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NFL Futures Predictions
by Al McMordie - 06/08/2006
Football season is just around the corner. Here's a peek at the fortune's of some NFL teams this fall, based upon personnel and player changes and what their chances are to go above or below their current projected win total.
Jets (projected 5Â½ win total): The only thing I like about what the Jets did this offseason was let Herm Edwards walk and draft two huge cogs on the offensive line with their first two picks, Virginia tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson (the No. 4 pick) and Ohio State center Nick Mangold. That signals they are in for long term rebuilding. In many areas, they are rebuilding from scratch.
Look at some of the players who couldn't wait to get out of town: They lost center Kevin Mawae, DE John Abraham, QB Jay Fiedler and CB Ty Law. Law led the AFC with 10 interceptions. This is an organization that let go of speedy young WR Santana Moss the previous year, a guy who then had a breakout year in Washington. That's some serious veteran talent. The quarterback position is a huge question mark as Chad Pennington is coming off his second rotator cuff surgery in as many seasons. His status for 2006 is up in the air.
They acquired QB Patrick Ramsey in a trade, and still have Brooks Bollinger and Cliff Kingsbury, along with rookies Kellen Clemens and Brad Smith. None are NFL quarterbacks. Put it this way: The most experienced is Ramsey, who has a total of 11 TDs and 12 interceptions the last two seasons. The defense was #28 in the NFL last season and lost Abraham and CB Law. Against the run, the Jets were awful, also ranking #28 and allowing 4 yards per carry.
Into this rebuilding mix comes 35-year old Eric Mangini as the new coach. Understand that before Mangini was hired, the Jets interviewed Mike Tice! Mangini spent just one season as defensive coordinator as the Patriots, so he is raw. I was not impressed with his job as Patriots coordinator, either. The Pats were far more vanilla on defense than they had been under Romeo Crennel.
Supporters of Mangini will point out that the Patriots suffered numerous defensive injuries in the first half of the 2005 season, then became a dominant unit in the second half when Richard Seymour and Tedy Bruschi, among others, returned. Still, that's not what I saw. The Patriots run defense was sensational the second half of the season, but the pass defense was awful all year (second worst in the NFL). And just as big a reason the Pats were strong down the stretch was that they played teams that had no QBs: The Saints, Bills, Bucs, Jaguars, and Jets (twice).
Even Miami had average QB play, but still torched the Pats secondary, along with the Chiefs. Mangini was far too predictable, essentially blitzing all the time, with very little of the shifts and changes that were common under Crennel. The guess here is that Mangini will be in over his head, especially with this team in a high pressure market. Playing the Dolphins and Patriots 4 times is tough, along with games against the Colts, at Jacksonville, the Bears and at Green Bay, so squeezing out 6 wins or more will be difficult. I like the 'under' 5.5 wins.
Vikings (8 wins): Somehow Minnesota won 9 games under Mike Tice. They really weren't that good. The offense was #25 in the NFL and the defense was #21. They are in for a fall this year. New coach Brad Childress was offensive coordinator of the Eagles. He inherits a team that has shipped out stars WR Randy Moss and Daunte Culpepper the past two offseasons. QB Brad Johnson turns 38 in September and they had an uneven draft. Childress managed to insult an entire college coaching staff with his comments after the draft. They took QB Tarvaris Jackson of Alabama State, and Childress said, "You are talking about a guy that never had a quarterback coach. So what can he do with coaching? He's got the skills." The fact is Jackson did have a college quarterback coach in Reggie Barlow, who once played eight NFL seasons. "Next time you see Brad Childress," said Barlow, "tell him some people in Alabama weren't very happy with those comments." The disorganized Vikings are in for a major fall, so look for under 8 wins.
Chargers (8Â½ wins): San Diego has talent and is off 12-5 and 9-7 seasons. However, a dropoff is likely for several reasons. Ace QB Drew Brees left as a free agent, a move that was hotly argued by the GM and coach Marty Schottenheimer. That means untested QB Phillip Rivers gets thrown into the fire, not a good sign. Schottenheimer has always been a conservative coach and they will have to be even more so with such unproven QB play. Lots of running plays, which means an MVP season for LaDainian Tomlinson, but easy for opposing coaches to game plan defensively. The pass defense is still suspect, ranking #28 in the NFL. And the schedule is tough, playing the Steelers, at Baltimore, at KC, at Denver, at Cincinnati and at Seattle, so under 8.5 wins is more likely.
Cardinals (8 wins): How did this team go 5-11 with the #1 pass offense and the #8 overall defense? Just one of those years. Actually, it was more than that, with a weak offensive line, no running game, too many turnovers and a poor pass defense. But 2006 brings excitement, at least on offense. RB Edgerrin James will help provide offensive balance, along with new linemen guards rookie Deuce Lutui and Milford Brown. Pro Bowl receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald are gems, and they grabbed 6-foot-7 TE Leonard Pope (Georgia) in the draft. And they have a nice blend at QB with veteran Kurt Warner and heir apparent Matt Leinart, the #10 pick in the draft. What offensive potential! Look for the Cardinals to top 8 wins.