref. You do your job right, no one notices. One bad call (or no call), you instantly become the most hated man in America. Check this though. One of the most important storylines in the offseason which no one really seemed to care about was the referee work stoppage. In case you’re not in the know, we’re strolling into Week 1 with replacement refs, which means all hell could and probably will break loose.
As Dave Campbell of the Associated Press put it, “Many of the replacements are going from supervising small college games to policing the sport’s best athletes in front of deafening 75,000-strong crowds.” No forward progress between the league and the refs is in sight either. Simply put, the replacements are going to blow a game. It’s inevitable and will not be totally their fault. You just better pray your team doesn’t miss the playoffs by one game. That would suck.
9. The Jay Cutler/Brandon Marshall/Matt Forte Combo Will Be The Best QB/WR/RB Core In The NFL
Look out NFC North, there’s a new offensive juggernaut in town. Cutler to Marshall will be a show every week and Matt Forte will rush for 1,500 yards in his sleep. Imagine the Packers not even being the best offense in its division anymore.*
* – The NFC North is going to score points at a rate we haven’t seen in a long time. The Bears, Lions and Packers could all legitimately finish in the top seven in terms of offense.
10. Injuries And All, Baltimore Remains A Top Five Defense
There are just certain truths in this world. Porn stars are not role models, but we secretly admire them. We’ll always want Chick-Fil-A on Sunday more than any day of the week. And the Baltimore Ravens are going to have a dominant defense. Even with Terrell Suggs vowing to return midseason after recovering from a torn Achilles, Baltimore will still suit a defense boasting names like Haloti Ngata, Bernard Pollard, Terrence Cody and future first ballot Hall of Famers Ed Reed and Ray Lewis.
Also look for Baltimore’s top draft choice, Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw (who didn’t exactly show out in the preseason), to fill Suggs’ void providing him with the best teacher the NFL can provide – experience.