One Season, 32 Sentences
by Colin Donohue
I’m back after almost two weeks. I figured that I could never do better than a post about the awkward hilarity of former NBA bona fide superstar Gheorghe Muresan. (C’mon. Does it get any better than Craig Kilborn saying, “Doesn’t matter who won the game. Hor-hay wins with this move.” The answer? No. It doesn’t get any better. And in case you didn’t see the video last time around, I’m posting it again. I’m going to ride this train 13 years later because it makes me laugh endlessly. Seriously, when have you ever seen a 7-foot-7, slow-footed monster make a ball fake move like that while driving down the lane? It’s big-time entertainment because it’s so unbelievable. I mean, have you watched “Shaq Vs“? Shaq runs like a geriatric with osteoporosis, and we eat that stuff up. As if he could compete with top athletes in other sports at his age and in his condition. But it’s fun to view, nonetheless. So enjoy Gheorghe one more time.)
OK. That digression is over … for now. The real reason for my triumphant return to PnP blogging is the advent of the 2009 NFL season. (Good thing Justin enjoys college football and is willing to write about it. I am not a fan. I prefer to the professional brand of American footballing.) Now, if you’re a fervent follower of Pick and Pop (and if you are, God bless), then you know I already posted my division-by-division breakdowns HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE. But I promised that I would preview the NFL season with one-sentence predictions.
Why one sentence? Because it’s a challenge to be concise and precise. Because it’s fun to see how much punctuation I can use to ensure that a sentence doesn’t end before my line of thought does. And because I like to stick it to the verbose, megalomaniac George Will whenever possible. So with the NFL’s opening night bearing down on us quickly, here are 32 sentences about 32 teams.
Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals are in much the same position they were in last year with a potent passing attack, below average running game and questionable defense; however, they’re also in the weak NFC West, which means they will probably win the division again this year.
Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons have a breakout runner (Michael Turner), a good young QB (Matt Ryan) and a stud wide receiver (Roddy White), all of which you can couple with a serviceable defense and a division on the decline (Panthers and Bucs aren’t that competitive), making an NFC South win a distinct possibility.
Baltimore Ravens: When you think Ravens, you always think defense, but now you have reason to believe that they have a good young QB to direct the offense, a stable of runners and some OK wide receivers to catch the ball; but with all that said, the Pittsburgh Steelers stand in their way, which is why Baltimore will probably be fighting for a wild card berth this postseason.
Buffalo Bills: Adding TO will probably help the offense, but with an unproven offensive line, a QB who probably doesn’t instill much confidence in the team or fan base and a starting RB suspended for the first three games (and, oh yeah, they just fired their offensive coordinator), the Bills might make a little noise in the AFC East, but ultimately, they’re out of the playoff picture.
Carolina Panthers: You have to love a team with DeAngelo Williams running and Steve Smith catching, but you have to be weary of a team with Jake Delhomme quarterbacking, so it’s difficult to imagine the Panthers being a playoff contender this year; although, they always seem to pull things out in the end.
Chicago Bears: Of course, the news here is about QB Jay Cutler an whether he has enough weapons around him to make the Bears a viable threat, and the answer is yes because of RB Matt Forte and TE Greg Olsen; that said, the Bears defense needs to show marked improvement from a year ago for the Bears to be considered a Super Bowl threat.
Cincinnati Bengals: This is an intriguing team that has a good young QB (Carson Palmer) and a WR corps (Chad Ochocinco, Laverneus Coles and Travis Henry) that gives the Bengals real offensive firepower, but the problem will be the defense and the fact that they have to play the Ravens and Steelers twice this season.
Cleveland Browns: Quite simply, this team is a mess with an aging runner, a WR who all of sudden has a case of the drops and no clear-cut No. 1 QB, all of which you can add to an underwhelming defense and a team playing in the AFC South (it equals a five-win year, if you’re keeping tally).
Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys, one of the big enigmas of seemingly every football season for the last six or seven years, should be a legitimate contender, but because Tony Romo plays like a gunslinger and because there’s no No. 1 wide receiver here, the Cowboys could stumble to 8-8 or could surprise with a 10-win season.
Denver Broncos: Hey, Broncos fans, your starting QB is Kyle Orton … how does a four-win or less season sound?
Detroit Lions: At least they won’t go winless this year … we hope.
Green Bay Packers: This team has the talent on both sides of the ball to be competitive, but they’re in a division now that boasts a remade Bears club and a solid Vikings club with new QB Brett Favre; if the Packers are going to upset those two teams in front of them, they’re going to need RB Ryan Grant to break out of his funk and play a key role on the offense.
Houston Texans: This is one of the most offensively dynamic teams in the league (QB Matt Schaub, RB Steve Slaton, WR Andre Johnson, TE Owen Daniel) with a defense that seems to show improvement every year, but the concern for them is competing with the Indianapolis Colts and the Tennessee Titans, so it could be tough sledding for Houston this season.
Indianapolis Colts: You have to wonder if the window is closing for this team now that it has a new coaching structure in place, and while it’s hard to count out a Peyton Manning led team, the Colts really aren’t a Super Bowl contender as they’re presently constructed.
Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jags should have a tough-nosed defense and a top RB in Maurice Jones-Drew, but questions still surround their WR corps (which does include Torry Holt) and QB David Garrard’s effectiveness to lead the offense, so the Jags are probably on the outside of the postseason window.
Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs are a chic team to pick as surprise, but I don’t see it happening because of a middle-of-the-road defense, an unknown quarterback quantity (yes, Matt Cassel is an unknown because he’s only played in the Patriots system) and a disgruntled running back.
Miami Dolphins: You gotta love the Wildcat offense, but it won’t have the same surprise it did last year, and there are questions about whether the Dolphins run enough traditional offense sets to keep defenses honest with an underwhelming QB in Chad Pennington.
Minnesota Vikings: Favre does give the Vikings more credibility as a potential NFC championship team because he provides Minnesota with a legitimate arm to couple with RB Adrian Peterson’s weekly dazzling display and a stout defense that’s solid at almost every position, so the Vikings should compete for a division crown.
New England Patriots: The Tom Brady-Randy Moss connection is back together again, and it means big things for the Pats offense, while the defense is not as strong as it was in years past; however, they are clearly the best team in the AFC East.
New Orleans Saints: There’s no question the Saints might have the best offense in the league led by 5,000+ yard passer Drew Brees, so it will come down to the defense’s ability to keep games out of reach because the Saints can go touchdown for touchdown with opponents for only so long.
New York Giants: The G-men still have a stifling defense, a Super Bowl winning QB and a big, bruising running back, but questions surround the wide receivers on this team; still, the Giants play black-and-blue ball up front, and pound for pound, they have the best offensive and defensive lines in the NFC East, which is why they probably take the division again.
New York Jets: New coach Rex Ryan is trying to toughen his team up, and that might make the defense a stronger unit, but no matter who plays QB (Mark Sanchez or Kellen Clemens), there’s no experience back there, so RB Thomas Jones will see some lean numbers this year, and the Jets will be out of the playoffs.
Oakland Raiders: The Raiders still play football?
Philadelphia Eagles: Here’s another chic pick, which I don’t understand because QB Donovan McNabb, while still a capable QB, is not as dynamic as he once was, RB Brian Westbrook appears to break down more and more every year, the wide receivers are a bunch of nobodies and the defense is tragically missing defensive play caller Jim Johnson; so I think the Eagles are a bubble team this season.
Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers are returning everyone who helped them win a Super Bowl last year–that defense is excellent, the offense is capable of moving the ball down the field and every player on that team exhibits a great deal of toughness, so it’s possible the Steelers repeat, but not too likely.
San Diego Chargers: The Chargers are the best team in a weak conference because of their offensive talent, but the question this year will be whether LaDainian Tomlinson can return to his freakish form and whether Shawne Merriman makes the defense one of the most feared in the league again (he certainly put a fright into Tila Tequila).
San Francisco 49ers: This is a team with some decent receivers, a quality running back and no real quarterback to speak off, plus their defense, while it should be improved this season, is not fantastic; still, because of Mike Singletary, this could be an eight-win club.
Seattle Seahawks: Here’s a team that’s kind of lurking in the weeds now that QB Matt Hasselbeck is healthy with a good complement of receivers with whom to work; however, they don’t have a top-flight running back, and their defense has seemingly gotten worse every year for the last three, so while they could compete, they’re probably still a ways off from the playoffs.
St. Louis Rams: They still have QB Marc Bulger (what’s happened to him) and stud RB Stephen Jackson, but they lost Torry Holt and now boast the capable Donnie Avery as the No. 1 wide out, not to mention their defense was in tatters last season and needs to show major improvement if they hope to reach at best an 8-8 record.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: These aren’t your Daddy’s Bucs because the defense simply isn’t the same as it was at the start of this decade; they also are lacking a true QB presence, while boasting a decent backfield stable of runners and an aging, yet still productive, wide receiver.
Tennessee Titans: The Titans have a great defense and an offense predicated on swift and powerful running from two backs and mistake-free throws from QB Kerry Collins, which should be enough for them to tackle the AFC South.
Washington Redskins: This team has been mismanaged for a decade now, and it shows in the results, but it doesn’t stop me from being optimistic every year, and they have an opportunity to do some good things because they strengthened an already good defense with a key free agent (Albert Haynesworth) and a draft choice (Brian Orakpo); so while I think they can be competitive, they’re still probably not a playoff team.
So there you have it. Those are my 32 sentences covering 32 NFL teams. I’ll come back before Thursday night’s game with my predicted standings and Super Bowl champions. We’ll see if I can do better than Sports Illustrated, which has a history of making some screwy picks. I can’t wait for the 2009 NFL season to commence.
(But to be honest, I’m really chomping at the bit for the start of the 2009-10 NHL season. Rookie camps have already opened. But, hey, we’ll save the NHL talk for the NHL season.)