After lengthy conversations with folks who have been watchign meaningless preseason games, I thought I'd put together my 2007 NFL preview and predictions column. This is the equivalent of throwing darts from a slightly shorter distance to the board since we know some teams are destined to fail (Raiders, Browns, Falcons) and some have cakewalks to the playoffs (Pats in the AFC East/Bears in the NFC North/Colts in the AFC South). I'm going to try to predict award winners as well.
1. Patriots 2. Jets 3. Bills 4. Dolphins
The AFC L-East is still bad enough for the Patriots to go 5-1 and have a walk to a 10 win season and the playoffs. The scary part is that the Jets have the same chance of going 5-1 and then only needed to go .500 int heir other games for a 10 win season. I can see the Jets doing it especially now that they have a true no. 1 RB. They lucked out in that the non-programmed games they play are vs. the Chiefs and Titans who are going to fall back to Earth this year. The Dolphins should have drafted Brady Quinn and passed on him. They have not had a QB since Marino's retirement. They shot themselves in the foot. I'd like the Bills more but they got rid fo McGahee and have a horrendous first 9 weeks of the year.
1. Ravens 2. Bengals - Wild Card 3. Steelers 4. Browns
The Ravens now have a RB to keep teams honest vs. the Ravens offense. McNair looked toasted sometimes last year, but maybe he can pull something off witht he passing game to prevent 9 man fronts. I see the Bengals as rebounding this year and going 10-6, maybe 11-5. Palmer is back from his surgery, and hopefully, the criminal conduct is behind them. The Steelers could prove me wrong, as their rookie coach take over. I hope he works magic, as I like the Steelers being in the mix for the playoffs. The Browns are a couple years away. Witht he collection of young talent they have, I would not be surprised if they made the leapfrog to the top in '09.
1. Colts 2. Jacksonville 3. Texans 4. Titans
The Colts have a tough schedule, but lucked out in the Titans losing Pacman. Everyone gave Vince Young the credit last year for the Titans turnaround, but Pacman & the defense was more responsible for that winning streak. Losing him, exposes their secondary. I see teams figuring out how to contain Vince Young, Vince Young not progressing in his 'reads', and the defense not beign as effective. With a tougher schedule, that is a long way to fall. I like the Schaub pickup by the Texans, and I think they will surprise some people.
1. Chargers 2. Broncos - Wild Card 3. Chiefs 4. Raiders
The Chargers will win their division despite their Al Gore look-a-like coach. I almost had the Broncos winning the division, but I think the tragedy of the Williams death will hurt their secondary. He was a great DB paired with Champ Bailey. They did pick up Dre Bly, but I was not impressed with his work in Detroit. The Chiefs will have a rough year after losing Trent Green, losing another great O-lineman, running LJ 430 times (w/playoffs) last year, a tougher schedule, and the possibility of starting Brodie Croyle. If the Raiders win 6 games, it will be because their defense/special teams scored 2 TDs in each game.
1. Eagles 2. Cowboys - Wild Card 3. Giants 4. Redskins
The Eagles win the division because of a tiebreaker with the Boys. Both teams have 10 very winnable games on their schedule. It is how the teams play their non-programmed foes that will determine the division. Does anyone think the Iggles can sweep the Cowboys again this year? Not me, and not even my Iggles fan friends think that. The Wild Card in this whole division is how do the Redskins play on offense? If they play well, they could walk to a 8-9 win season. If not, they will have a high draft pick again.
1. Bears 2. Vikings 3. Packers 4. Lions
The Bears defense alone will keep them in games. It is just a matter of the QB playing 'ok' to determine their final record. I see them sweeping their division, which gives them a 6-0 start and from their, they will only need 4 more wins to reach 10 and the playoffs. The Vikings should not start Tavaris Jackson, and sadly, Drew Henson has made an appearance to con another professional sports team into paying him. In Madden 05, he was an awesome QB for me. In real life, he doesnt have the heart. The Packers do not have a solid RB, lack a strong defense, and their QB is a mistake prone gunslinger; 8 wins if they catch a myriad of breaks like last year. The Lions should put a pic of a turd on their helmet.
1. Saints 2. Panthers - Wild Card 3. Bucs 4. Falcons
Saints will win this division because of great quarterbacking, a slightly improved defense, and Reggie Bush figuring out halfway through last year how to run in the NFL. His lightbulb moment changes this offense, as he is now a great running complement to Deuce and not just a receiving threat who can run. In a year or two, it's Reggie's show anyway. The Panthers will be hamstrung by inconsistent QB play. It really comes down to that with them as their D is solid and they have the offensive weapons. One caveat is that if Deangelo Williams can stay healthy he can alleviate some pressure and carry the offense late in games. I loved the Jarrett pick. The Bucs can scratch 6 or 7 wins, but I did not like the Garcia signging or Plummer trade. I thought Simms was progressing and making strides reading NFL defenses. The Falcons are fucked. With Joey Harrington as the only QB with soem experience to run the show, I'd get rid of him and bring back the single wing formation and run every down. If they do win the division, it will be a testament to the Ewing Theory.
1. Rams 2. Seahawks 3. 49ers 4. Cardinals
The Rams will pull this division out on the legs of Steven Jackson. Bulger is solid and the WRs are good, but Jackson will lead this team to a 10 win season. Seattle's time has come and gone. They lucked out witht he slippery ball last year in the playoffs. The offense is old, the secondary shitty, and the O-line has not recovered from the loss of Hutch. I thought of putting the 49ers ahead of them, but pro football reference had them as the worst 7-9 team of all time. Not working this year. Arizona will suck as they always do. I can see them covering all their home games, but the moment they hit the road, derp.
MVP - Drew Brees - The Saints will have the best record in the NFC and he will get his due. No offense to Brady, Manning and Tomlinson. I will say this though of those 3 names, if Brady and Tomlinson were injured, it might hurt their teams by 2 wins or so. If Manning were injured, the Colts would win maybe 4 games all year.
Defensive Player of the Year - Shawne Merriman - Stats and 'visibility' are the two reasons why I see him getting this media voted award. Adalius Thomas (the NE media bump), Urlacher, Demarcus Ware, and Champ Bailey will be in the mix.
Offensive Rookie of the Year - Adrian Peterson - The Vikings will run him a lot, and this will help his stats look good. Voters are dumb for sports awards. More importantly, he will close out games for the Vikes offense and help them win. As a 21 year old phenom, they can look forward to a decade of him running wild in Minny.
Defensive Rookie of the Year - Brandon Merriweather - Merriweather will be required to play for the Pats as their secondary will suffer non-stop injuries as they have for the last 4 years. He's talented, just a bit psycho.
WC Round - Colts over Bengals, Broncos over Ravens
Divisional - Pats over Broncos, Chargers over Colts
AFC Champ - Chargers over Pats
WC Round - Bears over Panthers, Cowboys over St Louis
Divisional - Iggles over Bears, Saints over Cowboys
NFC Champ - Saints over Iggles
Super Bowl - Chargers over Saints
The Chargers are just too talented to flame out in the playoffs like last year (major bad luck hexes in last year's game), and with Rivers handling the QB duties another year, he will be better prepared. I still think the Pats defense is too old to keep up with teams even if their WR corps is not stocked deep. The Saints and Cowboys match up well against the other possible division winners. There is little separating the Cowboys and Iggles on talent level as far I can see, and even if you think Wade Phillips is a bad coach, look at how Andy Reid has done in the playoffs. He always manages to make big mistakes in strategy. The Super Bowl will be a greaty story, "Brees battles the team that shunned him". There would be tons of starpower for TV and the media coverage. Both teams would be 1st time SB champs. I like Sean Payton a lot as a coach, and if there is a coach who could orchestrate an offensive gameplan that would make a defense like the Chargers have put together scratch its head, it is him. This game would be very entertaining. Let's hope it happens.