With NFL training camps getting ready to be in full bloom, and football right around the corner, it’s time for 4HT to take a look at what’s in store for us in ’09. As usual, some divisions are solid top to bottom, and others weaker than a baby fart across the board. With the American economy in the dumps, it’s only fitting to use as comparisons an industry that may be suffering the most: automobiles.
Players: Any division that has diva-type players like Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Jason “Dancing With the Stars” Taylor, Ricky Williams, and Mark Sanchez needs to be represented with a luxury car. The mere presence of the Owens circus in Buffalo will make this division entertaining to watch, much like a Jag is entertaining to drive, and expect quite a few AFC Pro Bowlers to come from the East.
Bills fans hope to see alot of this in ’09
Teams: The East was arguably (pound-for-pound) one of the best divisions in football last year, with only Buffalo having a losing record (7-9). Expect more competitive games in ’09, and this division to again be strong throughout. Many skeptics concur the Dolphins have no chance of repeating last year’s success, but until they are proven wrong, the East will continue to resemble the fine automobiles that Jaguar produces.
The Pats and a healthy Tom Brady make any division look good
Fans: Let’s be honest for a second here-
The Jets faithful can be insufferable jerks during times of despair, most notably after last season’s meltdown
Bostonians joined the “we’re better than you, so bite me” ranks (partly because of a few Pats Super Bowls) after the whole Spygate saga unfolded
South Beach Miami is a haven for all things luxurious, and ’Phin backers can get quite insufferable in their own right when their pre-2008 ineptitude comes up
Bills fans (who have suffered enough) are guilty by association
Enter Jaguar: An automobile engineered for people who like to show off how good they are, and look down on others. You’ve earned luxury car distinction AFC East fans, enjoy it, and protect it.
Buffalo is the anomaly in a division filled with cocky fans
Players: The AFC Central has a diverse array of personalities, and the Chevy family has a diverse array of automobiles. There is something for everyone here:
Silverado: Big, strong, and reliable= Joe Thomas, Max Starks, Andre Smith, and Michael Oher
Impala: Sleek predator (often used as police pursuit cars)=Troy Polamalu
Corvette: Speedy as hell=Josh Cribbs
Camaro: Overrated, high-maintenance sports car=Chad Ochocinco and Braylon Edwards
Avalanche: Hard hitting, badass mo’ fo’=Ray Lewis, James Harrison
Cobalt: It will get you there, just not in style=Ben Roethlisberger
I wouldn’t like to be hit by Ray Lewis, or a Chevy Avalanche
Teams: This division should be renamed the “Blood and Guts” division. Defense is the name of the game in the Central, and nobody does it better than Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Bruising linebackers James Harrison and Ray Lewis headline their respective units, and I’m looking forward to two epic slug-fests between the Steelers and Ravens. Chevy has represented the American Way for decades, and this division represents defensive units that would make American tough-guys like Dick Butkus, Jack Lambert, and Ray Nitschke proud.
If Rey Malauga and Keith Rivers pan out, the Bengals defense will be tough for years to come
Fans: “Like a Rock……..” This division is comprised of blue-collar cities, hence (for the most part) blue-collar fans. Steel City has helped fuel America’s auto industry for a century now, and Cleveland & Cincinnati have done their fair share chipping in. Baltimore used to be a major industrial city, helping create Washington. The AFC Central has some of the most passionate and loyal fans in the NFL, as does Chevy. This is a perfect fit. Hard-working people, hard-working automobiles. Now go buy a Chevy….
The Browns aren’t feared these days, but you can bet the “Dawg Pound” sure is
Players: The AFC South is full of guys who aren’t flashy, but definitely reliable enough to take you from point A to point B. Peyton Manning has pieced together a stellar NFL career by being a decisive, intelligent decision-maker that is an indispensible asset to his team. The Jags, Titans, and Texans have the same type of player in Maurice Jones-Drew, Chris Johnson, and Andre Johnson. None of said players will bowl you over with style points, but definitely will bowl you over with raw determination.
It’s about time Andre Johnson is recognized as the best receiver in the league
Teams: Every team in this division (exception Houston) is a well manufactured machine, and will get alot of miles out of their current rosters. The Colts, despite having an influx of older stars, are constantly evolving to stay competetive, and Tennessee, under Jeff Fisher, will continue to hit their stride even though Albert Haynesworth is gone, and the quarterback situation is shaky. Houston will keep improving, and the pieces are in place to make a playoff run over the next few years. Jacksonville, bouncing back from a dissappointing ’08, should be ready to make the playoffs again. Toyota has continually evolved to stay near the top of the auto racket, and these teams mimic that philosophy of doing what works, and never being committed to one direction in particular.
It would be impossible to ever count out a Peyton Manning led team
Fans: Like Toyota, AFC South fans have experienced success, but are still considered small fries in the stubborn world of traditionalists. Just like many Americans refuse to consider Toyota a superior product to Ford and Chevy, fans of more antiquated teams refuse to accept the validity of Indy, Jacksonville, and Nashville fans having true devotion to their respective franchise. I’m sure that’s fine with them, as long as the W’s keep on coming.
Jaguar support has been remarkable seeing they share a state with the Gators, Seminoles, and Hurricanes
Players: This division is loaded with young talent, but nobody on the offensive side of the ball (sans Ladainian Tomlinson, and Larry Johnson) have proven themselves as a bonified stud scoring machine. Scion is an auto company that has yet to produce a car that everyone wants, so the comparison seems fitting. Matt Cassell, Darren McFadden, Knowshon Moreno, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Darren Sproles have great potential, but like this auto manufacturer, only time will tell if they’re the real deal.
The next few seasons will let us know how good Matt Cassell really is
Teams: The AFC West has the longest Super Bowl drought of any division in football, and hasn’t sniffed a title since the Raiders won the AFC in 2002. Scion is still trying to get a lick of the brass ring that many other companies are a part of. With Josh McDaniels and Al Davis in the same division, silly novelties and crazy ideas (like the Scion xB) will be thrown around like candy at a parade. The only team in this division looking remotely close to competing with the big boys are the Chargers, who will have defensive beast Shawne Merriman back.
Al Davis is no stranger to trying to cash in on crazy fads
Fans: I know, I know. How can the infamous Black Hole resemble a Scion? Well, the reasoning is quite simple. Fans of the four aforementioned teams are used to winning, and they are getting quite frustrated with the current under-achieving play that has plagued their stadiums. New coaches have entered this division with a, “Fans, forget everything you know about (insert team name) football, we are heading in a new direction, and you can either come with us, or be left behind” mentality. The die-hard Raider, Bronco, Chief, and Charger rowdies are ready for anything that can make things better, even if it entails buying into gimmicky products, like a Scion.
After going 2-14, Chief fans are ready to buy into anything
Players: The NFC East features two of the best young quarterbacks in the league (Eli Manning and Tony Romo), and they play a position that other guys consider pampered and spoiled. Cadillac is a fine automobile for people who like to feel this way, so the shoe fits. Washington shelling out $100 million plus to obtain Haynesworth (and retain) DeAngelo Hall, Dallas and New York breaking the piggybank to secure Romo & Manning, and Philly rolling out a red carpet for Asante Samuel signify that in the NFC East, money is no object. Let them eat cake….
A T.O.-less Romo should be a godsend for his confidence
Teams: This division, in 2009, will be the unquestionable toughest one in football. With the four member teams all gunning for each other each week, how it will play out in ’09 is anybody’s guess. Every team should be an NFC contender, and what better car to represent them than America’s best, the Cadillac? There are no Yugos here ladies and gentlemen, but there are four finely crafted units ready to hit the highway.
Speaking of finely crafted units…
Fans: Well, when you have a recent Super Bowl champ, NFC Champ, and America’s Team all rolled into one division, you can expect a serious chip on the fans of these teams shoulders. Cowboy supporters will forever be some of the biggest homers on the planet, Eagle hooligans will forever cash in on the FML routine, the Hogettes will forever dress in drag for inexplicable reasons, and the Giants will forever have supporters in the Bridge and Tunnel crowd. Regardless, any way you slice it, or look at them, the NFC East fan base is used to success, and nothing short of a Cadillac on the field will appease them.
Stay classy Philly…
Players: You can bet your ass that the NFC Norris embodies a hard-nosed philosophy just like the AFC Central does. These guys have a rich history of kicking the living shit out of each other every Sunday in the cold, snow, and rain for years upon years. Brian Urlacher, AJ Hawk, Chad Greenway, and Ernie Sims have brought “smashmouth” football back to the once proud division, and, like always, the only divas in these cities are taking snaps. Adrian Peterson and Matt Forte lead the rushing renaissance in the North, so expect some hard-hitting, between the tackles donnybrooks come the brisk weather of November and December. Ford is synonymous with trucks that can carry a heavy load and perform under less than favorable conditions, and Peterson, Forte, and Ryan Grant are ready to do truck-like work in ’09.
Forte is ready to continue his role of load-bearer for the Bears offense
Teams: As stated earlier, the NFC North is comprised of traditional teams, and traditional rivalries. You are missing out if you have never witnessed a Bears/Packers prizefight in person. Nobody in this division is going to win the Super Bowl, but Chicago, Minnesota, and even Green Bay are capable of making waves in the NFC. Ford is hurting more than ever right now, as is this division, who desperately needs Detroit to step it up and become a legitimate contender to round out the field. Respect for Ford and the NFC North (can even throw in Big Ten) is low in 2009, but there is a solid foundation for each to once again thrive.
Will Stafford be the key to Lions success in the future, or is he just another Heath Shuler?
Fans: Obviously I’m biased, but the NFC North has some of the most die-hard fans on the planet. The steel mills in Gary, Indiana and stamping plants on the southside of Chicago are filled with rabid Bear fans, the GM plants of Detroit filled with insane Lion fans, and so forth. Most of these guys don’t want anything fancy or top-of-the-line when it comes to their team, and they sure as hell don’t want anything not made by GM or Ford. An NFL leading rusher is infinitely more cherished than an NFL leading passer in this division. If AFC and NFC East fans represent the 2000′s, the NFC North faithful are certainly the 1950′s.
God I hate them, but Packer-Backers are some of the best in the business
Players: This division is no stranger to popular players the last few years. Michael Vick (obviously gone), Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Reggie Bush, Drew Brees, and the electric Steve Smith made the NFC South home to some of the league’s most exciting games. Hummer has been the chic vehicle of choice for athletes, and much like Sean Payton’s offense, tabbed the “next big thing.” All of a sudden Hummer couldn’t keep up with the growing Go Green campaigns, and the Saints couldn’t keep up with the amount of points their defense was giving up, so the two systems ultimately failed.
Brees is the perfect compliment for Payton’s fast-paced offense
Teams: The NFC South looked to be the model division for the future two years ago, but the Saints, Panthers, and Buccaneers implosion have delayed its progress. So much promise top to bottom has been erased in a few short seasons, much like Hummer, who recently announced they will no longer be producing their behemoth SUVs. Will the Hummer be labeled a bust? Will the NFC South be a bust in ’09? Guess we’ll have to wait and see.
The first step to making the playoffs for Carolina is a happy and healthy Julius Peppers
Fans: Buccanneer fans are no stranger to long, time-consuming drives that chew up the clock, and ultimately don’t go very far. The Hummer is one machine that gets absolutely horrible gas mileage, and won’t take you very far in a short amount of time. Falcon fans are used to some of the absolute worst traffic in the nation, and what better model to represent their pain experienced on a Sunday trying to get to the Georgia Dome than a one-man-barricade Hummer?
This guy’s outfit is more entertaining than 99% of his team’s drives
Players: The NFC West has undeniable young superstars that are only getting better, much like Nissan’s yearly lineup. Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Willis, Lofa Tatupu, and Chris Long are the marquee young faces for each team, and expect big things from all of them in 2009. I also wouldn’t count out Beanie Wells, Jason Smith, and Michael Crabtree to be instant contributors this season. Nissan has a good variety of sportscars, SUVs, trucks, and family sedans that are very under the radar, much like this division will be for the upcoming season.
Breathing quarterback (even Jeff George) + Larry Fitzgerald = Touchdown
Teams: Like Nissan, these four teams are fighting for respect, despite accomplishing much. Many doubters consider the Cards Super Bowl run a fluke, and the Niners seemed return to glory under Mike Singletary is scoffed at by Cowboy fans. Seattle can join in on what it feels like to go to a Super Bowl, and then be pegged as a 5 win team the next season. Although I personally think this division is still pretty weak, expect greener pastures in the NFC West sooner than later.
Samurai learned from the best, “Iron” Mike Ditka. Good luck #50
Fans: Expectations from these guys are quite low, but that doesn’t stop Seahawk freaks from invading Qwest Field every Sunday to get loud and rowdy. The Bay-Area will never be void of Big and Bold, 49er Gold signs in windows, and the Rams and Cards are still etching out pockets of loyalists all throughout the St. Louis and Phoenix area. People stereotypically don’t expect a whole lot from the name Nissan, but look at the Cards last year, being one minute (and some change) from winning the Super Bowl.
12-4 or 4-12, Seattle loves their Seahawks
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