1. New England Patriots 13-3_____1. Philadelphia Eagles 11-5
2. Miami Dolphins 9-7_________2. Dallas Cowboys 10-6
3. Buffalo Bills 8-8____________3. New York Giants 9-7
4. New York Jets 5-11__________4. Washington Redskins 7-9
1. Pittsburgh Steelers 12-4________1. Minnesota Vikings 11-5
2. Baltimore Ravens 10-6_________2. Green Bay Packers 8-8
3. Cincinnati Bengals 6-10________3. Chicago Bears 7-9
4. Cleveland Browns 4-12_________4. Detroit Lions 3-13
1. Indianapolis Colts 12-4_____1. New Orleans Saints 10-6
2. Tennessee Titans 11-5______2. Atlanta Falcons 9-7
3. Houston Texans 7-9_______3. Carolina Panthers 8-8
4. Jacksonville Jaguars 6-10___4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4-12
1. San Diego Chargers 12-4_______1. Seattle Seahawks 10-6
2. Kansas City Chiefs 6-10________2. Arizona Cardinals 9-7
3. Denver Broncos 5-11 _________3. San Francisco 49ers 8-8
4. Oakland Raiders 4-12_________4. St. Louis Rams 2-14
WILD CARD ROUND
3) Indianapolis Colts over 6) Baltimore Ravens
4) San Diego Chargers over 5) Tennessee Titans
6) Atlanta Falcons over 3) New Orleans Saints
5) Dallas Cowboys over 4) Seattle Seahawks
1) New England Patriots over 4) San Diego Chargers
2) Pittsburgh Steelers over 3) Indianapolis Colts
1) Philadelphia Eagles over 6) Atlanta Falcons
5) Dallas Cowboys over 2) Minnesota Vikings
1) New England Patriots over 2) Pittsburgh Steelers
1) Philadelphia Eagles over 5) Dallas Cowboys
SUPER BOWL XLIV
Philadelphia Eagles 27 New England Patriots 23
Possible 2009 Surprise Teams: AFC-Cincinnati Bengals NFC-San Francisco 49ers
Buffalo Bills–> The Bills are now fully Trent Edward’s team with Losman now gone. To help him out the Bills added Dominic Rhodes and TO to an already good set of playmakers with Roscoe Parrish, Fred Jackson, Marshawn Lynch (who is susspended for the first few games of the season), and Lee Evans. However, there o-line is questionable after letting up 38 sacks last season and then trading away Jason Peters in the offseason. The Bills defense has a few playmakers as well in Marcus Stroud, Aaron Schoble, Tarence McGee, and rookie Aaron Maybin. With the potential for a top 10 defense and an explosive offense, the Bills could be a dark horse team to steal a wildcard spot, however if TO, who is usually good in his first year with a new team, get upset and decides to start up the TO media show in Buffalo the this team could be in for is 5th consecutive losing season.
Miami Dolphins–> As a Dolfan I have to admit last year, as great as it was, it was a fluke. We had an easy schedule, the Jets fell apart at the end of the year, and Brady was hurt all year. So this year the team will take a half step backwards due to the harder schedule and the fact that people are really going to be taking the Dolphins seriously. The offseason the dolphins did upgarde an already pretty good defense with Jason Taylor coming back and Gibril Wilson joining the back field, also one of the most competitive training camp battles should be for the other starting CB position, opposite Will Allen, between Shawn Smith, Jason Allen, and Vonte Davis. The dolphins also boosted its O-Line with a change a center, which should really help both Ricky and Ronnie run the ball this year (also Ronnie needs to get between 15-20 rushes a game to be successful this year). The only question is can the Dolphins get by again by starting Ted Ginn Jr., Greg Camarillo, and Devon Bess this year. The Dolphins choose not to try and add a big time WR witch the dearly need. The only changes they made was drafting Hartline from Ohio St. and Turner from Southern Cal with middle round picks. If there is one choice that may come back to haunt the Dolphins was to not try and aggressively go after Brandon Marshall or Anquan Boldin when there teams were listening to trade talks.
New England Patriots–> OK so you go 11-5 with a team that already had Sammy Morris, Ben Watson, Laurence Maroney, Wes Welker, and Randy Moss, and then the next year you add Fred Taylor, Joey Gallaway, Chris Baker and a healthy Tom Brady…that just seems unfair. This offense might be better then the 2007 team that went undefeated and set scoring records. That being said the O-line gave up 48 sacks last year and this year they need to protect a less mobile Brady, but that could be offset by teams needing to play in nickel and dime packages the whole game to stop the Pats. The only other negative about the Patriots is that the team did show some of its age on defense last year, but they do have some good young talent in guys like Mayo. They will start a very young secondary who may play well at times this year, but they may also get lit up when they have to play against Manning and Brees. No matter what the Patriots are clearly the best team in the East and are deservingly the favorites to win the Super Bowl once again.
New York Jets–> Most people do seem to believe that the Jets will come in 4th place in the East this year, but lots still have them going 8-8 or 7-9, and this just seems really high to me. I get why people think that the Jets may still be good despite the youth at QB. The Jets a very good and young offensive line, they have a fantastic secondary with Revis, Rhodes and Sheppard, plus the defense now has Bart Scott and is being coached by the great Rex Ryan. However, we must remember that Flacco and Ryan are the exceptions when it comes to Rookie quaterbbacks and that most (including Peyton Manning and John Elway) actually do not have much success at all their first year. Also the Jets are without a clear number one reciever with Coles gone, although many believe that Jericho Cotchery could be the guy. But ever after Cotchery you are left with Stuckey, Clowney, and TE Dustin Keller (I actually do think he has the potential to be a good TE). If you are a Jets fan, sorry this could be a long season, but remember more important then your record this year is to see the progression in Mark Sanchez.
Baltimore Ravens–> It seems as though Baltimore usually has at least one of its big name defenders go at the end of each year, but this year they have loss Chris McAlister, Corey Ivy, Bart Scott and long time Defensive Coordinator Rex Ryan. These losses should effect the Ravens to much, but we may see them give up a few more yards a game this year then we are used to seeing them give up. And while they lost those players on defense, Baltimore failed to get Joe Flacco another good receiver, unless you count talking Derek Mason into not retiring or signing L.J. Smith to be Todd Heap’s backup. Nope Baltimore will pretty much be returning with the same offense as last year, Derek Mason, Michael Clayton and Demetrius William (who is once again exciting people in training camp) and a congested backfield with McClain, McGahee, Rice and rookie Peerman from UVA. Being pretty much the same team as last year, but with some losses on defense and Flacco a year under his belt, Baltimore should end up with about the same record as last with maybe 1 or 2 fewer wins.
Cincinnati Bengals–> There is some mild buzz circulating around the Bengals as a team that could make a large leap in the standings this year due to a healthy Carson Palmer, who at his peak was just on that second tier of NFL QB’s after Manning and Brady. Carson will no longer have T.J. Hooseurmama out there, but the Bengals did add a solid veteran receiver in Laverneous Coles, and of course Chad Ocho Cino will also be on the other side. Also Cedric Benson will make his return to Cincinnati and he did have a fairly good year last year, running for 747 yards in just 12 games. On defense, the Bengals have a few good players in guys like Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph, but they should be in the bottom half in the league in most defensive categories. Long story short about the Bengals, they have some good pieces in place, but they are not that young and they are very thin in terms of depth. Bengals are probably two or three injuries away from having a team that will pick in the top 3 of next years draft and costing Marvin Lewis his job.
Cleveland Brown–> Eric Mangini may have got the raw end of the deal in New York, it was not his falt that Brett Farve turned into a turnover machine in the second half of the year. But now Eric ends up the coach of the Cleveland Browns and made quite a few roaster changes since he arrived. Taking in several of his former Jets players and also shipping out TE Kellen Winslow Jr. to Tampa. It also looks as though he will make a change in starting quarterback as well as all reports have Brady Quinn the favorite in the preseason to win the starting job. Brady will have some weapons in Braylon Edwards, who has much better hands then he showed last season, and also Jamal Lewis. Although, like the Bengals the Browns also suffer from a lack of depth. After Edwards the 2nd and 3rd spots are wide open compititions between Brain Robiskie, Mohamed Massaquoi, David Patten, Mike Furry, and Joshua Cribbs. And behind Lewis is scat back James Harrison and rookie James Davis. So not a heck of a lot of depth, maybe the smartest thing the Mangenious can do is try and get the ball to Cribbs in space like the Bears did early on with Hester. Cribbs is almost as good as Hester in the return game, so just get him the ball in open space and see what he can do with it 2 or 3 times a game. There is not much to be said about the defense. They added Corey Ivy and Hank Poteat to try to improve the seconary, but even with that and if Shaun Rogers plays like a pro bowler again and if Kamerian Wimbley could return to his rookie form, that would still only make Cleveland a middle of the road defensive team.
Pittsburgh Steelers–> Unlike the last time the Steelers were coming off the a Super Bowl win, this year they are coming into the season with a healthy Ben Roethlisberger, and also might be slightly better then the team that won the Super Bowl. This year the Steelers will hope that Fast Willie will play somewhat injury free, and hopefully will be able to rest more if Rashard Mendenhall is able to play in all 16 games. Also while many maybe expecting Limas Sweed to step up in his second year and become a productive 3rd receiver, he may not get the chance with the addition of Shaun McDonald, who might be one of the most underrated pick ups in the off season. McDonald has found success over his 7 year career in both St. Louis and Detroit, and should do so again in Pittsburgh with teams trying to cover Miller, Holmes, and Ward. The Steeler defense should be great like always. The only real loss on the D was LB Larry Foote, and if there is one thing that the Pittsburgh Steelers always seem to have plenty of, its a stock pile of young talent at linebacker.
Houston Texans–> The Texans maybe the like the New Orleans Saints of 2008 and 2007 seasons. Meaning that they have a ton of talent on offense and some good players on defense, but fail to put that success into winning records and playoff births. The Texans have a strong armed QB in Schuab, a quick running back in Steve Slatton, a solid tight end in Owen Daniels and also Andre Johnson (who could possibly be the best wide receiver in the league). The one thing that I have to say about the Texans offense is that despite the great season Slatton had being the featured back last year, the Texans need to add a guy to pound the ball between the tackles for short yardage situations. Super Mario and Okoye are both young and superbly talented players on the D-Line, but the rest of the defense is not that great, especially the secondary. And when a team has a secondary as weak as the Texans have and need to play Peyton Manning twice, Kurt Warner, Tom Brady, and Carson Palmer, it generally is hard to have a winning record.
Indianapolis Colts–> The Colts had a bit of a changing of the guard in the offseason with Head Coach Tony Dungy, Offensive Coordinator Tom Moore, and Peyton Manning’s long time partner in crime Marvin Harrison all are no longer with the Colts. While this would seem like some major changes, the fact that Peyton Manning is still on the roster and worked hard in the offseason to develop a solid relationship with his new coach and OC, and as long as Peyton is happy the Colts to success should continue to role. Joesph Addai should be back after his second injury plagued year in a row, and the Colts added Donald Brown from UConn to back him up, though some believe by mid year he could replace Addai as the starter. The Colts defense like the past seasons will only play as well as Bob Sanders and Dwight Freeney play. It is actually scary how on an 11 man unit these two players really do determine how the defense plays. When they are in the COlts defensive unit plays like a top 15 defense in the NFL, when they are out the defense has big plays ripped through them like a hot knife through butter. The most interesting hole on the Colts team is that without Marvin Harrison this team is missing a notable number 3 receiver. With Anthony Gonzalez moving up to the #2 spot this leaves the #3 receiver wide open for the first time since before Brandon Stokley joined the Colts. Knowing the Colts it should only be a matter of time till Manning finds another receiver he likes and develops some real chemistry with him.
Jacksonville Jaguars–> Last year I thought that the Jaguars were about a year away from making a real Super Bowl push, I guess I was wrong. The Jags had a horrible season after playing very well in 2007. This year they are making a transition to having Jones-Drew the featured back, getting rid of Fred Taylor. Despite his size Jones-Drew is actually a powerful back who can run up the middle, but if needed FB Greg Jones can always be used on short yardage situations. Jags also added a veteran wide receiver with Tory Holt, who should quickly become Gararrd’s favorite target. That all may sound well and good, but Jacksonville is closer to a rebuilding year rather then a playoff year with its very weak O-Line and its defense that gave up quite a few big plays last year. Despite as bad as the D and O-Line played last the Jaguars they neglected to add any real help for these units in the offseason.
Tennessee Titans–> The Titans used a formula of good defense and powerful running game to win games last year, and they should be able to do the same thing this year. There run game should be even more dynamic now that White has slimed down. Some worry that he may lose some of his power, but that shouldn’t be and issue. LenDale should be able to run with the same power as before, only now he should be faster and may have more agility as well. Even though the Titans lost Albert Haynesworth the Titans should be able to make up for most of his production using a rotation of players to clog up the middle. The one question I have about the Titans is whether or not Kerry Collins can play as well and mistake free as he did last year. Remember the Titans do not have great receivers. Last year Bo Scaife led Tennessee with 58 catches and Justin Gage led the team with 651 receiving yards, not really what you would expect from a 13-3 team. Tennessee added Nate Washington and Kenny Britt in the offseason and they added Alge Crumpler last year, but still this is only a very average group of wide outs and tight ends. Plus if Kerry does get off to a poor start one has to wonder where Vince Young’s head is after last year and also a poor preseason.
Denver Broncos–> Winning can make up for just about anything. If this is true then Josh McDaniels better win some games this year because if he does as poorly as most people think Denver will do he will have a very short stint as the Broncos head coach. McDaniels came into into what seemed like a good situation for an offensive minded coach, but the first thing he did was upset his young star quarterback by trying to trade for Matt Castle, and then traded away Cutler and got Kyle Orton back (who has thrown 4 INts and 1TD in team preseason games). Then he has his top ten wide out acting like a child and complaining about everything, wanting a bigger contract, thinking that the Broncos have treated him wrongly, and who is spent several practices working with the third team. Meanwhile the veterans on the Broncos have seen how he has dealt with these situations and supposedly don’t really trust McDaniels. Nice offseason there Josh, way to go. P.S. with all this going on the defense still sucks and should spend another season hemorrhage yards and point.
Kansas City Chiefs–> So the Chiefs made a big move by adding Matt Castle and giving him a huge contract before he ever plays for them, and now news out of Chiefs camp is that Brody Croyle is playing just as well, if not better then Castle. Shocked by this, you shouldn’t be. Look there have been lots of quarterbacks who have had one amazing season and then falling back into nothingness (looking at you Derek Anderson), plus look at the talent that Matt had around him in New England and now look at what he has in Kansas City. Yes Kansas City has a good young WR in Dwyane Bowe, but TOny Gonzalez is gone and that leaves Mark Bradley and Devard Darling fighting against aging veterans Bobby Engram and Amani Toomer to be Castle’s other targets. Some believe that Darling has a lot of potential, but its still not a great bunch. Castle will be handing off to Larry Johnson who is coming off a very poor year for him, and Johnson only has a couple of niche type runners behind him. Plus even though the Pats O-Line gave up 42 sacks last year, that line is much more talented then the one in Kansas City. Despite all that Castle was on the verge of being cut in the offseason last year after a poor preseson and also with the contract that the Chiefs gave him, Castle will be given every chance to prove himself this year. Unfortunately for Kansas City he may just prove that he was another one hit wonder.
Oakland Raiders–> Looking at the Chiefs, Raiders, and Broncos I have to say that I actually think that Oakland has its team going in the best direction. However there are a lot of ifs between Oakland going from basement dweller to playoff team. If Jamarcus Russell can progress and stay in shape. If McFadden can stay healthy (though he does have two good RB’s behind him in Michael Bush and Justin Fargas). If Hayward-Bay can live up to being the first receiver drafted. If Zach Miller can continue being a productive tight end. If a quality defense can emerge around Huff and Asomugha. And finally if the Oakland coaching staff can come together and stop punching each other.
San Diego Chargers–> San Diego went from a top tier team in the AFC to a 8-8 team that just snuck into the playoffs last year. This was not due to a lack of talent or just that they had overachieve before, but the fact that they were just not healthy last year. Sean Merriman missed almost all of last year and LT, Gates and Chambers had nagging injures that really affected them all season long. This year if they are healthy then the Chargers should be able to return to being a top team in the AFC. Also it should be mentioned that despite the fact that Eli Manning and Big Ben have both won rings, Philip Rivers has been able to stay in the conversation of who was the best QB taken in that years draft. While Ben maybe the best leader and has two rings, Rivers is the better pure passer and he is also much more accurate then Eli is. The guy has put up some fantastic numbers and was the player who really led this team into the playoffs last year, and in effect shifted this team from Tomlinson’s team to Rivers’ team.
Dallas Cowboys–> The Cowboys ended last year with a 9-7 record, but with the expectations this team had and the way that they played without intensity in the last two games they might as well have been 4-12. In the offseason they got rid of some of the players (T.O., Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson) who turned the Cowboys locker room into a constant media circus. The Cowboys got lit up against the run several times last year, look back at the 4th quarter of the Ravens game, but they hope to improve that with the additions of Igor Olshansky and Keith Brookings, plus safety Roy Williams is now gone and replaced by Anthony Henry. On offense Romo has lost his best WR, but he still has his favorite target in Jason Witten and he will be helped out by the return of Marion Barber and Felix Jones, both missed time last year due to injuries. The two biggest questions about the Cowboys are 1) can Roy Williams be the number one WR that they traded for or will they have to rely on guys like Patrick Crayton, Sam Hurd and Miles Austin. The other question is, can Romo play well when it counts? Most people I think would agree that Romo is a better skilled quarterback then Eli Manning, but Eli is a winner who plays his best in the fourth quarter and Romo seems to crumble under the pressure.
New York Giants–> The Giants have one of the top two defenses in the NFL, and in the offseason they added Chris Canty, Rocky Bernard and a healthy Osi Umenyiora to what was already the best and deepest D-Line in the league. However despite what others may think this defense will have to carry if they are to be a Super Bowl contender, (like 2000 Baltimore Ravens type defense). The offense I just think will struggle. The Giants have a fantastic O-Line, a great running game in Jacobs, Bradshaw, and Ware now replacing Ward, but the passing game is gong to suffer. Eli has never been a very constant and accurate quarterback, but with Burress he could just throw up a jump ball for Plexico to go and get when he was in trouble, but that is now gone. Also gone is Toomer, another wideout who Eli had great chemistry with. Now Eli is left with Steve Smith, Hakeem Nick, Sinorce Moss, Mario Manningham, Domenik Hixson, and Ramess Barden at WR. None of these guys are really going to scare many defenders, plus Kevin Boss at TE is coming off a only okay season after a breakout 2007 playoffs. It will be a tight race between Giants, Cowboys, and Eagles and they will play in some great games this year, I just think the Giants will come out on the short end.
Philadelphia Eagles–> Okay, Okay Vick is on the Eagles. Yes between McNabb, Vick, Westbrook, and McCoy they could do some interesting things with the wildcat, but remember Vick can’t play in a game till the 7th game of the season at the earliest. So, lets everyone just pull back a little. The other big news is that for the first time in the Andy Reid era with the Eagles Jim Johnson (who sadly passed away) is no longer calling the defensive plays. Instead Sean McDermott will get the chance, he has been mentored by Johnson for a long time, but it should be interesting if they are able to get the same success on defense as before. Also the Eagles said goodbye to Lito Sheaperd and Brian Dawkins, but the Eagles should have the talent so those two won’t really be missed. On offense the moves the could really put the Eagles over the top is not Vick, not either rookie LeSean McCoy or Jeremy Maclin, but rather the additions of Stacy Andrews and Jason Peters to the O-Line (which last year only gave up 23 sacks) and also FB Leonard Weaver who can really open some holes for Westbrook. Weaver is also a good enough runner to be used to pick up those 3rd and 2, 3rd and 1 situations (last year Eagles past the ball often in these short yardage situation). McNabb still does not have the big time receiver, but he does have a solid quartet of wideouts and two speedy running backs who can both catch the ball out of the back field. All and all if this O-Line plays as good as advertised and if McDermott can keep up Jim Johnson’s legacy then Reid and McNabb should make a 6th trip to the NFC Championship.
Washington Redskins–> Okay so last year I thought that the Redskins were on the right path and were going to challenge for a playoff spot, I looked good when the team started 6-2. Then they fell apart, going 2-6 in the second half of the season and were busy looking for a new quarterback maybe a new coach. I am still a believer in Jason Campbell and that he can do well in Jim Zorn’s system. However in order for this to happen, first they need to stop switching Offensive Coordinators, he has had a new one each year. Next with Randle El moving back to the slot, either Malcolm Kelly or Devin Thomas need to emerge to be a ligit number two receiver opposite Santana Moss. The final step would be to make sure that Clinton Portis, until he gets a better backup the Ladell Betts, needs to get between 20-25 rushing attempts a game…NO MATTER WHAT!!!! Both Gibbs and Zorn have gone away from Portis at times the last few seasons and when they do that is when Washington really struggles. The defense should still be fairly solid, and Albert Haynesworth was a big addition. Still though when it comes down to it the Redskins are the clearly the forth best team in this division. Of they were in the NFC/AFC West the Redskins would be able to rack up a bunch more wins, but there are in the NFC East so they are kind of screwed.
Chicago Bears–> I like most other people love the trade that the Bears made to get Jay Cutler, and think that the Broncos were completely insane to trade away a young talented quarterback. But just because the Bears have a quarterback that doesn’t automatic lymake them a top team, rather it just makes them an average team. Cutler as great as he is only has three real quys who can catch the ball; Greg Olson, Matt Forte, and Devin Hester (who is not a number one receiver no matter how bad Chicago want to make him so). Cutler does however have an improved running game with Forte, who was one of the NFL leaders in touches last year, but he does also have an improved defense over what he had last year in Denver, but thats not saying much. This is not a typical Chicago defense of the past, it is just really an average defense that has a bunch of big time names that have begun to show there older age, and begun to become less and less productive. Also have to mention that as smart as it was for Chicago to get Cutler, it is just as dumb for them to not have Hester return kicks any more. I know they want him to be a real wide receiver, but the guy is the most prolific returner of all time, that is were he is most valuable, that is were he is most skilled, and that is where he should play.
Detroit Lions–> Say what you will about the failures of Detroit, but new head coach Jim Schwartz either has a ton of pressure or very little pressure on him depending on how you look at it. His real job is to win at least one game this year (and I GUARANTEE that the Lions will beat Cleveland in Detroit on Nov. 22). Believe it or not this team does have some talent on it with a healthy Daunte Culpepper (haven’t been able to say that for a while), Calvin Johnson, Maurice Morris, and Kevin Smith on offense, and some experience veterans on defense in Philip Buchannon, Anthony Henry, Ernie Sims, Julian Peterson, and Larry Foote. As much as most people will be begging for Matt Stafford to start right away, but the offensive line is horrible and the smart choice would be, knowing this team isn’t going anywhere this year, to start Culpepper. Let him take the hit and have Matt learn the system, take some snaps in a few games, and progress him more like what the Bengals did with Carson Palmer, because other wise with the beating Stafford might take starting right away who might end up being the next David Carr.
Green Bay Packers–> One of the most over looked stories of last year was that of Aaron Rodgers play in his first season as a starter replacing Brett Farve. Truth is he had a great season and the failures of the Packers was not on his shoulders, but more so on the defense. In some ways, the Packers were the Denver Broncos of the NFC. Both had great young QB’s having fantastic seasons, but no there teams failed to produce due to the defenses getting torn up. The Packers pretty much return the same team as last year, only real additions are rookies Clay Mattews and B.J. Raji both of whom should win starting jobs this year. The increase in wins over last year is pretty much due to the fact that they play a softer schedule and I kind of doubt the defense will play as poorly as they did last year.
Minnesota Vikings–> I don’t really want to talk to much about the Vikings because if you like to watch sports shows, then you know just about everything you need to know about the Vikings with Brett Farve. Farve knows the system, he improves the team, he doesn’t have to carry the load and can lean on the Adrian Peterson, and the defense. On thing that is being over looked is that after Berrian, the receivers are not that great, I know people love Percy Harvin but the guy is a WR from Florida…not really a great track record of NFL production from those guys. The defense has been one of the best against the run for a few years now with Pat and Kevin Williams, and Jared Allen on the end. The one area of concern I have about the defense is the safety position, especially now with Darren Sharper gone. Cedric Griffen and Antonine Winfield are both good corners, but if they make a mistake the Viking could get beat deep and this is not good new when you have to play Cutler and Rodgers twice a year.
Atlanta Falcons–> Matt Ryan may have proven last year that he was worth that first round pick, but it will be interesting to see if he can be able to keep it up at the pace he did last year, or will he suffer a sophomore slump. I am not to sure if he will or not, but what may help to prevent that slump will be the addition of Tony Gonzalez. Tony will end his career with just about every tight end record they have, and while we will not be a 90 reception guy this year he should get around 60 catches and be a great safety valve for Matt Ryan. Tony’s presents should also help out the Falcons other weapons; Norwood, Turner, White, Jenkins. The one thing that could keep the Falcons from reaching the South crown is the fact that there defense is still only average. Atlanta used most of its draft picks on the defensive side, which could help them out in the long term, but they failed to add any real big defensive free agents who could have helped them right now.
Carolina Panthers–> The Panthers have two good running backs, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, two good wide receivers, Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad, and a couple of playmakers on defense, Julius Peppers and Jon Beason (who is turning into one of the best middle linebackers in the league), but this team will only go as far as Jake Delhomme takes them. A lot has been made about good Jake and bad Jake, and in the playoffs we saw just how bad Jake can really be. And when it comes down to it I really think that Jake could be in for another long and not great season. And when you put that together with the 18th ranked defense you just don’t have a playoff team.
New Orleans Saints–> I have been on the Saints bandwagon for the past to seasons, picking them to lose in the Super Bowl to the Chargers both years. I did this beacuse there offense seemed unstoppable with the way Brees has played with Bush, Colston, and Shockey. But also the fact that they kept on adding talented players to the defense, like Jonathan Vilma, Sedric Ellis, Randell Gay, and Will Smith. This year I don’t have them going to the Super Bowl, but once again I really do like them and again it is because of a defensive addition, that addition being new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Gregg has produced top 10 defensive units where ever he has been, and now he is in New Orleans where he has talent (Saints also added Jabari Greer, Darren Sharper, and Malcolm Jenkins to the secondary) and all he has to do is get them to follow his system to accompany the explosive offense they have.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers–> Despite the fact that Raheem Morris has taken over the coaching job from Jon Gruden, the preseason question about the Bucs is the same. Who is going to be the quarterback? Not to start the season, but probably from week to week. While Brian Leftwich will probably be the opening day starter, but they also have Luke McCown who was brought in to be a starter, and they drafted Josh Freeman to be the quarterback of the future. The truth is, is that this team does have talent on its offense between Derrick Ward, Earnest Graham, and Cadillac Williams all playing running back this year, Antonio Bryant is coming off a career year, and then they also brought in Kellen Winslow Jr. The one thing that has been the sticking point in Tampa Bay over the past decade has been the defense, who last year raked number 9 in the NFL. This year should be a different story. After giving up 30 points a game in the last 4 games last year Tampa got rid of much of its defensive veterans (only Barber and Hovan remain), and while there is some real good young talent (Aqib Talib and Gaines Adams) the defense will slip this year as the defense goes into a period of transition.
Arizona Cardinals–> I don’t know how to react about the Cardinals. At the end of the season most people believed that the Cardinals didn’t believe that they belonged in the playoffs with there 9-7 record. Despite of what everyone believed they knew about the Cardinals, they stepped up there game and made it to within minutes of winning the Super Bowl. This year they come back with pretty much the same team and are absolutly loaded on offense, and could be the only team that could go TD for TD with the Patriots offensively. They return Warner, Fitzgerald, Boldin, Breasten and Pope. They also may have made an improvement in the running game by letting go of aging Edgerin James with rookie Chris Wells to pare with Tim Hightower. The main reason that most people doubted the Cardinals last year was due to there subpar defense in the regular season, but played above and beyond what people believed was possible from them in the playoffs. The only real change that they mad in the offseason was to add Bryant McFadden. If Cardinals defense plays like they did in the playoffs then they could run away with this division, otherwise look for them to have the conference title taken away from them.
St. Louis Rams–> What ever happened to the St. Louis Rams? They used to have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL, now I think they could have the least talented team in the NFL. The only real players on this roster are Marc Bulger and Stephen Jackson. Now you look at this roster and Orlando Pace and Tory Holt are both gone, Randy McMichael has been a bust since leaving Miami for the Rams. The defense added James Butler, Oren Harris, and James Laurnaitis, but none of that should matter in trying to make the 29th ranked defense any better this year. The other major thing that I have to ask is what ever happened to the great wide receivers in St. Louis? Who the hell are Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton, Brooks Foster, and/or Laurent Robinson? The story of the 2009 St. Louis Rams; They Suck. The End.
San Francisco 49ers–> Once again the 49ers have a quarterback training camp battle going on between Alex Smith and Shaun Hill. Shaun Hill is the guy who Sean Singletary seems to prefer and and is playing the best. With a great team around the quarterback position this team could be one of the really surprising teams if they can get stability at the position. The 49ers have a deep crop of wide receivers in Issac Brice, Josh Morgan, Brandon Jones, and Michael Crabtree(if he signs), a solid tight end in Vernon Davis, and final also a good running back with Frank Gore. Gore did not have that great season last year with a nagging ankle injury, but now with rookie Glen Coffee taking some carries away Gore, Frank should be able to stay fresh for the end of the season. The 49ers have plenty young talent on defense (Manny Lawson, Patrick Willis, Parys Haralson), and also will have veteran leadership in Dre Bly and Takeo Spikes. I who love to say that the 49ers are not going to be very good, but they could very well be this years Atlanta Falcons.
Seattle Seahawks–> Tom Brady will win the comeback player of the year, but depending on how Seattle’s season goes well about half the team could be in contention for the award. Seattle’s struggles last year had nothing to do with the roster not being talented, but rather because of the fact that they went through a rash of injuries that no was almost apocalyptic. Truth is this team still has a lot of talent on it, if they can stay healthy. Matt Hasselbeck is still a top 10 quarterback, and he will have a great group of wide out to throw to (Nate Burleson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Deion Branch). Julius Jones returns after having a good season last year, and will have T.J. Duckett behind him to come in on third and short, and goal line situations. The Seattle defense should not be an elite defense, but at the same time with the linebacking core they have the Seahawks should be much better then there 30th rank.