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.







NFL 2006

By Jerry Keys

The National Football League is seeing a changing of the guards.  Paul Tagliabue, the successor to legendary NFL czar Pete Rozelle, stepped aside after serving 17 years as the commisioner.  His protegue, Roger Goodell, will be the new overseer of the tumultious NFL.

Goodell will be faced with a growing disparity between the have and have-not franchises.  Although he played a major role in the recent CBA (collective barganing agreement), he faced serious opposition in the NFL owners election of a new commish.  He will also face detracters as he attempts to return an NFL franchise to the Los Angelas area.

The contenders for AFC supremacy should appear quite familiar.  The Colts, Jaguars, Steelers, and Broncos are the holdovers.  The Chiefs, who narrowly missed the playoffs last year despite a 10-6 record, will dethrone the Broncos

Jerry Keys

as AFC West champs.  And the AFC East will have a new division winner, the Dolphins.

All four of the holdovers were dealt heavy losses via free agency or trades.  The Colts lost Edgerrin James, the Steelers lost Antwaan Randle El, the Jaguars face numerous questions on offense, most notably QB Byron Leftwich's durability, and the Broncos uncertain future at running back, although Denver head coach Mike Shanahan has a recent history of always pulling a gem out of the rough at the position.

The Dolphins upgraded their offense by

acquiring QB Dante Culpepper during the off-season and allowing Nick Saban to rebuild the team to his specs.  The Chiefs new head coach, Herman Edwards, is molded more from a defensive standpoint, which is what the Chiefs desperately need.

If Kansas City can sport an "average"

defense, they could very easily be the team to beat in the AFC.  Larry Johnson clearly showed his talents last year and is expected to be the premier running back in the AFC this year.

The Bengals hopes rest in the shakey and bruised psyche of Carson Palmer.  His reoccuring flashbacks to the injury he sustained in the playoffs last year can temporarily derail his medioric rise to prominance.  The Patriots playoff run will come to an abrupt end this year.  Aside from their four games against two of their division opponents (Bills, Jets), the Pats face a grueling schedule in '06.

Six games is all that should separate all 16 teams in the NFC.  The Redskins, Bears, Panthers, and Seahawks will vie for the top position in the NFC.  The Redskins hopes will rest on the shoulders of Clinton Portis, the Bears success will rely on their ability to insert a competant QB (to keep their top-ranked defense from having to hold opponents to under 14 points a game), the Panthers on finding a fluid running attack down the stretch, and the Seahawks, on the fact that they again should be the team to beat in the NFC.

From top to bottom, the NFC will be tightly compressed.  Bottom feeders of the last few years; 49'ers, Cardinals, Saints, Lions; are all improving.  The Eagles playoff run is over (excluding last year's collapse after McNabb went down for the year), in large part due to the recent upgrades of team in the NFC East. 

Ex-coach of the Rams and inventor of the "Greatest Show on Turf", Mike Martz has taken his show to Detroit.  With new QB Jon Kitna and a group of promising wide-outs, the Lions will shock a few people in '06.   

The Cowboys should vie for a playoff berth in '06 but the largest story out of Dallas will be the headbutting between Terrell Owens and Bill

Parcells.  The Falcons are expected to challenge for a playoff spot but this will be the year QB Michael Vick either seperates himself as a legit QB or a late 1980's version of Randall Cunningham.

The defending champion, Pittsburgh Steelers, avoided major losses after the '05 campaign.  Their main loss was to retirement, Jerome Bettis.  Bettis saw limited playing time last year but was the emotional team leader.  The loss of El will not hamper the Steelers receiving core but will their special teams and gadget plays.

The additional slots in the 2006 predictions are only a more detailed breakdown of how their records are figured.  The AFC/NFC section after W-L is a team's record within their conference (each team will have 12 games).  The DIV is a team's record against their three other divisional opponents.  The reversal NFC/AFC section is the remaining four games outsider of the AFC/NFC (where AFC teams play NFC opponents).  The H/A is simply the team's record in games away from their home stadium and at their stadium.

And who will my sleeper pick be this year?  The Detroit Lions.  Look for an amped up offense and a much improved defense this year.  If the running game can take heat off of Kitna, the Lions could very well be playing football in January.  Outside of the Lions romp over Dallas in the 1991 playoffs, you have to board a time machine to find their last playoff victory, 1957.