We're looking at ways to further replicate the at-home experience in the stadium.That's from an NFL spokesman explaining why the league is directing all 32 teams to display real-time fantasy football stats at all home games this season. But there's nothing like the intense, emotional stadium experience itself;** it doesn't need enhancing. Fantasy football is more popular than FantasyLaw because the sport itself is so gripping, the games so rewarding to watch.
And tonight, after the lockout and the fantasy drafting and whatnot, football is back. We can sit back (or lean forward with great interest) and watch two very good football teams face each other tonight in Green Bay and New Orleans.
Half-assed predctions: in the AFC I see no reason not to expect New England, Pittsburgh, and Jets to return to the playoffs, with a healthy San Diego team dominating its division. If I have an AFC sleeper I guess it's Denver (Houston doesn't count anymore), but one of the traditionally dominant teams will return to the Super Bowl this year, and Buffalo, Jacksonville, Oakland and Miami will continue to disappoint. And I'm really going to miss Peyton Manning this year (I'm assuming the worst); the only QB in my lifetime against who you'd even consider going for it with the lead on 4th and 2 on your own 28 with two minutes to go and no timeouts, so fearful were the Patriots of what he could do from 70 yards away.
In the NFC, there's only one great team (Green Bay) and a lot of pretty damn good teams -- Philadelphia, New Orleans, Atlanta -- and several with a chance to rise up this year. I know Detroit and St. Louis are the sexy picks, but who says that Donovan F. McNabb doesn't have another few more good years left in Minnesota? I don't pretend to know whether my Eagles have fixed their offensive line sufficiently; all I know is that this is an Andy Reid team, and as in nine of the past eleven seasons I expect him to find a way into January, where anything is possible -- but mostly disappointment around here.
Welcome back, football. I missed you.
** This statement is not necessarily valid in Jacksonville.
*** Our suicide pool is still open. It may close at kickoff tonight; it may close Sunday. I don't know.