Nothing like an exciting MNF game that keeps you up until 12:30 AM. Come on, Tagliabue, start games at 8:00 Eastern! Seems like a good time to revisit my NFL picks from September.

NFC East – Preseason pick: New York Giants. The Cowboys will not win this division. They make too many mistakes and I don’t trust Quincy Carter. They will, however, be in the playoffs. The Eagles are getting hot, Donovan McNabb is getting healthy, and Philly will win the East.
NFC North – Preseason pick: Minnesota Vikings. Sure, they’ve lost two in a row. Sure, there was Favre magic in the air Sunday night. But when you have Culpepper and Moss and get to beat up on Chicago and Detroit, you still win your division.
NFC South – Preseason pick: Tampa Bay Buccaneers. When I wrote my first draft of this last week, I said the Bucs would still be dangerous in the playoffs. Hell, I don’t know if they even make the playoffs now. Carolina will win this division.
NFC West – Preseason pick: St. Louis Rams. Seattle will not win this division. Take it to Vegas and book it. Marshall Faulk is set to come back soon, and Kurt Warner is always on the bench if Marc Bulger gets into any serious trouble. The Rams are about to heat up. Dale Smith is about to get very happy.

AFC East – Preseason pick Miami Dolphins. New England is 7-2 after their disastrous Week 1 and despite an epidemic of injuries. They have a little of that magic they had two years ago. Miami should catch them, but not if Ricky Williams keeps getting shut down in big games. Pats squeak this one out.
AFC North – Preseason pick: Pittsburgh Steelers. The Bucs of the AFC, a serious Whoops! Kyle Boller seems to be getting more comfortable and Jamal Lewis is the most explosive grind-it-out back in the league. I think the Ravens win it.
AFC South – Preseason pick: Tennessee Titans. The Colts ran out to an early lead, but still have to go to Nashville. There’s something about the Colts defense that makes me think they’ll implode (an inability or unwillingness to tackle, perhaps), no matter how brilliantly Peyton Manning continues to play. Titans are still the pick.
AFC West – Preseason pick: Kansas City Chiefs. I never thought they’d be this good. Start the countdown to 16-0, because no one in the West should beat this team. I think they’ll end up going 14-2. They’ll lose one silly game they shouldn’t, then to Minnesota.

Preseason pick: Tampa over Tennessee in the Super Bowl.
Today’s pick: Tennessee pulls a shocker in a classic AFC Championship game in Arrowhead. It will be cold and wet in KC. Priest Holmes will be brilliant. Trent Green will make some mistakes, Steve McNair will not. Green throws a late interception, and the Titans move on to face the Rams, who charge easily through the NFC playoffs. This time, the Titans get those last three feet and win 28-27.

Moment of the First Half: Dante Hall’s punt return against Denver. There were 27 clips on the play, but it still counts. Late in the game, with everyone expecting you to make something happen, and you break off one of the classic returns in the history of the game. Put this one in a time capsule, as Joe Franklin would say.

Goat of the First Half: Rush Limbaugh. I wrote four paragraphs on why he’s an idiot, and why his apologists (on this issue at least) are dead wrong. Not worth mentioning, it’s time for us to all just move on.

Surprise (good) of the first half: Kansas City and Dallas. The Chiefs were a classic 8-8 pick: some people loved them and saw 12-4, others hated them and saw a 6-10 team. Not even the 12-4 people could have expected this start. Arguably as impressive is Dallas’ fast start. Everyone knew the Chiefs had potential. The Cowboys’ potential was supposed to be in 2005.

Disappointment of the first half: Everyone in the AFC West other than Kansas City. Wasn’t this supposed to be the best division in the game? Oakland has completely fallen apart. Injuries are killing Denver, but New England is getting by with as many injuries. And in San Diego, Marty has resorted to using Doug Flutie. Just a brutal collapse by three teams.

Final thought: Parity continues to be the operative word in the NFL. The Chiefs could go 16-0, and I bet a lot of people wouldn’t be shocked if they lost their first playoff game. Indianapolis may go 14-2, but no one is going to call them a great team. And neither the Vikings nor Rams make you want to open up the history books. Teams have too many holes and are too reliant on a starting roster of 22, making injuries more disruptive than ever. Priest Holmes, Peyton Manning, or Randy Moss going down could completely reshape the playoff picture. I think parity is ultimately a good thing for the league (your team is one good draft, or a couple key free agents away from competing) but growing up in the age of dynasties makes me wish there was at least one dominant team to root for or against.