Our long national nightmare is finally over, as the NFL preseason has ended.
It’s kind of like a visit from your in-laws that lasts far too long, where any enthusiasm you might have at the beginning of it is quickly beaten down to the point where you simply can’t wait for it to be over.
Trust me on this one, I’ve actually done both. Neither one is pleasant after the first 15 minutes, and it still lasts for weeks.
The season is dead ahead, and it’s time to start making those predictions that we’ll only acknowledge later if they wind up being correct. In the preseason, the fine folks in Las Vegas take odds on who’ll win the divisions and every year, we just assume last year’s champions will repeat. It’s a common way of thinking. I felt that way too until that year I could only afford to eat ramen noodles until mid-spring.
In the last four years, at least half of the division winners haven’t repeated. It’s a little surprising, but if you throw out New England, 75% of the time, a new team wins the division.
NFC East: The Eagles are favorites here, with the Cowboys the underdog. Philly is stacked, but until I see a 16-game season from him, I don’t trust Carson Wentz. I’ll take Dallas to win the division, although I might waver a bit if Zeke doesn’t show up until mid-season. The rest of the division is hot garbage, and literally the only thing people will be watching for is when they finally start their rookie quarterbacks.
NFC South: The Saints are at the top, and that’s the way it should be. The Falcons and Panthers have bigger odds, and the Bucs are already out. This one is all New Orleans, although I think the Panthers will be better.
NFC West: The Rams are the clear favorites, and the only surprise is that the 49ers have better odds than the Seahawks to win it. Arizona has the worst odds in the NFC, and deservedly so, I wouldn’t lay money on the Cardinals to be able to get to the stadium on time, much less win. The Rams look good, but I firmly believe a long season and a Super Bowl-tail-whipping have an effect on a team. Give me the Seahawks to win this one.
NFC North: It’s the Bears on top, followed by the Vikings and Packers, and this is the closest division to watch. Chicago is a classic team built around a great defense and a boring offense, and the Vikes aren’t far behind. Give me the Packers to win. I can’t bet against Aaron Rodgers, which admittedly has cost me dearly before in betting, fantasy football, and that year I spent celebrating even minor achievements by doing the “Discount Double-Check.”
AFC South: The odds on this division changed significantly last week, the Texans and Jaguars are picked on top, followed by the Titans and then the Colts. Suddenly, the Texans are the only team with a stable quarterback, but with the way they refuse to protect him, I still can’t pick them. I’m taking the Colts in a huge upset because even changing quarterbacks, everything that made them dangerous last season is back.
AFC East: I’m not even going to bother to mention the odds here. If you pick anyone other than the Patriots, I will personally come to your house and play Three-Card Monte with you until I have cleaned out your entire 401(k) account. New England and no one else is the proper answer.
AFC West: Chiefs are the strong favorites, Chargers the runner-up, and the Raiders and Broncos are after-thoughts. And before Melvin Gordon’s holdout and Derwin James’ injury, I gave serious consideration to picking Los Angeles, but it’s still Kansas City’s to lose. Just like the NFL’s TV coverage, I’m all-Mahomes, all the time.
AFC North: The Browns and the Steelers are in close to a dead heat here, followed by the Ravens and then the Bengals, who are the new Browns. Give me the Steelers, I know the Browns are better on paper, but I still can’t pick Cleveland. You’ve got a first-time coach with a powder keg of players. If there’s any city that could turn an all-star lineup into crushing disappointment, it’s Cleveland.
I’ll be back on Thursday for the season-opener with my picks for the Super Bowl, the MVP, and which predictions I’ll be crushingly wrong on.
Reid Kerr vaguely remembers when we all thought Chip Kelly was good at his job. Reid’s second book, “I Hate It Here: A Love Story,” is out now on Amazon.com. You can always tweet questions, comments, and angry messages to him at @reidaboutit.