It’s been five years.
It’s finally here! The documentary I filmed/edited about a cross-country journey my friends and I took in 2009.
Why did it take me so long? Well, I’ll explain. However, I know most of you clicked the link to this blog strictly to watch the video. So I’ll embed it here at the top to save you from scrolling through a long post just to get to the good stuff.
After you watch, feel free to come on back here and read the blog post, if you’re still curious to read about my journey after the journey.
WARNING: WE WERE IN COLLEGE, SO THERE IS ADULT LANGUAGE. HIDE YOUR CHILDREN.
Brand New Shadows (feat. Eddie Kirkland)
So why did it take five years?
There’s a perfectly good explanation…for some of it. But honestly, there is little excuse.
I was in my senior year of college at the University of Florida. I graduated in Fall of ’09, so the summer of ’09 would turn out to be my last as a college student.
Naturally, this was in mind when my good friend, Skyler, invited me to film him riding his bicycle across the country. It seemed like a win-win to me- I get to see the country and build my resumé at the same time.
I remember there was a point where Skyler and I asked the advice of a professor/adviser of mine if he thought it was a good idea. He responded, “There will be no other time in your life when you get to do something like this, and the consequences of any mistakes will be minor. The older you get, the more there will be to risk.“
We both agreed, and took that as a sign that we MUST do this. Soon we added four other friends, and things were looking even better.
So we spent about three months planning/preparing. We decided to use this as a way to raise money for Relay for Life, and spent a lot of that time raising money from friends and family and businesses. We planned and prepared as much as we knew how.
Unfortunately, we were dumb college kids who didn’t know much.
In spite of ourselves, we did it. The six of us traveled the southern United States, and finished a week earlier than planned. It absolutely was an amazing adventure that I wouldn’t trade for anything. We went through so much together, and shared memories than no one can ever take away from us.
That said, by the end of the trip, none of us wanted to see each other for a while.
We spent 24/7 with each other for a month. Pro-tip: if you do that with someone, make sure you know them VERY well already. Otherwise, you’re going to see the worst brought out in them (and yourself), and you may not handle it very well. We had seen the best and worst of each other over that span, and by the end of the trip, our tempers were hot and a lot of drama occurred. It actually took a long time for a lot of us to look back on this trip fondly.
I know for me, personally, I didn’t even want to watch the video footage for about three months.
I eventually started uploading the footage to my computer and an external hard drive that fall. Unfortunately, I was also juggling my last semester of college, as well as a pretty rigorous shooting schedule for a dorm TV series I was in with TSF (my improv troupe). It took me all semester to upload 25+ hours of footage, as well as take notes, marking the good stuff.
This is when I got the first inkling that I may have taken on a much bigger project then I originally had thought.
I graduated and moved to Atlanta to work with the Gwinnett Braves. During my time with the G-Braves (February-September of 2010), I had absolutely no time to work on the video. During the baseball season, I would work 14-hour days during a homestand (some lasted at least 10 games long), and when the team was away, I still had to work normal work hours. Needless to say I was never in a mood to start climbing the enormous mountain of footage ahead of me.
After the paid internship with the G-Braves ended in September, I moved in with my folks in Marietta and was unemployed for three months. This is a time when, I will admit, I didn’t work on the documentary NEAR as much as I could/should have. Looking back, that was the time that I could have knocked out the majority of the work. There really is no excuse, other than I was getting more and more depressed that I couldn’t find a job.
I did get a good portion done…but the more I thought about how long it would take to complete this thing, the less I wanted to do it. Horrible, self-defeating attitudes like that should never enter anyone’s mind. I definitely have learned that the hard way, and don’t plan on letting it happen again.
Finally, in January, I got an internship with Fox Sports South and then in March, got a job with my church, who is my current employer. During that time I would edit on and off. A weekend here, a weekend there. I’d go through spurts of really productive weeks and unproductive months.
I went through my external hard drive breaking, three different people agreeing to help edit the intro and then reneging, moving four times, and switching editing software.
I hit a point where I just wanted to get it done…I stopped worrying about making it perfect and professional. It’s been a huge monkey on my back, and it’s one that grew over time. It was a project that was way outside of my skill when I agreed to start it, and one that, I now realize, no one should do completely on their own.
With all of that said, I would like to apologize to Chris, Kaylyn, Maxx, Nick, and especially Skyler, for taking so long. I also want to apologize to the rest of our friends and family, who gave money towards this video, and those who have waited so long to see our story come to life.
Thank you all for your patience and support through the years. I hope that, if anything, this brings back fond memories and a smile to your face. I know that for me, it brings closure. I can finally put this in my rear view mirror and look at the whole experience with complete fondness.
As I write this, I am overwhelmed with the excitement of the NFL Preseason. What excitement, you ask? The excitement I am experiencing alone in my apartment with an Arby’s sandwich and seven completed mock fantasy drafts.
I decided that the best way to channel that excitement would be to start cracking at my official predictions for the 2013 NFL Season. I likely will go over this and change my mind again and again over the next few weeks, but by the time I post this, it will have my stamp of approval.
Last year, I correctly predicted seven out of eight division champions. That, BY FAR, is the best I’ve done in the few years I’ve done this, and I likely will come nowhere near that again. But feel free to read, disagree, agree, and share your own opinions. After the season ends, I will revisit my predictions and eat crow/pat myself on the back.
As always, I will go the most in-depth for the NFC South because that’s the division I know the most about (and let’s be honest…I’m pretty darn accurate every year with those teams). It will be the longest section by far.
Remember, I mostly go by gut feeling, which is influenced by the knowledge I have of each team. I don’t go very in-depth or statistical because I’m lazy. It’s just for fun. Now let the games begin!
For real?? Did I just put the two OHIO teams at the top of the division?? What am I thinking??
Here you have the Bengals, who have been on the rise but haven’t yet won their first playoff game under Marvin Lewis (how is he still their coach??), but I think they are in the best position to finally stake their claim in the division. I’m taking a risk because (let’s be honest) they’re the Bengals. They’ll probably find a way to embarrass me. Still, I can’t deny an improved defense, and an offense that includes Andy Dalton and AJ Green. This division looks to be in for a rough one, so the Bengals may take it by default and become the only team in the North to make the playoffs.
Then there’s the Browns. There’s a few factors that are pushing me to take a risk on them. One of those factors is that I bet a Browns fan that the Bucs would have a better record. So naturally, I just dug my own grave because I never win bets. But more than that, their defense actually is looking pretty dang good on paper. They loaded up on draft picks on that side of the ball, and honestly, I expect big things from a healthy Trent Richardson. This all falls on the shoulders of Brandon Wheedon. He’s looked good in the preseason so far (I know), and he actually had shown signs of life last year. In a division that I don’t have much respect for this season (can you tell?), I can see them winning 8ish games.
The Ravens have all the makings of a former-champion-gone-bad. They signed Flacco to a nasty-rich deal that makes me want to slap my grandmother. They lost Ray Lewis. They lost Ed Reed. They lost Anquan Boldin. They lost Dennis Pitta. Last year, they really looked like they were collapsing just before the playoffs began, but a few lucky plays here and there, combined with Ray Lewis threatening to murder his teammates’ families unless they won a Super Bowl his final year, resulted in a run and a shiny trophy. I just don’t see it this year. John Harbaugh is a heckuva coach, though. They haven’t missed the playoffs since he joined them…but this just might be the year.
The Steelers…Tomlin is still a great coach, and Roethlisberger is still a good QB. Their run game is still up in the air (figuratively), they lost Mike Wallace, and their defense hasn’t been the same in a few years…and is getting older. But they’re the Steelers. They’re never mediocre for more than a few seasons, right? They have to be competitive because otherwise no one else in Pittsburgh has anything to live for. So I could very well be eating a ton of crow by season’s end.
Now this is more like it. No craziness here. The Patriots are king and will be until someone takes them down. Brady is a football god. Belichick is a football god. Tim Tebow is best friends with actual God.
The Dolphins are a sleeper pick that aren’t actually sleepers, because everyone is choosing them as their sleeper pick (wrap your mind grapes around that for a bit). Now I don’t think they’ll be
all-world. I still think they have a ways to go. But they finally are heading in the right direction. I liked what I saw out of Tannehill his first year. The Mike Wallace addition should help them if he can stop being a doofus. Lamar Miller may shine as their newest running back. Their D has been very solid the last couple of years (7th in points allowed last year), and while they changed things up a bit, it seems like they’ve upgraded. And aside from the Patriots, this division will be a walk in the park. I see them picking up a wild card spot.
Hooray! The Bills no longer have Chan Gailey so I didn’t predict them to finish last! Actually, they can think the M-E-S-S Jets Jets Jets for that. EJ Manuel intrigues me. While I think he was a HUGE reach in the first round, he may be decent. Maybe. But come on. It’s the Bills.
The Jets. You know why they’re last. Thanks for Revis.
Peyton Manning. Wes Welker. Demaryius Thomas. Von Miller. Should I go on? It should be obvious why I have Denver in first place. I know Miller is suspended for six game, but he’ll be back and everyone will move on.
Call me crazy, but I think the Chiefs will be back. Both Andy Reid and Alex Smith escaped teams that had high pressure situations, and both will be better for it. Reid’s West Coast system is perfect for Smith, who has a high completion percentage and a high IQ. Sure, Charles is banged up again, but I think they’ll be okay even if he goes down. I also think they got better on defense this offseason
The Chargers are finally over the Norv Turner curse. But because of this, we have no real idea how this team will be in 2013. Phillip Rivers has been on a steady decline the last few years, and he was clearly missing Vincent Jackson last year. It’s also a put-up-or-shut-up year for Ryan Mathews. So far he has been nowhere near the player a lot of us thought he would be.
The Raiders are another team we don’t really know about. Matt Flynn is now their QB (?). Darren McFadden can’t stay healthy. They have a bunch of no-names on both sides of the ball. It doesn’t look great for the silver and black this year…much like the last ten years.
Some may put the Colts ahead of the Texans, but not me. I still think the Houston is the team to beat in the AFC South. They still need to get over that hump, yes…but they still have a dynamic offense, and the best defensive player in the NFL (in my opinion) in JJ Watt. And hey, Ed Reed may still have some dominance left in the tank.
Before you go gaga over the Colts, bear in mind that they had one of the easiest schedules in the NFL last season. Also, they actually scored less points overall than their opponents. Luck is still great, and should get better, but they still have a lot of key pieces missing in their team, specifically on defense and the running game. I see them actually losing less games this year.
The Titans are the Titans. They’re putting a lot of their hope into Jake Locker progressing as a young quarterback. Chris Johnson, I believe, will be back to putting up big numbers…at least numbers you’d expect from the fastest running back in the NFL.
Then there’s the lowly Jaguars. I almost always have them higher than they end up, largely due to the influence my roommate has in convincing me that they are better than they actually are. He’s the biggest Jags fan I know, and even this year he told me how he’s hopeful for 3-5 wins this year. They have a new coach (again) and a new GM, and “rebuilding” is the theme this year. This is a make-or-break year for Blain Gabbert…either he gets better, or they look QB in next year’s draft. I loved the Denard Robinson pick, by the way. Their “OW” may be their shining light this year.
It seems like every year I go back and forth on the Packers and Bears. I landed on the Bears, simply because I feel like they’re a more complete team. Sure, the Pack still has Aaron Rodgers…but what much else do they have? They still have no run game, they lost Greg Jennings (not that he was much of a factor last year), and their defense is not as good as Chicago’s (even though Urlacher retired).
And sure, the Bears have a brand new head coach…but maybe that’s exactly what Chicago needed. I’ve never been a Lovie Smith fan. They upgraded their O-line so Cutler will actually have time in the pocket. This may be more of a gut thing, but what’s a predictions list without a roll of the dice?
The Vikings have the best player in the NFL at running back. He literally put the team on his back and carried them into the playoffs last season. Yet, I still just don’t have that much confidence in Christian Ponder. I don’t think any team in the North will have a losing record. This division will be tight towards the end.
I do believe that the Lions will be better than last season. But how much better? That’s the million dollar question. Stafford absolutely needs to stay healthy, and he needs to get the ball to Megatron. It took the until mid-season to hook up for a TD pass and catch. Their run game got a lot more interesting with the acquisition of Reggie Bush. He’s definitely a player that can make a difference. Can they overcome the rest of the teams in the division? I’m not too sure…
I’m an idiot. Seriously? The Cowboys? The same Cowboys that always have so much talent, but never actually play to the level at which they’re capable? The same Cowboys that choke year after year? Yes. I’m an idiot. But honestly they’re the team in this division that I see have the least amount of question marks. If Murray stays healthy, and their defense lives up to their potential, they could easily take this division. Admittedly, for Dallas, those are indeed big “ifs,” but I’m a sucker.
This Redskins prediction rides solely on whether or not RGIII can stay healthy. He’s the best QB in the division, and if they lose him for any significant time, it can really hurt them. Then there’s the whole sophomore slump possibility. The thing is, those two questions are big enough to not put them first. I love RGIII. I really do. And if anyone is intelligent and gifted enough to overcome the adjustments defenses are going to make against him, it’s him. They should make the playoffs if he does.
The Giants‘ defense scares no one. Last year they were 31st in points allowed. Of course, this team loves to win Super Bowls, then suck, and then squeak into the playoffs and win another Super Bowl. This is a very hard team to predict, but comparing them to the two I mentioned above them, they just don’t hold up talent-wise. They may have a good passing attack, but who knows which Eli we’ll get this year.
The Eagles have the same problem that I accurately predicted last year…their QB can’t stay healthy. If Vick goes down, that’s all she wrote. Chip Kelly’s new potentially-gimmicky offense may make some ESPN headlines, but ultimately this just is not a very good team overall.
This one is tough. A lot of people are predicting the Seahawks to take over this year, and I don’t blame them. Their defense is stout, and Russell Wilson is my favorite of the young QBs (which may be slightly influenced by the fact that I predicted him to have a big year last year). The 49ers have been had a good number of key injuries this year too. Then there’s Kaepernick, who hasn’t even played a full season yet, and has to face defenses that have spent an entire offseason gameplanning against the read option/pistol offense. Yet, I still can’t bring myself to take the ‘Hawks over the ‘9ers. Why? Because of Jim Harbaugh. He’s one of the best coaches in the NFL and has given me zero reason to doubt his ability to gameplan and scheme his way to the playoffs. He has done wonders for this team, and until I’m proven wrong, I have to take the 49ers.
As for the rest of the division, I actually see Carson Palmer doing okay with the Cardinals. He now has a top wide receiver to throw to in Larry Fitzgerald, and he’s no longer playing behind the worst offensive line in the league. They may actually make some noise outside of the first few weeks of the season this year.
Then there’s the Rams. Steven Jackson left for a reason. They’re just not winning anytime soon. I see an 8-8 record at the very best for them. And that’s pretty optimistic.
Okay, the moment you’ve all been waiting for (or just skipped down to).
The Falcons are still the team to beat in this division, and I’m sure few people will argue. They still have a high-powered offense that only got better with the addition of Steven Jackson. Roddy White and Julio Jones will both have over 1,000 yards receiving again, and Tony Gonzalez (my favorite Falcon) will once again play at a very high level in spite of his age. Matt Ryan just got paaaaaid and has few distractions keeping him from finally being mentioned in the elite class. They may actually lose more games this year (a lot of their wins last year came in the final minute, and a few bounces went their way), but they still are the absolute favorites in this division.
They aren’t without their blemishes, though. Their offensive line has looked very shaky thus far, partly thanks to injury. Their stud QB and Pro Bowl RB may have some difficulty doing what they do best in part because of the pocket collapsing around them. They also don’t have a great defensive line. Sure, they got Osi Umenyiora…but that could potentially just be a slight upgrade (if any) from John Abraham. They say the game is won and lost in the trenches…if that’s true, Atlanta could be in trouble. Their secondary is also a huge question mark, in my opinion. They could lose some tight games because of some blown coverages or getting beat outright over the top. I see an 11-5 or 12-4 season for them.
Here I go again, predicting the Bucs to finish second. Everyone you ask that knows about this team will tell you…it’s all up to Josh Freeman. The weapons are there- Vincent Jackson (who was a top 5 receiver last year), Mike Williams (who was mere yards away from reaching the 1k mark), and Doug Martin (who could be a top 3 RB this year). They upgraded their defense significantly by adding Pro Bowl safety Dashon Goldson, Pro Bowl corner Darrelle Revis, and shut-down rookie corner Johnthan Banks. Freeman has no excuse to suck.
One may say that if your biggest question mark is your quarterback, then your team is in big trouble. And that person is probably right. But let me drop some truth bombs for a second before we conclude just how big a question mark Freeman is…
- Josh set franchise records in passing yards and passing touchdowns last year.
- The Bucs lost five games last year because the secondary blew the lead in the final minutes.
- Josh was a top ten QB in passing yards, passing TDs, and passing yards per game.
- Halfway through the season last year the Bucs were a top 5 offense.
- They still ended the season as a top 10 offense.
The problem last year was not Josh Freeman. The problem last year was a secondary that was mere yards away from being the worst secondary in NFL history. That will not happen this year with a healthy Revis and Goldson. Freeman threw the ball way more than he should have because the team was always playing from behind late in games…which led to more picks, and the terrible stretch of December games where he threw 6 TDs and 10 INTs. Simply put- if the Buccaneers had any secondary AT ALL last year, they would have been a playoff team. This year they have a secondary.
Again, Freeman has no excuse. Especially since this is a contract year. I think he finally gets there. Is he a Peyton Manning or a Drew Brees? No. Nor will he ever be. But he absolutely can be a Ben Roethlisberger or Eli Manning. Yeah, he can be inconsistent…but he has proven over and over again he can be clutch and perform at a high level. The biggest weakness on this team is the unproven D-line. There’s a lot of young draft picks that need to step up in a big way and get to opposing QBs. If they do, watch out. They should have a 9-7 or 10-6 record.
On to the Panthers. Once again, everyone is high on Cam Newton. Once again people are predicting them to finish higher than they should because of one player. Well, two now. They do have a future Pro Bowler in linebacker Luke Kuechly. The problem? The rest of the team! No run game, no receivers outside of old man Smith, and no secondary. Ron Rivera has done nothing to help this team. I think their saving grace will be a read option offense. Cam is a prototypical QB for that kind of scheme. He is super athletic and can throw very well. Again he’ll put the team on his back, but again his teammates will let him down. They did better than I thought they would (slightly) last year, so maybe they’ll do that again. I’d give them a 9-7 ceiling, but they could be as low as 7-9.
The Saints are the same kind of story. Everyone is so enamored with the Saints high powered offense, that they forget about the other side of the football. They just lost Will Smith for the year, and even with him their D was shaky. They have Sean Payton back as their head coach, and now have Rob Ryan as their DC. But look at what Ryan did with a much more talented Dallas defense…exactly. Brees will still be ridiculous, as will Jimmy Graham. Their offense is good enough to steal a few games late. But I just don’t see them making the playoffs. Like the Panthers, I see them in the 7-9 to 9-7 range.
And there we have it. Where do you agree? Where do you disagree?
Well the NFL Regular Season has come to a close, which means it’s time to review my preseason predictions and then curl up into a ball and weep until September. For reference, my predictions can be viewed here.
What I got right:
The Ravens won the division…but in spite of themselves. The Browns again were bottom-feeders.
What I wish I could take back:
I was high on the Ravens D. They were NOT the Ravens D of yore. Injuries plagued them, but that’s no excuse. Also, I didn’t give the Bengals enough credit and gave too much to Pittsburgh.
What I got right:
The Texans won the division.
What I wish I could take back:
Everything else. Especially this gem: “The Jags could surprise a LOT of people this year. That all hinges on Blaine Gabbert’s ability to stay in the pocket and make his new weapon Justin Blackmon a star. Mike Mularkey is actually what this team needed…he’s a very run-oriented guy, and that’s what the Jaguars do best. Of course, Jones-Drew held out until the last possible second, and could lose a step a-la Chris Johnson last year. But Gabbert has no excuse this year to suck. I think he actually is set up to succeed and step up this year.”
Also this about the Colts: “The Colts, while they have the next Peyton Manning, still are without Peyton Manning. Expect Luck to have flashes of greatness and do very well. Unfortunately, the other 10 guys on offense have to be just as good. Manning had a knack for making those around him better…can Luck do the same? Maybe not this year. Their defense may cost them a few games.”
Yikes. My apologies to the Colts. Also to you Jaguar fans for the season you just had.
What I got right:
Patriots won. And while I had the Jets finishing second, I did say this: “The Jets have the potential to absolutely implode.” And thankfully, I held true to my statement, “As long as Chan Gailey is the head coach of the Bills, I will predict them to finish last.” Luckily for Bills fans, Chan was canned, and I may actually give them some credit in the future. Maybe.
What I wish I could take back:
Nothing. Well okay, I gave the Jets too much credit.
What I got right:
Broncos win…hmm, noticing a trend. Also, “Norv Turner is a terrible head coach. I think this may be the year he gets the can.”
What I wish I could take back:
Being higher than I should have on both the Chiefs and the Raiders. Those are two organizations that just can’t get their crap together.
What I got right:
Yet again, I predicted another division winner. The Bears scared me for a bit at the beginning, but then just completely imploded.
What I wish I could take back:
Thinking that Adrian Peterson was human and thinking his injury would affect his play…couldn’t have been more wrong. He deserves MVP. Also, WTF Lions???
What I got right:
Everything about the Falcons. They were the most complete team. They won the division outright. As for the rest of the division, the standings reflected my predictions PERFECTLY for most of the season, right up until a couple of weeks ago. The kickers were when the Bucs lost to the Saints and the Saints lost to the Panthers in the final weeks. That made every team tied at 7-9 and tiebreakers came down to strength of schedule (which is BS, when you consider the Bucs beat the Panthers TWICE and still ended up in last place).
I also was right about the Saints and Panthers. The Saints suffered tremendously without their head coach, and Cam Newton sulked his way to another losing season. The Panthers didn’t put enough talent around him, and I knew that would be their undoing. Cam is talented, but not enough of a leader to overcome having no one around him.
Then there’s my Bucs. I correctly predicted them to have a better season but miss the playoffs. Freeman also had a much better year than the one previous (in spite of a DREADFUL three game stretch where he threw 8 picks and 1 TD), and broke many franchise records at QB. This Bucs team also was a top five offense for a hot minute. I also predicted that their defense would be the reason they miss the playoffs. At least five of their losses were blown 4th quarter leads.
“I think it should be said that I think the Falcons are the only team in the division that will make the playoffs. The schedule for the NFC South this year looks pretty brutal, and three of the four teams are unpredictable and unstable. The one that is stable still is extremely unproven when it comes to the postseason. This division is very competitive and likely will be self-destructive I see the Falcons going 10-6 or 11-5. I don’t see the rest of the teams finishing over .500.”
What I wish I could take back:
The fact that I traded Brees away for Stafford and a 1st round pick in my keeper league. I ended up with a struggling QB and Darren McFaddon who was injured for a while, and came back with nothing more than a mediocre showing after that. Shame on me for thinking he wouldn’t do anything statistically.
What I got right:
Almost nothing. I did say this: “I love RG III. I really do think he will be special in this league, and may end up being Rookie of the Year.” I was also 100% correct on Vick and the Eagles: “Then there’s the Iggles. Michael Vick can’t even stay healthy in the preseason. Sure, he now has a new flak jacket, guaranteed to stop a rocket and possibly provide healing powers, but what about the rest of his body, particularly his legs? I was right about him last year, and I’m saying it again- defenses have the tape on this man. He is unable to adjust. He’ll make splash plays, but not enough to get his team on top of this division.”
What I wish I could take back:
Where do I start? Predicting the Giants to win, having no faith in the ‘Skins, again putting the Cowboys higher than they actually finish? Who woulda thought that my severe hatred for the Eagles would save me from being 100% wrong on this division!
What I got right:
Huzzah! The only division I predicted perfectly! I’m pretty proud of this one, particularly this bit about Russell Wilson: “Yet this rookie is someone I am very high on. Russell Wilson out of Wisconsin is actually a very good QB, and will be turning some heads this year.” The Cards scared be a bit when they started 5-0…but then they remembered they’re the Cardinals.
What I wish I could take back:
I honestly did not give this division enough credit. It gained a wild card team (a legitimate one this time), and aside from the Cardinals, stayed very competitive throughout the year.
Well, I was (yet again) below 50% overall. However, I am very proud of the fact that I correctly predicted 7/8 of the division winners…which is by FAR the best I’ve ever done in that regard. Funny how the one time I put faith in the Giants is the one time they don’t make it. It also snaps my bra strap that the tiebreakers for division standings go to strength of schedule BEFORE head-to-head record, which put the Bucs in last and made me only “correct” about the Falcons in the NFC South. Oh well.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy the playoffs!
I’m a little late with this one, having already passed the first game of the season (where Romo and Murray made my fantasy teams proud), but this post has been in the works for the last week, and I am not changing any picks based on one game (though, perhaps I should).
In this blog I will predict the final standings in each division.
The usual disclaimer: I do this every year. This is the third year I’ve made it public. My goal is to be 50% and I never reach it. Last year I did fairly well though. Feel free to give your predictions…
The Ravens stand out as the better team overall to me. Flacco will be Flacco, but their defense and Ray Rice will put them over the top. The Steelers will always contend, but their defense is getting older and isn’t as strong as Balty’s, IMO. Until the Bengals prove otherwise, this is still a two-team race for the top spot. Was last year a fluke for Cincy, or will this be their coming out party? While I have all the faith in the world in AJ Green, Dalton still needs to avoid a sophomore slump, and they’re still the Bungles. Then there’s the poor Browns…
It’s hard to pick against the Texans this year, especially when they coasted into the playoffs even after losing their first AND second string QBs. Yeah, they lost Mario Williams to Free Agency, but this team is way too talented and is in a seemingly uncompetitive division. The Jags could surprise a LOT of people this year. That all hinges on Blaine Gabbert’s ability to stay in the pocket and make his new weapon Justin Blackmon a star. Mike Mularkey is actually what this team needed…he’s a very run-oriented guy, and that’s what the Jaguars do best. Of course, Jones-Drew held out until the last possible second, and could lose a step a-la Chris Johnson last year. But Gabbert has no excuse this year to suck. I think he actually is set up to succeed and step up this year. The Titans also have an unproven young QB in Jake Locker. Chris Johnson WILL be much better this year and bounce back. They could also surprise some folks.
The Colts, while they have the next Peyton Manning, still are without Peyton Manning. Expect Luck to have flashes of greatness and do very well. Unfortunately, the other 10 guys on offense have to be just as good. Manning had a knack for making those around him better…can Luck do the same? Maybe not this year. Their defense may cost them a few games.
The Patriots are the class of the East, and this year is no different. While New York is playing “As the Sucky QB Turns,” Belichick and Co. are quietly going about their business. And their business is winning. Brady is a year older, but he still is Tom freaking Brady. The Jets have the potential to absolutely implode. Yet in spite of all their drama, they have always found a way to not be awful. Plus, all Tebow does is win…right?? The Dolphins and putting all their eggs in Tannehill’s basket. Perhaps it’s because his wife is smokin’ hot. He must have something, right? He actually looks decent…yet this team just has way too many holes.
The Bills surprised all of us last year in the first few weeks of the season, then realized they’re the Bills. They slightly improved their D by giving a gajillion dollars to Mario Williams, and Fred Jackson played lights-out before he got injured. I actually almost predicted them to finish second…then I remembered that last year I meant what I said- “As long as Chan Gailey is the head coach of the Bills, I will predict them to finish last.”
This one was tough. This also may be the one people disagree with the most. I don’t blame you. But how can the Broncos NOT finish first now that they have Manning? I mean, they made the playoffs with TIM TEBOW last year. When you upgrade the most important position on your team, you have to be the favorite. As I said before, Manning makes his teammates better. While he seemed to have lost a step 2 years ago, expect him to lead this team to its second straight division crown.
The Raiders actually seem to be pretty good. Carson Palmer now has a full off-season under his belt as their QB, and McFadden is back. The question is, can either of them stay healthy the whole season? The Chiefs are all over the place. They’re a very unpredictable team, but Charles will be back, and they now have Peyton Hillis to offset him. If Cassel can stay afloat, so will Kansas City. The Chargers lost their number one wideout. Ryan Mathews can’t stay healthy, and even when he is healthy, he hasn’t shown much. He needs this year to prove that he is worthy of starting. Oh also Norv Turner is a terrible head coach. I think this may be the year he gets the can.
To be the man, you gotta beat the man. A lot of people are all about the Bears this season, and for good reason. I think they really can leap-frog the Packers. This will be a very tight race once again, but I’m going to have to give the edge to the Packers, based on gut. I trust Rodgers more than I trust Cutler. Simple as that. The Lions are victims of their own division, yet should still contend for a wild card spot. This division may have two wild cards when it’s all said and done. Hopefully (for my fantasy teams’ sake) Megatron doesn’t succumb to the Madden Curse, and Stafford stays upright. The Vikings are still trying to figure things out. With Christian Ponder at the helm, and AP injured, they may be in for another rough year.
Every year it seems I hate on the Giants…and every year they prove me wrong. I have learned from my mistakes. In spite of the fact that I really want to put the Cowboys at #1, the Giants are still the team to beat. Even if they have a rough start, they have proven over and over again that they can win when it counts. The ‘Boys look very good. They’re healthy, they’re hungry, they have a new glasses-wiper for Jerry Jones…everything may finally fall into place for them. The Redskins are finally getting better. I love RG III. I really do think he will be special in this league, and may end up being Rookie of the Year. Still, they need some more help across the board on both offense and defense. They’ll be exciting to watch, but They may break some hearts.
Then there’s the Iggles. Michael Vick can’t even stay healthy in the preseason. Sure, he now has a new flak jacket, guaranteed to stop a rocket and possibly provide healing powers, but what about the rest of his body, particularly his legs? I was right about him last year, and I’m saying it again- defenses have the tape on this man. He is unable to adjust. He’ll make splash plays, but not enough to get his team on top of this division.
What a crappy division this has been, year in and year out. Of course I’m picking the 9ers to win. Their defense is ridiculous. As long as Alex Smith doesn’t take a dump on the field they should run away with this one. There’s no excuse for him either. For the first time he is returning with the same offense…one that he succeeded greatly in last year. Hopefully Harbaugh doesn’t break him, and minds his manners.
Pete Carroll is likely smoking something. Yet in spite of himself, he may actually succeed this year. First he trades a second round pick for CHARLIE WHITEHURST, and then this past offseason he and his front office give a huge contract to Matt Flynn based on a couple of games…only to give the starting QB job to an unproven rookie. Yet this rookie is someone I am very high on. Russell Wilson out of Wisconsin is actually a very good QB, and will be turning some heads this year. In a crappy division, I expect them to get some garbage wins and do pretty decent. The Rams are up and down and have so many things to prove. They COULD finish second. It’s all up to QB Sam Bradford and OC Brian Schottenheimer.
Oh…and the Cardinals suck. John Skelton? Really??
Normally I do an all-encompassing NFL predictions facebook note, but seeing as how the NFC South is the division I know the most about, I thought I would write a separate, more in-depth blog that concentrates solely on my favorite division.
Plus, I’m about to make some bold statements, and they’ll need some explanation.
Don’t fret, though, the full NFL note is coming soon.
The NFC South is a division full of parity. No team has ever repeated as champion, and no team has ever repeated in last place. For a while, it was a lock that the team that finished last would follow up with a championship run.
Thanks to (finally) consistency from the Saints and Falcons, the top two spots have belonged to them over the past few years. But in true NFC Southern fashion, the Bucs and Panthers are well on their way to keeping up with the Joneses. Add the fact that the Saints have been hit hard by the thundering hammer of Commissioner/Supreme Ruler/Demigod Roger Goodell, and things get even tighter.
While unpredictability has been the South’s M.O. since its inception in 2002, I have been darn near perfect every year when predicting the final standings of this division.
I’ve been predicting this division for much longer than two years, but always to myself or my closest friends. So you’ll just have to take my word, I’m pretty darn good at it. :-)
That said, every year I doubt myself incredibly. This year is no different. Is this the year I’m way off? First the prediction, then the team-by-team analysis…
1. Atlanta Falcons
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
3. New Orleans Saints
4. Carolina Panthers
Yep, I went there. But hear me out.
Last year I went solely on who had the best offseason, and that worked pretty well. I don’t think I can do that this year…well, not only that. This year is more about who’s the most stable.
The Atlanta Falcons are that team. They’ve been questioned up here on local radio about their decision to not be very active in free agency (aside from the Asante Samuel addition). They had no draft picks in the first two rounds (thanks to Julio Jones). Their offense was shut out in the playoff game against the eventual Super Bowl Champions. I understand frustration in a quiet offseason (especially as a Bucs fan), and I understand how it may look like they’ve done nothing to get better. But that may be enough to win this division, considering the other teams.
The Falcons have come a long way since Mike Smith joined the team. Before that, they had never had back-to-back winning seasons. They now have four. While they have yet to go far in the playoffs in that stint, one must give them credit for their consistency. Their nucleus is there: Matt Ryan is a rising young QB with a Hall of Fame TE, a top-five WR, and a top-ten draft pick at WR to throw to. Add to that a top-ten RB. The offensive line is questionable, but better.
Their defense was upgraded with Samuel at corner. The line isn’t great, and likely will be the most frustrating part, but the re-signing of John Abraham was necessary, and I believe will help a lot. Weatherspoon is due for his first big year as a linebacker.
It’s the Falcons’ division for the taking.
Now I know you think I am an insane homer for picking the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to finish 2nd. Maybe that’s partially true. But consider this, when you think of how awful this team was last year- they are two years removed from a 10-6 season.
The Bucs were 4-2 before losing ten games in a row last season. Two of those wins came against the Falcons and the Saints.
Y’all…that was one of the worst Bucs teams I have ever seen. That is saying A LOT.
Why such a dramatic fall? The team had no discipline, no spirit, and no accountability. Enter Greg Schiano.
Immediately he has come in and established all of those things that were lacking. He has been the anti-Raheem Morris. He isn’t best friends with Ronde Barber. He isn’t going out and partying in Ybor with trouble maker Kellen Winslow.
Nope. He moved Ronde to safety and Winslow to Seattle. Along with GM Mark Dominik (the only person from last year’s staff that kept his job), they went out and had the best Free Agency period in the NFL, signing top WR Vincent Jackson, top OL Carl Nicks, and CB Eric Wright. And one of the best drafts in the NFL, with the first three picks (S Mark Barron, RB Doug Martin, LB Lavonte Davis) being instant starters and contributors.
Sure, the Bucs are still the youngest team in the league. But now they have a leader. Now they have an authority figure. Now they have a disciplinarian. They were slammed for hiring an unknown college coach…but most of these players are still fresh out of college. Schiano is the perfect person to follow up the Morris debacle.
Then there’s Josh Freeman. In 2010 he threw for 25 TDs and 6 INTs…and then follows that up with a 16 TD 22 INT stinker of a 2011 season. So which Freeman will we see? I firmly believe that he can be the ’10 Freeman. The reason is because of the extenuating circumstances from last year…
1.Freeman targeted Winslow WAY too much. Over half of his picks were thrown K2’s way. Winslow now is not on the team.
2.The Bucs’ defense was the worst defense in franchise history last year (again, saying a LOT). Freeman was forced to throw early and often, due to always being multiple touchdowns behind. His threw almost 80 more times than the year before, and his offensive line was just dreadful.
Neither of these will be a factor come 2012. Throw in the fact that he now has Vincent Jackson to throw to, and a new ground weapon in Doug Martin, this Bucs offense may shape up to be VERY good. The Bucs’ new offensive coordinator is former NY Giants QB coach Mike Sullivan, who is attributed for helping Eli Manning turn the corner. He has been working very closely with Freeman.
(All that said..he has looked pretty rough thus far in preseason.)
The defense is still suspect. In fact, I believe they’ll be the reason that the Bucs will still miss the playoffs. Also, the schedule is VERY tough this year, specifically at the beginning. But yes, I do believe they will finish better than the Saints and Panthers.
The New Orleans Saints is a team I have completely jumped ship from. Yes, I believe Sean Payton means that much to them. This team has gone through a whirlwind offseason, seeing their head coach and interim head coach get suspended…as well as one of their top linebackers. Drew Brees was in a contract dispute until very recently. There’s been a whole lot of drama in that locker room.
Why do I think Payton means that much? October 16th, 2011. The Bucs’ last victory.
The Bucs were getting handled by the Saints. Then a freak accident occurred on the Saints’ sideline, when players collided with Sean Payton, causing him to be carted off the field and out of the game.
The offense immediately went anemic and the Bucs ended up winning. That’s right. The 2011 Bucs. The same team that I said had the WORST DEFENSE IN FRANCHISE HISTORY.
Sean Payton was their gameplanner and play caller. The guy is a great head coach and amazing offensive coordinator.
“Yeah, but they still have Brees!”
Brees is great, but he’s not Peyton Manning. Take away Coach Payton, and he’s very beatable, as evidenced by the Bucs game.
The Saints, with Brees and Payton, were 8-8 in 2008, in spite of the fact that Brees was 15 yards shy of the single season record for passing yards, and was named AP Offensive Player of the year.
I know that was four years ago…my point is that Brees isn’t the whole team. He can still be amazing while the rest of the team sucks.
How confident am I that the Saints will not do well this year? I traded Brees AND Jimmy Graham away in my keeper league. I’m out. I’ve bailed on the Saints. I see them being 8-8 at best.
And what about those up-and-coming Carolina Panthers?? Cam Newton is a football god, no? At least he thinks so…as he said himself that the team needs more Cam Newtons.
Do NOT fall into the Panthers trap this year. They will be the popular darkhorse pick solely because of Newton’s ability to make an exciting play. The problem is the fact that this team had a LOT of holes, specifically on defense, that they completely ignored in the offseason. Instead they decided to add to their already crowded backfield with Mike Tolbert, and their already crowded LB core by drafting Luke Kuechly. No safeties? No corners? No offensive linemen to protect your star QB? No thanks.
And let’s talk about that “star QB,” shall we? I have seen this over and over again. I saw it with Vick, I saw it with Young. You have this young stud with a cannon that can also make plays with his legs come in and have a stellar rookie season. Then the following year everyone is anointing him the savior of his franchise and the next great mobile quarterback.
What happens the following year? They either 1. get injured or 2. can’t handle the defenses who now have a year’s worth of tape on them, and have adjusted accordingly.
This actually is a large reason why plenty of QBs struggle in their second year, not just mobile ones. They get very confident in their good rookie season and start to slack a bit…then they have a hard time adjusting as defenses adjust to them. After that, a quarterback can’t just depend on his athletic ability, and needs to actually change up his game and adapt…get better.
I have zero faith in Cam Newton doing this. To me it’s all about his attitude. He is one of the most cocky SOBs to come into the NFL in a while. You should have seen him during that event where EA announced its cover athlete. Cam was in his element. He was cheesing it up, absorbing all of the attention, hamming up his moment in the spotlight. Meanwhile Megatron stayed quiet and humble the whole time.
But don’t take my word for it, take a look for yourself:
Does that look like the attitude you want in a leader? What’s Cam gonna do once Cam hits yet another losing season? Do you think he’s the type of person that would shoulder all of the blame, instead of eventually throwing his teammates under the bus?
We’ll see…because I see the Panthers winning six games this year.
Now I realize that my hate for Cam Newton has very much to do with personal feelings about the man who stole a laptop at UF, then tried to get away with it by tossing it out the window of his dorm (despite the fact that he had written his name on it), and very little to do with actual football.
But trust me, folks. This is not the attitude of a winner. Not a long-term one, anyway. He has his head in the stars. The lights are bright. The attention is sweet.
I predicted the same thing about Vince Young. I was right. I predicted the same thing about Michael Vick after he got out of prison. I was right. There is no doubt in my mind that Cam Newton will suffer the same fate.
He may make a few playoffs in his career. He is a gifted athlete with a rocket arm. I just don’t think he has the mental capacity to go all the way…ESPECIALLY when he has very little talent surrounding him.
I think it should be said that I think the Falcons are the only team in the division that will make the playoffs. The schedule for the NFC South this year looks pretty brutal, and three of the four teams are unpredictable and unstable. The one that is stable still is extremely unproven when it comes to the postseason. This division is very competitive and likely will be self-destructive. I see the Falcons going 10-6 or 11-5. I don’t see the rest of the teams finishing over .500.
So it took me over six months to finally feel the urge to write again. I guess that’s a good thing, as I am so happy and satisfied where my life has taken me so far. This year has been so very incredible.
I’m learning a lot, and more importantly, I’m growing a lot.
Anyway, something that has helped me along the way is actually something I read almost two years ago. It comes from Oswald Chambers:
“The goal of my spiritual life is such close identification with Jesus Christ that I will always hear God and know that God always hears me (see John 11:41). If I am united with Jesus Christ, I hear God all the time through the devotion of hearing. A flower, a tree, or a servant of God may convey God’s message to me. What hinders me from hearing is my attention to other things. It is not that I don’t want to hear God, but I am not devoted in the right areas of my life. I am devoted to things and even to service and my own convictions. God may say whatever He wants, but I just don’t hear Him. The attitude of a child of God should always be, “Speak, for Your servant hears.” If I have not developed and nurtured this devotion of hearing, I can only hear God’s voice at certain times. At other times I become deaf to Him because my attention is to other things— things which I think I must do. This is not living the life of a child of God. Have you heard God’s voice today?”
Essentially, what he was saying is that we sit around asking God to speak, all the while occupying ourselves with things that don’t truly matter. If that’s the case, it’s our fault for not listening. We must train ourselves to hear.
In other words, we as followers of Christ believe that he lives inside of us, constantly shining his light through us…so why do we hesitate when God opens a door? Why do wait and pray and pray, demanding to hear His voice, when we’ve been refusing to listen?
I believe this. I believe that if I am truly one with God, which I strive to maintain every day, that he speaks to me every day. If I am faced with a challenge or big decision, who am I to doubt that he is there with me the whole time, holding my hand and leading me in the right direction?
The way I discern His voice is by constantly making sure my heart is right. I make sure my focus is right. Is there anyone I have wronged? Is there anyone I haven’t forgiven? Is there anyone I need to ask for forgiveness?
Something I’ve come to believe is that sometimes we get caught up in trying to audibly hear a voice…to hear a choir of angels…for something to click and everything to fall into place via some epiphany. While yes, I have experienced that (well, at least the last thing), it doesn’t always work like that.
I tend to think that a lot of it has to do with my trust in the fact that God has been inside me the whole time, leading the way.
The Answer is not upward, it’s inward.
If I am right with Him…if I have conditioned myself to listen…then I must trust that the decisions I make are God-inspired. This goes with all decisions, big and small. If I am truly devoted to Christ, I must trust that he is with me the whole time, influencing my choices.
Sometimes I only hear my own voice when weighing a decision. Who’s to say that’s not God speaking through me?
Since that realization almost two years ago, I have little regrets. I do not think that is a coincidence. Any time I have ever gotten frustrated or angry with God, I immediately ask myself what I’ve been doing to lock Him out. Usually I find my selfishness there…and once I realize that, I find that He was the whole time. I had just decided to stop listening.
The right decisions. The right choices. They are always in you, as a Christ follower. They are always in you, because that’s where He lives.
I made a decision back in August. One that has been questioned by those close to me, and especially questioned by myself at times. I touched on it in the last post, but it has many layers to it other than “I decided not to date for a year.”
That is the short way of saying it. It’s more like “I decided not to date for a year because my focus needs to be on growing myself, and making sure I am dedicated to God first and foremost.”
It’s so hard to explain that to people. It sounds like a Christian cliché. In the Christian world, saying that is hailed by many as an excuse for being single, or an excuse to not pursue someone. That’s when I have to hope that people understand and believe me when I say that this was not my decision.
It has been four and a half months, and I went through ups and downs. I doubted a lot…then I was hard on myself after not seeing any personal progression. I still have bad habits I’m trying to shake. I still am not as close with God as I think I should be to this point. The process just wasn’t going as quickly as I thought it would.
I constantly had to remind myself that this is not for me, it is for Him.
I very recently just went through a spell of frustration with myself, and then today God really spoke to me. Andy Stanley’s sermon at church was exactly about what God has been telling me to do this year- (among other things) finishing what you start…achieving your personal goals, because you know that God has set you out to do them. If you don’t, it hinders your relationship with Him.
I set this year aside for Him…I need to do what I know He is telling me to do, even though none of those things are quote-unquote spiritual.
Then it came to me…I’m finally seeing God working in my life and it was under my nose! It is incredible how much He has blessed me since I made my commitment. I do see the growth that I have gone through now. And I finally just got the motivation to tackle the remaining 8 months.
Andy pointed out Nehemiah. Nehemiah was given a task to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. He knew it was God-inspired. It wasn’t a “spiritual” task by any means…building the wall seemingly was pointless. But he knew he had to do it.
3 so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” Nehemiah 6:3
It was during that sermon that I realized what has been going on:
The first four months was for my REVIVAL.
My next stage is for my REBUILDING.
I know the things I need to do before these 8 months are up. I will set out to do them, because I know He wants me to. It won’t be easy. It involves changing habits. It involves sacrificing fun for work.
But I know that God will be there with me, the whole way…rebuilding the fallen walls of my life.
Slowly but surely, I am growing up.
One of my best friends, whom I haven’t seen in a year because he has been fighting in Afghanistan, told me something yesterday that hit me. He said I have changed.
He’s currently on a much needed leave visiting family, so my roommate and I drove to Jacksonville to see him. This man has been across the world, going through and seeing unthinkable things, growing every single day physically and mentally.
And he told me that I have grown.
He said he could tell in the way I speak and the way I carry myself that I have grown exponentially.
This threw me back a bit, because that has been my main goal recently. I have set out to grow as much as possible. After graduating college (finally) and starting to actually get on my feet as a working adult, I realized that my focus needs to be solely on “growing up.” I’m trying to get my finances in order, I’m trying to eat and live healthier, I’m trying to get rid of old college habits.
I even made the commitment to not date for a year as I work on myself, as well as my relationship with God.
However, I recently have been struggling inwardly. It’s been three months into my yearlong commitment, and I feel like I haven’t been doing a good job. I feel like I haven’t grown at all.
So it meant a lot to hear Chris tell me that he could see it. He may not have seen me in a year, but he knows me better than most. After living with him for three years out of the 10+ that I’ve known him, I know that when he says something like this, he absolutely means it.
I may not have made much headway, in my mind. I may still not run when I should, I may still skip out on my quiet time, I may still spend money that I shouldn’t…but I still have the drive to change. There’s a reason why I decided to take a year…if everything was solved and I met my goal in three months, then I didn’t set enough goals.
I need to take baby steps. I need to not get discouraged that things don’t change overnight. I need to remember it’s a journey, not a race.
Those who know and love me most can see the change already…and that means the world to me. There’s still a big hill to climb, but for the first time, I can see that the climb is worth it.
My posts are few and far between, and probably will stay that way.
That’s not a bad thing.
Just as my previous post points out, my life is quite busy…at least as busy as a single person can be. I love it though. I have found that the older I get, the more I want to do and be doing constantly.
As a kid and teenager, I was always perfectly content with doing nothing on days I had nothing to do. I loved the days when I could just lounge around and play video games, maybe surf the internet or watch TV.
I just can’t do that anymore.
In fact, now if I have a day like that, I get a headache. If I spend a day inside doing nothing, I get so bothered, feeling like I’m wasting my life away…I have to go outside. I have to jog or walk around the Alpharetta Greenway. I have to run errands. I have to be productive.
Now I find that I am more adventurous, yearn for excitement, and much more willing to try new things.
So bring it on, busy life. Gone are the days of my brain being sluggish and numb. Gone are the days of no physical activity. I find that it’s invigorating, having a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.
Ugh, I’m such an adult.
I love my life. Thank you.