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NFL 2006 Kickoff!

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NFC 2006 Preview/Predictions

NFC North

Bears- the Bears have improved steadily over the last 3 years. With a draft that improved their depth on both sides of the ball and 22 starters back from their division winning team of last season, I expect them to continue this trend. If they can add some punch to their passing game, they could make some noise in the playoffs. They are the team to beat in the North.

Vikings- the Vikes have made some major moves bringing in Brad Johnson, a lot of help on defense and Ryan Longwell to give them a steady kicker. How well it goes for the Vikings depends on chemistry but they’ve got the talent to give the Bears a run for their money.

Packers- the Pack had a big draft but that’s not going to be enough. Anywhere the Pack goes this season will depend on shoring up big holes on offense and defense. The only question here is can Farve keep them out of the cellar?

Lions- the Lions are perpetually rebuilding and this year is no different. Harrington is out, Kitna is in and the defense should be better but the Lions are still a couple of years away.

NFC East

Giants- bucking the trend, I’m picking the Giants to win this division based on the rapid development of Eli Manning as the top QB in the division. The Giants are solid on both sides of the ball and I expect Eli to be the first Manning in the Superbowl.

Cowboys- Parcells has built a solid team but still needs to find a QB and a blue chip RB. He has brought in Drew Bledsoe to run the offense and will use Julius Jones and Marion Barber to run the ball. A lot depends of how the offence come together, but Dallas has a shot at a wild-card berth.

Redskins- Gibbs has restored respectability to the Skins. With Burnell at QB and Portis running the ball, the only thing that could derail them is injuries. Expect them to be in contention for the division. A solid but unspectacular draft will help their defense.

Eagles- oh how the mighty have fallen! After 5 years of being a dominate team in the division, the Eagles are going to have to hustle to make it back to 3rd place.

NFC West

Seahawks- it’s easy to pick the ‘Hawks as the class of this division. Hasselback is a pro bowl QB, Alexander is a punishing runner and their receivers are coming into their own. Their defense was a solid #5 in the NFL against the run but they were #25 against the pass. They’ll have to improve their secondary play to return to glory.

Rams- the Rams are a team of contrasts. They are as good on offense as they are bad on defense: 30th in the NFL in total defense, 28th against the rush, 23rd against the pass and 31st in points allowed. They are going to have to stop somebody before they are going to beat anybody. Expect the free-fall in St. Louis to continue unless Haslett, former head coach at New Orleans can stop the bleeding on defense.

Cardinals- despite some promising rookies and younger players, the Cards are still a year or more away from challenging the Hawks.

49ers- quite possibly the worst team in the league. The glory days are long gone in Frisco and so is the coaching staff unless the team shows marked improvement on the field.

NFC South

Buccaneers- Everything is riding on the development of Chris Simms. As Simms goes, so goes the franchise. Cadillac Williams had a great rookie year and looks to be the missing piece in the Bucs offense. Last year the Bucs had the #1 defense in the NFL. They are the team to beat in the South.

Panthers- Carolina is one of the best balanced teams in the NFL. The have the #3 defense and 8th scoring offense in the league. They added Williams (RB) and their running game will only be better. They will contend for the division and have shown that they have the grit to go the distance.

Falcons- the hot and cold running Falcons are devastating with their run & gun QB Vick. Their problem is that Vick’s high risk style exposes him to injuries. Look for rookie running back Norwood to get a lot of playing time and yards. The Falcons had the #22 overall defense last year and need to stop the run better.

Saints- despite the addition of Drew Brees (QB) and super-rookie Reggie Bush (RB), the Saints still looked terrible in preseason. The Saints had a competent offense with McAlister, Horn and Stallworth. Their problem was defense: #27 in the NFL against the run. The Saints linebackers can’t stop the run and got no help in the draft.

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Tomorrow: the AFC

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NFC 2006 Preview/Predictions

NFC North

Bears- the Bears have improved steadily over the last 3 years. With a draft that improved their depth on both sides of the ball and 22 starters back from their division winning team of last season, I expect them to continue this trend. If they can add some punch to their passing game, they could make some noise in the playoffs. They are the team to beat in the North.

Vikings- the Vikes have made some major moves bringing in Brad Johnson, a lot of help on defense and Ryan Longwell to give them a steady kicker. How well it goes for the Vikings depends on chemistry but they’ve got the talent to give the Bears a run for their money.

Packers- the Pack had a big draft but that’s not going to be enough. Anywhere the Pack goes this season will depend on shoring up big holes on offense and defense. The only question here is can Farve keep them out of the cellar?

Lions- the Lions are perpetually rebuilding and this year is no different. Harrington is out, Kitna is in and the defense should be better but the Lions are still a couple of years away.

NFC East

Giants- bucking the trend, I’m picking the Giants to win this division based on the rapid development of Eli Manning as the top QB in the division. The Giants are solid on both sides of the ball and I expect Eli to be the first Manning in the Superbowl.

Cowboys- Parcells has built a solid team but still needs to find a QB and a blue chip RB. He has brought in Drew Bledsoe to run the offense and will use Julius Jones and Marion Barber to run the ball. A lot depends of how the offence come together, but Dallas has a shot at a wild-card berth.

Redskins- Gibbs has restored respectability to the Skins. With Burnell at QB and Portis running the ball, the only thing that could derail them is injuries. Expect them to be in contention for the division. A solid but unspectacular draft will help their defense.

Eagles- oh how the mighty have fallen! After 5 years of being a dominate team in the division, the Eagles are going to have to hustle to make it back to 3rd place.

NFC West

Seahawks- it’s easy to pick the ‘Hawks as the class of this division. Hasselback is a pro bowl QB, Alexander is a punishing runner and their receivers are coming into their own. Their defense was a solid #5 in the NFL against the run but they were #25 against the pass. They’ll have to improve their secondary play to return to glory.

Rams- the Rams are a team of contrasts. They are as good on offense as they are bad on defense: 30th in the NFL in total defense, 28th against the rush, 23rd against the pass and 31st in points allowed. They are going to have to stop somebody before they are going to beat anybody. Expect the free-fall in St. Louis to continue unless Haslett, former head coach at New Orleans can stop the bleeding on defense.

Cardinals- despite some promising rookies and younger players, the Cards are still a year or more away from challenging the Hawks.

49ers- quite possibly the worst team in the league. The glory days are long gone in Frisco and so is the coaching staff unless the team shows marked improvement on the field.

NFC South

Buccaneers- Everything is riding on the development of Chris Simms. As Simms goes, so goes the franchise. Cadillac Williams had a great rookie year and looks to be the missing piece in the Bucs offense. Last year the Bucs had the #1 defense in the NFL. They are the team to beat in the South.

Panthers- Carolina is one of the best balanced teams in the NFL. The have the #3 defense and 8th scoring offense in the league. They added Williams (RB) and their running game will only be better. They will contend for the division and have shown that they have the grit to go the distance.

Falcons- the hot and cold running Falcons are devastating with their run & gun QB Vick. Their problem is that Vick’s high risk style exposes him to injuries. Look for rookie running back Norwood to get a lot of playing time and yards. The Falcons had the #22 overall defense last year and need to stop the run better.

Saints- despite the addition of Drew Brees (QB) and super-rookie Reggie Bush (RB), the Saints still looked terrible in preseason. The Saints had a competent offense with McAlister, Horn and Stallworth. Their problem was defense: #27 in the NFL against the run. The Saints linebackers can’t stop the run and got no help in the draft.

AFC 2006 Preview/Predictions

AFC North

Steelers- if there is a weakness in the defending super bowl champions, I don’t see it. The 2005 Steelers were the NFL’s #4 total defense and #4 rushing offense. They have made the playoffs in 4 of the past 5 years and second year quarterback Roethlisberger proved that he is for real. If anything, the Steelers promise to be better in 2006 by picking up more offensive firepower in the draft.

Bengals- under Marvin Lewis, the Bengals have made steady progress. They are no longer perennial losers but they still have a long way to go to challenge the Steelers for the division. The Bengals have one of the NFLs rising stars in QB Carson Palmer. Last year they were the NFL’s #6 offense and #4 scoring offense. As good as their offense was, their defense was bad- 28th in total defense, 20th against the rush and 26th against the pass. Their offense will probably get them into the playoffs but their defense won’t keep them in it for long.

Ravens- the Ravens picked up veteran QB Steve McNair to run the Ravens offense that was 24th in the league in ’05. If McNair can resurrect the Raven’s offense, there is nothing wrong with the Raven’s defense. It was #5 in total defense and in the top 10 in rush, pass and scoring defense. The Ravens just might surprise a lot of people after last years 6-10 finish.

Browns- the Browns were the NFL’s 26th ranked offense: 25th rushing, 23rd passing and 32nd scoring. They start the year with an unproven QB, 2004’s #1 draft pick Kellum Winslow returns from injury and a solid running back in Reuben Droughns. Unfortunately, their defense was 30th in the league at stopping the run. They were better at pass defense but that appears to be because no one needed to pass against them. The Browns don’t look like they are going anywhere this year.

AFC East

New England- since 2000, the Pats have been the most consistent winner in the league. It is just not smart to bet against Brady and Belichick. Even after an injury marred 11-7 mark in ‘05, the Pats are still the team to beat in the East. The only obvious weakness is their play in the secondary which was ranked 31st in the league last season.

Dolphins- in Sabin’s first season at Miami, the Dolphins improved to 9-7. Statistically the Dolphins were right in the middle of the standings in ‘05- 14th in total offense and 18th in total defense. In the off season, Dante Culpepper came over from the Viking to take over at QB so the offense is expected to improve. Good news: the ‘Fins will be better. Bad news: better isn’t good enough to win the division. A wild card isn’t out of the question.

Jets- when oft-injured Chad Pennington starts, the Jets are 15-6. When he’s not on the field, the Jets are a dismal 8-12. There’s no doubt that there is a lot of talent on the Jets team. They need stability at QB to put the package together. The Jets Defense is very solid. They were ranked 12th in total defense and #2 against the pass. Pro bowler Jonathan Vilma might just be the best Jets linebacker ever. If Pennington can avoid injury, the Jets will improve dramatically.

Bills- the Bills were horrible in ’05. They had the NFL’s #28 offense and #29 defense. J.P. Loseman was not the reincarnation of Jim Kelly, the running game is non-existant and no immediate help arrived on draft day. The Bills are rebuilding but the ’06 season looks like its going to be a long one.

AFC West

Broncos- in ’05 Jake Plummer got his act together and took the Broncos to the title game. The offense was ranked 5th overall but lost their lead rusher to free agency. Ron Dayne looks to start at RB but his durability is a question mark. Denver’s receivers, with the exception of Rod Smith, are inconsistent. Denver spent 2nd, 3rd and 5th round draft picks on receivers and picked up Javon Walker to improve their passing game. The Orange Crush was tough against the run (#2) but was dreadful against the pass (#29).

Chargers- if Philip Rivers can step in and do a reasonable job running the offense, the Chargers will make some noise this year. The Chargers are a very talented team with what may well be the best all around RB in the game- LaDainian Tomlinson. The Chargers defense is very strong against the run- #1 in the league in ’05 but was #28 against the pass. The Chargers have the firepower to challenge the Broncos for the division title.

Chiefs- the Chiefs are a consistently disappointing teams. In ’05 they were had the #1 offense in the league and the #25 defense. They will score a lot and still lose when it counts.

Raiders- the Raider were so desperate for a QB, they acquired the inconsistent Aaron Brooks from New Orleans and gave Jeff George, who hasn’t played a down in years, a long look. That about sums it up.

AFC South

Colts- no one in the division can challenge the Colts. They simply have too much firepower. The big question is can the Colts defense stop playoff caliber contenders? Until Dungy answers that question, Indy will continue to roll through the regular season and get rolled in the playoffs.

Jaguars- the Jags are on the verge of breaking out in ’06. Byron Leftwich is peaking, they are deep at running back, had a very strong draft and have a very strong, physical balanced team overall. Expect them to make a strong bid for a wild card and they might just have what it take to challenge the Colts.

Titans- look to be a team in disarray after an awful 4-12 season in ‘05. Gone is long time starting QB McNair and no heir apparent has stepped up. Call this a rebuilding year.

Texans- had the #30 offense and the #31 defense and a 2-14 record in ’05. They had a strong draft this year and look to improve defensively. For the Texans to start winning, they must protect QB David Carr who has been the most sacked QB in the league 3 years running.

Key Match Ups- Week 1

Atlanta at Carolina

Baltimore at Tampa Bay

Bengals at Chiefs

Dallas at Jacksonville

Indianapolis at Giants

Minnesota at Washington

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