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Football Predictions: A Second Slice
8 Predictions For 2008 If You're A Fan Of The...
1. John Carlson will start his rise as one of the NFL's best tight ends.
2. It'll be a good year for debuts. DE Lawrence Jackson will help allow the Seahawks defense dominate division — not that they were too bad last season, when Patrick Kerney had 14.5 sacks from the other end position. Together, they could be fearsome.
3. Courtney Taylor caught 5 passes last season. Deion Branch caught 49. But Branch has never been the player the Seahawks thought he would be. Taylor will make himself part of the mix during this, his second season.
4. Julius Jones was brought in to be the successor to Shaun Alexander, but Maurice Morris will cling onto the start role and be this year's leading rusher.
5. Defense is going to be the story, not offense. Matt Hasselbeck has been a fantasy stalwart for a while, but if beating opponents up is going to take Seattle to the promised land, they're going to have to concentrate on steady sustained drives.
6. Mike Holmgren's final season will give the team a reason to stay focused. Also, impressing incoming head coach Jim Mora will keep them on their toes.
7. The Seahawks are something of a default selection to win the division. There will be a wildcard team with a better record.
8. A 9– or 10–win season is the most likely result, breaking away from the Cardinals in the final month.
1. Kurt Warner may have earnt the starting job over Leinart, but the organization clearly wanted the young guy to make his case. Ironically, I suspect Leinart's day will come as an injury replacement. Warner often holds onto the ball too long. Either that or the team grows weary of Warner's fumbles.
2. Edgerrin James has averaged less than 4.0 the past two seasons, and entering his 10th season in the league is starting to show some mileage. Another 1200 yards is probably the limit.
3. Marcel Shipp, once pressing for a starting slice is gone. JJ Arrington became the new No.2 guy last year, but coaches are much impressed with rookie Tim Hightower from Richmond. Expect him to see a major slice of the action, perhaps 400 yards worth.
4. FB Terrelle Smith will score his first rushing touchdown this season, his 9th in the league.
5. The defense takes a major step forward this season, and could be the most improved defense in the NFL.
6. DE Chike Okeafor will be back and playing well after a year out of action. previously, he was a picture of consistency, never less than 6 sacks and never more than 8.5 between 2002 and 2006.
7. This will be the last year for either Warner or Leinart. Leinart seems to think the job will just be given to him at some stage, and the way he was given the first look in preseason suggested the same. Warner is too much of a gentleman to make a fuss about it, but seemed politely disappointed even to have to defend his start role based on last year's numbers. Their coexistence to date has been unusual enough for two such different personalities, but it can't go on.
8. The schedule is tough – the Cardinals wouldn't surprise me if they finally jumped up and took the division, but history tells us to expect otherwise. Another tip–toe in the right direction, but not enough. 8 or 9 wins.
San Francisco 49ers
1. JT O'Sullivan will stick as the designated starter, but the offensive line is a mess. At some point, O'Sullivan will give way to Alex Smith because of injury, or Shaun Hill. Maybe both!
2. Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz is going with what he knows and whoever knows his system. Not only has O'Sullivan got the nod, but Isaac Bruce knows the offense from the Rams, and Bryant Johnson is adjusted to being part of a 3–WR system when he was at Arizona. The offense will spark early.
3. Isaac Bruce has been in this league a long time, and could break down somewhere in his 15th season. If so, the receiving corps drops off a cliff, with workable Arnaz Battle and then two receivers with career catch between them.
4. Tight end Vernon Davis will also be able to take advantage – Martz won't want to use a TE as a blocker when he can use somebody of Davis' talents as a receiver. See point 1, above.
5. Frank Gore is perfect for this offense. He had something of a quiet year last season with only 1100 yards on the ground, but expect numbers similar to 2006, when he totaled 2180 yards of offense. He could have 75 receptions in this offense.
6. The season will not be a success, but the offense will be. That's the perfect recipe for Martz to become a head coach again, replacing Mike Nolan at the end of the season.
7. QB Alex Smith will be gone after this season. He won't be given the opportunity to prove himself, and he's took expensive to be a backup.
8. The 49ers will be really glad the Rams are in their division, because that's the only team they won't have lost touch with after the first two months.
St Louis Rams
1. Marc Bulger racked up 4301 yards in 2006, but only 2392 last season. Although that was across 12 games, not 16, this could be another unexceptional year, with WR Torry Holt dropping a notch the past two years, Isaac Bruce gone, and a re–emphasis of the rushing game.
2. No.3 WR Dane Looker will get more than the 6 receptions he had the past two season. Five times as many at least.
3. If the Rams win games, it will be with the ground game – a newly re–contracted Steven Jackson and versatile fullback Brian Leonard.
4. Mind you, Steven Jackson is going to wish he hadn't signed a new contract with the Rams.
5. This defense is going to have problems. The personnel splits into two categories: well–traveled and inexperienced. They allowed the second–most number of points last season, and while that will improve, the yardage ranking might get a little worse than last year's 21st.
6. St Louis' first win will be an 'upset' of Buffalo, in week 4.
7. Scott Linehan is gone before season end. Mind you, so might the ownership.
8. The Rams are going to have the league's worst record. Even two wins isn't assured.