It is a crazy time in the NFL these days, most of the teams in the league are good. I’m not saying parody has sprung upon us like DVD’s, reality TV, and gum, but there are so many good teams in the nfl, every week has become a battle so intense, anything can happen. This season preview, prior to the draft, is exactly how I see things leveling out during the 2007-2008 season. I’ve taken into account schedules, last seasons outcome, and free agency up until the most recent happenings around the league. What a year it will be!
1. Chicago Bears: (11-5) While I don’t think the Chicago Bears will make it back to the NFC Finals, I do think they are the toast of the NFC North. The Packers are getting better, especially defensively, but I really don’t see the Pack threatening the Bears for the North Crown.
2. Green Bay Packers: (8-8) I love the young Packer defense. Truly, they’re only getting better, and when draft day comes around, I’m sure they’ll start getting more athletic too. The truth is, while the Packers didn’t improve greatly through free agency, their primarily rookie offensive line of a year ago is now a year older, that will help Brett Favre, and whomever gets the starting RB job in Green Bay.
3. Detroit Lions: (6-10) I don’t like the Lions, but I like the Vikings less. At least the Lions have made a few moves that could caulk some leaks. Offensively, the Lions have plenty of talent, but I have yet to see much from the team defensively, especially now that Dre Bly finds himself locked and loaded to a new contract in Denver.
4. Minnesota Vikings: (2-14) It seems as the Minnesota and their Brass have no idea what they’re going to do offensively next season. Either that, or they know something I don’t. See, right now, all they have is a rushing attack, an inexperienced quarterback, and 3 wide receivers, none of which have proven worthy of being starters.
1. Philadelphia Eagles: (12-4) If and when Donovan McNabb returns to full health, the Eagles certainly have the best, most consistent, and least problematic team in the NFC East, and quite possibly all of the NFC. With Westbrook turning into a sure-thing back, and Kearse returning, as well as adding a playmaker like Takeo Spikes, the Eagles are primed for a run at the NFC title.
2. Dallas Cowboys: (10-6) While the Cowboys have gone through quite the offseason coaching change, I have a feeling Wade Phillips’ style will help a Cowboys team that wasn’t really down with Parcells’ old school mid games. The bottom line is, Phillips sticks with his guns, and the Cowboys have plenty of ammo. Expect them to push the Eagles in the East.
3. Washington Redskins: (7-9) The Redskins may have purchased themselves a few more wins this off season, but I don’t see their team improving to the point of a playoff run. Sooner or later, the Skins will realize that trading away all their draft picks and picking up older “proven” players doesn’t always translate to team unity and playoff victories.
4. New York Giants: (6-10) The Giants are being led by a lame-duck coach, they lost their biggest offensive weapon, and their defense and offensive line is aging. Did I mention their secondary has more question marks than a Dr. Seuss book? You betcha. Expect this talented team to have mucho turmoil at ever turn.
1. Seattle Seahawks: (10-6) The Seahawks struggled a year ago, and while I think they’ll be better in 2007, the fact is, their once easy-does-it conference has transformed into a bunch of teams ready to give the Hawks a run. For at least one more year, Alexander and the Hawks will make just enough moves to finish atop the West, and quite possibly squirt toward a meeting with the Eagles in the NFC Championship.
2. St. Louis Rams: (9-7) The Rams offense is filthy. In their second season under coach Linehan, Marc Bulger, Torry Holt, Steven Jackson and company will be ready to challenge for a playoff spot. If the Rams can add two to three starters to a young defense, by years end, they could be looking a playoff spot right in the eye.
3. San Francisco 49ers: (8-8) I don’t think the 49ers will morph into a playoff team this season, but .500 is there for the taking. Without Norv Turner around, its not like Alex Smith will melt. But, with or without Norv, I expect Smith to be yet another year away from having the game control to make the Niners a playoff team.
4. Arizona Cardinals: (6-10) I love the additions of the former Pittsburgh coaching staff, but will that immediately make the Cards a playoff hopeful? Hopeful, maybe, but contender? I’m not completely sold. Leinart looked good at times last year, and with Boldin and Fitz on the edges, how long will it be before Matt is tossing 300 yard games? Whisenhunt knows he needs some more defense before the playoffs are possible, but they’re closer than many think.
1. Carolina Panthers: (11-5) While the South is surely a very tough conference, and the Panthers have done nothing but disappoint me over the past years, I still see a team that has it all. With Delhomme coming back, Steve Smith and who cares at receiver, Foster and D’Angelo in the backfield; these Panthers can be deadly. And that’s just on offense. No other team in this division has as many playmakers on defense as the Panthers. Health is key. If they stay healthy, 13 wins isn’t out of the question. Adding some depth has given me hope, even if a guy or two goes down.
2. New Orleans Saints: (10-6) The Saints are coming off quite the season yester year, nearly finding themselves in the Super Bowl. Offensively, the Saints have it all, but defensively, this is a team with plenty of holes. I think the Saints will take a small step backwards this year, to everyone’s surprise, but hey, that’s what happens from time to time, and people often get surprised.
3. Atlanta Falcons: (7-9) I don’t really like the Falcons. I love Jerious Norwood, but the Falcons seem reluctant to give this back, a kid who averaged 6+ yards a carry, the ball. Nice move. Their new coach wants a big back, and right now, Dunn (160lbs) and Norwood are their best offensive weapons this side of Mike Vick. Hmm. Seems like a recipe for close but not good enough.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: (6-10) And now I get to the Bucs. Its interesting because, if this and that happens, I can see any of the teams in this division walking into the playoffs. Even the Bucs, who are aging defensively, and are offensively stagnant, have done some things to make me ooh and ah. Caddy will bounce back this year, as more emphasis has been placed on the line. Defensively, the Bucs are always solid. It all comes down to quarterback, and while I’m predicting a seasons worth of close calls and 10 losses, that could just as easily go the other way in Tampa. Stay tuned to this division, its intriguing.
1. Cincinnati Bengals: (11-5) The Bengals are my most exciting team in the AFC. The Patriots have done more to make themselves great, the Colts just won a Super Bowl, and the Broncos have built an elite secondary, but I think the Bengals could very well walk away with the 1 seed heading into the playoffs next season. However, I put them at 11-5 because they could also very well implode, all go steal some stuff, and go to jail. I’m betting on the former, but that’s just a hunch.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers: (10-6) Mike Tomlin is a solid coach, and will end up doing great things with the Steelers. He’ll start by taking a 3-4 defense, transforming it to a 4-3, change the offense around, complete the entire switcheroo that has gone down in Pittsburgh, and still put the Steelers in the playoffs. Whew.
3. Baltimore Ravens: (9-7) The Ravens are an interesting story going into 2007. They lost Adalius Thomas, whom was more than just an outside linebacker, but have a good unknown backup waiting in the wings. Steve McNair is getting older, but McGahee has come in to lessen the load, plus Boller might be ready to step in if Air McNair goes down. Defensively, the Ravens are too talented to get handled in any game, meaning they could go 9-7 or get lucky 4 times and go 13-3. What a great division.
4. Cleveland Browns: (5-11) The Browns will attempt to give this division a flat tire, as surely, they aren’t on the same level as the top 3 teams, all of which have a shot at the playoffs. The Browns are set up to struggle next season, regardless of where they got with their 1st draft pick. Te AFC is too tough, and this division especially makes line no-fair for the Brownies. Giving up on Charlie Frye reeks of what the Chargers were planning on doing with Drew Brees.
1. New England Patriots: (12-4) The Patriots did all the right things in the offseason, and while they very well might have overpaid a couple times, they seemed to know what they wanted, and they got it. The players New England got, they either paid what the players’ talent insisted, or paid a few extra coin to add strong personality guys, Belichick guys. Brady has new weapons, and Maroney will be the man carrying the rock in NE.
2. New York Jets: (10-6) After the Jets made a stunning reversal, going from 4-12 to playoff team in Eric Mangini’s first season, (btw how didn’t he win coach of the year?) the Jets look to keep on rockin’ on way to another playoff bout. I can only imagine, with a year under D’Brick and Mangold’s uni, the Jets rushing attack will explode with Thomas Jones and Leon Washington sharing 4 to 1 backfield duties. With a running attack that will get some attention, maybe Coles and Cotchery will get more chances to succeed for big plays?
3. Miami Dolphins: (7-9) While I think Cam Cameron was a very good hire in Miami, I don’t think that it will make the Dolphins a playoff contributor. Miami put some good money into free agency, coming away with Joey Porter to pair with Jason Taylor as edge rushers, but I’m not sure Miami’s aging group can hold up. And they still need help bad in the secondary.
4. Buffalo Bills: (5-11) The Bills went into free agency as a team ready to do work, but I’m not so sure any more. Who will run for Buffalo? That question might not be answered until draft day. Is there someone to pair with Lee Evans that will strike a little fear into defenses? No, not Peerless Price. And how about replacing Nate Clements and Takeo Spikes? Leaders, best defensive players? Hey, at least they have Darnell Dockery. I like Losman’s growth, and Evans is this close to becoming Steve Smith, but the Bills are sledding on concrete with a tough off season.
1. Denver Broncos: (11-5) The Broncos didn’t make the playoffs last season, and that just won’t happen again. The Chargers are the most talented bunch in this division, but overall the Broncos have more symmetry, through the air (Walker, Smith, Williams, and Cutler), via the ground (Bronco offense, Travis Henry, Mike Bell) and on defense (Champ Bailey and Dre Bly) all they need is defensive line, something they’ll add on draft day. I hate the Broncos, but must admit, this could be a good year for the Shredder and his merry men.
2. San Diego Chargers: (10-6) The Chargers have so much talent, its hard to believe that they’ll take a step back this season, but that’s my prediction. Losing your entire coaching staff, regardless of how solid your players are, often takes a toll on your team. And while Marty didn’t win the big one, surely, his players believed in him 100%. That’s tough to lose.
3. Kansas City Chiefs: (8-8) Larry Johnson is one of my favorite runners, but the kid can’t do it all for the Chiefs. They’re making the right move getting rid of Green, they should have done that half way through last season, but oh well. What I know is the Chiefs need help on defense and at receiver, two things that will continue to be the bane of their existence this season.
4. Oakland Raiders: (2-14) The Raiders are the worst team in football. You know how bad they are? They could take of the best offensive weapons in the draft and still be the worst offensive team in the league. Unless Lane Kiffin has some serious Prestige type Kenny Rogers hybrid Barry Bonds horse pills up his sleeve, I don’t see the Raiders, even with a good defense, winning more than a couple ball games.
1. Indianapolis Colts: (10-6) First of all, I don’t see the Colts flying back to the Super Bowl, they’ve lost enough guys to struggle just enough to putter out near the end, plus they’ve already won one, and going back to back takes down right brilliance. However, they’re still good enough to take the South, even with the jags and Titans pushing their way to the top. Peyton gets enough done in a down year to push the Colts into the 2nd round.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: (10-6) The Jaguars have some questions at quarterback, but they could help answer some of those with the addition of someone like Ted Ginn Jr. or Steve Smith. Ted would stretch the field, and Smith is just good enough in space to separate and give Lefty a place to throw the rock comfortably. I like that Jags, their offense has too many weapons, and their defense is only a player or two away from becoming dominant.
3. Tennessee Titans: (7-9) The Titans are everyone’s sexy pick to slip into the playoffs next season, and while their opening schedule seems easy enough, I just don’t see it happening. Too many last minute amazings had to happen to get them the 8 wins they got last season, I just don’t see the magic happening again. Vince Young is the real deal, but until their receivers grow up a little, passing will be tough for the Titans, and without a true #1 RB, like Travis Henry was last season, the Titans defense will struggle staying on the field.
4. Houston Texans: (6-10) The Texans aren’t as far away from success as many want to think. Sure, they gave up on the chance to draft Vince Young and Reggie Bush, but stud defensive ends are tough to come by, and go for tons of money in free agency these days. However, the Texans need help offensively. This year, they should get Levi Brown, or more help defensive with their 1st pick. After that, a receiver to help Andre Johnson could be waiting in Round 2. I think the running game and passing attack will be better in year 2 under Kubiak, and Matt Schaub will prove to be a nice addition, but these Texans need another year, and another solid year of draft picks to begin to contend.
2006 NFL Season Preview – keep in mind these predictions were done well in advance of the 2006 NFL season.