As promised here are some NFL predictions. I'll start with the NFC West. Of course these predictions are based on key players from each team remaining healthy for most of the season. If Marc Bulger goes down then so do the Rams. If Shaun Alexander or Hasselbeck are out for the season then it's probably not going to be a great season for the Seahawks. You get the picture.
St. Louis Rams
I am a Ram fan so I'll start with them. Being emotionally tied to this team explains the streaks of grey in my hair and the bloodshot eyes that tend to hang around from September to December. Anyway, under the leadership of Elmer Fudd…I mean Mike Martz, the Rams did one thing I like a lot (pass the ball) and one thing I hate a lot (lose). I’m hopeful new head coach Scott Linehan will still employ a passing attack and not turn into the Baltimore Ravens. Just because they have a big back like Steven Jackson doesn't mean they need to hand it to him 30 times a game. Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, and Kevin Curtis are too good of receivers to be blocking all day. That said, Jackson will be used more than in the past which is good. And Linehan will protect Bulger better than Martz did, which is key because Bulger is as slow as a dial up connection to the internet. The Rams defense should be better under Jim Haslett, but still lacks a few players to truly make them a threat. I’m biased obviously, but I believe the Rams will be a better team this year and the fact that Martz won’t be around to expend all timeouts by the end of every third quarter just can’t be stressed enough.
Division Prediction: 2nd
Playoff Prediction: Wild Card game (yes the blinders are on. I told you I’m biased.)
Matt Hasselbeck surprised me last season. At the beginning of last season I had him pegged as an inconsistent QB who would probably never rise to the level Mr. Cheesy Mustache guy (Holmgren) thought he should. And I said so. Then about mid season, Hasselbeck said, “Armchair QB?, “Who the @#$% is he?, What the #@%* does he know” "$#@% him!!”.
Suddenly he started playing out of his mind and entered the realm of franchise QB (and I never got a thank you card or anything….bastard) . Sure he had Alexander and a good O-line which helped, but he started making plays and without his consistency and clutch throws down the stretch they never would have played in the Super Bowl. They still have the core of team from last year and they should win this division again. Hopefully not as easily as they did last year. If they are through bitching about the Super Bowl (legitmate bitching though...those calls really sucked) and are ready to concentrate on this year, they should make a run at it again.
Division Prediction: 1st
Playoff Prediction: NFC championship game
Last year was supposed to be the Cardinals year. Didn’t happen. Now many are saying it’s this year. I mean they have two studs at receiver in Fitzgerald and Boldin, a star running back in Edgerrin James, and a quarterback who...well... can drive you crazy. Warner can throw for 300 yards a game but he will need to cut down on his turnovers and play better when it counts. It would also help if he could fit wife Brenda with a wig so we can stop laughing when the camera pans to her. Anyway, back to the “Edge”. Will he be as good as he was in Indy? Certainly he and Manning complimented each other and things opened up in the running and passing game because of their skills. I just don’t see him as a one man show so he will need Warner to be a threat so that the play action can work effectively. I think the Cardinals will be better than last year but will miss out on the playoffs again this year.
Division Prediction: 3rd
Playoff Prediction: Not this year
San Francisco 49ers
Everyone is saying Alex Smith looks a lot more confident and poised in training camp than he did when the season ended last year. Could be that’s true. Could be true also that he resembles an elf in Lord of the Rings and he doesn’t have Brian Urlacher slamming him to the turf yet either. We’ll see how poised he really is after his first couple of big hits. I’m rooting for him though. I watched him in college at Utah and I thought he was a good guy. His O-line still sucks (although adding Larry Allen should help a little), and his receivers actually could be worse this year. 1st round draftee Vernon Davis might be a nice safety valve for Smith at TE but he still doesn’t have a great running back to take pressure off him. I see another long year for the 2nd year quarterback. The defense is still a mess as well and it will take another good draft with some free agents thrown into the mix before this ship starts to turn around.
Division Prediction: 4th
Playoff Prediciton: ummm…no