10 Predictions For the 2006 NFL Season

With the first NFL preseason games out of the way, it's official — the NFL is back. Though you can't dissect much from preseason games, the mere fact that the Eagles and Raiders have put one in the books has created a frenzy in sports arenas.

It won't be long before the new-look Dolphins take on the Super Bowl champion Steelers on Thursday, September 7, and until that first kick-off, here is a list of things you can bet on this season, and in that case, don't bet at all, I don't want to be held financially responsible.

1) Terrell Owens will have a monster year. As a Philadelphia Eagles fan, it pains me to say this. But the proof is in the pudding, and T.O. is a selfish star who will want to stick it to every one of his naysayers every game. The fact that he's in the NFC East only makes it that much sweeter — for him.

There's no doubt that he is one of the best wide receivers in the game, if not the best. He has the talent around him to flourish, and a quarterback who can get him the ball. Drew Bledsoe isn't Donovan McNabb, but he's definitely better than Jeff Garcia.

So as long as his hamstring heals, if that's really what's bothering him, expect big numbers from Owens, based solely on the fact that he's selfish (I have no animosity whatsoever).

2) Larry Johnson will not live up to the hype. Yes, it's true that Larry Johnson had an unbelievable year last year. Anyone would be insane not to think so. The fact that he rushed for 1,750 yards, 20 touchdowns, in just nine games, would make even a Raider fan giddy at the chance for 2,000 yards rushing.

There is one underlying factor though, that will eliminate Larry Johnson from the 2,000-yard club, or even the rushing title for that matter. Fullback Tony Richardson is no longer leading the way. Ask Jerome Bettis, who would buy a ticket to Honolulu for his fullback every year he made it to the Pro Bowl. Give LaDanian Tomlinson a call and ask him how much Lorenzo Neal means to him. Or how about Mack Strong's importance to Shaun Alexander?

Unless you're the Denver Broncos, you just don't lead the league in rushing without a stellar fullback in front of you. Which leads me to my next topic.

3) The Denver Broncos will have the most potent running attack ... again. Let's just put it this way, the Broncos produce 1,000-yard rushers like Pharrell produces hits. Whether it is Terrell Davis, Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson, Clinton Portis, Paris Hilton, or anybody else for that matter, they run.

Run, run, run is what they'll do again in 2006, and more productively. The reason, strength in numbers. Before training camp began, all the experts predicted either Tatum Bell or Ron Dayne to take over the Bronco galloping attack. Head coach Mike Shanahan, however, went a different route. Shanahan named undrafted rookie free agent Mike Bell, the go-to-guy. What does this mean for Denver? Trial and Error.

Shanahan said that it took three months for him to trust Terrell Davis, and that the Denver head coach trusted Mike bell after nine days. If he works, Shanahan is a running back god — if he doesn't, Dayne and Bell are waiting in the balance. Either way you look at it, 1,000 yards is in the cards once again.

4) Running backs will rule the rookie class. Yes, it's true that this was a defensive draft, but players that will make the most impact will be on the other side of the ball. Reggie Bush headlines the group that includes Bell, the Colts' Joseph Addai, Jaguars' Maurice Drew, Patriots' Laurence Maroney, Titans' LenDale White, and Panthers' DeAngelo Williams. All seven have a chance to start and make an impact right away, with Reggie Bush running away with Rookie of the Year honors despite sharing time with Deuce McAlister.

"The President" is just too explosive, too dangerous, simply too good, not to make an immediate impact and raise the suicide rate in Houston to epic proportions. Not to be overlooked however, is Addai. He's got the most explosive offense behind him, if he beats out Dominic Rhodes for the number one spot, he has a chance to be even keel with Bush, if not surpass him based on his situation.

5) Alex Smith will have a breakout year. Last year's number one pick has a new offensive line, a new tight end, plus Eric Johnson, a bigger and better wide receiver in Antonio Bryant, and enough confidence to feed a small village. The question is with all of that, can he exorcise the demons that led to 11 interceptions, 11 fumbles, and 1 touchdown in 2005.

As Yogi Berra once said, "baseball is 90 percent mental, the other half is physical." The same can be said for football, where, if you're not right in the head, you become another Ryan Leaf rather than a Tom Brady.

What Smith does have going for him besides the on-field offseason acquisitions is new offensive coordinator Norv Turner. If he can turn all those pieces into a form fitting puzzle, the 49ers have a great chance of being competitive in 2006.

6) Tiger Woods will with the Tiger Slam ... again. I know this has nothing to do with the NFL, but has anyone else been amazed by the focus Tiger Woods has shown since falling apart in the U.S. Open? It's as if he is defending his father's honor one tournament at a time. Case in point, on the 17th hole at the Buick Open, some idiot threw an apple on the green, Tiger didn't even flinch. He didn't move a muscle. He was so zoned in to that putt that a flasher could have ran across the green did jumping jacks and Woods would have stood there still looking at his rolling putt.

The man is on fire, and with the PGA championship coming up, I don't see what can stop him. He is dominating and leaving the field in its wake. It's simply astounding.

7) In the AFC, San Diego, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Miami will win their respected divisions. In the NFC, Seattle, Chicago, Carolina, and Philadelphia. When looking at this list, three teams jump out at me — San Diego, Philadelphia, and Miami. The others seem to be unanimous picks, so allow me to explain myself.

San Diego was one of the hardest divisions to pick. The Denver Broncos, last year's West winners, have a very difficult schedule that has them at St. Louis, New England, and Pittsburgh. Also, at home, they face Seattle, Cincinnati, Baltimore, and Indianapolis.

San Diego, on the other hand, faces Cincinnati and Seattle on the road and Pittsburgh at home. They return one of the best running backs in the game, the best tight end in the game, and an improved defense.

The Chargers this year will live and die with Phillip Rivers — if he lives up to what everyone believes he is capable of doing, the Chargers win the West, plain and simple.

Miami in the East finished the year on a tear. They play just two cold-weather games the last half of the year, and have Daunte Culpepper behind center. That, with the tools that are already in place, and the Dolphins have a great chance to unseat the Patriots as East champions. Just as long as Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas restrain from having any divorce squabbles.

Finally, Philadelphia. I'll be honest, I do have some bias on this one because of my allegiance to the midnight green and silver. Allow me, however, to defend my point. First off, the Eagles went to three NFC championships without T.O. During that time, they had no discernable wide receiver anywhere near a number one ranking. Now without T.O. everyone believes that they will lack in the passing game. It's true that people have short memories.

Second, their defense got stronger this year with the signing of Darren Howard.

Third, everyone is healthy. McNabb and Brian Dawkins are the most important. There is something to worry about with Brian Westbrook's latest injury, a sprained foot, but that shouldn't sideline him for too long.

Finally, McNabb is the best quarterback in the East, there is no one who comes close to his skill level. New York's wonder-boy, Eli Manning, has yet to prove himself on the big stage, and it's unknown if he can. Washington has a quarterback past his prime, and Dallas...

Dallas poses the biggest threat. Great defense, great weapons on offense, except for Bledsoe, who has yet to prove what he's made of since becoming this generation's Wally Pipp. In fact, they are so deep and so good that it's hard to not see them winning the East except for Bledsoe. I'm just not sold on him.

8) The Patriots will not make the playoffs. A team that has always been unified has had some shaky beginnings in the preseason. They no longer have a cake walk in the East to provide them with 6 easy wins. With a tough schedule and a tougher AFC, the Pats will be odd man out when the playoffs shake down. AFC's wildcard race will conclude with Baltimore and Denver getting in. The main reason for New England's demise is the loss of two important pieces during the Pats dynasty, Adam Vinatieri and Willie McGinest. This is not the same Patriots team and that will be exposed early and often.

9) The Colts will not make the Super Bowl. Peyton Manning, in his 12 years as a collegiate and professional, has never won a big game. Until he does, he never will make the Super Bowl. Period.

10) Carolina will face Cincinnati in Super Bowl XLI. The reason Carolina lost in last year's championship game, they were worn out. Injuries to their running backs and a one-man passing attack finally caught up to the Panthers in Seattle, to a fresher, better team. But, as the old adage goes, defense wins championships, and with the addition of Maake Kemoeatu to an already-stellar defense, the Panthers have, arguably, the best defense in the league. Add Keyshawn Johnson to assist Steve Smith, and DeAngelo Williams to the running game, it seems like all the pieces are set.

For Cincinnati, it depends on Carson Palmer. If he can get over Kimo von Oelhoffen's knee crushing blow, the improved offense and defense should lead Cincinnati to a Super Bowl Berth. If Palmer pulls a Peyton, look for the Snake to shock everyone and lead the Broncos' stampede.

As for the winner ... stay tuned.

Comments and Conversation

August 15, 2006

Clubber:

Never heard of the Steelers, eh Wally?

August 15, 2006

Collin:

Those are some pretty good opinions, even if they are totally proven wrong next year, u still sounded like u backed them up with good information.

August 16, 2006

Dsal:

Wai that is some crazy picks maybe Paris Hilton is on your mind and not the N.F.L. Anyway T.O. is just that, to, two two much, to little to late to bad to make it while crying like Moss throw me the ball somebody! And tutu is better.

August 16, 2006

Keith Thronson:

Really enjoyed your piece. Well written. i agree with most of your assements. But I do not agree Cincinnati will be in the Super Bowl. But if Carson Palmer is 100% then they have a chance, but I see Pittsburgh repeating and I give Denver an outside chance. I agree their runners will rack up many yards in 2006.

August 16, 2006

Bob:

The Chargers are starting essentially a rookie QB, but they’re gonna win the AFC West?

Dream on.

August 16, 2006

Ryan:

Hey Wailele,

I have to agree with “Bob”. The Chargers? Get real man. They’ll finish 3rd in the AFC West with KC winning it and Denver close behind.

August 16, 2006

Fletcher Smith:

I’m excited to see Philly prove that we don’t need T.O. or Paris Hilton to win it all! Donovan could have two blind men on the corners and still smoke the NFC. Great article!

August 17, 2006

mike:

bengals do not have enough stripes to go anywhere STEELERS WILL WIN THE DIVISION

August 17, 2006

Tony:

New England will win the east: 1) because you are incorrect in saying they have a hard schedule: jets x2, bills x2, lions, packers, texans, titans (that is 8 wins plus at least a split with the dolphins and you gotta figure at least 3-3 vs broncos, bangels, colts, vikings, jags, bears), 2) as much as vinitieri going to the colts hurts it will hurt more in the playoffs than the regular season and its still brady and the offense that gave vinitieri the chance to become a legend. 3) losing mcginest weakens the team but colvin and vrabel are just fine as starting olb’s.

August 17, 2006

Touch:

I’m glad you were honest about your Philly bias, because only an E-A-G-L-E-S fan would pick them to win the NFC East. They won’t even make the playoffs. With the Cowboys, Giants, AND Redskins all in contention they won’t be able to sleepwalk through their division like they have in the past. Plus, the whole city still has T.O. on the brain. They need to get over him before they can move on.

August 17, 2006

Phanatic:

Dude, wake up and smell the cheesesteaks. The Eagles are going to BLOW this season. Who’s the running back? (and don’t you freakin dare say Westbrook) Who are the receiving threats? McNabb had his chances, and he puked all over himself. TO fucked the franchise for years - only a last place schedule will even keep them in contention. And they’ll go 1-5 in the division. No way they even contend, pal.

August 17, 2006

Rekles:

The Packers will go 14-2 with Bart Farr finishing the season with one leg in a cast and one arm tied behind his back. Instead of the normal offensive line, the pack will have all RB’s and WR’s play as eligible linemen. It will be a snap and go offense crafted after many of the victorious touch/flag football league champions. They will only there 2 games because the Lions will pick up Chuck Norris….and you know the result of that.

August 18, 2006

stephen:

you’re off your rocker picking the eagles to win the east. are you serious? they’re a lock for the bottom of that division.

here’s how the east will shake down:
giants 12-4
cowboys 10-6
redskins 8-8 or 9-7
eagles 5-11

August 18, 2006

Billy D:

Um, this would qualify as a “self-fulfilling prophecy”:

Peyton Manning, in his 12 years as a collegiate and professional, has never won a big game. Until he does, he never will make the Super Bowl. Period.

…Pretty funny one though. Sort of like “Allen Iverson will never shoot 50% until he starts making more shots. Period.” lol. Nice piece

August 18, 2006

apexad:

I disagree with the Superbowl picks. I broke down every division on my own site, but that is not important. The important thing is that I believe the Superbowl will be Denver Broncos vs. Seattle Seahawks.

Seattle will win.

August 23, 2006

Vinnie from beantown:

obviously, you’re opinionated, and wrong about the Pats, lets all give Miami the title, without even playing any games yet, you fail to mention why the Pats failed miserably last year, a team 2 or 3 plays from advancing in Denver playoff game for a re-match with the eventual champ where everyone knows they have their number.
last year the pats not only blew it in that game, but KEY members of their team in at least 4 positions were injured all year or partial year.
r.harrison, r.seymour, t.bruschi and c.dillon were out and at least 3 OF linemen.
name another team that would have accomplished what they did last year.
2006, means all those veteran SUPER BOWL CHAMPION players are back.
Miami, will choke.
the pats schedule is soft compared to other years.
dis is vinnie in beantown.

August 25, 2006

geno laurenzi:

how did i get on this website? I was looking for nude photos of an italian actress named laura antonelli…

August 27, 2006

j.richard:

Ok, but Eagles will be at the basement. Third at best in their division. Agree about Denver`s shedule. I think it`ll take away any h.field advantage in the playoffs( and i`m a denver fan!). The colts will get that, although I think the jags might run them close in their division. Chargers won`t win division with rivers. Miami a good outside bet, but not for the whole thing. Bowl? Colts/ panthers. Outsiders for a great season? Tampa.
Packers and the vikings will be dreadful again. Bears need a few more offensive weapons to make a real shot of playing in the bowl. Don`t think that the chiefs will make the playoffs. Green`s ok, but has had one to many seasons. stellers won`t repeat. Bengals will win that division (again), and could play deep into january. patriots will make the playoffs.
Thus
AFC
Dolphis
Bengals
Colts
Broncos
(wild cards)
patriots, jaguars

NFC
Giants
Bears
Panthers
seahawks
(wild cards)
Buccaners, Redskins

Championship games
Colts/broncos

panthers/Buccanners
Bowl
colts/panthers

TItle
Panthers

Where I could be wrong!
Chargers, Raiders could do better that I`ve predicted. bengals might not do so well.
Look for the cardinals to have a winning season. With james and the buzz of a new home field, it could be an injection to fair better, with their division hardly having the strength of , say, the AFC west.
Whatever happens, at least the game`s back and enyoy your viewing.

August 28, 2006

Who-Dey:

Bengals 15-2 chrushing whoever is unlucky enough to face them in the Bowl. Who-Dey! Steelers will be 9-7 failing to make the playoffs cause they tripped on Cowher’s chin.

August 29, 2006

stan:

Peyton has never won a big game?!! What do you call a big game?

Let’s see — if Manning’s team wins the game, it’s never a big game. If they lose, it was definitely a big game. So playoff losses are big games, but playoff wins never count. SEC championships don’t count, but games the Vols lost that when he was on the bench as a freshman are considered big games that he lost.

What a fool.

September 1, 2006

Kerry:

Good Picks. Everyone riding the Steeler’s band wagon needs to chill. It’s well documented that the super bowl last year was the worst officiated super bowl of all time. not to mention they neever get there if they didn’t take a cheap shot at Palmer. Everyone knows that with a healthy Plamer the Bengals are a better team than the Steelers/ WHO-DEY SUPER BOWL TIME!

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