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It’s Labor Day, so let’s preview the NFC!

September 6, 2010 Leave a comment

Taking a break to celebrate all that “labor” I’ve been up to lately by giving you my “expert” opinion on the National Football Conference (I’ll do the AFC later this week). We’ll go from worst to first (or least worst) based on who I believe has the best chance of representing the Senior Circuit in the Super Bowl. Get pumped, everyone – football starts in three days. Uah.

“Yikes” – The worst of the worst …

16.) Seattle

  • Why they’ll suck: Cut a ton of mediocre veterans at the end of training camp, basically announcing that they’re putting all their eggs in the Jake Locker 2011 First Pick basket, despite the fact that the West is terrible this year and 7-9 could realistically take this Division. Also, Mike Williams will be their number one receiver, and Matt Hasselback is (still) their quarterback. Can you tell I’m not excited about the ‘Hawks this year?
  • Why I could be wrong: Always have a strong home crowd (that whole “12th man” gimmick is kind of old though), but that’s really all they got going this year.

15.) Tampa Bay

  • Why they’ll suck: Reheem Morris, Josh Johnson (Or is it Freeman? I get the Tampa Josh’s mixed up.) and Co. didn’t add much in the offseason, which is interesting given the fact that they had so many shortfalls on the roster last year. Very young team that, like Seattle, cut several veterans after the final preseason game.
  • Why I could be wrong: Um, nothing seems to be coming to mind …

14.) St. Louis

  • Why they’ll suck: Starting a rookie with promise at quarterback in Sam Bradford. Good strategy to get fans excited about the team, bad strategy if you want to win games. The Rams will be better than last year (1-15), but not by a ton. And really, that’s not saying much.
  • Why I could be wrong: They are playing in the worst Division in the National Football League (a Division that has held that title for at least three years running now), and with a fairly easy schedule early on (home against a depleted Arizona, at Oakland, vs. Wash., vs. Seattle, at Detroit), the Rams could get off to a hot start and challenge the Niners for the Division. Not likely, but certainly possible.

13.) Detroit

  • Why they’ll suck: Despite adding some weapons in the offseason (Ndamukong Suh, Tully Banta-Cain), Detroit seriously lacks in depth, and to call their secondary “mediocre” would be like calling George Lopez “funny” – it’s one hell of a stretch. Also, while I like his toughness and his arm, Matt Stafford will continue to make a ton of mistakes in his second year under center.
  • Why I could be wrong: Calvin Johnson can ball, they’re rookie running back Jahvid Best has a ton of hype surrounding him (and subsequently was picked far too early in my fantasy draft, and not by me), and with Suh and Banta-Cain on the line, they should be able to put more pressure on the opposing quarterback. They could make a run at the Bears for third in the NFC North, which would be a sign that the team is moving in the right direction.

12.) Arizona

  • Why they’ll suck: Decided to go with Derek Anderson as their starter for the upcoming year. I know Matt Leinart has been a disappointment, but have you seen D.A. play? I watched more Browns games than your average non-Cleveland fan last year (Thanks, Paul) and he was as inaccurate as any quarterback I’ve ever seen. Also, they let Anquan Boldin go, and as was displayed by their performance in the playoffs last year, their defense has bigger holes than Jenna Jameson.
  • Why I could be wrong: As a Packers fan, I may just be bitter about last year and picking on the Cards too much.

“I don’t really see it …” – The Mediocres

11.) Chicago

  • Why they’re mediocre: Cutler gets his team in trouble far too often by turning over the ball, their Defense, though solid, can never seem to stay healthy, and count me as someone who is completely unexcited about their decision to bring in Mike Martz as O-Coordinator. You know where he’s been the last few years? Detroit. And Detroit actually had some receivers. And he still couldn’t get them to score points. So there.
  • Why I could be wrong: Mike Martz. I know, I know, I just spent my last sentence hating on him. But frankly, the Bears are in a Division that features some truly suspect secondaries (GB, Minn., and Detroit), and they’ll certainly be in a position to throw the ball with Martz’s sideshow offense. Whether Cutler will find his teammates or the opponent, however, remains to be seen.

10.) Washington

  • Why they’ll be mediocre: Tough Division, too many Training Camp distractions give me a bad feeling about this team (You can thank Fat Albert, ‘Skins fans.), and they’re a team that just never seems to live up to the hype, despite all the money they dish out to spoiled, over-the-hill veterans. They’re like the New York Mets of football.
  • Why I could be wrong: They have a couple new guys in the organization with massive chips on their shoulders: Mike Shanahan and Donovan McNabb. Their fire alone will net the ‘Skins a pair of wins, but McNabb is injury-prone and, again, I don’t like the karma of this team. Feels like a 7-9 team to me.

9.) Atlanta

  • Why they’ll be mediocre: Took a step back last year, and unfortunately for them, their two biggest rivals in the South look better than they were last year (Saints, Panthers). I’ve never been excited about Michael Turner, and while Matty Ice seems like a good enough dude, I don’t think he’ll ever be better than a slightly-above average quarterback. He won’t lose the Falcons many games, but he probably won’t win them a ton either.
  • Why I could be wrong: I’ll be honest — I don’t have a great feel for this team. I wouldn’t be shocked if they go 6-10 or 10-6. But I just don’t see them being a contender on par with the Saints, or even the Panthers. Speaking of the Panthers …

8.) Carolina

  • Why they’ll be mediocre: Matt Moore will be a step up from Jake Delhomme this year, but he’s still Matt Moore. Steve Smith seems to be OK after a weird flag-football injury he suffered in the offseason, but he’s got some serious miles on him at this point. Also, they let Julius Peppers loose, and their overall defense lacks the firepower we’re use to from the Blue and Black.
  • Why I could be wrong: Finished last season very strong, and John Fox is one of the best coaches in the league. They’ll turn the ball over less this year, and thus may be in contention to win some more close games that could ultimately decide whether they make the playoffs or not.

“A fighting chance.” – Solid, probably not taking home the trophy.

7.) Philadelphia

  • Why they’ll be (just) solid: A young Kevin Kolb feels like a step-up from an old McNabb, and the offense should remain explosive at times, albeit inconsistent. However, they showed little-to-no heart in their final two weeks of last season (both against Dallas), a huge red flag for a team that looked like a Super Bowl contender for most of the year. Wouldn’t be surprised if they finished first or last in a tough East Division.
  • Why I could be wrong: The influx of Phillies fans into San Diego last weekend (for the Pads-Phils series) reminded me why I can’t stand the Birds or their bro-fan hybrids, and thus my perception of this particular Eagles team could be a bit skewed. (Just dodged a Yuengling thrown at my head as I wrote that last sentence.)

6.) Minnesota

  • Why they’ll be (just) solid: There is NO way —repeat — NO way Brett Favre will play as well as he did last year. All last season, I waited and waited for #4 to kill his team with an interception as he had so many times with my Packers. And finally, when it looked like it might not happen, Brett threw one into the hands of my man Terry Porter, and all was right with the world again. I don’t think Favre even gets the opportunity to kill his team this year. With Sydney Rice out for at least half the season, Percy Harvin battling migraines (much to the chagrin of my fantasy team, by the way) and AP still likely haunted by his epic fumbling performance in last year’s Conference Title game, the offense won’t be nearly as explosive this year. That combined with a shaky secondary leads me to believe (excitedly) that Minnesota will take a major step back this year.
  • Why I could be wrong: Everyone else seems to have the same opinion on this year’s Vikings, which is always a bad sign that we’re all going to be wrong. But I really, REALLY hope I’m not.

5.) San Francisco

  • Why I think they’ll be (just) solid: Terrible division, Alex Smith showed some potential last year (and looked pretty OK in the preseason), the Defense has some studs (Patrick Willis, perennial tackles leader), and Frank Gore, Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree make this team a legitimate threat to put some points on the board. If Smith can become even just average, this team is good enough to win ten games and host a first round playoff game. If they can’t do it this year, they can’t do it at all.
  • Why I could be wrong: The 49ers have been a trendy pick to take their Division each of the last five years and still haven’t delivered. We could all be duped again … but I think if they don’t make the playoffs this year it would be a HUGE disappointment, and people (starting with Smith) will lose their jobs.

“Watch out for these guys …” – The Legitimate Contenders

4.) N.Y. Giants

  • Why they’ve got a shot: Bit by the injury bug last year and turned out to be more disappointing then LeBron not choosing the Knicks. (Alright, not true, but you know what I mean.) Enjoyed a nice, quiet offseason despite already losing Hakeem Nicks, and their Defense is ready to return “Elite” status after an abysmal 2009 campaign. I think it comes down to the G-Men and the ‘Boys in the East this season.
  • Why I could be wrong: I really hope I am because, as Timmy Latullippe once quoted in the Burlington Free Press, “I hate Eli Manning.” And I’m still bitter about the 2008 NFC Championship Game. But all signs point to a comeback year for Coughlin’s crew.

3.) Dallas

  • Why they’ve got a shot: Tony Romo finally won a playoff game last year, the offense added another weapon in rookie Dez Bryant, and the Defense, lead by Demarcus Ware plugging the hole and a better-than-average linebacker corps whizzing around the field, the Cowboys should be in a position not just to win the East, but maybe grab a first-round bye as well.
  • Why I could be wrong: It’s hard to imagine Romo making the correct decision when it matters most – remember, he’s interception-prone – and it’s damn near IMPOSSIBLE to imagine Wade Phillips holding up the Vince Lombardi trophy. The Cowboys will be good this year, but whether or not they are a Super Bowl contender is really up to them.

2.) Green Bay

  • Why they’ve got a shot: I know, I know, I’m a Packer fan and you’re probably thinking I only have them this far up because I’m such a homer. (This is only partially true.) But I am incredibly optimistic about the Pack this year, and that’s because Aaron Rodgers is our quarterback. (I use our with the Packers, and if you’re reading this you probably already knew that about me.) I think he’s an MVP front-runner, and if the preseason is any indication (and usually it’s not), Coach Mike McCarthy is ready to let Mr. Rodgers’ Neighborhood run wild this season. Expect 35 + points a game (I know Rodgers/Jennings fantasy owners are) to make up for a high-risk, high-reward Defense that will certainly give up their share of points as well.
  • Why I could be wrong: The Defense, while forcing a ton of turnovers, can be incredibly frustrating. We’re talking tons of penalties (mostly in the secondary), lots of missed tackles, and more than a few blown assignments. However, this is a young team that has hopefully matured over the past year, and they’ve got a full year of Dom Capers’ 3-4 scheme under their belt. So while you can expect some improvements, just know that this team will give up points. However, their defense will likely be good enough to keep the offense on the field a healthy portion  of the game – which is bad news for opponents. Watch out for Green Bay this year.

1.) New Orleans

  • Why they’ve got a shot: The Champions until someone knocks them off. Drew Brees proved he was the best quarterback – and leader – in the league last year, and Sean Payton is one of the most innovative and ballsiest (yup.) coaches on the planet in any sport. New Orleans will be just as good, if not better, than last year, and we all know how that ended up.
  • Why I could be wrong: Incredibly tough to repeat as Super Bowl Champions – only the Patriots managed to pull it off in the past decade. Also, the Defense isn’t quite elite and they will miss Darren Sharper in the beginning of the season. But at the very least, this team will be back in the Playoffs with a very good shot at retaining their belt. (F U Grayson. I’ll see ya’ in January.)


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