Some Predictions for the NFL Season
The Panthers win the NFC South (Matt Moore was good down the stretch, and their pass defense was 8th with a 6.6 YPA allowed).
Calvin Johnson catches 17 TDs but finishes second to Randy Moss who catches 18.
Tom Brady is the league's top fantasy QB (last time he was 100 percent healthy, he threw 50 TDs, and the team has no running game to speak of. Plus Bill Belichick is the rare coach who will call pass plays in a blowout).
Wes Welker fails to record 75 catches or score a touchdown (Why is no one paying attention to this quote?)
Robert Meachem is a top-10 receiver (Outproduced Marques Colston in the second half).
The 49ers do not win the NFC West (Shockingly, they're almost a 2:1 favorite against the field).
Lee Evans is a top-20 receiver (Offense should open up under Chan Gailey, and Evans is the only game in town).
Kellen Winslow is a top-5 tight end (He went 77-884-5 last year, and the QB situation will only get better).
Reggie Wayne is not a top-10 receiver (only one of his 149 targets went for 40 yards or more, i.e., the explosion is gone).
Two among Matt Forte, Pierre Thomas, Jerome Harrison and Ahmad Bradshaw are top-12 running backs. (Running back is more situation/opportunity-dependent, whereas receiver is more of a skill position, so I'm hedging by saying 2-of-4).
At least one of the following doormats from last year — Raiders, Chiefs, Bucs, Rams, Lions, Seahawks, Browns, Jaguars, Redskins or Bills — make the playoffs. If I knew which one, I wouldn't be writing this, I'd be in Vegas placing the bet.
Devin Thomas is an every week fantasy starter by midseason (He's 6-2, 215, runs a 4.4 and just has Joey Galloway and Anthony Armstrong to overtake for a starting job).
The Giants are a better fantasy defense than the Jets.
Ryan Mathews is No. 1 on everyone's 2011 board (What do the two greatest fantasy running backs in the modern era (Emmitt Smith and LaDainian Tomlinson) have in common? Norv Turner calling their plays).
Some of these predictions are wrong.
It's shocking how many teams have franchise QBs these days.
Hall of Fame QBs
Likely Hall of Fame QBs
Pro Bowl QBs in Their Prime
Up and Coming QBs Considered Future Stars
Blue Chip Prospect QBs
Vaguely Promising Young QBs
Former Pro Bowl QBs
Scrub QBs Who Are Definitely Not the Future of the Franchise
The bottom line — 17 of the league's 32 teams have either a future Hall of Famer, a probable Hall of Famer, a Pro Bowler in his prime, a rising star or a blue chip prospect at the position. And seven more have younger QBs with some upside.
Things to Watch for in Week 1
Brett Favre's health — can he play at anywhere near last year's Pro Bowl level?
Jay Cutler's comfort in Mike Martz's offense
Kevin Kolb's mastery of Andy Reid's offense — can he keep pace with Aaron Rodgers?
Donovan McNabb's Redskins debut against their most hated rival
Joe Flacco with his new weapons against a stout Jets pass defense
Matthew Stafford in Year 2 with a healthy Calvin Johnson and Jahvid Best — can he keep pace with Cutler?
Me absolutely owning Brad Evans on Fantasy Football Live Sunday morning
Beating the Book
Cowboys -3.5 at Redskins
I'd take the home dog in this rivalry almost regardless of the circumstances, and given Washington's huge upgrade at quarterback and head coach, getting more than a field goal seems especially generous. Dallas is the better team on paper, of course, but I expect this to be a close, hard-fought game. Back the Redskins.
Redskins 20 — 19
We were 10-7 in this forum last season, 131-122 overall. We were 12-5 in this forum in 2008. From 1999-2009 we've gone 1439-1262 (53.3%, not including ties).
The full article comes out on Thursday morning.
Surviving Week 1
One of my biggest fears in life is losing in Week 1 of Survivor — not only would I lose my entry fees before getting any entertainment value whatsoever, but I'd take down all the people who trusted my advice with me. In most years, while the fear is well founded (after all, upsets are relatively common in the NFL), chances are good that it won't happen (usually you can get an 85-90 percent moneyline favorite). But this year is different. The biggest Week 1 line is seven points (Giants over Panthers), and the moneyline is -300/+250. That means the real line is +/-275, or a mere 73 percent chance that the Giants win (assuming you agree with that line). Moreover, I think the Panthers are underrated (see above), and the odds of that game are more like 64/36. So there really is no solid ground to stand on.
I was initially going to take the Titans, but there are two arguments against this pick. One, that they play the Raiders, and historically Oakland has been a survivor killer, especially last year when they knocked off the Steelers, Bengals, Broncos and Eagles. Second, according to the Yahoo Survivor Game the Titans are the most popular pick with 31.2 percent of people taking them. That means if the Titans do lose, and you have a different team, a significant portion of the pool will die, and your equity in the pool will grow by a lot. But if the Titans win, and the Giants (six percent) lose — only a very small percentage of your pool is gone, and your equity only increases slightly. In other words, the payoff is better by avoiding the Titans. The first argument doesn't sway me much — the Panthers, for example, have upset double-digit favorites seven times in the last 10 years to Oakland's eight, and anyway, it really isn't a very useful stat because Oakland's been on the dog side of so many double-digit spreads, it's not surprising they'd pull out a bunch of them. The second argument is more compelling — for the Titans to be a better pick than the Giants, you'd have to think they had a significantly better chance to win, given the disparity in payoff. To illustrate, if there were 100 people in your pool, and 31 had the Titans, you'd go from a 1 in 100 to a 1 in 69 chance of winning should the Titans lose and your team win. With the Giants it's just 1 in 94. Put differently, a $100 entry would be worth $106.38 in pool equity after Week 1 with a Titans win and Giants loss, and $144.93 with a Giants win and Titans loss.
So I'm going to take a different team — in this case the Chicago Bears (9 percent taken). The Lions could be a much-improved team this year, but I'd expect that to happen as the season goes on and their young players get more experience.
Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind before the full article comes out Wednesday night.