UP Catholic 08 19 2016 E Edition Page 11

A h, the smell of bratwurst at Lambeau Field, the return of Monday Night Countdown, the war of words between Packers, Lions, Bears and Vikings fans. Are you ready for some football? My hand is high in the air. Picking the Super Bowl champ is anything but simple. Personally, I think the Py- thagorean theorem is easier to igure out than this. But, hey, thats what makes it fun. (By the way, I picked Green Bay to beat Indianapolis in the Super Bowl last year. So, what do I know?) Ill cut to the chase. Your di- vision winners in the NFC will be Green Bay (North), Dallas (East), Carolina (South) and Arizona (West). The two NFC Wildcards will be Minnesota and Seattle. I have a sneaky hunch, however, that Tampa Bay, with second-year quarterback Jameis Winston, will fet a sniff of the postseason. The NFC champi- onship game will be Arizona against Green Bay, with (Im sorry Packer Backers, the typewriter made me do it) the Cardinals prevailing in des- ert shoot-out. The AFC? Well, in the North, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati will slug it out for the division crown, but when the dust settles, Cincinnati prevails. It probably wont matter anyway because the Bengals become the Bungles in the postseason. The AFC East will be (who else?) New England. As a long-suffering Dolphins fan, Im convinced coach Bill Belichick could insert Elmer Fudd at quarterback and theyd still win. The AFC West? In the first shock of this column, I'm picking the Raiders to dethrone the Broncos as division champs. Why? Well, they have solidly built through the draft and have some impact players on defense. Denver, with Mark Sanchez (real- ly?) at quarterback, is due to take a step back. In the AFC South, Houston and Indianapolis will be in a scrum to determine the division winner, and yes, 8-8 could win it. Watch out for Jack- sonville, which has quietly built a good team. The AFC championship game will be (I know Im going to regret this as I type these letters!) Cincinnati vs. New England. Cincy is due, and beleaguered coach Marvin Lewis deserves to get to the big game. Sooooo your Super Bowl will be Arizona vs. Cincy. When the final horn sounds and the confetti falls to the ground, Bruce Arians and the Cardinals will be your Super Bowl champ. A score? How about 31-26. There you have it. Trust me. Then again, may- be not LaJoie is a member of St. Paul Catholic Church in Negaunee. He welcomes reactions to his column at jlajoie@charter.net. www.upcatholic.org THE U.P. CATHOLIC BLACK AND BLUE August 19, 2016 11 FROM THE SIDELINES Jim LaJoie And the Super Bowl winner is... BY JIM LAJOIE THE U.P. CATHOLIC Do the words Titletown, Lombardi-esque, Starr and Lambeau ring a bell? If they dont, they should. The truth is, the NFC North is the Packers to lose. With veteran wideout Jordy Nelson back in the fold after a major knee injury and a slimmer Eddie Lacy gashing secondaries, the Packers are on course. A more in-depth look, shall we? GREEN BAY Aaron Rodgers is one of the leagues best. Adding free agent Jared Cook could be a catch at tight end. Defensively, nose tackle B.J. Raji takes a one-year hiatus, but the Pack drafted Kenny Clark out of UCLA to plug the hole. Safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Bur- nett are two of the league's finest. The Packers have one of the easiest schedules in the league and get three of their toughest opponents, Se- attle, Indianapolis and Dallas, at home. Record last year: 11-7. Prediction this year: 12-4. MINNESOTA The schedule-makers, those little men who lock themselves in a room and determine a teams fate, didnt do the Purple Men any favors. The Vikings open at Tennessee, play Green Bay at home, visit Carolina and then host the Giants and Texans before the bye week. The Vikings should have beaten Seattle in the NFC Wildcard Round last year. Quarter- back Teddy Bridgewater is on the rise and ten starters return on offense and 11 on defense. Record last year: 11-6. Prediction this year: 10-6 CHICAGO Da Bears, on the other hand, have a much easier schedule, with home games against Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Tennessee and San Francisco. Quarterback Jay Cutler played much more within himself last season and led the Bears to a road win over the Packers. Back Jeremy Langford out of Michigan State takes over for Matt Forte, who moved onto the Jets. The Bears are no pushovers. Record last year: 6-10. Prediction this year: 8-8. DETROIT The Lions biggest bugaboo last year was an inability to run the ball and stop the run. Has that changed? The Lions havent won a post- season game since 1991. Losing Calvin Meg- atron Johnson to retirement was a big blow. The Lions signed versatile receivers Marvin Jones and Anquan Boldin, but the fate of the team rests on the shoulders of quarterback Matthew Stafford. The good news? The Lions won six of their final eight games in 2015 and pushed the Pack in both games before losing. And, they have a defensive powerhouse in edge rusher Ziggy Ansah (14.5 sacks). Record last year: 7-9. Prediction this year: 7-9. The winner of the NFC North is...

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