Wednesday, August 22, 2012

2012's most anticipated post part iii: the nfc south

Third up: the NFC South!  (Please click picture below for full Excel schedule breakdown):

* Final Order of Finish:

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (based on conference record)
2. Carolina Panthers (based on strength of victory)
3. New Orleans Saints (screwed big time!  (cue average saints fan voice) fuck you Goodell!!!)
4. Atlanta Falcons

* First Read: the Saints and Falcons Panthers tie in EVERY possible tiebreaker down to whatever the hell is 5th or 6th, which is points scored.  (I think*).  They have identical overall records, identical head to head, identical conference, identical division, identical common opponents.  I think – and that’s a guess at best – I think Carolina will score more than New Orleans.  I only mention this, because the final wildcard in the NFC?  HINGES on this tie-breaker between Carolina and New Orleans (the Panthers, FYI, are drawing dead in this scenario … but the Saints aren’t.)

(*: UPDATE -- it's not!  Strength of Victory is ahead of points scored.  Still didn't change my projection, although I had to haul the calculator out to figure out 2nd place.  And yes -- second place in the NFC South literally determined the last NFC Wildcard ... and there were more teams involved than just these two.)  

* Biggest Game(s): well, Carolina / New Orleans splitting threw this projection into abject chaos.  Trust me – ABJECT CHAOS, for the final NFC Wildcard Berth.  What would have avoided said chaos?  Was if Carolina had won at Philly to close November on a Monday night.  Also, Bucs last place schedule was HUGE – they won both their non-common games (Vikings / Rams), while the Panthers (Bears / Seahawks) and Saints (Packers / 49ers) split theirs.  (pause).  Fine, sometimes it IS who you play that determines the damned division.

* Seems Wacky: on the surface, Atlanta collapsing SEEMS wacky.  But LOOK at that opening six game stretch, if not opening nine games (counting the three after the bye).  EVERY DAMNED SEASON, some hyped team collapses due to an early rough stretch of games, and never recovers.  (For the ultimate example of this, I give you the 2004 Kansas City Chiefs, who opened at wildcard team denver, vs NFC Champion Carolina, then blew the Houston game, traveled to AFC North champion Baltimore, then had to go to rising Jacksonville, before facing Atlanta (who reached the NFC Title Game) and Indianapolis (ditto for the AFC).)  I think they collapse under the weight of expectations, and an insanely tough opening.

* Division (Home) Uniform Rankings: again, taking extreme liberties here:

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (all orange look from the late 80s / early 90s)
2. New Orleans Saints
3. Atlanta Falcons
4. Carolina Panthers

Reason: The other three all suck, as does Tampa's current incarnation.  But the all orange look?  IMPRESSIVE!

* Division MVP: (the sports guy voice) Jawsh Freeman, Bucs.  Considering I’m trying to acquire him in my main fantasy league right now, I, uuh, probably should have held this post back.

* Division Coach / Year: Greg Schiano, Bucs.  It is not often I am as high … as I am at a Ben Harper concert (rimshot!)  I kid, I kid.  I LOVED the Schiano hire.  LOVED it.  Schiano is going to be the first successful BCS level college coach to advance to the NFL, AND win a Super Bowl as a head coach, since? 

The answer at the bottom of the post … and I guaran-damn-tee you, you’ll whiff on it, unless you REALLY think about it.  I’ll give you one hint: if you’re thinking of the two most OBVIOUS possible answers, both of whom coached for the same franchise, in the same decade, and essentially coached the same team as it was constructed, you will NOT be correct.  (Cue every Nebraska fan from 1993 nodding at realizing who said coach is … knowing Thanksgiving Day 1993's prime-time ESPN game cost the Huskers a three-peat ... and nope, said coach didn’t coach the Big Red either …)

* Song From Mixology 2012 To Describe Each Team:

Tampa Bay Bucs: “Am I The Only One” by Dierks Bentley.  Because I probably am the only person who’s picking Tampa to win this division.  So be it.

Carolina Panthers: “I Hate Myself For Loving You” by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.  There is not one legitimate reason why I should love Cam Newton like I do … but I do. 

New Orleans Saints: “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye.  The slow decline begins in three … two … one … and unlike most declines, this one is totally deserved.

Atlanta Falcons: “Time to Pretend” by MGMT.  Speaking of teams about to sink into an irrelevant existance, your Atlanta Falcons everyone!!!

* Bottom Line: laugh all you want – I think Greg Schiano was THE BEST MOVE of the entire offseason.  This guy can FLAT OUT COACH.  Again, laugh all you want, but if you’re familiar with football in the Big East area whatsoever (and, sadly, I am): the guy won at Rutgers.  The only thing I can equate that to, that KC area folks will get, is to take what Mark Mangino pulled off in 2007?  And have him do it for EIGHT STRAIGHT YEARS.  That’s what Schiano did.  That was the “grand slam hire” of the offseason.  (Although, bias aside, I’d rank peyton manning 2, and Eric Winston 3.  And I could be talked into flipping that order before I run the AFC schedules tomorrow.)

* Final Prediction: I swallow hard and do not boo, nor do I cheer, Mr. Tony Gonzalez upon his return to Arrowhead September 9th.  Personally?  I’d like to take the HHH Memorial Sledge Hammer to the side of his head, REPEATEDLY, for putting personal goals ahead of ultimate victory on September 28, 2008, a day that will NEVER be forgotten by me for as long as I have a conscious memory.  (And in the ultimate “yup, God has it out for Stevo” moment of a lifetime?  A chica who I call, uum, “the chica”, who I consider to be not only one of my best friends, but one of the finest people I’ll ever have the privilege of knowing?  I met her not even 72 hours after taunting her team’s fan’s leaving that day.  The lesson?  God hates me.  Or he loves the broncos.  And I REFUSE to believe the latter is even REMOTELY possible …)

* And the bonus: the answer to the question above, the last majorly successful FBS / Division I-A NCAA coach to move to the NFL and win a Lombardi Trophy?  WAKE UP PEOPLE!  It happened this year!  Tom Coughlin, formerly of Boston College (whose crushing – CRUSHING – last second defeat to West Virginia in 1993 cost Nebraska a three-peat (the Huskers would have BLASTED West Virginia in the Orange Bowl, if the “wait, how the fuck is an 11-0 team losing to BOSTON FREAKING COLLEGE?!?!” reaction in the polls hadn’t elevated one-loss Florida State into the two slot entering the bowl season.) 

I know, you were thinking Jimmy Johnson (Miami) or Barry Switzer (Oklahoma).  Wrong.  Tom freaking Coughlin, who parlayed a couple Big East titles into a solid run in Jacksonville, and two Lombardi’s and counting in the swamps of North Jersey.

If you want to argue “he had a NFL stop in between!”, then it’s Switzer.  But come on – not even the most die-hard of Dallas fan admits the Switzer years happened …

* Tomorrow's trivia question: name the ONLY playoff-bound team Todd Haley defeated as head coach of the Chiefs.  Here's a hint: they're arguably the WORST team to EVER qualify for the postseason.  And they managed to win (at least) one more game than Mr. Haley when they got to said postseason ...

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