With the NFL season finally kicking off this week, we’re getting closer and closer to meaningful football being played. Over the past few months there have been thousands of hot takes and predictions, so we figured we’d hop on board with our own set of prognostications. In what turned out to be a painstaking process, we predicted the winner of all 256 regular season NFL games, with one slight modification…if the games were played by each team’s mascots. That’s right, we actually sat down and debated who would win in a hypothetical battle between a team full of actual Lions and whatever a Packer or Brown is.
Our methodology was simple – we didn’t have one. It was a completely subjective process that almost came to blows on multiple occasions. The most important takeaway is that we’re not technically looking at the team’s mascot per se, but more it’s namesake. For example, the Texans would theoretically be a team full of residents of the great state of Texas, not Toro the blue humanoid bull. We understand the absurdity of this, but hey, we’re passionate about football and the season is almost here. Go ahead, make fun, but when you use our picks to win your survivor pool this year, we expect a cut.
So, are you ready for some (theoretical) football?
Division Champs: Lions (13-3)
It should come as no surprise the king of the jungle took the division with ease this year. The Lions’ defense, working as a pride, hunted down every ball carrier they faced, and held opposing teams to an average of just 6 rushing yards per game. Their offense was once again unstoppable behind future Hall of Fame running back Simba. With his quick agility and top speed of 36 mph he was able to rush for an average of 869 yards…per game.
Half way through the season it appeared that the Lions divisional rivals from Chicago were going to capture the NFC North. The Bears handed the Lions one of their few losses and were 9-0 heading into mid-November. However, after looking very lethargic, and squeaking out a win against the Rams in Week 10, the entire team suddenly vanished. No sleuth could solve the mystery of what happened to the pack of bears, it was as if they went into hibernation.
Rounding out the division, the Vikings and the Packers both had their struggles. The Vikings, being of European descent, had trouble adapting to the American form of “football.” At the completion of the season, Vikings ownership filed a formal complaint to the competition committee demanding disciplinary action to the referee’s union for its blatant disregard of handball penalties.
It should be no surprise that a team that gets its namesake from a local meatpacking company ends up at the back of the pack. The Packers were simply outmatched competing in a division made up of some of the most powerful animals on the planet. Although they were last in record, they were certainly first in effort. As one of the most scrappy teams in the league, they tried every trick in the book, including the old “t-bone steak to distract a guard dog” play. Although both the Lions and Bears initially bit on the fake, in the end both teams proceeded to remind the Packers exactly where they sat in the food chain.
Division Champs: Panthers (12-3-1)
The Panthers put up a strong showing this season, edging out the Bucs for the top spot in the NFC South. Suffering only three losses and a rare tie, they dominated most of their opponents, as teams found it virtually impossible to contain their ground speed. In their few losses, the Panthers, who were normally the hunters, became the hunted when up against the weaponry of the Buccaneers and the arsenal of the Cowboys.
In the season opener, they faced the Jaguars in what turned out to be the most evenly matched game of the season. Being basically the same animal, the Jaguars and Panthers displayed very similar skill sets, quickness, and agility. Offensive speed became the key to both teams success throughout the season, but in this Week 1 grudge match, the game ended in a rare 0-0 tie, as both teams were shut down by the equally fast defense.
Scraping their way to the final Wild Card birth in the NFC, the Bucs proved any doubters wrong. Even though they were undisciplined – taking the most penalties of any team in the league – this band of misfits managed to steal a few games and ended their season winning six of their last seven.
In the rest of the division, the Saints and Falcons brought up the rear. While the Falcons can take solace in the fact that they are one the more powerful species in the avian genome, their schedule did them no favors by pitting them against a high number of weapon wielding humans and some really big cats. Early in the season the Cowboys and Texans shot holes through the Falcons defense, while later in the season the Panthers and the Jaguars made a meal out of the physically inferior birds of prey.
It would be assumed that the divinity of the Saints would have helped them fare better than their 2-14 record suggested, but due to certain obligations, the consistently abstained from playing in their Sunday match-ups. In a post season interview, Saints team captain Joe St. Joseph insisted the Saints were a better team than their record reflected. St. Joseph continued to claim that if they weren’t required to keep the Lord’s day holy, or the league moved games to Saturday, the Saints could not only win the Super Bowl, but they could do it with a pristine 16-0 record.
Division Champs: Cowboys (13-3)
Equipped with lassos, guns, and horses, the Cowboys were able to outpace the pack in the East. There is an intimidation factor that comes with playing in front of a Texas home crowd, and the Boys took full advantage of that on their way to a 7-1 record in Dallas. The pinpoint accuracy of their QB and their ability to wrangle running backs in the open field proved to be a winning combination for America’s Team.
The division predictably came down to the Cowboys and Redskins, and while we won’t get into historical specifics, the Redskins fell just short of the title as they were tied up in litigation for the rights to use their own name during a crucial Week 17 matchup in Arlington.
While the Eagles didn’t do enough to break .500, they were able to lay claim to the best record of the birds as they managed more wins than any of their fellow fowl. Of course, sitting in the same division of the sharp-shooting Cowboys can make you feel more like a sitting duck than a soaring eagle.
Vegas odds had the Giants pegged as early favorites, and you would think the they would be unstoppable given their towering namesake, but it turns out that being named after a baseball team doesn’t help much on the gridiron. That’s right, the G-Men were actually named after the baseball team that now resides in San Francisco (and that team was actually named after the giant buildings of New York, not Paul Bunyan). Their lone win of the season came in the Week 8 to a Saints team that was a no-show, literally.
Division Champs: 49ers (12-4)
If the 49ers could survive the American Frontier and the Wild West, it’s no surprise that the NFC West proved to be cake with no other team finishing over .500. Their campaign wasn’t all gravy, however, as every NFL season has a scandal or two. Although nothing was ever proven with hard evidence, empty gold pans were suspiciously found inside many officials locker rooms. Dubbed “Golden-gate,” the 49ers had an uncanny number of calls go their way during the year. While the NFL maintained that there were “more probably than not” improprieties, the Niners did not face any discipline from the league.
With their propensity for collisions, the Rams displayed impressive line play on both sides of the ball, but clearly lacked talent at the skill positions. Players frequently butted heads with coaches and referees, causing their play to suffer and penalty yards to pile up. As the season went on, concussion-related injuries became an epidemic, and eventually became the downfall for this hardheaded team.
The Seahawks and Cardinals dive-bombed into the bottom of the division as neither could claim “birds of prey” status. The Seahawks, who mainly survive on a diet of fish, weren’t scheduled to play the Dolphins this year and simply lacked the hunger that other teams displayed on the field.
As for the Cardinals, it’s no surprise that a team with an average weight of 1.7 ozs struggled to compete in a game that utilizes a ball that weighs 15 oz everywhere but New England. It’s just a simple matter of weight ratios. If it was an African swallow, maybe, but not a Cardinal.
Division Champs: Bengals (15-1)
Although the Bengals put up 15 wins, most critics claim they were the beneficiaries of a soft schedule. Not facing any natural predators and avoiding high powered hunters, they were able to breeze through the season relatively unscathed with the exception of Week 2. In their second game, the Bengals suffered their only loss as they were struck down by the lightning of the Chargers offense.
The rest of the division wasn’t able to do any better than a .500 record. Through pure grit and toughness, the Steelers captured a very blue-collar 8-8 record. The season was highlighted by a sweep of both the Colts and Broncos as their shipment of steel horseshoes was mysteriously rerouted prior to game time. Without proper footing, both the Colts and Broncos were helpless playing in subpar field conditions.
Ever seen Hitchcock’s The Birds? If so, it shouldn’t be surprising that the Ravens were able to claw out a few victories against squads made up of humans. Their undoing came from their lack of ground game and the fact that a flock of small birds, no matter how intimidating to the common man, is no match for Jaguars and Bengals.
Pulling up the rear, the Browns were only able to manage two wins. Taking the namesake of your first coach and GM (Paul Brown) will do wonders for preparedness and play-calling, but without the premier athletes of today’s NFL, their on-field performance landed them in the basement of the North.
Division Champs: Titans (16-0)
In the war of attrition that is the fake NFL season, no one could match the success of the Titans. As demi-gods playing their home games in the “Athens of the South,” the Titans glided to an undefeated season, much to the chagrin of Don Shula, Mercury Morris, and the rest of the 1972 Dolphins. According to Greek mythology, the only forces that were able to overthrow the Titans were the Olympians, and until the IOC recognizes American football as an Olympic sport, it might be a while before anyone challenges Tennessee for the throne.
The Jaguars secured a wild card spot in the playoffs with their respectable 11-4-1 record. Much like the Panthers, with top speeds hitting 40 mph, the Jaguars made it near impossible to contain their running game.
The Texans battled all year to grind out an 8-8 record. The lone star of the team was sack master Steve Austin, who ended the season with a stone cold 27 quarterback takedowns. When asked if he was disappointed about not making the playoffs, Austin replied with an emphatic, “HELL YEAH!” The Texans were able to capture a winning record in the comforts of NRG Stadium, but struggled on the road. The future of the team in the NFL is uncertain as rumors have surfaced that they are exploring options to secede from the NFL entirely to form it’s own league. Proven to be an extremely prideful breed, when reached for comment, a team official simply replied “Texas Forever.”
2015 wasn’t Indy’s year to say the least. By definition, Colts are young and inexperienced, and this year’s team showed that you truly do need a veteran presence to win in today’s NFL. The team showed growing pains after trading away their longtime leader to a fellow team of steeds and will look to rebound as they develop their budding talent.
Division Champs: Jets (13-3)
The Jets were among the best of the best, with their only hiccups coming from unfortunate mechanical issues – a delay on the runway that caused them to lose on a cross country trip to Oakland and a de-icing issue during a January game in Buffalo. All year they started games slow, only to fly past the competition in the second half of games. Their late arrivals can be attributed to delays in and out of JFK Airport which has commonly been described as the kryptonite to all forms of aviation.
The Dolphins were the most dominant home team in the league, going undefeated in Miami, but their road games proved to be a true fish-out-of-water situation. Going winless on the road, they swam through the season to just a 7-9 record as one of their “home” games was in London against the mighty Jets, in which they were blown out of the water.
The Patriots had high expectations coming into the season after a strong draft, but their spirits were deflated when they soon realized their offensive schemes were a bit outdated. In a close game against the Cowboys for the title of “America’s Team,” the Pats had a hard fought battle that simply came down to superior weaponry – six shooters always beat muskets. They were also undone by an Eagles team in which, out of respect, they couldn’t bring themselves to take a shot at the national emblem.
Bringing up the rear of the division, the Bills were consistently run out of town all season. With rumors swirling of their extinction and/or migration to Canada, they didn’t show as much fight as one would have expected from the once proud herd.
Division Champs: Raiders (10-6)
Another year, another Raiders controversy. Oakland couldn’t seem to shake their pirate nature; and even though they didn’t face-off on the field, they were accused of storming their Bay Area neighbors, the 49ers, looking to pillage their gold. The marauders were promptly apprehended and held on bail over the weekend, causing the team to miss it’s Week 11 game against the Cardinals. Even with the missed game, the Raiders seemed to embrace the controversy and use their loose morals to capture the West with ease.
Proving that it’s not just the local’s apathy that can cause a blackout, the Chargers started the season on a high note, defeating the Lions in the team’s first game at home. But because lightning never strikes the same place twice, they failed to win another game in San Diego all year. Nonetheless, they were an electrifying team to watch.
The Broncos were corralled twice by the Chiefs, but were able to buck the Vikings, who excel best at sea level. Speaking of the Chiefs, they finished with a winning record but succumbed to the trifecta of the Lions, Tigers (well, Bengals), and Bears. Oh my.
So there you have it, folks. An expertly outlined roadmap of how the 2015 NFL season would play out if played out by the physical manifestations of their team name. There was a lot of clawing and shooting and flying and even some packing. The results should make for some very interesting playoff matchups amongst teams still standing. Stay tuned…
Feature Image Photo Credit – USA Today