Football season is upon us once again. After months of waiting, we can finally restart our fantasy leagues and spend Sundays wishing we were in front of the TV instead of finishing up pset… Anyways, here are The Tech’s preseason picks for the playoffs.
AFC East: New England Patriots. Tom Brady is back, but the Patriots will not be the same juggernaut they were in their ’07–’08 campaign. Several pieces of their team are gone, including their offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive end Richard Seymour, who was traded to the Raiders last week. Randy Moss and Wes Welker remain dangerous deep threats, but their effectiveness will depend on the Pats’ ability to establish a running game.
AFC North: Pittsburgh Steelers. The defending Super Bowl champions enter this season with a similar lineup, returning 19 of their 22 starters. Their defense remains one of the best in the league and, combined with a potent offense led by Ben Roethlisberger, puts them in an excellent position to repeat this year.
AFC South: Indianapolis Colts. The Colts have a tough schedule and will have to avoid getting out to a slow start like they did last year. Kicker Adam Vinatieri and Safety Bob Sanders have been injured, but Peyton Manning should be able to carry the team. New coach Jim Caldwell will have to learn quickly after his preseason losses.
AFC West: San Diego Chargers. I didn’t really know which team to pick here, but I’m going with the Chargers. LaDanian Tomlinson is getting old by NFL standards, and a sudden dropoff is a possibility. (I took him in the first round of my fantasy draft, so let’s hope not…) Also, San Diego’s defense should be all set if linebacker Shawne Merriman can take his anger out on opposing players instead of random people off the field.
AFC Wild Cards: Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans. The Ravens had a pleasant surprise in rookie quarterback Joe Flacco last season. Their offensive will not score bunches of points, relying instead on ball control. The Raven’s greatest strength is their stifling defense, which has been one of the most consistent in recent years. Like the Ravens, the Titans will rely on their defense to carry them into the postseason. Their offensive is unexceptional, centered around running backs LenDale White and Chris Johnson. White lost 40 pounds in the offseason (reportedly by laying off alcohol), and Johnson’s speed will make him a big receiving target for Tennessee.
NFC East: New York Giants. The Giants have one of the best defenses in the league as well as a potent offense. Last year, they ranked third in the NFL in points per game and led the league in rushing yards. Running back Brandon Jacobs is a tank, but age could be a limiting factor for his production. Eli Manning, coming off a career-best year which earned him a huge contract in the offseason, has lost Plaxico Burress as a target but now has capable rookies Hakeem Hicks and Ramses Barden as wide receivers.
NFC North: Minnesota Vikings. After much drama and months of rumors, the Vikings added Brett Favre, giving them a passer to complement the most dynamic running back in the league, Adrian Peterson. Or, Minnesota can just have Favre take out the entire opposing defense via crackback blocks… Their health, however, is still a concern: How brittle is Brett-Favre-o-saurus? And, how long can Peterson elude injury with his violent running style?
NFC South: New Orleans Saints. The Saints’ greatest strength is their passing game. Drew Brees (who happened to be the best quarterback, fantasy-wise, last season), coupled with pass-happy head coach Sean Payton will likely repeat leading the league in passing yards and points per game, despite the Saints’ lack of a go-to receiver. One position New Orleans still has yet to sort out is… kicker. The 45-year-old John Carney is the current starter after Garrett Hartley received a four-game suspension for doping.
NFC West: Seattle Seahawks. I have to go with my team here. The Seahawks were riddled with injuries last year, and you can’t expect any team to win when they’re starting their fifth-string wide receivers. With the return of Matt Hasselbeck and the addition of T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seattle should have a good chance of doing well in a shallow division. Their defense, however, remains questionable.
NFC Wild Cards: Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers. This season, the Cowboys open up their new stadium, complete with its $40 million, 25,000 square foot, punt-blocking jumbotron. Terrell Owens is gone, taking his locker room distraction roadshow to Buffalo. Dallas has also improved its defense, although depth is still a concern. The Packers have much to improve upon after a 6-10 season last year despite a high-scoring offense (5th in the league). They still have their offensive threats — Greg Jennings, Ryan Grant, and Aaron Rodgers — but are shaking up their defense, switching to a new coverage scheme.