First let me point out that I approach the NFL as a fantasy head first. This means I am stat oriented, but only the stats that score fantasy points. So do I care about the percentage of passes thrown towards a particular cornerback? No, UNLESS that cornerback is matched up against one of my fantasy WR. One thing that I have learned from fantasy football, though, is stats only take you so far. There are certain things that stats don't measure. For instance, when we talk about offensive linemen, there are no real "stats" that measure a lineman's ability to do his job. Of course, there are the QB pressure stats (i.e. how many times the QB has been touched, hurried, sacked) but if you have a QB that isn't mobile, those stats are inherently higher, whereas if you're Philly, I'm pretty sure hurries don't count for much.
The reason I bring up stats is mainly due to the Tennessee Titans claiming Randy Moss off the waiver wire. As readers of this blog may know, I am an erstwhile fan of the Titans. I say erstwhile because they refuse to pay their players. I cite Derrick Mason, Jevon Kearse, Albert Haynesworth and Steve McNair, amongst others. I wasn't surprised that they claimed Randy Moss, though because he's one of the top five WR deep threats in the NFL (if not the best) and he's only at $3 million for the rest of the season. That's a no brainer. But why is Randy Moss available as a player? If you look at his stats, you'd have to be crazy to let him go. But its what he does on the field that there are no stats for that explain why he was waived by the Vikings, and traded by the Patriots.
Randy Moss is an excellent WR, a ridiculous blend of speed, hand skills, and a knowledge of precision route running, even though, I realize most of his routes are indeed straight lines. But what Randy doesn't do is play hard. Case in point, I've personally witnessed Randy Moss, while in the Vikes uniform, give up on a play. Against the Cowboys, Brett Favre tried to force a ball to another receiver and got intercepted (surprise). The Cowboy's defender ran by Randy Moss with the ball, and Randy DID NOT tackle him. Randy didn't even try to tackle the defender. Its that attitude that gets you cut from a team. If I was a head coach, or any coach for that matter, if I saw Randy give up on a play, he'd be complaining about playing time, not how much money he was getting. And I think ultimately, that's what happened with both of his teams.
Having said all that, I'll make a bold prediction for the Titans. They will play Moss this year, and next year, when its time for a new contract, Randy will be back on the free agency market. And I don't know if there's a team that will want to take the risk of paying him more money for his version of effort.
Needless to say, its a bit early to start predicting what teams are going to the SuperBowl. But that's never stopped me before. I'm going to first say that if defense wins championships, the Steelers have the best shot in the AFC, followed by Baltimore and the Titans. Their defenses are playing spectacularly, and (for the most part) keeping them in games. The weakest of those three of course are the Titans. I like Chris Johnson, he's a running monster, and Vince Young continues to improve as a quarterback but they're not Superbowl ready. In contention in the AFC is the Patriots and the Colts, or as I like to call them, the Perennials. Saying they're in contention is like saying that Elvis and Michael Jackson both reinvented pop. Its a no-brainer. I'd be remiss to leave out the Jets and the Chiefs, both playing good football, but I don't think they are contenders.
The NFC is not quite that simple. The NFC is full of underachievers, slumbering giants that should be better than they are, yet somehow have played themselves out of contention. The best squad in the NFC is the Atlanta Falcons. They have a great defense, a smart capable young quarterback, a power running game, and most importantly they know how to win games. They know what side of the bread their butter is on, and they give you a steady dose of what they do well. I think the only teams who have a chance to stop them are the Eagles, the Saints, and quite possibly the Giants. Each of those three teams have good enough defenses and excellent quarterbacks but are lacking in several areas. The Saints are banged up at running back, and even though Reggie Bush isn't a prototypical running back he is a serious offensive weapon for the Saints and they need him back. The Eagles aren't banged up at running back, they simply don't have a "running" game, and I wonder how a team so pass happy intends to eat clock when they have to. And yes, I've seen their version of a screen. I'm not impressed. Of course, they have Michael Vick, who is finally playing up to his potential. The Giants are an excellent team, but for some reason they tend to not show up for certain games, and you never know if you're going to get a Superbowl-caliber team, or grown men playing like they belong in a Pop Warner League. Also, lets not forget the potential knock out swings from non contenders the Cowboys and the Vikes. They may not make it to the show, but if they can get their respective ships righted, they'll be poised to crush a few dreams.
So my obvious Superbowl picks are the Falcons vs the Steelers with my holy crap picks going to the Eagles or the the Giants out of the NFC and either the Chiefs or the Jets out of the AFC
An honorable mention goes to Jason Campbell and company (The Raiders). I've been rooting for this kid ever since they questioned his arm at the combine his draft year, and he responded by throwing a fifty yard pass flat footed. I don't think he's gotten a fair shake since going undefeated as a college quarterback and NOT getting a title shot. He's learned at least seven different systems and has shown his intelligence and athleticism in each of them. I hope the Raiders value him and give him some stability, because that's all he really need to be a real star quarterback in this league. Add in a monster running team and a blossoming defense and we might finally have to apologize to Al Davis for all the senility jokes. Well I might.