Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Answer Might Surprise You- Top 14

So we've already seen who had really bad preseasons, and who had kinda sorta OK preseasons. Today, we look at 14 teams that just may have accomplished something during the much-maligned 4 game preseason.

#14 DENVER BRONCOS (Total Score 78)

Record: 2-2
Offense: Rushing 5th, Passing 20th
Defense: Rushing 32nd, Passing 11th
Turnover Margin: 10th

The theme of the Broncos offseason was to improve their pass defense. They dedicated their top 2 draft picks to beefing up the pass rush, acquired CB Dre Bly to fortify the secondary, and now have signed legendary sackmaster Simeon Rice. Early returns indicate they've done well, evidenced by their 11th rank in yards/pass attempt. You have to shudder a little at that 32nd rank in rushing defense though, especially for a team that's going to face LT and LJ twice apiece.

#13 DETROIT LIONS (Total Score 77)
Record: 2-2
Offense: Rushing 27th, Passing 1st
Defense: Rushing 4th, Passing 29th
Turnover Margin: 16th

I really am impressed that the Lions ranked first in passing offense, especially given the fact that JT O'Sullivan threw 4 times as many passes as any other QB did. Calvin Johnson seems like he's ready for the NFL, averaging 13.2 yards on 6 catches. Of course, everyone expects the Lions to be able to throw the ball in Mike Martz's wacky offense. What should give Lions fans hope is the way they stopped the run this preseason. If they can carry that over to real life, hey, in the NFC you never know.

#12 SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (Total Score: 76)

Record: 3-1
Offense: Rushing 23rd, Passing 5th
Defense: Rushing 25th, Passing 5th
Turnover Margin: 18th

The passing offense clicked nicely, although DJ Hackett, who is being counted on to replace Darrell Jackson, having only 3 catches is kind of a concern. What's also a concern is how done Shaun Alexander looks. 2.8 yards on 13 carries doesn't do anything to make me think he's the exception to the 30 year old running back rule.

#11 JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (Total Score: 76)
Record: 3-1
Offense: Rushing 24th, Passing 2nd
Defense: Rushing 28th, Passing 16th
Turnover Margin: 6th

David Garrard and Quinn Gray both completed over 70% of their pass attempts, and posted ratings of over 100, and because of that, the Jags have decided Byron Leftwich no longer fits into their plans. I guess I should throw out that SI from last week that told me Byron Leftwich has lost weight and is poised to have a great year. Peter King, you so crazy.

#10 DALLAS COWBOYS (Total Score: 71)

Record: 2-2
Offense: Rushing 22nd, Passing 4th
Defense: Rushing 8th, Passing 7th
Turnover Margin: 30th

If the Cowboys rank in the top 10 defenses against both the run and the pass this year, you can go ahead an punch their ticket to The Big Vibrator in Glendale AZ for the Super Bowl. Wade Phillips' reputation as a defensive mastermind is actually still warranted, while Bill Parcells' wasn't.

#9 HOUSTON TEXANS (Total Score: 71)
Record: 2-2
Offense: Rushing 4th, Passing 22nd
Defense: Rushing 10th, Passing 31st
Turnover Margin: 4th
Matt Schaub had a 113.4 passer rating, and Ahman Green averaged 5.4 yards on 17 carries. After 5 years of making excuses for David Carr, the Texans finally seem like they may have an NFL caliber offense. The talented defense ranked in the bottom 3rd of the league last year though, and if they are as bad in the regular season as they were in the preseason against the pass, they've got no chance.

#8 SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (Total Score: 68)
Record: 3-1
Offense: Rushing 11th, Passing 7th
Defense: Rushing 22nd, Passing 27th
Turnover Margin: 1st

Philip Rivers, who had a 117.3 rating this preseason, looks like he's ready to step up and be one of the 5 best QBs in the NFL. The offense didn't have LT for a single play, and still was very potent. Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd looked like they may be emerging to give Rivers some viable wideouts to throw to in addition to Tomlinson and Antonio Gates. The defense, however, didn't play very well. They did get a lot of turnovers, but this talented unit will have to remember that big plays aren't as big if you can't stop the chains from moving.

#7 CLEVELAND BROWNS (Total Score: 67)
Record: 3-1
Offense: Rushing 17th, Passing 16th
Defense: Rushing 15th, Passing 8th
Turnover Margin: 11th

This is a make-good year for Romeo Crennel, so it's imperative that the Browns show competitiveness from August thru December. Based on one month at least, Crennel looks like he will be back in 08. While the defense seems much improved, all eyes were on the offense. Brady Quinn far outplayed Charlie Frey and Derek Anderson, and although Frye will start Opening Day, he's the starter like Kerry Collins was the once starter for Tennessee last year. It's just a matter of weeks before Quinn is the man. Jamal Lewis got a lot of work for a vet this preseason, and averaged a so-so 3.6 yards on 30 carries.

#6 CHICAGO BEARS (Total Score: 67)
Record: 3-1
Offense: Rushing 32nd, Passing 10th
Defense: Rushing 9th, Passing 2nd
Turnover Margin: 14th

The defense gave every indication that it will be as good as everyone expects it to be. The offense is going to be a soap opera all year. Popular Thomas Jones is gone, and unpopular Cedric Benson is replacing him, and averaged a sickly 2.3 yards on 35 carries. He seems on track to be as loved in Chicago as February is. Rex Grossman looks shackled for fear that he'll fuck everything up. This won't be a boring season for the Bears.

#5 MINNESOTA VIKINGS (Total Score: 62)
Record: 2-2
Offense: Rushing 8th, Passing 30th
Defense: Rushing 13th, Passing 9th
Turnover Margin: 2nd

The acquistion of Kelly Holcomb tells me the Vikings are starting to realize they would be stupid to sacrifice this season at the altar of Travaris Jackson. The skill position players (with the exception of Adrian Peterson) are bad, but they may just have the best fat guys (O line and D line) in the game). It'll be surprising if the Vikings don't suck hard this year, but hey, if Bruce Springsteen can actually come out with a new song that is actually really good (and "Radio Nowhere" is), I guess anything is possible.

#4 NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (Total Score: 59)
Record: 3-2
Offense: Rushing 9th, Passing 11th
Defense: Rushing 12th, Passing 1st
Turnover Margin: 26th
It looks like they may have a defense now, and if they do, oh ho ho ho....it's Senator Craig in the men's room time my friends.

#3 BALTIMORE RAVENS (Total Score: 59)
Record: 1-3
Offense: Rushing 3rd, Passing 29th
Defense: Rushing 14th, Passing 4th
Turnover Margin: 9th
The 1-3 record doesn't really jibe with any of the rankings this team had. But a closer look shows there were really only 2 areas that didn't work for the Ravens this preseason. One is that Kyle Boller is worse than ever and the Ravens better pray to God he does not see meaningful action this year. The other was Willis McGahee averaging 2.6 yards on 18 carries. If he keeps that up, he may get his wish and be playing in Toronto.

#2 TENNESSEE TITANS (Total Score: 59)
Record: 3-1
Offense: Rushing 12th, Passing 15th
Defense: Rushing 3rd, Passing 24th
Turnover Margin: 5th

I think it's nice that the Titans ranked 30th in run defense last year, but ranked 3rd in runs per carry this preseason. That tells me they improved something in the last 8 months. People forget how good a coach Jeff Fisher is, and this is a team who dire things are predicted for after they lost their top rusher and receiver last offseason. They may just continue to improve.

And now...the Champions of the 2007 Preseason....

#1 PITTSBURGH STEELERS (Total Score: 32)
Record: 4-1
Offense: Rushing 16th, Passing 3rd
Defense: Rushing 7th, Passing 3rd
Turnover Margin: 3rd

If you look at the difference between the Steelers total score (32), and the next closest score (59), you'll see the Steelers had the best preseason by an absolutely astronomical margin. Sure, Ben Roethlisberger didn't look particularly good, and someone named Gary Russell was the leading rusher, but the Steelers were a team that really needed to set a good tone this preseason. They have a new head coach for the first time in 15 years, and one from outside the organization who is only a couple years older than some of his players at that. That the Steelers played so well this preseason tells me that Mike Tomlin knows what he's doing, has his team onboard, and is ready to make the Steelers a factor in the AFC after a disappointing 2006.

So that's it. The preseason is now officially OVER. Tomorrow I place my over/under bets for all 32 teams, make my playoff and Super Bowl picks, and on Thursday we'll have a real, live, regular season game to preview. That rules.

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