Let the Games Begin: 2010 NFL Season Previews & Predictions
Every year, all 32 teams look at getting what only one got the previous year—the Lombardi Trophy. The New Orleans Saints are just one among the few teams with a legitimate shot at winning the title this season. The Saints will have every trying to knock them down, but that is only one of many stories to follow around the league.
There also is the MVP of the league, among other awards, that has to be put into play when making previews and predictions. There are many factors that can be addressed before the Regular Season begins and many things change. Injuries, team chemistry, coaching, roster moves and who makes the Playoffs are all part of what makes the games being played so great.
Here are the NFL 2010 Season previews and predictions.
AFC East Champion—New England Patriots
New England Patriots
This is a hotly contested division as many people believe—minus the Buffalo Bills—the other three teams can win the division. It is unknown how well the New England Patriots defense can come together. They have been a shadow of the team that went 16-0 in the regular season. Gone are Teddy Bruschi, Asante Samue,l and Mike Vrabel. Now it is on the shoulders of Vince Wilfork and Tully Banta-Cain among others to pick up the slack.
Randy Moss and Tom Brady are in contract years, so I expect them to pick up the slack and lead the offense in a rejuvenated way. Their offense should be enough to win the division, given that the defense improves at least at a minimal level. The secondary will be tested and they will need someone to try and at least borrow Asante Samuel's shoes.
New York Jets
The Jets it seems are the darlings of the AFC. After leading the Colts going into the second half of the AFC Championship, everyone is on the bandwagon. I am not one of them. Mark Sanchez is entering his Sophomore season and I wasn't impressed by his rookie campaign. He will have to be solid to and keep the ball rolling on offense if this team wants to win.
The losses of Thomas Jones and Leon Washington might be more than the Jets have at first assessed. Shonn Greene may pick up the load, but he has a lot to fill in for. Darrelle Revis' ending his holdout is a big deal for them. The were the additions of Jason Taylor and Antonio Cromartie which should also improve the team.
What should be important is that opponents will be ready for them this year as they would be for the Saints this coming year. As previously stated, Mark Sanchez must play at a high level or they'll be out of the playoffs and have a disappointing season. That's what I am fully expecting.
The Dolphins will be running on the legs of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. Can Tony Soprano and the new management with Bill Parcells out keep the Dolphins winning? I don't know. They are a team of uncertainty. They had a great 2008 campaign with Chad Pennington leading the team to the Playoffs and a drop off last season. The AFC is still a conference of depth as I could see this team going 9-7 or 10-6 and still missing the Playoffs. The strong arm of Chad Henne will be a vocal point of focus as will the O-line play led by Jake Long.
The Buffalo Bills are just a team in shambles. It would almost lead you to think that they never went to the four straight Super Bowls. C.J. Spiller, the rookie from Clemson, might be a thrill to watch to complement Fred Jackson, but Trent Edwards' Stanford degree is not going to be beating teams simply out of wit. A 7-9 season would be more than fulfilling for them considering their three division opponents. It still will probably be a cold winter for those in Buffalo.
AFC North Champion—Pittsburgh Steelers
LaMarr Woodley, James Harrison and Troy Polamalu are three of the fiercest defenders in the game today—forget about Ben Roethlisberger for a moment. They are a great team with Ben and he's a great player, but he does not make the team. The Steelers are about the team, not the player. Dennis Dixon will be more than just a capable backup. The team runs almost as smoothly through him as Roethlisberger, and Dixon has the speed to evade the pass rush and win games with his legs.
Hines Ward is still there, and even with the loss of Santonio Holmes, it is only going to allow more touches for Rashard Mendenhall, Mike Wallace, and Heath Miller in the passing game. This is still a tough, hard nosed defense and run up the gut Steelers team. Those teams that fail to recognize these features will be beaten on the path to the Super Bowl.
By now, the acquisition of Anquan Boldin has been seen throughout the league and noted as a huge pickup. The signing of T.J. Houshmandzadeh could be big as well. The Ravens now have a great trio of Boldin, Houshmandzadeh, and Derrick Mason for Joe Flacco's throwing options.
The defense is still solid as ever behind the back of the ageless wonder Ray Lewis. Ed Reed was talked into coming back and not a bit too soon considering the injuries Baltimore will begin the season with in their secondary (Reed will miss the first six games of the year due to injury). Still, the defense should be solid at the least.
Joe Flacco will be the key in putting it all together. If he is not getting the ball to his great trio, something is wrong. The offensive and defensive lines are ready to roll for the Ravens. If Flacco's on stride they might not only play for the division, but for the Super Bowl title.
Due to signing Terrell Owens, the Cincinnati Bengals without their being a team in L.A. have become the Tinseltown team of the league. The duo of Ochocinco and Owens should be enticing to see as well the production of Cedric Benson. Following the last season and a half, Benson's time with the Bengals have been productive. This coming year he will have four tough games against Baltimore and Pittsburgh. If he doesn't show up big in at least two of those games, the passing of Carson Palmer will be shut down by the opposing force.
The underrated Cincinnati D will look to rebound from their shaky play in the Division Playoffs against the Jets. Like the Jets, I see a letdown coming from this group and thankfully the Bengals won't have to deal with too much turmoil from Owens for this one season. I actually expect Owens to be a pleasant surprise and up his totals from last year in Buffalo. However, it will be hard to translate that for the entire team.
Well, you've lost LeBron James and this will be a dark cloud for Cleveland sports with the Browns this year. It still can't be said who the Browns best player is. It could be rookie Cornerback Joe Haden or the overrated Joshua Cribbs, who only caught 20 receptions last season. Either way, Mike Holmgren has quite a bit on his plate and I expect this season to be bad. Real bad considering the Steelers, Ravens, and Bengals all have the talent to win the division. They can only hope to take a game from the Ravens to hold a bit of pride this year and that Colt McCoy will get some playing time.
AFC South Champion—Indianapolis Colts
Peyton Manning could be defined under the term consistency. His team could follow under the same name as well. Every year, Peyton Manning and his Colts have a legitimate shot at winning the title. That has got to be a welcoming feeling for all Colt fans.
Bob Sanders is back as is a healthy Dwight Freeney. It could be argued that the injury to Freeney going into the Super Bowl was as big a factor as any for the Colts. Having both of those guys back and healthy is huge. Just pencil in the Colts as division winners. On a rare occasion, such as two years ago, the Titans won the division with the #1 seed in the AFC. That's what it takes to knock them off their high horse and I just don't plan on seeing that. I plan on seeing them deep into January.
The team previously known as the Oilers, could use a little oil to keep Chris Johnson from rusting up like the tin man. If he takes the amount of carries he wants to get his 2,500 all-purpose yards, he'll be done in Week 13 as just a piece of scrap metal.
Vince Young is still there and for all his talent, he still needs to be more accurate in the passing game. The Texans and Colts will not be forgiving of his errors. They will "pick six" him all day if given the chance. The Titans are a no name defense, but I am not concerned with that. They have the man I consider the best coach in the NFL in Jeff Fisher leading them. He will find a way to move this team into the playoffs.
This has become the benchmark of mediocrity in the NFL. So close to making the playoffs, yet they just miss by the hair on their "chinny chin chin". They have the best receiver in the game and a great defense. They have been led astray from success by playing in the division which has been top to bottom the best over the last five years.
Matt Schaub should continue to play well and they now have a one-two punch of Arian Foster and Steve Slaton to carry the Texans. Due to the strength of schedule they have in and out of the division, they still lay right on the doorstep of the playoffs.
Jack Del Rio's team is an unknown going into this season. They underachieved by some and played right at their appropriate level by others. Mike Sims-Walker and Maurice Jones-Drew will try to make up for the at times ill-advised play of David Garrard.
They added Defensive Tackle Tyson Alualu in the offseason to try and bolster their defense in what might have been the most controversial pick in the whole draft. Seeing that he was projected as a late 1st or 2nd round pick, the Jaguars were telling the league: we want to win the war at the line. Rashean Mathis and newly acquired Aaron Kampman will try to keep the atmosphere upbeat for the Jags.
AFC West Champion—San Diego Chargers
San Diego Chargers
Philip Rivers commands an offense that was one of the league's best in 2009. Nick Hardwick (Photo) has been a solid lineman with the likes of Kris Dielman and Antonio Gates has great blocking and catching abilities. This is still the cream of the crop in the AFC West.
Antonio Cromartie is gone to the Jets and that could be more of a burden that has been envisioned. Luis Castillo, Eric Weddle, Shaun Phillips and Shawne Merriman still patrol the defense. Merrimans' effectiveness could be in question after his physical injuries have taken hold. Nate Kaeding is still around to put the ball through the uprights.
My fear is still the fact that this team is led by Norv turner. Jerry Rice was quoted as stating that Turner was "the worst coach he had ever had at any level", including pee wee. I take Rice's opinion as spot on. Turner fails when it matters most and I just can't see them getting more than the division. It is still there for them to lose, and it will be another frustrating year. Memories of Marty Schottenheimer and Bobby Ross as coach are a little easier on the heart than Norv Turner.
Welcome Jason Campbell, goodbye JaMarcus Russell. That should be the motto of Raider fans this coming season. With the solid play of a defense that should be as strong as last year with the addition of Rolando McClain, things look brighter for the silver and black. This is the best outlook the Raiders have had since they made the Super Bowl.
Darren McFadden and Michael Bush will be looked upon to carry the load for Justin Fargas, who moved on to the Broncos. The silent killer in Nnamdi Asomugha is still around. Although he won't win any Defensive MVP awards, he should continue to have passers throw away from him. Richard Seymour still has pass rush ability and John Henderson should be great for stopping the run.
This is a team that should be on the rise as they tried to address their issues. The receiving core is still a question mark with Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy being looked at to show up. A 7-9 or 8-8 record would be a realistic improvement for this team.
Josh McDaniels took the Broncos to a 6-0 start last season including an upset of the Patriots in a hotly contested game. This season it seems the Broncos are more interested in the Tim Tebow experiment than winning games. They got rid of their best receiver to keep Eddie Royal as the under producing top receiver which hurts them dearly. Then, they lose Elvis Dumervil.
At least they still have Brian Dawkins and Champ Bailey to try and steer the ship. Having these two in the secondary slightly heals the wound caused by Dumervil's exit. The focus on the quarterback is still too great for a team that has an outside chance at making the Playoffs. I know McDaniels is a former Quarterback's coach, but he needs to address more than that with his off season moves. This is a team that has always had great lines and running backs. I'm not seeing or Knowshown-ing Moreno anything.
Kansas City Chiefs
Rookie safety Eric Berry should be a gem for the Chiefs secondary. Let's just hope for them that they don't let him go like they did with Jared Allen. Matt Cassell comes back trying to prove to doubters that he is more than just a system guy. That it was he, not the Patriots that were the reason for winning. He has Dwyane Bowe, Chris Chambers, Jamaal Charles, and the new acquisition of Thomas Jones at his disposal.
The Chiefs still have a lot of gaps to fill. Coach Haley is starting to move things in the right direction, but he needs to get this team to play 60 minutes. They will show up for portions of the game looking great and then all of the sudden they're like ghosts. I still expect that mentality this year leaving them at the bottom of the division.
AFC Wildcard Teams—Ravens and Titans
Although I see these teams both barely missing the Division crowns, they are still formidable playoff challengers. The Ravens defense should will their team to making the playoffs over division rival Cincinnati and hold off a push from the Jets or Dolphins.
The Titans might have it a little dicier considering that you never know what to expect from the Jaguars and Texans. It should be a dogfight with the Texans for the last Playoff spot, but I believe they get in. With Vince Young in the lineup, the Titans only lost two games. I expect that the 8-2 Vince Young of last year should carry over to this season with success.
NFC East Champion—Dallas Cowboys
As almost everyone knows, the Super Bowl will be in Dallas this year. Whether or not the Cowboys will be there is up for debate. What is not up for debate is the Cowboys pure talent on the field. There chemistry is still being put together to make the right mix. They have very high expectations by everyone it seems, but they should be able to handle it. They are a veteran club with All-Pros on both sides of the ball.
Even though he isn't talked about as much as he should be, DeMarcus Ware is still the man for the Cowboys. After almost breaking his neck in a game last year, he continued to play in that game as well as ever. A mean cat who can control a game is a reasonable assessment of Ware. They still have Pro Bowlers in the secondary starring Terrance Newman and Mike Jenkins as guys who are air hawks.
The rookie Dez Bryant is getting all the talk at this point. For all that talk, there still is Miles Austin, Jason Witten and Tony Romo on the offense. This team is loaded and should be right there with a chance to win the conference and a title. The division is Dallas' to lose.
This is the one pick out of the whole NFL I am willing to go out on a limb for. I think the Redskins will make the Playoffs. That is with the expectation of Clinton Portis getting hurt, Albert Haynesworth having limited or no effect on the team and Donovan McNabb being scrutinized all season.
Jason Campbell wasn't the problem in Washington, but McNabb can be the answer. He has a chance to finally show he is the great Quarterback many of us know him to be and others should finally wake up to that this year. Of course, McNabb could become injured and all I am saying would be hogwash. I'm taking it that Donovan shows up this year. Larry Johnson should be a better runner than the oft injured Portis which will stabilize the offense.
The defense with or without Haynesworth should be more congruent with each other. Brian Orakpo and the overlooked veteran London Fletcher give the team great chemistry. There also is a certain coach named Mike Shanahan with a fire burning in his stomach. I don't think the flame gets burned out until he has gotten all he can out his players into January. Here's to wishful thinking for you Redskins fans.
New York Giants
Once, this team beat the Patriots for a Super Bowl win, they became the class of the NFL. The next season they were on pace to win the title again. The Plaxico Burress incident, I feel, has not left this team still. Eli Manning has shown at times he can beat anyone, then at the same time that he can beat himself. Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith are nice receivers to have, but don't give what Burress did.
Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck can still get to the ball and add some tackles with their pressure. Aaron Ross and Antrel Rolle can be strong providers in the secondary. They are a team on the brink of playoff excellence or sitting on the bench out of the playoffs come January. It pretty much comes down to Eli Manning vs. Donovan McNabb. I took the one who has seen the playoffs over and over during the last decade.
Thus begins the Kevin Kolb era in Philadelphia. Can he fill the shoes of McNabb? Maybe.
If Kolb can, it probably won't be this year. He still needs the transition of his first year of actually playing and the NFC East is not an easy place to start your career. LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson give Kolb two players who can work as multiple threats. The line is anchored by Jason Peters and also has an emerging Tight End who can block and catch in Brent Celek.
There will be an uphill climb for the Eagles to return to the Playoffs this year. The other three teams in the division are hungry and have talent. The Eagles still seem to be shuffling their cards. Over the past two years, they have lost the chemistry of having McNabb, Brian Dawkins and Brian Westbrook in the locker room. That probably will just be too much for the Eagles to overcome.
NFC North Champion—Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre are still the highlight of this division, but the Green Bay Packers might be on their way to separating themselves from the rest of the pack. With Dom Capers now in his second season as Defensive Coordinator with the Packers, his 3-4 will finally be able to take effect. The Pack had to let go of the likable Aaron Kampman to let this process evolve.
They bring back a great linebacker group headed by A.J. Hawk, and there still is Nick Barnett, Clay Matthews Jr. and Brandon Chillar. They also have Defensive Player of the Year, Charles Woodson back. Al Harris is injured to start the season and that could be a pain in the side if Dom Capers' schemes don't fully work. Atari Bigby's absence still needs to be addressed especially since Al Harris has injuries.
The team now runs through and believes in Aaron Rodgers. He still needs to prove that he can beat Brett Favre before he can take that next step in his evolution. He has two more chances to achieve that goal. The Packers have looked good this Preseason, except the Preseason doesn't matter. Look for the Packers to be in the hunt as much as any team for Super Bowl XLV.
It took an arm, a leg, and visit from teammates to get Brett Favre out of Mississippi and into camp. He still looks a little rusty coming off his ankle surgery along with his ragged receivers. Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin have had preseason injuries that have forced the trade for Greg Camarillo and an increased role for Bernard Berrian and Greg Lewis. This could be a large problem for getting wins early on in the season. Adrian Peterson must hold on to the ball and get more production with the receivers out.
Jared Allen pushes a fun and energetic defense that will have Pat Williams, Kevin Williams, and E.J. Henderson. Although Jasper Brinkley wasn't bad, he definitely wasn't E.J. Henderson and it showed while he was inserted into the lineup. Henderson back will help immensely.
Realistic outlooks would say the beginning of the season should be slightly rougher for the Vikings then the Packers and that is where you could see the separation for the division being made. The Packers might have a strong two game lead after the first six weeks that they never let go of.
Matt Forte are you still the future? Jay Cutler are you an elite quarterback? Julius Peppers, is there anything left in the tank? These are among the many questions that must be brought to the front with "Da Bears". Lovie Smith looks to be on the hot seat in a tough position trying to go through the Packers and Vikings.
They could—if all things go right—make the Playoffs. That could be a lot to ask of a team that has a Quarterback with an overall winning percentage under .500 and Brian Urlacher starting to break down from injuries. Lance Briggs is still around to ease the blow if an injury should occur. Matt Forte needs to get back to running the way he did his rookie season. Most of all, Julius Peppers has to show he's worth the money. They could make the playoffs, but it will be a tough test.
Matthew Stafford had a rough first season, but thankfully for him, Calvin Johnson is there. Tight End Brandon Pettigrew as a rookie actually had a pretty good rookie outing. The addition of Jahvid Best and the return of Kevin Smith give the halfback position some depth to go from. There still is a lot of troubling issues for this team.
They have three teams that are much better than them and have more experience. We can't forget the Lions were just recently the first team to go 0-16 in a season. The expectations of this team have to remain low as this team is still young at the key positions. Patience is the key with the Lions.
NFC South Champion—New Orleans Saints
New Orleans Saints
The Saints have a huge hill to climb in trying to repeat as there hasn't been a repeat champion since the Denver Broncos of 1999. They have the good fortune of playing in a division that is still in the relatively weaker category. This should help them even if they tend to play slightly below last year's remarkable start. They still have their core intact from last year.
We all know Drew Brees and his lethal options on offense such as Marques Colston, Pierre Thomas, and Reggie Bush. The defense is overlooked many times for its play such as the two game winners Tracy Porter had against the Vikings and then against the Colts.
To win the Super Bowl last year, the Saints first beat Kurt Warner, then Brett Favre, and finally Peyton Manning. If that's not the defense stepping up when it needs to, I don't know what is. They are the definite choice for division winners.
Matt Ryan now enters his third year in limbo between top QB and mediocre. If he can will his team back to the playoffs, we could be looking at a top five quarterback in the league. The monster of breaking tackles in Michael Turner is back and healthy as is the line. Tony Gonzalez is still there and Roddy White at receiver.
John Abraham and Jonathan Babineaux lead a defense that always looks to get respect. They faltered somewhat in 2009, but are expected to rebound this year. I expect them to rebound as well, just not into playing for something in January.
This was another team that struggled last season as they only were only 8-8 after going 12-4 in 2008. The Jake Delhomme and Julius Peppers era is over as they moved on to Chicago and Cleveland. The team now falls into the hands of the young Matt Moore who will look to establish himself as a leader and winner. We can't forget about the two-headed monster of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Either is capable of rumbling and tumbling for 200 yards.
Ryan Kalil anchors an offensive line that gets forgotten for all the help they provide Williams and Stewart. Jon Beason will have to try and rev up a team that is going to miss Julius Peppers. That will be a huge hole not as much in what Peppers could do, but more in what the Panthers will now not be able to do with him gone. John Fox has got a tough road ahead to traverse.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Well, at least Ronde Barber is around to represent the Bucs championship over the Oakland Raiders. This team is still in a rough setting as they open 2010. They are led by an unsure Josh Freedman and a young head coach who is still getting used to sitting at the big boy table.
There is the frustrating Kellen Winslow who still acts like his "soulja" persona at times and the unlikable Jerramy Stevens. I think taking those two into account of being on your team should be a red flag. Aqib Talib is also not available to begin the season. Things look pretty down. The one good thing should be Gerald McCoy, who I think will become acclimated to the NFL pretty quick. A 3-13 or 4-12 season looks to be in the works.
NFC West Champion—San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers
It seems that this might be the easiest, but also most difficult choice of all. The 49ers have shown glimpses of how great they can be and at the same time how bad. The team is reflected by their quarterback Alex Smith and quarterback of the defense Patrick Willis. Willis has done his part and will continue to do so. Will Alex Smith step up his game is the question that those that have seen Steve Young, Joe Montana, and Jeff Garcia want answered.
Smith should be able to do enough to get the Niners back into the Playoffs. They are the team I am expecting the most positive change from this year. An 11-5 record should be in their vision. Anything less than that should be selling themselves short. There's a good possibility that they sweep their division. Frank Gore is still there to take a pounding from tacklers as he works his way towards the end zone. The 49ers are solid at every position and Rookie Taylor Mays might be able to surprise those teams who passed him in the Draft.
Still, the games need to be played before we can crown the 49ers winners or losers.
The Pete Carroll era is under way in Seattle and I have more questions than answers. Releasing Houshmandzadeh and paying the seven million owed to him made no sense. Keeping Deion Branch and letting T.J. go made even less sense. Mike Williams does however look like he might have finally put his life and game together even if it's only in preseason (Makes you wonder why he and Charles Rogers couldn't succeed in Detroit).
Matt Hasselbeck will be the quarterback if his body can stay in tact. The rookie Russell Okung will be looking to take over for the legend, Walter Jones. Lawyer Milloy is back to take hold of secondary functions with the other new rookie Earl Thomas. It is still to be seen how Carroll will be able to work things out in Seattle. The new roster choices keep me a bit worrisome to see them even at 8-8. This could be another rebuilding year for the Hawks.
The problems at quarterback are just some of the hardships facing the Cardinals. But let's be realistic—Kurt Warner retiring is the reason the Cardinals are a team that has diminished expectations. Darnell Dockett should be great in keeping players such as Frank Gore and Stephen Jackson from running wild into the secondary.
Even with all the positives, the lack of belief in the recently departed Matt Leinart and current QB Derek Anderson should be troubling. Ken Whisenhunt seems to be lost even as we get ready to begin the regular season. The players also seem lost without Warner there to lead them as well. I see a decent slide in the win total from the previous year for the former Phoenix Cardinals.
St. Louis Rams
It can be seen that the Rams are excited about their Rookie franchise Quarterback Sam Bradford. The former Sooner gives the Rams a face of the team, someone for the fans to become excited about. Unfortunately, that might be all they have. They lost their best receiver for the coming year in Donnie Avery and are looking at being thin at many positions.
On the bright side, they play in the weakest division in football every year. This year should be no exception. They might be able to steal two games in the division. At worst, their young nucleus on offense is getting experience. The defense is still full of expendables when it comes down to it, but that doesn't change the need for improvement. A 3-13 season might be realistic for this squad.
NFC Wildcard Team—Redskins, Vikings
When looking at the Vikings, we must remember knowing Sidney Rice will be back is the important thing. He should recharge the batteries for the Vikings when back and make them a very scary playoff matchup. If Adrian Peterson doesn't fumble, they could cause major headaches.
I felt like this was a year for the Redskins to prove their worth through Mike Shanahan, Larry Johnson, and Donovan McNabb. I give the Redskins the nod even though it could easily be the Giants making the Playoffs if not taking the division. Either way, the team that makes it will be out in the Wildcard round.
Coach of The Year—Mike Singletary
It seems this is another year of the "Mike". Mike Tomlin, Mike Smith, Mike McCarthy and Mike Singletary are all among leading candidates for Coach of the Year. He was able to subdue the cantankerous Vernon Davis into challenging for best Tight End in the NFL. Mike Nolan started something decent and it looks as if Singletary is trying to put the good things on full blast.
If the 49ers can make the big strides that many including myself expect, Singletary will be the most likely candidate for Coach of the year. They might not be as good as the Cowboys, Packers, Vikings or Saints; but they might end up with more regular season victories than those teams. If that should occur, those beaming eyes of Singletary will be next to a podium for best coach.
2010 NFL MVP: Drew Brees
The Super Bowl MVP now looks for his NFL MVP. After his thrilling performance in Super Bowl XLIV, he comes back a new man with new aspirations. One of the most vocal players in the league, Brees lets his voice and his play do the talking.
Many would think of going with Peyton Manning due to his MVP winnings coming like clockwork. There definitely can be a push for this belief. It then becomes a question of whether or not Brees will finally get the recognition he deserves this year by the media. It could be a push, but I have a feeling this will finally be the year he gets the MVP he easily could have won while playing for the Chargers.
Offensive Player of the Year—Aaron Rodgers
I was originally going to give the nod to Tony Romo as I feel his offense is a well tuned machine ready to rip up the turf. Then, I remembered that Aaron Rodgers replaced Brett Favre and actually made people not miss Favre. Philip Rivers is another player who could have a great chance at winning the award, except I don't believe he gets enough media attention to win.
Aaron Rodgers puts up Fantasy numbers that would please any person who has him and those numbers also translate to wins for the Packers. If he can rack up the wins and has a bunch of 300 yard games, it's his award to lose.
Defensive Player of the Year—Patrick Willis
This guy is just a tackling machine. In some respects, he reminds you of his Head Coach while he was controlling the field with the Chicago Bears. If the 49ers are a better team this year, he will be as big a part as any player on the team.
He is as good as any defensive player in the game, any player. It just happens that like Nnamdi Asomugha, when you play on a dreadful team on the bay, you're not going to get much love. He puts up steady stats every year and this should be his year to follow Linebacker James Harrison who won the award two years ago.
Offensive Rookie of the Year—Ryan Matthews
I am not as high on Matthews as others, but that won't matter in the end. He is the featured guy even as a rookie in a potent offense led by Philip Rivers. There are still issues with Vincent Jackson signing and even with the addition of Patrick Crayton, he should get more receptions than previously projected.
The former Fresno State product has a lot on his plate this coming season. Even if he only produces at 80% of the rate expected, it still should be enough to beat out other newcomers. I expect him to get many red zone touches over Darren Sproles. The receptions out of the backfield should be what ultimately sets him apart from other rookies this year.
Defensive Rookie of The Year: Rolando McClain
As bad as the Oakland Raider offense was under JaMarcus Russell, the defense was pretty damn good. They kept the Raiders in games this past season and under Bruce Gradkowski were able to knock off the Pittsburgh Steelers and give tough competition to top teams.
The addition of McClain should help strengthen their linebacker core the way he did on the National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide. Eric Berry is an intriguing choice because the ball will be thrown his way in testing him with the Kansas City Chiefs. Ndamukong Suh will be looked at based on his great college career. Also, Gerald McCoy, the third overall pick in the Draft, should have a chance to show his skills. These three unlike McClain do not have a strong defense around them that will help intensify their abilities.
Whether you like Brian Cushing or not, he came into a pretty good Texans D and prospered. Talents such as Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans were great help to Cushings' play. Rolando McClain should have a similar effect with the Raiders this year.
Top Seeds: (1) Indianapolis Colts
(2) San Diego Chargers
(1) Green Bay Packers
(2) Dallas Cowboys
(3) New England Patriots defeat (6) Tennessee Titans
(5) Baltimore Ravens defeat (4) Pittsburgh Steelers
(1) Indianapolis Colts defeat (5) Baltimore Ravens
(3) New England Patriots defeat (2) San Diego Chargers
(1) Indianapolis Colts defeat (3) New England Patriots
AFC Champion: Indianapolis Colts
(3) San Francisco 49ers defeat (6) Washington Redskins
(5) Minnesota Vikings defeat (4) New Orleans Saints
(1) Green Bay Packers defeat (5) Minnesota Vikings
(2) Dallas Cowboys defeat (3) San Francisco 49ers
(1) Green Bay Packers defeat (2) Dallas Cowboys
NFC Champion: Green Bay Packers
Super Bowl XLV: Packers Over Colts
This should be a match up between the two top seeds. This game could go either way and the Colts could make great strides in winning this matchup with a healthy Bob Sanders and Dwight Freeney in the mix. Peyton Manning should also play a better game than he did last year against the Saints. I am just a big believer in Dom Capers 3-4 defense and I believe that is what will solidify the secondary for the Packers against the Colts.
It should be a very close game between these two great quarterbacks. I envision a 27-21 type victory for the Packers. Aaron Rodgers should follow Steve Young's 1994 Super Bowl MVP by getting one of his own. He should also be getting the monkey off his back not named Joe Montana, but Brett Favre.