The New-Age Running Back
February 23, 2010, 9:28 PM
Filed under: NFL

By Jerry Coon

With the release of LaDanian Tomlinson yesterday and Brian Westbrook today, it got me thinking for a while.

Remember the NFL in the eighties and nineties? Every team had one great running back (the good teams at least), and that is what they went to war with.

Detroit had Barry Sanders and Dallas had Emmitt Smith. Of course the list goes on, but the point is there was only one running back. That was all you needed.

But think about how long some of these “ace” running backs played in the NFL. Bo Jackson was going to be a phenom until a hip injury outed him after three seasons. Earl Campbell’s career was legendary, but he only played for seven seasons.

People shouldn't think of LT as a number-one back, but rather someone who can provide depth at that position.

Running backs come and go, but the beating and toll it takes on them physically and mentally diminishes their potential.

We are used to seeing other positions play forever. Favre has played quarterback since 1992, starting an NFL-record 285 consecutive games. Peyton sits right behind him with 192 games.

Wide receivers like Jerry Rice (who was in the NFL from 1985-2004) play until they are into their 40’s.

And now you look at today’s style of running game in the NFL. Even though teams say they have an “ace” to hand-off to, it’s mainly a committee keeping the running game fresh.

That’s what we have resorted to. Critics haven’t bought into the thought of running backs-by committee in previous years, ruling teams out that do so. Now? They should be praised.

Sure, the Vikings’ have a great running back in Adrian Petersen, but he has Chester Taylor to fall back on. The Cowboys roll three deep with Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. Miami developed an entire offense revolving around the Wildcat Formation with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.

Now, teams are following the lead. The Colts drafted Donald Brown to help Joseph Addai with carries, same with Westbrook and LeSean McCoy. The Saints couldn’t rely solely on Reggie Bush, so Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell got their share of carries (worked pretty well for the Super Bowl champions didn’t it?).

Basically, every team needs to follow this blueprint. Even though Tomlinson’s age is multiplied because of  the 2,880 carries he has over the last nine seasons, he can still be an asset.

If you were a team like the Falcons, who need safety net for Michael Turner, adding someone like LT to Turner and Norwood would boost that running game dramatically.

The Texans, who are still trying to find ONE running back, could use Tomlinson and Slaton to improve the offense. Brian Westbrook, barring another concussion that might kill him, could do wonders with the screen plays Kubiak runs for his tailbacks.

If Jacksonville had another back to relieve pressure off of Maurice Jones-Drew, the production could increase even more (although their passing game would still be shaky).

The committee is the way to go. So instead of frowing upon the situation of not having a star to hand the ball off to, fans should be hoping they can get the opportunity to have this ideal setting.

And yes, in summary, I just told the National Football League to follow to lead of Jerry Jones. I’m going to go throw up now.



A Wasted Chance
January 28, 2010, 8:08 PM
Filed under: NFL

By Jerry Coon

Four days ago, the biggest tragedy since Hurricane Katrina occurred in New Orleans.

We watched as Brett Favre’s last chance (possibly) at getting to the big game slipped away. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Vikings’ fan, never will be.

However, Favre is one of my favorite athletes to ever play. He might even be number one on my list.

So to watch AP, Harvin and Berrian cough more balls up than Jenna Jameson was hard for me.

Here is the deal, people: The best team in the NFC is NOT getting to play in the Super Bowl. All of the Saints fans can convince themselves of whatever they want, but the truth is, the Vikings should have won that game.

And I am not even counting Favre’s braindead throw at the end of regulation. Let’s say he tucked the ball and ran. He gets maybe three or four yards, setting up a 55-56-yard field goal. Can Ryan Longwell make that? Highly doubtful.

You have to look at everything that happened before that play.

By now, we are all used to seeing AP cough up the ball. (Photo courtesy of ESPN.com)

1. Adrian “Puberty” Peterson. Why that nickname? Because his balls are always dropping. In the last three seasons, AP has dropped the ball 20 times, leading the NFL. And I am supposed to believe this is the best running back in the NFL? If Steve Slaton is hanging onto the ball more, there is a problem.

Side beef: Would you even put him in your ‘Top 5′ after watching that game? When is the last time Chris Johnson, MJD, Steven Jackson or even Thomas Jones fumbled a ball? Those four also rank above AP in yardage, so let’s stop acting like this guy is the next great. He is just another premium running back. Nothing extreme.

Anyway, Peterson’s three lost fumbles in the game didn’t help the cause. Speaking of the fumbles…

2. The F*!#ING FUMBLES!

Let’s recap. 1:13 left before halftime, Reggie Bush makes a Reggie Bush-like play by fumbling the punt, giving the Vikings the ball at the Saints’ 10-yard line. THE 10-YARD LINE! Favre attempts to hand the ball to AP, and guess what happens? Fumble. That’s at least three points off the board. Go into the half tied 14-14.

Skip ahead to the beginning of the fourth quarter, everything tied up at 21. Apparently, Peterson is contagious, because now Percy Harvin coughs up the ball on the Vikings’ 34. Saints score, putting it at 28-21.

12:39 left in the game, Vikings drive down to the Saints’ 18-yard line. The fumble-itis is spreading. Berrian now gives the ball up after a reception at the 10-yard line. At the very least, that could have been another three points.

Vikings then hold, get the ball back and score, tying the game at 28.

Now here is where the problem lies. Let’s say you take away the three lost fumbles. That would take away seven of the Saints’ points. That would also give the Vikings at least six extra points. Vikings then win the game by 13.

If you take away even ONE of the fumbles, Vikings still could have been up instead of playing from behind.

Basically, I can what-if all day. But let’s get one thing straight: Adrian Peterson and whatever illness he had that he spread to his teammates blew a perfect chance at going to Miami.

Could the Vikings have been the Colts in the Super Bowl? Yes.

Can the Saints beat the Colts in the Super Bowl? Absolutely not.

Don’t get me wrong here, I am not a Saints hater. I don’t have a feeling towards that team at all (besides the fact that some of their fans are delusional enough to think they got the better player in the draft with Reggie Bush. Please. Mario Williams was the best of those top three. Period). I am just simply stating that we could have seen a better match-up.

We could have seen the guy that holds all the records vs. the guy that will eventually break all of his records.

But more importantly, we could have seen Favre (after statistically playing his greatest regular season ever) possibly win another Super Bowl, and ride out into retirement without a bitter taste in his mouth.

Thanks, AP.



Stick A Fork In Him
December 7, 2009, 9:28 PM
Filed under: NFL

By Jerry Coon

It certainly does seem to be raining shit on Gary Kubiak.

Now I know there were many pro-Kubiak fans out there that didn’t understand my pleas for his resignation. The few of you that thought to yourself, “I like Gary, but he is about one halfback-pass play call away from me jumping off the bandwagon.”

Well I welcome you to my bandwagon now. It’s pretty crowded. We can still fit a few more. Bob McNair said he is going to head over soon.

Going back to the game itself, obviously I am not blaming Kubiak for the Schaub injury in the first half. But someone explain to me why, when down 11 on first and ten from the five-yard line, would you call for a halfback pass?

For those of you that played in traffic after this play call like I did, I have the answers. It seems to be a play-by-play game plan from Kubiak himself during the Jacksonville debacle. Here it is:

First drive: Okay, we are down three. No big deal. I feel like Matt is going to have a great day today. We are definitely scoring a touchdown here. Nothing can stop us.

First play: Matt just went down. I might start hyperventilating. Okay he is holding his shoulder. He isn’t getting up. I wonder, if I sneak out of the stadium, would anyone notice?

Rest of first quarter: Rex is terrible. Maybe I should try Dan at quarterback. I can’t believe I am going to lose my job.

Beginning of second quarter:  Okay they just scored again. It’s only 10-0. Wait… okay now they scored again. Still, 17 points is still manageable. I just watched Peyton Manning do this last week.

Later in Second Quarter: MATT IS BACK! We just scored! We can do this! Okay, if Matt pulls this off, I will be the savior of Houston sports!

Third quarter: 20-7. We can still do this. I know we can. OH! Safety! 20-9! Here we go. I can’t watch. I am going to cover my face with this weird sheet I am holding that has something called “plays” on it.

Later in third quarter: Kris Brown made a 32-yard field goal! HA! And everyone wanted me to release him two weeks ago. In your face!

Fourth quarter: I need to regroup. We are down 11. I have about 12 minutes to make a miracle happen. This will save the season. Houston will erect a statue of me. This will be legendary.

8:33 left in game, 1st and goal from the five-yard line: I know it is risky, but I think a trick play is in order. We have been running the halfback pass all week. Chris can make that throw. Everyone keeps arguing with me and Kyle, telling us we are stupid. Yeah, right. How could this possibly go wrong?

8:28 left in game: WHAT WAS I THINKING? Matt won’t talk to me. He just told me I couldn’t coach my way through a buffet line. Everyone is staring at me. Kyle is crying and on the phone with his dad. I wonder what I should do once they fire me? Maybe A&M could use an offensive coordinator. I just heard Andre whisper something about ‘this team will win it all when we get a new coach.’ That hurts ‘Dre. That hurts.

And of course the Texans scored once again on pass from Schaub to Johnson. Down five with four minutes left, however, they forgot how to tackle and lost the game.

I don’t even have to say anything at this point. I have entered the “acceptance” stage of depression. I accept that the Texans are 5-7. I accept that Chris Brown cost us the game both times we played Jacksonville. I accept that three different players threw an interception on Sunday. I accept that the Texans, picked to make the playoffs by most analysts, finished with a division record of 1-5.

But what I refuse to accept, is any thought or belief that the being known as Gary Kubiak has anything productive to bring to this franchise. Good riddance, Gary. I am officially sticking a fork in you. Repetitively.



The Blame Game
December 1, 2009, 8:07 PM
Filed under: NFL

If Megan Fox...er Bill Cowher is interested in the Texans...then so are we.

By Jerry Coon

I won’t sit here and harp on the fact that the Texans just gave away their first legitimate shot at the playoffs in the matter of six days.

I won’t try to analyze how the Texans had a 17-0 lead on the Colts and blew it with a complete meltdown.

All I know is I am sick of saying, “there’s always next year,” or “if we could have done this differently, we could be this record.”

Sure, if the Texans handled business dating back to the Monday night game against the Titans, we could be looking at a 7-4 team sitting pretty in the wild card spot.

Instead, we see a 5-6 underachieving, poorly coached catastrophe that needs to close games.

There are four games that came down to the final two minutes, and the Texans choked.

The window for the playoffs is drastically fading, and the only chance to make it in would be to finish with a five-game winning streak.

Now I know anything is possible, but do you trust this team to get that accomplished?

So that brings up the blame game. Who do we point our finger at now?

True, a once-clutch field goal kicker has gone off the deep end, but in some of those situations, the game should have been closed without having to rely on his leg.

You could blame a second-year running back in Steve Slaton who couldn’t hold onto the ball, and now has his confidence completely shot because his coach buried him on the bench for too long (until the Colts game Sunday, Slaton had barely been seen in three weeks).

Or you could go to the main source of the problem.

What would the Texans have to do at this point for Kubiak to be safe?

I would say only that aforementioned five-game winning streak followed by a playoff appearance saves him at this point.

If the Texans pull out another mediocre 8-8 or 9-7 season, do we really want to have this guy at the helm next season? He can’t even watch his field goal kicker try for a 32-yarder.

On a related note, Bill Cowher is rumored to have said he would coach either the Bears or Texans if he was to come back.

If this is a possibility, do we jump on it?

Let me put it this way: Bob McNair needs to grab his checkbook, pull out a blank check, and hand it to Cowher.

Tell him to write any amount he wants on it, and come coach for the Texans.

I understand Kubiak is home-grown and went to Texas A&M and is one of the “good guys,” but at some point you have to do what’s best for the team.

Keeping Kubiak (at coach) is like going out to the bar and meeting up with a girl you have known all your life. She isn’t the greatest catch, her looks and personality are average and she is crazy in the head, BUT you have known her since childhood and are comfortable being around her. She tells you that she wants to start a long-term relationship, and you contemplate settling.

Then, Megan Fox walks into the bar. She comes up to you and tells you she thinks you are attractive and wants you to come hang out with her at a more upscale bar and possibly an after party at her hotel room.

What are you going to do in that situation?

I’ll see you at the afterparty.



The Resignation of Gary Kubiak
November 25, 2009, 5:47 PM
Filed under: NFL

With the Texans at 5-5 and a difficult road ahead, only a miracle will save Kubiak's job as head coach.

By Jerry Coon

It took me a very long time to put my anger aside and write this column. After the Texans’ loss to the Titans Monday night, I went into a deep depression.

Going into the game, everything looked good on the football front for the city of Houston. The Texans were 5-4, on the brink of being 6-4 and almost assured a spot at the playoffs.

Then, a tragedy occurred.

A defensive coordinator forgot how to blitz. A head coach forgot how to manage time. A kicker forgot how to do the only thing he is put on the field to do.

Let’s start with the defense. How exactly are you allowing a NFL team to run the option? With the opposing quarterback having only his legs as a weapon, why wouldn’t the Texans force him to throw? Why not stack the line with linebackers and shut down any rushing attempts from Vince Young or Chris Johnson (I understand there is no shutting down Chris Johnson, he is the best running back in football at this point. However, wouldn’t you change something up knowing he rushed for 197 yards and two touchdowns in the first meeting?).

Then, Gary Kubiak had 49 seconds to try to tie the game. Not to mention two time-outs to spare. The Texans drove the ball 31 yards in five plays, and then Kubiak waited so he could allow all responsibility to rest on his kickers’ shoulders. Which is irresponsible.

If you have one of the top five best quarterbacks in the NFL, you give him a shot to win the game for you. Period. But Kubiak won’t let that happen because he is more conservative than Rush Limbaugh. With the way the Texans were driving, you don’t think they might have been able to pick up 10 more yards on that drive if the clock was managed a little better?

Nonetheless, enter Kris Brown. Two weeks after the 42-yard miss in Indianapolis, and two quarters after missing a 49-yarder, there is no way he misses a 49-yard field goal to send the game to overtime…right?

As I awaited for Brown to kick, I kept having the same paranoid thoughts cross my mind. “Why is Gary Kubiak obsessed with people named Kris/Chris Brown? Why didn’t he use Steve Slaton all game? Did Ryan Moats get kidnapped? And why do I feel like we are about to lose to the 3-6 Tennessee Titans?”

And then, it happened. Brown misses, Texans lose, Vince Young runs around celebrating like a toddler eating ice cream and I feel like drinking bleach.

And so what now? The Texans are 5-5 on the outside looking in with six games remaining. In order to get to my predicted 10-6 record, the Texans will now have to go 5-1 to finish the season. With road games at Jacksonville and Miami, and home games against undefeated Indianapolis and 7-3 New England, what are the odds the Texans pull off a miracle?

You go as far as your coach can lead you at this point, and Kubiak’s ceiling as a coach is .500 football. I am sick and tired of being paranoid at all times during a football game. Houston deserves better than this. We deserve a coach that can instill discipline and integrity in players. Someone that makes the opposing team scared to come to Houston to play the Texans. Someone that knows how to manage a game and use time-outs correctly.

Unfortunately, Houston, that man isn’t named Gary Kubiak. So if the Texans pull off the almost impossible and sneak into the playoffs, then I am obviously a fool. But if they do exactly what we know they are going to do, which is watch the playoffs from home instead of participating in them, then we have to make a change.

So my plea is to owner Bob McNair and general manager Rick Smith: It’s time to start setting up your interviews, because the Texans are in need of a new head coach.



Three Is The Loneliest Number
November 9, 2009, 10:21 PM
Filed under: NFL

Kris Brown

Kris Brown after missing a 42-yard field goal to tie the game.

(This column also appears for The Sun Newspapers and can be seen at HCN Online.)

By Jerry Coon

I really do hate that Texans’ kicker Kris Brown is getting criticism for this loss, but I will get to that in a minute.

Let’s stop kidding ourselves with these “moral victories.” We aren’t playing for the YMCA. This is the NFL. The truth of the matter is this team honestly COULD be 8-1 right now, as sickening as that is to think about.

They had a goal line opportunity against Jacksonville to send it into overtime. A goal line opportunity against Arizona to send it into overtime. And now, a field goal opportunity to send it into overtime.

All opportunities missed.

That’s three of your four losses right there. The fourth loss coming at the beginning of the season in a blow-out against the the New York Jets.

And if all of these things fall into place, and of course if the Texans pulled it out in overtime on each occasion, we would be talking about a completely different scenario.

However, the reality is that your inconsistent Texans keep underachieving. Before the haunting 42-yard miss, there were a variety of mistakes.

Running back Ryan Moats’ fumble as he was inching his way into the end zone could have been the difference. The 13 penalties for 103 yards could have been a reason as well.

Then, there was the chance to tie. Before the first half ended, Brown nailed an almost improbable 56-yard field goal to give the Texans some momentum going into the locker room. After coming back by allowing the Colts to only score once in the second half, the Texans had two chances to make something happen. One drive ended with Matt Schaub’s deflected pass being intercepted. The next ended with Brown missing what should have been an automatic 42-yard field goal.

It’s very easy to get onto a kicker. Their only job is to kick. So when a miss loses the game for a team, heavy criticism will follow.

We can’t get onto Brown for this, however, because truth be told he is one of the best there is. Brown has had 11 game-winning field goals, eight coming with the Texans. He has connected on 78.6 percent of his career field goal attempts.

So sweeping all of that under the rug, look at the big picture: The Texans are still contending for a playoff spot.

If you look at Texans’ final seven games after the bye week, the Texans should be favored to win four of them. The remaining three games are against the undefeated Colts, the 6-2 Patriots and at the 3-5 Miami Dolphins. If one victory can be pulled out of those three games, and the Texans win the games they are favored to win, is a 10-6 record good enough to make the postseason?

I said at the beginning of the season that it would be and I still feel that way, even after a 42-yard field goal miss made me want to lick a rusty razor.



2009-10 NFL Season Predictions
September 10, 2009, 9:18 PM
Filed under: NFL

Here is how I see things panning out this season. After each NFL week ends, I will post a Power Rankings with analysis. For now, I will give you short summaries for each team.

AFC WEST

San Diego Chargers  (2008 Rec: 8-8. This season: 12-4): It took them until week 16 to lock up the division last season, but with Denver dismantling, the Chargers have no competition. LT, Merriman and Cromartie return from injuries, and I see Rivers having a ridiculous season.

Oakland Raiders  (2008 Rec: 5-11. This season: 5-11): Oakland will look improved, but not by much. This team might actually do better than this if they realize they have Jeff Garcia on the bench. However, if Russell stays at QB, I don’t give them a shot.

Denver Broncos  (2008 Rec: 8-8. This season: 3-13): They are going to pay for letting Shanahan go. I can understand the dislike for Cutler, but I feel like it is going to take this team a while to climb back up. Not to mention they have one of the worst defenses in the NFL, and Kyle Orton at QB.

Kansas City Chiefs  (2008 Rec: 2-14. This season: 2-14): I wasn’t really generous here, but go back and look at their schedule — @Ravens, Eagles, Giants, Cowboys, Chargers twice, Steelers. The Chiefs only highlight will be wearing those Dallas Texans uniforms.

AFC NORTH

Pittsburgh Steelers  (2008 Rec: 12-4. This season: 12-4): The defending Super Bowl Champions will grab this division. The last time the Steelers won the big one, they went 8-8 the next season. I wouldn’t worry about that happening again.

Baltimore Ravens  (2008 Rec: 11-5. This season: 10-6): Flacco looked promising in the preseason, Mason is back, and it’s always a good problem to have when you are struggling to pick a starter out of three capable backs. The defense won’t look as good as it has in past years, but nonetheless, the Ravens will be in the postseason.

Cincinnati Bengals  (2008 Rec: 4-12. This season: 6-10): Have you tried playing with the Bengals on Madden ’10? The offensive line is about as productive as Amy Winehouse’s press agent. Unfortunately, that’s how the offensive line will produce in reality. On a positive note, look for Palmer and Ochocinco to reunite their long-lost connection.

Cleveland Browns  (2008 Rec: 4-12. This season: 4-12): No defense. Subpar offense. Mangini not showing confidence in ONE quarterback. Jamal Lewis is 67-years-old. I can go on if you want me to.

AFC EAST

New England Patriots  (2008 Record: 11-5. This season: 13-3): The Patriots were still a legitimate team last season without Brady. This season, this team will be hard to beat. I still am confused as to how people are doubting Brady will be the same. He threw 50 TD’s two seasons ago…are you serious?

Miami Dolphins  (2008 Rec: 11-5. This season: 7-9): In my opinion, the Dolphins had a fluke year last season. What do I mean? I mean, it won’t happen again. Brady has returned, the AFC is deeper, and Miami isn’t going to the playoffs.

New York Jets (2008 Rec: 9-7. This season: 7-9): The Jets are in the middle of a big switch. Rookie QB, new head coach and new defensive players. The defense alone will win the Jets some games. If Sanchez keeps the confidence he had in the preseason, the Jets might even make a splash. They could very well do what the Falcons did last year with the same blueprint.

Buffalo Bills  (2008 Rec: 7-9. This season: 6-10): Buffalo added Terrell Owens to the mix, but a key wide receiver wasn’t the main hole to fill. Trent Edwards is going to have to use his arm to make plays with Owens and Evans, and he hasn’t proven he can do that yet. Throw in that the division is pretty tough, and the Bills fans are waiting for next season. Again.

AFC SOUTH

Indianapolis Colts  (2008 Rec: 12-4. This season: 12-4): It pained me to write this, but I think the Colts still have this division. I think it will be a three-team race all season long between the Colts, Texans and Titans, but tiebreaker goes to Manning. New coach makes me question their chances to go all the way, but this is a start.

Houston Texans  (2008 Rec: 8-8. This season: 10-6): This is the year. I have said it a million times. This will be the season the Texans make the playoffs. One of the best offenses in the NFL paired with a soft schedule. The defense looks shaky, but if the front line can calm down opposing running backs, they should make it through.

Tennessee Titans  (2008 Rec: 13-3. This season: 9-7): Kerry Collins has never had back-to-back winning seasons as a starter. He is also older than Bob Barker. Add that to Haynesworth leaving and a difficult division, and the Titans are sitting at home at season’s end.

Jacksonville Jaguars (2008 Rec: 5-11. This season: 5-11): The Jags didn’t do anything in the offseason to make this team greater than last season besides signing Tory Holt. Also, Jacksonville has blacked out all of the Jags’ games due to no sell-outs. How do you think this season will end for them? Does anyone even care?

NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals  (2008 Rec: 9-7. This season: 10-6): I think the Cardinals can go one-game better than last year. However, if Warner gets hurt, and we have to rely on Nick Lachey’s BFF to lead the way, switch the Cardinals and Seahawks around.

Seattle Seahawks  (2008 Rec: 4-12. This season: 9-7): Adding Houshmandzadeh (I didn’t even Google the spelling!) will help the pass attack. This team was plagued by injuries last season, so a healthy team will definitely look better. I still don’t think they have the pieces for the playoffs, though.

San Francisco 49ers (2008 Rec: 7-9. This season: 7-9): I really like this team. Decent defense, good running game, and a strong coach. I just think they need something more than Shaun Hill to get the job done. It would also help if Crabtree would stop being a diva and sign the contract already.

St. Louis Rams  (2008 Rec: 2-14. This season: 3-13): The team doesn’t look much different. New coach in Spagnuolo and a healthy Bulger makes them better than last season, but not by much. Still a team rebuilding.

NFC NORTH

Minnesota Vikings  (2008 Rec: 10-6. This season: 12-4): This team’s needs after last season: a quarterback. And they might have addressed it. Have you ever heard of this guy, Brett Favre? I hear he is pretty good. Way under the radar, though. Never gets publicity.

Chicago Bears (2008 Rec: 9-7. This season: 11-5): Cutler is definitely an upgrade from Orton. If Hester can get the receiving down, and the defense stays o top of their game, this team could really be a darkhorse favorite in the NFC.

Green Bay Packers (2008 Rec: 6-10. This season: 9-7): I really do like Green Bay. Rodgers and the rest of the offense is pretty solid, and the defense is pretty legit as well. This is the one team I want to do better than I think they will.

Detroit Lions (2008 Rec: 0-16. This season: 3-13): I mean, ONE win makes this a more successful season than last…so…what can I really say here? Go Calvin Johnson!

NFC EAST

New York Giants  (2008 Rec: 12-4. This season: 13-3): Plaxico might be gone, but that also emerges some young star receivers. Domenik Hixon, Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks should provide plenty of options for Eli Manning on offense. In one of the toughest divisions in the league, the Giants will emerge on top.

Philadelphia Eagles  (2008 Rec: 9-7. This season: 12-4): The Eagles and Giants will definitely go back and forth all season to grab the division reign. McNabb now has Jeremy Maclin added to his receiving corps, and the Eagles have arguably the best defense in the NFL. Ink them in for the playoffs.

Washington Redskins (2008 Rec: 8-8. This season: 9-7): I take back what I said earlier because I want also the Redskins to be better than I predict. Haynesworth added to the defense is definitely a plus. Also, Malcolm Kelly has overtaken the No. 2 receiver slot and looks to be a big target for Campbell.

Dallas Cowboys  (2008 Rec: 9-7. This season: 7-9): Begin hazing me, but I don’t think the Cowboys have the talent this season. The receivers are mediocre, and the defense is depleted. Not to mention, Wade Phillips is a puppet. Begin the Mike Shanahan sweepstakes! I would like to send a congrats to Cowboys’ fans on the oversized, obstacle of a television screen.

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons  (2008 Rec: 11-5. This season: 10-6): This division is one of the hardest to figure out. I really like the Falcons, and I like what they did last season. I like the addition of Tony Gonzales, and I think Turner will duplicate last season. The defense on this team is the scare, but I think they will manage just fine. However, it’s going to be a fight to the finish with the Panthers and Saints.

Carolina Panthers  (2008 Rec: 12-4. This season: 10-6): The Panthers are another team that will compete til Week 16 for a playoff berth. Sadly, I have them just missing, but it really is a toss-up. DeAngelo Williams is due for a big season, and this team will definitely compete.

New Orleans Saints  (2008 Rec: 8-8. This season: 8-8): I think the Saints will get the short-end of the stick on this. This isn’t a team I WANT to do better than I predict, but a team that probably WILL do better than I predict. The offense is deadly with Brees and his slew of weapons. Every game within the division could be a shoot-out with the explosive offenses involved…with the exception of the next team.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers  (2008 Rec: 9-7. This season: 4-12): I just don’t see Leftwich doing what Garcia did last season. The team is trying to rebuild, and I am thinking we will see Josh Freeman around Week 8, when they have dropped out of any race.

Now we have the playoffs. Here are what I think the teams will be, possible matchups, and my winners. Get ready everyone, NFL football is upon us.

Wild Card Round Playoffs

Indianapolis over Houston

San Diego over Baltimore

Chicago over Arizona

Philadelphia over Atlanta

Divisional Round Playoffs

San Diego over Pittsburgh

New England over Indianapolis

Philadelphia over Minnesota

New York Giants over Chicago Bears

Championship Round

San Diego over New England

Philadelphia over New York Giants

Super Bowl

Philadelphia over San Diego