Crushed Optimists

We are twin brothers who grew up in Central Washington. This blog is devoted to the life of Seattle sports fans, as well as various other topics that we will espouse for your enjoyment. We could be called another OFFICIAL SEATTLE SEAHAWKS site, but we'll take our uneducated crack at the Mariners, Sonics, and Huskies as well. A Seattle Sports Blog? Must be the land... of crushed optimism!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Land O' Conclusions: Week 4

I posted a quick conclusions post after Week One, as multiple orgasms were had over Mike Vick, the Cardinals, and the Ravens. Needless to say, some conclusions still seem accurate, aka the Ravens being 4-0, and some seem quite stupid, like Detroit's defense being a source of strength.

Perception in the NFL can change on a dime. Two weeks in, the Redskins looked done. The offense was terrible, Brunell couldn't find an open receiver, and even that defense was extremely unimpressive. Now? They are 2-2 and right back in the thick of things after a very impressive win over the Jags that was won with their offense against a great Jacksonville defense.

The Seahawks looked like the Super Bowl favorite after three weeks. Now you can easily claim that the Bears, the Eagles, and possibly the Falcons all have a better claim to NFC supremacy. That's what happens when you get whupped by over thirty points.

The Patriots were down and depressed, losing at home to the Broncos Week 3, then turned around and beat down the Bengals, on the road, Week 4.

I could give you a few more examples, but the fact remains that in the NFL, more than in ANY OTHER SPORT, perception of good/bad can change more on a game by game basis. That is why I wait until after Week 4 to reexamine our preseason playoff picture, including teams that have moved into probable playoff teams and others that have sunk into the no f'ing way category. Power rankings are nice and sweet and all that, but the NFL season is all about winning the Super Bowl. You don't win any award because Petey Prisco, the guys at ESPN, or even Pro Football Talk think you're the best team in the league. With that in mind, I'll go through both conferences, putting teams into the same four categories in the preseason and discussing various conclusions we can reach about each team four games into the season.

AFC (aka "The Good Conference")

No F'ing Way Teams: Oakland, Houston, Tennessee, Cleveland

The Oakland Raiders could very easily be called the worst team in the NFL. Art Shell's regime change hasn't yet set in, Andrew Walter is now the starting quarterback, Randy Moss suddenly isn't an impact player, and the defense allowed the Cleveland Browns to get back into the game last Sunday. The Texans, while better on offense, are simply terrible defensively, and have the Jags and Colts to deal with in their division. Same with the Titans, who can't do anything right. This should be it for Jeff Fisher, who has overstayed his welcome. Finally, Cleveland doesn't have the talent to remain with Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Cincy, and, thus, realistically has zero chance of reaching the postseason. Only two wildcard teams per conference, fools.....

Only One Pig Will Fly: Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, NY Jets, Buffalo Bills

This category could also be called, "The AFC East", because all those teams, outside of New England, are decidedly mediocre.

The Dolphins are, hands down, the most disappointing team in the NFL to this point. They were supposed to be a Super Bowl contender. Instead, Culpepper has sucked, the offensive line has been terrible, and the defense can't stop anybody.

Bad Conclusion #1: The Jets are a playoff contender. Listen, they are a super fantastic story, and Mangini has infected them with some Belichick juice of something, but, again, they just aren't talented enough. They have zero running game (Kevin Barlow?), the defense, while improved, still can't stop the run, and they have a tendency to start extremely slow, forcing them to catch up.

As for the Chiefs and the Bills, again, the overall level of talent just doesn't rise to the "have" teams in the conference. Trent Green's injury has effectively killed the Chiefs chances, along with the retirement of Willie Roaf. JP Losman looks improved, but not a playoff quarterback by any means.

Probable Playoff Teams: San Diego, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Jacksonville, New England

While I have eight teams in my two playoff categories, I am fairly certain that the actual playoff six will come from this group, leaving one LARGE disappointment in the end (probably either Baltimore or Pittsburgh, because both wildcard teams sure aren't coming from that division).

Bad Conclusion #2: The Patriots championship hopes are back after a convincing win over Cincy. I just can't buy that, not with the offensive weapons at the Pats disposal. A team that is at least DECENT at stopping the run, aka anyone but Cincy, can force Brady to throw forty times to Gabriel, Caldwell, etc., which lowers the likelihood of a Pats victory. Will they make the postseason? Absolutely. No question. I would assume they will be the #3 seed once again.

San Diego, with a rookie quarterback, seems a tad overrated at the beginning of the season. That secondary isn't that great, and Phillip Rivers needs more seasoning before you can call him championship ready. The Steelers offense looks terrible, but I can't count them out after three games. They rose from the dead last year, and can very likely accomplish the same fact this year. Cincy and Baltimore have huge warts the Steelers can exploit. Speaking of Baltimore, I can't argue against 4-0, but I can't put them in the championship category. If they are 7-1 or 6-2 after 8 games, then we can talk, but that offense, even with McNair, doesn't exactly look explosive. Finally, Jacksonville finds ways to win games, and also finds ways to lose games, like against Washington, a game they really should have won.

Championship Caliber: Denver, Cincinnati, Indianapolis

Bad Conclusion #3: Time for Jay Cutler. People, Jake Plummer can win games, and has won several games while in a Denver uniform. Javon Walker finally looks comfortable, Tatum Bell will provide the necessary running spark, and that Denver defense looks phenomenal.

I am concerned about the rushing defense of BOTH Cincy and Indy, but these are the top two offenses in the NFL (in my humble opinion), and can easily outscore any opponent outside of New England.

NFC (The Junior Conference)

No F'ing Way: San Francisco, Detroit, Green Bay

Bad Conclusion #4: This was a mistake that I made this week, thinking that the 49ers offense was much improved. Um, no. Maybe at home, but Frank Gore still has to learn to hold onto the football, and Alex Smith throws the ball in some pretty weird spaces. Again, I love the work that is being done in San Francisco, but they will struggle to win 5 games. The Lions confused me after hanging with the Hawks in Week 1. Personally, I thought that meant they would contend for 7-8 wins. Instead, they have been throttled, smacked, and run over by the Bears, the Packers, and the Rams. Not exactly awesome-team-central (outside of the Bears, of course).

Bad Conclusion #5: You KNEW that once Brett Favre had a good game against the Lions, multiple media personalities would come out of the woodward and ooze love on how great Favre looks and how much longer he could probably play. Then he goes out on Monday Night, against Philly, and is terrible once again. Stop it, media. Stop it.

Only One Pig Will Fly: Arizona, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, NY Giants

The New York Giants!! Believe it. You can not say, with a straight face, that the Giants are better than the Redskins or the Eagles. Not with that secondary, and not with Eli playing like crap for three out of four quarters. And not with the entire team on the edge of a huge revolt against Tom Coughlin. No. Way. The only reason the Bucs are in this category is because of, I THINK, their defense, and because Jon Gruden is an excellent coach. The Rams might be 3-1, but they aren't, yet, a probable playoff team. Again, check with me after Week 8-9. Arizona is a disappointment once again, though Green is doing the right thing in putting Leinart out there. Let me learn this year and contend next year, with an actual offensive line.

Probable Playoff Teams: Minnesota, New Orleans, Carolina, Atlanta, Washington, Dallas

Due to the overall crapitude of the NFC, nine teams still remain viable playoff contenders, including all four teams from the NFC East. That was as predicted by most. The only real surprise here is the New Orleans Saints, who have ridden a wave of emotion and a real quarterback in Drew Brees to a nice 3-1 spot. They probably won't be in this category in four weeks, but I have to put them there for now. Minnesota might very likely not be in this category in four weeks, but they do get to play Detroit and Green Bay twice, which helps matters considerably.

Bad Conclusion #6: Steve Smith has been the difference for the Carolina Panthers
You can't argue with the fact that Smith makes the offense more potent. However, the side of the ball that is still letting the Panters down is the defense. Teams are consistently running on them, they let both the Bucs and the Saints back into games they had no business being in, and they generally look mediocre. This was supposed to be a gigantic strength for a championship team. Not yet.

Dallas and Washington, of course, have insanely difficult schedules and probably will hover around .500 for most of the season.

Championship Caliber Teams: Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle

Yes, I'm drinking the McNabb Kool-Aid. He might be having the best season of his career so far, finding multiple weapons and changing Stallworth into a top-tier receiver. The Hawks continue to look deep and, whenever Shaun gets back, have an easy road into the postseason. But the Bears! Good night! They look dominant, and are the front-runner out of the NFC today. That passing attack has vaulted them into elite caliber, as they can beat you when the defense has an off day, like against Carolina last postseason.

posted by colin_hesse @ 3:33 PM  1 comments


At 5:39 AM, Blogger Tash said...

NE = #1



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