Horfin’s NFL Preseason Prognostications
(x- Division Winner; y-Wild Card Team)
(DB = Secondary)
Dallas Cowboys: The strongest aspect of this team is coaching. The Defensive line should be fun to watch. However, other than those two aspects, the Cowboys are a below average team. Bledsoe is not the answer, especially with the aging and depleting offensive line. Bledose will get sacked a lot, taking the effectiveness of Jones down a notch or two. Further, Jones may be injury prone, and if it happens again, the A-Train probably is not the answer. The linebacking core is the weakest link of this team. If the opponent makes it through the first line of defense, you could see some big gains on the ground. This is a probability as the line is now a 3-4 and Ellis and Glover won’t play as much.
New York Giants: With very strong Wide Receivers and a heck of a Tight End, Manning should have a ton of Opportunities. Jim Miller is now the mentor for Manning, which is an Odd role. With a Terrible Line, the great WRs should not make a difference. Last year the Passing Offense sucked (for lack of a better term) as NO starting WR had a touchdown the entire season. The D-Line is weak, which should put pressure on the DBs. The DBs are adequate but against a smart QB with good WRs, this team will have trouble keeping up.
Philadelphia Eagles: Two problems for Philly: The distractions of T.O. and History. The last four super bowl losers failed to make it to the Playoffs the following year. That being the case, every aspect of this football team (with maybe the Linebackers as an exception) is in the top 10. This team would be stronger with a different RB, but with Reid, Westbrook excels. The Offense is the best in the NFC and the DBs are the best in the NFC. The D-Line is easily in the top 3 in the NFC. Short of T.O. blowing up this team or a traumatic series of injuries, the Eagles should go far.
Washington Redskins: This team has problems and is clearly the worst team in the Division. The QB is not an NFL caliber QB. The O-Line is not (historically) adequate to protect him. There is no real #1 WRs, its more like there are 3 #3 WRs. That in itself is a bad combination. To make matters worse, Washington has very little in the way of DBs. With Smoot leaving, this is the second season in a row that Washington is rebuilding its Secondary. Washington should have problems against passing teams, luckily there is not too much of that in this division.
NFC East Projection Wins Losses
x-Philadelphia Eagles 13 3
y-Dallas Cowboys 9 7
New York Giants 8 8
Washington Redskins 5 11
Chicago Bears: Lovie Smith’s career at Chicago should end at the end of this season. His QBs have been cursed and it continues again this year. Instead of going with a proven veteran of Blake he has elected to go with an unknown Rookie. This offense will be one of the worst in the NFL this season. There is an unknown QB and no big play WR (the number one receiver was RB Jones). Defensively this team is talented and well coached. The weakest part of this Defense is the LBs and that shows how good the DBs and D-Line are. If this team wins 5 games this year 5 of them will be due to the defense.
Detroit Lions: Of all the teams in the league this one has to be the worst at decision making. The choice of Harrington over McMahon will plague this team for years. Harrington is not a starting QB, at least not yet. The WRs are very good and potentially great, but with this guy (and even Garcia) at QB it does not matter. With a bad O-Line, the Running game and the passing game will suffer. The defense is as bad as the Offense, the talent is in place in the second and third tier, but the D-Line will destroy this team, it will get gashed and gashed again.
Green Bay Packers: Last year this team had problems on Defense and this year it will be the same. The Offense is the same and should continue to pad the numbers for Favre and Ahman Green. If Green goes back to his fumbling issues, then this team will not make 8-8. The DBs are the worst in the NFC and probably the worst in the league. The LB core is just as poor. The front line can’t hold off offenses and every game will become a question of who can score more points. The Packers just did not do enough in the off-season to create a better defense around a very good offense.
Minnesota Vikings: Everyone is talking about Moss, but what they should be talking about the improvements that Moss provided by his exit. This team improved its defense (something the other teams in this division did not do). Minnesota added: Cowart and Harris at LB, Sharper at Safety and Smoot at CB, not to mention Pat Williams for the D-Line. With Moss gone so are the distractions and Culpepper and the 5 or 10 Running backs can focus on Football instead of interviews about Moss’ antics. The receivers are there and Culpepper will be the star. This team is MUCH improved on both sides of the ball.
NFC Nh Projection Wins Losses
x-Minnesota Vikings 10 6
Green Bay Packers 8 8
Detroit Lions 5 11
Chicago Bears 5 11
Atlanta is a very well rounded team. The Defense got faster. The problem with the team is Vicks lack of WRs with Price gone and his inability to become a great passer. The defense will keep them in games and Vicks heroics should assist them in close games. On Defense, the DBs are definitely a source of difficulties and against good passing teams (as well as good passing defenses) Atlanta should fall short.
There are three issues that surround this team: (1) They finished 6-2 last season;(2) They have never beaten Vick and (3) Will Steroid issues overshadow any accomplishments. Like Atlanta, Carolina is a very well rounded team. Carolina is as good on defense as they will be on offense. Assuming there are no problems with Injuries, Carolina should turn the ship around and make the playoffs. Further the Defense only got stronger over the off-season. The running game should be one of the best in the League.
New Orleans Saints
Aaron Brooks makes very poor decisions however the Running Game should keep them in most games. There are good Wide Receivers, however, with Brooks’ bad decisions the whole team rests on McAllister’s shoulders. New Orleans under Haslett always starts strong and finishes poorly. This year, the Saints will start poorly and finish poorly. Absolutely nothing was done in the off-season to cure the defensive woes that destroyed last season’s hopes.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay has (next to Chicago) the worst offense in the League. The QB situation is horrendous, the RB is a rookie with absolutely no offensive line. Short of Galloway becoming the WR he was supposed to become, this team has absolutely no passing alternatives. Defensively, the Bucs are still a decent team, however the team is aging and slowly deteriorating. The Defense is a few injuries away from being a below average defense. Its hard to choose one area that is the worst, be it the QB, RB, WR, however, you have to consider that both the O-Line and D-Line won’t be able to compete.
NFC South Projection Wins Losses
x-Carolina Panthers 11 5
y-Atlanta Falcons 10 6
New Orleans Saints 6 10
Tampa Bay Bucs 5 11
Arizona is clearly taking steps in the right direction. The new logo and new uniforms is just symbolism of the new philosophy. Arizona has cut out the dead wood (for the most part) and has brought in players that seem to fit Denny Green’s style of team. Kurt Warner should fit in spectacularly with Denny’s offense. Green filled all the holes with free agents. This team begins to gel and actually has potential to end in 2nd place in the division. However, next year will be Dennis Greens season to remember.
St Louis Rams
This season, St Louis will begin its return to the greatest show on turf. On paper the switch from Faulk to Jackson looks dumb, but Jackson will become a NFL star and it should happen this season. Bolger will again be effective at home and the turf issues will fall by the wayside. St Louis filled all the gaps with Free Agents pick ups and some through the draft. This team has the one of the best offenses in the NFL and with major changes on defense, the Rams have the potential to get the Number 1 seed. Martz makes dumb decisions which will keep them from the number 1 seed.
San Francisco 49ers
With Rattay at QB, all the 49ers have is a perennial 2nd string QB. With Smith at QB, all the 49ers have is the hope for the future. All in All this is the worst team in the NFL. Add to that mix an underachieving Running Back. Further, on offense there is absolutely no big-play (or even small-play) Wide Receiver. On Defense things don’t get any better. The LB are the only bright spot. The rest is either aging or unknown. Last season this team won absolutely no games in regulation.
Seattle made a big move in picking up Peter Warrick. Problem with Warrick is he has been injured and has always had alligator arms in the NFL. He should fit right in with Seattle’s other WR. On Offense the running game keeps this game together. The WRs have talent with one exception: they can’t catch the ball. The QB is barely above average and is and will be the downfall of Holmgren. The only thing that makes this team a real contender is the potential on Defense. The DBs are back and better. They should do well against passing teams.
NFC West Projection Wins Losses
x-St Louis Rams 10 6
Seattle Seahawks 9 7
Arizona Cardinals 8 8
San Francisco 49ers 3 13
Releasing Bledsoe wasn’t the best move for this team in the short-term, but it may prove well in the long run. At some point you have to pull the trigger and let the chips fall where they may. Buffalo is doing that this year with Losman. The highlight of this team was they finished last year 6-1 and set scoring records in that span. However, they let the QB go that engineered that record and that scoring. Doesn’t make much sense. With the initiation of a new QB, the Offense should be questionable in the first of the season. Other than the D-Line the defense is stiff and strong. The Defense should keep the team in the running for part of the season, but a slow start will keep them out of the playoffs.
Gus who? Rickie the Druggie? And one decent WR. Throw in to that an inexperienced coaching staff and you will find the 2nd worst team in the NFL. However, they will look better than the 49ers. This offense will fight with Chicago to see who can be the worst offense. Fortunately, this offense has more experience than Chicago. The Defense is stronger than the offense, but that doesn’t mean much. The D-Line is weak and players may flee Miami in fear of the three year building process that is going on. This Miami D, outside of the D-Line, is average or slightly above. There won’t be enough here to let them complete in a division with the Patriots and the Jets.
New England Patriots
Until it is proven otherwise, New England has to be considered the best team in the NFL. What they have accomplished over the last four years is better than the Steelers of the 70s, the 49ers of the 80s-90s and the Cowboys of the 70s and 90s. And before you scoff at that statement, in year 1 an unknown rookie QB takes them into victory. In the second victorious year, they come of a losing season wherein everyone said “one and done” and pull it off with a team concept. Last year, the Patriots had the second most injured team in the NFL, used a WR on Defense from the beginning to end, and did not have home field advantage in the AFC championship game, yet they won the Superbowl. This year may be too much to overcome. (1) With Wies gone and Crennel gone, 2/3 of the bosses are gone. (2) The team leader on defense is gone. (3) Another LB is gone and (4) 2 WRs familiar with this offense are gone. The addition of Dwight and Terrell should strengthen this team. No doubt that the addition of Chad Scott and D. Starks with strengthen this team. In a league of parity you have to wonder how long Billichek can keep it together. Based upon the above the answer is: at least through the 2005 season, but it is slowly falling apart.
New York Jets
There is not enough respect for Curtis Martin. Year after Year he pounds it out, but he never seems to become a superstar. On the flip side, there is way too much respect for Pennington. I believe Pennington missed the entire off-season recovering from shoulder surgery. I don’t know what this means, but he should be rusty in the beginning. The WR position seems to be on the short stack, but the return of Chebret gives them a chance to double up. On Defense across the board this team is above average. The Jets should do well simply due to the fact of the division they are in and their schedule. Give them 4 victories due to Buffalo and Miami. Throw in games against Tampa Bay and New Orleans and you have 6 simple victories. If they win less than half of the remaining they still win 10.
AFC East Projection Wins Losses
x-New England Patriots 12 4
y-New York Jets 10 6
Buffalo Bills 7 9
Miami Dolphins 4 12
Last year the Texans had two main issues: Pass Protection and Pass rush. Guess what, they didn’t do anything about it in the off-season. That results in little improvement for this team. The team conducted a whole-sale review of the defense and may have done short-term damage for long-term results. With little improvement and no excuses, this team should take a step backwards. This won’t be the year for the Texans to break through.
They did it. It took Dungy long enough, but he realized that if he wants to get past New England he can’t hang it all on the offense. There has to be some Defensive support. I don’t think there is much need to talk about the offense: Best QB, Top 5 RB, Top 3 WR. Add to that Two other WRs that had 1000 rushing yards and an O-Line that is great at pass blocking and you have the best offense in the league. They did it. They did something on the defense. The difference between the Colts and other teams is they build through the draft. Five of their top 6 picks were all on defense. The DBs should be better by the end of the year, Freeny will continue to explode as the D-Line and LBs continue to improve. The D-Line may just be the best in the league. The only question that remains is: Can Manning beat Brady?
Last year Jax was the surprise team for many of us. This year, I don’t think it continues. First, 6 of their first 7 games are against Playoff Teams. Last year they were 3-4 vrs. Playoff Teams. This team could easily begin 2-5 or 3-4. A beginning like that could spell disaster. However, after that span, they could go on the move. In the event that Taylor decides to stay healthy this offense can be potent. On Defense the team is strong. However, the DBs are the weak spot and in games against Tenny and Indy, this should be highlighted, making it apparent for other teams playing this Jaguar team.
Remember the Titans. The good ole years. One Yard away from tying the game. My poor titans. Things get better this year. If there is an excuse from last year it is this: The titans starters missed a combined 120+ games due to injuries (New England was second with more than 30). However, this is a new year and a new hope exists. To my dismay, this will only be hope. On Offense, they have the right coaching and the right QB, however, the running game is not as good as people will estimate. The O-line is getting mixed up and moved and older. This could spell danger for the season. On Defense, the D-Line and the D-Backs are a major concern and in this division with Indy (passing) and Houston and Jax (rushing) there will be heartbreaks in the Music City. The first four games of the season are rough and tough, after that the next twelve are easier (some of the games are: Houston, Arizona, Oakland, Cleveland, San Fran, Houston, Seattle and Miami). If they can open 2-2 or 1-3 they may just push for a playoff spot. (I am a big Titans fan, so take all of this with a grain of salt.)
AFC South Projection Wins Losses
x-Indianapolis Colts 11 5
Tennessee Titans 8 8
Jacksonville Jaguars 7 9
Houston Texans 5 11
Don’t get caught up in any hype with this team. The Ravens are still recovering from the loss of (shall I say it?) Trent Dilfer. The decision to get rid of Dilfer after the Superbowl has to be the worst decision of the Decade. There is NO QB on this team that is worth playing. Baltimore has losses of Coaching Staff on both Offense and Defense. Further glance at their Schedule. They have 5 games versus playoff teams and 5 more games versus teams with 10 or more wins. Thus 5/8 of their games are against very good teams. Throw in 2 more versus Cincinnait and they have 12 games that should be rough. That all results in the 6th hardest schedule in the League. The Running Game of Lewis and the Defense (although there were some losses) will keep this team competitive.
This is another team that you have to be concerned about all the hype. At best, with every ball bouncing in their direction, this is a 10-6 team. More likely it is a 9-7 team. Offensively this team is spectacular and over the next few years will become competitive with St. Louis and Indy for the top offense. Defensively and coaching are were their problems lie. The loss of Herring for the season could result in another 8-8 record. The Bengals made more improvements. And if Pittsburgh is not all that it is cracked up to be, the Bengals could fall into the playoffs. The biggest question is will they start 1-4. The Previous two seasons (all of Lewis’ seasons) the Bengals started 1-4.
Its easy for prognosticators to say Cleveland will be the worst team in the league. But Miami, San Fransisco, Chicago and Tampa Bay will give them a run for this position. A Superbowl champion will be the Starting QB (who will be playing in the appropriate offense for his talents). Just don’t lose the game stupid. However, with New Coaching, A new QB, A new RB and Rookie WRs there are MAJOR issues on this team. Further, the LB and DB are questionable. The only definite is a decent D-Line. Cleveland will surprise some teams. Cleveland will win more than people think. They will not be a laugher and they will not be an easy win for most teams.
Regardless of what Rothisberger (sp?) does this season, you have to look at all the losses: 2 O-Linemen, a Great WR and Kendrell Bell. If Big Ben falls to the Sophomore Jynx, this could be a long long season following a 15-1 season. If that happens, Cincinnati could find themselves jettisoned into a division championship. However, you can not overly discount what Pittsburgh did last year. The RBs are either old or are not the perfect fit. Hines Ward is still arguing about his contract. In the one division where everything seems to be up in the air it is hard to figure out where this team will fall. However, if things continue as last season, there are no muddy waters. One thing is clear, barring any injury, this is the strongest defense in the division.
AFC North Projection Wins Losses
x-Pittsburgh Steelers 11 5
y-Cincinnati Bengals 9 7
Baltimore Ravens 8 8
Cleveland Browns 5 11
How many RB’s can this team go through before they find a bust? It seems as though Denver has a bottomless barrel of RBs? I think they may have gone to the well too many times. This team has a decent QB and some good WRs, however, the line is slowly dismantling and this won’t help the 5th new RB since Terrell Davis. On Defense the LBs and DBs hold the squad together. All-in-All this is an above average team in most positions, but that’s about it.
Kansas City Chiefs:
The Chiefs made a decent attempt to change the Defense which is clearly what they needed. Even with Holms healthy this team just doesn’t have enough. There are no WRs to help Green, not to mention the fact that Green isn’t the man for the job anymore. Kansas City made strong moves to shore up a weak DB and a weak LB slots. However, the D-Line is not good enough to stop the running games of Denver or San Diego. Nor were the improvements at DB good enough to stop the new found offensive weapon of Oakland or the passing games of Denver and San Diego.
Which team got the better deal in the Moss-Minnesota trade? It doesn’t matter, both Minnesota and Oakland improved their teams with the move. Oakland is the perfect spot for Moss, although it is questionable if K. Collins is the right QB for him. With the addition of L. Jordan Oakland may find the running game that has been missing since the days of Napoleon Kaufman. Oakland made efforts to clean up the problems on defense. However, the changes probably are not enough to get this team into the playoffsthis year. However, this team wins more games than most will project and kinda like the Bengals, if everything falls their way, they may fall into the playoffs.
San Diego Chargers:
Brees finally proved himself last year and should continue with his heroics this year. Brees needs another WR and Marty should have picked up Peter Warrick off the Bengals. However, this team hinges on L. Tomlinson and not on Brees. (Although they are a better team with Brees at QB). On Defense, the team is average (save maybe the LB position). Since they rely on a running game and have lower quality WRs if they fall behind it is unlikely that they will recover. On paper they appear to be the best team in the Division and within the top 4 of the Conference.
AFC North Projection Wins Losses
x-San Diego Chargers 11 5
Denver Broncos 9 7
Oakland Raiders 7 9
Kansas City Chiefs 7 9
3. St. Louis
Dallas @ St. Louis - St. Louis (winner)
Atlanta @ Minnesota - Minnesota (winner)
Atlanta @ Philadelphia - Philadelphia (Winner)
St. Louis @ Carolina - St. Louis (Winner)
St. Louis @ Philadelphia - St. Louis (Winner)
1. New England
4. San Diego
5. NY Jets
Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh (winner)
NY Jets @ San Diego - NY Jets (winner)
NY Jets @ New England- New England (Winner)
Pittsburgh @ Indianapolis - Indianapolis (Winner)
Indianapolis @ New England - Indianapolis (Winner)
Indianapolis Colts defeat St. Louis Rams