New Orleans (11 – 5) ~ I can’t believe I’m about
to say this. Honestly. It’s dumb… reckless… and heck, borderline
irresponsible. But here goes…
will all be because of Jeremy Shockey.
That hurt. Hold on… hold a second. I need to sit back, close my
eyes and clear my head for a moment. Ok… there… I’m ready.)
last year Shockey talked big. Which, let’s face it, isn’t unusual
for him. And, he didn’t produce. Which… if you look closely at
his career… again, isn’t unusual for him. But the Saints needed
Shockey… or more accurately, they needed a threat of Shockey.
(And, you know… umm… a defense.)
happen. And the Saints weren’t equipped to handle no Shockey the
way the Giants were.
preseason though, Brees seems in tune with Shockey. Reminded me
of that preseason when Shockey was running over people and introducing
himself to the league. And if that’s the case, then I’m happy
with the offense here. Sure… they need Reggie Bush to finally
be at least a reflection of what they thought they drafted. But
I think he can be.
that means, the big question is defense. They haven’t had good
defensive backs in years. And the roster seems made up of supporting
parts in that regard. But are you ready for this? The Saints don’t
face a team with a wide receiver until week 12. Seriously. (Well…
sort of seriously.)
schedule kicks off with Detroit, Philadelphia, Buffalo and New
York (Jets). It then goes to the other New York, Miami, Atlanta
and Carolina. Have you seen a combination of receivers with a
reliable quarterback yet? I haven’t. Sure, Buffalo has receivers…
and no one that can throw the ball. Philly will give them trouble,
but only trouble for the defense if Westbrook is healthy. So…
not much in the way of defensive backs drawing deep breaths and
exchanging concerned glances. We’re 8 games into the year and
find St. Louis and Tampa waiting for them… still no passing threats.
New England! (Yeah… that one will be a problem.)
story short… the schedule is working wonders for them. No Minnesota
or Green Bay… no San Diego or Indianapolis… no consistent offensive
threats. Which means, their most glaring weakness is disguised
until the playoffs.
(10 – 6) ~ I am very interested by this club. They played
steady and solid last year. And then they added Tony Gonzalez…
to give Matt Ryan a solid receiving option. They went 3-3 in the
division last year… and frankly, would be well off to do the same
problem facing them is the scheduling rotation (New England in
week 3 and then the NFC East). I probably have them rated a tad
bit high because of that, because any and all of those 5 contests
could be losses. And yet…
and Tampa Bay may not be as strong this year. (Tampa definitely
won’t be.) New England would have been tough to win at all… but
it’s a road game. That’s actually a good thing because it gives
them Buffalo and Miami at home, where that home field might tip
the scales against inferior but potentially threatening opposition.
Washington and Philly have to come to Atlanta too… same thing…
could work to their advantage.
Falcons drafted heavy on defense, while letting organizational
favorites go (Keith Brooking). We’ll have to see if that pays
things considered though, I think the team is moving in the right
direction, and… unlike a club such as Miami… I don’t think they
played over their heads in 2008, or that they will lose focus
while expecting success this season.
(8 – 8) ~ This one could bite me… because if you read
all of my previews for this season, you’ll see that I think Carolina
is a quality team and will be in position to be a pain for every
opponent they play. And, as it turns out, their name seems to
be popping up on quite a few schedules, and very often during
some really interesting and difficult stretches for those opponents.
If you plan on winning your division, and you have to play on
the road against two of the tougher divisional opponents back-to-back,
one of the last things you want to see is Carolina in some fashion
involved the week before or after those other two games. (While
not back-to-back divisional games, one of the best examples of
what I mean is Minnesota. They finish the year at Chicago and
then home against New York (Giants). Yup… nice games for numbers
15 and 16. And game number 14? A road trip to Carolina.)
sure, predicting them to come in at 8-8 is one that could backfire
on me. Decent running and a guy like Steve Smith should make you
a pain for opposing defenses… and a strong defensive line united
with a capable linebacking group should make you a pain for opposing
offenses. That should add up to better than 8-8.
is there a worse good quarterback than Jake Delhomme? Really?
I don’t think so. He can show up, get into a nice groove, and
put 31-35 points up on the board. He can also look utterly lost.
year, after a great season, they get destroyed in the playoffs
by Arizona… at home.
four of the regular season losses last year were on the road.
get this one… how many times in their history have the Carolina
Panthers had back-to-back winning seasons?
that’s a trick question. Because they’ve never done it.
best they’ve ever done is 8-8 following a winning year. In 1996
they went 12-4, then they lost 9 games in 1997… and didn’t crack
.500 again until 2003. Went 11-5 in 2003 in fact, and then 9 losses
in 2004. 11-5 in 2005, followed up in 2006 by that 8-8 I mentioned.
But… here’s the other funny thing… the 11-5 records in 2003 and
2005 are also the only times they’ve had winning records twice
in any three year stretch. Once they go 12-4, they take a couple
of years to get back on track.
yeah… I admit it’s a gut feeling. I think they’re going to go…
at best… 4-2 in the division (and likely 3-3). Then they have
the NFC East (Possibly the best top-to-bottom division in football),
the AFC East (which means New England), and the 2008 division
winner’s schedule (which rewards them with Minnesota and a trip
to Arizona). Go ahead… tell me a schedule with Washington, New
York (Giants), Dallas, Philadelphia, New England, Miami, Minnesota
and Arizona, in addition to 2 games with both New Orleans and
Atlanta… tell me that schedule doesn’t have 6 to 10 losses on
it. I’m putting them in the middle. 8 losses.
Bay (5 – 11) ~ If Carolina does surprise me and wins
10 or 11 games, you won’t have to look far to see a record that
will compensate for the balance… check out Tampa. (I know… I know…
Tampa plays them twice. My point being, a rise on one record must
be balanced by a loss somewhere else. And Tampa at 5 wins is a
went 9-7 last year… so even with stripping things down, changing
coaching staffs, and looking to begin again, there is arguably
some talent in place. But in this particular case… I think they
are facing some really difficult situations.
let got of their offensive coordinator last week. A few months
ago, the placing of Jeff Jagodzinski into that role was praised
because for an inexperienced staff he brought not just experience,
but successful experience. Now… he’s gone.
are giving up a home game. Well… not officially. But they get
to be the home team in London against New England. Of the 7 home
games they do have, Dallas, Green Bay, and New York (Giants) are
part of the schedule. Toss in divisional rivals and there isn’t
a likelihood… there is certainty in saying they will have a losing
record at home.
forgive me… but with his injury history and the running back by
committee approach, I’m not excited about the return of the Cadillac
(Carnell Williams)… and I don’t know that adding Kellen Winslow
is going to do much… and heck, it’s not like they have an offensive
Arizona (9 – 7) ~ I look at the NFC West, and
all I can think about is those recent years when I repeatedly
placed Seattle at the top. Not because I thought they deserved
it… not because I thought the Seahawks were really good… but because
no other team in the division seemed like much of a threat to
even approach an eighth win.
Arizona… welcome to the 2009 division title and the it’s-Seattle-by-default
schedule that involves the AFC South and NFC North pretty much
guarantees at least four losses. A division win last year adds
on the Giants and the Panthers, and at least one more loss. That’s
five losses and we haven’t even played a divisional game yet…
and they aren’t winning all 6 of those games.
Kurt Warner will be the most consistent of the quarterbacks out
here. Boldin and Fitzgerald lead a deep and talented group of
wide receivers… easily the best in this division. And the defense
should be solid.
return trip to the playoffs is pretty much a lock. Higher than
a fourth seed? No… ain’t happening. But write them in right now,
this very minute, using ink, for that fourth-seed playoff slot.
Louis (7 – 9) ~ This team scares me because they should
be better than they’ve been. And I don’t mean that simply as a
way of saying they’ll be an improved club this year. I mean that
for a couple of seasons now they should have performed much better
than they have. In a funny way… if you look at how I compare Arizona
today to Seattle a few years ago… St. Louis today is like Arizona
was a few years ago. You really expected them to be a possible
sleeper… and then they lost… and lost… and lost again.
now Orlando Pace is gone… ditto Torry Holt. Marc Bulger isn’t
going to the Pro Bowl unless they need to send the conference’s
seventh or eighth best quarterback. (Yes… he’s that low. Don’t
believe me? Fine. Brees, Manning, McNabb, Romo, Favre, Rodgers,
Ryan, Warner… see, and that’s eight quarterbacks from the NFC
without entering names you might debate like Delhomme if Carolina
turns in a big year or Cutler (who I think is just a big baby
and I’d take Bulger ahead of him on principle).)
face the same scheduling challenges as Arizona… the NFC North
and AFC South. Except… because of the strange way teams finished
in 2008… one of their two seeded games is New Orleans. A trip
to Washington is the other.
year… but I’ll give them some love and a few more wins than last
(6 – 10) ~ This is a team in transition… and actually,
for me, the potential NFC Cinderella. Why?
Matt Hasselbeck is a great example of everything. He’s 33 years
old, played in 7 games last year and I think is an injury risk
for 2009. The team should be looking for their next quarterback.
But… he’s also more composed than people give him credit for,
has led this club to success in the past, and is a quiet though
effective leader. And let’s add to that.
Houshmandzadeh. I like this guy so much I don’t even need to check
the spelling of his name. He brings talent and consistency to
a wide receiving group that had some talent in the past, but never
any true sense of reliability.
running game should be good.
the defense… well… I like this defense, especially for this division.
of the first 6 games are at home… and they include all 3 divisional
rivals. If the Seahawks are going to make a move at the top of
this division, you will know very early if it’s possible. Because
with a bunch of road games, including trips to Dallas and Minnesota,
they won’t have alot of room for error after their bye week.
said… stay with me. Houston and Tampa could be out of division
wins. Same for Detroit. Splitting the games in this division puts
them at 6-3 with 7 other games. Could they go 3-4 against the
remainder of their schedule? Sure they could. And they could also
Francisco (6 – 10) ~ And here’s the other Cinderella
candidate. Oh sure… I made fun of Mike Singletary initially last
year. But then they went 5-3 under his leadership. And while some
of the victories may not have been impressive (either because
of the opponent or their inability to score), they were victories
for a team that had been spinning wildly before his promotion.
looked at ALOT of personnel for their club… from players to coaches.
And once you get past Frank Gore, there are questions. (Has Michael
Crabtree signed yet? There’s the only question you need to answer
to see where I’m going.) But the atmosphere in San Francisco seem
positive for once.
story short… Mike has brough the Kool-Aid to northern California,
and this is a thirsty club.
been focusing on the schedules alot this year… no need to change
that now. The 49ers are very similar to St. Louis, and I suppose
even Seattle. 3 division games in the first 4 contests. Atlanta
is no prize for their open game, and a trip to Philadelphia is
the second of those contests. But there’s no stretch where they
need to hold on for dear life. If they can win a couple of the
games that are toss ups, they could find themselves entering December
with 8 or 9 wins a realistic target.