Here is part 2 of my season preview. Here is the NFC, a few of the awards, and the Super Bowl winner!
St. Louis Rams- 3-13 (4th)
The Good: Steven Jackson is still one of the best, most versatile running backs in the league, and now the Rams think they’ve found their QB of the future, and the now, in Sam Bradford. Chris Long looks legit, and the team likes James Laurinaitis at MLB.
The Bad: Where to start? The line still has a lot to prove, and Steven Jackson is always an injury concern. Losing Donnie Avery takes away a solid player at WR. There are so many spots on the roster where guys who can’t make the 53 man roster for most teams are starting in St. Louis. They have a long way to go.
The Questions: 1) Can the offensive line be respectable if they can stay together as a unit? They have some talent in guys like Rodger Saffold, and if they can get some time together, they could put together a sting of games where they make very few mistakes.
Why 3-13? Because most of their good players are still young and inexperienced. There is a lot of growing to do, and not much talent overall on the roster.
Seattle Seahawks- 4-12 (3rd)
The Good: If Leon Washington is healthy, he could add a bit of explosiveness that the rest of the offense lacks. If Seattle plans on running more two TE sets, then John Carlson could be used more as a receiver than a blocker. The secondary looks like it could be real solid with the addition of bright rookie Earl Thomas.
The Bad: The guys along the offensive line have a hard time staying healthy, as does their QB. The running game will struggle to get off the ground this year, and head coach Pete Carroll has promised more roster upheaval. There’s a lot of change going on. They also don’t appear to have anyone who can consistently rush the passer.
The Questions: 1) Will David Hawthorne relinquish the starting WLB when Leroy Hill returns? I don’t think so. He’s too talented, and the Seahawks like him too much. Hill has had some off the field issues, and they were even tempted to switch the defense to a 3-4 just to get Hawthorne on the field.
2) Is Mike Williams really living up to his potential? Carroll coached him at USC, and he showed well in the preseason, so maybe things are going to work out for him this time.
Why 4-12? This is a team in big time transition, with offensive players who can’t stay healthy, and an uninspiring running game. A lack of a pass rush is going to make this a long season in Seattle.
Arizona Cardinals- 7-9 (2nd)
The Good: The Cards have a good coaching staff in place, giving them a solid foundation for now and the future. The defensive line is a good group, led by the intense Darnell Dockett, and the possible breakout star Calais Campbell. Daryl Washington is a rookie ILB who the Cards will start despite Whisenhunt’s reservations towards starting rookies. Losing Matt Leinart for Derek Anderson was defiantly the right thing to do. As a Niner fan, I was looking forward to playing Leinart twice a year, the Cards will be better off without him.
The Bad: They still need to prove that they can run the ball, and I have my doubts that they can. Losing Karlos Dansby is really going to hurt. There are still doubt that Levi Brown can be an effective left tackle.
The Questions: 1)How much will losing Antrel Rolle hurt this defense’s big play ability? I think it hurts a lot. He’s a dangerous player, although not the greatest in coverage. His replacement Kerry Rhodes struggled with the Jets last year, and doesn’t do any one thing particularly well.
2) After a down 2009 is Steve Breaston ready to start? He was battling an injury last year, and he still has Fitzgerald on the other side taking focus off of him, he should be fine.
Why 7-9? This team is in a bit of transition. They lost a lot of player and in most cases replaced them with lesser talent. Whisenhunt dug into his Steelers background to get aging stars Alan Faneca, and Joey Porter, both of whom seem to have little left. This will be a down year for the Cardinals, but it won’t be a common thing. They’ll be back contending for the west title next year, this just won’t be their year.
San Francisco 49ers- 10-6 (1st)
The Good: For the first time in forever the 49ers have the same offensive coordinator for two years in a row. Alex Smith has become a leader in the locker room and looked better than ever during the preseason. There are play makers all over the offense with Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, and Frank Gore. The offensive line has been improved through new coaching, and adding two first round picks to the starting lineup. On defense Patrick Willis is the best LB in the league, and Manny Lawson finally looks recovered from ACL surgery. He should break out in his contract year.
The Bad: The secondary worries me. If teams were smart enough to throw deep often against this defense, the Niners would be in trouble. Nate Clements has lost a step, and S Michael Lewis is easily beat in coverage. Although Jimmy Raye has been the OC for two years now, I still question his ability to run an offense. He does know how to utilize TE’s, but hasn’t shown much else as far as keeping defenses on their heals.
The Questions: 1) Alex Smith. He is the question. He will probably never live up to being drafted first overall, but can he at least not hurt this offense, and win games when they are on the line? Well, he’s had his best offseason, let’s see if he has what it takes.
2) Vernon Davis vs. Michael Crabtree? No, Davis is a vocal no B.S. kind of guy, and he was bothered by something. So he said it. He even took Crabs out to yogurt the next day so obviously things are great between them… right?
Why 10-6? They have enough holes to prevent them from winning more than 10 games, but they are good enough, play in a weak division, and have the playmakers to be a solid team.
Detroit Lions- 5-11 (4th)
The Good: Adding Nate Burleson and Jahvid Best to an offense that already had a promising young tight end, wide receiver, and Quarterback, must be exciting for Detroit. The defensive line is full of aggressive attacking players, who fit what Jim Schwartz is looking for.
The Bad: They still need to add more talent at LB, and the secondary is still working out the kinks. I don’t trust the offensive line to protect whomever is throwing passes for the Lions after they let Metthew Stafford get pummeled into the ground. They have poor depth, and are not the type of team that can handle injuries to starters.
The Questions: 1) Will Gosder Cherilus play up to his high draft status? He has been a big disappointment coming into this year, and barely held on to his RT job. The Lions need him to lock down that other tackle spot.
Why 5-11? It just seems that they are taking any player that walks through the door, throwing them up against the wall, and seeing what sticks. They aren’t to the point where they seem to have a vision with what types of players they want to bring in. Detroit has some good position players, but won’t quite put it together yet.
Chicago Bears- 8-8 (3rd)
The Good: Signing an impact player like Julius Peppers makes the defense heads and shoulders better. The Bears have a solid linebacking core to go with Peppers. Matt Forte seems to be in great shape, and motivated. Funny how signing a high priced free agent will motivate the guy he is trying to take carries from.
The Bad: The secondary is full of players who are very average, especially at safety. They have no number one WR, even if Jonny Knox has looked like he could be productive, there is no one to really scare a defense. Mike Martz offensive scheme will probably ruin Greg Olsen’s season, and maybe Bears career, unless he becomes a better blocker.
The Questions: 1) Martz + Cutler= ? Martz likes his QB’s to drop back and fling id down the field. Jay Cutler has a big arm. He also has a tendency to throw the ball to the wrong guys. I feel like it will be a year of 3 interception games followed by 4 td games for Cutler.
2) Can Brian Urlacher stay healthy? This defense has really suffered without him, and even though he will never be a dominant player again, he can still be a leader for the D.
Why 8-8? They have added elite talent in Peppers, but I see and inconsistent season out of the Bears, mostly because of their offense. Their line isn’t quite good enough, the receivers aren’t great, and their QB just threw three more picks while walking to the store.
Minnesota Vikings- 11-5 (2nd)
The Good: They got Brett Favre back, they still have the biggest baddest defensive line in the league, and a motivated Adrian Peterson. Sounds good to me. E.J. Henderson is already back from injury, and he’s ready to continue laying the wood on opponents.
The Bad: Cedric Griffin is still working his way back from injury, and Chris Cook is out for the season. Antoine Winfield is back after injuring his foot, but he hasn’t looked like his old self. The right side of the offensive line was inconsistent last year, and they need better play out of those guys.
The Questions: 1) Can AP stop fumbling? It seems like fumbling is in Peterson’s head. He seems to think about it too much, and that usually leads to more fumbles. I assume this will always be part of his game.
2) How much will the pass attack suffer without Sidney Rice? Favre probably made Rice better than Rice made Favre better last season, but he is still the most talented widout on the team. Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin need to step up.
Why 11-5? They might have the best team in the league on paper, but we all know sports aren’t played on paper. They really thought they were going to win the Super Bowl last year, and seemed shocked when the Saints beat them. I expect a bit of a hangover, but not a huge one. They are too talented. My bold prediction for the Vikings- Brett Favre will miss at least one game this year due to injury, ending his consecutive games started streak.
Green Bay Packers- 12-4 (1st)
The Good: Jermichael Finley is set to explode as Aaron Rodgers’ new favorite target. The line seems much improved, and Rodgers is ready for an MVP type year. Charles Woodson is coming off his best season as far as making plays, and the whole defense has had another offseason to learn the 3-4 defense.
The Bad: Rumbles are that Al Harris may never play again. If so, the Packers already weak pass defense will not get any mid season relief from Harris. The secondary is the weakness of this team. The suspension of Johnny Jolly has weakened that defensive line.
The Questions: 1) Can B.J. Raji lock down the NT job? The most important position in a 3-4 defense is the big man at the nose. Raji has the look of a good player, he needs to show it as the full time starter.
2) Will the pass happy Packers ever let the running game get their groove on? Ryan Grant isn’t the most talented back in the NFL, but you need a running game to win, especially in the playoffs. He doesn’t seem like the kind of back who can get the ball sporadically, and still produce. Nor does he seem like he has the attitude or patience for that.
Why 12-4? They aren’t an amazing team, but they can outscore anyone. All the D has to do is keep it close, the offense will do the rest.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers- 4-12 (4th)
The Good: Josh Freeman is the man at QB. The team likes him enough to give him the full reigns of the offense. The offensive line is probably the best unit on this team, but they aren’t anything to get too excited about.
The Bad: There is some potential at LB, CB, and DT, but potential won’t win any games this year. The Buccs don’t have much talent at wide receiver, with Mike Williams as the projected starter.
The Questions: 1) Is this Ronde Barber’s last season as a Bucc? Most likely. The team is already preparing for life without him after drafting Myron Lewis in the third round.
Why 4-12? Too much potential, and not enough right now to win many games. They should be able to pull off a couple upsets just like they did last year against the Packers.
Carolina Panthers- 6-10 (3rd)
The Good: The Panthers’ defense is full of speedy talented guys trying to get to the Quarterback. They will miss Julius Peppers, but not as much as one might think. They have a great 1-2 punch in the backfield with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, with a good run blocking line in front of them. Jon Beason will cement himself along side the best linebackers in the league.
The Bad: The passing game with shaky pass protection in front of Matt Moore, no real starting TE, and questions as to who will step up across from Steve Smith, will be a weak point for this team. They may throw less picks, but they won’t more the ball very well.
The Questions: 1) Will Jimmy Clausen see the field? If Matt Moore stays healthy then probably not until the end of the year. The panthers could stay competitive for the wild-card for most of the season, so why pull your starter? But eventually they will be eliminated, and the Panthers will want to give him a taste of the big leagues.
Why 6-10? They will have a good defense that can keep games close, but that offense is going to struggle. The passing game isn’t where it would need to be to compete week in and week out.
New Orleans Saints- 12-4 (2nd)
The Good: They’ve still got all the pieces on offense from last year, led by Drew Brees. This team won the Super Bowl last year, we know they’re good, OK?
The Bad: Jonathan Casillas was supposed to start at weak-side linebacker, but he’s now out for the year. Darren Sharper won’t be back for a while after being placed on the PUP list.
The Questions: 1) Can Malcolm Jenkins replace Darren Sharper? Defensive coordinator called Jenkins “special,” but we’ll see. I doubt he has the big play ability Sharper did, though few do.
2) Super Bowl hangover? How could there not be? After they won they gloated about how they would party harder than any other team ever has. In fact I don’t think they’ve stopped partying. Luckily these players seem motivated and hungry for more, so no huge drop off is expected.
Why 12-4? The defense won’t be as solid as last year, and won’t make as many plays, but the offense will be as efficient as ever. They have the swagger of a champion, and they’re ready to repeat.
Atlanta Falcons- 12-4 (1st)
The Good: I expect the offense to bounce back from a down year. Matt Ryan is going to explode, finding Tony Gonzalez, and Roddy White often. Michael Turner has worked tirelessly to return to the level of two years ago. The offensive line is not spectacular, but more than a solid group. Expect Curtis Lofton to have a monster season, and nabbing Dunta Robinson bolsters a formerly weak unit.
The Bad: The rest of the secondary is an issue right now for the Falcons, but they could turn it around. The second receiver across from Roddy White still hasn’t been taken over by Michael Jenkins or Harry Douglas.
The Questions: 1) Is Kroy Biermann the answer to the Falcons pass rushing struggles? Apart from John Abraham, the falcons haven’t done a good job of hitting opposing Quarterbacks. But Biermann is a guy they really like, and has exploded onto the scene.
2) Will they finally get Jerious Norwood the ball? He’s an explosive player, and they need to use him more effectively. They’ve talked about throwing more passes his way, but I’ll believe it when I see it.
Why 12-4? The offense is ready to take the next step. That line has been together for a while, and Turner seems to be coming back with a vengeance. The defense will be better with the addition of Robinson, and if they can find a pas rush, they win the South.
New York Giants- 6-10 (4th)
The Good: The Giants have a stable of good widouts with Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith leading the way. Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle should make a formidable safety combo.
The Bad: They already have had injuries along the offensive line, and the running game hasn’t gotten off the ground. They look weak at linebacker, and shaky at cornerback. They have no presence in the middle of that defensive line, and Osi Umenyiora is a declining player.
The Questions: 1) Will Ahmad Bradshaw work as the starter at RB? At this point in his career he is a better back than Brandon Jackson, but he will now be asked to handle switching roles from late game closer to having the target on his back as the starter.
Why 6-10? They were built to win the year they won the Super Bowl, but little attention was put on the future, and now they are going to pay for it. They have not had a good foundation of young player to build on, so they have tried to fill the gaps with aging veterans, which means the Giants are due for a big drop off.
Washington Redskins- 7-9 (3rd)
The Good: Hiring Mike Shanahan is a great move. He’s a coach who has had a ton of success in this league, and knows his offense. And now he gets to work with the best Quarterback he’s had since John Elway left Denver in Donovan McNabb. Chris Cooley is back from injury, which makes him and Fred Davis a dangerous TE combo. They have a strong linebacking core who can both rush the passer, and stop the run
The Bad: There is very little talent on the defensive line, especially if they trade Albert Haynesworth. Besides Santana Moss, the Skins don’t quite know who else is going to deserve targets. As of now Joey Galloway may start, which isn’t a good sign because he hasn’t shown anything for years.
The Questions: 1) Will Heynesworth be traded? A problem guy like that would normally be traded away when a new coach comes in, but it’s hard with that large of a salary. I’d still say there is a 70% he is traded soon.
Why 7-9? They are a trendy pick to nab a wild-card berth, but are people forgetting they went 4-12 last year? Granted, they have change some things since then, a new head coach and QB, but jumping from 4 to 7 wins is a big jump, and I don’t see the overall talent to get them any higher.
Philadelphia Eagles- 8-8 (2nd)
The Good: Brandon Graham looks absolutely legit, and will make that defensive line even more dangerous to opposing QB’s. Adding tackling machine Ernie Sims was a smart move after Detroit gave up on him after he was playing through injury last year. The Eagles are explosive at wide receiver with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, and expect Brent Celek to have another good year, as long as he doesn’t get a little Captain in him.
The Bad: The team is so young, and having a first year starter running the offense in Kevin Kolb is not a recipe for instant success.
The Questions: 1)Will Jason Peters put together a more consistent season? He was up and down last year, with flashes of dominance along with penalties, sacks given up, and a couple fits with poor run blocking. He was only in Philly for this last season, so maybe he will improve, but he lead the team in penalties, and has given up a large amount of sack over the last three years.
2) Is Akeem Jordan the best option at LB? He’s at their “SAM” LB position which is strange because he isn’t good in pass coverage. Moise Fokou was the guy they clearly wanted to win that job, but he didn’t. Sounds like the Eagles just don’t have a good option there.
Why 8-8? There is a lot of talent on this team, but like I said before, they’re being led by a first year starter at QB. It’s not normal for those types of situations to work out. They team in general is young, and at times, especially late in games, it will bite them in the butt.
Dallas Cowboys- 10-6 (1st)
The Good: There are too many playmakers on this offense for defenses to shut them all down, it’s a pick your poison type of offense. DeMarcus Ware is healthy and Anthony Spencer will break out as a star opposite Ware.
The Bad: The offensive line is suddenly falling apart and looking weak. This is a huge concern. If the Cowboys can’t run behind this brittle line, then teams will be able to shut down the passing game by blitzing Romo, and giving him different looks in the secondary. Do we really want to see the “gun slinging” Tony Romo again? They need to be able to run the ball to take pressure off the passing game, and they won’t be able to if the line can’t stay healthy.
The Questions: 1) Will Jerry Jones try and override coaches? He seems to want to push the coaches to play Felix Jones more than Marion Barber, which I think would be a mistake. Is Jerry Jones more Al Davis than we thought?
2) Will Roy Williams do anything? He has been garbage since they traded all those pics for him, yet he still acts like he’s the best receiver in the league. He isn’t even the best receiver on his own team, or second best, or third best! I don’t expect much out of him.
Why 10-6? They should have a better record, but the O- line’s shaky play plus the pressure to get to the Super Bowl to play at home in the house that Jerry built is going to be a lot to handle. And much of that pressure is coming from the man himself. Jerry Jones is going to smother this team with his narcissism.
1 seed- Packers
3 seed- 49ers
4 seed- Cowboys
5 seed- Saints
6 seed- Vikings
Other Possibilities: Peyton Manning- Matt Ryan- Philip Rivers. It’s always the Quarterbacks…
Offensive Player of the Year: Aaron Rodgers
Other Possibilities: Matt Schaub
Defensive Player of the Year: Patrick Willis
Other Possibilities: Mario Williams
Offensive ROY- Ryan Mathews
Other Possibilities: Jahvid Best- C.J Spiller- Dez Bryant
Defensive ROY: Brandon Graham
Other Possibilities: None!
Comeback Player of the Year: Michael Turner
Other Possibilities: Brian Urlacher
Tim Tebow’s rookie stats (Because I know everyone can't wait to see him)- Passing- 16-34 129 yards 1 TD 3 INT Rushing 46 rush 207 yds 4.5 avg 2 TD’s 2 Fum
Wild Card Round
49ers (3) vs. Vikings (6)
The Vikings are way to good to not spoil the Niners first playoff game since 2002 , and break my heart along the way.
Cowboys (4) vs. Saints (5)
The Boys rip Jerry Jones’ heart out, the Saints keep the party going.
Packers (1) vs. Vikings (6)
Favre’s career could not end in a more suitable place.
Falcons (2) vs. Saints (5)
The division champs prove they are for real by sending the ‘09 champs home.
Packers (1) Falcons (2)
The Falcons offense is too balanced for the Packers D, and the dirty bird reigns the NFC.
Falcons (2) vs. Colts (1)
Manning and the Colts get it right against this NFC South team.