JEFF: Are You Ready For Some Predictions?
By Jeff Falconio
Last weekend on the show, Greg Matzek and I made our predictions for the upcoming NFL season, so in case you missed it, here's a reiteration. I'll start at the end. Super Bowl XLIII will feature New England and Philadelphia with the Patriots putting an exclamation point on the title of Team of the Decade. Hey, I've picked the Patriots to win the Super Bowl in four of the last five years and they still have the best roster in the NFL. No 16-0 this year but that offense puts them a notch ahead of everyone else.
I see the Packers as a 9-7 team this year. The schedule opens nicely with a home date against Minnesota and a road trip to Detroit. The Packers had better start 2-0 because after Week Two they play five 2007 playoff teams in the next six games. The season ends with two more division games so the Packers have the chance to start and finish strong against the NFC North. I say 9-7 because I believe there is still plenty of talent on this team despite the absence of Brett Favre. But this is not the 14-4 team of last year. We've yet to see Ryan Grant healthy, there was some spotty play by the defense in the preseason, and of course Aaron Rodgers has to prove he can win the NFL.
I still don't understand the fascination with the Vikings this year. Best defensive line and best one-two backfield combo in the NFL. The rest is nothing to shout about. Hey Ted Thompson haters, would you rather have Tarvaris Jackson under center? Jackson showed some progression last year but he's not ready for prime time and he enters the season not at 100%. Who is Jackson going to throw the ball to? Bernard Berrian? Maybe Chicago is the place where wide receivers go to die but former Bear Berrian and Sidney Rice aren't exactly the NFC's answer to Randy Moss & Wes Welker. Adrian Peterson is a stud, no question about it but this year everyone will be game planning for Peterson. If I'm a defensive coordinator, I'm stacking the box and forcing the Vikings to win games by throwing it. I have Minnesota at 8-8, followed by Chicago at 7-9 and the ever-changing-yet-never-improving Detroit Lions at 4-12.
Dallas, New Orleans and Seattle win the other three divisions while Philly and Tampa Bay earn wild card spots. AFC division winners will be New England, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and San Diego. Wild card teams will be Jacksonville and Denver. I'm officially on the Bronco bandwagon this year. Mike Shanahan does an incredible job of rallying his team. He did it in 2000 (a playoff year) after an abysmal 1999 and again in 2005, getting the Broncos to the AFC title game after back-to-back playoff blowouts to Indy in '03 & '04. In case you're wondering, I have the New York Jets at 8-8. Certainly, Favre is an instant upgrade at quarterback but I still have questions about that offensive line despite the offseason improvements made by the Jets.