Just 'cause it's been awhile . . .

. . . since I posted a cheerleader picture.


The Hair's Picks: Week 4

My apologies to those of you who were bummed out I did not post Mel Kiper Juniors picks last week (all one of you). For those you unfamiliar with this weekly ritual Mel Kiper Jr (hereto refered as The Hair) appears on the Tony Kornheiser radio show to make his football picks.

Now The Hair is a smart guy when it comes to football, in fact he has is 17-4 this season when picking winners. But the real reason Kornheiser brings The Hair on is to mock him to his face and behind his back. Of course, this is what Kornheiser does with most of his guests he is friends with (Michael Wilbon included).

Kornheiser pokes fun at The Hair by mocking his bad picks, which has become more difficult for Kornheiser to do since The Hair refused to pick against the point spread this season. As a result, Kornheiser has been asking leading questions to trick The Hair into picking against the spread. For example, Kornheiser will ask, "Do you think it could be very close?" After The Hair says that he thinks the Chiefs will win by three Kornheiser will respond, "If they win by three they would certainly cover in that."

This week's picks will be called the Desperate Teams edition. The Hair's other strategy for picking games is to go with the team that is desperate for a win. These are typically the teams who were expected to be better and need a win more than their opponent.

Seattle at Washington (-3) : The Hair picks the Redskins, mostly 'cause Kornheiser (broadcasting from DC) talked him into it.

San Francisco at Mexico City (aka Arizona, -3): The Hair picks the Cardinals because they are more desperate, and because the 49ers can't score points. But if the Cardinals lose this game they are the front runners for the Matt Leinert sweepstakes.

Philly at Kansas City (-2.5) : The Hair thinks the Chiefs will win in a close game at Arrowhead.

St Louis at New York Giants (-3) : This is the one game The Hair has the worst read on. He thinks the Giants could be a playoff team so he picks New York to win.

Dallas at Oakland (-3) : The Hair thinks Oakland is desperate for a win so he picks the Raiders to win.

Denver at Jacksonville (-4) : The Hair picks the Broncos to win this one.

Indianapolis (-6.5) at Tennessee: Colts said The Hair.

And he even threw in two college games for good measure . . .

Virginia Tech (-11) at West Virginia: The Hair picks Tech because they have good special teams and defense.

USC (-17) at Arizona State: Even though The Hair thinks USC will lose a game eventually, he doesn't know who will beat USC. So The Hair picks USC to beat the best team they will have faced so far.


I'm an idiot

Mark Twain once said, "Always acknowledge a fault. This will throw those in authority off their guard and give you an opportunity to commit more."

Following that sage-like advice allow me to say that, in hindsight, picking the Jets to win the AFC East was fairly stupid of me. Knowing full and well that Chad Pennington was recovering from off season surgery on his throwing arm, I thought the Jets could contend for the Super Bowl.

Now we're looking at a Jets team sans Pennington for the rest of the season, but, plus eight million man Vinny Testeverde. Since the Jets second string quarterback Jay Fiedler was also injured that means third string quarterback Brooks Bollinger will get to start against the Ravens on Sunday. Bollinger has nine career passes in the NFL so I'm sure he'll be fine against the Ravens defense.

Speaking of the Ravens, their quarterback, Kyle Boller, looked bad in the preseason and has continued his poor play into the first game of the season before getting injured. His replacement, Anthony Wright, has looked worse.

Why do I bring this up? The Ravens are the other team I picked to win their division and possible compete for the Super Bowl.

Right now the only thing saving me from looking like a complete idiot is if either the Panthers and/or the Colts make the playoffs.

. . . Oh yeah, I guess I should contribute a little bit of analysis seeing as how that's what I try to do here.

With the season ending injuries to Pennington, Patriots safety Rodney Harrison and Bills linebacker Takeo Spikes the AFC East suddenly becomes a much weaker division. All three players were leaders on their teams, which means their respective teams will not only miss their playmaking abilities but also the veteran leadership in close games all three players could provide.

Since every team in the NFC South plays every team in the AFC East, this almost guarantees two teams from the NFC South make it to the playoffs. As I mentioned before there are two strong divisions in the NFC (South and East), two weak divisions (West and North) and a very large gulf in talent between these two tiers of divisions. Depending on how well (or poorly) the Cowboys and Giants play we could potentially see three teams from the NFC South make the playoffs (I don't think the Redskins can maintain their winning streak).

Bringing this discussion closer to home, the Bucs remaining schedule appears significantly easier. The Bucs travel to New York in two weeks to play the Jets, which means either Testeverde or Bollinger will be sacrificed to the Tampa Bay defense. While the game at New England in December will still be difficult (mainly because of the temperature, or lack thereof) the Patriots will have fewer weapons on defense for Gruden and company to worry about.

And if I'm wrong about any of this (which I probably am) I will gladly point out my own short comings.


Cadillac sets some kind of record

Cadillac Williams set a record yesterday against the Packers. I believed it involved rushing and had something to do with rookies in their third game. I'm not too sure since I wasn't able to watch the game. I hope the media mentions the record.

In what has become obvious the Bucs are relying on Williams to win games for them. Williams ran for 158 yards yesterday including 88 yards in the fourth quarter. My father (who did watch the game) thought that Williams didn't look all that impressive until the fourth, which is interesting considering he was wearing a protective boot during practices this week.

I'm still not buying the Bucs as a powerhouse team in the NFC even though they are the only 3-0 team in the conference. The team to beat is still the Eagles, while the Panthers and Falcons will de difficult teams to beat. (I'm still on the Panther's Super Bowl band wagon.) The Bucs could go 7-1 to start the season and I would still not like them to come out of the NFC. Their first half schedule is that soft.

Anyway, in case you missed it, the President's Cup was easily the most compelling sporting event this weekend. Overshadowed by the NFL hype machine and MLB playoff races, the President's Cup had more drama than any baseball or football game. Tiger looked un-Tiger like. Couples makes a birdie on 18 to upset Vijay. Mickelson's and DiMarco's man love reached new levels.

Oh yeah, and the Americans won on a last shot birdie putt by DiMarco.

Members of the U.S. team, Justin Leonard, left, Scott Verplank, second from left, Jim Furyk, center, Fred Couples, second from right, and Davis Love III, right, charge onto the 18th green after Chris DiMarco won his match against Stuart Appleby of Australia to give the Americans the Presidents Cup singles Sunday.

Chris DiMarco, of the United States, celebrates after dropping his birdie putt on the 18th hole to beat Stuart Appleby, of Australia, 1-up, and give the U.S. the President's Cup.


Quick Hits Preview: 1989 Edition

The Bucs haven't won at Lambeau Field since 1989. If you are watching the game I'm sure the announcers will repeat this fact roughly two dozen times followed by unabashed praise of the man, the myth, and the legend that is Brett Favre.

In case you haven't heard, Favre is a man who discovered the wheel, and built the Eiffel Tower out of metal . . . and brawn. That's what kind of man Favre is. (Ten points if you can name the movie I stole this quote from.)

Tampa Bay has played at Green Bay fourteen times since 1989, and every one of those games has resulted in a very long plane ride for the Bucs back to Tampa. Most of those times Green Bay was clearly the better team, and the mystique/home crowd at Lambeau was enough to tip the scales in favor of the Packers. In the last three games the Packers have won by three points or less.

I'm probably jinxing the Bucs merely by writing this but the Lambeau mystique was sufficiently killed (or perhaps just put to sleep for the season, knock on wood) when a Browns team led by Trent Dilfer defeated the Packers last week. Trent Dilfer, battling his own winless streak at Lambeau, had to play an emotional Green Bay team which retired Reggie White's number at halftime. What should have been a defining game for the Packers turned into an embarrasement when the defense could not stop the Cleveland offense with two minutes left in the game when a touchdown would have won the game for the Packers.

Since I live in Northern Virginia this was going to be the only game I could watch from home all year. Normally, I have to venture out to a local sports bar which meant watching the game from the most awkward angle imaginable. But since the Redskins are not playing this week, the Bucs game is going to be the locally televised one o'clock game. I, however, will be at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Course in Prince William County watching Tiger Woods battle Vijay Singh.

While I didn't want to miss the Bucs game, the President's Cup was just too appealing to pass up. Sorry Gruden and company but the opportunity to watch Tiger, Phil and Vijay in-person is going to beat out watching the Bucs play a winless team on television.

Anyway on to my quick hits preview :

  • I don't expect Cadillac Williams to get the 25 carries he has been averaging the last two weeks. With Williams suffering a minor injury last week, Michael Pittman will get more carries against Green Bay.

  • The Green Bay defense is giving up 250.5 passing yards a game, eleventh worst in the NFL. Green Bay has very little talent in its secondary, which should mean a good day for Brien Griese and his number one target, Michael Clayton.

  • Green Bay lost its two starting guards in the offseason and their replacements have been woefully inadequate. Monte Kiffin will blitz up the middle regularly to disrupt Brett Favre and stuff the Green Bay running game.

  • Expect plenty of the two headed monster that is Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport. The Green Bay offense has centered around these two runningbacks and for the Packers to be successful at least one of them needs a big day.

  • The Green Bay defense has been weak against tightends. Lions TE Marcus Pollard gained 58 yards and a touchdown, while Browns TE Steve Heiden had 104 yards and two touchdowns. If Griese gets the ball to him, Alex Smith could be in for a big day.

  • Green Bay has the seventh ranked run defense (78.5 yards a game).

  • On second thought, the Lambeau mystique is alive and well.


Giants fans are a bunch of twisted retards

When Paul Tagliabue decided to move the Saints-Giants game to New York one of his arguments for doing so was that residents of New Orleans and New York would come together. The people of both cities have suffered through two of the worst disasters in recent American history. Undoubtedly New York would welcome the Saints and their fans with open arms and kind words.

As it turns out that is a bit too much to expect from Giants fans.

In a story reported by the New York Daily News Giants fans unmercifully taunted Saints fans at the Monday night game, to the point where one Saints fan was sent crying to the female restroom.

"Where's your swimmies? I hope you have your swimmies!" one ignoramus asked Diane Dias, 46, who splits her time between homes in New Orleans and New Milford, Conn.

"You deserve what you got," another said. "New Orleans people are stupid."

"After I reported an obnoxious fan for exposing himself to me, my friend and I were kicked out the stadium, apparently for having the nerve to complain," read a Nola.com posting.

"One guy even said he was glad our city was under water. ... I have had to sit here for FOUR YEARS and listen to all the New Yorkers complain and expect sympathy from the world [because] of 9/11 and this is what we get in return?"

And before somebody goes and argues that only a minority of Giants fans are responsible for this type of behavior I have to ask, where were the understanding Giants fans telling these idiots to shut up? Surely, at least a few people in the crowd would tell an obnoxious Giants fan to stop making an ass out himself and the city of New York.

I would hope that if this ever happened at Ray Jay then the offending fan would be kicked out of the game. This is yet another another example of Tagliabue's horrible decision to move the Saints game to New York, when it could have been played in just about any major city in America.


Caddy wins second award

Is this getting old already?

Carnell Williams won the rookie of the week award for the second week in a row. Williams ran for 128 yards last week and currently leads the NFL in rushing.

Don't expect Williams to repeat that kind of performance this week, Williams has been wearing a boot in practice this week because of a strained muscle near his left ankle. Expect Gruden, who was weary of injuring Williams in the preseason, to give Pittman more touches this week.

Green Bay has been ugly on both sides of the ball, and unless the game gets close in the end I don't think Gruden will use Williams much in the second half. Or at least Gruden won't give him the 25 carries Williams has been averaging per game.

Ring my bell

I'm about two days late to this party, but here's some more internet goodness courtesy of Bangedup.com.

Let's just say it involves an excited Texas Tech freshman and national embarrasment for said freshman.

Internet Goodness

Breakaway Beach, the latest addition to the link list, is another Tampa sports blog. Despite the name, Breakaway Beach covers football, baseball and hockey. JRF (aka Oiler) gives as good of a league round up as you will find. Which is even more amazing considering he is a FSU grad.

As long as were talking blog links, check out BucStats.com, a blog masquerading as a stats site (you can't fool me Scott). BucStats, besides providing all the Bucs stats you could hope for, covers all the news which slips through the sizable cracks at the Tampa Tribune.

Continuing the trend of blogs that begin with "B" (oddly enough they all begin with "B"), Bolts Mag should be your first stop for all news Lightning. With the hockey season beginning shortly and the Lightning defending their Stanley Cup, John provides in depth analysis of one of the most confusing (and longest) NHL off seasons.

Birds and Braves is the best Atlanta sports blog you will find (if you can find a better one I will fully refund your BestBucs' subscription). With the Braves headed for the postseason and his beloved Michigan team struggling mightily, Michael (aka Grits) is concentrating far more on baseball than football. Hopefully by the time the Falcons play the Bucs that will change.

The Sports Frog has been voted by Forbes as one of the best sports blogs out there. While I'm not sure what the Frog used to bribe (blackmail?) Forbes, any site that does not post scores should not have won this distinguished honor. The Swamp is half way decent though.

BucPower is an interesting British Bucs fan website. BucPower links to all the latest Bucs articles. As Gruden might have said (possibly while delirious after going a week on three hours of sleep), "BucPower.com? I've visited that site and man, it's awesome."

And finally, I will mention The Continuing Saga blog, which has the smell of death on it. I'm all for more Bucs blogs, and Continuing Saga has potential. But when you post a recap of the Vikings game a week and a half late, it doesn't bode well for your blog. At that rate we can expect a post on the Bills game some time in mid October.


Things I Think I Think about the NFC

Perhaps it's a bit foolish fo me to rush to judgement on NFL teams after only two weeks, especially when I condemmed those who were so quick to jump on the Buc's playoff band wagon after week one. But here goes . . .

It's got to be pretty clear right now that the NFC is the far weaker of the two divisions. The NFC West is as bad as last season, although it appears the division will once again come down to the Seahawks and the Rams. The only impressive win any team in that division has right now is Seattle over Atlanta, a game which if it had been played at Atlanta, would have been a win for the Falcons.

The North has gotten significantly worse. I thought Minnesota was going to win this division but through two weeks Daunte Culpepper has turned the ball over ten times. Last season, Culpepper had only turned the ball over fifteen times. Green Bay has noticebly slipped and Detroit is a mess with Joey Harrington at quarterback. Chicago really looks likes it could win this division with a rookie quarterback at the helm in Kyle Orton.

The East looks much improved with a revamped Dallas team and reenergized New York team. The Eagles are still the team to beat but Atlanta did a good job of exposing their weaknesses (inability to defend the run and lack of depth at the receiver position). Depending on how Dallas plays tonight against the Redskins, I think the Cowboys could potentially win this division.

The South, once again, looks like the strongest division in the NFC. While only the Bucs are 2-0, I still think the Panthers will win the division. (Although the Saints could be 2-0 after tonight. Which brings me to a side question, if the Cowboys play the Saints in the playoffs this year which team is American supposed to root for?).

The Panthers had a big win at home against the Patriots. Jake Delhomme played an ugly game, going 11-26 for 154 yards and an interception. You won't see many games like that for Delhomme. As explained below, I'm not going to hold the Panther's week one loss to the Saints against them.

The Falcons look like they missed cornerback Kevin Mathis (could have used him to start a fight with Shaun Alexander), but the Dirty Birds are still a dangerous team as long as Micheal Vick is their quarterback. Teams are starting to figure out that the Vick has no one to throw to besides Alge Crumpler, and are focusing on stopping Atlanta's rushing game. With a tougher division this year Atlanta could end up with eight or nine wins.

No team in America takes their games more seriously than the Saints do right now. For better or worse, the Saints look like they have something to prove everytime they head out onto the field, almost like they are fighting against the odds by winning each game. Early in the season this makes them a dangerous team, and (as I've said before) they will win games people don't expect them to. But eventually they will get exhausted, physically and emotionally, from everything they have gone through. The constant traveling, the makeshift facilities, visiting with Katrina victims, all these things are bound to take a toll on the Saint's players and coaching staff.

The Bucs are looking like a better shot at a wildcard spot in the playoffs after two impressive wins. Cadillac Wlliams has had more of an impact on this team than I thought he would, and it appears Gruden finally has the weapons in place to create a high powered offense.

While the next six weeks should be fairly easy for the Bucs (at Green Bay, Detroit, at New York Jets, Miami, bye, San Francisco), the second half of their schedule will be difficult. Highlighted by a road game at New England in December, six of the Bucs last nine games are against division foes. Since the NFL redesigned their schedules to backload all the division games (borrowing a page from MLB), this means the NFC South couldn't be decided until the last week of the regular season.


Quick Hits Preview

Before I get started with my quick hits preview of the Bucs-Bills game, let me take a paragraph to compliment the Florida Gators for their win over Tennessee.

For all the hype about Urban Meyer's spread offense, it was the Gator's defense that won the game. The Gator D held Tennessee to seven points and had a huge stand in the first half that resulted in a blocked field goal. While Chris leak looked good (especially throwing the ball) I don't think he is fully comfortable in Meyer's offense. When Leak does get comfortable this is going to be a dangerous team.

Anyway, on to my quick hit notes:

- Key to stopping the Bills is stopping Willis McGahee, who last week accounted for 37 % of his team's offensive yards. By comparison, Cadillac accounted for 43 %, LaDainian Tomlinson 25%, Deuce McAllister 24 %, and Clinton Portis 37 %.

- Key to winning the game is forcing Bills quarterback J.P. Losman to turn the ball over. Last week, Houston tried to force Losman to throw the ball by loading up against the run on the Bills first two drives. Both drives Losman led his team to field goals by moving the ball threw the air.

- This is a very good Bills defense and they will force turnovers by Brian Griese. The Bills defense led the league in forcing turnovers (39) last season.

- The Bucs defense will likely start the game out by stacking eight men in the box, and putting Barber and Kelly in man coverage on Eric Moulds and Lee Evans. Moulds is dangerous over the middle while Evans is a homerun threat.

- Michael Clayton needs to hang onto the ball this week. The Bucs will need a big game from one of their receivers and Clayton is the best bet if he can correct the mental mistakes from last week.


Drunkaneers is pretty good

Not a good week for Jon Gruden.

First, your starting kick returner, Torrie Cox, is arrested for a DUI, and is therefore suspended for the Bills game this Sunday.

Then, rookie fullback Rick Razzano is suspended four games for testing positive for steroids.

And yesterday, Gruden's brother Jay, who is also an offensive assistant for the Bucs, is arrested for driving while impaired.

What's next? Does Mike Mularkey anally rape Gruden's grandmother while pouring sugar into Gruden's gas tank?


Cadillac earns first NFL award

Carnell Williams won the Rookie of the Week award for his 148 yard performance against the Vikings. The award was announced this afternoon.

Williams narrowly beat out Cincinnati linebacker Odell Thurman (among others) for the honor.

The Hair's NFL Picks

I'm introducing a new feature to this blog where I share Mel Kiper Jr.'s NFL picks for the week. Sure, I could share my picks but I have neither the NFL knowledge nor the magnificent head of hair that Kiper has.

For those of you not in the Washington DC media market, Tony Kornheiser has a radio talk show where every Thursday he brings on Kiper to make picks. Kiper has been making picks for the Kornheiser show for years, but in the past he would pick games based on the spread. Then, when Kiper incorrectly picked games, Kornheiser would unmercifully humiliate Kiper, taunting him with his incorrect picks.

Kiper, tired of being humiliated, threatened to no longer appear on the radio show, until Kornheiser promised not to make him pick games based on the spread. Which Kornheiser did, so last week Kiper made his reappearance on the radio show, going 6-0 with his NFL picks (although he went 0-2 in college picks).

The catch is that at the end of each pick, Kornheiser casually mentions the spread for the game. This inevitably leads to Kiper reaffirming how strongly he likes his pick. Later, when Kiper is off the show, Kornheiser reviews Kiper's picks based on the spread. Two weeks in and Kiper has still not figured out what Kornheiser is doing. Anyway, here are Kiper's Picks for the week, with Kornheiser's interpretations against the spread.

Washington at Dallas: Kiper is a big fan of Parcells and picks Dallas to win (interpretation, takes Dallas at -7)

Kansas City at Oakland: One of Kiper's strategies when picking games this early in the season is to go with the 0-1 team to beat the 1-0 team. Despite this strategy Kiper picks Kansas City (interpretation, take Kansas City at -1)

St Louis at Arizona: Kiper sees no rhyme or reason to the St Louis offense, comparing them to a grab bag offense. Kiper picks St Louis but believes they could be out coached by the Cardinals. (interpretation, take St Louis at -1)

New England at Carolina: This is one of those games where Kiper recommends taking the 0-1 team (Panthers) over the 1-0 team (Patriots). (interpretation, take Panthers at +3)

Detroit at Chicago: Kiper was surprised that the Green Bay defense held Detroit to 17 points and still lost. Kiper picked Detroit to win this game. (interpretation, take Detroit at -1.5)

Miami at New York Jets: Kiper thinks this game will be closer than people expected, but still likes the Jets to win out. (interpretation, take Miami at +6)

Buffalo at Tampa Bay: Kiper believes Tampa Bay had the more impressive win of these two teams last week, and because Buffalo had a difficult time scoring points picks Tampa Bay to win. He thinks Bills quarterback J.P. Losman will turn the ball over four times. (interpretation, take Tampa Bay at -2.5, plus according to Kornheiser's interpretation this is Kiper's five star lock of the week)

Atlanta at Seattle: Even though Kiper believes Seattle doesn't have big time receivers he still thinks Seattle will win out this week. (interpretation, take Seattle at -1)

Minnesota at Cincinnati: This is another example of an 0-1 team (Vikings) beating a 1-0 team (Bengals), at least according to Kiper. (interpretation, take Minnesota at +3)


Playboy Preview

Before I get to Buccaneer's cheerleader Victoria Vodar's appearance in this month's Playboy I've got a complaint about buccaneers.com.

Who is the joker they put in charge of the opening movie clips? It's a good idea, in theory, and the overall layout of the site is pretty good, but the intro is cheesier than cheez-wiz. Why is Simeon Rice letting Buffalo Bills run past him? The intro should be either funny or motivational. The Bills intro fails miserably on both accounts.

Anyway, Buccaneers cheerleader Victoria Vodar appeared in the latest Playboy. Sadly, there was no nudity involved. Victoria confirmed that Bucs cheerleaders have to take a football quiz before they can be hired, although she did not mention how she did on the quiz. (It's my belief that these scores should be released to the general public for the same reason that college football polls are released, my own amusement.)

Football fan Victoria leaves us with this money quote:
And we just got new uniforms that are more revealing. Fortunately I haven't had any wardrobe malfunctions - yet.

(And yes, this entire post was an excuse to post a cheerleader picture)


Injury Report: Why it sucks to tear your ACL

Two big injuries in the NFC yesterday, Packer's receiver Javon Walker and Panther's defensive tackle Kris Jenkins. Both players tore their ACLs and will be out for the rest of the season.

Tearing your ACL is one of the worst, and most common, sports injuries. It takes at least a year to rehab from the injury, and it's going to require surgery and months of rehab before you can get back to playing shape.

A buddy of mine tore his ACL our senior year of high school. He tore on a run-of-the-mill play during our football practice, and at the time he didn't really know how bad it was. At first it felt really bad, but you can still walk with a torn ACL, so he just figured it was a sprain and sat out the rest of practice. If he had tried to run any more plays in practice, he could have torn up more muscles in his knee and risked never being able to walk again.

Anyway, these injuries are bad news for Brett Favre and the Panther's Super Bowl band wagon (which includes myself).

Besides getting screwed out of the big NFL contract Green Bay told Walker he had to play for this season, this news pretty much guarantees the Packers will be competing with the Bears for the worst team in the division. Walker had emerged into the home run threat for the Packers, and stretched the field for the Packer's power running game.

Jenkins is the second best player on one of the top five defensive lines in the NFL. His absence from the d-line due to injuries last season was part of the reason the Panthers started out 1-7. I still think the Panthers can make it back to the Super Bowl this season (remember Booger McFarland missed the second half of the Buc's Super Bowl season), but the road to Super Bowl XL will be much more difficult for Carolina. All of the sudden the Eagles look like a good bet to repeat as NFC Champs.

Who's drinking the kool-aid?

Call me Ebenezer Scrooge. Or the Grinch that stole Opening Weekend (which is basically the same as Christmas).

But I'm not jumping on the Buc's playoff bandwagon.

Sure they had an impressive win on the road against a team that was a darkhorse pick for the Super Bowl. The defense made the plays we have come to expect and Cadillac Williams ran for the fifth most yards by a rookie quarterback opening weekend. Even rookie Alex Smith got in on the act by catching two touchdown passes.

I still think the Bucs will go 7-9 and nothing I saw on Sunday convinced me of any different. The passing game looked common place and Michael Clayton was noticeably rusty.

More importantly (because he is the future of this offense) Cadillac averaged only 2.96 yards a carry before he broke off that 71 yard run for a touchdown. Cadillac looked better than Michael Pittman has in the past, and once the o-line improves its play Cadillac will be a force to be reckoned with. But for right now he can not carry the offense.

Some people look at the win against the Vikings and they are ready to anoint the Bucs as a playoff team. Log on to any Bucs message board and you will find fans proudly proclaiming that the Bucs are back.

It's week one. It's too early to tell how well any teams are going to do. Two years ago the Patriots were goose-egged by the Bills, and everybody in the media started writing off the Pats. The Pats won the Super Bowl at the end of that season.

That same season the Bucs destroyed the Eagles in a Monday night game at the newly opened Lincoln Financial Field in Philly. As we all know, the Bucs missed the playoffs that year, while the Eagles made it to the NFC Championship Game.

I don't think the Bucs can make it to the playoffs, even in a weak NFC. I will be the fan cheering the loudest in the local sports bar if the Bucs prove me wrong. I will gladly eat crow if the Bucs make it to the playoffs. I just don't think that will happen.

The o-line is still too much of a question mark. Anthony Davis, an undrafted second year player, is starting at left tackle. Dan Buenning, a rookie, started at right guard. This line is young and many of the guys are not used to playing with each other.

Next week the Bucs play a really tough Buffalo defense that many people still don't know about. The Bills had the eighth ranked defense last season, and forced Texans quarterback David Carr to turn the ball over four times on Sunday. Carr was also limited to just 70 passing yards.

If the Bucs offense plays like it did against the Vikings, Tampa Bay will lose the game. Michael Clayton needs to make plays for the offense, which means he can't drop any more balls. Griese needs to make smarter throws and avoid costly turnovers against a Bill's defense that led the NFL in takeaways (39) last season.

If the Bucs win the next Sunday's game, then we will here more playoff talk and deservedly so. If the Bucs have a winning record after their first five games then Tampa Bay will start talking about the playoffs.

But it's still only week one, and the Bucs have not proven anything except they can beat an overrated Vikings.


Bucs 24, Vikings 13

Last season the Bucs had the 29th ranked rushing offense. After watching Cadillac (he's earned the nickname) Williams break off a 71 yard run, I think we can expect that ranking to improve.

Williams powered the offense today, en route to upset over a supposedly improved Vikings team. Williams ran for 148 yards, the second most yards gained today by a runningback. (On a side note, another rookie, Willy Parker for the Steelers ran for the most yards so far today)

Griese and the receiving corp did not look especially impressive, with only 213 yards of passing. While Joey Galloway proved how dangerous he can be when fully healthy, Michael Clayton got off to a slow start, dropping a pass or two, and fumbling the ball out of bounds.

Part of Griese's average performance can be credited to a Viking's secondary that made some significant additions in the offseason. One of those additions, Darren Sharper (a fellow William and Mary alum) returned a Griese interception for the Vikings only touchdown in the first quarter.

As good as Cadillac looked the key to the Bucs win, once again, was their defense, which forced Daunte Culpepper to turn the ball over five times (three interceptions, two fumbles). The Bucs effectively shut down the Vikings rushing attack early in the game, leaving Culpepper to deal with the best passing defense from last season. Each time Culpepper drove his team into the red zone the Buc's defense forced a turnover. A lot of writers forecasted this would be the year the Bucs defense finaly slipped out of the top ten, but judging by today's game I think it's safe to say Monte Kiffin still has it.

Next week, the Bucs will have a tougher matchup at home against a talented young Buffalo Bills team. The Bills throttled the Texans today by relying on the legs of Willis McGahee and a defense that will soon be known as one of the best in the league.

Just Two More Hours . . .


Finally, the NFC South

Now that everyone and their mother has a blog, every fool with an opinion can spout their NFL previews. And they have.


So you ask, how is this blog different?

Well it's not, kinda. I'm just another fool with an opinion sharing what little knowlede of the NFL I have. Except for the NFC South.

When it comes to the NFC South, I know more than many talking heads on ESPN. For example, a year ago, when I was in Vegas, I laid down a bet on the Falcons to win the Super Bowl at 25-1 odds. Obviously, I didn't win, but considering I made the bet before the season started, I like to think I know a little something about the NFC South.

Anyway, on to my idiotic predictions.

Carolina Panthers (Playoffs)
Two months ago I was able to sucker my brother into betting against the Panthers to win the division. He goes to school in Atlanta, and must have been drinking too much of the Kool-Aid 'cause he thought I was crazy to bet on the Panthers to win the division. Now, I'd be lucky to get the same bet from him.

I was on the Panther's Super Bowl band wagon until Sports Illustrated put the Panthers on the cover declaring Carolina would win it all. Talk about a jinx.

Now everyone likes the Panthers to win the Super Bowl, and I'm just another band wagon Carolina fan. Everybody is starting to realize what I knew 2 months ago, the Panthers learned from all of their injuries last season, and have more depth on their team than just about any team. The defense will return to a top ten ranking. And the offense is stocked with more weapons than last year despite losing Muhsin Muhammed.

Steve Smith is more talented that Muhsin, plus Smith brings more intagibles. The Panthers also have three runningbacks who could start for many team, and the addition of Rod Gardner adds depth and experience to the receiving corp. Throw in Jake Delhomme, the most underrated quarterback in the league, and the Panthers have more talent on both sides of the ball than every team except the Eagles and Colts.

But the key to the Panthers is their head coach, John Fox. If Fox was able to motivate his team to go 6-1 after starting 1-7, then surely he can get his team to the playoffs this season.

Atlanta Falcons (Playoffs)
Michael Vick, aka Ron Mexico, is the only guy besides Julius Peppers who scares me when he plays the Bucs. He can make plays with his legs many runningbacks could never even imagine, and he has a cannon for an arm. But what makes Vick scary is the fact that he KNOWS he's going to win.

He has the kind of confidence Jordan had in his three-peat days, when Vick walks on the field he expects to win. Vick's confidence is contagious, and you can tell his teammates (offense and defense) feed off of Vick, and bring their game up a notch when Vick is playing. To use another NBA analogy, when Larry Bird would walk into the locker room before the three point competition, he would look at all his competitors and ask them, "which one of you is going to finish second?" Vick exudes that type of confidence.

Right now, Vick's achilles heel is his decision making. As the NFC Championship game proved, Vick has to learn to sit in the pocket and make the correct throws. This is not someting you can learn in one offseason.

Good defenses (i.e. Eagles, Panthers, Bucs) will take advantage of this by forcing Vick to stay in the pocket by blanketing the field with corners and safeties. The strength of the Falcons is still their rushing game (mainly 'cause the receiving corp is a mess) but Vick is the key to the rushing attack.

Vick's poor decision making in the pocket and the overrated defense are the two major reasons I'm picking the Falcons not to repeat as NFC South champs. The Falcons have a talented defense but, similar to the Bucs, it is undersized. Falcons fans may brag that their team had one of the top ranked rushing defenses, but I'd like to point out the Chiefs scored 8 rushing touchdowns on Atlanta's defense last season. Atlanta's defense is not good enough that it can win games for the Falcons, and until Vick learns to pass in the pocket the Falcons can be beat by teams with a good defense.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs will finish within a game of 7-9. You heard it here first.

In two years the Bucs will be able to compete for the Super Bowl. They have the components in place on the offense (Griese, Clayton, Williams). The o-line is still young and will have to become younger, which means a good amount of growing pains for the team. The defense is actually the bigger question.

The seconday, the strength of the team last year, will be a step slower this season. Jermaine Phillips will be a playmaker, but Dexter Jackson is not the answer at safety. The corners are still among the best in the NFL, but the corner position is like the runningback position, when you hit 30 you might as well retire. Ronder Barber is 28 and Brian Kelly is 29.

All of the starting linebackers are over thirty (although I expect that to change towards the end of the season), which is bad news for a defense that has relied on speed. I like the defensive line, and Chris Hovan is a very good pickup (all he needed was a change of scenery). Assuming Booger stays healthy (knock on wood) the Bucs will be able to pass rush the quarterback like they did in 2002.

This could be the best offensive season for the Bucs since 2000 (which by the way featured Shaun King). They finally have a rushing attack with the addition of Carnell Williams. Their runningback corp is deeper this season, and the receiving corp is stronger with the maturation of Clayton. Hate on Griese if you want to but he finished with the best completion percentage of any starting quarterback, 69.3. Quite simply, Gruden makes his quarterbacks better, exhibit A, Rich Gannon.

The offensive weakness for the Bucs this season will be the o-line, which is still a few years away from being competitive. The o-line has never been a strength for the Bucs but the inexperience of many of the new starters on the line will hurt them this season. Ask your self, so you really want an undrafted second year player (Anthony Davis) to start at left tackle, the most important position on the o-line? What happens when Davis is matched up against Julius Pepper or Jason Taylor? That will get ugly.

The Bucs still have two of the better coaches in a coach's league, and in a season or two they will be able to compete for the Super Bowl. But for now they have to many question marks for me to guarantee that they finish with a winning record. I hope I'm wrong and will be more than willing to admit it should the Bucs make it to the playoffs.

New Orleans Saints
A lot of people don't know what to make of the Saints this season. They could go 12-4 or 4-12, there really is no precedent for what they have gone through. Me, I think they will finish worse than their 8-8 record from last season.

Before Hurricane Katrina the Saints looked good, really good. For the first time in the Aaron Brooks era they finished the season strongly, winning their last four games, including the last one against the Panthers when the winner of the game could have made it to the playoffs. The Saints looked set to ride last season's success to a winning record this season.

Then Hurricane Katrina came along and changed many individual's fortunes, including the Saint's players and coaches. Now the coaches have to game plan from a makeshift headquarters and the player's have to workout and practice from a makeshift facility. Throw in the fact that everybody with the Saints has been busy trying to figure out their own personal situations, and I seriously doubt the Saints have put in the preparation necessary to win on Sundays.

Don't get me wrong, this is still a dangerous Saints team. They will win a lot of games early in the season people did not expect them to win. They still have one of the better offenses and a significantly improved defense highlighted by a upgraded secondary. Teams will not look forward to playing the Saints, but in the end I expect the Saints to finish within a game of the Bucs. Translation, they will finish with a losing record.

Mea Culpa

Unlike Tricky Dick I am willing to admit when I have made a mistake. And unlike "Slick Willy" Bill Clinton I will admit when I have lied.

I wrote a week ago that I would post a conference preview each day ending with the NFC South on Thursday. Obviously, that did not happen.

I wrote a few days ago that I would post the NFC South preview of Friday. Obviously, that did not happen.

Even though only three people read this blog (one of those possibly being my own mother) I owe an explanation to my readers. In addition to not having access to the internet for a few days, I have started a new job which has kept me busy. All of this means that I have not had nearly the amount of time to do the research necessary to write the half-assed blogs you have come to expect. (After all, it takes time to read all the posts on the Pewter Report's message board)

That being said, I will post my NFC South preview before the Buc's game tomorrow. While that's not exactly going out on a limb, considering that gives me almost 20 hours to write four quick team previews, I would like to think my promises are the bond between myself and you, the readers . . . all three of you (hi Mom).

Anway, I apologize to those who have lost sleep because I misled you. Feel free to send me threatening e-mails.

I will forward them to President Clinton.


AFC South

Ok, I'll be the first to admit it, this whole conference preview thing has not gone as smoothly as I could have hoped for. I didn't have access to the internet all Labor Day weekend, and my apartment's internet connection has been out for two days.

Which means two things. One, I have no idea what has happened with the Bucs recently (I have been so busy I still haven't checked the score of the preseason game).

Two, I haven't been able to post all of the conference previews during my planned timeline. Today, I will preview the AFC South, and (fingers crossed) I will preview the NFC South tomorrow.

Indianapolis Colts (Playoffs)
The Colts are one of the teams I like to make the Super Bowl out of the AFC. Since picking up Dungy the Colts have looked more and more like a championship caliber team. The Colts have been better on both sides of the ball.

Head coach Tony Dungy's talent was always in scouting defensive players (after all he did play defensive back for the Steelers). While the defense will never be able to match the offense, Dungy has brought in talented defensive players. Understanding that the offensive eats up most of the salary cap, Dungy has brought in quick players to add a speed rush to the defense. This startegy makes even more sense considering most of the Colts opponents are passing the ball and trying to play catch-up.

Houston Texans
The Texans are the one team I like to duplicate what the Chargers did last season. They have a solid defense (ranked fifteenth last season) and a talented young offense.

All three players of their offensive trio (QB David Carr, RB Domanick Davis, and WR Andre Johnson) are due for a break year. Carr needs to prove that he was worth a first overall pick The Texans have quietly gotten a little better since they came into the league three years ago. If the AFC wasn't as deep or the Colts weren't in their division I would pick the Texans to make the playoffs.

If the Texans had at least an average line I would pick them to make the playoffs. This is the fourth year for number one overall pick Carr, the year quarterbacks tend to full stride. If he doesn't perform this season he risks being labeled a bust. I think the Texans could pull a Chargers this season if they can get somebody else outside of the big three to perform.

Jacksonville Jaguars
In games decided by a touchdown or less the Jaguars went 8 and 3, and only once did they beat a team by more than a touchdown. They were 29th in scoring last season. Considering that their biggest offensive acquisition is a rookie receiver who played quaterback last year, and that Fred Taylor's groin gets a year older, I don't think the Jags offense is going to get much better.

That puts even more pressure on a defense that over-achieved last year (quick, name the best player on the defense). On top of this comes recent comments by head coach Jack Del Rio that were critical of the media, and I give Del Rio until late November until the local media starts calling for his head.

Tennessee Titans
One word describe the Titans this year. Ugly.

Their first round pick alienates his team mates before even reporting to practice. Players are routinely arrested even after head coach Jeff Fisher warns them not to do anything to embarrass the team. And the best quarterback is second on the depth chart.

Billy Volek- 10 games, 2486 yards, 18 tds, 10 ints, 87.1 qb rating

Steve McNair- 8 games, 1343 yards, 8 tds, 9 ints, 73.1 qb rating

They have two Pro Bowl caliber runningbacks, but expect their young receiver corp to get more of a work load. As much as I respect what Steve McNair has done, he hasn't been the same quarterback the last couple of years. Injuries have slowed the offense (McNair, Chris Brown and Tyrone Calico all missed time because of injury), and I wouldn't be surprised to see injuriies decimate this team again.


NFC West

As promised, here is the second conference preview of the day, the mediocre NFC West.

St. Louis Rams (Playoffs)
This is an ugly division that will end up being competitive simply because all the teams are so mediocre. Any team, except the 49ers, could end up winning the division with a .500 record and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised. It's essentially a competition to see who can be the least mediocre. (insert NL West joke here)

I like the Rams to win this division simply because they have the best offense and are the most experienced playoff team. With Stephen Jackson playing a bigger role in the offense, they should have a more balanced attack. Plus Mike Martz is the best offensive coordinator in the game.

Seattle Seahawks
For all the attention that Drew Rosenhaus has had lately, who ever Shaun Alexander's agent is deserves some recognition. Knowing Seattle would slap the franchise tag on Alexander until his knees gave out, his agent argues for a new contract that pays Alexander the same amount he would make by accepting the franchise tag PLUS it prevents Seattle from applying the franchise tag to Alexander next off season.

As a result Alexander will be an unrestricted free agent when the season ends, which means he will be playing for a new contract next season. Considering Alexander was a yard away from leading the NFL in rushing last season, it's scary to think what a motivated Alexander is capable of. Too bad they have a defense with seven new starters.. The Seahawks haven't won a playoff game since 1984 and there is no way they will win one this season.

Arizona Cardinals
Has there ever been more hype around a team that went 6-10 the previous season?
I like their defense (ranked 12th last season) and their receiving corp is stocked with young talent. Their offensive line is one of the biggest in the NFL, and they have one of the better offensive coaches in the league.

Unfortunately, Kurt "Immobile Target" Warner is their quarterback. Sure, Warner returns to the division he dominated en route to winning two league MVP awards. While Warner has one of the quicker releases in the NFL, he has feet made of lead. Even if the offensive line can do a better job of protecting Warner (a BIG if considering the o-line has struggled in the preseason) than the Giants or Rams were able to do, rookie J.J. Arrington is still too small to be a starting runningback. I see easily see the Cardinals going 4 and 2 to start the season before struggling to a .500 record.

San Francisco 49ers
Not starting Alex Smith at the beginning of the season is a smart move by the 49ers coaching staff. It kills a rookie quarterback's confidence to throw him into the frying pan when the rest of his team is so lousy. He ends up over-extending himself, which leads to interceptions and sacks, which could damage him mentally for the rest of his career.

By the way, October 2nd the 49ers-Cardinals game will be played in Mexico City. This is akin to the Montreal Expos playing their home games in Puerto Rico. On the schedule this is a home game for the Cardinals, but the Arizona owner(s) realized there was no way they were going to make money from this game and decided to move it to one of the biggest stadiums in the world to try and make a profit.

Brandon Lloyd

AFC West

As you might have noticed I haven't been posting the last couple of days. I have been at the Uncle's house on Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia, which has no internet or cable connection. Which means I have no idea what has been going on with the Bucs or anything much else sports related. I did catch the Miami-FSU game, and FSU was really luck to win that game. Their quarterback play was ugly, but, as usual, the defensive front seven carried FSU.

Anyway, on to my NFL season previews. Obviously, I am pretty far behind on my one conference a day schedule, which means to catch I will be posting two conference previews today (AFC and NFC Wests). Right now you get the AFC West, which features some of the better offenses in the NFL, and (assuming my internet holds out at my apartment) I will post the NFC West preview later today. Just a reminder I have the teams ranked in the order I expect them to finish in the division, and have noted which teams I believe will make the playoffs.

San Diego Chargers (Playoffs)
The Chiefs could end up deposing the Chargers from the top spot in what should be the best offensive division in the NFL. The AFC West has the best runningback (L.T.), the best receiver (Moss) and two of the best rushing games (KC and Denver). The team that wins this division will be the one with the best defense, which right now is San Diego (#11 last season).

The scary thing about the Chargers is that their offense could be even better this season. Drew Brees will have better receivers to start the season. Keenan McCardell (love him or hate him) is still one of the more reliable recievers in the league, and Reche Caldwell looked really good before going down with an injury last season. Throw in a healthy LaDainian Tomlinson and a happy Antonio Gates, and only the Colts and Vikes have more weapons on their offenses.

Kansas City Chiefs (Playoffs)
The Chiefs have the best offensive line in football. Their quarterback, runningback and receivers are all castoffs from other teams, yet the Chiefs had the second best offense last season. None of their receivers scare opposing defenses yet they averaged 143 rushing yards (5th best) last season.

On top of that the Chiefs have Tony Gonzalez, a guy who can lay down a pancake block one play, and then catch a 20 yard touchdown the next play. Gonzalez, along with Shannon Sharpe, redefined the tightend position, which led to guys like Antonio Gates coming out of nowhere to set touchdown records for a tightend in a season. Plus, to steal a line from Bill Simmons, Gonzalez is like old porn you haven't seen in a while -- sure, the music's a little familiar, and so are the faces, but it's still porn (and yes that's meant as a compliment).

Oakland Raiders
Has anybody's stock risen faster in the past year than Kerry Collins? He goes from getting kicked out of New York by Eli Manning, to starting on a team with the best receiving corp in the NFL. Leaving New York was the best thing that could have happened to him. Moss is the best receiver in the league (when he feels like it) and Jerry Porter, when healthy, is next to impossible to cover. Throw in Ronald Curry (one of the best Hampton Roads high school athleets ever) along with LaMont Jordan and nobody can match Oakland's upside.

The biggest knock on Collins is that he throws too many interceptions. Last season he threw 21 tds and 20 ints, and for his career he has 153 tds and 154 ints. On top of that, Oakland had the 31st ranked offense last season and are unlikely to significantly improve that ranking. Those two facts should guarantee Oakland finishes with a losing record.

Denver Broncos
Mike Shanahan is a one trick pony who found success through a offensive blocking scheme which should be illegal.

He inherited John Elway and then instituted a zone blocking scheme on the offensive line that makes sixth round runningbacks look like Pro Bowl players. Since winning two Super Bowls he has made questionable decision after questionable decision. Its almost like he decided to say "what the fuck?" and go with any old idea that popped into his head.

"Go after Jake Plummer, a quarterback who is notorious for making bad decisions in big games?" Check.

"Bring in the entire defensive line from one of the worst teams in football, the Cleveland Browns?" Check.

"Draft Maurice Clarett in the third round when my team needs receivers?" Check.

But you have to give Shanahan this, his teams have still been competitive despite numerous rolls of the dice. In a way, that has become his competitive edge, take a chance on talented guys everyone else has given up on. Last season it worked for him with the 9th ranked offense and 10th ranked defense. This year it catches up with him.


AFC North and NFC North

Since I'm going to be gone this weekend, I'm going to give you a double dose of my season preview, both AFC and NFC Norths.

In the AFC North, I like the Ravens this season (like I said I'm a sucker for teams with good defenses and power running games)

For the NFC North, Minnesota is the clear favorite, what with a Packers team in decline and a Detroit team that is still wet behind the ears.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens (Playoffs)
I really like the Ravens to win their division but I don't think they are better than the Colts or Jets. The newly implemented 4-6 scheme will make the sixth ranked defense even better this season. Additionally they finally fixed their passing woes by adding veteran receiver Derrick Mason and the most developed rookie receiver Mark Clayton. Assuming Jamal Lewis and Todd Heap stay healthy this season the Ravens should win their division.

The biggest question mark (and potential problem) for the Ravens will be the play of Kyle Boller. The guy is talented enough to play the position, but he makes poor decisions and hasn't full matured as a quarterback. I caught the first two quarters of the Ravens-Eagles preseason game, during which I saw Boller throw two bad interceptions, fumbles the ball, plus he nearly injured one of his receivers going over the middle by throwing the ball too high. Boller has Brett Faver disease, he thinks he can make every throw, and he puts too much steam on his passes which leads them to drift high.

On a sidenote, the Ravens have an odd schedule this year. Through six game in September and October they have only two tough games (Colts and Jets), then have a really tough November (two games apiece against Pittsburgh and Cincy, plus a game at Jacksonville) then a easier December (only two tough game against Houston and Minnesota). I could see the Ravens easily going 12 and 4 this season.

Pittsburgh Steelers (Playoffs)
For all the hype about rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, this team was led by its rushing attack and defense. You put Eli Manning on that team last year and it beats the Colts in the playoffs (and yes, I have no way to prove this).

I like the Steelers defense but I don't think they can repeat as the number one defense in the NFL again. And the rushing attack doesn't look to be as good as last season considering that Jerome Bettis considered retiring last season and Duce Staley will miss the first couple games of this season. Plaxico Burress took a lot of pressure off of Hines Ward, and it will be interesting to see if Antwaan Randle-El can replicate Burress's effect on a defense.

Cincinatti Bengals
For the first time in a long time they are talking about the playoffs in Cincinatti. Nobody tell them the Bengals are a year away from the playoffs.

This division is simply too competitive for the Bengals to make the playoffs. I like the Carson Palmer to Chad Johnson connection which could surpass Peyton to Harrison as the best throwing-cathcing combo in the next couple of years. They even have a runningback named Rudi. I just don't think their defense (ranked 21st last season) can keep them in close games this season.

Cleveland Browns
Their big offseason acquisitions are Romeo Crennel, Trent Dilfer and Ruben Droughns. They should benefit from an easier schedule this season but they will be lucky to win a game against a divisional opponent.

But hey, they have the Dog Pound . . . that's pretty cool right?

NFC North

Minnesota Vikings (Playoffs)
No Moss? No problem.

Daunte Culpepper is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, all he did last season was lead the league in completions (379) and passing yards (4717). Culpepper has plenty of young talent to complement him on offense. The Vikings don't really expect first round pick Troy Williamson to produce this year, instead the pressure to replace Randy Moss has been placed on third year receiver Nate Burleson. If the defense can rank in the top half of the NFL, the Vikings will easily win the NFC North.

Detroit Lions
The Lion's braintrust reminds me of the guy in my fantasy league who drafts three receivers with his first three picks.

It's easy to fall in love with receivers, but I would rather build my team around a good quarterback and a good defense. The Lions have neither, yet.

Harrington may turn out to be a servicable quarterback (especially when surrounded by so much first round talent) but he has a long way to go before he can prove himself as a winner, and somebody to lead his team to the playoffs. I can easily see the Lions ending up with a better record than Green Bay, they have more young talent than the Packers. But like I wrote, Harrington has to prove himself this season.

Green Bay Packers
The Packers get a year older and farther away from making it to the playoffs.

They didn't take any steps to improve their miserable defense, and they lost two of their starting guards. As long as they have Brett Favre the Packers will remain competitive, but if they have to rely on Favre, Green Bay will not be able to make it to the playoffs. Favre has been slipping the last couple of years and nobody in the mainstream media has been willing to say it. Since 2001 Favre has thrown nine touchdowns and fourteen interceptions in the playoffs and has gone 2 and 4.

Chicago Bears (ok, this is what I wrote two weeks before Rex Grossman broke his ankle)
If the Bears could stay healthy they could make it back to the playoffs. But that's a big if.

They have the most talented defense in their division, and Cedric Benson and Muhsin Muhammed bring a much needed boost to the offense. The key is the quarterback position for the Bears. Last season, the qb position was a revolving door (I think at one point Shaun King was taking snaps). When he's healthy Rex Grossman is the best quarterback the Bears have and can win games. If I had to choose between Grossman and Harrington, I would take Grossman. But Grossman has struggled to stay healthy, and until he can stay healthy for an entire season the Bears will struggle to find a winning record.


NFC East

Today I look at the NFC East which I believe will have two playoff teams.

Tomorrow, the AFC North.

Philadelphia Eagles (Playoffs)
If the Eagles played in the AFC they would be the fourth or fifth best team. But since they are fortunate enough to play in a weaker NFC they routinely make it to the conference championships despite having some noticable weaknesses.

The Philly braintrust knew it had to add Terrell Owens a year ago if they were ever going to make it past the conference finals. They made their bed and now they get to sleep in it. I am by no means a T.O. fan but you have to admit he carried the Eagles to the Super Bowl last season. T.O. brought a swagger to the team, which gave the Eagles the confidence to make it to the Super Bowl and accumulate their best record ever (13-3). Of course, I still think Carolina will beat them in the NFC Championship this season.

On a side note, I was watching the Eagles-Bengals preseason game when one of the announcers mentioned that Eagles receiver Greg Lewis plays 3 hours of Madden each day during the off season. Lewis said that playing Madden helps him during the regular season by recognizing players' numbers and the speeds of defenders.

Dallas Cowboys (Playoffs)
I’m a sucker for teams with a good defense and a power running game. That’s why I always think the Ravens will do well, and that’s why I think the Cowboys will make it to the playoffs this season.

It doesn’t even matter that Drew Bledsoe can barely throw the ball or that the Cowboys’ receivers all peaked five years ago, Julius Jones and a revamped defense will get them back. Bill Parcels decided not to tinker with the defense last season, even though he felt uneasy about it. In 2003, Dallas had the second best defense, but last season Dallas ranked 28th overall.

Parcells has changed to a 3-4 and added playmakers on the defense, which should catapult the unit back to the top ten. Additionally, the emergence of Julius Jones last season will help the offense moves the chains. They won’t win any games in the playoffs until they get a new quarterback, but Parcells will once again receive accolades for turning a losing into a winner.

New York Giants
How much does it suck to be the one Manning brother NOT good enough to play in the NFL? He prob gets picked last for all the family re-union flag football games.

Course I might actually feel sorry for this guy if I didn’t read about the way he decides which brother, Eli or Peyton, he wants to watch each week. Since his brothers can always get him free tickets he looks at which brother is playing in the bigger party city and then goes there. For example, if Peyton is playing Minnesota but Eli plays at Miami, then the eldest Manning sibling is off to Miami.

Anyway, the Giants are still in rebuilding mode. They have plenty of talent on offense, but lack chemistry. And since their defense sure as hell isn’t going to carry this team, then I would be surprised if the Giants had anything else other than a losing record.

Washington Redskins
The Redskins have had so many bad coaches the past couple of seasons, that nobody in Washington has realized how bad Joe Gibbs is. Maybe it’s because they are blinded by his past success with the team, or maybe it’s the boundless optimism unique to ‘Skins fans but Gibbs has proven he cannot coach and manage a team in the modern era.

The best example of this would have to be when the Skins were actually fined by the NFL during the off season for allowing contact during non-contact practices. How did the NFL and the Player’s Association find out about the contact? It was on the ‘Skins website.

If you went to the ‘Skins website and clicked on the “watch practice video” link you could actually see the players running full contact drills in practice. Not a real smart move.

Anyway, the quarterback situation is a mess, the receivers have become rats leaving a sinking ship and their speed running back put on 15-20 pounds. Even if the defense can equal their performance from last season (which I don’t think will happen), the ‘Skins are in for an ugly season.