Before I get to this week’s Quick Pick column, I need to take this opportunity to rectify an oversight from my NFC Preview. It seems I neglected to include my picks for the Wild Card Playoff Teams. My first choice would be Philadelphia. For my second choice, I’m torn between Chicago and Atlanta. After considering the relative strength of each team’s divisional opponents, and reviewing each team’s schedule, I decided to go with Atlanta.
So, for the record:
NFC Wild Cards: Philadelphia, Atlanta
As those of you who’ve read my columns in the past will know, I’m not a fan of Thursday football, for a number of reasons. Football is a dangerous, incredibly physically demanding sport. These players, for their own reasons, choose to partake in this. I believe that it’s patently unfair to require these athletes to play a game on Sunday, and then have to play again on Thursday. It’s absolutely brutal. It increases the risk of injury. Also, as a fan of the game, forcing the players to play when they are beaten-up and fatigued with only a few days’ rest diminishes the quality of the game. And why? So that billionaire owners can squeeze a bit more money out of their product, money that they certainly don’t need.
Fortunately, in the case of the Thursday night opener, the players are well-rested. I like the idea of the Thursday night opener; it’s usually a marquee matchup, and it’s a nice preview to what I call the official opening day, which is Sunday. If I had my way, though, the first Thursday night game of the season would also be the last.
Green Bay at Chicago
Well, they certainly picked a doozy to start the season. These division rivals played each other in Week One of last season. To refresh your memory, Chicago led 20-0 in the third quarter, but then Aaron Rodgers, after having left the game with an injury, came back and did his magic, leading Green Bay to a 24-23 victory. That would prove to be a valuable lesson to Chicago; the team went on to win its division. Green Bay faded, and finished out of the playoffs.
It’s hard to tell just how good this year’s version of Green Bay can be. With Rodgers at QB, there’s an expectation of big things. It will be interesting to see how the offence performs under new Head Coach Matt LaFleur. I have serious reservations that Rodgers can sublimate his controlling nature to any coach for long. Of further concern is the fact that Green Bay’s defence has underperformed for years.
With Chicago, you pretty much know what to expect from the defence, which is loaded with talent, especially up front. Chuck Pagano looks like a huge downgrade at DC from Vic Fangio. I’m especially curious to see what Chicago’s offence looks like without Jordan Howard. The team needs consistency from Mitch Trubisky.
The winner of this contest draws first blood in what could very well be a tight NFC North race.