September is finally here!
The days are getting shorter, the cool autumn breeze is vastly approaching, but most importantly another season of NFL football is just days away. Are you excited? I am!
The start of the NFL season really should be considered an important holiday, in my book to be exact. It truly is a time where every fan knows their team matters and that this new beginning could be something special come December and January. Super Bowl dreams are discussed, men, women, and children gather around their living room television to cheer on the local stars, and of course, all those fantasy gurus are sitting on their computer monitoring every snap.
Yet, with all the high hopes for another season, it is time to break down the true winners and losers for the 2009 NFL season.
We all know the big story for this particular division, Thomas Brady and the New England Patriots. The Patriots will be the team on everyone’s radar week 1, when they welcome the Buffalo Bills to Gillette Stadium. All eyes will be on number 12, along with the five men that make up his offensive line. Look for the Patriots to be one of the top dogs this year, as long as Brady can hang in the pocket and be protected.
With the New England Patriots hoping for a repeat of 2007, this clearly means Miami and New York…will go south. The Dolphins and Jets do have the talent on both sides of the ball, but look for these two squads to probably earn 7-8 wins total. Also, do you really trust Mark Sanchez as your starter in New York? I certainly do not, which is one of the main reasons the Jets won’t be competing in the post-season.
Lastly what a great idea Ralph Wilson Jr., bringing in one of the biggest headaches ever to the Buffalo Bills. Who is excited to see T.O. and Trent Edwards arguing? You know once the middle of the season arrives in October and November, the cameras will be focusing on the Bills sidelines rather than the contest, so don’t get your hopes up for a possible playoff or super bowl year Bills fans, this acquisition could set you back even further.
After winning their sixth Super Bowl in franchise history, the Pittsburgh Steelers are clearly the strong favorite to win this division, but it won’t be easy. Big Ben Roethlisbeger needs to rebound in regards to his statistics (touchdowns vs. interceptions), but also by ignoring any off-field drama from this summer.
Do not count out the Baltimore Ravens, a team that faced Pittsburgh three times last season, including in the AFC Championship game, but how much will their defense and running game improve? Watch for a decent sophomore season from Joe Flacco, but nothing spectacular.
The Cincinnati Bengals have made some moves, but with all the reports surrounding the health of quarterback Carson Palmer, it is most likely the Bengals will resume the role of the Bungles. Yet, Chad Ocho Cinco has promised change, but what exactly does he mean? No twittering? Then of course there are the Cleveland Browns, who will continue to remain the laughing stock of the NFL. They once were a great team with Jim Brown, but now an organization in turmoil. Good luck Eric!
Pick the Indianapolis Colts to win this division, but do not count out those pesky Houston Texans or Jacksonville Jaguars. I expect all these teams to compete and have the division crown go down to week 13 or 14, but if one team emerges with a 5-1 record, do not count them as your winner.
This league is filled with talented backs, including Jaguars Maurice Jones-Drew, Colts Joseph Addai and Titans Chris Johnson. Overall, great defense, speed, and touchdowns are what will make this division very competitive this fall.
3.) Tightens/Titans (Both teams will finish tied for Third)
I would like to apologize to all the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, and Oakland Raiders fans because clearly this is yet again… NOT YOUR YEAR!! This year the strongest team is the San Diego Chargers, by far. Do any of these three teams I mentioned even come close to challenging the Bolts? I doubt it!
The Chargers will rebound from their second round exit in the 2009 playoffs and certainly be one of the top dogs in the AFC this year. Look for an exciting year by Rivers and Tomlinson.
As for the Broncos, Chiefs, and Raiders, as long as they can all start grooming the young talent, separate themselves from all the media attention, and just focus, I would say these teams could become spoilers for certain squads down the stretch in November and December.
1.) San Diego Chargers
2.) Kansas City
The true “Black and Blue” division of the NFL will be on display this season as every game for the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, and Washington Redskins matters. This division is filled with offensive, defensive, and special teams talent that surely is a must see every week.
For the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins, this is the year these squads need to compete for the top spot. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones showed the door to big names such as safety Roy Williams (Bengals), shut down corner Adam “Pacman” Jones (CFL), and wide-out Terrell Owens (Bills). Now the Boys have some work to do and are certainly one of those teams that need to make and win a playoff game this year. Otherwise who knows what will happen next.
As for the Eagles, the entire attention and media buzz will ramp up come week 3 when Vick becomes eligible to play, but the attention will certainly remain in New York due to a high contract of Eli Manning. Both the Eagles and Giants are two of the best squads in this division, but without a number one target for Manning, don’t be surprised to see them and the Cowboys duke it out for second and third place.
Too many storylines to discuss in this particular division, so lets start with the Detroit Lions. Everyone is anticipating a squad that could do what Miami did in 2008, (win 10 more games than the previous season), which I doubt will occur, but stranger things have happened. The Lions will certainly be loved, enjoyed, and watched by many as all the hopes lye on the broad rookie shoulders of Matthew Stafford.
The Chicago Bears certainly made some noise this off-season, acquiring quarterback Jay Cutler from the Broncos, but what does it mean when the best receiver on their team is a former cornerback? Greg Olsen, you will be the go-to target.
Don’t look for anything exciting in Green Bay this fall, but do become more engaged when the Vikings pay a visit on November 1st. Minnesota will be on everyone’s radar because this team certainly has the most talent of any NFC squad, but the only question is will Brett Favre blow it again? Chances maybe slim, especially when you just need to give Peterson 25-30 touches a game, but Favre must deliver the Super Bowl dreams or else Vikings fans will demand a refund for his jersey and tickets.
This should certainly be quite an exciting year for the NFC South. All four teams need to prove themselves as possible playoff teams, but the New Orleans Saints just seem to powerful on paper, which hopefully translates into 11 or 12 wins. Expect great things from Drew Brees, but look for newly acquired defensive coordinator Greg Williams to bolster the defense.
The Falcons and Panthers both fall under the same category, which is they are great teams, but question marks surround these squads. The Panthers fell short of advancing to the NFC Championship game and Matt Ryan’s magic ride ended in the desert. Both teams have potential, but the offenses must deliver in order to compete with the Saints.
I hope Raheem Morris has some tissues and a good shoulder to cry on because this will not be an easy season for the rookie head coach. Talent is there, but Winslow and Bryant are aging. Throw Leftwich into the bunch too, just seems like Tampa Bay will not be a great team.
The Arizona Cardinals have to be the team to beat this fall; yet don’t count out the Seattle Seahawks or San Francisco 49ers. The St. Louis Rams will do nothing, but in the end, I think we could be looking at a three-way horse race to the finish line.
The way to win this division, win at least 8 or 9 games and you are golden. Come playoff time one or two of these squads maybe an easy first-round knock-out for a possible Super Bowl representative.