And to think, this day seemed like nothing more than a fantasy mere months ago. For the next decade, the term “lockout” will be foreign to football fans with the only words mattering right now being “season opener.” Yep, the 2011-2012 NFL campaign kicks off tonight with the league’s last two Super Bowl winners: the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints. However let’s have a little fun before the first snap and those last minute fantasy football adjustments are made.
The Crew tossed around ideas back and forth for the past few days and came up with 10 predictions for the season. To spice up the occasion, we brought along two guests and our brothers from another (website) to aid in the organized chaos. EdTheSportsFan.com’s Eddie Maisonet and Kenny Masenda joined us for the occasion to add their two cents with forecasts that range anywhere from logical to completely asinine.
Read, laugh, break windows, do whatever comes to mind but be sure to appreciate the return of America’s favorite sport as much as we do. And, as always, please leave your own predictions in the comments. FOOTBALL BACK!
1. Prediction: The Philadelphia Eagles will disappoint once again.
The self-proclaimed ‘Miami Heat of the NFL’ imported premium talent but a closer look at this team reveals one glaring problem: a lack of protection for Michael Vick. Anybody who watched the first team operate in the preseason saw a man, notably on the wrong side of 30, with little time to operate within the pocket. Every spectacular scramble, every broken pocket and every hard hit is going to take a toll on the Eagles’ franchise quarterback. Philadelphia will make the post-season but anybody who crowns them the elite of the elite needs to pump the brakes and actually look at their offensive line.
2. Prediction: There will be a changing of the guard at quarterback.
Last year’s Super Bowl highlighted a trend that should continue through this season: a new crop of quarterbacks blossoming into franchise leaders. As Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees enter the later seasons of their careers, look for the likes of Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Sam Bradford and Matthew Stafford to join Big Ben and Aaron Rogers in a crowded field of elite quarterbacks. Teams, more than ever, live and die through quarterbacking. Given the number of quality young signal-callers on the up-and-up, look for the NFL to be as competitive and unpredictable as its been in a while.
3. Prediction: Larry Fitzgerald will re-establish himself as the league’s best receiver (and land in the MVP voting in the process).
Since Kurt Warner retired, Fitz has been paired with some wonderfully inept quarterbacks including Derek Anderson who still takes this sh*t seriously. And you know what? He still plays like an elite talent thanks to precise rout-running and elite athleticism. Paired with import Kevin Kolb, for whom Arizona should have high hopes, look for Fitz to wrestle away the ‘Best Reciever In Football’ mantle from Andre and Calvin Johnson: putting up Randy Moss-type numbers along the way.
Words by Kenny Masenda
4. Prediction: James Harrison will seriously injure someone on an “illegal” hit.
Have you ever seen someone try so hard not to mess up that they actually end up doing more damage than they ever intended? In this case, the victim of that philosophy will be James Harrison.
The man has been fined over $100K for illegal hits, he’s been crucified for talking crazy in a magazine about his teammates and God knows what else. I don’t feel that Harrison goes out there trying to end careers; instead, he’s just following in the footsteps of Mean Joe Greene, Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene and the rest of the Steelers’ legends.
With that said, this man will hurt somebody this year. It’ll happen because he’ll try so hard not to get fined again that his efforts will be counter-productive. It’ll be a damn shame but just watch. As sure as these hoopin’ shorts are black, it’s going to happen.
5. Prediction: A Super Bowl contender will sign Randy Moss.
Did you notice Randy Moss’ name in the list of available wide receivers when going to do your fantasy football draft? Almost took a chance until you snapped out of the mild hypnosis, didn’t you? No need to feel bad because best believe GM’s across the league have been asking themselves the same thing. Pending a legitimate contender comes knocking at his door – New England, maybe? – towards the second half of the season, do you honestly think a fully focused Randy will turn down the opportunity to capture the honor he was literally one Eli Manning prayer heave away from having? Possibly, but it’s so much more fun to think otherwise.
6. Prediction: Chris Johnson fails to eclipse the 1,000 yard mark.
Logic says he’ll not only get 1,000 yards. He’ll obliterate it by a couple hundred. C.J.’s one of the more explosive players in the league and now, thanks to holding out, one of the most paid as well. But how often have we seen a superstar receive the payday he may or may not deserve only to trick the entire next season off. The last Titan to cash in on a historic contract didn’t exactly live up to his $100M billing. Granted, Johnson and Haynesworth are two completely different beasts, but the thought’s already in your head now.
If you happened to draft Chris, disregard everything said here.
7. Prediction: The Niners will tank in the name of Andrew Luck.
Or at least it will appear that way. San Francisco’s football has been downright horrid the past couple years and with Alex Smith still (somehow) at the helm, nothing looks to improve. The offseason wasn’t kind to the Niners and no matter how much potential their unproven coach may have, without any significant personnel upgrades he will be fruitlessly directing a largely talentless bunch. But fortunately the biggest loser this year means the biggest prize in next year’s draft, who coincidentally was Harbaugh’s golden child at Stanford – Andrew Luck.
8. Prediction: Tiki Barber will have a public meltdown about not being picked up by a team.
This probably won’t happen, but it would be instant gold if it did. Marred by the strains of his personal life, Ronde’s retired brother figured it would be great if he returned to the job he walked away from four years ago (under very ugly circumstances). Unfortunately for Tiki, the NFL did not greet him with the same open arms they did with Plaxico Burress and Michael Vick. Tiki believed waltzing back on a field would require nothing more than a practice or two and that staying in “real world shape” somehow equated to “pro football shape.” And to his own credit, he only received one workout (with Miami).
All that being said, the ingredients for a meltdown are there. He’s devastated, according to Peter King. A quick Google search shows he’s not on Twitter and no one really rants on Facebook, so there goes the social media “woe-is-me” rant. Chances are we can’t see him losing his marbles on TV either, and that’s if he even returns there. This leaves print. At some point this season, it wouldn’t be shocking at all if Tiki went apesh*t in some publication condemning the NFL for passing up on a 36-year-old running back who hasn’t touched a football field since Obama was a senator.
9. Prediction: Special teams will be far less than special thanks to the new kickoff rule. There will be no more than 13 kickoff returns for touchdowns (23 all of last year combined).
Well, f*ck you very much, new CBA.
With no chance of doing anything on kickoffs anymore, viewers can smoke an extra couple cigarettes every time points are tacked on the board and return to see the next series starting from the 20-yard-line. From this season onward, punting will be the only chance given to those light speedsters to do something electric. However, all is not lost because the Chargers, who got absolutely murked on special teams in 2010, now have no need to make changes anymore. With the essential elimination of special teams, the clubs will primarily be focused on improving their offenses and defenses. After all, it shouldn’t take more than a day to teach Devin Hester how to take a knee in the end-zone. That is, if he still has a job in the NFL anymore.
Words by Eddie Maisonet
10. Prediction: A non-playoff team from 2010 will win the Super Bowl in 2011.
Just within the last ten years, the 2001 Patriots, the 2003 Patriots and the 2008 Saints were all Super Bowl champs who just a year prior failed to make the playoffs. If you wanted to draw out the similarities of those three teams, you’d find that they all had explosive offenses and opportunistic defenses. There are three teams that fit that bill in 2011:
Houston – With the AFC South going down in flames before our very eyes, and the Texans making strides with their defense (signing All-Pro DB Jonathan Joseph and hiring ex-Cowboys head ball coach Wade Phillips to run the 3-4 scheme) this opportunity must be seized by the Texans, or else we’ll never believe in them again. Houston’s offense could win you a fantasy football title easily, yet a real title would be even better for Texans fans.
Tampa Bay – There aren’t too many fans that can name more than three players in total on the Buccaneers squad right now. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
If you came up with more than three players, well, gold star buddy. Tampa Bay’s squad is extremely young and talented, from their quarterback, to their running back, to the defense to the coach. If the Baby Bucs keep growing up they could go places. And if that gives us an opportunity to see those Creamsickle jerseys one more time, all the better.
San Diego – The Chargers have been the biggest teases to the “sensible football fan” since Sloan started sauntering her way into our hearts on Entourage. They’ve got everything we want: an all-world QB, an all-world TE, and an offense that scores at ease. Being healthy and getting consistent play on the defense will tell the Chargers true fortune.
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