Friday, August 31, 2007

Armchair GM

As some of you know I've been asked to start writing for a site called - which I assure you is not a huge deal because anybody can write for them at any time, all you have to do is sign up. However, the problem is that anybody can also edit anything that's posted on the site, which I'm very leery about. I'm afraid that I'm going to write something like, "Jay Cutler could have a monster game this week in Oakland," and someone is going to edit it to say, "Jay Cutler is a monster, he was killing kittens this week in Oakland." And maybe it's a little harsh of me to think that someone would do that, but it's troubling that someone could do that. So I'm asking people to check out the site and see what they think - and hey, if you feel the urge, sign up and start writing yourself.

I think I'll probably put one of my older posts up there this afternoon and see how it goes.

Artist of the Week

It's been a stagnant couple of weeks for music, I haven't really heard too many new people, never mind ones that I like. But don't worry, I've still got one or two up my sleeve.

This week's Artist is The Cliks. And if you like androgynous Canadian garage rock, this is the band for you. Actually, that makes it sound pretty bad - which its not. So check it out:

The Links

Thanks to everyone who sent in links over the past few weeks - you know who you are. The Links basically wouldn't exist without you, so keep them coming.

...Wow, this really takes you back doesn't it? I think I saw Ray Jauch and the Baltimore Stallions somewhere in there. The last time I saw Kevin was about 5 years ago - he was smoking a pipe in the old Danbury's. All class.

...This clip is one of the funniest things I've seen recently. I think it's a bad sign when a person can sum up our entire culture in a 4 minute song parody.

...If Marshawn Lynch can run like he can drive a hospital cart he might just win Rookie of the Year after all. Although early indications are he can't.

...And as if I needed another excuse to put the Dennis Green clip up again. "You play to win the game!"

...And then there's this - this clip is making the rounds all over the Internet right now. If you haven't seen Miss Teen South Carolina embarrass the entire Western world yet, check this out. Now after seeing that, can you really blame the terrorists for hating the West. After watching it I almost wanted to burn an effigy or two.

So there are your Links for this week. Keep 'em coming.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Thoughts on the So-Called "Rider Nation"

"And this also has been one of the dark places of the earth." - Marlow, Heart of Darkness

How many sports writers lead with a quote from Conrad? I would venture a guess and say not many. If you want to know why the Leader-Post is a sub-standard paper (see: the Holmes-coming lead in today's paper) or why Rod Black is neither enlightening nor clever, read Heart of Darkness.

But that quote has a more important meaning for us today than just to show that we shouldn't settle for the mediocrity that we currently find ourselves mired in. This quote is directed at every Saskatchewan Roughrider fan who calls a friend who is not a Rider fan to gloat about how well the team is doing. And it's directed at every fan who is flying that first place flag high and loud.

And this also has been one of the dark places of the earth.

Let us not forget that this team has not hosted a playoff game in nearly 2 decades, that's 20 years for everybody scoring at home. This team has not had a winning season in 4 years and has not been to a Grey Cup in 10 years. Oh, and they haven't won a Grey Cup since 1989. And not so long ago I believe there was a 3-15 season in there somewhere.

Now suddenly that the team is 6-2 there are many fans out there (not all, but many) who are taking great pleasure in berating the fans of teams that are not 6-2. How quickly we forget. It's one thing to be proud and support your team but take the high road and be a fan with a little class.

First of all, the Roughriders have not won anything yet. The season is not even half over. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that team is enjoying the success they are but all the Grey Cup talk is a little premature. They've never given out any awards for being in first place 4/9ths of the way through a season.

I realize that it's the nature of sports for fans to give one another a hard time about the other's team. But bear this in mind - every other team in the league has won a Grey Cup since the Roughriders last won in 1989. And yes that includes Hamilton. So the Roughriders do not have much of a leg to stand on as far as bragging rights go.

Let's actually win something in the modern era. Then maybe you can legitimately give the other fans in the CFL a hard time.

One other issue I have to raise is the usage of the phrase Rider Nation. When did this start? Was there a meeting that I wasn't invited to?

I have a sneaking suspicion that Rider Nation was cooked up by some producer at TSN who thought it would be a good idea to directly rip off the Red Sox Nation. That's the Boston Red Sox, not Regina Red Sox.

What happened to Rider Pride? Hadn't that been working pretty well for the last 50 years or so. Maybe it didn't have a high enough Q Rating.

Not that I think Rider Nation is a bad name for the Roughrider's fan base, I just think it's an embarrassing rip off. As I've apparently grown fond of saying - can't we do better than this?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

2007 Sports As Life NFL Preview Review

Ok, here it is - the last look forward at the upcoming NFL season, at least until I start picking games next week. I need a 3 day break from writing about this sport.

Anyway, here is a list of winners and losers you can expect in the NFL season:

Super Bowl Matchup: New England vs. Dallas
Super Bowl Champs: New England (now how's that for a reverse jinx)
Super Bowl MVP: Asante Samuel, CB - New England

League MVP: Tom Brady, QB - New England
Offensive Player of the Year: Anquan Boldin, WR - Arizona
Defensive Player of the Year: DeMarcus Ware, LB - Dallas
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Adrian Peterson, RB - Minnesota (I know there's a lot of talk about Marshawn Lynch in Buffalo right now, but I'm sticking with Peterson)
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Patrick Willis, LB - San Francisco (After playing half of a season with the 49ers in Madden '08 I don't see how Willis doesn't win this award)
Comeback Player of the Year: Donovan F. McNabb, QB - Philadelphia
Coach of the Year: Mike Nolan - San Francisco (Sexy sleeper pick: Ken Wisenhunt - Arizona)

First Coach to Lose His Job: Tom Coughlin - New York Giants (Out of left field sleeper pick: Jon Gruden - Tampa Bay)
Biggest First Round Draft Bust: Ted Ginn Jr., WR - Miami Dolphins (Honourable mention: JaMarcus Russell, QB - Oakland Raiders?)

Most Commercials by a Current NFL Star: Peyton Manning, 47
Most Commercials by a Former NFL Star: Tiki Barber, 62

Phil Simms Versus the English Language: the epic struggle continues

Ok - that's it, if you're not ready for the NFL season now, you never will be.

Monday, August 27, 2007

2007 Sports As Life NFL Preview - AFC Wrap-Up

Not much preamble today, we'll just get right to the meat of it....

However, I will say that I think I've probably overestimated the AFC North and underestimated the AFC East. So expect some differences there. Also I can't imagine that Pittsburgh is going to go 11-5, I have no confidence in that prediction at all. None.

I also want to say that it looks like I've found a new NFL arch-enemy in Brady Quinn. Through nobody's fault but the media's Quinn is now made out to be the second coming of Otto Graham and quite frankly I'm sick of hearing about him. So move over Tom Brady, there's a new #1 on my list.

And lastly, I think I've wildly underestimated the physical gifts and strength that Tennessee Titans' quarterback Vince Young has. Watching him in the preseason last week throwing the ball with 3 defenders draped all over him makes me re-think my prediction somewhat. Expect them to win more than 3 games simply because of Young, despite the total lack of talent around him.

Ok, enough with all are the AFC playoff match ups and breakdown. The 4 division winners are: San Diego at 13-3, Baltimore at 12-4, Indianapolis at 11-5 and New England at 13-3. Then the two Wild Card teams are: Cincinnati at 11-5 and Pittsburgh at 11-5.

So the playoff seeding looks like this:

1. New England - first seed based on the fact that they beat San Diego in the regular season
2. San Diego
3. Baltimore
4. Indianapolis
5. Cincinnati
6. Pittsburgh

And then the games are:

1st Round - Wild Card Games

Pittsburgh @ Baltimore - if Baltimore gets even a little offence this year they should win a playoff game. Winner: Baltimore

Cincinnati @ Indianapolis - even though Indy sort of beats the Super Bowl hangover and wins their division again (mostly by default), they succumb to a hungrier team. Winner: Cincinnati

2nd Round - Divisional Games

Cincinnati @ New England - as much as I hate to do it, I just can't see the Bengals' defence stopping the Patriots' offence. Winner: New England

Baltimore @ San Diego - San Diego just has too many weapons and probably finds a way to get past Baltimore's defence. Winner: San Diego

3rd Round - AFC Championship Game

San Diego @ New England - this is a rematch of last year's Divisional game in which the Patriots beat the Chargers in a game San Diego really should have won. The Chargers get their shot at a rematch this year, however this year it's in New January. Playing in San Diego probably doesn't prepare the Chargers for a game like this. So again, as much as I hate to do it...Winner: New England

And there it is, representing the AFC in the Super Bowl will once again be the New England Patriots. So look forward to another year of stories about how the Patriots think they don't get enough respect. I know I can't wait. Maybe I should start following bowling.......

Last but certainly not least, Madden 2008 is back with it's predictions for the upcoming NFL season. Now I should specify that the AFC predictions are based on the same simulation as last week's NFC predictions - so there is no foul play going on here.

AFC West

Denver..............Sports As Life: 10-6.........Madden: 12-4
Kansas City.........Sports As Life: 5-11.........Madden: 8-8
Oakland.............Sports As Life: 5-11.........Madden: 4-12
San Diego...........Sports As Life: 13-3.........Madden: 10-6

AFC North

Baltimore...........Sports As Life: 12-4.........Madden: 9-7
Cincinnati..........Sports As Life: 11-5..........Madden: 9-7
Cleveland...........Sports As Life: 3-13..........Madden: 6-10
Pittsburgh..........Sports As Life: 11-5..........Madden: 8-8

AFC South

Houston.............Sports As Life: 4-12.........Madden: 6-10
Indianapolis.........Sports As Life: 11-5........Madden: 8-8
Jacksonville.........Sports As Life: 8-8..........Madden: 6-10
Tennessee..........Sports As Life: 3-13.........Madden: 8-8

AFC East

Buffalo.............Sports As Life: 5-11.........Madden: 2-14
Miami..............Sports As Life: 6-10.........Madden: 13-3
New England......Sports As Life: 13-3.........Madden: 9-7
New York..........Sports As Life: 7-9..........Madden: 8-8

There you go - the game and I couldn't be farther apart I don't think. Quite a difference from the NFC where we were pretty close. I feel confident in saying that there's no way Miami is going 13-3 though. The Dolphins were Madden 2008's pick to go to the Super Bowl from the AFC. Well, at least we both agree on what division the AFC Champ is going to come from.

Tomorrow - the 2007 Sports As Life NFL Preview Review.

Monday Headlines


Timmy, for the sake of this country, you'd better hope so - 'cause Canada is sure not winning anything in basketball anytime soon. Now I'm not here to rag on the Canadian men's basketball players in the FIBA America's Championship, because I appreciate that they're out there trying hard every night. And Canada is ranked 16th in the world, which sounds pretty impressive until you look up the rankings and see that Angola is ranked 14th. In doing some research this morning, I found out that Basketball Canada is not federally funded - how is that possible? Every other sport in Canada gets some federal money but the national basketball team has to rely on Nike, Hilton Hotels and Molson. The federal government needs to get involved immediately. But not just with monetary sponsorship, we need to start a cloning program. Apparently the only way Steve Nash is going to play for Canada is if we make our own copy of him. Then the original Nash can play full-time in the NBA and the government's copy can play full-time for the National Team. I think this is the only solution to stopping 50 point losses to the U.S.


No Timmy, turns out we're not. The Rugby World Cup starts September 7th and unlike soccer, Canada can actually qualify for this World Cup. But the success probably ends there. The Canadian Team finds itself in a pool with: Wales and Fiji, both of whom are apparently better than Canada (ok, Wales I can see but Fiji - c'mon!), Japan, the team in the pool Canada can beat, and Australia, who will beat Canada so soundly it will be over in the first 10 minutes - anything less than a 60 point loss to the Aussies will be considered a win for Canada. I didn't bring this up just to rag on one of Canada's national teams again (see above) - I put it up because New Zealand is playing and is obviously one of the favorites, so it gives me an excuse to put up a clip of The Haka. Avid readers will know the only clip I love putting up more than The Haka, is Dennis Green - see how I just worked that in there?


In what can only be described as a sadly transparent attempt to capitalize financially on people's nostalgia for 1972, Canadian hockey players begin playing Russia today to "celebrate" the 35th anniversary of the 1972 Summit Series. Ok, first of all the 35th anniversary is ridiculously arbitrary. Is it important because it ends in a 5? Celebrating the 35th anniversary of an event is like celebrating a 3 month anniversary in a relationship - it just doesn't make any sense and doesn't really mean anything does it? And not only that, but it's junior hockey players that are playing to "celebrate" this anniversary. So not one of the players was actually alive when the original Series took place. And, depending on the age of some the players, their parents might not have even been alive in 1972. Don't be fooled by catchy tag-lines like, "Renewing the Rivalry" and other crap like that, this has nothing to do with history and everything to do with money.


By now it's fairly evident that the Regina Pats training camp was scheduled to coincide with the Saskatchewan Roughriders bye week so that the local media would have something to talk about. It's a good thing that the CFL season and the WHL season make up almost an entire calendar year, otherwise people around these parts would be lost. I'm also starting to think that Eric Tillman traded for Corey Holmes and pulled the plug on the lights at Taylor Field just so that his team would be in the news during their bye week.


First of all, it looks like I may not be able to watch Monday Night Football tonight because TSN is moving the game to their Alternate Feed (which I do not get, thank you very much SaskTel) so that the network can broadcast the first day of the U.S Open tennis tournament. To the marketing geniuses at TSN - thank you very much. Of course the most popular sport in North America should be preempted for the opening day of a tennis tournament that will last 3 weeks. Nobody actually watches Monday Night Football anyway, do they? But as if that wasn't enough, according to the network will show the best of Chris Benoit on Off The Record today. This has to be an obvious ratings grab by one of the worst shows on television (I've said for years that I want to see the ratings numbers TSN gets for Pardon the Interruption and Off the Record - to see how big of a drop-off there is from PTI to OTR). Should any network anywhere be giving air time to a man that killed his wife and son and then himself?

Friday, August 24, 2007

2007 Sports As Life NFL Preview - AFC East

We're foregoing The Links and Artist of the Week this week because there is one more divisional breakdown to do and I don't know if I can write any more than that - there is light at the end of the tunnel. Now I'm not saying that I bit off more than I could chew with the NFL Preview but 1,500-2,000 words a day is a ridiculous number of words. Next year I might have to farm some of this work out. Or I'll have to start writing it in May.

Buffalo Bills

"Nobody circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills!" screams Chris Berman every December without fail. It is as predictable as the phases of the moon. And this year will be no different as Buffalo will win 3 of their 5 December games. Too bad for the Bills that they'll only have 2 wins before that. In the off season the Bills traded unhappy superstar running back Willis McGahee - an unhappy NFL star, he must have been the first one ever - and are now going to go with first round draft pick Marshawn Lynch. There are some serious questions though about whether Lynch can handle the punishment of the AFC East after going to school at Cal and playing in the powder-puff soft PAC-10. So it remains to be seen whether he can last. J.P Losman might actually be a decent quarterback but you'd never know because he plays in Buffalo - not exactly a ringing endorsement of Buffalo's quarterback or their offence. On almost any other team in the league wide receiver Lee Evans is a potential Hall of Famer but he plays in Buffalo, so he's doomed to play with mediocrity for at least this portion of his career. Buffalo has had some strength on defence in recent season but they may see a drop-off this season. The Bills lost Takeo Spikes, London Fletcher and Nate Clements in the off-season, so it remains to be seen if the D is going to be as solid as it has in the past. With the offence that Buffalo has expect the defence to be on the field more than they should be. Oh, and I haven't even mentioned Buffalo's schedule yet - I don't know how a 7-9 team got stuck with this schedule but they got screwed, no way around it. Besides having to play New England, NY Jets and Miami twice each in the division, Buffalo also has to play: Pittsburgh, Denver, Dallas, Baltimore, Jacksonville, Washington and Philadelphia.

2007 Prediction: 5-11. Young quarterback, rookie running back, shaky offensive line, questionable defence = 5-11.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins haven't made the playoffs since 2001 and honestly it seems like a lot longer than that. They haven't won a playoff game since Dan Marino's last year in the league, 1999. Don't expect either of those two things to change this year. The Dolphins should be just good enough to not be embarrassing but not much more than that. Running back Ronnie Brown might not be as good as you think he is. He had a sub-par year last year and now his new head coach, Cam Cameron, is suggesting that Brown might not even be the best back on the team - Camerson suggested last week that journeyman Jesse Chatman might be the starter. This was probably a ploy to motivate Brown but at the very least it's troubling that the supposed #1 running back would need that kind of motivation. At quarterback the Dolphins are putting their hopes in 37-year old Trent Green, who played all of 8 games last year because of injury. If Green was 5 years younger this might have been a good move. Although wide receiver Chris Chambers must be excited because he finally has a quarterback with the ability to actually throw him the ball - after the last few years of Jay Fiedler, Joey Harrington, Daunte Culpepper and Cleo Lemon. The Dolphins do have reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Jason Taylor, who won because the league couldn't give the award to a steroid abuser (Shawne Merriman). But other than Taylor the Dolphins don't have a whole lot - Zack Thomas is a nice player but he's getting on in years and is nowhere near as effective as he once was. Miami does have a slightly easier schedule than Buffalo and they are a slightly better team, so their record will be slightly better.

2007 Prediction: 6-10. Which is where they were last year. If Miami can beat New England once this year - which they seem to be able to from time to time, the Dolphins will be 7-9.

New England Patriots

I hate the Patriots, pure and simple - I'm not going to sugar coat it. But unfortunately they might be the best team in the AFC and the whole league. I was thinking of trying to reverse-jinx them by saying how great they are and how they're a lock to win the Super Bowl but I'll try and be professional and actually tell it how it is. The truth is that there are a few questions about the Patroits running game. Right now the #1 guy is Laurence Maroney but he had a serious shoulder injury last season and nobody is really sure how healthy he actually is. Bad shoulders can be bad news for running backs. But if Maroney is healthy he has the potential and talent around him to be one of the best backs in the league. And then there's quarterback and dreamboat Tom Brady, who has won 3 Super Bowls already in his career and that was with a weak group of wide receivers. This year he has the supporting cast at receiver to be truly scary. In the off season the Patriots added Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte' Stallworth - giving New England threat's downfield and over the middle. The New England defence will probably still be the New England defence - smothering and confusing. They got even better by adding linebacker Adalius Thomas in the off season. However, #1 corner Asante Samuel is still holding out in a contract dispute, although it's reported that he is going to join the team soon. If Samuel does not come back, the Patroits could be a little exposed at cornerback. The Patriots have a reasonably difficult schedule (especially the second half) but if it was any easier they would probably run the table and go 16-0.

2007 Prediction: 13-3. They are the early favorites to win the Super Bowl and that's probably a fair assessment. There is no position on the team that has any weakness (if Samuel comes back). But being the early favorite is never a guarantee for anything, just ask Carolina.

New York Jets

The Jets might be in some trouble this year. Last season they took advantage of an easy schedule and caught some teams by surprise. This season will be a different story - the schedule is much harder and teams will be prepared for the Jets' no-huddle offence. Thomas Jones will be a significant improvement over Cedric Houston and Leon Washington in the backfield for the Jets. However, Jones was injured in training camp and there is some doubt as to whether or not he'll be 100% at the start of the season. An even bigger question than the health of Thomas Jones is what kind of quarterbacking the Jets are going to get from Chad Pennington. Pennington's arm is so bad he makes Jim Miller look like Dan Marino. Don't expect a lot of deep routes this year. The Jets do have a pair or serviceable receivers in Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery (they must pay by the letter in NY), however without a quarterback to throw the ball, their talents are going to be mightily underutilized. There are some talented players on the defensive side of the ball for the Jets, guys like Jonathan Vilma and first round pick Darrelle Revis. But the Jets D is going to be on the field and awful lot this year. NFL schedule makers gave the Jets a schedule worthy of a 10-6 team, however, they were such overachievers last year that it's going to be over their heads. So...

2007 Prediction: 7-9. Injury concerns at running back already, a suspect quarterback and a difficult schedule means a long season for Jets fans this year.

Aside from New England, I really don't see this being a high quality division this year. However, the divisional games are always entertaining as these teams have a long history of dislike for one another. That might be the only reason to watch some of them this year.

AFC East

New England.......13-3
NY Jets..............7-9

On Monday - the AFC Wrap-Up.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

2007 Sports As Life NFL Preview - AFC South

On a day when I wouldn't be surprised to see snow here in Regina, it seems like a good time to cover the sunny climes of the AFC South - although I doubt anyone ever accused Indianapolis of being a winter vacation spot, but they do play in a dome so it all evens out.

Houston Texans

Next time you see a Texans fan, and they're probably hard to find, ask them how they feel about picking Mario Williams first overall in the draft last year. Not only did people in Houston have to watch Reggie Bush run wild, Vince Young win the Rookie of the Year, but another Texan - DeMeco Ryans - won the Defensive Rookie of the Year. Now it's nice to have a ROY on your team but when it's not the #1 pick and you passed on two dynamic players, it's still gotta sting a little. At age 30 Ahman Green will be the Texans starting running back. Now Green is an above-average back but his best days are behind him. Backing him up will be Ron Dayne and Wali Lundy - two guys I wouldn't be prepared to go to war with. Gone are the days of QB David Carr laying flat on his back in Houston. The Texans brought in Atlanta's back-up Matt Schaub to be their new starting quarterback - a move I guaranteed the Falcons regret right now. However, unless the Texans also replaced their entire offensive line Schaub might not fare much better than Carr. Andre Johnson will give Schaub a viable go to receiver. But other than Johnson the Texans don't have a lot of strength at receiver - it's not a good situation when you're going to miss Eric Moulds at wide out. I would grade the Texans' defence as "Ok" - they might be on the field a lot though. Ryans and Williams should improve in their second seasons which will help out the D. Houston has a below-average schedule in terms of difficulty, unfortunately they're also a below-average team, so even those easy games aren't so easy to them.

2007 Prediction: 4-12. The have a quarterback who's never been a starter before, a 30 year old running back, one quality wide receiver and an offensive line that specializes in turnstile blocking.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts are the reigning Super Bowl champs but even without the usual Super Bowl hangover there are more than a few questions about them getting back to where they were last year. In the off season the Colts lost their starting left tackle, one of their starting running backs, one of their starting linebackers, one of their starting cornerbacks and both starting defensive tackles. That's an awful lot of holes to fill and people to replace. But the Colts still have a wealth of talent, especially on offence. Joseph Addai had pretty much taken the #1 running back spot from Dominic Rhodes by the end of last season, so there will be no drop off there. Addai has the potential to be one of the top backs in the league this year. At quarterback the Colts still have Peyton Manning - so probably enough said. Although because of Tarik Glenn retiring, the question of who is going to protect Manning's blindside is still unanswered. I probably don't have to say much about the Colts' wide receivers either, as Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne are both back. But the Colts want to run the ball more this year, so the receivers might see the ball less than in the past. Defence is going to be a huge question mark for Indy this season. The Colts were absolutely awful last year in the regular season against the run but they managed to suck it up on their run to the Super Bowl. With Cato June gone and Anthony McFarland out for the year, there might be huge holes up the middle of Indy's defence this year. Even though the Colts won the Super Bowl their schedule is not overly difficult, probably because they get to play Houston and Tennessee twice each.

2007 Prediction: 11-5. For a team that didn't have much defence at the best of times last year, losing personnel is not going to help them. This is one game down from last season and could be more if their D lets them down.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville is a mediocre team - I don't think there's any way around that. They have a good defence (their front 7 are great) and they have an ok offence - lots of potential but they've never been able to put everything together. In the backfield the Jaguars have Fred Taylor who is a tremendous talent but gets injured in a stiff breeze and Maurice Jones-Drew, who has been described as a human bowling ball, a human cannonball and a human tank - almost the exact opposite of Taylor. Quarterback Byron Leftwich has some talent and great size but he's got a very strange throwing motion and pocket presence worse than Drew Bledsoe - not a good thing, trust me. The Jags might have one of the better groups of young receivers in the league (aside from Dennis Northcutt), but they're just so inconsistent that we might never know. Jacksonville has a very, very strong D-line led by, possibly the most terrifying person in the world, John Henderson. He and Marcus Stroud are two of the best defensive tackles in the game, making it almost impossible to run up the middle on the Jaguars. Jacksonville has a schedule full of teams that they can run on, especially in their own division, which plays to their strength. Their passing game is probably the one thing holding them back from being a playoff team.

2007 Prediction: 8-8. How can you tell I didn't have much to say about Jacksonville?

Tennessee Titans

The Titans have real potential to be this year's big bust. There is so much hype and expectation surrounding this team, after Vince Young led them to an 8-8 record last year, that they seem primed to go up in smoke. However, last year Young had a serviceable receiver in Drew Bennett and an above average running back in Travis Henry. This year he has none of those things. The running back competition this year is between NFL journeymen in the making - Chris Brown, Chris Henry and LenDale White. Vince Young is a dynamic quarterback and is at his best when he's making plays with his feet. But despite his unorthodox throwing motion Young can get the ball down field as well. It's just too bad that he doesn't have anyone to throw to. I don't think it's a good sign when the Titans want their primary receivers to be their two tight ends, Bo Scaife and Ben Troupe. On defence the Titans lost Adam "Pacman" Jones, who is on a one year wrestling hiatus (suspension) - he scored 4 defensive and special teams touchdowns for the Titans last year. Their defence does have some solid players in Keith Bulluck and Kyle Vanden Bosch - but those two probably aren't enough to win the Titans any games. Tennessee is in the same boat has Houston - not an overly difficult schedule but not an overly good team.

2007 Prediction: 3-13. This year defences will figure out how to contain and stop Vince Young. He has little, if no, supporting cast so opposing teams can key solely on him.

And there you go - the AFC South returns to the way it should be: Houston and Tennessee being terrible, Jacksonville being just ok, and Indy being by far and away the class of the division.

AFC South


Tomorrow - the AFC East, the last divisional breakdown - hooray!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

2007 Sports As Life NFL Preview - AFC North

And on we trudge...

Baltimore Ravens

If Baltimore had even had a whisper of an offence in last year's playoff game against Indianapolis it might have been the Ravens going to the Super Bowl instead of the Colts. But they didn't and you all know the rest of that story. This year the offence should get a big boost from Willis McGahee coming over from Buffalo. McGahee should be a big upgrade over Jamal Lewis, who is just a shadow of his former self - although he's still pretty good in ESPN 2K5 Football whenever I play, clearly I need to upgrade my video game collection. The Ravens better hope that McGahee can take some pressure off quarterback Steve McNair, who at this point in his career is shakier than Lindsay Lohan's hands after a weekend in Vegas. If the Ravens had any quality receivers, other than tight end Todd Heap, it might help McNair - but they don't. But Baltimore is not about offence (luckily for them) - they're all about defence. If the U.S Government and Al-Qaeda/Iraqi insurgency somehow arranged to play a football game for control of the Middle East (which by the way, would probably be the pay per view event of the millennium. Are you telling me you wouldn't want to watch Chris McAllister cover Chemical Ali running a post?) with the winner seizing full control and the loser going quietly into the night, you better believe it would be the Baltimore defence that Uncle Sam would want on his squad. They are just downright scary - hard hitting and terrifying. The Ravens did lose linebacker Adalius Thomas in the off season but don't expect much of a drop off from last season. For a team that went 13-3 last year the Ravens have a schedule of only moderate difficulty, the second half is much harder than the first though.

2007 Prediction: 12-4. If the Ravens defence can be as productive as they were last season expect Baltimore to be right at the top of the division again. And with the addition of McGahee Baltimore might just have enough to go at least a step further in the playoffs.

Cincinnati Bengals

I think the best way to describe the Bengals is as "The Bizarro Ravens" - meaning that they're the exact opposite of Baltimore, all offence and no defence. But what an offence. Oh, and the Bengals also have about a dozen convicts on the team too. Cincinnati has one of the most underrated running games in the league, probably because it is so overshadowed by their potent passing game. Rudi Johnson rushed for over 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns last year but you almost never hear his name mentioned when people talk about the league's best backs. With quarterback Carson Palmer 100% recovered from his knee injury 2 years ago, the passing game could border on unstoppable at times this season. He has two of the game's best receivers in Chad "Ocho Cinco" Johnson and T.J Houshmandzadeh (yes I had to look up how to spell that). Third wide receiver Chris Henry is suspended for the first half of the season for drunk driving while wearing his own jersey, seriously who wears their own jersey. The Bengals are going to have problems on defence this year. The one hope they have is to get up on teams so quickly and by so much that it will make their opponents one dimensional. Despite having what looks like a difficult schedule at times, Cincinnati has some games that they can win - quite a few of them in fact.

2007 Prediction: 11-5. Quite honestly I have no faith in this prediction, it could easily end up being 3 games below what I'm saying here. The Bengals best chance for a good record is to outscore opponents by such a wide margin that defence won't matter. And they do have the offensive weapons to do that.

Cleveland Browns

Well since I have every other team in this division getting better, somebody had to get worse I suppose. Even though the Browns have 3 of my least favorite players in the league (actually they may be my 3 least favorite players in the league) in Brady Quinn, Kellen Winslow Jr, and Braylon Edwards, I'm not going to rip them out of spite. All the bad things I have to say about them are totally based in fact. It's going to be a totally warranted ripping. At running back the Browns boast former 2,000 yard rusher and federal prison inmate Jamal Lewis. While he's going to be an upgrade over last year's tackling dummy Reuben Droughns, opposing teams will be stacking the line of scrimmage because they don't fear Cleveland's "passing attack". And leading that "passing attack" will be future CFL-ers Charlie Fyre and Derek Anderson - and Brady Quinn, who does have the potential to be a good quarterback in a couple of years but let's just cool our jets on him a little bit right now ok people. And at receiver the Browns have Braylon Edwards, who by some accounts is one of the biggest jerks in the game. They also have wildly overrated tight end Kellen Winslow Jr, who by my account have never done much of anything in the NFL to warrant the kind of attention he gets. Cleveland may end up being the opposite of both Baltimore and Cincinnati - no offence or defence. I literally can't name on player on the Browns defence. Oh, no wait I can - Willie McGinest but the most complimentary thing you could say about him is that he's a little past his prime. It seems like Cleveland should have an easier schedule than they do. The tough part for them is that they have to play Baltimore, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh twice each.

2007 Prediction: 3-13. I just don't think there's any way around it.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers cleaned house in the off season and it's a clean slate to start the year. Former Head Coach Bill Cowher retired after last season and former Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt took a head coaching job in Arizona. So the Steelers start the year with new Head Coach Mike Tomlin, the Defensive Coordinator in Minnesota last year, and new Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians - Peyton Manning's first Quarterback's Coach in Indianapolis. This change should be just what Pittsburgh needs to get over last year's Super Bowl hangover. Fast Willie Parker will be Pittsburgh's go to guy on the ground this year and Arians wants to tailor the running game to Parker's strength's, namely speed, instead of the smash-mouth days of old. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hasn't been hit by a car in over a year and it's almost been a year since he had an appendix removed - so this season has to start better than last season did. Big Ben still has his security blanket in receiver Hines Ward and might just have a big-play threat in Santonio Holmes. Pittsburgh still likes to play defence too. Even though they lost the somewhat overrated Joey Porter in the off season, Pittsburgh is still going to be strong defensively. Like everyone else in this division Pittsburgh has a schedule of about medium difficulty.

2007 Prediction: 11-5. I have less faith in this prediction that I do in the Cincinnati one. 9-7 might be a little more realistic for the Steelers but looking down their schedule I counted 11 winnable games for them. So who knows.

This division might be one of the strongest in football this year - with the glaring exception of Cleveland. Or I could be really, really wrong about this whole thing. If you're gambling I would suggest staying away from this division this year.

AFC North


Tomorrow - the AFC South

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

2007 Sports As Life NFL Preview - AFC West

Ok, good day and welcome to Day 1 of the 2007 Sports As Life AFC Preview. A couple of quick things before we get down to business. First, some people are wondering why I haven't written about Saturday's Roughrider game and my reason is this - I think that was one of those games where a person had to be there to really understand the whole situation, so I'll leave it to those who were there. Also, I knew the Corey Holmes/coming home headline was just too good to pass up for someone around here - and it was your official Roughrider Blogger who went with "Welcome Holmes" - hilarious! And about Michael Vick - I am going to write something, as you may have heard he accepted a plea deal yesterday in his dogfighting conspiracy case, but I'm thinking early next week for that - as he's not in court until Monday so there really won't be any more information until then. Plus the AFC Preview is going to take up all my time this week.

Here we go with the AFC West...

Denver Broncos

The Jake Plummer era if officially over in Denver. This means no more wildly inaccurate throws and questionable decision making. Unfortunately it also means no more bad porno mustaches and flipping off the fans. So it's a toss up I suppose. The Broncos have been one of the strongest rushing teams in the league for the better part of a decade. However, this has less to do with the running backs they have and is more about their offensive line and the knee-destroying cut/zone-blocking system they use. The Broncos could basically take anybody from off the street and have them rush for 1,000 yards. This year's 1,000 yard rusher will be Travis Henry. If Henry is healthy by the regular season (he hurt his knee this week in a pre-season game) he has the potential to be a great back for Denver. The Broncos also have Mike Bell, who fantasy owners know steals most of the touchdowns from the #1 running back, whoever that might be. Since Jake Plummer is no longer in Denver, Jay Cutler is now the starting quarterback. Cutler has a laser rocket arm and is probably an upgrade to Plummer in most aspects except mobility. The Broncos actually pulled Plummer in favour of Cutler last season when they had a chance to make the playoffs. Of course they didn't make the playoffs but Cutler should be better this season with a full training camp as the starter. Javon Walker gives Cutler a go to receiver and Walker should now be 100% recovered from his knee surgery 2 years ago. Where the Broncos could be frightening this year is on defence, especially pass defence. Champ Bailey has been the top shut-down cornerback in the league for the past few seasons and now he is going to be paired with Dre' Bly on the other side of the field. How opposing teams are even going to throw on the Broncos remains to be seen. The Broncos have one of the easier schedules in the AFC which should help out the young QB Cutler.

2007 Prediction: 10-6. This is one game better than last season's 9-7 and if the Broncos can beat San Diego once this year or beat Pittsburgh at home they could have 11 wins or more. If Henry can stay healthy and if Cutler doesn't cost them any games the Broncos are going to be a solid team.

Kansas City Chiefs

It's hard to write about "your" team without being a big homer but I'm going to try and provide some objective insight. And here it is - Kansas City is going to be awful this year. How's that for objective? Under head coach Herm Edwards, running the ball has been the main focus, as he ran Larry Johnson into the ground last year - Johnson had 416 carries and 41 receptions, which is an absolutely ridiculous number of touches. Johnson had over 2,000 total yards and 19 touchdowns out of those touches but the problem is that LJ is holding out for a contract extension, which means he hasn't been in training camp or playing in the pre-season (Author's Note: As I was writing the Chiefs' breakdown this morning it was announced that Larry Johnson had finally signed an extension and practiced with the team today). So that leaves Priest Holmes, who hasn't played in 2 years and Michael Bennett *shudder* as the potential #1 running backs right now - and Holmes hasn't even practiced yet because of lingering injury concerns. Even if Johnson signs a new deal and ends his holdout don't expect this to solve the Chiefs' problems on the ground, with his 450 touches last year and close to 400 the year before, Johnson now has more miles on him than Jenna Jameson. Running backs with that kind of workload almost always decline soon after. And if the running game isn't going to be a strength for Kansas City it doesn't bode well for their quarterbacks. Brody Croyle and Damon Huard will be the stewards of the offence this year - they won't be asked to win games but will be asked to not lose them. I remember when quarterbacks were actually expected to make plays, not just take care of the football. Tight end Tony Gonzalez has declined somewhat in recent seasons but he's still Kansas City's #1 receiving target. The Chiefs don't have a lot of strength at wide receiver so Gonzalez will probably be their main threat. Kansas City should have a solid defence though, especially when Jared Allen returns from his 4 game suspension. Even if Kansas City was fielding a quality, well-rounded team this season their schedule is such that a drop-off from last season would have been expected. There doesn't appear to be too many winnable game for the Chiefs this year.

2007 Prediction: 5-11. That's a 4 game drop from last season. The Chiefs lost another member of their once-dominant offensive line in the off season (Will Shields). Add that to the shaky running back situation, the inexperience at quarterback and the lack of depth at wide receiver and it looks like Kansas City's powerful offence is a thing of the past. They do have the defence to win some games - not many though.

Oakland Raiders

Finishing with a record of 2-14 last year, there is really nowhere for the Raiders to go but up. There is some optimism for the team this year with a solid defence, the #1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell (of course he hasn't signed and hasn't taken a snap yet) and team got rid of human punchline Art Shell at head coach and replaced him with the up and coming Lane Kiffin. If the Raiders can get any production from their offensive line, and I mean any production - offensive tackle Robert Gallery has to be the worst player in the league at any position - the Raiders have the running backs to do some damage on the ground, in LaMont Jordan and Dominic Rhodes. The quarterbacking situation is a little murkier than the running back situation. First overall pick JaMarcus Russell still hasn't signed and probably wouldn't have been a starter until late in the season anyway, if not until next year. So that leaves newly acquired Daunte Culpepper, who has looked both awful and great in his pre-season action, Josh McCown and the widely reviled Andrew Walter - who should be on his way out of town soon, if he isn't found floating in the bay that is. Culpepper will probably end up starting the season if he can stay productive and healthy - having had major knee surgery 2 years ago. Of course with that offensive line he might not have time to throw the ball anyway. The loss of Randy Moss at wide receiver doesn't really hurt the Raiders too badly as he was a total bust in his 2 seasons in Oakland, of course he didn't really have anyone to throw him the ball. Now that Jerry Porter's arch enemy, Art Shell, is gone he might actually get back on the field again and give whoever is quarterbacking a decent deep threat. The Raiders defence is solid but a little over-rated after last season, especially the pass defence. Opposing teams got up so quickly on the Raiders that they really had no reason to throw the ball - which helped Oakland's stats. The Raiders do have some very winnable games on their schedule and there is potential for some serious improvement on last season.

2007 Prediction: 5-11. Doesn't seem all that great but it is a 3 game improvement over last season. If the Raiders can surprise a few teams, especially Detroit on opening day, they could get to 6 or 7 wins.

San Diego Chargers

Having parted ways with ultra-conservative but always successful (at least in the regular season) head coach Marty Schottenheimer in the off season, the Chargers hired slightly less conservative and almost never successful head coach Norv Turner (career head coaching record 58-82-1). However, Turner has always been a successful Offensive Co-ordinator, winning Super Bowls in Dallas and helping to turn around San Francisco the last few years. His head coaching record is pretty ugly but he should help to make a very good offensive team even better - or he might just kill them. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson is the best player in the league hands down. He runs for touchdowns, catches them and even throws a couple every year. LDT has had a lot of carries the last few years, so he might have a slightly reduced workload as he has the best backup in the league, Michael Turner, but he'll still be the Chargers go to guy. Quarterback Phillip Rivers is going to face some tough defences in his second year but he has Tomlinson standing in the backfield with him on most plays, so that will take the pressure off. If Rivers is forced to throw the ball he does have some talented options. Tight end Antonio Gates is an incredible athlete and cannot be covered by a linebacker alone. Wide receiver Vincent Jackson is entering his third year, which is usually the breakout year for wide outs - so I would expect to hear his name quite a lot this season. Pressure, pressure, pressure is what the Chargers' defence is all about. They were tops in the league in sacks last year, led by cheater/steroid abuser Shawne Merriman. Expect more of the same. San Diego does have a fairly difficult schedule, as you would expect after they went 14-2 last year. But they do have that talent to win a lot of those difficult games.

2007 Prediction: 13-3. That's a one game drop off from last year. The Chargers are going to have a bulls eye on their back all year plus Norv Turner might cost them a game - hence the drop from last season. I have those 3 losses being: at New England, at Denver, and Indianapolis at home. The Chargers have always played Indy tough, so they could end up at 14-2 again.

So that's the AFC West - probably not going to be a real competitive division this year in terms of win/loss records. But this is always an exciting division to watch because the teams hate each other so much that the divisional games are always entertaining and hard hitting.

AFC West

Kansas City....5-11
San Diego......13-3

Tomorrow - the AFC North.

Monday, August 20, 2007

2007 Sports As Life NFL Preview - NFC Wrap-up

Ok, I have a few quick things to say about my NFC predictions and the we'll get to the the NFC playoff match ups. And then as a special treat, we're going to have NFL legend John Madden give us NFC predictions for the upcoming season as well.

First of all I wanted to say that I wildly over-estimated the team that Kansas City is going to have this year. So I'm going to give Chicago an extra win because I originally had them losing to Kansas City. So the prediction for the Bears is now 9-7.

Also after seeing Washington's defence play against the Steelers, I may have wildly under-estimated them. If Jason Campbell's knee is alright and he doesn't lose games for them, they actually have a chance to be good. Of course it was pre-season, so who knows.

I am so glad that I picked Minnesota's Adrian Peterson to be the Offensive Rookie of the Year on Wednesday, so I can't be accused of being a bandwagon jumper. After seeing Peterson run against the New York Jets on Friday night, I'm more confident than ever in my prediction. And even if he doesn't win, I love a running back who goes out of his way to hit a defensive player before he goes out of bounds - which is what Peterson did against the Jets.

One last item that I wanted to put up. It's related to what I posted early today about Cleveland's Brady Quinn (not in the NFC I know) being seriously over-hyped after his first quarter of action - however, I didn't get this little tidbit until after I'd already posted the Headlines. I wanted to put this up just to show that I'm not the only one who's taking Quinn's performance with a grain of salt. Thanks to Cooper and his satellite radio, we're pleased to share Steve Czaban's thoughts on Quinn with you - "What a great job he did coming in when they were down 23-0 and throwing 2 TD's against the future FedEx drivers of America." See, it's not just me.

Ok, on to the NFC playoff match ups and breakdown. The 4 division winners are: St. Louis at 10-6, Chicago at 9-7, New Orleans at 11-5, and Dallas at 11-5. The final 2 wild card spots are a little tougher to determine as I have San Francisco, Seattle, Carolina and Philadelphia all going 9-7. And since I have no idea what convoluted tie-breaking system the NFL uses, for the sake of argument I'm just going to say it's San Francisco and Carolina that make the playoffs out of that group.

So... here is the playoff seeding, the 4 Division Champs and 2 Wild Card teams, and who is going to play who:

1. New Orleans - first round bye and home field advantage through the playoffs.
2. Dallas - first round bye and home field in the second round.
3. St. Louis - home playoff game in first round, plays lower ranked Wild Card team.
4. Chicago - home playoff game in first round, plays higher ranked Wild Card team.
5. Carolina - on the road in first round against Division Winner with worst record.
6. San Francisco - on the road in first round against Division Winner with 2nd worst record.

The games then shape up like this:

1st Round - Wild Card Games

San Francisco @ St. Louis - for some reason I think this is actually a game San Francisco could win, so just for the heck of it I'm going to put them through. Winner: San Francisco

Carolina @ Chicago - I think Chicago will have learned their lesson from 2 years ago and figured out how to beat Carolina in the playoffs. Winner: Chicago

2nd Round - Divisional Games

San Francisco @ New Orleans - Cinderella only gets so long before that clock strikes midnight. Winner: New Orleans

Chicago @ Dallas - Chicago just doesn't have the magic to make it as far as they did last year. Winner: Dallas

3rd Round - NFC Championship Game

Dallas @ New Orleans - this is based on the fact that New Orleans will get the top ranking due to some tie-breaking formula. When I started the NFC breakdown last week my early pick for NFC Champion was New Orleans but I don't know if they can overcome Dallas. The Cowboys have the defence to keep the Saints in check. And the Saints probably don't have the defence to stop what should be a pretty good Cowboys' offence. Winner: Dallas

So there you have it, this year's NFC representative in the Super Bowl will be the Dallas Cowboys... I just wouldn't bet on it if I were you.

Alright, I may have stretched the truth a little when I said John Madden would be making his NFC predictions on Sports As Life. Actually it's going to be Madden 2008 making the predictions for us - I should make that distinction before I get sued through the nose. I thought it would be interesting though to see how my predictions match up to what the video game thinks is going to happen this upcoming season. Then at the end of the year we can see was closer to what actually happened. So thanks to Tim for running the simulation and making the necessary roster adjustments.


Arizona..............Sports As Life: 6-10...Madden 2008: 5-11
St. Louis............Sports As Life: 10-6...Madden 2008: 8-8
San Francisco......Sports As Life: 9-7.....Madden 2008: 7-9
Seattle...............Sports As Life: 9-7.....Madden 2008: 12-4


Chicago........Sports As Life: 9-7.....Madden 2008: 9-7
Detroit.........Sports As Life: 4-12...Madden 2008: 5-11
Green Bay.....Sports As Life: 5-11...Madden 2008: 5-11
Minnesota.....Sports As Life: 6-10...Madden 2008: 7-9


Atlanta..............Sports As Life: 6-10...Madden 2008: 8-8
Carolina............Sports As Life: 9-7.....Madden 2008: 8-8
New Orleans........Sports As Life: 11-5...Madden 2008: 12-4
Tampa Bay.........Sports As Life: 6-10...Madden 2008: 8-8


Dallas.............Sports As Life: 11-5....Madden 2008: 7-9
New York.........Sports As Life: 6-10...Madden 2008: 7-9
Philadelphia......Sports As Life: 9-7.....Madden 2008: 11-5
Washington......Sports As Life: 7-9.....Madden 2008: 11-5

So there you have it, the video game and I have both spoken. And it was quite a bit closer than I expected - with the glaring exception of Seattle, Dallas and Washington. And the game has New Orleans going to the Super Bowl. I'm not sure if being that close to a computer simulation is a good thing or a bad thing. I suppose only time will tell.

Tomorrow we start the AFC with the AFC West.

Monday Headlines

CBC Keeps Pace With TSN

Not to be outdone by the gong-show that is TSN's CFL coverage, after Saturday night's lightning delay was done here in Regina CBC decided to put the game back on the air only in Saskatchewan. I don't know how many people in Salmon Arm were clamouring to see The Good Theif with Nick Nolte but they were not disappointed. Everybody who might have wanted to see the end of an entertaining football game was left high and dry. And as far as I know, Nick Nolte is not a quality cure for disappointment.

Brady Quinn Will Cure Cancer - And Find Your Lost Puppy

Oh, and he might also be the best quarterback to ever play in the NFL...That was kind of hype being given to 1st round draft pick Brady Quinn after he played his first pre-season game for the Cleveland Browns on Saturday. Don't get me wrong, his numbers - 13 of 20 passing for 155 yards and 2 touchdowns - are pretty impressive. But - and that's a big but - look at what he was playing against. First of all it was the Detroit Lions. And not only that but Quinn came in halfway through the 4th quarter, so he was playing against Detroit's 3rd and 4th string guys. That's hardly a test of football. But in the words of my man Dennis Green, "If you want to crown him, then go ahead and crown him!"

Holmes Comes Home

I'm shocked and a little bit disappointed that this wasn't the headline from the Leader-Post's article about the Corey Holmes trade. They did try to make up for it with the first line of the story, "Corey Holmes is coming home." A headline like that just seemed to be right in their wheelhouse - they could have knocked it right out of the park. Maybe this one was just too obvious - although that's never been a problem before.

Prairie What?...Fire?

Ok, I'm being sarcastic, you got me. But that's the first time I swear. The truth is I know there's a rugby team in Regina called the Prairie Fire. What I didn't know is that they went through the season undefeated this year. They also won the national championship this weekend, after losing the championship game the last two years. This year's final game was also in Regina, were you aware of it? Who knew?

Friday, August 17, 2007

2007 Sports As Life NFL Preview - NFC East

I'm not going to lie to you - I'll be glad when we're done with the NFC today, it's definitely the ugly step-sister of the two NFL Conferences. Troubling too was the fact that the Leader-Post ran a headline today calling the Indianapolis Colts the Baltimore Colts - go see for yourself. I'm also crushed that Jenna Bush is off the market - so that might affect today's analysis.

Dallas Cowboys

Somehow Dallas managed a 9-7 record last year with a coach who phoned in the entire year, Terrell Owens having a broken finger and Drew Bledsoe killing the team for a third of the year. They were also a botched field goal away from going to the second round of the playoffs. This year it's a clean slate with a new coach (Wade Phillips), new offensive co-ordinator (Jason Garrett) and a healthy T.O. The Cowboys should be strong on the ground again with Julius Jones doing most of the work and Marion Barber III coming in to score touchdowns - driving Fantasy owners insane again. Quarterback Tony Romo should have a great year, with a full training camp as the designated number one quarterback under his belt. He seems to have a great rapport with his offensive co-ordinator and as good of a relationship as a quarterback can have with Terrell Owens. If T.O's broken finger is fully healed he shouldn't drop near as many passes as he did last year - it was pretty appalling actually. Terry Glenn is a nice option as the #2 wide receiver and although tight end Jason Witten seems to have regressed, or at least not lived up to expectations, he is still a decent player. Dallas has some serious strength on defence though and the addition of the defensive-minded Wade Phillips is only going to make them stronger. Expect them to be in the top 5 or 6 defenses this year - if only their safeties didn't give up the long pass quite so often. Dallas does have to play 6 of their games in the bruising NFC East but other than that their schedule isn't too bad - they have one tough home game against New England and one tough game on the road in Chicago.

2007 Prediction: 11-5. I don't think that's too much of a stretch when you consider they went 9-7 last year with Bledsoe killing them in a couple early games. I have a really good feeling about the Romo-Owens combination for some reason - which probably means they're going to be a bust. But as of right now I'm optimistic.

New York Giants

There's trouble brewing for the New York Football Giants this year. No Tiki Barber, no Michael Strahan (at least not yet), no healthy Plaxico Burress (at least not yet) and no left tackle. Oh and did I mention that they have a starting quarterback who's first name is Elisha Manning? Seriously, did you know that Eli was short for Elisha?? I just assumed it was Elija or something. Because they lost Tiki Barber to retirement in the off season, the Giants have decided that Brandon Jacobs and Reuben Droughns (yes he apparently still plays football) are going to be their running backs this season. Jacobs had 96 carries last year, most of them short yardage, and now as the feature back he might be asked to carry the ball close to 300 times. Don't expect this adjustment to be a smooth one. The Giants have a quarterback named Elisha - I think that speaks for itself. Although it also doesn't bode well that the Giants really wanted Manning to work on his bad attitude and on-field demeanor. Here's a great line from DJ Gallo of, "Giants coaches say they are encouraged that Eli Manning is now wearing Pampers Cruisers, designed for the active baby," (you can read all of Gallo's article here). And the receivers that Manning is supposed to throw to are Plaxico Burress - who has been hampered by an ankle injury and probably won't be 100% by the start of the season, Amani Toomer - who was great, like 7 years ago, and Jeremey Shockey - who has to be one of the most overrated players in the NFL today. On defence the Giants lost their leader, Michael Strahan, at least it looks like he's retired right now anyway, and there doesn't seem to be anybody to replace him. The first half of the Giants schedule is pretty soft including their game in London against Miami - but their last 6 games are against Minnesota, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, Buffalo and New England.

2007 Prediction: 6-10. The Giants might get lucky and get to 7-9 but I wouldn't bet on it. Relying on a quarterback with shaky leadership to be your offensive leader might not have been the best course of action for New York.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles' season is going to come down to one thing - Donovan McNabb's health. If McNabb is 100% healthy, which he probably isn't after tearing his ACL las year, and can stay healthy the Eagles have a reasonable shot at winning the division. But that's a big if, probably too big as McNabb hasn't finished either of the last two season and conventional wisdom is that it takes two years to fully recover from ACL surgery - unless you're Daunte Culpepper, and then you never do. However, the Eagles do still have Brian Westbrook in the backfield and he's always a threat to do some damage but I don't think a year goes by that he doesn't slightly injure his ankles. Westbrook is also a threat as a receiver, which is good because Philly doesn't have much depth there. Reggie Brown is primed for a breakout year and tight end L.J Smith is solid - but beyond that there isn't much of anything. And it remains to be seen who is throwing to the receivers anyway. If McNabb had stayed healthy last year he may have been the MVP of the league but injuries might be starting to take their toll. If he goes down again, the Eagles are in big trouble. The Philly defence does have the potential to be scary this year - if they can stay healthy, a recurring theme for the Eagles it seems. There aren't too many spring chickens on the Eagles D, as Jevon Kearse, Brian Dawkins, Jeremiah Trotter and Takeo Spikes are getting up there in age. This defence is designed to apply some serious pressure and cause turnovers - if they can do those things, the Eagles defence can keep them in - or even win some games for the team. Philadelphia's schedule is maybe a little above average in difficulty but they definitely have some winnable games.

2007 Prediction: 9-7. This prediction is totally based on Donovan McNabb staying healthy and playing at about 75%. If he can't play at that level or gets hurt again and A.J Feely or Kevin Kolb take over that offence, expect those wins to go way down. But, if McNabb is fully recovered and gets back to where he was last season and stays there all year, the Eagles could easily win 10 or 11 games.

Washington Redskins

To say that head coach Joe Gibbs' return to the Redskins has been less than successful might be this year's winner for the Most Obvious NFL Insight Award. The once-iconic coach has had disappointing results so far in his second stint with Washington. And this year might not be any different. Clinton Portis should be one of the premier running backs in the league but I can't remember a season in recent years when he wasn't out with an injury. And now this year he already has knee tendinitis and a swollen knee. His back-up, Ladell Betts had over 1,000 yards last year but isn't the game breaker that Portis is. At quarterback the Redskins are putting their hopes in second year player Jason Campbell. While he may be young and inexperienced, he is a sizable upgrade over Mark Brunell, who I think is 70. Speedster Santana Moss and tight end Chris Cooley provide great receiving options for Campbell - and if Antwaan Randle El can get back to where he was in Pittsburgh, he makes for a solid third option as well. The problems for Washington might come on defence, which you might not expect. If I had to pick two words to describe Washington's defensive line, they would be "garden variety" - ok, I admit it, that's a Family Guy joke. The Redskins do have two monster hitters at safety though. Sean Taylor and LaRon Landry might be responsible for the first on-field death in the modern era - less likely if Taylor leaves his guns at home. Like everyone else in the NFC East, the Redskins have to play the East 6 times, which can be punishing - other than that their schedule does look difficult at times, but not overly so.

2007 Prediction: 7-9. Originally this was 6-10 but the more I thought about their team, the more wins I gave them. Washington probably doesn't have enough to win the division or make the playoffs but they could potentially win as many as 9 games if their defensive line and linebackers produce at all.

So there you have the NFC East, traditionally one of the most competitive and hardest hitting divisions in the NFL and this year shouldn't be any different. The Super Bowl representative from the NFC might not come out of the East but they should have a team in the NFC Championship game.

NFC East

New York.......6-10

The Links

As upset as I am with the Regina Folk Festival (and oh yes, I still am - all is not forgiven), there were some pretty good moments - and there are even some videos. So this week's Links are Regina Folk Fest video's.

...It's really too bad that this isn't a full clip - because A) 'Try' is my favorite Blue Rodeo song and B) this was a pretty phenomenal version, even if Sara Slean did F up the words a little bit.

...Here is Amy Millan with Blue Rodeo doing a song Leadbelly put on the map - although most people know the Nirvana version. Those I was with thought she had a couple cocktails in her at this point in the show.

...Clearly there is a pattern forming here - here's Blue Rodeo letting the crowd sing the first bits of Hasn't Hit Me Yet.

...One last Blue Rodeo clip (it was a truly great show), with Sara Slean again - doing a Tom Waits cover.

...Here's the guy that always steals the show in my opinion - Buck 65.

...This is a clip from a couple years ago, the 2005 Folk Fest to be exact. I'm putting it up because he's a friend of a friend and he'll be performing at next year's Folk Fest - so I'm starting an early buzz.

Artist of the Week

There is no specific artist this week. Instead I want to bring up an occurrence that is so baffling I'm not sure what to do about it. The situation is this - over the next 3-4 months there are a staggering number of great concerts coming to Regina. It's like the perfect storm of concert tours, all converging at once on Regina. We may never see anything like this again. Here's the list:

September 26th - Chris Cornell
October 1st - Tegan and Sara
October 16th - Final Fantasy
October 21st - Sum 41/Finger 11 (for those that yearn for the good old days of 2001)
October 21st - The Sadies (for those that want to hear 135 songs in 75 minutes)
November 23rd - Stars

Now I realize that's only 6 shows but for a concert scene that has been pretty barren lately, that's a pretty good couple of months.

We should also see a Weakerthans show in November or December. The wildly underrated Buck 65 has a new album coming out and should be through in the fall. And there are also rumours of a Matthew Good show at the University in November, although nothing has been announced yet.

So enjoy the next couple of months - these shows might have to tide you over for awhile.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

2007 Sports As Life NFL Preview - NFC South

Don't look now, there might actually be a quality football team or two in this division. Today we delve into the Dirty South.

Atlanta Falcons

With the dog fighting circus (doesn't that sound like a good time) that has been plaguing the Falcons most of the off-season, this year could go one of two ways. Either the Falcons will rally around their fallen leader, Michael Vick, and do better than people expect. Or they will fold like a cheap suit. It might be a tough call until you realize that without Vick, the Falcons' starting quarterback is Joey Harrington - don't send in that deposit for playoff tickets just yet. The Falcons should still be able to run the ball this year, as they've been at or near the top of the league in rushing the past few seasons. Last year's starter Warrick Dunn is now expected to be back from injury in time for the regular season and last year's back up, Jerious Norwood will probably split carries with Dunn. Sounds like a good start - but wait, the Falcons quarterback is still Joey Harrington. Unless new head coach Bobby Petrino can somehow turn Harrington into the quarterback he was supposed to be - it's going to be a long season in Atlanta. And even if Harrington could throw the ball, who does he throw it to? Joe Horn as a #1 wide receiver? Horn was washed up 3 years ago and now he's supposed to be Atlanta's go-to guy. The only solid receiving option the Falcons have had in the last 5 years has been tight end Alge Crumpler - and he's got injury problems right now and might not be 100% by the start of the regular season. The Falcons have been pretty solid on defence the past few seasons and should be alright again. They did lose defensive end Patrick Kerney and need other defensive end John Abraham to actually play a couple games this season. The Falcons don't really have a difficult schedule this year but they don't have an easy schedule either - it's somewhere in the middle, which is exactly where the Falcons will be, or even a little bit below that.

2007 Prediction: 6-10. That's one game down from last season and in the end it might end up being a lot more than one game. Thankfully the Falcons should still be able to run the ball or their record might be a lot worse. Some people think the Falcons are going to be much better off without Vick but Harrington was so bad that Detroit didn't even want him as their starting quarterback.

Carolina Panthers

It just doesn't pay to be the pre-season Super Bowl darling these days - so watch out New England. Picked by many people to win the Super Bowl before last season, the Panthers ended up going 8-8 and missing the playoffs. Mostly due to the fact that they were terrible on offence, which meant the defence was on the field way too much. This year the Panthers are going to use one of those Fantasy Football killing running back tandems that seems to be so popular these days - with DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams probably splitting time, at least to start the year. Neither one is a superstar but both should be effective on the ground. The real question mark is at quarterback - can Jake Delhomme bounce back after a terrible season last year? If he can and he returns to the way the form he showed a couple years ago the Panters could be the team to beat in this division. Honestly, I'm not convinced - and apparently neither are the Panters as they brought in high-priced David Carr to be Delhomme's back-up. If one of the Panthers' quarterbacks can get the ball to the receivers, Carolina has the talent to do some damage. They still have Steve Smith, who I think is the most exciting receiver in the league. The Panthers did let Keyshawn Johnson go, but drafted Dwayne Jarrett in the 2nd Round to replace him. The Carolina defence should be strong - they'll hopefully be on the field less than they were last year. Plus they have one of the premier pass-rushers in the league in Julius Peppers. The Panthers has also been blessed with a very easy schedule this year. They don't really have any difficult road games, besides having to play in New Orleans, as two of their toughest games - against Indianapolis and Dallas - are at home.

2007 Prediction: 9-7. That's one game better than last season. However, if Delhomme can turn his play around or if Carr comes in and plays well, the Panthers could be a couple games better than that. If they can beat New Orleans once this year and win in Tampa Bay in their last game of the season, Carolina could be 11-5.

New Orleans Saints

Because of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, you were not allowed to cheer against the Saints last year as they made their return to New Orleans - in the United States it was considered an act of treason. But this year I think you can go back to cheering against them without being labelled a bad person. Not that there's any particular reason to root against them - but if you feel the need, go right ahead. It's probably no big surprise that the Saints use the tandem running back approach that is sweeping the league and putting most Fantasy owners on suicide watch. What sets the Saints apart is that both of their running back are potential Pro Bowlers - Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush. Bush doesn't actually get all that many carries but he catches a lot of balls out of the back field and even lines up outside as a receiver. This could be his breakout year. At quarterback the Saints have Drew Brees, who everybody wrote off before the beginning of last season when he was coming off shoulder surgery (and didn't have a strong arm to begin with). But Brees ended up leading the Saints to the NFC Championship game and made the Pro Bowl - I wouldn't expect anything less this year. If you count Reggie Bush as a receiver, the Saints have a pretty dynamic duo - in Bush and Marques Colston, the guy who probably should have been the Offensive Rookie of the Year last season. The problem with New Orleans is defence - mainly the fact that they don't have one. If the Saints' defence can even be average and not lose many games for them, they have a chance to be really good this year. And for a team that went to the NFC Championship last year, by my estimation the Saints have a schedule that is below-average in difficulty.

2007 Prediction: 11-5. The Saints have a few winnable games on the road (at San Francisco, at Carolina) and a home game in December against Philadelphia. If New Orleans can win one or more of those games they could be 12-4 or 13-3.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Thus begins the tale of the most overrated coach in the NFL today - Tampa Bay's Jon Gruden. Gruden inherited an immensely talented team from Tony Dungy in 2002 and promptly won the Super Bowl. In the 4 seasons since 2002, Tampa's record is 27 wins and 37 losses - not exactly what you would call a stellar record from a coach dubbed, "The Boy Genius" - I don't actually know if that's his nickname or not, but I'm sure I've heard him referred to as that. Anyway... Tampa is going to have basically the same running game they've had for the last two years. It remains to be seen whether Cadillac Williams will be in his Rookie of the Year form or last year's less than impressive form, in which defenses only had to stop him in order to beat Tampa. Mike Alstott is injured once again and done for the year - and probably for life, which is a real shame because watching him bust skulls was always great fun. This year Tampa boasts Jeff Garcia at quarterback, which normally wouldn't be something to boast about until you remember that Tampa's quarterback's last year were Chris Simms and Bruce Gradkowski. So while that's an upgrade - it's not by much. There is also the problem of who Garcia is going to throw the ball to. Michael Clayton has been a big time bust since his rookie season and Joey Galloway isn't much to write home about anymore. The Buccaneer's strength has long been on defence. But they have done little, if nothing, in recent years to upgrade a defence that has gotten very old, very fast. They are a shadow of the monster defences that Tampa used to have in the early 2000's. About the only thing working in Tampa Bay's favour this year is their easy schedule. It is one of the easiest in the league and they'll get some wins just because of it's weakness.

2007 Prediction: 6-10. Up two wins from last year's 4-12. They're still a one trick pony with the running game, although Garcia is an upgrade compared to what they had last year. Their defence scares nobody anymore.

Well things got a little bit better for the NFC in this division but it looks to be shaping up as the weaker conference again this year - by a wide margin. New Orleans, if they can get a little bit of defence and stay healthy, has a good chance of getting back to the NFC title game and going a step further this year. Carolina might not have the talent to get quite that far but there should be some improvement there this year.

NFC South

New Orleans.....11-5
Tampa Bay.......6-10

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

2007 Sports As Life NFL Preview - NFC North

Yikes, and you thought the NFC West was a lame duck division - just wait until we get done with the NFC North today. First team to .500 wins the division.

Chicago Bears

There is almost always a Super Bowl hangover for teams that played in it the previous year - this can be true for both the winner and loser. As the loser in last year's Super Bowl Chicago is going to be feeling that hangover pretty hard this year. But that may have less to do with the hangover and more to do with the fact that they may not have been that good in the first place. This is the year Chicago shows its true colours. First of all running back Cedric Benson is a step down from Thomas Jones, the starter last year - Jones is underrated by most people and Benson is overrated by most people. Probably not a good sign when Benson's own teammates, by some accounts, don't even like him. Benson is also going to have twice as many carries this year as he has ever had in his career - that work load is going to take a serious toll on someone who's a little injury prone at the best of times. And then there's quarterback Rex Grossman - where does a person even start? Let's just say it's a bad sign that most people think Grossman should have been the MVP of last year's Super Bowl - because his terrible performance basically gave the game to Indianapolis. The Bear's wide receivers, Mushin Muhammed and Bernard Berrian, are actually pretty solid but Chicago is a run first team - and let's be honest, the Bears might not have a quarterback who can get the ball to the receivers anyway. But in Chicago, as it has been since the dawn of time, it's all about defence. This team is only going as far as the defence can take them. However, with a diminished offence this year the defence is going to be on the field a lot more than they were last year. The Bears D is still going to be great but just don't expect it to be as suffocating as it was last year. And to top it all off, as a Super Bowl team the Bears have a reasonably difficult schedule this year - much more difficult than they had last season.

2007 Prediction: 8-8. That's a 5 game difference from last year's 13-3 and I think that feels about right. It could go one game in either direction, 7-9 or 9-7. I have them at 9-7 if they can win in Washington in Week 14. Quite honestly though, 8-8 is probably going to be enough to win this division.

Detroit Lions

Oh the Lions. Where does a person even start? I don't even know if there are any Lions fans left in the world. It's a good thing the city of Detroit has the Tigers, Pistons and Red Wings to help them forget about the shame that is the Lions. Their starting running back from last year, Kevin Jones, has a nagging broken foot that might not allow him to play at all this year (worst case senario). However, Detroit did pick up Tatum Bell from the Denver Broncos in the off season. This is going to be the ultimate test to see if the Broncos turn absolutely everyone into a highly productive running back. Don't expect Bell to do in Detroit what he was able to do in Denver. Detroit does have a great pair of receivers in Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson - at least potentially. It remains to be seen how quickly the rookie and #2 overall pick, Johnson, will adjust to the NFL. Unfortunately it will be Jon Kitna trying to throw these guys the ball. Kitna would be a great back-up on any team in the NFL but he's just not a quality starter. He did throw for over 4,200 yards last season with 21 touchdowns - but he also threw 22 interceptions. Oh well, at least it's not Joey Harrington I suppose. While the offence does have some limited potential, Detroit's defence is just plain awful. They have been ranked at or near the bottom of the league for the better part of a decade and don't expect that to change. The Lions traded away corner back Dre' Bly in the off season, their only "big name" defensive player to get Tatum Bell - which is not going to help anything on the defensive side of the ball. And as if all that wasn't enough - the Lions have, what appears on paper to be, a pretty difficult schedule this year.

2007 Prediction: 4-12. I suppose that's an improvement over last year's 3-13 - although it's probably not enough for fans who already want to run general manager Matt Millen out of town. It's possible the Lions could get to 5-11 if they win in Washington in Week 5. Who ever thought football fans in Detroit would miss the days of Wayne Fontes.

Green Bay Packers

The frozen tundra of Lambeau Field is one of the most hallowed places in professional football - it's like Graceland for football fans. I would suggest staying away this year though - it might not be pretty. At running back the Packers will rely on last year's back-up, Vernand Morency and 2nd round draft choice Brandon Jackson, who could end up being the starter. Either way you look at it though, there's not a whole lot of experience there. Success for the Packers on offence rests solely on the shoulders of quarterback Brett Favre. However, through the use of carbon dating and complex mathematics based on the half-life of Boron 27, it's estimated that Favre's age is roughly 132. I don't know if you want to go to war with a guy who gets a Social Security check every third Friday. If Favre can somehow turn back the clock and not kill the Packers, they might have a chance to be around. 500 - or thereabouts. Don't count on it though. Green Bay's defence is probably somewhere around the middle of league in terms of rating - they'll probably keep the Packers in some games but probably won't win any games for them either. There also seems to be a trend developing of NFC North teams having schedules with above average difficulty - Green Bay is no exception.

2007 Prediction: 5-11. This is the year that the wheels come off in Green Bay and Brett Favre really starts to kill them - of course now that I say this he'll probably sell his soul and win the MVP. But barring a deal with the Devil, it's going to be a long season in Green Bay. Unless the Packers can surprise a few teams early in the season, I have them starting 1-8.

Minnesota Vikings

Quick - name one Minnesota Viking wide receiver. How about the quarterback? That's what I thought. Doesn't bode well does it? Long gone are the days when Daunte Culpepper could chuck the ball up to Randy Moss whenever he felt like it. Now the Vikings' strength on offence is on the ground. Chester Taylor had a pretty decent season last year for a guy who'd never been the feature back before. This year however, he'll be sharing time or possibly losing his job outright to rookie and 1st round draft pick Adrian Peterson. If Peterson can stay healthy I think he's got Rookie of the Year potential. However, coming off a broken collarbone it remains to be seen if he can hold up. The Vikings better hope he stays healthy to provide some run protection for second year quarterback Tavaris Jackson (who?). Jackson has to be one of the early favorites for the coveted "Worst Starting Quarterback in the NFL" title. And who does he have to throw to you might ask? How about immortal names like Bobby Wade and Troy Williamson, who blamed his terrible season last year on the fact that he has awful eyesight. I'm hoping this turns into a Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn situation. The Vikings do have some serious strength on the defensive side of the ball - at least in terms of run defense, which they were ranked best at last year. Overall they are a top 10 defence - possibly top 5. And continuing in the trend of difficult NFC North schedules, the Vikings have one the most difficult in the NFC - in terms of opponents' win percentage.

2007 Prediction: 6-10. Which is exactly where they were last year. Despite what the statistics say about their schedule, the Vikings have a few more winnable games than some others in the NFC North. Of course the Vikings also have the defence to keep them in more games than Green Bay and Detroit. The offence will be a whole other story.

I can tell you this for sure, the NFC North is not going to be pretty to watch this year. Only by default is a team going to make the playoffs out of these four - as the division champs get in automatically. And looking back now there is the potential for a team with a losing record to win this division - .500 might have been overstating it a bit. Here's how it's going to finish:

NFC North

Chicago Bears...............8-8
Detroit Lions................4-12
Green Bay Packers.........5-11
Minnesota Vikings.........6-10

I think I see a pattern forming in the NFC.

Tomorrow - the NFC South.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

2007 Sports As Life NFL Preview - NFC West

As promised, today we start the 2007 Sports As Life NFL Preview. I do not claim to be a professional handicapper or prognosticator, so in 4 months you can't hold me responsible for how terrible these previews turn out. To paraphrase the immortal words of Dave Letterman, "To those at home, please no wagering."

So as I said yesterday we're going to start with the NFC this week and the AFC next week. Today we're going to break down the NFC West and then move across the U.S, ending with the NFC East.

And away we go...

Arizona Cardinals

With as much offensive potential as Arizona has, it's hard to imagine that they won't improve on last year's 5-11 finish (at least a little). They have one of the top wide receiver tandems in the league in Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. Plus they also have running back Edgerrin James who couldn't possibly be any worse than he was last year - as a Fantasy owner who had James on his team, trust me on this one. There are 2 schools of thought on quarterback Matt Leinart - you either hate him or you want to be impregnated by him. Regardless of what Leinart camp you're in, he's entering his second year and should improve on last year's 11 passing TDs. Oh and did I mention Dennis Green is no longer the head coach? That should be good for a couple extra wins right there - although I will miss his post game tirades. However, as they say - it is defence that wins games, and aside from Chike Okeafor I can't name a single person on Arizona's defence. And I read something yesterday that said Okeafor is possibly out for the year - however, I can't remember where I saw that and I can't confirm it anywhere. With all of this said, bear in mind that Arizona has the easiest schedule in the league as well.

2007 Prediction: 6-10. I really wanted to put them at 7-9 but looking at their schedule I don't know if I see them getting more than 6 wins.

St. Louis Rams

The Greatest Show on Turf is a distant memory now. The Rams have finally learned that you have to run the ball to be successful - and with Steven Jackson as your running back why wouldn't you. He is going to be the #2 overall selection in a lot of Fantasy drafts this month - after a ridiculous year last year. Of course I owned him 2 years ago when Mike Martz was still in charge and they refused to give Jackson the ball - no, I'm not bitter. Even though the Rams are more balanced now than they were 6 or 7 years ago, they still have a pretty good aerial attack. Torry Holt is still a top 10 wide receiver and even though Isaac Bruce is older than some mountain ranges, he still had over 1,000 yards receiving last year. The additions of Drew Bennett at wide receiver and Randy McMichael at tight end don't do anything to hurt the passing attack either. Like the Cardinals, however, the Rams' problems lie on the defensive side of the ball. Leonard Little is a monster pass rusher but the Rams have serious issues stopping the run. If they don't get above 30th against the run -which they were last year - it will be what does them in this year. The Rams do have a pretty easy schedule as well, which is going to help their record this year.

2007 Prediction: 10-6. If left tackle Orlando Pace hadn't gotten hurt halfway through the season last year, the Rams would have gotten at least 10 wins. I don't think it's a stretch for them to get back there this year.

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers seem to be the trendy sleeper team that many people are picking to win the division this year. While I think there's going to be some improvement this year, I'm still not 100% sold on them. Running back Frank Gore was a monster last year but is too injury-prone for me to bet the house on him. Already this year he's broken his hand - in the first non-contact drill of training camp keep in mind - but is apparently going to be ready for the regular season. Their star tight end, Vernon Davis, only played in 10 games last year due to injury and their #1 wide receiver, Darrell Jackson, is always busy dropping balls when he's not busy being injured. Oh and did I mention that there are people who think 49ers starting quarterback Alex Smith has hands that are too small to properly grip the NFL football. All of these things are pretty troubling to me. However, on defence the 49ers look pretty solid. Bryant Young just keeps going and going at defensive end. They drafted Patrick Willis in the first round at inside linebacker. And their secondary is going to be very strong, with Nate Clements and Walt Harris playing the corners. The 49ers also have a reasonably easy schedule, with only 2 or 3 tough road games.

2007 Prediction: 9-7. Honestly, I hope I'm wrong about this one and the 49ers go 10-6 or better. I'd love to see the team I loved in my youth return to respectability. They have a young core that could be great in a couple years. Thankfully the days of Tim Rattay, Ken Dorsey and Jim Druckenmiller shaming the franchise are over.

Seattle Seahawks

I think it's fairly safe to say that Seattle's hopes this year rest on the fragile foot bones of running back Shaun Alexander. If Alexander can come close to the year he had in 2005, the Seahawks should win the division going away. However, I'm not convinced that Alexander is study enough to go through the whole season anymore. Maurice Morris is a decent back-up but if Alexander goes down again this year or isn't effective, Seattle is in trouble. That's not to say that they can't throw the ball. But quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has been fragile in the last few seasons as well. If he stays healthy and has fully recovered from last season he has the receivers in Deion Branch and D.J Hackett to do some things down field - and tight end Jeremy "Knee In the Groin" Stevens is gone, so that's a bonus as well. Seattle has had one of those "better than you'd think defence's" in recent years and there's no real reason that won't continue this year. They are solid up front on the defensive line and have a great linebacking corps. The Seahawks lost a few people in the secondary but made some acquisitions to fill those holes. And like every other team in this division Seattle's schedule ranks near the bottom in terms of difficulty.

2007 Prediction: 9-7. I'm putting them with only 9 wins because I'm skeptical about Alexander and Hasselbeck making it through the entire year without being injured. However, if Seattle can find a way to beat St. Louis twice this year, their record would go to 10-6 and they would win the division.

The NFC West looks like it will be a pretty competitive division this year, as 3 of the 4 teams all could be at the same level, or thereabouts. Arizona is the only real weak link in the West and they have enough offence to be exciting and could make some games interesting at least. I think St. Louis will win the division if they can produce defensively a little bit - they definitely have the offence to win the division. Seattle will push the Rams if everyone can stay healthy but I just don't see it happening. Here's how I see the division finishing:

St. Louis Rams..............10-6
Seattle Seahawks.............9-7
San Francisco 49ers..........9-7
Arizona Cardinals............6-10

Tomorrow - the NFC North.