New York (11 – 5) ~ Lord, I hate favoring the
Giants… I really do. But as I look over what I’m writing in these
previews, with what seems to be a very heavy hand toward looking
at schedules, let’s consider…
opening with Washington and Dallas, the Giants should explode…
Tampa, Kansas City and Oakland. Most of what seem like the toughest
games… Arizona, San Diego, Atlanta, Carolina… are at home. And
they get the Vikings on the last day of the year… when their fate
will likely have been decided.
right off the bat, I like that for them. Playing in New Jersey…
a wind tunnel of all wind tunnels, and unpredictable as it comes…
is a tremendous equalizer.
the way to stop them is to destroy the ground game, I started
wondering how many of their opponents are ready to do that. Think
about it… if the wind is blowing, and the quarterback can’t throw,
and the Giants are putting a team on the field with a dominant
defensive line… well, that plays right into their strengths. So…
how many teams are equipped, on paper, to force Eli to pass? Divisional
opponents… sure. Minnesota… probably. But Arizona? Kansas City?
Tampa? I doubt it.
Eli has a ring. And I’ve seen him lead fourth quarter drives.
He doesn’t wilt. Deserves respect. But how many times have you
watched him destroy an opponent on his own? When have you ever
seen him in that legendary zone?
beat the Giants you need to do something consistent on offense…
could be run or pass, but you are going to have to establish it
and continue it all game. And, you need to control the line with
your defense… not necessarily pressure on Eli, but stop that run.
can be amazing on offense when they’re rolling. Happens once or
twice a year. They don’t roll against New York (historically speaking).
That leaves New Orleans and Minnesota as the only two really interesting
offenses on their schedule. I think they can shut down the rest
more often than not.
the biggest question facing this team is really the wide receiving
group. I guarantee you that none of them will be making any fantasy
football owners happy. And if they don’t step up… well, defenses
are going to pile up on the line and slam the running game.
luck Eli. When the playoffs start, you might need it.
(10 – 6) ~ I think the Michael Vick saga could ultimately
destroy this team. For the first time in years, McNabb seemed
to be approaching the season happy. And then, suddenly, the preseason
games were all about Vick. And I don’t think that story is going
usual, this club will go as far as Brian Westbrook can carry them.
Oh McNabb will make some plays… and people will look at stats
and tell you he’s having just a marvelous year. Whatever. The
thing is… the Eagles win with Westbrook, and lose without him.
He can get hurt… happens more often than you’d like with him.
for a strange quirk of the schedule? Ok… do you think Chicago
and Washington have hard-hitting defense? Because Philly has two
points in their season with back-to-back road games where the
first game of the two is a west coast contest. And then, the second
game after the cross-country travel will involve the Redskins
or the Bears.
(9 – 7) ~ No playoffs for the Cowboys, and things will
let’s be realistic to start…
Cowboys, up and down the roster, are arguably the most talented
team in the division. Tony Romo with a backfield featuring Marion
Barber is solid. Not great, but a solid duo. Add Roy Williams
and Jason Witten to the mix and the offense will be tough to stop.
Not impossible, but enough options that you’ll need to pick the
moments you take chances and really respect both the passing and
running games. (See Giants above… focus on no wide receivers.)
defense Marcus Spears and DeMarcus Ware will be good. And I really
like the addition of Keith Brooking. (Loved Brooking in Atlanta…
but his best days are in the past.) Terence Newman should be fine.
far… talent… see?
there’s something missing. I don’t want to say it’s fire and passion.
I don’t want to pretend any team needs an Owens to stir the ingredients
guess it’s like that commercial they did with the yawning during
the play calling. It seems like there is a lack of focus here
in Dallas. Maybe that’s because everyone is paying attention to
big new the scoreboard when talking about the field as much as
they do about Tony Romo not appearing in a section of People
each week. Why isn’t anyone talking about the team? Did they all
leave for Buffalo?
should be 3-2 by the time they hit their week off… actually, they
should be 4-1, if not undefeated. But the New York Giants and
Carolina Panthers at home could produce at least one loss, and
three road contests don’t bode well for a team that was 3-5 on
the road in 2008.
so 3-2 sounds fair.
final 11 games include 2 against Washington, 2 against Philadelphia,
a road game against New York, and then San Diego, New Orleans
(road), Atlanta and Green Bay (road). You navigate that mess without
arriving at three to five losses for Dallas.
if they do manage a 4-1 or 5-0 start… then look out. Because while
intimidating when considering last year’s road record, Romo’s
history of late season fades, and other considerations… they will
beat Oakland on Thanksgiving and then have ten days to prepare
for New York on the road. And they play five out of their middle
eight at home. So some things are set up nicely if a couple of
things come together early.
if they go 3-2… it’s going to be an up and down year for the Cowboys.
(7 – 9) ~ The problem I have with Washington is that
so much of their club is Jekyll and Hyde… will they be there or
will they vanish?
Portis? Solid talent… is he starting 16 for the Redskins? Jason
Campbell… Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El didn’t turn him into
the best quarterback in the league last year. And Albert Haynesworth
is a nice addition to an already strong defensive group… but what
normally happens when Washington spends more on a talent than
you think it’s possible that Dallas, Philly, New York (Giants),
San Diego and New Orleans could be in the playoffs? If so… then
Washington has six games against potential playoff teams in their
final seven weeks. It’s not a scary schedule… but it’s not a forgiving
one either. This club is not going 5-2 down the stretch.
Minnesota (10 – 6) ~ I don’t know if there is
another club in the league that needs a fast start as much as
the Vikings do. It starts on the road with Cleveland and Detroit,
and then hits a home game in week three against San Francisco.
For a team that is thinking playoffs… heck, for a team thinking
Super Bowl… those have to be three wins.
if you think I’m joking, then you didn’t see the stories where
Brett Favre said he might have to sit out a couple of games during
the regular season.
if we can agree that perhaps Favre got tired last season and might
need to play a 12 to 14 game season even though healthy… and if
we don’t want too much pressure on rookie Percy Harvin… and if
Adrian Peterson is a dazzling, but not 16 regular season games
without an injury forcing him to sit out one or two… well… then
looking at road games with Carolina and Chicago, then a visit
from New York (Giants) to finish the year can’t be a good thing.
early start. Play 12 strong games, clinch a playoff spot, then
take a nap and rest for January.
defense will be solid in Minnesota, so they should be in virtually
every contest. (In fact, there is no one on their schedule that
will set fire to the scoreboard against them.) They’ve got a beautiful
bye week after eight games.
see them going 4-2 in the division. (Splitting with Green Bay
and Chicago, while sweeping Detroit.) I see them beating Cleveland,
San Francisco, and St. Louis. That gets them to 7 wins with 9
contests remaining. The schedule does them zero favors for the
most part… with the Giants, Panthers, and Steelers in those other
games. But it also has the Bengals and Seahawks. 10 wins in the
first 13 games should be something they can do.
back to my Favre comments though. If they start slow… then have
a trip to Pittsburgh in week seven, and both games against Chicago
coming after the bye week... some of these games that should be
the difference between making the playoffs and a first week bye
suddenly will become must-wins just to make the playoffs. And
if you can’t defeat Cleveland and Detroit on the road to open
the year… are you definitely beating Arizona on the road in December
with Favre getting tired and Peterson resting a sore ankle?
Bay (9 – 7) ~ I’d like to put the Packers higher, but
their schedule scares me. I mean… the December schedule actually
terrifies me. Get this… in the last six weeks of the year, the
Packers play at home twice. I’m not kidding. After November 22nd,
the Packers play six games, and only two will be at Lambeau. On
top of that, three of the road games involve Chicago, Pittsburgh
and Arizona. All three may be fighting for playoff spots in those
contests. So they really need to run things up during a soft middle
of the season that includes home games along with Detroit, Cleveland,
worried about all things defense and offensive line as well. For
a team that probably could use some good defensive players, the
drafted B. J. Raji and Clay Matthews and… well… that’s kind of
it. Considering the much hyped turnover of coaching and the transition
to a new defensive philosophy, it’s a bit weird.
I like Aaron Rodgers. I’ve seen him offer some solid efforts in
the past couple of seasons. And I think the linebackers here are
a really talented and underrated group. But here’s what I think
is going to happen…
club is going to arrive at the Thanksgiving game tied for the
division lead and then leave it with an 8-3 record. The remaining
schedule goes Baltimore, at Chicago, at Pittsburgh, Seattle, and
at Arizona. After beating Detroit for that eighth win, they could
be 8-6 heading in to the final two weeks. And the toughest part
of facing the Ravens, Bears and Steelers in order are those funny
and taken-for-granted things… like consistent running attacks…
don’t look so natural or easy. In other words, I guarantee you
on the morning of December 21st the media will be asking if the
running backs are tired and if the formerly division leading Packers
will even make the playoffs.
these guys have gotten better, then yes, they will. They’ll figure
out how to win the last two games and go 10-6. Or they’ll beat
Baltimore, be at 9-3, and get to that tenth win.
don’t think they do it though. I think they start losing, and
the opponents and travel take a toll.
(9 – 7 ) ~ The Bears went 9-7 last year. I expect the
same this year. Why?
help me out.
Bears didn’t draft until the third round this year. Long story
short, that and a pretty boring group of free agent signings means
not too many changes so far between last year and this year. Which
means one thing.
Broncos went 8-8 and missed the playoffs… in a division that was
won by a team that went 8-8… in a division that included Kansas
City and Oakland. You know… the Broncos accomplished all that
with Cutler at quarterback and arguably better offensive talent.
in other words… a losing quarterback that hasn’t won on the professional
level, cried and pitched a fit to get out of Denver… that’s what
Chicago expects to elevate their club.
Cutler might just be the third best quarterback in the division
as the season starts… and, while I doubt it and wouldn’t argue
it, it’s worth mentioning that some people might like Stafford
enough to say Cutler will be the fourth best starter in the four-team
division when the season ends. Again, I doubt it, but we wouldn’t
have to struggle to find people that might look the four clubs
over and agree the concept has a bit of merit.
big break the Bears get is found when looking at their home games.
If you were told all of their opponents, since the division involves
the home and away exchange, my guess is that Philadelphia and
Pittsburgh would quickly be agreed on as the two toughest challenges.
Both of those games take place in Chicago. In fact, the biggest
non-division road games are Atlanta and Baltimore. Both could
be tough… but both could be won.
the Bears are one of three teams that could win this division.
I just find them third out of the three you’d consider. And despite
the statistics on the personal resume, when it comes to the results
side of the equation I’m not sold on Cutler being the guy to deliver.
(2 – 14) ~ Ok… I like Stafford well enough. And Calvin
Johnson is a very good wide receiver. After that… ouch. Oh, sure,
they can look like a 4 or 5 win team. We could go over their roster
and find a few more players you’d recognize. But most of them
are here because other clubs didn’t want them any more.
Hanson is a solid kicker. After that, this team is still very
much in progress all over the place.