5-at-10: AFC preview, 5 SEC things to watch and the Fab 4-plus-1 picks

5-at-10: AFC preview, 5 SEC things to watch and the Fab 4-plus-1 picks

September 5th, 2013 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

From the "Talks too much" studios, he hates these cans.

NFL preview, part II

The NFL starts tonight.

It starts with Peyton Manning and the Broncos opening the season as the NFL favorite to win the whole thing. A second Super Bowl - which would match his younger brother's total - would lift Manning's profile among the game's all-time All Timers.

That said, the questions surrounding this Denver team are fair and legitimate. But Denver's in the AFC, and for the first time in a long time, the AFC is nowhere near as stout as the NFC, which has five teams that are at least the Broncos equal.

Here is our best guess for the AFC playoff shakedown:

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18). (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

1) Denver - We're not crazy about the Broncos like Vegas is - Denver is a 6-to-1 pick to win the Super Bowl and Peyton Manning is a 5-to-1 pick to be the MVP; each is the favorite according to pregame.com - but they seem a lock to have the AFC's best record because they play in the West. That should be good for 6-0 in the division off the top.

2) Patriots - This feels like a big-time season for the Pats. All the drama. All the questions. All the Tebow. Wait never mind that last one. (Side note: Not since Pontius Pilate has someone washed their hands of a situation the way Bob Kraft did with the whole Tebow situation.) Somewhere in Foxboro, Bill Belichick is smiling because of the way circumstances have galvanized this team.

3) Houston - The Texans could be higher if Arian Foster is full speed. That said, the window for this team feels like it's starting to close, especially since Andre Johnson is 32 years old.

4) Cincy - The Bengals could have the league's best young roster. Whether Andy Dalton is ready to take the next step is the big question.

5) Indy - A forgiving schedule and the game's best young QB add up to the Colts making a run. If you re-drafted the NFL right now, Andrew Luck would be the No. 2 overall pick behind Aaron Rodgers.

6) Kansas City - Here's saying the Chiefs flip the script from 2-14 to the playoffs, Andy Reid is the coach of the year and quarterback Alex Smith is the leading contender for comeback player of the year.

AFC player of the year: Tom Brady, New England quarterback

AFC defensive player of the year: J.J. Watt, Houston defensive end

AFC coach of the year: Andy Reid, Kansas City.

Feel free to weigh in.

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Fab 4-plus-1 picks

Well, how about that start? Five-and-bagel. Not too shabby. And here's hoping your entertainment bank roll got a slew of cushion to start the season.

We also must throw out a tip of the cap to Izod, who makes his weekly picks on SportTalk on 102.3 on Wednesday afternoons. Izod, who joins Quake and the Good Doctor - he is a Doctor after all - and Cowboy Joe, started his week 1-0 last week and tossed out an intriguing pick of over the 56 in the Tennessee-Western Kentucky game.

We looked long and hard at that game, and while we like his pick, the five we choose this week are testaments to a few things we have learned about gambling.

One, realize you are picking games to pick winners, not to enhance the enjoyment of watching the game. If you are doing it for the juice and because the game is on TV, well, that's how Vegas builds really fancy buildings. There's a real chance we won't watch a single moment of any of the five games we picked this week. In a perfect world, you make your pick, check the final score and cash the entertainment vouchers.

Secondly, and we believe this as a rule, when a line looks too good to be true it almost always is. That's why we stayed away from UT-WKU, Miami-Florida and even Auburn-Arky State. All of those lines looked too good. Know that Vegas knows more than you and try to pick humbly. You have to play this game with fear and arrogance.

Here we go:

Duke minus-5 at Memphis: David Cutcliffe does work with less talent than most. And when he can face a team with similar talent, we like our chances.

Oregon minus-21 at Virginia: The Ducks and UCLA are going to be our go-to teams this year. Well, at least until they give us reason not to.

Arizona minus-10 at UNLV: Hunch pick here because the Wildcats score a ton of points and have a first-round NFL running back. UNLV had Larry Johnson and Randall Cunningham.

Cincy minus-7 at Illinois: Illinois surrendered more than 400 yards to Southern Illinois last week. Cincy thumped Purdue. Illini meet Munchie Legaux, Munchie, meet the Illini.

UNC minus-17 vs. MTSU: Here's this week's gem from combing the lines. This is the one that feels like a 52-20 game and never the 'twain shall meet.

Last week: 5-0

Season: 5-0

And remember gang, these picks are for entertainment purposes only and past performance is not an indicator of future results. Enjoy.

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Five SEC things to look for this weekend

As will be our Thursday ritual around these parts, we'll have 5 SEC things to watch on Thursday.

Let's cut the small talk and get cracking.

1) Season on the line in Athens. The Georgiua fan base is on pins and needles. A hair-splitting, finger-nail-biting, 38-35 loss to Clemson last week, leaves the Bulldogs facing a South Carolina team this week with the real chance that a loss means the season's championship goals are done in eight days. If South Carolina manages to pull out a 'W' maybe Mark Richt and Co. can schedule Wofford for a third-place in the Palmetto State game.

2) Western Kentucky looking for a 2-0 start in the SEC East. You know how when someone is underrated and then everyone talks about how they are underrated to the point that they become overrated. That's the turn of Western Kentucky this week, you know? After pasting Kentucky last week, everyone is calling this an upset special. Well, everyone other than the folks in Vegas, who build really fancy buildings for gamblers because of games like this one. That said, you know the Tennessee talent base is depleted when Johnny Vols Fans are legitimately worried because a 5-foot-7 white wide receiver may not play.

3) Miami-Florida, who's blowing Sunshine. The Hurricanes have the edge on offense, especially with running back Duke Johnson's big-play ability. The Gators are content playing rugged and slow. (Side note: Who came up with the word smash mouth? We prefer the old Fat Albert character Mush Mouth personally.) Miami quarterback Stephen Morris will decide this one. If he protects the ball, the Hurricanes will be tough to handle.

4) The Malzahn Bowl. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn and the Tigers face the team he coached to the Sun Belt Conference title last year. Both teams look to run the ball - a lot. And amazingly, of the talented runners on the field - and after one week, there are six players in this one with more than 70 rushing yards - the highest-ranked runner coming out of high school is Arkansas State back David Oku. Yes, that David Oku, who was the nation's top-ranked all-purpose back when he signed with Lane Kiffin and the Vols those many moons ago.

5) Missouri as a darkhorse in the SEC East. OK, the Tigers thumped Murray State 58-14 and churned up a whisker shy of 700 yards of offense. Open up and insert cupcake joke here. Saturday, the Tigers face a Toledo team that frustrated Florida in the Swamp last week. Dazzle us against Rockets, Mizzou, and then we'll talk about potential darkhorse possibilities.

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This and that

Tennessee players (left to right) Gerald Jones, Marsalis Teague, Ben Martin, Steven Fowlkes, and Chris Walker, sing "If I ever fall in love again," by Shai during the 2009 Vols annual media day.

Photo by Patrick Smith/Times Free Press.

- Great reporting from TFP ace Judy Walton here on the concussion lawsuit filed against the NCAA by former UT football players Ben Martin and Chris Walker. This comes on the heels of the NFL settling a $765-million class action suit brought by former players on similar grounds. This will be a long and detailed process that will play out over the next few years. Or decades.

- From the rich getting richer file, Alabama landed the nation's best high school football tackle prospect. Yawn. Saban is machine; machine is Saban. Kneel before Zod.

- Brian Urlacher confirmed the long-suspected knowledge that teams have a "dive" guy to fall down and slow down fast-paced offenses. Pretty sneaky sis. Unless you are the Georgia player that Mark Richt said, "Yeah, he got hit in his privates real hard." (Richt was quoting Shakespeare there, right Spy?)

- Bill Nye the science guy is on Dancing with the Stars. Bill Nye is competing against Snooki. Only in America.

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Today's question

Feel free to offer any of your weekend picks.

And remember the mailbag... we have a slew of open spots as of right now.

If you need a talking point, let's try this:

Tonight, Peyton Manning opens the season against Joe Flacco.

If you take sentiment out of it for a slew of us, where does Peyton rank among all-time QBs?

Discuss.