Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.
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Enough of Brett Favre. Enough of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning's injuries. It's the most wonderful time of the year.
Therefore, it's time for my fearless predictions. I guess we also could call them stupid predictions, as St. Louis did not, in fact, play Baltimore in the Super Bowl like I had so wittingly predicted last year. St. Louis was pitiful - a disgusting version of a so-called football team. Baltimore finished in the middle of the pack, with an offense that set offensive play calling back into the 1940s.
Nevertheless, what have we learned from the preseason, besides the fact it's too long? The Patriots won't go undefeated, the Cowboys could if they can run the ball, and my Buffalo Bills won't make the playoffs for the ninth straight year.
But here's how I think they'll end up:
- New England 13-3
- Buffalo 8-8
- New York 6-10
- Miami 5-11
No real shockers, except with the Jets. Favre's great and all, but that team isn't very good. Really, they're not. New England isn't as scary this year, with a below-average offensive line, and Buffalo invents ways to lose. Miami is two years away.
- San Diego 11-5
- Oakland 8-8
- Denver 7-9
- Kansas City 3-13
San Diego is again the class of the league. There are some scary injuries on that team, but the rest of the division is so weak that it won't matter. In Denver, I like Jay Cutler, but name one player on that defense besides Champ Bailey who scares opponents. There isn't one.
- Jacksonville 13-3
- Indianapolis 10-6
- Tennessee 8-8
- Houston 6-10
Jacksonville might be the deepest team, up and down. Something doesn't feel right about Indianapolis, and Tennessee doesn't quite have the offense to compete. Still, any of the top three teams could win the division.
- Cincinnati 12-4
- Pittsburgh 11-5
- Cleveland 6-10
- Baltimore 5-11
I really like Cincinnati. There have been so many distractions that I think it brings this team together. Pittsburgh should advance into the playoffs and might be the most under-the-radar team. Cleveland is overrated, and Baltimore starts a rookie at quarterback.
- Dallas 12-4
- Philadelphia 11-5
- New York 8-8
- Washington 7-9
Probably the best division in football. Dallas has playmakers all over the field, but I like Philadelphia when they can get anyone to catch the ball.
It's going to be a big year for Donovan McNabb. The Giants lost too much on defense to repeat, and Washington doesn't have an offense that can compete.
- Arizona 10-6
- Seattle 9-7
- St. Louis 5-11
- San Francisco 3-13
I like what Arizona's done. Kurt Warner provides a lot more than Matt Leinart; mainly, he can throw a ball more than 35 yards and won't end up in hot tubs with a bunch of coeds.
Seattle is always right there, but they never have enough. St. Louis doesn't provide anything, but they should be better than last year.
- Tampa Bay 10-6
- New Orleans 9-7
- Carolina 6-10
- Atlanta 2-14
Tampa Bay wins with Jon Gruden. New Orleans may score 700 points but might give up 1,400. Carolina will struggle, and Atlanta is the worst team in football.
- Detroit 11-5
- Chicago 8-8
- Green Bay 8-8
- Minnesota 6-10
There's my surprise team, the Detroit Lions. Just wait. Everybody in the rest of the division has had drama, except the Lions. It'll pay off, and memories of Barry Sanders and Wayne Fontes will dance through the heads of everybody in Detroit.
- Indianapolis and Pittsburgh
- New Orleans and Philadelphia
AFC Championship game:
- Jacksonville 17, San Diego 10
NFC Championship game:
- Philadelphia 42, Dallas 31
Super Bowl XLIII at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa:
- Jacksonville 31, Philadelphia 28