Well, it's finally here. Every team is in training camp; which to me seems like a great opportunity to pick my picks for the 09-10 season. I have laid out every division with an explanation for my choices for each team.
Please comment, because I know that as a passionate fan, it is only natural to assume your team is on the right path to success this season, and I'd love a good discussion.
So here goes...
1. Pittsburgh Steelers
Unfortunately, the Steelers I do believe will fall into first place again next season. The Steelers defense, still coached by Dick LeBeau, is a sure top 10 pick with studs like Troy Polumolu and James Harrison.
Although Larry Foote may be missed, his departure will do little to effect the defending champs. The Steelers offense only gets better, as the only big loss is receiver Nate Washington, who although contributed, was not one of the top two wide outs for the Steelers.
Plus, the Steelers get Rashad Mendenhall back from injury to help the one-two punch that him and Willie Parker share. In addition, Heath Miller is a dynamic tight end, who has haunted teams who dare challenge the Super Bowl Champs.
Overall, the defending champs, who will be tested, are just a bit too good to be dethroned.
2. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens would be in the dumps right now if Derrick Mason had not had came back. Thank god for Ravens fans, because it would be tough for Joe Flacco to have any targets to throw to after that, and as a Jacksonville Jaguars fan I know that this can kill a team, no matter how good the defense is.
The Ravens have taken significant blows to it's defense in the loss of Bart Scott and Rex Ryan, but there's no doubt that Ray Lewis and Ed Reed will continue to dominate. However these losses are enough to cause them to fall to second in the division, and have to battle for a wild-card spot.
3. Cincinnati Bengals
Although I haven't payed MUCH attention to the Bengals, I do know that they have signed Laveraneus Coles to replace TJ Houshmandzadeh. Plus, the emergence of Chris Henry according to many Bengals fans, should have the Bengals back to the top of the division in no time.
Although this is a nice dream, I don't see it happening. I also don't buy Chad Ochocinco falling apart, because he may have a mouth but he can sure play. Carson Palmer's health is also essential.
In the end however, I don't see the Bengals having enough GAS in the tank to overthrow Baltimore and the Steelers.
4. Cleveland Browns
The Browns lost K2 and have had problems with Braylon Edwards (who looks just like Michael Crabtree) and are indecisive with a QB direction.
Plus, lets be honest, what Bill Belichick prodigee has lived up to any hype? Think about it. The Browns could shock everyone, but I don't see it happening. Better luck when they have a decisive QB.
1. New England Patriots
Yes the New England Patriots will be back next year. Let's face it, everyone wants to go with New England to win a Super Bowl. And with the new addition of Derrick Burgess from Oakland (boy he must be happy right now) the Patriots are looking better then ever.
The ONLY real hope of stopping this team is that a) Tom Brady gets injured AGAIN, b)Michael Strahan returns to the NFL, or c) The Pats play OK and another team plays perfect. Coming from a Patriots hater, this is tough to say but right now I think they are the best team in football.
2. Miami Dolphins
I always knew that Chad Pennigton was not a bad quarterback, and I never thought that he would be criticized as much as he did in New York. Well the sun has treated Pennigton well, but the question is can the Dolphins regain the competitive spirit that they had last year?
I believe the answer is yes, but not simply because of the ambidexterity of the offense and a solid defense, but because the rest of the teams in the division under them have a couple questions to be answered about there status.
3. Buffalo Bills
This one comes down not to T.O. but to Marshawn Lynch. The Bills' running back has been often in the news for the wrong reasons, so many wonder if his production will be down again as well.
The Bills do have a juggernaut at wide reciever, which is why if Lynch can perform then the Bills may challenge the Patriots.
Then again, it wasn't too long ago that Trent Edwards wasn't battling for his starting position, so how will the QB play without competition. The Bills season could be either really good or really bad.
4. New York Jets
Although I like what Rex Ryan is doing with the team, I think that the QB question will sink this team. I also like Mark Sanchez, but the guy still only played a year in college, and he still needs to mature as a pro first.
Kellen Clements isn't going to get the job done, we know that as an almost fact. And besides the Baltimore Ravens of 2000 it has been proven you cannot win without a QB. And this defense is not even close to the 2000 Ravens defense.
1. Indianapolis Colts
Yes, Peyton has lost Harrison, and Dungy, but the Colts still have Manning. Manning just always seems to get things done, and that's really all I can say.
As a Jags fan it is hard to watch them win year after year (besides last year), and the only explanation is that Peyton Manning will get it done just like he always does.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars are picked by many to be the bottom feeders of the division. Now I may not be able to sway many Titans/Texans fans on this one, but I truly believe that this Jags team could be even better then the '07 one.
Every single area is improved from last year, besides losing Fred Taylor, who was a terrible player to let go. But lets start at the top where the offensive line of the Jags is very arguably the best and deepest in football.
With a starting lineup of Eben Britton/Tony Pashos, Vince Manuai, Brad Meester, Mo Williams, and Tra Thomas/ Eugene Monroe, the Jags will make holes for Maurice Jones-Drew.
And MJD will make plays which will give David Garrad more time so he can go back to close to the form he was in '07. I know many find this a bad pick, but I am convinced the Jags will not be last.
Plus Peter King, who jinxed us last year, said on the radio station (on describing why Jason Campbell on the cover) that they wouldn't want like a Jacksonville Jaguars QB on the cover of SI, thus jinxing Garrard to have a good season, and thus the Jags winning again.
3. Tennessee Titans
I will say that the Titans have the best defense in the division, but they don't have the best offense. Chris Johnson although fast and speedy, created controversy by claiming that thunder and lightning didn't exist and he wanted to be his own name.
One year gone to his head. And thus negative chemistry formed. Also, in the preseason game Johnson looked a little soft, and really didn't appear to be better then White, who looked far more impressive then Johnson.
Secondly, Kerry Collins has never put up back-to-back great seasons. He took the Giants to the Super Bowl one year and I don't remember hearing from him for quite some time after that. I will bring up Albert Hanysenworth, who I do believe will have some, but not as much as people think, impact on the defense.
Overall Tennessee could overtake Jacksonville but I like to stick to my team.
4. Houston Texans
This team reminds me of the Arizona Cardinals. They are becoming this years hot pick to be the Cinderella story. But just like the Cardinals, the Texans will win when people finally give up on them.
And that hasn't happened yet. They have the talent, but it needs another year or two. Then just like the Cardinals this season, they will make a run.
1. San Diego Chargers
Although I feel that the Chargers are possibly the most overrated team in football, especially when Fran Charles of the NFL Network always predicts them to win the Super Bowl.
He does this mainly because they play in a weak enough division to win it at 8-8. However, the Chargers do have real talent, but the question is can they finally bring the talent together and win.
2. Oakland Raiders
The Raiders possess a top defense and a developing running team. They almost remind me of the Jaguars of the 2005 era, because they have a dominating defense and a solid running game with a not so good passing game.
However, in this division, the Raiders can shut down all the other offensive units (besides maybe San Diego) and finish at No. 2. And MAYBE, just MAYBE, Tom Cable will become Al Davis' man. (He does kinda look like Madden.)
3. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs I feel are looking up, however, they don't seem to have enough yet to make a solid run in there division. Latest reports claim Matt Cassel is struggling, and I am not surprised because of the fact he had an all pro cast around him last year and still couldn't make the playoffs.
I think that by seasons end Tyler Thigpen, who played really well last year, will regain the starting position.
4. Denver Broncos
I really don't think that Jay Culter was that good, but he's still a solid quarterback in the NFL. And Kyle Orton had the Bears defense. Now he has the Broncos defense.
Enough said. This team will not be able to have the same explosive offense that had them looking at the top for most of the year, yet they couldn't just win one more game.
Jags vs. Steelers—Jaguars (they just seem to have a thing for beating Pittsburgh)
Chargers vs. Ravens—Ravens
Jags vs. Patriots—Patriots (they have a thing for beating the Jags)
Colts vs. Ravens—Colts
Colts vs. Patriots—Patriots
There you have it. The Pats will once again be in the Super Bowl behind super quarterback, Tom Brady.