My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Individual baseball game take, 09.30.06 

We all know the Clarion’s fetish for hometown, but out-of-town announcers. Well these guys hardly qualify for us here, as in Durham, North Carolina, where Atlanta, Georgia's Braves are by some measure our home team. We get their radio broadcasts on our local AM band. Interestingly, however, for TV and MLB.tv purposes the Baltimore Orioles are considered our home team.

Anyway, so the Clarion’s listening to some hometown Braves radio. The Braves are playing a game that matters, though not so much to them. It is the Saturday before the season ends. They are playing the Houston Astros, winners of eight of their last nine, still two games back of the collapsing St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals just two days ago had been threatening the legendary 1964 Philadelphia Phillies for the record for the biggest September lead ever blown. Now, they have righted the ship somewhat, won two in a row, having had the good fortune of getting to play the used car salesman’s Milwaukee Brewers. Poor Milwaukee, I hope you didn’t honestly get excited about this team at the beginning of the season. See what Alaska did to the father-daughter Murkowski’s, that’s what Wisconsin should do to the father-daughter Selig’s...a grateful nation thanks you in advance.

Anyway, the Braves are playing a game that matters, the Astros are playing for their season, facing elimination. Braves fans by the sound of it appear to be into the game. The Astros have eliminated the Braves in the playoffs two consecutive seasons. Revenge is a motive, plus for the first time in fourteen seasons Braves fans know, this is it. There are no playoffs in their future. They will be taking October off. What will John Smoltz do with himself?

So the Astros are pitching Andy Pettitt on short rest, and granted strange things can and do happen at this point in the season . Either from overzealousness, or from teams that are completely eliminated/clinched doing wacky things; scrubs playing, who knows, it is a little spring trainingesque, always, in the last week of the season. But the Braves-‘Stros should be the antithesis of that because the game matters. Two quickies that belie that and inspired this post:

Runners on 1st and 3rd and one out already, trailing 2-0 in the sixth inning, the Braves number two hitter Marcus Giles lays down a sac bunt right back to the pitcher. ‘Scuse me? If I am the Cardinals watching that on TV in the clubhouse in St. Louis, I’m livid. What Marcus, you're giving yourself up? Yo, dude, there is already one out. Now there are two outs and a guy at second??! Swing away, Jackass. How about a bases clearing double or heavens to Betsy a freaking dinger. They don't pay you millions to make sure outs. My Dad would call it a Melvin Mora play.

Weirder than that. Leading off the top of the next inning Astros catcher, Brad Ausmus, singles. Pettitt is up in a position to lay down a situationally appropriate sac bunt. Fouls off his first bunt attempt. Takes a called strike. Then is apparently hit in the foot by the third pitch. The home plate ump orders him to first base, advancing Ausmus to second. Braves manager Bobby Cox comes out of the dugout to protest. The home plate ump, Alfonso Marquez, asks third base ump, Gerry Davis, for help, and he rules that the pitch hit the bat first and Pettitt is out for fouling off a two strike bunt.

The Braves announcers who initially thought this was going to be the right call, having heard, “two clicks” on the original play, get to see the TV replay. Skip Carrey always forthright, goes, “Oh my, that ball missed the bat completely, not even close.” Pauses, a beat and lays into an umpire like you never hear'em do in this era. Remember he’s the Braves announcer, not the Astros booth, whom the call went against and to whom it matters much more. Paraphrasing…How can that happen? How can an umpire just guess like that? There is no way he could have seen the ball hit the bat. There was no way Pettitt could have bunted it. Gerry Davis must just be going on sound…the other announcer Pete Van Wieren, adds, "Well ever since he joined Larry Young's crew (crew chief) strange things have been happening." Meanwhile Pettitt is apparently livid on the field, justifiably so and Phil Garner, the Astros manager, has to do all he can to keep him from getting ejected. The Clarion can’t recall the last time we heard that kind of pointed umpire criticism for a call that wasn’t against the broadcaster’s home team.

Ahhh, the vagaries of baseball. Every game its own individualized unique narrative.

Hours later, please note, the Clarion discovered there was even further drama in both haves of the ninth inning…

game summary

Also note, the Clarion apologies to the Tigers fans and acknowledges their team hung on and made the playoffs. Be thankful you are not Reds, Brewers, Royals, Pirates or Devil Rays fans, whose teams still permasuck.

Labels: ,

Friday, September 29, 2006

Starbucks, you can’t resist the culture. 

Or at least its damn hard. Just try going into Starbucks, even if you really know your coffee lingo, even if you are comfortable with the distinction between an Americano, a Latte and a Cappuccino, none of which incidentally were invented by Starbucks, try going into Starbucks and ordering a large drip coffee.

The employee glares.

“Hello, loser, we have invented are own verbiage for the sizes!! Now would you like a Tall, Grande or a Venti?”


We fought the law for a while here at the Clarion’s local Starbucks, because damn it, that’s what we do. But as you may have heard, the law won.

Incidentally is local Starbucks an oxymoron or what?

So now when the staff hits the Starbucks for rocket fuel, we gently request, “A grande drip with room for cream, please.” No glares, in fact, usually pleasant smiles and non-verbal signs of commiseration.

Side note to Starbucks management: How’s about a tip line on the charge card receipts?

For a company that is so employee friendly, this is a Huge Oversight! If I, Patron X, am using my charge card at a freaking Starbucks, it is because I have no cash money on me. Duh!!?! Therefore, I cannot tip your employee unless you provide a tip line on the charge card for me to do it and an option for them to subsequently rock it into the credit card processing machine later. The Clarion loathes getting good service at a coffee shop and not being able to tip.

Side note to readers: Though we have been through various phases of Starbucks addiction when the staff resided elsewhere, in Durham we rarely patronize them, preferring the terrific Counter Culture Coffee served at various local Durham hot spots. Our fave among them, Foster’s Market.

Disclosure: Some members of our staff were once employees of the same Foster’s Market. Another place that makes it difficult to tip the barista on a credit card. What’s wrong with these people? WTF. Don’t do your employees like that coffee bar owners of America.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

NFL Preview 2006 

NFL Preview


For the first time in ages, since then Commissioner Pete Rozell made parity the goal, the NFL is looking at a season of haves and have nots. Unlike Major League Baseball, there is no systemic flaw in the NFL's configuration causing this. Hence, there is no reason that this likely to become a permanent situation, again, unlike baseball. In the NFL, it is simply increased revenues for the league as a whole have increased the salary cap, by-in-large enabling teams to retain their best free agents. There is no rich getting richer scenario in the NFL, but it is rather that the well managed continue to be rewarded and the mismanaged continue to be punished.

We will give you a definitive Super Bowl pick and more thoughts than you can stand about playoff and not playoff teams. Hold on a moment while we get there and allow a list or two...

mismanaged franchises with absolutely no chance to win it ALL this year

San Francisco 49ers--ever since the Debartolo departure debacle.
New Orleans Saints--this ownership has never won, politics with the state are poisonous, stadium is an issue.
Detroit Lions--Ford is going under or getting bought out, franchise has little hope until the that bigger issue is resolved.
Green Bay Packers--since Ron Wolfe left, is ownership structure workable?
Minnesota Vikings--A guy name Ziggy rides to the rescue, we think not...
Washington Redskins--Daniel Snyder and Tom Cruise now there's a match made in purgatory, or the Weekly World News's wet dreams.
Oakland Raiders--Al was once great, now he needs to abdicate. Truly, my man, let it go.
Cleveland Browns--a jinxed city, jilted by the Modell's has yet to get it together
New York Jets--owned by a guy named Woody, who does give lotsa money to charity

well managed franchises with a chance to win it ALL this year

New York Giants--the Mara's are alive and well.
Philadelphia Eagles--streamlined disciplined organization in a new stadium
Denver Broncos--continuity works
Pittsburgh Steelers--The Rooney's wrote the book on continuity workks
Indianapolis Colts--never thought we'd say this about the Irsay's franchise, is it the younger generation or Bill Polian?
New England--Bob Kraft, Bill Belichek, Tom Brady sounds like a plan.


Arizona Cardinals--Bidwill's have one last chance in the desert post a beautiful new stadium
Dallas Cowboys--may have reached mid 80's Al Davis status where things keep blowing up from here
Seattle Seahawks
Carolina Panthers
Chicago Bears
St. Louis Rams--Warner, Martz, Georgia
Tampa Bay Bucs--are the Glazer's distracted by the rest of the world's football and Man U
Baltimore Ravens--Modell?
Kansas City Chiefs--
Buffalo Bills--
Houston Texans--Approaching the bad side
Miami Dolphins--
Cincinnati Bengals--
San Diego Chargers--
Jacksonville Jaguars--


Conference Summary

NFC is finally gaining on them in the balance of power battle, after the AFC dominated the last several seasons. Most of the best AFC teams are back sliding. The defending champs last Hall of Famer and Man of the Square Table Jerome Bettis. They face Rothelsberger’s injury and Antwaun Randle-El’s departure. Baltimore has the aging Steve McNair trying to give the defense one last shot at winning it all again, before Ray Lewis is done. The Chargers are going to suffer some turbulence going from Drew Brees to Phillip Rivers. The Colts are going to try to bounce back from their worst playoff choke of the Manning-Dungy era and that’s saying something. Denver has admitted to itself, if not to the outside world, that they are never going to get over the top, behind Jake “the Snake” Plummer. Only the Cincinnati Bengals seem to be ascending, but mostly that depends on their parole officers and other judicial officials. The rest of the conference is in rebuilding mode or should be. Cleveland hopes for an upswing behind Romeo Crennell and Willie McGinest. The Jets are tearing it all down and starting anew, behind 15 year old Eric Mangini. Oakland has gone back to the past with Art Shell. Tennessee awaits the Vince Young era. Miami is widely overrated. Houston will spend the next 15 to 20 years trying to explain the Reggie Bush pick.


Division summary

The forecast for the AFC West looks much like last year, a good division, multiple contenders who will bang on each other all season long leaving, maybe only one survivor who limps on to be wiped out of the playoffs. The Clarion likes almost an exact redux of the way this played out last year, where San Diego and K.C. come up just short of the playoffs, and the Broncos get in as the division winner, only to lose their first game on the road.

The reason we believe it will go this way is because all of these teams have weaknesses, as well as strengths. Take the Chargers, as many offensive weapons as they have, and as much as the Clarion likes Phillip Rivers, he is still for all intents and purposes a first year quarterback. Look at Carson Palmer’s first year with playing time, likewise Peyton Manning or even further back, Troy Aikman. Even if Rivers grades out slightly better than these terrific quarterbacks during his first year, he still figures to struggle at times. It’s a process.

In Kansas City, we think Trent Green will struggle at times, too, though for different reasons. Green is aging, immobile and though he has superstar Larry Johnson in the backfield, the K.C. receivers are sub-par and the O-line more unsettled than its been in years. Herm Edwards brings terrific leadership, and hopefully he brought someone to manage the clock for him at the end of halves and games. It will probably take a year or two for the transformation in Kansas City to be complete. They have to be careful not to get caught in the same age-salary cap combo that has wiped out Edwards last team, the Jets.

The Raiders are perennially a mess. Nobody at the Clarion has seen any signs of a clean-up from a personnel and scouting stand point. Love Art Shell as we do, he is not a miracle worker. Al Davis needs to find somebody he is comfortable with making the personnel decisions, and let them do it. Stay out of the way, ala George Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman. Until Al can let go enough to do that, the Raiders will continue to flounder.

The Broncos look likely to tread water this year in the Clarion’s eyes. The need another no-name runner to emerge, but doesn’t Shanahan always find somebody. Note, however, he won it all with only one of those somebodies, Terrell Davis. There is no reason to think this year’s 1,000 yard no-namer will be a difference maker. Satisfactory yes, good even, star quality, uh- NO. Unfortunately, Jake the Snake is more likely to be a difference maker for the opponent than his own team. Yet all that said, the Broncos have talent, on the O-Line, at the corners and linebackers.

Bottom line: A fun division, with a lot of great regular season games, that will end up one and done come playoff time.

Division Winner: Denver Broncos

TEAM by TEAM Breakdowns

Denver Broncos
1st place

This is the least sold on the Broncos the Clarion’s been in years. We know Mike Shanahan always finds a way to win with nobody running backs, but giving up former Marine Mike Anderson to go with undrafted rookie Mike Bell was a mistake. Jake the Snake is not a carry the team QB, he struggles just to be the “Don’t screw the pooch!” QB. Defense might be above average, see Al Wilson, Ian Gold and Champ Bailey, but great?! The Clarion doesn’t think so. Their wideouts could excel this year. Imagine Rod Smith with a legit number one guy on the other side in Javon Walker.

WIN Total---10

Fantasy Player to HAVE: Rod Smith is a value pick late. How many years in a row has that been true? Does the guy ever age?

Fantasy Player to AVOID: The Clarion wouldn’t go anywhere near the Broncos backfield situation this year. At this point even Mike Shanahan doesn’t know who is going to get the majority of the carries.

San Diego Chargers
2nd place

The Clarion is always biased in favor of the players we loved in college. Ask the guys in the old Mile Square fantasy league about Frank Murphy sometime. But we’re telling you, even though we’re biased, a coach’s son, Phillip Rivers, is the real deal. He has arm strength, brains and guts. He is surrounded by offensive talent. LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates, and oft overlooked Lorenzo Neal are among the best at their respective positions. Shawn Merriman is the hardest hitter in the hardest hitting sport in the world. Stock cars hitting walls aside. Incidentally, we know Marty Schottenheimer blows dead dogs and costs his team a win or two a year. He is the one coach in the league less likely to win it all, despite mammoth regular seasons than Tony Dungy. Only Jim “Playoffs” Mora coming out of retirement can change that list. Last year was among Marty’s worst, but followers of his whole career can cite evidence for many a Browns season.

WIN Total---9

Fantasy Player to HAVE: LaDainian Tomlinson is a stud, he will see the ball more than ever this year. Rivers loves to check down and Tomlinson is an excellent receiver, who will make some big gains out of some simple plays this year. If you go with Tomlinson, Michael “the Burner” Turner from Northern Illinois, who has averaged over 5 yards a carry in his brief career, is crucial insurance.

Breaking news…Linebacker Steve Foley shot during drunk driving stop, will miss season.

Kansas City Chiefs
3rd place

At the Clarion, we listen to Herm Edwards and think he should have a more important job than football coach, maybe something more along the lines of United States Senator or possible a cabinet position, like Secretary of Education. Meanwhile the Chiefs are going from one wildly impassioned leader, in “Water Works” Dick Vermeil to another emotional rock in Edwards. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean they have any number one(or number two?) wideouts or a stout enough defensive line. Larry Johnson, Tony Gonzales and some difference makers in the linebacker corps and secondary will keep’em in the playoff hunt, but it won’t be enough. Trent Green was wooden as an undergrad, the Clarion should know, now he’s thirty-six.

WIN Total---8

Fantasy player to HAVE: Larry Johnson, no duh!

Fantasy player to AVOID: Trent Green, Herman Edwards is hell on QB stats, uber-conservative in the red zone. Besides Green is aging and has a limited cast of WRs.

Oakland Raiders
last place

At the Clarion we love old school, hardworking, straight shooter Art Shell. Too bad he has such a limited roster of talent. When you’re bringing in Jeff George, it is a billboard for how desperate things have gotten. Incidentally, the Clarion was telling people, Aaron Brooks, a UVA puke, sucked something like six years ago.

WIN Total---4

Fantasy player to AVOID: Aaron Brooks


Division summary

Quality, quality, quality. The AFC North is top notch. The defending Super Bowl champs may not win the division and could have a tough battle even qualifying for the playoffs. Quarterbacks’ health was the burning off-season question for the AFC North and as the regular season opens, it seems likely to continue to be the focus. Ben Rothelsberger’s last minute appendectomy that leaves Charlie Batch under center could result in a slow start in Pittsburgh, not what the Steelers need. Steve McNair’s health will be under the microscope all season long in Baltimore. But the Clarion thinks he is a supremely tough guy, who will battle through dings and nicks because this may be his last run with a truly Super Bowl capable team. McNair’s last few years in Tennessee must have been torture as he watched more and more of his teammates who came up a yard short with him depart. Tennessee is now close to very bottom of the league’s talent pool. We say McNair has one more run in him. All that and we still haven’t gotten to the best QB in the division and the team The Clarion likes to win the division. Carson Palmer appears to have answered the health question more securely than any other QB in the division. The Bengals are loaded. Marvin Lewis is a good, working on great, coach. Cincinnati fans have failed to be deceived by their baseball team’s faux June-July-August run are squarely behind their Bengals and rightly so. Improving Cleveland is relegated to also ran status in this tough division.

Bottom line: Both the Steelers and Bengals have skills. The Bengals are better constructed for the regular season, the Steelers anchored by their stout defense are built for the playoffs

Division Winner: Cincinnati Bengals

TEAM by TEAM Breakdowns

Cincinnati Bengals
1st place

Carson Palmer is the key. The belief is that if the former national champion USC Trojan is all the way back from injury, not only does he have the skills, but he has the intangibles to lead the Bengals deep into the playoffs. No that is not a misprint. The team once referred to as the Bungles might be headed deep into the playoffs. It is not out of the question that they would have derailed the Steelers run last year if not for the Palmer injury. The Bengals learned something from last year, they have a swagger, but they know they have to prove it on the field. Palmer and Johnson (Rudi the running back) and Johnson (Chad the flamboyant and now golden haired receiver) are a trio of skill position talent unequaled now that Egde has left Indy. If the rest of the team can stay out of the tabloids and/or prison they ought to have an decent defense. It would help if they kept up the kind of ball-hawking takeaway flair they showcased last year.

WIN Total---11

Fantasy Player to HAVE: Who wouldn’t you want on the Bengals offense? Palmer will be terrific though watch out for late season cold weather games, get a warm weather back-up. Like both Johnsons.

Fantasy Player to AVOID: For the Clarion decisions about guys who are maybes every week is what drove us from the Fantasy football. It’ll drive ya crazy. Tj Houshmanzadeh and Chris Henry are those kind of guys. One week it’ll be 100 yard game and 2Tds, the next week 4 catches for 40 yards. Hey there’s a lot of talent on the Bengals offense and only one ball.

Pittsburgh Steelers
2nd place, Wild Card

The Clarion is far from sold on Fast Willie Parker. The Steelers backfield has always been predicated on bangers. The Steelers had backs that ran through you not around. Bettis will be sorely missed for this almost as much as his locker room presence. Steelers also took a big hit losing former Indiana University stud Antwan Randle-El. Hines Ward will miss him most of all, because for all of Ward’s superb talent, class, and character, its tough to draw double coverage all the time. Cedric Wilson on the other side isn’t scaring anyone. Steelers will heavily utilize tight end Heath Miller, especially in the red zone if a big back doesn’t emerge to smash the ball in from the one yard line. Steelers defense is still right there for the best in the business. They are terrific at creating big plays and takeaways. Bill Cohwer is still an awesome coach. Ben Rothelsberger figures to be back by week 3 at this point. Despite our gripes, we don’t expect too much of a drop off for the Steelers, even if they open 0-2. Their defense is great. In any other division Troy Polamalua might be the best defensive player, in the AFC North, he isn’t quite able to win the title, “Best Safety.”

WIN Total---10

Fantasy Player to HAVE: If you are in a tight end league, we love Heath Miller.

Fantasy Player to AVOID: Willie Parker takes a big step back this year.

Late breaking news; Najeh Davenport is a huge pick-up. Just the kind of banging runner that fits the Steelers blueprint. If he’s healthy…

Baltimore Ravens
3rd place

Playmakers, playmakers, playmakers. The Ravens roster is littered with them. Two Defensive Players of the Year winners. There is perennial contender Ray Lewis, who like McNair is primed for what might be his last big run at a title shot, and the guy who might actually even be a better player, Ed Reed. (from the U.) The guy who showed that safeties despite a little media love can win Player of the Year. All-Pros and difference makers surround cornerstones Lewis and Reed. On the other side of the ball, a 2,000 yard rusher and a Super Bowl QB reunited with his long time favorite receiver Derrick Mason. The Clarion knows people thinks Jamaal Lewis is on the downside. Maybe soon, but this is the first season in three he comes into settled, on his routine, not off injury or jail time. Maybe he’s not a 1,800+ yard guy anymore, but with McNair, he doesn’t have to be. Mike Anderson is a capable back-up if Lewis does wear down. Jonathan Ogden is also still right there for the best in the league at his position. Todd Heap can be spectacular at tight end, and Mark Clayton is an upgrade over previous Ravens number two wideouts. In the ultra tough AFC, to get into the playoffs Baltimore would have to push out a very good team, like the Steelers, Jags, Colts or Bengals.

WIN Total---10

Fantasy Player to HAVE: Derrick Mason had his best years with McNair in Tennessee. Steve tends to like to throw to his guys, a lot. Also look at Todd Heap in tight end leagues, McNair has long had a productive relationship with his tight ends, recall Frank Wycheck.

Cleveland Browns
4th place

The Browns start second player Charlie Frey at QB. The Clarion’s not sold on the kid yet, though he had some nice performances last year. At running back, Ruben Droughns doesn’t scare anybody. Worse, the Browns are star crossed, their biggest off season acquisition center LeCharles Bentley got hurt. Not a soldier, tight end Winslow Jr. has yet to showcase any skills other than his jaw. Former Michigan star wideout and 1st round pick Braylon Edwards is also still a question mark coming off injury. Nevertheless the Clarion believes Romeo Crennel has them headed in the right direction. There is talent on defense and hope on the horizon. (But we bet he’d rather have Charlie Weis’s job, even though we’ve seen how they do African-American coaches in South Bend.)

WIN Total---3

Fantasy Player to AVOID: Winslow Jr. How many better tight-ends are in the league right now? Ten, twelve at least.


Division summary

The AFC South is a division truly split between the haves and have-nots. There are two Super Bowl contenders here and two teams that will be picking the top 5 come next April’s draft. The Jacksonville Jaguars are a team many pundits are saying is going to drop back with a more difficult schedule. The Clarion doesn’t by it, we are big Byron Leftwich fans, and packet David Garrard another guy we loved as an undergrad, here in Greenville, North Carolina, is a terrific back-up with all the NFL tools. Jags went 4-1 in games he started. However, neither of Jacksonville’s QB is Peyton Manning, which is why the Colts will likely still win the division. They’ll miss Edge more than people think, especially come playoff time. Edgerrin James will missed not only for his grin, his gritty attitude, and his blitz pick-ups, but most of all because the less than dynamic Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes will not nearly match Edge’s yards per touch. Still with cast of skill players the Colts have, in the regular season, it will only matter so much. The rest of the division is atrocious the total number of players on the Titans and Texans rosters combined who would start for the Colts might be countable on one hand.

Bottom line: Colts hangover from last year’s playoff leads to Jacksonville swiping the crown.

Jacksonville Jaguars
1st place

The Jaguars won 12 games last year, and boast a stout defense. But there are lots of offensive questions. We at the Clarion love Fred Taylor skills, but he is injury prone. Top back-up running back Greg Jones is already hurt. The Jags WRs are young and unproven. Clarion knows they are going to miss the retired Jimmy Smith. Reggie Williams has yet to show first round skills, but our instinct says former Arkansas QB Matt Jones is on his way to being a star wideout. He has the speed and the hands. The Jags defense has no such questions. They are dominate and have shown an ability to shut down division rival, Peyton Manning and the Colts. Now that the Steelers have given the league the blueprint to beat Peyton, teams with Jacksonville’s talent are eyeing an Indianapolis squad that will be minus Edge’s blitz pick-ups. Manning will be black and blue. Look for Jacksonville to at least split the head to head match-up with the Colts this year. Teams with All-Pro D-Lines win a lot of games, Jacksonville is no different despite a tougher schedule this year than last. Coach Jack Del Rio is a warrior.

WIN Total---11

Fantasy Player to AVOIID: For years Fred Taylor was that guy in Jacksonville, his health was always a question, when he played he was great, but. So, do you trust him now? The Clarion wouldn’t chance it.

Indianapolis Colts
2nd place-Wild Card

The most talent in the passing game of any franchise. Cincinnati fans are the only place that could even make a legitimate argument otherwise. The names are familiar Manning, Harrison and Wayne, thrown in tight end Dallas Clark, and the passing offense numbers will be staggering. Rhodes and Addai will be a satisfactory regular season combo. The defense is excellent. DE’s Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are right there for the best combo in the league. Adam Vinateri will prove to be one of the biggest off-season pick-ups this year. A money kicker in close games cannot be undervalued, every year there is at least one kick that could change the fate of a Super Bowl champion. Vinateri has made a few of’em, including one that will go down in the annals, in the snow, from 46 yards out against the Raiders and essentially launched New England’s dynasty. Last year after the miraculous undefeated start and all of their efforts and emotions, the Colts season hung in the balance not on Peyton Manning’s strong right arm, but rather on Mike Vandergag-gag-gaaack’s right foot from 46 yards out, on turf, indoors. And he genked it, not even close, choked on it so badly, it never had a prayer. Thanks, Mike. We really appreciated the derragatory comments about Peyton Manning’s clutch performances, that’s the whole pot, kettle black thing, eh? Not that the Clarion will believes either Tony Dungy or Peyton Manning can win the big one. Both of these guys have been sooooo bad in the big game, not just in Indy, but at their respective previous stops. Manning as a Volunteer, and Dungy had a Super Bowl caliber defense in Tampa Bay for years and kept blowing it with overly conservative play calling. He drove the Clarion’s editors to scream at the television more than once in the Bucs era. Enough Colts repeat last year, strong regular season that fades down the stretch and ends in a disappointing playoff loss.

WIN Total---11

Fantasy Player to HAVE: Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark the Colts are going to fling the ball all over the Hoosier Dome even more this year. WOW.

Tennessee Titans
3rd place (worst 3rd place team in the NFL)

Maybe the least talented team in the league. The Tennessee Volunteers might beat’em on a neutral site. At least Steve McNair doesn’t have to suffer through anymore of it. The Clarion loved corner Pacman Jones skill set, too bad about his ten cent head. This was such a great franchise in the Eddie George era, and Jeff Fisher is a good coach. We think Tennessee would be wise to stick with him through one or two more lean years, the way Pittsburgh did with Coach Cohwer. If Fisher still a young guy gets a chance to work Vince Young in slowly rather than pressured to play him early, it will serve both parties better. Until Vince gets there Kerry Collins and Billy Volek will suck it up at QB.

WIN Total---2

Fantasy Player to AVOID: Injury prone Chris Brown, on a bad team, behind a bad offensive line, with rookie LenDale White and veteran Travis Henry gunning for his carries.

Houston Texans
4th place

Wali Lundy, Ron Dayne, Vernon Morency these are the names of the guys in Houston’s backfield. Can’t imagine that David Carr would have rather turned around and looked over his shoulder at one Reggie Bush. Ten years from now this is going to be like the Trailblazers taking Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan. Well, at least they traded down built some depth, got some offensive line help to stop the brutal punishment Carr has been taking. Whoops. Well that’s all right Houstonians, at least Roger Clemens is getting ready to lead your Astros to a second World Series title. Whoops. Well, at least your former governor isn’t running the country into the ground. Whoops. Hmmmm. Maybe Gary Kubiak will turn it around in the next few years. Yeah, and maybe Kinky Friedman will be taking over in Austin. Go Kinky. LINK

WIN Total---2

Fantasy Player to HAVE: Andre Johnson is poised for a breakout season now that the Texans have finally gotten a hold of a number two who will be respected in Eric Moulds. Being behind a lot should mean a lot of passing yards accumulated in desperate comebacks.


Division summary

New England Patriots
1st place

The Clarion is not the only one who has learned not to doubt Brady and Belichek. How on Earth did these guys get this team into the playoffs last year? With that secondary? Even missing Deon Branch things figure to be a far easier road this year than last. The division is still terrible. The running back addition of Laurence Mulroney will be dynamic and should give the bruising Corey Dillion an opportunity to keep his legs fresh on into December and possibly January. Losing Willie McGinest to the Browns will hurt. Having Rodney Harrison back from injury will help, though we have to wonder when age will finally catch up with the future Hall of Famer.

WIN Total---11

Fantasy Player to HAVE: Brady. To this point in his career, unbelievably, he has gotten better every year. Last year when they desperately needed him to carry the offense he did with 4,000+ yards and umpteen TDs.

Miami Dolphins
2nd place

Unlike the rest of the known Universe, the Clarion does not love Dante Culpepper. In our view he is a chucker, not a skilled accurate thrower or a good team leader. Randy Moss bailed him out many a time in Minny-ha-ha. Culpepper’s defenders say well he only had a bad half a season last year, the year before that he had the 5th best passing yardage total in league history. Yes, but last year’s half a season was not Culpepper’s only bad stretch, in fact, Dante has had as many season with more INTs than TD, as the reverse. For a QB to throw more INTs than TDs is a pretty awful season. A quick look around the league reveals very, very other signal callers who have as many seasons where they more INTs as TDs. (NOTE?) Still even if the Clarion is right and Culpepper is average, the AFC East is pretty lousy and the Fish have lots of other skill position talent. Randy McMichael is a great tight end, in the golden age of tight ends, he doesn’t get enough run. Ronnie Brown is solid, though he still has durability questions. Ricky “Puffin’” Williams will be missed. Chris Chambers is talented though no Randy Moss. The Dolphins D has great pedigree, but many of its top performers are the downsides of their careers, and have lost a step. Further, the corners aren’t nearly what they used to be in this divisions hey day. So the Dolphins aren’t our trendy pick, but we do believe there is just enough there to get by. Nick Saban’s coaching will likely sneak them in the back door of the playoffs.

WIN Total---9

Fantasy Player to HAVE: Randy McMichael if you are in a tight end league. He will be a steal. He will garner 90% of Gonzales, Gates and Witten’s stats and be available four rounds later in your draft.

New York Jets
3rd place

Sorry Jets fans, another season down the tubes. Eric Mangini arrives fresh from graduating middle school to try to patch things together. All right he is a little older than that, but not much. Mangini may be straight off the Belicheck coaching tree, but even having old B. Belichek himself doesn’t guarantee a miracle when the talent base isn’t there ask Cleveland Browns’ fans. There is very little talent on the Jets roster. Lots of class, little talent, equals high character losing seasons. Hate to see Curtis Martin, a class act if there ever was one, ending his career on the physically unable to perform list. The Jets backfield is soooooo bad, they took a guy a 2-14 49ers squad didn’t think could help them, to be there lead rusher. They gave up on tight end Doug Jolley, despite the steep price they paid in draft choices. They couldn’t retain Ty Law who led the league in INTs last year. Sack master John Abraham will be plying his trade in Atlanta this year. Chad Pennington another hard working good citizen is on track to make a miraculous comeback from two shoulder surgeries. Unfortunately, Pennington didn’t have the arm strength, before his injury, to throw the ten yard out. Now who knows what he could possibly have left in his pop-gun arm. Its gonna be a long cold season in the Meadowlands for Jets fans. (Esp. after the Mets let them down in October.)

WIN Total---5

Fantasy Player to AVOID: Anyone associated with the Jets offense!!

Buffalo Bills
4th place

Another rocky year in Buffalo. 115 year old Marv Levy is a good guy, with a great head on his shoulders, who led this organization to the Super Bowl four times. Can he resurrect them again? The Clarion likes the Dick Jauron hire, another Ivy Leaguer to keep Marv company. Unfortunately, the Bills have major issues on both sides of the ball. Their QB situation has been a nightmare. Frank Reich could walk in off the street and Marv and Dick would hand him the keys to the offense. Willis McGahee is a quality back who like many guys from his alma mater runs his mouth as fast as he moves his legs. Buffalo spent both first round draft picks this year on the defense, so you’d hope it would be improved. By how much? Well some, at least. Enough? Well, no.

WIN Total---4

Fantasy Player to AVOID: J.P. Losman. Maybe it’s just a coincidence but isn’t his name awfully close to Lose-man. You don’t want the Lose-man, if you want to win, mon.

Overall NFC


Division summary

Even with the improvement of the Cardinals the NFC West is among the weakest divisions. The Rams are in transition. The Marshall Faulk is officially over. Coach Scott Linehan says he is going to use Steven Jackson to pound the rock, a better, bigger defense would make this a sounder strategy. Still can’t get any worse than the end of the Mike Martz era. The Clarion would like to think things can’t get any worse in the Bay area either, but we’re not so sure. Alex Smith is a year a way from entering Ryan Leaf territory. Top defender Julian Peterson is gone, though the 49ers will get to see him twice a year when Seattle pastes them. Unlike the bottom of the division the Super Bowl losing Seahawks look top notch again. A efficient, effective QB in Hasselback, league MVP Shaun Alexander in the backfield with him, a solid offensive line even minus Steve Hutchinson should allow the Seahawks to coast to the division title.

Seattle Seahawks
1st place

The Seahawks will avoid the jinx of the Super Bowl loser. Of course, it helps to have the 49ers and Rams to beat up on four times a year. The Seahawks have a big homefield advantage. Matt Hasselback is super steady and would be a top flight QB with a better cast of receivers. Shaun Alexander is right there for the title of Best Running Back in the League. The defense will be improved from an already very high level of play last year, by the return of safety Ken Hamlin from injury and the addition of All-Pro linebacker Julian Peterson in free agency. The division is easily in the Seahawks grasp. Can they earn homefield for the entire NFC playoffs is the question?

Fantasy Player to HAVE: Shaun Alexander. Is it possible to come off an MVP season and be underrated? Why is everybody disrespecting the man? The Clarion knows he got paid. (read a: New Contract) We don’t see that as reason to believe Alexander is going to coast.

WIN Total---12

Arizona Cardinals
2nd place

Wow. What a stadium. LINKS. (in another post?) The Cardinals have underachieved with these kind of expectations many times before. They have a lot of the pieces in place. Winning veteran coach Denny Green. Two ace wide receivers, in Anaquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. The missing offensive piece, All-Pro running back from the U, Edgerrin James. Kurt Warner’s health will be the key. Good as he may become, seems unlikely Matt Leinart is going to be ready to take the reins this season. The offensive line remains a question mark, Warner’s health depends on their success keeping him upright. Warner is a two-time MVP winner when he has plenty of time to throw, but a happy feet, interception machine when he doesn’t. Four easy wins in the division are their for the taking. If the Cards get them all, they should be in the Wild Card hunt to the end, even in the newly ultra tough NFC.

WIN Total---8

Fantasy Player to AVOID: Kurt Warner has been awfully fragile, if you go there, the Clarion highly recommends a solid back-up. No Matt Leinart is not, yet, a solid back-up.

Fantasy Player to HAVE: The Clarion thinks Edgerrin James may be undervalued in certain drafts. His a good receiver as well as runner, and is going to get the ball a lot more in Arizona than Peyton ever gave it to him in Indy.

St. Louis Rams
3rd place

Definitely a franchise on the downside. The end of the Mike Martz era was completely out of control and lacking in discipline. Internal feuds and disarray dominated the headlines in St. Louis last season. Do you really want to have a debate on sports talk radio about whether or not your hospitalized coach can call in plays from his bedside? The Clarion thinks probably not. If the Chiefs collapse, too this year, it might be argued that Dick Vermeil left three franchises’ cupboards quite bare over the years. The St. Louis defense has finally arrested some of the post-Vermeil slide. (Arrested is probably the wrong pun for a Leonard Little led D.) Defense should be okay this year, rather than out right lousy. Linebacker Will Witherspoon is the real deal, though he will have to perform this year as a leader, rather than the complimentary part he was able to be in Carolina. Corey Chavous, La’Roi Glover and the aforementioned Little are all playmakers, too.

WIN Total---6

Fantasy Player to HAVE: Tie, Steven Jackson and Tory Holt. Jackson is primed to have a huge season. He will get a ton of carries. Tory Holt may be the single most underrated star player in the league. (WR Kevin Curtis is worth a late flier.)

Fantasy Player to AVOID: Isaac Bruce, a Hall of Famer, maybe? But clearly on the downside at this point.

San Francisco 49ers
4th place

How bad a pick was Alex Smith? We’ll know a little bit more after this season. Believe it or not minus Julian Peterson and Kevan Barlow the 49ers may actually be a worse team than last season’s two win campaign. Running back Frank Gore couldn’t cut it against ACC defenses, there is no reason to believe he has the foot speed to get anywhere north of three yards a carry in the NFL. The wideouts Antonio Bryant and Arnaz Battle might be the worst starting combo in the league. Where else would these guys even see significant playing time? Eric Johnson is a serviceable tight end, but coming off of a severe injury. Rookie tight end Vernon Davis has great combine numbers. (Then again, so did the Boz.) Worse than the severe lack of talent issues, the players are already chafing at Mike Nolan’s style. This could end badly and sooner than people think.

WIN Total---2

Fantasy Player to AVOID: Alex Smith. 1 TD and 15 INT’s last year was actually worse than Ryan Leaf’s rookie campaign.


Division summary

What’s happened to Chris Berman’s old Norris Division? It is the worst in football. It’s not news that the Lions suck. It’s news that there is finally a pale glimmer of hope in the Motor City. Coach Martinelli is a master motivator and a winner. Jon Kitna has leadership skills and makes good decision with the ball. However, until Matt Millen moves on the Lions will continue to flounder. The Vikings have similar top down organizational problems. Brad Childress seems like he might be a good hire. But the Clarion wonders why you’d want somebody whose head coach and mentor Andy Reid never let him call the plays. The Bears bring back their terrific defense. However, they have starting controversies at quarterback and running back. Luckily, his division is so bad, it won’t matter. Lovie Smith can manage those issues; at QB Griese will inevitably take over and at running back two talented guys will both see the field. The Bears are a mortal lock to win the division. In Green Bay, it is going to be another painful season to watch. Brett Favre should have retired at least two years ago. Matching last year’s six wins is a long shot.

Chicago Bears
1st place

Despite Lovie Smith’s best efforts Thomas Jones gets the starting nod over Cedric Benson for week one. The real question though is at QB. The Clarion has seen nothing out of Rex Grossman to convince us that he is NFL starting quarterback caliber. Brian Griese is serviceable and will take the job by about week four. Mushin Muhammed is a talented target. The real deal though is the Bears D. Urlacher gets all the pub, but there actually an unbelievable number of great players on this D; Ogunleye, Tommie Harris, and Alex Brown along the D Line, plus WLB Lance Briggs, CB Nathan Vasher and perhaps the best of them all bar Urlacher, safety Mike Brown.

WIN Total---11

Fantasy Player to AVOID: Rex Grossman will lose his starting job early, possibly following a week three loss at Minnesota.

Minnesota Vikings
2nd place

The Vikings are challenging the Lions for the title, “League’s Most Dysfunctional Franchise.” However, new coach Brad Childress has a lot more talent on the O and D lines than Detroit. QB Brad Johnson a smart decision maker has a war chest full of experience and topped by a Super Bowl ring. Chester Taylor is a yeoman rock carrier. Behind a monstrous O-line points will come. Guard Steve Hutchinson, ripped from the Seahawks, was the big off-season acquisition. Former All-Pro center Matt Birk’s health remains a key after missing two seasons with injury. The Vikings are short staffed at receiver, as they have been since Randy Moss left town. They had to part ways with recidivist and brief NC State attendee Koren Robinson. An up and down team, with just a few more ups the downs, not enough to make any kind of playoff noise.

WIN Total---9

Fantasy Player to HAVE: Chester Taylor could be a great value pick. He knows whether or not Brad Childress really liked Andy Reid calling all those passes in Philly. The Vikings have a schedule that will have a few games where they should want to run out the clock with big leads, both against this crummy division and other league doormats they play, including Buffalo, San Francisco and the Jets.

Detroit Lions
3rd place

How Matt Millen has a job continues to amaze and befuddle? But we guess if your running a famous multinational corporation like Ford into the ground, what’s it do the same to a football team as a hobby? Still the Clarion likes John Kitna’s moxie. Rod Martinelli, who has coached the Tampa Bay defensive line for years, will be a good coach, eventually. However, Matt Millen’s drafting has left the talent pool is awfully weak. The egomaniacal, but creative Mike Martz was an interesting hire as offensive coordinator. And Martinelli will get a few wins out of the defense, but its not as if he has anyone who could even crack the Bears defensive starting line-up. Dre Bly might make it as the Bears nickelback. Monstrous defensive tackle Shaun Rogers could probably at least crack the D-line rotation in Chicago. But, things are mighty bleak in Detroit. Lions fans had best hope the Tigers hang in there, because football season will be over by October.

WIN Total---5

Fantasy player to AVOID: Can you believe in any of the Lions wideouts? Essentially Charles Rodgers and Mike Williams got likable Steve Marucci the axe. Corey Bradford is serviceable at best. Now that Rogers has been cut, it’s the Williams and Williams show. Mike had one touchdown and only 29 catches in his rookie year. Roy has had much more respectable back to back 8 TD seasons for a lousy team.

Green Bay Packers
4th place

Poor Brett Favre, this year has the makings of being even worse than last year. He says they have the best talent base that he has had in ages there. Tell us that again in December with a straight face. Please. This is like last year when ESPN had their fantasy draft using all their announcers and analysts to pick teams, and Suzy Kohbler picked Favre in the first round and several folks had to stop themselves from laughing out loud. Won’t name, names, pick his nickname rhymes with “Paws.” Suzy and Brett both need to shake themselves. It is as over for Brett as it is for Joe Namath, who’s sodden advance Suzy gracefully deflected on camera few years ago. (Link U TUBE) To add insult to injury Favre saw top wideout Javon Walker flee to Denver. He is being protected by an atrocious offensive line, perhaps the least talented line in Brett’s 14yr run in Green Bay. The defense is porous, Charles Woodson, though not in Geno Toretta territory, is one of a number of underachieving Heisman winners. Worse yet, he is a locker room problem, who gives an inconsistent effort on the field. Just what the Packers need to bring in to demoralize rookie stud linebacker A.J. Hawk. Brilliant.

WIN Total---5

NFC South

Division summary

The NFC South is just a notch below the NFC East for the best division in football. Even the depleted Saints have skill position talent. Drew Brees was a great signing. Reggie Bush falling to them was once in generation good luck. Hopefully, the Saints can help contribute to New Orleans recovery. On a more mundane and less important note, the Panthers will challenge for the NFC’s Super Bowl berth. They have roster littered with talent on both sides of the ball. They have the coach currently holding the, “Best Coach not win a Super Bowl” title. And they didn’t even win the division last year, that honor went to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs figure to be right back in the chase with young backfield talents Carnell “Cadillac” Williams and lefty Chris Simms. In Atlanta, Jim Mora is on the hot seat if the Falcons don’t bounce back from last year’s late season swoon. Given the choice of letting him go or letting Michael Vick go, the organization will leave skid marks on Mora’s ass they’ll bounce him so fast.

Carolina Panthers
1st place

The division favorite and Super Bowl contenders are deep, real deep. They have a great defensive line, highlighted by standout DE Julius Peppers, but anchored by DT Kris Jenkins. Jenkins health may be the key factor in whether or not Carolina bring home the Lombardi Trophy this year. Panthers also have a talented secondary, led by All-Pro Mike Minter, accompanied by excellent cover corners Ken Lucas and young up and comer Chris Gamble formerly of the Ohio State University. The Panthers are led by another superb coach from the Bill Parcells’ coaching tree. John Fox is what makes the whole thing go. His first and most important decision was to substitute, riverboat gambler Jake Delhomme for an aging Rodney Peete two seasons ago in a Week One game against Jacksonville. Who says Week One games don’t matter?? That single decision and comeback it inspired was the start of the Panthers playoff runs that may culminate in a title this year. Delhomme is unlikely to be the perfect QB on any given Sunday, but he has the stones to win. Done well on the day, done lousy on the day he’s still coming after 100% come the 4th quarter. Reminds the Clarion of another never say die QB, (though a lefty) Ken “the Snake” Stabler. (There is no way underachiever Jake Plummer should be able to steal Stabler’s moniker.) The Panthers also have the best WR in the league, the first guy to lead the league in catches, yards and TDs in the same year since long since retired Sterling Sharpe. The Panthers only worries a revamped offensive line and DeShaun Foster’s fragility. Hopefully, DeAngelo Williams can assuage one of those two fears.

WIN Total---12

Fantasy Player to HAVE: Steve Smith, the top wide receiver in the NFL. Keyshawn drawing coverage will only make Smith, an all hustle team performer, better.

Atlanta Falcons
2nd place

Jim Mora Jr. unraveled precipitously at the end of last season. A mental meltdown that we hope isn’t a genetic foreshadowing. Anyone recall his Dad’s “Playoffs? Playoffs?!? Playoffs!!” you TUBE link Despite these concerns and some tough division opponents, the Clarion thinks Mike Vick finds a way. It would be easier for Mike if his receivers played up to their first round draft pick status. Brian Finneran is hurt. At the Clarion we think Michael Jenkins is the most gifted of the three. Defensive End John Abraham was an excellent pick-up. Corner D’Angelo Hall is a motormouth to be sure, but he backs it up by being one of the best in the league at his position. Warrick Dunn has been ageless. Like fellow oldster Tiki Barber, he seems to be getting a little better every year. Dunn’s style has been the perfect fit for O-line coach Alex Gibbs’ Denver style, one-cut rushing through semi-legal chop blocks and crack backs.

WIN Total---10

Fantasy Player to HAVE: Dare we say Michael Vick? He’s better in touchdown only leagues. Don’t over pay. TE Algee Crumpler is underrated.

Fantasy Player to AVOID: Warrick Dunn. He will anybody miss the departed T.J. Duckett more than anybody.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
3rd place

Maybe John Gruden was a little too hard on Chris Simms. Who like his Dad is a class act. Young Simms is developing leadership skills to go with his prodigious talent. Says here that he wins a Super Bowl in the next three to five seasons. Unfortunately for this season, young wideout Michael Clayton is a question mark. Will he produce at 2005 (weak) or 2004 (excellent) levels? Joey Galloway has to get old eventually, doesn’t he? Same goes for the defense which though blessed with a lot of savvy players is definitely getting older and will miss Rod Martinelli’s voice and leadership.

Fantasy Player to AVOID: Why does Cadillac Williams make us nervous? Why can’t we just accept that SEC backs grow-up to be monster pros?

WIN Total---9

New Orleans Saints
4th place

Drew Brees and Reggie Bush bring hope, Deuce McAllister and Joe Horn also have skills, but the offensive and defensive lines are far too weak for new coach Sean Payton to even manage a .500 season. Please support the people of New Orleans any way you can. Katrina LINK

Fantasy Player to HAVE: Reggie Bush. Don’t you just want to say that you have Reggie Bush on your squad. In keeper leagues, he merits a 1st round pick.

WIN Total---5

NFC East

Division summary

Perhaps the toughest division of them all. Not only are the old coaches of the NFC East back, but so is its position on top of the mountain. That said, after a season of beating up on each other, the Clarion doesn’t see any of these teams, with the possible exception of the Eagles, being capable of a long post season run. The Eagles are the only team with QB talent for it. For all the other skill position talent assembled in Washington, Mark Brunell is washed up. The Cowboys have too many moon units to get their heads in the right place for a deep playoff push. Who knows maybe it was Vanderjaaagt who was the jinx in Indy, not Dungy or Peyton. If the Cowboys can convince Parcells to stick around one more year, they will be primed for a Super Bowl push next year. Provided the statuesque Drew Bledsoe is still upright and in one piece. Eli Manning is at least a year away, he has the guts but not the accuracy. Two of his star targets show inconsistent motivation Plaxico and Jeremy Shockey. So look for lots of regular season wins out of the NFC East, more hand ringing in Washington, a surprisingly good season in Philly, and though the division will get three playoff teams, it will have a bunch of earl exits.

Dallas Cowboys
1st place

The Tuna rules the NFC East again. QB Drew Bledsoe must get better protection than last year. Will TO produce? It has become obvious over the course of the preseason that Parcells wanted nothing to do with TO who was forced upon him by Jerry Jones. TO is such poison despite his skill set that he could drag this team down, with his antics. Terry Glenn is serviceable, but a much better number two than number one wideout. Jason Witten is All-Pro caliber in what some people are calling the “Golden Age” of tight ends. Fortunately, for Bill the defense is so loaded that even if the offense regresses a bit from its 2006 level, they should still make the playoffs. He has the interior defensive line run stuffers that he covets, in his former Jet Jason Ferguson and Marcus Spears. He has playmakers who will create turnovers and big plays in LB DeMarcus Ware, CB Terrence Newman and safety Roy Williams. Incidentally, if it’s the “Golden Age” of tight ends, its at least the “Bronze Age” of safeties. Two of the most underappreciated positions in the league, appropriate that their peaks should go hand in hand, as the safety is often who has to cover these super athletic tight ends.

WIN Total---11

New York Giants
2nd place-Wild Card

This site is by no means in-love with Eli Manning, who is gutsy but less than accurate. Tiki Barber is a whole other story, the Clarion is already willing and available to manage his Hall of Fame canidacy. Plaxico Burress and Jeremy Shockey are talented targets. Will they perform consistently? Amani Toomer has to be on the downside by now right? Then again, this is at least the third season in a row we have predicted Toomer’s eminent deterioration. Bad news about creaky knee’d, Venus Williams-ex, Lavar Arrington Gi’nts fans, he will have more in common with LT on page 6 of the Post than he will on the back page. L Even so the defense will be improved with a completely revamped secondary benefiting from the pressure applied by stud DE’s Osi Umenyiora (possessor of the best name in the league) and Michael Strahan (possessor of a cheapened sack record.)

WIN Total---11

Fantasy Player to HAVE: Tiki Barber will have the rock in his hands a whole lot.

Fantasy Player to AVOID: Plaxico Burress never know if he’s going to bring his A game or even try hard on a given play.

Philadelphia Eagles
3rd place-Wild Card

Do the Eagles have enough skill position talent around Donovan? How many years have we been asking ourselves that question? Answer, his whole career. Love Brian Westbrook a lot more, but he was most effective when he had a big back to spell him, Correll Buckhalter. Is Buckhalter back from injury and able to be effective in that role. And their wideouts are atrocious. Horrific. They should bring back Freddie “self glosser” Mitchell. All right not that bad, but how many years in a row have them been trying to sell us on Todd Pinkston? Diehard Eag’s fans who have watched the last few years might be prone to use language both stronger and more colorful than atrocious. Imagine if Donovan had Peyton’s targets Reggie Wayne and fellow Syracuse grad Marvin Harrison…Philadelphia might own two or three Lombardi trophies by now…

WIN Total---11

Fantasy player to HAVE: The Clarion feels like Donovan McNabb will be a value pick in a lot of leagues this year. Though coming off injury, McNabb is tough as nails, happy to have the TO distraction gone and ready to prove his critics wrong, once again. That said, if he’s not a value pick, don’t make it, from a fantasy perspective his the 5th or 6th best QB out there not the 1st or 2nd best.

Fantasy Player to AVOID: Any Eagles WRs.

Washington Redskins
4th place

Love Joe Gibbs, love the job he’s done, but just see this as the team that takes a step back in the NFC East. Brunell was weak armed ten years ago. Now he’s fragile, too. The Clarion thinks former Auburn signal caller Jason Cambell has a bright future, possibly as bright or brighter than any of the other multitude of QB’s who were in his draft class, but he is not ready yet, right? If he is, maybe Gibbs and Al Saunders have a miracle in’em. Portis’s injury hurts, but the Skins RB depth is superb, T.J. Duckett was a great pick-up. Ladell Betts is serviceable. We like the multi-talented Antwuan Randle-El, who would probably be a much better QB than Brunnell. Washington’s other wideout pick-up Brandon Lloyd is more questionable. He makes some highlight reel catches, but is inconsistent. He is heck of a lot better than most team’s third WR. Too bad the QB can’t throw the ball further than 15 yards.

Fantasy Player to AVOID: Mark Brunnell, this lefty couldn’t break a pane of glass from ten feet. (with a rock, let alone a football.)

Fantasy Player to HAVE: Santana Moss. Brunnell will hold Moss’s stats down from the truly elite level, but Moss will still find a way to make a lot of long yardage plays. Also T.J. Duckett is worth a flier.

When considering these predictions remember we picked the Colts to beat Philly in last year’s Super Bowl. The Clarion is likely to be at least as on target this year.

Labels: ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?