Staring into my oblong-shaped crystal ball, here's what I foresee for the days, weeks and months ahead in this 2008 NFL season.....
Marino also watched
Through six games, Brees has thrown for 1,993 yards, a 332.2-yard per game pace that would give him 5,315 yards at season's end -- or 231 more than Marino. Through his first six games of 1984, Marino had thrown for 1,848 yards, or 308 per game.
Yeah, we hate those on-pace projections too, to a certain degree, but this time we're allowing it because Brees is going to finish the job (and besides, he was my preseason pick for league MVP, so there's that.) And like Marino with Miami in 1984, Brees will have the benefit of good weather to throw the ball in down the stretch. In the Saints' final 10 games, they'll play half of them in domes (three in the Superdome, one in Atlanta, one in Detroit), and they should also have good weather this week in Carolina and in Week 13 at Tampa Bay.
That leaves only three games that could be climatically challenging for the Saints passing game: Their Week 8 game against San Diego in perpetually rainy London (remember last year's Dolphins-Giants Mud Bowl in Wembley in Week 8?), a Week 11 trip to Kansas City, and a Week 15 Thursday night game in the windy and probably frosty confines of Chicago's Soldier Field.
The Saints are not going to have a dominant running game at any point in 2008, so they will keep throwing the ball (late in blowout wins aside). And also working in Brees favor is that at 3-3, New Orleans will likely need every win it can get, prompting it to fully play the season out through Week 17, rather than rest him and other key starters in late December.
• Between now and the close of the regular season, the Cowboys will tell
Jones is his own worst enemy, and while his self-destructive behavior can be curbed, it's not realistic to believe he can change his temperament, judgment and lifestyle so completely as to avoid all future off-field troubles. That's unfortunate for him, because the reality at this point is he has earned himself that no-tolerance policy from the league, and the chances of him ever again getting the benefit of the doubt is slim and none.
Let's face it: If Jones can't make it in Dallas, where everyone from Cowboys owner
• In the short run, meaning between now and the end of their 2008 regular season, the Cowboys' acquisition of receiver
This wasn't a fate-of-the-franchise-altering
Williams' career will be reinvigorated by escaping the losing atmosphere of Detroit for the chance to win in Dallas, and he'll have his moments where he'll be the play-making force that inspired the Lions to choose him so high in 2004's first round. But there won't be a
But rather than a return to greatness, Alexander's tenure in D.C. will ultimately conjure up something closer to
• If the wheels do come off the Cowboys season -- and I still think they win 10 games and get into the playoffs -- it won't be because their passing game disappeared once
• The once-maligned defense that's getting ready to put together a stretch of solid play and occasional dominance is the one that hails from Indianapolis. For most of this season, the Colts defense was getting gouged by the run and couldn't force turnovers or keep teams from converting on third down. Injuries and the inability to get their vaunted pass going plagued the Colts throughout most of their first four games.
But the turnaround began in those frenzied final five minutes of Indy's game at Houston in Week 5, when the Colts defense forced three turnovers by the Texans, returned one for a touchdown, and wound up overcoming a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit to win 31-27. Indy followed that up with a dominating 31-3 win over Baltimore, and has now given up just three points in its most recent four-plus quarters, creating eight turnovers in that span.
The Colts defense is also starting to get healthy. Defensive end
Cassel will look good enough and do a satisfactory and sometimes strong job of game management in the games New England gets out to an early lead. But when the Patriots fall behind and have to play catch-up, Cassel's lack of experience will be on full display, and it won't be pretty. Add it all up and it'll still amount to an uneven but somewhat still surprising nine- or 10-win wild-card berth season for the Patriots with Cassel under center.
Not Brady-esque to be sure, but not bad for a guy who hasn't been a No. 1 of anything since high school.
• With both
What about Detroit's
Not so in San Francisco, where Nolan was effectively put on a win-or-else notice when ownership debated for several days last offseason before bringing him back for a fourth year. That move at least provided clarity to Nolan's situation. Another non-playoff season -- the 49ers' sixth in a row -- will mean someone else gets to try their hand at turning San Francisco around.