It promises to be a strange year for NFL fans here in Indianapolis. Most Colts fans were able to deal with the wreckage of last season, knowing that Andrew Luck would be the reward. Based on early returns, Luck seems to be the real deal. But a good quarterback does not alone rebuild a crumbling franchise. The Colts still have lots of work to do to get back in the playoff mix, let alone become a Super Bowl contender again. This season, not last, is year one of the rebuiling process.
Making matters more complicated is Peyton Manning suiting up for the Denver Broncos. I contend that he is not a long-term solution for the Broncos. But, providing they can protect him and keep him on the field, I see no reason why he can’t be to the Broncos what Joe Montana was to the Chiefs during his two-year run in KC. I expect a lot of gnashing of teeth in Indy when the Broncos are in the playoff hunt in November and the Colts are beginning to think about the draft.
Anyway, on to my annual, ultra-scientific, deeply considered picks for the NFL season.
East: New England. I saw a headline for a column on Yahoo Sports the other day that said something about how the lack of a running game had kept the Patriots from becoming a true dynasty. So I guess it doesn’t matter if you go to five Super Bowls in a decade-plus. If you lose a couple, you can’t be called a dynasty. Stupid.
North: Baltimore. Most seem to think this is an easy pick. As much as I hate the Steelers, I hope it’s still an old fashioned slugathon to win this division.
South: Houston. For a decade the Colts were the easy pick here. How long will the Texans be the auto-pick?
West: San Diego. This seems like the most wide-open division in football. I’m not sure Peyton will click early or be healthy late, don’t get the Chiefs hype, so ride the Phillip Rivers wagon again this year.
Wild Cards: Pittsburgh, Denver.
East: New York. Despite Wednesday’s game, I’m not ready to say the Cowboys are the better team over 16 games.
North: Green Bay. Still the best in the wide-open regular season.
South: Saints. Despite all the drama, still the best team in the division with the added bonus of playing with a massive chip on their shoulders.
West: 49ers. Will challenge Green Bay for best record.
Wild Cards: Chicago, Dallas.
Steelers over Chargers
Texans over Broncos
Bears over Cowboys
Giants over Saints
Patriots over Texans
Ravens over Steelers
49ers over Giants
Bears over Packers
Ravens over Patriots
Bears over 49ers
Ravens 9, Bears 6. Ugliest Super Bowl ever. Worried about more bad press, after a year of focus on concussions and brain trauma, Roger Goodell unilaterally eliminates all offensive pass interference and holding penalties for the 2013 season, saying that it is just too hard to score.
Mark it down.