2011 NFL Preview
Philadelphia Eagles 12-4
Quarterback Michael Vick has already called them the Dream Team, and in the truncated free agency signing period, the Eagles were the pre-season champions. However, in the NFL just signing great players does not make a great team, and the Eagles must prove it on the field. The key there will be Vick himself, he must stay healthy and avoid the costly mistakes that have prevented him from making the Super Bowl in the past. Their secondary is a big strength and in today’s NFL that will be a key factor in the Eagles hopes of bringing the Lombardi Trophy to Philadelphia.
Dallas Cowboys 9-7
Last year was nothing short of a disaster in Dallas, as they entered with Super Bowl dreams, but were all but out of the playoff picture before Halloween, as Coach Wade Phillips was fired after a 1-7 start. Jason Garrett took over and posted a 5-3 record. Now he gets his chance from the start of the season. They also added Rob Ryan as their new Defensive Coordinator, while the Super Bowl is long shot the Cowboys should be competitive and can make the playoffs if they get a good bounce or two, but they need a better Running Back and more pieces on defense to become a title contender.
Washington Redskins 7-9
Some of the distractions on the Redskins 6-10 in 2010 have been sent packing, as Coach Mike Shanahan continues to build the team to his schemes. One thing missing is a reliable quarterback, as Rex Grossman and John Beck enter the season looking to see a lot of action. Neither will take the Redskins very far, but they won’t be pushover either. Both have a chance to win over the team and Washington with their play as the Redskins will show signs of good things to come in the future despite falling short again.
New York Giants 4-12
No team has had a worse off-season than the New York Football Giants. First they lost several key players to Free Agency, while being unable to land a replacement as they were handcuffed by the Salary Cap. Then it was a painful pre-season as the Giants were bitten hard by the injury bug, add to the fact Osi Umenyiora is disgruntled and you have the recipe for disaster. No player will be missed more than TE Kevin Boss, who at times was a valuable safety net for Eli Manning. With all these problems, if the Giants manage to stay in the race with a tough schedule to boot it may be the best coaching job of Tom Coughlin’s career.
Green Bay Packers 12-4
The Green Bay Packers enter the season as the defending champions and a big target on their back. Taking their crown may be a hard task for anyone, as the Packers could be even better this year as they get all their injured players back including TE Jermichael Finley and Ryan Grant. as they had 13 players on IR last year. Aaron Rodgers is ready to take the mantle as one of the top quarterbacks in the league as he leads the Pack deep into the playoffs again, as they seek to bring another Lombardi Trophy to Titletown.
Detroit Lions 11-5*
Every decade a team comes out of nowhere and becomes an instant Super Bowl contender. The Detroit Lions have potential to be one of those teams. If Quarterback Matthew Stafford can stay healthy for a full season, and play up to the pro bowl level he has showed in flashes. However, the big reason behind the Lions resurgence is their defense led by Ndamukong Suh who is on the verge of becoming the most dominant and feared defensive players in the NFL. The Lions will return to the playoffs this year as they battle the Packers for the NFC North.
Minnesota Vikings 8-8
In 2010 the roof caved in for the Vikings in more ways than one for the Vikings, who endured a 6-10 season as age caught up with Brett Favre and the Metrodome roof collapsed under the weight of a heavy snow storm. With the dust still settling, the Vikings are trying to get a new stadium from Minnesota as they welcome a new Quarterback in Donovan McNabb who will also act as a tutor for Christian Ponder. Adrian Peterson however, should have a big year and at least help the Vikings compete, though in the NFC it won’t be enough to get back in the postseason.
Chicago Bears 6-10
No team will be hurt by the new kick off rules more than the Bears who relied heavily on Devin Hester to set up their offense. Not only did Hester have that quick strike ability to take it to the house, but teams trying to avoid kicking it to him often kicked it short and let the Bears have a shorter field to score. This means the Bears will have to rely on Quarterback Jay Cutler to lead the offense, often the more Cutler is needed the worse he performs, and this spells bad news for the Bears.
Atlanta Falcons 12-4
The Falcons went 13-3 last year, but suffered a letdown in the playoffs. The Falcons have the makings of a stellar offense, and should be able to put up a lot of points. The Falcons also have a strong defense. However, winning in the regular season is not an issue, it’s the playoffs that have been the problem in Atlanta, as Matt Ryan is 0-2 in two postseason appearances. The Falcons have gotten over the jinx of not winning in consecutive seasons, but now they need to figure out how to win in the playoffs. Once they do they are legitimate Super Bowl contender.
New Orleans Saints 11-5*
Coming off a Super Bowl Championships the Saints running game was decimated by injuries. The Saints to improve their running game drafted 2009 Heisman Winner Mark Ingram, don’t be surprised if Ingram takes a bulk of the carries and becomes to go to back in New Orleans, as Ingram will do what Reggie Bush was unable to do and become a focal point of the offense. They also have Drew Brees at Quarterback and should be able to return to the playoffs as they fight it out with the Falcons in the NFC South again.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 9-7
Last year the Buccaneers were one of the biggest surprises in the NFL, as they posted a 10-6 record. However, in the rough NFC the Bucs fell short of making the playoffs. Quarterback Josh Freeman is the real deal, and Raheem Morris is one of the terrific young coaches in the NFL. However, the top of the NFC is crowded and the Buccaneers will once again fall just short of getting into the playoffs, as they will have harder time this year winning ten game nobody will take them lightly any more.
Carolina Panthers 4-12
The Panthers are coming off a disastrous 2-14 season, and are giving the ball right away to #1 pick Cam Newton at quarterback. Add the fact they have a first year head coach in Ron Rivera and the Panthers are going to be a team that will be doing a lot of on the job learning. With the lockout teams with such as the Panthers who are learning on the job will much further behind than usual and to expect anything big out of them is unrealistic.
Arizona Cardinals 10-6
The Cardinals have locked up Receiver Larry Fitzgerald to a long term deal, but most importantly they have gotten a quarterback to get him the ball. Kevin Kolb in his brief appearances in Philadelphia showed himself to be a capable quarterback. The Cardinals won the division the two previous seasons with Kurt Warner. The NFC West is theirs for the taking, and with a top offense including the addition of TE Todd Heap.
St. Louis Rams 9-7
Last year QB Sam Bradford showed the poise of a veteran as the Rams who won three total games the two previous years went into the last game of the season with a chance to win the NFC West. While the Rams fell short, Bradford won the Rookie of the Year and hoped return to St. Louis. The Rams should continue to make strides, but winning the division may be difficult as teams like the Cardinals will are improved. However, expect them to be in the race for the long run as the Rams have a bright future ahead of them.
San Francisco 49ers 6-10
In the 2005 NFL Draft the 49ers had a choice; they could have taken the local Quarterback from Cal or the star from Utah. They did not choose wisely and have been paying ever since as Aaron Rodgers from Cal went to Green Bay and won a Super Bowl, while the 49ers have been adrift with Alex Smith. One would think this is his last chance, and new Coach Jim Harbaugh has a chance to save his career. However, there is no saving his career as the 49ers continued to struggle.
Seattle Seahawks 3-13
The Seahawks are in a year of transition as longtime Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is now gone, as Tavaris Jackson and Sidney Rice were brought in from Minnesota to lead the Seahawks offense. However, Jackson has never been a consistent winner in the NFL and in Minnesota he had a top notch running back in Adrian Peterson, something the Seahawks do not possess. There may be a plan behind the Seahawks restructuring in Pete Carroll’s second season as coach, but it looks like one that includes rebuilding from the bottom up, and the Seahawks will be looking up from the bottom all year.
New York Jets 13-3
It is put up or shut up time for the Jets and Coach Rex Ryan as after two near misses they enter the season with high expectations. Perhap the biggest addition for the Jets in the truncated off-season, was bringing in Tom Mooore as an offensive consultant. Moore who worked with Peyton Manning for years is a good mentor for QB Mark Sanchez, who has shown flashes of brillance at times. If the Jets are to reach their destation it is up to Sanchez to step up and become a top teir quarterback something is capable of being. The Jets defense is already one of the best in the league, if Sanchez can avoid the big mistake their may be no stopping the Jets.
New England Patriots 12-4*
The other half of the two headed monster in the AFC East, the Patriots are the perennial team to beat. Tom Brady is coming off another big year and has another big target with Chad Ochocinco. However, there are still some vulnerabilities on the Patriots, as their defense still has some holes and relying on Albert Haynesworth could be a mistake. No doubt the Patriots will be in the playoffs, but last year’s playoff loss to the Jets was just the beginning of gang green taking over that division.
Buffalo Bills 6-10
Stagnation and irrelevance are the only things worse than being the worst team in the NFL. The Bills have reached stagnation and irrelevance. They have not made the playoffs since we partied like’s its 1999, and they have not been close in recent years either. They also have not been bad enough to get top picks and top talent in the draft so they have stagnated around 6-10. Ryan Fitzpatrick showed some promise at quarterback last year, but not even the most optimistic Bills fan has much hope in him leading them back to the promise landed, and in their division it is hard to believe they will go much above where they have been stuck, stagnate and irrelevant.
Miami Dolphins 4-12
Another AFC East team going in the wrong direction is the Miami Dolphins, who no longer has Bill Parcells guiding them and openly sought a new coach and a new QB and ended up stuck with the incumbents. Can you say lame duck? Lame duck is also the nickname for the passes Chad Henne throws, and as anyone in Florida will tell you relying on Chads to win is a losing proposition. Reggie Bush does not have the body to be an every down back and the over/under on how many game he lasts is five, which is one more than wins the Dolphins will have, with any Luck they can get a good QB in the draft.
Baltimore Ravens 11-5
The AFC North is another two horse race with the Ravens and Steelers again battling for the top spot. The window of opportunity may be closing for the Ravens, as their define is getting long in the tooth, as both Safety Ed Reed and LB Ray Lewis are closer to the end of their careers than to the prime. Nonetheless both are still capable of Pro Bowl play and with a solid offense the Ravens again have to be considered one of the favorites if they can come up victors in the wars with the Steelers.
Pittsburgh Steelers 10-6*
After losing Super Bowl XLV, the Steelers enter 2011 with a Gibraltar sized chip on their shoulders. The target of their anger is Commissioner Roger Goodell, whom ever Steeler has seemingly ripped in the media at one point in the last six months. While such anger can bore team unity and an us against the world mentality, it can also backfire. In recent years the Steelers have struggled coming off Super Bowl appearances. They won’t return to the Super Bowl, but they will at least make the playoffs.
Cleveland Browns 7-9
A new coach in Cleveland, the Browns could be an excellent dark horse in the AFC, but they are likely a year away from being a true contender. Their new Coach Pat Shurmur is going to win, but like all teams with a new coach they are further behind than normal because of the lockout. Catching up may not take that long, but when you have to contend with both the Steelers and Ravens it’s a big hill to climb.
Cincinnati Bengals 1-15
Nobody will be pulling harder for the Bengals this year than Andrew Luck, who you know wants to avoid being drafted by this death trap in Cincinnati where good college careers go to die. The latest victim is Carson Palmer who chose retirement over continuing to toil in the jungle. Owner Mike Brown has refused to trade Palmer, who he could get some draft picks for at the very least on principal. Brown’s stand on principal tells you all you need to know about the future for the Bengals, and that is things won’t improve until Mike Brown is gone.
Houston Texans 10-6
This is it Houston. The Texans have a good quarterback in Matt Schaubm a good running back in Arian Foster, and all world receiver in Andre Johnson. They have improved the secondary, and have a good front seven. If the Texans do not make the playoff this year, than Gary Kubiak is the worst coach ever. No more excuses no more Colts being better, this is it Houston. They have been picked for years as the dark horse well they have the pressure it’s now or never for the Texans to win the AFC South.
Indianapolis Colts 9-7
For the first time in his career, health is a big question mark for QB Peyton Manning who has been slow to heel from neck surgery in May. Manning may be the single most important player in the NFL. If healthy and playing at his top level the Colts can win the Super Bowl in their own stadium. If he misses any time it’s an old Kerry Collins, and a terrible Curtis Painter leading an offense without any reliable running game. Even if Manning plays all 16 games the Colts could be overtaken in the AFC South, as their playoff streak could be in jeopardy.
Tennessee Titans 7-9
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck gives the Titans a fighting chance as they await Jake Locker to be ready to take over and lead the future for the Titans. Another team that has a new coach, the Titans are also going to be playing catch up with RB Chris Johnson, who held out the entire pre-season. Fortunately all Johnson needs to know is run and catch, but the Titans will have a tough time making the playoffs unless Johnson has another 2000 yard season in him.
Jacksonville Jaguars 5-11
The Jaguars are a team in transition as Blaine Gabbert was drafted to replace David Garrard at quarterback, while the Sword of Damocles seemingly hangs over Coach Jack Del Rio. There is talent on this team, but not enough to make any noise in the playoffs. Expect to see a lot of change for the Jaguars at the end of the season, as Del Rio could lead a charge of several players and coaches leaving town.
San Diego Chargers 13-3
There is no team more perplexing than the San Diego Chargers, they have team that can and should win a Super Bowl. However, last year despite having the best offense and the best defense in the NFL they missed the playoffs, as they found new ways to put the special in special teams, while their coaching staff led by Norv Turner is extra special now talk of a move to LA is surrounding them, and despite all their talent you just know they will blow it again in the playoffs this time.
Kansas City Chiefs 6-10
The Chiefs came out of nowhere and won the AFC West last year, as QB Matt Cassel made some strides. However, they did it while playing one of the weakest schedules in the NFL, this year their schedule is much tougher and they will have to play even better to repeat. One thing working against them is the loss of Offensive Coordinator Charlie Weiss. The Chiefs overall are going in the right direction but this is going to be a year where they take a step back and struggle to avoid ten losses.
Denver Broncos 5-11
Another team playing catch up with a new coach, the Broncos biggest headache is the ongoing quarterback controversy between Tim Tebow and starter Kyle Orton. Orton has shown he is better QB, but Tebow who played well at the end of last year is the fan favorite for his play in college and off the field charitable work. Fans in Denver won’t be patient for Orton, who no matter what the future holds knows he needs to play well as he is a free agent at the end of the year, and could parlay it into a new contract elsewhere if the Broncos who are still going to struggle choose in the end to go with Tebow for the future.
Oakland Raiders 4-12
Gertrude Stein once said of Oakland “There is no there there”. She must have known Al Davis and the Raiders. There is no there in Raider Nation, as they enter with a new coach and no definable direction with Al Davis running the franchise in circles. The Raiders lost Nnamdi Asomugha and nobody can replace him. It’s a team that is rudderless and directionless, which helps as their fans look like extras from the Road Warrior.
- Coach of the Year
- Comeback Player of the Year
- Defensive Rookie of the Year
- Offensive Rookie of the Year
- Defensive Player of the Year
- Offensive Player of the Year
- NFL MVP
- Jim Schwartz
- Tony Romo
- Von Miller
- Julio Jones
- Ndamukong Suh
- Aaron Rodgers
- Aaron Rodgers
- Detroit Lions
- Dallas Cowboys
- Denver Broncos
- Atlanta Falcons
- Detroit Lions
- Green Bay Packers
- Green Bay Packers
- Coach of the YearJim Schwartz
- Comeback Player of the YearTony Romo
- Defensive Rookie of the YearVon Miller
- Offensive Rookie of the YearJulio Jones
- Defensive Player of the YearNdamukong Suh
- Offensive Player of the YearAaron Rodgers
- NFL MVPAaron Rodgers
- Detroit LionsJim Schwartz
- Dallas CowboysTony Romo
- Denver BroncosVon Miller
- Atlanta FalconsJulio Jones
- Detroit LionsNdamukong Suh
- Green Bay PackersAaron Rodgers
- Green Bay PackersAaron Rodgers
FIRING SQAUDCoaches who will be looking for work after the season
- Tom Coughlin Giants
- Jack Del Rio Jaguars
- Marvin Lewis Bengals
- Lovie Smith Bears
- Tony Sparano Dolphins