LAYING OVER AT JFK -- OK. Before I inflame a few more passions, the answer to the golf over-under I posed in Monday Morning Quarterback: one. I put one tee shot in the drink from the 17th tee at the TPC Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., at the annual Tom Coughlin/Jay Fund benefit golf outing. I stink at golf anyway, but this was the big time, and I really wanted to hit one good shot on a waterlogged day. I used one of those hybrid clubs, swung soft, hit it pin-high -- but 10 feet to the right of the island. Plunk. Good thing our fivesome didn't have to use my tee shot in the team format on that one.
So here I am, reading your reactions to the NFL power rankings in MMQB. Interesting. Remember we're talking about the NFL, where of late there's been more than 50 percent turnover in the playoff teams and division winners annually. Want a nice, logical, sensible 1 through 32? OK. Top four: New Orleans, Indianapolis, Minnesota, New York Jets. Then Baltimore, San Diego, Dallas, maybe. How's that sound? Let's just take last year's standings, Xerox them, and run them.
Every year five or six teams surprise us all. Pittsburgh went from the Super Bowl to a five-game losing streak, including an infamous egg-laying in Cleveland. The Bengals went from four wins to beating the Steelers and Ravens, Tennessee from 13 wins to an 0-6 start, New Orleans from .500 to hoisting the Super Bowl trophy. Stuff happens, and all I do in my 1-32 every year is take an educated guess at what that stuff might be. Some of you were not pleased with this year's attempt, or entertained, judging by your reactions.
• I'M WRONG ABOUT THE VIKINGS. From Patrick Reep of Eagan, Minn.: "You wrote: 'The Vikings have an offensive line in decline...' Really? John Sullivan (center) is in his third season and Phil Loadholt (tackle) is in his second. Steve Hutchinson, who is coming off surgery for his shoulder after playing hurt all season, should be back to his dominating self. Declining? Interesting."
All you can do is go by what you've seen, and what I've seen of that line worries me. Let's look at the run game in the last three years:
I also thought the line leaked a lot late in the year. Brett Favre got the tar beat out of him at Carolina, then at New Orleans in the championship game. For a line that's supposed to be the strong suit on the team, it didn't play like that last year.
• I'M WRONG ABOUT THE BEARS. From Tim of Chicago: "Hey, thanks Peter. With your insightful prediction of the Bears finishing last in the NFC North this upcoming season, I can rest assured that they will be a playoff team this year.''
• I'M WRONG ABOUT THE COWBOYS. From Sergio of San Francisco: "You put the Cowboys at 10? We are talking about a final eight team that finished with the number two offense in the league and added a dynamic WR. All the starters outside of two are returning to a veteran team. Maybe you should spend more time researching the Cowboys and less time on the amount of foundation make-up used.''
I came close to picking the Cowboys higher. That was a tough call. But the NFC East is a revolving door, and I think the reason no one is thinking about the Giants being any good is because of their defensive collapse last year. If they didn't have the defensive injuries, they'd have been a lot closer to their 12-win selves that they were in 2008. We'll see. I think the Cowboys and the Giants will both win in double-digits.
• I'M WRONG ABOUT THE CHARGERS. From Roger of Phoenix: "Why does it seem like every year you come out and proclaim that the Chargers are one of the best teams in the NFL? I agree talent-wise they are in the top five, but year in and year out they underachieve and fail to rise to the occasion where it matters most, the playoffs. I think somebody needs to expose these frauds. I put them at number 11. They'll win the AFC West (big whoop) and get bounced out of the playoffs early again this year.''
I think this is the year Philip Rivers plays great in January, and he has the weapons to win it all. I worry most about Nate Kaeding, quite frankly. If he continues to be a head case in big games, the Chargers have to change kickers.
• I'M WRONG ABOUT THE BENGALS. From Matt of Cincinnati: "I am sure you are going get this e-mail from every fan whose team is not No. 1, but why put the Bengals so low? This is a team that went UNDEFEATED in the AFC North last year and has gotten better. I agree, Baltimore has had a great off-season and probably deserves its spot. But the Steelers are without their QB for 4-6 weeks and are a mess. Why no love?''
As I said, I'm worried about Carson Palmer. He looked like a shell of himself late last year -- in fact, he struck me the wrong way for much of the season after his five-touchdown shredding of the Bears. Cincinnati averaged 6.3 wins a year for the three years before last season. After watching how shaky they were in the playoff debacle against the Jets, I'm not convinced they've permanently turned the corner.
• I'M WRONG ABOUT THE PATRIOTS. From Rory of Augusta, Me.: "Keep on hating the Patriots, Peter. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady thrive on being underdogs and not getting respect from writers like you. This will motivate this team all season. See you in Dallas.''
You know, I was just thinking about how unfair I've been to the Patriots. I always look for the worst in them, like the two times in the past four years I've picked them to make the Super Bowl.
• I'M WRONG ABOUT THE TITANS. From Abigail of Clarksville, Tenn.: "Tennessee at 27? You'll be sorry.''
Are you Vince Young's mother?
• AND A GOOD DAY TO YOU TOO, SIR. From John of Kill Devil Hills, N.C.: "I just read your column and I was wondering how someone so stupid got a job writing for Sports Illustrated?''
Hmmmmm. I think it's because I did really well on my SAT in high school.
• OCCASIONALLY. From Scott of Vandalia, Ohio: "Do you even watch football?''
Come to think of it, I haven't seen an NFL game in three months.