My NFC picks are already down. Time for the other conference.
1. New England Patriots (11-5) – Yes indeed, the Pats are back on top. It might not be for a long time, but they loaded up on enough veterans that they should roll again this year. Add a lot of players for the defensive front with the best quarterback in the league and an actually decent running game, and they will (sadly) be pretty good again.
2. New York Jets (10-6) Wild card – The Jets are a good team…but that’s it. Mark Sanchez really didn’t make massive strides last year, he was just incredibly lucky (15 dropped interceptions). And to beef up their passing game, they add a 34 year old who hasn’t played football for two years due to incarceration for shooting himself in the leg. Yes, really. They are so desperate for pass rushers that they brought in Aaron Maybin. That’s like being so desperate for a political candidate that Michelle Bachmann becomes a viable choice. Oh…
3. Miami Dolphins (9-7) Wild Card – They’re still coached by a man who looks like he’s in the witness protection program. They’re still reliant on Brandon Marshall, a receiver who might be insane, and now a rookie running back and the over-rated Reggie Bush to take heat off of a raw quarterback. They DO, however, have an absolutely loaded defense. And that keeps them in the running.
4. Buffalo Bills (3-13) – Holy shitballs, this is a horrible team and organization. Relying on guys who come out of nowhere to post career years usually isn’t a good path to success. They’ve apparently decided that offensive tackles are unnecessary, and instead bring guys in who could probably be outplayed by random fans in the stands (Hell, there’s an idea for a promotion! At halftime, we’ll choose a lucky fan to be our left tackle for the second half!). The defense isn’t bad, but lacks in many guys who make plays. Awful.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) – What is with the two North divisions? “Hey, let’s just give the front runners the crown now and not even try!” Pittsburgh isn’t even a great team, but they blow the doors off their division rivals. That defense doesn’t want to beat you, it wants to beat ON you. The offense might be better with the young receivers having a year’s experience. The line remains a question mark, but it hardly matters.
2. Baltimore Ravens (8-8) – Oh how the mighty have fallen. The defense is starting to look creaky. The offense died last year because they lacked a downfield threat. They picked that up in Lee Evans…and also lost most of their sure handed guys. They have no proven depth in the backfield. Too…many…issues. And with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed soon to retire, this isn’t getting better anytime soon.
3. Cleveland Browns (6-10) – Name me three defenders for the Cleveland Browns. You can’t. NOBODY can. That’s a problem. A few of those kids have shown ability, but there’s too much of an unknown quality on that side of the ball. They look like they’ll be able to run the ball again this year (especially with Montario Hardesty back in the mix with Peyton Hillis), and Colt McCoy looked pretty solid at quarterback last year. And that was with weak receivers. Sadly, things haven’t changed much there, either.
4. Cincinnati Bengals (5-11) – I don’t know what this team is doing. Okay, so you blow out the veteran receivers to get them out of your locker room…fine. Good move. You then follow that up by NOT trading the rights to your veteran quarterback, even though it would have brought draft picks you could have spent during your rebuild? Oh, and you re-sign the same running back who was too slow to be effective last season? Huh? The defense could actually be half decent, but they need some recent high picks to actually produce something.
1. Houston Texans (10-6) – Yes Virginia, it’s finally time. I like the Texans offense (so long as Jacoby Jones continues to pay like a real live #2 receiver). And hey, they picked up some of those pesky defensive backs who can cover people. That’s a plus! However, I’m not 100% sold on their defense, and I won’t be until I see that 3-4 actually work in a real game. I mean, come on, Shaun Cody at nose tackle? The guy couldn’t hold ground in a 4-3, and now he’s going to tie up multiple blockers and keep the inside linebackers clean? We’ll see. How their front 7 plays decides their season. UPDATE : Now that starting running back Arian Foster is out with a torn hamstring, the other backs have to step up as well. I think they can, especially with a pretty solid line in front of them.
2. Indianapolis Colts (9-7) – Not only no division for Indy this year, but no postseason games at all. They still can’t even slow down the run, and Jim Caldwell is a horrid head coach. It isn’t good when your coach’s primary expression is a physical approximation of “Huh?” Finally, Peyton Manning has not thrown a football since the end of last year. That isn’t good for a rhythm team. It’s even worse that he might not be ready for the start of the year. It’s been a Hell of a run, but that run is at an end.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-9) – The slow build continues. I like the moves the Jags have made this offseason a lot. Dawan Landry is better than every safety the team had last year. Then again, so is my computer desk. The linebackers are actually guys capable of making a play. The defensive line is healthy. Jason Spitz is a nice addition to the interior of the offensive line. They still have a great running game, and finally figured out that giving their 6’6” tight end with reliable hands some looks in the red zone might make sense. And Mike Thomas is becoming a nice receiver. All in all, good stuff. The problems are still many, though. Their corners were godawful last year and the pass rush still looks weak. That isn’t a good combination. There is no #2 receiver. There isn’t a lot of depth at a number of spots. The build continues.
4. Tennessee Titans (5-11) – Chris Johnson (aka The Entire Offense) made a too-brief training period even shorter with a protracted holdout, and that usually leads to a season lost to hamstring pulls and ankle sprains. That leaves them with a rookie quarterback (Jake Locker) or veteran passer who has had his bell rung quite a bit recently (Matt Hasselbeck) throwing primarily to scrubs. They actually have a good line, but that only means so much if there isn’t anything to block for. The defense is a mess. Linebacker is a disaster area, their secondary was exposed last year for how overrated they were, and they lack any consistent ability to stop the run.
1. San Diego Chargers (10-6) – This team is a shadow of what it was a few years ago, but they’re still the cream of this group. Phillip Rivers has replaced his uber-asshole status with actually becoming a pretty good quarterback. Their ground game should be better if Ryan Matthews can stay healthy and contribute. They have an in-shape Vincent Jackson at receiver. And the defense looks solid, if unspectacular (especially in terms of pass rushers other than Shaun Phillips). Sadly, they also still have Norv Turner as a coach and the blundering fat idiot AJ Smith in charge of personnel.
2. Oakland Raiders (8-8) – This is what passes for a return to glory for the silver and black these days. They mixed in their usual insane moves (massive deal for Kamerion Wimbley for no explicable reason) and bad losses (Nnamdi Asomugha…great name, better cornerback). But they’re still good enough for 2nd, mostly because the other teams in the West are that bad. Okay, and also because they should be able to run the ball on nearly everyone, and have a pretty solid defensive line.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (7-9) – I was initially going to put KC in 2nd with a solid shot at the playoffs. then I watched them in the preseason. Their passing game is nonexistent. Their prize 1st round receiver looks clueless. Their line is getting it’s ass kicked from tackle to tackle. The jury is still out on whether Matt Cassel is actually a good quarterback. Dwyane Bowe and Jamaal Charles are great, but…geez. And I would have liked to have seen them go after a pass rusher to complement Tamba Hali and a corner big enough to not buy his clothes in the children’s department.
4. Denver Broncos (6-10) – This team almost gave up a legitimate quarterback in order to start an over drafted dude with a worse throwing motion and release than half the guys on flag football teams. Lucky for them, they didn’t. But they do still rely way too much on Brandon Lloyd, who suddenly led the league in receiving after 7 or 8 years of egotistical mediocrity. I don’t buy it. The return to a 4-3 should help the defensive front, but the entire secondary looks old enough to qualify for AARP cheques.
Playoffs – Wild Card Round : Houston over Miami, New York over San Diego
Divisional Round : New England over New York, Pittsburgh over Houston
Conference Round : New England over Pittsburgh
Super Bowl : New Orleans 31 – New England 21
Other Blog Challenge Participants
Liam – http://www.bisonweb.ca/blog/
Chad – http://grindingpixels.blogspot.com/
Tammy – http://tam–i–am.blogspot.com/
Vlad – http://www.analogcoast.com/
Kim – http://www.mynaturebaby.ca/blog/
Shaun – http://expeditionoftruths.com/
Peter – http://crazywookiecookies.blogspot.com/
Earl – http://earljwoods.blogspot.com/
Zita – http://ignitestrategicsolutions.com/
Brad – http://kickmeoutsoon.blogspot.com/
Natasha – http://blog.naturalurbanmamas.com/