Wednesday, August 09, 2006

2006 NFL predictions





1) Patriots – Mainly be default, I’m not expecting Chad Jackson to carry them of the deal Branch. They are not a real contender anymore, contenders don’t sign retired linebackers. Watch out if Brady gets caught up in Barry Bond’s steroid trial.

1) Cowboys – This is the hardest division to pick, and the pokes are no lock over New York and Philly, but they were 9-7 last year and adding Terrell Owens should be enough to give you a division crown (and Vanderjagt will give them one more win at some point too). Don’t believe the media hype, Parcells dealt the LT and Meshawn, he can live with TO because they both want to win and will work for it. Owens may be a headcase, and showing some age, but Drew Bledsoe can get it deep to him (on target is another issue) and they have plenty of other weapons in Justin Witten, Terry Glenn, and the Julius Jones/Marion Barber double-headed backfield. They also tinkered with the OL. On defense they have some bodies on the line, DeMarcus Ware has a year experience and they added Bobby Carpenter and linebacker, and the secondary has some depth but don’t believe the hype about Roy Williams. Yes he is a big hitter, but he is very beatable in coverage. Actually watch him sometime rather than just ESPN highlights and you’ll see he is no Pro-Bowler.

2) Dolphins – while they ended hot with six wins, four were over the murder’s row of the Jets, Bills, Raiders, and Titans. Another win was over the Pats backups in Week 17 (and only by 2 points). I’m not sold. Sure lots of teams have built on a string of wins at the end of the season, but more haven’t (Bills with Bledsoe, several Bungles teams of the 90s, etc). The defense is a year older – and Jason Taylor is divorcing Zach Thomas’s sister. The offense added Culpepper, who looked lost without Moss (who you would never confuse Chambers for) – the Vikings went on a tear once he went down. And Dante has always been a turnover risk. And they don’t have Ricky to spell Ronnie Brown, who might not be a big enough back to be carrying the rock 25 times for 16 games. They have two new coordinators too (so Culpepper is learning a new system as well as rehabbing). I don’t want to kill them, they might get as many as ten wins and make the playoffs, but they will still be looking up at New England.

2) Eagles – I bet you are surprised, but this is the same core of guys who went to three championship games without the Diva. Yes their WRs are awful (trading for Stallworth doesn’t change that - he’s one dimensional a deep threat with hamstring issues), but they always have been. Look at their starters everywhere else and you are seeing a talented team. McNabb, Westbrook, L.J. Smith, good OL, added Darren Howard (a possible Hall of Famer had he spent his whole career in a bigger market) and Bunkley to the DL to go with Kearse, Patteson, Cole Walker, and Rayburn, that’s quite a rotation for a DL in the salary cap age, still have Trotter, and a starting four in the secondary of Sheppard, Brown, Lewis, and Dawkins – the best safety in the game – and lots of depth. You are telling me this batch can’t win ten games? Hell the have David Akers too. The only way they are home come January is if Reid calls 60 pass plays a game…again.

3) Jets – They will be rebuilding for a few years: Barlow is no Curtis Martin, they only have one WR or TE worth anything and Coles is a possession guy at this point in his career, the OL is young (or untalented depending on who they start), and they traded best defender to Atlanta in John Abraham. However if Pennington somehow recovers they may not be terrible (if not they are picking in the top 5 in April), and will have a step up on their rebuilding project.

3) Giants – I’m worried about putting New York down there, but one of these three has to be third and being shut out in a home playoff game makes you a candidate. Eli really took a step back in December (4 TDs to 7 Ints – although they did go 4-1, of course none of the 4 made the postseason). Barber is over 30 and they don’t have a legit backup. Burress disappeared down the stretch. Strahan is 34 and going through and ugly divorce, and Coughlin’s act is always a risk to wear thin suddenly (guys will hold their tongues while you win, but on a losing streak they will blame it on hard practices). Yes they added Arrington, but no one was beating down the door to get him – he has never truly been a star. And while they blew up the secondary I’m not sure it is better, just older – Sam Madison!?

4) Bills – On the whole they have more talent than the Jets with Maghee and pretty good defense. However that defense isn’t good enough to carry them to the postseason. Their only WR is a Lee Evans who is a #2 deep threat, not a #1, their OL sucks, and their QB will either be Kelly Holcombe – an okay journeyman backup who can get a hot hand, but should not be a starter (ask Cleveland), NFLEurope allstar Craig Nall, or probably J.P. Losman who I am more than willing to already call a bust. When the Jets lost Martin for the season I considered moving Buffalo up to third, but Pennington has looked good in the preseason and none of the Bills QBs have, plus Dick Jauron is a known stiff.

4) Washington – I had them fourth last year and they made it to the second round of the playoffs (barely), but I’m not afraid to pan them again. Brunell somehow managed to last the season last year, it won’t happen again. He tailed off as the season went to its second half anyway. The exact same could be said of Santana Moss. We’ll see what Portis can do on his own (unless Antwaan Randle El is much better than I expect), at least the OL is good. They added Adam Archuleta (see Roy Williams) and Andre Carter to the defense while losing LaVar Arrington – that is a lateral move at best. I will give credit to defensive coordinator Greg Williams, he can probably make it work, it is scoring points I’d be worried about. For what it is worth they are the best 4th place team in the league – tough division, they might contend if they were in the North.



1) Steelers – They are not going to repeat: they got hot at the right time last year, but were not dominant (of course that is what I said about the Pats five years ago). The running game will take a step back but their passing game will be a little better with Heath Miller no longer a rookie and Big Ben with a second season under his belt. All the “Cowher is retiring” speculation won’t help either.

1) Lions – Am I serious about this? Sure, there is always some team the catches everyone by surprise. Kevin Jones and Roy Williams are possible budding stars, they have the defense. Mike Martz was an awful head coach because he could not manage a game, not because he could not draw up plays. Marinelli is supposedly a no nonsense coach who won’t let Martz pass 60 times a game. Kitna is not a long term answer (let alone Josh “Thank you Jesus” McNown), but an average veteran can occasionally have Pro-Bowl year. Just ask Mark Rypien. That said anyone other than the Packers might end up with the title.

2) Bungles – I thought Carson Palmer would be a big bust when he came out, but the numbers he put up last season were impressive. I’m still not convinced he will be a great NFL quarterback, but coming around. He’s got a great surrounding cast (Rudi Johnson never gets enough credit) but I’m not picking them win because the defense is still weak to the run (Sam Adams is getting up there and they have no one else) and they had about a quarter of the team get busted this offseason (and answering questions about that is making Marvin testy – especially since they keep adding guys with records to the defense). I’m not worried about Palmer’s knee, the guy is a drop-back passer (why does no one in the media commenting on this? He had 41 yards rushing in 16 games last year), it is no bigger deal than if I blew my knee out.

2) Bears – I’m not picking them to repeat for no good reason other than the Bears traditionally have one good year and then fall back. Head coach Lovie Smith did not get a contract extension – what does that tell you about the faith of the front office in this squad? Defense is still good (although the secondary is vulnerable as they found in the playoffs last year). And offense should have a more dynamic QB than Kyle Orton this year. Grossman really did lift that team when he came back. Alas neither he nor Griese are first tier starters – yet somehow they have a QB controversy that will fester.

3) Ravens – If McNair can start 14-16 games they are a playoff team, maybe even win the division. However you will notice I have them listed third, so you can guess what I think about his chances of staying health (old and shady OL is not a good mix). Ten starts by Kyle Boller should be enough to get Billick the firing he has deserved for a while. It will finally become apparent to everyone that Ray Lewis has been on a downslide for years. Jamal has also lost a step.

3) Vikings – Chester Taylor is not a starter in the NFL, Brad Johnson probably isn’t anymore and has always been fragile, they don’t have a clear #1 receiver (even Koren Robinson never might have been), and their new head coach keeps mouthing off in the press (if you cut Dante you can stop talking about him). All that said the OL is very good (better be with a $49 million guard) and ironically now that they have killed the offense by dumping Culpepper and Moss the defense is pretty solid. The Dwight Smith signing was a bigger pickup than you might realize.

4) Browns – The rest of the league will have had a whole summer to study Charlie Frye and I bet he takes a step back. Hot rookie QBs frequently do their sophomore seasons - however I do thing he might work long term. He will need more talent around than he has right now (Edwards may rebound, but Winslow?), especially on defense (digging up Ted Washington’s dead body? Man, that is cold). Too bad about Bentley.

4) Packers – Favre came back for this? They will be one of the worst teams in the league. He will be playing behind an awful offensive line, with a bunch retread or unproven runningbacks (all coming off injury), and one (and only one) talented receiver in Donald Driver. With a defense that can’t stop anyone and suspect first time head coach it will be a long season.



1) Colts – No brainer, who else will challenge? They will miss James. Despite what everyone says James’s success was neither all him or all the rest of the team, but a mix.

1) Panthers – I sure pegged them last year and they are only better. DeAnglo Williams is the best rookie RB, Meshawn can be a good #2 WR (provided his ego will let him), Kris Jenkins is back, and free agent Maake Kemoeatu will stuff the run right next to him. If they can stay healthy they will be a force.

2) Jaguars – Great defense, but the offense just lacks the umph to scare anyone. Leftwich is still young, but he needs to be consistent. At least early in the season they will miss Jimmie Smith. The RB situation is a mess. I would ride Fragile Fred for the 6-8 games he will stay healthy at the start of the season and hopefully by the time his hammy snaps someone else will be ready to step up (…but not Greg Jones).

2) Buccaneers – Last year they drafted Cadillac Williams found Joey Galloway and Chris Simms. Galloway is probably going to revert to his often injured form, if he does hopefully Michael Clayton will rebound from his injury ridden sophomore campaign to show the Pro-Bowl form of his rookie year to still give the Bucs a set of triplets. Gruden is no dummy and the defense is still solid despite most of the famous faces of years past having departed. Simms is the potential weak link, he looked solid last year, but had a bad habit of flopping big games at UT.

3) Titans – As I said last year (correctly), there is more talent here than you realize. I don’t predict much as I expect they will force Vince out onto the field early so he can demonstrate he is a bust as soon as possible. Emergency signing of Kerry Collins is probably not good news.

3) Falcons – They do have some talent, probably the best pass rushing DL in the league now that they added Abraham to Kearny and Coleman. With Milloy and another DB they drafted early bolstering the secondary too, the defense will be okay. Unfortunately they did not do much with the offense. Vick has never developed into a quality QB and the best receiver remains Alge Crumpler unless one of the youngster first-rounders develops in a hurry (my money is Roddy White will before Michael Jenkins). They made a move for Ashley Lelie. He is far from a true #1 (may not even start), but is a help. The real issue remains the Vick needs to figure it out – he may be sent packing for Matt Schaub (who!?!) next year if he doesn’t.

4) Texans – They should have drafted Reggie Bush. I know in the draft I said it was not a huge mistake, but now Davis is hurt. With Bush, Carr, Andre Johnson, and Eric Moulds, they would have been able to score enough to make some noise. That defense won’t carry them. Carr isn’t that bad, they might finish above Tennessee.

4) Saints – If Brees’s arm recovers and Bush lives up the hype New Orleans might make some noise, they have the offensive line. However they won’t go far: I suspect Horn is past his prime and they traded Stallworth - who will replace him!? He wasn’t much, but can you name another WR on this team?. The defense leaves a lot to be desired, the DL is functional, but the secondary is weak and linebackers awful (as they have been for years – why haven’t they tried to upgrade?). I don’t know what I think of rookie coach Sean Payton, but I know he has some rebuilding to do.



1) Broncos – It is possible the fragily-psyched Jake Plummer will crap the bed now that they drafted Jay Cutler, but they won last year with the same bunch and the rest of the division got worse. Javon Walker was a major pickup.

1) Rams – I’m not just nailing the Seahawks because Super Bowl losers have been tanking lately. Linehan is a good coach, at least as an offensive coordinator. And there is plently of talent – Marc Bulger Steven Jackson, Tory Holt, Kevin Curtis, Isaac Bruce, and a solid offensive line. With a coach who knows how to call timeouts they might catch a lot of people by surprise and have enough talent spread out on defense (Little, Glover might have some left, Coakley, Tinoisamoa, Witherspoon, and Chavous) and a solid new coordinator in Haslett to win 11-12 games.

2) Chiefs – Kansas City lost both of their starting tackles. Can Larry Johnson for 16 games and not get hurt? Probably not, but they better hope so as the offense is not much more. Their only addition is Ty Law, who is an upgrade, but no longer a Pro-Bowler. Herm is a good coach, but this team needs a makeover (for the ladies: I mean they need some different players, not that they should change their uniforms) – starting with getting some young receivers.

2) Seahawks – Maybe they deserved to win the Super Bowl if the refs hadn’t screwed up (and maybe not), but they were hardly a team for the ages. However they are better on paper than last year adding Julian Peterson, who will return to All-Star form now that he is two years removed from blowing out his achilles (and left the 49ers), and a good #2 WR in Nate Burleson. Losing Hutchinson will hurt, but not kill this team. So why am I having them lose out to the Rams? They took the league by surprise and stayed healthy all last year which won’t happen twice and their depth is not great.

3) Chargers – With Brees they are a playoff team, but unless Rivers surprises I see a .500 team this year. Might cost Marty his job, which is too bad because you can talk about a 5-12 playoff record all you want, but that still means he makes the playoffs all the time, and he was just one fumble away from a Super Bowl.

3) Cardinals – Edge will make this team better, but he won’t be as good as he was (see my Colts comment): 1,100-1,200 yards and 7-8 TDs. However they still have a poor OL protecting a fragile (and hardly all-pro anymore) QB in Kurt Warner (Lienart may be “NFL ready” but he is still a rookie). The defense has some talent now – not guys you’ve probably heard of, but if they mesh they could be above average (not much above average, but you build slowly). I still think highly of Dennis Green.

4) Raiders – Replacing Kerry Collins with Aaron Brooks is like replacing Aaron Brooks with Kerry Collins. [UPDATE: or maybe not, they just signed Jeff George. How desperate do you have to be?] Can Moss stay healthy? Doesn’t matter, especially if Jerry Porter walks. They added Micheal Huff to the secondary (you probably remember him as that #7 guy for Texas kicking the crap out of Reggie Bush in the Rose Bowl) he’s fast and talented – too bad no one else on that defense is.

4) 49ers – I think UF has a real chance to win the SEC this year. Let’s go Gators!! Chomp! Chomp! Ugh, okay I won’t try to rant too much about my boys the way I did last year. Amazingly year two in a rebuilding process not only haven’t they gotten any better, they’ve actually managed to get worse. Lost their only star in Julian Peterson (and Andre Carter, but I don’t care, never saw a less effect DE with 10 sacks – the only ten times he got pressure all year). Traded away Barlow when the only other back on the roster is Mr. Hurt Frank Gore. They added Larry Allen who has a year left, two tops. So he will be done by the time San Fran is ready to do anything – brilliant. Not as though they don’t already have a slew of young linemen who need experience (they also let another one walk last year). Other free agent additions include ten year veteran CB Walt Harris who never even was a great player (ask Chicago, Indy, and Washington) and the guy who threw a jersey at Bill Parcells (although Bryant does have some talent, not #1 talent, but some talent nonetheless). Maybe a really fast, but raw, rookie tight end can solve all their problems. Maybe they will have a top ten pick for the third year in a row.



Wildcard Teams

Wildcard Teams



Chiefs (LJ is pretty damn good). Thought a lot about the Bungles, but teams with weak defenses and lots of hotheads don’t usually come together that well.

Seahawks (might be Bucs or Bears, or even Gaints, but whoever it is they are one and done).

Wildcard Winners

Wildcard Winners





Divisional Winners

Divisional Winners

Chiefs (has to be an upset somewhere)




AFC Champ

NFC Champ


Panthers (Carolina-Philly will be the best game of the year)

Super Bowl winner: Panthers – I picked them last year (over the Chiefs) and they came within one game despite a myriad of injuries. It would be nice to see Delhomme get recognized as one of the best QBs in the league. There is no way Jake the Snake can hold it together long enough to win ring.


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