Archive for the ‘predictions’ Category

Mid-week thoughts Packers/Seattle

January 14, 2015

As I read more about this game I am noticing that the story lines are mostly about Rodgers, the calf, the Packers passing game, Richard Sherman, the “vaunted” Seattle D, Seattle’s 12th man, Lynch knocking people over, Seattle being at the beginning of a dynasty, Seattle being unbeatable, Seattle essentially already being awarded the Lombardi Trophy. But I have a few thoughts about some other potential post-game story lines:

  • Carolina RB Jonathan Stewart averaged 5.4 yards per carry and ran for 70 yards against Seattle last Saturday night. Seattle’s unstoppable defense struggled to contain the guy. (Actually all 3 Carolina RBs averaged over 5 yards per carry.) Eddie Lacy is a better RB than Stewart – though Stewart has been very good the last 5-6 weeks. While it may seem like Lacy could struggle against a speedy/aggressive defensive style like Seattle’s because he’s not fast, I’m guessing MM and staff are putting quite a bit of time into making sure the O-Line is prepared to open holes and Lacy is ready to give Seattle a taste of its own medicine (won’t just be Lynch knocking guys over). This would be advisable both for time of possession reasons and to open up the passing game. I think there is a real chance Lacy has a career game Sunday. Also worth noting, his asthma shouldn’t be much of an issue. I have asthma too and can attest to how difficult it can be to run in cold weather – really does make it worse. But forecast is for 51 degrees and rain – he should be fine with that. Lacy had 100 yards rushing against Detroit, the NFL’s #1 run defense, in Week 17 – in a meaningful game. And Detroit was only giving up about 60 rushing yards per game at that point. Against Dallas, the #8 rush defense on the year, Lacy had 101 yards. Look for Lacy to assert himself and deliver a quality game. This will be a real test for the O-Line as Seattle has to know the Pack will try to run a fair amount. I’m guessing Chancellor will be playing a condensed field – which should eventually help Rodgers. But if the O-Line can win this battle, there is a good chance Lacy could be a bigger factor than people are talking about now.
  • Seattle gave up 377 yards to Carolina last weekend. Carolina is not an offensive powerhouse so at the least, this kind of defensive performance does not align well with the reputation of Seattle’s D. I watched the game and came away thinking that D is not as flawless as the media makes it out to be.
  • The Packers defense was not great last week. Dallas had their way for much of the game. Romo and company were solid, the playcalling was solid and the clock management was solid. But the defense woke up a bit in the second half. Peppers got in there with a few huge plays and the D seemed to step up some. Still, I would not rate the overall defensive performance very highly. Clay Matthews was just plain absent. Tramon Williams had a poor game (except for some decent man coverage on Dez at times…though Shields I think should get more credit for that). Morgan Burnett was also absent, barely contributed. Yet, this defense has shown over the course of the second half of the season that it can play at a high level. And many of these guys who were absent last week have had some monster games this year. Yes, I am worried Seattle’s quality O-Line will handle our D-Line like the Cowboys line did for a while. Yes, I am worried about Marshawn Lynch being a beast. And of course, I worry about Russell Wilson’s special ability to make the exact right decision on the football field nearly every time. These are scary things. But I think the Packers defense – much maligned for their poor playoff performances in recent years – may be ready to spring a surprise. Seattle’s offense is well-balanced and they play smart but there have been a few games in the last 6-7 weeks when Capers has drawn up exquisite game plans. I’m not going to guarantee anything here, but I think it’s actually quite possible that our defense, a quiet and often not-talked-about piece of this team, makes a statement and rises up to help the offense in a game when the offense will probably need a bit more help than usual. And importantly, there isn’t a whole lot of pressure on the Packers D right now as I think most expect a fairly pedestrian performance. If Peppers is himself, Matthews makes a difference and Tramon and Burnett play like they can play, there may be a few articles about the Packers defense come Monday morning.

Packers to win Super Bowl

August 29, 2014

The last time I made this prediction was…in 2010. This year feels odd to me. As I went about making my season predictions I really struggled. As with any season there are a number of factors that could quickly derail many of the predictions. And that is certainly the case with the Packers. But barring a major injury to a major player (like Rodgers, Peppers, Matthews or Jordy) or a crazy run of form by either the Saints or Philly, I think the Packers will be the team to beat.

I expect, as in years past, that the offense will carry the team this year. In fact I am anticipating an absolutely wild season from the Packers offense. I think Rodgers will have his best overall year yet and our running game will be very difficult to stop (Lacy of course and both back ups – DuJuan Harris looked fantastic in the 3rd preseason game – wow). I am guessing that several offensive records will be broken this year.

While the offense will carry us this year, I do expect more significant contributions from special teams and the return game in particular (though it would have even better potential had Abbrederis not gotten injured) – and from our defense. I think TT’s acquisition of Peppers is really one of the major reasons why I am picking the Packers to win the Super Bowl. I am convinced this will prove to be a quietly huge move (and of course I love it because he FINALLY picked up a high impact veteran in free agency). With Peppers opposite (or even next to) Matthews, the Packers pass rush becomes instantly legit. Even considering Peppers age and even allowing for the likelihood that he’s lost a step – opposing QBs can’t feel too good knowing Peppers and Matthews will be in pursuit. Perhaps more important than anything though, a better pass rush should help our young but talented secondary and our overall pass D. With talent like Hyde, Hayward, Burnett, Tramon, Shields and Clinton-Dix – and now a quality pass rush – I think the Packers pass D could go from near the bottom in 2013 to top 5 this year. Seriously. (Not so sure about the run defense though…actually pretty concerned about this…as well as concerned about screens/passes to RBs/TEs given what appears to be a weak middle of the defense…yet again…) Of course, a bunch of talent on the field doesn’t mean squat if it’s not managed correctly. And while I have been an advocate of dumping Capers due to several years of poor coaching, I’m willing to give him another shot here (mostly because I suppose we have to). Yet for some reason – I think he’ll manage to pull things together this year.

Super Bowl – Packers 31, New England 23.

2013 NFL Predictions

August 30, 2013

(Note this is not all worked out perfectly with W-L records etc. Just general thoughts on how teams will finish.)

  • NFC East  – Dal 10-6, Phil 9-7, NYG 7-9, Wash 6-10
  • NFC South – NO 11-5, Atl 10-6, Car 8-8, TB 6-10,
  • NFC West – SF 10-6,  Sea 9-7, StL 9-7, AZ 6-10
  • NFC North – Chic 10-6, GB 9-7, Det 8-8, MN 5-11
  • AFC East – NE 13-3, Mia 7-9, Buff 6-10, NYJ 2-14
  • AFC South – Hou 11-5, Tenn 9-7, Indy 8-8, Jax 4-12
  • AFC West – Den 11-5, KC 7-9, SD 6-10, Oak 5-11
  • AFC North – Pitt 10-6, Balt 8-8, Cleve 7-9, Cincy 6-10

NFC Playoffs – NO, Dal, SF, Chic…Wildcards Atl, Sea  —  No over SF for NFC Champ

AFC Playoff – NE, Hou, Den, Pitt…Wildcards Tenn, Balt    —  Hou over Pitt for AFC Champ

Hou over NO for Super Bowl

2011 Playoff Predictions

September 8, 2011


  1. Philly
  2. Packers
  3. Saints
  4. Arizona
  5. Cowboys
  6. Lions

Philly over Packers  in NFC Championship


  1. Balt
  2. New England
  3. Houston
  4. KC
  5. Pitt
  6. San Diego

Balt over Houston in AFC Championship

Philly over Balt in the Super Bowl

2011 NFC North

September 7, 2011
  1. Packers (12-4). Rather than the Packers suffering from a Super Bowl letdown, I think this team will maintain the momentum from the end of last year and be fairly dominant this year. The players who brought home the Lombardi trophy got a massive boost of confidence from the accomplishment and will carry this into this season. And I don’t think they will be overconfident because the team is largely comprised of hard-working guys not too inclined to let success get to their heads. This team will be good again. The schedule definitely has its challenges (@ Atlanta, @KC, @SD), but overall the Packers should win a lot of games. Rodgers, Finley and the WRs will be very good again but I think the offense will benefit significantly from having both a healthy Starks and a healthy Grant in the backfield splitting carries. The defense should be good again – though we’re all a bit concerned about filling the void left by Jenkins. Special teams has improved and Randall Cobb may even give us something to get excited about in the return game – for the first time since Desmond Howard. But one of the biggest reasons why I believe the team will be good again this year is that Mike McCarthy now feels significantly less pressure. McCarthy did not enjoy losing and the pressure that came with possibly missing the playoffs again etc. It made him visibly irritable. But now that he has won the big game, I really think he’ll be freer with playcalling and be a bit more willing to take on risks – and his players will now have the confidence to execute riskier playcalls. Think Belichick and the Pats. Well, at least this is how I hope it plays out.
  2. Detroit (10-6). I just changed my pick for Detroit. I had them going 9-7, but I’m putting a bit more faith in the team to win a couple of the close ones. This is a much improved team. Everyone likes the D-Line for good reason – very talented. But I also like that they went out and picked up LB Stephen Tulloch, RB Jerome Harrison and TE Tony Scheffler. The passing game will be good with a healthy Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Burleson, Best, Pettigrew, and even rookie Titus Young. The one area of weakness for the Lions this year, though, will be in the secondary. Safety Louis Delmas is a decent player, a mean player and big hitter, but I’m not convinced he’s that good in coverage. And the other 3 guys seem like just guys. They could struggle against teams with better passing games this year, but overall the Lions will be solid and they just may end their playoff drought.
  3. Minnesota (8-8). The Vikes will be better this year than most prognosticators think. Donovan McNabb on the Vikings makes sense primarily because his personal style and general annoyingness fits with the general annoyingness of the Vikings. But I think McNabb will have a stabilizing influence at a position where the Vikes have been unstable for a few years (2009 excepted). I’ve read plenty of previews contending that McNabb doesn’t have anyone to throw to this year. I don’t agree with that necessarily. The guys he’ll throw to are mostly capable pass catchers: Percy Harvin could be an elite WR with more touches; Shiancoe could be really good as McNabb likes his TEs; Bernard Berrian (Ok, Berrian isn’t that good); Michael Jenkins did some damage as a Falcon; and Devin Aromashodu – the former Bear who had his potential crushed while in the doghouse – could be surprisingly good. (I’m on record saying the Vike’s pick-up of Aromashodu was really smart – and that he could have a really good season this year.) No, these aren’t big-name targets and the loss of Sidney Rice hurts to be sure. But historically, McNabb has made a habit of developing a decent passing game with less heralded pass targets. I just don’t think the passing game will be that bad and of course the running game will be good again. (Though this year, watch for Peterson to be more involved as a pass catcher out of the backfield – McNabb likes throwing to his backs.) On the other side of the ball, the Vikings could be really bad. Nobody stands out on that defense right now. Winfield is getting too old, Jared Allen seems to have lost his mojo, The Williams Wall has been dismantled and there are no other individual contributors I can think of who deserve special mention. Though Leslie Frazier will surely give defense extra attention, they might be surprisingly bad on defense this year.
  4. Chicago (5-11). Yes, the NFC title game participants will be awful this year. Why? Because under Lovie Smith, the Bears do fluky things like get to the Super Bowl or the NFC Title game only to then vanish for a few years. The Bears have upgraded a bit on the O-Line but I don’t think they’ve done much with the rest of the team. Adding Roy Williams won’t help at all and adding Marion Barber will only help a little bit come wintertime. This is another team, like the Redskins, that is headed in a questionable direction. Ted Thompson has a vision – as do lots of other GMs. But I’m just not following the vision of the Bears. Many of you may be reading this thinking I’ve lost it – how can I pick a team that beat the Pack for the NFC North title last year to finish 5-11 when their personnel hasn’t changed dramatically? I’m telling you, I can’t explain it but I think I just have a read on the Bears. I picked the Bears to make the playoffs last year when nobody else did (everyone picked the Vikes or Pack…remember?). This will be a down year for the team and there will be lots of grumpy Bears fans come January.

2011 NFC South

September 7, 2011
  1. Saints (11-5).The Saints have a reasonably nice schedule (after their opening game @ GB) as they play many of their tougher opponents at home. The division should still be tough and I expect at least 3 of the Saints’ losses to come from within the division – but overall this is the best team in the NFC South. Some of the moves I like from the Saints are adding Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles, Aubrayo Franklin (who is unofficially listed as Shaun Rogers’ back-up!) and quietly stealing the Packers’ Korey Hall. The guy I think will make the biggest impact is Sproles. Payton will figure out a way to use Sproles more effectively than Norv Turner used him – and that could be scary. The guy is so quick and so incredibly small that secondary guys have complained that he’s simply difficult to see in the sea of bodies at the line of scrimmage, much less tackle. On the other side of the ball, I think the Saints’ D will struggle somewhat. I am not keen on their personnel. Brees and company will be forced to win a good number of games this year (and I think they’ll do it). 
  2. Atlanta (9-7). I know Peter King and some others are high on Atlanta this year (King has them beating the Chargers in the Super Bowl). I just don’t think it’s going to happen for Atlanta this year though I can admit, I really don’t have good rationale for believing this. Their schedule isn’t too bad after the first 5 games, their overall talent level has arguably improved with the additions of rookie Julio Jones and Ray Edwards and they had a great season last year, gaining valuable experience as contenders. Yet, part of me can’t let go of the fact that the Packers drubbing of Atlanta last year in their house, was so embarrassing and devastating that it may be the kind of psychological sports letdown that can essentially cost a team a season. Perhaps I’m being dramatic, but I think Atlanta will struggle this year.
  3. Tampa Bay (8-8). This will be a disappointing season for Tampa. There are high hopes that they’ll push for a playoff spot, but I think this will end up being a tough year particularly for Josh Freeman. He grew up fast last year and definitely looks the part, but I think this will be one of those reality check years for both Freeman and the Bucs. Why? Couple reasons. Last year I think Tampa was able to sneak up on teams because teams expected them to suck –  but now teams know that they are legit and this will work against them. Also, they will miss both the literal and figurative center of their defense in MLB Barrett Ruud. The guy was very good in Tampa and I’m surprised more wasn’t done to keep him. Now, Tampa won’t be terrible and a few guys, like LeGarrette Blount, might make some noise. But overall, this should be a disappointing season for the Bucs.
  4. Carolina (4-12). Carolina has a couple rebuilding years ahead of them. There have been some significant changes and it’s difficult to imagine Ron Rivera will have this team ready enough to win more than 4 games. I’m not sure Cam Newton will be as bad as some folks are saying. I don’t, in fact, think he’ll be the primary problem this year. Carolina just strikes me as a team that needs a season or so to grow under Ron Rivera. By next year, I think the offense will be more consistent and Rivera’s work with the defense will start paying off. They could be much better next year. But this year may feel like a lost year for the team despite having some serious talent on the roster (a re-signed DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Steve Smith, Greg Olsen, Cam Newton, Charles Johnson, and Jon Beason).

2011 NFC East

September 7, 2011
  1. Philly (12-4). Lots of folks got all pumped up as Philly kept adding high profile free agents. Then there was a lull and now, for some reason, some of those same people are not as high on the team. I am. I was high on Philly before they added all these new players. Vick, McCoy, Jackson, Maclin, Celek are all high quality players who could be even better with the additional talent. I particularly like their acquisition of Vince Young. I know he has an attitude but he went to Philly because of Andy Reid where he’ll learn and grow. If Vick goes down, I’d bet that Young will be able to fill in almost seamlessly because the guy is a winner and he’ll be surrounded by talent (and held in check by Reid). Jenkins, Asomugha, Ronnie Brown, Rodgers-Cromartie, WR Steve Smith – all these guys will contribute. Philly will be a dominant team this year.
  2. Dallas (10-6). Dallas is a team that has improved on offense. They got rid of Roy Williams, who sucks. (I wonder if his 40 time is over 5.0 – seriously.) They have Miles Austin and Dez Bryant at WR – 2 top 15 WRs in my opinion – and a couple other young guys who are quietly making names for themselves (in Dwayne Harris and Jesse Holley). They have a top 3 TE in Witten, another quality TE in Martellus Bennett and one of the top rated QBs in NFL history in Romo. But perhaps the most important move they made? Getting rid of Marion Barber. I don’t dislike Barber but it seemed his role in the offense the last few years was to simply take the ball out of he hands of Felix Jones, the more talented RB. Tashard Choice and exciting rookie DeMarco Murray may get some carries but it appears as though the team is ready to commit to Felix being the full-time back. Jones should not only do reasonably well running the ball, but he’ll continue to burn other teams as a receiver. Dallas will play a lot of tweener games this year – games against opponents that aren’t elite level teams but that also aren’t afterhoughts (Tampa, St. Louis, Buffalo, Miami, Detroit, NYG) – and they’ll have to win most of these games in order to make the playoffs.
  3. NYG (7-9). I don’t like the Giants this year. I rarely do like the Giants and have been burned a few times with this stubborn line of thinking, but I just don’t like the team this year. While they do bring back some impressive defensive personnel, I think they’ll miss Barry Cofield in the middle and their LBs could be a liability. Offensively I think they’ll miss Steve Smith (even though the offense wasn’t bad last year without him.) Bradshaw and Jacobs will still be effective, but the passing game for the Giants may not be too potent (unless they figure out a way to get Wisconsin TE Travis Beckum involved). Yes, even Eli, who claimed that he’s an elite QB earlier this year, will struggle in the passing game. The Giants first half schedule looks quite soft and it may have some Giants’ fans drooling, but starting with week 9 @ NE, it’s entirely possible the Giants go 1-8 to close out the season. And lastly, I feel like their meltdown at the end of the year last year may have hurt team morale/faith in the head coach more than just a little bit. (Feel the same way about the Bears.) Throw in the ugly contract situation with Umenyiora and I don’t think the Giants’ locker room will be a happy place this year.
  4. Wash (5-11). Yes, Wash did sign a few guys who could contribute this year (Otogwe, Gaffney, Cofield), but I don’t think the front office did enough. Their defense may be quietly decent (with London Fletcher, Landry, Otogwe, Orakpo, Cofield, Carriker, Hall) but their offense should be bad. They just didn’t do enough in free agency or the draft to make this offense legit. Having Grossman as your starting QB is not a good idea. Picking up Tim Hightower is not a major upgrade – he’s just OK. He’s not enough of a threat to open things up for the passing game. And the WR group remains unremarkable. Gaffney was good year last year but I’d be a bit surprised if he continues at that pace in Wash. Just don’t like the direction this team is heading in presently – and I have a feeling lots of Skins fans feel the same way.

2011 NFC West

September 7, 2011
  1. Arizona (10-6). The Cards don’t have the most difficult schedule this year. Yes they do see Philly @ Philly and Balt @ Balt and Pitt @ home – but outside of that their schedule is not too challenging. Arizona will be good with Kevin Kolb. His ability to get the ball to WRs, especially to Fitz downfield, will open up the running game nicely. And Beanie Wells is ready to grab this opportunity. The guy is talented. He has a rare combination of power and shiftiness that, barring injury, will make him a top-notch RB for the next few years. And he’s only 23. The AZ defense may not be stellar but it probably won’t have to be, again, given the schedule.
  2. St. Louis (9-7). Hard not to take the Rams to win the division because they should be more competitive than they were last year. But interestingly, their schedule, though not too much different than AZ’s schedule w/respect to opponents – sets up to be more difficult. Their first 6 games are: Phil, @NYG, Balt, Wash, @Pack, @Dallas, Saints. They easily could start 1-6 or 2-5. The schedule does get much easier after that, but it’s a tough way to start the season. I like Steven Jackson to have a big year this year in part because Sam Bradford’s ability to pass effectively will take pressure off the running game. Bradford himself should have a big year as well. (Also, keep an eye on Wisconsin TE Lance Kendricks who will start at TE for the Rams – he’s a guy Bradford and the team are really excited about.)
  3. SF (7-9). I believe it was just last year that Mike Greenberg from Mike and Mike in the morning picked SF to win the Super Bowl. Wow. Even though I want to be careful not to underestimate Jim Harbaugh (a guy I think will be a decent NFL coach), I just don’t see it happening this year for SF. Yes, they’ve added Braylon Edwards, have Vernon Davis and Frank Gore and Michael Crabtree has serious potential. But they still have the uneven Alex Smith and a defense that lost a key guy in NT Aubrayo Franklin. Their schedule, however, is somewhat lucky in that most of the tougher games on the schedule (in fact, all but one of the tougher games) will be at home. Still, SF struggles this year.
  4. Sea (7-9). Lots of questions surrounding the 2011 Seahawks. Can the reinforced O-Line provide enough protection for Tarvaris Jackson? Will Tarvaris show off some of his skills with a fresh start or will he continue with inconsistent performances that lead to calls for Whitehurst? Will T-Jack being named captain and Pete Carroll being firmly in his corner bolster his shaky confidence? Can Sidney Rice get past his shoulder problems? Can WR Mike Williams continue his amazing comeback? Will TE Zach Miller play like Zach Miller and be a welcome bailout option for T-Jack? Will Marshawn Lynch run wild like he did in the playoff game last year? Can the defense rise up to at least average (they ranked #27 in total defense last year)? If even a few of these questions can be answered with a “yes”, there is an outside chance this team could really surprise. But in the end, I think the 2011 season will essentially mirror the 2010 season – the team probably will do OK at home but really struggle on the road.

2011 AFC North

September 6, 2011
  1. Balt (12-4). Balt is the best team in the division. Pitt went to the Super Bowl last year and they are still a quality team, but Balt is the best. They have a QB who will be surrounded by talent this year. Ozzie Newsome and Balt’s front office is very good. This offseason, they picked up WR Lee Evans – very quietly. Evans is a really smart pick-up and here’s why: few WRs in the NFL stretch the field as effectively as Evans does and his presence should significantly open things up inside for Anquan Boldin and Ray Rice – who excel at shorter possession routes and screens respectively. Last year with Boldin, Derrick Mason, Ray Rice and Todd Heap all running lots of short routes, Boldin didn’t have the space he needed to be effective. My guess is that this year, he will be a monster. Balt also acquired Vonta Leach, one of the NFL’s premier FBs and Ricky Williams – an upgrade over Willis McGahee. Both should help the running game be even better than it was last year. But the main reason I’m particularly high on Balt this year is that I believe Jon Flacco is finally getting in touch with his nastier side. In previous years, Flacco quietly went about his business seemingly unflappable. But judging from comments he’s made in the past year, clearly he was “flapped” by previous criticisms. He has lashed out a few times at critics and while I don’t always think this is a good thing – in Flacco’s case I do. I think we’ll see a more emotional Flacco this year and this will help the team.
  2. Pitt (10-6). Pitt will be decent this year, but not Super again. I see an interesting transition in Pitt this year considering their offensive personnel. I think they will shift from a running team to a passing team. Though Mendenhall will still do some damage, I think their focus will eventually be on the pass. They have been beaten recently by quality passing teams (like the Packers in the Super Bowl) and I think they know they have a QB who could function well in a system that favors the pass. And importantly, I think they may finally have the depth at WR to make this kind of switch. Ward and Wallace are entrenched as starters – and both are good – but it is backups like Antonio Brown, Emmanual Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery that could help bring about this transition. Call it a hunch – but my guess is that Pitt passes quite a bit more this year than they did last year. D will still be very solid and coaching remains top-notch.
  3. Cleve (8-8). I like the Cleve. Last year the Cleve managed to win 5 games with only a running game (no defense, no passing game). This year, the defense has improved some, they still have Hillis and a very good running game, they have a coach who knows what he’s doing with the offense and importantly, McCoy is more comfortable with the offensive system as taught by Pat Shurmur. Watch for TE Evan Moore and WRs Brian Robiskie and rookie Greg Little to emerge. Also, Montario Hardesty might make some noise as Hillis’ backup. Playing Cleve will no longer be the gimme it has been recently.
  4. Cincy (2-14). Marvin Lewis is terrible. He has had 2 winning seasons in the 8 he’s coached. How does this guy keep his job? I do like Andy Dalton though, and some of his young targets like AJ Green, Jermaine Gresham, Andre Caldwell and Jerome Simpson. These guys can play – and they’ll have to because Cincy will be throwing constantly after getting behind. Defensively, they have picked up quite a few guys who weren’t exactly busts for other teams – but not big-time achievers either (Manny Lawson, Taylor Mays, Gibril Wilson, Nate Clements). I just don’t see this team doing much of anything until Marvin Lewis is fired.

2011 AFC West

September 6, 2011
  1. Kansas City (10-6). I have plenty of questions about Kansas City heading into the year and I had a difficult time taking KC over the Chargers for the division. I think Todd Haley’s fired-up personality is both a plus and a negative. Playing his starters well into the final preseason game was an example of the negative side of his temper – just dumb. That said, I do think the Chiefs are loaded with talent and that if they play close to how they should play, they should take the division. They quietly acquired a player this offseason who will do some serious damage this year: Steve Breaston. Haley helped get Breaston’s career off the ground in Arizona and I can see him incorporating Breaston a lot this year. If the Chiefs play their cards right, between the tough running game, Breaston, Bowe and McCluster, defenses should really struggle with figuring out where to load up coverage. Doubling up Bowe was easier last year than it will be this year.
  2. San Diego (9-7). While Peter King and some others are high on the Chargers this year, I can see the Chargers having a frustrating season. Phillip Rivers will be good again no matter who he throws to, and their running game could be OK. But I think their defense could be a weak link. The same Charger defense that was ranked #1 last year? Yes – because D coordinator Ron Rivera is gone (head coach for Carolina now). I think this will hurt the team more than folks realize. While picking up safety Bob Sanders might help a bit, I just don’t think the D will be anywhere close to what it was last year, putting too much pressure on the offense.
  3. Denver Broncos (8-8). They’ll go .500 because John Fox loves going about .500. In his 9 seasons in Carolina, he went 8-8 or 7-9 five times. He enjoys .500…ness. I think Denver, like Buffalo, Jax and Minnesota, will benefit from being under the radar this year. Expectations are very limited – yet they have some really good players. Their pass rush could be scary with Dumervil back and Robert Ayers opposite him. Champ Bailey is still Champ Bailey. And lots of folks are excited about rookie LB Von Miller. On offense, Kyle Orton continues to be underrated in my estimation. Brandon Lloyd was a monster last year and the running game duo of Knowshon Moreno and Willis McGahee could flourish under a John Fox system likely to feature the running game. Denver should be better than most folks think.
  4. Oakland (4-12). What? The team that was 6-0 in the division last year going 4-12? Yep. While I do think Oak has 2 very good RBs in Michael Bush and Darren McFadden – and I do think that WR Jacoby Ford could have a breakout year, in the end I just think the team will collapse under first year head coach Hue Jackson. The losses of TE Zach Miller and CB Asomugha will prove to be too much. Miller bailed out Oakland’s weak QBs plenty and without that bailout option, I can see Jason Campbell and company being…awful.