SAN DIEGO - AUGUST 25: A San Diego Chargers fan shouts through a megaphone during the game with the Seattle Seahawks on August 25, 2008 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. The Chargers won 18-17. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Here is an exercise I do every year where I sit down and mentally plot out how the upcoming NFL season will unfold.
The product reads like a series of "predictions," but that's not really what I'm going for here. This is merely a compilation of expectations, right or wrong, of one man who probably watches way too much football.
Individually, I expect each of these points to points to be right. Collectively, I know not all of them will be.
With that, let's dive in. Feel free to throw in one of your predictions/expectations in the comments or shoot them my way on Twitter. Also, in case you're wondering, there's no significance to the number 36. That's just when I decided to stop.
Shawne Merriman and the Chargers defense will turn the clock back to 2007. For the first time since, Merriman will total double-digit sacks, and the Chargers will finish top 8 in the NFL in both sacks and turnovers.
Brett Favre will wish he stayed retired. Not only will the 40-year-old quarterback see last year's 33:7 TD:INT ratio level out dramatically, but his NFL-record streak of consecutive games played will be snapped due to injury. How did Adrian Peterson miss that block?
Correctional facilities across the country will riot after the Raiders end their franchise record of seven straight seasons with a losing record. It'll be a thrill only Inmate 047953 (civilian name: JaMarcus Russell) won't enjoy.
The defense, running game and tight end Zach Miller are the expected anchors, but the Jason Campbell-Louis Murphy connection is what ultimately sends the prisoners into celebratory shank mode.
Tampa Bay running back Kareem Huggins will be compared to Willie Parker, who in 2005 also sprouted from oblivion to make a giant splash in his second year since being undrafted.
After combining for eight wins over the past three seasons, the Kansas City Chiefs will emerge as a future AFC West contender largely due to the division's most improved player, Matt Cassel.
Wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Wes Welker have eclipsed 100 receptions in each of the past three years. Neither will get to four. Marshall either gets injured or (more likely) does something boneheaded that costs him playing time, and despite preseason optimism, Welker's a mere shadow of himself after February knee surgery.
The preseason Jets fairytale will not end happily. Despite greatness in the running game from Shonn Greene, dropped passes and inconsistency will plague the passing game. On defense, an injury to nose tackle Kris Jenkins will prove too difficult to overcome.
For the first time since his rookie season, Reggie Bush will surpass 1000 total yards. That won't be enough for the Saints to run away with the NFC South with the Falcons on their tail.
Staying in Atlanta, Michael Turner will lead the NFL in rushing.
Third-year quarterback Matt Ryan will have his best season with the help of the consistent Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and breakout wide receiver Harry Douglas.
Joseph Addai will open the season as the Colts' No. 1 back, but No. 2 Donald Brown will be more productive over the course of the season.
Chargers running back Ryan Mathews will beat out the Chiefs' Dexter McCluster for AFC Rookie of the Year. It's a no-brainer after Mathews gains over 1500 total yards with double-digit touchdowns.
Lions running back Jahvid Best will edge the Cowboys' Dez Bryant for NFC Rookie of the Year after a highlight-reel season. In his landmark game, he will account for over 200 total yards and score a late game-winning touchdown.
The Lions finish top five in the NFL in scoring and bottom five in points allowed.
Lions' Calvin Johnson will lead all wide receivers in touchdowns.
The Ravens' Ray Rice will lead all running backs in total yardage.
After last year's debacle in Carolina, 35-year-old quarterback Jake Delhomme bounces back with the Browns. Wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi is the largest individual benefactor with his first 1000-yard season.
Awkward tension arises in the Bengals locker room when Chad Ochocinco's TV show is picked up for another season but Terrell Owens' crappy show isn't. Otherwise, the two wide receivers coexist just fine in Cincinnati.
Pastor Glen Coffee says a prayer for the 49ers after a Frank Gore injury, and rookie running back Anthony Dixon answers it.
This time proving the hype right, the Seahawks' Mike Williams will complete his dramatic career turnaround under former college coach Pete Carroll, finishing the season as a top 20 NFL wide receiver.
Redskins wide receiver Devin Thomas explodes onto the scene in his third season, easily tripling his 2009 yardage total (325) and earning him the title of “this year's Sidney Rice.”
Chargers safety Eric Weddle will make his first Pro Bowl roster. If not, then he was blatantly robbed.
During football games, Miller Lite will stop airing those commercials where the guy goes to the bar and orders a “light beer” only to get chastised by the bartender for wearing a purse/thong/skirt. They're not funny. No guy does that. For the love of God, make it stop.
Peyton Manning will win his fifth NFL MVP award.
The Patriots will win the AFC East. The Jets will earn a wild card.
The Chargers will win the AFC West.
The Steelers will win the AFC North. (It'll take a late-season rally.)
The Colts will win the AFC South. The Texans will earn a wild card.
The Cowboys will win the NFC East. The Giants will earn a wild card.
The Packers will win the NFC North.
The Saints will win the NFC South. The Falcons will earn a wild card.
The 49ers will win the NFC West.
The Chargers will win the AFC Championship.
The Packers will win the NFC Championship.
The Chargers will defeat the Packers in the Super Bowl, 27-24. Nate Kaeding for the win.