- Rick Reilly, Columnist, ESPN.com
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Screw the holidays. The most wonderful time of the year is now.
No more pretending you love scrapbooking. Football is here. Pro, college, lingerie. Doesn't matter. Let the torrid affair between you and your remote begin.
And I'll bet you a diamond to a doughnut that
The New Orleans Saints will win it all. You haven't noticed? They won the offseason. QB Drew Brees' practice sessions were more organized than the Raiders' ever are. Plus, they added Heisman Trophy winner and soon-to-be NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year Mark Ingram. Telling you, this kid is going to go through defenses like they are piles of Gillette Foamy. Plus, they've rid themselves of the What Stupid Trick Play Can We Come Up With to Get Reggie Bush Some Yardage? migraine. Hey Drew, get your son's headphones ready.
The Green Bay Packers will play in the NFC Championship Game and lose, causing jammed suicide prevention lines in Wisconsin. The New England Patriots will get nothing out of Albert Haynesworth, not to mention Chad Ochocinco, who will be dismissed by Bill Belichick when he shows up on the sideline in his hoodie. The Eagles will collapse under their own weight. The Jets will make it to the AFC Championship Game, only to lose to the San Diego Chargers, causing Mark Sanchez and Rex Ryan to fight.
Grub's, the best college bar in America, will nearly come unhinged when Arkansas wins the BCS national championship over Oklahoma. It's the first national title for Arkansas since 1964, when it went undefeated under Frank Broyles. (Yet Alabama, which lost its bowl game to Texas that year, still claims it as theirs. Whoa, Tide!) Anyway, chili cheese fries for everybody!
Andrew Luck will wish he'd gone pro. This never works, hoping you can top one ticker-tape season with one even better. (See: Leinart, Matt, 2005). Luck was hot as a waffle iron last season and could've signed for upwards of $25 million. After the come-down season he's about to have, he'll sign for around $15 million. That's a $10 million hit. You love your school. We get that. But $10 million would buy a load of lab beakers.
The Cincinnati Bengals will go 0-16. I don't see how they can beat anybody -- in the WAC. Rookie QB Andy Dalton has a very good chance to be in ICU halfway through the year. It's possible the Bengals could be the first team in fantasy football history to not have a single player drafted by anybody in America. You could take RB Cedric Benson, I guess, but does your league give points for misdemeanors?
Wisconsin will win the Big Ten. Do you realize the Badgers' offensive line this year will weigh about 1,600 pounds? That's more than the max payload of a 2008 Toyota Tundra. It's also about 80 pounds more than the Green Bay Packers' offensive line. That's a sixth grader more. They will cut down everything in the conference like wheat threshers. Welcome to the adult dinner table, Nebraska.
Peyton Manning will keep his streak alive. If you think he's going to miss a start because of a neck problem, you've been chugging paint thinner. This guy hasn't missed a start since 1994 at Tennessee. Do you know how long ago it was when Manning didn't start for the Colts? Google was two days old. Kim Kardashian was 17. Russell Crowe was skinny! If Manning doesn't start Game 1, I will come to your house and eat things that are stuck in your carpet.
The stupid new NFL kickoff rule will cause more injuries, not less. As teams get behind in the fourth quarter, they're going to need a fumble, not another touchback. With the kickoff coming from the 35, they can afford to pooch it up high, leaving the poor return man standing at the 10, staring up into the sky, while 250-pound gunners come flying at him like runaway Blackhawk blades. What's he going to do, call a fair catch at the 10 and take crap the rest of his natural life? No, he's going to try to return it and wind up looking through his helmet earhole at the bottom of his own foot. Get that rule outta here.
LaMichael James will win LaHeisman. The Oregon RB will run for a preposterous 2,500 yards -- 3,000 all-purpose -- and still won't have the season Boise State QB Kellen Moore will have. Which is part of the reason
A Boise State fan will file a lawsuit. It will charge competitive bias. It will say that if the Blue Man Group can no longer wear their blue uniforms on their blue turf, how come Oregon can wear green uniforms on its green turf? The lawsuit will lose by a vote of 2-1 in the Oregon Superior Court, because Boise State never wins anything when a vote is involved.
Denver Broncos LB Von Miller will lead the league in sacks. When's the last time a rookie did that? Never. But Detroit DT Ndamukong Suh will win The Associated Press' MVP award, despite charges that he's dirty. The last defensive player to do that? Lawrence Taylor, 1986. People thought he was dirty, too. Best headline? Detroit Free Press: "You don't like MVP? So Suh."
Once again, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell won't suspend a soul for helmet-to-helmet hits, which is the only way to save players like Pittsburgh LB James Harrison from themselves. Will Harrison be grateful? No. After ringing up $125,000 in fines, he'll tweet, "How can I appeal my fine to the very guy who gave it to me?" It's the only tweet Harrison will ever send that makes sense or is spelled correctly.
Justice will go begging in Miami. The SugarCanes will get a crummy three years probation and lose 30 scholarships, but not the death penalty. And yet this is a program that trades on its outlaw image, a school that attracts recruits with it, a place that shrugs off cheating with "It's a Cane Thing." The death penalty? That's a sane thing, but Miami will skate because the NCAA can't afford to lose that much TV money.
Somebody will post on an Alabama fan site that stud RB Trent Richardson may miss the year with Poster-Trapp Syndrome. Then they're going to find out there's no such disease. It was a ruse. CUT TO: Nick Saban, laughing for the first time in recorded history.
They will be the Los Angeles Riders. Doesn't matter what NFL team the Anschutz Group gets to move to Los Angeles, that will be the name. Names that were not picked: Oscars, Quakes, Cougars, Anaheim Rams of Los Angeles, Gaffers, Best Boys, Bombas, Limos and Lohans. Why Riders would be playing at a place called Farmer's Field, nobody knows. Maybe they're on the tractor.
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Rick Reilly is the 11-time National Sportswriter of the Year. He contributes essays and commentary to "SportsCenter" and ESPN/ABC golf and tennis coverage. He's also the host of "Homecoming," ESPN's unique, one-hour interview show set in the hometowns of legendary athletes. For more Rick, check out the archive.
Feel like taking a detour from sane sports? Try Rick's latest book, "Sports from Hell."