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Schein's Nine: Cards back in Super Bowl?

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Adam Schein

Adam Schein hosts the "Sirius Blitz" on Sirius NFL Radio from 11-3 ET. He also co-hosts "Loudmouths" on Sports Net New York every weeknight at 6 ET. He is a weekly columnist, files weekly video reports and makes NFL picks "video style" for FOXSports.com.

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The Cardinals are a Super Bowl favorite? The Lions will win eight games? Derrick Mason will be a key member of the Ravens this year?
The Vikings should hold onto Tarvaris Jackson? I spent too much time in the sun on vacation? We explain with strong takes in my latest Schein's Nine. 1. Full deck What's the fear of standing up for the Arizona Cardinals? Are you worried about their bleak history? The Super Bowl loser jinx? Think the road to the big game was too fluky one year ago and there's no chance the Cards match it? Get over it. If anything, the way Arizona played in the postseason gives them the needed confidence and big game experience they lacked before. And with those needed intangibles for the first time in franchise history, 'Zona is seriously in the conversation to rep the NFC in the Super Bowl. The Cards have everything you are looking for. The offense is explosive. They have a likely Hall of Famer in Kurt Warner at quarterback, still playing at a Pro Bowl clip. Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and the underrated Steve Breaston make up the greatest trio of receivers in the game. The offensive line, beleaguered in the past, is very strong. The Cards' line is brilliantly coached by Russ Grimm. The running attack is greatly improved with the Chris Wells draft pick. On defense, Adrian Wilson, Karlos Dansby and Darnell Dockett are impact difference makers. Wilson, budding star Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Antrel Rolle and former Steeler Bryant McFadden comprise an excellent defensive backfield. And Ken Whisenhunt proved his mettle as a NFL head coach after the Patriots' disaster last December when he questioned his team's manhood and practiced the sagging Cards in pads. It was a franchise-changing move. Now, I am not going to channel my inner Denny Green and crown the Cards (too easy, I couldn't resist). But stack up the Cards with other competitors. 'Zona is on par with the Eagles, Giants, Bears, or any other team you want to argue. Don't be afraid to hop on board. 2. Raven mad For the record, I don't remotely believe Derrick Mason is retired. Sure, I believe Mason is emotional after the killing of his close friend and former teammate Steve McNair. I believe Mason is a bit beaten down by the health of his shoulder. But most especially, what I really believe is Mason has been frustrated with his contract in Baltimore for a while now and "retirement" was an ultimate power play. Trust me — that's what the Ravens believe. And that's the wrong way for Mason to handle it. I'm scheduled to be at Ravens training camp on August 11. I believe I will see Derrick Mason, Joe Flacco's security blanket, catching passes. And he'll at least be playing for the Ravens in Week 1. 3. Sizzling deal Baltimore did get some great news this week when it inked defensive stud Terrell Suggs to a six-year deal worth $62.5 million. "T Sizzle" gets a whopping $40 million in the first two years. I don't want to hear that Baltimore overpaid. I don't want comparisons to James Harrison's below-market deal. Do you want Suggs on your team for the foreseeable future? The obvious answer is yes. The Ravens' hierarchy doesn't make mistakes. Suggs is a difference maker and still young and getting better. He gets to the quarterback and is underrated as an all-around player. Suggs, Ed Reed and Haloti Ngata represent the core of Baltimore defensive stars you build around as you enter the next decade. 4. Return game I cringe and laugh every time I hear that the Bears aren't going to use Devin Hester as a full-time return specialist. And I fall out of my chair when it gets mentioned that he will only be back on special teams in key situations. What does that even mean? Hester is a game-changing return man. You never know when he is going to break one. If it means giving him 5-10 less plays at receiver, if he's off the field for a few Matt Forte dives so he can put a game away in the second quarter or change field position in the third, you do it.
Do the Bears realize the headache Hester's presence alone gives coaches and teams? Do you realize the pressure it puts on a kicker and punter and how that can aid Chicago's field position? 5. Cool stuff One of the best NFL players to talk with is Redskins Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley. And he was dealing high heat when he joined us on Sirius NFL Radio this week. Cooley scored just one touchdown last year and revealed that Jim Zorn promised him at least six this season. I think that will happen with everyone more comfortable in the offense. He also told us that Jason Campbell got "conservative" last season, seemingly trying to protect his streak of not throwing a pick. Cooley said that Campbell is cognizant of what happened, and it's been addressed and the quarterback is ready to let it rip without the fear of a turnover. I think that's vital to the Redskins' success. I believe in Campbell but thought he was too cautious last year. I also don't think he was truly on the same page with Zorn. Now the renewed approach is key for the quarterback, but so is the play of second-year wideouts Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly. I am not convinced they can elevate their game. Cooley says there's "hope" they can become primetime players. Washington will need more than hope to avoid the cellar in perhaps the toughest division in football. 6. Wacko to trade Jacko If you-know-who ends up going you-know-where, some well-tapped-in NFL folks believe it would spell the end of the Tarvaris Jackson era in Minnesota. That would be foolish. Jackson has talent, and he's still young. He was the handpicked quarterback by Brad Childress when the coach took over in 2006. And with you-know-who's health, age and inability to make a decision and stick with it, Minnesota will likely need a quarterback in 2010. That guy should be Jackson. And to ask it out loud: Why would you consider shrinking the playbook for a veteran who claims to know it like the back of his hand, but you wouldn't help out Jackson by shortening his load? 7. Off Pace You can make excuses all you want. Fact is, it was a terrible job by Calvin Pace testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug. That's irresponsible. And his absence isn't getting enough attention as a major void for the Jets. Pace was a borderline Pro Bowler last season and is the known commodity in the Jets' potentially dangerous pass rush. Look at the games Pace will miss with his four-game suspension to start the season... Houston: Top-five offense. New England: Nothing else needs to be said. Tennessee: Top-two offensive line New Orleans: Most prolific quarterback in the NFL one year ago. It's a killer. 8. A for AJ Chargers general manager AJ Smith doesn't get enough credit for how he handled Darren Sproles. When he was franchised, LaDainian Tomlinson's status and health were in question. And why risk losing such a valuable running back caddy, receiver out of the backfield, and most especially, a dominant return man? Is Sproles a $6-million-per-year player? Was it worth giving him a long-term deal by the July 15 deadline? No, and not yet. But he's a game breaker for one of the most talented teams in the NFL, and Smith realized San Diego is much better with him.
9. Not "Lion" Packers cornerback Al Harris is a football junkie. He is locked into our radio show and an avid listener to Sirius NFL Radio. Harris has even called in under the name "Al in Green Bay." (He's asked for the hotline to get through right away. Sorry Al. Love you, but it's not happening). During a recent interview about the Packers, I ended it by asking him to give one strong opinion on anything in the NFL. His response? "The Lions can win eight games." Strong stuff from a division foe of a team that set a record for futility by going 0-16. Harris loves Jim Schwartz, the Lions new coaching staff, the direction at quarterback, what Detroit did in the draft and the veterans with big-game experience: Larry Foote, Jon Jansen and Julian Peterson. I agree in principle. I like Schwartz, defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham and Scott Linehan calling the plays on offense, along with those aforementioned vets. I can see the Lions winning five games this year. That would be a success and a step in the right direction. But eight? No shot. Your emails in response to Schein's Nine will be read on FOXSports.com "video style" in the SCHEIN BOX. Adam Schein has joined the Twitter craze. Follow him and get the latest updates on his work at FOXSports.com, SNY and Sirius NFL Radio at www.twitter.com/AdamSchein.

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