"They are who we thought they were!"
Former head coach Dennis Green famously uttered those words after his Arizona Cardinals blew a 20-point lead and suffered a disheartening loss to the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football.
I hear that, Dennis.
I don't overreact to what I see in August, but when you have a notion early in the summer and it crystallizes in the preseason, you begin forming convictions about the fall. This is the case with the nine topics below -- my prior assumptions are coming to fruition.
It's a Schein Nine with an ode to Dennis Green: They are who we thought they were!
1) No Supe for you, Denver!
And this was before all of the injuries and off-field issues. Now I'm even more convinced: Denver is not a Super Bowl team.
Von Miller has been suspended for the first six games of the season. This is the same Von Miller I listed near the top of my Schein Nine about the most indispensable defensive players. He's an elite pass rusher. And don't forget: Denver's also missing Elvis Dumervil after the fax fiasco that shockingly made him a free agent (and eventually sent him to the Baltimore Ravens).
Meanwhile, Champ Baileysuffered a serious foot sprain in Saturday night's preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks. Colleague Ian Rapoport hears the recovery process could take several weeks. That's a huge injury, factoring in Bailey's play and leadership, plus the overall lack of depth in the defensive backfield. With the aforementioned pass-rushing questions, this is very concerning.
Miller's already a no-go for both games, but what if the Broncos have to play those two teams without Bailey, as well?
On the offensive side of the ball, Wes Welker also suffered a sprain (ankle) against Seattle. While it's not as serious as Bailey's sprain -- Welker is expected to be fine by the opener -- any time missed in developing a rapport with the meticulous Manning cannot be overlooked.
Don't get me wrong, I still think Denver wins the division. But the Broncos are closer to being a 10-win team than a juggernaut. I don't view them as a powerhouse in the AFC, let alone the NFL.
2) The defense is back in Baltimore
Terrell Suggs is healthy and primed to contend for another Defensive Player of the Year award. Dumervil looks great -- the perfect pass-rushing complement to Suggs. And veteran addition Daryl Smith looks capable at the all-important Mike linebacker spot. Not to mention, two highly regarded draft picks (safety Matt Elam and linebacker Arthur Brown) might be starting the year as backups -- a testament to Baltimore's defensive depth.
3) Philadelphia will exceed expectations
Bottom line: The Eagles are going to be better than you think. I'm all in on Kelly and will continue screaming my belief in the NFL newbie from the mountaintop.
Could Philly prove to be the best of an average bunch in the NFC East and shock the NFL world?
4) The Packers remain elite
Some folks seem to be overlooking the Packers due to injuries and attrition, but Green Bay will start the season as one of the four best teams in the NFL.
5) Detroit's still the NFC North's worst team
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And no matter how you slice it, Green Bay, Chicago and Minnesota are better.
6) Chicago hope
7) Beware Arizona
8) Brownie points! Cleveland has some offensive oomph
Secondly, Norv Turner's presence as offensive coordinator clearly benefits second-year signal-caller Brandon Weeden. Norv isn't much of a head coach, but he's a fantastic play caller and accomplished QB guru. His vertical attack plays to Weeden's strengths, as evidenced by the quarterback's stellar performance so far in the preseason. In a surprise to absolutely no one, the Browns officially named Weeden the team's Week 1 starter on Tuesday.
9) Jacksonville reeled in a big Fisch
Don't forget about Maurice Jones-Drew. He remains elite despite missing most of last season for the Jacksonville Jaguars. I talked to MJD on SiriusXM Radio last month, and he made two guarantees: 1) He would be in great health and primed for a huge year; and 2) new offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch would be the best thing to happen to him and Blaine Gabbert in years.
The eighth-year back is going to catch a lot of passes in Fisch's offense, which is very similar to a system Jones-Drew starred in at UCLA.
I'm not a Gabbert guy, but I feel compelled to mention how much Jones-Drew likes him; the running back thinks his quarterback will live up to his potential under Fisch.