Thursday, September 8, 2016

NFL Picks Week 1: We've got a Wild start to the 2016 season

Friends, I'm feeling wild these days. No, no, not simply because the Mets have erased a 5.5-game deficit and climbed into a virtual tie with St. Louis for the National League's second Wild Card spot. I've got a different kind of "wild" on my mind -- a Wildcat if you will.

I'm not speaking of any current Wildcats, obviously, not after their latest debacle. Instead I'm speaking of a Wildcat who has moved on to greener pastures, or, well, at least higher ones, both literally and figuratively, though given that it's Colorado I suppose we should be careful about saying that. Tonight, Trevor Siemian, perhaps the sixth or seventh best player to fill the role of quarterback for Northwestern since I began my freshman year there, will be the starting quarterback for a defending Super Bowl champion in its season opener.

Why is this interesting? Well, it's been a while.

Let me take you back to 1955, when an actual Wildcat legend by the name of Otto Graham was playing his final season with the Cleveland Browns. Yes, I know. Cleveland is not exactly known for its champions considering this year's Cavaliers were the first to call the city home in 52 years, but for a decade-long stretch the Browns were actually pretty good at that whole football thing, winning four AAFC championships, three NFL championships and appearing in the title game for the respective leagues for 10 straight seasons.

That's a pretty remarkable record, and throughout that entire run, the signal caller for Cleveland was the Hall of Famer with the number 14, a fact I only mention because it is my favorite number. Why this matters is because, like Siemian, Graham was a graduate of Northwestern University. While other NU alums have made appearances at Quarterback in the six decades since (Mike Kafka, anyone??), Graham is the last Wildcat to be an NFL team's No. 1 starting quarterback.

Until tonight.

Tonight, Siemian will be under center for the Denver Broncos as they open the NFL season with the league's first Super Bowl rematch in an opener in 46 years. Don't worry, folks, I'm not expecting magic. I'm not even expecting Siemian to be good. Or even complete more passes to the Broncos than the Panthers. I have these expectations because I've seen him play football before. But it's still pretty fun to have a starting quarterback coming out of your school for the first time in recent memory when places like Texas or Alabama can't make the same claim. This is going to be one wild ride. I plan to enjoy it while it lasts. This should be about 27 minutes of game time.

Is it sad that I'm so excited to watch such mediocrity? Perhaps. But I can live with that. I can live with that because for football fans of Northwestern University, that common-place laughing stock that somehow dropped a home opener to a landlocked school which chants about rowing boats, this is a rare event indeed. So rare, in fact, that there's a very decent chance I will never see it again in my lifetime. That's something worth savoring.

Also, it's the start of the 2016 NFL season (this time with a trip to London!), and I guess that's pretty fun, too. Speaking of which, let's see how wrong I'm going to be this year!

2016 NFL SEASON PREVIEW (All records approximate)

AFC East
1. New England - 11-5
2. NY Jets* - 9-7
3. Buffalo - 8-8
4. Miami - 5-11

AFC North
1. Pittsburgh - 12-4
2. Cincinnati* - 10-6
3. Baltimore - 5-11
4. Cleveland - 2-14

AFC South
1. Indianapolis - 10-6
2. Houston - 9-7
3. Jacksonville - 7-9
4. Tennessee - 3-13

AFC West
1. Kansas City - 9-7
2. San Diego - 8-8
3. Denver - 7-9
4. Oakland - 6-10

AFC Wild Card round
(3) Indianapolis over (6) NY Jets
(5) Cincinnati over (4) Kansas City

AFC Divisional round
(1) Pittsburgh over (5) Cincinnati
(2) New England over (3) Indianapolis

AFC Championship
(2) New England over (1) Pittsburgh

NFC East
1. NY Giants - 10-6
2. Dallas - 8-8
3. Washington - 6-10
4. Philadelphia - 4-12

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

NFC South
1. Carolina - 14-2
2. New Orleans - 7-9
3. Tampa Bay - 7-9
4. Atlanta - 3-13

NFC West
1. Arizona - 13-3
2. Seattle* - 11-5
3. Los Angeles - 6-10
4. San Francisco - 4-12

NFC Wild Card round
(3) Green Bay over (6) Minnesota
(5) Seattle over (4) NY Giants

NFC Divisional round
(1) Carolina over (5) Seattle
(2) Arizona over (3) Green Bay

NFC Championship
(1) Carolina over (2) Arizona

Super Bowl LI
(1) Carolina over (2) New England

Am I going to be right? Probably not! But hey, a Northwestern quarterback is opening the season as the starter for a defending Super Bowl champion. I'm ok with a little wrong once in a while. And speaking of being wrong, no time to be wrong like the present!

Last week: n/a
Season: 0-0-0

Carolina (-3) over DENVER
Tampa Bay (+3) over ATLANTA
Minnesota (-2) over TENNESSEE
KANSAS CITY (-7) over San Diego
NEW ORLEANS (even) over Oakland
NY JETS (+2.5) over Cincinnati
PHILADELPHIA (-4) over Cleveland
Green Bay (-4.5) over JACKSONVILLE
Buffalo (+3) over BALTIMORE
HOUSTON (-6.5) over Chicago
SEATTLE (-10.5) over Miami
NY Giants (even) over DALLAS
INDIANAPOLIS (-3.5) over Detroit
ARIZONA (-6) over New England
Pittsburgh (-3) over WASHINGTON
Los Angeles over SAN FRANCISCO (-2.5)

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