Saturday, September 6, 2008


Oh baby, it’s that time of year, bust out them checkbooks and open that shoe box full of food stamps, lets gamble (or not)! There are a lot of good matchups this week and there could quite possibly be a couple upsets (Home teams underlined):


I hate when players insist that “it’s just another game” or “I’m not seeking revenge” when they compete against their old team(s). You know damn well that’s a big part of their motivation and psyche going in to that game. Chad might be one of the more “professional” players in the NFL but I have no doubt in my mind he wants to shove his softball throwing arm up the New York Jets fat money spending ass. So what should be a meaning less division game to the rest of the world (other than Miami & New York) now has become a stronger rivalry.

If the Jets offensive line does their job than Favrra should have no problems picking the dolphins defense apart. They need to come out early with some big plays. Favre is still learning the Jets offense so I imagine Schottenheimer won’t be opening up the whole playbook just yet. It’s ideal that the Jets score first and maintain a lead.

Chad’s job is to keep the Jets defense on the field. He needs to manage the game to perfection and execute. If Miami can’t establish a running game then it’s going to be a long day for Pennington.

If all the talk is true about the offensive line and the chemistry Favre is building with the offense than I see no reason why this shouldn’t be an easy victory for the Jets. I don’t think there will be a lot of scoring but I definitely think they’ll cover the spread.



These two teams met last season in the opener and the Titans upset the Jags 13-10. The Jaguars are the big favorite to challenge the Patriots in representing the AFC in the super bowl this season. Currently they’re hurting on offense; the line is banged up, Reggie Williams is questionable and Jerry Porter has been ruled out for the game. Although they’re more of a running football team, the Jags spent some money acquiring wide receivers (Jerry Porter, Troy Williamson, Dennis Northcutt) to replace the disappointing crackhead Matt Jones and the departed Ernest Wilford. One huge positive is David Garrard. He is on the stages of becoming an elite QB in this league.

More than I can say for Vince Young. His second season in the NFL was a disaster. I can’t even name any of their wide receivers. If Alge Crumpler is healthy, he can be the go to guy for Young like he was for Vick. But I don’t see that happening. If there is any bright spot for Tennessee its Chris Johnson. This is the year the Jaguars dethrone the Indianapolis Colts for the AFC South.


Friday, September 5, 2008

A cause for celebration: Last year's title not yesterday's victory over the Skins

Last night was cause for celebration. There were dramatic moments, climaxes and genuine excitement. The only problem was, this was only true of the pregame ceremony honoring the defending champion New York Giants. Strahan popping out of that Superbowl trophy got me harder than any girl ever has (okay that's not true but it was cool). The Fireworks, though not my style, definitely added to the festive atmosphere. The video tribute was fun as we got to relive our favorite month in modern sports history, that is January, 2008. (and first three days in February of course) However after the excitement of that was washed away, the game itself was horrible.

You could tell that this was a week 1 game for the Giants though it appeared that coach Jim Zorn of the Skins thought it was week 4 of the pre-season. His lack of urgency in the last 6 minutes of the game, trailing a team with an excellent defense and running game by two possessions, was comical for Giants fans and probably infuriated for Skins fans. The Giants came out firing as Eli found the great Plaxico with ease thanks in large part to his 6"6 frame and great leaping ability. Plaxico no doubt was fired up from the news that he will officially be donning the blue for the next 5 years thanks to a last minute contract extension. Congrats Plax you deserve it. We love ya. However, as great as Plaxico was and as solid as Eli was for much of the first 20 minutes; this was a horribly ugly football game, especially in the 2nd half.

The Defense A- The only reason I give them a minus is because of that horrible d it played in the final Skin's drive of the first half. Although they had great field position inside the Gmen's 45 yard line; leaving the only good player on Washington's offense wide open on 3rd and 12 is inexcusable. Doing so led Washington to its only score a 13 yard Touchdown reception for Santana, "don't call me Sinorice" Moss. However, the rest of the game the defense was completely dominant. Tuck and Kiwi were phenomenal rushing Campbell from the ends and Ross did his usual excellent job of coverage in the secondary. Oh and my man crush on Spags continues as he consistently brings pressure and does a brilliant job of play calling.

The Offense- C+- The offense in the first half should get an A- for scoring 16 points yet failing 3 times within the "green zone" as Coughlin and Eli call it. I think this is the area inside the other team's 40?? This unit will miss Shockey's dominance in this area all season long. However, Plax was brilliant as was Jacobs. Most importantly, the O-line continues to be one of the very best in the NFC if not the NFL. However, Eli was awful in the 2nd half. He threw a horrible pick way over the head of Kevin Boss into the waiting arms of Fred Smoot. He should have had several other passes picked but the Skins missed several opportunities to catch very interceptable (is that a word?) passes. Eli was not terrible overall but he needs to be smarter against better opponents if he wants to play more like he did in January than the way he did in November and December.

Special Teams- C- John Carney was very good filling in for the injured Lawrence Tynes. His kickoffs consistently reached inside the 5 yard line and he made a nice 46 yard field goal which proved critical in keeping the Skins at least 2 scores down for the balance of the game. However, the kickoff coverage was deplorable. The Skins had two kickoff returns of over 30 yards and one all the way to New York's 45. This unit was great in the playoffs and needs to return to this form if New York wishes to realistically contend in a great division.

Coaching- B+- This grade reflects the mean of Spag's A++ and Gilbride's C-. Spags always calls a brilliant game but Gilbride did not fare as well as his defensive counterpart. He made some horrible calls on third and short including several Half back pitches when all New York needed to do was have Brandon lead forward 2 yards for the first down. Oh and where the heck is my man Bradshaw. I did not buy his Superbowl 42 logo emblazoned jersey so I could watch him get zero carries and one touch in a game! He is the team's most game breaking back and provides a great contrasts to Jacob's bruising style. Ward is a solid back but he has no place on this team. I wish the Gints had traded him for a mid level draft pick. Oh well.

NFL picks week 1: NFC style

Now that the defending champs are an unimpressive 1-0, I can relax for 10 days and fully enjoy a Sunday with the BIG at an upper east side sports bar hoping his bills beat the Hasslebacks and that Brandon's Bradshaws has a good Sunday in our Straight up Sports fantasy league. Without further adieu.......

St. Louis Rams at Philadelphia Eagles (-7.5)- Both teams are coming off very disappointing seasons. The Rams hoped to be at least competitive last season and the Eagles hoped to defend their NFC east crown from the 2006 season. Neither team came close to accomplishing their respective goals. The Rams have a nice big 3 on offense of QB Marc Bulger, RB Steven Jackson, (I hate that the Giants play against those 2 fantasy players of mine next week ugh!) and WR Torry Holt. Their D is awful though. The Eagles are much more balanced. They have an excellent defense stewarded by Jim Johnson off the field and Brian Dawkins on it. They have the best all around back in the NFC in Brian Westbrook and a solid, if not declining, QB in Donovan McNabb. The Eagles should roll over an inferior opponent. THE PICK: EAGLES (28-17)

Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers (-2.5)- These are 2 teams going in completely different directions. The Vikings are on the rise. They have a really good defense featuring the likes of Antoine Winfield at the Corner, savvy Veteran Darren Sharper at Safety, Jarred Allen manning a D-end spot and LB Chad Greenway. They also feature the great Adrian Peterson, the best pure running back in the NFC, and a very solid O line. The Packers are hoping Aaron Roger's years riding the pine and watching God, I mean Brett Farve, on the sideline won't hurt him too much in terms of his decision making this season. They have a nice defense featuring beast A.J. Hawk and the man who was completely undressed by Plaxico Burress in the NFC title game, Al Harris. The Pack have a respectable club and had a magical run to the NFC title game last year. However, it can't expect to succeed right away with the unproven Rogers running the show. Expect AP to run wild in the not so frozen Tundra and for Minnesota's ball hawking D to pick Rogers twice en route to a low scoring win. THE PICK: VIKINGS (win outright, 17-9)

Gambling Is Bad For You

But here's some picks for those that need a true expert to guide them in losing more of their mortage/bar money...

Cincinnati (+2.5) @ Baltimore

Remember last year when everyone was jerking off to this match between DYNAMIC Bengal offense against the VAUNTED Ratbird defense. Yea, both teams sucked and ESPN was left with their tails between their legs. Now this year, the tides may potentially turn for the reverse. It’s funny the last 5 years, the 3rd place team has always one the division the following season. Could that mean the BUNGS could return from the grass fields of Cincitucky and actually bring home a playoff spot? Do you believe in miracles? No but I do believe that the Rats are terrible. For whatever reason, the Bungles always play the Rats well and their offense puts up points on that defense.

Plus, the Ravens are throwing Kyle Bller 2k8 out there and hope that he doesn’t screw up soon enough before the game is out of reach. This offense can be decent but they need the run game to come up huge and limit Flacco’s passing to 15-25 attempts. I don’t see it happening. Nice hat there Joseph.

It also will be interesting to see Ocho Cinco out there in all his glory. Does he realize how much of a douche he is? Probably not and I’m sure the lemmings like Devo like him but I can’t. Yea that whole thing was cool at first but now this is bordering on circus. When are those Chad being Chad t-shirts going to be printed?

Regardless, Bungs win because I can’t really see Joe Flaccid or whatever his name is not screwing up in his first big game. Heck, even Carson Palmer couldn’t choke this one away… well unless it’s a close game in the 4th quarter.

Bengals – 24

Ravens – 13

Dallas (+6) @ Cleveland

Thankfully the networks decided to give us one decent game to watch and this be it.

Everyone is all aboard the Brown train. Why? Oh right, the explosive offense they have. Color me unimpressed because half of that explosiveness came against that weak Bungles defense. This is a team that teams got wise on how to defend as the season progressed. The book is also out on Andersen and teams have game film. Not to mention, The Browns don’t have the luxury of having a last place team schedule anymore so they can actually face some competition.

Opening up against Dallas is quite the test in the early going. Dallas is the favorite to emerge from the NFC and will provide a measuring stick for the Browns and to see how far they’ve come. (Apologies for the shitty reference to Matchbox 20 song…boy are they awful). The Cowpokes have it all. Great defense, punishing run game and potent passing attack. They also have Jessica Simpson and really don’t you wish she’d root for your favorite football team?

ESPN might be convinced that Derek Anderson is the next big thing but I heard the same thing about the Strokes, The Hives and everything else. Derek Anderson is not the next big thing and he won’t make it happen this week when he’s still feeling concussion symptoms. Cleveland has looked awful in the preseason. They can’t score nor can they stop teams. This team might have a better run defense this defense but their pass defense is even WORSE! You think Eric Wright is going to stop TO? I don’t. Dallas will murder the Browns.

Dallas – 31

Cleveland – 16

Devo's pick (1-0)

Indy -9.5 over Chicago

Yup, Bears fans, that BH-wannabe chugging whiskey is your quarterback. Unfortunately, swigging whiskey is pretty much all that he does well. Will the Colts' offensive juggernaut continue despite Peyton's injury and the artist formerly known as Marvin Harrison's downfall? The answer to this question won't be found this game. What will be proven is that Indy's defense can make enough plays to beat a Pee-Wee football league offense. Indy 23, Chicago 9.

The Brooklyn Hillbilly's Week 1 Picks

This weeks picks brought to you by Kentucky bourbon

Howdy y'all. I'm drunk and I really can't think of anything better to do than make some football picks! I know, I need some friends. But if you're like me, you just spent an hour watching a depressing Vietnam War movie called "The 2008 Republican National Convention"(though it wasn't nearly as dismal as the first installment- DNC '04). I'm also listening to Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg's masterpiece "The Chronic" right now, and it occurred to me that this album is exactly as old as Sarah Palin's expectant daughter. Not that theres anything wrong with that. Anyway, enough politics from me(HA! You got two more months of this shit coming), its time for the Week 1 picks:

Tim definitely has better taste in women. Or is that their mom?

Seattle at Buffalo
Mike Holmgrens Seahawks have gotten comfortable as the leading team in the NFC West. Year in and out, they field a solid but not spectacular team and win the shittiest division in the NFL. Now, we all know that competition breeds quality and monopolies breed complacency. I just don't like the look of this Seahawk team this year, its like Holmgren is trying to squeak by on the cheap this year. Well, it wont work. Injuries have already ravaged a thin WR corps, and that will hurt them this week vs a Bills team that is trying to get out of New England's shadow. A couple good draft years have given Buffalo a team that can compete with most of the league, even if they wont be challenging the Patriots for a division crown. The Bills running game will be the star of the show on Sunday, with a lightly seasoned(9 starts last year) Trent Edwards doing his best to stay out of Marshawn Lynch's way. However, Edwards will define this team as the year progresses; Buffalo is hoping there is no Sophomore slump. Nothing will kill an up and comer like their QB of the future falling apart in Week 3. I see the Bills pulling this one off and gaining some confidence, even as they lose fans because the franchise is sleeping with another city(Toronto). Bills in an upset 17-14.

Big girls need love too

Houston at Pittsburgh
I don't know how I feel about Peter King picking OLB Lamar Woodley to have a breakout year for the Steelers. He had some great flashes when they let him play last year, and hes gonna get some more PT this year, but something makes me uneasy about the shout-out. I guess Ive just gotten used to the national football writers sorta forgetting about Pittsburgh(I'm looking at you Simmons, though it was nice of you to predict 39 TDs for "Ben" this year) and hyping Cleveland. Sure, the 'burgh gets credit for having a solid D and great offensive potential, but the steady even nature of the franchise(read: less arrests than the Bengals) leads to a bit of an overlook. Now, I know my colleague Mahatma is feeling melancholic about this year already, along with the rest of our Sunday Steelers cabal, but I have to disagree. Maybe its the Jim Beam, maybe its just because its Thursday and I get paid tomorrow, but I think this team can do something this year. Sure, its hard to run a great offense when the right side of the O-line is weaker than a 12 year-old girl, but great offensive weapons can mask inadequacies on the line. I think we see Pittsburgh get started this season with a killer performance, showcasing a tough running game and an explosive aerial attack. The defense will smother Matt Schaub and hold Ahman Green and Steve Slaton to under 75 yards on the ground. Mario Williams will get at least one sack, but I see Roethlisberger throwing for at least 2 scores. Optimistic? Sure. Crazy? Maybe. But I think(hope) this team is going to put a lot of points on the board this year, weak o-line or not. And lets not forget that for most of last year, the D was playing better than some of the Steel Curtain teams from the 70s. Even with the hardest schedule in the league, Ill predict this team makes it to the AFC Championship game. The march starts Sunday with the Steelers covering 6.5 and beating the Texans 31-14

AFC East Preview


1. New England Patriots 13-3

Key Additions: Jerod Mayo, Victor Hobson, Deltha O’Neal, Fernando Bryant, Tank Williams

Key Departures: Asante Samuel, Dante Stallworth, Roosevelt Colvin, Eugene Wilson, Junior Seau, Randall Gay

I laughed, I cheered and I cried (tears of joy) when Eli Manning crafted one of the most memorable two minute drives of my 26 year existence. (I can’t remember any others) But you can’t give him all the credit; hats off to Mr. Tyree for that insane catch. This is a new season and these are the same Patriots from last year but with a bitter taste in their mouths. They’re the favorites to win the Super Bowl and always will be as long as the Belicheck & Brady are together.

This season they return almost all of the offense that led the league last year in about every offensive category except rushing. Tom Brady and Randy Moss are coming off two of the best statistical seasons ever by a QB and WR. I doubt their numbers will be as great as last seasons but they won’t be far off. Laurence Maroney seemed to be non-existent at times last season which is odd considering he can be so effective. The offensive line still has to be considered one of the best in the NFL, regardless of their Super Bowl efforts. Still, “the system” is the brain of the Patriots success. It has been effective for the entire Belichek reign and it helps having a QB like Tom Brady to run it. Teams will try and throw more blitz packages and pass rushers to mimic what the Giants did in the Super Bowl but Belichek & Brady are too smart for that. They still will find a way to beat you….badly

The defense still lines up the best defensive front 3 in the NFL (Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork, and Richard Seymour). Their linebacker core is aging but effective and Jerod Mayo provides a much needed spark. Their most exploitable weakness is their run defense. Teams were behind so much last season that they were consistently airing it out to play catch-up. But I imagined they didn’t care so much because they knew once the ball was in Brady’s hands they were going to score. Asante Samuel is gone, leaving a big hole at cornerback. Fernando Bryant and Ellis “Wait, where is Plax? Oh fuck” Hobbs simply won’t do.

In the end, they’re still the team to beat. It’s unlikely anyone in the division will end the Spygate dominance but I think they’re starting to sweat just a little bit more than usual.

2. New York Jets (9-7)

Key Additions: Alan Faneca, Damian Woody, Brett Favre, Calvin Pace, Kris Jenkins, Vernon Ghoulston, Tony Richardson, Dustin Keller

Key Departures: Chad Pennington, Victor Hobson, Jonathan Vilma, Hank Poteat, Dewayne Robertson, Andre Dyson (hah!)

All the offseason additions and all the media attention with Favre coming out of retirement and getting traded to New York has definitely wrapped a noose around the Jets neck. No team has bigger shoes to fill than they do. They spent more money on free agents like they were Spitzer in need of some luvin. Now the question is, was all that money enough? Even with all the veteran signings, they still have to relearn the Jets system, and it’s not an easy one to comprehend. This is a make or break season for Eric Mangini and the Jets front office. Lose this one and coaching changes will need to be made real soon. (“Hello, Bill Cowher?”) As a diehard Jet fan I just hope they can pull it together and make a playoff run.

The Jets offense was horrendous last year. They began their season by trading away their starting LG Pete Kendall to the Redskins for a draft pick and gave the job to Adrian Clarke. Last I heard he just got cut by the Broncos (great move, Mangenius). The offensive line couldn’t protect the quarterbacks or open holes for the running game (1 rushing touchdown for Thomas Jones). This was their biggest area of concern coming into the season and they addressed it big time signing Alan Faneca and Damian Woody. Faneca already seems to be filling in nicely as he was named co-captain. Woody has the challenge of transitioning over from guard to tackle but he certainly is an upgrade over Anthony Clement.

There are only 2 running backs on the Jets 53 man roster: Thomas Jones and Leon Washington. God forbid one of them goes down with an injury, I imagine Shaun Alexander’s phone will be ringing. Jones is not a great vertical runner; at best he runs hard and can push a pile. Leon Washington needs to get the ball more to make some plays and break a few long runs. The offensive line looks like they’re starting to find a rhythm and that’s a huge plus for the running game. The running game should mold nicely and will certainly increase last year’s ypc of 3.6.

Brian Schottenheimer must be licking his lips over the plays he can now call with a quarterback who can throw a 40yd strike off his back foot. Laveraneus Coles and Jerricho Cotchery can spread the field and open up the middle for Dustin Keller, Chris Baker and Brad Smith. Favre’s strong arm abilities will drop safeties back 2,3, or 15 yards farther than when Pennington was under center.

The 3-4 defense centers around the front 7, especially the nose tackle position. Jamal Williams and Vince Wilfork play it to perfection which is why it works so well for the Chargers and Patriots. The Jets are taking a chance that Kris Jenkins can be that type of player. At 6’4, 360 lbs he certainly has the size to eat up blockers. This is huge for inside linebackers Davis Harris and Eric Barton who should have more room to make plays. The Jets were called crazy when they signed Calvin Pace to the biggest deal for any linebacker, considering he’s had only one good season playing the 3-4 but he has been quite impressive this preseason. Their secondary is thin, especially at cornerback. Darelle Revis had an excellent rookie season and should only get better after one year under his belt. Kerry Rhodes is one of the better safeties in the league and is a solid playmaker. Look for Mangini to have Rhodes blitz more.

It’s hard to believe a team that went 4-12 last year and can turn around the next season and win 10 games. But considering their strength of schedule and all their transactions I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Jets walk into the playoffs at 10-6 like they did during Mangini’s first year. Do I think this will happen? No, the AFC is tougher than the NFC and I think the Jets are going to miss out on a playoff spot by a tiebreaker.

3. Buffalo Bills 8-8

Key Additions: Marcus Stroud, Kawika Mitchell, Leodis McKelvin, James Hardy

Key Departures: Anthony Thomas? Peerless Price? Larry Triplett? Actually there really aren't any.

Like the Jets, the Toronto Bills are a potential wildcard team. They have the elements to be considered a contender but will it all come together? They didn’t go crazy in free agency like the Jets did but they made enough moves and had a solid draft to be considered another threat to the Massholes.

Trent Edwards did a solid job at quarterback when Losman went down with an injury. He manages the game well and has good pocket awareness. He doesn’t have a big arm, limiting his capabilities of throwing the deep ball (sorry Lee Evans fantasy owners). The Bills are one playmaker away, preferably a TE, from being a playoff team. James Hardy provides a big end-zone target and should be a valuable asset for them down the road. Marshawn Lynch is a straight-up beast who runs as hard as Marion Barber but is harder to tackle. They want him move involved in the passing game and it’s about time. Hopefully he can stay healthy enough to contribute all 16 games this season.

The Bills' strength lies in their defense. The signing of Marcus Stroud was huge as it fills a big hole on the defensive line that was left by Pat Williams a few seasons ago. Stroud and Mitchell were key additions in helping mold a very young defense. Paul Posluszny is healthy after missing most of last season and he should be an every down middle linebacker. Leodis McKelvin should start opposite Terence McGee real soon but give him time to develop

LT Jason Peters holding out all season is a big blow to the offensive line, to team morale, and Trent Edwards blindside. If Trent Edwards can manage the game more like he did sporadically last season, the Bills will turn some heads. Right now I don’t see it happening. More importantly, I hate the Bills and hope they all die of gonorrhea.

4. Miami Dolphins (5-11)

Key Additions: Chad Pennington, Jake Long, Ernest Wilford, Jason Ferguson, Anthony Fasano, Akin Ayodele, Chad Henne, Charlie Anderson
Key Departures: Jason Taylor, Zack Thomas, Marty Booker

I compare Bill Parcells to “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”. They take a below average gentleman and they make him look fabulous. Big Tuna took the Jets and the Cowboys, both who were 3, 4 win teams at best, and turned them into playoff contenders. He’s been doing this his whole career. So now its Miami’s turn to try and rekindle the glory they once had when #13 was still playing and holding the ball, laces in, for Ray Finkle.

I was happy to see Chad Pennington go but I was disgusted to know the Jets would still have to play against him twice a year. Why couldn’t he have gone to Kansas City or Minnesota? He hurt the Jets when he was playing for them and now he can hurt the Jets by playing against them. Chad was brought in to help their young quarterbacks mature and that’s probably what he’ll do. They addressed a huge need at offensive line by drafting Jake Long with the #1 overall pick.

I can’t believe Ricky Williams is still in the league. At least Dante Culpepper gave up. He had a good preseason and looks poised to take away some of Ronnie Browns carries. But if Brown is healthy, a 1-2 punch of him and Ricky is quite intriguing. Ted Ginn Jr. can’t be happy that Chad Pennington is throwing him the ball deep. By the time the ball reaches him the defenders will have caught up to make a play on the ball. Anthony Fasano is a good sized TE and should shine now that he’s out of Jason Witten’s shadow.

Jason Ferguson is to Parcells as Jews are to my boy Epstein’s fantasy baseball team; they always have to be together. Parcells traded for him to be their nose tackle as they try to install the 3-4 defense. Ferguson is more suitable for the 4-3 so this will be a big test for him, especially coming off an arm injury that kept him out all last season. The departures of Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor leave holes on the defensive line and at linebacker. Whoever said rebuilding a defense is easy?

The Dolphins will probably surprise a lot of people. They aren’t as bad as they look but they aren’t very good either. With another offseason and draft, Parcells will have this team close to where the Jets and Bills are now, possibly even better. Here’s a message to the rest of NFL: just accept the fact that you will never succeed with Pennington as quarterback.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Questions Going into the NFL Season- NFC Edition

As the new NFL season approaches, every team has a few questions going into training camp, and still more by the time the season starts. But what are those questions? I’m going to go team by team with what I feel are the biggest questions for every team.

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys
Question: Can Romo prove he is a perennial choke artist?
Oh Romo, how much you have given us to talk about since you took over the starting QB job. Fumbling snaps, out of town trips with celebs before a big game, for two years now you have choked in the post season and cost the Cowboys their playoff hopes. Will you be able to do it a third time? How will you do it? I’m sure we’ll get to see come January.

New York Giants
Question: Will the Giants repeat?
After achieving the most satisfying victory, one where the entire world celebrated the triumph of good over evil for the first time since the Allies defeated the Nazis, the Giants will attempt to repeat their Super Bowl. Gone is Strahan and Jeremy Shockey who’s irrelevance was only not known to him. We’ll see how this season plays out, but seeing as how difficult it is to repeat, I am going to say no.

Philadelphia Eagles
Question: Will Andy Reid finally explode?
You look at this man and wonder how one person’s skin can hold so much fat. He’s the first at the buffet line, and I’m pretty sure they use the medical cart to take him on and off the field. You just look at the man and get the sense he is a balloon that has been filled with too much air.
Andy Reid's Yearbook Photo:

Washington Redskins
Question: Will Dan Snyder be able to contain giddiness if there is no salary cap?
Let’s face it, Dan Snyder is living for the day when the NFL has no salary cap and he can spend what he wants. Sure when they do get a cap again he’ll need to disappear half his team to get under it, but it will be worth it to him.

NFC North

Chicago Bears
Question: Who is gong to run the ball?
Can anyone actually name the running backs they currently have? Anyone who works for the Bears can chime in too. Of course every play they could just try and punt the ball to Devon Hester and let him go for it.

Detroit Lions
Question: Will this be the year Matt Millen is finally fired?
Lions fans have their hopes, don’t crush them. The firing of Millen is a faint hope they’ve been clinging to all these years and if it ever is ever publicly revealed he will never be fired, thousands will die because they gave up on life. But really, this guy needs to go.

Green Bay Packers
Question: Does Aaron Rogers remember how to play football?
He’s been sitting on the bench since he was drafted and sadly his hair has gotten more press than his football skills. You know the kid is dreading going on the field and being just like Alex Smith.

Minnesota Vikings
Question: Can Brad Childress manage to look normal in just one picture this year?
Do a Google search. Seriously. Every picture of this man he’s got some weird look or unnatural facial expression. He kind of scares me.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons
Question: Where in the world is Ron Mexico?
Like his cousin Carmen San Diego, Ron Mexico is missing in action, leaving newly drafted Matt Ryan to be thrown to the dogs on a poor team. Yeah, it could be good he’s getting in so early, or it could end up Alex Smith’ing him.

Carolina Panthers
Question: Will they officially fire John Fox this year?
It’s kind of like in Office Space where Milton (Fox) keeps trying to get his paycheck, but despite never getting it keeps coming to work anyways, and Initech (Panthers) assumes it’s just going to work itself out. Well it hasn’t. The Panthers keep losing and Fox keeps showing up. Maybe after this year they’ll finally just tell him, paving the way for another genius to come in:

New Orleans Saints
Question: Will they screw over betters again this year?
Many had them pegged for a long playoff run, and going to the Super Bowl wasn't uncommon either. They proceeded to miss the playoffs and kick betters and fantasy players in the junk.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Question: Can any of the Bucs QB's managed to elevate their game from "god awful" to "just plain bad"
Jon Gruden has some odd fetish with QB’s, carrying six on his roster. Saddest of all is if you combine their skills into one player instead of getting one super powered guy like Captain Planet you’ll get a guy that’s just average. Of course, it’s not like the rest of the team is in much better shape.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals
Question: Will Kurt Warner’s wife finally have a real haircut?
Lady, the short man hair looks awful. Your husband has money, please do something about it.

St. Louis rams
Question: Did they get all the injuries out of their system?
Talk about screwed over. Its not that the Rams were a really good team, but they were a playoff caliber team. That is until about half their starting roster got injured in some way, including most of their best players. By mid season they were just looking for warm bodies to put on the field and it showed. Better luck this year.

San Francisco 49ers
Question: How much does Alex Smith really suck?
After the first two games last year people said he was turning the corner. Week three came the Steelers who showed all he did was have good games against shitty teams, and he sucked the rest of the year. But how much does he really suck? He was never worth the 1st overall pick, even San Fran knew that, but took him anyways. Is it sad we all kind of expected him to bust?

Special bonus deleted scene:
Question: is Rice-A-Roni still the San Francisco treat? You tel me.

Seattle Seahawks
Question: Are Mike Holmgren's final words going to be "the refs cost us SB 40"
I’m glad he is calling it quits, I can’t stand the Super Bowl 40 references anymore. Get over it. And maybe if your receivers didn’t drop six key passes, or your kicker miss two field goals, you could have won the game. Or maybe if you paid attention to what was happening on the field instead no ordering off the to go menu you claim is a play sheet. But nah, it’s the refs. But hey, why not make one last comment so everyone remembers you to be the sore loser you are.

Some thoughts, nay, TRUTHS about the 2008 Giants.

-The biggest way that Bill Belichek has changed the game is by showing that it is important to convince your players that they are not respected. Somehow Belichek convinced the ’07, 18-0, record-setting Patriots that no one thought they were any good and that they had something to prove. Of course, most of the country actually thinks that the Giants championship was a fluke. And in New York, no one cares about any quarterback not named Brett Favre. All this is to say that while Coughlin should play the “no respect” tool to motivate his players, there’s a definite air of truth to it, both nationally, and in New York.

-Eli Manning probably won’t put up Pro Bowl numbers this year. When Eli was playing his best ball in January, he wasn’t putting up Peyton Manning numbers as much as he was putting up Phil Simms numbers. Let’s remember that the Giants scored no more than 24 points in any of the postseason games. As important as Eli is, he needs to manage games more than win them by himself.

-Other than Eli, who is the most important Giant this season? Corey Webster. He rose up from the ashes to catch what should have been Brett Favre’s last pass and became the Giants’ #1 corner during the stretch run. Without him, the Giants have the still-green-eventhough-he’s-almost-30-years-old Aaron Ross to go along with Sam Madison and his nearly 40 years. One has ability but no technique, the other has technique but is collecting Social Security. All this is to say that if Webster is a legitimate starting corner, our defense will continue its reign of terror. But if the Corey Webster who made Will Allen look talented shows up this season, the Giants season could end before Hanukah.

-Obviously the Giants will miss Osi and Strahan; to dwell on this is a waste of time. The real issues are whether they’ll miss Kawika Mitchell and Gibril Wilson. The SUS truth says that they’ll miss Mitchell somewhat but that Gibril will miss the Giants more than the Giants will miss Gibril. Certain SUS writers who frequently get stopped at airports think that Kawika was a product of the system, but I’m calling BS. The man was in on too many big plays last year to simply be a product of Spags’ system. And as for Gibril Wilson? He reminds me of a bunch of ex-Devils who leave for greener pastures and then regret leaving a fairly classy organization (PSL's notwithstanding) that treated them well. But hey, it’s the Raiders, they reek of class, I’m sure Gibril will be fine.

-The least important people to this current team are any one of Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Derrick Ward. You take away any one of these and the Giants still have one of the best running games in the NFL. You take away any two of these and the Giants’ running game is still in the top half. If all three are healthy, then someone’s talents are just going to waste. Anyone know if Derrick Ward can play outside linebacker?

-The Giants will finish somewhere between 12-4 and 5-11. Straight Up Sports: Always willing to go out on that limb!

Meanwhile, Back in the Baseball and Tennis Worlds...

For most of the other writers on this blog (read: Yankees fans), this September means the start of football. You can tell that they're getting excited from all of their posts about who's gonna win the most games and who's gonna continue to suck. While I know that the Giants open their season tonight and the rest of the league will follow this Sunday, I am more concerned with the fact that the Mets are 3 games up on the Phillies with 22 games to be played. This includes a HUGE three-game set at Shea v. the Phillies that starts tomorrow and will end the regular-season series for the NL rivals. After two nail-biting wins against the Brewers, the Mets had a rare easy victory yesterday afternoon for the sweep. This along with the Phillies losing 2 of 3 to the Nats, helped to open up said 3 game lead. This lead makes me hopeful, but not sure, that the Mets can make the playoffs. After all, the Phillies could come in and sweep, changing everything. Looking at things positively, the bullpen has done very well with its new September call-ups, the defense has continued to be exceptional and Senor Beltran has remembered how to hit. I'm still nervous about Wagner's availability (even though he has been shaky at times this year and things are going okay, for now, without him), Maine's injury, Martinez's lack of quality starts and the teams' inability to score runs late in games. Either way, you know I will be watching this weekend as the rivals go at it three more times...

The other sport that has had my attention in the past 10 days is tennis. Using the phenomenal Wimbledon men's final as a spring board, I believe that tennis gained some popularity. The US Open always draws a huge amount of spectators and New Yorkers love their night matches. Last night-er this morning- American Mardy Fish, in his best US Open showing, lost to #1 Rafael Nadal in 4 sets at 2:10 in front of a considerably large crowd. How did these guys end up playing into all hours of the morning? Well, Arthur Ashe Stadium, the tournament's Center Court, got a little backed up when a women's doubles quarterfinal match lasted about three hours. Then, the men's quarterfinal between Scotsman Andy Murray and Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro took almost four and a half hours. Next, the day session attendees had to spill out of the stadium, so that the night session could file in. An epic battle between Venus and Serena Williams was then played in two and a half hours. That match was in two very competitive sets, won by Serena, so imagine what would have happened if Venus had won the second set to force a third. Therefore, it was 11:30 when the men took the court for the final match of the day. I'm not telling you all of this because I want you to continue to think that tennis is a boring, slow sport. I'm trying to say that longer matches make for some high-quality tennis. The Wimbledon final took about seven hours with rain delays, and it was arguably the greatest match ever played.
For the women, I'm going to have to pick Serena Williams over Elena Dementieva in the final. Serena has been playing better than anyone else (except for Venus) throughout the tournament. On the men's side, I think Roger Federer will beat upstart Gilles Muller and Andy Roddick will beat Novak Djokovic in today's quarters. The final will again be between Rafa and Roger, and I'm going to pick Federer to win his first Grand Slam title this year and his fifth straight US Open title.

Saturday is set to be a big sports day, but it looks like Hurricane Hannah could ruin it all. Three important matches- 2 men's semifinals and the women's final- are supposed to be played on Saturday, which could be a washout. Maybe the US Open men's final will have to be played on Monday, just like the Wimbledon men's final in 2002.
Enjoy your football!

NFC North Preview

Organized Team Activities(OTAs) have never been popular in the Vikings organization

Minnesota Vikings

Whats to like- Adrian Peterson is the fucking man. You might have heard of him, as he probably went either #1 or #2 in your fantasy draft. This kid has been a rockstar ever since the day he donned shoulder pads. Even at Oklahoma, we all knew he was going to be something special. And he has lived up to every expectation. I really don't see any reason this kid wont be smashing records this year, as his O-line is top tier, if not elite. Hes gonna put up better numbers than LT, because LT has an offense around him and a decent QB who will distribute the ball. Speaking of the rest of the offense, Bernard Berrian made his way up the Great Plains to Minny from Chicago this offseason. I personally like this guy, hes got the potential to be a decent #1, great #2 WR down the road, even if he hasn't had a 1,000 yard season yet. As for this year, hes gonna be the first option in a passing attack that will have the luxury of light coverage due to the AP threat in the run game. On D, no line strikes fear into the heart of offensive coordinators as much as this one. With three potential Pro Bowlers on the line, its going to be damn near impossible to run and its going to be hard to protect a pocket against these guys. Jared Allen is obviously getting a lot of press, but I have to be honest, I didn't even know who he was until he signed with the Vikings. That's what happens when you play in Kansas City. I doubt hes going to put up similar numbers to last year; expect the glory to be distributed relatively evenly along the line.

Whats not to like- I don't like that their QB sucks. I mean, the kids got a chance to prove something to people, but from the games I watched last year, hes got a long way to go. Its possible for him to get his shit together, and if he does, watch out, they will be a Super Bowl contender. I guess I could mention the defensive secondary here, but having an outstanding line will make an average secondary look great. Having Darren Sharper and Antoine Winfield back there helps too.

Prediction/When do they lose to the Cowboys- Assuming Tarvaris Jackson doesn't shit the bed and has a decent year, and taking into account their tough schedule, I say the Vikings win the division at 10-6 and lose to the Cowboys in the second round.

Dishonest tears

Green Bay Favre-less Packers

Why they wont miss Favre- Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy rolled the dice big time this offseason. Everyone had an opinion about the Favre saga, but they pretty much stuck to their guns, even if they wavered for a hot grip. It shows that they have confidence that Aaron Rodgers can keep the team competitive this year. And its not an unreasonable bet, with a good O-line and guys like Ryan Grant, Greg Jennings and Donald Driver there to help the youngster along. Its probably one of the better situations a quasi-rookie QB has found himself in in the NFL in the past few years. The Packer's D will be good, better than last year at least, with a serviceable pass rush, a solid group of LBs and a secondary with a guy named Atari.

Why they are crying in their Schlitz's over losing Favre- To put it simply, Brett Favre was the only reason this team got as far as it did last year. Sure, they have talent and will do reasonably well this year, but if you lose your franchise QB and are handing the keys to a guy who has started a total of zero(0) games and hasn't even thrown 60 passes in his career, expect a let down. Favre kept this team going for large stretches of the season such as when the running game sputtered to a start, only getting its first 100 yard team effort in October. I just don't know if Rodgers is ready to put the team on his back when opposing D's load the box against Ryan Grant the first few weeks and dare him to beat them.

Projection/When do they lose to the Cowboys- Some may call me a flip-flopper, but after questioning Rodgers above, I think hes going to muddle through. There is a quality offense around him which will give him a few crutches. I think he gets his shit together and they compete for a wild card. 9-7, prob wont play Cowboys, but if they do, they lose in the first round.

The usual postion for Bears QBs

Chicago Bears

Reasons to think they don't need a real QB-

Devin Hester, I'm not afraid to admit, is the best return guy Ive ever seen whether in college(1:50 and 2:40 are nuts) or in the pros. I know I'm going way out on a limb there, but hey, that's what we at SUS are about, bold statements that may or may not be backed up by fact. Im excited to see what Hester can do if utilized as a complete offensive weapon. I doubt there is a corner in the league who can keep up with him on streak routes, maybe DeAngelo Hall or Champ Bailey(I know, maybe not anymore). The mofo is just explosive and is going to put the hurt on opposing defenses if given a proper supporting cast. Speaking of that, rookie Matt Forte looks to solve the 2nd biggest problem the Bears have had over the past few years, after letting the one decent back they had, Thomas Jones, go and keeping the shitty one, Cedric Benson. Defensively, things look a little better. The linebackers in Chicago are predictably great, one of the best units in the league, and they will have to be to make up for a declining D-line. The secondary is quality as well, and will do their share to give the LBs and linemen some time to get to opposing QBs.

The cold hard reality that you need a good QB in the NFL- My basic feeling is this, if you have laughably bad QBs for more than 2 years and fail to try and correct the situation, you need to turn the keys of the franchise over to someone WHO HAS A BRAIN. QB is the most important position in all of sports, and cannot be neglected. You have a good year with a shitty QB? Fine, draft a potentially good one in that years draft, but you cannot fool yourself into thinking that shitty QB will magically turn into Terry Bradshaw. Bears fans have been treated to a revolving door at QB for the last three years, except like a group of 10 year-olds, none of the guys in the revolving door ever actually leaves or enters the building. This franchise has shown a defiant unwillingness to do anything about their teams major deficit. They have refused to go after free agents, refused to draft a "future of the franchise" star and refused to make the major move that might put their team into an elite category for at least the past three years. This team rode a wave of luck and great defense to the Super Bowl a few years ago, and it seems like they are expecting it to happen again. Now, the team that made that run is slowly being nicked apart. If they don't get a quarterback with some potential soon, 2006 is likely to be the only shot at a ring they will get for awhile.

Prediction- Sorry Bears fans, Kyle Orton is not the answer(see 2005). This team is one or two players away from being great again, but sadly, one of them needs to be the QB. A reasonably tough schedule will keep this team from threatening the Vikings and Packers: 7-9

The Lions may suck, but they look good doing it

Detroit Lions

The Good News- These guys actually have the best QB in the division right now. Even better, they have two budding superstars at receiver with some capable backups. Rookie Kevin Smith will look to add some stability at RB over a luggage-less Rudi Johnson. The defense boasts three quality cornerbacks and a great linebacker in Ernie Sims.

The Bad News- Where to begin.... This defense is seriously going to miss Shaun Rogers. Every 4-3, especially those with sub-par ends, needs a skilled fat guy to take up two blockers so the other guys on the line can get a chance to beat their men and get to the QB/RB. Rogers was that guy for the Lions and he wasn't replaced. This line will get little, if any, pressure on opposing QBs, which will test the secondary in new and maddening ways. Without pressure, that's a battle QBs win 75% of the time. Ive always believed that every game is won in the trenches, and this Lions team just cant compete there.

The Worse News/Prediction- Well it makes sense that if you have a decent(relative term, I know) QB and two big, fast young WRs that you would fire your offensive coordinator, who made his name in pass happy attacks. I'm no big Mike Martz fan, but this guy improved the team in the two years he was there. I think Detroit is gonna miss him. 5-11

NEW YORK GIANTS (-4.5) over Washington Redskins

Gentlemen...START YOUR ENGINES! Yes, the NFL season is here, beginning with a pre-game concert by not-so-native New Yorker, Toby Keith. But since no one cares about the inbred hick, let's move on.

And before I discuss the game, let me just say that the first week of the season is basically a crapshoot. Neither team has any game film of their opponents, and more likely than any other week, Week 1 upsets generally don't provide any insight into how teams will fare over the course of the season.

That said, the Giants are finally playing a meaningful home game for the first time since their 38-35 "loss that was really a win" against the Patriots. The Redskins have talented skill players, but it's going to be a make or break year for their QB, Jason Campbell. For what it's worth, the Giants also have a talented skill player or 5, and you gotta think that Eli, right now, is better than Campbell.

And I can discuss both teams' defenses as well, but let's be honest, there's no way the Giants should lose this game. There's no way the home team should ever lose the opening Thursday night game. They're going to be playing in front of fans that are going to welcome their team with open arms, even if their cornholes are going to be sore after an offseason of being raped by John Mara and his beloved PSLs. Gotta think that the momentum of opening night post-Super Bowl alone should get the Giants at least one win this year.

The Pick: Giants, to quote Plax, 23-17.

NFC South Preview

The NFC South is usually one of the divisions that teams routinely shuffle around. Two years ago it was the Saints and last year it was the Bucs. Look for the same situation to occur this season as no team in this division has done enough to separate themselves from the pack. It’s going to be another 3 team race for the playoffs (with Atlanta full-on rebuilding) but still it’s anyone’s ballgame.

New Orleans Saints

Additions: Jon Vilma, Jeremy Shockey, Sedrick Ellis, Trace Porter, Bobby McCray, Randall Homosexual

Subtractions: Jeff Faine

Hoping to recreate the success of 2 years ago, the Saints quietly had a very productive off-season.

Offensively, this is still one the of the classes of the NFL. Drew Brees is one of the best in the business and is backed up (or protected) by an elite O-Line that allowed only 16 sacks last season.

The question marks revolve around the skill positions. Deuce McAllister is healthy right now but hasn’t shown that he can stay healthy for the entire season. If he can live up to what we’ve come to expect, then the Saints will be golden. Reggie Bush needs to put it all together and will likely do so after his disappointing sophomore season. Aaron Stecker and Pierre Thomas provide solid backups in case of injuries.

The receivers are another question mark. Teams know what they are going to get with Marques Colston, but after him it is a bit of a question mark. The team will look to 2nd year man, Robert Meachum to line up next to Colston and provide the game breaking ability that he flashed at Tenneesee and the preseason. Behind them are more solid possession receivers in David Patten and Lance Moore and speedsters Devery Henderson and Terrance Copper. All in all, one of the best group of wrs in the league, provided Meachum takes the next step. In the mean time, Patten will see the bulk of #2 WR looks.

The big move offensively this year for the Saints was trading for Ex-Gint Jeremy Shockey. Shockey has a world of talent but continues to miss action with injuries. He will see career numbers if he can stay healthy. Flanking Shockey are the average Mark Campbell and Billy Miller. Not world beaters by any means but still a solid group of guys.

O-line wise, the Saints' major change is Jonathan Goodwin replacing the departed Faine. Faine was one of the league’s best and Goodwin will need to show the Saints were right in allowing him to start. Brown, Nesbit, Evans and Stichcomb have started for the past 3 years so continuity shouldn’t be much of an issue.

The questions marks for this team are Defense and the Saints went out of their way to help themselves out.

The D-Line is among the league’s best with Charles Grant and Will "Fresh Prince" Smith providing the pass rush despite disappointing season last year. The Saints added Bobby McCray from Jagoffville to create more of a pass rush and allow some quality snaps from backups. Kendrick Clancy, Hollis Thomas and Brian Young provided a nice group of rotating tackles while first round pick, Sedrick Ellis, will show the league why his name was in the same sentence as Glenn Dorsey.

The linebacking corps was also upgraded with Jonathan Vilma taking over for Mark Simoneau, providing some MUCH needed speed to the linebacking corps. Vilma will need some help from his DTs to occupy blockers but will be allowed to move freely in space and take advantage of his skillset. Scott Fujita on the strong-side had a career year last season and will look to continue his progression as a player. The other starter, Scott Shanle is average but does provide adequate run support. The depth is crap.

The Achilles heel of this group was horrendous secondary play that ranked 30th in passing yards allowed and gave up 50+ pass plays over 20 yards. Randall Gay will most likely start opposite Mike McKenzie and provide an upgrade over free-agent bust Jason David. Usama Young and Trace Porter will see dime action. The safety position is average but can be with better corner play. Kevin Kaesviharn makes plays happen both for and against while Roman Harper is an up and coming safety around the league.

10 – 6

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Additions: C Jeff Faine, QB Brian Griese RB Warrick Dunn, WR Antonio Bryant, TE Ben Troupe, DE Marques Douglas, CB Aqib Talib

Subtractions: Michael Pittman, Anthony Becht, John Wade, Matt Lehr, Luke Petitgout, Greg Spires, Jeremiah Trotter, Brian Kelly

Offensively, the Bucs are still average. Teams will continue to load up on the run and shade coverage to Galloway. Someone needs to step up to open up passing lines.

The Bucs are backed by solid QB play from Jeff Garcia. Garcia showed the moxy and cajones to safely pilot the Gruden offense. The only concerns for him remain durability. Outside of Garcia, you have Chris Simms, Griese, Rook Josh Johnson and Luke McCown. Solid group of QBs all in all but you gotta expect Simms to be dumped any second now. (Editor's Note: Simms got cut. This is an outrage. Would YOU cut Jesus? Though in Jesus' defense, he probably had his spleen.)

The Bucs running game is equally solid with the returning Earnest Graham who helped salvage the Bucs attack. Graham was a solid weapon in passing game as well but is 33 years old so the eventual decline might happen sooner rather than later. Add to this, Warrick Dunn who returns to Tampa to take over the 3rd down back duties and spell Graham but Dunn is no spring chicken by any means either. Former rookie of the year, Cadillac Williams is still on the PUP so we might not see him until midseason. If he can return to glory, the Bucs will be that much better off. Likely, though Williams won’t see significant action again until next season. Former Viking, Michael Bennett adds speed and game breaking ability as well.

The weakness of the Bucs has been their vertical passing attack. Galloway continues to lead this group and be the sole playmaker catching the football for the Bucs. Add stalwarts, Ike Hilliard and Mike Clayton and the Bucs continue to utilize the same slow receivers as years past. Clayton had a solid preseason and will look to translate that into his 2004 success. Add to this group Antonio Bryant who sat all of last season with off the field issues, and Giant Maurice Stovall and 2nd round pick, Dexter Jackson. Jackson has the ability to give this team another deep threat to go with the height options (Stovall, Clayton, Bryant). Buccaneers are deep at tight end with starter Alex Smith and free-agent signees Ben Troupe a one-time starter in Tennessee, and ex-Bears blocking specialist John Gilmore. Ex-SeaCock, Jeremy Stevens is there too. Two of these guys must step up to give this team a respectable NFL offense.

The O-line has been on the upswing for the Bucs. Jeff Faine will man the middle and provide an upgrade to John Wade. Davin Joseph and Arron Sears and Jeremy Trueblood are all chipping in with their games rounding into form. Donald Penn, the starting LT, filled in admirably for Luke Petitgout so much so that Luke is now working at Wal-Mart. This group is improving and one of the catalysts for last season’s success.

The Bucs on D have taken a step back from the Super Bowl days but are young with potential.
Tampa Bay's vaunted Cover 2 scheme is at its best when it's getting consistent pressure along the edges, and the Bucs possess a pair of good young rushers in second-year ends Greg White and Gaines Adams. White, a former Arena League Player, racked up a team-best eight sacks and an eye-popping seven forced fumbles in a situational role last season. White takes over for the aging Greg Spires and will need to prove he can keep up his level of play with more snaps. Adams is one of the best young pass rushers in the league and will look to improve upon a great second half of the season. The defensive tackle slots are no longer manned by Sapp and Booger but Jovan Haye had a productive first year as a starter. Add to the mix Kevin Carter and Chris Hovan and this group is solid up front with depth to spare.

This underrated unit is still led by Old faithful Derek Brooks who continues to be the leader on this defense. Barrett Rudd came on as a strong man in the middle for the Bucs and will look to improve. Factor in speedy Cato June and the Bucs D will once again be flying around for the football. Youngsters Quincy Black and Geno Hayes provide youth while Matt McCoy and Ryan Nece provide experience.

The Bucs pass D finished first in the league last year and got another outstanding season from Ronde Barber. Brian Kelly departed for the Lions and will be replaced by Philip Buchanon who had a solid year. Add in rookie Aqib Talib who will see nickel duty currently before eventually replacing Buchanon in the starting line up. The safety play for the Bucs was equally impressive last year with strong play from Jermaine Phillips and future Pro Bowler Tanard Jackson. Add in Sabby Piscitelli, and Will Allen (no, not that Will Allen) and the Bucs will once again be tough to pass on.

8 – 8

Carolina Panthers

Additions: DJ Hackett, Muhsin Muhammad, Jonathan Stewart, Jeff Otah, Keydrick Vincent, Landon Johnson, Darwin Walker

Subtractions: Kris Jenkins, Micheal Rucker, Dan Morgan, Justin Hartwig, Drew Carter, Mike Wahle

Joke Delhomme was off to a terrific start prior to getting hurt, with the 33-year-old tossing eight touchdown passes against just one interception, and his value to the Panthers became evident with the way the offense stalled following his absence. Delhomme might return healthy but he might be horrid too. Matt Moore came on last season and displayed some potential as a backup. Brett Basanez will use his Northwestern education to hold a clipboard.

The Panthers are missing that Steven Davis type rusher but found that with rookie Jonathan Stewart in the first round. Stewart and incumbent DeAngelo Williams will take turns with the rock until one of them steps up. Still it seems like an awful lot to have two first round picks duke it out. Nick Goings is there to back them both up in case both get hurt which if you’ve followed Carolina, happens. Frequently.

The skill positions got a needed upgrade with the signings of Muhammad and DJ Hackett. Both will see significant playing time. Moose can even help wunderkind Dwayne Jarrett wake up and teach him the ropes. Hackett and Moose will take the burden off of Steve Smith and give this offense another dimension. Ryne Robinson provides the team with another Steve Smith-lite.
Tight ends are a bit lacking with Jeff King starting but Dante Rosario showed promise. Still this group is much stronger than last year and will likely help out Delhomme.

The line was the biggest cause of concern and has been massively retooled. Jordan Gross will move to left tackle while last year’s LT, Travelle Wharton moves to LG. RT first rounder Jeff Otah is a beast and helped solidify this unit. Ex Steeler Keydrick Vincent is solid and C Ryan Kalil will look to take over the Center role. Depth in the O-Line is a concern but they still have experienced players in the weeds. If these guys can gel than I can see Carolina improving but I don’t see it just happening this year.

Last year, the Panthers defense looked average. Julius Peppers went from feared to coward but it’s a contract year so he will be a monster. Mike Rucker retired and will be replaced by the young, Charles Johnson and ex-Gaider, Tyler Brayton. Kris Jenkins’ departure will be missed when healthy but the fact is the guy couldn’t stay healthy. He’ll be replaced by Damione Lewis who filled in admirably for Jenkins last season. Add in beast, DT Maake Kemoeatu, who is a real load and potential superstar. Experienced depth along the interior was provided by the signing of ninth-year vet Darwin Walker but an injury to any end could spell doom.

Jon Beason had a great rookie season and became a fixture for this defense for years to come. He also was healthy (something Dan Morgan couldn’t do). Flanking Beason are speedster Thomas Davis and Na’il Diggs. Diggs might get some competition from ex Bung, Landon Johnson while rookie Dan Connor will look to get in some action that doesn’t involve Penn State co eds.

The secondary of the Panthers is very good for league standards. Richard Marshall, Chris Gamble and Steve Smith’s punching bag, Ken Lucas are the best trio in the league. The rest of the secondary is average with Chris Harris leading the charge. Add in rookie Charles Godfrey as Mr. Hybrid FS/CB and the Panthers may be on to something. They also might not be. Depth behind these guys is nothing.


Atlanta Falcons

Additions: Matt Ryan, Micheal Turner, Ben Hartsock, Kindal Moorehead, Rashad Moore, Simon Fraser, Grady Jackson, Eric Coleman

Subtractions: Warrick Dunn, Alge Crumpler, Kynan Forney, DeAngelo Hall, Rod Coleman

Rebuilding year and the Falcons are synonymous for the time being, with the Falcons well on their way to another top 5 pick next year coming up except they traded that pick. Oops. There’s a lot to like though if you are a Falcon fan.

Drafting Matt Ryan will take the sting out of the whole Ron Mexico Debacle. From all accounts, Ryan is a poised qb with intangibles up the wazoo and the track record to be an outstanding citizen on and off the filed. If Ryan struggles, Chris Redman who flashed some talent last season will get a look but this will be Ryan’s show.

To help out a rook QB, a team needs a strong running game. The falcons always had one of the league’s best but took a back seat last season. The Falcons rectified this by adding Micheal Turner to their arsenal. Turner is a potential superstar with the ability to be one of the league’s best and is quite the opposite from former starter Warrick Dunn. Behind Turner is big play, Jerious Nerwood who is touchdown waiting to happen and a playmaker for this offense. Add to this FB, Ovie Mughelli and the Falcons can take a lot of pressure off of Ryan.

The weapons for Ryan are also young and talented. The one silver lining to last season was Roddy White breaking out and showcasing some talent. Micheal Jenkins is his running mate and looks the part but hasn’t put it all together just yet. Laurent Robinson, Adam Jennings, Harry Douglas and returning Brian Finneran flank them. Losing Crumpler, The Falcons signed Ben Hartsock who is an average tight end. He will duke it out with the talented Martrez Milner to take away some of the sting they lost with Crumpler. All in all, though a still slighty weak group of weapons for a QB.

The old zone blocking, Alex Gibbs scheme was replaced by Bobby Petrino last year with a power oriented scheme that didn’t mix with the old group. The Falcons traded for Sam Baker who doesn’t suit the power run block scheme at all as Baker was more finesse and positioning as opposed to brute strength. Still Baker and 2nd year Justin Blalock give this team a solid Left side for the future. Still a ton of question marks here and will likely be a reason for a sputtering offense.

Defensively, there some question marks as well. Last season, the Falcons got run on so they rememdied that by resigning Grady Jackson to go along aside Jonathan Babineaux. Moorehead, Moore and Frasier provide depth at the tackle spot. Injury prone, John Abraham stayed healthy last year but got little help from 2007 first rounder, Jamaal Anderson. Anderson has enormous potential and should rebound a year in. Injuries to any DEs would spell doom for this club.

The linebacking corps is the best part of the unit with Keith Brooking leading the charge. SLB Mike Boley is underrated and the middle will be manned by rook, Curtis Lofton. Lofton had a solid preseason and will need to step to help the run defense. The depth brigade is comprised of Tony Taylor, Stephen Nicholas and ex Bill, Coy Wire. Nothing much there to write home about.

The secondary though is the worst aspect of this defense after trading DeAngelo Hall. Thus they are left with 2nd year starter Chris Houston, Brent Grimes (?) and Chevis Jackson from LSU. Uh yea. They just traded for ex Donco, Dominique Foxworth who should see significant playing time provided that there is no one else. There’s a guy named Von Hutchins also but according to the Bobs, he’s useless.

They also have Lawyer Milloy still who is the equivalent of a 4th linebacker but also horrendous in space. They also have old Jet trash Erik Coleman and another rookie Thomas Decloud at the safety spot but in reality, there is a whole lot of nothing here and unless the D-Line brings a nasty pass rush than these guys will be exposed. Hard.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

NFC East Preview

By White Boy South Bronx

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Dallas Cowboys 13-3, 1st place, #1 seed in NFC- Lord knows I absolutely abhor that silver helmet with the Blue star etched across it. The mere sight of TO makes me ill as does the sight of his newest teammate and accomplice to attempted murder, Pacman Jones. However, this team is loaded. They have an excellent, if not "A-Rodian" in terms of clutchness, QB and the best receiver in the game. Jason Witten is amongst the games finest TE’s and the promotion of Marion Barber III to fulltime starter duties will greatly improve an already explosive offense. Felix Jones, Darren McFadden’s backup at Arkansas, comes into the league highly regarded by scouts as a future impact player in the league. The Dallas defense is also stacked with Pro Bowl lineman Demarcus Ware, Cornerback Terrence Newman and Safety Roy Williams. Although Williams leaves a lot to be desired in terms of his cover skills, he is a fierce hitter and a solid overall safety. Dallas’s only weakness is its collective lack of playoff experience and gravitas. It’s QB and head coach have zero playoff wins and Romo has been a huge part of two monumental choke jobs first to the Seahawks and then last year to the Giants. The only thing holding back Dallas from a run to the Bowl is Dallas itself.

2) Philadelphia Eagles, 11-5, 2nd place, #5 seed in NFC- The Eagles scare any honest NFC East fan. (Editor’s note: including Philly fans) Philly has one of the game’s most respected and intelligent defensive coordinators in Jim Johnson and he has plenty of weapons to work with including perennial Pro Bowler and future hall of fame safety Brian Dawkins and the free agent superstar cornerback Asante Samuel. Although Sheldon Brown and Lito Shepherd do not scare me, DE Trent Cole certainly does. McNabb is getting older and is no longer the threat to run that he used to be, but is still a top 10 QB in the league. Additionally, he has the NFC’s most versatile running back Brian Westbrook lining up in the backfield every play. If Donovan and Westbrook can stay healthy for a full season, you would have to expect Philly to find its way back into the postseason and I do not envy the team that draws these guys in a first round matchup.

1 New York Giants, 9-7, 3rd place #6 seed in NFC- The defending champions are as poor a candidate to defend its crown as any returning champ in recent memory. Rarely does a defending champion lose its two best players from the season prior, Strahan to retirement and Osi to a knee injury, and expect to repeat. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is arguably the best young coach in the National Football League; his blitzing aggressive schemes were a welcome change from the more conservative approach of “Tiny” Tim Lewis. I am not ready however to pronounce Eli as a top 5 QB yet. He had a great month but he has to prove he can do that throughout the grind of a 16 game regular season the way his brother and Tom Brady has. Plaxico is always hurt and may not ever again be the truly explosive receiver he was in the past. The rushing attack will be solid with a 1-2 punch of the tough and deceptively quick Brandon Jacobs followed by the quick and deceptively tough Ahmad Bradshaw. The losses of both Osi and Strahan will hurt the Giant’s chances of realistically contending for the title this year but it won’t stop New York from making its 4th consecutive playoff appearance.

2) Washington Redskins 7-9, 4th place, No playoff appearance- It has become fashionable to pick the Redskins as the team to surprise people each year it seems. I’m not sure why. Jason Campbell has not really shown anything yet to convince you he can be a good everyday QB. In fact, the team was languishing at 5-7 before he got injured midway through a game against the Bears only to see Todd Collins steward the team to a 4-0 finish and a wildcard playoff berth. Clinton Portis is always a tough matchup for any defense and Santana Moss is a very tough cover. As great as the ex-Bronco and ex-Jet have performed, Brandon Lloyd and Antwon Randle El have been huge disappointments, coming over in free agency. Washington has some talented guys on defense including LB Marcus Washington, safety LaRon Landry and Cornerback Fred Smoot. They also traded for future hall of fame DE Jason Taylor to fill the void left by the season ending injury to Phillip Daniels. But Washington is counting on a rookie head coach to lead the hog nation to the Promised Land. I don’t think the Skins are a bad team, but they are in a division with 3 really good teams and are not as good as any of them.

-White Boy South Bronx