Feist Facts by Jim Feist | The pro football season kicks off this week when the Redskins travel to the Giants to battle the defending champs. The AFC had won eight of the last 10 Super Bowls before the Giants took the title in February. Here’s a look at some of the best of the NFL:
Steelers (10-7 SU, 9-8 ATS in 2007): The Steelers had a strange season under first-year coach 36-year old Mike Tomlin. They were dominant at home (7-2 SU, 6-3 ATS) allowing 13.8 ppg, but 3-5 SU/ATS on the road. He is just the third coach for the Steelers in 38 years.
Still, this team is very talented, No. 1 in total defense, and looks strong for 2008. Pittsburgh already had a talented offense, ranked 17th overall (third in rushing) and adds RB Rashard Mendenhall (Illinois) and WR Limas Sweed (Texas). The powerful Mendenhall will provide an outstanding 1-2 backfield punch with speedy Willie Parker. Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl just three years ago and is a strong 21-13 SU, 19-15 ATS on the road the last four years.
Chargers (14-6 SU/ATS): One of the deepest, most talented teams in the league. They’ve won 14 games in each of the last two seasons, and last year reached the AFC Championship game. Norv Turner tried to open up the offense more, but the play-calling at times was erratic and San Diego finished 20th in total offense, seventh in rushing.
A year under his system should help, and it doesn’t hurt to have talents like QB Phillip Rivers, WR Vincent Jackson, TE Antonio Gates and RB LaDainian Tomlinson (1,474 yards, 15 TDs). Ted Cottrell begins his second year as defensive coordinator. San Diego became more of a blitzing team as they won at Indy in the playoffs, then picked off Tom Brady three times in the AFC title game. San Diego is 21-13 SU, 22-10-2 ATS on the road the last four seasons!
Cowboys (13-4 SU, 9-8 ATS): Bill Parcells certainly left the Cowboys in great shape. They were the best team in the NFC during the regular season, then had a crushing playoff flop at home to the eventual champion Giants, 21-17. Second-year head coach Wade Phillips has a talented team and adds CB Adam "Pac Man" Jones, LB Zach Thomas and two first round picks, RB Felix Jones (Arkansas) and CB Mike Jenkins (South Florida).
Young QB Tony Romo passed for 4,211 yards, 36 TDs and 19 picks. The linebackers are loaded, with DeMarcus Ware, Bradie James, Akin Ayodele, Bobby Carpenter and Greg Ellis. Ware was a beast with 14 sacks and 27 quarterback pressures. Big ‘D’ looks loaded.
Colts (13-4 SU, 8-9 ATS): It was a strange season for the defending champs. They went 13-3 in the regular season despite a ton of injuries. The Colts were third in total defense and fifth in offense, yet got bounced in the playoffs by banged-up San Diego. The Colts are still a force to be reckoned with and move into a new facility, Lucas Oil Stadium.
QB Peyton Manning threw for 4,040 yards, 31 TDs, 14 picks despite playing most of the year without injured WR Marvin Harrison. The defense has some depth issues on the line, but it’s a unit predicated on speed and led by defensive MVP safety Bob Sanders. The Colts became the first in NFL history to win at least 12 games in five consecutive seasons.
Saints (7-9 SU, 7-9 ATS): The roller coaster Saints have gone 3-13, 11-7 and 7-9 the last three seasons. The 11-7 record was good enough to reach the NFC Championship game. QB Drew Brees (28 TDs, 18 picks, 4,423 yards), RB Reggie Bush and WR Marques Colston lead a high-powered offense that was No. 1 in the NFL in 2006 and No. 4 last season.
The defense receives an overhaul. The Saints moved up in the draft to take USC nose tackle Sedrick Ellis with the No. 7 pick, along with DT DeMario Pressley (fifth round). Rookie CB Tracy Porter and free agent CB Randal Gay were added to improve a terrible secondary. The hope is CB Mike McKenzie will be able to return from a torn ACL. The Saints are 13-20 SU, 10-22 ATS at home the last three seasons, but 10-7 SU, 11-6 ATS on the road.
Pats (18-1 SU, 10-9 ATS): The Pats are the only 18-1 team that ended the season with a loss. The dynamic, record-setting offense is back behind Tom Brady (50 TDs, 8 INTs), WR Randy Moss and Wes Welker. The defense had a fine 2007 ranking fourth overall.
Rookie LB Jerod Mayo was added with the 10th pick in the draft from Tennessee, a guy who is smart and hard working. The only real potential weaknesses are a secondary that has a lot of new faces, plus an offensive line that was banged up in preseason.