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Turbulent times for some NFL teams

Turbulent times for some NFL teams

Turbulent times for some NFL teams

We've reached a point on the NFL calendar where pragmatism surrenders and a counterfeit level of optimism thrives.

Free agents have assimilated. Rookies have been schooled and mini-camps have broken upon waves of anticipated glory. Optimism is soaring to unreasonable heights.

Unfortunately, this soaring often is accompanied by impressive turbulence. In some cases, the fasten-seat-belts sign may remain lit until the 2007 season begins.

In others, the aforementioned soaring will be legitimized by a playoff run.

We're here to rank the teams tipping those turbulence scales from each end. We'll begin our listings by offering 10 teams whose off-seasons have gone smoothly, rolling from fewest ripples created to the one team that has endured the most among the least.

When that's accomplished, we'll list the Turbulent 10, beginning with the one franchise that rose above all others in term of off-season misery.

Those scoring at home may notice we'll be ignoring a dozen teams that failed to achieve either a high level of off-season boredom or chaos. Good for them.

The smooth-sailing 10

1. New Orleans Saints: No Katrina aftermath. No reports that Reggie Bush's parents attempted to rent the Playboy mansion. The only apparent off-season struggle was waving bye-bye to Joe Horn and explaining why they were clobbered in Chicago.

2. New York Jets: The Jets, still basking in the afterglow of Eric Mangini's first season, have answered the loss of Curtis Martin by acquiring Thomas Jones. They weren't even booed during the first round of the NFL Draft.

3. San Francisco 49ers: The inconvenient truth for NFC West foes has a lot to do with the emergence of Frank Gore and Alex Smith. Coach Mike Nolan didn't even ask for permission to wear a suit and tie, and the franchise avoided creating an in-house video that insulted every special-interest group in the Bay Area. The only off-season challenge was finding enough ink to handle some pricey free-agent signings.

4. Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks didn't have to deal with any post-Super-Bowl-loss hangover or fallout from allowing Steve Hutchinson to walk away.

5. Houston Texans: They didn't pass on Reggie this year and managed to trade for an Atlanta quarterback with a healthy attitude toward canines. Without David Carr around, their whirlpool and analgesic-balm budgets are back under control.

6. St. Louis Rams: According to insiders, not one employee on the football side of this franchise was required to spend the off-season recovering from a post-game smooch offered by Georgia Frontiere. They may be ranked too low here.

7. Indianapolis Colts: All they lost was running back Dominic Rhodes and a measure of manly cred when Peyton Manning checked in as co-host of Saturday Night Live.

8. Arizona Cardinals: Not having Dennis Green around to make questionable personnel decisions must be considered a big step (as in zero gravity) forward. If they can keep Matt Leinart upright and in the clutches of a law-abiding car service, the Cardinals may be just fine.

9. Dallas Cowboys: They were ranked higher until reports surfaced that quarterback Tony Romo may call an audible and go with Jessica Simpson instead of Carrie Underwood.

10. New England Patriots: Hiring Randy Moss wasn't enough to push them into the Turbulent 10, but Tom Brady under a Yankees cap made it a close call.

The turbulent 10

1. Chicago Bears: The Bears overachieved in the turbulence race by taking the top spot without having Michael Vick or Pacman Jones on the payroll. The Bears are No. 1 for prolonging the wait regarding Lovie Smith's contract extension and for showing the door to their defensive coordinator (considering their talent, they might as well turn the defensive responsibilities over to a stuffed bear named Pudge). The Bears also reached the top spot thanks to the extension drama surrounding linebacker Lance Briggs and the uncertain status of safety Mike Brown. Not helping was the loss of Thomas Jones and the incarceration of Tank Johnson. More potential turbulence was realized when return ace Devin Hester was moved to offense, where he'll be hoping to catch punts from Rex Grossman.

2. Tennessee Titans: Pacman may have been overmatched against Vick in the open, off-season field, but the Titans QB happens to be their best RB and this year's challenge to the legacy of the Madden Curse.

3. Atlanta Falcons: Despite losing Jim Mora, the Falcons courted turbulence by getting rid of Matt Schaub and keeping the seemingly crazed Vick. We're not sure if the best hire for QB backup was Joey Harrington or F. Lee Bailey.

4. Denver Broncos: One funeral is one too many. Two funerals would wreck lesser franchises ... and there are many lesser franchises.

5. Cincinnati Bengals: A relatively quiet lap around the police blotter was ruined by the "profiling" quotes from Coach Marvin Lewis and a return to form by Chris Henry and A.J. Nicholson. Let's hope that future Ws associated with the Bengals no longer refer to warrants.

6. Jacksonville Jaguars: The Bengal wannabes may have more serious issues if Coach Jack Del Rio and QB Byron Leftwich continue to read from the same page in different books. Can a coach and QB dislike each other and still prevail? Certainly, but we don't see Dan Reeves or John Elway in this picture.

7. Philadelphia Eagles: Feelings, nothing more than feelings, for QB Donovan McNabb, who should shake off that bruised ego just in time to search for someone capable of catching the ball. Coach Andy Reid is more resilient, and he has to be, thanks to an off-season of family turmoil.

8. Miami Dolphins: At post time, the Dolphins were still offering pocket lint in an effort to yank Trent Green from the Kansas City Chiefs. If they had any extra pocket lint, Ricky Williams may have smoked it by now.

9. Oakland Raiders: Lane Kiffin arrives from associate duty at USC, where they suited up more real pros on offense than the Raiders had. But no off-season could seem that satisfactory when a talent like Moss is purged for nothing more than a fourth-round pick.

Green Bay Packers: They could have coughed up a third-rounder for Moss, and Brett Favre would have kept them off of this list.

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