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, November 08, 2006

Land O' Conclusions: Midseason report

Disclaimer: This is actually Colin's thoughts, so get mad at him if you disagree with it. If, as is true for many of you, you're totally ambivalent about pure speculation like the crap below, than comment about Borat, or about how Round Table pizza tastes like cardboard.


No F’ing Way
Oakland Raiders
Cleveland Browns
Tennessee Titans
Houston Texans
Miami Dolphins

I want to get this out of the way upfront. The AFC is not a superior conference than the NFC. Instead, what has happened is that the AFC has two large groups. One group consists of teams that are all very good. The other group consists of teams that are all very bad. Very good…. very bad. The NFC, on the other hand, has a few good teams and then an absolute plethora of mediocre teams that can play EITHER good or bad depending on the week. There is no large group in either the top or bottom tier. That means that the playoff picture is a lot more interesting in the NFC, while the AFC simply has a larger group of better teams.

As for this category, the picks should seem obvious as we hit the halfway point, but here are some conclusions…..

Oakland, without a doubt, is the worst team in the NFL. As a Hawks fan, I almost can’t give the defense much credit about that shutout, because any semi-quality defense would have been able to shut out that horrific Raiders offense. Art Shell can’t coach, that offensive line is worse than Arizona (which is REALLY saying something), and they are wasting what is a pretty good defense.

The Dolphins, outside of Pittsburgh, are the single most disappointing team in the NFL, even after their amazing win at Chicago. They have also had offensive line troubles, and stupidly disregarded Drew Brees this offseason, settling on Daunte Culpepper, who didn’t look healthy at all. Joey Harrington has looked healthy, which is also not good. The one large bright spot is the potential superstar-dom of Ronnie Brown, who looks awesome even running behind that offensive line.

The other team with a bright spot on this list is Tennessee, who had a fantastic win on the road against Washington. Vince Young looks like he might actually turn into a decent NFL quarterback, they have a solid running game, and they just need a defense worth a darn. Actually, I could substitute Houston in this paragraph as well.

Only One Pig
Pittsburgh Steelers
Buffalo Bills
NY Jets

Wow. Here is the conclusion to get off the Pittsburgh Steelers. They will be a championship contender come next season. Honestly, there is no reason for them not being a championship contender this season, besides the fact that Big Ben has had one of the worst years possible for a sports athlete. Willie Parker has been better than expected, the defense is still solid, the special teams will be solid once Cowher stops Santonio Holmes from returning punts….. they are WAY too talented to be considered a team on the decline. Now, if they continue to fail next year, then call me. Oh, and, yes, I am enjoying their horrific season very much as a Hawks fan. I’m a terrible person (a warmongerer, some might say).

The Jets have been a pleasant surprise, and my overall conclusion on them at the halfway point is that they might be the Miami Dolphins of next year. Not in a championship sense, hopefully (they still need a much better rushing attack), but a solid playoff contender that could possibly unseat the Patriots. Mangini has been spectacular, Pennington has been solid, and the defense has turned it around for the most part.

Possible Playoff Teams
Kansas City Chiefs
Cincinnati Bengals
Baltimore Ravens
Jacksonville Jaguars
San Diego Chargers

The Cincy Bengals are learning that an overabundance of turds hurts if you start losing games. Honestly, they are falling apart, though my overall conclusion on them is that this is still a team that could challenge for the Super Bowl. I have no idea what has happened to that offense, but you still have Carson Palmer (even not at 100%), Rudi Johnson, a decent offensive line, and a bunch of awesome wide receivers. That should be more than enough to score points. The defense has been about as advertised, with an abysmal record against the run and a bunch of turnovers out of the secondary. They could very easily still win the AFC North.

On the flip side, the Baltimore Ravens are doing this in ways that are not repeatable. They are the Chicago Bears of last year. If they make the postseason, they are one and done. Same with Jacksonville, even with David Garrard, as they do not have the horses to handle the top teams in the conference.

Two teams that might, with a lucky bounce come their way, is either the Chiefs or Chargers. Larry Johnson has looked spectacular the last four weeks. Ditto Damon Huard (never thought I would write that), and the defense has been just good enough, which is all that is asked of them. The Chargers are about the same team, with a tad overrated defense led by steroid-master Shawn Merriman.

Championship Contenders
Denver Broncos
Indianapolis Colts
New England Patriots

Any of these teams could make it to Miami. I don’t believe it will BE New England, mostly because of the simple fact that they looked like the inferior team against both Indy and Denver (both of those losses came AT New England) and Brady doesn’t have a true go-to guy yet. That could change if his chemistry with Gabriel improves, but it’s not there yet. Oh, and that injury to Rodney Harrison hurts.

That leaves Indy and Denver. It’s very hard for me to include either of these teams. Denver’s offense has JUST started to get into gear after sucking for a large part of this season. Indy’s defense has JUST started to get into gear, though it is still atrocious against the run (Bob Sanders will help). Still, Peyton Manning has once again looked dominant, and Javon Walker has been a special addition in Denver. This race should be fun to watch for the next eight weeks.

My halfway pick for the Super Bowl: Indianapolis (boring, I know)

No F’ing Way
Arizona Cardinals
Detroit Lions
Tampa Bay Bucs

As I stated earlier, there are not many teams who are truly out of the playoff picture in the NFC. While you will need at least 10 wins (if not 11) to qualify in the AFC, you might only need 9 in the NFC. Still, no way for these three teams. I am very disappointed in Arizona, particularly, and hope that Denny Green is on his way out. The Cards, basically, are NOT who we THOUGHT they were. I like the decision, thus, to groom Matt Leinart, making NEXT season a possible playoff berth (of course, if that O-Line doesn’t improve, forget anything I said). Honestly, this season above many that I can remember has cemented the importance of a good offensive line. Look at problems with Oakland. Arizona. Houston. Seattle. Look at the help in Minnesota. The Jets. San Francisco.

The Bucs have had a run of bad luck, and the Lions are entirely too inconsistent to win more than 6-7.

Only One Pig
San Francisco 49ers
Green Bay Packers
Washington Redskins

I could very easily have put both the Packers and the 49ers in the above category, but both of those teams have been better than I expected. The 49ers rushing attack is here to stay, which really helps the ongoing education of Alex Smith. No, I don’t think Smith is “there” yet (whatever that means), but he is improving, which is what you want to see from your former #1 pick. The defense is still full of unproven talent, and the Niners still need a large influx of additional talent, but they are climbing back into semi-respectability.
Four weeks ago I had to make a decision about which of the four teams in the NFC East had no chance to make the postseason. I chose the NY Giants based off of their horrific performance in Seattle. My second choice would have been the Washington Redskins. Well, now it is the Washington Redskins, who needed a luck block to beat the Cowboys (man, are the Cowboys just in the habit nowadays of crushing losses?) to reach a 3-5 record. My main conclusion on them? That defense, which really carried them to the postseason last year, has been pretty doggone bad this year. Mike Rumph? Adam Archuleta? Man, that secondary has looked atrocious at times. The high-priced free agents have been virtually invisible, including Randle-El, outside of one punt return against the Colts. We might be seeing the ‘Skins on a downslope once again.

Possible Playoff Teams
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams
Minnesota Vikings
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Philadelphia Eagles
Dallas Cowboys

This is mediocrity, folks. The place where a TON of teams are 4-4, including the Rams, Vikings, Panthers, Eagles, and Cowboys. Again, there can be only six, which means only four teams from this list. YOU pick you those four might be, I don’t know.

Well, I do know that the Hawks will be one of them. I don’t say that from a homer bias, but they are a better team than the Rams, and that’s all that matters. I don’t consider them a championship contender right now due to that defense (and no, shutting out the Raiders doesn’t count), and that rushing attack needs to become more consistent as well. Right now? Second round NFC playoff loss, in my opinion.

The Carolina Panthers are another team that looks a tad off. Maybe teams are beginning to figure out how they work with Steve Smith. Maybe DeShaun Foster sucks (you think?). Maybe that defense was overrated. Whatever the reason, they remain one team that I would not want to play come playoff time.

The New Orleans Saints are a terrific story, and they probably will make the postseason (though they have a really hard second half of the season, playing Pittsburgh, Cincy, the Giants, Dallas, Washington, Carolina, and Atlanta). However, that defense is not championship-worthy, and Colston, while a great story, is very unproven under the lights. I can’t value them as a true contender yet. Now, if they slice through that above schedule…..

Teams that I consider out include the St. Louis Rams, with that “revamped” (snicker) defense, the Minnesota Vikings, with that “revamped” (snicker) offense, and the Atlanta Falcons, with that “revamped” (snicker) quarterback. Those three teams are entirely too inconsistent to reach the postseason.

My guess, out of these teams? Seattle, Dallas, Carolina, New Orleans

Championship Contenders
Chicago Bears
NY Giants

Yes, Rex Grossman has looked terrible two out of the last three weeks. He has also looked dominant for the other six weeks, and that has to count for something here at the halfway point. Oh, and that defense looks pretty much awesome as well. One bad loss doesn’t shove them out of the top spot in the NFC.

As for the Giants, what has impressed me has been the improved defensive performance. You knew that they could score, and they have, very consistently (except, weirdly, against Houston). But that secondary has clamped down, and the pass rush has really stepped up. It will be interesting to see how that pass rush fares without Strahan and Umeniorya (however you spell it).

My halfway pick for the Super Bowl? Chicago (gotta keep it there until further notice)

posted by Gavin @ 2:54 PM  2 comments


At 10:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

3 teams from the NFC East?

At 9:53 AM, Blogger colin_hesse said...

Nope. Four teams. I used a little trick I like to call "math". Washington is in the "only one pig" column, the 'Boys and Eagles are in the possible playoff team column, and the Giants are in the championship contender column.


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