I've been on something of a personal mission this month: avoiding the National Football League.
I enjoy pro football, but the preseason really sums up everything I hate about the NFL. Full-price tickets for exhibitions where they don't even color in the logos, take out the baseball infield, or play someone you've heard of after halftime.
There's endless speculation over holdouts by players refusing to honor their contracts, endless speculation over the meaning of meaningless preseason games and endless speculation over the next time ESPN will show Tim Tebow without his shirt.
So, in response, I can safely say I haven't watched a single preseason game all year.
I watched a Canadian Football League game on Monday long enough for the play-by-play man to say "and (ex-Packer draft bust) Ahmad Carroll's nightmare evening continues," so I guess I'm not completely pure. Of course, when the Packers play for real in a week and a half, I'll catch it, but for August, the Olympics and baseball have held me over.
There's just one problem: I have a fantasy football draft on Saturday. And because the season starts on a Wednesday this year, I don't have another column between then and now, so here it is: Brandon's Hastily Researched 2012 Pro Football Preview.
I believe the Packers are still good - even if the defense still isn't. The divisional playoff stinkbomb against the Giants, that was just a big aberration, even though Desmond Bishop is already out for the season, Charles Woodson will be 36 in October and A.J. Hawk just got a giant contract extension for being average.
And Aaron Rodgers won't get hurt even though he likes to run outside the pocket and has missed games with concussions in recent years.
Everything's going to be just fine.
Now, the Lions. The young Turks of pro football who won't take no guff from nobody. Given their offseason exploits, a joke about the legal system might be the easy way out here.
To pokey fun at another's legal troubles is just celling out. I won't clink to such an awful gaol.
Of course, the Matthew Stafford-to-Calvin Johnson connection is very potent, but this is a club with no running backs and a weak offensive line, not to mention a bad secondary and a lot more eyeballs on them now that they're a presentable football team. They take a small step back this year, but won't be down for long.
The Bears have a few more weapons, particularly at wide receiver. I see them just edging out the Lions for the last playoff spot in the NFC. As for the Vikings, they're bad, which is great because both games against the Packers are in December, long past the point at which I expect them to have quit on the season.
Elsewhere in the NFC, the defending champs can't be that good, the Eagles can't be that bad and the Cowboys remain more style than substance (and there isn't even that much style anymore). As for Washington: enjoy being Dan Snyder's new plaything, Robert Griffin III.
You've probably already forgotten the Falcons have made the playoffs twice in a row now, while the Panthers will hope there's no sophomore slump for Cam newton. Roger Goodell, the Ginger Hammer, has already laid waste to the 2012 Saints, and the Bucs are still in rebuilding mode.
The 49ers remain West champs basically by default, as their competition is a team with no quarterback (Arizona), a team with two quarterbacks (Seattle) and a team with two wins last year (St. Louis).
On the AFC side of the coin, two of the three best teams are in the same division, the Ravens and Steelers. I give the edge to Baltimore based on a shaky Pittsburgh O-line. Cincinnati did make the playoffs last year, but can't keep up here, and the Browns remain bad.
After the Patriots, who aren't even that good (Tom Brady is 35 and the defense was terrible), the AFC East is mediocre or worse. The Bills have finally taken the giant leap from horrible to mediocre, the Jets are a complete circus and the Dolphins are re-rebuilding.
The AFC South is also rather unimpressive. The Texans are a team on the rise, sure, but the Titans are an average team with a first-timer at quarterback, no one cares about the Jaguars and the Colts are starting over with Andrew Luck.
The AFC West feels like the most uncertain division in football, mostly because everyone's so unimpressive. The Chargers are the best of a bad lot here, though they'll face-plant in the postseason like they do every year. After them, it's Denver - that is, unless, Peyton Manning isn't the same quarterback he was before neck surgery cost him 2011, followed by a Kansas City team that was gutted by injuries and a poor start last year and Oakland, seriously lacking on defense.
So, when it comes to picking a champ, it looks like we're picking out of a hat again this year. Then again, if I choose to put only the Packers in the hat, it makes for a simple decision, whether I did the research or not.
Brandon Veale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/redveale.