Miami Dolphins 2007:
I'm having a real hard time getting a handle on what Cameron's doing with the Dolphins. On the bright side he appears to be putting an actual offensive system in place (which is more than their last couple of coaches have done) and he's aggresively bringing in the players he thinks can do well in that system: Green and Beck, Ginn, Lorenzo Booker, David Martin. (It'll be years before we can fairly judge the Ginn/Quinn thing so no point doing it now). I don't like the acquisition of too many vets when clearly this team is years away from being a contender. Green and Joey Porter come to mind. At least Cam jettisoned Hakim and the Schles after seeing what they couldn't do. And what the hell are all these Ronnie Brown mindgames? Returning punts? Making him fighting for his job with journeyman Jesse Chatman? Does Cam not like Ronnie or is it just some crazy motivational scheme? Clearly Brown's our best offensive player and Cam's got to know that. I'm not too worried about the seeming lack of production in preseason. Cameron already said he was more concerned with practicing fundamentals than in running anything to exotic.
Ok, so how will Miami fare this year? My guess is they'll be a bit better than last year's 6-10 squad. Taylor and Thomas are aging and it's a shame Miami wasted their primes by failing to field a decent offense (the flip-side of Marino's career), but overall the defensive unit should still be strong, especially with the addition of Porter. So the question is the offense. There are a lot of reasons to expect a disaster. A 37-year-old QB coming off a horrific concussion, a so far disappointing and injury prone running back, a star receiver who alternates highlight-reel catches with easy drops, and a #1 draft pick who's shown little since a January foot injury and isn't known for his great route running. And let's not forget last year's terrible offensive line. Still, I do expect improvement. Cameron knows how to build an offense. After the last couple of clowns we used as coaches, that's not nothing. I don't care what Trent Green might have lost ability-wise, he will be better than Joey Harrington. We don't need much to improve at that position. And that suddenly improves the receiving corps. I've written about this before but losing Wes Welker won't hurt at all. Miami came out ahead in that trade. Welker's versatile, a gamer, etc., but he's not fast and safety valve guys are easy to replace. The Dolphins needed playmakers. As for Ronnie Brown, given the terrible o-line and abysmal quarterbacking the last 2 years, his 4.3 YPC is a great number. If he stays healthy this should be his biggest year ever. Cameron will find ways to use him in the passing game. The offensive line should be better with the new blood, especially Satele, and Hudson Houck's coaching. No playoffs. Completely independently of Jeff, I also conclude this team improves to 8-8. (And yeah, Miami wins their opener).
1) AFC. The consensus pick are the Patriots (overrated!). A lot of people like the Colts to repeat (they won't get all the postseason breaks this time). The Chargers may have the best talent (and the worst coach, Norv the loser). But I'm going with a team I think people are overlooking: the Baltimore Ravens. The defense remains the best in the conference and the team's biggest weakness last year, Jamal Lewis, is gone, replaced by Willis McGahee. Lewis looked washed up in 2006 and I think BAL might have beaten Indy in the playoffs if the dude could have done anything at all. Having seen the Colts destroy the Saints the other night though, it's a really tough call deciding between the two of them. Manning's just on another level than everyone else now. If IND can regularly play defense like that all year, I don't see how anybody stops them.
2) NFC. With no signs that Rex Grossman has improved, the Bears won't make a return trip to the Super Bowl. So I'll go with Philadelphia. McNabb's the best QB in the NFC when he plays and the defense is strong. They had every chance to knock off the Bears in the playoffs and that was with Jeff Garcia at QB.
Addendum: Is anything more worthless than preseason predictions? I can only think of one thing: a football blog.