New England (19 – 0) ~ I think this New England
team has the potential… the potential… to be significantly better
offensively than they were two years ago.
I blame the loss of the perfect season on something very few people
mention… the loss of Sammy Morris. People brush right past it…
don’t even think about it really… because they kept winning after
he was lost. (And winning… and winning.) But something was different
after he went down. That’s right around the time they stopped
demolishing everyone by halftime, and even had a few clubs threaten
to end the perfect regular season.
year, the offense is deeper than that group. Fred Taylor is coming
in as depth… not as a starter. If he could stay healthy, even
if there are problems, I don’t think he’d have any troubles delivering
15-plus quality carries a game.
again, defenses have to face the choice of Randy Moss or Wes Welker…
only this year Joey Galloway presents the fastest option Brady
has ever had as his third receiver.
while they have lost a ton of experience on defense… Bruschi and
Seymour most recently… I think there are some young players ready
to make significant contributions.
top of all that… special teams… they’re good with that as well.
because they finished second in the division last year, they don’t
play the normal rotation of Pittsburgh, San Diego and Indianapolis
this regular season. Just Indy… possibly the weakest of those
three. And if they earn the top seed, they quite possibly only
play one of those clubs in the playoffs.
need to avoid injuries. But I honestly believe that quietly, they
expect perfection this year. This team will be favored every week
and will be leveling the opposition from the first week. And they
will be driven and motivated to reach new heights this season.
as if all of this wasn’t enough… in four games, the Pats are supposedly
going to wear throwback uniforms. I have to move on… I’m getting
(8 – 8) ~ Can we please stop the wildcat talk? Something
like 25-years ago, Walter Payton lined up as quarterback for the
Bears. Teams have used the formation before. This isn’t something
comes down to execution, pure and simple. The Dolphins did use
a variety of formations last season, one of which was called the
wildcat, and they performed from those formations very well. And
like Tampa Bay in baseball last season… alot of things went perfectly
for the Dolphins in 2008. And, just like the Rays, I expect them
to be good… a motivated, hard working, well run organization…
but to take a step back in 2009.
look at their schedule.
year they went 11-5. Let’s just say… for giggles… in 2009 they
split with the Patriots and win the rest of their divisional games.
That’s 5-1. (And I think we agree, 5-1 is being generous.) Of
the other 10 games…
open at Atlanta.
they won the division last year, they get Pittsburgh and San Diego
on their schedule.
rotation gives them Tennessee and Indianapolis along with the
remainder of the AFC South.
other NFC opponents include New Orleans and Carolina.
against New England… Atlanta… Pittsburgh… San Diego… Tennessee…
Indianapolis… New Orleans… Carolina.
represents half of their schedule.
in the best of circumstances, I don’t see how this club gets to
have always liked Chad Pennington. I think he runs the best play
action I have ever seen. (It’s a thing of beauty. Simply gorgeous.)
like the team attitude that’s developing here.
this team has the misfortune to be in the same division as a juggernaut…
and the misfortune of facing a few costs associated with last
(7 – 9) ~ I’m going to leave them with 7 wins. Once I
had it all balanced… so the wins equaled the losses across the
NFL… it felt too late to begin adjusting a game or two up (or
down) only to have to balance it with corresponding losses (or
wins) in a different place. But… more so than I’m believing with
any other team… 7 wins is way too optimistic for this bunch, and
I should probably reconsider. This has all the makings of a very
are set up nicely enough. Cleveland… Kansas City… and some other
games where they may even send the more talented offense on to
the field. They’ll even play the Jets in Toronto as part of that
exciting home on the road effort they are developing. Sarcasm
aside, there are wins on that schedule.
the other hand…
heard about Turk Schonert… right?
buddy Turk was the offensive coordinator. He was fired, with the
reason cited being the horrendous performance of the offense this
summer. Now… let’s focus on this for a moment. Isn’t the preseason
about testing things out, working on problems, finding out about
the unknown players, and not necessarily about playing your best
players while trying to win all of the games? And didn’t the big
acquisition… cry-baby Owens… sit out most of the preseason because
one of his little piggies was bothering him?
other words… exactly what was he being judged on? How was horrendous
to Schonert, he claims he was actually fired because the offense
he was developing was too complex.
a division with New England…
a division where the Dolphins are going to be a steady, strong
defense and the Jets are now being led by a defensive-minded coach…
there are accusations that Buffalo wants to put in a simple offense.
And they’re not exactly loaded with weapons that you would fear
based on an ability to execute basic patterns with outstanding
and straightforward, you can’t stop us… that works for the Lombardi
on coloring inside the lines, make things easier for the alligator-armed
Umm… that’ll work.
is a very good chance this team will spin out of control before
York (Jets) (6 – 10) ~ I know Thomas Jones had a big
year in 2008, and has been fairly steady for New York. Got it.
best running back and biggest threat is Leon Washington.
I like the Jets. I think Mark Sanchez has been perfect so far
in the way he handles himself and approaches the club. And I think
Rex Ryan could ultimately be a good coach with them.
neither one of those two is ready for what this division is going
to throw at them.
of a roster of Jets issues though, let me describe the New York
problems this way.
you ever heard the old talk about football playing styles? You
know… theories like if you play in the north, you need to concentrate
on running the ball, and run it well, because that’s all you do
when the cold weather hits. Some times you’d hear announcers talk
about divisions being assembled with all the teams looking similar
(say tough on defense… with the NFC East being a great, and current,
I don’t think the Jets are going to send a team on the field in
2009 that is the team they want on the field. I think they’re
looking for defensive backs in the hopes that what they find can
run with New England. (They can’t… and won’t… but about 20% of
their active roster looks to be safeties and corners. And while
they may not be the only ones dressing more than 10 players in
those roles, that’s huge if they also stay big on quarterbacks
and sacrifice roster spots for receivers and running backs because
know changing game plans helps and all of that. But, I can’t recall
a time when a team was successful setting up their roster based
on what everyone else was doing. I don’t know if I’m explaining
it properly… but I think there needs to be a proactive element
to your team instead of a reactive element in order to be successful.
I think you need to be able to do something… anything… well. I
think you need an identity. Yeah… that’s it… an identity defines
it about as well as any word does.
Jets to me look like a team assembled not to do anything well,
but rather assembled because they are concerned about what other
teams do well.
when Shelley Duvall was in Popeye and she sang about Brutus? She
was trying to come up with something positive to say about him,
and she finally arrived at the idea that Brutus was large. And…
that’s about it. “He’s large.”
the New York Jets. We have a rookie quarterback that we think
is talented. And New England passes the ball very well, so we
have lots and lots of safeties.
that’s about it.
Pittsburgh (11 – 5) ~ There are basically two
kinds of people writing about Pittsburgh. Both of them are incredibly
wrong. Type number one… giving them too much respect. (Note: The
Steelers are not the team of the decade. They could be… but only
by going undefeated and winning a title this year. Stop giving
them too much respect.) And type number two… giving them too little
respect. (Other than Brady, only one active, starting quarterback
in the NFL has two titles… and he plays in Pittsburgh. Stop saying
they beat weak opponents. Because it doesn’t matter… they beat
don’t get me wrong… Pittsburgh is a very good club. But they aren’t
going to have an undefeated season. And even if they win a Super
Bowl this year, they will have three wins and three appearances,
while New England will have three wins, four appearances, and
lots more conference playoff success. So don’t go crying about
some lack of respect while trying to make the Steelers out to
be the best team of the last 10 years.
on that other side of the argument… too little credit. As I said,
there are only two active, starting quarterbacks in the league
with multiple championships. Brady is one. Pittsburgh has Roethlisberger.
They deserve credit… he deserves credit… give them the respect.
my mind, Pittsburgh falls into the middle of these extremes.
are incredibly well coached. One of the best coaching staffs in
the league. You will not catch them unprepared for a contest.
and the offense are talented… and I think Ben has proven his ability
to drive the team in tough situations. Oh, yeah, and I love the
way Hines Ward plays.
the defense… well, the defense is special.
is a very, very good team. They might finish the year with the
best defense in either conference. The offense will put up some
big numbers in some games, and should be respectable in all of
win at home… all the time… just like you set out intending to
a brutal 2008 schedule, this year they have some room to breath.
No New England for once. The AFC West for the AFC rotation. And
out of the big three headaches the NFC North could give them,
they only have Chicago on the road… with Green Bay and Minnesota
traveling to them.
wins shouldn’t be a problem. Get a few breaks… and a top-two seed
is possible. I just don’t think they’ll be able to do better than
New England or San Diego for the full season in the end.
(9 – 7) ~ While Pittsburgh gets away from New England…
Baltimore doesn’t. And they get Green Bay and Minnesota as road
fact… Kansas City as a nice opener, followed by a trip to San
Diego, Cleveland, at New England, Cincinnati, and at Minnesota.
I’m feeling a 3-3 record… 3-0 at home, 0-3 on the road… by the
time the Ravens reach a week 7 bye.
key to their season comes after the bye though… in weeks 8, 9,
and 10. Denver… Cincinnati and Cleveland. If they tread water
early, they could easily move forward right here. And then… well…
look at Detroit and Oakland on that schedule! The Ravens will
be in a sweet position if they can be around 6-3 when Indianapolis
arrives on November 22nd. Unfortunately, if they aren’t at 6-3
or better, then the stretch of Indy and Pitt at home with a trip
to Green Bay that follows could end their season.
will present a solid, and deep, running attack. And there is no
defense that gets as insulted when scored upon as this group.
This is a driven, emotional team.
like what I’ve seen from Joe Flacco… reminds me alot of Roethlisberger
actually. Not quite elite, but can win a game by his own play
if he needs to, and capable of leading a championship-level club.
He’s just not there yet.
(6 – 10) ~ Can you tell me the name of Cincinnati’s running
back? Ok… how about any Cincinnati running back?
I ask because this club just feels strange to me.
all know Carson Palmer. Worthy of respect even though when you
check things out he’s accomplished very little. (I think he’s
going to be compared to Drew Bledsoe ALOT before all is said and
done.) T.J. Houshmandzadeh is gone… so one of the most interesting
(for whatever reason), and arguably more talented groups of wide
receivers in the league, has lost what I believe is their most
talented and reliable part.
in the end, I’m just not seeing where this offense is going to
be able to control the ball with a pounding and dominant running
game, or move the ball with a consistent passing attack.
that, there is a chance the Bengals have a defense that could
be challenged to be the third best in this division. I think they’re
better than Cleveland’s group… but what is that telling you?
of the schedule they won’t be hideous, but I think as November
rolls around more people will be thinking of them as the Bungals
(5 – 11) ~ Last year I saw a few flashes… really few…
worthy of note. I don’t mean that the Browns were great, or even
that there is hope for the future. But, both of their quarterbacks
seem capable of delivering a couple of solid games. Braylon Edwards
is a good receiver. And so we have the makings of an average football
last year also showed signs of lackadaisical play. Little effort.
An inability to score.
won’t threaten a winning record.
won’t be looking at the first pick in the draft next year.
I worry about is things like Eric Mangini. What the hell? Is he
deliberately trying to do a bad job? Because this not naming a
quarterback mystery, united with some other moves… or lack thereof…
really seems to raise more questions than answers. And if he had
a reputation growing with his players in New York about whether
or not he could lead, then he isn’t doing himself any favors here
predicting a boring season for Cleveland. (So watch them go out
and upset Minnesota to start things off, then use a weak schedule
to stay in the playoff discussion long after they should have
been dead. Hey… Mangini did that in New York too.)