The NFL season starts in three days. Somehow it crept up on me. It shouldn’t have. The summer sports scene, for someone in the Philadelphia area peaked with the US Open in June. Labor Day features a Stephen Strasburg vs. Cole Hamels prime time tilt at Citizen’s Bank park, and two years ago this would have meant a rabid fight for standing room tickets. This year? Stub Hub can get you in the building for $7.44 American. Hall of Fame Club? $35. The fans aren’t front-runners, they’re just fans. Their attention is elsewhere. Like on the NFL team, where my focus should have been, where it was–at least I thought it was until I looked up and realized, three days? Damn.
Let’s Do About Five Posts in One….
On the Eagles’ Chances:
What bothers me most about the people who discuss the Eagles is that they refuse to acknowledge that Michael Vick could play the whole season. It IS possible. I’ve never seen someone’s injury be such a foregone conclusion before it happens. It makes you wonder, what if Vick just stays healthy? What if he gets lucky? The Eagles are going to need great QB play, because they are going to need to score a ton of points. Just to be competitive they’ll need to racehorse up and down the field with Chip Kelly’s signature abandon. Because, the defense is horrible. Everyone knows this.
The Eagles also have a tough schedule. The NFC North (who could easily sweep them), Denver, a division without a signature pushover team–I’ve wanted to be optimistic about the Eagles and their new regime, but when you go through game-by-game, it is tough to scrape together those wins. I’ve gone back to the drawing board several times and I can’t see a scenario where the Eagles make the playoffs. This kind of makes sense when you remember they went 4-12 last year. Not an accident. My final tally: 8-8.
This would be the spot where I would list, “biggest surprise,” or “breakout star,” but that is part of the problem I see with the Eagles. I don’t see anyone emerging far above expectations. I think McCoy will be good (he’s already good), I think Vick will be a serviceable QB, the TEs will contribute without being dominant–status quo stuff. And, definitely nothing on the other side of the ball. Best case scenario, Lane Johnson proves worthy of his draft position and the Eagles continue to improve the talent level on the team over the next couple of years.
My Top-5 NFC Teams:
1. Atlanta. I picked Atlanta to go to the Super Bowl last year, they had a great season, and I don’t see why they wouldn’t be at least as good this year. I’m not entirely sold that you need any defense to win in the NFL. Atlanta’s passing attack is insane. I love Julio Jones. If Steven Jackson provides any upgrade at all in the running game, it should be another deep playoff run for Atlanta.
2. San Francisco. I’m a bit worried about San Fran’s receivers and the seemingly ageless Frank Gore. Also, among the new breed of QBs, Colin Kaepernick may be the least accurate thrower. He’s got an incredible arm, but after a torrid start he completed over 60% of his passes in just 1 of his final 6 starts (including post-season). Everything went right for SF last year, think they struggle to get back to the highest of peaks.
3. Green Bay. This is a QB league. If there is a QB better than Aaron Rodgers I’m not aware of him. The key will be, can Eddie Lacy give them a running game, can Randall Cobb and Co. step up without Greg Jennings around, and can the defense stop good teams? When Green Bay gets eliminated from the playoffs lately, it’s usually because their defense gave up 7 to 9 TDs.
4. Seattle. I want to discredit Russell Wilson, but the problem is, even if I do, Seattle has a strong defense, an incredible home field advantage and a great running game. As a fantasy owner of Christine Michael, I’ll be rooting for a recurring high ankle sprain for Marshawn Lynch, but regardless of who is in there the Seahawks are going to pound the football. Wilson throws with accuracy and doesn’t turn it over, making Seattle a team that is tough to beat because they don’t give away any games.
5. New Orleans. The Saints should be motivated to right the wrongs of 2012 and should be relaxed and comfortable with Sean Payton back in charge. Payton will have something to prove. The Drew Brees window isn’t going to stay open forever. The issue will be with the defense, which was historically bad last year. Scary, Scary bad. But, I think New Orleans can patch it together and ride that offense.
NFC Sleeper: Chicago. Chicago started 7-1 last year, but then Jay Cutler missed a game with a concussion, the schedule toughened up and they finished 10-6. I think Cutler with Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey can put together a career year, Matt Forte gives them balance and if Chicago can survive a tough division–they make some noise.
My Top 5 AFC Teams:
1. Baltimore. They won the Super Bowl last year. They lost some names on defense, but all accounts have that unit being better than last season. Flacco could use some more targets, but Ray Rice can do it all, and Baltimore shouldn’t have to score a ton of points to win games.
2. Denver. The Broncos will need to get production from one of their three running backs, but aside from that the offense is stacked with talent. This team looks a lot like Peyton’s best teams in Indianapolis. Question is, can they deal with the loss of Dumervil, Miller’s suspension and the age (Champ Bailey) and uncertainty in the secondary?
3. Houston. The biggest question remains Matt Schaub. The duo of Foster/Tate in any combination should give the Texans the running attack they need. DeAndre Hopkins gives Andre Johnson a legitimate WR partner, and Schaub another down field target. JJ Watt might find it difficult to replicate his outlandish 2012 season, but still leads a sturdy defense.
4. New England. The Patriots defense is probably an underrated unit as is their running game. This is what happens when Tom Brady is your QB. You get the feeling Brady will find new targets in the absence of Welker and Hernandez and if Gronkowski can return healthy, the Patriots should be right back in the hunt.
5. Cincinnati Bengals. Experts rave about Cincy’s defense, especially their pass rush. Geno Atkins is a monster. The question is whether or not Andy Dalton is a franchise QB on the rise, or someone not quite at that level. Having AJ Green helps, along with two dangerous TEs and a running game sparked by rookie Giovani Bernard.
AFC Sleeper: Indianapolis. Not really a sleeper, but I get the sense that most people feel the Colts aren’t quite ready and might even take a small step back after last year. I don’t think so. By all accounts Andrew Luck looks great and if the Colts can get a few stops on defense, they should be right back in the playoffs.
My Official 2013 QB Top-10 (Non-Fantasy Edition):
- Aaron Rodgers
- Tom Brady
- Peyton Manning
- Drew Brees
- Eli Manning
- Matt Ryan
- Andrew Luck
- Matt Stafford
- Ben Roethlisberger
Pre-Season Arbitrary, Yet Definitive Top-10:
- Atlanta–Let’s Give the Worst Pro Sports City in America a Ring.
- Baltimore–Until proven otherwise–best team in the AFC
- Denver–May Prove Otherwise
- San Francisco–Possible High-Water Mark?
- Green Bay–I hear Jerry Mike Finley is BACK.
- Houston–We’ll see what Arian Foster can do/if Ben Tate can step in if needed.
- New England–Practice those hand-offs, Tommy!
- Cincinatti–Possible High-Water Mark?
- Seattle–I still think Pete Carrol can ruin this.
- Indianapolis–Good Old Nap Town.
We’ll be back with our 4th year of D.A. Fantasy Football this season. For those interested there is a tab at the top of the page where you can check out this year’s teams and read a few words on Kevin Kolb. Here are 5 guys who I can’t wait to see in D.A. this year:
1. Geno Smith–By all accounts a train wreck. What’s the record for fumble-6s in a season? Geno WANTS TO KNOW. Anyone the Jets start all year should be gold.
2. Jeff Tuel–What we know about Jeff Tuel–he’s better than Matt Leinart. What we hope–that he’ll start week one for Buffalo.
3. Terrelle Pryor–Pryor has a 5 for 26 game in him. Or something like that. I can feel it. Maybe more turnovers than completions?
4. Matt Barkley–Come week 13, 14, he may be in there. And, he’ll be brutal.
5. Chad Henne–I always want to see Chad Henne. Under any circumstances.
Pick ‘Em News:
We’ll have Pick ‘Em going again for a 5th (?) year? Is that possible? We should have all retired on our gambling winnings by now. But, make a fortune on football, lose it on soccer parlays–same old story. If anyone out there wants to try their hand at picking games–let me know. We’ve grown from 2 or 3 experts to 5 over the years. Hopefully we’ll have five this year, but if you think you can hang with pros that get 45-57% of their games right I encourage you to go ahead and dip a toe.
That’s it. Enjoy the season. See you Friday for Picks. If not sooner.