McNabb new coverboy for Madden 2006

NFL Total Access reports Donovan to be the next cover. They also had a great piece on the curse going all the way back to 2000 or 2002. It was pretty funny, but kind of scary if you are an Eagle fan.

Hear me now and believe me much later:

Neither Philadelphia nor New England play in their respective conference championship games. Though if one were to make it, it would be Philly. The AFC is about to turn into a warzone. Of the 6 AFC playoff teams, only Denver has fallen off. Meanwhile, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Jacksonville, Houston, and Kansas City are all legitimate playoff contending teams (depending on how well JP Losman can play right away, and how well Kansas City's defensive additions help - but the other three teams are solid across-the-board young teams helmed by star-in-the-making young QBs).

Here's a neat little tidbit about last years AFC/NFC talent disparity: of the 16 AFC teams in the league, only 3 had losing records against NFC teams (remember, each team plays 4 games against the other conference). 3 teams had even (2-2) records, and 10 teams had winning records against the NFC (the 6 playoff teams, and all of the other teams I listed except for Kansas City).

As has happened with the last couple of Maddens... I expect the same sh*t from last year with a spiffy new UI. And any really good additions they did last year should probably be gone for this one too, eg. Playmaker controls in 2004 out 2005.

You list Cincinnati as a possible playoff contender?

You baffle me sir, because even people in Cincinnati who've been Bungals fans for years don't think they're going to the playoffs.

Explain yourself!

Actually I kid, because you could drop more knowledge on football in five minutes than I've accumulated in my entire life. But seriously, I didn't know they were an even remotely respectable football team anymore. Most of the people around here gave up on them years ago.

I'm not very optimistic about Madden without ESPN pushing them to keep up.

Last year, we wouldn't have had online leagues with automatic websites in Madden at all if not for ESPN. They added them AFTER they finished the game.

This is gonna be tough for me. I went from NFL GameDay (which, in GameDay '98, was the sweetest thing going) to NFL2K... never had to rely on stale Madden as my primary football game for 8 years.

Thin_J: Cincinnati has a passing attack on the verge of explosion with the development of Carson Palmer. The receiver group of Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmanzadeh, Peter Warrick, and Kelley Washington is perhaps the best receiver foursome outside of Indianapolis. Johnson is among the NFL elite, Houshmanzadeh is very underrated, and Warrick and Washington make for amazing depth at #3 and #4.

Cincinnati was 8-8 last year. That's a playoff contender - had the chips fallen differently, a 9-7 team could've gone to the playoffs last year. They were not far off the pace last year. They are improving on defense, which failed them late last season. Marvin Lewis is still getting "his" guys into place. He has been playing with an awful lot of inherited players over the last couple of seasons.

The only thing really standing in the way of Cincy is the rest of the powerful AFC. If Cincy was in the NFC, I'd unquestionably predict them to make the playoffs.

Legion: You left off Indianapolis - you dont think they are contending for the AFC this year?

Wow. I suppose if I followed things more closely I would have known all that.

Maybe I'll watch a couple of games this year.

And yeah, no mention of Indy?

Indianapolis is one of last year's playoff teams. I said that out of the AFC playoff teams, only Denver has really fallen off to the point where I don't think they will contend. That leaves the other 5, which includes Indy.

The teams I listed are playoff contenders that WEREN'T in the playoffs last year. Add those 5 in with the 5 playoff teams that still look to be contenders, and you've got 10 teams that all look as though they're good enough to take one of the six playoff spots.

That said, I think Indy has a lot of potential to slide too. Their defense is getting worse, not better. And as good as their offense is, you can't count on it being record-breaking again. Teams catch up - once upon a time, Kurt Warner ran an "unstoppable" offense, and defenses went from being helpless to catching up very suddenly. Jacksonville was good enough to beat Indy last year, and this year Houston may well be good enough to beat them too. So Indy will be in a bloody knife-fight if they want to keep on top of the AFC South. These three teams could very easily split 1-1 against each other and be in a close rat race for the top of the division.

I have to agree - of all the off season I think Indy's was perhaps the least exciting and least impactful of almost any of the teams. They needed to make some moves in the vein of KC to improve the Defense and they just didnt. Perhaps in June they can make some moves, but I am more hoping that some of their younger players step up. They desperately need a run stopping LB and a cover corner. They lost some talent in the secondary due to free agency as well. Pittsburgh is going to be a mystery as well and the first 6 games will be telling for both teams...

NFL Total Access reports Donovan to be the next cover. They also had a great piece on the curse going all the way back to 2000 or 2002. It was pretty funny, but kind of scary if you are an Eagle fan.
I honestly can't believe that no one has done this yet: *cough*

Nope you are the only meanie around here. Nerf the Grumpicus.

So who do you like in the NFC this year, Legion?

In the NFC, I like chaos. Here's a glimpse:

Teams I expect to improve:
Carolina - decimated by injuries last year, went from 1-7 to finish an amazing 7-9. If the season started at midseason, this would've been one of the league's most impressive teams. They are going into this year as a team far, far, far better than 7-9.

New York - They started pretty hot under Kurt Warner, but Warner was only going to take them so far. The decision to start Manning was wise, as he came together strong at the end of the season (two 100.0+ QB rating games, against really good defenses in Pittsburgh and Dallas)

Dallas - Speaking of Dallas, this team's about to explode. RB Julius Jones may be a legitimate 1,500 yard back. Look at this: he ran for over 800 yards in only 8 games (7 starts). That's only half a season! Project over a full season and that's 1,600 yards. And almost all of that came AFTER the injury, not before, so he was playing less than 100%. Dallas's conversion to Parcells' preferred scheme of the 3-4 looks to be in full swing - they have the personnel to run it well, if not necessarily dominating just yet (depends on the 1st year performances of a couple rookies). Drew Bledsoe may not inspire fear in the league, but he can be a ball-control quarterback for Parcells. This is the point of his career where he transitions over to Trent Dilfer football, and with Jason Witten, they have the perfect TE for it.

Detroit - Assuming Mooch gives Harrington the yank early enough if he still stumbles, this offense too is primed to do damage. Detroit has a Jones too, Kevin Jones, who was even more impressive (1,100 yards at 4.7 per carry - give him 300+ carries with that average like the rest of the league's "franchise backs" and he's in 1400-1500 territory). Defense? It isn't all there yet, but there's enough to deal with weak NFC competition)

Teams I've considered choosing as improved but am scared to:
Seattle - Choosing Seattle means I would be expecting them to do at least 10-6. Given that Seattle was voted "Team Most Likely To Be 8-8 In Any Given Year" in their high school yearbook, I'm afraid to. Andre Dyson's a decent pickup, but he just fills the hole where the better Ken Lucas was. They signed DE Bryce Fisher after an 8.5 sack season, apparently hoping he's primed to take the next step. Maybe, but between him and Grant Wistrom, there's a lot of "maybe" in the pass rush. Chad Brown's gone, and he was the best thing going on that defense. Jamie Sharper's a good player to fill that spot, but not an improvement. I should almost consider them to be one of my "falling off"teams, after a draft that didn't help much IMO, but I'm not prepared to do that either.

New Orleans - One of the biggest indicators of a team's future performance is how strong they played the end of the season. Too often, people look at overall season record and miss the details. The year before Atlanta went to the Super Bowl, they were a 7-9 team that wasn't considered a real contender. But people ignored the fact that they won 6 of their last 8 - and they took the winning ways into the next season. That's one thing behind my Carolina pick. Now New Orleans, they won their last 4 games, including a win against a Carolina team that was red hot and chasing playoffs. Buuuuuuut... there's only so far Aaron Brooks can take them, IMO. And though I take flights of fancy sometimes, imagining Adrian McPherson stepping in and giving the team a major offensive spark, I can't predict that as reality (I'd like for him to get in the game and just get his feet under him - I have high hopes for him, but not in terms of being an immediate impact player). I may be one of the last people to believe in the coaching ability of Jim Haslett. But no matter who is there, it seems like the Saints losing attitude is too mighty to topple. I can't think of another sports franchise that could benefit more from relocation. They need to be reborn one way or another.

Carolina - decimated by injuries last year, went from 1-7 to finish an amazing 7-9. If the season started at midseason, this would've been one of the league's most impressive teams. They are going into this year as a team far, far, far better than 7-9.

Carolina is the one NFC team that I fear the most to end the Eagles run... That and given this offseason I even as a fan find it hard to believe that the Eagles can go to a 5th straight NFC Championship game..

From a talent standpoint and coaching they're either an even match or better than the Eagles. I think Fox is a great coach and more importantly a creative coach....last year will only strengthen their team.

But no matter who is there, it seems like the Saints losing attitude is too mighty to topple. I can't think of another sports franchise that could benefit more from relocation. They need to be reborn one way or another.

Wouldn't that require them to leave their owner behind, as well?

TheGameguru wrote:
Carolina is the one NFC team that I fear the most to end the Eagles run... That and given this offseason I even as a fan find it hard to believe that the Eagles can go to a 5th straight NFC Championship game..

It's just a hard thing to achieve. The talent difference between a playoff team and a 6-10 team is very small. Even the mighty New England went down the tubes for one season after their first Super Bowl win.

Philly needs to sort out the TO thing. I think they need to realistically consider scenarios in which they don't keep TO. They've been a great team for 4 years, and this is the sort of thing that will eat them up from the inside. There are free agent options for Philly: Troy Brown, Corey Bradford, Tai Streets... no one that's gonna be a star, but someone that can catch. Brown's still got his speed. And Reggie Brown's a talented guy who could become a strong NFL starter.

Someone out there might be willing to trade for TO. Another option that should be explored.

From a talent standpoint and coaching they're either an even match or better than the Eagles. I think Fox is a great coach and more importantly a creative coach....last year will only strengthen their team.

Agreed. I think the biggest question is the quarterback position. Delhomme's still not completing enough passes (<60%), he needs to take the next step. He only has two years of NFL starting experience under his belt though - not unreasonable to expect that the guy's got room to develop.

Philly needs to sort out the TO thing. I think they need to realistically consider scenarios in which they don't keep TO. They've been a great team for 4 years, and this is the sort of thing that will eat them up from the inside. There are free agent options for Philly: Troy Brown, Corey Bradford, Tai Streets... no one that's gonna be a star, but someone that can catch. Brown's still got his speed. And Reggie Brown's a talented guy who could become a strong NFL starter.

Rumor has it that Andy Reid and TO have been talking on the phone over the last few days with "certain" positive results...

What comes out of this remains to be seen.. but some local sports guys think TO is actually going to be in Camp...EARLY!!!