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T.G.I.F… thank goodness it’s FOOTBALL!
For a while there, it looked as if the day would never come. Players and owners were miles apart on a deal as the spring turned to summer, and the odds were increasing that pro football would be erased from our autumn schedule. I was preparing myself mentally to have to endure other fall Sunday alternatives: raking leaves, being dragged on apple-picking trips and having to actually have real conversations with my other half. The future was looking bleak, to say the least.
Thankfully, how quickly the tides turned. Instead of picking rotten apples, here we are, about to witness the kickoff of the 2011 NFL season. Our future is looking bright again and our couches won’t miss us this fall.
And because the NFL season is indeed upon us, I get to continue a time-honored tradition of mine: making bold predictions. We all do it, whether we are clued in or clueless. So without further ado, in honor of the upcoming 46th Super Bowl, it’s time to officially document my 46 bold predictions for the 2011 season, in rapid fire fashion. Come February when all is said and done, here’s hoping at least one or two of these notions come true so I don’t lose 100% of the little credibility I currently have… off we go.
1. BenJarvus Green-Ellis will NOT lead the Patriots in rushing yards this season.
2. New England will be 5-1 heading into their Week 7 bye.
3. The Patriots will lose exactly one home game this season.
4. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez had 1,109 combined receiving yards last season as rookies. As a duo, they’ll go for over 1,600 receiving yards together this season.
5. Reigning NFL MVP Tom Brady only threw four interceptions last year. This season, he’ll throw at least 10.
6. Your 2011 Patriots sack leader? Andre Carter.
7. Albert Haynesworth will play in less than six games during the regular season.
8. Jerod Mayo has led the team in tackles in each of his first three NFL seasons. He will NOT win the tackles team title in 2011. My pick? Brandon Spikes.
9. The Patriots will win the AFC East by at least a two-game margin over the Jets.
10. New England will beat San Diego in the AFC Championship game to reach Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis. (Super Bowl prediction to follow.)
11. The NFL’s MVP will come from the AFC West division. (I’m leaning towards Phillip Rivers, but Jamaal Charles could earn the nod instead if Kansas City makes the playoffs again.)
12. Houston’s Arian Foster will finish the season on injured reserve.
13. Foster led all running backs in the NFL last season with 604 receiving yards out of the backfield. Baltimore’s Ray Rice will blow that number out of the water this year, with at least 750 receiving yards.
14. The Bills, Bengals, and Jaguars will have less combined wins than the San Diego Chargers will have by themselves.
15. No AFC team will reach the 6-0 mark to start the season.
16. The Colts and Chiefs, both division winners last season, will not make the playoffs this year.
17. The Houston Texans will earn their first playoff berth in franchise history this winter.
18. Next April at the NFL draft, you will hear Roger Goodell utter the words, “With the first pick in the 2012 NFL draft, the Cincinnati Bengals select Andrew Luck, quarterback, Stanford University.”
19. Your AFC Division winners? New England, Pittsburgh, Houston, and San Diego.
20. Your AFC Wild Card teams? Baltimore and the New York Jets.
21. The always over-hyped Dallas Cowboys will have a losing season.
22. This year’s “super team,” the Philadelphia Eagles will win the NFC East, but will not win a playoff game.
23. There will be at least six teams in the NFC that finish the regular season with better records than the team that wins the NFC West division.
24. Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson will not be among the top five league-wide in rushing yards by season’s end.
25. The NFL’s leader in receiving yards will be Detroit’s Calvin Johnson.
26. The only tight end that will catch double-digit TDs in the NFL this season will be Saints TE Jimmy Graham.
27. The Carolina Panthers were the league’s worst team last year, winning only two games all season. This year, they will win more than two games before their bye week in Week 9, led by my Offensive Rookie of the Year pick, Cam Newton.
28. The league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year will also come from the NFC. My pick: LSU rookie cornerback Patrick Peterson from the Cardinals.
29. This season’s NFC Division winners? Philadelphia, Green Bay, New Orleans, and St. Louis.
30. This season’s NFC Wild Card teams? Atlanta and the New York Giants.
31. Jon Gruden will leave the ESPN press box after this season to go back to coaching in the NFL, and we’ll ALL miss his weekly Gruden-isms every Monday night.
32. Terrell Owens and Randy Moss will team up to do a weekly talk show on Versus this season, just to keep them busy and get themselves out of the house every once in a while during their retirement. Even retirees get tired of playing shuffleboard every day.
33. Oakland’s Terrelle Pryor will try to sell Raider memorabilia on eBay, but will be arrested for fraud when he claims that his jersey he sold is “game-used.” Holding a clipboard and wearing a headset all season long does not make a jersey “game-used,” Terrelle.
34. Houston’s Arian Foster will tweet out an inappropriate picture of his hamstring, but this picture will include his “tight end” as well. The booty pic will make Foster a TMZ sensation.
35. Everyone’s favorite Colt, Peyton Manning, will come back too soon from his neck injury, he’ll end up snapping his spine in four different places, and head coach Jim Caldwell will have to pull the black curtain and euthanize the QB on the Lucas Oil Field sidelines.
36. Tim Tebow will be traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars to play for his hometown team. He’ll then be elected mayor of Jacksonville, the town will be renamed Tebowville, and all will bow before him when he walks around town. All that, but he still won’t be able to throw the football like a normal NFL quarterback.
37. Bears QB Jay Cutler, fresh off his stalled engagement with ‘The Hills’ star Kristin Cavallari, will move on from his failed relationship to date Kourtney Kardashian, the only unmarried Kardashian sister remaining. The E! network will film every date from beginning to end and air it for all the gossip-craving women of America.
38. Chris Berman, host of ESPN’s “Sunday NFL Countdown” for too long now, will finally be relieved of his duties at ESPN after he and analyst Mike Ditka get into a fight at the post-show buffet. Ditka wins the fight, as if there were any doubts.
39. In similar news, Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison will also lose their jobs at NBC after an awkward on-air verbal altercation over which one of them is Dan Patrick’s best friend. Patrick declines to comment, while Dungy and Harrison are replaced by another former coach and defensive player, a near-dead Marv Levy and Adam “Pacman” Jones.
40. Finally my idea for a sports talk show becomes a reality. Greg and Bryant, the brothers Gumbel, team up to host the brand new hit, “The Gumbel Machine,” a hard-hitting half hour highlighted by interviews of the NFL’s greats, all while chewing bubble gum. Hey, if “Around the Horn” and “Rome is Burning” have lasted this long, why can’t we give “The Gumbel Machine” a chance?
41. As I mentioned earlier, I see the Pats advancing to Indy in February to represent the AFC in Super Bowl XLVI. After first-round byes, the Pats will beat the Ravens and San Diego will top the Steelers. New England beats the Bolts in San Diego in the AFC Championship game, by at least two touchdowns.
42. Over in the NFC, the two teams kicking things off Thursday night in the season opener will meet in the NFC Championship game, and I see the Saints as the better team this time around, beating out the Packers in a nail-biter to advance to Indy.
43. My pick as the singer of the National Anthem at Super Bowl XLVI: Katy Perry (please!)
44. My Super Bowl halftime show pick: With the game on NBC this season, I guarantee the halftime show is related to NBC’s singing competition show, “The Voice.” I see all four Voice judges featured, Cee-Lo Green, Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton, and Maroon 5’s Adam Levine.
45. Super Bowl MVP pick: Devin McCourty. His two interceptions of Drew Brees prove to be the difference.
46. Super Bowl XLVI winner: P-A-T-S, Pats, Pats, Pats! Call me a homer, I don’t care… I’m a believer, baby! Pats stomp the Saints, 30-28 in another Super Bowl for the ages… hope I’m right!