Dates to add to your calendar: Your mom's birthday (helping you out on that one).
July 23rd: 2013 NFL Fact And Record Book released.
August 4th: Hall of Fame game between the Cowboy and Dolphins.
September 5th: The season kicks off with a show down of the Welker-heavy, Dumervil-light Broncos versus the defending world champions (who wouldn't have that title had Frank Gore gotten one more goal line carry...)
Between then and now I'll be releasing analysis for each team, division by division, culminating with my prognostications of who wins each conference, which player is MVP, DPOY and ROY.
July 8-12 NFC South. The Bucs are an incredibly intriguing team as they were #1 in rush D and #32 in pass D. The fact they added Dashon Goldson would have been enough to conclude they'd improve their woeful pass D, but by adding Darrell Revis as well, this team is poised to be one of the hottest teams in the NFC. Also heating up the division is the Falcons rebounding from NFC title game loss, the Saints getting their whole coaching staff back AND Luke Kuechly leading the Panthers into a new season (can't always focus on the QB you know...) So the NFC South will kick off our look at each division in style!
July 15-19 AFC South: The Colts were the best story in sports last year. Read that again. Considering some vast upheaval of the past decade's most consistent franchise, the unlikely heroes of rookie starters and their coach's victorious battle with cancer, there's not a close second. But how they build off an 11-5 season will heavily hinge on the key pieces they've added in the offseason. Given the Colts remarkable success, the Texans franchise-best season was in some ways an afterthought, thankfully, much the like the entire efforts of the Titans and Jaguars. And seeing how THIS division has the largest combined NEGATIVE point differential (-275) of any division in football by at least 100 points, you can understand why I'll want to get this division out of the way early.
July 22-26 NFC East: Formerly the darling division in the NFC, now pondering the effects of a rookie head coach in Philly, a Giants team that didn't make the playoffs, a Cowboys team that once again failed to make the playoffs (cue silent giggle), and a Redskins team that was led by an charming quarterback, but failed by a faulty secondary. This division is turning into what used to be the NFC West.
July 29-Aug 2 AFC East: Time to head into the first preseason game where we'll be elated to see guys we've never heard of make jaw-dropping plays against guys we'll never hear of again. But this is also when we'll look at the AFC East. Considering the offseason the Pats had, and their unceremonious defeat in the AFC title game, one might conclude this 2013 season will FINALLY mark the end of the Patriots dynasty. But I'll tell you why that's patently false. The Butt Fumble will live forever, but the Jets would love to move on from 2012, did ANY offseason moves improve the team? I can't wait to see what the Dolphins do with Tannehill and Wallace and we'll see it first hand in Canton. And of course, there's a new regime in Buffalo. One day they have to get it right. Right?
Aug 5-9 AFC North: First full week of preseason action and we'll dive into the division who's representative did pretty well in the postseason. The Ravens saved their best of the playoffs, but can they refill the tank for a repeat? The Browns have a new regime, some shiny new pass rushers and talented youth. Will they go from last to first? The Bengals are on Hard Knocks, and their defense is one of the most underrated in the NFL, will this be the year they move into the front seat of the division? And the Steelers. Feels like forever since they were vying for Super Bowls, we'll look at this rebuilding process.
Aug 12-16 NFC North: This division boasts the highest combined point differential of any division in football (+161). So you can understand how the Lions could go winless against their own division (correct, atrocious secondary). But can we understand how losing Cliff Avril and adding Israel Idonije will prevent that this year? The Bears have a new front office, head coach but the same "genius" quarterback. Can they get to the playoffs? The Vikings have the best player in the league, a new dynamic receiver and a division to lay claim to. But only if the Packers somehow realize they aren't the Packers in 2013. True, Aaron Rodgers was sacked a lot. And yes, he'll miss his receivers, but how Green Bay scored such good, young backs in the draft seemed like larcony to me. But we'll hash that out in this week.
Aug 19-23 AFC West: Welp, the Broncos won as many games as the rest of the division combined. Math is math folks. And as tough as you might think it would be to surpass the 2012 offseason moves (you know, adding that Manning fellow), Denver managed to one-up themselves in offseason acquisitional-drama. (Yes, made-up word, but it fit so nicely.) So will adding Welker and going Office Space on a fax machine get the team to the Super Bowl? The Chiefs suffered through a (-24) turnover margin, so they added Andy Reid and a quarterback that helped tie an NFL record for fewest turnovers in a season. His name is Alex Smith. You may have heard of him. This week, we'll also talk about the totally unfaked, REAL, and new Chargers' front office and check out that roster with curious delight. And, yes, we might need some rubber gloves and Pine-sol, but we'll check out the stink that is the Raiders' roster as well. (Then silently weep.)
Aug 26-30 NFC West: Saving the best for last, we'll examine the one division that has sent each team to the Super Bowl since the turn of the century. Sure, they all lost on their trips, and while that fact has my therapy bill soaring past my student loans, it doesn't diminish the fact that all four teams have stout defensive lines, intriguing offenses and fascinating head coaches. Can the Cardinals get a running game or will be Carson Palmer be running for his life behind that offensive line? What will become of the embarrassment of riches in Seattle, I'm not talking about Paul Allen's estate, but that revamped defensive line. Just how many ankles will Tavon Austin be responsible for breaking? And how will the Niners respond to losing the Super Bowl? Considering the last team to lose a Super Bowl and return to win it was the New York Giants, and 7 years separated their 2000 loss and their 2007 win, it could be a long stretch for the Niners. But history was meant to be re-written, right?
THEN.... FINAL COUNTDOWN!!!! Sept 2-5th... I'll examine the teams that will make the playoffs, MVP candidates, Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, conference champs and fantasy prognostications. We'll also hold our Team 1010 Fantasy Draft in the final days before the season begins.
This year's league will be a "Man Of Steel" themed league. The Kryptonite reference is taken. My team is "Watt's Your Krypotonite". I trust your creative juices can flow from there.
Listen every day to "Jules From The Gridiron" on "Buehler's Day Off" for the latest! Here's to a remarkable 2013 season and bringing home the Fantasy Championship!