Hype is a seductive siren. It draws you in, it convinces you of its worthiness, and often times does not live up to the talk.
Some teams are already riding the high expectations' train. I apologize to the fans of the following teams, but I foresee their train going to Letdown City rather than Titletown.
Cleveland Browns (10-6 in 2007)
How excited is the NFL for the Browns to succeed this year? They have five prime time games scheduled for this season. The same as the 18-1 Patriots, Peyton Manning's Colts, America's Team Cowboys, and more than the defending champion Giants. Seems pretty extreme for a non-playoff team the previous year.
Taking a closer look at their 10-6 record, they only beat one playoff team (Seattle) and six of their wins were by less than a touchdown. A very thin line between a 10-6 year, and a 4-12 year. They got extremely lucky that Derek Anderson excelled after their entire coaching staff felt Charlie Frye was the better player for Week 1.
Will Anderson continue to play well? Their offense will have to keep winning shoot outs if their defense continues to allow a touchdown more per game than the AFC playoff teams. I like the Shaun Rogers acquisition but it might not be enough to help their 26th ranked rush defense and 24th ranked overall pass defense.
New York Giants (10-6 in 2007)
A surprising NFL champion if any and an inspiring story, but don't let repeating cross your mind. In arguably the toughest division in the league, I don't know if I can see the Giants even making the playoffs this year. Losing Michael Strahan (retirement), Kawika Mitchell (Bills), and now Jeremy Shockey (Saints) is a lot of talent to replace.
Furthermore, they were an anomaly, going 7-1 on the road in the regular season. They also struggled against winning teams in the regular season going 3-6 against teams above .500. Their 2008 schedule includes 11 games against teams who finished 8-8 or better.
Green Bay Packers (13-3 in 2007)
Don't mind the fact that they're losing the greatest statistical quarterback in NFL history. This team has greater worries. First off, Ryan Grant is currently not on the practice field demanding a new contract. The latest offer was described as "insulting." Grant and his 5.1 yards per carry last season were one of the primary reasons that the Packers (and Favre) had one of their best seasons in recent memory.
Their defense anchored by A.J. Hawk was another reason they were in the NFC title game. However, they had the 23rd easiest schedule and will face tougher matchups this season. A brutal stretch run from Week 3 to Week 12 where they face five playoff teams, New Orleans on the road, and Chicago, who swept the Pack last season, could bury them.
With Rodgers never starting a game before, will his durability stand up? Unless Favre suddenly agrees to be the backup, there is a void of Matt Flynn and Brian Brohm holding the clipboard to step in. Their season rests in Rodgers' untested hands.
Those hands will also have the added pressure of the second guessing to not accept Favre back all season. I don't envy the kid's situation, but the best thing he can do is perform well and prove everyone (including me) wrong.
Look also at my Three Candidates for the Surprise Teams of 2008.
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