The forecast for the 2004 season from Mike Detillier of the Houma Courier:
Well, itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s that time of year again, and I canÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t wait for the NFL season to start. Here are my thoughts on the upcoming season. Listed below are all the teams listed in their projected order of finish and predicted records in parenthesis.
1. New England Patriots (12-4): The Patriots have the best talent, the top coach in Bill Belichick, our generationÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s version of Bart Starr in quarterback Tom Brady, and several players with enough big-game experience to make another run at the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
2. Buffalo Bills (9-7): I really liked the Bills last season, but their illogical offensive scheme let them down big-time. They return a terrific defense, a double-tough running back tandem of Travis Henry and Willis McGahee, and a solid special-teams unit. If they can protect quarterback Drew Bledsoe, they have a legitimate shot at a playoff berth.
3. New York Jets (7-9): Keeping quarterback Chad Pennington healthy is the key on offense. If he stays healthy, Pennington will keep the Jets very competitive, but they are very similar to the New Orleans Saints defensively. And thatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s not real good.
4. Miami Dolphins (5-11): My heart goes out to coach Dave Wannstedt. No coach has had as much turbulence in recent years as he has had this offseason. Running back Ricky WilliamsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢ departure has this team in a tailspin.
1. Baltimore Ravens (11-5): This is my choice to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. The Ravens have a great running game, a terrific defense led by linebacker Ray Lewis, and one of the best special-teams units in the game. If second-year quarterback Kyle Boller grows up quickly, they could very well win it all.
2. Cincinnati Bengals (8-8): Coach Marvin Lewis has this team on the right track. He will go through some growing pains with second year quarterback Carson Palmer, but the big concern is still on defense and his lack of playmakers.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-9): Running back Duce Staley will upgrade their running game, but there are still some major questions about their defense. Late in the year, coach Bill Cowher will have to start rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
4. Cleveland Browns (6-10): I like the addition of former San Francisco 49er quarterback Jeff Garcia to the team, but they donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t have a good offensive or defensive line. Watch for rookie tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. to make a huge impact in this league. Winslow is a superstar performer, but it might not be enough to save coach Butch DavisÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢ job at the end of the year.
1. Indianapolis Colts (11-5): The Colts have a terrific offense led by co-MVP quarterback Peyton Manning, wide receiver Marvin Harrison and running back Edgerrin James. But they didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t make any moves to upgrade their defense and that will keep them out of the Super Bowl.
2. Tennessee Titans (10-6): The Titans donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t have Jevon Kearse, Eddie George, Justin McCareins and Robaire Smith anymore, but they still have co-MVP quarterback Steve McNair and a solid defense. Coach Jeff Fisher is one of my favorites.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8): Watch out, here come the Jaguars. They wonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t make the playoffs this year, but they have some great young talent in future superstar quarterback Byron Leftwich and the best young defensive tackle tandem in the league in John Henderson and Marcus Stroud.
4. Houston Texans (6-10): The Texans are still going through some growing pains on defense, but they have an impressive trio of offensive playmakers in quarterback David Carr, running back Domanick Davis and wide receiver Andre Johnson.
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