The 2007 season is here and The New England Patriots are this year's trendy pre-season choice to win the Super Bowl. Why New England instead of the other contenders?
Here's a look at the top contenders and why New England is expected to win it all.
Top Contenders from the NFC:
New Orleans: Great offense. The Saints have an elite quarterback in Drew Brees, one of the best the running back tandems in Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister, a good wide receiver in Marques Colston and a receiver they think will be pretty good in Devery Henderson. The Saint's may be this year's highest scoring team. Offense alone will not win New Orleans a trip to the Super Bowl in February. New Orleans downfall will be their defenses inability to stop anyone. If New Orleans plays a great defensive team and their offense sputters like they did when they played the Bears last year the results will be the same.
Chicago Bears: Great defense and special teams. The offense is mediocre at best. Rex Grossman is very inconsistent, he is red-hot one game and ice cold the next. In the off-season Chicago traded away their best running back in Thomas Jones. Cedric Benson was given every opportunity to win the starting spot last year and he couldn't do it. Benson wins it this year by default. That's not what you want from your starting running back. Chicago can't count on Devin Hester to bail them the offense with his special team heroics. Teams will kick the ball away from Hester not giving him a chance. Chicago has been trying him on offense this preseason in an effort to get him the ball. The University of Miami tried that as well when he played for the Hurricanes. He didn't make an impact on offense then and it's doubtful he'll have a major impact now. Mediocre play from the offense will stop Chicago from winning the Super Bowl.
Top Contenders from the AFC:
Indianapolis Colts: Indy finally got over the hump last year after being perennial Super Bowl favorites. Indianapolis lost a few people in free agency this year, especially in the secondary. Indianapolis believes they already had their replacement players on the roster. A lot of players counted on never even played in the Super Bowl last year. Indianapolis also has not addressed the depth behind those players who will assume the starting positions. Additionally, having the only left tackle Manning has ever known as a professional retire will surely hurt. Along with the injury to McFarland on defense accompanied by the fact Indianapolis has not done anything to improve last year's Super Bowl team while their competition have, the Colts championship reign ends at one year.
Denver Broncos: Four key additions: Daniel Graham, Dre Bly, Travis Henry and Sam Adams. If the preseason was any indication of the way Denver's defense will play, the Broncos will have trouble stopping opposing offenses. Denver improved at running back and tight end, however; both players (Travis Henry and Daniel Graham) have a history of injuries, so they can't be counted on to play a full season. Dre Bly takes too many chances at the cornerback spot and Sam Adams has been known not to be in the best shape at times and largely disappointed when he plays for the Bengals last year. And no one would confuse anything the Bengal's did as playing defense. Jay Cutler is a gifted but young quarterback who lost in last year's final game to San Francisco at home, a game Denver needed to make the playoffs. The players the Broncos brought in will improve the team, but injury concerns and inconsistency, especially on defense, will be the downfalls to Denver's season. Good team? Yes. Playoff team? Yes. Super Bowl champions? No.
San Diego: They feature some of the best players in the NFL (or one of the best) at several positions: running back, tight end, linebacker and left tackle. Despite San Diego's talent, this team was one and done in last years playoffs. Statistics don't win playoff games. Nor do the amount of Pro bowl regular season players you have on your roster. Talent helps, players actually stepping up to the challenge helps even more. When the best running back in the game focuses his post game attention more on a couple of Patriot players doing a dance in the middle of the football field after winning, instead of wondering why San Diego lost, there is a problem. During the off-season San Diego replaced last years coaching that went 14-2. Strange. What's even stranger is that the coaching staff San Diego hired has a history of losing. San Diego is still weak at wide receiver which could come back to haunt them. The Chargers have too much talent not to win their division and be a contender. The odds of a coaching staff who has failed miserably in the past coming up with a formula for post season success is not likely to happen.
New England: Last year the weakest link was the wide receiver play. The Patriots have re-armed themselves with Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth, Wes Welker and Kelly Washington. Gone is the offensive scapegoat from last seasons AFC Championship game loss to the Colts, Reche Caldwell. This is the deepest and best group of receivers that Tom Brady has ever had in New England. This may be the year Brady throws over 30 touchdown passes, something he has never done in his career. Welker is the slot receiver that the Patriots offense is predicated on having. Moss and Stallworth will be the deep threats Brady never had making defenses pay more attention and leaving more running room for Laurence Maroney. The tight ends Brady, Watson and Thomas (when healthy) compliment each other. The biggest off-season addition is on defense where Adalius Thomas will be lined up at linebacker. Thomas will provide the pass rush the Patriots have been missing from that position since Willie McGinest left. In some of the Patriots biggest playoff games, McGinest came up with huge sacks, or caused pressure, disrupting the opposing team's passing game. This was never more evident than during last season's playoff loss to the Colts. New England has reloaded and will be probably hoist the Lombardi trophy in Arizona.
[Editor's Note: these picks were submitted before Thursday night's Indianapolis -New Orleans game]
New Orleans at - 6 Indianapolis. Pick: New Orleans +6
Denver -3 at Buffalo Pick: Denver -3
Miami at -3 Washington Pick: Washington -3
Pittsburgh -4 ½ at Cleveland Pick: Pittsburgh -4 ½
Tennessee at - 6 ½ Jacksonville Pick: Jacksonville -6 ½
Kansas City at -3 Houston Pick: Houston -3
Philadelphia -3 at Green Bay Pick: Philadelphia -3
Carolina at -1 St. Louis Pick: St. Louis -1
Atlanta +3 at Minnesota Pick: Atlanta +3
New England -6 ½ at NY Jets Pick: New England -6 ½
Tampa Bay at -6 Seattle Pick: Seattle -6
Detroit +1 ½ at Oakland Pick: Detroit +1 ½
Chicago +6 at San Diego Pick: San Diego -6
NY Giants +5 ½ at Dallas Pick: Dallas - 5 ½
Baltimore +2 ½ at Cincinnati Pick: Baltimore +2 ½
Arizona +3 at San Francisco Pick: San Francisco -3
Next week, we'll see how my accurate my predictions are. My bowling league starts up this Sunday (ten pin of course) I'll post my scores HERE so you'll get to see how great (or not-so) I was.
Enjoy the Games!