New England Patriots and 4 Others Who Don't Need the NFL Preseason
The NFL preseason is underway and many teams are getting the chance to try out new rookies, new lineups and new formations.
However, while there are some teams whose regular season expectations can be dramatically affected by their teams' performance in the next four weeks, there are five teams who have little to prove.
The New England Patriots, led by head coach Bill Belichick, showed why they are one of those five teams last night. They had a complete and total effort almost exclusively with backups in their 47-12 drubbing of the completely over-matched Jacksonville Jaguars.
Most teams aren't as well-stocked as the Patriots. Most teams have rookies playing key roles and risky free agent signings who project to play big minutes this season. They still have a lot to figure out.
But who matches up with the Patriots? Who can say that this preseason will have little to no effect on their regular season?
Let's dig in to the five teams most ready for the 2011 NFL season.
5. New Orleans Saints/Atlanta Falcons
Totally unfair to start this list of five with a two-team split, I apologize. Take a look at the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons rosters. Their additions were nearly identical and both teams are primed for a big year in 2011.
The Saints added Mark Ingram in the draft and Aubrayo Franklin in free agency. The Falcons added Julio Jones in the draft and Ray Edwards in free agency.
Of course, all of those players will have different impacts on their squads, but for the sake of this article they are very similar.
Ingram and Jones are both playmaking offensive skill players who are expected to carry a relatively heavy load in 2011.
Franklin and Edwards have both been very effective players for a couple of years, but had toiled in relative obscurity due to thier particular situations (Edwards was overshadowed by Jared Allen and Franklin played for the lowly San Francisco 49ers).
On each team, the quarterback situation is now superb. Matty "Ice" Ryan and Drew "Who Dat" Brees are both magnificent at home. They should each see a significant uptick in their respective numbers considering the offensive upgrades of each team.
4. Indianapolis Colts
Considering the likeliness of him playing this offseason is microscopic, I am going to assume that this offseason won't affect much of the Colts' 2011 season.
The changes on defense are significant and the loss of starting left tackle Charlie Johnson will be something to watch. However, the return of Peyton Manning is the only thing that matters in Indianapolis right now.
We all have seen what Manning can do with a full arsenal of weapons, and we have also seen how effective he is even when his main guys go down. Either way, it is up to Manning to produce.
On Bill Simmons' BS Report, NFL.com's Mike Lombardi let it be known that Manning's neck injury is not something to scoff at. He recounted the time he was behind Peyton Manning, and when he called his name, Manning had to turn his entire body around in order to respond.
That doesn't sound good.
A healthy Manning means an amazing Colts. Period. However, if Manning is out for even a few games at the beginning of the season, it could be the difference between the playoffs and missing the playoffs for the first time in a decade.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
The 2010 Pittsburgh Steelers were AFC champions. After re-signing Ike Taylor, their only significant free agent, the Steelers look to come back with a near identical squad in 2011.
They will welcome the return of 3-4 defensive end maestro Aaron Smith, and they will surely benefit from a full 16-game season with their offensive leader, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Roethlisberger should have one of his best seasons yet with his new toys on offense—Mike Wallace, Emmannuel Sanders and Antonio Brown. Big Ben isn't known for his statistical dominance, but don't overlook him this year as a potential 30-touchdown, 4,000-yard thrower.
On defense, it's a matter of whether reigning Defensive Player of the Year safety Troy Polamalu stays healthy.
When he is healthy, this defense is nearly impossible to penetrate. If not? They remain tough, but no longer elite.
This preseason will have literally zero effect on this veteran-laden collection of talent. In Pittsburgh, it's Super Bowl or bust.
2. Green Bay Packers
The 2010 Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers have nothing to prove this offseason.
With the exception of defensive end Cullen Jenkins, all of their key contributors will return. Jenkins was a very good player for the Pack last season, but when he was injured during the playoffs his presence was barely missed.
Green Bay got pretty lucky this offseason too.
They were expected to lose wide receiver James Jones, but after a free agency period that saw Steve Breaston get signed for five years and $9 million in guarantees, Jones was left untouched.
The Packers happily swept in and grabbed the 27-year-old playmaker, locking him up for three years.
So an offense that obliterated the competition last postseason comes back fully intact in 2011. What is even scarier is the return of running back Ryan Grant. If he can even be half as effective as his 1,000-yard 2009 season, this Packers offense could be damn near perfect.
1. New England Patriots
Say hello to the most complete team in the NFL. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots were perfectly crafted this offseason by the brilliant moves of head coach/football czar Bill Belichick.
The Pats added Albert Haynesworth, Shaun Ellis and Andre Carter to strengthen New England's pathetic pass-rush, and their presence has forced New England to switch to a 4-3 defense. It is exciting however, because that means that Vince Wilfork and Haynesworth are going to be lining up next to each other.
Talk about a load.
On offense, Chad Ochocinco was the big splash. The animated wide receiver from the Cincinnati Bengals was acquired for a couple insignificant late-round draft picks. His route-running ability, combined with his size, will bring a nice deep presence to New England's wide receiving corps.
What happens when you add those players to a team who lost not one significant contributor from their 14-2 regular season in 2010?
You get a team that could lead the NFL in offense and defense in 2011. In other words, you get the best team in the NFL.
What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
Thanks for reading!