Monday, September 11, 2006

Football Rivalry Trifecta!

Friday: Edmonton Eskimos beat the Calgary Stampeders 35-24
Saturday: University of Alberta Golden Bears defeat the University of Calgary Dinos 17-15
Sunday: Atlanta Falcons beat the Carolina Panthers 20-6.

Woo-hoo! The weekend could not have gone any better. I was especially pleased with the Falcons win because nobody thought they could do it...not even me. The next two games should prove if they are for real or not.

I was a quite pissed off that the Smos flushed a 16-0 lead over the Stamps but as the clock struck midnight eastern time, the Stamps' cinderella comeback came to an abrupt end as the Smos scored two touchdowns in the span of 6 seconds at the end of the game.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

2006 NFL Season Preview

Here's a set of predictions for all thirty-two teams. I'm going to come back to this mid-season and examine just how wrong I was. Last season, I picked the Jets, Raiders, and Ravens to make the playoffs. Oops!

NFC South

New Orleans: The Saints are my dark horse pick this year. They have some serious talent on offence with Drew Brees (plus receivers who put up decent numbers with Aaron fucking Brooks) and Reggie Bush. Not too sure of their defence though. Clearly they’ve learned nothing from Atlanta’s mistake and stuck Bryan Scott at free safety. I think they’ll be an exciting team to watch as they’re going to win a lot of games shootout style. This is a pretty risky pick considering they have a rookie head coach, and that combined with a new QB could be dangerous, but a change may be just what the doctor ordered. I predict that all teams remain in contention to win the division by week 15, and the Saints will take it in week 17.

Atlanta: They’ve upgraded in every area of the game, got rid of the crap players, and even better, they sent their crap players to division rivals. Unfortunately, despite that their rivals have improved too. The receiving corps remains the weakest link but that’s to be expected for a team with the #1 rushing offence in the league. It’ll probably be #1 again this year, especially since TJ Duckett will stop getting carries. The defence worries the hell out of me. If the preseason is any indication, it could be the same old story as last year.
Wins: New Orleans, Arizona, NY Giants, Cincinnati, Detroit, Cleveland, Baltimore, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Washington
Losses: Carolina, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Dallas, Philadelphia

Carolina: If Steve Smith goes down, the Panties are in huge trouble. Keyshawn is not talented enough to carry the team’s passing game. Stephen Davis is not a huge loss for them, but only if DeShaun Foster can keep having the flashes of brilliance he had last season.

Tampa Bay: I’m still trying to figure out why they won the division last season. I think it was because of Jon Gruden’s iron balls. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, putting the Sucs down here where they belong, but I don’t think Chris Simms can do it. However, they do still have rookie of the year Carnell Williams who will continue to do great things for them. The defence remains the same (terrifyingly good) but they are only getting older. Fast young teams will be able to exploit them.

NFC North

Chicago: Molecular geneticist Rex Grossman returns as the starter. I think that time is running out for him and he knows it, so this season, we’ll see what he’s really made of. I think he’s made of china furniture so it’ll probably be the same old story in Chicago with the crappy backup QBs. If Grossman can find Muhsin Muhammed several times a game, they’ve got it made, since the running game with Thomas Jones and oft-injured Cedric Benson will sort itself out.

Minnesota: Evidently, the circus is still in the twin cities, with Koren Robinson’s recent drunk driving charge. They have the Eagles’ old offensive co-ordinator as head coach, so I’m very interested to see how that’s going to turn out. And yes, I still hate Brad Johnson.

Green Bay: Not quite the disaster that last season was. They look better defensively, especially in the secondary. Offence remains the same, but I do have to question Brett Favre’s ability. I honestly believed he wasn’t going to play the season. Hence, the Pack goes here.

Detroit: I wonder what it’s going to take to get the Lions out of this position. It seems like they’re perpetually stuck in the lower third of the league and can’t get out no matter how many top 10 receivers they draft. Apparently, Jon Kitna will be the starting QB. I’ve always thought of Kitna as a very capable BACKUP. Who knows…

NFC East

Dallas: I don’t think the T.O. circus will be enough to hold them back. They finished 9-7 last season and would have won two extra games and sent another to overtime if they had a kicker who didn’t completely suck balls. They thought getting Mike Vanderjagt would fix that, yet they still have two kickers on their roster.

NY Giants: Once again, the Giants look terrifying on offence. Tiki finished second in rushing and young Eli will continue to improve (when he learns to stop throwing while falling backward.) Pass defence is a serious weakness for Jersey/A and every team in their division can effectively put the ball in the air. They also have a tough schedule early on so they might be playing catch-up all year.

Washington: Mark Brunell is too old balls to be the starting QB. They lost a few games last season because they tended to go blitz crazy in 3rd and long situations which translated to easy completions and 1st downs for the other team. Let’s see if they’ve learned anything from that. Losing Portis is bad for them because now they have TJ Duckett, who last season had 5+ carries in every game, yet had two games where he rushed for negative yards. I think that’s some kind of record.

Philadelphia: I’m not sure what to make of the Eagles…they’ve made the NFC Championship game without T.O. so who’s to say it won’t happen again. I guess it does look like their defence is falling apart, so I think that’s a good enough reason to put them in the basement. Stallworth was a good pickup, but the west coast offence will take him some time to get used to. Once he does, he’ll be very productive.

NFC West

Seattle: Undisputed winners of the worst division in professional sports, hands down. They don’t have Steve Hutchinson, and I know that’s going to profoundly affect their running game. Let’s face facts: Alexander is next to nothing without that line. At least they still have Walter Jones. To make matters worse, Alexander’s on the cover of Madden ’07 and that carries a pretty strong curse with it (ask any Falcons fan.) It will be up to Hasselbeck to follow up his breakout season with another outstanding performance, and even without Jurevicius, they should have enough talent at receiver to do so.

Arizona: They added Edgerrin James and if Kurt Warner stays healthy, they should be able to keep the Seahawks playing their starters until about Week 15. On defence, they’re not quite where they should be. And they have to resist the temptation to start Leinart too early.

St. Louis: The Rams look a lot different from Mike Martz’s run and gun type offence. They play a lot more conservatively now. Marc Bulger’s a good quarterback and he still has Torry Holt, so that alone is enough to keep teams honest.

San Francisco: A few months ago I was challenged to name three players on the 49ers and I could only come up with two. That suggests that like Houston they are a bunch of no-names. They had the league’s worst offence and defence last season, so I have no reservations about putting them in the basement for this season.

Now for entertainment purposes, this is how the playoffs might end up:

(6) Atlanta vs. (3) Chicago: Bears
(5) NY Giants vs. (4) New Orleans: Giants
(3) Chicago vs. (2) Seattle: Bears
(5) NY Giants vs. (1) Dallas: Cowboys
(3) Chicago vs. (1) Dallas: Cowboys

AFC South

Indianapolis: Nothing changes here. The Colts pull off some regular season dominance and then wheeze out in the playoffs. They have no running game to speak of anymore, which means they’re in big trouble against teams with good pass defence.

Jacksonville: Leftwich will need to prove that he should still be the starter over David Gerard. There’s a lot of talent on that team on both sides of the ball and they should have quite a strong finish, but not quite enough to return to the post-season.

Tennessee: Vastly improved now with Vince Young. The Titans are slowly getting themselves out of cap hell and getting rid of McNair was a good start. However, they’ll be playing Billy Volek for the time being which automatically puts them out of contention.

Houston: Oh lord…The Texans didn’t do anything to help their cause this offseason, except for Jeb Putzier (good pickup.) Poor David Carr can’t show the league what he can really do if he’s constantly getting cranked behind the worst O-line ever. And I think that Super Mario is a combine freak who won’t live up to his expectations. He’ll be a decent D-lineman, but unspectacular. And losing Dominick Davis leaves them with no running game whatsoever.

AFC North

Pittsburgh: There’s controversy surrounding Bill Cowher and Roethlisberger can’t seem to stay healthy (like last season.) I think the accident has kind of fucked him up. The good news is that all their rivals are in a similar position. I guess we’ll see what Roethlisberger’s really made of since he’s lost another target. The good news is that Willie Parker is awesome, and forget about Jerome Bettis, I don’t think he was as important in the last season as some people made him out to be.

Cincinnati: A lot of questions going into this season, the main one being Carson Palmer’s health. I don’t think management is overly concerned though…they’ve brought in Anthony Wright and Doug Johnson (yes, the same Doug Johnson of the 5-13 Atlanta Falcons fame) so if Palmer goes down, watch out!! Also, Odell Thurman has received the Ricky Williams vacation (4 games, not a stint with the Argos…yet) and they’ve had 4 other players arrested on various charges this off-season. That’s enough of a distraction to lose them the division, but not a wildcard.

Cleveland: I believe in Charlie Frye. However, the Browns seemed to be cursed as they’ve run into quite a bit of bad luck this pre-season. The big one is losing LeCharles Bentley for the season…he was the missing piece of the puzzle. But I think that Frye will be able to find Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow enough times to win a couple more games this season.

Baltimore: They’ve landed a proven QB in McNair, but as with any other year, he won’t be able to stay healthy. If that was the case, Baltimore has enough talent on offence to win a fair number of games. It’s now or never for the Ravens who, after this season, will have some serious cap issues, so desperation may take over. It should be interesting.

AFC East

Miami: What a cupcake schedule the Dolphins have. The Dolphins are poised to become a breakout team this season. They finished 9-7 last season despite and have now added Daunte Culpepper. I can’t believe they squandered the chance to add another locker room cancer by cutting little Vick.

New England: Eventually, people get tired of the success story and they want to see them lose. But I don’t know…the Patriots always do so well in the draft and they have one of the best coaches football has ever seen. Overall, I’m not impressed with this year’s Patriots team, but Tom Brady might be able to make his crap receivers look good.

NY Jets: Pennington is the undisputed starter. I think he can do good things for this team. His rating is in the low 90s but it will be the defence which holds them down in this tight division.

Buffalo: Oh hallelujah, the Bills’ problems are solved. Haven’t you heard? Peerless is back in town! And, uh…yeah…never mind! If reuniting him with Bledsoe in Dallas couldn’t work out his issues, then I think he’s been lost forever. And they’ve learned nothing since JP Losman is the starter again.

AFC West

Denver: So Tatum Bell is the man…All Denver had to do was keep its team together as they had very little gaps to fill, but that was tricky given their cap situation. As a result, Mike Anderson is gone and that’ll hurt the league’s #2 rushing offence. Jake Plummer had quite a season in ’05, and I think he’ll be able to do more of the same,

Kansas City: Losing Willie Roaf is a huge blow, but Larry Johnson was able to work his magic without Roaf for some games last season. The Chiefs look very impressive on paper, and might just have enough to get back to the playoffs.

San Diego – The Philip Rivers show is not all that it is cracked up to be. That being said, I am still very, very hesitant to put a team with Antonio Gates and LaDanian Tomlinson behind the Chiefs. But I put them here because of their weak finish last season and with Brees gone, things can only get worse. Great run defence, but still pretty bad against the pass.

Oakland: The Raiders should be all set up at corner for the foreseeable future with Michael Huff and Fabian Washington. Aaron Brooks is the new guy in town and I can’t see him winning comeback player of the year. So the Raiders stay in the cellar for another season. Maybe they should begin the thawing of Rich Gannon…

(6) Kansas City vs. (3) Pittsburgh: Chiefs
(5) Cincinnati vs. (4) Denver: Broncos
(6) Kansas City vs. (1) Indianapolis: Colts
(5) Cincinnati vs. (2) Miami: Dolphins
(2) Miami vs. (1) Indianapolis: Dolphins

Miami vs. Dallas: Cowboys win.

And last but not least, Week 1 predictions. I didn't add my comments like I normally do because this damned post is long enough. If you want the comments, you have to subscribe to my weekly NFL e-mail.

Tampa Bay
New England (Lock)
Kansas City
New Orleans
Tennessee (Pepto)