Thank goodness the games finally begin on Thursday.
I’m tired of “Deflategate.” I’m tired of waking up every morning and reading the daily NFL police blotter to see who's been arrested. I’m tired of reading about players being lost for the year due to injury before they play their first regular-season game. I’m tired of Roger Goodell looking like a buffoon.
I’m ready for some real football, NFL style.
I am readying for the season by participating in my annual Fantasy Football League draft tonight. While our league — the Tugboat League, named in honor of former member the late Bob Williams — has never kept records, I would have to say there are very few leagues in McPherson that have been around as long as ours. I believe our league started in the mid 1980s and four of us are charter members— Jim LaDuke, Myron Barrow and Terry Culver being the others. Along the way we’ve had various members, including the late “Johnny Sunshine” Watkins, a charter member who we toast along with Bob before the start of every draft.
The draft is a prelude to the season, which again appears to have a lot of parity. More than ever, with the escalating physical violence of the game, injuries will determine which teams make Super Bowl 50. And I can honestly say I have never missed a single Super Bowl, with my favorite being 1970 when the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Minnesota Vikings, 23-7. Who will ever forget Hank Stram cackling “65 Toss Power Trap Boys!”
Enough of the pre-game festivities. Time to get down to business.
• NFC EAST •
1. Philadelphia — The addition of DeMarco Murray gives it the edge. What’s the over-under on the number of games Sam Bradford plays?
2. Dallas — What’s the over-under on Dez Bryant wanting to renegotiate his brand-new contract? The running game is a concern.
3. New York Giants – When I heard that Eli Manning wanted to be the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL, I almost threw up my lasagna. This could be the end of the line for warhorse coach Tom Coughlin.
4. Washington— Get rid of Robert Griffin III once and for all and get back to playing football. This is an old, tired soap opera. The guy is a shell of his former self and just can’t play anymore.
• NFC SOUTH •
1. New Orleans — It’s quite possible the Saints can win this division with a 6-10 record.
2. Carolina — Great defense. Cam Newton has nobody to throw to.
3. Atlanta — Great offense. The Falcons can’t stop anybody.
4. Tampa Bay — The plodding Jameis Winston could get sacked more than any quarterback in NFL history.
Note — How did this go from being one of the NFL’s best divisions two years ago to perhaps the worst in such a short time? All four could have losing records.
• NFC NORTH •
1. Green Bay – Should be a lock to win it. But if Aaron Rodgers goes down, all bets are off.
2. Minnesota — Adrian Peterson is back and has something to prove.
3. Detroit — The best defensive line in football in 2014 has disappeared like dust in the wind. No more Ndamukong Suh or Nick Fairley.
4. Chicago — Time for another rebuild for the umpteenth time.
• NFC WEST •
1. Seattle — Remember when it used to be Seattle and San Francisco fighting tooth and nail? Those days are long gone.
2. Arizona — Bruce Arians is the most underrated coach in football.
3. San Francisco — Here’s to the 49ers for giving McPherson’s Tanner Hawkinson a chance on their rebuilt offensive line.
4. St. Louis — If the order of finish was determined by defensive lines, the Rams would win the Super Bowl. The best in the game, bar none. But there’s nothing else there.
• Wild-Cards — Dallas and Arizona.
• NFC Champion — Seattle.
• AFC EAST •
1. New England — Now that all the Tom (Foolery) Brady mess is over, it’s back to the business of winning games.
2. Miami — A .500 record might get the No. 2 spot. The defense will be much improved.
3. Buffalo — Great defense, but nightmares at quarterback.
4. New York Jets — You can’t win with Geno Smith at quarterback. Maybe it's a blessing he's out for a while.
• AFC SOUTH •
1. Indianapolis — The Colts will be the first team to clinch their division, beating out the Patriots in a photo finish.
2. Houston — Don’t fall asleep on the Texans, as long as Arian Foster returns. Could win 10.
3. Tennessee – Here’s where the stench begins.
4. Jacksonville — It’s getting stronger.
• AFC NORTH •
1. Baltimore — I never, ever go against the Ravens even though the cast has changed.
2. Pittsburgh — As long as Big Ben is around, there’s always hope.
3. Cleveland — If the Browns had any kind of offense, they’d make the playoffs.
4. Cincinnati — The Bengals cut Tanner Hawkinson. They automatically go to the bottom.
• AFC WEST •
1. Denver — This could be the swan song of Peyton Manning.
2. (tie) Kansas City – What this team would give for an offensive line. The Chiefs can make the playoffs only if they start 2-2 in the first four games of their murderous schedule.
2. (tie) San Diego — Teams do tie in divisions, you know. Just too close to call.
4. Oakland – This is such an automatic. But someday the Raiders are going to rise like a Phoenix from the ashes.
• Wild Cards — Pittsburgh and Houston.
• SUPER BOWL •
Seattle over New England