here ya go, fart munchers. just what you wanted from your favorite rarely active music criticism criticism blog: a preview of all 32 nfl fewzbahl teams. i'm gonna go on a little bender now, i'll be back around week three or four. (p.s. spell check is down, so any errors are the fault of my brain).
we'll start at the bottom, ironically with the team that's closer to the arctic circle than any other. ah, the bills. it turns out that if you have no defense, no quarterback, and no offensive line, your pro football team's gonna suck. the bills promptly adressed these problems by spending their #9 pick in the draft on C.J. Spiller, a running back out of clemson. to be clear, Spiller is an amazing talent, and if his body holds up, he'll have a strong year. but with trent edwards calling the signals yet again (only this year without terrell owens), don't expect the bills to have much of an offense. as for the defense, they were horrible last season, and improving said defense didn't seem to be too high a priority, so i see no reason to expect more out of that side of the ball. let's face it, it's a good thing that tim russert is dead, primarilly because he was instrumental in launching the iraq war, but also because if he were still alive, this year's bills would almost definitely do his bloated ass in. buffalo, the city that can't catch a fucking break.
miami dolphins/new england patriots
picking the third place team in the AFC east is interesting. the dolphins certainly seem to be rising, though you have to wonder about their extremely so-so defense, and the fact that their offense relies heavily on ronnie brown, a guy who's had terrible leg injuries two of the last three seasons. as for the patriots, everyone still considers them a powerhouse, and as long as wes welker is on the field, they might be one. but the new england defense is no longer the force it was back when bill belicheck was cheating his way to three super bowls (last year ended about as poorly as a year can, a home playoff blowout loss in which the pats gave up over 200 rushing yards to the admittedly decent ravens). nevertheless, i don't think the balance has shifted all that much. the dolphins still have a ways to climb, and the patriots a long way to fall. tom brady is still very good, in spite of his whole "i'm a monumental douchebag" thing, and chad henne, though he has talent, isn't experienced enough to lead the dolphins to the 29 points a game they'll need to win regularly. so yeah, dolphins in third, patriots in second, though both may make the playoffs as wildcards, but it's obviously way early to be talking about that shit.
new york jets
i had this whole thing ready about how the jets were going to perform sans darelle revis, who, last season, was one of the best cornerbacks in history. revis has been holding out for a new contract with more money in it, and for a moment it looked like he was willing to sit out the whole season. it was going to be interesting, actually, to see if or how the jets would recover in his absence. but a contract was signed, and now things might get a little dull, because the jets dream defense is in tact, and even if mark sanchez throws another 20 interceptions this team will win games on the strength of rex ryan's crazy-ass defense alone. at this moment, and unless they get hit with a wave of crucial injuries, the jets look poised to reach the afc championship again, for another duel with peyton manning. have to wait and see if they have improved enough to get to the next level.
new york giants
there's a lot of talk about the giants' late-season collapse last year, magnified by the fact that they gave up 40 or more points in three of their final four games. but the truth is that the giants didn't suffer a late-season collapse so much as they enjoyed an early-season fluke, starting off 5-0 against mostly very weak competition. the giants went 3-8 over their final eleven games; over the same span, only three teams in the nfl did worse: the redskins, the rams, and the lions (the bucs, seahawks, and broncos also finished the year 3-8). what do these teams have in common? they're widely understood to be the worst teams in the league. just take a look at the horrible squads that finished stronger than the giants: cleveland, oakland, kansas city. yeesh. the giants rushing attack, once seen as a strength, totally sucked: only twice in the entire season did a single giant rusher have a 100-yard game. and the defense, wow. statistically, they were among the worst units in the nfl, surrendering well over three touchdowns per game. yes, the giants may have drafted to a better pass rush, but don't expect jason pierre-paul's six or seven sacks to have too much of an impact. and sure, kevin boss has a cool name, but he's just a tight end. g-men at the bottom of the east, you heard it here first.
as i said above, the redskins were one of three teams to have a worse finish than the giants. the difference is, the redskins fired their head coach and hired mike shannahan, and traded for donovan mcnabb. both dudes are used to reaching the playoffs. huge changes are afoot: a new defensive scheme, and most likely an increased focus on the running game, which will give mcnabb much more time than he's used to on play action and rollout passes. i don't expect too much out of the skins, but i do think they're almost an 8-8 team now, and if they can find a running back to breakout, they could even leap-frog the eagles. still a lot of work to do in washington, but things are looking up.
the eagles traded their all-pro quarterback inside the division. this is generally regarded as stupid, so they really must believe in kevin kolb. kolb is a spread quarterback from the university of houston, and his skills should translate well to andy reid's "no one ever told me you can run the ball" offense. desean jackson and jeremy maclin are still very very good wide outs, plus they've got this back-up qb called michael vick, who may take over if the young kolb doesn't meet expectations. big problem for philly is their defense, which looked really fucking bad down the stretch last year, including two consecutive embarrassing losses to the division rival cowboys. the eagles did draft with an eye on improving their defense, and they certainly have an offense capable of keeping pace if they find themselves in a shootout. new quarterback, same story: philly wins about ten games, and blows it in the post-season.
devotees may recall that i hate the cowboys, mostly because i hate watching w. bush celebrate from an owner's box. too bad for me that the cowboys are gonna be nasty. expect rookie wr dez bryant to have an immediate impact. the good-not-great tony romo now has enough talent around him to really excel, and defensively they can hold their own against most of the league (but not favre). the cowboys are the only team in the east that's in a position to build on success, while their opponents are either scrambling to make drastic changes (eagles, redskins) or living in denial of how bad they suck (giants). as a result, the cowboys will cruise to a division title, and our 43rd president will be able to break out the celebratory blow a little sooner than he did last year. fuck texas, but still, cowboys are stacked.
i have a confession to make: i was rooting for jamarcus russell. i still hold out hope that the quasi-literate overweight bust to end all busts will land on some desperate team, earning the chance to prove that it wasn't all his fault: the raiders really suck. and they do. who else would treat a cast-off quarterback from a 4-win team as some sort of savior? yes, rolando mclain and lamarr houston were good draft picks, and the odds of an offense running as poorly as oakland's did last season are slim. the raiders also have a relatively weak schedule which works in their favor. in the end, though, a shit o-line will flummox any offensive adjustments, and a porous secondary will get gouged with regularity. oakland is a city i have a lot of love for, but to my eyes, the raiders remain pure shit.
kansas city chiefs
the chiefs bring on rejected notre dame fat-fuck-head-coach charlie weiss to call the offense, and this will help matt cassell recover from a disappointing '09. also, thomas jones was signed, and though his production will be below last year's level (the line blocking for him is suddenly a lot worse than he's used to), the increased offensive balance will make the chiefs a stronger team. defensively, the chiefs gave up more points last year than any other team in the AFC, and that's a problem. fortunately for my large contingent of readers who are kansas city fans, their draft was tremendous. eric berry and javier arenas will bolster the secondary, dexter mccluster and tony moeaki are both capable of making plays at the next level, and jon asamoah might save cassell from taking a few gnarly hits. unfortunately, the chiefs are still a below-average team, with a below-average quarterback. and an absurdly fat offensive coordinator.
tim. mother. fucking. tebow. do you really think josh mcdaniels and jesus christ are just going to watch kyle orton run the broncos into the ground? fuck that. tim tebow reads the bible. like, every day. denver still needs some work, and a few years to add some better weapons, but i expect the broncos to win between seven and nine games, and in the afc west, that'll give you a commanding hold on second place.
san diego chargers
the chargers will win the west without much trouble (unless tebow really does have the lord behind him). philip rivers is very good, darren sproles and rookie ryan mathews make for a strong running game, and malcolm floyd are very dangerous, and while the defense is a little soft, they're still the best unit in their division. it's too bad that vincent jackson's holdout looks semi-permanent (he and the jets' revis have the same agent), and they will feel the loss of ladanian tomlinson, especially on third downs. all in all, i'd expect them to have a season a lot like last year's: twelve or thirteen wins, followed by a quick playoff exit.
picking the bottom of this division is really challenging. but i think the hawks have the most ground to make up. pete carroll will discover how hard it is to build a dominant program in a league were bribing the best players is the norm. seriously, there's almost nothing to like about this team, from the old-ass quarterback, to the god-awful receiving corps, to the offensive line that is literally made of diarrhea, this is a team that has a really long way to go before they can start winning games regularly. one thing i do expect is an improved defense, because say what you will about carroll, dude can call a defense. that and leon washington might buy them four wins.
st. louis rams
as for the rams, sam bradford, who will apparently be the week 1 starter, only played one full game for oklahoma last season. one can't help but wonder if bradford's body can hold up for a sixteen game season, especially with the rams' o-line in the state that it is. if he can keep his shoulder in one piece, i actually think the rams might be one of this season's surprises. remember how good steven jackson is? yeah. their defense will continue to eat ass for a living, which will prevent them from being a legitimately decent team. but i expect moderately big things from bradford, again barring some horrific career-ending injury.
the cardinals have some serious fucking problems. there's no way in hell they'd be a second place team, except for the fact that the nfc west is by far the league's weakest division. kurt warner retired, mostly because tim tebow came into the league, and warner knows better than to confuse god by making him stack the deck for two quarterbacks at once. poor matt leinert, they released his ass, mostly because he's left-handed and everyone hates lefties. also, they let anquan boldin go to baltimore, and they let carlos dansby go to miami. so it's entirely up to beanie wells, tim hightower, and larry fitzgerald to make this team work. good luck with that.
san francisco 49ers
by process of elimination, then, the niners take the west, and they'll deserve it. alex smith seems ready to start playing up to his potential, helped out by michael crabtree stretching the field and vernon davis covering the middle. also helping the niner offense will be their two first-round draft picks, both bruising offensive lineman; the vastly improved line will give their speed receivers time to get down the field, as well as making last year's anemic running game drastically better. head coach mike singletary will have an above-average defense, at least, and an even better one if rookie safety taylor mays can figure out the pro-level game. the addition of ted ginn jr. suddenly gives them one of the best return games in the league. this team is ready to poop all over a terrible division. as for how they'll fare in the playoffs, we need to wait and see how much alex smith can improve in the regular season. even with a bad year from their qb, the niners should be heavily favored.
the browns shocked everyone by winning their last four games in '09. eric mangini actually isn't a terrible coach, he just had his career ruined by brett favre's brief and disappointing stint as a jet. but it doesn't really matter. this division is too good, and neither of their new quarterbacks, jake dellhome and former longhorn colt mccoy, are very good at the moment. josh cribbs can only touch the ball so many times, and mike holmgren, he can't touch the ball at all. don't expect them to loose 11 games again, but don't expect them to win that many either.
this here might be a surprise to some, insofar as last season the bengals went an incredible 6-0 in a very tough division. the addition of terell owens does give them one of the best wide receiver pairs in the nfl, and jordan shipley will be a tremendous slot receiver. the running game will likely stay strong, but defensively there's no denying that the bengals have some issues. ultimately this is a team that won many games last year with fourth-quarter heroics, and i don't trust teams that need a successful two-minute drill so frequently. look for the steelers and ravens to bounce back, and look for cincy to be taken down a peg or two. then look for terell owens to sign a one-year deal with tampa, just to shake things up.
the ravens have undergone quite a transformation since defensive coordinator rex ryan left to coach the jets. obviously, any team that has ray lewis is going to be a defensive-minded one, but with joe flacco continuing to mature, and with anquan boldin lining up as the flanker, the ravens have become a pass-heavy shoot-em-up type of offense. with a still incredibly talented defense, and an offense capable of keeping pace in a shootout, you have to like baltimore's chances this year. so why aren't they winning the north? because joe flacco isn't as good as people think he is. if the ravens coaching staff disagreed, they wouldn't have gone as ludicrously run-heavy in the playoffs as they did.
the steelers dropped a bunch of games last year. some of the losses (bears, chiefs, raiders, browns) were confusing. ben roethlisberger's suspension has been cut to four games, and in our culture of letting rapists go free, this is a relatively harsh punishment. the steelers still have the best linebackers in the nfl, and there is no reason to doubt the strength of their defense overall. the running game remains a question mark, but once roethlisberger returns, you won't notice it as much. up will be up once again, the world will right itself, and the steelers will return to the throne.
having just spent a lovely two weeks in chicago, it pains me to say the following: holy shit, the bears suck ass. any defense that can be so adversely affected by a single injury, as the bears were with brian urlacher last year, clearly isn't a very good defense. and any offense that has jay cutler under center clearly isn't a very good offense. pity the poor chicago fans, they'll have to suffer through yet another needlessly cold winter, and they'll have to watch their beloved bears blow chunks for at least one more season.
do you want to know what kind of a horrible state the city of detroit is in? a 2-14 season is a step in the right direction. matthew stafford may one day be a good quarterback, and i expect this year to be better for him than last year was. also, jahvid best was a joke of a steal at the beginning of the second round; look for him to be the top rookie rusher in the nfl. and don't go forgetting ndomikong suh clogging up the middle on defense. it'll take a while to adjust to the lions winning games every now and then. luckily, they'll still be pretty bad overall. maybe they'll get another top-five draft pick, and maybe next year they'll contend. for now, detroit will have to make do with their paltry share of the bailout money, along with their memories of motown and barry sanders.
green bay packers
aaron rogers gets a lot of well-deserved play these days. his performance in last year's wild card game against the cardinals should have been a win, if it hadn't been for green bay's achilles heel: their defense is terrible. seriously, how can a team give up 51 points in the playoffs and still be considered a powerhouse? a lot of people are picking the packers to win the north, and i really think that's insane. i expect rogers to throw for another 4,000 yards, but any defense that has to go against favre twice needs to bring their a-game, and i don't see any reason to think much of their defense's a-game.
we all knew favre was coming back. take no more than 20 beat-downs, make no less than $20 million... do you know anyone who would say no? plus, favre really loves slapping grown men on the ass, and he may have realized how unwelcome that is in most settings. all ribbing aside, favre had the best season of his career last year, and if he has anything close to the same production this year, the vikings will repeat as division champs. they return with the same outstanding receivers, and rookie toby gerhardt (who should have gotten more serious consideration for the heisman) actually makes the adrian peterson-anchored running game even stronger. add to that a powerful pass rush and a decent enough secondary and linebacker corps, and the vikings simply have to be one of the favorites to win not just the north, but the entire nfc.
the texans were right on the brink last year, and what this team needs to do is beat the colts once, and they'll be in the playoffs. last season, missed field twice stopped them from beating indy. the texans have an offense that can score a lot of points; andre johnson and matt schaub have terrific chemistry -- good enough to light up plenty of nfl defenses. but the texans aren't good enough on the other side of the ball to stop manning; he'll have to beat himself if the texans are going to get out of the regular season. this could happen, but i wouldn't bet on it.
now that kerry collins is out of the way, vince young can remind everyone that he's really really good. after taking over last year, the titans were 8-1, with the only loss being to the indy late-season juggernaut. chris johnson is obviously the best running back in the nfl. if he can stay healthy, and if vince young can stay on top of his game, the texans should make the playoffs this year. after an 0-7 start last season, this'll be a very quick turnaround, but i would be surprised if the titans floundered this season.
the colts will win 13 or 14 games this year, and most likely march to the afc championship before meeting any resistance. they've already proven that they don't care about going undefeated; once they clinch the division, they'll rest manning and all other indispensable starters. in spite of coming up just short to the saints last year, the colts are still the class of the nfl. only the very best defenses have even a chance against them, and even then, it's not much of one.
tampa bay bucs
josh freeman has a long way to go before he can be a successful quarterback at the nfl level. he doesn't look in front of his throws, and serves up way too many easy interceptions on patterns over the middle. the bucs are improving, and rookie gerald mccoy is going to start helping out their defensive line immediately. but they don't have the sort of defense that can compensate for all the offensive errors they're certain to make. a bad team last year, and a bad one again.
the unheralded and mostly unheard of matt moore took over late last year after jake delhomme's season was mercifully cut short, and he actually looked pretty good. steve smith is still a phenomenal ace wide receiver, and d'angelo williams provides the panthers with an above-average running game. it'll be interesting to see if jimmy claussen gets a chance to start at some point in the season, for some reason or another. while matt moore raised some eyebrows last year, he's no john elway. jim fox usually fields one of the better defenses in the nfc, and overall they're talented enough to be a decent team, but they're building to something better than they'll be this year.
new orleans saints
the saints flirted with an undefeated season last year. when things got tough, new orleans had the best clutch play-calling in the league. in easier games, the secondary grew rather fond of taking the ball from other teams and scoring. in the super bowl, both of these strengths came together, culminating with sean payton's famous onside kick to open the second half and the less famous but more important pick 6, late in the fourth quarter as peyton manning seemed to be driving towards a victory. drew brees is great, and the saints have a very powerful big play offense. but they caught a lot of breaks in the regular season last year, and while they're still one of the top teams in the league, and undoubtedly good enough to reach the playoffs again, i think they'll encounter a few more bumps in the road, and be a wild card this year, not the almost-undefeated team from '09.
ugh, i've run out of words. falcons because matt ryan.