There's nothing better than seeking out the top stories of the day and catching this: "Lions assistant coach arrested for nude, drunken driving".
Not only that, look at that accompanying photo in the Free Press and the option to "zoom." You zoom in any more on that thing you're going to need a month's supply of Retin-A just to dig your way out.
But much like overlooking this drunken driving story of the day for the less risky Paris Hilton (who for once wasn't nude) DUI, so too are the Lions being ignored as one of this season's (which, as if you didn't know, begins tonight with Dolphins-Steelers) potential NFL surprises. Oh, sure, anyone can predict the Colts, Panthers, and Seahawks as worthy Super Bowl contenders, but it's the ones who look like morons now that end up potentially looking like geniuses come December. At least, that's how I'm playing this thing out.
Sports Illustrated's Dr. Z went and predicted the Dolphins would be in the Super Bowl and suddenly became the victim of AFC East scorn. That being said, we also have to realize that every season there's always one team that nobody expects jumping into the fray and shocking their way to the playoffs. Everyone has seemingly tabbed the Arizona Cardinals to be that team this season, but no. That team this year will be:
The Buffalo Bills.
And now, whether I've either further intrigued you or simply debunked any remaining credibility I had, this year's NFL picks:
Tiki Barber is 31, and the deteriorating stats for running backs over 30 are astounding. But the Giants defense may also be one of the most underrated in the game. In Dallas, all the preseason news with the Cowboys has been about "The Player," but that team's concern might end up being "The Kicker." The Redskins need Clinton Portis's shoulder to heal, or else Sheriff Gonna Getcha and company could be headed for last place. The Eagles are absolutely drooling over the prospect of Donte Stallworth coming on board. I think that about says it all.
Too many ifs on all four teams. A 9-7 record is enough to win this division, which makes it a tossup for anybody except the terrible Packers. Give the Vikings the nod based on the most potential with Brad Johnson and Chester Taylor. I like the Bears' defense as much as anybody, but the offense is still non-existent and the failure to do anything about in the offseason will haunt Chicago. Mike Martz is a terrible head coach, great offensive coordinator, and will do wonders in Detroit, a team with another vastly underrated defense. Brett Favre may or may not…you know what, who cares.
The reason Carolina is the sexy NFC pick for the Super Bowl lies in the running game, which is poised to bust out this season with a healthy DeShaun Foster and the potentially explosive DeAngelo Williams waiting in the wings when he breaks down. Tampa Bay quarterback Chris Simms's numbers are better than you would expect, and Cadillac Williams has a lot of hype surrounding him, which makes some think it might be a little too much. Drew Brees went from throwing to Antonio Gates and LaDanian Tomlinson in San Diego to Ernie Cornwell and Marques Colston in New Orleans. Ugh. The Falcons might be better than fourth in reality, but I think the wheels are finally ready to come off the Michael Vick bandwagon.
Look at the Seahawks and then every other team in this division. There's no contest. I have a little bit of Monopoly money riding on the Cardinals to finish better than 8-8, but that will be no more than a second-place finish. It's a rebuilding era in St. Louis, and San Francisco needs to wait one more year. Watch them win more consistently in December. Until then though, the Seahawks should go 6-0 against this group.
Wild Cards: Cowboys, Redskins
I don't know how good the Patriots are going to be after their rummage sale offseason and the contract status of Deion Branch, but we've been here before, and they just keep winning. As for all the preseason Ben Watson hype, I'll say what I said a year ago: I'll believe it when I see it. And what's this, no Dolphins? What in the name of Sports Illustrated? I love Ronnie Brown, but I've never been sold on Daunte Culpepper, much less coming off a serious injury. We'll see whether Chris Chambers can prove Randy Moss was a product of Culpepper, or if Culpepper was a product of Moss. As for the Bills, well, just a hunch. Buffalo might be the team everyone ignores that will shock. The defense is solid and is getting Takeo Spikes back for the season. JP Losman is not exactly a star, but Willis McGahee and Lee Evans will make him look good from time to time. Think Chicago of a year ago and you might have this year's Bills, ironic considering former Bears coach Dick Jauron has come on board. The Jets, on the other hand, might win two games. Might.
Rivals the NFC East for toughest division in football. Good hype: A week ago, the Bengals wouldn't have been on the top of this list. But Carson Palmer then started his impressive comeback, and all of a sudden the Bengals might be the AFC favorite to go to the Super Bowl. Bad hype: The Bengals are selling rubber Chad Johnson mohawk scalps at Paul Brown Stadium for $30. Health issues might play into his progress, but Ben Roethlisberger should stay on his Brady-like path and post his best personal season yet. The Ravens finally have a quarterback, but unfortunately for them it's ancient Steve McNair. Romeo Crennel's Browns might go 9-7 this year and finish last.
You know the drill. Colts go 14-2 and then everyone holds their breath to see how Peyton Manning and Company will screw it up again. The thought of Adam Vinatieri in that dome though is scary. The Jaguars are much better than the team that croaked at Foxborough back in January, but the running game is a major concern. The Texans passed on Reggie Bush and we all had a good laugh. Let's not forget though that Bill Belichick was laughed at for passing on David Terrell and drafting Richard Seymour instead. The Titans are simply waiting for Vince Young to play, which may turn out to be sooner than later.
Take away Ashley Lelie and replace him with Javon Walker? What's Jake Plummer got to be so angry about? Herm Edwards has a great offense in Kansas City, but unfortunately for him (and fortunately for us), it's going to provide more sound bites than wins. With an experienced quarterback, the Chargers could be one of the best teams in the league. Watch Tomlinson, with Marty Schottenheimer's reluctance to throw thanks to Philip Rivers' inexperience, have his best season yet which is saying a lot. Just when you thought the Raiders couldn't get any worse, they sign Aaron Brooks.
Wild cards: Steelers, Bills
NFC Champion: Panthers
AFC Champion: Bengals
Super Bowl Champion: Bengals