Since I went out on a limb with the NFC, I figured I take a couple minutes today and address the Eagles potential opponents in Superbowl XLI...(ok that goes a little far, but if you cannot dream at this time of year, when CAN you?)
My take on the AFC
AFC East: Unlike their NFC counterpart the AFC East is a division of sharp contrasts, premier organizations and laughingstocks
1. New England Patriots - god I am sick of seeing this team at the top, but I gotta admit the Pats looked sharp in the pre-season, they seem to pull good performances out of players who were mediocre with other teams...I mean Brady torched Washington vaunted D with Bam Childress, Troy Brown, Ben Watson and Reche frickin' Caldewell....fer crying out loud...
2. Miami Dolphins - I thought long and hard about shaking up the East and putting Miami first, and I think if Culpepper is fully recovered the team could squeeze another season out of long-in-the-tooth defense and very easily challenge the Patriots for the division. Part of me actually hopes this will happen, if only to balance out the karma, I just wouldn't bet the farm on it
4. Buffalo Bills and NY Jets - Hey what happened to #3, lets face it, this division has a huge gap in it and neither the Jets and Bills deserve being rated a #3: both have underachieved for years. Can either team challenge for the division, hell no...Can Marv Levy restore the Bills to glory? Doubtful...Can Belichick protege Mangini turn around the Jets? Maybe, not this year, but the Jets should be pointed in the right direction this year
AFC North: Unlike the NFC, the North division in the AFC is a powerhouse!
1. Cincinnati Bengals - wow, going against the World Champs??!! Am I nuts, no...I just watched Carson Palmer appear in mid-season form a couple of days ago, and the historically tepid Bengals looked superb...But consider last year, The Bengals took the division from the Steelers, it had been Pittsburgh's for years, and Cincy snatched it. What they couldn't do, as a young team was overcome the loss of Palmer in the playoffs. Cautionary note: the felony/misdemeanor count against this team is the highest I've seen in a long time...get that crap under control Marvin or else distractions may subtract from what should be very good season for lower Ohio.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers - I haven't seen much from Big Ben this preseason...he looks OK after his June asphalt face-plant, but the I dunno, something about the team is a little off. The D will be solid as ever, so the let-Ben-manage-the-game, keep-it-close-with-D strategy should see the Steelers in the hunt come late-December
3. Baltimore Ravens - Ravens fans owe Tennessee a big one...Baltimore got a proven leader and winning QB, Steve McNair, who fell right their lap after the Titans decided that after years of taking one for the team (yearly renegotiations of McNair's contract to make up for poor cap management in other areas of the team) made him deserving of a claymore-sized knife between the shoulder blades...Reunited with Derrick Mason, the Ravens are going to be a threat this year...after years of QB incompetence (Boller, Banks, etc, etc) the Ravens finally have a field general as tough as they come, that should scare the rest of the AFC North
4. Cleveland Browns - Romeo Crennel does have the Browns pointed in the right direction...but the Browns don't have it...Charlie Frye, Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow are a great young nucleus, but they are at least a season away from serious competition
AFC South - Kinda similar to the AFC East, 1 contender, 1 good team, two pretenders
1. Indianapolis Colts - The only question for me - how does the "O" do without its Edge? They look decent so far, and the Colts don't have much competition in this divison because I think the Jaguars may have actually taken a step back this year
2. Jacksonville Jaguars - ok so Byron Leftwich is more experienced but what receivers does he have beyond Matt Jones? Jimmy Smith screwed the team by retiring AFTER the draft (a draft during which the Jags did not select a WR, hmmm, might they have drafted one had they known Jimmy wasn't going to be around...) The Jags D should be pretty stiff, but unless Coach Del Rio lights a fire under this team they don't have enough to overtake the Colts...
3. Tennessee Titans - Looks like they are starting to emerge from salary-cap hell, but jettisoning McNair the way they did was totally classless, no wonder Tennessee remains Vols-country...I also think the owner royally screwed up by forcing the team to draft Vince Young...I mean you have an instant starter sitting there on the board in Matt Leinart, who ran to perfection the same exact Offense the Titans run (they hired USC's Norm Chow the year before fer crying' out loud!)...and they go with the "athletic" option...I think the owner, being a Houston-homer, wanted to rub it in his former town's collective face by selecting their golden-boy Vince...So why did the Titans just sign Kerry Collins? What the hell can he teach Vince Young? How to stand still?
4. Houston Texans - A laughingstock since entering the league, the Tex-assns are going to be kicking themselves for years for passing up on Reggie Bush...its going to be a classic blunder...DE are necessary to win, but unless he is Reggie White reincarnated, #1 overall Mario Williams is almost destined to be overshadowed by a game-breaker like Bush....DE don't handle the "rock" and the comparisons are inevitable...Why didn't they take Bush, because they "had" a franchise back..Dominack Davis....what's he done this preseason....nothing but sit out injured....another faux pas from Houston...oh yeah...how bought fixing the Offensive Line!
AFC West: Three challengers and the Raiders
1. Kansas City Chiefs - I have my doubts about Herm Edwards, but I am tired of selecting the Broncos and KC is close, very close to Denver...what I like...LJ, Gonzo, Trent Green...what I don't like: loss of Roaf and Richardson raises questions about whether LJ will run rampant over the NFL again...if Ty Law, Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali can kick the D up a notch the Chiefs should be able to supplant Denver
1a. Denver Broncos - Mike Shanahan is prepping his pixie dust to create his next unknown-to-thousand-yard-rusher...Mike Bell....whodat? Exactly...of course, having a dirty, cheatin' O-Line helps, but the Broncos have gotten away with it for years, so why stop now? The key for Denver, can they get another season from their Cleveland re-treads on the D-line, and will Javon Walker be the stud he was in Green Bay, if so, Denver should be right there with the Chiefs in Dec
2. San Diego Chargers - Sure they got LT and Gates, but who is playing WR and they are going to depend on unproven QB Philip Rivers to carry them to the promised land? Brees' injury gave the GM the green-light to dump him, but Brees was the Chargers real hope to lead them to Miami in Feb. With Rivers...they have no shot
4. Oakland Raiders - Art Shell comes back after 12 years and the Raiders shackle him with Aaron Brooks - a career loser with the Saints...HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA...going to be another long year for football in the Bay Area. Now they sign Jeff George? 'nuff said...
So who are my playoffs teams: Indy, Pats and Cincy return....KC, Miami are new entries, and the Steelers just edge the Ravens for another