Saturday, August 09, 2003

There's not much reason to believe, this year, that the NFL season won't look almost exactly like last year's. In the previous seasons where the nobodies came out of nowhere to win the Super Bowl, those teams had either drafted an impact player or found some guy on the bench who was packing groceries just a few months before. All I'm hearing about the first few draft picks of this season, like Carson Palmer, is that they'll be sitting on the bench, learning from the real starters. The interesting teams look to be the Broncos, with newly-acquired Jake Plummer, who is out of Arizona's hell, and the Cowboys, who have the best coach in football ever, my favorite, Bill Parcells.

The question is whether Parcells makes the Cowboys better than the Giants or Eagles, and he may very well, because both of those teams were exposed in their playoff runs. I'm going to predict the NFC EAST as follows:

1. PHILLY (the good defense and McNabb)
2. DALLAS (Parcells)
3. NY GIANTS (too tentative a team to make a splash)
4. WASHINGTON (too many teams to topple in this division)

The NFC NORTH was easily predictable in that we all knew the Packers would run away with the division. And we all knew who would finish last. But we didn't figure out that the Bears and Vikings would be vying for last place as well. I think the Vikings show some spirit and so do the Lions, and the Bears may get a little jolt with Kordell Stewart, but this is still all Packers.

1. GREEN BAY (Favre can make anyone look good)
2. CHICAGO (Have all their guys back, and Kordell is better than all other QB's they've had)
3. DETROIT (Because something has to give, and they have a better defense this year)
4. MINNESOTA (Nothing new to be excited about)

The NFC SOUTH is definitely a tough, exciting division in football. As Jonathan says in his e-mail, why pick against the Bucs here, especially since there's not much of a change and they were so dominating in the playoffs? The Falcons definitely got better as they acquired Peerless Price, can Vick get him the ball? The Saints are the Dolphins of the NFC, always starting well and then letting up, which can't figure into a good season this year. And the Panthers are still not quite ready to be contenders here.

1. TAMPA BAY (Awesome defense and a respectable offense)
2. ATLANTA (Bombs away with this offense, can defense hold up?)
3. NEW ORLEANS (Slow finisher syndrome)
4. CAROLINA (May take a shot at 3rd)

One of the most anything-can-happen divisions will be the NFC WEST, with San Francisco playing in life without Mariucci, the Rams healthy, Seattle playing out of its ass towards the end of the year, and Arizona! Don't forget about Arizona! I see the Rams coming out of this one, although collectively they are the Ken Griffey, Jr. of the NFL. It will be a tough division, though, with many teams beating each other once apiece.

1. ST. LOUIS (Reloaded)
2. SAN FRANCISCO (Still a great offense with no defense)
3. SEATTLE (will battle for Wild Card with San Fran)
4. ARIZONA (Emmitt Smith is the a trivia question about all-time running backs)

The AFC EAST will get my on-a-limb pick, but is it truly on-a-limb when practically all of these teams could be picked to win? I'm going with the Bills here, since I don't think the Jets or Dolphins did much to improve and the Patriots, although they did have the amazing Super Bowl run 2 years ago, where's the accounting for the poor finish last year?

1. BUFFALO (Were on the cusp last year, now better)
2. NY JETS (A slightler better defense, but does a slightly better one count in this division?)
3. MIAMI (Another bad finish)
4. NEW ENGLAND (Too much firepower to overcome in here)

The AFC NORTH, yes, looks unchanged except I think the Ravens got a little better offensively. They've got Jamal Lewis back plus the Bears former prize Marcus Robinson. The Steelers will have to contend with them in the division, and the Browns are always looking poised to strike at any moment but they didn't change much. And once again the Bengals must play in a division where everyone is better than them.

1. PITTSBURGH (still solid, but where did that Super Bowl motivation take them last year?)
2. BALTIMORE (a much better team than the 7-9 a year ago)
3. CLEVELAND (stagnance does not pay)
4. CINCY (wait till next year?)

Once again, the AFC SOUTH should have an easy predictability, although this division contains some wishful-thinkers. It all depends on what these teams improved and can they stay away from injury. With Tennessee, their defense and special teams are atrocious. They not only allowed Pittsburgh back into the playoff game a year ago, but they also allowed the Raiders to move as if no other team was on the field at all. Indy should be improved IF Edgerrin James is back. Jacksonville once again could be a sleeper IF Fred Taylor can get through one season. Just one season. Houston will once again be plagued by offensive line problems, and not even a fair talent as Stacey Mack can make a difference with that combination.

1. TENNESSEE (I love the offense, but the defense must show something)
2. INDY (If the offense is all there, then they'll be contenders, but they're just like Tenn.)
3. JACKSONVILLE (Could be great if Taylor is back)
4. HOUSTON (Still too early for them)

Finally we get to the AFC WEST and the answer to the question, "What the fuck are you talking about, Chris, you know, about Jake Plummer?" Well, I believe certain QB's cannot function in desolate, dreary places such as Arizona, whether you have David Boston or not. The offense has always been Denver's strength, and I believe Shanahan when he says Griese was a loafer--if you think back, he was the guy who championed Elway while then-coach Dan Reeves tried to get rid of both of them, before HE got fired and then Denver's path was paved. You know you get a great offensive line here, good running back, good receivers. He's going to be a star here. Bank on it. And I think the Raiders, with all the good they did last year got terribly exposed by the Bucs in the Super Bowl, plus again, they are older. KC could also be a surprise. But Denver follows that path of teams who should have been good last year who are probably going to follow suit the next year.

1. DENVER (I like them...a lot)
2. OAKLAND (Still a powerful team)
3. KC (That defense is still not good enough in this division)
4. SAN DIEGO (Like Boston being there, but how does he help them win the division?)

OK, unfortunately I can't pick 2-3 teams from the AFC WEST to go in the playoffs because they will be beating each other up. In the AFC EAST I pick BUFFALO and the NY JETS, in the AFC NORTH I like PITTSBURGH and BALTIMORE, which leaves my division winners TENNESSEE and DENVER to round out the playoffs. And I believe TENNESSEE and BUFFALO get the 1st round byes. Pittsburgh will play the Jets, Baltimore plays Denver.




In the NFC I see Tampa and Green Bay with the 1st round byes. I see Philly, Dallas, and the Giants making it to the playoffs which leaves division winner St. Louis as the remaining playoff contender.


TAMPA over PHILLY (they always play each other don't they?)

TAMPA over ST. LOUIS (another rematch!)



The team which last won two Super Bowls plays a team hoping to repeat the feat. I think Tampa is way too strong right now to pick against and so I have them repeating as champs. TAMPA 24 DENVER 13

Well, I at least hope my picks have been interesting. I think my ballsy picks are in the playoffs, but I still wimp out and pick Tampa. But why not? They seem to be the only dominant team here.


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