Are you ready for some football?
The NFL season officially kicked off Thursday night when the New Orleans Saints began their title defense against the Minnesota Vikings. That means it's time for our second annual "pigskins and politics" column -- where a group of top political insiders and opinion leaders weigh in with their wildly premature Super Bowl predictions.
Why ask political and media folks about football? First, sports and entertainment people rarely hesitate to spout off about politics, so turnabout is fair play, right?
Second, as GOP strategist Kevin Madden told me last year
, political junkies tend to love football because both enterprises "require seamless teamwork . . . a strong leader, a special attention to metrics, a methodical discipline. And, most importantly, the courage and perseverance to handle adversity and bounce back. No team has a perfect season and no campaign is flawless. There are always going to be fumbles, interceptions and losses. But how you handle those moments is the true test of a champion."
Here are this year's predictions for the next Super Bowl champ:
Willie Geist, host of"Way Too Early" and a co-host of "Morning Joe," jokes: "If only the objective of the game were to allow your opponent to score as many points as possible, my Giants would be the pick." But he adds: "Until the NFL rules are modified, I'll go with the Saints to repeat. Reggie Bush will have a breakout season without that cumbersome Heisman Trophy to lug around."
Kristen Soltis, a Republican pollster: "I've got my hopes (and fantasy football roster) banking on the Ravens in the AFC and the Packers in the NFC. [Aaron] Rodgers and [Joe] Flacco are young quarterbacks with a lot of great receivers, and both teams also have rock stars at running back. But I have to admit the team I'll be rooting for this year is Denver. Now that they have Tim Tebow, I'm happily jumping on the Broncos bandwagon!"
Chuck Todd, chief White House correspondent for NBC News as well as the co-host of "The Daily Rundown" on MSNBC: "I'm going with Packers-Colts . . . and not just because I'm a Packer fan. Aaron Rodgers will finally get the [Brett] Favre monkey off his back and beat the Vikings (TWICE)." Todd also argued the New York Jets are overrated, and went out on a limb with a wild prediction: "Two dark horse teams from the AFC . . . Texans and Dolphins."
Brian Kilmeade of "Fox & Friends" predicts the next Super Bowl will feature the Ravens and the Giants: "I like New York on the ground . . . and their receiving corps is the best in their history. As for the Ravens, look at these two new wide-outs -- Anquan Boldin and [T.J.] Houshmanzadeh -- couple that with Ray Rice and stellar D -- along with a great coach and fans and you have super recipe."
Gretchen Carlson of "Fox & Friends": "I am taking the Vikings for the NFC and the Colts for the AFC."
Markos Moulitsos, founder of Daily Kos and author of "American Taliban: How War, Sex, Sin and Power Bind Jihadists to the Radical Right": "While Indianapolis is the safe bet for the AFC, I'm going to go out a bit on a limb with San Diego. For the NFC, New Orleans has a sick, sick offense. They'll take their conference and the Super Bowl."
Bill Hemmer, news anchor of Fox News' "America's Newsroom" likes the Colts "because of Peyton Manning" versus the Packers "because Aaron Rodgers will get his revenge over Bret Favre." Winner? "Flip a coin."
And so it seems the New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Vikings, Baltimore Ravens, Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts are the preferred teams here -- guaranteeing, of course, the Dallas Cowboys will be the next Super Bowl champs.
Personally, I'm always surprised that so few political people ever pick the Washington Redskins. For the second straight year nobody has chosen them (not that they have a chance, but they are
the hometown team for many of the folks queried). Last year
, David Shuster's prediction came closest to playing out among those weighing in. He expected the Indianapolis Colts to win the Super Bowl -- and at least they made it
to the big game.