2010 NFL Season Preview: 32 Can't Miss Predictions
Expect the unexpected.
That has become a running theme for the NFL from season to season.
Every game, every team, and every season brings countless surprises that even the most seasoned NFL analyst would never see coming.
This slideshow makes an attempt to forsee the unforseeable and predict surprises for every team in the upcoming season
Atlanta Falcons - Michael Turner Leads NFL in Rushing Yardage
With Michael Turner finally healthy, the Falcons will once again commit to their run game.
Turner has spent the entire offseason with the Falcons, trying to improve his conditioning and prove that he's more than a one-season wonder.
In 2009, the Falcons made big improvements in their passing game, which should only help Turner, who won't have to deal with 7 or 8 players in the box.
Turner had 16 carries in two quarters in the Falcons third preseason game and coach Mike Brown hasn't been shy about his willingness to give Turner the ball. Most recently, Smith speculated that Turner could even see 400 carries in 2010.
Arizona Cardinals - Cardinals win NFC West for Third Straight Season
The biggest question mark for the Cardinals in 2010 revolves around the quarterback position.
There is a realistic possibility that Matt Leinhart will be cut prior to Week One, leaving the Cardinals with Derek Anderson and two rookies to control their offense.
What seemingly overlooked, is the question marks revolving around the quarterback position among the rest of the teams in the division.
Alex Smith is far from a sure thing in San Fransisco, St. Louis will be starting a rookie and the Seahawks are relying on Matt Hasselbeck who has been steadily declining since 2007.
The Cardinals will retain their title as the best Special Teams in the NFL and despite several key losses, they could enter 2010 with a better defensive unit than 2009.
Baltimore Ravens - The Ravens Top 13 Wins in 2010
Not only do the Ravens boast their best roster in recent memory, but they also face a very favorable schedule.
Their toughest out of division game, against New Orleans, takes place at M&T Bank Stadium. They face Pittsburgh in Week Four, prior to the return of Ben Roethlisberger. Further, Miami come to town in Week Nine, just as the Ravens come off the bye week.
Losing Donte Stallworth hurts their passing game, but they added three talented passing option in the offseason, which should give Flacco plently work with.
If the Ravens can stay healthy and focus, I see no reason why they don't win 13 or 14 games in 2010 and make a legitimate push towards the Super Bowl.
Buffalo Bills - C.J. Spiller is Worth the Gamble
Was it a good decision for the Bills to draft Spiller ninth overall? Absolutely not.
Can it still work out in their favor? Yes.
The Bills have significant needs at nearly every position, for them to draft a running back at ninth overall is bordering on insanity.
Not only would they have been better served drafting from another position, but if there wasn't anyone else available for them, they should have found a trade partner.
For the Bills, if there is a running back that can be succesful with a decidedly average offensive line and a non-existant passing game, Spiller could be their man.
Spiller has the ability to run off-tackle, catch out of the backfield and factor into the return game. In every situation, he has the ability to get into the endzone.
2010 might not be the season for Spiller, but if the Bills can draft offensive linemen in 2011, C.J. could be a difference maker for years to come.
Carolina Panthers - Start All Four Quarterbacks on Their Roster
Matt Moore appears to be the clear cut starter for Week One, but facing the Saints, Giants, Bengals and Bears in their first five games, I would be shocked to see him keep his job following the bye-week.
Clausen will be next in line, followed by Cantwell and Pike. As the losses pile up and the passing game continue to struggle, expect a sense of desperation from John Fox and the Panthers' coaching staff.
With limited option in the receiving corps, opposing teams will stack the box, stiffling the Panthers running game.
In a snow ball effect, if the offense can't maintain drives, the defense will fatigue. With Carolina's offense on the sideline, the opposing defense will be able to maintain a high level of pressure, exacerbating the problem.
Chicago Bears - Julius Peppers Challenges Michael Strahan's Sack Record
In 2009, Julius Peppers suffered from a lack of motivation and a lack of interest in Carolina.
When motivated, there are few players in the history of the NFL with the pass rushing talent of Julius Peppers. Even at the age of 30, Peppers appears to be sustaining the prime of his career.
At times in training camp, Peppers has been described as unblockable, disrupting the backfield and getting after the quarterback at will.
In limited action in preseason, Peppers has already recorded two sacks and has given offensive tackles everything they can handle.
Most importantly, Peppers will be playing on the most talented defensive unit of his career. With a healthy starting unit, Lovie Smith can finally make the most of his playmakers on defense.
Cincinnati Bengals - Terrell Owens Solidifies Hall of Fame Enshrinement
Watching the Bengals preseason, not only has Terrell Owens been surprisingly productive, but he is quickly becoming a favorite target for Carson Palmer.
Even if Owens is the second or thrid read on a play, he is distancing himself from defensive backs and making himself a reliable target for his quarterback.
Coming off a one year slumber in Buffalo, Owens appears to have not lost a step from his best days in Dallas.
I envision Owens as the primary regular target in the red zone. In mostly single coverage, Owens has the man-to-man abilities to get open and make plays in the air.
Owens should be a WR2 consideration in all leagues and should amass 60+ receptions and ten touchdowns.
Cleveland Browns - Joshua Cribbs has a Breakout Offensive Season
With the ball in his hands, there are few players in this league more dangerous than Joshua Cribbs.
The problem for the Browns has been just that, how exactly do they get Cribbs involved in their offense?
As difficult as it may be to believe, Jake Delhomme could be the answer to that question. He has plenty of experience with a dynamic play maker, Steve Smith, and has great accuracy in the short passing game.
Much like Terrell Owens, Joshua Cribbs may find himself in a lot of starting on a lot of fantasy teams on Sundays. With a high volume of receptions and potential to take it to the house in the passing, rushing and return games, it will be hard to keep Cribbs on your bench.
Dallas Cowboys - Start the Season 0-4, Still Make Playoffs
Every season, there's a team that appears to have everything in place, only to fall on their face in the early goings.
In 2010, the Cowboys will be that team.
Now before Cowboys fans start filling up the comments, I think the Cowboys have a legitimate chance to win at least 10 games this season, but I have a sneaking suspicion that they will struggle out of the gate.
Expectations for the Cowboys in 2010 are Super Bowl or bust. With the best roster they've fielded in some time and the Super Bowl taking place at Cowboys Stadium, the pressure will be reminiscent of that from the early 90's.
With a primarly young squad, Super Bowl expectations will be a new experience for them.
The Cowboys schedual lightens up after their bye-week, so expect them to find a rhythm as the season winds down.
Denver Broncos - Finish Last in AFC West
The players and coaches that were the primary source of production in 2009 are no longer with the team in 2010.
Brandon Marshall was the heart and soul of their offense. In the red zone and on third down, the Broncos relied heavily on their top wide receiver. Commanding regular double teams, simply having Marshall on the field made life easier for the rest of their offense.
In their first 6 games of 2009, the Broncos went 6-0 while creating 12 turnovers. The majority of which fell on the shoulders of newly added defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.
Elvis Dummervil, another integral part of the Broncos success in 2009 appears to be sidelined for the majority of the upcoming season.
Without those three pieces in place, I find it hard to believe that the Broncos will be able to surpass anyone in their division.
Detroit Lions - Offense Continues to Struggle Behind Weak Offensive Line
For all the talent the Lions feature on offense, they are overwhelmingly weak in pass protection and run blocking.
Using a second first round pick on a running back may prove to be a costly decision.
The Lions gave up 43 sacks in 2009, and without making any improvements to their offensive line, I see no reason to expect any improvement this season.
Making matters worse, the Vikings, Bears and Packers are among the leagues top pass rushing threats. All of which get two opertunities to game plan for Stafford and the Lions offensive line in 2010.
The addition of a running threat was needed for a team that ranked 23rd in the NFL, however, a good offensive linemen could be equally important to improving the Lions running game.
Green Bay Packers - Aaron Rodgers Leads NFL in Passing Yards
With a healthy offensive line and a great compliment of receivers, the Aaron Rodgers is poised to make the most of his potential in 2010.
Jermichael Finley could be the msot productive tight end in the NFL this season. He is a dangerous athlete but more importantly, he is becoming Aaron Rodgers favorite target.
With the short passing game in check, with Finley and Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and James Jones should see a lot of single coverage in the deep passing game.
The Packers are a realistic contender for the Super Bowl and Aaron Rodgers should be in the MVP conversation all season long.
Houston Texans - Can't Win AFC North, Miss Playoffs
Just as it seems as though the Texans will finally dethrone the Colts, they come up short.
The Titans are poised to build off the second half of their 2009 campaign and the Colts aren't going to simply role over, coming off an AFC championship performance.
To win the AFC North, the Texans are going to start stopping teams, as opposed to out scoring them. As I see it, the Texans defense don't appear to be poised to stop the Titans or the Colts.
Indianapolis Colts - Win Only 10 Games
Not since 2002 have the Colts won fewer than 12 games in a season.
Whether it be a Super Bowl hangover, lack of depth, injury plagued season or other teams finally catching up to them, I think that 2010 will be a season the Colts would like to forget.
That said, with 10 wins, they will still put themselves in a position to make the playoffs, but I guarantee they won't be resting their starters in Week 16 and 17 this year.
Jacksonville Jaguars - Blackout Each of Their Eight Home Games
In 2009, the Jaguars had 7 home blackouts, only selling out their Thursday nigiht contest vs. Indianapolis.
In 2010, there doesn't appear to be a bright spot on the home schedual. The Jaguars play 5 home games before hosting their first division opponent, Tennessee in Week 13. By that time, the Jaguars will be removed from playoff contention, eliminating any hope to sell out any of their division games.
At this point, the best chance for the Jaguars to improve their attendance would be to draft Ryan Mallett or Jake Locker in the first round of the 2010 draft. Otherwise, we might be talking about the "LA Jags" sooner rather than later.
Kansas City - Finish Season with a Winning Record
This will be a make or break season for the majority of those involved with the Kansas City Chiefs franchise.
Todd Haley, Jamaal Charles, Matt Cassel and several other players will be looking for a new employer if they fail to deliver in 2010.
The additions of Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel should do nothing but help the cause this season, but it will definitely be an uphill climb.
Their roster has the talent, whether they can make it all work on-field, remains to be seen.
Miami Dolphins - Walk Away with AFC East Title
No team has mas improved more(on paper), than the Miami Dolphins.
They needed to improve their passing game, they add Brandon Marshall, the best possession receiver in the league.
They were looking to improve team speed on defense, they add Jared Odrick, Koa Misi and Karlos Dansby. They also add Cameron Wake to their starting lineup.
They needed to create more turnovers. Sean Smith and Vontae Davis enter their second season running with the first team defense. More importantly, they add Mike Nolan, one of the best defensive coordinators available.
The Dolphins are the most complete team in the AFC and if they can get reliable play from Chad Henne, they'll contend for the Super Bowl.
Minnesota Vikings - Brett Favre Plays Like a 40-Year Old Quarterback
In all the media hype surrounding the return of Brett Favre, rarely was it mentioned that there's a chance that Favre may not be the best option for the Vikings.
Favre is 40 years old and is coming off a severe ankle injury, yet everyone expects him to be a difference maker for the Vikings this season.
His 2009 performance was encouraging, but to expect him to repeat that production this season would be more of a dream than reality.
I wish Brett no ill-will, but I am very cautious with my expectations for the Hall of Famer in the 2010 season. It would be a storybook ending for Favre to finish the season lifting the Lombardi trophy, but for a quarterback to stay relevant for 20 NFL seasons would be something of mythical proportions.
New England Patriots - Randy Moss Leads NFL in Receiving Touchdowns
Everyone knows that both Tom Brady and Randy Moss are in contract years. Although both are in their mid-thirties, they've shown nothing to expect that both can't have career years in 2010.
If preseason is any indication, Randy Moss appears to be as fast and talented as ever going into the 2010 season.
In Saturday's game vs. St. Louis, Moss reeled in a 65 yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady, easily beating to defenders down the center of the field, making an over the shoulder catch in double coverage.
2010 is a contract year, but what's more, it will be both Moss and Brady's last significant contract year.
New Orleans Saints - Repeat as NFC Champions
As I see it, the New Orleans Saints are head and shoulders above any other team in the NFC.
They lost very few players from last years championship team and, if anything, have improved since 2009.
They have a pass rush and secondary combine for a great one-two punch, allowing them to consistantly win the turnover battle.
New York Giants - Lead NFC East in Offensive Production
The Giants rely on balance on both sides of the ball. Their balance makes them dangerous as it is very hard to make them one dimensional.
The combination of Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks and newcomers Ramses Barden and Victor Cruz gives the Giants threats in the short and deep passing games.
An experienced offensive line and a rehabilitated rushing game should all attribute to Eli Manning posting career numbers in 2010.
The Giants face a tough schedual, so making the playoffs may be an uphill battle. That said, scoring will not be an issue this season.
New York Jets - Darelle Revis Holdout Ends...
....When the Jets start the season with three straight losses.
Even with Revis, the Jets would struggle to win games vs. Baltimore, vs. New England and @Miami. Without Revis in the lineup, the media and fan backlash will force the Jets to re-sign their top cornerback in an effort to revive their Super Bowl hopes.
Once they add Revis, things will improve in New York, but it won't be enough to have them return to the playoffs.
A disappointing season all-around for the Jets.
Oakland Raiders - Darren McFadden Finally Lives Up to the Hype
Eventhough he isn't assured of a starting job. McFadden should benefit from the improvements to the offensive line and a competent passing game under Jason Campbell.
In recent training camp practices, the Raiders coaching staff have noted McFadden's burst as compared to previous years.
Jason Campbell has also been impressed by McFadden's catching ability, making him a legitimate receiving option out of the backfield, which should give him a slight advantage over Michael Bush.
Philadelphia Eagles - Nate Allen Wins Defensive Rookie of the Year
On the heels of Marlin Jackson's achilles injury, Nate Allen entered spring workouts as the starting free safety. Not only has the rookie picked up Eagles defense but he was described by Andy Reid as being "unshakeable".
With the Eagles, Allen put himself in a position to have a very productive rookie season.
With all the pressure from their numerous pass rushers and the man-to-man coverage abilities of Asante Samuel and Ellis Hobbs, Allen will get favorable matchups all season long.
Pittsburgh Steelers - Recommit to the Running Game, Start Winning
In all of Pittsburgh's 2009 struggles, the running game was glaringly missing.
The Steelers found themselves in the bottom half of the league statistically and, in turn, found themselves losing more games than any season in the Ben Roethlisberger era.
In 2010, rookie Maurkice Pouncey is in line to take over the starting job at center and his impact was imediately felt in Sunday's preseason game.
The Steeler's per carry average improved dramatically, while their quarterback protection was as good as ever.
San Diego Chargers - Lose Vincent Jackson, Nobody Notices
Why the lack of desperation to re-sign Vincent Jackson? Probably because the Chargers don't really need him.
Malcom Floyd, Legedu Naanee, Jeremey Williams, Buster Davis and Seyi Ajirotutu have all received glowing reports from the coaching staff this offseason.
The common thread between all five receivers, quarterback Phillip Rivers.
With Rivers under center, tall, atheletic wide receivers have become a staple of the San Diego Chargers offense.
With Ryan Mathews and Antonio Gates also in the mix, the Chargers are far from desperate for offensive weapons.
If Jackson won't stay for less money, I can only assume the Chargers will show him the door.
San Fransisco 49ers - Miss the Playoffs
According to most NFL analyst, the San Fransisco 49ers are almost a guarantee to emerge from the NFC West.
When their closest competition is deciding between Matt Leinhart and Derek Anderson as their starting quarterback, I find it difficult to argue.
However, with Frank Gore's history of injuries and Alex Smith's general inconsistancy, I also find it hard to have a lot of faith in the Niners.
With their talented offensive and defensive line, the Niners are a tough matchup for anyone. That said, their lack of stability at quarterback could thwart both units.
Seattle Seahawks - Finish Season with Fewer Wins than St. Louis Rams
Might sound a little far fetched, but entering the 2010 season, the Seahawks are lacking stability in almost every position.
Highlighting this instability, Pete Carroll and the Seahawks front office have completed over 100 transactions in less than 4 months.
The constant additions and cuts to his roster tells me that Carroll is lacking confidence in the quality of his team.
The Seahawks have several talented players, but they lack experience on defense and consistancy on offense.
St. Louis Rams - Michael Hoomanawanui Leads Tight Ends in Receptions
Hoomanawanui, know primarily as a run-blocking tight end, has shown tremendous receiving ability in his three preseason starts.
More importantly, he is becoming a favorite target for Sam Bradford. He currently leads all receivers in receptions, receiving yardage and touchdowns.
His abilities as a receiver are only matched by his abilities in pass protection and run blocking. For this reason, the Rams are going to have a hard time taking him off the field.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Mike Williams Challenges for Offensive ROY
In his second season, all indications point towards Josh Freeman continuing his climb towards becoming a legitimate NFL quarterback.
Helping his cause, a healthy Kellen Winslow and several new options in his receiving corps. Not the least of which is rookie Mike Williams.
Talent has never been a question for Williams, but throughout his career he has struggled with motivation and off-field issues.
In Tampa Bay, it appears as though the majority of those problems are behind him. All accounts from the Buccaneers training camp have Williams making an impact as a receiver throughout the season.
Tennessee Titans - Chris Johnson Struggles, Titans Still Make Playoffs
To expect Chris Johnson to repeat his 2000 yard season would be out side the realm of possibility.
In 2010, Chris Johnson will be the primary focus for every opposing defense. Most teams will put seven or eight players in the box and force the Titans to beat them through the air.
Luckily for the Titans, Vince Young appears to be up for the Challenge this season. From what we saw in the final eight games last season, the Titans are a well oiled machine with Young under center.
A below average schedual should be enough to get the Titans back into the playoffs.
Washington Redskins - Donavan McNabb has a Career Year
Looking up and down their roster, the Redskins don't appear to be loaded with weapons on offense. That said, this receiving corps could be one of the best Donovan McNabb has had in his entire career.
Of course his time with Terrell Owens and DeSean Jackson aren't to be diminished, but as a whole, this group is the deepest most well rounded group McNabb has ever worked with.
Further, a lack of a consistant running game should only help McNabb's numbers, as the Redskins will rely heavily upon the passing game.
If we know anything about Donovan McNabb, it's the fact that he doesn't need much to field and efficient offense. In Washington, he should be able to put those talents on display once again.