Beat The Man: Fearless Forecast, Part One

In yet another annual excercise in masochism, The Man seems ready to slip his greasy fingers into Scott Jones' wallet. Alas...such hubris is frequently repaid with bumps and bruises! In Part One of his Fearless Forecast, Scott shares his take on the moxie needed to send The Man packing...

The pigskin hits the field for real next Thursday, folks. Which means it’s time to check our wallets and see what kinda loose change we can pony up for wagering. That’s right, it’s time to put the gloves back on and challenge ‘The Man’. We want to hurt the Bookie. With the power of foresight, we can disable him and put him in the poorhouse!

Or… we could put ourselves there instead. That’s bad. We definitely want to avoid that. So let’s have a look at what to expect from this year’s NFL. Roll tape…

Teams That Suck
Straight up. We’re not pulling punches around here, eh.

PACKERS
Nobody loves Brett Favre more than I do. Unfortunately, it takes 11 guys on a side to earn a win. Marvelous Favre just doesn’t have the supporting cast required for success. Not much wrong on HIS side of the ball, but when we turn it around and go the other way… the Defense is Swiss. Cheese with lots of holes.

Out of a possible 15 score, I gave them a 5.5. You’re looking at a porous Defensive Line, zero Lineback depth and questionable starters, and a secondary that can’t stop anybody. It’s going to get worse before it gets better in Packland. We’ll want to steal points from them early and jump all over the Pack in September. Thump ‘em for making Matt Hasselbeck a liar.

BROWNS
Ouch, this is ugly. Romeo Crennel is going to have quite a difficult time wooing Juliet. Remember what I said about that lousy Packer D? Well these guys didn’t score better than a 3. That’s a 1 out of 5 grade on each level of the Defense. I mean, they don’t have ANYONE you can respect on that side of the ball. Not one player out of the starting 11 does anything other than make me giggle (okay, maybe we can respect Kenard Lang. Um, sort of).

Offensively, our boy Trent Dilfer doesn’t have anyone to throw the ball to (we gotta give Edwards a year before feeling good about him). Kellen Winslow’s circus tricks really cost that Offense some bruises. They might be able to establish a decent running game behind an O-Line that’s now surprisingly competent. But when your Defense can’t stop anybody… you’re not running the football as often as you’d like. Biscuits get stale in the ‘dawg pound’…

(There’s another team that belongs in this category, but I saved them for the NFC WEST forecast, due Monday… hint. They wear gold on their helmets. And they are horrendous!)

Bottom Feeders
Contrary to teams that just suck – Bottom Feeders are quiet teams that I expect to put the hurt on unprepared “good” teams.

DOLPHINS
That’s right, take the Fish off the hook. Don’t forget, prior to Rickygate, the Dolphins weren’t expected to completely fall apart last year. They were probably mediocre. But then things all went wrong one after the other and they ended up with a record that suited them. This off-season, they added Kevin Carter and Vonnie Holliday to shore up the Defensive Line, as well as S Tebucky Jones to offset the loss of CB Patrick Surtain. Offensively, Ricky (don’t lose that bonus money) Williams returns to keep us wondering what’s inside his head, WR David Boston gets to try and be healthy again, and Stockar McDougle steps in to shore up their problems on the Offensive Line. They also had a decent draft that adds stud RB Ronnie Brown to take the ball away from Ricky again, and physically gifted LB Channing Crowder to assist an aging linebacker corps.

But the most important news here is they finally got rid of a coach who’s now single-handedly destroyed 2 NFL franchises (Miami and Chicago), and replaced him with a guy who I think is going to impact the league in the same manner Jimmy Johnson did in Dallas. Nick Saban is one hell of a coach (for those of you claiming there wasn’t anyone out there worth replacing Mike Holmgren). He ran a program at LSU that was the very essence of efficiency and work ethic. He’s going to whip this team into shape, and you could already see what's right about the guy in several August media sessions. The Dolphins are a nice quiet pick when you’re getting a good number. Keep an eye on ‘em…

BEARS
You have to worry about the situation at QB, but I’m gonna take a chance on Kyle Orton. No, he is not Benjamin Meisterburger. There hasn’t been anything anywhere near Big Ben’s success in Pittsburgh since Marino in ’83, so just relax – that was an aberration (rather than an expected possibility for every Rookie QB henceforth). In fact, the passing game in general will likely be anemic. However, the running game is strong. And the defense mirrors, and plays to, that strength. If, and this is a monumental “if”, the Bears can keep teams close – they can beat them. Depending on the opponent, I would favor coach “Huggie” Smith and the character of his crew over that of many other teams in the final minutes.

If you can get the Bears with a touchdown or more, against a team short on offensive fireworks? I’d favor the Bears. I may make them a quiet pick several weeks this season…

TITANS
Last year’s youth movement has a season under their belts to snatch positions you think they can’t handle yet. I absolutely loved last season’s Draft where they added half a dozen bodies to the Defense that may end up starting for them. Again, those guys got a year to poke themselves and find out what it takes to play in this league. They’ve also added a mega-stud in this year’s draft to help stop the bleeding in the secondary - “Pac Man” Jones is going to gobble up footballs like dots in a maze. I love that pick. And Michael Roos may help a shaky Offensive Line. The Titans had 11 picks in this year’s draft. They know exactly what they’re doing in the front office. Their hands are tied, but they’re doing what’s necessary. Jeff Fisher also happens to be a fundamentally sound football coach, and a guy I wish we could steal from them.

Having said that, they got their butts kicked in Free Agency for the second year in a row. A look at their list of departures will make your head spin. I mean, it’s horrific. So we’re not jumping up and down wanting money on Tennessee every week. They got true concerns there. But they also have solid leadership and an HC that did miracles during their move from Houston. They’re worth a gamble depending on the match-up and how generous the oddsmaker is. I wouldn’t risk them vs. a strong passing game. But they have a chance against other respected teams.

BILLS
Comparisons can be drawn here to last year’s Steeler team. Everyone’s looking at JP Losman and wondering if he’s as good as he thinks he is (the guy’s a bit cocky. But we don’t mind that too much, do we?). Much of their success will depend on his transition into a starting role. However, what’s around him is quite impressive. The Offense is loaded with scoring potential, though I am concerned about the Offensive line’s ability to keep the kid upright. He’s just a tad more evasive than Drew Bledsoe (that lump in my cheek is my tongue), but that unit gave up quite a few sacks and pressures last year – and they lost OT Jonas Jennings, replaced with an inferior Mike Gandy.

Defensively they lost a load in DT Pat Williams, but the remaining cast is interesting and you really have to like that Secondary. Not a lot of teams blew up on Buffalo last year. They kept things pretty tight and did have a real good run at the end there. There’s something about the chemistry in Buffalo that makes me quite comfortable. I’m not sure I’m going to get on them real early, but I’ll be watching that line and their results with more than a little bit of greedy interest…

Great Pretenders
People often think they’re better than they are (take my record last year as a prognosticator for instance. I may be a lot of things, but ‘average’ is not what I aim for). The following is a list of teams that people seem excited about. I’m not nearly as excited as those people.

PATRIOTS
Now don’t get me wrong here, I expect them to win the division. They still have a nice mix of quality players across the roster, and no spotlight areas of weakness. However, you cannot lose 2 of the most respected Coordinators in the league and expect to continue right where you left off. (Anyone else consider why Holmgren has not had the same success in Seattle, with his current supporting cast of coaches – as opposed to half a dozen he had in Packland that went on to become HC’s for the league?). My main man Bill (“yeah… Bill, my main man”) now wants to handle the entire load himself (along with a little help from the very qualified Eric Mangini, whose magic in the Secondary last year made Houdini look like an amateur. Must be distant cousins). That’s a lot of weight to carry, brother. I think humility is about to smack you upside the head.

Furthermore, changes in the off-season roster are also cause for concern. Age and injuries have forced the youth of the crew to now be tested. A bit of a shift is taking place in the land of the electric razor. You better check that mug in the mirror lest you be over-confident. The blades have grown a bit dull… and the AFC East has plenty to say about who’s the most handsome.

STEELERS
Did they really go 15-1 last year? How in the world did that happen?! Bill Cowher is my kinda guy, he’ll get the most out of anyone. But you’re looking at a defense here that ain’t nearly as good on a diagram as they were statistically. (That’s right, I’m about to take on Pittsburgh’s Defense). That secondary has serious problems. Am I supposed to be afraid of throwing at Deshea Townsend and Ricardo Colclough? Or even ex mighty-man Willie Williams (I mean, the guy has some age on those legs)? Are they supposed to make me nervous? And what about that set of ‘fearsome’ Linebackers? James Farrior had a monster year, but he won’t be as good again this year. Joey Porter is over-rated (and getting old in the tooth). And I’m not that intimidated by Larry Foote and Clark Haggins neither. All I can say is they’re lucky they’re using 4 of them, cuz 3 wouldn’t be nearly enough. The Defensive Line, however – is very good. That’s the thing that’s allowing the rest of it to work out.

Offensively you’ve got a guy facing the complete opposite of what he had last year. THIS year – he’s supposed to prove he’s as good as we think he is. Last year – he only had to prove he’s any good at all (and obviously surpassed those expectations). That just might be the reason those balls are flying a bit too high, eh. And guess what, the guy that used to leap up there and grab ‘em (Plasticman Burress) leaped all the way up to the coast and landed in New York. He’s Giant sized blue now. On the ground, Bettis just got one year older. And the other guy, Duce Staley, has never proven he can carry the rock for an entire year (I like Duce, and that song that Gene Simmons wrote [tip of the hat to my Editor there] - but he hasn’t ever been a feature back. It’s just never happened for him). It’s a good thing that Offensive Line is spectacular, otherwise these guys might be laid out flat while they ask the bookmaker why they’re always favored by so many points.

BENGALS
Okay, everyone needs to relax. I know it’s exciting to think a perennially crappy team has a chance to win some games. But let’s not get so excited that we overlook what we’re dealing with.

That Offense looks real good. They got talent. But they’re also being led by a guy none of us is sure was worthy of the 1st pick in the draft. He gets to show us this year if he’s for real. I’ll spend my money on him AFTER he makes me more comfortable. I’m not paying his tuition just yet. Defensively, we might want to think about putting our wallet away. You’re looking at a Defensive Line that can’t at all do what Marvin Lewis wants it to. They couldn’t stop the ground game if you let them line up off-sides. They go backwards more than they go forwards. Behind that you’ve got some interesting potential, but not a lot of continuity. In fact, the Secondary looks like a bunch of secondhand rejects. Go ahead and get tricky, Marvin – you’re gonna have to.

RAIDERS
Oooooh look – the bad guy gets to wear black (Randy Moss). Cool man! That’s going to be fun to watch. But, what’s that? They gave up guys on Defense to get him? Wait, that Defense needs guys JOINING the team, not leaving it! Don’t they know that? Let’s go look at the scoring system again… Hmm, it says here I have them nothing better than a 3 for a D-Line that can’t get a sack. And then I think I gave their LB unit a 1.5 (though I’m not sure, ‘cuz there’s a splotch of spaghetti sauce there that came out when I was laughing at them). And then they got to have a 2 in the Secondary because at least CB Charles Woodson still plays for a team he hates. At least he doesn’t have to worry about Phillip Buchanon ever being better than him now – he plays for some other defense.

Having said that, I LOVE the addition of RB Lamont Jordan. You’re probably hearing that from lots of people and the accolades are most certainly warranted. Jordan has been hidden behind Curtis Martin in New Yawk and it’s been driving me nuts. I’ve loved the guy since his Senior Bowl and he finally gets to cut his teeth on 20+ carries a game. He’s going to gobble up yardage and stain some jerseys, folks. That guy might be the single most effective signing of Free Agency. But unless you’re Peyton Manning, you need a Defense to win football games. Sorry Silver and Black, Randy doesn’t get the ball enough to be as important as he’d like to be.


So that’s it for all the negative things I have to say about this year’s NFL competition. And boy howdy, that was depressing, wasn’t it? However, for every bad – there’s an opposite good! And with that in mind, you can check back here on Monday for my report on this year’s Top Contenders. As well as a report on the NFC West, which includes a team you might have some positive interest in. (I could give that to you now, but we’d probably all rather wash the stink off and come back fresh, right?)

And you can catch me every Friday here with a week’s selection of WINNERS! No losers. Only winners. Or that’s the intention, eh (not quite always the result, ehem). I’ll have a handful of picks vs. the spread every week. Beat The Man is back with a vengeance, baby. Thanks for tuning in.
G’day, mate!

G. Scott Jones is a freelance writer who contributes regularly to Seahawks.NET. Reaction of any sort is always encouraged at schleprockhawk@sbcglobal.net .


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