The most wonderful time of the year

A couple of months ago, I was pining for football season. As my Mets sat in oblivion, I couldn’t wait for the NFL to start back up. Well now, the Mets lead the NL East by three games going into a weekend showdown with second place Philly. Still, to be as corny as possible: I’M READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL!

With the season starting tonight with a game where all I can hope is that both teams injury as many guys on the other team as possible, it’s time I came up with my picks to stick in the NFL this season as well as my picks for Week 1.

(Playoff teams in bold)
AFC East:
1) New England (13-3)
Don’t doubt Tom Brady. End of Story.
2) NY Jets (10-6)
I’d love to say that I think Brett Favre is going to fall flat on his face this year but it won’t happen. Quarterback was their biggest weakness last season and now they have the best of all-time.
3) Buffalo (7-9)
This team needs to get better fast if they don’t want to move to Toronto.
4) Miami (4-12)
Trading away your best two players in Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor is not addition by subtraction.

AFC North:
1) Pittsburgh (11-5)
Probably the toughest schedule in the league but they’re too good not to top this division.
2) Cleveland (8-8)
No, last season wasn’t a fluke, but I do expect a downturn.
3) Cincinnati (5-11)
I don’t expect Chad Ocho Cinco to hold up for the whole year with the bum shoulder. That and no running game spell disaster.
4) Baltimore (5-11)
Quick, name three players on the Ravens offense…I’m waiting…

AFC South:
1) Indianapolis (13-3)
Peyton Manning will be just fine and this offense will continue to blow our minds.
2) Jacksonville (11-5)
In any other division in the AFC, the Jags would be perennial division winners.
3) Tennessee (9-7)
Vince Young is coming into his own, but this year he’ll just miss the playoffs.
4) Houston (6-10)
I don’t think Matt Schaub is the answer at quarterback.

AFC West:
1) San Diego (11-5)
A healthy Phillip Rivers means big things for this franchise.
2) Denver (8-8)
This is not the dominant Broncos team we once knew.
3) Kansas City (4-12)
LJ hit a wall last year and I don’t expect him to break through. Talk about a team that overuses its backs.
4) Oakland (3-13)
What’s there to like?

AFC Playoffs (New England, Indianapolis get byes):
Wild Card: NY Jets over Pittsburgh, Jacksonville over San Diego
Divisional: New England over NY Jets, Indianapolis over Jacksonville
AFC Championship: New England over Indianapolis

NFC East:
1) Dallas (13-3)
Hey, I could have said 16-0. Get ready to see a lot of Romo to T.O.
2) NY Giants (10-6)
The loss of Osi Umenyiora and Strahan is huge but that offense will only get better.
3) Philadelphia (9-7)
Watch out for DeSean Jackson.
4) Washington (8-8)
Gibbs left for a reason.

NFC North:
1) Minnesota (11-5)
Purple Jesus is a beast and Tavaris Jackson should be better with seasoning.
2) Green Bay (8-8)
Now what you should have done with Aaron Rodgers is…
3) Chicago (7-9)
Rex Grossman, come on down! You’re the next contestant on “How do I still have a job?”
4) Detroit (2-14)
The 6-2 start to last season was a fluke. The 1-7 finish was not.

NFC South:
1) New Orleans (12-4)
How is Drew Brees not involved in the talk about Brady, P. Manning, Romo for top QB?
2) Tampa Bay (9-7)
Clearance sale on quarterbacks.
3) Carolina (8-8)
If this team wants to go anywhere its on the back of Steve Smith and he’s not really a “team player.”
4) Atlanta (5-11)
Rookie quarterbacks rarely start well.

NFC West:
1) Arizona (9-7)
Closest division race comes down to 4-2 record inside their division.
2) Seattle (9-7)
Knocked off the top of the NFC West perch, consolation prize is beating Philly and Tampa during season to grab final playoff spot.
3) St. Louis (5-11)
I’m betting on a Steven Jackson injury.
4) San Francisco (3-13)
We’re a long way from the days of Montana and Young.

NFC Playoffs (Dallas and New Orleans get byes)
Wild Card: Minnesota over Seattle, Arizona over N.Y. Giants
Divisional: Dallas over Arizona, New Orleans over Minnesota
NFC Championship: Dallas over New Orleans

Super Bowl XLIII:
(And know that this pains me)
New England over Dallas 34-31

This week’s picks:
Giants over Redskins; Falcons over Lions; Seahawks over Bills; Jets over Dolphins Patriots over Chiefs; Saints over Bucs; Eagles over Rams; Steelers over Texans; Titans over Jaguars; Bengals over Ravens; Chargers over Panthers; Cardinals over 49ers; Cowboys over Browns; Colts over Bears; Vikings over Packers; Raiders over Broncos.

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