2011 NFL Season Preview

Seems like this has been the longest off season correct? It hasn’t….we didn’t miss a thing besides The Hall Of Fame game but you wouldn’t think so considering all the anticipation coming into this season.  That’s a great thing right? LOL

Will this scene be repeated in Indy in February?

Anyhoo, I actually picked the correct Superbowl Champion for the 1st time in recent memory in the Green Bay Packers, and honestly, I see them being better than last year, which I will get into later.  You have new names in new places and high profile rookies taking over franchises so Week 1 is virtually must see TV.  Also there is a stat that is so amazing, that people overlook, it needs mentioning here….

Each year, for the past 13 seasons, five teams that missed the playoffs the year before made them the following year. So, which five teams will be making a postseason trip that did not last season, and maybe even more importantly, which five teams that made the playoffs last year will be home the second week in January this year?

THIS stat alone may be the single biggest reason the NFL and its fans are so passionate about the sport and the particular team it follows.  There is ALWAYS a chance you can get in “The Tournament” and as The 06 Steelers, 07 Giants and 10 Packers have shown, you can be the LAST team (6th seed) in your conference and take home The Vince Lombardi Trophy in Early February.  So lets break down this stat shall we?  Here are the playoff teams of last season:

Green Bay, Chicago, Philly, Atlanta, New Orleans and Seatlle in the NFC

and

Pittsburgh, NY Jets, New England, Indy, Kansas City and Baltimore in the AFC

…now, which of these 5 teams would most people think wouldn’t make the 2011 Playoffs? Obviously Seattle, Kansas City and recently Indianapolis are the obvious choices to be home with me in January, but who else? Chicago? Baltimore? Pittsburgh? REALLY? only time will tell…and THATS the fun part of it all!

As the whole world knows, The Philadelphia Eagles basically won the Preseason Super Bowl, a title I know alot about being a Redskins fan.  The difference being that atleast Philly was already a potent team and they just added to it.  Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Ronnie Brown and Vince Young are among the new players that are currently adapting to “The Eagle Way”.  Sometimes stars have a hard time realizing they wont be the focal point of their particular team, just a cog to a potential title.  To me, thats the main hang-up for Philly’s eventual run toward their 1st Super Bowl Title. They are the cream of the crop in the NFC East.  Injuries should be the only reason they dont win the division.  The Giants have gone through a LOT of injuries on the defensive side of the ball during the preseason but they have plenty of time to still put together a season.  Long as they have that pass rush and Eli cuts down on the INTS, they should still be a solid team albeit not a playoff team.  The Dallas Cowboys have long been disappointments which crested last season’s “Super Bowl at Home” talk into a fired coach by week 7 and a new Defensive Coordinator in Rob Ryan.  They are stacked with star players as always but they can tell you more than I can, star players dont win ballgames, teams do, SO until i see something worthwhile from that defense (especially their back 7 besides DeMarcus Ware) I dont expect much from them either.  Lastly, my Washington Redskins.  at this time last year, the Redskins were an old, slow, plodding mess of an organization. Today, there are only 16 players on the team that were on that roster. Gone are malcontents like Albert Haynesworth…gone are old bums that just didnt make plays…that is a GREAT thing.  7 rookies from the 2011 draft made the final 53 roster, UNHEARD OF in Redskin Nation.  Shrewd trades that produced Tim Hightower and Jabar Gaffney has bolstered the skill positions but alas, Rex Grossman is the QB of this team, and he is what he is….average.  I expect this TEAM to play much better all around…every level of the team has been improved with quality depth and with Brandon Banks you have someone who can score on Special Teams any time he touches the ball, saying all of this, I believe this team can FINALLY compete but just don’t have enough to make a real playoff run this year, but the future is getting better in Washington because the team is being built correctly, FINALLY.

He's coming....

The NFC North will probably be the most competitive division in football, if not the most physical.  The Packers, in my eyes, have the most complete team in the game and the most solid from top to bottom defending champ since the Patriots in their heyday.  They have it all…stud QB…solid run game with Ryan Grant’s return and James Shields, a great receiving corps along with the return of JerMichael Finley, both lines, solid (although they will miss Cullen Jenkins), great linebackers including one of my favorite players in Clay Matthews Jr Jr, and a top notch secondary.  What more can you ask for? I seriously think they can go 15-1 this year, wouldn’t surprise me one bit.  They ARE that…damn…good!  Chicago again rests its season on an aging defense and Jay Cutler….they had GREAT luck last season, this year that luck runs out.  Minnesota should be improved just because Donovan McNabb HAS to be better than what they had at QB last season (although I liked Joe Webb….I wanted him to get a shot as a starter, but they still have a team that was just 1 season removed from the NFC title game so their time is now).  The Team of The Moment that people are expecting to make the leap to contention is the Detroit Lions, they have plenty of reasons to think just that.  If former #1 Draft Pick Matt Stafford can stay healthy, he has a plethora of options to toss the ball to like Calvin Johnson and young stud TE Brandon Pettegrew but the sole reason for all the optimism is that defensive line, especially Man-Child Ndomakong Suh.  Suh may already be the most physically dominate defensive lineman in the game today and his old-school physicality translates through the whole team.  GM and former Redskin Martin Mayhew has done a hell of a job building the team starting with that line. Kyle Vandenbosch and 1st rd pick Nick Fairley will make the average linebackers much better than they really are. I expect a playoff run this year but if they just miss out, it wouldn’t be a surprise, you gotta crawl before you walk.

Atlanta and New Orleans should be the cream of the crop in the NFC South but it was also the division where the Tampa Bay Bucs came from nowhere to win 10 games and barely miss the playoffs.  People have forgotten Atlanta WAS the #1 seed in the NFC last year but were absolutely crushed by Green Bay because of a faulty defense, so what did Atlanta do, go all in on OFFENSE in trading up for Julio Jones from Alabama to play beside Roddy White. I don’t know how much that’s gonna help that defense.  New Orleans has similar defensive issues but they are only 1 season removed from a title, they’ve been there, done that so to speak. I expect New Orleans to win the division and former Heisman Trophy Winning RB Mark Ingram will bolster their running game that lost multipurpose Reggie Bush in a trade with Miami.  Tampa Bay was the sleeper team last year and they have built the team the correct way, with youth.  Josh Freeman is developing into a stud QB and they lucked up and stole (pun on words ON PURPOSE LOL) LaGarrette Blount from the scrap heap and now he’s the bulldozing #1 back on a team on the rise.  A tougher schedule for a team that played alot of close games last season should be difficult but not something this team cannot overcome.  The Panthers are starting Cam Newton and are rebuilding….good luck to all parties involved.

Seattle “won” the NFC West last season and to me, they have regressed large in part of letting go Matt Hasselbeck and signing Tavaris Jackson.  Jackson is one of the worst starting QBs Ive ever seen, maybe Im alone in that thought, but I see nothing that makes me think that he’s gonna amount to anything as a starter in the league for ANYBODY.  The Niners are starting Alex Smith, again….Arizona went all in with Kevin Kolb, which IS better than Derek Anderson.  The team to beat in the division is the St Louis Rams.  Sam Bradford didn’t disappoint at all as the #1 overall pick with less-than-average receivers, adding Mike Sims-Walker from Jacksonville should help a bunch, and if their defense continues to improve and Chris Long takes the next step as an elite pass-rusher, they will be the divisional champs.

Playoff Teams

1. Packers

2. Eagles

3. New Orleans

4. St Louis

5. Detroit

6. Tampa Bay

In the AFC East, The Patriots had a great regular season, better than most expected but ran into the team that is built to beat them when it matters, the Jets, who did exactly that in the Playoffs.  The Pats have Tom Brady back, so that alone will make them formidable contenders and adding Chad Ochocinco will help, BUT, the reason they lost to the Jets last season were as followed:

1. No run game to speak of

2. Pressure on the online

3. Those receivers weren’t TALENTED enough to get away and open QUICKLY vs that pass defense of the Jets

..having said that, the regular season really doesn’t mean that much to me, what matters to me is if the Pats have made the necessary adjustments to beat the Jets and I’m still not 100% on that.  Coach Belichek is the best coach in football for a reason but he was out-coached by Rex Ryan in that playoff game, I’m sure he knows this and will do his damn-est not to have that happen again.  I trust in Belichek so I pick them to win the division by 1 game over the Jets.  A sleeper team is brewing in Miami, I love Cameron Wake and their defense is improving every game.  If Chad Henne can cut down the INTs and just don’t lose games, they can surprise this season.  Buffalo? Good luck….

Pittsburgh? Baltimore? Who’s division is this…right now, its Pittsburgh’s and it will continue to stay that way unless Joe Flacco and that offense can finally deliver in a meaningful moment vs Pitt when Pitt isnt depleted by injury, its simple as that.  I dont think Pittsburgh really improved much but they dont really have to with that defense whereas I think Baltimore might have taken a slight step back for the greater gain in the future.  Gone are long time offensive stallworths Todd Heap and Derrick Mason and in their places are younger players which should take a little longer to develop the chemistry with Flacco those two guys had for years.  The defense of Baltimore is still solid but it does have its problems, mainly the pass rush, it must improve.  I expect the Cleveland Browns to play much better than people think. Colt McCoy could make a Josh Freeman-esque jump in year 2, a 2-headed RB tandem in Peyton Hillis and Monterio Hardesty who’s coming back from injury and a solid young defense has all the makings in being better than people realize, I like the direction this team is going.  The Bengals? ehhh not so much….I feel sorry for Andy Dalton.

The AFC South was thrown into a tizzy with Peyton Manning going down possibly for the season, now is the time Gary Kubiak and Houston Texans have waited for, its THEIR time to shine finally, now all the pressure is on them.  Arian Foster comes into the season not 100% which isnt a good omen.  Matt Schaub/Andre Johnson/Owen Daniels will keep any offense in ballgames and will continue to do just that.  Their front office decided to try to help that deplorable pass defense in spending for former Bengal Johnathan Joseph so that should help big time. Each other team in the division is basically rebuilding now.  The Colts could win 9 games because Kerry Collins is a pro QB, but I’d be lying if I thought that would happen.  Tennessee is Chris Johnson or bust although Matt Hassellbeck was a better pick up than people want to acknowledge.  I wonder why Jack Del Rio still has a job in Jacksonville and with the release of David Garrard, rebuilding starts now.  Blaine Gabbart, get ready to suit up!

Lastly, the AFC West.  San Diego somehow had the #1 ranked offense and defense last season…but missed the playoffs. That wont happen this season.  Phillip Rivers had one of the best passing seasons in history with a lack of talent in the receiving corps, im wondering how well that offense can run with a full season of Vincent Jackson and a healthy Antonio Gates.  The Kansas City Chiefs won 10 games last season but this year they will come back down to reality a tad.  Matt Cassell comes into the season with a broken rib, not good.  I expect a .500 season from them.  Oakland will go as far as Jason Campbell takes them…again .500. Lastly the Denver Broncos have a new coach in former Panthers coach John Fox but have so many questions everywhere on the roster but I do know one thing, people sleep on Kyle Orton. Orton made people forget how awful Brandon Lloyd has been for 4 different franchises and I absolutely LOVE Von Miller playing on the opposite side of Elvis Dumerville. Watch out for them next season.

 

Playoff Teams

 

1. San Diego

2. Pittsburgh

3. New England

4. Houston

5. New York Jets

6. Baltimore

 

Super Bowl prediction – Green Bay Packers vs San Diego

Super Bowl Winner – Green Bay Packers

 

NFL MVP – Aaron Rodgers

Offensive POY – Phillip Rivers

Defensive POY – Ndomakong Suh

Coach of the Year – Jim Schwartz

Offensive ROY – Andy Dalton

Defensive ROY – Ryan Kerrigan

 

Advertisements