The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.


                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.








By Jerry Keys

For the first time in awhile, the defending Super Bowl champions are favored to repeat.  The Colts must have an improved defense to make it deep into the playoffs.  Their star-studded offense would win most 41-38 shootouts but come January, it may come back to haunt them.

The NFC champs from 2006, the Bears, are complete opposite.  Their staunch defense returns but will they have a competent QB?  Will Rex Grossman answer the call?  He is asked to be much similar to Trent Dilfer of the 2000 Ravens; play smart and conservative, do not blow the game trying to be the hero.

The NFC East and West are either extremely weak divisions or highly competitive.  Neither division looks to produce a 10-win team.  Yet no team will be distanced from the division winners by more than two games in late December.

There is a changing of the guards in Pittsburgh.  Gone is legend Bill Cowher,

Jerry Keys

in is Mike Tomlin.  You might say Cowher had the same dilemma Tomlin has…not quite.  Tomlin comes after a recent Super Bowl

champion and 10 post-seasons in 15 years.  Cowher succeeded Chuck Noll, who did win four Super Bowls but was a somewhat ineffective coach in his last 12 years at the helm.

And what will the Falcons do now Michael Vick is facing five years in federal prison for dog fighting?  The last time Atlanta enjoyed success without Vick, it was their Super Bowl season of 1998.  Detroit reject Joey Harrington will take over at QB.  A few pundits say Joey just needed a fresh start after the horrible Detroit fiasco where he was constantly under pressure.  I'm not sure if anybody noticed or not but the Falcons do not have a solid Oline themselves.  Of course with Vick in the backfield, they did not need one.  Now they do, really bad and really fast, or they may be vying for the #1 selection in 2008 with Oakland.     

In the AFC East, the NY Jets should give New England all they can handle in '07.  Their two head-to-head meetings may tip the scales (one team will win both games), with the winner taking the division and the loser, fighting for a wild card berth.  The AFC North looks to be an old fashion dogfight between the defensive-led Ravens, the offensive-led Bengals, and the off and on Steelers.  Any one team can

run away with the division (just like the Ravens last year) if they play to their strengths.  Two games should separate all three teams come late December. 

The AFC South is slowly becoming a power conference.  For years it was the Colts and Jaguars, and who else?  This year the Titans will have Vince Young's services for a full season.  There is a very good chance the Titans will unseed the Jags as the

premier #2 team to Indianapolis.  Also, keep an eye out for Houston, especially against non-AFC South teams (new QB Matt Schaub and veteran RB Ahman Green).  And in the AFC West, it is San Diego's to lose.  The Broncos will face a rebuilding year under new QB Jay Cutler and the Chiefs will muster just enough defense to make another playoff push.

The NFC East is as wide open as it can be.  A 9-7 record could win it.  The Eagles are again the favorites, as long as Donovan McNabb remains healthy.  The Cowboys will see growing pains now that Bill Parcells is gone, but like the NY Giants and Redskins, they will remain in the hunt for the division title and a wild card berth (last year the Giants entered the playoffs with an 8-8 record). 

The NFC North is the Chicago Bears to lose.  No other team comes close to their tenacious defense.  But they do not need an offense that resembles the 1991 Colts (143 points scored all year).  I would love to say the Packers would contend but Brett Favre just does not have the weapons on offense he used to.  With Green gone, and his only trusted wideout being Donald Driver, his options are limited.  And the Packers suspect

defense always seemed to have Favre always playing catch-up.  The NFC South is now Saints country.  San Diego cast-off Drew Brees should return the Saints to the playoffs this year.  Only Carolina gives them a worry.  With Vick out, the Falcons are in a serious

rebuilding process and Tampa Bay has not gotten back on track since their Super Bowl win in 2002.  Unless Chris Simms returns to his '05 form, they are in for a long year.

And the NFC West will again fall to Seattle.  This may be the last year the Seahawks win the West.  They will receive stiff competition from the vastly improved 49'ers and the Cardinals.  In fact, the 49'ers are my sleeper pick of the NFC; the AFC sleeper is Houston.  The 49'ers have a better shot at the playoffs because they are located in the NFC where an 8-8 record gets you into the post-season, whereas Houston could easily go 10-6 and be shut out of the AFC playoffs.
The only sure-fire repeat playoff teams in the AFC are New England, Indianapolis, and San Diego.  In the NFC, New Orleans and Chicago.  Which leads me to my 2007 predictions (see chart.)

As I have said year after year, if your team is only one or two games away from a playoff berth, this could be the year "the chips fall in their favor".  And with the NY Giants last year, it is not only how many games you win but who you defeated in the regular season.
Oh..., my Super Bowl picks…. hhhmmmm…… Indianapolis and New Orleans.