1) Drew Brees, NO (@ATL)
2) Aaron Rodgers, GB (Min)
3) Tony Romo, DAL (PHI)
4) Robert Griffin III, WSH (NYG)
5) Tom Brady, NE (@MIA)
6) Matthew Stafford, DET (IND)
7) Matt Ryan, ATL (NO)
8) Peyton Manning, DEN (TB)
9) Eli Manning, NYG (@WSH)
10) Colin Kaepernick, SF (@STL)
-I see a pissed off Drew Brees coming off a rough game in San Francisco. The fight to make the playoffs and play spoiler to their bitter rivals will have the Saints’ offense operating at peak efficiency. Throw in a healthier Darren Sproles and a banged up Atlanta secondary and you get big day for Drew Brees.
-Aaron Rodgers will be looking for a rebound game after the debacle against the Giants and the Vikings will deal with his wrath. Antoine Winfield can’t cover everyone and if Rodgers can get enough protection to look down field eh could be in line for a huge game. With the possible return of Greg Jennings, this offense only gets scarier with Jennings and Nelson stretching the field and the dynamic Randall Cobb wreaking havoc underneath.
-The Eagles secondary is bad, bad to a whole new level. Since Todd Bowles took over as defensive coordinator, the defense has given up over 75% completion percentage to opposing quarterbacks while giving up 13 passing touchdowns and 0 interceptions. The defense is in free fall and just cut arguably their best pass rusher in Jason Babin. Expect Romo to have all day to find the wide open receivers (seriously, see the video of Brandon LaFell scoring from this week).
-Brady’s value falls a bit with injury to Gronk. However, Julian Edelman has stepped up big and has proven to be dangerous after the catch. Welker, Hernandez, Edelman and Lloyd are still more than enough firepower to score at will on the Dolphins.
-Corey Webster has been terrible in coverage and got roasted by Jordy Nelson for a 61-yard touchdown. The Washington has been playing pretty well and should give RGIII enough time to find some big plays down the field. Couple that with the threat of rushing yards and a touchdown and RGIII is a very good play for this week.
-The emergence of Ryan Broyles in place of the troubled Tidus Young gives Stafford a very dynamic slot player who is capable of turning a short pass into a big game. Stafford is coming off a huge performance against the once dominant Houston Texans defense. He also has Calvin Johnson to throw to and that alone can make for a big fantasy day. I expect this game to be a shootout and look for Stafford to make some big plays.
-The New Orleans defense finally held someone under 400 yards of offense. However, this is only due to the 14 points the Niners got off of Drew Brees allowing them to take their foot of the pedal. Between Julio Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and Jacquizz Rodgers underneath, Matt Ryan should be poised for a big day.
-Peyton Manning had his standard 285 yard day with 2 touchdowns (I know, not the normal 3) last week against the Chiefs. The Bucs gave up some big plays down the field to Matt Ryan last week, but were stouter on the shorter routes. Manning still does not appear to have the arm strength to throw those bombs down the field so expect him to stick to the shorter stuff. I would expect similar results to last week with a possible turnover or two to a Bucs team in big need of a win.
-Hakeem Nicks finally looked back up to speed last week which gives Manning’s value a boost. Combine that with the loss of goal-line touchdown vulture, Andre Brown and Manning should see an increased number of red zone throws, a place where Nicks is targeted often. Manning’s arm seemed to be rejuvenated and couple that with a weak Redskin’s secondary and a potentially high scoring game and Manning should put up some points.
-Colin Kaepernick has looked deadly accurate the past two weeks and shredded the Bears defense, arguably the toughest in fantasy. Expect him to hook up early and often with his receivers and using his feet to pick up some extra yardage. The only downside is the 49ers could be up big early and tone back on the offense later in the game.
Here are my top 10 Wide Receivers for the 2011 season.
1)Andre Johnson- The guy missed 3 games and played the majority of the season on a bum ankle and still racked up 86 receptions, 1216 yards and 8 tds. Arian Foster helps take some heat off the passing game giving Matt Schaub more time to look downfield at AJ. He averaged over 10 targets per game this season. Expect a healthy Johnson to post huge numbers once again, double digit touchdowns and a 1,500 yard+ season.
2) Calvin Johnson- In 3 games with Matthew Stafford he had 14 receptions, 169 yards and 3 tds. Extrapolate that over a season and you are looking at 77 receptions, 901 yards and 18 tds and I fully believe that to be on the very low end of the spectrum in terms of yards and receptions. Johnson is a freak of nature and given a little time to build a rapport with Stafford, I wouldn’t be surprised if they become the most feared duo in the NFL. I expect 12+ tds and at least 1,200 receiving yards this year.
3) Hakeem Nicks- I admit that I am a Giants fan and this might seem biased but I have seen the rapport he has with Eli Manning and this guy gets targets…. a lot of them. He had 128 targets on the year in the 13 games that he played. In those 13 games he had 79 receptions for 1052 yards and 11 tds. I’ve spent plenty of time watching Nicks and he is the red zone target in a pretty proficient offense. Manning likes to take chances downfield and Nicks is often the beneficiary, expect big things this season.
4) Roddy White- He had a bit of a dry spell near the end of the season but the targets were still coming. White led the league in targets with 179. With that many targets, the yards and receptions are bound to come. White has really morphed into a possession receiver with big play potential. He was a PPR monster this year with 115 receptions, 1389 yards and 10 tds. The Falcons offense isn’t changing so expect similar numbers for White this season.
5) Greg Jennings- Jennings had a slow first five games of the season (14 receptions, 183 yards, 3 tds). The rest of the season he caught on fire (62 receptions, 1082 yards, 9 tds). He was one of the hottest receivers through that span and he is developing truly elite chemistry with QB Aaron Rodgers. He is a huge downfield threat but has also become a threat in the short game. The Packers may have found a legitimate rushing threat in James Starks which will only help the passing game. I see big numbers for Jennings this season.
6) Brandon Lloyd- I know he was the number one receiver this year but a lot of people are expecting a big drop off for Lloyd with Tebow at the helm and a restructured Broncos team. I like Tebow as a quarterback. The threat of Tebow tucking the ball and running makes defenses dedicated more defenders to the line of scrimmage to keep an eye on him. This opens up the secondary and creates more downfield passing opportunities which happens to be Lloyd’s specialty. In the 3 games that Tebow started, Lloyd had 14 receptions for 263 yards and 2 tds. Stretch that over a season and it turns into 75 receptions for 1403 yards and 11 tds. Those are nearly identical to his total numbers from this year (77 receptions, 1448 yards, 11 tds). This shows that there is no drop off in Lloyd’s production when Tebow is quarterback versus Orton. I hope that Tebow stays the starter. There was a fire in the Broncos when Tebow was starting, a fire that was just never there with Orton. Regardless of the starting QB, Lloyd should be a very good wide receiver again.
7) Dwayne Bowe- He had a historic stretch in the middle of season. In a 6 game stretch Bowe had 43 receptions, 625 yards and 13 tds. Keeping that up for a season would have been impossible and don’t expect that kind of production next season. Then again, don’t expect the 3 games stretch with 3 receptions and 56 yards to be the norm either. Matt Cassel has proven his ability to shred porous defenses and as he becomes more comfortable with the Chiefs he should be able to grow as a quarterback and get rid of the horrific outings that marred his season. Expect Bowe and Cassel to grow as a duo and Bowe is still a fantastic leaper so the touchdowns will come.
8 ) Reggie Wayne- I keep expecting Wayne to show his age but in his 10th season, he still struck fear into opposing defenses and had a very good season (111 receptions, 1355 yards and 6 tds). He was second in the league in targets with 176. He has one of the top quarterbacks in history throwing to him so the targets will come. I’m expecting Wayne to lose a step at some point but until that happens he is a PPR monster who will put up lots of yards and a smattering of touchdowns. Dallas Clark’s return should take some heat away from Wayne and barring a dramatic injury or drop in his production, I expect Wayne to post very similar numbers to this season. Look for about 100 receptions, 1200 yards and 6-8 tds.
9) Larry Fitzgerald- The Cardinals were plagued by awful quarterbacks. Whether it was Derek Anderson, John Skelton or Max Hall, the Cardinals very rarely had any hint of solid quarterback play. Despite all of this, Fitzgerald still had 90 receptions, for 1137 yards and 6 touchdowns. His 173 targets were third in the league and his 26 red zone targets led the league. Fitzgerald is a special talent and is very nearly the only offensive weapon on the Cardinals. The offense flows through him so expect the ball to go to him often even if it is forced. I expect the numbers seen this year to be the worst you will see from Fitzgerald and even the worst was still pretty good.
10) Kenny Britt- Once again this is higher than most people will rank Britt. I really liked what I saw from Britt in the games where he was fully healthy. At 6’ 3” and 215 pounds, Britt is a matchup nightmare for corners and safeties. He has the size to win a vertical battle but is also physical enough to break tackles and turn a short reception into a long gain. Opposing defenses still have to focus on stopping Chris Johnson which is bound to leave plenty of passing opportunities. Regardless of the quarterbacking situation in Tennessee, I still see plenty of passes for Britt. He will score, the questionable part is whether or not he can rack up the yards or receptions (in PPR leagues) to be a true fantasy stud.
Just missed the cut: Mike Wallace, Dez Bryant, DeSean Jackson, Miles Austin, Mike Williams (TB), Vincent Jackson, Deion Branch (yup I really wrote that, I almost put him in the top 10)
Here is a quick rundown of my top 10 fantasy running backs for next year.
All of my top guys are pretty close together though and no one running back stands clearly above the rest for one reason or another. Sure some guys have the talent to be a clear cut number one fantasy back but the situation does not always allow it.
1) Adrian Peterson- Even in an ‘off ‘ year this guy is great. Over 1,600 yards from scrimmage and 13 tds. Plus 1, that’s right, 1 fumble after 16 the previous 2 years. However the quarterback situation in Minnesota is a mess. If, and that’s a big if, the QB can utilize Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin to threaten defenses then All-Day is set for a big year. If their gun-slinger proves incompetent *Ahem, Tavaris Jackson* then AP could be looking at another ‘down ‘ year.
2) Arian Foster- The clear cut breakout running back of the year and the NFL’s leading rusher with 1616 yards and a whopping 16 rushing tds. Foster came out of seemingly nowhere to lead Fantasy in scoring. He is a quick runner who is very capable of the home run play but also can run tough for the shorter yards. He also received the goal line carries and was a huge (66 rec, 604 yards, 2td) receiving threat. The only thing that keeps him from being my number one is the return Ben Tate. Keep an eye on the Texan’s backfield situation but I fully expect Foster to be a monster again.
3) Darren McFadden- Run DMC finally showed what he was made of this year and, when healthy, validated his 4th overall selection in the 2008 draft. The Raiders began to show some major life in the offense. McFadden not only racked up 1157 yards and 7 tds on the ground but also had 507 yards and 3 tds through the air. Keep in mind these numbers are lower due to injury. If McFadden can stay healthy, I like him to have a huge year.
4) Chris Johnson- CJ2K became CJ1.3K this year. This is not so much due to bad play but more because defenses focused solely on him. He still had 1609 total yards and 12 tds. I think that is the lowest you will get from him which is still a very solid number. He has very elite potential but is hindered by the QB play. Having Kenny Britt back will help keep defenses honest but I am not sure if Kerry Collins is scary enough to stop opposing D’s from stacking the box once again making CJ’s life miserable.
5) Maurice Jones-Drew- Man this guy is one fast bowling ball. He is just as capable of running people over as he is of blowing past them with speed. MJD is also a legitimate threat in the passing game. The only thing that scares me about him is that Rashad Jennings proved just annoying enough to steal some touches away from MJD. Jennings proved inept at the starting gig so don’t expect him to steal too much away from the Jag’s most skilled offensive player.
Plus he stuffed Shawne Merriman which is one of my favorite plays ever.
Video courtesy of youtube and vdtech543
6)Michael Turner- The Burner managed to stay healthy for a year which was a very nice reward for owners who took a chance on him. Turner’s YPC were way down but he still received 334 carries and is the crystal clear number one running back in a very prolific Falcons offense. He is not much of a threat in the passing game (12 receptions) but he will get carries and plenty of them. That will lead to a ton of yards and tds. If he can stay healthy, expect him to make fantasy owners very happy once again.
7) Deangelo Williams- I am sure I will catch some heat for this ranking but I still like him a lot. I know he was inefficient this year and had some major injury problems but he was plagued by being on the worst team in the NFL. Remember 2008 when he was totally healthy and had 20 total tds and 1600+ total yards, yeah that guy is still in there. He is certainly limited by his team and the thought of Jonathan Stewart stealing touches but he is also a free agent. If Williams manages to land on a different team (believe me anywhere is better than Carolina) then he could return to his elite status. The guy has number one running back written all over him, he just needs a team that can support him.
8 ) Jamaal Charles- Now I absolutely love Charles and ranking him this low really kills me but Chief’s coach Todd Haley just does not like to use this guy. An incredibly efficient Thomas Jones still receives the majority of the carries (245 carries, 3.7 YPC). Haley looks to take over the offensive play calling with Charlie Weiss on the way out and that scares me. Haley hasn’t seemed to figure out that Charles is the biggest threat on the offense. He was the sole bright spot in the blowout against the Ravens (9 carries, 82 yards, 9.1 YPC, 1 td) but he still only received 9 carries which just boggles my mind. Charles had an amazing 1467 rushing yards on just 230 carries this year…a record setting 6.4 yards per carry. He also picked up 468 yards on 45 catches but his downfall was the tds. Only 8 total due to Jones vulturing them. If Charles was the clear cut number one running back in KC then I would have him as my number one fantasy back, no doubt about it. With Jones and Haley consider Charles a very good fantasy back with elite potential, someone I would certainly take a risk on.
8* )Peyton Hillis- A reader mentioned him and it is very true that I overlooked Hillis and I apologize for the oversight. Hillis is an animal and is the only legitimate running back the up and coming Browns have. I’ve liked Hillis dating back to his Denver Bronco days. I love his punishing running style but also his agility and speed for a big guy. He faltered near the end of the season which scares me a little but I am willing to look past it and see his season as a whole. His workhorse load and punishing running style are why I don’t have him ranked higher. I am worried the injury bug might bite him during the wear and tear of an entire season. The idea of a healthy Montario Hardesty to steal touches scares me too.
9) Lesean McCoy- The Pittsburgh product is a great talent but his value is hurt because of Mike Vick’s presence. Vick’s talent as not only a passer but a runner opens up plenty of lanes for McCoy and makes the shovel pass particularly deadly. He also had 78 receptions making him arguably the most threatening running back in the league through the air. However, from anything 5 yards and in, Vick is more likely to just tuck the ball and run for the td himself which limits McCoy’s td potential. I like McCoy from a skill perspective but I don’t think he will receive enough carries or td opportunities to be a truly elite fantasy running back.
10) BenJarvus Green-Ellis- The Law firm has a very firm hold on the Patriot’s running situation. Sure Danny Woodhead is around as a change of pace back but make no mistake, this BJGE’s show. Tom Brady and the Pat’s passing offense is a machine and defenses are much more concerned with stopping them than BJGE. He should find plenty of lanes and with the Patriot’s most likely playing up a lot of the time, he should get plenty of carries even if most come in the 4th quarter. I predict over 1200 rushing yards this year plus a sprinkling of receiving yards and upwards of 15 tds (he had 13 this year).
Well the regular season is right around the corner so I am going to break down each game, providing fantasy insight as well as my actual game predictions. I will be doing the games in eight separate posts so here are the first 2. I’ll break down the fantasy relevant players into three categories: Good to Go, In a Pinch, Not a Prayer. Good to Go players should (now I will preface everything with should because I can’t always be right, I am not a prophet but I do try and use all of the facts and stats to make educated calls) be poised to have solid and possibly exceptional weeks. In a Pinch Players could have a solid week but they are players that I would use if I was desperate and I wouldn’t rely on them for great results. Not a Prayer players are guys that I avoid at all costs unless they are the only eligible player for that spot since they are usually better than an empty slot (although not always…see Marques Colston from last year….fumbles ring a bell?).
Minnesota Vikings vs. New Orleans Saints Thursday, September 9th, 8:30 PM
This should be a great opening game. Favre is back (like we all knew he would be) but the Vikings are missing Sidney Rice. This should be quite the rematch as the Saints sent Favre and the Vikings packing in the NFC Championship game last year. I predict plenty of blitzes from the Saints and Favre, on his surgically ‘repaired’ ankle, could be running for his life. I predict the Saints to start the season off with a big win.
Good to Go:
Percy Harvin- No Sidney Rice and Favre can still throw. Harvin should be heavily targeted plus punt and kick return possibilities….I like it.
Adrian Peterson- If Purple Jesus can stop fumbling he is poised for a great year. I like him a lot against an iffy Saints’ rushing defense.
Drew Brees, Marques Colston- Colston is an animal and Brees is just really really good. Brees will rack up some numbers and someone has to be on the receiving end of them.
In a Pinch:
Brett Favre: I expect Favre to get knocked around and throw some picks but he can still sling it and rack up yards and a couple of tds.
Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas- The Vikes have a stingy run defense. I like Reggie as more of big play receiver type and Pierre as more of a rusher with the touchdown possibility but still, I’d try and avoid these guys this week.
Visanthe Shiancoe- Big target and a good player to dump it off to if Favre is getting hammered.
Saints Defense- They most certainly could force some turnovers and get some sacks but I still imagine the Vikings will put up enough points to somewhat negate those.
Not a Prayer:
All other Vikings’ Receivers-Favre should be under durress and maybe one of these guys has an okay game but between Berrian, Camarillo and anyone else, its too hard to predict.
Vikings Defense- Nothing personal, its just the Saints are in town and they like scoring….a lot.
Cleveland Browns vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday September 12th, 1:00 PM
This game is really awful. The Browns really are still in major building mode and the Bucs are too cheap to acquire any talent. I kind of like the Browns defense and a little (very little) bit of their offense which is much more than I can say for the Bucs. In the game of the bottomfeeders, I choose the Browns.
Good to Go:
Mohamed Massaquoi- This might even be a stretch. He had some decent games last year and the Bucs defense is very weak. Delhomme, while mistake prone, still has an arm and some talent so he should be able to make Massaquoi somewhat relevant on a week-to-week basis.
Browns Defense- Adding Joe Haden certianly helped and Shaun Rogers is a big asset. The Bucs are relaying on Caddillac Williams to run and Josh Freeman to throw. Freeman’s time may be coming and the Bucs are starting to add receivers but they aren’t there yet.
Jerome Harrison-Montario Hardesty is on the ACL so Harrison is in line for a big work load. He did some damage against weak defenses last year (286 yards 3 tds against the Chiefs, 148 yards 1 td against the Raiders and 127 yards 1 td against the Jags) so he might have a good game in him.
In a Pinch:
Josh Cribbs- He is very tough to predict as he can just randomly explode for huge games through a variety of means (rushing, receiving, returning and passing). The Bucs defense isn’t good so he could definitely post some solid numbers but he also could bust, you just never know with him, its a roll of the dice.
Jake Delhomme-You will never see Delhomme higher than this category (unless he turns into the Delhomme of old, before the Tommy John surgery). He could put up passable (cringe at the pun) numbers this game.
Not a Prayer:
Tampa Bay offense-Sorry guys, maybe sometime in the future but not yet.
Bucs defense-Like them more than the offense but the Browns could still score some points and I don’t like their chances of forcing many turnovers.
Sorry about the lack of posts lately but it has been a slow time for football. I fully intend to do a post after all of the preseason games tomorrow night and I will continue doing multiple posts every week as the season goes on. Thanks for reading.
This has nothing to do with fantasy football, just straight up rankings of the 32 NFL teams and what I expect out of them for the season.
1) Indiannapolis Colts- Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon. These guys are the AFC version of the Saints’ offense. Oh yeah, they still have 4-time MVP Petyon Manning and that is good enough for me.
2) Dallas Cowboys- One of these years these guys are going to put it together. A loaded offense with Tony Romo, emerging superstar Miles Austin, rookie phenom Dez Bryan, Jason Witten and the three headed rushing attack of Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. On defense, NT Jay Ratliff, LB Demarcus Ware and defensive leader Keith Brooking return to stuff the run and pressure the quarterback. Terrence Newman and Gerald Sensebaugh still patrol the secondary and rookie LB Sean Lee could be an immediate impact player. This is a scary team, I should know, I’m a Giants fan.
3) Baltimore Ravens- The ever-dominating defense returns with Ray Lewis still roaming the middle of the field ready to destroy anyone who crosses his path. If the secondary can stay healthy long enough to get to the regular season, the defense should be scary again. A more experienced Joe Flacco has a new toy in Anquan Boldin. Let’s not forget about Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, Dante Stallworth and emerging star Ray Rice. Imagine how nasty the Ravens could be if the offense finally performs, this could be the year.
4) Green Bay Packers- Aaron Rodgers was an MVP type quarterback while running for his life. Improved O-line should reintroduce deep threat Greg Jennings. The Packers have a defense that is determined to stuff the run and create turnovers. They could get lit up some games but they have the offense to match anyone point for point. Get ready to hear “Rodgers fires deep to Jennings for the touchdown” a lot this year.
5) New Orleans Saints-Offense is still the same (minus Mike Bell). The saints are nearly unstoppable through the air and the rushing combination of Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas is pretty lethal in itself. The Saints can score, the only question is can the defense continue to pressure the quarterback as effectively as they did during their magical superbowl run. If they can, the Saints could soon find themselves back in the big game, if not, the opposing offense could start exposing the flaws in the Saints’ secondary.
6) Minnesota Vikings- Brett Favre is back but his ankle is still a big question mark. Favre got banged a lot in the NFC championship game and the Saints showed the NFL how to beat Favre and the Vikings. Sidney Rice is facing possible hip surgery and Percy Harvin cannot escape the migraines that have plagued him for years. Suddenly the aerial attack isn’t as scary as it was and I can’t believe that Favre will repeat his 33 td, 7 interception performance of last year. Those picks are bound to go up. Adrian Peterson is back but unless he cures his fumblitis, he will always have a downside to his ridiculous play-making ability. It should be fun to see how human wrecking-ball Toby Gearhart replaces Chester Taylor and the defense is as stifling as ever. The question marks are all on Favre and the offense.
7) New York Jets- If Darelle Revis comes back to team up with Antonio Cromartie in the secondary then the Jets will be even more dominant against the pass than they were last year. Even if Revis holds out, the secondary is still above average. Rex Ryan will still blitz and the Jets defense will still be awesome. The question is whether or not the Jets can score. Losing Thomas Jones and his back-back 1300+ yard seasons hurts and there is no way that LT can be the same back that TJ was. Center Nick Mangold, arguably the best center in the NFL, won’t hold out and that is a key for the Jets. Shonne Greene could turn into a superstar but his pass catching ability leaves something to be desired. If Sanchez matures into a game manager who doesn’t make dumb decisions then the Jets could score more than enough points for their overpowering defense. Santonion Holmes was a steal and maybe Braylon Edwards will finally learn to use his hands to catch instead of his facemask.
8 ) San Diego Chargers- I’m a little higher on the Chargers than anyone else. I really like rookie Ryan Mathews to put up a monster season. Using Sproles as a change-of-pace back with Mathews could turn into a lethal one-two punch. The Chargers’ fate really rests in two holdouts, LT Marcus McNeill and WR Vincent Jackson. I belive McNeill to be the more important piece. I think that the Philip Rivers can turn Malcolm Floyd into an adequate Vincent Jackson replacement. Rivers can still have a great year using the likes of Floyd, Legedu Naanee and Antonio Gates. Even with the questions, the Chargers are in the AFC and can at least whip up on that division enough to make the playoffs.
9) Atlanta Falcons- The Falcons have an defense that is on the rise. Michael Turner is back and healthy which is trouble for the rest of the league as he is a touchdown machine when given enough carries. Matt Ryan has the weapons in Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White. If Ryan can stay healthy and repeat (or even surpass) his rookie performance then the Falcons could be a legitimate NFC contender.
10) New England Patriots- Tom Brady, Randy Moss and Wes Welker. Those guys are perhaps the most dangerous offensive trio in the NFL. A healthy Fred Taylor-Sammy Morris combination should keep opposing defenses from focusing solely on the pass and a more balanced Patriots’ offense could be lethal. There are some question marks on defense but the Patriots may be able to score enough points to win the games necessary to sneak into the playoffs.
11) Cincinnati Bengals- Carson Palmer has a new weapon in TO. TO, coupled with Ochocinco are a formidable pair. If Cedric Benson is anything like the Benson of last year, the Bengals could have a solid offense to go along with a very good defense.
12) Houston Texans- They had a winning season last year and are poised to repeat that. DE Mario Williams is a beast and the rest of the defense is starting to shape up as well. If Matt Schaub can stay healthy, the Texans’ offense armed with Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, Jacoby Jones and Arian Foster should be amongst the best in the league.
13) Miami Dolphins- The Dolphins are going to make a run for AFC East supremacy. If Chad Henne continues to mature, Marshall, Henne, Brown, Williams, Bess and Fasano could make a dangerous offense. The Dolphin’s defense isn’t bad either. Watch out Jets and Pats, the Dolphins could win the division.
14) Philadelphia Eagles- I am not ready to buy into Kevin Kolb yet since his monster stats last year came against a bad defense and in garabage time against a questionable defense. However, the Eagles still have some electric wide receivers, an emerging tight end and a blitz-happy defense. I don’t think they can match Dallas but a wild card spot is a definite possibility.
15) New York Giants- The Giants have plenty of weapons on either side of the ball. The defense is loaded with stars including DEs Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck, LB Keith Bulluck, CBs Aaron Ross and Corey Webster and star safeties Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips. The offense has Eli Manning, Steve Smith, emerging phenom Hakeem Nicks and the RB tandem of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. If this team lives up to their potential the could be very dangerous but that is one big IF.
16) Tennessee Titans- Vince Young seems to be developing nicely as a QB and lets not forget about that Chris Johnson guy, the one who said he would rush for 2,500 yards. While I don’t think that will happen, he is still a great player and can single-handedly change a game. There are some question marks on the defense but if the run at the end of last season is any indication, the Titans can get hot in a hurry and maybe thats all it takes to get to the playoffs.
17) San Francisco 49ers- The fate of the niners rests in Alex Smith. He was developing quite the rapport with Vernon Davis but the receiving corps is sadly lacking. Frank Gore is still a machine and is capable of being a rushing and receiving threat. The defense is solid but I’m still not sold on either side of the ball, at least not as sold as most of the experts.
18) Carolina Panthers- Yeah they are the youngest team in the league but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good. Deangelo Williams and Johnathan Stewart are basically an offense on their own. Matt Moore has developed a connection with Steve Smith that brings back memories of the Delhomme (in his prime) Steve Smith connection. The defense is solid and the Panthers could be poised for a surprising season.
19) Chicago Bears- Jay Cutler has an arm and plenty of speed to get on the other end of his passes. Only problem is that Cutler tends to throw a lot of picks at bad times and can cost his team the game. Providing Cutler doesn’t toss too many games away, the defense and offense are both good enough to win some games.
20) Pittsburgh Steelers- The defense is good. As long as the Steelers can go about .500 in Big Ben’s absence (I believe Dennis Dixon but not Byron Leftwich to have this ability) then they have a chance to make a postseason run when he returns.
21) Washington Redskins- If Haynesworth actually plays and plays to his ability, the Skins have a formidable defense. Donovan McNabb instantly improves the offense but unfortunately the Skins still don’t have the firepower to compete in the loaded NFC East.
22) Arizona Cardinals- Beanie Wells is untested and is basically the only offensive hope. Leinart just can’t get the ball deep enough with enough accuracy to make Larry Fitzgerald a legitimate weapon. Its unfortunate that arguably the game’s best receiver has been rendered nearly irrelevant but that is exactly what has happened with Fitz in Arizona. Cardinals fans should be very afraid that Derek Anderson might be the big hope for this team.
23) Denver Broncos- I liked the defense a whole lot more before Elvis Dumervil went down for the season. The Broncos can’t get enough pressure on the QB anymore and that exposes the secondary and yes Champ Bailey is nasty, but he’s only one guy and he’s aging. Orton has looked very crisp in preseason but it remains to be seen if Jabar Gaffney, Eddie Royal and rookie Demaryius Thomas can fill the void left by Brandon Marshall’s departure.
24) Kansas City Chiefs- Jamaal Charles is an animal, he could very well be the next Chris Johnson. Offensive Coordinator Charlie Weis should help Matt Cassel and the passing attack and maybe Dwayne Bowe can come back to life this year. The defense is improving and safety Eric Berry only adds to that. The AFC West is very weak so I wouldn’t be surprised about anything….
25) Seattle Seahawks- Hasselbeck looks better than he has in years. The Hawks have Housh and Deon Branch at WR and I hear rumors of a possible Vincent Jackson trade and if that happens watch out. The running game is iffy and Russel Okung could help, when he is healthy and starting. The defense is still sketchy. Pete Carroll has some work to do to get the Seahawks into contention.
26) Detroit Lions- I like Stafford in his second season. Jahvid Best immediately helps the offense and takes some heat off of Stafford. Expect Stafford and Megatron to have a big year and the entire Lions’ offense to have, at the worst, a solid year. The big question is the defense. Suh is an instant upgrade but the secondary (minus Delmas and Bly) is just not very good. Losing Ernie Simms didn’t help either. The Lions should continue to get better but still no playoffs…yet.
27) Oakland Raiders-The Raiders have built a decent defense. The running game has potential, but both Michael Bush and Darren McFadden never seem to run with the opportunities they are given. Fargas is gone so someone needs to step up. Jason Campbell is an instant upgrade but the receiving weapons just aren’t there.
28) Jacksonville Jaguars- The Jaguars aren’t awful but they really aren’t good. They seem to go nowhere. The days of Garrard have to end at some point. MJD is nasty but he’s alone, oh so alone in a sea of bad.
29) Cleveland Browns- The Browns defense isn’t too bad. I actually have them as a sleeper defense but the offense is a whole different story. Jake Delhomme is an upgrade (believe it or not) but mohamed massaquoi and Brian Robiskie are the top receivers. Jerome Harrison has shown skills in a limited sample size and rookie Montario Hardesty has potential but the time of the Cleveland Browns is not yet upon us.
30) Buffalo Bills- C.J. Spiller is the only reason the Bills are even this high. The guy is electric and he has the potential to support the Bills offense. Besides that, the quarterback options are awful and Lee Evans is the sole receiving threat. The defense wasn’t good last year and sack leader Schobel is gone now…ouch.
31) Tampa Bay Buccaneers-The Freeman era begins. He has shown flashes of talent but made some awful mistakes. If Freeman continues to progress then the Bucs may be a contender in a couple of years but not now. The rushing game isn’t helping either. Derrick Ward has been a total bust and the primary back duties rest on Cadillac’s shoulders…not good.
32) St. Louis Rams- The defense sucks and well so does the offense. Steven Jackson is good but he’s incredibly injury prone and he can’t carry an offense on his own. The Sam Bradford era will being soon but there is still going to be lots of growing pains before the Rams find any offensive success. We’ll revisit this team next year….at the earliest.
Yeah, I know, what you see in the preseason doesn’t translate all that well to the regular season. I do believe that some of what has been seen in the preseason can be used to predict what will happen in the regular season.
1) Jamaal Charles is clearly the most talented back in KC. Through 2 games he has 9 carries for 63 yards (a very healthy 7.0 YPC) and 5 catches for 29 yards. Meanwhile Thomas Jones has 10 carries for 31 yards (3.1 YPC) and a paltry one catch for 2 yards. I know its early but Charles is clearly outplaying Jones and the Chiefs would do well to put the ball in his hands as much as possible.
2) Anthony Fasano hasn’t died…or he did and he’s been resurrected. He amassed a meager 31 catches for 339 yards and 2 tds last year and has already matched last year’s touchdown amount through 2 games of the preseason. Don’t go crazy with this but with Brandon Marshall around to take some heat off of Fasano, he might suddenly find more single coverages and start to discover his touchdown scoring ways again.
3) Having a healthy offensive line is really, really important…just ask Tony Romo. RT Marc Colombo may miss up to a month with knee surgery and LG Kyle Kosier could miss 4-6 weeks with a sprained MCL. Their absence really showed against the Chargers. The patchwork O-line had no chance of protecting Romo and he ended up running for his life on most of his plays. 4 Romo-led Cowboy drives resulted in him going 4-11 for 30 yards, 1 td and 1 ugly pick. Keep an eye on the beginning of the season as these two O-line injuries could really hurt the Cowboy’s high octane offense.
4) Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon both had solid games against Giants. Neither really distanced themselves from the other in terms of becoming the starter while Big Ben serves his 4-6 game suspension. Leftwich went 3-6 for 95 yards and 1 td including a very nicely thrown deep ball right into the hands of a streaking Mike Wallace for a 68 yard td. Leftwich even had an 11 yard carry where he…get ready for this….made some defenders (sorry Jason Pierre-Paul, you got schooled by one of the least fleet-footed qbs in the NFL, yeah we’re talking Albert Haynesworth conditioning test kind of speed) miss in the open field…shocking I know. Apparently statues can gain some yards once they start rolling. Dixon was 7-8 with 82 yards and chipped in 27 yards on the ground. Bottom line is Leftwich does have the stronger arm but he will get sacked, alot. Dixon is quite the elusive athlete and is turning into quite the game manager so it will be interesting to see who gets the nod.
5) The Colts have another emerging offensive weapon. Last team in the world that needs one but they seem to have found one to add to Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie, Anthony Gonzalez, Joseph Addai and Donald Brown. His name is Brody Eldrigde and he is a rookie TE out of Oklahoma. He was stuck behind all-star Jermaine Gresham at Oklahoma and never got a chance to show case his pass catching talents but he has been putting up some nice performances in the preseason and in camp. Maybe the Colts will use some two tight end sets…scary to think about having to cover Eldridge, Clark and Wayne in the same play but don’t be too surprised if it happens.
6) The Patriot’s offensive plays have clearly shifted. They are no longer pass, pass, pass and then run just so they can do play action for the next 3 plays. The two pronged attack of Fred Taylor and Sammy Morris proved to be very effective especially coupled with Brady’s short passes to Wes Welker. This led to effective, albeit methodical drives down the field. Brady still took one shot downfield to Moss and was only a couple of inches away from connecting. Expect a more balanced Patriot’s attack that gets back to basics and throws in a couple of downfield bombs to utilize Moss and keep opposing defenses honest.
7) TO certainly likes Cincinnati more than Buffalo. Besides being the only weapon in Buffalo, he didn’t even have a quarterback with the arm or the time to get him the ball. TO seems to be thriving in Cincy. Ochocinco is removing the double coverage he faced all last year and Palmer has the accuracy and power to make TO a legitimate deep threat. Palmer and TO already seem to be developing quite the rapport in the preaseason. TO has 9 catches for 108 yards in very limited action. Now say what you want about all of the ego in Cincy but I think these guys will get along great and could be forming an unexpectedly potent offense.
8 ) Larry Johnson sucks…still. He managed a meager 4 yards on 8 carries this week against the Ravens. Johnson can’t seem to regain even a glimpse of the the skills that made him a star in ’05 and ’06 when he rushed for back-to-back 1,750 yard, 17+ td seasons. I can’t see him having any significant role on the Skins this year, that is assuming he even makes the team. Mike Shanahan has a knack for rejuvenating old running backs and spawning 1,000 yard rushers out of seemingly nowhere so could we a see a Clinton Portis this year that resembles the consistent 1,500 yard Portis of the past, can Shanahan turn back the clock and bring the overworked and injury torn Portis back to life and the magic of his youth? Only time will tell but I wouldn’t be surprised if Portis goes for 1,100+ on the ground.
9) Bradford still doesn’t look comfortable. Granted the Rams O-line leaves something to be desired (like maybe a couple of king-sized mattresses to fill the void left by the blockers) but the Rams Swiss cheese O-line didn’t stop A.J. Feeley from completing 5 of 6 passes for 45 yards and a td (7.5 yards per attempt). The game was being played in Cleveland and was buffeted by some lake-effect rain but that didn’t stop Jake Delhomme (12-16, 127 yards, 1td, 7.9 yards per attempt) and Seneca Wallace (5-9, 67 yards, 1td, 1 int, 7.4 yards per attempt) from slinging it around much more effectively than Bradford who was 6 of 14 for 24 yards for a mere 1.7 yards per attempt. Bradford hasn’t looked good yet and if Feeley’s thumb injury proves to be anything significant, the rookie’s time could be fast approaching. A couple of shaky preseason games is no reason to worry but hopefully Bradford begins to look more comfortable in the Rams offense otherwise 0-16 and a whole lot of questions are not that far off.
10) Kyle Orton has looked good, I mean really good this postseason. In fairly limited action he has gone 24-35 for 261 yards, 4 tds and 1 int good for a 116.4 rating. What is really impressive about Orton’s numbers is the personnel that have been around him during these games. In seven preseason drives, he has manufactured 4 touchdowns behind a patchwork o-line, a slew of injured halfbacks and a revolving door of receivers. Orton does seem to be developing quite the relationship with Jabar Gaffney (8 catches for 135 yards in the preseason and 24 catches for 282 yards and 2 tds through the last 2 weeks of last season). Between Gaffney, Georgia Tech rookie Demaryius Thomas and Eddie Royal, Orton does have some weapons to work with. Keep an eye on Orton and the Denver passing attack, they could be the surprise of the season.