The NFL did gain another player as Michael Vick returned from his charges and signed on with Philadelphia, while they did lose a player with Plaxico Burress saying bye bye for a couple of years. There were a lot of big trades, may be the biggest involving Denver and Chicago, which saw Jay Cutler going to the Windy City from Denver ( who also said goodbye to long time coach Mike Shanahan ) and the Broncos receiving Kyle Orton. The Kansas City Chiefs also traded for Matt Cassell ( who promptly got hurt ) and the New England Patriots shipped Richard Seymour out of town ( though technically the trade is still pending ). Every single NFL offseason has some trades, but this past offseason saw some of the biggest ones in some time.
There are some new coaches too, like Rex Ryan and the New York Jets ( who immediately lit a fire by saying he was not scared of Bill Belichick and the Patriots ), Eric Mangini, now with the Cleveland Browns, and the Oakland Raiders carousel of coaches has now stopped on Tom Cable. Ah yes, never a dull moment in the NFL.
As for this column, nothing will change. I don't see a reason to do anything differently. As the old saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it ". Opinions vary on that of course, but that is what makes it fun and entertaining. There will still be a Game and Stinker of the Week, and my stunning selections. For this column, a team with an * next to it's name means it is a playoff team. A team with a # next to it's name means it is going to the Super Bowl, and the one team with both symbols next to it's name means it is going to win the Super Bowl. Now the picks for week one of the 2009-2010 season.
As always, home team in CAPS.
PITTSBURGH 6 Tennessee
The Steelers are defending Super Bowl Champs, and as stated earlier in this column "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". The Steelers didn't fix anything, so the team remains pretty much intact from last year. They won the Super Bowl, but it remains to be seen if they can win it again with the same team. I think they can, but I am not sure they will. They will still be very, very good. Tennessee will be good again too, but Albert Haynesworth is a huge loss. Kerry Collins is a marginal quarterback at best. He isn't going to take them anywhere. I like the Steelers to get off to a good start here.
ATLANTA 4 Miami
The Falcons could be ready to soar this year. Matt Ryan is only going to get better, and the offseason pick up of aging but still very good Tony Gonzalez is going to help. Having Michael Turner helps too. Atlanta could win what should be a pretty good NFC South. As for Miami, they should be pretty good, but they won't sneak up on anybody this year. Plus they have one of the toughest schedules in the league. They actually could be a better team than last year but will end up with a worse record. I don't see them beating the Falcons here.
CINCINNATI 4 1/2 Denver
Neither one of these teams are going to be very good. Carson Palmer has been hurt all preseason, but should be ready for the opener. The Bengals' offense should be ok, but their defense is a big question mark. The entire Denver team is a big question mark right now. New Coach Josh McDaniels did not get off on the right foot with quarterback Jay Cutler ( though Cutler was to blame too ) and Brandon Marshall continues to demand a trade. Things will not be pretty this year in the Mile High City, and fans' bad attitudes could go a mile high if the team doesn't do well. They won't be terrible, but certaintly not playoff worthy.
Minnesota 4 CLEVELAND
Things were looking pretty promising in Minnesota this year, but then the Vikings went out and signed Brett " Will you please retire now so we can get on with our lives Favre. He will have a couple of decent games, but than will collapse down the stretch as always. They will really need Adrian Petersen this year. The Browns fired Romeo Crennel and immediately brought in Eric Mangini. He will likely fare better than Crennel, but the problem is that his team isn't that good. I would like to take Cleveland here, but the Vikings are better, and I do think Favre will come out pumped up for his new team. That will last about a week.
HOUSTON 5 New York Jets
Yes, the Texans are a playoff team this year for the first time in their history. They likely won't get past the first round, but it is a start. Their offense could be very, very good, but Matt Schaub needs to stay healthy, something he hasn't done. Their defense isn't great, but is improving. They have a easier schedule this year too. I think the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets could be pretty good, but I think they will fall short of the post season. They have two better teams ahead of them in the division. I like the Texans to get off to a good start here.
INDIANAPOLIS 7 Jacksonville
The Colts likely will take a step back, but they are still the Colts, and they still have Peyton Manning. Gone is Marvin Harrison, but the offense will still click. The defense will be ok, but certainly not Super Bowl caliber, and Bob Sanders is always hurt. The Jaguars, well, they won't be that good. It is surprising that Jack Del Rio is still the coach, but this might be his absolute last chance. They can't even sell out their home games to get them on local television. If this trend continues, the Jags might lose their team, period. They won't get off to a good start here.
NEW ORLEANS* 13 Detroit
The Saints could be tough to beat this year if their defense can come through. Drew Brees is one of the best quarterbacks in the game, and look for Marques Colston to rebound. Reggie Bush has broken up with Kim K., so may be he can concentrate on the field more. Truthfully, I couldn't blame him for not concentrating before. The Lions can't help but improve on last year's winless season. Kind of hard not to improve on that. They should be better though, may be even marginally competitive. But that might get them three or four wins. Now that Matt Millen is finally gone may be there can be some direction in the Motor City. But they can't win here.
Dallas 6 TAMPA BAY
The Cowboys won't make the playoffs for two reasons: Tony Romo and Wade Phillips. Unfortunately for them, these are two very big reasons. Romo is very overrated, as he always seems to have a pretty decent regular season and then folds like a tent come playoff time. And Wade Phillips is just not a good head coach. Terrell Owens is gone, but that might not be a bad thing. Roy Williams should be ready to take his place. Tampa Bay will be mediocre, but nothing special, as usual. They will probably be close in several games, but will likely lose out in the end. That will be the story for this game too. I think Dallas will win, but Tampa will keep it close.
ARIZONA 6 1/2 San Francisco
The Cardinals are returning from their stunning Super Bowl run last year, and they could be better. They will benefit again though from a very weak division, though everybody said that last year. They should win the division, but another trip to the Super Bowl is not in the Cards ( yes that was an intended pun ). It will be interesting to see how long Kurt Warner is going to be able to play at this level. Arizona's offense will likely be one of the league's best. San Francisco won't be the league's best in any category, though Frank Gore has turned into a pretty good back. The 49ers have struggled to return to their glory years, and it isn't going to happen this year either. I don't see any problems for Arizona this week.
NEW YORK GIANTS 6 1/2 Washington
The Giants should be a playoff team this year, but I do think losing Plaxico Buress might hurt them in the long run. Eli Manning is now the owner of a huge new contract, and he will have to live up to lofty expectations. He might be able to. The Giants should have a very good defense again, but I don't think their offense is going to be good enough in the end. As for Washington, there shouldn't be much expected. They did give Albert Haynesworth a ton of money, and he will help, but it isn't going to be good enough. The Redskins will once again be mired in mediocrity. It is interesting to see how long the fans are going to put up with marginal football in the nation's capital.
Philadelphia 1 CAROLINA
Yes, I think this is finally going to be Philadelphia's and Donovan McNabb's year. As long as Brian Westbrook can stay healthy ( always an if as with any player ) I think the Eagles have enough on both sides of the ball to get it done. Their defense is improved, and their offense has the chance to be explosive. Westbrook is one of the best in the league, and McNabb finally has the weapons at wide receiver. Throw in Michael Vick, who can obviously make some plays, and we have the looks of a serious Super Bowl contender. I think this is their time. Carolina could sniff the playoffs, but their division is very good. They could be one of those teams like New England last year with a good record and not see a playoff game. Jake Delhomme needs to rebound from a disastrous playoff game last year. He has a good running game behind him. The game is in Carolina but I like the Eagles to get off to a good start here. There is a very good chance that we see an all Pennsylvania Super Bowl.
SEATTLE 8 1/2 St. Louis
The Seahawks should bounce back a bit this year, but I am not even sure they are good enough to win in their weak division. Matt Hasslebeck is finally healthy, but he is only ok when he does play. The return of a healthy Deion Branch will help, but they don't have much of anything else on either side of the ball. Neither does St. Louis, who has a chance to be one of the worst teams in the league. Marc Bulger isn't great by any means, and he has few weapons to play with. Their defense isn't much better. It could be a long year in the Gateway to the West.
NEW ENGLAND 10 1/2 Buffalo
Many have the Patriots at least advancing to the Super Bowl, some even have them winning it. I wouldn't be shocked at either one, but I just think they are going to fall short defensively. Their defensive backfield hasn't panned out as hoped ( at least not yet ) and the loss of Richard Seymour will probably sting the defensive line, putting more pressure on a marginal linebacking corps. The offense has a chance to be memorable as long as Tom Brady's knee holds up ( so far so good in the preseason ) but the running game is less than spectacular. If the defense can come through, this team has the chance to be scary good. Buffalo, on the other hand, not only will not be scary good, and they won't even be pretty good. Adding Terrell Owens will help, but how many passes he drops remains to be seen. He was complaining about his quarterbacks when he was on other teams ( McNabb, Romo) but yet he signs with a team that has Trent Edwards as the starter. Interesting. The no huddle offense they plan to use could be entertaining, but the Bills still have a long way to go.
San Diego 9 1/2 OAKLAND
The Chargers will make the playoffs, but almost by default. The NFC West might be the league's worst division, so one team has to make it to the post season. They should be pretty good though, but they absolutely need LaDainian Tomlinson to get back to form. It looks like years of bruising football might be taking it's toll. Philip Rivers has turned into one of the league's better quarterbacks, but he has one problem: his head coach. Norv Turner is simply not getting the job done in San Diego, and he alone will prevent the Chargers from advancing far in the playoffs. As for Oakland, they could be better, but Al Davis still looks like Tales From the Crypt, and I don't see much from them this year. Hopefully JaMarcus Russell will get better, and Darren McFadden should help. Thank goodness for the Raiderettes. They won't help much though, but they do at least make the games fun to watch.
Game of the Week
GREEN BAY 3 1/2 Chicago
I had trouble deciding which one of these teams was going to win the NFC North. I had to go with Green Bay. I just think their offense is going to be better. I wouldn't be surprised to see Chicago take it, and Jay Cutler will clearly help. But the Packers have more playmakers, and even though their defense isn't going to be as good as Chicago's, I have to give them the edge. Aaron Rogers is easily making the Cheeseheads forget about quarterback's past. He should lead them to a division title. The Bears might sneak into the playoffs as a wild card, but I think they will fall short.
Stinker of the Week
BALTIMORE 13 Kansas City
This is the Stinker of the Week because it will probably be over by half time. The Ravens will again be very good, led by possibly the league's best defense, and Jon Flacco can only get better at quarterback. He doesn't have a lot to work with on offense, but the Raven's aren't known for that. The Raven's will be tough to beat, but eventually they will need to score some points. The Chiefs might possibly be the worst team in the league. They traded perennial All Pro Tony Gonzalez, and signed Matt Cassell to a huge contract to be their number one starter, and he isn't that good, and he has very little to work with. Plus he already got hurt. They do have a lot of young players, so this might be a team to watch in a few years. But nobody will want to watch them now. Plus they have a brutal schedule. The Ravens will win this one easily.
Last Year's Record: Absolutely Spectacular
This Year's Record: Even Better