I'm so glad the season is finally here. If for no other reason, I'm so sick of hearing people make predictions on things when they have no idea what they're talking about. And when they're wrong, no one ever admits it.
So with that said, here are my Five Bold Statements going into the 2006 NFL season.
5. The Bears have no bite.
There are a few teams you can label as being the league's most overrated, but I definitely have to go with the Chicago Bears.
If their defense sustains any significant injuries, they're done because we know they can't win games on offense alone. Since the offense doesn't put up a lot of points, you know opposing teams will stay in the game. They're not going to blow anyone out. Basically, all it takes is a big turnover late in a close game and the Bears are looking at a loss.
I would feel a lot better about the Bears if Brian Griese was the starting quarterback. He's going to take some gambles on offense, but he gives you the chance to make some big plays happen. That's not the case with Rex Grossman. Just look at what Griese did when he was with Tampa Bay.
Chicago's defense definitely will make it competitive, but how many dominating defenses do you see overcome a bad offense to make the Super Bowl? The Ravens? The first year the Patriots won the Super Bowl? The Bears have even less offense than Baltimore did that year.
4. This is Peyton's last hope for a ring.
Look at the supporting cast. They have money tied up in Peyton, Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison, and now they have to get a deal done with Dwight Freeney. You can lock him up to only so much. And after him, you don't have a lot of room to maneuver. Given their poor stadium situation and the lack of revenue streams, the Colts are limited. Other teams have an advantage and Peyton will feel the effect of being on a small-market team.
However, I think this is the season they finally get to the Super Bowl. I like Dominic Rhodes as a running back and with the way that he can run, he can get 1,200 yards in that offense. With that offense, that's all you need from the running game. Indy has an offense that no one can match up with week to week.
But if Peyton doesn't get it done this season, it's not happening.
3. Miami is the beast of the East.
I'm not concerned about what happened Thursday night. Who's going to go into Pittsburgh and win in that situation? The Steelers' defense is a bad matchup for a lot of teams. Look at what it did to Cincinnati and Indy's offenses in the playoffs and both of those teams' offenses have to be in the top five in the league.
My only concern about the Miami Dolphins is the running game. Will they get enough help from Ronnie Brown? I like him. I think he's a good runner, but the issue is that offensive line. Is it good enough to help Brown get four yards a carry?
But when you look around the AFC East, who's going to knock the Dolphins off? The Patriots? You still have Tom Brady, but that team has had too many departures and is starting to get old. Besides, look at Miami's schedule. The Dolphins have a real light schedule.
As for anyone saying Daunte Culpepper can't read zone defenses, they know nothing about football. After playing with him, I can tell you that he's a smart guy who has no problems reading defenses. All quarterbacks throw balls into coverage. On one of the interceptions in Thursday night's loss, he had a defensive lineman flash in front of him and the ball sailed into the secondary. On Joey Porter's pick, that was just a great play by the defense. And defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has been able to get his defenses to do that since he's been in the league.
2. Brett Favre should have retired.
If he came back to reach another Super Bowl, he made a mistake. And why else would he come back? Records? He has a number of those. Money? He's made a bunch over the years. But there's no way that he could have honestly looked at the Green Bay Packers and said, "This reminds me of the two teams I took to the Super Bowl."
This isn't like the John Elway situation. John wasn't the same player at that stage of his career, but he had a supporting cast around him in Denver. Brett can't say the same thing.
What kind of running game is he going to get from Ahman Green? He has a very mediocre offensive line, too. That line will subject him to pressure and a lot of hits. And to top it off, the Packers don't have a dominating defense. They don't have the personnel.
So the question becomes would he play for someone else next year? After back-to-back bad seasons, why would he return to Green Bay? This team isn't going to be much better than last year. Even if the Packers win six or seven games this season, what's the difference from last year?
1. T.O. will hamstring the NFC East.
I've said this before and I stick by my statement: Terrell Owens is worth the risk.
If you look at how the Dallas Cowboys are built and the fact they got stronger in one area while taking away a key component to a divisional foe, they are the team to beat in this division. Yes, T.O. has had his issues with previous teams, but he was very good in his first year with the Eagles and Dallas didn't invest big money in a contract that has them financially locked up for a lot of years.
You also have to look at who's coaching this team – Bill Parcells. He's going to be able to handle dealing with Owens. Plus, Parcells wants to win right now. You don't know how much longer he's going to be there and they're trying to get all the right pieces together to win in a hurry. If this team had a young coach, then I would say it was a bad idea to bring in T.O.
So much of the fuss in the preseason about practice and his hamstring was overblown. Look, you can never bring up work ethic as far as T.O. is concerned. Now, if we were talking about some other marquee players in the NFL, you might be able to raise that issue. What you have to understand is that a hamstring injury is like a back problem. You can have an MRI, but the problem might not show up. As an athlete, you know if you can't go – especially as a wide receiver. You always feel like you're going to pull it if it's aggravated.
From a competitive standpoint, there's no corner in the NFC East that can hang with Owens. No one in that division can cover him man-to-man. The guys in Philly are good, but they're small.
T.O. gives Dallas a legitimate chance to win the NFC East. In fact, the Cowboys can't win it without it. That division is the deepest top to bottom and might only be separated by two games. I believe T.O. is worth two wins at least.