Monday Morning QB (cont.)
Posted: Monday June 4, 2007 8:54AM; Updated: Friday June 8, 2007 9:52AM
The other NFC contenders? I like Philly, but I have no idea what to make of Donovan McNabb's state of mind or ability to play a full season. Maybe Chicago will be OK with the Lance Briggs and Alex Brown distractions on defense and the organization having silly blinders on when it comes to its uber-backing of Rex Grossman. I just don't get that one, because a team with a great defense and a quarterback who plays two good games and three bad ones should go 8-8.
Can Seattle stop people, and can Shaun Alexander and Matt Hasselbeck play like it's 2005? Who is Tony Romo? I don't think Carolina solved its problem by whacking Dan Henning, just as I'm skeptical of Green Bay's 4-0 finish. My NFC darkhorse just might be St. Louis. And, of course, I'll issue my annual Detroit's-got-a-chance edict sometime in August.
In the AFC, there were only three choices. Unless you want to go out on a limb and say Jay Cutler's 2007 will be like Dan Marino's 1984, which I'm not ready to do. I would have picked San Diego if Marty Schottenheimer hadn't been hostile-takeovered by A.J. Smith, and if guruish Wade Phillips hadn't been replaced by defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, who might have been a good hire five years ago, but not now.
I love San Diego's depth, except in the secondary; versatile rookie Eric Weddle has to be able to play somewhere in September, and play to the level he did when playing Calvin Johnson stride for stride when they met in December 2005 in the Emerald Bowl. (Weddle held Johnson to two catches for 19 yards.)
I think Norv Turner will do more than fine with quarterback Philip Rivers, but I don't like the overall coaching brain drain in San Diego. Now we come to New England.
The Patriots, quite simply, have had the best offseason of any team in the free-agency era since the Packers stole Reggie White in 1993 and he became the best recruiter in the NFL. Even if Randy Moss is cut before the first game, the New England offense is dramatically better because Wes Welker and Donte Stallworth give the Pats the kind of talent at receiver they've never had in the Belichick Era. And Adalius Thomas will prove to be an excellent player and better leader.
New England missed out on its fourth Super Bowl title in six years -- I don't think the Bears would have played the Patriots any better than they played the Colts in the Super Bowl -- when Brady threw an interception in the final minute of the AFC title game at Indy. So the easy, and logical, thing to say is New England has loaded up where it was weak and will get over the Colt hump this year.
One problem. I still don't know if the Patriots' defense can get off the field in key spots. I know they allowed the second-fewest points in the league last year (14.8 per game), but they allowed 65 in two games to the Colts -- and were absolutely terrible in the second half of the AFC title game. Thirty-two points, 311 yards ... in one half. They melted. And that's what I kept coming back to. As I sit here the first week of June, I'm unconvinced they have the linebacking backbone to hold Peyton Manning to enough three-and-outs in the second half of a big game.
The Colts? I hate how much they've lost on defense. I know what you're saying -- without Nick Harper and Jason David, they're going to be too thin to withstand the bombs thrown at them. But Tony Dungy tells me Manning has lost absolutely nothing of his Jeteresque drive to be great day in and day out. I just think, as they did last year, Dungy and defensive coordinator Ron Meeks will figure out how to be scrappy on defense. They could really use Corey Simon's contribution, though no one knows yet if that will happen.
Feb. 3, 2008, in the desert: Colts 44, Saints 37. My advice: Score your tickets now. It's going to be one of the best Super Bowls ever. And the zaniest.
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