Wednesday, September 8, 2010

2010 NFL Preview: Starting Off The New Year With The New Year

Those of you who know me know that I am an extremely reform observant of the Jewish faith, which gets its big celebrations underway tonight at sunset with the dawn of year 5771 for Rosh Hashanah, and the wishes of good health in the New Year are coming in from all the right people.

שנה טובה to you all.

This year, in a quirky twist of fate, the Jewish New Year happens to coincide with Thursday night's NFL Opener between the Saints and Vikings. And lest you think of the NFL, like most sports, as being a not-so-Jewish domain, let it be said that there is no endless list of Jews trying to convince you otherwise. One of these Jews happens to be, Marc Tracy, an editor for the Jewish news site Tablet Magazine, which last week had its annual NFL Preview on its podcast Vox Tablet, which included a discussion of, among other things, a guessing game of how many Jewish owners in the NFL there are -- the answer, depending on who you want to believe for Denver's Pat Bowlen is 11.5. Here's a written breakdown if you have no speakers.

That .5 you can credit to my beloved New York Giants, who are owned by the tandem of John Mara, who comes from a staunchly Catholic family, and Steve Tisch, who is Jewish and also holds the remarkable distinction of being the only person to win a Super Bowl and an Oscar thanks to his producer credit for Forrest Gump.

In any event,  most of the podcast circulated around which team should become the official team of the podcast due to its Jewish connections. Unsurprisingly, the winner of the discussion was the Washington Redskins because of the two characteristics that a) it is owned by prominent D.C.-area Jewish philanthropist/control freak Dan Snyder and more importantly b) it's the favorite team of Tracy, the podcast's host. They do note that this essentially only supercedes the Vikings because they recently traded Sage Rosenfels, who is of Jewish descent if non-practicing, after Brett Favre returned for a 20th season. Apparently this is enough to supercede the fact that Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, a resident of my hometown in Short Hills, NJ, is a Jew born in Germany to two Polish Holocaust survivors.

Uh, That's pretty significant, no?

Curiously, the Redskins are somehow more worthy than the Patriots, whose owner, Robert Kraft, is such a major benefactor to the  Israeli Football League that his name is in the official logo (see above), or my beloved Giants, who are a) owned by the already-mentioned Steve Tisch, b) play in the largest Jewish community in the World outside of Israel, c) the Giants once employed Jewish Hall of Fame quarterback Benny Friedmann, who, as charted in the recent book Passing Game, fundamentally transformed the game of football in the 1920s and 30s because he was so good at throwing the ball.

Oh, and the Giants are also the team that acquired Sage Rosenfels. So that's gotta be worth something.

In any event, I've gotten almost excrutiatingly off track here. Just know that it's the Jewish New Year tonight at sundown, and among things I'm thankful for is that my football team doesn't produce Jewish paraphernalia that is emblazoned peculiarly with the symbol of another religion. Yet another reason to be disheartened that St. Kilda knocked off Geelong in the Qualifying Final last week. But I suppose it's ok. Geelong got the better of them last year when it mattered most.

Of course, at this point, I'm fairly clear I've lost you all, so I'm going to go back to American Football. On with the Picks, which, of course, are meaningless.

AFC East
1. NY Jets - The Jets remind me of an SEC team that just complains loudly about how good it is until we all believe it. Then again, they actually are pretty good. 12-4.
2. New England - Tom Brady being uncomfortable with his contract: Surprising. Randy Moss being uncomfortable with his contract: Not Surprising. 10-6.
3. Miami - For purposes of keeping the Jewish theme, I'm still irritated that Jay Fiedler is no longer the quarterback here. 7-9.
4. Buffalo - Welcome to the JV team, C.J. Spiller! 5-11.

AFC North
1. Baltimore - If the Ravens only win that one Super Bowl, I wonder if 20 years from now they'll get the credit they deserve for being one of the League's best franchises for the past decade. Hopefully people will at least remember this.11-5.
2. Cincinnati - Chad Ochocinco says the Bengals are so loaded that there is no excuse for them to not win a championship this season. On a related note, Chad Ochocino is insane. 9-7.
3. Pittsburgh - SI's Peter King picked the Stillers to win the Super Bowl this year. Did no one tell him Ben Roethlisberger is missing a quarter of the season? 8-8
4. Cleveland - Mike Holmgren will get this team turned around. In 2013 or so. 4-12.

AFC South
1. Indianapolis - Does this need any explanation? 13-3.
2. Houston - The Texans had their first ever winning season a year ago and missed the playoffs. I don't care if they get their first berth this season, but I'd love it if they were the best team in Texas. 10-6.
3. Tennessee - You'd think a team with Chris Johnson and Jeff Fisher involved would have better prospects for the season. Apparently not. 8-8.
4. Jacksonville - Only five head coaches have been at their current jobs longer than Jack Del Rio. Jack Del Rio once lost a punter after encouraging players to swing an ax in the locker room. 5-11.

AFC West
1. San Diego - Year One of the Post-Tomlinson era will probably be pretty similar to the last year of the Tomlinson era. 11-5.
2. Kansas City - I know, this is an odd choice, but have you seen how weak the second half of that schedule is? 7-9.
3. Denver - Kyle Orton has a 29-19 record as a starter in the NFL. How is the FBI not looking into this? 6-10.
4. Oakland - But Al Davis will always be No. 1 in our hearts. 2-14.

NFC East
2. NY Giants - Biased? Sure. Wrong? I don't think so. 10-6.
3. Philadelphia - Hope that whole "trading the most underappreciated player in NFL history while he's still great" thing works out for you. Well, actually, no I don't. 8-8.
4. Washington - I'm very scared of Mike Shanahan turning the Redskins into a contender and making this tough division even tougher. I'm not scared of him doing it this year. 5-11.

NFC North
1. Green Bay - Aaron Rodgers is crazy good people. For serious. He's pretty much the reason you never hear about any other quarterbacks in this division. 12-4.
2. Minnesota - Brett Who? I bet Tarvaris Jackson is running that team by week 3. 10-6.
3. Chicago - The one thing I couldn't stand about living in Chicago was how convinced Bears fans were that each year was their year. At least most of them realized Rex Grossman was, you know, bad. 6-10.
4. Detroit - It's going to be another long year in Motown, but with the pieces they've started drafting, it won't be long before they reach that light at the end of the tunnel. 4-12.

NFC South
1. New Orleans - It's Drew Brees' world. We're all just living in it. 13-3.
2. Atlanta - I'm guessing Matt Ryan bounces back from a rough sophomore season. The key is seeing if the rest of the team bounces back with him. 8-8.
3. Carolina - Sure, losing one of the best defensive ends in the League won't hurt them one bit. 6-10.
4. Tampa Bay - When you type in a Google search for head coach Raheem Morris, the first suggestion that comes up is "Raheem Morris underwear". 3-13.

NFC West
1. San Francisco - The glory of the great Niner tradition is back! Sort of. 9-7.
2. Arizona - Someone asked me recently if Matt Leinart had supplanted Ryan Leaf as history's greatest bust. I'm pretty sure Leinart has done better than Leaf has. Also, he's totally hotter. 8-8.
3. Seattle - I was reminded this week that Shaun Alexander's extension signed in 2006 was eight years long. Did the Seahawks really think their bruising running back would be playing in 2014? 5-11.
4. St. Louis - Apparently Sam Bradford has looked pretty good in the preseason. He also plays for the St. Louis Rams, who haven't looked good in any season for a few years now. 2-14.

AFC Playoffs
(3) San Diego over (6) Houston
(4) Baltimore over (5) New England

(1) Indianapolis over (4) Baltimore
(3) San Diego over (2) NY Jets

AFC Championship
(1) Indianapolis over (3) San Diego

NFC Playoffs
(6) Minnesota over (3) Dallas
(5) NY Giants over (4) San Francisco

(1) New Orleans over (6) Minnesota
(2) Green Bay over (5) NY Giants

NFC Championship
(2) Green Bay over (1) New Orleans

Super Bowl XLV
Indianapolis 35, Green Bay 28

And there you have it kids! I'm taking the Colts to win the big one this year and avenge the ghosts of last season's Super Bowl let down. This doesn't necessarily go in accordance with the Rosh Hashanah theme, but Colts owner Jim Irsay's father was Jewish.

Of course, he was also a fuckcrazy drunk who stole one of the League's great franchises from its historic home. But those are minor details.

Enjoy the season and the holiday everyone. It's time to party like it's 5771.

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