And here….we …..go!!! Part 2 of my NFL Preview….this should be the easy one, the NFC is not only the better conference but the much more interesting one (if only yahoo sports hadn’t changed their damn format this would have been easier…ah well, CBS Sportsline saves the day).....so let's get our stuff in our NFL approved carry-in containers and lets go!!!
The best division in the NFL right now….poor Arizona….they improved LOTS, but still are by far the worst team of the four….the NFC Champ is here and a big favorite to get there this year in Seattle and an improved up and coming St Louis team (that did go 4-1-1 vs the NFC West….)….this is a fun, deep and talented division for sure!!
Alright… I do admit it….I fell in love with this team last year (why not, worked out better than most of my relationship choices….well present one excluded…obviously….as much as I love to pick fights even I ain’t THAT dumb….)….its easy to see why…. Russell Wilson is a fun QB and was the rookie story of the year last year (and was ROBBED of Rookie of the Year), Marshawn Lynch shows you how much fun life can be when you leave Buffalo!! The O-Line is good….but the only weak spot on this team is the receiver group….Golden Tate only catches hail mary’s that people will whine about for decades….Sidney Rice is glass also…..and yes the Percy Harvin injury was terrible luck, but it’s not like this team ever really played WITH him so it can be dealt with until needed (and Wilson did throw for 26 TDs last year)….there’s no reason to think this team can’t pick up where it left off on offense….
…the defense also looks to be pretty much the same as last year (provided Clemons and Avril are ready to go)….the Bruce Irvin suspension hurts (it does seem the NFL has it out for Seattle doesn’t it?? Makes me root for them more….) and sporting the league’s best secondary helps (as do those gigantic goddamn corners….6’3” and 6’4” holy crap…)…turnovers….pass rush…special teams….if one of the WR’s steps up, or Harvin stays healthy when he comes back (I know…good luck with that)…this is maybe the best team in football…..but like I said, I’m a lil biased here….yo mad bro?
Projected Record: 12-4
San Francisco 49ers:
The NFC Champs are back and minus an unlucky Michael Crabtree injury (and Randy Moss finally going away) pretty much the same team as last year…adding Anquan Boldin (and the buckets of Manta-Tears that still flow from this) in that massive dick-waving contest with the Seahawks in the off-season did make things interesting didn’t it? Add that to the standard power run game to be split between Gore and Kendall Hunter, and this should make life easy for Colin Kapernick (who can run a bit himself)….my big worry on Kapernick is he seems more gimmick then QB (as compared to Wilson and Griffin and the other top-end “read option” QBs in the league now), and I’m a bit worried that defenses are gonna figure him out now that they have ten games and playoffs of film to watch him (the Ravens sure did until the lights went out after all)…..the likely guy to step up in Crabtree’s absence HAS to be Vernon Davis….shame Delaney Walker went to the Titans….they coulda put Davis out more as a receiver and really let things fly…Boldin is a given for 80 catches and like 65 first downs…but the rest of this WR corps is a mess…and someone’s gonna have to emerge…..or donate parts to Crabtree to fix him faster….this ability, or lack of in this case, could be a serious hinderance to the Niners in the big games this year…..
On the other side of the ball, the defense comes back in as good as ever…Justin Smith is healthy again and there is no weak link in this front seven….the secondary is in a bit of flux losing Goldson (though if they get ANYTHING from Nnamdi that’s a MASSIVE plus)…the starting corners should be good enough…and the pass rush will make it easier for them to do what they need to….the coach is a prick, but he’s a prick you want coaching your team….and I kinda like the type of a$$hole that Harbaugh is (he was a crap QB for the most….guess that makes you angry in the after-career)….this team is good and a contender…but a hair behind Seattle still….just a matter of who’s star WR comes back first…..
Projected Record: 11-5
St. Louis Rams:
I’m pretty high on this team (which is amazing when you consider how evil St Louis has been to me over the years…but hey I’m a happier, mellower fellow….right?? RIGHT!)…Jake Long IF he stays healthy protects Bradford at the most important spot…Jared Cook and Tavon Austin add some playmaker and explosiveness (and health, yes I’m looking at you in NE Mr Amendola) to the offense, giving Bradford someone FINALLY to make plays for him….the running game should be fine in Daryl Richardson’s hands, and this looks like a strong and balanced attack (and also a well-coached one….few are better than Jeff Fisher)
And you can really see Fisher’s footprints all over the defense now….a young, capable and skilled team with just enough veteran leadership like Cortland Finnegan (as much as I hate the Kid N Play look alike…he’s good)…this team is aggressive and skilled….and going to be a pain in the ass this year (remember they had the best in-division record last year at 4-1-1 and took all three teams to the wall last year)….it’s really a damn shame this team gets screwed by divisional alignment….maybe they need to get Mike Ilitch to buy the team….he seems to like to cry and whine enough to league officials to get them a re-alignment….its a damn shame there’s not enough playoff spots to go around for the Rams while some sweaty-ass AFC team who’s way worse will get in….
Projected Record: 7-9
…and then there’s the Cardinals….probably the most improved team in the AFC West….but they HAD to be….after winning me that free dinner (that I still ain’t seen, nothing says reliable like good ol’Kelly ) going from 4-0 to 5-11, they couldn’t get much worse….right?? Gone are the days of the leaky O-Line and the leakier QB’s (though I still don’t think it’s the QB’s fault when you have to snap the ball and DUCK because no one can block and the guys to hand it off to stink worse than my hockey bag after a double header…)…Rashard Mendenhall at LEAST gives them someone who can kinda run the ball a bit…and Carson Palmer will at least get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald (which HAS to make him one happy lil Panda in the Desert, right?) the other WR’s are progressing too and Rob Housler is one of those guys I scooped up in Madden 12 for an A potential and now seeing him actually be useful in the actual NFL makes me very happy (see Kris “Bull” Durham for more on this)…this team should at least be able to put up some numbers as long as Palmer can survive back there …they may not win a lot but Carson Palmer is the king of the 300 yard passing game in garbage time!
On defense, the Cards were almost solid last year…pity they were out there for 2/3rds of the game….a strong front seven, and a re-tooled secondary around the always-dangerous Patrick Peterson could be enough to make plays and keep the games closer, especially if the offense goes its thing….losing playcaller Ray Horton to the Browns might take some of the edge off this team…but maybe they won’t have to be as aggressive this year….the Cardinals took a baby step in the right direction….they’re just playing in a buzzsaw and are likely facing going 0-6 in the NFC West…that’s a HUGE hole to climb out of….
Projected Record: 5-11
Another intriguing group of teams and again you could make a case for all four teams (well that is if you believe the sh!t that Schiano spews out of his fool mid-card college football mouth….)....small rants aside you can also consider three of the four teams here playoff-level (that’s the norm for the NFC this year though)….and lots of stories and intrigue here too
New Orleans Saints:
The biggest upgrade the Saints had this season was in simply getting Sean Peyton back….already forgotten was the absurdity of his one year suspension…and even with that Drew Brees threw for a stupid amount of yards (mostly cause he HAD to)….but maybe now with Peyton back they can run some more creative run plays using the strengths of Sproles and Pierre Thomas…and umm…whatever Mark Ingram brings…Jimmie Graham is the best (at least in stats) TE in the league…and he kinda needs to be….to be honest, the Saints WRs kinda suck (just ask the Chargers how that Meachem guy worked out…) and it’s the QB that makes his receivers shine….the offense shall be business as usual….
…..now the defense on the other hand….think about this….the defense set NFL RECORDS for yards allowed…points allowed….ulcer meds for the defensive staff….and hard liquor consumed by fans in frustration….and they STILL won 7 games and almost sniffed the playoffs….enter Rob Ryan….if he can produce half as good as he talks….then this is a middle of the pack defense…..which is good enough to win this division and get the Saints back to contenders…at least this 3-4 front has the big bodies in front on the D-Line to do stuff….but much like his brother’s team…good luck getting some pass rush from those LBs….but this biggest problem with Rob Ryan is his own “genius” gets in the way….if Ryan can keep it simple, and get some plays from the secondary….that’s enough to get 3-4 more wins and get them atop the NFC South….
Projected Record: 11-5
Yeah the Falcons dominated the NFC last year….but I was never big on them anyway (and yes I hate them for ending the season for Seattle, but that aside…)…they did it with their offense….Matt Ryan….Roddy White….Tony Gonzalez and Julio Jones…no one in the NFL has that type of firepower like they do….and now they added Steven Jackson who’s tough can pound it and catch passes when needed too….this offense is gonna be a helluva show to watch and hopefully Jackson adds some ground n pound and team toughness….now just can the three new lineman do their job and block cause well blocking MATTERS dammit!!!
Now for the problems in Atlanta….the defense….it’s still soft….and now it’s missing John Abraham….and adding Osi to replace him….is that really an upgrade?? I don’t think so…at least they have a good coach in Mike Nolan (who is familiar with Osi at least)…if some of the young guys on the D-Line can chip in that’s HUGE….not to mention like I said…this team needs to man up and be nasty in the trenches….the LB’s are ok, the safeties are solid and Samuel is a good corner….but your D will only be as good as you pressure the QB…and even if they don’t win the division they should be a solid wild card spot….
Projected Record: 11-5
I feel like I can say a lot of what I said about St Louis for the Panthers….they’re getting better and improving….they’re just stuck in the NFC log-jam…add on to that the 6-1 run they ended the season with last year and Carolina could make some noise in the NFC… Cam Newton is growing up (and hell he’s had the 2 best seasons to start a career in the league’s history….but those stats are helped by the no-defense rules the NFL embraces….)… a decent O-Line…and hopefully the ability to keep DeAngelo Williams and when Stewart comes back….that’s as good a running attack as ANYONE has….Steve Smith and Greg Olson are still quality targets….now if only Brandon LaFell did his share….this is a dangerous offense….
And now for the part of this team gets overlooked….the defense….they have the pass rush in the ends (23.5 sacks last year)…. Star Lotulelei is gonna be a clog the middle guy (they hope) Luke Kuechly is the new Patrick Willis tackle-factory…if they can keep the front 7 healthy….and they get any kinda play from their secondary….this is a damn good team….the problem is having a weak secondary when you play Atlanta and New Orleans twice….not good….they will make progress but it may not show in the standings….
Projected Record: 8-8
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
I can’t through talking about the Bucs without crapping all over Greg Schiano….so I won’t even try …..besides…in the NFL you’re only as good as your coach and your QB…and take a look kids….they got NEITHER…it’s a shame (I had always liked Tampa till the Buck Toothed Brawler came in)….they have Doug Martin who’s as good a back as anyone out there….and Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams to make plays…they lack a solid TE to make plays….and a lot is gonna be on the shoulders of Josh Freeman (also on a contract year so this matters to him a touch), this season comes down to him and how much money he wants to make the next 5-10 years…..
The defense was soft and pretty horrid last year, and they are devoid of any pass rush at all….long gone are the days of Sapp, Brooks and company here….the LBs are fast and cover space, but don’t add much to the rush…but they will have a strong secondary if Darrelle Revis pulls the miracle healing that seems to be the norm now from torn-up knees….least the season opener adds some drama and familiar faces to things….this team’s just not good enough to run with the big guns in the NFC….time to fire the coach and send him back to the little pond J
Projected Record: 5-11
Last season the NFC North had two playoff teams and a third 10-6 team….now while that’s not likely to happen again (but please Mr Peterson, feel free to run for another 2,000 yards, I allow this….)….this season looks no different here …good lord there’s like 10 playoff-level teams in the NFC, and only six spots….every game’s gonna matter in the NFC this year…..
Green Bay Packers:
They’re not the Seahawks but I do have to admit, the Packers are one of my favorite teams to watch every week (beloved anti-football aside of course!!)…there are some givens when it comes to the Packers….A-Rod will be awesome, the receivers when healthy will be good, even Jermichael Finley looks to be back in form this pre-season….add in Eddie Lacey to give some hopeful balance and make a running game happen (considering the Packers didn’t have a 500 yard rusher, the bar IS set kinda low) ….as long as the Packer O-Line gets better (it too can’t be much WORSE), the offense will carry its share….
The defense has its problems however…..despite having the awesome Clay Matthews rushing the passer and making Jay Culter’s life miserable….if the rest of the front 7 can do their jobs and the secondary starts making plays again (getting only 8 INTs last year is TERRIBLE)…..damn I can’t get past the 8 INT’s….you’d think you’d get 8 alone in the two games vs Jay Cutler (I’d add Ponder to that comment too but AP doesn’t let Ponder hold on to the football long enough)….this defense HAS to get the ball back more for the offense….least it won’t take much to be better….
Projected Record: 11-5
It’s rare for an NFL team to go 10-6 and miss the playoffs….it’s even rarer that they fire the coach after that….it’s even more rare that the change in coach was the right decision, but it was here….Lovie Smith’s time had gone in Chicago….he never made the offense any better…he never balanced out the offense (and how in the HELL did they let Greg Olsen go??) …in comes Marc Trestman and some offensive mindset to a team that did really need it…. Brandon Marshall was stupid-good last year but when his 118 catches out-receive the rest of the WR’s combined….that’s a problem….hopefully adding Martellus Bennett and Alshon Jeffery starts to live up to his hype….the steady balance in Matt Forte and Michael Bush balance out the offense….which leads to less Jay Cutler mistakes, which leads to a better team (and a more dangerous offense)….as long as that damned offensive line of theirs can block a lil bit (purging J’Marcus Webb helps)
And then there’s the defense….while yes letting Brian Urlacher may be a hit in the PR dept…when was this dude EVER healthy?? How much did they play WITH him anyway? And even when he wasn’t there….the team was pretty damn good…. Charles Tillman is one of the best playmakers on defense in the league….the front four is strong too, that should make up for the linebackers being a bit weak and this is a very solid team that can make plays all over the field….they’re just a step behind the Packers….but not by much….
Projected Record: 10-6
The Official surprise team (as in where in the HELL did this team come from and how in God’s name did they make the playoffs kinda surprise)…..it doesn’t hurt to get a 2,000 yard season (and a nice 2nd place payout in my money league finish) out of AP to make life easier for Christian Ponder….and the dude needs all the help he can get, right?? Least they added Greg Jennings and his “Douggie Smile” to give him a deep threat (provided Ponder can actually hit him with the ball and after 8 weeks of being overshot or having passes not come close to him that Jennings doesn’t turn around beat him with a wooden stick and yells ‘BE MORE LIKE A-ROD GODDAMMIT!!!’)….and this passing offense is gonna HAVE to do their share….2,000 yard seasons are rare on the ground…and two in a row is kinda unheard of…the Vikings did draft some extra weapons and moved failed backup Spud Webb to receiver too….you’d think this offense would get the memo that passing is easy in the NFL now….
The Vikings are a weird mix of players getting old on D….and players who aren’t there yet either…a bit flawed in the secondary….how many years does Jared Allen have in the tank? (Ditto DT Kevin Williams)….everything went right and the Vikings ended up smelling a LOT like roses last year (well till the playoffs hit)…add in the Vikings won’t be ambushing ANYONE this year….and it all lines up to take a few steps back….well unless Ponder starts looking like an NFL Quarterback….
Projected Record: 7-9
The Lions didn’t change much in the off-season….that’s not a good thing….maybe the worst thing they did is keep the wrong guy in charge of the team….Jim Schwartz has proven himself to be an immature hot head leading a team of the same (Calvin Johnson aside)…and yeah being 22-42 in your career gets you extended in Detroit (geesh that’s awful)…gone are headcases like Titus Young , and a different kind of headcase in Javid Best….in is possibly the perfect back for this team in Reggie Bush (though it would be nice to add an inside runner to mix things up, least Bush can sprint, run draws and catch passes….as long as he stays healthy) and anything that lowers the passing attempts Stafford makes (727 in a season is just asking for your QB to get murdered) is good for the long haul of this team….and I said all this while barley mentioning the awesome that is CalvinTron, he’s as close to automatic as you can have in an NFL receiver and he makes the scrub cast around him better (PS…PLAY KRIS DURHAM MORE….the dude can catch sh!t and he’s HUGE… #MaddenFanboyMoment )
And now onto the part of the team that needs some work…and probably tough love….the defense…..the front 4 is still beastly (when they can keep the 15 yard penalties under control ….more of that maturity thing)…the other 7 players on the field are suspect at best….also not good when you’re dealing with the Packer and Bears offense….geesh this is like me bashing the Tampa team isn’t it….hate the coach, weak defense…the difference is I like the Lions QB….I just don’t like this team when it stacks up to the rest of the NFC North….
Projected Record: 5-11
Much like the AFC, the NFC East is the “weak sister” division here too…but even that lil 4’10” midget has some bite and punch to it….and maybe the NFL’s most exciting player in Robert Griffin….and Lord only knows what the Cowboys are going to be this year….the Giants look set for a down year….and I don’t care what the pre-season said, the Eagles are downright AWFUL…..
(Before I start….fvck you Peter King, you smug holier than thou douche, this is the team’s name and fvcking call them that instead of taking up some idiotic PC clause that NO ONE cares about….if you don’t know in his lil blogs he refuses to call them “Redskins” now because it’s ‘offensive’….just reminds me how sick of people I really get….)…anyway…back to relevant stuff….Robert Griffin III is back on track and ready to start week one vs the Eagles…between Griffin’s legs and playmaking skills (and make no mistake this dude can throw the ball)….and Alfred Morris’ skills behind him this is as dangerous a running team as the league has (and having a strong offensive line to keep them all safe) …if Pierre Garcon and Fred Davis can stay healthy this team has a very balanced and dangerous attack (the Skins were 9-1 with Garcon in the lineup)….and there’s always Santana Moss, though he only seems to roast the Cowboys anymore
The defensive while overlooked by the experts (shocking) was pretty good until it got beat up by injuries last year…the linebackers are pretty solid, once the D-Line gets healthy (and un-suspended) ….it just needs to get better secondary play and not be 30th against the pass too (playing the Giants, Eagles and Cowboys six time also doesn’t help those defensive stats)….in a weak NFC East this team is just a lil bit better then the contenders and a bunch better then the Eagles….
Projected Record: 10-6
*sigh*…the enigma….wrapped in a mystery….surrounded by the “what the frak is going on here” ….yeah that does pretty much sum up the Cowboys….year after year they line up the best talent in the NFC East and year after year they find a way to blow it in the last week of the season going asses up against a divisional foe in the game that means it all…..is all Tony Romo’s fault?? (and people, PLEASE stop talking about his contract….I said it when it happened and look….is it any worse than Flacco’s deal? No! Or Matt Ryan’s (who has as many playoff wins as Dumbo ya know)….not really…..the sad fact in the league now is if you have a QB and he’s not on his rookie deal, he’s gonna bend you over the coals and suck up 25% of your cap)….the biggest problem in Dallas is P L A Y C A L L I N G!!!! Did you know of the 522 pass attempts made by the Cowboys last year, only 80 of them were with a lead?? (pretty sick isn’t it)….what this means….the horrid game plan by the head coach would blow up, Dallas would be 10-15 points behind….and it all falls on the QB to hurry it up and make plays….and guess what? That DON’T WORK IN THE NFL!!!! Things HAD to change….and enter Bill Callahan ….and maybe some emphasis on the running game and not getting Dumbo sacked 36 times a season….the offensive line is being re-tooled and improving (and scary thing is Travis Fredrick might actually live up to the billing of being drafted where he was)….the offense should be fine…despite the “genius” in charge….
And now we go to the defense (one thing about the Cowboys….I don’t need to look up much I already know what I’m gonna say)….it’s a simpler scheme….simple is good….I’m not in love with this passive cover 2 style of 4-3 (the D-Line is a weak point, though moving Ware and Spencer there does bolster that unit)….the LB’s will be good if Lee and Carter can get back on the field….and the corners are good…and then I see this: “One of the reasons Monte Kiffin "resigned" from USC was because of his inability to slow down Chip Kelly's offense at Oregon. In three games vs. Kelly, Kiffin's defenses gave up 62, 35 and 53 points.”….*sigh*….it’s the same old crap in Dallas after all….no wonder the ads on the Cowboys page were all for depends….this team will make you crap your pants one way or the other….
Projected Record: X-Y (where X is one win less then needed for the playoffs and Y is just 16-X )
You’d think with the bombarding I just did on the Cowboys, I’d have the Giants ranked ahead of them, right?? And I’d really like to….but I just can’t….this team is pretty thin and one-dimensional….yes the passing game is good….Cruz and Nicks, if healthy are as good as it gets…Brandon Myers is a great underneath option….BUT…the O-Line is getting older and not as good as it used to be….the running game was suspect at best BEFORE Andre Brown broke his leg….and there’s a lot of questions about this team, as much as passing matters in the NFL, you need some balance….and protection to even things out….and the Giants feel like a one-trick pony right now….
….speaking of one-trick ponies….the story is the same on their defense…the LBs are horrid and seem to be an after-thought when the Giants build a team…the depth on the D-Line is thinning and the health on the ones left….not so good…and the entire secondary of the 28th ranked pass defense is back….this too is not a good thing….there’s a LOT of holes on this team…the only way to fix this mess seems to be to start talking about firing Coughlin….then this team Hulk’s Up, hits the big boot and legdrop and I throw my remote at the TV far away from me in Sun Tavern…and Eli does seem to find a way to make that one BIG play in the 4th Quarter….
Projected Record: 8-8
People are raving and going all batty about the Chip Kelly offense and OMG THIS IS THE GREATEST THING EVER…LOOK HOW FAST THEY LINE UP AND RUN PLAYS!!! That’s great….however you have maybe the most inaccurate QB in the league throwing the balls to his receivers (Puppy Power!!)…they have to be CATCHABLE passes….odds are you’re gonna have a bunch of 3 and Out 41 second “drives”….that’s not good for the defense….but when it does work….Vick can still run and make plays….he also has maybe the best back in the league in McCoy (and a reliable backup in Bryce Brown)…oh yeah…I’m supposed to make some comment about how horrible it is that Riley Cooper got drunk at a concert and said a nasty word to a security guard…right?? Well SO WHAT…he got drunk and threw an insult..,.. BIG GODDAMN DEAL (not like he was dancing around in black-face or anything)….people need to stop being so damned sensitive to WORDS and empowering these words?? Wanna make a word not mean anything?? DON’T LET IT….people need to grow up and walk away now and then….. anyway…back to football… the loss of Maclin is gonna be huge for this team…he was steady, reliable and poised to be huge in this new offense…this does mean more looks for Deshawn Jackson who is still dangerous, and maybe Riley Cooper can now dive for that white known as the goal line….that will make people forget this off-season garbage in a hurry….but still Vick holds on to the ball too long, gets hit a LOT…and will the offensive line hold up??? Maybe…
Maybe someone on the defense needs to toss out some racial slurs too….cause it’s ugly over here…this team was in the basement in sacks and takeaways last year and switching to a 3-4 isn’t going to fix that in one season either….not to mention that if they’re out on the field a lot when the fun n gun goes all pop-gun…there’s going to be a lot of points allowed in Phily and I’m not sure the offense can keep up with that….least it will make Eagle games a lot of fun to watch after all…but fun doesn’t always equal winning football….and there’s a lot of growing pains in Phily under year one of the new regime….least that gives them a pass to set the deck they way they want to play it….
Projected Record: 4-12
Geesh….so it’s Monday….and the season starts on Thursday??? Holy frak….I might have to start writing the damn thing NOW….damn I hate the Thursday Games…no worry I’m sure I’ll have PLENTY to say about the 2013 NFL Season in the weeks to come!!