I don't care that the season hasn't begun. I want to use one of my three challenges now.
|Steve McNair and Baltimore still look good. Just not THAT good. (AP)|
I backed off Baltimore a bit, though I think the Ravens are vastly improved. And I'm settling down on San Diego, largely because I just got a look at Denver. If there's worry there, it's with a defense that couldn't rush the passer a year ago and lost Trevor Pryce.
There are reaches here, but tell me: Who had Chicago winning the NFC North a year ago? You have to take chances. Now let the games begin.
- AFC East: Patriots, Dolphins, Bills, Jets
- AFC North: Steelers, Ravens, Bengals, Browns
- AFC South: Colts, Jaguars, Titans, Texans
- AFC West: Broncos, Chargers, Chiefs, Raiders
- NFC East: Eagles, Giants, Cowboys, Redskins
- NFC North: Bears, Lions, Vikings, Packers
- NFC South: Panthers, Falcons, Buccaneers, Saints
- NFC West: Seahawks, Rams, Cardinals, 49ers
- AFC wild cards: Dolphins, Ravens
- NFC wild cards: Giants, Lions
- Wild card: Ravens over Patriots; Steelers over Dolphins
- Division: Colts over Ravens; Broncos over Steelers
- Championship: Broncos over Colts
- Wild card: Eagles over Lions; Giants over Bears
- Division: Panthers over Eagles; Giants over Seahawks
- Championship: Panthers over Giants
Super Bowl XLI
- Panthers over Broncos
MVP: The Pats keep losing starters, yet remain one of the top teams in the conference. Why? Tom Brady.
|Donte' Stallworth is the catch the Eagles needed to win the NFC East. (AP)|
Defensive Player of the Year: San Diego's Shawne Merriman said his goal is to be the best defensive player ... ever. That's not as outrageous as it sounds.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: I don't care if Reggie Bush starts. It's all about touches, and the more he plays the more he touches the ball. Look out when he does.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Detroit's Ernie Sims is all over the field and is so energetic, his college coaches had to slow him down. He's on an underrated defense, and on a club that could surprise. That's a good combo.
Comeback Player of the Year: Kyle Turley missed two seasons with a bad back. Now he's the starting left tackle for Kansas City, which has one of the league's premier offensive lines. Yeah, I'd say that's a good start.
Step-back player: Corey Dillon turns 32 next month. He's winding down, and the Patriots' draft of Laurence Maroney might put Dillon on the bench.
Step-back team: Cincinnati. First of all, the schedule is murder. Second, the Bengals have to deal with distractions, including the loss of Odell Thurman for the first four games. Lastly, the division is three-deep. That's too much for one team.
Team on the rise: So the Eagles disappeared for a year. They're back, and if you don't believe it, you didn't hear defensive coordinator Jim Johnson detailing an improved pass rush. Need more proof? How about the pickup of Donte' Stallworth? Brilliant.
Best free-agent pickup: Edgerrin James, RB, Arizona. Not because he makes this team an instant winner; because he fills the team's biggest hole. He ran for 400 more yards than the Cards last year. Yeah, I'd say that's a good pickup.
Worst free-agent pickup: Mike Vanderjagt, PK, Dallas. Here's my beef with this move: The Cowboys could've had Adam Vinatieri. They could have had Ryan Longwell. Instead they paid for someone who hasn't made a big kick in years. Please explain.