Alliteration on ya, like WHOA. Had to break it into two parts, because it’s long as sin, but here’s a look at the field in the National Football League this season. Division by division previews coming later … .
32. Detroit – Well, it can’t get worse? Can it? First ever 0-16 team … and looking at the games on this schedule, they seem to be a lock to win … well, none of them. They’ve got Calvin Johnson. They’ve got a young, strong armed quarterback under center, provided Dante Culpepper is really done. The Lions are doing their best to sell a franchise that exemplified futility throughout recent memory, and they should be commended for that. Here’s a mortal lock for you: Detroit will more than double last year’s win total. You’re welcome.
31. St. Louis – Oh look, another first time head coach. Another disappointing 2008 campaign, and another team that looks to have “lather, rinse, repeat” printed on their season already. Their quarterback got older, their receivers got more ambiguous, the running back is getting more wasted in that backfield, and the staff they brought in is mostly defensive in background. Well, they should lose by less this year, so that’s something.
30. Seattle – Jim Mora Jr., welcome back. I was never a fan of how you left Atlanta all those years ago, but I understand why you had to go. I have some bad news, though: Your quarterback has chronic back problems (you don’t fix back problems; you live with them); you have no running back of note besides Julius “I Smoke A Pack A Day” Jones, and it’s Seattle, the most beat-down sports city of the 2000s. Pretty much, the season will come down to if Seneca Wallace can develop a rapport with Housh. I’m betting not.
29. Oakland – I can’t even make any jokes. Look for Garcia to either win the quarterback battle by end of camp, or at the latest, under center by Week 6. Look for Darren McFadden to improve on an underwhelming, injury laden rookie campaign. Finally, look for Al Davis to continue to do his best to destroy any positive memories of his once proud franchise.
28. Kansas City – With his big, fat new contract, do you think Matt Cassel bought Bernard Pollard an Aston Martin, a Bugatti, a Maserati, or one of each? What a weird, circular story that was; Brady gets hurt against the Chiefs, Cassel goes on to play better than expected, getting Josh McDaniel the Denver job (that should not have been vacant anyway), leading McDaniel to make an ass of himself trying to get Cassel, only to have him end up in Kansas City. Bernard Pollard directly altered the destinies over the past 10 months of the Pats, the Broncos, the Bears, and the Chiefs. Though in the case of the Chiefs, not enough.
27. Cleveland – Brady Quinn or … that other guy. Neither a slam dunk choice, because neither gives guaranteed results. Derek Anderson was a Pro Bowler one year, and a section 8 the next. Quinn wasn’t impressive pre-injury last year. And Ken Dorsey … well, thanks for coming out. The offense should improve, as Braylon Edwards can’t play any worse than last year, and maybe they can find a running game to complement. Tough to do and be successful when the top two teams in your division were in the AFC Title Game last year.
26. Tampa Bay – I’ve decided that Raheem Morris’ introductory press conference was the exact opposite of Al Pacino’s “Peace With Inches” speech in “Any Given Sunday.” This was given way too much thought by me, but since Pacino’s speech makes me want to tear somebody apart for the inches that are everywhere around us, and Morris’ speech made me want to give that same somebody all my inches, and limp away sadly, I think this is about right. Questions at quarterback, running back, receiver, offensive line, and defensive back, this is right where they belong.
25. Buffalo – Everything says this team should be better. They signed a talented wide receiver on the downside of his career who won’t allow teams to lock in on their number 1, Lee Evans. The offensive line is mostly intact, and if they can keep Trent Edwards on his feet, and if Trent Edwards can keep TO happy and if the defense gets better, and if the team as a whole survives the whole “no running back for five games” thing, and if we ignore the signs that this team is moving to Toronto, they should be fine. That is a lot of “ifs” though … .
24. Cincinnati – This week, on “Why Won’t They Fire This Guy?!?”, we sneak a peek in Bengals camp, and see signs of a repeat of every other year of the Marvin Lewis era everywhere we look. Middling start? Check. Off-season troubles with your self-proclaimed best receiver (and he might be, now that Housh is a Seahawk)? Check. Injury questions about important players? Check. Look for them to get beat up on by everyone they play, and look for Chad Johnson’s (I refuse to acknowledge that idiotic new last name) ego to tip the boat over once they get a rocky start.
23. Jets – Well, that was nice. The whole Brett Favre experiment re-energized the fan base, re-lit some dormant rivalries … and demolished any future for your young quarterback (Clemens) and got your coach fired. Good job? Nothing’s changed this year, except the young quarterback gets his ego bashed in not by an old man selling Wranglers, but by a young man selling … well, I’m not sure yet, but I bet the commercials will annoy me … .
22. Denver – And now, for a very special, “Why Won’t They Fire This Guy?”, Josh McDaniels angles to get fired before coaching an NFL game. While I admire his ambition to break the land speed record for firing, the person I feel most for is Pat Bowlen. Not only did he fire the most iconic coach in franchise history (not to mention his best friend), and have his rocket-armed quarterback of the future bolt for the greener pastures of Soldier Field, but he’s got Lane Kiffen 2.0 doing his best to derail everything he has built over the years. Too bad it’s his own fault. Well, his and Brandon Marshall’s. (I want to start a Madden Franchise with the Broncs so digital Brandon Marshall can get digitally arrested by week 9.)
21. New Orleans – Finesse teams haven’t traditionally done well in the NFL lately. The Colts only got to the Super Bowl (and won!) once their defense started playing physically … at least, physically enough to push around the Bears. This team is only as good as its quarterback, but as long as his running game is on the back of a man with a French first name (Pierre Thomas … this is football!) and an oft-injured glorified kick returner, who knows? We’ll see if the defense can do anything and compete in the NFC South.
20. San Francisco – Different city by the bay, same story. Just not any good. But I have to give credit where it’s due, and Singletary had this motley crew playing better than ever down the stretch last year. If his not-so-notable quarterbacks can keep up, and Frank Gore can show more consistency than the past two years, this team could make some noise in the NFC West.
19. Washington – The Zorn Supremacy. Year two. I think that this new habit of undervaluing Clinton Portis is going to bit all of us right in the face. This is a guy who consistently has run hard all year, and he’ll have a quarterback that is in year two of this offense and a rich defense that can control the game, if these players live up to a fraction of their paychecks. Too bad the NFC East is so stacked this year.
18. Carolina – Jake Delhomme. Welcome to the hot seat! Can a non-coach be on the hot seat? After that debacle of a playoff performance last season, how can he not be? I mean, it was really just a super-sized version of his usual exploits, but that was so bad, no Carolina fan dare even attempt to explain it away. It just can’t be done. But, the twin running backs are looking to avoid their vanishing act in that game, and based on last years results, they seem very able to deliver.
17. Jacksonville – Jack Del Rio. Welcome to the hot seat! After the debacle of last season, including a veteran running back saying this was the most dysfunctional team he had ever seen, he needs to come through big here to solidify his hold in J’ville. We (the gambling public) all waited for the week they would turn it on and look like the team from two years ago. My bet would be that they muddle around 8-8 and just miss the playoffs.
16. Green Bay – Aaron Rodgers, take two. This time, not only does our young quarterback have the unforgettable shadow of one Bret Favre, but also the unfulfilled promise of a season that looked special early last year but ended acrimoniously. My new roommate is a lifelong Packers fan, and he sees them finishing around 11-5. At times, Aaron Rodgers looked competent last year, but he (and that defense) fizzled hard down the stretch. They need him to be lights out if they hope to finish in the top half of this division, especially since on paper he is the 3rd best quarterback in the NFC North.