The weather is getting cooler. The kids are back in school. That could mean only one thing – it’s football season! Time for the pigskin to be thrown around the gridiron. This year’s season kicks off September 9, 2010 with a rematch of the NFC championship game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints. The season ends on February 6, 2011 in Dallas. On any given Sunday, any team can win. Realistically, not every team has a chance to make the Super Bowl. Below are my preseason predictions on who will make the postseason and who better invest in a big screen HDTV to watch from the comfort of their living rooms.
Chicago Bears: This team is an enigma. It has the potential to be very good or very bad. Jay Cutler is a servicable quarterback. The defense got them to the Super Bowl before. However, the key is Urlacher and he just cannot seem to stay healthy. Behind the scenes are a bit dysfunctional, as evidenced by the search for an offensive line coordinator in the offseason. Lovie Smith knows he is on the hot seat. He could take more chances or he could go conservative. Again, either way has the potential to save the season or sink it. When they figure out what they want, maybe the rest of us will too.
Detroit Lions: Technically, they are supposed to be the bottom of the division. However, they have made improvements over the years since getting rid of Matt Millen as GM. Matt Stafford is developing into a fine franchise quarterback. He has protection on the line and decent receivers. If the defense can get its act together, they could be dangerous. But, not this year.
Green Bay Packers: A nice quiet offseason. No big moves, but no whining players either. Aaron Rodgers is becoming more and more comfortable in his starting role. Hello, Division Champs. The division is theirs for the taking, and all the playoffs beyond.
Minnesota Vikings: Favre is not the savior of this or any other team. He makes too many boneheaded plays. For someone of his experience, he should know better. But, his ego keeps getting in the way. If I were a member of that team and I heard one more time that “we can’t win without Favre,” I would say “fine, I’ll go home then because you obviously don’t need me.” There are signs of dissension already. A closed door players only meeting in the preseaon is not a sign of a happy team looking forward to a successful season. They also have hold out and injury issues. Sidney Rice is sulking, Adrian Peterson is banged up, and Percy Harvin keeps getting severe migraines. Do not expect to see these guys in the post season.
Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan is still Matty Ice. But, suspensions and injuries could hurt the team this year. Since they still have to play the Saints, it will be a tough road to take the division. A lot will depend on how they play with backups and overcome adversity. But that’s true of any team. Consistency would be nice. Putting together another consecutive winning season would go a long way in establishing this team as a contender.
Carolina Panthers: Improvement through subtraction could be the news for this team. Getting rid of interception prone Jake Delhomme certainly cannot hurt. Matt Moore should do okay, if he has anyone to throw the ball to. Steve Smith is recovering from a broken arm. The rest of the receiving corps is not exactly household names. Look to them to barely have a winning season and miss the playoffs.
New Orleans Saints: Is the party over yet? Five years after being homeless thanks to a heartless lass named Katrina, they start the season as the reigning champs. They return a lot of players from that championship team too. Not a lot of key injuries in the offseason. Not a lot of turmoil. The biggest stories were Reggie Bush and the NCAA sanctions of USC, the bookselling duel between Coach Payton and Drew Brees and the delay of their visit to the White House. Look to see them repeat into the playoffs. However, too many teams gunning for them and history is against them. Do not look for a Super Bowl repeat.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: RaheemMorris is calling out players he thinks aren’t playing hard enough. This is not enough to get this team together – except to hate the coach. So sad that they seem to be returning to their mid-70s “winning” ways. Hope they like the cellar. They should think about redecorating, they are going to be here for a while.
Dallas Cowboys: Way too much pressure on this team. Jerry Jones would like nothing better than to have the first team to play a home Super Bowl. DeMarcus Ware seems healthy, so the defense should be good. However, it is time to acknowledge that Tony Romo just does not have what it takes to get this team far in the playoffs. However, there is no qb in waiting either. Looks like the long drought between Super Bowls continues.
New York Giants: Eli Manning getting his head bashed open might be the best thing that ever happened to this team. For years, people have questioned his toughness and commitment to football. There is no question now, this guy is one tough football player – he’s got the stitches to prove it. He’s got receivers to throw to, also. That Cruz kid makes the team go “Plaxico who?” They will be in the playoffs and legitimate contenders to return to the Big Game.
Philadelphia Eagles: I want to like this team. They made some good moves in the offseason. I think Kevin Kolb will do just fine as the starter. But, they are just too committed to getting Michael Vick into games. He does not have it anymore (if he ever really did). Plus, shoehorning him in disrupts the offense. You can’t win with a disrupted offense and rusty QB. They may make a wildcard if the division sends three teams like they usually do. But, the problems in the regular season will carry over to the playoffs.
Washington Redskins: The perennial basement team stays there. Someone needs to explain to Snyder that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Every year he overpays for free agents or wastes future picks on trades. Every year, the Redskins are miserable. This year is no different. Mortgaged the future to get McNabb who his own team did not care he got traded within the diversion. The guy is already hurt and its on the preseason. Need I mention the Haynesworth saga? Didn’t think so. Team is too busy infighting and divaing around to actually play football.
Arizona Cardinals: Matt Leinart has had several years to prove if he has what it takes in the NFL. His back up is Derek Anderson. Thank goodness they still have Larry Fitzgerald. But, they lost Anquan Boldin. This will be a lost year for the Birds of the Desert. Maybe they can correct their mistake next year.
San Francisco 49ers: All this team needs is consistency from Alex Smith. All the other pieces are there. The disgruntled players were shipped out quick before they became a distraction. Coach Singletary has the support of the players who will give their all for him. If Smith plays well, they take the division. I wish that weren’t such a big “if.”
Seattle Seahawks: Pete Carroll already learned once that the NFL is different than college ball. Now he gets to learn again. Then there was the trade for Whitehurst to back up the oft-injured Hasselback. He mortgaged the future for a championship season now. Which he will not get. This team will struggle just like last year.
St. Louis Rams: The ownership situation is stable. Too bad the quarterback situation is not. Feeley is the starter at the moment. However, the calls to start Bradford will begin at the first interception. It is difficult to see how a kid with a twice-surgically repaired shoulder will save this team. The defense is not much to talk about either. Look to them to be in the basement of not just the division, but the league this season.
Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco is the only guy on this team I like. I find the addition of Anquan Boldin interesting. This is not a team I root for, I just don’t like them. Personal feelings notwithstanding, I have to face facts. This is one heck of a team. Division champs. No question about it. With their dominating defense and the offense becoming a threat too, they could go far.
Cincinnati Bengals: TO and Ochocinco on the same team is about as good a mixture as dynamite and C4. You just know there will be an explosion. There are just not enough plays to keep both of these ball hogs happy. And when TO is not happy, he starts causing trouble. This is an experiment that has “FAIL” written all over it. Which is too bad because they have some good players who deserve better. There’s always next year when TO will be in search of a team again.
Cleveland Browns: I thought last year that painting over the pictures of the Browns greats at the practice facility was a bad idea. Considering how their last season turned out, dissing the past is not a good idea. So this year they fired Jim Brown. Holmgren would have to be a miracle worker to turn this team around. Look to Mangini to be the first coach fired this year. That is about the only good news for Browns fans this year.
Pittsburgh Steelers: You don’t go to the playoffs if your starting quarterback is suspended for at least four games. You just don’t. I hope Big Ben thinks about this while sitting at home during the playoffs and keeps his pants zipped next off season. Leftwich and Dixon will do just fine in his absence, but it won’t be the same. The rest of the team is in great shape and playing well. Too bad.
I wish this division could send three teams to the playoffs rather than the West sending even one. Two teams really deserve a shot at the playoffs they will never get as long as the Colts are in the division.
Houston Texans: Every year the pundits say this is the year they turn the corner. Well, last year they actually had a winning season. For this year, the goal should be to repeat that. The playoffs would be nice, but as noted this division won’t be sending three teams to the playoffs. The Texans would be that third team.
Indianapolis Colts: That loss in the Super Bowl really messed with their heads. The whole team has something to prove. Manning is too much of a perfectionist to let anything that went wrong last year stay wrong this year. They will be a very frightening team this year. Of course they will be the division champs. It’s just a matter of how far they go. And whether or not they stop the idiotic practice of resting their starters late in the season.
Jacksonville Jaguars: They can’t fill their stadium. The team has made it clear the city needs to support the team if it is to remain. Winning would do wonders towards getting the stadium filled. So, expect another half-empty stadium this year. Josh Freeman to Maurice Jones-Drew should be a winning combination. Heck anyone to Maurice Jones-Drew should be a winning combination. You need more than one really exciting receiver to win games. This is a tough division anyway with the Colts and the Titans, just too tough for the Jaguars to crack the top tier.
Tennessee Titans: Vince Young is coming along. The offense is getting into rhythm. The defense can still dominate. Last year was just an off year for a perenially good team. If the unthinkable happens the Colts stumble, the Titans will step right into their shoes. At the very least they are a wild card team.
Buffalo Bills: Chan Gailey? Trent Edwards? Still no line to protect the quarteback or open holes for the receivers. The defense just stumbles over themselves. It is just sad how far this once proud team has fallen. They can’t even convince the Canadians to come to the games anymore.
Miami Dolphins: The Chads lead this team. It’s a Florida thing. Brandon Marshall makes a nice addition to the team. A new start is what this guy needed. Ricky Williams continues to be a solid performer. Look for the Dolphins to challenge the Pats for the top of the division – and don’t be too surprised if they take it.
New England Patriots: Tom Brady can still chuck it downfield. Wes Welker is all the way back from his knee injury. Randy Moss continues to behave. The Belichick magic continues. However, other teams have figured them out. The wins don’t come as easy as they used to come. It will come down to them or the Dolphins for the division title. The downward spiral will be complete if they don’t take it.
New York Jets: Too much talk, not enough play. The Revis holdout is dominating the offseason. Even worse, the coach who usually over praises everyone on the team said that Sanchez’s role is to just not lose games. Not exactly a vote of confidence in the franchise quarterback. If it weren’t for the Bills, this team would be in last place in the division. All the talk of going to the Super Bowl is only going to come true if they buy tickets.
Every single one of these teams has trouble. I just can’t see any of them having above a .500 record. I would rather seen three teams from the AFC South go to the playoffs than one of these teams. That division deserves it more.
Denver Broncos: Draft Tim Tebow and you get a visit from the injury fairy. Don’t expect much from this team this year. Really don’t expect it if there is a push to start Tebow at any time during the season. That weird throwing motion will hurt him in the pros. It’s too late to change it and he doesn’t have a good enough team around him to make up for it. With Kyle Orton starting they will be respectable. The loss of Dumervil will hurt the defense greatly. Thankfully, they are in the AFC West. It will be the annual duke out between the Broncos and the Chargers for the division title.
Kansas City Chiefs: Doubts are already beginning about Cassel as the quarterback. Scott Pioli is still trying to create the kind of team he and Belichick created in New England. That is a long term project. In the short term, just not being last in the League should be the goal.
Oakland Raiders: Jason Campbell is a fine quarterback who was in a bad situation in Washington. Sadly, he is not in a much better situation in Oakland. As long as Al Davis interferes with the running of this team (yes, he’s the owner but he should just write the checks), it will also be a circus not a football team. Cable knows who the real coach is and acts accordingly.
San Diego Chargers: This is the team in the division with the least problems. Which considering the other teams is not saying much. However, the holdouts are hurting this team. The game playing with those holdouts does not help. Even worse, once of those holdouts protects Rivers’ blindside. It really shows how bad the line is without him. Rivers is the only top 10 quarterback from his draft that does not have a Super Bowl trophy. He won’t have it this year either.
There it is, all 32 teams. Comes February, only two teams will be playing for that shiny, shiny, Lombardi Trophy. The rest will be home preparing for next year. I just hope there is a next year./