Now I know what you are probably thinking, 'The NFL is filled with parity Matt, that's the beauty of the league! You can never count anyone out before the season.'
That's cute and all Amy Adams, but you can't stop me now!
Sure some teams catch us off guard. I wasn't shocked by Miami this past year because of Bill Parcells, but I was somewhat surprised.
Atlanta was shocking, though. I figured with a rookie QB they were a couple years away, guys like Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco don't come around very often and there are some teams out there that just seem to be a complete mess... Five come to mind for me.
Could one of these five come out of nowhere and make a run in the playoffs? I guess there is always a chance... Just like there's always a chance that we start seeing Christian Bale in romantic comedies or in a remake starring as the Fred Astaire character in "Top Hat." I don't see it happening, though.
I know, I'm really going out on a limb on this one. Jerry Jones is feeling for the Detroit Lions, though, and is determined to make sure that they won't be down in the dumps for forever.
He traded them Anthony Henry for Jon Kitna, giving them a veteran corner and saving them $4 million in cap space not to mention the jawdropping Roy Williams trade enabling them to load up on picks.
It's going to take more than one off-season though to right the ship, Matthew Stafford if drafted would get murdered behind that offensive line or lack thereof.
The defense has been the worst in the league in each of the past two seasons and their is skepticism surrounding their new head coach Jim Schwartz, considered by many to have been Tennessee's defensive coordinator in name only.
Calvin Johnson is a stud and that's about it, unless you count Manny Ramirez...No, not that Manny Ramirez! This one of course- http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=10561
It's hard to imagine that this team was 9-3 and considered by some to be a SB contender going into a big MNF game against division rival Carolina Panthers. They finished 9-7, Jon Gruden is gone, and so is defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.
Jim Bates is no slouch by any means but he has some work to do with this aging defense that let go LBs Cato June and Derrick Brooks.
Tampa's defense was the main reason for the four-game skid at the end of the year and loses valuable leadership with Brooks gone and they still have very little pass rush. (29 total sacks last season.)
Not to mention the issue at QB of whether to start Luke McCown or Brian Griese...I got really excited just typing that.
Jim Bates will turn that defense around but until then and until they find a QB, Tampa Bay should find themselves in the cellar of a tough NFC South division.
If you take out the brief three game stretch after the coaching change where they played well, the Rams in my estimation were the worst team in the NFL.
Orlando Pace was released today officially making a huge need for the team at OT, Tory Holt wants out, Marc Bulger just looks terrible now, Steven Jackson has had difficulty staying healthy, and the defense is mostly awful.
Even in the NFC West, it's hard to imagine the St. Louis Rams coming even close to finishing among the top two spots.
It's hard to imagine the Cleveland Browns being as bad as they were at the end of the year with a healthy Brady Quinn, but it's even harder to imagine them competing with the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Baltimore Ravens.
They traded away Quinn's safety valve Kellen Winslow, they can't pressure the QB, they can't cover anyone, (McDonald played a little better later in the year) and they need an upgrade at the RB position in a big way. Sorry Cleveland, it should be yet another dismal year.
Oakland finished well last season beating a hot Houston Texans team and a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that were competing for a play-off spot. Do not let that fool you folks, do not forget who we are talking about and who is in charge.
This is not a picture of the man in charge, but it is a picture of the wall in his room...Ok it's not but it illustrates my point quite well I think.
The substance that you see on that wall is poop, and if anyone walked in Al Davis' room and saw him playing with his poop on the wall, would they be surprised? I know I wouldn't be.
The Oakland Raiders can't stop the run if their lives depended on it and the passing game is almost non-existent. Also the division is now much stronger with the very good off-seasons that Denver and Kansas City have had.
So the next time you think about picking the Raiders to be a sleeper, remember these factors. Or you can envision Al Davis calling in plays to the offensive coordinator or maybe just this picture.
This is all a reminder that the Raiders are a mess, run by a crazy man that plays with his poop on the wall. And just maybe that poop on the wall is indeed the Oakland Raiders.
So with that being said, good luck to 27 NFL teams. Fans of the other five, hang in there.