Wednesday, September 9, 2009

big american nfl preview '09: NFC North

Look, I get to this division each year and have to pick with either my brain or my...whatever it is that causes me to love and overestimate the Bears' chances each year. So last year, I went with my brain and that didn't work out so hot. Guess where I'm going this year...

4. Detroit - They're starting a rookie at quarterback. They're still the team that went 0-fer last season, and even with a new front office and pretty capable running back they're not going to have a Dolphin-like turnaround. Sorry Lions. I'll watch you on Thanksgiving.

3. Green Bay - The Rogers kid went ahead and lit some teams up last season, making himself a fantasy darling. Too bad there was no running game. And very little defense to speak of. The Packers did basically nothing to address these problems, so there's not a lot to like except for a guy who will probably have 4,000 more passing yards in an otherwise fruitless season.

2. Minnesota - When the Favre experiment goes wrong, and it will (after looking really good for a few weeks), you'll have Rosenfels and Jackson waiting in the wings after the Vikings went out of their way to say that they'd rather have a ghost behind center than either of them. Adrian Peterson and the defensive line are still going to be beastly, but I don't have faith in a team coached by a guy who spent the entire off-season ignoring his team to flirt with an overrated, past his prime, interception machine.

1. Chicago - Okay. Hear me out. The team's biggest strength has always been its defense. The core group of that defense can probably feel the window shutting for them. I think they have one more great season in them before they fade as a group. They know how much the Bears mortgaged the future to get Jay Cutler now. They will step up one more time. I worry more about the secondary, which will be young and unproven. On the other side of the ball, they improved the offensive line to go with their bona fide quarterback and one of the best rushers in football (who is also a credible threat as a receiver). There isn't a lot to speak of where the wideouts are concerned, but Olson is still a phenomenal tight end and Devin Hester can still run fast enough to make teams sweat (if the Devin Hester experiment fails with Cutler at QB, we have no one to blame but Devin Hester). Call me crazy, but I like the Bears' chances.

big american nfl preview '09: NFC East

If it doesn't get done this morning, I'll never make my deadline. So let's hit the NFC East. These teams all have plenty going for them, but some pretty solid negatives as well. All I know for sure is that the defenses will be fun to watch.

4. Washington - I hate picking the Redskins to notch last place here. Albert Haynesworth can't carry the defense by himself, though. And if I'm going to let the way the Cardinals finished the season be good news for Arizona, then the 2-6 limp to the finish for the Redskins probably doesn't bode well for Washington.

3. Dallas - Defense will be stifling, but their offensive line is old. That might leave Romo in some trouble (especially with the "2" part of the 1-2 punch running game having skipped town), and I just don't buy him as that good a quarterback. Roy Williams is not T.O., as much as I don't like to admit that any team would ever miss that guy. The offense won't have to go far, or score much to win games. I think the Cowboys will be very good. Possibly a playoff team. All said, though, the rest of this division is better.

2. Philadelphia - The Eagles are going to be better where they need to be. They shored up the O-line, will have some good (if young) receivers, potentially have some schemes that will make defensive coordinators' heads explode with the addition of Vick, and will boast a pretty strong defensive line. There are some questions in the secondary, but nothing to make me start a playoff prediction without including the Eagles.

1. New York - So they didn't replace the threat that Plaxico "Boom Boom" Burress posed to other teams at wideout. They're still the nasty team that had a strong 2008 before a playoff flameout, only with some additions that will make the defense even more intimidating. The team has proven that they're winners, and I'm not going against them here.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

big american nfl preview '09: NFC West

One more before bed. I'll make it an easy(ish) one.

4. St. Louis - The Rams are in bad shape, still waiting on Marc Bulger to get healthy and hoping that will fix everything on a 2-14 team rather than blowing it all up and starting from scratch. And that's going to land them with the number one pick on prime time on a Thursday night.

3. Seattle - Everyone is picking them to win the West, but they're doing it by starting all of their justifications with "if." "If Hasselbeck stays healthy...", "If Julius Jones can emerge as a true star in the league...", or "If the rookies pan out..." are a lot of ifs that I don't believe in.

2. San Francisco - They're going to surprise a lot of people and, if I'm wrong about the Cardinals, could even be playoff-bound this year behind Alex Smith and Frank Gore. By the end of last season, Coach Singletary seemed to be onto something with this crew and it could end up being huge.

1. Arizona - Were the playoffs for real last season? I like the talent and the coaching for The Cardinals too much to say no. I'm even a believer in an 100-year-old Kurt Warner...but that's more based on his targets. I have to think that the playoff run and legitimate shot at actually winning the Super Bowl meant that they found what they needed to get things going. They won't sneak up on anyone, but they'll be a fun team to watch win games as favorites this season.

big american nfl preview '09: NFC South

Let's keep this train rolling, shall we?

4. Tampa Bay - The Bucs trying really hard to do "fresh start" without doing "rebuild," but they're doing "rebuild." Freeman will start the season behind center, but Leftwich will finish it there; once again the quarterback of a sub par team instead of what he could have been.

3. Carolina - This is where I have no clue. The Panthers have a good but not great defense and a good but not great offense. The Panthers, when I think about their chances this year, could go 14-2 just as easily as they could go 6-10. Ultimately, I'm putting them here because the only people left who still believe in the Legend of Jake Delhomme are Jake himself and the Panthers front office. And if that's what they're building the team around, it isn't going to happen for them.

2. New Orleans - New Orleans has a good offense. Moving along, I really like Darren Sharper, Jabir Green, and Malcolm Jenkins coming onto the defense to take down Drew Breeze's pass count and slow down other teams in a shoot-out. They don't make the Saints an intimidating defense, but they make enough improvement for some flirtation with the playoffs before ultimately falling short.

1. Atlanta - I can't help but think that last year wasn't a fluke. Matt Ryan is far more likely than Flacco to give a repeat performance of his rookie season since he has a better running back and better receivers than ol' Joe will have. The defense here is iffy, but I'm trusting that they'll be good enough in a division where all of the other teams lack "good enough" at every position.

big american nfl preview '09: AFC East

I stopped doing these for a while because of the way NC State decided to go ahead and lay a huge egg in their opener against South Carolina, therefore making it hard to think about football without sadness, pain, or both. But I'm back, and determined to get everything in before Thursday night. This probably means multiple entries tomorrow. Maybe even two tonight.

4. Buffalo - The Bills might be able to put it together and surprise people. Maybe we'll get enough "good T.O." to figure out what kind of quarterback they really have behind center. Maybe some of the underrated pieces that Buffalo has on defense will become something greater when they gel together. The problem is that there are too many maybes for a team coached by Dick Jauron.

3. Miami - Miami had a remarkable turnaround season last year and made us all talk about the possibilities of the "Wildcat" offense endlessly. I respect the talent they have, but I'm not convinced that a repeat performance is going to be lined up. Seriously, Pennington only gives you one good season at a time.

2. New York - I like the Jets more than I should. I like Thomas Jones, I like their receiving corps, and I like what Rex Ryan brings to their defense as head coach. None of these things are absolute and game-proven things to like as much as I do, but I see the Jets in the playoffs.

1. New England - This isn't a vote of confidence in the Patriots as much as a vote of no-confidence in my confidence in the Jets. Get that? Yes, Brady is back. Yes, they're coming off of an 11-5 season which could have easily been a playoff year with a mere handful of different things that didn't involve the guy taking the snaps. I just don't see the Patriots as the juggernaut people are touting them as. They'll start out strong, but it's an old and aching team; and that won't last into the winter. Especially given that they've lost a whopping 6 starters on the defensive side of the ball. I'm only picking them to win the East because the Jets are determined to start a rookie (thanks a lot Flacco and Ryan) at quarterback.