Sunday, September 11, 2011
We agree with former Super Bowl winning Cowboys QB Troy Aikman that it is put up or shut up time for this core group of players. Gut instinct feel, this team collapses, they break it up and start over with a high draft pick. Last year's start was indicative, not a fluke.
New York Football Giants
We keep hearing how banged up they are on the defensive side of the ball. Eli Manning threw a ton of interceptions last year. This feels like a down year for the G-Men.
They have assembled a defense of stars this year. But the offense looks vulnerable, lucky for them the NFC East looks very mediocre this year. Michael Vick has always been fragile. The Eagles wideouts are small and injury prone. Andy Reid is a horrible game manager and an even worse play caller. The Eagles consistent failure to develop a running game will see them come up short of the ultimate prize. (This must all sound so familiar to Donovan.)
Well, they got rid of Albert Haynesworth. But aren't they going with Rex Grossman at quarterback? We have never believed in Mike Shannahan.
Green Bay Packers
The Super Bowl champs look great. We like Bill Simmons theory that the NFL lockout actually helped ameliorate the typical Super Bowl hangover. The Packers weren't feted the way most champs are. Did it help keep them hungry?
Apparently, it was Matt Millen, not ownership after all. The Lions are poised for a breakout season. Ndamukong Suh looks like he could be the defensive MVP. The only question mark is quarterback Matt Stafford.
We do not believe in Jay Cutler, we never have. They still have no number one wideout. We like Coach Lovie Smith. Is the defense aging? .500 at best...
It is just not going to be a happy career for Donovan McNabb... Maybe, maybe if Adrian Peterson stays healthy all year, their season will be less than disastrous.
They are a chic Super Bowl pick. We like, not love, Matt Ryan. We think Julio Jones will eventually be an asset, but the lockout didn't help him. And what about their cornerbacks? Up to the task? This team takes a step back.
The biggest question facing the Panthers this season is what position Cam Newton will play after the Panthers draft Andrew Luck. Tight-end? The Panthers resigned the stars of their 2-14 team. They still have no #2 wide receiver. We think Duke Blue Devil football wins more games than the Panthers this season. 0-6 in the division seems certain.
New Orleans Saints
Darren Sproles is the perfect Reggie Bush replacement and might even be an upgrade. Drew Brees is a wizard. We will take brains over brawn every day.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Nobody believes in Tampa quarterback Josh Freeman more than Bill Simmons, not his mom, not his coach... There must be a reason. We haven't seen enough to make up our minds on young Mr. Freeman. The Bucs appear to be the classic case of a team that suddenly faces a harder schedule and backs up. They are in a tough division.
Kevin Kolb reminds us of the illustrious Scott Mitchell. Did they get worse defensively? This division is so bad that anything is possible.
San Francisco 49ers
If not for Alex Smith we would pick them to run away with this division. Why are they still sticking with Alex Smith? Andy Dalton would lead this team to a division title. Graham Harrell could probably be plucked from the Packers practice squad and lead this team to a division title. (We are assuming 7 and 9 will be enough again to win the West again.)
When did they give up on Charlie Whitehurst? Tavaris Jackson couldn't hack it in Minnesota with Adrian Peterson and a good o-line. What is he going to do here?
St. Louis Rams
We are not sold on Sam Bradford. Stephen Jackson is a useful asset. Do they have enough other offensive weapons? Says here no.
Division winners: Philadelphia, Green Bay, New Orleans, other
Wild Cards: Tampa Bay and Detroit
Conference Champ: New Orleans
Drew Brees is a winner on and off the field
We like quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. They need to find ways to utilize C.J. Spiller. Receiver Steve Johnson has skills too. The Bills are improving in a tough division.
Bad ownership is destabilizing the franchise by undermining the head coach. We don't think Chad Henne is the problem, he might even be okay eventually, but not in this trainwreck of a situation. Brandon Marshall needs the departed Ricky Williams to tutor him in the way of karma.
New England Patriots
Why is everyone so enamoured with Belichek and company signing a bunch of aging defenders? Because the Junior Seau addition worked out so well? If these were the Al Davis led Raiders they would be getting killed for the same additions. Lucky for the New England defense, Tom Brady is on the other side of the ball.
New York Jets
Mark Sanchez is not getting any better. He looks great on a poster, less so on the field. Can the Ryan and the Jets defense carry them to the playoffs again?
The last hurrah or the beginning of the other shoe dropping? We like the offense. This is the year the Anquan Boldin signing pays off. Ray Rice is dominant. Ricky Williams is a good change-up The o-line is pretty solid. Joe Flacco is a winner. Can the defense do its part? Is the window still open? Just maybe.
We like quarterback Andy Dalton. And the Bengals won't be as bad as people think, oh they'll be bad all right, just not as bad as people think. Andy Dalton wants no part of the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. (Although, maybe he should, as it would hasten his departure from the black hole that is Bengal land.)
This is a team headed in the right direction. We like what Colt McCoy showed last year. They have some weapons on offense. But, the top of the division is amongst the NFL's elite. So .500 appears to be a best case scenario.
Everyone is talking about the Ravens aging defense, but the Steelers are actually older. In fact, we heard they are going to start the oldest defense of this millennium. James Harrison had two off-season surgeries. Predator Ben Roethlisberger and the offense will likely drag them into the playoffs, and if they do, anything can happen.
It doesn't seem like even Gary Kubiak could screw this up. No Payton Manning? Could he and the Texans get a bigger gift? If they don't win the title this year, he gets fired and they break the thing up.
The Colts season changed when Payton Manning got injured. Kerry Collins is a joke. The rest of the roster is less than talented. Even stud defensive ends Mathis and Freeney are less valuable on a team that does not have the lead all the time. We are, however, the last sports page in America to believe in Curtis Painter. In Purdue's Joe Tiller we trust, it says here if Painter gets the keys in time, he leads a late charge for a Wild Card berth that comes up just short.
Well, until they shocked us by cutting David Garrard last week, we were predicting the Jags would win the division. We like head coach Jack Del Rio. He has moxie. Maurice Jones-Drew has enough heart for three men. But what other talent is on the roster? On a team now led by a journeyman quarterback? No playoffs for them.
We cannot believe the Titans were dumb enough not to be able to retain either Vince Young or Jeff Fisher. In this mess of a division, keeping just one of them might have been enough to get the team to the playoffs this season. Then again, maybe it is a better to bottom out and get into the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. The Titans figure to be about that bad.
May as well play Tim Tebow, it is not like they have anything else going for them. Maybe Tebow inspires divine intervention on their behalf?? Mile High fans haven't seen back to back teams this bad since the early 70's.
Kansas City Chiefs
This is the year when Matt Cassell shows us why Tyler Thigpen and Matt Leinart have played ahead of him. K.C. got an easy schedule and lots of breaks last year. This team is backing up. We think Jamaal Charles is powerful running back, but they do not have enough weapons around him.
We like Jason Campbell. We have believed in his leadership since his Auburn days. We love the way he throws the ball. The Raiders went 6 and 0 in the division last year. Why did they have to fire Coach Tom Cable and subvert it all? Answer: Al Davis.
San Diego Chargers
Phillip Rivers is a winner. Absent Norv Turnerm, we would be picking this team to the Super Bowl. They have a gaudy array of offensive weapons and a lousy division to beat up on. How will they find a way to lose in the playoffs this year? No idea, but we can't wait to find out.
Division winners: New England, Baltimore, Houston, San Diego
Wild Cards: New York Jets and Pittsburgh
Conference Champ: Baltimore Ravens
Ray Rice is a dominant force, with a defense that has one last hurrah left.
The Super Bowl winner?
Says here the New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees make it 2 out of 3, beating the Ravens of Baltimore in Ray Lewis's final game.