They have been piling up for two months – like overdue bills, screaming to be paid. With the regular season only a few days away, it's a good time to let the readers vent their frustrations.
The first edition of the weekly rankings will be out Tuesday, and there will be some significant changes from the offseason edition I did over the summer. Considering some of the things I saw during my six-week preseason tour, there's going to be a healthy shakeup. The fans of some franchises (like Kansas City) should be very happy to know they will see a healthy improvement, while other teams (such as Dallas) have yet to live up to some of the hype.
But before we unveil the new rankings, here's what our mostly irate readers had to say about the offseason version as well as my regular-season predictions. Consider it a final measure of preseason atonement for the masses who readily called me a (pick one: moron, idiot, waste of genetic material, etc.) and insisted that I had spent too much time (pick another: smoking crack, boozing, sniffing glue, etc).
So here we go, back into the swing of things – starting with the best email I received during the last two months.
To the mail …
BEST EMAIL OF THE SUMMER
I read your columns weekly, and I've devised a way to make your life easier. Since almost every submission to your mailbag column is so similar, why don't you just insert the following form letter at the end of your column? Now you and your readers can save valuable time each day!
You are a(n) (insert fourth-grade level insult). I can't believe how much you disrespect the (insert hometown football team). Obviously (insert low-level free-agent signing) and (insert another low-level free-agent signing) were HUGE pickups that are going to boost the (insert hometown team's nickname)'s (pick one: offense/defense). Every week you write something glorifying the (insert hometown team's main divisional rival). But what did they do this offseason? You are clearly biased against the (insert hometown team). For the last (insert made-up time frame), you've written (insert made-up number) articles about how (insert 36-year-old player's name) is all washed up. I'll write back this season when the (insert hometown team) make the playoffs.
(insert made-up name), (insert real city)
With a healthy Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be able to spread the field for Michael Clayton to be a Pro Bowler. Then we will run Cadillac Williams back to a playoff berth.
Not going to happen.
St. Petersburg, Fla.
In a word, yes.
Get it right. The Panthers are going to win it all this year.
You are a moron. You rank the New York Giants third from the bottom in the NFC? This team was 5-2 with an awful quarterback last year before being besieged with injuries. Antonio Pierce was a great pickup and Kareem McKenzie solidifies the right side of the line.
You must be crazy picking my Washington Redskins to finish 5-11. Ain't no way we're finishing 5-11. I'll say 9-7. We do have some issues, but the players love Joe Gibbs and, most importantly, respect his legacy. They won't let him finish 5-11.
The defense and new receivers looked impressive when I saw them last month, and it made me think they could win more than five games. No playoffs, though.
I disagree with the Dallas Cowboys being 9-7 this year and in second place. With what the team got this season, I feel a good battle for first place because of what is going on in Philadelphia.
After seeing Dallas live in the preseason, I'm no longer sold on them being a playoff team.
Wow. Picking the Philadelphia Eagles as your preseason No. 1 team in the NFC. Now THAT's interesting journalism. Way to step out on a limb!
Scott M. Crain
I didn't realize going "out on a limb" constituted good journalism.
The Chicago Bears are getting the shaft. This is by far the best defense in the division. The offense is improved, and so are the special teams. And you're picking them last in the division and with only six wins. Give us a break and take a deep look and you will see this division belongs to the Bears.
If the Bears win the NFC North, I'll eat my laptop.
Are you retarded about the Green Bay Packers or what? The Pack will start 5-0 and go to the playoffs.
I can't believe you rank the Detroit Lions below Green Bay in the NFC. Detroit's defense wasn't all that bad last year and if you look at the game results from last season, you'll see a handful of games that were very close and should have been won. I stand by my prediction that I made last year: Detroit will be the first team in Super Bowl history to have home-field advantage.
Iron Mountain, Mich.
The San Francisco 49ers will not go 3-13. You will feel stupid for making that judgment too quickly. My prediction is 8-8. Have faith in my team.
Starting a healthy Tim Rattay will mean more wins – well, one or two more wins, anyway.
How you can rate the St. Louis Rams so far down the list of NFC teams is baffling. They have gone to the playoffs for five of the six years Mike Martz has been in town.
St. Louis, Mo.
The Seattle Seahawks fifth in the NFC? Ummmmmmm. Get your facts straight please.
Santa Monica, Calif.
This is ridiculous! You practically posted last season's final for your preseason rankings! HOW can you not have Arizona ranked higher in the AFC?
Oakland Raiders finish 8-8? You are way off the mark here. They're playoff-bound. They have a tough schedule, but they will kick some butt. Re-think the prediction after the New England game on Thursday night.
Paul Michael Robinson
Are you smoking CRACK? The Kansas City Chiefs 12th in the AFC? Remember Patrick Surtain? Sammy Knight? Kendrell Bell? Carlos Hall? The Chiefs are entering this season with a roster full of talent on both sides of the ball, and coaches that know how to maximize their ability. K.C. will be 12-4. I'll look for you at the Super Bowl in Detroit. You'll be the one smoking a crack pipe, right?
Seeing the Chiefs in training camp dramatically changed my mind about their offense. I'll get to that in my initial rankings on Tuesday.
I really can't believe you have jumped on the San Diego Chargers' bandwagon. San Diego was a fluke and it will be proven early in the season. Drew Brees will be replaced by Philip Rivers before midseason. Why do you think they didn't give Brees a long-term contract?
If you still think Pittsburgh's offseason losses haven't hurt them, then you obviously don't need drugs to get high.
What are you thinking? You put the Cleveland Browns in the basement of the AFC and the Cincinnati Bengals in the top five. This is an entirely different Browns squad. I would be willing to bet you that the Browns finish ahead of the Bengals next season.
Name your wager. I have some Yahoo! swag – shirts, hats, etc. – that I'll put up against some of your Browns goodies.
You are nuts. Write it down: Baltimore Ravens 12-4 this season.
You are crazy. The Bengals will be the Browns of 2005.
How can you say the Houston Texans will finish 7-9? I have followed football for 35-plus years and keep up with all NFL teams. They will be 9-7 or better.
Gary Brainerd Jr.
… and then I'll eat my laptop bag.
Matt Jones (not THE Matt Jones)
The Indianapolis Colts made no big acquisitions in free agency. Their draft was good in that they went defensive, but what did they get? No run support for a team that finished 24th in the league in run D doesn't say they'll be "respectable" enough.
The New York Jets should be in your top five in the AFC. Putting the Bengals ahead of them in the AFC is a disgrace. The Jets will be in the AFC championship game this season, and then bring home the Lombardi Trophy.
Center Moriches, N.Y.
The signing of Ty Law will move them up in my initial weekly rankings.
Your preseason AFC rankings were really messed up. I have to assume you started hitting the bottle this offseason. The Bengals, Jets, Ravens and Jaguars all ahead of the Buffalo Bills in the AFC? What season did you watch last year?
North Tonawanda, N.Y.
With the new coaching staff we should see the best out of the Miami Dolphins. I'm looking to see about an 8-8 season out of them, putting them ahead of the Bills and possibly the Jets.
No – on both counts.
Picking the New England Patriots No. 1 in the AFC. Oooh – that was brave. Let's pick the Super Bowl champ. Nevermind that BOTH coordinators have moved on, as well as the Patriots' best linebacker and cornerback. They'll be lucky to end up in the top five in the AFC this year.