“I don’t want to hear about it?
It’s a shame I’ve got to live without you?
There’s a fire in my heart,
A pounding in my brain,
Driving me crazy …
We don’t need to talk about it?
Yesterday’s just a memory;
Can we close the door?
I just made one mistake –
I didn’t know what to say
When you called me baby …
Don’t say good night!
Say you’re gonna stay forever!
Oh, oh –
All the way!!!!!
Can you take me high enough?
To fly me over yesterday?
Can you take me high enough?
(Because) It’s never over!
And yesterday’s just a memory!
Yesterday’s just a memory …”
-- “High Enough” by Damn Yankees. (Pause). What? (Pause). You’re damned right 39 year old me, is really, really disappointing 15 year old me, that a version of a song titled “High Enough” NOT by the Damn Yankees, isn’t the first option, on a Google Lyrics search. #epicfail …
Well, this is it. My 2016 NFL Season Pigskin Predictions. (Sadly, porn-star free.)
So let’s start this exercise in futility by prognosticating the NFC Norris ... while noting to CBS Sports Pete Prisco: yo, Petey?
I've been doing your "pick every game" routine?
Since 2010. Or almost (mike gundy voice) FOUR! years? Longer than you.
Your 2016 NFC Norris Division Champion: Green Bay Packers.
Other 2016 NFC Postseason Participants: Minnesota Vikings.
Reasoning / Rationale: this is more an indictment of my “first team out” in the NFC, than an endorsement of the Minnesota Vikings. I know the temptation – and believe me, I felt it – the temptation is to downgrade the Vikings chances now that Teddy Bridgewater is out for the season. The reality is that this team, in the last
ten twelve years, has managed to win the
division with Tarvaris Jackson under center, win a wildcard berth with Christian
Ponder playing a prominent role, and has somehow won a road playoff game with
Mike “Meathead” Tice on the sidelines.
(To say nothing of overcoming the awesomeness that was “The Love Boat”
scandal. I mean, there’s scandal,
there’s insane scandal, and then there’s “The Love Boat”. (Pause).
What? (Pause). You’re damned right I wish I’d been a willing
participant in the festivities! And so
does every straight guy reading this, for that matter.)
In the end, I did change a couple outcomes to give the Packers the division. (I initially had the Vikings winning the NFC Norris, and having home field advantage throughout the postseason.) But I still think the Vikings are one of the six best teams in the NFC. So they drop to the six seed, as the last team in.
Division MVP: Mike Zimmer, head coach, Minnesota Vikings. I know the obvious answer is “Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers”, only Aaron Rodgers is my starting quarterback on the fighting titos this year. The stench of quarterbacking my primary fantasy football squad is a stench that simply put, cannot be overcome. He’s going to blow a (al michaels voice) knee by Week Three. Because titos do that.
Biggest Game: Vikings at Packers, Week Sixteen. Winner won the Norris.
Second Biggest Game: Cardinals at Vikings, Week Eleven. This game decided the final wild card participant.
Absurd Prognostication I Believe In: the Vikings in the playoffs.
(Jerry Springer Voice) Stevo’s Final Thought: Jim “Corpse” Caldwell will coach his final game as a NFL head coach on November 20th. Which will only hammer home yet again how ridiculous the decision was to fire Ol’ Rasputin himself, the greatness that is Wayne Fontes, twenty years ago.
Since that indefensible firing, the Lions have employed the following men of stature, grace, and utter and total incompetence, on their sideline:
* Bob Ross. Was so beloved … that Barry Sanders quit, rather than play for him.
* Gary Moeller. He spent three hours hitting on a waitress in a bar … as his wife waited outside in the car.
* Dick Jauron. Somehow won a division title … with the Bears.
* Marty Mornhinweg. Took the wind in overtime.
* Rod Marinelli. The only man in NFL history to lose sixteen times in one season.
* Jim Schwartz. Jeff “.500” Fisher couldn’t fire him fast enough. And of course,
* Jim “Corpse” Caldwell. Who lost a Super Bowl via an onside kick.
So here’s raising one to the greatness that was Wayne Fontes, my favorite head coach in NFL history. (Note that I said “favorite”, not “best”.) A man who kept his job because, as the late William Clay Ford noted, “well, I didn’t fire him, and he didn’t quit, so I guess he’ll be back”. Wayne Fontes is the only Lions head coach in sixty years to win a playoff game … and he won one. God, it must suck like a porn star, to be a fan of the Detroit Lions.
Speaking of suckitude, let’s head to the disappointment and disgrace that is the NFC East next.
Your 2016 NFC East Champion: Dallas Cowboys.
Other 2016 NFC Postseason Participants: Washington Redskins.
Reasoning / Rationale: Dallas was the other team whose quarterback situation made me re-evaluate my initial pick … and I made no changes. Dallas’ first six are very manageable, and given the gigantic upset of the Cowboys I projected in Week Four, if anything, I’m underselling this team.
Division MVP: Kirk Cousins, QB, Redskins. What can I say, other than I believe in Kirk Cousins. (will voice) No! No! Aw hell no! You are not allowed to believe in my team dude! It’s a stench worse than being on your fantasy roster, is you believing in a team!
Biggest Game: Redskins at Cowboys, Week Twelve. Winner won the East.
Second Biggest Game: Redskins at Eagles, Week Fourteen. This projected upset threw the division to Dallas.
Absurd Prognostication I Believe In: I have the ‘Skins as one of the last two unbeatens this season. (Pause). If you think "Racist Nation" as one of the last two unbeaten teams is ridiculous? Just wait until you see the "Blake Standing"!
(Jerry Springer Voice) Stevo’s Final Thought: my God, how the mighty have fallen. The Eagles are in full-on rebuild mode ... not even four years after going full-on rebuild mode. The Cowboys haven’t appeared in a NFC Championship game since January 1996. The Redskins haven’t appeared in a NFC Championship game since January 1992. The Giants haven’t posted a winning record since winning the Super Bowl five years ago. This division isn’t “the beast” anymore; it’s become “the least”.
Hey, speaking of sh*ttacular divisions, let’s head to the NFC South next.
Your 2016 NFC South Champion: Carolina Panthers.
Other 2016 NFC Postseason Participants: none.
Reasoning / Rationale: if anything, I think I’ve undersold the Buccaneers. I suspect that come early January, picking them to finish below .500 will be my biggest mistake in this post. And trust me folks, when I get to the AFC Norris? This statement will seem ridiculous ... yet probably come true.
Division MVP: Cam Newton, QB, Panthers. Is there even another credible option, unless “Famous” Jameis or Drew Brees drag their respective squads kicking and screaming into the postseason?
Biggest Game: none. The earliest division clinch I could find was the 1996 San Francisco 49ers, who clinched the NFC West in Week Twelve. Carolina might clinch the NFC South this year by Halloween.
Absurd Prognostication I Believe In: that the Panthers will once again finish with the NFC’s best record.
(Jerry Springer Voice) Stevo’s Final Thought: is any team set up to dominate a division for the rest of the decade better than the Panthers? The Saints are in decline, the Falcons are in disarray, and who the hell knows what will happen with Tampa. It’s probably a good time to be a Panthers fan.
And for the final NFC Division, the West:
Your 2016 NFC West Champion: Seattle Seahawks
Other 2016 NFC Postseason Participants: none.
Reasoning / Rationale: I do not believe in the Arizona “Super” Cardinals. At all. You just don’t overcome games like the one Carson Palmer played in Charlotte back in January. Ask Jake Delhomme. This is going to be a very disappointing season in the desert.
Division MVP: Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks. Like there could be any other choice?
Biggest Game: Cardinals at Seahawks, Week Sixteen. Winner took the division.
Second Biggest Game: Cardinals at Vikings, Week Eleven. Winner was the last team in. Also, had Arizona won this game, it would have thrown the NFC West and NFC playoff picture into complete chaos, as Arizona and Seattle would both be 10-6 / 8-4 / 4-2. It also would have knocked Minnesota out of the playoffs, and gotten Arizona in as either the division champ (I believe they would take record among common opponents) or a wildcard (if they didn’t get record among common opponents tiebreaker).
Absurd Prognostication I Believe In: that the Arizona “Super” Cardinals are the most overrated team in the National … Football League, and are in for a long, frustrating season. (pickell voice) Put it this way: not even the 2004 Chiefs, were this overrated, entering a season.
(Jerry Springer Voice) Stevo’s Final Thought: why is Seattle / Arizona not being played on Week Seventeen? Why are you wasting what could (should?) be a dynamite second showdown, on Christmas Eve? (The initial matchup is on Sunday Night Football in Week Seven, and deservedly so.)
Even given how little faith I have in the “Super” Cardinals, I still have them going 9-7, and if you flip the result between the Cardinals and Vikings (which I seriously contemplated doing), they’re the last team in at 10-6! And you’re wasting the second matchup on Christmas Eve? (The same thing could be said about Vikings / Packers and Jets / Patriots in Week Seventeen, to be fair.)
NFC Overall Standings:
We'll come back for the playoffs ... afterthe conference I care about, the AFC.
And let’s start in the division that I can only describe as a total and complete clusterf*ck after running the schedules, the AFC Norris.
Your 2016 AFC North Champion: Baltimore Ravens.
Other 2016 AFC Postseason Participants: none.
Reasoning / Rationale: As Kevin Harlan would note, oh baby, what a division! I have every Norris team losing in Week One. I have a team that opens 1-6 winning the division. I have a team that opens 5-1 mathematically dead entering Week Seventeen. And yet, I defy you to find an unreasonable outcome, out of any of that.
Division MVP: Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens. Basically pick the QB of the division winner.
Biggest Game: Ravens at Bengals, Week Seventeen. Winner took this division.
Second Biggest Game: Steelers at Ravens, Week Sixteen. Eliminated the loser from playoff consideration.
Absurd Prediction I Believe In: that the winner of the AFC Norris will have fewer than ten wins.
(Jerry Springer Voice) Stevo’s Final Thought: the single greatest divisional race I can recall in my middle-aged life, has to be the 1989 AFC Central. All four teams – Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Houston – were mathematically alive entering Week Sixteen (which was the final week in 1989, pre-byes). Cleveland went into Houston in Week Seventeen and won, to get to 9-6-1, while dropping the Oilers to 9-7. The Steelers went into Tampa and won big, getting them to 9-7. And the Bengals closed the season on Christmas night at Minnesota, in a true “winner take all” matchup. If the Vikings won, they’d win the NFC Norris and keep the Packers out of the playoffs. If the Bengals won, they’d take the last wildcard slot and knock the Steelers out. Sadly, the Vikings won, 29-21 … but it set up three amazing playoff games, as the Steelers went into Houston and beat the Oilers in overtime, the Browns beat the Bills on a last second drive, and the Steelers put the fear of God into satan’s squad before falling by three.
Oh, and the tie that won the Browns the division?
Came against the Chiefs, who the tie screwed out of hosting Arrowhead's first playoff game. (Had Nick Lowery hit ANY of his three field goal tries, the Chiefs host Houston in the Wild Card Game. And yes, THAT is the three missed field goal game, that drives me bat sh*t crazy. Not the obvious one -- THAT one.)
Thus concludes this fond look back at your 1989 AFC Central Division’s insanely entertaining finish.
Meanwhile, let’s head east, to the, uuh, AFC East.
Your 2016 AFC East Champion: New England Patriots.
Other 2016 AFC Postseason Participants: New York Jets.
Biggest Game: Patriots at Jets, Week Twelve. I project Gang Green will enter this game with a better record, and two weeks to prepare. And it’s not going to matter.
Second Biggest Game: Jets at Patriots, Week Sixteen. If the Jets split with the Patriots, they can steal the division. Note: they won’t. Split or steal.
Division MVP: Bill Belichick, head coach, Patriots. That rat b*stard is going to find a way to win this division again.
Absurd Prediction I Believe In: that the Jets will somehow survive the schedule before the bye. I defy you to look at Week One through Week Nine and find a reason for optimism.
(Jerry Springer Voice) Stevo’s Final Thought: The Patriots have won this division 13 of the last 15 years. That’s unreal. (The only two years they didn’t win it since 2000: 2002 and 2008.) To put this into perspective, here is the division championship count for 2001-2015 for every other AFC team (note: I may be off one on the AFC Norris squads; I did this off the top of my head):
Zero: Bills, Browns, Jaguars.
One: Dolphins, Jets.
Two: Chiefs, raiders, Texans, Titans.
Four: Ravens, Bengals.
Only two teams have won a division at least half of the time the last fifteen years, and only two more are within shouting distance of that feat. Those four squads?
Account for thirteen of your past fifteen AFC Championships. (The only exceptions being the 2002 raiders, and 2012 Ravens. The raiders being the fluke; the Ravens have made the playoffs ten of the last fifteen years.)
I found that stat to be utterly incredible.
Next up, what for the last couple years has been the unquestioned worst division in football … but is definitely on the upswing, your AFC South.
Your 2016 AFC South Champion: Jacksonville Jaguars.
Other 2016 AFC Postseason Participants: none.
Reasoning / Rationale: this Jaguars team reminds me a lot – and I mean a lot – of the 2010 Chiefs. Once that squad sprung the season opening upset, they never looked back, en route to the Chiefs first division championship in seven years. (The Chiefs would never spend a day even tied with another squad in the West that season, their early season start was so strong.)
This year’s team ready to make the leap, in my opinion, is Jacksonville. And look at what they get to start the season: a defining shot at a preseason Super Bowl favorite, your Green Bay Packers.
Like those 2010 Chiefs were somehow the last unbeaten standing? Your 2016 Jaguars will be the last unbeaten team standing.
Division MVP: Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars. I love this kid. I cannot wait to watch this offense in person come November 6 … even if I’m not thrilled with the predicted outcome.
Biggest Game: Texans at raiders (Mexico City), Week 11. The winner made the postseason; the loser did not. Flip this outcome, and Houston is going streaking! I mean, going to the playoffs.
Second Biggest Game: none. I have the Texans sweeping the Jaguars, and still finishing two behind them.
Absurd Prediction I Believe In: that the Jaguars will be the last unbeaten standing. Look at those first eight folks. Other than Green Bay at home, and here at Arrowhead, is there even remotely a surprising outcome in the list?
(Jerry Springer Voice) Stevo’s Final Thought: the last time the Jaguars hosted a playoff game, they had just ended Dan Marino’s career via a 66-3 ass kicking that remains the largest blowout in playoff history. To the best of my recollection, the only two AFC teams who have waited longer for a home playoff game are the Bills (1996, a loss to the Jaguars) and the Browns (1994, a win over the Patriots). The Jags are hands down the best bet of the three, to be playing at home the first weekend in January.
And now, for the final division, our AFC West.
Our 2016 AFC West Champion: Kansas City Chiefs.
Other 2016 AFC Postseason Participants: oakland raiders.
Reasoning / Rationale: I know you’ll look at the schedule run and think “holy hell, Batman!” at the Chargers and (general lee voice) "those people’s" finish to their respective seasons. I have the Chargers collapsing after the ballot initiative fails on November 8 to replace The Murph, and I have the donkeys not necessarily collapsing, but struggling, once paxton lynch takes over the quarterback position in mid November.
Division MVP: Charcandrick West, Kansas City Chiefs. I actually like Spencer Ware better, but I have to have one Division MVP out of left field.
Biggest Game: raiders at Chiefs, Week Fourteen. Winner took the AFC West, and ... hang on, we'll get there.
Second Biggest Game: Jets at Chiefs, Week Three. Had all sorts of gigantic divisional and wildcard ramifications. Plus let’s face it – THIS is the tailgate, you don’t want to miss.
Absurd Prediction I Believe In: that contrary to what Mr. Mellinger thinks? The Chiefs will not miss Sean Smith. I believe in Phillip Gaines. And I mean believe. As in “he might make Marcus Peters’ 2015 campaign look like an underachievement” believe.
(Jerry Springer Voice) Stevo’s Final Thought: on paper, at least to open the season, I believe this is the most talented, best prepared Chiefs team of my lifetime. I turn (mike gundy voice) forty!, two days after the regular season ends.
AFC Overall Standings:
And now, what we’ve all been waiting for … my 2016 National Football League Postseason Prognostications.
(Sadly, still porn-star free. Any long-time fan of Tony Bruno will understand, the porn star withdrawal portion, of these prognostications.)
* Wild Card Round.
Saturday, January 7, 2017, 3:35pm CT (ESPN): 6 Jets at 3 Jaguars. The last time these two met in the postseason, Gang Green open a can on the Jaguars in the 1998 Divisional Round. Expect a dramatic change in that result.
Prediction: at Jaguars 31, Jets 10.
Saturday, January 7, 2017, 7pm CT (FOX): 6 Vikings at 3 Cowboys. I can think of three playoff matchups between these two in the last twenty years, and none of them was competitive. In 1996, the Cowboys pole-axed the Vikings by twenty plus. Three years later, in the last gasp of the Triplets era, the Vikings boat-raced the Cowboys by twenty plus. And in 2009, after winning their first playoff game since that game against the Vikings thirteen years earlier, Brett Favre won his final postseason game 31-3, in a game that wasn’t even that close.
I think finally, we’re getting a competitive contest out of these two in January.
Prediction: at Cowboys 28, Vikings 24.
Sunday, January 8, 2017, noon CT (CBS): 5 raiders at 4 Ravens. The last time these two faced off in the postseason, I was watching this game live at the Bellagio sports book, as the Ravens demolished the raiders in the 2000 AFC Championship Game. Payback? It is a b*tch.
Prediction: raiders 24, at Ravens 13.
Sunday, January 8, 2017, 3:25pm CT (NBC): 5 Redskins at 4 Seahawks. These two met in the Divisional Round in 2005. And they met again two years later in the Wild Card round, in the final game Joe Gibbs ever coached. Both were comfortable Seahawks victories. They met again three years ago in the Wild Card round, in the game where shanarat (stewie griffin voice) roo-eened RGIII’s career, and signed his own suicide note on his career, as a result. Fourth time’s not going to be the charm, ‘Skins.
Prediction: at Seahawks 31, Redskins 13.
* Divisional Round.
Saturday, January 14, 2017, 3:35pm CT (FOX): 4 Seahawks at 1 Panthers. We’ve been here before – last January, to be specific, a game in which the Panthers jumped out to a 30-0 lead and held on for dear life. These two also met in the 2005 NFC Championship Game, a Seahawks victory. This one is a coin flip … and I’m going with the underdog.
Prediction: Seahawks 30, at Panthers 27 (OT).
Saturday, January 14, 2017, 7pm CT (NBC): 5 raiders at 1 Patriots. Gee, have these two hooked up in the postseason before? In the snow? With a controversial play that launched a dynasty?
Prediction: raiders 27, at Patriots 24 (OT).
Sunday, January 15, 2017, noon CT (CBS): 3 Jaguars at 2 Chiefs. If you think back to the last Fake Mailbag, I noted in one of the questions that the loss to the Jaguars (the first loss of November) would prove to be the single best thing to happen to the Chiefs season. That reason being, it drops the Chiefs to the 2, lets oakland take out the Patriots (again – if you don’t think they will throw everything including the kitchen sink into that game, then you don’t know raider nation), and gives the Chiefs a very convenient path to the doorstep of the promised land.
Prediction: at Chiefs 35, Jaguars 30 … setting off the single greatest week of hype, anticipation, and “holy sh*t Sunday, get here already!” excitement in this city’s history.
Sunday, January 15, 2017, 3:25pm CT (FOX): 3 Cowboys at 2 Packers. Uum, yes, please? Pretty please? #itwasacatch
Prediction: Cowboys 27, at Packers 17. Another “Mike McCarthy sh*ts himself on national television” special!
* The NFC Championship.
Sunday, January 22, 2017, 2pm CT (FOX): 4 Seahawks at 3 Cowboys. Tony Romo has learned how to handle a snap on a field goal, ten years later.
Too bad for Tony it won’t matter.
Prediction: Seahawks 28, at Cowboys 13.
NFC Champions: Your Seattle Seahawks.
* The AFC Championship.
Sunday, January 22, 2017, 5:20pm CT (CBS): 5 raiders at 2 Chiefs. Oh boy. Oooooh boy. Ooooooooooh boy!
You want tradition? You got it.
You want hated rivals? You got it.
You want defining moments of a season? You got it!
(Pause). (Double Pause).
Yeah, this is big enough to justify a capital R.
Raiders! Chiefs! Terrorhead! AFC Championship On The Line! Sh*t folks, we might even tolerate "Jeem" Nantz and Phil Simms for this one, it's so huge!
I mean, consider:
Y2K Bowl. The raiders final game in LA (1994). Arrowhead’s first playoff game (1991). DT’s eight sack game to open 1998. Marty’s first Chiefs victory in Week Two 1989 … and Marty’s final Chiefs victory, to close 1998. LJ having the diapers taken off in 2005. tim brown tackled at the goalline in 2003. Jarrad Page’s INT in 2006. Art Shell Sumo Wrestling. “Doesn’t matter – he’ll make it!” in 1999. Christmas Night 2004.
Len Dawson vs ben davidson. The Final AFL Game. Andre Rison burning al davis’ house down in 1997. “He’s all class, except without the c, and without the l”. “Not now, Carl. / Then not ever, al.” Marcus Allen turning his back on the silver and black … and Tom Flores turning his back on the Red and Gold. The Chiefs collapse in 2010 … and the raiders collapse in 2003, that sparked “Sur” William Callahan to note “we have to be the dumbest football team in America!” (You’ll get no argument here, “Sur” Willy. No argument at all, “sur”.)
The 007 slapper mode style showdown in the sleet in 1990 (a 9-7 Chiefs victory) … and the Monsoon Bowl to close out 2002 (a 24-0 raiders win in a torrential downpour). “Just keep it close men; they’ll find a way to lose! They’re the raiders!”
And of course … “I HATE YOU FRED!!!!!!”
Nah, this one won’t have any sense of history, nostalgia, or hype to it whatsoever.
(late edit: I somehow forgot this. I pray I'm still in the will. Jesus, no game has ever hit me as raw, as that one did.)
(late edit: I somehow forgot this. I pray I'm still in the will. Jesus, no game has ever hit me as raw, as that one did.)
Prediction: at Chiefs 19, raiders 9. Oh – and we’re going to have to rename the Truman Sports Complex to Lake Arrowhead sometime that night.
The tears of joy from every Chiefs fan there that night?
Is going to flood every damned inch of that place?
To (reggie jackson voice) second f*cking base, of Kauffman Stadium next door.
And when you throw in mine, flowing from 132, 26, 16 to boot?
(stevo voice) center f*cking field.
AFC Champions: Our Kansas City Chiefs.
* The Super Bowl.
Seattle Seahawks vs Kansas City Chiefs.
I want to. I really, really, really want to.
But just like the Royals first crack at the glass ceiling came up ninety feet of cracks short … the Chiefs first shot at the Lombardi in my lifetime, falls just a lil’ incomplete.
Prediction: Seahawks 31, Chiefs 30.
2016 NFL Champions: Your Seattle Seahawks.
The picks for Week Uno, and the Tailgating Plans, should be up by Friday. And as an upfront to the fine folks who run Gates Six and Seven: if you want a war? We're bringing one.
You'll tow The Bus -- OUR BUS! -- that you PROUDLY advertise on your site, to purchase parking:
Over my dead body.