2009 NFL Preseason Preview

morgan spoknyContributor IJanuary 26, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS - JANUARY 24:  Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts reacts during the first half against the New York Jets during the AFC Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 24, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Colts defeated the Jets 30-17.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The 2009 NFL season is just around the corner and it’s never too early to start playing the guessing game about who win it all next year. The Steelers are the champions now, but will they be able to retain the title? The NFL is a league designed to ensure parity and a few small moves here and there can drastically alter the final outcome for an organization. As we have seen for the last few decades since the inception of free agency and the hard salary cap, it is incredibly difficult for a team to win back to back championships, let alone assemble a dynasty. In fact the reality of the situation is that most teams that make the super bowl and lose fail to even make the playoffs the following year. It is a brutally hard feat to replicate a winner every year and most teams that are able to end up paying the price down the road and must rebuild in order to make another run.  The off-season was quite busy and there were quite a few significant roster changes around the league. Lets not waste any time, without further ado, here is a dissection and preview of the 2009 NFL season.

The biggest name to change teams this off-season was clearly none other than the sideshow extraordinaire Wide Receiver Terrell Owens. As we touched on a few weeks back on the show, Terrell has been busy attempting to amend his image on his highly amusing VH1 series, The T.O. show. If you haven’t checked it out yet, be sure to do so. It quite simply is superb. You can check him working out in the pool with rubber bands in his hilly humble abode. Or better yet, buying $100,000 earrings only days after being cut for his on and off-field shenanigans. But wait, there is more, did I mention that you can watch him attempt to explain his final talks with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones prior to being released, using only a white board, pen and some sort of analogy involving a ring of trust. If your’e confused, don’t worry, I literally witnessed the entire event unfold several times and still have no idea what he was trying to convey. What I can tell you is that the show is down right ridiculous, and whether your a fan or not, you will be entertained.   Who wouldn’t find all this highly amusing? But on a serious note, the man who has been known to sack more Qb’s than Julius Peppers and Dwight Freeney combined has taken his show from Dallas to Buffalo. T.O. brings with him a long legacy of verbally assaulting his quarterbacks and that most certainly won‘t stop this year. If he starts attacking Bills Quarterback Trent Edwards, the Bills will be in serious trouble, but it will definitely serve as a hilarious reality program. If only they could play this on VH1! Sadly I fear that they do have the technology for such an undertaking.

The second biggest name to trade alliances this off-season was Quarterback Jay Cutler. Cutty forced his way out of Denver and ended up in Chicago. Wow, what a solid move for the Bears. Spot on to the Bears for sacking up and making the big move. Cutty for Orton was a terrible trade and the Broncos are going to fall apart this year. Orton was supposed to be a Heisman winning Qb back in the day, but his career has fallen apart and he has proven more than once that he doesn’t have the makeup or talent to be an elite Qb. What is going to change this year, and why did the Broncos go after this guy? Cutler will carry a huge burden on his shoulders this year as he is looked to as a savior to the Bears seemingly nonexistent ability to fill the Qb position. I love the kid and am predicting big things for the Bears this year. Cutty is a diabetic who is just starting to understand how to regulate his body and I think he’s going to fit well with the club and the fans in the windy city.

The New York Jets also attempted to make a big splash during the off-season by acquiring, Cornerback Lito Sheppard from the Philadelphia Eagles and inking up yet another beastly former Raven Linebacker, Bart Scott. The Jets look like a team on a march for a title, and if you’re a Jet fan your quite pleased with all the changes around town. If only the team had an established Qb, this group could contend for a championship, but realistically they are still a season away from doing anything. New head coach Rex Ryan brings a defensive mindset and the Jets will have a studly defense this year. Maybe one of the best Jet defenses ever. Jenkins and Ellis are two of the best DL’s in the league and will plug the hell out of the line, stopping the run completely. Revis and Rhodes will shut down the secondary and Scott will kill everything in between. The Jets lost Brett Favre to retirement, but drafted USC pretty boy, Mark Sanchez in the draft to replace the void. Favre subsequently toyed with the Vikings and then finally blew them off. Brett clearly wants to play and we haven’t heard the last from him. It sure sounds to me when you clear through all the smoke and mirrors that he wants to heal up his surgically repaired arm and it wouldn’t surprise me if he makes another run at it next year. Favre always gets the itch to play once June or July comes along, and it’s going to hurt him a ton once he watches the year fly by without him. It won’t surprise me a bit if we hear about Favre signing later in the year.

In other news, the Jacksonville Jaguars parted ways with long-time RB, Fred Taylor. The highly talented but injury prone Taylor left Jacksonville to sign with the veteran-laden New England Patriots and will make a formidable tandem alongside Maroney. The Jaguars let Fred walk but signed a legend of their own in Wide Receiver Torry Holt. Holt will be looked on to fill holes on the Jags offense. Matt Jones and Jerry Porter both left and the Jags will need Torry to step it up if they are to win a championship. If their defense can improve and Jags Quarterback David Garrard can rebound from a subpar year in 2008, the Jags could make a strong showing as a dark horse, but they certainly will not viewed as a favorite out of the gate.

With that said here is a breakdown and power ranking for the 2009 NFL season.

Top of the charts: The penthouse dwellers

The Steelers claim the top spot by default by virtue of being the defending champions. The familiar faces, Roethlisberger, Parker, Hines, Holmes are back and these guys quite simply know how to get it done. Holmes came on strong last postseason and it looks like he may even have more some untapped potential left in the tank. Smith and Hampton for a solid defensive line and Harrison, Farrior and Woodley are one of the most talented linebacker trios in the league. Another top defensive season is a given for this infamous franchise. A new steel curtain is amongst us, brace yourself.

With that said as much as I love the Steelers, I feel like the Patriots will end up winning it all. A healthy Brady will knock the champs out. A “Rumble in the Jungle” is a strong, to quite strong possibility. The Steelers come into the year having a similar team as the one that won the Super Bowl last season. You can’t bump the Champs, because they have the belt. Rules are rules, and I am a man of ethics.

The Patriots claim the second spot because they have a healthy Tom Brady, and are returning with a proven combo of receivers in Randy Moss and Wes Welker. This team did go 16-0, just two seasons ago and still managed to go 11-5 despite losing Tommy Boy for the entire season. They kept on ticking, and patched the quilt with Cassell. Keep in mind Cassell had never started at any level since high school. This kid rode the bench behind Leinhart at USC and was drafted despite never starting a game while at USC. He supsequently sat behind Brady and only last year had a chance to show his stuff. When he was finally given a chance he was thrown into the fire, and he responded like a champ. Cassell is a true testament to the system and despite what is said about the Pat’s cheating, they know how to scout and they know how to assemble a winning product. Moss and Brady set almost every offensive record imaginable in their first season together, imagine what they could do with more experience and time to acclimate.

The Giants are number three because they will be fielding yet another balanced squad. The physically freakish RB Brandon Jacobs will have another sick line in front of him and he will run rampant this year. The Plax, misfired in more than one way this year, and it really is a silly and sad waste of talent. The crime does not fit the crime. The Giants will miss Plax because he was not only a good WR, he physically dominated other teams at the edges while Jacobs punished the middle. If they can manage to replace his height and ability at the WR position they may be able to rival the champs but the early outcome looks grim. They will be serious contenders but Plax cost them a shot. The hero of the town instantly becomes a cursed man. It surely is a sad sight and I will personally miss his presence this year.

The Eagles steal the number four slot this year. The soaring Eagles are fielding what looks to be an elite squad. As long as Qb Donovan McNabb can stay healthy, the Eagles should contend in a tough NFC East. Look for Westbrook and the run game to destroy opponents this year. Westbrook is a studly, versatile joy stick HB and the line led by Peters, the Andrews boys, Herremans and Jackson will provide the necessary blocking for this offense to truly blossom. Jackson proved to be more than a special teams player, once again proving the scouts and skeptics wrong. The small and swift WR showed us last year that he seems to have what it takes to lead an offense. The defense is once again solid. Cournerbacks Samuel and Brown will shutdown the passing game and you can count on this team to be in the postseason.

The Ravens round out the top five because of their consistently elite defense, strong running game and up and coming pass offense. If second-year Quarterback Joe Flacco can continue to mature and can build on his success from last year they could easily challenge the Steelers in the AFC North. The WR’s are a little weak and this remains a weak spot on the team, yet again. It seems like every year this team refuses to make any moves to improve the WR talent, but at least they signed TE L.J. Smith. Smith and Todd Heap should make a formidable TE tandem and that is a bright spot for Flacco, who will have two superb TE’s who he can throw to on check downs. The Ravens lost Jonathan Ogden but did sign Matt Birk so they line was not completely decimated when he retired earlier this off-season.

Complete Rundwon: 2009 NFL Rankings

1. Pittsburgh Steelers – The Steelers just won their 6th Super Bowl in franchise history, and coming into the season they are the favorites to win a 7th. They have a solid defense and Big Ben has evolved into a very clutch big money Qb. 12-4

2. New England Patriots – The Patriots didn’t make the playoffs last year despite going 11-5, losing out to the surprising wildcat Dolphin offense. They showed us that despite considerable bad luck they could compete every Sunday. Look for another record breaking year in New England. 13-3

3.New York Giants – The Giants are a great all around team with a dominate run attack. The return of Osi Umenyiora will do wonders for the defense and they will once again return to form. Justin Tuck and Osi are two of the most feared DE’s in the league and together they will shut down defenses and gobble up Qb’s. The loss of Plaxico will drastically hurt this team, as the only reason they were able to the beat the Patriots a few years ago was because they were physically superior in height and strength and were able to overmatch the Patriots superior skill, technique and game plans. Plax was a huge piece and a major reason they were so physical. Eli Manning will not be the same Qb without Plax in the starting lineup. Smith, Hicks, and Hixon will have to step up big time. My money is on the rest of the field but they are still a mighty fierce squad. 12-4

4. Philadelphia Eagles - If you saw how the Eagles were able to end the year then you know why they deserve the number 4 spot. An improved offense meets and already superb defense and boom, good things happen. Note to the rest of the league, here is yet another franchise that has found the formula that is guaranteed to work. 11-5

5. Baltimore Ravens – The Ravens will give the Steelers some serious competition in the north. Joe Flacco looked great at times last year and the Ravens are hoping that he can continue to mature. To try and help him along, they brought him a new a toy. Enter L.J. Smith, a physical guy who has a ton of potential but has yet to really enter the elite realm. The defense led by Ray Lewis and Ed Reed will be stellar but the losses at LB of Bart Scott and Adalius Thomas will take a toll and they will not be able to overtake the Steelers. Watch for HB Ray Rice to have a sweet year. McGahee fantasy owners may be upset with another man trying to steal his numbers, but Baltimore fans will be tickled to death to watch these guys brutalize defenses.   11-5

6. San Diego Chargers – After just squeaking into the playoffs, the Chargers will bounce back in a strong way. Philip Rivers has a huge mouth but he has the game to back it up. Ladanian Tomlinson is on the decline, but Sproles is a human ping bong and will continue to impress this year. 11-5

7. Arizona Cardinals – After making it exceedingly far last year and literally defying physics, we were alerted to the fact that Arizona is a threat. After threats of breaking up the team, it seems as if both Boldin and Warner will end up staying, so that equates to another dominant passing attack. They are poised to make another deep run in the playoffs, especially with the less-than-stellar NFC West. The Rams are on the down slide, the 49ers, and SeaHawks on the up’s. 11-5

8. Chicago Bears – This team has all the pieces to compete, and they finally landed the quality Qb they have been missing for decades. Matt Forte proved to be a feature back with a ton of agility, speed and overall talent. 11-5

9. Carolina Panthers - Last year the Panthers featured a dominate run, and that is exactly what they are going to do this year. Jonathan Stewart now has one more year of experience under his belt, which will make him even more deadly. The combined 1-2 of DeAngelo Williams and Johnathan Stewart will easily surpass 2,000 rushing yards and I wouldn’t be surprised if they make a strong case for 2,500 yards. Look for the Panthers to be at the top of NFC next year. 10-6

10. Indianapolis Colts – The loss of Tony Dungy and company will hurt the Colts. They will still make the playoffs because they still have Peyton Manning throwing to Reggie Wayne, but the loss of Harrison and the lack of defense will be too much for them to overcome. Bob Sanders is a stud, but he’s proved time and time again that he is too small to make it through the entire season without sustaining an injury. The team rocked in the second half last year, so let’s not totally count them out. 10-6

11. Atlanta Falcons - What seemed like a complete fiasco, quickly took a 180 last year for the Dirty Birds. Atlanta quickly moved past Vick and nowadays it is all about Matt Ryan in Atlanta. Ryan has a much more accurate arm than his predecessor Vick, and Roddy White and company finally showed their talent once someone could throw them the ball consistently. I love Vick and still believe he can help a team, but you can’t argue with what works and Ryan works in Atlanta because he can distribute the ball. Michael Turner will once again be the feature back, and he will be looked on to carry the pill quite frequently. 9-7

12. Washington Redskins – The Redskins are a good team that just got substantially better when they signed Haynesworth to a $ 100 million dollar deal. Look for Clinton Portis to be back at the top of his game in 2009 and the Redskins to make a serious push for the division. 9-7

13. Houston Texans – The Texans did a great job last year making positive gains. They had one of the most dominating offenses in the NFL led by Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson. Mario Williams continued to step up his game and answered all the critics who wanted the franchise to draft Reggie Bush. Steve Slaton is a unique back who was arguably the best rookie running back last year, ahead of C. Johnson and M.Forte.  9-7

14. Seattle Seahawks- They were terrible last year, but I like the additions of Julius Jones and T.J.Houshmanzadeh. T.J and DeionBranch form a sold WR tandem. They also have a great Defense led by Tatupu, Trufant, Curry, and Kerney. Look for big things out the Seahawks this year and if things go well and the pieces gell they could slide up the power rankings very quickly. 9-7

15. New Orleans Saints – The Saints are real solid, and I’m still on the Reggie Bush bandwagon. We’ve all seen his incredible talent but he’s been plagued by injuries. The defense is decent, but not amazing. Brees is a beast and the offense is once again very potent. They have a chance to make the playoffs, but may still be a year away. If they can sneak in, they are incredible threat to win it all. 8-8

16. Dallas Cowboys - A year removed from the T.O experiment the Cowboys will look to Roy Williams to fill the void, and while he has yet to show any real worth, I still am a fan and will give him the benefit of the doubt. Look for a rebuild year for Roy Roy. The coaching is too soft, and Wade Philips is a bad excuse for a coach. Another year removed from Parcells, and another year worse.   8-8

17. Minnesota Vikings - Adrian Peterson is a beast and comes into the season as the number 1 fantasy back in the league. While he certainly is a bright spot, their QB situation is still atrocious. Neither Tavaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels are franchise QB‘s and this will once again hinder all chance of winning a championship. 8-8

18. Miami Dolphins – The Dolphins were one of the greatest comebacks in the history of sports last year. They went 11-5, following a season where they went 1-15. However with that said, I do not think they will be able to have repeat results in 2009 because the Patriots are healthy and will take the division. They will make a run at the wildcard and have an intriguing wildcat offense that features Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams and Pat white. 8-8

19. Jacksonville Jaguars – Garrard is a not that impressive, but “M.J.D” Maurice Jones Drew will continue to improve and his running will pick up the lack of passing offense. The team is solid everywhere and they remind me a lot of the Ravens. 7-9

20. Green Bay Packers – Even though they were 6-10 last year, I think the Packers will be much improved and have a good chance at making the playoffs. Aaron Rodgers had a good season last year and all signs point to the fact that he will be even better this season. A solid team with no major weakness, they also have no major strengths. 7-9

21. Tennessee Titans – After a great season last year, reality has settled in and the loss of Haynesworth will devastate this team. Big Albert was the heart of the team and his loss will hurt them dearly in the standings. Former USC star LenDale White, who has made a career in the NFL as a touchdown guru couldn’t seem to find his production at the end of the year, and I don’t think Chris Johnson can stay healthy long enough to be a feature back. The defense will be good, but not good enough to take them to the Super Bowl in 09. 7-9

22. New York Jets – They went 9-7 last year and they have the framework for a solid team, but they lack the consistent and proven Qb. They lose Brett Favre, and the AFC East is very strong. They won’t be able to survive in the tough division starting either Clemens or Sanchez and it will doom any chances they may have had. 7-9

23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – I’m sure Buccaneers fans are still crying after their 4 game collapse last year and unfortunately this years record will be even worse. A year older, and there are glaring holes all around the roster. Leftwich will get another shot to redeem his career and the run game gets a needed injection with the signing of Hb Ward. However, it’s a bad sign when your best WR, Antonio Bryant is a former reclamation project who the rest of the league neglected to sign. The O-line is solid but the D-line is young and needs some work. Chris Hovan is an above average DT and DE Gaines Adams has shown flashes of greatness. If Talib can step up as a rookie, then the Bucs have a chance, but realistically they can’t go that far with the pieces they currently have. Look for a stagnant offense that at times will struggle to score.  6-10

24. Cleveland Browns – Another disappointing showing last year, but things look brighter in Cleveland. Brady Quinn will have a big year and they will be on the cusp of making the playoffs. Thomas and Steinbach form the frame for a solid offensive line, and as long as Shaun Rodgers can control his weight, the Browns have a fixture on the defensive line. 6-10

25. Kansas City Chiefs – With new GM Scott Pioli, the Chiefs will be much improved, and will make a strong push to overtake the Chargers in the West. They enter the season without longtime franchise TE Anthony Gonzalez, but they did add Cassell and that will be enough to at least be a respectable team. 6-10

26. San Francisco 49ersFrank Gore is a bright spot for this team, and they seemed to improve late last season under new coach Mike Singletary. However, They enter the season with a lot of question marks. Crabtree is threatening to hold out, and there are issues at Qb. If Hill or Smith can step it up, big things are possible, but that remains to be proven. 6-10

27. Buffalo Bills – The slump from last year continues. The addition of Terrell was huge, adding respectability to an otherwise silly franchise. But they lack an offensive line, Lynch enters the year a question mark, they have no Tight end and they are relying on an unproven Qb in Edwards. This roster stinks of mediocrity. 6-10

28. Denver Broncos – This team has the pieces but will not be going anywhere with Kyle Orton in the starting Qb slot. Coaching changes will break what was a proven running system in Denver and they will fail to make the playoffs. 5-11

29. Oakland Raiders – Last year was another year of untapped potential in the Bay, but things will start to turn around in 09. They made an unpopular and well documented pick in D. Heyward-Bey, and if he works out like any of their other recent lottery picks then he is in for a world of hurt. With that said, I love Darren McFadden and think he will bounce back in a major way in 09. The 4.2 sec/40 yard dash beast will be a fantasy stud, write it down. But the team will need another year before they can make any real run at things. 5-11

30. Cincinnati Bengals – Not much to say. They need serious help on defense and in the courtroom. Not even OchoCinco, Chad Johnson will be able to help them. Look for an improved team with a healthy Carson Palmer, but they still lack the depth at defense to compete at an elite level. 5-11

31. Detroit Lions - They picked up a stud in Georgia QB Matt Stafford and they will be much improved this year, but with that said they still have a lot of holes. The defensive line will need to improve before this team has any shot at legitimately competing. 2-14

32. St. Louis Rams – Marc Bulger is a good Qb, and Steven Jackson has proven to be a legit Hb, but the once plentiful WR group has been decimated by age and while the defense has improved, they still have still too many holes to compete. 2-14

NY Giants 11 5
Philadelphia 11 5
Washington 9 7
Dallas 8 8

Chicago 11 5
Minnesota 8 8
Green Bay 7 9
Detroit 2 14

Carolina 10 6
Atlanta 9 7
New Orleans 8 8
Tampa Bay 6 10

Arizona 11 5
Seattle 9 7
San Francisco 6 10
St. Louis 2 14

New England 13 3
Miami 11 5
NY Jets 7 9
Buffalo 6 10

Pittsburgh 12 4
Baltimore 11 5
Cleveland 6 10
Cincinnati 5 11

Indianapolis 10 6
Houston 9 7
Jacksonville 7 9
Tennessee 7 9

San Diego 12 4
Kansas City 6 10
Denver 5 11
Oakland 5 11

By: Morgan Spokny

You can check out more of my stuff live every Tuesday/Thursday on the Bottom Line
Sports Show @ 9 PM Eastern.


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