Apparently, there are some people this year who are actually picking against the New England Patriots winning the Super Bowl.
Now, I don't know much about the NFL. You will be able to tell this by looking at my 2005 picks, which I'll lay out for you shortly. I have a 9-7 team missing the playoffs in the NFC, which almost certainly won't happen (two 8-8 teams made it from the NFC last year, for crying out loud). I have the Chiefs winning 14 games (for some reason, I always -- always -- overrate the Chiefs. And I have no idea why. I don't like the Chiefs. I don't hate the Chiefs. I have no feelings whatsoever about the Chiefs. I probably spend, in a given year, about as much time thinking about the Chiefs as I do thinking about the nation of Bulgaria. And yet, every fall, I pick the Chiefs to win a ton of games. I have no idea why this is, but I've come to accept that that's just the way it's going to be, and there's nothing I can do about it).
Anyway, as I said, I'm no expert. But at this point, it seems to me that picking against the Patriots would be like picking against winter, or continental drift. Some things are just going to happen, and we'd do well to set up our day-to-day lives to accommodate them (although, in keeping with my not-an-expert theme, you'll see that I have the Patriots winning two road playoff games on their way to the Super Bowl. I wouldn't count on that having to occur, but, I make my picks game-by-game, week-by-week, and then add everything up, and that's the way it came out. So there).
And now, without further ado, I give you my 2005 NFL picks, the great thing about NFL picks being that if you're right about something you can crow about it all spring and summer, whereas if you're wrong about something it's not like anybody ever goes and reads over old NFL prediction columns once the season is over.
Here are the picks, along with a hastily done, ill-researched assessment of each team's chances:
Arizona Cardinals: Arizona seems to be this season's trendy pick to emerge from crapitude and make the playoffs, so you can be pretty sure they're not going to. 7-9.
Atlanta Falcons: Michael Vick may or may not be regressing, but he's still such a powerful weapon and the NFC is still such a weak conference that the Falcons should, barring an injury, have relatively little trouble. 13-3.
Baltimore Ravens: Few things are worse than having to reminisce about the glory days of Trent Dilfer, but one of those things is having to consider that if your first string quarterback doesn't work out, your backup is Anthony Wright. 7-9.
Buffalo Bills: The Bills had no business missing the playoffs last season, although if you held me down and threatened to tickle me until I peed I still don't think I could give you a reason (other than plain old luck) why I think they'll be better this year. 11-5.
Carolina Panthers: Don't you dare underestimate how valuable a healthy Steve Smith is going to be to this team, because if you do, I'll come and find you, and then I'll punch you in the stomach. 11-5.
Chicago Bears: It's a bad sign when, during a word association exercise, people hearing the name of your team would be most likely to respond: "quarterback turmoil." 2-14.
Cincinnati Bengals: This team might have improved some, but in the loaded AFC how would you even tell? 7-9.
Cleveland Browns: Bleh. 3-13.
Dallas Cowboys: Either this team gets back in the playoffs or Bill Parcelles pulls a Woody Hayes somewhere around Week 13; I'm predicting the former. 10-6.
Denver Broncos: Every year a few perennial playoff teams crash and burn; my Spidey sense tells me that despite the best efforts of their hardworking GM Ted Sundquist, the 2005 Broncos will be one of those teams. 4-12.
Detroit Lions: They might be pretty good, and I'm only claiming they're a year away because I'm a Vikings fan. 7-9.
Green Bay Packers: It would be sad to see Brett Favre's great career end like this if you weren't, you know, a Vikings fan. 6-10.
Houston Texans: Even if the Texans never get over that hump, and I don't think they will, David Carr still looks like Superman. 8-8.
Indianapolis Colts: They're going to be really, really good this year, which will make it even harder on them and their fans when they lose to the Patriots in the AFC championship game. 14-2.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Another AFC team that keeps looking like they're going to improve, but can't quite do it because their are too darn many good teams in the conference. 7-9.
Kansas City Chiefs: And now, for the 87th consecutive year, my ridiculously grandiose prediction of an incredibly dominating Chiefs season. 14-2.
Miami Dolphins: I think the players -- who, as you may have noticed, are not in college -- will get sick of Nick Saban's crap. 5-11.
Minnesota Vikings: Pay no attention to the way they played on Sunday against the Buccaneers. 10-6.
New England Patriots: You may as well bet against good weather in San Diego. 13-3.
New Orleans Saints: Unfortunately, and as much as we'd all like to see otherwise, I think the stress will catch up to a team that usually misses the playoffs anyway. 5-11.
New York Giants: Eli Manning gets better, but juuuuust not good enough to make the playoffs. 9-7.
New York Jets: Yes, they came within an eyelash of the AFC title game last year, but the Jets don't look quite right. 6-10.
Oakland Raiders: I don't see any reason why the egos of Randy Moss and Al Davis shouldn't be able to get along famously. 5-11.
Philadelphia Eagles: Who in the NFC is going to beat them? 14-2.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Everyone seemed to know that Willie Parker would be able to fill in ably for Duce Staley and Jerome Bettis, yet everyone also picked the Steelers to have a much, much worse year than they had in 2004; clearly, I'm missing something. 13-3.
San Diego Chargers: Any time you've got the best player in the league on your team, you've got a shot. 10-6.
San Francisco 49ers: New head coach Mike Nolan looks like he's got his guys ready to go, but I'm not sure how good that Rams team they just beat really is. 4-12.
Seattle Seahawks: I don't follow this team that closely, but, how many chances are they going to give Mike Holmgren before they expect some results? 9-7.
St. Louis Rams: The Greatest Show on Turf no more. 7-9.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Um... let's see... I have "Cadillac" Williams on my fantasy team, so... I guess that's something about the Buccaneers. 8-8.
Tennessee Titans: The Titans never seem to be either good or bad for more than two years in a row, and 2005 looks to be Year Two of a downward slide; watch out for them in '06, though! 4-12.
Washington Redskins: Silly Daniel Snyder; you can't buy our love. 3-13.
* denotes playoff team
Pittsburgh Steelers, 13-3 *
Cincinnati Bengals, 7-9
Baltimore Ravens, 7-9
Cleveland Browns, 3-13
Indianapolis Colts, 14-2 *
Houston Texans, 8-8
Jacksonville Jaguars, 7-9
Tennessee Titans, 4-12
New England Patriots, 13-3 *
Buffalo Bills, 11-5 *
New York Jets, 6-10
Miami Dolphins, 5-11
Kansas City Chiefs, 14-2 *
San Diego Chargers, 10-6 *
Oakland Raiders, 5-11
Denver Broncos, 4-12
New England over San Diego
Pittsburgh over Buffalo
New England over Kansas City
Indianapolis over Pittsburgh
AFC Championship Game
New England over Indianapolis
Minnesota Vikings, 10-6 *
Detroit Lions, 7-9
Green Bay Packers, 6-10
Chicago Bears, 2-14
Atlanta Falcons, 13-3 *
Carolina Panthers, 11-5 *
Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 8-8
New Orleans Saints, 5-11
Philadelphia Eagles, 14-2 *
Dallas Cowboys, 10-6 *
New York Giants, 9-7
Washington Redskins, 3-13
Seattle Seahawks, 9-7 *
St. Louis Rams, 7-9
Arizona Cardinals, 7-9
San Francisco 49ers, 4-12
Minnesota over Dallas
Carolina over Seattle
Atlanta over Minnesota, Philadelphia over Carolina
NFC Championship Game
Philadelphia over Atlanta
And how do you like that? Only once have we had the same two teams meet up in the Super Bowl in consecutive years, but I say it's high time we saw that happen again. Is it hard to believe that the Patriots and Eagles will be the best teams in their respective conferences? I think not.
In fact, why don't I just predict the same exact score?
Super Bowl XL
New England Patriots 24, Philadelphia Eagles 21