Thursday, September 6, 2007

NFL preview '07

My mother-in-law recently came into possession of a football signed by Buffalo Bills quarterback JP Losman. She doesn't really care about the whole football deal, and none of the actual Bills fans in the family seemed to care about having it either. No problem, though, she thought she'd just give it to a charity auction. The football, signed by the current starting quarterback of a team that is plastered all over the region, received no bids. Not. One. Poor JP Losman; if he ever found out about that, it'd probably sting his ego pretty bad.

With that out of the way, allow me begin my annual-ish breakdown of what I think the NFL is going to do this year. Since I just told a JP Losman story, why not start with the division that JP will be quarterbacking his losses in...

AFC East

This one seems pretty easy. On paper, New England should run away with this division and be a favorite to return to the Super Bowl. Again. But take another look.

The Jets were a team on the rise last season, and made some moves(including grabbing Thomas Jones) to get even better. They're definitely good enough for the playoffs and may give New England some competition.

The Dolphins were nearly everyone's preseason darlings last year based on Daunte Culpepper's signing. That didn't work out too well for them, but Trent Green is another proven winner coming into a talented team. A new coach and a poor draft will probably hold them back from being everything they should be, but they could be dangerous.

Speaking of dangerous, the Buffalo Bills have potential. If they can get some good run blocking and keep any more injuries off of the defensive side of the ball, they might make some noise. Not playoff noise, I don't think, but enough noise to mess up the season of one of three teams whose fans have high expectations. Bills fans shouldn't expect much though, because Buffalo has a hellish schedule.

Again, it looks like New England should win this, but there are some volatile pieces in this thing. Randy Moss, of course, could cause problems. Sure, they got Corey Dillon to behave, but Randy Moss is a far different animal than Corey Dillon. It also might be interesting to see what happens to a Tom Brady with some baby mama drama on top of finding his typical magic missing in last seasons' playoffs. I'm picking New England to win this division, but I won't be surprised to see them not.

So let's call it:

1. New England Patriots
2. New York Jets
3. Miami Dolphins
4. Buffalo Bills


So, my story from yesterday isn't as interesting as I thought. It seems the JP Losman football never made it to the auction. So the fact that there's a signed JP Losman football at my in-laws' place was not the result of no bids. It was the result of being so insignificant that they flat-out forgot to take it to the auction. I apologize for the error.

Let's keep the previews rolling...

AFC South

This division is pretty interesting. You have the defending Super Bowl champs, a team that always seems like they're one piece or break away from being elite, a team with an outstanding young quarterback, and the Houston Texans.

Now that the Colts have finally broken through, Jacksonville is my team that I will always expect more from than they end up delivering. Maybe it's because I've had a man-crush on Jack Del Rio since his time as the Carolina Panthers' defensive coordinator. Maybe it's because I've wanted Byron Leftwich to do great things since I saw him being carried by his linemen so he could finish a comeback against Akron with a broken shin. Maybe it's that if Leftwich goes down with another injury, we know his backup is competent. But my expectations for this team are officially loftier than they should be.

The Colts themselves, I fully expect to be the Colts. There are a few questions around a Rhodes-less running game, but not enough for me to write this team off. I'd like to pick the Jags to finish over the Colts, but I just don't see it happening.

The Texans continued to beef up their defense this offseason and snagged a new quarterback. What I haven't heard word one about was any change to their offensive line. It doesn't matter who your QB is if you have no line. It doesn't matter how good your defense is if your offense can only manage 3-and-out. I will be looking to see if Mario Williams can stay healthy and play like a #1 pick and hoping for the best.

The Titans made some noise towards the end of last season, but lost too many pieces to keep it rolling on the offensive side of the ball and didn't fill nearly enough of their holes on the defensive side of the ball to put it together. This team just feels like a mess. As for Vince Young, he's going to be great in the league one day...but this year is just going to be a miserable. If the Madden Curse holds this year, it may be an act of mercy to sideline him.

So as much as I think the Jags could be potentially great, I'm going with:

1. Indianapolis Colts
2. Jacksonville Jaguars
3. Houston Texans
4. Tennessee Titans


Jen Crocker(now Bakane, but that doesn't roll off the tongue properly) kept me from giving up on football during those years when the Bears were, let's say, a sub-average team. If they were out of contention and I had lived hard on Saturday night, it didn't matter. Jen would call Sunday morning and inform me that I would be going to watch football with her.

So off we'd go. We'd order some drinks and Jen would convince me that, between the two of us, we could totally put down 50 wings. And I'd fall for it every time. She'd eat five and decide she was full. Well into the 4 o'clock game, I would still be choking down wings while Jen egged me on. Good times.

For the upcoming football season, Jen will be living in Colorado, and that is sad. There is football in Colorado, though, and they play in the...

AFC West

This one is tough. Except for last place. That's pretty easy to predict.

Oakland struck me as possibly dangerous a month-and-a-half ago. They're bringing back a defense that was actually pretty good and were adding Dominic Rhodes to the running game. There were rumors of bringing Daunte Culpepper on board and they had a heckuva 1st round draft pick who promised to be NFL-ready early. Of course, then they couldn't sign their heckuva 1st round draft pick. Then I remembered what a disaster Culpepper was in Miami last year. Then Lane Kiffin sported health problems similar to Joe Paterno. The problem with that being that Paterno is a million years old to Kiffin's 32. It's going to be another long season, Oakland fans.

In Kansas City, Larry Johnson isn't happy. In Kansas City, the defense stinks. In Kansas City, they have no receivers and lost quality offensive linemen. In Kansas City, they're really high on Brodie Croyle. At least they'll be better than the Raiders.

I had Denver in the Super Bowl as a wild card last year at this time. I still have them making noise as they have all the right pieces back in place this year plus some. How fast Jay Cutler finishes growing up this season is going to be the difference between winning the division and a wild card spot. Either way, expect to see the Broncos come playoff time.

Ah yes, the Chargers. This team is pure talent. Talent every which way. Lots and lots of talent. They were a headbutt away from a meaningful playoff run last season, so naturally they fire their coach and replace him with...Norv Turner?!?! The chargers have too much talent not to make the playoffs, but with Norv in charge, sorry San Diego, no Super Bowls in your future.

Actually, I've just talked myself into switching first and second place in this division so it looks like:

1. Denver Broncos
2. San Diego Chargers
3. Kansas City Chiefs
4. Oakland Raiders


You don't think that the upcoming football season excites people? Last Night at The Worx, I found myself discussing football with Wade. One by one, people overheard their favorite football word and came to join in. The weeks prior to football season are sometimes the most exciting part of the whole year. For some folks, like Dolphins fan Javovi, it's the only part of the year where he can convince himself that his team has a shot at the playoffs. It's also the only time of the year where he can try to convince himself that Miami didn't have a craptacular draft.

Anyway, here are some predictions for 100% of Ohio's teams...

AFC North

The highlight of everyone's draft was watching Brady Quinn gracefully fall to pick number 22. He won people over by keeping cool. After that? He lost them again by not understanding that he went at pick number 22 and holding out for top 10 pick money. But he still might be a pretty alright NFL quarterback. But we won't see him taking any real snaps until Cleveland has been eliminated from the playoffs. And they will be. And pretty early, too. There are still too many holes in that team.

Pittsburgh has a reasonable amount of talent and a new coach. They're good everywhere, but great nowhere. That formula proved to be pretty flawed last season, and I think they'll be just outside of the playoff conversation this season too.

Over in Cincinnati, there's lots of jail time to go around on that team. Fortunately, a certain Mr. Mexico and a certain PacMan made some mistakes that have overshadowed the Bengals problems. They might be able to use that to get a grip and remember that they're a team with Carson Palmer(on his way to being a great QB), Chad Johnson(wideout that's faster than a horse), and a defense that led the league in takeaways only two seasons ago.

Even if Cincinnati gets it together, though, it won't be enough to take this division from Baltimore. Willis McGahee has come to town and will actually be running behind some blockers, which should make the Ravens' running game more than dangerous. Steve McNair seems to be healthy, and Kyle Boller is serviceable should the worst happen. The Baltimore defense is the Baltimore defense. This is a monster team that, by all rights, should run rough shod over the AFC.

1. Baltimore Ravens
2. Cincinnati Bengals
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
4. Cleveland Browns


NFC East

Lots going on here, but this division isn't going see much of a power struggle, as only one team seems to have it all.

The poor, poor Redskins are a mess of players that Dan Snyder knew had posters when he was 12 years old. Under Snyder's direction, they've abandoned the draft for too many years and given Joe Gibbs virtually nothing to work with. Between that and the whispers that Gibbs is out of touch, I don't expect a great year for the 'Skins.

On the other side of the talent scale, there's the Cowboys. Loaded down with talent on both sides of the ball, the Cowboys are also saddled with a new coach that doesn't impress me and a Tony Romo that's going to be trying too hard to prove himself after the way his last season ended. In the end, they'll be talented enough to finish second in this division, but outside of the playoffs.

We also have the Giants, who have a shaky defense that is likely going to end up shakier by the time Strahan makes up his mind. They have a overrated players and a missing link in the running game on the offensive side of the ball. Oh, and none of the players like their coach. Bad year for the Giants.

Donovan F. McNabb has gone on record as saying that it's now or never for the Eagles. Everyone seems healthy going in, and injury has been the team's biggest detractor in recent history. Call me an idiot, but I'm banking that this year everyone stays healthy and the Eagles find themselves deep in the playoffs since McNabb is going to be emphasizing desperation, which may be just what they need.

Your final standings will look like this...

1. Philadelphia Eagles
2. Dallas Cowboys
3. New York Football Giants
4. Washington Redskins


I thought I might try to watch a little bit of the preseason game featuring the Baltimore Ravens and the New York Football Giants last night, hoping to try to enjoy some football. Since it was a preseason game, though, I was expecting the bare minimum for excitement. I didn't even get that, though, as the game had to be stopped for a penalty or, even worse, an injury every minute-and-a-half. Ugly stuff.

I fully expect the talking heads on Around the Horn, Pardon the Interruption, and all other shows centered around yelling about sports to condemn the useless preseason using the 6 injuries from this game as an illustration of why it's awful. I'm going to preemptively agree with them now to save myself the trouble of doing it later this afternoon.

And now a preview for a division that's gone to the dogs...

NFC South

A division that I've expected to make moves towards becoming the cream of the NFL crop over the past few years, I now humbly suggest that this division will be a one horse race by mid season. The only question is, which horse?

Atlanta's troubles are easy enough. They've been inconsistent -nay, erratic- over the past couple of seasons. They got a new coach and traded the best backup in the NFL away to show confidence in Mike Vick. I don't need to tell you how that decision is playing out for them. Well, they've also lost another one. Even if I thought that Atlanta had the talent to possibly overcome the QB problem, it just feels like a cloud of doom is hanging over this team.

I expected pretty large things from Tampa last season, and then Cadillac Williams managed less than 800 yards on the ground and their Quarterback situation got hilarious. Garcia may settle the QB problem, but he may not. I think they mostly had an o-line problem that they haven't even come close to fixing. Garcia is good, but he's no miracle worker.

The Panthers played last season with an obscene amount of injuries, particularly in their offensive line and their running back. I wonder if this year won't be a repeat as John Fox loves to grind teams down with the run. If the Panthers stay healthy, they could be dangerous. If not, expect more people to start turning on the good but overrated Jake Delhomme. Personally, I'm curious to see what David Carr can do with more than half-a-second to get rid of the football anyway.

The real question in New Orleans is "was last season a fluke?" I'm thinking Drew Breeze is the real deal, Reggie Bush is going to be almost as good as people said he was going to be, and coach Sean Payton is on his way to being an all-time great. I might be wrong, and the Saints might fade away this season like some other one it wonder teams. I don't see why they would, though.

So from the South, let's call it:

1. New Orleans Saints
2. Carolina Panthers
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4. Atlanta Falcons


So there's this commercial that keeps bothering me. It's a Nike commercial that features LaDainian Tomlinson running roughshod over the Bears' defense. Looking for something to put on the official website, some folks with the Chicago Bears organization asked some of the players about it, and they pretty much think about the commercial the same way I do.

Asked for his review of the final product, [Tommie] Harris said: "I didn't like it. I'll fix it when we play against them." Asked if his teammates had discussed it, the two-time Pro Bowler added: "We don't entertain foolishness. We don't even talk about it."

When approached by a reporter, Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher claimed he hadn't seen the commercial.

Reporter: What do you think of the commercial with LaDainian Tomlinson?
Urlacher: I haven't seen it. What happens?
Reporter: He shreds the Bears defense for a touchdown.
Urlacher: Wow. It must be a video game. Is it a video game?
Reporter: No, it's not a video game. It's a commercial.
Urlacher: How did he do the last time we played them? Look at the stats. See how he did.

For the record, the Bears held Tomlinson to 61 yards on 16 carries in a 20-7 win at Soldier Field on Nov. 2, 2003. They would certainly love a repeat performance against the reigning NFL MVP, who set a league record with 31 touchdowns while rushing for 1,815 yards in 2006.

Has it really been that long since we played San Diego? Wow. I fear Tomlinson is better now and has more backup than he did then. Still, I'm pretty sure he'll only rush for 2 yards total against us this season. Yep. That's the ticket. Feel my confidence. The Chargers' coach sucks.

I have no sensible transition for a preview of the...

NFC West

So the rundown goes like this:

Seattle is bringing back pretty much their entire underrated team from last season, and everyone seems healthy(especially at QB and HB). Also working in their favor? Everyone is looking at Chicago and Philly, so they'll still be off the radar. The only thing keeping them out of a first round bye come playoff time is the talent on the other three teams in this division.

Arizona has the talent to make waves. They also have a rookie coach, a team that entirely lacked a killer instinct last season, some holes in their lines, and a "culture of losing" that I'm starting to buy into no matter how many times I tell myself that's silly. Still, if they get rolling, look out.

San Francisco has the pieces, but will spend too much of the year making them fit together to do any major damage until it's too late. They'll be unbelievably hot come about week 15, but that will just translate to "too little, too late" this season and an undue amount of excitement for the '08 season.

St. Louis scares me, and I'm probably all kinds of dumb for picking them to finish last in this division. I just think they'll need an overhaul to be relevant to the playoff hunt again while I see San Fran and Arizona as teams on the rise. I doubt Marc Bulger more and more each season. It may just be left over spite for Kurt Warner, though.

1. Seattle Seahawks
2. Arizona Cardinals
3. San Francisco 49ers
4. St. Louis Rams


Well, this is supposed to be the big finale. This is where I usually announce that the Bears will win the NFC North en route to winning the Super Bowl. I just don't know if I can do it this year, and it's JMatt's fault. He thought it would be a good idea to gather around the obligatory preseason "Super Bowl rematch" with some wings. The wings were a great idea. The game?

My confidence in the Bears is shattered. Why? Rex Grossman, who I have defended relentlessly, put the ball on the ground 3 times in one quarter. Two times because he couldn't handle the snap. A pro quarterback. Two times. In one quarter. Couldn't. Handle. The. Snap. I kept thinking of this exchange from Sports Night:

Casey: They're going to cut Santori.

Natalie: The place-kicker?

Casey: He's made eight field goal attempts in three games and has connected on a grand total of none of them.

Elliot: Oh, I've met him, he's a good guy.

Casey: He can't kick.

Natalie: He is a good guy.

Casey: He can't kick.


Elliot: I saw him kick in practice.

Casey: At this level, they pretty much want you to be able to kick in a game.

At this level, they pretty much want you to be able to hold onto the football immediately after the snap in a game Rex. I can already feel myself being one of those jerks calling for Brian Greise or Former Rookie Sensation Kyle Orton(who led his team to a bye in the playoffs only to find himself at #3 on the depth chart...ouch...I understand why...but ouch) to get in the game after every flub. And from the looks of things, there are going to be lots from Rex whether his name means "King" or not.

The Bears still will come out on top, though, in the...


NFC North

Look, the Bears are going to win this division. No matter how many snaps Rex mishandles and no matter how many INT's he tosses, the Bears are going to win this division based on their defense(so long as Briggs lets someone drive for him), their opponents' healthy fear of Devin Hester, and the fact that every other team in the division is terrible.

Minnesota is not impressive, aside from the looming threat of Adrian Peterson. Tarvaris Jackson is somewhat less imposing. Their defense will be good enough to keep Detroit and Green Bay in the bottom half of this division, but that's still not saying much.

After a loss to the Bears last season where the Lions only managed 6 points, Detroit's Roy Williams actually uttered the phrase "it's a joke how close we came to scoring 40 points," proving once again the total douche baggery of anyone named Roy Williams. Why do I bring that up? Because John Kitna's promise that Detroit will win at least 10 games this season is just as silly. John Kitna can maybe give me that after he's actually QB'ed a team to 10 wins, but for now it's just a ridiculous statement. Especially with how uninspiring the seemingly can't-miss receiver Calvin Johnson was in the preseason.

Brett Favre is surrounded by young guys in Green Bay, but won't admit to anything even resembling rebuilding. Denial is only good for last place in any division, Brett.

1. Chicago Bears
2. Minnesota Vikings
3. Detroit Lions
4. Green Bay Packers



Wild card weekend: Colts def. Chargers, Broncos def. Jaguars
AFC Semi's: Broncos def. Patriots, Ravens def. Colts
AFC Championship: Ravens def. Broncos

Now here, for the first time since I started blogging, is an NFC picture that doesn't have the Bears in the Super Bowl:

Wild card weekend: Bears def. Cowboys, Seahawks def. Panthers
NFC Semi's: Eagles def. Seahawks, Saints def. Bears
NFC Championship: Eagles def. Saints

So, we'll have two teams I have no interest in seeing win the Super Bowl battling it out. This only means I can pay more attention to Wade's chili. Your final score?

Ravens 23, Eagles 10

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