Does anyone remember all those nasty words we were hearing from the gloom and doomers a few months ago? I am talking about words like “close,” “CBA,” “courtroom,” “Lockout,” “deal,” etc, etc. I don’t. Why? FOOTBALL IS HERE. Unless you have been under a rock, we are just about ready for the 2011 NFL Season, a season that some thought would never happen *cough Cris Collinsworth *cough*, but the eternal optimist, like I am always believed would. I am so excited about the upcoming season that I have made every effort to see as much preseason as possible because I am grateful it is back, and labor peace will be in place for 10 years.
Before I continue, I want to personally thank Mr. Robert Kraft. He was very instrumental in gaining the trust of both the players and the owners to come together and make a deal so the NFL can have labor peace for the next 10 years. He did this while tending to his ill wife, Myra H. Kraft who sadly passed away right around the time when the deal was finalized. She deserves thanks as she encouraged Bob to continue with the labor negotiations. I also want to thank Giants Owner John Mara, and Colts Center Jeff Saturday and everyone else who had a positive contribution towards NFL labor peace. However, as Jeff Saturday said, none of this would have been possible without Bob Kraft. Thank you, sir.
Now back the purpose of my blog, one thing about the upcoming season that I am loving is hearing the “experts” give their 2011 predictions. I have already seen a few predictions, one recently by Peter King of Sports Illustrated, and another by Tim Cowlishaw of “Around the Horn” fame. They had interesting picks. Cowlishaw likes the Cleveland Browns as a Wild Card. Yes, the Browns. Weird that he doesn’t have the Ravens in the playoffs from reading his twitter page. King has Green Bay vs The Chargers in the Super Bowl. A lot of people love the Chargers. Maybe it is their year. Knowing their track Record though……..I am not sure.
Well, I am going to take a crack at it. I am humble enough to admit I could be totally off base myself. I am no expert by any means. I would like to emphasize, if I am wrong, I am wrong, but this is just fun for me, so I thought I would give it a shot. I am a fan just like most people. I mean, people like King, and Cowlishaw, and Pete Prisco of CBS sports, and all those other guys are “experts.” They have been writing on this stuff forever. However, that doesn’t stop me from expressing my thoughts, so without further ado, here are my picks for the 2011 NFL Season.
Cincinnati Bengals: What a mess. As long as Mike Brown is owning that team, this team is going to be in trouble for a long time. They refused to trade Ocho Cinco 2 years ago to the Skins for TWO 1st rounders, and just gave him away to the Patriots for a song. They refuse to trade Palmer and get something back for him. What a mess. Andrew Dalton got a bit better in preseason, but the rest of that team….woof. 2011 Record: 4-12
Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco and the offense look pretty decent with new addition Lee Evans. Of course, Ravens fans should be a bit concerned with their aging defense. Ray Lewis is in his 16th year, and has lost a few steps. The defense though still does look good. 2011 Record 11-5
Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger and the offense , outside of the Redskins game, look fantastic in preseason. Steeler fans should be in for a treat. That Antonio Brown is going to be great. The Steeler defense is the Steeler defense. Steeler fans should be concerned though with the secondary, the offensive line , and just like the Ravens, an aging defense.The defense, however, does look very good. 2011 Record: 12-4
Indianapolis Colts: This team depends on one man, and one man alone. That is Peyton Manning who had his second neck surgery in 15 months. We NFL fans were subjected to a lot of drama, thanks, in part, to their owner Bruce Isray, and the media going nuts, as if this is the equivalent of the Titanic disaster. It would be for the Colts if Peyton couldn’t play. Well, as most fans have heard by now, Peyton is very doubtful for Week One due to the slowness of his recovery. In other words, the Titanic has collided with the iceberg. There is speculation that Peyton MAY be out a month or so. It all depends on how fast the nerves regenerate. Kerry Collins is a talented QB, but can he win them games? How fast can Peyton knock off the rust once he does get back under center? They still need to improve running game, and that defense has to learn to play well from behind. Lots of questions with this team. 2011 Record: 9-7
Jacksonville Jaguars: Saying this team is hard to figure out would be an understatement. At times they can look like world beaters, and at others, they look like a high school team. Last year, they could have won the division, but they just blew it. Will Head Coach Jack Del Rio be on the hot seat this year? I am thinking that will be a huge yes. Owner Wayne Weaver gave him an ultimatum: Playoffs or his job. Well, what does Del Rio do? Five days before the first game, he dumps starting QB David Garrard for Luke McCown who didn’t even play in Week 3 of the preseason. Ironically, in 2007, a few days before that season was going to start, he dumped QB Bryon Leftwich for Garrard. I am just stunned. I guess they expect McCown to carry them along till Blaine Gabbert is ready. Hopefully, Maurice Jones Drew, the real star of the team, will be able to stay healthy. The team didn’t look like much from what I saw of them. Good luck to Jack Del Rio. He is going to need it. 2011 Record: 5-11
Houston Texans: To steal a line from Quiet Riot’s song, this team always makes me “bang my head” against the wall. If you look up the definition of the gambling term “wiseguy bet,” a group photo of the Houston Texans would be right next to it. My word, I never seen a team where a lot of the “experts” pick them every year, it seems to either make the playoffs or win the division , and the Texans just make them looks silly by looking good early in the season, but something happens , and they screw up. Gary Kubiak, their head coach HAS to have used up all of his nine lives. Well, new defensive coordinator Wade Philips appears to have the defense going in the right direction. The offense looks great as well. QB Matt Schaub and WR Andre Johnson look in sync. Even though I am still in the “Show Me” camp with this team, with the recent developments in Indianapolis, I am interested to see if they will FINALLY take the next step and win the division. 2011 Record: 10-6
Tennessee Titans: This team has gone through an upheaval. They drafted a rookie QB, and are dependent on an aging , and injury riddled Matt Hasselbeck to get them through at least this season. The Titans and star RB Chris Johnson were in a very contentious contract dispute that just got resolved with Johnson receiving a 4 year 53.3 million dollar contract. It appears to be more like an extension to me, but at least Johnson got paid as he is the team’s offense pretty much. Chris should be back with the team, and getting ready for Week One against the Jaguars. Will he suffer physically ala Darelle Revis for the Jets last year? That remains to be seen. . 2011 Record: 7-9
Denver Broncos: Well, a lot of talk this preseason surrounding the QBs of this team. The main talk was about the Broncos’ failed attempt to trade Orton to the Miami Dolphins. All that triggered the whole talk about the quality of backup QB Tim Tebow’s play. I won’t rehash it all again, as I have written a blog about it already. It’s my understanding that Orton is the confirmed start for Week One. As for the rest of the team, they look a bit better on defense. Defense was terrible last year. They look a bit better on offense as well. I don’t get the Orton bashing. I think, if healthy, he can win them games. 2011 Record: 8-8
San Diego Chargers: This team is something else. They have a lot of talent. They are filled with All Pros, and Pro Bowlers. They play in a cupcake division. They play in sunny San Diego, CA when they are at home. They all pretty much talk a big game, even the QB Philip Rivers. However, when it comes to the playoffs, they just falter, and I don’t get it. I know they got rid of Schottenheimer and went to Norv Turner, but in my opinion, I don’t think the Chargers are mentally ready. What I mean, is they don’t have the maturity to be champions. They don’t carry themselves like a champion. Mike Wilbon described them best one time: “So much talent. Too much mouth.” Anyway, this preseason, they look very good on both sides of the ball. They look like a very efficient team, so I understand why some like them a lot. This is another team that is going to have to SHOW ME in the playoffs as I KNOW they can do well in the regular season. 2011 Record: 11-5
Kansas City Chiefs: Now , I really do not know if they were just being “vanilla” or what, but the Chiefs do not look like they have their act together. I didn’t like how they looked at all. They made the playoffs last year, but I don’t see it this year, especially with Charlie Weiss gone. 2011 Record: 7-9
Oakland Raiders: You thought the BENGALS had a goofy owner? I guess you haven’t met Al Davis. At one time, a maverick of the NFL, and one of the more progressive minds of the sport. Itis very sad to see his once mighty Raiders like this, one of the most sorry teams in the NFL, likely in all of sports. The changing of Head Coaches like he changes underwear is not helping. The bad draft picks (JaMarcus Russell, Michael Huff, etc) are destroying the team. A GM should be running it, not Davis. As long as Davis is running it, I don’t see the Raiders in contention for a long time. They did well last year , for them. I see a step back though. They looked terrible in preseason 2011 Record: 6-10
Buffalo Bills: Does this team HAVE a QB? Can magician David Copperfield wave a magic wand and make Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas, and Jim Kelly young and back in their prime again? All joking aside, the Bills look alright. Last year, they were agonizingly close to winning quite a few of their games. The problem was that they made a lot of little mistakes. I mean that wide receiver Stevie Johnson dropping a sure game winning touchdown against the Steelers last year is just one example. I just am not sure if they have improved enough from last year though. 2001 Record: 5-11
Miami Dolphins: This is the team who failed to get Kyle Orton. I never figured it out. If they felt Henne didn’t have what they needed, why just go get Orton? I mean, even if it was a 3rd round pick or 2nd, if they wanted to improve their team and compete for the division, I would think they would have gone out and gotten the player. If Orton “costs” a little more, so be it. I feel bad for Chad Henne. His hearing the fans boo him at camp had to be hard. Anyway, with the addition of Reggie Bush, who I don’t think is an every down back, the offense may get a kickstart. They have Brandon Marshall as well. The defense actually looks pretty good. 2011 Record: 7-9
New York Jets: This preseason, they look fairly decent. I am not all that sold on a 37 year old Derrick Mason, and Plaxico Burress being all up to speed after being in prison for two years as replacements for Braylon Edwards, and Brad Smith (who was a very versatile player for them). The defense is a year older as well. They looked fine. I think Sanchez needs to improve his accuracy, and even though the defense will win them some games, they are going to eventually need to depend on Sanchez. Mark, who I like, honestly, needs to step his game up. Santonio Holmes who has great chemistry with Sanchez is fantastic. Can they and their exuberant Head Coach Rex Ryan back up their talk with a Super Bowl win this time? 2011 Record: 10-6
New England Patriots: I am going to start this with: Patriot fans: DON’T PANIC.As a fan of thoroughbred racing, if a top horse has a bad race, the trainer will just “throw the race out.” In other words, just put it up to being a clunker. Besides, it was obvious to me that the Patriots were treating that Lions game as a preseason game, and the Lions were acting as if it were a playoff game. I felt the media, especially the huge media conglomerate in Connecticut, were blowing what happened with the Patriots way out of proportion. Anyway, overall, the Patriots look very good. I figured the team was headed for a clunker, and in Detroit, they got one. It should be a wake up call. They have the personnel to fix things. The team does need to make sure the O line protects Brady. They have to use their running game more. The defense has to get off the field at third down. That was their bugaboo last year. They should be more advanced now in the system. 2011 Record: 13-3
Chicago Bears: Even though they won the division last year, I just do not see it happening this year. Several players such as Lance Briggs unhappy with their contracts, along with problems along their offensive line. Can QB Jay Cutler be protected. Can Jay Cutler regain any goodwill with the fans, and his peers after his controversial sideline behavior during the NFC Championship game? The team didn’t look all that promising from what I saw of them during the preseason. 2011 Record: 8-8
Detroit Lions: From listening to the “experts” after the draft, all through preseason, especially after their pounding the New England Patriots this past Saturday, to paraphrase one of the greatest rock songs ever, the talking heads are “losing their minds in Detroit, Rock City.” The talking heads just LOVE the Lions. Well, I admit the team looks good. Stafford is doing a great job as QB, but needs to stay healthy. Calvin Johnson is an awesome WR, despite what Cris Carter says. They have a potentially great defense. If DT N. Suh can keep his aggression within the rules, he is going to be something special. I am not a bandwagon jumper, so this is another SHOW ME team. Remember, the 2008 Lions team went 4-0 in preseason also. 2011 Record: 8-8
Green Bay Packers: The defending Super Bowl champions had a great year last year. They look very good this preseason. The question is “Can they repeat?” It is tough to repeat. Some feel that this Packer team can. Well, QB Aaron Rodgers is a very good QB. He has a lot of good players, and a pretty good defense. They are the hunted, so this season should be interesting for them 2011 Record 11-5
Minnesota Vikings: Wow. Two years ago, they were one game away from the Super Bowl with Brett Farve in his last “good” year pretty much. Now they are a mess. They have Donovan McNabb on his last legs, and a rookie QB learning. They lost Sidney Rice to the Seahawks. The defense is not as good as it used to be. They have a first time head coach, Leslie Frazier. The lockout really hurt Coach Frazier (and other new coaches) in that he didn’t have a lot of time to install his playbook. 2011 Record: 6-10
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Josh Freeman looked uneven this preseason. I hope it is not the sophomore slump, because I think eventually, he is going to be fantastic as a QB. He has all the tools. The res of the team is looking ok. This is a young team. The coach is doing a very good job with this team. They dodged a bullet (so far) with Aquib Talib and the Commissioner, but I think they go back a step this year. 2011 Record: 9-7
Atlanta Falcons: This team looked pretty good. QB Matt Ryan has an excellent WR core. Ryan himself looks in good shape. The defense looks somewhat improved, despite the Steelers pounding them offensively. Can they repeat their success from last year, and finally give Matt Ryan a playoff win? The Falcons’ only competition for the Division is New Orleans . 2011 Record 11-5
Carolina Panthers: Well, this team has a brand new Head Coach in Ron Rivera, their first round draft pick is QB Cam Newton who will be the starter for Week One. This team was 2-14 last year, and honestly, I do not think much of them this year. They have a rookie QB who, like like the rest of his rookie classmates, is digesting a new playbook in a shortened offseason. The lockout eliminated the OTAs, the mini-camps, and the workouts. Yes, the other rookies, as well as veterans are affected, but as Newton is the number one overall pick in the draft, and thus is scrutinized more (also due to his problems at Auburn) closely. I am willing to give Newton a bit more slack.
2011 Record: 5-11
New Orleans Saints: As the song says, “The Saints are coming.” They look real good in the preseason. Of all the teams, I would say the Saints look about the best overall. Drew Brees and his receiving core look phenomenal, in particular. I guess all those practices they did paid off. Gregg Williams really has that defense on all cylinders, This team is going to be tough if they keep up their preseason form. 2011 Record 13-3
The Arizona Cardinals: You can look at the acquisition of Kevin Colb as QB in two ways. With the brilliant Larry Fitzgerald as his main target at WR, Colb will be the perfect replacement for the retired Kurt Warner who was within 2 plus minutes away from leading the hapless franchise to their first Super Bowl title. On the flip side, as Colb is unproven, it could be a disaster. He didn’t even play a full 16 game season with the Eagles as starter. This will be interesting. Beanie Wells is a very good running back. Defense is alright. Depending on Colb’s performance, they and the Rams should be battling for the division. 2011 Record: 10-6
The San Fransisco 49ers: How the mighty have fallen. This team used to be the king of the hill. Names like Montana, Rice, Craig, Young, Deion Sanders, Lott, etc, etc were part of this once proud franchise. Now, it is so hard to believe that it is in such a sorry state. Seven seasons removed from picking a QB that even Stevie Wonder could see is a bust, and that team STILL won’t give up on him. I don’t get it. The 49ers finally made RB Frank Gore happy. Wow, a banged up RB gets more money. Anyway, I don’t see this team contending, except for the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. 2011 Record: 5-11
St. Louis Rams: Sam Bradford and the offense are looking pretty good in Josh Daniels’ new schemes. Sam is going to be an excellent QB. The defense is also looking better. It helps that former Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnolo is their head coach. Even though the Rams will improve, I don’t think it will be enough to outdo Arizona. 2011 Record 9-7
Seattle Seahawks: Both QBs are awful. Tavaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst are not exactly setting the world on fire. The offense is just blech. I don’t understand why Sidney Rice went there in the first place. Sure, the money is nice, but doesn’t the guy want to get on a team with a better chance to WIN? I don’t see either Jackson or Whitehurst lighting up the scoreboard. The whole team doesn’t look great. They may have lucked out and gotten into the playoffs, but not this time. 2011 Record 3-13
Dallas Cowboys: I will say one thing. You either love the Dallas Cowboys, or you hate them. Anyway, this team also has a very meddling owner. Jerry Jones needs to lay off this team. He wonders why he can not keep coaches. Who wants a backseat driver? Jerry is respected. He worked hard to own them. I got that. However, he has to cut the apron strings and let the coaches do their job and stop meddling. Anyway, the team looks to be very good under new coach Jason Garrett. He made touch cuts such as Andrew Gurode, and Leonard Davis, etc. I think it will take time for the defense to get used to Rob Ryan’s schemes though. Tony Romo and the offense look fairly decent. They could make noise during the season if they have some sort of discipline, and Romo stays healthy. 2011 Record:10-6
New York Giants: Wow, The season has yet to start, and the Giants are already a MASH unit. They had a soap opera called “Will Osi Play?” going on in camp, only to find he will miss part of the season anyway due to injury. They don’t look all that great in preseason. I already examined Manning’s claim of being in Brady’s league in a previous blog. Well, unfortunately, Manning did not look all that elite, especially against the Jets in their Met Life Snoopy Bowl in the 3rd week of the preseason for sure. Special teams don’t look special either. 2011 Record: 8-8
Washington Redskins: It looks like to me that Shanahan is going to flip a coin to decide between John Beck and Rex Grossman as to which guy will be the QB. I don’t think it is much of a choice. I would go with with Beck from what I have seen from the team this preseason. Grossman is too hot and cold. He can be great on one throw, and suck on the next throw. Seriously. The running game with the addition with Hightower has improved, and the defense is looking better. 2011 Record: 8-8
AFCN: THE PITTSBURGH STEELERS
AFCS: THE HOUSTON TEXANS
AFCW: THE SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
AFCE: THE NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
NFCN: THE GREEN BAY PACKERS
NFCS: THE NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
NFCW: THE ARIZONA CARDINALS
NFCE: THE PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
AFC: THE BALTIMORE RAVENS, THE NEW YORK JETS
NFC: THE ATLANTA FALCONS, THE DALLAS COWBOYS
SUPER BOWL PICKS:
THE NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS VS THE NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
WINNER: THE NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS.
NFL MVP: AARON RODGERS
SB MVP: TOM BRADY
So there you have it. Those are my picks. Good luck to all the teams. Good luck to those who play fantasy football. I hope and pray that all NFL players have a great, and safe season, and that there will be no serious injuries this season. Enjoy the 2011 season.
Terri Bey currently blogs for CamelClutchBlog.com about Wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture related subjects. Her work has appeared in BleacherReport and for F4WOnline.com. Terri can be found here at Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/TerriBey and at Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/missedgehead