Thursday, September 7, 2006

2006 Cheap Seats MFP: NFL, all at once

OK, because I missed Monday-Wednesday with job-hunting stuff, I'm going to write this in one shot. Wish me luck

Oh, and even though I nailed Pittsburgh last year as the champs, it was pure luck. All picks are still guaranteed to lose money at your bookie.

Houston Texans

The Skinny: There are a lot of changes with this team. Dom Capers and crew are gone. Charlie Casserly is gone after missing both Reggie Bush and Vince Young. In steps former Denver Broncos offensive Coordinator(and Texas A&M alumnus) Gary Kubiak, who will most likely install a similar offense to Mike Shanahan's in Denver.

Position-by-position

Quarterback
Starter: David Carr still has a great arm and leadership skills, but like every single year, it remains to be seen if he can get the necessary protection.Grade: B-
Depth: Former Dolphin QB Sage Rosenfels has taken very few snaps in an NFL gameGrade: D

Running Back
Starter: With Domanick Davis out for the season, Wali Lundy gets the first crack at the starting job Grade: D
Depth: Vernand Morency is the only healthy backup at the moment.Grade: D+

Wide reciever
Starters: Adding Eric Moulds was a coup for the Texans, he brings some experience alongside Andre Johnson. Grade: A
Depth: Depleted by the loss of Corey Bradford, Grade: C-

Tight End
Starter: For now, it looks like the Texans will go with some combination of Jeb Putzier and Mark Bruener unless Rookie Owen Daniels makes a huge impact. Grade: C
Depth: Well, at least they have 3 tight ends they think can play Grade: C

Offensive Line
Starters: This was the number one need for the 4th consecutive offseason and the Texans lack-of-braintrust still failed to improve the position.Grade: F
Reserves: If the starters are an F, what grade do you think the guys who couldn't beat them out get? That right... Grade: F

Defensive Line
Starters: Say what you want about Mario Williams, he may just turn out to be a quality 4-3 DE. Also with the Transition to the 4-3, last year's first rounder Travis Johnson should break out. Grade: C+
Depth: N.D. Kalu, who's more of a 3-4 end, could see some playing time, but none of the other defensive linemen are all that impressiveGrade: C

Linebacker
Starters: Morlon Greenwood had 112 tackles last year at OLB, and Rookie DeMeco Ryans might help solidify the inside. Who plays opposite these two is the big question mark.Grade: B-
Depth: DaShon Polk had 93 tackles last year as an ILB, but was squeezed out with the move to the 4-3. Grade: C+

Cornerback
Starters: Dunta Robinson still has upside, but the corner opposite, Phillip Buchanon, is coming off an ankle injury.Grade: B-
Depth: Dexter McCleon is past his prime and Lewis Sanders, is something of an unknown quantityGrade: C

Safeties
Starters: With Marcus Coleman off to the Cowboys (and on suspension), second year man C.C. Brown and third year man Glenn Earl will take over the starting roles Grade: D
Depth: The backup safeties are nothing to write home about.Grade: F

Specialists
Kicker: Kris Brown hit 76.5% of his field goals. Which means he roughly misses 1 out of every 4 Grade: D
Punter: Chad Stanley's net average: 38.8 Grade: C
Returners: Buchanon, if healthy will probably resume return duties Grade: B

Coaching
Head Coach: We know Gary Kubiak is a top offensive playcaller, but the jury is still out on his game management skills.Grade: B-
Offensive Coordinator: Former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike Sherman is listed as the top offensive assistant, but make no mistake, this is Kubiak's offense, and it was part of the reason all those Denver backs got 1000 yardsGrade: A
Defensive Coordinator: Richard Smith moves over from the Dolphins to take over the Defensive Coordinator position, it's hard to say how much of an impact he's going to have because he was basically running Nick Saban's scheme, and now he's got to devise one of his own.Grade: D

Best Record Guess: Without a better offensive line, Expect a repeat of last year. You can't scheme your way out of a bad offensive line.2-14, dead last.

The Rest of the South

Jacksonville: Jacksonville's record last year was better than 5 of the 8 division champions. Even with Jimmy Smith's retirement, there'Best Guess: 11-5, Division Champs

Indianapolis: There's no reason to think that Indy won't win the division... What's that? Edgerrin James signed with the Cardinals? Oh, never mind. But, they still have enough pieces to be a playoff team. Best Guess: 10-6, possible wild card.

Tennessee: The QB situation may be a mess, as the Titans are hesitant to play Vince Young too early, but there's still talent surrounding the eventual starter (whomever that may be). Still, the Titans defense needs work.Best Guess: 5-11

The rest of the AFC

AFC East
TeamBest Record GuessThe Skinny
Miami
10-6
I'm going to say what a lot of people want to say, but can't because they're afraid of offending Bill Belichick: The Dolphins have the pieces, the coaching, and the drive to overtake the Patriots this year. Sure we all know about Daunte Culpepper, but the key pickup no one is talking about is Will Allen.
New England
9-7
If it weren't for Belichick and Tom Brady, this would be a 6-10 team. The Salary Cap toll is going to start showing this year, as the Patriots front office starts to find out how replaceable their parts really are.
New York Jets
6-10Chad Pennington is back, but there's no depth at running back, and implementing a 3-4 is probably the worst thing that could have happened to this defense.
Buffalo4-12Aside from Willis McGahee, this team is a mess on offense. And the defense could only stop the Houston Texans.
AFC North
TeamBest Record GuessThe Skinny
Pittsburgh13-3Even with Roethlisberger's bad offseason and the loss of Antwaan Randle-El, the defense is still there, Willie Parker is now the unquestioned starter, and Santonio Holmes will provide a nice complement to Hines Ward in time.
Cincinnati11-5Surprise, Carson Palmer is back, but will he stay healthy? Everything else is in place for another playoff run.
Baltimore
8-8Even though Steve McNair is the quarterback for this team, the once-vaunted defense is getting long in the tooth.
Cleveland4-12The experts say this team could reach .500 this year. I say: Prove it.
AFC West
TeamBest Record GuessThe Skinny
Denver
10-6
Yes, people will call for Jake Plummer's head, and the running back situation is uncertain, but Denver should still win the division this year. Some running back will get 1,000 yards, and the defense will be solid.
San Diego
9-7
Even with the loss of Steve Foley for the season(gunshot from overzealous off-duty cop), the Chargers defense should still be decent. And Phillip Rivers has too many weapons around him to fail.
Kansas City
5-11
When your tackle is Kyle Turley, your offensive line has issues. When you have no quality defensive linemen and you want to run Cover 2, your whole defense has issues.
Oakland
4-12
Art Shell: Great as a person, good coach. However, the alleged talent on defense is too old, they don't have a solid #1 running back, and Aaron Brooks is a bad QB.


AFC Playoffs

Division Champs
Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3)
Jacksonville Jaguars (11-5)
Miami Dolphins (10-6)
Denver Broncos (10-6)
Wild Cards
Cincinnati Bengals (11-5)
Indianapolis Colts (10-6)

Wild Card Round
Miami over Indianapolis
Cincinnati over Denver
Division Round
Miami over Jacksonville
Pittsburgh over Cincinnati
AFC Championship
Pittsburgh over Miami

Dallas Cowboys

The Skinny: Well, the Cowboys have had back-to-back quality drafts, and they have been very active in free agency. Now it's time for the Cowboys to produce

Position-by-position

Quarterback
Starter: Drew Bledsoe returns as the Cowboys' starter for 2006, and the veteran finally has some weapons to throw to. However, he's still past his prime as a quarterback and he still needs his offensive line to keep him upright. Grade: C+
Depth: Tony Romo seems to be getting better as a quarterback, and could be a quality backup, but let's not get ahead of ourselves and peg him as a future starter Grade: B-
Running Back
Starter: Julius Jones will probably start. He has the speed to be a great NFL running back, but he hasn't shown the durability. Grade: B+
Depth: Marion Barber III is more of a power runner, but he should see a decent amount of action without the productivity dropping off too much.Grade: A-

Wide reciever
Starters: All the talk has been about T.O., who should improve the Cowboys' passing numbers once he figures out that he's not going to win a media battle with Bill Parcells. Just don't forget about Terry Glenn. Grade: A+
Depth: Patrick Crayton was a surprise find for the Cowboys last year, and should give the Cowboys a decent 3rd reciever Grade: D

Tight End
Starter: You can start the debate over whether the Cowboys' Jason Witten or the Eagles' L.J. Smith is the best tight end in the East. One thing's for sure, Witten means the Cowboys don't have to put a 4th reciever on the field in passing situations Grade: A.
Depth: Dan Campbell is gone, and the backups have little experience Grade: B

Offensive Line
Starters: Two big holes at left guard, with Larry Allen departing for the Cardinals, and right tackle, which right now is a revolving door Grade: C+
Reserves: Well, Rob Pettiti and Al Johnson, who started last year, are backups this year. At least there's some experience Grade: C

Defensive Line
Starters: With surprise performer Chris Canty, Jason Ferguson, and Marcus Spears expected to be the big contributors, this could be the best pure 3-4 defensive line in the NFC Grade: A
Depth: This is where it gets a little murky. Greg Ellis has moved to linebacker, and La'Roi Glover is gone. that leaves second year man Jay Ratliff and rookie Jason Hatcher to back up the ends Grade: C

Linebacker
Starters: Ellis has proven he can make open-field tackles at linebacker, DeMarcus Ware is on track for a breakout season, and former Jaguar Akin Ayodele should help solidify the middle. Bobby Carpenter will eventually start. Grade: A
Depth: Rookie Kevin Burnett and Al Singleton could see some snaps. Grade: B

Cornerback
Starters: Terrence Newman and Anthony Henry should make a great tandem Grade: A
Depth: Aaron Glenn has apparently lost a step, but should still be able to cover the other team's 3rd reciever. After that, it's questionable Grade: C

Safeties
Starters: Roy Williams is still Roy Williams. Keith Davis is not Roy Williams, but he's survived a bullet in the leg to win the starting job Grade: B-
Depth: Unfortunately, Marcus Coleman's suspension means that the Cowboys depth at this position is limited. Grade: D

Specialists
Kicker: Whatever you think of Mike Vanderjagt, he's a hell of a lot better than what the Cowboys had last year Grade: A
Punter: Mat McBriar can Grade: A
Returners: Right now it's Tyrus Thompson and Terrence Newman, we'll see how it goes Grade: C

Coaching
Head Coach: Bill Parcells is still one of the best coaches in the game. While he's faced with a unique player management challenge, he does have the upper hand in that . Grade: A
Offensive Coordinator: Tony Sparano is the de facto offensive coordinator, but Parcells will probably make most of the play calls. Don't expect anything fancy. Grade: B
Defensive Coordinator: Mike Zimmer had to adjust to calling a 3-4 defense last year and he passed the test with flying colors. Grade: B+

Best Record Guess: My head says I should be cautious, but there's too many pieces here not to go out and at least grab a piece of the NFC East crown. 11-5 and the division

The Rest of the East

Philadelphia: I'm sure Philly fan wants to see Donovan McNabb show he can put the T.O. thing behind him, and Donte Stallworth helps in that regard. And the defense is solid. The problem is, everyone else in the division made significant improvements. Best Guess:10-6

New York Giants: OK, Giants, now let's see what you can do when you play against a *real* schedule. Best Guess: 8-8.

Washington: With Clinton Portis expected to miss significant time, it's hard to see the Redskins having any net improvement. Besides, when Dan Snyder spends money on a free agent, they usually turn out to be busts. Best Guess: 6-10, 3rd Place

The rest of the NFC


NFC North
TeamBest Record GuessThe Skinny
Chicago
9-7Once again, NFL rules state that someone has to win the NFC North, and the defending division champs are probably in the best position with their defense and running game.
Minnesota
8-8Hard to tell how things will go with this team, but Brad Johnson's veteran leadership should help things on the offensive side of the ball.
Detroit
6-10They can't get any worse than they were last year, but they're not even close to playoff bound.
Green Bay
4-12Brett Favre can't save this team anymore.

NFC South
TeamBest Record GuessThe Skinny
Carolina
12-4The defense is back, Keyshawn Johnson should complement Steve Smith, and DeShaun Foster gets to carry the load full time.
Tampa Bay
11-5OK, it's not the glory days of the Warren Sapp-led unit, but the Tampa defense is still very good, and they have some good offensive pieces
Atlanta
9-7
Another team that's hard to pinpoint. Michael Vick is back, the defense was upgraded in the offseason, but T.J. Duckett was traded and Warrick Dunn has never been a 30 carry per game back.
New Orleans1-15
They need more pieces besides just Reggie Bush and Deuce McCallister.

NFC West
TeamBest Record GuessThe Skinny
Seattle11-5Even without Steve Huchinson, defending NFC champ Seattle still has the core of what got them to the Super Bowl
Arizona6-10
New Stadium, new quarterback, new running back, same old lousy Cardinals.
San Fransisco5-11
Alex Smith has plenty of weapons to throw to now, but losing Julian Peterson and Andre Carter stunts the overall growth of this team.
St. Louis4-12
Yeah, Torry Holt is still there, as is Stephen Jackson, but it's going to take time to transition to the new offense. And Adam Archuleta may not help Washington, but his loss hurts St. Louis's D


NFC Playoffs

Division Champs
Carolina Panthers (12-4)
Seattle Seahawks (11-5)
Dallas Cowboys (11-5)
Chicago Bears (9-7)
Wild Card
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5)
Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)

Wild Card Round
Tampa Bay over Chicago
Dallas over Philadelphia
Division Round
Seattle over Dallas
Carolina over Tampa Bay
NFC Championship
Carolina over Seattle


Super Bowl Pick

It worked so well last year, we're going with Pittsburgh again this year.
Pittsburgh over Carolina
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