2011 NFL Preview & Prognostications

After the long national nightmare that was the NFL Lockout it is a huge relief to football fans everywhere that a crisis was averted and the only casualty was the traditional Hall of Fame game. It’s going to be fascinating to see which teams can weather the storm of having virtually none of the usual offseason prep time, and if any rookies successfully overcome the extremely short learning curve. Teams with new coaches (San Francisco, Carolina, Cleveland, Denver, Minnesota, Oakland, and Tennessee) are likely to struggle, and no one should expect any significant contributions from their first year players. At any rate, as always, I do not encourage any wagering based on my “insight” and freely admit my expertise in these matters is strictly based on 3 decades as a fan, my vibes, and whatever The Voices tell me. Each team’s 2010 record is in parentheses, followed by my prediction for how they’ll do this season.

 

 


 

AFC East

New England Patriots    (14-2)          13-3  

New York Jets                (11-5)          10-6  

Buffalo Bills                   (4-12)          6-10

Miami Dolphins              (7-9)            5-11

The Patriots’ window is beginning to close (QB Tom Brady is 34 years old), but they should kick ass for another 2 or 3 years anyway. It will be interesting to see how the acquisitions of WR Chad Johnson (I refuse to call him that other silly, made up name) and defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth pan out. The Jets are more bluster & hype than anything, and no matter what load of bull the talking heads at ESPN try to sell you replacing WR Braylon Edwards with Plaxico “Bullets” Burress is like trading in a 2009 Camaro for a 1995 Nissan. QB issues in Buffalo & Miami must be addressed before they can get back on the road to respectability.

 

 

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens          (12-4)          11-5

Pittsburgh Steelers        (12-4)           11-5

Cleveland Browns         (5-11)           7-9

Cincinnati Bengals        (4-12)           1-15

As a lifelong Steelers fan I am more than a bit concerned that they did virtually nothing to address shortcomings at the CB position this offseason. I think the Ravens take the division & the Steelers secure a wild card. I really like QB Colt McCoy, but the Browns aren’t quite ready to “make a statement” just yet. The Bungles are a complete mess after the unexpected “retirement” of QB Carson Palmer, but on the bright side look to be the early leaders in the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes.

 

 

AFC South

Houston Texans             (6-10)          9-7

Indianapolis Colts          (10-6)          9-7    

Tennessee Titans (6-10)          8-8

Jacksonville Jaguars     (8-8)            6-10

I have been commenting on the inevitable slow decline of the Colts the past two years, and we’ll really see it in 2011. Major health questions about Indy QB Peyton Manning will open the door for the Texans to finally break through after having addressed concerns about their lackluster pass defense in the offseason (unlike the Steelers). Jacksonville has to have atleast one, preferably two, receivers emerge from the potpourri of journeymen currently on the roster to relieve the pressure on tailback Maurice Jones-Drew. Tennessee has a similar issue…a need to improve the passing attack so defenses can’t just stack the line to stop speedy RB Chris Johnson.

 

 

AFC West

San Diego Chargers       (9-7)            11-5

Oakland Raiders             (8-8)            8-8

Kansas City Chiefs        (10-6)           8-8

Denver Broncos             (4-12)           3-13

It’s now or never for the Chargers. With a rumored move to Los Angeles on the horizon I believe they will finally fulfill the potential they seem to have had for several years. I think the Chiefs take a bit of a step back in 2011, and the neverending QB brouhaha in Denver won’t help their cause. For what it’s worth…my two cents is that Tim Tebow is not an NFL quarterback and never will be.

 

 

Playoff Teams       –        New England, Baltimore, Houston, San Diego, NY Jets, Pittsburgh

AFC Champion      –        San Diego

The Patriots, Jets, Steelers, & Ravens will get all the buzz, but I’m predicting it’ll be the San Diego Chargers who will represent the AFC in The Super Bowl.

 

 

 

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles       (10-6)          12-4

Dallas Cowboys             (6-10)          9-7

New York Giants           (10-6)          5-12  

Washington Redskins    (6-10)          4-11

Things in Irving, TX have been strangely quiet this summer – none of the usual salivating and hyperbole over how great the Cowboys will supposedly be. I believe that will turn out to be a good thing. The hype machine has instead been relocated to Philly, where every available free agent seems to have landed. Unlike their counterparts in Big D I think the Eagles will live up to expectations…until they get to the playoffs. Redskins fans are still waiting on coach Mike Shanahan to work his magic but have to be suspicious that the real Shanahan has been replaced by some sort of clone with the IQ of Forrest Gump or President Obama’s economic advisors. John Beck & Rex Grossman are your top 2 QBS?? Really?? And yes, I don’t think the NY Giants will be nearly as good as most others seem to think they will.

 

 

NFC North

Green Bay Packers        (10-6)          14-2

Detroit Lions                  (6-10)          10-6

Chicago Bears                (11-5)           9-7

Minnesota Vikings         (6-10)          8-8

One must realize that the Green Bay Packers won The Super Bowl with about half their team on injured reserve. This leads me to believe they will be even better in 2011…until they get to the playoffs. Detroit is the trendy pick to make the leap from pretender to contender, and I agree. I have maintained for years (just like my pal Rush Limbaugh) that QB Donovan McNabb is overrated, so don’t look for major improvement from the Vikings.

 

 

NFC South

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-6)          12-4

New Orleans Saints       (11-5)          8-8

Atlanta Falcons              (13-3)           8-8

Carolina Panthers          (2-14)          3-13

The Falcons traditionally have problems putting together back-to-back great seasons, so look for a dropoff in Hotlanta, as well as N’awleans. It doesn’t matter whether rookie QB Cam Newton is handed the starting job or 2nd year signal caller Jimmy Clausen holds on, the Panthers will still be bad. Wouldn’t it be hilarious if they ended up in a situation where they have the chance…even with those two guys on the roster…to draft Stanford QB Andrew Luck?? Fortunately I think the Bengals will solve that problem. So that leaves the TB Bucs to continue their improvement under the leadership of young quarterback Josh Freeman and be a surprising championship contender.

 

 

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals          (5-11)          10-6

St. Louis Rams               (7-9)           9-7

San Francisco 49ers      (6-10)           8-8

Seattle Seahawks          (7-9)            6-10

I’m sold on new Cardinals QB Kevin Kolb. I also like Rams field general Sam Bradford but don’t believe he has enough reliable weapons yet. New 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh will acquit himself quite well in his inaugural season, but is likely to figure out that Alex Smith is not the long term answer under center. I wasn’t enamored with any of the offseason moves in Seattle. QB Tarvaris Jackson makes Alex Smith look like Roger Staubach.

 

 

 

Playoff teams        –        Philadelphia, Green Bay, Tampa Bay, Arizona, Dallas, Detroit

NFC Champion      –        Tampa Bay

Many are already drooling about a potential Eagles-Packers championship game, but I believe one of those teams will stumble early in the playoffs and the other will fall in the title contest to the Bucs.

 

 

 

2012 Draft Lottery

1             Cincinnati Bengals                         QB  Andrew Luck (Stanford)

2             Denver Broncos                             QB  Landry Jones (Oklahoma)

3             Carolina Panthers                          WR  Alshon Jeffery (South Carolina)

4             Washington Redskins                    QB  Matt Barkley (Southern Cal)

5             NY Giants                                     WR  Justin  Blackmon (Oklahoma St.)

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