Sunday, September 12, 2010

2010 NFL predictions

AFC East

Dolphins - With the addition of WR Brandon Marshall and the return of RB Ronnie Brown this offense will be able to surprise some people when everyone thinks they will be bad. Karlos Dansby is not that much of an upgrade over Joey Porter to make this a great defense. Chad Henne hasn’t show me much, but there is always a few surprise winners and the Phins have that feel because the Jets and Pats are wildly overrated.

Patriots – It’s time. The defense is old and lacking in talent, all the more so with DE Ty Warren and CB Leigh Bodden on IR – they are especially weak in the secondary even after spending a first round pick on a corner. But Brady and Moss still make this a fairly potent offense . Plus the two rookie TEs and Welker will come on as the season progresses. Their hyrda rushing attack won’t be spectacular with G Logan Mankins holding out. Part of this is the odor of discontent wafting from Foxboro, but more of it is about the defense. I predicted the Ravens to beat them last postseason for the same reason.

Jets – I don’t hate Rex Ryan, but it is driving me nuts how everyone thinks this bunch will be a Super Bowl contender. How quickly everyone forgets that the only reason they made the postseason last year was because the Colts cowardly rested their starters in Week 15. They are team that wins with running and good defense – because Sanchez doesn’t have the ability to throw them back into a game if they fall behind. They booted Thomas Jones and LaDainian Tomlinson is a downgrade at this point in his career. Santanio Holmes is not a true #1 NFL receiver. . The final clincher was seeing an episode of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” (very entertaining by the way) – they are all just expecting to roll to Miami. They’ve adopted this of “this is how we do it on the New York Jets” attitude as though they have some history of greatness. Plus Rex Ryan’s speeches seem better suited for high schoolers than professionals – although I suspect that may the case in many locker rooms if you figure you speak to the lowest common denominator.

Bills – Chan Gailey is not a terrible coach, but there is not much talent here. Trent Edwards might develop in to a legit NFL starter, but not behind an OL that is still a mess. CJ Spiller should be good eventually, but this year Fred Jackson might get more yards just because he can power over guys more. Lee Evans is not a #1 WR, but is the only quality receiver on the team. The defense is good in the secondary, but marginal everywhere else – especially with the retirement of last year’s leading sacker Aaron Schobel.

AFC North

Ravens – Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason, Todd Heap with Willis McGahee and TJ Houshmandzadeh on the bench and and Donte Stallworth coming back in the second half of the season. That’s a pretty good offense. The defense is struggling to find some corners and Ed Reed on the PUP list, but that front seven is still strong enough to make this an above average D.

Steelers – If Roethlisberger wasn’t a moron I would have them winning the North. Mike Wallace can step in for Santonio Holmes, Heath Miller is still solid. Rashard Mendenhall is a good RB with a good backup in Mewelde Moore. The OL should be a little better too. On defense return of Troy Polamalu should straighten out a secondary that gave up some plays last year. The return of DE Aaron Smith will help too.

Bungles – Everyone remembers that they won the division last year, but not that they went .500 over the second half of the season and that Carson Palmer was pretty pedestrian. It’s an offense of guys that could be good, but more likely will be average – Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens are in decline, Cedric Benson runs hard but is not a game changer. Still there is a chance it could work out brilliantly. But I bet they will win more on defense than with offense. Jermaine Gresham might given them a marginal boost.

Browns – People like to say that teams that finish hot do well the next season. Sometimes they do, but plenty of times they don’t and you don’t remember because bad football is forgettable (2004 Bills finished 6-1, which was one more win then they got in 2005). Cleveland did win their last four – over a floundering Steelers team and the Jags, Chiefs, and Raiders. Please. Delhomme was once good, and has looked okay in the preseason, but Seneca Wallace will finish up the season for one reason or another. And who is he throwing too? Josh Cribbs? See Hester, Devin. Mohamed Massaquoi is the only WR who has shown anything and is not ready to carry an offense (if he ever will be). With Montario Hardesty hurt, they will have to go with talented but smallish Jerome Harrison – who they clearly don’t trust (as they drafted Hardesty in the second round). Look for Peyton Hillis to end up getting work as a power back.

AFC South

Colts – They’ve won at least 12 games for the last seven years. They haven’t lost anything. Reggie Wayne is starting to age, but Anthony Gonzalez returns and Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie come into the season as proven receivers. Donald Brown hopefully develops and helps the running game – although part of those struggles is an aging offensive line build to passblock. On defense Bob Sanders is back and they spent their first two picks on the front seven.

Titans – Initially I had the Texans, because I still have no faith in Vince Young. But I do have faith in Jeff Fisher. Chris Johnson won’t be as good, but he will still be a big threat. Kenny Britt showed lots of potential. If he can take a step then with Justin Gage, Nate Washington and Bo Scaife at TE they will be able to throw the ball. On defense they parted ways with DE Kyle Vanden Bosch and LB Keith Bulluck – which was most of their defensive leadership. Now their biggest guy on defense, CB Cortland Finnegan, is a hothead. If the slight Chris Johnson gets hurt they are in a world of trouble.

Texans – I have been tooting their horn for a while, and they keep not panning out. I’m not sold on Shaub as a top of the line QB (plus he has injury issues and the OL is so-so). Their running game is a bit of a mess with their second round pick, RB Ben Tate, out for the year. Arian Foster is a marginal starter and the coaching staff doesn’t trust Steve Slaton. They also now have another name in entry: Derrick Ward who washed out of freaking Tampa. A receiver Andre Johnson is the second best receiver in the NFL, Kevin Walter is a good possession guy, KR Jacoby Jones developed into a deep threat last year. TE Owen Daniels was on fire until blowing out his knee. On defense they are relying on first round pick Kareem Jackson to replace Dunta Robinson – that probably won’t work and the rest of the secondary just isn’t that good (Bernard Pollard? Really?) If Mario “Reggie “cheater” Bush who?” Williams can lead a steady passrush they won’t get killed – but he is their only stud rusher. DeMeco Ryans is good at MLB, but will Brian Crushing lose something now that he is off the roids? He was a big part of their D last year.

Jaguars – This is probably David Garrards last hurrah – never mind that Mike Sims-Walker is his only legit WR. Not that I am saying he doesn’t deserve to be booted. Maurice Jones-Drew basically is their offense, but how long can he do it alone before he starts to break down? Del Rio is not a great coach – he could do it for a while, but I think the players are less and less enamored with him as time passes. On defense they have regressed in recent years – replacing Marcus Stroud and John Henderson (and Rob Meier) was a mistake – and robbed the defense of its identity. Rashean Mathis was once one of the best corners in the league but he regressed into too much of a gambler and has had trouble staying healthy. Aaron Kampman might be helpful at DE.

AFC West

Chargers – They are in mild decline (Jamal Williams and Antonio Cromartie are gone – Shawn Merriman is aging – Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill are holding out – Patrick Crayton doesn’t quite cut it, and I think Jackson might be traded as it has gotten pretty ugly – but I don’t buy he will hold out the whole season only Sean Gilbert has ever done that, more likely he signs a deal that says he can’t be tagged next year), but are the only solid team in this division. Ryan Mathews won’t be a good as Tomlinson once was, but he will be better than the 2009 version. They still have enough weapons on offense to make it into the playoffs. The defense lacks playmakers save maybe Shaun Phillips.

Chiefs – I am a little surprised to be putting them here myself, but look at the skill position guys. Jamal Charles and Thomas Jones, Chris Chambers (600 yards and 4TDs in nine games as a midseason pick in ’09) and Dwayne Bowe. And the OL isn’t bad. Matt Cassel showed he can be okay if he was weapons. The defense is poor. I am not saying they are a playoff contender, but they could flirt with .500, which was good enough for second in this division last year.

Raiders – They might also flirt with .500 given that they won five games with terrible QBs last year. Jason Campbell is better than you realize – although he doesn’t have the receivers to prove it outside of TE Zach Miller. With Michael Bush out for close to half the season they will need Darren McFadden finally show up, but I am not convinced he can do it at the NFL level anymore. Their defense is so-so. Richard Seymour is good, but not a passrusher (his two 8 sack seasons are the only times he had more than 5.5 sacks). Nnamdi Asomugha is a little overrated, and while 1st round pick Rolando McClain should be good it is not a lock.

Broncos – They are much more the 2-8 team than the 6-0 team they started out as (which a miracle bounce to beat Cincy). And they traded away their best player for the second season in a row. I will give credit to Kyle Orton who is more talented than I first gave him credit for, but who is he throwing too? Both his running backs are injury prone too. On defense other than DJ Williams their best players are at the tail end of their careers (Champ Bailey, Brian Dawkins, and 34 year old Charger cast off Jamal Williams). They wasted one first round pick on a QB who isn’t smart enough to read defenses and their other first rounder, WR Demaryius Thomas, has been hurt which will slow down his development in a traditionally slow developing position.

NFC East

Giants – I don’t love Eli Manning, but with Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs, Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, Kevin Boss, and a veteran OL that is and offense you can’t be ignoring. The defense will be a little weak to the run, but Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka, and first round pick Jason Pierre-Paul give them a plethora of passrushers. The development of young corners Terrell Thomas and Corey Webster along with the return of Aaron Ross and Kenny Phillips and signing of Antrel Rolle make passing against this team a major bitch. They will miss retired Jeff Feagles, one of the greatest directional punters ever to play the game.

Cowboys – OL is a little suspect, although it was time for Flozell the Hotel (he was a dirty player too). The concern is the replacements aren’t proven. Dez Bryant doesn’t have the work ethic to contribute as a rookie receiver, but Roy Williams is not bad – he just gets punished because clueless Jerry Jones gave up a bundle to get him. They have three good runningbacks and if they can balance them they can be effective – but not sure their coaching staff will. Felix Jones will breakdown as a 20 carry back, and they are too down on Marion Barber who actually ran pretty well last year (4.4 yard average). Tashard Choice can also be effective. The defensive front seven is good (Jay Ratliff, DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer to a lesser extent, Bradie James, Keith Brooking still has something, Igor Olshanksky is a not bad 3-4 DE) but the secondary can be beat.

Eagles – I really don’t understand why when they finally provided Donovan McNabb with real weapons (two big play receivers in DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, a threat at TE in Brent Celek, and a great possession guy in 3rd WR Jason Avant) they got rid of him – Todd Pinkston and James Thrash were not quite that caliber. Kolb is a total unknown – if he is good they are a wildcard team. Westbrook was done, but LeSean McCoy is not a look to be able to carry the load and Mike Bell is just a guy. Leonard Weaver is the rare offensive threat from the fullback position. The defense will rebound with the addition of 1st pick passrusher Brandon Graham and Ernie Sims who was traded from Detroit (proving the Lions don’t need Matt Millen to make bad moves).

Washington – McNabb does make this team better. And having Shanahan calling the shots means the OL isn’t the disaster Daniel Snyder chronically left it in. But the running backs are old, and receivers are crappy save Santana Moss – and he is old (and may be about to age rapidly now that he is off the HGH). Although Fred Davis showed he could play last year when Chris Cooley was hurt so this year they have two quality TEs. Last year I told you Brian Orakpo would be good and Albert Haynesworth would be a slug. Orakpo is already their best defender by far while Haynesworth has become a bigger malcontent than even I predicted and could potentially really kill this team this season. Otherwise the defense doesn’t have too many studs. London Fletcher and Rocky McIntosh are good at ILB, but in total the defense is just a bunch of replaceable starters. To mimic a professional talking head “Washington will be better but may not be able to show it in the tough NFC East.”

NFC North

Packers – They are the hot pick and while I think they win division I am not convinced they make the Super Bowl. Their OL is thin especially at tackle (starters are 34 and 33). They took a tackle in the first round (Bryan Buluga from Iowa), but he is seen as a right tackle and is currently a backup guard. Aaron Rodgers has stayed healthy the last two seasons, but has had several injuries in his career. Ryan Grant has proven his first season was magical, he is not really a special back. They do have a good blocking fullback in John Kuhn, a receiving corps that goes 4 deep although Jordy Nelson and James Jones would not be great starters, Donald Driver is getting older and Greg Jennings is more a deep threat than a true #1. Jermichael Finley is a budding star at TE. On defense they lost John Jolly who was a quality 3-4 DE to a drug suspension and still don’t have a great passrusher (Clay Matthews is a good OLB, but doesn’t get consistent pressure). AJ Hawk and Nick Barnett are good at ILB, but Charles Woodsen is 34 and the other CB, Al Harris is 36 and coming of knee surgery (actually on the PUP list so gone for 6 weeks). Atari Bigby is on the PUP to, so they are down two starters in the secondary with little depth. Nick Collins can cover some holes from his safety position, but how many?

Vikings – Favre is back, but with Sidney Rice hurt (I bet for the year – hips are tricky) and Chester Taylor in Chicago he will be suffering for targets – as you can see by them trading for Greg Camarillo and signing the artist formerly known as Javon Walker (later cut). He does still have Visanthe Shiancoe at TE and Bernard Berrian as a deep threat. If Percy Harvin can control his migraines they won’t terrible. But is tough for a team to be as good as they were last year – and especially so for Favre. Every team is going to go after him this year and while the OL is good, it’s not super. Better hope Toby Gerhart can pick up blitzes because he will need to be on the field to spell All Day. The defense is pretty intact with the Williams Wall having evidently beat the suspension – although Pat is 37. But spacing eating DTs can play deep into their thirties, similar to NBA centers – size doesn’t go away. Ask Ted Washington. EJ Henderson has made a remarkable recovery at MLB so the front seven should be solid. Ray Edwards has developed well at left DE to take some pressure off Jared Allen for the passrush too (and Kevin Williams gets some pressure inside) – which is good because the secondary is a mess. Their starting safties (Madieu Williams and Tyrell Johnson) have combined for 4 picks in the last two years and just one in ’09. Antoine Winfield is 33 and coming off an injury. Cedric Griffin is coming of an ACL so they may have to start Lito Sheppard. Maybe they should have kept Benny Sapp.

Lions – Hold your horses!! Calm down! CALM DOWN!! I am not saying they are even a .500, just that they are better than the Bears. On defense they traded away Ernie Sims and cut Larry Foote leaving them thin at linebacker. Julian Peterson is slowing down [he’s my age]. Their biggest addition was Kyle Vanden Bosch a 31 year old defensive end who has multiple knee reconstructions and had more than seven sacks just twice in his career. Now I like him, he’s a high motor guy, but he’s not a game changer. Most people would say second overall pick DT Ndamukong Suh is, but times I saw him at Nebraska (admittedly not that many) he just seemed to be making plays with brute physical strength, not technique – which will not translate up. Their other first round pick – Jahvid Best – looks as though he can play, which is good because Kevin Smith has been hurt a bunch (currently coming off an ACL) and not that special when he was healthy. But Best has quite an injury history of his own. Calvin Johnson is one of the four best WRs in the game (1-4 are Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, My boy Calvin, Brandon Marshall if you were curious. 5 is probably Reggie Wayne I would guess?), but Seahawks cast off Nate Burelson won’t help him much. Tes Tony Scheffler (FA Broncos)and last years’s #1 Brandon Pettigrew (from OSU, coming off an ACL as well) might be able to. In truth though Matthew Stafford is the key. I did not think he was an NFL quarterback, but he played well enough last year to make we consider it is possible, if still doubtful. Jury is still out.

Bears – The league has figured Mike Martz out and Jay Cutler will pay the price – especially since the OL is shaky. I bet he underutilizes a good TE in Greg Olsen to. How long will it before he realizes Devin Hester is not a WR and puts in the rising Devin Aromashodu? The Chester Taylor signing was wise, Forte struggled last year. On defense they will be better (although I think the league has started figuring out the Tampa-2) with linebackers Brian Urlacher and Pisa Tinoisamoa (better than your realize) coming back after combining for just 3 games last year and Julius Peppers improving the passrush. I worry about the secondary – Nate Vasher wasn’t great, but he wasn’t terrible and the only addition is 3rd round pick Major Wright who I can tell you from personal experience always looks to lay the big hit – rather than say play the ball.

NFC South

Falcons – Had two winning seasons in a row for the first time ever and I think they will keep on trucking. Matt Ryan and the Burner Turner will be healthier and they have an underrated coach in Mike Smith. Depth is an issue, they have no one besides Roddy White at WR and Tony Gonzalez is 34 – although he still looks good. On defense they need John Abraham to bounce back from a 5.5 sack season – although he is 32 and always has injury issues. Last year I told you to remember the name Tracy Porter for the Saints – this I will say the same about DE Kroy Biermann. Their first round pick LB Sean Weatherspoon is super talented, but a head case. That is okay in some positions and linebacker is one (see Taylor, Lawrence). Their biggest addition is CB Dunta Robinson who was great for the Texans before having a series of injuries. They also get CB Brian Williams back after he missed half the season with an ACL if you care.

Saints – I almost put them third, but the offense has too many weapons. Brees, P. Thomas, Bush has become a usable alternative, Colston, Meachem figured it out, Henderson, Moore should be healthy, Shocky, and Dave Thomas founder of Wendy’s. I was the head of the bandwagon last year, but I am off it now. Last year they were magical and it all came together as they traditional lovable losers caught the league by surprise. This year everyone will be gunning for them. Plus they have never been very consistent year to year. It’s basically the same bunch as last year on both sides of the ball, although Darren Sharper starts on the PUP list. That won’t hurt terribly as they have great corners in Tracy Porter and Jabari Greer – provided they can stay healthy, which has been a issue. Malcom Jenkins and Roman Harper are fine safeties too. Plus Greg Williams schemes a good passrush – but don’t expect as many sacks from DE Will Smith. LB Vilma and DT Sedrick Ellis make the run defense ok. The talent is not great in the front seven, they just scheme very well.

Panthers – Matt Moore is better than you think, but I worry public pressure will push Jimmy Clausen into the starting lineup as Carolina hovers around .500 Whomever it is, they will protected by the best running back tandem in the league – studs DeAngelo Williams and John Stewart. And they have Steve Smith – who looked rejuvenated when Moore took over last year (19 catches for 378 yards and 3TDs in 4 games). Unfortunately they don’t have anyone else unless rookie Brandon LaFell develops quicker than most WRs (I do think he works out in time, but not 2010). The defense did lose Julius Peppers, but is better than you think (in part thanks to head coach John Fox’s Xs and Os ability). John Beason is a play maker at linebacker – or he was in the middle last year before they moved him outside in the offseason. Chris Gamble and Richard Marshall are an above average corner pairing even if no one knows it. Rookie Eric Norwood might be able to help the passrush, but is pretty raw – similar to LaFell I expect his impact to come down the line (oh – for the record I expect Clausen’s impact to come in the CFL).

Buccaneers – arguable the worst team in football. I don’t believe in Josh Freeman even with an unbroken thumb. He’s throwing to a pair of shaky rookie receivers (and Philly bust Reggie Brown). Kellen Winslow will have to carry the passing game. Cadillac is nice story, but he only averaged 3.9 yards a carry (and the OL is not bad) and how much can trust him to stay healthy? His career average is just 3.8 anyway. They have no one behind him. On defense #3 overall pick Gerald McCoy will be good, but not make a defense of mainly average Joes great again. MLB Barrett Ruud is their best veteran defender – do you know who he is? I didn’t think so. I foresee another top 5 pick. This is an organization adrift: Raheem Morris was surprised to find himself as head coach last year and blundered accordingly: fired both coordinators last year offense before the season started, defense midseason). Morris is now nicknamed “Radio” by fans on bulletin boards of the team’s official site. Think the Cuba Gooding Jr. movie. It’s not entirely unfair.

NFC West

49ers – Last year I predicted them to win the West and they went 8-8, although they swept the Cardinals and played the Colts and Vikings tough. This year everyone is picking them to win the division and so will I, although there ceiling is 10 wins and it will take some luck to win even one playoff game. Alex Smith is feeling more confident because he has the same offensive coordinator for two years in a row for the first time ever. Wonderful, this still may be his last season in San Fran. But lord save us if David Carr has to start, I would rather go with the unknown in Troy Smith than a known stiff. I still worry about Frank Gore’s ability to stay healthy and the backup found Jesus and retired. Crabtree is talented, but has a terrible attitude – he managed to piss off Vernon Davis (who was a revelation last year). With two first round picks the OL will hopefully be better, especially once Eric Heitmann returns and hopefully Chilo Rachal gets benched. I’m not pleased that Jason Hill was cut. Some guys don’t practice well – he always looked good in games. The defense is largely the same personal – although I am hoping Navarro Bowman gets plenty of action (and Taylor Mays doesn’t). FA pickup Travis LaBoy will hopefully help what was a surprisingly good (44 sacks –good for third in the league) despite the presence of real rushing threat. Manny Lawson let the committee approach with 6.5 sacks and I expect him to improve (in general, not to 12 sacks). I would also not mind Reggie Smith forcing Michael Lewis to the bench at safety. The secondary is weaker than the front seven, but the defense will be carrying this team. The return game has been bad for a while, but Ted Ginn will hopefully fix that, just don’t let him drop passes on offense.

Cardinals – I am actually picking them higher this year without Kurt Warner than I did last year. Their cheap owner functionally forced Anquan Boldin out too (Steve Breaston is starter worthy, but then their 3rdWR declines). They also downgraded from Karlos Dansby to Joey Porter at OLB. Beanie Wells can’t beat out Tim Hightower at running back. While I do think Derek Anderson is better than the departed Matt Lienart, but trading for Donovan McNabb would have been better. I doubt Anderson will return to Pro Bowl form – but with two rookies behind him he is going to play. The only place they really upgrade was picking up a declining Alan Faneca at guard. They won’t be that good, but will be good enough to be second in a bad division. Also look for their defensive stats to decline because opposing teams won’t be playing from behind due to the Cardinals explosive offense.

Rams – I’m unsure about Sam Bradford, but I know he won’t make them winners that quickly – but he’s better than AJ Feeley. Added bonus – rookie left tackle. I’m a little sad Steven Jackson’s prime is being wasted on terrible teams. There is much other talent on this offense not that Donnie Avery blew his knee out. There isn’t much talent on defense either.

Seahawks – Pete Carroll has failed twice in the NFL and was a success in college by paying players. I’m not predicting great things. Father time is checking up with Matt Hasselbech. They trade for Charlie Whitehurst, who I bet takes over as the starter by the end of the season. Justin Forsett and Leon Washington are not a bad running back pair, but the offensive line may not let them show it. The receivers are not as good – they released TJ Whosyourmama for USC pet Mike Williams arguably Matt Millen’s biggest bust draft pick in Detroit. They do have a budding tight end in John Carlson. The names on defense would make it sound good – Lofa Tatupa, Aaron Curry, Marcu Trufant, Kelly Jennings, Earl Thomas, and Lawyer Milloy – but last year it sure didn’t add up.

AFC wildcards: Titans and Texans. Mike Tomlin’s declaring the Dennis Dixon would start over Charle Batch while Roethlisberger is out cemented this for me – they will start out in too big of a hole. I thought about the Pats, but the Phins are only a 9-10 win teams so if they win the division I don’t see the Pats with less wins sneaking in.

NFC wildcards: Cowboys and Saints. New Orleans as too much talent to entirely write them off. The Vikings are the only team I even see as a possibility – but I think the Saints showed how to handle them. If the Iggles front office is right about Kolb then maybe them.

NFC Champ: New York Giants. Pretty much a no brainer, solid veteran team with lots of talent that has been there before. And Tom Coughlin may be easily mockable, but he’s won a bunch of games.

AFC Champ: This was a hard pick, I almost went with the Dolphins, but Chad Henne is too young. San Diego has the handicap of Norv Turner less talent than years past. That left four, I did not want to pick a Colts repeat, don’t know the Ravens secondary can hold up, and didn’t want to pick the 6th seed Texans. That left the Titans – and Vince Young. My motto for predictions is always to be bold – NFL playoff teams turn over with crazy frequency year to year. But still take the Titans with a huge grain of salt. Predicting is hard, and predicting Super Bowl teams before the season starts is a joke – who knows what will happen. But teams with marginal quarterbacks have made it before. Vince Young is incredibly emotionally immature. Honestly the Texans, Colts, or Ravens seem just as likely.


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