In 2009, The Cincinnati Bengals somehow fielded a defense that could stop a Sherman tank. In 2008, the Arizona Cardinals put the pieces together and made an inexplicable run to the Super Bowl. Point being, football is so hard to predict. Why, every year, it seems like something happens that makes you bug your eyes out in disbelief. These are just some examples of occurrences that snuck under the prognosticators’ collective nose. How can you predict such things without being laughed at? Maybe you can’t. But in this essay, I’m going to be making a bold prediction, so here goes.
QUESTION ONE: IS RYAN MATHEWS REALLY THAT GOOD?
Fantasy outlets make no bones about highlighting him as a second or third round pick, depending on how many teams are in a league. The offensive line in San Diego has no continuity issues, and Mathews had 151 yards per game last year at Fresno State. It’s asking a lot for Mathews to become LaDainian Tomlinson circa 2005 overnight, and Chargers fans would be foolish to do so. However, San Diego traded up sixteen spots just to get him, which should do wonders for Mathews’ confidence. A safe guess is “he’ll do just fine”, and we’ll see how it goes.
QUESTION TWO: IS NORV TURNER A LIABILITY?
Prior to coming to San Diego in 2007, Norv Turner had a total of two playoff games under his belt as a head coach, and they were in the same season. Turner has yet to find a way to get over the hump and prove that he’s every bit of a coach as his old mentor, Jimmy Johnson. The Chargers are largely a group of haven’t-beens looking to find a way to win, and it’s hard to do when your head coach has never succeeded as one. Maybe Jon Gruden or Bill Cowher can instill the winning spirit for them.
QUESTION THREE: WAS LETTING MIKE NOLAN GO A MISTAKE BY DENVER?
Mike Nolan did allow the Broncos defense to decline sharply as the season wore on, but is it all his fault? The haphazard coaching of Josh McDaniels can’t be left out of the reasoning, as well as the chemistry issues of, essentially, hiring free agents on a giant spending spree like a kid may do playing Madden. Letting Nolan fall into Miami’s hands may be a big mistake for Denver, who need to establish continuity from year to year. McDaniels, at this rate, will coach himself out of a job, and part of the reason is shifting 2009’s blame to Nolan.
QUESTION FOUR: WHAT DOES JASON CAMPBELL BRING TO OAKLAND?
[adinserter name=”366 left”]Jason Campbell’s a sleeper to be sure. The Washington Redskins aren’t really a good environment for a young player to level up his skills, since Daniel Snyder has veterans coming and going at a bullet’s speed. Campbell came to Oakland for a fourth round pick, and he finds himself with not the worst teammates a man can have. Zach Miller is just a less versatile Chris Cooley, and there are enough young receivers like Louis Murphy and Chaz Schilens for him to get on the same page with. Really, with the division being so tepid, why can’t the Raiders make their mark?
QUESTION FIVE: HOW CAN CHARLIE WEIS IMPROVE THE CHIEFS’ OFFENSE?
Notre Dame haters laughed at Charlie Weis’ “woe is me” news conference when the ax fell on him last year, but Kansas City’s laughing for another reason. The Fighting Irish, as well as the Patriots when Weis ran the offense, put up lots of points, and many of those points came from marginal, ill-fitting talents. Weis has a knack for bleeding the lemon of all its juice, and he can get that juice from the twenty-fifth ranked offense in 2009. This is good news for Matt Cassel, as Weis and Todd Haley’s offensive minds can only improve this young squad.
1. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (9-7)
Yes, that’s right. Before you apply the strait-jacket and haul me off to Bellevue, let me remind you of my opening salvo in this column. If the Bengals can have the fourth best defense in the NFL in 2009, why can’t the Chiefs offense explode in 2010? The running backs in Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles are sure to be a linebacker’s nightmare, and Charlie Weis and Todd Haley are going to make sure Matt Cassel experiences as little growing pains as possible. Romeo Crennel has work to do with the defense, but a division title is merely not impossible.
2. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (8-8)
I’m getting a little tired of the Chargers. Maybe moving LT and Antonio Cromartie is addition by subtraction, and bringing in Nathan Vasher as a corner is definitely a positive, but what else is there? Antonio Gates is beginning to show signs of wear and tear, and Vincent Jackson is at odds with the organization in very public fashion. Philip Rivers may not have the faculties to deal with these radical changes, especially when he’s handing the ball to Ryan Mathews, who has the weight of the world on his rookie shoulders. Something tells me that the Chargers will slump.
3. OAKLAND RAIDERS (6-10)
[adinserter name=”366 right”]For once, Oakland didn’t squander their first round pick, getting instinctual linebacker Rolando McClain. Beyond that, I’m actually optimistic about what Jason Campbell can bring to the team. As I said, Washington isn’t a healthy learning environment, and, then again, maybe Oakland isn’t either. However, with a young receiving group emerging (except for horrendously overrated pick Darrius Heyward-Bey), a young team now has hope. Nobody expects Oakland to do much anyway, so why not go the Dolphins route of 2008 and just revamp everything? It’s a young team, so let them learn a new system together. It makes sense, right?
4. DENVER BRONCOS (5-11)
One day, Pat Bowlen is going to wake up and realize that he has no earthly clue what Josh McDaniels is doing. That’s quite a coincidence, because I doubt McDaniels does either. The constant free agent moves, the firing of Mike Nolan, the alienating of his players, the bad finish of 2009, and the bizarre drafting of Tim Tebow only serve to make McDaniels look enigmatic in the eyes of the clueless. If the team improves this year, it will be no small miracle. As an Eagles fan, I feel bad that this is where Brian Dawkins ends his career.
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