Friday, September 30, 2011

Divine Intervention

If God was really helping professional athletes out, wouldn’t we notice?

Most weekends during the fall, I (along with 150,000,000+ other Americans) sit at home and watch football players follow up most plays with a theatrical hop, skip and skyward glance.  Often this glance is accompanied by crossed arms, closed eyes or biblical verses scrawled on their eyeblack.  They may be thanking God for the play’s result, but the result was clearly human – all too often a defender will take down a running back after a 30 yard run only to genuflect and thank the Big Man upstairs for helping him make a play on the ball.  Where was God for the first 30 yards?  If he took sides, wouldn’t we notice?  The same basic principal holds true for the winter, spring and summer (basketball, baseball and baseball, respectively); professional athletes seem to give God quite a bit of credit for even the most mundane performances, recognizing divine influence in every deep 3-pointer and infield single.  

But what if God made his presence felt in more concrete terms?

What if the next time Tim Tebow (God’s favorite son) gets into a game and hurdles someone, he just keeps floating up, higher and higher, breaking the plane just before he disappears into the heavens.  What if Donte Greene takes one of his patented no look, half court running three pointers – but the ball never leaves his hand.  Instead, he floats into the paint and rips the rim right off the backboard.  They call the game, the Kings win, and wearing thorny crown instead of a headband becomes commonplace (until Lebron starts doing it, at which point everyone else stops except for Chris Bosh).  Better yet, what if the Sacramento Kings make money next season?

How will the sporting world respond?   Here are a few guesses:

1) Rethink the whole “don’t sacrifice animals” thing.  I think at this point God could go for a golden Bull, divine intervention burns more calories than you might think.  Plus, this particular Bull has a lot of vitamins and minerals, and everything else you get from eating 6 meals a day.  

2) Rename the New Jersey Nets the Brooklyn Rapture – it would be more relevant than ever, and the new stadium can serve holy water instead of Poland Spring.  Who wouldn’t be a little intimidated playing on the road at an arena named “God’s House” (until they sell the rights to Dr. Scholl’s)?

3) Revel in the sale of the Dodgers by Frank McCourt.  After God reveals himself to the sporting world, Satan comes forward and formally apologizes for his henchman.  The Devil may have dispatched Frank to wreak havoc on the world, but even he didn’t have this in mind.  Doug Brian also makes an appearance at the press conference before returning to his new home in the underworld.  

4) Rewrite the rules to eliminate interceptions in football, steals in basketball and stolen bases in baseball.  Remember – God is watching.  Pooch punts on first down, teams voluntarily turning the ball over, these selfless acts all become the norm as athletes and coaches try and secure their own tickets to Heaven (perhaps the greatest competition of them all). 

Will any of these things ever happen?  Only time will tell, that or Rachel Nichols.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

2011 Baseball Postseason Preview

Now that we have settled who the best 8 teams are by playing 162 games, let's decide between those 8 teams in roughly 16 games. Sweet, dude.

Say what you will about last night’s baseball shaningans, but it may have been the most exciting single night of regular season baseball ever. Tim Kurkjian, ESPN’s father time of baseball, was awestruck and immediately waxed eloquence about what an unbelievable night it had been. For on this night, baseball romantics had their wildest dreams. 2011 Chris Carpenter looked like 2009 Chris Carpenter, Craig Kimbrel blew his 5th(!) save in the last 20 days, Jonathon Papelbon made the 9th inning a metaphor of Boston’s entire season, and some dude named Dan Johnson capped an unfathomable comeback with a two-strike, two-out, line drive home-run that was his first beany since April 8th.

But - deep breaths - now a new season starts. Forget what teams did in the previous 162 (yes, even Phillies fans, the other 162 actually don’t mean anything anymore) and gear up for the playoffs, where small mistakes cannot be hidden by 161 other games. Prognosticating is a guess at best, so I won’t do it – truly anything can happen in these short series: the team with the best regular season record has only won the World Series twice in the last 10 years (Congrats, 2009 Yankees and 2007 Red Sox – so, hold onto your hearts Phillies fans and don't act surprised if you don't win).

Let’s take a look at the Division Series match-ups.

American League

New York vs. Detroit
Detroit is the team that nobody wants to play in the playoffs. They played well in September (20-6), they have the best pitcher in all of baseball (apologies Halladay fans, Verlander’s stats res ipsa loceteur and he pitches in the tougher pitcher's league), and they have a formidable line up. But, not so fast my friends, the Yankees may be their worst match up. While they did decide to take the last few days of the season off (much to Boston’s chagrin), they played good September baseball, they have a stud ace with CC (who can at least come close to matching up with Verlander), and they have the only lineup in the 2011 playoffs that is better than Detroit’s.

Texas vs. Tampa Bay
Well, as everyone expected a month ago, we have a Texas/Tampa playoffs series. Not. Texas comes in with a confident, consistent, pitching staff that can lean on experience from last year. They were 19-6 in September and have the deepest pitching staff in the American League playoffs, going comfortably 4, or even 5, deep. And, despite popular belief, Tampa did not play amazingly well (just solid) in September (going 17-10) (Boston just played that bad). They do have a solid pitching staff, but there is a reason why they were 9 games out of the playoffs going into the month. In the end, their pitching staffs will probably offset one another and whoever decides to hit well, wins.

National League

Philadelphia vs. St. Louis
Philadelphia has the best pitching staff that baseball has seen in maybe 50+ years (someone look up the 1954 Indians), but their hitting is pedestrian at best. St. Louis played well in September (18-8), including winning 3 of 4 against a Phillies team that had nothing to play for. Having to use Chris Carpenter on Wednesday in order to get into the playoffs may end up being better for St. Louis. He avoids going up against Halladay, and may still be able to make two starts in the series (3 days rest for a Game 2 Sunday and then 4 days for a Game 5 Friday). If the Phillies offense remains, as it has for much of the season, mostly dormant, this one could have “upset city, babay" written all over it.

Milwaukee vs. Arizona
Two upstart teams meet in what will easily be the least watched division series - I am pretty sure that more people care about Wisconsin/Nebraska this Saturday than they do about the Brewers this week. Milwaukee won their division on what was an unbelievable last week of July and month of August, but September, just as it does everywhere else (weather joke!), cooled things down. Their line up is stout with Braun, Fielder, and Hart and with Greinke and Gallardo making the letter G look cool again for the first time since Gigli, the Brewers are nothing to take lightly. Arizona will be leaning on two stars, Upton and Kennedy. Kennedy and Hudson match up well against the G-babys of Milwaukee, but Upton will have to be preternatural in order to help the D-backs match the output of the Brewer’s bats.

Let the madness begin, enjoy the postseason, and here's to hoping that you don't see too many Craig Sager suits.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Rise of Boise

I remember the first time I watched Boise State. As an Arkansas Razorback fan, having a 15th ranked "Mid-Major" come into our home field without a single notable player was actually a little insulting. Maybe if this was on that silly blue field of theirs, they would stand a chance. But not in an SEC home stadium. 41-14 later, they were no longer in the top 25. Boise didn't lose another game that year.

This was 2002. They were a Mid-Major team, with Mid-Major talent, with Mid-Major facilities, and a Mid-Major Athletic Budget. Can't really blame them; they were only 6 years removed from making the jump from Division 1-AA to Division 1-A.

2002 Boise State is not 2011 Boise State. Now they have the 2nd best coach in the country (Guess who's number #1?), NFL prospects (Nate Potter OT, Doug Martin RB, Billy Winn DT, Kellen Moore QB), and respectable (as opposed to horrific) facilities. They've been recruiting off the Oklahoma win (do these plays ever get old?), more national exposure, and a much larger recruiting budget. 2002 Boise State could not dominate Georgia on both sides of the line of scrimmage like 2011.

Which is why Boise State is the most complete team in the country. Too big and physical for teams not as talented as them. Too smart for teams better than them. They can beat you in too many ways, and they have consistently beat top tier teams in different ways over the last few years.

I love Bama and LSU as much as anyone, but they have significant flaws that could cost them at some point this season. Specifically at QB.

Look at the QBs from the last 6 national champions:
Cam Newton
Greg Mcelroy
Tim Tebow
Matt Flynn
Chris Leak (Senior year Chris Leak was significantly better than the previous three years)
Vince Young
Matt Leinart

What do all of these guys have in common? They were consistent and efficient. They may not be the best NFL Draft Prospects, but they are the perfect college QBs.

No one in college football is more consistent and efficient than Kellen Moore. He's the Tom Brady of college football. He may not have the best tools, but he uses pace, numbers, and a constant distribution of the football to keep the chains moving. Even Alabama and LSU won't be able to stop this kid.

2011 Boise State is an SEC team playing in the wrong conference. They won't lose a game this season, despite everyone throwing everything they have at them. In a perfect world, they would end up as National Champions.

But they won't. Because to everyone else, Boise is still the 2002 team who lost to a big time SEC team and then ran the table. Too bad.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Welcome To The New Sports Casual

After almost 15 months, 260+ posts, and 33,000+ pageviews, Sports Casual has gone through some big changes. The cosmetic ones are obvious. We've also moved to (though the old domain will certainly still work). Most importantly, however, Sports Casual is now a collaborate effort. We've added 5 terrific new authors so that you can read daily posts from a wide range of perspectives. Steve, Tyler, Joe, Ned, and Josh will be bringing new styles, new insights, and new humor to your computers.

We've seen some great sports over the last year and a quarter: the Packers won a Super Bowl with what was essentially a second string team plus Aaron Rodgers, the Bruins hoisted the Stanley Cup after a wild seven game serious, Dallas sent LeBron and his evil trio home without a ring, the Giants surprised everyone with a World Series title, Spain ascended to global supremacy with a World Cup title...the list goes on. In the next few days, months, and years, we're sure to see a lot more. And we'll be here whenever you'd like to find a different take on things.

If you want to see highlights (or today's overhyped sports celebrity rumors), you can always flip on ESPN. If you want to see some niche sports and a broadcaster try, there's Versus for that. Sports Casual is by no means meant to be your "#1 Sports News Source;" it's here to supplement the great sports networks and sites that already exist. This blog is insightful but not pretentious. It is bold but not crass, opinionated but not biased, entertaining but not puerile. Above all else, this blog is meant to start a conversation. I am quite grateful towards those readers who keep coming back, and I am certain you'll enjoy the new and improved Sports Casual.

Thanks for being part of the conversation.

(If you'd like to be a guest writer for Sports Casual, simply email your article to and it will be up on the site within a few days.)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fantasy Football 2011: Week 2

In just the second week of the season, we may already be seeing some of the best and worst teams emerge from the pack. Two 2-0 teams have already managed to crack the 220 point mark, while one 0-2 team hasn't even mustered a total of 100. Of course, there's still plenty of time for this to change. Let's expect a blockbuster deal or two in the next few weeks. But I digress. Here are the results from week 2:

Vanilla Thunder (2-0) def. Backside Georges^2 (0-2), 123-71
-Vanilla Thunder grabbed another impressive victory and has to be considered the early frontrunner in the league. Tom "Terrific" Brady led the way with 28 points, while RBs LeSean McCoy and Jahvid Best each contributed 23 points to the effort. Backside Georges^2 has to be concerned after another big loss, but did get some good WR play from Larry Fitzgerald (19) and Calvin Johnson (14).

Arian Foster's Hammy (2-0) def. Team Trick or Vick (0-2), 104-70
-The woes continue for Team Trick or Vick, as Arian Foster's Hammy got past two 0 point scorers to put up 100+ points. Despite bagels from Dez Bryant and Mike Williams, Arian Foster's Hammy had another great week. Matt Stafford tallied 25 points, and RBs Darren McFadden and Michael Turner combined for 43. Team Trick or Vick only got 11 points from a concussed Vick, and saw decent but not great play from just about every other position.

Dream Team (1-1) def. Abusement Park [aka Balls and Weiners] (0-2), 101-68
-A name change didn't help Abusement Park get a W, as the team dropped its second straight matchup. Dream Team got an excellent performance from #1 overall draft pick Adrian Peterson, who had 26 points. Abusement Park got 15 from a pair of players, but the overall performance left quite a bit to be desired.

CorporateOverlords (1-1) def. Gobias Industries (1-1), 111-88
-Corporate Overlords got some big-time numbers from up and down the roster. Tony Romo (21), Stevie Johnson (15), Rashard Mendenhall (13), Peyton Hillis (20), Neil Rackers (11), and the NYG defense (13) all reached double digits. Gobias Industries got 20 points from TE Rob Gronkowski, but didn't get enough WR production to keep the matchup close.

Shonn of the Dead (2-0) def. The Dream Team (0-2), 126-97
-Shonn of the Dead looks like a force to be reckoned with. The team followed up a 94-point performance in week 1 with 126 points this week. Every player minus Jermaine Gresham was in double digits, including 2 players over the 20 point mark and 2 more with 15+. Fred Jackson led the way with 25. The Dream Team had a strong week, including 32 (!!!) points from Miles Austin, but ran into a tough opponent.

TitForTat (2-0) def. Carson Palmer's 401k (0-2), 108-48
-TitForTat got off to a strong 2-0 start with a huge win. Drew Brees had 22, and recent waiver acquisition Tony Gonzalez scored 20. There's a solid pick up, for sure. The other team in this matchup does not deserve to be mentioned.

Stepdads (1-1) def. The Backup QB (1-1), 95-89
-Propelled by Vincent Jackson's 29, Stepdads eked out a close one. The Backup QB also had a 29-point WR in Jeremy Maclin, but the difference came at defense, where Stepdads' Dallas D had a six point edge on that of the Chicago Bears.

**Special Awards**
Highest Scoring Team: Shonn of the Dead with 126. Hello.

Lowest Scoring Team: Carson Palmer's 401k, for the second week in a row, with 48.
Best Player: The Dream Team's Miles Austin with 32, albeit in a losing effort.
Worst Player: Gobias Industries' Randall Cobb with -1. Maybe week 1 was a fluke.
Best Matchup: Stepdads (95) vs. The Backup QB (89). Always a close game for The Backup QB, it seems.
Worst Decision: Abusement Park for starting L.T. (0 points). This isn't 2006.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Faking It?

The Rams have asked the NFL to investigate the possibility that the Giants faked injuries while St. Louis was successfully running the no-huddle offense. (Point #1 that I would like to acknowledge immediately: Giants and their fans should be ashamed that any type of Rams' offense, let alone the no-huddle, proved to be at all effective).

Due to the cable snafu of the century, I don't have ESPN. I'm sure this story has been covered extremely poorly by, let's say Trent Dilfer, but here's the Sports Casual take on things: ARE YOU SERIOUS? As if the world needed another reason to hate New Jersey [Point #2].

At the very root of things, I would think this was an issue of pride. [Point #3 and Legitimate Idea #1]. NFL players are some of the strongest, toughest, most athletic human beings ever to walk the earth. Any one of them, even a kicker, could break me in half if he wanted to. What kind of self-respecting player would "play hurt" because coach said so? Would anyone really be willing to jeopardize their toughness,  a trait that is valued so highly in the NFL?

More importantly for the league, faking injuries calls the integrity of the game into question [Point #4, Legitimate Idea #2]. Not to make any hasty generalizations here, but it only takes a few rap sheets before we realize that individual integrity does not exist across 100% of the player pool. Even at the coaching level we've seen events like Spygate and NCAA investigations, which assure us that coaches, too, are not beyond cheating.

But the league desperately needs to preserve the authenticity of its product in order to maintain universal popularity. I will contend that fake injuries are the #3 reason why soccer struggles in America, behind low scores and America's inability to win on an international stage [Tangential Information]. When a lot of us think of soccer, we think of the generic Italian clutching his leg like it just fell off. (This imagery doesn't totally make sense, but I'm trying to drive a point home here.) If fans start associating fake injuries with NFL football, the league will have a big problem.

So what should the NFL do to the Giants? I'll tell you what they will do, at least this time around: nothing. The league will be content to sweep this under the rug as soon as possible, handing the Giants at most a slap on the wrist. (Inevitably, whoever gets slapped in the wrist will crumple to the ground and begin holding his leg).

But if the problem persists - and we'll be watching for it when teams with prolific no-huddle offenses take the field - the league will have a real issue to address [Concluding Argument]. And the punishment will have to be steep. Pure economics suggests it should be more than the value of a win. Pure common sense says it should be at least as much as fines for hard hits. After all, guys are getting socked with $50,000 fines every week for trying to make tackles. Cheating though, from a fan perspective at least, has no place in the NFL. When I turn the TV on every Sunday, I want to see elite athletes, brilliantly crafted schemes, and an authentic game.

So quit faking it.

[Powerful closing statement].

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fantasy Football 2011: Week 1

The second installment of the Sports Casual Fantasy Football League is underway and week 1 was action-packed as usual. The landscape of the NFL sure looks different in some spots, with Peyton Manning out, the Lions playing high-quality football, and the Bills winning by double digits. Here are the results from week 1:

Vanilla Thunder (1-0) def. Carson Palmer's 401k (0-1), 128-45
- With help from outrageous performances by Tom Brady and LeSean McCoy, Vanilla Thunder was this weeks top scorer. This team looks scary good. With skill players Tom Brady, Brandon Marshall, Julio Jones, Plaxico Burress, LeSean McCoy, Javid Best, and Aaron Hernandez, Vanilla Thunder has emerged as a top contender. On the flipside, Carson Palmer's 401k should be ashamed of himself, having basically taken week 1 off. Phillip Rivers and the Atlanta defense accounted for two-thirds of the team's points.

Gobias Industries (1-0) def. Team Trick or Vick (0-1), 117-62
- Gobias Industries had a very solid week one, with five players in double digits and two players above twenty. Wes Welker led the way with 28, coming in large part from a 99-yard receiving TD. Team Trick or Vick got 21 poitns from Mike Vick, but should be quite concerned about the rest of the team. No other player cracked 10, and Knowshon Moreno put up an alarming 2 points.

The Backup QB (1-0) def. Balls and Weiners (0-1), 106-103
- In what turned out to be an excellent matchup, the difference was Balls and Weiners' unorthodox decision to leave the kicker spot empty. The Backup QB got an outstanding performance from one of the best starting QBs in the NFL (Aaron Rodgers with 24). San Diego Charger Mike Tolbert led all scorers with 26. Balls and Weiners has a lot to be happy about, including 22 points from Baltimore's defense and 20 from the Ravens quarterback. He may need to trade for a running back, however, because it looks like the experts were right - LaGarrette Blount isn't that good. He put up just 1 point.

The Dream Team (1-0) def. CorporateOverlords (0-1), 112-65
- The Dream Team only got 3 points out of QB Sam Bradford, which makes a 112 point total that much more impressive. Kenny Britt (Kenny Britt?!?!) led the way with 25 points, part of a 53 point week for The Dream Team's wide receivers. CorporateOverlords saw a down week from just about every player. Rashard Mendenhall was at the top of the disappointment ladder with only 1 point while his Steelers got slaughtered.

Shonn of the Dead (1-0) def. Backside Georges^2 (0-1), 94-86
- Perhaps missing the draft won't turn out to be part of a championship formula this time around. The autopicked squad of Backside Georges^2 had a decent week, but it wasn't enough to top Shonn of the Dead's 94 points. Ray Rice lived up to the fantasy hype, scoring 26 points against a Steelers defense that, last I checked, was supposed to be pretty good. Fred Jackson had 11, which means a total of 37 points at the RB position. Not bad at all. Backside Georges^2 will need to find a better running back duo to compete for another title.

TitForTat (1-0) def. Stepdads (0-1), 92-55
- Despite having two wide receivers and one tight end that donned invisibility cloaks prior to their week 1 games, TitForTat managed to put up an impressive point total. Fantasy killer Drew Brees had 28 to lead the way, and a record-tying field goal helped Sebastian Janikowski put up 13. The Stepdads squad was just plain bad, with only the Houston Texans' defense breaking double digits.

Arian Foster's Hammy (1-0) def. Dream Team (0-1), 115-59
- In a big beatdown that was never in doubt, Arian Foster's Hammy put the hammer down against Dream Team (#2, that is). An outrageous 7 players put up 10 points or more, with 2 in the 20s. Quite surprisingly, San Francisco's defense led all scorers with 24 points. Big Ben was a colossal let down for Dream Team. Could this be the end of his tenure as an elite QB? I sure hope so.

**Special Awards**
Highest Scoring Team: Vanilla Thunder with 128. Watch out, league.

Lowest Scoring Team: Carson Palmer's 401k with 45. Dude. Do more.
Best Player: Vanilla Thunder's Tom Brady with 34. Beep Beep.
Worst Player: A bunch, with a bagel.
Best Matchup: The Backup QB (106) def. Balls and Weiners (103). A close, high-scoring matchup.
Worst Decision: Balls and Weiners, for an inability to navigate rosters. The kicker on your bench had 7...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cat Crazy Coastal Carolina Coach

Looks like a few screws came loose before Coastal Carolina coach David Bennett took the podium at a recent press conference.

Um, what?

(Fantasy update coming tomorrow).

Thursday, September 8, 2011

2011 AFC Breakdown

With kickoff on Thursday night, it’s about time we tell you who’s going to win it all this year. For those of us keeping score at home, we predicted a Packers Super Bowl victory over their AFC North opponent, the Baltimore Ravens. So yeah, we’re good. Today will be the AFC breakdown; we’ll tackle the NFC a few days later, and the playoffs afterwards. Without further ado:

1) New England Patriots – The perennial class of the NFL regular season, the New England Patriots look even stronger coming into this season than they did last year in their 14-2 campaign. Led by the best QB in football, their offense is looking to hang 30 points a game on their opponents this year. Their depth is unparalleled, and they are an absolute nightmare to match up with. The defense is so loaded that they cut a 2-time Pro Bowler. Look for this team to win the AFC East, post 13 wins, and make a deep playoff run.

2) New York Jets – One of the best teams in football, their above average offense is paired with one of the most feared defenses in football. They won’t light anybody up that’s worth writing home about, but look for them to routinely keep teams under 14 points this year. Revis is an absolute force, and Rex Ryan knows how to call a game. Unfortunately for the Jets, they are in the AFC East, and very well could end up being the second 12-4 wildcard team in NFL history.

3) Miami Dolphins – This team will be incredibly average. Think the Jets, but with a worse offense and defense. They will win 7 or 8 games, and everyone will see that Chad Henne isn’t good, and then the Dolphins will try and replace him yet again next offseason. At least they have one team that wins titles in South Beach. Oh, wait…

4) Buffalo Bills – No QB, no defense, traded away their best WR. Perennial basement dwellers. The one thing they have to look forward to is another high draft pick after a 4-12 season and watching C.J. Spiller become the poor man’s Barry Sanders over the next few years.


1) Baltimore Ravens – Is this the year for the Ravens? They have kept their core together, and they are looking at a VERY soft schedule. Think talc. There defense is always great, and Ray Lewis still somehow is one of the best LBs in the game. Not to mention Ngata, Redding, Suggs, and Reed. Scary stuff. Flacco has had another year to develop, Ray Rice is a beast, and the combination of Boldin and Evans gives them one of the best WR threats in the game. Look for 13 wins out of this loaded ravens team.

2) Pittsburgh Steelers – So far this year, despite all of the lockout boredom, Big Ben has managed to keep it in his pants. Rashard “I love Osama bin Laden” Mendenhall will probably have a good season, unless karma exists. Mike Wallace is emerging as a legitimate #1 at WR, and their defense is scary good. James “The Hitman” Harrison does not mess around. If Polamalu can manage to stay healthy this year, the Steelers could make a serious push for an NFL record 7th Super Bowl title.

3) Cleveland Browns – Pencil the Browns in for 6 wins. Colt McCoy is better, but still far from elite. And now Peyton Hillis is now bringing the Madden Curse into things. Look for a Browns team that - like last season - is wildly inconsistent.

4) Cincinnati Bengals - The Bengals won't win more than 4 games. Carson Palmer’s fiscal responsibility will take all of the bite out of the Bengals offense, and the departure of Jonathan Joseph breaks up one of the best 1+2 combos at corner in the league. It’s going to be real messy at the bottom of the AFC North.


1) Houston Texans – BOOM! YOU READ THAT RIGHT! The Texans will make their first postseason appearance in franchise history after winning the AFC South (by default). Matt Schaub is almost really good, and Arian Foster only needs to be 80% of what he was last year. Andre Johnson is a monster, and the defense is looking to improve. DeMeco Ryans is an elite talent at LB, and J.J. Watt and Mario Williams will terrorize QBs. They tried to upgrade their porous secondary by adding Jonathan Joseph. The Texans lost a lot of close games last year. Look for their luck to change as they win 10 or 11 games.

2) Indianapolis Colts – The only reason Indy isn’t the favorite is because of Peyton Manning’s uncertain status. He is the only reason that this team is relevant. He is an MVP in the most literal sense. If you hand this same roster to Curtis Painter or Kerry Collins, they go from 12 wins to 7. Depending on how quickly Manning is able to get healthy and back to form, the Colts could leapfrog the Texans and win this division yet again, or fall out of the playoffs.

3) Tennessee Titans – I like this Titans team, but not to win much of anything. Chris Johnson finally got his deal, and he’s good at football. Hasselbeck is an upgrade at QB and should provide a nice bridge to the Jake Locker era before his back gives out and then Locker is thrown to the wolves and plays just as poorly as Tim Tebow. Kenny Britt is sneaky good at WR, but the defense is just eh. 6 wins for the Titans.

4) Jacksonville Jaguars – Top pick Blaine Gabbert got outplayed in the preseason by 3rd round pick Ryan Mallett. David Garrard just got cut. MJD will be good, but that’s about all this team has going for them. They’re just waiting for LA to finish building that stadium so they can get out of the Florida panhandle. They only good thing about that place is Formal Weekend at PCB.


1) San Diego Chargers – Philip Rivers, Vincent Jackson, and Antonio Gates make for one of the most electrifying passing games in football. Look for their numbers to be huge with a full season together. The defense will be sharp enough to win this weak division. 11 wins.

2) Kansas City Chiefs – Cassel is the second best QB in the division, Jamaal Charles is the best RB, and Dwayne Bowe emerged as a legit threat on the outside. Unfortunately, the defense needs a little work and the offense needs to be more consistent. Nobody who is a contender is scared of this team at all. 9 wins, maybe.

3) Denver Broncos – Offense is average. Defense is also average, only old. The transition period with a new coach and the QB controversy in the offseason makes me believe that this team will top out at 7 wins.

4) Oakland Raiders – This team will not win until they decide to remove Al Davis’ corpse from the owner’s box. Run-DMC is looking for over 1000 yards on the ground this season, but the addition of Terrell Pryor won’t allow me to talk myself into this team winning more than 6 games. And that’s a best case scenario.