Wednesday, September 03, 2008

NFL Predictions

As the NFL season quickly approaches (regular season starts in roughly 18 hours), I find myself getting more and more excited. I already wrote my NFL preview, so we know who is going to win each division and all that fun stuff. These are the real issues, the real things to watch this season. And you might ask, why is there an odd number of predictions like 21? Because, I couldn't think of 50, and plus, this is my site, you can choose your own numbers on your site.

1. Aaron Rodgers will ease the minds of Green Bay fans after the "loss" of Brett Favre. The kid is a player, and he'll do just fine. He has done and said all the right things in Favre's shadow for the last four years. He never once said anything bad about Favre, but he let it be known that he thought the job should be his this season. And it should. He's waited patiently for the last four years, and now its his time to show everyone what he can do. Do I think he'll be the next Brett Favre? No. But all he's got to do is be Aaron Rodgers, and everything will follow. He's got plenty of weapons around him, and a good defense on the other side of the field, if he can limit the amount of bonehead turnovers he has this season, they'll be just fine.

2. Adrian Peterson will win the rushing title. Bold, I know. But when he's healthy, he's simply the best running back in football. He fell 133 yards short of the title (to LT) last year, and he only played 14 games (9 starts). He might not have the all around game that LT has, but it will come. He can run over, or out run, just about anybody in football. Trust me, defensive coordinators know about this kid, and they don't like it. The Vikings are going to have to run the ball a lot this year. Tavaris Jackson is sure to go through growing pains, again. I'm still not convinced he's their answer, and judging by how badly Minnesota was trying to get Favre, I don't think they're convinced either. There simply isn't a more dangerous runner in football right now, and if you didn't wise up to his act last year, you will this year.

3. AFC Rookie of the Year: Darren McFadden. Run DMC run. Thats what Oakland coaches will tell him to do all year, and that is just what he'll do. He's dynamic, he's electric, and he's just what the Raiders need. He's their type of person, and he plays their type of football. He probably won't gain 1800+ yards on the ground this year like he did last year when he tore up the SEC, but he'll get his touches. In three seasons with the Razorbacks, he had 785 rushing attempts, 46 receptions, and 22 passing attempts. All in all, he touched the rock 853 times, and had exactly 0 fumbles. For that reason, he's going to continue to get his touches, and he's going to continue to scorch opposing defenses.

4. Herm Edwards will be the first coach fired this season. He has this year, and next year remaining on his contract. He'd essentially be a lame duck next year if he were kept around after an unsuccessful campaign in 2008. And believe me, it will be unsuccessful. Larry Johnson is overrated, his average YPC (yards per carry) have gone down in each of the last three seasons. And who is their QB? Exactly. They have targets in Dwayne Bowe and Tony Gonzalez, but even they might not be enough to get that offense going. Herm Edwards seems like a great guy. He seems like someone you'd love to have in your corner, but he's not going to get it done in KC this year, and as a result, he'll be done.

5. The Patriots will flirt with perfection once again. Now hear me out. I didn't say they'd do it. As we all saw last year, not losing a game for an entire NFL season is pretty tough to do. A lot of things have to fall in your favor (see the Baltimore game last year). All I'm saying is that 14, or even 15 wins could, and should, be expected. They were 14-2 in the regular seasons of their back to back Super Bowl wins. And I say they win the Super Bowl this year, so why not 14-2 again? Or even 15-1? And I'm not the only one thinking this either. They're 16.5 point favorites against the Chiefs in Week 1. I know, its the Chiefs, and I just wrote that their coach would be fired, but honestly, 16.5 point favorites? In Week 1? Someone else is impressed besides me. They have two games on their schedule (@ IND, @ SD) where they might not be the Vegas favorites, but they probably will be. What it all boils down to is they're going to win a lot more games than they lose. And they're going to win a lot of games by a lot of points. Brady may not toss 50 TDs again, but they'll score, a lot. So be ready for an "I told you so," when the Patriots hoist the Lombardi trophy at Raymond James Stadium in February after 14 regular season wins.

6. MVP: Tom Brady. See above. Quarterbacks overall are pretty important to their team's success. It isn't very often when the starter gets hurt, and the second string guy makes you forget about the starter (see the Eagles last year, see the Patriots in 2001). Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the Colts would be fine without Manning, or the Cowboys would be fine without Romo. But Tom Brady is the most indispensable player in the NFL right now. He has started every game for the Patriots since Drew Bledsoe got hurt. Last sesaon, everyone saw what he could do with go-to wide outs (68.9 comp %, 5o TDs, 4,806 yards, the list goes on). This year, everyone will feel his wrath again. Some haters will also say that he was only that good last year because of Moss. To them, I say this: he has never completed less than 60% of his passes in any season, regardless of who his targets were. Peyton Manning has completed less than 60% in a full NFL season before, and it is a feat that the legendary Brett Favre has accomplished FIVE times. He has never thrown more INTs than TDs in a full season (Manning one time, Favre three times). And speaking of interceptions, the most he's ever thrown in a season is 14 ('02, '04, '05). Manning? 28 in '98, 15 in '99, 15 in '00, 23 in '01, 19 in '02, and 14 last season. And Farve has done it so many times I won't even list them for you, but lets just overview and say that he's thrown 14 or more interceptions 13 different times. With as many as 29 in '05, and back to back 23 INT seasons in '98 and '99. Oh right, and he's also thrown at least 15 INTs for the last 11 straight seasons.

7. NFL Offensive Player of the Year: Tom Brady. See above.

8. NFC Rookie of the Year: Chris Long. This will come down to long, or Jonathan Stewart (CAR). I'm giving long the edge because he has the change to make an immediate impact. He will be playing on what is already a pretty decent defensive line (La'Roi Glover, Leonard Little and Adam Carriker). But the biggest key is that he will be playing. Right now, Stewart is playing behind the incumbent DeAngelo Williams. Also not in Stewart's favor, the Panthers haven't had a 1,000 yard rusher since Stephen Davis rushed for 1,444 yards in 2003 (no Panther has even rushed for 900 yards since then).

9. Anquan Boldin will have more TDs than Larry Fitzgerald. I'm predicting Boldin will shut up, and play football. If he does that, he is one of the most dangerous receivers in the league. He has so much intensity running after the catch, its what he lives for, he just wants to punish other teams. And when he does that, he's a man to be feared. For his sake, hopefully Kurt Warner plays all season, and he can play himself into a monster contract next year. Who knows, if Boldin would just play, maybe he'll even have more yards than Fitzgerald too. That would be scary for opposing teams.

10. Reggie Bush will rush for over 100 yards in a single game. It will happen. I'm telling you right now. He can do it. He has to do it. I don't know why, I just have this feeling in my gut that he's going to get over the hump this year. I don't think he'll be a stud running back, but he's going to prove some nay-sayers wrong. I also believe the addition of Shockey will help the offense immensely.

11. Best off season addition: Jeremy Shockey. Speaking of Shockey. He seems to be happy now. Which should make opposing defenses unhappy. He plays with a chip on his shoulder. He wants to hurt defenders when he has the football. Its almost like he wished he was a safety, lining guys up over the middle, but he just had too much offensive talent to ignore.

12. Brady Quinn will not start a game this season. I don't get why this is even a topic of discussion. Derek Anderson is the guy. He gave the Browns a legit shot at the playoffs, and should give them a shot again this year. He protected the ball relatively well in his first season as a starter (started all but Week 1). His nineteen interceptions were not a highlight, but that number should go down. He also only lost 2 fumbles all season. Its almost like people want the poor guy to fail, and I don't get it. He's set up for success. He's got a highly touted young QB behind him to keep him sharp, plus he's going to be throwing to Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow again.

13. Kellen Winslow will become the premiere TE in the NFL. Gonzalez will still have his catches. Clark will still get his TDs from Manning, Gates will as well, and Whitten should help the Cowboys score in bunches, but it will all be about Kellen Winslow in the end. He's 6'4", 250 lbs, 25 years old, and healthy. He is a physical specimen. He creates a mismatch almost anywhere on the field. Linebackers aren't fast enough for him, and DBs aren't strong enough to bring him down every time. Expect him to improve on just about every statistic from last year (82 receptions, 1,106 yards and 5 TDs).

14. Worst off season addition: Brett Favre. Brett Farve is overrated. There, I said it. He is not the greatest quarterback of all time. He was very good, great, amazing, or any other adjective you'd like to use to describe him for a long period of time. He's still overrated. Now that we all know about my bias, let me attempt to explain myself. He might not have a bad season. He had a great year last year, I'll be the first to admit I had thought he was done before last season. He could impress with 25+ TDs and 3,500 yards this year. It certainly isn't out of the realm of possiblity. But when it is all said and done, he will be disappointing this year for a number of reasons. Favre is certainly an upgrade, and has hyped up the Jets' season chances, but he still doesn't make them a playoff team. He's also most likely a one and done scenario for the Jets. So they trade away their other "best" option in Pennington for a one time shot with Favre. I think Favre will play again next year, I just don't think it will be with the Jets. He never seemed to enthusiastic about it. So to sum up why he's a lousy addition: Favre comes in for one season, gets the fans excited, the team ends up trading their other QB, the Jets miss the playoffs, Favre somehow gets himself out of New York for the final year of his contract, and the Jets are up a creek without a paddle in 2009. See, this is why I should be a GM, I think ahead.

15. NFL Defensive Player of the Year: Patrick Willis. Willis might be the lone bright spot in an otherwise dark season for San Francisco. He led the NFL last year with 174 tackles. He should contend for that again. Another year in the NFL should also improve the mental part of his game, and eventually make him a leader on the field. He gets sideline to sideline as well as anyone in football, and can match up 1 on 1 against most tight ends or running backs.

16. Shaun Alexander will go quietly into the night. It is a little bit sad. For a back that had so many remarkable seasons as Alexander did. But I don't think he'll ever play in the NFL again. I get the impression that if he really wanted to play, he would have been in training camp with someone. Or, if someone really wanted him to play, they would have invited him. I think it comes down to this, he's a former MVP, looking for former MVP money, which no team will pay him. And he's lost his desire to play. As I said, if he really wanted to play, he'd suck it up, take a veteran minimum contract, and play himself into a job. As this hasn't been done, I find the chances that he plays again to be getting smaller by the day.

17. Ricky Williams will be the Dolphins leading rusher. From all signs in the pre-season, Ricky Williams is back in football shape. When he abruptly "retired" or "quit" before the start of the 2004 NFL season, most were shocked. I was angry myself, being that I was a proud Ricky Williams owner in a "keeper" fantasy football league. But I'm over it, seriously, I am. Williams was the best running back in football before his hiatus. I'm not saying he'll be back to that form, and he's also got some pretty stiff competition now, but he's going to turn some heads this season. Don't be surprised if he rushes for over 1,000 yards.

18. Dallas will not win the Super Bowl. Duh, I already told you the Patriots would. But let me give some lovin to Big 'D' fans and at least explain why the AFC will reign supreme again. The Cowboys are the best team in the NFC, hands down. That is like being the best team in the NL West right now (currently Arizona by the way, 3 games over .500, and 1.5 games up on the .500 Dodgers), it simply isn't good enough. They are good, don't get me wrong. Dallas will score more points this season than any team not named the Patriots. And their defense is solid at all three levels. But their coach is a moron, and they have TO. Of course TO was happy last year, I don't buy that again this year. Plus, even when he's happy, he still drops balls that make you cringe. I'd like to point out that Dallas is the lone NFC team ranked in my top 6 teams in the NFL right now. I know, most people would say top 5, but I'm not most people, and I'm using 6 teams, because I think the biggest gap is between the 6th best team, and the 7th best team. (1. Patriots, 2. Cowboys, 3. Chargers, 4. Jaguars, 5. Colts, 6. Steelers)

19. David Garrard will throw 20 TDs, single digit interceptions, and make a serious playoff run with Jacksonville. He really could be that good. He is a mistake free quarterback. Last year he was played like a quarterback that was out there trying not to lose. This year, he will be out there to win the games for the Jaguars, and win he will. He played in 12 games last year, and threw 3 interceptions. I expect that number to rise, but I also expect a rise from 18 TD passes and 2,509 yards. End result: a second round playoff exit, 3,000 passing yards, 21 TDs and 9 INTs.

20. The Bengals will wish they had traded Chad Ocho Cinco. Notice how I didn't put Ocho Cinco in quotation marks? That is because it is his real last name now. He is not Chad Johnson. He is legally Chad Ocho Cinco. See, even right there, I had to backspace and re-type that four different times. Because each time I either put quotation marks there, or tried to type "Johnson" instead. Thats how silly it is. I'm all for fun and games, but that is just rediculous. There was a point where I thought Chad was fun. The riverdance celebration was fun, as was the pylon putt, but there reaches a point where enough is enough. Now I realize all he cares about is himself. Sure he says he wants to play for a winner. He's not stupid, he says the right things. But we're talking about a guy who legally changed his last name to a nickname that he gave to himself. And the reason he gave himself the nickname was because he said it was "Spanish Heritage Month." It was actually Hispanic Heritage Month. And 85 in Spanish is not actually "ocho cinco," it is "ochenta y cinco." Great tribute.

21. At least half my predictions will be incorrect. I'm just saying. I'm not psychic. They're pretty good predictions. But if I get more than 75% of these right, I'm looking for a new job, and hopefully it will be six figures.

Monday, August 25, 2008

NFL Preview

So I watch a lot of sports. I would even be considered a "sport's nut" by most. I am not, however, psychic. If you read my MLB predictions, you'd see that the latter is definitely true. But thats what makes sports so great. You can be an expert, and you can be wrong, you can be the office secretary, and win your March Madness Pool.

Here is, yet another opportunity to show you that A) I probably watch sports too much, B) All that watching, translates to precisely squat when it comes time to predict the upcoming season. And while I generally start off with the division that my team is in, I'm going to throw a curve here, and not only not start with the East, but I'm going to go through the NFC first.

NFC WEST: Seattle Seahawks
This division is awful. Seattle should run away with it, and they better. This might be the last hurrah for an aging team. Matt Hasselbeck is as good a QB as you'll find outside of Brady and Manning (Peyton, obviously). As long as Holmgren can find it in himself to run the ball a little bit with the addition of Julius Jones, Seattle might have a pretty good offensive attack. JT O'Sullivan is starting for the 49ers this season, so there should be little competition from them, again. The Rams and Cardinals should both be better than they were last year, but neither has the defense to trump the Seahawks.

NFC SOUTH: New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay is a good team. New Orleans is a better team. The Saints are most certainly a better team than they were in 2007. Whatever was the cause of their abysmal start in 2007, I don't expect to bother them again. One of the major reasons that the Saints will beat the Bucs out for the division is Drew Brees. Brees is the big time QB John Gruden wishes he had. Colston and Moore should continue to improve, and the dual threat of McAllister and Bush in the backfield will give any defense fits. And if Jeremy Shockey can remain healthy this season, he might give the team that little extra fire it needs to get to the playoffs. Shockey amazes me, I'm not his biggest fan, but I've got to admit he is incredibly entertaining to watch. Gamers want the ball. Jeremy Shockey is a gamer. But he doesn't want the ball for the same reason everyone else does. Everyone else wants to score, wants to end up on ESPN, Shockey wants the ball so he can punish people. I have never seen someone punish another player the way he punishes other players while he is holding the football. So in the NFC South this year we'll see: the Saints win the division, the Bucs clinch a Wild Card berth, and Reggie Bush rush for over 100 yards in a single game this season. I swear, its going to happen this year. Reggie will make one of those highlight reel runs, where he makes someone miss, by making his own body twist in a way you don't think someone's body should be able to twist at such a high speed, and leap over the pylon on his way to a 100 yard rushing performance.

NFC NORTH: Detroit Lions
Thats right, I said it. I said the Detroit Lions are going to the NFL playoffs this season. Adrian Peterson should be a stud in Minnesota for years to come, but I'm not convinced that there's enough around him (specifically at the QB position), to produce a winner this season. Chicago? Rex Grossman is our quarterback. Rex Grossman is our quarterback. Rex Grossman is our quarterback. Kyle Orton is our quarterback. Uhh... at least they still have Urlacher. Donald Driver, Donald Lee, Ryan Grant and Greg Jennings should all help to ease any growing pains Aaron Rodgers might be about to go through, but replacing a veteran QB with a brand new starter is not usually a recipe for immediate success. If John Kitna, Roy Williams, and Calvin Johnson can all be on the field together this season, even the Monsters of the Midway won't be able to stop them. This is the year that Kitna should have predicted ten wins. And, if the Lions don't make the playoffs this year, and Matt Millen still has his job next year, I think I'm going to run for President in 2012. Hey, anything is possible right?

NFC EAST: Dallas Cowboys
This one is a no-brainer. Of the top five teams in the NFL, only one calls the NFC home, and they are the Dallas Cowboys. So it's only fitting that they make the playoffs. The 'Skins should provide some competition, as usual. Jason Campbell is maturing into an NFL quarterback quite nicely. The addition of Jason Taylor on defense should provide a little bit of fire to a unit that lost its heart and soul last year. But it won't be enough to knock off the 'Boys. There was a team that won the Super Bowl last year. And it was the New York Football Giants. They won't even make the playoffs this year.* Not without Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora and Kawika Mitchell. And trust me, they won't be sneaking up on anyone this year. And trust me again, Eli has matured, yes, he is a bona-fide NFL starter now, but he is not his brother, he cannot carry this team. The main competition in the NFC East for the Cowboys will come from Brian Westbrook and the Eagles. I already told you that the Detroit Lions are going to the playoffs this season, so I might as well back it up with another bold statement, Donovan McNabb will play 16 games this year, and he and Brian Westbrook will lead the Eagles back to the playoffs. Brian Westbrook is the most versatile player in football since Marshall Faulk was a part of the Greatest Show on Turf. With Westbrook turning in another 2000+ total yards, and 12-14 TD's, all McNabb needs to do is play, and the Eagles will march into the playoffs.

NFC WILD CARDS: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Philadelphia Eagles

AFC WEST: San Diego Chargers
This is the year... that the Chargers make the playoffs yet again. LT is amazing. Philip Rivers is not, and Shawne Merriman's season is currently in doubt. The Chargers are a good team, and they play in a bad division. No other team in the division should even come close, regardless of the status of Merriman. The end result should be another trip to the playoffs for the Chargers, and another disappointingly (if you're a sucker, and you actually think that the Chargers are that good) early exit from the playoffs.

AFC SOUTH: Indianapolis Colts
Listen, one of these years Peyton Manning will retire, and someone other than the Colts will win the AFC South, but I'm just not that crazy. As long as Peyton Manning is there, the Colts have a chance, and as long as Joseph Addai, Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark are there with him, the Colts will remain a Super Bowl threat. But mark my words, watch out for the Jacksonville Jaguars. They are one of the top 5 teams in football, and by a stroke of poor luck, they play in the same division as the Colts (also top 5), so they'll have to settle for a Wild Card spot. But Wild Card or not, the Jags will be a team that nobody wants to play in the playoffs. David Garrard is not electric, but he is safe, efficient, and surprisingly good. He might not catch your attention like Devin Hester, but he also won't catch your attention like Rex Grossman, if that makes any sense. I expect the Texans to take a step forward, the Titans to take a step back, and the Jags to play second fiddle in the AFC South to the Colts yet again.

AFC NORTH: Pittsburgh Steelers
Someone has to knock Big Ben and the Steelers off before I will believe that it can be done. The Steelers have one of the hardest schedules in football, but should be able to win enough games to hold off the Browns. Wait, did he just say hold off the Browns? Not the Bengals? Why yes, he did. And I have one word about the Bengals for you: Overrated. Yes, Carson Palmer threw 26 TD passes last year, but he also threw 20 interceptions. Take away the Week 2 air assault at Cleveland, and in the other 15 games he had 20 TD's, 18 INT's, and 3,730 passing yards. Hardly awe inspiring for a QB with such targets as Chad Johnson and TJ Houshmandzadeh. Oh, and they just brought Chris Henry back. After releasing the troubled receiver, and possibly taking a step in the right direction, they just took another step back. The real competition will come from the Cleveland Browns. I look for Derek Anderson, Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards to continue on their spectacular 2007 season and clinch a Wild Card berth this season.

AFC EAST: New England Patriots
Talk about saving the best for last. As if there was any doubt, the New England Patriots will run away with the division. For those of you that say that Brett Favre will put the Jets into the playoffs, I want you to go get checked out... mentally... no seriously... do it. This will be a one horse race from Week 1. The only questions that remain, how many TD's will Brady throw to Moss? And can they please lose a game other than the Super Bowl this year. And if the offense wasn't enough, the Patriots have the best collection of defensive linemen in the NFL in Seymour, Wilfork, Green and Warren. Adalius Thomas should improve with one season in the Pat's system under his belt. And how would you like to go over the middle? Would you rather have John Lynch, or Rodney Harrison line you up? The Patriots are the best team in football, period. They will march to the playoffs, march through the playoffs, and win the Super Bowl that they should have won last year.

AFC WILD CARDS: Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars

Wild Card Weekend:
Chargers over Browns
Jags over Steelers

Buccaneers over Lions
Eagles over Seahawks

Divisional Weekend:
Colts over Chargers
Patriots over Jags

Saints over Buccaneers
Cowboys over Eagles

Championship Weekend:
Patriots over Colts
Cowboys over Saints

Super Bowl Champions:
New England Patriots

There you have it. No holds barred. Some crazy predictions, some obvious predictions. And the fourth Super Bowl Victory in seven seasons for the New England Patriots.

* I'm not a hater. I'm not. It's been a while since the Patriots lost the Super Bowl to the New York Football Giants. I'm over it. I feel that I can rationally speak about what happened that night at this point. When I say that the Giants won't make the playoffs this year, I speak only the truth. I don't hate them because they beat the Patriots last year, I simply hate them because they're the Giants, always have, always will.

Man that Super Bowl sucked. Brady played like garbage. The Giants defense played the game of their lives. David Tyree made one of the sickest catches I've ever seen, after Eli Manning somehow got the ball off to him, instead of being brought down by any of the three Patriots defenders that were all trying to pick his pocket, but apparently not bring him to the turf.

But honestly, it wasn't until that final play that I was convinced the Giants were going to pull it off. Had there been a bit more air under the third and long ball from Brady to Moss, Randy would have been off to the races, and everyone, not just me, would be talking about the greatest team they had ever seen.

The 2007 New England Patriots were the best team I have ever seen play football in my life. I got to witness a game in person, and let me say, Randy Moss is really something else. They played good team defense, and they scored at will, until the Super Bowl. I know they went 18-1, and the one loss was obviously the biggest one, but there is no comparison. The Giants' defense played the best game they had ever played as a unit that night. And the Patriots didn't. Simply put, the Giants were the best team on the field that night. But play that game 100 times over, and the Patriots win 99.

I am not taking anything away from the Giants. They had a remarkable run through the playoffs. They proved all the doubters wrong, time after time. And one last time, on Super Bowl Sunday (actually, they didn't prove Merril Hoge wrong, because he was smart enough to pick the Giants to win in the first place. See what I did there? That 'smart' in italics means I'm being sarcastic, and Hoge is anything but).

Anyways. I'm not bitter. I'm not a hater because the Patriots lost last year. But to all of you that thought it was funny that New England lost, watch out. To all of you who became insta-Giant fans that night, watch out. To anyone that thinks that was the beginning of the end for the Patriots Dynasty, you ain't seen nothin yet. To all of you who are haters because you're jealous, we'll see you in Tampa February 1st.