Greetings, sports fans!
This is the 5th annual “Praise Galt for Football.” Each year, I offer one well-educated fan’s view of the coming NFL season. Like many others, I picked the Carolina Panthers to win the Super Bowl last year. Of course, we know how that turned out. Injuries can ruin any team’s season. However, I was pleased to see Peyton Manning and the Colts finally earn their well-deserved Super Bowl rings. It likely won’t be Manning’s last. So who is stepping to the plate (or on the turf) this year?
Here are the front-runners, as I see it:
The Colts – Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and Joseph Addai are still on board. The defense wasn’t that hot to start with, so they couldn’t get much worse. Add these together, and you get a good chance for a repeat. The Colts will at least make it to the AFC Championship Game, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they went all the way again.
The Patriots – Last year, I said of the Patriots, “As long as you've got offensive genius Bill Belichick coaching and gunslinger Tom Brady paired together, you've got yourself a competitive team.” Nothing has changed. Well, OK, some things have changed. Corey Dillon has retired, leaving Sophomore Lawrence Moroney as the man in New England. The Patriots have upgraded the defense, adding another veteran to an already stout linebacker corps. If the Offensive Line shows up again, this team could be as good as the ’04 team that beat my Panthers in the Super Bowl.
The Steelers – I’ve watched them over the preseason, and I must say I’m impressed. After the lackluster season they had last year, the Steelers will have their doubters, but from what I’ve seen they’re back. Willie Parker looks amazing – he can pound ahead for short yardage, elude tacklers in the open field, and catch hurried throws from a scrambling Rothlisberger to produce big plays. Parker, not Rothlisberger, is the key man on the Steelers team right now. Parker’s even got a tough, veteran Offensive Line to run behind. He should have been my fantasy pick (over Gore)! The defense also looks as tough as ever.
The Chargers – Are you starting to feel like this football preview is slanted towards the AFC? Me too, but that’s because the AFC has all the best teams! Take the San Diego Chargers, for instance. Fantasy stud Ladanian Tomlinson shows no signs of slowing down, QB Phillip Rivers is an adequate signal caller (at least the equal to overrated Ben Rothlisberger), and coach Norv Turner knows what he’s doing. These guys might have the best chance to go all the way.
The Saints – Finally an NFC team, and it’s not even my Carolina Panthers! The Saints might be the best team in the NFC. Yes, better than the Bears, even though the Bears were the ones that marched to the Super Bowl last year (then promptly got beat down). With the Saints, it’s all about offense. Sure, they won’t surprise defenses around the league like they did last year. Everyone knows the Saints are good, so they’ll be planning on it. But how do you plan for a super-freak like Reggie Bush who can score in more ways than you prepare a batch of New Orleans shrimp? (Shrimp burger, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp casserole, etc.) All you can do is be on your guard, and pray that your offense scores at least 24 points or more. Because otherwise, you’re going to lose.
The 49ers – This is my underdog pick for the season. I think Alex Smith is better than he’s given credit for, and he’ll grow even more this year. Frank Gore is an absolute hoss, and Ashley Lelie is no pushover, either. The 49ers offense can get it done, especially in the Big Play department. So what about the defense? That’s a big question for me, mostly because I haven’t gotten the opportunity to watch them play much, but they were about in the middle of the pack last year. If they can improve against the run and keep scoring points, they have a remote shot at the championship.
Who else is there? Philadelphia might have a chance, but I just don’t trust McNabb to stay healthy. Carolina is tough all-around, but can’t put enough points on the board. The Ravens are tough, but MacNair is getting old and Willis McGahee needs to step up big time. Some other teams could go far (Cowboys, Seahawks, and Titans come to mind), but I don’t think they’ve got what it takes for a Championship. Maybe next year.
Without further ado, my pick for Super Bowl Champion in ’08 is…
THE SAN DIEGO CHARGERS!
Too many weapons, too tough on defense, and too much Ladanian Tomlinson for the other teams to handle. Don’t worry, my Panthers, I still love you!
Have a good season, everyone!--Dan Edge