It is hot outside, but that just means that the leaves are going to change colors soon, and that just means one thing - it's almost football season. And I've got some thoughts about this upcoming season.
I think this going to be a year in which we're going to witness the changing of the guard. No dynasty lasts forever. No player remains ageless. No team stays good indeterminably. The window closes, and I think this year we're going to see several long-open windows begin their descent. Even more than that, I think there are some teams and players on the rise that will vie for NFL supremacy.
As I explore this theme, I immediately think of Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers. Are the Packers sensing what I am - that players get old and it's sometimes better to recognize that and move on before it's too late? I am not sure. Time will tell if they've made the right decision by going with Aaron Rogers. Either way, I don't expect the Pack to repeat last year's success. They need to make way for the rising Vikings.
I also think that it is going to be very difficult for the Patriots to repeat last year's success. They came within a minute of the perfect season. Can they finish this year? Maybe they'll be more motivated than ever after being humiliated in the Super Bowl. More likely, I think the ball will bounce the other way for the Pats. While I tend to think they'll win the AFC East again, I also think the Jets, Bills, and Dolphins will make that a much more interesting division this year.
Another team on the rise, in my opinion is the Raiders. I've got a feeling that come December, they are going to be in the playoff conversation. I'm not sure they'll actually make it, but I think they are going to be in the 8-8 to 9-7 range as a team, which after the last few seasons for them is very respectable.
In addition to the Pats, I think the Colts are going to take a step back toward the pack this year. Last year, three of the four teams from the AFC South made the playoffs last year. It is a highly competitive division. Marvin Harrison is getting older, Peyton Manning is finally showing some wear and tear, and no one is healthy on their defense. If I had to pick today, I would take the Jags as the winners of the South with the Colts getting a Wild Card slot in the playoffs.
Finally, and most importantly, I really think this is the Browns' year to overtake the Steelers in the AFC North. They both finished 10-6 last year, but the Browns have added pieces to the puzzle while the Steelers lost players. Pro football is all about the lines. The Browns have one of - if not the - best offensive lines in the league. They also made huge upgrades to their d-line. Meanwhile, the Steelers lost Alan Fanica to free agency. Their o-line is in shambles right now. Their last game was decided by a missed last second field goal. I think the shift in line quality this year changes the outcome and favors the Browns.
Things change. And for us Browns fans, that's a very good thing.