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Old 08-28-2008, 02:54 AM   #1
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Cool Anthony's NFL Preview: 2008 Edition

Here's what to look for in the fast-approaching NFL season.

The main theme this year could revolve around a large number of head-coaching changes at the end of the season, and quite possibly one or two during the season.

Hope you enjoy.
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Old 08-28-2008, 03:22 AM   #2
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Cool A Closer Look: AFC East

New York Jets: 10-6
On weird 4-year roller-coaster ride - 10-6 in both '04 and '06, 4-12 in both '05 and '07 - that just might continue for a 5th season, especially with Brett Favre now on scene; Favre can either go deep to Laveranues Coles or underneath to Jericho Cotchery, or hand off to Thomas Jones, who may do even better than last year's 1,119-yard effort with FA OG Alan Faneca leading the way. Defense got run all over a year ago, but that could have been due to rudderless offense that made not-to-lose strategy attractive to most opponents - hardly a viable option this go-round. Beaten comical dozen games by New England in '07 - but doesn't the dreaded Super Bowl Runner-Up Jinx have uncanny knack for making such margins evaporate? The upset pick.

Buffalo Bills: 8-8
Would have been nice if they could have done something at QB over the spring, but it didn't happen - and worse yet, off-season's biggest prize at that spot went to division rival. RB Marshawn Lynch finished with exactly four yards less than NYJ's Jones while missing three games with high ankle sprain and rookie WR James Hardy could form deadly Mutt-'n-Jeff combo with the mercurial Lee Evans. On defense, FA pick-up Marcus Stroud will line up alongside Pro Bowl DE Aaron Schobel and 2nd-year MLB Paul Posluszny could be the next Brian Urlacher, while secondary seeks redemption for poor '07 showing blamed largely on departure of CB Nate Clements to SF via FA. But it all comes down to the QB position; and the Osmonds notwithstanding, one bad apple can indeed spoil the whole bunch - in this case, making a playoff trip problematic for what is overall a solid if somewhat indistinctive team.

New England Patriots: 7-9
Surely this has to be the year that the Super Bowl Runner-Up Jinx finally ends, right? Well, not so fast: What if the injured foot that has sidelined Tom Brady for the whole preseason is more serious than they're letting on - and how about the chronic shoulder problem which had him listed as "probable" on virtually every weekly injury report all of last season? Never been high on RB Laurence Maroney, and defense is ancient at LB and has lost CB Assante Samuel to Philly - and kicking game is suspect too. So there's quite a bit to work with here after all, and Brett Favre's arrival in division quashes possibility of '06 Seattle scenario repeating itself. Until - or should we say unless? - proven otherwise...

Miami Dolphins: 5-11
Became first 1-15 team ever to need overtime to secure that lone victory in 2007, so understandably changes were made, with Bill Parcells giving GM duties a whirl and Tony Soprano, oops, Sparano, taking over as HC; division rival Jets' signing of Brett Favre had trickle-down benefit for them, as it enabled them to ink Chad Pennington, who was released. RB Ronnie Brown silenced the doubters before bowing out with knee injury, and WR Ted Ginn Jr. hopes to do likewise; defense, however, will miss both DE Jason Taylor and MLB Zach Thomas. One final thought: Parcells took Jets from 1-15 in 1996 to 9-7 in '97 in 1st season as HC; how far can he elevate this team in Year One as GM?

Last edited by Anthony; 08-28-2008 at 12:09 PM.
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Old 08-28-2008, 03:47 AM   #3
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Cool A Closer Look: AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers: 9-7
Must take biggest year-to-year SOS jump by any NFL team since the league began using previous season's standings to determine upcoming season's schedules three decades ago - a staggering .145 - but rest of division will suffer almost as much; not taking any chances with injury-prone RB Willie Parker, they spent 1st-rounder on Rashard Mendenhall; QB Ben Roethlisberger comes off 1st-ever Pro Bowl invite and WR Santonio Holmes has bright future. Age becoming bit of a concern on defense, which debunks finesse tag frequently attached to 3-4s. Yes, the schedule is daunting; but, as already pointed out, their division foes aren't in good shape themselves in that regard, so even 8-8 might be good enough to enable them to repeat as AFC North champs - and that mark is certainly well within their reach.

Baltimore Ravens: 8-8
The small-college factor didn't keep Big Ben from making immediate impact, so equally-big rookie QB Joe Flacco's saga might not be as quixotic as it looks, and having workhorse RB McGahee to turn to doesn't exactly hurt the cause. Receiving corps will need to step up though, but very well might if TE Heap is healthy, which was not the case last year; OL will sorely miss retired T Ogden however. On defense it's same-old-same-old, but in this case that's good thing. Incoming HC John Harbaugh (ex-QB Jim's older brother) seems like player's-coach type and getting to play Mia and Oak where Steelers have to face NE and SD could come in handy; quite playable at what promises to be square price with team coming off 5-11 season that cost Brian Billick his job.

Cleveland Browns: 7-9
A funny thing happened on the way to what was supposed to be the dawning of the Age of Brady Quinn: Journeyman Derek Anderson just wouldn't give up the starting job, tossing 29 TDs; and now Anderson will have Donte' Stallworth as well as Braylon Edwards to throw to. Ex-arch-nemesis Jamal Lewis rolled up 1,304 yards in '07, and O-line was led by T Joe Thomas, who Pro-Bowled as a rookie. Defense, however, is a whole different story, and even if DL is stronger pursuant to DT Shaun Rogers' arrival, it may come at expense of secondary as CB Leigh Bodden was traded for him. Won't have element of surprise going for them this time around, although they'll have plenty of opportunities to spring upsets thanks to killer sked which should see them give back about half the gains they made a season ago.

Cincinnati Bengals: 6-10
Chad Johnson and Marvin Lewis had their off-season stare-down, and, rather surprisingly, it was Ocho Cinco who blinked, then suffered preseason's most notable injury, forcing them to bring back the disgraced Chris Henry to help QB Carson Palmer match or exceed his 26 TDs of 2007. RB corps got bogged down with injuries a season ago and T.J. Houshmandzadeh will be showcasing his many talents in anticipation of 2009 FA bonanza. Defense, unfortunately, closely resembles Cleveland's, so top draft pick went for USC OLB Keith Rivers. With volatile locker room and skyrocketing SOS, Lewis is at or near the top of everyone's endangered list of HCs for this year, and wouldn't bet on him surviving; leaning in another direction.
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Old 08-28-2008, 04:11 AM   #4
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Cool A Closer Look: AFC South

Indianapolis Colts: 12-4
They swear up and down that Peyton Manning will be ready to open season after undergoing minor knee surgery July 14, so we'll take them at their word; Dominic Rhodes is living proof that you can go home again; he'll spell RB Addai and prognosis for WR Harrison's return (from knee injury) seems as good as one has right to expect at age 35; O-line that comes off "disappointing" 23 sacks-allowed season rounds out offensive picture, and with a little better luck on the injury front - particularly up front - defense will be pretty strong again as well. But are they the Atlanta Braves of the NFL - with only a single world championship inoculating them from having the leprous "choke" label affixed to them?

Jacksonville Jaguars: 10-6
Have decided to stick with David Garrard at QB even though Garrard has yet to demonstrate that he can do more than not lose games; have RB tandem to die for in speedy Maurice Jones-Drew and bruising Fred Taylor, but latter is well into 30-something territory and has bumps and bruises to show for it; signed FA Jerry Porter, who might be the greatest WR in NFL history never to have a 1,000-yard season. Defense, along with running game, has carried team of late, but must overcome loss of DE Marcus Stroud (traded to Buf). These guys bring to mind those Bum Phillips Houston Oilers teams of the late '70s/early '80s, who come to think of it never could break Pittsburgh's hegemony in the old AFC Central; Jags of course have Colts to surmount, and don't see it happening this year either unless something is very wrong with P-Man; solid playoff prospects, though.

Houston Texans: 9-7
Have been one of league's prominent "sucker" teams in recent years, although they did manage breakthrough of sorts last season, finally reaching .500, albeit finishing last in division and with 1-5 division mark whose lone victory occurred in a game where the opponents rested most of their starters. Matt Schaub proved well worth the price at QB; they kept their WR contingent intact (re-signing Andre' Davis), and OL comes off best season in franchise history by far; RBs have age/injury issues. Did DE Mario Williams ever squelch "bust" chants in his second season, and LBs and secondary may be better than advertised. Gary Kubiak has adapted nicely to HC responsibilities and best seems yet to come, with '08 postseason voyage not out of the question; but until they prove they can beat the teams in their own super-tough division, their appeal is limited strictly to the underneath slots.

Tennessee Titans: 7-9
Hopefully if they ever make a bio flick about Vince Young they can come up with more flattering title than "6," the score he pulled on Wonderlic Test. Young's on-field smarts have often seemed lacking at times as well, and he threw only 9 TD passes all season in 2007. Still, he led Jeff Fisher's team to the playoffs, and RB LenDale White seems to be hitting his best stride, but Young would have open-and-shut case if he sued his receivers for non-support. Defense zoomed from dead-last ranking in 2006 to 5th in '07 despite the loss of CB Adam "Pacman" Jones (for good, as it turned out), and has ten projected starters returning, with only DE Antwan Odom having flown coop, to be supplanted by former ex-Titan Jevon Kearse. This team presents as kind of scaled-down version of division foe Jacksonville, with similar strengths and weaknesses - only not as gifted overall, and final 2008 AFC South standings figure to reflect that; others rank higher.

Last edited by Anthony; 08-29-2008 at 02:33 AM.
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Old 08-28-2008, 04:31 AM   #5
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Cool A Closer Look: AFC West

San Diego Chargers: 13-3
Norv Turner showed playoff moxie Marty Schottenheimer infamously lacked, Philip Rivers has proven to be more than adequate consolation prize for Eli Manning, and LaDainian Tomlinson is, well, LaDainian Tomlinson. Add a defense that is getting better every year and, if anything, is underrated. So what's not to like about Southern California's lone professional football franchise? Even the schedule seems cooperative; a Candlemas Eve date in Tampa awaits?

Oakland Raiders: 6-10
If they keep getting to draft big-name skill-position players (last year JaMarcus Russell, this year Darren McFadden) at this rate, sooner or later it has to show up in the W-L record; of course it would help if underachieving O-line finds will to block and Javon Walker signing at WR pans out. Defense will also need a hefty return from two rather high-risk off-season investments - DT Tommy Kelly and CB DeAngelo Hall - but hey, someone has to complete the exacta in this division, and if they can win as many as a half-dozen games for what would be the first time since 2002, that modest honor could be theirs for the taking.

Denver Broncos: 5-11
Perhaps no NFL team has won fewer games than their on-paper talent would suggest over the past two seasons than this one - and now that talent has been depleted by two key suspensions, both on offense (WR Brandon Marshall for first three games and RB Travis Henry for the entire season, and subsequently released). Run defense was terrible early on last year, but stabilized somewhat as the season progressed, and secondary is led by one of the best in the business in CB Champ Bailey. Those back-to-back Lombardi Trophies Mike Shanahan garnered seem like they were procured in the Middle Ages, and another clunker this season would likely push him out the door; but said outcome appears inevitable at a venue that hosts the 2008 Democratic National Convention but does not figure to be the scene of any meaningful action on the gridiron this autumn.

Kansas City Chiefs: 3-13
It's hard to win when you're not even trying to win; and this team's combination of moves and non-moves of late indelibly brand them as such: They did nothing to improve what is far-and-away the league's worst QB depth chart, their offensive line has completely unraveled, and they traded the only defensive player opponents even respected, let alone feared - sack artist Jared Allen - to Minnesota. HC Herman Edwards has been hung out to dry, and John McCain has better chance of carrying Washington DC in November's Presidential election than Edwards has of keeping his job beyond the end of the season, if he even makes it that far; it doesn't get any more hopeless than this.
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Old 08-28-2008, 04:57 AM   #6
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Cool A Closer Look: NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles: 12-4
Donovan McNabb appears to have regained almost all his mobility, which had been compromised by ACL tear in November of '06; he's also a completely different QB when he has a legitimate deep-threat receiver at his disposal - and he has that once again in rookie phenom DeSean Jackson, whose preseason has been nothing less than sensational; better still, Jackson can carry the mail on special teams, so RB Brian Westbrook no longer has to. Jackson's presence also figures to raise the play of TE L.J. Smith, who hopes to vindicate front office's vote of confidence (in form of new contract) that he can put his recent injury issues to rest. DC Jim Johnson's front 7s are never big enough, but they always produce when at full strength, and secondary is so deep and talented at CB that two-time Pro Bowler Lito Sheppard has been relegated to nickel duty. If they can emerge from September - when they're just 16-14 under Andy Reid compared with 80-48 in the rest of Reid's games - without leaving themselves with too much to do, there's no telling how far this team can go in its 10th season with Reid and McNabb at the controls.

Dallas Cowboys: 11-5
Like Buddy Ryan and Randall Cunningham two decades ago, Wade Phillips and Tony Romo are finding their first playoff win hard to come by; exchanged one Jones (Julius, who signed with Seattle) for another (Felix, drafted in Round 1) at RB, held onto WR Patrick Crayton who will line up opposite T.O. once again, and Jason Witten may be the most prolific pass-catching TE they've ever had. Defense may have its share of bad boys (NT Tank Johnson, CB "Pacman" Jones), but they're anything but bad on the field. It all boils down to whether Phillips and Romo can smash what is fast becoming a huge mental block; and if the answer is no, then Jerry Jones (so many Joneses, so little time!) just might pull the plug on Phillips and promote OC Jason Garrett in time for 2009.

New York Giants: 9-7
The Super Bowl Runner-Up Jinx gets all the ink, but there's also a largely but not totally overlapping jinx that afflicts NFC champions regardless of how they fared in the SB: No NFC champ has reached the Final Four next time out since Packers followed up their SB 31 victory with a loss in SB 32 more than a decade ago, and only one even got as far as the Elite Eight the season after (the '06 Seahawks); already missing three starters from '07 defense (DE Michael Strahan to retirement and LB Kawika Mitchell and S Gibril Wilson via FA), unit sustained further blow when DE Osi Umenyiora went down with preseason knee injury; and on offense, while Eli Manning could still get even better, decision to sacrifice talent for peace of mind by trading TE Jeremy Shockey to NO may come back to bite them. Their 3-5 home record was the worst ever for a Super Bowl winner, and expecting them to go 7-1 on the road again (10-1 if you count playoffs) is stretching it in a big way, and resurgent Eagles and redemption-seeking Cowboys may prove too tough.

Washington Redskins: 7-9
Will the real Jason Campbell please stand up - and what if he already has? RB Portis is constant injury risk and WRs have been a major disappointment, but TE Cooley made first of what has every chance of being multiple Pro Bowl appearances this past February. Pass rush improved noticeably last year, and has since added veteran DE Jason Taylor to the mix, while secondary has done admirable job coping with first the trade of CB Champ Bailey, then the tragic death of S Sean Taylor. Will have new HC (Jim Zorn) and new offense (the ubiquitous West Coast variety) this year - and trying to stay competitive in this division while concomitantly implementing these changes is a tall order indeed. It's not so much that they're the worst team in the division as it is that they just might be the best team, except for the other three; inclining toward others.

Last edited by Anthony; 08-28-2008 at 08:40 AM.
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Old 08-28-2008, 09:19 AM   #7
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Anthony, good stuff. I agree with most of your predictions. Very good analysis as well.

One thing I did find laughable.

Quote:
Baltimore Ravens: 8-8
They have no chance of winning more than 6 games - none.
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Old 08-31-2008, 12:59 PM   #8
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I hope you're wrong about GB. If Ryan Grant and the running game are NOT a flash in the pan, the Packers could easily go 10-6 like I predicted. They still have tons of young talent, so I disagree about them "coming back to the rest of the division."
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Old 09-02-2008, 03:17 AM   #9
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Maybe the Eagles will trade Correll Buckhalter to Green Bay - that way, my man Tony Hunt moves up a spot on Philly's depth chart.
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Old 09-02-2008, 09:16 AM   #10
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Meh, I doubt it happens. I cannot imagine a guy with the history Buckhalter has had staying on the field has a ton of trade value at the age of 29 and if Reid were interested in elevating Hunt he would have just cut Buckhalter loose.

I really like the Panthers for more than 6 wins this year unless the wheels fall off again. They got rid of a lot of the dead weight this summer and cleared out some of the lockerroom malcontents. The offensive line looks to be much improved this year meaning they should be able to run the ball more effectively and Julius Peppers seems to have snapped out of the funk he was in last year. I don't know if they are a playoff team but they should get to at least 8 or 9 wins.

I have a hard time seeing the Falcons winning 10 games this year. They just had so many more issues than losing Micheal Vick last year. Losing Vick simply exposed a lot of the other weaknesses the team has failed to address over the past couple of years.

I tend to agree with the Vikings winning only 9 games or so. Everyone and their brother seems to be on this bandwagon but I just don't see it right now. The defense and Peterson will be good enough to make people pay attention, but, I am just not convinced Jackson is ready to lead a team deep into the playoffs just yet and what happens when Peterson inevitably misses games due to injury. I think his freshman year at OU was the only time he played an entire season above the HS level.

I also think the Pats do better than 7-9. They won't win 16 again but I say they win at least 9 or 10, if not more, even if Brady misses a couple of games.
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Old 09-04-2008, 02:17 PM   #11
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I reckon you are under selling the Patriots slightly, they should win around 10 or 11 games.

Also, your comment about the Super Bowl runner-up jinx and the NFC Champions seems pretty redundant. Since Packers won the trophy only 3 teams from the NFC have won the Super Bowl (including the Giants), therefore on 8 occasions the NFC champs and the Super Bowl runners-up were the same team. So, only the Bucs and Rams mangaged to win it and the did have pretty awful season the following year but that statement seemed a little absurd to me.

However, I reckon you are half right for the Super Bowl, I think San Diego will be there but I reckon they will lose to the Carolina Panthers.
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