The first game of the season was yesterday and I couldn't be more excited. I mean, it's one NFL team playing another NFL team. There's a pretty good chance I would have watched the game, no matter who was on the schedule. But the fact that it was the last two Super Bowl Champions made it all that much more enticing. I have a standard policy that any time there is a relevant untimed down, it was probably a great game. But that's not really the point of this post. I'll get to all the week 1 predictions later. Today I'm giving a quick hit on every team in the league. I will probably end up focusing on which teams have new quarterbacks and head coaches and which players I like from a fantasy perspective. Now, based on my random number generator, I will be starting with the AFC North.

And I'm already changing my format. I wanted to go division by division, but when I looked at the AFC North, I realized there were two teams in contention for the AFC Championship and two teams in contention for a top five draft pick. And don't you really care more about how the Ravens and Steelers match up against the Patriots and Chargers and Jets? So I am going to start at the top with my favorites to reach the Super Bowl and work my way down. That way, I'm not stringing you along, making you read everything to find out who I think the best team is. AND some other readers of this blog will have to read every word to find out how bad I think the 49ers are.

Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, San Diego Chargers
At least one of these three teams will get a first round bye and I'd be willing to bet even money that, barring an injury to their starting quarterbacks, two of them get the first round byes. The big question is which team gets left out and has to play the extra game? Honestly, I don't know and I think it's stupid to try and predict something that close. I'll randomly guess it will come down to the third tiebreaker and the second and third seed both finish with identical 9-3 conference records. (How's that for a bold prediction...I forgot about my bold predictions. I like them and will start incorporating them right now.) Tom Brady will be his usual great self, but Philip Rivers will surpass him in practically every statistical measure. Roethlisberger will be than people think because the Steelers throw more than people think. Brady and Rivers will both be top five fantasy QBs and Roethlisberger will be in the 6-9 range. No other Patriot will be top ten in their position, but pay attention to Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. Bill Belichik finds matchups better than any coach in the NFL and he will exploit a mismatch over and over and completely ignore his other options. This means both of these guys will have at least two two-TD games each, but will also have at least three games each of 1 or fewer catches. These guys will look great on TV, will look volatile in the game by game stats and will look below average by their overall stats at the end of the season. The Steelers defense will finish outside the top ten in points or yards allowed. The Chargers will lead the league in points scored.

Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers
These will be the next three teams, and I don't think it is coincidence that the first three are AFC teams and the next three are NFC teams. While the NFC may actually be a little deeper, the AFC is more top heavy and bottom heavy. The Eagles got two great corners and won the off-season and were declared a Dream Team, then people started realizing they still have several problems at offensive line and linebacker and that they could lose their first two games on the road and the hate went too far. They will make the playoffs and probably win 80% of Michael Vick's starts. The Packers looked great last night and possibly better than last year. If Ryan Grant and James Starks produce a more effective running game than last year, then they will certainly be better. BJ Raji is a top five nose tackle and Jermichael Finley was supposed to be a stud last year before he got injured. And I haven't even mentioned Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers. My dad is playing in his first fantasy football league and his office has a very unusual scoring system that rewards pass attempts (and penalizes incompletions), rushes, receptions and return yards. So I made sure he drafted Drew Brees who will attempt the most passes in the NFL this season AND have the highest completion percentage. I also recommended he draft guys like Darren Sproles, who will contribute some on offense, but even more in the return game.

New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens
One of these teams will miss the playoffs. Maybe two. This goes against everything this offseason would indicate. All three teams have the same quarterback, same head coach and a good defense. So how is one of them going to miss the playoffs? Because that's just the way the NFL works. But really it's because their quarterbacks just aren't good enough. These three quarterbacks are fine to good, but not even close to great. These QBs can't carry their team, but can contribute to a good team effort in a win. There will come a few games where the defense and running game aren't coming through and the quarterback won't be able to come away with a win. Other than Michael Turner and Ray Rice, I'm really not a fan of anyone on these teams from a fantasy perspective. And I'm really not the biggest Turner fan. I guess it's more of an overuse thing.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions
Your two NFC wild card teams will come from this group. These are all talented teams with legitimate stars and each of their fan base is thinking their team can make the playoffs and win a playoff game. Of all the quarterbacks new to their team this season, Donovan McNabb is in the best position with Adrian Peterson and the running game being the focus of the offense and a huge playmaker in Percy Harvin. I like all the Cowboys on offense partly because they put up numbers and I don't trust their defense. They will be in a lot of shootouts and put up a ton of numbers...but will they win enough games to make the playoffs? Honestly, I don't like picking any of these teams. I really don't feel like the Bears will go to the playoffs two years in a row and if not for the AFC and NFC Western division champs I'd pick them as the one playoff team from last most likely to miss the playoffs this year. But does that mean I'm hopping on the Lions bandwagon? No. And I like the Bucs, but I think they are more likely to reduce their 10 wins from last year than increase. The Giants have already lost several guys for the season to injury and I just have a visceral dislike of Eli Manning. See what I just did their? I eliminated every team from this group except the Vikings, which just feels wrong. Two of these teams will make the playoffs and I have absolutely no idea which two.

Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars
One of these teams will make the playoffs. One will finish with 6 or fewer wins. And I have no idea which one is which. Basically this group is the "hate has gone too far" group. These teams are more likely to be bad than good. But not as bad as people think. The Dolphins are in the same division as the Patriots and the Jets, but I would not be surprised at all to see the Jets miss the playoffs and the Dolphins make it. Or the Browns make it and the Ravens watching from home. Or the Jaguars ride Maurice Jones-Drew and a rookie QB for the most improbable division title...wait no, that was the 7-9 NFC West champ last year. Honestly, residing in the AFC South this year is the best thing the Jaguars have going for them. But they are in this group anyways.

Houston Texans
They get their own group thanks to Peyton Manning's neck vertebrae. The Colts are going to be really bad and the AFC South is now wide open. And by default it is the Texans' division to lose. They are the only team in the division with the same quarterback from last season. I'm not entirely convinced the Texans make the playoffs, and it wouldn't surprise me of they went 8-8 and made the playoffs. In fact, that's exactly what I think will happen. The Texans go 8-8 like they always seem to do, but this year it's good enough to win the division. I guess I'm saying it's either the Texans or the Jags from the last group that makes the playoffs. And Andre Johnson is the best receiver in football, Matt Schaub can throw it in huge numbers, Owen Daniels is productive tight end...oh, and Arian Foster was the best fantasy player last year. But I really don't trust Foster's hamstring and avoided him in every fantasy league and am paying a lot of attention to Ben Tate and Derrick Ward in their first game. Kind of like how I was paying a lot of attention to James Starks and Ryan Grant last night. Probably a time share, but there is some fantasy value somewhere in there.

NFC West
I feel like this group doesn't even deserve to have their names listed. But I guess they are going to be better than the AFC South, so the Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks all have the same strategy to make the playoffs. Just try to be adequate and let the rest of the division suck. Football Outsiders says the 49ers actually have the best chance of making the playoffs. The Cardinals probably have the best quarterback in Kevin Kolb (but we really don't know), the Rams are the media darling with Sam Bradford emerging as the next great young QB and the Seahawks won the division last year. So I honestly have no idea who is going to emerge and I really don't care who gets the #4 seed in the NFC playoffs. Oh, and Larry Fitzgerald should be much better than he was last year, which really wasn't as bad as you think.

Carolina Panthers, Washington Redskins
These two teams will be bad. Probably the worst in the NFC. But one of them will have a winning record against the spread. They're frisky and can probably run the ball. Or Cam Newton is a little electrifying. Or Rex Grossman looks like the Chicago Bears NFC champion version. If DeAngelo Williams or Jonathan Stewart can get a nice, season-ending injury, then the other becomes significantly more valuable. And Tim Hightower could good if Mike Shanahan ever decides that he doesn't hate fantasy players.

Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Titans, Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts, Buffalo Bills
That's seven AFC Teams and they are all going to be horrible. Not one of these teams will win eight games. This is the very bottom heavy part of the AFC. If the Lions hadn't gone 0-16 a few years ago or the 1976 Tamp Bay Bucs hadn't gone 0-14 in their first season (and 0-8 the next season, going 0-26 before their first franchise win), then the Bengals would have a chance to be historically bad. And they won the division two years ago! They dropped from 10-6 to 4-12 and are going from Carson Palmer to rookie Andy Dalton. This is a 4-12 team that got noticeably worse. The Broncos, Raiders and Chiefs probably aren't in line for the first overall draft pick, but the combination of playing in the same division as the Chargers and all getting a little worse than last year tells me they will each finish with 4-7 wins. The Bills could be ok if they weren't going 0-6 in their division. The Colts would probably be better served designing Peyton Manning's rehab with missing the season in mind. Let him take this season off and give you five more in the future. The Titans are the only team that could have gotten up in to the Jaguars group, but Football Outsiders says they actually have the worst odds of making the playoffs in the AFC and combined with the Seahawks are the odds on favorites for the first overall draft pick. The NFL is weird. I could easily paint a picture that the Seahawks and Titans get the first overall draft pick OR they win their division and make the playoffs.


And for Week 1:
I already picked the Packers (-4) last night and had a pretty good take on James Starks. And it turns out he was more impressive than Ryan Grant. Now I'm glad I drafted him as a flier in a few leagues.
Atlanta (-3) over Chicago: The Bears take their first step to not making the playoffs.
Cleveland (-6.5) over Cincinnati: Cleveland has a quarterback who started a game for them last season.
Buffalo (+6) over Kansas City: Both teams are bad, so take the points. And Matt Cassel has bad ribs and isn't as good as people think.
Philadelphia (-5) over St. Louis: Being in St. Louis is how some people think the Eagles could lose this game to the up and coming Rams. I don't think it's even that close.
Tampa Bay (-2) over Detroit: Stafford puts up big numbers, Freeman wins the game.
Tennessee (+2) over Jacksonville: bad teams, points. If it was the Titans favored by two, I would take the Jags and the points.
Pittsburgh (+2.5) over Baltimore: Should be a great game, but I think the Steelers are better on both offense and defense.
Indianapolis (+8.5) over Houston: I don't trust Houston to cover 8.5, but I think they'll win.
Carolina (+7) over Arizona: I don't trust Arizona to cover 7, but I think they'll win.
San Diego (-8.5) over Minnesota: I'd take San Diego -17...but that could be the homer in me.
Seattle (+5.5) over San Francisco: I don't trust San Francisco to cover 5.5, but I think they'll win. (This is getting easy.)
New York Giants (-3) over Washington: I feel like the score will be a little close, but if you watch the game, you'll never feel like the Redskins could emerge victorious.
Dallas (+4.5) over New York Jets: Man, I hate having to type 'Giants' and 'Jets'. And I hate Mark Sanchez. I think a field goal decides this game.
New England (-7) over Miami: I picked New England in my eliminator pool.
Oakland (+3) over Denver: I feel much more comfortable taking the points than trying to pick the outright winner.


  1. I've gone with:

    Denver -3: Moreno and McFadden go for 125+ and a score, but Denver passes for 150 more yards than Oakland to win by a TD.

    Vikings +8.5: I am buying McNabb and I don't know why. I think the Vikings get a late score for the cover.

    Falcons -3: I agree that the Bears will be awful, and I think Matt Ryan will surprise you this year and finish top-5 in QB rating.

  2. Aren't we also doing fictional money on these games? Let's say you start with a $1000 budget and there's no commission.

    I'll put $10 on Atlanta, Philadelphia, San Diego, Pittsburgh, New England and $20 on Cleveland and Buffalo.

  3. Good call - I'll put $10 on Denver/Minnesota & $20 on Atlanta.

  4. Aaron I didn't have a chance to read this before the season started, but this was an absolutely phenomenal write up. I feel weird living in a world where I'm dueling with your football post by writing... English Premier League soccer posts.

    I also didn't make game picks in time, but I would've put $20 on New England, Philly to win and cover and $20 on Pitt to cover the 4.5 pt spread. But I didn't pick in time so those won't count for me.

  5. $980 for me...uh, Atlanta - the season's started already.

  6. It's a good thing they got your message before the game started last night.

  7. Pretty much - too bad it cost me $20...