Thursday, September 6, 2007

Are You Ready For Some Football?

Well, after one of my fantasy baseball teams managed to put up a .139 (6-for-43) hitting effort and another got torched by Jake Peavy's un-Peavy like eight earned runs allowed outing in four innings yesterday (I lost 3 points in the standings in that league thanks to that one), I figured it was time to change things up today and talk a little football! Yes, the NFL season is finally here and begins in Indianapolis tonight as Peyton Manning and the Super Bowl XLI champion Colts take on Drew Brees, Reggie Bush and the rest of the New Orleans Saints. The game will pit two of the three most high-powered offenses in the NFL from last year, so that means there should be plenty of points scored - just what the people at NBC want to see. Offense draws in the audience, defense tends not to. All of the fun begins tonight at 8:30 ET/5:30 PT...

As for the 2007 Season, who is going to rise up and be a contender? Most believe the Colts and Saints are no-brainer playoff teams this year... who will be the other 10 playoff teams? Well, I'll give a quick rundown of who I think will be there in December...

AFC East
This one is probably the easiest pick for me. I'm taking the New England Patriots to run away with the division behind Tom Brady and a rejuvenated defense. Look for the Pats to be 13-3. The New York Jets and Buffalo Bills will be competitive, but probably 9-7 teams at best and not in the playoffs. The Miami Dolphins will once again be the bottom feeders, struggling to a 4-12 or 5-11 record.

AFC North
The Baltimore Ravens may have run away with the division last year with their 13-3 mark, but I think 2007 is going to be different. The 2006 Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers got off to a 2-6 start, but finished strong, winning six of their last eight to get to .500. The Cincinnati Bengals also had a tough time last year after a nice playoff run in 2005. I look for the Ravens to once again win the division, but with an 11-5 mark. Look for both the Steelers and Bengals to be Wild Card teams at 10-6. The Cleveland Browns will once again be one of the NFL's worst teams, repeating their 4-12 mark from last year.

AFC South
The Indianapolis Colts will have the target on their back now that they've got that long awaited Super Bowl title. The divisional race should be a relatively easy one for them this year. I predict a slight slip to 11-5 record-wise as they adjust to all of the personnel movement. Jacksonville has a lot of talent on both defense and in the backfield, but I just don't see them being any better than a 9-7 team. The Houston Texans are a team which is on the rise - they may very well get to .500 (or better) this year. Tennessee's Titans will only go as far as Vince Young's arm and legs take them - this year that will be around 7-9.

AFC West
The San Diego Chargers looked like they were going to the Super Bowl last year... then an unbelievable mistake by a defensive player gave Tom Brady and the Patriots new life and now Marty Schottenheimer is unemployed (again). Funny how this sport works. Nonetheless, the Chargers probably have the best all-around talent in the NFL. They have the best running back in LaDainian Tomlinson, the best tight end in Antonio Gates, one of the best quarterbacks in Philip Rivers, and a vaunted and talented young defense. If I were to pick one team to win it all at this point, it would be the Chargers. They will repeat their 14-2 season, winning the division by six games over the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs. Both of these teams have a lot of question marks in the passing game. The Oakland Raiders actually do have a good defense. Their offense still needs a lot of work, but look for them to be closer to 5-11 or 6-10 this year.

NFC East
Tony Romo may have botched that snap in last year's playoff game, but that hardly reflects in his ability as an NFL quarterback. Romo started 12 games for the Cowboys and threw for 200 or more yards in 11 of them - and that's with his receiver Terrell Owens leading the NFL in drops with 17! Look for the Cowboys to really gel on offense this year, and be passable defensively. I look for them to be 11-5 and to win a tiebreaker with the Philadelphia Eagles for the division title. The New York Giants are going to miss Tiki Barber A LOT! Look for them to struggle as QB Eli Manning will try to take on too much of the burden. I look for them to be no better than 6-10 this year. Conversely, I expect the Washington Redskins to surprise some people. Clinton Portis says he's "93.9% certain" that this is going to be his year, so I'm inclined to believe him. Chris Cooley is one of the most underrated tight ends in the game and QB Jason Campbell will only get better this year. Look for the 'Skins to post a 9-7 record and contend for a Wild Card spot.

NFC North
Should they even have to play any games? Imagine if the Chicago Bears actually had a decent QB??? In spite of the presence of the mistake-prone Rex Grossman, expect Da' Bears defense to once again dominate teams and look for them to once again run away with the division with a 12-4 record. As for the rest of the division, well it's ugly! The Green Bay Packers may well end up being the second-best team... in spite of Brett Favre throwing a gazillion passes into tight coverage, I look for the Pack to be no better than 7-9. The Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings will fight it out for the bottom rung with 5-11 records likely.

NFC South
Like the northern division, expect this one to be a runaway. The Saints should dominate the division with their potent offense, going 13-3 and earning the #1 seed in the playoffs. Actually, I'll go so far to say they will be the NFC's Super Bowl representative. Reggie Bush, Marques Colsten and Drew Brees are all young and will only get better. That's a scary thing if you're the rest of the NFL. The Carolina Panthers have a lot of good pieces, but they have a hard time meshing as a unit. Steve Smith at wide receiver, and the running back tandem of DeShaun Foster and Deangelo Williams (and don't believe those fantasy sites that think Williams is going to be taking Foster's job - that's only going to happen if Foster gets hurt). Look for another 8-8 season. We all know what the Atlanta Falcons are going through right now. I will say to expect a banner year for their receivers as they will get a lot more looks now that they no longer have a quarterback that's going to run the ball 10 or 11 times a game. Expect huge years from Alge Crumpler and the newly acquired Joe Horn. The team though will fight it out for the bottom spot with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 5-11.

NFC West
Finally, a competitive division!!! Would it surprise any of you if all four teams finished at .500??? I didn't think so. So which team is going to win it??? I'm a long time St. Louis (formerly Los Angeles) Rams fan, but Torry Holt's nagging knee injury concerns me a lot. Dare I say that Matt Leinart and the Arizona Cardinals will win the division with a 9-7 record??? Well, that's what I'm going with. A better offensive line should help Edgerrin James improve upon his running numbers (which were much better in the second half). Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald are young and improving as receivers. The Rams will again struggle to a 9-7 record, but will sneak into the playoffs. The Seattle Seahawks do have Shaun Alexander back, but is he healthy??? No one really knows. They have added Deion Branch at receiver, but to me, there's too much uncertainty to say they will be any better than a 9-7 team. The San Francisco 49ers are also improving, but in this competitive division, they will finish on the bottom with a 6-10 record.

So here's how I have the playoff seedings going into the season:

1. San Diego
2. New England
3. Indianapolis
4. Baltimore
5. Pittsburgh
6. Cincinnati

1. New Orleans
2. Chicago
3. Dallas
4. Arizona
5. Philadelphia
6. St. Louis

Also, don't forget, I still have my poll up on who is going to win the Super Bowl. Please vote if you haven't already done so. I'll go out on a limb now and say that I'm going to take the Chargers to beat the Saints in Super Bowl XLII... let me know what you think!!!


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