The Bears’ road to Super Bowl XLI

arizona-super-bowlPro bowl beckons Bears fans will not have to wait for Monday night’s game at Arizona to start choosing their favorites for the Pro Bowl. Balloting for the Pro Bowl begins Monday on The fan voting counts one-third in the process with players and coaches also getting their say. It was the player and coach votes that helped out some Bears last season when six were chosen for the game, the most for the franchise since six were selected in 1991.

Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher and center Olin Kreutz have been chosen to five Pro Bowls, and both should extend that this season if they stay healthy.

Also selected last season were defensive tackle Tommie Harris, linebacker Lance Briggs, cornerback Nathan Vasher and strong safety Mike Brown, all chosen for their first time. Harris, Briggs and Vasher were the only ones who played (injuries sidelined the others).

The franchise record for Pro Bowl players is nine following the victory in Super Bowl XX.

1985 Flashback

sexy 49ers girlDitka praises Niners With the Bears unbeaten in five games and bracing for an Oct. 13 date at defending Super Bowl champion San Francisco, coach Mike Ditka heaped the requisite respect on the 49ers (3-2), saying, ‘’They’re still the best team in football.’’

Ditka cautioned against unrealistically high expectations.

‘’We’re approaching to where the 49ers were a year or two ago when they were making their move,’’ Ditka said. ‘’But I don’t think you are champion until you are. Period. And they are. They wear the crown, the mantle of success.’’

Halliburton lawsuit lists Super Bowl party
A lawsuit filed in Washington claims U.S. taxpayers funded a big screen TV and snacks that Halliburton Co. sent to Iraq for the 2005 Super Bowl.The lawsuit filed by a former Halliburton employee also alleged the Houston-based company defrauded the government by double- and triple-billing for Internet, food and athletic services provided for U.S. soldiers, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.

Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl OddsHalliburton officials said the actions by KBR, its division responsible for the military mess halls in Iraq, were misinterpreted. The company said all of its Super Bowl activities were covered under recreation and troop morale boosting clauses in its contract.

The suit, the latest salvo involving Halliburton`s contentious multibillion-dollar services contract, was filed under the False Claims Act, designed to prevent war profiteering by allowing citizens to sue on behalf of the government and recover a portion of damages.

Halliburton was run by Vice President Dick Cheney from 1995-2000.

Janet Jackson repeats Super Bowl antics
As if flashing the 2004 Super Bowl halftime audience weren’t enough, singer Janet Jackson has appeared bare-breasted in her latest music video.Jackson, whose infamous “wardrobe malfunction” while performing with Justin Timberlake during Super Bowl XXVIII two ago led to Federal Communications Commission fines, bared her breasts in her video for the single “So Excited,” said Monday.

Why did she do it?

Jackson told Giant magazine that one of her famous brothers used to tease her as a child, saying “he thought my butt was too big,” said.

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Jaguars blanked Super Bowl champions

Jacksonville Jaguars Super Bowl OddsFor four quarters, they slugged it out.The defending Super Bowl champs and the team that plays in that city that hosted the Super Bowl . . . once.

It was a game of big hits, not big plays . . . save for Reggie Williams’ career-long 48-yard fourth-quarter reception.

And after the Jacksonville Jaguars came away with a 9-0 victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers on “Monday Night Football,” it’s a safe bet they’re on the national radar now.

“That’s exactly what we wanted to do,” Jacksonville defensive tackle Marcus Stroud said. “We wanted to go out and show the entire nation that hey, we’ve got good football down here.”

It was the lowest-scoring game in “Monday Night Football” history, edging out Oakland’s 9-3 win against Denver in 1980. It was also just the fifth time a defending Super Bowl champion has been shut out — the first time since the 1981 Oakland Raiders.

hines ward super bowl mvpJosh Scobee’s field goals from 31, 32 and 42 yards proved to be the difference maker for the Jaguars, who now boast two nationally-televised wins over a pair of teams — Pittsburgh and the Dallas Cowboys — that own 10 Super Bowl titles between them.

However, there is no question which performance was more impressive.

Jacksonville held the Steelers to just 153 yards of total offense, including just 26 on the ground. That’s the lowest rushing total by a Pittsburgh team since Bill Cowher took over as head coach in 1992.

It was also the Jaguars’ first shutout since Dec. 7, 2003, when they beat Houston 27-0.

Pittsburgh, coming off a victory last week against Miami, had starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger back for the first time since he underwent an emergency appendectomy 15 days earlier.

super bowl betsAnd through three quarters, the Jaguars held the defending Super Bowl champions to just 91 yards of total offense. Pittsburgh ran only three plays in Jacksonville’s territory and never crossed the Jaguars 45-yard line.

“That’s the best,” defensive tackle John Henderson said. “That’s how you want your defense to come out every Sunday, every Monday, every Thursday — whichever day it is.

“You want to come out and just give it all you’ve got, every man doing their job.”

Jacksonville only sacked Roethlisberger twice, but the Jaguars hit him so often the Steelers quarterback appeared to be flinching on some throws, expecting to take another shot on every throw. Roethlisberger completed 17 of 32 throws for just 141 yards. He was intercepted twice by Jacksonville cornerback Rashean Mathis.

Pittsburgh running back Willie Parker, who rushed for 115 yards on 29 carries against the Dolphins, found no running room against Jacksonville. He finished with 20 yards on 11 attempts.

NFL-sports-bettingAnd while the Steelers are known as big hitters — a fact they backed up Monday night — Jacksonville defenders repeatedly hit Pittsburgh receivers, knocking would-be pass receptions loose.

Was that the best Henderson has seen the Jaguars defense play?

“Man . . . I mean . . . wow, yes sir,” Henderson said with a big toothy grin. “I gotta say yes. We’re going to get many more, but that was the best.”

Jacksonville’s offense may not have found the end zone, but the Jaguars were able to move the ball on Pittsburgh enough so that when they did have to punt, they were able to pin the Steelers deep in their own territory and force Pittsburgh to go on a long drive.

Running back Fred Taylor, who has always played well against the Steelers, didn’t disappoint Monday night. He gained 92 yards on 22 carries, while quarterback Byron Leftwich completed 26 of 39 passes for 260 yards.

jacksonville-jaguars-prop-betsLeftwich’s biggest pass of the night came on third-and-6 from the Pittsburgh 32-yard line, when he hit wide receiver Matt Jones along the left sideline for a 13-yard gain.

The play not only gave the Jaguars a first down, but it made Scobee’s eventual 31-yard field goal try much shorter.

Another third-down pass in the fourth quarter — this one on third-and-5 from Jacksonville’s own 13-yard line — went for 10 yards to tight end George Wrightster.

It was on that same drive that Williams would later make his big play, with help from running back Maurice Jones-Drew — who picked up blitzing safety Troy Polamalu — and wide receiver Matt Jones, who delivered a block on Steelers cornerback Deshea Townsend that sprung Williams for the big gain to the Pittsburgh 15.

Scobee finished the drive with a 32-yard field goal with 6 minutes, 15 seconds remaining.

jacksonville-jaguars-roarWilliams, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2004 draft, had been labeled a bust in Jacksonville following two unproductive seasons.

However, after catching a career-best six passes against Dallas — including the second touchdown reception of his career — Williams had another big night against the Steelers. He caught eight passes for 98 yards.

And with the Steelers trying to mount a late drive, Mathis got inside of Pittsburgh receiver Santonio Holmes for an interception with 4:53 remaining that set Jacksonville up at the Pittsburgh 29-yard line.

Scobee then put the Steelers in a big hole with a 42-yard field goal that made it a two-score game.

Another Mathis interception was returned to the Pittsburgh 2-yard line with less than two minutes remaining, but rather than try to punch it in and risk a turnover, Leftwich kneeled three times to run the clock out.

pittsburgh-steelers-super-bowl-bettingJacksonville (2-0), which has thrived on playing the underdog role, will likely be in the same situation next week against the Indianapolis Colts (2-0). But if they can get that one, the Jaguars won’t be able to play that card anymore.

Not that they would really mind.

The only thing they really had a problem with Monday night was that they wouldn’t be able to savor it very long. Coach Jack Del Rio has a 24-hour rule for his team to think about any game — win or lose — and then there’s Peyton Manning to get ready for.

“It’s too bad you only have 24 hours,” safety Donovin Darius said. “And it’s too bad it’s 12 o’clock right now. You’ve got to go home and you’re supposed to go to sleep. I won’t go to sleep until 5 in the morning.”

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Updated Super Bowl Odds

super bowl betsAfter Week 2 of the NFL games, the latest odds to win the 2007 Super Bowl have now been released with some big movements from earlier released odds.

The Indianapolis Colts remain the favorite to win the 2007 Super Bowl at 5 to 1 odds followed closely by the New England Patriots at 6 to 1 odds.

Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Bengals have leapfrogged out of double digit numbers with odds of winning the 2007 Super Bowl set at 8 to 1.

Carolina Panthers go in the opposite direction with odds of 16 to 1 from single digits previously as do the Dallas Cowboys with odds now set at 14 to 1.

How about those Baltimore Ravens? You can still get this team at double digit odds to win the 2007 Super Bowl. has the Ravens at 15 to 1 odds.

Chicago is another hot team you might want to jump on now with odds at 10 to 1 to win the 2007 Super Bowl. You can bet $100 to win $1000 if the Bears go all the way.

seahawks-win-super-bowl-oddsThe Miami Dolphins were now listed with odds of 50 to 1 to become Super Bowl champions in 2007. With a 0-2 start (including a near shut out at home vs. the Buffalo Bills), the Dolphins were previously listed among the top 10 teams with the best odds of winning.

Seattle Seahawks odds were at 13 to 2. San Diego Chargers had odds of 12 to 1. Minnesota had odds of 25 to 1 after an impressive 2-0 start verses two solid teams. New Orleans with its 2-0 start on the road had 75 to 1 odds of winning the 2007 Super Bowl. Atlanta had odds of 25 to 1. Buffalo was looking good early on with odds of 75 to 1 of winning the 2007 Super Bowl.

Following Monday Night’s game, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars odds to win the 2007 Super Bowl were not updated. Jacksonville’s odds were expected to still have great value.

You can find all these future bets on which teams will win the 2015 Super Bowl at right here!

dallas-cowboys-super-bowl-betsThe Dallas Cowboys 2007 Super Bowl odds continue to get worse following the reported suicide attempt of controversial receiver Terrell Owens.

According to reports, Owens tried to kill himself by overdosing on pain medication, even putting two more pills into his mouth after a friend intervened, according to a police report obtained Wednesday.

The report said TO was asked by rescue workers if he was attempting to harm himself or others, at which time he stated, “Hell Yes”.

Dallas-Cowboys-Super-Bowl-OddsThe Dallas police report said the 32-year-old Owens told his friend “that he was depressed.” Details of the police report were first reported by WFAA-TV. Police scheduled a news conference for later Wednesday morning. A spokesperson for Owens denied he had tried to
commit suicide, instead claiming that the NFL star had mixed pain killers with other supplements by accident.

In response to the news, bookmaker gave the Cowboys longer odds of winning a 2007 Super Bowl championship, now listing them with odds of 20-1.

Odds of Dallas winning a Super Bowl title were previously listed with near single digits.

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Changing Super Bowl Odds and Opinions

What others think when it comes to the Steelers successfully defending their Super Bowl XL championship

Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl Odds“Parity? It’s overrated. In 2006, the Steelers stand out among the few teams that have discovered the necessary elements to remain elite in the salary-cap era. And they’ll prove their mettle again — with the first ring for the other hand.”

- The Sporting News

“Pittsburgh looks every bit as loaded as the 2004 team that went 15-1 before losing in the AFC title game to the Patriots, and the ‘05 squad, which became the first No. 6 seed to win it all.”

- Sports Illustrated

Addendum: Despite the seeming rave review, SI still doesn’t pick the Steelers to repeat. Instead, it predicts they will lose to eventual Super Bowl champion Miami in the first round of the playoffs.

Steelers Super Bowl Odds“When analyzing the Steelers by position, there are not many areas of concern, but now the Steelers are the hunted and face a brutal schedule. Repeating will not be easy.”


“Now in his third season, [Ben] Roethlisberger is poised to have his welcome-to-the-elite-level season. That’s why the Steelers are not only the choice to win the division, but also to push for consecutive Super Bowl rings.”


“The AFC is too talented for the Steelers to stay on top, even with Roethlisberger.”

Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune


Chicago are fast emerging as a genuine championship contender after maintaining their unbeaten start to the season with a 37-6 thrashing of Seattle Seahawks.

Betting on the Chicago BearsIt was the Bears who were the headline selection of this website before week 1 when they were recommended at a massive 25/1.

Those odds have now disappeared with 7/1 the going rate. Seattle are still thought to be in the mix at 15/2, although Shaun Alexander can’t return quick enough from his broken foot.

The Bears defence were in dominating form to shutdown the Seahawks’ attack, limiting running back Maurice Morris to just 35 yards, sacking quarterback Matt Hasselbeck five times and grabbing two interceptions, one leading to a Daniel Manning touchdown in the second quarter. And all this after Hasselbeck had thrown five TD passes last Sunday against New York Giants.

The Bears led 13-3 midway through the second term courtesy of a Mushin Muhammad touchdown and two field goals from Robbie Gould before Manning’s 10-yard interception return gave the home team a dominant 19-3 lead. Thomas Jones rushed for two short touchdowns to further sink the Seahawks as the Bears emerged as the front runners in the NFC. Seattle haven’t been totally dismissed in the betting with one firm making them third most likely to win Super Bowl.

DaBears ChicagoInfact the three ante-post Super Bowl selections are 1-2-3 in the betting. With Buffalo, Arizona (a), bye, San Francisco and Miami next up for the Bears, it is not impossible they could overtake the Colts in the betting by the midpoint of the season. The Colts have a tricky period coming up with Washington, Denver and New England, the latter two games road trips.

Baltimore are worth keeping a close eye on as they kept their winning-start going after a come-from-behind victory. Steve McNair threw a 10-yard touchdown pass for Todd Heap in the last minute of the game to give the Ravens a late 16-13 win over the San Diego Chargers. Baltimore are as short as 10/1 for Super Bowl.

football money

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ESPN picks the Indianapolis Colts to win the Super Bowl

colts super bowl ringESPN’s Mike Golic was in town Thursday requesting support for his latest NFL prediction.

Golic has gone on record — with nary a regular-season game played, mind you, forecasting a Super Bowl win for the Indianapolis Colts.

Golic, who is half of the “Mike and Mike in the Morning” show, makes no secret of his admiration for the team. He has a bona fide Hoosier connection, having played football for Notre Dame before moving on to a nine-year career in the NFL, playing in Houston, Philadelphia and Miami.

Indianapolis Colts Super Bowl OddsGolic said he’s known quarterback Peyton Manning for years and considers the Colts organization a classy group. That said, Golic is tired of being wrong. He picked the Colts to win the championship the past two years and he really, really doesn’t want to be wrong a third time around.

“If you don’t want to do it for yourselves, do it for me,” he joked during the team’s 2006 Kickoff Luncheon at the Westin Hotel.

Golic’s slimmed-down appearance on stage did not go unnoticed. He’s downright svelte, having lost about 25 pounds recently.

Good Fantasy Football Sites

Fantasy football had become an impostant part to betting on the nfl. Here our some of our favorite sites:

super-bowl-sports-bettingFor leagues : Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Football – Probably the best free fantasy site on the net.

Fantasy Football Cafe : A forum with a lot of fantasy news and opinions from it’s members. This site has been around for over 10 years, and has some of the most knowledgeable fantasy football players around.

Fantasy Football Toolbox : Free fantasy football site with cheat sheets, tips, sleepers, mock draft results, information, rankings and who to start advice.

FFBookmarks : Fantasy Football Bookmarks is the only bookmark you need for fantasy football information.

Good Luck!

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Where getting closer to the 2015 Super Bowl

Troy Polamalu Super Bowl TacklePhew.That sure was a long seven months.

And while the start of football season isn’t exactly Christmas morning, it’s close.

Not that I’ve been crossing off the days on a Troy Polamalu calendar tacked up next to the bed or anything.

Just kind of keeping track in my head is all.

Now, I certainly don’t mean to suggest that life is utterly devoid of meaning without football. But Sundays just don’t feel quite right without the NFL in your life. There’s simply no substitute for the sort of spiritual renewal one experiences after spending 10 straight hours locked in the house watching football.

They don’t call it the Hail Mary for nothing, you know.

Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl OddsBecause football season is a time for hope. It is a time for new beginnings. In many ways, it is like springtime.

Except that it’s fall.

But nevertheless.

And the dawn of a new football season is also, lest we forget, a time when the humiliation of last year’s disastrous fantasy-league showing can be put behind us, and the potential for fantasy immortality can be embraced. There’s nothing like watching a championship season unfold as a masterfully constructed fantasy roster begins hitting on all cylinders.

At least until your starting quarterback breaks his collarbone in Week Two.

At which point it feels an awful lot like a death in the family.

Naturally, we’ve all spent much of the past 203 days futilely attempting to fill the void, desperately trying to fool ourselves into believing there are other things in life worthy of our attention.

hines ward super bowl mvpThe Winter Olympics.

The World Cup.

That whole Hezbollah-Israel situation.

But deep down inside, we knew what really mattered:

Whether Willie Parker can get it done on fourth-and-goal from the 2.

And now it’s time to find out.

That’s the beautiful thing about football season. It’s an unscripted weekly drama that will not be resolved until sometime after New Year’s. And it demands our complete and undivided attention.

pittsburgh-steelers-super-bowl-bettingWhich is why all household projects have been postponed until further notice, incidentally.

Indeed, week after week, for the next five months, football will be there to buoy our spirits through the difficult times that surely lie ahead.

A welcome distraction from the gas bill. A legitimate excuse to cut out of church early.

And you say there are 2 feet of snow headed this way?


Just the way the Steelers like it.

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Lions coach suspended an other NFL notes

DetroitLionsNFLThe Detroit Lions suspended their coach Troy Lakes for their home opener against the Denver Broncos due to his 4 recent DUI arrests. Considering everything happening in the league right now, this is probably the right call.

Officer “trapped”: An off-duty police officer inadvertently was “trapped” in a suburban cul-de-sac without backup before he shot San Diego Chargers linebacker Steve Foley, a prosecutor said.

Aaron Mansker, an officer with the Coronado Police Department, had decided to drop his pursuit because no other officers responded to his calls for help, but found himself blocked Sunday morning in the dead-end street where Foley lives, said San Diego County Deputy District Attorney Jim Koerber.

detroit lions super bowl oddsMansker was on his way home from a shift when he spotted a suspected drunken driver on the freeway weaving through traffic at speeds up to 90 mph.

Koerber’s account came during an arraignment hearing for Lisa Maree Gaut, 25, who was a passenger in Foley’s restored 1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme.

Gaut pleaded not guilty to charges of driving under the influence of alcohol and assaulting a police officer. She faces up to five years in prison if convicted of all charges. Superior Court Judge David Szumowski ordered her held in custody in lieu of $35,000 bail.

The shooting occurred after Foley got out of the car near his home in Poway and began walking toward Mansker, who said he was armed and fired a warning shot, according to a sheriff’s department report.

Detroit-Lions-Super-Bowl-Bets“At this time, the officer was trapped,” Koerber told the judge.

There was no update Thursday on Foley’s condition. Earlier in the week, his agent, David Levine, said Foley was hospitalized in stable condition after undergoing surgery.

Smith out: Carolina Panthers All-Pro receiver Steve Smith missed practice again and remains questionable for the season opener against Atlanta.

Smith was limited to 10 practices in the preseason because of a strained left hamstring and an ingrown toenail that required stitches. He did not play in any of Carolina’s four preseason games.

Smith then tweaked his right hamstring in practice Tuesday and was held out of Wednesday’s workout.New-England-Patriots-CheerleadersBruschi returns: Tedy Bruschi returned to practice about one month after having surgery on his broken wrist and three days before the New England Patriots begin their season.

The inside linebacker, who broke his wrist on the fourth day of training camp July 31, was listed on the team’s injury report as questionable for Sunday’s home game against the Buffalo Bills.

Hill questionable: Seattle Seahawks starting outside linebacker Leroy Hill was added to the team’s injury list as questionable for Sunday’s season opener at Detroit.

Hill, who set a Seattle rookie record with betting on football71/2 sacks last year, injured his left shoulder early in Wednesday’s full- pads practice. D.D. Lewis would start against the Lions if Hill does not.

Lewis, an undrafted free agent signed in 2002, started 12 games last season before Hill’s emergence.

Stroud joins Peterson: Jacksonville could be without two of their top defensive players in the season opener against Dallas. Pro Bowl defensive tackle Marcus Stroud sprained his right ankle in practice and linebacker Mike Peterson returned to practice, but said he wouldn’t know how his injured right knee reacted to drills until today.

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DA still plans charges in Super Bowl gambling case

super bowl snacksOutagamie County Dist. Atty. Carrie Schneider said she still plans to issue charges stemming from a $100,000 Super Bowl betting pool at Grand Chute supper club in 2005.

Schneider said she is waiting to discuss the case with state Department of Justice officials who originally investigated the case.

Justice Department officials told The Post-Crescent a year ago the case had been referred to Outagamie County for prosecution.

“We’re still looking into it. We are still working with the (attorney general’s) office on some issues with it,” Schneider said.

super-bowl-sports-betting“Some of their people have been off or we’ve been gone at different times so we haven’t had a chance to meet or go through some of the facts in the case.”

Schneider said in January that she was working on charges against three people that could come soon.

On Feb. 3, 2005, agents from the state Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation seized more than $100,000 in cash from the Legacy Supper Club, 5334 N. Richmond St. They said they thought the money had come from bets placed on a Super Bowl wagering board.

Numerous records were seized, including copies of a betting sheet that listed 100 betting squares that investigators say sold for $1,000 a square. Investigators say the payout would have been $95,000 with $5,000 going to the house.

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Super Bowl lineman Ashworth getting lost in Seattle shuffle

seahawks-super-bowl-bettingPerhaps the expectations surrounding Tom Ashworth grew from circumstance and timing.The veteran offensive lineman, with a Super Bowl ring in tow, signed with the Seattle Seahawks just days after they lost All-Pro offensive guard Steve Hutchinson to the Minnesota Vikings. With his ability to play both offensive guard and tackle, it was assumed that Ashworth would be among those challenging to take Hutchinson’s spot along Seattle’s stout offensive line.

Fast-forward five months. Ashworth spends most of training camp practice as a backup, sometimes serving on the scout team. He doesn’t like talking to the media, but speaks politely about his new team, even though he’s gone from a starter protecting Tom Brady in New England, to a backup with Seattle.

“They’re the coaches. They’re going to put the guys in the position they feel best helps the team,” Ashworth said. “Wherever they see fit, for me, that’s what it’s going to be.”


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Dolphins are a year away from even thinking Super Bowl

sexy-miami-dolphin-fanFor years about this time, in these same pages, some quote from the Dolphins’ offseason would be dredged up to be the flag-bearer for the team. It was a tradition. You get the idea reading them now that they were some sort of joke, a running gag, especially when Dave Wannstedt would insist every winter, “We’re close.”

Then there was Jimmy Johnson, in 1999, saying, how his team could be “something special.” That got repeated, what, 10,672 times?

Even Don Shula, in a fit of boldspeak for him in 1995, said, “We’ve filled all our holes.”

There’s no need to go chapter and verse into the disappointing endings to all that optimism. It’s just good to look back and see how it went wrong, in so many years, especially on the edge of this season as Dolphins fans embark on a newer (and coach-inspired quieter) brand of optimism.

miami dophins super bowl oddsIt’s so quiet in Year Two of Nick Saban you can hear the Dolphins’ fear of the Patriots drop. And with good reason. These Dolphins will be a good team — 10-6 sounds right — but remain another offseason away from even thinking Super Bowl.

This is the year the Dolphins should squeeze into the playoffs. They should play with and, if everything breaks right, be able to catch New England in the AFC East.

Sure, optimism is an affliction around most teams right now, starting with Philadelphia because Terrell Owens is gone and Dallas because Terrell Owens is there. Oakland feels good with a coach who hasn’t been around this millennium in Art Shell. Go down the list. Everyone feels good. Most teams have a chance.

But the Dolphins’ optimism isn’t based on feel-good intangibles like confidence, leadership and we’re-close hope. Look at the tangibles.

Miami-Dolphins-Super-Bowl-CheerleaderIf last year showed the Dolphins aren’t lost in the wilderness anymore, this is the year where it’s OK to believe good things are coming and here are five reasons why:

1. Daunte Culpepper is here and healthy. Obvious, right? He has questions to answer, namely whether he can thrive without receiver Randy Moss. But two years ago he was a Pro Bowl player throwing for 5,000 yards and so, for the first time since Dan Marino, the Dolphins have a star-quality quarterback. Enough said.

2. The schedule. This is a godsend. Eight games are against teams that drafted in the top 10 and had no better than a 6-10 record. There are no West Coast games, only one cold-weather game (at Buffalo on Dec. 17) and an AFC East where the Bills and Jets are in first-year rebuilding phases. Plus there’s …

3. New England. Its lost too much to win the Super Bowl. Yes, that’s been said before. And, yes, of all teams, the Dolphins shouldn’t be thinking this considering the Patriots had just 11 regular starters last year and still won in Dolphin Stadium.

But the salary-capped, parity-driven league has caught up to the Patriots to the point they’re nearly an even match for the Dolphins right now. Their coaching staff has been raided. Another round of veterans, like Willie McGinest, are gone. They even made a rare front-office mistake by losing kicker Adam Vinatieri to the direct-rival Colts in free agency.
Bill Belichick still has the proven system. But …

miami dolphins body paint“You’ve got to have great players to play in that system,” McGinest told the San Diego Union-Tribune during training camp. “I think we kind of found that out last year. The system was great, but it couldn’t save us. Some of the guys coming in were terrible.

“Duane Starks, he came in and played like trash. He was terrible. We had other guys coming in that couldn’t fill those shoes of some of those guys that had been there for years and were your core guys.”

4. The Dolphins’ secondary. Yes, the secondary. It’s a question, especially with so many cornerbacks hurt in the preseason. But let’s look back a year for perspective. The questions then included fourth-round rookie Travis Daniels, late-free-agent signee Lance Schulters and the infamous Reggie Howard. Yet the secondary wasn’t a glaring problem. With additions of top pick Jason Allen and veteran Will Allen, can this year be any worse?

5. Six straight wins to close last year. An NFL general manager was asked this winter what that meant. “It means it took eight games for Saban to impress his style on the team. He held it together. Now we’ll see where he takes it.”

That sounds about right. Their offensive line and overall depth suggests they’re still a season from contending. Their offseason steps tell of a team on the rise.

Saban, quietly, with no measuring-stick quotes, merits optimism by marching in the Right Direction.


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