NFL Predictions and Peek at the Picks

Hello again everybody...

We come to Wednesday, and it's all downhill from here in more ways than one. Yes there's the "hump-day-ness" of it all. But for me personally, I'm more focused on getting through tomorrow and leaving the insanity of the RNC behind for good. I'm sure this is a wonderful thing for the Twin Cities and plenty of people are making plenty of money. But it's been a severe pain in the ass at work, and I don't know anybody here that won't be happy when it's over with.

But I digress...

Today I bring you the official Sports Take NFL Predictions. Now this may come as a surprise to some of you given that I've said I probably won't be digging that heavily into the NFL this season. And the truth is, that hasn't changed. I really won't be getting that deep into the NFL as I'll be too busy focusing on baseball and college football.

But never let it be said that I don't try to take care of you, my loyal readers. To whit, I'll be introducing you today to the first ever Sports Take Guest Correspondent: The Hammer. Intrigued? I knew you would be.

After that, it's this week's Peek at the Picks segment. Have my picks gotten any better since last week? We shall see!

"An author is a fool who, not content with boring those he lives with, insists on boring future generations."
- Charles de Montesquieu (1689 - 1755), French social commentator

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So we start with the Sports Take NFL Picks. And to bring you those, I'm happy to introduce you to the first ever Sports Take Guest Correspondent, Craig Schroepfer, better known around the Sports Take offices as "the Hammer".

I've known Hammer for about 4 years or so now (he'll correct me if I'm wrong about that), and quite frankly I know of no better individual to bring you these NFL Picks. First a quick bio. Hammer grew up in Antigo, Wisconsin, the same area of the state that former Seahawks QB Dave Kreig grew up in. This inspired a love of the Seahawks in the Hammer that has parleyed itself into the most dizzying set of sports-team allegiances I've ever seen.

Let's see. In the NFL, he cheers for the Seahawks. In the NHL, he roots for the Red Wings. And in College Football, he pulls for the Michigan Wolverines (though the Wisconsin Badgers are a close second - part of why we manage to get along). So as you can see, the rhyme and reason of it all are a little difficult to discern, though trust me, he's got an explanation for each of them.

The upside of these varied and confusing allegiances is that I've never met anyone with the breadth and depth of sports knowledge that he has. Seriously, this guy's a machine. I once sat in awe as he was quizzed by someone over the nicknames of the USFL franchises. And he only missed one. One! Nobody knows that stuff. Nobody, but the Hammer.

And that's why I feel so comfortable allowing the Hammer to bring you the finest in NFL picks. What follows is his work. Any notes in italics are from me and are only intended to further introduce you to the wonder that is... the Hammer!

It is that time of year again where the NFL Season is about to kickoff so it is time for my annual NFL predictions. Here is what I think will happen in the 2008 NFL Season

*Disclaimer: The Following predictions are for entertainment only and are not to be taken seriously or to be used for gambling purposes* (Unfortunately - although he'd say fortunately - the Hammer doesn't share my enjoyment of recreational gaming. I will say that his picks are far more likely to get you to the pay window than mine are.)

NFC East: 1. Dallas 12-4 2. Washington 12-4 (WC) 3. New York 7-9 4. Philadelphia 7-9

NFC North: 1. Minnesota 9-7 2. Green Bay 8-8 3. Detroit 6-10 4. Chicago 6-10
(The Hammer is a Green Bay fan as well, though not so much so that he despises any of the other NFC North teams. So picking the Vikings to win here is quite legit.)

NFC South: 1. New Orleans 11-5 2. Tampa Bay 6-10 3. Carolina 6-10 4. Atlanta 6-10

NFC West: 1. Seattle 11-5 2. Arizona 9-7 (WC) 3. St. Louis 6-10 4. San Francisco 3-13
(Yes, the Hammer is a Seattle fan, but seriously... who else are you going to pick to win this division?! The Arizona Wild Card pick is bold in my opinion.)

AFC East: 1. New England 12-4 2. New York 10-6 (WC) 3. Buffalo 8-8 4. Miami 5-11
(The Jets are a sexy pick this year, but legitimately so. The Hammer wore a Jets #4 Favre jersey to his fantasy football draft specifically to annoy his paint-thinner swilling, Packer-backer friends. If that doesn't endear you to the guy, I don't know what will.)

AFC North: 1. Pittsburgh 12-4 2. Cleveland 8-8 3. Cincinnati 6-10 4. Baltimore 2-14
(The two teams I follow most in the NFL are the Vikings and the Steelers, so needless to say I was happy to see this pick.)

AFC South: 1. Jacksonville 13-3 2. Indianapolis 12-4 (WC) 3.Houston 9-7 4. Tennessee 6-10

AFC West: 1. San Diego 13-3 2. Denver 7-9 3. Oakland 5-11 4. Kansas City 4-12

Wild Card:
AFC- New England over NY Jets Pittsburgh over Indianapolis
(The Steelers beating Peyton Manning?! Once again, bold. I can dig it!)

NFC- Washington over Minnesota New Oleans over Arizona
(I'd probably have picked Minnesota in that game. I'm always nervous about a first-year head coach in the playoffs. That being said, with my track record, you should probably bet the house on the 'Skins.)

Divisional Playoffs:
AFC- Pittsburgh over San Diego Jacksonville over New England
(No "Team of Destiny" talk about the Patriots this year... really, I promise!)

NFC- Washington over Dallas Seattle over New Orleans
(Hammer really likes Washington I guess. But I'm all for seeing Dallas fall short of the NFC Championship game!)

AFC Championship: Jacksonville over Pittsburgh
(Sad for me to see the Steelers get this far only to fall short, but Jacksonville's a helluva pick.)

NFC Championship: Seattle over Washington
(Some might be tempted to point to bias in this prediction, but...)

Super Bowl XLIII: Jacksonville over Seattle
(... as far as we here are The Sports Take are concerned, this proves his honest effort.)

So there you have them, the Hammer's predictions for the 2008 NFL season. I'll give you a moment to discuss amongst yourselves.

Okay, moment's over. Now if you enjoyed those, prepare yourself. For the Hammer is one of the biggest hockey fans I know. And as such I've commissioned him to provide a NHL preview as well. Stay tuned for that in a few weeks!

Next up today is this week's Peek at the Picks segment, where I compare my pre-season baseball picks to the current MLB picks. And you, my dear readers, are given the opportunity to mock me mercilessly. It's okay. Really. I can take it. *Sniff*

NL East: N.Y. Mets, 78-61 (Dan's Pick: Mets)
Things haven't changed much in the NL East. It's still pretty much down to the Mets and the Phillies. The Marlins are now 8 games back and really not a threat to win it, though they could be a factor down the stretch as they have a combined 9 games left with the Mets and Phillies. NY and Philadelphia square off in their final series of the season against each other starting Friday. Met's Magic Number: 22.

NL Central: Chicago Cubs, 85-54 (DP: Cubs)
The Cubs are looking vulnerable for the first time all year. Carlos Zambrano left last night's game in the 5th inning with arm trouble. And that certainly doesn't bode well for the Cubbies. Milwaukee is hanging right with them, 4.5 games back. And if there ever was going to be an opportunity to catch Chicago, the next couple of weeks might be it! Cubs Magic Number: 20.

NL West: Arizona Diamondbacks, 70-68 (DP: D'backs)
2 games over .500?! Brandon Webb has his worst outing as a major leaguer this past Sunday against the Dodgers?! I almost want to petition the MLB offices to add a 2nd Wild Card and just write the Western division off for the year. Seriously. This is just ugly. That being said, it's not going to happen. Somebody from the West is going to the playoffs. With only a 1.5-game lead, it's hard to say for sure that it'll be the D'backs. But the Dodgers aren't exactly putting much fear into anybody these days. Oof. Arziona's Magic Number: 23.

NL Wild Card: Milwaukee Brewers, 80-58 (DP: L.A. Dodgers, 11.5 Games Back)
Life's got to be pretty good in Milwaukee these days. They've got a 4.5-game lead on the Phillies for the Wild Card, and the Cubs are giving them a chance at the division title. It seems it's going to take a monumental choke-job to miss the playoffs. But, they still have Eric Gagne pitching out of their bullpen for some reason. And that, if nothing else, could prove to be costly. Milwaukee's Magic Number: 20.

AL East: Tampa Bay Rays, 84-52 (DP: Boston, whom I hate, 4 GB)
The Rays are holding steady with the best record in the league. And with less than a month to go, they're a serious favorite to not only win the division, but to host the first two rounds of the playoffs. Amazing considering where they were last year. Oh, and yes, I still hate the Red Sox. Tampa's Magic Number: 22.

AL Central: Chicago White Sox/Minnesota Twins, 77-61 (DP: Detroit, 11 GB)
So far the Twins are 5-7 on their epic road-trip, and yet somehow, they've managed to grab a share of the lead in the Central. What's been most worrisome has been the performance of the bullpen, but they bullpen hasn't looked good on the road all year. I said I'd take 7-7, and the Twins are still very much in range to achieve that. Meanwhile the Sox are facing a stretch of games with the Angels, Blue Jays and Tigers. I have no idea how the Twins are doing this, but I'm sure as hell loving it! Sox/Twins Magic Number: 16.

AL West: Los Angeles Angels, 84-53 (DP: Seattle Mariners, 30.5 GB)
L.A.'s won 7 out of their last 10, and just like that they're back in the mix for best record in the bigs. I may not know what's going to happen with the rest of the playoffs, but personally I'm rooting for an L.A./Minnesota ALCS. Torii Hunter against the Twins for a trip to the World Series? Yup, I can dig me some of that! L.A.'s Magic Number: 7.

AL Wildcard: Botson Red Sox (whom I hate), 81-57 (DP: Cleveland Indians, 13.5 GB)
Cleveland may not be in the race, but they're on a serious roll. Nobody's going to want to play this team with their playoff life on the line. Cliff Lee is 20-2 for chrissakes! How does that happen on a team that's 67-70?! That's crazy. And yes, all this talk about Cleveland is just a clever way to avoid having to talk about Boston, whom I hate. Their Magic Number is 21.

So I'm still a solid 3 of 8. Okay, maybe "solid" isn't exactly the right term. But sweeping the NL divisions isn't anything to sneeze at, right? Right?!

That's all for today folks. I'll be back tomorrow with my Week 2 college football picks. I know you can't wait. And frankly, neither can I! So I hope you'll come back tomorrow for more! Until then, thanks for reading!

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