Warning: If you use my picks to place bets, make fantasy picks, or enter other contests of prognostication, you are a fool and you deserve to lose. Unless you have a stroke of dumb-luck success and you’re giving me a cut of the winnings, don’t write me about your failure.
It’s that time of year, folks.
What a lame lead sentence. When isn’t it that time of year? If you’re an American sports fan, don’t you get tired of “that time of year?”
Barring the strategically accented tokens of estrogen, sometimes it all seems like an endless, besuited parade of middle-aged, balding, flaccid white men trying to tell us what time it is. CNBC lookalikes promoting, informing, and sometimes (if not purely by accident) entertaining the masses about an upcoming season. It’s all brought to you by corporations selling its brand of self-medication: booze, junk food, and pills marketed with hints of lurid fantasies to escape whatever part of reality you dread facing at any moment.
Welcome to [insert sport here] season, brought to you by Propecia, Viagra, and Celebrex. You’ll be able to hold your water, keep it up, and move your hips long enough without an ache so you can have just enough fun with that special someone before your skin develops a horrific rash, your kidneys fail, and your heart explodes.
Harsh the buzz? As a (fast approaching) middle-aged man, who is (not at all) balding, (thankfully not yet) flaccid, and white (my wife, who Jene Bramel refers to as “Paulette Mooney,” jokingly disagrees), I’m just getting started. Let the rest of the posers have their bold predictions, I’m aiming to boggle the mind with possibilities that will set the season on its ear if enough of them come true.
“The Gronk” becomes a new name for “the clap”
Rob Gronkowski gets around. The better he plays the more notoriety he gains. And the more he embraces that fame, the more he acts like he’s a part of the cast of Magic Mike.
Expect “The Gronk” to be listed on the Patriots’ notoriously vague injury report once he begins to experience that dreadful burning sensation. At first, the tight end will ignore it and make a game attempt to try to play through the pain. However, his teammates soon realize that his erratic behavior begins to cross the line of “Gronk being Gronk.” How else could they explain Gronk stripping off his jersey after a touchdown and dry-humping Pat Patriot?
The Patriots star tight end misses four games to account for the injection, the pharmaceuticals to take effect, and the subsequent counseling sessions Gronkowski undergoes as a part of a league agreement to keep it under wraps. Of course the news leaks worse than Gronk’s member and the big fella’s (allegedly) production plummets down the stretch as the passing offense goes through Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Lloyd, and Wes Welker.
Jonathan Vilma leads the league in tackles, the Saints win the Super Bowl, and Roger Goodell has to serve his own dish of crow in a dish that looks a lot like the Lombardi Trophy.
According to Saints defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, Vilma was the perfect fit for the defensive system he brought to New Orleans from Saint Louis where James Laurinitis thrived the past few years. Four days from now, the Saints linebacker gets his appeal of the disciplinary action. If the judge in the case demands Goodell to testify, there might be some legs to the news (factor or fiction, you decide) that Goodell’s offense offered an 8-game settlement to Vilma and the veteran linebacker declined.
I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to believe that a guilty man refuses a deal to play this year. In a crazy twist of fate that only happens in real life, Vilma wins his appeal, suits up, plays his ass off, and the Saints win the Super Bowl. If that happens, I bet there’s a private deal cut between Goodell and Vilma that keeps the linebacker from being within five yards of the commissioner on the victory stand.
Seattle goes 12-4 Under Russell Wilson and a Killer Defense
Let me get this straight, Cam Newton took the league by storm as a rookie and the Carolina Panthers when 6-10 in 2011. Matt Ryan wasn’t nearly as productive as Newton, but the Falcons went 9-7 and to the playoffs during his 2009 rookie campaign. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are the marquee rookie quarterbacks in 2012 and earned the starting job from Day 1, but it’s Russell Wilson that you’re picking to post one of the best win-loss marks for a rookie quarterback in the history of the NFL?
I have beer goggles for Wilson. Here’s how it looks from my purview after a couple of rounds.
And if I were to get “Weed Goggles,” which I can’t as an employee of the state (a state that really needs a few tokes to loosen up)…
I have waxed analytic about Wilson’s mechanics, athleticism, and decision-making, but now that he’s earned the starting job I want to talk about Wilson’s leadership. I meet my share of young, accomplished 20-somethings in my day job. Many know how to say the right things. Some actually perform beyond their age on the job. Few put both together. Based on what I’ve seen of him on and off the field, I think Wilson is one of them.
Aaron Levine wrote that according to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, “the more competitive the situation we put [Wilson] in, the better he was. He’s gonna grow. He learns so much so fast.. he’ll be able to execute everything we’re calling. He expects to be good. He expects to make plays. That’s just the way he thinks. He came to win this job.”
When I went to the Senior Bowl I can honestly say that I didn’t see anything that stood out especially positive or negative about Wilson’s game during practices. I hadn’t studied his games before I went to Mobile. In fact, the only Wilson moment I remember is what ESPN and Footballguys host Cecil Lammey told me what happened during his conversation with the quarterback between rounds at media night.
Wilson bristled when Lammey broached the idea of the prospect backing up Tim Tebow in Denver. It wasn’t what Wilson said, but his body language. According to Lammey, Wilson looked like he was ready to fight. We both liked the idea that the quarterback felt that backing up Tim Tebow – and apparently any other quarterback for that matter – was akin to stealing from his mother.
Wilson has a cool, polished demeanor. Combine that with his preparation, improvisational skills, and above average arm and athleticism, and I think the Seahawks found its long-term starter. The Seahawks defense is on the verge of becoming one of the best units in the league. They can stuff the run and clamp down receivers. If the pass rush takes the next step of incremental improvement and the offense can play a dynamic version of ball control/play action passing, I think the only teams that beat them this year are the Packers, Lions, Patriots, and 49ers (once).
I know, don’t drink and write.