I don't have much time for these this year, but it wouldn't feel right if I didn't make some predictions. So here's a quick couple of lists:
- San Diego Chargers: The only thing this team lacked last season was playoff experience. Now they have it. I don't thikn Norv Turner will be the cancer some people expect--he's a talented offensive co-ordinator with a defense that should be able to coach itself. Though a bit weak at WR, the Chargers should win the division and hit 12-13 wins.
- Indianapolis Colts: They took some substantial hits on defense, but that's not what has me placing this team third. Three words: rookie-left-tackle. And they don't have TE's built for pass blocking (can you really see Dallas Clark "helping out" against Terrell Suggs?). And they don't regularly use a full-back. Prediction: Peyton Manning will get hit harder than he ever has in his life this season. 12-4
- NE Patriots: Not to be a homer, but it is same old, same old in NE. Wes Welker will end up being the best WR on this team--his talent for making the tough catch over the middle will throw him right in Troy Brown's (where's Troy!?!) role. I do have a number of questions for this team: can Malroney stay healthy (probably not), will Seymour come back (probably not), can Harrison stay healthy (probably not), So, I see a good season, not a great one: 11-5.
- Baltimore Ravens: Oh my goodness this defense is good, even after losing AT. But I think their offense will really benefit from McGahee--I think there's plenty of gas in his tank. 10-6.
- Pittsburg Steelers: I hate the Steelers. But I think everyone is sleeping on this team. Yes, they have a new coach who will probably meddle with a defense he shouldn't. Yes, they lost Joey Porter. No, they didn't make any significant, over-the-top acquisitions. But, they have a healthy and motivated Ben. And I think having a clear-headed quarterback for 16 games will make a big, big difference. 10-6.
- Buffalo Bills: I know the Jets are the sexier pick, but I think Buffalo has made some strides. Losman played outstanding toward the end of last season, and I think he will continue to grow. It won't be pretty, but I think Buffalo "toughs out" that last playoff spot, just edging out the Bengals: 9-7.
AFC Championship Game: Chargers beat the Patriots, 24-21. Ouch.
- New Orleans Saints: The defense has to play better, simply because this offense won't be sneaking up on people this season. I wish they made a significant addition. 12-4.
- Dallas Cowboys: Tono Romo will be terrible (there's a reason this "franchise qb" rode the bench behind Bledsoe for three years...). But this defense will terrorize people. This could be the best defense in the NFL. And their two running back system could wear down opposing defenses. 11-5.
- Chicago Bears: Oh God, if any team should be interested in Leftwich, its this one. If they ditch Rex (or he masters his split-personality issue), then this team could be significantly better than I think. But, Cedric Benson is not Thomas Jones, particularly as a receiver. This is an offense that can ill afford to lose dimensions. 10-6.
- San Fran 49'ers: Great defensive upgrades and the best running back in the NFC not named Jackson. 10-6.
- Tampa Bay Bucs: Yup, this is my "that's insane" pick. But, the NFL tends to be insane. I have no faith in Carolina anymore- though their running game, defense, and Steve Smith could make me regret this pick. I think Gruden pulls it together, Garcia improves the whole offense, and the D plays with something to prove. 9-7.
- Phily Eagles: Donovan McNabb doesn't lose, so this is a pretty low risk pick. I like their defense, Westbrook fits this system perfectly, and this team always seems to have that intangible toughness. They'll squeak out this playoff spot over the defense-less Rams and QB-less Vikings (another team who should be throwing themselves at Leftwich--with a quality QB, this would be my Super Bowl pick).
NFC Championship Game: No freaking idea. I kinda want to pick the Vikings, even though I don't think their current QB can take them to the playoffs. So, how about this: 49'ers beat the Cowboys, 20-14. Yup, whatever.
Superbowl: the Chargers decimate whoever wins the AFL, mean NFC, championship game, 33-10.
That is, of course, unless the Vikings sign Leftwich. Then, all bets are off... (God, I love the NFL)