2009 NFL PREVIEW
Philadelphia Eagles 11-5
You have the feeling that it is Super Bowl or bust for the Eagles, this season as they came with in one game of making it last year. The loss of Brian Dawkins in the secondary maybe their only concern, but with a schedule against the AFC West, the Eagles should be able to take flight this year, as them and the Giants, will be battling all season for the top spot in the East, as the two longtime rivals are at the head of the class in the NFC, with the division winner having the step up to making it to the Super Bowl.
Tom Cable-Oakland Raiders
Jim Caldwell-Indianapolis Colts
Brad Childress-Minnesota Vikings
John Fox-Carolina Panthers
Dick Jauron-Buffalo Bills
Marvin Lewis-Cincinnati Bengals
Wade Phillips-Dallas Cowboys
Jim Zorn-Washington Redskins
Coaches who will be looking for work after the season
Dallas Cowboys 9-7
The Cowboys have a brand new palace to call home, a multi-billion dollar modern stadium, with a looming 60-yard wide video board hanging over the field, and playing havoc with punts. The board of course is the first ever built that can actually show Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones eminence ego. However, that ego once again will be bruised, as the Cowboys fall short of the playoffs again. The talent may be there but, in the same division with the Eagles and Giants, the Cowboys are not coached well enough to overcome too stellar teams, as questions about QB Tony Romo's ability to win have yet to be answered in the affirmative.
New York Giants 11-5*
You can almost flip a coin between the Giants and Eagles as to who will be supreme in the NFC East, the Giants ruled the regular season but were upended in the Eagles, as the loss of Plaxico Burress seemed to derail the Giants offense. Unfortunately for Big Blue the Giants were unable to replace Burress in the off-season, and in the preseason their wideouts showed a propensity of dropping Eli Manning's passes. This problem could fester and ruin the Giants, but if somebody rises up and becomes the go to guy the Giants could be on the way to another Lombardi Trophy, with a steady running attack and a strong defense.
Washington Redskins 6-10
Adding Albert Haynesworth to an already strong defense, could make the Redskins one of the top defense in the NFC, but they thought that about Jason Taylor last season, and he is now back in Miami, and the Redskins still have yet to parlay Owner Dan Snyder's offseason spending into a successful season. However, the most important position is Quarterback, and Dan Campbell is not the type of QB that lends to success. That pattern will hold through this season, as the Redskins, will get smothered in the toughest division in football.
Detroit Lions 3-13
The good news for Lions fans, you team will be improved this year, of course when you go 0-16 last year that isn't saying much. Like a volcano destroying everything in sight the Lions are a giant mess, with not much around them to build as they final emerge from the ashes of the Matt Millen error. Top pick Matt Stafford will get a chance to start the season, and will experience growing pains and frustration, as the Lions may have to wait several weeks to get off the snide, as they have a long way to go before they can truly contend especially in the tough NFC North.
Minnesota Vikings 9-7
Didn't the Vikings pay attention to the Jets season last year, do they realize they are not getting the great Brett Favre who won three NFL MVPs in the 90s. They are getting the old used up Brett Favre whose awful play down the stretch last year, got his coach fired, and cost the Jets a trip to the playoffs. Sure the Vikings with Adrian Peterson did win a division last year without a reliable QB, and their defense is nothing to sneeze at. However, Favre will not help this team get to the next level as his own desire to play must be questioned as he can't decide weather to retire or play and in the end his stamina and health will fail again in December as his team stumbles down the stretch with another coach meeting the axe at the end of the year.
Green Bay Packers 12-4
The Packers fell short of the playoffs last season, but it was not the fault of QB Aaron Rodgers, who had a terrific first season leading the Packers offense. At times last year the defense was questionable, but in the preseason they showed signs they may have completely turned that around, which will be key playing in the tough NFC North. One big question will be at Running Back, where Ryan Grant must respond after a disappointing 2008. However, with a favorable schedule the road to the Super Bowl maybe have to come through Lambeau Field, as almost all of the Packers tough out of division games will be at home, and that will enable them to win the NFC North.
Chicago Bears 10-6*
With the addition of Jay Cutler, the Bears finally have the All-Pro Quarterback they have been waiting for since Jim McMahon left. With a defense that just a few years ago got the Bears to the Super Bowl led by Rex Grossman, the Bears have raised expectations in the Windy City. However, some caution for Bears fans with Super Bowl dreams, Cutler has yet to prove he can win the playoffs, and the defense that is so hailed at times struggled last year. In the end the Bears should be able to get into the playoffs, but the Super Bowl is still a ways off as the Bears still have a few missing pieces.
Atlanta Falcons 9-7
Led by Rookie QB Matt Ryan the Falcons arose from the Michael Vick mess faster then anybody could have expected reaching the playoffs last season. However, this season with high expectations the Falcons will have a tougher road as they face a tougher schedule and will be playing with a target on their backs, as they are considered by many to be the favorites in the NFC South. Look for them to be strong again, but they will just fall short of the postseason, nonetheless the future will remain bright in Atlanta as they post winning records in consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history.
Carolina Panthers 7-9
Last season the Panthers posted a 12-4 record and had a home playoff game, but with a six turnover performance they sputtered on the road to the Super Bowl. The Panthers could still be a strong team as many pieces are still in place from last year, but with Jake Delhomme getting older, and the Falcons and Saints on the rise the Panthers may actually find themselves going backwards, as there is not much on the depth chart, making remaining healthy vital for them if they are to have any chance for a return to the postseason.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2-14
The Buccaneers were on the verge of winning the division last season, when suddenly a season ending four game losing streak knocked them out of the playoffs at 9-7, costing Coach Jon Gruden his job, as the team decided to completely rebuild letting go longtime Bucs like Derrick Brooks. The decision to rebuild may be the right move long term but short term the Bucs will resemble the crew that wore Creamsicle orange as they will vie for the number one pick, can you say Tim Tebow anyone?
New Orleans Saints 10-6
Drew Brees may be the best Quarterbacks in football, but the Saints defense seems to get in the way of him going far in the playoffs year after year. The Saints have retooled the defense this year, with the hiring Gregg Williams as their new Defensive Coordinator, and that will be a boost, because Williams has a long history of success. Look for the Saints to take the South this year, as Brees puts up MVP numbers, while Reggie Bush finally starts to show the ability to be an All-Pro.
Arizona Cardinals 7-9
The Super Bowl hang over has been an epidemic in the NFL in recent years, as just two of the last ten Super Bowl losers have reached the playoffs in the following season. Look for that trend to continue as the Cardinals whose 9-7 regular season hardly was stellar takes a step backward especially against the pressure of high expectations and a first place schedule. Despite the struggle WR Larry Fitzgerald should continue to establish himself as they best receiver in the game.
Seattle Seahawks 8-8
Last year's 4-12 record may not be indictive of the Seahawks talent, as injuries seemed to have their way with the team all season, most noteablly to QB Matt Hasselbeck, who missed five games last season. Receiver T.J. Housmandzeh has been acquired to give Hasselbeck another weapon, while they expect big things from RB Julius Jones. However, getting back to the NFC West is easier said then done, and tough road schedule could ultimatley doom the Seahawks chances.
St. Louis Rams 5-11
After two straight 2-14 seasons, the Rams have a long way to go before they can contend again, even though the pieces are in place for a strong defense with Chris Long and James Laurinatis, and with Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo the Rams arrival back to respectability could be just one year away. However, that means they will still take their lumps this seasons, as they finish at the bottom of the weakest division again.
San Francisco 49ers 9-7
When Mike Singletary took over as the 49ers coach last season some snickered as he clashed with the teams Tight End Vernon Davis in the first game, and dropped his pants in the locker, but it seemed to get his team's attention as the 49ers finished the season strong winning five of their last seven. In the NFC West which is wide open a full season of that can lead to the postseason. Look for Singletary to use the Niners defense as a weapon, to overcome the questions at Quarterback, as the 49ers sneak up and capture the Western Division.
New York Jets 6-10
A new era has begun in New York as the Jets have placed all their hopes on Rookie Quarterback Mark Sanchez. Even under normal circumstances it is tough for a rookie QB to succeed in the NFL, as the quickness of the NFL sometimes overwhelms even the best of them. Add to this the pressure and spotlight of New York and you got a near impossible task. Sanchez may have bright future in front of him, but it won't come in 2009, as the Jets in a tough division will struggle all season. Sanchez and first year coach Rex Ryan just better hope that Jet fans have the patience to let this team develop.
New England Patriots 11-5
The Patriots just missed the playoffs with an 11-5 record last year despite losing MVP Quarterback Tom Brady in the first game. With Brady back under center the Patriots have Super Bowl expectations, and while they should be able to win their division on the strength of their offense alone, the Patriots now have some questions emerging on defense with the retirement of Rodney Harrison and Tedy Bruschi. Look for them to be among the best teams in the AFC all season, but in the end a trip to the Super Bowl will be out of reach as their defense still wins the biggest games in January.
Buffalo Bills 8-8
The Bills added Terrell Owens not just to sell tickets and to be featured in a crappy reality show on VH-1, but to play in the playoffs for the first time in the 21st Century. However, at 36 T.O. is starting to lose a step and QB Trent Edwards has yet to prove his capable of being a consistent NFL winner. This is all bad news for Coach Dick Jauron who is firmly on the hot seat, with the axe of a make or break over his head. This does not add up to success for the Bills, who just don't have the pieces in place to rise much further above 8-8 mediocrity which probably means the axe will fall, and changes will come.
Miami Dolphins 10-6*
After winning just one game in 2007 the Dolphins went from worst to first sparked by the wildcat offense, which is quickly becoming the trendy new gimmick formation in the NFL with several teams experimenting with their own wildcat formations. Gimmick or not the Dolphins under Tony Sparano are well coached and disciplined to not make the critical mistake, which will be key if they are to return to the playoffs this year facing a much tougher schedule. Look for them to be pesky again, as the return of Jason Taylor gives the Dolphins a strong defense that could make an impact in the postseason.
Pittsburgh Steelers 12-4
In the NFL repeating is one of the hardest tasks; as the Super Bowl champs each year enter the season with a brutal schedule and the target on their back, a target that proved to be overbearing for the Steelers in 2006 as they missed the playoffs. However, it appears as if they learned the lessons from that team, as they avoided the distractions that hampered them before the season even started this time around. In addition Coach Mike Tomlin just in his third year may already be one of the best in the NFL, as many teams have hired young assistants looking to find the next Tomlin. Look for them to once again be playing late into January as their defense will once again be among the best in the NFL.
Cincinnati Bengals 6-10
Chad Ochocinco is headache, Carson Palmer is injury prone, Marvin Lewis is on the hot seat, and Owner Mike Brown is pinching pennies, just another season in Cincinnati. I guess they should just be happy nobody has been arrested recently. Don't expect things to get better any time soon as the Steelers and Ravens are much better, while the battle of Ohio has turned into the battle to avoid last place. Look for Marvin Lewis to be the big winner at the end of the year as he mercifully gets fired and gets a chance to seek redemption elsewhere, meanwhile Carson Palmer wishes he had the same luck, As for Ochocinco his children which their last name was still Johnson.
Baltimore Ravens 10-6*
The Ravens came with in one game of reaching the Super Bowl under new Coach John Harbaugh last season, as Rookie Joe Flacco showed the poise of a veteran. Flacco should even be better this year, but the playoffs could be harder task as the AFC remains the toughest conference in the NFL, where ten wins may not be enough to guarantee a spot. One problem that remains in the way is the Steelers who beat the Ravens three times including the AFC Championship Game, if they are to succeed this year, the Ravens must first find a way to solve the Steelers mastery.
Cleveland Browns 5-11
The only one calling Eric Mangini Mangenius these days himself, as he impresses himself daily with his decisions on and off the field. However, not making a decision on the starting Quarterback has nothing to do with trickery or brilliant startegery, more likely the reason is neither Derek Anderson, nor Brady Quinn have risen to take the mantle. With holes through out the team; look for more frustration by the Lake, as the Browns finish in last place yet again.
Indianapolis Colts 5-11
When you are a new Coach like Jim Caldwell taking over for a legend like Tony Dungy, the last thing you want to happen is a rough off-season. However, that is exactly what happened to the Colts, as the coaching staff was unsettled, as both Tom Moore and Howard Mudd also stepped down from their longtime roles on the Colts staff. Meanwhile the Colts failed to address there lackluster running game, add to this injuries already taking their toll with Bob Sanders on the Physically Unable to Perform list and you have the ingredients for a disaster in Indy. Don't be surprised if things break down so badly, that Mike Shanahan enters the picture adding to the pressure of Jim Caldwell, who will not only need to win but to keep Peyton Manning happy.
Jacksonville Jaguars 7-9
One of the most disappointing teams in the NFL last season, the Jaguars are looking to restore hope and fan interest in Jacksonville as the team is struggling to sell tickets, in a market that may no longer be able to support them. If they can regain the toughness they showed in 2007 they could be a surprise playoff team, but getting back to the playoffs is easier said then done, especially in the AFC where they are several strong teams. Look for another disappointing season in Jax, as whispers of a move to LA become louder towards the end of the year.
Houston Texans 11-5
When the Texans chose Mario Williams with the number one pick in the 2006 NFL Draft ahead of Reggie Bush and Vince Young they were heavily criticized, by many including myself. However, they were proven right as Young has had a meltdown, and Bush has hyet to live up to Heisman hype, while Williams is a key member of the Texans young defense that make them a team on the rise in the AFC South. Look for this to be the year the Texans reach the promise, as they reach the playoffs for the first time in franchise history by winning the competitive AFC South.
Tennessee Titans 9-7
Last year the Titans posted the best record in the NFL at 13-3, with Kerry Collins starting at Quarterback. A simmering storm still is on the horizon, as Vince Young, the 2006 Rookie of the Year clearly wants to start, while Collins has history of up and down seasons make him a prime candidate for a disappointing season, especially with a tough schedule if the team struggles and Young is not starting things could get ugly in Nashville. One thing that will make things harder is the loss of Albert Haynesworth, who was one of the key reasons the Titans had such a successful season.
San Diego Chargers 13-3
OK here it is San Diego; I rode the Chargers last year, but watched as they underperformed most of the season, as they clearly missed Shawne Merriman. However, a strong finish and a solid showing in the playoffs has me believing in them again, as when healthy and firing on all cylinders they have the most talent in the league on both offense and defense. The question is when will they put it all together and bring a title to San Diego? The answer may be this year as they have a favorable schedule a weak division, and allot to prove, and with Philip Rivers starting to emerge as one of the best QBs in the NFL, Darren Sproles providing a spark, and rejuvenated LaDanian Tomlinson the stars appear to be lining up.
Kansas City Chiefs 5-11
The Chiefs think they got a franchise Quarterback in Matt Cassel, as they acquired him from the Patriots in the off-season, after he nearly led them to the playoffs, playing in place of Tom Brady. The problem for the Chiefs is he did not bring Randy Moss, Wes Welker, or the Patriots offensive line with him, meaning we will see the real Matt Cassel in Kansas City and not the one who benefited from the stars around him, which will likely lead to allot of long faces in Kansas City as the Chiefs continue to struggle.
Oakland Raiders 6-10
The good news is the Raiders may be the second best team in the AFC West, the bad news that isn't saying much, as the drop off after the Chargers is deeper then the Grand Canyon. The Raiders have some talent as picking in the top five means getting players with ability, but with Al Davis running a rudderless ship and Coach Tom Cable punching out his assistants, the Raiders may be a more interesting soap opera off the field then on the field. Look for more continued confusion in Oakland as the Raiders continue to lose in double digits.
Denver Broncos 4-12
Apparently that winning personality that makes Patriots Coach Bill Belichick such a vile human being has rubbed off on his protégé Josh McDaniels as he arrived in Denver expecting the Broncos players to bow at the feet of the mastermind behind the Pats high powered offense. However, when Jay Cutler was offended by McDaniels'persuit of Matt Cassel, before his way out of Denver, the new coach put his own neck firmly on the line as the Broncos go into battle with Kyle Orton under center. Meanwhile star receiver Brandon Marshall is begging to get out, as his tantrums led to a preseason suspension. Forgive me if I am not impressed by the 33-year old McDaniels, who will be eating humble pie all season as the Broncos endure an awful season that will have fans wishing Mike Shanahan was back.
Coach of the Year
Comeback Player of the Year
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Defensive Player of the Year
Offensive Player of the Year
New England Patriots
New York Jets
New Orleans Saints
New Orleans Saints
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Predictions Made: September 7, 2009