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Posts Tagged ‘Tennessee Titans’

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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Divisional Playoff Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on January 9, 2009

We won’t discuss last week where I went a mighty 1-3.  I have no doubt that Ken Wisenhunt, Norv Turner and Andy Reid are hoping that I pick against their teams again this weekend.  Regardless, there are great games on tap this weekend so let’s get right to it.

Baltimore at Tennessee: The Titans won 13-10 in Baltimore in week five, thanks to a Kerry Collins TD pass to Alge Crumpler in the final two minutes.  I expect the rematch to be very much the same kind of game, low scoring, physical and dominated by defense.  The Ravens come into the rematch red hot, having completely destroyed the Dolphins last weekend.  The Ravens defense is playing well enough to evoke memories of 2000, when they won the Super Bowl.  In that playoff year, the Ravens won their divisional playoff game on the road against… guessed it, Tennessee.  The Titans were the number one seed that year too, and the Ravens were a wild card just like they are this year.  Over the years the Ravens have proven they are not afraid of playing on the road, so home field advantage won’t be much of a factor in this one.  Baltimore actually has more offense this year than they did when they won the Super Bowl, despite the presence of a rookie quarterback in Joe Flacco.  The Titans meanwhile are well deserving of the number one seed, proving their worth for that spot with an impressive win over Pittsburgh in week 16.  Tennessee will also get the boost of getting Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch back along the defensive line, although center Kevin Mawae will not play, which will hurt the offensive line and the running game. 

In the first meeting, the Ravens were much more effective on the ground than the Titans, outgaining them 132-47.  This does not bode well for the Titans in the rematch in light of Mawae’s absence.  I don’t think the Titans will have much success if any on the ground as well as the Ravens’ defense is playing.  The running game will be extremely important in this kind of low scoring game that could be decided by turnovers.  Each defense forced two turnovers in the first meeting, so expect lots of them on Saturday.  I do have slight pause of picking a rookie quarterback on the road against the experienced Kerry Collins, not to mention I give Jeff Fisher a big edge in the coaching matchup over John Harbaugh, but I think the Ravens are just playing too well right now to be denied.  The Titans have the look of a flawed top seed, and the Ravens look like they might even be the AFC’s best team at the time of year where it matters most.

The Pick: Baltimore 20 Tennessee 10

Arizona at Carolina: This is a rematch of one of the more interesting games of the season, a 27-23 Panthers win in Charlotte in week 8.  Arizona actually had a 10-0 lead in the game, and even had the lead through most of the third quarter, before Steve Smith turned the game with a 65-yard touchdown catch along the sideline on the last play of the quarter.  It is interesting to note that the Cardinals outgained the Panthers thanks to a 381 yard day by Kurt Warner, but that the Cardinals were doomed by a lack of a running game and also seven penalties, not to mention an untimely Warner interception in the red zone in the fourth quarter.  DeAngelo Williams had a huge game for Carolina, gaining 108 yards on just 17 carries, and that was a big factor for the Panthers. 

What doesn’t bode well for Arizona heading into this game is that the Cardinals were 0-5 on the east coast during the regular season.  The other thing that doesn’t bode well for the Cardinals is the Saturday night weather forecast in Charlotte.  All things considered, the temperature won’t be that bad for the Cardinals (temps are expected to be in the 40s), but it is the 50 percent chance of rain that will seriously hamper Arizona’s passing attack.  The Cardinals may not have Anquan Boldin, who pulled his hamstring on his 71-yard touchdown catch last week against the Falcons.  In any case, the Cardinals will need a huge game on the ground from Edgerrin James to even have a chance, and I don’t see that happening against Carolina’s strong defensive front seven.  The Panthers have one of the league’s best running attacks with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, and that alone gives them an edge in the playoffs.  Steve Smith is also the kind of playmaker that can turn close games in his team’s favor, as he did in the first meeting between these teams.  I think the Panthers roll in this one, in large part because I can’t see Arizona playing well on the road when it matters and also in part because I think Carolina is a focused team on a mission. 

The Pick: Panthers 31 Cardinals 17

Philadelphia at NY Giants: These teams split their regular season meetings, with each team winning the away game.  The Giants won in Philadelphia 36-31 in week 10, while the Eagles won at Giants Stadium 20-14 in week 14.  The Giants ran for an astounding 219 yards in the first meeting, including 126 from Brandon Jacobs, while they held Brian Westbrook to just 26 yards rushing on 13 carries.  In the second meeting, Westbrook ran wild for 131 yards and added 72 receiving with 2 touchdowns, while Jacobs was held to 52 yards, and the Giants mustered just 88 rushing yards total.  It is interesting to note that the second meeting was the Giants’ first game since the Plaxico Burress fiasco, and that the G-men stumbled to a 1-3 finish in their final four games, while the Eagles went 3-1 over their final four regular season games, and then won on the road in Minnesota last week.

Generally speaking, anything goes when teams are meeting for the third time in a season.  Neither team has any secrets from the other, so coaching influence is minimal.  I think the key will be which team will be better able to establish the run, because judging from the first two meetings this game should be within a touchdown either way.  Call me crazy, but I think the Eagles are in much better position to run the ball effectively in this game.  Brian Westbrook is healthy and red hot, while Brandon Jacobs was anything but healthy for the final four games of the regular season.  Even though he has had the bye to regroup, something tells me that Jacobs will still have a hard time in this game.  The Giants did get a huge game from Derrick Ward against Carolina in week 16, so if Jacobs isn’t 100 percent, Ward will need to step up.  I also actually like Donovan McNabb better than Eli Manning in this game based on the way each QB has been playing recently down the stretch.  Manning actually has a difficult matchup against one of the league’s top secondaries with Asante Samuel and Brian Dawkins, especially with the receivers still in flux (Memo to Dominek Hixon: stop dropping passes).  The Giants may have home field and may be the defending champs, but I think the Eagles have more momentum and are actually in better shape to win this game.

The Pick: Eagles 24 Giants 17

San Diego at Pittsburgh: This is a rematch of one of the most bizarre games of 2008, an 11-10 Steelers win in week 11 at Heinz Field that really should have been 18-10, thanks to an incorrect ruling by the official on the game’s final play that wiped out Troy Polamalu’s return of a lateral for a TD.  In any case, Pittsburgh won this game without scoring a touchdown, thanks to three Jeff Reed field goals and a safety.  The Chargers’ one touchdown came courtesy of LaDainian Tomlinson, who is highly doubtful for Sunday’s rematch with a groin injury.  Ben Roethlisberger actually threw for 308 yards in the first meeting, although he got carted off the field in the regular season finale against Cleveland.  He says he will play Sunday, but how effective will he be?  The Steelers did get a 115 yard effort from Willie Parker in the first meeting, and they will need that again on Sunday.  One thing that doomed the Chargers in November was that Philip Rivers had one of his worst games of the season, throwing for just 164 yards and two picks.  If they want to have a chance Sunday, Rivers can’t have that kind of repeat performance.  One thing is for sure, Darren Sproles is guaranteed to have a much more productive game than the first meeting, when he had just one carry for zero yards and caught just one pass for nine. 

It is really crazy to think that if San Diego and Baltimore both win, the Chargers would host the AFC Championship Game in a season in which they were at one point 4-8.  I’m not sure if that’s good news or bad news for the league, but that scenario could put the Chargers in position to complete the highly improbable run from 4-8 to Super Bowl champion.  That’s the thing about the playoffs: once you’re in, what happened in the regular season doesn’t matter.  This is game is a challenging one to pick because of Roethlisberger’s health, and also considering the Chargers are a red hot team playing on the road against a team that earned a bye despite playing the most rigorous schedule in the NFL.  Over the years the Steelers have actually fared much better in road playoff games than they have at home, so that makes it highly tempting to pick San Diego.  On the other hand, no team has made the conference championship game with fewer than 10 wins since Jacksonville did it in 1996.  I think the Steelers will be out to prove something after their home flameout against Jacksonville last season, and I think the Steelers defense will find a way to slow down Rivers and Sproles enough.  Either way, this should be the best of the four games this weekend.

The Pick: Steelers 24 Chargers 21

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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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