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NFL Win Totals
by Al McMordie - 08/16/2009
NFL Win Totals,
By Big Al McMordie
With the NFL season just around the corner, this is good time to look at what might happen this fall on the gridiron. Future numbers are out for each team. A year ago in this column I looked at the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were projected for 9 wins, and wrote: “The Steelers had 10 wins in 2007 with the No. 1 ranked defense. The offense was already good (17th overall, 3rd in rushing), with excellent balance, and they add Illinois RB Rashard Mendenhall and Texas WR Limas Sweed. Mendenhall was a steal and gives them a power back alongside speedy RB Willie Parker.
They have a terrific QB in Ben Roethlisberger, plus WRs Hines Ward and former Ohio State speedster Santonio Holmes (942 yards, 8 TDs). They were dominant at home at 7-2 SU, 6-3 ATS allowing 13.8 ppg and look like the best team in their division again. Over 9 wins.” The result: They went 12-4 on the way to winning their second Super Bowl in four years.
For 2009 the Patriots are projected for 12 wins, while the Giants and Chargers are at 10½. Different factors come into play when assessing futures, in addition to offseason changes. With that in mind, let’s take a look at changes that took place with certain teams and how that might influence their status for the current over/unders.
Panthers (over/under 8.5 wins): Everyone remembers the ugly playoff exit, when Jake Delhomme threw five interceptions in a 33-13 home loss to Arizona. What they forget is that Carolina was a dominant team, 12-4 in the regular season, gaining the No. 2 playoff seed. They have balance on offense, with a strong offensive line and a power running back punch of DeAngelo Williams and Jon Stewart.
Plus, they gave 34-year-old Delhomme a five-year, $30.4 million extension to take his mind off any contract negotiations. When Delhomme is asked to throw more than 30 passes, the team is 7-22, so Jon Fox loves offensive balance. The defense is in good shape after re-signing Julius Peppers (career-high 14½ sacks.) The Panthers also re-signed cornerback Chris Gamble and offensive tackle Jordan Gross to multimillion-dollar deals before they would have become high-level free agents. Those moves are often overlooked when assessing a team’s offseason activity. Carolina looks very good again; take Over 8.5 wins.
Bears (over/under 8 wins): All the buzz has been on new QB Jay Cutler, a Pro Bowler who is just what the Bears need (and have coveted for years). While QB is the most important position, he can’t do it alone. And I see weakness all over the field for the Bears (and on the coaching sideline).
Chicago was 24th in rushing last year, with no ground game and a weak offensive line. And who will Cutler throw to? The Bears are banking on considerable production from multiple unproven players at wide receiver in 2009. Earl Bennett is a projected starter with zero NFL catches, rookies Juaquin Iglesias and Johnny Knox are being counted on, leaving starter Devin Hester and veteran slot receiver Rashied Davis as the only reliable wide outs. And Brandon Rideau could figure in the mix, but he has virtually no NFL experience.
On defense, Chicago ranked 21st overall and 30th against the pass in 2008, giving up a whopping 241 yards passing per game. DT Tommie Harris Harris' left knee makes you wonder what the Bears were thinking when they signed him to a contract extension last summer. Lovie Smith and the GM have done a poor job on personnel, the Bears didn’t have a draft pick until the third round and don't have a first-round pick in the 2010 draft. The Cutler euphoria could disappear fast after a few 30-23 defeats. Under 8 wins.
Patriots (over/under 12 wins): So which Patriots are going to show up? The juggernaut of 2007, or the injury-plagued group of 2008? Even without Tom Brady, they won 11 games last season, meaning they have averaged 13.5 wins the last two years in the regular season. The offense is loaded and all indications are that Brady is healthy.
The defense has tremendous depth in the secondary, adding three picks from the second and third rounds, including second rounders safety Patrick Chung (Oregon) and CB Darius Butler (UConn). They were the second highest scoring offense in the AFC last season, without the 2007 MVP and his record 50 TDs. Have to believe the AFC East is going to take a step back, as Miami won’t surprise anyone and everything went their way, plus the Jets have a new coach and a rookie QB. The schedule isn’t that bad, with the only difficult road games at Indy and New Orleans in November. Over 12 wins is more likely.
I couldn’t resist adding this -- the projection I wrote from a year ago on the 2008 Detroit Lions. Hard to believe now they were projected to win 6-7 games! “Lions (6.5 wins): That 6-2 start in 2007 was a complete mirage, as the team miserable GM Matt Millen put together was flawed and vastly short on depth (again.) The offensive line was terrible and doesn’t look that much better. The secondary was even worse. They didn’t take a defensive back in the draft until the 7th round, and lost CB Fernando Bryant, LB Boss Bailey, and DT Shaun Rogers.
They let go of offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who did a decent job with limited talent, and being in new coordinator Jim Colletto, who brings in a simpler offense. Quarterback Jon Kitna turns 36 in September, is turnover prone and has been sacked an NFL-high 114 times over past two seasons. With Millen still in charge (which is a miracle), under 6½ wins is more likely.” Well, 2009 is a new year, and at least the Lions finally cleaned house! Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.