Thursday, April 01, 2004

Preseason posturing
As is often the case when there is so much time between now and the start of the season, coaches are talking up their opponents while downplaying their team's chances. From today's Cincinnati Enquirer:
"They're defending champions and have pretty much everyone coming back," Steelers coach Bill Cowher said of the Ravens during the league's annual meeting here. "Cincinnati's much improved from a year ago, and I think Cleveland's going to rebound. And I think we will be very competitive."
The story went on to conjecture that all four teams in the AFC North might have different starting QBs in 2004 than finished 2003:

"Carson Palmer will take over for Jon Kitna with the Bengals. Jeff Garcia will be the Browns' starter, and former No. 1 overall draft pick Tim Couch is likely to be traded or released. In Pittsburgh, Charlie Batch might challenge Tommy Maddox, and the Steelers are considering N.C. State's Philip Rivers if he drops to No. 11 in the draft. Kyle Boller, returning from a leg injury, has been reinstated as the Ravens' starter ahead of Anthony Wright."
I buy Palmer, Garcia and Boller. And it wouldn't be totally out of left field to see Batch get some playing time. But I hope Philip Rivers doesn't sniff the field only because I don't want the Steelers to take him (see here and here) unless he's available much later in the draft.

Here was Marvin Lewis's take:
"Baltimore is the division champ; I think they have to be the favorite," Lewis said. "Cleveland has tried to spark its team offensively with the people they've added. Pittsburgh, adding (running back) Duce Staley, gives them another weapon (with) getting Jerome back. They're a team that's very prideful and they'll come back energized."
Personally, I think the Bengals will be better (more because of Lewis and less because of new personnel), the Browns will struggle (even with Garcia), the Ravens will struggle if Jamal Lewis has continued legal problems, if they don't get a big-time receiver in the draft and if Boller comes along slower than expected. If the Steelers can get some help and CB and OL they should rebound from a 6-10 season. We'll also see if Tommy can put together a solid season with help up front and in the backfield.