Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

Posts Tagged ‘Pittsburgh Steelers’

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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Favre or no Favre?

Posted by mizzou1028 on July 9, 2008

I don’t know any more about the nuances of the rumors surrounding a possible return to the NFL by Brett Favre than the man in the moon.  I don’t know if Favre is really feeling the itch to return just months after an emotional retirement press conference, or if this is just being fueled by the media to fill up time when they have nothing else to talk about.  I don’t know what Packers management is thinking on this.  What I do know is that if Favre does want to return, and the Packers say no thanks, than they had better be prepared for it to backfire.  There is not a good track record in NFL history for replacing legend quarterbacks.  In fact, it is about as close to guarantee for failure as there is in the sport.  Nothing against Aaron Rodgers, who played well against Dallas last year when Favre was injured, but if the Packers really think they’re better off with Rodgers than they would be if Favre came back, they are probably in trouble.

The list of quarterbacks that have tried to follow legends in NFL history is a rather dubious one.  By the nature of it, trying to follow a Hall of Famer is not an easy task anyway, particularly when a young signal caller is trying to replace a guy who’s an icon, like Favre is in Green Bay.  Terry Bradshaw won four Super Bowls in the 1970s with Pittsburgh, but it wasn’t until Ben Roethlisberger in 2005 that the Steelers really had any stability at the position after Bradshaw’s retirement.  Bradshaw was followed by among others Cliff Stoudt, Mark Malone, David Woodley, Scott Campbell, Bubby Brister, Neil O’Donnell and Kordell Stewart.  The Steelers had a number of good teams between Bradshaw’s retirement and their Super Bowl win in ’05, even making the Super Bowl in 1995 with O’Donnell, but all of those guys had to play in Bradshaw’s shadow.  How about guys who have followed John Elway in Denver?  Try Brian Griese, Gus Frerotte and Jake Plummer.  The Broncos went 6-10 in 1999 the first year without Elway, and this was with a team that won back to back Super Bowls in ’97 and ’98.  There is no doubt that the Broncos would not have been near that bad in ’99 if Elway had returned to play for another season.  As a side note, you could even make the argument (however thin) that Terrell Davis never would have torn his ACL had Elway returned.  See, that happened on a play where Griese threw an interception into double coverage that Elway never would have thrown, and Davis got injured trying to make the tackle.  How about the Miami Dolphins post Marino?  Again you’ll find Brian Griese’s name among the replacements, and actually Frerotte’s as well, in addition to Jay Fiedler, Damon Huard, Joey Harrington, Cleo Lemon, A.J. Feeley and Sage Rosenfels.  Miami STILL has no stability at QB since Dan Marino retired in 1999.  There is no doubt that Miami fans would have gladly taken one more season with Marino at the helm in 2000, if nothing else for one more shot at a run before the inevitable rebuilding process.

The point of all this is not to say that Aaron Rodgers will fail.  Truth is, we have no idea how he will do.  It is reasonable to say however that being quarterback of the Packers for a full season is quite different than coming in as an injury replacement for one game.  The point is that if the Packers are that fast to say goodbye to Favre, and are ready to take their chances with Rodgers, they should be prepared for the team to struggle.  In fact, history shows they are likely to miss the playoffs with Rodgers at quarterback based on the track record of teams the season following the retirement of a legend quarterback, particularly when that quarterback is the face of the franchise.  If Favre wants to come back and play one more season, the Packers should welcome him back with open arms, period.  Favre had one of his best seasons last year, and there is no reason to think he can’t still play at a high level if he wants to.  Can you imagine Mike Shanahan in 1999 if Elway said he wanted to return a week before camp, even in the wake of his retirement press conference?  Can you imagine Shanahan telling Elway, “no I think we’re set with Brian Griese, thanks”?  Me neither.

Whether Favre actually plays this season or not will be interesting to see.  It will more interesting if he wants to play and the Packers wave him off.  If that were the case, the Packers would have to either release him, allowing him to play for another team, or they would have to trade him, neither of which would be an easy pill to swallow for Green Bay fans.  If the thought of Favre in another uniform makes a Packer fan want to throw up, than imagine Favre playing for arguably the one contending team that is missing a quarterback.  The one team in the league that is set at pretty much every position except for quarterback.  A team that made a big splash in the offseason bringing in Jared Allen (arguably the league’s top defensive lineman) and a good receiver in Bernard Berrian.  A team with one of the NFL’s top rushing attacks and a team that in recent years has been amazingly stingy defensively against the run.  A team who’s current top QB is very young, inexperienced, and could use a year under Favre.  A team that as currently constructed has been picked to win the Super Bowl by Sports Illustrated’s Paul Zimmerman.  That would be the Minnesota Vikings, prime division rival of the Packers.  If the Packers are that sure they would rather take their chances with Aaron Rodgers, they should envision this scenario: Week one, Monday night at Lambeau Field, Packers-Vikings, Favre coming out of the tunnel in Vikings purple.  It should be enough to make any Packer fan want to throw up.  That is, until they envision Favre holding the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season in a Vikings hat, after the Packers have suffered through a 6-10 season under Rodgers.

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