Thursday, August 21, 2008

2008 NFL Preview - Post 4

Today, it’s the final installment in a four part series for the annual NFL preview! Please, contain your excitement. Another beautiful day here in Southern New England – started with 18 holes and a good solid lunch, and now the final NFL Preview Post before tomorrow’s post with SpartyAndFriends.

So let’s finish it up – today, the AFC South & East


2007 Standings

Indianapolis (13-3)

Jacksonville (11-5)

Tennessee (10-6)

Houston (8-8)

Much like the Eagles in 2007, the Houston Texans were a victim of circumstance last year. They played well enough to win half of their games, but got stuck in a division with three playoff teams. Division play accounted for five of their eight losses, with the other three coming to the Chargers – runners up in the AFC title game – the Browns, who just missed the playoffs, and the Falcons; really no excuse for the loss to the Falcons. But of their eight wins, only two came against teams above .500 – Week 14 at home against Tampa Bay, and Week 17 blowout at home against a Jacksonville team resting their starters. So are they a good team in an unlucky divisional situation? Or are they really a middle of the road, 8-8 type team that might get a few breaks and knock off the actual contenders here and there? A full, healthy season out of Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Ahman Green (or Steve Slaton… actually, Slaton’s probably the better option at this point) will give us the answer. They open the year with four of five games against last year’s playoff teams – three on the road. That’s the type of run that wears a team down and exposes major flaws. After that, they have a fairly soft schedule, and might be able to string together a couple wins. Prediction: 7-9

I honestly believe the Tennessee Titans were a fluke last season. They snuck in a win in Week 1 against the Jaguars, then didn’t beat an above .500 team until Week 17 when they still needed to win for a playoff berth, but the Colts were already guaranteed the #2 seed. Vince Young had two different games last year in which he threw for under 80 yards (both wins, somehow) and 10 games under 200 yards passing. LenDale White hasn’t exactly asserted himself as anything more than a bruising goal line or short yardage back, the kind of guy who pushes the middle of the pile three or four yards at a time. The defense is still dominant, allowing under 300 points last season (297, four points less than they scored), but among the eight playoff teams only one other AFC team allowed more – Jacksonville at 304 – and all three entrants from the NFC East. This year’s schedule is very, very kind to them with only two road games against 2007 playoff teams – both NFC South rivals – and only two playoff team from out of their division; Green Bay and Pittsburgh come to town in Weeks 9 and 16 respectively. Fluke or not, they can probably put together another 10 win season and maybe sneak into the playoffs again. Prediction: 10-6

Jacksonville struck me as a bit of a streaky team last season. They had three separate three-game winning streaks during the year, punctuated with a 49-11 pasting of the Raiders in Week 16. David Garrard looks like the real deal as an NFL Quarterback he’s they type of player that will keep you in games, minimize mistakes and do damage control when necessary, and he might even make a big play or three every week to seal a victory. This year, by the grace of the scheduling gods they get four virtual freebies with the AFC & NFC North divisions – though all four (Chicago, Cincy, Detroit & Baltimore) are road games. They get the four tough teams from those divisions right at home in Northern Florida, a situation that can only help their numbers. Outside of those eight and their six division games, they get Denver & Buffalo – both should be wins. This could be a big year in Jacksonville. Wonder what that’ll be like… Prediction: 13-3

Indianapolis lucked out early this year. Not only do they get to christen a brand new stadium, but their first two games (when Peyton Manning may or may not be able to play) are against teams that they should be able to handle with Jim Sorgi under center; Chicago & Minnesota. Another beneficiary of this year’s North/South divisional battles, they unfortunately have to travel to all four of the other division’s contenders while getting the four relative cupcakes in Indy. Throw in the yearly rivalry game with New England (at home) and the new budding rivalry game with San Diego (in SoCal) and the Colts have a pretty rough schedule overall. If Manning and/or Marvin Harrison aren’t completely recovered from knee problems, this could be a long year for the Colts. But I’m betting they’ll both be at least at their averages, which is pretty damned good compared to everyone else. Prediction: 12-4 (That’s right – this is the year Indy doesn’t control the AFC South)


2007 Standings

New England (16-0)

Buffalo (7-9)

New York Jets (4-12)

Miami (1-15)

Miami could be a shock this year. Let’s face it – they’re not going to get worse. But they imported Chad Pennington to be a competent, if not stunning quarterback and run a system. They have a rejuvenated Ricky Williams to pair with Ronnie Brown in the backfield once Brown is healthy. They overhauled the defense and got younger all over the place, which may or may not be a good thing. And they revamped the coaching staff and administration, bringing the Big Tuna down to Marlin country. They’re not going to win 10 games and sneak into the playoffs – let’s be serious. But they could easily sneak out five or six games and regain a modicum of respectability. Prediction: 5-11

For all the noise Buffalo seems to make either in the draft or free agency every year, they haven’t really contended in over half a decade. In this year’s draft they again took a cornerback off the board about ten spots too high in the first round rather than trading down and getting the same player plus some picks, and got a wide receiver in the second who’s profile says he “doesn’t make crisp cuts… needs to work on route running… going to have a tough time separating from man coverage…” Wow – what a draft day steal! Did I mention their big free agent acquisition this year was Kawika Mitchell from the Giants? Or that they lost both a starting wide receiver and cornerback to division rival New England? Or that their schedule has them playing New England twice after the bye week, plus San Diego, Jacksonville and Cleveland, and those are just the games they should lose? Prediction: 6-10

Now, to the Brett Favre portion of this NFL Preview… Listen, the Jets made a move that was necessary. They settled their quarterback controversy for at least this season and possibly one or two more in the future. They brought in an all-time great quarterback and handed him the keys to the city (though, not literally; not yet at least). But last time I checked, Brett can’t play defense and help slow up the 200 passing and 135 rushing yards the Jets allowed per game. He can’t play runningback to boost the 100 rushing yards per game, though he might have to use his legs and scramble a little behind that line. He can only help solve some of the offensive problems the Jets suffered through in ’07 (268 points scored is embarrassing, even if it was second in the division). I’ll admit – as soon as I head the news on the trade I tried to drop some money on the Jets’ Over/Under for wins this year which was still at 4.5 (it moved to 7.5 before I could get it done which is right in the middle of where I think they’ll be… damnit). This team was a playoff team in 2006, but that 10-6 season kind of came out of left field after three straight years of four, four and six wins. They’ll be better. But don’t expect any “Broadway” repeats this year. Prediction: 7-9 (and I’m being generous because of their out-of-division schedule… they could win four or they could win ten. I’m shooting for the middle)

Finally, my beloved New England Patriots. I mistakenly thought early season injuries and suspensions would cost them a chance at a perfect season in 2007; little did I know it would be a miraculous catch (and three uncalled holding penalties on the play) coupled with one of the worst attempts at pass coverage I have ever seen at the end of the year that cost them history. I’d love to play the “This year, they’re reinvigorated” card here, make something up about them being pissed to the point of being maniacal, stopping at nothing to reach perfection. But I don’t see it happening. Don’t get me wrong – they’re still the odds on favorites to win the Super Bowl, and rightfully so. But 19-0? Don’t see it. They’ll lose one somewhere, maybe a flukey game like Week 13 last year in Baltimore; every bounce, every call, everything will fall the wrong way. Maybe it will be against a terrible opponent like the Ravens (or this year, the Broncos or Rams. That’s my guess). Maybe it’ll be to a comparable team like the Colts or Steelers where everyone just watches it and says “nope, not winning this one”. Might even happen twice. But I think it’ll come somewhere. And they’ll be better for it. Prediction: 14-2

So that’s it for this year’s NFL preview. As always, I’m ecstatic if I get 50% of the teams within one game – either way – of their actual final records, though last year I only got 12 of 32 within that one game. And we won’t discuss what I wrote about the Giants or the Jaguars, among others, in 2007. So here’s hoping to less mistakes than last year. How’s that for a rallying cry?

See you on Friday afternoon over at SpartyAndFriends, and every week during the season you can find the weekly picks over there with a recap post here on Mondays or Tuesdays.


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