THE NFL SEASON IS OVER!!!!!! So, I need to look back at my pre-season picks and see where I went right...and where I went wrong.
AFC EAST CHAMP: New England. They are the defending champs and look much stronger than last year with a better-than-average RB in Corey Dillon. Everyone else in the division has too many question marks, especially the team that would have been the Pats’ biggest challenger….Miami. The Jets and Bills have question marks.
The Pats were the champs and I do think they are stronger than last year's 14-2 team.
AFC NORTH CHAMP: Baltimore. The Ravens could win the division with a 9-7 record. There is no “great’ team in this division. Cincy may again give the Ravens the toughest push….but they’re counting on basically a rookie to do that. Watch out for Pittsburgh!
The Ravens underperformed in my opinion and the Steelers soared. That defense is legit...and they can run the ball down anyone's throat.
AFC SOUTH CHAMP: Indianapolis. The Colts are just a little bit better than the Titans in my book. Their defense needs to tighten up for them to be Super Bowl bound, however. Jacksonville has got some talent on offense and have worked on getting their defense better. Houston should take another step up.
A Colts title...and they were A LOT better than the Titans in everyone's book. The defense has tighted up some...but I think they need to be a smidge better. J-ville did step up greatly this year with some big wins. But that loss to Houston was horrible!
AFC WEST CHAMP: This is tough…but I’ll stay with KC. Denver’s defense is much improved, but their receiving corp isn’t a good as it was a year ago…..and Portis isn’t there anymore either. At least KC has enough on offense to slug it out with teams to make up for their iffy defense. Ya never know about Da Raidahs.
I made no mention of San Diego...[but I do later...ugh]. I was completely wrong in this division...which was completely up in the air to begin with.
NFC EAST CHAMP: Philly. The Eagles are just on a different level than everyone else. They have good coaching [which every team in the division does], experience, and now a playmaker at receiver. If McNabb can avoid a slump…they should win this division fairly easily. Everyone else has too many questions…especially at the QB spot. The Skins most likely are the biggest hurdle....but that team may need a year to get Gibbs offensive system down. The Giants will be starting Eli and Dallas may end up giving Henson the nod.
Philly was easily the East champ....with the rest going 6-10. The Skins may be better next year with a year under the belt with Gibbs. This year they weren't.
NFC NORTH CHAMP: Minnesota. Yet, you can’t discount Green Bay. But, if Minny can figure out how to not cave in after Halloween…they’ll be alright. Remember, it did take a miracle play to keep them out of the playoffs to begin with. They have Culpepper and Moss to go with a nice stable of backs. The Pack do have Favre and Green.....and the Lions are many people's sleeper pick. The Bears could surprise as well.
The Vikings, again, gave the Packers their division title on a platter. For as wrong as I was about the AFC West...I did pretty good here. The Vikes still can't play after Halloween...going 3-7 in their last 10 games.
NFC SOUTH CHAMP: So tough. I’ll pick Carolina. Why? Well, Atlanta’s defense is horrible…but they do have Vick. T-Bay is turning into Oakland…and they lost Sapp and Lynch. N’Awlins should be there…but lack leadership. Carolina is mentally tough, experienced, and still hail the best defense in the NFC. Carolina pretty much kept their entire NFC Championship team intact. And now John Fox has confidence in Delhomme's passing ability that he may elect to open it up a little to take the burden off of Davis...who wore down as the season went along.
The Falcons defense played better than I expected. Carolina had some horrible injuries, yet still fought back and would have been in the playoffs had they beaten N'Awlins.
NFC WEST CHAMP: Seattle. That offense has weapons….and their defense is just good enough to keep the Rams at bay. Hasselbeck, Robinson, Jackson and Alexander are scary together. They should only need to worry about the Rams....but we obviously saw how much faith Martz has in Marc Bulger by not letting him pass in the playoffs. There should be no worry about the Cards and Niners.
Seattle makes it 4 of 8 division winners I called. The Cards put a mild worry in the Rams and Hawks....but they pretty much worried themselves.
AFC SURPRISE TEAM: Jacksonville. If Fred Taylor can stay healthy and Byron Leftwich can build on last year’s lessons as quietly having one of the best rookie QB seasons ever….this team has talent all over the field to get the job done. They do have a rather tough schedule though.
San Diego gets the nod here, obviously [just wait]. Taylor played alright when healthy...and Leftwich keeps showing me that he could be one heck of a QB in this league.
NFC SURPRISE TEAM: New Orleans. If Aaron Brooks can cut down on the fumbles…they could win the division and go far in the playoffs. McAllister is a stud! If Joe Horn keeps his mind on making the plays and not the celebrations afterwards….this season could be a treat for the Bayou Boys.
They have the talent...they just don't have "it". They did finish 8-8 in a conference that saw two 8-8 teams make the playoffs. Atlanta might be my surprise team...but really no one really was too surprising.
AFC DISAPPOINTMENT: Cincinnati. I’m not sold on Rudi Johnson as their #1 back. And the decision to start Carson Palmer this year reeks of upper management. Also, people downplay how well the Steelers could play with a healthy [and trying to keep his job] Maddox and Duce Staley as the featured back. Cincy does have weapons....but their offensive core hasn't played together yet.
Well...Cincy dealt a RB that ended up 3rd in the NFL in rushing and started a rookie QB. Tough to win like that. The 8-8 mark isn't bad....but it wasn't what Bengal fans were wanting.
NFC DISAPPOINTMENT: Tampa Bay. With Sapp gone…so are the single blocking schemes for McFarland. And with Lynch gone….so is the fear of receivers going over the middle. Brad Johnson has shown the ability to get himself removed from places after having great seasons. Griese and Simms are sitting there waiting for a shot to take his job. McCardell is holding out….and Galloway is the new Keyshawn.
Tampa was a disappointment....but the Redskins and Cowboys need to fill this slot. Both teams looked bad under two of the greatest coaches in the game.
AFC’S WORST TEAM: San Diego. I wanna say Miami with the Ricky Williams retirement…but their defense is still solid. San Diego isn’t. Their receivers are horrible and they will most likely start either a rookie or a 46 yr old at QB. At least they have Tomlinson who may be the best back in the league.
Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb. And I really believed that when the season began. But they had guys step up big. The AFC's worst team is the Browns...who became a joke late in the year.
NFC’S WORST TEAM: San Francisco. And why did they fire Mariucci?? This mighty franchise has now fired a great coach, cut their Pro Bowl QB [Garcia] and dealt their All Pro wide out [Owens]. Salary cap problems have bitten them on the backside…and they are one of those franchises that NO ONE will take mercy on when playing them. They were a 7-9 team that lost a bunch of guys...and only got 3 guys in return. They have young QBs and younger WRs. And, yes...Arizona will be better than them.
Good call....but an easy one.
FIRST COACH FIRED: Dave Wannestadt. He held onto his job by a thread in the off season…and with Ricky Williams quitting….he seems to have had the tread already cut. The franchise under minded him by hiring Dan Marino as the main guy…then him quitting due to the flack everyone was getting for the hiring. Dave was relieved of his office duties to concentrate on coaching….so he has no excuses. Also, keep an eye in N’Awlins for Jim Haslett’s noose.
He technically "quit"....but he was canned.
WHO WILL BE IN JACKSONVILLE IN FEBRUARY: New England v Philly. Philly couldn’t possibly lose 4 NFC Title games in a row…..could they? The Pats are just too strong and smart to get past a game Colts team.
Still my pick....and they are both in good position to be there.