|GOLDBERG ON FOOTBALL: Sometimes .500 can be good or bad|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 27 December 2007 12:06|
Then he heard some veterans talking about how that would be the highlight so far for their careers in Arizona. So he changed his mind.
``I heard a number of our players say that they'd never won this many games in a season,'' said Whisenhunt, who was used to winning in Pittsburgh, where he was offensive coordinator on the 2006 Super Bowl champions. ``If we can win another one, it will hopefully lay the groundwork for a good season next year.''
Records can be relative.
If the Cardinals finish 8-8 with a win over St. Louis on Sunday, it would be only their third non-losing season since 1984. For Philadelphia and New Orleans, two 7-8 teams, finishing 8-8 will be a disappointment.
The Saints lost the NFC championship game last season and were a popular choice before this season to go to the Super Bowl. Yes, they can make the playoffs if they beat the Bears on Sunday and Washington and Minnesota lose. But their season has been streaky and marked by shoddy play on defense.
The Eagles were probably the favorite in the NFC East. Instead, they will finish last in a division in which the other three teams could be in the playoffs. Still, three late wins, one over Dallas, would provide momentum for 2008.
Here's a capsule look at some teams, most out of the postseason race, that have momentum for 2008. And at some hopeless cases.
There is enough talent for a 2008 playoff run. The wide receiving corps, when healthy, is probably the NFL's best. Injuries hurt in '07: the injured reserve list includes QB Matt Leinart; S Adrian Wilson, CB Eric Green; DEs Bertrand Berry and Chike Okeafor; and OT Oliver Ross. Both of the top wideouts, Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, missed time.
Leinart, who was splitting duties with Kurt Warner when he broke a collarbone, needs experience. Warner, 36, is decent insurance.
The loss last week in Cincinnati may cost the Browns a playoff spot. But they took a huge step up from 4-12 and saved Romeo Crennel's job. Two reasons: Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards finally stayed healthy and rookie LT Joe Thomas was an instant success. All that made QB Derek Anderson (until last week) the most pleasant surprise in the NFL.
The defense still needs a lot of help - 23 sacks in 15 games means opposing quarterbacks have plenty of time.
With Brady Quinn around, do the Browns keep Anderson, a restricted free agent? He may never be worth more than he is now to a team looking for a QB. On the other hand, trading him and starting Quinn would probably mean a step backward next season.
The Vikings can make the playoffs if they beat Denver and Washington loses to Dallas.
Regardless, their five straight wins after a 3-6 start are enough to make them optimistic. The offensive and defensive lines and the running game with rookie Adrian Peterson are all first-rate; seven Pro Bowlers indicates a solid talent base.
That leaves quarterback.
Tarvaris Jackson, in his second year, showed flashes, especially during the winning streak, when he had games with passer ratings of 139, 110 and 95. He's been shaky lately. But like Leinart, he's just in his second season, so there's room for improvement.
There are rumors of QBs on the way, notably Donovan McNabb, although his departure from Philly isn't as likely as some people believe. A better bet might be a Chad Pennington type who can be to Jackson as Warner has been to Leinart in Arizona.
For all the McNabb bashing, he's still a very good QB. How much worse are the Eagles than the Redskins or Giants? Probably not much. They beat Dallas, but are last in the division because they lost twice to New York and once to Washington.
Is McNabb gone? Kevin Kolb, drafted in the second round to take his place, hasn't thrown a regular-season pass yet. Will Philly's hypercritical fans tolerate a 4-12 season in a tough division to break in a new QB? The biggest problem is the lack of a No. 1 receiver, one that's existed through McNabb's career except for 2004, when a relatively content Terrell Owens helped the Eagles to a Super Bowl.
There are fewer questions now about taking Mario Williams over Reggie Bush and Vince Young with the first pick of the 2006 draft. Williams is an impact pass rusher, probably the second most important player to have after a difference-making QB.
The Texans could use a running back, but those are easy enough to find. Injury-prone Ahman Green was a bad signing and Ron Dayne is limited. The biggest impediment to a breakout is playing in a division with Indianapolis, Jacksonville and Tennessee.
``I can't do this no more,'' says CB DeAngelo Hall, one of the Falcons' few good players. ``I won't do this no more, let me say that. I will not be a part of a losing team another year, no matter what I got to do, no matter who hates me, whatever. I won't be a part of a losing team again, not if I can help it. ``
Sorry DeAngelo, but the losing will continue.
Bill Parcells shunned the Falcons, who will have a new GM and coach. Owner Arthur Blank talks about drafting a quarterback. But Matt Ryan and Brian Brohm, the top guys, aren't as highly rated as many QBs drafted in the past few years.
Tuna or no Tuna, it's a long road back.
Parcells was asked this week whether he might trade Jason Taylor for extra draft picks.
``Why get rid of good players?'' he replied. ``You need to keep them and get rid of the bad ones.''
What would a DE who turns 34 next Sept. 1 bring from, say, a Cleveland or Denver? Maybe a third-rounder at best.
The first pick in the draft might not help. In fact, it may be more useful if Parcells can trade down and get extra picks to fill all the holes that need filling.
A team that was 13-3 last season has lost nine straight.
Injuries hurt. So did age, which is related: old players get hurt. This might be the last year for OT Jonathan Ogden. Ray Lewis, Pro Bowl or not, isn't what he was - except as a leader.
The QB problem persists. Despite Brian Billick's reputation as an offensive guru, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning would probably struggle with the Ravens. So until that's solved ...
San Francisco (5-10)
Bring Eddie DeBartolo back as owner to replace his sister and brother-in-law.
The 49ers spent a lot of offseason money and had high hopes. Now they have no first-round draft pick - it went to New England to take OT Joe Staley. So the rich get richer, as the 49ers used to during the Bill Walsh era.
Maybe QB Alex Smith, who injured his shoulder, will continue the progress from 2006. Or not. He needs receivers. Rookie LB Patrick Willis has a great future and RB Frank Gore should rebound from an injury- plagued season. But more young studs are needed.
ONE MAN'S AWARDS
MVP - Tom Brady, New England.
Offensive Player - (tie) Brady, Randy Moss, New England
Defensive Player - (tie) Bob Sanders, Indianapolis; Mario Williams, Houston. In Memoriam: Sean Taylor, Washington.
Coach of the Year - Mike McCarthy, Green Bay.
Offensive Rookie - Adrian Peterson, Minnesota. (Honorable Mention: Joe Thomas, Cleveland)
Defensive Rookie - Patrick Willis, San Francisco.
Comeback Player - Jamal Lewis, Cleveland.
DIRTY DOZEN: The top six and bottom six teams in the NFL based on current level of play.
1. New England (15-0). Unbeaten will be meaningless without a title.
2. Indianapolis (13-2). Very content to be low-profile.
3. Dallas (13-2). If T.O. isn't healthy for the playoffs, there could be a problem.
4. Jacksonville (11-4). The team no one wants to play.
5. San Diego (10-5). Starting to play up to the talent.
6. Green Bay (12-3). Maybe it's just the Bears ...
27. New York Jets (3-12). Better, but still losing.
(tie) Oakland (4-11). JaMarcus Russell lost at least a half-season by holding out.
28. Baltimore (4-11). As bad as the record
29. Kansas City (4-11). Same.
30. St. Louis (3-12). Injuries hurt the offense. The defense is just bad.
31. Miami (1-14). ``I'm not the coach,'' Parcells says. Yes, but the coach will hear plenty from him.
32. Atlanta (3-12). Given the outstanding effort last week in Arizona, maybe Emmitt Thomas should coach full-time.