RUMPOLE'S SUICIDE POOL IS BACK: To play send us an email with your pick for this week. If you want the Steelers or the Titans make your pick before Thursday, otherwise before Sunday.
The rules are simple: Pick one team to win every week. No point spread. But when you pick that team, you can't use them again for the rest of the year. It's not as easy as it sounds.
A few random thoughts: Vince Lombardi's three rules to building a winning football team were not : 1) Have a strong defense; 2) Have a strong run game; 3) Fire your offensive coordinator the week before the season begins.
What in the world were Tampa Bay, The Bills and The Chiefs thinking? If you're a fan of those teams you cannot be happy right now.
RUMPOLE'S PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH THIS YEAR: with some pithy comments:
AFC EAST: Only issue is who will finish last- the Bills or the J..E..T...S?
Cheaters, Fins, Bills, Jets- although the battle for last will be close.
AFC NORTH: Another tough battle for last in this division between the Clowns/Browns and the Bungles/Bengals. The Bungles were the second to last team to sign their first round draft pick (after offering him less money than last year's pick from the same slot) and once signed, the rookie promptly broke a bone in his foot.
The real race is between the Super Bowl Champs and the Ravens. These teams are mirror images of each other. A tough, bruising defense that not only shuts you down but physically pounds you. On offense both teams like to run the ball and have big tall quarterbacks that love to go deep. The Ravens have the better running game, but the Steelers have the more explosive offensive and a slightly younger defense (how OLB Lamar Woodley last to the second round two years ago?). The Steelers edge out the Ravens again, but we wouldn't at all be surprised to see another Steeler/Raven AFC Championship game this year. Steelers, Ravens, Browns, Bengals.
AFC SOUTH We, and we alone told you at the start of last year that the Colts would not win the division and might not make the playoffs. The Titans have the best coach in the NFL and a well rounded team with a deep deep running game. However the Titans over spent for FA/WR Nate Washington, who was never going to be more than the third WR for the Steelers. The WR position remains weak for Tennessee.
The real question is how much better are the Texans? Can they break out and challenge for a wild card spot? . Not with Matt Schaub as their QB!
The Jags are a beaten team. They can't sell out, their ownership is bailing, and no matter what the coaches do, the players know the ship is sinking.
Titans, Colts, Texans, Jags.
AFC WEST (a/k/a "Chargers and the rest"). The Chargers will not lose a game in their division. They will go 6-0 and that will give them an inflated record. They will not be as good as their record. Repeat after Rumpole: "The Chargers will not be as good as they seem."
Why? 1) They have one of the two worst coaches coaching a contending team (Wade "Vanilla" Phillips of the Cowpokes being the other). Norv Turner is just not an NFL caliber head coach.
The rest: Broncos, Chiefs, Raiders. The Raiders and Chief will struggle to win 4 games and the Broncos will find life after a hall of fame coach (Mike Shanahan) is not nice. It's more dangerous to be a coach on the Raiders than a team playing the Raiders. (The Raiders head coach broke the jaw of the D-coordinator earlier this year in a spirited disagreement about the rotation of the weak side safety for run support.)
NFC EAST. This is a tough division. Very competitive. The Gints still have the core of their Super Bowl team. The Eagles are poised for a run to get McNabb a SB. The Cowpokes will disappoint because Wade Phillips is not an NFL caliber coach and is a figure head the owner can control, and the Redskins will never realize you can't just throw money at a problem and get to the Super Bowl.
Eagles, Giants, Cowpokes, Skins.
NFC NORTH: Once you put the Lions last, then what? We actually liked the Vikes more before they brought back Brett "way overrated" Favre. Da Bears will be competitive, think Denver north plus a better QB (the Bears and the Broncs swapped QBs in the offseason, and the Bears got the better of that trade.).
Packers, Vikes, Bears, Lions.
NFC SOUTH: This year the Falcons show they were not a fluke last year. They have a good team, a superior running game, and their QB is the real deal. But that running game for the Panthers, wow! They just keep drafting great runners in the mid-rounds. And what does Rumpole always say: Defense and running wins championships. The Saints also bring some real firepower. In many ways this division is as competitive as the NFC East.
How to figure this division? Start with last- the Bucs. A team in disarray, evident by firing their O-coordinator this week. Then the Saints- best QB on a mediocre team. Still think the Texans blew it by passing on Reginald Bush? Then...the Panthers. I know I know, they have all the goods like we said. But the Falcons just have "it". This is a feeling here, nothing more. Falcons, Panthers, Saints, Bucs.
NFC WEST: What is it with the Western divisions? They have the worst teams in both leagues. Who told you at the start of last season the Seahawks were done and wouldn't make the division? Who told you the Cardinals would win the division before the first snap last year? Who made you thousands of dollars picking against the Seahawks again and again at the start of the season before the rest of the public realized what we knew? We did! Now the secret is out. We have other secrets for this year, but you'll have to wait until next Sunday.
Cardinals (best coaches in the Division, although Warner is getting older, although he might be a vampire...) 49'ers. On the way up. Just not there yet. Seahawks (because they're not the Rams) Rams (because they are.).
PLAYOFFS: AFC WILDCARDS: Fins, Ravens, Colts.
AFC Championship: Steelers vs Ravens.
NFC WILDCARDS: Giants, Vikes, Panthers.
NFC Championship: Eagles v. Packers.
SUPER BOWL SUNDAY IN SUNNY MIAMI:
Steelers v. Eagles. A Pennsylvania Super Bowl.
And your WINNER? ...hmmm. Careful students of the game remember the team that gave the Steelers their worst beating last year was the Eagles. The Steeler O-line could not solve the Eagles blitzes. This will be a great game!!