Sunday, September 24, 2006

5 Questions About Week 3 Of The NFL

Welcome to the first in what might become a weekly feature. Basically, it’s 5 questions (maybe more, depending on my mood), about the state of the NFL, or previewing the games in a given week.

Credit for the first three questions go to Eric Kuselius and The Sports Bash, since I heard them raised on his show. I only heard his opinion on number three though, so if I strongly agree or disagree with him on the first two, it’s purely by coincidence.

1. Which of the 2-0 teams will make the playoffs?
11 teams are perfect through 2 weeks. On average, 2/3 of the teams that start 2-0 in a given season will make the playoffs. Let’s figure out, from most likely to least likely, who the 7 or 8 playoff teams will be.

1. New England Patriots
The Miami Dolphins, expected to be their main contenders for the AFC East title, are 0-2, and have already been exposed for having weaknesses on both sides of the ball. The Pats already own victories over their other division foes, the Bills and the Jets, both of whom have mediocre written all over them. They may not be a juggernaut, but short of a rash of injuries, I can’t see anything keeping this team out of the playoffs.

2. Indianapolis Colts
Though their running game and defensive front seven have question marks, it’s hard to imagine this team not making the playoffs. Peyton will have a huge passing season, and 4 dates with the Texans and the Titans will help boost their record. They will fight for the division crown with an improved Jags team, who is also looking very playoff-like right now.

3. Seattle Seahawks
Even if the Rams perform like I think they will and contend for the division, it’s hard to imagine the Seahawks not making the cut in the NFC. This will be a good club, assuming their offensive line comes together.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars
For many of the same reasons that the Colts are high on this list, it’s hard to imagine that Jacksonville won’t earn a wild card berth, if not better. Their defense is ferocious, Byron Leftwich and the young receiving corps keep getting better, and Fred Taylor is a workhorse when healthy.

5. Cincinnati Bengals
My pick for the Super Bowl comes in this low because of Chad Johnson’s injury, and the fact that their division looks strong this year.

6/7/8. Chicago Bears, San Diego Chargers, Baltimore Ravens
I grouped these three teams together because they have all looked dominant, albeit against bottom feeders. I’m waiting to see how they match up against competitive teams before I anoint them as contenders.
9. Atlanta Falcons
We’re after the cutoff here, though I could have easily put this team 6th. My hesitations come from the fact that they match up against the deep AFC North in inter-conference play, and I have concerns about the likelihood of keeping Vick and Dunn healthy. I probably should have put them ahead of the Ravens though.

10. Minnesota
This looks to be a good, but not that good Minnesota club. They’ll be a tough opponent, but I don’t think they have the talent to finish much better than .500, which will probably leave them just short of a wild card berth.

11. New Orleans
I love this team, especially with their explosive offense, but I’m not sure if the defense will show up and do its part. I forecast a lot of high-scoring matchups (both wins and losses) for the Saints this year, and like the Vikings, a mark in the .500-range. Good, but not playoff good.

2. Which of the 0-2 teams will make the playoffs?
About 12% of the teams that start 0-2 make the playoffs, so things don’t look good for the 11 winless squads. Count on one of them bucking the odds.

1. Carolina
They get Steve Smith back today, and still have a balanced team on both sides of the ball. The offense will really take off when DeShaun Foster gets hurt/benched, letting DeAngelo Williams excel as the feature back. I think they’ll be in the playoff hunt.

2. Miami
If Daunte Culpepper cuts down on his mistakes, and the secondary comes together, this team could make a run. If not, it will be a long season in south Florida.

3. Kansas City
If Jake Plummer and the Broncos continue to sputter on offense, and the Chargers struggle against good competition, and Trent Green comes back soon and shows no lingering effects from his injury, this team could sneak into the playoffs. Oh, who am I kidding, we’re reaching already.

4. Washington
Only if the defense gels, Clinton Portis has a huge year, and Joe Gibbs makes the gutsy call and goes with Jason Campbell at quarterback. It’s a very unlikely scenario, but given how unpredictable the NFC East looks, I’m not going to rule it out…for another week or two at most.

5/6/7/8/9/10/11. Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Houston, Detroit, Green Bay, Tennessee, Oakland
It must be a good feeling to know that your season is over before the first official day of fall.

3. Should the Titans start Vince Young?
Some, like Eric Kuselius, say yes. The Titans aren’t going anywhere this season (we all agree on that), so the argument goes that you should get your future franchise quarterback as much experience as possible, since you’re going to miss the playoffs regardless of who’s taking your snaps.

I disagree. All young quarterbacks have a learning curve; being a run-first quarterback in college, Vince Young has an especially steep curve. Not only is he learning the NFL game, he’s still refining his pure passing game. Sending him out there behind a shaky offensive line won’t help him. It will jeopardize his confidence and his health. He’ll progress more by playing a few series a game, and spending the rest of his time on the sidelines learning the nuances of the NFL game. The difference between Young and Kerry Collins might be the difference between winning 2 games and 4 games. Let Young get his feet wet once he’s settled into the league, and has a few more bodies to protect him, and a few more weapons to get the ball to.

4. Is This The Most Important Game of Jake Plummer’s Career?
No, but it’s close.

The most important would probably have been last year’s AFC championship game, since he could have led the Broncos into the Super Bowl. On Sunday night, at New England, Jake needs a strong performance to make people forget about the two shaky games that have opened up this year. If Jake struggles and the team loses, expect the calls for rookie Jay Cutler to step in to keep growing and growing.

5. Can Eli Manning beat the Seahawks on the Road?
I think it will be close, but I see the Giants coming up just short. Eli’s a good quarterback, but I’m not sure if the G-Men are quite there as a team.

On a related note, though, I had a dream last week that the Giants beat the Colts in the Super Bowl, 29-18. Take that for what it’s worth….probably nothing.

Enjoy the games!


At 10:49 AM, Blogger J.R. Hippe said...

Question for Week 4: Are the Saints for real?


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