It should be pretty widely accepted that this is the best sports time of the year. We have the Chase, the start of college and pro football, baseball pennant races, and so on.
But, I'm here to talk Chase, since that's probably why you clicked on me. (Thanks for clicking on me.)
Let's talk about how juicy this Chase is. I'm talking nicely-seared, but still moist on the inside. Who wants to join me for a steak?
I'd say something about Kurt Busch here, but I haven't quite finished this article yet, and I'm worried he might tear it up before I can send it in, like he did here.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is back in the Chase after a two-year absence. Junior's not showing the speed of his teammates right now, but, like Lloyd Christmas said in "Dumb and Dumber," "So you're telling me there's a chance? Yeah!"
And while five-time's going to try to become six-time, there's another driver looking to join Johnson, Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty as drivers with at least five Cup titles, and that's Jeff Gordon.
Let me break it down for you -- numbers style.
Stay Away From the Top
The No. 1 seed for this year's Chase will be Kyle Busch, and his history from that slot isn't great.
Think back to 2008, when Busch came in looking like the man to beat, already having won eight races.
But his Chase started with finishes of 34th, 43rd and 28th, making him an afterthought.
This year, the talk is of the new Kyle Busch. Hopefully, he has a short memory.
Trivia break: Who is the only driver to win the Chase after starting outside the top three in points?
Feels Like the First Time
Brad Keselowski is the only first-time Chaser in this year's field, and like Busch, that hasn't been a good slot to be in.
Trivia break: Since the Chase expanded to 12 drivers in 2007, who has the best finish by a first-time Chaser?
What it Takes
So, having analyzed the numbers, here's what I think it'll take to win the Chase.
It might not take wins, four of the past seven Chases have been won by a driver winning one or fewer Chase races.
Over the past four years, Jimmie Johnson has averaged 6.5 top-5s and 8.5 top-10s en route to the title. His average finish was a 5.9 and he didn't record a single DNF.
It's a tall task, but one driver has to be up to it.
Trivia break: Who is the only driver to win a Chase without winning a Chase race that same season?
Chase Power Rankings
I wanted to come up with something to rank the strength of the Chase drivers on a race-by-race basis.
So I came up with my own little nerdy formula, using recent performance this season, along with recent performance at the track.
Remember, this isn't for the rest of the Chase, only heading into Chicago.
1. Jeff Gordon
2. Jimmie Johnson
3. Carl Edwards
4. Tony Stewart
5. Kevin Harvick
6. Kyle Busch
7. Matt Kenseth
8. Denny Hamlin
9. Brad Keselowski
10. Ryan Newman
11. Kurt Busch
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr.