Hallelujah. Finally, the NFL is back. Life is so much more boring without it. I think I started the last two seasons by blogging my predictions but I’m torn about it dong it again. Mainly, because they’re a huge embarrassment! Completely off base and giving anyone who cares to a pretty airtight case that I know nothing about football or anything else. But, in the short history of this blog making bad preseason predictions is the closest thing PI has to a tradition so let’s go ahead and do it anyway. Then forget this post ever existed.
The Miami Dolphins shocked the football world (and me) in 2008 by going 11-5 and winning the AFC East just one year after their 1-15 horror show. The reasons for the turnaround weren’t too hard to spot. With the new Parcells-Ireland-Sparano troika we got a solid draft, good personnel moves (signing Pennington especially), inspired coaching (the Wildcat), and basically the first time this decade the fans felt the team had people in charge who knew what they were doing. However, the Dolphins also prospered thanks to an easy schedule, almost surely an easier one than what the team’s going to face this year. Also, Pennington’s best-ever season made him an MVP candidate. Given his age and injury history odds are 2009 won’t be quite as magical. And with Tom Brady back at least one division opponent is likely to be much improved. Finally, where Miami’s luck in 2007 was all bad, everything that could go wrong went wrong, that all turned around completely in 2008 and the team finished with an impressive record despite only a slightly above-average point differential.
So there’s lots of reasons to think the Dolphins regress in 2008. Regression to the mean, coming back to earth, whatever you want to call it, there’s two things that cut against it: (1) Better players and (2) Playing better. Who knows how the team’s 2009 draft class turns out but so far they seem pretty high on Brian Hartline, they addressed a clear need in the secondary, and I’m gotta say I’m real excited to see what Pat White can do in this offense. Also, Jason Taylor’s back and while he may no longer play like a defensive MVP, any Jason Taylor is better than no Jason Taylor. As for better players, I like Ronnie Brown a lot this year (and my fantasy teams reflect that!). The guy was dominant on a horrible team in 2007 before he got hurt. He’s now in his second year back from the ACL-tear. And you know Miami’s offense is going to revolve around him. I’m looking for the 2007 Brown to be back. With another year experience the receiving corps should also be better. I don’t know about Ginn but I do like Bess and Fasano to step it up this year. And Jake Long will show he was worthy of this draft slot.
The team should be better in 2009 but might have a worse record due to the much tougher schedule. So I’ll say 9-7. Whatever happens it’s just comforting to know the team’s in good hands again. Growing up watching this team in the 70’s and 80’s, I just kind of took for granted the team would always be a playoff contender. But the post-Don Shula/Jimmy Johnson era wised me up permanently. You hand over the reigns of a franchise to incompetents and fools and your team can hit rock bottom pretty quickly.
The Rest. Sure why not. I have no limbs to crawl out on. New England and San Diego should easily win their divisions. The Colts should squeeze out another division title. And the one team I don’t hear too many people talking up is Baltimore. I didn’t like what I saw out of Pittsburgh on Thursday and the last time they won a Super Bowl they collapsed the next season. I can see that happening again. To me the Ravens look like the team to beat in the AFC North. All they need is for Flacco to build on his rookie season to challenge the Pats and Chargers for the Super Bowl. And with New England’s suspect defense and San Diego’s coach, I’m going to say the Ravens make it to the Super Bowl. Yeah, that’s right. In the NFC, the Giants, Eagles, Packers and Bears are the only teams I like as Super Bowl contenders. Seattle and Carolina are probably the best of the rest. I like the Vikings, Cowboys and Cardinals to collapse in the second half of the season. I’d kind of like to pick the Packers or Bears to go to the Super Bowl but the Giants are the best team.
Glad that’s over. Football’s back!