Look....we all make mistakes. If anyone actually could predict exactly what will happen in the 2006 NFL season, they'd be swimming in won gambling earnings soon. We just don't. Though I have tried [listen to Sports Bloggers Live - AOL Sports for my NFL divisional previews].....I know I won't get 'em right.
But who will screw it all up?? Who could be the teams that rise up and we say "ah, they are a fluke"??? Who could be the teams that struggle and we say "ah, they'll turn it around"??? Remember that most of us didn't see Chicago as the #2 seed in the NFC or the Philadelphia Eagles stinking up the joint prior to last year.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: This team has nearly been swept under the rug. The horrid 2005 season and the defection of Terrell Owens puts them there. But maybe TO leaves and the team comes together again. Remember, Terrell Owens never played an NFC playoff game for the Eagles while he was there. Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb should be extremely focused now that The Distraction isn't there anymore. And the team could rally around that and make a surprise run in a tight NFC East.
DETROIT LIONS: Hey, someone has to win the NFC North. The Lions could do it. On the surface, they have issues. But Jon Kitna was the comeback player of the year with the Bengals during Carson Palmer's rookie season. With Mike Martz in as offensive coordinator, he could get Kitna back to that level again. And he could get the most out of disappointing, but talented receiving group that has three first rounders [Charles Rogers, Mike Williams, Roy Williams] and a solid tight end in Marcus Pollard.
GREEN BAY PACKERS: Brett Favre had an ugly season last year [29 interceptions]....and they've lost Javon Walker to the Broncos and have no real running back. Or, you could see it as Brett Favre still is as good as many other teams' QBs [he did throw for 3,800 yards and 20 TDs] and he can make a suspect receiving corps better. Remember, there really weren't any big time wide outs even in Favre's hey day. Hopefully someone in that running back mess can acend to the top. Not to mention that their defense, though not spectacular, is much improved from last season.
ARIZONA CARDINALS: It comes down to if the offensive line can salvage their name. They were horrid last year...and there hasn't been much to change it this year. But, if they can protect Kurt Warner enough that he can use his stellar set of receivers [Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin] and they can open some holes for Edgerrin James....well, the Cards could make a playoff run.
BALTIMORE RAVENS: Sure, the QB guru Brian Billick has yet to develop a QB in B-more and may be on the ropes. But if Steve McNair can stay healthy....the team could surprise. There are weapons on offense [Jamal Lewis, Derrek Mason, Mark Clayton, Mike Anderson, Todd Heap] that should get much, much better with a confident McNair leading them. The defense isn't as unstoppable as it once was...but still has former MVPs Ray Lewis and Ed Reed who can step up their games and at least hold teams off a bit.
CINCINNATI BENGALS: Look, the Bengals are one of my favorites to reach the Super Bowl. But they could crash and burn. I mean, these are the Bengals. Already, the Bengals have had so many offseason arrests that it has become a nuisance with the team. Add in Carson Palmer's injury, which, we really don't know how it will affect his play when he does get back on the field. Odell Thurman is suspended for four games....and their big free agent signee Sam Adams has yet to practice with the team. Oh, and that schedule is a beast too.
DALLAS COWBOYS: They have a bad schedule, too......and Terrell Owens. Owens should have a big year...maybe similar to his first season in Philly. But he's already angred his new teammates and coaches without, really, even opening his mouth. He's barely practiced with the team...and has brought on some off field distractions with books and interviews basically "explaining" his time in Philadelphia. But it ain't just T.O. This team couldn't seal the deal last year with an arguably better team. The offensive line isn't that good...and their best back [Julius Jones] has yet shown an ability to stay on the field. Also, it looks as if Drew Bledsoe's time is numbered as the starting QB. With the bad line, a moblie Tony Romo could get the nod. And if T.O. chewed up Jeff Garcia and Donovan McNabb....what could he do to a guy who's never thrown an NFL pass???
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: I know everyone loves Larry Johnson right now....but is he really as good as he was at the end of last year?? Maybe so. But that offensive line isn't as good without Willie Roaf. Herm Edwards also will put the reigns on what used to be an explosive offense. The Chiefs will ground out the ball. But usually that means the defense must play well....which it never has. With mashers Rudi Johnson, Edgerrin James, LaDanlian Tomlinson, Shaun Alexander, Steven Jackson, LaMont Jordan and Reuben Droughns on their plate this season....the Chiefs could find themselves in some trouble.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: The Pats are still good....but the pillaging of their coaches has left the team a bit in transition. That, plus their receiving corps is thin....as is their secondary [which sometimes contained the same players].