The Beginning of the Yearly Widowhood

Tonight is the beginning of the NFL season.

I’ll miss my wife so very much.

It’s not that I don’t try to share the experience with her.  I’ve explained the rules, I’ve detailed the sordid history of my Buccaners fandom, and she’s always been welcome to come along to the various sports bars I haunt during the season.  But it just doesn’t catch her interest beyond calling it “Scramble Scramble Pounce” when she wants to tease me about it.

This season will be particularly interesting because Hannah will be off on Sundays.  Before, I could justify my NFL mania with, “But you’ll be at work.”  Now she’ll be right there.  Staring at me.  Wondering just what she’s gotten herself into as I yell not only at my Bucs but at the various bums, scrubs and morons on my two fantasy teams.

So let me apologize now:  Honey, I’m sorry.

That said, this feels like a really wide-open season.  I don’t see any clear-cut dominant team.  The Packers seem to be the media darling to get to the Super Bowl from the NFC this year (if not win it), but that feels more to me like it’s because they should be favorites rather than them actually being favorites.  Sure, Aaron Rodgers can sling the ball like nobody’s business — and for what I paid for him in my auction draft, he damn well better — but I wonder about that defense, and if Rodgers can keep up the air attack if the defense can’t stop people.  Maybe it’s because they seem to have the fewest issues in the NFC.  Who knows if the Saints are going to have a Super Bowl hangover?  Who knows how Brett Favre is going to hold up for the Vikings?  Who knows how Kevin Kolb is going to do for the Eagles, or Donovan McNabb for the Redskins?  What’s going to be the Dallas implosion this year?  Is anyone from the NFC West anything more than a “Congrats on making the playoffs, now go lose to Dallas” team?  I guess Green Bay has the fewest questions, even if they don’t have all the answers.

Over in the AFC, the Ravens are the chic pick, but again, it feels like because there has to be one, so they might as well be it.  Everyone seems to think this is the year Joe Flacco becomes Joe Montana, but that remains to be seen.  And that defense isn’t the meat-grinder it used to be.  But who else in the AFC is going to step up?  The Patriots seem to be getting a bit old, especially on defense.  Pittsburgh faces their first four games without their starting quarterback, while Cincinnati has to juggle two gigantic egos at wide receiver.  The Colts are still going to be around, definitely, but will they pack it in once they clinch the division and go stale like they’ve done in the past?  And then there’s San Diego, who seems to enjoy digging itself a whole to claw out of every year.

I just don’t know.  But I do know the Bucs aren’t going to be anywhere near a playoff spot this year.  And, as long as they show improvement on both sides of the ball, I’m okay with that.  We tried years of quick fixes with Jon Gruden and it got us 9-7 and a first round exit.  So I’d rather we take some lumps and build a team that’ll be a consistent winner in the future over a patchwork group that’ll win this year and then who knows.  I can only hope they’ve started putting the right group of players together, and so far things look promising, especially on offense, and when was the last time you were able to say that about a Bucs team?

Anyway, if you had to pin me down, let me go with a Packers-Colts Super Bowl, with Peyton Manning making Aaron Rodgers wait one more year to wear the crown.

Now I have to go stare at my wife so I don’t forget what she looks like over the next four months.

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