Tis the season to be......homerically optimistic
We see it everywhere. All 32 teams are Super Bowl contenders, division contenders at least. Don't believe me, ask any fan......their team will be "in the race" this year. So, I figure why fight it. Here's a look through the rose-colored glasses that are in full supply this time of year.
It's hard not to be an optimistic niner fan.......I mean, no where to go but up, right? The most optimistic view from the Bay I've heard so far.....
.....the Cowboys had Aikman, Smith, Irvin; the Colts had Manning, James, Harrison; we have Smith, Gore, Davis.....
What can I say, I appreciate the hope, but if that is where the niners are hanging their collective hats, it could be a long season. Do those three have potential, sure but the NFL is littered with potential that never produced.
If you ask me, the Bay fans should be more optimistic about the rebuilt O-line. Allen is short-term, but he can help now. Add that to a very talented Baas, Smiley, Heitman, and Newberry, the niners should focus on the ground-and-pound instead of lofty dreams of Smith airing it out or Gore trying to get outside. I know that a ground chuck approach is not very niner-esque, but Nolan needs to see that's where his strength lies at this point.
The desert has been the home of a whole lot of (as the popular phrase goes) Kool-Aid the past couple of years. And whenever the "this is the Cards year" birds start singing, it always boils down to their talented receivers and passing attack. Well, both of those are true, Fitz and Boldin are outstanding receivers and the birds do put the ball in the air. But points aren't scored for passing yards. Punching it in for 6 was the problem. Rackers was a Pro-Bowl kicker because of the team's inability to find the end-zone. And no amount of talent in the receivers or verticality in the playbook will change that. It's the trench game that puts the ball in the endzone......and there's the rub.
The birds already have injury concerns to a line that has yet to be healthy. Starting RT Oliver Ross is hurt, which moves either Jeremy Bridges or Fred Wakefield to starter, both converted guards and in the case of Wakefield former DE. At G, the birds have Elton Brown and Reggie Wells, both injured during '05, and at C, Alex Stepanovich, who (you guessed it) was injured last year. At LT they have Leonard Davis, whose "pro bowl potential" is still in the mail.
Whether it's James on the ground, or a receiver in the Red Zone, this offense won't be putting points on the board until this line maintains some productive consistency.
It would appear the Hawks have a greatly improved LB corp. Some would go as far as to say the greatest LB corp in the game today. Really? THE greatest?
When you're the defending conference champs, you have room to be optimistic, no doubt. And one of their strengths is a solid LB corp. But are they really in an elite category? They start two 2nd year guys, Tatupu and Hill. Both of which were very impressive last year (Tatupu---104, 4, 3 and Hill---72, 7.5). And of course, they added Julian Peterson who has a rich history of production, though injured the past couple of years. But how will these three stack up to other units?
Last year, Tatupu was 26th in tackles, Peterson was 50th. Hill, while seeing time in 3/4th of last year, was 65th. Respectable numbers all, but not what you would expect from an elite unit. That's only marginally better than the Rams starters (Pisa, Spoon, Chillar) combined for last year.
I just hope the Hawks aren't putting all their defensive eggs in one basket with that unit. They're good, maybe even great, but with elite units like Chicago, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Tampa, even Oakland and Cleveland....it's hard to call the Hawks LBs "the best".