Monday, September 27, 2010

One Crazy Night

Monday night was big for my teams, with the Yankees trying to close the gap on the first place Rays and become 1 win away from clinching a playoff birth, and the Jets looking to take first place in the division with 2 wins over division rivals. I decided to try something new and wrote a running diary of sorts during the entire 3-hour spectacle.

1st Quarter

Jets start with the ball, doesn’t bode well for them. I’m convinced that the Jets have won more often during the Rex Ryan era when they start with the ball in the SECOND half. They are a team that wants to wear down the opposition. In most of their games every possession matters, so starting on offense in the second half usually means they have an opportunity to regain the lead on that possession, which can be a huge momentum swing. Actually, I just looked it up. When the Jets kickoff to start the game, they are 10-5. Very good! When the Jets receive to start the game, they are 2-4. Very bad! Therefore, when at all possible, KICK OFF TO START THE GAME!!

2 3rd down conversions for the Jets on the opening possession, Sanchez looking confident. LT needs to start finding the holes and not the asses of his linemen.

Wildcat for Jets = failure. Oh, 9 yard gain… that’s a shocker. Honestly, it basically never works. Ever. Ok, I’m sorry, I suppose it worked that one game against the Bengals last year, but since then, and before then, it never did. Get over it, it worked one time against a totally unprepared football team. Good thing they didn’t run it with their talented running backs. I should coach this team.

I’ve said it before, Dansby’s going to be huge for the dolphins!

“How you like them apples!” (says I). Sanchez looked down Keller the whole way for the touchdown pass but still threw a perfect ball. 7-0 Jets.

Opening drive was one of perfection. Let’s keep it going.

Kickoff, oh God. We better not have a reenactment of last year’s catastrophe against the Dolphins.

In other news, the Yankees are scoreless with the Red Sox after 2 innings.

Ok, so here’s the deal on Chad Henne. I think the guy is totally flying under the radar as far as young quarterbacks go. He’s going to be a good starter for many years. But tonight… he better get his shit rocked.

Dolphins Going deep… Good coverage by the rookie, Wilson, but the throw by Henne wasn’t great so we sort of caught a break.

Henne’s sacked by Ellis. Gotta love Ellis, he’s the longest tenured Jet.

The Marshall – Cromartie matchup will be very interesting tonight.

I think Jason Taylor just intentionally let Henne get away without a sack. He’s clearly confused by his situation. Go dolphins – oh wait, no, Jets. Crap, I let him get away.

That was one hell of a punt by Miami. Good to see Kyle Wilson has the acceleration of a Segway. Nice return buddy.

Drive 2 for Jets:

Sanchez almost got the ball taken out of his hand in his own end zone, a-la last year. And, another hold. This is getting out of hand right now. Honestly, they should just punt right now and forgo the 3rd down play. Third and 14 from your own 9, no hope.

Now entering, the M.V.P., Steve Weatherford. Steve Weatherford is the MVP of the Jets for the first 2 weeks. He singlehandedly kept the Jets in it during their game against the Ravens week with some booming punts and looks like he needs to do the same today.

Solid punt, could have been better.

Dolphins drive:

Wilson on Bess, that is one dreaded out combination. Lots of hair.

Good pass down the middle from Henne to Fasano. He can do that in his sleep.

Ricky Williams up the middle. Says Al Michael, “10th season, but he missed a couple [for smoking weed all day].”

Taylor gets the sack, he’s figured it out that he’s on the Jets now. Listen the Boos, got to LOVE it!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Random thought: Has everyone seen the Amazing Race commercial where the chick gets a melon to the face from a slingshot? You really need to, it’s amazing.

Sanchez is 9-8 as a starter. Al Michaels: “When he plays well they win. When he plays bad, they lose.” – Great analysis.

LT has been far better than I had expected.

Sanchez throws across his body to Dustin Keller for 31 yards. Everyone loses Keller, who has emerged as not only Sanchez’s number one guy, but also as an elite tight end.

Sanchez pump fakes and then hands it off to Tomlinson. The Jets love that play.

The first quarter has come to a close, good start. Overall I saw little wrong with how they played. Let’s carry it through and take the lead in the AFC East.

2nd Quarter

“False start, offense, number 68.” Slausen (Allen Faneca’s replacement) needs to improve. That missing link on the line has cost the Jets probably 50 rushing yards and 2 sacks so far this season.

Deep pass over the middle to Cotchery falls incomplete after a HUGE hit. Actually, it was too huge. “Personal foul, leading with the helmet.” The announcers agree with it, but to me it looks like Cotchery’s head was moving forwards as the safety’s shoulder pads hit him. Oh well, I’ll take it.

Next play: LT to the right for a big gain. Once again, outstanding production form him.

Edwards has been useless thus far in the second quarter. Maybe he’s drunk again.

Dustin Keller, once again!!!! He is taking a dump on the Dolphins’ chests right now. Sorry, there just isn’t a better way of describing it. And that was a perfect throw from Sanchez. Double coverage cannot defend a perfect throw. Touchdown J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets, 14-0 good guys.

I just received a text from my mom, “Are you watching in your apartment.” Seriously?

Dolphins take over:

First completion to Brandon Marshall. It’s fine. Only 6 yard or so. Good coverage by Cromartie.

And another throw into the hair. Bess gets credit for the reception but he was for sure out of bounds. That should be challenged.

The Dolphins get the play off (terrible job by the Jets staff) but they fumble the ball (was that super insight from Ryan?) and the Dolphins recover (no, just dumb).

Next play, deep pass to the hair. I thought it was a reply but, no, just the same play again. Damn. Wilson’s getting owned again.

Dolphins Wildcat try 1: Failure. I really think it is inexcusable for a team to get beat by the wildcat at this point. It’s basically just a obvious run play. All you need is some discipline. Can I get an Al Michael contribution please? “That time Henne stay’s in as Sparano says, ‘Eech.’” Michaels is on tonight with his one-liners. It’s usually Collinsworth with the classics (remember that time I stepped on your face).

Back to baseball. 1-0 Red Sox in the 5th.

This just in, Kyle Wilson is getting lit up once again. Pass interference on Wilson near the end zone on 2nd and 22. Over the course of this game, I don’t think Wilson has actually looked back at Henne at any point. Rather, he’s just blindly following the receiver.

And Henne passes to Fasano to cap off a 9-play drive. Probably 50 of those yards are because of Wilson. I know he’s a rookie but the Jets cannot play their style of defense if Wilson is unable to play man-to-man coverage. Lowery isn’t flashy, but I do not remember seeing him get exploited like Wilson has been beaten this season. Maybe its time to give the rookie a break. 14-7 Jets.

Brad Smith with a huge return. Excellent job. He is so valuable (except when in the wildcat).

John Connor is the man.

Oh no, wildcat from the Jets. Failure, what do you know? Greene disregards his blockers and is lucky to get back to the line.

What is going on? Why have the Jets just used 2 timeouts? This is terrible right now. They just got a 50-yard kickoff return and now they have managed to call 1 ill-advised play and called 2 timeouts. Hmm.

2nd and 10. Not much on the Tomlinson scamper. Why did they call 2 timeouts for that? And the next play, incomplete. So that was a nice waste of a return. Such a sloppy possession. If the first drive was one of perfection that was one of total failure.

So now Miami will get the ball back and they get it to start the second half.

Back to baseball: Dice-K is hideous. Still 1-0 Boston.

What’s the over-under on the combined weight of the 2 head coaches?

Well Collinsworth just ruined the game. 208 lbs for Sparano. And now they totally blew it, Rex is 285. I honestly cannot believe that just happened.

3rd and 1. Apparently, “Polite always makes it,” or at least Michaels thinks so. Well he’s right on this occasion. First down Dolphins.

The Dolphins are moving it now.

Henne almost gets sacked and throws a Sanchez-in-2009 like ball on first down. Almost intercepted. Next play, David Harris with the individual defensive play of the game as he swallows Ronnie Brown on a screen pass. “He saw it on film… or something like that.” (Michaels once again).

3rd and 16, the Dolphins pick up 13 to Marshall. What to do? I think they should kick the 45 field goal. The Jets have no time outs, so probably aren’t going to score this half and the Dolphins start with the ball in the second half.

They decide on the field goal. Carpenter squeaks it in. 14-10 Jets.

Back to baseball. Bottom of the sixth, Yankees still down 1-0. Jeter’s on deck.

17 second left in the Jets game. LT just picked up the first down on 3rd and 3. He should give Dustin Keller lessons on how to do that sort of thing.

Ok, third down and 10, with 10 seconds left. Nice play by Clowney to get out of bounds after bringing in a big reception. They should try this field goal.

I say no way does Folk make it. 56 yards out. False start on the offense, now its 61. That is totally inexcusable. Says Collinsworth, “How bad is that?” Says me, “Freaking terrible.”

Folk attempt a now 61 yard field goal (obviously misses). End of the half, terrible way to end.

3rd Quarter

Opening drive for Dolphins: Things are not looking great. Lots of Marshall, lots of Bess. We need to get more pressure.

False start Dolphins, from the 30 of the Jets. That might cool Miami down a little bit.

Apparently, Henne started dating his wife when he was 14 years old. I wonder how many girls he’s had sex with in his life. I think the only NFL player with a lower number is Tim Tebow.

Miami Wildcat try 2: Failure once again.

3rd and 15, Lowery gets beat for the first down. I take back what I said ealier. This defense is looking really poor without Revis. Actually, its far worse than I had thought it would be.

Miami Wildcat try 3: 5 yard gain. Great success comparatively. Still though, I would be happy if Miami ran that 5 more times this game

Miami Wildcat try 4: 4 yards. Keep it coming.

3rd and inches: Touchdown Brandon Marshall. I wonder if the Jets realize that they have had 2 respectable drives this game. They take a 14-0 lead and essentially disappear until, hopefully, now. 17-14 Fins.

I’m not sure how I feel about the newest installment of Coors Light NFL commercials. Last year, they put out the best commercials on television. This year, I’m a bit disappointed. In a bizarre twist of events, I think Burger King has overthrown them with their musical advertisements and that dude with the flute.

8:47 left in 3rd. Can we please put together a drive? Seriously. It could be game over if we flop here. Miami has serious momentum.

Here’s how the next series should go.

PA pass short, Run, Run, Quick pass, Medium pass, Run, Run, Run

Lets see if they do that.

What I wanted: PA pass short.
What they do: Touchdown pass to Braylon Edwards on the first play. A simple buttonhook turns into a huge play as Edwards stumbles his way down the sideline. “Run like you’re shitfaced!” Never mind on everything I just said. Let’s move that play calling combination to the next drive. 21-17 Jets.

Collinsworth makes an interesting point, “The defense is still sucking wind.” I predict a touchdown on this drive for Miami. Also, I think it will happen in fewer than 6 plays.

Play 1: Deep pass, right on pace with my prediction.

Play 2: Batted ball, almost picked off.

Play 3: Pass deep down the sideline for Marshall falls incomplete.

Play 4: Huge pass deep to Marshall.

Play 5: Dolphins wildcat try 5: Short gain (as expected) but holding call erases it.

So maybe not under 6.

Play 6: 16-yard pass to goal line of Jets.

Play 7: Incomplete. Brings up 3rd and goal.

Play 8: Almost picked by Cromartie/caught by Marshall. Big D stand.

Play 9: Field goal is good. Could have been much worse. 21-20 Jets.

Buddy Ryan and Marty Schottenheimer rocked the same glasses.

Miami kicks the ball out of bounds on the kickoff. I think that’s the 4th time it’s happened this week alone. How is that possible? I guess it just goes back to my theory that there are no good NFL kickers, just degrees of badness.

Baseball: 2-1 Yankees. Let’s go!

Football: NYJ 3 and out.

Weatherford is the MVP of the Jets! He singlehandedly kept the Jets in it during their game against the Ravens with some booming punts and looks like he needs to do the same tonight. This is now the third straight game where Weatherford has been pinning the opponents deep. Now, if the Jets stop them here it’ll be huge.

Wide-open pass to Hartline as Cromartie moves over to double Marshall. This is a perfect example of the difference between the Jets with and without Revis. With Revis in, he has Marshall on the island and Cromartie stays on Hartline, causing an incomplete pass or short gain.

Dolphins Wildcat try 6: Ronnie Brown throws it (on no! pause not) incomplete. Come on, even the bonehead Cromartie didn’t fall for that. Further proof that the wildcat is highly over utilized.

Dolphins to punt from deep in their own territory. The block! An already impressive Jets defensive drive concludes with their best play of the season thus far.

Now, jugular!!! DO NOT SETTLE! Go for the touchdown.

Jets with the ball in the Red Zone.

Edwards gets called for tripping, or should I say stumbling. It wasn’t his fault, he was trying to walk normally.

Holding. And here we go. Typical Jets; they have managed to erase 2 terrific offensive plays with 2 dumb penalties.

4th Quarter

Brad Smith at QB? On 3rd and 15? I’m going to call that the single worst call this season for the Jets. Remarkably Smith picks up the first. Now a TD please. Please.

Sanchez. Runs for TD. Oh wait, a third holding call. Are you kidding me? I mean, this is ridiculous. Three holding calls in the red zone!? And then a run on third down? I don’t want to hear about being smart or safe, that was a bad call. Simple. Bad call. Do they want to win the game or do they want to try to win the game? 24-20 Jets. That drive just ruined my mood.

I can’t take this shit. I’m saying it now, we do not win this game.

Back to baseball: Ninth inning, runner on third, one out, Mo on the mound, Yankees up by one. I wish I had 2 tv’s in my apartment. And now Mo blows it. Unbelievable. This is the worst 2 minutes of sport’s life. Nice effort A-rod, you useless piece of shit (ok not really, but he just gave up a run).

Back to the Jets, for now. Just in time to see Marshall bring in a first down. Terrific.

Back to baseball. One run lead for the Red Sox after a sac-fly.

And now football. 3rd and 2. Miami throws incomplete. Actually shocked not to see a flag.

Good punt for the Dolphins. “Weatherford-esque,” says my roommate. He’s learning my lingo, knowledge, and opinions.

The goal for this drive should be do push the ball enough for Weatherford to keep Miami inside their own 30 after he punts. That doesn’t actually isn’t too much to ask. Just a first down or 2.

Third and 8. Interception, looks like the ball could have hit the ground… I think it did. Challenge Ryan, quick! Quick!

Back to baseball. Swisher rips one past the second baseman; runner on first.

After reviewing the play… “It is an incomplete pass,” mumbles the ref somewhat incoherently. Not sure why he can’t speak. Says Michaels, “Sounds like a feed from Mongolia.”

Here comes Weatherford’s moment to shine on this punt from his own end zone.

Good punt but good runback for Miami. They take over at around midfield.

Baseball. 1 on, 1 out. Teixeira swinging for the fences.

Football: Dolphins wildcat try 7: 6 yard loss. Really, please, keep being wild.

Baseball: A-Rod, trying to make up for his blunders in the field.

Football: 50-yard attempt on the way. Cromartie with a big tackle. Kick is good. 24-23 NYJ.

Baseball: Nunez steals third. I can’t do this back and fourth. A-Rod, still trying to make up for his blunders.

Football: Commercial.

Baseball: Inside pitch on A-Rod, full count. Now a walk, bases loaded.

Football: Jets with the ball. Pound That Shit! Play Jets football. You have the ball, with the lead, with 6:42 left. The game is ours.

Baseball: Pitchers conference.

Football: Brad Smith on a reverse. Good call. Change of pace but from now on only up the middle please.

Baseball: Good eye Cano.

Football: Sanchez almost hands the ball over to the Dolphins. Just crapped my pants a little bit.

Baseball: Single! They keep the runner at third. Good decision. Play it safe. All we need is a sac-fly.

Football: I switch back to the channel mid pass to Edwards for first down. “I love New York!”

Baseball: “I am calling a Jorge grand slam to win the game.” – Jacob Berman, my roommate.

Football: LT for big gain, first and goal coming up.

Baseball: Big whiff from Posada. Felt the breeze from here. Posada strikes out.

Football: Third and goal for the Jets. Pass interference on the defense. That should be the game.

Baseball: Berkman pops up. Inning over. BUT, my roommate discovers picture in picture setting. We can watch both at once!

Football (big screen): I think the Dolphin players should line up by the goal post and let the Jets score. “The Jets are charged their first charged team time out.” Another eloquent explanation from our ref for the night.

Baseball (little screen): Pop up. And a ground out.

Football (big screen): LT up and over. The best goal line running back of all time proves his worth. 31-23 Jets. And it is up to their Revisless-questionable defense.

Big hole for Ronnie Brown. Terrible defensive call.

Wide open Bess.

Already at the 40 of the Jets.

Huge gain for Marshall. Are you kidding me? Revisless.

Baseball (little screen): Yankees batting in bottom of the 10th.

Football (big screen): 3 yard gain on 3rd and goal.

Baseball (little screen): Granderson single. Gardner at the plate.

Football (big screen): Interception in the end zone. Game over! Huge win. Back to baseball. Btw, I had Henne on my fantasy team.

Baseball: Gardner lays down a bunt, poor thrown. Runners at the corners, the best player of all time at the plate, Derek Jeter. The Sox intentionally walk him.

Thames up at the plate. I love this guy. Well hit ball but a great, great, play by Beltre to stop the ball and throw the runner out at the plate. I think they could have had Thames at first too.

And Juan Miranda (fresh from Cuba) walks to win the game! Great day to be a New Yorker.

So, on the off chance that you didn’t follow the last bit of this blog (not your fault, I was very excited), basically the Jets won to take first in their division and the Yankees won to get within ½ a game of the Rays and are now 1 win away from clinching a playoff birth. I would hate to see a Mets-like collapse.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Highs and Lows of Week 1

High: Ohhhhhhchocino

Chad Ochocinco put up quite the performance last weekend against the Pats. Why is this a high? Because he’s on my fantasy team of course! He was a nice surprise, catching 12 balls for 159 yards and a touchdown. However, Mr. 8 5, has a tendency to explode for huge performances and then disappear for weeks. Going back to 2007, over the course of 45 games, Ochocinco has 218 receptions for 3027 yards, and 21 touchdowns. However, over that same span Ochocinco has only 12 games of over 6 receptions, 11 games of over 100 yards, and scored a touchdown in 14 games. I hope he is still a major contributor for the upcoming week.

Low: Conclusion to the Cowboys-Redskins game

Am I upset the Cowboys lost? Hell no! So why the “low?” Well, the holding call against Alex Barron to end the game was just sooo anticlimactic. Poor guy, everyone’s going to call him a bonehead for his attempt to strangle/hold the incoming defensive end on the last play, but the fact is, if he didn’t hold the DE, Andre Carter, Romo probably would have been sacked. And that mindbogglingly awful series of events was just one of many atrocities performed by the Cowboys. Let’s not forget their loss is perhaps most attributed to the inexplicable call made by Wade Phillips to run a pitch play at the end of the first half. The play turned into a disaster when Tashard Choice fumbled to ball, which DeAngelo Hall of the Redskins then picked up and took the distance for a touchdown. Why not take a knee? Why not throw a hail marry? Why, why why? Well… I will answer that next.

High: Wade Phillips’ Face

Does he ever know what’s happening? I’m going to go with no, unless, of course, he just naturally looks like someone just told him field goals are worth 7 points. Now, a favorite STD Day award is the always-popular “Stan Van Gundy Face Creating Moment of the Week.” However, after viewing the look of utter confusion and hesitancy on Phillips, I have decided to not only give him the prestigious award for this week; I will rename the award partially after him. Therefore, there is no longer a “Stan Van Gundy Face Creating Moment of the Week,” but rather, a “Stan Van Gundy and Wade Phillips Joint Look of Confusion Creating Moment of the Week!” Congratulations Wade, I’d attribute this to momentous achievement to your unrelenting ability to convince me that you are the worst coach in the national football league. I look forward to more of the same from you. But still, there exists more from the game…

High: The John Gruden Award for Most Memorable Sports Comment of All Time

It may not be STD Day (sorry, next week hopefully) but I cannot pass up on the opportunity to award Chris Collinsworth, another primetime football color commentator, with the honor. An interesting matchup in the Cowboys-Redskins game was between DT Albert Haynesworth and Center Andre Gurode. In 2006 Haynesworth stomped on Gurode’s head following a play, resulting in thirty stitches (this really speaks to the weight of Haynesworth more than anything). Getting back to Collinsworth, in the fourth quarter of the game with seemingly no introduction, Collinsworth exclaimed, “Remember that time I stepped on your face!” – obviously referring to the 2 players. Perhaps even funnier than the actual statement was the fact that Collinsworth provided no context, saying nothing before or after the remark.

Low: Kansas City Cheerleaders

The only reasons cheerleaders are part of a football watching experience are to look hot and provide guys with an alternative to talking about football. Does anyone care about the actual cheering? Can anyone even hear the cheering? No and No. So, I don’t care if it’s raining, they should be out there in their normal attire. In the Monday Night football game against the Chargers, Kansas City cheerleaders were wearing garbage bags over their usual naked attire. Who are you kidding?

Tom: Look; those ponchos are 100% from recycled products and 100% biodegradable.
Me: Shut the hell up, Tom. Watch the game.

High: Arian Foster

Arian Foster rushed for 233 yards and 3 touchdowns in the Texans surprise victory over the Indianapolis Colts. He is on my fantasy team

Higher: Arian Foster

Arian Foster is on both of my Fantasy Teams.

Highest: Arian Foster

Hearing the following at both draft days: “Who’s Arian Foster?” “Um… bad pick.” “Way too early”

Low: All aspects of the Jets’ performance

Monday night was a travesty. There are honestly too many things to cover, but I’ll try.
1. Discipline: It didn’t exist. Braylon Edwards, Antonio Cromartie, Kyle Wilson, and countless other committed inexcusable penalties. There were a total of 14 different flags racking up 125 penalty yards. The Jets won’t beat a professional football team playing like that.
2. Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson: I have said many times that Cromartie could have been the most meaningful acquisition made by any team this offseason, since he has the physical abilities to cover almost any receiver man on man. Kyle Wilson was the first round pick. Both got picked apart with seemingly every pass thrown their way, that is, except for when they committed penalties. The Jets won’t beat a professional football team playing like that.
3. Defensive coaching: Not really a major point of criticism by comparison to the other disaster areas, but I don’t understand why Rex Ryan left Wilson and Cromartie alone with Housh and Boldin for the whole game, while Revis effortlessly shut down the elderly Derrick Mason. Little adjustments can change the game.
4. Everything about the offense: The play calling was about as diverse as Wade Phillips’ facial expressions. The running game was more of a standing game. There was no passing game. Dustin Keller had one of the dumbest plays I’ve ever seen.

Low: My Playoff Predictions

My predicted division winners were The Jets (lost), The Ravens (won), The Colts (lost), The Chargers (lost), The Cowboys (lost), The Packers (won), The Saints (won), and The 49ers (lost). That’s a record of 3-5 for supposed division winners. Ouch.

High: Its only week one.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Playoff Predictions

Now that we know how the regular season will conclude, it’s time to advance to the playoffs. There are many similar faces to last season, as 9 of the 12 teams were also in the hunt in 2009. Here we go.

Wildcard Round:

New York Giants (6) at Dallas Cowboys (3)

In this battle of division rivals I expect to see a very competitive game down to the final 2 minutes. The last time the Giants entered the postseason as a six seed they went on to win the Super bowl. However, this is a different type of Cowboys team. Last year they proved that they could in fact win in January. That confidence boost will propel them through the regular season and all the way through the playoffs. I expect Romo to perform well against a sometimes-suspect pass defense. The Giants will rely heavily on the running game for most of the season, but yards may be difficult to come by in this game, as the Dallas Cowboys will have one of the better run defenses in the league. Given those 2 mismatches and the home field advantage, I like the Cowboys to defeat the Giants 31-24.

Minnesota Vikings (5) at San Francisco 49ers (4)

San Francisco should get a relatively easy ride up to the post-season, given the weakness of their division. Minnesota, on the other hand, will need to fight off several teams to claim a playoff spot. As I said in my blog from 2 days ago, there is a good chance that Favre will not make it through the regular season. If this is the case, then the playoff hopes of Minnesota will rest in the hands of running back, Adrian Peterson. And even if Favre does make it to the postseason, I am not sure how effectively he will be able to play, thus, the game is still in Peterson’s hands. Given his fumbling issues, I am not sure those are hands you want to rest your playoff hopes in come January. Similarly to the Giants/Cowboys matchup, this matchup will be between a terrific running attack against a stifling run defense. Both the 49ers and the Vikings boast strong running games and comparable run defenses. However, playing behind a wild crowd that hasn’t seen a playoff game since 2003, and supported by the Defensive MVP, Patrick Willis, the 49ers will play one of their best games of the season. This result may surprise some, but the 49ers will top the Vikings 28-16.

Moving now to the AFC…

Wildcard Round:

Tennessee Titans (6) at San Diego Chargers (3)

Both these teams will have a lot of confidence coming into their first playoff game. I expect the Chargers to be on a roll, winning probably 4 of their last 5 games. As for the Titans, they will enter knowing that out of 6 teams competing for the wildcard, they were one of the two who obtained it. I expect the Chargers to exploit one of the absolute worst pass defenses in the league, but also envision them getting crushed by the Titans’ running game. After the first few possession, fans of both teams will begin to think, “Hey, if we can just stop them on one possession, I think we have a real shot. I’m not so sure they can stop us.” Ultimately, this game will come down to whether or not Vince Young can handle the pressure and deliver a playoff win, giving San Diego yet another gut wrenching playoff loss. I think the soon-to-be Heisman winner is ready to make a major step in his professional football career with this somewhat shocking playoff upset. The Titans win the most entertaining game of Wildcard Weekend, coming from behind to win by the score of 35-31.

New England Patriots (5) at New York Jets (4)

After going 1 and 2 in the AFC East and finishing with identical records, the score is officially settled in this wildcard matchup. Am I biased as a Jets fan? Perhaps. Would any Patriots fan pick them over the Jets? Probably. Are people going to disagree with this? Naturally. Do I care? No. The fact is, even if these two teams weren’t such heated rivals, the matchup would still be very even. The Jets will probably be able to run against the Patriots, but you can be sure New England will force Sanchez into a few poor decisions, I just hope they don’t cost New York the game. The pass attack of the Patriots should be kept relatively in check, but then again, this is the postseason and that means Brady is usually at his finest. It’s a bit optimistic on my part, despite a solid matchup from a neutral point of view, but I’m taking the Jets over the hated Patriots 20-17.

NFC Divisional Round:

San Francisco 49ers (4) at Green Bay Packers (1)

Green Bay will be well rested and ready to defeat the San Francisco 49ers in a traditional 1990’s playoff matchup. Look for Rodgers to shred the mediocre-at-best pass D of the 49ers. While San Fran is strong against the run, Green Bay will simply not run often, a pattern I expect to see emulated throughout the season. Patrick Willis and Frank Gore will make some plays, but Green Bay is just too well rounded to lose at home in their first postseason game. They win it 34-21.

Dallas Cowboys (3) at New Orleans Saints (2)

Dallas enters the divisional round determined to avenge their 34-3 shellacking from last year’s divisional game against the Vikings. The Saints enter ready to defend their title. Drew Brees will move the Saints up and down the field against one of the Cowboy’s only true weakness, pass defense. Tony Romo will move the Cowboys up and down the field against one of the Saints only true weaknesses, pass defense. So, how do I decide the winner? Tony Romo is more likely to blow it than Brees, thus, New Orleans wins 35-28.

AFC Divisional Round:

Tennessee Titans (6) at Indianapolis Colts (1)

Already proud of the season thus far, Titans fans will be giddy at the thought of taking out the kings of the division, the Colts, to advance to the AFC championship game. Vince Young may be able to orchestrate a miraculous comeback against the Chargers, but the Indianapolis Colts are an entirely different monster. Playing for the third time of the season, I anticipate Manning to carve up the Titans poor pass defense to the tune of over 350 yards. The Colts win this one easily, 28-10.

New York Jets (4) at Baltimore Ravens (2)

The Jets and Ravens are two franchises that are certainly linked together by coaches, players, and style of play. Both boast 2 of the top 5 defenses in the league and 2 of the top 5 rushing attacks. Both have a young quarterback at their helm. Both teams already played once this season in the first Monday Night game of the year. In the first matchup, the Jets hosted the Ravens in their new stadium. However, after getting the first round bye, the Ravens now welcome the Jets into their stadium. I anticipate a grueling game with at least 5 turnovers, a missed field goal (or 2), and some big time plays from both young QB’s. It will be anything but pretty, but I like the Jets to pull the mini-upset, defeating the Ravens 13-10, to advance to the AFC championship for the second year in a row.

Conference Championships:

New Orleans Saints (2) at Green Bay Packers (1)

Playing their first playoff game over the last 2 years outside of their dome, the New Orleans Saints will enter as slight underdogs to the Pack. Rodgers and Brees will both eclipse the 300-yard mark and both teams will eclipse the 30-point mark. For me, the deciding part of this game will be the weather. Green Bay will be better adjusted and with nearly 100,000 cheese heads at Lambo, The Packers will advance to the Super Bowl, 33-31.

New York Jets (4) at Indianapolis Colts (1)

Meeting for the second year in a row in the AFC championship game, I predict a similar outcome. The Colts’ receivers are better than last year as are the Jets corners. The running game for NY may be better or it could be a bit worse. The defense for Indi is probably a little better. Just for the hell of it, Indianapolis wins 30-17, the same score as 2009.

Super Bowl:

Green Bay Packers (1) at Indianapolis Colts (1)

Both number one teams will advance to the Super bowl. Manning and Rodgers, two of the top candidates for MVP, face off in an offensive showdown. Neither team has a particularly dominant matchup in any aspect of the game, with the exception of experience. The Colts players have been to the Promised Land before, won it, then returned last season to taste defeat. I believe Manning will not allow his team to fall 2 years in a row. The Indianapolis Colts are my Super Bowl pick, as they conquer the up-and-coming Packers, 31-25.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

AFC Preseason Predictions

As has been the case for the last few seasons, the AFC is the stronger conference in the NFL. Yesterday I wrote that the NFC has only 7 or 8 legitimate playoff contenders. The AFC has 10. Let’s look at my predictions for the conference.

AFC East

1.New York Jets: 10 – 6 (wins division, 4 seed)
2.New England: 10 – 6 (first wildcard team, 5 seed)
3.Miami: 9 – 7
4.Buffalo: 4 – 12

The AFC East is not only one of the toughest leagues to play in, but they also have a brutal out of division schedule. They must also play the AFC North and the NFC North, two of the other toughest divisions. What this means is that the division once again, will be very competitive, with the winner probably not decided until week 17. I view The Jets, the Pats, and the Dolphins as playoff caliber teams. They will probably play their best against each other, and I expect each of the three to be 1 and 1 against the other two, which is indicated in their respective records.

I like the New York Jets to win the East this year by the slimmest of margins. The addition of Darrelle Revis for the entire season is obviously highly significant, as is the many acquisitions the team made this off-season. The most important of these additions is Antonio Cromartie. Cromartie has the tools to man up against most teams’ best receiver. On many teams in the NFL he would be the number one cornerback. Playing across from Revis creates a matchup dream for Jets fans. Now, a guy with number one talent will be covering the opposing teams’ second-best receiver. When you add on Kyle Wilson, the newest first round pick of the Jets, this secondary has the ability to be more than great, they could be historically great. The return of Kris Jenkins will also strengthen a defense that was already the best in the league in 2009. When healthy, his is a top 5 nose tackle. The significance of Jason Taylor will be interesting to see, but the injury to Calvin Pace means Taylor will be the starter for the first half of the season. The final free agent acquisition to the Jets’ defense was Brodney Pool, which went highly unpublicized. I expect the ex-Cleveland safety to star in Ryan’s defensive schemes. Last year, in just 11 games, Pool produced 50 tackles and 4 interceptions. One final thought on the defense concerns Vernon Gholston, who was a first round pick, and number 6 overall, by the Jets in 2008. At Ohio State, Gholston played a defensive end, but was converted in a 3-4 outside linebacker by the Jets once drafted. After two seasons of huge disappointment, New York decided to send Gholston back to his original defensive end position for this upcoming season. He is yet to record a sack in his two-year career, but if Gholston can pick up a few here and there this season, his increase in production will be an added bonus to an already tremendous defensive unit.
On the offensive side of the ball, the running game should remain among the top ones in the league, despite the departure of Thomas Jones and Leon Washington. I attribute the running success of the Jets to arguably the best offensive line in football as well as a sincere determination to run the ball, despite any difficulties. They ran it more than any team last season and I expect that to continue. However, the success of the Jets will largely rest in the large hands of second year quarterback Mark Sanchez. If the Jets want to win the division and advance far into the playoffs, he will need to protect the ball far better and make more dynamic passes. I think he will be able to handle some extra responsibility, especially with a better group of receiver, and I think my favorite team will be able to take the division from the always competitive Dolphins and Patriots.

Of course, then there are the Patriots. As always, Brady leads New England as they search for yet another AFC East title. Once again, many have them as favorites to win the division. Now here’s the thing, the Patriots made no significant moves to improve their team in the offseason, while the division rivals, the Jets and Dolphins, made some major pickups. The fact in the matter is, aside from Brady, the offense is composed of big uncertainties. The running backs seem to be the worst collection of runners the team has had in a long time. The wide receivers have taken a hit as well. I do not expect to see typical Welker numbers out of their slot guy this season, nor do I expect Moss to be as large a factor as many are expecting him to be. There appears to be some unhappiness on the part of the receiver as training camp and the preseason wind down, and once Moss gets unhappy, he can get pretty destructive. Edelman will improve, but he will not be flying under the radar this season, thus, more teams will begin to strategize against him. As for the defense, I was actually surprised last season at how well the unit performed. They finished the season ranked 12th and 13th in passing and rushing defense. If they can repeat such a performance, then Patriot fans should be more than happy. However, I do not anticipate such an occurrence. Yet, Brady and Belichick are still leading the franchise, which goes a long way. However, the question remains, how long can the duo carry the team. If the Patriots blowout loss to the Ravens in the post season last year is any indication of events to follow, this season may come to symbolize the end of the New England’s dominating, decade long, reign and the beginning of a new era. It’ll be interesting.

Miami could very well win this division. Chad Henne is on the verge of a breakout year, given his new toy, Brandon Marshall. I expect the running game to be as effective as ever. Williams and Brown are both talented running backs, who do not need the wildcat to be effective runners. The addition of Karlos Dansby from the Cardinals was a huge defensive move for the team. He will need to be a major contributor to transform the Dolphins into a stronger defensive team, after a season in which they ranked 24th and 18th in passing and rushing defense. If Dansby and company can improve defensively, that will give Miami a great opportunity to reach the postseason.

Oh the Bills, oh the Bills. Was it really only 2 years ago that Buffalo started the season 5-1 and looked like a possible playoff contender, and then pulled a “typical Bills” collapse and managed to lose 8 of the last 10 games, thus finishing the season 7-9? The most pained franchise in football then followed that disaster up with a 6-10 disappointment last season. In 2010, I expect to see an even worse performance than the previous 2 years. The reasoning for this is not so much that the Bills are worse than last season, as is not really the case. C.J. Spiller has the talent to become an elite running back in the NFL, that is, if the offensive line, which averaged the 4th most sacks out of any team last season, can open up a hole long enough for Spiller to get through. The problem is that the other 3 teams in the division are just really good. The Bills have the most unjustly difficult schedule of any team in the NFL. They not only have to play 6 games against the other 3 teams in the division, but they also must play Green Bay, Minnesota, Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Pittsburg. Those are 11 possible losses right there.

AFC West
1.San Diego: 11 – 5 (wins division, 3 seed)
2.Oakland: 8 – 8
3.Denver: 7 – 9
4.Kansas City: 4 – 12

I expect the San Diego Chargers to have another Charger-esque season. They have a high-powered offense and yet another talented, young, up-and-coming, running back in Ryan Matthews. Philip Rivers’ numbers have improved through almost every season of his career. Despite the loss of Vincent Jackson for an uncertain amount of time, I still think Rivers will lead a high-powered vertical passing game, with Malcolm Floyd stepping into his new role as the number one receiver, who last season, had 776 yards on 45 receptions. The Chargers were weak against the run last year, the main reason why they lost to the Jets in the AFC divisional round last year. The overall unit is essentially the same as last season, so it will be interesting to see if such improvement is possible.

Oakland with an 8-8 record may come as a shock to some. However, now that the meth-head, JaMarcus, “I can throw a ball a mile but not 5 yards” Russell, is out of town and replaced with Jason Campbell, a .500 season may not be out of reach. Although not a single Oakland player was drafted in my fantasy league until round 13 (yes, round 13!) they will stumble their way to 8 wins this year. Their defense was already strong against the pass last season, due to the outstanding corner back Nnamdi Asomugha. So, if their run defense can move up from 29, I think we will see a winning season. When you add in the fact that Oakland gets to play the NFC West, as well as the bottom 2 teams in their own division, they have plenty of opportunities to win some football games.

There probably haven’t been a group of fans more tortured over the last 2 seasons. In 2008, they blew their last 3 games, thus losing a playoff spot and in 2009, they one upped that and blew their last 4! Well, rest easy Denver fans, because in 2010, you will not be good enough to blow a playoff race. You just won’t be in it. Kyle Orton is poor, Brandon Marshall is gone, and most importantly, you have my least favorite head coach, Josh McDaniels, who always seems involved with some type of drama. Honestly, though, I flat out can’t stand him. So, yeah, I guess I was happy to see the Broncos collapse yet again last season. And then there was the Tebow pick. I mean, I have already stated how much I hated this choice, but just incase you forgot, I hate it! Even if they wanted to get Tebow, why not take him in the second round, where he was projected to go? There wasn’t a big enough market for Tim Tebow to take him in the first round. That was a waste of a pick.

The Kansas City Chiefs are the worst team in the AFC’s least competitive division. However, they do have some young talent on offense in Matt Cassel, Jamaal Charles, and Dwayne Bowe. I believe in 2 years they will be competing for the playoffs. However, they are currently in need of another strong offensive lineman and an improved defense. So, look on the Brightside, a bad losing season will only further increase the likelihood of a playoff run in a few seasons.

AFC North
1.Baltimore: 11 – 5 (wins division, 2 seed)
2.Cincinnati: 9 – 7
3.Pittsburg: 9 – 7
4.Cleveland: 3 – 13

The Ravens are a trendy pick to win the super bowl this season for the simple reason that they have no real weaknesses. Quarterback Joe Flacco should have his best season of his young career, now in that major third year. His receivers have improved with the additions of Anquan Boldin, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Dante Stallworth, to play alongside Derrick Mason. Ray Rice is one of the 5 best tailbacks in the NFL, and full back Le'Ron McClain may be the best fullback. On defense, I mean, it’s the Ravens, so they must be good. Despite the departures of Bart Scott, Jim Leonard, and coach, Rex Ryan, the Raven were still ranked 9th in pass defense and 5th in rush defense last season. That will all continue in 2010 and the Ravens have put themselves in a position to win a super bowl.

The Bengals surprised everyone last season by winning the division, which they were able to do behind a tremendous defensive unit and good running game. In 2010, I believe that once again the Bengals will be a good team, however, I expect them to fall a bit short of their 2009 accomplishment. They have a very similar unit as the team that got to the playoffs, but 1. The Ravens are much better than last year and 2. The Steelers will be hungry, and Cincinnati does not get to play a Ben Roethlisbergerless squad. There is no way the Bengals sweep the division like they did in 2009.

Pittsburg is one of the more intriguing teams for the upcoming season. Last season was certainly an anomaly and Steelers fans should feel confident that the entire organization will be playing with a chip on their shoulder this season. Rashard Mendenhall is the real deal at running back and should help to bring the Steelers back to their traditional run first style of football. I also really like wide receiver Mike Wallace, who despite limited action last season, playing behind Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes, put up 40 catches for 756 yards and 6 touchdowns! That’s an average of 19.4 yards/catch, the most of any player on any team in the NFL last season! I think Wallace will be the number one receiver by seasons end. The only problem with this team is that Ben Roethlisberger cannot control his raging hormones. He’s gonna be out the first 4 games, which are against 3 playoff caliber teams, in the Falcons, Titans, and Ravens. I have them going 1 and 3 over that stretch, which will really harm them in the long run, and ultimately, destroy their playoff chances. If Pittsburg can manage a 2-2 split over those first 4 games, then maybe they can reach the post season.

The Cleveland Browns, much like the Bills, are a bad team in a division with 3 playoff caliber teams. They’re going to get beaten up like that weird, smelly, kid with the horn-rimed glasses did in middle school. But unlike the Bills, they’re just plain awful, I mean, terrible. Their best player is tackle, Joe Thomas, who although highly talented, cannot carry a football team. Their quarterbacks would be better served as the towel boys, the running backs are so poor that not a single one was drafted in my fantasy league, and their wide receivers were good enough last season to lead the team to dead last in passing offense. Their defense is tragic and head coach Eric Mangini is anything but qualified. Sorry Browns, you should be more interested in college football, to scout for your number one pick next season.

AFC South
1.Indianapolis: 13 – 3 (wins division, 1 seed)
2.Tennessee: 9 – 7 (second wildcard team, 6 seed)
3.Texans: 8 – 8
4.Jacksonville: 4 – 12

The Indianapolis Colts will likely have a season very similar to the one they had last season. Looking at their schedule, they could easily win their first 8 games and looking to the second half of their season, I see them favored to win every game. But history has shown that the Colts put no value on the regular season, so I anticipate them to finish with 3 losses, not out of inability, but out of benign neglect. Manning is still one of the 3 best players in football and quite frankly, is the only one that matters on that team. Even if everyone else on the team got the flu, and they brought in the practice squad, I’d still take the Colts over half the teams in the league. The receivers will be better this year as will the defense. The Colts are the team to beat in the AFC once again.

I have always been impressed by the Titans and their ability to win football games they have no real business competing in. The defense will be strong against the run, but need to do better than 31st against the pass, like they did last season. Vince Young continues to prove that no matter what, regardless of his stats or anyone else’s, he is a proven winner. It’s usually never pretty, but the Titans can win games. Of course, that is a lot easier when you have Chris Johnson at running back. I would not be the least bit surprised to see him put him similar, if not better, numbers than he did last season. I think they are in a good position to make a postseason run.

This is the year the Texans make the playoffs… ok… next year is the year they make the playoffs… ok… next year? Well, I, along with many other football fans and analysts, have been claiming a Texan playoff run for the last few seasons. This is the year that I will not say that about the Texans, which means, of course, this is the year it will actually happens. So, then, I guess I am calling it then, which means, my predictions are knowingly wrong, but, no, I don’t think they will. Really, I don’t think they will. But maybe…

Jacksonville needs more parts in order to compete in yet another challenging AFC division. Their defense is inconsistent and their quarterback situation is questionable. Their receivers are often overmatched, with the exception of Mike Sims-Walker. Much like the Titans, The Jags’ running game can bail them out of trouble, as MJD, like Johnson, is one of the 3 or 4 best backs in the league. However, MJD can only do so much, and the star running back will have to play through, what I can only imagine being, another frustrating season.

Playoff predictions tomorrow.


Monday, September 6, 2010

Back to School/Summer Review/NFL Predictions, Day 1

Summer is officially over and what a busy one it was. This summer marked my tenth year at Camp Walden and it was probably my best ever. That took me into mid August, and when it ended, I had 2 weddings to attend on back-to-back weekends, visited family, and toured a few colleges with my younger brother. All this equates into virtually no time to blog. But have no fear, for I am back now and better than ever.

So, the question becomes, what should my first article after over 2 months address? This summer was loaded with issues that any self respecting sports blogger should write about. The World Cup was certainly intriguing… from what I heard. Needless to say, working at a sleep away camp allowed me to see a grand total of 0 World Cup games after the group stage. As for my picks… um, yeah… Germany was a good one. Hey, at least I hit the nail on the head with my NBA Finals predictions, Lakers in 7. Terrific…

And then, the biggest story of American sports this summer, the formation of the super-team in Miami, with Chris “the Raptor looking, ex-Raptor” Bosh and LeBron James joining Dwayne Wade with the Heat. There are so many things I could write about here, starting with the terrible decision of LeBron James, to go from the biggest star in America, to taking a back seat on the Miami Heat, which are, and will always be, Dwayne Wade’s team. Shocking. Then, we have the whole other side of the story regarding LeBron and his “quitting.” I find this word to be incorrect. The last time I checked, LeBron was a FREEagent. That means he is FREE to make any choice he wants. Whether or not he made the correct choice is an entirely different matter, and as I just stated, I would argue that he made a very wrong one. However, if the Cleveland front office feels betrayed by James, they need to do some serious soul searching to think about how this situation was created by them. Maybe LeBron would have stuck around if, in the seven years that he was in Cleveland, the team managed to acquire a single all-star, either through the draft, free agency pickup, or trade. The fact that this did not happen speaks to the inadequacy of the Cavaliers Organization. In my first blog article, written on May 13, I wrote,

Remember the Amare Stoudemire possible trade earlier in the year. Only 4 guys have put up more points this postseason then Stoudemire, and one of them is obviously LeBron. How did the Cav’s not get this guy? If I’m a Cav’s fan, that’s where my anger and frustration rest. He was exactly the type of guy they needed. A big player that could take some attention off LeBron. By not trading for Stoudemire the Cav’s front office was basically making that statement that:

1. LeBron was good enough to win it all without any real help and
2. Happy enough in Cleveland that he would stay even if he received no further help

I guess he wasn’t on both accounts.

The end of summer means several things. 1. There will be no more waterskiing, relaxing, and stress free weeks (bad). 2. I will be going back to Union (good) and not living at my home any more (really good). And 3. Football season is here (the best). Therefore, my inaugural blog will be my NFL season predictions, which, like all my other predictions, are infallible. The predictions will be broken down into 3 different days. Today’s discussion will be on the NFC, followed by the AFC, and concluded with a look at the postseason.

The NFC is far easier to predict than the AFC, for the simple reason that there are fewer quality teams, and thus, less competition. Most would agree that of the sixteen teams in the conference, only 7 or 8 of them are legitimate playoff contenders. Here’s how I see it stacking up at season’s end.

NFC East

1.Dallas: 10 – 6 (wins division, 3 seed)
2.New York Giants: 9 – 7 (second wild card team, 6 seed)
3.Philadelphia: 8 – 8
4.Washington: 7 – 9

The Cowboys are the strongest team in a division that, as usual, should be very close, with all 4 teams capable of beating one another, or anyone else in the league. This said, the Cowboys have the most complete team. The running game, although not utilized enough, is still dangerous with the combination of Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice. Romo seems to be improving after putting up career high numbers last season. Additionally, one cannot overlook the impact that a first playoff win should have on Romo’s confidence. Miles Austin will have a full season to shine at wide receiver and the addition of Dez Bryant should take a little attention off him and Witten. The O-line is a bit more shaky than usual, but I do not foresee that being significant enough to drop them out of the top spot in the division. If they want to go deep into the playoffs or get a few more wins during the regular season, they will need to improve on a pass defense that ranked 20th in the league last season.

The Giants could compete for this division as well. Hopefully their injuries from last season will be a thing of the past. They will have one of, if not the best D-line in the NFL and a revitalized running game, a formula that won them the Super Bowl a few years ago. If Eli Manning can play at his best for a majority of the games, the Giants should be able to wrap up the final Playoff spot in the NFC.

As for the other two teams, the Eagles have numerous question marks, most significantly with LeSean McCoy at Running Back and Kevin Kolb at QB. Personally, I think both these players will step into their new roles quite well. Then at wide receiver, there are a plethora of fast guys, who at times, lack consistency. I do not expect to see DeSean Jackson put up numbers quite as impressive as last year, given the change at QB. Trent Cole, DE, is one of the most underrated players in the NFL and Ernie Simms was one of the most underrated acquisitions this offseason. The two should help to lead a solid defense. They will be in the mix of playoff contenders until season’s end.

The Washington Redskins are the worst team in the division, yet, perhaps the most intriguing. Can Donovan McNabb revitalize his career in Washington? I think not. Expect a very Jason Campbell-esque season out of him. Will Albert Haynesworth learn to play nice with coach, Mike Shanahan, and perform like his days in Tennessee? Again, I think not. Add in the questionable offensive line and you have a recipe for a mediocre team in a strong division getting left out of the action.

NFC West

1.San Francisco: 10 – 6
2.Arizona: 6 – 10
3.Seattle: 6 – 10
4.St. Louis: 3 – 13

The 49ers benefit from being in the worst division in American Professional Sports. This said, they are a much-improved team and would compete for the title in any division. Perhaps I’m delusional, but I believe Alex Smith will have a pretty good year in 2010. His rating of 81.5 last year was the best of his career. Running back, Frank Gore, will have another pro bowl year and young talents Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis will further develop their respective games. On defense, the 49ers are one of the best teams in the league, led by all-world middle linebacker Patrick Willis, whose season averages over his first three years in the league are absolutely monstrous, 156 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1.3 ints (he had 3 last year), and 7.7 pass deflections. He has also scored 2 touchdowns over that span. Willis is my preseason vote for defensive player of the year in 2010.

Goodbye Kurt Warner, goodbye post-season. Arizona is now left with Derek Anderson at quarterback (ouch!). The running game will improve this season, with Beanie Wells having a breakthrough year (or at least I hope so given his presence on my fantasy football team). Their defense may have some stars, but there is not enough consistency to be considered a good enough unit to carry their team to the post-season. On the Brightside, however, Arizona gets to play Seattle and St. Louise twice.

Honestly, Seattle, who the hell knows what you’re going to do this season? I imagine it won’t be good. Hasslebeck is past his prime. The running back corps is a hodgepodge of mediocrity and frustration. The receivers could be all right, I guess, but then again, they could be the worst in the league. Maybe the scattered talent on defense (Aaron Curry, Lofa Tatupu, Marcus Trufant) will play like their athletic talents should dictate, but, eh, probably not. On the Brightside, Seattle gets to play St. Louis and Arizona twice.

On the Brightside, St. Louis gets to play Seattle and Arizona twice.

NFC North

1.Green Bay: 12 – 4 (wins division, 1 seed)
2.Minnesota: 10 – 6 (first wildcard team, 5 seed)
3.Chicago: 6 – 10
4.Detroit: 5 – 11

The Green Bay Packers will be the best team in the NFC in 2010. I have them finishing at 12-4, although a 13-3 or even 14-2 finish is not impossible. Aaron Rodgers will be a MVP candidate and erase the memory of a certain, other Green Bay quarterback. Defensively, they are one of the top teams. One should not expect a repeat of last season from Charles Woodsen, the reigning Defensive MVP. However, he still needs to be highly effective to enhance the Packers’ weakest area, pass defense. The running game, in my mind, is another question mark, but I see many similarities between this team’s style of play, and that of the 16-0 Patriots of a few years ago. They will not be running too much, so therefore, a weaker running game is nothing major. Anything less than a deep playoff run from this team should be viewed as a disappointment.

The Minnesota Vikings are the defending division champs, but I don’t anticipate a repeat in 2010. For one, the offense will not be as explosive offensively. The injury to Sidney Rice has been overlooked in my opinion. Last season Rice put up over 1300 yards and 8 touchdowns on 83 receptions. He will miss at least the first six games of the season with a knee injury, but I expect the toll to be greater than that. Even when he returns, a knee injury to a speedy receiver is a big problem. This said, the major reason I expect the Vikings to go at best, 10 and 6, is Brett Favre. Last season, Favre shocked many football fans with his stats; 33 touchdowns to only 7 interceptions, which for Brett Favre, “the gunslinger,” is especially accurate. However, Favre is now 40 years old, and looking closer to 60. Yet, he continues to play, still never missing a game. Until 2010, that is, I expect Favre to suffer an injury at some point this season, most likely from some 300-pound freak, rushing from his blind side and sacking Favre hard enough to end his days as a professional quarterback. It would be an unfortunate end to a fortunate career, but I believe it will happen. If he somehow makes it through the season injury free, I still expect to see a major drop off in his numbers by the second half of the season.

Julius Peppers may have been the biggest free agent of the off-season, but his presence in Chicago is not enough to transform the Bears into a winning team. The fact is, the Bears were 29th in the league in rushing and Cutler is a highly inconsistent, once 6/10 quarterback with a tendency to be whiney and annoying. The receiving corps is as inconsistent as the pronunciations of the name of number one wide out, Devin Aromashodu. Back to the defense, they are made up of essentially the same group of player that took them to a super bowl; however, they are not getting any younger, nor any better. A once good team is now too many missing pieces away from being a contender.

Bringing up the rear for yet another year are the Detroit Lions. However, the defense will be improved after a solid draft. Rookie running back, Jahvid Best, should be a major contributor this season. Hopefully the draft class and the further improvement of Calvin Johnson, Kevin Smith, and Matthew Stafford will give Detroit fans something to be optimistic about.

NFC South

1.New Orleans: 12 – 4
2.Atlanta 9 – 7
3.Carolina: 7 – 9
4.Tampa Bay: 4 – 12

The only reason I can believe that the New Orleans Saints will struggle this season is the appearance of Drew Brees on the cover of Madden. Seriously though, I am almost hesitant to give them the division title. However, using logic over superstition, I will say that the defending Super Bowl champs will play like it during the season and get to 12 wins for the second consecutive season. Brees, along with Rodgers and Manning, will head a competitive MVP race.

There are many signs that point to Atlanta competing for the division with New Orleans. On the offensive side of the ball, Matt Ryan is now in his third year and the jump in ability from year 2 to year 3 is often the largest of a player’s career. Michael Turner returns to the lineup after missing 5 games last season with various injuries. Then there is Roddy White, who has quietly had 3 straight seasons of 80 plus catches and 1100 plus receiving yards. On Defense, John Abraham looks to redeem himself after one the worst seasons of his career in 2009. MLB Curtis Lofton had one of most underrated seasons in the NFL last year, as the second year player picked up 133 tackles and 2 forced fumbles. Much like Ryan, on the offensive side of the football, Lofton is now entering his third year, so we can expect to see significant improvement from last season. And also like Ryan, he is the star on his side of the football, with the Falcons’ defense essentially built around him. Atlanta is my dark horse to make some noise in the NFL this season, that is, if they can beat out the Giants and the Vikings for the elusive wild card spots.

The quarterback situation for the Panthers is the major reason they will struggle in an attempt to reach .500 this season. Jimmy Clausen, Matt Moore, and/or Tony Pike have no business starting at quarterback in the NFL this season, yet, one or more of them will. Their running game is one of the best in the NFL this season and that is the only reason they will get to 7 wins this season. The way I look at it, the New York Jets got to 9 wins last season, with a shaky quarterback situation, which was ameliorated by the best running game AND the best defense in the league. The Caroline Panthers have one of the best running games in the league (good for up to 7 wins) but do not have the best defense in the league (good for at least 2 games, which they do not get).

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a sad excuse for a football team and should be pleased that I was so kind to them. They probably have 0 pro bowl quality players. In fact, the most exciting part of that organization is the pirate ship that fires a blast after a Tamp Touchdown. Too bad those are such a rare occurrence. Anything more than 5 wins for the Bucs is a sign of the apocalypse.

AFC tomorrow.

-Adam Weinberger