Here are my quick picks for the 2006-07 NFL Season.
1. New England
4. NY Jets
The Patriots aren't as good as in the past, but people are a little out in front of themselves on the Dolphins. I've never been a Culpepper fan and as crazy as it sounds, I think they would be just as good with Joey Harrington behind center.
Buffalo will be in every game this year, and aren't as far behind the other 2 as they are thought to be. The Jets might be the worst team in the NFL.
The Colts continue to be the best team in the NFL, but as long as they face 3-4 defenses in the playoffs, they will struggle to make it to the Super Bowl. The Jaguars have the NFL's best defensive line, but they suffer without any offensive playmakers. Everything went wrong in Houston last year and I suspect they might have the biggest improvement in record in 2006. Jeff Fisher is one of the NFL's top coaches, but they have one of the worst roster in the league. He will likely be coaching with someone else in 2007.
The NFL's most explosive defense will enable the Steelers to win the division again. The Bengals have a brutal schedule, but their offense is the best in the NFL, as the Colts and Chiefs have fallen off a bit on this side of the ball. Common Wisdom is that the Ravens are still a dominant defensive team. Not the case. Ray Lewis is not player he used to be and the front four struggles against good running teams. Cleveland looked to be capable of moving up, but the loss of their offensive leader (center Bentley) should keep them in the cellar.
2. Kansas City
3. San Diego
The best division in the AFC, there is not much difference between the top 3 squads. It will be interesting to see how Jake Plummer plays knowing that the Broncos have their QB of the future (Cutler) waiting on the bench. The past 2 seasons, Drew Brees did well in the same situation and now we will see if Rivers can succeed. The 2 best running backs in the NFL, LT and Larry Johnson will keep both of their teams in the playoff chase. The Chiefs will be better on defense, with the addition of a healthy Ty Law and a head coach who understands ball control. Schottenheimer has struggled in the playoffs, but his teams can never be counted out in the regular season. The Raiders replaced one NFL failed coach, with another one, Art Shell.
1. NY Giants
Not much difference between these 4, but the Giants have more playmakers and this is the year Manning becomes the best QB in the division. The Redskins defense is excellent, but it's amazing that they didn't go after someone like Kerry Collins to back-up the fragile Brunell. If the Eagles can find some kind of running game, they will move up. The Cowboys are being seen as a Super Bowl contender by many, but I think the loss of offensive coordinator Payton will cause problems. Bledsoe is no longer a quality signal caller.
2. Tampa Bay
4. New Orleans
The Panthers are the most balanced team in the NFL, as long as Steve Smith is healthy. Fantasy Football injuries guru Will Carroll says though that Smith could struggle with his nagging injury all season. Considering how Smith was the most important player to his team in 2005, this will make the difference between the Super Bowl and just making the playoffs. I had the Bucs making the playoffs last year, but their schedule this year will cause them to fall just short. Considering that the Falcons new quarterback coach oversaw backup Matt Schaub at Virginia, he would be a better fit for the team than Vick. Yeah, you heard that right. Bad situation as how can you bench your star? The Saints will be exciting on offense, but their defense is a mess. If Brees is healthy, they could surprise, as he is a real leader. Most of Reggie Bush's big plays will be on screens and kick returns, as he will really miss the great offensive line of the Trojans.
4. Green Bay
The Bears seem to be the most likely team to win their division, but they are not the type of team to blow out their opposition, so expect a drop off in wins this year. At this point, Griese is a better QB than Grossman, so expect a QB controversy. The Vikings made a great move picking up the top guard in the NFL (Hutchison) and have improved their coaching staff. A tougher schedule will keep them from improving thier overall record. Jon Kitna and Mike Martz will create more stability on the offensive side of the ball, but not enough to move up past third. The Packers have no offensive line and their young coaching staff will have some growing pains.
2. St. Louis
4. San Francisco
There are many reasons why the Seahawks will struggle more this year, but playing these inferior teams 6 times will give them enough leeway to find themselves in the playoffs once again. While the Cards are being hyped, I have a hard time seeing how one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL is going to protect the most immobile QB (Warner). The Rams have a chance, as they will have a more stable season, after last year's Martz/front office war. The 49ers might actually win 5 games. Pretty sad to feel like that is an improvement.
AFC: Kansas City, San Diego
NFC: Redskins, Eagles
Super Bowl: Colts vs. Giants
Manning Bowl starts off the season and we wind up with the same game at the end. It's the greatest dream of the NFL and it actually comes true. Older brother schools younger brother and finally wins the elusive Super Bowl title.