No, not gonna go there. I'm out at the Canadian Open today, doing live updates for the web and trying to spin blogging gold out of pinestraw, but that won't stop me from not doing an NFL preview as it all starts tonight. Besides, the guys at Sports Matters, who really, really get into this thing, have already gone there, along with many others.
|Romeo, o Romeo, wherefore are thou? 10 wins vs. the number would do me fine.|
But the NFL is all about the pools and the playng. So here they are, a couple teams to look twice at for value, a couple that look square and a bunch to avoid before you go filling out your slips and risking your lunch money (consensus Super Bowl odds from Oddschecker in parentheses):
A player's best friend.
The Browns (80-1). Yes, you will accuse me of bias here. And as I've said before, Charlie Frye is the new Jake Plummer, able to excape the clutches of drooling linemen only to run into his own worst enemy -- himself. But they have an decent schedule to start -- home to New Orleans and Baltimore, sandwiched around a trip to Cincy -- and in Leigh Bodden and newcomer Kamerion Wimbley, have a couple of potential defensive stars on a unit anchored by incoming Willie McGinest, who's about 77 years old but will provide the cliched 'veteran leadership' on a team finally out from under the long, devastating shadow of Butch Davis and Carmen Policy.
The Lions (100-1). Oh, I can hear you now! First the Browns. Then the Lions. But this is a cupcake division. The non-conference schedule includes pennyweights in the Jets, Buffalo, San Fran and Arizona. I'm worried about the Matt Millen factor, not to mention the Mike Martz factor, not to mention the Jon Kitna factor, not to mention ... but confident that with the Packers, Vikings and punchless Bears alongside them, the NFC Norse division is ripe for the taking.
Baltimore (40-1). Everyone I've polled on this, including Chuck Swirsky out here at the golf, absolutely love the Ravens, who've added Steve McNair. My question concerns mostly McNair, who will be his usual duct-taped together self by Week 10, at which point we can all go back to wondering about whether there are any bounds to Brian Billick's ego, or Ray Lewis's preening. They could be anything, these Ravens, maybe even good value.
Carolina (8-1) and the Giants (25-1). These two teams just look solid to me, returning playoff teams with good QBs and supporting casts -- I'd add Seattle to that group, too, except that as a returning conference champion they will be somewhat of a skimpy return at the windows. But I'm expecting big improvement from Eli Manning. Okay, he's on my fantasy team, so I'm hoping for big improvement from Eli Manning. The Giants also play in the overrated NFC East, where Terrell Owens destroyed one team and is well on his way to doing it to another.
Arizona (40-1). Everybody's favourite sleeper. So of course they'll flop. They're the Cardinals, remember?
The Jets (100-1). It's not that anyone's not on to them. Not only are they thin on talent, but they've gone the route of hiring a young coach with no experience, but he was with the Patriots so all is forgiven. They are the worst possible combo: a bad team, and a bad bet.
Pittsburgh (12-1). This was an above-average, though not extraordinary team up until the final five weeks or so of last season. Then they turned into something else. There's a serious karmic re-adjustment in store, and it seems to have already begun with the misfortunes of Ben Roethlisberger. No value here at all.