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2004 NFL Preview

Are You Ready for Some Football?

After a long summer sitting around watching baseball and checking about the Olympics, I'm glad the NFL goes live this week. Although the thought of football season reminds me that colder weather will soon be upon us. It causes me to pity my home town team, the Chargers as well as my adopted home town team, the 49ers. Yet, I have a hard time believing that the 2004 - 2005 season will be a repeat of last year.

Don't get me wrong. The Pats should be the favorite. They have the quarterback, a better running game, basically the same defense. Maybe it's that nobody's repeated in a decade now. Maybe it's a realization that luck has a lot to do with just getting to the Superbowl. I don't know. We'll see for sure on this first game how the refs' calling the passing games a bit tighter will affect the physical New England corners. And if it does affect them, one has to start favoring teams like Indy & KC, who can outscore you, and Carolina, who very nicely invites opposing QBs to take a seat on each play. Something's got to give in that regard. The calls affect every team, so maybe it'll cut both ways.

If, indeed the Pats make a run like last year's team, Brady has to be right there with Aikman, if not a little ahead based on the overall talent level each has worked with. He even starts to challenge legends like Starr, Bradshaw, Montana as the greatest QB ever. No way you say? I say scoreboard, meaning that with three Superbowl wins in four years, the Pats would have to be considered a dynasty. In this era of cut/draft/rebuild in a year, this would be an amazing feat. The Patriot front-office got a break when Bledsoe went down and Brady rose up. Add lots of draft picks to an already solid team and we have the makings of a dynasty.

But after the Pats, who do you like? Don't look any further than the Colts, Eagles, KC, Panthers or Seahawks. Also don't be surprised if a team that was horrible last year turns it all around: Atlanta, Cincy (not horrible last year), and Cleveland look to be turnaround stories. Another couple of teams that nobody should overlook are the Ravens and Cowboys. Although questionable quarterbacks will most likely hold them back.

"How about them local teams?" you might be asking.

Most 49er fans aren't expecting too much -- and they shouldn't. The defense looks like it can be good, but big questions remain with the pass rush. If they can get pressure on the quarterback, it will be but a drink in their journey across a long desert. The offense is where it's going to take something close to a miracle for them to do well.

Fans gather around, it's time to join in a collective prayer, meditation, whatever. "Please insert favorite diety", bring Eddie back to his team.

As for the Raider fans, I think they are hoping for too much. They seem to think that Gannon will hold up for 16 games and return to his MVP ways. If he does, the Raiders will definitely be better. The problems are well documented from last year's team where the Raiders chewed up all their QBs. Let's state that with a healthy Gannon, the Silver and Black will move the ball. No doubt about it. But defense wins in this league and the scull & boneheads' (er, crossbones) D was ground to dust to the tune of 379 points last year. They were especially susceptible to the run. That will have to change big time if the Raiders have any hope of returning to the Superbowl. The Raiders have a lot of talent and quality youth, so given the right cohesion and a MVP year from Gannon, anything is possible, but it's not likely.

Both Bay Area teams are likely destined to be sitting on the sidelines when it's all said and done. And when's all said and done, if I were putting money down, I would look for the Pats to repeat against the Panthers in Superbowl XXXIX. They had a good draft and Brady is still quarterback. Until the latter changes, you have to like New England's chances. I would have chosen the Colts to win it all had the season opener been called any differently than last year. But I didn't notice any differece. And I would choose Philly if I had more faith in Terrell Owens. With TO you never know whether his big mouth or his play on the field will do the talking. At least that melodrama is now a continent away and we can all watch as amused bystanders when the shit hits the fan. Whatever the case, it's a long season to come. Here's to the great plays, great hits, and exciting games that are sure to come. Are you ready for some football?