Now that most important free agents have been signed and the draft is in the books, I have time to make pointless May predictions about the NFL. In truth, I've got an hour before class and I'm unmotivated to do much else.
My predictions are simple--I will look at each NFL team and guess whether they will be better, worse, or the same as they were in 2005. Of course, it's easier for bad teams to get better and good teams to get worse.
Pittsburgh Steelers (15-5, Super Bowl champs) WORSE
I don't think they'll repeat as champions, so it stands to reason that they will be worse. They will probably still win 10 or more games, but they've lost some offensive sparks and I just don't see a repeat.
Cincinnati Bengals (11-6) WORSE
When will Carson Palmer play at the same level he played at last season? If the answer is week one, I see them winning around 9 games. If the answer is mid-season, significantly less than that.
Cleveland Browns (6-10) BETTER
I believe Romeo Crennel knows what he is doing, and is the kind of coach that can will his team to improvement. That's it. When I think of Charlie Frye starting in 2006, I think SAME.
Baltimore Raves (6-10) BETTER
This team always ends up worse than I think they'll be. But if they do acquire Steve McNair, as looks likely, they suddenly have a playmaking QB. If McNair manages to play 10-12 games, the Raves should improve
Indianapolis Colts (14-3) SAME
I'm not saying they'll win 14 games. But they'll probably tear through the regular season with a dominating offense and then end up losing in the playoffs.
Jacksonville Jaguars (12-5) WORSE
Actually, the 2006 Jags should be better than the 2005 Jags, but will probably not be able to win 12 games again. The exciting thing will be to see how Bruins Marcedes Lewis and Maurice Drew are able to contribute. They should contend for the playoffs.
Tennessee Titans (4-12) BETTER
Though not by much. I really thought they'd be a playoff team last season, and they really stunk. How much better are they now, really? I figure Vince Young wills them to some late-season victories after the season is already lost.
Houston Texans (2-14) BETTER
They could have passed on the #1 pick and they'd have won more than 2 games in 2006. It's freaking hard to lose 14 games two years in a row. They have some talent on offense--maybe it comes together and they win 8-9 games, maybe it doesn't and they win 4-5.
New England Patriots (11-7) BETTER
The Pats continue their transition into an offensive juggernaut in the draft. I just can't see Brady, at this point in his career, missing the playoffs. They'll be back in contention for another championship in 2006.
Miami Dolphins (9-7) WORSE
They overachieved with a great finish last year. They don't follow that up in 2006. I don't think Daunte plays until week 8 if at all. Saban is a good coach, but this team doesn't seem ready to go over the hump yet.
Buffalo Bills (5-11) WORSE
Name me a Buffalo Bill that excites you outside of Willis McGahee. This team will be tuurrable.
New York Jets (4-12) BETTER
I expect the Jets to double last seasons' win total. I figure either Pennington or Ramsey is twice as good as Bollinger.
Denver Broncos (14-4) SAME
They should be a playoff team; Shanahan always has them ready to compete, and they've got a lot of good players. I don't know that they'll go to the AFC Championship game again, but they should win their division and have a chance to make a playoff run.
Kansas City Chiefs (10-6) WORSE
Larry Johnson may transcend fantasy football, making it obsolete. However, it's about time for the juggernaut offense to show its age (and loss of offensive coaches).
San Diego Chargers (9-7) SAME
For some reason, I think Rivers should be fine. He's not a rookie. I see the Chargers being competitive again, and missing the playoffs by a game or two again.
Oakland Raiders (4-12) BETTER
Adding Aaron Brooks to the Raiders just screams 6-10 to me.
Carolina Panthers (13-6) SAME
I expect a John Fox coached team to be winning 10-11 games a year for a long time.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-6) WORSE
They got a good start last year. In 2006, their best QB will be Chris Simms for the entire year. 8-8.
Atlanta Falcons (8-8) BETTER
I figure either the Falcons win 10-11 games, or they completely lose it and win 4. I bet on the former.
New Orleans Saints (3-13) BETTER
If the Saints made no roster changes but played their entire 2006 season in N.O., they could double this win total. But they added a Pro Bowl QB and drafted a transcendent RB. What's the ceiling for this team?
Chicago Bears (11-6) WORSE
Remember 2001? And remember 2002?
Minnesota Vikings (9-7) BETTER
A real NFL coach, a good defense, some solid offensive players, an improved offensive line. I've got high hopes.
Detroit Lions (5-11) SAME
If Josh McCown gets to play the whole year, the Lions might reach 8 wins. But I don't see that happening. I just can't picture the Lions winning anything. It's been too long.
Green Bay Packers (4-12) SAME
A lot of great QBs have a year where it all falls apart, and everybody recognizes they are finished. For many, that was 2005 for Favre. For everybody else, it will be 2006.
New York Giants (11-6) SAME
I don't know that they'll improve, but I don't see a great deal of decline. They are what they are.
Washington Organization (11-7) WORSE
Everything went right for this team last season, and they managed 10 wins. Brunell is finished. I see a tailspin for this team in 2006.
Dallas Cowboys (9-7) SAME
This team might have 12 wins in them. I see them losing a lot of games they shouldn't lose, for some reason. Oh wait--that reason is Bledsoe.
Philadelphia Eagles (6-10) BETTER
They'll be back on top of their division at the end of the year.
Seattle Seahawks (15-4) SAME
I don't see any sign of decline; they should be competing to go to another Super Bowl. Their division still sucks.
St. Louis Rams (5-11) SAME
5-11, 6-10, it's all the same, this team isn't good. Jackson and Holt could elevate them to some 30+ point games and they might be better.
Arizona Cardinals (5-11) BETTER
Their 2006 ceiling, in my opinion, is 10 wins. I think it will be 8 or 9. Part of me feels a great improvement, part of me remembers they are the Cardinals and they never improve.
San Francisco 49ers (4-12) SAME
Nolan will get them a few 13-10 wins that they shouldn't have. The offense will be dreadful.
There. There's my pointlessness. Now I'll try some work.