Daily Archives: July 27, 2010

“AFC West Preview”

Jamaal Charles shocked many with an outstanding 2nd year. Could he lead the Chiefs back into contention this year?

Lets head out to the Wild Wild West.  This division was once the playground of the Denver Broncos, but has been all San Diego for the past few years.  The Chargers have maintained a stranglehold in the AFC West, bringing home the last 4 divisional titles.  And with Phillip Rivers at the helm, do you think this is really going to change?

In all honesty, this was a pretty weak division last year.  You had a dominant team in the Chargers that appeared to be the best in the AFC until the Jets shocked them in the playoffs.  Then you had everyone else.  Sure Denver started out the year hot and really surprised some people.  But they finished the year on a 4 game losing streak, which is starting to become a team tradition.  They also lost 3 in a row to end the season in 08.  But other than these two, both the Chiefs and Raiders have been pretty horrendous.  Neither have been at all relevant since the Chiefs went 9 and 7 in 2006.

AFC West:  Broncos, Chargers, Chiefs, Raiders (alphabetical order)

Oakland Raiders (4th):  This once proud franchise has been utterly woeful for the last 8 years.  They have not had a winning season since 2002.  They have not even won more than 5 games in a season since 2002.  What is going on with Raider Nation?  Well first of all their former number 1 draft pick Jamarcus Russell was one of the biggest busts of all time.  Both on and off the field if you want to talk about his recent drug bust.  So they have not had a quarterback really since Rich Gannon.  This year, their offensive attack will be led by Jason Campbell, who was the guy who could never cut the mustard in Washington.  They have Darren McFadden and Michael Bush as their combo at running back , who are mediocre at best.  And though Darren has big time abilities, he suffered turf toe and some knee injuries which really hurt his performance.  Also, it is hard to run the ball effectively on a team that has such an anemic passing attack.  Unfortunately, for Darren, the Raider’s most recognizable receiving threat is still their tight end, Zach Miller.  The only bright spot on this team really is a very strong secondary, led by Nnamdi Asomugha.  But other than that, the future still looks very dim for Raider nation.  Do not expect this team to make much noise.

Kansas City Chiefs (3rd):  This is another team in the AFC West that has struggled for the past few years.  The days of Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson pounding the ball are long gone.  The Chiefs have not won more than 4 games in a season since 2006.  It has been quite ugly to sum things up.  This is a squad that had a weak offense, and an even worse defense.  This team could not stop the run or the pass.  Which led to a lot of long games.  There was really only one bright spot for this team.  The emergence of Jamaal Charles as a big time back.  Is this the Chief’s new version of Priest Holmes or Larry Johnson?  Kansas City certainly hopes so.  Also the Chiefs made a solid pickup in getting Thomas Jones.  Now the KC boys have a pretty strong 2 headed running back attack in Jamaal Charles and the savvy veteran Thomas Jones.  Matt Cassel has potential to be a solid quarterback.  He has put up numbers for a couple of years now.  Guys like Dwayne Bowe, Chris Chambers, and the rookie out of Ole Miss, Dexter McCluster really need to step up.  It was embarrassing how anemic this team’s aerial attack was last year considering they have an arm like Matt Cassel to work with.  With an enthused running attack, possibly the passing game will fall in line.  Demorrio Williams, Corey Mays, and Glenn Dorsey will have to bring the defense back to respectability though if this team wants to sniff contention in the West.  I will state this team has some potential to do some damage with an outstanding rushing attack and possibly a decent aerial attack.  But can the defense hold up?  This will decide if the Chiefs win 4 games or 8 games.  Do not be surprised if this team makes a little noise though.

Denver Broncos (2nd):  Mike Shanahan is now coaching in Denver.  The former legend is now with another team.  Josh McDaniel is fully in the saddle now.  There will be no offseason conflict or jabbering with Jay Cutler.  It is strictly football in Denver for Josh and the Broncos.   Denver, a team that dominated the late 90s, have not made an appearance in the playoffs since 2005.  The Mile High Boys are thirsting a return to playoff football.  Due to a few late season collapses, this team has just fallen short for the past 4 years.  Kyle Orton will once again be at the helm.  And despite heavy criticism during the duration of his 4 year career, he has dramatically improved each season and is coming off the best year of his career.  So he is not a quarterback that is going to put a team on his back, but he can help a team win ball games.  Denver was a middle of the road defensive team last year, and a pretty strong offensive power led by the typical tough Denver rushing attack.  Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter once again proved that Denver can always run the ball no matter who the backs are.  Expect this attack to be even better this season.  But also expect Cutler to have a much tougher time passing the ball this year.  There will be no instances where he can count on a guy to make 21 catches in a game.  The Brandon Marshall soap opera is over, but guys like Eddie Royal, Gaffney, and Stokley are all solid.  They will all three have to step up in a big way though to give this team a chance at contending.  Lastly, the defense will be solid.  Led by the guy with the coolest name in the NFL, Elvis Dumervil, do not expect an amazing defense, but expect a respectable one.  So the Broncos are an AFC Wild Card bubble team.  I have them finishing either 8 and 8 or 9 and 7.  But I do think the playoff drought continues into a 5th year.

San Diego Chargers (1st):  Expect a 5th straight West title to come back to San Diego.  This team is the best on paper, and should have no trouble conquering the division again.  Phillip Rivers has turned into one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks.  Expect another big year from a guy that throws to the outside of the field better than any other QB in the game.  LT will be missed though from a rushing standpoint.  I do think Darren Sproles is game to take on the challenge.  But is Mike Tolbert ready to step into the number 2 role?  As I have mentioned many times before, the NFL has become a game where you must have 2 running backs ready to compliment each other every game.  Will the Chargers be able to do this?  Vincent Jackson has emerged as possibly the best deep threat in the entire AFC.  Due to some offseason troubles (DUI), nobody is sure when he will be suiting up though.  But between Jackson, Gates, and Phillips amazing passing ability, you better believe this aerial attack will be outstanding again.  Do not be surprised if there is another top 5 passing performance in San Diego.  Last year, the Charger’s defense was just good enough not to lose them games.  With the loss of Antonio Cromartie, I do not see where the defense really improved.  I do expect them to possibly fade a bit as a defensive unit which could cost them some games.  Can Shawn Merriman save the defense singlehandedly?  Once again I see the Chargers winning the division, but possibly in less dominant of a fashion.  Maybe they will only win 10 or 11 games this year.  Look for LT to seek redemption come playoff time on the franchise that he once put on his shoulders.

So I got the Chargers winning the AFC West for a 5th straight year.  Overall, I think this is a fairly weak division, where the team at the top did not improve.  The Chargers will still be good enough to bring home the divisional title, but do not be surprised if the Chiefs turn some heads this season behind their outstanding rushing attack.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“NFC East Preview”

Tony Romo should be all smiles. He has girls, the looks, and a great team. Look for the Cowboys to repeat as NFC East Champions.

This is probably the most intriguing division in my eyes year in and year out.  You have the most heated rivalries.  You have big cities.  Large media outlets.  Very exciting divisional battles.  Plus at least one of the NFC Wild Card spots has come out of this division each of the past 5 years (both wildcards in 2007).  This division is rugged.  This division is tough.  And I could go on and on.  The saddest part is none of these teams are ones that I religiously root for and actively follow.  You just got to love the intensity and rivalries that continue to get better every year. 

I feel this is probably the hardest division to predict in the NFL.

NFC East:  Cowboys, Eagles, Giants, Redskins (alphabetical order)

Philadelphia Eagles (4th):  Boy did the city of brotherly love forget to show the love this offseason.  The loss of Donovan McNabb will really sting.  And it will not only hurt their team, but you better believe he will be ready to show Philly what they lost when the Eagles take on the Redskins.  Philadelphia always took Donovan for granted.  That was a big mistake.  This team had a solid offensive attack to go along with a solid defensive attack.  But they are investing a lot of faith into Kevin Kolb, who has the weight of the world on his shoulders.  Andy Reid is a great coach though, and I have faith in his judgment.  Also the rushing game has never been all that great in Philly, but now without Brian Westbrook, there is a lot of faith being placed in the former Pittsburgh Panther, LeSean McCoy.  Now I do not think this team will have a horrible season.  I am guessing anywhere between 6 and 8 wins.  But in this division, 6 to 8 wins will help you find your way to the cellar.  I think the Eagles would be better off playing Vick.  And honestly, if things do not go well the first month, Michael Vick might be an NFL starting quarterback again.  Wouldn’t that be fun?   

Washington Redskins (3rd):  The sad thing is this team dramatically improved this offseason.  Donovan McNabb might have been the best pickup made in the entire League since the end of last year. Also Mike Shanahan is a decent coach, though I do think he is overrated and has been nothing since the retirement of John Elway.  Just sadly, this franchise has suffered from inner turmoil due to their highest paid player Albert Haynesworth being unhappy with the defensive scheme.  Not to mention, that they are led by probably the most incompetent owner in the League other than Mike Brown (Dan Snyder).  For a team that went 4 and 12, it is very surprising that they had such a solid defense.  And this all comes back to the outstanding play of super linebacker, London Fletcher.  This guy is one of the League’s best at his craft.  I feel Snyder has a syndrome that cannot be fixed in just one year.  I do see this team winning 8 games, which would be a 4 game improvement, but this will not be good enough to make the playoffs.

New York Giants (3rd):  I got the G Men finishing in 2nd.  I do think they will nab a Wildcard.  So it will not be all that bad of a year for the Giants in their new stadium.  This team has really demonstrated a strong passing attack, a solid rushing attack, and confidence in their quarterback Eli Manning.  Winning the Super Bowl in 2007 really got fans off of Eli’s back.  Other quarterbacks should take note.  This team does not have the defense that they once had, but they still have a decent group.  They have become a middle of the road defensive team in defending both the run and the pass.  I expect them to improve on this and bring back a defense that is reminiscent of the team in 2007.  Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora will need to become the bash brothers of old.  They have not been able to depend on Michael Strahan, the man with the most well-known gap in sports for the past couple of years.  Now Strahan does fitness and Subway commercials for a living.  I feel like there is something about this team that will help them find their way into the playoffs.  Because on paper, they are no better than either the Eagles or the Redskins.

Dallas Cowboys (1st):  America’s team is going to repeat as NFC East Champions.  They got the best stadium, the hottest girls (thanks to Tony Romo and the Cowboy Cheerleaders), and one of the most well-known owners in all of professional sports (Jerry Jones).  Dallas has a great defense, led by Demarcus Ware, that is one of the best at stopping the run in the entire League.  They also have one of the most high-powered offenses in the League.  They ranked 2nd last year just behind the Super Bowl Champion Saints.  This team possesses a 2 headed monster at running back in Marion Barber and Felix Jones.  If these guys stay healthy, teams will not be able to keen in on Tony Romo and the outstanding Cowboy aerial attack.  They also have Miles Austin, who came out of nowhere to turn into one of the best receivers in the League.  They have arguably the best receiving tight end in the game today in Jason Witten.  Witten and Romo have a fantastic chemistry, and who cares if TO doesn’t like it.  But this team is tough.  I expect them to make a deep run in the playoffs. They do have a prayer of getting to play a Super Bowl at home come February (if they are lucky).

So there you have it.  Those are my NFC East picks.  I have both the Cowboys and Giants making the playoffs out of this always rugged division.  This is the hardest division for me to predict by far.  Great rivalries and great teams every year.

Should be another wild year in the NFC East.  I would not be surprised if all of the teams finish within 3 games of each other.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze