Picks Record Last Season
*A lot of people want to jump the Dolphins right to the front of the line, but needles to say I'm not one of those people. They may be much improved with the addition of Daunte Culpepper and the maturation of young studs like McMichael, Brown and Chambers, but I just don't see them having enough big game experience to put them over the top this season. As for the Pats, the loss of Adam Vinatieri and Willie McGinnest hurts, and of course the Deion Branch situation isn't helping, but any team with Tom Brady and Richard Seymour in their lineup is still going to be tough to beat. Notice I didn't mention the Jets or Bills. They are garbage, and the best shot they have at winning any games is the two times they play each other.
*You might just look at these picks and think all I did was copy the standings from the end of last season. While they are the same, it's for good reason. None of these teams seemed to really improve themselves this offseason, so I expect Indy to remain on top, and the rest of the teams will fall in line. Jacksonville showed some promise last year, but the Pats dismantling of them in the playoffs was a sign that they still don't have what it takes on either side of the ball to hang with real contenders for a full game.
*Maybe it's my hatred for the Steelers, or maybe it's because I think the Bengals are a better team. Even I'm not sure which one it is. But with Carson Palmer appearing to be healthy enough to lead that ferocious passing attack and Rudi Johnson ready to pound the ball down people's throats, Cincy is going to be hard to handle again in '06. Pittsburgh should be about as good as they were last year, but the issues with Big Ben and the departure of Jerome Bettis and Randle El might be a little too much to overcome in a year where everyone will be bringing their A game against you week after week.
*This division always gives me major issues. Will Denver hold to form with their mixture of strong defense and bottomless pit of thousand yard backs? Will the Chargers finally emerge with Philip Rivers at the helm? Can KC finally overcome a leaky defense that has kept them from thriving the past few years? Well, at least I don't have to worry about Oakland, because I know they won't be going anywhere. I'm giving the nod to the Chiefs in this one, not because I think their D is all that much better, but more just on a gut feeling. If Trent Green can continue his success, teams won't be able to stack the box against Larry Johnson, which should make their offense very dangerous. As long as Herm Edwards doesn't try and actually coach too much, they should be able to grab the division. And look for Jake the Snake to continue sliding backwards just like he did in the pressure of last years playoffs.
Wild Card Teams: San Diego Chargers, Baltimore Ravens
*Arguably the toughest division in the whole league, but I feel it's the Giants to lose. They have the most well rounded team, and with Eli Manning a year older, their offense could be in for big time results this year. Tiki Barber still remains one of the most underrated players in league, and as long as Eli can keep the D honest, they should be able to be on top of the East all season long. As for the rest, Dallas did get a lot better on the field by adding TO, but who knows what that might do to their mind set if he continues acting a fool. And you might wonder why I have Washington so low even after their playoff run a year ago. Well it's simple, and it has nothing to do with the health of Clinton Portis. Mark Brunell is just way too old. Joe Gibbs seemed to do a lot with smoke and mirrors last year, and I just think that this team doesn't have enough fire power on either side of the ball to hang in this tough division.
*Now here's the division that I feel is the toughest in the NFL, and probably has been for the best 4 or 5 years. The Saints may be garbage, but by adding Drew Brees and Reggie Bush this offseason at least makes them formidable offensively and no longer quite the pushover. As for the top, Carolina is again my pick this year to make it to and win the Super Bowl. Additions like RB DeAngelo Williams and WR Keyshawn Johnson and the return of DL Kris Jenkins make the Panthers the most improved and most feared team. In Atlanta, something tells me Mike Vick is due for another injury, so that's why I have them so low. But even if he stays healthy, what has he actually shown that should make me put them any higher? As usual, these guys will probably beat each other up during division play, so don't expect even Carolina and Tampa to make it to the postseason with great records.
*Talk about picking the best of the worst. Chicago may have great defense, but what's the story with QB Rex Grossman? You can count on Detroit to be awful again, but probably score a lot more points with new offensive guru Mike Martz. Brett Favre swears he is on the most talented team he has ever played for, but too bad his teammates probably don't feel the same way. Prediction, he throws 25+ picks and bows out 2 years too late. As for the Vikes, I really do think they have a great shot with Brad Johnson calling the shots, but if it's not one thing it's another with this team. I got money that says they'll make it to the strip club before they make it to the Super Bowl.
*If not for Seattle, the West would make the North look like the English premier League. The Seahawks should have no trouble running away with the division again, but that doesn't mean a return trip to the big game is likely. People want to downplay the exodus of some of their O-line, but not this guy. Arizona burned me last year when I picked them to make the playoffs as a wild card, and it's very possible they will burn me again. But, I do like their ball hawking defense and what's not to love about probably the most talented receiver tandem in the league in Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. St. Louis will still continue to score, and you have to love Stephen Jackson, but they just don't have enough on D to make any real run. As for the 49ers? To quote the immortal Jim Mora. Playoffs?!?!?! We can't even win a game! Translation, expect them to play like "diddly poo".
Wild Card Teams: Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Super Bowl Prediction: Carolina Panthers 30 New England Patriots 24
Red Sox Update
Last Week: 3-5
Standings: 2nd place 9 games back
*The white flag has been up for a few weeks now, so let's all do ourselves a favor and just hope that a good number of the Sox will simply be alive when next season begins. Talk about a bad stretch of luck...
Last Week: 20-1-1
Overall: 241-189-64 (3rd place 11.5 games back)
This Week: Round 1 of the playoffs (3) Hanley's Wang vs (6) Suck It France!
*That's got to be my most lopsided victory of the season, and it couldn't have come at a better time. With the playoffs starting this week, I was able to slide into 3rd place and avoid a potential first round clash with Frosco. Now if I see him, it will be for all the marbles. Nobody can touch Hanley's Wang!