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Monday, June 19, 2006

Another Football Preview - This Time It's Personal

It's time for another NFL preview, during these, the quiet summer months before the first snaps. I hate this time of year, really I do. People grasp for news straws, and every single news item becomes a Big Deal. Take, for instance, this gem from CNN.com:

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2006/football/nfl/06/17/chargers.hardwick.ap/index.html

Wow! A center signs a six-year deal!

Now, I love the offensive line, don't get me wrong. I know they're important. But a contract for a center isn't a big story. This is on the front page of SI's NFL news. That's sad.

On to the previews:

Every has Dallas as the trendy Super Bowl pick. Certainly they're stronger with Terrell Owens. Certainly, it's a stronger team all around, with key additions and maturing players. We're still overlooking two key parts:

1) Drew Bledsoe
2) Julius Jones

Bledsoe fades as the season progresses. He's been doing it for a few years now. Jones is by far their best running back, and he's always banged up.

This reminds me of last year's Arizona Cardinals. They added Kurt Warner and everyone freaked out. Playoff predictions ran rampant from everyone, including myself. We forgot certain key information, such as 1) Kurt Warner isn't very good, 2) the Cardinal O-line isn't very good. My point? Sometimes we forget that even though parts are added, there's still other, slower, less mobile parts in the team.

So, my trendy pick? Carolina in the NFC. Why? Because of depth and experience. Carolina is a scrappy team, much like the old (like, three year old) New England teams. They've faced adversity together. And, let's face it, if the Panthers would have had another wideout last year, they would have beaten the Seahawks. I don't like the Seahawks.

What about the AFC? Yes, what about them? They're still the stronger conference, definitely, but the gap is narrowing. Think about this: Last year, how many strong teams were there in the AFC? I mean, Pittsburgh was a sixth seed. This was a deep conference. Now, this year, in the NFC, there's a few more strong teams, like Dallas and Seattle and Carolina and and Chicago and Philadelphia and San Francisco. (I just threw that last one in there to see if you were paying attention.)

However, the AFC still has solid teams. New England isn't the same team it was in years past, but they find a way to win most of the time. They can't be counted out totally, though logic dictates that they're not going to make it.

Kansas City is improved, and a full season of Larry Johnson will be fun to watch, but here's the thing about LJ: He stinks at blitz pickup. He's not disciplined enough. THAT'S why Vermeil didn't like him, and I don't blame him. Look for the passing game to sag, and everyone will blame it on Trent Green. You and I both know the real reason, though.

This year, though, I like Pittsburgh again. Cincinatti's defense is still too spongy to make a huge difference, and Carson Palmer is still a question mark after his Kimo-therapy. If Ben Roethlisberger can rebound from his motorcycle accident (he's an idiot, by the way), and the defense is the same old Pittsburgh defense, look for good things from the Steel City.

So, my picks? Carolina and Pittsburgh to meet in the Super Bowl. Who wins? Why, we all do. (This is my copout answer to avoid making a pick.)

I miss football.