The start of training camp is a good time for predictions, so here is Paul Domowitch's take on which teams are going to the Super Bowl, which teams could be in for the biggest fall and his sleeper team.
Super Bowl: When you've got a score-at-will offense like the Saints have it is certainly doable for them to repeat as champions. But they can't expect their defense to force 39 turnovers and score eight touchdowns again. Those takeaways managed to offset the fact that they finished 26th against the pass and 21st against the run and allowed 23 or more points in eight of their last 12 regular-season games. They did little in the offseason to upgrade their defense.
Right here, right now, though, I'll say the Chargers and Cowboys will be playing in North Texas in February. But check back with me again next week. And the week after that.
Biggest falls: The Patriots and the Cardinals are my two prime candidates. The Patriots won the AFC East with a 10-6 record last year, but got drubbed by the Ravens in the first round of the playoffs and are in the process of retooling a defense that wasn't very good at pressuring quarterbacks last season (31 sacks).
The Cardinals are hoping Matt Leinart can replace Kurt Warner, but that's far from a sure thing. They also traded away wide receiver Anquan Boldin and lost two of their best defensive players – linebacker Karlos Dansby and safety Antrel Rolle – in free agency. Don't be surprised to see the 49ers beat them out in the NFC West.
Sleeper: The Texans. Matt Schaub is the best quarterback nobody's talking about. The West Chester product led the league in passing yards and finished fourth in completion percentage and fifth in yards per attempt last season. Andre Johnson is the league's best wideout (216 catches, 3,144 yards and 17 touchdowns over the last two seasons). They've got one of the league's best defensive front sevens.
Just two problems: They have got the toughest schedule in the league and they're in the same division as the Colts.
The Redskins have not begun negotiations with Donovan McNabb on a contract extension, general manager Bruce Allen told Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic. However, Allen said they expect McNabb to be with the team for "years to come."
"Donovan is so excited about this new opportunity -- the team has embraced him, our fans clearly have embraced him. We'll have plenty of time to get something done with him," Allen said. "We him as part of our future. We would not have made the trade unless we see it that way, and he knows it.
"He's a mature player who knows that he's gonna be paid well, but there'll be a right time. We made a great investment in trading for him and we like the guy, we really like him as a leader on this team, and the players have really accepted him. And we think he's gonna be a great Redskin for years to come."
Read more about McNabb's new home in Washington by clicking here.
COWBOYS GET GOING
The Dallas Cowboys reported to training camp in San Antonio yesterday, full of promise and optimism. The Cowboys are attempting to become the first team to play in the Super Bowl in their home stadium.
"My perspective, and just observing our staff and players and everybody involved and my own feelings is there’s just not a whole lot of things not to like about the upcoming season today," owner Jerry Jones said. "We all know the game and the journey that we’ve got ahead of us, so that’s important. Looking back at last season, all you have to take one reel back and put it up on the screen or the tape and see a disappointment in our last ballgame (Divisional Playoff loss to Minnesota) and that represents most of us and most of our work up to this point with that last ballgame, so we’ve got a lot to make amends for but that’s not all bad too.
" But where I think that I won’t be going is spending a lot of time talking about that we’re having the Super Bowl in the stadium and the expectations of playing the Super Bowl there."
Coach Wade Phillips was asked about the difference with having the expectation of winning.
“I think it’s great for your football team," he said. "It puts their focus on what is expected and it’s like being in school. What you’re expected to do is come home with a good report card but it better be what you expected. So it’s the same thing here. There is pressure to do well, and any time you have pressure to do well, I think you do better.”
Manish Mehta, the new beat Jets writer for the New York Daily News, moved into a home previously occupied by an Eagles fan. And he received a package from the Eagles yesterday.
"Previous owner of my house didn't give forwarding address.I received his Eagles season tickets in mail 2day. U can't make this stuff," Mehta wrote yesterday on his Twitter feed.
He also assures he is planning to figure out how to return them to the rightful owner.