My pristine prognostications for NFL season

The onset of fall means cooler temperatures, changing leaves, and, yes, the stirring from its eight-month slumber of NFL football.
It will be the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots (those are painful words to say) and the Kansas City Chiefs squaring off tomorrow night to begin another five months or so of fuelled fan passions, gnashing of those same fans’ teeth, and a roller-coaster of highs and lows (some experiencing many more of the latter) for all 32 NFL teams.
I missed out doing pre-season predictions last year. There was no shame involved due to my lousy job of picking the previous season, we just didn’t have the editorial space. Really.
But what’s life without putting one’s reputation on the line once in a while?
Ergo, here are my pristine prognostications for how each of the eight divisions will turn out this year and a Super Bowl guess (er, prediction) as a bonus.
NFC East
1. New York Giants (11-5)–Eli Manning doesn’t need a running game if he can throw to Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall all day.
2. Dallas (8-8)–The Ezekiel Elliott cloud will hang thick over my ‘Boys all season.
3. Philadelphia (6-10)–Carson Wentz is not the real deal at quarterback and the defence is suspect.
4. Washington (4-12)–Kirk Cousins will be checking real estate prices in 31 other NFL cities as he plans his escape from D.C.
NFC North
1. Minnesota (10-6)–The Vikings will find the post-Adrian Peterson era a prosperous one.
2. Green Bay (9-7)–At some point, Aaron Rodgers is due to either have an off-year or be injured.
3. Detroit (7-9)–Nice shiny record-setting contract for Matthew Stafford–and still no signs of life in the Lions’ defence.
4. Chicago (3-13)–Good way to start off a bad year: sign a veteran pivot (Mike Glennon), then draft his replacement (Mitch Trubisky) three seconds later.
NFC South
1. Atlanta (12-4)–The Falcons lost a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl. Nobody will play angrier than this group all season.
2. Carolina (10-6)–Unstoppable two years ago. Terrible last year. Call it a “Cam-back,” as in QB Cam Newton.
3. New Orleans (8-8)–Drew Brees will not go down without a fight in the twilight of what has been a Hall-of-Fame career.
4. Tampa Bay (5-11)–The Bucs are media favourites this season. I’m not buying Jameis Winston as an elite signal-caller just yet.
NFC West
1. Seattle (9-7)–The Seahawks’ ‘D’ isn’t what it used to be but it’s still good enough to win this division.
2. Arizona (7-9)–David Johnson is as good as it gets as a running back but an aging Carson Palmer spells trouble.
3. San Francisco (5-11)–New head coach Kyle Shanahan will squeeze the most out of this sub-par bunch.
4. Los Angeles Rams (3-13)–QB Jared Goff could give former Raiders’ pivot JaMarcus Russell a run for his money as worst No. 1 overall pick ever.
AFC East
1. New England (14-2)–Speed-to-burn receiver Brandin Cooks joins the Patriots’ offence (because Tom Brady needed more weapons in his arsenal).
2. Miami (7-9)–Good Jay (Ajayi) meet bad Jay (Cutler). Enjoy your season together in the backfield.
3. Buffalo (5-11)–The Bills could be decent on defence but there’s not a feasible quarterback in sight due to injuries.
4. New York Jets (1-15)–Sure, the Jets are not tanking for next year’s No. 1 overall pick. And I’m voting for Trump in the next election.
AFC North
1. Pittsburgh (12-4)–The best offence in the division by a mile and now All-Pro Joe Haden as a starting cornerback. Everyone else can go home.
2. Baltimore (9-7)–The defence is losing its bite and Joe Flacco is running out of time to prove he wasn’t a one-season wonder.
3. Cincinnati (8-8)–Andy Dalton will remain inconsistent and the Bengals again will find interesting ways to lose football games.
4. Cleveland (0-16)–The Browns, in a move that will elicit applause from the rest of the league, will out-tank the Jets. A rookie QB starter? Yikes.
AFC South
1. Tennessee (10-6)–A healed Marcus Mariota is the best passer in this division. People will “Remember the Titans” before season’s end.
2. Houston (7-9)–J.J. Watt is an amazing linebacker and humanitarian. He cannot, however, play quarterback–and neither can anyone else on this roster.
3. Indianapolis (5-11)–The health of Andrew Luck makes or breaks the Colts this season–and I hear a distinct splintering sound.
4. Jacksonville (3-13)–Because until the Jaguars accept that Blake Bortles is not an NFL-calibre pivot, this will be their fate every season.
AFC West
1. Oakland (13-3)–Derek Carr is back and more dangerous than ever behind centre, especially with a revitalized Marshawn Lynch right behind him in the backfield.
2. Denver (10-6)–Von Miller is too good and too proud a linebacker to let the Broncos miss the playoffs two years in a row.
3. Kansas City (8-8)–The Chiefs will hang around in most games this year but Alex Smith doesn’t really scare anybody as a quarterback.
4. L.A. Chargers (3-13)–Move cities. Switch jerseys. Doesn’t matter. Nothing changes. The Chargers are still also-rans.
Super Bowl pick: N.Y. Giants over Pittsburgh Steelers
Guest Super Bowl pick from former Times’ sports reporter and now Chronicle-Journal sports editor Reuben Villagracia: San Francisco over Cleveland (just to be unique).