Posts Tagged ‘npi’s nfl preview bonanza’

NFL Preview Bonanza: NFC South

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Last Season: 8-8

This Season: 10-6, NFC #3

In a division that’s become tougher and tougher, it’s about time the Saints justified their 2006 breakthrough. Drew Brees is still the best quarterback in the NFC by a wide margin, he has a ton of weapons in the receiving corps, and Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas are an excellent running back duo. Offense hasn’t been the concern in New Orleans for some time, though. The defense, however, should be good enough—and by that, I mean, just slightly worse than the league average—to allow the Saints to consistently outscore teams.

Is Brees the greatest quarterback in Saint history? I’d be interesting in seeing how New Orleans fans rated him next to Archie Manning. I think Brees beats the infamous Billy Joe Tolliver and even Bobby Hebert.

Tim’s favorite player in New Orleans Saint history is…: One of my favorite nicknames of all-time belongs to the late Craig “Ironhead” Heyward.

Of the Zest commercials? Oh yeah, of the Zest commercials.

A Great and Recent Saint Game: What the Mike Piazza home run was to New York, the Steve Gleason blocked punt was to New Orleans.

What about the lateral game? That was great too. Until, you know, they lost.

As a Giant fan, what other Saint game stands out? You mean the one that helped us get to the Super Bowl in 2000? That one stands out a lot. (We were toast against the Rams in Round 2.)

If the Saints were a Star Wars location, they would be: Cloud City. Everything’s a little bit different there, and if Sean Payton wants to get to the big game, he’s going to have to sell a part of his offense-only soul Lando Calrissian style to get there.

Did you know? The Saints have two playoff wins in their history.

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NFL Preview Bonanza: NFC North

GREEN BAY PACKERS

Last Season: 6-10

This Season: 9-7, NFC #4

I’ve vacillated a lot on the Packers already this season, initially having them at 11-5 then down at 7-9 and now splitting the difference. I think Aaron Rodgers is a good quarterback but not the great one many people expect him to be, and the offense will be above-average again. It basically comes down to whether the defense, behind new coordinator Dom Capers, can return to the form it had in 2007 when Green Bay made it to the NFC Championship. If Capers can pull it off, the Pack have as good a chance as anybody in this wide-open division and conference.

Tim’s favorite player in Green Bay Packer history is…: You can make a case that Sterling Sharpe had the best name in NFL history. I mean, both his first and last name are adjectives that describe him.

Are the Sharpe brothers the greatest receiving duo in NFL history? Umm, sure?

A Great and Recent Packer Game: The game that made Brett Favre: his first playoff win at the Pontiac Silverdome against the Lions.

Can you give us one without Favre? No.

Was that the loss that killed the Lions? No, this was the loss that killed the Lions.

If the Packers were a Nintendo video game, they would be: Super Mario 2. While the original Super Mario and Super Mario 3 get all the pub, Super Mario 2 was totally off-the-wall, creative, and very fun to play. This won’t be a traditional Packer team, but it might all work out in the end anyway.

Did you know? The Packers had never lost a playoff game at Lambeau Field until 2002. They have lost three of their last five since.

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NFL Preview Bonanza: NFC East

DISCLAIMER: I will be particularly unfair and subjective in this divisional analysis.

NEW YORK GIANTS

Last Season: 12-4

This Season: 11-5, NFC #1

First of all, let’s chill out about the receiver situation. Steve Smith and Domenik Hixon are tenable NFL receivers. Especially when you complement them with the league’s best rushing attack—as much a product of the offensive line than Brandon Jacobs and, this season, Ahmad Bradshaw—and arguably its best defensive line. The Giants are, to me, the NFC team with the fewest unanswered questions, and that’s why everyone harps so much on the receiver one. The bigger question, though, is if Eli Manning can throw a football through wind. Because he hasn’t done that yet, and if he still can’t this year, I’ll be hoping Big Blue can go on the road in the playoffs again.

Tim’s favorite players in New York Giant history is…: You expect me to settle for one? I own jerseys of Rodney Hampton, Jason Sehorn, Tiki Barber, Jeremy Shockey, Michael Strahan, and Lawrence Taylor. If pressed to choose one player, I’d go with the greatest defensive player of all-time. If you give me more latitude, I’ll throw in Simms, Hampton, Tiki, Amani Toomer, Dave Meggett, Carl Banks, Pepper Johnson, Jesse Armstead, Matt Bahr, Jeff Feagles…

Greatest Ever? Greatest Ever.

Remember when Giant fans liked Tiki Barber? It seems so long ago. Back then, we thought he’d be a good broadcaster, too. We were so naïve.

And Sehorn? Now hold on. Sehorn was en route to stardom until he tore his ACL in that preseason game against the Jets in 1998. August 20, to be exact—the same night Mark McGwire hit two home runs (Nos. 50-51) in a doubleheader at Shea Stadium. If not for that injury—particularly devastating to a cornerback who didn’t have a lot of margin for error in terms of speed—Sehorn would have been a legit Pro Bowler.

A Great and Recent Giant Game: The Greatest from February 3, 2008. But let’s not forget other Great and Recent Giant Games, such as “Third Tynes the Charm,” the last regular-season game against the Broncos, 41-0, that other regular-season game against the Broncos, Mark Ingram! (or Scott Norwood!), and Matt Bahr!

Yeah, field goal kicking was important in 1990: Yes, yes it was.

Can we get that Montana hit? That might be the iconic hit on a quarterback.

Not Theismann? That’s just mean. (P.S. I still can’t watch that. It’s too painful. And I really dislike Joe Theismann!)

Can you say one thing bad about the Giants? Of course. But I won’t.

Not even about Tom Coughlin? You mean “The Debacler”? Nah, we’re cool now.

If the Giants were a historical event, they would be: The Treaty of Verdun. Charlemagne/Plaxico Burress’ responsibilities have been split up and delegated to several more individuals. How will the new leaders cooperate in response?

Did you know? I love the Giants.

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NFL Preview Bonanza: AFC West

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

Last Season: 8-8

This Season: 13-3, AFC #1

Everything sets up perfectly for San Diego to cruise to the top seed in the AFC. Shawne Merriman is back, meaning the defense will transform from bad to above-average. LaDainian Tomlinson can’t be as bad as he was last year, and Darren Sproles should spell him more. Vincent Jackson and Chris Chambers are good No. 2 receivers. Antonio Gates should be healthy. Oh, and did I mention they play in the AFC West? I’d be stunned if the Chargers lost more than one divisional game this year. I don’t know what they’ll do once they get to the playoffs, but I don’t expect the Chargers to have to leave San Diego.

Tim’s favorite player in San Diego charger history is…: He was a big-time part of that run to the Super Bowl in 1994, he was briefly a Giant, he was arguably the fifth-best tight end in Charger history. He’s none other than Alfred Pupunu!

A Great and Recent Charger Game: While San Diego has rung the Colts’ bell a few times the last several seasons (twice in the playoffs and once to end Indy’s undefeated season), the road victory to close out the RCA Dome in 2007 is probably the best of the three.

I forgot Billy Volek was huge in that game: It’s about time we go ahead and anoint Billy the best backup in the NFL.

I also forgot LaDainian Tomlinson was once good: It’s arguable that nobody in football has had their on-field reputation fall more in the last year or so than Tomlinson’s. That’s part of the reason I expect a bounceback season from LdT.

If the Chargers were the career of an actor, they would be: Paul Rudd. They’ve been on the verge of stardom for so long; they just need the proper vehicle to put it all together. (I Love You, Man, though funny, did not put it ALL together.)

Are you really getting through this without once mentioning the Merriman/Tila Tequila thing? What can I say? I don’t do “topical” humor.

Did you know? The Chargers were right to fire Marty Schottenheimer.

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NFL Preview Bonanza: AFC South

TENNESSEE TITANS

Last Season: 13-3

This Season: 11-5, AFC #2

Solid if unspectacular, the Titans’ defense will suffer from the loss of Albert Haynesworth while the offense will benefit from the continued maturation of Chris Johnson and LenDale White and the off-season pick-up of Nate Washington (it doesn’t sound like much, but do you realize who this team’s receivers are?). Can I see the Titans being a team that goes from 13-3 to 7-9? Absolutely: Kerry Collins is their quarterback. At the same time, I expect them to grind out close wins and find themselves at the top of the division and with a first-round bye for a second straight year.

Tim’s favorite player in Tennessee Titan history is…: I talked about it a few weeks ago, but the late Steve McNair was my favorite player of the last decade.

A Great and Recent Titan Game: Ten years later, and it’s still hard to believe Home Run Throwback happened. Especially if you’re from Buffalo.

You know who might be underrated? Kerry Collins was one game away from going to a championship game with his third different franchise. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of another quarterback who’s done that, and the only two I can think of that took two teams that far are Kurt Warner and Joe Montana.

I was really excited for this, but now I’m not as much: The Titans will wear Houston Oilers throwbacks during the season to honor the 50th anniversary of the AFL. Unfortunately, they’re wearing their old AFL jerseys and not the greatest uniforms in the history of football.

If the Titans were a character from The Wire, they would be: Kima. They’re not flashy, they’re not the main character, but they’re always there, doin’ work.

Did you know? Eddie George once did this to Ray Lewis.

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NFL Preview Bonanza: AFC North

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Last Season: 12-4

This Season: 11-5, AFC #4

The defending Super Bowl champs will suffer a little from the Super Bowl hangover, but not quite to the extent they did when they missed the playoffs three years ago. It’ll be interesting to see if Santonio Holmes uses his incredible performance in Super Bowl XLIII as a springboard to greater things, or if he Deion Branches it from here on out. The defense is still the best in the league, and Rashard Mendenhall will provide needed depth in the backfield.

Tim’s favorite player in Steeler history is…: Lynn Swann’s graceful game may have complemented his name better than any other player in NFL history.

You know who might be underrated: Kordell Stewart kind of grew into a laughingstock later in his career, but the guy did lead his team to two AFC title games as a starter, was a huge part (perhaps illegally) of the AFC Champion squad in 1995, and in a way set the stage for the running quarterbacks and Wildcat packages we see today. I’m not saying he was great, but he wasn’t as bad as most people remember. Plus, he did this.

Remember when Tommy Maddox was quarterback of the Steelers? Me neither.

A Great and Recent Steeler Game: The aforementioned 1995 AFC Championship is the second-best AFC title game of the last 15 years. Kudos to Dick Enberg’s “Not just the work of a week or a season, but the dreams of a lifetime on the line right here.”

If the Steelers were a work of American literature, they would be: Moby Dick. Good, but pretty boring.

Did you know? The Steelers’ logo only appears on one side of their helmet! Crazy!

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NFL Preview Bonanza: AFC East

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Last Season: 11-5

This Season: 11-5, AFC #3

They’re not going to go 16-0, if only because no team has ever gone undefeated without having a running back. At the same time, they get Tom Brady back, and last I checked, that guy’s pretty good. Do I need to keep going? You know this team is good, and nobody else in the division is even close.

Tim’s favorite player in New England Patriot history is…: I mean, it’s kind of hard not to like Troy Brown, right? He was so small! If Troy Brown were white, a lot worse, and with a tendency toward concussions, he would have been Wayne Chrebet.

A Great and Recent Patriot Game: It seems tough to overstate the significance of this game in retrospect, considering the subsequent directions of these two teams.

Wasn’t that fun to watch? No, because I fell asleep at halftime with a severe case of sinusitis. It sucked.

If the Patriots were a character on The Wire, they would be: The Greek. They control everything.

Did you know?: The Patriots officially have the league’s coolest retro logo with Pat the Patriot.

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