news, bad newsOFFICIAL STEELAHS.COM 2008 PREDICTIONS
By Mike Batista
September 2, 2008
feel a little bit better about the Steelers now than I did at the beginning of training camp.
a look around the AFC. Several playoff-caliber teams are dealing with potential snags.
surround the health of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning (and his offensive line) and Derek Anderson. Brady, who didn’t play
in the preseason because of a foot injury, says he’s ready to go in the opener against Kansas City. It looks like Manning
is recovered from surgery to have an infected bursa sac removed from his left knee. So we’ll be treated to his puppet-on-speed,
pre-snap routine Sunday night in the season opener against the Bears, but Manning will have a couple of different people protecting
him. Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday is expected to miss six weeks with a partially torn knee ligament, and left guard Ryan
Lilja is on the physically-unable-to-perform list. Anderson, the Browns quarterback who suffered a concussion Aug. 18 against
the Giants, returned to practice Monday.
Anderson isn’t the only Brown who’s
banged up. Wide receiver Braylon Edwards also returned to practice Monday after cutting his foot Aug. 9. Running back Jamal
Lewis, safety Sean Jones and linebacker Willie McGinest also have dealt with injuries during the preseason, although they’re
all likely to play in the opener. Safety Brodney Pool, who also had a concussion, and return specialist Joshua Cribbs are
likely to sit out the opener against Dallas. The Browns are targeting the Week 2 matchup against the Steelers for Cribbs’
return. Pretty smart considering the Steelers’ suspect special teams.
The Chargers? Outside linebacker
Shawne Merriman is playing with two torn knee ligaments despite four doctors advising him to have surgery.
there’s the Jaguars.
On a somber note, offensive lineman Richard Collier suffered life-threatening
injuries after being shot early Tuesday morning. As of Tuesday afternoon, he was in critical but stable condition after surgery.
The incident caps a tumultuous offseason for the Jaguars. Wide receiver Matt Jones was arrested for possession of a controlled
substance in July. Another receiver, Dennis Northcutt, is being sued by the woman carrying his baby. She claims he conspired
to have her beaten up. Then early Saturday morning, running back Fred Taylor was cited for disorderly conduct.
Jaguars have had 10 arrests in the past two years, but it’s not just legal issues they’re dealing with. Rookie
defensive end Derrick Harvey was the last first-round draft pick to sign. He missed 33 days of training camp, which probably
will limit his impact this season. Also missing several weeks is veteran receiver Jerry Porter, who had surgery on a torn
hamstring and returned to practice Monday. Porter was acquired to help stretch the Jaguars’ offense. But he might be
past his prime.
Despite all this adversity, it’s not like the Steelers can close
their eyes and have the Patriots, Colts, Chargers, Jaguars and Browns all go away. They’re all on their schedule this
Brady and Patriots coach Bill Belichick are pretty much just having fun with the media.
Brady says he’s ready to go Sunday. Belichick won’t confirm it. The Patriots disperse information like China.
It’s only a matter of time before Internet access is limited to reporters at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots have the
easiest schedule in the NFL. Brady could move around with a cane and they’d still get into the playoffs.
if Merriman’s knee doesn’t hold up, the Chargers have enough talent to overcome it.
all their problems, I still think the Jaguars are a little bit better than the Steelers, and I think this is the year they
finally overtake the Colts and win the AFC South. David Garrard might not be an elite NFL quarterback, but he knows how to
win. And this Collier shooting could bring the team together.
As far as the Steelers-Browns
rivalry goes, I think the Steelers still will have the upper hand. The Browns are an organization on the way up, but the rise
will take a year off. Their schedule is too tough, and the Steelers have the firepower to exploit their secondary.
time for Santonio Holmes to have a breakout year. He’s the Steelers’ most dangerous receiver and will be Ben Roethlisberger’s
No. 1 target this season. And I agree with the move to have him return some of the punts. He can be a real weapon there.
looks like Willie Parker will have to shoulder the bulk of the running load for the time being. Let’s hope Rashard Mendenhall
can learn to hang onto the football and be heard from by the end of the season.
offensive line might not be much better than it was last season. But I think the minimal improvement there, combined with
the increased power on offense, will allow the Steelers to put a lot of points on the board.
defense, on the other hand, has to get better. That might sound strange considering they had the No. 1 defense in the league
last season, but it might have been the worst top-ranked defense in the history of the NFL. When it mattered most, the defense
Had Troy Polamalu been completely healthy, the Steelers might not
have given up so many late leads last season. I think he can return to his game-changing form of 2004 and 2005, which will
help the entire defense. Polamalu isn’t the only safety who will have an impact. Ryan Clark is healthy again. I think
his absence was an underrated factor in the decline of the defense last season.
up to the linebackers, Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley will be household names far beyond the Western Pennsylvania hills
by the end of the season. I’m still a little worried about the aging defensive line. Having Aaron Smith back will work
wonders, but they need to figure out a way to stop those cutback runs. I think we can get a head start on the 2009 NFL draft
by saying the Steelers’ top area of need is the defensive line.
I see the Steelers going 11-5
this season and winning the AFC North. Look for a head-to-head split between the Steelers and Browns, with both teams winning
on the road. The other losses will come at Jacksonville Oct. 5, home to Indianapolis Nov. 9 and San Diego Nov. 16 and at New
England Nov. 30.
The Steelers will beat the Colts in the wild-card and get another shot
at the Patriots in Foxboro. Unfortunately, Brady, Randy Moss and company will have just a little too much for the Steelers’
defense. We have four months to prepare for a playoff loss at Gillette Stadium that will be so heartbreaking that we’ll
never shave again.
The consolation prize for Steelers fans will be the Chargers’
win in New England the following week. Who will the Chargers face in the Super Bowl? Keep reading.
AFC playoff seeds: 1. Patriots (14-2); 2. Chargers (12-4); 3. Jaguars
(11-5); 4. Steelers (11-5); 5. Colts (10-6); 6. Bills (10-6)
Jaguars 17, Bills 10; Steelers 41, Colts 28
Divisional playoffs: Chargers 23, Jaguars 20; Patriots 41, Steelers
Championship game: Chargers 16, Patriots 14
NFC playoff seeds: 1. Cowboys (13-3); 2. Saints
(12-4); 3. Vikings (10-6); 4. Seahawks (9-7); 5. Giants (10-6); 6. Panthers (10-6)
Giants 34, Seahawks 7; Panthers 20, Vikings 17
Divisional playoffs: Cowboys 36, Panthers 12; Saints 37, Giants 30
Saints 27, Cowboys 24
Super Bowl XLIII: Chargers 31, Saints 21
right. The Bills will make the playoffs. How boring would it be if the same six AFC teams made the playoffs again? The Saints
are my surprise team to reach the Super Bowl. Along the way, Jeremy Shockey will get his redemption against the Giants. In
Tampa, Drew Brees will get a chance to prove that the Chargers kept the wrong quarterback. But it won’t happen. The
Chargers gave the Patriots a run for their money in the AFC championship game last season with LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio
Gates and Philip Rivers all hurting. We know Merriman’s playing hurt, but if the rest of the team stays healthy, the
Chargers will be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in February.