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Tues, July 31, 2001

NFC Preview

A Preview of the Upcoming NFL Season with Predictions For All 31 Teams

by Butch Rogaine

NFC West

The Saints' success will hinge on revitalized running back and beaming bride Ricky Williams (shown here being given away by old friend Mike Ditka.

The New Orleans Saints will be a powerhouse this year. It all starts with franchise running back Ricky Williams. During the offseason, Williams  married college sweetheart Earl Jenkins. “Earl fills me in a way I never imagined. I’ve never been so complete,” remarked Williams. Expect him to come up big and dismiss any talk of the Saints using rookie RB Deuce McAllister.

In addition, the Saints have a great offensive line in front of probable starting QB Aaron Brooks. While TE Cam Cleeland will play a big role in the offense, it is speedy deep threats Joe Horn and recent pickup Albert Connell who will be the difference makers. Scouts have been impressed with Brooks’ strong arm, which the QB attributes to many lonely nights spent at home as a teenager.

The Saints are a complete team on offense and defense, as they showed in last year’s wild card game against the Rams. They have excellent lines on both sides of the ball and a decent secondary that will be helped by the addition of safety Jay Bellamy.

    Butch’s Prediction: Saints 10-6

The St. Louis Rams would have been my prediction for first place in the NFC West. That is until Jesus Christ announced (put a link to the story) that he will no longer play a role in determining the outcome of sports. It’s a severe blow to Rams QB Kurt Warner. Things began looking fishy between JC and KW last year, when Warner was hurt and his team lost to the Saints in the playoffs. Now it’s official, the quarterback must get by on his own guile and smarts which, judging from his choice of wife, ain’t a good thing for Rams fans. Warner has been trying to focus himself during his free time by sitting in a quiet corner and chanting “mmm ... Chunky Soup” over and over again.

However, expect the Rams QB to snap out of it and seek help from Satan (hey, they’re not called the Rams for nothing). In addition, last year St. Louis showed that it could win with absolutely no defense, scoring over 500 points. They have the same talented array of offensive players, so almost anything is possible.

The Rams will have 8 new starters on defense, who will improve on last year’s unit but still come across as average. The defensive line and linebackers are horrible. Also, don’t forget that last year the team had Trent Green to fill in whenever Warner was hurt. The bad defense and lack of depth at QB make this team too shaky for us to declare them the favorites for the West.

    Butch’s Prediction: Rams 9-7

Jeff Garcia once stepped on my foot during a press conference. Just for that, I’m predicting no playoffs for the San Francisco 49ers!! Well, not just for that. They’ve got a nice tandem in Garcia and WR Terrell Owens, but little else. Everyone is young, the defense hasn’t gotten better, and there’s questions as to what Garrison Hearst will give you. My gangrenous toe remembers you Jeff!

    Butch’s Prediction: 49ers 8-8

It was a big offseason for Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Reeves. He was named a member of the Dick Cheney Cardio-Club, entitling him to free defribrillation after each Falcons game. However, with QB Chris Chandler playing behind a porous offensive line, no one expects that Reeves will face many close and suspenseful games.

The bulk of Atlanta’s games will involve Falcons players doing everything possible to get Chandler hurt and Michael Vick onto the field. Aside from Vick, the whole team will suck. There is no defense, no receiver corps, and no special teams.

    Butch’s Prediction: Falcons 4-12

The Carolina Panthers will fight hard to be competitive enough to play Patriot League football. RB Biakabatuka is always hurt and there’s no QB or defense this year. Expect QB Chris Weinke, the 40 year old first round draft pick, to retire midway through the season.

    Butch’s Prediction: Panthers 3-11

NFC Central

The Chicago Bears will easily capture the Central Division. While Tampa may have tenacious defense and Minnesota a high powered offense, the Bears have acquired Super Bowl punter and former New York Giants kicker Brad Maynard. "We’re confident that Brad will kick the ball very far away from our goal line," commented Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher. "We have no quarterback, so it’s really gonna be all about how far Brad can kick it and how quickly our defense can get a turnover and score."

The Bears are counting on former Giants kicker Brad Maynard to punt them to the playoffs.

Defense and a sound running game will make the Bears this year’s dark horse. Armed with Urlacher and safety Mike Brown, the team will continue its return to smash mouth play. The defensive line and linebackers are so large, several adult film producers have approached them with offers of offseason work. Expect running backs James Allen and rookie Anthony Thomas to scramble and power their way behind an offensive line that has not showered since last year’s disappointing season.

Bears coach Dick Jauron has decided against naming a quarterback from the trio of Cade McNown, Jim Miller, and Shane Matthews. Instead, he will have them all wear replica Jim McMahon jerseys, and have a chimpanzee named Willy choose which will start a series. "It’s worked in the preseason," remarked Jauron. "We blindfold Willy, spin him round and round, and then use whoever Willy points at."

    Butch’s Prediction: Bears 11-5

Tampa Bay’s apparent improvement at the quarterback position will not prove the difference in this year’s race to the NFC championship game. Buccaneers QB Brad Johnson has been healthy for a full season just once. Furthermore, last year he failed to score on a Redskins team with receivers like Michael Westbrook and speedster Albert Connell. We’ll see how well he does against an offensive line that may be weaker than Washington’s. The play of rookie OT Kenyatta Walker may make or break Johnson. We’re guessing that by midseason, Keyshawn, who has been wearing his Jets jersey for good luck in practice, will wish that Brad was held captive at the stadium’s pirate ship. Don’t be surprised to see Shaun King back in the saddle again.

Running back Warrick Dunn will continue his impressive play, but stamp the letters O-V-E-R-R-A-T-E-D on fullback Mike Alstott. We’ll see if television announcers still try to create hype around a guy who was never a difference maker in the playoffs (Superbowl appearances = 0) and is coming back from a knee injury.

The Bucs will have another tough start to their season, which will be rescued only because of the defense. However, there’s only so many seasons that you can keep a dominating defensive unit playing at full force. They’ve acquired Simeon Rice, who will sack many QB’s, but he can’t play the run. It could be that Tony Dungy will find his last season at Tampa to be another disappointment . We still see him getting the team to one playoff game though.

    Butch’s Prediction: Bucs 10-6

The Green Bay Packers’ offensive line was so bad for the bulk of 2000 that, by the time they improved late in the season, Brett Favre was in danger of becoming a cheesehead. This year young tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher will have to step up and help Earl Dotson keep their QB off pain killers.

The Pack’s O-Line has a chance of being quite good in the near future, but Favre won’t have many weapons to work with. Ahman Green is a great running back, but he can’t catch or pass at all. Dorsey Levens is coming off injuries. TE Bubba Franks is too weak for his position, and WR Antonio Freeman just keeps getting worse. On defense, the Pack has no secondary or pass rush. Favre just can’t carry the whole team on his back.

    Butch’s Prediction: Packers 9-7

The Vikings’ Denny Green worked coaching wonders last year – until his team’s shortcomings came around to bite him on the ass. Green should be serving his team donuts each morning to remind them of their pathetic performance against the Giants in the NFC Championship game.

Daunte Culpepper is an exceptional athlete and will be a great QB, but even Dan Marino couldn’t win it all by himself. The Vikings suffered the key losses of Randle, Rudd, Hatchette, and Robert Smith. This team didn’t get better at all. The secondary is nonexistent and the linebackers suck. They are so completely bad defensively, that there’s no reason to even discuss individual members of the defense.

Culpepper will still have a large line to work with. However, rookie RB Michael Bennett can’t be expected to fill the gap made when Smith retired. No receiver, not even Randy Moss, can win a game by himself. Against a Giants’ secondary that everyone dismissed as invisible, Moss did absolutely nothing – why should he make a bigger difference this year? The Vikes can win by outscoring teams, but that’s something the Rams proved to be futile last year. Minnesota will play the Giants, Baltimore, Tampa twice, Philly, and New Orleans – no defensive lightweights there. Forget the playoffs, its gonna be a long, frustrating winter in Minny.

    Butch’s Prediction: Vikes 8-8

The Lions hired Matt Millen as its team president for one good reason: they needed someone to improve the menu at the team cafeteria. Honestly, can anyone make a difference with this team? They are capped out and have a mediocre QB in Charlie Batch. Then there’s this statement by Millen, "Right now, we’re not ready to win the Super Bowl." Sounds like a winner to us.

Charlie Batch gets hurt so often that he’ll be wearing a flak jacket on his drive into work each day. RB James Stewart is underrated, but no one else on this team is. Batch will have a young O-Line behind him, which means lots of sacks no matter how good Jeff Backus and Dominic Raiola will be in the future.

To make matters worse, check out some of Marty Mornhinweg’s coaching staff: Kevin Higgins, Larry Kirksey, Mike McHugh, Bill Young, and Sean Kugler. All these guys are in their first year in coaching in the NFL. Uh ... I have some old high school coaches they can hire.

Expect the average but deep defense to blitz and keep the Lions in many games, while Batch pushes the team along at a slow pace with passes to TE David Sloan.

    Butch’s Prediction: Lions 7-9

NFC East

The New York Giants will overcome a tough schedule to win the relatively weak NFC East with a mere 10 wins. The keys: Kerry Collins, a bottle of Jack Daniels, and two games each against the Arizona Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys.

Quarterback Kerry Collins now admits that he was not adequately prepared (translation: drunk) for the pressure and challenges of Superbowl XXXV. Many in the Giants locker room secretly criticized Collins, red faced and tipsy during the teams’s 41-0 dismantling of the Vikings, for being sober during the big game against the Ravens. "I was disappointed that Kerry put his AA friends above the team," said one disgruntled linebacker preferring to remain anonymous.

In prime form, Collins is back to reflexively reaching for a bottle with his left hand before each pass.

This year there is good news for fans of the men in blue: Collins has re-dedicated himself to his drinking ways during the preseason. The Penn State grad recently got liquored up and broke the jaw of a carnival midget for questioning his manhood. The altercation, broken up by teammate Michael Strahan and a bearded woman believed to be Strahan’s wife, took place at the team’s training facility in Albany. "I was trying to take a leak behind this trailer when a dwarf jumps out screaming at me. He was asking for it," explained Collins.

    Butch’s Prediction: Giants 10-6

Yea!!! Philly!! Lovable underdog Coach Andy Reid won’t let Philly fans down in his third year with the Eagles. Donovan McNabb will be one year smarter, yet he’ll have his wings clipped by the team’s horrible offensive unit. The offensive line, specifically John Runyan, will be tested early and often after a disappointing performance against the Giants in last year's playoffs. Reid is hoping for the emergence of a rookie receiver in the form of Freddie Mitchell. However, there’s no proof that he’s any better than last year’s (marijuana) bust Todd Pinkston.

Expect McNabb to become a human Philly cheese steak after another season of being pounded. He’ll still have enough surprises up his sleeves to lead his team to the playoffs. In addition, count on the defense to continue to keep the Eagles in most games.

    Butch’s Prediction: Eagles 9-7

The Washington Redskins were a pathetic waste of money. Now, with Marty Schottenheimer as head coach, they’ll be an arrogant waste of money. The ‘Skins coach began his tenure in Washington by dissing the NFC Champion Giants and claiming that the Eagles were his primary concern in the East. Tough talk from a man whose Kansas City teams never reached a single Superbowl. Let’s make this short and sweet -- in any game that matters, Jeff George will play well until he gets smacked around a little and chokes. Deion is gone, leaving just Champ Bailey as the flying defensive highlight. Rookie receiver Rod Gardner will have a decent season, but expect no miracles from the defensive line.

    Butch’s Prediction: Skins 7-9

Arizona’s shortcomings at quarterback mean another season ending in December for the Cardinals. Despite the drafting of guard Leonard Davis to help protect Jake Plummer, the Cardinals QB will not last the season. In fact, expect "the Snake" to be snaking sewer pipes for a local Phoenix plumbing company by mid-season. Running back Michael Pittman will find holes, but none as big as the ones opened by opposing teams against the Cards’ pathetic defensive line. Arizona will learn that second round pick Kyle Vanden Bosch is no Simeon Rice (based on his name alone, sounds like this guy should be kicking). In addition, with the loss of Aeneas Williams, the Cardinals are lacking corners and players named after characters from Greek epics. It’s gonna be a long season for the Cards’ retirement community fan base.

    Butch’s Prediction: Cards 5-11

"How ‘bout them Cowboys!!??" Even if one of the two players vying for the quarterback spot suffers enough concussions to believe he is Troy Aikman, don’t expect this Jerry Jones franchise to dwell above the cellar. The ‘boys signed Tony Banks, a signal caller who once lost his job to unemployed Trent Dilfer. Trent Dilfer!! Banks will challenge the inexperienced Quincy Carter to see which is most qualified at passing 20 yards short of routes run by speedy receivers Joey Galloway and Rocket Ismael. Don’t expect to see a functioning secondary on this team either.

The Cowboys are a young team lacking their usual mix of accused and convicted felons. All that true Dallas fans will have to talk about this season will be Emmitt Smith plodding his way towards another 1,000+ yard season. The wannabes who hadn’t switched their Cowboys jerseys back to Raiders attire will do so this year.

    Butch’s Prediction: America's Team 4-12

Butch Rogaine likes to play touch football using knives but he is not Kerry Collins' AA sponsor.
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