Saturday, October 01, 2005

2005 NFL Preview WWE style

I'll be embarking on a 32 day odyssey called "My 2005 NFL preview WWE-style". I'll be previewing each team in the NFL. I'll be doing the teams randomly but I'll let you know who I think will make the playoffs and win the Super Bowl at the end of the preview. Along the way, I'll point out the teams to look out for and the teams that are going to disapoint. Since the NFL has more storylines than the WWE, I'll compare each team to a professional wrestler. You'll get the idea after you read my first preview. I know a lot of you are, or have been, wrestling fans so I'm sure you'll get a kick out of it. If this is a bust, then I'll cancel the preview and give my blog away to charity. If this is entertaining, I would expect no less than kudos and accolades and possibly more depending on your financial status.

The Washington Redskins aka "Doink The Clown"

"Doink The Clown" was a joke and so are the Redskins. Doink actually got to win some matches in his WWF career but he was a trainwreck who had about as good of a shot at winning the title as.....the Redskins do of making the playoffs. Daniel Snyder runs a three-ring circus in DC. The Redskins haven't been good for ten years and they won't be good for ten more.

All prospective fantasy owners out there, I'm warning you, stay away from the Redskins. I feel sorry for Clinton Portis. He was a fantasy monster in Denver where offensive lineman grow on trees and the offense is somewhat balanced. This serves as a lesson to all NFL teams; do NOT trade for a Denver running back. It's fools gold. They've pawned off Olandis Gary and Clinton Portis and they have five more just like them.

Last year Joe Gibbs brought his brilliant philosophy of "give it to Portis three times in a row behind our terrible offensive line and then punt." Don't expect things to change this year. The offense is terrible. The offense was "supposedly" upgraded by bringing in James Thrash, David Patten, and Kevin Dyson. There's a reason why the Eagles didn't make it to the Super Bowl until Thrash was replaced. The only "real" upgrade will be getting Jon Jansen back from injury on the offensive line. Just thinking about the Redskins on offense makes me nauseous. How could anyone feel good about fielding this team for 16 games?

Snyder made the most irrelevant trade of the offseason by swapping Laveranues Coles for Santana Moss. If you dressed these two guys up in the same jersey, I would have no idea which was which. I like the fact that Snyder will do anything to win. That's admirable. Having said that, I think Snyder might be the worst owner in sports. I don't think he's made one good signing since buying the 'skins. In fact, he would've been better off spending $10 on some beer leaguers and tanking the last five seasons just to get the number one overall pick five years in a row. He would've saved millions of dollars and his team would probably be twice as good. I still can't believe that Snyder brought in Steve Spurrier for the "Fun and Gun" and gave him Danny Wuerffel, Shane Matthews and Patrick Ramsey as his ringleaders. I understand Spurrier brought in those guys but I'm sure he would've appreciated it if Snyder would've attempted to bring in someone with a pulse. That would be like taking a mini-van to the Indy 500 and complaining after not winning.

Patrick Ramsey is terrible. In fact, he might be the worst starting quarterback in the league. Jason Campbell got more hype out of Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams than Brown and Williams did. Fred Smoot left but the Redskins should actually have two decent cornerbacks. Carlos Rogers is a good pickup but Sean Taylor is probably going to jail so there's no gain there. Shawn Springs is a solid cornerback but I have to wonder about Springs' sanity after signing with the 'skins. Although, I suppose I'd play for anyone for that kind of money too.

Ramsey looking comfortable under center.

The only good thing I can say about the Redskins is that they get to play Chicago, Arizona, San Francisco and the New York Giants twice. Joe Gibbs is good for 10 wins and Patrick Ramsey is good for -5.

Predicted record: 5-11

The Chicago Bears aka "The Repo Man"

"The Repo-Man" used to sneak around the ring trying to steal the belongings of his opponents. He never did anything for himself as far as winning but he screwed his opponents over by stealing their stuff. The Bears have pretty much done the same thing. They beat the Lions on the last game of the season in 2000 to keep Detroit out of the playoffs. They've beaten Minnesota at least once in each of the last five seasons. They don't factor in the playoff picture themselves but they always seem to effect the playoff picture in some way.

I like this comparison for another reason too. "The Repo Man" used to be Smash from Demolition. He brought the hammer down on many hapless opponents. He was tough and rugged. The Repo Man was weak but Smash was a powerhouse. The Bears are weak but they proved in 2001 that they're a tough team. Brian Urlacher is a bruising linebacker. The defense has the potential to be stifling. The offensive line is enormous. With, John Tait, Olin Kreutz, Fred Miller, and Ruben Brown, the Bears are going to have their way with defensive lines. Cedric Benson and Thomas Jones are both hard-nosed running backs who will run people over. The Bears have the potential to be tough. I think a lot of teams are counting on beating the Bears. I think they're going to surprise a few teams. They'll have an aggressive running game with a slightly above average defense. Worse teams have made the playoffs.

The Repo Man's alter ego is on the right.

The determining factor for the Bears was going to be Rex Grossman. Grossman missed most of last season with an injury. As it so happens, he'll miss most of this season with a broken ankle. The candidates for the starting job include such superstars as Chad Hutchinson, Kurt Kittner, and Kyle Orton. To be honest, it doesn't matter who wins the job. They all have a similar skill level which is bad news for the Bears. I wouldn't be surprised to see Kyle Orton win the job. He ran a fairly complicated offense at Purdue which should make things manageable. The Bears did him a favor by bringing in Muhsin Muhammad. Muhammad can dominate games but he can also disappear for half a season at a time. If he shows up, the Bears might have a respectable passing game.

The Bears have a nice schedule up until November 13. After that, it's brutal. They might start the season off with a few wins but closing out the season against Carolina, Tampa Bay, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Green Bay and Minnesota will be a deal-breaker. I think they'll be one of the better "bad" teams in the league but they'll need a miracle at the qb position to make it to the playoffs.

Predicted record: 5-11

The Miami Dolphins aka Bob Backlund

Backlund getting a toothpick thrown in his face by Razor Ramon

I had never heard of Bob Backlund before he made his appearance in the WWF in 1994. He was a nerdy-looking wrestler with a physique that rivaled Lou Holtz. Little did I know that Backlund had actually been the WWF champion ten years previous. Even more shocking to me was that Backlund actually won the championship again at the tender age of 312. I think the Dolphins could be pulling a “Backlund” on us this year. They were a perennial playoff team over the last ten years until Ricky Williams left them in the ring by themselves to get pummeled by the rest of the NFL. Most people are expecting as much from the Dolphins as I expected from Backlund in ’94. A good coach combined with an above average running game can take you a long way in the NFL.

The Dolphins were terrible last year. I have no idea how they beat New England. I watched the game and I still have no idea. It’s like the ’72 Dolphins possessed last years version for one game. The running game was as bad as Spurrier’s rotating quarterback dance in Washington. Sammy Morris, Travis Minor, and Lamar Gordon all had the title of “starting running back” at some point. The quarterback play was laughable. In case anyone wants to object to his, Marty Booker was their top rated passer. I’m not kidding. Look it up!

The downfall to the Dolphins season will again be their quarterback play. Their roster presents a who’s who list of NFL stalwarts such as A.J. Feely, Gus Frerotte, and Sage Rosenfels. Let’s put this in perspective; who would you rather have, Miami’s current quarterbacks or Scott Mitchell, Charlie Batch, and Andre Ware? I know that was painful but I just wanted to emphasize how bad things are for the Dolphins.

The running game should be steadily improved though. After Ricky “I love smokin’ the reefer” Williams serves his four game suspension, the Dolphins will have two top rate running backs with Williams and Ronnie Brown. As of now, neither player will be there for the first game since Brown hasn’t signed yet but money talks and I’m sure Brown will get tired of eating Raman noodles. The offensive line will be OK but I have to question Miami’s signing of Stockar McDougle. If the Lions don’t opt to resign an offensive lineman, or anyone for that matter, then that’s a pretty good indication that they’re not very good. In case anyone hadn’t noticed, Richmond Webb is back for his 43rd year. I’m starting to think that Webb is actually a robot.

In news so shocking that I actually stopped breathing for four seconds, Orande Gadsen is NOT on the Dolphins. Even more shocking is that he wasn’t on the Dolphins LAST year either. I was under the impression that Gadsen and the Dolphins were contractually obligated through 2020 but I guess I was mistaken. David Boston is quickly turning into the Shawn Kemp of the NFL although I’m guessing Kemp got fat by eating at White Castle while Boston got strong by eating Orande Gadsen . Boston had a huge year for Arizona three years ago but has since conned San Diego and Miami into giving him money. If I were an NFL team, I would demand that Boston play one year for free before agreeing to give him anything. Chris Chambers is actually a talented receiver. Booker is no slouch either as long as he isn’t playing quarterback

The heart of the defense was pilfered by Kansas City as Patrick Surtain and Sammy Knight signed with the Chiefs. Nick Saban is a very good coach so he’ll have the Dolphins playing hard on defense but it’s very difficult to lose two pro bowlers without falling off. There are still some very good names on the defense. The defensive line is surprisingly deep with Keith Traylor, Larry Chester and Jeff Zgogina at the tackle positions. Traylor and Chester weigh a combined 665 lbs. The Ravens and Patriots have been two of the best defenses in the NFL by putting two behemoths on the line. Traylor and Chester count as behemoths. The defensive ends are also very deep and talented. Jason Taylor, Kevin Carter, Vonnie Holiday, David Bowens and rookie Matt Roth are as deep of a unit as the NFL has to offer. The linebackers are far from suspect with Zach Thomas and Junior Seau manning the middle. I think Zach Thomas and Rob Morris of the Colts should trade last names so Zach Morris (Saved By the Bell) and Rob Thomas (Matchbox 20) could play in the NFL. I’d put in 20 bucks to make this happen. The Dolphins might have lucked out by getting Channing Crowder in the third round. The secondary won’t be as good but the Dolphins had one of the best secondaries in recent memory so dropping off a little won’t be a deal breaker. Sam Madison is one of the best cover corners in the league. Tebucky Jones is an adequate safety. All in all, the Dolphins should be stubborn on defense.

The Dolphins are almost close to an extremely successful equation. Here’s how the equation looks right now:

Good defense + good running game + good coach + Paula Abdul at quarterback = no
playoffs and offensive stagnation

That is awfully close to this equation:

Good defense + good running game + good coach + average to good quarterback = Super Bowl contenders

I guess what I’m saying is that the Dolphins won’t make the playoffs. They might actually be the worst team to ever be “so close” to being a Super Bowl contender. I don’t think Ricky Williams will be as effective as he was before he achieved “the ultimate high” and left for a year. His weight probably won’t be where it needs to be until next season.

If the NFL schedule were a horror movie, then Miami’s schedule is Michael Myers. The Dolphins start the season off by playing Denver, NY Jets, Carolina, and Buffalo. I would be surprised if they won any of those games. The next four is against Tampa Bay, KC, New Orleans, and Atlanta. I would be surprised if they won any of those games. The next four games are against New England, Cleveland, Oakland and Buffalo. They’ll probably win one (maybe two) of those games. The last four games are against San Diego, NY Jets, Tennessee, and New England. They might win one of those games.

Predicted record: 4-12

The Oakland Raiders aka "The Oddities""

The Oddities were a group of WWF cast-aways that came together to form a potent group of weirdoes. The Oddities featured a seven-foot giant, a fat guy with a mask (formerly known as The Earthquake), and one of the most hideous women the world has ever seen (Luna Vachon) among others. These guys never really accomplished much but they were entertaining to watch.

It is for this reason that I’m glad Vince McMahon actually signed off on the idea of The Oddities. There couldn’t possibly be a better comparison for the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders have some of the more unique personalities on the NFL on their team. Al Davis has never been shy about bringing in superstar malcontents and he proved this by acquiring Warren Sapp last season and Randy Moss this season.

The offense should be very good. Kerry Collins is a good long ball thrower but I think I would be a good long ball thrower with Randy Moss as one of my receivers. Jerry Porter is a strong, talented receiver who will compliment Moss well. Ronald Curry and Doug Gabriel are both capable as well. The running game might be improved with Lamont Jordan. Justin Fargas will play a bigger role in the offense but its Jordan’s job to lose. Teyo Johnson should have a breakout year at tight end since he’s physically dominating in the mold of Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez.

The defense is surprisingly awful despite having Sapp and Charles Woodson. Ted Washington should team with Sapp to form a good push up front. Washington weighs 365 pounds which makes me wonder what’s in his stomach. I would not want to visit his house just for the fact that I know he’d have to go the bathroom at some point. Washington is also 37 years old. There’s something about the combination of a 37 year old weighing 365 pounds that makes me think he won’t be healthy.

The Raiders will be a better team this season. They have Moss who can be the great equalizer. I don’t think this team can make the playoffs because they aren’t even one of the two best teams in their own division. However, I will be looking forward to watching these guys play. They should be exciting and entertaining to watch. Plus, the storyline possibilities are endless. Can you imagine what would happen if an opposing offensive lineman through one piece of barbecued chicken on the ground before every snap? Sapp and Washington would kill each other trying to get at it. Someone should try this.

The schedule won’t be easy. The Raiders get Denver (2), KC (2) and San Diego (2). I would not be shocked if they went 3-3 but 2-4 is more like it. They match up against the NFC East which should be wins over Washington and the NY Giants. They get Tennessee, Miami and Cleveland which could be three wins. The rest of the schedule has New England, Buffalo and the NY Jets. I think they can go 1-2 there.

Predicted record: 7-9

The New Orleans Saints aka Jake "the snake" Roberts

Don't ever trust Jake "The Snake" Roberts. Don't trust him in real life and don't trust him if you're in a wrestling storyline with him. Jake used to tell people to "trust me" before knocking them out with the DDT. The "say no to drugs" public service announcement is hilarious for anyone who has seen "Beyond the Mat" where he clearly does drugs. He's subsequently been arrested for cocaine use and drunk driving.

Don't ever trust the New Orleans Saints. It doesn't matter who they have on the roster. They might try to put a spell on you by going 4-0 to end the season and making a late season push for a playoff spot. Don't buy it. They've had the same team the last three years and haven't improved one iota. Each year, the Saints are pegged as a team to watch because of their talent. I'm not buying it anymore. The Saints just aren't a good team. Aaron Brooks, Deuce McCallister and Joe Horn will put up big fantasy numbers. Donte Stallworth is very good when healthy but that doesn't happen very often. I don't even feel like talking about the Saints. They're a waste of time. They have good players but their team is average at best. I'm actually pissed that I've written this much about them.

The schedule is pretty difficult considering their in-division opponents. They have to play New England, NY Jets, and Buffalo along with Detroit, Minnesota and Green Bay. Nobody will look forward to playing the Saints because of their potential but nobody has to worry about these guys making the playoffs.

Predicted record: 7-9

The Baltimore Ravens aka Chris Benoit

"The Rabid Wolverine" Chris Benoit is my favorite wrestler. He's relentless and merciless. Win or lose, Benoit will administer a thorough beat down on his opponent. I can't think of a better comparison for the Baltimore Ravens. These guys are brutal. Whenever I watch a Ravens game on TV, I find myself feeling sorry for the opposing offense. Ray Lewis just annihilates running backs and wide receivers. The hitting is malicious. I just keeping thinking of how many beatings Eddie George took against this defense. Despite being so vicious on defense, the Ravens haven't been successful in the win column because the offense was so much weaker than the defense. However, things will change this year. The Ravens are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. They stole Derek Mason from Tennessee. They drafted Mark Clayton in the first round. Jamal Lewis is a punishing running back who no longer has to worry about Boggs or the Sisters from Shawshank. The Offensive Line is huge. Todd Heap is one of the three best tight ends in the NFL. Even if Kyle Boller doesn't improve at all, the Ravens will be noticeably better on offense. There's no question in my mind that this offense is better than Super Bowl winning team in 2000. In fact, I think the whole team is better than the Super Bowl team.

As if the defense wasn't good enough, the Ravens hijacked Samari Rolle from the Titans. If the Ravens end up winning the Super Bowl this year, I think it's only fair that the Titans get rings too. The Ravens got Mason and Rolle for nothing. As soon as Tennessee cut those two loose, I immediately thought that some team should sign both of those guys. The Ravens did and the rest of the NFL will pay the price. They also drafted Dan Cody in the second round. Cody is a pass rushing menace in the mold of Grant Wistrom. They also brought in Tommy Polley from the Rams. Terrel Suggs is one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL. The defensive backfield is arguably the best in NFL history. They line up Chris McCallister, Samari Rolle, and Ed Reed with Deion Sanders and Dale Carter coming off the bench. Teams are going to get punished this year.

The schedule is pretty tough with Indianapolis, NY Jets, Detroit, Pittsburgh (2), Jacksonville, Green Bay, Minnesota, and Denver. If I had to put my money on someone in the AFC central, I'd take Pittsburgh because Roethlisberger and Hines Ward are a little better than Kyle Boller and Derrick Mason.

Predicted record: 10-6

The New York Giants aka "The Brooklyn Brawler"

"The Brooklyn Brawler" wasn't the worst wrestler ever. He actually get to win a few matches in his career. However he is, and always will be, a jobber. He was never a threat to win anything. His gimmick was old and tired. He wasn't flashy. He wasn't good. In fact, there really was no reason for him to exist in the wrestling world.

That leads me to the New York Giants. The Giants are brutal to watch. Eli Manning wasn't very good last year and I honestly don't think he'll be much better this year. The Giants went out and signed the only wide receiver who causes more headaches than Randy Moss. Plaxicco Burress is an injury waiting to happen. Burress has already experienced two injuries in Giants' training camp this season alone. He's definitely a talented receiver but he has a grand total of 22 touchdowns in five years. When healthy, he's better than Tom Carter but a). he's not healthy, and b). that's not saying too much. Amani Toomer is a dependable wide receiver but he's not a game breaker by any means. Tiki Barber has to be the most underrated running back in the league. He had over 2,000 total yards last year and 15 touchdowns. I don't think I've ever seen him have a bad game. He's an above average pass receiver. He's quick. He can run people over. The Giants stay in games because of Barber. Jeremy Shockey is a difference maker. He's the Giants number one pass receiving threat. If you shut down Shockey then you shut down the passing game. The offensive line is pretty good but it'll have to be great to give Manning the protection he needs. The offense is boring and it will continue to be boring.

The defense is pretty much the same as the offense. They have some good players but they're not going to overwhelm anyone. Michael Strahan is solid. Justin Tuck could prove to be an excellent draft pick. The linebackers are mediocre. The secondary is slightly above average with Will Allen, Will Peterson, and Shaun Williams. The defense played well early on last season but they yielded a boat-load of points in the last six games.

The Giants look respectable on paper. Manning could improve greatly from his first season. Barber will be dependable as usual. However, the Giants don't have the firepower to beat Philly or Dallas in their own division. The Giants always seem to overachieve during the first half of the season before falling back to reality. In three of the last four seasons, the Giants have managed to play .500 football up until week 9. In those three seasons, the Giants went a combined 3-20 after week nine. That's a bigger collapse than Britney's Spears vow to remain celibate until marriage.

It would not shock me if the Giants made it to week nine this season with a .500 record as well. The schedule is manageable early with Arizona, Washington, and San Francisco. However, the second half is brutal. I would be surprised if the Giants won more than two games after week nine. They play Minnesota, Philly, Seattle, Dallas, Philly, KC, Washington, Oakland. I'll give them 3-5 up to week nine and 2-6 after week nine.

Predicted record: 5-11

The Tennessee Titans aka Paul Roma

“Pretty” Paul Roma never really made it big in the world of wrestling. He was close so many times. He got on the map with "The Young Stalions" but that eventually fell through. He then teamed up with Hercules to become Power & Glory which was mildly successful. Then he left wrestling to begin a boxing career that lasted one fight. Upon his return to wrestling, he made a huge splash by being anointed as one of the IV Horsemen. As it turns out, that wasn’t enough to put Roma over the top either. It just wasn’t meant to be. I couldn’t explain the Titans any better than that.

Tennessee was one yard away from beating the Rams in the Super Bowl. They had a talented team featuring Steve McNair, Eddie George, Derek Mason, Jevon Kearse, Jon Runyan and Samir Rolle. Eddie George deteriorated right before our eyes. The running game became suspect. As a result, the Titans missed the playoffs in 2001. Then, like Roma, they made another comeback by making the playoffs in 2002 and 2003. It seemed they were finally going to make it over the “hump”. But it never came.

Now they’re destined to go the route of “Pretty” Paul Roma. They lost Kearse to the Eagles last year. The defense is one of the worst in the NFL. In a four game stretch at the end of last season, the Titans gave up 31, 51, 49, and 40 points. That was WITH Samari Rolle. There are only three guys on the whole defense that I’d take for free (Albert Haynesworth, Keith Bullock and Randy Starks). They had to release Derek Mason and Rolle because they have the worst cap-manager on the planet. They drafted Adam “Pac-Man” Jones to replace Rolle but a). his teammates already hate him and b). rookie corners are about as reliable as Larry Brown.

They do have two good running backs in Chris Brown and Travis Henry along with the toughest qb in the league, Steve McNair. They also have a very talented backup quarterback in Billy Volek. Of the top four players on this team, two of them our backups (Henry and Volek). That’s not a good sign. Too much is gone for this team to make any noise. Their run is over. I feel bad for McNair because things are only going to get worse in Tennessee.

The schedule is very tough to start the season but gets considerably easier as the season moves along. McNair is still a dangerous player. He’ll be good for a few wins.

Predicted record: 6-10

The Atlanta Falcons aka "The One Man Gang"

As most of you know, the "One Man Gang" wasn't very good. He beat up on the little guys but that was the extent of his success. The Falcons with Vick are no different. The story gets old but let's be honest here, the Falcons live and die by Vick. If he has a good game, they can contend with anyone. If he has a bad game, they can lose to anyone like last year against the Lions. Atlanta's offense is a contradiction. They dominate in time of possession but don't put up many points. It's a kin to "Marty ball" but instead of having a workhorse running back eating up the clock, it's the quarterback that runs the clock.

I think Matt Schaub is a very talented quarterback. I honestly think that he could do as well for the Falcons as Vick if not better. Schaub is a gamer and if Vick gets hurt, I would not be surprised if Atlanta doesn't miss a step. Remember, Vick had 17 touchdowns in 15 games last season. That's passing and rushing. That's not a typo. He threw and ran for 17 touchdowns total touchdowns. Vick is the quarterback. His goal is to lead the team to scores yet he barely accounts for one touchdown per game. I love watching Vick. He's an amazing runner. But, his numbers are deplorable for a quarterback.

Vick wants to prove to everyone that he can throw the football. As a result, Vick will tell everyone that he's going to run less. Vick throwing more would be like dressing the "One Man Gang" up in yellow African garb and calling him "Akeem the African Dream". It just doesn't work. The blueprint to beat the Falcons was used to perfection in the NFC title game last year. Jeremiah Trotter and the rest of the Eagles were all over Vick. If you shut down Vick's scrambling then you shut down Atlanta. If Vick was a reliable thrower, then Philly would've had problems.

The wide receivers aren't anything to write home about. The good news is that Brian Finneran went from #1 on the depth chart two years ago to #4 on the depth chart this season. Michael Jenkins, Peerless Price, and Roddy White are all decent but not spectacular. Atlanta led the league in rushing yards per game last year with Vick, Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett. I don't expect there to be any changes. Atlanta will win games. They will play boring football (despite having the most electrifying player in the NFL). They will control time of possession. They'll beat the bad teams and lose to the great teams.

They'll be above average on defense. Believe it or not, the best defender on the team is Vick. He keeps the offense on the field so long that the defense is a). always fresh and b). eliminates the opponent from being able to score a lot of points. Aside from giving up 800 points to Kansas City last year, Atlanta was one of the league's better defensive teams. DeAngelo Hall is an excellent cover corner. Keith Brooking is a menace at middle linebacker. The defense will give them a chance to win every week.

The schedule is brutal. In fact, I can honestly say I have never seen a more difficult NFL schedule. They play one weak team and that's Chicago in December at Soldier Field. Atlanta won't be a bad team but I don't see them making the playoffs with that schedule.

I know most of, if not all, the major publications will have Atlanta in the playoffs. I know it's chic to think that they're the rising team in the NFL. However, I have not been impressed at all by this team. Most people just assume that Atlanta is one of the better teams in the league but they benefited last season from a very easy schedule. Six of their ten wins were by four points or less. If they played this year's schedule last season, there's no way they would've made the playoffs. One thing I can say with complete confidence is that if a team from this division wants to make the playoffs, they'll have to win the division. Every team in this division is good. That means each team will have six games against good competition within the division. Also, since this division is matched up against the AFC East (possibly the toughest division in football) that's four more difficult games. I think it'll be difficult for a team from the South to get the wild card. I think Carolina has a better chance of winning the division. Thus, I think Vick and Co. will be home in January.

Predicted record: 8-8

The Philadelphia Eagles aka Ric Flair

In the 80’s, Ric Flair was the undisputed king of the WCW/NWA. He feuded with the likes of Dusty Rhodes, Sting, Lex Luger and Cactus Jack but nobody could challenge his dominance in that federation. Even though the WCW had a following, the WWF was the place to be. They had more fans and more press. Vince McMahon was raking in the dough with Hulk Hogan, Andre “The Giant”, The Ultimate Warrior and Randy “Macho Man” Savage. Flair could dominate all he wanted in the WCW but unless he moved to the WWF he wouldn’t be considered in the same breath as the WWF superstars by the majority of wrestling fans.

As far as I can tell, the AFC is the WWF and the NFC is the WCW. The NFC has two teams that are very good in Philly and Minnesota. There’s a handful of other teams that are decent like Carolina, Dallas, Atlanta, Green Bay and possibly Detroit. The AFC on the other hand is loaded. Even the crappy teams in the AFC could be good. Miami, Tennessee, Houston, and Oakland all have a chance to make some noise. New England is the NFL’s heavy weight. KC, San Diego, NY Jets, Indianapolis, Baltimore and Pittsburgh are all easily top 10 NFL teams. The big boys play in the AFC. The Eagles are like Ric Flair. They’ve dominated the NFC for five years running but until they win the Super Bowl, it doesn’t mean a thing.

The good news for Philly is that they can win the Super Bowl. They aren’t like the Buffalo Bills of the 90’s who were overmatched against the Redskins and Cowboys (2). The Eagles have a dynamic offense that destroyed the NFL last season. Donovan McNabb makes everything look easy. He had 31 touchdown passes and only eight interceptions for a ridiculous qb rating of 104.7. Terrell Owens is a mismatch for any defensive back. Before breaking his leg, Owens had 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns in only 14 games. Brian Westbrook is the perfect running back for Andy Reid’s pass happy offense. Westbrook had 73 receptions for 703 yards not to mention over 800 yards rushing. The backfield is deep with Correll Buckhalter backing up Westbrook. The offensive line could be the league’s best. Jon Runyan, Hank Fraley, and Tra Thomas are monsters and Shawn Andrews will get a chance to play after missing his rookie season with an injury.

The defense is very good. The Eagles dominated Michael Vick in the playoffs last year. Hugh Douglass, Jevon Kearse, and Jerome McDougle form the deepest defensive end unit in the league. Corey Simon, Hollis Thomas, Darwin Walker, Paul Grasmanis, and rookie Mike Patterson give the Eagles the deepest defensive line unit in the league. Jeremiah Trotter had a career resurgence last year. With Dhani Jones coming in from the NY Giants and Mark Simoneau being a dependable linebacker, the Eagles are above average at linebacker as well. The secondary is the weak unit on defense but Lito Sheppard and Brian Dawkins are proven veterans who will make this unit average at the worst.

The Eagles are going to roll through the NFC. They are far and away the deepest and most talented team in the NFC on offense and defense. The Eagles have a few marquee matchups against KC, San Diego, Denver, and Green Bay. I think they’ll go 3-1 against those teams. I fully expect Philly to win their last nine games of the season. McNabb will put up ridiculous stats and Philly will roll to another Super Bowl apperance. Flair eventually made it to the WWF and became champion. If the Colts can get homefield advantage in the playoffs and knock of New England, I think Philly will win the Super Bowl. Woo!

Predicted record 14-2

The Denver Broncos aka DDP

Diamond Dallas Page was stale. I grew tired of him about ten seconds after the first time I saw him on television. He was first billed as a manager but his desire to become a professional wrestler took over. I have to give credit to Page for doing so well in the industry. He has a recognizable name and achieved tremendous success. However, he was boring, limited, and most importantly, irrelevant. I don’t mean to knock Page the person. I’m strictly talking about his wrestling persona. There were groups of fans that loved Page but I would be willing to bet that the majority could care less. This is how I feel about the Denver Broncos. They have become irrelevant in the NFL.

The Broncos have been good since the Reagan administration. They have one of the best franchises in the NFL. John Elway and Terrell Davis led them to back to back Super Bowl victories. However, Elway and Davis have been gone for five years. The Broncos now have Jake Plummer and Tatum Bell. I was tired of Plummer when he was in Arizona. I admit to having some affinity for him since we share the same name but that’s drying up fast.

I think the thing that most bothers me about Denver is their running back situation. Mike Anderson rushed for 1,500 yards during his rookie year. He’s still on the team but you wouldn’t know it from the stat sheet. Anderson had almost as many carries in his rookie season as he’s had in the last four seasons combined. Anderson didn’t just become terrible. He just hasn’t been given the chance to start. Along the way the Broncos have had Olandis Gary, Clinton Portis, Quentin Griffin, Tatum Bell, and Ruben Droughns. As if that weren’t enough, they drafted Maurice Clarett and signed Ron Dayne. What is going on here? How many running backs does one team need? And, whoever Maurice Clarett’s agent is needs to be hospitalized. Clarett signed an incentive laden deal. That didn’t even work for Master P and Ricky Williams and Williams was one of the best running backs in the league.

Let’s analyze the Clarett contract a little further.

In the last five years, the Broncos have had at least six different starting running backs.

-Mike Anderson rushed for 1,500 yards his first year and never got another chance again.
-Ruben Droughns tore up the NFL last year yet lost his job to Tatum Bell.
-Olandis Gary led the team in rushing his rookie season and never got another chance.
-The Broncos drafted Quentin Griffin two years ago and he’s stuck at the back of the depth chart.
-They signed Garrison Hearst last season and he got 20 carries.
-Then, they signed Ron Dayne this season.

On top of all that, Tatum Bell is clearly the number one running back on the depth chart coming into this season and Clarett hasn’t played a single down of football in close to three years. Still think an incentive laden contract is a good idea?

The Broncos have a very talented wide receiver in Ashley Lelie. The problem being that Lelie has been very talented for the last three years. As far as I can tell, he hasn’t improved at all. The next two receivers are a combined 77 years old. Jerry Rice is taking the phrase “retirement tour” to a new level as he tries to play for every team in the NFL. Actually, I don’t have a problem with Rice. It’s his prerogative. If he’s physically capable, he should play until he’s 80. You only live once. The Broncos employ their “running back” strategy to the tight end position as well. They have Stephen Alexander, Dwayne Carswell, Jeb Putzier and Patrick Hape. I don’t know who’s going to start and to be honest, I don’t even know who’s the best of the group. The Broncos never change. They just get older. I have to finish this preview soon or I’m going to throw up. Before I started on this thing, I was just annoyed by the Broncos but every word I type is turning this into full-fledged hatred.

The Broncos stole Champ Bailey from the Redskins. Clinton Portis did his best Blair Thomas impersonation last season while Bailey continued to be the best cornerback in the league. In moves that apparently suggest that Denver wasn’t happy with their cornerback play last season, they spent their first three draft picks on cornerbacks. Since none of the three were considered to be good, I would guess that the strategy will backfire. Before I talk about the defensive line, I want to make the point that the Cleveland Browns had one of the worst defenses in the NFL last season. Why is that relevant? Because the Broncos thought it would be beneficial to import the entire Browns starting defensive line. They brought in Courtney Brown, Gerard Warren and Michael Myers. Has any team ever done this before? I’m just going to save time by listing the defense lineman since everyone is essentially the same player; Courtney Brown, Marco Coleman, Ebenezer Ekuban, John Engelberger, Trevor Pryce, Luther Elliss, Elliss Johnson, Michael Myers, and Gerard Warren.

I’ve just realized that the “running back” strategy is actually not limited to the running backs. It’s a “whole team” strategy. Every unit has 5-10 of the exact same players. Champ Bailey is the only unique player on this team. The Broncos are boring.

The good news for people that feel the same way as I do is that the Broncos won’t be making the playoffs. They play in the brutal AFC West and have a difficult schedule to match. They’ll likely go 2-4 against San Diego (2), KC (2), and Oakland (2). They match up with the NFC East which should mean two wins over Washington and the NY Giants. They should be able to beat Miami but wins after that will be tough to come by. They get New England, Baltimore, Jacksonville, NY Jets, and Buffalo. I would be surprised if they won more than three of those games.

Predicted record: 8-8

The Carolina Panthers aka Chris Jericho

I can’t figure out Chris Jericho. Is he a headliner, or a mid-carder? His arrival to the WWE was celebrated. He was immediately thrust into main event storylines. He won the World Championship. Then, he inexplicably was downgraded to mid-carder where he won the tag team championship and then won the intercontinental championship. He’s as charismatic as any wrestler I’ve ever seen. He’s talented with the mic. He’s an above average ring technician. He has all the makings of a main eventer. Everytime I turn on the TV, Jericho is doing something stupid like hosting a talk-show in the ring. The bottom line with Jericho is that he should always be a title contender and marketed as one of the premier talents in wrestling. The WWE seems to have dropped the ball on Jericho but I expect him to rebound big anytime now.

The Carolina Panthers, like Jericho, are constantly up and down. They went to the Super Bowl two years ago and nearly won. They lost DeShaun Foster, Stephen Davis and Steve Smith to injury last year which led to an abysmal 1-7 start to the season. Jake Delhomme got hot and Nick Goings stepped up to give the Panthers a running game. They won five in a row and almost made the playoffs before losing to New Orleans on the last day of the season.

So which Panthers team is going to show up this year? In the six games after he claimed the starting job last season, Nick Goings rushed for 645 yards. He’ll be sitting on the bench behind Foster and Davis. The Panthers have the deepest backfield in the NFL. Steve Smith was their primary deep threat when the Panthers made their Super Bowl run. They’ll have him back this season. Keary Colbert has been effective as the second wide receiver. With the loss of Muhsin Muhammad, Colbert should play a bigger role in the offense. The Panthers brought in Rod Gardner who will be a good third wide receiver. I like Delhomme a lot. He took this team on his back last season and nearly pulled off a miracle in getting the Panthers in the playoffs. I think he’ll have a big year as Carolina bounces back on offense.

The defense is loaded. The defensive line is as talented as any in the NFL. Julius Peppers is one of the top five defensive ends in the league. Kris Jenkins is one of the top two defensive tackles in the league. The linebackers are very good with Dan Morgan leading the way. Chris Gamble showed he’s capable of being a shutdown corner last year. Mike Minter and rookie Thomas Davis will give the Panthers two formidable safeties. Carolina will not have problems on defense. They underachieved a bit last year but that was the case with the whole team.

The Panthers are healthy and that spells trouble for Atlanta, New Orleans and Tampa Bay. They were the best team in the NFC two years ago when they almost beat New England in the Super Bowl. They’ll rebound and be the second or third best team in the NFC. The schedule is daunting. As good as the Panthers can be, I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t make the playoffs. They don’t have the luxury of having easy games in their division. Whereas Philly gets the NY Giants (2) and Washington (2), Carolina gets Atlanta (2), New Orleans (2), and Tampa Bay (2). Carolina could go 4-2 in their division but I wouldn’t be surprised if they went 3-3. They get Miami, Arizona and Chicago which should give them three wins. The rest of the schedule features New England, Green Bay, Detroit, Minnesota, NY Jets, Buffalo, and Dallas. The Panthers should do no worse than 3-4 in those games. I think they’ll do just enough to win their division, Junior!

Predicted record: 9-7

The Minnesota Vikings aka Lex Luger

The Vikings remind me of Lex Luger when he left WCW to go to the WWF. He called himself "The Narcicist" Lex Luger. His claim was that he had the perfect physique. He loved to look at himself in the mirror and immediately became a force in the WWF. Luger was already a household name in the WCW but this move was supposed to emphasize a major push in his wrestling career. The Vikings did the same by getting rid of Randy Moss. Getting rid of Moss has supposedly made the Vikings a better team. Many people even have the Vikings going to the Super Bowl. Luger's move to the WWF didn't make him better. He was already a headliner and the move merely confirmed his status as a headliner.

I have a theory about the Vikings. I don't have a name for it so I'll make one up right now. It's the "Randy Moss" theory. I fully expect zero points for originality. Anyhow, I think the loss of Randy Moss will make the Vikings better suited to contend with the elite teams like Philly. On the other hand, I think the loss of Moss will make the Vikings easier to beat for the lesser teams. The Vikings were one-dimensional against good teams. They relied too heavily on Moss. When they played against physical teams, that gameplan didn't work. However, that gameplan worked perfectly against overmatched secondaries like the Detroit Lions. Daunte Culpepper would just heave it up to Moss and there wasn't anything anyone could do about it.

The Vikings don't have the "trump" card anymore against the lower caliber teams. Teams like the Lions and Cowboys have a much better chance of beating Minnesota without Randy Moss no matter who the Vikings have. On the other hand, Minnesota improved there entire team by bringing in Sam Cowart, Napoleon Harris, Erasmus James, Darren Sharper, Fred Smoot, Pat Williams, Troy Williamson and Antoine Winfield. Minnesota has a better roster than in previous seasons. However, I don't think it'll show up in the win column because Moss bailed them out like nobody else could against average teams. Despite the Vikings getting better on paper, I think they'll continue to be an above average NFC team that probably won't make it to the Super Bowl.

The big advantage for Minnesota is that the NFC is a pretty weak conference. They were the second best team in the conferene last year and I think they'll be the second best team again this year. They have a relatively easy schedule. I just don't think they can beat Philly. They were overmatched twice by the Eagles last season. I think Minnesota can make it to the NFC title game but that's about it.

Predicted record: 12-4

The Buffalo Bills aka The Barbarian

There really wasn’t much of a difference between the Warlord and the Barbarian. Both were powerful wrestlers who delivered beatings in the ring. They teamed up to form the Powers of Pain. As a tag team, they were involved in many great matches with Demolition but they never did anything significant. They never won the tag titles. They were just a good, solid tag team. The NFL’s versions of the Powers of Pain are the Buffalo Bills and the Jacksonville Jaguars. I really have no idea which team is better. I think they could play 100 times and each team would win 50. So, I’ll save time and look at both teams.

The Bills made a mistake in getting rid of Drew Bledsoe. I can’t believe I actually wrote that sentence but Buffalo was one of the hottest teams in the league last year. They went 8-2 in their last ten games and scored over 33 points six games in a row. After staring the season 1-5, the Bills missed the playoffs by six points on the last game of the season. Instead of capitalizing on that momentum, the Bills promptly handed their starting qb job to J.P. Losman. When I think of Losman, I think of Patrick Ramsey. When I think of Patrick Ramsey, I think of “Doink the Clown”. When I think of “Doink the Clown”, I think of no playoffs.

There’s no question that the offense has talent. The offense really didn’t get going until Willis McGahee took over as the starter. Lee Evans was better than anyone expected last season. Eric Moulds is still a dependable wide receiver. They drafted Roscoe Parish in the second round and Josh Reed is also a decent receiver. As good as this team can be on offense, they also can be dreadful. The Bills didn’t score more than 20 points in their first six games of the season last year. The offensive gelled as the season progressed. I don’t believe that changing the most important position on the team is the best approach to maintaining the momentum.

The defense was up and down last season. In the ten games when they made their push to the playoffs, the Bills allowed 14, 17, 29, 17, 9, 32, 7, 17, 7, 29. There are some impressive numbers in there but they benefited from a very weak schedule. The Bills allowed 17 points or less in seven out of ten of those games. On the other hand, they allowed 29 or more points in three of those games. If the Bills are going to make some noise this year, they’ll need more consistency from the defense. Takeo Spikes and London Fletcher are good, solid linebackers. Nate Clements and Lawyer Milloy anchor the secondary. Sam Adams is a one-man run stopper on the defensive line. The Bills have the potential to be stingy on defense which is a must since the offense will probably struggle under Losman.

The Bills have to play New England (2) and the NY (2) Jets. That could easily be three losses and possibly four. They also have the unenviable task of being matched up with the NFC South which means four games against Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans and Tampa Bay. The Bills probably won’t do any better than 2-2 and could easily go 1-3 in those games. The Bills get some easier games against Miami (2), Houston, and Oakland. The Bills should probably go 2-2 in those games. The rest of the schedule has the Bills playing KC, San Diego and Denver. 1-2 is the best outcome the Bills could hope for. I don’t think Buffalo is necessarily bad but a Ramsey-esque quarterback combined with a brutal schedule is a lot to overcome.

Predicted record: 6-10

The Jacksonville Jaguars aka The Warlord

The Jaguars are much like the Bills in the fact that their offensive struggled early last year. Unlike the Bills, the Jaguars struggled on offense late too. If it weren’t for the defense, Jacksonville could’ve finished 5-11 or worse. Byron Leftwhich put up big numbers but they didn’t translate into points on the board. The difference between winning and losing in the NFL is the difference between touchdowns and field goals. The Jags didn’t score thirty points in any games last year and they only scored more than 23 points twice. I can't believe that's even possible. If Jacksonville has any hope of making the playoffs this year, they’ll need to figure out how to finish drives.

If you look at the stats of Leftwich, Fred Taylor and Jimmy Smith, you’d think that the Jags have something going on offense. Leftwich had a decent quarterback rating of 82.2. Fred Taylor had over 1,200 yards rushing and averaged close to five yards per carry. Jimmy Smith had close to 1,200 yards receiving. The pieces are in place for this team to score points. They need a second receiving threat to take the pressure of Jimmy Smith. The Jags second leading receiver last year had 533 yards receiving. That’s not good.

The defense is very impressive. Everything starts with John Henderson and Marcus Stroud at the defensive tackles positions. There probably isn’t a better tandem in the league. Jacksonville only allowed 17 points per game last season and they’ll probably come close to that again. Nate Wayne and Mike Peterson are sold linebackers. Donovan Darious and Deon Grant are a great safety tandem. The defense is talented all over the field. The only question is whether the offense will score more points than the defense allows. That didn’t happen last year.

The Jaguars have two distinct schedules wrraped in one. The first half is unpleasant. The second half couldn’t be easier. The first portion features Seattle, Indy, NY Jets, Denver, Cincy, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Houston and Baltimore. The Jags would be lucky to go 3-6 in those games. The second half has Tennessee (2), Arizona, Cleveland, Indy, San Francisco and Houston. The Jags should go 5-2 in those games. I don’t think that’ll be enough to get them in the playoffs.

Predicted record: 8-8

The Seattle Seahawks aka The Honky Tonk Man

It took me a while to come up with a wrestler for Seattle. I thought, what wrestler was in the right place at the right time more than any other wrestler? Clearly it was the Honky Tonk Man. Can you believe this guy actually won the Intercontinental championship back when it actually meant something? In fact, it wasn't even supposed to happen. Butch Reed was supposed to beat Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat but he couldn't make it so The Honky Tonk Man was a last second substitution. Amazingly, The Honky Tonk man held the belt for an unbelievable 14 months. The title reign came to an abrupt end when The Ultimate Warrior smoked The Honky Tonk man in 10 seconds which pretty much ended his career as a main event wrestler.

The Seattle Seahawks are clearly in the right place at the right time. They have two awful teams in their division in San Francisco and Arizona. That should be good for four wins. St. Louis is not a very good team either. The Seahawks aren't a bad team. They have the most dependable runner in the NFL in Shaun Alexander. Darrell Jackson is an above average wide receiver. They lost Koren Robinson which will hurt. Matt Hasselbeck is a hot and cold quarterback. I would be nervous with him as my quarterback. However, he'll have plenty of time to throw with one of the league's best offensive lines. Steve Hutchinson, Walter Jones, and Pork Chop Womack will be Hasselbeck's security force. The tight ends are above average with Jerramy Stevens and Itula Mili.

The defense wasn't very good last season. They stole Grant Wistrom from St. Louis which will make the pass rush considerably better. They also brought in Jamie Sharper which will improve the linebacker play. Marcus Trufant is a good cornerback but the secondary looks more like a list of biology club members than an NFL secondary. I would be extremely nervous heading into the season with that group.

Seattle will find themselves in shootouts more than a few times this season. They have a good enough offense to beat sorry teams but they'll struggle to contain high powered offenses like Philadelphia, Green Bay and Indianapolis. The Seahawks pulled off one of the hardest feats in the NFL last season in losing to the same team three times. Despite the inability to contend with the NFL's reigning moron coach (Mike Martz) last season, I think they can take at least one from the Rams. They should be 5-1 in the division. They get a few lower-caliber teams in Washington, Houston, NY Giants, and Tennessee. They really should go 3-1 in those games. That leaves Jacksonville, Dallas, Philly, Indy, and Green Bay. I would expect them to go no better than 2-3 in those games and possibly 1-4. They'll benefit from the weak NFC West and make the playoffs.

Predicted record: 9-7

The Houston Texans aka The 1-2-3 Kid

The 1-2-3 Kid made his big splash in wrestling when he pulled off a monumental upset over Razor Ramon. He was a fresh face in wrestling who seemed to get a "push" out of nowhere. In all honesty, that was probably the highlight of his career. He pretty much stunk after that.

I keep hearing how the Texans are the rising team in the NFL. I have to say that I’m not buying it. There are worse quarterbacks in the league than David Carr. Andre Johnson is probably the most underrated wide receiver in the league. Sports Illustrated showed their brilliance by rating him the #18 fantasy wide receiver in the league. If you think he’s the 18th wr then I’ve got some 80’s baseball cards that I’d like to sell you. Jabar Gaffney and Corey Bradford are decent options to go with Johnson. Dominick Davis looked better two years ago than he did last season. He averaged under 4.0 yards per carry and only managed 1,100 yards rushing with a paltry four 100 yard games. The offensive line has been porous. Carr got sacked 49 times last season which begs the question, do the Texans know that you're allowed to use five offensive linemen? The Texans won’t ever get consistent offensive production giving up that many sacks.

The two best defensive players for the Texans over the last few years have been Aaron Glenn and Jamie Sharper. The two best players on the team this season won’t be either of those players since the Texans let them go. I don’t really know what Houston is doing on defense. The roster is thin and the talent is thinner. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Texans have one of the worst defenses in the league. Phillip Buchanon came over from Oakland but if I remember correctly, the Raiders had the worst defense in the AFC. Yep, I remembered correctly. I think the Texans would have to switch to a 10-4 defense to be respectable. Bad things are on the horizon for this team.

As bad as I think the Texans will be on defense, they have a schedule that actually gives them a chance to get to 7-9 for the second season in a row. They play Indy (2), Jax (2) and Tennessee (2) in the division. They could go 3-3 in those games but 2-4 is probably more likely. They get a break by playing the NFC West. I think they’ll go 2-2 against Arizona, San Francisco, St. Louis and Seattle. The rest of the schedule has Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Cincy, Cleveland, KC, and Baltimore. I think there’s three wins at the most in that group but more than likely it’ll be two.

Predicted record: 6-10

The Kansas City Chiefs aka Shawn Michaels

I remember when Shawn Michaels threw Marty Jannety through the mirror of Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake's Barbershop thus starting his solo career as a wrestler. Michaels and Jannety teamed up as The Rockers. Their main objective was to get beat up by Demolition, The Hart Foundation, The British Bulldogs, The Legion of Doom and The Twin Towers. I was shocked when Michaels got a push as a singles wrestler and I was even more shocked when he actually started making waves. The Kansas City Chiefs have essentially been the Shawn Michaels that got his tail kicked in The Rockers. This years’ version of the Chiefs will be the HBK Shawn Michaels who went on to be one of the biggest wrestlers the world has ever known.

I have to start this off by saying that I despise Trent Green. I’m sure he’s a nice guy and all but he is one of the worst decision makers I’ve ever seen at the quarterback position. I don’t have an official stat on this but I’m sure if you checked it out, you’d find that Trent Green leads the league in interceptions in the red zone and interceptions returned for touchdowns. I had him on my fantasy team in 2001 and he was extremely bad. In fact, I remember multiple occasions when he got me negative points. That aside, the Chiefs were the #1 offense in the NFL last year. In what seems unfathomable, Vermeil has an offensive juggernaut with Green at quarterback and Larry, Mo, and Curley at wide receiver. In a move that clearly proves that the Chiefs don’t pay attention to the NFC, Freddie Mitchell was brought in to bolster the receiving corps. Tony Gonzalez is what makes the offense go. He’s so physically dominating at the tight end position that he’s a mismatch for any defender. The offense line is mammoth. There isn’t a better 1-2 punch in the backfield than Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson. In fact, I think Johnson is one of the top five backs in the league. He’s an excellent pass receiver and he’s a load to bring down. Priest is a touchdown machine. With Johnson in the fold, Priest won’t have to carry the ball as much. Dante Hall is clearly the best return man in the NFL. He’s a threat to take it back every game which he proved two years ago by returning a punt for a touchdown in five straight games. I’ve spent a good amount of time talking about stuff that you already know. The Chiefs are sweet on offense.

This is where Shawn Michaels turns on Marty Jannety and becomes the Heartbreak Kid. The Chiefs have been deplorable on defense for as long as I can remember. They brought in Gunther Cunningham last year but that only made Cunningham look bad. This year, they actually addressed the problem. The defense has been completely revitalized with four superstar-caliber players. Patrick Surtain and Sammy Knight came over from Miami. Surtain is one of the five best cover men in the league. He’ll also be a god-send since Randy Moss is now on the schedule twice a year. Kendrell Bell came over from Pittsburgh. Bell is an animal at linebacker which is something the Chiefs haven’t had since the late Derrick Thomas played. They also drafted Derrick Johnson who might just end up being the best defensive player taken in this years’ draft. The Chiefs will be able to play smash-mouth football on defense. I’ve been able to see a lot of Chiefs games over the last few years. Every game they’ve played has been a shootout. In just about every game, the Chiefs had a legitimate chance to win. I heard Trent Green talking the other day on TV and he mentioned that in 14 of the 16 games last year, KC either entered the 4th quarter tied or with the lead. The defense was the difference in making the playoffs and staying home. That won’t be the case this year. In every other year, the defense has been the x-factor. This year, the x-factor might just be Trent Green.

Since the Chiefs play in a pretty tough division, I wouldn’t say they have a kind schedule. Oakland will be better than everyone thinks. Denver is overrated but they’re still a dangerous team. San Diego is one of the better teams in the NFL. The Chiefs haven’t been very good within their division in the last few years so I’m skeptical to predict them to be better than .500. However, I think the Chiefs are going to be a complete team this year. They’ll take care of business against lesser teams so I see them going 4-2 in the division. They get Washington, Miami, Houston, Cincinnati and the NY Giants which really should be five wins but I’ll give them 4-1 because of the “any given Sunday” rule. The rest of the schedule has the Jets, Philly, Buffalo, New England, and Dallas. I think 3-2 is a reasonable record in those games.

Predicted record: 11-5

Just for the heck of it....

The Dallas Cowboys aka "The Texas Tornado" Kerry Von Erich

“The Texas Tornado” Kerry Von Erich burst on to the WWF scene by winning the intercontinental championship two months after entering the federation. Just one and a half years later, he was addicted to cocaine and without a job. One year after that, he died of a drug overdose. There’s no question that Von Erich’s window of opportunity was small but he capitalized and made himself a huge star before his addiction did him in. I think the Dallas Cowboys have a similar window of opportunity. They play in the NFC which means they have a legitimate shot at one of the wild cards spots. However, their roster is old and will likely be overhauled within the next couple years.

Bill Parcells isn’t in Dallas to spend ten years turning this team around. He’s there to win and win now. Signing Drew Bledsoe was a “win now” signing. Some of you are going to think I'm crazy for saying this. Heck, I think I'm crazy for saying this. The most influential move of the off-season was Bledsoe going from Buffalo to Dallas. Buffalo's offense will be average at best with JP Losman at QB. Bledsoe has to be better than Vinny "I was a Hesiman contender in 1942" Testaverde. Keyshawn Johnson and Terry Glenn are 33 and 31 repectively. This team has a shelf-life of 1.5 years. The Cowboys can win with this offense but Bledsoe will have to move the chains. Julius Jones is a very talented but even with his emergence at the end of last season, the Cowboys struggled mightily on offense. Jason Witten is one of the five best tight ends in the league. The Cowboys nabbed Marco Rivera from Green Bay which should improve the offensive line. Flozell Adams is fat. Larry Allen is fatter but he's still good. The Cowboys finally have a deep backfield after auditioning the likes of the broken down Eddie George and Troy “I’m better than old man Emmitt Smith” Hambrick. They signed Anthony Thomas and drafted Marion Barber III.

The Cowboys are intent on switching to a 3-4 defense. The criticism was that they didn’t have the personnel to make the switch. However, with two first round draft picks, the ‘Boys grabbed DeMarcus Ware and Marcus Spears. The defense was suspect last season but the roster is extremely talented. Jason Ferguson and LaRoi Glover are very good defensive tackles. Ware and Spears will provide talent and energy to the defensive line. The linebackers are probably the weak part of the defense although Dat Nyguen is still a very dependable pro. The secondary is young and deep. Aaron Glenn, Terrance Newman and Roy Williams are very talented and should make the Cowboys better than last season.

I’m torn on the Cowboys. I think they have a chance to do well. Bill Parcells won with less talented teams when he coached the NY Giants. I’m not sold at all on Drew Bledsoe but he just needs to be average which is no guarantee. I think the offense needs a top-flight wide receiver that can take a game over like Freddie Mitchell. Julius Jones is the real deal which will give this team some stability on offense. I think they can make the playoffs. They definitely won’t win the division so they’ll have to get the wild card. They’ll have to beat out Atlanta/Carolina, Detroit, Green Bay, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, and St. Louis.

The schedule is not kind which makes me nervous about picking them to make the playoffs. However, they get Washington and the NY Giants twice each. I would put their chances of making the playoffs at 49%. However, under Parcells, strong running game + strong defense=Super Bowl contender. It remains to be seen if both components will be there this year.

Predicted record: 8-8

The Green Bay Packers aka Arn Anderson

Double "A" Arn Anderson was a fearsome wrestler in his hey-day. He was one of the presitgious members of the IV Horsemen. He teamed with Tully Blanchard to form one of the most dominant teams in the WWF as the Brain Busters. Much like a lot of wrestlers, Arn stuck around past his athletic prime. He required surgery to repair his vertebrate. Despite this, he managed to make some noise in the "nWo" storylines in WCW as well as a special advisor to the "new" IV Horsemen. However, his days of being a title threat and a force to be wrecken with were long gone.

The Packers are like an older Arn Anderson sticking around to "stir the pot". Don't get me wrong here. I'm simply talking about the Packers as a whole, not Brett Favre. From what I saw last season, Favre is as good as he's ever been. I remember when Joe Montana and Dan Marino were at the end of their careers. Their skills diminished just enough to where they could no longer win games on their own. Favre still has those skills. The media seems to want him to retire because it makes a good story but Favre should play five more seasons. I hate what he's done to the Lions over the years but he's a gamer.

The offense will be there. Ahman Green is easily one of the top five running backs in the NFL. He's as reliable as they come. Javon Walker is a T.O. in the making. He's big and strong and he could really explode fantasy-wise this season. Donald Driver is a legitimate second wide receiver. Tony Fisher, William Henderson and Najeh Davenport make this backfield one of the deepest in the NFL. The offensive line lost two starters in Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle. Despite the potential dropoff in the OL production, the offense is not a problem for Green Bay. Favre will be psyched to play possibly his last season. He has the ammunition on offense to do some damage in fantasy leagues.

Unfortunately for Favre, the defense doesn't have the same bite. They were already experiencing problems two years ago before they gave away Mike McKenzie to the Saints last season. They didn't address any defensive needs in the draft or free agency. The Packers management basically said, "Brett, it's all on you." We saw how effective that strategy is when Green Bay played the Colts last year. Favre threw for 360 yards and four touchdowns with zero interceptions. Javon Walker had 200 yards receiving and three touchdowns. Peyton Manning, on the other hand, threw for 393 yards and five touchdowns as the Colts smoked the Packers by two touchdowns. You need to play defense to be taken seriously in the NFL. The Packers don't play defense so I can't take them seriously. They'll score points and beat some teams but Favre can only do so much on his own.

The schedule isn't as easy as it looks. They do get Cleveland and Cincinnati as well as Chicago (2). Other than that, the Packers have a very daunting schedule. They play Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Philly, Baltimore, Minnesota (2), Detroit (2), Seattle, Tampa Bay, Carolina and New Orleans. I would not want to face that schedule with a "matador" defense. The Packers should go 3-1 against Cleveland, Cincy and Chicago (2). I think they can go 6-6 against the rest of the schedule but 5-7 seems more realistic to me.

Predicted record: 8-8

The Arizona Cardinals aka Duane Gill

Duane Gil is notorious for being a "jobber". He was a terrible wrestler. He got a semi-break when the WWF started using him as "Gill-berg" to make fun of Goldberg. Even when he got some press, he was viewed as a mockery.

I present to you the Arizona Cardinals. I've got a lot of respect for Dennis Green. He seems like a good guy who coaches hard. However, we're talking about the Arizona Cardinals. I don't care who signs up for this team. They have a bunch of young, talented players that won't ever accomplish anything until they get out of Arizona. The blueprint to turn your team from perennial doormat to playoff contender does not include having Kurt Warner and Josh McNown as your quarterbacks. I could really stop with this preview right now and you wouldn't miss out on anything. However, the Cardinals have a bunch of young players that deserve a few sentences. Larry Fitzgerald was a pretty good player last year in his rookie season. He has the size and talent to be a top five receiver at some point in his career. Anquan Boldin is a very fine possession receiver in the mold of Chris Carter. He's not fast but he runs good routes and will catch a ton of passes. The Cardinals drafted J.J. Arrington from Cal who should be a good running back someday. Dennis Green had to be happy with that pick but he needs to be reminded that he's the coach of the Arizona Cardinals.

The defense is atrocious. They drafted Antrell Rolle but does it really matter? I have never heard of 80% of their defense. That is NOT a good sign. In fact, that means I'm done talking about the defense.

The schedule isn't the most difficult so I think it's conceivable for Arizona to muster up five wins.

Predicted record: 5-11

The Pittsburgh Steelers aka Andre "The Giant"

Andre “The Giant” was a colossal athlete who stood in the way of anyone who wanted to be the WWF heavyweight champion. He was never the top wrestler but he was a huge roadblock for anyone who wanted to be the champ. Andre fought Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, and Randy “Macho Man” Savage for the title but never got a chance to hold the championship himself. Well, he actually did win the championship once but he immediately sold it to “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DeBiase. Andre will long be remembered as a dominating wrestler without the gold to prove it.

Does anyone really think the Steelers will win the Super Bowl? They have such a good team but with New England, Indy, KC and Baltimore in the AFC alone, the Steelers will probably be watching the Super Bowl on TV again. Ben Roethlisberger had an unbelievable rookie year leading the Steelers to a 13-0 record in the regular season. He’ll be a little better this year but I think it’ll take a few years for him to become a top-rate passer. He’s a good decision-maker and that’s all the Steelers need right now. The running game will be the bread and butter once again as Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley take turns. Bettis had 13 touchdowns and made the Pro Bowl. Bettis might be the first player in sports history to actually turn into his nickname (the bus) but he’s still bouncing off tacklers so it made sense for him to come back. The receiving corps won’t miss a beat without Plaxico Burress. Burress was not the most reliable receiver. His departure gives Antwaan Randle El a chance to shine. The Steelers also brought in Cedric Wilson. First round pick Heath Miller will pay immediate dividends from the tight end position. The offensive line is awesome. The Steelers have such a versatile offense that it’ll be difficult for any defense to shut them down.

I'm not sure if this is Andre's reaction to seeing Big John Stud naked or the news that there won't be a Princess Bride II.

The Steeler defense will again be among the league’s best. They led the NFL last season in points against, rushing yards against, and total yards against. They did lose Kendrell Bell and Chad Scott but that might not make too much of a difference. The Steelers have good players but they’re good in large part because of their defensive coordinator. They have some of the most creative blitz schemes in the NFL. They constantly apply pressure to the quarterback and make tackles in the backfield. The Steelers might have the best linebackers in the NFL with Joey Porter, James Farrior, and Larry Foote. James Harrison is supposedly one mean dude which I think we’ll get a chance to see this season. Casey Hampton is a dominating defensive tackle. The secondary could be green but Willie Williams and Troy Polamalu add stability to the unit. Plus, Polamalu trains in his bare feet which makes him tough!

The Steelers are a complete team. They’re good at every position. I think the one thing that separates them from being a very good team and being a Super Bowl champion is the quarterback play. Roethlisberger is good. He’ll probably end up being great. But, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will probably consistently outplay Roethlisberger in big games.

The schedule is very accommodating especially for a team that’s as good as the Steelers. They get Cincy and Cleveland twice which should be four wins. They have to play Baltimore twice which should be at least one win. They matchup against the NFC North which should give the Steelers three wins. They play Indy, Tennessee, Houston and Jacksonville which should be three more wins. That leaves Cleveland and San Diego which will be at least one win and possibly two.

Predicted record: 13-3

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers aka Harley Race

Before entering the WWF in 1986, Harley Race had experienced a legendary wrestling career in the NWA. He was a 43 year old former champion who seemed to have his best days behind him. However, he unexpectedly won the King of the Ring tournament and was known as "The King" of wrestling. Race was an old former champion with just enough left in the tank to make some noise.

Tampa Bay had an awful season last year. They went 5-11 and Jon Gruden's magic seemed to have gone away. The Bucs won the Super Bowl just three seasons ago but most people expect this team to fall apart. I think the Bucs are a "former champ with just enough left in the tank to make some noise." The Bucs have a very deep and talented roster. After taking over the starting job in week 5 last year, Brian Griese had a 70% completion percentage and a 97.5 quarterback rating. His primary target was rookie phenom Michael Clayton who had one of the top seasons ever for a rookie wide receiver. Ike Hilliard and Joey Galloway are decent second and third options for Griese. The backfield has been significantly upgraded over the last two years. Michael Pittman was a punishing running back last season. The Bucs drafted Carnell "Cadillac" Williams in the first round. Mike Alstott is a dependable fullback. The Bucs also drafted TE Alex Smith who should be a legit receiving threat. The Bucs will have an offense similar to what Gruden had with Oakland.

The defense has lost big names like Warren Sapp and John Lynch over the last few season but the defense isn't anything to laugh at. Derrick Brooks is still one of the best linebackers in the league. Simeon Rice and Booger McFarland are dominating defensive lineman. Rhonde Barber is still holding things together in the secondary. I fully expect the Bucs to have a formidable defense.

I haven't heard anything good about Tampa Bay since the season ended. Everyone wants to talk about Atlanta and Carolina. To me, Tampa Bay is just as talented as both of those teams. I would not be surprised to see Tampa Bay make the playoffs. They have a good mix of youth and athleticism. They have a good coach. I think Tampa Bay has as good of a chance as anyone to win the NFC South. The Bucs get to play Miami, Chicago, San Francisco and Washington. They really should go 4-0 against those teams but I'll give them 3-1 to be safe. I think they can go 3-3 in their division. That leaves Minnesota, Buffalo, Green Bay, Detroit, NY Jets, and New England on the schedule. They could go 3-3 in those games but I think 2-4 is more likely.

Predicted record: 8-8

The New England Patriots aka Hulk Hogan

This was a pretty easy one to call unless you're a fan of Samoa Joe. The New England Patriots are the Hulk Hogan of the NFL in every way. From the “Patriotic” theme to the lengthy title runs. The Patriots even win the way Hogan won. Hogan came within seconds of losing before “Hulking” up and applying the “boot to the face” followed by the “atomic leg drop.” The Patriots always pull out the close ones. They barely beat Oakland in the blizzard in 2001. They squeaked by Carolina in the Super Bowl. Last season, they dominated Philly early before the Eagles made it close at the end. It’s almost like Patriot games are scripted.

The Patriots experienced their typical off-season. People left and people came but it really doesn’t matter. All that matters is that the head coach is Bill Belichik and the quarterback is Tom Brady. They said “good-bye” to Ty Law much like they did with Lawyer Milloy last year. Law’s a very good defender but he didn’t play in the playoffs last year yet the Patriots thwarted Manning and the Colts. Teddy Bruschi finally came to his senses and decided to skip the season after having a stroke. That would’ve been a disaster waiting to happen. Ted Johnson retired. David Patten signed with Washington. Both the offensive and defensive coordinators left for more lucrative positions. Some people think that this all adds up to a disappointing season for the Patriots. Here are some names that might make those people change their mind; Tom Brady, Corey Dillon, Deion Branch, David Givens, Daniel Graham, Richard Seymour, Dana Stubblefield, Vince Wilfork, Chad Brown, Roosevelt Colvin, Willie McGinest, Mike Vrabel, Duane Starks, Eugene Wilson, Asante Samuel and Rodney Harrison. This team is loaded. If you want to know what separates the Patriots from the average team, just compare the rosters. Nobody has as complete of a team as New England.

It’s hard to pick against New England since they’ve won three of the last four Super Bowls. However, it’s not like they haven’t had close calls. I don’t think they’ll win another Super Bowl this year but that’s only because they have to lose one of these close games at some point. The odds aren’t in their favor to win every close game. The key to the Super Bowl this year is who gets home field advantage in the playoffs between New England and Indianapolis. The Colts have a much easier regular season schedule so I think they’ll have the inside track. Nothing would surprise me with this team. They are so good in every facet of the game that it’s a joy to watch them play. I suspect that a lot of people are sick of the Patriots since they always win but, to be honest, I enjoy watching them play.

Predicted record: 11-5

The New York Jets aka Mick Foley

Mick Foley was a tough SOB. He’s a legend in wrestling for devoting his body to sports entertainment. He wasn’t physically gifted in anyway. He wasn’t big, or particularly strong. In fact, there was really no reason for him to ever be a successful wrestler. He succeeded by doing what the other wrestlers would not. He jumped off twenty foot steel cages. He allowed the Rock to beat him mercilessly in the head with a steel chair with his arms tied behind his back. He played multiple characters including Dude Love, Cactus Jack, and Mankind. Foley’s status in wrestling constantly changed with the characters he played. One week Foley could be in a title match while the next week he could be placed on the backburner.

The Jets epitomize Mick Foley in many regards. They aren’t the most gifted team offensively or defensively yet they continue to win. They don’t have any superstars unless you want to count Curtis Martin. The Jets are tough and stubborn. Herm Edwards has done an outstanding job leading this team. Like Foley, they’ve had multiple personalities. They beat the Colts in the playoffs three years ago 41-0. They came back the next week and got smoked by Oakland 30-10. The Jets haven’t been consistently dominating and I think that’s partially because they aren’t a dominating football team. They have to play perfectly to beat the good teams. Last season presented a new problem for the Jets. They couldn’t beat the good teams on the schedule. The Jets went 11-7 last season. The Jets beat Cincy, Miami, San Francisco, Cleveland, Arizona, Houston, and Buffalo. They lost to New England (2), Pittsburgh (2), and Baltimore. The Jets proved last year that it’s possible to make the playoffs by beating the bad teams but you’re not going to get much further than the first round.

The Jets are boring on offense. Chad Pennington is an accurate passer who’s capable of having big games. His receiving corps isn’t very accommodating. The Jets traded Santana Moss for Lavaranues Coles which pretty much puts them in the same position as they were last year. Justin McCareins is average but beyond that, there’s Wayne “I might be French but I might not be” Chrebet and Johnathan Carter. The running game will be solid with Curtis Martin but the loss of Lamont Jordan will be noticeable. Jordan and Martin provided a unique 1-2 punch last season that allowed both players to remain fresh. For some teams, a running back by committee works best and I think that was the case for the Jets. The offensive line is pretty good so Martin will get his yards. However, the Jets struggle immensely against good defenses. If they scored 14 points in two games against New England last year. They scored 23 points in two games against Pittsburgh. The Jets won’t win anything until they become more dynamic on offense.

The defense was stout last year. The Jets were in just about every game that they lost because of their defense. They only gave up 16 points per game and less than 100 yards rushing. The Jets must be confident in their backups because they let go more than a few key contributors on defense. Jason Ferguson, Donnie Abraham, Sam Cowart, and Reggie Tongue are gone from last years defense. The Jets did bring in Ty Law but that merely offsets the loss of Abraham. DeWayne Robertson, John Abraham, and Shaun Ellis form a good defensive front. Johnathan Vilma is becoming a superstar at linebacker and Victor Hobson has improved immensely. The secondary could be very good depending on how Law has recovered from his injury. I don’t think the defense will be as good as last years which is bad news for the Jets.

Are the Jets going to be Dude Love or Mankind?

The Jets are a good football team. They made the playoffs last year but beating up on the sisters of the poor. They won’t be able to do the same thing this year as the schedule is much tougher. They play New England, Buffalo, and Miami two times. They could go 4-2 there but I’ll give them 3-3. They matchup against the NFC South which could be the difference in the Jets not making the playoffs. New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, and Carolina are all good teams. The Jets probably won’t do any better than 2-2 against those teams. They’re also matched up against the AFC West which is another difficult division. I don’t see the Jets doing any better than 2-2 against KC, SD, Oak, and Denver. That leaves Baltimore and Jacksonville. They’ll probably split those two games.

Predicted record: 8-8

The Detroit Lions aka The Blue Blazer

If the body of "The Blue Blazer" looks a little familiar, it's probably because it's actually Owen Hart with a mask on. As "The Blue Blazer", Owen Hart was a weak gimmick that didn't really go anywhere. As himself, Owen Hart became one of the more respected wrestlers in the business and won multiple championship belts. The Lions really could go either way. This could be the year the Lions take off the mask and reveal their true identity or they could keep on being The Blue Blazer. As I'm sure most of you know, Owen Hart died prematurely after falling from the rafters at the Kemper Arena in Kansas City. If the Lions do manage to make the "leap" to Owen Hart status, we can only hope that their success doesn't end as abruptly and as badly as Hart's.

I think this season will represent the "taking off of the mask". What I mean is that the Lions will show some life this season. They'll beat some teams they aren't supposed to beat and prove that they're a legitimate franchise. It's almost impossible for a team that's never played together to jump out of the gates as one unit. Charles Rogers has played one game in two years. Rogers and Roy Williams have not played a full game together. Neither has M. Williams and R. Williams or M. Williams and Charles Rogers. This is a completely different team from last season. C. Rogers is still a rookie in terms of playing experience. Harrington hasn't had anything close to a good season yet. The linebackers haven't had a chance to play as a unit. I just have a hard time believing that this team can pick up from day one as a playoff team. There will be highs and lows but in the end, I think this will be a successful season. Next year is finally the year.

However, there a many things to be excited about. The secondary is as strong as its been in my lifetime. Kennoy Kennedy is feared around the league for his punishing hits. Dre Bly is one of the better cover corners in the league after making two straight Pro Bowls. Fernando Bryant sucked last year but he was dealing with an injury that kept him from being 100% Harrington said in the Detroit News that normally he stays away from throwing Dre Bly's way in practive but Bryant has been playing so well that he doesn't think that way anymore.

The linebackers are potentially the fastest group in the NFL. Boss Bailey and Tedy Lehman are speedsters. If they can prove to be reliable tacklers, they'll be a strength all season. Shuan Rogers is the best defensive tackle in the NFL. He's huge and agile. Rogers and Big Daddy Wilkinson should shut down the running game. The problem with the defense is that it's green. Much like the offense, these guys haven't played together. I just have a hard time believing this unit can gel immediately. It'll take some time.

The 2005 Lions or just Owen Hart?

I know that Detroit is ready to erupt with any hint of respectability from the Lions. My advice is to be patient. Remember, before this season, the Tigers looked to be ready to make the "leap". They had a good group of starters, a deep bullpen, and a fearsome lineup. Here we are 80% through the season and all of those things are still true. The starting pitching was decent early on. The bullpen has been phenomenal. The lineup features no less than six .300+ hitters. Yet, the Tigers are inexplicably eight games below .500 and headed south. The Tigers are proof that it takes time. You can't just starting winning from nothing. Think of all the Detroit teams that have won championships. Every team has paid their dues. The "Bad Boys" had to work their way up before finally unseating the Celtics and Lakers. The Red Wings took a long, hard road to the Stanley Cup before finally winning in 1997. Even the current version of the Pistons had to pay their dues. They improved a little each year before finally becoming a threat and eventually the NBA champs. Don't expect anything different from the Lions or Tigers. It takes time. I'm not a fan of the "next year is the year" slogan that has seemed to epitomize the Lions, but in this case, I truly believe that's the case.

The schedule features a lot of games against teams that have about the same talent-level as the Lions. These games include; Green Bay (2), Tampa Bay, Carolina, Minnesota (2), Dallas, Atlanta, and New Orleans. That's nine games. The Lions would do well to go 5-4 against those teams. They also play Baltimore and Pittsburgh which could easily be losses. That's six losses. Plus, the Lions will probably lose at least once to one of the five weaker teams on the schedule. The Lions will be bunched in with five or six teams with 8-8 or 9-7 records. I think an 8-8 team will make the playoffs in the NFC this year. It could be the Lions but it'll probably be someone like Dallas, Green Bay or Atlanta.

Predicted record: 8-8

The Cincinnati Bengals aka Rick "The Model" Martel

Rick “The Model” Martel used to come down to the ring with a sweater rapped around his neck and a bottle of spray called “Arrogance”. His arrogance far outweighed his wrestling ability. He had success under a previous gimmick with Tito Santana (Strike Force) but as “The Model” he was all talk.

The Bengals have been a team on the rise for quite some time. They finished 8-8 in each of the last two seasons which isn’t anything to write home about but for the Bengals it’s reason to be jubilant. Chad Johnson has a fever and the only prescription is to guarantee more victory. Johnson thinks so highly of himself that he sent care packages of Pepto-Bismal to the Cleveland Browns secondary to calm their fears of playing against him. The fact of the matter is that the Bengals are mediocre. They have a very good head coach but they’re far from a dangerous team.

Carson Palmer grew a lot last year. His receiving corps is very deep with Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Kelley Washington. Palmer should be better this year but I don’t think he’ll be a super star-caliber quarterback for another year or two. Rudi Johnson is a dependable running back and Chris Perry will likely get more carries. The Bengals have a big offensive line led by Willie Anderson and Levi Jones. Despite having a talented offense and putting up 58 against the Browns, they scored 17 or less points in seven games last season. The offense needs to be more consistent. As a warning, don’t waste your time with Chad Johnson in fantasy football. Palmer spreads the ball around to all four receivers. You’re better off picking up somebody else. Trust me on this.

The Bengals have major issues on defense. First round pick David Pollack will add some speed off the end but that certainly doesn’t make up for the lack of talent on the defense. Justin Smith gets the “Mike Mamula” award for being the player who made the most out of a pre-draft workout without actually being good. Remember how awesome he was supposed to be coming out of Missouri? Shouldn't that have been a warning sign that he played college football at Missouri? Deltha O’Neal is a decent corner but it’s important to remember that the Broncos were desperately looking to upgrade their secondary when they had O’Neal on the team. If the Broncos don’t like you, then something is wrong. Meanwhile, I had to do a double take when I saw former Michigan CB Brandon Williams on an NFL roster. I don’t now how this happened but this is proof that there’s hope for all of us.

The Bengals have some flair but they’re an immature team with a bad defense. That’s generally not a good combination. The schedule is favorable in the fact that they get two guaranteed victories over Cleveland. However, it also means playing Baltimore and Pittsburgh twice each. They might get one win out of that group which means 3-3 in the division is possible. They matchup against the NFC North which means tough games against Minnestoa, GB, and Detroit with Chicago as a possible win. I would say 2-2 is a good possibility there. Houston, Jax, and Tennessee provides three winnable games which should yield two wins. That leaves Indy, Buffalo, and KC. They won’t beat Indy or KC. Buffalo is a possibility.

Predicted record: 8-8 again

The San Diego Chargers aka Mr. Perfect

Mr. Perfect’s arrival in the WWF was a big deal. I remember the vignettes they used to run with athletes from different sports attesting to how perfect Mr. Perfect was. They brought in Wade Boggs to play baseball. They did this with quite a few sports. They made Bobby “The Brain” Heenan his manager which meant Mr. Perfect would quickly became involved in storylines with the top stars such as Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior. He won the intercontinental championship and proved to be one of the better technical wrestler’s in the WWF. However, he never reached main event status. He never won the WWF championship. He peaked in his two years and never achieved the same success again. He had a long career as a high profile wrestler but most fans (including me) choose to remember his early WWF days.

The 2004 Chargers were essentially the same as Mr. Perfect’s initial push in the WWF. They were a solid team (Mr. Perfect), coached by a respected coach (like “The Brain”) that played a part in the NFL playoffs (early WWF success). The Chargers were solid on offense and defense. Drew Bees bounced back from a Ryan Leaf-esque performance in 2003 to become one of the top passers in the NFL. The Chargers are playing with fire by contemplating having Phillp Rivers as the starting qb. That would be a mistake of monumental proportions. The Chargers brought in Keenan McCardell midway through the season which gave SD a legitimate passing threat. Reche Caldwell got hurt early but he’s a rising star in the NFL. Antonio Gates had the most improbable season in recent NFL history by dominating opposing defenses. He had 13 touchdowns and almost 1,000 yards from the tight end position. LaDanian Tomlinson is the premier running back in the NFL along with Shuan Alexander. Tomlinson is a workhorse with an uncanny ability to catch passes out of the backfield which gives the Chargers the luxury of playing either a ball control game or wide open game.

The defense was already decent before the Chargers added two first round defensive players in the draft. Igor Olshansky is a one-man run stopper on the defensive line. Jamal Williams weighs 350 pounds which might make him the first player in NFL history to enter a game via a golf cart. First round pick Luis Castillo might be the first and only person in Northwestern history to test positive for steroids which amazingly enough adds more credibility to their football program. The linebackers are fairly deep with Donnie Edwards, Randall Godfrey and first round pick Shawn Merriman. Quentin Jammer leads an above average corner back unit that includes Jamar Fletcher and “The Candy Man” Sammie Davis.

The Chargers had the “Perfect” combination of offense and defense last season. They outscored their opponents by a whopping eight points per game. They were among the top teams in the NFL in both categories. However, I don’t see the Chargers improving. I think they’ll be pretty much the exact same team they were last season. They’ll beat the crappy teams and they’ll lose to the better teams. I’m not sure what’s missing but I’m pretty sure that something is.

Being in the AFC West automatically guarantees a difficult schedule although getting matched up with the NFC East makes things a little more manageable. They play Denver (2), KC (2) and Oakland (2). I wouldn’t be surprised if they split with all three teams. They play Philly, Dallas, Washington and the NY Giants. That should be good for three wins. The Chargers don’t get any breaks by playing Indy, Pitts, New England, and the NY Jets. That’ll be 2-2 at the best and most likely 1-3. The remaining games are against Miami and Buffalo which really should be two victories.

Predicted record: 9-7

The San Francisco 49er's aka Jim Powers

The most vivid memory I have of Jim Powers is when he got annihilated by The Big Boss Man on Saturday Night’s Main Event. Jim Powers was the jobber of jobbers. Even when he teamed with Paul Roma to form The Young Stallions, he was on a jobber tag team. Even Duane Gill got more limelight than Jim Powers which says a lot.

The 49ers are in dire straights. They won’t be winning anytime soon. I thought Alex Smith was amazing in college. He was unstoppable running and passing. He’s a smart quarterback with a bright future. However, with Brandon Lloyd, Rashaun Woods, and Johnnie Morton as his wide receivers, Smith is in for a rude awakening. Two years ago, Kevin Barlow seemed like one of the top young running backs in the league. I’ve read on multiple occasions that rookie Frank Gore will be splitting time with Barlow. The offensive line should be better this year with Dave Baas playing center and Kwame Harris moving to right tackle. So to summarize, the 49er’s have a rookie quarterback, a below average group of wide receivers and a starting running back who might not be good enough to fend off a rookie running back. That’s not good.

The defense might be worse off than the offense. Julian Peterson is sweet. I remember when Andre Carter was drafted and he was supposed to be a serious pass rushing threat. He did have 12.5 sacks in 2002 but that’s about all he’s done. Mike "I like big" Rumph and Ahmed Plummer are decent cornerbacks. I really don’t have much else to say about the 49er’s defense. They’re going to give up a lot of points.

If it weren’t for the Arizona Cardinals, the 49er’s would’ve gone 0-16 last season. The 49er’s twice beat the Cardinals 31-28. Since San Francisco will be worse than every team on the schedule regardless of who’s on it, the schedule is inherently difficult. It’s awfully difficult to go 1-15 in the NFL so I’m going to stay away from that prediction. The Niners and Browns might combine for three wins. These two teams are very bad.

Predicted record: 2-14

The Cleveland Browns aka Duke "The Dumpster" Droese

I have to be perfectly honest here, I originally intended on comparing the Browns to Barry Hardy but I could not find any pictures of Barry Hardy online so I guess I’ll settle for the next best thing. Duke “The Dumpster” Droese was a wrestling garbage man. I don’t have much to say about “The Dumpster” other than the fact that he stunk. I supposes it’s possible that he literally stunk but in fairness to him, I don’t know that this to be true.

The Browns stink too. They’re going with the “Trent Dilfer option” at quarterback which generally means they’re waving the white flag from the get go. The running game should be very competitive with Lee Suggs, William Green and the newly acquired Rueben Droughns. The Browns are about to find out what it means to trade for a Denver running back. Detroit and Washington are the charter members of the fraternity and Cleveland is a new pledge. Suggs is the best of the bunch and would contribute meaningful numbers if the Browns would just name him the starter. The offensive line is actually decent so the Browns could have something going there. Braylon Edwards is an athletic freak who will immediately bring respectability to the Browns. Dennis Northcutt is a capable receiver as well. The Browns are in the process of finding out why Antonio Bryant couldn’t get on the field in Dallas. I’m starting to think that the Browns are often the last people to find out about things. They broke the “don’t trade for a Denver running back” rule, they traded for malcontent Bryant, and they mortgaged the future of the franchise by drafting Kellen Winslow III. Cleveland needs to get in the loop.

Romeo Crenell was a great coach for the Patriots. He’s a defensive guy who should make the Browns respectable in time. By “in time” I mean by 2014. The Browns defense features a grand total of five guys that I’ve heard of. I follow every team in the NFL. If I’ve only heard of five guys on your defense, you have major issues. In fact, I’m not even going to go over the positions on D. They’re all going to be bad. Just to drive the point home, the Browns scored 48 points against Cincy last year and still lost by ten.

The schedule could feature the Bears for 16 games and it would still be tough for the Browns. Unfortunately, it’s much more difficult than that. They have to play Pittsburgh and Baltimore two times a piece. That’s zero wins. They get Cincy twice which should also be zero wins. They matchup up against the NFC North which is not good news. They’ll lose to Minnesota, Green Bay, Detroit and could beat Chicago but they probably won’t. The other games are against Indianapolis, Houston, Tennessee, Miami, Jacksonville and Oakland. Indy is a guaranteed loss. They might be able to beat Miami but that’s a big if. They won’t beat Jax or Oakland. I can’t see McNair losing to this team. Houston is liable to beat or lose to anyone so it’s possible they could beat Houston. I don’t see more than two victories here and it would take two upsets for that to happen. I hate to say it but this could be a historically bad season.

Predicted record: 1-15

The Indianapolis Colts aka The Ultimate Warrior

The Ultimate Warrior probably had as much potential and offensive firepower as anybody in pro wrestling. He crushed The Honky Tonk Man in 10 seconds to win the Intercontinental title. He defeated everyone from Andre “The Giant” and Randy “Macho Man” Savage to the immortal Hulk Hogan. The Warrior will forever be remembered for what he could’ve been rather than for what he actually was. He left the WWF three different times over contract disputes and never really made it as an icon in wrestling.

The Indianapolis Colts are dead-ringers for The Warrior. They demolish pretty much every team in the league aside from New England. They’re consistently picked in the pre-season to make the Super Bowl. Peyton Manning set every single season passing record last season. The Colts have two problems that are essentially the same problem. 1). They can’t beat New England on the road. 2). They can’t get homefield advantage.

The offensive is probably the most explosive in NFL history. Last season, Manning threw for 49 touchdowns and had a 121.1 passer rating. Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and Brandon Stokely did their best Sanders-Monk-Clark imitation by gaining 1,000 yards and at least ten touchdowns each. Edgerrin James seems to be close to 100% after tearing up his knee. Dallas Clark is so respected in Indy that the Colts booted Marcus Pollard. There will be no issues on offense so I’ll end it here.

The Colts take a lot of criticism for their defense. I don’t think it’s that bad. In fact, it’s certainly not the reason why they haven’t won a Super Bowl. Over the last three years in the playoffs, the Colts have either lost on the road or to the Patriots and most of the time it’s been both. In those three losses, they’ve scored a grand total of 17 points. In the two losses to the Patriots in the last two years in the playoffs, the Colts have given up 20 and 24 points respectively. The defense is not the problem. I’m not saying it’s on par with the Ravens or Eagles but it’s far from the worst unit in the league. The Colts aren’t very big on the defensive line so they are susceptible to a power running game. Corey Simon was a very important signing. He should make the Colts D-Line as good as it's been in recent memory. Dwight Freeney is one of the top pass rushers in the league. The linebackers and defensive backs are very talented. Rob Morris and Cato June are very good linebackers. Mike Doss and Bob Sanders are hard hitting safeties. They drafted Marlin Jackson in the first round who should immediately upgrade their pass defense.

I can’t stand Manning. He rolled over in his bowl game against Nebraska in 1997. His family all but cried when Charles Woodson won the Heisman. He lambasted his kicker (Mike Vanderjagt) when Vanderjagt actually had the guts to call out Manning and the offense for disappearing in big games. Manning threw for 137 yards and two interceptions in a playoff loss to the Jets and followed that up the next year with 237 yards and four interceptions against the Patriots. Manning has choked in big games and has never taken responsibility for it. I’m sick of Manning. But, the fact of the matter is that in the RCA dome, he’s pretty much unbeatable. He’s one of the better quarterbacks in NFL history and he’ll probably break many of Dan Marino’s All-Time records.

This guy looks familiar. Alice Cooper maybe?

The schedule is weak. I would be surprised if the Colts lost more than three games this year. They play at Baltimore, at New England and a home game against Pittsburgh. I don’t think the Colts will lose all of those games. In fact, it’s more likely that they’ll go 2-1. The rest of the schedule features such overpowering opponents as Cleveland, Tennessee (2), San Francisco, Houston (2), Cincinnati, and Arizona. The Colts will get homefield advantage in the playoffs this year because they have the easiest schedule of all contenders. I think that will give them the edge over New England in the playoffs. I think Indianapolis will make the Super Bowl and promptly roll over against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Predicted record: 14-2

The St. Louis Rams aka Sycho Sid

“Sycho Sid” originally came to the WWF in 1991 under the name “Sid Justice”. He was one of the most imposing wrestlers in WWF history. He stood 6’9” and weighed over 300 lbs. He was ripped from head to toe and had the intensity to match. He eventually won the WWF World Championship in 1996. He was a main event wrestler who had all the talent in the world. Sid sabotaged his career by continually abandoning his wrestling responsibilities to participate in a local softball league. He later stabbed Arn Anderson in the chest and stomache in a real life altercation. So to recap, here was Sid's list of priorities; 1). Softball, 2). Stab Arn Anderson, 3). Wrestle. Sid was a talented athlete who never reached his potential. He played a crazy character and he was truly crazy in real life.

I’m sure you’ve all figured out by now that I’m inferring a connection to Mike Martz. I can’t stand Martz. He’s the most pompous coach I’ve ever seen. I don’t mind the questionable play calling so much as I mind the way he responds to legitimate questions from the media. He has sabotaged his team’s chances of winning games on more than one occasion. He’s never taken responsibility for his often stupid decisions. I don’t dislike too many people in the NFL but Martz is definitely one of them. I don’t ever root for the Rams. For anyone who needs an introduction, or a refresher, in Mark Martz's brilliance, here you go.

The Rams used to have a loaded roster. They made the crucial mistake of thinking that nobody would ever get old. Remember the Cleveland Cavaliers when they had Mark Price, Larry Nance and Brad Dougherty? The Cavs were a strong team. The problem the Cavs ran into is they kept the same team until it got old and they were left with nothing. You have to keep upgrading your team each year or you’re going to be stuck with an old, crappy roster like the Lions had in 2001. The Rams are well on their way to duplicating the errors of the Cavs and Lions.

The offense will score points. There’s no question that Mark Bulger throwing to Tory Holt and Issac Bruce will yield big numbers on the offensive side. Steven Jackson was a very good draft pick in 2004. He was so effective in his first year that Marshall Faulk has been pushed aside to allow Jackson the starting position.

The defense could be deplorable. Grant Wistrom is gone. Leonard Little is a very good defensive end. The Rams signed Chris Claiborne and Dexter Coakley but I don’t think that will help a whole lot since neither is enough to overcome the terrible depth on defense. Plus, remember my rule about former Lion players. If the Lions choose not to resign you, then you probably aren't very good. The secondary that used to feature Dre Bly and Aeneas Williams now features Terry Fair. Terry Fair might have the most accurate last name in NFL history. The Rams didn’t upgrade the defense in anyway and that’s a problem since they were terrible last year.

Mike Martz eats poop.....err I mean he's a Genius.

I hate to say it but the Rams are fortunate enough to play in the NFC West. That should yield four wins against Arizona and San Francisco. I think 9-7 will easily be enough to get an NFC team into a wild card spot. I’m all but certain that Seattle and St. Louis will make the playoffs because of the huge discrepancy in schedule strength in the NFC. The Rams get Tennesee, NY Giants, Washington and Houston which should give them a chance at three more wins. That puts them at seven wins with games against Seattle (2), Indy, New Orleans, Jacksonville, Minnesota, Philly, and Dallas. I think the Rams could easily win three games against the latter teams but I’ll be safe and say they go 2-6. That would get them in the playoffs. Rats!

Predicted record: 9-7

NFL Season Forecast

Here is how I see the season unfolding in the standings:


NFC North

Minnesota 12-4/ Lex Luger
Green Bay 8-8/ Arn Anderson
Detroit 8-8 / The Blue Blazer
Chicago 5-11 / The Repo Man

NFC East

Philadelphia 14-2/Ric Flair
Dallas 8-8/The Texas Tornado Kerry Von Erich
NY Giants 5-11/ The Brooklyn Brawler
Washington 5-11 /Doink The Clown

NFC South

Carolina 9-7 / Chris Jericho
Atlanta 8-8 / The One Man Gang
Tampa Bay 8-8 / Harley Race
New Orleans 7-9 / Jake "The Snake" Roberts

NFC West

Seattle 9-7 / The Honky Tonk Man
St. Louis 9-7 / Sycho Sid
Arizona 5-11 / Duane Gil
San Francicso 2-14 / Jim Powers


AFC North

Pittsburgh 13-3 / Andre "The Giant"
Baltimore 10-6 / Chris Benoit
Cincinnati 8-8 / Rick "The Model" Martel
Cleveland 1-15 / Duke "The Dumpster" Droese

AFC East

New England 11-5 / Hulk Hogan
NY Jets 8-8 / Mick Foley
Buffalo 6-10 / The Warlord
Miami 3-13 / Bob Backlund

AFC South

Indianapolis 14-2 / The Ultimate Warrior
Jacksonville 8-8 / The Barbarian
Tennessee 6-10 / Paul Roma
Houston 6-10 / 1-2-3 Kid

AFC West

Kansas City 11-5 / Shawn Michaels
San Diego 9-7 / Mr. Perfect
Denver 8-8 / DDP
Oakland 7-9 / The Oddities

* If you add up all of my predicted records, I come up five wins short of a .500 record. So, you can spread these wins out in whatever way you choose. My initial thought is that San Francisco and Cleveland may each win one more game than I gave them credit for. That would leave three wins. I also think that some of the 8-8 teams in the NFC will likely be better. I would probably say Carolina could finish 10-6 and Atlanta and Dallas could finish 9-7. That's how I'd dispurse the five wins. I also think that Oakland could do better than 7-9 but that would mean that some other team in the AFC West would do worse.

NFL Rankings:

* This is how I see the NFL teams from best to worst regardless of schedule strength and playoff predictions.

1). New England
2). Philadelphia
3). Indianapolis
4). Baltimore
5). Pittsburgh
6). Minnesota
7). Kansas City
8). San Diego
9). Carolina
10). NY Jets
11). Seattle
12). Denver
13). Atlanta
14). Dallas
15). St. Louis
16). Oakland
17). Green Bay
18). Tampa Bay
19). Detroit
20). Jacksonville
21). Buffalo
22). New Orleans
23). Cincinnati
24). Tennessee
25). Miami
26). Chicago
27). NY Giants
28). Houston
29). Arizona
30). Washington
31). Cleveland
32). San Francisco

Playoff teams:


Division winners:


Wild Card:

St. Louis * I don't have much respect for St. Louis as you can see by my NFL rankings but I do respect getting to play Arizona and San Francisco two games a piece.

Dallas * I'm not a huge Dallas believer but there are two very big things going for them 1). Bill Parcells + Good running game has historically equaled Super Bowl contender. 2). NY Giants and Washington each appear twice on the schedule.

NFC Title game:

Philadelphia over Carolina or Ric Flair over Chris Jericho


Division winners:

New England
Kansas City

Wild Card:

San Diego

AFC Title game:

Indianapolis over New England or The Ultimate Warrior over Hulk Hogan a la Wrestlemania VI. * This prediction is reliant on Indianapolis having home-field advantage. I think Indianapolis has a much easier regular season schedule than New England thus I think they'll have home-field advantage. For what it's worth, I do believe that New England is the better team.

* If I only used the wrestler identities to pick my playoff teams, I would end up with the same teams. The only possible exception would be Kerry Von Erich over Arn Anderson but remember, I'm using "old man" Arn Anderson to compare to the Packers so Kerry Von Erich wins out. You could also make a case for Mick Foley over Mr. Perfect but Mr. Perfect in 1991 was better than Mick Foley in his prime. So I think this worked out pretty good.

Super Bowl:

Philadelphia over Indianapolis or Ric Flair over The Ultimate Warrior

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