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NFL Season Wins Forecast

   by Al McMordie - 07/10/2008

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 Jacksonville Jaguars, who were projected at 8 ½ wins: “Jacksonville might have been the best 8-8 football team in NFL history in 2006. Their offense ranked 10th in the NFL (3rd in rushing) while the defense was a dominating unit ranked second overall. This team beat the Cowboys, Giants, Eagles, shut out the Jets (41-0) and Steelers (12-0), and ran all over the champion Colts (44-17), all playoff teams.
“So what happened? They couldn’t win the close games and stumbled on the road (2-6 SU/ATS). Coach Jack Del Rio is under the gun. They add a new offensive coordinator in Dirk Koetter to try and spice up the passing game, and their road play should be better with some winnable games at Oakland, Houston, Kansas City, Tennessee, and Tampa Bay. 9 wins or more and a playoff berth are more likely.â€쳌 The Jaguars were a beast in 2007, going 11-5 and winning a playoff game.
For 2008 the Patriots are projected for 12 wins, while the Colts and Chargers are at 11 and 10½ and the Jags are at 10, meaning the AFC is once again the conference to beat. 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.

Jets (7.5 wins): Eric Mangini has been coach for two years and the results have been remarkably different, a playoff team in 2006, a disastrous 4-12 season last year. So where are they? The fact is they’ve been a bad team statistically in both the last two years, bottoming out with the 26th overall offense and 29th defense in 2007.
For 2008, there is a QB controversy. Young QB Kellen Clemens was splitting time with veteran Chad Pennington this summer. Both looked bad last season, with a weak offensive line and few quality receivers to go to. They added offensive linemen Alan Faneca and Damien Woody (Faneca is very good, Woody is washed up).
The defense hasn’t really had the personnel to run Mangini’s preferred 3-4. They add DE Vernon Gholston (Ohio State), but lost DT Dewayne Roberson and LB Victor Hobson. The Patriots are high on Hobson, feeling he was miscast at outside LB with NY. The secondary has young CB Darrelle Revis and Justin Miller, who blew out his right knee in Week 2 at Baltimore. There appears to be a lot of youth and a lack of depth. The schedule has road games at Tennessee, Seattle, and long West Coast trips to San Fran, Oakland and San Diego. They’d better get a win in the opener at Miami, as from Weeks 2-4 they face the Pats, Chargers, Cardinals and Bengals. All in all, look for under 7½ wins.

Rams (6.5 wins): The Rams have been rebuilding the defense the last two years, adding DE Chris Long in 2008 and DE Adam Carriker in 2007. They improved against the run by 7 points last season from 2006, so they are slowly heading in the right direction. But the real strength of this team is the offense, with QB Marc Bulger, RB Steven Jackson, WR Terry Holt and rookie WR Donnie Avery (Houston), taken in the second round.
The Rams have a new offensive coordinator in Al Saunders, one of the best in the business, who ran high scoring offenses in K.C. under Dick Vermeil. He will have some fun with all this offensive talent. The Rams are off a train wreck season of 3-13 because of a ton of injuries, but remember back in 2006 they were 8-8 with the No. 11 ranked offense. The offense looks just as good, while the defense is stockpiling some young talent. Playing Miami, Buffalo, Atlanta and the 49ers twice should help them get over 6½ wins.

Steelers (9 wins): The Steelers had 10 wins last season 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.

Lions (6.5 wins): That 6-2 start last season 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.

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