2004 NFL SEASON PREVIEW – NFC NORTH
Teams listed in order of 2003 finish
BB: Bill Barnwell : ED: Ed Agner : PR: Phil Rippa
GREEN BAY PACKERS
(2003 Record: 10-6, lost in NFC Divisonal Round)
Key Additions: QB Tim Couch (for training camp), FS Mark Roman, DE R-Kal Truluck
Key Subtractions: IM Gilbert Brown, DT Rod Walker, S Antuan Edwards, CB Bryant Westbrook, QB Tim Couch, DT Donnell Washington (IR), Brennan Curtis (IR)
BB: Ah yes. If you enjoy the work of Chris Berman, you might not like what I have to say. I mean there are a good amount of people there who get moist when they hear Chris Berman and Tom Jackson test out the Levitra and call the Packers highlights, who start to feel a slight buzz when the tales of Brett Favre playing in negative twenty degree weather while his right foot has frozen off and a barn fell on the entire town his family lives in but still throwing for 315 yards and 3 scores (and 3 interceptions but he’s got the COMPETITIVE SPIRIT so they’re not worth as much) and if you are one of those people no sir is this discussion of Green Bay Packer football going to make you happy, I am thinking. At least not on my end.
ED: WAAAAAAITASECOND! There are people who like Chris Berman? Is that like an inexplicable German fetish or something? Berman >=< scat?
BB: Yeah I am thinking Tim Couch probably won’t be taking that Practice Squad spot. Akili Smith on the other hand… Cade McNown? I think Cade McNown probably would shovel your sidewalk for $10 so if you are in Wisconsin and you cannot get up from your seat of lard to go shovel some snow… Cade is your man. Or if you have a first round pick that you really don’t want to acquire anything of value with… Cade is your man. Watch Brian Sabean draft him with his first rounder next year.
PR: Wait, wasn’t that was Tim Couch was for. The wasting of the first round draft pick? I am just asking. Anyway, the winner of the practice squad QB spot was Scott McBrien. I will check the Washington Post tomorrow to see if there were riots in College Park.
ED: Seriously, if you want Tim Couch Browns jerseys Paypal me $5 and I can get ya a dozen. That will cover postage and everything.
PR: I will send you the $5 I get for Bill from solving the Mike Alstott puzzle. TEASE~!
BB: There are a lot of stories here that you’ve seen in other camps over the previous years in the NFL. Old quarterback who can singlehandedly keep his team in games trying to hold on to win one more big game (Favre). Brash cornerback who won’t play because he wants more money (Mike McKenzie). Backup running back who likes to defecate in sorority dorm room closets (Najeh Davenport)…oh, maybe not. And yes – I know that everyone and their mother has made their Najeh Davenport joke but I do not care, no sir. I told you not to read this anyway.
PR: Like pooh jokes ever get old. I am still brimming with curiosity about his first days in an NFL training camp. I mean how did his teammates not fill his locker with Baby Ruths? Heck, this is the NFL. I almost positive that someone dropped their drawers while sitting on Najeh’s stool. (That last pun was not intended.)
ED: I really have no idea what that last joke was supposed to mean, exactly, but we sure have a poop theme going here.
PR: Ahman Green is still around to carry the load of the team when Brett Favre breaks some more fingers. You know he will deliver at least 1500 combined yards and somewhere around 15 or so TDs. Green though should be thankful that Tiki Barber got all the attention last year regarding the fumbles as Green dropped the ball 7 times which put him in the Top 3 of running backs.
ED: Man, you apparently aren’t force-fed as many Packer games as us Midwesterners are. The story is that Green WAS fumble-prone. But he’s cut down on his dropsies. That’s what they tell me. And would FOX~! ever lie?
BB: Man alive do I love the Packers linebacking corps – I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Na’il Diggs, Nick Barnett, and Hannibal Navies will be the best linebacking trio in football that hasn’t killed anybody I know about.
PR: How does someone named Hannibal not have at least one manslaughter on his rap sheet?
ED: Because his posse took the fall BEFORE charges could be filed against him? Just a guess.
BB: And the Packers offensive line is probably among the top three or four units in the NFL. The only problem is that the depth that was there in previous years is no longer there, with mostly undrafted rookies and young free agents in its stead. The tackle combination of Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton might be the best in football, with Clifton managing to escape the unfortunate stigma of being punked out by Warren Sapp into becoming a nifty little ballplayer. On a side note – other things punked out by Warren Sapp: the pre-game spread, the mass media, and Ed Agner.
ED: Now really, how do I rank above Al Davis?
PR: The line though has been struggling through injuries through all of camp as both Mike Wahle and Mike Flanagan are both gimpy and on the PUP list. Though Wahle’s injuries could mean playing time for Steve Morley. CFL! HOLLA! (If I use that enough, can I officially kill its “hipness”? Just wondering.) The Pack though did deal for some depth as they got Brad Badell from Miami because the Fins are clearly punting this season. Right Tackle Brennan Curtin had a – brace yourself – groin boil in training camp. I am going to curl up in a corner now.
ED: Now would be a good time to make another poop joke.
BB: I am not as big of a fan of the Packers receiving corps as some other people but they seem to get the job done. It’s kinda weird to think about Favre’s career and realize that Green Bay never replaced Sterling Sharpe with a premier receiver for Favre; if you are an Antonio Freeman mark I would point to his release by the Dolphins as an indication otherwise. We must show affection to SHOCKMAIN DAVIS who is fully expected to be cut but always have an awesome name for the rest of his life.
PR: Poor Shockmain was released with an injury settlement. Anyway, as a Donald Driver owner, I would appreciate it if he could get more than two TDs this year. Stupid Javon Walker hogging all the action.
ED: And I would’ve appreciated being set up with another poop joke to carry on the theme. Instead I will remind everyone that there’s the football world and the fantasy football world. We look at Favre and think pass and get all giddy about picking up one of his wide outs but he’s always been a guy who throws pretty evenly to everyone who’s an eligible receiver. We may not like it, but we didn’t play, so we suck. Brett Favre hates us all, deal with it.
BB: I don’t know how Doug Pederson went from 27 to 36 but he’s suddenly 36 and that even makes me feel old.
PR: Awww… I never knew Doug Pederson was Cuban.
BB: Everyone can be all on Bubba Franks’ tip but I’ve had him on multiple fantasy teams. I can assure you he’s worthless. Do not support this man.
BB: The Packers drafted Ahmed Carroll with their first round pick and expected star CB McKenzie to help tutor him along…so expect Carroll to have dreadlocks and be holding out in a few years. WAIT! I KNOW HOW THIS STORY ENDS, GREEN BAY! DON’T SIGN HIM! ALL HE WANTS TO DO IS SMOKE POT!
PR: I am more entertained that the Pack wasted a third round pick on a punter (B.J. Sander) who might not even win the starting job. Heck, Green Bay being the only team to carry two punters is beautiful.
ED: That’s a Tony LaRussa ploy if there ever was one. A short-yardage punter and a long-range punter? A LOOGY punter and a VETERAN right-foot punter? If Mike Sherman is sporting a mullet this year, Packers fans should be prepared to cry.
BB: I think the Packers could have Bud Selig line up across from KGB and he could get three sacks.
PR: Are you trying to say Bud Selig is better than Grady Jackson? I could buy that argument. And GB cutting Kenny Holmes was pleasing. Though that now puts the fear into my heart that he will catch back on with the Giants.
PR: Green Bay could conceivably lose three of its first five (@ Carolina, @ Indy, home against Tennessee). They also have a weird last Friday night game (this is what happens when Christmas is on a weekend) at Minnesota that very well could decide the division. Toss in back to back games against St. Louis and Philadelphia with the rest of the NFC Norris battles and the Pack has a brutal schedule.
ED: Most importantly, the Pack don’t have the Raiders on their schedule this seaon so if Favre has a relative or pet or pen pal or neighbor or person who supplies him with those stupid orange hats die this season he’ll have to settle for only 3-4 touchdowns in their honor.
(2003 Record: 9-7, missed the playoffs)
Key Additions: K Brett Conway, CB Antoine Winfield, DT Steve Martin, WR Marcus Robinson, DB Tyrone Carter, TE Jermaine Wiggins, P Darren Bennett, K Morten Anderson
Key Subtractions: K Brett Elling, DT Fred Robbins, WR D’Wayne Bates, TE Hunter Goodwin, CB Denard Walker, LB Henri Crockett, DT Brock Lesnar, S Tyrone Carter (IR), at least 4 games from Onterrio Smith
PR: Honestly, I got three moments of glee last season – two were at the misfortune of the Vikings. 1) The Giants knocking the Vikings from the ranks of the unbeaten. 2) The absolute choke job Minnesota threw up on the last day of the season against the Cardinals with a playoff birth on the line. If there should have ever been a riot in a city, I think that qualifies as just cause.
ED: And the Raiders beat them too. You lose to the Giants, Raiders, Chargers, Bears and Cards, you really can’t whine about being screwed out of a playoff spot.
BB: I don’t know why you would go out of your way to sign a Marcus Robinson, as if actually acquiring a Marcus Robinson would be something that you’d actively seek out. Would you appropriate a not-insignificant amount of your budget on real estate in Laramie? Wendy’s hamburger meat? A somewhat-below-mint copy of the program from the 1986 Cup Winner Cup’s quarterfinal match between Dinamo Kiev and Inter Milan (second leg)? Adonal Foyle? Sure, you’d have these things, but you wouldn’t want people to actually know about it – at parties, you would hide it underneath the rug…the basement rug. Or when people ask what you did the weekend you bought them, you’d probably say “Oh…nothing…” and you’d change the topic immediately. What I would say, then, is “Why would you buy a Marcus Robinson? You know it’s not going to work out and you’re going to regret the contract literally halfway through the press conference, and then you’re just going to make the ‘throwing up in my mouth’ face on ESPNNews, Mike Tice.” Of course, no one would be paying any attention because they’re probably still on the clock for the 2003 draft or something.
ED: Well, I’ve always like Marcus Robinson more than I should. He was a nice little wide out in Chicago and is now a very rich man thanks to a two-three week out-of-body experience the Ravens had last year as a passing team. But he also has hamstrings that shred into a million brittle pieces when he even thinks of lateral movement. That’s not something that comes with age either – that’s what they’ve ALWAYS been like. And the Vikings are relying on him to fill the Chris Carter (PRAISE JESUS!) role. I guess Nate Burleson must try on too many plays or something to get serious PT alongside of Randy Moss.
BB: And signing Jermaine Wiggins is like buying a glass tray and after-dinner mints: sure, they seem to be relevant and useful in a very specific, important situation, but the rest of the time they sit in your closet taking up space and collecting dust. Or, worse, you bring out the mints and the tray at the wrong time, they fail miserably, and you get made fun of.
ED: I am chuffed that you guys have not mentioned that in this offseason Daunte Culpepper has suddenly become the greatest QB EVER – well, OK, second greatest behind Michael Vick and in some quarters third greatest behind Vick and Quincy Carter (OK, so those last quarters are idiots). And while I’m not saying that Culpepper is a bad QB by any stretch, I’m just saying that last year was the first great season he’s ever had and the list of QB’s who’ve popped off a great season after a whole bunch of mediocrity only to fall back into mediocrity is pretty long – and I’m just counting Raider QB’s.
BB: I have no dumb metaphors for the Antoine Winfield signing but I’d like to take this opportunity to laugh at the Jets. Oh? The Vikings got Ted Cottrell to be their defensive coordinator? Awww. OK – I’ll laugh at the Vikings now.
PR: It is even more enjoyable when you see Cottrell bringing in 4th string members of the Jets secondary. Whoo-Hoo!!! Omare Lowe. Maybe you will make a tackle this year.
BB: The Vikings story hasn’t really changed since that fateful loss to the Giants in the NFC Championship Game (awww – me and Rippa really need tape of that game and let’s just say that if the tape happens to run more than four hours, we’re both going to need immediate medical assistance) – they have Daunte Culpepper, they have Randy Moss, Michael Bennett is injury-prone, they love Jim Kleinsasser more than anyone should love a blocking TE (if I wasn’t lazy I’d do a Tale of the Tape with Kleinsasser & Lou Merloni), and they are big chokers.
PR: This will probably kill Bill’s joke but here we go.
Jim Kleinsasser Lou Merloni
Age: 27 33
Height: 6’3” 5’10
Weight: 272 lbs 200 lbs
College: North Dakota Providence
Position: Tight End Second Base
Skin/Body Type: Doughy Pasty
ED: Mmmm, SCRAP~!
BB: Signing Brock Lesnar will sell jerseys and give the beat writers someone to make fun of in the weekly papers with snide remarks so more power to the Vikings front office. Everyone wins.
PR: I just assumed that they did it so they could go one camp without someone asking about Corey Stringer.
ED: You know…wow…you are really tempting fate with making your son a Jets fan or something with all the Stringer jokes. Now I will go off an laugh far-far-far away from the presence of that joke.
BB: The Vikings do have Chris Claiborne, who’s one of the better linebackers, when motivated, in football – but EJ Henderson and Dontarrious Thomas have one year of experience between them, none of which was starting. The potential for ugliness exists here.
PR: Ugliness in like EJ Henderson getting tossed in jail? MARYLAND PRIDE!
ED: Speaking of ugly – Chris Hovan. Just thought I’d throw that out there.
BB: I’m sure there are Vikings fans in Minnesota, but I’m not sure why anyone outside of the Twin Cities would care about the Purple Stuff. I mean – if you were born at the right time and were going to be a frontrunner, you would’ve picked the Steelers…and is there anyone who would actually choose to support the Vikings otherwise?
PR: I would make a joke about Jim Marshall being angry and then getting lost trying to find your apartment but then I realized that you probably aren’t old enough to know about Jim Marshall and you think Bubba Smith only did those Police Academy movies so instead my idea of a joke made me sad.
ED: Aww, it made me chuckle, Phil. Of course, I remember Bronko Nagurski or something, so that’s…sadder yet. Anyway, as far as the Vikes go, there has been quite the hype on Minnesota running roughshod over the North and making some noise in the playoffs. While being in this conference does cut the Vikes a break, they picked up a pretty tough non-conference schedule a la the Pack. And since I am completely not sold on the Vikings defense, I can’t see how they can expect anything better than a wild card game and an early exit out of the Minnesota cold.
(2003 record: 7-9, missed the playoffs)
Key Additions: HC Lovie Smith, RB Thomas Jones, OL John Tait, QB Jonathan Quinn, LB Jack Golden, G Ruben Brown
Key Subtractions: QB Kordell Stewart, RE Phillip Daniels, LB Warrick Holdman, QB Chris Chandler, WR Dez White, DT Keith Traylor, FB Stanley Pritchett, WR Marty Booker
PR: Probably the best addition Chicago made all season was naming Lovie Smith their head coach. Let’s all be honest. Finally giving Lovie a shot is far better than hiring any number of people – Mike Shula, Steve Spurrier, Rich Kotite, Butch Davis (oh, he still is employed), just to name a few. Probably the only red flag is that if your are going to be an offensive guru, I don’t know if this is really the offense to be a guru of.
ED: No beef with the Lovie hire. I don’t know for certain how Lovie is supposed to be an offensive guru now given that he was a defensive guru in St. Louis and Tampa Bay. But whatever. I still have no beef with the Lovie hire.
PR: GOD DAMMITTT!!! This kids is another lesson that you need to proofread before sending out to others. Curse you Ed! And Damn my fingers.
BB: Beyond Qasim Mitchell at LT, this is a hell of a line, especially after the signing of John Tait. The only problem, then, is that they expect Thomas Jones to run wild behind it, and Thomas Jones…he stinky. Then again – who ISN’T better than Kordell?
BB: The answer apparently might be Chris Chandler since he got cut too.
BB: The Bears spent their first two picks on DL, which will make it even easier for Brian Urlacher to not tackle people while he spends the first few weeks of the season on the shelf with an injury.
PR: Defenders from Oklahoma always pan out. Right? RIGHT???
BB: The Bears cut Brock Forsey who was probably the best RB on their roster. OK – so maybe he was just the whitest. But he moves so fast! Even Dusty would be impressed! No base clogging!
PR: Hey, remember when Adrian Peterson was going to be the future? Memories of failed fantasy sleepers past.
BB: I think I will always be bitter at the Bears after having to watch Chicago Fire matches last season.
PR: You hate Chris Armas that much that you are not displacing your anger onto the poor Bears?
BB: So, the Bears acquired Adelaye Ogunleye. Fine. The Dolphins needed a running back anyway, they’ll get a few decent years out of Anthony Tho…Marty Booker? So who do the Bears have left at WR now? David Terrell. DAVID TERRELL!
PR: Wow. Justin Gage suddenly looks like a real fine fantasy sleeper as someone has to catch the few comical lame ducks that Rex Grossman will toss out. Daryl Jones never offended me or anything when he was with the Giants. I guess Desmond Clark is going to be getting A LOT of work at TE.
ED: Well, Bernard Berrian is getting the hype as the deep threat with Gage being the go-to guy and Terrell being…umm…umm…a former first-rounder.
BB: The Bears have to be the worst drafting team in football. They are right up there with the Bengals. Hi Cade McNown. How are ya Mr. Terrell? What’s up A-Train? That’s nasty.
PR: I am thinking Tommie Harris is going to make them look smart but still Oklahoma defenders worry me as much as running backs out of Penn State and wide receivers out of Michigan.
ED: You know ROY WILLIAMS is the greatest anything EVER, right? Did you not get that memo?
BB: The best cornerback in the NFC this season will be Charles Tillman. If you start spouting that now, you’ll be a year behind the facts and a year ahead of the hype. Have it whichever way you want. You can wait till Stuart Scott is spitting at you or you can just take my word for it.
PR: At least Stuart Scott doesn’t have to look you in the eye to spit on you. And you sure love a lot of this division for someone who hates this division. First the GB MLBs, now Charles Tillman. Did you take a trip to City Hall with Charles Rodgers and not tell us? (And reading ahead, it appears that you did. Yeesh…)
ED: Wait! I thought Bill was all over Mike McMahon?
BB: Better name for a Bear defensive tackle: Tron LaFavor or Tank Johnson?
PR: Tank is getting played out so I go with Tron. Of course, LaFavor would probably want to at least have the same career success of Bruce Boxleitner.
ED: No way in hell Bill is getting that joke, Grandpa.
BB: The Bears: one wide receiver, two quarterbacks, eighty-three tight ends, sixteen defensive tackles, six wins.
PR: SIX? Who are they going to beat? I figure they get, maximum two wins in the division, but still. I mean this is one of the few teams I am giving the Giants a shot against (especially with the game in the Meadowlands). I guess they could beat Houston and San Francisco at home and possibly go into Dallas and grab a win. Still, the season will be a success if they can beat the Redskins. As many nails as I can get into the Joe Gibbs crucifix.
ED: They sure got a tough schedule, allright. I like the Bears defense even if/especially because Urlacher sits. And while I don’t see how the Bears will score many points, I can see them staying in more games than expected. Six wins seems reachable, but they’ll have to scrap and Grossman will have to be the first U of FLA QB not to suck. Would you depend on that?
(2003 record: 5-11, missed the playoffs)
Key Additions: OL Damien Woody, CB Fernando Bryant, CB Dainon Sidney, WR Tai Streets, G David Loverne, FS Brock Marion, QB Rick Mirer (awww)
Key Subtractions: RB James Stewart, DT Luther Elliss, WR Bill Schroeder, S Corey Harris, LB Jeff Gooch, OL Eric Beverly, CB Otis Smith, CB Chris Watson
PR: Another example of the misleading “key subtractions” title as no one will mourn the loss of James Stewart, Bill Schroeder and especially Otis Smith.
ED: Anyone want to put money on Schroeder ending up in Green Bay before the season’s out?
BB: Mmmm I love me some sleeper picks and the Detroit Lions are my official “they’re going to turn it around!” pick that it seems like every magazine has decided to do this year. I’m not saying they’re going to win the Super Bowl or anything, but Matt Millen can’t even get too in the way of these 100%-USDA-heterosexual guys.
ED: Man, that’s some limb you’re dangling from there, Bill. You’re a braver man than me.
BB: The Patriots’ letting Damien Woody go really shocked me – I know that Bill Belichick is the GENIUS~!~!~!~! and all that, but Woody might’ve been the most important player on the offense last year, filling in all over the line and playing at a Pro Bowl-level. Fernando Bryant is a pretty great cornerback. David Loverne almost sounds like David Lovering and that is good enough for me. Rick Mirer makes me laugh.
ED: Ahh, Bill makes the David Lovering joke to amuse me and like three other people. And while I’m glad to see Rick Mirer out of Oakland since he was…well…a Notre Dame QB not named Montana and all, but Mirer took one hellacious beating last year like a real man, so I kind of wish him well with the clipboard holding.
BB: The other important aspect to the Lions season was the draft, where, as every article almost said word-for-word, “they added weapons to the arsenal of third-year QB Joey Harrington”. Never mind that Mike McMahon is the better quarterback of the two.
ED: I’m not certain where the Mike McMahon love comes from but I’m guessing it’s a glitch in Madden or that he owes you money or something. I’ve been forced to see way too many Lions games over the past few years and I sure haven’t seen whatever it is you do in McMahon. I’m not saying Harrington is a sure bet to be whatever it is he’s been hyped to be, I’m just saying I’d put my money on him over McMahon. That said, I’d take McMahon over 6-7 other starters in the league. But hey, at least McMahon’s not buried as badly as Ricky Ray is.
BB: Bringing in Roy Williams will, I think, provide the Lions with two young wide receivers who can really spread the field. Their second first round pick, Kevin Jones, is a legitimate running back and has officially gotten fantasy players into a tizzy.
PR: Well the wide receivers are kinda ridiculous. Well, no, just the top two. I figure it will be around Week 4 when we get the first pregame show piece on Williams/Rodgers being one of the greatest WR pairings of all time. The rest of the crew… well, Tai Streets and Az-Zahir Hakim sure are speedy and can return kicks. Eddie Drummond is not white and still might be the most fasicinating aspect of the offense.
ED: I like Tai Streets a whole lot. He was a decent number two guy in San Fran, you just didn’t hear enough about him thanks to T.O.. I can see him having the best overall year of the Lions wide outs this year. Hakim is…umm…famous because he was a Ram and…well, he IS fast. Sure ’nuff. And while I sure like Rogers and Williams a bunch too…let’s face it, thanks to Rogers missing most of last season with injuries, they’re both essentially rookies and even if it was, say, Jerry Rice and Marvin Harrison, would you think two starting rookie wide outs was a great idea? Oh, this will be a really-really friggin’ great corps in ’05 or ’06 but I wouldn’t put too much faith in them this year. Then again, I am a notorious killjoy, so what do I know?
BB: Jeff Backus is a Pro Bowl-caliber tackle. The aforementioned Woody is excellent. Everyone else…everyone else maybe needs a bit of work. The weak link of this team is definitely the offensive line.
ED: It hurts me that I see the name Backus and want to make a Thurston Howell III joke that Bill will never get.
PR: Well, the number one back is Shawn Bryson so if the line is weak link #1, I would say running back is #1A. While I agree with moving away from James Stewart, I don’t know Bryson is anything more than a lateral move. If this was Madden, they would have Ron Dayne and at least, I would be happy.
ED: Agreed. But I can’t see Bryson being the starter for more than two-three weeks until Kevin Jones is set. Then Bryson becomes a perfectly acceptable garbage back.
BB: The Lions defense was adequate last year, if not great, and I think will take a huge leap up with the signings of Bryant and Brock Marion, who is over the hill but is not like Tim Brown or anything. Marion did sprain his knee in the final preseason game, which I’m sure will just make him play that much harder. And straighter.
ED: Except for MAYBE Shaun Rogers, the Lions D-line doesn’t excite me whatsoever (I AM giddy that The Sporting News thinks so highly of Dan Wilkenson though – ELITE PLAYER~!) and neither does the linebackers, for that matter (especially with Boss Bailey dinged). They’ve got a really good secondary, I’ll give you. But this isn’t a good enough defense that can suffer the brunt of being on the field a lot when a really young offense makes its mistakes.
BB: Do you think Matt Millen is okay with his players showering together?
ED: I’m not certain if Millen knows that they shower together.
BB: I think the Lions are going to win this division. I’m dumb and young, though.
PR: They better be 2-0 going into the Philly game otherwise I am going to start laughing at you early. Though the thought of Williams and Rodgers running circles around the Wills in Week 7 is going to break my heart.
ED: Yeah. I like the core of talent here but I don’t know if the Lions are even a better team than Houston at this point. Oh, this will be a really good team eventually, but I don’t know about now. I can actually see the Lions starting off slow and making a second half run when their schedule gets easier towards the end of October. Teasing a run for a wild card spot seems the best case scenario then look out in the ’05.