He never hurt his arm. He hurt his knee, but he was never a mobile quarterback. The only thing that could bring him down is a lack of confidence in his abilities, but, correct me if I’m wrong, Tom Brady doesn’t seem like someone who has confidence issues. Ever. He may take a few weeks to get back into the flow of things, but he was just no much better than anyone else before he got hurt. His supporting cast is great so his team should get a lot of wins and the quarterback at the helm of the team with the best record often wins this award.
Apologies to: Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson
Defensive player of the year: DE Mario Williams (Houston)
Mario Williams has been great over the last 2 seasons with 26 sacks, but he’s 24 and playing with his best supporting cast yet. This could be the year that the former #1 pick fully reaches his full potential. He’s an athletic beast who should be able to get 17-20 sacks this year to lead the league. The league leader in sacks often wins this award.
Apologies to: DeMarcus Ware, Jared Allen, James Harrison
Offensive rookie of the year: RB Knowshon Moreno (Denver)
The Broncos don’t have much else offense so they’ll go to Moreno, their feature back, a lot. He’s running behind a great offensive line and should get 300 carries. He’s a great pass catcher as well and should be able to accumulate 1500 all purpose yards and 10 touchdowns which should be more than enough to win this.
Apologies to: Chris Wells, Mark Sanchez
Defensive rookie of the year: OLB Aaron Curry (Seattle)
Linebackers often win this award because defensive backs and defensive lineman often have a year or two adjustment period. Aaron Curry is one of the best rookie linebackers in a while. He should match or exceed Jerod Mayo’s stats from last season. Mayo was the 2008 defensive rookie of the year.
Apologies to: Tyson Jackson, Brian Cushing
Comeback player of the year: QB Tom Brady (New England)
Its between him and Shawne Merriman, and while I believe both should be able to bounce back this year, if Brady wins MVP, this award should be his.
Apologies to: Shawne Merriman, Osi Umenyiora
Super Bowl MVP: QB Tom Brady (New England)
Quarterback of the Super Bowl winning team almost always wins this award and if the Patriots win the Super Bowl, as I believe they will, Brady will get this award again.
IND over JAC 38-21
Jacksonville is a nice sleeper, but Indianapolis has home field and Peyton Manning, who has a lot of success in the playoffs against teams other than Pittsburgh, San Diego, and New England.
SD over HOU 23-17
Houston has a great future, but no postseason experience. San Diego has a lot of talent, but tends to play down to the level of the opponent. Still, I can’t see Houston winning this one.
NFC First Round
CAR over WAS 28-10
Jason Campbell will be overmatched in the playoffs. He’s not the most poised quarterback and doesn’t have a playoff start. That’s going to be huge here. Unless Delhomme gives the other team the ball 6 times again, they’ll win here.
PHI over SEA 34-21
Seattle is a good squad, but Philly is simply on a different level in January, or at least early January.
NE over SD 34-31
This is a pretty even matchup, but I like Tom Brady way more than Phillip Rivers as my quarterback in the playoffs. By January, Brady’s knee injury and the bad effects from it should be a thing of the past
PIT over IND 28-13
Peyton Manning simply cannot win in the playoffs against team who use 3-4s. Pittsburgh’s defense will swarm all over him and make him look unmanning like. Indianapolis’ defense is not one I would trust in the playoffs.
CHI over CAR 23-20
This one if going to come down to quarterback play and, for once, Chicago has a good quarterback. You can’t trust Jake Delhomme in the playoffs and, even though he’s inexperienced, I like Jay Cutler in this game.
PHI over NYG 21-14
In a rematch of last year’s NFC semifinal game, the Eagles take down Eli and company again as Eli can’t take over the game in the cold New Jersey January.
AFC Conference Championship
NE over PIT 17-13
A very interesting matchup, but I have to go with Tom Brady and this talent packed Pats team, even if its an ugly game. They have taken back their spot as the best team in the AFC.
NFC Conference Championship
PHI over CHI 28-23
I don’t like Jay Cutler that much. In spite of Donovan McNabb’s struggles in the NFC Championship game in his career, at least he’s been there. Chicago’s defense is the defense that can carry a team any more so I take Philly here.
NE over PHI 31-21
If the Patriots have Brady back to full strength, which they very likely will by February, they will be hard to beat. You can’t overlook the fact that Donovan McNabb always seems to choke at the last second and that Tom Brady has had success in this game before.
Based on my divisional season predictions
Read them here
Last year: 4-12 missed playoffs
Key additions: WR TJ Houshmanzadeh (free agency), DT Cory Redding (trade), DT Colin Cole (free agency), CB Ken Lucas (free agency), OLB Aaron Curry (draft), OG Max Unger (draft), WR Deon Butler (draft)
Key losses: RB Maurice Morris (free agency), FB Leonard Weaver (free agency), WR Bobby Engram (free agency), DT Rocky Bernard (free agency), OLB Julian Peterson (trade)
The Seahawks can’t be any worse this season. Last year, they were hit with so many injuries, Matt Hasselbeck missed more than half the season and when he played, he might as well have not played. He played awful because pretty much every receiver who caught a ball last season got hurt. This year, Hasselbeck is 100% and thanks to a free agent signing, he now has the best receiver he’s ever played with in TJ Houshmanzadeh. Unless he gets hurt again, he should have one of the best seasons of his career and thus the whole offense will be very strong. Defensively, they may be one of the most improved teams. On the defensive line, Lawrence Jackson, a former 1st round pick, should be much improved. He struggled a bit as a rookie last year, but should be a lot better in his 2nd year. Historically, defensive ends do much better in their 2nd year. The middle of the defensive line is stronger as much with the additions of Colin Cole and Cory Redding. They may have the best linebacking corps in the NFL with Leroy Hill, Lofa Tatupu, and Aaron Curry. Curry, though he is a rookie, shouldn’t struggle. He was the 4th overall pick and rookie linebackers have not had a lot of trouble transitioning to the NFL. He should have a rookie year similar to linebacker Jerod Mayo, who was the defensive rookie of the year last year. Their secondary should also be better with the addition of Ken Lucas. With one of the easiest schedules in the NFL and a weak division, they should reclaim their NFC West title and make the playoffs once again.
This year: 11-6 lose in first round
Last year: 12-8 lost in Super Bowl
Key additions: CB Bryant McFadden (free agency), RB Chris Wells (draft), OLB Cody Brown (draft), FS Rashad Johnson (draft)
Key losses: RB Edgerrin James (cut), DE Antonio Smith (free agency), CB Rod Hood (cut), CB Eric Green (free agency)
The Cardinals, simply because of the Seahawks being healthy again, should miss the playoffs. I’m expecting this team to go 9-7 again, despite how good they were in the playoffs last year. I expect this team to fall back to where they were last year in the regular season. Kurt Warner is 38 and always an injury risk. Their defense will feel the loss of Antonio Smith more than they think. He’s one of my favorite NFL players and one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the league, but overall, this team is similar to the one they had last year so I’m not expecting more than 9 wins out of them, which won’t cut it with the Seahawks back to full strength.
This year: 9-7 miss playoffs
San Francisco 49ers
Last year: 7-9 miss playoffs
Key additions: QB Damon Huard (free agency), WR Brandon Jones (free agency), OT Marvel Smith (free agency), DE Demetric Evans (free agency), OLB Marques Harris (free agency), CB Dre Bly (free agency), WR Michael Crabtree (draft), RB Glen Coffee (draft)
Key losses: WR Bryant Johnson (free agency), OT Jonas Jennings (cut), NT Ronald Fields (free agency), OLB Tully Banta-Cain (free agency)
Shaun Hill and this Niners offense should run a very conservative offense, but I don’t think they have the defense to support it. Their pass rush was one of the worst in the NFL last year and they didn’t upgrade it. Their front 3 is average at best and lacks a true nose tackle. Their secondary has holes at cornerback and at safety. Patrick Willis is amazing, but he’s only one player. There will be a lot of pressure on quarterback Shaun Hill and their running backs. Frank Gore and Glenn Coffee make a nice running back combo, but Shaun Hill doesn’t have a lot to work with in terms of receivers, even with the selection of Michael Crabtree in the NFL Draft. Crabtree is threatening to holdout so he’ll miss valuable time in training camp, which will hurt him. Crabtree has never played in a pro style offense so he’ll need more time to get adjusted in the NFL. If his holdout is extended, he might not get adjusted until next season. Hill is also playing behind a poor offensive line so I don’t think he can lead this team unless he gets a ton of help, which I doubt he will. They have a nice future with Crabtree and 2 picks in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft, but they aren’t good enough at any one thing this year to win more than or so games.
This year: 6-10 miss playoffs
St. Louis Rams
Last year: 2-14 miss playoffs
Key additions: QB Kyle Boller (free agency), WR Ronald Curry (free agency), WR Laurent Robinson (trade), C Jason Brown (free agency), DT Hollis Thomas (free agency), SS James Butler (free agency), OT Jason Smith (draft), MLB James Laurinaitis (draft), CB Bradley Fletcher (draft)
Key losses: QB Trent Green (retirement), WR Torry Holt (cut), WR Drew Bennett (cut), WR Donte Hall (free agency), OT Orlando Pace (cut), DT La’Roi Glover (retirement), OLB Pisa Tinoisamoa (cut), CB Fakhir Brown (free agency), SS Corey Chavous (cut)
I love what the Rams did in the 2009 draft. They address a lot of their needs and with the selection of Jason Smith they are now prepared to bring in a franchise quarterback. However, they aren’t going to get a lot of production from the quarterback position this year. Marc “concussion” Bulger is still the quarterback and he doesn’t have a lot at wide receiver. They have nice potential on defense for the future, but it should be a rough year once again for them on that side of the ball. Steven Jackson is a talented player, but he’s not a quarterback so he won’t be able to carry this team that far by himself.
This year: 3-13 miss playoffs
Last year: 12-5 lost in NFC semis
Key additions: DE Everette Brown (draft), CB Sherrod Martin (draft), DT Corvey Irvin (draft)
Key losses: WR DJ Hackett (cut), C Geoff Hangartner (free agency), CB Ken Lucas (cut)
Everything went right for the Panthers last year, at least in the regular season. They didn’t have injury problems, in fact this was one of the healthiest teams in the league. They may not be so lucky this year. They also play a tougher schedule and are looking very thin in the secondary. Their running back combination of Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams will still lead the way for a very good offense, but the tougher schedule, weakened secondary, and possible injuries could make this a rougher season for the Panthers. I still like them as a playoff team, but they won’t be as good as last year.
This season: 11-7 lose in AFC semis
New Orleans Saints
Last year: 8-8 missed playoffs
Key additions: FB Heath Evans (free agency), DT Rod Coleman (free agency), CB Jabari Greer (free agency), SS Darren Sharper (free agency), FS Malcolm Jenkins (draft)
Key losses: RB Deuce McAllister (cut), WR David Patten (free agency), DT Hollis Thomas (free agency), OLB Dan Morgan (free agency), CB Mike McKenzie (cut), FS Josh Bullocks (free agency)
I’m not ready to call them a playoff team yet. Their offense is good, but the defense is still not great. Jabari Greer has been brought in, but I don’t think he fits the system. Malcolm Jenkins will be an upgrade over whatever they had last year at safety, but he’s still just a rookie. Darren Sharper has had a great career, but he’s on the wrong side of 30 and losing his speed as a ball hawker. They didn’t fix the front 7 up very much and while I think this team will be better than they were last year, lack of defense and a tough schedule will keep them out of the playoffs.
This year: 9-7 miss playoffs
Last year: 11-6 lost in first round
Key additions: TE Tony Gonzalez (trade), MLB Mike Peterson (free agency), DT Peria Jerry (draft), SS William Moore (draft), CB Chris Owens (draft)
Key losses: WR Laurent Robinson (free agency), DT Grady Jackson (free agency), OLB Michael Boley (free agency), MLB Keith Brooking (free agency), CB Domonique Jackson (free agency), SS Lawyer Milloy (free agency)
The Falcons’ passing game gets a lot better with the maturation of Matt Ryan and the addition of Tony Gonzalez, but the running game simply can’t be as good as they were last year with Michael Turner coming off of a huge workload. The defense, which was in the bottom 3rd of the league last year, lost 5 starters. Some of them were only starters in name, but there’s no denying that having to start 5 new guys on defense will hurt this team. The only way their pass rush isn’t worse this season is if John Abraham, at 31, does as well this year as he did last season, or if Jamaal Anderson finally sheds his bust label. While one of those two things happening is not impossible, I wouldn’t bet on it. Add in a much tougher schedule and, even with the improvements to the passing game, this is not a playoff team for this year. They have an extremely bright future though.
This year: 8-8 miss playoffs
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last year: 9-7 missed playoffs
Key additions: QB Byron Leftwich (free agency), RB Derrick Ward (free agency), TE Kellen Winslow (trade), OLB Angelo Crowell (free agency), K Mike Nugent (free agency), QB Josh Freeman (draft), DT Roy Miller (draft)
Key losses: QB Jeff Garcia (free agency), QB Brian Griese (cut), RB Warrick Dunn (cut), WR Joey Galloway (cut), WR Ike Hillard (cut), DE Kevin Carter (free agency), DT Jovan Haye (free agency), OLB Cato June (cut), OLB Derrick Brooks (cut), CB Phillip Buchanon (cut)
32 year old head coach Raheem Morris was hired this offseason and he pretty much got rid of everyone on the roster older than him, with the exception of Ronde Barber. The problem was, even with a lot of cap room, he did a poor job of replacing them, especially on defense. Now, instead of having an old defense, they have a bunch of backups learning a new system. Cato June was replaced by the often injured Angelo Crowell. Derrick Brooks was replaced by Jermaine Phillips. Phillips played strong safety last season and not only is he completely out of position and way too small at linebacker, they’ve lost their best safety. They have some decent talent on the defense, Gaines Adams and Barrett Ruud, but overall, this defense is going to have major growing pains this season. The offense meanwhile, looks decent. They have 2 above average running backs, a great offensive line, and 3 above average pass catchers. It will be up to whoever plays quarterback to make the most out of it. The problem I see is that, they won’t have a lot of leadership from the quarterback position because whoever wins the job will probably win it in the middle of training camp and the starter at the position could be changed midseason. They need strong play and leadership from the quarterback position, because they will be playing from behind so much due to a bad defense, and I don’t think they’ll get it.
This year: 4-12 miss playoffs
Last season: 9-7 miss playoffs
Key additions: QB Jay Cutler (trade), OT Orlando Pace (free agency), OT Kevin Schaffer (free agency), OLB Pisa Tinoisamoa (free agency), FS Josh Bullocks (free agency), DT Jarron Gilbert (draft), WR Juaquin Iglesias (draft)
Key losses: QB Kyle Orton (trade), QB Rex Grossman (free agency), WR Marty Booker (cut), OT John Tait (retirement), OT John St. Clair (free agency), FS Mike Brown (free agency)
The Bears finally have a franchise quarterback. However, he isn’t going to get a lot of help. He has some receivers, running back Matt Forte, tight end Greg Olsen, former kick returner Devin Hester, and Earl Bennett, who Cutler played with at Vanderbilt. However, he has nothing near what he had in Denver, he’ll play a tougher schedule in a windy stadium the gets snow in the late months where quarterbacks just have not succeeded in the past so I wouldn’t call Cutler the Super Bowl winning savior of the Bears. He will be supported by a good running back, Matt Forte, but if Forte gets hurt, always a possibility with running backs, they don’t have a great back to come in and play. The defense is good and certainly better than what Cutler had in Denver, but they aren’t on the Super Bowl level they were in 2006. This will be a good team and getting Cutler, who is still very young, is a great move for the future of this offense and this team, but I’m not loving their Super Bowl chances this year.
This season: 12-6 lose in NFC Championship
Last season: 10-7 lost in first round
Key additions: QB Sage Rosenfels (trade), WR Percy Harvin (draft), OT Phil Loadholt (draft), CB Asher Allen (draft)
Key losses: QB Gus Frerotte (cut), C Matt Birk (free agency), SS Darren Sharper (free agency)
Brett Favre is not a Viking as of this posting, so I will just pretend he doesn’t exist. Even if he does sign with them, my prediction isn’t going to be a whole lot different. Favre is coming off of arm surgery and had an awful season last year with New York. Even if he’s in town, the passing game won’t be a strength of this team. The running game, however, will, led by Adrian Peterson. Percy Harvin will help this team in the backfield, as will as in the slot as a receiver. They are also experimenting with Harvin as a wildcat type quarterback. Their defense is very good again, but could take a huge hit as their strength, the running game, could be weakened by the possible suspensions of Kevin and Pat Williams. That will hurt this defense big time for the first 4 weeks of the season. I’ll give the Vikings a solid 9 wins for now, but know that could go down to 8 if the Williamses get suspended and up to 10, possibly, if they bring in Favre.
This season: 9-7 miss playoffs
Green Bay Packers
Last season: 6-10 missed playoffs
Key additions: FS Anthony Smith (free agency), NT BJ Raji (draft), OLB Clay Matthews (draft)
Key losses: OT Mark Tauscher (free agency), DT Colin Cole (free agency)
The Packers were 0-7 last season in games decided by 4 points or less. Unless they spent the entire offseason breaking mirrors and running under ladders, they won’t have that bad of luck again. Aaron Rodgers and his young receivers should continue to grow this season and make this passing attack even more dangerous. However, they didn’t really make any upgrades to this bad defense, with the exception of 2 rookies, and they’re also running a new defensive system this year, switching to the 3-4. Their running game is a question as well. I have no reason to believe that Ryan Grant will improve off of his awful 2008 showing as he’s only really been good for about a half season in his career. They’ll score a lot of points and be a pass heavy team, but they aren’t a playoff team in my mind.
This season: 8-8 miss playoffs
Last season: 0-16 epically failed, missed playoffs
Key additions: RB Maurice Morris (free agency), WR Dennis Northcutt (trade), WR Bryant Johnson (free agency), OT Daniel Loper (free agency), OT Jon Jansen (free agency), DT Grady Jackson (free agency), OLB Julian Peterson (trade), MLB Larry Foote (free agency), CB Phillip Buchanan (free agency), CB Eric King (free agency), CB Anthony Henry (trade), QB Matt Stafford (draft), TE Brandon Pettigrew (draft), FS Louis Delmas (draft), OLB DeAndre Levy (draft), WR Derrick Williams (draft)
Key losses: QB Jon Kitna (trade), QB Dan Orlovsky (free agency), WR Shaun McDonald (free agency), WR Mike Furrey (free agency), DT Cory Redding (trade), DT Shaun Cody (free agency), ILB Paris Lenon (free agency), CB Leigh Bodden (cut), CB Travis Fisher (cut), FS Dwight Smith (cut), SS Gerald Alexander (trade)
The good news, they can’t be any worse this season. That’s about where the good news ends. Their defense was horrific last season. They brought in a lot of players to help them out, the only problem, most of them are old veterans who are average at best. They didn’t upgrade the defensive line at all, which was their biggest weakness last season. In fact, one can argue their defensive line is weaker with the losses of Shaun Cody and Cory Redding. Matt Stafford was a good pick, but they didn’t get him any protection, with the exception of career backup Daniel Loper and the ancient Jon Jansen. I have no reason to believe this league worst offensive line will be any better this season, which means that Stafford either won’t play or will get pummeled. The only way this offense gets much better is if the Daunte Culpepper of old comes back and, behind this offense line, that’s not likely. He has a decent group of receivers led by Calvin “the Freak” Johnson, but he won’t have a lot of time to find his downfield targets.
This season: 2-14 miss playoffs
Last season: 12-5 lost in NFC semis
Key additions: DT Chris Canty (free agency), DT Rocky Bernard (free agency), OLB Michael Boley (free agency), FS CC Brown (free agency), WR Hakeem Nicks (draft), OLB Clint Sintim (draft), OT William Beatty (draft), WR Ramses Barden (draft), TE Travis Beckum (draft)
Key losses: RB Derrick Ward (free agency), WR Plaxico Burress (cut), WR Amani Toomer (free agency), SS James Butler (free agency), SS Sammy Knight (free agency), K John Carney (free agency)
Don’t pencil the Giants in the Super Bowl yet. Eli Manning has struggled in the past without Plaxico Burress, as he did for the last 4 games of last season, as well as in the Giants’ playoff loss to the Eagles. The Giants tried the best they could to replace Burress, drafting Hakeem Nicks, a 6-1 possession receiver who projects as a #1 target, as well as Ramses Barden, 6-6 end zone threat. His most reliable option is veteran Dominik Hixon, a career journeyman. His #1 option is Nicks, who, although he played in a pro offense in college, is still just a rookie. Barden, also a rookie, figures to be his best end zone threat. Mario Manningham and Steve Smith will also be in the mix, but they are in their 2nd and 3rd years respectively and have never shown much in the pros. Kevin Boss is the 6-6 tight end, but aside from being tall, he doesn’t offer much on the football field. He may lose his job to, yet another rookie. Travis Beckum, by midseason. Eli’s receiving corps have good potential, but are average at best for this season so we’ll have to see what kind of quarterback that makes him. Luckily, everything around him will be going good. They have a great running back, despite losing Derrick Ward to free agency. Brandon Jacobs is still the bruising #1 back behind this great offensive line and Ahmad Bradshaw and rookie Andre Brown should be able to pick up Ward’s carries from last season. The defense is going to be better than ever this season, probably even better than the defense which won them the 2008 Super Bowl. They had an elite pass rush last season, even with Osi Umenyiora hurt. Umenyiora is now 100% and they have a great 3 man defensive end rotation with Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka, and Justin Tuck. They should get 50 sacks this season as a team with ease, with the additions of pass rushers such as Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard to the inside of their defensive line. Their linebacking corps are better with the additions of Michael Boley and Clint Sintim to play opposite Danny Clark and the secondary is solid and will get a lot of picks because the defensive line is creating so much pressure. This is still one of the NFC’s elite team, but whether or not Eli Manning can succeed with this current group of receivers will make or break this team this season.
This season: 11-6 lose in NFC semis
Last season: 8-8 miss playoffs
Key additions: OG Derrick Dockery (free agency), DT Albert Haynesworth (free agency), P Hunter Smith (free agency), OLB Brian Orakpo (draft), CB Kevin Barnes (draft)
Key losses: OT Jon Jansen (cut), OG Pete Kendall (free agency), DE Demetric Evans (free agency), DE Jason Taylor (cut), OLB Marcus Washington (cut), CB Shawn Springs (cut)
The Redskins are my NFC sleeper. Let’s start with the defense, where they have added Albert Haynesworth. In my AFC South preview, I talked about the importance of Haynesworth to the Titans and how their defense would struggle without him. He should have the reverse effect on the Redskins’ stop unit. First, he’s a great pass rusher for a defensive tackle and an outstanding run stopper so that definitely helps. But, he’s also such a dominating force that defenses will have to put 2 guys on him, opening up one-on-one matchups for defensive ends such as Andre Carter, who had 10.5 sacks in 2007. He could have double digits this season. It’s unclear who will play opposite Carter, but it looks like it will be veteran Phillip Daniels on running downs and rookie Brian Orakpo on passing downs. Whoever is there, should have a one-on-one matchup in pass rush thanks to Haynesworth. As for Orakpo, I actually love what they are doing with him. They are using him as a defensive end on passing downs and an outside linebacker on running downs. He’s an above average run stopper for an outside linebacker, but a below average run stopper for a defensive end. He’s an above average pass rusher for a defensive end, but would struggle in pass coverage as an outside linebacker. He’s likely their defensive end of the future, despite the fact that they just drafted Jeremy Jarmon, but he won’t play on the line full time until he’s an all-around good defensive end. He’ll contribute to their pass rush this season, which, thanks to Haynesworth, will be very dangerous. Their secondary is excellent and will get a bunch of picks thanks to this pass rush. I like the Redskins defense as a fantasy sleeper. This offense, figures to be better as well. Jason Campbell is finally spending a 2nd straight season in the same offensive system, plus he’s a free agent in 2010 with no extension so he’ll be motivated. Both of those are great for the offense as a whole. The running game again should be strong with Clinton Portis. The only thing that you have to worry about with the team is Portis’ health. He has been healthy for the majority of his career, which, sadly, for a 28 year old running back, does not mean you’re healthy, it means you’re due. Still, I like this team’s chances.
This season: 11-6 lose in first round
Last season: 11-7-1 lost in NFC Championship
Key additions: FB Leonard Weaver (free agency), OT Stacy Andrews (free agency), OT Jason Peters (trade), CB Ellis Hobbs (trade), SS Sean Jones (free agency), WR Jeremy Maclin (draft), RB LeSean McCoy (draft)
Key losses: RB Corell Buckhalter (free agency), TE LJ Smith (free agency), OT Tra Thomas (free agency), OT Jon Runyan (free agency), CB Lito Sheppard (trade), FS Brian Dawkins (free agency), SS Sean Considine (free agency)
The Eagles may have their most talented team since they made the Super Bowl. But they will struggle, or at least be average for the first couple months of the season again, before turning it on at the right time, especially since Brian Westbrook may not be ready for week 1. However, this is a team with no holes. Donovan McNabb can no longer complain about having no good receivers. DeSean Jackson surprisingly emerged as a #1 last season as a rookie and should only continue to get better. McNabb also should have a solid #2 this year. It may be rookie Jeremy Maclin, but he did not play in a pro style offense in college, so more likely it’ll be Kevin Curtis, who was excellent in 2007, before getting hurt in 2008. He’s 100% now. He also has Reggie Brown and Hank “how are you married to Kendra Wilkinson” Baskett to throw to so he should be set in that department. When Westbrook is healthy, he’s also a great pass catcher. If Westbrook is not healthy and the injuries linger, it will hurt, but they brought in rookie LeSean McCoy for this reason. They also could sign a free agent like Edgerrin James to help in the running game. Their offensive line is also as good as it’s been in years and the defense is solid overall so once this team gets their act together, they should be an NFC contender capable of going on a nice playoff run.
This season: 13-7 lose in Super Bowl
Last season: 9-7 missed playoffs
Key additions: QB Jon Kitna (trade), DE Igor Olshansky (free agency), MLB Keith Brooking (free agency), SS Gerald Sensabaugh (free agency), MLB Jason Williams (draft), OT Robert Brewster (draft)
Key losses: WR Terrell Owens (cut), DE Chris Canty (free agency), NT Tank Johnson (free agency), OLB Greg Ellis (cut), MLB Zach Thomas (free agency), CB Pacman Jones (cut), CB Anthony Henry (trade), SS Roy Williams (cut)
This team is a mess. They tried addition by subtraction this offseason, getting rid of Terrell Owens, Greg Ellis, Pacman Jones, Roy Williams, and not resigning Tank Johnson, but they forgot to try addition by addition. Their only big additions were a few rookies, a borderline starter strong safety, a backup quarterback which they had to trade a starting cornerback to get, and two guys in Igor Olshansky and Keith Brooking who aren’t a whole lot better than the guys they replaced, in fact, in Olshansky’s case, based off his production last year, you could argue that’s he’s a major downgrade on the defense line from Chris Canty. Tank Johnson is gone, but they did not bring in a true nose tackle. Jay Ratliff will play there full time, at 298 pounds, and get run over on the three man line. Their pass rush was phenomenal last season, but they won’t be as good this season, simply because Greg Ellis is gone and expecting 20 sacks again out of DeMarcus Ware, however good of a player he is, is ridiculously. Their secondaries weaknesses, and there are many, will be brought into the forefront this season with the weakened pass rush. On offense, Tony Romo is still here and you can decide for yourself whether or not this is a good thing. However, that means they’ll probably have a bad December again. Their running game should be strong, but the passing game will be weaker with Owens gone. And of course, this whole mess is still being coached by Wade Phillips, whose players hide from him when they want to give someone else playing time. He’s seems like he has his player’s respect (that was sarcasm by the way).
This season: 6-10 miss playoffs
San Diego Chargers
Last season: 9-9 lost in AFC semis
Key additions: OLB Larry English (draft), OG Louis Vasquez (draft)
Key losses: OG Mike Goff (free agency), DE Igor Olshansky (free agency), OLB Marques Harris (free agency)
The Chargers should regain their place among the AFC elite now that they are fully healthy. Antonio Gates, LaDainian Tomlinson, Phillip Rivers, and Shawn Merriman all were coming off of major injuries last season, but now, with the exception of possibly Merriman, all are healthy, and if Merriman isn’t, they drafted Larry English to replace him. They might start out slow again, but this team is going to find their groove as an AFC contender at the right time.
This season: 12-6 lose in AFC semis
Kansas City Chiefs
Last season: 2-14 miss playoffs
Key additions: QB Matt Cassel (trade), WR Bobby Engram (free agency), OG Mike Goff (free agency), OLB Mike Vrabel (trade), MLB Zach Thomas (free agency), FS Mike Brown (free agency), DE Tyson Jackson (draft), DE Alex Magee (draft)
Key losses: QB Damon Huard (cut), WR Will Franklin (free agency), TE Tony Gonzalez (trade), OG Adrian Jones (free agency), OLB Donnie Edwards (cut), MLB Pat Thomas (free agency), CB Patrick Surtain (cut)
The Chiefs have a good quarterback, which puts them ahead of the Raiders and Broncos, but for those who think that Cassel will be the star the Chiefs are paying him so much to be, they are wrong. He has a few decent receivers, but Dwyane Bowe and Bobby Engram aren’t Randy Moss and Wes Welker. Kansas City’s offensive line is also a lot worse than New England’s and Cassel took a lot of sacks last season even behind that line. Expect him to get pummeled this season and for him to have simply an average season leading this offense. He’s better than JaMarcus Russell and Kyle Orton, who the Raiders and Broncos have respectively, and he’s better than Tyler Thigpen, who the Chiefs had last year, but he’s not a Pro Bowler. The defense is going to be awful again. New GM Scott Pioli took a different, non traditional route to fixing the pass rush that got 10 sacks all last season. Rather than bringing in pass rushers, he switched the system up to a more complicated 3-4 that he does not have the personnel for. Mike Vrabel is a good 3-4 rush linebacker and that should help them at least be a little better in terms of pass rush, but not much. Tyson Jackson stabilizes their run defense, but putting Glenn Dorsey at nose tackle is going to cancel that out. They are better than the Raiders and Broncos overall, but not by a whole lot and should still be in for a rough season.
This season: 6-10 miss playoffs
Last season: 5-11 miss playoffs
Key additions: QB Jeff Garcia (free agency), FB Lorenzo Neal (free agency), WR Will Franklin (free agency), OT Khalif Barnes (free agency), C Samson Satele (trade), DE Greg Ellis (free agency), WR Darrius Heyward Bey (draft), SS Michael Mitchell (Ohio), DE Matt Shaughnessy (draft)
Key losses: FB Justin Griffith (cut), WR Ronald Curry (cut), WR Ashley Lelie (free agency), OT Kwame Harris (cut), C Jake Grove (free agency), DE Kalimba Edwards (cut), SS Gibril Wilson (cut)
The Raiders are bad, but I think they might actually be better this season, especially offensively, for a few reasons. One, quarterback JaMarcus Russell (probably) can’t be any worse this season than last season. Two, running back Darren McFadden can’t possibly be hurt as much as he was last year. Three, while Darrius Heyward Bey was an awful selection at #7 in the NFL draft, he does have limbs (we think) which makes him better than the nothing they had at receiver last year. Four, they actually have a good left tackle. After using Kwame Harris, who, in my opinion, was the worst starting left tackle in the NFL last season, they finally signed a left tackle in Khalif Barnes. I don’t know if that signing was made while Al Davis was on the crapper or what, but, barring a repeat performance of Barnes’ awful 2008 season, he is a major upgrade for the team at that position. Barnes was just 2 years ago one of the most promising young left tackles in the NFL. The defense, on the other hand, should be a little worse with the loss of Gibril Wilson. I can’t see this team being worse than they were last season, but I don’t think they’ll be too much better either which means another double digit loss season, even with their pancake schedule.
This season: 5-11 miss playoffs
Last season: 8-8 miss playoffs
Key additions: QB Kyle Orton (trade), QB Chris Simms (free agency), RB Corell Buckhalter (free agency), WR Jabar Gaffney (free agency), MLB Andra Davis (free agency), CB Andre Goodman (free agency), FS Brian Dawkins (free agency), FS Renaldo Hill (free agency), RB Knowshon Moreno (draft), DE Robert Ayers (draft), CB Alphonso Smith (draft), FS Darcel McBath (draft), Richard “you had better be a damn good run blocker” Quinn (draft)
Key losses: QB Jay Cutler (trade), RB Tatum Bell (free agency), RB Selvin Young (cut), WR Darrell Jackson (free agency), DE Ebenezer Ekbuan (free agency), DT Dewayne Robertson (cut), OLB Boss Bailey (cut), MLB Nate Webster (free agency), MLB Niko Koutovides (cut), CB Dre Bly (cut), FS Marlon McCree (free agency), SS Marquand Manuel (free agency)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Broncos may have had one of the worst offseasons in NFL history last offseason. It all started when they hired Josh McDaniels to replace Mike Shanahan, who was fired even though he was a good coach who had been with the team for a long time. McDaniels tried to trade franchise quarterback Jay Cutler for his own guy, Matt Cassel, but failed. This pissed off Cutler to the point where Cutler demanded a trade. Cutler got his wish and was sent to the Chicago Bears for 2 first rounders, a 3rd rounder, and Kyle Orton. Its never good to have to get rid of your star quarterback, but it looked as if McDaniels had got fair value in return for Cutler, assuming he didn’t epically fail on draft.
Unfortunately, epic fail would be an understatement of what would happen on draft day. First Josh McDaniels took Knowshon Moreno with the 12th pick, over Brian Orakpo. A questionable decision for a team that needed defense, but not a bad decision. Then at 18, which he got from Chicago, he took defense. Too bad this player was Robert Ayers, who is strictly a 4-3 end and has no place in the 3-4 defense that McDaniels insisted on using bringing in the king of fail, Mike Nolan, to help him do so. Then in the 2nd round, McDaniels traded a 2010 first round pick for Alphonso Smith, who will play nickel corner for the Broncos this year. That future 1st round pick, on the other hand, should be a top 5 pick after McDaniels blew up the offense and didn’t fix the defense. Later in the 2nd round, he took Darcel McBath, a 4th round prospect, who doesn’t play a front 7 position, but rather plays free safety, a position that McDaniels had already solidified with Brian Dawkins. Then, he traded back up into the 2nd round, giving up both of his 3rd rounders to do so, and took Richard Quinn. Not only would Quinn have been available in the 3rd round, he would have been available in the 6th or 7th round. He had 12 receptions in 44 career college games. Apparently that merits a first day pick.
McDaniels is looking to go game manager conservative offense with Kyle Orton’s weak, but accurate arm, and Knowshon Moreno running behind this great offensive line. However, that only works if your defense can stop anyone. This was one of the worst defenses in the league last year and should be one of the worst this year. With the exception of Robert Ayers, who does not fit into the system at all, DJ Williams is the only above average player in their front 7, and even he will struggle a bit, transitioning from 4-3 outside linebacker to 3-4 middle linebacker. They won’t stop the run and they won’t create pressure, allowing their actually good secondary to be beat a lot more than they should be. The bad defense will cause them to be behind a lot next season, forcing the ball out of Knowshon Moreno’s hands and into the hands of Kyle Orton and his weak arm, who will be counted on to make the big plays to get the team back in the game. This team might be the biggest mess in the NFL and Josh McDaniels hasn’t even started calling plays yet. If it wasn’t for the fact that they get 4 games against the Chiefs and Raiders, they would probably finish next season with the worst record in the NFL.
This season: 3-13 miss playoffs
Last season: 12-5 lost in first round
Key additions: RB Donald Brown (draft), DT Fili Moala (draft), CB Jerraud Powers (draft)
Key losses: RB Dominic Rhodes (free agency), WR Marvin Harrison (cut), P Hunter Smith (free agency)
There is a lot of talk about the Colts possibly struggling this season for the first time in about a decade. Coach Tony Dungy is gone, as is Peyton Manning’s offensive coordinator and the team’s offensive line coach. The man who has caught more of Peyton Manning’s throws than any one to ever play the game, Marvin Harrison, is gone as well, a free agent after refusing to take a pay cut to stay with the team. I don’t think they’ll struggle. First of all, Marvin Harrison only played in 5 games 2 seasons ago and the Colts didn’t miss a beat. He played in 15 games last year, but this was not future Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison, this was 35 year-old Marvin Harrison, who was battling leg injuries. Manning and the Colts should be fine without him. Reggie Wayne is a very good #1 receiver, Anthony Gonzalez is nice #2 in his 3rd year, and rookie Austin Collie has looked very good in camp as a slot receiver. As for the coaches leaving, Dungy’s replacement was picked by Dungy, so he isn’t going to change things up too much. Manning has essentially been his own offensive coordinator over the past few years so as long as the new guy doesn’t get in his way, that won’t be a problem. The offensive line coach’s departure could hurt, but the offensive line, which Peyton has great chemistry with, is still headed by center Jeff Saturday. The Colts are still Super Bowl contenders, though I rank them behind Pittsburgh and a healthy New England in the AFC simply because I think the defense still has big holes in it, even if Bob Sanders stays healthy.
This season: 13-5 lose in AFC semis
Last season: 8-8 miss playoffs
Key additions: QB Rex Grossman (free agency), QB Dan Orlovsky (free agency), OG Adrian Jones (free agency), DE Antonio Smith (free agency), DT Shaun Cody (free agency), OLB Cato June (free agency), OLB Brian Cushing (draft), DE Connor Barwin (draft), C Antoine Caldwell (draft)
Key losses: QB Sage Rosenfels (trade), RB Ahman Green (cut), DE Anthony Weaver (free agency), OLB Morlon Greenwood (free agency), FS Will Demps (free agency), SS CC Brown (free agency)
The Texans are big sleepers this year because I think they have improved on both ends of the field. This offense took off last season when Steve Slaton was made the every down back. He will continue to play in that role this season and has a stronger offensive line to run behind. Of course, a lot of the offense’s success will depend on Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson’s health, along with of course Steve Slaton avoiding injury, but Schaub missed 4 games last season and they still finished at 8-8 and while a Johnson injury would be bad, they have a good defense finally to help them win games when the offensive is struggling. They added 2 new starting linebackers in the off season and a new starting left end in Antonio Smith, who I think is one of the most underrated defensive players in the league. He will be infinitely better than Anthony Weaver, who I thought was the worst starting defensive end in the NFL last season. Rookie Connor Barwin will add to a pass rush that is already made strong by Mario Williams and the secondary is healthy going into the season. A lot will ride on whether or not this team can stay healthy, but I think they are finally good enough all-around to still be a good team and win games if injuries do strike.
This season: 10-7 lose in first round
Last season: 5-11 miss playoffs
Key additions: WR Torry Holt (free agency), OT Tra Thomas (free agency), SS Gerald Alexander (trade), SS Sean Considine (free agency), OT Eugene Monroe (draft), OG Eben Britton (draft), DT Terrance Knighton (draft), CB Derek Cox (draft)
Key losses: RB Fred Taylor (cut), WR Matt Jones (cut), WR Dennis Northcutt (trade), WR Reggie Williams (free agency), WR Jerry Porter (cut), MLB Mike Peterson (free agency), Drayton Florence (cut), SS Gerald Sensabaugh (free agency)
The Jags are my sleeper team. David Garrard had a bad season last year because of the injuries and inconsistencies of the offensive line, but the Jags spent a ton of money and their first 2 drafts picks upgrading the offensive line. Garrard also has a good #1 wide receiver for the first time in his short career in Torry Holt. The position of #2 receiver is up for grabs now, with the trade of Dennis Northcutt to the Lions, but rookie Jarrett Dillard is a very good receiver for a rookie and I believe that he will win and keep the job. Garrard should be able to lead this team again the way he had in 2007. The running game is still strong, even with the loss of Fred Taylor, because of the strong offensive line and the running back combination of Maurice Jones Drew and rookie Rashad Jennings. The defense should be better this season because they’ll actually create pressure on the quarterback. They drafted both Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves in 2008, but neither did much as rookies last year because they were rookies. This year they have a year of experience, which has proven to make a world of difference to young defensive ends in the past. Harvey also isn’t coming off of a training camp holdout this season which is good. The improved pass rush should make this defense better overall.
This season: 10-7 lose in first round
Last season: 13-4 lost in AFC semis
Key additions: WR Nate Washington (free agency), DT Jovan Haye (free agency), WR Kenny Britt (draft), DT Sen’Derrick Marks (draft), TE Jared Cook (draft), CB Ryan Mouton (draft)
Key losses: QB Chris Simms (free agency), WR Brandon Jones (free agency), OT Daniel Loper (free agency), DT Albert Haynesworth (free agency), CB Eric King (free agency), CB Reynaldo Hill (free agency), CB Chris Carr (free agency)
This team is about to realize how valuable Albert Haynesworth was to them. All of sudden, their defensive ends are going to stop getting one-on-one matchups. When you look at the difference between the numbers that defensive ends have had with the Titans when playing with Haynesworth and the numbers that those same defensive ends have had after leaving the Titans for other teams, you see how important Haynesworth is to a pass rush. With the defensive ends not getting one-on-one matchups, and also without Haynesworth there to pressure quarterbacks from the middle, quarterbacks will have more time to throw and their aging secondary’s weaknesses will be exposed. Obviously their run defense won’t be as good with Jovan Haye at defensive tackle, rather than Haynesworth, a 315 monster who eats running backs who breakfast, so losing Haynesworth is going to hurt this defense big time. The offense, on the other hand, should be better than what you expect from the Titans. Kerry Collins, even if he is ancient, has 3 decent receivers to work with, Justin Gage, his leading receiver from last year, along with free agent signing Nate Washington and rookie Kenny Britt. Still, he doesn’t have a true #1 and Britt is a 21 year old rookie, so you don’t know what you’re going to get from him. Kerry Collins is also injury prone so that’s something to worry about. Their running game, with Lendale White and Chris Johnson, was the staple of their offense last season, grinding the team to victory. However, grinding it out is only a good way to win games when you have a good defense supporting you, which they do not. Add in a tough schedule and this is a team that is due for a down year.
This season: 6-10 miss playoffs
Last season: 11-5 missed playoffs
Key additions: RB Fred Taylor (free agency), WR Joey Galloway (free agency), TE Chris Baker (free agency), CB Leigh Bodden (free agency), CB Shawn Springs (free agency), SS Patrick Chung (draft), NT Ron Brace (draft), CB Darius Butler (draft), WR Brandon Tate (draft), OT Sebastian Vollmer (draft)
Tom Brady didn’t hurt his arm and he wasn’t very mobile before the knee injury, so as long as he doesn’t get hurt again, we should see the Brady of old. This offense actually has more weapons than they did in 2007. Joey Galloway and Fred Taylor are both old, but the Pats have had luck with vets like them before. The offensive line is getting older, which, coupled with Brady’s injury, will make that Brady will take more sacks than he has before, but he still has his arm and he still has Welker and Moss and that’s enough offensively. Defensively, they’ll struggle to get to the quarterback, with Mike Vrabel gone, especially if Adailus Thomas gets hurt again. However, their defensive line is very strong, both against the run as well as in pass rush, and their secondary is a lot better this season than last with the additions of Shawn Springs, Darius Butler, and Leigh Bodden, the man who Chad Johnson once called the past one-on-one cornerback in the NFL.
Key losses: QB Matt Cassel (trade), OLB Mike Vrabel (trade), CB Ellis Hobbs (trade), SS Rodney Harrison (retirement), WR Jabar Gaffney (free agency), FB Heath Evans (free agency)
Prediction: 16-3 win Super Bowl
Last season: 11-6 lost in first round of playoffs
Key additions: C Jake Grove (free agency), OLB Jason Taylor (free agency), CB Eric Green (free agency), FS Gibril Wilson (free agency), CB Vontae Davis (draft), QB Pat White (draft), FS Sean Smith (draft), WR Patrick Turner (draft)
Key losses: QB John Beck (cut), C Samson Satele (trade), DE Vonnie Holliday (cut), CB Andre Goodman (free agency), FS Renaldo Hill (free agency)
Prediction: 8-8 miss playoffs
I’m projecting a drop off for this team this year. There is no way Chad Pennington could repeat last season even if we were playing the same competition he had last year. The Dolphins are going from one of the easiest schedules in the NFL last year to one of the hardest. Joey Porter slowed down towards the end of last year and because of his age, that could be concerning heading into next season. Their secondary is still a mess, actually it may be worse after losing starting cornerback Andre Goodman. This team will face Peyton Manning once, Tom Brady twice, Phillip Rivers once, Matt Ryan once, Drew Brees once. Those guys should have field days on this defense, especially if the Dolphins can’t create any pressure. Those are 6 games right there and I would be surprised if they won more than 2. Ronnie Brown will be counted on to carry the offensive load, something he has never done in his career anywhere, including college, without getting hurt midway.
Last season: 6-10 missed playoffs
Key additions: RB Dominic Rhodes (free agency), WR Terrell Owens (free agency), C Geoff Hangartner (free agency), CB Drayton Florence (free agency), DE Aaron Maybin (draft), C Eric Wood (draft), OG Andy Levitre (draft), FS Jairus Byrd (draft), TE Shawn Nelson (draft)
Key losses: TE Robert Royal (free agency), OT Jason Peters (trade), OG Derrick Dockery (cut), OLB Angelo Crowell (free agency), CB Jabari Greer (free agency)
They’re going to have to rely a lot on their passing game this season, especially early in the season with Marshawn Lynch’s suspension. Trent Edwards is a decent quarterback, but not a franchise quarterback capable of carrying a team, especially when he’s working behind an offensive line that was blown up in the offseason, especially on Edwards’ blindside, the most important side for a young quarterback. He has good receivers, but one of them, Terrell Owens, is known for throwing his quarterback under the bus, which would be very bad for Trent Edwards and his fragile confidence as a young quarterback. Owens could also get into some trouble with Lee Evans, who is arguably the best receiver Owens has played alongside since Jerry Rice, so we’ll have to see how that plays out. The defense is going to have to step up big for this team to be in playoff considerations, especially in their tough division, and since they aren’t a lot better than their defense last season, especially in the pass rush as first round pick Aaron Maybin is not a guy who can contribute all that much right away, that’s not going to happen, and neither will a successful season.
Prediction: 5-11 miss playoffs
New York Jets
Key additions: MLB Bart Scott (free agency), CB Lito Sheppard (trade), FS Jim Leonhard (free agency), QB Mark Sanchez (draft), RB Shonn Greene (free agency)
Key losses: QB Brett Favre (retirement), QB Brett Ratliff (trade), WR Laveranues Coles (cut), TE Chris Baker (free agency), DE Kenyon Coleman (trade), MLB David Bowens (cut), MLB Eric Barton (free agency), SS Abram Elam (trade), K Mike Nugent (free agency)
The defense looks really good after they took everyone, with the exception of Ray Lewis, that the Ravens didn’t resign on the defensive side of the ball, including former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, who is now the Jets’ head coach. This team is very similar to the 2008 Baltimore team. 3 solid running backs, mediocre receivers, solid offensive line, fundamentally sound rookie quarterback, good defense. However, because of the tough schedule they will play this year, along with the fact that, unlike Baltimore, that don’t have Ray Lewis, and the unlikelihood that Sanchez can be as good out of the gate as a rookie as Joe Flacco was, this team will not make the playoffs like Baltimore did. Sanchez could struggle mightily out of the gate if they choose to start him right away because of the fact that he only made 16 starts in college. If they chose to start Kellen Clemens, then they simply aren’t using a good quarterback and that will hurt too. They don’t have any good receivers either.
Prediction: 4-12 miss playoffs