A quick look at the NFL

Published 9:00 am Friday, August 14, 2009

It’s mid August. It’s hot, muggy and miserable outside. The mosquitoes have essentially taken over the top of the food chain and made any time spent outdoors less like recreation and more like torture.

Despite all of these harsh environmental realities, this is actually my favorite time of year for one reason….football. The sweltering heat and Volkswagen sized mosquitoes are a sure fire sign that gridiron time is right around the corner.

While the NFL training camp has just started, I figured it’s never too early to take a look at the upcoming season and make a few predictions. I expect the AFC to be the much tougher conference so let’s save the best for last and take a look at the NFC first.

The most overhyped team in the NFC this season is the Chicago Bears. The addition of Jay Cutler will pay dividends, but his attitude in the locker room will have as much of an impact as his talent on the field. Devin Hester has still not lived up to his potential at wide receiver and Brian Urlacher is past his prime. Lovie Smith has done more with less, but the Bears have managed to be the overrated team in an overrated conference.

The most under hyped or underappreciated team in the NFC is the Carolina Panthers. So much of this teams offseason focus has been centered on the potential trade or retention of Julius Peppers that adequate attention has not been paid to the preservation of a potent running game, improving passing game and a changing of the guard at defensive coordinator.

DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are the best running back duo in the league and while his last outing was nothing short of despicable, Jake Delhomme is still one of the 10 best quarterbacks in the NFL. Don’t believe me, look at his stats and tell me there are 10 better quarterbacks in professional football.

The best team in the NFC and my pick to play for a Super Bowl is the New Orleans Saints. Drew Brees and the Saints’ passing game are the most exciting show on television. Their offensive line is incredibly underappreciated and a full time Jeremy Shockey at tight end will only help both the running and passing game.

While the defense will certainly not catch up to the offense, I do expect them to improve. The acquisition of Darren Sharper will enhance an overshadowed defense. Sharper is a two-time Pro Bowler and has big-play ability. A change of scenery may be just what he needed to offset a disappointing year. If nothing else, his veteran presence in a young locker room will do wonders.

The most overhyped team in the AFC is the Tennessee Titans. While they do bolster an incredible running game, they still have Kerry Collins at quarterback. Opposing teams will put seven or eight men in the box and dare Collins to throw it. His ability to choke under pressure is proven year after year and I expect this year to be no different. Don’t underestimate the impact the loss of Albert Haynesworth will have on this team as well.

The most under hyped team in the AFC is the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins won the AFC East last year and are being picked by many to finish third in their division this season. All they did during the offseason was address the need at wide receiver, bring back former defensive player of the year Jason Taylor and have a full camp with quarterback Chad Pennington.

The wildcat formation is here to stay and nobody runs it better than Miami. They won’t make it deep into the playoffs but not because they aren’t good, only because New England, Pittsburgh, San Diego and Indianapolis are better. Then again those teams are better than everyone else in the NFL too.

The best team in the AFC and my pick to go to the Super Bowl are the Indianapolis Colts. The loss of Tony Dungy is a big one and should not go without mention. Jim Caldwell has been an understudy to Dungy for the last seven years and takes over the reins of an incredibly talented football team. If he has learned anything from Dungy since his less than stellar days at Wake Forest he should fare well.

The Colts have Peyton Manning on offense and Dwight Freeney on defense. While simplistic, those facts by themselves should be reason enough for my pick of Indianapolis to win it all. Add in a still improving Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez and the drafting of Donald Brown and Colts will be hard to stop this season. Hard enough that I expect Peyton and the boys to be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at season’s end.

David Friedman is a long-time contributor to the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald. A Bertie High School

graduate, he and his wife currently reside in Wilmington. David can be reached via e-mail at