There really is no question about who is going to win this division as New Orleans is the class of the bunch. Seriously, do you think those words have ever been typed before? The rest of the division has its bright spots but is mostly mediocre. Let’s look:
New Orleans- As I said, this is the class team in the division. Drew Brees showed an amazing ability to not only recover from injuries quickly but learn a new play book at the same time. Reggie Bush flashed some brilliance, and he is now someone you have to game plan for. And because of McCallister and the young receivers, too much attention to Bush equals good production for the team. For those who play fantasy don’t be surprised if you don’t see a major jump in Bush’s numbers. There may even be some backlash about a sophomore slump as the season goes on. The truth is that teams will key on him and Sean Payton will adjust smoothly to feature the other guys. And while we’re typing sentences that have never been typed before, how about this one: the Saints may be getting more form their draft picks right now than anyone. Their starting WRs were selected out of the first round (contrast to Detroit). If you count Bush and Mcallister as both starting (which seems fair to me), 5 out of their 7 first rounders of the 21st century are still starting for them now which is more rare than it sounds. Sadly, check out the Redskins (Rod Gardner, Lavar Arrington, Champ Bailey, Patrick Ramsey off the top of my head) for proof that this isn’t a given. All the depth and talent from the draft compliments their policies of picking up cheap, veteran free agents like Brees, Scott Fujita, and Jason David. This is a team more capable of weathering injuries than most. That adds up to 11-5.
Carolina-Some will blame Jake Delhomme’s declining numbers on injuries to himself and Steve Smith. The truth is that his numbers declined significantly the year before as well. The problem with finally getting the chance to start late is that just when you get the hang of it, your body starts to fail you. Delhomme will be 33 by the end of the season and the team’s lack of a consistent running game and compliment to Steve Smith don’t help. Dwayne Jarrett will help..when Delhomme’s 35 and its too late. The defense is still strong, and Delhomme and Smith can steal a game or two. But 8-8 seems pretty likely.
Atlanta-Let’s review a story. A young QB is drafted with the high expectations of getting his team into the playoffs. The coach who drafted him fails to develop him. The team sees sporadic improvement but the QB fails to improve significantly. Eventually the coach is fired, and replaced by a guru who has a real reputation for developing QBs. That QB is named…David Carr. No, he’s named…Jake Plummer. No…he’s named Joey Harrington. Get the idea? Michael Vick is getting one last chance before he gets shipped off to Denver, Carolina, or Miami or the next place willing to take a shot at potential. Bobby Petrino is the next Steve Mariucci or Gary Kubiak, and just like those other guys you can bet that Petrino won’t get this right either. Vick will always be one of the most exciting players in the game, but he will never produce a consistent winner. This is a 6-10 team waiting to happen.
Tampa Bay-A rebuilding team with an offense in flux and a defense old in the wrong places. This team is a 4-12 team but look for them to make a nice move forward over the next two years. I like Chris Simms and I’d really like to see him come back and play well even though I hate his dad. We play these guys week 12 and I think we can bank on a win.
NFC Central tomorrow.