NFL 2011: Answering Every Team's Burning Questions
We asked for it and we got it. That's right folks, there will be football in 2011.
Get your fantasy leagues up, your tailgate equipment out, and get ready to watch America's favorite game.
But even though the 2011 season was in question it's still not exempt from America's other favorite game: speculation.
Which teams will surprise?
Which will disappoint?
Where is the next biggest star coming from?
And hell, is Brett Favre coming back?
So in celebration and anticipation of the upcoming season, here are 32 questions along with 32 answers for each NFL team.
Arizona: Is Kevin Kolb the Real Deal?
Is a career-long backup that has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns worth a second-round pick and a quality defender?
The Eagles thought so. And so did the Cardinals. That's why Arizona shipped out a second-rounder and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to Philadelphia for Kevin Kolb.
Was it out of desperation? Probably.
Was it too much to give up for a guy who has started seven games in four seasons? Maybe.
But was it the right move? Yes.
With a disgruntled Larry Fitzgerald and a coach on the ropes in Ken Whisenhunt, the Cardinals had to make a move for a potential big time player. Sure, Kolb hasn't seen the greatest of success thus far. And yes, he is not that sure-fire franchise quarterback yet. However, Kolb has displayed some signs of promise over his brief career. In fact, Kolb is the only quarterback in NFL history to throw for 300 yards or more in his first two career starts when he torched New Orleans and Kansas City back in 2009.
Many believe that Kolb carries all the tools to become "that guy" for Arizona, but he does have a lot to learn.
Prediction: Kolb will throw for 3800 passing yards, 23 TDs, and 24 INTs. He will lead the Cards to the NFC West title in an extremely thin division.
(That's right, a bold prediction right off the bat. That's how I roll.)
The prospect of Kolb hooking up with Fitzgerald for countless big yardage plays is definitely an appealing one. But again, this is an inexperienced quarterback that has to learn how to read defenses. Kolb will flash signals of excellence and go through some growing pains in his first stint as a full-time starter.
Atlanta: Are the Falcons Good Enough Yet?
It seems like every season the Atlanta Falcons are everybody's sleeper pick. And you can't blame them.
They have an incredibly intelligent quarterback, a wise coach, a decent defensive, and a plethora of offensive weapons. But despite the number of supporters or the amount of explosive playmakers they may boast, the Falcons have simply come up short the past few seasons. They were ousted by the Cards in 2009, they missed 2010's playoffs by two games, and were most recently dismissed by the eventual Super Bowl Champion Packers last postseason.
Since their early exit at the hands of Green Bay, the Falcons' front office added some help. They drafted wideout Julio Jones in the draft, they signed defensive end Ray Edwards, and threw in a couple of more minor additions with Tyson Clabo and Noel Devine.
Over the past couple of years, few teams have looked as determined to win as Atlanta. Owner Arthur Blank and GM Thomas Dimitroff continue to advance the state of the team and have done so extremely diligently. However, is hope and hard work enough to catapult the Falcons into the Super Bowl?
Prediction: Atlanta goes 11-5 and finishes second in the tough NFC South. They will fall in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
Until Atlanta becomes the dominant team they believe they are, I'm not quite convinced. Many thought their 13-3 record would translate into postseason success, but it didn't. Show me more, Atlanta.
Baltimore: Will the Ravens Finally Conquer the Steelers?
No matter how great the Ravens look, the Pittsburgh Steelers are always considered the class of the AFC North. (But don't get mad, Baltimore, because it's for good reason.)
The Ravens have been watching their division foes succeed for the past three seasons. Pittsburgh has won two AFC North titles, went to two Super Bowls, and even brought a Lombardi Trophy home since the 2008 season. Unfortunately for Baltimore, they haven't won a division title and were ousted by the very same Steelers two of the past three years. (Pittsburgh defeated Baltimore in the 2009 AFC Championship Game and the 2011 Divisional Round Game.)
So what can Joe Flacco and company do to conquer the almighty Steelers? Will their dominant defense and promising offense finally lead them past Mike Tomlin's bunch in 2011?
Prediction: Baltimore will go 11-5 and capture a Wild Card berth. Pittsburgh will take the AFC North, but the Ravens will defeat the New York Jets in the AFC Championship game to get to their first Super Bowl in ten years.
The Ravens are definitely one of the NFL's most rounded teams. They have a dangerous offense led by Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice, a group capable of pulling out a handful of big time players each game.
And their defense really goes without saying. Really, I'm not saying anything. They speak for themselves, why should I?
Buffalo: Will the Bills Climb out of the Cellar?
The past three seasons in Buffalo have been nothing short of sloppy. Since the '08 season started, the Bills are 17-31 and have placed last in the AFC East each campaign. On top of that, there is an odd perception that Ryan Fitzpatrick is some kind of a franchise quarterback. Ouch.
Things have gotten so messy in Buffalo that a casual football fan may not be able to name at least five guys on the roster. In fact, they might not be able to muster the name of the team's best player—Fred Jackson.
The front office hasn't reeled in any notable free agents, linebacker Paul Posluszny bolted to Jacksonville, and Chan Gailey is still the head coach. The only appealing aspect of this team is their first-round pick Marcell Dareus.
Prediction: The Bills finish with four wins once again and finish last in their division again once again. The only thing Buffalo can hope for is a worse season from the Miami Dolphins.
Carolina: Was Cam Newton Worth the #1 Pick?
We may not find out the answer to this question in the early stages of the season. Actually, we may not find out at all this season. Being that Jimmy Clausen and the newly-signed Derek Anderson have thrown their hats into the starting quarterback job in Carolina, Newton might be seeing more bench than field. But after spending their first overall selection on a hit-or-miss prospect, it wouldn't make much sense for Cam Newton to see limited playing time.
Instead of spending their selection on a safer pick such as Patrick Peterson or Marcell Dareus, Carolina invested that selection into the controversial Cam Newton. The latest Heisman Trophy winner tore up the collegiate game with Auburn last season. He threw for 30 touchdowns, ran for 20, and led an undefeated Auburn team straight to a National Title.
So why would head coach Ron Rivera sit the guy they are putting their future into? They shouldn't and they probably won't. Carolina should take note of what Sam Bradford did in his rookie season at St. Louis.
Despite the various knocks for him being too raw at the position, Newton is a quarterback that knows how to win games.
Prediction: Cam Newton starts all, if not most, of the 16 games. Newton doesn't put up the best of numbers, but leads the Panthers to six wins.
Newton will either become a Vince Young or a Ben Roethlisberger. I believe he has the tools and dedication to become the latter.
Chicago: Can Jay Cutler Be the Leader the Bears Need?
The 2010-2011 season didn't finish too pretty for Da Bears. They fell to their ultimate rival at home while their fans, and especially Jay Cutler, watched as the Packers marched on to the Super Bowl.
I hope you caught that Cutler line because that was the ominous controversy surrounding Chicago's loss. We all know the story. Cutler gets roughed up by Green Bay's defense, Cutler goes down with an "injury", and Cutler makes no effort to return to bring his team to the NFL's biggest game.
If Cutler suffered a serious injury or not, he was still put into question.
Was he faking it?
Is he afraid to go back out?
Does he really have what it takes to be this team's leader?
Everyone later found out that Jay suffered an MCL sprain after the NFC Championship Game. However, there were and are many skeptics pouncing on his questionable attitude as a quarterback.
Prediction: Jay Cutler turns in a more efficient season. He throws for 27 touchdowns, tosses 16 picks, and racks up around 3,500 passing yards. The Bears barely miss the playoffs, finishing second to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Norris.
The 2011 season sees Cutler put aside his selfish feelings and start the road to maturity. Hopefully for Jay, this is where he uses the criticism as his motivation to become a better player.
Cincinnati: Is This It for Marvin Lewis?
For those of you that did not know, Marvin Lewis still has a job in Cincinnati. Yup, I'm just as surprised as you are. I guess a .469 winning percentage with just two playoff appearances in eight seasons just isn't enough to get you fired nowadays. In fact, it warrants an extension.
That's right. For those of you that don't know that either, the Bengals signed Lewis to a two-year extension after coaching the team to a 4-12 record.
You would think with younger talent arriving and some older talent leaving there would be a new regime in The Queen City. But there isn't. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green are in while Carson Palmer (eventually) and Chad Ochocinco are out. It would only make sense to implode everything at this point.
So how long can Marvin hang around?
Prediction: Marvin Lewis coaches the Bengals to yet another miserable season.
If the front office extended him after a 12-loss season, I can't really see them firing him with a less experienced team coming in. Sorry Bengals fans, doesn't seem like Marvin will be packing his bags this upcoming season.
Cleveland: Will Colt McCoy Turn Heads This Season?
Although he has only played eight games, Colt McCoy's NFL career isn't off to a sizzling start. The Texas Longhorns legend threw just six touchdowns to nine interceptions and managed a 74.5 QB rating during his rookie season. The Browns didn't exactly fare well either in Colt's starts, as they went 2-6 in those eight games. (But they are the Browns, so you can't really invest a lot into the results of those games.)
Unfortunately for the young quarterback, his career is off to more of a Brady Quinn rather than a Sam Bradford.
However, will Colt turn in a better sophomore season? Can he carry over his collegiate success to the NFL?
Prediction: 15 TD, 23 INT, and 3100 passing yards for Colt McCoy.
Asking McCoy to solidify himself as Cleveland's future is much too tall of a task this season. He has nobody to throw to, he's only entering his second season, and the offense will revolve around Peyton Hillis anyway. There will be some growing pains to experience for McCoy, who will have plenty to learn before he is their franchise guy.
Dallas: Are the Cowboys Real Contenders?
Who has the Cowboys in the Super Bowl this year? Anybody? No one? Okay.
Why have so many fans and analysts backed away from selecting Dallas to get to the big game? Because they're a disappointment.
Picking the Dallas Cowboys is like putting in your faith into Santa Claus only to find out that he's fake. The Cowboys always look flashy, they seem exciting, and you think they're the ones who will deliver the goods just like Santa. Unfortunately, Santa is fiction are so have been the chances of the Cowboys hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
So after a long string of failure dating back to 1994, can the Cowboys finally reach the Holy Grail of football again?
Prediction: The Cowboys will finish second in the NFC East and capture a Wild Card berth. They will lose to the Packers in the NFC Championship Game but reassert themselves as a team to be reckoned with.
Enough is enough. This team is too good and too talented to be missing the playoffs. Tony Romo will step up and have an MVP-caliber season and the Cowboys' D will clamp down under the direction of DeMarcus Ware.
Denver: Will Tim Tebow Start More Games Than Kyle Orton?
In two seasons with Denver, quarterback Kyle Orton has chalked up fairly impressive numbers. He has thrown 41 touchdowns and surrendered just 21 interceptions from 2009-2010. However, his 11-17 record as a Denver starter has raised some concern. So much to the effect that Orton has been the subject of constant rumors throughout the offseason.
So despite the losses, trade rumblings, and the fact that football Jesus is breathing down his neck—Kyle Orton is John Fox's man going into the 2011 season.
And that begs the question...will Orton stay the team's starter or will the reigns be passed to Tim Tebow?
The logical choice for rebuilding a franchise would be Tebow. New coach, new quarterback.
The safer pick would be Orton. More experience may lead to more wins.
Prediction: Kyle Orton doesn't finish the season as Denver's starter. Orton will start eight games only to see Tebow relieve him of his duties for the other half of the year.
If Denver thinks Tebow is "that guy", then he has to see some kind of time this year. John Fox has to throw him some responsibility for him to build on.
And maybe Denver trades Orton even though its pretty unlikely. I can hear the chants for his name all the way in Miami.
Detroit: Is the Suh-Fairley Duo That Scary?
If Fairley was the player he was at Auburn, then all signs point to an overwhelming "YES".
Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley could be the greatest duo to ever grace a defensive line if both play up to their potential. Last year, Suh accumulated 10 sacks and easily won the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. His 10 sacks led all defensive tackles and propelled him to a Pro Bowl selection. Suh became the first Detroit rookie since Barry Sanders to be selected as a starter in the NFL's all-star affair.
While at Auburn for the 2010-2011 college football season, Nick Fairley ripped apart the opposition. He won the Lombardi Award as the nation's top lineman and earned defensive player of the game honors in the National Title game against Oregon.
The question, however, remains. Is Fairley a one-hit wonder?
Prediction: The combination of Suh and Fairley make themselves known. This season will be used to set the foundation for future dominance on the defensive line. The two combine for 20 sacks and help the Lions get to a respectable 8-8 mark. But this all happens if, and only if, Nick Fairley recovers well from his surgically repaired foot.
Green Bay: Will the Packers Repeat?
You knew this would be the question for the Super Bowl Champions.
Can the Packers get back to the big game and repeat?
For those of you that say yes, take into consideration that winning consecutive championships in football is an extremely daunting task. Why? History.
It has only been done eight times, by these teams:
'66-'67 Green Bay Packers
'72-'73 Miami Dolphins
'74-'75 Pittsburgh Steelers
'78-'79 Pittsburgh Steelers
'88-'89 San Francisco 49ers
'92-'93 Dallas Cowboys
'97-'98 Denver Broncos
'03-'04 New England Patriots
Prediction: The Packers will not repeat. Let me repeat, the Packers will not repeat. Do they have what it takes? Sure.
But are they as good as Shula's Dolphins, Montana and Rice's Niners, or the Patriots' Dynasty? No.
I'll side with history here.
Houston: Will the Texans Finally Make the Playoffs?
The Houston Texans franchise is the NFL's little train that couldn't. The Texans have failed to reach the playoffs every season of their existence. Given they have only been around since 2002, it's not exactly a Chicago Cubs-like drought. But not making it to the postseason for almost ten years has to be haunting the franchise.
Many believed last year was their year to do it. Matt Schaub transformed into a big-time QB, they had the best wideout in the game in Andre Johnson, and they even got a unexpected push from breakout running back Arian Foster.
Ultimately, the Texans' defense faltered much too many times and became an intricate part of their 2011 collapse.
So will the additions of J.J. Watt and Brooks Reed help out guys like Mario Williams and Brian Cushing to help push this team into some extra football?
Prediction: The Texans will not reach the playoffs this upcoming season. They will not earn a Wild Card berth as it will be feasted on by the Jets, Pats, Steelers, or Ravens. They will not win their division with Manning's Colts still around. They will win eight games which is not enough to get past Peyton and his crew.
Speaking of Peyton Manning...
Indianapolis: Is Peyton Manning Still Peyton Manning?
Seems like a silly question to ask. But with Manning undergoing his second neck surgery, can we really expect less of the future hall-of-famer? To that I say...
Hell no. He's Peyton Manning.
Prediction: Peyton puts up his typical numbers. He throws for over 30 TDs, throws for over 4,000 yards, and leads the Colts to yet another postseason. And with your typical Peyton Manning season comes your typical disappointing playoff run. Colts lose somewhere in the playoffs.
Jacksonville: Will Blaine Gabbert Show His Worth?
In one of the most overlooked moves in the 2011 draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars traded up to the 10th overall selection to nab quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert, who skipped his senior year at Missouri for the pros, was regarded by many as the closest thing to a franchise quarterback in 2011.
His strong arm, quick release, and outstanding mobility are some of the attributes that had experts such as Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay pegging Gabbert as the class' best quarterback. However, his lack of accuracy and questionable ability to read opposing defenses are certainly a few obstacles Blaine has to conquer.
Prediction: Blaine Gabbert will see limited, if any, playing time this season.
Gabbert is definitely a project for Jacksonville. He will find mentors in David Garrard and Luke McCown and spend most, if not all, of his first year on the bench.
Kansas City: Can the Chiefs Maintain Success?
I wouldn't say it rocked the Richter scale, but the 2010-2011 Kansas City Chiefs shocked their fair share of doubters.
They went 10-6, captured the AFC West title, and threw their hats into the AFC Championship picture. Although they were handled rather quickly by the Baltimore Ravens in the Wild Card round, the Chiefs made some progress in a season that should be considered nothing but a success.
We now know that Matt Cassell is a more than capable quarterback, that Jamaal Charles is one of the NFL's best running backs, and that the Kansas City defense is certainly on the rise behind the young Eric Berry.
But will the Chiefs carry over their progress into the 2011 season?
Prediction: Kansas City will go 8-8 and finish second to the San Diego Chargers in the AFC West. They will not clinch a playoff berth.
The results were fairly impressive for Todd Haley and his crew last season, but they didn't exactly face the stiffest competition around. Their opponents were a combined 106-150 (.414) and they did not face a team with more than 10 wins. Ten of their 16 games were against teams under .500 and only played one team that made the 2011 playoffs. (They lost that game to the Indianapolis Colts, 19-9.)
The Chiefs are more talented than people give them credit for, but I'm going with straight facts here. So against opponents with a winning record, the Chiefs were 1-3 and were outscored 94-37 in those games. (San Diego in Week 1, Indianapolis in Week 5, San Diego in Week 14, and Baltimore in playoffs.)
Miami: Who Is the Right Quarterback?
No Jake Locker, no Ryan Mallett, and no Christian Ponder. The Dolphins failed to reel in a potential franchise quarterback in this year's draft and are now left with some less appealing options.
You have the early favorite Chad Henne, the newly signed veteran Matt Moore, the second year guy Tom Brandstater, and the rookie Pat Devlin.
So what path will Miami choose in the latest edition of their quarterback saga?
Prediction: Chad Henne will start at quarterback for Miami. Brandstater and Devlin are immediately eliminated from consideration leaving Moore as the only competition. But since Henne has been with the team and is just as good as Moore, he should be the pick. He doesn't appear to be the franchise guy, rather an alternative until they stumble upon one.
Minnesota: What Will Donovan McNabb Do with This Team?
Quite frankly, not much. He hasn't done much in the past few seasons, why would it change now?
His receiving core is average at best, it's Adrian Peterson's offense, and McNabb is just there to tutor Christian Ponder and keep the Vikes somewhat relevant.
On the other hand, he has successfully worked with an unfavorable group of targets before. Besides Terrell Owens for one season, Donovan has never had a top flight wideout to throw to. Yet he led the Eagles to a handful of NFC Title games and put up some pretty numbers in the process.
Is McNabb too far along to work his magic though?
Prediction: Although it may be out of bad taste, I predict Donovan McNabb will suffer some kind of injury that'll give Christian Ponder a premature opening. McNabb will put up decent numbers before the injury and keep the team barely afloat in a strong division.
Why should I give McNabb anything more? He got his number from punter Chris Kluwe, a fat contract from the Redskins, and probably a lifetime supply of Campbell's Chunky Soup.
New England: Will Ochocinco and Haynesworth Contribute?
New England was able to keep Randy Moss under control and highly effective. Why can't they do it with Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth?
Well one reason why they couldn't is because they're dealing with a different creature now, Haynesworth. Ochocinco will be fine because he's not that bad of a character guy. I see him as more of a spark plug than an attitude problem. When he isn't happy, he'll say it. That's all.
However, Albert Haynesworth is Albert Haynesworth. Do we really need to go over why this guy is such a headache? If you don't know everything about him yet, look it up on Wikipedia. I'm too tired of his shenanigans to type all of them down.
Prediction: The Ochocinco-Haynesworth experiment will go without a hitch. When players go to New England they know it's all about business. Even though he doesn't deserve it, I'll give Albert the benefit of the doubt and assume he'll display maturity in his new opportunity.
Bigger things are in store for Ocho. This is a wideout that has 80+ catch ability. And with Tom Brady throwing to him, Chad should have no problem raking in a considerable amount of passes.
New Orleans: Is Mark Ingram a Legitimate Ground Threat?
The 2009-2010 football season was certainly a dream one for Alabama's Mark Ingram. The 5'9", 215 lb running back rushed for 1,658 yards, scored 20 touchdowns, and won the closest Heisman Trophy vote in history. Ingram then led the Crimson Tide to a National Title victory over Texas, earning the game's Offensive MVP honors. The only thing that stopped Mark from rushing into the NFL was ineligibility as a sophomore.
His inability to enter the NFL Draft went on to hurt him during his junior season. Ingram underwent minor knee surgery prior to the 2010-2011 season and suffered through it the entire season. Mark's numbers dropped to 875 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns that year. Not only did his statistics take a hit, but Mark's draft stock was subsequently in question.
So after being drafted 28th overall by New Orleans, can Mark Ingram provide Sean Payton and the Saints' offense with another dangerous dimension?
Prediction: Mark Ingram will supply limited help to the Saints' offense.
New Orleans' backfield is extremely crowded, making it extremely difficult to forecast what role Ingram will have. Payton is carrying Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory, and the newly signed Darren Sproles. If it were me I would utilize Ingram and Ivory as my main duo, use Sproles as my third and long back, and cut Pierre Thomas.
It may be too early to answer this question, but Ingram will get a limited amount of carries as it stands.
New York Giants: Will Eli Limit His Turnovers?
Before I answer this question, I'll raise you another...
What could have been had Eli Manning threw for less than 25 interceptions?
From an individual standpoint, Manning could have had a career year. He racked up a career-high 31 touchdowns and threw for over 4,000 for the second time in his career. He also achieved a career-high 62.9% completion rate despite the 25 picks.
From a team standpoint, the Giants probably would have made the playoffs. The G-Men finished with a record of 10-6, tying the eventual division champion Eagles. However, the meltdown loss in Week 15 proved rather costly as Philadelphia grabbed the tiebreaker that day.
In half of his games in 2010-2011, Manning threw for two interceptions or more. If he had limited the picks in those games, maybe the Giants end up winning one of them. And one more win means playoffs.
Prediction: Eli Manning throws 18 interceptions this season, seven less than last year's league-leading total.
There's no way Eli can duplicate 25 picks. As a matter of fact, you can't even blame Eli for all 25. Many of those were deflected into the hands of the defense by his receivers.
New York Jets: Is This the Year the Jets Reach the Super Bowl?
You either love them or hate them, there's no in between. But regardless of what side you're on, you must admit the Jets are good. The mix of talent, experience, and arrogance concocted by coach Rex Ryan has undoubtedly made for one of the league's best teams over the past two seasons.
Since Ryan took over in 2009 the Jets transformed from the lovable losers to, quite frankly, the annoying winners. Why? Because Ryan instilled an "us against the world" attitude that has simply fueled this team. You may not like their cockiness, but they're still good. Over his reign, Rex's defense has held their opposition to just 16.9 points and 271.9 yards per game.
So after being denied entry to the Super Bowl after their consecutive AFC Championship losses, is this now the year the Jets will break through?
Prediction: The Jets will not represent the AFC in Super Bowl XLVI. New York will clinch a Wild Card berth, reach the AFC Championship for the third time in as many years, and fall victim once again—this time to the Baltimore Ravens.
Has this team really improved since last season? No.
For one, they lost key wideouts in Brad Smith, Braylon Edwards, and Jerricho Cotchery. Their solution? Sign a 33-year-old wide receiver who has missed two seasons due to incarceration and a 37-year-old wide receiver who is entering his 15th year in the NFL.
The Jets have also seen Jason Taylor leave for Miami and Kris Jenkins walk for retirement. Neither were exactly irreplaceable but did contribute to one of the league's most dominating defenses.
Oakland: Will They Build on 2010's Progress?
Owner Al Davis is as predictable as Nyjer Morgan in front of a microphone.
He hires a guy named Tom Cable, who he didn't know the name of, and fires him two and a half years later after the team goes 8-8. Coaching the Raiders to a 5-11 record in the midst of abuse allegations wasn't what got Cable ousted. Apparently it was the 8-8 season that did. The first season the Raiders didn't have more losses than wins since 2002.
So after not letting Cable walk, Davis hires within and calls up Hue Jackson. Jackson has worked under coaches such as Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier, and John Harbaugh. And that's about it.
This is Jackson's first stint as a head coach and it should be an intriguing one for everyone involved.
Prediction: The Raiders go back to their losing ways. They win 5 games in 2011 because they're the Raiders.
Still don't understand why Tom Cable was left out to dry.
Philadelphia: Are the Eagles as Good as Advertised?
The Philadelphia Eagles could very well be the Miami Heat of the NFL.
They signed the biggest free agent prize like Miami, they bulked up in various positions like Miami, and they will certainly be hated like Miami. But enough about the Heat, we're talking Eagles here.
The front office has added Ronnie Brown, Vince Young, and Donald Lee to an already explosive offense. This means Michael Vick has another solid target in Donald Lee and the running game finally has some power with Ronnie Brown.
They also went on to add Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to a team that prides itself on tight defense.
But can the Eagles do what their NBA counterparts did not and win a championship?
Prediction: The Eagles will finish with the best record in the NFC. However, they will fall victim to their NFC East foe Dallas Cowboys in the Divisional round.
Don't get me wrong, the Eagles may have the most talented roster in football. But, they are still Andy Reid's Eagles. No matter how good they look or how well they do, Andy Reid's Eagles always find a way to lose.
This isn't exactly the most scientific prediction in the bunch, but a pure gut feeling has Philly going down in the playoffs.
And haven't we learned yet? A team of superstars in any sport does not always win off of star power.
Pittsburgh: How Will James Harrison Affect the Team?
James Harrison is one of the most feared men on the football field. Unfortunately, his off-field comments have been just as loud as his play.
Harrison has ripped into Commissioner Roger Goodell on various occasions, questioned the league on its hard hits policy, and even took a jab at his own quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Even though Harrison has reportedly "cleared the air" with Big Ben, will this incident carry over into the season? Will Pittsburgh have to worry about Harrison becoming a liability?
Prediction: James Harrison will not be a problem this season.
Yes, he talks a lot, but James Harrison is still one of the most intimidating humans to ever step on a field. He'll quiet down and let his play do the talking.
As far as he and the team go, they should be fine. In fact, the Steelers voting against the newly ratified CBA is a very encouraging sign. 76 players voted against the agreement, highlighting the commissioner's power to handle suspensions as their reason. Here, they are backing Harrison's suspension for his "illegal hits" and Roethlisberger's four-game suspension despite being cleared of any sexual assault charges.
San Diego: Will the Chargers Play Consistently Throughout?
In the recent years leading up to the 2010 campaign, the San Diego Chargers always emerged as an AFC favorite after the first 16 games were played. Before last season began, the Bolts have compiled a 46-18 record and won four AFC West titles since 2006. However, San Diego was constantly plagued by inconsistent play down the stretch. They never played up to their potential and always fell victim before reaching the Super Bowl.
However, the Chargers' kryptonite in 2010 was their inconsistent play throughout the regular season. San Diego started the year at a 2-5 record and saw themselves looking up for the first time in a long time. Norv Turner's team did go 7-2 to close out the year, but still came up short only to see the Chiefs capture the division title.
So will the Chargers finally play like the team they are?
Prediction: San Diego will go 11-5 and win the AFC West. Philip Rivers will chalk up MVP-type numbers and lead the Chargers back into the playoffs. They will then lose to the New York Jets in the Wild Card round.
This is still a very talented team. They have an elite quarterback in Philip Rivers and have one of the NFL's best defenses.
But I believe the loss of defensive coordinator Ron Rivera will have a negative effect on the defense. Besides that, San Diego isn't the cream of the crop in the AFC anymore. It's New England, New York, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, and Baltimore.
San Francisco: How Will Jim Harbaugh Fare?
How would any NFL head coach do if they had Alex Smith and two rookie quarterbacks on their roster? Probably not well. And unfortunately for the rookie himself, Jim Harbaugh has exactly that.
I'll be short and simple in this one...
They have a first year coach, no quarterback, little to no offensive weapons, and an average defense. Plus, Andrew Luck will be available come draft time in 2012.
(I'm not saying they'll throw the season, but having Harbaugh reconnect with his big-time collegiate QB would be the most appealing duo they've seen since Montana and Rice.)
Prediction: Jim Harbaugh and the Niners will battle with the St. Louis Rams at the bottom of the NFC West.
There's not much to write home about with this San Francisco squad.
Seattle: Was Losing Hasselbeck a Good Thing?
Losing Matt Hasselback could be a step forward for Seattle. But not if his replacement is Tavaris Jackson.
You can say Hasselback's career hasn't been exactly smooth. And sure, the one thing he'll be remembered for is his "We want the ball and we're gonna score." But Matt was a great leader for Seattle and got the job done. He led the team to six playoff appearances from 2003 to 2010 and nearly hoisted the Lombardi Trophy following the ever-controversial Super Bowl XL. Regardless, the Seahawks did not bring him back and watched him walk to Tennessee.
Back to what Seattle has now, Tavaris Jackson. This transition is night and day for Pete Carroll as you go from an experienced and proven leader to an unproven one. Some may say Jackson was shunned in Minnesota and didn't receive his fair share of chances. It may be for good reason, however.
When Jackson played he really didn't accomplish much. He led the Vikings to a playoff berth in 2009 but only to be immediately ousted by the Eagles. That's it.
Prediction: Jackson will not be as valuable to the Seahawks as Matt Hasselbeck was. They will finish second in the worst division in football and fail to reach the postseason.
I need to see more out of Jackson. I'm not sold on a quarterback who has started 20 games in five seasons.
St. Louis: Will Bradford Take the Rams to the Playoffs?
Sam Bradford provided St. Louis with 3512 passing yards, 18 touchdowns, and a near playoff berth on top of bringing a one-win team into a seven-win team. What more could the Rams have asked of their rookie quarterback?
Besides fixing the 1943.4 violent crime rating in St. Louis and putting an end to world hunger, there wasn't much more Bradford could do.
So after barely missing the postseason after a one-win season, will the Rams' boy wonder lead them to a place they haven't been in over six years?
Prediction: Sam Bradford and the Rams will not reach the playoffs. They will finish with four wins and compete with the San Francisco 49ers for third place in the NFC West.
Even though Sam Bradford is one of the game's rising stars, it's tough to ask him for a playoff run. I believe his numbers will see a slight hike this season but he still doesn't have the help he needs to get this team to the playoffs.
Plus, the Rams will be facing some top competition in 2011. St. Louis will play Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Philadelphia, the New York Giants, Dallas, and New Orleans this upcoming campaign.
Tampa Bay: Was Da'Quan Bowers a Steal?
Defensive end Da'Quan Bowers turned heads during his junior season at Clemson. He led the nation in sacks with 15.5 and tackles for loss with 26. His explosive performance warranted comparisons to guys like Julius Peppers and even landed him on the top of the Sun Tan Man's big board.
Unfortunately for the breakout star, Bowers underwent knee surgery in the offseason and saw his draft stock plummet. The man who could have been taken with the first overall pick fell all the way down to the 51st pick.
So will this selection end up as the biggest steal of the 2011 draft?
Prediction: Bowers will prove his worth in Tampa Bay and contend for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
We've heard so many stories of players getting drafted too low and coming back to burn the teams that didn't take them. I see this as another one. Bowers has the tools and now has the motivation to wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines.
Tennessee: Is the Quarterback Situation a Promising One?
Vince Young and Kerry Collis or Jake Locker and Matt Hasselbeck?
That's what I thought.
Prediction: Tennessee will have an improved present and future with their current quarterback situation.
Matt Hasselbeck will pay off for the Titans in more than one way. He will provide some relevancy to a decent roster and will turn out to be a great mentor for the young Jake Locker.
Speaking of Tennessee's first round pick, Jake Locker has the potential to be a nice investment. Locker possesses great athleticism, a powerful arm, and adequate footwork. He just needs to improve his decision making and throwing accuracy to become what the team is hoping for.
Remember, this is a guy who would have been selected ahead of Sam Bradford had he committed to the NFL in 2010.
Washington: How Much Worse Is It Going to Get?
My intentions are not to shun the Redskins or their fans. But I'll make this pretty simple for everyone...
No quarterback, no hope. That's been the status quo in Washington for years.
Mike Shanahan will be starting Rex Grossman come the 2011 season. That needs no explanation.
And when the 'Skins had the prime opportunity to draft a potential franchise quarterback, they didn't. In fact they passed up on Blaine Gabbert at 10, traded that number 10 pick to the Jags, and drafted Ryan Kerrigan down at 16th overall.
If you are trying to rebuild a franchise, wouldn't taking a young quarterback be the logical choice? No team in the NFL handles quarterbacks worse than this one. Whether its carrying too many QB's on the roster, giving Donovan McNabb a boatload of undeserved cash, or passing up on a promising prospect for a defensive end—the Redskins have never seemed to solve that $64,000 question regarding who their man is under center.
In addition to their horrific QB situation, they play in the NFC East. Enough said.
Prediction: It'll be four wins for the 'Skins.
Their defense is still bad and again, no legit threat at QB.
Bonus Question: Will Brett Favre Return in 2011?
Let's hope not.