NFL: Week One, 2008

(Editor’s Note: This column will provide straight-up picks during the pro football season on a weekly basis for discussion purposes, and occasional commentary. This week is one of those weeks that includes commentary.)

by Rick Rockwell

The Corner returns for its third season and an annual ritual: the hexing of a team.

Actually, this started as an exercise in picking something called the Hero Team. As noted the first time, this was a nod to our favorite sportswriter Norman “The Couch Slouch” Chad and his annual Team of Destiny pick. (For the fifth year in a row, Chad has picked the Arizona Cardinals to break out of mediocrity and make the playoffs, if not the Super Bowl. Even with Kurt Warner at the helm, that isn’t likely to happen.) Last year, this column defined the Hero Team a bit more: a mediocre or down-trodden outfit the season before that would surprise the National Football League (NFL) establishment, making the playoffs and even wrecking a bit of havoc among odds makers during those post-season contests. This is not a bid to pick a surprise Super Bowl winner but instead a team that was out of playoff mix last year that has great potential.

So last year, this column hexed the Carolina Panthers and they quickly fell apart. Coach John Fox barely kept his job. That’s a lot better than the first year when the Miami Dolphins were the pick and the team imploded so badly it still hasn’t recovered, two seasons down the line.

So which team gets the evil eye this year?

Fans in D.C. will be happy to see it is none other than the Philadelphia Eagles.

Personally, I bear the Eagles no ill will. On my power chart, even though they play in one of the toughest divisions in football (the National Football Conference East) they are every bit as good as the World Champion New York Giants and the ever-ascending Dallas Cowboys. (And although D.C.’s team made the playoffs last year, with new coach Jim Zorn at the helm, look for that team in burgundy to be good, but no more than mediocre.) The difference for the Eagles between this year and last, all boils down to two key spots: quarterback and coach. Quarterback Donovan McNabb is healthy again, and with him, the Eagles can go the distance. And Coach Andy Reid’s off-field, personal difficulties seem to be handled. For the moment. Plus, the Eagles have a hotshot young back-up quarterback in Kevin Kolb from the University of Houston, in case McNabb goes down again midseason with an injury, as McNabb has a history of doing.

But what has your friendly football prognosticator worried the most is that the Eagles, and most of the other up-coming teams on this year’s power list are also on the surprise picks list of Desmond Bieler at The Washington Post. Nothing against Bieler, but his picking skills are legendary for being mediocre to sub-par. Plus, although he seems like the amiable sort, he’s part of the pack of sports writers who feel like they must force their comedic talents (also mediocre) upon us, which as many know is a pet peeve. Bieler has hexed the Cleveland Browns this year as his favorite surprise team; the Browns were contenders as the Hero Team and a favorite of Chad’s too. The Browns actually look like they could win their division this year. Bieler has the Eagles as Surprise #2 on his list. (He also has the Jacksonville Jaguars on the list, which is not really a surprise as they were a playoff team last year. And the Carolina Panthers too. And yes, the Panthers, now that they have a healthy quarterback are coming back, but this writer had no heart to hex them two years in a row. And finally the Dolphins round out Bieler’s list. And although the Dolphins may be off the mat, even Bill “The Tuna” Parcells, who took over the team's operations in the off-season, can’t get them back in the playoffs this year.)

All of that, has your friendly prognosticator frowning, but the truth is no one knows anything until they lace ‘em up tomorrow and ring up some scores on the Jumbotrons.

Week 1 Office Pool Predictions

Game of the Week: Jaguars at Titans (Titans)
Upset Special: Texans at Steelers (Texans)
Lions at Falcons (Falcons)
Panthers at Chargers (Chargers)
Seahawks at Bills (Seahawks)
Buccaneers at Saints (Saints)
Cardinals at 49ers (Cards)
Cowboys at Browns (Cowboys)
Vikings at Packers (Packers)
Jets at Dolphins (Jets)
Bengals at Ravens (Bengals)
Chiefs at Patriots (Patriots)
Washington at Giants (Giants)
Bears at Colts (Colts)
Broncos at Raiders (Broncos)
Rams at Eagles (Eagles)

2007 Season: .682
2006 Season: .588

For other blogs calling NFL games, please see:

  • The D.C. Universe,
  • Gun Toting Liberal, and
  • The Liberal Journal.

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    Tony Romm said...

    Of course, The Eagles will somehow find a way to lose their first game, despite the prediction. Their preseason performance, in my opinion, was unimpressive, and I don't expect them to improve much, if at all, over the next few weeks.

    I'm also willing to bet that an unimpressive opening record (maybe a 2-4 situation) will reignite calls for McNabb's removal/trade/violent murder. As a diehard Philly fan, I can admit: We have a way of acting impulsively and driving quarterbacks out of the city when they fail to perform consistently, sometimes despite the obvious fact that our quarterbacks are the most crucial (if not, the only) things holding an inconsistent offense together. But, I'll lay my predictions to rest and hope for the best this year.

    It just hasn't been the same since we muffed up the Super Bowl...

    Tony (the hardcore Eagles fan)

    Rick Rockwell said...


    Great to see you back in these pages.
    As for the Eagles... excepting perhaps if the Chiefs find a way (impossible) past the Patriots... if the Rams win this weekend... it will be a major upset.
    Yes, we know Philly doesn't give McNabb much love nor the benefit of the doubt... but trust me... they are going to be a surprise this year and knock some heads. I see Wild Card in their future... at least.

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