2004 NFL SEASON PREVIEW – NFC WEST
Teams List in Order of 2003 Finish
BB: Bill Barnwell : ED: Ed Agner : PR: Phil Rippa
ST. LOUIS RAMS
(2003 Record: 12-4, Lost in the NFC Divisional Round)
Key Additions: QB Chris Chandler, DE Sean Moran
Key Losses: Kyle Turley (IR), DC Lovie Smith, QB Kurt Warner, Ball & Chain Brenda Warner, DE Grant Winstrom, FS Kim Herring, DT Brian Young, RB Lamar Gordon, OT John St. Clair, OG David Loverne, LB Jamie Duncan, LB Jeremy Loyd (IR), Two-Time Superstars Winner Jason Sehorn (hehehehe)
PR: Very few things have changed about these Rams. Really, you have heard this all before.
ED: I regret that we didn’t start VP.com a year earlier so Phil could’ve ranted until chest pains stopped him about the Jason Sehorn signing. Though, I assume this year’s Raiders section might work too.
BB: Ah, you guys slowly realize my trap to take over VP and just do soccer running diaries is to kill you through your favorite teams’ moves. My heart works way too well for me to die over the Red Sox defense. Yet.
PR: I could live with just writing about the EPL games on FSW. That would be really entertaining for true soccer fans. “What the bloody hell is that Yank talking bout?”
PR: Mike Martz is a GENIUS! I mean we are talking like Baby Geniuses smart. I eagerly await the press conference where he talks smack about Ken Jennings and his Mormon ways. “I COULD HAVE MULTIPLE WIVES!!! ST. LOUIS WOMEN – KNEEL BEFORE ZOD!!! ALL THAT I DESIRE SHALL BE MINE!!! I COULD HAVE JOE BUCK SUCKING ME OFF RIGHT NOW! WHAT DO YOU HAVE PROVO BOY?!?!?!?!? LOOK AT MY BRAIN!!!”
ED: Somehow, I don’t picture Martz as a Jeopardy watcher. I CAN see him struggling with Wheel of Fortune, though. “Whaddya mean I can’t buy an L? My intelligence is toooooo far beyond your comprehension, Sajak!” Of course, if Martz was going to go on a game show I could see him doing real well on ElimiDate considering NO ONE can preach their hotness like he can.
BB: I see Martz being the guy at the party – granted I’m not familiar with your, say, grown-up parties, but I’m sure it’s the same – the guy who has skimmed the newspaper and maybe looked at the ticker on CNN but insists on talking about things as if he is an utter expert on whatever he is talking about, despite the fact that what he’s saying is almost astoundingly common knowledge. Russian terrorism? “See – it’s not about Russia – it’s about CHECHNYA.” But he doesn’t know why. Time management problems? “We just didn’t want to pressure Marc!” Right Mike. Right.
PR: The search for a backup running back to fill in for Marshall Faulk both for the future and for when he gets hurts… again. They might have finally found it this year with Stephen Jackson falling into their laps. Jackson was impressive during camp so hope has sprung eternal again. Worst case they can con some team into giving them draft picks after Jackson has one decent half filling in for Faulk (see Candidate, Trung and Gordon, Lamar).
BB: Come on – you can always con the Redskins into giving you something. And the Dolphins…sure, them too.
ED: I really liked what I saw of Stephen Jackson in college – which says little considering I despise college football and catch maybe a bowl game or two. But since the desperate-for-RB’s Cowboys passed him up we know he has to suck since Dallas is the smartest organization in football. HOLLA. There, I’ve officially killed off a whole bunch of things at once.
BB: Ed you realize you stopped about 90000 things too short, right?
PR: Ed and I both using HOLLA! should officially kill that one. I need to work on UP! and DOWN! now.
PR: Leonard Little still loves alcohol and still drives while loaded on alcohol. He managed to not crush any innocents this time around. How he doesn’t have one of those ignition breathy things is beyond me. Oh right – he is an athlete in the city of beer. Screw the MIGHTY WINGMAN~! Leonard. Actually, Jeff Smoker is on the team. Ask him to be your designated driver Leonard… oh wait, that might not be a good idea.
ED: Somehow, this HAS to be Joe Buck’s fault. Has to be.
BB: I can make this work. Give me two sections and I’ll come up with something. I promise.
PR: Orlando Pace continues to be large and in charge and hating his contract. So another season, another hold out. Because ya know, fat guys don’t need to get in shape or anything. Pace conveniently signed shortly after the last preseason game. At least he wasn’t going to get hurt during training camp. Yup.
ED: Hurt or dead. I mean, you may as well go full-bore with the Korey Stringer jokes considering that Pace and Stringer may as well be the same person.
BB: Really Korey Stringer is the Easy-E to Pace’s Dre and Walter Jones’ Ice Cube. But I don’t know anything about hip hop and Mike Martz I’m sure does a really good Dick Cheney impression.
PR: Probably the only story line that has changed is that the whole “Bulger vs. Warner” debate is gone as Brenda is off to the Big Apple to belittle Eli Manning’s skills instead of Marc Bulger’s. In fact, the Rams swung completely to the other side of the spectrum by signing Chris Chandler to make sure that there would be no QB controversy this training camp.
ED: Yes, but does Mike Martz have any more trust in Bulger than he did in the playoff game against Carolina? Could Martz perhaps just neuter Bulger on a Monday night game and get it over with? Maybe Martz just won’t be happy until he’s the Rams QB? Whatever. They get what they deserve.
BB: Isn’t that what those Monday Night Music segments were for last year?
PR: Torry Holt is a Top 5 receiver in the league (when not battling his gamey back when having to carry the offense). Isaac Bruce is probably the best #2 guy in the league. Ed, Bill and I could be 3-5 and I don’t think the Rams offense is going to slip that much. And they almost do considering the rest of the corps are Tommy Polley, Mike Furrey, Shaun McDonald, Kevin Curtis and, of course, Dane Looker. Well actually, they have Cam Cleeland at TE. That is about as bad as having me at TE. My hands are probably just as comical.
ED: Well, Bruce is slowing down and Holt has the back problems so this isn’t the offense that fantasy geeks used to drool over. Considering the rest of the corps is complete and utter crap, I actually do like our shot at getting the slot receiver job. If only I could run 40 yards without needing a break twenty yards in.
BB: I can volunteer to run the last 20 yards. I think Rippa meant to say that if me, him, and Ed were melded together and were any one individual receiver from 3 to 5, we’d be useful.
PR: The offensive line has seen better days. Who knows how long will take for Pace to get back into the swing of a new season but he is as old as me and he carries about 125 lbs more than me. I am tired constantly and my legs hurt. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be Pace. Kyle Turley is done for the season and possibly his career. Dave Wohlabaugh, who was the starting center, failed a physical and was released. That means Chris Dishman, Grant Williams, Andy McCollum and Adam Timmerman are going to have to hold down the fort. This is the Rams version of having offensive line troubles. Stupid football.
BB: I think Orlando Pace’s legs feel like Orlando Pace’s wallet is full of money and that’s fine.
ED: Conrad Dobler nods in approval at Turley’s helmet throwing incident turning him into the most overrated O-lineman in the last twenty years…. Oh. Right. Turley’s not even the most overrated lineman on his team. Never mind that, I guess. Dobler still approves of Turley, though. And can the NFL PLEASE pass a moratorium on all guys named Chris Dishman, already?
BB: If you have long crappy hair and an anger management problem – you have two options. Go thin and be a rock star. Go big and be an offensive lineman. Either way you win and everyone else loses.
PR: Grant Wistrom became a free agent and suddenly was the greatest DE in the history of football. So St. Louis had this hole to fill. I don’t care. I care more about the linebackers. Pisa Tinoisamoa had a really good 2003 – 2nd on the team in tackles, 4 Forced Fumbles and 3 Interceptions – and he is being joined by nothing but Bruins. Robert Thomas is starting in the middle and Brandon Chillar, who wasn’t drafted until the 4th round this year, appears to be the starting weak side linebacker. Of course, if I was going to be drafting linemen out of a Southern California school, I think I would be going with USC but what do I know.
ED: Yeah! What do YOU know, Rippa? Mike Martz is smarter than you! He wears glasses! He’s super smart! You think the Rams’ former-stripper owner would hire an idiot?
BB: I guess the good thing is that St. Louis didn’t really care either because they didn’t bother to replace him.
PR: It is an absolute crime that more people don’t talk about how great Aeneas Williams is. It’s bad enough that I have to hear people talk about how Art Monk isn’t a Hall of Famer or that Curtis Martin won’t make it. And NO ONE remembers Williams. Geez… playing in Arizona isn’t THAT much of a vacuum. Anyway, I am taking Aeneas Williams even in his final season over about 90% of the rest of the league. Meanwhile, the other safety slot is still being filled by Adam Archuleta who is still trying to get the Jason Sehorn ick off him. (And, no there is nothing more pleasing to me than Sehorn re-signing with this club and then failing a physical. TAKE THAT PRETTY BOY!) Jerametrius Butler is now paired up 2003 5th Round pick Kevin Garrett on the corners. Hmm… I wonder which side opposing QBs are going to look to.
BB: I’d take Philippi Sparks over Aeneas Williams. Aww…you know you want to agree with me, Phil. You know it.
PR: I could be talked into Everson Walls.
ED: I like Williams and all, but even I don’t know if he has a shot at the Hall of Fame. Then again, the Hall of Fame is a Free Masons-type cult where inductions are based on…well, nobody knows what the criteria is for getting into the Hall except: a) be too famous for on-the-field play to deny; b) get too famous off-the-field to deny; or c) have the magic Stonecutter insignia birthmark on your ass. Anyway, aside from Williams this is only a pretty OK-ish defense for an NFC West team, but surely nothing I’d want to pin my hopes on. I imagine Mike Martz can somehow deflect all the blame, just the same.
BB: That’s what the press secretary is for.
PR: Thanks to some of true crap that are the teams in the NFC, even if the Seahawks are for real and grab this division, the Rams are going to win 10 games and get in the playoffs.
ED: I honestly don’t see how the Rams will win 10 games given their schedule. Sure, they’ve got the 4 gimmes against San Fran and Arizona. Give them a game against Seattle since the ‘Hawks can’t win on the road. Let’s say they take two of three from Miami, Buffalo and the Jets. That’s 7 wins. Beyond that you’ve got the Saints, Tampa Bay, the Pats, Green Bay, Carolina and the Eagles. You think they’ll take three of those games (even though all of them are at home except for the Green Bay game)? I don’t know. I’m not sold enough on the Rams on either side of the ball to believe that.
BB: I am with Ed on this one. There are a lot of things that could happen to bring this House of Cards down; number one being a Torry Holt injury. I like Isaac Bruce – but he is not a #1 receiver anymore. 8-8.
PR: It’s more that I hate this team and they are a monster that refuses to die. Maybe if I predict good things, the bottom will fall out. I think we are all better off when Martz is considering signing Sehorn again.
(2003 Record: 10-6, Lost in the NFC Wild Card Round)
Key Additions: DE Grant Wistrom, CB Bobby Taylor
Key Losses: DT Chad Eaton, DT John Randle, SS Reggie Tongue, DT Norman Hand, CB Shawn Springs, DE Lamar King
PR: The Seahawks finally had that breakthrough last year, getting to the playoffs under fat Mike Holmgren’s leadership and then Matt Hasselbeck opened his yap and the next thing ya knew, Al Harris was dancing all over the ruins of Seattle’s season. Now Holmgren is no longer the GM, just the coach, and everyone is predicting the Super Bowl. Oh yeah, that is amusing.
BB: How exactly does that work?
ED: Well, ICHIRO~! stops playing in early-October. The Seattle hype machine has to go overboard on something – and it sure as hell ain’t gonna be the Sonics. BTW, when did the Seattle hype machine become the most annoying force in the universe? And how exactly did that even happen? Personally, I want to blame Eddie Vedder.
PR: (BTW – I still haven’t come to grips with the Seahawks being in the NFC. That is just… wrong.)
ED: Well, the ‘Hawks did start in the NFC WAYYYYY back when. But yeah, it’s wrong. Though as a Raider fan, I say good riddance to them just because it was far beyond comical to see the Raiders hosed over in the land of coffee, flannel and smack every year. So yeah, screw Seattle. Oh, and Steve Largent really-really-really-really-really sucked too.
BB: What did Steve Largent do that was so bad? Why are you guys so bitter?
PR: Really, if I hear one more person pick a Seahawks/Jaguars Super Bowl, I am going to vomit.
ED: Aww, I keep seeing Denver and Seattle like the Super Bowl will be a 1989 battle for the AFC West or something. Whoo! Hall of Famer Dave Kreig! Elway’s enormous teeth! You’ll be praying for a halftime nipple slip.
BB: Curt Warner!
PR: Does Walter Jones have an inferiority complex towards Orlando Pace? Or does he stalk him? Is he going to be on MTV Fanatic? It is kinda creepy that Jones also held out as long as Pace and reported at the same time. I wonder if Jones stands in front of mirror holding a plate full of pancakes practicing lines.
ED: I am trying to picture a fat man stalking another fat man. What exactly would Jones hide behind if Pace stops to look around for anyone following him? A UPS truck? If they both tried to go under the St. Louis arch would they get stuck?
BB: Jones could blend in as an Escalade.
PR: I apologize to all Seattle fans for selecting both Shaun Alexander and Maurice Morris on my team. I am fantasy cancer.
PR: Is it wrong that I still believe Seneca Wallace is the best QB on this team?
BB: Come on Hasselbeck is making THE LEAP!!! Eh. He’s from Boston College. You can figure out how it works.
ED: C’mon! Trent Dilfer is a PROVEN WINNER! You know all about his Super Bowl win. Sorry, it’s a pre-emptive strike against the Raider preview.
BB: For shame, Ed. I was nice the entire Raiders preview.
PR: There is a lot to like about this bunch of WRs. Darrell Jackson and Koren Robinson will each be around 1000 yards (assuming one or both can stay healthy for the entire year) while Bobby Engram has finally found a role perfect for him – solid third option. We have another year of pimping Jerramy Stevens as the next big thing in Tight Ends. Hmmm… I think I have heard this before. Oh right – Freddie Jones. Ooff…
ED: Yeah, the receiving corps may even be better, all-around, than the fabled Rams corps. Sure, no one is Torry Holt but no one is as crappy as the Rams lessers either. Then again, the ‘Hawks receivers really need to learn to…I don’t know…CATCH the friggin’ football. And Jerramy Stevens isn’t even the best TE on his team. Nope. Poor-poor Itula Mili.
BB: He doesn’t have the FIRST ROUND CACHET!! though.
PR: Aww… John Randle retired. And only like three years too late.
ED: Jeez. And I thought he DID retire three years ago.
PR: I have heard lots of pimping of CB Ken Lucas all of a sudden. Lots of reports about how great he looked in camp, yadda, yadda, yadda. I was baffled. Oh wait – contract year. There it is. Marcus Trufant is still young and hungry or something. Bobby Taylor as an upgrade over Reggie Tongue? I don’t know if I am buying that one.
BB: I will vouch for that one. Bobby Taylor is at least fantastic in Madden.
ED: Ray Rhodes: Defensive Coordinator. Do I really need to say anymore? The defensive talent is OK-ish, maybe even better than the Rams, but nothing great. But does talent even matter? When Ray Rhodes is your Defensive Coordinator, you better put up a gazillion points a game.
PR: For a team supposedly SUPER BOWL BOUND~! They could be starting the season 0-2 – on the road to New Orleans and Tampa Bay. They also have road trips to New England and Minnesota. Probably the things that will carry Seattle are being in the same decision as the Niners and Cards along with a three game stretch were they play Miami, Buffalo and Dallas all at home.
ED: Well, if the ‘Hawks are going to be a serious contender, they’ll actually have to…ya know…win a game on the road. And I don’t even see that being possible until October 24 when they play at Arizona. From there the ‘Hawks could turn their season around thanks to a cushy second half schedule. I can see them going 10-6 and taking the division. But they’ll have to play on the road in the playoffs – with Ray Rhodes as their defensive coordinator. I sure wouldn’t look into buying Super Bowl tickets if I was a ‘Hawks fan.
BB: Well I mean maybe you want to see Ahman Green play.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
(2003 Record: 7-9, missed the playoffs)
Key Additions: OL Scott Rehberg, OL Greg Randall, WR Curtis Conway
Key Losses: WR Terrell Owens, QB Jeff Garcia, RB Garrison Hearst, OG Ron Stone, TE Jed Weaver, OT Derrick Deese, DL Sean Moran, CB Jason Webster, WR Tai Streets, DT Travis Kirschke
PR: Well, the Niners are learning what the NFC East used to know. It is always good to have the Cardinals in your division.
ED: I don’t know how even the Cards can be a comforting thought to a team this bad.
BB: I am so bitter about the 2003 playoffs that I have no sympathy for the Niners. I spit at you.
PR: I don’t think anyone was denying this but the San Francisco 49ers are officially rebuilding. Those years of comical salary cap management finally caught up to them. Pay attention Washington. Let’s see. Starting QB – gone. Top Wide Receiver – gone. Running Back who gained almost 800 yards – gone. #2 Receiver – gone. Starting Tight End who was third in receiving yards – gone. Two/Fifths of the offensive line – gone. Starting DT – gone. But they signed Curtis Conway! WHEEEE!!!!
ED: It’s teams like these that makes me really hate this whole preview idea. Yeah, the Niners suck. They’ll be worse than the Cardinals. They have no talent on offense other than Kevan Barlow and maybe their really young receiving corps. Their head coach is an idiot. Their QB’s are either awful or injured. They have no offensive line. Fortunately, they play the Dolphins in the battle for #1 overall pick or else this would be too ugly to be funny.
BB: It’s still pretty ugly.
PR: OH! Probably the one good player the Niners have left is Julian Peterson and they slapped the “franchise” tag on him, thus pissing him off and causing him to hold out for half of camp. Good times.
ED: Yeah, well…yeah. The rest of the defense isn’t that atrocious. Well, OK. The linebackers and secondary are decent. The terrible D-line means that any team with even half a running game will grind it out against the Niners. I can see Shaun Alexander getting half of his season total against the Niners.
BB: Oh yeah – Shaun Alexander::Niners as Jamal Lewis::Browns.
PR: The QB choices are Tim Rattay and his gamey groin, Cody Pickett and WINNER~! Ken Dorsey. If I didn’t hate San Fran, I would feel sorry. Instead, I am giddy.
ED: Number of whacks in the head with a baseball bat Ricky Ray’s agent deserves for talking his client into signing with the Jets instead of San Francisco, a team he could possibly play for (out of 5): 4.
PR: This team has become one that every other team circles on their schedule as a win. Heck, even the Cardinals are going “Well, we will at least wins both games against THOSE guys.” Yet, the Niners still got TWO ESPN Games. Though someone in the NFL has a sense of humor. The Niners and Bears play on Sunday Night. The date of the game – Halloween.
ED: Fortunately, no one will be home and/or sober to see that crap.
BB: I think probably I’d rather get kicked in the groin by each of the members of these teams.
(2003 Record: 4-12, missed the playoffs)
Key Additions: HC Dennis Green, QB Shaun King, DE Bertrand Berry, WR Karl Williams, FB Obafemi Ayanbadejo, CB David Macklin, LR Riall Johnson
Key Losses: QB Jeff Blake, CB David Barrett, Marcel Shipp (IR), Dexter Jackson (IR), James Hodgins (IR)
PR: Sadly, the biggest Cardinals related news this offseason was the death of Pat Tillman. *Sigh*. And now I am going to feel guilty making fun of Dennis Green the rest of this preview.
PR: Dennis Green loves him some Larry Fitzgerald. Oh yeah. Who cares that they had lots of other areas of need? Who cares that we just wasted A LOT of cap room? Larry Fitzgerald is signed and happy!
BB: That’s all that matters.
ED: I like Fitzgerald. If Robert Gallery was dead or something before the draft, I ould have LOVED to have seen the Raiders pick up Fitzgerald. But the Raiders, like the Cards, needed so much more than a deep man you can’t throw to. That said, along with the Lions, Boldin and Johnson may give the Cards the best young receiving corps in the biz come ’05 or ’06. Of course they’re the Cardinals so the they will either get hurt or suck.
PR: Last year, Bryant Johnson was supposed to be the rookie man in the desert. It turned out to be Anquan Boldin. Johnson gets another crack at it this year with Boldin expected to miss tons of time due to injury. Never fear though, Arizona has Karl “The Truth” Williams in the fold now. And I really am disappointed that Nathan Poole made the squad but I would have loved to have seen if the Packers signed him.
ED: Well, Bryant Johnson IS a Penn State skills position player so…that probably says enough.
PR: One of the deepest QB draft classes in history. The Cardinals with a Top 4 pick in every round and they wait till the 7th round to select John Navarre out of Michigan?!?!?!? Does Josh McCown have photos of Denny Green? And if he does, I never ever want to see them. And then, there is Shaun King. I honestly have to believe Green just wasn’t able to talk Randall Cunningham out of retirement.
ED: Should we just not make a Shaun King joke here since we made one in like every other section?
BB: Ah, Shaun King. Fountain of Comedy.
PR: Ah, the running backs. Marcel Shipp has his issues, the biggest one at the moment is that he is out for the season. So Emmitt Smith is the starter. Of course, he was named the started BEFORE Shipp decided … The Cardinals then acquired Troy Hambrick to backup Smith. Yup, that worked well in Dallas. It gets better. They did realize that signing Aveion Cason wasn’t a wise decision and quickly released him
ED: It’s not like the Cards are going to get much of a chance to grind out late leads, so what’s it matter who their RB is?
ED: And Phil failed to touch on the Cards defense, namely that they have none. They can’t stop the run, they have no pass rush (other than FA signee Bertrand Berry, who’s notable mostly because he may have the most non-football name EVER) and they can’t defend the pass. Well, consistency matters, I guess. But at least they get to play San Francisco twice and Miami once so…uhh…whatever.
PR: And SUPER BOWL MVP~! Dexter Jackson is crippled. I am assuming he has scheduled some lunches with Larry Brown.
PR: If the Cardinals weren’t going to have a hard enough time this year, they open the season at St. Louis, home against New England. Hmmm… I see a survival pool in my future.
ED: Yeah. I can see the Cards winning more games than the 49ers and Dolphins but who cares? At least Dennis Green will provide us all with unintentional comedy all season so that’s OK in my book.
BB: Really Dennis Green is just a modified Alan Keyes. Who is Barack Obama? I dunno but I think he plays defensive line somewhere.