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The Season Begins Tonight…(and Opening Night Game Thread)

| September 5th, 2013

Tonight’s game prediction:

Denver Broncos 27, Baltimore Ravens 13

I am re-running my ruminations/predictions column from August 27. This column will also serve as tonight’s opening game thread.

I do it every year and have been 50% or better on predictions each year I’ve done em. This year I mix and match prediction with ruminations. Every team gets at least one mention with an overwhelming emphasis on your 2013 Chicago Bears.

  1. I think the Bears win the NFC North.
  2. Without Nicks and Cruz healthy I don’t see the Giants as more than an 8-8 team. And Nicks and Cruz are never healthy at the same time. Also, I think it’s odd that Victor Cruz signed a lucrative contract extension and a week later: “I think the No. 1 wideout is Hakeem Nicks,” Cruz said. “I mean, he’s been here longer, he understands this offense. He’s our big-play guy, he’s on the outside. So I definitely think he’s our No. 1 receiver, there’s no doubt about it.” To use the Andrew Brandt approach, translation: Yeah I’m rich but don’t expect too much.
  3. Second point on the Giants. What’s their aversion to having talented linebackers? In the late 80s/early 90s the Giants had Lawrence Taylor, Carl Banks and Harry Carson playing LB and now they have Mark Herzlich, Keith Rivers, Spencer Paysinger, Jacquian Williams…etc.?
  4. Enough on the Giants, Jeff! Okay.
  5. Cowboys have an offensive head coach (Jason Garret) whose been stripped of his play-calling duties (in favor of Bill Callahan) and has a legendary defensive coordinator (Monte Kiffin) put in place. Find me any time in the history of football where this kind of setup worked.
  6. I’m rooting against Chip Kelly because I just don’t like him. I think these college coaches who cheat the system, leave their programs to be ravaged by the NCAA and flee to the NFL are one of the lowest life forms in the sporting universe. And his quarterback is a dog killer. And his team plays in Philadelphia. Has there been a team in recent memory this easy to root against? 4th place in the NFC East.
  7. If Robert Griffin III plays 12+ games in 2013 the Redskins win the division. If he plays fewer it’s a crap shoot.
  8. I think Matt Forte will eclipse 1,750 yards total from scrimmage this year. If he gets to 2,000 he will be a top two or three candidate for MVP.
  9. The Bears need eighteen sacks out of Shea McClellin, Corey Wootton and Henry Melton. I say they get it.
  10. Norv Turner is probably the modern era’s finest offensive coordinator but I’m not buying the preseason Brandon Weeden hype.
  11. I think Jarvis Jones is going to be one hell of a Steelers linebacker.
  12. When Joe Flacco drops back to pass and Torrey Smith is covered downfield…where is he throwing the ball? Dennis Pitta and Anquan Boldin are the reasons Joe is much, much richer these days. I don’t see the replacements on that roster.
  13. There is no more important in the whole of the NFL than Andy Dalton. You think that’s an exaggeration? It’s not. The Bengals lineup is loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. If Dalton plays well they are title contenders. If he struggles, they struggle.
  14. I think Devin Hester finds the end zone three times year.
  15. I think the Bears offense will finish the season ranked 14th in the NFL.
  16. I think Jay Cutler will throw more than 30 TDs and less than 15 INTs.
  17. How does the Detroit Lions buzz start each year? Do all of the national writers look at their roster, see the talented guys and declare them ready for the postseason at once? Where are they better in 2013 than they were in 2012? Reggie Bush? That just isn’t enough for me.
  18. I think Matt Cassel starts more games than Christian Ponder at QB for the Minnesota Vikings. I don’t think injuries will be involved.
  19. The reason Brett Favre never missed a game in all that time: luck. Not toughness. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are every bit as tough as Favre  but you can’t out-tough a torn ACL or dislocated neck. And Favre was a big fan of playing poorly whilst injured and blaming the injury after the fact – because he’s an asshole. If Aaron Rodgers keeps taking hits the hits will take their toll. And this looks to me like a worse offensive line than he had a year ago.
  20. Brandon Marshall will catch 106 passes.
  21. Matt Forte will catch 67.
  22. Alshon Jeffery will catch 48.
  23. Martellus Bennett will catch 44.
  24. Earl Bennett will catch 38.
  25. The Jaguars play in Jacksonville, Florida. My brother lives there. (This fulfills my obligation to discuss every team.)
  26. From our friend Jim Wyatt at The Tennessean: “Several others are also having an impressive camp, but [Chris] Johnson has been turning heads since the first practice. He’s in good shape, looks explosive and re-energized. Early signs are he’s going to benefit greatly from having Shonn Green around to help shoulder the rushing load.” Why do I think the Titans won’t be too bad this year?
  27. My prediction for Breakout Player of 2013: Colts WR T.Y. Hilton. Reggie Wayne was excellent in 2012 but I think Andrew Luck passes the baton to his new favorite target in 2013. I say 82 catches, over a 1,000 yards and over 10 touchdowns.
  28. It is not easy to be the Houston Texans. They won’t play a game that truly matters this season until January. Eventually these Super Bowl or Bust teams either win the fucking thing or implode. It’s usually the latter.
  29. Adam Podlesh will cost the Bears in a big spot this year.
  30. Bears will struggle to defend the middle of the field early in the season due to a severe learning curve for Frey and Bostic.
  31. The most important statistic for Jay Cutler this year will be average completion (sans YAC). If he is completing a majority of his passes within the 3-10 yard range he is executing this offense and not taking reckless chances from a collapsing pocket.
  32. There are three teams in the AFC East who did not lose their best wide receiver to free agency. There are three teams in the AFC East who did not lose their best tight end to another in a long line of debilitating injuries. There are three teams in the AFC East who did not lose one of their most valued weapons because it turns out he’s a mass murdering fuckhead. And I didn’t even consider picking one of those three teams to win the division. #TomBrady
  33. Peyton Manning with Wes Welker is the most perfect pairing of veteran quarterback/receiver since Randy Moss signed to catch balls from Tom Brady.
  34. Why I like the Chiefs this year: (1) They’ve erased their two most significant issues by replacing the head coach and quarterback. (2) They have four games against the Raiders and Chargers.
  35. How long ago was it Phil Rivers was being discussed as one of the best quarterbacks in the sport? Probably back when he had Darren Sproles and Vincent Jackson and good players around him.
  36. I almost feel bad for Terrelle Pryor. He’s not good. He’s just not Matt Flynn, who is wretched.
  37. Seahawks GM John Schneider has been rightfully lauded for his recent drafts but this is the same man who traded for and paid Flynn millions based on one game. NFL personnel decisions are 8% analysis, 92% luck. Seahawks should have paid for that decision for years but instead the whole league – including them – passed on Russell Wilson twice.
  38. San Francisco is just good everywhere. If they are not in the postseason they’ve been ravaged by injuries.
  39. When is the last time Larry Fitzgerald had a professional quarterback throwing him passes? Expect one of those eye-opening statistical performances from him in 2013. I think this year’s Carson Palmer-to-Fitz targets will make last year’s Cutler-to-Marshall targets look puny.
  40. Has anybody mentioned the name Tavon Austin this preseason? No. The reason is simple: Jeff Fisher is too smart a coach to risk a potentially game-changing superstar for the sake of what naive fans call “reps”. I hear it all the time on Twitter. THIS GUY NEEDS REPS! THIS GUY NEEDS REPS! You know which players need reps? Fringe ones.
  41. The biggest surprise on the Bears defense this year will be the emergence of Chris Conte as one of the game’s best safeties.
  42. Robbie Gould will not miss a field goal of less than 45 yards all season.
  43. Bears will no longer be futile on third-and-one because they’ll hand the ball to Michael Bush and tell him to follow #75.
  44. I was watching a Broncos preseason game and after Peyton Manning had been pulled from a game, he kept his helmet on. When a trainer came by and take it from him Peyton pointed to his ear. He was listening to the play calls in his helmet and watching the execution. This is what Cam Newton was doing when he was pulled from a recent Panthers exhibition: GOOFING AROUND. Does it mean Newton is not good? Of course not. But Thomas Davis – a linebacker and leader – reportedly brought it to his attention. The knock on Newton is maturity. And he doesn’t seem to have matured.
  45. I’m already bored by the 10+ win Falcons.
  46. Why I like the Bucs this year: (1) Darrelle Revis – healthy – takes away Julio Jones, Steve Smith and Marques Colston. He c an seriously debilitate some explosive passing games. (2) Josh Freeman showed flashes of brilliance in 2012. Another year in Mike Sullivan’s offense will do him wonders. (3) I like them to take three out of four from the AFC East. Split the division and they are 6-4 while drawing Philadelphia and Detroit based on 2012 finish. (4) I’m willing to overlook the influence of Dave Wannstedt.
  47. I make playoff predictions and try to throw a few curve balls into the mix. Anybody can pick the favorites. I like to mix it up.
  48. AFC Playoffs: Broncos, Texans, Bengals, Patriots, Steelers, Chiefs
  49. NFC Playoffs: 49ers, Falcons, Bears, Redskins, Seahawks, Bucs
  50. AFC Wildcard Round : Bengals over Chiefs, Steelers over Patriots
  51. NFC Wildcard Round: Bears over Bucs, Redskins over Seahawks
  52. AFC Division Round: Broncos over Steelers, Bengals over Texans
  53. NFC Division Round: 49ers over Redskins, Bears over Falcons
  54. Championship Games: Broncos over Bengals, 49ers over Bears
  55. Super Bowl: 49ers over Broncos

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