The National Football League opens its 2009 season Thursday with the Tennessee Titans facing the Pittsburgh Steelers.
I can’t wait. I’ve had football fever for the last month or so, which is unusual for me. Maybe it’s because the Minnesota Twins are pretty much out of the postseason chase. I don’t know what it is, but I’m ready for some football.
Let’s take a look at the divisions:
My predicted finish: 1, Minnesota Vikings. 2, Chicago Bears. 3, Green Bay Packers. 4, Detroit Lions.
The Bears will be improved, and the Packers should be better, but the Vikings have a good recipe for success, and it has nothing to do with Brett Favre. As a Bears fan, I watched Chicago get to the Super Bowl with a great running game and a great defense. The Vikings have both of those in their favor.
My predicted finish: 1, Philadelphia Eagles. 2, New York Giants. 3, Dallas Cowboys. 4, Washington Redskins.
I’m a sucker for the Eagles. I find myself picking them to win this division every year. This division is going to be real tough.
My predicted finish: 1, Atlanta Falcons. 2, Carolina Panthers. 3, New Orleans Saints. 4, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Love the Panthers run game and the Saints pass game, but the Falcons are the complete package. Just one year ago, it’s hard to imagine I felt that way. But Atlanta as a franchise has really bounced back from the Michael Vick debacle.
My predicted finish: 1, Arizona Cardinals. 2, San Francisco 49ers. 3, Seattle Seahawks. 4, St. Louis Rams.
Could be the worst division in football, despite having the NFC champs in it. I could see any team winning this division – let’s not forget the Cards were merely 9-7 before going on their playoff run – but I’m not impressed with any of them. They all have pronounced weaknesses.
My predicted finish: 1, Pittsburgh Steelers. 2, Baltimore Ravens. 3, Cleveland Browns. 4, Cincinnati Bengals.
Hard to see this division being much different than last season. Two haves (Pittsburgh and Baltimore) and two have-nots (Cleveland and Cincy).
My predicted finish: 1, Indianapolis Colts. 2, Tennessee Titans. 3, Houston Texans. 4, Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Colts have to get their running game going after Joseph Addai’s rough year last year. I think they will. I like the Titans’ D and Houston’s O, but Indy’s got a more complete team.
My predicted finish: 1, San Diego Chargers. 2, Oakland Raiders. 3, Denver Broncos. 4, Kansas City Chiefs.
I’m not sure what to make of this division. I think the Chargers will run away with it, though in the NFL, parity reigns, so I’m sure I’ll be way off. Denver’s had a rocky offseason, and I’m not sure how the players will respond to it. I was never a big fan of letting Mike Shanahan go the way it was. So this pick is no indication of me thinking the Raiders are good; it’s just I think Denver will struggle.
My predicted finish: 1, New England Patriots. 2, Buffalo Bills. 3, Miami Dolphins. 4, New York Jets.
Jets will take their lumps with a rookie QB. The addition of Terrell Owens should help Lee Evans and Marshawn Lynch, assuming Trent Edwards can get everyone the ball. But the Patriots remain the class of this division, and now Tom Brady is back.
NFC division winners: Minnesota, Philadelphia, Arizona, Atlanta
NFC wild-card teams: Chicago, New York Giants
AFC division winners: New England, San Diego, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis
AFC wild-card teams: Baltimore, Tennessee
And now … drumroll please … for my Super Bowl pick ….
SUPER BOWL: The New England Patriots win another championship, defeating the Atlanta Falcons 31-17. Yeah, I know. I really went out on a limb there.
The beauty of the NFL, as the Falcons showed last year, is ANY TEAM really can come out of nowhere and go 11-5 and make the playoffs. You just never know.
I know I can’t wait for Sunday. I’m checking out the Twins-Athletics game at the Metrodome – a fitting matchup for my final time at the Metrodome to watch the Twins – before driving back to Fargo-Moorhead to catch the Packers-Bears game on Sunday night. Should be great.
If you disagree with any of my picks or want to include your own Super Bowl predictions, feel free to do so in the Comments section. I’d love to tell everyone I keep tabs on all 32 teams and am an NFL insider, but that’s hardly the case. I know Favre’s a Viking, Cutler’s a Bear, and T.O’s a Bill. That’s about it.