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It’s been a long time since an NFL season started on a Wednesday, like more than 50 years. Because the Democratic Convention is this week in Charlotte, North Carolina, and President Obama delivers his acceptance speech Thursday, the NFL respectfully moved the opener.

But here we go! The biggest issue is the NFL lockout of the game officials. The NFL has to reach a deal soon — the integrity of everything they do hinges on a deal.

The replacement officials were and are in way over their heads. The game is not only too fast for them, but also many of the replacements are apprehensive and simply not very good. Not everyone can play in the NFL; that’s why 32 teams started with 90 players in training camp and last week cut them down to 53 per team.

Some of these replacement officials would never make the big leagues. Many have worked Division III college football games, and that’s it.

The last time the NFL was in this position was 2001 when the regular officials returned with a deal for week two. The NFL has preached the new, safer NFL with a major concern on players’ safety, and then they put the players at risk of injury with less-than-minor-league officials. And by having some games on Thursday nights all 16 weeks of the season on their prized NFL Network, which the owners own.

The 2011 season was one of the highest scoring seasons on record; three teams — Green Bay, New Orleans and New England — scored over 500 points. Which means they were virtually unstoppable. That is until the playoffs, when the games are rugged power contests and the G-Men of New York, the Giants, prevailed in Super Bowl 46.

Here’s how I view this season playing out and who will qualify for the 12 playoff spots (playoff teams in bold with *)

NFC East: Philadelphia*, Dallas, New York, Washington; NFC North: Green Bay*, Chicago* Detroit, Vikings; NFC South: Atlanta*, New Orleans, Carolina, Tampa Bay; NFC West: San Francisco*, Arizona*, Seattle, St. Louis

AFC East: New England*, New York*, Buffalo, Miami; AFC North: Pittsburgh*, Baltimore*, Cincinnati, Cleveland; AFC South: Houston*, Tennessee,  Jacksonville, Indianapolis; AFC West: Denver*, Kansas City, San Diego, Oakland

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to [email protected], or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.


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