After what can only be described as a disastrous season for the Houston Astros, I have never been more ready for some football. It’s almost that time of year again when the weekend afternoon yard work ceases to exist because Saturdays are filled with tailgating and watching your favorite college team and Sundays are filled with watching the NFL and keeping up with your fantasy team in real-time. There’s really nothing better than watching über-athletic, 300-lb behemoths chase each other around a field on a perfect, crisp fall afternoon. And since the Astros’ season was all but officially over at the All-Star Break, I’ve been focused on the NFL for over a month. You’re probably saying to yourself, “Whoa Will, the real games haven’t even started yet. In fact, preseason games only started last week and those don’t count as real football – what are you so excited about?” I’ll answer your question with a question of my own – What are you supposed to do with all the downtime between your fantasy draft and when the real games actually start? Well bet on the team win over/unders that Vegas posted, of course! Here are some of my favorites for the upcoming season:
New York Jets 8.5 Wins – I loooove the under. Don’t let ESPN fool you, Mark Sanchez is the starting quarterback. They are just making a big deal out of the Tebow drama so they have something to talk about for 8 hours a day. Tebow will be the wildcat/goal-line quarterback in their offense that guarantees a 2-yard carry because if nothing else, he’ll at least fall forward every time he is tackled. But aside from Tebow, the Jets have some other minor problems like the entire team keeps getting into fights with one another. Whether it’s a disagreement between Joe McKnight and D’Anton Lynn or an argument between Antonio Cromartie and one of his eight baby mamas, a team should operate just like a close-knit family and without good chemistry, they won’t have a very successful season. Even though the Jets have more than enough talent to win more than 8.5 games, you’ve got to play as a team to succeed. And when every move every player makes is examined under the New York Media Microscope, it will eventually begin to creep into player’s heads and affect performance. This situation reminds me of the 2011 Red Sox “Beer and Chicken in the Clubhouse” fiasco. When controversy struck, players stopped playing as a team, took sides, got lackadaisical in the field, and it eventually led to losing a 9 game lead in September and the Sox missing the playoffs altogether.
Houston Texans 9.5 Wins – I like the over here. Now, I am a Texans fan. I’m going to try to stay as unbiased as possible throughout the season but I want to clear that up just in case it becomes blatantly obvious. Anyway, with a healthy Matt Schaub at the helm, an always-threatening Arian Foster running the ball, and the always-dangerous-but-can’t-seem-to-stay-healthy Andre Johnson at receiver, the Texans have some real offensive weapons. And when Andre goes down for a week or two with a pulled groin (which will happen), the offense should continue to roll because they have the best running game in the NFL. Defensively, the “Bulls on Parade” should be just as good as last year, if not better with the addition of LB Whitney Mercilus and the continued dominance of Brian Cushing and Antonio Smith. Aside from the AFC South, the Texans pulled a tough schedule this season with games against the AFC East and NFC North but I think if the defense steps up again this season, they can manage another 10-6 season or maybe even push it to 11-5.
Dallas Cowboys 8.5 Wins – Hate is a strong word so I’m not going to say that I hate the Cowboys, but I’m definitely not a fan. I think part (or most) of my dislike comes from the fact that two of my roommates are huge Cowboys fans so Sunday afternoons can get pretty intense about which game we watch. All of that aside, I actually like the Cowboys to win more than 8.5 this season. The NFC East is a beast of a division and even the lowly Redskins won’t be total pushovers this year with Robert Griffin III at quarterback. They have out-of-division games against the NFC South and AFC North that will be tough but with a healthy Mike Jenkins and the addition of CB Morris Claiborne, the Cowboys’ secondary should be much improved. And if Tony Romo continues to play at the high level he is capable of, the Cowboys have skill-position players that rival that of anyone in football. If all falls right for the Cowboys, I think an 10-6 season is not out of the question but realistically, I like them closer to 9-7.
New Orleans Saints Under 9.5 – Having your head coach suspended for the entire season wouldn’t be good for any team, but after leading them to the 2010 Super Bowl, Sean Payton means more to the Saints than most head coaches mean to their teams. And to make matters worse, losing a key defensive player like Jonathan Vilma really hurts. Yeah, Drew Brees is good. Really, really good. The Saints have a lot of these really good players on their roster but in an off season so full of chaos, I think it is going to be tough for them to stay focused all season and play like nothing is different. They play in a tough division with the Falcons, Buccaneers (who I think could surprise some people this season) and Panthers (won’t be pushovers either). Outside of their division, the Saints play the AFC South and AFC West, neither of which is terribly difficult but I don’t think the Saints will sweep either one of them. With all of the off-season drama that the Saints have gone through, I think a regression from 13-3 to 9-7 or 8-8 is likely. And heck, if the NFC South just beats each other up all season, that could still be enough to win the division and secure a playoff spot.
Now let me ask you, what do you think?