2012 AFC Preview: Avengers Assemble!
Guest Post by Brian “Class” Callahan
In honor of the end of the 2012 summer blockbuster season and the dawn of the 2012 NFL season, I present to ye Rumbling, Bumbling, Stumbling, Tumbling, a preview of the American Football Conference, starring some notable characters from the summer past.
Texans 13-3 (5-1 division)
I’m stretching back to March for what was really the first big movie of the year, The Hunger Games. And no, I wouldn’t dare use Katniss on a team that is not exactly built on precision passing. But Cato, one of the career tributes, seemingly perfect to triumph on the grand stage of Panem, evokes a sort of Brian Cushing, who is emblematic of a rock-solid team ready to roll through its division and challenge the other AFC powers for the right to live on in the Super Bowl.
Titans 6-10 (4-2 division)
Despite screwing me over last year in my buddies’ pick ‘em league, I’m not even going to double jinx these guys and pick them to be good. They get the Thor comparison, not because I like them this year but because I found Thor to be the Most Frustrating Avenger, generally making things more difficult for everyone than being helpful. Since I fear the wrath of these titans but do not expect great things from Jake Locker and an older Chris Johnson and co., I am just going to go with the median and knock them down a few pegs in spite and in acceptance that whatever I do is at the mercy of merciless gods.
Colts 4-12 (2-4 division)
The Colts are Gwen Stacy from The Amazing Spider-Man. Sure they have the can’t-miss number 1 pick, the benefit of high-round draft picks, and the ability to start fresh without Jim “Sure I’ll pass on an undefeated season” Caldwell. Stacy was the new flame for Peter Park as part of the Spider-Man reboot. I said it then though, and I’ll say it now: There will be hell to pay for replacing Mary-Jane Watson and her fiery red hair!
Jaguars 3-13 (1-5 division)
Supposedly Blaine Gabbert looked good in the pre-season. Supposedly Channing Tatum looked great in Magic Mike. In the immortal intimate second-person voice of Peter King, Blaine: get a haircut and a win a game on the road in the cold, and Channing: put a shirt on and go make 22 Jump Street.
Steelers 13-3 (5-1 division)
Also known as the Gotham Rogues from The Dark Knight Rises, who failed to cover their 6.5 point spread on the day Bane took over Gotham City. LOSERS! Expect the Rogues to bounce back in a season of destiny. In the end though, the Rogues’ decision to coldly cut ties with the last person ever to score a touchdown at the old stadium costs them a return to the Super Bowl.
Ravens 11-5 (4-2 division)*
Joe Flacco breaks out with an MVP-caliber year and leads the mighty Ravens into Reliant Stadium to face a Texan squad quivering with fear. Flacco plays exquisitely for three quarters, zipping to Torrey Smith in the deep, dumping it to Ray Rice for surgical gains. Another shot at the vulnerable Patriot army looms, merely seconds away. 4th and 7 on the 38, just out of reach rookie kicker Justin Tucker (and too reminiscent of Sir Billy Cundiff). Flacco from the shotgun, four wide-receiver set. Anquan Boldin breaks free. But wait! There is Cushing closing in. And Danieal Manning lurking near Boldin in a brilliantly disguised zone. Cushing hits Flacco who still gets off a solid pass. Boldin keeps on running because Jim Harbaugh tells his guys to never look back. Millions of Raven faithful hold their collective breath as Flacco’s fling hits the warning track and begins to wilt in the humid, Houston air. Manning eyes the pigskin like a tiger. He eases in and pendulum chops the ball down to another season, expiring like a tell-tale heart under the soulless gaze of Gary Kubiak upon the mantel of his triumphant players. Loki strikes again! The trickster god hath extinguished the bright flame of ye Ravens once more.
Bengals 7-9 (2-4 division)
Promising team makes a promising start to the season, like Michael Fassbender as David in Prometheus. The rest does not totally disappoint but makes you wonder at what could have been.
Browns 3-13 (1-5 division)
And the Browns are [drumroll please]…..Clint Eastwood talking to a chair! Trouble is already afoot on the cold shores of Lake Erie. A 68-year old man is quarterback. But according to Sports Illustrated, he brings Minor League baseball experience, which should help.
Patriots 11-5 (4-2 division)
Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin likens the Patriots to the sinister Lannister clan. I find Tom Brady to be more of a Bruce Wayne/Batman figure myself. Expect a huge season out of Brandon Lloyd as he reminds Brady of Randy Moss, leading to a deep run in the playoffs as long as the offensive line holds up.
Bills 10-6 (3-3 division)*
Edward Norton’s Scout Master Ward in Moonrise Kingdom was one of my favorite characters from the summer, an all-around funny, loyal, and courageous troop leader who helps rescue Sam from the cold minds of adults. After 13 years out in the proverbial cold from the playoffs, I think the Bills are set for an equally memorable performance with a fearsome pass rush and a sharp signal caller that sends them back into at least the outer banks of the promised land.
Jets 8-8 (3-3 division)
In Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer, the titular president wielded a railroad axe. I predict Mark Sanchez, irate over the Jet faithful clamoring for Tebowmania, will slay Rex Ryan with a bucket of garlic bagel chips.
Dolphins 6-10 (2-4 division)
At the end of Prometheus, a baby Moorannhilard somehow forms from the white-rock human thing. I mean alien. I mean Tannehil. I mean Moore. I mean Ochocinc-
Raiders 9-7 (4-2 division)
Count me among those who do not think Al Davis is really dead, aka Peter Weyland, the “hologram” from Prometheus, who is frozen aboard a spaceship in order to see the secrets of our origin. Just don’t expect Al to wake up anytime soon to see the Raiders celebrating their first title since the days of Madden. Carson Palmer may help for a division title in an up-for-grabs race, but he was not worth a king’s ransom for the future.
Chiefs 9-7 (3-3 division)
The Chiefs are one of the sexier picks this year, with a strong defense, good running game, and one would think, better karma, assuming a team that was ravaged by injuries in 2011 would be healthier this season. Although a more stable and steady coach in Romeo Crennel should be a plus, Crennel’s days in Cleveland were not exactly awe inspiring, and I am not sure he can make up for the poor play of Matt Cassel, whose time as a starting quarterback is running out. In that sense, the Chiefs are Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow—sexy, but with a limited shelf life.
Broncos 8-8 (3-3 division)
In Lawless, Forrest Bondurant (played by Tom Hardy, who follows up his Bane turn with another riveting performance) gets stabbed in the throat. Does he return to form and lead the bootleggin’ Broncos to the Super Bowl? Or does he fade into the songs and legends of the old Rocky Mountains?
Chargers 5-11 (2-4 division)
Your 2012 San Diego Chargers are either Jeremy Renner or Taylor Kitsch, depending on who you think had a more disappointing summer. Sure, Renner was in the megahit, The Avengers, but The Bourne Legacy failed to establish him as the star he was probably hoping to become. I think this will be the culmination of many disappointing seasons for the Chargers who will finally decide to pull the plug on the Norv Turner era.
AFC Wild Card
Patriots over Bills
Ravens over Raiders
Patriots over Steelers
Texans over Ravens
Patriots over Texans
Three weeks later, Bill Belichick sees Tom Brady at a café’ in Rio de Janeiro. All they do is smile and nod.