Here it is June, and I am sick. It can't be cabin fever considering it is 85 degrees out and I have been working outside. Finally, I was able to self diagnose my illness while standing in the magazine aisle at Wegman's the other night.
There I was, diving into fantasy football magazines when it hit me. I have football fever, and it is a bad case. Can't be cured until September!
So, I began self medicating the other night by scouring over the 2009 season reviews and thinking about how it will play out. Below are team-by-team projections, and I even get into premature playoff pictures. I told you I had a bad case.
1. Chicago Bears (10-6)
They have a brutal schedule, but their easy games are easy. Cutler will love playing with a defense behind him. In a division where anyone has a shot (remember the 2008 Dolphins before you slaughter the Lions), the addition of Culter and emergence of Forte are enough to propel them.
2. Green Bay Packers (9-7)
Rodgers proved that the administration was on to something when they felt not much would be lost from the quarterback position without Favre. They are talented enough to win the division, but the mix of Cutler, defense, and Forte are worth one more win.
3. Minnesota Vikings (7-9)
That is with or without Brett. Favre would be a great upgrade (and he will play if health allows), but in my estimation they over-achieved in 2008.
4. Detroit Lions (4-12).
A 400% win increase. They've put some pieces in place, but about 15 more are needed. Just enjoy watching Calvin Johnson. I'd keep your eyes on Pettigrew (Stafford's Heath Miller) and Kevin Smith (solid back). Then again, why would you tune in to them in the first place?
1. Philadelphia Eagles (11-5)
This is always the toughest division to figure out. My thinking here is simply this: the best receivers are gone from both the Giants and Cowboys.
Granted, the Giants added Nicks, who is similar to Burress, but the Eagles return their core and added playmakers in Ellis Hobbs and LeSean McCoy. Loved McCoy in college (fastest I have ever seen live), and perfect fit for the Eagles offense.
2. Dallas Cowboys (10-6)
Again, the loss of T.O. will hurt on the field. Roy Williams is no slouch, but he is not T.O. either. DeMarcus Ware and that defense will get them 10 wins.
3. New York Giants (8-8)
I just don't see Nicks stepping in to make Eli forget about the loss of Plaxico. The ground game is incredible behind what is perhaps the best line in football, but you cannot tell me that Hixon, Smith, and Sinorice Moss are suppose to stretch the field and give Jacobs room to run.
Even if they do eek into the playoffs, a one-dimensional offense is dangerous.
4. Washington Redskins (6-10)
Washington could win a divisional title in nearly any division except this one. I, like ownership, am not sold on Campbell. Could that lead to a possible Vick appearance? Wow would the activists in the D.C. area have a field day with that.
Albert Haynesworth can help keep the backs in this division in check, and their losses will be close ones—as usual with this division.
1. Carolina Panthers (10-6)
In a division where the crown annually changes hands, I expect the Panthers or Falcons to emerge. I am betting the Panthers will hold on because of the superior duo in the backfield and a defense just a tad more formidable than that of Atlanta and New Orleans.
2. Atlanta Falcons (9-7)
I like Matt Ryan and what they have in place there. I'm just expecting a small pullback only because of the rough division. It will be interesting to see what Tony Gonzalez's stat line looks like at the end of the year.
3. New Orleans Saints (7-9)
Probably the most potent offense in the NFC continues to be hindered by their sub par defense. As this division has shown, defense is a must to take the lead.
Brees will throw for ridiculous numbers, and their multi-talented back will have a great season, just not quite enough until that pesky defense is shored up. By the way, that back I speak of is Pierre Thomas—jump off the Bush bandwagon if you are still on it.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11)
They found themselves in control of the division after 11 weeks last season, then stumbled home and missed the playoffs. Their fiery leader and winning quarterback left, while the rest of the team, including an aging defense, was purged.
This will be a vastly different team that we are used to seeing, and they will take their growing pains.
1. Arizona Cardinals (10-6)
This is no reflection of their 2008 season. I wanted to pick the Seahawks, but I just can't do it with Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett as lead runners. In addition, the Cardinals have upgraded at the running back position while managing to keep all the other pieces in tact.
Their defense is vastly underrated and they should control their divisional games.
2. Seattle Seahawks (8-8)
I really like the additions of Housmandzadeh and Curry on defense. They will compete within the division for a short while, but an upgrade in the running game is needed before they control the west again.
A 30th ranked defense isn't helpful either, but that was partly due to them constantly being put in harm's way.
3. San Francisco 49ers (6-10)
Another rough season by the Bay. They cannot continue to let this lack of new blood at quarterback continue to weigh them down, but they are again in 2009. We have seen it time and time again, inconsistency at the quarterback position leads to prolonged failure.
4. St. Louis Rams (5-11)
Oh boy. One-time great at QB, a current great at RB, zero wide-outs that I would fret over if I played CB, and a fresh LT taking over for Orlando Pace. Not to mention the 28th ranked defense from 2008 with no major improvements.
Luckily, they do have a defense mindful and power attack coach in Spagnuolo. Also lucky, the Cardinals will be playing in meaningful games in October, the Rams may not be.
Playoffs (winners in italics)
No. 6 Falcons at No. 3 Bears
No. 5 Cowboys at No.4 Cardinals
byes: No. 1 Eagles and No. 2 Panthers
No. 3 Bears at No. 2 Panthers
No. 5 Cowboys at No. 1 Eagles
#3 Bears at No. 1 Eagles
From my point of view, there is no great team from the NFC with a golden ticket to the playoffs. I like many teams from the East, and Atlanta and Carolina have chances to be super teams. In any event, someone is sure to emerge, and as the NFL has demonstrated, it could be anyone... even the Lions.
Feedback from this type of thing is always interesting, and your comments are invited. Don't be shy, I am stubbornly Irish and well equipped to absorb your criticism and disagreements.
All I ask is that you make valid cases for your arguments. And no, "Tony Romo is awesome" is not a valid argument.
One last thing. Should you be expecting the AFC version soon? No. I try to be objective, but my team plays in the NFC—the AFC is of no concern to me. Actually, Collin Vetter, a friend who can be found on B/R, will handle the other half.
Go easy on him, he is from Philly. Unfortunate.... I know. On second thought, let him have it—Philly fans would.