Monday Morning QB (cont.)
Posted: Monday July 16, 2007 10:45AM; Updated: Monday July 16, 2007 3:47PM
15. Tennessee: Vince Young's no mirage, but he's going to have to outscore a lot of teams for Tennessee to be a playoff crew this year. The Titans need defensive help for Kyle Vanden Bosch and Keith Bulluck. Nick Harper helps at a corner, but he's in essence a trade for Pacman Jones -- and not an upgrade, even though Harper's good.
16. Carolina: When we last left the Panthers, Jake Delhomme was getting the bum treatment from Carolina fans. It's up to new offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson to salvage Delhomme and the offense. Don't look for Davidson to follow his track record and remain a ground-hugging guy. When you've got Steve Smith on your team, you'd be a fool to run it 58 percent of the time.
17. Cincinnati: Mediocre across the board last year -- 4-4 at home, 4-4 on the road, 6-6 in the conference. What's changed? Sam Adams and Leon Hall. In other words, very little. That's why I put the Bengals smack dab in the middle of the pack.
18. Jacksonville: If I had any faith in the Jags' quarterback situation -- and how can I, really? -- I'd have them 10 or 11. This is still a team with an explosive running game and the ability to play shutdown defense with its underrated front. I could see them anywhere between 7-9 and 10-6.
19. Miami: "We picked Ted [Ginn Jr.] because we're so close on defense, and he could make the difference in a few games with his playmaking ability,'' Cam Cameron told me this spring. If Brady Quinn turns out to be very good, the Ginn pick is a dud, almost no matter how good he is. If Quinn turns out to be Tim Couch, Ginn could look like Gale Sayers.
20. Atlanta: A retooling year, but they've got the right guy to retool. Bobby Petrino is a really good coach, a tough and smart football guy who I believe won't let the Michael Vick circus overwhelm his team.
21. New York Giants: I admire the loyalty John Mara showed by keeping his late dad's coach, Tom Coughlin. But loyalty, in this case, will probably only set the Giants back a year. I don't buy that the subtraction of Tiki Barber will take away a nettlesome critic of Coughlin and make the locker room all happy and united again. I still see a team with everyone not pulling in the same direction.
22. San Francisco: My biggest problem with the 49ers moving up the NFL ladder in 2007: They badly needed receivers, and the best they could do was perennially disappointing Ashley Lelie and perennially injured Darrell Jackson. Alex Smith had better form the best QB-to-tight-end chemistry in the league with Vernon Davis.
23. Buffalo: Even with a worrisome run defense, the Bills are coming off a season in which they allowed only 19 points a game. If J.P. Losman continues his nice progression (.625 completion percentage last year), Buffalo could go 3-3 in the division and be a spoiler for the playoffs.
24. Washington: I agonized over this one, because I think the Redskins are moving in the right direction. I like young quarterback Jason Campbell. I like Joe Gibbs' ability to make owner Dan Snyder a more patient man and I like -- really like -- the addition of tackling machine London Fletcher-Baker. I could see the 'Skins winning 10, but maybe in 2008, not 2007.
25. Green Bay: Something just doesn't smell right here. Maybe it's the loss of the Lambeau mystique; Green Bay was 3-5 at home last year. Maybe it's the schedule; four of the Pack's first five this year come against 2006 playoff teams. Maybe it's the bad chemistry between legend (Brett Favre) and architect (Ted Thompson). Whatever it is, my gut says the four-game winning streak to end 2006 wasn't a sign of better things to come.
26. Kansas City: Having a great home field advantage, and a great back to milk that advantage, will help ... but only if the great back, Larry Johnson, is around for 16 games. A Johnson holdout is possible when the Chiefs hit River Falls, and it would be disastrous for a team with such a tenuous quarterback situation. Brodie Croyle? Damon Huard? Salts of the earth. But Croyle had better grow up fast and get some extra armor. Chicago and San Diego, both on the road, loom in September.
27. Houston: Matt Schaub's going to be a 64-percent passer in an offense that cries out for accuracy, which helps. But the Texans have to find a way to run better than they did last year, and that's why keeping Ahman Green healthy for 14 or 15 games is vital to any chance this team has at .500.
28. Oakland: Even marginal improvement hinges on older guys like Warren Sapp playing at last year's level, and on Lane Kiffin getting JaMarcus Russell ready to play by Halloween because, fascination aside, Josh McCown is just a two-month seat-warmer.
29. Tampa Bay: It's time for a drink at the Last Chance Saloon for Jon Gruden. Pretty scary when your best hope for the playoffs is Jeff Garcia. Not to be critical of Garcia, who played well last year, but to be in year six of the Gruden Era and not have a quarterback of the future (at least in the quarterback molder's eyes) in sight is frightening.
30. Arizona: If I had a quarter for every time I heard, "This is the year the Cardinals finally make that leap to respectability,'' I'd be Warren Buffett.
31. Minnesota: If Brad Childress makes an NFL quarterback out of Tarvaris Jackson, Minnesota will have a chance to be good. That's a big if, and I don't think the upside is very high there.
32. Cleveland: The Browns are beginning to draft their way out of the abyss. But it's a pretty deep abyss.
Quote of the Week I
"The dog fight would last to the end, which would generally involve the death or surrender of the losing dog. At the end of the fight, the losing dog was sometimes put to death by drowning, strangulation, hanging, gun shot, electrocution, or some other method.''
Quote of the Week II
"You won't see me in November. I can guarantee you that. Except on TV.''
I saw him last week in Los Angeles. Keyshawn looks like he can still catch 75 balls and be the physical possession receiver he's always been, but to each his own.
Stat of the Week I
Speaking of Californians whom I saw last week at NFL 101/201, the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission's football promotional event, I learned this interesting tidbit from NFL officiating czar Mike Pereira: Of the 120 on-field officials in 2007, 26 will be African-American, more than in any year in NFL history. Last year the NFL employed 23 black officials. Two of the 17 crews will be led by black referees -- Mike Carey and Jerome Boger.
Stat of the Week II
In their first 81 games, the Boston Red Sox played all 10 of their 2007 games with non-division rival Texas but none of their 18 contests against division rival Tampa Bay.
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me I
Denver is not on the road in October. The Broncos go 34 straight days without a road tilt -- from Sept. 30 (at Indy) to Nov. 4 (at Detroit). They've got three home games plus their bye in the month.
Factoid of the Week II
Five parking spaces in the basement of a condominium development on West 17th Street in Manhattan are for sale ... for $225,000 each.
There is a waiting list for the spaces.
Aggravating/Enjoyable Travel Note of the Week
This happened on a United flight when I was off. Thirtyish man, across the aisle from me near the back of the plane, has his iPod on, blasting "When the Levee Breaks" by Led Zeppelin. It's so loud you can hear it clearly through his headphones. And then he falls asleep. For 90 minutes. I hear his whole playlist. (Heavy on the Dead, Zeppelin, Tom Petty, The Cars.) Then a flight attendant comes by, mercifully, and wakes the man. He takes the headphones off (stunningly, blood is not flowing from his eardrums) and hears the woman say, "Sir, you're going to have to turn your music down.'' And he did, but not before ticking off a third of an airplane.