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saxoneagle 29-09-2008 03:43 PM

(It's quite a long read, and this is just the first half!)

When I did my opening speech, way back four weeks ago, everything was based on last year. You know, AP running away with games in a Vikes just-too-late run to the play-offs, the ĎSkins just-in-time run to the play-offs, the Seahawks winning the NFC West for what seemed like the millionth year in a row, the G-men over-achieving to win the big one Ė and that was just half of the league. On the other side, Peyton was injured but on his way back, we still had LT and, of course, we had the near-perfect team.

So, it was un-surprising when some of my choices reflected this. Vikings making a good run at the table as Jackson settles behind centre knowing AP is behind, the ĎSkins challenging the Cowboys for the East title while the Giants slip back and Seahawks win the West again. In the AFC the usual suspects were the usual suspects with the Steelers, Colts, Pats and Chargers all highly, and quite fairly, tipped for some post-season action.

But as Bob Dylan said, ďthe times they are a changiníĒ. And so they are; from one QB controversy to another, some up and coming excellent young guns, some less impressive and the ultimate lesson in why not to cut tackle.

So, where to start. I know Ė the pundits call it the toughest division in the NFL and, so far, it is hard to disagree.

NFC East
Cowboys (original prediction (OP) 12-4, updated prediction (UP) 12-4)
Continue to impress behind some solid performances from Romo, TO, Witten and Barber.

The most impressive thing about Romo? He forgets. No, he doesnít forget how to play, he just forgets the last play, especially when he has screwed up. Fumble in the end zone? So what. Against the Redskins, they still managed to move the ball despite giving up their unbeaten record.

The Cowboys claimed they would never have drafted McFadden given the chance and instead took his stable mate for a lower pick and less money. Felix Jones is an outstanding runner and will share more and more touches with Barber as the season progresses.

On the other side of the ball they looked shaky against divisional rivals, the Eagles and Redskins, but they showed more menace against the Packers in Green Bay after closing down on the disappointing Browns in week 1. Adam or Pacman (I donít care which) plus Zach Thomas - could these be the inspired signings that get the Cowboys a post-season win? Iím afraid to admit that it might do and I think more than one.

NY Giants (OP 9-7, UP 11-5)
Eli did great in the Superbowl in a clutch situation, but heíd not looked solid at all, really, had he? Well, post ring ceremony and Eli is showing composure that wouldnít look out of place in a Colts shirt with ďManningĒ on the back. In the opening game against the ĎSkins the hard-hitting D, less Usi and Strahan, was still running wild with Tuck taking the plaudits.
Then, for me, came the Manning test. At home to the Bengals, 20-16 down and a fair distance to go in just over 4 minutes. The only thing Eli did wrong? He scored too quickly, leading the Giants up the field in 9 plays for 68 yards in less than 3 minutes. Perfect play-calling and perfect execution. Even when the Bengals pulled it back to 23-23, Eli led the team down the field for a winning FG in overtime to keep a 3-0 record into the bye week.

The plus points for the Giants? Sharing the load Ė Ward, Jacobs and Bradshaw can all run, 8 different players caught a pass against Cincy and already 10 players have over 10 tackles in 3 games for the D. The word ďsolidĒ was made for this unit. It is impossible not to upgrade this team from my pre-season forecast.

Eagles (OP 8-8, UP 10-6)
Like the Giants, theyíve moved up in my estimate but they have more work to do. An opening day win whipped up a mini-frenzy but considering the opponents, the Rams, means the victory was pretty hollow despite the emphatic nature.

The test against the Cowboys showed they can score (when they cross the plane holding the ball, of course!) but it looked like the D was shot. Donít get me wrong, many teams will fail to stop Dallas this year but they couldnít consistently put pressure on Romo. When they did, he faltered with a fumble in the end zone and a pretty bad pass for a pick. Dawkins, Gaither, Brown, Samuel should all face easier challenges than Dallas over the season.

They donít run deep in Philly Ė Westbrook didnít do a whole lot of work in the win against the Steelers and was injured against the Bears and DeSean Jackson has pretty much catapulted into the number one receiver after just a few games in his rookie year. A healthy McNabb helps, even if many Eagles fans donít appreciate him.

I under-rated this unit, probably through bias of not really liking them since the TO days. I have to admit though, theyíll be better than my original prediction and a play-off place might be in touching distance.

Redskins (OP 11-5, UP 10-6)
As the Eagles stock rose, the Redskins fell, and then rose again. In any other division in this league, theyíd have 4-5 easy wins and would be a play-off definite. But they arenít. They are in the East. Plenty of TV talk says that the two wild card teams will come from the East and I find it hard to disagree. The talk is also that the Redskins could be the odd one out and I canít disagree with that either, despite increasingly improved performances under Zorn.

Theyíve started well, barring the inter-division week 1 play-calling farce, and wins against good Saints and Cardinals teams will definitely keep their confidence high. The big test was this weekend, however, when they went into Dallas and moved the ball with ease, Campbell looking like a totally different QB to the one from week 1.

In three wins by less than a score, the QB has put up decent numbers and looks like he is starting to embrace Zornís playbook. Portis, Santana Moss, Cooley on one side of the ball, and players like Landry and Fletcher on the other? Not a bad team at all, just stuck in a bad place in the East

NFC North
Bears (OP 8-8, UP 9-7)
Will the real Bears please stand up. In fact, will someone just standup and quarterback this team properly. Having got the nod in pre-season, Kyle Orton struggled with just 149 yards on 32 pass attempts in week two to two costly picks against the Bucs in week 3. These two were sandwiched in between good performances in Indy and at home to the Eagles. Who knows what is next from these Bears.

Forte runs the hard yards and can catch (he should coach the TEs). The D is still tough (Tillman, Briggs, Vasher, Urlacher) and full of well known names. They even took 3 picks from former Bear Brian Griese in the loss to Tampa but they still couldnít close out the job, with a second 4th quarter collapse in a row. They bucked that trend against the Eagles to go to 2-2.

Every year, the Bears start in my head as an 8-8 team. They arenít bad. They arenít good and that Grossman run to the Superbowl was definitely a blip. Without wanting to use a Paul-ism, this team needs an awful year to draft a new QB! Unfortunately, they are too good for that but not quite good enough for the post-season

Lions (OP 6-10, UP 2-14)
Wow, can they get worse? I had them as an OK team. They go into their bye week 0-3. Theyíre lucky to have ď0Ē right now.

Kitna has been sacked 12 times in the opening 3 games, but defeats to the Falcons and 49ers, one transitional team and one not-so-good team, has left them wondering where a win might come from.

I had them with 6, I now have 2 but that was a stretch. I know they arenít the worst team in the league (thank the lord for the Houston Texans) but theyíre in the bottom 4. With some help, they could push for the number 1 spot.

Rudi Johnson finally got some yards for them in week 3 and Calvin Johnson IS a good player and his figures reflect that.

The D lets them down Ė over 600 yards conceded in both passing AND rushing over 3 games.

And look at the draft. They gave up spot 15 to Kansas who took Albert. At 17, they took Cherilus. Sure, they need offensive lineman and Cherilus looks like he might be decent (Albert looks better, even in a crap KC team) but how could they ignore the defensive line which is like a sieve? Long, Dorsey, Ellis, Harvey, Rivers, Mayo all went further up and not once did the Lions look like they wanted to move up.

Poor team all round. There are worse teams than the Lions in this league, but I can find positives in most of those. Outside of Calvin Johnson, you wonít find many here.

Packers (OP 5-11, UP 8-8)
Brett who? I know, I know but how can you talk about the Packers without mentioning the name? Every week we hear about the ďFavre-likeĒ throws Rodgers makes. Donít expect it to end any time soon.
In all but QB, the Packers are the same as last year. Strong on both sides of the ball and ground out 2 wins to start against the Packers and the Lions before facing the Cowboy juggernaut and the wheels becoming a little more shaky in Tampa.

The Packers problem is their success last year which automatically toughens the 2008 schedule not to mention matches against the South from the AFC and NFC including Indy, Jax, Titans, Saints, Panthers as well as the tough divisional matchups and the Wisconsin cold.

My 5-11 was harsh but not unreasonable based on the unknown behind centre. Rodgers has shown he is capable and a .500 record would be a good building block for him going into next year.

Vikings (OP 12-4, UP 9-7)
Forget LT and LJ, itís time for AP. Or it should be. I donít know how often Iíve said this and how many times Iíll say it over the rest of the season but this team needs a QB.

They run the ball like the pitch is a downhill slope with AP, even carrying a dodgy hamstring, and veteran Chester Taylor but when the offense canít pass, itís not easy to beat the nine men in the box.

Tavaris Jackson started 0-2, Gus Frerotte stopped the rot but still completed under 60% of his passes in weeks 3 and 4 combining for one score and 2 picks. Could they do worse than chucking Booty in?

They made some moves in the summer Ė Jared Allen, Bernard Berrian Ė to fix some needs but without the right man behind centre, they are going backwards. Luckily for them, they have AP but he canít do it all. A week 1 loss to the Packers will have hurt but Iím sure theyíll just have enough to win the division. Itís early to say but they could face a home wild-card game.

NFC South
Falcons (OP 3-13, UP 6-10)
I love a happy ending and Iíd love this story to have one. The face of the franchise is now the face on a mug shot. Desperate for a respite from the garbage served up in Atlanta last year, the Falcons took a big gamble in the draft. With the third pick, they took Matt Ryan from BC and then traded back into the first round a little later to draft Sam Baker Ė a big chap to protect their new star QB.

The man under centre wasnít the only problem last year and plenty of new faces came and went including Michael Turner who hit the ground running, literally, in week 1 for over 200 yards. Exactly what Ryan needs to start a career Ė a sound running game and Atlanta ranked second after 4 games in rushing yards per game, not to mention Roddy White catching the ball.

On the other side of the ball, theyíve been effective without being clinical. But most importantly, theyíre not a walkover. Most teams lining up to face the Falcons will get a tough game.

The main thing for this Falcons team right now is scoring on the road. Forget a win; they just need to start scoring points. In two road games so far, they have yet to score a TD, scoring 3 FG in each matchup. At home, itís a different story with 34 and 38 points against the Lions and Chiefs, respectively.

Panthers (OP 9-7, UP 11-5)
This division is so close and in many ways resembles the East. I think any of three teams could make the play-offs and having predicted falling short for the Panthers, I now think they will finish well enough for a play-off push. Two good opening wins, a shocker against the Vikings which they should have won and a breeze against the Falcons leaves then 3-1.

Another team which drafted smartly in getting Stewart and Otah to complement Smith, Delhomme and Williams on the uphill side. On the other side, they addressed an issue at CB in the draft and bought in Godfrey from Iowa who has a decent 14 tackles and a sack to his name through 4 games.

They havenít truly got going yet, ranking 18th and 20th in pass and rush offense and 7th and 19th in pass and rush defense (helped by a good matchup in game 4 against the Falcons) but they are winning games. The 1 in the W column each week matters and the Panthers get it done.

Saints (OP 10-6, UP 9-7)
We all know Drew Brees is a top QB and after a great year 2 years ago, the Saints dropped off last year and were hoping this year would be an improvement. With McAllister and Colston going down early, the pressure was on Reggie Bush to show that he was more than an outside runner and a decent receiving option. A quarter of the way through the season, and Bush has done that, and with McAllister returning in week 4, the Saints find themselves 2-2.

An opening win against Tampa was followed by tough road losses to Washington and Denver by less than a score but Bush leads the team in carries, rush yards, catches and receiving yards. Breakout year, I hear you say? Despite being quiet in McAllisterís return game, I certainly hope so. Much to the disappointment of my Longhorn wife, I like Bush Ė he has too much talent to not make it as a good all-round player at NFL level. I said it out of college, I said it last year when he struggled and Iíll continue to say it.

The Saints main issue this year is twofold Ė a ridiculous amount of injuries and a competitive division. A 9-7 record would win some divisions but might leave them third here and with a strong East division, theyíll struggle for the play-offs at that finish.

Bucs (OP 10-6, UP 12-4)
Having lost the opening divisional game to the Saints, the Bucs started the first real QB controversy of the year. Jeff Garcia, seemingly dislike by Jon Gruden, was dumped for Brian Griese. Hey, itís not like Griese actually did anything anywhere else heís been? But he came out throwing, nay, chucking, the ball and got the Bucs moving with a home win over Atlanta , a great comeback win in Chicago and a solid win against Green Bay.

Tampa has put up a pretty good defence over the early weeks, too with 8 picks through week 4 including Gaines Adamsí amazing 45 yard run for a score against Chicago.

Tampa should be good enough for a play-off place but is Griese really better than Garcia? This team wonít win many if Griese throws over 60 pass attempts much more often and he is averaging 2 interceptions per game, although against the Broncos in week 5 we might see another shoot out!

NFC West
Cardinals (OP 6-10, UP 7-9)
Nearly every year, someone in the media picks the Cards. Nearly every year, I donít. But, even I have to concede that they are a good team this year. But how good?

Well, letís not kid ourselves that this is a Superbowl team and having imploded against the Jets, letís not kid ourselves that they are even a play-off team. The Seahawks are the class act in this division but the opening weeks have shown they arenít as strong as they were even just a year ago but they should still be good enough to beat out the Cardinals in the leagueís weakest division.

An early divisional win against the 49ers was followed by a good win against Miami before a bump back to earth in Washington and the mauling at the hands of Favre.

With Kurt Warner under centre, Boldin and Fitzgerald on the flanks and even James in the backfield, this team should always score points. But the other side of the ball? 25th in points allowed but 9th in yards allowed Ė a sign of something not quite right somewhere. However, considering this includes matchups against the 49ers and the Fins, this is difficult to tell how good they really are but youíd expect with players like Dansby, Rolle and Wilson would mean they are always in with a chance of a turnover.

With tough games against the Bills and Cowboys coming up, expect this team to slip from .500 to .333.

Rams (OP 3-13, UP 2-14)
OK, I had the Rams to win 3, I now have them to win 2 but that really is a push as they head into the bye week 0-4. The offensive line is a major weakness and even Mark Bulger canít work with such pressure, or Trent Green, who played in week 4 as Linehan made his last throw of the dice. Holt is a good receiver and Steven Jackson a good backfield option but if the line collapses so quickly you stand no chance.

The stats do not lie:
Points per game 10.8 ranked 32nd
Yards per game 246.8 ranked 30th
Pass yards per game 162.8 ranked 25th
Rush yards per game 84.0 ranked 29th

As for the defence? Well:
Points per game 36.8 ranked 31st
Yards per game 411.8 ranked 31st
Pass yards per game 245.8 ranked 27th
Rush yards per game 166.0 ranked 29th

I donít even know what to say. If it wasnít for Josh Brown being 5 for 6 on field goals, theyíd be almost spineless. But, I still donít think theyíre the worst team in the NFL.

49ers (OP 2-14, UP4-12)
At the offset, this was my prediction for the worst team. The number one pick was coming their way. Given the poorness of the Rams plus 1 or 2 others, they should just avoid that pleasure.

Iím sure I wasnít the only one surprised when they won IN Seattle. Replacing Alex Smith with OíSullivan makes you wonder why Smith wasnít dumped sooner. Outside the hardworking Gore, I still donít see the weapons on this team to carry it far. Patrick Willis leads the team in tackles and an 86 yard interception return against the Seahawks shows they have playmakers but there is no depth.

Still, four wins should be the minimum for this team.

Seahawks (OP 13-3, UP 10-6)
OK, I hold my hands up. I tipped these boys for a strong run, even based on home form alone. A loss to the 49ers at Qwest was a shocker as was the blowout loss to the Bills on opening day. At the bye week, they go in 1-2 having regained a modicum of self respect in at least turning over the Rams but heading into New York to face the Giants is a big ask to get to .500.

I canít see beyond them for the divisional title though. Theyíre just too good Ė Hasselbeck looked like he was finding rhythm against St Louis (but who wouldnít?), Julius Jones is averaging over 100 yards per game and they might have some receivers fit by week 5.

The home crowd always helps out a defence containing Trufant, Peterson, Tatupu and Kerney. I still donít know how the 49ers put up 33 points on them. Week 5 at the Giants and week 6 hosting Green Bay could decide their whole season.

So, my new play-off scenario in the NFC is as follows. I think, the NFC title matchup shows how weak the conference is once you get out of the East.

Wild card:
Giants @ Seahawks
Panthers @ Vikings

Giants @ Cowboys
Panthers @ Bucs

NFC Championship
Panthers @ Cowboys

Strathclyde Eagle 29-09-2008 03:52 PM

Throw in a mobile phone conversation with an NFL player and you might be giving Peter King a run for his money. Nice work. :p

saxoneagle 29-09-2008 04:15 PM

AFC East
Patriots (OP 13-3, UP 8-8)
Brady out. Iíve discussed it enough already. The defence is old and slowing, the OL seems to have lost confidence without a leader behind them, Maroney canít do the hard yards and help manage the clock, Moss looks like Raider Moss, Welker looks like Dolphin Welker. Can a 13-3 prediction at the season change to 8-8 with the loss of one player?

Yes. And 8-8 is the best we can hope for, in my opinion.

The biggest lesson to learn from the season? Donít teach your backfield blockers to cut block.

At least the bye week means we didnít lose again.

Bills (OP 8-8, UP 12-4)
With the above disarray, can the Bills take advantage? Well, Trent Edwards and co havenít needed a second invitation and are unbeaten with an inviting schedule opening up for them. Whilst home wins against the Seahawks and Oakland wonít shock the world, the manner of them might raise some eyebrows.

They blew out the Seahawks and even gave Oakland a headstart before staging a remarkable fightback. Combined with a road win in Jacksonville and these guys are no mugs. To prove the comeback wasnít a one-off, they even gave the Rams a headstart, too, in week 4.

Lynch takes the bulk, Edwards is steady throwing the ball and Reed and Evans make the catches. Heck, even Moorman the punter has thrown a TD pass this year.

This team even excels on special teams and the injury to Parrish could hold them back although I expect the rookie McKelvin to return kick-offs and punts more going forward.

A solid D (top 10 in points per game, yards per game) and this team is set for a postseason. How far? Itís anybodyís guess.

Dolphins (OP 3-13, UP 4-12)
Yes, the beat the Pats. No Ė they actually annihilated the Pats. One of the most embarrassing days Iíve had as a Pats fan.

Pennington has no arm strength but heís as accurate as ever. Ricky Williams gave way to Ronnie Brown for a career-defining performance against the Pats. Joey Porter put his talent where his mouth is for once and leads the team in sacks (4) going into the bye week.

I really donít like talking about the Fins. I donít hate them per se, I just donít like them a whole lot and just pray we can at least finish above them. A schedule including KC, St Louis, Oakland and Houston should give Miami a few for Ws.

NY Jets (OP 6-10, UP 6-10)
Brett came here to win games. He obviously didnít account for the play-calling of Mangini. A squeaky win against the Dolphins aside, they Jets have been thoroughly uninspiring and even that man canít polish a turd. How much can you lean on the win against the Cards? A good team beat out by over 50 points? Well, Iíd like to give them credit but letís face it Ė the Cards arenít that good and donít like the east coast.

Thomas Jones has his one score for the season, Coles still has butter fingers (anyone can catch against the junk coverage the Cards put up), the OL is paper thin, teams kicking to Washington are stupid and Gholston is a waste of space.

Watching Adalius Thomas drag Thomas Jones and Brett Favre down for a sack for a 20 yard loss at GIANTíS stadium will be my best memory of the season. Itís early, but that could be the best thing that happens to the Pats all year.

I couldnít be much happier.

Did I mention they donít even have their own stadium? :D

However, theyíre still better then the Dolphins. (Sorry Fins fans!)

AFC North
Ravens (OP 4-12, UP 6-10)
Well, who knew they had a strong D? Everyone bloody did. Itís hardly a secret.

OK, who knew Joe Flacco could come in and lead an offense? Come on, hands down. Be honest.

With the match against the Texans rained out by Ike, the Ravens go into their first away match of the season in Pittsburgh on Monday night unbeaten with divisional wins against the Bengals and Browns.

Averaging 190 yards per game on the ground certainly helps a rookie QB who has yet to throw a TD pass. But how long can the honeymoon last?

Theyíre better than I thought through a combination of hard work and hard hits with Ray Lewis again pulling the strings behind the defensive line. McAlister, Reed and Rolle all have at least one pick to their names and 6 sacks in the first two games means Big Ben is going to get hit some. Bet your life on it. Well, someone elses lifeÖ

Bengals (OP 9-7, UP 6-10)
Palmer, Chad and Houseyourmamma. Result? 0-4. Just 17 points combined in week 1 and 2 before a painful OT loss to the Giants and a toothless 12 points against the Browns without Palmer. At least against the Giants, Palmer and Housh came to life even if Chad Eight Five didnít.

319 tackles on defence is the most in the NFL. How long can this team last when the D is on the field for so long?

This is another team that I just donít know what to say Ė theyíve failed to deliver so far and I canít see past the egos to see a major change around of fortunes. To finish 6-10 from here might be a stretch, even for a talented side.

Browns (OP 6-10, UP 6-10)
Do I hear QB controversy? Just a year agoÖ Frye bustÖ Anderson came in and led the Browns to within sniffing distance of the play-offs. A year on and heís completed just 49% for three TDs and 6 picks.

The shouting for Brady Quinn, the local boy, canít get much louder, although a win against the Bengals should keep them quiet enough for one more week. With targets like Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow, the productivity should improve but will it be Andersonís or the ďotherĒ Bradyís?

Kamerion Wimbley is starting to get into the season. The Browns couldíve done with their linebacker turning up from week 1 but he has improved each week and looked good in week 4. Still expecting more from him.

The first live game I ever saw was in Cleveland so Iíd like to say I had a soft spot for them. However, that game was rubbish and the team doesnít seem to have moved on despite a minor upturn last year.

Where next? Another early pick?

Steelers (OP 12-4, UP 11-5)
A lot of the offseason pressure on the Steelers focused on the offensive line, classed as one of the poorer in the NFL, especially considering the prizes it is trying to defend Ė the youngest Superbowl winning QB ever, an excellent running back and his rookie stable mate and a couple of handy receivers and a capable tight end. The result? The best passing offense in the league? Not even close as Pittsburgh go into their week 4 Monday night game ranked 29th in passing.

And thatís before mentioning Benís dodgy shoulder and the various injuries Parker seems to pick upÖ the Eagles pulled them apart and it seems that the Ravens could do the same.

Thankfully, on defense, they are reasonably fit and working hard, with big playmakers like Polamalu fully fit and fully functional with 12 solo tackles and 3 picks in 3 games.

There is no reason to think this Steelers team canít go far. If they stay fit and keep Ben upright long enough to throw.

AFC South
Texans (OP 3-13, UP 1-15)
Rubbish. I tipped rubbish but they are worse. Along with the Chiefs, Rams and Lions, they can fight out the number 1 pick for 2009. Without rookie Steve Slaton, Iím not sure Iíd have much positive to say. Thankfully, they have some poor run defences coming up and they might make a dent in the the win column.

I only said mightÖ

Colts (OP 12-4, UP 10-6)
The year of the quarterback injury. He who stands longest might just get some jewellery to wear. Peyton Manning burst his sac, or something equally confusing and missed pre-season. As a result, the Colts go into their bye week 1-2 with two losses in their brand spanking new stadium including a great win for the Bears and an excellent result for the Jaguars in a divisional matchup. In between, the Colts looked like the Colts in beating the Vikings.

And when I say ďlooked like the ColtsĒ I mean giving up yards on the ground, making stops at just the right time and making a comeback from nowhere with a win right at the end.

The early bye might help the Colts Ė injuries and lack of fitness on both sides of the ball have hindered preparation since the beginning of training camp. We all know what a fully fit Colts side can do and I expect them to do it.

However, they might have to settle for a wildcard this year as I really like the look of theÖ

Jaguars (OP 12-4, UP 13-3)
I know, they were on the verge of going 0-3 and writing the season off. But, but, butÖ theyíre good. I know, they were close to losing to the Texans, too. But I still think they are a good team!

I mean, they havenít entirely shown it yet but Iíve seen enough that one score defeats to the Titans and Bills could so easily have been the other way.

Garrard hasnít found a rhythm yet which is very worrying but I am confident he will and with the tandem of Fred Taylor and Maurice J-D behind him, he certainly doesnít have to worry about his team making yards on the ground.

I admit, tipping a team that started 0-2 to finish 13-3 is crazy but Cleveland, Cincy, Detroit, Chicago, Houston all fall on this schedule. They arenít going to walkover teams but I think they have the balls for the tight games having finished on the wrong side early season. Donít worry, Iím not totally crazy Ė I donít think theyíll win the big one.

Titans (OP 8-8, UP 13-3)
Poor Vince. He wins games and still gets booed. To add insult to injury he, er, got injured. To add an additional kick, his replacement made hay while Vince made his mum nervous.

I like Vince. I have to. My wife is a Longhorn. However, as I said pre-season, as a third year QB you need to start producing and Young doesnít do that. But this isnít a Young summary Ė if, or when, he comes back, Iíll address his play then.

To make matters worse, this is a good team. A really good team. This division is the AFC version of the NFC EastÖ except for Houston.

In Youngís absence, the tough defensive line continues to dominate the run led by Haynesworth and Van den Bosch (great name) while Chris Johnson and LenDale White pile up yards on the other side. Not only that but the pass defence is strong, in particular Finnegan and Griffin who share 7 picks between them including Finneganís 99yard return.

But letís not forget anyone Ė while the defence has taken down the opposition QB 15 times, the OL has stood firm and allowed the Titanís QB time and has allowed just 2 sacks.

When you put it like that, you canít see much wrong and matchups with KC, Detroit, the Jets, definitely push these boys towards the post-season. But I just donít see them having the balls for the big ones. Can they go to Jacksonville and Indy (in week 17) and pull out a result? I think I may have under-cooked the Titans and they could go 11-5 or 12-4 or better with some luck.

People are going to start calling me crazy.

AFC West
Broncos (OP 9-7, UP 9-7)
Surprised? You bet. My future home town team always catch my eye and there is always a story.

In Jay Cutler, they are led by my pre-season break-out pick. The kid will forever have John Elway hanging over him but he has done what he needs to do so far this year Ė heís been himself and let his play do the talking, helped not a small amount by the amazing hands of Brandon Marshall and the rookie Eddie Royal with not-too-shabby additional targets as Scheffler and Stokeley. Not bad, hey?

On the ground, the trio of Selvin Young, Andre Hall and Michael Pittman have helped the Broncos average over 120 yards a game on the ground.

On defence, they suck Ė 31st against the pass, 30th in total yards and 29th in points allowed per game. So, what does all this mean? It means the games are high-scoring fun! In reality, it means something has gone a bit astray, in my mind. This Broncos defence includes a significant number of playmakers including Champ Bailey and Dre Bly on the corners (even backup Foxworth would be a starter elsewhere) and linebackers Williams and Webster. Letís face it, any team that loses to the Chiefs has to suck on defence.

In their favour is a schedule which includes two games against the Chiefs, 2 against the Raiders, Miami, the Jets, the toothless Pats, the Browns and the Falcons whilst even the tougher matchups (Jaguars, Bucs and Bills) are staged at Mile High. A jump from 9-7 to a 10-6 prediction might seem reasonable but it is possible and could keep the Colts out of the wildcard race. Without the crazy loss on Sunday, Iíd have tipped this team for much better.

Chiefs (OP 5-11, UP 2-14)
Suck. Seriously. Iím pissed. Iíll never listen to an American again when I want to know about a team. But they still beat the Broncos. What is up with this world?

Sure, I was told, we wonít be that bad again, look at the draftÖ

And I did. And I considered. Incorrectly.

The door at the QB position continues to revolve, with no-one starting 2 games in a row for the beleaguered Chiefs. Around that, you have Larry Johnson, a fantasy stud and in my team (!) and currently calling out his offensive coaches for not giving him enough of the ball. When they do, he does the work, like the 200+ all-purpose yards he got against the Broncos, but they canít rely on him. The WR corps includes Bowe and aging tight-end Tony Gonzalez is another option and Huard managed to hit them just enough this weekend to get the goose egg out of the W column. But they really have Minnesota Syndrome Ė you have the weapons, well some, but no-one to get them the ball.

I still like the draft class of 2008 for the Chiefs Ė Branden Albert, Jamaal Charles, Glenn Dorsey, Brandon Flowers. Given another go, Iím not entirely sure the Chiefs couldíve picked much better. Shame they surrounded them with complete and utter dross.

However, this KC season will be defined by one man and one man alone. Bernard Pollard. Donít cry now, PaulÖ

Raiders (OP 6-10, UP 4-12)
Well, the Raiders learnt how to win. It was only KC though!

One of the top rushing teams in the league last year, they werenít content so drafted McFadden, the second best running back from Arkansas (;)) and now continue to be highly ranked on the ground. Behind centre, JaMarcus Russell is growing into the role and through the first three weeks he was throwing just over 54% for four TDs and one pick, against the Chargers. Despite the 1-3 start, you get the impression this offence could do something but are they over relying on the rush? Simply, yes and it showed against the Chargers that when it doesnít work, even a lead of 15 points isnít enough.

A middle of the road defence keeps the pressure on Russell and off-season acquisitions of Gibril Wilson and DeAngelo Hall and the re-signing for another year of Asomugha makes you think that there is some plays to be made here. Maybe. Theyíve got tougher than KC coming to townÖ

Chargers (OP 13-3, UP 13-3)
The best 2-2 team in the league. Probably still the best team in the AFC despite their record and despite the Bills and Titans rolling to 4-0. With the Pats gone, they have no excuse not to win the conference, in my opinion.

Whoíd have thought that going into week 3 they needed a win to avoid 0-3? A last minute loss at home to Carolina and that fumble in Denver leading to another last minute score and a 2-point conversion left the Chargers floundering before a comfortable win over the Jets, only made to look respectable by some junk scores at the end by Favre and co. They needed a big 4th quarter rally to beat the Raiders but they have the talent to do that.

Surprisingly, they rank low running the ball with LT limited by niggly injuries and not helped by shoot out matchups where they need to score fast. Rivers has looked increasingly composed in throwing for 10 TDs and 4 picks in the first four matchups. Heís like Romo Ė he forgets mistakes and moves on. Thankfully, Rivers seems to make his mistakes early which always gives him time to recover.

Backing up LT, Darren Sproles is picking up some great yardage and excelling for the special teams including a 103 yard kick-off return.

Opposite, Cromartie is still an interception machine and his two so far should only increase. Merrimanís season is over but the Chargers can score, sometimes it seems at will, so will a great player like Merriman be missed in the end? Come play-off time, he might just be but for the regular season, there is only one place the Chargers are heading.

Wild card:
Colts @ Bills
Titans @ Steelers

Colts @ Jaguars
Titans @ Chargers

AFC Championship
Colts @ Chargers

Phew! :D

saxoneagle 29-09-2008 04:16 PM


Originally posted by Strathclyde Eagle
Throw in a mobile phone conversation with an NFL player and you might be giving Peter King a run for his money. Nice work. :p

Funny you should say that, I've just spoken to... ;)

Strathclyde Eagle 29-09-2008 04:31 PM

Favourite Peter King snippet of the week:

Special Teams Player of the Week
Montel Owens, FB, Jacksonville. Is it my imagination, or did Houston fall for a fake punt play, WHEN THERE WAS NO PUNTER ON THE FIELD, and allowed Owens to rumble 41 yards for a touchdown? Owens made a couple of nice moves and bulled his way downfield.
I thought that sort of stuff only happened to the Fins. :eek:

Strathclyde Eagle 29-09-2008 04:33 PM

Linehan out in St. Louis.

Press conference called though. I guess the sandwiches are on the way.

Strathclyde Eagle 29-09-2008 04:43 PM

I've just wasted five minutes putting Saxoneagle's predictions into a spreadsheet and hoping that the totals wouldn't match up.

Unfortunately the totals equal 256 wins and 256 losses. :clown:

So go ahead Mr Thinkofeverything and tell us who the Texans will take with the first pick of next year's draft. :D

Swanny32 29-09-2008 04:46 PM

Disappointing result against the Bears last night just goes to show that without Westbrook in the side we really do have a weak rushing game, seems as though McNabb may not have been 100% either, thats just making excuses though, I'll catch the highlights tonight on Gameday, i'm yet to see any of the game so can't pass judgement too much.

Just on a seperate note, who has tickets for Wembley in a few weeks time?

jazman 29-09-2008 05:03 PM


Originally posted by Swanny32

Just on a seperate note, who has tickets for Wembley in a few weeks time?

I want tickets :sob:

Great write up Saxon ... very enjoyable read and to me your views and predictions make a lot of sense.

Picking up on the Romo thing, that's one that they were discussing in the studio on Sky last night. His ability to forget the previous play and get on with the game. Fumble or throw an interception in one play, no matter, get on with a 70 yard drive and get a touch down the next ...

saxoneagle 29-09-2008 05:07 PM


Originally posted by Strathclyde Eagle
I've just wasted five minutes putting Saxoneagle's predictions into a spreadsheet and hoping that the totals wouldn't match up.

Unfortunately the totals equal 256 wins and 256 losses. :clown:

So go ahead Mr Thinkofeverything and tell us who the Texans will take with the first pick of next year's draft. :D

You could have just asked me to send you my spreadsheet which I used to do the selections ;)

Needs wise, the Texans need everything.

Chris Wells is probably the outstanding offensive player likely to be drafted. And I like the look of the linebackers at USC (Maualuga and Cushing) for the defensive side. However, I can't see either of these going first up. I'll go Selvie from South Florida.

One shoe-in for me - KC will take a QB and it will either be Tebow or Stafford.

It's funny - I've just looked at a few early mock drafts and most people have the Texans picking at 7, 8 or even lower, with one having them at 21.

If they aren't a top 5 pick, I'd be amazed.

saxoneagle 29-09-2008 05:09 PM


Originally posted by jazman
I want tickets :sob:

I was offering tickets not so long ago... they've gone now.

I'm pretty sure you could still get some if you really wanted to.

jazman 29-09-2008 05:55 PM

Damn, had no idea ... I'm sure the standard priced seats have gone ... will have to check out eBay ...

Strathclyde Eagle 29-09-2008 05:57 PM


Originally posted by saxoneagle
Chris Wells is probably the outstanding offensive player likely to be drafted.
He's hardly been on the field. Bad time to get injured, in your senior year with the NFL awaiting you.

I've not been in touch with Saturday's results (bar Georgia-Alabama courtesy of PFiA), but I think Michigan State's Javon Ringer (RB) is getting a bit of buzz. Not sure how many years he has been there though.

My suspicion with Tebow is that money isn't everything to him, and I think that in addition to doubts about how well he would do in the NFL mean I think he'll return to Florida for his senior year.

Off to check out some early mock projections.

Strathclyde Eagle 29-09-2008 05:58 PM


Bears pick a Purdue QB, jlm's head explodes. :D

saxoneagle 29-09-2008 06:11 PM


Originally posted by Strathclyde Eagle

Bears pick a Purdue QB, jlm's head explodes. :D

That has Moreno at five saying:
Moreno is a draft eligible sophomore and the best running back in the nation, hands down.

I still think Wells is better and it might be a blessing in disguise that he missed the USC matchup.

saxoneagle 29-09-2008 06:12 PM


Originally posted by Strathclyde Eagle

My suspicion with Tebow is that money isn't everything to him, and I think that in addition to doubts about how well he would do in the NFL mean I think he'll return to Florida for his senior year.

Yeh, I'm not sure about Tebow right now. He's a great college player but I just have nagging doubts and I can't quite place my finger on what exactly it is...

Latvian Eagle 29-09-2008 06:48 PM

Loving Saxon's posts on the season so far! :lux:

saxoneagle 29-09-2008 06:53 PM


Originally posted by Latvian Eagle
Loving Saxon's posts on the season so far! :lux:
Is that because they're good or because I'm tipping the Panthers? :D

elliott 29-09-2008 07:02 PM

A lovely video.


Latvian Eagle 29-09-2008 08:27 PM


Originally posted by saxoneagle
Is that because they're good or because I'm tipping the Panthers? :D
Because they're good and you're tipping the Panthers!

Good to get an insight into every team as sometimes results / record don't always show a true reflection. As you say we should have probably beaten a poor Vikings side, but we've won games we probably shouldn't eg San Diego.

Marc Bulger... How comes he is on a par with Tom Brady / Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb in terms of being rated at $4m on the NFL UK fantasy game. Is it just he has a poor team around him? (Yeah I know he's out of favour at the moment).

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