Following in the footsteps of Wednesday’s NFC Preview, here is the AFC edition of my close friend Shakespeare’s NFL picks for the 2012 season. Well, maybe “close friend” is a bit strong considering we’ve only ever spoken through email. And since we’ve only ever talked about football wagers. Come to think of it, he might just be some weird dude claiming to be Shakespeare — having internet friends is kind of shady like that.
Regardless, the guy seems to know a lot about football. Here’s how he sees the AFC breaking down this year:
1. New England Patriots
“The devil hath power,
To assume a pleasing shape.”
Translation: Tom Brady. Bill Belichick. Loads of offensive weapons. The league’s easiest schedule. Like it or not, these perennial winners are likely bets to make yet another Super Bowl appearance. “God damn it,” sayeth the Bard.
2. Buffalo Bills
“Be great in act, as you have been in thought.”
Translation: The Bills made some headline-grabbing moves (does Buffalo even have newspapers? Or the printing press, for that matter?) this offseason, acquiring defensive force Mario Williams, as well as lineman Mark Anderson and cornerback Stephon Gilmore. The only question is whether Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick can play like he did the 1st half of last season rather than the second half. But our trusted ol’ playwright likes their chances, adding, “I’ve even got Fred Jackson on my fantasy team. I named them ‘The Iambic Pentameters.’” Well, alright then.
3. New York Jets
“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Translation: And that’s coming from a Jets fan (me, not Shakespeare — he claims he doesn’t have a favorite team and that he’s “just in this for the gambling.”)
4. Miami Dolphins
“Master, I marvel how the fishes live in the sea.”
“Why, as men do a-land; the great ones eat up the little ones.”
Translation: I think Shakespeare was trying to make some kind of strained fish/dolphin metaphor here, which only makes sense in light of the fact that I think he sent me these predictions after drinking all day (he’s kind of going through a thing right now). Regardless, the ill-equipped Dolphins, starting rookie QB Ryan Tannehill, and lacking identity and depth on both sides of the ball, are likely to be eaten up by the AFC East’s bigger fish.
1. Baltimore Ravens
“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”
Translation: The division title crown, that is, not the Super Bowl champion crown. Not that the winners of either the Super Bowl or the AFC North receive a crown. Either way, the point is that the Ravens have good reason to be uneasy after losing Terrell Suggs for the entire season, not to mention their aging D and O-line and Joe Flacco just being Joe Flacco. So, why does the Speare have the Ravens ousting the Steelers for the division title? “Two words: Ray Rice, bitch.” When I humbly noted that “Ray Rice, bitch” is actually 3 words, Shakespeare responded, “I’m the guy who wrote Hamlet. You’re the guy whose business is no longer welcome at White Castle. F—k off.”
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
“For you and I are past our dancing days.”
Translation: The Bard isn’t saying the Steelers are gonna be bad…hell, they’ll almost definitely make the playoffs again. But there’s an inescapable feeling that this particular incarnation of Wiz Khalifa’s black and yellow squad, anchored by a 30-year-old and oft-banged up Ben Roethlisberger, a 34-year-old James Harrison, and a 31-year-old and oft-banged up Troy Polamalu, as well as several other players on the wrong side of 30, might just be past their Super Bowl contention “dancin’ days.” Then again, when in doubt, just “move it like Bernie” and everyone will think you still got it.
3. Cincinnati Bengals
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts.”
Translation: The Bengals are just kind of there, so to speak. “Meh,” sayeth Shakespeare.
4. Cleveland Browns
“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”
Translation: And by Denmark, Shakespeare means Ohio. And by rotten, he means starting a 28-year-old rookie QB.
1. Houston Texans
“Give me my robe, put on my crown; I have Immortal longings in me.”
Translation: This brazen line goes to the Texans, who just may be the only team talented enough to knock off the Patriots in the AFC. Derailed last year by QB Matt Schaub’s foot injury, the Texans return an extremely deep offense (Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, Ben Tate, etc.) and a defense that remains potent despite losing DE Mario Williams. “Watch out for the Texans of Houston,” sayeth Shakespeare. “Now give me my robe — I have unsightly morning wood.”
2. Tennessee Titans
“If you can look into the seeds of time,
And say which grain will grow and which will not,
Speak then unto me.”
Translation: I think this was the Bard’s way of saying he’s not exactly sure what to expect from the Titans in 2012; either that or he wants me to help him out with the weed he’s trying to grow in his neighbor’s backyard. I can’t blame him for his uncertainty, though; it’s hard to know what we’re getting from young QB Jake Locker, erratic RB Chris Johnson, and troubled WR Kenny Britt.
3. Indianapolis Colts
“Fortune brings in some boats that are not steered.”
Translation: Get it, “fortune?” “Luck?” Andrew Luck? Ah, give the guy a freaking break; he’s been dead for like 400 years. Puns were really cool back then.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
“Nothing will come of nothing.”
Translation: Shakespeare sayeth that QB Blaine Gabbert is about as good as his name implies (i.e.: really, really crappy). Seriously though, his name is Blaine Gabbert? He sounds like the female lead on a CW show about teenage vampires.
1. Denver Broncos
“Boldness be my friend!”
Translation: In a sense, dumping the Jesus-powered sensation that was Tebow-mania for a 36-year-old quarterback whose had four neck surgeries was a pretty bold move (at least from a PR perspective). Then again, in other ways, it’s not so bold. For example, it’s not bold in the sense that Peyton Manning is the arguably the greatest QB of all-time, whereas Tim Tebow throws like a douche. Either way, Shakespeare disagrees with the many prognosticators that are counting out Manning and his new cronies — the Bard thinks Manning stays healthy this year, despite having a reconstructed neck built out of rubber bands and pipe cleaners.
2. San Diego Chargers
“Life is as tedious as twice-told tale,
Vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man.”
Translation: Seriously, is anybody else getting tired of the Chargers repeating the same season year-in and year-out? Every year they are favored to dominate a weak division and make a deep run into the playoffs, and every year they disappoint. They used to at least manage to win their lowly division before choking in the playoffs, but in the last two years they haven’t even managed a postseason berth. Although the Chargers added a lot of new players this offseason, Shakespeare recommends staying away as long as uninspiring head coach Norv Turner is still holding the reins.
3. Oakland Raiders
“Let me embrace thee, sour adversity,
For wise men say it is the wisest course.”
Translation: Shakespeare thinks embracing adversity might be a wise course for Raiders fans, as their team will face its share of struggles this season. At this point, QB Carson Palmer’s performance is more reminiscent of Carson Daly than Johnny Carson, and the defense is awfully shaky; repeating last season’s 8-8 record might be a best case scenario.
4. Kansas City Chiefs
“O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?”
Translation: Romeo Crennel, that is. “Whatever team you doth coach, I knoweth to wager against,” says Shakespeare.