Follow by Email

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fantasy Football Draft Overview

This years draft had me picking in a familiar spot, number 8 overall. Just on the outside of drafting a top tier back but seemingly too early to take a wide receiver or QB. In any event, it was great getting everyone together this year, and adding the Foundation to the mix after losing the SkinCatz. There goes an easy victory every year. From the advice of our beloved commish, I decided to sit down and grade the draft team by team and give my predictions of where each team will end up this year. So grab a cold one, sit back, and enjoy the reading!

These grades will be in no particular order, as I am starting at the bottom of the league list and working my way up. This means we will be starting with The Punishers.

The Punishers - Reading through this roster, I find very little to get excited about. Waiting to pick a QB until the 12th round in a passing league is not the best strategy, but The Puns seem to like this strategy. But picking David Garrard over guys like Bradford, Sanchez, or even Stafford is mind boggling. Yeah, he doesn't throw many interceptions, but that saves the -2 points, which means he'll keep his "solid" 5 points a week that he puts up in yards. But don't worry, your backup QB will make up for the INT's that Garrard doesn't throw.
I do like the running backs and think Ray Rice is due for a huge year with Vonte Leach blocking for him, and with McGahee no longer stealing goal line carries. Bradshaw is a versatile back that is usually good for 11 points a week. Beanie Wells is a gamble because he hasn't proven to stay healthy yet in his NFL career, but if he can, he should be do for a breakout season. He is the only back they have so he should see 25 touches a game. With a more threatening passing game now, that should open up some more options for him. Hakeem Nicks is a stud at receiver and should have a big year, but don't look for Miles Austin to do the same. He had a huge season two years ago (and helped me win a championship), but he failed to produce the same numbers last season. With the team and city in love with Dez Bryant, look for Austin's looks to diminish even more in 2011. Sydney Rice will not be a factor in the deepest of leagues, so don't look for him to remain on the Puns roster past week 5. The guy I do like on this team is Danny Woodhead. He's a risk/reward player because he breaks long runs off catches and out of the backfield, but you never know who Belichick is going to put in from game to game. Keep your eye on how this guy develops through the season.
Overall, it's a solid team at best. DRAFT GRADE: C

The Foundation - New into the league after a 4 year sabbatical, The Foundation came in and had a pretty decent draft across the board. Taking the best all around running back with your first pick always puts you in a great spot right out of the gates. I'm not sold on the rest of the backfield. Ryan Grant is coming off a significant injury and barely made the roster, so he will be sharing carries at best with James Starks this season. C.J. Spiller has a lot of potential but is still sitting behind Fred Jackson on the depth chart. Marion Barber does not fit Mike Martz offense, so don't look for him to be much of a factor, apart from a few goal line looks and third and short plays. DeSean Jackson will be good for big plays, but I don't know how consistent he can be as a number one for fantasy, especially when Braylon Edwards is your number 2. I look for Plaxico to be in the lineup sooner rather than later for the Foundation.
Devin Hester will never be more than a 3rd or 4th option off the bench, so I don't look for him to do much this year. At QB, Drew Brees and McNabb is a good one-two punch. Brees will always put up big numbers, and McNabb can come in a put up decent numbers on the bye week. This team has bright spots, but not much depth, so injuries to key players will put them in a whole quick. DRAFT GRADE: C-

The Dynamites - The defending champions, looking to defend their title drafted really well and may be one of the more solid teams as you look at the roster from top to bottom. Taking Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte, and Frank Gore with the first three picks gives them one of the better backfields in the league this season. Michael Bush will also get his fair share of carries playing alongside an injury prone McFadden.
Josh Freeman provides a solid QB option. He doesn't turn the ball over very often, and may see a 3000 yard 30TD season. Boasting two good tight ends that can put up double digit points every week is definitely a luxury. I see Olsen moving into the starting spot as the season progresses.
If this team has any question mark, it would be the WR position. They currently have Brandon Marshall and Stevie Johnson in the starting slots. These guys could easily put up 15 points each, or they could do absolutely nothing. There's a big risk with these guys, but if they pan out, they will reward TNT handsomely. Jeremy Maclin seems to be healthy now and will be the number one guy ahead of Jackson most weeks in Philly. Mario Manningham is poised to have a big year in New York, so I eventually see these two guys in the starting lineup very soon. There doesn't seem to be a team in the division that can compete with this roster, so I see TNT getting back into the playoffs and making a run. DRAFT GRADE: B+

The Lions - Ah the lovable Lions. They had their best season in 2010 finishing third place. This was in large part to the emergence of Michael Vick, and LaDanian Tomlinson reviving his career with the Jets. Looking at the roster this year, I don't see any guy with that potential. LeSean McCoy will be an excellent starting back this year and will put up elite numbers. The jury is still out on Felix Jones. Can he stay healthy? Will he play the entire season? Will the rookie Murray steal carries from him as the season goes on? These are all questions you have to ask yourself when starting Jones every week. Ryan Matthews is the only other starting back on the roster, but is not the best back on his team, so he may lose that job (at least carries) as the season goes on.
Vincent Jackson will put up good numbers for the Chargers, but Boldin as the other starter looks risky if he continues to play like he did a season ago. Boldin was amazing in Arizona with Fitzgerald taking double coverage and leaving Boldin with the weaker corner. Now that he's a number one, he's not producing like he used to. Lee Evans will help, who is also apart of this Lions roster, so there's a good handcuff here to swap them out if one is struggling more than the other. Matt Schaub appears to be the only QB option on the team to start each week. Don't expect Grossman to do much this year if the Skins end up going with Beck, and Cam Newton probably shouldn't start in Carolina. This team doesn't appear to have the talent it had a year ago. DRAFT GRADE: C-

Chit Luck - Well the good news is the manager showed up to the draft this year. The bad news...same results. Looking at the roster, Larry Fitzgerald is the best player, who was taken in the first round. Beyond that, there's a lot of guys that are high risk to say the least. Tim Hightower has looked good in preseason, but he was projected to go in the 8th round of most leagues, not the second where he was taken in this one. Fred Jackson is a great player, and if he keeps his starting job he should put up decent numbers. Cedric Benson is going to be spending two or three games in jail during the middle of the season, so don't look for him to be much of a factor in October. I also find it odd to take Eli Manning so high and have Kyle Orton has the starter. I like both of these QB's, but they will put up mediocre numbers.
Hines Ward is always solid, but there are some guys coming behind him that will steal some catches. I would love A.J. Green if Palmer was still under center, but it will take these guys a while to develop. Both TE's are solid so they should get good production out of those guys. To their credit, they were the only team to draft a full roster, but this will hurt them in the long run. It looks like they will have to go to the waiver wire early to drop a kicker and a defense to add some stability in key skill positions. DRAFT GRADE: D (because you didn't need a full roster)

Ace Hole Bandits - Usually a very strong team in our league. If they're going to continue that, they will have to do it in the waiver wire. Drafting Andre Johnson was a good pick toward the end of the first round, but following up with Philip Rivers was an odd choice. He will put up great numbers, but I would have thought running back would have been the way to go here. Now they are stuck with Steven Jackson and Shonn Greene as their starters. Don't get me wrong, these guys could both have big years, but it's risky. Greene hasn't proven he can do it consistently, and Jackson has carried the ball more times than any other back over the past five years, so he's wearing down. The depth on the bench at RB is not real promising, so I think this is where the Bandits will struggle this year. Rivers is one of the best QB's in the league and puts up good fantasy numbers. At receiver, I think Andre Roberts will be the surprise pick that ends up in the starting lineup. He needs to stay ahead of Early Doucet on the roster, and will if he can stay healthy. Robert Meachem is a Saint, which is always a risky pick because you don't know who will get the ball from week to week with all of those targets. Overall it could be a good team, it all depends on how these running backs pan out. DRAFT GRADE: C-

Carpet Munchers - I love this teams starting lineup, but the depth at running back is a concern for me. Arian Foster still should be an elite back with Vickers blocking for him. Mark Ingram and Daniel Thomas are solid rookies who will put up decent numbers, but with the lack of depth here, they will have to put up big numbers to help the Munchers out this season. The QB position doesn't get any better with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady both on the roster. Greg Jennings is a top tier fantasy receiver and will be good this year, but Colston is risky because of the depth Brees has there at receiver. They also have three solid TE's, but that goes against them because you can only play one at a time, so you waste roster spots by holding these guys.
If Steve Smith gets healthy, I see him doing really well in the Eagles offense at the slot, so this could be a steal pick in the late rounds.
This starting lineup is really good, but the bench is a real concern with the lack of depth at running back and the overload of tight ends.
I'm going to grade more toward the starting lineup in this case and hope these guys stay healthy. DRAFT GRADE: B

Big Red Machine - This team really has some bright spots, but there are some guys that are on the fence that may or may not produce this year. One of those guys being Dez Bryant. If this guy gets his head in the right place, he can put up big numbers. But right now he has off the field issues, and looks skiddish going over the middle of the field. It will be interesting to see how he does. Ryan Torain and Jahvid Best are both risky picks at running back. Best will be the go-to-guy if he stays healthy. Torain has already lost carries to Hightower, but Shanahan does love to run the football so there should be enough balls to go around. Darren McFadden is a solid running back when healthy. They are excited about him in Oakland, saying he looks better than last year, so that's good news for Big Red. Brandon Lloyd will not put up the same numbers he did a year ago. Josh McDaniels is no longer there, and Lloyd flourished in his offense because he loves to throw the ball. John Fox doesn't share that same love, so look for his numbers to decline.
Aaron Rodgers is obviously the real deal at QB and will put up better numbers than most QB's in fantasy this season. Guys like Garcon and Britt have a big upside if they can remain on the field. Overall, I like the line up, but the running back group lacks depth. DRAFT GRADE: C+

Legion of Doom - The commissioner of our league drafted 9th overall, and made the best out of picking in that position. Drafting Mendenhall in the first round and following up with Peyton Hillis are good picks. Mendenhall's workload is a concern, carrying the ball more times than any back last season, and it showed with his YPC average sliding to 3.4. Hillis should have another good season in the west coast offense, if he stays healthy.
The receivers are solid with Welker and Dwayne Bowe in the starting slots. I like Donald Driver coming off the bench too. He still plays like he's 25 and should have a decent year. Addai should be decent, but after that the lineup goes downhill. Cassel is not going to put up the points you want out of a starting QB. Look for Roethlisberger to be in the lineup early and often. And to no ones surprise the Doom drafted the Bears D way too early, so they missed out on some other picks that could have been more beneficial. It's a solid team with a lot to like, but also some pieces in question. DRAFT GRADE: C+

The Gamblers - Thanks for hosting the draft Ausra. This may be the best lineup I've seen at picking 12th overall. Going Mike Vick and Calvin Johnson 1-2 is a great way to go at that position. Vick is a double threat that can give you QB points as well as RB points. I also like Reggie Wayne as the starter with Johnson at WR. This is by far the best starting receiving unit in the league. Malcom Floyd and Lance Moore are great options on the bench as well.
If DeAngelo Williams stays healthy, he will be a great back again in this league. It is yet to be determined if Rivera will run the ball as much as Fox did though, so that may be something to look out for. Green-Ellis can put up big numbers, but Belichick is not fond of anyone's fantasy football team, and will change out backs often. Drafting two running backs early is a good indication that this year will be no different. Mike Tolbert may be the best back on the roster. He will get a lot of red zone carries and should put up better numbers than Ryan Matthews in San Diego. Add in Dallas Clark at TE and this is the best all around roster in our league this year. If this team stays healthy, they will be hard to beat. DRAFT GRADE: A-

The Dawgpound - It will be hard not to be bias, but I will do my best. The Dawgpound has a great running back group, led by Maurice Jones-Drew and Michael Turner. If these guys are healthy all year, they will put up big numbers. Moreno and Brandon Jacobs have looked great in the preseason so there's a lot of depth here to work with. With Matt Ryan and Sam Bradford, this may be the best all around QB lineup behind the Munchers. Josh McDaniels will throw the ball all over this year, which is why I love Mike Sims-Walker this season. Mike Wallace and Santana Holmes are decent receivers, but nothing I'm too excited about. Rookie Julio Jones may come on big for me as the season goes, but I may have to go to the wire to solidify this position. Antonio Gates is the best TE in the game when healthy, and Evan Moore has the best hands on the Browns team, so I look for him to get a lot of looks this year.
If Addai goes down, Delone Carter is talked about around Indy very highly so I look for him to step in and get some carries, especially at the goal line.
Overall, I'm excited about the lineup I've drafted and I expect to have a great season. I do have the best team in the league in my division, so that will pose a problem, but I will overcome. DRAFT GRADE: B+

Tossed Salad - Rounding out the league is the Tossed Salads. They may have drafted their best team ever here, except they took a guy that refuses to report and may hold out deep into the season. If Chris Johnson does come back before the beginning of the season, this will be a steal at where he was drafted, but it's not looking promising after being placed on the did not report list. Great job by handcuffing Javon Ringer for insurance. Blount and Bush will get their share of carries this year, so you may still have a decent backfield.
Romo is back and healthy, has a lot of talent around him, so he should put up big numbers this year. You never know in Dallas though what's going to happen.
I love Roddy White and I think Ocho will have a good year for the Pats. Austin Collie seems to be the only other decent receiver on the roster, but if he's healthy you won't need any one else.
Two great TE's gives them a solid roster this year. The running back group is a slight concern. If they play well, they can be really good. If not, this will leave this team in a whole every week.

Monday, August 29, 2011

NFC Power Rankings - NFC North

I'm very anxious to see how this division is going to play out. The Vikings have a new look, the Lions are as good as they've been in 20 years, and then we have the defending NFC runner-ups and the Super Bowl Champions. This should be an exciting division as these teams jockey for position throughout the season. Let's see where they rank coming into the season.

4. Minnesota Vikings - I really like the pieces that the Vikings have in be competitive. But not to finish well in this particular division. This division is pretty stacked. I don't believe the records will be that far apart from top to bottom. The success of this team is going to be on the shoulders of Donovan McNabb. If he can still be competitive in this league, he needs to prove it this year. He will have the luxury of having the best all around running back in the NFL in Adrian Peterson. Even when he has an off year, he's good for 1100 yards and 10 TD's, so look for him to put up big numbers, especially in a contract year. There's a solid core of receivers but I don't see a true number one that sticks out. Percy Harvin has not played a full season since he's been in the league. They lost Sydney Rice in free agency, but did bring in Michael Jenkins, who's listed as the number three right now behind Harvin and Bernard Berrian. Berrian wants to play a bigger role in the offense this year, but he's aging and doesn't have the same explosiveness and break away speed he had a few years ago. Greg Camarillo rounds out the receivers for the Vikes. There will be plenty of balls to go around, but it will be intriguing to see which one of these guys steps up as McNabb's go-to-guy. My vote; Kyle Rudolph from Notre Dame. This guy was a beast in college and I look for him to step up and have a decent rookie season for the Vikings and McNabb. Defensively, the Vikings will miss Ray Edwards who left via free agency. They still have Jared Allen and a solid group of linebackers behind him, but they are getting up there in age, as is the secondary with Cedric Griffin and Antoine Winfield anchoring the group. The Vikings have a very difficult schedule this season. McNabb is no stranger to the west coast offense, so he should pick up on things quickly. There's too much power in this division though, and I see the Vikings finishing 7-9.

3. Chicago Bears - Having the Bears ranked here is going to make a lot of people upset, but there is a method to my madness. Last year the Bears had three guys that could return kicks better than anyone in the league. They still have two of those guys (Devin Hester and Johnny Knox), but the rule change added this season has kickers kicking off from the 35 yard line now instead of the 30. This is going to take away the Bears best offensive weapon. Instead of starting from the better side of the 40 every drive, Jay Cutler is going to have to go 80 yards most drives, and I'm not real confident in his ability to do that. He's a decent QB, but not great for the system Mike Martz has in Chicago. This is one of those situations that goes back to the argument of what coaches should do. Run your offense to the strength of your players, or make them adjust to your system. Cutler plays best on the run, rolling outside of the pocket, but that's not the offense that Martz likes to run. He pulls his lineman quite often as well, but the problem is the offensive line is big and slow, so they struggle doing this on a consistent basis. This could contribute to Cutler being sacked so many times last year, along with his knack for holding the ball entirely too long. And let's face facts; Cutler does not have a number one receiver to throw to. In fact, they shipped off his best target in Greg Olsen to Carolina. I love Kellen Davis from Michigan State, but he's inexperienced and more of a blocking tight end, as is Matt Spaeth. Hester is a tremendous athlete, but really can't run a route and create separation. Roy Williams may lose his starting job because he showed up out of shape. Matt Forte is one of my favorite players. I love how he plays, and in a year where he wants a new deal, I expect him to shine. He was responsible for over 60% of the Bears offense a year ago, and I don't expect that to change much. Marion Barber will add power at the goal line for the Bears. On defense, they are solid. One of the best units in the league year after year, they've looked impressive in the preseason as well. They will keep this team in any game week after week. I just don't see enough offense to make them a playoff team this year. They have three tough games right out of the gate with the Falcons, Saints, and Packers all in September, so they could very well be 0-3 before they know it. I see them finishing 8-8.

2. Detroit Lions - Finally the Lions will have a winning season. There is an "if" attached to this. Stafford has to stay healthy. I'm putting them above the Bears on the theory that Matthew Stafford will play the whole season for the first time in his career. Shaun Hill is great at managing games for this team in Stafford's absence, but if Stafford is healthy this team will do amazing things this year. He's looked incredibly sharp in the preseason. I'm really high on his abilities, and if healthy, look for him to put up numbers like the elite quarterbacks in the league. Calvin Johnson will be his main guy, who is capable of 1500 yards and 13 TD's if he gets enough looks. Nate Burleson has proven to be a solid number two, and Brandon Pettigrew should be a decent tight end in this league if he stays healthy. There's a theme with this team "if he stays healthy". They are plagued with injuries year after year and so far it's no different this year. They already lost their rookie RB for the season. Big rookie defensive lineman Nick Fairley has been in a walking boot most of the preseason. I don't know if it's bad luck or the way this team prepares in practice, but they just can't seem to stay healthy. If they can, they will be a force in the North. Jahvid Best is coming slowly off of multiple injuries, so they should have him at 100% by week one of the regular season. Defensively, they were solid last year and will be even better this year, especially up front. They have arguably the best front four in the league with Avril, Suh, Vanden Bosh, and Cory Williams. Just ask Tom Brady and the Patriots. They also have a lot of depth on the line, so they can rotate in fresh guys to get after opposing QB's. A healthy Lions team will finish 9-7. If they cannot stay healthy, look for another "yeah but..." season.

1. Green Bay Packers - I have the Packers at number one here, but I'm not in love with them as much as everyone else seems to be. Aaron Rodgers does seem to be the real deal, as he's picked up where he left off in the playoffs a year ago, looking very good in the preseason. I think before it's all said and done, he will make people in Green Bay say "Brett who?" That's how good Rodgers is. Last year this team was plagued with injuries, but were able to overcome them and win the Super Bowl. They only made the playoffs because of a bad call in the Buccaneers game, that the official later recognized he had blown the call, but the Packers took advantage of the opportunity and had one of the most dominating post seasons we've seen. Rodgers has a lot of weapons on offense. Ryan Grant is back from injury, and will share carries with James Starks. Greg Jennings is one of the best receivers in the game. He's not the physical specimen that Andre Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald are, but he is a fluid route runner and always seems to create separation and is explosive once he has the ball in his hands. Donald Driver is one of the greatest Green Bay Packer receivers in franchise history, and still looks like a 25 year old on the field. Jordy Nelson and James Jones are great targets off the bench, and they will have a healthy JerMichael Finley at TE. Defensively, you'd be hard pressed to find a better all around unit in the NFL than the Pack. Clay Matthews is a solid linebacker, getting better each year. Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson may be the best corner tandom in the NFC, not the guys in Philly. The safeties are solid as well with Nick Collins and Morgan Burnett. B.J Rahji is an absolute beast in the middle, making it difficult to run up the middle against this unit. All around, the Packers are a solid group and may be the best team in the NFC. In a competitive black and blue division, look for them to take their nicks and suffer injuries at key positions again as the season goes on. I have Green Bay winning 11 games this year, but they will play a lot of close games with a tough schedule facing them.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

NFC Power Rankings - NFC South

There was a time that the team that finished last in this division was almost guaranteed to win the division the following year. I don't see that happening this year, but this is one of the strongest divisions in the NFL across the board. Let's take a look at the break down and see where the South stacks up this season.

4. Carolina Panthers - Saying the Panthers struggled last season would be an understatement. They had one of the worst offenses in the NFL, and every quarterback they put under center was annihilated by opposing defenses. With a new coach and a new offensive scheme, things should be a little different this season. They have all the pieces in place on offense. Three exceptional tight ends in Jeremy Shockey, Greg Olsen, and Ben Hartsock. They also boast three great running backs with a healthy DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Mike Goodson. Steve Smith is still the focal point at wide receiver but has noticeably declined over the past few seasons. Cam Newton appears to be the front runner to start the season at QB over Jimmy Clausen. Personally, I would have liked to have seen Clausen get more time to prove himself as a starter, but they wrote him off by drafting Cam Newton first overall. You can't deny that Newton is talented, but look for him to struggle in a new system with a short off season.
Defensively, this team was awful. They gave up nearly 27 points a game last season. You can have Peyton Manning under center and you're not going to win too many games with that type of production. The Panthers may have been wise to trade down in the draft and stock pile picks and take the top rated defensive player on the board. At 2-14, you have a lot more holes to fill than the QB position, especially picking a non-traditional quarterback that may or may not adjust to an NFL style offense. What's done is done though and they move forward with the players that they have. This defense is old and plays old on the field. They get burned too often for big plays and wear down in the red zone. The offense will be better this year regardless of who the quarterback is, but look for the defense to continue to give up 24 plus points a game. The Panthers will be lucky to outdo last seasons record. Projection: 3-13. Maybe next year they can take my advice and trade the first overall pick and strengthen that defense.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - I love the optimism flying around Tampa Bay about their football team, but this is one of the youngest teams in the NFL and they are still a year or two away from overtaking the Falcons and Saints. Raheem Morris has done an outstanding job with this football team. They kept all the same players in place from a 10-6 season a year ago. A year older expect them to be even better. Morris said last season that they were the best team in the NFC. He wasn't far off. Looking back, it should have been them in the playoffs instead of the Green Bay Packers. But a horrible call to nullify a TD in week 17 kept them out, allowed the Packers to get in, and the rest is history. Josh Freeman played like an elite QB last season, with his favorite target being rookie wide out Mike Williams. LeGarrette Blount is an amazing talent out of Oregon and his second season should be a good one. Expect 1200 yards and 10 TD's out of him this year. Right now Armondo Allen is listed as the fifth running back, but I expect him to get into the mix and get some carries as well as the season progresses. Drafting Gerald McCoy and Da'Quan Bowers in the draft will make the defense even better than it was a year ago. If Aquib Talib can stay out of trouble, we can be one of the best corners in the league. I think this team would have a chance to win any other division in the NFC, but the South is really tight. If they can split with New Orleans, they will finish 10-6 again.

2. New Orleans Saints - The Saints have very little room for error moving forward. The Buc's are right on there tail and the Falcons are pulling away in the division. They did solidify the running game by drafting Mark Ingram, who I feel will be one of the best backs in the league in a few years. He has all the intangibles and has been compared to Emmitt Smith frequently. They also bring back Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory, who are both very good runners. Reggie Bush went to the Dolphins, but they replaced him with Darren Sproles, so expect him to play the same role Bush played in previous years. The Saints have an abundance of wide receivers for Drew Brees to choose from. Expect Marques Colston to drop off as he gets older and more surgeries under his belt. Lance Moore will have a huge season for the Saints, and Devery Henderson is able to spread the field every play. Last year they looked soft at times on defense (just look at Marshawn Lynch's run in the playoffs), so they brought in Sean Rogers to shore up that front four. It's imperative to stop the run in this division facing Michael Turner, Williams and Stewart, and Blount in Tampa each twice a season. The window of opportunity for many players on this team is closing, so this year will be huge to see where they are. Look for the Saints to finish 11-5 this season, if they can beat the Bucs and Falcons at least once.

1. Atlanta Falcons - This team won 13 games last year only to be blown out at home against the Green Bay Packers. If the Packers didn't make the playoffs last year and the Buc's got in like they should have, Matt Ryan may have been visiting the white house two weeks ago as Super Bowl MVP. Look for this team to be better than they were a year ago. Julio Jones has looked like a beast in training camp and they are excited to have him lined up across from Roddy White. White has quietly become one of the best receivers in the league, leading the NFL in catches last season. Tony Gonzales is arguably the best tight end to ever play the game and Michael Turner is healthy and should have a 1300 yard 13 TD season. Defensively this team flies to the ball and are very aggressive. They will make a lot of big plays, but gambling means giving up a lot of big plays. The Falcons should win 13 games again and have home field advantage in the playoffs. Once they are in the playoffs, it's not a given for them to win any games. They proved that last season. Matt Ryan and this team need to show they can perform in big games. There's not a lot of playoff experience on this roster, so that is a disadvantage. They are the best team in the NFC though, and if they play to their potential, look for them to run deep into the playoffs.
This division will be interesting to follow this year. It may be the only division where three teams have a legitimate chance of winning the crown.

Kerry Collins joins the Colts for Insurance

With Manning still rehabbing that neck, the Colts have signed Kerry Collins to the roster. Collins will most likely be the starter in game 1 if Manning can't go.

"Hopefully, Peyton will be back, but if he's not, maybe I can be one of the guys that can help this ballclub," Collins said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday night. "The biggest draw for me coming here was just being with a team that I have a lot of respect for and a lot of history with, and really to be with a great team and play with one of greatest quarterbacks of all time."

Colts players did not welcome Collins with open arms.

"We don't even know him, we ain't vanilla, man, we ain't no simple offense," wide receiver Reggie Wayne said. "So for him to come in here and be the starter, I don't see it. I think that's a step back."

News flash Reggie; your starters haven't scored a TD yet in the preseason with Curtis Painter under center. I understand team unity and sticking up for your teammate, but a veteran Collins who doesn't know the offense is still better than Curtis Painter.

Reggie continued to make numerous comments about supporting Painter. It's almost like they were excited about Manning being down during training camp. Wayne stated that "with Manning not here, we get to have fun and not work as hard".

This tells us how valuable Manning is and what he means to this team. I think this is serious enough where these Colts players won't play hard for Collins. If Manning can't go, don't look for the Colts to win a game until he's back under center.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

NFC Preseason Power Rankings - NFC West

We've already broken down the AFC and have the Patriots, Chargers, Texans, and Steelers winning their respective divisions. Let's take a look at the NFC, starting out west and see where the teams stack up for 2011.

4. San Francisco 49ers - Growing up through the 80's, it's still tough to see the 49ers in the position that they're in. This team hasn't made the playoffs in over a decade, and this year doesn't seem to be any more promising. They did very little in free agency to make the team better. As a matter of fact, they let most of their players go on to different teams that were free agents. Jim Harbaugh has proved to be an exceptional college football coach, but the NFL is a totally different game so we'll see how he does in his first year with the Niners. The quarterback situation is a mess. Alex Smith has shown flashes that he can play, but a different offensive coordinator every year has slowed his development down and he looks like a rookie going through the motions every year. It doesn't matter who they put under center, if they can't keep some stability in the offense and the system their going to run, it's going to be a long season. Frank Gore is disgruntled over his contract, and came into camp late. Gore has put up good numbers, but he has been prone to injury and coming off a broken hip, it's going to be tough for him to negotiate top running back money. Braylon Edwards came over from the Jets, so he should add a big target to go along with Vernon Davis. Defensively, the only thing to brag about is Patrick Willis at LB. They gave up Nate Clemens and Takeo Spikes in free agency. I don't see this team stopping too many teams outside of the division. Lucky for them, they will be playing the Seahawks, Cardinals, and Rams each twice. It's still not going to matter much. I have the 49ers finishing the season at 4-12.

3. Seattle Seahawks - Pete Carroll's journey back into the NFL started off with a division title and an upset playoff victory over the New Orleans Saints. Look for his success to end there. He's put the team on the shoulders of Travaris Jackson, and released Matt Hasselback, who was signed by the Tennessee Titans. This move alone is going to keep them from winning another division title. They are worse than they were last year, and let's not forget they won the division with seven wins. I don't see that happening this year. The Rams and Cardinals are both better so it's going to be harder to get wins than it was a year ago. The Hawks did bring in Sydney Rice, but we aren't sure what he can do without Brett Favre throwing him the ball. They also have Leon Washington back from injury, so he will add some excitement to the offense and special teams. Beyond that there really isn't much to get excited about. Defensively, there's really nothing that sticks out to make other teams fear them. They have average players at every position, and they will produce average results. We don't really expect to see Marshawn Lynch running people over like he did last year against the Saints in the playoffs. It was a good story, but now they are back to reality. It looks to be a 6 win season for the Seahawks this year.

2. Arizona Cardinals - The Cardinals will definitely be better than they were last year. They were a mess at quarterback with a three headed monster, none of which were able to move the ball. Kevin Kolb should add some stability at that position this year. They had some key losses on offensive with Tim Hightower going to Washington, and Steve Breaston to the Chiefs. Beanie Wells has looked good in the preseason and appears to be running hard. If he can stay healthy, they expect good things out of him. Larry Fitzgerald was just awarded with the largest contract for a wide receiver in NFL history, so he will be the go-to-guy for Kolb. Max Komar will be a guy to keep an eye on as the year progresses, and Todd Heap will be a nice target over the middle.
Losing D.R.C. to the Eagles in a trade will have a negative impact on the secondary, but they are still strong with Adrian Wilson and Kerry Rhodes. Overall, the defense looks to be sturdy, a little older at the LB position, so they will need to begin addressing that next off season. This team's success will be determined by how quickly Kevin Kolb can adjust to the system and if he can succeed as a starting quarterback. He will not be the next Kurt Warner, but I do expect him to play at a high level. I have the Cardinals finishing at .500 this year with an 8-8 record.

1. St. Louis Rams - This is a team that is still building, but have the luxury of playing in the NFC West, so they should still be able to get into the playoffs. Sam Bradford was sensational in his rookie year, so we expect him to repeat that this year with better weapons around him. Steven Jackson is still the backbone of this offense. He's 28 years old and has carried the ball more times than any other running back over the last three seasons, so the tread is wearing thin on this work horse. They did bring in Jerious Norwood and Cadillac Williams to spell Jackson this season. I expect Norwood to have more of an impact than the injury prone Williams. A healthy Donnie Avery and the addition of Mike Sims-Walker should add some nice targets on the outside for Bradford. I see Bradford throwing for over 3,000 yards and 25 TD's this year. Defensively, they have some great players led by James Laurinaitis and Chris Long. Winning the division will get them into the playoffs, but I don't see them making any noise once they get in. It will be a slow start with their schedule, but it gets a little easier down the stretch. They will end up winning 9 games and edging out Arizona for the division title.

Johnson and Agent to Meet with Titans GM Wednesday

Chris Johnson is set to fly into Nashville Wednesday to meet with Titans GM Mike Reinfeldt. The running back has been a hold out all through training camp and the preseason thus far. Johnson has been firm in his stance for wanting a new deal before he takes the field again for the Titans. He has two years remaining on his current deal and is scheduled to make a little over 1 million this season.
Johnson has been very vocal about wanting to be paid like a top play maker, not just a top running back. Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald signed a contract earlier this week for $120 million, so look for Johnson to use this as a gauge for his negotiations. Johnson deserves a new contract, but he has went about getting it the wrong way. Show up to camp with your teammates and play what you are paid to do. I don't care if it's $1 million or $30 million. You are still under contract and getting paid to work as a part of a team. Holding out has only hurt his teammates and coaches, who are in a rebuilding stage and need all the reps together they can get. Johnson will get the money he wants because the Titans can't afford to let him walk, but the team has suffered through this selfish behavior, and it will show early on in the season.

Dolphins Add Larry Johnson

The Miami Dolphins have signed 31 year old Larry Johnson to the roster. The Dolphins waived Kory Sheets after suffering a season ending achilles injury. They also released veterans Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, who both seem to have more in the tank than Larry Johnson, so the move is quite baffling for most fans. This will be the fourth team Larry Johnson has played for since 2006, when he had his best year with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Veterans Brian Westbrook, Tiki Barber, and Clinton Portis still remain by the phones waiting for a call. They could be waiting a while. Portis auditioned for the Patriots earlier this week, but it doesn't look like he'll get a call back.

AFC Preseason Power Rankings - AFC East

We wrap up the AFC power rankings with a look at the AFC East. It looks like there will be two playoff teams coming out of the East again, so let's break down the numbers and see where everyone stacks up.

4. Miami Dolphins - There is a reason that Bill Parcells decided to retire officially when he did. This team is in a rebuilding stage, even though they don't want to admit it. Unless a miracle happens, this will be Tony Sporano's last season with the Dolphins. Offensively, they made a stir in training camp with talks of Kyle Orton joining the team, but when that fell through, fans turned on Chad Henne, which we will see through out the season. Every time he overthrows a receiver or throws a pick, expect the boo-birds to come out in Miami. The team decided to part ways with long time backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, so say goodbye to the Wildcat in Miami. Newly acquired Reggie Bush will be the focal point in the backfield this season, splitting carries with rookie Daniel Thomas. I like Davone Bess at receiver, and you never know what you're going to get with Brandon Marshall. They have a solid offensive line, but that's about it offensively. On the other side of the ball, Cameron Wake is a force off the edge, but beyond that, they have very little to get excited about. Jason Taylor is back for his 72nd season with the Dolphins. Ok, maybe that's exaggerating a little, but doesn't it feel that way? They have a decent secondary, but going against Brady twice a year and the Jets receivers twice a year, it's going to be tough to keep up. If the Dolphins were in the NFC West, they might win the division. But sitting in the competitive AFC East, I have them finishing 5-11 at best.

3. Buffalo Bills - The cardiac kids. The Bills lost 6 games last season by a touchdown or less. This means they could have easily won 10 or 11 games right? Looking at the other 6 games they lost, they were blown out pretty badly. Chan Gailey decided to pass on all of the quarterbacks in the draft and stick with journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick. They did add Brad Smith to the roster, so he should add a dimension of excitement that the Bills have been lacking. He can line up under center or at wide receiver, not to mention return kicks for them. Beyond Stevie Johnson, the Bills really have no depth at the receiver position, after trading Lee Evans away before the start of preseason. So far, their first round pick from a year ago C.J. Spiller has been a bust, and comes into the season behind Fred Jackson on the depth chart. On paper, there doesn't seem to be too much to get excited about. On defense, they are stout up front, led by Marcel Dareus. They are a little long in the tooth at LB, but Shawn Merriman has looked good in the preseason, so there is some hope there. The secondary is solid, so it will be interesting to see how the Bills fare this year. The division is strong, so that goes against them. Playing the schedule that they have this year, I have them winning 6 games. I like a solid backup. Next year, I suggest getting a franchise quarterback. Maybe Andrew Luck will be under center in Buffalo next year.

2. New York Jets - To no surprise, Rex Ryan has already guaranteed a Super Bowl victory...again. One of these years, Rex is going to be right. He has a lot to be optimistic about this season. Mark Sanchez finally looks like he's making strides to be the franchise quarterback for the Jets. They made sure to bring back Santonio Holmes with a huge contract, and added 6'5" Plaxico Burress. After 3 catches for 66 yards and a TD this week, he looks like he'll fit in quickly. The Jets are very deep at RB, so concerns of a drop off for Tomlinson aren't very high.
Defensively, they have the two of the best corners in the league in Revis and Cromartie. They will lock down most receivers every week. Passing on Nnamdi and keeping Cromartie was the better move for the Jets, because it gave them money to sign some key players that they needed to keep. Bart Scott and David Harris are great linebackers, and will anchor that defense this year with Calvin Pace in the middle at nose tackle. The Jets have some difficult games on the schedule, but I still see them winning 12 games this year and going deep into the playoffs again.

1. New England Patriots - As long as Bill Belichick is running this team, they are going to be at the top of this division. It doesn't matter if Brady goes down. They still won 11 games when Brady got hurt. Look how good Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallet look. It's not coincidence that all of these quarterbacks are playing well. Belichick is a genius and can win with any player under center. Not to take anything away from Tom Brady, because he's done great things there. But if he were playing for another team, there's a good chance we would have never heard of him.
Offensively, this team is stacked with weapons. Looking at the depth chart, Ocho Cinco is listed as the third receiver, so that tells you the talent that's on this team. They have two young tight ends that could both be pro bowlers. They have a strong offensive line so it doesn't matter who is in the backfield, they can get 5 or 6 yards a clip. Defensively, Haynesworth and Wilfork are going to clog the middle, so don't expect too many teams to run on the Patriots. Jared Mayo is one of the better linebackers in the NFL, and they have a solid group of young players in the secondary. Believe that Belichick WILL get the most out of Haynesworth, Ocho Cinco, and anyone else he brings in to revive their career. They have only gotten better from their 14-2 record a year ago, so expect them to do much of the same this season. They will win 14 games again this year and have a first round bye in the playoffs with home field advantage throughout. Circle October 9th on your calendar. The Jets and Patriots match up and should both be 4-0 coming into the game. This rivalry will determine the winner of this division.

Monday, August 22, 2011

AFC Power Rankings - AFC West

The AFC West is always one of the hardest divisions to figure out. The Raiders swept the division last season and didn't make the playoffs! The Chargers were number one in the NFL in offense and defense and didn't make the playoffs! Let's take a look at each team and find out what's going on in 2011.

4. Denver Broncos - The Broncos have had one of the more publicly viewed and discussed training camps this year, largely because of the quarterback controversy surrounding Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow. Orton was supposed to have been dealt to the Dolphins but they could never get the trade done. The Denver fans want it to be Tebow time but the only problem is Orton is a better quarterback. In fact, Brady Quinn is a better quarterback, who has outperformed Tebow in the preseason. John Fox still doesn't know which direction he is going to go, and I don't think this is the way he wanted to start his career in Denver waffling over quarterbacks.
We know that Fox loves the two running back system, so we expect to see a lot of Knowshon Moreno and newly acquired veteran Willis McGahee in the offense this year. If Moreno can prove to stay healthy an entire season, he should have a good season for the Broncos. On defense, they are still really bad. Elvis Dumervil's return should have a positive impact, but they still have a long way to go to recover from their 32nd ranked defense in 2010. With a tough schedule playing the NFC North and AFC East this season, I have the Broncos finishing 4-12 in the West.

3. Oakland Raiders - As long as Al Davis is still running this team, they are going no where fast. Every year since 2002 has been a disappointment. The Raiders have been dubbed "the place where players go to die", because they've marked the end of careers for Javon Walker, Jerry Rice, Dante Culpepper, and several others. Let's all admit that the Lane Kiffin experiment was a bad move, but Tom Cable provided stability and swept the division in 2010, but Davis still canned him at the end of the season. So the Raiders will enter the 2011 season with a new head coach and a similar starting lineup as they had in 2010. The loss of Zach Miller was quickly mended by signing free agent Kevin Boss, who should help Campbell over the middle of the field. The Raiders still have McFadden and Mike Bush toting the ball, so we expect big numbers out of both of those backs. They still have solid players on both sides of the ball, but they need to put everything together to win the division. They added speedy receiver Jacoby Ford to line up across from Heyward-Bay. Ford is a good receiver, but the two are very similar in size, speed, and playing style. They may have been better off going after a bigger, possession receiver that could run routes over the middle of the field and help them pick up third down yardage. Overall, they didn't do much to improve the team from a year ago and a lot of other teams have gotten better. I have them finishing 7-9 in 2011.

2. Kansas City Chiefs - The Chiefs were able to win the AFC West last season, largely because of the mix of play calling from offensive coordinator Charlie Weiss. With Weiss now a Florida Gator, it's going to be interesting to see how the Chiefs offense responds. All the pieces are still there from a year ago, including new wide receiver Steve Breaston from Arizona. Jamaal Charles is one of the most explosive backs in the NFL, so we expect big things from him.
They are a young and inexperienced team, which showed in the playoffs when they were routed by the Baltimore Ravens. I expect this team to be even better talent wise, but Charlie Weiss is an offensive genius, so it's yet to be determined how much he will be missed this season. Can Dwayne Bowe finally show some stability and play every down like the Chiefs fans know he can? On defense, Eric Berry is one of the best young players in the league and provides leadership and maturity beyond his years already. I like all the pieces they have in place, and they may prove me wrong and win the division again, but right now I have them finishing second in the West with a 10-6 record. This may get them into the playoffs, depending on what happens with the Colts and Ravens this year.

1. San Diego Chargers - The loss of Charlie Weiss in Kansas City is the only reason I have the Chargers ahead of the Chiefs on this list. Last season the Chargers became the only team to finish number one in the NFL in offense and defense and not make the playoffs. How is this possible? Their special teams unit was awful last year, and they made bone head plays down the stretch of games to give them away. They will have Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates both to start the season, so this will give Philip Rivers his two favorite targets coming out of the gates. Rivers has proven to be one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL, and we expect no less than 3800 yards and 30 TD's from him this season. The Chargers will miss Darren Sproles more than people think. If you think back to all the big games they won against the Colts in the playoffs, it was always Sproles that was able to step up and put them away. They still have Ryan Matthews, but the jury is still out on whether he can stay healthy and be productive for a full season.
On defense, they kept their 2010 unit intact, plus added Bob Sanders from the Colts. Sanders was a huge disappointment to the Colts and their fans, finding his way on the IR list every single year. If and when he is healthy, he's one of the best at his position, but he hasn't proven he can stay on the field long enough to make an impact. The schedule for the Chargers is fairly light this year, which should allow them to win 11 games and get back into the playoffs. This division is going to come down to the Chiefs and Chargers matching up on Halloween night. Who ever wins this game may control their own destiny moving forward through the remainder of the season.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

AFC Power Rankings - AFC North

We continue our preseason power rankings by division with a look at the AFC North. This may be one of the most interesting divisions in the NFL with the former AFC champions, the always tough Ravens, and the emerging Cleveland Browns. Let's work our way through the division and break down some statistics and schedules to see where everyone should end up this year.

4. Cincinnati Bengals - After what happened during the off season, this should be a surprise to no one. The franchise has been corrupt from the front office for years, and the stubborn owner Mike Brown went against everything that was good for the franchise and the fans of Cincinnati and let Carson Palmer retire. In a year where there is potentially going to be 10 or more different starting quarterbacks than who finished with their respective teams last year, Brown had a golden goose in Palmer. Instead of trading the QB and stockpiling some draft picks or getting quality players to fill in holes, they let Palmer ride off into the sunset with their money and retire from the game, leaving the Bengals to start from scratch. Now the franchise must move forward with rookie QB Andy Dalton under center. Dalton is not going to be the answer to all of the
problems the Bengals have. They had no intentions of bringing T.O. back who led the team in receiving last season. They also traded Ocho Cinco to the Patriots, and drafted rookie receiver A.J. Green. They did bring back running back Cedric Benson, who may have one more good year in him of toting the ball 25 times a game, then they will have to go a different direction. The Bengals are young and inexperienced at every major position. Not to mention they let their best DB go in free agency to Houston. Sorry Cincinnati fans, but the Bungles are back and look like they are here to stay for the foreseeable future. After breaking down their schedule, I have them going 4-12 this year. This may mean the young team will be looking for a new coach in February or March.

3. Cleveland Browns - The gap between 2nd and 3rd place in this division is going to be closer than people think. Second year GM Mike Holmgrem has brought in some great coaches and the Browns have added key players that other teams past on. Colt McCoy has looked outstanding in preseason action so far, and looks very calm in the pocket for a second year quarterback. Browns fans are expecting great things out of him and they feel like they've finally found a QB that can be the franchise guy. They are also returing the Madden cover boy Peyton Hillis, who took the league by storm last year with his power running style and ability to leap over defenders with a single bound. He reminds Browns fans of a faster, more athletic Kevin Mack. If he can avoid the "Madden Curse", they should count on another 1000 plus yards and 13 TD's out of the bruising back. The Browns should also have a healthy Monterio Hardesty this year, and acquired Brandon Jackson from the Packers to add a change of pace back for the new west coast offense. Former Stanford TE Evan Moore has looked good thus far in the preseason, and they expect big things from rookie receiver Greg Little. On the other side of the ball, new defensive coordinator Dick Jauron will have this unit playing well. They replaced big Sean Rogers with Phil Taylor, and they have a solid core of defensive backs in Joe Haden, T.J. Ward, and Sheldon Brown. Boasting one of the best young offensive lines in the league, the Browns are optimistic going into the 2011 season. I have the Browns finishing 9-7 this year, one year away from a playoff birth.

2. Baltimore Ravens - Over the years, the Ravens have always boasted one of the best defenses in the National Football League. But that's the problem that I have with them going into this season. "Over the years!" The heart and soul of this defense is Ray Lewis, who is 37 years old and 16 seasons into his career. Ed Reed, may be the best safety we've seen in years, in 32 years old. As good as these guys are, they can't play forever. I believe this year we will see this defense decline from what they've done in the past, and their offense is going to have to keep them in some games. That's where Ray Rice comes in. I'm excited about what Ray Rice can do this year, because he will be running behind Vonte Leach, the man that cleared holes for Arian Foster last season. I expect to see big numbers out of Rice this year, especially with McGahee no longer in the mix. Joe Flacco has failed to repeat what he did in his rookie season. It seems as if every year Baltimore fans are saying "this is the year that Joe Flacco breaks on to the scene", but it hasn't happened yet. He's been surrounded by an aging cast of wide receivers. Anquan Boldin joined the team last season and had some good moments, but didn't produce the way they had hoped he would. Let's be honest, he had a lot of single coverage in Arizona with Fitz on the other side. I love Derrick Mason from Michigan State, but he is no Larry Fitzgerald. Boldin will continue to see double coverage this season, but not as much with Lee Evans joining the wide receiver crew. Evans will be able to spread the field and let Boldin work more underneath where he is at his best. If this offense can consistently get over 24 points a game, they should be ok. If not, it may be a long season. Bottom line, Ravens will finish 10-6 this year and will sneak into the playoffs by winning the tie breaker over the Colts.

1. Pittsburgh Steelers - If you look at the age of the Steelers defense across the board, they are actually older than the Baltimore Ravens. But if you watched what they were able to do against the Philadelphia Eagles this week in the first half, you wouldn't know it. These guys still fly around to the ball faster than any team in the league. They have most of their starters on both sides of the ball coming back from their Super Bowl run last season. Troy Polamalu is healthy going into the season, and James Harrison appears that he will not retire because of his issues with the commissioner. Hopefully the NFL does something about his comments though, because this guy needs to be suspended for at least the first four games of the season. On offense, the weak spot of this team is the offensive line, but the way that Roethlisberger is able to improvise, this really hasn't hurt them too much. They've added Jericho Cotchery to the receiver mix, who will add another threat to go over the middle with Hines Ward, and they still have speedster Mike Wallace to spread the field. The Steelers have one of the best front offices in the NFL and prove that every year by adding players that fit their scheme. This team is never in a rebuilding stage. They are always reloading and coming out just as good, or better than the previous year. There's a reason they have more championships than any other franchise. Considering this as well as a weaker schedule for 2011, I have them finishing 12-4 and making the playoffs with a first round bye.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

AFC South Preseason Power Rankings

We will be kicking off this years preseason power rankings in the AFC South. I believe that this division will have a different look than what we've seen in the past. There's been a lot of new additions, possible rookie QB's that may have an impact on their teams success, and arguably one of the best running backs in the league holding out because he wants Tom Brady money.

Based on these observations and some research, I've ranked the South division as follows:

4. Tennessee Titans - After losing the longest tenured coach in the NFL, you automatically have to think there will be some type of drop off. This usually indicates the start of a rebuilding process, and they backed that theory up by drafting QB Jake Locker in the first round. They also brought in veteran Matt Hasselback to start the season and mentor the young Locker, who looked good in the preseason opener against the Vikings.
Mike Munchak already has his work cut out for him as a first time head coach and a shortened off season, but the Chris Johnson contract drama is not what he needed. Does Johnson deserve a new contract? Absolutely! Does he deserve to be paid as a top running back in the league? No doubt about it! This apparently is not enough for Johnson. He wants top play maker money like the Tom Brady's and Peyton Manning's of the NFL. There's a reason that QB's get paid more than any other position on the field. They have the most difficult job mentally. They also touch the ball on every single down. A QB can dictate the game and be the reason the team wins or loses each week. Just look at Manning in Indianapolis last season. Running backs don't have this affect on the game. For example, two years ago Chris Johnson rushed for over 2,000 yards and the Titans went 8-8. Word of advice, take your top running back pay, report to camp, and start helping your team get better.
Add the drama with Kenny Britt and the loss of Jason Babin, I see the Titans finishing 5-11 this year with their schedule.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars - If the Jaguars do end up finishing in this position, you will have seen the last of Jack Del Rio in Jacksonville. He has somehow held onto his job through much adversity over the past few years. I see him as one of the early season coaches on the hot seat.
Looking at the offense, I like the addition of Blaine Gabbert in the draft. It will take time, but I think he can be groomed into a decent starter in the NFL. He's had a preseason with some ups and downs so far, but adding more weapons would have helped the young QB. The Jags did manage to resign pro bowl TE Mercedes Lewis, who will provide a nice big target over the middle. Jones-Drew is coming off of knee surgery but should be healthy going into the season, so we expect to see a 1300 yard, 10 TD season out of him. The lack of size and depth at the receiver position is a concern. I think adding a Terrell Owens when he becomes healthy would be a good move for the Jags.

Defensively, I like the additions of Clint Session, Paul Posluszny, and Aaron Kampman. They also acquired LB Matt Roth from Cleveland, who should provide some depth at that position. The defense did look better last night against the Falcons than they did in the opener against New England. With a difficult schedule this year, I see the Jaguars sitting Gerrard midway through the season and going to the rookie. If this happens, Del Rio will be blowing his whistle somewhere else next season. Projected record....6-10.

2. Indianapolis Colts - This is the year, unfortunately, the Colts will lose the division and not make the playoffs. Peyton Manning has yet to take a snap in practice. The team has been throttled two weeks in a row in the preseason without Manning. Now granted, the Colts are never a strong preseason team, but they haven't even looked competitive yet.
They lost some key defensive players in Clint Session, Kelvin Hayden, and Bob Sanders. They also made very little effort to get bigger in their front seven, which showed last night as the Redskins racked up over 160 yards in the first half on the ground. This is a huge disadvantage when you face Jones-Drew, Arian Foster, and Chris Johnson each twice a year.
Offensively, Manning will be back under center for the start of the season, but there is no doubt that he will be rusty. The Colts offense is all timing routes, and with virtually no off season work and now no preseason work for Manning, it's going to take a while for him to get back on the same page as his receivers. Colts fans can only hope Manning will be ready to go, because we've seen Curtis Painter, and we do not have a lot of faith in his abilities. Indianapolis has continued to struggle running the ball in the preseason, which was a huge problem for them last year. They will have a healthy line up of receivers, but how many hits will it take before Collie is out with another concussion? With one of the toughest schedules in the league this year, I have the Colts finishing 10-6 and possibly missing the playoffs.

1. Houston Texans - This is the year that the Texans will finally make an impact on this division and make the playoffs. One man will be responsible for this...Wade Phillips. Phillips is one of the better defensive minds in the NFL and will have this defense playing well four or five games into the season. We already know how explosive they are on offense with Schaub, Andre Johnson, and Arian Foster. They did lose fullback Vonte Leach in free agency, but picked up Lawrence Vickers from the Browns, so Foster's production should not decrease too much from a year ago. They will score 28 points a game, it's just a matter if the defense can only give up 27.
Wade Phillips and Gary Kubiak were able to bring in some key pieces on defense to shore up the secondary that struggled last season. Jonathon Joseph came over from the Bengals at corner and safety Danieal Manning from Chicago, each will start week one and should provide some stability for the Texans.
As with Del Rio, Kubiak is on the hot seat this year if he cannot produce a playoff team this year. If it's going to happen, this year is better than any other with the Colts fading and Johnson holding out in Tennessee. With that being said, I see Houston winning 11 games this year and making their first playoff appearance.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Colts Have No Horsepower

After watching the Manning-less starters for the last two weeks, saying I'm disappointed would be an understatement.

Sure, it's not fair to judge them with Painter under center, but the last time I checked Curtis Painter doesn't play defense. And neither does the rest of the Colts roster from the looks of it.
John Beck marched the Redskins up and down the field in the first half of action at Lucas Oil tonight (That's right, John Beck!) with very little resistance. The Colts had given up 160 yards rushing with 8 minutes to go in the second quarter.

This looks to be the same Colts defense that we've seen the last few years. The Colts did very little in the draft or in free agency to get bigger on the front seven. The only time they were able to stop the run was when Bob Sanders was healthy, so that was roughly three games a year. Now that he's gone, they don't even have that.

On the other side of the ball the Colts still lack a pure runner that can tote the ball 20 times a game. Manning took less money so the Colts could keep Addai, who is a great pass protector and can read blitzes brilliantly, but he's not the answer at providing a stable running game for Indianapolis.

We know that last season Manning carried the Colts into the playoffs by himself. If there was ever a year that the four time league MVP deserved the honor, it was last year. Too bad Tom Brady only threw 4 interceptions (which is easy when you don't throw the ball for more than 8 to 10 yards a pop).

Manning is the best QB in the league and if anyone can carry a team on his back it is number 18. But coming off of neck surgery and missing all of training camp and the preseason, it's going to be a tough road in 2011. The Houston Texans have gotten much better and will continue to get better on defense as the season progresses under Wade Phillips. The Colts also play the NFC South and the AFC North this year, meaning they will have to take on the Falcons, Saints, Buccaneers, Ravens, Steelers, and the new and improved Browns. Oh, and don't forget about the annual meeting with the Patriots. With that schedule, the Colts will be lucky to win 10 games this season.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Is Randy Moss a First Ballot Hall of Famer?

This is the question that is circling throughout the league since journeymen receiver Randy Moss announced his retirement on Monday. So what do you think? Well, let's look at the numbers, his career, attitude, and compare that to what you think a "Hall of Fame" player should be.

To me, being a Hall of Famer is more than just putting up stats, regardless of the sport. If it was all about numbers, Mark McGuire, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens would be shoe ins for the baseball hall of fame. But being a true Hall of Fame athlete means putting up more than just great numbers. It's about being a great teammate. It's about being a positive influence for the fans, as well as the guys that are coming into the league behind you. Let's take a look at Randy's career and see if he met these requirements.

Career Receptions: 953
Career Yards: 14,858
Career TD's: 153
1st Down Receptions: 682
Rookie Record for TD's; 17
NFL Record TD's in a season: 23

Just by looking at these numbers, you would definitely make Randy Moss a first ballot Hall of Fame player. He's tied with T.O. for 2nd most TD's all time only behind Jerry Rice. The numbers are absolutely there, but let's look at the other criteria of a Hall of Fame player. What makes a great receiver in the NFL? You have to be able to catch the ball; not a problem there for Randy. You have to be able to create separation; Randy is one of the best. You need to be able to go up and get the ball at it's highest point; again, Randy is one of the best at doing that. So far so good.

Let's talk about route running. Randy Moss was never known for his ability to run great routes. He's been commonly referred to as a "one trick pony", meaning he can only run the go route and sprint past defenders. Looking at his numbers, this seemed to work very well for him, so we'll overlook the lack of route running ability. What about blocking? Receivers have to block, especially on the non passing downs, and Randy Moss was not even close to being a half way decent blocker as a receiver. You never saw a clip of Randy Moss running down the field in front of a running back to throw a block like you've seen T.O or Hines Ward do so many times. So that's a big negative, but definitely not enough to keep him out of Canton.
Now we come to Randy Moss as a teammate. This was always hit or miss. When things were going great, Randy was one of the best teammates you could ask for. Like his first few years in Minnesota with Chris Carter grooming him and helping him become a professional. Then again in 2007 when he went to New England and was under one of the best coaching staffs and front offices in the league. Moss was a constant professional during these times. But when adversity struck, Moss shut down and became a mediocre receiver, at best. When Carter left the Vikings, Moss was still very productive, but he became a clown on the field, mooning the Packer fans after scoring a TD at Lambeau. He then took his talents, and antics to Oakland, where he had two horrible seasons as a pro. Not so much by the numbers he put up, but how he acted towards his teammates and fans. Moss basically shut down and quit on his team because he wasn't happy about his situation. This is not the way a professional acts and responds to situations like this. Then 2010, the worst way to end your career, (unless your name is Brett Favre). Bounced from three different teams in one season, posting a dismal 5 TD's on 28 grabs. He was virtually non existent in the league. He had already given up on his teams, and himself.

It's no secret that Moss, even during his glory years, would routinely take plays off. This is not Pro behavior and seems to be a little selfish. Everyone always points fingers at T.O that he's a "me" guy and everything revolves around him. Nobody mentioned Randy Moss with this. To me, Randy Moss was more selfish and more of a "me" player than T.O or anyone else. You can never question T.O's work ethic. The man never took plays off, he blocked, he ran routes over the middle of the field, he did it all on the field. He always seemed to draw attention to himself off the field, but you definitely cannot question his passion for the game and his work ethic. That is more than we can say for Moss.

Am I saying he's not a Hall of Fame caliber receiver? Absolutely not! But I do think it has to be a little bit more difficult of a decision than it is to induct someone like Jerry Rice, Chris Carter, and players like Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison when it's time for them to go in.