2011 NFL Predictions: 10 Things That Fans Can Expect to See This Season
It is a little over two weeks before the kickoff of the 2011 NFL season and this one is shaping up to be one of the craziest seasons in years.
Tim Tebow riding the bench as a possible fourth-string QB in Denver? Check.
A free agency with more moves than a "So You Think You Can Dance Contestant?" Check.
A quarterback competition in Washington where Rex Grossman may be the best QB in the lineup? Check.
Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth are Patriots? Check.
Rex Ryan making another bold Super Bowl prediction? Check.
The ride this season is going to be a wild one.
Here is my list of 10 things that all NFL fans should expect to see this year.
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Yes, injuries...and more of them than usual.
The lockout took away any chance of players being conditioned in the offseason, like they normally are.
The responsibility fell on the players.
No matter how hard you train, nothing can prepare you for the actual game. Even getting back on the field too soon can be detrimental to a player's health.
Preseason will be a good warm-up, but it is still not going to be enough.
Expect to see a lot of season-ending injuries in the first couple of weeks.
Don't believe me?
Ask the New York Giants and the Detroit Lions how this shortened offseason has affected them already.
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The first few weeks of the season are going to be rough for NFL fans. There will be a lot of sloppy play on both sides of the ball until the mid-point of the season.
The teams that are going to be hit the hardest are going to be the younger teams in the league, or a team that made a lot of moves during the free-agency period—like the Philadelphia Eagles.
The lockout has severely limited the time a team has to form the chemistry needed to function in the regular season.
Expect to see a lot of blown coverages resulting in deep bombs down the field.
Expect to see a lot of offsides and false starts early on.
Expect to see plenty of interceptions and fumbles, as well.
Do not be surprised if a lot of second and third stringers see action early on in the season, as there will be a lot of players who are still not in game shape either.
It is going to be a rough ride those first couple of weeks.
Another Horrible Super Bowl Halftime Show
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Ever since Janet Jackson's boob saw the light of day in the infamous Nipplegate scandal, the NFL has been extremely cautious about who it lets perform during the Super Bowl.
The performers from the past few years have been older bands that many of our mothers and fathers used to listen to. The following is a list of people who have performed during halftime since 2004:
2005: Paul McCartney
2006: The Rolling Stones
2008: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
2009: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
2010: The Who
Great bands and there's no fear of wardrobe malfunctions there.
The NFL tried to spice things up by bringing in The Black Eyed Peas last year, but they were a horrible choice at trying to make things livelier.
Their whole performance was a bunch of lights, screaming and pointing. They did bust out the running man for all of 2.5 seconds, but that was about it. Most people could have done without Fergie's horrible rendition of "Sweet Child O' Mine," too.
The NFL needs to find a happy medium if they are trying to go more modern artists, but if the current trend continues, we might be watching Ke$ha's rendition of Hall and Oates' "I Can't Go For That" in February.
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You know there are going to be plenty of celebrations this year.
Some are going to be original.
Some are going to be mocking some one else's TD celebration.
Of course you have the "Lambeau Leap," but everyone is doing it now, so it does not solely belong to Green Bay.
Do not be surprised, though, if you see about 201 different versions of the Dougie.
Someone is going to do the John Wall.
I wouldn't mind seeing B.J. Raji's celebration again, just for entertainment.
Someone is going to be cocky enough to over-celebrate and get a flag thrown.
If you are going to get a penalty for celebrating though, you might as well go all out.
Give the fans a team organized rendition of "The Super Bowl Shuffle" with Bill Belichick leading the way, or "The Cupid Shuffle."
Again, celebrating is a slap in the face of your opponent anyway, so you might as well push the limit and make the penalty worth it.
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You may love Rex Ryan because you are a Jets fan and you love how he has turned that team around, or you love his cockiness.
You may hate Rex Ryan because you are not a Jets fan, or you hate how he seems like he is always talking about something out of the side of his neck.
Either way, be prepared to see more of Rex Ryan and his brand of entertainment this year.
If the team wins, he will be on the podium talking about how they have already stamped their ticket to the Super Bowl.
If the team loses, he will be on the podium talking about how the team either got their asses handed to them, or how disappointing it is to lose.
He's already issued a challenge to the teams around the league to help them have a better record than the New England Patriots. Expect at least six more conferences where the Patriots are brought up in some way.
If you do not like Ryan, and the Jets happen to beat the Patriots, it may be a good idea to stay away from the TV for a while if you are making plans to watch something football related.
Plus, there is the added bonus that someone may bring up his foot fetish again.
2,391 Cam Newton Assessments
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Cam Newton is the new face of the Carolina Panthers.
If and when he does become the starting QB in Carolina, you can expect every sports analyst on the planet to break down his play.
Are his mechanics right?
Is he throwing off of his back foot?
Has his accuracy improved?
Is he the prototype QB of the future?
That was just a warm up.
Cam Newton will be over analyzed every time he steps on the field.
Because, he is the No.1 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft and everyone will be looking to see if the Carolina Panthers made the right choice, or if he will be the next candidate for "NFL Draft Bust of the Millennium."
There is already a story on ESPN.com about the Carolina Panther's owner requesting that Newton refrain from getting any tattoos or letting his hair grow out.
Either way, like Rex Ryan, expect to see a lot of Cam Newton.
The Tim Tebow Face
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I have nothing against the kid, but Tim Tebow has fallen out of favor with the Broncos organization quicker than most have expected.
He has not cussed out the coach, disrupted the locker room or even been busted with drugs. He is just not the QB of the future that Josh McDaniels thought he may have been.
Tim Tebow is now sitting at the fourth spot on the depth chart behind Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn and rookie Adam Weber.
That's an uphill battle for the former Heisman Trophy winner. There are even rumors that Tebow may have already been put on the market by the Broncos.
Since he has fallen so far, do not expect to see him under center anytime soon. Instead, you may see more of Tim Tebow rooting his teammates on from the sidelines.
When he is not celebrating, expect to see the cameras to be zoomed in on him several times throughout the game.
The whole world will be watching to see if Tebow will be affected by this benching, or will his faith keep him strong through the trials and tribulations.
So Many Touchbacks
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This will probably be one of the most talked about topics of the year.
The new NFL rule states that on kickoffs the ball will be placed at the 35-yard line. This will lead to a lot of touchbacks, which takes some of the excitement out of the game.
There is nothing like watching a great kick returner, like Devin Hester, field the ball and either break or avoid tackles for 80-plus yards en route to a touchdown.
Now a team with a strong enough kicker can avoid this aspect of the game all together.
Devin Hester is sitting on the other end of the field waiting on the kickoff? Not a problem, let's just kick it over his head, place them on the 20 and let them earn a touchdown.
They might as well take off the pads, strap on flags and just play flag football.
When a kicker thinks the new rules are making the game soft, you know something has to change.
There is a need to protect the players, but at what cost?
The kickoff has been a part of football for years and there haven't been that many players seriously injured to justify the rule change.
What's done is done, so be prepared to get your fill of touchbacks this year.
Fines, Fines and More Fines
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Last year, there were a lot of big hits in the NFL.
Who can forget the Atlanta Falcons' Dunta Robinson's big hit on the Philadelphia Eagles' DeSean Jackson last year?
Those hits are a consequence of playing the game, but should not be the norm.
Defensive players who continued to play the game aggressively are considered dirty.
That is a topic that is still up for debate because the defense has a job to do. Can it be done without purposely trying to hurt someone? Sure. But football is a game of inches. A few inches could be the difference between someone getting seriously hurt and somebody shaking off tackle and lining up for the next play.
I do not think that anybody sets out to hurt anyone, but you do have players who want their opponents to know that they have just been hit.
The rules are there, though, so expect to see plenty of fines for defensive players this year as well.
I mean, the season has not even started yet and Ndamukong Suh has already had his pockets hit up.
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There are going to be rookies who make a lot of noise and help contribute to their team's success this year.
The Atlanta Falcons' Julio Jones is going to be huge for them out of the gates. He has impressed already in the preseason and I can see him being just as lethal, if not more, when he lines up opposite Roddy White this season.
The New Orleans Saints' Mark Ingram is poised to make a huge impact as well, especially in that RB tandem the Saints have.
Other rookies set to make noise include:
Von Miller, Denver Broncos
Marcell Dareus, Buffalo Bills
Corey Liuget, San Diego Chargers
J.J. Watt, Houston Texans
A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
Keep an eye out for these guys this season, because they are sure to make noise and help their respective teams out this year.