Thursday, September 08, 2005

Are You Ready For Some Football?

WARNING: Explicit Football Content To Follow. Dirty, 3400-word style explicit.

Tonight marks the third year that the NFL is kicking off on a Thursday night. I’m not sure that I like it, since it sort of takes a little bit of the glamour out of the first Sunday of the NFL season (the third best day of the year behind Christmas and the first day of the NCAA tournament, and just ahead of Selection Sunday), but I think as long as they continue to have the defending champ open against a contender/interesting opponent that it’ll due as a small appetizer for the weekend’s action.

So tonight we get to see Brady and Co. go up against the new-look Randy Moss Raiders, which I’m secretly very excited about, and see how they adjust to losing Charlie Weis and Romeo Crenel. I’m pretty sure the Black and Silver will have big-time trouble even attempting to slow down the champs, but it’s going to be interesting to see how the Patriots defense does against the Raiders, who I’m telling you, have some major potential.

But let’s get to the NFL preview. No quotes, no test, no gimmicks. It’s OC Thursday, I’ve got and hour and a half before I have my next class, so let’s just see what happens. We’ll get the NFC out of the way first, since they maybe have three contenders in the entire conference. Wait, check that: They have three contenders in the entire conference.



Might as well write the Eagles into the division title. I realize they had the entire offseason to deal with shootings and blown ACL’s and TO’s meltdowns, but honestly, have you seen their division? The Giants have some sleeper potential, but now Eli’s nicked up, and I’m pretty sure you don’t want to bet on the Redskins, despite the fact Joe Theismann picked them to win the NFC. And we wonder why The Shirt 2005 is a disaster – look no further than Joey T’s quote on the back.

I think the people at ESPN are still completely infatuated with Bill Parcells from the time he worked there, since I’m pretty sure there’s absolutely no way a Drew Bledsoe-led team does any considerable damage. Of course, realize that this is the NFC, and getting the second wild card isn’t going to be incredibly difficult, other than the fact you’ll have to battle with all the other 7-9 teams trying to grab onto it.

Eagles get twelve wins and probably homefield again. I don’t think there’ll be any considerable drop-off, if only because there’s nobody to really take the crown away from them.


On one hand, it looks like a team with four contenders, but then on the not-crazy hand, it looks like a really messy division that 10-6 will win handily.

I was loving the Vikings over the offseason. How could you not? Daunte Culpepper is a top-tier quarterback, their running attack is always strong and they added oodles of defense. But I kept forgetting they’re coached by Mike Tice, which is a problem come December and January. However, I think the additions of Fred Smoot, Darren Sharper, Napoleon Harris, Pat Williams and Sam Cowart will strengthen the defense to the point that 35 points should win it. I know they’ll miss Moss, but I don’t think they’ll miss him that much. They’ll take the division, and maybe grab a first-round bye.

The Packers are going to be terrible. Their defense will be dreadful, so they’ll be behind, so Brett Favre will be gunning. That means for every four games, you’ll have one fantastic comeback to add to the Favre legend, one quality effort that falls short and two games where he completely blows it for his team, chucking it into triple-coverage, but we’ll not stress those games.

The Bears have potential if Kyle Orton is better than anything they trotted out last year, which I believe he is. Muhsin Muhammad doesn’t even need that good of a quarterback, since he can just go up and get about any ball he wants. The defense should be solid, with a nice mix of playmakers scattered in, and if Benson was worth the wait of his hold-out, they could make some noise. Look at the schedule, it’s possible, and remember, this is the NFC.

I want to love the Lions, I really do. There was a week-long period at work where I would go online, look at the Lions’ schedule, scream at Jake to tell me they wouldn’t win ten games and then leave Dill a ranting voicemail at lunch about how there was no way the Lions could fail. Well, as it turns out, Joey Harrington still is not an NFL quarterback. He doesn’t throw the ball downfield that often, instead scattering his gopher balls in front of the first down marker. Kevin Jones is a stud, though, and I thought the defense would be good, but that was before the Rams ran up and down the field on them two Mondays ago. But man, that schedule…and the names on defense….

I think the Vikings will win this division, and the second wild card will be either the Bears or Lions taking advantage of their schedule and clawing to ten wins. I don’t want to put too much faith in either of them, yet.


One of the best divisions in football, and certainly the best division in the NFC. You have the Falcons, who won it last year and didn’t lose anybody of importance over the offseason save their kicker, and you have the Panthers, who were in the Super Bowl the year before and probably would have been again if a swarm of injury bugs didn’t descend on every player in Charlotte.

It’s no secret I love the Falcons and think they have the potential to win the Super Bowl. They have Alex Gibb’s running game, a quality defense that added Ed Hartwell, Ike Reese and another year of experience for DeAngelo, plus Mike Be Nimble. He’s had another year in the offense, and some large receivers who can get downfield and make plays. (Peace, Peerless.) Roddy White, Michael Jenkins and Alge Crumpler are nice large targets for Vick to find on the run, and considering their running game is the best in the land, the passing game doesn’t have to be that good, just quality enough they don’t become entirely one-dimensional. I worry that Jay Feely is gone at place-kicker, but their return squads should still be quality. Just like last year, I love the Falcons.

Another team I love almost as much as the Falcons is the Panthers. For what he did against the Patriots in the Super Bowl, I will always respect and have faith in Jake Dehlomme. Their defensive line is sick. Steve Smith and Keary Colbert are quality receivers. Their running back corps is as deep and talented as anyone in the land. The secondary is still a minor issue, but in the NFC – and that division particularly – it’s not the most important thing in the world. Unless they have the same bad luck as last year, there’s no way this team isn’t contending for the Super Bowl again, despite the SI cover jinx.

I’m a little wary of the Bucs quarterback situation and the fact they’ve stunk two years running, but their offense is showing signs of youthful life with the Cadillac and Michael Clayton. And the Saints are the Saints, although now they don’t have a home. I’m not sure if that’ll serve as some sort of inspiration for them, or just make them fold earlier than usual. They have the talent, but they always have the talent, so I can’t comfortably pick them, especially since they’re traveling are going to make the last couple years of the Expos’ existence look normal.


Ugh. Either the Cardinals, Rams or Seahawks could string enough games together to win this division, and frankly, I don’t even care. This division was absolutely putrid last year, but still got a wild card berth – that’s how bad the NFC is.

I’m rooting for the Cardinals. I want them to succeed. If Kurt Warner keeps his thumbs ligaments intact and the defense improves from last year to this one as it did the year before, they’ll legitimately be the best team in the division, especially since you couldn’t scrap together a solid defense if you used all the players on both Seattle and St. Louis. After watching the final legit preseason game, I was really impressed with the Bulger/Jackson backfield, especially since Marshal Faulk was now coming in for relief. I don’t know if they can stop anybody, though, and that’s a problem.

This last NFC wild card is going to be a bitch to decide on. A lot of teams with tons of potential, a lot of teams with a ton of pitfalls.

Now, let’s get to the good stuff.



The Patriots are winning this division by at least two games. I was originally thinking that with their tough schedule and the loss of their linebackers and coordinators, they’d have a season reminiscent of their 2002 run: 9-7, didn’t lose to a team below .500, missed the playoffs. But I can’t help but realize this team has lost four games in the last two years. Belichick’s defense is always there, and I think their offense is going to be absolutely mind-blowing this year, Charlie Weis or no Charlie Weis. Look at the receiving corps, then combine Brady and Dillon. Plus, despite all the talent chasing them in the East, I don’t think any of the teams have enough polish to put it all together and catch them.

Take the Bills for example. Fantastic defense, a couple of stud receivers, but their starting a 2nd-year quarterback and a running back who, despite looking like he did back in college, still has the ghosts of his knee bending backwards floating around him. I realize Bledsoe was the quarterback last year, but all they had to do was beat the 2nd-string Steelers at home to make the playoffs. And couldn’t. Throw in the fact JP Losman has been less than impressive, and I can’t put my faith into picking them to usurp the champs.

Then you have the Jets, two missed field goals away from making the AFC Championship game last year. They added Doug Jolley and swapped Santana Moss for Laveranues Coles, but they lost Lamont Jordan, a fantastic second back behind Curtis Martin. And yeah, Ty Law will probably return to form at corner, but do you trust Chad Pennington anymore? Does it seem like the Jets can score more than 17 points in a big game? I don’t think they can, and I definitely don’t see them beating the Patriots, who have been smacking them around as of late.

I’d love to pick my beloved Dolphins to take their first division crown since 2001, but the fact there isn’t a quarterback on that roster who would start in the SEC right now, let alone should be starting in the NFL. The offensive line has improved, Ronnie and Ricky fill the gaping hole at linebacker and I really like our receivers, but the quarterback situation is just so, so terrible. I thought Frerotte might fit in nicely because he knew the system, but either the receivers in Minnesota were a lot faster, or again, he just sucks, because he overthrows every deep ball.

On defense, we’ve got a nice mix of youth and experience, with Travis Daniels and Channing Crowder working side-by-side with Zach Thomas, Sam Madison and Jason Taylor. Our safety situation is not good, having lost Brock Marion and Sammy Knight over the last two years, but hopefully we’re getting enough pressure on the quarterback with a deep d-line that it won’t matter. Again, if we had a quarterback, we’d be a contender. We do not, so we are not.

(But what if Gus puts it together? Or Sage is the answer?....Stopping it….I’m stopping. Sorry.)


Oh, Supah Stees, you have nowhere to go but down. It’s not that I’m being biased – well, I am, but not exceptionally so – but you went 15-1 last year, and teams sort of figured Big Ben out by the end. I’m sure the defense will be tough again, and by tough I mean still completely capable of giving up 41 points at home in the AFC Championship, but your banking a lot on Randel El being able to fill in at the 2nd wide receiver spot. If he doesn’t work out, it’s…Cedrick Wilson or Fred Gibson. I’m just thinking the offense might have some issues this year, especially with Keydrick Vincent and Oliver Ross saying bye-bye. Plus, your coach is Bill Cowher. Can’t feel too good about that, Steel City.

Especially with the Ravens assembling a Pro Bowl secondary and finally give Kyle Boller a few weapons to work with. This is Boller’s last year of grace, as he now has Mark Clayton and Derrick Mason to throw to on the outside. He’s got a great rushing game behind him, but he wasn’t exceptional in the preseason. Still, it seems like they didn’t have to add that much to the offense to put them over the top, so two quality wide-outs should do the trick.

While one team in the division needed offense, the other desperately needed defense. Combine the Ravens defense with the Cincinnati Bengals offense and you have an unstoppable Super Bowl winner. It’s not even worth discussing the Bengals has a contender until they’ve proven they can stop somebody. Carson Palmer is going to put points on the board, but it feels like this team would be much more suited for the NFC West, where they actually have a limit on the amount of talent you can have on defense. But it’s Marvin Lewis’s third year in the Queen City, and you have to think he’d have fixed up that side of the ball enough so that, again, 35 points will win you the game.

Oh, and then there’s Cleveland. Let’s just say Charlie Frye is destined to be starter there, if only because he’s the hometown guy and nobody on the depth chart is that much better than he is. Maybe Barcus can contribute something else about his boys, but honestly, I’ve got nothing.


Now this is interesting. The Jaguars won in Indy last year, got within a win of the playoffs and didn’t lose anybody of note in the offseason. The Colts have a great home field, a two-time MVP at quarterback and realize this is probably their last year with Edgerrin James. I initially looked at the Colts’ schedule and thought “Wow, they’re going to go 13-3”, but I’m basically making them unbeatable at home in saying that. Now that I look at it, and now that geniuses over at have picked them to win the Super Bowl, I feel less and less comfortable with taking them to even win the division.

So I’m not. I’m taking the Jaguars. Their fate will be decided as early, as three of their first six games are on the road at Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and New York. Byron Leftwich must stay healthy, and I’m putting a lot of faith in Fred Taylor’s leg….eesh, this is tough. I’m not confident in selecting them at all, despite the fact you simply cannot run the ball on them. The smart pick is the Colts, I’m not denying this. The really smart pick is the Colts, but there’s a new offensive coordinator in town, so Byron can fling the ball around, and like I said: you can’t run the ball on them. Screw it, Lord Byron’s going to etch out a 4-2 record before the bye, and then roll through the rest of the season, dragging Fred Taylor along with him.

I don’t think the Texans added enough to their defense or offensive line to give David Carr a real chance, and the Titans lost so much it’s hard to put much confidence in them, despite the fact Steve McNair is involved. I’d love to see them do well, but I can’t pick them, sorry.


Really interesting division. I really want to pick the Raiders to win it, mainly because the Broncos don’t impress me, I don’t think the Chargers can do it again and the Chiefs’ schedule is hella-tough, but I can’t, because they don’t have a defense. (Imagine what the NFL would be like if every team had a quality defense and quality quarterback. These predictions would be a lot harder to make.) I think Jerry Porter and Randy Moss will have huge years. I think Lamont Jordan will make a great feature back. I think Kerry Collins will wear a manly, exciting beard most of the year, but I don’t think they’ll win more than seven games.

Despite the fact they’ve had no reason being there, the Broncos have stolen playoff spots from better teams the last two years and promptly been blown out by the Colts, accounting for two of Peyton Manning’s three career playoff victories. They somehow thought importing a shitty Cleveland defensive line would make things better, so I’m going to question that logic. Throw in the fact Ashley Lelie still hasn’t stepped up to run with Rod Smith, the fact Smith is getting old and the fact Jake Plummer is still their quarterback and it’s almost too easy to completely overlook them, despite the fact you know the running game will be the best in the conference.

I don’t have anything against the Chargers, but I don’t think they did enough in the offseason to maintain the success they had last year. They didn’t add a top-tier wide-out and they didn’t add any high-level secondary personnel, so they’re banking completely and totally on the fact that A) Drew Brees doesn’t regress at all and B) That LT stays healthy the entire year. If Brees starts to slip or LT misses even a couple of games, that schedule will eat them alive. I wish them the best, but I don’t see it happening two years in a row.

So that leaves me with the Chiefs, a team whose schedule is pretty damn tough, but not a whole lot tougher than anyone else’s in the division, probably easier than a few when you look closely. They don’t have any wide-outs – any wide-outs at all – but that didn’t stop them from being awesome on awesome again last year. If Trent Green stays healthy, they’re good for four touchdowns a week. And they made great strides to improve the defense – adding Derrick Johnson, Pat Surtain, Sammy Knight and the oft-injured Kendrell Bell – so I think that’ll be enough to put them on the winning side of the ledger more often than the rest of their division.

The Picks


The Eagles and Vikings are staked to spots at the top of their divisions, and I’m taking the Falcons over the Panthers because John Fox’s crew has never defeated Mike Be Nimble. Out West, I’ve liking the Rams more and more, just by looking at their schedule there’s a double-digit win team, and do I really want to bet on Kurt Warner?

East: Eagles
North: Vikings
South: Falcons
West: Rams
Wild Cards: Panthers, Cardinals

First Round: Philadelphia over Arizona, Carolina over St. Lous
Second Round: Carolina over Minnesota, Atlanta over Philadelphia
NFC Championship: Dirty Birds over Cardiac Cats


The Patriots are like the Braves – they’ll be predicted to win until they lose. I think the Ravens have made enough improvements and the Steelers have wallowed enough that the division will belong to Baltimore. I’m, with a complete and total lack of confidence, taking the Jaguars over the Colts, and the Chiefs to win the division.

East: Patriots
North: Ravens
South: Jaguars
West: Chiefs
Wild Cards: Colts, Steelers

First Round: Jaguars over Steelers, Colts over Chiefs
Second Round: Patriots over Colts, Ravens over Jaguars (Game of the Playoffs)
AFC Championship: Patriots over Ravens

Super Bowl:

There’s no way to scheme against Mike Be Nimble, and for the third year in a row, I’m taking the Falcons to win the Super Bowl. Down goes Brady, down goes Belichick, 24-21.

MVP: Daunte Culpepper
Offensive Rookie: JJ Arrington
Defensive Rookie: Derrick Johnson
Offensive Player: Priest Holmes
Defensive Player: Ed Reed
Coach of the Year: Nick Saban (Sorry, I had to.)

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