Did you hear that Brett Favre finally retired? No, really! Err, wait a second, no he didn’t. Or maybe he did. Honestly, how the Soap Opera Network hasn’t paid for the rights to this annual midsummer saga is beyond me.
Because the NFL’s reigning drama queen once again is up to his “will-he-or-won’t-he” antics, I’ll bypass the Vikings and the NFC North with this week’s continued breakdown of NFL over/under season win totals and focus instead on the NFC East and South. Perhaps by October, when Favre has made a final decision, I’ll be able to get to the Vikings.
Just a reminder that my recommendations are rated from a 1 (just flip a coin) to 5 (hello, college fund for the kids!). Note: My bankroll remains at $5,605.
COWBOYS (over/under 10): The last time we saw QB Tony Romo, well, we didn’t see him, as he was buried under an avalanche of purple jerseys throughout Dallas’ 34-3 playoff loss to Minnesota. For whatever reason, the Cowboys did little in the offseason to address their biggest weakness, meaning Romo (42 sacks last year) could be running for his life again. However, if he gets any time to throw, Romo has an arsenal of dangerous weapons. He also has a defense that gave up the second-fewest points in the league in 2009. Dallas does have a daunting road schedule (Minnesota, Green Bay, Indianapolis) plus a Thanksgiving Day home tilt against the Saints. Still, this franchise has won at least nine games in each of the last five years. Plus, the Cowboys, who are just 12-30 in December since 1994, catch a late-season break by finishing with four winnable games (Eagles twice, Redskins, Cardinals). Recommendation: OVER (1).
EAGLES (over/under 8): From 2000-09, the Eagles delivered double-digit victories seven times, and that doesn’t include 2008 when they went 9-6-1 then won two playoff contests to get to the NFC Championship Game. But that was Donovan McNabb’s team. Now McNabb is in Washington and Kevin Kolb is at the controls of Andy Reid’s offense, and while most believe that single move is going to send Philadelphia sliding down the standings, I believe otherwise. Kolb’s only two NFL starts came in Weeks 2 and 3 last year in relief of an injured McNabb, and the kid completed 64.7 percent of his passes for 718 yards and four TDs with three interceptions, and he was sacked only once in 85 pass attempts. Finally, Kolb has an advantageous early schedule (home games vs. Green Bay and Washington; road games at Detroit and Jacksonville) that should leave Philly no worse than 3-1 heading into October. Recommendation: OVER (4).
GIANTS (over/under 8.5): The only thing in New Jersey easier to score on than the 2009 Giants was the cast of Jersey Shore. Only the Lions and Rams gave up more points than the Giants, who yielded 26.7 points per game (including 40 or more in five of their final 11 games). Smartly, New York landed two key free-agent safeties in the offseason before using its first four draft picks to take defensive players. Will it be enough to push the Giants over .500 this year? Looking at the schedule and seeing six divisional games against pass-happy teams, plus games against the Bears, Texans, Vikings and Packers, I say no. The good news: New York hasn’t had consecutive nonwinning seasons under coach Tom Coughlin (now in his eighth year). The bad news: Only three times since 2003 have the Giants finished with more than eight victories. Recommendation: UNDER (2).
REDSKINS (over/under 8): Obviously, going from the QB/coach combo of Jason Campbell/Jim Zorn to McNabb/Mike Shanahan is like going from Big Mac/fries to steak/lobster. And yes, Shanahan’s roster overhaul includes nearly a dozen free agents and an above-average draft class. However, I wouldn’t expect any overnight miracles in D.C. this season, and for this team (4-12 last year) to more than double its victory total from a year ago would definitely qualify as a miracle. Interesting note: In his first season in Denver in 1995 with a veteran named Elway as his QB, Shanahan went 8-8, producing exactly one more win than the Broncos had the previous year. Recommendation: UNDER (3).
BUCCANEERS (over/under 6): When a team has a 34-year-old rookie coach and a rookie quarterback, and one-third of the roster is comprised of rookie free agents, it’s probably going to be a long season. Sure enough, Tampa Bay’s 3-13 campaign last year was its worst since 1991. On the bright side, Tampa never quit, as two of its wins came in the final three weeks (both on the road). The Bucs will have a legitimate shot at winning five home games (Browns, Rams, Panthers, Lions and Seahawks), and road victories at Arizona and Washington are hardly out of the question. Also, they end the season at New Orleans, and it’s very possible the Saints will be resting their starters, which is what happened in Week 16 last year when Tampa went to the Superdome and won as a 14-point underdog. Recommendation: OVER (2).
FALCONS (over/under 9): The wise guys can’t get enough of the Falcons-OVER this summer (some properties have raised Atlanta’s number to 9½). This is easy to understand when you consider former No. 1 pick Matt Ryan is in his third year at quarterback and RB Michael Turner is healthy. Last year, injuries robbed Ryan of two games (Atlanta lost both) and Turner missed five, and yet the Falcons still finished 9-7, posting back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in franchise history. I’m betting that Atlanta makes it three straight. The Falcons’ toughest nondivisional games (Baltimore, Green Bay, Cincinnati) are at home, and with the exception of a Week 3 contest at New Orleans, Atlanta could be favored in the remainder of its road contests. Recommendation: OVER (4).
PANTHERS (over/under 7): Trivia question: How many times since John Fox took over as Carolina’s coach in 2003 have the Panthers finished with fewer than seven victories? If you answered zero, get yourself a beer. So why is Carolina’s win total so low in 2010? It’s mostly because Fox has virtually no experience at quarterback. Matt Moore has a total of eight starts in his NFL career, with five of them coming at the end of last season. The other three passers on the roster have never taken a snap in the league. The good news: Moore went 4-1 as a starter last year with an 8-1 TD-to-interception ratio. The bad news: Carolina faces just five teams that are clearly inferior in the Bucs (twice), Rams, Seahawks and Browns, and four of those games are on the road. Recommendation: UNDER (2).
SAINTS (over/under 10½): Fact No. 1: New Orleans rolled to the NFC South title last year with a 13-3 record, then went on to win the Super Bowl. Fact No. 2: Five of the last 11 Super Bowl winners failed to even make the playoffs the next season, and not once since the NFL adopted eight four-team divisions has the NFC South champ finished higher than third the following year. Those are some scary odds that Drew Brees and Co. will be trying to buck this year. And they’ll have to do it while facing five opponents that are projected to finish above .500 (Atlanta twice, Minnesota, Dallas and Baltimore). I learned my lesson in the Super Bowl to never bet against Brees or the Saints. But I’m not about to bet against the Super Bowl/NFC South trends, either. Recommendation: UNDER (1).