First, let's get the latest Brett Favre mass hysteria out of the way. The latest word is he is going to be traded to Tampa Bay. Now it seems all the Bucs need to do is bring Warren Sapp back, and then there will be nothing to rein in the amount of childlike joy and manlove there will be on that team. Let's all keep our fingers crossed.
Well f that noise about him going to the Bucs. Favre was traded to the Jets last night. For Joe Namath. This is an awesome trade for the Jets seeing that their best receiver is Leviticus Coles and he has a magic telepathic connection with the man Favre is replacing, Chad Pennington. I think this deal elevates the Jest from a 4 win team to a 4 win team.
Moving right along, today we've got the two teams that finished at the top of the worst division in the NFL last year.
People have been predicting the demise of the Seahawks for a while now, but they play in a division where no other team seems to ever be able to get their act together, so that demise has not yet happened.
The trick to beating the Seahawks last year was to not play them in Seattle. At Qwest Field, the Hawks were 8-1, including a 35-14 beatdown of the Redskins in the NFC Wildcard round. Away from home, they were 3-6, and that includes a 42-20 evisceration at Lambeau Field in the Divisional Playoffs.
The Seahawks were able to have a somewhat successful season despite not having any sort of running game. Shaun Alexander was atrocious in his last season in Seattle, and took carries away from Maurice Morris and Leonard Weaver, who both averaged almost a full yard a carry more than the 05 MVP. They were able to compensate with a high powered passing game that spread the ball around to a bunch of different receivers, led by Bobby Engram, who had the best season of his 12 year NFL career with 1147 yards.
The offseason addition of DE Patrick Kerney proved to be probably the best offseason move any team made last year that didn't involve Randy Moss. Kerney transformed the defense, turning it from an average unit into one of the league's best. He had 14 1/2 sacks, and opened up pass rushing opportunities for LB Julian Peterson, who had 9 1/2 sacks. On the other end, Daryl Tapp had 7 sacks. The Seattle defense had 4 Pro Bowlers, and they are all back this year.
Credit Mike Holmgren with re-making this team on the fly. They've gone from being a running team on offense to one that spreads the field and throws it as well as any other in the league. They've also gone from being a passive defense to one that will create pressure all day long.
Alexander is mercifully gone, and in his place is former Cowboys back Julius Jones. Jones is a much better fit for the Holmgren offense, as he is a skilled receiver out of the backfield and adds a dimension to the offense that Alexander never did. The Hawks also added former Packer and Panther Mike Wahle to play the left guard position that they haven't been able to fill since the Steve Hutchinson boo-boo.
HERE'S YOUR FORECAST
In this division, the only thing that's going to stop the Seahawks from a magical ride to the playoffs on a licorice whip are an outbreak of injuries. Short of that, they're going to better than they were last year and they're as good a bet as anyone in the NFC to get to the Super Bowl. I give the Seahawks my Good Football Team Stamp of Approval.
Ken Whisenhunt's first season as head coach brought the Cardinals their first .500 record since Jake Plummer actually took them to a playoff win in 1998 with Vince Tobin as their head coach. I believe they might have still been the Chicago Cardinals at this time, and Paddy Driscoll was their leading rusher.
The way they got to .500 wasn't exactly how they drew it up though. Matt Leinart regressed and had a horrible sophomore year, possibly hampered by being cross-eyed. Possibly cross-eyed from pulling too many beer bongs in hot tubs. Kurt Warner took his spot and posted a passer rating of 89.8 versus Leinart's 61.9. The Cards needed it too, because once again they had a non-existent running game, ranking 30th in the league in Y/A.
Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin continued to be one of the best receiving duos in the league, and the strength of this team. Fitzgerald became one of probably the 10 best players in the league last year, with 100 catches for 1409 yards, while Boldin was solid with 71 catches for 853 yards.
The defense was pretty good against both the run (10th in Y/A), and the pass (15th in Y/A). Safety Adrian Wilson was a big reason why the Cards were so good against the run, while Darnell Dockett led the team with 9 sacks. Things started to fall apart late in the year though, as the Cards gave up an average of over 28 points a game over their last 8 games to fall out of playoff contention.
In the last 5 years, one thing you can always count on in August is people saying the Cardinals are a sleeper team, and Ashley Lelie is going to have a breakout year. I think people have finally given up on Lelie, and I'm not hearing quite as much Cardinal love as I have in recent years.
The Cards are really rolling out the same team we've been seeing for the last few years now. We've probably seen the best we're going to see of the Fitzgerald/Boldin/Edgerrin James core on offense. Boldin is unhappy in Phoenix and wants out, and Edge is probably headed for the glue factory sometime in the very near future. Add to that the fact the Cardinals are going to have to somehow finesse their way around Matt Leinart being a huge disappointment so far, and I don't think there's reason to expect anything more out of the Cardinals offense than for it to be the same slightly above average, one dimensional unit we've been seeing for a while now.
That means that any improvement that is going to vault this team into the playoffs is going to have to come from the defense. I'm not really seeing that either. They lost LB Calvin Pace and the 6 1/2 sacks and pretty good run defense he brought last year. Their best defensive player, Adrian Wilson, is recovering from heel surgery, they have a hard time getting an outside pass rush (Dockett is a tackle), and the rest of the secondary is shaky.
HERE'S YOUR FORECAST
I believe that Whisenhunt is a good coach and knows what he's doing. Unfortunately I also think that they are spending too much time trying to win with the team that Dennis Green assembled before them and it's just not going to happen. No playoffs for the Cards this year.