Tag:New England Patriots
Posted on: January 7, 2012 4:38 pm
 

In The Trenches: NFL Playoffs Preview

Primetime Thoughts

Follow David S. London on Twitter

The Second Season..

NFC
Green Bay Packers-
It was a storybook season for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, the loss to Kansas City aside, as Rodgers set a team-record with 45 touchdown passses.  Green Bay lit teams up on a weekly basis, scoring 33 points or more in 11 games.  At 15-1, the Packers clinched the top record in the league and home-field advantage.

Why They Win-Green Bay went an entire calendar year without losing a game, that’s serious business.  Rodgers’ aeriaul assault is an impressive one, one that only Drew Brees could truly keep up with.  Points come in bunches with this team and anyone would be hard-pressed to keep up.  Even with a quality defense, if you can hold this team to under 30 points, it would be a major victory. 

Why They Won’t-The defense has been a liability for most of the season.  Their excuse has been that they are an agressive unit, one that is able to take chances thanks to it’s high-powered offense.  There are playmakers in Clay Matthews, A.J. Hawk, and Charles Woodson, but too often they have allowed teams to come back in games which were seemingly out of reach.  Rodgers doesn’t have many off days, but a game like they had against the Chiefs would smell trouble if the defense is needed to save the day.

San Francisco 49ers-It was a renaissance season for the 49ers as rookie Head Coach Jim Harbaugh changed the culture in the locker room along with providing a stout defense and a steady offense to complement it.  The likely coach of the year led San Francisco to a 13-3 season and a bye week as the No. 2 seed.

Why They Win-Defense wins championships and this one is one of the better ones, if not the best defense in the playoffs.  Alex Smith has had a career year under Harbaugh.  Not one with the glitz and glamour ala Rodgers and Drew Brees, but completed over 60 percent of his passes and only 5 interceptions.  Smith also has a nice runnning game to work with in Frank Gore and two nice weapons in Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree.

Why They Won’t-The NFC is loaded with high-octane offenses, and the 49ers will likely have to face New Orleans and/or Green Bay to get to the Super Bowl.  The defense may be able to contain them slightly, but as mentioned earlier, holding either under 30 would be a great accomplishment.  That being said, the 49ers offense is not built to win shootouts, so falling behind early won’t bode well for Smith, who would have to step out of his element and go into a heavy passing mode.

New Orleans Saints-After a terrible loss to the then-winless St. Louis Rams, New Orleans reeled off 8 wins to end the season as Drew Brees had a season for the ages, surpassing Dan Marino’s passing yards record with 5,476.  Brees play the last 2 months puts him in what will be a tight race for MVP with Rodgers.  The Saints won the NFC South at 13-3.

Why They Win-The script is no different for the Saints than the Packers.  Their offense can score with the best of them and Brees rarely has an off game.

Why They Won’t-Again, much like the Packers, it will be interesting to see what the defense has to offer.  If they can simply contain opponents, they should have no problem rolling into the Super Bowl.  If they have a letdown circa Marshawn Lynch and the Seattle Seahawks last season, they’ll be doomed.

New York Giants-It was a roller coaster season for the New York Giants.  A 6-2 start while sitting atop the NFC East was followed by a 4 game losing streak, which was then followed by an improbable come-from-behind win against Dallas Week 14 which saved their season, only to fall flat on their face against the Redskins the following week.  The Giants recovered, winning their last two, the final one against the Cowboys, to clinch the division at 9-7.

Why They Win-Momentum has proven to be significant heading into the postseason, often playing a bigger part then seeding in recent memory.  The Giants aren’t a Wild Card team that snuck in, but their backs were against the wall much like one for much of the second half.  Eli Manning is playing arguably his best football right now and has developed a nice rapport with Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, and rising star Victor Cruz.

Why They Won’t-Inconsistencies at defense and in the backfield can hold the Gmen back.  The defense has shown flashes at times, but has gotten lit up by teams like the Packers and Saints, understandably so.  With that, can Manning keep up with either of those two?  They couldn’t in the regular season.

Atlanta Falcons-My Super Bowl pick got off to a rocky start, but rounded into form during the second half on their way to an 11-5 record.  Julio Jones recovered and gave the Matt Ryan a nice toy on offense that he hasn’t had in the NFL. 

Why They Win-The Falcons have transformed into an offense that leans on the pass, but the running game is one of the more formidable ones in the playoffs with Michael Turner.  Head Coach Mike Smith makes the aggressive play, which has cost him in the past, but bold moves will also lead to bold rewards.

Why They Won’t-Their defense is middle of the pack and their offense doesn’t look to be able to compete with the Saints and Packers.  Ryan has elevated the passing game, but it still pales in comparison to the aforementioned ones.

Detroit Lions-A great season for the Lions which ended a long playoff drought was soured by a weak finish to the season.  The Lions finished 10-6, but lost the 5 seed after losing to the Packers sans Rodgers.  Matt Flynn may be a quality quarterback, but Detroit had everything to play for in locking up the 5 seed.  The 5 seed would face the Giants and 49ers assuming the Saints win, a far more desirable path than the Saints and Packers.  Flynn, a backup quarterback, couldn’t be stopped, good luck with Brees.

AFC
New England Patriots-
The defense left plenty to be desired, but Tom Brady was, well, Tom Brady, and would win MVP any other season if not for guys like Rodgers and Brees.  The Patriots snagged the top seed in a conference that was up for grabs until mid-December.

Why They Win-Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have done this before, having won 3 Super Bowls.  Experience is invaluable, which can compensate for a shoddy defense which will likely have to withstand at least one high-powered offense to win a 4th title.  Brady’s offense is no slouch, as he has Rob Gronkowski, arguably the most dynamic weapon in the game.  As far as we know Gronk is human, but it would surprise noone if we found out he was in fact, man-made.

Why They Won’t-The Patriots offense lacks a vertical threat for Brady to expand the field.  Chad Ochocinco never lived up to that role, leaving New England with an intermediate passing game.  The defense may be the worst Belichick has ever had in New England, which has been an issue all season.

Baltimore Ravens-Believed to be the most complete team in the AFC, Baltimore won the AFC North at 12-4.  The Ravens toyed with experts throughout the season, dashing positive momentum time after time with mind-boggling road losses to the Titans, Seahawks, Jaguars, and ChargersJoe Flacco was more of the same this year, consistently inconsistent, showing flashes of being a potential top-10 quarterback only to throw in games with completion percentages hovering around 40.  Ray Rice was ol’ reliable in the backfield, piling up 1,364 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Why They Win-The Ravens are the most complete team in the playoffs, a stiff defense anchored by seasoned veterans Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, and Ed Reed along with a run-heavy offense behind Flacco.  Rice can carry the load when given carries, controlling the clock and sitting on leads they build.  Although inconsistent, Flacco has shown signs of dominance under center, and can be counted on when playing ahead.

Why They Won’t-A road game is possible down the road, and as we’ve learned with Baltimore, anything goes once they leave home.  Rice at times has been inexplicably forgotten by offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.  So it’s not safe to assume Rice will be heavily involved with Cameron calling plays. 

Houston Texans-The team’s best season in their short history took a turn for the worse as players dropped like flies throughout the season.  Matt Schaub was lost for the season in November from a foot injury, Mario Williams has been out since October, and Andre Johnson is returning, albeit in a limited role.  The defense has carried the team since while Arian Foster and Ben Tate have become the team’s main outlet on offense.  T.J. Yates and Jake Delhomme are Houston’s options under center, yikes.

Why They Win-It would oppose what the NFL has become, but it would be all about the defense and the ground game.  Houston boasted an elite defense all season and managed the clock game behind Foster and Tate.  Yates and/or Delhomme would be best suited when not being relied on for more than 15, 20 passes.

Why They Won’t-The defense has little room for error as the run-heavy approach with no quarterback leaves them unable to compete in shootouts.  If a team puts up 21 on the Texans, say goodnight.

Denver Broncos-The most unlikely playoff participant, the Denver Broncos will be hosting a playoff game as the Pittsburgh Steelers come to town.  Tim Tebow is the story here and one of the biggest this past NFL season.  His unconvential style of play at quarterback has been discussed enough to last us a lifetime by now.

Why They Win-Denver’s run to the playoffs ranks among the most improbable as Tebow led the Broncos to one unlikely win after another.  The storybook ending calls for a championship and for Tebow to put all the doubters in their place.  Now in all seriousness, Tebow cannot be relied on to take the Broncos far with his arm, so a heavy dose of the running game along with the defense contuining its solid play is a must.

Why They Won’t-The defense is not capable of shutting teams down entirely, especially elite offenses, and Tebow hasn’t shown that he’s capable of beating teams with his arm.  Until he can solidify the passing aspect to his game, the Broncos won’t go far.

Pittsburgh Steelers-It was a solid campaign for the Boston Celtics of the NFL, a team many deemed aging and on the decline.  Only head-to-head losses to Baltimore prevented the Steelers from winning the division as they finished tied at 12-4.  Pittsburgh comes into postseason play hit by the injury bug.

Why They Win-Experience is present here much like New England, where Ben Roethlisberger has won 2 Super Bowls and played in a third last season.  The defense is among the best remaining and is capable of shutting opponents down.  That leaves Big Ben to work his magic, albeit on a gimpy leg. 

Why They Won’t-Injuries coming at the worst time.  Rashard Mendenhall tore his ACL and will miss the playoffs.  Isaac Redman will replace him and looks capable of matching Mendenhall’s production.  Roethlisberger is the biggest concern.  Since the high-ankle sprain against Cleveland, Roethlisberger has been limited to say the least.  It’s especially restrictive considering Big Ben works best while on the run and adjusting to the defense. 

Cincinnati Bengals-The Bengals came out on top in the battle for the final Wild Card spot over the Jets, Titans, and Raiders.  A rookie duo of Andy Dalton and A.J. Green highlighted the team’s unexpected success. 

Why They Win-This team isn’t going to win any shootouts, but they play a style of football much like their AFC North counterparts, strong defense and heavy doses of running.  Sprinkle in some production from Dalton who has proven to be clutch down the stretch in games and there’s potential for a Cinderella story.

Why They Won’t-Inexperience and a lack of firepower to compete with the elite will likely do them in.  They face a depleted Texans team which they may be able to take down, but I don’t like their prospects against the rest of the field.

Prediction-Baltimore over New Orleans
The Ravens are the most complete team in the field and put aside their road woes.  New Orleans gets past Green Bay as the Saints are on the upswing while the Packers have seemingly slowed down.  My original pick of the Falcons, don’t feel so good about them anymore.

Posted on: October 31, 2011 9:15 pm
 

In The Trenches: Week 8 Thoughts

<span style="color: #6e8dcf;">Primetime Thoughts

Follow <span style="color: #3b5998;">David S. London on Twitter

This past Sunday, Rob Ryan ate Crow, ahem, Eagle.

Cowboys Massive Flop-Jerry Jones said this was a statement game, one that Dallas circled over the Summer.  Rob Ryan called Philadelphia the, "All-Hype Team."  A 34-7 blowout later, the Eagles are riding high as everyone is all aboard their bandwagon once again while Dallas leaves much to be desired.  Dez Bryant continues to throw tantrums that are only acceptable when you are 7 or Terrell Owens.  If nothing else, Ryan has done well to copy his brother in placing all blame on himself; if he really wanted to copy big bro, he'd put himself out there next time Tony Romo cements lame-duck status since the guy is one of the media's favorite pinatas.

Ravens Escape Rough Start-After asking if this was real life a handful of times, I accepted the fact that the Ravens were, in fact, trailing, 24-6, at halftime to the lowly Arizona Cardinals.  The Cardinals don't typically fare well as a West Coast team traveling East, but were in prime position to pull off the massive upset.  We're not sure what was said in the locker room, but the Ravens got their act together and pulled out a 30-27 win.  Baltimore got their act together, albeit a little late, as Ray Rice totaled 99 yards and 3 touchdowns while Anquan Boldin turned on Beast Mode with 7 receptions for 145 yards. 

Giants Rally Late-Yet another game the Giants were expected to dominate that went down to the wire.  The Dolphins are winless and desperate for a win, but Miami leading 17-13 with under 7 minutes to go is concerning.  Eli Manning has been steady for the Giants more often than not.  However, the 5-2 record is not surprising, but the struggle New York has had in the process of getting there certainly is.  A win is a win, but with a tough 6-game stretch in which they could objectively lose all 6, it's time to rise for the G-Men.

Ponder Bests Newton-The game didn't hold much significance asides from draft positions as neither team will be making the postseason.  That being said, Minnesota and Carolina have to feel good going forward with what appears to be two franchise quarterbacks.  Cam Newton's critics can now hush up until the time comes to ask where the Super Bowl wins are.  Newton looks to be as dynamic as Vick, but more difficult to bring down ala Ben Roethlisberger.  Many wondered if the Vikings offense would ever wake up after Donovan McNabb put it to sleep, but Christian Ponder has resuscitated Minnesota's offense.  Adrian Peterson in the backfield is a nice option as well.

Back to Reality for Tebow-Let's try to focus on the positives for Tim Tebow after Sunday's 45-10 loss to the Lions.  Okay so there weren't many, if any, positives to take from Tebow's performance.  That dreadful showing was definitely a score for the critics.  Tebow looked, well, like a quarterback who was ranked third on the depth chart this Summer.  Now it's only one game, but it was a game that highlighted all the things that are wrong with Tebow's game.  From poor mechanics to inability to read coverage are not issues that will go away nor are they easily fixed.  Although he probably isn't fit to continue starting, Denver wants to see if there's any future with Tebow, a middle-round talent who was picked in the first round.

Saints Offense Disappears-This was a team that had just put up 62 points on the lifeless Colts, so a visit with the seemingly lifeless Rams seemed favorable to say the least.  That was until they played the game.  Sparked by the World Series champion Cardinals, the Rams trounced New Orleans 31-21.  The score doesn't do the Rams justice as Drew Brees and Co. looked frazzled from the start, never able to get into a rhythm.  Colt and Dolphin fans rejoice as now they are the lone winless teams/frontrunners for Andrew Luck.

Big Ben Bests Brady-Sunday's outcome shouldn't come as a huge surprise, but now that New England has lost in this fashion, this is a concern that can't be ignored.  What was once believed to be a high-poewred offense now looks to be a one-dimensional offense.  There is no deep threat; Chad Ochocinco has failed miserably to provide any vertical aspect to the passing game.  That has left Brady to attempt dissecting defenses with short, quick routes which can only go so far.  The running game isn't completely missing, but when your defense can't stop anybody, that will eventually get abandoned.  I will never count out Bill Belichick or Brady, but New England's prospects don't look too promising as of now.

Bills Defense Shines-It's usually Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson that receive most of the attention when Buffalo shines, but it was the defense that shinedx the brightest, shutting out the Redskins on their way to a 23-0 win.  It wasn't the biggest challenge as Washington was minus Santana Moss, Chris Cooley, and Tim Hightower, but a shutout is a shutout.  With New England apparently in crisis mode, a one-trick pony on offense and a swiss cheese defense, Buffalo has to feel pretty good about their chances.  Next up, the New York Jets.

49ers Carry On-One of several surprise teams this season, the San Francisco 49ers were heavily favored against the lowly Cleveland Browns.  While it wasn't a statement game or a victory that proved anything, it was a game that they were expected to win.  It's very easy to overlook games which seem to be a given.  Good teams put away the teams they're supposed to, and San Francisco did just that, taking care of business on their way to a 6-1 start for the first time since 1998.

As Do the Bengals-Another suprise team, Cincinnati faced a dreadful offense in Seattle and also took care of business, clamping down on the Seahawks in a 34-12 win.  The Bengals are tied with the Ravens and Steelers atop the AFC North at 5-2, who would've thought.

Posted on: October 17, 2011 11:51 am
 

In The Trenches: Week 6 Thoughts


Primetime Thoughts

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Handshake gate?

49ers Tame Lions-There were some, myself included, who weren't sold on the San Francisco 49ers.  I'm not ready to jump on their bandwagon, but I will recognize them as a legitimate contender.  The NFC West, or the race for 8 as I've previously put it, looks to be San Francisco's to lose at this point with 5 wins already.  They stifled a Lions offense that had been able to score at ease all season.  Perhaps Head Coach Jim Schwartz was so ticked at Head Coach Jim Harbaugh because he had done what no team had previously thought of, double-teaming Calvin Johnson.  I know what you're thinking, why haven't teams been doing that already?

Packers Are Lone Undefeated Team-I'm not sure if any of the Green Bay Packers broke a sweat on Sunday.  Now that's not a jab at the St. Louis Rams, although they seem to be lacking all around, but a testament to Green Bay's dominance.  Aaron Rodgers was okay I guess, 17-28 for 310 yards and 3 touchdowns.  Not much to complain about, unless you're Brett Favre, in which you are disappointed Rodgers didn't reach 400 yards and 4 touchdowns?

Falcons Go Back To Their Roots-Noone was happier than Michael Turner to see the Falcons return to their run-heavy approach, except for his fantasy owners.  Turner ran 27 times for 139 yards and 2 touchdowns as Atlanta took down Cam Newton 31-17.  Atlanta should keep this in mind going forward.  I'm not saying abandon the passing game, but at the very least run to set up the pass like you have the last few years.  I don't care if you're Matt Ryan or Tom Brady, a running game will only open up the field.

Eagles Bounce Back-An overall solid performance by the Eagles as they likely knocked Rex Grossman out of the starting quarterback job in Washington.  Philadelphia picked off Grossman four times and held the Redskins to 42 yards on the ground.  The Redskins fast start seems like a distant memory and Head Coach Mike Shanahan will likely roll John Beck out there, who was the favorite in preseason to start under center.

Giants Survive Another One-It wasn't looking good for the G-Men, you could tell as Head Coach Tom Coughlin's face became brighter as the fourth quarter went on.  Buffalo had the ball in field goal range with less than 5 minutes to go, as Ryan Fitzpatrick had the Bills offense clicking on all cylinders.  Then an underthrown pass down the sideline by Fitzpatrick changed everything as Corey Webster saved the Giants from a late-game demise.  Eli Manning led New York down the field for a Lawrence Tynes field goal and the 27-24 win.  They're 4-2, but the Giants would probably like to see a few dominant performances for an entire game.

Steelers Cruise-It had all the makings of a blowout as the Steelers led 17-0 in the second quarter.  That was more than enough, but Jacksonville hung around and made it a close one with a hail mary at the end of the game.  A win is a win and Pittsburgh is 4-2, but this a game the Steelers should've won by at least double digits.

Brady Leads Pats Comeback-The quarterback play looked to be the key factor in this game.  Could Tony Romo keep up with Tom Brady?  The answer looked to be yes for most of the game.  Romo was actually out-intercepted by Brady, 2:1.  Then Head Coach Jason Garrett decided to quit while they were ahead and take the ball away from Romo.  Now Romo has shown to be prone to mistakes late in the game, but you can't play not to lose against Brady.  Especially when you're running game is average at best.  Dallas was in the driver seat late in the game, but decided to take time off the clock and rely on their defense to hold Brady down.  If you can't trust the guy to make plays late in the game, that would appear to be a red flag with the player you have under center.

Raiders Honor Davis-Playing their first game at home since Al Davis passed away, it was inconceivable to see the Raiders fail to honor Davis against the BrownsDarren McFadden led the way with 91 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown.  The Raiders took a big hit with Jason Campbell who appeared to break his collarbone and is unlikely to return this season.  Kyle Boller and Terrelle Pryor are the current candidates to replace him.  Yikes.

Ravens Outlast Texans-A valiant effort by the Houston Texans, but without their top players on offense and defense, they couldn't keep up with the Baltimore Ravens.  Houston did their best minus Andre Johnson and Mario Williams, leading 14-13 midway through the third quarter.  Baltimore eventually pulled away behind solid running from Ray Rice and timely passes by Joe FlaccoArian Foster was bottled up by the Ravens, who were able to stack the box with Johnson out.  The Ravens are coasting, the Texans are not.  Luckily, Houston plays in the AFC South, where rivals are lacking to say the least.

Vikings To Fold?-This looked to be a competitive game on paper.  Chicago can't stop the run and can't keep Jay Cutler upright.  Minnesota runs the ball well and gets to the quarterback.  That's why they play the game, as the Bears stomped on the Vikings, 39-10, and may have sent Donovan McNabb to the bench for good.  McNabb wasn't awful, going 19-24 for 177 yards, but the Vikings season looks to be over.  This isn't so much about McNabb's usefulness as it is about the Vikings giving their 1st round pick Christian Ponder some playing time.  McNabb is on a one-year deal and was likely staying for only one season anyway.  So they might as well see if Ponder has potential to be the franchise quarterback going forward.

Posted on: September 8, 2011 12:45 am
 

In The Trenches: NFL Season Preview

The lockout is old news and the Saints and Packers square off Thursday.  The only thing missing from this anticipation of the NFL season is Brett Favre overkill…for now.

Packers Set To Defend Title-The Green Bay Packers begin their title defense against New Orleans with the dreaded Super Bowl hangover tossed around.  Unlike the many winners before them, Green Bay looks equipped to dominate for the immediate future and make a run at a dynasty.  Aaron Rodgers has made all Cheeseheads forget bout his predecessor/alleged sextor, letting his play speak for itself.  With a loaded receiving core, a healthy Ryan Grant in the backfield, and a defense which remains intact, look for more of the same from the Packers. 

Eagles Do Their Best Heat Impression-There was no championship-esque celebration in the offseason or guarantees of 5, 6, 7 titles, but the Philadelphia Eagles were reeling in big names much like the Miami Heat.  Nnamdi Asomugha, Domingue Rodgers-Cromartie, and Asante Samuel give the Eagles the best cornerback trio in football.  Jason Babin shores up the defensive line.  The linebacker group is weak in comparison, but with the Eagles likely leading most of their games, teams will be forced to pass against the aforementioned three-headed monster with a solid defensive line.  The offense got deeper as well with Ronnie Brown backing up LeSean McCoy.

New Cardinal Set To Spread Wings-It was discussed before the lockout began, and it happened once the lockout ended.  Traded for Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2012 2nd-round pick, Arizona is banking on Kevin Kolb to be more Kurt Warner and less like Derek Anderson.  The Cardinals locked up Kolb for 6 years, $65 million, with $22 million guaranteed.  Now Kolb has impressed when he’s played, but the guy’s only made 7 starts in his career.  Whether Kolb ends up working out for the Cardinals only time will tell, but they’re probably relieved that Anderson is no longer starting.  The numbers may be easy to top, but will he be as <span style="color: #743399;">serious about the game?

Who Wants the NFC West?-In all seriousness, a 7-9 team made the playoffs for the first time in NFL history.  You could’ve discovered that all four teams were doing their due diligence in hopes of a high draft pick.  All these teams seem to be undergoing makeovers.  The Cardinals have a new quarterback, St. Louis looks to build off Sam Bradford’s solid rookie season, Rookie Head Coach Jim Harbaugh throws Alex Smith one last bone to provide pedestrian results under center (though he could be secretly plotting for Andrew Luck, hmm), and Pete Carroll’s balance-of-power-changing move was, Tarvaris Jackson?Not so sure about that one Petey, but Sidney Rice is a nice addition to the receiving core.

All in all, let’s hope this isn’t another race to 8 wins.

AFC South Up For Grabs-A division which Peyton Manning has routinely put in his back pocket now looks to be up for grabs.  The Colts quarterback’s streak of 227 consecutive games comes to an end due to a slow recovery from neck surgery.  Somewhere Favre is basking in the glory of his streak remaining intact while sporting his wrangler jeans on a tractor in the heart of Mississippi. 

Manning’s return remains a question mark, leaving the Houston Texans in the driver’s seat.  With last year’s 9-7 season being their first ever above .500, Houston looks primed to make a postseason appearance.  The offense remains intact with Matt Schaub at the helm, with Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, and Arian Foster at his disposal.  Although if Foster gets a hold of his teammates future scans, it may put them at a disadvantage (I hear he posts them on twitter).  The offense is the same, but the defense looks to be viable with the addition of Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips.  Prized acquisition Jonathan Joseph should help the secondary, but it will be up to Phillips to turn this defense around. 

Lions Ready to Roar?-The laughingstock of the NFL for the last several years, non-sextors aside, the Detroit Lions bandwagon looks to be filling up rapidly.  Franchise Quarterback Matthew Stafford has shown flashes in his two seasons.  Only thing is, he’s only played 13 of 32 games due to injury.  If Stafford can prove to be healthy, watch out for the Lions offense to be a top-10 unit this season.  That with arguably the nastiest defensive line in football has people thinking relevant December football for these guys, and dare I say it, playoffs?  The rest of the defense may be shaky, but when you put pressure on the quarterback, it makes the job a lot easier on everyone else.   

 Hey Everybody, It’s the New Kid-Two rookie quarterbacks will be thrown into the fire from the get go.  Andy Dalton of the Cincinnati Bengals and Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers will have even less to work off than most rookie quarterbacks because of the lack of offseason workouts with teammates.  Neither one is ready to take the reins, but Carolina needs to sell tickets, and frankly, if you’ve seen Jimmy Claussen play, you know Carolina is no better.  So Newton might as well take his lumps and earn the experience.  Dalton was supposed to sit and learn the ropes, but then Carson Palmer decided he didn’t want to play for a halfway house, err, the Bengals anymore.    Palmer will play for anyone else, but Owner Mike Brown won’t budge, feeling that Palmer should, “honor his contract.” Funny coming from an owner who will never hesitate to rid themselves of a bad deal. 

State of AFC West Address-The Chargers, perennial favorites, say this year’s different, that they won’t struggle out of the gate.  If they can live up to their promise, this division is theirs for the taking.  Kansas City was a nice story, but they seem more like a bubble team.  Don’t be fooled by Denver starting Kyle Orton, the playoffs take a backseat as the Broncos try to decide what exactly should Tim Tebow be doing.  Among options such as tight end and full back also include team pastor.  And nobody really ever knows what Al Davis is doing with the Raiders.

Big Names, New Places-Donovan McNabb is a Viking, Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth are both Patriots, and Reggie Bush is a Dolphin.  Aging Pro Bowl players, expect all to make impacts with their new teams, showing to all that a fresh start was in order, especially McNabb.

Coaching Debuts-6 teams will be with new coaches, only 1 (John Fox, Denver) is not coaching their first-ever NFL game.  None of these teams are expected to do much in the standings, but Raiders Head Coach Hue Jackson has to be aware of the looney bin that also serves as his boss.  Talk about job security.

Predictions
My regular season picks <span style="color: #743399;">last season left much to be desired, only nailing 7 out of 12 playoff teams, but I did pencil Green Bay for the Super Bowl, thus credibility is restored. 

NFC East
Philadelphia
Dallas
New York
Washington

NFC West
Arizona
St. Louis
San Francisco
Seattle

NFC North
Green Bay
Detroit
Minnesota
Chicago

NFC South
Atlanta
New Orleans
Tampa Bay
Carolina

Wild Card: Dallas, New Orleans

AFC East
New York
New England
Miami
Buffalo

AFC West
San Diego
Oakland
Kansas City
Denver

AFC North
Baltimore
Pittsburgh
Cleveland
Cincinnati

AFC South
Houston
Indianapolis
Tennessee
Jacksonville

Wild Card: New England, Pittsburgh

Super Bowl XLVI- Atlanta vs. New York

<span style="color: #6e8dcf;">Primetime Thoughts

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com