- Balt (11-5). Not sure why I’m putting them over Pitt, but I got to thinking about their defense the other day and realized that outside of Jim Leonhard and Bart Scott, they still have the same general defense, which of course, is very good. I’m not sure I buy this recent “rumor” that the Balt passing game is set to take off, but I will say this, when Joe Flacco throws a deep ball, I’m not sure I’ve seen a QB with such incredible throwing form in a long time. Last year, I remember thinking that it reminded me of Fred Couples’ golf swing – nice tempo, totally effortless.
- Pitt (10-6). I like Mike Tomlin…a lot. Last year I wrote a post about coaches who “just get it”. He gets it. My general argument was that some coaches are into the flow of the game and just get what’s happening as it’s happening (Mike Smith, Sean Payton, Ken Whisenhunt). Others, it seems, take a while to absorb what’s happening and therefore, they take a while to figure out how to adapt to what’s happening (like a deer in the headlights…Mike Sherman, Rod Marinelli, Brad Childress, Romeo Crennel). Mike Tomlin absolutely knows what’s happening – he’s very into the present tense during games and it shows. So, why would I put them behind Balt? I worry about Roethlisberger’s health and a possibly ineffective running game due to a weakish O-Line.
- Cincy (9-7). Could be a surprise team this year. While I’d throw Marvin Lewis in the camp of ‘deer in the headlights’ coaches, this team may finally take off here. Ochocinco didn’t necessarily complain about TJ Housh really taking over his spot as the #1 guy in Cincy, but I have a feeling, now that it will be clear he’s the #1 guy, he’ll perform again. Throw in there the huge surprise that WR Chris Henry will turn out to be and the receiving game could be difficult to defend (Coles probably won’t be bad either). This will also help Carson Palmer regain his old form. RB Cedric Benson, though pumped to finally be the undisputed starter, will need to show his stuff early because there is an explosive back in Bernard Scott waiting as #2. And the defense should continue to improve (last year they were in the top half of NFL teams for defense).
- Cleve (5-11). One thing I don’t understand about Eric Mangini is that he apparently loves watching the Family Guy and other goofy stuff – so he has a good sense of humor. Yet, his coaching approach is this authoritarian style that apparently borders on the ridiculous. He has gotten off to an ugly start in Cleveland and I will be fascinated to see how both he and Josh McDaniels end up doing this year – I predict poor things for both. Interesting though, that Cleveland is not without talent. They have Shaun Rogers on the d-line, some decent LBs, 2 young/promising RBs (one of whom should unseat the slow and ineffective Jamal Lewis in the first 4 games), Joe Thomas at left tackle, a WR 1 year removed from a statistically unbelievable season in Braylon Edwards and a QB many thought highly of coming out of college (Brady Quinn – who will be the starter by the way, even if Mangini simply decides to NEVER ANNOUNCE IT!). I know a team needs much more than just the above to be successful, but it’s not like this team has zero talent. Still the Cleve will suck until the second half of the season when they may finally get some impressive wins.
UPDATE: just checked the Browns website and they have the depth chart filled out/updated for every position except QB, where there are no names listed. Ah Mangini, up to his Belichickian ways (can’t find any depth chart info on the Pats website).