It's been a quiet topic around here since Judas made his move, but the NFL season is set to open.
Thursday brings the single NFL Kickoff event/game thingy, as the Super Bowl champion Steelers host Tennessee in Pittsburgh.
Since it's taboo to make picks after the first game has been played, it's time to make some predictions.
FanHouse's NFL preview -- which includes six team capsules written by your humble correspondent -- can be found here. To avoid repeating stuff you can read there, allow me to briefly outline my division picks, along with my playoff selections.
1. New England
4. N.Y. Jets
New England is the class, again. I think Miami will fall off a bit, but still be a solid team. Buffalo is improved, but won't be good enough to make the playoffs, seriously threaten New England, or save Dick Jauron's job. The Jets will make more noise in December than September.
Tough call. Cincinnati will surprise, but their defense isn't nearly good enough to beat out Pittsburgh. Baltimore is no worse than an 8-8 team unless something goes seriously wrong. The Browns? Well, yeah. No.
My surprise call comes here. Frankly, Jacksonville has too much talent to be terrible again, and they usually find a way to rebound after a bad season. The Colts will be a playoff team, and Houston will get close. Tennessee falls off because their passing game simply isn't good enough, and the defense took a huge hit with the loss of Haynesworth.
1. San Diego
2. Kansas City
The Chargers will walk away with the division title. Kansas City won't finish over .500, but they'll hold off the other two bad teams. Oakland is a laughingstock (in other news, water is wet).
1. N.Y. Giants
Look for the Eagles to push the Giants, but fall just short because of New York's monster running game and defense. Washington will surprise with an improved defense and healthy Jason Campbell. Dallas will be spending a lot of money on a new coach for next season.
1. Green Bay
Best division race in the league. Three legitimate NFC contenders battling it out through six head-to-head games that will steal many headlines. The quarterback drama alone makes it must-see TV. In the end, Rodgers bests Cutler and Favre, but these three enter the season virtually interchangeable.
2. New Orleans
4. Tampa Bay
Matt Ryan and Tony Gonzalez, along with Michael Turner and Roddy White? I like it! New Orleans has plenty of offense, and they'll need it with that putrid defensive unit. Carolina has too many depth issues, and Tampa Bay is rebuilding. They hope it doesn't take long, but rebuilding is rebuilding.
3. San Francisco
4. St. Louis
Big-time rebound for the Seahawks, who parlay improved personnel and health to a division title run. Arizona didn't improve enough in the offseason to make a serious bid for an NFC repeat. San Francisco should get better, but they have to get Crabtree in and solve their quarterback quandary first. The Rams are terrible for maybe one more year.
AFC Wild Cards: Cincinnati, Indianapolis
NFC Wild Cards: Chicago, Philadelphia
AFC Championship: San Diego over New England
NFC Championship: Green Bay over N.Y. Giants
Super Bowl: San Diego over Green Bay
As for Week 1, here you go:
Tennessee at Pittsburgh: Titans one-dimensional offense meets up with determined defending champion. They might not be as determined as the Florida Gators, but the Steelers fell off dramatically the last time they won the Super Bowl, and they don't want that to happen again. It's doubtful they will let up in Week 1.
The pick: Pittsburgh
Chicago at Green Bay: The two top quarterbacks in the NFC go head-to-head. Yes, you read that correctly. Nothing will be etched in stone after this game, but it will give both teams a decent idea of where they can go from here. Expect the Bears to test the coverage skills of Packers linebackers, especially Aaron Kampman, as much as possible. Meanwhile, the Packers will try to pick on the Bears secondary. Run games cancel each other out, so let's take the passing attack that has the most weapons.
The pick: Green Bay
Minnesota at Cleveland: You're not serious, right? This hardly seems fair. The Browns don't have the weapons on either side of the ball, and are relying on the quarterback mystery (which has been solved, by the way) and Eric Mangini's one year of knowledge of Brett Favre. Good luck with that.
The pick: Minnesota
Other picks (home team in CAPS)
ATLANTA over Miami
CINCINNATI over Denver
Jacksonville over INDIANAPOLIS
NEW ORLEANS over Detroit
TAMPA BAY over Dallas
CAROLINA over Philadelphia
BALTIMORE over Kansas City
HOUSTON over N.Y. Jets
N.Y. GIANTS over Washington
ARIZONA over San Francisco
SEATTLE over St. Louis
NEW ENGLAND over Buffalo
San Diego over OAKLAND