Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Blog Poll 4

1. Who are your rival(s)? The big games. The ones you always get up for, no matter how poor the teams might be during any given season. While we all might have a general sense of what the well-known national rivalries are (Army/Navy, Auburn/Alabama, etc) this is a chance to expound a little bit on your own personal bloodfeuds. Give us a little history, a little flavor, maybe a piece of lore or a notable prank that happened in the course of this feud. Also, feel free to use this question to talk about some rivalries in your team's history that may have faded away over the years.

2. Size up your chances in your rival games this year. Pretty straightforward. Try to be objective.

3. If you could start up a new rivalry with another team, who would it be? Is there a team out there that you think would make a perfect rival for your team? Maybe you've played them a few times in the past and the games got a little heated, or perhaps there's an oldtime rivalry of yours that you'd like to rekindle. Pick a team (or two) that you'd love to battle year in and year out.

4. Overall, what do you think the best rivalry in college football is? Try to pick one that doesn't involve your own team. What makes that rivalry so much better than all the others?

5. Lastly, game trophies. What are the best and worst rivalry trophies out there? There's a lot of crazy stuff changing hands every football season: Golden Axes and Beehive Boots, Old Wagon Wheels and War Canoes. Which trophies are cool? Which trophy would you be embarrassed to see your team hoist aloft after winning a rivalry game? Here's a cribsheet to help you pick out your favorite and/or most ridiculous. And if nothing seems to fit, and you'd like to design your own trophy, you can mention that too.

This Blog Poll is being hosted at Make sure to go there and see the comments from other Blog Pollers.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Falcons to Claim the South


The NFC South will feature the most exciting player in the NFL in Michael Vick who should win this year’s MVP Trophy as well as great defenses by the Carolina Panthers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The South could also boast something else, the NFC Champion with the Atlanta Falcons. Here is a team by team look at the NFC South.

ATLANTA FALCONS Projected Finish 13-3 (1st)
KEY QUESTION: Has the passing game improved from last season?

Michael Vick is very dangerous make no mistake about it, but at times last season the Falcons passing game struggled and that is what ultimately cost them a trip to the Super Bowl. The Falcons drafted WR Roddy White with their first pick to push second year player Michael Jenkins who was a disappointment last season. Peerless Price will continue to be the go to guy at the receiver spot and will get some pressure taken off of him with a healthy Alge Crumpler at tight end.

At running back Warrick Dunn should still be the feature back. He will be good for a 1,000 yard season and is a great compliment to T.J. Duckett, who is a totally opposite style of runner. If the Falcons are smart they will find a way to involve Dunn more in the passing game.

Atlanta’s defensive line will be led by defensive end Patrick Kerney and tackle Rod Coleman, both should have a chance to go to the Pro Bowl, but there are some possible question marks on the line as well with new personnel. Look for the linebackers to be led by Pro Bowler Keith Brooking and the secondary to improve this season as everyone gets a year older.

KEY LOSSES: MLB Chris Draft, K Jay Feely, DL Travis Hall, NT Ed Jasper, LB Eric Johnson, P Chris Mohr.

KEY SIGNINGS: S Rich Coady, S Ronnie Heard, G Matt Lehr, DL Brandon Mitchell, K Todd Peterson, LB Ike Reese.

CAROLINA PANTHERS Projected Finish 10-6 (2nd)
KEY QUESTION: Can the running backs stay healthy?

Everyone knows that Jake Delhomme can pass the football after throwing for 29 TD’s and almost 3900 passing yards last season. However it was injuries to the running backs that forced the Panthers to be a passing team last season and the health of those same running backs will be the key to Carolina’s success this season. DeShaun Foster has the best chance to start at the running back position. Foster is a quick runner who could go the distance on every carry, but he has now had two major injuries in three seasons. If Stephen Davis can return to form after a major knee injury last season the Panthers could have a strong 1 – 2 combination at running back. If Foster or Davis go down look for Nick Goings and rookie Eric Shelton to step in.

Another big question mark for the Panthers is at the receiver position. Muhsin Muhammad, the teams leading receiver from last season, is gone, but the Panthers are expecting a healthy Steve Smith this season. If healthy, Smith is the Panthers best deep threat.

On defense Julius Peppers could be the defensive MVP for the conference. After a Pro Bowl season last year he could be the most dominant player in the NFL this season. Peppers will be the star on a defensive line that has the potential to be the best in the division.

Behind the line look for Pro Bowl linebacker Dan Morgan and linebacker Will Witherspoon (who lead the team in tackles) to provide solid sideline to sideline coverage.

In the secondary the Panthers signed Ken Lucas to play opposite corner of Chris Gamble. This gives the Panthers two very solid corners and these guys tied for the most interceptions in the league last season with six apiece.

KEY LOSSES: LB Brian Allen, LB Mark Fields, CB Artrell Hawkins, WR Muhsin Muhammad, QB Rodney Peete, S Travares Tillman.

KEY SIGNINGS: LB Chris Draft, TE Freddie Jones, CB Ken Lucas, P Tom Rouen, G Mike Wahle.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS Projected Finish 6-10 (4TH)
KEY QUESTION: Has the Saints defense improved?

The talent is there on the defense with Darren Howard and Charles Grant on the defensive ends along with second year man Will Smith who led all NFC rookies in sacks last season. The linebackers are a big question mark. James Allen has shown the most improvement among all the linebackers and Jim Haslett is hoping that Colby Bockwoldt and Courtney Watson progress quickly. Also, look for rookie Alfred Fincher to compete for a starting spot. Dwight Smith was signed at the free safety position and Tebucky Jones left after a disappointing two seasons. The talent is there on defense and the pressure is now on the coaches to make this defensive unit improve.

The Saints have one of the most talented quarterback, running back, receiver combos in the NFL. Aaron Brooks has passed for over 3,000 yards for four consecutive seasons and he has led the Saints on 16 game winning drives. Brooks’ main target has been Joe Horn who is a deep threat receiver and now Donte Stallworth has developed into a threat that opposing defenses have to take into consideration as well. Finally, at the running back position Duce McAllister is as quick as they come and has the toughness to play hurt as well. By signing free agent Jermane Mayberry and drafting Jammal Brown New Orleans gave their offensive line a boost as well.

The offense will have to be ready to score a lot incase the defensive problems don’t get fixed.

CB Ashley Ambrose, FS Tebucky Jones, WR Jerome Pathon.

T Jermane Mayberry, TE Shad Meier, FS Dwight Smith, RB Antowain Smith.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS Projected Finish 8-8 (3rd)
KEY QUESTION: Has the offense caught up with the defense?

Brian Griese may not be the answer at the quarterback spot (ask Denver and Miami), but he is the best answer the Bucs have. Brad Johnson is gone now and Chris Simms has yet to prove that he belongs in the NFL. The good news for the quarterback is that Michael Clayton set the club record for first year receivers last season and Joey Galloway will be able to stretch the field.

The bad news for the quarterback is that the offensive line has not improved. Tampa Bay drafted tackle Chris Colmer and guard Daniel Buenning who will have to be relied on as rookies and that could mean a long season for the QB.

The brightest spot on the offense could be rookie running back Cadillac Williams. Williams will be relied on to boost a running attack that hasn’t ranked higher than 24th in rushing since Gruden became coach.

The Tampa Bay defense will be solid as always with the line being the deepest and strongest unit led by Simeon Rice on the end and Anthony McFarland in the middle. The addition of Chris Hovan to the interior line is a key addition as well.

The linebackers are getting old but are still solid. Derrick Brooks is 32 which is one reason the Bucs used their second round pick on linebacker Barrett Rudd.

In the defensive backfield Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly can hold their respective sides of the field down from their corner positions.

WR Tim Brown, CB Mario Edwards, QB Brad Johnson, WR Joe Jurevicius, S Dwight Smith.
TE Anthony Becht, K Matt Bryant, DT Chris Hovan, QB Luke McCown.

Atlanta 13-3
Carolina 10-6
Tampa Bay 8-8
New Orleans 6-10

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Vikings Heading for an NFC North Free Fall

The NFC North has two teams who are young, stocked full of talent and anxious to challenge the Green Bay Packers for the division title. I’m talking about the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions, two teams who are ready to cash in on their on their stockpiles of early draft picks from the past few years. Then you have the Minnesota Vikings, a team that could free fall into the division basement or challenge for first place. Here is a team by team look at the NFC North.

CHICAGO BEARS Projected Finish 8-8 (3rd)
KEY QUESTION: How much improvement can the Bears show in Lovie Smith’s 2nd season?

Chicago will start the season with Rex Grossman at the QB spot and really no one behind him who is a proven QB. The Bears drafted QB Kyle Orton in the 4th round but he will be far from ready to be thrown into the fire. Chicago is just hoping that Grossman will be able to stay healthy all season, something he didn’t do last season, and take care of the football.

At running back the Bears used their first pick of the draft to take Cedric Benson as a compliment to Thomas Jones. Look for Benson to be the full-time starter by season’s end if he can hang on to the football.

Chicago traded their go to wide receiver Marty Booker before last season to the Miami Dolphins and then turned around and released last season’s No.1 receiver David Terrell. This off-season the general Manager Jerry Angelo spent $30 million dollars on free-agent receiver Muhsin Muhammad and drafted Mark Bradley and Airese Currie. This new trio of receivers will have to get acquainted with each other and the play book quickly because they will all be expected to produce from day one.

Overall the Bears offense should be improved over last season and will give the defense, which is not lacking in big name talent, the support it lacked last year.

On the defensive line Adwale Ogunleye (acquired in the Booker trade) should be healthy and return to the way he was in 2003 when he led the AFC in sacks. Also second year player Tommie Harris should develop into an impact player and help Ogunleye anchor the line.

Also looking to be healthy is linebacker Brian Urlacher who was limited to just nine games last season because of injuries. Along with Lance Briggs the Bears have one of the best linbacking duos in the NFL.

Nathan Vasher led the team in interceptions and will be the star this season on a secondary that is very deep.

If Chicago gets a break here or there and stays healthy they could reach double digit wins and make a post season appearance.

KEY LOSSES: RB Anthony Thomas

KEY SIGNINGS: G Roberto Garza, T Fred Miller, WR Muhsin Muhammad.

DETROIT LIONS Projected Finish 9-7 (2nd)
KEY QUESTION: Can QB Joey Harrington take advantage of the best WR corps in the NFL?

There is no question that the Lion offense should be smoking this season. With three number one draft picks (Charles Rogers, Roy Williams and Mike Williams) lining up at receiver along with second year tailback Kevin Jones in the backfield, the Lions are going to have several defensive coordinator’s burning the midnight oil. Detroit’s offensive line is solid as well giving the Lions the ability to shoot it out with anyone.

On defense the Lions drafted DT Shaun Cody in the second round to help pro-bowler Shaun Rogers out on the line. The Linebackers are very solid and fast led by third year man Boss Baily. The Lions also added Pro Bowl corner Dre Bly and safty Kenoy Kennedy to the secondary.

KEY LOSSES: TE Stephen Alexander, WR Az Hakim, FS Brock Marion, T Stocker McDougle, QB Mike McMahon.

KEY SIGNINGS: QB Jeff Garcia, WR Kevin Johnson, SS Kenoy Kennedy, TE Marcus Pollard.

GREEN BAY PACKERS Projected Finish 10-6 (1st)
KEY QUESTION: Does Brett Favre have enough people around him to make one last play-off run?

There is no question that Favre is still a gun slinger and he has the right personnel on offense to sling the ball to. A solid offensive line led by center Mike Flanagan, a dangerous receiving corps led by Pro-Bowler Javon Walker and Donald Driver, and a consistent 1,000 yard rusher (five years in a row) in Ahman Green. The problem for the pack is going to be on the other side of the ball.

Pretty much everyone from a lousy defense last year is back again this year which means more shoot-outs for Favre’s offense and more late game chances the aging QB will have to take.

The Defensive line is the strongest part of the defensive unit led by Kabeer Gbaja-Biama and Cletidus Hunt. Also, look for End Aaron Kampman to have a Pro-Bowl type season.

From there is goes down hill for Green Bay’s defense. Outside linebackers and Hannibal Navies combined for a total of 1.5 sacks, 0 interceptions and no forced or recovered fumbles. However, they do have middle linebacker Nick Barnett who made the Pro-Bowl as an alternant and recorded the most tackles of any Packer since 1983 (162). Having Barnett ranks the linebackers just ahead of the defensive backs.

The Packers pass defense ranked 25th in league last season so the Packers are re-loaded with defensive backs. Look for free agents Arturo Freeman and Earl Little along with rookie Nick Collins to make an immediate start.

KEY LOSSES: DB Michael Hawthorne, S Bhawoh Jue, G Marco Rivera, S Darren Sharper, G Mike Wahle.

KEY SIGNINGS: S Arturo Freeman, S Earl Little, G Matt O’Dwyer.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS Projected Finish 7-9 (4th)
KEY QUESTION: Do the Vikings have answers for all their questions?

Many people are predicting great things for the Vikings, but not me. I think there are too many legitimate questions at key positions that need to be answered. Daunte Culpepper has developed into one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the league, but his receiving corps is question mark number one. Nate Burleson led the team in receiving yards last season and will now be expected to step up his play to become the team’s primary target because of the departure of Randy Moss. He does not have the speed or the size of Moss and you can argue that much of his success last season came as a result of teams focusing on Moss.

Question mark number two is the running back position. The Vikings should have one of the deepest backfields in the NFL with rookie Ciatrick Fason and returning veterans Michael Bennett, Onterrio Smith and Mewelde Moore, but here is the problem. Smith has been suspended for the year for violating the league’s substance abuse policy and Bennett has been hampered by injuries. This leaves Moore and the rookie Fason which should be decent unless you take into account question mark number three. Not a single returnee on the offensive line was healthy in late spring and coaches are keeping their fingers crossed that they will be ready to go next week when training camp opens up.

The defensive line could be dominant led by Pro Bowler Kevin Williams, but they did lose end Kenny Mixon and tackle Chris Hovan. I think there is enough talent still there for this unit to be successful with Kevin Williams and free agent tackle Pat Williams.

The defensive backs are solid as well with the addition of Fred Smoot to complement Antoine Winfield as the best corner combo in the division. The Vikings also added free safety Darren Sharper during the off-season.

Question mark number for is the linebackers where the Vikings went from one extreme to the other. Last years group was young and inexperienced and this year’s version features veterans Sam Cowart at the middle spot and Napoleon Harris at strong side. Harris has been injury prone his entire career and Cowart is nearing the end of his.

Green Bay Packers 10-6
Detroit Lions 9-7
Chicago Bears 8-8
Minnesota Vikings 7-9

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Eagles Will Soar in the NFC East

The NFC East is a two team race where one of the teams doesn’t really have a chance. The Philadelphia Eagles along with that Atlanta Falcons will be the cream of the crop and the Eagles will win the division hands down. Here is a team by team look at the NFC East.

DALLAS COWBOYS Projected Finish 10-6 (2nd)
KEY QUESTION: How far can Drew Bledsoe take the Cowboys?

Bledsoe will be the seventh QB to start a game for the Cowboys since Troy Aikman left after the 2000 season. He will be the best QB that the Cowboys have put under center since Aikman as well. Bledsoe’s success depends on how the offensive line holds up for him, because he is slower than molasses, and how well Julius Jones runs. The keys to the success of the O-line are Larry Allen who had a great season last year and Flozell Adams who did not.

The Cowboys have solid targets at receiver with Terry Glenn, Keyshawn Johnson and Quincy Morgan. This trio of receivers allows the Cowboys to be both big and fast, and when you add tight end Jason Witten, Bledose will not have a problem finding targets if he has time.

On defense the Cowboys really helped themselves through the draft and free agency. Rookies Demarcus Ware and Marcus Spears will give the defensive line a boost along with the addition of Jason Ferguson.

In the secondary the Cowboys signed corner backs Anthony Henry and Aaron Glenn. Look for Henry to line up opposite field of Terrence Newman and Glenn to play the nickel. Hard hitting safety Roy Williams will move to strong safety which will give him more opportunities to make plays closer to the line of scrimmage.

KEY LOSSES: FB Richie Anderson, LB Dexter Coakley, RB Eddie George, QB Vinny Testaverde, DE Marcellus Wiley, S Darren Woodson.

KEY SIGNINGS: QB Drew Bledsoe, DT Jason Ferguson, CB Aaron Glenn, CB Anthony Henry, G Marco Rivera.

NEW YORK GIANTS Projected Finish 7-9 (4th)
KEY QUESTION: Is Eli Manning ready to lead the team?

Manning struggled last season living up to his namesake and will have to take huge strides to keep from doing the same this season. The Giants cannot afford for him to start 1-6 like he did last season when he took over for Kurt Warner. They added Plaxico Burress at WR which is an upgrade from the departed Ike Hilliard. The offensive line gave up 52 sacks last season and should improve on that this year because they won’t have Kurt Warner (sacked 24 times) holding the ball forever back there.

Running back Tiki Barber was the heart and soul of the Giants offense last season scoring almost half of the teams touchdowns while rushing for over 2,000 yards and finishing second in receiving yards. Look for him to get some help this season from Burress and a healthy Jeremy Shockey.

Michael Strahan will continue to be the leader on defense but who is going to line up next to him. Keith Washington and Norman Hand are both gone and leave big gaps in what could now be the weakest unit on the team. Look for Strahan’s numbers to go down this season and the Giants defense to struggle.

KEY LOSSES: K Steve Christie, CB Terry Cousin, RB Ron Dayne, DT Norman Hand, WR Ike Hilliard, DT Lance Legree, S Omar Stoutmire, DE Keith Washington.

KEY SIGNINGS: WR Plaxico Burress, K Jay Feely, QB Jim Miller, QB Tim Hassellbeck, LB Antonio Pierce.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES Projected Finish 14-2 (1st)
KEY QUESTION: Can Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens create on-field chemistry?

T.O. seems to make people not like him. No one can question his talent, but everyone can question his character. Owens has left a trail of bitter people from San Francisco to Baltimore and now Philadelphia. Last season much attention was given to the relationship between McNabb and his #1 receiver. There is no question that the two of them make up one of the most dangerous passing duos in the NFL, but I don’t think that they have fooled anyone on the fact that these two guys don’t get along. Their chemistry is the key to the Eagles making it back to the Super Bowl. Both McNabb and Owens have enough competitive drive to play hard and do what it takes to win. Just don’t look for them to go out and celebrate together.

This is the same team that won the NFC Championship last season and they should be just as good, if not better. RB Dorsey Levens retired, but they still have Brian Westbrook who will line up all over the field. They lost LB and Nate Wayne, but had a strong draft on defense including DT Mike Patterson from USC and LB Matt McCoy from San Diego State.

QB Jeff Blake, DE Derrick Burgess, RB Dorsey Levens, LB Ike Reese, WR Freddie Mitchell, LB Nate Wayne.


WASHINGTON REDSKINS Projected Finish 7-9 (3rd)
KEY QUESTION: Will the Skins buy into Joe Gibbs coaching philosophy?

Last season the Redskins looked undisciplined and were not able to get things going offensively. Gibbs is known for empowering other people to succeed and is a great manager, but the Redskins have been known recently to be underachievers.

Offense will be a problem again this season for Washington. They are solid at running back with Clinton Portis, but that is it. Patrick Ramsey has struggled to take over as the leader of the offense and with rookie Jason Campbell now on the team this could be Ramsey’s last chance to prove he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL, but he could have a hard time trying to find someone to get the ball to. The Redskins lost their best receiver from last season in Laveranues Coles but signed Santana Moss and David Patten. Patten and Moss are great #2 receivers, but neither is a solid #1.

On defense the Redskins are going to be solid again. The line will be anchored by tackle Cornelius Griffen and they are hoping for defensive end Phillip Daniels to stay healthy. The linebackers were the strongest part of the defense last season and have everyone back this season as well as the hope for a healthy LaVar Arrington. In the secondary look for rookie Carlos Rogers to make an immediate impact at corner, and Sean Taylor to develop in to one of the leagues best safeties if he can stay out of trouble off the field.

KEY LOSSES: WR Laveranues Coles, LB Antonio Pierce, CB Fred Smoot.

KEY SIGNINGS: WR Santanna Moss, WR David Patten, C Casey Rabach.


Philadelphia Eagles 14-2
Dallas Cowboys 10-6
Washington Redskins 7-9
New York Giants 7-9

Monday, July 18, 2005

Blog-Poll Round Table #3

Which unheralded player on your team will be the hardest to replace? Which seemingly inconsequential player could make the biggest impact?

I think that OU will miss center Vince Carter (he never played basketball). Carter never got a ton of media coverage but he was the anchor of a very solid O-line.

A little known player for the Sooners who will have a huge season is WR Travis Wilson. With fellow WR's Mark Clayton, Mark Bradley, and Brandon Jones all being drafted, many people over-looked the fact that Wilson led the Sooners in TD receptions.

Which regular-season game that won’t feature your team would you pay the most money to see this season? Why?

I would love to see any game that the Tennessee Volunteers play in, but just for kicks let's make it a big one. Tennessee at Notre Dame November 5th. The Vols. seek revenge for their embarrassing loss to the Irish last season.

If your team were a rapper, who would it be and why?

Any rapper who gets momentum and then chokes!

Feel free to leave your comments!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

AFC Play-Off Match-ups

Your division winners are as follows.
East New England Patriots
North Pittsburg Steelers
South Indianapolis Colts
West Kansas City Chiefs

Wild Cards
Baltimore Ravens
Buffalo Bills

First Round
Baltimore @ New England

Buffalo @ Kansas City

Second Round
New England @ Pittsburg

Kansas City @ Indianapolis

AFC Championship
New England @ Indianapolis

AFC Champion
Indianapolis Colts

Improved Chiefs look to win the West

The AFC West is an interesting division because it has the most balance of any other division in the AFC. A team like the Kansas City Chiefs who were down last season has a great opportunity to win the division; while possibly the best team in the division, San Diego, won’t win because of a brutal schedule. I believe that only three games will separate first from last in this division. Here is a team by team breakdown of the AFC West.

DENVER BRONCOS Projected Finish 8-8 (3rd)
KEY QUESTION: Who is going to run the ball for the Broncos?

Last year the Broncos started the season with Quentin Griffin at running back, but fumbles and a knee injury sent him to the bench and put Reuben Droughns and Tatum Bell in the spotlight. Since then Droughns has left and the Broncos have signed Ron Dayne and drafted Maurice Clarett. The Broncos can’t get it done running by committee they are going to have to choose someone to be their feature back. There is plenty of talent there and Denver has a way of making running backs shine.

The Broncos passing game should be effective again this year. This is, “a do or die” season for Jake Plummer. Denver added Jerry Rice as a third option behind Rod Smith and Ashley Lelie at wide receiver. They also added Stephen Alexander at tight end.

The Broncos defense has been abused the last two seasons in the play-offs, but to their credit they have had to play the Colts. Before last season the Bronco acquired Champ Bailey from the Washington Redskins. Even though Bailey has the ability to be a shut down corner it wasn’t enough to keep the Broncos from their second play-off blowout.

Denver has added a lot of youth in the secondary through the draft and signed DE Courtney Brown to try to increase their pass rush. Only time will tell if this will be enough to carry the Broncos past the first round of the play-offs.

KEY LOSSES: RB Reuben Droughns, SS Kenoy Kennedy, OG Dan Neil.
KEY SIGNINGS: TE Stephen Alexander, DE Courtney Brown, RB Ron Dayne, LB Ian Gold.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS Projected Finish 10-6 (1st)
KEY QUESTION: How good is the new Chiefs defense?

Kansas City gave much needed attention to their defense during the off-season. They traded to get CB Pat Surtain, drafted LB Derrick Johnson, signed LB Kendrell Bell and S Sammy Knight. Now the pressure is firmly on the coaches. The Chiefs have the personnel they need on defense to win the division and if they don’t get it done this season heads (coaches) will roll.

Offensively the Chiefs should be explosive. If RB Priest Holmes stays healthy he has a shot at winning the rushing title and leading the Chiefs into the play-offs. Kansas City also gave QB Trent Green a new target by signing WR Freddy Mitchell to complement WR Eddie Kennison and TE Tony Gonzales.

KEY LOSSES: LB Monty Beisel, RB Derrick Blaylock, DE Vonnie Holliday, WR Johnnie Morton.
KEY SIGNINGS: LB Kendrell Bell, S Sammy Knight, WR Freddy Mitchell.

OAKLAND RAIDERS Projected Finish 7-9 (4th)
KEY QUESTION: Is Randy Moss enough to boost the Raiders offense.

Randy Moss wont be the answer to the Raiders offense this season unless RB LaMont Jordan and QB Kerry Collins become productive as well. The offensive line has question marks and so does the tight end position. Moss is a piece of the puzzle, but he is not the answer.

The defense has just as many questions as the offense and fewer answers. The Oakland lost S Ray Buchanon, CB Phillip Buchanon and LB Napoleon Harris and have no proven players to fill those holes. They still have CB Charles Woodson to cover one side of the field and DT Ted Washington to stop play up the middle, but it won't be enough for the Raiders to get out of the bottom of the division this season.

KEY LOSSES: S Ray Buchanan, CB Phillip Rivers, LB Napoleon Harris, TE Doug Jolley, RB Tyrone Wheatley.
KEY SIGNINGS: DE Derrick Burgess, CB Renaldo Hill, RB LaMont Jordan, TE Josh Norman.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS Projected Finish 9-7 (2nd)
KEY QUESTION: How bad will a brutal schedule hurt them?

The Chargers will be a better team then what their final record will show. Because they won the division last season they have to play a tough first place schedule this season and I'm not sure they are ready for it. They have to play at New England, Philly, and Indy and have home games against Pittsburg and Buffalo. This on top of their division games and NFC opponents will be enough to keep the Chargers out of the play-offs this season.

Offensively and defensively look for the same Chargers team that you saw last season. San Diego did not sign very many free agents and didn't lose any starters from last year's squad, other than WR/KR Tim Dwight. QB Drew Brees will try to prove that last season's success was no fluke and WR Keenan McCardell will be a good target for him. Look for LaDainian Tomlinson to challenge Chiefs RB Priest Holmes for the rushing title.

KEY LOSSES: WR/KR Tim Dwight, QB Doug Flutie, RB Leon Johnson, TE Josh Norman.

AFC West Predictions
Chiefs 10-6
Chargers 9-7
Broncos 8-8
Raiders 7-9

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

AFC South Preview

The AFC South will be an interesting division this season. The Colts could have the firepower to go all the way this season, while the Jaguars and the Titans could both post 10 win seasons. Here is a team by team break down of the AFC South.

HOUSTON TEXANS Projected Finish 8-8 (4th)
KEY QUESTION: Is there enough experience on the defense to survive their schedule?

With Indianapolis, Pittsburg, Jacksonville and Kansas City on the schedule it is going to be tough to hold those teams down in scoring, which means the Texans are going to have to win shoot-outs.

The Texans are still suffering through growing pains and will have to wait until next season to really flourish. With three of their first four games Buffalo, Pittsburg and Tennessee, the Texans could start the season 1-4 before things get better. It will be too big of a hole to climb out of for the Texans to make the play-offs this season.

On offence David Carr has new targets TE Marcellus Rivers and WR Reggie Swinton to go along with Andre Johnson. At running back Domanick Davis has the ability to carry the ball for over 1200 yards if his line can create holes for him.

On defense the Texans lost LB’s Jamie Sharper and Marcus Spears along with CB Aaron Glenn. This leaves inexperience at both positions. The Texans did sign Morlon Greenwood who will be a starter at Linebacker and the have Phillip Buchanon to hold down one side of the field at corner. They cannot afford any injuries at either position.

KEY LOSSES: CB Aaron Glenn, LB Jamie Sharper, LB Marcus Spears.
KEY SIGNINGS: LB Morlon Greenwood, TE Marcellus Rivers, WR Reggie Swinton.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS Projected Finish 14-2 (1st)
KEY QUESTION: Is this the year that Manning gets the monkey off of his back and makes it to the Super Bowl?

The good news for the Colts is that they only lost TE Marcus Pollard off of last year’s offensive unit. The bad news is that they really didn’t attack the free agent market so they don’t have any “key signings.” The Colts should have the best offensive attack in the NFL. Manning had a record breaking season last year and should go for more records this year. Look for receivers Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley, along with tight end Dallas Clark to spread and confuse defenses. Once the opposing defenses have thinned out running back Edgerrin James will run free.

Tony Dungee is a good defensive coach and now that his offense is clicking look for him to tweak the defense to make it more aggressive. They won’t have the best defense in the AFC but they also won’t need to. If they can keep opponents under 24 points they will win a lot of games.

November 28 will be a preview of the AFC Championship game when the Colts and the Steelers play each other. Look for Pittsburg to get the win and the Colts to get revenge in the play-offs.

Key Losses : TE Marcus Pollard

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS Projected Finish 9-7(2nd)
KEY QUESTION: Can the Jags play defense?

There are not a lot of names on the Jacksonville defense, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t be decent. I think they will be pretty good against the run but will struggle to rush the QB and defend the pass and that is where their problem will be against teams like the Colts and Steelers.

On Offense this is the year that QB Byron Leftwich should begin growing comfortable leading the team. He has a solid running game behind with a healthy Fred Taylor and Jimmy Smith and Troy Edwards are very solid receivers along with TE Kyle Brady. The offense will keep them in a lot of games, how well they play defense will determine if they reach the 10 win plateau or not.

KEY LOSSES: CB Dewayne Washington
KEY SIGNINGS: DT Martin Chase, CB Terry Cousin, LB Nate Wayne, DE Marcellus Wiley.

TENNESSEE TITANS Projected Finish 9-7 (3rd)
KEY QUESTION: Did the Titans lose too many people during the off-season?

The Titans suffered a mass exodus of players including WR Derrick Mason and CB Samari Rolle. In turn the only name worthy player they have picked up to date is DE Kyle Vanden Bosh.

There is no doubt that Steve McNair is a warrior, but the injury questions are all around and you have to begin to wonder if 11 years of playing all out hasn’t taken it’s toll on his body. He will have to play a complete season healthy to dispel these rumors. They still are solid at running back with Chris Brown, but if he goes down the Titans have lost Antowan Smith so that leaves Jerrett Payton and Joe Smith as the most experienced back-ups.

In the absence of Mason Drew Bennett and Tyrone Calico are the only receivers with experience. Brandon Jones leads a whole crop of rookie receivers looking for playing time.

Another rookie looking to get on the field immediately is CB Pacman Jones. With the loss of Rolle the Titans will need him to step in day one and be effective on a defense that could be out manned a lot this season.
KEY LOSSES: DE Kevin Carter, CB Andre Dyson, FB Robert Holcombe, QB Doug Johnson, WR Derrick Mason, CB Samari Rolle, S Lance Schulters, RB Antowain Smith.
KEY SIGNINGS: DE Kyle Vanden Bosh

AFC South Predictions
Indianapolis Colts 14-2
Jacksonville Jaguars 9-7
Tennessee Titans 9-7
Houston Texans 8-8

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Steelers Rule the North

The AFC North has two teams that could go far into the play offs this year. Like every other team in this division, how long they play depends on their quarterback. Here is a team by team break down of the AFC North.

BALTIMORE RAVENS Projected Finish 11-5 (2nd)
KEY QUESTION: Is this Kyle Boller’s year to break out?

I think it’s safe to say that Baltimore’s season hinges on Kyle Boller. They have everything else they need to win the division and compete for the Super Bowl. All pro running back Jamal Lewis has the ability to carry the team if he needs to, but I don’t think you really on him to do it for 16 games. The Ravens have a solid tight end in Todd Heap and rookie Mark Clayton will add explosiveness to the receiving corps along with free agent Derrick Mason. As long as Boller can protect the football and get it into the right hands at the right time the Ravens offense is looking strong this season.

On defense what more can you say? Sparked by Ray Lewis the Baltimore defense enjoys punishing people. However, the departures of LB Peter Boulware and CB Corry Fuller will provide new challenges to the Ravens D. I wouldn’t worry just yet about this unit though. They are always one of the best in the NFL.

KEY LOSSES: LB Peter Boulware, CB Corey Fuller.
KEY SIGNINGS: WR Derrick Mason, LB Tommy Polley, CB Samari Rolle.

CINCINNATI BENGALS Projected Finish 8-8 (3rd)
KEY QUESTION: Can Carson Palmer carry the team?

The Bengals are in the same situation as the Ravens only with a lot less talent. Carson Palmer will have to make due with what he has been given in order for Cincinnati to have a winning season. If he crumbles so will the Bengals hopes. He has a solid running back with Rudi Johnson and wide receiver Chad Johnson has loads of talent but he needs to be able to back up his mouth when he talks a big game. On the other side of the field receiver Peter Warrick gives them two legitimate options and opposing defenses will take notice.

The Bengals defense will be their weakness this year. There just simply isn’t enough talent to go around. They’ve got solid corners in Tory James and Deltha O’Neal but the linebackers and defensive line will be susceptible to the run. Look for the Steelers and the Ravens to take advantage of that.

KEY LOSSES: S Rogers Beckett, LB Kevin Hardy
KEY SIGNINGS: DE Elton Patterson

CLEVELAND BROWNS Projected Finish 6-10 (4th)
KEY QUESTION: Who is going to step up and lead this team?

It’s not a matter of talent, at least on the offense, it’s a matter of someone stepping up and leading. TE Kellen Winslow is the king of making bad choices as well as bad comments; the same can be said of RB William Green. Trent Dilfer led the Ravens to the Super Bowl, but has it really him or the Ravens defense? So, who is left? Only four players on the current roster have 10 or more years of experience, so that means the Browns will have to suffer through some growing pains. This ultimately translates into a long season.

The Browns will struggle to move the ball on offense which puts all their hope in their defense. Head Coach Romeo Crennel is a defensive mastermind. He built the Ravens defense in 2000 and has turned New England’s defense into championship form over the past four years. However, in Cleveland there isn’t the personnel yet. The Browns have done the right thing by building a young team. They are just going to have to be patient while their players develop. It won’t be this season.

KEY LOSSES: DE Courtney Brown, G Damion Cook, DE Ebenezer Ekuban, QB Jeff Garcia, QB Kelly Holcomb, DT Mike Myers.
KEY SIGNINGS: QB Doug Johnson.

PITTSBURG STEELERS Projected Finish 14-2 (1st)
Key Question: Can Roethlisberger avoid a sophomore slump?

The Steelers have one of the best teams in the NFL and should be one of the favorites to be in the Super Bowl. They are loaded with talent and experience on both sides of the football and have a coaching staff that is just as fired up come game time as the players. Their running backs are deep and good. Led by Duce Staley and a nasty offensive line the Steelers will be a smash mouth team. When they have to pass they will need to rely on Big Ben getting the ball to a talented group of receivers. The Steelers lost TE Jay Riemersma and Plaxico Burress, but still have Hines Ward and Antwaan Randle El. QB/WR chemistry should not be a problem for the Steelers. Pittsburg will be a team that has big play threats in the running game as well as in the passing game.

On Defense the Steelers lost LB Kendrell Bell and CB Chad Scott, but they still have the core of the defense that took them deep into the play offs last season. Look for LB Joey Porter to be the heart and soul of a Pittsburg defense that will play “in your face” defense. The Steelers should be playing football well into January.

KEY LOSSES: LB Kendrell Bell, WR Plaxico Burress, TE Jay Riemersma, CB Chad Scott.
KEY SIGNINGS: WR Cedrick Wilson.

Pittsburg 14-2
Baltimore 11-5
Cincinnati 8-8
Cleveland 6-10

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Pats Will Win the AFC East

The East will be one of the best divisions in the AFC this football season. The defending Super Bowl Champs could be even better than they were last season and the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins will be 10 plus win teams as well. Here is a team by team break down of the AFC East.

BUFFALO BILLS projected finish 11-5 (2nd)

Key Question Who will play QB?
Shane Matthews or Kelly Holcomb? Holcomb signed a four year deal during the off-season and may have a better upside than Matthews. Obviously the QB position is crucial to a team's success (ask the Dolphins) so the coaching staff has a major decision to make. The Bills are solid other wise on offense. The running back feud between Travis Henry and Willis McGahee needs to come to an end, and it could with a trade. Lee Evans and Eric Moulds will be good targets for who ever plays QB.

On the defensive side of the ball the Bills are very solid. The defensive line is anchored by Sam Adams and London Fletcher and Takeo Spikes lead a strong linebacker corps. In the secondary Nate Clements is a good corner and Lawyer Milloy is still one of the best safeties in the game.

KEY LOSSES: QB Drew Bledsoe
KEY Signings: QB Kelly Holcomb

MIAMI DOLPHINS projected finish 10-6 (3rd)

Key QuestionsWho will play QB? What happens with Ricky Williams?

New coach, new attitude still no Quarterback. The Dolphins signed Gus Frerotte who will compete with AJ Feeley for the starting QB spot. Feeley has the experience as a Dolphin, but Frerotte is the new guy and those seem to be the most popular QB's in Miami.

Behind the QB Ronnie Brown should be an improvement at the running back spot. Ricky Williams is supposed to be back and that should make things interesting. With an improved running game the passing game should develop this season. Chris Chambers is an explosive receiver and Marty Booker is a good possession receiver. A healthy David Boston will increase the passing threat as well. If the offensive line can hold up the Dolphins should be able to score this season and take pressure off the defense.

On the Defensive line Kevin Carter and Vonnie Holliday will take pressure off of Jason Taylor and allow him to get to the QB more often. Keith Traylor is a good addition to the line as well.

The linebackers will be solid as usual led by Zach Thomas and Junior Seau look for rookie Channing Crowder to make an impact there as well.

In the secondary Mario Edwards will try to fill the shoes of Pat Surtain opposite of Sam Madison and Tebucky Jones will be solid at safty.

KEY LOSSES: S Arturo Freeman, LB Marlon Greenwood, S Sammy Knight, FB Rob Konrand, CB Pat Surtain, S Shawn Wooden.

KEY SIGNINGS: DE Kevin Carter, CB Mario Edwards, QB Gus Frerotte, DE Vonnie Holliday, S Tebucky Jones, DT Keith Traylor.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS projected finish 13-3 (1st)
Key QuestionHow will the Departure of Charlie Weis affect the offense?

New England could be the best team in football and they are young. I don't think the departure of Weis will change anything. Tom Brady is quickly becoming one of the best QB's to play the gane and Corey Dillon has found a place where he is happy. They did a great job at keeping players and will start the season with just about everyone who played in the Super Bowl still on their roster. When you add WR David Terrell to the receiving corps and Chad Brown at linebacker the 2005 Patriots will be just as strong as they were last season if not stronger.

KEY LOSSES: CB Ty Law, LB Roman Phifer
KEY SIGNINGS: LB Chad Brown, WR/KR Tim Dwight, KR Chad Morton, WR David Terrell.

NEW YORK JETS projected finish 8-8 (4th)

Key QuestionDoes Curtis Martin need to carry this team?

I don't think he has to carry them but he does have to be a major contributor. With the departure of LaMont Jordan the Jets are not as deep as they were last season at the running back position. A healthy Chad Pennington will be a welcome sight, but who is he going to throw the ball to? Tight end Anthony Becht which leaves Laveranues Coles and Wayne Chrebet as the best receivers on the worst receiving corps in the east.

The real question for the 2005 Jets are on defense. They picked up linebacker Kenyatta Wright but they lost Sam Cowart and DT Jason Ferguson. Linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end John Abraham have all-pro potential but they are the only ones on this defensive unit.

KEY LOSSES: TE Anthony Becht, LB Sam Cowart, DT Jason Fergusen, RB Lamont Jordan, WR Santana Moss, S Reggie Tongue.

KEY SIGNINGS: RB Derrick Blaylock, LB Kenyatta Wright.

AFC East Predictions
New England 13-3
Buffalo 11-5
Miami 10-6
NY Jets 8-8

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Blogpoll Discussion

1. What's THE critical game of the season on the national scene?
Lots of good games to choose from. Here are a couple of good options.
Sept. 17 Florida/Tenn - The Vols. have great potential and could win the SEC. Urban Meyer has a great chance to make an immediate impact in the SEC.
Oct. 8 OU/Texas - OU has a 5 game winning streak over Texas, but Mac Brown has the better team this year. Should that matter? It's "do or die" time for Brown and the Longhorns.
Oct. 22 Auburn/LSU - Les Miles will, "play any sucker in America", and he has the defense to do it now. Question for both teams is, who is going to play QB. Winner of this game should play for the conference championship.
Michigan/Iowa - Look for Iowa to make some noise in the Big 10 this year. This game could be between two top 10 teams.
Nov. 5 Miami/Va. Tech - These teams used to play for the Big East Championship, now they will play to decide the ACC championship.

2.What's the most critical matchup for your team?
OU/Texas Oct. 8. OU has enjoyed a 5 game winning streak and has also reaped the benefits by winning the recruiting wars. If OU keeps winning the best recruits in Texas will keep coming.

3. What's your wingnut upset prediction of year?
Sept 24 - Oregon over USC

Feel free to leave your comments.