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Predicting worst teams not easy business

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Posted July 30, 2012 @ 3:12 p.m. ET
By Eric Edholm

The question I hear more often than not these days, as it relates to work, is “Who ya got in the Super Bowl?”

Still deliberating, folks …

I like to watch preseason to firm up my picks. Yes, the Rams were 4-0 last preseason. But I prefer seeing the teams before I make Super Bowl selections.

Funny enough, I usually feel like I know which teams are the worst by now. Last-place teams matter, too. Their fans will be peppering my inbox with draft questions in no time. And it would stand to reason that watching them would be just as important as seeing the good ones.

I haven’t been as proficient at it in recent years as I thought I would be. A high school coach once eloquently told me that “It’s easier to smell (feces) than roses,” and I guess I took him at face value. Might be time to reconsider my quick-pick strategy.

In 2010, I thought the Bills were without doubt the worst thing going. They finished 4-12, tied for the second-worst mark in the league after the Panthers. The Stink Meter was pretty well calibrated that year.

But last season, I was convinced the Bengals, Broncos, Panthers and Titans were your bottom four, especially those wretched Bengals, and ranked them accordingly. The Bengals edged out the Titans for the playoffs, the Broncos won the AFC West and beat the Steelers in the playoffs and the Panthers were exciting, only being outscored by 23 points despite a 6-10 record.

Um, oops.

Tough call this season. Part of me says the Browns still stink. But adding QB and RB talent will help, and they did have — bar-bet material — the fifth-best scoring “D” a year ago.

The Rams lost 14 games and were outscored by a ridiculous 214 points. They went 0-6 in the NFC West, for crying out loud. But enter Jeff Fisher and a lot of new parts on defense, and, my goodness, Sam Bradford has to be better, right?

The Colts are B-A-D bad, but they have Andrew Luck. Ditto the Redskins, with RG3 (and more talent than Indy). The Dolphins have no QB, but the defense is respectable and they finished last season strong. The Bucs have the feel of a team  we’ll be touting as one to watch a year from now, a la the Panthers entering this season. I hate that Maurice Jones-Drew is holding out, but I am not ready to bury the Jags yet.

That leaves me with the Raiders and Vikings as my candidates for the worst teams, but are they that terrible?

A million things went wrong in Minny last season, but they lost nine one-possession games and have Adrian Peterson coming back on a mission. The Raiders can squeeze out a good season from Carson Palmer, have a manageable schedule and have rid themselves of a few bad parts.

Frankly, I’m stumped. I have no idea who the worst team is yet.

My gut says the Rams, but the potential for improvement is sizable. So I’ll go with the Colts, nudging out the Vikings for low men on the totem pole.

Will Luck flop? I don’t think so. But the Colts’ holes are deep, wide and many. Their two best defenders are changing positions. The schedule features seven games vs. teams with winning records in ’11. The Vikings have Peterson, Jared Allen, Percy Harvin and a few other decent pieces.

Good enough to not be worst. For now.

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