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September 29, 2007

NFL Scorecard - Week 4 Predictions

In a bit of a role reversal from the first two weeks, the late games proved to be my downfall while the noon games saved me from suffering my first losing week. In the end, however, I still ended up on the positive side of .500, if only by the slightest of margins.

Bye weeks finally kick in for the season, so that's two less games I have to ponder this week. But it doesn't get any easier, as the spreads are littered with road favorites, which should make things interesting. Well, more interesting than usual, that is. As always, spreads are taken from the USA Today and can be found here.

Oakland (+4) at Miami - One of the few home favorites this week and I'm immediately going the other way. Why? Well, I think Oakland is on the right path and I obviously don't feel the same about Miami. It took an insane week from Ronnie Brown against a team he consistently runs over (Jets) to just tie the spread. I'm thinking that's more anomaly than regular occurrence.

Houston (-3) at Atlanta - Speaking of teams going in the right direction, the Texans held their own against the defending champs with a depleted WR-core. Atlanta is no Indianapolis. Joey Harrington had a good game last week, but that was against the never-trusted Panthers. Houston will take care of him this week.

Cleveland (+4.5) vs Baltimore - The Ravens have yet to cover a single spread this season. They continue to be overrated, and I've used them for three victories this season. I'm going against them again this week, as the Browns will be able to move the ball as Jamal Lewis faces his old team for the first time.

Detroit (+3) vs Chicago - Again, I hate going against my home team, but there's just too much negativity going on with the Bears right now. Both starting corners are out. Lance Briggs is out. Tommie Harris might be out. I think Griese is going to be alright, but playing at home, the Lions catch the Bears at a good time.

Green Bay (-2) at Minnesota - There was a time when you could immediately pick against Favre in the Metrodome, but he's come around the last few years and he's playing through a hot stretch he hasn't seen in quite some time. Of course, I just put Favre in my starting lineup this week, so 4 picks is also a possibility.

Dallas (-12.5) vs St. Louis - There's always the fear of letdown after an emotional, NFC-altering victory, like the Cowboys had in Chicago last week. But playing back at home against what may be the worst team in the league this year, the Cowboys should be able to keep their perfect record against the spread intact.

New York Jets (-4) at Buffalo - Although the fans aren't his biggest supporters, Chad Pennington continues to manage this team well. The picked up their first victory against Miami last week, and I see no reason why they won't continue this trend this week against a banged-up Buffalo team.

Tampa Bay (+3) at Carolina - Maybe it's just me, but David Carr just doesn't do it for me. Actually, it's not just me, it's at least me at the entire city of Houston. The Bucs defense has come to life this season, and the Panthers are still the inconsistent Panthers, who were a DeAngelo Hall meltdown away from losing to the Falcons last week.

San Francisco (+2) vs Seattle - I've barely trusted the Seahawks at home this season, so I'm not going to start trusting them on the road, especially when they haven't shown me much to this point. The 49ers don't exactly exude confidence either, but they should have enough weapons to hold off Seattle at home.

Pittsburgh (-4) at Arizona - These two teams have combined for a 5-0-1 record against the spread this season, so something's gotta give this week. Going off my logical analysis from last week, Pittsburgh is a better team than Baltimore, so they should win by more than the Ravens, even on the road. That should be enough to cover.

San Diego (-12) vs Kansas City - At some point, the Chargers have to break out of their slump. Norv Turner can't hold them back the ENTIRE season, can he? Okay, that might be a bad question... I'm once again going against my big-spread-vs-divisional-opponent theory, but there's just too much talent on this Chargers team.

Indianapolis (-9.5) vs Denver - Coming off an embarrassing home loss to the Jaguars, you expect the Broncos to bounce back this week, but the Colts defense has been surprisingly solid thus far, and they're playing at home, which is always good for their offense. With Jay Cutler hurting, this one should be easy for the Colts.

Philadelphia (-3) at New York Giants - Both teams are coming off huge wins last week, with the Eagles trouncing the Lions and the Giants holding off the Redskins. Of the two, I'm thinking the Eagles can carry their momentum through this week, as it seems like McNabb is getting his act together. The Giants are just searching for a healthy RB.

New England (-7.5) at Cincinnati - When the Patriots fail to cover the spread, I'll start considering picking against them. At this point, though, going up against the Bengals defense, I'll stick with the top team in the league.

Last Week: 7-6-3
Season: 24-19-5

September 17, 2007

NFL Scorecard - Week 3 Predictions

In last week's prediction of the Oakland-Denver matchup, I stated that the Broncos should win, but "9.5 is a lot of points for a divisional game". I was proven correct in this instance (thank you, thank you), but then promptly went ahead and picked Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and Indianapolis, all of which were giving tons of points against divisional foes. Needless to say, those picks did not fare all too well. Of those teams, only the Colts managed to even win their game straight up last week.

After taking it to the chin in the early games, however, I recovered nicely, finishing the week dead even. Bud Selig would be proud. But I'm not here to impress Bud, who's a loyal reader by the way - or at least he could be... I'm here to show that I can beat the mighty law of averages.

The picks this week are coming a little early since I won't be around tomorrow and I apparently have nothing to do on this Friday night... So before the overwhelming sense of depression sets in, let's get through these picks. As always, all spreads are taken from Sheridan's Odds from the USA Today. You can find them here.

Indianapolis (-6) at Houston - What did I just say about divisional games? Apparently, I must have forgotten already, as I'm going with the Colts in this one. I'd feel better about the Texans if Andre Johnson wasn't on the shelf. Instead Jacoby Jones steps in as the #1, and he didn't have a single catch last week. And the Colts defense has looked surprisingly stingy against the run, which means the Texans will need somebody to catch the ball to keep this close.

San Diego (-4.5) at Green Bay - I don't care what their record is, I still can't believe that the Packers are a quality team this year. Their running game is now in the hands of somebody named DeShawn Wynn, whom I didn't even know existed until I scooped him up in my fantasy league (you know, just in case...). I would think that the Chargers' performance last week has them refocused and LDT is bound to bust loose sooner rather than later.

Kansas City (-3) vs Minnesota - The Chiefs hung with the Bears last week, although I think that was more a byproduct of Rex Grossman than anything, but they never stopped competing. Now they get to finally come home, with Larry Johnson hopefully rounding out into shape. The Vikings must travel to a hostile environment with quarterback issues, which doesn't bode well for whoever manages to stand behind center this week.

Detroit (+6.5) at Philadelphia - Donovan McNabb seems more preoccupied with what people think of his play rather than his play itself. I could understand losing to a better-than-I-expected Redskins team last week, but the Eagles didn't show me anything, other than the fact David Akers knows how to kick field goals, and that I already knew. Even if they manage to put some drives together, Detroit should be able to keep it close against this secondary.

New England (-16.5) vs Buffalo - I never thought I would pick a team giving 16.5 points, but the Patriots are on a mission right now. And as previously mentioned, Dick Jauron is still coaching the Bills... Randy Moss looks like the Randy Moss of old, and I'm personally happy that it's happening in the AFC instead of the NFC North. Patriots continue to roll. But does anybody else wonder how Randy is going to handle the eventual snow once winter shows up?

New York Jets (-3) vs Miami - The Jets have quarterback issues. The Dolphins have a washed-up Trent Green. Even. The Jets have a physically dinged-up running back. The Dolphins have a mentally dinged-up running back. Even. Wait, what's that? Thomas Jones practiced and is healthy again? Sounds good enough to me... I'll give the points.

Pittsburgh (-8.5) vs San Francisco - The 49ers sit at 2-0 with a +4 point differential against teams that are now a combined 1-3. And that only win was barely squeaked out to boot. I know it's still early in the season, so a .250 winning percentage can't be taken too seriously, but it doesn't change the fact that the 49ers are a lucky 2-0. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, has been a solid 2-0. Look for Willie Parker and Co. to control this game and win going away.

Arizona (+7.5) at Baltimore - The Ravens just beat the Jets by 7, thanks in large part to a huge drop that could have taken that game into overtime. Are the Cardinals better than the Jets? Well, Edgerrin James has been running like Edgerrin of old. Matt Leinart has straightened some things out. And Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin are still manning the receiver positions. So I say yes, they probably are better. Logic then holds that they'll keep this game closer than the 7.5.

Tampa Bay (-3.5) vs St. Louis - It's tough to say which St. Louis team has seen their fortunes fall faster... The Cardinals or the Rams. The Cardinals have essentially been eliminated due to their free fall, but unfortunately for St. Louis fans, the Rams don't appear to be too far behind. Struggling to get any consistency, they square up against a team that showed some life against the Saints last week.

Denver (-3) vs Jacksonville - The Broncos haven't exactly lit it up these first two weeks, barely edging out teams with last second field goals and timeouts. However, the Jaguars have had some issues of their own, only managing to squeak by a Falcons team that thinks so highly of their quarterback, they not only thought "uh, is that Byron Leftwich guy available?" but actually went out and signed him. That can't be a good sign.

Cincinnati (+3.5) at Seattle - Two teams that suffered devastating divisional losses last week try to heal their wounds against each other this week. It's still unknown which Bengals defense is going to show up, but I'm thinking the game against the Browns is more indicative than the one against the Ravens. Nevertheless, that Bengals offense is something to watch. They should put up the points to win.

Oakland (-3) vs Cleveland - I think the only person happier about last week's game than Romeo Crennel is the guy in my league who had both Carson Palmer and Jamal Lewis in his lineup. The Browns are riding high this week, but the Raiders are pissed at how their week ended, and are likely more focused in on this game. Add in the fact that the Raiders just have more talent than the Browns, and they should finally pick up their first win of the season.

Carolina (-4) at Atlanta - With the signing of Byron Leftwich, Joey Harrington will either rise to the occasion, proving that he is worthy of being a starting quarterback, or collapse in upon himself under the weight of pressure... So what's the max bet I can place against them? Wait, they're playing the Panthers, the one team that may be more infuriating than the Jaguars when it comes to betting? Ugh, I'll hold on to my money instead and just give the points...

Washington (-3.5) vs New York Giants - I admit, the Redskins look better than I thought they would. They're solid on offense. Solid on defense. They make the occasional big play, even if it comes after two false start penalties and a misguided timeout. But they're on track for another win against a Giants team that'll be ready to crack any week now.

Dallas (+3) at Chicago - Picking the home team game is always the toughest. Too many emotions to filter through. But looking just at the raw numbers, the Bears' offense has been atrocious. The defense may be able to hold Dallas down for a while, but until Chicago manages to score without the help of Devin Hester and a backup offensive lineman, I can't be giving the points.

New Orleans (-4.5) vs Tennessee - The Saints can't possibly start 0-3, can they? Where did all the talent on that team go? Oh, it's only on the offense? Well, that explains some things. I do like Tennessee, and I wouldn't be surprised in the least if they pulled this one out straight up, but the home opener on Monday night... The Saints have to bring it in this one, or else it's going to be a long season for New Orleans.

Last Week: 8-8
Season: 17-13-2

September 15, 2007

NFL Scorecard - Week 2 Predictions

So in week 1 of my self-experiment, I think I started off the season rather well. A 9-5-2 record is nothing to be ashamed of. I tied the Sports Gal's week, which I'm going to take as a good thing, as she's already two games up on the Sports Guy. Of course, I'm not sure that's saying much anyways.

Regardless, I'm over .500, which is the goal for the season. This week, I believe proves a little more difficult, as there are numerous spreads over a touchdown, which always makes things more difficult. "How badly will Team A beat Team B?" is always more difficult than "Will Team A beat Team B?"

Again, all spreads are taken from Sheridan's Odds from the USA Today the day before the first game of the week. You can find them here.

Buffalo (+9.5) at Pittsburgh - I don't know where this line came from, as Buffalo only lost by the buzzer-beater of buzzer-beater field goals to a solid Denver team, while Pittsburgh beat up on a team whose starting quarterback isn't even on the team anymore... and it's Week 2. Pittsburgh wins, but Buffalo keeps it close.

Cincinnati (-6.5) at Cleveland - Speaking of Cleveland, how many weeks until Romeo Crennel starts looking for a new job? Wouldn't throwing in Brady Quinn now buy him a few weeks, even if it hurts Quinn's development to get knocked around so early? Normally, I don't like road teams playing on a short week, but this one is too easy.

Indianapolis (-7) at Tennessee - There's no way the Colts can match their energy from their opener, but they've also had 10 days to plan for this game. And the Titans showed they might actually have a running game to help Vince Young, but that was against a Jaguars team I don't think is going to be very good. I guess what I'm saying is that I have no idea.

Houston (+6.5) at Carolina - Over the years, I've picked up a few things. One of these things is to never trust the Panthers. Whenever everybody hops on board the bandwagon, it inevitably seems to break an axle. Everybody seems to think their win over St. Louis is a sign of things to come, which means I'm going the other direction.

St. Louis (-3) vs San Francisco - Neither team showed me much last week, and it makes me a bit nauseous trying to think back to that Monday Nighter for the 49ers. Orlando Pace is out (again) for the Rams, but going back to my road team on a short week theory, I'll go with the Rams. It doesn't hurt that Steven Jackson is running against me in fantasy, a sure sign of a good week.

New York Giants (-2) vs Green Bay - Ah, another game that makes no sense to me... A team that needed two muffed punts to win at home travels to a team that put up 35 against what was considered a solid defense, but is without their running back and possibly their quarterback. Let's go with the home team giving the points.

Atlanta (+10) at Jacksonville - Another thing I've picked up over the years... never, ever, ever trust the Jaguars. You think David Gerrard will change that? Good luck with that. The Jaguars have single-handedly knocked out more people from my survivor pool over the years than any other team. Even Joey Harrington can keep the Falcons within 10, right? Right?

New Orleans (-3) at Tampa Bay - The Bucs put a scare in me for a bit last week, playing the Seahawks tough for a half, but when the dust settled, things played out like I thought. The Saints have had 10 days to regroup after the blowout last Thursday, and as a Bears fan, while I'd like to think the Saints' struggles will continue, there's just too much talent on this team.

Detroit (-2.5) vs Minnesota - Adrian Peterson scares me in this game. He could go for 200 total yards and a couple TDs or be stopped for 50 yards and I wouldn't be surprised either way. But the Vikings can't count on returning two Harrington passes for touchdowns this week, so the question of "who else can score?" still needs to be answered. Detroit doesn't have that problem.

Dallas (-4) at Miami - You can throw against Dallas. Miami can't throw. Is there a simpler analysis needed here? On a personal level, can Ronnie Brown please just at least fall into the endzone once this week? And can Tony Romo just decide to handoff the entire game to get the Cowboys' running game going? No on both counts? Okay, thanks...

Arizona (+3) vs Seattle - The Cardinals can't possibly be as bad as they looked on Monday night, right? That offense has way too much talent to struggle like that. Was it the 49ers defense, the pressure of MNF, or are these just the Cardinals of old? Most likely, it's the latter, but I'll give them one more chance at home. That soft cast on Shaun Alexander's left arm may play a roll as well.

New York Jets (+10) at Baltimore - You're telling me that an unimpressive, banged-up Steve McNair or Kyle (no description needed) Boller is favored by 10 against anybody? The defense is bruised up, and now they have to go up against... Kellen Clemens? Wait a second... can I rethink this? Are there even going to be 10 points scored this entire game?

Oakland (+9.5) vs Denver - The Raiders lost at home to the Lions, which may not be as embarrassing as you might think. The offense showed a little life, and may get some more if Daunte Culpepper goes this week. And LaMont Jordan isn't hurt yet. The Broncos squeezed out a road win in week one, and should roll in their home opener, but 9.5 is a lot of points for a divisional game... unless it's the Chiefs.

Chicago (-12) vs Kansas City - Speaking of the Chiefs, is there a more disorganized franchise right now outside of Cleveland than Kansas City? And now Larry Johnson not only has to carry the load of 1200 carries this season, but the controversy around his alleged rap? And how long can a team have Eddie Kennison as their #1 receiver? The Bears may have some question marks, but the Chiefs are just that bad.

New England (-4) vs San Diego - We all know about CameraGate for the Patriots. But the Chargers have spent the week chirping at the Bears. Shouldn't they be more focused on, oh I don't know, the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last season? In weeks of controversy, who do you have more faith in keeping the team together... Bill Belichick or Norv Turner? Yeah, me too...

Philadelphia (-7) vs Washington - After the Eagles debacle last week in Green Bay, Donovan McNabb gets a chance to show he's back on Monday night. Jason Campbell gets the same opportunity... I don't think that's a good thing. If Ronnie Brown can rack up 40 receiving yards against the Redskins, I don't even want to know how many Brian Westbrook will have. Of course, on national television, Clinton Portis might blow up for 3 TDs, or just physically blow up... either way, it's worth watching.

Last Week: 9-5-2
Season: 9-5-2

September 05, 2007

NFL Scorecard - Week 1 Predictions

How hard could it be to predict games versus the spread? Every season, I ask myself that question but never do anything about it. This season, I'm throwing my hat into the ring with the scores of self-proclaimed experts to see exactly how I fare. Statistically speaking, I should bat around .500, as that's essentially the purpose of the point spread. What a solid percentage would be, I'm not entirely sure, but I'm willing to set the bar to whatever percentage I end up at for the season.

This, obviously, means I've committed myself to at least one blog entry a week for the entire football season. Well, either that or until my picks have depressed me to the point of total abandonment. Just like the spreads, that option may also be 50/50...

All spreads are taken from Sheridan's Odds from the USA Today the day before the first game of the week. You can find them here.

New Orleans (+6) at Indianapolis - In every season of every sport, it seems that whenever a team is receiving their rings, there's an inevitable letdown when the game finally rolls around. It doesn't mean the Colts will lose the game or struggle this season, but there's a certain intensity that's lacking, as the game can never lives up to placing that ring on their collective finger. With that being said, I'd still bet the over.

Houston (-3) vs Kansas City - Larry Johnson isn't into season shape yet, while it's too early for Ahman Green to have gotten hurt. Matt Schaub will be able to find Andre Johnson and rookie Jacoby Jones running through the Chief's defense. Damon Huard, however, will wonder once again when will the Chiefs finally do something about their mediocre receiving core.

Denver (-3) at Buffalo - The Bills' running game hasn't rounded into shape yet, while you can be sure Travis Henry would like to once again stick it to his old team. By controlling the clock, the Broncos should be able to limit J.P. Losman's big play ability (I never thought I'd say that...) and Jay Cutler gets the advantage of playing in Buffalo in September instead of blustery December.

Pittsburgh (-4.5) at Cleveland - Ben Roethlisberger tries to put last season behind him and there's no better team to help him do that than the Browns. Jamal Lewis will have trouble finding room against the Steelers while Charlie Frye will just be Charlie Frye. Willie Parker, if fully healthy, will run all over the Browns defense and Mike Tomlin will quickly earn his first career victory.

Tennessee (+6.5) at Jacksonville - I'm a bit concerned that I continue to pick road teams to cover but the 6.5-point line is a little much for a Jacksonville team that just changed starting quarterbacks. Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor will get their yards, but when put onto David Garrard and his crew of receivers, I see many drives stalling well short of the endzone.

St. Louis (-1) vs Carolina - Despite Torry Holt's iffy knee, Marc Bulger has enough weapons at his disposal to rack up points against Carolina. That main weapon, Steven Jackson, will carve out a large chunk of his predicted 2,500 season total yards in Week 1. The DeRunning backs on Carolina (Foster and Williams) will get their yards against a porous run defense as well, but I feel turnovers will be the difference here.

Philadelphia (-3) at Green Bay - A home opener in Green Bay will bring out the loudest of fans, but with no defined running game to speak of, the Packers will have to resort to flinging the ball around the field. With the recent vintage Brett Favre at the helm, this can prove dangerous. The Packer defense, however, will give little space to the Eagles' offense, but Donovan McNabb is out to prove he's healthy again.

Minnesota (-3) vs Atlanta - The Joey Harrington era officially begins well earlier than anybody anticipated up in the Metrodome. Neither quarterback elicits fears from the opposing defense, so this game will most likely come down to a few critical runs and turnovers. Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson will limit the Vikings pass attempts, while the Falcons will most likely at least try to throw... and therein lies the problem.

Washington (-3) vs Miami - Two teams I have little faith in this season square up in a match-up in which, when it's over, somebody can claim to have a winning record. Merely looking at offensive weapons, the Redskins can look to hand it off to the insane Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts, while Jason Campbell tries a few deep passes to Santana Moss. The Dolphins can... hand off to Jesse Chatman?

New York Jets (+6.5) vs New England - It's a game I believe the Patriots will win, but this early in the season, the pre-season favorites are still working through continuity issues, and Bill Belichick isn't going to open up his entire bag of tricks. Eric Mangini would love an opening win, but Chad Pennington hasn't found his groove yet, and a shaky QB against New England does not bode well for the J-E-T-S Jets.

Seattle (-6) vs Tampa Bay - Against an aging defense on the road, Shaun Alexander should enjoy a productive opening day in a season aimed at returning to the upper echelon of running backs. Matt Hasselbeck lost his favorite target, but what were 4-receiver sets will now just become 3-receiver sets, which will still be enough to take care of the Bucs. And if that doesn't do it, the home crowd will.

San Diego (-6) vs Chicago - What can LaDainian Tomlinson do for an encore? Fantasy owners everywhere are drooling over the possibilities, while Bears fans simply shiver at the thought. Both teams can boast rosters with depth at nearly every position, but the Chargers have proven what they're capabilities are. The Bears offense is still trying to work in several different components.

Detroit (+2) at Oakland - The Raiders defense ranked among the best against the pass last year, but how much of that was talent and how much was the fact that you didn't need to throw against this team to win? The offensive talent the Lions have finally assembled will discover some of those answers early this season. But the key for the Raiders is how will they score? That'll take more than a week to figure out.

Dallas (-5.5) vs New York Giants - I was tempted to pick this going the other way, but with the game in Dallas, I think the Cowboys will just be too much for the Giants. Tony Romo, with the crowd behind him, will hit a couple big plays, while the running back duo of Julius Jones and Marion Barber III will control the tempo of the game. Eli Manning will be solid, but not enough, as Tom Coughlin begins his final season...

Cincinnati (-2.5) vs Baltimore - Trying to shake off the negative stigma from the off-season, the Bengals will rally behind the home crowd and claim the first Monday victory of the new season. The Ravens defense, one of the best in the league, will get their turnovers and field position, but the offense will again have trouble getting the ball into the endzone. Carson Palmer, however, will not.

Arizona (+3) at San Francisco - With Frank Gore still working his way back from a broken hand, the Cardinals will take the opportunity to pull out a road victory right off the bat. The last MNF game for Arizona didn't end very well, but this time around, Matt Leinart will control the game by hitting any of his plethora of receivers. While the 49ers spent a lot trying to fix their secondary, the Cardinals will still have their number.

September 03, 2007

2007 NFL Predictions

The NFL season is now just mere days away, which means it's time to officially put on record what will in no way be an accurate reflection of the final standings for this year's football season... To do so, I went through the season game by game to determine what everybody's final record will be. For the most part, I came to the same conclusion as most others have, primarily that the AFC is clearly a better conference than the NFC. However, some of the records surprised me, such as the Titans 9-7 tally. Apparently, I'm sold on Vince Young without RBs or WRs. I didn't realize Texas Tech was on the schedule this year...

AFC East
1. New England (13-3) - The best team in the division just got better in the off-season. With all their riches, it feels like they're due for some bad luck, but until that happens, Brady and a legit group of WRs will once again rule the division.
2. New York Jets (8-8) - Thomas Jones will solidify the running game, but with games against the Patriots and Ravens to start the season, Eric Mangini and Co. could quickly find themselves in an 0-2 hole. And how long until Kellen Clemens sees the field?
3. Buffalo (6-10) - J.P. Losman appears to be turning the corner in his development, with Lee Evans reaping the benefits, but youth populates the rest of the team, primarily on the defensive side. And it is still Dick Jauron manning the sidelines...
4. Miami (5-11) - New head coach. New aging quarterback. Running back who's having trouble beating out Jesse Chatman for the starting job... None of these seem to point to a successful season for the 'Fins, which will surely disappoint the talented defense.

AFC North
1. Baltimore (11-5) - Steve McNair is a year older and Willis McGahee has to prove himself as an elite running back, but the defense alone should carry this team to a handful of wins. If McNair can manage the offense, a division title is there for the taking.
2. Cincinnati (11-5) - With Carson Palmer another year removed from ACL surgery, the offense will provide plenty of highlight-reel moments, which will work for the regular season... But again, the defense is questionable and could be the downfall when it matters.
3. Pittsburgh (9-7) - Ben Roethlisberger didn't nearly kill himself this off-season, which already puts him ahead of what was a miserable season last year. If he can return to form, they'll make some noise, but I'm predicting some stumbles along the way.
4. Cleveland (4-12) - Brady Quinn will be the starting quarterback by year's end. You know it. I know it. Romeo Crennel must know it. But they'll again struggle through the Charlie Frye era until Quinn is ready to guide the team to another high draft pick.

AFC South
1. Indianapolis (13-3) - With nearly all their offensive stars back once again, there's no reason to believe that Peyton Manning is satisfied with a single championship. The defense will struggle again, but as long as Manning's blindside is protected, they'll pile up the wins.
2. Tennessee (9-7) - Year 2 of Vince Young's career finds him without several of the weapons that helped him during his rookie campaign. Young can't single-handedly carry this team like back in Texas, but he can lead them to the Titans' first winning record in years.
3. Jacksonville (7-9) - The defense is full of talent. But can Maurice Jones-Drew repeat his explosive rookie season? Can Fred Taylor stay healthy? Will a WR emerge to be the #1 guy? And of course, David Garrard over Byron Leftwich... I don't think it matters.
4. Houston (5-11) - Matt Schaub is no Vince Young. Ahman Green is no Reggie Bush. Regardless, both players should help stabilize an offense that often appeared in disarray. Everybody believes the Texans are building a team the right way, but they're not there yet.

AFC West
1. San Diego (13-3) - Even Norv Turner can't screw up the most talented roster in the league, right? Handing the ball off to LaDainian Tomlinson would make any quarterback look good, but Philip Rivers continues his maturation and should earn another division title.
2. Denver (10-6) - Considering this team was placed in the hands of Jake Plummer last year, I'm shocked they reached nine wins. Now with Jay Cutler at the helm, the Broncos will go through some growing pains but will be better for it in the long run.
3. Oakland (5-11) - It won't be pretty, but it'll be an improvement... Lane Kiffin inherits an underrated defense to go along with a putrid offense. But an influx of quarterbacks and a potentially healthy LaMont Jordan will keep this team out of the cellar.
4. Kansas City (4-12) - I drafted Larry Johnson in fantasy football so his much-anticipated decline this season is now a certainty. Throw in the loss of two offensive linemen and the continued presence of Herm Edwards and the Chiefs are in for a long season.

FC East
1. Philadelphia (11-5) - This prediction is obviously greatly dependent on the health of Donovan McNabb. A healthy McNabb coupled with the explosive Brian Westbrook and an upgraded defense will lift this team over the other flawed teams in the division.
2. Dallas (9-7) - Consider me still skeptical of the Tony Romo experiment. After starting off with a bang, Romo faded at the end of the season, even before the botched hold in the playoffs. The defense is solid, but that offense concerns me for now.
3. New York Giants (7-9) - The off-field distractions are enough to pull this team together and overcome their deficiencies or excuse them for collapsing upon themselves in a fiery inferno... In either case, I'm sure Tiki Barber will have something to say about it.
4. Washington (6-10) - Whoever inherits this team after Joe Gibbs steps down is going to have his work cut out for him, as I think every draft pick until 2018 has been traded away. However, Jason Campbell continues to improve, but Clinton Portis is still crazy.

NFC North
1. Chicago (10-6) - Last season's NFC champions appear to have upgraded both offensively (Greg Olsen and Devin Hester) and defensively (Adam Archuleta and Darvin Walker). So what could keep them from duplicating their 2006 success... one Rex Grossman, of course.
2. Detroit (8-8) - The offense should see continued improvement during their second year under Mike Martz. Having Calvin Johnson to throw to doesn't hurt either. But how many teams will the Lions be able to outscore, as the defense remains porous, at best.
3. Minnesota (7-9) - How can a team without a quarterback win seven games? I'm not entirely sure, but playing in the NFC North has to help. Expect a lot of handoffs to Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor and a defense that will keep games close.
4. Green Bay (5-11) - In what may (or may not) be his last season, Brett Favre inches farther and farther away from his Super Bowl days. A strong finish last season gives Packer fans hope, but a legitimate running game was a factor... and something they don't have now.

NFC South
1. New Orleans (11-5) - The Saints will be hard-pressed to duplicate the offensive display from last year, but the personnel is in place to try. Drew Brees has a multitude of options to choose from, while Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister continue to control the ground.
2. Carolina (7-9) - This is a make-or-break season for Jake Delhomme, as his stock has declined the last several seasons. If he does falter, David Carr will take the reigns, which can't make the Panthers overly comfortable. Better hope for some long runs...
3. Tampa Bay (6-10) - After disappointing fantasy owners everywhere, Carnell Williams looks to rebound to his ROY form. Every little bit will help Jeff Garcia, now on his 4th team in as many years, as he and an aging defense battle Father Time for another season.
4. Atlanta (5-11) - The Ewing Theory potential here is astounding, but I'd feel more comfortable if it wasn't dependent on Joey Harrington. While I feel he'll perform better than expected, there's still that little question of to whom he's going to throw.

NFC West
1. San Francisco (9-7) - I did not expect to see the 49ers here when I completed my picks, as I feel they're still a year away. But tucked away in the division of apparent mediocrity, Alex Smith and Frank Gore look to lead this team back to the playoffs.
2. St. Louis (8-8) - Torry Holt is dinged up. Isaac Bruce is old. Marc Bulger makes me nervous. But there's still Steven Jackson, who looks to carry the Rams (and countless fantasy teams) to the playoffs. In the awful NFC, eight wins just might do it...
3. Seattle (7-9) - Matt Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander are both healthy again, but this isn't the same Seahawk team from seasons past. The offensive line slipped last year and they let Darrell Jackson head to the Bay. Despite the talent, I see a rough season ahead.
4. Arizona (7-9) - The first year under Ken Whisenhunt will show improvement, but there are still holes to fill before the Cardinals make the leap. Matt Leinart will continue to grow while throwing to one of the top WR corps. I'm just not ready to crown their asses yet...

AFC Wild Card Round
Indianapolis over Denver - In what has become an annual ritual, the Colts will once again send the Broncos home for the season.
Cincinnati over Baltimore - A stifled Bengals offense should still manage to put up more points than a tired Steve McNair.
NFC Wild Card Round
Chicago over St. Louis - January weather will force the Rams to go one-dimensional, which is a dimension the Bears can stop.
San Francisco over Dallas - In a flashback to the 90's, the 49ers will scratch out the win while the Cowboys again head home early.

AFC Divisional Round
San Diego over Indianapolis - The Chargers finally break through, knocking out the defending champions, in spite of the coaching...
New England over Cincinnati - Against a team with a formidable defense and a solid offense, the Bengals can't keep up and get sent home.
NFC Divisional Round
Chicago over New Orleans - Rematch of the NFC Championship on turf, Bush and Co. gain some speed... but so do Bears defenders.
Philadelphia over San Francisco - The 49ers run ends when pitted against not only the Eagles, but the Eagles fans in mid-January.

AFC Championship
New England over San Diego - The Chargers get a step closer but still can't break through, as Brady won't be denied a second year in a row.
NFC Championship
Chicago over Philadelphia - Either determined by an in-depth, position-by-position analysis of the teams... or a blindly homer-style pick...

Super Bowl XLII
New England over Chicago - In a rematch of Super Bowl XX, the Patriots walk away with their 4th title this decade. I normally tend to stay away from the overwhelming favorites going into the season, but I couldn't, in good conscience, select another team I believed was structured in a way to win it all this year. I still have an unshakable feeling that the Patriots will be faced with some adversity this season, but until it rears its head, I have to base predictions on the information at hand. And at hand, the Patriots are a superior team to Chicago, and every other team in the league. So for the second year in a row, my team ends the season with a loss on the grandest of stages and would be halfway towards becoming the Buffalo Bills...