My 2010-2011 NFL Season Preview

Posted: September 20, 2010 in Uncategorized

AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens (11-5)

The Ravens made a lot of believers last season and shocked the Patriots on the road in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. Joe Flacco is now entering his 3rd season at the helm of this offense who drastically improved at their weakest position this offseason – receiver. The additions of Anquain Boldin, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Donte Stallworth definitely add depth at the receiving core. The only question mark this team has is on the defensive side of the ball. The ageless Ray Lewis will continue to inspire and lead by example. However, safety Ed Reed will miss the first six weeks on the PUP list. Unfortunately for Ravens fans, the first 6 weeks include the Jets, Bengals, Steelers, and Patriots.

Cincinnati Bengals (9-7)

The Bengal’s huddles will be very outspoken in 2010, now that Pro Bowler Chad Ochocinco has VH1 co-star Terrell Owens opposite him on the field. It sure sounds great on paper, but will this experiment work or combust? Defensive end Antwan Odom recorded 8 sacks last season in last season’s first four games before the injury bug shut him down in week 6 for the year. The biggest key for the Bengals will be to win games early. Their week 3-5 opponents include Carolina, Cleveland, and Tampa Bay. Five of their last 6 games will include teams who went to the postseason last year.

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-9)

“Big” Ben Roethlisberger has dominated Steelers headlines this summer. Ever since his Miami club incident last spring, rumors have been swirling like tornadoes regarding Roethlisberger’s status with the club. His initial six game suspension has been since reduced to four by commissioner Roger Goodell for good behavior in his efforts to save his NFL career. The Steelers may find themselves in a hole early, considering 3rd-string quarterback Dennis Dixon will be called upon to lead the team through the first four weeks. Don’t be surprised to see Pittsburgh become a run-first team again. The defense will have to keep the team in close games until their gunslinger quarterback can rejoin the team following their early bye week.

Cleveland Browns (4-12)

Eric Mangini may soon find himself on the hot seat should the team fail to produce results again. Nose tackle Shaun Rogers is expected to start the season after missing training camp and the entire preseason due to a leg injury. Running back Jerome Harrison was a pleasant surprise late in the 2009 campaign, rushing for 862 yards and 5 touchdowns on the year. Consider the additions of quarterbacks Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace, and rookie Colt McCoy – none of which were on the team last year.  

AFC SOUTH

Indianapolis Colts (12-4)

Peyton Manning and his troops failed to win a single preseason game. Ask him if he cares. Manning has been reportedly watching every snap from every game last year and is ready to avenge the team’s Super Bowl loss to the Saints. The Colts should expect to increase the run game, average 80 yards a game last season (good enough for dead last in the league). Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis will continue to anchor the D-line. Indianapolis has a steep mountain to climb if they wish to play in February in Arlington.

Houston Texans (11-5)

The Texans had their first winning season ever last year in the team’s short history. Mario Williams will have a large roll on the defense after Houston lost corner Dunta Robinson to free agency.  The offense will make or break this team. Quarterback Matt Schaub led the NFL in passing last year, averaging 290 yards a contest. Andre Johnson will surpass 1,000 yards receiving as usual. Arian Foster has been announced as the team’s number one back. He must do well to keep the team from falling 30th in rushing totals for a second straight year. Houston gets tested from the get-go with Indianapolis, Washington, and Dallas in their first three games.

Tennessee Titans (5-11)

Tennessee will go as far this season as Chris Johnson is able to carry them. The superstar running back, fresh off a 2,000 yard season, is looking to break an unprecedented 2,500 yards rushing in 2010. The loss of defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch to Detroit leaves a hole that has yet to be filled. The Titans are reportedly considering reacquiring defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. Even if they do, do they have enough to catch the Colts and Texans?

Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12)

Jacksonville has not been kind to their Jaguars as of late. Failure to sell out home games has resulted in numerous blackouts on television, with more expected to come. The state of this franchise is absolutely in jeopardy. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew will again be the focal point of the offensive game plan. Fantasy owners should look out for receiver Mike Sims-Walker to have a solid season. The defense will be the downfall of this team. Last year they were 27th against the pass and 19th against the run.

AFC EAST

New York Jets (12-4)

It’s a hard knock life for the Jets. This ball club has expectations as high as could be. Darrelle Revis is finally signed and ready to help secure the defense’s league-best passing defense from a year ago. Mark Sanchez may suffer a sophomore slump leading the offense, so expect the Jets to run Shonn Green and LaDainian Tomlinson heavily. After all, they were also 1st in the run game last year.  New York has a brutal schedule in 2010. Fortunately, most of their difficult games are at the new Meadowlands. Outside of divisional games, they host Baltimore, Minnesota, Green Bay, Houston, and Cincinnati. Their road trips will take them to Denver, Detroit, Cleveland, and Chicago.

New England Patriots (10-6)

There’s never been a doubt that Bill Belichick has left his mark on the New England Patriots. He appears to have his work cut out for him this season. It seems as though age has finally caught up to the Patriots defense, which may mean their Super Bowl window is closing. Quarterback Tom Brady was 3rd in the NFL last year in total yards. There are receiving roadblocks to overcome, however. Wes Welker, who normally is reliable for 100 catches a season, is coming off of ACL surgery while Randy Moss feels “unwanted” by Patriots personnel. Never count New England out of the running, but skepticism is starting to set in.

Miami Dolphins (8-8)

Miami may be the preseason candidate for wild card team of the year. If they do well, no one is surprised. If they fail, no one is surprised. The Dolphins made a nice splash in free agency adding linebacker Karlos Dansby and via trades acquiring Brandon Marshall from the Broncos. This will again be a running team. Ronnie Brown is in a contract year so expect big numbers from him. Ricky Williams may still have something in the tank, especially in the red zone. The Dolphins have a lot of work to do to stay hot with New England or New York. It is hard to predict Miami’s year. Just don’t hold your breath.

Buffalo Bills (2-14)

The good news for Buffalo is that they get to play a game in Toronto when they face Chicago. That may be the most exciting part of the season. Jarius Byrd was a near lock for defensive rookie of the year last season until he got hurt last in the campaign. In 2009, the Bills were wonderful against the pass, but in the bottom three of rushing defense. The quarterback issues were not resolved at all during the offseason. A crowded backfield may soon see the emergence of first-rounder C.J. Spiller as the team’s lead rusher. Buffalo is considered the third team in New York, and they may stay that way for a while.

AFC WEST

San Diego Chargers (11-5)

The Chargers are in search of their 5th straight AFC West title. They are the best team in an arguably bad division.  And what doesn’t help the other three teams in this division is that San Diego has an incredibly easy schedule the first 6 weeks – Chiefs, Jaguars, Seahawks, Cardinals, Raiders, and Rams. All winnable games for a top 5 quarterback like Philip Rivers. Ryan Mathews will be an interesting development to watch in the backfield. The Chargers are still uncertain about receiver Vincent Jackson and whether he will play in 2010 for the team with his three game suspension. The defense should be strong and keep San Diego in close games. Look for San Diego Super Chargers to win another West title.

Oakland Raiders (8-8)

Oakland could very well be a surprise team in 2010. Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha gives legitimacy to the Oakland pass defense. However, the Raiders were 21st or worse in passing yards, rushing yards, and defense against the run. There are plenty of holes to fill, and the Raiders believe they finally have a winning solution. The team released former overall top draft pick Jamarcus Russell and traded for Jason Campbell to fill their QB void. Michael Bush and Darren McFadden will split the load on the ground. It’s possible for Oakland to improve on their 6-10 record from a season ago, but contending for the division may not be a realistic goal.

Denver Broncos (6-10)

Easily the most active team this offseason, the Denver Broncos made some big moves with serious implications. The addition of Brady Quinn and Florida product Tim Tebow will give Kyle Orton some depth at the quarterback position. Brandon Marshall was traded to the Dolphins for picks. However, where Denver will struggle will be the defensive side of the football. Elvis Dumervil will miss the 2010 campaign, and questions are arising about the age of secondary players Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins, who combined for only 5 interceptions last year. If the Broncos have trouble playing defense, it will be difficult for the Broncos to win in the Mile High City.

Kansas City Chiefs (3-13)

Kansas City will have a New England flavor this season as former Patriots coordinators Romeo Cronell and Charlie Weis will call the Chiefs defensive and offensive game plans respectively. Jamaal Charles will be the focus of the offensive after running for 1,120 yards and 7 scores in 2009. The Chiefs inked Thomas Jones to back-up Charles and make a legitimate 1-2 punch in the backfield. Young players will make big impacts on this team. 2010 draft choices Dexter McCluster and Eric Berry should fit in nicely and have solid rookie years. But since the Chiefs don’t pose much of a threat, it may be a rebuilding year in Kansas City.

NFC NORTH

Green Bay Packers (12-4)

For any doubters that may exist, the Green Bay Packers are legitimate threats to win the NFC. Expect quarterback Aaron Rodgers to have a career season with a veteran receiving core. The defense was outstanding last year, being a top 5 unit against the pass and the best in the league against the run.  The one concern the Packers should have is the middle of the season where they play the Vikings, Jets, Cowboys, Vikings, Falcons, and 49ers in a row. The loss of Johnny Jolly on the defensive line because of illegal substance charges will be felt, but the rest of the defense should do just fine. Green Bay is a serious contender to make it to the Super Bowl, assuming they can beat Brett Favre head-to-head.

Minnesota Vikings (10-6)

The questions about Brett Favre are no longer is he back or is he retired, they are about his production on the field. Can he be back to form from a career year last year or will he be an anchor dragging the Vikings down? Running back Adrian Peterson has been working this summer with weighted footballs in an effort to correct his fumbling issues which were very evident in the NFC Championship game at New Orleans. No teams were able to establish a running game on the Vikings last year. Minnesota was the second best team against the run in 2009, thanks to defensive lineman Pat Williams, Kevin Williams, and Jared Allen. Can Minnesota contend again this season? Absolutely. Will they be as good as last year? It’s hard to duplicate that kind of success. Only time will tell.

Chicago Bears (7-9)

Bears fans will be disappointed to see their beloved Bears finishing third in the NFC North, but realistically this is likely where they will be slotted. It will take time for new offensive coordinator Mike Martz’s West Coast offense to take effect. Quarterback Jay Cutler has to improve on the 26 interceptions he threw in 2009. Linebacker Brian Urlacher only played in one game last year, the opener at Green Bay. He should be well rested and back with a vengeance. The key to contending for the Bears is to win games early. Weeks 13-17 feature the Patriots, Vikings, Jets, and Packers. Now that’s a brutal ending to a season.

Detroit Lions (4-12)

The mood in Detroit seems to be that this team is serious about winning – fate just hasn’t complied yet. The Lions made some nice moves during the summer. Draft picks Jahvid Best and Ndamukong Suh should make nice additions. The acquisitions of defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, receiver Nate Burleson, Tony Scheffler, and corner Chris Houston help fill some holes. One analyst described the Lions as “taking a bunch of pieces, throwing them at the wall, and seeing what stuck.” The only guarantee on this team is Calvin Johnson will catch more than the 67 receptions, 984 yards, and 5 touchdowns he had in 2009. Second year quarterback Matthew Stafford will look to avoid the inevitable sophomore slump.

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons (10-6)

The Dirty Birds should be seen as serious players in the NFC South in 2010. The Falcons defense is basically bringing in two draft classes, seeing as a majority of their 2009 class was injured last year. The additions of Mizzou linebacker Sean Witherspoon and free agent corner Dunta Robinson will drastically aid in the stopping of opponent offenses. Receiver Roddy White looks to have a 4th consecutive year with 1,100 or more yards. Quarterback Matt Ryan has developed nicely and should do very well this season. The only team keeping the Falcons from winning the South is the Saints. The head-to-heads come in week two and then not again until week 16 on Monday Night Football. Those two games may well determine how far the Falcons fly.

New Orleans Saints (10-6)

If you haven’t seen Drew Brees somewhere – the Oprah show, Madden 11 cover, etc. – then you must have lost your sense of sight. New Orleans will face a tough task repeating their Super Bowl run this year with the target now placed squarely on their backs. The league’s highest scoring offense in 2009 returns with very few changes. There are still a trio of deep threat receivers in Marcus Colston, Devry Henderson, and Robert Meachem who last year combined for over 2,500 yards and 20 touchdowns. Safety Darren Sharper returns for the 2010 campaign to lead a defense that improved with additions such as Alex Brown. The Saints are still one of the elite teams in the NFC, but repeating an NFL championship is such a rare feat to accomplish. Two words – good luck.

Carolina Panthers (5-11)

Carolina has arguably the best 1-2 punch in the backfield with running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stuart. Each back in 2009 rushed for 1,100 yards and each had at least 7 scores. The focus of the Panthers will be their offensive production. Pro bowl receiver Steve Smith is coming off of an offseason broken arm. There will be an interesting quarterback battle between Matt Moore and Notre Dame Alum Jimmy Clausen in his rookie season. On the defensive side of the ball, the loss of Julius Peppers to free agency will absolutely be felt. Linebacker Jon Beason is a poor man’s Patrick Willis. Entering his 4th year, Beason looks to lead the Panthers’ hard-hitting defense. This team finds themselves in a difficult division and it appears that their playoff run from two years ago is now a long forgotten memory. Expect a tough year in Carolina.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-14)

The Buccaneers success of late has been little to none. Josh Freeman had a forgetful rookie year in 2009 but experts see him as what could be a pleasant surprise in 2010. Running back Cadillac Williams is definitely on the hot seat. Plagued by injuries, Williams needs a solid season or he faces being released by the Bus. The Tampa defense is getting older and slower. All eyes will be on the 2010 3rd overall pick Gerald McCoy from Oklahoma. Cornerback Ronde Barber is entering his 14th NFL season and is by far the most experienced player on this entire roster. The winds of change are blowing in Tampa Bay. Success seems achievable, just not immediately. If you happen to be a Bucs season ticket holder, just be glad the team has a pirate ship in their stadium. It’s a nice touch.

NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys (13-3)

Super Bowl XLV will be held at the new Cowboy Stadium in February 2011. After winning their first playoff game in 2009 since the 1990’s, Dallas feels that now the team has finally ended the December-curse where year after year the Cowboys lag in their schedule. On tap for this December features Indianapolis, Philadelphia twice, Arizona, and Washington. The NFC East could be won or lost in the final month. The obvious goal for the ‘Boys is to get hot early and coast. Linebacker DeMarcus Ware is now a paid man and will unleash his wrath upon opposing quarterbacks. The offense will need to establish a solid running game to counter their aerial assault. Oh, and Tony Romo happens to be the team’s quarterback. Have confidence in the Cowboys. Team owner Jerry Jones knows what an advantage playing a home game in the Super Bowl would be. If any moves need to be made during the season to help accomplish that goal, Jones will pull the trigger.

Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)

In America, the average rate of divorce among marriages in above 50%. What seemed to be an inseparable union between head coach Andy Reid and franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb has ceased. McNabb is now in Washington, Brian Westbrook is now a 49er, and no one knows what to expect from the new QB Kevin Kolb. The University of Houston product will have a large weight on his shoulders, much like Aaron Rodgers did in Green Bay as soon as Brett Favre was released from the team. The best offseason addition that went under the radar occurred when Philly picked up linebacker Ernie Sims from Detroit. The team’s X-factor will be tight end Brent Celek who exploded on the scene for nearly 1,000 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2009. Philadelphia has a shot at the wild card or the division, depending how they end the season with two late dates against Dallas.

Washington Redskins (8-8)

Washington fans experienced a total revamp this summer. For a team that loves to spend money on large contracts, few results have come as a consequence. Mike Shanahan was brought in to coach this team with a plethora of new Redskins. The team acquired Donovan McNabb, Willie Parker, Larry Johnson, Joey Galloway, and Bobby Wade – and that’s only on offense. Who knows what to expect from the Redskins this season? Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth continues to be a headache for this team. If he plays to his full potential, he is a top 5 defensive player. The Washington defensive scheme will switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 this year, which means Haynesworth will become a nose tackle. There’s no doubt this team has playmakers, but critics will need to be shown some substance before a proper judgment can be made.

New York Giants (6-10)

How them mighty have fallen. The Giants should be renamed the Midgets for how poorly they played last season on defense. The team got off to a hot start at 5-0, but failed around midseason to stop anybody. The Giants surrendered 48 points in New Orleans week 6, and the season seemed to spiral from there. New York made a focus of working on the defensive line, drafting defensively back in April. Questions arise about the running back position with Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. Eli Manning broke the 4,000 yard passing mark last year for the first time in his career. He will have to step up his game and reproduce similar numbers in 2010 if the Giants are to contend. Because of the defensive woes, the Giants have become the forgotten team in the stacked NFC East. Let’s see if Cinderella can win some divisional games and regain their promise.

NFC WEST

San Francisco 49ers (9-7)

It’s no lie the NFC West is the league’s weakest division statistically. Now that Kurt Warner has retired, there is no predominant favorite to run away with this division. San Francisco has the best running game with Frank Gore and the best defense led by Patrick Willis. For these reasons, they have to be the sexy pick to win the West. Shaun Hill was replaced by Alex Smith a few games into the year in 2009 and Smith shined at quarterback in the final few weeks. His expectations will be high as the former 1st overall draft pick will have some weapons to throw to in 2010. Michael Crabtree, Josh Morgan, Ted Ginn Jr., and of course tight end Vernon Davis make up a winnable receiving core. The 49ers will play head coach Mike Singletary’s smash mouth football where they will run, run, run and hit hard on defense. As long as San Fran can win the games they’re supposed to, there’s no reason this team can’t win a bad division. The 49ers have an extremely soft schedule from weeks 6 to 12 – Oakland, Carolina, Denver, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, and Arizona. Assuming they go 4-2 or better during that stretch, the 49ers should return to the postseason.

Seattle Seahawks (8-8)

Pete Carroll replaces Jim Mora, Jr. as head coach and he brings with him the best of USC draft classes past and present. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has fallen from the rankings of the elite over the last few years. He looks to improve with some new play makers on offense. Justin Forsett will be the team’s number one running back, with Julius Jones playing back-up. Since the team traded away T.J. Houshmandzadeh, the number one receiver job is wide open. Former Notre Dame receiver Golden Tate could make a big splash this year should the opportunities present themselves. On defense, draft pick Earl Thomas from Texas could also have a great rookie campaign. With a new coach comes the addition of new playmakers. How long it will take Seattle to realize their potential is yet to be determined. Assuming it rains for 4 of the 8 home games, Qwest Field will present a tough road trip for opponents.

Arizona Cardinals (5-11)

Kurt Warner? No. Matt Leinart? No. So who is the quarterback of the future in the desert? Derek Anderson gets the honor of being the starter as of now, but nothing appears to be permanent. Arizona very easily could fall from 2009 division champs to cellar-dwellers. Karlos Dansby went to the Dolphins via free agency which means Darnell Dockett, Joey Porter, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will be asked to carry the defense. Arizona has always been perceived as a West Coast styled offense. That may change this season with the emergence of Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower in the backfield. Fantasy owners should consider when they play receiver Larry Fitzgerald – especially if he draws constant double teams. The Cardinals seem to be searching for an identity. The 2010 season will answer many questions, but is not expected to produce many wins.

St. Louis Rams (3-13)

And last but not least, the Ramblin’ Rams. It feels like it’s the same song and dance with the Rams year in and out. The defense isn’t very reliable and their number one receiver Donnie Avery is on season-ending IR. Clearly all eyes are on two players – running back Steven Jackson and rookie quarterback Sam Bradford. Jackson should be good for another 1,000 yard season, which would give him his sixth consecutive. Bradford may be brought more down to Earth. However, his upside is rather large. Expect 2,500 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. There’s really not much to say for the Rams this year other than they get some interesting home games. St. Louis will host Washington, San Diego, and Atlanta in their premier non-divisional games. At least ticket prices should be cheap.

SUPER BOWL PREDICTION

Green Bay Packers 24, Baltimore Ravens 14

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