In Paraguay (where I currently reside) no one gives 200 guaranii for the NFL (current exchange rate in Paraguay? 4300 guaranii to the dollar). But soccer...oh boy, I've got 12 sports channels on the cable network and (literally) eight of them are playing soccer games or having talk shows discussing soccer as I write this (the others? racing, tennis, cycling, and the UFC channel which only shows fights). There is no coverage of American football, and while I might be able to find one game a week (we'll see...there was no coverage during preseason), I'm pretty much relying on the internet for my football watching fix.
"Cry me a river," I hear folks say. Oh, I know, I know...it's an addiction. I grew up with the Seahawks (they were founded in 1976, three years after my birth), and my family's had season tickets for several decades. The rising greatness of the 80s, the mediocrity of the 90s, the rebirth in the 21st century culminating in a glorious smack down victory in the Super Bowl last year...I've lived with it my whole life. Like playing RPGs (which I've also done most of my life), football is entertainment. There are people suffering all over the world and for all the good such things do to bring people together over a community event (gaming or watching sports), it doesn't remove the base causes for most of that suffering.
But like I said: addiction. Not as self-destructive as, say, my excessive heavy drinking or my (former) pack-plus-a-day smoking addiction. But an addiction, nevertheless. Forced to pick between watching the second half of last week's game versus Oakland and putting my child to bed with a story, I chose the child. But then again, it was preseason and the 'Hawks third-stringers were already down by two or three TDs. Would I have done the same in the regular season?
[ha! actually I would and did...even during last year's Super Bowl I spent a lot of time away from the TV to entertain my toddler. Family IS more important, I guess...but that doesn't cut down on the withdrawal pain]
So today I've been reading the 2014 NFL season predictions over on the ESPN. Each team has a designated reporter that follows the team all year long and provides a detailed breakdown of how they think their team will do against the 16 game schedule they've been handed by the League to come up with a final Win-Loss ratio.
What a bunch of homers.
If the season lines up as predicted, the final results will have 287 wins and 225 losses (there should be 256 and 256, barring any ties...we've had a single tie in each of the last couple-three seasons. No, it's not soccer). If you do the math, that means (on average) every team should have about one more loss than what's been predicted by the "experts." Since I can't seem to focus on gaming, I'll post the data here (along with my own thoughts) for other antsy fans who don't have the time to load and comb through the multiple web pages:
AFC EAST (2014 Predictions)
New England Patriots 12-4 (Last Season: 12-4)
New York Jets 9-7 (Last Season: 8-8)
Miami Dolphins 8-8 (Last Season: 8-8)
Buffalo Bills 7-9 (Last Season: 6-10)
Hard to argue against the Patriots as long as Brady is QB. According to the predictions (from both sides), the Pats will beat the Broncos in their one match-up of the season, which means the Patriots can claim home field advantage through the play-offs...and that would mean seeing New England in the Super Bowl one more time (based on their past play-of performances). Last season, the Patriots had to find a way to the post season with a sub-par receiving corps...this year, they're missing a big cog in their O-Line. I don't know, it's tough to see the ride ending for New England. On the other hand, who saw the Red Sox tanking this year? As for the other teams...I don't think Gino Smith wins nine games (that's just me), and...ugh...Buffalo? Jeez...when are those guys going to turn it around? Here's hoping they can top Miami (who has a host of problems).
AFC NORTH (2014 Predictions)
Cincinnati Bengals 10-6 (Last Season: 11-5)
Pittsburgh Steelers 10-6 (Last Season: 8-8)
Baltimore Ravens 9-7 (Last Season: 8-8)
Cleveland Browns 6-10 (Last Season: 4-12)
Okay, Pittsburgh homers: 2013 season? Eight wins. 2012 season? Eight wins. I know the Bengals can't win a playoff game, but what makes you think Big Ben (or the defense) is getting better with age? I'm more inclined to give Joe Flacco and the Ravens a wild card pass to the playoffs (with a 9-7 season, yes). But noooo, everyone loves-loves-loves the Steelers. The Browns looked better than the Steelers last year...right up till Hoyer got his leg nuked. This year, the Browns have lost Gordon AND they've got the whole Johnny Football circus AND they've got...what 11? 12 defensive backs? What are they doing. Like the Bills, it would be nice to see the Browns pull themselves out of the toilets one of these years. Sorry, I think all these teams are over-rated right now.
AFC SOUTH (2014 Predictions)
Indianapolis Colts 11-5 (Last Season: 11-5)
Houston Texans 8-8 (Last Season: 2-14)
Tennessee Titans 7-9 (Last Season: 7-9)
Jacksonville Jaguars 6-10 (Last Season: 4-12)
People keep calling the AFC South "the weakest division" in the NFL...haven't they seen the NFC East? I do not think the Texans are a .500 team. I don't see a 2-game improvement over last year for the Jags (sorry, Gus Bradley)...call it five wins this season. I think the Colts start the season with a three game losing streak and miss the play-offs. Really. The Titans have a much easier schedule than the Colts (and don't have the Mathis suspension hanging over the heads of the defense) and I think they squeak through as division leader. Assuming Jake Locker stays healthy this season.
AFC WEST (2014 Predictions)
Denver Broncos 12-4 (Last Season: 13-3)
San Diego Chargers 10-6 (Last Season: 9-7)
Kansas City Chiefs 8-8 (Last Season: 11-5)
Oakland Raiders 6-10 (Last Season: 4-12)
Okay, KC is like the opposite of homers. Why the predicted drop-off from last year's season? You don't think Andy Reid (who was a perennial play-off coach with the Eagles) won't have his team tuned better in his second season? You don't think he'll be able to a least split with Denver? Doesn't KC have the best home field advantage outside of Seattle? Didn't Alex Smith just land a giant contract (i.e. the Chiefs aren't searching for a QB like some teams)? Doesn't Charles still have some juice? I see KC back in the play-offs, maybe as a wild card, but don't count them out as a division leader. People feel that the Chiefs inability to win big games last year was the proof of "fundamental flaws" in the team. No...it was a sign of team growth from an outfit that only had two wins the year before. Expect the Chiefs to win more big games, and quite possibly the division. As for the other teams: I like the Chargers chances to make a Wild Card, neither Carr nor Schaub is going to help the Raiders much this year, and Denver will NOT be back in the Super Bowl. You know how people are saying the Seahawks are going to have a "Super Bowl hangover" due to there being no "back-to-back" Champs since the 2004-05 Patriots? Well, it's been longer than that since a Super Bowl loser made it back to the Big Game: that's the 1993-94 Buffalo Bills. All these "predictors" who say the Seahawks have no chance "because of history" but Denver does? They're ignoring history. No way, Elway.
NFC EAST (2014 Predictions)
Philadelphia Eagles 11-5 (Last Season: 10-6)
Dallas Cowboys 8-8 (Last Season: 8-8)
New York Giants 8-8 (Last Season: 7-9)
Washington 7-9 (Last Season: 3-13)
Probably the worst division in football despite having (potentially?) great quarterbacks in every team. For whatever reason, all these teams suck. Will Chip Kelly really enjoy the same success this season? Or will the other teams have figured him out? Will Eli Manning continue to stink up the joint? Will Jason Garrett finally rise above mediocrity? It's hard to believe Washington will do anything. Ugh...this is going to be a bunch of 8-8 teams (or worse) plus a pretty bad 'Skins team...I can't even predict whose going to win this division. Eli? Really? No...give Romo one more shot at the postseason (and a fat contract extension for mediocre coach Jason Garrett).
NFC NORTH (2014 Predictions)
Green Bay Packers 12-4 (Last Season: 8-7-1)
Chicago Bears 10-6 (Last Season: 8-8)
Detroit Lions 8-8 (Last Season: 7-9)
Minnesota Vikings 7-9 (Last Season: 5-10-1)
Oh, over-rated division redux. Man, I really hope the Seahawks beat the hell out of the Packers. Of all the visitors to come through Seattle over the years, the Packers fans are by far the most insufferable. Really...worse than Raiders fans (who are at least fun and boisterous). The cheese heads are soooo obnoxious...I feel the way about them that Niners fans feel about the Seahawks. Having said that, the Pack is still the class of the North, though I see their season more of a ten win affair. The Bears aren't going to sniff the play-offs (sorry), nor the Vikings (despite probably one more big season from Adrian Peterson). I don't know what's wrong with Detroit: they have all the pieces they need (Stafford, Johnson, Suh) but they just can't get it together. What is it with Detroit? All the cocaine and hookers? The fact that no one in the organization actually resides in Detroit? God, that city needs something besides hockey and the perennial also-ran Tigers. Maybe this year. Maybe. Some of the "usual contenders" have fallen down the ladder (see below). And, of course, they've got Tate now.
NFC SOUTH (2014 Predictions)
New Orleans Saints 11-5 (Last Season: 11-5)
Carolina Panthers 10-6 (Last Season: 12-4)
Atlanta Falcons 9-7 (Last Season: 4-12)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 8-8 (Last Season: 4-12)
This is the Saints division to lose. I don't see Cam Newton getting the Panthers back to the playoffs without some sort of receiving corps, but maybe I'm wrong and maybe their defense will carry them through with a wild card. I do see an aging Atlanta team challenging the Panthers, and while the Bucs should be much improved with Lovie Smith, I don't see as dramatic a turnaround as Reid brought to the Chiefs. Maybe in the 2015 season (he's got a lot of work to do).
NFC WEST (2014 Predictions)
Seattle Seahawks 13-3 (Last Season: 13-3)
Santa Clara 49ers 11-5 (Last Season: 12-4)
Arizona Cardinals 9-7 (Last Season: 10-6)
St. Louis Rams 6-10 (Last Season: 7-9)
Oh, boy..."the toughest division in football." Except the Rams lost their QB for the season, and Arizona and San Fran are both seeing their defenses (the strength of each team) lose players right-and-left. I think the Seahawks will come out on top again...of the division, the conference, and the League. But then, I'm a Big Fat Homer, so you probably shouldn't listen to me. I do think the Niners are going to look more like an 8-8 team than 11-5...I don't think Kaepernick is quite ready to go the way of Tony Romo, but there is something about coming up short in big games that can wear on a person's confidence. I don't know...Kaep's young and (I'd guess) hungry, but he had a lot of early success against some paper tigers: Washington, Houston after they imploded, Atlanta when they were 4-10 and out of playoff contention. And now that Harbaugh's defense is...what is going on with those guys? Ten arrests since the end of last season? I thought the Niners were all about being "above reproach?" Whatever...we'll see if their 1st string offense can score some points against a Cowboys defense sans Demarcus Ware (San Fran's first stringers scored exactly 6 points in four preseason games...that's ugly). Personally, I think the Cards have a chance to leapfrog the Niners for a wild card spot, even with the losses to their defense. But we'll see what happens.
*whew* Glad I got all THAT out of my system. At the end of the year, I'll try to (remember to) look back on these predictions and see how terribly wrong we all were as a Lovie Smith-coached Bucs team throttle their way to Tampa Bay's second Super Bowl victory over a rejuvenated Dolphins squad (hey...you never know!) and we'll all laugh (or cry) about it. At least, us football fans will. Until then, though...well, hopefully we'll have fun watching the games play out and the season unfold.
It's kind of like the joy one finds in long-term campaign play. I used to look forward to my Thursday night sessions the way I look forward to football Sunday (still would, if I was back in Seattle). Ah, well. At least here, I can watch the football on the computer screen (if not in person). Man...Thursday cannot come soon enough!
|Smells like victory to me!|
[just in case anyone cares, my prediction success was 62% during the regular season and 91% in the playoffs (where I missed on one game). You can take that to Vegas, my friends]