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

 

2010 NFL Preview

  Last season, Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl Champions defeating Mr Perfect Peyton Manning and the Indy Colts in what most people would call an upset, this year, these same two franchises are stacked, locked and loaded for another run to glory. Will they reach their respective goals by reaching the Big Game in Dallas Texas in February, stay tuned….

  The last time 2 teams met in the Super Bowl in consecutive seasons was 17 years ago when the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills met in Superbowl XXVIII in Atlanta so don’t necessarily expect these two teams to meet again this season. I will give my personal thoughts on each division, its winners, its “losers” whether its a player or a team, a conference sleeper team and try to predict the combatants in this years Super Bowl.

1st up….the good NFC.

  In the East, as a Redskins fan, I am VERY happy with most of the moves that we have made in the off-season. New coach in Mike Shanahan brings instant respectability as does trading for Pro Bowl QB Donovan McNabb who instantly becomes the best QB we’ve had since Joe Theismann (which is very very sad by the way…but the truth.) Now I would LOVE to say “MY SKINS ARE GOIN TO THE PLAYOFFS” woo woo woo but I’m a realist, this roster is still severely flawed BUT having a proven leader in McNabb can win us a couple of games that we would have normally lost with our former regime (Sorry Jason Campbell, it is what it is). I do expect improvement though, a 8-8, 9-7 season would be great for building the foundation of a relevant franchise for years to come especially after a murderous opening half of the schedule.

  I hate to type this, but the Dallas Cowboys are the most talented team in the division, conference and possibly the whole NFL. They have drafted VERY very well and are possibly the only team Ive ever seen that has 2 UNDRAFTED Pro Bowl Skill Position players in Tony Romo and Miles Austin. That alone shows you that Jerry Jones does not care about your name, he just plays the best player period regardless of your stature, something my Redskins can learn from. I expect them to win the division but its not gonna be the cakewalk people think. OLine issues and genuine complacency could unravel this team but I still expect them to win the division.

  In the NFC North, The Brett Favre Saga again led the airwaves and press coverage but there is another QB in this division that will take the proverbial leap to super-stardom and that QB my friend is Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers. His ascension to an Elite level and young play-makers on both sides of the ball in Jermichael Finley, Clay Matthews, AJ Hawk and Greg Jennings make them my choice as the divisional winner. The Vikings will miss Sidney Rice big time and those 1st few games he misses early in the season will be the difference in the Vikings winning the division and the Vikings possibly not making the playoffs. The Bears are trusting Jay Cutler….nuff said and although the Lions are a few years away from competing, the future is bright with Matthew Stafford, 1st rd picks Jahvid Best and Ndamukong Suh who was an absolute monster at Nebraska last season.

  New Orleans is the clear cut favorite by most experts in the South and I tend to agree. With Super Bowl MVP QB Drew Brees leading the way, the offense should be just as explosive as they have been the past 3 or so years when healthy. Former Redskins Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams’ blitzing style has fit their roster almost seamlessly because their proficiency for  game changing plays. Missing veteran FS Darren Sharper for the 1st 6 games of the season will be a dagger but with Carolina and Tampa Bay in rebuilding mode, its a two team race with the Atlanta Falcons. Matt Ryan is back and that will only help an offense that was stunted last year by injuries. I expect Ryan, Michael Turner, Tony Gonzales and Roddy White to have outstanding seasons but just not enough to unseat the Saints.

  With Kurt Warner retires, Anquan Bolden in Baltimore and Matt Leinhart basically kicked out of town for DEREK ANDERSON(?!?!), this division is up for grabs. If San Francisco can find ANY sort of consistent quarterback play from former 1st overall pick Alex Smith (remember Niners fan….you had the choice of Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers….a dagger to say the least) or whoever they want to put behind center, this team has the tools to win the NFL’s weakest division. Any time you have a back like Frank Gore to carry the load and a leader on defense like Patrick Willis, things will always look up. Im very interested to see how the St Louis Rams look on the offensive side of the ball only because I think Sam Bradford can become an Elite QB when he gains the experience. He can make all of the throws and he looked very poised and polished in preseason (I know, I know…its just preseason). He’s gonna take his lumps no doubt, lets hope he can stay healthy, which was obviously a problem of his in college. Arizona and Seattle seem to have taken a couple of steps back so I’m not expecting too much from them this season.

NFC Playoff Order

1. Green Bay
2. Dallas
3. New Orleans
4. San Francisco
5. Minnesota (Wild Card)
6. Atlanta (Wild Card)

J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS!!!!!!!!

  Let the world tell it, the Jets have already been crowned 2011 Superbowl Champions. Hard Knocks, countless interviews, Revis Island….its become WAY too much for such a flawed offensive team. Now don’t get it twisted, they could EASILY get there, but as good as the Jets defense is, they are basically leaving their below average offense in the hands of 2 2nd year players in QB Matt Sanchez, who has looked absolutely pedestrian in preseason and Shonn Greene taking the place of veteran RB Thomas Jones. Replacing Jones (I guess) is future Hall of Famer Ladanian Tomlinson, who looks like he may have taken a Rejuvenation Pill in preseason, lets see if this lasts. My choice for the divisional winner is the New England Patriots. Tom Brady is back, Randy Moss is back, and if Wes Welker is back to at least 80% of his normal production, who can stop them? Yes they have questions on defense but Brady is Brady and until they are dethroned from the AFC East Throne, Im picking them….you don’t like it? TOUGH LOL! Don’t forget about Miami with Chad Henne having a full offseason under his belt as the #1 QB and new acquisition Brandon Marshall hopefully making it easier for that solid running game to get going like it can.

  I sure hope Terrell Owens doesn’t ruin the Bengals because they were my pick to win the AFC North again but you never know what your going to get with this guy. I love the Bengals defense especially with Rey Malaluga returning from injury and arguable the top CB tandem in the game with Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph. The Ravens have boosted their recieving core 10 fold by acquiring Anquan Bolden from Arizona and then picking up TJ Houshmandzadah via the waiver wire, giving 3rd year QB Joe Flacco the best weapons he’s had in his life. Im a little skeptical of their pass defense but I wouldnt be surprised at all if they win the division, thats why Im picking them to do just that. Pittsburgh must wait 4 weeks for Ben Rothlisburger to return from suspension and hope that one of the young receivers can eventually replace former Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes who was traded to the NY Jets. Cleveland starts Jake Delhomme………………

  One of these years, the Houston Texans are going to make the leap and FINALLY make the playoffs. I think this is the year to accomplish that. The Colts are the clear-cut favorites to win the division as they should be, Peyton Manning is the greatest REGULAR SEASON QB in NFL History, they are going to do what they always do, win the games they are supposed to win. But, Pro Bowl QB Matt Schaub has the best WR in football on his side in Andre Johnson, the return of TE Owen Daniels and hopefully an improved running game, they can shock alot of people and win 10 games and sneak in the playoffs as a wild card. Tennessee has the most explosive back in the game in Chris Johnson and somehow, someway Vince Young wins ballgames, Im not sold on their defense, especially after losing Kyle VandenBosch to Detroit. Jacksonville will blow this team up next season, meaning everybody will be fired, including coach Jack Del Rio and QB David Garrard….Sorry George(inside joke).

  I never thought I would say this, but Jason Campbell may be the reason his team makes the playoffs LOL….I know wild right? The AFC West is San Diego’s division to lose but look out for the Raiders. If Jason can not make the crucial turnovers and just complete passes, the Raiders defense is good enough to keep them in alot of games. My favorite player in the whole draft was Rolando McClain from Alabama. I believe he has the shot to make a Patrick Willis-type impact for that defense so that shows you how highly I think of him. Denver has unheralded QB Kyle Orton looking behind his back for the eventual succession of Tim Tebow as Franchise QB, that’s never good for the incumbent and Kansas City bring up the rear again.

AFC Playoff Order

1. Indianapolis
2. New England
3. Baltimore
4. San Diego
5. Cincinnati (Wild Card)
6. Houston (Wild Card)

NFC Title Game
Green Bay vs New Orleans

AFC Title Game
Cincinnati vs Baltimore

Super Bowl Participants
Green Bay vs Cincinnati

Super Bowl Winner
Green Bay Packers

NFL MVP
Aaron Rodgers

NFL Offensive Player of the Year
Aaron Rodgers

Defensive Player of the Year
Patrick Willis

Offensive Rookie of the Year
CJ Spiller

Defensive Rookie of the Year
Rolando McClain

Coach of the Year
Gary Kubiak

Comeback Player of the Year
Michael Turner

“We are what we thought they were!”

Being a Washington Redskins fan isnt easy.  You are told throughout the offseason that your team is a Super Bowl contender and make moves as such.  That itself isnt the hard part, the truly hard part is watching a team year after year, just play “average” and because of that fact, they are never bad enough to totally dismantle the team and will ALWAYS believe that they are just a player or two away from truly competing.

That way of thinking has been the basis of our malaise as fans.  The Front Office seems to think that making that one major move (some moves wind up being good moves, others don’t…but that is the Free Agency game and I’m not mad that the team spends money to compete) is the key to taking us to that next level.  But the main reasons that we cannot raise to that next level are self inflicted wounds.

If anyone watched the lethargic, pathetic offensive performances the 1st 2 weeks of the season, we have actually moved the ball down the field on both the Giants and the Rams.  But as ALWAYS with this team, the team either a) drops a key pass (2 tds vs the Rams) b) commit a huge penalty or c) become stagnant by play calling inside the Redzone (20 yard line to the endzone).  The last reason is really bugging me right now because Jason Campbell is under a microscope, but whoever is calling the plays whether its Coach Jim Zorn or Offensive Coordinator Sherman Smith, have not showed enough confidence in the QB to at least give him a CHANCE to fail.

 

After 30+ starts, one thing Jason Campbell HAS showed everyone is that he just doesn’t throw interceptions, and that’s a GREAT attribute for a QB.  So why not give him a CHANCE to make a play in the redzone because even if he holds the ball too long, he can eat the sack.  He hasn’t showed anyone that he will make the poor decisions and throw stupid interceptions so why would you COACH like that has occurred before?  Its time for Jim Zorn to let Jason dig his own grave…If he is gonna fail, let that man go down guns a blazing.  If not, Jason AND Jim will be gone and we as fans are only going to sit around and say amongst ourselves during ANOTHER QB search “What if Jim Zorn let Jason open it up?”  Why is Coach Zorn limiting himself?  Why hasn’t Malcolm Kelly or Fred Davis been used ONCE in the redzone??? Why hasn’t there even been a spread set up so you could possible give Portis the quick handoff up the middle??  WHY?????  It baffles me and a lot of other Redskins fans across this area.  Hopefully next week, I’ll feel a whole lot better about my team.

 

Across the NFL, there have been other “Denny Green” moments but none greater than Drew Brees and the Madden-esque numbers he has put up in the 1st 2 games. NINE TOUCHDOWNS IN TWO GAMES….just outstanding….

 

Also, the acquisition of Tony Gonzales for the Atlanta Falcons has paid immediate benefits as him and 2008 Rookie of the Year Matt Ryan have seemed to develop a quick repoire with one another, which adds to a nice young offensive unit.

 

Ray Rice and the sudden offensive juggernaut in Baltimore…my goodness the 2nd year RB from Rutgers has certainly made his mark and added his name to the rotation of RBs on that roster that already included Pro Bowl FB Leron McClaine and Willis McGahee.  He adds a special spark for the “3 headed Monster” they now can deploy on any unsuspecting defense. 

 

I have other subjects I’m going to divulge into later on this week so please check me out later in the week.

 

RIP #21……