Not sure if he's smiling or not, but I don't think he'll be smiling after Sunday Night

So we have finally crossed the midway point of the regular season in the NFL and so far, as expected there have been some surprises and some disappointments.  My ability to pick games probably falls in neither of those areas, but rather in more of an “as expected category.”  After last week’s 5-8 disaster, the season record crept further downward to 65-61-1 (.516).  Here’s another attempt at a turnaround in Week 10.

Thursday Night
Bears (+3)
at 49ers: After seeing both of these teams play last week, the NFL probably regrets putting them in the Thursday Night game this week.  The Mike Singletary vs. the Team He Used to Play For storyline loses its luster when you see these two teams matchup.  I’ll take the Bears, solely because I know they’ll put up some points and they’ll win if they can just stop Frank Gore.  Alex Smith will throw at least 2 picks to bail out Chicago.

Sunday Games
Bills (+7)
at Titans: I have no idea what has gotten into the Tennessee Titans the last couple of weeks but they have looked very good.  However, I think part of that is because they haven’t been pressed into making Vince Young make a whole lot of big plays.  I think that the Bills will load the box early and often for Chris Johnson to make this happen.  Also, it sounds like Trent Edwards is going to be back from his injury, so the Bills might even have a halfway competent passing game this week.

Saints (-14) at Rams:  This needs very little analysis.  The Saints are 8-0 and rolling over opponents.  The Rams are 1-7 and beat the Lions for their only win.  New Orleans should crush them.  This one will be over by halftime.

Buccaneers at Dolphins (-10): My first impression of this game was to pick Tampa Bay.  Then I realized I would be taking the league’s 30th-ranked rush defense against Miami’s wildcat offense, which is prided on the run.  That made my decision much easier.  As long as Joey Porter shows up this week (he had a big ZERO tackles in New England) the Fish should be fine.

Lions at Vikings (-17): Minnesota got off to a slow start in Detroit and still managed to beat the Lions 27-13 at Ford Field.  That being said, I think Minnesota has gotten stronger while Detroit is starting to pack it in again.  Minnesota should be able to win by at least 17 in the Metrodome.

Jaguars (+7) at Jets:  I really don’t understand how the Jets are favored by 7 points in this game.  Other than the 38-0 win over Oakland, they haven’t blown anyone away, and since starting 3-0, just haven’t looked like the same team.  Jacksonville is a lot tougher than people give them credit for, and a win would put them at 5-4 with the Texans and into the playoff hunt.

Bengals (+7) at Steelers: So yet again the Bengals are playing a team they beat once already and are the underdog?  Did Vegas learn nothing from Cincy’s 17-7 win over Baltimore last weekend?  Apparently not.  I’m not sure who’s going to win this game, but you can be certain that the Bengals and Steelers will play a hard-fought and close game.

Broncos (-4) at Redskins:  Denver’s been knocked back to Earth the last couple of weeks, but those were two tough opponents.  Washington should provide the kind of bounce-back they are looking for.  I expect to see Denver have much greater success running the ball against the Skins and win by at least a touchdown.

Falcons at Panthers (+2): I have really liked what I’ve seen from the Panthers the last couple of weeks.  It seems like John Fox just opened his playbook to the section listed as “running plays” and it’s been looking pretty good ever since.  So long as they don’t put the game in Jake Delhomme’s hands at any point, I like Carolina’s chances at home against a struggling Matt Ryan and the Falcons.

Chiefs (+2) at Raiders:  I have no real explanation for picking the Chiefs to beat the Raiders other than the fact that they should have beaten them in Week 2 at home.  The game will be low-scoring, unwatched, and forgotten about soon after, but Kansas City might have its last chance at winning a game this weekend.

Eagles at Chargers (-3): The Chargers seem to be getting hot again as they attempt to chase down the AFC West-leading Broncos and are coming off a big win over the Giants.  The Eagles need this one just as badly after dropping their battle with the Cowboys last week to drop out of first place, but are without Brian Westbrook again it appears right now.  They need him on the field to be successful against San Diego’s defense.

Seahawks at Cardinals (-9): The Seahawks and Cardinals are two teams going in very different directions right now.  Since blowing out Jacksonville 41-0, Seattle has look just terrible, not even looking very convincing in its 32-20 win over Detroit last week.  The Cardinals, on the other hand, scored an easy win over the Bears and Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald looked very much on the same page.  That’s bad news for the Seahawks’ secondary.

Cowboys (-3) at Packers: Dallas showed up in a big way last week by beating the Eagles.  Green Bay decided not to show up by losing to the Bucs.  Who do you think I should pick???

Patriots (+3) at Colts: From a completely biased view, I would love to see the Colts win, even though I’m about as much a fan of Peyton Manning as I am of Tom Brady.  However, I’ve seen this matchup before and Brady has gotten the better of Manning five out of seven times in the regular season.  The Pats take another step towards being a Super Bowl contender by beating the Colts, 24-21.

Monday Night
Ravens (-11)
at Browns: This could be -21 and I would probably still take the Ravens to shellac the Cleveland Browns.  Cleveland is in complete disarray right now and just doesn’t show any signs of life.  Baltimore desperately needs a win to try and catch the loser of the Pittsburgh-Cincy game if they expect to make the playoffs.

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I don't know who could use a good week more in Week 8, me or these guys?

Maybe it’s the fact that I am stuck in a deathbed for football this year in Washington, or maybe I just am missing something, but the last two weeks have not gone according to plan.  After what looked like a promising start with four easy wins, the Texans forgot how to play offense and failed to cover against San Fran after nearly blowing a 21-0 halftime lead and Brett Favre decided to throw one of his patented late-game picks for a Pittsburgh TD.  The rest of they day went the same, pretty much, with my only win coming thanks to the Saints’ 2nd half rally past Miami.  The Eagles’ easy win over the ‘Skins salvaged a 6-6-1 week and moved the season record to 53-47-1 (.530).  Here’s the picks for Week 8:

Dolphins (+4) at Jets: The Jets lost to the Dolphins three weeks ago when they were completely healthy and still had Kris Jenkins in the middle to plug up holes in the run defense.  Now he, along with RB Leon Washington and potentially WR Braylon Edwards will not be available against a Miami rushing attack that had a field day against the Jets on Monday night.  The Jets will need to limit Ronnie Brown to under 100 yards and get a good game out of a struggling Mark Sanchez to win this one. I don’t see either of those things happening.

Giants at Eagles (-1): In the first game of what will be a wild Sunday in Philadelphia, I expect the Eagles to play a very strong and sound game and beat the New York Giants in a close one at the Link.  The G-Men haven’t gotten the production they need out of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw the last couple of games, and the Eagles’ defense might be the best out of the last three teams they’ve faced.  Also, the Eagles seem to have found the right offensive formula and are being driven by their youthful skill players in DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and LeSean McCoy.

Broncos (+3) at Ravens: Going into Baltimore and winning is still a very tough task, but the way things have been going for the Denver Broncos, it wouldn’t surprise me to see it happen at all.  If Elvis Dumervil can get the better of his matchup on the line, I expect it’ll be a long day for Joe Flacco.  If this happens, the Broncos’ D can load up the box for Ray Rice and could make this ugly.  I also expect to see Denver spread the ball out offensively to anyone and everyone in order to buy Kyle Orton more time in the pocket and open things up for both Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter.

Texans (-4) at Bills: This is a matchup of two teams that shouldn’t be where they currently are.  The Texans are better than their 4-3 record would lead you to believe and they are just starting to click into gear, which is huge considering how well they play in the second half.  The combination of Matt Schaub, Steve Slaton, and Andre Johnson should prove to be too much for a 3-4 Bills team that has really been the beneficiary of playing well against some weaker opponents so far this year.  Plus, I don’t see Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing for less than 150 yards and Buffalo beating Houston.

Browns at Bears (-14): Normally I would see Chicago with this big of a spread and run away from them.  This time, though, Da Bears are in desperate need of a win and Jay Cutler & Co. have one of the more porous defenses in the league to go up against.  I think the most interesting thing that will happen during the course of this game will be whether or not Cleveland switches between Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn yet again.

Seahawks at Cowboys (-10): It took them six games to do it, but the Cowboys showed me something last week to make me think that they could be a serious factor in the NFC this year.  The emergence of the Tony Romo-Miles Austin connection, having Marion Barber and Felix Jones healthy, and the improvement of the pass rush has turned things around in Big D.  More than this, though, might be that the last time I saw Seattle, they got shellacked by Jacksonville, 41-0.  The Seahawks have some serious issues right now and are going to need some serious help to win this one.

Rams at Lions (pick ’em): Two reasons for picking the Detroit Lions this week:
1. They’re at home
2. At least when they’ve lost this year they’ve managed to be somewhat competitive.
This game merits no further conversation because of these teams’ combined 1-12 record.

49ers at Colts (-13): Indianapolis has just rolled through all of its opponents so far this year, and San Fran’s fairly suspect pass defense was exposed by the Texans last week. Peyton Manning to Reggie Wayne is certainly not going to be easy for the Niners to contain, not to mention the rest of the cast from a Colts offense that once again is amongst the best in the NFL.

Jaguars (+3) at Titans: I want to meet the individual who made this line and ask him if he’s watched the Titans this season.  I also want to ask him if he made this line before or after he heard Vince Young might get the start, or if he just thought that Jeff Fisher wearing the Peyton Manning jersey was inspiration for his team.  So long as Tennessee plays the way they have thus far, they will not win on Sunday.

Raiders (+17) at Chargers: The Raiders and Chargers met at the beginning of the year on Monday Night and Oakland actually managed to play what might have been its best game so far this year, falling on a late TD drive engineered by Philip Rivers.  The Raiders still stink, but they seem to know something about San Diego that keeps them in the game.  Chargers will win, but it’ll be closer than you think.

Panthers at Cardinals (-11): The Cardinals seem to have finally shook off whatever was affecting them at the beginning of the year, as was obvious with their big win on Sunday Night over the Giants.  Kurt Warner is finding Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin again, and the defense is making stops when it needs to.  This is very bad news for the Carolina Panthers, who desperately need to re-commit themselves to their running game as long as Jake Delhomme is under center.

Vikings (+3) at Packers: If Favre vs. Green Bay goes anything like Round 1 did, then the Vikings will definitely win this game.  Jared Allen and the Vikes’ D is going to be gunning for Aaron Rodgers early and often in this one and I expect Adrian Peterson to have a bounce back week after being pretty quiet in Pittsburgh.  The Vikings might be the class of the NFC this year and will continue to make their case on Sunday night.

Falcons at Saints (-10): I said it last week and I’ll say it again this week, until some team gives me a reason to not pick New Orleans, I am taking the Saints every week for the rest of the season.  Drew Brees should be able to cut down on his mistakes and take advantage of playing against an Atlanta defense that seems to have some growing issues in the secondary.  Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense just doesn’t have the firepower to keep up with the Saints in a high-scoring game.

Well, I knew I was bound to have a stinker of a week sooner or later, and hopefully it doesn’t get any worse than last week’s 7-7 showing, which brings the season record to a respectable 36-26 (.581) for the year.  So, let’s take a look at this week’s games (Picks in Bold, Home Team Listed Second):

Browns (+6) at Bills: Last week, I was looking for either of these teams to show me something.  The Browns put up a good fight in a losing effort against the Bengals.  The Bills floundered against the Chad Henne-led Miami Dolphins.  This is the only reasoning I used in picking the Browns.  Both of these teams are awful.

Steelers (-11) at Lions:  The Lions looked like the toothless team we had become accustomed to seeing during their 19-game losing streak last week, while the Steelers played like a team that was desperate for a win.  Pittsburgh needs to win again this week in order to stay with the Ravens and Bengals in the AFC North.  I expect them to play very well again this week.

Cowboys (-9) at Chiefs: Dallas is having just a plethora of issues right now, the latest being an injury to WR Roy Williams that will sideline him for tomorrow’s game in Arrowhead Stadium.  Fortunately for the ‘Boys, they’re playing in Arrowhead Stadium, which means they get to face the hapless Chiefs, who look far, FAR away from being competitive in any game.

Vikings (-11) at Rams: Minnesota is flying high right now with their 30-23 victory over the Packers to move to 4-0 on the season.  Meanwhile, the Rams are a team with Kyle Boller at QB and, potentially, Rush Limbaugh for an owner…Recipe for disaster, methinks.

Raiders at Giants (-16): This is just an absurd spread for an NFL game, but if you’ve seen both JaMarcus Russell and the Giants’ defense, you would struggle to not pick the G-Men.  I wouldn’t worry too much about Eli Manning’s plantar fascitis, either.  This is an injury common with runners, and with the amount of time Eli should have in the pocket, he shouldn’t have to run at all.

Bucs at Eagles (-16): I am going way against my tendencies this week by picking all of these favorites with huge spreads, but I think it’s more of a testament to how much of a gap has been established between good teams and bad teams in the league this year.  Parity looks as if it might be dying in a quick and painless fashion.  McNabb is back for the Eagles, who could really use a win to show that they can compete with the G-Men in the NFC East, and will play that way too.

Redskins at Panthers (-5): Living in Washington has forced me, at times, to suffer through Redskins games this year.  As a result, I am baffled by their 2-2 record if I don’t remember who they beat.  Then I remember they beat the Rams and Bucs by a combined five points.  If there is any justice in the world of football, then Carolina will win this game, because the Redskins would be the least-deserving 3-2 team ever.

Bengals (+9) at Ravens: Call me crazy, but I am becoming a believer in the Cincinnati Bengals.  They seem to have enough offense to win games, and their defense is serviceable, as well.  That being said, I am a believer in them to lose by less than 9.  The Ravens are a team that doesn’t blow anyone out, but finds a way to win more often than not.  B-More wins an ugly one 24-21 at home.

Falcons (+3) at 49ers: This is a very interesting game because it’ll really be the Niners first game without Frank Gore (I’m not counting the Rams as a real opponent.).  The Falcons have been a team that hasn’t really had a ton of attention payed to it so far this year, which is odd considering they won the NFC South last year.  I think Atlanta will start to make some noise tomorrow with a win in San Francisco.

Jaguars (+2) at Seahawks:  Once again, Seneca Wallace will be starting for Seattle.  Once again, I am picking against the Seahawks at home.  Jacksonville is coming off of a resounding victory over Tennessee at home last week and needs to win this one in order to maintain position in a still-competitive AFC South.

Texans at Cardinals (-6): This is a very interesting game between two of the more high-octane offenses in the league, that have struggled to get going so far.  The Cardinals and Texans both need this game to keep up with their division’s leaders.  However, I think Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald will outgun Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson and continue Houston’s first half misery and underachievement.

Patriots (-3) at Broncos: Finally, after four weeks of playing some subpar competition, the Broncos and their 4-0 record are going to be tested.  It also is a matchup of Teacher (Bill Belichick) vs. Student (Josh McDaniels).  In the end, though, the Patriots are playing at a much higher level than the Broncos right now and should have little trouble going into Mile High Stadium and taking the game.

Colts (-5) at Titans: Peyton Manning and the Colts offense have looked as good as they have in a few years and the D isn’t too shabby, either.  Meanwhile, the Titans are in deep trouble of starting the season 0-5 after going 13-3 just last year.  I don’t see the Titans figuring out all of their problems in just one week and playing Indy doesn’t help them at all.

Jets (-3) at Dolphins: It took me five weeks to do it, but I’m finally taking the New York Jets to win a game.  The Jets lost in a very deceiving way last week that masked how well their defense played against the Saints’ highly-praised offense.  I think that Mark Sanchez will cut down on his mistakes from last week and the Jets’ D will take care of Ronnie Brown and Co. in the wildcat and win easy in Miami.

Age was served in Cleveland, with a LOT of help from Adrian Peterson

Age was served in Cleveland, with a LOT of help from Adrian Peterson

I am going to start this by saying that I am a little embarrassed for several reasons, the least of which being my 8-5 record heading into tonight’s Bears-Packers game, which based on Jay Cutler’s 2 INT’s will soon be 8-6.  The reasons that I’m embarrassed is because, I feel that after just one week that I already might have to re-examine my outlook on some teams in the league.  So let’s get right to the part where I very suddenly eat my words in humiliation.

Considering the teams that I saw either overacheive or underachieve today, I’m going to take this on one division at a time, starting in the AFC.

East
I feel like I might have the middle two teams in this division mixed up, as the Dolphins looked like dead fish in Atlanta while there were no problems in

The Dolphins offense was certainly not helped by Penningtons 3 picks

The Dolphins offense was certainly not helped by Pennington's 3 picks

Houston for the Jets.  Give credit to the Jets defense, which pitched a shutout against a very potent Texans offense.  In case you were wondering, no I didn’t forget I picked the Texans to win this game or that I said they would win by 10 points.  On the other hand, Chad Pennington did not look like the QB we saw last year and the Dolphins offense looked like the 2007 version that saw only one win.

Next Up: Bills at Patriots, Mon. Night ; Week 2: Pats at Jets, Bucs at Bills, and Colts at Dolphins (Monday Night)

North
I actually don’t think there were many surprises out of this division as the Steelers and Ravens both scratched out close wins, the Browns looked like the Browns we all know and love, and the Bengals lived up to their “Bungles” moniker with a bit of bad luck against the Broncos.  That being said, Baltimore’s defense was a bit disappointing, as was Cincy’s offense.  It will be interesting to see how these teams react next week, or if they are just not that good.

Next Up: Bengals at Packers, Ravens at Chargers, Steelers at Bears, Browns at Broncos

South
OK, I think I owe an early apology to the Titans.  Yes, I know they lost to the Steelers, but with the Colts barely escaping the Jags at home, and the injury to Anthony Gonzalez, combined with the Texans getting beaten at home by the Jets, the Titans might be the class of this South division, and a legitimate contender.  They are still a very good defensive team, and if the running game comes along the way it could, Tennessee could be very dangerous come playoff time.  On the flip side, Houston looks like they are not quite ready to play the first half of the season yet, which will once again make me and the rest of the bandwagon look very stupid.

Next Up: Texans at Titans, Cardinals at Jaguars, Colts at Dolphins (Mon. Night)

West
The two teams that have played in this division so far this week looked about the way I expected them to.  The Broncos caught a very lucky break and escaped with an ugly and undeserved 12-7 win over the Bungles, and the Matt Cassel-less Chiefs crumbled late under pressure just like last year’s Chiefs, falling 38-24 to Baltimore.  If this pattern continues, San Diego should beat Oakland by about 50 tomorrow night.

Next Up: Raiders at Chiefs, Ravens at Chargers, Browns at Broncos
NFC
Much like in the AFC, there were several surprises to me in the NFC.  I knew that the Eagles were a good team, but I had no idea how bad Jake Delhomme could be, as he turned the ball over 5 times in a 38-10 beatdown.  The other big news was Drew Brees exploding on the hapless Lions for 6 TDs in a 45-27 Saints victory.

East
I think the Eagles showed today just how versatile of a team they can be, scoring on offense, defense, and special teams…BUT Donovan McNabb’s

Donovan McNabb left Phillys rout with a cracked rib. Kevin Kolb may start against the Saints

Donovan McNabb left Philly's rout with a cracked rib. Kevin Kolb may start against the Saints

cracked ribs certainly raises the eyebrows of the Philly faithful.  Dallas did what it should be able to do against teams as offensively challenged as Tampa Bay, and the Giants, contrary to what the final score might say, pretty much controlled the game against the Redskins, 23-17.

Next Up: Saints at Eagles, Rams at Redskins, Giants at Cowboys (Sun. Night)

North
Well, it wasn’t pretty, but Brett Favre is pretty old after all and the Vikings got a 34-20 win in Cleveland behind Adrian Peterson’s 180 yard, 3 TD outburst.  Along the same lines, it’s never pretty for the Lions, who saw their defense get lit up by Drew Brees in a 45-27 loss.  Worse even for Detroit, Matt Stafford’s inability to find the endzone through the air while finding Saints defenders on 3 occasions.  Speaking of 3 INTs, Jay Cutler just threw another one!  It’s not looking so good for the Bears right now.

Next Up: Bengals at Packers, Vikings at Lions, Steelers at Bears

South
If today was any indication of how the NFC South is going to break down, then expect this to be a two team race between Atlanta and New Orleans,

Brees threw 6 TDs against Detroit.  Can he do this every week to hide the Saints D?

Brees threw 6 TDs against Detroit. Can he do this every week to hide the Saints' D?

both of which looked very good today against the Dolphins and Lions, respectively, although the Saints did surrender 27 points to Detroit.  Opposite this might be the pillow fight for last place that has begun between the Panthers and Buccaneers, both of which looked completely inept against their NFC East opponents.

Next Up: Saints at Eagles, Panthers at Falcons, Bucs at Bills

West
The NFC West took a bit of a turn for the unexpected as San Francisco went into University of Phoenix Stadium and beat the Cardinals 20-16. (On a side note, why does a school without a football team or even a real campus have a football stadium’s naming rights?) Anyway, I was very impressed by how the 49ers defense managed to contain Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, as well as how well Arizona contained Frank Gore on the ground.  But at the end of the day, the Cardinals are not built to play a defensive game and it showed.  In the other division showdown, Seattle showed that they won’t be fighting with the Rams for last place again this year in a 28-0 thrashing of St. Louis.  It really was a combination of Seattle’s improvement and St. Louis’ lack thereof.  The Rams might challenge the Lions for worst team in the league this year, and we’re even lucky enough to see them faceoff in Week 8.

Next Up: Rams at Redskins, Seahawks at 49ers, Cardinals at Jaguars

Check back tomorrow/Tuesday for reports on the Bears-Packers game as well as the Monday Night games…and now it looks like the Bears might pull this one out tonight, go figure.  Sorry, Jay Cutler. (EDIT: Greg Jennings just scored. I take back my apology.)

NFC South:  My question to the world, how will Jeremy Shockey handle New Orleans?  I see some major problems brewing.  However, I do like the outlook of this division, with this divisional race coming down to the wire.

New Orleans Saints (9-7):  After a dissapointingyear where they went from national darlings to underachievers in a matter of seconds, they are back again with an easy schedule and lowered expectations.  Fantasy Pick:Drew Brees has established himself as a top-5 quarterback in New Orleans and the addition of Jeremy Shockey should only help him as defenses can no longer key on Marques Colston.  I look for Brees to have a huge year, lets say 4000 yards passing, 35 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions.  Burning Question:  The Saints took two huge gambles this offseason by trading for MLB Jonathan Vilma and TE Jeremy Shockey.  Both are All-Pro players when healthy but both players are coming off of major injuries.  Will they be ready in time to contribute and if they do play, will it be at their formal exceptional level?  I say yes to both.  Final Outlook: The Saints will be back in the playoffs this year and their high flying offense will scare some better teams but they will be knocked out in the first round.  Sean Payton is just not that good of a coach and Reggie Bush is not tough enough to be the running threat that he could be.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8):  This team surprised many last year after making it to the playoffs and even expected to win their home game.  This year is different though.  Jeff Garcia is a year older and there is too much controversy surrounding this team and its quarterbacks.  Fantasy Pick:Joey Galloway has shown that he is a consistent deep threat despite his advanced age.  He’s a good third wide reciever in a shallow league and a decent number two in a very deep league.  Quarterback Controversy:  So many questions surround this teams quarterbacks.  They currently carry 5 and at least two are on the way out.  Chris Simms is not on speaking terms with the organization and they are holding him hostage.  Brian Griese is a capable backup but not very valuable on this team.  Starter Jeff Garcia has recently thrown himself into the Brett Favre controversy by claiming he would demand his release if Favre landed in Tampa.  This team is a mess mentally.  Final Outlook: Tampa will tease its fans with a frustrating season in which they go on hot and cold stretches.  The defense will be excellent again but it won’t be enough to disguise a painfully average offense.  However, if Favre ends up in Tampa, everything changes.

Carolina Panthers (7-9):  The Panthers are a team that always confuses me.  When I think that they will be good, they are bad.  When I think they are bad, they do good.  This offseason, they did little to improve upon a team that had a weak running game, no QB depth, and no second reciever.  They are in quite a predicament.  Fantasy Pick:  Steve Smith, the Panthers star reciever is out for the first two games due to suspension.  However, he is worth a look as your number two reciever.  But don’t overvalue him and pick him too high (between rounds 4 and 6), look for him in round 8 or so.  Coaching Hot Seat:  John Fox came into Carolina as the next big thing and he has taken them to a Superbowl but time is not on his side.  If the Panthers do not win this season and make the playoffs, Fox will be asked to pack his bags.  Final Outlook:  I always like this team but I just don’t see it this year.  Quarterback Jake Delhomme is coming off a major injury (and hes getting up there in age), there seem to be some chemistry issues surrounding the team, and there is no reliable secondary offensive weapon for Delhomme to use, whether it be a running back or a wide receiver.  Until they figure out who their secondary playmaker is going to be, they are not going to be very good.

Atlanta Falcons (3-13):  With the Michael Vick and Bobby Petrino eras finally erased from memory, Falcons fans can look forward to another season of just plain old sucking.  There is very little to be excited about here.  Fantasy Pick:Michael Turner signed a big contract in the off-season to come here to be the starter.  Does he have what it takes to carry this offense?  I believe he has the skills to become a pretty good starter but this team has so little going for it that its going to be tough for him to find room to run because teams are most likely going to stuff the box against the Falcons.  He is still worth a flier as your third running back and could even surprise a few with a good season, try 1050 yards and four touchdowns.  Impact Rookie:Matt Ryan was picked at number four with the idea that he would be the franchise quarterback that this team desperately needs.  However, in order to keep him away from the David Carr syndrome (I just made that up and here is the definition: fear of getting pummeled by big and athletic defensive linemen.  Symptoms: The loss of confidence, happy feet, and throwing in front of receivers).  I didn’t think he was the best quarterback in the draft but he’ll be a player, but he needs to ride the pine for a little to ensure his success.  Final Outlook: The Falcons are not going to be very good this year.  They know it and we know it.  However, their defensive front seven is pretty good and should keep them in most games.  They’ll be competitive, but won’t win many games.

NFC West:  Perhaps the worst division in football, all of these teams will struggle to make it .500.  None of them are a threat to make any noise (especially the proverbially overrated Seattle Seahawks).  I do expect to see Seattle fans come out in droves to support their only half decent team.

Arizona Cardinals (9-7): Now you may be thinking, this guy is obviously an idiot if he is picking the Cardinals to win the division.  A closer look at the other teams in this division I believe they are the strongest one (even though one key injury would destroy them).  Fantasy Pick: You can’t go wrong with either Anquan Boldin or Larry Fitzgerald so I recommend them both.  I expect to be above 85 catches, 1300 yards, and 9 touchdowns.  That looks pretty good to me and should be in your top 5 of wide receivers.  Quarterback Controversy:  Is this the year that Matt Leinart finally realizes that he’s Matt freakin’ Leinart and he’s letting the fumble king Kurt Warner make him look silly?  I believe it is.  A man can only party and date supermodels for so long (who are we kidding, I could do that for the rest of my life).  But he steps up and wins this battle.  Final Outlook:The Cardinals showed a lot of promise last season and in Ken Whisenhunt’s second season, look for them to make an even greater step forward.

Seattle Seahawks (8-8): The team that I find to be consistently overrated finally loses its stranglehold on the division.  No more Shaun Alexander and an aging team finally shows that it just isn’t that good.  Fantasy Pick: Matt Hasselback has shown that he is a consistent quarterback who you can rely on for 3400 yards and 24 touchdowns.  Mark him down for that again.  Free-agent Bust:Lets be honest here, Julius Jones was not welcome back in Dallas.  He is a soft runner who can not be a starter in this league.  How can the Seahawks expect him to come in and take charge of this situation.  Letting go of Shaun Alexander was the right thing, but find someone who is better, not worse.  Final Outlook:Mike Holmgren’s last season will be one to forget.  They play six playoff teams from last season, including the two who made it to the Super Bowl, the tough NFC East, and the much improved AFC East.  Getting to .500 should be considered a good year.

San Francisco 49ers (6-10): What happened to the 49ers?  They used to be one of the best run organizations in the NFL with fantastic players and coaches.  Now they are stuck with Mike Nolan and a three-headed quarterback from hell.  Enjoy your season 49ers fans.  Fantasy Pick:The only redeemable thing that 49ers have for it going on offense is Frank Gore, RB.  However, with Mike Martz running the offense and Gore coming off an injury plagued season (I was personally crushed by him last year), I see him rushing for about 1100 yards, 500 yards receiving, and 9 total touchdowns.  But buyer beware.  Quarterback Controversy:  With Shaun Hill, Alex Smith, and J.T. O’Sullivan all battling for the QB position, this is a battle that could last all of preseason.  I recently read that J.T. O’Sullivan has the inside track right now but they have too much money invested in Smith to not play him.  When will teams learn the lesson to NEVER take option quarterbacks with the first overall pick.  He is a system quarterback who had one good season.  Idiots.  Final Outlook:  The 49ers will improve over last season when the pressure of playoff expectations crushed them.  Gore and Vernon Davis will be healthy but beyond them, there is very little to like on offense.  Defense will be good though with tackling machine Patrick Willis leading the way.  They are still a few years away or until they get a legitimate QB.

St. Louis Rams (4-12):  Scott Linehan is perhaps the worst coach in the NFL, consistently getting outcoached.  He makes Brad Childress look like a genius.  Fantasy Pick: Steven Jackson is a top 5 fantasy talent but this holdout has me worried a little bit.  But he does have Marc Bulger throwing the Torry Holt, which always helps open up the running game a little.  Pick him high and have confidence that he can lead you to victory.  Impact Rookie: Chris Long has everything you want in a high draft pick: Pedigree, success at a big time program, and a good attitude.  He’ll become a good all-around defensive end this season, maybe even winning defensive rookie of the year, and make a Mario Williams like leap next season into stardom.  Final Outlook:  I want to believe the Rams will win more games.  The more I look at their roster, the more I like it (except for CB and WR where there is no depth behind Torry Holt).  But I remember that Scott Linehan is the coach.  He automatically takes away a couple of wins because he is just so bad.  There are quality guys out there who are ready to take over a franchise.  Fire him and this team will be much better.

 

Part Three to come very soon or when I have time at work to write it