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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

This Week in Sports: September 26, 2012

In the past, I tried to publish this post on a Thursday or a Friday.  The NFL is the king of the sports world.  And the NFL week starts on Thursday and extends through Monday night.  So, from now on, it is my goal to get this column published on Wednesday.  But enough housekeeping.  We have a lot to get to this week.

The Week that Was:  Wow!  This was a big week in a whole slew of sports.

Golf:  The PGA Tour wrapped up its season this weekend with the fourth and final event of the Fed Ex Cup.  The Fed Ex Cup is golf's version of the playoffs.  Heading into the tournament at Atlanta's Eastlake Country Club, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods were the biggest names who had a chance to win the $10 million championship prize.  But, it was American Brandt Snedeker who won the tournament and with it, the lucrative the Fed Ex Cup.

Ovechkin in the motherland
NHL:  Lost in all of the controversy in the NFL referee lockout is the labor strife in the NHL.  The NHL owners failed to reach an agreement with the NHLPA for a new collective bargaining agreement.  Therefore, the owners have locked out the players.  As of today, most of the preseason has been canceled.  The rest of the preseason is in serious jeopardy as well.  Meanwhile, several high profile players have signed contracts to go play hockey in their home countries.  Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Sergei Gonchar and others have all started play in Russia's KHL, and Jaromir Jagr has started play in a Czech league.

MLB:  There is just about a week to go in the regular season, so the playoff picture is starting to take shape ... at least in the National League.  This weekend, the Cincinnati Reds clinched the NL Central, and the San Francisco Giants clinched the NL West.  In the NL East, the Washington Nationals have clinched a playoff berth, and they currently have a solid lead over the Atlanta Braves for the division crown.  Even if they cannot catch the Nationals, the Braves have at least clinched a wild card berth, and the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals are in the driver's seat for the second wild card slot.

In the American League all the races are coming right down to the wire.  With only two games left to go in the season, the Detroit Tigers won the AL Central and eliminated the Chicago White  Sox.  The Yankees, the Orioles, the Rangers have all clinched playoff berths.  The Oakland A's are in a solid position to clinch playoff berth, but the divisional races are coming right down to the wire.

The only division with significant separation is the AL West where the Texas Rangers lead the upstart Oakland A's.  However, the A's are in solid position for a wild card.  In the AL East, the New York Yankees are clinging to a slim lead over the resilient and surprising Baltimore Orioles.  Even if the Orioles do not overtake the Yankees, the Orioles are still in a strong position to make the playoffs as a wild card.  The only team with a realistic chance to steal one of the wild card slots from the A's or the O's is the Tampa Bay Rays.  In the AL Central, there will only be one team that advances into October.  At this moment, the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago White Sox are in a virtual dead heat.

A familiar site for those of us old
enough to remember the old Saints.
NFL:  If you are reading this blog (or if you have turned on a TV or any electronic device in the last week) then you already know that the NFL has a mess on its hands with the replacement ref situation.  Certainly that is a worthy story.  But, there were some interesting developments on the field this week that did not involve officiating.  The most positive story so far this season is the Arizona Cardinals.  After three weeks, the Cardinals are undefeated.  And they have not had an easy schedule.  This week, the Cardinals dominated the Eagles at home.  This was a convincing follow-up to the Cardinals' victory in New England the week before.  On the flip side, the New Orleans Saints are finding out that they actually do need a head coach to be successful.  The Saints dropped to 0-3 this week after losing at home to the lowly Kansas City Chiefs.

College Football:  Saturday night was an absolute festival of college football.  In the PAC 12, #3 Oregon faced what was supposed to be an early season test when they hosted Rich Rodriguez and his #22 Arizona Wildcats.  The Wildcats were able to hang tough for a half before the Ducks exploded for 36 points in the second half. The final score in Eugene was 49-0 in favor of Oregon.  In the Big 12, #6 Oklahoma suffered a serious setback in their quest for a national championship when they lost at home to a resurgent #15 Kansas State squad.  #11 Notre Dame hosted #18 Michigan under the lights in South Bend.  In true midwestern style, Notre Dame remained undefeated by defeating Michigan 13-6 in a defensive struggle.  In the SEC, #2 LSU kept their national championship hopes alive by squeaking past Auburn by a score of 12-10 on the road.  The glamour event of the night was actually in the ACC. The undefeated #10 Clemson Tigers headed to Tallahassee to take on the #6 Florida State Seminoles.  The Seminoles prevailed 49-37 in an offensive shootout.

The Week Ahead:  Every week is a big week in the NFL.  Baseball is getting down to the bitter end.  And, NASCAR continues with its chase towards the Cup.  But it's golf that takes center stage this weekend.

Ryder Cup:  Golf is normally an individual sport.  But every other year, the sports world is treated to a dramatic three-day team event.  At the Ryder Cup, twelve of America's best golfers face off against twelve of Europe's best golfers.  The Ryder Cup is a three-day match play event.  Match play is different than stroke play because the team is awarded a point for each hole that is won, regardless of the difference in strokes.  The Ryder Cup is also unique because a variety of formats are used.  In addition to one-on-one competition, there is a 4-man alternating shot format as well as a better ball format.  The site of the event alternates between the U.S. and Europe.  This year's event will be held at Medina Country Club outside of Chicago.  The fun begins on Friday.  Coverage of the first day will be on ESPN from 8:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. EST.  Weekend coverage switches to NBC.  Coverage will begin at 9:00 a.m. EST on Saturday and 12:00 p.m. EST on Sunday.

College Football:  At first glance, this week doesn't present the marquis match-ups that we had last week.  But, conference play starts in earnest for almost every team.  Perhaps the most interesting conference game of the weekend will be in the Big 12 when #9 West Virginia makes their conference debut at home against #25 Baylor.  Both teams enter the contest with perfect 3-0 records.  The West Virginia Mountaineers are one of the more fascinating stories of the college football season.  The Big 12 has many teams with storied histories and long-standing traditions.  Even though Baylor has played at the likes of Texas and Oklahoma, something tells me that the Bears have never been anywhere quite like Morgantown, WV.  It will be interesting to see how the Baylor Bears handle a crowd from the Rust Belt.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Cooking with Banshee: Branberry Schorr

Wild Banshee is getting geared up for the Ryder Cup this weekend.  And while the Ryder Cup is the most raucous of all golf events, it still seems appropriate to have a beverage that's a little more classy than a Bud Light.  So, I present to you the Branberry Schorr.  And, no.  That is not a typo.  This drink was created by Kathie Wetzel and Barbara Rivera.  These two ladies are talented in the epicurean arts.  They are also sisters, and their maiden name was Schorr.

Branberry Schorr.

1 oz vodka
4 oz cranberry juice
Splash of peach brandy
Seltzer (optional)

Add ice to a large tumbler.  Pour in the cranberry juice.  Add the vodka.  Add a splash of peach brandy.  Stir together.  If you want a little fizz, top with seltzer.

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Temper Temper: Sports Tantrums of Summer

Summer is the hottest season of the year.  So, it should come as no surprise that quite a few tempers boiled over.  In this addition, we have baseball, basketball, tennis and, of course, stock car racing.

Minor League Game ... Major League Meltdown.  Clearly, the best baseball in America is played in the Major Leagues.  But, the minor leagues have given us some of the best baseball tantrums of all time.  Joe Mikulik, manager of the single A Asheville Tourists made name for himself back in 2006 with an epic tantrum.  Mikulik was back at it again this July when he lost control in a game against the Charleston River Dogs.  The best part about this video is the play-by-play commentary from the local news anchors.

Olympic Sized Low Blow.  Back in the 17th century, France and Spain fought each other in the Thirty Years War.  This summer, another international incident was nearly ignited when the two nations faced each other on the basketball court during the London Olympics.  This video really doesn't require any further commentary.

Rubbin' is Racin'.  Whenever NASCAR heads to Bristol, tempers are sure to flare.  At this year's August night race, Danica Patrick had the cutest tantrum of the season.  But, it was Tony Stewart who stole the show with the most perfectly executed helmet throw of all time.  Notice the two-handed, southpaw technique.

Kicking and Screaming.  Thanks to John McEnroe, tennis has long had a reputation for spoiled brat outbursts.  But, David Nalbandian took things to a whole new level back in June when he bloodied a line judge at the Aegon Championships at Queens.

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Summer of Serena

While most of the country was absorbed in NFL football at the start of September, Serena Williams capped off one of the most impressive summers in the history of tennis.  In order to truly appreciate Serena's accomplishment, we need to take a trip back in time to March of 2011.

When Serena woke up on the morning of March 2, 2011, she was an American sporting princess.  At 29 years old, she had already won 13 Grand Slam singles titles.  On top of that, Serena had won 12 Grand Slam doubles titles with her older sister Venus.  Because of her dominance in both formats, Serena was rightfully mentioned in any conversation about the greatest female tennis players of all-time.  Properly included with the likes of Steffi Graf, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.  Off the court, Serena had established herself as  a fashion mogul and had purchased a minority share of the Miami Dolphins.

Serena Williams had all that when she woke up on the morning of March 2, 2011.  Sure, Serena had recently been forced to withdraw from the Australian Open due to a foot injury, but that is the usual wear and tear that has to be expected for a tennis player approaching the big 3-0.  But, on the evening of March 2, 2011, Serena Williams was not just fighting for her place in tennis history.  She was fighting for her life.

On March 2, 2011, Serena Williams was rushed to a Los Angeles hospital for emergency treatment of a pulmonary embolism.  In layman's terms, a pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that gets loose and ends up in the lungs.  Roughly one third of all who suffer this condition die before they receive the necessary treatment.  After a lengthy recovery, Serena did return to the court in 2011.  But, she finished that year without a Grand Slam title and outside the top ten in the world rankings.  Williams started the 2012 Grand Slam season with a respectable performance at the Australian Open.  Then came the debacle at the French Open where she was eliminated in the first round.

Whispers of Williams' demise grew louder.

Then came July, and with July came Wimbledon.  For one of the few times in her life, Serena Williams was not coming into that tournament as a favorite.  But, Serena stormed through the field and won the singles title.  Despite the fact that this was her fifth Wimbledon championship, Serena acted like a little girl on Christmas morning when she was handed the trophy.  She hopped and giggled and then gathered herself to speak to the media with grace and class.  A few weeks later, Serena returned to the All England club for the 2012 Olympic competition.  In a dominating performance, Serena won the gold medal.  Then it was off to New York for the U.S. Open.  Serena was not the top seed for the final Grand Slam of the season, but she was the hottest player on the planet and the fan favorite.  And she did not disappoint.  Serena won the U.S. Open in a thrilling three-set final against top seeded Victoria Azarenka.

And thus, Williams overcame threats to her life and her career to make 2012 into the Summer of Serena.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

This Week in Sports: September 13, 2012

The Week That Was:  The NFL is back in full swing!  That is good news for all sports fans.  But, there were other noteworthy events this week, as well.

The U.S. Open:  The final Grand Slam event of the 2012 tennis season wrapped up last weekend.  Rain in the New York area pushed both finals back by one day.  On Sunday, Serena Williams capped off a magical summer with a U.S. Open title.  Williams held off a spirited comeback by the top-seeded Victoria Azarenka to capture the championship in three sets.  Williams can add that title to her Olympic gold medal and Wimbledon championship this summer.  On Monday evening, Andy Murray finally captured his first Grand Slam title of his career when he defeated Novak Djokovic in a thrilling five set match.  Murray's summer didn't quite rise to the level of Serena's.  But, Murray also won an Olympic gold medal in his home country and finished second at Wimbledon.  Not too shabby.

NASCAR:  The regular season came to an end in Richmond last weekend.  Rain delayed the start of the race for several hours, but the the die hard fans who stuck it out until 2:00 a.m. local time were treated to an exciting finish.  Clint Bowyer won the race, but it was Jeff Gordon who was the big winner of the weekend.  Gordon's second place finish in the race was good enough to clinch the final berth in the Chase.  Gordon's success means that all 4 Hendrick teams will be competing for the championship over the last 10 weeks of the season.  Notable names who were eliminated after Richmond are Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards.

NFL:  There were plenty of good story lines after the NFL's first weekend.  The most interesting game was played between the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers on Sunday afternoon.  The Niners went into Lambeau field and physically manhandled the Pack in route to an opening week victory.  In terms of individual performances, high marks go to Robert Griffin, III and Peyton Manning.  Griffin made his professional debut at New Orleans.  Aided by a creative game plan, Griffin turned in a nearly flawless performance and led his Redskins to victory.  On Sunday night, Peyton Manning looked like ... well ... Peyton Manning.  Manning looked like his old self as he led his Broncos to victory in their home opener against the Pittsburg Steelers.

The Week Ahead:  There aren't any particularly big events on the sports calendar in the upcoming week.  Every week is equally big in the NFL.  There are only 16 games in the entire season, so each week is the equivalent of a 10-game streak in baseball.  In hockey, the news is taking place off the ice.  The NHL faces a labor lockout this weekend if the two sides do not come to an agreement by midnight on Saturday.  And, in baseball, the pennant races are really heating up as the calendar keeps progressing towards October.

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Cooking with Banshee: Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip

The NFL season is underway.  Nothing goes better with football than good dips.  Well, except for maybe beer.  But, this is a Wild Banshee standby from way back in the day.

In the interest of full disclosure, I originally got this recipe from an Olive Garden copycat website.  I have made a few minor adjustments over the years, but it is basically the OG's recipe.  You can get some form of the dip at pretty much any chain restaurant now, but the Olive Garden is the first place I ever tasted spinach and artichoke dip.  And, this version continues to be my favorite.

Dip Ingredients:
8 oz package of cream cheese (light works just fine)
1 can of artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup frozen spinach
1/4 cup mayonaise (you can use light but do not use Miracle Whip)
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese (do not use the powdery kind in the can)
1/4 cup shredded romano cheese (you can use all parmesan if you don't want to buy two types)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Dip Directions:
Bring the cream cheese to room temperature and thaw the spinach.  Grease a 1.5 quart baking dish.

When the spinach is thawed, drain it well.  You will probably need to squeeze it with a paper towel to get out all the excess water.  Chop the artichoke hearts.  Set aside the artichokes and spinach.

Mix together the cream cheese, mayo and all the other ingredients besides the mozzarella.  Once those ingredients are mixed well, fold in the spinach and artichokes.  Spoon the mixture into the baking dish.  Top with the mozzarella.  Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until the cheese on top is melted.

Serve warm with tortilla chips or toasted bread.  This recipe can also be done entirely in a crockpot.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

This Week in Sports: September 6, 2012

For those of you who follow Banshee Sports on Facebook, you already know that Wild Banshee has had some distractions in her real life.  Hence, I have missed a week of this column.  But, I am now taking time out of my golf vacation while the rest of my family is at the pool to get this column out.  So, here we go ....

The Week That Was:  This was a big week.  College football and the NFL got started.  That's really plenty to fill a whole column, but there was much more going on in the world of sports.

NFL:  The NFL is the undisputed king of sports in our country.  On Wednesday night, the season kicked off with the New York Giants hosting the Dallas Cowboys.  The Giants managed to score a late touchdown to make the score look respectable, but the Cowboys scored a convincing 24-17 upset win at the Meadowlands.

College Football:  The college football season started on Thursday night and continued on through the holiday on Monday.  The marquis matchup of the weekend was Alabama vs. Michigan in a neutral site game in Dallas, TX.  As all SEC fans predicted, the Crimson Tide totally overwhelmed the Wolverines.   The score at the half was 31-7 in favor of Alabama.  Michigan showed some pride in the second half but never mounted anything that could be considered a comeback.  In the end, Alabama won by a score of 41-14 and took over first place in both polls.

(Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
U.S. Open:  Parting is such sweet sorrow.  But, that's what American tennis fans and Andy Roddick had to do on Wednesday night.  Last Thursday, on his 30th birthday, Roddick announced that he would retire at the end of the U.S. Open.  That end came last night in the 4th round at the hands of Juan Martin del Potro.  Roddick won the U.S. Open in 2003, and he is the last American man to win a Grand Slam event.

MLB:  I have been declaring all summer that it was too early for anything baseball related to make it into this column.  Well, the dog days of August have turned into the pennant races of September.  And, possibly the most stunning race of them all is taking place in the American League East.  The Yankees held a 10-game lead in early August.  On Tuesday night, they fell back into a flat-footed tie with the Baltimore Orioles.  The Yankees did reestablish a slight lead on Wednesday night as the teams get set to play a pivotal 4-game series in Baltimore this weekend.

The Week Ahead:  The week ahead brings us more of the same ... but it's all good.

NFL:  The NFL will play its first full slate of games this weekend, including a special double-header on Monday night.  Hope springs eternal in the first week of the NFL season.  More than any other professional sport, a team can rise from bottom-dweller to contender in one off-season.  And, with only 16 games in the entire season, each game is important.  For a more detailed analysis of the NFL, check out Banshee Sports preseason predictions.

U.S. Open:  The final Grand Slam event of the year will wrap up in Flushing Meadows, NY, this weekend.  In the women's draw, Serena Williams will face the top-seeded Victoria Azarenka in one semi-final.  Maria Sharapova will play Sara Errani in the other semi-final.  The ladies' final will be played on Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. on CBS.  The men's draw is a little behind the ladies.  The men's semi-finals are not completely filled out.  But, we do know that top-seeded Roger Federer will not be advancing.  Federer was ousted by Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals.  This opens the door for Andy Murray to follow up his gold medal performance at the Olympics with an appearance in the men's final.  Murray has already advanced to the semi-finals with a win over David Ferrar.  Novak Djokovic has yet to play his quarterfinal match, but he remains the favorite to win the tournament.  The men's final will be played on Sunday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. on CBS ... and yes, that is opposite the opening weekend of the NFL.

NASCAR:  The boys of NASCAR head to Richmond this weekend for the final race of the NASCAR regular season.  At the end of the race, the top ten drivers in the points standings will qualify for "The Chase."  Two wild cards will also qualify.  The wild cards are determined by who has won the most races.  Ties for the wild card are broken by total points.  Heading into the race, there are a couple of big names on the outside looking in, including Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards.  Edwards basically needs to win and get some help to grab a wild card slot.  Gordon would clinch a wild card with a win.  But, a strong finish by the 24 combined with a stumble by Kyle Busch could be enough to get the job done.  Marcus Abrose, Ryan Newman, Joey Logano also control their own destinies this weekend. A win by any of these three drivers will get them into The Chase.  Nothing else will do.  The race will air on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. on ABC.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

NFL Preseason Predictions

Hallelujah, friends!  The wait is over!  The NFL season kicks off in a few hours.  That means it is time for Wild Banshee to post her official NFL Predictions.  But first, a little background.  I did not make these picks off-the-cuff, willy-nilly.  I did this one team at a time.  I went through each team's schedule and projected their record.    This process caused the long delay in getting these picks published.  It also caused some surprises for me even though I'm the one making the predictions.

AFC East:  It feels boring to pick the Patriots to win this division.  But, I cannot run a self-respecting sports blog and go any other way with this pick.  I believe the Jets are going to take a serious step back this season.  I think the Bills will be respectable again this year, but they will not be in the Patriots class.  And, while I don't think the Dolphins will be an utter embarrassment, they will be seriously over-achieving if they make it to a .500 record.  And, I'm not trying to say that the Pats will win the division by default.  The Patriots were 13-3 last year and have added offensive talent in the offseason.  They are in a strong position to secure the top seed in the AFC.  Division winner: New England Patriots.

AFC North:  Last season, three teams from this division made the playoffs.  I do not believe that will be the case this year.  Wild Banshee's first bold prediction of this column is that the Steelers will take a step back and miss the playoffs this year.  An aging defense, a makeshift offensive line and a menagerie at running back will be too much to overcome in a division that includes the Ravens, the Bengals and an improving Browns squad.  I believe the Bengals can replicate their 9-7 record and that it will be enough to snag a wild card slot in the AFC.  But, the Ravens are the class of this division and a serious Super Bowl contender.  Division winner: Baltimore Ravens.  Wild Card: Cincinnati Bengals.

AFC South:  Aside from the Houston Texans, this division is just flat ugly.  The Texans will be in the hunt for the best record in the AFC.  No one else in the division will get a sniff at a winning season.  The Colts will be better than they were last season, but that's not saying much.  I think the Jaguars have reason to be hopeful as Gabbert and Blackmon grow up together.  But, this season will be rough.  The Titans are a bit of an enigma, but I think they will have to steal a few upset wins to make it to eight wins.  Division winner: Houston Texans.

AFC West:  This was my favorite division to analyze.  I strongly considered each of the four teams as a potential division winner.  I really think nine wins will be enough to win the division.  And I think the team that does it will be the Oakland Raiders.  That is Wild Banshee's second bold prediction of this column.  The Chargers have long been the class of this division, but I think that poor personnel decisions will finally catch up to them this year.  I see the Bolts in the six or seven win range.  I think the Broncos made an excellent decision in bringing Peyton Manning to the Mile High City.  But the Broncos still do not have a dependable running back, and their defense over-achieved in a few clutch spots last year.  I think they will also have a losing record.  I think the Chiefs will capitalize on the weaknesses in Denver and San Diego.  They were a playoff team in 2010.  Last year's season got derailed by injuries before it even got rolling.  This year will be a bit of a bounce back for Kansas City.  At 8-8, I believe the Chiefs will earn a wild card slot in the AFC.  Division winner: Oakland Raiders.  Wild Card: Kansas City Chiefs.

NFC East:  This division has been considered the best division in the NFC for several years.  The NFC East has sent multiple teams to the playoffs for four of the last five years.  But, here comes Wild Banshee's third bold prediction of the column.  That will not happen this year.  And, it will be the New York Giants who will be sitting at home this year when the playoffs start.  The dirty little secret is that the Giants played lousy defense last season.  I think that will continue.  And I think they will miss Brandon Jacobs on the field even if they won't miss him in the locker room.  The Redskins will make some big strides forward, but they are not playoff quality yet.  And, the Cowboys will continue to be the Cowboys ... over-hyped and under-achieving.  Meanwhile, the Eagles will go about their business quietly this year and win the division.  Vince Young and his bold predictions are gone.  And Desean Jackson can concentrate on football instead of his contract.  Mike Vick's health is still a concern, but they do seem to have a capable backup in Nick Foles.  Division winner: Philadelphia Eagles.

NFC North:  This will be the toughest division in all of the NFL ... hands down.  I do not see the Vikings as being a .500 team, but I think Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen alone make them a formidable opponent every week.  The Lions were the sexy pick last season.  They have enough talent to make the playoffs again.  I still believe that they are a team on the rise overall, but I think they take a small step back this season.  I think that the Packers will win the division, but I think the Bears will give them a battle right down to the final week of the season.  In fact, I see both teams having 13+ wins this season.  Division winner: Green Bay Packers.  Wild Card: Chicago Bears.

NFC South:  This division has a lot of interesting story lines.  Tampa Bay is excited about their rookie running back Doug Martin, their new head coach and the fact that Josh Freeman decided not to get fat this offseason.  But, I think the Bucs are still a year or two away from contention.  Then there are the Panthers.  If the Panthers were in the AFC, I think they would make the playoffs.  But, they are not.  I think they will be a highly-competitive .500 team that misses out on a wild card.  That bring us to the Saints and the Falcons.  The Saints have ruled this division for a while, but they have had all sorts of distractions this offseason.  Meanwhile, the Falcons have stayed out of the headlines and have shown some offensive improvement.  Frankly, I view this division as a toss-up with both teams making the playoffs.  Division winner: Atlanta Falcons.  Wild Card: New Orleans Saints.

NFC West:  I think this division will be much-improved from last season.  At the end of the season, the records might not reflect that, but I think the quality of play will be on the rise.  However, that statement does not apply to the Arizona Cardinals.  I think the Cardinals will be an abomination ... possibly the worst team in professional football.  But, the Rams will be competitive again.  I see them right around the .500 mark.  Same with the Seahawks.  I do not see any reason for the 49ers to regress this season.  I think they will win the division and be a tough out for anyone in the playoffs.  Division winner: San Francisco 49ers.

So there you have it.  The official Banshee Sports NFL predictions.  I hope you enjoy reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it.  And, by all means, post your thoughts and questions in the comments section below.

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