Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.
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Don’t let your children grow up to be Buffalo Bills fans.
It’s a lowly existence, full of tears, soul-crushing losses and mediocrity passed off as trying.
We last made the playoffs in 1999. Barring an AFC East collapse, my team won’t make it again. Because of that, it’s essential to find other ways to make the NFL intriguing. Fantasy football helps, but so does prognosticating a 16-game season with the rest of the buffoons in a violent and often volatile sport.
There’s always a surprise team, that’s for sure. The only certainty I have going into this season is that that team won’t be my Buffalo Bills.
That said, here’s how it plays out:
New York Jets 12-4
New England 8-8
Overview: The Jets win the division going away with that defense. Miami might be the most balanced team, and New England is too young on defense and missing too much on the offensive line. For Buffalo, please refer to the 2000 through 2009 seasons.
Overview: Absolutely love Ray Rice in Baltimore. Cincinnati could make a charge, while Cleveland is a couple of years away. Pittsburgh can’t run the ball and will be without Ben Roethlisberger for the first four games.
Overview: Until Peyton Manning is done, this is his division. Houston is always a letdown, but I like Tennessee and a young defense and great running game.
Kansas City 8-8
San Diego 7-9
Overview: Oakland is my surprise team. The Raiders defense is legit, and they’ll score against teams in their own division. Kansas City, Denver and San Diego are all interchangeable teams. Oh, and relax, Broncos fan, seven wins is a good year for you.
New York Giants 10-6
Overview: This division has gone from the best to most overrated. Dallas has too much pressure with the Super Bowl in its backyard. Philly coach Andy Reid may know more about quarterbacks than anyone in the league. Kevin Kolb will have a good year, and Donovan McNabb is done.
Green Bay 13-3
Overview: Your 2010-11 MVP? Green Bay’s Aaron Rogers. The Vikings aren’t going to be as good as last year, and Jay Cutler could throw 25 interceptions. Detroit’s Matt Stafford is my favorite young quarterback in the league.
New Orleans 9-7
Tampa Bay 3-13
Overview: Atlanta’s Matt Ryan is due for a huge year. New Orleans will experience some letdown after its Super Bowl year.
San Francisco 8-8
St. Louis 2-14
Overview: The 2010 nominee for the Judge Smails division as the worst in football. San Francisco wins by default, sweeping Seattle. Pete Carroll comes back to the NFL, produces mediocre results, but can finally legally pay players.
AFC Championship game
Baltimore 24, Indianapolis 21
NFC Championship game
Green Bay 42, New Orleans 38
Green Bay 31, Baltimore 13