AFC is the place to be
By Chad T. Jones
Public Affairs Officer
The Windy City lived up to its name and provided me with my first taste of fall and Italian beef sandwiches. Apparently, they have some good popcorn too, but during Manweekend, chumps chomp on P-corn while real men plow through sliced beef on a roll covered in white cheese and grilled onions. A few jalapenos do not hurt either.
And, oh, yeah, Springsteen showed why he is "The Boss" -- three hours of nonstop rock 'n' roll, despite performing outside in a downpour.
Of course, I didn't get to give Bruce my complete attention. That's because seated in the row directly in front of me, in the baseball cathedral that is Wrigley Field, there sat a lady who liked to boogie.
Now that in and of itself is not a problem, especially at a concert. But this lady's lethal combination of being short, having stubby limbs and overactive hips made her dance similarly to the gopher in Caddyshack youtube.com/watch?v=ZFGpgt4EC3I.
Her delivery demanded observation, and minor ridicule from Cousins Claw, Roy D and me. She also made us a little nervous because we knew if Kenny Loggins or Bill Murray were to somehow join Bruce on stage, the downpour Bruce was jamming through would have been upgraded to a cyclone of stubby fists of fury and hip checks galore.
Anyway, on to the AFC.
Best Offensive Player: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh
Joe Flacco and Ray Rice are both right there, but until either wins a few rings, I'll keep going with Big Ben.
Best Defensive Player: Ray Lewis, LB, Baltimore
I know he is old and I know his "intensity" can be lame, but the man is an all-time great and --unlike Gopher Lady -- boy, can he dance youtube.com/watch?v=R43adFL8RLk&feature=related.
Best Unit: Baltimore Ravens Offense
Ray Rice, Joe Flacco and a bunch of skilled players will finally give the Ravens D a long-awaited, well-deserved break.
Worst Unit: Cleveland Browns offense
Cleveland running back Trent Richardson aside, this offense is downright offensive.
Biggest Addition: Trent Richardson
He can catch, he can run and he can block. Too bad Cleveland can't play.
Final Standings: Baltimore 13-3; Pittsburgh 11-5 (wildcard); Cincinnati 6-10; Cleveland 4-12
Word of note: Cincy has never made the playoffs two years in a row, ever. It won't happen again this year.
Best Offensive Player: Arian Foster, RB, Houston
Nobody has rushed for more yards in the last two seasons than Foster.
Best Defensive Player: Dwight Freeney, LB, Indianapolis
Few players got around the corner faster than Freeney, and that is when he was in a three-point stance. Now that is standing up, don't be surprised if he nets 15 sacks.
Best unit: Houston Texans offense
When healthy, quarterback Matt Schaub, Foster and wide receiver Andre Johnson may comprise the best big three in Texas since Aikman, Irvin and Smith.
Worst Unit: Jacksonville's defense
They just gave up 26 points to the Vikings.
Biggest Addition: Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis
Indy will not win a lot of games, but luck is the real deal.
Final Standings: Houston 13-3; Tennessee 10-6; Jacksonville 6-10; Indianapolis 3-13
Best Offensive Player: Tom Brady, QB, New England
Still went to Michigan, still dreamy and still the best.
Best Defensive Player: Darrelle Revis, CB, New York Jets
Revis Island is a lonely place for receivers.
Worst Unit: New England Patriots defense
They ranked 31st in the NFL last year in total defense. Part of the reason is because their offense is so dang efficient. The bigger part is they have a hard time tackling, covering and getting off blocks.
Biggest Addition: Tim Tebow, QB, New York Jets
It is more likely that Bills new defensive end Mario Williams will have a bigger impact on the team, but there's another adage floating around the NFL nowadays: All articles pertaining to football must mention Tim Tebow.
Final Standings: New England 13-3; Jets 9-7; Buffalo 8-8; Miami 6-10
Best Offensive Player: Peyton Manning, QB, Denver
Did you not see him carve up Pittsburgh? If healthy, Raiders' Darren McFadden may have something to say about this. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, too.
Best Defensive Player: Derrick Johnson, LB, Kansas City
Tackling machine who may be the best linebacker in the AFC ... sorry Ray Ray.
Best unit: San Diego Chargers offense
If healthy, Rivers, running back Ryan Mathews, wide receiver Malcolm Floyd and tight end Antonio Gates are stout.
Worst Unit: Oakland Raiders disciplinary enforcers
They've led the league in penalties every year since I was about 10. It looks like they will do it again this year.
Biggest Addition: Peyton Manning
Final Standings: Kansas City 10-6; Denver 10-6 (wild card); San Diego 8-8; Oakland 7-9
AFC Championship game: Houston vs. Baltimore
Super Bowl: Baltimore vs. Dallas
As much as I want to make this an all-Texas Super Bowl featuring Houston and Dallas, the Ravens appear to have an awful big chip on their shoulder from not making the game last year.
As for Dallas, yeah, they are my team, but more importantly, the adjustments they made on the defensive side of the ball make them a tough out. Just ask the Giants. In fact, the changes will make them Super Bowl champs.
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