Predicting NFL Regular-Season Win-Loss Records for Every Team in 2012
It seems as if every year, there is a new team that goes from worst to first or first to worst in the NFL.
Most of the offseason's transactions are complete, so now the fun begins. Who will be division champs, or better yet, who will take home the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the year?
Training camp is less than 10 days away, so let's take a look at all 32 teams and see how they will have fared by season's end.
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Two things scare me the most about the Arizona Cardinals: their quarterback and offensive line play. They essentially did nothing to upgrade the offensive line, and Kevin Kolb's contract gives him the first shot as the starter for at least one more year.
It would have been nice if they landed Peyton Manning, but it looks like John Skelton will have to be the guy. It's doubtful Kolb lasts all season behind a poor offensive line.
Arizona is fortunate enough to have a couple of back-to-back home stands—one early in the season and one towards the end. The second half of the season looks to feature the possibility of only one cold-weather game, but Weeks 15 (Lions), 16 (Bears) and 17 (49ers) will be a tough way to finish out the season.
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What concerned me the most about Atlanta in 2011 was its lackluster playoff showing. Two points in a playoff game against the 25th-ranked scoring defense is utterly disappointing.
However, their offseason additions were quite surprising. Adding Asante Samuel, at the cost of nothing, to an already impressive secondary will make them one of the better units in the NFL. It will be interesting to see if they can get a good enough pass-rush to help the secondary out.
The Falcons weren't rewarded with any games in the Georgia Dome on consecutive weeks, but I don't see that being a problem since their last nine games of the season will either be played indoors or in warm-weather climates.
Expect Atlanta to take the NFC South crown this season, as the Saints will be sinking.
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Even though I haven't been a fan of the Ravens' offseason moves, I still like their chances in the AFC North. The wide receiver position is one I would have liked to see them upgrade, but it seems like they are set heading into the season with Jacoby Jones in the slot.
Another question one has to beg: How will the losses of Terrell Suggs and Jarret Johnson hurt their defense? I look for Jimmy Smith to excel at the right cornerback position; he got his feet wet as a rookie last year, but now it's time for him to step up as a starter.
Baltimore opens the season with the Bengals, Eagles and Patriots—three teams that have improved during the offseason.
Closing out the season will be just as tough as the beginning of the season, as the Broncos and Giants roll into town for Weeks 15 and 16. The Ravens travel to Cincinnati in Week 17, which could prove to be a game that will decide the division winner.
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Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Mark Anderson and Marcell Dareus—what a monster of a front four. I would have a hard time naming a better unit.
Buffalo has spent a good amount of time upgrading its defense, but one area that still makes me worry is the group of linebackers. Not a whole lot of talent in that group, but naturally, the defensive line will help mask that weakness.
As far as the offense goes, its biggest question mark will be Ryan Fitzpatrick's consistency and injuries—no questions here about level of talent.
The second half of the season should be kind to the Bills, as they play one playoff team in the final eight games. They will need to maximize every opportunity, because keeping pace with the Patriots will prove to be no easy task.
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It's really hard not to be impressed with the 2011 Carolina Panthers. Even though their overall record didn't reflect the success the team had on offense, they made plenty of strides from 2010 to 2011.
The biggest thing that held the Panthers back was their poor play on defense; they had trouble stopping the run and covering the pass. With one of the best backfields in football and an ever-improving Cam Newton, the Panthers will make a case for most improved team in 2012.
How Carolina starts the season will be crucial, as the first four games of the season are tough. Facing Tampa Bay, New Orleans, the New York Giants and Atlanta isn't the way anyone wants to open the season. If it can open the season 1-3, it will be lucky.
Its defense needs to step up to allow it to hang with some very good offenses in the first half of the season.
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Chicago has had its fair share of problems over the past couple years with the offensive line and health of quarterback Jay Cutler. With Mike Tice replacing Mike Martz as offensive coordinator, look for Cutler to get sacked less and get rid of the ball quicker.
Tice has publicly stated that he has eliminated all seven-step drops from the playbook, as they don't play to the overall philosophy of the offense. Additions of Brandon Marshall, Michael Bush and Alshon Jeffery will help the Bears become NFC North contenders once again.
The Bears don't really have any lulls in their schedule, as they will have a couple of easy games sprinkled in here and there. Playing in the NFC North guarantees six tough divisional games. Minnesota won't be making any Super Bowls trips in the near future, but the Vikings have plenty of upgrades and always play the Bears tough.
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Cincinnati has received plenty of love this offseason from multiple outlets and writers, but will the Bengals live up to all the hype?
I am one who believes they will, but my biggest question will be the progression of Andy Dalton. He proved to have a Pro Bowl season, but at the end of his rookie year, he hit the rookie wall hard. Arizona, Baltimore and Houston comprised the worst stretch of the season.
The Bengals feasted on an easy schedule in 2011, but the schedule-makers weren't as easy on them in 2012.
I have the Bengals starting the season at 5-3, but the stretch of Weeks 13 through 17 will be rough—three road games and two home games against top-notch teams like San Diego, Dallas, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Baltimore.
Can the Bengals make it to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in 30 years?
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I love Browns fans because they are passionate no matter what. Cleveland has dealt with some bad football for some time now, and even though I don't see things getting any better anytime soon, that doesn't mean it can't surprise one or two of us.
Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden will need to step in immediately and be effective. Richardson's chances of doing this are a lot better than Weeden's. Supplemental draftee Josh Gordon should see the field plenty, but the odds of him succeeding right away are low. He is a very raw player who lacks polish.
It's not far-fetched to see the Browns start the season 0-8; it's hard to see a favorable matchup in that stretch. However, winnable games come against Cincinnati in Week 6 and Week 15 against Washington.
Other than those two games, it's tough to envision many Ws. The week after the first Cincy game, they play Indianapolis, which looks favorable, but I'll take Luck at home over Weeden.
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After another good offseason on paper, the Cowboys will prove they are no better than average.
Dallas' offensive line worries me the most. The additions up front seem to be downgrades instead of upgrades. Nate Livings was a train wreck last season for Cincinnati, and how Phil Costa allowed so much pressure up the middle is a head-scratcher.
However, they did fix their biggest defensive weakness. Adding Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr brought some much-needed stability to their secondary.
The NFC East proves to be one of the toughest divisions year after year. New York is coming off of a Super Bowl, Philadelphia started to gel at the end of last season and Washington now has as quarterback it can trust.
Weeks 4 through 10 look to be brutal, so it will be important not to fall in an 0-2 hole right out of the gate.
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Tim Tebow brought plenty of mile-high magic with him last season, as the Broncos made a playoff appearance for the first time in six years. In 2012, Denver will be relying more on talent than luck or magic. Peyton Manning takes over the reins, as Tebow has been shipped off to the New York Jets.
Along with bringing in Manning, the organization brought in a couple familiar targets to go along with a couple new ones. Look for Joel Dreessen and Ronnie Hillman to have the biggest impact on the offense. Hillman should have no problem eating up Knowshon Moreno's playing time, since Moreno has been nothing more than a letdown.
What an exciting way to start the season: The Broncos will host the Steelers on Sunday Night Football. Manning's first game back will test him against one of the league's toughest defenses.
Denver has three different stretches during the season where it plays back-to-back road games, but I don't expect that to be a problem, as Peyton Manning wins regardless of the location.
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2012 is a fresh start, which means all of your injured players are back at your disposal. The Lions desperately need their running backs to stay healthy, or Matthew Stafford just might break Drew Bledsoe's record for most pass attempts in a season.
The Lions proved to be very successful through the air last season, but it's not something that should be constantly relied upon. Calvin Johnson should be in line for another big season as long as he isn't snake-bitten by the Madden Curse.
In Weeks 11, 12 and 13, the Lions need to take advantage of three straight home games. Green Bay, Houston and Indianapolis all roll into town during that stretch. It would be ideal if they could win two out of three.
Other than that, the only real thing of notice is that the last half of the season will be primarily played in domed stadiums.
Green Bay Packers
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Topping their 15-1 season from last year seems a little far-fetched, as I don't quite see them in the same category as the 2007 Patriots. They did make a plethora of much-needed upgrades on the defensive side of the ball in the offseason, though.
The offensive line may have taken a step back with a couple of departures, but there is still plenty of experience and talent to go around. As far as continuity goes, all of Aaron Rodgers' weapons are returning; the only question that looms is the lack of running game.
At one point in the season, the Packers will play three consecutive road games, but it's early enough that the travel shouldn't affect them.
On three different occasions, they play consecutive games at Lambeau Field. After their bye week, they close the season out with five divisional games in seven weeks.
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One would think that if the Texans would have had a healthy Matt Schaub, they might have gone a little deeper into the playoffs. The passing game didn't have the same explosion when T.J. Yates was in the game.
Losing Mario Williams won't prove to be that big of a loss, as they played almost the entire season without him, but losing Joel Dreessen might be devastating. He caught passes, run-blocked, pass-blocked—everything. There wasn't any area in which he didn't excel in the Texans offense.
For four weeks straight during the season, the Texans won't leave Houston. Weeks 6, 7 and 9 are all home games, while their bye is smushed in at Week 8. It will be a good time for them to kind of regroup, as three of their four previous games will be on the road prior to Week 6.
Houston should have no problem running away with the division for the second straight year.
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Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener and Reggie Wayne sounds a little odd when you compare it to Peyton Manning, Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne. The latter group has a lot more tradition behind it, but the Colts can't look in the rear-view mirror forever.
Sometimes, blowing things up and starting over is the best way to do things, especially when a whole new regime comes in and takes over. There will be plenty of growing pains along the way, but with new players who have proven themselves in other cities, one has to feel like the offseason was a success.
Starting in Week 2, the Colts have a three-game stand that has a couple winnable games for their taking, but after that, the Colts won't see Lucas Oil Stadium two weeks in a row for the rest of the season.
Having quite a few home games early in the season might allow Luck to feel more comfortable, which could help him during the tail end of the season.
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So many things can be said about the Jacksonville Jaguars, but not very many of them are positive.
During free agency, the Jaguars made a model of how to overspend for mediocre free agents. Laurent Robinson and Aaron Ross both received more money than they should have. Robinson is coming off of a season in which he was finally healthy and showed he could catch the ball without suffering a drop on every other target.
Will Robinson prove that he was just more than a one-year wonder? Doubtful, considering Blaine Gabbert is his quarterback.
The Jaguars face a tough road again this year. They and Cleveland will be duking it out for the No. 1 draft pick. Jacksonville has a pretty standard schedule, minus the fact it has two sets of back-to-back home games.
The Jags have two division games during the first half of the season and four in the second half.
Kansas City Chiefs
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The Chiefs are definitely one of my favorites to improve heading into 2012. I don't like them as much as I like the Broncos—Matt Cassel is still Matt Cassel—but they are returning plenty of talent that was on injured reserve last season.
The backfield will be a two-back approach spearheaded by Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis, who came over as a free agent from Cleveland. It is unclear how the carries will be split, considering Charles is coming off ACL surgery. No matter what, the Chiefs will be a run-heavy offense in 2012.
The first five games of the season will prove to be a real challenge, as they have three home games and two road games. Atlanta, Buffalo, New Orleans, San Diego and Baltimore make no walk in the park to start the season.
Weeks 11, 12 and 13 are all home games, and three home games in a row is a nice touch to the schedule.
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Ryan Tannehill: Every Dolphins fan's nightmare or dream come true. Opening day is less than 50 days away, and a lot can happen from now until then, but anyone who expects Tannehill to be anything more than a No. 3 is mistaken. Matt Moore has proven he can handle the offense—he won't win a Super Bowl, but neither will any other quarterback on the roster.
Aside from the quarterback position, the Dolphins made some smart moves by giving Cameron Wake a new deal and bringing over Richard Marshall to help the secondary after Sean Smith bombed last year.
If the Dolphins want to get off to a decent start and not finish as bottom-dwellers, it would be smart to focus on some winnable games early on. The season only gets tougher toward the end, as they have to play teams like New England and Buffalo twice in the final eight weeks.
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Cornerback and wide receiver were two big positions that needed to be addressed if the Vikings wanted to take that next step forward. Minnesota used a total of five draft picks, so it could address them.
Outside of Percy Harvin, Christian Ponder lacked any sort of true playmaker on the outside. Ponder has four new targets to help him out, even though I would avoid calling John Carlson any kind of playmaker.
Coming off their bye, the Vikings will be forced to go on the road to Chicago and Green Bay, and both are very tough places to play. Five of their six NFC North games are in the second half of the season; the only first-half division game is Week 4 against Detroit.
New England Patriots
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Rob Gronkowski's frat boy lifestyle off the field is proving to be the talk of New England, when instead, people should be talking about how improved the defense will be.
It's not hard to believe the Patriots made it as far as they did last year, mainly because of their dynamic offense, but this year, they might be just as dynamic on defense. Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower and Jake Bequette were all drafted early in hopes of fixing a weak pass-rush. Mark Anderson and Andre Carter couldn't be counted on last season, so it was smart to load up on talent when they had the chance.
New England's schedule seems awfully easy this season, as its two toughest games appear to be Week 3 against Baltimore and Week 15 against San Francisco.
It's going to be hard to knock the Patriots out of the AFC East lead, as they play five home games during the second half of the season. They do travel to England this year to play the Rams, but with a bye the following week, the travel effects shouldn't linger.
New Orleans Saints
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The Saints will be an interesting team to watch this season, as this offseason and the suspensions that have come with it will come down hard on the team. Losing head coach Sean Payton might be one of the hardest obstacles to overcome. Drew Brees may lead the Saints offense, but Payton is its mastermind.
Can Pete Carmichael, Jr. be Sean Payton? That remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: Having Jonathan Vilma suspended for the whole season is not bad for the Saints defense. David Hawthorne and Curtis Lofton are head and shoulders better than Vilma.
Bountygate will prove to be a distraction, and not having Payton might affect the win-loss column, but the Saints should still make the playoffs, even if they don't win the NFC South.
Like New England, the Saints finish the season out with five of their last eight games at home. They have a couple sets of road trips that will see them away from home in back-to-back weeks.
New York Giants
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Winning the Super Bowl with the NFL's worst offensive line is almost unheard of, so one would assume the Giants don't want to take their chances again in 2012.
Well, apparently, the Giants enjoy playing with fire because they did nothing to upgrade the starting offensive line. They did draft a couple of linemen, but the odds of them winning a starting position are slim to none.
Now that my rant is over, I can acknowledge that they replaced Brandon Jacobs with a younger, quicker running back and Mario Manningham with a second-round receiver who should have gone in the first round.
The defending Super Bowl champs don't have their bye week until Week 11. Home and away games are evenly distributed at eight and eight. They have two road trips that have them play consecutive games and one homestand where they are home for two weeks.
New York Jets
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2011 was a fall from grace for the Jets. After appearing in back-to-back AFC Championship Games, the playoffs were out of reach, and an above-.500 record was too much to ask for.
Where does the blame lie? In the offense and the pass-rush?
Mark Sanchez regressed in a big way, and Pro Football Focus graded his 2011 season as the worst of his three-year career. Will newly-acquired Tim Tebow be the answer when Sanchez is yanked, or did his luck run out when he left Denver?
This year marks the fall of the Jets. Buffalo will take over second place in the division, and the Jets will be trying to keep their head above water as they finish five of their final eight games on the road.
They only play two divisional games during the second half of the season. Early division games spell trouble, because sometimes, teams need longer than others to gel.
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After the passing of Al Davis, the Raiders needed a new leader and identity. Reggie McKenzie didn't see Hue Jackson as the right man for the job after going 8-8 and being fleeced in the Carson Palmer deal. So he went out and hired Dennis Allen, defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos.
Allen and McKenzie had little to work with this offseason, but they managed to add a few pieces to the puzzle even though they are in salary cap hell. For the Raiders to be successful in 2012, they need to cut back on the penalties and do a better job at defending the pass.
Oakland has a stretch late in the season where it plays three straight home games. Two of those games are in the division. The division games are split equally, three and three.
Lack of resources will prove to have set this franchise back a year.
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Instead of signing every free agent under the sun like in 2010, the Eagles spent a great deal of time locking up a few of their key players and dumping salary.
Evan Mathis and Trent Cole proved to be worthy of long-term deals for their performances in 2011. Cole was locked up for six more years, while Mathis was locked up for five. Mathis is arguably the best offensive guard in the game, and Cole might be the best pass-rusher.
In a somewhat surprising move, Asante Samuel was traded to the Falcons for practically nothing, but the Eagles probably felt his cap number was too high.
Philadelphia wraps up the season with two division games, one at Washington and one against the Giants at home. Just like the Steelers, the Eagles only have one division game in the first half of the season.
The Eagles will take the NFC East from the Giants this year.
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The Steelers come into this season with one the most renovated offensive lines and one of the most unhappy wide receivers.
Pittsburgh made a point of upgrading its weakest position, the offensive line. David DeCastro and Mike Adams were drafted in succession to protect the Steelers' $100 million investment. It's possible Big Ben won't have to run for his life on every single pass play.
Couple the offensive line additions with their current set of weapons, and things are looking pretty good in Pittsburgh.
In Weeks 11, 12 and 13, the Steelers play three straight divisional games: Baltimore, Cleveland, then Baltimore again. They only play one divisional game during the first eight games of the season.
With improved play up front, look for the Steelers to have a strong season.
San Diego Chargers
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In an effort to improve their defense, the Chargers drafted defense in the early rounds. First-round pick Melvin Ingram looks to be the perfect pass-rushing linebacker in the Chargers defense. Jarret Johnson came over from Baltimore, and he'll bring plenty of support in the run game.
On offense, Vincent Jackson left San Diego for good as he headed to Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers threw a pile of money at him, and for that money, the Chargers signed Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal. Both players should prove to be more productive than one Vincent Jackson.
The Chargers will open the season with the Raiders and end the season with the Raiders. Two of their three divisional home games will be in the first half of the season, while the second half of the season has the Chargers playing at Qualcomm five times.
San Diego is always in the hunt, but the Broncos will repeat as division champs once again.
San Francisco 49ers
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San Francisco had talent everywhere in 2011—it's incredible to think it got even better during the offseason. Mario Manningham, Randy Moss, Brandon Jacobs and A.J. Jenkins are all the new hype around the 49ers offense.
Even if the offense is receiving all the hype, the defensive should be getting just as much hype, considering they are returning all 11 starters—a rare feat in the salary-capped, free-agent era of football.
It has been floated around that Peyton Manning was in play at one point. If you're the 49ers, why wouldn't he be in play? Alex Smith will never match the talent level of Manning. Plus, Manning as the quarterback instantly ups a team's chances at the Super Bowl. Smith will have to follow up his 2011 campaign with an even better 2012 season.
The 49ers' schedule tends to favor them playing at home during the middle of their season. From Week 5 to Week 11, they only play one road game, and the bye is also included in Week 9. San Francisco plays four of its six in division games the second half of the season.
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The Seahawks are my pick for NFC West champions in 2012. Adding Matt Flynn sent the Seahawks offense to the next level. Flynn has solid timing and accuracy, not to mention he has established weapons in place.
Marshawn Lynch will carry the load at running back, while Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin and Kellen Winslow, Jr. will stretch a defense all the way down the field.
Defensively, Bruce Irvin has been getting plenty of reps, while Chris Clemons is absent. Clemons is a one-man pass-rush machine, and the Seahawks know they have to do something about it. Irvin will be rushing on third downs, so expect even better secondary play, which may be hard to top after the surprising performances from last year.
Seattle doesn't have many oddities to its schedule: It plays three division games before the bye, three after the bye. Since it is such a good home team, it might play into its advantage that it has three sets of back-to-back home games.
St. Louis Rams
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2011 was supposed to be the year the Rams took that next step forward after a successful 2010 campaign, but it proved to be just the opposite. St. Louis took a step back instead: the lockout-shortened offseason, the installation of a new offense and the injuries all had their hand in the Rams' demise.
Les Snead and Jeff Fisher took over and gave this team new purpose and direction. Out are the days when Billy Devaney only drafted choir boys; in are the days when Fisher doesn't mind drafting red-flag character guys. Look for Janoris Jenkins and Brian Quick to be the difference-makers on their respective sides of the ball.
The Rams are going to learn how to be road warriors, as that's where they'll play six of their final nine games. St. Louis has some pieces, but it is not yet quite ready for full-blown success.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Like St. Louis, Tampa Bay totally fizzled out last year. 2010 allowed the Buccaneers to feast off an easier schedule, but what happens when teams get a little bit better and complacency sets in for your franchise quarterback? You end up 4-12 after a promising 10-6 campaign.
Raheem Morris was canned in favor of Greg Schiano, who is getting back to the basics. Josh Freeman is spending extra time on his mechanics to get back to that upper echelon of quarterbacks.
The Buccaneers need their new draft pics to make an immediate impact, and Gerald McCoy needs to stay healthy. The defensive unit as a whole plays much better when McCoy is anchoring the defensive line.
An early Week 5 bye is surrounded with a run of three straight home games—two fall before the bye week and one after. Tampa Bay won't quite get back to the playoffs, but it will be improved. A third-place finish seems about right.
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Whether Matt Hasselbeck or Jake Locker is the starting quarterback, it's important Chris Johnson runs like he means it and Kenny Britt returns as the threat he was before he was injured. Kendall Wright has been added to take some of the pressure off Britt, so expect him to stretch the field and draw plenty of attention on downfield targets.
On defense, Kamerion Wimbley was added to help kick-start the pass-rush. Cortland Finnegan left for St. Louis, but he wasn't worth the money, as Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner have proved to be just as reliable.
The Titans only play back-to-back home games and back-to-back away games once each. In the first half of the season, the Titans only have two division games scheduled, one at home and one on the road.
Tennessee won't knock off Houston, but it should finish strong.
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Rex Grossman and John Beck are no longer the fantastic Shanahan quarterback duo. Instead, Washington decided to go all-in on Robert Griffin III. The bold move to give away picks in return for one of the most heralded draft prospects in recent memory should bother no one.
If Griffin is a lights-out quarterback, no one will even remember what they gave up to get him. He shouldn't have a problem succeeding—he is the total package, but he will need help from the defense. Jonathan Goff and Cedric Griffin were low-key signings with big-time potential, as both players have been successful in past stops.
Expect Washington to struggle, even with a new quarterback. It just isn't as talented as other teams yet, and it has a few pretty tough stretches in its schedule.
Weeks 11, 12, 13 and 14 are sure to cause fits, as it plays the Eagles, Cowboys, Giants and Ravens, all in a row. During the first eight weeks of the season, the Redskins only have three home games.