Sunday, September 03, 2006

NFL Preview 2006: NFC North and West

Continuing with our look at the NFC, we now cover the last two divisions.

1) Chicago (9-7)
2) Minnesota (9-7)
3) Detroit (4-12)
4) Green Bay (4-12)

Notice something about those records? It's not an accident; we have two mediocre teams at the top of the division, and two very bad teams at the bottom. Chicago should continue to be tough on defense, but they don't have any offense, and by the time someone figures out that Brian Griese should be the starting quarterback, they'll have five or six losses. Maybe they'll get lucky and Rex Grossman will get hurt early in the season--again.

Minnesota is breaking in a new coach with a 37-year-old quarterback, no number one wide receiver and a running game that is better suited to appear on the side of a milk carton. About the best this team can hope for is to appear on ESPN more often for game highlights rather than the Minneapolis police reports.

Detroit might show flashes of Martz Madness on offense, and new head coach Rod Marinelli is certain to bring a bit more discipline to the team, but with a GM almost as incompetent as Isaiah Thomas in Matt Millen, they just don't have enough talent to compete with anyone else but the other bottom-feeders in the league.

Speaking of bottom-feeders...expect a major league case of buyer's remorse for Brett Favre that he didn't go ahead and retire last year. This is a bad, bad, bad football team.

1) Seattle (14-2)
2) Arizona (9-7)
3) St. Louis (7-9)
4) San Francisco (3-13)

I know everyone is talking about the curse of the SB loser (hasn't made the playoffs in six years or something like that), but take a look at Seattle's schedule--I picked them to lose twice because no team has gone undefeated since 1972, but they have a legitimate shot to run the whole table. Plus, they should play with a chip on their shoulder because they did get jobbed twice, and big, by the refs last February.

Arizona's a trendy pick for a lot of "experts," and I would love to see Kurt Warner take another team to the promised land, but we have to be realistic: this is still Bill Bidwell's team, and this is probably as good as it gets. They have a tough schedule, especially on the road, and until I see some evidence of an offensive line, I'm not betting any "straight cash, homey" on Warner starting the whole season.

The Rams are the parallel of the Vikings: new coach, suspect quarterback, unproven running game, nonexistent defense, inept special teams. Can Marc Bulger play like a Pro Bowl QB? Can the Steve and Steve show (Jackson and Davis, BTW) gain meaningful yards on the ground? It all depends on an offensive line that has been truly offensive in terms of quality of play for the past three years. Don't get me wrong, I hope the Rams show me something surprising. I have faith that Scott Linehan and Jim Haslett can get things straightened out on both sides of the ball, but I still look at their schedule and don't see any better than .500 in their 2006 future. Better luck next year, guys.

I hate San Francisco. I still remember how cocky and strutting they were back in their glory days. Enjoy the sewer, boys--you deserve it. I hope they go 0-16, but they do have Green Bay and Detroit on their schedule.

Tomorrow: AFC East and South

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