Monday, July 23, 2007

State of the Franchise Address

Professor Ellis D Trails

State of the Team’s Address

Can you feel it? The air is hot and the suns burns high overhead baking us in another sultry summer leading towards what we all enjoy for half the year and endlessly crave the rest.

As August opens, so do the padlocks on NFL training facilities around our glorious league launching this season’s camps to the wide eyes of young fans and short tempers of heat exhausted giants of the gridiron.

This is the point in the season in which every team has hope, health and outlooks filled with promise and poise to explode onto the league to either confirm or disprove what so called “experts” have been writing since the end of Roger Goodell’s first NFL Draft. Well, there is one more “expert” that needs to way in on the state of each franchise in what is fast becoming the New Felon League.

Gone are the days of Tags brushing most controversy under the carpet. No more are these childish millionaires allowed to terrorize our streets driving their chromed out SUV’s while slamming back the Alizé. We have a new sheriff in town and Mr. Goodell has got these thugs on the run. Pacman will have a better shot at posting bail, than the numbers he could have had in what looked like a real promising year for him and the only Chris Henry you will see in the first half of the season is a talented rookie RB on the Titans. Tank Johnson would rather get tanked in the desert than play on a contender and there seems to have been more drug violations lately than at the San Francisco Giants training center. Goodell has the right idea by hitting these guys in the only place it hurts, by bringing their careers and thus their bank accounts to a screeching halt.

The start of the new year brings forth a new Fantasy Football season as well and your Professor has traversed our nation in order to give you the insight into the state of each team heading towards the commencement of what should prove to be a very exciting 20 weeks of professional football.

ARIHow many times have we heard in the last few years that Arizona finally will break out? That they finally have the right Head Coach? Offense? Quarterback? Running Back? Stadium? The list goes on. Well my students, we finally could see some evidence of that this season. New Coaches Whisenhunt and Grimm’s first priority will be to sure up an O-line that gave up 63 sacks last year alone, 108 in the last two years combined. Center Al Johnson and Offensive Tackles Mike Gandy and 5th overall pick Levi Brown will be their first attempts at doing just that. Whisenhunt brings in a vertical offense to compliment 2 of the NFL’s best playmaking WR’s. Edge is still a very good RB that was cut down to size by the ineptness of the front 5 from last year. The talent at the offensive skill positions is truly superb and the sky is the limit for their value if the O-line can even get slightly better under Whisenhunt. Arizona only had five picks in the draft this year and only two of those picks went to help build a defense that struggled against the run and particularly against the pass. Alan Branch was a nice 2nd round pick and should make the D-line with Clancy, Berry and Okeafor better, and Buster Davis has some work to do to crack the starting lineup. The defense is slightly improved, but improved nonetheless. Leinart, Fitzgerald, Boldin and Edge are quality fantasy starters for any team, with Leonard Pope a sleeper at TE this season. On the other side, Adrian Wilson is the only Cardinal worthy of a pick in IDP leagues.

ATL – Here boy, here boy, damn Vick got another one. What an off-season. First, your QB is smuggling drugs in a half drank water bottle, (don’t you think the millions would allow him to buy a new bottle of water when he arrived at his destination, thus pointing out the complete lunacy of his hiding spot) then he is indicted in a dog fighting ring. Are we in Mexico? No, he is Mexico. Ron Mexico. The Falcons have a new Head Coach after firing Mora because he was looking at the Washington State job, can you blame the guy for wanting out of that mess? The new man in charge, Petrino, hopes to be the first guy (out of three now) to help Vick realize a supposed potential that is rapidly waning. That is if PETA doesn’t track his ass down and burn him at the stake. If Vick is gone, either from a suspension or a “leave of absence” all I can say is good luck with the perpetually craptacular Joey Harrington in his place. He is one of the few NFL QB’s that I would actually start Vick ahead of. There is talk of D.J. Shockley being thrown in if (NOT IF, WHEN) Harrington struggles, but he is too young and inexperienced to lead them anywhere, for this year anyway. The Falcons have added another WR in pro-bowler Joe Horn. He was supposed to prove once and for all that Vick just needed a solid #1 to perform, now it looks as though it won’t be Vick back there doing the passing. Dunn is another year older and shares time with another smaller sized guy in Jerious Norwood. Norwood is a decent homerun threat, and a not an awful mid to late round pick, but Falcon’s fans better hope that Dunn stays healthy, because Jerious won’t last taking the full brunt of carries. They also had a very nice draft getting Jamaal Anderson, Justin Blaylock and Chris Houston in the first couple of rounds, all of which should contribute in some way this season with Blaylock starting his career at OG. Houston is listed as a backup, but you can expect that to be amended by the start of the season. In terms of fantasy, other than TE Alge Crumpler, I would only look to be drafting a Falcon later rather than sooner. There is just too much drama going on in the ATL.

BAL – What do you add to an aging O-line, and aging Defense and an aging QB? How about a mediocre, overrated Running Back? Heading into last year, the Ravens missing piece was a reliable QB to go with a solid run game and a lights out defense. So, they figured getting McNair would solve the problems, right? Wrong. They get the #1 seed in the AFC only to lose to the eventual champ. Subsequently, there had to be something else that was wrong. The verdict was that the running game was at fault. Inconsistent throughout the year and proving McNair can no longer carry a team, J-lew was let go and in comes underachieving McGAYhee to prove whether he is a boom or a bust. Ogden is playing on borrowed time and I don’t know if drafting Grubbs can compensate for losing Mulitalo and Pashos to FA. The defense is also getting older, but still a definite strength even after losing Thomas to the Pats, with Suggs, Reed and Lewis leading the way. These guys are literally hanging on by their geriatric threads and have the ability to stay at the top of the pack for one more year, but only if McGAYhee can put it all together for a whole season and not just perform against bad teams as he has only been able to do in the past. Not only did McNair prove that he cannot carry a team, but he is no longer a reliable starter in the Fantasy realm as well. On offense, I like Mark Clayton and Todd Heap but nothing else excites me. Lewis, Reed, Scott and Suggs will all be drafted in IDP’s as well as McCallister too. The Ravens are always a favorite defense to get drafted as are the bulk of the individual players.

BUF – This was one of the most inconsistent teams in the league last year, offensively and defensively. Losman once again is the QB that will save the Bills and reluctantly I recognize that he did improve some last year, but he really couldn’t have done worse. Lynch, although a rookie, is an upgrade at RB, but it won’t matter if they are shuffling the O-line like a pack of cards in Vegas, like they did last year. Lee Evans scored most of his points in 3 games last season and only had 6 games with more than 5 catches. Losman tends to make bad decisions with the ball and uses his arm to go for the homerun rather than manage consistent scoring drives. The only thing that does is result in the defense playing more. This is a defense that lost Clements, Fletcher and Spikes and only added Jason Webster from the Falcons and one early pick in LB Paul Posluszney from Penn State. That is a bit of pressure to put on second year LB Keith Ellison and rookie Paul Posluszny to control the middle of the field. There is also not much depth at DT with Darwin Walker a no show. They have a talented pair of Safeties, but the run defense is where they struggled and I just don’t see enough of an improvement. I am not a proponent of SOS, but that have to play perennial defensive stalwarts in Miami and New England twice, and they also play Denver, Pitt, Baltimore, Jacksonville and Philly. They better figure out that O-line quick or the future will yet again be put off another year. Lynch will put up the best stats from this year’s rookie class of RB’s, but there really isn’t much competition. Big things are predicted from Lee Evans this season, but don’t be surprised to see a 30+ point game one week and then disappear for two. If you plan to platoon him, good luck guessing on which game him or his QB decides to show up. Schobel is their only D-lineman worth anything in IDP and Poz will get a lot of points, simply because someone has to make the tackles for a defense that will play more of the 60 minutes than the offense.

CARCarolina is a perfect example of how a team can go from contender to pretender just like that. Going into last season, coming off a championship game loss to Seattle, many people had them as the favorite to make the Superbowl. However, if there is a team that can blame their failures on injuries, the Panthers certainly are it. They lost their starting LT and MLB in week one and never recovered. I see a much better year for them this season. They get Travelle Wharton, Mike Wahle and Justin Hartwig back from injuries, to go with Evan Mathis and Jordan Gross which makes for a very solid O-line. They got two starters in this year’s draft in WR Dwayne Jarrett and LB Jon Beason who both will contribute immediately to their respective corps, not to mention C Ryan Kalil and DE Charles Johnson who uses speed to compensate for his size disadvantages and was a steal in the third round. Delhomme also battled thumb injuries throughout the season that could be blamed for two game ending interceptions against Philly and Cincy. He is healthy this year and has been to 2 Championship games and one Superbowl in prior years, thus he can lead them through the playoffs. They have a dependable 1-2 punch at RB with Foster and Williams whom should have room to run behind that strong O-line combined with the All World WR Steve Smith should put the offense back in top form. The defense started slow but ended the season fairly strong. The run defense was inconsistent without a solid MLB and unreliable play from the DT position, especially Damione Lewis. Kris Jenkins now has a full season under his belt and Jordan Carstens should be ready to for a full season this year. The pass defense was better than average in yards allowed but need to cause more turnovers to be truly effective. With the O-line healthy, the RB’s should put up respectable fantasy #’s, just not enough for each to be a #1 back on any fantasy team. Steve Smith is a top 10 WR, if not top 5. Julius Peppers is sack master that loves to force fumbles which makes him a great IDP option.

CHI – The Bear’s off-season has been nothing short of a soap opera. Coming off a Superbowl defeat has only led to more questions than answers heading into the current campaign. Briggs tantrum over $$ and the whole Tank Williams debacle has blemished the rep of a highly touted defense. The guys are still men and I don’t think that all of Briggs teammates appreciate his reluctance to play at such a high salary, even if it is only for one year. Tank Johnson would rather get Tanked in the desert than commit to a team that has given him nothing but chances. How many times can a group of guys take a shot in the gut and keep coming out fighting. That defense struggled in the second half of the year and at times were susceptible to a strong running attack up the middle, now with minimal DT depth currently on the roster, it's an area that does not look to be getting any stronger. The offense, resting on the shoulders of on again off again punching bag Rex Grossman, could be lethal with Berrian, Muhammad and the multitalented speed demon Devon Hester. Just those guys alone should spread the opposing defenses enough to give former #4 pick Cedric Benson more than enough space to gain some good yards on the ground. It all hinges on the continued growth of Rex and the play of the middle of that defense. As they go, so do the Bear’s. Benson is a RB that won’t get drafted too high, although I have seen him moving up in some early drafts. Both Muhammad and Berrian are decent #2 WR’s and solid #3 WR’s in leagues that start 3 at that position. Urlacher is a top 5 IDP player and if Briggs sticks to his guns and doesn’t show than Hillenmeyer will show his worth as an IDP guy himself.

CIN – The only thing holding this team back from getting to the next level is the defense. Two seasons ago Palmer burst on the scene and took his team to the playoffs on a defense that led the league in interceptions, but still only ranked 28th overall. Last year was a different story. They were 30th in the league in yards allowed and a major chunk of that was through the air. In fact they were the worst team in the league in allowing yards through the air. CB Deltha O’Neal went from 10 interceptions in ’05 to 1 last year. You see there here is being aggressive and then there is being stupid. They drafted Leon Hall and Free Safety Marvin White which will provide an immediate help to the DB’s to go along with Johnathan Joseph. LB Edgerton Hartwell looks to lose the injury prone moniker that has plagued him in recent seasons to help a LB corps that seems to have had more arrests lately than great plays on the field. The offense on the other hand is set. Carson Palmer is full strength after his comeback season in which he was second in the league with 28 TD’s It doesn’t hurt having two top ten WR’s out there catching passes. Rudi Johnson has been a rock at Running Back, going over 1300 yards in 3 consecutive seasons while scoring exactly 12 TD’s each of the last 3 years. In PPR leagues, Johnson loses some value. The 27 year old RB has never had more than 23 receptions in any season and has never caught a receiving TD in his 5 year career. Carson Palmer is one of the best QB’s in the league and should be even better this year now fully recovered from that awful knee injury suffered against the Steelers in the playoffs two seasons ago. There isn’t much at first glance when trying to size up the IDP’s this team. Justin Smith doesn’t get enough sacks, but look out for Ahmad Brooks who gained the starting role after veteran Brian Simmons. He is going to be a monster in the middle of the field.

CLE – The Browns made headlines on draft day by getting the big Tackle from Wisconsin Joe Thomas and then trading their #1 from next year to get Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn due to his freefall in the 1st round. They should have stayed put and gone for Brohm next year, but they got over excited at getting both targets from their first pick and Dallas Owner Jerry Jones took full advantage. Jamal Lewis is only 27 and age wise is entering the prime of his career. It was well known that he was disgruntled in Baltimore after they broke their promise to sign him to a long term deal, but only he knows how much that affected his play or lack thereof on the field. Thomas isn’t Ogden, but Lewis should be able to accomplish at least what he did last year for the Ravens in this season for the Browns. Romeo Crennel and Coordinator Todd Grantham were putting together a nice defense through the draft and homegrown players like Kamerion Wimbley, Andra Davis and D’Qwell Jackson. In spite of this, the defense had seemingly taken a step backwards from 2005. They had some injuries at CB that forced them to give help deep and take away most opportunities at being creative with the blitz. They drafted a couple D-linemen late that could add some needed depth and if draft pick Eric Wright can unseat the mediocre Leigh Bodden, it would let the Browns use more complex blitz packages. I wouldn’t touch the QB from a fantasy perspective. They will put Frye out there first and with 3 straight tough divisional games to open the season, he could be on a short leash. Due to the QB situation, I recommend only WR Braylon Edwards and TE Kellen Winslow. Winslow led all TE’s in receptions, but be wary, he was non existent in the red zone. Although, once Quinn does get in there, you can be sure that he will be looking for the 6-4 250 pounder often by the goal line. Wimbley and Davis are sold IDP’s with Davis being the tackler and Wimbley looking to build on his 11 sacks as a rookie.

DALDallas ended last season in a way that no team ever wants to end their season, a broken play that snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. This year is a whole new year with new coaches and players to aid in building on what pieces Parcells left behind. In comes ex-San Diego defensive coordinator Wade Phillips whom many in the NFL believe to be a great defensive mind to take the Cowboys where Bill couldn’t. The ‘boys were not extremely active in the FA market but did sign OT Leonard Davis to bolster the O-line and S Ken Hamlin to help on defense. The first signing is sure to have more impact than the latter. They also added Brad Johnson to replace Bledsoe as the vet QB on the roster. The draft was a solid one for Dallas getting Anthony Spencer in the first and two O-linemen in the 2nd and the 4th in James Marten and Doug Free. If these guys can be ready, it will give them much needed depth at O-line that they have been lacking for some time. Ex Troy Aikman backup Jason Garrett will now be the offensive coordinator for a unit that returns all key starters in addition to a presumably better O-line. Last year, the only real weakness for the defense was in the passing game that seemed to get worse by season’s end. Phillips will have no problems bring pressure from all sides (San Diego had 60 sacks last year) in order to take pressure off the DB’s who have been known to be burned a bit. Phillips will focus on the defense so you know they will be improved and if the offense can continue to grow, these guys will definitely be challenging for the Division if not more. They are loaded with fantasy players on offense and defense. Have confidence drafting Owens and Romo as starters. Glenn is a great second WR as well. The RBBC is a bit frustrating, but remember that if you are in a yardage heavy league, then JJ is your man, in a TD heavy league, put Barber ahead, just don’t expect a repeat of the 16TD’s from a season ago.

DEN - Mike Shanahan begins his 13th season as the Head Coach in Denver for the 2007-2008 campaign. The number one question for most Denver fans is, Can Jay Cutler live up to the high standards of being a Denver QB? Well, with that coach and that team, he certainly can. Denver's continued efforts to make key off-season acquisitions over the past seasons continued this year and will likely, once again, lead them to the playoffs. The addition of veteran players such as Javon Walker at WR last year, Daniel Graham at TE, Brandon Stokley at WR, and Travis Henry at RB this off-season, should help build a strong supporting cast for the second year QB Cutler. If these veteran players (and the likes of Rod Smith) stay healthy and produce as they have, Cutler will have an arsenal of weapons that will aid in his progression to the next level. The other issue that plagued Denver last season was an inconsistency in Shanahan's run oriented offense. The addition of Travis Henry at RB should decrease the likelihood of Denver resorting to as much of a Running Back By Committee approach as they did in 2006-2007. The platoon of Bell, Bell, and Nash is thankfully over for Denver and fantasy owners across the nation. Look for Mike Bell to back-up a consistent and driven Travis Henry. Denver's defensive game looks to be strong again with the addition of Dré Bly to a defensive backfield that already features the best CB in the league, Champ Bailey. This spot open due to the untimely death of young CB Darrent Williams. Many of the familiar names are back and ready to stymie any opponent's running or passing offense. The schedule for Denver appears manageable as they face San Diego and Kansas City each twice and Chicago and Indianapolis each once, with the majority of their games in their favor. I see Denver going 11-5 and making a strong playoff run with Cutler proving that he belongs and his supporting cast stepping up big. Going into your draft this year, don’t reach for a QB early because many people are rating Cutler low and you would be able to snag him as a consistent starter for your team in the 6th round or later. Henry is happy to be the main man on a winner again and has the motivation to keep it that way. I would be happy to snag him in the second round. Javon Walker is the obvious #1 WR and you would do well having him as the #1 WR on your team as well. On the IDP side, 4th year LB D.J. Williams seems poised to jump into the spot of the Defensive QB in place of departed Al Wilson and should do well in that capacity.

DET - The Detroit Lions hobbled to a 3-13 record in 2006, despite a rather potent offense. This year however, even the most avid Lion faithful cannot expect too much better. The addition of Calvin Johnson to join Roy Williams and Mike Furrey in the receiving corps makes the trio a very dangerous threat. Kevin Jones, Tatem Bell and T.J. Duckett make an ok group of Running Backs with no real star player. Bell rushed for 1,025 yards with the Broncos last season, but has been known to have a case of the fumbles and Jones and Bell will both be gambles fantasy wise since they are expected to split carries, if Jones can even get healthy. Jon Kitna is not going to win many games on his back, but he is a serviceable Quarterback who will put up big numbers in offensive coordinator Mike Martz's pass first offense and-- at the least-- will be a good backup QB (or a starter in deeper leagues) in fantasy. The defensive side of the ball has some worries as well. In order to get Bell from the Broncos, the Lions sent Cornerback Dré Bly to Denver. CB’s Fernando Bryant and (the newly acquired) Travis Fisher are experienced, but will not put fear into the opposing Receivers. The Lions did not do much during the off-season to address their needs with the Defensive Ends. The Tackles are solid, however they lack and DE who can penetrate into the backfield and that will again be a problem for the D-line combined with the fact that second round draft pick Ikaika Alama-Francis is not expected to pay immediate dividends. Led by Boss Bailey and Ernie Sims, along with the emergence of Paris Lennon, the LB’s are the team strength on the defensive side of the ball. However, they are not good enough to carry the entire defense and the Lions defense should not be something uttered on fantasy draft day. As I mentioned above, Kitna is a serviceable fantasy QB, but I’m sure someone will reach for him ahead of a guy like Jay Cutler that will provide more consistency to your team. Roy Williams will benefit from having a rookie WR that is being double teamed and should put up career numbers. If you haven’t figured out already, in IDP leagues, I love LB’s and that won’t change with this team, Sims had 124 tackles last year and looks to add some turnovers forced to his repertoire this year.

GB – Brett Favre came back again, I honestly think that only his death will prevent him from playing again and that is a long shot as well. He has thrown only 38 TD’s in the last two seasons with 18 last year being his lowest since his first full season as a starter. On the other hand he has thrown 47 interceptions in the last two years which makes you question his judgment or trust in teammates at times. Plain and simple the Pack needs playmakers to help their aging legend. They did draft Brandon Jackson and James Jones, but who knows when they will make a serious impact, possible in the post Favre era. I for one am not buying into the Morency is the guy hype, he will be the backup to Jackson by mid season at the latest. Jennings and Driver are the main guys right now, but health at WR has been a problem in the last few seasons. On the defensive side, Green Bay had problems staying fresh along the D-line and the addition of Justin Harrell should definitely help that. The stats from the defense did not tell the whole story, while being better than decent unit, they constantly had to face uphill battles because of field position. Many times, it seemed as though the opponent was starting on their side of the field because of turnovers and poor special teams play. The unit is more talented this year and as long as they can keep the opposition out of the end zone (even when Favre throws an interception at his own 20), the Packers will be one of the surprisingly best defenses in the NFC. Favre will still get a ton of yards through the air and as long as your league doesn’t penalize too much for turnovers, feel free to take a chance on him. Driver seems to be underrated at WR each year and this season is no different in that regard. Kampman surprised some with 15.5 sacks last year and is a solid pass rushing End. My love of LB’s continue with a recommendation of both Nick Barnett and 2nd year stud A. J. Hawk.

HOU – Out with the old and in with the new is the motto for this year’s Texans. Kubiak has a brand new QB and RB to help build some semblance of excitement in an area that hasn’t had much success, if any. I’m still not sold on QB Matt Schaub who has only played in a handful of games and has been living off a performance against New England in 2005 for too long now. Atlanta’s O-line has always been better than Houston’s and if those young guys don’t start to gel, it could be a long season for Matt in his first full year as a starter in one of the tougher divisions in football. Ahman Green just turned 30 this off-season and if you count the beatings he has taken on the field, he is more like 34-35. The WR’s are a really a mess. Aside of Andre Johnson, there is no other threat. On the back of Demeco Ryans and Mario Williams, the defense should be improved and continue improving, but if the offense cannot control the ball with an aging and seemingly perpetually ailing Ahman Green, it will just be more of that same out of Houston this year. I don’t recommend a single offensive player for you fantasy team from the offense. After declining in his third season, AJ had a great bounce back year last year, but Veteran Eric Moulds was there to take some defenders, this year it will be Kevin Walter, ugh! For IDP’s, you guessed it DeMeco Ryans, his rookie year was phenomenal and is the best pick from this defense, but I am sure that he would like to be on the field a little less this year.

IND – So, Peyton finally wins the big game. No longer will that monkey be with him. Though the pressure to prove his worth has waned, there's no reason to believe the Indianapolis Colts will become content. With Dungy on the sidelines and Peyton Manning directing the offense, this team will definitely make a serious run at repeating. In fact, Dungy believes the Colts can elevate the offense to a higher level this season. "Offensively, I think we're better than we've ever been in terms of potential," he told following the draft. That’s great news if you have Colts on your fantasy football roster. Real bad news if you don't. After all, Indianapolis didn't exactly suck when it had the ball last season. The Colts ranked third in the league in total offense last season with 379.4 yards per game. The passing game contributed 269.2 ypg. More importantly, the Colts know how to find the end zone. They were second in scoring average with 26.7 points per game. Only the running game showed even a hint of patchiness, with the Colts averaging 110.1 ypg., the 18th highest rushing average in the league. However, that was more a product of the Colts being able to dissect defenses through the air and grooming the RB, (Addai) than them having a weakness. The only bad thing about the Colts from a fantasy perspective is that they have so many weapons that the wealth can get spread thin at times. But that's a problem worth living with, as all of the Colts' starting skill players are an asset to any fantasy team. Defensively, the Colts weren't much of a fantasy contributor. Only nine teams had fewer takeaways than their 26. They also only managed only 25 sacks, led by Robert Mathis' 9.5. With both starting Cornerbacks and Cato June, along with this 142 tackles gone. Now the LB corps have a few question marks. However, if the Colts defense plays like they did in the playoffs, their fantasy value will climb tremendously. There is really nothing for fantasy owners not to like about the Colts' offense this season. As long as Manning stays healthy, which is as close to a lock as it gets in the NFL, the offense will post huge numbers and I for one am calling this year as the year Wayne finally surpasses Marvin Harrison who is entering his 12th season.

JAX – I honestly cannot understand this team. It seems as though each year, they have all the pieces to succeed, but never put it all together. They had wins against 5 playoff teams, but lost to Washington, Buffalo and twice to Houston. When the passing game was on, like it was two seasons ago, the RB’s struggled or got hurt. Last year the RB’s were awesome with the combination of Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor, but the passing attack was lackluster at best. They have a lot of talent at the WR position, but no one who wants to step up and be the go-to guy week in and week out. Even though their running game is potent, I don’t see either Drew or Taylor being effective on your fantasy team as they will share carries and Greg Jones should return this year to take short yardage and goal line carries from the two main guys. The defense is solid and has been for some time. They let an aging S Donvin Darius go to the Raiders to make room for some young up and comers Gerald Sensabaugh and draft pick Reggie Nelson. In 2006, they were hit hard on defense by injuries and are looking forward to getting everyone back healthy. They have a huge set of Tackles in Marcus Stroud & John Henderson. They use this size up front and the speed in back to play smash mouth football and dominate opposing offenses. Now if they could only beat the Houston Texans, they might make a run at the playoffs.

KC – This team is another conundrum. Someone needs to explain to me what in the world Kansas City is doing. They had a solid team with a few holes that could have been plugged via free agency and the draft. Instead, they start trading away veterans like Dante Hall and Ryan Sims. In addition to the trades, they cut veterans, Eric Hicks and William Bartee and lost their leading tackler LB Kawika Mitchell to the Giants. Their starting Quarterback, Trent Green, is now in Miami. The Chiefs went from, at the end of 2006, a solid team who made the playoffs and (with a little work) could have easily made the post season in 2007. Now they seemed to have taken several steps in the other direction and for what purpose I cannot decipher. I may be in the minority but without Green, Kansas City will be forced to go with Damon Huard. While Huard filled in quite nicely for the Chiefs last year, his career shows me a whole different story. Not only does Huard lack the starting experience, but he isn’t exactly a young upstart bursting onto the scene. At the start of the season he'll be 34 years old. In addition to Huard, the Chiefs number one Receiver, Eddie Kennison, will be 34 this season as well. Age is not an ally of the Chiefs as you can see. With the exception of Larry Johnson, the Chiefs are an old team. While teams need veteran leadership, they also need young talent in order to produce wins in the NFL. I don't know if Johnson can shoulder the entire load, which KC has thrust upon him. Now, there is talk of LJ holding out. I think he is realizing everything that I just went over and thinks that if he has a down year from all this nonsense, then he won’t get paid like he feels like he deserves. Kansas City is going to have to prove they can do more than just run the ball with or without LJ and with that O-line disintegrating, I’m not so sure how effective that part of their game will be. Nevertheless, until that time, Johnson and the rest of the Chiefs offense may not be of much value in the fantasy arena this season. Yeah, I said it. People who draft LJ beware of a down season or a holdout and him trying his damndest to get out of there before that team collapses. The defense was middle of the road and needed improvement up the middle. So, they go out and draft Smaller DT Turk McBride who can explode to the gaps and big DT Demarcus “Tank” Tyler to take on the extra blocks and as a run stopper. Neither was brought into start right away, but certainly will see time on the field. Losing DE Jared Allen for a couple of games to start the season doesn’t help a defense with some reservations already going in. Aside from LJ and a Tony Gonzalez who is on the downside of a wonderful career, there is no one on the offense worth of a fantasy pick. For your IDP’s, there is not much either, aside from LB’s Derrick Johnson and aging Donnie Edwards who presumably will finish his career where he started.

MIA – I was one of many who thought that the promising end to the 2005 season would lead to the eventual unseating of the New England Patriots in 2006. Boy was I wrong there. I knew C-pep wouldn’t be playing long, but I felt that after a guy like Gus Frerotte could look good than the player at the QB position was not as important as coaching and the players around him. I was convinced that Joey Harrington could turn his career around, at least well enough to be able to take the Dolphins to the playoffs. Well, a ton of injuries to the O-line and a couple of Harrington-esque choke jobs, they finished a once promising season 6-10. Head Coach Nick Saban then abandons ship mid sink, after pledging his allegiance to the Dolphins, to make the way for new Head Coach Cam Cameron. They acquired Veteran QB Trent Green, a talented QB who prior to last year was the only QB to have a rating above 90 for 4 straight seasons. He always an accurate passer and gains yards for the offense. They have an enormously talented RB in Ronnie Brown that is sure to play better behind a much mended O-line and paired with a solid receiving corps. The defense is always a strength and behind D-MVP of the league, Jason Taylor that won’t change a bit. Everything is there for them to have a good season, but it was also there last season. Honestly, with that group, playing in that tough division, it could go either way. Trent Green will bring Chambers back into fantasy football’s good graces and Ronnie Brown stock rises heavily with a QB who has thrown passes to 3 of the better pass catching RB’s in recent History. (Faulk, Holmes and Johnson) Jason Taylor is a lock pick for your IDP league along with fellow LB’s Zach Thomas and Channing Crowder.

MIN – After a hot start last season, the Vikings finished colder than an arctic blast. After a run like that at the end of the year, you would imagine some changes be made through free agency. Nope, didn’t happen. They signed Bobby Wade who showed flashes in Tennessee, but is not a proven #1. They gave a ridiculous amount of money to Visanthe Shiancoe, who has 35 catches in a four year career with only 12 coming into last year. The guy hasn’t caught a TD since 2004 and has 3 total for his career. They also signed a recovering from injury Mike Doss and are hoping that he can contribute. Combine that with the loss of Jermaine Wiggins and CB Fred Smoot and it kind of makes you scratch your head. Coming from the school of good drafts in Philly, Childress had a solid one for his team. Adrian Petersen, Sidney Rice, Marcus McCauley, Brian Robinson, Aundrae Allison, and Rufus Alexander should all make contributions in some way this year. On offense, Tavaris is the main man now. He only started 2 games last year, but the future is now with him. The WR’s are deep, yet totally unproven. After camp, we will know who will be #1 and thus be the only real fantasy option sometime later on draft day. I don’t see Petersen contributing much this year. RB’s in the WCO have a lot to do including learning blocking schemes and a hefty play book. Adrian will see time, but it will take time to learn and Childress comes from a system that brings rookie RB’s along slower than other teams may. On defense you can’t get much difference when facing the run or the pass. They were #1 against the run, but couldn’t stop the pass one iota. Although it is true that teams avoided the run against them because it was so easy to pick them apart through the air, thus aiding to the #1 rush defense stats. They, like a lot of other struggling teams, need to get a pass rush. 30 sacks in a season won’t do anything but have your DB’s chasing Receivers. Unfortunately, they didn’t do much to bolster their chances of that going up too much. I see last place finish for a team that didn’t get better, while the other teams around them did. If Chad Greenway can come back and stay healthy, he and Sharper make for pretty solid pickups in IDP leagues.

NE - After letting another Super Bowl appearance slip through their hands--literally, New England made many off season moves to try an avoid a repeat of that event. They were one of the most active teams during the off season, bringing in new players like WR’s Randy Moss and Donté Stallworth, and letting go of Corey Dillon. As far as fantasy football there definitely will be some pats drafted early this year. Their offense ranked #11 in the NFL last season, and they went out and added the one position they were lacking in by getting Moss, Stallworth, Wes Welker and Kelly Washington. Not only did the Pats add players to the offense, they also picked one of the top free agent defensive players in Adalius Thomas to help an already top notch unit. The are only a few things could cause some problems. First, the whole Samuel situation and second, is the middle of the defense. Samuel should just shut up and play. Without him their starting Corners are at the moment, Ellis Hobbs and Tory James who was a FA pick up from Cincinnati. The LB’s aren’t exactly young bucks and a normally deep Belichick defense just isn’t. Any injury sustained to their LB or DT could seriously hurt them. I honestly wouldn’t be shocked to see big Ted Washington get cut and Billly B pick him up for safety reasons. The Patriots have a few fantasy studs to pick from: most notably, 2nd year RB Laurence Maroney and Tom Brady, who will give you a consistent level of points week in and week out at the QB spot. Ben Watson is a top 10 fantasy TE and lets not forget the WR corps which should provide solid numbers each week, the only problem will be figuring out which Receiver is going to go off that week.

NOS - The Saints came on after having their city ravaged by Hurricane Katrina to take the league by storm themselves. Unfortunately for them, their season ended on a cold January day in Chicago in the NFC Championship game. On a great note, the team's success throughout the season was arguably the hottest story of the year. Leading the way was the offense, which jumped from 20th overall in 2005 to first in the league last season, which no one saw coming. This was due in large part to the leadership and play of QB Drew Brees. The offense that struggled under Aaron Brooks took off under Brees, with contributions coming from rookies Marques Colston, Reggie Bush and veteran RB Deuce McAllister. The Saints did lose old-timer Joe Horn during this off-season, but they reloaded by taking speedster Robert Meachem with their first pick in the draft. One thing that would help them is if 2nd year Head Coach Sean Peyton can figure out how to get more out of the running game. The Saints finished first in passing yards but just 19th in rushing yards. Deuce can only do so much in the limited carries he is given and Reggie Bush just will not have any success up the middle. One of the reasons for the loss to the Bears was an inability to run the ball early in the game. In order to have total offensive triumph will be to utilize his running backs correctly. Bush cannot run up the middle, so stop using him there. Deuce has that part of the field covered. If they use a two back offense and flank Bush out, it would open the middle up for Deuce which in turn would protect the edges for Bush. The defense has two great Defensive Ends in Will Smith and Charles Grant, but already have some questions at DT with Young fracturing his foot before pre-season even begins. The LB’s are pedestrian at best even with the addition of Dhani Jones. They only forced 19 takeaways all year and if they want to continue to rise, that number is going to have to rise as well. A plethora of players will help your fantasy team and you don’t need me to list them all. Just don’t go expecting Bush to help you too much in non-ppr leagues.

NYG – The Giants used the off-season to absolutely solidify their chances at last place in the NFC East. The have a Head Coach that deserved to be fired, yet they brought him back. The made no major moves to help the offense or defense except the fact that they lost 2100+ yards of offense in the form of Tiki Barber retiring. Jacobs and Droughns have a lot of pressure to fill the shoes of a man that neither can run nor receive as well as behind an O-line that is one step above terrible.. I do have high hopes for Brandon Jacobs, but I wonder how much the weak O-line will hurt the entire offense, let along Jacobs stats. Strahan is another year older and one wonders why the Giants still have not addressed the middle on the D-line when it was such a glaring weakness throughout 2006. They only had 17 interceptions all year and 4 were by the D-line. Madison is ancient and McQuarters just plain sucks. Gibril Wilson is the only player worth drafting in IDP leagues aside from maybe their FA pickup Kawika Mitchell. On offense, I would only draft Plaxico and Shockey in mid rounds because we all know that trailing late in games helps the receiving stats.

NYJ – The Jets, from what I gather, get little respect heading into this season. They were road warriors last year going 6-2. The reason for their success is relatively simple, good defense and great O-line play. Their line is young and played really well together, if they can keep growing and play as well as they did last season, I see newly acquired RB Thomas Jones to pair up with Leon Washington for a great 1-2 punch and easily will put up 1500 yards combined. The WR combination of Laveraneus Coles and Jerricho Cotchery combined for 2000 yards and 12 TD’s returns to the field intact to catch passes from a guy that passed for more yards last season that any other year in his career. Add Darrelle Revis and David Harris to a defense that only gave up 6 plays over 20 yards and you have yourself a recipe for what looks to be a successful team. I confidently recommend TJ as a solid second rounder and Cotchery and Coles in the middle rounds and expect the Jets to be in serious contention for the wildcard as long as the defense can force a few more turnovers and Chad cuts his down some too. The Jets have a bunch of solid players for IDP’s. LB’s Jonathan Vilma, Victor Hobson and David Bowens and FS Erik Coleman are top choices.

OAK – The Raiders season last year was abysmal. The only good that came from the dreadful 2-14 season was the #1 pick in the Draft. Obviously, Owner Al Davis wasn’t going to stand pat with the team and coaches that attempted to field a team last year. New Head Coach Lane Kiffen brings with him a positive outlook and fresh mind to the Bay area. The offense was beyond atrocious with the O-line being equally as bad allowing a league high 72 sacks. The addition of Cooper Carlisle and Jeremy Newberry will help the line and allow Gallery to play at a position he is more comfortable and effective at. As much as Randy Moss’ arrival is supposed to help New England, it will also help Oakland’s solid corps of WR’s attain a better unity with the offense and also allow guys like Ronald Curry to develop. Lamont Jordan certainly felt the lack of successful blocking in the stat column as well. Oakland addressed this by not only signing Dominic Rhodes, who promptly was suspended for 4 games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, but they also signed former Falcon and lead-blocking specialist, Justin Griffith. Michael Bush was selected in the 4th round and could unseat them all as the main guy by the end of this campaign. The defense on the other hand is more than capable. They have an aggressive and young secondary that can only get better with play-maker Michael Huff and surprise standout Nnammidi Asomugha. Their LB are nothing special, however they do benefit from playing behind a D-line that plays tough against the run and the pass. At times they struggled mightily on special teams covering kicks and punts alike. If the offense can stay on the field longer and the coverage teams do their jobs, then players like Derrick Burgess can see his sack totals go up even higher than before. All in all, there are some interesting players that I would consider for IDP leagues or Keeper Leagues, but for this year, I would be wary when possibly drafting a Raider.

PHI – The EAGLES were on a rollercoaster last year. They started the season hot, went cold and looked in serious jeopardy, then turned it on after their star went down to run the table, finish 10-6 and take the NFC East from a Giant’s team that seemed like they didn’t even want to play. This year, almost everyone returns from that Division winning team and puts them in great shape to challenge with Dallas for the NFC East crown this year. The Birds may have lost Donté Stallworth and Jeff Garcia on offense and Michael Lewis, Shawn Barber, Darwin Walker and Rod Hood on defense, but they made enough moves in the off-season to effectively counter their losses. The EAGLES have always been a well coached team who put a system in place for bringing in the right players and talent to be effective and gain the most potential possible. They brought in young speedster Kevin Curtis who has excellent hands and will jump into the starting lineup. They continue to beef up a defensive line that is possibly the deepest in the league with DT’s Montae Reagor, Ian Scott and signing Juqua Thomas to a long term deal. They also traded disgruntled DT Darwin Walker for standout LB Takeo Spikes who is out to prove his worth in the NFL. The draft for which Andy Reid always seems to do well, they took several good prospects including Stewart Bradley, Victor Abiamiri, and CJ Gaddis on defense, while picking a pounding rusher in Tony Hunt and possible QB of the future Kevin Kolb. That’s Andy Reid for you, always thinking two steps ahead, except when it comes to his son and seeing the signs of shooting heroin. Philly’s defense was middle of the pack thanks to an unimposing rush defense. This can lead to the understanding of the influx of DT’s and an upgrade at LB. There is some pressure on youngsters Broderick Bunkley, Chris Gocong and Sean Considine to progress to the next level and so far this early in the year, things seem to be right on track for that. As I stated before, the division crown is going to come down to Dallas and Philly and at this point it is too close to call, but the one who loses out will be a Wildcard team come playoff time. In fantasy, have confidence in drafting an assortment of EAGLES. D-Mac has some questions in regards to injury, but always performs at top level when playing and Reggie Brown is poised to break out this year. You will be able to steal Kevin Curtis as he is being underrated in all early drafts and mocks that I have seen. LJ smith is a solid TE, but this year especially there seems to be plenty of those around the league.

PITPittsburgh is not a bad team. They just play in a really difficult division. One year removed from “winning” the Superbowl, they fell to 8-8 and failed to make the playoffs. The year they won, they almost exclusively relied on the running game. Getting behind early last year was a demon and forced Big Ben to do something he obviously was not comfortable with, winning games with his arm. One good thing for Steelers' fans is he hasn’t gotten into any motorcycle accidents this off-season, yet. Willie Parker exploded on the scene after a great rookie campaign two season’s ago. Don’t get so excited at the prospect of drafting him as their have been more than several signs that Pitt is going to use more backs more often this year. First year Head Coach Mike Tomlin a defensive minded guy seems to be enamored with Najeh Davenport who seems motivated to steal some carries. Willie himself has said on more than one occasion that he would welcome other backs to keep himself fresh all year. Coaches throw up smokescreens like this all the time and that could very well be the case here, but they have a truckload of backs on the roster right now and need to justify the signing of Haynes and Barlow somehow, even if they just cut them, that would make FWP owners a tad less restless. The O-line has some issues that could hinder the offense’s ability to move the ball as well. They lost 2 players to Buffalo and a third Alan Faneca is feeling slighted due to the fact that the Steelers refuse to give him a long term deal and has already said that this will be his last year as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The defense is transitioning from a 3-4 to a 3-4/4-3 hybrid according to the Tomlin. Adding Timmons from the draft should pay immediate dividends for he is a great player and the Steelers were lucky to get him where they did. Ike Reese is not as good as thought heading into last year and the D-line needs to get pressure on the QB to take the burden off of their DB’s. On draft day, don’t hesitate on taking reliable Mr. Ward as he will get his catches no matter what, and Willie will be a solid RB, I just wouldn’t take him in the first round as so many other will. Polomalu and Timmons will get the bulk of the points for you in IDP leagues from this defense.

SD – The Chargers went 14-2 and dominated teams last year in all facets of the game. However, they failed to make the Superbowl. Possibly feeling like Marty Schottenheimer has a hex, (the only Coach with over 200 career wins and yet to make it to a Superbowl) they give him the axe and bring in the great RB Coach in Norv Turner to do nothing but bring a Superbowl to San Diego. This is a man that has used his keen offensive mind to win 2 Superbowls with Aikman, Smith, Irvin and company. Rivers, now with a full season of playing time under his belt teamed with the #1 player in fantasy and big, young, and talented Receivers in Vincent Jackson and the best TE in fantasy seem primed to make a run at the coveted Lombardi Trophy. LT’s numbers last season were nothing short of exceptional. He can run, catch and even throw when called upon. He is selfless and would rather win, than talk or dance in the endzone. The defense, led by Shawn Merriman, is a monster. They attack the QB and pursue the ball carrier with ferocious intensity. There is no doubt that they will be ranked in the top 3 heading into the season and will be hungry to build on last year’s successes. If there ever was a year where you know who the #1 pick in fantasy drafts, it is this year. Phillip Rivers will show that he has grown and Norv will have no problem letting him stretch the field more this year than Schotty let him last year. The loss to the Colts in the playoffs last season only adds fuel to this fire that will burn all the way to Arizona in February 2008.

SEA – The Seahawks barely made the playoffs last season one year removed from “losing” the Superbowl. I for one didn’t realize that the loss of pro-bowl guard Steve Hutchinson would make the O-line look at times like a very humdrum unit. They just seemed to not have the physical style that allowed SA to break records the year prior. They did a successful job of building a better pass defense this off-season, but did nothing to reinforce a line that will have trouble creating space to rack up the yards that you have seen from them in the past. Darrell Jackson is gone, off to San Francisco and further diminishing the offense by leaving them without a proven #1 Receiver. Deion Branch is ready to prove that he can handle it, and has Hackett, Burelson and Engram to help him stretch the field, they lack a true pass catching TE that will hurt them, especially on third downs. As I alluded to before, the defense definitely improved in the off-season. Ken Hamlin may have been a physical player for them, but made ill-advised decisions at times that cost the team. They brought in experienced and intelligent players in the form of Deon Grant and Brian Russell. These guys will make an immediate impact on a pretty spongy pass defense from last season. Jim Mora Jr. brings his defensive intelligence to the secondary as a Coach and should be able to form a much more impermeable unit that Seattle has seen in awhile. Patrick Kearney, as long as health is not a factor, is an upgrade over the inconsistent play of DE Grant Wistrom. Then you have Lofa Tutupu who locks up the middle of the field and Julian Peterson rushing from the edge to disrupt opposing QB’s rhythm. I am not convinced that the additions on defense can overcome the deficiencies on offense to win in the playoffs. They will win the division this year, but their NFC West rivals are starting to rise up and nip at the hawk’s heels. They better be on the be watchful of who’s below them. SA is still a 1st round pick, although I have seen him go as low as 9 and as high as a 3 in the first round of a 12 team league, but I’ll leave that up to you whether it is a steal or accurate place to pick him. I just see that I am not the only one who wonders why they didn’t place more emphasis on the O-line this pas spring and summer. Matt is a middle round QB who drops a little losing all of D-Jax’s TD and Jeremy Stevens solid catching over the middle, but still should perform adequately for your team. I like Branch as a sleeper this year, much in the way I liked Coles last season. On the defensive side, I don’t have to tell you to draft Tutupu and Peterson and while they have some solid players for sure, none will give you many fantasy points come this season.

SF – The 49ers have certainly come along way from the team that was appalling to an up and comer in a relatively short amount of time. There are some that will even go so far as to say that the Niners are going to win the Division. Well, hold on a second. They certainly addressed concerns at the Receiver position by getting a go to guy in Darrell Jackson and now journeyman Ashley Lelie, but neither of those guys are going to help fill the holes on the O-line. Frank Gore played spectacularly last season and should be commended for running behind an O-line that had its share of troubles giving franchise QB Alex Smith enough time to throw the ball. Joe Staley was a nice draft pick, but may take more time to develop into a solid player than some realize. Larry Allen is a HOF lineman, but he isn’t getting younger and is almost assured at missing some time with injury this year. They had a ton of holes on the defensive side that were most definitely addressed partly in the off-season, but you can only do so much in one off-season. Nate Clements was given the keys to the local bank to play in San Fran and oft burned S Michael Lewis was also brought in to aid in helping a poor pass defense that was unable to pressure the QB at all. Tully Banta-Cain will be the QB rusher from the edge and I have no doubts that he should emerge as a player in that capacity for them. Patrick Willis was drafted to make an immediate impact in the middle of the field and that he unquestionably will do. Also, any LB unit that is coached by Mike Singletary is going to one day be good. Regrettably, there is still the problem with the D-line. There won’t be a pass rush coming from that crew, so they will have to rely solely on blitzes to get a consistent rush on the Quarterback and well coached teams will know how to beat the one on one matchups that are a result of all those blitz packages. Third in the division where the teams are all going to be at relatively the same record at season’s end seems more than feasible with a dark horse chance at any more than that. They could finish as high as second or as low as last place. Fantasy wise, Alex Smith makes for an interesting pick this year. His O-line had protection problems last season and I don’t see enough of an upgrade to see that it has changed much, but he has grown and will continue to grow as a player and that could propel him into a level of play. Frank Gore has risen from the middle rounds to be a top five pick and is especially desirable in PPR leagues. Darrell Jackson was a TD machine despite missing some games last year in Seattle and should be getting all the endzone looks that Gore doesn’t take in. Vernon Davis is healthy and looking to make his mark at the position that has grown immensely in a few years. Banta-Cain and Patrick Willis will pay instant dividends for your IDP leagues with Michael Lewis being a sleeper as long as they don’t drop him into coverage too much.

STL – The Rams were on a rollercoaster similar to what I described in the EAGLES season. They started so hot out of the Gate with Holt catching TD’s left and right and the offense clicking on all cylinders. Then after a week 6 game against the Seahawks, they seemed to go into hiding. Pace got hurt which severely hampered the passing game, but enabled Steven Jackson to lead all RB’s in receptions with 90. No Pace meant get rid of the ball quickly because there are Giant He-men looking to destroy you. They had a late season surge to make a push for the playoffs but fell just short. Bulger couldn’t get the ball down the field to Holt and Bruce because A. He didn’t have time and B. Bruce is not a downfield threat anymore. Thanks mostly to S-Jax taking dumps and turning them into big gains, along with short passing game to the WR’s, Bulger was able to top 4,000 yards for the first time in his career, while significantly lowering his interception rate that had more than annoyed fantasy owners in previous seasons. So, in the off-season they go out and get another downfield threat to compliment Holt in Drew Bennett, steal Randy McMichael away from the Dolphins to give Bulger something he hasn’t had in his time in a St Louis, a viable weapon at Tight End, which can only help the passing game. Also, draft pick Brian Leonard should be able to spell Jackson from time to time but mainly being an option on third down. The thing that will hold the Rams back this year will be their evident Achilles heal, the defense. Their DB’s are average at best which will put pressure on Defensive End Leonard Little, rookie versatile Defensive Tackle Adam Carriker and the rest of the D-line to get to the QB quickly or be picked apart by opposing Quarterbacks on a weekly basis. Witherspoon set a career high in tackles last season with 116 from the MLB spot, but he isn’t enough and cannot do it all for that LB crew. Being that the offense is so potent and the defense is going to be beaten, you can be sure that you will see a number of high scoring games where the Rams are involved. Jackson is the consensus #2 pick right now in fantasy, but just don’t expect 90 catches again this year, 60-70 seems more likely. Bulger is an elite QB, but unless your league is QB generous, doesn’t warrant more than a 3rd round pick at best. Holt is a top 5 WR, with Bruce and Bennett making an ok #2 and a solid # 3 Receiver on any fantasy team. If you are looking for an IDP player from this team, Little has always been a solid D-linemen, but as the IDP player knows, your points come from the LB’s and Witherspoon should rack up the points again.

TBB – If the rumors floating around that Daunte Culpepper is visiting Tampa have any merit, then Tampa could possible have 57 Quarterbacks on their roster by the time training camp commences. Plummer won’t come back, Sims can’t recover from a spleen-ectomy, and Gradowski just isn’t and NFL QB. Garcia is the starter for now, but he will be exposed. He may have led the EAGLES to several wins, but he was unspectacular to say the least in most of those games. Who will be the QB when Garcia struggles, no one knows. Hell, it could even end up being Luke McCown, LOL. On to the RB situation. For those of you that forgot, I told you to stay away from Caddy last year as his O-line was suspect at best and he was too high on himself thinking that he could do it all alone in this league. Those that listened to the Professor and hopped on the Steven Jackson train, I send congratulations, and for those that didn’t, well, if you are in a keeper league, you may not have gotten completely screwed. I view this year as a comeback year for the kid who was humbled a bit last season. He has put a lot of effort in learning how to be a better Receiver and while that may not help enormously in winning games in Tampa, it will assuredly earn extra points on your fantasy roster. I was, though, a bit befuddled with Tampa at the draft, only taking 2 players on the offensive side of the ball. They clearly have more faith in an aging and mediocre WR group than do I. Michael Clayton has put two bad years together after killing it in 2004. Galloway is due to have a season ending injury and although you aren’t supposed to factor injuries when giving an outlook, I feel that I have to with him. Really, until they figure out who there QB is and whether or not the O-line will start playing like an O-line will determine how far they go. With New Orleans still on top and Carolina much healthier and improved, The Buccs, unfortunately will be fighting with Atlanta for last place. Cadillac is a nice second back on your roster much in the same way that Chester Taylor was last year, but don’t reach for him. They have found Rice’s replacement with Gaines Adams, but one wonders if their kicker doesn’t make a 63 yard FG to beat the EAGLES, they could have Calvin Johnson and a much better outlook to this season.

TEN – The Titans took the NFL by storm with Vince Young taking over an 0-3 team and finishing 8-8 including a 6 game win streak. Sorry to say Titans fans, but that was an aberration. Vince Young may be exciting to watch, but a lot of his success was due to a good running game combined with his insane athletics. Now, fast forward to this season, with his #1 WR and #1 RB from a year ago both gone, things do not look very promising for the offense as a whole. All signs point to a Titans team that takes a step back. Even with some exciting wins last year, few teams produced less offense that the Titans and only Atlanta and Oakland had fewer passing yards per game. In the place of Drew Bennett and Travis Henry is David Givens, Brandon Jones, Roydell Williams and re-signed castoff Chris Brown to go with rookie Chris Henry and underachieving Lendale White. The receiving corps of the Titans is easily the worst in the league and the RB’s themselves leave a lot to be desired. The defensive story isn’t much better, if at all. Last year, they were last in yards given up and next to last in points allowed per game. Even though they did sign Nick Harper and used their #1 pick on Michael Griffin, the loss of playmaker Pacman Jones outshines those, even more considering the loss of a dangerous threat on special teams as well. From a fantasy point of view, Vince Young is your only real option out of the gate as his legs should be able to net you a few extra points each week. He would be a bit more sought-after if he had some proven weapons to throw to. Unfortunately he does not. Vince may be the future of the Tennessee organization, but it will take some time to accrue the pieces to enable him to put Vinsanity into effect.

WAS – If you wanted to learn how to not run a franchise, simply take a lesson from Daniel Snyder. The guy is all about now and never thinks about the future. He shells out a ton of money and draft picks for players not worth the price. Most recently Adam Archuleta, Andre Carter, and Brandon Lloyd have not given nearly as much as their salaries would lead you to believe. Coming into last season the Redskin hype machine was rolling along once again. Portis gets hurt in Preseason and my prediction about Brunell reaching the end of the line comes true. Sean Taylor is apart of more TD celebrations than most WR’s in the league, too bad for him it’s the opponent doing the celebrating. The offense has put everything on the shoulders of Offensive Coordinator Al Saunders and new QB Jesse Campbell. The problem there is the passing game has one play, quick hitch to Moss, they have to be more diverse and rely on the running game. With the Redskins giving so much money to Betts while already having Portis only means that they plan on running first then passing. If they stay true to that and allow Campbell to grow then things could turn around, but they won’t. The biggest problem the Redskins on defense last year was getting to the Quarterback, setting a franchise record low with 19 sacks. Now we all know the secondary was burned more than the witches in Salem, but that can mostly be blamed on the complete lack of pressure on the QB. So, what does Joe Gibbs say? He says that they need to strengthen the secondary. Huh? So they spend their only pick in the first four rounds of the draft on top Safety prospect Laron Landry who may contribute to getting burned but won’t be rushing the passer too often. It is that kind of lack of team management that will continue to hurt them as long as Daniel Snyder is running the show. I have already said that the Giants will be in last place, which puts the Skins third. The sad part for the Skins fans is that they could do things to get better or be in a better position and they just don’t.

This season will certainly be as interesting as any season I have seen and I am looking forward to it as much as you all are. Now that you have all been brought up to date on the State of the Franchises, you can march forth confidentially toward your fantasy drafts. The Professor will be back prior to week 1 of the new season to bring you your weekly syllabus to aid in your weekly journeys toward your quest for a fantasy championship

Don’t forget, Always go with your gut and don’t look back


1 comment:

schwa said...

I hope you are right about the Eagles winning the division or at least wild card. I would hate to see the Cowboys win the division.