If At First Your Picks Recede…
SportsIllustrated's NFL preview contains this quote: "I don't have any Super Bowl
picks. If anybody does, they're insane." That's from Michael Strahan, who
was smart enough to devise an "ignore training camp but still get a Super
Bowl ring" game plan with the New
York Giants three years ago.
Well, the Observers join
with sports bloviators everywhere in saying, "Butt out, Michael." We
reserve the right to ignore logic and good sense in declaring what will happen
with the Green Bay
Packers and their rivals.
No need to thank us.
Just don't take any of this to Vegas.
Frank: When I saw Aaron Rodgers on the Sports Illustrated cover, I said, "This is the kiss of
death." But there's more: Magazines do regional covers these days, and SI showed five versions on its contents
page. So they've put their hex on five teams! Packers, Chargers, Saints, Jets
and Falcons—all doomed.
Artie: It'll take a lot of prayers to St. Vince, but this can be
Frank: Anyway, the Artie of 2009 is in sync with the SI of 2010, which says the Super Bowl
will be Packers vs. Steelers. But SI,
namely Peter King, says the Steelers will win, unlike your ’09 forecast.
Artie: Peter King? Then you know that's bogus.
Frank: Yeah, I heard him admit on ESPN that he's terrible at
Artie: But, like us, he's gotta be true to the vocation of sports
blathering. But unlike our insights, whatever he says, run the other
Frank: So last year you said the Pack would go 13-3, then run the
table in the playoffs.
Artie: And they were only two games away from the Big One.
Frank: Meanwhile, I was brilliantly accurate on the Packers' 11-5
record, but also said the Chargers would beat the Giants in the Super Bowl. The
Giants started well but collapsed to 8-8.
Artie: Well, it's a crapshoot. And a long season's worth of
crapshoot, at that.
Frank: But as our 2010 chart shows, we're fearlessly forecasting
pretty much the same things this year. In the Super Bowl, either the Packers
beat the Ravens or the Chargers beat the Falcons.
Artie: Or there's the barest chance we'll both be wrong again.
Along with Peter King and almost everyone else.
Frank: As wrong as we were in saying the Brewers would make the
playoffs. Still, duty calls.
Artie: Of course for the Green and Gold to go all the way, a lot
has to go right.
Frank: As with any team.
Artie: Al Harris is out for at least six games on the PUP list,
"physically unable to perform." He has to come back and contribute,
at least as the nickel guy. They've got to find a dependable returner, especially
since Will Blackmon's knee landed him on injured reserve. And that special
teams coach, Shawn Slocum, has to find a way to cover kicks and punts. That was
a problem in every exhibition game.
Frank: And Aaron Rodgers has to stay in one piece.
Artie: They can't afford to lose him for several games, but Matt
Flynn looked good in Kansas City
working with guys who were destined to be cut. If he has to cover for Rodgers
here or there, they'll be OK.
Frank: The receiving corps is sure good enough to help him.
Artie: Another big thing is whether Tramon Williams can step in
for Harris. They can help him with the coverages they call and by getting more
pressure on the passers.
Frank: Teams will surely go that way more often than if Harris
Artie: You've simply got to get more pressure. And that's another
big question. Even assuming Clay Matthews will be healthy—and those hamstring
things can linger—do they have someone who can pressure on the other side?
Frank: I think the NFC North will belong to the Packers, if only
because things won't go as well for the Vikings as they did in ’09.
Artie: They already aren't. Their top receiver, Sidney Rice, will
miss at least six games because of hip surgery. He's on the PUP list and can't
practice until the six games are up. Also the Vikings' offensive line and
defensive backfield are shaky.
Frank: Percy Harvin keeps getting migraines and it sounds like
Brett Favre is more dinged up from last season than we thought.
Artie: We sure didn't see him much in the exhibitions. Who knows
how good that post-surgery ankle is? I'm glad to say the Vikings aren't as good
as last year.
Frank: The Lions aren't a real threat, but the Bears could be
Artie: No! The Bears are terrible.
Frank: Mike Martz as the offensive coordinator isn't the answer?
Artie: Not when he's coordinating Jay "The Next INT Is One
Throw Away" Cutler. Besides, they have no receivers and their offensive
line is ba-a-a-d. Cutler will have to throw before he even gets the ball to
avoid sacks. The Bears will have a very long, difficult season. I'm glad to say
Game By Game
Frank: The Packers' schedule figures to be tougher than in ’09,
when they got the Rams, Browns and Seahawks besides the usual two games with Detroit.
Artie: Yeah, but look at this list of teams by "strength of
schedule" for 2010. The Packers are 22nd out of 32 teams; their opponents
for this year went 125-131 last year. Two other Super Bowl contenders rank even
lower, the Saints (120-136) and Chargers (116-140).
Frank: Well, there are really only two games out of the 16 that
aren't part of divisional "packages." You play six games in your own
division, then four each against a division in your own conference and a
division in the other conference. That's 14 games.
Artie: Let's see… In ’09 the Pack played the weak NFC West and
the AFC North. This year they play both the East divisions.
Frank: The NFC East figures to be strong with the Cowboys,
Eagles, Giants and even the Redskins. And the AFC East has the highly touted
Jets and still-strong Patriots, along with the Dolphins and Bills, who were
under .500 last year.
Artie: The Pack's strength of schedule is skewed by the two games
which was 2-14 last year.
Frank: In the two remaining games the Packers play Atlanta and San
Francisco. The Vikings get the champion Saints on
opening night and Arizona.
is a contender; The Sporting News has
them at 12-4. And the Niners are on the rise. So the schedule ain't easy. But
neither is the Vikes'.
Frank: So the Packers open this weekend at Philadelphia.
Artie: That's a win.
Frank: I guess I agree. I think the Eagles aren't quite settled
in with Kevin Kolb at quarterback.
Artie: And there's always Andy Reid, the “Einstein” of late-game
clock management. The Packers can win on that alone.
Frank: Then Buffalo in the home opener. No way to lose that one.
Artie: In fact, I see them winning every game through the Oct. 24
Frank: After Buffalo they're at Chicago, hosting Detroit,
at Washington and hosting Miami
I do think they'll beat the Vikings at Lambeau. But I'll say they lose at Washington, just because
it's on the road and the Redskins might play tough.
Artie: Oddball things can happen—excessive penalties,
special-teams screw-ups, a lucky turnover.
Frank: So through seven games you have them 7-0 and I say 6-1.
Then they play the Jets in Jersey.
Artie: A lot of people pick the Jets for the Super Bowl, but I'm
not sold on Mark Sanchez, who didn't look good in the preseason. He's no Johnny
Unitas. But I'm afraid the Packers will lose in a letdown after whipping Minnesota.
Frank: Me too. To start the second half they play Dallas at Lambeau—for the
third straight year.
Artie: But not late enough to make ’em really suffer. December's
what we want!
Frank: Last year the Dallas game
was a turning point, coming after the Tampa Bay
debacle put the Pack at 4-4. But this year I say Dallas will win at Lambeau.
Artie: And I say they'll beat the Cowboys so bad it should count
for two wins! The Cowboys are the Jets of the NFC, with everyone saying they're
going to the Super Bowl. Forget it! Tony Romo is not a good quarterback. To
repeat: TONY ROMO IS NOT A GOOD QUARTERBACK! And their offensive line is poor.
They are in trouble!
Frank: After Dallas comes the bye,
and then it's at Minnesota and at Atlanta. Do you think
they'll win in the Metrodome, too?
Artie: You betcha.
Frank: I say they'll lose that game, which would be three
straight losses and a 6-4 record. But I think the Atlanta game will be their 2010 turning
point—even though I'm pegging the Falcons to reach the Super Bowl. Go figure.
Artie: Much as it pains me, I think they'll lose in Atlanta after another big
high against Favre.
Frank: Then it's San Francisco at
home and at Detroit—two
wins, even though the Lions tend to be trouble at home. And then at New England, where it could be nasty on Dec. 19.
Artie: Put that down as an "L."
Frank: I agree. Then it's the Giants and Bears, both at home.
Artie: Two wins, ain'a?
Frank: I'm not an Eli Manning fan, so I'll say yes. That makes
them 13-3 for you and 11-5 for me, just what we had last year.
Artie: My gut feeling is really 12-4. I'm just not ready to say
where that fourth loss will come.
Frank: As our chart shows, we both have major teams missing from
the playoff lineup. I think the Vikings will miss out and you feel that way
about the Cowboys.
Artie: Did I mention that Tony Romo is not a good quarterback?
Frank: But we agree on the Saints, Falcons and 49ers, besides the
Packers. In the AFC, we agree on five playoff teams and think the Steelers will
fall short again. As for the Super Bowl winners, we're letting the ’09 picks
ride. What's your confidence level?
Artie: As high as it is in any crapshoot or $100 million Powerball drawing. But one thing I'm certain of: TONY ROMO IS NOT…