When I was writing hockey cards for the Upper Deck Company (Full disclosure: Although I was the “hockey editor” at UD for over a year, my knowledge of the sport is, at best, limited. I know a ton of facts, such as ... "Ilya Kovlachuk is the only NHL player to net at least 40 goals in each of the last four seasons." Things that fit on the back of a card. But I don’t have a feel for the game at all) there was one player who I never had trouble writing about.
Who? Just another forward for the Canadiens. But what made him unique was this -- he’s the only player in NHL history to wear the number 84. That is a perfect hockey card fact. I’m forever grateful to him for putting on that sweater and making my job a little easier. So, in honor of Guillaume Latendresse, here are the 84…
Jon Kitna will throw more TD passes than either quarterback in NY. (He’ll toss 26, Favre 24 and Eli 20.)
The Jets will be better but miss the playoffs with an 8-8 record.
Edgerrin James will be a more productive fantasy running back than Laurence Maroney, who will once again agonize those who drafted him far too high.
Jason Witten will not just top all tight ends in catches, he will seriously threaten Tony Gonzalez’s single-season mark for the position (102).
Final numbers for Darren McFadden? Six hundred and sixty-eight yards rushing on 152 carries, 36 catches for 288 yards. He’ll be a first-round pick in 2009 drafts.
Just about everyone will pick New England in Week 1 of his or her suicide pool, taking the best team out of the mix for the rest of the season.
A good Week 2 bet in the same league is Seattle hosting San Francisco.
Oh, and Kitna will out-perform both Ben Roethlisberger and Carson (“Iceberg, Straight Ahead) Palmer in 2008.
Only four QBs have thrown for over 4,000 yards the past two seasons. And three (Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Kitna) will do it again in 2008. Carson Palmer will be left out.
The Coen brothers get a free pass for the next five movies after “No Country For Old Men”, a stone cold all-timer. But “Burn After Reading” will be a miss. Whenever they get huge stars (Tom Hanks in “The Ladykillers”, Clooney in “Intolerable Cruelty”) they whiff. That streak’ll continue.
The three AFC QBs for the Pro Bowl? Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Jay Cutler.
For the NFC? Drew Brees, Tony Romo and Jon Kitna.
Marvin Lewis will be the only coach to get fired during the season. He’ll wind up swapping places with Ron Meeks, who will leave as defensive coordinator of the Colts for his first head-coaching job (after the playoffs). I put 7/26 as the over/under for the first Peter King “Marvin Lewis is finally at peace” story.
At some point during every Colts game that Dan Dierdorf works we will hear the following: “Talked to Tony Dungy last night. What a nice, nice man.”
NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year? Matt Forté (1,650 yards of total offense for a lousy team
NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year? Jerod Mayo.
Chester Taylor will get more carries in Minnesota than Adrian Peterson, who will miss at least six games with various injuries.
Ricky Williams will be productive at times, but not nearly consistent to be an every-week play.
Ronnie Brown will also have his moments, but 2009 will be his season to bounce back.
The Dolphins will, in fact, have no every-week players in the lineup.
The original “90210” ran for 10 seasons. The new “90210” will fall nine seasons short. Why? Here’s a simple formula I find works in every situation: No Brandon Walsh, no success.
Michael Turner will prove to be an every-down back in Atlanta, rushing for over 1,200 yards for an improved (but still not good) Falcons squad.
Turner will help Matt Ryan, who will start all 16 games for the Falcons. He’ll struggle at times, but will pass for 3,000 yards and 17 TDs (with 22 picks). He could be a starting fantasy signal-caller in 2009.
Jeremy Shockey will catch more passes than Antonio Gates.
Ray Rice will be the starting back in Baltimore by Week 8.
LaDainian Tomlinson will lead the AFC in rushing with 1,468 yards. Right behind him? Marshawn Lynch with 1,388.
Greg Jennings will see his value plummet as he struggles with Aaron Rodgers, catching just 4 TD passes (12 in 2007).
Marvin Harrison will make a smooth transition to the number two role in Indy, catching 72 passes for 1,084 yards and six TDs.
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band will play at Super Bowl XLIII. The setlist? "Badlands", "Dancing in the Dark", a new single from a 2009 release and "Born to Run". Sorry, diehards, no “The Price You Pay" or "Incident" on that night.
Someone in your fantasy league will panic after Week 1 and make a horrendous trade. My nominee for that player to be dealt is a shocker-Peyton Manning. With all the injury rumors and a tough matchup vs. the Bears (plus no Jeff Saturday), I can see a three-pick opener. Someone will offer Carson Palmer and Jonathan Stewart and get it done, prompting eight protests and a blizzard of hate email.
Santonio Holmes will not take the top spot away from Hines Ward in 2008. The two will basically match catch totals this season, driving Holmes' owners crazy.
This is year when we find out that Julius Jones just isn't very good. Maurice Morris will lead the Seahawks in carries and rushing yards.
AFC Pro Bowl starters at WR? Randy Moss and Reggie Wayne.
NFC starters? Terrell Owens and Calvin "15 TDs. Book it." Johnson.
Baseball? Sox land in the Wild Card spot, losing to the Angels in five. The Rays knock off the Twins in four. Tampa gets past Anaheim in six before bowing out in a seven-game classic to Milwaukee. World Series MVP? Ben Sheets.
The Yankees finish 88-74. Hank stews. Hello C.C. and Tex.
In Week 1, Jim Nantz will try way too hard when reading a promo for “Worst Week”. (Worst Week is a perfect example of what I call the "Tell Me What The Fourth Episode of Season Three Is About” rule. I get the concept. It's not going well for the guy. Okay. Works for the pilot. How about after that?)
The top-ranked kicker in fantasy football in 2008 will be Stephen Gostkowski.
The NFL Defensive Player of the Year will be Patrick Willis.
Adalius Thomas will finish second in the voting after a 90-tackle, 10-sack season.
Rashard Mendenhall and Felix Jones will perform well in their rookie seasons, but neither will get enough carries to warrant fantasy attention.
Kerry Collins will replace a struggling Vince Young as the starting QB in Tennessee.
Mickey Rourke (yep, that Mickey Rourke) will land an Oscar nomination for his lead performance in Darren Aronosfky’s “The Wrestler”.
After a 34-24 road win over the Colts to move to 8-0, the Patriots will have to deal with Shula, Morris and history once again.
A Week 14 loss in Seattle, however, will end the chase.
With the top seed in the AFC clinched, they will rest Brady and lose at Buffalo in the regular season finale to finish 14-2.
A healthy Jake Delhomme will throw for 3,800 yards and 25 TDs, leading the Panthers to a 10-6 record and playoff berth.
Those Tom Brady or Peyton Manning owners who drafted Delhomme as a bye-week option will be rewarded in Week 4 as he throws for 310 yards and a trio of TDs in a 27-17 win over Atlanta.
Jeff Garcia will be a solid backup (and fill-in starter) for any fantasy owner.
The Bears will switch between Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman several times as the club struggles to a 5-11 mark.
Reggie Bush and Brian Westbrook will each catch 88 passes to pace all NFL running backs.
Westbrook will also top the league in yards from scrimmage for the second straight season with 2,124.
Vernon Davis will build on his strong 2007 finish (45 catches in his final 10 games) with a 65-reception season in 2008.
When Jeremy Shockey declines his Pro Bowl invitation, Davis will join Jason Witten as an NFC Pro Bowl tight end.
The AFC Pro Bowl tight ends? Tony Gonzalez and Kellen Winslow.
I will shake my head every week during Monday Night Football and think, “Remember, he really is great on Pardon the Interruption”.
DeSean Jackson will emerge as the NFL’s top return man (that’s right, better than Devin Hester) and also catch 60 passes for the Eagles.
Donovan McNabb (a combined 37-13 TD/INT mark in 2006 and 2007) will once again miss some time in 2008, but will be on the field enough to help the Eagles net a Wild Card spot in the NFC (10-6 record). McNabb’s numbers in 14 games? 3,150 yards and 18 TDs. When he is healthy he will be an every-week start.
There will be (at a minimum) two players who went undrafted in your league who will finish among the top 25 overall in scoring (see Derek Anderson and Ryan Grant in 2007).
One of those players could turn out to be Steve Slaton, who will take over the Texans lead running role early in the season.
Rudi Johnson will not last the season in Detroit and will never make a major impact in an NFL game again.
The Jaguars will win 11 games but once again fail to deliver a number one fantasy wide receiver.
The Giants most productive back will continue to be the one who gets the fewest carries-Ahmad Bradshaw.
Larry Fitzgerald will once again catch 100 passes.
So will Brandon Marshall, despite missing the opening contest.
The Ravens will stick with Joe Flacco for most of the season, hurting the value of Derrick Mason, who will not come close to matching his 103-catch total of 2007.
“Mad Men” will continue to be the best show on television. Don Draper (or Dick Whitman?) has already joined Tony Soprano and John Locke as the best TV characters of the last decade.
Though his performance in the postseason last year would suggest otherwise, Eli Manning will miss Jeremy Shockey over the course of a full season. Kevin Boss will catch 35 passes as the club’s top tight end.
Dwayne Bowe will reach the 70-catch total for the Chiefs again in 2008, not an insignificant total for an offense that will be among the NFL’s worst.
Larry Johnson will miss time with assorted injuries and fail to reach 1,000 yards on the ground.
AFC Division Winners: Patriots, Steelers, Colts, Chargers
AFC Wild Card: Jaguars, Broncos
AFC Title Winner: Patriots over Colts (24-17)
NFC Division Winners: Cowboys, Vikings, Seahawks, Panthers
NFC Wild Card: Eagles, Saints
(Yup. No Giants. Classic hangover season.)
NFC Title Game: Cowboys over Seahawks (35-17).
Super Bowl XLIII: Patriots over Cowboys (24-21).
Super Bowl MVP: Wes Welker (could’ve been two in a row).
Regular Season MVP: Tom Brady, who will just miss becoming the first player in NFL history to pass for over 40 TDs in back-to-back seasons (he’ll toss 38).
Brian Westbrook will be a very close second in the MVP voting.
The biggest bust of the 2008 fantasy season will be Adrian Peterson (who will play well when healthy, but will not be on the field nearly enough to justify a top-three pick).
The biggest fantasy surprise of 2008? Jay Cutler emerging as a top-five quarterback.
And on a final, non-football note, Obama wins the popular vote 52% to 46% and the electoral vote 301-237.
Good luck in Week 1.