The NFL goes live tonight! To get you ready for kickoff, RT and Koski serve up some prediction goodness to feed your ravenous NFL appetite. It is officially, ON! FOOTBALL!!! Okay, I'm getting a little too excited. Let's simmer down now a little by picking RT's mind on something he, a Bears fan, should be familiar with, the NFC North.
RT, how do you see this division playing out? Who can we expect to have a big year and whom can we lob scorn at in times of frustration?
I will rank how they will finish and give you a few things to think about.
1) Green Bay
As much as I don’t like the Packers, you have to love the offense. Rodgers has looked good from the moment he stepped on the field at Texas stadium for an injured Brett Favre. Greg Jennings will have a breakout year.
Despite what the “experts” say, the Bears stole Cutler from the Broncos. Cutler is the best quarterback in Bears history and he has yet to throw a pass for the Monsters of the Midway in a regular season game. He's brought optimism to not only the fans but also the defense.
Childress + Favre = Circus. Enough said.
The over-under for Lions wins this year is 3.
Koski – talk to me about the NFC West
Whoa, Whoa Whoa. We'll get to the NFC West. You gotta go through the top of the barrel before you get to the bottom. The South shall rise again! Or something. The NFC South didn't have a team with a losing record in 2008 and would have had three playoff teams, but the Buccaneers forgot to show up against the Raiders in week 17. Here's what's in store this season:
New Orleans Saints - Drew Brees passes for 5,000+ yards, again. Reggie Bush performs well enough to maintain his Most Over-hyped in the NFL title. The Saints offense beats up on NFC South rivals as the other teams regress from last season.
Atlanta Falcons - Matt Ryan is good. Michael Turner is good. Roddy White is good. Tony Gonzalez is good. The Falcons defense is not good. Lack of defense + tougher 2009 schedule = 8-8 record...maybe.
Carolina Panthers - It's true, Jake Delhomme is not as bad as his playoff performance against the Cardinals last year. However, he's still Jake Delhomme. The schedule bug bites the Panthers with trips to Dallas, New York Jets, New England and New York again to play the Giants. And Jake Delhomme's backup is Josh McCown should Delhomme get injured. Prognosis,
Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Speaking of Quarterbacks, the Buccaneers are starting Byron Leftwich. And, their 33 year old rookie head coach just fired the offensive coordinator. How does that make you feel? Tampa Bay also has the reverse schedule bite of the Panthers. The Bucs play the Cowboys, Giants, Jets and Patriots at home with an added bonus of the Packers, too.
NFC South Breakout player: Saints WR, Marques Colston. He's cominig off micro-fracture surgery, so he's a somewhat risky pick, but he's Brees' best weapon through the air on all parts of the field. He's big, he's strong, he's going to catch a lot of touchdowns.
NFC South Bust player: Buccaneers RB, Derrick Ward. He's moved from one RBBC(Running Back By Committee) on the Giants to another one on the Buccaneers. He's going to split carries with Cadillac Williams and Earnest Graham. Since Sunday, Graham and Williams have swamped places on the depth chart while Ward has remain in place...as the second back.
RT, why don't you tell me about the NFC East?
I knew I forgot something.
NFC North Breakout Player: Packers WR, Greg Jennings. The Packers offense is only getting better as the unit starts to gel and Rodgers confidence seems to know no bounds.
NFC North Bust Player: Vikings QB, Brett Favre. I know, I know. This pick is weak but I
really think the Vikings are going to be a mess because of Favre. He is worth at least two losses just based on age and interceptions.
On to the always over-hyped division … the NFC East
Dallas Cowboys (11-5) - OOOHHH WHAT! The first big surprise of the NFL preview. The Cowboys are being overlooked by everyone and I am really not sure why. Romo is by far the best quarterback in the division (yes, I am feeling ok) and their defense is a lot better than you think. How in the world can you trust Eli Manning or a Brian Dawkins-less Eagles to win this division?
Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) - The Eagles are going to miss the late Jim Johnson and Brian Dawkins' leadership. Their receivers are young and Brian Westbrook is one ugly look from a defender from being on the IR. However, they are loaded with talent and are still on their way to a 9-7 season.
New York Giants (8-8) - I don’t understand how anyone can trust Eli Manning. A couple big throws in a Super Bowl doesn’t mean you are reliable and I really think this is the year that the running game is not good enough to bail him out.
Washington Redskins (6-10) - I actually think the Redskins are going to be better than people think. Of course, they have the best player in football, Antwaan Randel-El – Indiana class of ’02, so how can I not like their chances. However, they play in the best top to bottom division in football and are destined for mediocrity.
NFC East Breakout Player: Cowboys RB, Felix Jones. If the Cowboys are going to win 11 games, they are going to need “lightning” (Jones) to produce. Obviously, I think he is going to do just that.
NFC East Bust Player: Eagles RB, Brian Westbrook. Simply put, I think Westbrook’s best days are behind him. He has been living on borrowed time for too long to have another great season.
Now can we get to the bottom of the barrel … I mean the NFC West.
Oh, so you want to bring projected records into this? The good news is the NFC West will be a better division compared to last season. The bad news is the NFC West is still the weakest division in the NFC.
Seattle Seahawks - (9-7) I wanted to say 10-6, but Seahawks offensive lineman are dropping like flies and I don't have a lot of confidence in Julius Jones and Edgerrin James doing it on their own. Seattle is still in the NFC West and they get Detroit at home so, they win the division by default.
San Francisco 49ers (6-10) No pass rush, questionable at best passing offense combined with a tough, tough schedule will not be nice to the 49ers in 2009. @Minnesota, @Houston, @Indianapois, @Green Bay and @Philadelphia. The 49ers need too many things to go right this year to make the leap to a playoff team.
St. Louis Rams (5-11) The Rams should be a lot better than the 2-14 2008 team, but that probably only means another couple wins. They drafted the best offensive tackle with the #2 pick, have a stud running back and a young defense with a new defensive-minded coach. They still have Marc Bulger at quarterback and lack depth behind their playmakers.
Arizona Cardinals (4-12) The NFC Champions!?!?! 4-12!?!?! Yes. It stinks in Arizona. It stinks like Super Bowl letdown. Virtually no new impact players on either side of the ball, except injury-risk, Beanie Wells. The mediocre-bad defense is the same and the mediocre offensive line is the same. Also, Kurt Warner is one year older and getting more and more brittle by the day. The secret loss is that of offensive coordinator, Todd Haley, who wasn't afraid to get in a player's face and provided a lot of fire. Flame off.
NFC West Breakout player: Rams WR, Donnie Avery. The Rams are going to be losing a lot of games again this year and, thus, will be passing a lot. Torry Holt is gone and the Rams improved the offensive line.
NFC West Bust player: Cardinals QB, Kurt Warner. I took the Favre way out on this one, but for a different reason than RT. Warner is old, and the Cardinals line is not good enough to keep the pass rush away from him. Warner will not start every game this season.
AFC time, you make the call, RT.
Saying the Cowboys are going to win the East is out there … saying the Cardinals are going to win 4 games is ridiculous. I look forward to being proven wrong.
Let’s start with the AFC North and the defending Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3) - I really am not sure how the Steelers can lose more than 3 games. Their schedule is basically a joke - how in the world do did they get a home game against the Raiders!?. It would surprise nobody to see this team in the Super Bowl again.
Baltimore Ravens (9-7) - I am not exactly sold on the Ravens offense and I think their defense is just a year older. Unless Ray Rice turns into a big time running back I think this team might not even make the playoffs.
Cincinnati Bengals (5-11) - I don’t understand why people think the Bengals are going to win more than 5 games. They are going to start the season off 1-4 and the “here we go again” talk will only intensify. Not to mention, they are relying on a drunk boater to be their main threat on the ground! Same old Bungals.
Cleveland Browns (3 -13) – The Browns are doing what is supposed to be impossible – they are over paying not one, but two quarterbacks. Yikes
AFC North Breakout Player: Bengals LB, Rey Maualuga. This guy might have been the steal of the 2009 draft. He did a free fall on most draft boards because he was not as fast as his USC counterparts. As an avid college football fan, I can tell you with full confidence – this guy is really fast when he has pads on. He will have a huge impact on this team.
AFC North Bust Player: Ravens QB, Joe Flacco. Let me be the first one to tell you that the sophomore slump is going to happen for Flacco. His receivers are not great and they are breaking in a new right tackle. The Ravens don’t get the same production out of Flacco that they received last year.
How about the AFC South?
The AFC South brings a lot of talent to the table.
Indianapolis Colts (11-5) NEWSFLASH: The Colts are really, really good. Yes, the defense is suspect, but that hasn't stopped them before...in the regular season. Tony Dungy is gone, but Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark are still there to exploit opposing defenses. The Colts will round up all teh NFC West teams before the season is halfway over and could be 8-0 or 7-1 heading into New England in week 10.
Jacksonville Jaguars (9-7) A healthy offensive line will do wonders for David Garrard and the Jaguars offense as a whole. They also added a top 10 tackle in Eugene Monroe and an admitedly old, but reliable, Torry Holt to the receiving corps. They should get off to a nice start with three NFC West teams before their week 7 bye.
Tennessee Titans (9-7) The Titans lost All-World Face-Stomper and defensive tackle, Albert Haynesworth, to Washington in free agency, but they should still have a staunch defense. The offense still lacks a big play receiver and Kerry Collins is the quarterback. The biggest threat to the team that had the NFL's best record last season is a tough first six weeks. Starting tomorrow at Pittsburgh, then Texans at home, @Jets, @Jaguars, host the Colts and @Patriots before the bye. The Titans could easily be 2-4 heading into the bye week in a tough division.
Houston Texans (8-8) Three straight years of perfect mediocrity for the Texans. The Texans defense is up and coming with Mario Williams, DeMeco Ryans and Dunta Robinson anchoring the playmaker positions and the offense has weapons at each skill position. The problem is quarterback Matt Schaub has trouble staying out of the training room and the backup is, gulp, Rex Grossman. RT, your input? I could see a 10 win season, but too much as to go right for the Texans to make that prediction with any confidence.
AFC South Breakout player: Texans WR, Andre Johnson. Can I say Andre Johnson? I mean, he led the NFL in receptions and yards last season. He has not had a year with double digit touchdowns yet. So this season, I'll say 100+ receptions, 1400+ yards and 10+ touchdowns.
Side note: I drafted Johnson with my first pick in my fantasy draft, so I'm a little biased.
AFC South Bust player: Colts WR, Anthony Gonzalez. Marvin Harrison was a shadow of a corpse of a zombie of himself last season. Anthony Gonzalez is a decent player, but he's not going to leap to the next level. The offense is run through Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark with Gonzalez getting scraps tossed his way to keep defenses honest.
Back to you, RT. Keep it classy for the AFC East.
First, you tell us the Colts are going to be fine and then you bag on Anthony Gonzalez? One cannot be good or bad without the other.
If Tom Brady is involved, you know it is classy.
New England Patriots (14-2) - The Patriots are going to be great and there really is no point going into why. Game of the year in the NFL: Patriots @ Saints November 30th (Watching the Packers beat the Vikings by 20 at Lambeau is not a great game)
(WARNING: The AFC East is a terrible division besides the Patriots)
Miami Dolphins (7-9) - There really is no difference between the Dolphins, Bills and Jets. They all have tough schedules besides the games the play against each other. Pennington will come back to earth and the running game should be nothing more than average. They have the
best defense out of the three so they get to finish second.
Buffalo Bills (6-10) - Trent Edwards is living proof that playing quarterback in the NFL is really difficult because he has no right starting in the NFL. However, he has a couple good receivers and the return of Marshawn Lynch should make the offense respectful. Not good enough to be .500 but respectful none the less.
New York Jets (6-10) - Please explain to me how Mark Sanchez is going to have a good season. They have next to nothing when it comes to talent and he is going to be under the NY media microscope the entire season. I can’t wait to see the defense turn on the offense and then
Rex Ryan is left to convince the defense that the offense is performing at their best. Can I please be a fly on the wall at that meeting!?
AFC East Breakout Player: Patriots LB, Gary Guyton. It is no mystery that Bill Belichick’s defense turns good players into great players. There is no reason to believe he will not work the same magic with Gary Guyton.
AFC East Bust Player: Bills WR, Terrell Owens. I wanted to say Chad Pennington but I could not help but go with Owens. He is now old and has a bad quarterback throwing to him. He may just retire half way through the season.
Last and definitely least … the AFC West.
Don't they say to save the best for last? Maybe, we should have planned this better? The AFC West...the less said, the better. Wait. I thought of something. The AFC West has a couple good offenses, maybe.
San Diego (12-4) Can I interest you in six games against the Chiefs, Raiders and Broncos with a dose of Bengals and Browns? I thought so. A healthy Antonio Gates, LaDanian Tomlinson, Antonio Cromartie and an easy schedule will let the Chargers coast to a first round bye.
Kansas City (5-11) It's going to be a rough first half of the season for Todd Haley's Chiefs. They should come together for a nice winning streak at the end of the season when it won't mean anything.
Oakland Raiders (5-11) The Raiders have a lot of potential. The multiple high draft picks that double digit losing seasons have provided the Raiders could come together like the 2008 Tampa Rays. Unfortunately, the Raiders can't stop the run. At all. Richard Seymour is not the D-Line Jesus. Why do you think Belichick traded him anyways?
Denver Broncos (4-12) The Denver offense can probably do some nice things with McDaniels, Marshall, Royal, et al., but the Denver defense was terrible last season and they chose a running back with their first draft pick. It's possible Denver goes on an 11 game losing streak this season.
AFC West Breakout player: Chargers WR, Vincent Jackson. This one is tough because there are so many good offenses in the AFC West. He had 59 receptions and 1,000+ yards last season and should see his numbers increase with defenses forced to cover all the Chargers other weapons.
AFC West Bust player: Oakland Raiders QB, JaMarcus Russell. JaMarcus Russell does not have "it." The thing that separates the elite quarterbacks from replacement level quarterbacks, "it." He can throw a pretty pass and looks like he should be a really good quarterback, but he's not.
The NFC Playoffs will unfold thusly, and keep in mind, I'm going off your crazy predictions for the NFC North and East.
Seattle hosts Philadelphia and gets overwhelmed by the Eagles defense.
Dallas hosts Da Bears at Jerry Jones Legacy Stadium and gets overwhelmed by the Bears defense.
New Orleans welcomes the Eagles to the Big Sleazy and Drew Brees throws for 400 yards and
the Saints go marching back to the NFC Championship.
Green Bay hosts Da Bears for the second time this season and Green Bay wins the war of attrition in a December ice bowl at Lambeau.
New Orleans is going to have the best record in the NFC this year, and home field advantage is going to carry them to the Super Bowl!
All right, how will the AFC post season shake out RT?
The New Orleans Saints in the Super Bowl!? I like it.
Teams with a Bye: New England (best record) and Pittsburgh
Indianapolis smokes Jacksonville as Peyton Manning throws for 400 yards and a couple
San Diego wins a tight one against the Titans which creates one of the best AFC semi-final
weekends in recent memory.
New England gets the revenge they have been looking for against the Indy and wins in a
Pittsburgh beats San Diego again in the dead of winter.
In the battle of the best teams of this century, Tom Brady and the Pats prove too much for the Pittsburgh Steelers and move on to the Super Bowl.
I think it's safe to say, as much as I like the Saints, they will no match for the Patriots in the Super Bowl. If New Orleans was hosting the Super Bowl, I would hold out hope for a miracle, but the Pats wouldn't lose two Super Bowls they were heavily favored to win, would they?
The great quarterbacks and coaches rarely lose Super Bowls and they almost never lose two of them. It looks like the Pats return to form and return to the top of the NFL world in 2009 -2010.
Enjoy the season