It's that time of year again already, when we realize at the very last moment that the NFL season starts tonight, and we need to post a hastily drafted preview. And for the second year in a row, my blog partner has managed to duck NFC duty because of an alleged "work" obligation. Much like my toddler when he crawls under the table, squeezes with all his might, and insists he isn't taking a poop, Finesse is under the illusion that I can't see through his charade. But it doesn't matter. The joke is on him, because this year, the NFC is the superior conference. Look at the game tonight: New Orleans at Green Bay is the best Thursday night opener I can remember.* With the Saints, Packers, Eagles, Cowboys, Falcons, Lions, Bucs, and Rams, there are now 8 NFC teams I'll actually be happy to find on TV. Yes, I'm tuning in for Sam Bradford.
|What a shirt and tie combination.|
1. Which NFC team is most improved at quarterback?
Great question by me. Let's go in order from least improved to most improved.
Seattle (Tavaris Jackson) - You can't really characterize the Seahawks as "Least Improved." Call them "Most Diminished."
Carolina (Cam Newton) - Newton carries himself well, and he could replicate Vince Young's rookie year in terms of combined rushing and passing TDs. You could do worse.
Minnesota (Donovan McNabb) - Prepare for the highest per game average of long play-action touchdown passes plus intermediate passes thrown at receivers' feet in NFL history.
Washington (Rex Grossman) - I know, it doesn't make sense to me either. But Rex looks good.
Arizona (Kevin Kolb) - It doesn't matter if Kolb lives up to his $60 million contract. He is by definition a huge improvement over Derek Andersen and Max Hall.
Detroit (a healthy Matt Stafford) - I'm afraid I have Stafford on way too many fantasy teams.
St. Louis (Bradford, 2nd year as starter) - Just watch. I'm afraid I don't have Bradford on enough fantasy teams.
2. Are we falling for Dallas this year?
No earthly idea. Sorry. They could go 7-9 or 12-4. It's impossible to separate the hype from reality with this team. I have, however, bought into the hype to some degree, because I drafted their kicker in multiple fantasy leagues based on the theory that they'll score a lot of points. And I mean it when I tell you that all I know is their kicker's first name is Dan.**
|I think this is Dan.|
No. Do you know how many years Alex Smith has been in the league? SEVEN. If you'll recall, Smith was San Francisco's choice as the first pick in the draft when they passed on the guy playing college ball in their own backyard. You know, Aaron Rodgers. Oops. Alex Smith will never be good, but maybe he can be serviceable. The Niners have weapons on offense now to go with a pretty good defense. If Smith can just get close to Jeff Garcia level, this could be a playoff team in that sorry division.
|"Hand it to Frank Gore. You can do this."|
I'm going with disappointment. He will still pile up stats against lesser teams, he will still make breathtaking plays, I will gladly start him on my fantasy team, but expectations are far too high. Fast defenses will get to him, and that's not an analysis grounded in watching him flounder against the Steelers this preseason. Check out how he did against the Vikings and Packers in the last two meaningful games he played.
1. Will the Packers repeat?
As long as Rodgers is under center, they will get back to the Super Bowl. The offense should actually be improved, with Jermichael Finley posing an absolutely impossible matchup for defenses already struggling to defend Rodgers throwing bullets 40 yards downfield to 5 solid wideouts. All Rodgers has to do is throw the ball within 10 yards of Finley's torso. Finley will get his hands on it. It doesn't much matter if Ryan Grant even plays. The defense is terrific. Who's going to beat the Packers? The Saints? Possibly. If Mark Ingram is as good as advertised and Colston can stay on the field. The Eagles? Not buying them. I see a Green Bay-Pittsburgh rematch, and I will personally inject James Harrison's back with horse painkillers to ensure this happens.
Enjoy the game, and check back to Friday for Finesse's AFC preview.
* I can't even remember last year's Thursday night opener.
** This paragraph was copied and pasted verbatim from last year's preview, but the name "Dan" replaces the name "David."