1. Dallas Cowboys: It pains me to write this, because I grew up hating the Cowboys, and I still hate the Cowboys, but damn, Jerry Jones has assembled a decent selection of talent on this team. There’s Tony Romo, Jessica Simpson, Terrell Owens. I say the Cowboys finish the season 13-3.
2. New York Giants: The Giants suffered a major setback with the season-ending injury to defensive lineman Osi Umenyiora. But I suspect the defense will keep it together. I think Eli Manning will show new found confidence this season, and with Jeremy Shockey gone, there might be a bit less strife on the offense. The Giants go 11-5.
3. Philadelphia Eagles: I just can’t make myself believe in the Eagles. They’ve got the talent on offense. Donavan McNabb is supposed to be healthy. But I think the Philadelphia fans are going to be doing a lot of booing this season. 8-8 for the Eagles.
4. Washington Redskins: Joe Gibbs is gone and his replacement is Jim Zorn, who was actually hired to be the offensive coordinator. Zorn was the first-ever QB of the Seattle Seahawks, but he can’t suit up, and current QB is having to learn his seventh offense in eight years. Can you spell disaster? The Skins go 4-12.
1. Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings have perhaps the most explosive player in professional football, the Purple Jesus himself, Adrian Peterson. However, Tavaris Jackson is still the Viking QB, and he’s not very good. But the Vikings play in a bad division, so they’re going to the playoffs. The Vikings go 10-6.
2. Green Bay Packers: Brett Favre is gone, but his ghost is going to linger in Green Bay, and as soon as Aaron Rodgers throws an interception, the ghost is going to manifest itself as thousands of fans booing and screaming for Favre. This guy is being set up to fail. But I say he doesn’t. I just don’t think the team is that good. The Pack go 9-7.
3. Detroit Lions: The Lions make the Houston Texans look like a well-run franchise. The Texans, after all, did eventually fire Charley Casserly. But somehow Lions GM Matt Millen still has a job. Amazing. The Lions finish 7-9.
4. Chicago Bears: Kyle Orton is the starting QB of this team. That should be enough to tell you how bad this team will be. The Bears go 4-12.
1. New Orleans Saints: The Saints were beset by injuries last season, but when everyone is healthy, this is one of the most explosive offenses in football. Drew Brees has high-octane targets like Marques Colston, Jeremy Shockey, and Reggie Bush. If Deuce McAlllister is healthy, then this team will be difficult to stop. The Saints go 12-4.
2. Carolina Panthers: The Panthers are one of those maddening teams that can be good and bad, in the same game. But Jake Delhomme is healthy, and David Carr is gone. So there should be some good karma coming their way this season. The Panthers go 11-5.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Okay, can we all agree that Jon Gruden isn’t really a genius? That he got lucky to have some really talented teams in Oakland and in Tampa? Good. I’m glad we agree. I think Jeff Garcia is the starting QB, but that can change often. This team is on its way downward and will finish 7-9.
4. Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons have a new coach. A new QB. And they got rid of a lot of underperforming veterans. But that doesn’t make this a good team. The Falcons will go 3-13.
1. St. Louis Rams: Stud running back Steven Jackson and QB Marc Bulger were injured a lot last season, and the offensive line was devastated by injuries. When their offense clicks, the Rams are good. The offense will click this year. The Rams go 9-7.
2. Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks are going to a running-back by committee approach which will kill not only the team, but any desperate fantasy football owner who has one of their running backs. The Seahawks go 8-8 because they’re a perfectly mediocre team in a perfectly mediocre division.
3. Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals should be the team that is flying high over this division. They’ve got one of the best receiving corps in football, they’ve got two serviceable quarterbacks, an aging, but still decent running back, and offensive mastermind for a head coach. But I’m not buying their hype anymore. The Cards go 6-10.
4. San Francisco 49ers: Where have you gone, Joe Montana, the Bay Area turns its lonely eyes to you. This is a bad team, and they’ll go 4-12. AFC EAST:
1. New England Patriots: The Patriots tried to make history last season, only to be robbed by Eli Manning in the closing minutes of the Super Bowl. The Patriots won’t go undefeated this season, but they will dominate this division. The Patriots will go 14-2.
2. Buffalo Bills: Lee Evans is a good receiver. Marshawn Lynch is a good running back. Trent Edwards might become a serviceable QB. If the defense improves, the team should win some games. I say they go 9-7.
3. New York Jets: Brett Favre, or no Brett Favre, the Jets just aren’t that good. And as soon as Favre has one of his five-interception games, the Jets fans will be screaming for the return of Chad Pennington from Miami. The Jets go 6-10.
4. Miami Dolphins: Chad Pennington. Ricky Williams. Bad. I know Bill Parcells is supposed to be a genius, but he won’t be this year. The Dolphins go 2-14.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers will struggle throughout the season, but Ben Roethlisberger, Willie Parker, Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, and Heath Miller still make for a mighty offense. The defense should improve, which should mean the Steelers will go 11-5.
2. Cleveland Browns: The Browns were the surprise of the NFL last year. They were blown out in their season opener, then cut their QB. Derek Anderson came off of the bench to have one of those seasons they speak of in books. Anderson is back, as is the rest of the talented offense. But just like last year, the Browns fall just short of the playoffs as they go 9-7.
3. Cincinnati Bengals: Carson Palmer will still have Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Rudi Johnson is supposedly healthy. But the offense isn’t the Bengals problem. It’s the defense. Hopefully, the budget for defense attorneys will be reduced for this crime-laden squad. And hopefully the defense will be able to stop somebody. I say the Bengals go 7-9.
4. Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens have a new coach and a new QB. But they’re still going to be dependent on the defense, and the defense is aging. The Ravens go 5-11.
1. Indianapolis Colts: Peyton Manning has problems with his knees. Key lineman Jeff Saturday is out for the first third of the season. Marvin Harrison might be heading off for jail at any time. But then there are Reggie Wayne, Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark, and Anthony Gonzalez. The Colts will still score lots of points, and their defense will hold up long enough to make the stops when necessary. The Colts go 12-4.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew would start for most teams. Here, they split time. Most teams should be so lucky. And David Garrard is an underrated QB who is doesn’t make many mistakes. The Jags finish up at 11-5.
3. Tennessee Titans: The Titans have a punishing running game led by LenDale White. And that running game is needed because Vince Young still hasn’t quite figured out the passing game. But Jeff Fisher is one of the best coaches in football, so he figures out how to make this team win yet again. The Titans go 9-7.
4. Houston Texans: I want the Texans to be good. Seriously, I do. But I’m just not buying the hype because there are still so many questions. Like who play at running back. Or whether Matt Schaub can stay healthy. Or whether the defense can stop anybody. The Texans will go 5-11.
1. San Diego Chargers: LaDanianian Tomlinson is the best player in football. He can run. He can catch. He even throws for touchdowns. Philip Rivers is serviceable as a QB, which is all that he needs to be with Tomlinson hanging around. I don’t think much of Norv Turner as a coach, but as long as Tomlinson gets the ball, the Chargers win. They go 12-4.
2. Denver Broncos: Jay Cutler is developing into a nice QB. Selvin Young is making everyone who failed to draft him look like fools. And since the Broncos have to play Oakland and Kansas City numerous times, the Broncos should have some easy wins. The Broncos go 10-6.
3. Oakland Raiders: How bad can a once proud franchise get? I don’t know, but the Raiders have become a laughingstock in the NFL. The Raiders go 5-11.
4. Kansas City Chiefs: Running back Larry Johnson has been used, and abused. And the Chiefs don’t have much else. I think 3-13.
In the NFC, the wild card Panthers beat the NFC West champ Rams, and the wild card Giants defeat the NFC North champ Vikings. In the AFC, the wild card Jaguars defeat the AFC North champ Steelers, and the AFC South champ Colts defeat the wild card Broncos.
The Jags will then lose to the Patriots, and the Colts will lose to the Chargers. In the NFC, the Cowboys will defeat the Giants and the Saints will defeat the Panthers.
The Cowboys will beat the Panthers, and the Patriots will beat the Chargers, and the Patriots will beat the Cowboys in a Super Bowl that I won’t watch because I hate both teams.
-- John Royal