I know this isn’t watersports related but the one sport I love to watch is football. As a matter of fact, it’s the only sport where I enjoy being a spectator. I can’t bring myself to sit and watch any other sport on TV. I enjoy watching some sports live, but football is the one professional sport I pursue constantly. Frankly, I think the opening day of the NFL should be a national holiday.

Every year I play a little game where I try to predict what team has gotten better and which team has gotten worse. Below are my 2009 predictions.

First, the bottom of the heap: Tampa Bay, Detroit, Buffalo, KC, Denver, and Oakland are going to stink it up. The tragic story out of this list will be Denver. Their head coach is too young and has effectively alienated his most talented players. I predict that the rest of the players will not follow and everything will fall apart. If the owner has to fire him at the end of the season he’ll have even less than what he started with. The other story worth noting from the above list is the incompetent administration in Oakland. Why do they continue to throw big money at mediocre players? And why are their player evaluations so much different than the rest of the league? It will all become apparent soon enough. Who will the mediocre teams be this year? That would be Washington, San Fran, Seattle, Arizona, St. Louis, Minnesota, New York Jets, Cincy, Cleveland, and Jacksonville. These teams will all finish between 7-9 and 9-7. Notice I have the entire NFC West division listed. Seattle will be improved from last year just by having a healthy QB, San Fran will have a full year of Mike Singletary to keep them motivated, and St. Louis will have a defensive coordinator to balance out the team. The wild card here is Arizona. They were only 9-7 a year ago before they went on that tear in the playoffs. The question is: Do they have a Super Bowl slump or have they learned how to win? I like Ken Whisenhunt, the former Redskin, and I want to believe he’s taught them how to maintain a winning attitude. Minnesota will start strong but fade late. The Jets will scare teams with their new attitude defense but Mark Sanchez will make enough mistakes to keep the other team in the game. If Cincy’s low budget roster fails the team will implode and join the bottom dwellers. Cleveland will have a new attitude to get to mediocre but not enough talent to be good. And the Jaguars will come to realize that David Garrard only had one really good year.

My LOOK OUT teams for this season are New Orleans, Green Bay, Tennessee, and San Diego. New Orleans lost a lot of close games last year and will sneak up on people. Green Bay was hurt and will do the same. Tennessee knows they got bumped too early and will be more focused. And San Diego will have an easy division schedule and they have plenty of talent.

The teams that will still be strong are Philadelphia, New York Giants, Dallas, Carolina, Atlanta, Chicago, New England, Miami, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Houston, and Indianapolis. The teams on the bubble between good and great: Dallas, Carolina, New England, Baltimore, and Houston. Philly has the best offensive coordinator but will their no-name defense still shine without Jim Johnson? Every team will come after Eli Manning to prove he wasn’t worth the money. Go ahead, keep knocking Tony Romo for his December stats. Eventually, he’s going to make everybody pay. Dallas has too much talent to ignore. Carolina will have a tough schedule and will be down from last year. Atlanta’s Matt Ryan will prove he’s no fluke. Between the addition of Jay Cutler and Lovie Smith taking over the defense the Bears will be better. New England’s defense will not be able to make –up for all of the losses this off-season. Is Miami a fluke team? Not with the foundation they’ve built. They have all the ingredients; smart QB, strong running game, and a tough D. I thought Joe Flacco would be a one-year wonder but then I saw how poised he was in the pre-season and I take that back. The question in Baltimore is whether their defense can maintain its intensity without Rex Ryan.

Please bear with me as I take a few extra moments to assess my beloved/despised Redskins. My mixed emotions are due to the administration. The Redskins have enough talent to stay out of trouble and with a few lucky breaks they could have a winning season. Their defense should be much improved with the addition of DeAngelo Hall, Brian Orakpo and Albert Haynesworth. These three players will create more turnovers and cause more pressure. The offense will be a little better but not by leaps and bounds. The bottom line is whether or not Jason Campbell will have enough time to throw the ball. It’s easy for everyone to criticize Campbell for not making great throws but my defense is that a QB needs to get in a rhythm and he can’t do so if he’s running for his life. The receiving corps is adequate at best. Their two best receivers (Moss and Randle-El) are slot players and they don’t have a go-to big receiver. Maybe if the Campbell has time to throw he can find the mismatches and get the ball to some of the secondary receivers. Although the Redskins made improvements so did the rest of the division. The NFC East is a brutal division and whoever is left standing probably won’t have enough steam to win the Super Bowl. The Skins finish 8-8, maybe 9-7.

Here are my divisional winners: Philly, Arizona, New Orleans, and Chicago. Green Bay and New York make the wild card. In the AFC you get Miami, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, and San Diego with New England and Indianapolis in the wild card game. Super Bowl: Tennessee over New Orleans

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