Reid Fischer's World of Rants

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Posts Tagged ‘Jacksonville Jaguars’

Week 1 Loss Doesn’t Mean Disaster

Posted by mizzou1028 on September 13, 2010

First of all, let’s get the Tebow garbage out of the way.  He had 2 carries for 2 yards.  He was a complete non-factor.  He is not the story of this game, contrary to seemingly every other recap of this game that I have read.  I realize he was back in Florida, but come on people, let’s talk about the folks that actually were a factor in this game.

-For whatever reason, David Garrard always has great games against the Broncos.  He tied a career high with three touchdown passes and completed 76 percent of his throws.  He didn’t make a single mistake during the contest.  Naturally this was because I benched him in my fantasy keeper league this week.  The Broncos pass defense for whatever reason couldn’t contain Garrard or get much pressure on him.

– On the flip side the Broncos’ run defense actually did a decent job against Maurice Jones-Drew, who rushed for 98 yards but needed 23 carries to get it.  The Broncos also stuffed him on a big 4th and 1 play in the third quarter.

– Offensively the Broncos showed a lot of positive flashes.  Kyle Orton threw for 295 yards and a touchdown.  There was an Eddie Royal sighting with 8 catches, which means he has already achieved more than 20 percent of his reception total from last year.  Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney and Daniel Graham all came through with big receptions.  Unfortunately for the Broncos Orton threw an interception at the worst time in the final minute, but other than that play the passing game looked solid for the most part.

– The running game still needs some improvement.  Knowshon Moreno actually played fairly well considering he missed the entire preseason with a hamstring injury, rushing for 60 yards on 15 carries with a touchdown.  Correll Buckhalter however only finished with 15 yards and had a costly lost fumble that ended a drive where the Broncos had controlled the ball for more than eight minutes.  I will acknowledge that some patience is needed with two rookies (J.D Walton and Zane Beadles) starting in the middle of the offensive line.  The bottom line though is the Broncos must run the football with more consistency if they want any opportunity to win in this league.

Overall I thought the Broncos actually showed well on the road with the exception of the final score.  Of course the turnovers need to be cleaned up and so do the penalties (the Broncos had seven of them for 70 yards, including two personal foul penalties on Jacksonville’s go ahead touchdown drive).  It remains to be seen how good the Jaguars will be this season, but it looks as though the Broncos may not be the last team that David Garrard has a good game against this year.  Give the Jaguars some credit, they made some defensive plays when they had to (Aaron Kampman’s sack of Orton on Denver’s first drive was very critical, knocking Denver out of scoring range), and they also were able to move the football effectively.  In many ways this can be looked at as a game the Jaguars won as much as or more than a game the Broncos lost.

I think ultimately this is a game Denver could have won, but a week one loss does not necessarily mean disaster.  It does mean the Broncos have less margin for error next week when they host Seattle, but it’s not like a 1-0 start has done them much good in recent years.  I think this has the look of a team that has potential to improve as they progress through the season, especially with so much youth along the offensive line.  The Broncos have some talent in place, and I’m certainly not ready to give up on them after one game. They certainly didn’t embarrass themselves the way the CU Buffs did in California, and I think there is something this team can build on.  Are they a playoff team?  Probably not right now, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be in the race by the end of the season.

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AFC South Preview

Posted by mizzou1028 on September 2, 2009

This division offers my biggest shocker (there is always at least one).  Teams listed in order of finish.

1. Houston Texans – The Texans have not exactly experienced success since their inception in 2002.  Frankly they have not even been close to being a playoff team.  However,  I think things are about to really turn around for this team.  Last season they finished .500 for the first time, winning five of their final six games in the process, including wins over Tennessee (the AFC South champ and top playoff seed), Green Bay (at Lambeau) and Chicago in the finale, knocking the Bears out of the playoffs.  Granted, the Texans started out 0-4 and had some stumbles along the way, but this appears to be a team ready to break out.

Houston’s offense has very quietly become one of the scariest units in the league.  I would say the offense was already playoff quality at the end of the season, and is only bound to be better this year.  Quarterback Matt Schaub is very underrated as a game manager, and he has shown continual improvement.  Schaub is no slouch either when it comes to arm strength, and it doesn’t hurt that he has some terrific receivers to help him stretch the field.  Schaub’s biggest issue has been an ability to stay healthy, but when he’s been in there he has posted very good numbers.  That concern was not eased for Texans fans this week when Schaub hurt his ankle against the Vikings.  Schaub says there is nothing to worry about for the opener, but his health is key for success in Houston.  If he is healthy, I am predicting a Pro Bowl year for Schaub, because I think he is very good and so is the talent around him.  Wide receiver Andre Johnson is a no doubt top 3 wide receiver in the league.  Johnson led the league with 115 catches last year and a lot of them were of the spectacular variety.  Paired with the quietly successful Kevin Walter on the other side, the Texans have a pair of 6-3 targets for Schaub to throw to.  Factor in third receiver Andre Davis, as well as David Anderson, and Houston has depth at the position.  Tight end Owen Daniels is also coming off a Pro Bowl appearance, and he has great ability as a receiver as well as a blocker in the running game.  Speaking of which, the Texans really found a gem at running back last year in Steve Slaton.  All Slaton did in his rookie season was post over 1,600 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns.  He can run, catch, block, you name it.  Ryan Moats and Chris Brown will be called upon to keep Slaton fresh during the season.  Houston’s offensive line is young, but the players seem to be adapting well to the zone blocking scheme installed by Alex Gibbs, a system that Denver has used like clockwork for the past 15 years.  The key is keeping Schaub healthy, but if he is the Texans offense will put up monster numbers all year.

The defense has continued to get better in recent seasons, and the Texans hope that the final pieces are now in place.  Houston bolstered the defensive line with the additions of end Antonio Smith from Arizona, and tackle Shaun Cody from the Lions.  They will join an already capable group of tackles in Travis Johnson and Amobi Okoye.  The idea is to rotate linemen and keep them fresh, and Houston now has the depth to be able to do that.  Oh, and the Texans also have Mario Williams lining up at the other defensive end.  Coach Gary Kubiak and his staff were roundly criticized in 2006 when they passed on Reggie Bush with the first pick in the draft to take Williams.  Williams has proven the critics wrong by collecting 26 sacks over the past two seasons.  With the new additions along the line, it is scary to think that Williams might actually have more sack chances coming his way.  The linebackers are also very good, led by DeMeco Ryans, who also came in 2006.  Ryans is the leader of the defense.  He plays hurt, and isn’t afraid to take on any blocker or go to any lengths to make a tackle.  The Texans hope the additions of Cato June from the Colts as well as first round pick Brian Cushing of USC will round out the linebacking core.  The Texans secondary was inconsistent last year, but they hope an improved pass rush will lead to better results back there.  Dunta Robinson is the team’s best cornerback, with the rest of the group being young and inexperienced.

Kicker Kris Brown has been a Texan since the team’s inception in 2002, and he is still accurate as ever.  Punter Matt Turk had a subpar year last year, and he’ll need to get more oomph on his punts to keep the job.  Andre Davis was not near as good on returns last year as he was two years ago, but he’ll get another crack, along with Jacoby Jones.

The Texans appeared to finally get close to turning the corner last season, rallying at the end to finish .500.  They do play in a difficult divison, but they also get a friendly schedule in which they don’t have to see AFC powers Pittsburgh or San Diego.  I think this is a year the Texans turn the corner and make their first ever playoff appearance.

5932. Indianapolis Colts – The Colts have a surprising amount of changes this year for a team that had been the definition of stability for the past decade.  Head coach Tony Dungy is retired, replaced by Jim Caldwell.  There is also a new defensive coordinator, Larry Coyer, who has been with numerous teams with little success.  Also gone is franchise staple Marvin Harrison, who is not officially retired but has yet to latch on with a team.  The Colts still have much of the same from past years and the usual very high expectations.  Last year they went 12-4, winning nine straight to close out the regular season, only to finish second in the division.  Worse, they lost in the first round of the playoffs to 8-8 San Diego.  That left a bitter taste in the mouth of the Colts, and they are hungry.

The offense is still excellent.  Peyton Manning’s credentials obviously speak for themselves, as long as he is under center, the Colts will automatically have a good offense.  Manning’s numbers did dip slightly last year after he had surgery in the offseason prior, but he started to find his groove again toward the end of the year, and still managed to win yet another MVP award, the third of his career, tying Brett Favre for most all-time.  I would expect Manning’s numbers to be better than last, and that could be bad news for opponents.  Despite the loss of Harrison, the Colts still have an outstanding receiving core highlighted by Reggie Wayne, who actually outperformed Harrison the past couple seasons, and Anthony Gonzalez, who is entering his third year and has shown that he is more than ready to step in and be a reliable target for Manning.  Tight end Dallas Clark is also one of the top receiving tight ends in the league, so Manning will not have any shortage of targets.  The running game took a big dip last year, finishing a surprising second to last in the league.  Joseph Addai did not look anywhere near the back who starred as a rookie in 2006.  Addai only hit 100 yards once last year, hence the first round selection of Donald Brown out of Connecticut.  This has very much the look of an open competition, and the Colts hope that one of the two will emerge and give the team a reliable ground threat again.  The offensive line isn’t expected to be much of an issue, although its strength has always been pass protecting as opposed to run blocking.  Center Jeff Saturday is still very solid, but there could be a question mark at left tackle, where Tony Ugoh is still a work in progress.

Defense has never been a staple in Indianapolis, but it hasn’t been much of an issue because the offense has been so explosive.  The Colts do have an outstanding tandem of pass rushing ends in Dwight Freeney (10.5 sacks last year) and Robert Mathis (11.5 sacks).  The Colts also addressed the line in the draft with their second round pick, defensive tackle Fili Moala of USC.  The Colts hope that he and Ed Johnson will be able to tie up blockers, allowing for more sack opportunities for Freeney and Mathis.  The linebacking core is very average, with Gary Brackett being the best of the group.  The secondary features one of the best hard hitting safeties in Bob Sanders, who is outstanding in stuffing the run.  The corners are inexperienced, but the Colts have high hopes for Kelvin Hayden and Marlin Jackson.

Kicker Adam Vinatieri might be a future Hall of Famer, so the Colts are set there.  The punter will be rookie Pat McAfee, who had a good career as a punter and kicker at West Virginia.  The Colts still don’t really have anyone set to return kicks and punts, with Chad Simpson and Pierre Garcon as possibilities.  Needless to say the return game is a big unknown for the Colts.

I still think Indianapolis is a playoff team mainly because of Manning, but they seem to be heading down, not up.  Still, this is a dangerous team always, and they will be a factor.

3. Tennessee Titans – Last year the Titans were a big surprise, racing out to a 10-0 start, finishing 13-3 and landing the top seed in the AFC.  However, they suffered a home defeat to Baltimore in their first playoff game that left a bitter taste in their mouth.  The organization also had a very rough offseason with the shooting death of legendary quarterback Steve McNair, who took the team to its only Super Bowl in 1999.  Tennessee also lost its most important defensive player, Albert Haynesworth, to free agency.  Jeff Fisher’s teams always push through and find a way to play well, but they will a have a rough road to repeat as division champ.

Kerry Collins ended up with the starting quarterback job by default last year after Vince Young has his mental breakdown in the season opener.  Collins surprised everyone with a Pro Bowl appearance, and is returning for his 15th season in the NFL.  He still has a good arm and doesn’t make bad decisions, and that makes him a good fit for Jeff Fisher’s offense.  Young is back with the team, and has made bold statements about wanting to get his old job back.  His preseason performance so far has not justified those bold claims, but it could prove to be interesting to see how it affects the Titans if Young continues to make his presence known off the field.  It won’t affect Collins, who is as steady as professional as anyone, but the whole situation could have an effect on the team going forward.  The Titans did make an effort to improve their receiving core with the addition of Nate Washington, who was the third receiver in Pittsburgh.  Washington will start alongside Justin Gage, while first round pick Kenny Britt of Rutgers will also be expected to make an impact.  Still, Tennessee’s receivers as a group don’t seem to really scare anyone.  Tight end Alge Crumpler didn’t make the impact in the passing game that was expected when he signed as a free agent last year, but he and Bo Scaife are a good tandem in the running game and both are capable red zone targets.  The strength of the Titans offense lies in the running game, where Chris Johnson had a monster rookie season last year.  His speed and shiftiness makes him very difficult to tackle, and his speed makes him the perfect compliment to LenDale White, who can gain the tough yards between the tackles and is a perfect goal line back.  The offensive line is among the best in the NFL, anchored by veteran center Kevin Mawae.

Defensively, the Titans will be greatly impacted by the loss of Albert Haynesworth to Washington.  Haynesworth’s presence to the Titans defense has been so vital over the years that their wins and losses were often dictated by his health.  When Haynesworth was 100 percent, his presence made it virtually impossible for teams to run on the Titans.  When he was out of the lineup or hobbled, it completely changed the game because teams were then able to run on the Titans.  A lot of pressure will be on Jovan Haye and second round pick Sen’Derrick Marks of Auburn.  The Titans do have end Jevon Kearse, who has an excellent season last year at age 32.  The other end, Kyle Vanden Bosch, must show he is recovered from a groin injury.  The linebackers are an above average group, but age is a concern, as there is no depth behind Keith Bullock and David Thornton, both of whom are over age 30.  The secondary is solid with corners Cortland Finnigan and Chris Hope.

The kicking game is set with kicker Rob Bironas, the fifth most accurate kicker in NFL history, as well as veteran punter Craig Hentrich.  The return game is unknown right now, but the top candidate to handle those duties is Mark Jones, a free agent acquistion from Carolina.

Tennessee is bound to take a step backward after hitting 13 wins a year ago.  The loss of Haynesworth could be crippling, and the offense is decent but it remains to be seen whether Collins can duplicate his success of last year.  In the end this division will be too tough for the Titans.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars – The big story out of Jacksonville is that the Jaguars might not have a single home game televised in their home market due to poor ticket sales and an expectation that not a single home game will sell out.  The Jaguars have to rank as the single biggest disappointment in the NFL last season, for they fell from a 12-4 record in 2007, a season that included a road playoff win at Pittsburgh and an admirable performance the next week in New England, to a disastrous 5-11 record in 2008, highlighted (or lowlighted) by six losses in their final seven games.  The Jaguars did make some significant changes, but mostly of the departure variety.  Gone are veteran running back Fred Taylor, receiver Jerry Porter (a big time free agent bust last year), receiver Matt Jones, defensive end Paul Spicer, linebacker Mike Peterson, and cornerback Drayton Florence.  So what does Jacksonville have left?  Coach Jack Del Rio is back somewhat surprisingly, and there is some talent yes, but a lot of question marks,

Offensively, the Jaguars have a lot of question marks.  Quarterback David Garrard does have a lot of talent.  He has ability to make plays with his feet and he has an accurate arm.  However, last year he had trouble finding receivers and his leadership skills really came into question.  This is a make or break year for Garrard, and he will need to play well early to keep his job.  Considering his backup is Cleo Lemon, this will mean the Jags are in big trouble if Garrard doesn’t bounce back to his 2007 levels of production.  The food news for Jacksonville is the presence of Maurice Jones-Drew, who was re-signed in April for five more years.  Jones-Drew is one of the most dynamic runners in the league and also has great ability to catch out of the backfield.  There is no question that Jacksonville will rely on him heavily, but with Taylor’s departure he may need to be a one man show in the running game.  The receivers are an interesting mix, highlighted by addition Torry Holt from St. Louis.  Holt’s numbers dropped off so significantly last year with the Rams that they had no interest in bringing him back.  The Jaguars hope that a change of scenery will benefit him.  Dennis Northcutt and Tory Williamson provide some deep threats as well, but neither has been consistent in their production.  The Jaguars offensive line was a mess last year due to injuries, so they hope that a healthy group will mean better production in that area.   New addition Tra Thomas from Philadelphia should also help.

When Jacksonville made their playoff run two years ago, the defense was the backbone of the team.  That unit is not even close to the same group now.  It actually started last year when they lost star defensive tackle Marcus Stroud to Buffalo in free agency.  John Henderson remains one of the best in the business, and he will be glue for Jacksonville’s offensive line.  End Reggie Hayward is also good at rushing the passer, but the rest of the line is a work in progress.  The Jaguars are hoping for a better season from Derrick Harvey, who failed to meet expectations last year as a rookie.  The linebackers are unknown but are actually solid, with Daryl Smith leading the way in the middle.  The secondary has good talent as well, with cornerback Rashean Mathis leading the way, along with safety Reggie Nelson.  It is imperative for the Jaguars that this unit return to 2007 levels as well after being a disappointment last year.

Kicker Josh Scobee is very accurate, but punter Adam Podlesh may be on the hot seat.  The return game is also middle of the pack in the league, with Troy Wlliamson and Brian Witherspoon handling the return duties.

The Jaguars don’t seem to have a clear plan as to whether they are contending or rebuilding.  Either way, I don’t expect a return to 2007, but rather more of the same from last season.  even if they improve, they do play in a very difficult division, so either way it will be a long year for Jacksonville.

Coming next: the NFC South

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Thursday Night Football Pick – Week 16

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 18, 2008

It’s quickly getting into crunch time.  As we start the second to last week of the season, we find a very intriguing matchup on Thursday night.  The Colts are the hottest team in football, having not lost since late October.  Peyton Manning has been playing much better over the past month or so, the passing game is clicking, the running game is going even with Joseph Addai hobbled, and the defense has been much improved with Bob Sanders back from injury at safety (sound familar?  His return sparked the Colts to their Super Bowl win two years ago).   They figure on paper to be a heavy favorite over the hapless Jaguars, even on the road.  Jacksonville has to qualify as the unquestioned biggest disappointment in the league this season.  After their 12-4 finish last year, playoff win at Pittsburgh, and great effort the next week at New England, I thought they were going to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.  This easily qualifies as the most embarrassing preseason pick I have ever made.  Little did I know their offensive line would be a mess, the running game wouldn’t be anywhere near the same, and their dominant defense would suddenly show characteristics resembling an instruction manual on how not to tackle.  

Before you conclude that the Colts will win by four touchdowns, decide this game is not worth watching, and let your wife or girlfriend watch a rerun of Grey’s Anatomy instead, let’s consider a few things here.  The Colts are somewhat injury riddled heading into this game.  Joseph Addai claims he will play, but reports seem to vary on this.  We know Addai participated in practice on Wednesday, but will he be able to go?  Will he be full speed?  We don’t know.  Dominic Rhodes filled in nicely last week, but that was against the Lions.  Even Jacksonville is not that bad.  We also learned today that Marvin Harrison will sit out due to a hamstring injury.  Granted, Harrison has been invisible most of the season, but he’s still Marvin Harrison.  If he’s not in there, it will allow the Jags to focus more on Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark.  The effect of these two injuries together is significant.  If the Colts can’t run the ball with Rhodes, it will play to Jacksonville’s advantage.  Harrison also not being in there means there aren’t as many receivers for Jacksonville to worry about covering.  Oh, and Bob Sanders is also questionable.  When he’s not in there, that’s bad news for Indy.  Which leads me to……

The previous meeting in week three.  Bob Sanders did not play.  This is one of the few games in which Jacksonville ran the ball well (and very well I might add) to the tune of 236 yards.  Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew each went over 100 yards, and Jones-Drew also added 59 yards receiving on four catches.  Sanders is one of the league’s best run stuffing safeties, and his presence makes all the difference in the Colts’ run defense.  Even if he’s in there but not 100 percent, his presence is a big plus for Indianapolis.  Jacksonville’s defense also had great success against Manning in the first meeting, intercepting him two times, including a 61-yard pick six by Rasheen Mathis.  

This is a division game.  The seemingly left for dead Jaguars rose up and stunned the Packers last week, and Jones-Drew ran well.  The Colts survived a much closer than hoped for win over the winless Lions.  Momentum means a lot in football, and it seems like the Colts are battling several injuries on a short week, not wanting to push guys if it means their playoff availability could be in question.  The Colts have a one game lead over every other wild card contender, so they know they are in good shape.  Even if they haven’t officially clinched yet, they are right on the cusp.  Jacksonville is playing for pride.  This is not a factor to be underestimated.  Many teams over the years, teams with nothing to play for can get highly motivated by bumping off a division rival late in the year and messing with their playoff hopes.  

Indianapolis is clearly the better team overall.  Everyone knows this.  Yet there is a reason why they play the games.  Last week I split my two biggest upset reaches (getting Houston over Tennessee and missing Kansas City over San Diego, but it was close).  I thought Dallas over the Giants was an upset pick at the time, but at best that can be only called a minor upset.  At any rate, this is a game that is not easy to pick, and that makes it worth watching.  I am convinced it will not be a blowout in any way, now the question is, who wins?  Do I dare go for another upset reach?

Thinking….

Thinking….

Why not, UPSET ALERT.  Call me crazy, call it a hunch.  Jacksonville 30 Indianapolis 27.  The Titans may still be leading the division, but something tells me the Jags will be highly motivated for a chance to sweep the Colts.  

Either that or I will have to write another embarrassing retraction on Friday morning.

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Week Two Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on September 12, 2008

This NFL season is certainly shaping up to be very intriguing on a number of fronts.  Could we possibly have a playoffs that doesn’t include New England OR Indianapolis?  It could be possible if Matt Cassel proves to be no Tom Brady and the Colts take too long to get it together after their disastrous week one effort.  Are the Jets the new favorite in the AFC East, or is Buffalo for real?  Are the Steelers ever going to get their due for being consistently good?  Is the Bears defense back to the level of two years ago?  Who is going to win the awful NFC West?  It’s only one week into the season, and a number of my season picks are threatening to blow up in my face already.  I keep telling myself it’s still early, but it is possible that my AFC Super Bowl pick may not be all its cracked up to be. I still think Jacksonville’s defense will not allow them to be a disappointment.  Was I nuts to pick the 49ers to win the NFC West?  I still maintain they’ll be a surprise by the end of the year.  Was I drinking the Kool-Aid on the Minnesota hype?  I still think they have a team that is scary talented.  Am I underestimating Aaron Rodgers? I have to admit he looked very good in week one.  We’ll see if he can maintain it over the long haul.  Are the Chargers in trouble without Shawne Merriman?  Or is that wishful thinking on my part?.  It did seem like someone forgot to tell them the season started for three quarters against Carolina.  Speaking of the Panthers, are they once again a contender in the NFC? That offense could really come alive when Steve Smith returns from suspension in week three.  How praytell did the Falcons win a game, let alone dominate? I reserve judgement until I see them against someone other than Detroit.  

At least I got a few things right in week one.  The Cowboys dominated on the road.  The Browns looked lost and confused.  The Giants looked dominant like you would expect a defending champ to be.  The Bengals REALLY stink, or did you see Joe Flacco score on a 38-yard touchdown run while jogging through the Bengals defense? The Seahawks looked horrible on the road.  Brett Favre can still play a little.  Donovan McNabb looks poised for a big season.  The Raiders are a mess akin to Days of Our Lives as usual.  The Broncos offense could be scary good.  Or maybe that’s wishful thinking.  Perhaps that was more the Raiders are awful.  

One thing I know, this could be a season unlike any other.  Or maybe it will be just like any other.  For 11 consecutive seasons, there have been at least five teams in the playoffs who did not qualify the previous year.  With the exception of the 2006 Seahawks, the Super Bowl loser has missed the playoffs every year since 2000.  Even at that the Seahawks only made it past the first round the next year thanks to Tony Romo’s butterfingers.  Here are the numbers:

2000 New York Giants – Lost Super Bowl XXXV
2001 New York Giants – 7-9 record, no playoffs

2001 St. Louis Rams – Lost Super Bowl XXXVI
2002 St. Louis Rams – 7-9 record, no playoffs

2002 Oakland Raiders – Lost Super Bowl XXXVII
2003 Oakland Raiders – 4-12 record, no playoffs

2003 Carolina Panthers – Lost Super Bowl XXXVIII
2004 Carolina Panthers – 7-9 record, no playoffs

2004 Philadelphia Eagles – Lost Super Bowl XXXIX
2005 Philadelphia Eagles – 6-10 record, no playoffs

2005 Seattle Seahawks – Lost Super Bowl XL
2006 Seattle Seahawks – 9-7 record (made playoffs, 2nd round exit)

2006 Chicago Bears – Lost Super Bowl XLI
2007 Chicago Bears – 7-9 record, no playoffs

2007 New England Patriots – Lost Super Bowl XLII
2008 New England Patriots – ??????

This does not bode well for the Patriots in light of Tom Brady’s injury.  I know, I picked the Patriots to return to the AFC title game, but I also said they were done if Brady went down.  It will be interesting to see if the Patriots continue the trend of Super Bowl losers struggling the next year.  On one hand, it is hard a fathom a team threatening history one year and missing the playoffs the next year.  On the other hand, the Patriots missing the playoffs this year would be right in line with what the NFL is about much of the time. I still shudder when I think of the Broncos going 6-10 in 1999 after winning back to back Super Bowls and being favored to compete for a third.  After all there is the old cliche “On any given Sunday……”   Now on to the picks.

Last Week: 9-7

– Jaguars over Bills: I have to admit I really struggled with this one.  The Bills dominated Seattle last week, and the Jaguars look like they could be in trouble.  Still, I can’t picture the Jaguars 0-2, especially with Jack Del Rio having a week to drill discipline into his team before the home opener.

– Cardinals over Dolphins: Surprise stat of the week: the Cardinals actually went 6-2 at University of Phoenix Stadium last season.  The Cardinals at 2-0 would rank among the season’s early surprises, but it would be an even bigger surprise if Chad Pennington had a big day against what is becoming one of the league’s most underrated secondaries.

– Jets over Patriots: Brett Favre’s home debut in New York puts an extra charge into this one, plus the Jets would just love to stick it to the Patriots in the wake of Spygate last year.  I have a feeling Matt Cassel will find the road to be much more daunting than Gillette Stadium.  Oh, and he doesn’t have the luxury of facing the Chiefs.

– Titans over Bengals: No Vince Young for Tennessee, but it won’t matter.  There are high school teams that tackle better than Cincinnati’s defense.  The Bengals offense looked a little confused too last week.  Carson Palmer under 100 yards passing?  The Marvin Lewis watch begins in Cincinnati.  I say 75 percent he’s axed before the year is over.

– Steelers over Browns: Pittsburgh will run away with the AFC North.  The Browns proved last week that they are a ways from the elite against Dallas.  This one will be competitive due to the rivalry factor, plus an emotional under the lights home crowd in Cleveland, but the Steelers are the class of the division and they will prove it.

– Vikings over Colts: Chalk this one up as the most intriguing game of the week for me.  Is this an elimination game of sorts already?  The Colts cannot be confident heading into the loud Metrodome after getting shelled at home in their opener.  Minnesota needs Tarvaris Jackson to show that potential we keep hearing about, but the Vikings defense will follow the Bears blueprint and harass Peyton Manning.  Peyton, meet Jared Allen.  Good luck.  The Colts at 0-2? It seems beyond crazy, but it might just happen.

– Broncos over Chargers: Denver’s confidence is sky high after destroying the Raiders on the road, plus Brandon Marshall is back.  If D’Angelo Hall couldn’t cover Eddie Royal one on one, how are the San Diego corners going to handle him and Marshall?  The Chargers pass rush will really miss Merriman, plus Antonio Gates is hobbled.  The Broncos might allow a high rushing day for LT, but their offense will be enough to win a shootout and enjoy a large lead in the AFC West.  San Diego at 0-2? Seems really crazy, but it just might happen.

– Chiefs over Raiders: Dud game of the week.  The rivalry is nasty enough that the game could actually be fun to watch, but these are two of the worst teams in the league.  The Chiefs are reportedly having trouble selling out Arrowhead for this game, which tells all you need to know about the state of football these days in Kansas City.  Still, the Raiders are a mess in every way, and Larry Johnson will run for enough to get KC a rare W.  

– Giants over Rams: The G-men’s biggest challenge will be overcoming a 10-day layoff after opening the season with their Thursday night win over Washington.  St. Louis was maybe the worst team in week one, so there is nowhere to go but up.  This seems like it could be a trap game for New York if the Rams’ offense wakes up (Torry Holt 1 catch for 9 yards last week – are you kidding me?).  Still, the Giants should be able to rely on their championship experience and pull out a win.

– Saints over Redskins: New Orleans will really miss Marques Colston, who is out 4-6 weeks.  Still, Drew Brees has enough targets for the team to score offensively.  The Redskins looked like they didn’t know which end was up offensively last week.  If that continues, New Orleans will win a low scoring affair.

– Bears over Panthers: This should be a great game.  Both teams pulled shockers in week one, so it’s hard to say which of these teams is better right now.  The Panthers are without Steve Smith for another week, so that gives an edge to the Bears defense.  Chicago won on the road during their Super Bowl run two years ago, and the hunch is they’ll find a way to pull out this one.  This one really could go either way though.

– Packers over Lions: Aaron Rodgers played well last week in the spotlight, and the Packers look like they have a statement to make.  Detroit? The Lions should be embarrassed losing to Atlanta.  Home field advantage won’t help the Lions if they keep playing like that.  This won’t exactly be a difficult road environment for Green Bay’s young signal caller.

– Buccaneers over Falcons: Brian Griese gets the start for Tampa so that gives slight pause.  Still, the Falcons aren’t playing Detroit anymore.  Matt Ryan could be in for a rude awakening this week against Monte Kiffin’s defense.  Tampa Bay almost stole one last week and could be just good enough to make things interesting in the NFC South.  On a side note, I am kicking myself that I didn’t rank Michael Turner higher in fantasy this year.  He could have some big games this year even though he’s playing for the Falcons.

– Seahawks over 49ers: Seattle is still really banged up, and I really want to pick the upset.  Thing is, Seattle has a tremendous home field advantage, and there is no reason to back San Francisco on the road right now after the way they played last week.  Besides, Matt Hasselbeck has got to play better this week doesn’t he? This could be a really sloppy game.

– Texans over Ravens: This game has been moved to Monday night due to Hurricane Ike, which makes it the first Monday night game in Texans history.  Even though it won’t be nationally televised,that’s enough for me in this toss-up matchup.  Baltimore’s defense is still good, but I still want to see Joe Flacco on the road.  Houston is a much better team than what they showed last week.

– Cowboys over Eagles: This too will be a fantastic game.  In a way it’s a shame one of these teams will have to start the year 1-1.  I like the Cowboys in what should be a raucous atmosphere for their home opener, on a Monday night no less.  Still, the Eagles pose a big challenge.  The sway factor will be a monster game from Terrell Owens, eager as always to show Andy Reid and company they did him wrong.

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Week One and Season Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on September 5, 2008

Football is finally back!  I know, they’ve been playing the preseason games for a month but that doesn’t count.  Last night’s win by the Giants over Washington officially kicked off the year.  Count me among those that feels the Giants are really being slighted and are not being given the respect a defending champion should deserve.  Yes, they lost their top two defensive ends (Michael Strahan to retirement and Osi Umenyiora to a season ending injury in preseason) but they still the defending champs, and last night they played like it.  The Redskins looked lost offensively most of the game, in large part because the Giants managed to get pressure on Jason Campbell.  Eli Manning didn’t have a great game, but he made enough plays early to give the Giants the lead, and Plaxico Burress proved he is still the real deal. 

I am genuinely baffled how many people are predicting a bad year for the Giants.  My hometown newspaper, the Denver Post, predicted a 20-19 Redskins win yesterday.  Of the 16 experts on espn.com, only one is predicting the Giants to win the NFC East (to be fair they actually didn’t last year) and seven of those experts believe the Giants will miss the playoffs.  The Sports Guy on espn. com is offering the following: Prediction No. 9: The Giants finish either 7-9, 6-10 or 5-11.   Plleeeasseee.  If you know anything about football, you know that is unlikely for a defending Super Bowl champion, particularly one with a tough defense that has proven over the years it can win on the road.  At least Sports Illustrated is picking the Giants to go 9-7 and win one playoff game.  I’m not saying the Giants will repeat, or even that they’re a lock to win the division (the Cowboys are loaded and dangerous and perhaps the favorite in the NFC).  I’m simply saying the Giants should at least get a little more respect than they’re getting.  Their next two games are at St. Louis and home against Cincinnati.  It’s very possible the G-men will begin the season 3-0, and there are several idiots out there thinking they won’t make the playoffs?  If they were playing in the AFC maybe, but not in the mediocre NFC.

Now, to be fair, I offer my picks for the season, and I have as much chance of being wrong as anyone else (and probably will be).  It is easy to forget that there is numerous turnover in the league every year, and there will always be surprise teams, as I offer a couple of shockers below. 

NFC EAST CHAMP: Dallas (13-3)  The Cowboys blew an opportunity last year with a home playoff loss.  The offense returns loaded as ever, and if everyone on the roster behaves this is the team to beat in the NFC, and maybe in the league.  The addition of Pacman Jones is huge if he stays out of trouble, as he is one of the top kick returners in football and a solid corner.  Zach Thomas also shores up the linebacking core.  Tony Romo and Terrell Owens have a clear chemistry that will allow the offense to light it up again this season. 

NFC NORTH CHAMP: Minnesota (10-6) I still believe the Vikings would have been a real player for the Super Bowl if they had gotten Brett Favre.  Tarvaris Jackson will have pressure on him all season, but with Adrian Peterson back there the Vikings will score a lot of points.  The league’s top run defense got even better with the addition of Jared Allen.  Expect at least 15 sacks out of him. 

NFC SOUTH CHAMP: New Orleans (10-6) The Saints have as much offensive talent as anyone and were a real disappointment last year.  This year they should be able to turn it around and be able to win a division that is up for grabs.  Reggie Bush should explode in his third year with a healthy Deuce McAllister accompanying him at running back.  The key will be how well their defense performs.  Carolina could be a darkhorse here, but they are likely to wear down with so many key players having a history of injury. 

NFC WEST CHAMP: San Francisco (9-7) This is my real surprise pick.  The 49ers have stunk it up in recent years, and start a no name quarterback in J.T. O’Sullivan.  Thing is, Mark Martz has taken over as offensive coordinator and brings receiver Isaac Bruce with him from his old days in St. Louis.  Martz has had success with all kinds of quarterbacks (Kurt Warner in 1999 anyone?) and the Niners will benefit from playing in an awful division.  I actually thought about Arizona here, but the Cardinals will continue their pattern of underachieving in the desert. 

NFC WILD CARDS: New York Giants (11-5) Philadelphia (10-6)  Both teams play in the rugged NFC East, which produced both wild card teams last season.  The Giants, as mentioned above, are much better than the respect they are being shown, and will prove it by returning to the playoffs.  The Eagles prospects could well depend on the health of Donovan McNabb, but they finished last season with a bang and should continue that momentum into the season. 

You may notice the absence of Green Bay.  I stand by my opinion that they made a colossal error rejecting Brett Favre in favor of Aaron Rodgers, and that distraction will carry over.  You don’t simply replace a legend quarterback, it doesn’t happen.   I don’t think the Seahawks will make it because they have benefited for years playing in a weak division, but their lack of running game will kill them, in addition to the fact that they don’t have many stars that jump off the page. 

NFC WILD CARD ROUND: New Orleans over Philadelphia, N.Y. Giants over San Francisco

NFC DIVISIONAL ROUND: Dallas over N.Y. Giants, Minnesota over New Orleans

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP: Dallas over Minnesota

AFC EAST CHAMP: New England (12-4) The Patriots will be very good once again.  The health of Tom Brady does seem to be a question mark, and a caveat here is that if he goes down they are done.  The Patriots will not challenge for 16-0 again but will be able to win the division without much difficulty thanks to a friendly schedule.  Randy Moss should have another big year. 

AFC NORTH CHAMP: Pittsburgh (11-5) The Steelers have a tough physical defense that will help them win a lot of games, particularly in cold weather late in the year.  Rashard Mendenhall could be a rookie of the year candidate and will help ignite their offense and will complement Willie Parker. 

AFC SOUTH CHAMP: Jacksonville (12-4) One of my other surprise picks.  This has traditionally been an automatic for Indy, but the Jaguars are ready to break out.  Their defense is without question a top five unit, and the offense will benefit from the addition of Jerry Porter at wideout.  The Jaguars nearly upset the Pats in the playoffs on the road last year.  David Garrard is underrated as a passer and it wouldn’t shock me to see him in the Pro Bowl. 

AFC WEST CHAMP: San Diego (11-5) The Chargers biggest question is if they can stay healthy.  LaDainian Tomlinson appears healthy and ready to go, but Antonio Gates does not.  Shawne Merriman declined surgery so he could play this year, and that will be interesting to see if that affects the Chargers.  Still, there is enough talent that they are the division favorites considering the rest of the division. 

AFC WILD CARDS: Indianapolis (10-6) Denver (10-6)  The Colts will still make the playoffs even if they don’t win the division.  Peyton Manning is still Peyton Manning and the offense will be good as usual.  Call me crazy, but I think there could be a leftover effect from their stunning playoff loss to San Diego last year.  The Colts in recent years have debunked the theory they can’t win on the road, but something doesn’t seem right about this team entering the season.   As for the Broncos, I realize this looks like a hometown pick, but I expect big breakout years from Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall.  The run defense can’t possibly be any worse than last year, yet the Broncos still managed seven wins as bad as it was.  Slight improvement in that area should lead to a few more wins, and the fact they have four games against the Chiefs and Raiders will put them in the playoffs.

I’ve left out several good teams, many of which would make it if they were playing in the NFC.  The Jets will barely miss out of the postseason, and it won’t be Brett Favre’s fault they don’t get there.  The Jets made several improvements in the offseason, but a difficult early schedule will put them behind an eight ball they won’t be able to get in front of.  The Titans are a solid team that made the playoffs a year ago, but this year they will also fall just short.  I believe the Browns, one of the “hot” teams in this year’s media, were a fluke last year.  It would not shock me to see Derek Anderson usurped as the starting QB by Brady Quinn at some point, and that will doom the Browns. 

WILD CARD ROUND: Pittsburgh over Denver, Indianapolis over San Diego

DIVISIONAL ROUND: Jacksonville over Pittsburgh, New England over Indianapolis

AFC CHAMPIONSHIP: Jacksonville over New England

SUPER BOWL: Dallas over Jacksonville    

The Cowboys have every piece necessary to win it all.  They came very close last season, and I believe they too would have beaten the Patriots in a Super Bowl rematch had they had the chance.  Last year’s playoff loss will serve as motivation all year and this season they will be able to get it done. 

Before we wrap up, I also offer my selections for the rest of week one.  Picks do not take point spread into account:

– Bills over Seahawks: The Bills are an intriguing team, and the Seahawks are banged up. 

– Dolphins over Jets: A mini upset, but the Dolphins will be significantly improved.  Chad Pennington gets revenge.

– Patriots over Chiefs: The question is will Kansas City even get a first down.  This is a complete mismatch.

– Ravens over Bengals: Both teams will be bad this year.  Cincy has a potentially explosive offense, but the Ravens defense will help them pull this one out at home.

– Steelers over Texans: Houston is improving, but a rough assignment for the opener.

– Cowboys over Browns: This will be a good game, but the Cowboys pull it out on the road.

– Colts over Bears: Colts win opener at new stadium, Bears quarterback woes continue

– Jaguars over Titans: Jaguars win tough road opener in a key division game off the bat

– Broncos over Raiders: Even without Brandon Marshall, the Broncos make enough plays to win on the road

– Chargers over Panthers: No Steve Smith, no chance for Carolina.  Chargers roll at home

– Eagles over Rams: Philadelphia rolls at home against a Rams team trying to figure out its identity

– Lions over Falcons: Dud game of the week…Two bad teams square off at the Georgia Dome

– Vikings over Packers: Adrian Peterson begins spectacular season with Monday night show at Lambeau…Packers see how life will be without Favre

– Saints over Buccaneers: Saints win emotional opener at the Superdome against division rival

– 49ers over Cardinals: I’m shocked how many people are picking Arizona to win this game….Niners will be surprise team this season

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