Gen Y’s NBA Preview Part II: Western Conference

15. Utah Jazz – Here’s what we’ve learned from what’s transpired in Utah over the past year or so: When you’re forced to choose between your legendary hall of fame coach and your franchise point guard, it’s probably not a good idea to lose them both in the process. You have to like what they set out to accomplish with that surprise Williams trade last year, namely that the players and fans didn’t get dragged through a year of MELOdrama. However, couldn’t they have pulled the trigger on that trade and kept Sloan around too? Anyhow, they looked awful last night against an older Lakers team that was playing its third game in three nights. Not a good sign for your season.

14. Phoenix Suns – Steve Nash is too nice a guy to come out and do this, so I’ll do it for him. Free Steve Nash! The Suns need to give him the Ray Borque treatment and let him go try to win a championship before retirement. It’s only right. How awesome would it be to see Nash as a backup on the Thunder? Should the Lakers start considering moving for him? San Antonio anyone? The franchise is stuck under the weight of the horrific Josh Childress, Channing Frye, and Hakim Warrick signings and is destined for the lottery. #freesteve

13. Sacramento Kings – Everyone is going to make the Jimmer to Tebow comparison which is completely bogus and unfair to both the athletes. The Kings are a fascinating squad though and the looming arena drama/possible move to Anaheim makes their season all the more interesting. Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins are two of the most talented young players in the NBA, but for some reason it just didn’t click last season. I would LOVE for the Kings to come out and shock the world by making the playoffs, but I just don’t see it happening.

12. Golden State Warriors – I hate to even consider the possibility, but at this point we might need to start looking at Steph Curry’s ankles like history now looks at Walton’s or Yao’s feet and Brandon Roy’s knees. He’s cursed with joints that just cannot stay healthy and it’s prevented him from showcasing just how dramatic his genius on the basketball court actually can be. I never liked Mark Jackson as an announcer and I imagine he’ll be just as bad coaching as he was calling games. Under new ownership, this team is begging to make a blockbuster trade and could be a fringe candidate to land Dwight Howard if the Magic are as desperate as they are at the deadline.

11. Minnesota Timberwolves – This team is actually starting to make sense on paper which is scary to admit. David Kahn has made so many wrong moves over the years that it’s quite possible he actually made some correct ones. It’s kind of like the old saying that three rights makes a left, or something. I have no idea why he obsesses over point guard depth, but this team can throw out some fairly interesting lineups with their depth at forward and guard. I still say they’re one year away from making the postseason though. They, like the Thunder before them, have got to learn how to win a close game first. If this play is any indication of the highlights to come, count me in as a huge supporter.

10. Houston Rockets – I am amazed that Daryl Morey didn’t resign his position and/or sue David Stern after that botched Chris Paul deal. The Rockets GM had literally been planning for a move like that for years. Morey’s philosophy is that to win in the NBA you need at least one top twenty player and he finally had that in Pau Gasol, and was about to add a top forty player in Nene right after it. Unfortunately for Houston, Stern put in the fix and now they’re doomed to another year of mediocrity along with losing out on Nene. Kyle Lowery is the best point guard you’ve never heard of and should emerge as the leader of this team.

9. New Orleans Hornets – I tried desperately to put this squad into the playoff picture, but I just can’t justify it in the West. I predict this team is going to have a strong eff you edge all season, most especially from the former Clippers players who are unlikely to forgive Chris Paul for taking them out of the LA market and team that was surprisingly talented even before CP3’s arrival. How great would a first round playoff matchup between the Hornets and Clippers be? I pray it happens. Until then, watch for Eric Gordon who is already a top five shooting guard in this league and might be the best in the game at that position in three years when Wade and Kobe’s bodies start to go.

8. Memphis – This is a difficult pick. I want them to make the leap but there are some new dynamics in the locker room that didn’t exist last season. By every right they should finish stronger than the exact same eight seed they achieved last year. Not so fast though. This was unquestionably Rudy Gay’s team before he went down with injury last year. He signed a max deal and was having his best ever season until he got hurt. All the Grizzlies did after that was upset the number one-seeded Spurs in the first round for their first ever playoff series victory. They then proceeded to give the Thunder all they could handle in the second before getting eliminated. Is this still Gay’s team though? Will Randolph fight for his rightful claim to the alpha dog title? Will Marc Gasol possibly jump into that mix, given his new deal? I say this team struggles under the weight of too much pressure and a lack of clearly defined roles.

7. Dallas Mavericks – Given their awful start to the year, you might be able to convince me that the Mavs might actually miss the playoffs a year after one of the most memorable NBA titles ever. They look flat and seem to have no depth. I still say Dirk puts them into the postseason though, because, well, he’s Dirk. If you haven’t realized it yet, Cuban is going all out in his quest to land Dwight Howard AND Deron Williams next year in free agency which is why they’ll look like they’re suffering from a championship hangover all year. As a result the Mavs won’t defend their title like we all had hoped, but it will be worth it if Cuban pulls off the improbable next year.

6. Denver Nuggets – I tend to always be pessimistic about my team’s chances. They’re going to get screwed by the refs all year because they don’t have a legitimate superstar and there’s no way Stern will ever allow them to advance in the postseason. With all that said though, I’m giddy about the Nuggets potential this season. They’re going to lead the NBA in team scoring and they roll at least 12 deep when Wilson Chandler gets back from China. Do you remember how entertaining the first round series against the Thunder was last year? Well imagine that team on steroids and you have this year’s edition of the Denver Nuggets. I think this team could quite possibly develop a cult status because of the amazing amount of points they’re going to produce. I seriously have no idea who is going to be the alpha dog of this team and you know what? That’s okay. It’s exactly what George Karl wants and exactly why the Nuggets will likely dominate all season. Don’t be shocked if they find themselves with a (gasp!) two or three seed in a lockout year when the rest of the league will be out of sync and out of rhythm coming to play at altitude half the year.

5. San Antonio Spurs – It gets tiresome saying that this is really the last year the Spurs are going to have a shot at a title. Look, as long as Parker/Ginobli/Duncan are able to play, this team will always be a top four threat. Throw in Gregg Popovich and the Spurs will always be competitive. While their title window has long since passed, the Spurs are always a tough out and sport one of the best home field advantages in all of sports. Don’t sell them short.

4. Portland Trailblazers – The Blazers join the Nuggets among the teams out West that could possibly shock the world and contend for the two or three seed this year. Before going any further, let’s pay our proper respect to Brandon Roy, who was quite simply one of the most entertaining players I have witnessed. He had the swagger and game to match the Wade’s and Kobe’s of the world and he will be missed. With all that said though, LaMarcus Aldridge can finally take over this team without issue. And he will. I think the Blazers might regret not keeping Andre Miller but they’ll overcome that with Gerald Wallace’s leadership on defense. It’s scary to think what could happen if they can get anything out of Oden. They’re perfectly built for a deep playoff run and could make it to the Western Conference finals.

3. LA Lakers – Don’t panic yet about the Lakers poor start to the season. You have to remember that they’re playing without Andrew Bynum who is still under suspension for taking out JJ Barea in last year’s playoffs. Bynum could very well be the best player on this team now in the same way Rajon Rondo is for the Celtics. Still, I’m probably being too generous giving them the three seed when they’re more likely a four or five. Elsewhere, Kobe Bryant is still a pleasure to watch, I’ve been really impressed by Josh McRoberts thus far, and I’m quite positive Derek Fisher should have retired two years ago. While I don’t think this team is going to win a title, they’ll make for a tough out if their big three can stay healthy. And oh yeah, how can you root against World Peace?

2. LA Clippers – Are you actually going to root against the Clippers being successful this year? I don’t think there’s a single sane person in America who won’t take earthly pleasure in watching this team each night knowing that Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have the potential to create the greatest basketball highlight anyone has ever seen. The opening night game was all I needed to see when Chris Paul showed the world, and most importantly his teammates that he is the guy who will close out the games. I had worried that the Chauncey Billups dynamic might screw things up–for those non-Nuggets fans who don’t know, Chauncey still thinks he’s the best player on the floor and is thus deserving of the majority of shots in the fourth quarters of close games–but it appears Paul already owns this team. Lob City is the greatest nickname for a team since the Showtime Lakers and I’m quite certain that if it was a real place, I would move there to raise my children in all of its basketball splendor. I don’t think we’re ready!

1. OKC Thunder – Like the Heat out East, the rest of this conference doesn’t really stand a chance when it comes to the Thunder. It somehow appears that Kevin Durant got even better than he was last year. With James Harden and Serge Ibaka threatening to emerge as all-stars, the Thunder are the team best suited to take down the Heat in the NBA finals this year. It will be the rivalry that divides the NBA for the next half decade. Pick your side now.

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Gen Y’s NBA Preview Part I: Eastern Conference

15. Charlotte Bobcats – Michael Jordan is doing an incredible job of tanking the season away and it started well before the year even started.  He traded away both of his best players (Gerald Wallace, Stephen Jackson) and the best player on this team is now…Corey Maggette!  Maggette is most famous for his relentless desire to charge into the middle of the lane to absorb as much contact as possible and (hopefully, but not usually) get to the free throw line.  The clear plan here is to try to win the draft lottery, but watch out for young Kemba Walker, a sleeper ROTY candidate.  He could ruin Jordan’s grand vision by actually playing well. 

14.  Cleveland Cavaliers – True confession: I have never once seen Kyrie Irving play basketball and thus thought it was appaling that they chose to take him number one after his injury at Duke.  This team is obviously hoping to go for the Westbrook-Durant combo by picking high again in next year’s draft.  The Cavs are awful and trading away J.J. Hickson for a bunch of crap last year was the first indicator that this team has no intent of competing any time soon.

13.  Toronto Raptors – Beyond Dallas Mavericks assistant Dwane Casey taking over as assistant coach–this is the man who orchestrated the brilliant defense that beat the Heat in the finals–I can find nothing interesting about this team worth talking about.  Let’s watch DeMar DeRozen dunk highlights instead!

12. Washington Wizards – John Wall is going to come out this year and give his best Derrick Rose impression.  It’s impossible not to compare the two, given their college careers under Callipari.  The difference?  Wall is light years faster than Rose, if that’s even possible.  Unfortunately for Wall though he has neither the teammates nor the physicality to replicate Rose’s success thus far.  The Wizards are one good player away from mattering, whether that comes through a sleeper blockbuster trade or next year’s draft lottery is beyond us though.

11. Detroit Pistons – So you’re telling me that Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, and Tayshaun Prince are combining to make over $30,000,000 this year?  And you’re telling me Joe Dumars is still the GM of this team?  I don’t get it.  If you want to know what to look for, Greg Monroe is the the best player on this team and the lone hope going into the future.  Unfortunately for him there’s a huge logjam with the guards with Bynum/Stuckey/Gordon.  Brandon Knight looked to be a great draft choice but good luck stealing shots from that threesome.

10.  Milwaukee Bucks – So disappointed in this team’s effort last year.  Every year before the season begins, I like to pick a team that I’m going to quietly root for all year besides my Nuggets.  Last year I picked Milwaukee because of the surprising playoff performance they put up the year prior and what we assumed would be a progress year for Brandon Jennings.  I forgot to take into account how badly Bogut broke that arm though and this team turned out to be a huge disappointment.  For that, they fail to make my hypothetical playoffs based on supremely sophisticated formulas known only to Gen Y’s scientists and mathematicians.

9. Philadelphia 76ers – I love, Love, LOVE this team’s depth in the back court.  They’re impossibly rich in young talent with Jrue Holiday, Jodie Meeks, Lou Williams, and Andre Iguodala.  Throw in the nice re-signing of Thaddeus Young and you have a pretty damn good team.  Unfortunately, this team’s front court is comprised of the following individuals: Elton Brand, Elton Brand’s lockout gut, Elton Brand’s aging/not in shape/injury-plagued legs, Tony Battie, Marreese Speights, and Spencer Hawes.  In a Conference where penetration-style offense is the gold standard (LeBron, Wade, Rose, Rondo) the 76ers don’t have what it takes to slip into the playoffs this year.  Also: look for the Iguodala trade chatter to pick up around the trade deadline.  He’s the ideal person to guard the best shooting guards and small forwards in this league and would make a great asset to a playoff team like Boston, LA (both teams), San Antonio, etc.

8.  New Jersey Nets – This is my bold pick in the East that is sure to go wrong, with either Philly or Milwaukee sneaking ahead of them to make the playoffs (probably Philly).  The reason I’m picking New Jersey to defy the odds and make the postseason?  Deron Williams.  This is a superstar league.  Everybody knows it.  Williams has a claim to the title of best point guard and he’s going to be out on a mission to in an effort to try to attract Dwight Howard to join him.  Throw in a Dwight trade though and this team instantly shoots up into the top four, possibly three.  It didn’t work out last year because Williams was so shocked by the trade-that-nobody-saw-coming and he was bothered by injury.  I look for him to have a HUGE year and the Nets to sneak into the playoffs.  I’m also pulling for Kris Humphries who is going to get booed by every female attending a Nets game this year.  I’m looking for him to have a huge eff you performance against Lamar Odom this season.  Mark your calendars now for February 28th when they face each other. It’s unfair that this all happened to him and if you think he is to blame for that marriage debacle you should probably stand in front of a train this afternoon.  Plus, it’s never not fun to rewatch this clip.

7. Atlanta Hawks – If Larry Drew has any clue about what he’s doing, he’ll turn this into Al Horford’s team and never look back.  I know that Joe Johnson has a max contract and that Josh Smith is one of the five most athletic people in this league, but only Horford has shown the reliability and desire to be a leader of this team.  Look for Smith to get dealt to a panicky team hoping to appease the fan base halfway through the season and for an epic Ewing Theory candidacy.  They’ll be better without him.

6. Indiana Pacers – The Pacers are setting themselves up for the classic “we’re-becoming-such-a-sleeper-that-we’re-no-longer-a-sleeper” season.  I was all over them in the preseason and successfully predicted that David West signing, but I can’t pull for a squad that everybody thinks they figured out first.  It’s hard to argue against that roster though.  Hill and Collison will split point guard duty, Dahntay Jones is a classic wing defender/asset on a contending team, Danny Granger is a fringe superstar, and the West/Hibbert front court is among the best in the league.  Throw in Hansbrough and Paul George off the bench and that’s one hell of a complete team.  Wait, why don’t I want to root for them again?  Kudos to Larry Bird for proving it’s possible to compete in a small market without superstars.  While the Pacers continue to be an underestimated candidate for best uniform in the NBA, I say they fail to fulfill expectations and take a first-round playoff exit.

5. Boston Celtics – They’re old, they’re aging, and they’re going to battle injuries all year.  Their GM can’t possibly have made a bigger mess with his insistance in continuing to float his best player’s name in trade rumors.  In case you didn’t know by now, Rajon Rondo is that best player and it’s not even close.  If you say the Christmas Day game against the Knicks, you know why.  Unfortunately for Rondo, Paul Pierce was out that day and the Celtics offense will likely continue to flow through him.  This translates to Rondo shrinking back into his shell and blaming Danny Ainge for trading his only friend, Kendrick Perkins.  I’ll be anxious to see if the Celts have the guts to move Allen, Pierce, or KG in an effort to compete with the Heat and Bulls.  A playoff matchup with a Magic team that still has Dwight Howard could be extremely entertaining in the first round.

4.  Orlando Magic – While the Magic team goes through the same crap that marred the Denver Nuggets regular season last year, they’ll always continue to matter while they have the best center in the league.  Although the supporting cast might be the worst in five years, Howard can go out and beat teams by himself, as evidenced by last night’s win over Houston.  Should they lose Dwight though, there will be no Nuggets-like surge into the postseason.  They’d instantly fade away into lottery territory.  I hate the way Dwight and Carmelo handled their respective situations.  It’s so unfair to the fan bases and mostly to their teammates, some of whom will inevitably get traded along with him despite not wanting to leave.

3. New York Knicks – It is going to kill me all year to witness it, but there was no person who was more perfect to take on the challenges of being the best player in the New York market than Carmelo Anthony.  The guy is impervious to criticism whether from media/fans/coaches.  It will come in handy when the tabloids start to take their cheap shots.  Did I also mention he’s the most clutch player in the NBA not named Dirk Nowitzki?  The Celtics threw EVERYTHING they had at the Knicks on Christmas and it was still nowhere near enough to stop that ‘Melo onslaught.  If, and this is a huge if, the Knicks front court can stay healthy, they’re a fringe title contender.  Carmelo can beat any player in this league and unlike his peer LeBron, he actually seems to relish the opportunity to play and beat the league’s best players.  I guarantee you he is the guy the players most fear in the fourth quarter, with only Dirk and KD possibly having a chance to compete for that belt.  ‘Melo is going to play a sort of hybrid point guard small forward role known as the “point-forward” this year, and it’s going to be great.  Pray for those Knicks knees this year.

2. Chicago Bulls – They just don’t have enough to beat Miami.  They would, if they traded for Dwight Howard like everyone knows they should.  The reason that won’t happen though?  And this makes me sick…Shoe Contracts.  Yes, I’m serious.  Shoe contracts will prevent Rose and Dwight from teaming up to challenge the inevitable Heat dynasty for the next decade because the two of them are Adidas’ top two guys.  The executives at that company have made it clear to both of them that they can earn far more money playing apart than they can together.  We now live in a world where the world’s best center would rather increase his brand than win NBA championships.

/pounds head against the wall

1. Miami Heat – They’re breezing to the NBA title.  Only Oklahoma City has a chance to stop them.  But they won’t.  The Heat are mind-bogglingly good.  This new Oregon football-inspired fast break offense is insane.  Think about what an advantage it is.  If you turn the ball over against the Heat, they are getting a fast break dunk, end of story.  It’s the most efficient offense since the Mikan’s, Russel’s, and Wilt’s of the world dominated because of the simple fact that they were taller.  Did I mention they play perhaps the best defense in the league as well?  Jesus.  The Heat Dynasty is upon us.   God help us all.

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Small Hope In The Mile High City Or: A Broncos Jets Preview

Confession: I haven’t been this excited about the Denver Broncos since this moment back in 2009:

After those famous fist pumps to the Mile High crowd, I was certain the Denver Broncos had made the coaching coup of the century. Mike Tomlin who? Bill Belichick, what? Pat Bowlen had proven his genius yet again and my Broncos were supposed to be back on their way to franchise dominance. When we put the icing on the cake with a W over the San Diego Chargers the very next week, I was positive that we could go deep into the playoffs and possibly contend for a Super Bowl. The Chargers, after all, had dominated us for the better part of a half decade before that game and had somehow surpassed the Raiders as the Broncos chief (no pun intended) rival. Philip Rivers, you may remember, taunted Jay Cutler from the sidelines after a brutal loss in 2007. Victory tasted good. I was riding on cloud nine and ready for the next chapter of Broncos dynasties.

You all know how that turned out though. The Broncos missed the playoffs in one of the worst collapses in NFL history, finishing the season 8-8. From there McDaniels would lose the locker room, make one of the most controversial draft choices of all time, and eventually get fired midway through the 2010 season.

It was a hard time to be a Broncos fan.

And it was still hard to be a Broncos fan about four weeks ago when John Fox made the controversial decision to hand over the starting job to Tim Tebow after Kyle Orton proved for the millionth time that he is merely Kyle Orton. And then, something weird happened.

In a brutally frustrating game against the Miami Dolphins, the Broncos found themselves yet again trailing in the fourth quarter. It was the type of game Kyle Orton was notorious for mailing in over the years. And look, I don’t blame him for it at all. He played with a bunch of crap teammates for a long time and I totally get why he was so easily frustrated, most especially with a defense that couldn’t keep his high octane offense in games.

But this guy Tim Tebow kept running onto the field like it was the first quarter and nothing had happened yet. His ability to completely wipe away the memory of the last three quarters was astonishing to witness. All of a sudden he was leading a late drive. All of a sudden we had a QB who didn’t get pissed off because the pressure was reaching him in the pocket. All of a sudden, the Broncos scored and had an outside shot pending an onsides kick. All of a sudden, the Broncos won a game in which they trailed by 15 with less than three minutes left.

And I can tell you that to most fans, this is the quality that attracts most of Tebow’s followers. Too often we’ve been burned by Orton giving up on games, we lived with Carmelo Anthony loafing through quarters like he was playing pickup with his buddies. To see a superstar who plays every down like it might be his last is just fine with the residents of Denver, a city that has struggled mightily in sports as of late.

The next week pretty much got ready of any momentarily relief though. The Lions did what every NFL talking head in the country predicted a good NFL team would do to Tim Tebow. He was sacked like a bigillion times, so much so that I’m almost positive they stopped keeping track. A Lions lineman did Tebow’s own pose over him after bringing him down. So much for that hope.

And then, something even more amazing happened than the Broncos comeback win in Miami. The Denver Broncos coaching staff decided to adapt to the personnel that they had rather than force an identity they didn’t have. I think this is the greatest miracle in all of this, given how stubborn NFL head coaches have become over the years and how notorious they are for resisting change. It was one of McDaniels’ biggest problems. He never was able to realize he no longer had Tom Brady on the roster and couldn’t adapt to life without him (and that Belichick fella).

They decided that they would go against all of the “wisdom” of NFL analysts and actually see if a zone read offensive attack could work in the NFL. And you know what. It works. It f—ing works. NFL defenses and all of this alleged speed that was supposed to prevent it from succeeding haven’t a clue how to stop it. The Broncos have racked up 299 and 244 yards in consecutive weeks and now find themselves one game out of first place in the division and the most improbable of playoff runs.

And all of those crazy events are exactly the reason I am so damn excited for tonight’s game against the Jets. Once again the Broncos have had to listen to a (shortened) week’s worth of criticism about how all of this is just catching teams by surprise and how it can’t work in the long-term. And tonight they have the chance to give one of the greatest middle fingers to ESPN’s “experts” in the history of sports analysis.

The Jets present the toughest of matchups for a team like Denver that has so committed itself to the run. They have excellent cornerbacks that allow their defense to quite literally put every other defender inside the box to protect the rush. And you know what? I still say the Broncos win anyway.

Here’s why.

Everyone seems to forget that the New York Jets have Mark Sanchez at quarterback. He’s awful. He forces more turnovers than Jay Leno forces awkward, unfunny jokes into his opening monologues. If Sanchez comes out and throws an early pick or three, forget about it. It’s all over. The Broncos will pound one of those possessions into the end zone, and that’s all it could take. Which brings me to point number two.

This game is going to be extremely low scoring, given the identities of both the teams. There is NOTHING Rex Ryan loves more than a game between possession-heavy, run-based offenses that really rely on their defenses to go out and win them football games. Well except for maybe all-you-can-eat buffets.

These games are usually decided by what team turns the ball over less, and if there’s anything Tim Tebow does well in the NFL, it’s that he never turns the ball over, most especially through the air. Mark Sanchez on the other hand will likely lose this game for the Jets tonight by trying to play the hero role he’s so clearly not cut out for.

Speaking of going to the air, this brings me to my next point. The NFL is all about the ability to adapt from week-to-week. You don’t really think the Broncos are going to continue to run the ball 55 times a game, do you? Tell me you’re not that stupid! The Broncos are implementing a new offense on the fly and you can count on them incorporating many pass plays into this option attack over the coming weeks that teams haven’t seen yet on tape, much like what Tebow used at Florida.

You know that defenses in college arrogantly thought the same way that NFL defenses do now and gave him single coverage all day, right? You know that either of the following two plays have the potential to happen every single down, yes?

And it is with all of these thoughts in mind that I will be making my first journey out of the house specifically to watch a Broncos game in over two years. I don’t have a Tebow jersey yet, but if we win tonight, one will be on its way to my residence before I go to bed. It’s never been more fun to be a Broncos fan. It’s exciting. It’s thrilling. We literally can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next.

And other than winning a championship, that’s the best feeling in the world as a sports fan.

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Good Morning Generation

Da da da da…bu nuh bu nuh…da da da da da da da….buh nuhhh nuhhh nuhhhhhhhhhhh…..da da da da……the NFL has arrived!  Obviously you could tell by my incredible effort at spelling out ESPN’s NFL theme music.  Enough about my talents with onomatopoeia though, let’s get to my preseason NFL picks!  I’ll do a division by division break down and end it with my playoff picks.  It’s priiiiiiiiiime tiiiiiiiiiime.

Most previews, scratch that, all previews seem to start with the NFC East and move geographically west.  As an AFC West guy that always pissed me off so we’re throwing the whole system for a loop and doing it the exact opposite:

AFC West

1. San Diego Chargers (10-6) – It’s a quarterback league and this team has the best quarterback.  I hate, hate, hate Phillip Rivers and hope that Von Miller gets a chance to go all Steve Atwater on him this year.  With Vincent Jackson back for the whole season though this team is destined to continue its dominance.

2. Kansas City Chiefs (7-9) – The talent compiled in Kansas City is fairly remarkable.  Unfortunately for this team the ego of its head coach is going to get in the way of a second consecutive division crown.

3. Denver Broncos (6-10) – My guys seem to be a trendy pick to surprise everyone this year.  While that might be the case, the Broncos still have serious talent issues on the defensive line that are going to seriously affect their ability to make great strides as a defense under new head coach John Fox.  Von Miller and the return of Elvis Dumervil will help, but I still don’t trust this defense to make a stop on third down.  The most intriguing storyline to me though is how the offense adopts under the conservative play calling Fox became notorious for in Carolina.  You could argue Kyle Orton is the best quarterback he’s ever coached but I don’t know if he’ll ever be able to shake off years of having Jake Delhomme and, gulp, Jimmy Clausen running his offense.  I expect the winner in all of this will be new free agent signing Willis McGahee with all of Knowshon Moreno’s fantasy owners left shaking their head…again.  I still wish the team would just start Tebow and purposely tank the season to get Andrew Luck, but alas they’re going to try to claw their way to .500 and go back to the dreaded curse of mediocrity.  Say a prayer for a Bronco fan when you get the chance.

4. Oakland Raiders (5-11) – This is another team with a fairly decent roster.  The franchise is always in chaos though as a result of whatever the hell Al Davis thinks he’s trying to accomplish.  Throw in a mentally soft quarterback and you have a team that will regress this year.

AFC South

1. Tennessee Titans (10-6) – This is my upset pick of the year.  I like that they brought in Hasselbeck and I like that Chris Johnson got paid.  If Kenny Britt can find any way to stay on the field all year (not so much for injuries, but off-the-field issues), I think you’re looking at the team that steals Peyton’s division crown.

2. Houston Texans (9-7) – I hate to do it, but this team continually let me down over the years and seems unwilling or unable to learn how to win ball games.  There’s just some evil, devlish thought in the back of every Texans players’ mind in close ball games that tells them they’re going to lose in much the same way that Greg Norman could never win a Masters.  They’re by far the most talented and literally have no excuses anymore, but I say they come up just short…again.

3. Indianapolis Colts (8-8) – I’d like to lay ten bucks right now that Peyton Manning doesn’t play a down all year.  Remember I said it first.  The Colts will still maintain organizational pride and salvage a .500 record, but there could be some long-term issues brewing if their head coach fails to keep it together.

4.  Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15) – Did everyone like Jacksonville making the first “this is totally a play to throw away our season in an effort to get Andrew Luck” move of the year???  Are they for real right now?  Luke McCown?!?!  Does Roger Goodell really fail to see this franchise is intentionally tanking the season?  It should be illegal and you might end up seeing rules in place after the season as five or so teams really throw down to win the Andrew Luck sweepstakes.

AFC North

1. Pittsburgh Steelers (14-2) – The class of the NFL.  It drives me crazy that they had a double standard between Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes but how can anyone really complain about the Steelers?  They’re the model of class and consistency and with Ben healthy and ready for a whole season, the only thing standing in their way is another crippling injury to Troy Polamalu.  I say it doesn’t happen.

2. Baltimore Ravens (10-6) – I feel bad for these guys.  They’re just never quite good enough, no matter how hard they hit and no matter how many attractive wide receivers they bring in during the offseason.  It’s got to be extremely frustrating to be a Ravens fan.  They’ll make the playoffs again and let me be the first to predict they lose to the Steelers…again.

3. Cleveland Browns (6-10) – I like the direction they’re going.  Doesn’t matter in this division though.  Bold prediction: Peyton Hillis is number two on the depth chart by the halfway mark of the season.

4. Cincinnati Bengals (3-13) – As much as I love Andy Dalton and some of the weapons he has at receiver, this franchise’s only goal seems to be to challenge Al Davis’ Raiders for the title of worst-run franchise in American sports.

AFC East

1. New England Patriots (11-5) – This team overachieved mightily last year and that kind of confidence is going to help the young guys continue to succeed.  With Tom Brady at quarterback, they’ll always be relevant.  I predict the big names brought in this year will neither disappoint nor wildly succeed.  Which of course will drive them both completely crazy and ultimately end in one of them being shipped off midseason a la Randy Moss.  Speaking of Moss, let’s just say I definitely drafted him with my last pick in a couple of my leagues…and that was before the Brady comments.

2. New York Jets (9-7) – I say the wheels start to come off this wagon and the Jets will barely, repeat, barely limp into the playoffs on a technicality with a ton of team chemistry issues and the defense consistently calling out the offense’s incompetence.  There will be no third consecutive AFC Championship game for the Jets.  Sanchez is not the new Donovan McNabb.

3. Buffalo Bills (8-8) – I secretly really like the Bills this year.  I think Fred Jackson and Stevie Johnson were two of the better late round steals in fantasy drafts this year and I’m continually impressed by Ryan Fitzpatrick whenever I see him play.  Admittedly I know nothing about their defense, but I say the Bills surprise everyone this year and challenge the Jets for the last playoff spot.

4. Miami Dolphins (4-12) – The Dolphins are the safe bet as team number two to eventually enter the Andrew Luck chase.  I look for them to bench Chad Henne in weak number three and hopefully they eventually give LeBron a tryout at tight end and (if we’re really lucky) will hold the first ever midseason reality TV show by a sports franchise to see who’ll be their starting quarterback the rest of the year.  My idea is that they bring in a ton of washed up star college quarterbacks and let them battle it out with the winner eventually playing under center the rest of the way.  Tell me you wouldn’t pay to see Ryan Leaf battling Joey Harrington for the starting job?

NFC West

1. St Louis Rams (9-7) – I believe in Sam Bradford and I believe in a motivated Josh McDaniels to get his mojo back.  This team is on the cusp of great things.

2. Arizona Cardinals (7-9) – I’m shocked at how excited Larry Fitzgerald is to play with Kevin Kolb.  He does realize the reason he made so many spectacular catches this preseason was because of how inaccurate the balls being thrown to him were, right?  The Cards benefit from playing four games against the Seahawks and Niners, otherwise this record would be way lower.

3. Seattle Seahawks (4-12) – Pete Carroll strikes me as a man who has absolutely no sense of awareness.  He’s basically the Michael Scott of the NFL.  He continues to believe that Punk’d was the greatest show in American television history and continually delivers insanely bizarre videos of him pranking his players.  They’re awkward, racially uncomfortable, and it’s eventually going to lead to him losing the locker room.  Did I mention he brought in Tavaris Jackson to be THE guy?  Oh god.

4. San Francisco 49ers (2-14) – Have I ever brought up that I believe Harbaugh has a secret pact with Andrew Luck to try to tank his first season in the NFL so that they can reunite and eventually try to conquer the pro game together?  Is that not the single-greatest conspiracy theory of the season, other than the four other soon-to-be conspiracies of NFL franchises tanking their respective seasons to accomplish the same goal?  The 49ers will be team number three to enter the sweepstakes to get the Stanford QB.

NFC North

1. Green Bay Packers (14-2) – I expect the Packers to come out with the single greatest title defense since the Giants nearly went undefeated a couple of years ago before Plaxico Burress went and shot that plan to bits, literally.  It’s scary to think this team wasn’t even at full strength last year when they dominated the entire playoffs.  And to think, they were a DeSean Jackson punt return away from missing out on the whole thing.

2. Detroit Lions (10-6) – I am on the band wagon.  I’m a huge defensive line disciple and the Lions quite clearly have one of the best lines in the entire league, and that’s just Ndamukong Suh.  I fully believe Stafford stays healthy and I fully believe the Lions finally kick the awful reputation they’ve had over the last decade.  Unfortunately they’ll just miss the playoffs though.

3. Chicago Bears (8-8) – I love me some Jay Cutler but I’m the first to admit he’s a great finger-pointer and the Bears will regress mightily on their shocking run to the NFC title game last year.  They’ll salvage an 8-8 record because of their defense, but look for Cutler to live up to his reputation as a jerk and a (not so) leader of men.

4. Minnesota Vikings (8-8) – Although the Vikings are going to “lose” this division, I actually think they have a chance to surprise a bunch of people this year and will threaten for a playoff spot.  Donovan McNabb has to have at least one more “great season by an aging quarterback” year left in him and let’s not forget, this team still has Adrian Peterson.

NFC South

1. New Orleans Saints (14-2) – Drew Brees is going to go all Drew Brees on us this year and remind us why he won a Super Bowl two years ago and won Bill Simmons’ hypothetical “title belt” as the reigning best quarterback in the NFL.  The prospect of him and Rogers battling it out tonight should give you a minor erection and I’m taking the Saints to win that game along with 13 more this year. 

2. Atlanta Falcons (11-5) – I don’t buy into all of the hype of Matty Ice and how he’s about to make the leap into the territory of the Bradys and Mannings of the quarterbacking world.  In my eyes he’s the NFC version of Joe Flacco, which is basically a backhanded compliment.  I’m excited to see what Julio Jones can do on offense, but at the end of the year I say they’ll get knocked out early…again.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-10) – They’re the easy candidate to wildly disappoint on expectations this year.  I flip flop on Josh Freeman every day and I’m going to say he regresses back to the form we all came to know and love back in his K-State days when he couldn’t buy a winning record to save his life.

4. Carolina Panthers (5-11) – I’m not down with Cam Newton, NFL starting quarterback in much the same way I wasn’t down with Jimmy Clausen, NFL starting quarterback.  I expect defenses to give this offense fits as the Panthers decide way too late to enter the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes as team number four.

NFC East

1. New York Giants (12-4) – If there was any franchise I wish the Broncos would model themselves after, it’s the Giants.  I know they’re never a sexy pick in this division but I love what Tom Coughlin is about and I love what the Giants achieve every year under him.  Despite a ton of injuries to the secondary, I still expect this monster defensive line to do what they do best.  I also think Eli is going to secretly benefit from the Peyton injury because the elder Manning will no doubt shower him with free advice and constructive criticism all year as he attempts to live vicariously through his little bro.

2. Dallas Cowboys (10-6) – I’d like to take a moment to give myself tons of credit for being the only person with the sense to call out the Cowboys last year on how horrible they were going to be.  I’d also now like to take the opportunity to be the first one to say they’re going to be a dangerous wild card team that could do damage in the playoffs.  I like Romo, I like their offense, and I especially like that no one is talking about them…finally.  They won’t win it all but look for Rob Ryan to inject a ton of life into this team and give them the much-needed confidence boost they’ve been lacking over the past five years.

3. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) – As much as I want Michael Vick to succeed and prove all the haters wrong, as much as an Eagles Super Bowl would make me all weepy as a sports fan, this alleged dream team in Philly is going to be a big time disappointment.  I predict they lose a bunch of close games all of which is going to help Vick win a Super Bowl, next year.  I don’t like a ton of big names on an NFL roster and they need only look to division foe Washington to see how that strategy worked.

4. Washington Redskins (6-10) – Mike Shanahan seems like Tommy Lee Jones’ character in No Country For Old Men.  The game is simply passing him by and he can’t quite hack it anymore at this level.  I have a ton of love for my team’s old head coach and will swear by him till the day I die, but there’s no way a team with those quarterbacks can compete in this league.  Mike should heed the lessons of his time in Denver and tank the season to become the fifth and final contender in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes.

Playoff Picture

AFC

1. Pittsburgh 2. New England 3. Tennessee 4. San Diego 5. Baltimore 6. New York Jets

Wild Card: Tennessee def New York, Baltimore def San Diego

Divisional: Pittsburgh def Baltimore, New England def Tennessee

AFC Title: Pittsburgh def New England

NFC

1. New Orleans 2. Green Bay 3. New York 4. St Louis 5. Atlanta 6. Dallas

Wild Card: Atlanta def St Louis, New York def Dallas

Divisonal: New Orleans def New York, Green Bay def Atlanta

NFC Title: New Orleans def Green Bay

Super Bowl: Pittsburgh def New Orleans

Generation Y, where Baylor trying desperately to block Texas A&M and save its own spot in the Big 12 is way too poetic for all the TCU and SMU fans out there who were screwed years ago by the folks in Waco.  Karma, as they say, is a bitch.

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Good Morning Generation

NCAA football tonight!!  I wanted to do some sort of breakdown for you, but given the odd nature of college football, a complete season guide is a little unrealistic, given Gen Y’s limited resources.  Instead let me predict the winner of each conference and see if I can’t come up with a realistic picture of the BCS.  We’ll go in order of the worst conference to the best:

Big East – I’ll take the West Virginia Mountaineers.  New coach Dana Holgorsen is a guru at the wide open college passing offenses and you need only look at his brilliant work at Oklahoma State and Houston the past five years to see why he’s going to be great.  This team once came within a single win of going to the national championship game under a similar system with the now exiled Rich Rodriguez.  My guess is they make a return to form as the best team in the worst conference.

Mountain West – I’ll take my TCU Horned Frogs.  Look, all you’re going to hear about all year is Boise this and Boise that out of the MWC.  Just know that there is nothing Gary Patterson enjoys more as a coach then being underestimated.  My greatest wish for this college football season is that the Frogs and the Broncos are both undefeated going into their late November matchup on the blue turf, a game which I’ll be on the sideline for, and that TCU pulls off a stunning upset to win the conference title in their last year.  Kellen Moore gives me awful, dreadful nightmares, but then again, he probably feels the same way about returning TCU linebackers Tanner Brock and Tank Carder.

ACC – I’ll take Florida State to win the conference title, ultimately disappoint.  That seems to be the mantra of this conference ever since Coach Bowden lost his swagger somewhere in the early 2000s.  There are a ton of expectations that the Seminoles can perhaps find their way to a national title game this year in Jimbo Fisher’s second year.  I’m not buying any of it.  Look for Oklahoma to curb stomp them again in week three and for them to ultimately lose the season finale in Gainsville.  Florida State edges out Virginia Tech to finish 10-2 and win the ACC.  And oh by the way, it is criminal that those two don’t play each other this year.  Talk about protecting your big dogs, even if it is as a result of normal conference scheduling procedures.

Pac 12 – Until one of those programs figures out how to stop it, the Oregon Ducks are going to have a stranglehold on this conference in the coming years.  The best part about Chip Kelly’s offense is that it doesn’t really matter who plays, so long as they’re in shape and have a general idea of what they’re doing within the system (it is the spiritual counterpart of Gary Patterson’s 4-2-5 defense).  Andrew Luck is going to make a great NFL quarterback, but there’s no way he can carry a new head coach and a reloaded roster back to the success of last year and USC just doesn’t interest me until they’re bowl eligible again.  Utah?  They’re in way over their heads.  Ditto CU.  Although they could very easily go undefeated again, I say the Ducks drop a game this year but head off to Pasadena.  Oregon wins the Pac-12 at 11-1.

Big 12 – Let’s be real.  The conference title is coming down to UT or Oklahoma.  It always does.  I know Oklahoma State and A&M are currently ranked ahead of the Longhorns.  And I know that the majority of you can’t stand the Longhorns and the Sooners.  I’m discounting Okie State because of the loss of the aforementioned Coach Holgorsen to West Virginia and I’m calling a complete and total choke job by Texas A&M because they’re going to take everything way too personal this year in their final season with the conference.  You can never discount the Dan Bebe influence on the Big 12 referees too, which A&M will find themselves on the opposing end of this season a year after the zebras gifted them a game against Nebraska in much the same manner.  Look for the boys in stripes to screw the Aggies all year on questionable calls.  But anyways, OU wins the Big 12 and there’s no reason they can’t go undefeated and lose the national championship this year.  The Sooners finish 12-0.

Big Ten – Ohio State’s strangle on conference supremacy is finally over.  God bless it.  I know this is going to disappoint my father, one of the only ten readers of this site, but I’m taking the Wisconsin Badgers to win this somehow still underrated conference and possible contend for a national title.  Wisconsin may have lost the Rose Bowl to TCU, but I’m still convinced they were actually the best team in the country last year.  They may only be returning 12 starters from the awesomely succesful team of last year, but they’ve covered up their biggest weakness by bringing in Russel Wilson at quarterback.  They actually appear to be better than last year’s team.  Scary.  Wisconsin barely edges the Cornhuskers and the Wolverines to win the Big Ten with an 11-1 record.

SEC – Way too much talent in this conference.  Way too difficult to give a complete run down of every team that has a chance.  I’m going with the obvious pick in Alabama.  Nick Saban is light years ahead of his coaching peers right now.  With Urban Meyer walking out the door at Florida, there seems to be no one even close to his level.  I love the talent at LSU and Arkansas this year, and Will Muschamp will certainly be interesting to watch at Florida, but this conference still kneels and kisses the ring of the best coach in the game.  Alabama surprisingly breezes through the SEC to go 12-0 and book a trip to the national championship game.

BCS Picture (winners in bold):

Orange Bowl – Florida State vs West Virginia

Sugar Bowl – Arkansas vs Nebraska

Fiesta Bowl – Texas vs TCU

Rose Bowl – Wisconsin vs Oregon

BCS National Championship – Oklahoma vs Alabama

Generation Y, where hot damn there’s college football tonight.

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