Thursday, September 10, 2015

NFL Picks Week One: It's the fourth year of the cycle, everybody!

Tons of great things happy every four years. In the world of sports, we see how intensive training and a strict doping regimen can produce thrilling competitions at the Olympic Games. In politics we witness first hand how much money it takes to buy the Presidency. Scientists gather to find out what cool things we can do with dirt. And in the NFL, it's starting to appear that against all odds, something truly crazy happens.

Every four years, the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.

I know, I know. Two Super Bowl titles four years apart does not a trend make. But when one looks at how totally zany those two title runs were, and how much better the Patriots, Packers or any other team the Giants played during those runs objectively were (2007 Buccaneers and 2011 Falcons excluded), one has to wonder if something strange isn't in the air. The Giants were a combined 19-13 over those two seasons compared to a combined 29-3 mark from the 2007 and 2011 Pats. New York was mediocre in most statistical categories, suffered coach-jeopardizing losing streaks and barely scrambled their way into the postseason in both seasons. Both Super Bowl victories required a late fourth-quarter touchdown drive that involved a mind-altering catch to pull off an upset. Each Super Bowl berth required an unexpected overtime field goal on the road against a superior opponent in perilous weather conditions. Each championship, in order to occur, would require its own series of implausible and improbably events.

And yet at the beginning of February, there we were, twice watching Eli Manning, the quarterback who had been a poster child for aloofness and unfulfilled expectations, lifting the Lombardi Trophy with a big ol' "Screw you" grin on his face.

No one really knows how all that happens, but there must be a reason. There must be an outside force affecting the data. And so, much like my belief that the Chicago Cubs must actually be cursed, something has predetermined the Giants' cyclical success. Some higher power has preordained that New York will upset the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl every four years. It's as dependable as the globe's greatest soil scientists gathering quadrennially to talk about earth.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not insane and I'm only slightly irrational. I don't actually think the New York Giants are going to win the Super Bowl this season. At least, not with that offensive line. But as I like to tell people, life don't care about your plans. No logical bone in my body really thinks the Giants are Super Bowl contenders this season, though I do think they're a wildly unpredictable outfit that could win four games or win nine and earn a wild card berth with neither end result being a particular surprise, but a Super Bowl contender? Competing with the likes of the Packers or Seahawks or Broncos or Colts or Patriots? That just seems like a totally insane, ridiculous idea on its face, and I know it.

But hey, it seemed like a pretty ridiculous idea the last two times, too.

No one really knows what can happen over the course of an NFL season. No one knows who is going to be good or who is going to be bad. All we know is that it will have its share of surprises. And if those surprises happen to include another miracle run by the Giants, well, I'll just be here enjoying the ride.

And speaking of having no idea who is going to be good this season, here are some terrible predictions.

AFC East
1. New England - 11-5
2. Buffalo - 10-6*
3. Miami - 7-9
4. NY Jets - 5-11

AFC North
1. Baltimore - 10-6
2. Cincinnati - 9-7*
3. Pittsburgh - 9-7
4. Cleveland - 7-9

AFC South
1. Indianapolis - 13-3
2. Houston - 8-8
3. Jacksonville - 6-10
4. Tennessee - 4-12

AFC West
1. Denver - 12-4
2. Kansas City - 8-8
3. San Diego - 6-10
4. Oakland - 3-13

NFC East
1. Dallas - 11-5
2. NY Giants - 9-7
3. Philadelphia - 8-8
4. Washington - 3-13

NFC North
1. Green Bay - 14-2
2. Detroit - 10-6*
3. Minnesota - 7-9
4. Chicago - 5-11

NFC South
1. Atlanta - 9-7
2. New Orleans - 7-9
3. Carolina - 5-11
4. Tampa Bay - 4-12

NFC West
1. Seattle - 12-4
2. Arizona - 10-6*
3. St. Louis - 8-8
4. San Francisco - 5-11

AFC Wild Card Round
(3) New England over (6) Cincinnati
(5) Buffalo over (4) Baltimore

NFC Wild Card Round
(3) Dallas over (6) Detroit
(5) Arizona over (4) Atlanta

AFC Divisional Round
(1) Indianapolis over (5) Buffalo
(2) Denver over (3) New England

NFC Divisional Round
(1) Green Bay over (5) Arizona
(2) Seattle over (3) Dallas

AFC Championship Game
(1) Indianapolis over (2) Denver


NFC Championship Game
(1) Green Bay over (2) Seattle


Super Bowl 50
(7) NY Giants over (3) New England*

And what season of incorrect predictions would be complete without a first week of mediocre picks? Here we go.

Last week: X-X-X
Season: X-X-X

NEW ENGLAND (-7) over Pittsburgh
Indianapolis (-2.5) over BUFFALO
Green Bay (-6.5) over CHICAGO
Seattle (-4) over ST. LOUIS
NY JETS (-3) over Cleveland
Miami (-3.5) over WASHINGTON
JACKSONVILLE (+3) over Carolina
HOUSTON (-1) over Kansas City
ARIZONA (-2.5) over New Orleans
Detroit (+3) over SAN DIEGO
DENVER (-4.5) over Baltimore
OAKLAND (+3.5) over Cincinnati
TAMPA BAY (-3) over Tennessee
NY Giants (+6) over DALLAS
ATLANTA (+3) over Philadelphia
SAN FRANCISCO (+2.5) over Minnesota

*Ok, really (1) Indianapolis over (1) Green Bay, which is probably just as likely given my track record.

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