The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.


                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.







2004 NFL Preview

By Jerry Keys

When it's turkey time, it is also time to start the pigskin debates about the playoffs.  With 10 games under their belt, there are only six remaining.  No teams have made a surprise start except for the San Diego Chargers.  In his lame duck year, Drew Brees has showed impressive poise in the pocket and may very well reach the playoffs.

The disappointment awards have to go to the Kansas City Chiefs (no defense),

Washington Redskins (no offense), and Carolina Panthers (just bad luck).  If you could match the Redskins defense with the Chiefs offense, winning games would not be the question; the question would just be by how much. 

The Panthers have had a reversal of fortune from 2003.  They won all the close games last year but are coming up short in them this year.  Their backfield is depleted and allows opposing defenses to spread nickel packages and Jake Delhomme just

Jerry Keys

can't handle all the defensive schemes.

The AFC playoff picture is quite clear with their top-to-bottom records.  Eight teams will vie for the six playoff spots.  New England (9-1) and Pittsburgh (9-1) have all but wrapped up their divisions and will compete for the home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  Indianapolis (7-3) and Denver (7-3) should edge out Jacksonville (6-4) and San Diego (7-3) for the other two division slots.

The two wild card slots will be filled by either San Diego, Jacksonville, Baltimore (7-3), or the New York Jets (7-3).  The edge has to go to San Diego and Baltimore due to record and that the Jets and Jacksonville are suffering QB woes with their starters being out for extended periods of time.

The playoff format in the AFC should go as follows:  #1 seed-Pittsburgh, #2-New England, #3-Denver, #4-Indianapolis, #5-Baltimore, and #6-San Diego.  The #6 spot will be a very tight race between San Diego and the Jets, and will ultimately come down to whether or not Chad Pennington can rebound from injury.  San Diego also gets the slight edge over the Jets and Jaguars due to a much easier remaining schedule.

The only two locks for the playoffs in the NFC are the Philadelphia Eagles (9-1) and Atlanta Falcons (8-2).  The NFC took a unique shape early on and the playoff berths seemed as sure lock for certain teams.  That has proved to be wrong over the last four weeks.

The Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks and New York Giants seemed to be locks for the playoffs.  Those locks are now very loose advantages.  To put the parity in perspective, the Carolina Panthers still have a legitimate shot at the playoffs at a paltry 3-7.

The Vikings started out strong and then began to fade (as usual) and the Green Bay Packers have won five straight, after a 1-4 start.  The team I picked to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, the Seattle Seahawks, blazed out to a 3-0 start only to go 3-4 in their next seven games.

The Eagles and Falcons will compete for home field advantage, while the Packers (6-4) should win out over the Vikings (6-4), and the Seahawks (6-4)

should edge the St. Louis Rams (5-5) for the #3 and #4 positions.

The Vikings would have the overall edge for the first wild card position (#5) but the #6 position is completely up in the air.  The Rams and the Giants (5-5) are the favorites to capture the #6 slot but you cannot count out the teams at 4-6 (Detroit, Chicago, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, and Arizona) or even the 3-7 Panthers, Cowboys, and Redskins.  Don't be surprised if the #6 seed in the NFC enters the playoffs with a 8-8 record.

The playoff format in the NFC should go as follows:  #1 seed-Philadelphia, #2-Atlanta, #3-Seattle, #4-Green Bay, #5-Minnesota, and the team that will squeak out the #6 seed will be Detroit.  Ask me in a week and I am sure my opinion will change.

You can clearly see that a Pittsburgh-New England and Philadelphia-Atlanta Championship game match-up is already in the works.  If this is to be, there will be a Pennsylvania Super Bowl in the makings.  And Dick LeBeau's defense will again shut down Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens; while Pittsburgh's Jerome Bettis/Duce Staley rush for 200-plus yards.