In the NFL it's all about Chemistry; the NFC:
In the era of free agency and the salary cap, players are evaluated, signed, released, traded, and drafted very differently than ever before. The 1990's "super" teams of Dallas and San Francisco with franchise QB's, impact running backs, offensive and defensive lines laden with blue chippers, lockdown DBs, playmaking LB's and stables loaded with receiving talent are simply no more.
Teams can no longer keep more than a handful of star-calibre players together for long, the salary cap will not allow it and free market-inflated contracts siphon away even marginal stars so quickly that contenders can become pretenders in a single season, and vice versa.
So the "uber" team has been replaced at the top of the ladder by those well-coached teams where a core set of talented veteran players buy into a system and indoctrinate fringe draftees and role-playing free agents. Case in point, the 3 time Superbowl Champion New England Patriots-- a team where there are no favorites and no stars. The players trust the coaches and each other. The coach puts the players in the best position to succeed. They scheme and cover for each others' weaknesses. It's called chemistry, something all great teams have to a degree but is emphasized now more than ever.
The rest of the NFL is striving to meet this example. Other teams see the value of teamwork and sound fundamentals across all three phases of the game.
How chemistry will impact the NFC:
4. St Louis Rams
Dark Horse: New Orleans
Surprise Drops: Atlanta, Green Bay
Honorable mention: Tampa Bay
CHEMISTRY RISKS: Loss of Muhsin Muhammad; Steve Smith injury; "Steroid" using kickers.
CHEMISTRY HELP: Solid QB in place, veteran defense
PREDICTION: 4th in NFC
Carolina will rebound from its one-year collapse, but even with Steve Smith back and healthy (let's all hope) they simply can't be the same team without Muhsin Muhammad. The guy led the NFL last year, and you don't replace players like that. But with players like Jenkins and Peppers on the DL, you have to like Carolina's ability to stop people. Carolina seems set at RB, but with question marks at WR you wonder how it will affect Jake Delhomme's confidense. Delhomme known more for heroics and less for accuracy; losing a big target like Muhammad may shake him up more than many would think-- especially if Smith has lost a step from his injury.
CHEMISTRY RISKS: Loss of Randy Moss; overhaul of defensive personnel; lack of proven deep threat will change offense; RB's not suited to ball control; shaky coaching.
CHEMISTRY HELP: Franchise QB in place; Talent
PREDICTION: 1st in NFC
CHEMISTRY HELP: Franchise QB in place
Minnesota must also try and fill the cleats of their leading WR, Randy Moss, a guy who many would call the best WR talent ever. He was so dominant that he changed the way Minnesota played offense-- and this was a team that had Chris Carter, Robert Smith, and Jake Reed! A replacement may emerge as Troy Williamson matures, but without a deep threat the Vikings may run more of a ball-control type of game, something they haven't done since they had Terry Allen. This approach could be reinforced by the dramatic two-year overhaul of the defense. Nearly every significant defensive position has been filled by a free agent or key draftee. Can the Vikings find their identity among such drastic changes on both sides of the ball and constantly having to defend their shaky coach Mike Tice? One deciding factor may be the presence of veteran Duante Culpepper, easily the best passer and most physical QB in the conference. Culpepper is why Minnesota tops my NFC rankings.
CHEMISTRY RISKS: Key holdouts and friction; years of unsuccessful runs taking toll.
CHEMISTRY HELP: Franchise QB in place; veteran defense; coaching
PREDICTION: 3rd in NFC
The Eagles caught lightning in a bottle last season as the presence of Terrell Owens on offense removed a huge amount of pressure from the defense allowing the secondary to adjust to new starters. New DE Jevon Kearse added pressure at times, but nothing that would justify his huge contract. The key addition for Philly was the return to health of RB Michael Westbrook-- a key player down the stretch and a major factor in both playoff wins. But both Westbrook and Owens are holding out and disturbed WR Freddie Mitchell has been release. Owens even publicly called out QB Donovan McNabb regarding his Superbowl meltdown, otherwise a taboo topic in the City of Brotherly Love. Can the Eagles survive this kind of locker room friction? I say not over the long haul. The Eagles will fight through at first, but when added to the weariness that five consecutive unsuccessful playoff runs brings this added trouble will be too much.
CHEMISTRY RISKS: Staying on top of a very competitive division; sophomore slump for Mora Jr.
CHEMISTRY HELP: veteran defense;
PREDICTION: Out of playoffs
Atlanta will face a Southern division itching to take them down. Many thought the Falcons took this division by default and that the Panthers and Saints were actually its best teams during major stretches of the season. I believe Atlanta also took a lot of teams by surprise last year but were exposed against Philadelphia. Look for atlanta to sport a disappointing 2-4 division record with Carolina edging out (barely) New Orleans for the division title. Successful coaches also tend to rapidly slump in this division (Reeves, Fox, Haslett), so I would carry my rabbit's foot if I were Jim Mora Jr.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
CHEMISTRY RISKS: Inconsistent QB; Suspect Organization
CHEMISTRY HELP: Talent; desperation
PREDICTION: Darkhorse contender
New Orleans-- my choice for dark horse. All the elements are in place for a run, and this is probably Aaron Brooks' last chance to prove himself so he will likely be doubly motivated to win. The Saints have dangerous WR's and RB's and the best combination of pass rushers in the NFL in Grant, Smith, and Howard. Brooks may be so motivated that he gets the Saints organization back from outer space and focused like they were during Haslett's rookie season as HC.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
CHEMISTRY RISKS: Desperate old QB; WR Holdout; RB legal issues
CHEMISTRY HELP: Experience; underrated coach
PREDICTION: Out of playoffs
The Packers, regardless of what happens every year seem to find a way to contend but it started to unravel two seasons ago as they were uncustomarily let down by the great Brett Favre himself with an unusual last minute interception. Followed by his shaky playoff performance last year and not helped by Ahman Green's legal troubles and Javon Walkers' holdout, I look for Green Bay to finally tumble into the abyss that is NFL rebuilding. This team is crumbling at the seems, and when it goes (despitre Sherma's competant patch jobs) it will go South all at once.
ST LOUIS RAMS
CHEMISTRY RISKS: Steven Jackson relegating Faulk to backup; Greatest Show on Field Turf?
CHEMISTRY HELP: Talent; class of Marshall Faulk
PREDICTION: 4th in NFC
The Rams players are so used to criticism of their uniquely arrogant coach that they tend to fall in line and play. This team plays a guaranteed 10 games per year indoors in a dome, and so it likely won't get very far in December unless it wins home field advantage throughout the playoffs-- and that will not happen because of their defense which has yet t adjust to the loss of Grant Wistrom. Their huge loss vs. Atlanta in the playoffs shows just how far they need to go to improve, but with WR's as great as Torry Holt (the most underrated WR in the league) and Isaac Bruce they are in every game they play. People tried hard also to make a stink of Steven Jackson being benched too much and then too little, but players these days know such is the way of things and it's acutally good for the team that there will be a transition period. Marshall Faulk knows he can't carry the load anymore, and class act that he is I look for him to make huge plays late in the year and in the playoffs. A Hall of Famer like Faulk wouldn't want to go out any other way.
CHEMISTRY RISKS: Many new players; switch to 3-4 defense; QB controversy
CHEMISTRY HELP: Coaching; veteran players; "character" players
PREDICTION: 2nd place in the NFC
This brings us to our Dallas Cowboys. With Drew Bledsoe, Marcus Spears, Demarcus Ware, Kevin Burnett, Aaron Glenn, Marion Barber, maybe Chris Canty, Anthony Henry, Fergy, Marco Rivera, and let's throw in Quincy Morgan and Terry Glenn and Julius Jones getting healthy the Cowboys have added a hugely talented group of players who have yet to play a single down together. Fortunately they join an experienced core of Ellis, Glover, Nguyen, Roy, Newman, Adams, Allen, Witten, Campbell, Terry Glenn, and Keyshawn Johnson who have geled together through years of good and bad times. Pete Hunter notwithstanding, there is not a bad seed among the bunch, and barring injury this is will be a very good football team. It just comes down to chemistry, especially if Bledsoe has some bad outings because Cowboys fandom will launch into Bill Parcells with the weight of the world to start Drew Henson, and he won't be able to bring himself to do it. I just see too many good things developing here though. From Witten being coached by his new QB's favorite old receiving target to a veteran like Aaron Glenn becoming available and wanting to come to Dallas. The sky is the limit for this team, and if Duante Culpepper takes Minnesota into its usual mid-season swoon LOOK OUT!
"Leadership is getting someone to do what they don't want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve."
- Tom Landry
Last edited by ravidubey : 05-13-2005 at 04:24 PM.