Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Nothing like Texas home cooking!

Oh boy. First game of the season and someone has already fucked up an onside kick ruling in a game with a Big XII team.

Here's the pertinent quote from that article:
On Tuesday, head coach Steve Roberts got a little bit of closure from Saturday’s loss.
“I have been in communication with the supervisor of officials (of the Big 12 Conference),” Roberts said. “We got a confirmation today (Tuesday) that they missed the call.” The call Roberts referred to was the ruling that negated the Indians’ recovered onside kick with 56 seconds left in the game. Officials ruled the Indians did not have enough players on both sides of the ball before the kick. Roberts thought the film showed the call was incorrect, and the confirmation proved that.
“There’s nothing you can do about it now,” Roberts said. “I don’t have a reaction because a reaction’s worthless."
Two things:

1) Why do these referees not understand the onside kick rules? From what I understand, the penalty they called wasn't even an actual rules infraction! It wasn't something that they "missed" (which is largely forgivable, even last year in Autzen when OU got hosed), it was something completely extraneous that they flagged as an infraction. WTF? To top that, apparently Arkansas State lined up in the SAME FORMATION to re-do the onside kick and there was no problem that time! So, it would seem, that at least one of the officials realized it wasn't a true penalty. If that was the case, why not wave the flag off? Oh that's right I forgot, referees have egos that are far too big for their britches. They'd rather let the organization deal with a formal complaint than look like a doofus for 30 seconds on the field.

2) Congrats to Roberts on not blowing this whole thing out of proportion. Bob Stoops could learn something from this.

The thing that really burns me about this is that I've almost no doubt in my mind that Texas got this call because they are Texas, and because they're playing at home. It's ridiculous. Home fucking cooking at its finest, folks. If anything, I'd like to think a questionable call would favor the little guy. Obviously that's not the way it works out.

I can only hope that Texas proceeds to get royally screwed on as many calls as possible the rest of the season. I'd love to see it, and I'm sure Steve Roberts would love to see it. I can just see it: blown call sends Texas to Cotton Bowl instead of BCS game. It probably won't work out this way, but if Appalachian State is any indicator, some teams may get what's coming this season.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

I have a reason to live

Yes, finally - once again comes that time of year when I feed, clothe, and bathe myself not out of dumb habitual routine, but to live to see the next day. I'm not rich, or superbly educated, or particularly good looking, nor is my job all that great, and I don't have a girlfriend/wife and certainly no dependents keeping me here. So often times I find myself, not even on particularly shitty days, wondering: "what's it like to be dead?" Can it be much worse than this daily grind? I'm going to be super, super fucking pissed if I eventually die and it's just a non-stop party and everyone looks really sexy, including myself. But not as pissed as I'll be if I die and there's no TV to watch college football on. Even if, in the afterlife, I've got a sweet 6 pack and like an 8" dong...if there's no CFB on fall Saturdays I'd rather be alive, paying $2.95 for gas and working 8-5 every day as long as my Saturday respite is going to be there.

Nay, I do not take care to continue living to see the very next day exactly - I live for the next SATURDAY. Oh yes. September 1st has come and gone. I feel that the spirits have got me, they've taken hold - they've said "you will do nothing on each and every Saturday, and even most Thursdays, and a few Tuesdays in November (thank you MAC conference)...except watch college football." And I can't very well disagree with these spirits.

Usually the season begins with its own version of a "bang". And by this, I mean it starts with one of those pistols that folds out that "bang" banner when you pull the trigger. The NFL, which I consider a slightly inferior product AS A WHOLE, usually is vastly more entertaining in its first weekend than the college game. But not this year...and who do we have to thank? Llllllllloyd Carr, that's who.

And the best part is, I practically called Michigan laying this dud. To be honest, I would consider myself more knowledgeable than probably 99% of "college football fans" out there. I knew Appalachian State was a very fucking good team. I knew they'd won two straight national championships. But, like the rest of this 1%, I also knew that they were a 1-AA team. I knew that they had 1A cast-offs and transfers, players who couldn't make the grade academically at the likes of FSU (yes, apparently it is possible to have a 1.25 GPA and score a 138 on the SAT), undersized guys and players who'd rather take a scholarship offer at ASU than try to walk on at Tennessee.

But I also know that Michigan, the past few years, has come out with some absolute duds for opening week games. They've let SDSU, Miami OH, Northern Illinois, and a few other teams stick around for a little too long. But those teams are not teams that are particularly used to winning. ASU is, and they showed it to the world. Honestly, it didn't surprise me that much. It's still hard to believe, but it all makes sense.

With that, a rundown of the weekend's action in the top 25:

USC 38 Idaho 10

USC as a whole looked rather pedestrian, but it's understandable given their opponent. Idaho is just not very good and most of those Idaho players were recruited by a now-SC coach. The one bright spot for USC was their running game - they must have thrown 6 different backs out there and they all looked great, especially Johnson. I don't think they'll miss Moody too much.

LSU 45 Mississippi State 0

Despite the final score, LSU didn't look all that great. Much of this 45-0 stomping came thanks to something like 37 interceptions thrown by MSU "quarterback" Mike Henig. A much bigger task at hand against VT this week, though my money's on the LSU secondary fielding a few more fly balls at the hands of VT QB Sean Glennon.

West Virginia 62 Western Michigan 24

This is at least somewhat surprising - WMU is usually a pretty decent team. I think this just goes to show you the caliber of player that Rich Rodriguez is putting on the field this year. Slaton and White ran all over the place and even Youtube sensation Noel Devine got in the act with a touchdown.

Texas 21 Arkansas...State 13

Yes, this score is for real. Texas, who usually steamrolls in their opener, beat lowly Arkansas State of the Sun Belt by 1 score. And for them, it's a good thing they scheduled a Sun Belt opponent - practically any other competent team from a major conference would have likely pounded Texas if they'd put up this performance again. I thought they were overrated last year and they proved it with losses to KSU and A&M down the stretch. Their biggest challenge is still the OU game, and at this point (I know it's early), I'd take OU by 14 at the very least.

Appalachian State 34 Michigan 32

Don't really need to say anything about this. Growing up on the Ohio/Michigan border, this pleases me to no end, especially among the MASSIVE contingent of UM fans who were no doubtedly spouting "Appalachian Who?" I can't stand casual fans who act like they have the right to claim any insight to the game. This shoves it down their throats and up their asses and meets somewhere in the middle with a glorious loss to a school that can't even technically be ranked in the "top" 119 football schools in the country. One for the ages.

Florida 49 Western Kentucky 3

Ugh, I'm sure Tebow attributed this crushing of newly D-1A W. Kentucky to Jesus or some such other shit he worships every night before laying his head between his girlfriend's gigantic fake boobs. Next.

Wisconsin 42 Washington State 21

Wazzu hung in there for a while and made a game of this, but Wisconsin emerges the clear Big Ten favorites on the strength of...a passing game? I figured this would be a game where they'd just feed P.J. Hill until the defense was battered and broken (see the BGSU shoot-out from a few years back), but the Badgers look volatile in the air as well as on the ground.

Oklahoma 79 North Texas 10

JESUS CHRIST. Oklahoma had its starters in for exactly 2 quarters and they still nearly put up the century mark on UNT. One bright spot: those all white uniforms that North Texas was sporting look really sharp. DeMarco Murray runs for 5 TD for OU and Bob Stoops is finally back to reloading instead of rebuilding. Look the fuck out, Texas. OU has Miami next week and it wouldn't surprise me if the game is over by halftime.

Virginia Tech 17 ECU 7

Blah. Super boring game. Not surprisingly VT kept it slightly out of reach for ECU because of a defensive touchdown. I'm looking for them to get absolutely cleaved at LSU next week by at least two touchdowns.

Louisville 73 Murray State 10

This might not look like that much of a stretch but if I'm not mistaken, the Cardinals put 49 up by HALFTIME. Steve Kragthorpe confirms my belief in him. Whatever helped freaking Tulsa score anything is going to help UL break records. Bobby Petrinwho? Remains to be seen if Kragthorpe can recruit like Bobby did, but let's face it...Louisville is on the map as a national power. It shouldn't be difficult, especially with the talent in Kentucky HS football.

Ohio State 38 Youngstown State 6

Critics will point out that App State threw up 49 on YSU last year, but these critics are idiots. Old Sweater Vest built his rep coaching at YSU and was in no way going to run them into the ground. OSU probably could have gotten Chris Wells 300 yards and 7 touchdowns if they really felt like it. OSU has more good young receivers (O RLY) to compliment Robiskie, and Boeckman looked serviceable with 225 yards in obviously limited chnces.

Cal 45 Tennessee 31

This game was a 14 point win any way you look at it. Yes, it was close to being 52-31 as a final but it was just as close to being 45-38, and if not for some absolute bumbling plays by both teams probably should have ended 52-38. UT is going to really, really hurt unless they find some homerun threats at receiver. Ainge is more than competent but just doesn't have that many targets left.

Georgia 35 Oklahoma State 14

This game was an interesting matchup. The score says it all, but I'll say this: The odds that Georgia puts up 35 against SEC competition or that Oklahoma State only scores 14 against Big XII competition is 0%.

UCLA 45 Stanford 17

As expected.

Rutgers 38 Buffalo 3

Here's a surprise, Rutgers absolutely molests a hapless Buffalo team. This may look like a close score considering the massive gap in talent, but Schiano knows what it's like to be fodder for a power program so I'm just guessing he took it easy.

Penn State 59 Florida International 0

Fucking hell, FIU would suck ass even if they were still in 1AA. Seriously, how can you not pull any recruits as a D-1A school in FLORIDA? Penn State now licking their chops to get to Notre Dame. It might get really ugly next Saturday.

Auburn 23 Kansas State 13

KSU had this game wrapped up, but Auburn "pulled an Auburn" and found a way to win this. I'm not sure who the KSU left tackle is, or who is responsible for coaching him or putting a back over to help block, but they should all be replaced come next weekend.

Clemson 24 Florida State 18

I thought I wouldn't see a worse job by an offensive line with that K-State performance. And then FSU came on TV. There was a bomb threat at Clemson, but as Holly Rowe said, nobody was worried. I mean, they were probably expecting it. FSU's offense is a threat to bomb every time they take the field and this game was no exception. It's plain and simple, folks: FSU didn't field an athlete on offense even remotely comparable to Clemson's James Davis/CJ Spiller, and they didn't have a defender as intense and reliable as Clemson's Watkins.

Nebraska 52 Nevada 10

Wow, must be a really off year for Nevada - I know Marlon Lucky is a lot to deal with defensively but Nevada usually fields a pretty competitive team.

Arkansas 46 Troy 26

McFadden and Jones are awesome. We knew that. Casey Dick still BLOWS - this is somewhat disappointing. Clemson and Arkansas are so similar it's eerie. Two extremely talented backs, an offensive line to compliment them, and practically nothing in the vertical passing game. Teams are going to stack the box against Arkansas/Clemson and they're just going to have to figure out something else eventually.

TCU 27 Baylor 0

Yawn. Huge surprise, TCU still good and Baylor still horrible.

Hawaii 63 Northern Colorado 6

N. Colorado makes it through a week of practice without a punter getting stabbed. Losing by only 57 to Hawaii without any knifing incidents is a positive week for Northern Colorado.

Boise State 56 Weber State 7

Hey look at that, a BCS caliber team mopping the field with a 1AA opponent. Hmmmmm.

Texas A&M beats Montana State

I don't even want to look up the score. Why is TAMU ranked?

Notre Dame looked awful.

Well, shouldn't this have been expected? Georgia Tech is a good team and ND was returning nobody of note outside of Zbikowski. Weis has poached a billion recruits out of Ohio from the likes of OSU and Michigan, but most of them do absolutely dick this week - except for Robby Paris, who looked like he'll develop nicely as a big receiving target for Jesus Clausen.

Can't wait for next week. I'm considering looking into having myself cryogenically frozen between Saturdays. Fuck work.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Which of these is not like the other?

A) Sealab 2020
B) The lost city of Atlantis
C) The Titanic wreckage
D) New Orleans

The correct answer is, somehow, D.

A, B, and C are all underwater. But 2 years ago this would have been a confusing question, as the city of New Orleans was finally hit (nay, raped) by a hurricane severe enough to make everyone who was in line when brains were passed out realize it was incredibly dumb to build a city under sea level on the gulf coast. I mean, it's literally underwater - like Eindhoven with a death wish.

Regardless of your feelings on the horrible mismanagement of the situation or your faith-based reason for why it happened (a guy outside a UDF in Dayton once told me it was God punishing the gays...uhh, right), the Superdome re-opening was a huge deal. Around this time last year it was transmogrified from a shitty domed homeless shelter into a shitty domed football stadium, and Michael Vick took some time off from dog fighting to make the trip with the Falcons.

It was the first possession of the game on Monday Night Football when this happened:

If you're any kind of sports fan and understand the implications of that game, there's no way this doesn't still give you chills to this day. That roar sounded loud coming out of my shitty old TV...I can't even imagine what it sounded like as part of the crowd. I don't think that pro football will ever be able to emulate or replicate the pure passion of college football crowds, but this is definitely as close as it gets.

Also Princess Diana died 10 years ago around this time. I didn't really care then and I can't see why I'd care now. She wasn't even hot.

Monday, August 27, 2007

And I thought I was dumb

The dump is back and hopefully for good. A big fuck off to actually doing work at our full time jobs. There's nothing like being the new guy on the project only to have 2 people on your team take week-long vacations every week for the entire month. I guess it's what they're paying me for but something is...a BIT off when I'm actually almost out of breath by 10:30am and I haven't left the chair in 2 hours.

The preceding video, sent to me by my recently engaged UIUC buddy Jerry, has absolutely nothing to do with sports. It has to do with the following, at least in part:

1) extra chromosomes
2) Aimee Teegarden (<3)
3) Iraq, South Africa, maps, education (to some degree)

The answer this girl spits out is almost unimaginable. It is entirely unintelligible, and I've watched it 6 times and I couldn't begin to tell you what the fuck this chick is actually trying to say. Also, I could be wrong, but aren't you allowed to ask for a minute before responding to these on-the-spot questions? She just fires out the most nonsensical bullshit I've ever heard (well, at least the most nonsensical bullshit I've ever heard that didn't come out of my mouth).

Honestly, if this girl is actually this dumb in any arena of life, she'd be better off as a corpse. I realize she's on the spot but she could have said or done anything...I mean she probably could have grabbed the presenter's crotch or farted into the mic and it would not be as disastrous as her quasi-lecture about maps and the Iraqi/South African cold war or whatever the fuck.

A few things of note in the sports world:

- That NBA player from the Wolves who got caught churning the butter in his car while watching porn in like a Kroger parking lot a few years ago got run over by a train and had to be identified by dental records. OUCH.

- College football starts this Saturday. As I've already remarked to Braun my boner is as big as it will get for college football (or any woman) today. I can't wait for that special release on Saturday morning.

- Man U finally got a home win. You know they are hurting when Chris Eagles sees SIGNIFICANT playing time. Tevez was utterly worthless and I would have liked to see Dong play...partly because he's supposedly some Chinese team phenom, but mostly because his name is DONG. As usual the ref's whistle was nowhere to be found on a glaring Man U handball in the penalty box...amazing how frequently that happens at Old Trafford.

- The USA men's basketball team appears to have removed its collective head from its collective ass. Not only did they bring SHOOTERS to the FIBA tournament (good Christ, I'm not basketball genius and I realize that when Carmello Anthony was our start 3 point specialist last time around that we were FUCKED) in Mike Miller and Michael Redd, but they absolutely raped every team they have faced so far. Good job boys.

- The USA Men's U-17 soccer team did not fair so well. Somehow we qualified for the elimination round in the U-17 World Cup, but we lost to Tunisia and Tajikistan. We lost to two countries who are like the answers to bonus questions at an 8th grade spelling bee, or the 2nd and 3rd answers to "where would you never ever want to live" (the 1st is Louisiana).

Last year, the Detroit Tigers showed what free agency, good health, and some home grown talent can do for you. This year all of those have backfired and they're going to struggle to make the playoffs despite the efforts of superhuman Curtis Granderson. If you were to re-pick All-Stars at this point, IMO (and I know it's a bit of a homer pick), this guy should be 2nd to maybe only A-Rod in the AL voting. Somebody please beat these stupid AL West teams so we can at least get the wildcard.

Friday, August 17, 2007

NFL Preview Part Deux: AFC South

And...we're back. Our sincerest apologies to our tens of loyal readers. We've been lazy bastards this week. Who would have guessed that we'd actually have to do work at our jobs? In any event, it's time for more NFL dumpage--AFC South style.

1.) Indianapolis Colts (12-4)

Ok, so the defending Super Bowl champs lost both starting corners in free agency and stud LT Tarik Glenn to retirement. Big deal. They have Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden ready to step in at CB, and rookie T Tony Ugoh is more than capable of protecting Peyton's blindside in Glenn's absence. The Colts offense will be as potent as ever, with rookie WR Anthony Gonzalez as a sleeper Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate. The guy has busted his ass this summer working to get on the same page as Manning, and is going to be deadly in the slot. With RB Joseph Addai primed for a breakout season, the Colts are going to score more than enough points to make up for any defensive liabilities. We'll see what happens when they get to the postseason. Last year, their much maligned D stepped up big time, and they took home the Lombardi trophy. I'm not predicting a repeat of that performance, but they are still the class of this division. They should cruise to a top 3 or 4 seed in the playoffs, and after that, all bets are off. I've accepted the fact that Peyton Manning is going to break most of Dan Marino's passing records. I've also accepted the fact that he has now won a championship, something that Marino never managed to do. These two facts make me very, very bitter, and I will never concede that Manning is a better QB than Marino in his prime. I won't. I can't. But he is the best QB playing today, and he's going to take the Colts deep into the playoffs once again.

2. Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6)

Over the past few seasons, the Jags have quietly put together one of the top defenses in the NFL. They are a young, fast and nasty group who have gotten better year by year. This year they will continue to establish themselves as a top-5 unit, but it's going to be on the Offense to get this team to the playoffs. Jack Del Rio has handled his QB situation pretty poorly of late, fueding with Byron Leftwich, finding out that David Garrard isn't all that good and flirting with signing Daunte Culpepper. I'm a big Leftwich fan, and feel that given a little time to develop chemistry with a talented but extremely raw set of receievers, he could put up big time numbers. RB Maurice Jones-Drew was a revelation last year--he and a healthy Fred Taylor could make for a devastating 1-2 punch on the ground. I like the Jags quite a bit this year. They'll experience some growing pains on offense early in the season as Leftwich gets back up to speed, but if WR's Matt Jones, Ernest Wilford and Reggie Williams can live up to their massive potential, the Jags will feature a deadly combination of defensive intensity and offensive firepower. They might still be a year away, especially in the loaded AFC, but they are close. Unfortunately for Del Rio, this might be a make or break year. Jacksonville's dozens of fans are in for an exciting season.

3) Houston Texans (7-9)

I really don't know what to expect from the Texans this year. Their fans sure as shit haven't had much to cheer about since the team's inception. From David Carr being demolished to passing on Reggie Bush in the draft, it's been a rough few years. Enter the hope of salvation in the form of QB Matt Schaub. Ookie's former backup has been one of the most highly valued second string QB's in the NFL for the past few seasons. The Texans gave up a bunch of draft picks and threw a ton of money at Schaub, who is largely untested in the NFL. Well, he's going to be tested this year. The O-Line is still shaky at best, and the offense is devoid of weapons outside of WR Andre Johnson. Long, long season in store for young Mr. Schaub. He's going to be a good one eventually, but Texans fans looking for a miracle are going to be disapointed. Luckily, they've grown used to that down in Houston. Defensively, the Texans actually figure to be pretty good. Dunta Robinson is an up and coming shutdown corner, LB DeMeco Ryans might have been the steal of last year's draft, and DE Mario Williams is still a physical specimen. The question will be whether he can learn to play his position or not. Amobi Okeye could very well develop into the best DT in the league, and he's only 19 years old. So things are looking up in Houston. They still need a viable answer at RB--because it sure as shit is not Ahman Green. He'll be on IR by week 6. Schaub will show flashes this season, but the Texans are a year or two away from making any serious noise in the division.

4. Tennesse Titans (5-11)

When Bill Cowher retired, he made the Jeff Fisher the longest tenured active NFL coach. Fisher has been roaming the Titans' sideline for 13 seasons now. Last year was one of his most impressive seasons, as he somehow got 8 wins out of a decidedly mediocre roster. QB Vince Young is going to be a good one, but I think he'll regress a little this year. Teams will be able to completely gameplan against him, especially since he has total scrubs at WR. The offensive line is young and talented, which will help Young escape a complete beating this season. RB LenDale White is still tubby and apparently unmotivated. I really thought that guy was going to be a stud coming out of USC, but he has been a bust so far. If he steps up, the Titans' chances at a decent season will be bolstered considerably. Of course, Tennessee will greatly miss Pac Man Jones in their defensive backfield and on special teams. For all his bullshit, the guy is a phenomenal cover corner. Rookie DB Michael Griffin will be expected to help pick up the slack, but he might be playing out of position, as it isn't quite clear whether he is going to end up as a CB or a Safety. Fisher has always gotten an amazing amount of mileage out of the talent he is given to work with. For the Titans to go .500 this year, he'll have to do his best coaching job to date. Fisher is one of the best in the game, but it's too tall an order this year. I will say this-with a promising young QB and Fisher on the sidelines, the Titans are one solid offseason from jumping right back into AFC contention. This is a good franchise with a lot of pride, and I expect just that. Keep an eye towards 2008 as you take your lumps this year, Titans fans.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Hump Day Dump

Not a whole lot of dump this morning. There is more expert NFL analysis coming later today however, so we've got that going for us, which is nice.

Mike Vick. Done. His buddies are pleading guilty and he might be about to do the same. Interestingly enough, if he makes a deal now and can serve under a year in jail, Ookie might actually be able to salvage his playing career. There are plenty of guys who have screwed up big time and made it back to play. If he does things right and serves his time quietly, promises to do an ass load of community service and accepts whatever punishment the NFL hands down (2 year suspension?) he is still young enough that he might be able to play another few years when he comes back.

Good stuff here from our boys over at Sports Hustle. Must read for baseball fans. I for one, am pulling for the Brew Crew in the NL Central. My erstwhile cousin, Ryan Braun is a lock for Rookie of the Year at this point, right? I think he's going to have no problem beating out Thomas Ian Nicholas for the award. (Sports Hustle)

John Rauch uncharacteristically took a shit on the mound last night, giving up 2 runs in the 8th as the Nats dropped the opener of their homestand to the Phillies, 3-2. Fuck. Not a good way to start the week. Still, Rauch has been mostly dominant in relief this year, so we have to cut him a little slack. Go Nats.

Didn't get to play too much Madden 2008 yesterday, unfortunately, but I like what I see so far. Ted Ginn is rocking 98 speed, 99 acceleration and 99 agility. He's got one kickoff returned for TD under his belt and many, many more to come. Feel free to post comments/thoughts about the new Madden.

More NFL preview action later today.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

2007 NFL Division Previews and bad predictions: NFC South

Well, we are getting damn close to the start of the NFL regular season. Preseason is underway, Madden 2008 has shipped and Brady Quinn is 4th on the Browns depth chart. In honor of Ookie Vick's impending plea deal and subsequent banishment from pro football, we are going to start our NFL preview in the NFC South. We'll say something about each each team, offer up a projected record that is sure to be wrong and try to predict the order they'll finish in. It's our first crack at something like this and we are writing off the top of our heads. Any overlap between our analysis and other shit floating out there on the internets is purely coincidental.

NFC South

1. Carolina Panthers (11-5)

Two years removed from a trip to the NFC Championship game, the window is closing for John Fox and the Panthers. What was once the best Defensive Line in football is a shell of its former self, while Jake Delhomme is coming off of a shitty year. The guy who was Charlotte's favorite gunslinger has to improve his decision making, and he has to get Steve Smith the ball more often. Smith is too good not to be putting up monster numbers every year. The Panthers have a talented running back duo in DeAngelo Williams and DeShaun Foster. If they can both stay healthy, the Panthers should feature a potent rushing attack. David Carr was brought in to back up Delhomme, and ostensibly push him, but look for Delhomme to hang on to the job for dear life this year. The O-Line isn't great, but rookie C Ryan Kalil was a great addition and will anchor the unit for years to come. On paper, the Panthers are the most complete team in this division, and a legitimate contender for the NFC Championship this year. I think they'll have just enough to hold off the Saints for the division title, and will be a tough out come January.

2. New Orleans Saints (10-6)

The 2006 New Orleans Saints were the feel good story of the NFL season. Defying all expectations, the Saints made their first trip to the NFC Championship game, and gave the Bears all they could handle for 3 quarters. This year, the expectations are sky high down in Nawlins. Head coach Sean Payton is one of the best in the business, and the offense is loaded with talent. QB Drew Brees, stud RB Deuce McCallister, and 2006 rookie sensations Marques Colston and Reggie Bush give the Saints some serious firepower. They are going to score a ton of points. The big question mark is the D. Charles Grant and Will Smith anchor a solid D-Line and the Saints should be tough against the run. That secondary is a big concern, however, and will cost them some games. Reggie Bush is going to absolutely explode this year, as he learns to run more effectively. I'd be surprised if he caught 100 balls again, but he should rush for well over 1,000 and be a threat to score from anywhere on the field. Brees will be damn good again, especially if rookie WR Robert Meachem develops into a viable thret opposite Colston. If does, the Saints will be absolutely stacked with young talent at the skill positions and in a position to dominate this division in the coming years. As it stands, they aren't going to surprise anyone this year. I give them 10-6 and a wild card berth. Like last year, they are going to be dangerous in the playoffs, especially in the weak NFC.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11)

After Chris Simms's appendix exploded last year, and the Polish Rifle Bruce Gradkowski didn't light the world on fire in relief, Jon Gruden brought in veteran Jeff Garcia to compete for the starting job. He also traded for Jake Plummer, but the Snake would apparently rather stay retired than play for the Bucs. Can't blame him. Garcia is ancient, Simms injury plagued and Gradkowski just not that good. Gruden has been trying to revamp the offensive line, but its a work in progress at best, especially if LT acquisition Luke Petitgout misses serious time with his latest injury. RB Cadillac Williams simply vanished after his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2005. It's a problem when Joey Galloway is your best reciever and your former first round pick (Michael Clayton) is in danger of not even making the team. The once proud Bucs D is toast, as is former All-Pro DE Simeon Rice. It's not gonna be pretty in Tampa this year.

4. Atlanta Falcons (4-12)

Wow. Where to begin? I guess with the obvious-Ookie. It can be argued that Mike Vick was entering his last season as the Falcon's QB anyway. New coach Bobby Petrino is an offensive guru who designed the dynamic attack that helped vault the University of Louisville into college football's elite. I'm not sure Vick would have ever fit his system. Now that Vick is out for the year, Joey Harrington has the reigns. We know what he did in Detroit. We know that he was shaky at best for the Dolphins last year. There is little reason to expect any more from him in Atlanta this year, but I think Harrington will surprise some folks. He has a damn good running game behind him, a bunch of former # 1 picks at WR, and money TE Alge Crumpler. Reports out of camp indicate DE John Abraham is poised for a monster year, and the secondary is damn tough with DeAngelo Williams and draft steal Chris Houston holding down the corners. DB Jimy Williams is making the move to safety and should be an upgrade there. Overall, the Falcons D should be more than respectable this year. If the offense can score with any consistency, they'll be a tough team to play this year. Nevertheless, a playoff appearance is just too much to expect with all the Vick bullshit surrounding the team. Petrino will be keeping one eye on the 2008 draft and a possible reunification with his Louisville protege QB Brian Brohm.

Welcome. Grab something to read. The seat is nice and warm...

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