It’s that time of year again when the freshmen at CSUN ask themselves: “I wonder when the first football game is and who they play,” only later to be disappointed to find out CSUN doesn’t have a football team.
Cheer up! The NFL kicks off tomorrow and this could be the year your NFL team wins the Super Bowl (well, probably not). If you’re wondering who will win it, I’ll let you know, but only after I break down the division winners.
AFC East: This season, things in the AFC East will go back to normal with Tom Brady back as quarterback for the Patriots. New England will win the division mainly because of its high-powered offense. Just two years ago, Brady threw 50 touchdowns and Randy Moss caught 23 — both single-season records.
Even though Moss is now in his 30s, he still has one of the fastest 40-yard dashes in the game. And don’t forget Brady’s other big target, Wes Welker, who has caught over 200 balls in the last two seasons.
The downside for the Pats is many of their best defensive players have retired or been traded. That will keep them from winning the Super Bowl — making many football fans happy.
AFC North: The defending Super Bowl champs aren’t going to win their second consecutive title, but they will win another division crown.
Ben Roethlisberger is two-for-two in making headlines the year after winning a Super Bowl title. In 2006 he got into a motorcycle accident. This summer, he had the “whatever happens in Lake Tahoe does not stay in Lake Tahoe” scandal. Next time the Steelers win a championship they should lock Big Ben in a room until the offseason is over.
Pittsburgh basically has all of its top players returning, including a healthy Rashard Mendenhall. (FYI, don’t text any Raven players if you don’t want a bounty out on you.)
AFC South: When Albert Haynesworth left the Titans to join the Redskins, that opened the door for the Colts to win this division once again.
It’s going to be interesting to see if Peyton Manning and new head coach Jim Caldwell can co-exist while trying to remain one of the best offenses in the league. For the first time in Manning’s career he won’t have trusty receiver Marvin Harrison, but he still has Reggie Wayne, one of the best receivers in the game in his own right.
In order for Wayne to see less double coverage, third-year receiver Anthony Gonzalez will need to step up.
On defense, the Colts will struggle stopping the running game, especially if Bob Sanders suffers another major injury.
AFC West: This division is by far the worst in the NFL, but the San Diego Chargers are the exception.
The Chargers will win the division because they have weapons on both side of the ball. I believe that LaDainian Tomlinson has one more good year in him — but don’t forget the Chargers’ other lethal running back, Darren Sproles. Philip Rivers will have more passing yards and touchdowns than last season, especially with a healthy Antonio Gates.
On defense, the Chargers will get Shawne Merriman back after he missed most of the 2008 season due to injury.
NFC East: The NFC East teams will feel the bark of the Philadelphia Eagles (no pun intended … Michael Vick). They have the most explosive offense in the east with speedy wide outs DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin and Mr. Do-it-all Brian Westbrook.
And let’s not forget the acquisition of Vick — he will scare every defensive coordinator the Eagles face. McNabb will have his usual stellar season, but the questions lie on the defensive side. With the departure of safety Brian Dawkins, the Eagles lack a defensive leader. Philly is a good athletic team, but it lacks the toughness it needs in order to advance to the Super Bowl.
NFC North: When the Minnesota Vikings signed the guy who stars in the Wrangler jeans commercials (if you don’t know who that is and you been living under a rock, his name is Brett Favre) to be their quarterback, they made a move that will catapult them to the division crown.
The Purple People Eaters have all the pieces they need to win their first Super Bowl title. The Vikings have speed with Percy Harvin, and they have power with the best running back in the game All-Day Adrian Peterson, my pick for NFL MVP.
They also have the best defensive line, with stud Jared Allen joined by truck-stoppers Kevin and Pat Williams. Look for Viking cornerback Antoine Winfield to shut down the best receivers in the game.
NFC South: The Saints finished last in the divison last season and that only means one thing: a division title this year. With New Orleans being healthy, the Saints will have enough weapons to edge out the talented Falcons.
Last season Drew Brees threw for over 5,000 passing yards with no-name receivers. This time, Brees has a healthy Marques Colston to throw to. The Saints also have a good running back and his name isn’t Reggie Bush — it’s Pierre Thomas. If Bush doesn’t have a great season, we should all send the Houston Texans forgive-me cards after we all bashed them for picking Mario Williams instead of Bush.
NFC West: The NFC West is almost as bad as the AFC West, and as a result, someone from this division gets to take a playoff spot from one of the better teams in the NFC North and East. The Arizona Cardinals will win their second division title in a row, and once again they will do it with a 9-7 record.
Kurt Warner is getting older but still has the best receiver tandem in the NFL with Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. The Cardinals got a gift when Chris “Beanie” Wells fell to them in the 31st pick of the draft. But this season. Arizona isn’t having a Cinderella run to the Super Bowl — the Cardinals will get dropped in the Wild Card round.
Super Bowl: Vikings vs. Chargers in Super Bowl XLIV.
Let me tell you how this game is going to pan out. The Vikings will have the ball with two minutes left, and Minnesota will be down five. Favre is going to force the ball to Bernard Berrian just inside the red zone, only to have Antonio Cromartie intercept it and take it to the house for six.
Place your bets for the Chargers to win the Super Bowl, and let’s just hope Favre doesn’t try to take San Diego’s thunder by announcing his retirement after the game.