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Special Edition Crossface: TSM's NFL Preview (part one)
Posted by The Smart Marks on Aug 8, 2003, 00:36
It is August, so that means NFL training camps are in full swing and the Preseason with it. This is the first of a special four-part Crossface where TSM staffers gather to discuss the offseason moves, drafts, and overall makeup of all the teams in the National Football League. The first topic: the Eastern divisions of the NFC and the AFC. Let’s meet the players:
Bryan Staebell: Be sure to check out Bryan’s new TNA-centric column “From the Outside.”
Jared Hawkins: Jared’s got you covered on Thursdays with his Smackdown recap. He also covered the latest UWC TV tapings
Adam West: He posts on the TSM Forums under the name “Flyboy” and is our guest for this Crossface.
Peter Kostka: TSM’s new Confidential recapper moderates the discussion.
Peter: Let's start with the Eagles. They were one win away from the Superbowl, but they ran into a Buccaneers defense that just couldn't be stopped. Do the Eagles still have what it takes to make it all the way?
Bryan: They have what it takes to win the East...and that's all that really matters. Even an injury to McNabb can't stop their offense...but Duce Staley's stupid ass might make a dent. They'll win the East and fail to win the NFC...again Jared: The key to the Eagles right now is how soon they get Duce Staley back. I don't think they can hang over the long haul without him anchoring that lineup
Adam: Honestly, I do not believe they do. They have a situation with Duce Staley that might get taken care of, but if it does not they are missing valuable pieces. They lose Hugh Douglas and Brian Mitchell. My prediction is they will probably get to the NFC Championship again, but McNabb will not win the big game.
Peter: Do you think they will get Staley back? Coach Andy Reid has said that he tried to talk to him, but says he's been forced to "move on."
Bryan: How is Corell Buckhalter rehabbing? If he's healthy they could get by without Staley. Staley is what's wrong with sports
Jared: I'm not sure they want him back at this point. If they settle it now, who's to say it won't cause a problem down the line. They need his talent, but not at the expense of the trouble he might bring
Adam: I have an odd feeling they will not. Andy Reid can be stubborn at times and although he says he tried to reach Duce, he can and he will move the team on without him.
Peter: It seems Buckhalter is being looked at as the #1 back in Philly, so we will have to see what happens.
New York Football Giants
Peter: Next, let's look at the Giants. They also made the playoffs in 2002, but a controversial call against the 49ers brought an end to their season. Their offense was the focus in the offseason and Jim Fossel seems to have a good feeling about the team. Seeing how they played against New England, that offense may need a little more tweaking. Thoughts?
Jared: Their offense isn't what cost them the game with the 49ers. Be that as it may, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Giants take the East this year if they can beat Philly.
Bryan: I don't know. The Giants will finish second in the East...and may get a Wildcard...but they certainly don't scare me in any way. They're one of those teams that are going to go 9-7 or somewhere close and won't be a post season player in the end
Adam : Their offense needs a better line, in my opinion. They need to protect Kerry Collins. Tiki Barber needs to learn to stop fumbling the ball, and then they will hopefully be good to go. With all the linebackers focusing on Shockey, this most times leaves Toomer wide open on a play. They tweak these things and they will go deeper in the playoffs this year.
Peter: Speaking of Shockey, will the dreaded Sophmore Jinx strike the Giants TE?
Adam: Not with Jeremy Shockey, no. The guy is too talented to just have his abilites "deplete" from him. He looked fine tonight in his pre-season game against the Patriots although he did not play for long.
Bryan: Probably not. He's a good player and he'll put up good numbers.
Jared: If anything hurts Shockey, it's his attitude. He showed quite the temper in the 49ers game last season, and if he can't keep that in check he's going to cause more harm than good
Adam: He can block great for a tight end, has great speed, and loves to play football. He will be in the Pro Bowl again this year even though WITH more attention on him.
Bryan: His attitude is great...as long as they win. If they start losing...look out. When you win and yell at people, they call you a leader. When you lose and do it they call you a crybaby.
Adam: Shockey is going to talk trash whether the Giants win or lose. He'll just talk more when they win.
Peter: Fair enough. Speaking of mediocre teams, let's talk about the Redskins. They signed two of the best players from the Jets in Chad Mortensen and Levernanues Coles. However, their draft left something to be desired. The question: Will Washington win more than 8 games?
Bryan: No. This team is a disaster. You can go out and sign free agents until you run out of money...but if they aren't don't have good chemistry you are screwed. I thought they would have learned that after 2 years failing at it...but they did not
Adam: I do not think they will win more than eight games this year. You just do not click on a light and say, "Hey! We signed top players. We'll win more!" The top players help, but the same can be said for the Bengals and Cowboys. It will take more than a year for the Redskins to win more than eight games this year.
Jared: I doubt they'll even win eight games. The weakness of that team is coaching, because Spurrier has yet to figure out that what worked at Florida doesn't necessarily work in the pros. I don't see Washington winning as long as Spurrier's there
Bryan: Who's they're QB? Patrick Ramsey? Danny Wuerfull? ROB JOHNSON?? Seriously. They have great recievers...and terrible QBs.
Adam: And, Steve Spurrier is a very overrated coach as it is. He says he knows who he wants to start this season (Ramsey), but by week three Rob Johnson will be starting quarterback.
Peter: So, if Spurrier does not have a good season, do you see Daniel Snyder doing what he seems to do every year and look for another head coach?
Jared: With all the hype that Snyder gave Spurrier, I'd say that's a given.
Adam: I with Jared. They think Spurrier is great, so they will not let him go.
Bryan: Who cares? You have to be a fool to take that job. Norv Turner was still in playoff contention when he was fired and Marty Shottenheimer had turned the team completely around by the end of his season. Instead of building...they just keep restarting
Peter: How much will the loss of Stephen Davis hurt?
Bryan: Not at all. They don't know how to run the football.
Jared: Nothing to add to that.
Adam: I agree with that also.
Peter: All right. To close out the division, let's discuss the team that people will be paying attention to off the field as much as on, the Dallas Cowboys. Bill Parcells and Jerry Jones, can they co-exist?
Bryan: I think they can actually. Jones just wants to win...and Parcells has turned every team he's been with into a winner. Remember how bad the Jets were when he took over? It took two years and they were in the playoffs
Adam: Yes. Jerry Jones wants a winning team, and Parcells in the man to do it. Hopefully, Jerry Jones can put his ego aside and wait three or fours years for Parcells to turn that team around and get them in the playoffs.
Jared: I'm not sure I agree with you guys. Jones might be feeling the heat from the fans for letting Emmitt Smith go. He might panic if they're not at least in the running late in the season. If he has the patience to give Parcells time, they'll be fine
Adam: We'll see how that turns out, Jared.
Bryan: Well...they won't be in the running at all...but if fans can't understand that it's stupid to take a 9 mil cap hit on a 14 year vet who's backup is better than him...that’s not his problem
Peter: What about the quarterback situation? It seems to be between Quincy Carter and Chad Hutchinson for the starting job.
Bryan: I don't like either. I wouldn't be happy if these were my choices for an arena league team.
Adam: Chad Hutchison will win it out simply because Carter is pretty damn bad when it comes to quarterback. Hutchison is not great, but he is better than Carter.
Jared: Of the two, I'd rather they go with Hutchinson, but I kind of agree that neither one of them is really worth the time.
Peter: Bryan, you mentioned the running game. Is the loss of Emmitt Smith a bad blow to the team, or will a guy like Troy Hambrick or Michael Wiley do just fine?
Bryan: They'll be playing from behind most of the time anyway...so they'll lost the run by the second half. It was just time to move on from Emmit. Hamrick has some skill and they need to develop someone who will still be around in 5 years
Jared: I think one of them will eventually step up. The fact that they're going to get some playing time, they have to improve.
Adam: They will do a mediorce job, if you ask me. Hambrick is not an every down back, but they will provide good enough running to keep so much pressure off of Hutchison.
Peter: So, who wins the division, and who will make the wildcard?
Bryan: Eagles win the division. Giants might take a Wildcard. Everyone else is out by week 10
Adam: The Giants will win the division and the Eagles will make the Wildcard. Quote me.
Jared: I'd say the Eagles win the division and Giants take a wildcard, but that could flip flop if one of them sweeps the season series.
Peter: One final question on the division. Does the NFC East still deserve the nickname "The NFC Least?" Meaning, is the division still one of the poorest in the NFL?
Jared: I dunno, the NFC North doesn't impress me much either.
Bryan: No. They play tough and there's a couple good teams there...I mean REAL good teams. It's better than say...the NFC North
Adam: No. That nickname goes to the NFC North.
Peter: Let's switch confrences now and talk about the AFC East, starting with the Bills. They made some very good free agent signings and shocked everyone by drafting Willis McGahee in the first round. Having said all that and adding in Drew Bledsoe's HUGE season last year, are the Bills contenders?
Bryan: Everyone in the division is a contender. What's most important is that they commit to running the ball and not throwing for records
Adam: The will get into the playoffs this year, but I do not see them getting pass the Wildcard.
Bryan: Their D last year was so bad at everything that they were always behind...Henry is a quality back and this year they should be able to play from the lead with the new D
Jared: If McGahee stays healthy, they might be, but I still have some doubts about the Bills' defnese. As good a year as Bledsoe had, look at their record last year. They might make the playoffs, but Adam's right, they're out in the first round
Adam: I doubt McGahee even touches the ball this year.
Bryan: I have more questions about their offense this year than their defense
Peter: So, Jared, you think McGahee will get some playing time this year?
Jared: I think with their running game being what it is, they'll put him out there. They shouldn't, mind you, but it wouldn't shock me.
Bryan: Being what it is? Nearly 1500 yards and a Pro Bowl back?
Peter: But they did sign Olandis Gary to sort of keep the pressure off him. You'd think he would be higher on the depth chart than a rookie back coming off a serious knee injury, right?
Jared: I'd think so, yes. That doesn’t mean they'll go with that.
Adam: McGahee will not touch a ball this season and he should not. The Bills want him to be in the same form he was before his injury so that he can do great things for them. With him coming right after a knee injury, he would not be able to do that.
Bryan: Gary is not having a good camp. He's third on the depth chart behind special teamer Sammy Morris. McGahee isn't a factor...and isn't even signed yet
Peter: Signing guys like Takeo Spikes and Sam Adams will definitely bolster a defense that gave up an average of 30+ points a game. So, are the days of 45-42 scores over?
Jared: Possibly, and they'll have to be over if the Bills want to contend this year
Bryan: Yes. Their days of scoring that high are over too though...so they'll still be in close games. From what I saw of their scrimmage with the Browns and have read and heard of camp the D is gelling and killing the Offense
Adam: I believe so, yes. Like you said, Takeo Spikes and Sam Adams are there to stop the run and get to the quarterback. However, even though if their defense is improved if their offense cannot provide it is all moot.
Bryan: Well...the O can't be that bad. They still have the best reciever, one of the best QBs and arguable the second best back in the whole division!
Jared: The O was the strong suit last year, so I still say the D is what they need to be successful
Bryan: I agree. What they lack is a pass rush...and that's why they can't force turnovers. That is the main concern going into the season
Peter: Think Drew will put up the numbers he did last year?
Bryan: God I hope not. If he does something has gone HORRIBLY wrong. Peerless Price is gone and with him goes the deep ball.
Jared: I doubt it, only because he threw for so many yards that it's almost impossible to match it
Adam: The numbers will be a little down due to not having Price there, but they will still have Moulds to count on.
Bryan: They've built the offense with guys who can block...so I assume its run run run. Odds are with you when you have a gunslinger...but while Bledsoe can WIN games for you...he can also LOSE games for you
Jared: That would hold true for any quarterback though, Bryan.
Bryan: Not really. There are many QBs that can't Win you games...just not lose them. Like Trent Dilfer or Jay Fiedler
Jared: Any good quarterback then
Peter: Of course, they will get smacked around by the Patriots in week one.
Bryan: Bullshit. We will stop the 2 yard Brady Bomb with our new speed!!!
Peter: Ok, next up, the Miami Dolphins. Miami made two fairly big free agent aquisitions in the offseason: LB Junior Seau and QB Brian Griese. Griese will start the first preseason game over Jay Fiedler. The question is, is there now a QB controversy in Miami?
Bryan: There shouldn't be. Fiedler doesn't lose games for you...and Griese isn't very bright. It's going to take him some time to learn the system.
Adam: No way. The only reason Griese is starting is because Fiedler had a little back muscle sprain/spasm. Griese was brought in only be a second string quarterback, nothing more.
Jared: I really don't think so. I never have understood the hype for Griese, and I certainly can't see him starting over Fieldler for any length of time
Peter: So unless Fiedler goes down again, you guys don't see Griese overtaking him for the starting job?
Adam: No. Fielder is a proven winner while you have Griese playing with no heart.
Bryan: The Dolphins offense is a one trick pony. They have Ricky Williams (the best RB in football) and then nothing.
Bryan: The problem is every team in the division knows that and upgraded their run defense
Peter: What about the Dolphins defense, Bryan?
Bryan: They have a solid defense that can take the ball from you...but teams always find the weakness in this team and start running through them by the end of the year
Adam: Solid defense? Their defense is pretty damn top notch (not Carolina or Tampa Bay), but with players like Zach Thomas, Partrick Surtain, Jason Taylor, AND Junior Seau? They have a very good defense.
Peter: So, is Ricky enough to carry the team? On the offensive side, at least?
Jared: Ricky's not enough on his own to carry the team, but he can contribute heavily to the team if he A) wants to play hard and B) stays healthy.
Bryan: And yet...they had three of those players last year and they still fell apart. Seau is good (NOT GREAT) at this point in his career. An upgrade over what they had...but this isn't the top 5 D that some think it is. Ricky can't carry this team. What happens if he can't match his epic total's from last year? They be screwed
New England Patriots
Peter: Next, let's get to what we came here to talk about, the New England Patriots. As a fan of the team, I do like what they have done in the offseason.
Adam: We are not here to talk about a team that will miss the playoffs again this season.
Peter: One of their biggest weaknesses (some say, the biggest) of the 2002 team was the run defense. I believe the signing of Roosevelt Colvin and Rodney Harrison helped solve that.
Bryan: Their defense will be the best in the division. Belichek is a genius and he's got a ton of weapons. Colvin was the second best pickup in the division (after Spikes...that's right) and he'll be a sack machine.
Adam: Their defense will be ace. I could tell that from their preseason opener. I lack faith in their ability to run the ball.
Peter: I believe that will be their weakness this year, Adam. I just don't like Antowain Smith as the starting RB.
Jared: Belichick is a brilliant defensive coach. Always has been. But Belichick's not a good offensive guy and thinks Brady can carry that team.
Adam: Brady did pretty well, last season. AND he was injured.
Peter: Brady led the NFL in touchdown passes last year, Jared.
Adam: That's because all they did last year was pass, Peter.
Bryan: I think Brady is a good QB. I just don't think he can do the kinds of things neccessary when they have no running game. I'm not impressed by their receivers and every team in the NFL now knows that to stop the Patriots you need fast Linebackers to stop their dump passes
Adam: That's because instead of running the ball they use screen and dump passes, and you cannot win like that.
Bryan: I know...and so does everyone else. The Bills built their defense for two things this year: Stop Ricky Williams and Kill Tom Brady's only outlet. That's a problem with the Pats and the Fins...you stop one thing...they lose.
Jared: Brady might have led the NFL in touchdown passes, but how many games did they win last year again? With no running game, Brady can't carry that team
Peter: Still, I think a healthy Troy Brown, an improved Daniel Graham and Deion Branch, and the signing of Dedrich Ward gives Brady SOME weapons to use.
Peter: I believe Brady worked on his long passes in the offseason, and they will incorporate it more into the offense.
Bryan: Weapons...sure...but they don't throw downfield that often and this division has some of the best corners in football.
Adam: Out of all those players, none of them is a good running back, Peter.
Peter: Very, very true, guys.
Jared: A healthy Brown does help Brady's chances, but unless Smith improves tenfold as a running back, they're screwed.
Bryan: All these teams are going to go at least .500 again...it will all be sorted out by the third tiebreaker.
New York Jets
Peter: Ok, let's finish this up with the New York Jets. They made a HUGE deal, moving all the way up to the top 5 to draft Dewayne Robertson. However, they lost Coles and Morton to the Redskins, so that hurts them on the offensive side. Also, how will Chad Pennington fare in his first season as starter? And will their defense pick it up this year?
Bryan: It's a shame too....Pennington is a GREAT young QB...and he has lost his top reciever. Their hopes rest on the old and constantly banged up shoulders of Curtis MArtin. If they can establish a running game, Pennington will be fine
Adam: Chad Pennington will do good this year. He will not produce the same numbers he did last year, but the 'kid' is a natural. He'll find a way to make plays happen, and he has Curtis Martin as a safety blanket. Martin is not injured
Bryan: He will be. He always gets banged up
Jared: I agree with Bryan. Pennington is one of the best young quarterbacks in the game, and as long as he doesn't have to carry the team, I see big things for this team this year.
Peter: So Curtis Martin will bounce back after a year where he started slow, but picked it up by the end? Or, with the defenses in the division, are his best years behind him?
Adam: I think he will if he does not suffer a injury that Bryan is CERTAIN he will have.
Bryan: I don't think so. Another year older in a division that is going to devour running backs old and young. He's pretty fragile at this point and one lick from Zach Thomas, Takeo Spikes or Roosevelt Colvin and he's out.
Jared: Martin's best years are probably behind him, but I still think he's a bigger asset than some people think.
Peter: This will probably be a tough pick, but who wins the division and who makes the wildcard?
Bryan: That's impossible...um...not the Jets
Adam: Miami wins the division while the Jets make the Wildcard.
Jared: I think the Dolphins and Jets are both going to make the playoffs, but which one of the two gets the division is a tossup
Bryan: Miami wins the division and Bills get a Wildcard. Jets lost too many people and the Pats are too one-dimensional
Peter: Final question tonight: With the moves these four teams made in the offseason and their makeups overall, is the AFC East not only the toughest, but the best division in football?
Bryan: Yes. And I hate it.
Peter: Why is that?
Bryan: Because my team plays there! Put them in the NFC North!!!
Adam: Yes, but the NFC South is not far from reaching them.
Jared: This probably is the best division in football, and it's going to make for some great games down the stretch. As long as the Pats don't win, I love it
Peter: With that comment *glares at Jared*, this NFL Crossface is OVAH~!
Tune in next week where we continue our discussion with the AFC and NFC Northern divisions.
See you then.