Good/Bad. Just A Little Ugly. And Fearless NFL Predictions.

Time for some good/bad. You want ugly? How about the Brewers playing the Mets on Wednesday afternoon. The score is now 6-0 in the third. Maybe by the time I’ve finished this column things will turn around.

Good/bad. My son starting kindergarten this week. Good: Life goes on. And he’s clearly ready. He can color like a mother. Bad: I have only two memories of kindergarten. One is going to K Mart so my parents could buy my teacher peanuts for Christmas, which even at the age of five I thought was very cheap and very bizarre. The other is the time that a particularly rambunctious student grabbed a saw off of the class “workbench” and chased after another child. Why we had a workbench with real working tools in my kindergarten, I don’t know, but this was the mid-seventies. We didn’t have car seats, most of our clothes were highly flammable, and our lungs were constantly invaded by second-hand smoke being hacked out by everyone from our teachers to our parents to department store Santas. But hey, at least we got to grow up with a Sesame Street devoid of that irritating Elmo.

Good/bad. The UW sending out men’s basketball schedules on Wednesday. Good: Thanks to the recent deals between Charter, Time Warner, and the Big Ten Network, fans will be able to see the games this year. Bad: Are you kidding? The Brewers are leading the NLWild Card. Badger football has begun, and the Packer football season is only four days away. Not to mention the fall TV season and the presidential campaign. Who can even think about basketball right now?  Sorry, UW, but your timing is off on this one.

Good/bad: Fantasy football season. Good: An entertaining diversion and a good way to maintain interest in all NFL games, not just those of your favorite team. Bad: Hey, I do it, and I enjoy it, but you’ve got to have limits. If you find yourself distracted during work or during time with your kids because you can’t decide whether to start DeAngelo Williams or Earnest Graham, you have a problem.

Good/bad: Apparent fantasy value of Packers offensive players. Good: In my recent fantasy football draft, Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Donald Lee, and Ryan Grant were swiped up. Bad: Ryan Grant fell to me with the 20th pick overall, which surprised me (guess people are more worried than me about the hamstring), while Aaron Rodgers went completely undrafted. Hey, it’s not scientific, but in a draft where 20 quarterbacks were taken by mostly diehard Packer fans, the fact that Rodgers went undrafted must say something about fans’ confidence in him. Oh, and yes, Brett Favre went pretty early. And no, none of the other quarterbacks from the NFC North were drafted.

A day away from the regular season and I’ve yet to make my highly-anticipated NFL predictions? Well, I’d better rectify that now.

AFC North: It’s between the Steelers and Browns, but I’ve got the Steelers taking the division. The Browns all of a sudden could have a quarterback controversy on their hands, while the Steelersare simply loaded with talent. The Bengals will be bad and the Ravens will be downright awful. I’m talking Viva Laughlin bad. 

AFC West: Not even close. The Chargers by a mile. Bad news for fantasy players, as Norv Turner will have to decide when to start resting LT, Philip Rivers, Chris Chambers, et. al, by about the tenthweek after wrapping up their division. The Raiders, with upgrades on offense, will surprise, while the Chiefs will be on the bottom of nearly everyone’s power rankings all season. And

AFC South: I am almost ready to give the division to Jacksonville, but not quite. If Manning can be effective following knee surgery, the Colts will still rule the South — barely. If Jim Sorgi is necessarily awakened from his season-long slumber, the Titans could challenge Indianapolis for second place in what is top to bottom the best division in football.

AFC East: Will the Jets improve upon last year’s record with Brett Favre? At 4-12 a year ago, It would be kind of hard not to. But numbers aside, look for the teams to finish the same as last year: Patriots, Bills, Jets, Dolphins. The Jets will be closer to the Bills than to the Dolphins record-wise, but Favrewill end his career (again) unable to bring postseason football to the J-E-T-S. But hey, Favre’s play will give Regis something to talk about besides his weekly heart surgeries.

NFC East: The most overhyped division in football. Dallas wins it, but I’m not sold on any of the other teams. The Eagles, the Redskins, and the Giants — after a lousy offseason– will be ordinary. As ordinary as this year’s Big Brother houseguests. Although that Dan, or “Judas,” as Jerry calls him, or “Taken,” as his obviously paranoid girlfriend calls him, is wily.

NFC South: Man, the NFC is weak. Like The Cosby Show after Raven-Symone joined the show weak. Thank goodness for Elvin. Geoffrey Owens could bring the funny. But I digress. Watching any Cosby Show episodes is preferable to watching NFC South matchupsin 2008, but you have to go with Carolina. New Orleans still has too many questions on defense and I’m not convinced Jeremy Shockey is the answer to an inconsistent offense. The Falcons will be brutal.

NFC West: I like the Seahawksdefense, but I’m picking the Rams, with Steven Jackson healthy and Marc Bulger returning to form, to be the most-improved team in the league and to win the weak South. San Francisco continues to long for the days of relevance.

NFC North: Despite the apparent sexiness of picking the Vikings this season, I don’t see it. I still think the Packers, with a great defense, great receiving corps, Ryan Grant, and yes, solid if unspectacular quarterbacking play, win the division. The Lions, now that they’ve gotten rid of Mike Martz, could even challenge Minnesota for second place. The Bears will still stink.

AFC Wildcards:  Jacksonville and Tennessee. The AFC South is good.

NFC Wildcards: New Orleans and Seattle. Yes, I picked Carolina and St. Louis to win these divisions.

Super Bowl: New England over Dallas. Longer shot Super Bowl? Jacksonville over the Packers. But I wouldn’t bet my son’s college fund (which is currently about $1.32) on it.

(Oh, and the Brewers didn’t come back, losing 8-2. At least upcoming series against the Padres and the Reds should improve what has been a rotten start to September.)


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