Friday, September 10, 2010

Frequently Asked Questions: the AFC

By Finesse

Every day, a child comes up to me and asks, "Finesse, what do you think of the AFC this season?  I have a lot of questions about it...can you answer them?"

"Of course," I say.  "And if you know anyone who has questions about the NFC, you should ask Artistry cause he decided that he would write about that conference when we realized neither of us really had time to write about this."

After the jump, in as fast as I can possibly churn this out, read the top 10 questions about the AFC that I hear on a daily basis...

1. Who are the most interesting teams in the AFC this year?

Without question, the most flashy teams heading into this season are the Jets and the Ravens.  Most of the predictions I see have one of those teams, if not both in the AFC championship game and the way some people talk about these teams, you would think that they would both be able to make the Super Bowl.  Well, I love to be the bearer of bad news to people who root for teams in New York and Baltimore - neither of these teams will make the Super Bowl.

The Jets were 7-7 last year before playing two "exhibition" games against teams who had basically quit before the playoffs (Colts and Bengals).  They beat the Bengals in Cincinnati, but who hasn't beaten the Bengals in the playoffs?  (Actually, a lot of teams haven't cause the Bengals never make the playoffs).  Then they beat San Diego, but again, everyone beats San Diego in the playoffs.  When they faced Indianapolis?  They lost.  No shame in that loss, but 9-7 'tis not a Super Bowl in the making.

It was actually refreshing when Darelle Revis was holding out because people started to hop off the Jets bandwagon (it was over-capacity anyway).  But then I started to get annoyed by that, because you would hear people say that the Jets are an 8-8 team without Revis, but Super Bowl champs with him.  People are reacting like Darelle Revis is the ozone layer.  He's a cornerback - a good one, but still, a corner back.  In my fantasy league drafts, people were running away from AFC East WRs because of Revis.  It's getting out of control.

The Ravens, on the other hand, are actually legitimate and will probably be very good.  I still don't think they will make the Super Bowl because of "The Flustering of Joe Flacco" (his future biography title).  (This is where most analysts would say something about their defense or offensive, we don't pretend that we research and/or care about that stuff.  But here's a secret...those "experts" on ESPN don't research it either).  Also, it's just too fun when the Ravens lose to imagine them winning.

Official GTOG predictions:
Jets: 10-6, lose tiebreaker to get into playoffs
Ravens: 12-4, lose in AFC title game

One of the all-time great SI covers
2. Do you do fantasy football?  If so, what is your favorite insult during a draft?

I definitely do fantasy football (even though it is overrated) and I definitely have a favorite insult.  It isn't the meanest, but it always works.  Whenever someone drafts a player who is on the downside (LaDanian Tomlinson, for example), just say, "Hold on, I have to get my 2004 cheatsheet to cross him off."  Always works.  I look forward to busting that one out every year.

3. Do you watch pregame shows?

No, never.  I used to, but then I grew up.  Bill Simmons has done a wonderful job chronicling the overuse of "NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE," but this annoying trend of saying 3 words when 1 would do is spreading even more.  The current overused word is a simple one - "football."  Every single analyst, especially the ex-players, say: "football team," "football field," "run the football," and "throw the football."  Why do they have to keep saying the word football?

4. How many times will you yell "throw it" while Roethlisberger is scrambling around in the pocket like someone trying to to find her way out of the VIP room?

At least twice.

5. Have you seen Carson Palmer's ACL?   

No, but I've tasted the salty tears of Bengals fans who are still searching.  Remember when Palmer was the second coming of Darelle Revis Jesus?  Now, he is the cited reason for why the Bengals can't win the division.  I cite the Bengals as the reason the Bengals can't win the division.

Why do people think the Bengals are going to be good?  I hear their defense is going to be good, so let's just take that as a given.  But still, who is good on their offense?  Palmer is a limping shadow of his former self, Ochocinco is all hype, T.O. is finally old...who is left?  Ced Benson?  Benson had his best season ever last year and all he had was 1,251 yards and 6TDs.  That's his best 500 yards!   And it's still not that good.  Why does anyone think that will happen again?  And even if it does, who cares.

Bengals: 8-8 and lots of drama.

6. Who are the teams no one will ever watch on TV but everyone will still talk about like they do?

Chiefs, Texans, Jags, Dolphins, Bills, Raiders.  There really isn't anything that interesting about any of these teams except for the Al Davis v. Joe Paterno death pool (kidding!  I love JoePa.  Let's go State.  Not optimistic about 'Bama game with a frosh QB on the road).  Seriously though, I will never watch these teams on TV because 1) I don't have DirectTV and 2) I don't care about them.  You can call me a casual fan if you want, but here is what I like to watch when it comes to the NFL: The Steelers, Mike Tomlin's press conferences, the same popular players everyone else watches (Manning, Favre, Brady, Brees, JaMarcus Russel), and my fantasy players.  I also like Peter King's MMQB column, the Monday PTI, Ed Bouchette on Stan and Guy on Tuesdays, Ron Cook Poetry on Mondays, and Jeff Reed's tanning appointment on Mondays-Thursdays.

7. Dixon or Batch?

Dennis Dixon can be good.  Charlie Batch can be slightly worse than average.  I like to analyze things by asking, "What would the opponent want?"  Once I have that answer, I like to do the opposite.  The Falcons would certainly not be worried about the Steelers playing Charlie Batch this Sunday, and, to be fair, they probably aren't all that worried about Dixon either.  But...they might be.  Maybe they are concerned about Dixon just because he is somewhat of an unknown. I predict a solid, but unspectacular, game from Dixon this week in a Steelers' W.

8. Pats/Colts...two marquee will they do?

Of course they will be good.  It really shouldn't be that difficult to predict who is going to be good so long as you know who the good QBs are.  The Colts and Pats have great quarterbacks; thus, they will be good.  The other good QBs (not in order): Big Ben, Brees, Romo, Rivers, Rogers - they will all be in the playoffs (in my opinion).  That's 7 of 12.  Other decent QBs?  Schaub, Flacco, Ryan, Favre,and Eli.  Those could very well be the other 5 playoff teams.  That's my analysis and I didn't have to watch tape of offensive linemen to give it.

9. Who will be the 6 playoff teams?

Division winners: Ravens, Colts, Patriots, Chargers.  No surprises.
Wild Card: Titans, Steelers

10. How will the Steelers do?

It seems weird, but I haven't been hearing a lot of predictions about the Steelers this season in terms of projecting a final record - maybe its because people really don't know what to expect.  Was last year an aberration or a sign of decline?  Can Tomlin take this team to the Super Bowl 4+ years after the "Cowher Factor" rubbed off?  Will Troy stay healthy?  Will Ben keep his hands to himself?   Will Matt Spaeth make it to a toilet?

The Steelers seem to have tried to reconstruct their two recent Super Bowl teams, bringing back McFadden, Leftwich, Randle-El, and Larry Foote.  It's an interesting strategy because it confirms that the Steelers think they can get more out of "their guys" than other teams can.  But is it enough?  Everyone from the SB XLIII team is now 2 years older, which may be good in the case of Woodley and Timmons, but not so good for the other defensive guys (Hampton, Smith, etc.).

The key for the Steelers in Super Bowl XL and XLIII was not that they were the best team - it's that they started peaking at the right time.  As long as the Steelers stay healthy and hang around in the standings, there is no reason they couldn't catch fire again and make some noise in the playoffs. 

Here's how this season will play out:  2-2 without Roethlisberger (wins over Atlanta and Tampa), finish 10-6, beat the Jets in a playoff tiebreaker to get the #6 seed, defeat the 11-5 Chargers in San Diego in the first round, and then bow out on a last second drive by Peyton Manning in the second round against the Colts.

As Ron Cook would say. "Not bad.  Not bad at all."

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