The 2011 NFL regular season is almost upon us.
Everyone has their favorite team. Everyone has their favorite players. And everyone begins to predict which teams will play for the Lombardi Trophy.
Only some of us can be right. Luckily for you, it's time I get out my crystal ball and present "2011 NFL Regular Season: 3 Bold Predictions for Every NFL Team."
Call them crazy predictions. Call them insane predictions. Call them whatever you'd like, but at the end of the day, only one person can be right, and fortunately for me, it's not going to be you.
Sit back, relax and enjoy.
Kickoff is around the corner.
1) The Cardinals will win the NFC West with a record of 11-5
See: Kevin Kolb, Beanie Wells, Larry Fitzgerald.
2) Beanie Wells will rush for over 1,700 yards
Finally healthy, Chris "Beanie" Wells will be the starting running back for the Arizona Cardinals in 2011 now that Tim Hightower has been traded to the Washington Redskins. Wells, who was never able to earn the starting spot with Hightower consistently being a better blocker and rusher, is clearly ahead of rookie Ryan Williams, a second-round pick, on the depth chart.
After struggling with injuries—a severe ankle sprain as a rookie and torn meniscus last season—Wells is ready to be the running back the Arizona Cardinals drafted him to be.
3) Ken Whisenhunt will win Coach of the Year
After going 6-10 last season, failing to make the playoffs, the Arizona Cardinals might have something special brewing in the desert. Not too long ago, future Hall of Famer Kurt Warner took the Cardinals on a magic ride to Super Bowl XLIII, where they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in one of the most memorable Super Bowls of all time. They lost the game then, but don't be surprised if Whisenhunt's Cardinals shock the world. They did it once. No reason to think they can't do it again.
1) Julio Jones will lead the Falcons in receptions and touchdowns en route to winning Offensive Rookie of the Year
Moving up in the 2011 draft to select Julio Jones sixth overall, the Falcons not only found themselves a playmaker, but quite possibly a future Pro Bowler as well.
With Jones' speed and route-running ability, teams will now be forced to double-cover Roddy White, leaving Jones to be single-covered on the outside. Although quarterback Matt Ryan will only have a few weeks to practice with Jones, they don't need much time. Trust me on this one.
2) Atlanta Falcons will miss the playoffs
How is this going to happen? After Week 17, you'll find out.
3) Newly acquired free agent Ray Edwards leads the team in sacks with 20
After finishing the year ranked 22nd in pass defense in the NFL, it was time to bring in a dominant pass rusher: Welcome, Ray Edwards. Not since DeMarcus Ware in 2008 has an NFL player recorded 20 sacks in a season. Edwards will be the next.
1) Ed Reed and Ray Lewis will be placed on Injured Reserve
32 years old + 36 years old = time to retire.
2) Anquan Boldin leads all wide receivers in touchdowns
Boldin's first year in Baltimore was a failure, despite becoming the fastest player in NFL history to reach 600 receptions, doing so in just 98 games. Boldin had a key drop in the end zone in the AFC divisional round of the 2010 playoffs, as the Ravens would go on to lose the game to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
With one year in the books, Boldin will look to build on his seven touchdowns and 837 receiving yards in his first season in Baltimore. Joe Flacco has the ability to be one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and with a little help from his friend Anquan, this quarterback-wide receiver combination can be one of the best in the league.
3) The Ravens still make the playoffs...
And an offense consisting of Ray Rice, Flacco and Boldin will lead them there.
1) Steve Johnson will drop another touchdown pass in overtime
On November 28, 2010, Johnson dropped a potential 40-yard touchdown pass in overtime. In 2011, it will happen again.
2) Ryan Fitzpatrick will play well, earn a contract extension and make the Pro Bowl
Former Ivy League MVP Ryan Fitzpatrick will prove all of his doubters by putting together a Pro Bowl season, throwing for 30-plus touchdowns and over 3,500 yards.
3) Marcell Dareus will win Defensive Rookie of the Year
Not since Jason Taylor in 2006 has the team that featured the Defensive Rookie of the Year failed to make the playoffs. Unfortunately, third overall pick Marcell Dareus will join that rank as the Buffalo Bills will finish last in the AFC East. Not only will the 2010 BCS National Championship Game Defensive MVP lead all rookies in sacks, he'll finish in the top 10 in the league as well.
1) Carolina Panthers will go 0-16
2) Steve Smith will be traded midseason
Would you want to play for the Panthers?
3) Cam Newton will be the new record-holder for most interceptions thrown in a regular season
In 1998, Peyton Manning threw 28 interceptions as a rookie. In 2011, Cam Newton will throw more than 30.
1) Roy Williams will return to his 2006 form
Five years ago, while playing for the Detroit Lions, Roy Williams had a career year under Lions offensive coordinator Mike Martz, catching 82 passes for 1,310 yards (tied for third in the league) and making his only Pro Bowl trip. Well, now that they have reunited in Chicago, expect an offensive show at Soldier Field.
2) Chicago Bears will win the NFC North...again
Coming off a disappointing 2009 season (7-9), failing to qualify for the playoffs for a third consecutive season, the Bears turned things around in 2010, winning the NFC North division with an 11-5 record. Look for the Bears to have the same success in 2011.
3) Matt Forte's contract will become a distraction...only for himself
After failing to reach the 1,000-yard plateau in 2009, Forte bounced back in his third season by rushing for 1,069 yards and scoring six touchdowns. Forte enters the final year of his rookie contract this season, earning $550,000. Confident the Bears will give him a new extension, Forte reported to camp in hopes of receiving a new contract by the season opener.
After a strong 2010 second half of the season, Forte should be a clear priority for the Bears. When both sides finally come to an agreement, the front office will realize that in 2011, Forte will be worth every dollar he makes.
1) Troubled rookie A.J. Green will make the fans forget Chad Ochocinco was ever a Bengal
Former Georgia Bulldog A.J. Green was suspended for the first four games of the 2010 college football regular season after admitting to selling his 2009 Independence Bowl jersey for $1,000 to former North Carolina defensive back Chris Hawkins, who the NCAA described as an agent or someone who markets amateur athletes. Green still finished the season with a team-high 57 catches for 848 yards and nine touchdowns.
Rather than focusing on his inability to follow NCAA rules and regulation, Green's talent and potential to be a go-to wide receiver, as proven while in a Bulldog uniform, was all the Bengals needed to see, drafting Green with the fourth overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft. In all likelihood, Carson Palmer will no longer be the quarterback at the helm, leaving the door open for a young, talented QB to take the reins.
Head coach Marvin Lewis knows Green has a lot to prove now that training camp has begun. That might be all the motivation the troubled but talented star needs to prove that he was worth every risk when his name was called on draft day.
2) Carson Palmer's career is not yet over...
...Even if owner Mike Brown thinks otherwise:
"Carson signed a contract. He made a commitment. He gave his word. We relied on his word. We relied on his commitment. We expected him to perform here. He’s going to walk away from his commitment. We aren’t going to reward him for doing it."
3) Cedric Benson will be suspended by commissioner Roger Goodell for off-field issues
May 3, 2008: Benson is arrested for allegedly operating a boat while intoxicated and resisting arrest.
June 7, 2008: Benson is arrested for driving while intoxicated in Austin, Texas.
June 29, 2010: Benson is arrested for assault with injury after reportedly punching a bartender in the face.
July 17, 2011: Benson is arrested in Austin, Texas for a misdemeanor charge of assault causing bodily injury to a family member.
1) Cleveland Browns finish the regular season with a record of 8-8
Just a hunch.
2) Peyton Hillis' 2010 season was not a fluke
After becoming the first Cleveland Browns running back to win AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors since Eric Metcalf in 1992, three weeks later, Week 12, Hillis joined Marshall Faulk as the only players to have achieved more than 130 rushing yards, three rushing touchdowns and 60 yards receiving in a single game.
Hillis' magical season would continue, as he became the first white running back since Craig James to rush for over 1,000 yards in a single season (1,177). In 2011, Hillis will not only avoid the curse of the Madden cover, but Browns fans can finally be excited about the future of their football team as well.
3) Team president Mike Holmgren will take over as head coach midseason
Did you really think otherwise?
1) Dez Bryant will lead the Cowboys in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns
Last season, Bryant recorded 45 receptions, 561 receiving yards, six receiving TDs and two return TDs in just 12 weeks. Imagine what he's able to do in 16 weeks. I can't wait to see.
2) Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will be seen punching a coach in the face
Like father, like son.
3) Dallas Cowboys do not make the playoffs and finish the season with a record of 6-10
I love the New York Giants. I hate the Dallas Cowboys. Do I really need to explain myself?
1) Tim Tebow will be the starting quarterback in Week 1
"I promise you one thing. A lot of good will come out of this. You will never see any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of the season. You will never see someone push the rest of the team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season. You will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season."
God, I love that speech.
2) Knowshon Moreno will lose the starting job to Willis McGahee
Despite reports from The Denver Post that Willis McGahee was brought in to complement Knowshon Moreno, not take over as the starter, Moreno's injury-prone career will wreak havoc for the 24-year old running back, paving the way for McGahee. Although he's a 30-year-old back coming off sub-4.0 averages in yards per carry and reception, the thin air of the Mile High City will bring new life to McGahee.
3) Brandon Lloyd will average over 25 yards per catch (YPC)
Brandon Lloyd will not break Don Currivan's 1947 record of 32.58 YPC, but one year after leading the NFL in receiving yards with 1,448 yards, he'll be ready to replicate his 2010 performance—even with Tebow at quarterback.
1) Matthew Stafford will start every game this season
Despite reports that Matthew Stafford might have season-ending shoulder surgery on his right shoulder, or that the Lions claimed quarterback Zac Robinson on waivers from the Seattle Seahawks, Stafford will be the starter in Week 1, Week 17 and all of the weeks in between.
2) Ndamukong Suh will put up numbers that we've never seen before
Michael Strahan recorded an NFL-record 22.5 sacks in 2001 as a member of the New York Giants. Do I smell No. 23?
3) Calvin Johnson's numbers will be better in 2011 than they were in 2010
Johnson recorded 77 receptions for 1,120 yards and 12 TDs during 2010 en route to being selected to the first Pro Bowl of his career. Being stuck in Detroit since being drafted No. 2 overall in the 2007 NFL draft, Johnson has been a true professional despite the Lions' major failures. It's no secret any team would be lucky to have him. But it says a lot about the player Johnson is that he's still a member of the Lions and no one else.
1) Clay Matthews will win Defensive Player of the Year
After recording 13.5 sacks through 15 games in 2010, Clay Matthews finished a close second to Troy Polamalu in Defensive Player of the Year voting. But that didn't matter because when the two teams met in February, Matthews got the last word.
2) Green Bay Packers earn a wild-card berth
I can go out on a limb and boldly predict the Green Bay Packers are going to experience the same fate as the 1991 New York Giants, who missed the playoffs the following season after winning the Super Bowl in 1990, but these Packers are too talented for that to happen too.
Despite winning the Lombardi Trophy with starting tight end Jermichael Finley and starting running back Ryan Grant sidelined due to injuries, both Finley and Grant are returning to the roster this season. Although the Packers might be more talented this year than they were last year, the NFC North title is going to belong to the Chicago Bears.
The defending champions are going to get their chance to repeat, but if they're going to become the first team to do that since the 2004-2005 New England Patriots, it's going to be done from a wild-card berth.
3) Jermichael Finley will lead the team in touchdowns and receptions
He's back, and yes, he's that good.
1) Andre Johnson will win the NFL Most Valuable Player award
Andre Johnson was the third overall pick in the 2003 draft. During his rookie season, Johnson started all 16 games. He recorded 66 receptions, 976 yards and four touchdowns on the year. In 2004, Johnson had his breakout season, compiling 1,142 yards and six touchdowns. Johnson was also selected to his first Pro Bowl.
Except for the '05 season, where Johnson played in only 13 games, he has proven to be the best wide receiver in the league—especially in 2006, when he led the NFL with 103 receptions. After finishing the 2009 season with 101 catches, 1,569 yards and a career-high nine touchdowns, Johnson became only the second wide receiver to lead the league in receiving yards in consecutive seasons. The other player was Jerry Rice.
In 2010, Johnson played in only 13 games due to injury but still recorded 1,216 yards to go along with eight touchdowns. There is no debate. 2011 is the year where Johnson becomes the first wide receiver in NFL history, since the installment of the AP MVP award in 1957, to win MVP honors.
2) Houston Texans will win the AFC South
After looking up at the seven-time AFC South division champions Indianapolis Colts, for the first time since their inaugural season (2002), the Texans will make the playoffs en route to winning their first division crown.
3) Houston Texans defense will be a top-five defense in the league
With the addition of cornerback Johnathan Joseph and safety Danieal Manning, the Texans have found the help they desperately needed to fix a pass defense that was last in the NFL one year ago.
Now that Mario Williams and Connor Barwin are moving to outside linebacker, Glover Quin is shifting to strong safety, defensive tackle Earl Mitchell is adjusting to being a full-time nose guard and outside linebacker Brian Cushing has moved inside, where he’ll be sharing the field with DeMeco Ryans, it'll be interesting to see how this all works out for newly hired defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and his 3-4 defense.
For now, at least on paper, the Texans are one of the best defenses in the league. The talent is there. It'll be interesting to see how it translates onto the field.
1) Indianapolis Colts will not make the playoffs
Although last season the Indianapolis Colts failed to win 12 games for the first time since 2002, in 2011, the Colts will fail to make the playoffs. I'll leave it at that.
2) Peyton Manning will not finish the season due to injury
Peyton Manning is the Colts' all-time leader in career wins, passing touchdowns, pass attempts, pass completions and passing yards. Since 2003, Manning has thrown for over 4,000 yards every season but one and has earned four NFL MVP awards. He has played in 208 regular season games and has started every one of them.
However, coming off a 4,700-yard season and a 33-touchdown performance, Manning's downfall begins at the start of 2011. This past offseason, the 35-year-old Manning had a second surgery on his neck in little more than a year.
Manning just signed a five-year, $90 million deal, giving the Colts the ability to bring back running back Joseph Addai, tackle Ryan Diem and defensive tackle Antonio Johnson. But the front office is going to find out real soon that Manning's contract is going to end up being money that wasn't well spent.
3) Jim Caldwell will make another bonehead timeout call
With 29 seconds left to go in the Wild Card Round, the clock running and the New York Jets with the ball at the Colts 32-yard line, Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell made a surprising decision: He called timeout. We all know what happened—and yes, it will happen again.
1) Jacksonville Jaguars will make the playoffs...
...with a record of 10-6, earning a wild-card berth.
2) Blaine Gabbert will not start one game this season
Drafted 10th overall, Blaine Gabbert will most likely make his NFL debut Thursday night against the New England Patriots with regular starter David Garrard sidelined with a back injury. Forced him to miss the next two days of practice, although Gabbert will be playing with the first team, while going up against a premier defense, Garrard will be back by the time the regular season begins.
Gabbert has been impressive during his brief time with the Jaguars, but until further notice, Garrard is the starting quarterback, and it's going to remain that way all the way into the playoffs.
3) Jack Del Rio will sign an extension during the regular season
This past season, Jacksonville lost the final three games, finishing the season 8-8, ending another season on a losing streak and calling head coach Jack Del Rio's job security into question. The Jaguars finished the 2009-10 season with four consecutive losses.
Now, Del Rio enters 2011 fighting to keep his job. He knows it, and the team knows it, but most importantly, team owner Wayne Weaver knows it. But when the Jaguars clinch a playoff berth, Weaver will reward Del Rio with the contract he deserves.
1) Jamaal Charles will become the all-time all-purpose-yard record-holder
After paving the way for teammate Ray Rice in Baltimore, fullback Le'Ron McClain now has a new responsibility: Clear the way for Jamaal Charles.
Finishing with 1,467 yards and five touchdowns on only 230 carries, averaging 6.38 yards per carry (only second to Hall of Famer Jim Brown in a single season), the 2010 season saw Charles become a superstar. Also catching 45 passes for 468 yards and three touchdowns, Charles has proven he can not only run the ball, but can catch the ball out of the backfield as well.
Therefore, this is the year Charles breaks Derrick Mason's all-purpose-yard record (2,690) and becomes the record-holder 11 years after Mason accomplished this feat.
2) Eric Berry will lead all safeties in interceptions
In his first season, Eric Berry:
- Started all 16 games
- Became the first Chiefs rookie to be selected to the Pro Bowl since Derrick Thomas
- Helped improve the Chiefs defense from 29th overall in 2009 in terms of points allowed to 11th in 2010
- Led the team in interceptions (four)
- Was second in tackles with 92 and solo tackles (77)
_ Scored his first NFL touchdown on a 54-yard interception return against the Tennessee Titans
And that was only his rookie season.
3) Dwayne Bowe will score a touchdown in eight consecutive games
In 2010, during a dominant 42-24 Week 12 victory against the Seattle Seahawks, Bowe broke the Chiefs' franchise record of six straight games with a touchdown by catching a touchdown pass in seven straight games. That's what he did in 2010. Just wait till this season.
1) Miami Dolphins will trade for Kyle Orton...
"We want Orton. We want Orton. We want Orton."
2) Reggie Bush will rush for over 1,500 yards
In 2011, Bush has something to prove. It's time we all watch and witness how special Bush can be.
3) Jason Taylor will retire after this season
It's about time.
(At least it won't be as awful as Dolphin fans might've thought.)
1) Percy Harvin will play in all 16 regular season games
In his rookie year, Percy Harvin became the sixth Minnesota Vikings player to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, joining Adrian Peterson (2007), Randy Moss (1998), Sammy White (1976), Chuck Foreman (1973) and Paul Flatley (1963).
Despite an outstanding first year in the NFL, Harvin suffered a string of illnesses. From dehydration to inexplicable migraine headaches, to missing postseason practices before the New Orleans Saints playoff game (due to migraine headaches), Harvin has failed to stay healthy since joining the NFL. Well, this is the year it actually happens.
2) Donovan McNabb will make the Pro Bowl
"The 'Cuse is in the Metrodome, oh my G-d, oh my G-d."
3) Jared Allen will have the worst year of his career
Since 2007, Jared Allen has been selected to three consecutive Pro Bowls named to three consecutive All-Pro first teams. In 2008, Allen recorded 54 tackles, including 14.5 sacks with three forced fumbles. He followed up his '08 season with another spectacular season in 2009, recording 14.5 sacks. Allen started the 2010 season slow, having only one sack in the first seven games, but had 10 sacks in the next nine games, finishing in the top 10 with 11 sacks.
Allen is arguably the best defensive lineman in the NFL, but he showed signs of slowing down at the start of last year. In 2011, he slows down even more.
1) New England Patriots will go 16-0
They did it once already. Now this team is even better.
2) Tom Brady will throw 51 touchdown passes, and Chad Ochocinco will catch 24 touchdown passes
Reigning NFL MVP Tom Brady, now has the dangerous Chad Ochocinco as part of his receiving corps. Back in 2007, when Randy Moss was still Randy Moss en route to setting an NFL record with 23 touchdown catches, Brady was setting his own NFL record with 50 touchdown passes on the season.
Four seasons later, Brady will be making history again, but this time, Ochocinco will be part of it. Last season Brady threw for 3,900 yards and 36 touchdowns. We can expect another monster season from Brady but an even better one from Ochocinco.
3) New England Patriots will win the Super Bowl
Don't doubt me on this one. I don't have much to say. They're simply this good.
1) Darren Sproles will make the Pro Bowl
Reports out of New Orleans training camp are that Darren Sproles is fitting in just fine. Sproles has shown great speed and burst around the corner, but it’s tough to truly evaluate him until they start live tackling.
Don't expect Sproles to play much different in live action, though, as you can expect a heavy dose of swing passes from Drew Brees to Sproles this season. Sproles has never made the Pro Bowl. In 2011, that all changes.
2) New Orleans Saints will earn a wild-card berth en route to winning the NFC championship
On February 7, 2010, the New Orleans Saints won their first Super Bowl in their 43-year franchise history. On February 5, 2012, the city of New Orleans will be chanting, "Who Dat, Who Dat, Who Dat in the Super Bowl!" because for the second time in their franchise history, the Saints will be playing for the Lombardi Trophy.
3) Drew Brees will become the new single-season passing yards leader
Playing his entire career with the Miami Dolphins, from 1983 to 1999, throwing for 61,361 passing yards during his Hall of Fame career, ranking him first all-time in NFL history, Dan Marino also holds the single-season mark of 5,084 passing yards, which he set in 1984. That season, Marino completed 362 of 564 passes with 48 touchdowns and just 17 interceptions.
In 2008, the record was almost broken, but Brees finished 15 yards short of Marino's NFL record for passing yards thrown in a single season with 5,069 yards. Becoming the second quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 5,000 yards in a season, he might've come up short then, but he won't now.
1) Eli Manning will not throw more than 15 interceptions
Although the New York Giants' 2009 season ended in heartbreak, Eli Manning established career highs with 4,021 passing yards and a passer rating of 93. One year later, he threw a career-high 31 touchdowns and recorded a 62.3 completion percentage.
But no matter how great Manning's offensive numbers have been, he has only thrown fewer than 17 interceptions twice since his rookie season. Last year, Manning threw a career-worst 25 interceptions, leaving Giant fans shaking their heads. Bad decision after bad decision haunted Manning throughout the year.
Now, with the Giants offense needing him more than ever, Manning becomes an elite quarterback and has one of the best years of his career.
2) Osi Umenyiora will record more than 15 sacks
In 2010, Umenyiora tied for the team lead with 11.5 sacks. To date, he is still under contract but hasn't gotten a new deal. Since arriving to camp, Umenyiora has been unhappy while making his demands clear: Pay me or trade me. Thus far, the Giants have done neither, but reports out of New York Giants camp are that the Giants have made an offer to Umenyiora, adding some incentive-based options to his $3.1 million contract for this season.
According to ESPN, the Giants have offered incentives to Umenyiora that would apply if he gets 13.5 sacks this season. He has 60 career sacks but has only reached 13.5 sacks once in a season, back in 2005. Watch out, because this season not only does Umenyiora reach his incentives, but he sets a career high in sacks as well.
3) New York Giants will finish the regular season with a record of 9-7
Being a fan of Big Blue, I could go ahead and predict the Giants will go 11-5, make the playoffs and have a magical run to the Super Bowl. But after the lackluster offseason the Giants have experienced, finishing the year with a winning record would be a great achievement.
1) Plaxico Burress will lead the team in touchdowns...
And I wish he was doing it while playing for the New York "Football" Giants.
2) Mark Sanchez will be seen eating another hot dog
"I want to apologize for that. I wasn't feeling very good and didn't eat much before the game, so I was feeling a little queasy. Toward the end of the game, I probably should have eaten one of those bars or something, but someone offered (a hot dog), so I grabbed it and tried to be discreet about it, but obviously not discreet enough. So I shouldn't have done that, and it won't happen again."—Mark Sanchez, October 25, 2009
Let me get this straight. You're not feeling well, you didn't eat much, so the first thing you decide to eat is a hot dog? Now that makes perfect sense.
3) New York Jets will not make the playoffs
Over the past two seasons, the Jets have given their fans plenty to be upset about. Two AFC Championship Game appearances and two devastating losses are exactly what being a Jets fan is all about—heartache after heartache after heartache. But the good news is that, at least this year, Jets fans will have their hearts broken at the end of the regular season. Can't wait to hear what Rex Ryan will have to say then.
1) Darren McFadden will rush for over 1,800 yards
After displaying a rare mix of speed and power at the University of Arkansas, McFadden's success in college hasn't translated into the success the Raiders imagined when they selected him with the No. 4 overall pick in 2008.
However, after rushing for just 499 yards as a rookie and 357 in 2009, battling through injuries and bust status, McFadden is finally becoming a superstar. In 2010, McFadden rushed for over 1,000 yards (1,157), showing everyone what he's capable of. This upcoming season, McFadden will undoubtedly become a superstar.
2) Jason Campbell will be benched
Does he even deserve to start? Then again, when the roster consists of Charlie Frye, Trent Edwards and Kyle Boller, he might.
3) Oakland Raiders will have the league's best pass defense
Now that Nnamdi Asomugha has joined the Philadelphia Eagles, the Raiders are set to begin life without their All-Pro cornerback. Coming off an 8-8 record, missing the playoffs for the eighth year in a row, the Raiders finished the regular season being ranked No. 2 overall in the NFL in fewest passing yards allowed.
STATS LLC ranks individual cornerbacks by "burn percentage": percent of passes targeted at them that are completed. Asomugha was third in the NFL with a burn percentage of 39.4 (13 completions on 33 passes thrown his way, none for a TD). However, Stanford Routt, with three times as many targeted passes, tied Asomugha for third at 39.4 (39 completions, 99 targeted, 635 yards and five TDs), and Chris Johnson was No. 6 at 40.5 (17-of-42, 288 yards and three TDs) (from USA Today).
Oakland re-signed free safety Michael Huff, coming off his best year, and the team's 2010 leading tackler, strong safety Tyvon Branch, is also returning. Under new coach Hue Jackson, all of these players are going to need to step up and replace of what Asomugha took with him to the City of Brotherly Love. It'll be interesting to find out who does.
1) Philadelphia Eagles win the NFC East
Is there even a debate?
2) Ronnie Brown becomes the starter by Week 10
During his six years with the Miami Dolphins, the 29-year-old Brown rushed for 4,815 yards and 36 touchdowns and caught 184 passes for 1,491. Rushing for 1,000 yards in 2006, while making his only Pro Bowl team in 2008, Brown now joins starter LeSean McCoy in Philadelphia. McCoy, who ran for 1,080 yards last season, will lose his job to Brown. Despite Brown's struggles the past few seasons, don't let that fool you, because he still has something left to prove.
3) DeSean Jackson scores nine 50-plus-yard touchdowns
In 2009, wide receiver DeSean Jackson tied an NFL record for touchdowns of 50 yards or more in a season, matching the mark shared by former St. Louis Rams running back and wide receiver Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch and Devin Hester. In 2011, that mark is broken.
1) James Harrison gets suspended for a late hit
Being the focus of "dirty hits," James Harrison has never changed his stance or the way he plays the game since commissioner Roger Goodell starting enforcing punishments for late hits. During the 2010 season, the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year was docked $100,000 for illegal hits, drawing several penalties and fines for hits that were deemed to be illegal by referees and the NFL.
This past June, Harrison was quoted as saying, "I slammed Vince Young on his head and paid five grand, but just touched Drew Brees and that was 20. You think black players don't see this s--- and lose all respect for Goodell?"
It's no secret Harrison has lost respect for the commissioner. I'm sure he wasn't the first, and if Goodell keeps this up, he certainly won't be the last.
2) Rashard Mendenhall doesn't rush for over 1,000 yards
The Pittsburgh Steelers were on the verge of capturing their seventh Lombardi Trophy in franchise history, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was on his way to winning his third Super Bowl championship, but then running back Rashard Mendenhall took the handoff, got hit, the ball popped out and the Steelers found themselves on the losing end of Super Bowl XLV.
Mendenhall's costly turnover was the biggest mistake of the game, and it'll be interesting to see if he can overcome his crucial turnover in 2011. After becoming the full-time starter in 2009, Mendenhall has rushed for over 1,000 yards in both seasons. Looking to improve in 2011, Mendenhall will not be able to overcome last year's February loss, and his lack of production will be on display starting in September.
3) Pittsburgh Steelers will experience the "Super Bowl Hangover"
Atlanta Falcons (Super Bowl XXXIII): 1998 season: 14-2; 1999 season: 5-11
New York Giants (Super Bowl XXXV): 2000 season: 12-4; 2001 season: 7-9
St. Louis Rams (Super Bowl XXXVI): 2001 season: 14-2; 2002 season: 7-9
Oakland Raiders (Super Bowl XXXVII): 2002 season: 11-5; 2003 season: 4-12
Carolina Panthers (Super Bowl XXXVIII): 2003 season: 11-5; 2004 season: 7-9
Philadelphia Eagles (Super Bowl XXXIX): 2004 season: 13-3; 2005 season: 6-10
Chicago Bears (Super Bowl XLI): 2006 season: 13-3; 2007 season: 7-9
The Steelers will be next...
1) San Diego wins the AFC West division
In 2009, a 13-3 regular season record dissolved into a disappointing loss to the New York Jets in the divisional round of the playoffs. Entering 2010, the Chargers had high hopes of winning their fifth consecutive AFC West division title and contending for a Super Bowl championship.
Well, after recording a 9-7 record, those "high hopes" quickly turned into reality, as the Chargers finished second in the division.
Under head coach Norv Turner, the Chargers are 6-8 in September. This is the year the Chargers get off to a strong start. It has to happen eventually. Why can't it happen now?
2) Philip Rivers will throw for more than 4,850 yards and 40 touchdowns
Last season, Rivers led the league in passing with 4,710 yards and threw for a remarkable 30 touchdowns without his No. 1 target Vincent Jackson for 12 games. Can't wait to see what he does when he has Jackson for an entire season.
3) Randy Moss joins the San Diego Chargers midseason
Imagine a triple-threat receiving corps of Antonio Gates, Jackson and Moss.
I can. I just want to be able to say I told you so.
1) Vernon Davis has another meltdown
Wouldn't you love to see that?
2) Jim Harbaugh is going to wish Andrew Luck was still his quarterback
I think we all know why. (I'll give you a hint: Alex Smith.)
3) Frank Gore rushes for over 1,800 yards
Coming off a fractured right hip that sidelined him for the final five games of 2010, Frank Gore is ready for 2011 under new head coach Jim Harbaugh.
Since signing a contract extension through 2011, worth $28 million over four years, Gore has not rushed for more than 1,120 yards in a season. But at the end of 2008, Gore became the first running back in San Francisco 49ers history to rush for 1,000 yards or more in three straight seasons. Gore had a career-high 10 touchdowns in 2009.
Along with Michael Crabtree's playmaking ability, offensive threat Vernon Davis and free-agent signing Braylon Edwards, defenses won't be able to "stack" the box against Gore, opening up more space for him to run. Even with Alex Smith at quarterback, Gore will overcome the 49ers' decent quarterback play. Gore, the franchise's third all-time rusher, needs 931 yards to top the list.
1) Zach Miller will be more productive than Sidney Rice
What the Seahawks had in mind when they signed Zach Miller to a five-year, $34 million deal was that Miller would bring with him the same production he had in Oakland. Last season, he caught a team-high 60 passes for 685 yards and five touchdowns, being voted to his first Pro Bowl. Miller was even more productive in 2009, leading the team with 66 receptions for 805 yards and three touchdowns.
While in Oakland, Miller never had the most talented quarterbacks throwing him the football. Whether it was Josh McCown, Bruce Gradkowski, Daunte Culpepper or JaMarcus Russell, Miller was always able to be productive given the situation he was in. While that will continue in Seattle, the same cannot be said for legitimate deep threat and new teammate Sidney Rice, who will be wishing he stayed in Minnesota.
2) Charlie Whitehurst will start more games than Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback...
Because Tarvaris Jackson isn't any good.
3) Seattle Seahawks finish the season with a record of 2-14
Last season, the Seahawks became the first team with a sub-.500 record to not only clinch a playoff berth, but also win a division title and a playoff game. 2010 was a magical season for Seattle, and with the improvements to their offensive line, wide receiving corps and at tight end, head coach Pete Carroll is hoping 2011 is that much more special.
However, after losing quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to free agency and replacing him with Tarvaris Jackson, unfortunately for Carroll and company, they won't be so lucky.
1) Sam Bradford will experience a "sophomore slump"
2010 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Sam Bradford won't be so fortunate in 2011. Throwing for 3,512 yards and 18 touchdowns, Bradford had a remarkable rookie season. Now, with one year in the books, the second-year pro from the University of Oklahoma will learn that, even with the signing of Mike Sims-Walker, life in the NFL isn't so easy.
2) Steve Spagnuolo will sign seven former New York Giants by Week 4
He's signed Kevin Dockery, Darcy Johnson, James Butler and Fred Robbins, just to name a few. Why not sign seven more?
3) Steven Jackson becomes the St. Louis Rams' all-time rushing touchdown leader
Already the St. Louis Rams' all-time leading rusher, in 2011 Steven Jackson will become the all-time rushing touchdown leader, surpassing Marshall Faulk's 58 touchdowns. Jackson enters this season currently third on the list, but the 28-year-old is ready to make history once again.
1) Tampa Bay Bucs will win the NFC South division
Coming off a 3-13 record in 2009, the Buccaneers achieved the best turnaround in franchise history by becoming the first team since the NFL merger in 1970 to start 10 rookies and achieve a winning season, finishing 10-6.
Although the Bucs failed to qualify for the playoffs, among the bright spots was 23-year-old Josh Freeman, who shocked the football world by throwing for 3,451 yards and 25 touchdowns, while rushing for the second-highest yardage total among quarterbacks (364).
Despite the Bucs entering 2011 as the youngest team in the NFL, Freeman leads a very dangerous team that will not only make the playoffs but will be a major contender in the NFC as well.
2) LeGarrette Blount rushes for over 1,200 yards
After being claimed off waivers from the Tennessee Titans, by the end of his rookie season Blount had played in 13 games and accumulated 1,007 rushing yards—the most by a rookie in the 2010 NFL season. Becoming the second undrafted running back in NFL history to accumulate 1,000 yards in his rookie year, Blount looks to build on a solid 2010 season.
Now that the secret on Blount is out, pick him early in your fantasy drafts. It will certainly pay off.
3) Mason Foster will lead the team in tackles
The 6'1", 241-pound native of Seaside, California will be the starting middle linebacker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when the 2011 season begins. Third-round draft pick Mason Foster is being asked to replace the spot vacated by free agent Barrett Ruud, who led the Bucs in tackles the past four seasons.
Foster joins a defensive unit that at this point features just three starters who have more than three years of NFL experience. As a rookie, the Bucs are asking a lot from him, but Foster is ready for the challenge.
1) Matt Hasselbeck will not finish the regular season due to injury
Missing crucial games during the 2010 regular season due to multiple injuries, Matt Hasselbeck was brought into Tennessee to help win some games and mentor first-round pick Jake Locker. Having signed a three-year, $21 million deal, at the age of 35, the Titans will realize that Hasselbeck's contract was a mistake.
The Titans drafted Locker to be the quarterback of the future. Too bad for them the future is now.
2) Chris Johnson will miss the first three games of the regular season
It's no surprise Chris Johnson wants a new contract, being one of the NFL’s premier running backs. Johnson has two years left on his deal with the Titans but is looking for a DeAngelo Williams-type contract now. Having rushed for 2,006 yards in 2009 (becoming just the sixth player ever to get to 2,000) but only 1,364 yards in 2010, there might be a cause for concern that Johnson is already past his prime.
Despite becoming the first player ever to manage 2,500 combined rushing and receiving yards two seasons ago, Johnson has been pretty durable for Tennessee, but he did battle through some injuries late in the year. Johnson is due just $800,000 in base salary this season. He wants more. Tennessee doesn't want to pay him. It'll be interesting to see who wins this battle.
3) Kenny Britt will get arrested...again
April 12, 2011: Britt was arrested in New Jersey on three counts (including a felony) following an alleged car chase with police.
June 8, 2011: Britt was arrested in Hoboken, NJ and charged with resisting arrest.
What will he do for an encore?
1) Washington Redskins will go 1-15
2) Yes, they are this bad.
3) Does anyone really care about this football team?