1) Dallas Cowboys – T.O. gets a lot of attention. Romo gets a lot of attention. Jerry Jones gets way too much attention with his giant, tacky SB rings on all the time. He is a helicopter GM. He is in my top 5 of the people in the world I would LEAST like to get a beer with. The Cowboys get a lot of attention. They are annoying and always have been. I still hate the Cowboys. But they are going to be good. They are well-balanced on both offense and defense. One key this year will be the play of a player who doesn’t get nearly enough attention: Marion Barber. Barber is one of the best running backs to come along in a long while. Without Julius Jones taking carries, Barber is brutal for opposing defenses to deal with play after play – he is a bruiser who is extremely strong and never gives up. When he is spelled by the high quality Felix Jones, opposing defenses won’t get much relief. Throw in Witten, T.O., a good O-Line and one the best QBs in the NFL, and this team will do some serious damage. They will puke up a few games especially in their division (and they may well lose their first game). Still, I hate to admit it, this will be a really good team. 12-4.
2) Washington Redskins – The Redskins were good last year and they will be good this year. They have talent on offense and on defense. They will continue to miss Sean Taylor because he was outstanding. They will pull a few upsets this year and may creep into the playoffs. Jason Campbell may really rise this year from his present place as a decent but not indispensible QB. He has the tools and if he is comfortable with Zorn at the helm (something I am assuming considering Zorn is a former QB), I think he could be quite good. Portis is hungry, Chris Cooley is very good and the defense is quietly better than many realize (especially the d-line). By the way, the NFL’s best rookie coach will be Jim Zorn. 10-6.
3) Philadelphia Eagles – Eagle fans are brutish and quick to hate anyone: opposing teams, opposing fans, their own fans, their own team, senior citizens walking to the grocery store, laughing babies. And you can witness this even after a victory. So I wouldn’t hang out on Sundays in Philly this fall if you can help it because I expect some serious losses. Can someone please tell me why the Eagles’ front office never adequately addresses the WR position? I don’t love McNabb, but I do believe that his career numbers would be significantly better if he ever had someone to throw to. Sure, some might argue that having Westbrook counts as a full RB and a half of a WR. He’s incredible. But the WR group of Reggie Brown, Jason Avant, Greg Lewis, and the appropriately named Hank Baskett strike fear in nobody. DeSean Jackson could actually be quite decent, but I just can’t help but think durability will be an issue for him – just like it was for Phillip Epps and Walter Stanley back in the day. LJ Smith isn’t the answer either. Their defense always seems to at least be adequate with Jim Johnson. By the way, has anyone noticed Jim Johnson’s very strange habit of licking his lips. He looks like a lizard. I read some expert’s picks for the season the other day and he had the Eagles losing in the Super Bowl to the Patriots. The Super Bowl???!!!…Crack. Andy Reid is a very good coach, but great coaching will be what is needed for them to make the playoffs, not the SB. It’s not a well-enough-balanced team. 8-8.
4) NY Giants – I’m preparing to have to defend this pick. I will attempt to sum it up by simply saying I think they were NOT a fluke last year, they were very good, but they were also a one-hit wonder. Last year, the Giants became one of the hottest teams in recent sports history and just rolled all the way to win the Super Bowl. They were very good – a combination of quality execution and very good coaching (especially by the O-Coordinator). But they had their year and their year is over. Strahan may not have been dominant but he forced other teams to account for him. He’s gone. Umenyiora was a monster. He’s gone. Kawicka Mitchell was very solid at worst. He’s gone. I wouldn’t say it was a fluke last year because last year they were the best team in the NFL – at least during the playoffs. This year, they will really struggle. Jeremy Shockey will not be quiet about his pleasure noticing the Giants’ struggles. 6-10.