Archive for September, 2006

This week’s classic music video is fitting considering that Terrell Owens’ publicist looks like she had an allergic reaction to the crack rock.  In the meantime, to this day, I’m still perplexed as to how The Dogs don’t have the same notoriety with my generation as other flash in the pan rap luminaries such as Vanilla Ice, M.C. Hammer, and Sir-Mix-a-Lot. That needs to change starting today.

(This and a ton of other clips are on the Frank the Tank Channel on YouTube.)

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I’ve tried to avoid much fantasy sports talk on this blog, but I need to vent here. I heard all of the calls prior to the season about the Madden Jinx and that I should avoid drafting Shaun Alexander for my fantasy football team. However, I’m way too left-brained to believe in such theories, so I ignored all of such talk and grabbed the Seahawks running back when I got the number three pick in one of my drafts (although I would have taken my main man LaDainian Tomlinson if he had been available). Needless to say, we’re not even a month into the season and Shaun Alexander went ahead and broke his foot, meaning that he will be out indefinitely. With the long list of marquee players (compiled nicely by the SportsColumn Blog) either having injuries or numbers drop off drastically immediately after being on the cover of Madden, I’m now a full believer in the jinx. Some other random thoughts:

1) Bears Escape the Hump Dome – Without Tommie Harris, the Bears would have lost Sunday’s game against the Vikings. That being said, Rex Grossman showed that he could rebound from a Favre-esque aggressive mistake with a clutch play at the end. At the same time, it was jarring to no longer see Mike Tice prowl the sidelines in Minnesota after he was hired away in a bidding war by Isiah Thomas to be an assistant coach with the Knicks.

2) Juice Needs Some More FermentingRon Zook finally decided to start Juice Williams at quarterback on Saturday for the Illini, which resulted in the freshman not completing his first 450 passes of the game. I’ve come to the point where I was actually ecstatic when the game was still scoreless near the end of first half for Illinois (although Iowa promptly scoring three touchdowns in the last five minutes of the second quarter snapped me out of my semi-joy). What kind of crack/smack/crank hybrid was I smoking when I said the Illini were going to make a bowl this season?! I’m sure all of you have learned by now to never take me seriously on anything.

3) Sparty Crying in His Irish Coffee – I’ve watched countless Bears and Illini games in my lifetime, which means that I’m a certified expert in pathetic football performances. Therefore, I can unequivocally tell you that Michigan State played the worst fourth quarter I have ever seen in my life against Notre Dame on Saturday. I don’t think anyone watching that game on Saturday thought there was any way that the Irish would come back against the Spartans. In fact, the Chicago Tribune that arrived on my doorstep on Sunday morning, which was published before the game ended, had headlines and a page-long article proclaiming MSU’s dominance along with ripping the lackluster performance of Notre Dame. With the new college rules in place that make the clock run faster than even the NFL and the way that Michigan State was running the ball, even the worst coach could avoid giving up three touchdowns in the final quarter, right? Well, the flurry of turnovers, botched play calls, and the continued insistence of the Spartans to run the option even though they kept getting stuffed as opposed to using their 260-pound running back to pound the ball downhill (it should be noted that ABC announcer and former Notre Dame coach Bob Davie said on multiple occasions that MSU ought to keep using the option to keep the Irish off-balance, which is empirical evidence of why he is no longer coaching anywhere). Congratulations, Michigan State – your 2006 team picture is now next to the definition of “fugly” in the dictionary. I’m not even a Spartan fan and I was mortified by that performance, so you can only imagine how the Enlightened Spartan feels. I think I just saw John L. Smith’s head roll by my desk.

A post-mortem on the disappointing White Sox season will come at some point. Until then, enjoy your Tuesday!

(Image from Wikipedia)

Predictions for the day: Bears over the Vikings on Sunday, Iowa continues my Illinois misery, Michigan State over Notre Dame in a close one, Alex will hook up with Dr. Addison Shepherd on Grey’s Anatomy within the next few episodes (I’ve been convinced of this since the middle of last season), and an angry Tiger Woods will avenge his wife’s honor to lead the U.S. to victory in the Ryder Cup. On to today’s links…

1) The Links of Death (Fleece the Pig, Flog the Pony) - A comprehensive around-the-web roundup on the death of the Chicago White Sox, including a reference to yours truly.

2) Star Wars Lego Orchestra (Linda) – An animated Stormtrooper Lego orchestra performs the Imperial March with Darth Vader as the conductor. ‘Nuff said.

3) ‘Spaceballs’ to Become TV Cartoon (CNN.com) (from Kenny) - Tangentially, I’m really hoping that Pizza the Hut is going to be resurrected.

4) Tribune to Consider Sale of Some Media Assets (New York Times) – For the Cubs fans out there that have been craving for new ownership, it might be around the corner.

5) My Dreams Aren’t All Wet (Chronically Insane) – Despite the classy title of this post, this all has to do with the popularity of soccer in the United States. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reported today that Zidane’s World Cup head butt has made him a bigger endorsement commodity than ever.

6) Chief Update Plus the QB Decision (Illinitalk) – I completely agree that it’s time for the Illini to free the Juice.

7) Oh, I’ve Had Those Days (Minneapolis Red Sox) – Heh…

And finally…

8) Toasting Benefits of Social Drinking (Los Angeles Times) – A scientific study shows that drinkers make more money than non-drinkers. Taking into account all of my previous “studying” in college and law school, I should soon be a billionaire.

Have a great weekend and HOORAY BEARS!

Once upon a time, a major rock group could play air guitar, air drum, air bass, and air keyboard in a music video and be completely serious about it. That era ended about a week after the premiere of this video. In the meantime, considering the Steve Perry connection, I think this is the perfect theme song for the now-dead 2006 Chicago White Sox.

(This and a ton of other clips are on the Frank the Tank Channel on YouTube.)

I’m positive that the contestants on Deal or No Deal are culled from the people that failed the Wheel of Fortune pretests. There also should be a VIP lounge in hell strictly for the “friends and family” that continue to shout “No Deal!” when the contestant, who almost always has some type of huge debt due to medical problems/school loans/lost job/etc., could end up with a six-figure check if he or she would just walk away but invariably opens up one case too many. Anyway, some random links for your Tuesday:

1) Requiem for a Season (Ron Karkovice Fan Club) – This was written even before Magglio Ordonez slammed the White Sox last night to put us on life support. It turns out that Mags and Big Frank Thomas were out for blood money the past few days. Let’s move on before I go postal on something somewhere…

2) Time to Move the Mississippi, Experts Say (New York Times) – Engineers are examining ways to divert the Mississippi River to spill out into the Gulf Coast farther north. Next, after going through the process on how the Chicago River is turned green on St. Patrick’s Day, they’ll tackle the age-old problem of trying to make it look blue for the rest of the year. (Thank you, I’ll be here all week.)

3) No-Show Kemp Blows Chance With Bulls (Chicago Tribune) – In 2016, the first 30 picks of the NBA Draft will all be children of Shawn Kemp.

4) Hip-Hop Lovers in Britain Have More Sex According to Survey (AllHipHop.com) – If you need any more proof that country music sucks, I don’t know what to tell you.

5) Rose’s Decision to Sign Confession Balls… Brilliant (ESPN.com) – The scumbag makes the news again with another money-making scheme. One argument that I hear a lot that I can’t stand: if Pete Rose confesses to gambling on baseball, he ought to be forgiven and let into the Hall of Fame. This doesn’t make sense whatsoever. If gambling is the “death penalty” offense for baseball, confessing to committing the offense is essentially proof of such offense, which thereby means that baseball has no choice but to apply the corresponding penalty. The “Rose didn’t use steroids like Bonds, McGwire, or Sosa” argument doesn’t do anything for me, either. The number one reason why I love watching sports is that, unlike the majority of television shows, movies, and other forms of entertainment, the outcome of every game is unpredictable and not predetermined. When people with influence can alter such outcome as a result of gambling, Major League Baseball becomes nothing more than a WWE match with bats and balls. Nothing is worse for sports than the prospect of its players, managers, and coaches gambling on their own games and, therefore, Pete Rose should never even get a sniff of Cooperstown.

And finally…

6) Evolution of Dance (YouTube) – Somehow, this clip is the most-watched video of all-time on YouTube (and it’s not even close – it has twice as many views as the #2 video). The average outtake from The Simpsons or Seinfeld blows thie clip away in terms of overall comedic value, but I do have to make the recommendation to watch this only because the comedian here uses a number of patented Frank the Tank dance moves when U Can’t Touch This starts playing about halfway through. You’ll see what I’m talking about.

Regardless of everything else going on in the world, one thing continues to hold true: Hooray Bears!

I love my house, but when it comes down to it, if I’ve got a couch, a big screen television, and a remote control, I’d be happy living back in a tiny Illinois dorm room again (with TK again, of course). This past Saturday, I finally got an entire day where I didn’t have to be anywhere, so I chose to spend 13 straight hours watching college football, including a record 7 games featuring two ranked teams. Here’s my recap of that glorious day with a handful of links to fan blogs across the nation:

1) Syracuse 31, Illinois 21 (Illinitalk) – Fuck me.

2) Iowa 27, Iowa 17 – It looks like Kirk Ferentz has the Hawkeyes back on track as the Cy-Hawk Trophy returns to Iowa City. Iowa’s secret: easy chicks from Homewood-Flossmoor.

3) Michigan State 38, Pittsburgh 23 (Pitt Blather) – Constant television shots of a furry raccoon-like mustache gazing blankly out onto the field as his team gets reamed. Where have I seen this before? Oh right – it was my personal hell as a Chicago Bears fan during the Clinton Administration. I was reminded again how much I don’t miss Dave Wannstedt in my life. Dare I suggest a Pitt alum that would be perfect as a new head coach… Hurricane Ditka?

4) Boston College 30, BYU 23 (2 OT) – A denominational war between the Catholics and Mormans. Wives on compounds across the Rocky Mountain region are still trying to figure out how BYU could lose when BC’s kicker managed to miss two extra points in the same game. Not even the Pope can explain that one.

5) Michigan 47, Notre Dame 21 (mgoblog) – Speaking of Catholics, I’ve gotten a ton of prognostications wrong on this blog, but knowing that Notre Dame was completely overrated this year wasn’t one of them. Michigan’s defense smashed the Irish to grab some honor back for the Big Ten in the wake of Notre Dame waxing Penn State last week. As much as it pains me to say this, it was nice to see the Wolverines expose the flaws of the Irish with so many people convinced that Charlie Weis is a genius. My Notre Dame fan friends have still failed to give me any compelling reason as to why Weis is already next in line for the papacy when he had the exact same record (9-3) in his first season as Tyrone Willingham. However, it’s going to take three or four bottles of Febreeze for me to get rid of the filthy stench of spending three hours cheering for Michigan.

5) Auburn 7, LSU 3 – With the Notre Dame-Michigan game out of hand by the end of the first quarter, this SEC West matchup was fortunately an instant classic that went down to the wire. I picked Auburn to make it to the national championship game and as long as the defense plays like they did on Saturday, the Tigers (the Auburn ones as opposed to the LSU ones – you know you’re a redneck if you put two teams with the same nicknames in the same division in the same conference) are on their way to fulfilling that prediction.

6) Oregon 34, Oklahoma 33 – There needs to be some kind of fashion rule about Oregon not being able to wear its uniforms after Labor Day.

(UPDATE: By now, you’ve probably heard of the messed up call on an onside kick by the instant replay official that resulted in Oregon scoring to win the game (you can see footage of it here), which has subsequently caused the Pac-10 suspending the game’s entire officiating crew and the obligatory death threats from Sooner fans. It’s like Illinois-Michigan in 2000 all over again.)

7) A’s 7, White Sox 4 (Chi-Sox Blog) (baseball break) – Fuck me twice.

8) Southern Illinois 35, Indiana 28
– I saw this score on ESPN’s bottom line and chortled heartily. The Pillow Fight of the Century is set for October 7th in Champaign.

9) Texas 52, Rice 7
– A preview of the Illinois-Ohio State game on November 4th.

10) Northern Illinois 31, Buffalo 13 – Whenever some random person has claimed that NIU would beat the Illini head-to-head, which is something I’ve heard virtually everyday for a couple of years now, I scoffed since no matter what the teams’ records might have been, I always believed that the gap between the talent levels of athletes that are in the Big Ten as opposed to the MAC was too huge. Now, however, I realize that I’m an idiot.

11) Arizona State 21, Colorado 3 – All is right with the world as the stars of Girls Gone Wild beat the snowboarding stoners.

12) Clemson 27, Florida State 20
– I thought Mike Patrick was buried underneath the end zone at the Meadowlands after ESPN decided to use Mike Tirico as its announcer for Monday Night Football, but the “Are you kidding me?!” calls for running backs barely getting back to the line of scrimmage ended up returning for the Bowden Bowl. As a result, my speakers were blown out during Clemson’s stunning march downfield to end the game. All of this occurred after the Tigers (yet another southern team named the Tigers, albeit in the ACC) had 2 blocked kicks that were returned by FSU for scores, which led to Tommy Bowden, in the best sideline interview since Joe Namath tried to kiss Suzy Kolber, proclaiming that he’s never kicking the ball again. This marks the first time that a major college football coach has chosen to employ Frank the Tank’s No Kicking in Madden Strategy. Seeing that I have taken several putrid Bears teams to the Super Bowl with this gameplan (when I say “putrid”, I mean “Moses Moreno is the highest rated quarterback on the team putrid”), I knew that it would catch on at some point.

13) USC 28, Nebraska 10 (Conquest Chronicles) – Matt Leinart’s replacement as the USC quarterback is named Booty. Heh-heh, Beavis.

14) Florida 21, Tennessee 20 – Unlike the Notre Dame-Michigan and USC-Nebraska games, this matchup lived up to the hype with a back-and-forth thriller. Judging by how closely matched this game and the Auburn-LSU tilt were, the claims that the SEC is the top conference in the nation this year are well founded – all four of the participants in the big conference games of the day ought to be in the top ten.

15) Texas A&M 28, Army 24
– What was supposed to be an after-dinner mint to the huge rivalry games ended up being the most exciting contest of the day. When Army stuffed A&M on a misguided decision to go for it on fourth down while still in Aggie territory instead of punting it with less than 3 minutes to go, I thought destiny was on the service academy’s side. It certainly looked to be that way when A&M committed a pass interference penalty in the end zone and Army got the ball on the 2-yard line with only seconds left to go in the game. Alas, the Aggies’ strength and athleticism prevented Army from punching a touchdown in and scoring the biggest upset of the week. While it was a bummer to see an underdog, especially one with our nation’s future military leaders, come so close and not make it, the game summed up the beauty of college football: kids giving it all with heart and passion for the name on the front of the jersey instead of the one on the back. I can’t wait to watch it all again next week.

Today is the start of a new feature called Frank the Tank’s Classic Music Video of the Week. As the title suggests, I’ll be regularly posting a nostalgic blast from the past to get your music jones on (with a heavy emphasis on old school hip-hop and ’80s monster arena rock).

For this week’s offering, it’s a song with lyrics that most people of my generation know better than the words to the Star Spangled Banner. However, I completely forgot how ridiculous (read: awesome) Sir Mix-a-Lot’s accompanying video was with the “booty stage” and subliminal messages. I couldn’t think of any song better suited to kick this new feature off.

(This and a ton of other clips are on the Frank the Tank Channel on YouTube.)

For those of you that are mentally stable, you have an easier time getting through a Beowulf poetry slam than one of my posts. However, for the rest of you that might not get your fill of Frank the Tank’s Slant while dipping potato chips straight into cans of Sherwin-Williams, there are a few other outlets where you can catch me:

1) Frank the Tank Channel on YouTube – I avoided taking the full plunge into YouTube for months because I knew it would be like smoking crack with a crank chaser. Luckily for all of you, I finally broke down and started becoming a junkie a few weeks ago. I’m a collector as opposed to an uploader. Nonetheless, searching for random YouTube clips blows blogging away in terms of being a drain on my productivity and, as a result, my YouTube channel is growing on a daily basis.

The Video Log shows a variety of clips that I call “YouTube Classics”, which includes the trampoline basketball guy, a rapping Yoda, the live action version of the intro to The Simpsons, Kanye West telling the world that George Bush doesn’t care about black people, the Walter Payton montage that I referred to in my NFL Preview, the classic throwdown between A.C. Slater and Zack Morris, Michael Jordan’s top ten dunks, the Transformers intro, the nations of the world song from Animaniacs, a bunch of wiggida wiggida wiggida wack music videos, and a whole lot more. That’s just a small sample, too – you can see the full collection under Playlists (categorized) and Favorites (uncategorized).

(On a side note, I’ll be starting a new multimedia feature on this blog very soon…)

2) Frank the Tank’s Deadspin Comments – The most consistently funny place on the interweb is the comment section under each post on Deadspin – bar none. Since commenting privileges are by invitation only, there’s a lack of the brainless comments such as “A-WAD SUX BALLZ AND YANKEEZ SUK AZZ”. Instead, some of the funniest people on the web are found bantering back forth about subjects such as the shade of purple lipstick that Alex Rodriguez uses and the top burritos in America. I rarely can come close to matching wits with most of these people, but you can see my lame attempts to do so even though you probably can’t understand what the comments mean without reading the entire thread for the post or, for that matter, the other posts for that particular day. Regardless, do yourself a favor and read all of the other Deadspin comments everyday if you aren’t already.

P.S. Those that know me understand that I enjoy discussing politics, so it’s great that my Deadspin account gives me commenting privileges to all of the Gawker Media blogs, which includes Wonkette in the event that I ever want to comment on the size of John Kerry’s schlong.

P.P.S. You will never, ever find me on Wonkette.

3) Technorati Links for Frank the Tank’s Slant – In the vast and flat world of the interweb, a small blog like mine can get linked to by sites ranging from a random Steelers fan blog to national organizations such as Deadspin and Slam (I’ve got my street cred now, yo). As you can see, though, the links to this blog are dominated by the hardcore readers out there, with Minneapolis Red Sox, TK, and Chronically Insane, in particular. That’s what it’s all about, people.

Illinois has severely cramped its chances to make it to the Motor City Bowl this year with a craptacular 33-0 drubbing at Rutgers (Rutgers?!) and Ron Zook is talking about employing more of the “rugby punt” as a “secret weapon” (I wish that was a joke). The White Sox pitching staff continues to get shelled in the late innings of ballgames while messing up a golden opportunity to gain some ground with the Twins and Tigers beating up on each other.

So why is it that I woke up this morning feeling more than satisifed with my sports weekend? Well, the Bears completely maimed the Packers, that’s why. After more than a decade of Brett Favre slicing up the Bears defense with his gunslinger mentality, father time has finally caught up to him and Green Bay is paying the price. The Bears defense throttled him so much that he suffered the first shutout in his career.

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What I was really happy about, however, was that for the first time since probably the Erik Kramer “era”, the Bears put together a complete game on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Rex Grossman was sharp and accurate, Mushin Muhammad caught more difficult passes in this game than all of last season, the offense figured out that the tight end and fullback can actually be incorporated into the game plan as opposed to being statues, the running game was solid, the Bernard Berrian touchdown play puts NFL defenses on notice that they can’t stack 11 guys in the box against the Bears anymore, the defensive line ran ramshod over the Green Bay offensive front, the secondary blanketed everyone outside of Favre’s crutch in Donald Driver, Devin Hester has shown that he’s electrifying on special teams (after I ripped on the Bears’ draft this past April, I have to give a ton of credit to Jerry Angelo for that pick), and our kicking and punting games were flawless.

There are a couple of things that the Bears need to improve upon, particularly converting touchdowns in the red zone. However, it’s a huge turning point in that we can go into Lambeau Field again with a sense of confidence and the Favre bogey man has been fully eradicated. The Bears just beat their biggest and most hated rival on the road on opening day with a 26-0 shutout. Life doesn’t get much better than that.

(Image from Chicago Tribune)

Last week it was the start of college football, while the pro game kicks off tonight. Here’s my preview of the Bears and the rest of the NFL:

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1) Super Bears Super Bowl? Uhhh… – The people of Chicago are in their typical manic depressive mood about the Bears. On the one hand, the team is returning all of their starters from the 2005 NFC North champions, which includes one of the top defenses in football in the past decade. At the same time, the Bears finally have an experienced backup quarterback in Brian Griese just in case Rex Grossman snaps a leg again (better than even odds on that one). As a result, Bears fans are riding high with optimism going into this season.

However, most Bears fans are clairvoyant enough to realize that there aren’t only holes in a historically anemic offense, but the vaunted defense isn’t impenetrable, as well. As I alluded to above, the quarterback situation looks alright with Grossman, Griese, and our champion drinker Kyle Orton. The problem, though, is that those quarterbacks still have little to throw to outside of Mushin Muhammad as of today while having an unsettled situation in the backfield. Is Mark Bradley going to stay healthy enough to become a viable #2 wide receiver? Can the Bears incorporate the tight ends into their passing schemes even though the club didn’t use an opportunity to upgrade at that position through the draft? Will the team ever settle on an appropriate way to use both Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson at running back? Can we bring Matt Suhey out of retirement so that we have a viable fullback again? In the six weeks since the start of training camp, none of these questions on offense have been fully answered.

Meanwhile, the defense isn’t necessarily going to continue on an upward trajectory. The cornerback position is on the uptick with computer nerd beater Rick Manning Jr., but that’s countered by the injury situation with Mike Brown at safety. While Brian Urlacher has the national attention, Nike commercials, and 98 rating on Madden ’07, the performance of the Bears defense really depends upon the presence of Brown more than anyone else. Remember how Steve Smith was more open than the gap between the teeth of Flavor of Love’s Buckwild (if you took every single guest in the history of the Jerry Springer Show and put them into a blender, Buckwild would be the resulting smoothie) against the Bears in the playoffs last season? Well, it just so happened that Mike Brown had to sit out of that game due to injuries. That wasn’t a coincidence at all. If Brown is healthy and able to avoid the injured list, the Bears defense is going to improve upon last season with a stronger secondary. On the other hand, if Mike Brown ends up missing several games, the Bears are going to have a hugely disappointing year on the defensive side of the ball.

I don’t put too much stock in the fact that the Bears supposedly have the weakest schedule in the NFL based upon last year’s records since parity is so rampant in the pro football. However, I do believe that the rest of the NFC North is awful on the field and every single team in that division other than the Bears has a new head coach. This means that, at the very least, the Bears should be able to back into the playoffs even with some holes on offense and defense. How far they can go after that, though, depends upon whether they can answer all of those offensive questions and Mike Brown is healthy. I put the over/under on regular season wins for the Bears at 10.

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2) NFC North Final Standings Prediction – As I said above, the Bears can back into the playoffs with these guys as the prime competition, although Minnesota and Detroit aren’t as bad as advertised. There’s no hope for the Packers. The projected NFC north standings: (1) Chicago Bears, (2) Minnesota Vikings, (3) Detroit Lions, (4) Green Bay Packers.

3) NFC East Final Standings Prediction – ESPN is going to slob the knob of the NFC East as being the best division in the NFL all year long. If you’re smart, you’ll ignore this sentiment and bet heavily against whoever comes out of this division in the playoffs. This division is definitely the most competitive from the standpoint that every team has a chance to finish on top, but that’s due to parity as opposed to quality. With or without Terrell Owens, the Cowboys are still a team where a geriatric Drew Beldsoe is battling for a spot with a quarterback from Eastern Illinois, which is not exactly the mark of a Super Bowl contender. That being said, when it comes to non-Bears games this season, I’m a whole lot more interested in the Dallas-Philadelphia matchups than the overblown “Manning Bowl” coming up on Sunday night. In fact, I think Philly will recapture a little bit of pre-T.O. debacle magic this year and surprise a whole lot of people (even though they shouldn’t be a sleeper considering that they made the Super Bowl two years ago). The projected NFC East standings: (1) Philadelphia Eagles, (2) New York Giants, (3) Dallas Cowboys, (4) Washington Redskins.

4) NFC South Final Standings Prediction – In terms of pure athletes, this division is stacked with Michael Vick, Reggie Bush, and Steve Smith. In terms of teams, there’s only one true Super Bowl contender, which is Carolina. Jon Gruden is due for some success, though, so I foresee a wild card spot for Tampa Bay. The projected NFC South standings: (1) Carolina Panthers, (2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Wild Card), (3) Atlanta Falcons, (4) New Orleans Saints.

5) NFC West Final Standings Prediction – This division looks like the run-and-shoot west of the 1980s all over again. Seattle, St. Louis, and Arizona are all going to have high octane offensive units. I can’t tell you much about San Francisco other than the Niners still suck and have a really young quarterback at the helm. The Seahawks will continue to be the class of the division while the Rams will bounce back to take the second wild card spot from the fashionable pick of the Cardinals. The projected NFC West standings: (1) Seattle Seahawks, (2) St. Louis Rams (Wild Card), (3) Arizona Cardinals, (4) San Francisco 49ers.

6) AFC North Final Standings Prediction – This division is the real class of the NFL as opposed to the NFC East. Pittsburgh has the returning Super Bowl champs, Cincinnati looks to be back on track with Carson Palmer back in the fold, Baltimore will still have a top tier defense, and Cleveland has some playmakers on both sides of the ball with Willie McGinest and my main man Reuben Droughns (okay, Reuben isn’t exactly as barn burner, but I’ve got him as a #2 running back on one of my fantasy teams, so here’s to hoping). The Steelers and Bengals are locks to make the playoffs out of this division. The projected AFC North standings: (1) Pittsburgh Steelers, (2) Cincinnati Bengals (Wild Card), (3) Cleveland Browns, (4) Baltimore Ravens.

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7) AFC East Final Standings Prediction – I’m going with old reliable here with New England. Miami is going to be an extremely interesting team with Daunte Culpepper in the fold, if only for the fact that a boat party on the Atlantic Ocean off of South Beach has got to be a step up over anything that could possibly be put together on Lake Minnetonka. I’m a believer in the coaching skills of Nick Saban, so I’ll slot the Dolphins as a Wild Card team this season. Feel free to ignore the team from New York and also that one from New Jersey called the Jets. The projected AFC East standings: (1) New England Patriots, (2) Miami Dolphins (Wild Card), (3) Buffalo Bills, (4) New York Jets.

8) AFC South Final Standings Prediction – NFL prognosticators across the world pick Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts to win the Super Bowl before the season starts. Indy blows through the regular season with mind-blowing offensive stats, perpetuating the belief that they are unstoppable. Manning picks apart a subpar defense in the Wild Card round with a numbing number of audibles at the line of scrimmage, cementing the perception that he’s a quarterbacking genius. The Colts then get “stunned” in the next round of the playoffs by a team with a great defense (i.e. Steelers or Patriots), which leads to everyone questioning whether Manning can win the big one. Lather, rinse, repeat. The projected AFC South standings: (1) Indianapolis Colts, (2) Tennessee Titans, (3) Jacksonville Jaguars, (4) Houston Texans.

9) AFC West Final Standings Prediction – On fantasy football draft boards across the nation, a Chiefs running back was the consensus #1 pick. If he wasn’t taken in the first spot, he was almost certainly gone at #2 or #3. The name of that player was Priest Holmes and the year was 2004, which was only two seasons ago. Flash forward to 2006 and we see the current Chiefs running back, Larry Johnson, in the same vaunted position. Maybe it’s just me, but isn’t the whole reason why Johnson rose in value so quickly was because Kansas City employed a platoon at the running back position and the reason why he got so many carries last year was that Holmes got injured? Even with a new head coach in Herman Edwards, is there any reason why the Chiefs wouldn’t go back to a tandem running back corps with a solid runner in Michael Bennett as the #2 guy? LJ is going to score a bunch of touchdowns, but his rushing yards aren’t going to be anywhere near what they were last season. Those that took division rival LaDainian Tomlinson, however, are going to be very happy. Back to real life… The projected AFC West standings: (1) Denver Broncos, (2) Kansas City Chiefs, (3) San Diego Chargers, (4) Oakland Raiders.

10) Super Bowl Prediction – I love my Bears, but I just don’t see a better team than Carolina in the NFC this season. In the AFC, I believe that Tom Brady is out for blood money after that ugly performance against Denver last year. Since the AFC is once again several steps above the NFC in quality… New England Patriots over Carolina Panthers.

And finally…

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11) Remembering Sweetness – When I was a young kid back in the mid-1980s, I owned an NFL Films video called “The NFL’s Greatest Hits”, which was a compilation of bone rattling tackles and hits by defensive players that would be penalized today in the wussy world that bans spears with the helmet and protects the quarterback like a piece of Waterford crystal. In middle of this ode to the great defenders of the day such as Lawrence Taylor and Mike Singletary, however, was a segment on Walter Payton. NFL Films included a special reel of Payton runs where he put his shoulder down and smacked the guys that tried to tackle him back five or ten yards. With apologies to Barry Sanders, that highlight reel epitomized why Walter Payton was and is the greatest football player of all time – never before and never again will you ever see another running back, or for that matter, any offensive player, get canonized on an NFL Greatest Hits video.

I searched all over YouTube for this film but wasn’t able to find it. However, I did come across this awesome Walter Payton montage that will give even the most hardened Packers fan goosebumps – I’ve already watched it ten times. If and when the Bears or whoever your favorite team is fumbles in the red zone or blows some coverage on a mediocre wide receiver this season, think back to this Payton film displaying a man that had the ultimate combination of class, skill, work ethic, and competitiveness. He’s the reason why I fell in love with sports. Rest in peace, Sweetness.

(Images from ImageShack, eBay, Deadspin, and Encarta)