Friday, September 9, 2011

32 Things: A Preview of the 2011 NFL Season

Previewing the NFL Season: 1 Thing at a Time

If you are a fan of the show (and my guess is that you are if you're reading this), you know that we open each show with a segment called, "3Things." The segment gives Don and I a chance to recap the week in sports and discuss the moments, controversies and oddities from the last seven days. When I decided that the blog needed a special NFL preview post I figured it would work best if it was a print version of the podcast. So, what comes next is 32Things, one for each team in the NFL. Let's do it...

Team: Green Bay Packers Most Coveted Fantasy Player: Aaron Rogers Rookie Expected to Make Impact: Randall Cobb

1.) The bullseye is squarely on the backs of all 53 Green Bay Packer players. The Packers have gone from the hunter, as a sixth seed that won three road games before beating the Steelers in the Super Bowl, to the hunted as the team that has achieved what all of the other teams in the league set off to do. As a Saints fan, I watched how hard it is to be that team that everyone is trying to catch up to. The Packers won the Super Bowl last year without Jermichael Finley, but he is back and ready to create headaches for defensive coordinators everywhere. I don't think the Packers will repeat, but they might be the best equipped to do so since the Patriots earlier in the decade. (Projected Record: 15-1)

Team: New England Patriots Most Coveted Fantasy Player: Tom Brady Rookie Expected to Make Impact: Stevan Ridley

2.) I am very excited to watch, "Bill Belichick: A Football Life." The show is a two part documentary that will air on the NFL Network on September 15 and September 22. Belichick agreed to spend the entire 2009 football season wired for sound. If you are like me you feel like you know very little about the polarizing Belichick. Sports Programing like HBO's 24/7, Showtime's series about the 49ers and other behind the scenes type shows have given us insight we have never had before. I expect this show to be no different. (Projected Record: 14-2)

Team: Steelers Most Coveted Fantasy Player: Rashard Mendenhall Rookie Expected to Make Impact: Marcus Gilbert

3.) Last offseason was a zoo in Pittsburgh. Roethlisberger was suspended for four games by the Commish and the Steelers season was in doubt before it started. In the end, the Steelers made another trip to the Super Bowl and without a late fumble by Mendenhall they might have won it. This offseason was much quieter. I expect much of the same from the Steelers this year. The Ravens will challenge them for the division and Cleveland is better. Despite that, the Steelers play the Bengals twice, the 49er, Rams, Cardinals, Colts (on 9/25 long before a potential Manning return), Jaguars, and Seahawks. If the Steelers defeat the Ravens on Sunday I will expect them to be 7-0 heading into a two game stretch against New England and Baltimore. (Projected Record: 13-3)

Team: New Orleans Saints Most Coveted Fantasy Player: Drew Brees Rookie Expected to Make Impact: Mark Ingram

4.) Anyone who listens to the show knows that I am a die hard Saints fan. I am sure, for that reason, anything that I write here will be taken with a grain of salt by most of you. The truth is, I am as critical of my team as anyone. I ditched my Saints blindfold years ago. I am always honest when it comes to the Saints. My expectation this season is another trip to the Super Bowl. Drew Brees is the best or second best QB in the NFC and he is surrounded by weapons. The defense is going to struggle early as they adjust to a ton of offseason changes. If the defense can get going and be around the lower top third in the NFC the Saints could be impossible to beat. I fully expect the season to come down to one game. Can the Saints beat the Packers in the NFC Championship? Maybe (Projected Record: 14-2)

Team: Jets Most Coveted Fantasy Player: Santonio Holmes Rookie Expected to Make Impact: Muhammad Wilkerson

5.) I can't be the only person who missed spending the summer with the New York Jets on HBO's Hard Knocks. At one point my withdrawals got so bad that I was just walking around the house mumbling "let's go eat a god damn snack, let's go eat a god damn snack, let's go eat a god damn snack, let's go eat a god damn snack." It got ugly. The Jets have gotten within a game of the Super Bowl in the last two seasons before falling in the AFC Championship Game. The Jets need to get better on offense to expect to beat Pittsburgh or New England in January. Plaxico Burress has replaced Braylon Edwards but I don't see that as any kind of massive upgrade. If the Jets are going to improve on offense than Mark Sanchez has to take the next step and Shonn Greene needs to establish himself as an every down back. (Projected Record: 11-5)

Team: Baltimore Ravens Most Coveted Fantasy Player: Ray Rice Rookie Expected to Make Impact: Jimmy Smith

6.) The Ravens have made a few subtle moves in the offseason that I think will make their team much better than last year. First, the Ravens made a great trade for Lee Evans. Evans was rotting away in Buffalo and never seemed to click with the Bills ivy league QB. Joe Flacco throws and outstanding deep ball and Lee Evans is capable of getting deep and catching them. This allows Anquan Boldin to catch the ball closer to the line of scrimmage and rack up yards after the catch. A better passing game means more room for the mega talented Ray Rice and less pressure on Joe Flacco. Next, the Ravens picked Bryant McKinney off the scrap heap, prohibit him from eating cheeseburgers, and moved Michael Oher back to RT where he was dominate in his rookie season. Last, the Ravens signed Matt Birk to play center. Sure Matt Birk is in his 14th season, but I guarantee this is the last time you think about, read about, or talk about Birk the rest of the season. That is exactly what you want from your center. I predict big things from the Ravens this session and I can't wait to watch them battle it out with the Steelers. (Projected Record: 13-3) 

Team: Atlanta Falcons Most Coveted Fantasy Player: Roddy White Rookie Expected to Make Impact: Julio Jones

7.) The Falcons paid a shit ton to acquire Julio Jones in the draft. I have been following Jones since he was a 17-year old senior playing high school ball in Alabama. Jones was a 5-star all world recruit that had narrowed his decision for college down to Oklahoma or Alabama. Ultimately, he broke my heart and decided to ball at home with Nick Saban and ended up winning a National Championship. Jones is the real deal, sure the Falcons paid a King's ransom to team him up with Roddy White and Harry Douglas in an attempt to created the greatest show on turf part two, but if it works out no one is ever going to miss those draft picks. (Projected Record: 12-4)

Team: Philadelphia Eagles Most Coveted Fantasy Player: M. Vick Rookie Expected to Make Impact: Casey Matthews

8.) The Eagles spend the entire abbreviated offseason attempting to sign every free agent with a pulse. They succeeded. The Eagles added Nnamdi Asomugha, Vince Young, Cullen Jenkins, Jason Babin, Ronnie Brown, and Steve Smith. The Eagles also got good news when strangely ill Jeremy Maclin started to feel better and was cleared of leukemia. The Eagles have surrounded Vick with tons of talent. LeSean McCoy is a multi-demensional threat. DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Mackin, and Steve Smith should spread defenses all over the field. There is still something that just doesn't feel right about the Eagles to me. I can feel the eyes of every Eagles fan reading this rolling right now but when was the last time that the big winner in the offseason was the big winner in the regular season. Didn't the Eagles attempt what the Redskins have been trying to do for the entire time that Dan Snyder has owned the team? Has it ever worked? Personally, I wouldn't have traded Kevin Kolb. (Projected Record: 10-6)

Team: San Diego Chargers  Most Coveted Fantasy Player: VJack  Rookie Expected to Make Impact: Corey Liuget

9.) We spent a lot of time talking about the Chargers with Sports Illustrated senior writer Jim Trotter on the last episode of The Sports-Casters. One thing I noticed about the Chargers roster is that they are loaded with veterans all over the field. It seems like the clock might be ticking. The Chargers has been progressively worse each season under Norv Turner. It will be nice to enter this season with Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeil on the field and not holding out like last season. The Chargers were number 1 on offense and number 1 on defense last season before awful special teams and a poor September kept them from extending their streak of AFC West division titles. If Bob Sanders can stay healthy all season he could be the steal of the offseason and the extra piece that the Chargers have been missing. Does anyone think that can happen?(Projected Record: 10-6) 

Team: Indianapolis Colts  Most Coveted Fantasy Player: Reggie Wayne  Rookie Expected to Make Impact: Corey Liuget

10.) Life without Peyton Manning has slapped the Colts and all of their fans across the face this week. Its almost impossible to picture the Colts without Manning under center. A few year ago, Tom Brady was injured during the first game of the Patriots season. Some how they were able to plug in Matt Cassel, go 11-5, and make the playoffs. I don't think the Colts have a Matt Cassel on their roster. In fact, I know they don't. They will attempt to go to battle with Kerry Collins who isn't a completely awful player. I think the Colts will rally around themselves and do the best that they can but without Payton Manning this team just isn't built for success. At least the city of Indianapolis gets to host the Super Bowl in February. (Projected Record: 7-9)

Team: San Diego Chargers  Most Coveted Fantasy Player: VJack  Rookie Expected to Make Impact: Corey Liuget

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