Indianapolis (12 – 4) ~ I’ve seen a few people
expecting the Colts to drop off… but I don’t echo their sentiments.
understand how the departures of Tony Dungy and Marvin Harrison
are perfect examples of change. People don’t like change.
Manning still has a solid group of talent around him offensively.
Anthony Gonzalez should be a significant weapon running with Reggie
Wayne this season. And virtually every free agent came back.
guess what I’m saying is simple… the more things change, the more
they stay the same.
schedule kicks off with Jacksonville, then trips to Miami and
Arizona. All of those present tough, but winnable games for the
Colts. The last four games feature Denver and New York (Jets)
at home, and a trip to Buffalo.
Tennessee is a tough team. But by not winning the division last
year… and with New England not winning last year either… the AFC
has a different look in 2009. Many of the best teams won’t be
killing each other. The Titans get Pittsburgh and San Diego… and
then still get New England because the South plays the East. Yuck
like what the Colts have for 2009. Maybe they are in decline…
not quite the same these days… but for this year, I still expect
a playoff berth.
(10 – 6 ) ~ I started my thoughts a moment ago… this
year is going to be tough on the Titans. By winning the division
last year, the get the Chargers and the Steelers. While I don’t
expect miracles from Houston and Jacksonville in 2009, they certainly
present more of a threat than Cincinnati, Cleveland, Kansas City,
Oakland, new York or Buffalo present as the bottom feeders in
the other AFC divisions. So… if we can agree on at least 2 divisional
losses… toss in the Patriots, Chargers, Steelers and Dolphins…
well, things look interesting for them.
it gets interesting is what they do with the NFC West. They could
easily win all four of those games. And that means it could be
games against Buffalo and New York (Jets) that gets them up to
10 wins. I think they can do that.
teams is in good hands… as Rob Bironas is about as consistent
a kicker as you will ever see while never hearing about him. Their
running game is strong and their defense is fantastic.
one question that worries me about the Titans is a simple one…
I don’t think they can score if they have to. Kerry Collins is
fine… he’s not much more than average, but he’s certainly not
a bad quarterback. Still… under fire… I don’t expect more from
him than a three-and-out. Hardly the thing that builds championships.
(8 – 8) ~ Welcome to year eight of Houston’s 3 to 5 year
plan.And following an 8-8 record in 2008, the team will be looking
for more in 2009.
have my doubts.
isn’t a single game on their schedule that jumps out at me as
a win. Even something like Oakland… last year the Raiders beat
them 27-16. So we’re dealing with a team that can win or lose
have… in my opinion, bar none… the best wide receiver playing
right now in Andre Johnson. The fact that this guy doesn’t get
the recognition he deserves is ridiculous. Toss in Steve Slaton…
I know, no one really knows his name, but last year he gained
almost 1,300-yards as a rookie and scored 9 touch downs… and there
is some power on offense in Houston.
you think we’d be talking about Mario Williams like we do? He’s
played every game since becoming a pro, has 37 sacks in those
three seasons, frankly, he’s worthy of recognition as a force
to be reckoned with on that line.
they play consistently, I don’t have any. The schedule, featuring
Oakland and Buffalo, isn’t impossible to navigate. But that bitter
taste of their losses in previous seasons… snatching defeat from
the jaws of victory as the saying goes… is tough to overcome.
(7 – 9) ~ I have no clue what to tell you about Jacksonville.
And there’s a funny reason for that…
3 or 4 years ago, I was impressed. The defense was hungry and
attacking. They looked good… inspired… and seemed to be a team
on the rise. And about a year later, they were in the middle of
that rise. A threat to take the division title from Indianapolis.
Got them to the playoffs. Since then they’ve… well… they just
seem to have lost that edge. I thought they had a quarterback
that could win for them. He’s gone. I thought they made some major
free agent signings. They didn’t work out. And so here we are,
heading in to a new season, and the club that showed me so much
promise has a different roster.
general thoughts aren’t good either. Actually, not my thoughts,
just my simple first impression… it’s not good. And it’s not even
truly team-related. Why? Because I’ve been reading, for whatever
reason, about the USFL and other articles about Jacksonville,
and how football in Jacksonville is just all wrong. And I’m afraid
that seeing the club achieving at a level below where I thought
they might be headed, combined with some negative stories that
have nothing to do with this team but everything to do with Jacksonville
and the history of professional football in the city floating
around in my head… well… it adds up to me not expecting much from
the Jaguars, but a distinct feeling of having judged them too
let’s see what we’ve got…
Jones-Drew is a good running back. I like that. They added Torry
Holt to their offense… and giving David Garrard a veteran presence
is something I can really appreciate as a positive step.
is balanced… though not exactly made up of stars. That’s not a
bad thing, just a realistic observation. Remember a couple of
years ago, when Jason Taylor was the defensive player of the year
and seemed to will the Dolphins defense to play better than they
were? Ok… that’s not going to happen here in Jacksonville.
short… they’re better than the 5-11 we saw last season. But I
don’t think they’re significantly better.
San Diego (12 – 4) ~ This club comes out of the
gate with six guaranteed wins. Six. Because there is absolutely
no way… no excuse… for them to lose a single divisional game.
this. This is a reason. Yeah… the
Shawne – Tila story.
mention that story for reasons I’ll get to in a minute. See, San
Diego is ready to roll.
have a dynamic defense. They can be powerful up front, stuff runs,
and pressure the passing game. The linebackers and defensive backs
are strong as well.
teams… led by Nate Kaeding… are above average too.
offense, Philip Rivers is a good quarterback. Tomlinson may not
be what he was… he’s still better than most. Antonio Gates leads
some good receiving options.
is an above average football team… and one you would go into a
season quite satisfied with. In fact, once again, quite possibly
the most naturally talented team in the NFL.
least … until Tila comes along.
don’t get me wrong… I’m not saying Shawne did anything to Tila.
And I’m not saying he didn’t. The whole situation is something
I know zero about. I’m mentioning it because it’s an example of
a distraction... or at least a potential distraction. And what
I am saying is that… when considering the San Diego Chargers…
the idea that days before the season begins such a story even
exists is troubling. Because history suggests the slightest interruption…
the slightest inconvenience… seems to throw this club completely
off balance. They are like a Ferrari in a parking lot filled with
speed bumps... lined up just right they will be strong and powerful...
hit a bump and it looks completely wrong.
that idea if you wish, but I’ll need you to explain how the most
talented team in football struggles to reach an even records in
Norv Turner… well, he just might be the worst head coach in football.
(I wouldn’t want him navigating my Ferrari.)
enjoy San Diego. It’s going to be a great season. But when it
comes down to it… Pittsburgh, New England or Tennessee will eventually
send you home.
(5 – 11) ~ Show me something.
want to see something.
travels to Cincinnati. Not an easy game… especially for a team
that isn’t a top tier team… but a winnable game for any club that
thinks they can reach a minimum of 8 wins. Then they play Cleveland
and Oakland. So… come on… 3-0 is sitting right there in front
that, the world collapses. Dallas, New England and San Diego are
listed in that order. Following their bye week they face Baltimore,
Pittsburgh and Washington… with trips to the east coast for the
Ravens and Redskins. Then they face San Diego and New York (Giants).
on… hold on… this team has New England, Pittsburgh, 2 against
San Diego, and they have to play the NFC East with Philly and
Washington as the road games from those?
lord… they’re screwed. This might be the worst schedule any team
plays, and they get Kansas City and Oakland as four of their games!!!
looking over the players, I need to move on. (But… when Denver
makes a miraculous rise to respectability next year, and everyone
wants to know how it happened, please remind them of the schedule
the Broncos had this year.)
(3 – 13) ~ Can you tell me how often Richard Seymour
has been listed as a starter for all 16 games of the regular season
in his career? Give yourself a treat if you knew the answer was
in all honesty, the numbers aren’t that hideous. Last year he
started and played in 15 games. And in 2006 he played in all 16
games but was considered the starter for 15. And, in his 8 seasons,
he has played in 12 or more games 7 times.
thing is, it sure doesn’t seem to me like the numbers should be
that good. One thing my mind keeps screaming is that it sure seems
like every week of the past several regular seasons involved questions
about whether or not he would play… every week… and if he did
play, then it was going to be how much… and that in the end the
Patriots were really just hoping he’d be healthy when the playoffs
arrived. Now perhaps that’s perception more than the reality…
and the numbers indicate that it might not have been the reality.
After all, Seymour is a great player and can be a tremendous force
on the field. Maybe that’s enough.
this trade makes no sense for Oakland… none at all. Unless they
use every means available to them (and considering the labor negotiations
taking place, they may not have any means such as franchise tags
available to them), there is no way Seymour is staying in Oakland.
Other teams… better teams… will offer him equal if not more money.
And that means there is a very real possibility that Oakland traded
a first round pick… a top ten first round pick… to the Patriots
for a guy that will join them for what I see as a 3-win season.
I predicted 3 wins for Oakland before the trade. And, truth be
told, either the Raiders or the Chiefs will likely figure out
how to threaten 4 or 5 wins. Oakland did that last year, and as
we’ve already examined in this very column, they play Houston
this year. But I didn’t change anything for two reasons. Number
one… I always try to make my records balance. If someone wins…
someone must lose… so across the NFL the records must reflect
256 wins, and thus 256 losses. So if I give Oakland a victory
or 2 for picking up Seymour, I need to find a loss or 2 to give
someone else. And second… is he really going to help this team?
Really? Because they stink.
said. I’m finished with these guys.
City (2 – 14) ~ I’d like to find something nice to say
about the Chiefs. Really I would.
not this season.
now, there isn’t a game on their schedule that will see them favored.
Maybe they win a couple and that changes later in the year… but
not right now.
now they need help. More help. I’m optimistic they’ll get it.
not this season.