Monthly Archives: August 2008

Raising a Nation of Entitled Wussies

I have news for you America, your kids are entitled to jack squat.  That’s right, you heard me.  Everyone born in the U.S. has the Bill of Rights.  At a hospital you have a patient’s bill of rights.  But other than the basic rights provided to us from our forefathers, you are entitled to nothing.  This is still a nation of blue collar workers.  There will always be people that have more money than you, have a bigger car than you and people that are just better than you.  That is life.  Pull up your damn boot straps and work/play your ass off.

Instead I need to listen to stories about people who think they should be “treated” a certain way because they pay taxes, have a college degree or they “know” someone.  This attitude is what is bringing our nation down.  I would love for the young parents spoiling their children or the college kids with the silver spoons in their mouth to ask a Vietnam Vet what they were entitled to.  I would love for them to talk to a 60 year old black man and ask him what he was entitled to in 1950s/60s Mississippi.  How about many of those who are no longer with us that had to stare at signs like IRISH NEED NOT APPLY or ITALIANS NOT WELCOME. 

This nation is de-evolving into something that makes me want to puke.  The kids have their cell phones (ha, I had a quarter and a pay phone), iPods, MP3 players and the Internet.  They have an opportunity to be a great generation with tons of information at their finger tips.  Yet, they apparently find it more rewarding to find the latest scoop on Miley Cyrus before their friends do.

How am I going to tie this in to sports you might ask?  Well last week I had to watch as a sobbing group of U.S. Women softball players collect their silver medals.  Why sobbing you might ask?  Well, apparently the Americans are too good at the sport and their is no “balance of competition” so they are disbanding the sport as an olympic event.  So, if you are keeping score apparently it is a crime to be “too good” at your sport.  I will address this f***ed logic again in a minute.

This weekend I am watching my kids play soccer in the Valparaiso, IN Park District.  My son and daughter play on the same team.  It was a gorgeous day to sit and enjoy a competitive game of middle-school soccer.  At some point during the 2nd half a kid makes a phenomonal save and the ball rolls to the right of the goal.  He dives in an attempt to cover the ball and he wraps himself around the post.  He hit it hard because you could hear the skin on metal when he hit it.  Now why the referee didn’t blow his whistle is beyond me but what did the coach from the other team do?  “Hurry, get the ball!  Kick it, Kick it!  Open net!”  I nearly shit a gold brick when I heard that come out of his mouth.  The parents kind of grumbled about it and then everyone heard the scream from the kid on the ground.  It was then the referee blew the whistle.  Now, as it turns out the kid was OK but he ended up having some bruised ribs from diving into a metal post.  It just drove me nuts that a coach, leading by example, would take advantage of an injured kid.  So, it is a crime to be too good but it is OK to steal a goal while a kid is in pain.

That isn’t enough!  Well let’s address “being too good” at your sport again.  I fire up the old box this morning and see stories about a 9 year old kid who is too good to pitch. 

His name is Jericho Scott and he is a pitcher.  He plays, or should I say played, for Youth Baseball League of New Haven.  This league is a private league for 8, 9, and 10 year olds.

The crime you might ask.  Well, he is too good.  He throws in the mid-40s and throws strikes.  He has great control and kids can’t hit him.  As a matter of fact some of the younger kids are scared to step in the batters box with him.  So the league officials are disbanding the team and throwing the kid out of the league.

How does Scott feel about that?  Well he feels just awful.  He thinks it is all his fault that they can’t play baseball.  The reality is that it isn’t his fault and I hope he knows that.  It is the fault of a handful of parents and a couple of sponsors.  They can’t win their beloved championship because Jericho is too damn good. 

Jericho’s coach Wilfred Vidro and some of the parents of the boys on his team know why these steps were taken.  The defending champs are sponsored by the business of one of the league’s administrators.  And what did they do you might ask.  Well after Jericho spurned an offer to play for that team to play with a team sponsored by Will Power Fitness, the league shut that undefeated team down.

The league’s attorney, the only one to comment from that camp, says the kid just throws too hard.  The league is a developmental league and apparently his great pitching stunts the development of these kids.  The other kids also “fear” stepping in against him.

So what are our children learning?  Don’t be too good at something you love?  Maybe we should develop a socialist system of sports where everyone wins, no one loses and everyone gets to be the hero.  Well, I am here to tell you it is bullshit.  We need to stop pampering our kids.  Stop the entitlement bullshit.  They need to do things for themselves.  It is OK if they fall and get a scratch.  It is OK if they fail.  We don’t need to protect them all the time.  Fear is OK.  The kids need to learn to overcome that.  If we continue on this path sometime in the not so distant future a country of hard working young men and women that bust their ass every day and take nothing for granted will surpass our great country.  We will be watching all the golds and silvers go to other countries.  The Nobel Prizes and other great awards will go to China, Japan and India.  The future wars will not be won by us.  The question is then what will we be left with.  Well, I am not sure about that but maybe we can rally the moms and dads and just suspend EVERYTHING.

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Best Baseball Parks

Staying with the “best of” and “baseball” themes let’s look at the 10 best places to watch a baseball game.

#10 Coors Field – Denver, CO

Good food, lots of offense, plenty of cheap seats and beautiful Denver, Colorado.  It is tough to beat that combination.

#9 PNC Park – Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh isn’t exactly a “tourist” destination but if you are passing through stop and see a ballgame at PNC.  It is a really a great tribute to the ballparks of yester-year.  Located on the Ohio River it has a great river walk, awesome food, great ambiance and a great view of the Pittsburgh skyline.

#8 Comerica Park – Detroit, MI

I really enjoyed this park when I went to it.  It is very comfortable inside the park.  The sight lines are really great.  It is a “sunken” stadium as the lower box seats and field are below street level.  The food is good and the beers are pretty cheap.  It is an urban park in a part of Detriot that is “coming back”.  It is near the casino, Ford Field and Hockeytown.   

#7 AT&T Park – San Fransisco, CA

This park is very beautiful.  They built it right on the bay where kayakers and other boaters wait for home run balls.  The Promenade lets people peak in on the game for free and sample yummy food while strolling along the China Basin.  Everything about the park is really beautiful.  It is another park built with elements of the classic old brick and steel ballparks.  It has superior sight lines and has plenty of affordable tickets.

#6 The Ballpark at Arlington – Arlington, TX

This park is a classic design of the old ballparks with many element of old Ebbet’s Field.  It is a very cozy ballpark with unique outfield walls and a great centerfield porch.  Outside the park you can pop in the museum or instruction center for kids.  It is another park that is built down below street level.

#5 Chase Field – Phoenix, Arizona

Chase Field (formerly the BOB) has classic elements combined with some great modern amenities.  You have to mention its signature pool in right field, the kids area behind centerfield and the dirt path to the mound almost immediately.  Not to mention it is always 100 degrees plus in the summer so it has a retractable roof and huge HVAC system.  You have to love the water cannons erupting when the D-Backs hit a homerun.  They also have many suites for price levels of all kinds from box to pool to dugout suites.  There is also plenty of affordable parking and good food.  This ballpark is a model for all new parks to follow.

#4 Oriole Park and Camden Yards – Baltimore, MD

Oriole Park is a great ballpark.  It is faced with a beautiful wrought iron and brick facade to cover up the walkways like in the older, classic ballparks.  It’s right field is faced with an old warehouse which also gives it that “throw-back” look.  However, the upper deck was built without support beams extending into the lower deck so there are no obstucted view seats.  One of the most unique things are the double decker bullpens in centerfield.  Kind of weird but neat to see.  The food and atmosphere are second to none.  Fans belt out belt out “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” and enjoy libations and crab legs right outside the park.

#3 Yankee Stadium – Bronx, New York

The house the Ruth built.  I could probably just stop there because this historic relic is meeting the wrecking ball next year.  However, see it if you can.  Check out monument park and touch the bat.  It is hard to believe they shrunk this field…it is massive.  You have got to love the ornate work on the upper deck roof and on the exterior of the park.  They don’t make them like this any more.  I don’t think I would want to be a catcher though.  If you let one go you will have to run a mile to get it.

#2 Fenway Park – Boston, MA

Fenway is a remarkable ballpark.  From the classic exterior elements to the massive green wall in left field, it is easily the best ballpark in the AL.  I love the short-porch in right field, also known as Williamsburg, a tribute to the great lefty, Ted Williams.  Getting back to the Monster, it contains one of only two remaining manual scoreboards in baseball.  Around the park the food is awesome and the streets are shut down to give every home game a kind of festival feel.

#1 Wrigley Field – Chicago, IL

Wrigley is the king of all parks.  It is in need of dire repair (will probably be closed for the 2009 season) but it is beautiful.  I love the ivy covered brick outfield wall and the basket.  The manual scoreboard in centerfield is also amazing.  If the Cubs are lucky enough to win they fly the large white flag with the blue W at the end of the game.  They also have celebrities sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame in the 7th Inning as a tribute to the late, great broadcaster, Harry Carey.  Most seats are really nice giving you a great view of the field.  The bleachers however are an experience all there own.  I call it, the largest singles bar in North America.  Simply put, if you don’t like wild parties with booze and half-naked women, get a box seat.  Around the park is just as decadant with about 20 bars with a couple of blocks in any direction.  You can also join one of many roof top parties looking into the ballpark.

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Best Baseball Rivalries

The BEST OF week returns to the BPD rag. 

In the heat of the baseball playoff race I thought I would start with best baseball rivalries.

I will not include AL v. NL teams because it just seems unnatural.  I have never been big on the interleague play to begin with but for anyone to assume the Cubs v. Sox is up there with the Red Sox and Yankees is just ridiculous.  I think Interleague play has run its course and we should get back to the NL playing the NL and the AL playing the AL. 

Now, on with the show.

#10 Anaheim Angels v. Oakland A’s – It is a newer rivalry.  It has been going strong since the 1960s with each team winning dozens of division titles, pennants and a couple of World Series championships.  The one has often had to get through the other to get to the playoffs.  They have had fantastic teams over the years.  The A’s of the 70s were dominant and then the Angels started winning more regularly in the 80s.  You had the Bash Brothers and then eventually the “Sock Monkey” in Anaheim.  It is ranked #10 right now but this rivalry will pick up steam in the coming decades.

#9 Chicago Cubs v. Milwaukee Brewers – This is also a newer rivalry.  More than 10 years ago this would be listed as White Sox v. Brewers, not the Cubs.  However this rivalry is intense.  Granted it hasn’t been filled with too many Hall of Fame players or moments, but the fans have made it great.  Currently they are both very good so I see this rivalry getting better over the years as well.

#8 NY Yankees v. Cleveland Indians – This is a down right hate fest.  Yankees fans and players hate the fans and the city.  They have almost as much dislike towards Cleveland as they do towards Boston.  The Indians fans have hated the Yankees forever.  This rivalry dates back almost 100 years and these teams have met hundreds of times in the regular season and in the playoffs.  The Yankees boast their 26 championships and the Indians have fallen in the post-season to most of those teams.  However, the Indians have knocked the Yankees out of the playoffs numerous times as well.  Not to mention the Indians own the single greatest blow out versus the Yankees.

#7 Atlanta Braves v. NY Mets – This rivalry was pretty insignificant until the 1990s.  The Braves had a couple of good teams before that but it seemed the Mets were always better.  This rivalry just had “moments” up until the 1990s when Bobby Cox was hired as manager in ATL.  After that the Braves were very good just about every season.  The Mets v. Braves games had new meaning as both teams were usually pretty damn good and in the playoff picture.  This rivalry should continue to grow.

#6 Baltimore Orioles v. NY Yankees – This one goes back to the 1960s.  Once again it was the Yankees winning most of the championships but in the late 60s through the early 80s the Orioles gave NY just about everything they could handle.  Baltimore won 7 division titles, 5 pennants and 3 world championships over that time period.  New York won 5 division titles, 4 pennants and 3 world championships.  You had several Hall of Fame players on each team and fantastic moments between the two teams, ending with the Jeffrey Maier interference home run in the playoffs.  Recently the rivalry has taken a hit.  Baltimore has been terrible the last 10 years or so and the Yankees are beginning to struggle too. 

#5 Cleveland Indians v. Detroit Tigers – This is another hate fest that has more geographical implications that cross over into multiple professional and college sports.  Wolverines v. Buckeyes…Detroit Pistons v. Cleveland Cavs…so naturally the baseball teams would hate each other, right.  This is true but the rivalry is one of those on again, off again kind of affairs.  It was really hot in the 40s and 50s as the area rivals had numerous Hall of Famers and championships between them.  How tense is it when one of your greatest all time players Hank Greenberg (Tigers) becomes a minority owner of the rival Indians?  How about the Rocky Colavito trade from Cleveland to Detoit.  Some Cleveland fans called it a curse because they went 30 years without post-season play.  During this time the rivalry cooled.  Cleveland was almost always the doormat and Detroit wasn’t much better (exception of 1984).  However this rivalry picked up again 90s and continues on today.  The Cleveland v. Detroit rivalry is now hotter than ever.

#4 Chicago Cubs v. St. Louis Cardinals – This rivalry has the potential to be one of the best of all-time but there is that whole matter of the Cubs not winning any championships since 1908.  That withstanding, this match up is classic.  It dates back over 100 years with the Chicago White Stockings (Cubs) defeated the St. Louis Unions (Cardinals) 47-1.  Through much of the early part of the 20th century the Cubs always had the edge in the rivalry.  As a matter of fact the Cubs had some down right dominant teams.  However, after the mid-40s the Cubs took their spiral downward and the Cardinals began to ascend.  However, the rivalry still had its moments like the ridiculous Lou Brock trade from Chicago to St. Louis and the monumental collapses of the 1969 and 1977 Chicago Cubs.  St. Louis won two championships and three pennants in the 60s and cooled during the 70s.  However both the Cubs and Cards picked up steam in the 80s.  In 1982 the Cardinals won yet another championship, seperating themselves further from the Cards.  However the game labeled as the Sandberg Game looked to change history 

#3 NY Mets v. Philadelphia Phillies – This is your classic on-again, off-again rivalry.  The Mets and Phillies have been regular enemies for the last 44 years or so.  It has everything a rivalry could want.  They are in the same division and only a 90 minute car ride apart.  Their is a curse involved.  That curse is the Phillies and since they built a skycraper taller than the one adorning the William Penn Statue, they have won no world championships.  And I am not just talking about the Phillies.  Non of the Philadelphia teams have turn the corner since.  It could be a great rivalry if the two teams were good at the same time.  A few times they have been battling for playoff position but usually one or both teams are out of contention.  This rivalry has picked up since about 2005-06 with both teams competing regularly for division titles and wildcard births.  The two teams have also exchanged players over time like McGraw, Dykstra and most recently, Billy Wagner.   

#2 SF Giants v. LA Dodgers – This rivalry has been struggling and if it wasn’t for the glorious past of these two teams I would have dropped them to #3 or #4.  What more can you say about these two teams playing each other?  In 1951 the Brooklyn Dodgers hold a 13+ game lead over NY in August and then “The Shot Heard Round’ the World!”  These two teams have played each other almost 2,300 times.  The most amazing thing is that in 118 years of professional baseball neither of these teams have faced each other in post-season competition.

 

#1 NY Yankees v. Boston Red Sox – What more can be said about this rivalry that hasn’t already been said?  They’ve had over 1,770 meetings.  The rivalry has the Rooters, the Babe trade and subsequent curse, 26 championships for NY and none for Boston over a 90 year period, 19 post-season meetings between the two, the Bucky Dent homer, the ARod slap, Boston beating NY on their way to a championship etc.  It is a great matchup that stirs the passions of millions of New Englanders and just as many millions of baseball fans nationwide.

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2008-09 NFL Playoff and Superbowl 43 Predictions

I spent all of this week analyzing the upcoming NFL season.  Now that you have seen my picks for 2008 it is time to see who is at the top when the smoke clears in Tampa Bay.

NFC Wildcard Round

 

Philadelphia @ New Orleans – Philadelphia gets revenge for the loss in 2006.  Despite New Orleans getting to play at home, a healthy McNabb and RB Brian Westbrook will light up the Saints defense.  Eagles win 35 -24

NY Giants @ Minnesota – Minnesota is tough at home and the Giants will have a tough time with the improved Minnesota D in the dome.  The Minnesota RB tandem of Adrian Petersen and Chester Taylor should do well against NY.  Minnesota wins 21-14

 

AFC Wildcard Round

 

Pittsburgh @ Jacksonville – This game should be fantasitic.  Both teams match up with each other very well but the Steelers are the seasoned playoff team.  Big Ben will make the plays necessary in the 4th quarter to come out on top.  Pittsburgh wins 27-24

Indianapolis @ Cleveland – Cleveland is at home in the cold against Peyton Manning.  This game will go one of two ways based on the weather.  In either case Indy comes out on top though.  If the weather is pleasant (above freezing and no precipitation) Indianapolis wins 42-28.  If the weather does not cooperate (freezing with some wind and precip) Indy still comes out on top but the score will be a lot closer.  Indianapolis wins 21-17.

 

NFC Divisional Playoffs

 

Minnesota @ Dallas – Minnesota’s run offense should do well against the Dallas run defense but mistakes by Minnesota’s young players will cost them.  Romo and company will find a way to score against Minnesota’s D.  Dallas wins 24-14.

Philadelphia @ Seattle – Philly will not have the same success against Seattle as they did against New Orleans.  Look for Matt Hasselback and Julius Jones to consistently march down the field and control the clock.  When Seattle’s 12th man takes over it will be all over.  Seattle wins 30-17.

 

AFC Divisional Playoffs

 

Indianapolis @ New England – Peyton v. Brady yet again.  New England has a chip on their shoulder from last season abd the weather will suck.  I look for this to be a very rough game for Indy.  New England makes a huge statement.  New England wins 42-14.

Pittsburgh @ San Diego – This will be the best of the Divisional games.  I look for this game to be close with a few lead changes.  As a matter of fact this may go in to OT.  San Diego Wins 24-21 OT.

 

NFC Championship Game

 

Dallas @ Seattle – I think Seattle will get an early advantage with help from the crowd.  However I think Tony Romo and T.O. make some huge plays to get back into the game.  I think this game comes down to a field goal either way.  I’m throwing a dart on this game.  Dallas wins 20-17.

 

AFC Championship Game

 

San Diego @ New England – San Diego is coming off of a hard fought victory in San Diego and will stick with New England early on.  Will LT show up to this game or sit out again?  I think he shows up but the Patriots D will focus on him and dare Phllip Rivers to beat them.  He can’t.  New England wins 28-16.

 

SUPERBOWL 43

 

Dallas v. New England – There will be a ton of hype behind this game.  Will New England choke?  Can T.O. and Pacman behave themselves?  Is Tom Brady the greatest QB now?  Well I can say New England won’t choke this time.  The Patriots get and early lead and the Cowboys won’t be able catch up.  Brady and Moss can and should share the MVP for this game after torching the Dallas defense.  However, I don’t look for Dallas to just lay down.  I think they will attempt a comeback late in the game but will fall short. New England wins 45-35.

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NFC and AFC East PREVIEW

NFC EAST – Dallas, New York and Philadelphia should be neck in neck in this great division.  New York, coming off of a championship, has lost a few players but should continue to be competitive.  Philadelphia was the classic underachiever last year and should improve.  Dallas has the talent to get to the Superbowl and the only team stopping them are themselves.  Finally, Washington will probably be the best last place team in the NFL.

1. Dallas Cowboys 12-4

The Cowboys have the talent to win the Superbowl this season.  They have a great mix of young players and veterans.  They fell just short with their young QB in 2007 and I don’t think they will make the same mistake this season.  QB Tony Romo, WR Terrell Owens, TE Jason Witten and RB Marion Barber make up one of the more intimidating offenses in the NFL.  The offensive line is also one of the best in the league.  The only weakness I can see is their overall depth.  Behind T.O. and Crayton they don’t have much.  Healthy is going to be a key for this team.  The defense is also very solid.  Newman, Hamlin and Williams isn’t a law firm.  They happen to make up one of the best defensive backfields in football.  If “Pacman” Jones gets permission to play it will make this group the absolute best in football.  The cherry on top for the Cowboys?  They drafted CB Mike Jenkins in the 1st Round of the 2008 draft.  I also love their acquisition of LB Zach Thomas in the off-season.  He has a few more years in the tank and is a true leader on the field.  His presence alone makes the entire group better.  The only weakness I can see is the defensive group moving exclusively to the 3-4 this season.  I think their talent still better suits the 4-3.   

2. Philadelphia Eagles 11-5

The Philadelphia Eagles have the right stuff to not only make the playoffs but to go deep in them as well.  QB Donovan McNabb is healthy and if he can stay that way he is still a Top 5 QB in the NFL.  However the real star is no longer Donovan.  The real star and fan favorite is RB Brian Westbrook.  This guy is as tough as they come.  He is one of the best inside-outside runners in the league.  He is always near the top in leagues leading rushers and is also a team leader in the receiving department.  Westbrook will have a little extra competition in the receptions department this season with the acquisition of WR DeSean Jackson to with Baskett, Curtis, L.J. and Brown.  The defense should be fantastic this season.  In the off-season they added CB Assante Samuel and LB Rocky Boiman to an already talented group.  They also drafted DT Trevor Laws who will see time on the line almost immediately.  This team has every chance to top Dallas in the division.  It will be close.

3. NY Giants 9-7

The defending Superbowl Champion Giants should be good again but the division is just too tough.  They will probably lose 3 or 4 games in the division.  QB Eli Manning seemed to turn the corner last season and should now be considered in the same breath as the other elite QBs in the NFL.  WR Plaxico Burress should continue to see a large majority of Eli’s passes.  The rest of the recieving corps is just average but they did draft Moss last year and picked up Manningham and D.J. Hall this year.  Major camp competition for 3rd, 4th and 5th receivers slots.  The defense will be good but they will feel the loss of Strahan and Gibril Wilson.  Rookie S Kenny Phillips should develop into a good player and make people forget about Wilson.  The defensive front is still one of the best in football and will continue to make throwing against the G-Men difficult despite the off-season losses.

4. Washington Redskins 7-9

The Redskins just happen to be rebuilding in a very tough division so there really isn’t anywhere for them to go.  Zorn brings a wide open, exiting offense in D.C. but may not have all the right guys in place yet.   I do like their future however.  QB Jason Campbell is serviceable but I feel the QB of the future is Colt Brennan.  He may not have a killer arm but he is deadly with his mid-range and short passes.  He also has the moxie and toughness to succeed.  Two other  future studs are WR Devin Thomas and WR Malcolm Kelly.  Devin is currently behind Randle-El on the depth chart but it won’t be long before he is the primary receiver in Washington.  Kelly will eventually become the slot/3rd receiver.  RB Clinton Portis is the veteran leader of the offense and behind one of the better lines in football he should have a big season.  The defense is decent.  Adding DE Jason Taylor was certainly an upgrade but it won’t make it a Top 10 defense over night.  This is a defense in transition so I look for a lot of inconsistency this season. Carter and Fletcher are getting up there in age.  They failed to draft or acquire their future replacement in 2008.  This until must remain injury free for the Redskins to remain competitive.

AFC EAST – There isn’t too much to say here.  The Patriots should again walk away with this division.  I don’t think they have what it takes for another undefeated run but they will win the division by a large margin over the NY Jets.  Buffalo is still hovering around mediocrity but moving in the right direction.  The Miami Dolphins have no hope this season or next.  However, with Tuna in charge they should be playoff contenders in about 3 or 4 years.

1. New England Patriots 13-3

There really isn’t too much to say here.  The Patriots, despite the ‘contraversial’ loss, are still the best team in the NFL.  Brady is #1 behind center and Moss is the best receiver on the planet.  The offensive line is getting a little long in the tooth but they are still good as well.  They kept most of the same offensive players from last season and added bruising RB Lamont Jordan to the backfield to help out Lawrence Maroney.  Despite losing Assante Samuel and Junior Seau the defense should be just fine.   They are an aging unit, especially up front, but they are effective.  They began addressing the problem of their aging unit this off-season by drafting LB Jerod Mayo, LB Shawn Crable and CB Terrence Wheatley.

2. NY Jets 10-6

And in an instant the Jets are transformed from a 6 or 7 win team to a playoff team.  The acquisitions of QB Brett Favre and offensive linemen Damien Woody and Alan Faneca were huge for this franchise.  Brett, along with Thomas Jones, Laverneaus Coles, Jerricho Cotchery and the new and improved offensive line, make up a very good offense.  The defense is also improved with the addition of rookies DE/LB Vernon Gholston and CB Dwight Lowery.  The defense overall is very young and inexperienced but they should improve and the season progresses. 

4. Buffalo Bills 6-10

The Bills just don’t have the fire power for a winning season.  First of all they have a QB contraversy whether they like it or not.  QB Trent Edwards and QB J.P. Losman will battle for the top spot all season long.  Trent has the edge but if he gets injured or falters it is J.P. time.  Rarely does QB shuffle during a season spell success.  The Bills do have playmakers in WRs Josh Reed, Lee Evans and rookie James Hardy.  RB Marshawn Lynch is the stud of the offensive unit for Buffalo.  If Lynch can run Buffalo can play with almost anyone.  However, his success depends on how the Bills young, mediocre offensive line progresses.  The Bills defense did get a little better in the off-season with the acquisition of DT Marcus Stroud and rookie MLB Paul Posluszny.  The front seven should be quicker and tougher against the run.  The Bills safeties are pretty good but they have a lot less talent at the cornerback positoin.  They will be a streaky group that will occassionally give up the long ball.  The Bills could reach the .500 mark if one of their QBs can step up, take the job and stay healthy but I see another sub .500 season in their future.  

4. Miami Dolphins 4-12

The Dolphins are in for another one of those seasons.  But they are coming off of a 1 win season so consider a 4 or 5 win season a victory for Tuna.  By acquiring QB Chad Pennington they have at least brought some experience to that position.  QB Chad Henne is most likely the future of the franchise but it is Pennington’s job to lose at this time.  Having RB Ronnie Brown back is huge.  This Miami team was not a 1 win type of team when he went down.  They are vastly better with him in the line up and Ricky Williams, if healthy and not high, should make an excellent duo with Ronnie.  Rookie OT Jake Long will anchor a line that will get better and better with each game.  The biggest weakness is the receiving corps.  They are led by Ted Ginn who will be a nice player in a couple of more years.  Behind him guys that would be 4th or 5th on almost any body else’s depth chart.  Look for a lot of passes to go to the running backs and TEs Anthony Fasano and David Martin.  The Miami D has flipped over to a 3-4 defense and they start with a pretty nice front 3 or Roth, Ferguson and Holliday.  Now while none of these guys can take over a game like an elite lineman, they will at least provide some consistent pressure on most QBs.  The linebacking crew is led by veteran Joey Porter who is familiar with the defense they are playing.  The rest of the linebacking crew is experienced and should do well in the new system.  The defensive backfield is the defensive teams weakness.  I look for them to struggle and for CB and S to be a focus in next seasons draft.  OK…now you might be thinking “THIS IS THE MIAMI DOLPHINS AND HE GIVES US A BAG BOY INSTEAD OF A HOT LADY.  MIAMI IS FULL OF HOT WOMEN.  WE WANT HOT DOLPHIN GIRLS!”.  Well, I agree.  Bag boy belongs there because it is going to be that kind of season.  However, I love the women of South Beach so BPD FANS, here you go.

     

THE END!

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NFC and AFC West PREVIEW

NFC WEST – The West is still all about the Seattle Seahawks.  With key off-season additions they are the class of the division.  Arizona is slowly creeping up on them but may finally have enough talent to contend for a playoff spot.  San Francisco and St. Louis are dismal and bring up the rear.

1. Seattle Seahawks 12-4

Seattle has been a good team for years.  They were really good last year and they are even better this season.  The additions of RBs Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett should help balance out the offense this season.  Despite the injury to WR Bobby Engram, QB Matt Hasselbeck still has Burleson and Branch to throw to.  The defense is going to be very good as well this season.  The front seven are led by LB Julian Petersen and DE Patrick Kerney.  Seattle also has to of the best corners in the NFL in Trufant and Jennings.  The only weak spot I can see are at the safety postion.  The project starters are both rookies.

2. Arizona Cardinals 9-7

Yes girls, plenty to smile about regarding your Arizona Cardinals.  This could be the year they hit the playoff pay dirt.  One of the biggest keys is the success of young QB Matt Leinart.  He has shown some brilliance early on but has been hurt.  He is back now and has one of the best WR duos to throw to in Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.   The RB duo of Edgerrin James and James Arrington won’t be intimidating by any stretch but it will be effective.  The Arizona defense could be the real surprise this season.  DE Bertrand Berry, LB Chike Okeafor, LB Karlos Dansby and S Antrel Rolle are the leaders of the youngest, quickest defense in the NFL.  They are going to be flying around the ball, sacking QBs and intercepting passes.  They could use a little more depth in the linebacking and DB corp but they are one of the more entertaining units in football.

3. San Francisco 49ers 6-10

The 49ers are doomed.  They have a #1 draft pick QB in Alex Smith that has had 4 coordinators in 4 years.  There are times he looks completely lost on the field and I don’t necessarily blame him.  The bright spot on a poor offense is RB Frank Gore.  He needs to be healthy and rush for over 1,500 yards if San Fran has any hope of reaching the .500 mark.  The 49ers are a little better on defense led by one of the best young LBs in the league, Patrick Willis.  The defensive line was helped a bit when they took Kentwan Balmer in the draft.  The defense is a work in project and should improve as the season progresses.

4. St. Louis Rams 4-12

The once proud St. Louis Rams franchise is the joke of the NFC.  QB Marc Bulger has taken a beating the last two seasons and may take a beating again this season.  Star RB Steve Jackson has also taken a beating and is holding out in hopes of securing more money up front.  He may also be praying for a trade.  The other star on offense is WR Tory Holt.  With Isaac Bruce gone look for Tory to draw a lot more double team coverage.  The defense got a hell of a lot better when they drafted DE Chris Long to go along with Glover, Little and Carriker.  Chris is an aggressive, play maker and should be a fixture on that line for years to come.  The rest of the defense is a question mark.  They have a few playmakers but not too many.  Quality QBs should have no problem picking apart the linebackers and DBs.

AFC WEST – San Diego remains the class of a good AFC West but Denver and Kansas City are fast approaching.  Oakland, while still in the rebuilding phase, looks to be the class of the division in the next few years.  The AFC West was always an entertaining division of fast paced, high scoring games.  That has lacked the last few years but I feel the West is back and only getting better.

1. San Diego Chargers 12-4

How could you pass up a photo of Kendra when talking about the San Diego Chargers?  The Chargers should be the best in the West without a doubt this year.  QB Philip Rivers will again enjoy having LT in the backfield to take most of the pressure off of him.  He also has a whole season with WR Chris Chambers.   In the draft they also addes LSU FB Jacob Hester and with Pinnock hurt he is going to make huge contributions to the short yardage game.  On defense there really isn’t a whole lot to say.  It is pretty much the same group entact from last season.  They were solid last year and should continue to beat on teams this season.  I loved the addition of CB Antione Cason in the draft.  He will contribute to the special teams nicely.

2. Denver Broncos 9-7

Denver has been the bride-to-be in this division for the last couple of years.  They can’t seem to get past San Diego and when they do get in the playoffs they have been cannon fodder for their first round opponent.  I hate to say it but look for more of the same this season.  QB Jay Cutler is going to be a solid NFL QB but he isn’t quite yet and it really isn’t his fault.  The RB situation in Denver is probably the main reason for his struggles.  They have a team full of young backs like Selvin Young and the injured Ryan Torain and it appears none of them wants the starting job.  They have all been very vanilla.  The WR corp is significantly better with last year’s stud Brandon Marshall and TE Tony Scheffler being joined by off-season acquisitions Brandon Stokley, Darrell Jackson and Keary Colbert.  If Denver can run the ball at all Jay will have the time to spread the ball around to these WRs.  The defense is a bit of a concern.  S John Lynch has walked away from the team leaving a hole in the defensive backfield.  The front seven has a couple of new faces in DT Dewayne Robertson, LB  Niko Koutouvides and LB Boss Bailey.  It will take time for the defense to gel into a good unit. 

3. Kansas City Cheifs 8-8

 

Kansas City is very close to breaking through.  This year I classify them as my dark horse but it probably won’t be until next season when they hit the double digit win mark.  QB Brodie Croyle is going to be a very good QB.  He has a rifle for an arm and has that Terry Bradshaw / Brett Favre Southern gunslinger attitude.  He also has WR Dwayne Bowe, TE Tony G and a healthy Larry Johnson so that helps too.  They do need that stud 2nd WR to take pressure off of Bowe but I am not sure Devard Darling is that guy.  The defense got much better in the off-season by drafting DT Glenn Dorsey.  Their linebacking group is very talented and should do a much better job against the run this season.  The weakness may still be their young, inexperienced DBs.  They have one veteran in Patrick Surtain and he is not the same player he was 5 years ago.

4. Oakland Raiders 5-11

The Oakland Raiders have gone from annual playoff team to annual doormat in a matter of about 5 years.  It may be time for Al Davis to relinquish some power or perhaps he just needs to get a quality coach and stick with him for 4 or 5 years.  The last couple of draft classes have brought Oakland QB Jamarcus Russell and RB Darren McFadden.  They are the future of the franchise.  However, the offensive line is merely adequate and the WRs are underwhelming.  The defense is not ver impressive.  In fact I would go on a limb to say that this rag tag bunch isn’t going to stop too many people.  Acquiring S DeAngelo Hall was a step in the right direction but they didn’t have many draft picks to work with in 2008 and have virtually the same cast of characters they did last year.

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NFC and AFC South PREVIEW

NFC SOUTH – This could possibly be the worst division in football.  Atlanta is in a full rebuilding mode, Carolina is in neutral, New Orleans is overrated and Tampa Bay is incredibly mediocre.  It would not surprise me at all to see the division winner with only 8 or 9 wins.

1. New Orleans Saints 10-6

New Orleans is 2 years removed from an NFC Championship game and it makes many wonder just how they got there.  QB Drew Brees will have a nice array of targets to throw to in WRs Devery Henderson, Marques Colston, Robert Meachem and TE Jeremy Shockey.  The biggest question mark is at RB where Reggie Bush can’t seem to do the job.  RB Pierre Thomas may start over both Bush and the oft injured Deuce McAllister.  The defense is going to be better this season but it still has holes.  The strength should be on the defensive line where newly acquired Sedrick Ellis joins Thomas Hollis, Will Smith and Charles Grant to make up one of the better lines in football.  They will certainly be better against the run this season.  The linebacking corp and defensive backs are a bit light though and they will give up some points.  Here is the biggest key though.  If Bush steps up and becomes that 1,200 yards on the ground, 500 yards receiving guy they thought they drafted, the Saints go 12-4.  If they can’t run then they are .500 or slightly better.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 9-7

The Bucs have a ton of potential but seem to be very unorganized.  The bright side on offense are the receivers.  Hilliard, Clayton, Galloway, Stovall, Bryant and rookie Dexter Jackson make up the deepest receiving corp in the NFL.  Unfortunately they have no idea who is going to throw the ball to them.  Currently Garcia is #1 on the depth chart but he is in Gruden’s dog house.  The next in line would be unproven Luke McCown with Brian Griese behind him.  The also have rookie Josh Johnson and rehabbing Chris Simms on the roster.  In my opinion they put on their eggs in the Favre basket and it didn’t happen.  Not to mention they are not a great running team.  Graham and Dunn are OK but the Bucs need a healthy Cadillac back in the lineup.   Defensively the Bucs are solid all-around.  They have a very solid linebacking corp, tough guys on the line and good defensive backs.  If they can mount any consistent offense they will pass New Orleans.  If not they will struggle their way to a wildcard birth.

3. Carolina Panthers 7-9

  

Carolina is another team that is another team that is a really good QB away from making playoff push.  They have a very solid running game in DeAngelo Williams, Nick Goings and rookie Jonathan Stewart.  They also have a solid receiving corp with All-Pro Steve Smith, Mushin Muhammed, D.J. Hackett and Travis Taylor.  The line and tight ends are also pretty good.  Unfortunately Delhomme regressed tremendously last year and had injuries.  The 3 other QBs in camp have 5 years of experience between them.  The defense is in a little bit of a rebuilding phase. They needed defensive line help and didn’t address it until the mid rounds.  Julius Peppers also took a bit of a step back last year because their aren’t any other playmakers on the line.  The strength on defense is probably the linebackers.  Diggs, Beason and rookie Dan Conner make up a very strong group.  However they may struggle at times due to the issues on the d-line.  The defensive backs are OK but will also struggle if the line can’t apply pressure to the opposing QBs.

4. Atlanta Falcons 5-11

Well, they certainly don’t have to worry about Vick anymore.  They have moved on with rookie QB Matt Ryan.  Early indications are that he will start and should do pretty well.  They do need to continue to acquire more weapons for him but they have started by getting RB Michael Turner via free agency.  WRs Finneran, Jenkins and Roddy White make up an OK group.  They are hoping 2nd year receiver Laurent Robinson becomes a feared deep threat this season.  The defense is under construction this season.  Veteran LB Keith Brookings is still on board but all areas of the defense are weak.  They will give up a lot of points this season.  A special teams bright spot is the acquisition of K Jason Elam.  He will win a couple of close games on his leg alone. 

AFC SOUTH – This division is tough from top to bottom.  You could seriously draw up scenarios in which each team in this division has an opportunity to win it.  The Colts are the older, veteran squad still capable of double digit wins.  The Texans are the young guns that can win 9 or 10 games if they avoid injuries and those young team mistakes.  Jacksonville is just a solid team all around and Tennessee should be very competitive despite rebuilding on the fly.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars 12-4

I look for Jacksonville to break out and be one of the better teams in the NFL.  First off they have a dynamite RB duo in Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor.  They have a deep corp of receivers led by Matt Jones, Jerry Porter and Reggie Williams.  They also have a very talented TE in Marcedes Lewis.  Last but not least is QB David Garrard.  He played understudy to Byron Leftwich for years.  He got his opportunity after Leftwich suffered mulitple injuries that effected his career.  He is a very technically sound passer that makes few errors.  The defense is very good and it all starts on their defensive line.  DT John Henderson, DE Paul Spicer and rookie DE Derrick Harvey should make up one of the more aggressive lines in the AFC.  The linebackers are led by 10 year veteran Mike Petersen.  They are a quick, aggressive bunch as well.  Look for passing heavy teams to have a hard time with Jacksonville. 

2. Indianapolis Colts 11-5

Indianapolis still has many of its championship pieces in place from last season but they do have holes in a few spots and that will be enough to knock them down into the wildcard race.  It almost goes without saying but if you have Peyton Manning as your QB you probably won’t finish below .500.  He still has weapons at WR in Reggie Wayne, an aging Marvin Harrison, 2nd year slot receiver Anthony Gonzalez and TE Dallas Clark.  However they do lack depth and need to stay healthy.  RB Joseph Addai had a pretty good season but being the main RB hurt his production.  So the Colts brought Dominic Rhodes back and drafted Michigan RB Mike Hart.  A rotation of the three of them should prove to be formidable.  Finally the offensive line is getting a little old.  They are in the middle of rebuilding the offensive line.  The age of the veterans and inexperiece of the younger linemen will effect the production of the skills players.  The defense is where Indy has most of the worries.  First off they lost Cato, Boiman and Morris in the last 2 seasons and haven’t adequately replaced them.  Rookie Philip Wheeler should eventually be a talented outside linebacker but he’ll need a few years of experience.  The Colts also lost defensive lineman Anthony MacFarland and have DL stud Dwight Freeney coming back from a serious foot injury.  His full recovery is crucial to the success of the defense.  Finally the defensive backs are young and talented.  They may struggle against the better passing teams if the front seven can’t penetrate.

3. Houston Texans 9-7

 

Houston could finally break through and get a playoff spot in 2008.  If the injury bug hits Indy and Tennessee struggles that could mean 10 wins for Houston.  However, Houston also needs to avoid that same injury bug that effected them in 2007.  Houston is led by an awesome defense front led by DE Mario Williams, DE Anthony Weaver, DT Jeff Zgonina and DT Amobi Okoye.  They also took run stuffing DT Frank Okam in the 2008 draft.  The linebackers were good in 2007 and they should be better this year.  Free agent Rosey Colvin will be joining Ryans, Thompson and Greenwood to make up a stellar group of linebackers.  Not to be out done, the young, fast defensive backfield led by Will Demps and 2nd year CB Fred Bennett should have their share of interceptions.  The offense will not out-score other teams.  They do have weapons in QB Matt Schaub and WR Andre Johnson but I look for them to be a conservative, time-eating machine.  Look for rookie RB/WR Steve Slaton to contribute mightly.

4. Tennessee Titans 8-8

I would love to pick Tennessee a little higher here but there is simply too much competition in the division.  However, despite their last place finish in the division, the Titans definitely have a bright future.  QB Vince Young has a new offensive coordinator in the returning Mike Heimerdinger.   His offenses have been receiver-driven, but also have the ability to control games with a rushing attack.  This is good news for WRs Justin McCareins, Roydell Williams, Justin Gage and rookie Lavelle Hawkins.  RBs LenDale White and rookie Chris Johnson should develop into a dynamic duo in the next couple of years.  The defense is still pretty solid led by DE Jevon Kearse, DT Albert Haynesworth and LB Keith Bullock.  The defensive backfield is a little less impressive but should be made a little better by a talented front seven.

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