Many say that predicting the NFL season is like trying to win the
Idaho lottery: it’s pretty much a crapshoot.
In the past, I’ve experienced that for myself.
And it’s easy to see why: there are only sixteen games in a season, teams can get really hot or really cold really fast, players can go down with season-ending injuries, others come from out of nowhere to make a name for themselves, etc.
You can go on and on with any number of reasons why the NFL is so hard to predict.
But yet, we media members are going to go right ahead and predict it anyway.
So, without further ado, I bring to you my annual NFL prediction columns.
As we head out into the preseason, I will take a look at the NFL, division-by-division.
I’ll give you my thoughts on each team in that division, why I think that team will/won’t be any good this season, and give you an estimated order of finish in that division, one through four.
I’ve already taken a look at the NFC’s North and West divisions.
Today, it’s a division that is all of a sudden more of a dogfight (no pun intended) than originally perceived…for second place, that is.
It’s a look at the NFC South.
: Bobby Petrino is in his first year as head coach in the NFL after spending the last four years as the head coach of the
Louisville’s football program.
: well, should I start with the good news first or the bad news?
The good news is you still have Alge Crumpler, Warrick Dunn (at least when he’s healthy), and a halfway-decent offensive line, not to mention you just acquired longtime New Orleans Saints wideout Joe “Cell Phone” Horn.
The bad news?
Well, that’s pretty obvious at this point.
Remember a few years ago, when the Miami Dolphins were relying very heavily on their running game, and then, not even a week into training camp, Ricky Williams decides to retire so he could “search for the truth”?
Remember how well it went for the Dolphins that year?
That’s how the loss of Michael Vick will affect the Falcons.
And looking at this realistically, I fail to see how Michael Vick plays another down in the NFL ever again.
But look at the bright side.
At least you have Joey Harrington.
You know, the guy that washed out of both
Miami; you know, that Joey Harrington.
: the draft addition of Jamaal Anderson on the defensive line will be a huge boost, but perhaps one that will not, by itself, offset the loss of a great defensive lineman in Patrick Kerney.
John Abraham, Keith Brooking, Lawyer Milloy, and DeAngelo Hall are back for another run, but it may be all a moot point right now.
: I can just hear commissioner Roger Goodell right now…with the first pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons select…insert name of top quarterback prospect here.
: 4th in NFC South, potential top three in the draft.
: John Fox
Carolina’s offense just got very interesting.
Never mind that the O-Line may or may not be where it was when Carolina went to the NFC Championship game a couple years back, they still have one of the top receivers in the league in Steve Smith, DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams are back to run the football down opposing defenses’ throats, Jake Delhomme just got a little bit of competition in former Texans QB David Carr, and they did get a steal in the draft at wideout in Dwayne Jarrett from USC.
If the offensive line can stay healthy, and if Delhomme and/or Carr stay off their back for at least half the season, the Panthers’ offense should be the second-best in the division.
: the draft addition of Jon Beason will help plug a hole at linebacker, and on a defense that has very few holes to speak of, that’s big.
The defensive line looks to be as dominant this year as they’ve ever been, with Mike Rucker, Kris Jenkins, and Julius Peppers all back, healthy, and ready to crush the hopes and dreams of opposing quarterbacks and running backs.
Peppers and Rucker could very well be the scariest defensive end combination in all the NFL.
: not only does this team win the NFC South had
New Orleans not done so much to improve, but they actually could be a very scary Wild Card team to face in the playoffs.
Depending on the quarterback controversy, this team should make a run in the playoffs.
: 2nd in NFC South, Wild Card berth
: Sean Payton
: for the most part, the crew that helped lead this team to its first-ever conference championship game is back again.
Drew Brees, chip on shoulder and all, is once again calling the shots, the two-headed running back monster of Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush is back, with Bush now a year wiser as opposed to a year older, and the offensive line appears solid enough.
However, Joe Horn is gone, and the Saints don’t have very much to rely on as far as the passing game is concerned.
Now, who knows what could happen this season.
Robert Meacham was a very talented wide receiver at the
Tennessee, but rookie wideouts normally don’t make an immediate impact.
However, I do think the other wide receiver, Marquez Colston, is poised for a breakout season.
: with a solid enough defensive line, and an aging linebacker unit, the Saints figured that if they’re going to get over the hump this season, they had to make improvements defensively.
So, they went and acquired Super Bowl hero CB Jason David from the Colts, as well as linebacker Dhani Jones from the Eagles.
If Dhani can provide the same type of passion and desire to this team that he provided to the Eagles, look out!
: not only do I think this team is clearly, on paper, the best in the NFC South, this team could very well be good enough to not only go back to the conference championship game, but this year, they could very well go all the way to the Super Bowl.
They look that good.
: NFC South Division Champions
: Jon Gruden, nicknamed “Chuckie” for his striking resemblance to the horror film character from the “Child’s Play” series
: for the most part, it’s the same offense.
You have the same top receivers in Joey Galloway, Michael Clayton, and Ike Hilliard, along with tight end Alex Smith, and Carnell “Cadillac” Williams returns, hoping not to break down again this season.
However, that’s where the similarities end.
Chris Simms is back, but this time, he’s got company at the quarterback position in Jeff Garcia.
On top of that, the Bucs don’t have a very good offensive line.
Should the Bucs actually surprise a few people by getting the offensive line to, oh I don’t know, block somebody, they should be okay.
: much like the quarterback position in
Atlanta, the defensive line in
Tampa was at one time as solid as it got.
However, now there is much turmoil.
After failing a physical, the Bucs released revered D-Lineman Simeon Rice.
But, on the positive side, they did draft Gaines Adams out of Clemson, so the hope is that
Adams can fill in Rice’s shoes at least for the most part.
Derrick Brooks is back to anchor the linebacker position, which got a huge boost when they added Colts linebacker Cato June in the offseason.
The secondary is still as solid as they come, with Brian Kelly, Ronde Barber, Will Allen, and Jermaine Phillips all returning once again.
Knowing who the head coach is, I’d have to assume once again that the defense is in good hands.
: while they match up closely defensively with
Carolina, I just don’t see where
Tampa Bay even comes close in the wide receiver field.
A lack of an offensive line will ultimately cost the Bucs any hope of making the playoffs.
: 3rd in NFC South, will not make the playoffs
So, looking at everything overall, here’s how the NFC South shapes up:
Tomorrow, I wrap up the NFC side of my column series by taking a look at the loaded NFC East, a division that should tout two teams in the playoffs.