25 Questions That Still Have Not Been Answered in NFL Training Camps
We are about to complete the first full week of preseason games, which signifies that the start of the 2012 NFL regular season is inching ever closer.
Slowly but surely, some of the key questions are getting answered by teams around the league as depth charts have been released that give us a couple more clues than we had before.
But there are still a number of burning questions that we don't have answers to, so we are left to ponder them here. This presentation was written prior to the Thursday night preseason games, so we don't know yet what the outcome of the games were, nor do we know if anybody got hurt.
The presentation will be the top 25 questions that have not been answered in NFL training camps so far.
25. Can the Baltimore Ravens Overcome the Loss of Terrell Suggs?
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
There is only one team in the NFL that has won at least one playoff game over the last four consecutive seasons, and that is the Baltimore Ravens.
That streak might be in jeopardy this year, due to the loss of NFL Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs. The Ravens lost some key depth on defense during free agency, and those losses were magnified when Suggs went down with an Achilles' tendon injury that will keep him out for a good portion of the 2012 season.
Can the Ravens overcome these setbacks and still make it to the postseason? The AFC North had three playoff teams in 2011, so their work appears to be cut out for them.
At least they were able to get Ray Rice to sign a new deal, so that is one positive step to build on.
24. Will the NFL Reduce Jonathan Vilma's Suspension?
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
We are still waiting for final word on what the verdict will be regarding the possibility that the NFL will offer to reduce the number of games that Jonathan Vilma is suspended this year over the "bounty hunting scandal," in exchange for Vilma dropping his defamation law suit against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Whether or not the NFL will formally make this proposal has not yet been verified, but if it is announced that Vilma will only be sitting out eight games and that he dropped his lawsuit against Goodell, then you know that a deal was offered and accepted.
For now all we can do is sit back and wait to see what transpires.
23. Will Giants, Patriots and Packers Defenses Rebound in 2012?
Rob Carr/Getty Images
In 2011, the best record of any team in the regular season, the Green Bay Packers, had the worst overall defense in the league. The Super Bowl finalists, the New York Giants finished No. 27 overall, while their opponent, the New England Patriots finished at No. 31 overall.
How are these teams able to advance so far and play so well with such bad defenses?
Well, it really helps when you have the offenses that all three teams in question have (the Giants, Patriots and Packers all have dynamic offenses and elite quarterbacks).
Was the 2011 season an aberration, or was it a sign of things to come? You just need to outscore the other team—that is the bottom line. The San Francisco 49ers had a very strong defense, and while that defense carried them to the NFC Championship game, it was the lack of offense on that team that prevented them from going all the way.
In 2012, it seems like a premium was placed on finding elite pass rushers as one way to slow down these offenses. The NFL operates in cycles, and right now it seems that we are in for a long run of prolific passing attacks taking over the league. It might take some more time for NFL defenses to catch up, but they eventually will.
22. Can the Eagles and Chargers Save Their Head Coaches' Jobs?
Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE
For starters, I wanted to take a second to express condolences to Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid and his family for the loss of their son Garrett. It is very hard to find the right words to understand what Coach Reid and the team is going through this week.
Rest in peace Garrett.
There was already a decent rallying cry months ago from the Eagles camp that the team felt strongly that this was the year to rally around their head coach and deliver a Super Bowl ring for the coach. Michael Vick appeared to be the main voice behind those sentiments.
To a man, the Eagles love playing for Reid, and there is nothing that would make them happier than winning the Super Bowl for him.
Moving over to San Diego, the Chargers rallied around head coach Norv Turner after last season ended, and stated that they wanted to go to bat for him in 2012 and attempt to save his job.
The Chargers have been out of the playoffs the last two seasons, so that is why Turner has to win or else.
Based on the talent that both teams have on their rosters, it would not surprise me at all to see both teams in the postseason. How far they go, and if it's far enough to save their head coaches, is a different question that will be answered down the road.
21. Can the 2012 Rookie QB's Duplicate 2011 Rookie QB's Success?
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
While Cam Newton and Andy Dalton turned in very solid rookie campaigns in 2011, everybody is wondering if the 2012 rookie quarterback class will be able to match up to their success.
To illustrate the point, a segment of NFL LIve on ESPN revealed that the 2011 rookie quarterbacks totaled 23 wins last year, the most wins recorded by rookie quarterbacks in a season since the NFL/AFL merger.
We already have three rookie quarterbacks who will be starting this year in Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Brandon Weeden, so there is a good chance that they can approach that number. There is also a chance that Ryan Tannehill gets a few starts this year, and who knows, maybe even Russell Wilson gets into the mix this year.
20. Jerry Jones Says Cowboys Window Is Closing, Is This Just Noise?
Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Jerry Jones must have sensed that the Cowboys weren't exhibiting enough of a sense of urgency in their preparation for the 2012 season, when he came out with the declaration that he was concerned that the window of time for his best core players was closing, and the time to win was now.
While nobody can fault Jones for trying to motivate his troops, the reality is that if you go up and down the Cowboys roster, they have a majority of 20-something's. There are very few 30-something's on the team.
After checking all of that out, the conclusion is that this is just some more noise by Jones in a way to draw attention to his team and let the fan base know that they are still attempting to win the big one again. The subsequent comments to the fans to come out and watch up whip the Giants is another topic, but is basically Jones just trying to stir things up.
19. Will NFL Replacement Referees Cost an NFL Team a Win?
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
If you happened to catch the preseason game this past weekend that helped to wrap up the Pro Football Hall of Fame inductions, you were probably aware that the game was handled by a group of replacement referees. By and large, they got most calls right, but there was at least four or five plays where they blew the call.
So, the question is, will the replacement referees continue to be used as leverage against the NFL referees union, and actually be working regular season games? For some NFL teams, they are squaring off against division foes in Week 1, and you would sure hate to lose a close game to a division rival due to a blown call by a replacement referee.
There is precedent for this before, as the NFL employed replacement referees in the past to move along the negotiation process when the two sides couldn't reach a new contractual agreement.
Also of note is that there will be a female working the San Diego versus Green Bay game this week as a line judge, as per this story by Gary Myers of the New York Daily News. Shannon Eastin will be the first woman to work in the NFL as an official.
I think everybody hopes that the regular NFL referees are back in the fold and ready to roll for Week 1 of the regular season.
18. Has Rex Ryan Lost Control of the New York Jets?
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
I am starting to wonder how much control Rex Ryan truly has over his New York Jets team. It was bold and somewhat endearing when Ryan would go out on a limb and make his wild predictions that the Jets would suddenly emerge as a Super Bowl contender, when they really weren't.
Several years of guarantees and subsequent trips to AFC Championship games left us feeling like he was close, but no cigar. Joe Namath set the bar very high for guarantees when it comes to the Jets, and Ryan came up short.
Then there were the reports at the end of the 2011 season from LaDainian Tomlinson and other Jets players about how badly the divide was in the locker room, to which Ryan claimed that he didn't know that any of that stuff existed.
Now we fast forward to the brawls going on at the Jets training camp this week. Ryan thought he had put a kibosh on the extracurricular activities when he addressed the team, but they were back at it scuffling the very next day, as if whatever Ryan said had gone in one ear and right out the other. So, Ryan had to resort to ordering the team to run "gassers" as a form of punishment for not heeding his request.
As the 2012 season goes forward, it will be very interesting to see what the dynamics are with the Jets organization. From the press conferences, the huddle, the locker room and all of the media reports, we will find out if there are cracks again in the fiber of the team, or not.
Personally, I applaud Ryan for losing all of the weight that he shed during this past year. But I wonder if his quest to become a bigger celebrity has caused his team to take him less seriously. Tony Romo gets criticized for playing golf in the offseason, yet Ryan is loved for making a movie with Adam Sandler?
It seems like there is a kind of double-standard going on here, as everybody loves Ryan, but it is clear that there are some things that aren't quite right with Gang Green.
17. How Much an Impact Will the Returning WR Divas Make in 2012?
Ed Szczepanski-US PRESSWIRE
Ah, the divas have returned ladies and gentleman. Strap yourself in, and get ready for high drama, some great catches, some major tantrums thrown on the sidelines, some divided locker rooms and, of course, don't forget your popcorn.
Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson are back in the NFL. Of course, Chad never left, but there will plenty of people who will tell you he disappeared in New England last year. But I am referring to the Johnson part, as Ochocinco has presumably left for good.
Whether of not Johnson will make a positive impact on the Miami Dolphins remains to be seen. As evidenced on the first episode of Hard Knocks, head coach Joe Philbin is already trying to reel in Johnson, due to heavy use of the F-bomb.
Moss will probably wonder why Alex Smith doesn't pass the ball very often, and will inevitably tire of being asked to block so often. Then it will only be a matter of time, when Moss decides to start taking certain plays off, as he has admitted to doing in the past. CSN Bay Area.com ran an update at 49ers training camp that Moss hasn't seen many passes come his way. Maybe his agent could have predicted that would be the case if he signed with the 49ers.
Then we come to Owens. It is great that he still is blessed with his speed, as he ran a 4.45 and a 4.43 prior to being signed to the $1 million contract for 2012. It appears that the final wide receiver job will come down to either Owens or Braylon Edwards, and that is probably a good thing. Can you imagine a team trying to put up with both of those volatile personalities at the same time? Cue in AC/DC singing TNT.
Clearly all three teams had a suspect wide receiving corps coming into the 2012 season, or they wouldn't have gone to these lengths to sign the divas to begin with. All three teams knew the inherent risks but decided to roll the dice. So, we will see which of these moves backfire and which ones will turn into pleasant surprises.
16. How Will the Big-Ticket Free Agents of 2012 Offseason Perform This Year?
Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE
Peyton Manning, Mario Williams, Vincent Jackson, Michael Bush, Robert Meachem, Mario Manningham, Brandon Jacobs, Ben Grubbs, Carl Nicks, Cortland Finnegan, Brandon Carr, Mark Anderson, Laurent Robinson, Pierre Garcon and Eddie Royal are just some of the top free agents who wound up signing contracts for a new team in the 2012 offseason.
How many of these big-ticket free agents are going to make that much of a difference to their new teams in 2012?
The only way to say that the investment worked is if the teams in question make the playoffs. The biggest deals signed are the ones that we will probably scrutinize the most. Peyton Manning on offense and Mario Williams on defense. The Broncos will need to return to the playoffs for the Manning experiment to be called a success. For Williams, the Bills will need to show a significant jump in their overall defensive ranking, as well as a leap in their sacks total to justify spending so much on one player.
On the surface, it is unfair to place so much responsibility on one player, because let's face it, we are talking about a team sport here. But when the player and agent are able to convince a team to pay somebody $90-$100 million to play football, they know full well that there are going to be a ton of eyes watching everything that they do.
So far we haven't heard of any real negative reports that the players mentioned above have not been living up to expectations so far. Then again, we haven't started the regular season yet, either. We won't know how well these deals will pan out until the season has been played out. But you can be sure that the fans of all the teams involved will be closely scrutinizing these new arrivals to see what they can do.
15. How Much Rope Will Be Extended to Struggling Quarterbacks?
Phil Sears-US PRESSWIRE
It didn't take the Carolina Panthers very long to determine that they made a huge mistake with Jimmy Clausen and rectified that decision by drafting Cam Newton the following year. The Buffalo Bills were in the third year with Trent Edwards before they decided to pull the plug and go with Ryan Fitzpatrick instead.
For the Jacksonville Jaguars, they are facing a similar scenario with Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert was the rookie quarterback from the class of 2011 who struggled the most. His happy feet in the pocket were getting more pronounced as the season went along, and hearing or seeing ghosts in the pocket is never a good thing for a quarterback.
So, how much rope will the Jaguars extend Gabbert this year, before they determine that they made a mistake? There is a reason that the team signed Chad Henne in the offseason, as they want to have a proven veteran quarterback who is ready to step in when they are convinced that Gabbert is a lost cause.
In Gabbert's defense, if Maurice Jones-Drew holds out for any portion of the regular season, then all bets are off. Without an established star running back, teams will just be teeing off on Gabbert, and then there is no telling what would happen to his psyche or level of confidence.
Other young quarterbacks who have struggled to a degree are Sam Bradford, Kevin Kolb and Christian Ponder. I wouldn't classify them as being in danger like Gabbert is, but they all could use a much better showing in 2012 to fortify their standing within their own organizations.
14. Will Weaker Running Game Hold Back Playoff Contenders?
Rob Carr/Getty Images
We are still trying to wrap our arms around the concepts that were once true, but have been slowly fading away, that a solid running game and strong defense wins championships.
These axioms have been proven false over the past few years. We already discussed the defensive shortcomings of playoff contenders in an earlier slide. Now I want to address weak running games for the top contenders.
It is one thing to have an outstanding passing attack, but there will always be key moments in games where you have to be able to run the ball, whether you are trying to kill the clock, or needing to pick up one or two key yards to move the chains.
Out of the playoff teams from 2011, there were three postseason teams that offered a running attack that was in the bottom 10 of the NFL; Green Bay (27), Detroit (29) and the New York Giants (32). Three playoff teams weren't able to generate enough of a running game to even average 4.0 yards per carry—the Giants (3.5), Cincinnati (3.9) and Green Bay (3.9).
On the flip side, there were only six teams in the NFL that were able to average 4.8 yards per rush or higher. They were: Carolina, Minnesota, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Buffalo and Denver. Only New Orleans and Denver qualified for the playoffs from that group. If those teams are able to generate strong running attacks again in 2012, it will be interesting to see if they can make the postseason or not.
I always felt a balanced attack was the best kind of offense to have. The 2011 season proves that it is not necessarily the case, so we continue to change the way that we think about what is required to have a championship team.
13. Does Patriots New Free Agents Get Them Back to Super Bowl?
Brandon Lloyd hopes to make a difference this year with Patriots
David Butler II-US PRESSWIRE
When free agency officially began in 2012, it seemed like every other player was lining up to sign a contract to join the New England Patriots. For a team that had just lost in the Super Bowl, you would think that they wouldn't have too many needs, but then again, not every team is coached by Bill Belichick.
As the Patriots prepare for the start of their preseason games, we are noticing a number of the free agents who were signed are starting to be released or opting to retire from the NFL. Chad Johnson didn't fare well in New England and felt he wasn't allowed to be himself. Clearly, the New England experience isn't cut out for everybody.
In retrospect, the Patriots seemed to approach the available player pool of free agents with a quantity over quality approach.You know, throw a bunch of stuff against the wall and see what sticks.
So far, the Patriots free agent signings have been: WR Anthony Gonzalez, DE Trevor Scott, CB Marquice Cole, WR Brandon Lloyd, CB Will Allen, G/T Robert Gallery, WR Donte' Stallworth, FB Tony Fiammetta, FB Spencer Larsen, LB Bobby Carpenter, RB Joseph Addai, RB Brandon Bolden, TE Bo Scaife, TE Jake Ballard, TE Visanthe Shiancoe and DL Kyle Love. Whew. You thought I was exaggerating before right?
Out of the above group, Gonzalez, Gallery, Fiammetta, Addai and Scaife are no longer with the team. There will undoubtedly be other names to add to this group as we get closer to final roster cuts.
The real question is did the Patriots add enough quality to truly improve the defense to the point that they can dominate the AFC and return to the Super Bowl, or was this a veiled attempt to use the allure of the Patriots franchise to bring in veterans for a shot at a ring, who didn't have much left in the tank?
12. Have the Oakland Raiders Turned over a New Leaf?
Ed Szczepanski-US PRESSWIRE
One of the teams I am personally interested to see in 2012 is the Oakland Raiders. Basically, I want to know if this is an extension of the Raiders teams of old, or is this truly a new look Raiders team?
With all of the wholesale changes across the board in the organization, you have to wonder what the impact of these changes will be. From a new owner, new general manager, new head coach, new offensive coordinator and new defensive coordinator, you could easily see images of Oakland Raiders billboards around the city, with the "New and Improved" sticker down in the corner of the sign.
Will these Raiders be disciplined, physical and able to keep their emotions in check? Or, will this be the team that leads the league in penalties, gets a number of flagrant fouls and continues to shoot themselves in the foot during the year?
It is one thing to change the front office around and change the coaching staff. But if Al Davis liked to draft players who had a certain kind of swagger, mean streak and a bit of nasty to their game, it will be hard for some people to disregard their instincts. You can't change a leopard's spots.
We will see what is in store for this Raiders team as the 2012 season rolls on.
11. Will Teams Rush Their Injured Stars Back Too Soon?
Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Adrian Peterson, Terrell Suggs, Rob Gronkowski, Rashard Mendenhall, Jon Beason, Sidney Rice and Kenny Britt are some examples of key players who have suffered an injury either in the 2011 season, or in the 2012 offseason, that may not be all the way back to 100 percent health in training camp.
So, when it comes to your better players, what percentage of health are teams able to live with, in order to suit up for a given week, as opposed to holding them out until they're all the way back to 100 percent ready?
There can be such a big drop off in talent between the injured player and his backup that in some cases you are willing to let a guy go out there and play at 80 percent, knowing his 80 percent will still be better than the backup who is at 100 percent. Of course, you are still running the risk of your star player suffering a setback by sustaining an even worse injury.
NFL players have been known to have lied about their health so that they could return to a game. One such example was seen in this story by Pro Football Talk, where Troy Polamalu came clean that he wasn't always being honest with the team trainers about his health. From the article in question:
Polamalu said on the Dan Patrick Show that he has lied about symptoms of concussions so that he’d be cleared to stay on the field.
“Yes, I have, for sure,” Polamalu said.
Polamalu, however, seems to see a distinction between just saying he doesn’t feel dazed after a hit to the head when maybe he actually does, and blatantly lying about a significant injury.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve had any major lies,” Polamalu said. “Somebody may say, ‘Is your knee messed up?’ It may be kind of messed up but you just kind of push yourself to be out there with your brothers. I wouldn’t say there are any major lies where I totally lied my way out of concussions. In fact, during concussions, if it’s serious enough you can’t even be conscious enough to lie.”
We also have players like Adrian Peterson who push the window and are able to rehab from injuries much faster than medical experts envisioned was even possible. It will be interesting to see what players are placed on the six-week PUP list to begin the season, which removes the guesswork out of when to activate them.
10. Can Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow and the Jets Survive the Circus?
The Star-Ledger-US PRESSWIRE
The three-ring-circus has set up their tents in Cortland, New York, but this is one circus that we aren't positive will ever be leaving town.
At least not as long as Tim Tebow is on the Jets roster.
Ex-Jets quarterback Boomer Esiason went on record recently as stating that the Jets should waive Tim Tebow. Tebow once again proved that he doesn't have one ounce of bad blood in his body, as he took the diss in stride.
The pressure that Sanchez will have hanging over his head all season will be enormous. It might not take very long to see what kind of resolve the Jets front office and coaching staff has in their current quarterback arrangement.
Last time I checked, the Jets are still planning to start Wayne Hunter at tackle. Their Week 1 opponent is the Buffalo Bills, so a healthy dose of Mario Williams, Shawne Merriman and Mark Anderson attacking Hunter and whoever is playing quarterback could put the Jets plan to a very early stress test.
Of course, the only way this thing works is if the Jets are able to win the AFC East. What are the odds of that happening? A 10-win season still means there are six losses, and those six losses represent six weeks of enraged Jets fans flooding the sports talk shows clamoring for a change to be made.
Maybe the circus will be visiting your town this year. Try to get a ticket while you can.
9. How Much Longer Can the Three QB Battles Continue?
Russell Wilson, Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson fight to be No. 1 QB
Joe Nicholson-US PRESSWIRE
The three-headed quarterback battles in Seattle and Miami are starting to take on a little more clear picture, but there is still no firm answer as to who will be the Week 1 starter.
In Miami, David Garrard was named to be the first quarterback listed on the depth chart for now, while Matt Flynn was given the nod to start the first preseason game for Seattle.
While it is entirely possible that Garrard and Flynn will be the starter for Week 1 and beyond, it doesn't mean that either team is set for the rest of the year with that decision. The jury is still out on both quarterbacks, as Garrard sat out the entire 2011 season, while some wonder if Flynn will wind up being the newer version of Kevin Kolb.
Maybe there will be further separation between the competition after the first preseason game or two. If there isn't, that could pose as a problem for the team in question. For every week that other quarterbacks are rotating in to take snaps with the rest of the No. 1 starting unit, those are snaps and reps that are being taken away from whoever the eventual starter will be.
So if we could throw out a supposed number—Eli Manning and Tom Brady take 2,000 reps during all of training camp, but Garrard and Flynn wound up with roughly 750 each, which quarterback will be more in sync with their receivers and the rest of the offense for Week 1? The eventual starter will be playing catch up for at least the first month of the season.
8. Can Any of the Bottom 5 Teams of 2011 Make a Big Jump in 2012?
Sandra Dukes-US PRESSWIRE
There were five teams in the 2011 season that won four games or less, which we will refer to as our bottom-five. St. Louis and Indianapolis had two wins each, Minnesota had three wins and Tampa Bay and Cleveland had four wins each.
Out of the five teams in question, will any of these teams be able to make a substantial jump in their overall record in 2012?
Of the five, St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Indianapolis made a change at head coach, while Minnesota and Cleveland returned Leslie Frazier and Pat Shurmur, respectively.
The Rams have added talent all over the roster as Jeff Fisher tried to fill as many of the holes as he could, but he still has a long way to go.
Indianapolis brought in some nice pieces on defense to follow new head coach Chuck Pagano, but the biggest development is the addition of Andrew Luck to turn the page from Peyton Manning and begin a new era for the Colts franchise.
Tampa Bay added a number of big free agents and the hiring of head coach Greg Schiano will bring discipline to a team that was sorely in need of it. They should be able to improve on their win total this year.
Minnesota needs a healthy Adrian Peterson to make their offense work, so they will have to be cautious that they bring him along only when he is really ready. If Peterson goes down early, that would be disastrous for Christian Ponder and the whole team.
Cleveland is kind of a wild card. They had a top 10 defense in the final 2011 NFL rankings, which is a great start. But their key offensive players are so young that you have to believe that they are going to chalk up the 2012 season as their baptism in the NFL.
7. Can the Detroit Lions Get Their Focus Back?
Aaron Berry was released by the Lions due to all his arrests
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
The Detroit Lions had a brutal offseason.
With players getting arrested on a fairly regular basis this past offseason, you have to wonder what kind of message was being preached, or more appropriately, what kind of messages weren't being preached but needed to be?
Aaron Berry, Nick Fairley, Mikel Leshoure and Johnny Culbreath were all arrested during the first-six months of 2012. According to this article in the Huffington Post Detroit:
Berry's run-in with the police marks the sixth time a Detroit Lions player has been arrested this offseason for a crime. Somewhat unbelievably, the Detroit Lions currently account for 24 percent of total NFL athlete arrests in 2012.
When Berry was arrested the second time, the Lions finally stepped up and took some action by releasing the player. He went through waivers unclaimed, even though he was a starter. Nobody else wanted that headache either.
It is really a shame that a few players on the team are able to give the rest of the team such a bad image. It probably doesn't help that head coach Jim Schwartz has the fiery temper that exploded over the back slap from Coach Harbaugh. Then you have the foot stomp of Ndamukong Suh, and it appears that the Lions are allowed to run around without much thought as to the results of their actions.
Hopefully the team can turn things around in the regular season. It would be a shame if they went backwards again.
6. Can New Orleans Saints Win NFC South Without Coach Payton?
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
It probably seemed strange for Drew Brees to have to receive permission from the NFL to be able to say hello and speak to Sean Payton at the Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremonies last week. But that is the reality of their relationship for 2012.
The key thing I think to consider is that the Saints already had a dress rehearsal for what life would be like when he was injured while standing on the sidelines in a game last year. That incident allowed the Saints to have confidence that they could play without their coach being right there with them on the sidelines. Being gone for an entire season is obviously a different kind of deal, so you have to believe that the team will rally around Drew Brees and look for him to lead the Saints this year.
We don't know how far this Saints team will go in 2012 without their head coach. We understand that the Saints are playing with a chip on their shoulder this year, and that is understandable given the situation. It is the old "us against the world" mentality, and as long as they can keep things in perspective, they have a fighting chance to show the rest of the league how well coached and disciplined a team they can be.
5. Can NFL Power House Teams Keep It Up in 2012?
Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
On an episode of NFL Live on ESPN this week, the show flashed the following data on a report:
Since the 1999-2011 season, the following five teams have recorded the best won versus loss record in the regular season:
New Orleans Saints and the New England Patriots (both 37-11), Green Bay Packers (36-12) and the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens (both tied at 33-15).
Out of the five perennial powers, the teams that seem to be the strongest coming in to the 2012 season are Green Bay and New England. Both teams look to be very strong on offense, and are probably going to own the best overall offense for their respective conferences.
Pittsburgh has the turmoil with making a number of changes on the offensive and defensive line, the injury to Rashard Mendenhall, Todd Haley taking over the offense, the holdout of Mike Wallace and Ben Roethlisberger preferring to keep the offense the way it was in 2011. Other than that, business as usual.
Baltimore lost key depth on defense and the injury to the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year in Terrell Suggs is no small matter. That is a huge development.
The Saints, of course, we detailed in the earlier slide regarding the loss of Coach Payton. Then you have the suspensions of Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma, Coach Vitt and general manager Mickey Loomis. They are also trying to break in a number of new free agents into the team, so there will need some time for the team to gel. At least they have Drew Brees and they no doubt have a big chip on their shoulder.
4. Will Peyton Manning Be Able to Last for the 2012 Season?
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
One of the biggest mysteries surrounding the 2012 season will be the ongoing health of Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.
From the standpoint of the neck surgeries, and subsequent rehab work needed to improve the damage to his nerves, Manning has put in as many hours as possible to be as close to 100 percent healthy as he could possibly be for this year. Nobody is as dedicated to his craft as is Manning (but I have to think that Adrian Peterson is probably his equal).
How many preseason games or regular season games will it take before Manning takes a vicious shot from a defender? The crowd will gasp, John Elway and John Fox will be holding their collective breath, and Manning will either rise and give a thumbs up or he will be assisted off the field. Maybe there is a less obvious outcome, in that a few days later his arm starts to go numb again.
You have to admire Manning for wanting to go out on his own terms. There is nothing but admiration for the man to endure all the probing, scrutiny and media attention that he has gone through in the last year. For the Broncos, they are putting their entire season on the line by signing Manning.
I shudder to think what will happen to the Broncos season if Manning goes down with a season-ending injury in the second or third week of the 2012 season. Looking at the backup QB's on their roster, it could be a repeat of the 2011 Colts season.
3. How Badly Are the Remaining Hold out Players Hurting Their Teams?
Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
Maurice Jones-Drew, Dwayne Bowe and Mike Wallace are the key offensive players who have yet to report to training camp due to their unhappiness over the lack of a long-term contract that they feel is worthy of their skill set.
In the case of Wallace and Bowe, they each were provided a tender offer that they can sign and report to camp whenever they want to, but they are hurting their team and ultimately probably themselves in terms of 2012 production by holding out from camp. We all saw what happened to Chris Johnson in 2011, when he held out, came back to the Titans out of shape, and was not very good for the first half of the season.
Wallace, of course, was a restricted free agent who received a tender offer, while Bowe was hit with the franchise tag tender offer. Jones-Drew has an existing contract, but is refusing to honor his old deal.
All three players in question have major changes going on with the team, and their absence is preventing them from getting up to speed on what the team is doing. Jones-Drew has a new head coach in Mike Mularkey, and they haven't even met yet. Wallace has a new offensive coordinator in Todd Haley, so I can kind of understand why he wants to avoid him as long as possible. With Bowe, you have Romeo Crennel promoted from interim to head coach and a new offensive coordinator in Brian Daboll.
So with all of these changes going on, it is paramount that each guy needs to be in camp to learn what changes are being made to the offense. You have new plays, new schemes and new philosophies to digest. That won't happen overnight.
Each player is jeopardizing his team's chances for starting out of the gate in Week 1 with all cylinders producing. If your team misses the playoffs by one game, and none of the three were very effective in the first few weeks, there will be some upset coaches and GM's with long memories.
We aren't forgetting about San Francisco 49ers Dashon Goldson's situation. Goldson has the same head coach, same defensive coordinator, and will be returning to a defense where the starters are in tact from the 2011 season. Due to the familiarity with this situation, his absence isn't as damaging or crucial as the other three players we highlighted in the slide. Having said that, I am sure the 49ers would like to have him in camp, so they know that he is in shape and ready to go.
2. John Clayton Predicted 5 Teams to Miss Playoffs and 5 New Playoff Teams
Will the Buffalo Bills finally make the playoffs in 2012?
Mark Konezny-US PRESSWIRE
According to one of the episodes I saw on ESPN's NFL Live, the 2011 NFL season marked the 16th straight year that at least five or more teams qualified for the postseason that weren't in the playoffs the year before. When you have a streak going for so many years, you just come to terms with the likelihood that there will always be some surprise teams every year in the NFL that most people didn't see coming.
There were six new teams to make the playoffs in 2011: Cincinnati, Houston, San Francisco, New York Giants, Detroit and Denver. The six teams that failed to repeat in the playoffs were the New York Jets, Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, Kansas City and Indianapolis.
Looking ahead to the 2012 playoffs picture, ESPN Analyst John Clayton wrote an article where he made the following predictions:
Teams that will make the playoffs in 2012, that failed to in 2011: Philadelphia, Chicago, Buffalo, San Diego and Dallas.
Teams that he believes won't make a repeat showing in 2012 playoffs: New Orleans, New York Giants, Denver, Cincinnati and Detroit.
Out of Clayton's picks, the team that is trying to buck history is the Cincinnati Bengals, who have a pattern of making the playoffs, but failing to repeat the following year. This streak has been in existence for close to 30 years. The other team of note is the Buffalo Bills, who currently owns the longest playoff drought, as they haven't been in the postseason since 1999. Safe to say that the Bills are due.
So, what do you think of Clayton's picks? Which ones did he get right and which ones did he get wrong, if you care to put your prognosticator hat on?
1. Will the New York Giants Be Able to Repeat in 2012?
Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE
The reigning Super Bowl champions, the New York Giants, are incredibly able to escape the floodlights that continue to shine on the New York Jets and basically allowed to exist under the radar. For a team that won everything and is in a market like New York City and get so little attention (compared to the Jets) is pretty remarkable.
The Giants are attempting to repeat as champions. They know how hard this is to do since they had an opportunity to pull off the same stunt after winning Super Bowl XLII, but in the 2008 season they failed to win a single playoff game. When teams are geared up to play you every week, it can make for a very long season.
Things haven't started out very well for the Giants so far in 2012. There was the broken foot injury for Victor Cruz, and then another injury to Terrell Thomas. In addition, the Giants lost key pieces in Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs in free agency, and also lost Jake Ballard to the Patriots in a waiver wire claim.
The vast majority of the team is returning, so they know that they have the ability to rise up and beat anybody in the league. The Giants appear to have a certain kind of confidence right now, so we will see if they are up to the challenge. Everybody is gunning for them, so we will see what they can do.
Thanks for checking out the presentation.