Sports Editor

Before we get on to football business of the football week and the football football football of the football, a little unfinished business is left to write off as we close the book on the 2018 Florida Fire Frogs.

While the win-loss results weren’t great for the Class A Atlanta Braves affiliate, they did see two pitchers who suited up for them this year (Bryce Wilson, Chad Sobotka) play in Atlanta this season, climbing three rungs of the minor-league ladder to get there, and two more who played here last year (National League Rookie of the Year favorite Ronald Acuna, Touki Toussaint) got the big-league call.

Maybe the bigger news is that the team had 13 home games scheduled in August — and played all 13 games without rainouts or delays. We know it rained, and the stadium field took all that water, so a quick props to Osceola County for fixing a drainage issue in the outfield.

And, aside from rooting for our Bucs, Dolphins and the Bortles — er, the Jaguars — that’s not the last professional sports we’ll get a dose of here in Osceola County in 2018. The Orlando SeaWolves, who will play indoor soccer at the Silver Spurs Arena beginning in November, on the 10th against a contingent from Brazil, and on the 30th for their opening game of the Major Arena Soccer League season.

With all of that out of the way … I give you your annual pigskin coma!

The Picks of the Weak are back! (Cue the flatline.)

We stay around to make all of you readers look better. So who hangs around to make us look good? Alabama and the Patriots, of course. The recipe for like the last mini-ice age has been:

1. Pick New England to win the Super Bowl. Pick Alabama to win the national championship.

2. Watch six months of games that, while are real football, don’t tell the real story about who’s going to be a champion.

3. Wait for playoffs, watch playoffs, see the Tide and Bill Belichick play for a trophy, and lately walk off the field with it, come off smart.

4. Flip the calendar to the 2018 season. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Then again, who knows. Not me, who didn’t give my own hometown Philadelphia Eagles a chance to be really, really great. Or didn’t give my alma mater UCF

Who saw any of that coming? For every jaded, entitled ‘Bama or Pats fan out there who puts the national title game or Super Bowl on their team’s schedule every there, there’s … well, a guy like me, who’s still a little out of breath from the 2017 season.

Does that mean there’s hope for our state NFL teams, the Bucs and Dolphins, to finally prosper in the postseason, or for the Jaguars to build on what they did last season, reminding people they play in the AFC South and not the ACC?

No. Well, maybe. I don’t know. But we’re about to make you believe we do!

But first, the inaugural 2018 Mighty News-Gazette Divine Nine, and don’t call this a preseason poll:

1. ‘Bama. 2. The Eagles. 3. The Pats. 4. The co-National Champion UCF Knights. 5. Our Jags. 6. The Vikings. 7. The Falcons. 8. Clemson. 9. Aaron Rodgers. 9a. Rodgers’ agent, banker and heirs.

In the college football playoff, I’ll take Alabama, Washington, Georgia and Clemson (but I soooo want to take Miami). Clemson over Alabama (gee, that’s new) in the big one.

NFL: Eagles, Falcons, Vikings, Rams and wild cards Packers and 49ers in the NFC, Patriots, Steelers, Titans, Chiefs and wild cards Ravens and wild cards Raiders and Dolphins (Because they get to play Buffalo and the Jets twice!). Super Bowl: Vikings 34, Patriots 31.

Brian “Big Man” McBride:

Tom “Boss Man” Overton:

Rick “Old Man” Pedone: “I guess Alabama to win (it’s a tradition) plus Clemson, Oklahoma and, geez, maybe the Buckeyes? And Atlanta gets revenge on New England (this time they lead by 26 in the third quarter and win by 1, 55-54.”

Pete “Older Man” Covino: “Alabama, Clemson, Wisconsin, Washington. Clemson wins.”

(By the way, Mssrs. Pedone and Covino say hello to all the readers from their comfortable retired perches.)

Now we pick some games:

Michigan (-1) at Notre Dame: No easing into the season for these guys, hunh? Wolverines by 3.

Miami at LSU (-3): Was last year a fluke for the ‘U’, or are they that good? I think ‘Canes would tear up the ACC this year if Clemson disappeared. ‘Canes by 4 in “Can’t Spell Upset Without ‘The U’ Upset Special.

Washington at Auburn (-3): Can I pick them both to win? No? Then Huskies by 1 in “But They Told Me UW Was Good” Upset Special.

Virginia Tech at FSU (-5.5): Was Willie Taggart a good hire in Tally? I never liked the move. His combined record in first seasons with programs: 11-25. Make it 26. Hokies by 3 in “Hold Your Flaming Spears, It’s A Long Season” Upset Special.

NFL Thursday: Atlanta at Philadelphia (-3): It’s hard to ooze confidence when you’re looking high and low for a new knee for Carson Wentz and a new arm for Nick Foles. Falcons by 5 in “Revenge Factor” Upset Special.