NFL Week 4 Predictions and More Golden Tate Hail Mary Response

Well this has been the most interesting week yet in the brief time I have covered the NFL. It started with a Sunday full of crazy games, which resulted in a nice stat of the week I jumped on first after the New England loss.

Then Monday night came, bringing in the biggest overreaction to a correct call in NFL history. But this wasn’t about injustice as much as it was scorn for the replacement referees, and the only positive is it did end the lockout.

But the controversial Golden Tate Hail Mary touchdown is a classic example of groupthink and media manipulation. How one views this play really separates the sheep from people willing to think for themselves and not be influenced by Jon Gruden’s second-half disgust, which is an entertaining thought because he still looks like a Chucky doll.

At the very least, any objective person should see this was too close of a call to make in real time for anyone, and that there’s no way you could have clearly called it an interception. It  is completely understandable why they ruled what they did, and upon further analysis, it was the right call just as the NFL and that replacement referee have said.

So in writing the article, I tried to put as much as I could into it. That’s why I write long articles, as I try to cover all bases and leave little for anyone to nitpick over. But I will reply to a few of the same things I’m seeing in response to it on Twitter or in your e-mails. And no, I won’t use anyone’s name.  Reaction has been 50/50, even though it seems like reaction to the call has been 90/10.

Well Allow Me To Retort

Worthless Picture – First, it is always easy to see which people actually read the article and which respond after reading only the headline. Anyone still trying to use this picture as proof of anything needs to get a clue.

This is several seconds after both players have landed on the ground. The catch was already over as all aspects of a catch have been satisfied (control and possession through the process of going to the ground). Just because the refs came in late doesn’t mean anything. This wasn’t a fumble and two players battling on the ground for the ball, in which refs will often let them fight it out. This was a (TD) catch.

Back judge – He never signaled touchback like some have said. That has a distinct motion — like a vertical spanking/tap that ass motion — which he never used. What the back judge even ruled was never going to be more reliable than the ref on the spot, because look how far away the back judge is at the moment both players have hit the ground:

He is barely past the goal post at this point. How could he possibly been able to tell who controlled the ball first? From the point of contact with the ball to this picture where the second foot hits for Jennings, a total of 0.7 seconds passed. Over three additional seconds pass before the back judge runs in to take a look at the players on the ground, which makes for a call from him that was never going to be conclusive or even confident.

Semantics – Lots of semantics mess again this week with control, possession and catch. I have seen people say simultaneous possession, even though the only thing in the rule book is “simultaneous catch.” I have heard comments from a ex-NFL referee talking about possession in the air, even though the NFL clearly said in their statement possession cannot happen in the air. A player must get two feet or an equivalent like a knee down to legally gain possession.

It is also indisputable that Tate gains possession first, but the most important part of the play comes at the very beginning.

Physics of the play – First let’s talk about control, since that is the common complaint.

You can control a ball with one hand. That was the point of the one-handed examples I used to refute the article from ProFootballTalk or Hochuli’s mumbo-jumbo about four arms. You do not need two hands/arms, and this Randy Moss TD is another nice example pointed out by @DeeepThreat. You can move your hand/arm off the ball (see Reggie Wayne) if you want, but as long as you have sustained control with one hand, it counts.

As for Tate, I have yet to see anyone explain this. First, let’s recall the fact Tate was in front of Jennings and should have been the first to contact the ball. I proved the ball made first contact with his left hand. Do not even try and say it hit Jennings’ right hand first, as that is just depth perception. If you watch the video in conjunction with making the frames, the ball hits Tate first, and it did much more than just touch him.

Why does the ball get stuck in the air at this point if Tate didn’t have control, or only had his fingertips on the ball? Go outside and have someone throw you a football and try to hold it up in the air without any real control or grip. It won’t happen. The ball will deflect off your hand. Any non-sticky object would if you don’t actually initiate some type of grip on it.  Jennings only closed his hands around it after Tate stopped it in the air first for the play to even develop into a catch.

How else are you going to stop a football traveling roughly 45 yards in the air in 2.85 seconds if you didn’t initiate a good grip to control it?

This isn’t to say that you can’t grip an object with just your fingers. Having a big, strong hand would definitely help make it more possible.

Tate has a very interesting Twitter background pic  that shows him hauling in a ball with his left hand on a more difficult looking play in practice. These guys get drafted high for a reason. They are great athletes capable of making tough catches.

Notice that Jennings does a horizontal close on the ball with his hands. It does not move backwards or fall forwards after Tate’s initial grab. That supports his grip of the ball. It’s not like Jennings had to keep the ball up from being deflected away incomplete. Tate controlled it. Watch most catches in football. The receiver’s initial contact with the ball is when he gets the grip on it, and it is possible to do so with one hand.

Less than a tenth of a second passes between Tate’s contact and Jennings’ close on the ball. If you are trying to judge this in real time, how could that not look simultaneous? Makes perfect sense why referee Lance Easley made the call he did.

Consider the initial contact Point A, and we know from the end of the play when Jennings struggles to wrestle the ball away from Tate that Tate has that grip with his left hand still on the ball (Point B). So where between Point A and Point B does Tate ever lose the ball from his left hand? No one has any evidence that he loses control. That is why this is a TD, because he maintained that control from the start of the play through the process of going to the ground.

Other criticisms – Some people talk about the ball being in Jennings’ chest. For starters, there is no rule that says you have to have the ball in your chest, so just ignore Steve Young’s revisionist, agenda-pushing history. More importantly, everyone who thinks this is ignoring the fact that Tate’s hand was in the way of his chest throughout the play. Pretty hard to pull something to your chest if a guy has his hand lodged in there the whole time.

The NFL would have admitted they blew the TD call and it should have been an interception if that was actually the case. They did admit the OPI, which also would have ended the game. People don’t think the NFL admits such game-changing errors, but the fact is they do. What they don’t do is change the final outcome because of one.

Listening to some people, you’d think Jennings caught it first and Tate just fingered the ball on the way down. Some of the reaction has just been embarrassing. Not sure how long this play will be in focus, but expect to hear about it more should the season continue going sour for Green Bay. But hopefully by that point people would just realize this game didn’t decide their season, and it was their disappointing play starting in Week 1 that was the real culprit.

Not a right call that Mike Tirico initially made himself in the heat of the moment, only to bash for the last 12 minutes of the broadcast.

Take emotion out of it, and you will understand why Seattle got the touchdown.

This Week’s Articles

Captain Comeback Week 3: What the Hell’s Going on Out There? – Cold, Hard Football Facts

After 12 games with a fourth quarter comeback opportunity, this was a jammed-packed edition of Captain Comeback. It has only received about 4,900 fewer Facebook likes than you know which article.

Crazy Season Even Affecting NFL’s Best Quarterbacks – NBC Sports

For the first time in 58 opportunities, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger all lost on Sunday. If that’s not enough, Week 2 (1-3) was their first losing week. It’s just a reflection of what’s been a crazy season so far.

New Orleans Saints’ Disastrous 0-3 Start Goes Well Beyond Sean Payton’s Absence – Bleacher Report

The Saints are 0-3, but before we give Sean Payton coach of the year in his absence, let’s call a spade a spade. Drew Brees is playing like an average quarterback at best, and the defense might be the worst in the league.

Following a Legend: Andrew Luck Week 3 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars – Colts Authority

Luck came very close to his first 4QC, but a shocking 80-yard TD put that out of reach. Check the analysis of every drop back.

The Thinking Man’s Guide to NFL Week 4 – Bleacher Report

Included: the greatest 0-3 at 1-2 game ever, San Francisco’s Jet lag, must-win weekend for the century’s best quarterbacks, and no-huddle nuggets.

Shame on the Angry Mob: Golden Tate’s Touchdown Was Legit – Cold, Hard Football Facts

I just call it like I see it.

2012 NFL Week 4 Predictions

After an all-time worst 4-12 record in Week 3, it’s time for some redemption. Baltimore has started me off 1-0, but that was closer than it should have been.

Winners in bold:

  • Panthers at Falcons
  • Patriots at Bills
  • Vikings at Lions
  • Titans at Texans
  • Chargers at Chiefs
  • 49ers at Jets
  • Seahawks at Rams
  • Dolphins at Cardinals
  • Raiders at Broncos
  • Bengals at Jaguars
  • Saints at Packers
  • Redskins at Buccaneers
  • Giants at Eagles
  • Bears at Cowboys

Season results:

  • Week 1: 12-4
  • Week 2: 11-5
  • Week 3: 4-12
  • Season: 27-21

You can keep e-mailing me if you want, but I am less likely to reply and really would like to move on from Monday night starting with Week 4 Sunday action. Believe it or not the season has continued. More bad calls will be made. A lot more bad plays that lead to losses will also happen. That’s football.

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NFL Week 3 Predictions and Writing Recap

After being fooled by the Thursday night home-field advantage, I’m now 0-3 at picking games with the Carolina Panthers this season. That’s what I get for trusting a team that has not yet arrived with a quarterback I pegged as the most overrated in the league heading into the season. Won’t make that mistake next week, but let’s worry about this weekend first.

This Week’s Articles

Breaking Down the Pivotal Moments of NFL Week 2 – Bleacher Report

A loaded recap of the Giants’ big comeback, the comedy of errors in Arizona/New England, C.J. Spiller’s big average, Rex Ryan’s foot fetish, and whether or not the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles are the worst 2-0 team in NFL history.

Captain Comeback Week 2: No. 1 QB’s to the Rescue – Cold, Hard Football Facts

We only had six games with a fourth quarter comeback opportunity this week, but still some great finishes. Eli Manning did it again for New York, the Eagles came through the second week in a row, Andrew Luck’s first game-winning drive, and a rare St. Louis comeback win. Also the Patriots missed a clutch field goal and lost because of it for the first time since December 26, 1999. Is Stephen Gostkowski a huge choker compared to Adam Vinatieri? All the details included.

Can’t Laugh at NFC West Now – NBC Sports

After just their second ever Sunday of going 4-0 as a division, the NFC West looks much improved this season. Find out how they’ve done and it whether or not the four teams can sustain success this season.

Following a Legend: Andrew Luck Week 2 vs. Minnesota Vikings – Colts Authority

Andrew Luck had a much better performance this week, leading his first game-winning drive in the Colts’ 23-20 victory over Minnesota. Found out what was different for Luck this week versus last with a full breakdown of every drop back.

The Thinking Man’s Guide to NFL Week 3 – Bleacher Report

Previewing Giants/Panthers, Texans/Broncos, Patriots/Ravens, Steelers/Raiders and Packers/Seahawks.

Those 2-0 Teams Couldn’t Be More Different – NBC Sports

The Cardinals are tied for a league-best 9-2 record in their last 11 games, while the Eagles have the longest active winning streak (6). Yet, why does this 2-0 battle look so weak on paper? Find out how fortunate the 2-0 starts have been for each team, plus a statistical analysis that shows it does matter how you play on your way to a 2-0 start. I really enjoyed writing this one, as some of the data provided unexpected results.

Thursday Night Lights: Giants Blast Panthers in Historic Rout – Cold, Hard Football Facts

The Giants’ 36-7 win in Carolina on Thursday night is the 6th highest by a road team in any Thursday game since the 1970 merger. Find out if the Thursday home advantage is real or has just been a matter of favorable scheduling on the NFL Network.

2012 NFL Week 3 Predictions

Need to trust my gut more. The Week 1 team I was all in for except making the pick was Tampa Bay, and last week was Seattle, as I explained in this exact spot. This week I am going to make that team San Diego, as I think they will beat Atlanta at home and finally earn some respect this season as a contender in the AFC.

Winners in bold:

  • Rams at Bears
  • Bills at Browns
  • Buccaneers at Cowboys
  • Jaguars at Colts
  • Jets at Dolphins
  • 49ers at Vikings
  • Chiefs at Saints
  • Lions at Titans
  • Bengals at Redskins
  • Eagles at Cardinals
  • Falcons at Chargers
  • Texans at Broncos
  • Steelers at Raiders
  • Patriots at Ravens
  • Packers at Seahawks

Season results:

  • Week 1: 12-4
  • Week 2: 11-5

NFL Week 2 Predictions and Writing Recap

Pretty good start to the NFL season. On Thursday I was introduced on Wisconsin radio as someone “who really hates the Packers.” Not true, but good times.

This Week’s Articles

Peyton Manning Ties Dan Marino for Fourth Quarter Comeback Record – Cold, Hard Football Facts

Started the week off in historic fashion with Manning finally tying Dan Marino with his 36th fourth quarter coemback win.

Breaking Down the Pivotal Moments of NFL Week 1 – Bleacher Report

New column to review the weekend’s most interesting action. Putting things into context.

Captain Comeback Week 1: Broncos Skewer Dick LeBeau’s Defense Again – Cold, Hard Football Facts

This season’s first real edition of Captain Comeback where I review this week’s close games. Included: Manning’s record, ugly wins for Stafford/Vick, a historic finish in Minnesota, and those front-running Green Bay Packers.

NFL Week 1 Scoring Record Belies Offensive Issues – NBC Sports

While there may have been a Week 1 record of 791 points scored, there was still plenty of bad offense and ugly special teams play in these games. Quite a few quarterbacks threw pick parades, and the return of defense looks well intact. See Thursday night in Green Bay for more proof this year is going to be different.

Following a Legend: Andrew Luck Week 1 at Chicago Bears – Colts Authority

This is an article I had planned to do months before Luck was even drafted by the Colts. Every Wednesday I am going to have the breakdown of his game in ways that I don’t think anyone has ever done before, or at least not all in one place and free to the public. Metrics for how long Luck held the ball, incomplete pass splits, YAC stats, number of pass rushers faced, use of play-action passing, etc.

The Thinking Man’s Guide to NFL Week 2 – Bleacher Report

This week’s preview includes a look at domination by home teams on Thursday night, what 0-2 really means for your playoff chances, an update on the five rookie quarterbacks, and statement games in prime time for Detroit and Atlanta.

Carson Palmer Leads NFL in Failed Completions – Cold, Hard Football Facts

Who was this week’s Captain Checkdown? Carson Palmer of course. He had 13 failed completions. Learn about this statistical concept of measuring passing success for all 32 teams.

2012 NFL Week 2 Predictions

Last week I had a great start with a 12-4 record. I should have picked Tampa Bay too, but their December blowout losses to Carolina scared me away. Off to a 1-0 start this week after rolling with the Packers. Thanks, Jay.

Winners in bold:

  • Chiefs at Bills
  • Saints at Panthers
  • Browns at Bengals
  • Vikings at Colts
  • Texans at Jaguars
  • Raiders at Dolphins
  • Cardinals at Patriots
  • Buccaneers at Giants
  • Ravens at Eagles
  • Cowboys at Seahawks
  • Redskins at Rams
  • Jets at Steelers
  • Titans at Chargers
  • Lions at 49ers
  • Broncos at Falcons

I am very tempted to take Seattle, but I just can’t do it yet. Want to see Russell Wilson with a capable NFL performance first. I think Andrew Luck gets his first win after playing Minnesota’s bad defense at home this week. The Patriots are as much as a lock as you can get this week. The Lions have lost 8 straight to San Francisco, and they have no wins against a winning team under Schwartz/Stafford (0-12). Finally, I rarely ever pick against Peyton Manning, but I just have a feeling this is Atlanta’s big moment in the dome on Monday night. It is very important for their development to win a game like this. I can see a 31-28 finish after playing more keepaway from Peyton. That Denver defense is not Super Bowl-caliber yet.

NFL Week 1 Predictions and Writing Recap

Near the end of each week I will be posting my NFL game picks and summarizing the week’s articles. It’s simply a way to show a track record of how I wind up just picking the winners in the 60-65% range.

This Week’s Articles

San Francisco 49ers Destined For Big Fall – Cold, Hard Football Facts

Review the unique factors that led to a 13-3 season and near Super Bowl appearance for Jim Harbaugh’s team, and why they will unlikely repeat themselves in 2012.

Andrew Luck: What Have We Learned About Colts’ QB Entering the 2012 Season? – Bleacher Report

My review of what I saw from Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck. Hint: it was very impressive.

Career Records in the Clutch for Active QBs – Cold, Hard Football Facts

You’ve been asking for 37 months, and finally I deliver a table of 41 active quarterbacks with their career records in 4th quarter and OT comeback/game-winning drive opportunities.

NFL offenses won’t feature same fireworks as 2011 – NBC Sports

Believe in 6,000-yard passers? Not so fast. Read about the unique factors that went into making 2011 such an explosive passing season, and why defenses should be a bit more resistant in 2012.

The Thinking Man’s Guide to NFL Week 1 – Bleacher Report

This is a new column I will be doing every Thursday where I preview the upcoming week’s most interesting stats, records, facts, and provide the in-depth analysis & context behind the numbers. Any topic is on the table, and this week was a look at some major QB records that could be broken on Sunday, the expectations for Luck’s debut, New England’s opening-day winning streak, and whether or not the Cincinnati Bengals can step up against the better competition in 2012.

Is Peyton the Greatest Comeback QB Ever? – NBC Sports

Taking the comeback crusade big time on NBC Sports. Peyton Manning’s next comeback could be extra historic as a 4th quarter comeback over Pittsburgh would tie him with Dan Marino for the all-time record.

Captain Comeback: Tony Romo And The NFL’s Four-Minute Offense – Cold, Hard Football Facts

Ever wonder about the NFL’s four-minute offense? I break down the 2011 season to see the results, and they are full of rushes, and offenses relying on their defense and clock to win the game. That’s why Tony Romo’s game-ending dagger on third down to put away the Giants on Wednesday night was so rare and crucial.

2012 NFL Week 1 Predictions

I start off 0-1 after going with the Giants, but at least my prediction of Dallas winning the Super Bowl is off to a good start.

Winners in bold:

  • Colts at Bears
  • Eagles at Browns
  • Rams at Lions
  • Dolphins at Texans
  • Falcons at Chiefs
  • Jaguars at Vikings
  • Redskins at Saints
  • Bills at Jets
  • Patriots at Titans
  • Seahawks at Cardinals
  • 49ers at Packers
  • Panthers at Buccaneers
  • Steelers at Broncos
  • Bengals at Ravens
  • Chargers at Raiders

I will bust out a Christopher Walken-like dance from King of New York if Al Michaels drops the line “You know Cris, John Elway never actually had 47 fourth quarter comebacks in his career” on Sunday night.

2012 NFL Predictions

Even if I’m writing for four websites this season, that doesn’t mean any of them care about my personal predictions for the 2012 NFL season. That is fine, and that is why this blog exists.

The week-by-week win-loss prediction is probably the smartest way to go about it, but I am not interested in predicting records as much as I am predicting the general level of success or failure the 32 teams will have this season.

AFC East

1. New England Patriots – The 16-0 talk is nonsense, because this team is not good enough to compensate for an off day by their offense or defense, but with a ridiculously easy schedule, you can put 12 wins in the bank. This is one of the worst divisions in the league, and the Patriots should have no problem running away with it.

2. Buffalo Bills – Feel like darkhorse (very dark) Wild Card team, but I do not have confidence in Ryan Fitzpatrick playing consistently enough. Seven years in the league and we’ve never seen it, no reason he would start now. At least the schedule is favorable, and the defense should be improved.

3. New York Jets – The weekly circus, I find it hard to believe Mark Sanchez makes it through the entire season as the starter. One benching and one Tim Tebow miracle later, and it is game over for Sanchez in New York. The defense should be better than last year, but this weapons-lacking offense looks to have taken a step back.

4. Miami Dolphins – I will have spent more time watching Hard Knocks than probably watching the Dolphins play this year. Shaping up to be a brutal season. Reggie Bush will get some yards, Cameron Wake will get some sacks, but there’s not much else to see here. This has to be the worst set of receivers any team has had in recent years.

AFC North

1. Baltimore Ravens – I’m actually a bit down on this division this year, and that goes for all four teams. They had three playoff teams last year, but that will not happen again when they are playing the NFC East and AFC West. The Ravens have had their share of losses player-wise, Terrell Suggs’ injury is as big as any team’s biggest injury this year, though somehow I think Joe Flacco has a career year and offsets any possible regression on defense.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers – Not feeling great about the hometown team this season. The “upgraded” offensive line has quickly been reduced to the same subpar group because of injuries and Mike Adams being the disappointing risk everyone knew he might be on draft day. Mike Wallace is back, but how many weeks until he is back at 100 percent in this to-be-determined Todd Haley offense? Love what Antonio Brown brings, but this offense needs the big plays from Wallace. The defense is about what you should always expect: very good against the run, and a real question mark when they play the better passing offenses and quarterbacks. Just have a feeling this could be one of those 8-9 win seasons that’s not good enough for the playoffs.

3. Cincinnati Bengals – If Andy Dalton and A.J. Green are the next great QB/WR combo, then this team has a shot to have consecutive winning seasons, which is something Marvin Lewis has never done as coach. I think they win 7-9 games and miss the playoffs. I like some of their defensive pieces, but I don’t have full faith in Dalton taking it up to a higher level than last year, and I also don’t like their wide receivers after Green. Do like Green-Ellis over the departed Cedric Benson though.

4. Cleveland Browns – Different year, same old shi+.

AFC South

1. Houston Texans – This is their window of opportunity as they have the best team in the division, and one of the best in the conference. Matt Schaub’s return should spark the offense more, though even if he goes down again (real possibility), T.J. Yates gained some great experience last season and can keep things going. Love the combo of Arian Foster and Andre Johnson as their main weapons. Not sure the defense can improve or be just as good as last year, but the specific loss of Mario Williams is overblown. They still have guys that can get to the quarterback, and Wade is a better coordinator than he is a coach.

2. Tennessee Titans – I still can’t figure this team out from last year. They did some things really well, and some things really bad, hence 9-7 and such an enigma. Now they go with Jake Locker at quarterback, and I am very interested to see how he does after a few good showings in limited action last season. He probably won’t complete 60% of his passes, but he might have a high yards per completion average and can run very well.

3. Indianapolis Colts – All in on Andrew Luck, and what once looked like a 4-win season actually could turn into about 7 wins if he plays as well as he seems capable. The receiving corps is much better than given credit for, and Luck will make them better with his accuracy. It was hard to watch the Colts last year, but this season will be very entertaining.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars – Maurice Jones-Drew is the best player on the team, but because he is a running back, he actually is one of the easiest to replace. He’s back from his holdout, and while I’m sure he will put up some numbers by season’s end, everything hinges on Blaine Gabbert improving and using rookie Justin Blackmon to great effect. I’m not sold on that, and I didn’t like the hiring of Mike Mularkey either.

AFC West

1. Denver Broncos – It’s Peyton Manning, so unless the Broncos’ defense allows the most points in the league, that should mean an automatic 10 wins and the playoffs, just like 11 of Manning’s 13 seasons in Indianapolis. He may not be the same exact guy he was in 2010, but he’s still an all-time great. The schedule is tough, but that’s still true for the rest of the division too.

2. San Diego Chargers – Guess it hasn’t been applicable to call San Diego “the most talented team” for a few years now, and things have certainly changed from their past playoff appearances. Names like Tomlinson, Merriman, Williams, Jackson and McNeil are all gone. Philip Rivers should bounce back after a career-worst season last year, but I don’t think San Diego gained enough ground to get back into the playoff bracket.

3. Kansas City Chiefs – I want to say Romeo Crennel will figure it out with what should be his most talented team as a head coach, but I don’t see  a winning record for the Chiefs this year. Matt Cassel only excels when he gets to play a lot of really bad defenses (2008, 2010). He will be better this season with the return of Jamaal Charles and Tony Moeaki, but he is much more of a stopgap QB than a franchise player. Defense will have to carry the team, but the offense will let them down enough to miss the playoffs.

4. Oakland Raiders – “If Darren McFadden stays healthy” he will rush for a bunch of yards, and none of it will really matter as long as Carson Palmer is throwing bi-monthly pick parades. I think the AFC West is a bit loaded with quarterbacks vying for the role of Hollow Man: putting up a lot of empty stats. Palmer has essentially been doing that almost every year since 2006. I also think the defense will be one of the worst in the league, and with so many good offenses in the schedule, they will be torched quite a bit this season.

NFC East

1. New York Giants – They didn’t even win 10 games last year, but it was enough for the division and a Super Bowl run. I expect the Giants to be a better regular season team this year, though don’t count on them to win the close games the way they did last year. Think of it like 2008 when they got better as a team after winning the Super Bowl. Just keep Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz away from guns and nightclubs.

2. Dallas Cowboys – They have a lot of injuries to deal with at the start of the season, but so did the Giants last year. Key thing is they are getting through it now, and as long as they can start off respectable in the win column, they will be a Wild Card team by season’s end. I’ll trust Tony Romo over Michael Vick any day.

3. Philadelphia Eagles – If Andy Reid goes 8-8, he gets fired right? Tough pressure on a guy going through hell, but it has been a long, ring-less tenure in Philadelphia for Reid. Unfortunately he is tied down to one of the league’s least dependable quarterbacks, and it has been years since the defense carried the team. The Eagles should win at least 8 games again, but they’re going to miss the playoffs.

4. Washington Redskins – The Redskins finally have a quarterback to be excited about again. But they are at least a year away from doing any real damage in the NFC. RG III will finish as the runner-up to Luck in the Offensive Rookie of the Year voting.

NFC North

1. Green Bay Packers – Things won’t be as smooth as last season, but the Packers should cruise to another 12+ wins and tons of touchdowns on the board. The defense will give up fewer yards, but lowering the points will be the real goal. They cannot keep relying on takeaways.

2. Chicago Bears – Expecting a career-year for Jay Cutler. This should be the best offense he’s been apart of, and the defense is still one of the better groups in the league.

3. Detroit Lions – Nice story last season, but I think Detroit comes up short in their bid to repeat as a Wild Card team. They are not as balanced or deep as Green Bay and Chicago, and it’s always difficult to make the playoffs when you’re the 3rd best in your division. They probably never make it last year if not for Cutler’s injury.

4. Minnesota Vikings – Don’t ruin Adrian Peterson for your next head coach by rushing him back too soon, Minnesota. You’re not going anywhere this year.

NFC South

1. Atlanta Falcons – This is always a strange division to predict with the worst-to-first changes, but I’ll take the Falcons because of their consistency at the top, and I like what a second-year Julio Jones can bring to the offense. Matt Ryan is another QB I see a career season coming from. It’s about time for the Falcons to win a playoff game.

2. New Orleans Saints – If Drew Brees has a very good season again, expect him to win his first MVP award with the “no head coach” argument being his biggest reason. While it seems like Sean Payton is the mastermind of this offense, for Brees to keep things rolling (with a so-so defense too) without him this year would be a very impressive performance. But if you’ll recall those slip-up games last year against Tampa Bay and St. Louis, I expect at least two more of those this season, which is how Atlanta will end up with the division.

3. Carolina Panthers – Maybe this is a good time for Carolina to rise up and sneak into the playoffs, but I still think they’re another year away. The defense will be better with the healthy/improved LB corps, but they’re still not a great unit. Cam Newton won’t slump hard, but I don’t expect him to do as much as he did last year.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Josh Freeman bounces back with an improved offense and new head coach Greg Schiano, but it’s not enough in what might be the NFL’s deepest division.

NFC West

1. San Francisco 49ers – Already wrote all about the 49ers this week. They’ll win 9-10 games, enough for the NFC West, but it won’t be like last season.

2. Seattle Seahawks – I like what Russell Wilson was showing this preseason, but he in large part was not doing it against starters. It will look much different in the real games, and I don’t think he’s your next Dan Marino/Ben Roethlisberger (rookie QB God). Still, really like the young defense, and a motivated Marshawn Lynch runs well.

3. St. Louis Rams – I actually think Jeff Fisher will find 6-7 wins out of this team. Sam Bradford really needs to start playing better, or else the Rams will have to start looking ahead at the QB position. Just 6 touchdown passes in 10 games does not get it done when you have these other teams throwing 40-50 TDs last season. The defense also has huge strides to take.

4. Arizona Cardinals – Here’s a good candidate for your No. 1 pick in the draft. I cannot imagine how the Cardinals do any better than 4-12 this season. John Skelton is not the messiah, and his close-game success is not going to repeat itself.

Playoffs

AFC

  1. New England
  2. Houston
  3. Baltimore
  4. Denver
  5. Pittsburgh
  6. Buffalo

NFC

  1. Green Bay
  2. Atlanta
  3. NY Giants
  4. San Francisco
  5. New Orleans
  6. Dallas

Super Bowl: Dallas over Baltimore

I only picked two new playoff teams, so you know this won’t happen. What else can one do? San Diego for Pittsburgh? Chicago for New Orleans? Seattle for San Francisco?

And did I really just pick Dallas to beat Baltimore? Yes, because it’s about time the AFC has something not named New England, Pittsburgh or Peyton in there, and the Ravens were a play away last season. As for Dallas, the NFC is often so random, and I just think they’ll take a 2011 Giants-esque approach to the big game.

It’s a better pick than the boring people who have gone with “Green Bay vs. New England” the last three years. I tried to find teams that will overcome some adversity and peak at the right time, because that’s the way it has mostly been done since the 2005 season.

Yet when I look over my picks, I realized I left Chicago out of the playoffs, even though I wanted to put them in. Yet, if I put them in, it means no New Orleans or Dallas, which would really throw off my picks for MVP (Brees) and the Super Bowl.

So in conclusion, let’s just enjoy that the season is beginning, and forget about the half-assed predictions we are throwing out there right now. The only certainty is that you can expect a good share of the unexpected to happen.