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NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears

Brian-urlacher

Brian Urlacher (Getty Images)

2009 was a lost year in the Windy City, with the Bears seemingly confused about their identity. The trade for Jay Cutler was another in a long, decades long, quest by Chicago to find a franchise quarterback. Ever since Jim McMahon and even during his tenure, the Bears haven’t had a guy under center they could trust in crunch time. The acquiring of Cutler carried the hope that search was over. Unfortunately with the addition of the cannon-armed Denver ex-pat, the Bears got lost, forgot how to run the ball, didn’t have the pieces around Cutler to help him succeed, and stumbled through to the end of the season. Add to that to the injuring of the great Brian Urlacher in the first game of the season and the Bears season was done before they could even get going. But it’s a new season, Urlacher is back with a vengeance, and the fabled Bears defense is looking to retake its place at the top of the league. Somehow Lovie Smith is still employed there, and the management brought in Mike Martz to inject some flavor into a vanilla offense, so there are tools there to give Cutler a boost. A recommitting to the running game that is the engine of Bears football should help that swagger come back to Soldier Field, but the dearth of wide receivers is going to continue to plague Cutler’s completion percentage. He’s a strong guy, as the experts say “Can make all the throws”, but he doesn’t have anyone to catch the ball. Johnny Knox had a great rookie campaign last season, and if he can improve on that there could be some nice chemistry there between him and Cutler. Other than that though, Devin Hester continues to underwhelm at wideout despite his breakaway speed, and while Juaquin Iglesias is talented, he isn’t game tested at all and could be either boom or bust. The Bears traded all their draft picks for Cutler in ’09, so their talent infusion came by way of free agency. Julius Peppers is in Chicago now and could either be a furious force or MIA, depending on how motivated he is. His time in Carolina proved this, so hopefully Coach Smith can motivate him. Other pickups include tight end Brandon Manumaleuna from San Diego. He’s a classic blocking tight end who will probably catch about 10 balls all year, and that’s a stretch. But he should give young Matt Forte a hand when it comes to rushing and take some pressure off an offensive line that continues to have questions raised about age and ability. Chester Taylor was signed, and if his time in Minnesota is any indication he will be a dangerous second back. Like Michael Turner was in San Diego, Taylor is a number one back on many teams but will be stuck playing second fiddle here again. Team-wise that’s not a problem, and he is a consummate team player as well as fresh despite his veteran status. The secondary still has problems, but the Bears have never had a lock down corner or a Polamalu-type safety, using the front seven to pressure QBs and beat them that way. The important thing is that Urlacher is back and aching to hit somebody. The Bears aren’t going anywhere in a very tough NFC North, but they will win their share and maybe play the spoiler. Prediction : 8-8.

Green Bay Packers

Cliff Avril Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers fumbles the ball while trying to throw under pressure from Cliff Avril #92 of the Detroit Lions on December 28, 2008 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Aaron Rodgers;Cliff Avril

QB Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers fumbling (Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images

Barring the (probable) return of a certain number 4 in Minnesota, the Packers are the class of this division. QB Aaron Rodgers proved his status as an elite QB last year, dragging a team that struggled defensively early on to the playoffs where they lost on a fluke. Rogers continues to be comfortable in an offense growing in complexity, and in his third year is in a place to maximize his success. Coach Mike McCarthy noted there are some new wrinkles and concepts in a recent interview with ESPN, so opposing defenses tape study is going to get a little more frustrating.  Though wide receivers Donald Driver and Greg Jennings are a year older, Driver in particular is getting up there, they are  one of the best WR tandems in the game. Add to that Jermichael Finley’s emergence last year at tight end and the targets just keep coming for Mr. Rodgers. An offensive line that allowed Rogers to get knocked around last season was bolstered in the draft with Brian Bulaga out of Iowa (if anyone looks like a Packer, this guy does) and Marshall Newhouse out of TCU, though the last time an Iowa product was picked that high was Robert Gallery by the Raiders, so hopefully its not something in the water. The addition to the line will help Ryan Grant at halfback, who after a breakout postseason on 2007 has struggled in an offense that was supposed to enhance the running game. A retooled line and added focus on Rodgers should take some pressure off him though so he can at least contribute solidly. The defense returns from a fantastic year particularly against the run, but the loss of DT Jonny Jolly in training camp due to injury laid a damper on that a bit. ’09 first rounder B.J. Raji is being moved to take his place and if he lives up to the level of potential he has could be a force up the middle. The linebackers are a great bunch, with Clay Matthews having a fantastic rookie campaign. Offenses will key on him more so former first rounder A.J. Hawk should be freed up a bit to dominate the way he should. Al Harris, CB, is still out from surgery, so opposing teams will be aiming in that direction and away from defensive player of the year Charles Woodson. From what various outlets have reported it is a good competition on that side of the field, which makes for good news in Green Bay. The safeties are a question mark for another season, but year two of the switch to the increasingly popular 3-4 defense should make them less integral and more complementary for the D. One  of my roommates last year said the 3-4 would make the Packers great defensively, and I told him to shut it. Apparently I was wrong. Anyhow, this is a very good team, and should challenge for the North crown and a Lombardi Trophy. It’s always nice when it comes back home. Prediction : 12-4, playoffs.

Minnesota Vikings

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (Getty Images)

I am glad I’m not a Vikings fan. A guy by the name of Brett Favre is spending his second summer jerking the poor people of Minnesota around after crushing them last January. Should he return, they are the team to beat in the Black and Blue, if not its all about Sage Rosenfels or Tavaris Jackson. I’m still confused why John David Booty isn’t given more face time, but that’s neither here nor there. Brad Childress is probably as pissed as any Vikings fans at Favre’s see-sawing, and the team is suffering because of it. Although he did skip training camp and some preseason and went on to have his best statitistical year ever last year, so there’s not much argument to be made there. Other than Favre this is a talented team, and the Packers only real competition for the division. Adrian Peterson is going to continue his destructive campaign through the league, obliterating linebackers and safeties whenever he can. And if he’s learned to hold onto the football then whoa Nelly, we got an MVP candidate here. Or rather would, if it weren’t for CJ in Tennessee and the dominance of QBs in the league. The departure of Chester Taylor is going to put more pressure on AP, but if anything that could be a boon for the team as long as it doesn’t wear him down too horribly, hitting holes on third down. Rookie Percy Harvin had an electric season despite migraines, and Visanthe Shiancoe came out and blew some people away. How much of that was Favre for the both of them is a good question, one that could be answered, but either way they are very, very good. Sidney Rice is a fantastic number 2 wideout and will cause trouble for corners around the league. Defensively the Williams Wall is still there despite being busted for PEDs in some way or other, and super-redneck Jared Allen will continue to be a tornado of hell off the end. That guy is amazing, probably the best end in the league, which only makes the rest of the line better. Other than that front four though, the defense is kind of lacking. Names like E.J. Henderson and Chad Greenway aren’t scaring anyone, but much like the Giants the front four gets this defense going. Cornerback Cedric Griffin is on the PUP list so keep an eye on that, because though he’s no Revis, he’s still the best player in their secondary. The whole season really does hinge on the decision of a middle-aged Mississippian and his ankle, so until he makes his decision, we’re going with him not being there. Prediction : 10-6 without Favre, 13-3 playoffs with. The Packers are going to be pissed if he shows up.

Detroit Lions

First round pick by the Lions, DT Ndamukong Suh with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at draft (Getty)

The biggest move of the last five years, maybe decade, in Detroit was the removing of Matt Millen from GM duties. Owner William Clay Ford probably loved Millen, he seemed like a nice enough guy and he can talk, but build a team he cannot. There is a sense of cautious optimism coming from the Motor City, what with Matthew Stafford taking the reins of the team and Calvin Johnson, the most overlooked wide receiver in the game, finally having someone to throw him the ball. Kevin Smith at running back has been almost good, but Javid Best was picked in the first round to boost the running game. Best is a talent, in the Chris Johnson “home run hitter” mold and should add some fire to the offense that despite promise was rather vanilla last season. Second year coach Jim Schwartz is in a great position because if he succeeds he further entrenches himself and if not, well, its the Lions, what do you expect. Some people thought they should build on the offensive line in the draft, but the team could score just fine last year, they just let up a ton of points. So Ndamakung Suh is now in the Silver and Blue and the Lions are rather jazzed about it to say the least. Suh, the all-everything do everything defensive tackle, absolutely dominated at Nebraska in a defense that was designed so he picked up blocks to free up linebackers. With that in mind, he had four and a half sacks in the Big 12 title game alone, half of the Cornhuskers total for the game. If he works out, and all indications are he will, then the Lions have a cornerstone the size of the GM Renaissance Center to build a defense around. Sadly, besides Suh the defense is pretty ugly, and not the Big Ugly kind. The secondary continues to be ineffective and with the QBs that now populate the NFC North, particularly if Favre returns, that will spell doom for Detroit. The selection of Amari Spievey out of Iowa in the draft adds some attitude to the secondary and some competition to the vets from last season, a good thing on a bad team. The linebackers are equally nonexistent, Larry Foote being the only name that might ring a bell in that squad. The Lions aren’t a good team, far from a contender, but at the very least they look to be a challenge for their opponents and maybe win a game in divisional play. The Lions are on the way back, but that road is not brief, and there are no shortcuts. The key in Detroit is to eliminate a very dense culture of losing but with the unloading of Millen and a team that seems to be entirely under the age of 26, that is working out quite well. Prediction : 6-10.

AFC SOUTH

Indianapolis Colts QB / entire team Peyton Manning (Getty Images)

The old saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. So it is with the Colts, who despite losing their head coach to retirement, a Hall of Famer at wide receiver, and an eternally injured defense (sure, they’re healthy now, just wait till week 2) still have a man with a laser-rocket arm at quarterback. Peyton Manning, despite his failings in last years Super Bowl and other sturgles in the post-season, is still the best quarterback in the league, with no argument possible. The guy won an MVP despite having knee surgery in the off-season 2 years ago, then followed it up with another one. So excuse the Colts if they don’t listen to the idea that Super Bowl losers don’t make the palyoffs the next year. If anything, keep an eye on the Saints- Drew Brees is on the cover of Madden 11 and we all know how that works out. No, the Colts continue to be the class of their division. Sure their second year coach Jim Caldwell looks like a corpse on the sidelines, but we all know Peyton is the real coach here. The receiving corps will be strong as ever, better even with Anthony Gonzalez coming back from injury. He, Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, and of course tight end Dallas Clark will not so much put pressure on opposing defenses as blow them away. The running game will be as it always is, a ruse so Manning can use his inimitable play-action skills to fool defenses. How they still bite on it is beyond me, but that’s a story for another day. Jeff Saturday and the boys are back at offensive line so Manning will have all the time he doesn’t need back there to carve it up. Defensively, Bob Sanders is apparently healthy again for another pre-season, just in time to get knocked out for the next 8 weeks as he does. A couple of faceless corners and Antoine Bethea will do enough to keep their opponents’ score low enough, and with Bethea having an electric season last year, should be more solid than is expected. Of course at the line there’s Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, both sack machines. Once the Colts get up in points they’ll pin their ears back as they always do. No, it wont be a surprising season in Indy, but it never is with Manning shooting for a third straight MVP and the Colts going to the playoffs. The only real worry in their division they should have is the Texans, since the Titans seem to be waning after that odd 13 win season two years ago and the Jaguars just foundering. The Texans have an incredible ability to not beat the Colts no matter how spoon-fed the game is to them though, so a clean sweep of the division is not out of the realm of possibility for Indy. Much like the Yankees in baseball or the Lakers and now Heat in the NBA, the Colts season will once again be defined by how they perform in January and hopefully February. No NFL season is a cake-walk, but Manning is just that good and barring a season-ending injury, something no football fan hope for, he’ll lead the men in white to the post-season once again. The only question is what seed they’ll get. Prediction : 12-4, playoffs.

Tennessee Titans

Titans running back Chris Johnson scores against the Texans, 2009 (Doug Benc/Getty Images)

Though most don’t really notice it, the Titans are proving to me with every passing game how good Albert Haynesworth really is. His contract year the Titans defense is one of the best in the league. The year after, middle of the road at best, QBs have hours in the pocket, and Kyle Vanden Bosch was suddenly a pedestrian defensive end. It’s a team that seems in eternal flux despite the steady hand of Jeff Fisher at the helm. Vince Young will continue to frustrate fans this year, and pull several games out of… nowhere to win. Really, if you look at his stats in terms of wins and losses when he starts, he is 26-13. He puts up ugly numbers with a career completion rate of 57% and more interceptions than touchdowns, but the guy is exciting to watch and can win. Really, what else matters? He an half back Chris Johnson should have a really neat year offensively, that is if Fisher decides to get creative. And if Young learns to use his arm a little more, good things could happen in Nashville. He is also paired with that 2000 yard rusher in Johnson, who is hungry to win an MVP this year. Their receiving corps isn’t going to strike fear into the hearts of defensive coordinators, but the presence of the aforementioned Johnson will help negate double coverage on them. Justin Gage is a good wideout, and their tight end Bo Scaife is a big young guy and an impact player to a degree that will help take pressure off Johnson and Young. The Titans are a real knuckleball in terms of whether they could win, but ultimately that front seven looks like its going to doom them. Vanden Bosch is gone, but the drafting of Derrick Morgan out of Georgia Tech should bolster that position and maybe improve it. An interesting pick by Tennessee was Myron Rolle out of Florida State and more recently Oxford University in England. Rolle was a Rhodes scholar and studied medical anthropology at Oxford. A lot of pundits talked about Rolle’s commitment to football, but the fact is he kept himself in shape while studying at one of the most prestigious universities in the world, with the sole goal of going to the NFL. This could work out amazingly and the Titans may have a new face of the defense in the talented and very smart Rolle. Paired with Pro Bowl corner Cortland Finnigan and the Titans secondary is coming together as a premier corps in the league. Sadly, this is not the year for the Titans, as other divisions will claim the wildcard berths and Indianapolis isn’t going anywhere. Them and a rising Texans team will keep the Titans down, but its more of a bump in the road for Tennessee than a decline. Prediction : 8-8.

Houston Texans

Houston Texans QB Matt Schaub (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Once again the Texans are a team on the rise. Last year they recorded the franchises’ first winning season at 9-7 after going 8-8 for two years previous. They didn’t make the playoffs, but everyone and his mother is raving that this is the year. Sadly, no, they just can’t get over that hump in Indianapolis or the powerful divisions in the North and East. Matt Schaub has come along as a very talented quarterback, though how much of that is because of wideout Andre Johnson is up for debate. Speaking of Johnson, he is the best receiver in the league, so Larry Fitzgerald, keep it down. The offense is not a problem with Steve Slaton emerging last year as a go-to back and Shaub being an efficient and smart general on the field. Defensively, they have Mario Williams aiming to kill the opposing QB, and succeeding a lot, but other than that, it’s a little sparse on that side of the ball. They were 30th in rushing defense last year, and 18th in passing yards allowed. There are going to be a lot of shootouts in Houston this year, and on the road too. That pass D got a little boost from CB Kareem Jackson out of Alabama, a school that is just shooting out defensive standouts of late like a machine. Still, reigning defensive Rookie of the Year Brian Cushing is suspended for a couple games for using PEDs, or to hear him say it, working out too much. Seriously, “athlete overtraining syndrome”? I guess that’s a creative spin on things. The Texans will miss Cushing, as teams will be able to key on Williams even more. It seems like the number one thing holding this team back is the uninspired playcalling of coach Gary Kubiak. The guy has done a bang-up job building a solid team in a football crazy town, but it looks like it’s about time to move on. Chances are, unless they see the postseason this year, he’ll be on his way out, and the Texans will benefit. In January announcers and columnists wll be talking about how this team is on the cusp again, and they are. But once again the Texans are snake-bit when it comes to Indianapolis, plus Shaub’s inability to play a whole season, and this will end their season in the first week of January. Prediction 8-8. The Titans will beat them once.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew

Poor Maurice Jones-Drew. One of the most electrifying backs in the league is not only overshadowed by a fellow division member in Chris Johnson, he is also stymied by Jack Del Rio’s laziness at playcalling. It gets a little (read: a lot) predictable when you run every first down then pass, pass, and punt. Its understandable that Jones-Drew is frustrated. He’ll be up there in league leaders for rush yards and TD’s, but as Chris Johnson showed last year at Tennessee, you need more than one player. The Jaguars are just the doormat of the AFC South, no doubt about it. They made no real strides this offseason other than Del Rio apparently telling QB David Gerard to try harder or something like that. The receiving corps is empty of anybody remotely fear-inducing, and the defense is pretty sparse too. The acquisition of Kirk Morrison from the Raiders was a pretty good pickup, as Morrison has a nose for the ball and gathers tackles like a migrant worker picking beans. He can’t stop the run worth a lick though, and for that, once again the Jags will suffer.  Aaron Kampman was picked up to play DE, but he’s getting up there in years, so who knows how he’ll do. Draft-wise they were pretty uninspired, though DT Tyson Alualu could bolster the front four, maybe. In fact their first four picks in the draft were all defensive linemen, so you can see the rebuilding beginning on that side of the ball. It won’t be enough, far from it. At least it’s a step in a direction, whether its right or not is the big question. Winning really isn’t an option for this team because every win gets them further from a good draft pick, something they need. Combine that with a sorrowfully uninterested fan base (Jags home games are blacked out locally more often than not due to attendance issues) and this could be a team on the move for all the wrong reasons. Some say Los Angeles is calling, but a shoddy team like this in LA when people could just watch UCLA or USC for good football is not a good recipe for success. No, this is a team challenging for Worst Team status, what with a rough divisional schedule with the other three teams having a shot at the postseason, whether large or small. But hey, there’s always the draft, and next year barring a lockout, right? Prediction : 2-14.

We’ll tidy up the AFC tomorrow. Preemptive note, I am a Raiders fan.

As an avid football fan and someone who adores the gladitorialism and strategy that goes into a football game, I am never more excited than in the month of August when training camp has begun, pads are donned, and the gridiron is once again alive with the sounds of really large men trying to kill each other. It’s a beautiful thing, and uniquely American. Baseball may be our pastime, but football is the national sport. And so, in honor of that, I am going to go through each team, by division, and look at what to watch for, how things are going, and even give a prediction too. It’s a lovely inexact science, but then, so is life.

AFC EAST

New England Patriots

AP Photo

AP Photo

For the first 40 years or so of their existence, the Pats were a perennial also-ran, at best, and doormat for other teams at worst. Prior to their first championship after the 2001 season, New England had been in 2 Super Bowls; Super Bowl XX where they lost 49-10 against the Bears and XXXI where they lost 35-21 against the Packers. Then Bob Kraft bought the team, Bill Belichick came in and became a genius, and Tom Brady came out of nowhere to become one of the greatest QB’s of all time. The last decade has been theirs, despite their shocking loss to the Giants in SB XLII. So now they’re back, healthy after Brady returning from knee surgery last year, hungry with Randy Moss wanting that ring and Wes Welker being his fiery self, and of course ol’Hoodie prowling the sidelines. For the first time in a while the Pats are not the favorite in their division. That honor goes to the Jets, but we’ll get to that in a minute. The New England defense has taken some hits in the last year. The losses of Rodney Harrison to retirement and Richard Seymour to trade before last season showed through in important situations (like the bludgeoning they received in their first-round playoff loss to the Ravens last January)but the cupboard is far from bare. Jarrod Mayo, the young linebacker, and DT Vince Wilfork form a backbone that most teams would kill for, and even though the secondary is a little green and lacking, the creativity of Belichick’s mad genius will show through. Plus they built through the draft on defense, and if anyone can draft, its ol’ Bill. One wonders if the versatility of Seymour, who can play either DE or DT, is missed more than is said from the closed-mouthed front office. The offense is not a problem, as they’ll be able to pass with the best of them and run sufficiently enough to keep teams honest. With the Wildcard a nice fallback in case they don’t win the division, look for the Pats in the playoffs again. Though their division is stiff with the Dolphins coming around and the Jets looking like a team to beat this year according to most pundits (seriously, look at that roster) , a little luck will have to be on the side of the New Englanders. Predicition : 12-4, playoffs

New York Jets

hoto by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images North America

Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images North America

This is the definition of a sexy pick for the Super Bowl. The Jets spent like they were the New York Yankees, taking advantage of no salary cap this season by signing vets like LaDanian Tomlinson, picking up CB Antonio Cromartie to pair with the “best cornerback in the league” Darrell Revis, trading for Santonio Holmes from the Steelers, and getting Jason Taylor as a pass-rusher. Combine all that with the big-balls living of coach Rex Ryan, and if nothing else you have a fun team to watch. They’ll blitz, hit hard, move fast, and play their guts out, that’s what Ryan can guarantee. Further muddling the picture though are the questions of whether Revis will get his new deal done and how all these egos will mesh. Most of the signings, like Tomlinson and Taylor, are hungry veterans that want a ring or proven winners like Holmes. Cromartie, if he can get his paternity issues out of the way, could be one half of a lock-down couple of corners. Of course, if second year QB Mark Sanchez hits a bump in the road, it will all be for naught. He started out volcanic last year, but collapsed down the stretch. That’s a lot of “if’s” for a Super Bowl contender, more than I am happy with, and remember that they only won 9 games last season, sneaking into the playoffs with a combination of luck and gritty hustle. Still, sleeping on the “stinky old Jets” as their D-lineman Chris Jenkins referred to them last year, is a dangerous thing. Their O-line is stiff, even with the loss of Alan Faneca (who was aging anyway) and Shonn Green should be a great feature back. Their other issues are similar to the Pats problems; they have to play New England and Miami twice, and their schedule is a lot less forgiving then last year’s. Moreso than last year this is going to be a test of coach Ryan’s mettle. A man who focuses only on defense, even if it’s the defense that won a championship in 2000, is still a little one-sided. Ryan and Sanchez, not Revis, Taylor, or Tomlinson, are the crux of this team, and a couple of second-year guys are dangerous to bet on. But with this team, they’re dangerous to bet against, too. Of course, Jets history is littered with tales of woe e and crippling bad luck, but that’s why you play the game Prediction : 11-5, playoffs.

Miami Dolphins

For two years in a row now the Dolphins have confused fans, columnists, and probably other coaches repeatedly. Head Coach Tony Sparano and “football czar” Bill Parcells are doing a great job to build a team that adheres to the winning tradition Miami football has had for its whole existence. Be it Don Schula and his perfect season or Dan Marino and his magic under center, Dolphins fans are accustomed to seeing a good product, and this team is on its way back. The acquisition of Brandon Marshall from the Broncos is going to have a massive impact on young QB Chad Henne. After all, look what Jay Cutler did with him in Denver and then his numbers in Chicago, and likewise for Kyle Orton. There are few wideouts that make their QB look so good, and Marshall is going to be electric in Miami. Combine that with an apparently ageless Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown running out of the Wildcat, and this is a scary team. I have long held that a strong offensive line is the key to any team, and the Dolphins have that, at least. Jake Long at OT was a great pick in the draft a couple years ago, and its all grown from there. Unfortunately for Henne, Long, Marshall and company, they aren’t winning anything this year since their defense is pretty faceless. Its stout, make no bones about that, but its not elite by any stretch of the imagination. This is a ball-control team, or it was last year. When they played the Colts and had the ball for about 45 minutes but still lost, that was basically the story of this team. On the rise, and able to mix it up with the big dogs, but ultimately falling short. Sparano is a fantastic defensive mind, able to keep this team cooking with exotic looks and creative blitz packages, and that’s how they’ll win this year. A couple of contenders are going to face this team and come away a little shaken by what they see,a nd opposing coaches will not enjoy the week’s buildup to this game. An easy schedule will help the Phins out, but again, as with the others in their division, there are 4 games against the Pats and Jets. Still, there has been a decided sea change down in South Beach, and in a few years the Dolphins are going to do more than just scare people. Predicition : 9-7.

Buffalo Bills

So here is a team that is lost, adrift in the endless sea of bad drafts, uninterested fans, and a tough as nails division. The selection of CJ Spiller in the draft only continues to highlight the Bills ineffectiveness. Sure, he could be good, but why get a running back when you can’t block, defend the run, the pass, or kick? Or throw for that matter. There was a time when this was a proud team, and they went to 4 straight Super Bowls with Jim Kelly and company. Since that time, upstate New York has been pining for a winner, and nothing has shown itself. Its going to be an ugly season, be it Trent Edwards or someone else under center. At least they found a new coach that isn’t Dick Jauron, but Chan Gailey is no Bill Walsh. Still, Edwards is a capable QB as long as he isn’t getting his head knocked in, and Marshawn Lynch is hungry to be the feature back in this offense. Its that busted line that is going to doom this team more than anything, seeing as how there are 6 games against very good defensive minds in their divisional play alone, not to mention the Packers (top-ranked rush defense against a rush first team), the Steelers (Linebacker, Inc. one announcer called them), Ray Lewis and the Ravens, a very hungry Bears team, and of course the Vikings (Jared Allen will feast). It is not going to be a happy time to be the Bills QB this year, somebody is going to get their head dented. Lee Evans is a very good wide receiver, but unless your last name is Rice, you aren’t carrying a team. Al Davis once said that to win “the quarterback must go down, and must go down hard”, and that will be the theme at Ralph Wilson Stadium. At least they’ll have a shot at a nice pick next draft, as long as there isn’t a lockout. Either way, it’ll be a long, long season for the Bills. Predicition : 4-12. And I feel generous. They could be the worst team in the league.

Up Next : AFC North. Cool your jets, its a long preseason.

So last night I watched Michael Moore’s newest offering, Capitalism, A Love Story. Before I go any further, I know what hearing Mr. Moore’s name does to people, either they say “FUCK YEAH!” or “Dirty Commie.” He is not a moderate by any means, but then, he isn’t really a left-winger either. I had been meaning to watch it, and am really glad I got around to it. If you get a chance, it streams off of Netflix, so find your closest friend with said service and exploit them.

Anyway, simply put, it was a provocative movie. Mr. Moore has never been a big fan of big business, dating back to his first movie Roger and Me, when he tried to get an interview with the then CEO of General Motors Smith, who had shut down factories in Flint, Michigan, Moore’s home town. Incidentally, GM also started there, but that’s beside the point. So I watch this movie ,and the first half is a combination of showing how good the US had it in the middle of the last century, mainly because we had bombed our main competition (Germany and Japan) into oblivion. I’m not mad about that, they were evil regimes based on racism and abuse, and had no place in the modern world. But this movie got me thinking. One major point it made was how Ronald Reagan was nothing more than a spokesman for the banks, how he was essentially elected so banking and rich people could have a better life. Keep in mind that up until the 80’s, people considered rich (figure over $250000 a year) were being taxed at 90%, and still lived like kings. This left the idea of the American Dream open for anyone, because the playing field was relatively leveled due to regulation of various industries and the existence of unions and whatnot. Reagan broke these unions, starting with the air traffic controllers and moving through to auto workers and all that jazz. Also, did you know that pilots these days make less than $30,000 a year on average? AND they fly our planes.

Anyway, Moore spent most of the movie showing how capitalism is a good thing when controlled, and then was broken when the fatcats got their guy in power. Tax cuts and the idea of “home equity” to get you to buy yourself out of your house through loans and all that are all touchstones, and Jimmy Carter giving a speech in the late 70’s about how “what you have is more important than who you are” really struck a chord with me. Now, capitalism is a good theory, but really, the fact that it has become the overarching, controlling interest in our country, is really kind of messed up. Nowhere in our Constitution, Bill of Rights, or Declaration of Independence does it say that we must be a capitalist country. The only unalienable rights are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, nowhere does this include getting paid. Sure, people will say that they changed it from profit to happiness, but that’s what the Declaration says, so I’m sticking to it. But the basis of what Mr. Moore was saying, through the movie, was that democracy must prevail. That is the basis of the United States, right? We all get one vote, despite what Citigroup wants

We need to get back to this democracy. No longer should there be CEO’s that make 450% (on average) of what the average wage is in the United States. FDR had a great idea for a Second Bill of Rights. This has to come back, and we must be the change we want to see. Obama is a nice start, but the banks have too much power right now to do anything. And really, I don’t have an answer other than abolishing everything and starting anew. I want your feedback too. Say something, because otherwise I look like a crazy guy who wants to bring socialism and evil to our glorious nation. I am the first guy to defend America, because she’s a beautiful place that’s given us all, if nothing else, the access to a computer and the leisure time to cruise sites like this. But give me a hand here. I want to do something, but I’m one man, albeit loud, and only have one vote.

Obama said a lot about change, and hasn’t done much, because he’s beholden to certain people. That’s no reason to dog on him. He’s doing what he can, I would hope. vBut even though we have all grown up in various forms of privilege, there are people who have worked their entire lives, and I mean like 45 years (longer than most of us have even been a twinkle in our parents’ eyes) who are having their homes taken away because of predatory lending. We have poison in the gulf, we have caving in mines, we have a broken economy and broken levies, because the business came first. Read that memo from Citigroup I linked to, and remember the word PLUTONOMY. We like it here, right? America doesn’t need a savior, we need SAVIORS.

Like Jimmy Carter said, we need to move past conspicuous consumption and understand what we truely need to survive. My friend Dan is walking the Appalachian Trail, and has less than 30 pounds on him at any given time. Do we need all this stuff we have?

So I’ve lost myself, but the basis of this is understanding that the man next to you, regardless of how he smells or what he’s driving or who he is, matters just as much as you do. Don’t fuck him (or her) over because it will make you that much better. Capitalism is not the answer, democracy is. Capitalism should be a child of democracy, and not the controlling interest. Tea Partiers are against big government and so am I, but the shitty fact of it all is that that’s what is going to save us. Let me know what you think.


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