Archive for the ‘predictions’ Category

Pre-game thoughts Packers vs Bears

December 13, 2009
  • Interesting back-and-forth going on here between BJ Raji and Olin Kreutz. Not sure why Raji would necessarily initiate something like this, but one concern I have is that I don’t think Kreutz is that clean a player. While I do anticipate Raji will continue his strong play, I worry Kreutz might do something cheap after the whistle.
  • Even though Jay Cutler is the only Bear QB to ever have 3 games in a row with a QB rating over over 100 (doing this earlier this season), I don’t like his prospects for this game. Outside of those 3 games, Cutler hasn’t been that good this year to say the least. With Hester out and Woodson likely locked on Cutler’s favorite target Olsen, it doesn’t look good for the Bears’ passing game.
  • Lovie does beat the Packers – but his decision-making this year has been suspect.
  • Matt Forte has appeared to me to be a step slower this year. I know the Bears’ O-Line has been questionable and their offensive play-calling has been shoddy, but even when he’s had openings, he just hasn’t shown the burst and decisiveness he did last year.
  • I’m glad Mason Crosby claims that he hasn’t really lost any confidence. But I’m concerned a bit about the apparent fact that he doesn’t think he’s been THAT bad. He’s missed some big kicks and the concern I continue to have is that he seems extra unreliable beyond 40 yards.
  • Not sure where this is coming from, but I see a huge game coming from Ryan Grant. He’s had several good games lately, but I think this may be the week he breaks some of those tackles he should be breaking. He is one too, who may just get better as the season goes on (in part because he gets more carries later in the season.
  • Even though the Bears offense hasn’t exactly lit it up this year, my hope is that Capers dials up some quality blitzes because I seriously think Cutler panics when Olsen is covered.
  • If Woodson is assigned to Olsen, I will be very interested to see how it plays out. Cutler locks onto Olsen more than more rookie QBs lock onto their first reads. I can’t imagine that situation will work out well for the Bears, though Olsen is pretty good. One thing we should keep an eye on is the other TE (Desmond Clark or Kellen Davis). It’s possible Cutler will dump it off to either guy if Olsen isn’t an option.
  • I wouldn’t be surprised if our passing game simply overwhelms the Bears D. I can see lots of shorter passes over the middle taking advantage of what has now become a suspect Bears’ linebacking group (except Briggs).
  • If the Bears D keys on Finley, it might be smart for McCarthy to have a few plays drawn up for Donald Lee or Spencer Havner in 2 TE sets. But if the Bears don’t watch Finley carefully, they’ll be in trouble.
  • One thing I’ve been meaning to write about is what I’m beginning to think is a developing similarity between the Packers and the Saints. The Saints offense from week to week, seems to change the featured guys. As an opposing defense, it’s really difficult to know which guys will be featured. If Colston went nuts the previous week, he may very well do hardly anything the following week because #3 WR Robert Meacham might be up for the big game, or Devery Henderson or Jeremy Shockey or their back-up TE. They even do it at RB letting Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell and Reggie Bush take turns starring. I don’t know if this is something Sean Payton arranges before the game or if it’s because he’s just super good at making in-game adjustments. Either way, the final effect is that it’s just super difficult to know which Saints offensive players will be getting the ball, which gives the offense the wanted quality of unpredictability. Similarly with the Pack, more guys are getting involved in the offense and defenses are not sure which guys they should focus on. That’s why getting the ball to guys like Havner, Korey Hall, Jordy and James, is always helpful as it shifts the focus from the guys most consider our studs: Finley, Jennings, Driver, Grant.
  • I’m always nervous playing Lovie’s Bears because I know games against the Packers are way more important to Lovie than other games. But I’m not sure he has his team still, frankly, and I think the Packers right now are playing much better. Green Bay 31, Bears 14.

2009 Predictions – NFC North

September 11, 2009
  1. GB (11-5). I think the Packers will be good this year and could very well end up an elite team. Rodgers looks great, the o-line seems to be up to the challenge, the WRs are great, RBs are solid (though they should still have Tyrell Sutton), and the defense pretty much can’t be worse than last year. Things look good. My only caution, and I write this reluctantly, is that a few key injuries could change the outlook. Here’s to hoping Rodgers, Jennings, Pickett, Harris/Woodson and Collins all stay healthy! One thing I want to put out there is that I have very strong expectations for Ryan Grant. I  read something in the offseason about Grant feeling like last year, his legs weren’t fully under him (conditioning/hamstring issue) and it cost him his burst and ability to break tackles. I actually believe this 100% because part of what made him so impressive in 2007 was his ability to run through tackles – and last year was such a huge contrast when finger-tackles were pulling him down. All reports this year indicate he’s back to his old self, and that he’s looked very good in camp. Grant to rush for 1500+, score 9 TDs or so, and have more receptions.
  2. MN (10-6). I know, I know, those who memorize my posts so that you can some day in the future point out my inconsistencies will be the first to tell me that I said earlier this year that the Vikes would be 12-4 if Favre plays for them. I’ve cooled on that a little bit – but mainly because I have elevated my opinions of both the Bears and the Packers making – the division games harder. This is still a good team, a solid D, the best running team in football, and now, they will have a QB with major experience. Two of Favre’s staple targets over the years have been the TE and the third-down RB – in Shiancoe and Chester Taylor, he has two quality targets. Throw in Percy Harvin and he will have at least some targets in MN. And Favre won’t be left with too many 3rds and long (I believe that is grammatically correct, not 3rd and longs), because AP will likely get positive yards on downs 1&2. One kind of scary thought I haven’t heard ANYONE talk about: what if Favre ends up having a monster year? I have not read one article/blog etc speculating re this possibility. I, and most others, tend to think it would be unrealistic, which is why we haven’t read anything about it. But, it is possible. While I laid out the conventional thinking above – saying that Favre won’t need to pass much because AP will do most of the damage – there may be a flip side. If teams consistently put 8-9 in the box to stop AP forcing Favre to throw, it’s at least possible that he’ll successfully take advantage of these relatively easy passing situations (single-coverage) and produce, no? Yes, he’s old, unwilling to learn new things, difficult in the locker-room, has a generally weak receiving targets and a poor coach, and overall is an assface for going to the Vikings, but the fact is, putting up gaudy stats isn’t exactly foreign to the man. My hope for this team is that they…um…just suck, finish 2-14 and are moved to L.A. for 2010.
  3. Chic (10-6). I’m nervous about Sunday’s game in part because I haven’t changed my opinion much from when the Bears announced the arrival of Jay Cutler. I think that was a very smart move by the team, a surprisingly smart move, and it will pay dividends. Cutler is very good and I think his addition brings instant variety to an offense that was fairly run-focused.  Matt Forte will be good again, he’s a smart player, but he won’t be needed quite so much this year. I think WR Earl Bennett will do some damage this year. Cutler came back to Vanderbilt to throw for Bennett for Bennett’s pro day 2 years ago – and he did this a couple years after Cutler had already been in the NFL. Good friends. Bennett and Greg Olsen (Cutler’s 2nd best friend on the team) will get plenty of looks. The Bears could have some issues on defense – not sure they are capable of being the fearsome defense they once were. One hope we can all have is that Cutler’s personality/still-frat-guy-in-college-mentality might rub teammates the wrong way leading to internal fighting – like Brian Urlacher ending up calling Cutler a ***** for real.
  4. Det (5-11). The Lions will have their moments this year. I think Jim Schwartz may end up being a good coach. He certainly did a nice job in TN as a DC. RB Kevin Smith, WR Calvin Johnson, TE Brandon Pettigrew, LB Julian Peterson and S Louis Delmas will all have strong seasons. Stafford will have a few quality games too. Other than that, once again, not much to look forward to if you’re a Lions’ fan.

2009 Predictions – NFC West

September 9, 2009
  1. Sea (10-6). Despite questions re the o-line, I think Seattle management has done a nice job of replenishing a weakened receiving corps – and it will make a big difference. The addition of TJ Housh from Cincy was very smart – big year for him this year, Nate Burleson is back and healthy and importantly, rookie Deon Butler could be a sneaky good additional option for Hasselbeck. One guy I’m high on is TE John Carlson – Hasselbeck loves him and so do the coaches. Jim Mora used the **** out of TE Alge Crumpler when HC in Atlanta and I expect Carlson to get similar attention in this offense. I’m not sure re the running game headed by Julius Jones, but the passing attack should be good. The Seattle defense may surprise some this year. They still have some quality LBs and secondary guys, the question may be if their d-line can step up to the challenge. I like Jim Mora as a coach generally and expect this team to be good.
  2. AZ (9-7). I like Ken Whisenhunt as a coach too and even think the departure of former OC Todd Haley could help this team. While Whisenhunt would be foolish to alter the offensive game plan a ton (because AZ was so dominant in the air), I’m pretty sure he will push harder than they did last year to establish the run. RB Beanie Wells may help them do just that  – as Tim Hightower just didn’t seem to be the answer last year. I don’t see AZ being bad this year or having the post Super Bowl slump – I just see them being outplayed by division rival Seattle.
  3. SF (7-9). Tough team to figure. At one point this summer, I considered making SF my darkhorse team – the team that would cruise through their division en route to a playoff run. But I can’t fully trust the volatile Mike Singletary yet, nor can I trust QB Shaun Hill (though I think he’s the best QB there – though rookie QB Nate Davis has shown well this summer). Still, their offense has weapons in Frank Gore, now back-up RB Glen Coffee, WRs Isaac Bruce and Josh Morgan and yes, I still think Vernon Davis can be good. But it’s their defense that could do real damage this year. As a defensive-minded coach, I can see Singletary most effectively leading the resurgence of this D – led by Patrick Willis who is the real deal. If the D starts playing out of its mind and the offense controls game tempo by running it effectively, perhaps SF may end up as that sleeper team yet.
  4. St L(5-11). I still think Marc Bulger is good and with Steven Jackson healthy and the likelihood that the defense at least won’t be an afterthought anymore (because of HC Steve Spagnuolo), this team could be a bit more competitive this year. Still, they are probably 2-3 years away from contending for the division. Funny to think that the Rams, the Bucs and the Raiders have all been to the Super Bowl more recently than the Packers.

2009 Predictions – NFC South

September 9, 2009
  1. NO (12-4). NO had a down year last year, but finally, the organization went about trying to improve the defense. And, while the offense didn’t really need to improve much, it did. Robert Meacham has developed into a yet another legit WR threat, Jeremy Shockey is apparently a different person health-wise this year (though the loss of the 2nd TE Billy Miller does hurt), Pierre Thomas has very convincingly answered questions re whether he can be the featured back and Drew Brees is Drew Brees.
  2. Atl (10-6). I still like Atlanta. For a while this offseason, I was prepared to predict a 2nd year slump for Mike Smith, Matt Ryan and Michael Turner. Then, they picked up Tony Gonzalez which I think will only create more mismatches for opposing defenses. Then, I also thought about the fact that their defense was not great last year – so improving upon that may not be difficult. Possible playoff team again.
  3. Car (7-9). It’s strange, when Carolina is good their team doesn’t seem to be appreciably different than when they are bad. I don’t really get it. This year, I can see a solid running game (having 4 high quality RBs in DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Mike Goodson and now Tyrell Sutton), perhaps a bit of a revived pass game due to everyone being healthy (and the emergence of Dwayne Jarrett), but I can see there being some questions on defense. Jon Beason’s health is a concern as he is a stud when healthy. (Also, the loss of DT Maake Kemoeatu hurts this defense a lot – he was good last year).
  4. TB (4-12). I see Tampa winning 4 games at home and that’s it. They may end up with a nice running game and some defensive moments, but that’s about it. The passing game should be questionable at best.

2009 Predictions – NFC East

September 9, 2009
  1. Dal (11-5). Reading through other predictions, I know that I’m pretty much on my own here thinking the Cowboys will be division winners. I think they will benefit from playing in a division on the decline. But importantly, don’t forget the Cowboys are loaded with talent. Romo will prove this year that he can play in big games, Witten is the best TE in football (until Jermichael Finley develops a bit more), Roy Williams at one time was a tremendous WR for Detroit, the other WRs are quietly not bad, the defense is at least decent and the Cowboys may end up with the best running game in football this year. (I am particularly excited to see the Cowboys use the duo of Felix Jones and Marion Barber at the same time in the backfield because this just makes sense to me.) T.O. was a distraction especially last year and not just for Romo. He bothered Witten, the OC Jason Garrett, the head coach and other WRs. This team is set to rebound and could finally do some damage in the playoffs.
  2. Philly (10-6). Philly could be good again this year. They’ve finally given McNabb some better WR targets and Brent Celek may be poised for a breakout season. My concern is the defense though. With Jim Johnson’s passing, the team loses a brilliant defensive mind. New DC Sean McDermott may have been well schooled by Johnson, but I’m doubtful he will demonstrate the kind in-game coaching ability Johnson did…at least early on. And the Eagles lost perhaps their most spirited/respected leader in Brian Dawkins as well as the unknown but quality LB Stewart Bradley. I wonder if McNabb may feel more pressure on himself/the offense if the defense ends up being considerably less reliable than it has in the past.
  3. Wash (7-9). The Redskins will play hard and have their moments, but this will likely be the end of Jim Zorn’s time there. Zorn is one of those guys I could see going somewhere else and doing fine – just not in Washington. The big question for the Skins this year, as it is most years, is: what can they expect from QB Jason Campbell. From the sound of it, Zorn and co plan to open up the passing game allowing for more deep throws than in previous years when Campbell has been held in check w/re to throwing down field. This is one of those quiet changes that might end up really helping out this team. Just having watched the Skins a few times over the last 1-2 years, I have noticed that their field on offense often seems congested – spreading the field may indeed force defenses to pay more attention to the pass instead of focusing so much on stopping Portis.
  4. NYG (6-10). Ok, I believe I have been wrong each of the last 3 years picking the Giants. I usually pick them to suck because I still think I’m in denial that Eli Manning is any good. But this year, I really think I’m going to be right (whatever that means). I see the Giants’ reliance on their running game as a potential problem as teams may focus on defending the run while taking their chances against a weak receiving corps. Even though the Giants’ O-line is still probably one of the better ones out there, I just don’t see this offense causing the kind of damage that a playoff team needs to cause. The defense will be good, but probably no better than average. I think the loss of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will be significant.

2009 Predictions – AFC West

September 8, 2009
  1. SD (13-3). Runaway winners of this division. The Merriman situation could affect their season/overall record, but this division is very weak so they should win regardless of Merriman’s latest crap. Still have a hard time believing in this team come playoff time though because I don’t think Norv Turner is that great. Turner may end up being remembered in San Diego for having the same finishing problem as his predecessor Marty “I’m too stubborn to buy contemporary glasses” Shottenheimer.
  2. KC (8-8). Nobody really knows what to expect from KC. They could totally suck – like 2-14 suck, or they could be 9-7. Something is telling me that with Scott Pioli on board as the new GM, the culture in KC is about to change for the better. But what makes them difficult to predict is the presence of Todd Haley. I’m not sure if he will end up being one of those brilliant coaches who gets it, is refreshingly creative, makes great, gutsy in-game decisions – or if he will end up being the hot-headed hard ass coach who just pisses off good players thinking he’s motivating them until nobody is inspired to play well for him anymore. I think this year, they’ll get some wins just from playing in a weak division, but I think they will also be a strong team at home. I have a hard time believing the following: that KC really wants to waste roster space by continuing to keep 4 QBs, that Brodie “way-too-weak-for-the-NFL-frat-guy” Croyle is the #2 QB over Tyler Thigpen and that some team weak at QB hasn’t come running to the Chiefs to trade for Tyler Thigpen – the guy can play.
  3. Den (5-11). Simply because Josh McDaniels has Bill Belichick tutoring, I can’t help but wonder if he has something sneaky up his sleeve. Maybe this whole nightmare beginning to his head coaching career is some kind of clever ruse. Maybe he and Brandon Marshall faked all this ridiculousness, Marshall will come back and start and score 6 TDs Sunday in Cincinnati. Ok maybe not. But it’s kind of funny to take a minute to think about Belichick and 3 of his main disciples: Charlie Weis, Eric Mangini and Josh McDaniels. All 4 seem to be petty about stuff (injuries, announcing starting QBs) and they all seem to relish controversy while generally surrounding themselves in a similar cloud of negative publicity. Interesting coaching tree.
  4. Oak (4-12). Oakland is not going to be good. Al Davis is a joke and he’s making the team he cared about so much into the joke of the NFL. It’s just really sad. It’s possible this year that someone like Darren McFadden might create some nice highlights, but overall, I’m expecting more frustration for Oakland fans. What’s really sad is that one of the biggest things Raider fans have to look forward to is the possibility of Shane Lechler punting a ball  into Jerry Jones’ new ridiculous scoreboard at Cowboy stadium – resulting in the official NFL ruling of, yes, a do-over. Lechler just got a ton of money to stay Oakland so I wouldn’t be surprised if he obliges and gives the fans something to cheer about.

2009 Predictions – AFC South

September 8, 2009
  1. Hou (11-5). With Slaton, Owen Daniels, Andre Johnson and the quietly good Kevin Walter, it won’t take miracles from Matt Schaub to score points this year. But the key could be a quality defense. Even though Dunta Robinson (who just ended his holdout) will no doubt suffer the holdout-hamstring-pull soon that will dog him all season, the Houston defense has some high quality players. Mario Williams, DeMeco Ryans, Brian Cushing, (and a healthy Dunta) make for a solid young nucleus. This is Houston’s year in the AFC South.
  2. Indy (10-6). Funny I hadn’t read anything until yesterday about Bob Sanders being injured again. He’s apparently expected to miss several early games (through week 5 some say). This is significant. As much as Manning and the offense may do to put up points, the D could struggle to contain offenses like Houston.
  3. Tenn (8-8). I think this team overachieved last year. While I am rooting hard for new defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil (yes, the bridge of his nose is still bleeding), I think the loss of Jim Schwartz could spell some trouble for their D. I was going to put them below .500 but Jeff Fisher just seems to figure out how to win sometimes.
  4. Jax (5-11). This team is tough to predict. I believe I’ve been way off on them the last 3 years. This team seems to revolve around Maurice Jones-Drew in part, I think, because it does revolve around him. In fact, I’m having a hard time writing about anyone else. Sure, there’s Torry Holt, and Troy “he’s turned the corner, seriously…seriously” Williamson…ok, I’m just bored writing this…they’ll be weak.

2009 Predictions – AFC North

September 8, 2009
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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).

2009 Predictions – AFC East

September 8, 2009