Thursday, August 31, 2006


AFC West Preview

AFC West:

Denver: The AFC West could be the most competitive and entertaining division in football this year. But the Broncos always find away to come out on top, and there's no reason they can't do the same this year. The Denver defense struggled mightily against the pass last year, but have made some improvements in that area. On offense QB Jake Plummer will have Rod Smith and Javon Walker to throw to, in what could become a dangerous one-two punch. It is unclear who the feature RB will be, but whether it's Mike Bell, Tatum Bell, or Ron Dayne, the Broncos will find a way to get 1000 yards out of him. The Broncos are nearly unbeatable at Mile High Stadium (9-0 last year until Pittsburgh dismantled them in the AFC title game), which always makes them a contender. 11-5

San Diego: The Chargers narrowly missed the post-season last year, and will be hungry to get back there this season. The defense is a bit of a question mark, but LB Shawn Mirriman could terrorize opposing quarterbacks with his pass rushing abilities. The biggest off-season change was definately replacing pro-bowl QB Drew Brees with untested Philip Rivers. Rivers has loads of potential, might not be able to replace Brees' abilities this year. LaDainian Toimlinson, who could be the NFL's top rusher this season, and is great at catching passes out of the backfield as well, will be the Charger's main offensive weapon, and will give them a chance at victory every Sunday. 10-6

Kansas City: The Chiefs come into this season much like they have the last few: as one of the NFL's enigmas. The offense is one of the best in the league. RB Priest Holmes could be facing retirement after a neck injury suffered last year, but Larry Johnson is a more than adequate replacement, and barring injury he should crack 1500 yards rushing with 20+ touchdowns. QB Trent Green quietly goes out and passes for over 4000 yards every season. Kick returner Dante Hall is the league's best as well. This should make the Chiefs a formidable foe, but they've missed the playoffs each of the last two years thanks to a lousy defense. The D will be benefitted by newcomer Ty Law at cornerback, but will still hold the Chiefs back. 9-7

Oakland: New coach Art Shell, who coached the Raiders in the early 90s, replaces Norv Turner. He has a difficult task ahead of him. The Raiders defense is average at best, which doesn't bode well considering they must face the fearsome offensive attacks of their three division rival twice apiece. The offense boasts a great receiving corps with Randy Moss, Doug Gabriel, and Ronald Curry. (Joey Porter's status is uncertain after he requested a trade). RB LaMont Jordan is also talented, but the key question is whether or not the offensive line can open up holes for him, or protect new QB Aaron Brooks well enough to enable him to utilize his receivers. 5-11


AFC East Preview

AFC East:

New England: Business as usual for the Patriots. They could be challenged this year by a rebuilt Miami squad, but should still take the division. Much like those around him, QB Tom Brady isn't usually flashy but just goes out an wins football games. The New England defense should remain one of the top units in the league, giving the workmanlike offense a chance to win every game. Brady will see a thinner receiving corps this season, but has never had problems spreading the ball around before. His go-to back will be Cory Dillon, who is getting older but can still put up decent numbers. 11-5

Miami: The Dolphins ended last season on a roll, and look to be returning to their winning ways after some lean years. New QB Daunte Culpepper was acquired in a trade with Minnesota and gives Miami a first-rate pivot if he can rebound from a serious knee injury. Second year running back Ronnie Brown will look to build on last year's strong rookie campaign and wont have to contend with the distraction that was Ricky Williams. The Dolphin's defense isn't great, but should be good enough that they can win if the offense carries its weight. A potential darkhorse team. 9-7

Buffalo: After a disastrous 2005 season, the Bills have hired coach Dick Jauron and 80-year old Marv Levy as GM to try to turn around the franchise. The Bills defense is formidable when they are on top of their game, but scoring points will be a major concern. RB Willis McGahee will provide a good ground attack, but young JP Losman will be lining up under centre and will need to mature in a hurry if the Bills are to have a chance, and having Peerless Price, a second tier receiver as his number one target will hardly help his cause. 6-10

New York Jets: In similar fashion to Buffalo, the Jets went into last season with high expectations only to fall on their faces, and now enter this campaign just hoping to avoid the basement. QB Chad Pennington is back to lead the offense after some suggested he could be cut loose by the Jets after suffering a serious shoulder injury last year. The running attack took a blow when Curtis Martin was placed on the physically unable to perform list, meaning he'll be out until at least mid-season. The defense had their struggles last year, but might be better this time around. The coaching staff was also overhauled, with many young coaches brought in who should bring some fresh ideas. 5-11


AFC South Preview

AFC South:

Indianapolis: The Colts come into the season once again trying to get over the hump and make it to the Super Bowl. Last year Pittsburgh upset them in the divisional playoff, taking away what was probably their best chance at glory. They will still be contenders with all-pro QB Peyton Manning and his go-to receiver Marvin Harrison leading one of the NFL's top offenses. Defensive end Dwight Freeney leads a solid defense. The only weak spot may be the running game with Edgerin James leaving for Arizona. 12-4

Jacksonville: The Jaguars are a team on the rise, and will be more experienced this year after making the playoffs last season. QB Byron Leftwich is coming into his own, and the running game is great when Fred Taylor is healthy, though he tends to get injured frequently. The defense is one of the best in the game, and showed last year that they are capable of at least keeping Indianapolis' offense somewhat contained. If things go right they could move up and take the division title away from the Colts. 11-5

Houston: After steady growth in their first three seasons as an expansion team, the Texans regressed greatly last year, finishing last in the NFL. With their top pick in the draft they surprisingly to defenseive end Mario Williams instead of USC star running back Reggie Bush. That will no doubt improve the defense, but not nearly enough to make them a consideration for the playoffs. The offense will likely struggle as well with QB David Carr who has not lived up to expectations, a dreadful offensive line, and the possibility of RB Domanick Davis, a lone bright spot, being unable to play because of a nagging knee injury that doesn't seem to be healing properly. 4-12

Tennessee: The Steve McNair era is over for the Titans, who will go with Billy Volek at QB to start the season, but first round pick Vince Young could assume that role later in the season. The Titans appear to be lacking at most positions. RBs Chris Brown and Travis Henry are reliable but unspectacular, and the same goes for receivers Drew Bennett and David Givens. The denfense is pretty much in the same boat. Four games against the Colts and Jaguars mean that it could be another long year in Tennessee. 4-12

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


NFL Preview

Preview for the upcoming NFL season. Here's the AFC North preview, in order of predicted finish.

AFC North:

Pittsburgh: The Steelers are defending champs and could win what should be a very competitive division. QB Ben Roethlisberger's career record as a starter is an incredible 30-6, and the Steeler's running game should remain solid with last year's rookie surprise Willie Parker in the backfield. Jerome Bettis retired, so it will be up to Parker and Duce Staley, back from injury, to carry the brick. Hines Ward will be Big Ben's go-to receiver. Pittsburgh traditionally has solid defense and this year should be no different. 12-4

Cincinnati: After more than a decade of losing the Bengals turned the corner last year. They should continue that this year with another playoff appearance. It will be interesting to see how well QB Carson Palmer returns from major knee surgery. Palmer, along with receiver Chad Johnson and running back Rudi Johnson lead a formidable offense that should score plenty of points. Their defense however, is mediocre and might hold them back from winning the division. 11-5

Baltimore: The Ravens should be better than last year with QB Steve McNair brought in to improve a woeful offense. Their defense is always in the top-10, so there should be no problem on that side of the ball. The key may be the play of RB Jamal Lewis. One of the NFL's top rushers in previous years, he struggled last year, and while it's unlikely he will be a 1500+ yard rusher again, he might rebound to form a good tandem with newcomer Mike Anderson. Tight end Todd Heap could have a good year with McNair throwing him the ball instead of Kyle Boller. 8-8

Cleveland: Coach Romeo Crenel did an admirable job last year with the Browns, going 6-10 which is actually a lot better than most had expected. The Browns offense will be led by QB Charlie Frye, a sophomore pivot who has been given the starters job this year. He'll have a solid set of receivers with Braylon Edwards, Joe Jurevicius, and Kellen Winslow, back after missing all of last season injured. Coach Crenel was defensive co-ordinator of the Patriot's Super Bowl teams before coming to Cleveland, so his defensive philosophies should help the Browns keep opponents in check somewhat, but it might not be enough for them to think about the playoffs yet. 6-10

Tuesday, August 15, 2006



Here's a link to my latest Hockey's Future article on the St. Louis Blues.

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