THE OTHER 31: Kickoff Week, 2010

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You may have known weekly lists such as this one as Power Rankings in the past, but nay, not this column. Henceforth, it shall be known as THE OTHER 31. It is slanted, it is biased, it is a completely unfiltered look into the Jaguars’ competition. Though you are no doubt teeming with excitement for the inaugural installment of THE OTHER 31, the greatest joy is in what this date signifies – the end of the horrible externalities that come with being a diehard football fan: the Dead Zone, a month of teasingly irrelevant pre-season games, the unyielding drone of over-analyzed garbage that clogs the internet between February and early September…it’s all over, fellow gridiron junkies. Finally, it’s all over.

Welp, here they are – THE OTHER 31. I hope you love them. I hope you hate them. I’ll field your arguments in the comments section.

1. New Orleans Saints: Give me one reason why you think they’ll slow down for one second? OK, Sean Peyton may not have stopped drinking since the Super Bowl, but all the pieces are back in place from last year and they aren’t relying on the youth to do anything but learn from the best and step up when they’re names are called. Looks like it could easily be another year of bandwagoners in bars all over the country screaming “WHO DAT” like they actually cared about the ‘Aints during their previous 40 years of mediocrity.

2. Indianapolis Colts: Until Peyton Manning is dead, I will fear whatever team he plays for, coaches for, even roots for. The Colts don’t really have a running game, but when have they ever needed one (besides last year’s Super Bowl when the Saints were DARING them to run it)? Stacked with receivers, pass rushers, and a healthy Bob Sanders, the only concern is the O-line…but The Forehead always finds a way to make everyone look good.

3. Green Bay Packers: Who would you rather have: Aaron Rodgers, who at 26 years old still has nowhere to go but up, or a broken down, 40 year old narcissist that is gonna leave your team with its pants down until three weeks before the start of the regular season? Yeah, Favre still wins ballgames, but the future looks goooood in Green Bay.

4. New England Patriots: I bet when Tom Brady was little, all of his friends always wanted to come over to his house to play because he has the coolest toys. Elite veteran speed receiver (Moss)? Check. A possession machine that’ll carve Zone-D like a Christmas goose (Welker)? Check. Emerging heirs (Edelman and Tate)? Check. Not one, but TWO rookie speedster TE’s (Gronkowski, Hernandez)? Check and check. The pass rush and secondary leave much to be desired, but I sense an a revival of the ’07 Evil Empire, an yearlong, ruthless Offensive rampage from Brady and the Hoodie.

5. Dallas Cowboys: For once, Jerry Jones decided to draft some players instead of buying them – early picks Dez Bryant and Sean Lee seem to have the talent and polish to play big roles. A stout front seven on Defense and weapons galore on Offense: best RB depth in the NFL, two dangerous TE’s, and a strong receiving corp. The O-line is sieve-like and nothing good happens when Tony Romo is under duress – T.O. cries, Romo goes running to the arms of whatever starlet he’s dating at the time, and Wade Phillips cowers under his desk waiting for the Turk to tell him, “Mr. Jones wants to see you…and bring your playbook”. 

6. Minnesota Vikings: Don’t let the faux-humility and Southern drawl romance you as it has Peter King, Brett Favre would make potpourri out of his own turds in the offseason if he wasn’t too busy hunting squirrels and playing the press like a French Horn. He believes he’s the quarterback, the coach, the offensive coordinator, and the Savior of Minnesota, but Chilly and the gang haven’t given him any reason to think otherwise. And right when you question the old man, he’ll drill a 40 yard frozen rope into the back of the endzone with two seconds on the clock. This team makes big plays on both sides of the ball and as long as Brett’s taking snaps, they’re dangerous.

7. Cincinnati Bengals: Just when you thought they couldn’t get any more Thug Life… In the last year or so, the Bengals have added Pacman Jones, Matt Jones, and T.O. through free agency and trouble youth Andre Smith and Carlos Dunlap through the draft.  But they don’t care – the front office will keep doing things their way, much to the chagrin of Head Coach/Babysitter Marvin Lewis. Personally, I love the new Bengals. They run hard, run well, and Carson Palmer has enough pass catchers around him to punish defenses that load the box. Tell you what I like best though, the most underrated CB tandem in the NFL – Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph. D-Coordinator Mike Zimmer will pencil-whip you and has the talent to be absolutely lethal. I’m predicting a Top 5 Defense this year. Their only question mark was Safety, but that was solved for the long-term with recent acquisition Reggie Nelson (HA!).

8. Baltimore Ravens:Well, you know the Ravens are doomed this year – that’s what happens when the media hype-machine picks you for the Super Bowl. Everyone seems to think that Flacco is ready to break out, but there’s something fishy about his WR’s – Derrick Mason is closer to 40 than 30, Donte Stallworth spent the last year with an ankle bracelet keeping him indoors, Housh was bad enough for the Seahawks (who have NOTHING at Wide Receiver) to pay him $7 million to leave town, and even though you gotta love the physicality that Anquan Boldin plays with, it bites back pretty hard on occasion and he’ll be 30 in October. On the other side of the ball,  describing the CB situation as depleted would be an understatement and when Sexy Rexy went to the Big Apple he took some players, his playbook, and his potbelly and at least one of those is responsible for a 2009 Ravens Defense that did not look like a Ravens Defense.

9. Atlanta Falcons: The other bird team with lots of hype-machine following. Maybe that’s because the Falcons had two consecutive winning seasons for the first time EVER. WOW IT TOOK YOU 43 YEARS TO OVERCOME YOUR FEAR OF SUCCESS. I currently reside in Atlanta (don’t worry I’ll be at the home games) and these fans are the loathsome EPITOME of fair-weather. Probably because no one is actually from here and just wants to be a part of something so when they’re out at the bars they can say, “Hey, remember when we had two winning seasons IN A ROW!” and the other person can say “Yeah, I watched every game at Taco Mac/Buffalo Wild Wings/other uber-corporate sports watching facility!”. Honestly, I don’t know one person here that has been inside the Georgia Dome.

10. San Francisco 49ers: Old school, punishing, and somewhat schizophrenic – just like their coach. They’ll grind you to dust on Defense and pound the rock down your throat on Offense – but sometimes they can’t so they let Alex Smith run the spread and pretend he’s in his college glory years. Singletary has resuscitated not only the team, but many of its players – Smith and Vernon Davis looked like two first round busts until the man formally part of the “Monsters of the Midway” refused to let them accept that fate. Pat Willis has got to love having Mike as his mentor – he is a perfect replica and is the best linebacker in the NFL since Ray Lewis.