This edition uses foreign-born actresses, the next division will use foreign-born actors, and the final one will probably be using comedians. Again, I did the NFC East yesterday, and you can find the AFC previews here.
1. St. Louis Rams (Salma Hayek) – One-dimensional in recent years, but always an attractive selection to bring some heat to the screen and the field. It’s not a question of whether the Rams’ offense will produce; it’s whether or not the defense can actually make a stop or two. If they can, then Marc Bulger, Torry Holt, and Steven Jackson can tear it up without fear.
2. Seattle Seahawks (Kate Beckinsale) – Kind of under the radar now, despite prior good work. The season hinges on Shaun Alexander’s foot, and if it’s actually healed, since trading away Darrell Jackson cut down the looks they could use at wide receiver, and they had no picks in the first round to fill holes in the draft. Matt Hasselbeck has the same injury concerns. Fortunately, their fellow teams in the conference don’t do a hell of a lot in terms of defense — but a skinny secondary will leave them open in a division with teams that like passing.
3. Arizona Cardinals (Penelope Cruz) – Always worthy of a double take with the figure and the content, but fails to break through on the level expected (Cruz has retreated back to Almodovar films, still great, but didn’t measure into the U.S. hype.) Having Matt Leinart and receivers like Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin means an offensive juggernaut in theory, but unless the offensive line can actually block for Edgerrin James, they could drop down. However, given the pedigree of Ken Whisenhunt as head coach and offensive line coach Russ Grimm, I expect the line to block now.
2. San Francisco 49ers (Eva Green) – Young, but on the rise (Casino Royale, various French films), but hasn’t quite made it name-wise yet. Alex Smith continues to improve every year for the Niners, but the loss of NORV! to the Chargers means yet another offensive coordinator for every year he’s been in the league. Plus, there’s not much there in the receiving corps, leaving him with Vernon Davis and Frank Gore as his weapons. Gore should get his, but despite the signing of Nate Clements to play corner alongside Walt Harris, I’m not nuts about the rest of their defense.
(Frankly, this division is a pain in the ass because there’s serious amounts of potential in the bottom two teams that could get them to second place. I reserve the right to move Arizona and SF up at any time.)