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The Super-sized Predictions Thingy (AFC Edition)

See? Not even 48 hours after I talk about it and Troy goes down for 4 to 6 weeks with an MCL injury. The Madden Jinx is real, people. Arizona folks, good luck. Anyway, as I stated in Thursday’s preview, I said I’d give you your Super Bowl picks. Before I do so, allow me to recap by conference, sleepers included.

Division Champions: The Patriot Conglomerate, The Not Yet Super Chargers, That Other Texas Team, The Steel Conglomerate
Wild Cards: Purple Reign & Remember Kerry & The Titans
Sleeper Team: The On Papers Jail Bengals (“On Papers” be the slang for ‘on probation’, in case anyone was wondering.)

Alright, time for a team by team breakdown of each team…

The Steel Conglomerate
- Wow. Even without Polamalu, they hold off the Titans in OT to open up shop and defense of their NFL record 6th Vince Lombardi Trophy. Getting their seventh title (third in five years) is going to more or less be dependent on how healthy they can stay and how healthy Tom Brady is. To put this in historical perspective, let’s go back 20 years shall we? The New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers were unquestionably, the teams of the 80s to some degree. San Fran caught fire after “The Catch” and didn’t look back. The Giants were the only team that really posed a threat to San Fran during that time, thrashing them soundly en route to their Super Bowl in 1986.

The Steelers haven’t had the best success against the Patriot Conglomerate since its rise early in this decade. New England has beaten them in Foxboro, they even embarrassed them at the Ketchup Bottle in the AFC Championship game a few years ago. The Steel Conglomerate have the talent needed to beat New England in the postseason, however, the mental block might be the biggest thing they have stopping them from doing so. Big Ben has a very underrated passing game, yet you have to respect the man’s ability to rise to the moment as he did last night. Santonio Holmes is showing he’s not just a flash in the pan who had a great Super Bowl, as evident by his encore last night. How they hold up without Polamalu (won’t be back until after their bye week, which will be Week 9) is going to determine whether or not they’re hosting the Patriots in January or traveling to Foxboro.

Chances of Achieving Seventh Heaven: 85/25. Schedule’s very favorable, they only see two playoff teams after the bye week and they’re hosting two playoff teams (San Diego and Minnesota) before their bye week.

The Patriot Conglomerate
- Even in spite of the fact that Tom Brady went down last year, this team managed to win 11 games yet miss the playoffs on a technicality. If that doesn’t speak to the depth on this team, I don’t know what does. If the fact that even though they dealt away Richard Seymour for a future top 1st rounder in two years doesn’t really concern me, then perhaps you don’t get the greatness of Bill Belichick and the football mind he has. They upgraded their offense with the additions of the ageless Fred Taylor and Joey Galloway, giving Brady more weapons to play with. Very few will be able to go toe to toe with them offensively, not even Blitzburgh can match the firepower New England’s spitting. However, against the right pass rush, I think the Pats are susceptible. Defensively, the Pats realized they couldn’t pay both Wilfork and Seymour, so they went with the younger guy.

But Len, why did they deal away the guy who helped keep them afloat? Ah yes, the very question which segues perfectly to what I like to refer to as…The Franchise Theory.

The Franchise Theory (Name Subject To Change)
- According to this theory, it states that any franchise which deals away or disrespects its franchise player is subject to suffering on a global scale by the Sports Gods. Take the Pack for instance. I believe wholeheartedly that Brett Favre was not ready to retire two seasons ago. However, Green Bay was ready to force him out the door and force Aaron Rodgers into his spot. Ahem Teddy Tee, Brett Favre isn’t some old timer who’s not ready to relinquish his spot. He’s the guy responsible for the franchise returning to prominence in the mid 90s. He’s the guy who got the Pack to within a WIN of returning to the Super Bowl two years ago with a less than superb supporting cast behind him. Remember this when Brett’s sticking it to you next month and then again in the first weekend of November. New England recognized the Franchise Theory when they dealt away Matt Cassel. How so? Let’s refer back to San Francisco, circa 1993. Here’s a team that has a young up and comer named Steve Young, who has played very admirably in the absence of Joe Montana who at this point, was starting to show his age. In a move that many think was alright because Young got them a Super Bowl, Joe Cool is dealt to Kansas City for Steve Bono and some other nobodies. Kansas City stuck it to the Niners early in the 1994 season and come to think of it, had it not been for Elway that year, Kansas City may have won the AFC. In keeping this to football, other teams who have fallen victim to this theory would include and not be relegated to…

The Broncos (who have no idea how much worse it’s about to be without Cutler), Browns (note, they got their Super Bowl AFTER they left the city. Belichick got his Super Bowls AFTER he left the city.), Dolphins (never got Marino sufficient help to win in January), Raiders (might be the first franchise to be doomed for disrespecting a coach, but what have they done since letting Chucky walk?) and the Titans. (Perfect segue alert…for who’s next!!!)

As for these Patriots, no matter who they lose, they just win, baby. (I’m officially giving this motto to the Pats, as they’ve emerged as the new villains of the NFL. Note, villains in order to be true villains must be a team that no matter how much you hate them, win and win in spite of you.) The defense has lost several key pieces that have been intrical parts to their three Super Bowl titles this decade, that’s a question mark also with the Pats. Yet, in spite of these questions, is anyone really THAT skeptical of this unit? Much like the Niners in the 80s, the Steelers of the 70s, you know when they’re in pads, you’re going to be hurt and you’re most likely going to lose. Their offense is great enough to get them back to the point where they were two years ago. Perhaps not at 16-0, looking 19-0 a few yards down the way…but they want their crown back. But how much did their loss to the Giants two years ago really expose them? I say not enough to lose this conference, IF Brady’s healthy.

Odds People Respect The Patriot Conglomerate: 84/16…no, screw that. 85/15. They’re even with the Steel Conglomerate, past title experience (albeit by one) pushes them over the Steelies head to head, plus their dominance of the Steelers during this decade in the postseason.

Remember Kerry & The Titans
- Last year, the Titans went on a tear, going 13-3 winning the AFC South and thinking Super Bowl. Unfortunately for them, their longtime nemesis from Baltimore snuffed that thought out and ended their year at home. Homefield…didn’t mean spit. In the offseason, Vince Young upon hearing he’d have to fight for his job wanted out if he didn’t get it. Go figure that he didn’t get that or his job back. In a very sad ironic twist, the very man who was showed the door so he could become the Franchise Savior, is shot twice in his sleep by one of his many mistresses. So now, the Titans are looking to Kerry Collins of all people, to help this team get back to the Super Bowl and dare we say…win it? Oh and the Franchise Theory applies here because not only was McNair not ready to walk away or call it quits, he still had something left in him. Ask the Ravens who had an excellent year upon his arrival (13-3 to be exact) while the Titans struggled.

Still, the Titans had a good draft getting Kenny Britt from RU (the man I wanted the Giants to get, but I digress) and their defense should be formidable. Yet and still, I’m not absolutely certain this team will withstand the Texans in their division.

Chances Of A Titanic Title Run: 40/60

That Other Texas Team
- I can remember once upon a time, there was a GM named Charley Casserly. He was a really good football mind, having helped put together some great teams in Washington during the 90s. He was brought under much scrutiny for his taking Mario Williams #1 over the likes of Reggie Bush and Vince Young. He took so much scrutiny, he ended up quitting before Mario even took a snap in a Texan uniform. In any event, Mario worked out even though it was their second rounder that year (DeMeco Ryans) who ended up winning Defensive Rookie Of The Year that season. One year after this, Mario turns into Super Mario and all of a sudden, Casserly’s a genius. They say defense wins championships and well, that’s all I needed in terms of justifying taking Mario as the top man a few seasons ago. In a division where the lead dog has an offense the likes of Indianapolis, you’re going to be VERY hard pressed to build one to match it overnight. Defense on the other hand, if you put in the effort as Houston has, can be built in a matter of years. You look at the three major pieces and all of them were taken within three years or so of each other. DeMeco Ryans, Mario Williams and Dunta Robinson. Stud lineman, outstanding linebacker and a corner with shutdown capabilities. Okoye and Williams are as stiff a right side as one can run against, their linebacking corps got better with the addition of Cushing in the draft back in April. Their offense, is quietly better than most think. Slaton’s a legitimate stud in the making, Ay Jay is a stud and Kevin Walter’s a great #2. Schaub showed he is more than just a caretaker with his numbers last year, I think they’ll be the best team in the AFC South this year. If you’re looking for a legitimate darkhorse in the AFC, one that could make an Arizona-esque run for Miami in February, look here.

Odds Of Texas Two Step Towards Title: 51/49

The Not Yet Super Chargers
- Of all the teams the last three years that has just not quite put it all together, San Diego has been it. They’ve had much turmoil, from Marty & A.J. to now presently, Mister HGH and Tila Tequila. Go figure. People are predicting Tomlinson’s over the hill, now that he’s 30 and we are still waiting on Phillip Rivers to show us he’s an elite QB to go alongside the likes of his other Class of 2004 (Three Super Bowl Championships so far, more than the vaunted Class of 1983 combined). Even now, this team’s still got weapons. Gates is still here, Vincent Jackson has emerged as a legitimate threat for this Charger offense. Sproles emerged last year as a major threat in the backfield and the defense without Merriman for the most part, was solid. They came from out of nowhere last season and won the AFC West, thankfully Denver decided to implode upon itself and shitcan their coach which got them two Super Bowl titles (easily the most successful coach in its franchise history). Then, as if that wasn’t enough, they trade their most talented signal caller since #7 walked away for Kyle Orton. Brandon Marshall was all but ready to call it quits, until money brought him back. The rest of this division is either a work in progress (Kansas City) or regress of a perpetual state (Oakland). The fact is, the Chargers will all but assuredly have this division wrapped by the time we break bread for Thanksgiving.

So the only question is, can they bang when it counts? They were ousted earlier than expected in the last three postseasons, so the question is, what if they don’t this year? What happens then?

Chance Lightning Strikes Super Bowl: 51/49

Purple Reign
- Last year, in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, rookie coach John Harbaugh and QB Joe Flacco did the unthinkable. But how ‘unthinkable’ is it when you’ve got Ed Reed and Ray Lewis on the other side of the ball? Well, Rex Ryan took his clipboard and went to the J-E-T-S. Bart Scott went with him. Still, this defense is better than most on a bad day. If all cylinders are running on one accord, they’re one of the most formidable. Still, I don’t think they’re much better than the four teams I just mentioned.

Chances Purple Reigns In February: 35/65

Simmons Sleeper: The “On Papers” Jail Bengals
- If there is one thing going for Cincy, aside from being in the same division as Cleveland, it’s the fact that the last two teams to appear on “Hard Knocks” have made the playoffs the year they appeared. The Bengals haven’t been the same since losing to the Steelers four years ago or so and Palmer’s knee getting crushed by Kimo Von Oelhoffen. Chad’s changed his name, T.J. Who’s Your Mama decided to have a Triple Latte and a smile in Seattle and oh yeah…

The Bengals might actually have a reasonably decent defense. After going years of ignoring the defensive side of the ball, Marvin Lewis and the front office may have finally smartened up. I like Big Play Rey opposite of Keith Rivers and their secondary’s nothing to sneeze at. Their schedule’s not exactly that tough to start out with Blitzburgh coming to Cincy without Polamalu in what now becomes a fairly winnable game (if they can contain the pass rush) and they travel to Baltimore in early October. I can see them going into their bye week no worse than 3-4 and no better than 5-2. How they come out after the bye will be critical however, with games against their in-division rivals Baltimore and Blitzburgh. Still, depending on how they navigate that stretch, I DEFINITELY see them possibly winning 9 maybe even 10 games.

Still, they’re not QUITE there yet. I won’t even list their odds, since I’m just expecting them to get to the playoffs and nothing more. I shall get to the NFC momentarily…
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