Major League Baseball is in full swing now that Opening Day is behind us. The NHL's regular season is behind us as the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin this week. While the NBA wraps up its regular season.
Yet, a lot has transpired since Super Bowl XLII and the Pro Bowl in the National Football League. So, without further delay it's time to catch up with what's going on in the NFL.
The Balance of Power is Shifting in the AFC
JOHN HARBAUGH ushers in a new era in Baltimore in 2008. He becomes only the third head coach in franchise history. Unfortunately, coaching won't turn around this franchise on the decline.
The Bengals signed defensive end ANTWAN ODOM from Tennessee to help bolster their pass rush and run defense in new defensive coordinator MIKE ZIMMER’s schemes. Odom is a welcome addition to the Bengals. However, their off-the-field issues will get in the way of this talented and exciting team. It's going to be a long and disappointing season in southern Ohio.
In northern Ohio it is quite a different story.
Finishing last season with a 10-6 record and falling short of a playoff appearance, the Browns have been movers and shakers this off-season.
Cleveland acquired two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle SHAUN ROGERS from the Detroit Lions and DT COREY WILLIAMS from Green Bay, both via trade. Cleveland also added free agent wide receiver DONTE’ STALLWORTH and re-signed Pro Bowl quarterback DEREK ANDERSON through 2010.
Recently re-signed head coach Romeo Crennel should easily lead the Browns into the playoffs as a wildcard.
n his first season as the Jaguars’ starting quarterback, DAVID GARRARD led the club to its first playoff win since 1999 and is now focused on improving his season franchise record 102.2 passer rating.
"We feel like we’ve adequately addressed that position from a standpoint of adding one proven guy (Porter) and adding one guy that’s got a lot of promise and potential (Williamson)," says Jaguars head coach JACK DEL RIO.
The Jaguars have positioned themselves for an AFC Championship Game. Question is it enough to unseat the Patriots or the Colts? Perhaps. Barring injury, a Super Bowl appearance is a strong possibility for the Jags.
The Jets have been the most aggressive this off-season by signing veteran guards ALAN FANECA and DAMIEN WOODY for an offensive line that already boasts tackle D’BRICKASHAW FERGUSON and center NICK MANGOLD. Fullback TONY RICHARDSON was added to the offense as well. On defense, the Jets signed defensive end / linebacker CALVIN PACE and defensive tackle KRIS JENKINS.
The Jets are no threat to unseat the Patriots in the AFC East. However, they should be returning to the AFC playoffs in 2008.
Safety GIBRIL WILSON and cornerback DE ANGELO HALL will join cornerback NNAMDI ASOMUGHA to form a strong defensive secondary. On offense, the acquisition of JAVON WALKER at wide receiver will aid in the development of second-year quarterback JA MARCUS RUSSELL.
The Raiders are a dark-horse possibility for a playoff birth. At a minimum, they are on the path back to respectability.
The Status Quo Reigns in the NFC
Green Bay Packers
Brett Favre's retirement will keep the Packers from contending for a Super Bowl. However, it should not keep them out of the playoffs. QB Aaron Rodgers should pick up some of the slack. At least he's saying the rights things:
"I’m in a good situation," says Rodgers. "I’ve got a great team around me. A lot of people are focusing on what I’m going to do. It’s what the team is going to do, really. I’m an important part of that, I know my role, and I need to play well."
The Packers’ first-round pick in 2005 knows the expectations will be high.
"I’m going to be expected to play well, I expect to play well, but I’ve got a great supporting cast around me. I’m not Brett Favre, and I’m not going to be him. I’m Aaron Rodgers. I’m going to be the best quarterback I can be."
The Vikings added wide receiver BERNARD BERRIAN to the offense. Berrian set career-highs with 71 catches and 951 yards last year for the Chicago Bears. Berrian "can stretch the field and people have to honor his ability to get up the field," says Vikings head coach BRAD CHILDRESS about Berrian. "He also has the ability to work all of those short and intermediate zones as well." Berrian's ability will do wonders for Pro Bowl running back ADRIAN PETERSON's already impressive capabilities.
Berrian is excited about joining the Vikings and has high hopes for 2008:
"I saw the upside that is here," says Berrian. "They’ve got a great defense and both lines – on offense and defense – are great. They have a great running back in Adrian Peterson, as we all know. The key part that was missing was a receiver who could go out there to take some pressure off that running game."
At a minimum, the Vikings will be very exciting to watch. Look for the Vikings to win a wildcard spot.