Just a small blurb here while I tie up some things at work and continue writing a piece on Mewelde Moore:
Peter King has ranked all 32 teams in his latest MMQ column. New England and Indy, #1 and #2, followed by Jacksonville, Dallas and San Diego to round out the top 5. I'm intrigued by his high regard for Jacksonville, and similarly with Carolina, who he put in his top 10.
Guess who else earned a spot in his top 10. The Cleveland Browns!
How can a draftless team improve? Because this team had its draft in free-agency. A couple of things worry me, as they should every Browns fan. Will Shaun Rogers be a player for half the season and an unproductive blob the other half? I don't know. And will Kellen Winslow hold out or do something Chad Johnson-ish to ruin the great karma of the NFL's new national TV darlings?
This team has five prime-time games for the first time since Paul Brown prowled the sidelines and Jim Brown was a runner, not a protester. "I think our guys will like it,'' said GM Phil Savage. "I think they'll take to the challenge.''
Nice words and maybe even true ones. But Cleveland's opponents -- like Dallas on opening day -- will think they're going to have to play really well to beat the Browns. In other words, Cleveland's not going to catch anyone by surprise. The pressure's on. I think leader types such as Willie McGinest and Jamal Lewis, who have been there before, will help keep heads on straight.
Pittsburgh trails only slightly in King's mind. At number 12, he had this to say about the team:
This has nothing to do with the toughest schedule any of us has ever seen -- all 10 non-division foes were .500 or better last year -- because if it did, the Steelers would be slightly lower. I worry about the Pittsburgh offensive line, and I worry about the pass-rush. Both areas broke down while the Steelers lost four of their last five (two to Jacksonville at home) in the last month of the season.
But I think they'll be at least as good as they were last year, all things considered. Ben Roethlisberger (32-to-11 touchdown-to-interception differential) was terrific last year, and he could be better with a big target, rookie Limas Sweed, roaming down the seam on third downs. And a Parker-Mendenhall-Davenport rushing trifecta means the Steelers should have a run-pass percentage more like 55-45 than the 51-49 of 2007. A dominant running game has always been a Steelers staple, and it has to return for Pittsburgh to control the ball against the best teams in the league, most of whom the Steelers will face this year.
Not a terrible assesment in such limited space, but there's several likely errors in his prognosis:
1) Davenport will surely be playing somewhere besides Pittsburgh won't he?
2) I'm not so sure we'll try to run the ball much more this year. Maybe a bit more to accommodate our two #1-type RBs.
3) I know it's nice to dream about Limas Sweed being a difference maker this year, but in all likelihood, that won't be the case. Instead, why don't we find a way to get Heath Miller the ball more in the seam? By the way, having seen Sweed play lots, his value is along the sidelines anyway, at least more so than over the middle and in the windows between LBs and Safeties
Anyway, as we've discussed, the prospect of a renewed rivalry between the Browns and Steelers would likely be welcomed by both fanbases. Count Peter King amongst the growing legion of columnists that believe the Browns are the best in the AFC North. I'm not buying it just yet.