(Originally posted on 4SportBoston.com )
Well it’s New Year’s Day, and it’s time to make some resolutions. For many of us we’ll be resolving to lose weight, exercise more, eat better, make more time for family, booze less, and pay off debt.
In the NFL, the resolutions are different and depending on the franchise—equally as unlikely to happen as our own resolutions.
So what do these teams need to change this year as some others start a playoff run? Some teams will be watching bowl games hoping to land themselves Ndamukong Suh, Eric Berry, or Jimmy Clausen in this year’s draft, and hoping their franchise players don’t have off-season killing injuries in the final game of the season.
By the way, why isn’t Freddie Barnes, the kid from Bowling Green who has 155 catches and 19 touchdowns even ranked by ESPN? He had 17 catches for over 200 yards and 2 TD’s in the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl against Idaho.
The first resolution is for the NFL Owners and Players Union to come to terms on a new contract. Facing the potential of an uncapped year in 2010 and possibly even a lockout in 2011, a deal has to get done to keep the NFL rolling and the fans happy.
Not sure if you knew this NFL, but the fans are your customers. I don’t think the NFL will tank the way the NHL did when they locked out, but it’s been a long road to recovery for the NHL, and if you ask anyone at 4SportBoston (besides Chaz), not a single one of us could tell you players names or cite rule changes since the lockout. I’m still pretty sure Adam Oates plays for the Bruins.
On to the individual teams…
Indianapolis +8.5 over Buffalo
I know the Colts are throwing away the rest of their season, but to lose by 8.5 points playing Buffalo’s starters who are probably about the same skill level as the Colts’ backups is absurd. The Bills are out of the playoff picture too, so there’s nothing really to be won or lost in this game.
In fact, if the Bills lose, it helps their draft position. No team will admit to that, but the GM’s and the scouts are definitely thinking it in the back of their minds.
Colts Resolution: Get your starters back on the field for at least a half of football this week. You have a bye week next week to rest up, and you don’t want to be rusty. You’ve lost in past playoff tries with this strategy of resting your players, and I know you’re trying to keep guys from getting hurt, but it’s going to hurt your playoff run.
Bills Resolution: Lose this game. You’re sitting at the ninth overall pick in the draft right now. If the cards fall right for you this weekend, you could be picking as high as fifth. You need a new quarterback and Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford projects somewhere between fourth and ninth overall.
Jacksonville +1.5 over Cleveland
Cleveland has won three in a row putting them out of contention for the top pick in the draft. Jacksonville controlled their own destiny a few weeks ago, and now needs a truckload of luck to get into the playoffs.
Browns Resolution: Win this one at home. You’ve just hired a new GM, Mike Holmgren, so at this point everyone is playing for their job. Mike can make a good pick no matter where he is on the draft board, so it’s more important to go into this off season with a four game win streak and a mindset towards continuing that streak in 2010.
Jaguars Resolution: You have to win this one, but don’t expect much as a result. Face it coach JackDel Rio, this season is blown. Go hide for a few months, hope you don’t get fired, make some good free agent changes (see: cornerback, add one) and enjoy the golfing season.
Yes, we’re going with Chicago here. Matthew Stafford is gone, Kevin Smith is gone. It should be a no brainer.
Bears Resolution: Offensive line. You have to bulk up your offensive line. You’ll get Brian Urlacher back next year, and we all knew your season was hosed the minute he went down in Week One (much the way Pats fans knew our season was done when Tom Brady went down in Week One in 2008). You can easily find offensive line help in free agency. If you can’t run the ball in the windy city, you can’t win games. That’s why you’re not in the playoff picture this year.
Lions Resolution: Lose this one and you’ve got the second overall pick locked up. Stafford will be back next year, and you know you’ve got a kid who can win some games for you there. Help out your defense. Either Nebraska’s DT Suh or Oklahoma’s DT Gerald McCoy will be available, and both are projected to go top three. You need to stop the run in a division with Adrian Peterson if you ever hope to become relevant.
San Francisco over St. Louis +7
49ers Resolution: Is Alex Smith really the solution here? Singletary, pick an offense. Are you run first, or are you working out of spread formations? There’s a lot of decisions that need to be made in San Francisco before this team can hope to knock out the Cardinals as division champs. Make them and stick to your guns.
Rams Resolution: Congratulations St. Louis, you have the number one pick! Take Suh. The man is a beast. Look for a quarterback with your pick in the second round... Or offensive line... Or more defense. Let’s face it, you’ve got holes all over the field and no realistic plan to replace Steven Jackson. Take Suh though, the man is a beast.
Miami +3 over Pittsburgh
I don’t know why I like Miami here. I just do. Both teams have outside shots at getting into the playoffs. One of them definitely won’t make it, and I think it’s the Steelers.
Dolphins Resolution: Win this game and go into the off season on a good note. Ronnie Brown will be back, and with Ricky Williams you’ve got a dynamo running core. I like Chad Henne too, he could turn into a winner in this league. He needs weapons in the passing game though. Ted Ginn Jr is not a reliable receiver, no matter how explosive he may be in the return game. Devone Bess is a good underneath option, but he hasn’t broken a big play all year. Receiver Dez Bryant is available through the draft, and there could be a few options in free agency, but the Fins need to address that position.
Yes he extends plays and turns them into big gainers, but he needs to work on the clock in his head. Throw the ball away once in a while, you’ll find you won’t need as many of those big gainers when it’s not second and 18.
NYG +9 over Minnesota
The Vikes will win this one, but not by nine points. The Giants really have nothing to play for, and are ready for this season to be over. It’s been an up and down battle for them all year, with only themselves to blame for not making a run this year.
Giants Resolution: Replace Antonio Pierce. He’s not the every down linebacker he used to be, and proved this season he could be subject to breakdown. It’s easier said than done, obviously, but it’s a requirement to have a middle linebacker who can quarterback your defense.
Vikings Resolution: Win this game and hope for an Eagles loss. To me, you need the bye week more than any other team in the NFC. Your defense is floundering without EJ Henderson and you need a week off to get your act together.
As a more long term goal, you need to put Adrian Peterson in a room alone with Tiki Barber for six months. His fumbling problems need to be addressed. That issue alone cost the Vikings home-field advantage and possibly even the bye week and if it continues, could cost them a Super Bowl.
Atlanta over Tampa Bay +2.5
Atlanta has Matt Ryan back, and that means a whole lot for this team’s chances. His mid season turf toe injury, combined with Michael Turner’s high ankle sprain, cost the Falcons a playoff run. They should win this game.
Falcons Resolution: Make sure you go into 2010 with a spell back for Michael Turner, and work on that defensive secondary. You’re in good shape though, a playoff run in 2010 is in the cards.
Bucs Resolution: If Josh Freeman is your answer, give him some weapons. He needs wide receivers. With the third overall pick though, a more reasonable selection would be Tennessee safety Eric Berry. The Bucs haven’t had an impact player at that position since John Lynch left, and he could be the anchor this defense needs.
New Orleans over Carolina (off)
New Orleans needs this win and Steve Smith has a broken arm.
Saints Resolution: Defense, Defense, Defense. That’s the mantra for the Saints in the playoffs. They’ve lost two in a row after starting 13-0. It’s time to get back on track, and make the run to the Super Bowl.
Panthers Resolution: Matt Moore has shown he can lead this team to victory, and may be the replacement for Jake Delhomme in 2010. If not Matt Moore, it needs to be someone though. Delhomme is inconsistent and the position needs to be addressed in the off season.
New England +8 over Houston
This game doesn’t mean a whole lot to the Pats for the playoff picture, but the Pats never lay down deliberately. It’s just not the Belichick way. Houston needs some help to get into the playoffs, but I expect a Pats win, so good luck next year.
Patriots Resolution: Get back to the basics. Embrace the field goal as a viable scoring method, they make the difference. There’s no reason to go for it on fourth and two from the six yard line. It’s okay to punt too, play for field position. That’s how you win in the playoffs, so do it. They can beat any team on any week, so play like it.
Texans Resolution: The three headed monster of Steve Slaton, Ryan Moats, and Chris Brown at running back has been ineffective at best this season. I’m not sure if it’s the offensive line or the guys with the ball, but it needs to be figured out. This team is on the verge, and if they can figure out how to beat the Colts, of making the next step as a franchise.
Philadelphia +3 over Dallas
This could be the biggest game of the week in terms of playoff position. The winner takes the NFC East and gets home-field advantage in the first round. If the Eagles win, they have next week off and home-field advantage in the divisional round as well.
Eagles Resolution: Win in Big D and take a week off to prepare for round two. The road still goes through New Orleans though, but with the way Minnesota and New Orleans have played of late, the door is wide open in the NFC.
Cowboys Resolution: The Cowboys need this win too, and in order to do it, DeMarcus Ware needs a big day rushing Donovan McNabb. Michael Jenkins is turning into a good cornerback, but the Eagles deep passing game is too good for the ‘Boys if they don’t get pressure on Donovan. If they lose, they have to go to Minnesota next week, and I don’t think anybody wants to go there. Their biggest resolution is to win in the playoffs though. At some point, the finger will have to be pointed at Wade Phillips and Tony Romo if they can’t get a win.
Kansas City +13 over Denver
Okay, so I don’t think KC will win, but 13 is too large a spread against a Denver team without Brandon Marshall, who will be sitting on Sunday with a nagging hamstring.
Chiefs Resolution: Win this game and spoil the Broncos playoff bid. After that, get some help for your offensive line. ESPN’s Todd McShay projects you taking OK State's OT Russell Okung, and I can’t disagree with your need for a stud left tackle. There was a time when the Chiefs had a dominant O-line, and if they want to compete with the Broncos and Chargers again, they need to get back there. Matt Cassel needs to be protected.
Broncos Resolution: I’m really quite surprised Marshall won’t be playing Sunday. Maybe it’s part of his plan to let the Broncos know how much he’s worth in the event of a Denver loss here. Conspiracy theories aside, they should win either way, and are next in line to make the playoffs in the event of a Ravens or Jets loss. In the off-season, they have the Bears' first round pick, which means an early round pick. At this point, look for a play-maker on offense or defense, a difference maker that can turn games in your direction.
This could be our upset of playoff teams that control their own destiny. Oakland can win this game at home, and send the Ravens home for the season. In fact, I just called that.
Raiders Resolution: Re-sign Richard Seymour somehow. Otherwise, your 2011 first overall pick goes for nought, and you have to spend your 2010 first round pick to replace him with Florida DE Carlos Dunlap. Apparently he’s got questionable work ethic and a DUI, so he’ll fit right in with the silver and black. The most important advice I can give to Al Davis is to let go. Hire someone to run the team for you or you won’t see another winner before you take the infinite dirt nap.
Ravens Resolution: Baltimore needs a wide receiver. They got lucky that Desmond Mason decided to play another season. I’m certainly not sure he’ll make the same move in 2010, and in that event Joe Flacco will have no options in the passing game. Mark Clayton is not a number one receiver. Available Wide Receivers in the draft are Dez Bryant, Golden Tate, and Mardy Gilyard.
This game doesn’t mean much to either team, but depending on the outcome of the weekends games, these teams could be facing each other again next week. Both teams should try to avoid that scenario.
Packers Resolution: You’ve done a good job adapting to a new 3-4 defensive scheme this year, and if I’m you, I stay on that track. Look for a cornerback to help out aging Charles Woodson and Al Harris. In the meantime, focus on winning playoff games. They’ve got as good a chance as any other NFC team to go the distance, and I think they’d like another shot at Minnesota.
Cardinals Resolution: In position to make it back to the Super Bowl, that is the Cardinals goal. Keep Kurt Warner on his feet and in the pocket and they can do that. In the off season, re-sign Darnell Dockett. He’s not a happy man when it comes to his contract, but needs to be because he’s a force on the Arizona defensive line.
San Diego over Washington +4
San Diego is good enough to win this game with LaDanian Tomlinson on the bench, and will do just that.
Chargers Resolution: The talk around town is that this is the Chargers year. They certainly look like the team to beat in the AFC, as questions about the Colts dedication to excellence surface. Although, the Chargers haven’t gotten it done in the playoffs in recent years with this group, led by LDT. Play like they have in the second half of the season, and they could be the AFC representative in the big game.
Redskins Resolution: Is the Jason Campbell experiment over yet in Washington? Certainly the Jim Zorn experiment is over. There will be changes in Washington, and Mike Shanahan as the head coach could be the best off season move the Skins could make.
Tennessee +4 over Seattle
The Titans should win this game and still have an outside shot of going to the playoffs.
Titans Resolution: Playoffs or no Playoffs, this season was a success for Jeff Fischer and company. Though they started 0-6, they turned it around with vigor and rediscovered that Vince Young is a starting QB in the NFL and Chris Johnson established himself as possibly the most complete young running back in the league. WR Kenny Britt has also done well in his debut season, and should develop into a solid number two receiver or low end number one. In the off season, they should look for a true number one receiver if they can find one, and get younger in the defensive front seven.
Seahawks Resolution: Look for a Matt Hasselback replacement. He’s 35 and apparently prone to injury, and Seneca Wallace is not the answer. They have the Broncos first round pick, along with their own pick. Perhaps a reach on Bradford or Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen with one of those picks is in order.
Cincinnati +10 over NYJ
I’m not sure I could turn down a spread this large. Everyone is saying the Bengals will lay down like the Colts did last week, but I’m not so sure that’s true. If the Bengals lose to the Jets this week, they have to play them again next week. That’s not a good scenario for Cincy.
Bengals Resolution: Beat the Jets. This is Round One of the playoffs for Cincy. Then find some offense to go with their defense, otherwise they’re not going to go far in the playoffs. In the off season, look for a Tight End to compliment Chad Ochocinco andLaveranues Coles. If this team is going to run an offense like this, they need a Todd Heap/Heath Miller type of player in their offense.
Jets Resolution: Obviously start with a win on Sunday, then lose next week. I hate the Jets. They need to strengthen their offensive line in the off season.
So those are the resolutions, we’ll see how many of these teams follow through.
See you next week for the playoffs!
I failed to fill out my Yahoo! Picks multiple times this year, so I’m going to have to do some heavy analysis to figure out how many I got right this year. I’ll let you know the final tally next week, so you can decide if it’s worth it to listen to me next year.