Saturday, September 8, 2007

NFL Preview: The East

AFC: East

1. New England Patriots 13-3 (Last Year: 12-4)

After making the most moves/best moves in the off-season the Pats sured up virtually every weakness they had on their team. Their LB's were slow, they got Adalius Thomas, their WR's weren't game breakers, their top 3 WR's weren't with the team last year, and they had return problems on special teams, they traded for Wes Welker to handle those duties. With all those improvements there is some kind of uneasiness I have with the Pats. It's like for so long the Pats haven't been the most talented team, causing people to always question if the Pats could win. Now, it's more of a done deal. All the pieces are in place, and things are too good for the Pats. There is just a feeling that something could go very wrong this year. Starting with Tom Brady. Let's have the Sports Guy sum things up perfectly.
What an intriguing twist for the Manning-Brady rivalry! Manning comes through in the big Pats-Colts game, Manning wins the Super Bowl, Manning hosts Saturday Night Live ... meanwhile, the only way Brady's 2007 would have been rockier was if Bridget Moynihan named their new son "Peyton." (Which would have been the single most vindictive move by a female celebrity since Alanis Morissette released "You Oughta Know" in 1995).
Anyway, will everything implode? Probably not they're the Pats. Even if 5 things go wrong, the Pats can handle it.

Best Fantsy Player: Tom Brady - he finally gets to have a multitude of weapons around him. With Randy Moss and Donte Stallworth at WR and Laurence Maroney coming into his own at RB it is almost like Brady is being spoiled. He should be able to extract TD's like a surgeon extracts a gall bladder this year.

2. New York Jets 9-7 (Last Year: 10-6)

I like the Jets team this year. They made all the right moves last year, draft wise, and with Thomas Jones in at RB, proper strides have been taken. However, last year they had a much easier schedule, and while they'll still be playing Buffalo and Miami, the rest of their schedule is sure to make things harder for the Jets. They still need to stabalize their QB position, and Chad Pennington has looked horrible.

Best Fantasy Player: Thomas Jones - I've liked Thomas Jones since he was drafted by the Cardinals. Obviously things didn't go too great there, but in Chicago, he found what kind of back he was. Behind a very solid offensive line Jones should be able to shine, and as the main TD threat, that can only translate to fantasy points.

3. Buffalo Bills 8-8 (Last Year: 7-9)

God knows how the Bills can get rid of all their key defensive players, their best RB, and have J.P. Losman as their QB, but they're still improving as a team. It is really mindblowing. I mean J.P. Losman has turned into a decent NFL quarterback with one of the best deep balls in the game. Who knew? Not me, that's for sure. While Losman may be a one trick pony, it is a good trick. Lee Evans and Peerless Price give Losman good options, but the ability of this offense to work will rest on rookie RB Marshawn Lynch. While there were concerns about Lynch's back and off-field incidents before the draft, things seem to be going well for Lynch. Things better stay that way or he'll be getting suspended by Commissioner Goodell.

Best Fantasy Player: Marshawn Lynch - he could be the best rookie RB this year. Although I'm not so sold on his ability to suddenly be a star in Buffalo. Keep Option 1a. as Lee Evans.

4. Miami Dolphins 4-12 (Last Year: 6-10)

When you have a top 10 pick, you should be able to do better than, "He's a great return man." Trent Green is your QB, your defense is all you have and they're old, and for GODSAKE'S change your logo!

Best Fantasy Player: Chris Chambers - he is a good receiver, but with a drunk driving in the off-season and Trent Green throwing him the ball, things are looking bleak.

NFC: East

1. Philadelphia Eagles 11-5 (Last Year: 10-6)

Oh, the Birds. What can you say? If everything goes right, then you have your NFC Champs. If one thing goes wrong, the house of cards is going to fall just like that. If things go poorly, the NFL Year In Review Video for the Birds is going to be called "House of Cards: The Story of the 2007 Philadelphia Eagles." What can go wrong? Everything. Donovan, Jevon Kearse, Brian Westbrook, and Shawn Andrews aggravate past injuries, Kevin Curtis does not work out as a top WR, and the defense falls in on itself. Individually, there is over a 25% chance that each of those thigns can happen. That makes me worried. Add to that Andy Reid's personal problems with is kids, well that is putting a whole new level of concern to this season. I think Andy can separate family from work, but it has to affect him in SOME way.

I haven't been too impressed with Kevin Curtis this year, and he's definitely going to have to prove to me he can fill Donte Stallworth's shoes. He doesn't need to be spectacular, but if he can perform like Reggie Brown, then that' is all I ask.

The defense is always an issue. The gutsy move to release Jeremiah Trotter leaves a lot of pressure on second year LB Omar Gaither to fill in and step up, and new acquisition Takeo Spikes to work with Brian Dawkins to captain this defense. Sean Considine needs to make big strides at strong safety, but while both he and Gaither seem sure they'll be able to do so, it's their actions that will be the most important. Many are saying the key to the whole defense is Brodrick Bunkley's ability to be a factor and push that line to get more pressure on the QB and give the LB's room to make plays. I do agree Bunkley needs to pick it up and all indications are that he will be a large contributor this year, I think Mike Patterson needs to do the same. He is more experienced and should take more of a prodcutive role.

Overall, things are far from perfect for the Birds. A lot of things have to go right for them, and I think if everything does click, then they will be in the Super Bowl. That is how these things usually work: Drew Bledsow gets hurt and rookie Tom Brady comes in and wins a Super Bowl, Trent Green blows out his knee in the preseason and a former bag boy from the Canadian Football League named Kurt Warner wins a Super Bowl, and Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy loses his son to suicide only to pull his team together for an improbable run to the Super Bowl. So if things go right, I see great things ahead. It's what needs to happen.

Best Fantasy Player: Brian Westbrook - he is officially the most important part of the Eagles offense. When everyone is healthy, he is what makes things role. His durability will always be questioned, but as long as the Eagles run the ball with him, Correll Buckhalter, and Tony Hunt, Westbrook should get his screens and runs to produce a lot of yardage. Plus the touches he loses on the goal line to Hunt will be made up for in his pass catching ability in the redzone.

2. Washington Redskins 10-6 (Last Year: 5-11)

The 'Skins are my sleeper team this year. I basically don't see much of the rest of this division as a threat, so I figure some team has to step up to challenge the Birds. The Redskins have the talent and the ability to be a good football team. Their defense is solid, although I have no idea who any of their LB's are. For all I know, it's these guys. Anyway, the talent is there, they have a proven coaching staff, two solid RB's to spell each other, and most importantly I think Jason Campbell can be a functioning quarterback. They don't need anything spectacular, just a QB that won't turn the ball over and can make 2 of 5 big plays. As long as they can run the ball with Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts, they can control the field and win some games in the NFC.

Best Fantasy Player: Clinton Portis - although his knee is an issue, you can't sell him too short. If the offense gets moving, holes should open up in front of him and he should be able to get the TD's he desperately needs.

3. Dallas Cowboys 8-8 (Last Year: 9-7)

Plain and simple, I'm not a believer in Tony Romo. He has flaws that can be exposed, and teams that have film on him now can expose them. He has put together a nice pre-season, but what does that mean? His phyche has to be shaky after that Seahawks game, and the bright lights of Dallas may be too much for him to take. Hell, Terrell Owens has managed to insult him and it's been a quiet pre-season for TO. Plus the defense has never really come together like it should have, with Roy Williams being shockingly close to becoming the next Michael Lewis. The RB situation needs to be worked out. I don't know if Marion Barber can handle a full load, but he should because he is much more explosive that Julius Jones.

Best Fantasy Player: Marion Barber - he wasn't just a one year wonder. Even if he doesn't get his carries, he is still the guy they turn to at the goal line, and it may only be a matter of time before the carries start to tip in Barber's favor.

4. New York Giants 5-11 (Last Year: 8-8)

The Giants lack of talent on the offensive line and from the LB's back to the secondary makes this team the weakest in the division. Losing their best offensive player in Tiki Barber doesn't help either. The Giants know Tom Coughlin is going to be fired at the end of the year, so what is the motive to play for him? The team has no true leader outside of Michael Strahan, who just decided to come back and play for this team, and it certainly doesn't help to have Tiki ripping on everyone from his former team. Regarding that, I think that Tiki can write whatever he wants in his book. Those are his thoughts and feelings, but to bring up random moments and bash players like Eli Manning on his TV gig is inappropriate. As an analyst it is important to draw on his experiences as a player, not throw former players under the bus. I don't care what anyone says, but do you think anyone on the Giants actually liked Tiki? Can you imagine hanging out with him? He would be so pompous and arrogant. Everything about him as a person is calculated and planned out, fake if you will. He's clearly criticizing his former teammates as a way to separate himself from football player Tiki into broadcaster Tiki, but the bottomline is that he's just not a good broadcaster so far. The way he was talking about going into the media, you'd think he would be a little more "real". He's not a news anchor, he's an analyst for a football show and dabbles in morning show work. He needs to be a person not Tiki-bot.

Moving away from Tiki for a second, I think Eli will step up this year. He'll have his best year to date, but the people around him won't help. I see new RB Brandon Jacobs splitting carries with Reuben Droughns by week 8 due to Jacobs fumbling and overall ineffecitveness. There are just to many holes for them to handle.

Best Fantasy Player: Eli Manning - like I said, this will be Eli's best year as a pro, it has to be. If he fails, you can stick a fork in Eli at least as a Giant. I say this because times when everything isn't perfect and you need someone to step up, you're QB and former #1 pick should be that guy. He doesn't have Tiki to defer to. He has to be the leader and come into his own as a football player. It's time to put those partying ways behind you, Eli.

Monday: Post-Season and Awards

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