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.)


2011 Pre-Season College Football Top 25

As 95 degree temperatures fade away and one can smell autumn in the air, it is time to get jacked up for my favorite season of the year…football season. We begin first with college, the ostensible domain of amateur student athletes (except for those playing in Columbus and Coral Gables).


1             Stanford

I realize there is a new coach in Palo Alto after Jim Harbaugh’s defection to the NFL, but the Cardinal still has QB Andrew Luck, who is widely expected to be the #1 overall pick in next spring’s draft. It’s a tough schedule, with away games at Arizona & USC and home tilts against Notre Dame & Oregon, but I have good vibes about this team.


2             Oklahoma

The Sooners seem to be everyone else’s choice for #1, but I don’t like to follow the crowd.

3             Wisconsin

Ohio State has had a rough offseason, losing both their coach & starting QB (and most of their credibility), so the Big Ten race becomes wide open. The Badgers aren’t the most exciting team to watch, but they’ll pound the ball and wear down opposing defenses.


4             Florida St.

Coach Jimbo Fisher…a fellow Clarksburg, WV native and also an alum of my high school alma mater…looks to have the Seminoles back on the brink of dominance after the mediocrity of the final Bobby Bowden years.



5             Alabama

The Tide is also a popular pick to contend for a national title, and with good reason. The last 5 national champions have all come from the SEC. It will take 2 losses to knock ‘Bama out of the running, and I believe that to be a real possibility. They could still win the SEC title though.

6             Oregon

The Ducks will provide stiff competition for Stanford in the Pac 10, with their clash on November 12 deciding the race and a likely spot in the national championship game. That game is at Stanford. Sorry ‘bout your luck Oregon.



7             South Carolina

Is this the year Spurrier’s Gamecocks put it all together?? Maybe. I’m looking forward to a ‘Bama-SC SEC title game.

8             Texas A&M

Who knows what conference the Aggies will end up in down the road?? And really, who cares?? For now they are in the depleted Big 12 and will suffer only one loss…to division rival Oklahoma.

9             Arizona

The Wildcats have back to back contests against Stanford & Oregon early in the season. Even if they lose both they could run off 8 straight wins afterward and finish 10-2. If they are somehow able to win one of those two games there’s no reason to believe they can’t be a rock solid Top 10 team.



10         BYU

The Cougars are now an independent, free from all conference ties. I’m not sure whether that is a good or bad thing, but I have looked at their schedule. Trips to Texas and TCU might be a bit intimidating, but otherwise this is a 10 win team.

11         Oklahoma St.

Former offensive coordinator Dana Holgersen is now the head coach at West Virginia, but the Cowboys return starting QB Brandon Weeden and top flight NFL wideout prospect Justin Blackmon. There are tough games at home against Arizona & Oklahoma, and an away battle with Texas A&M in College Station. Three losses would totally blow up this pick, but if the boys from Stillwater can steal one of those three they will get the attention of voters.



12         Michigan St.

The Spartans went 11-2 last season and return starting QB Kirk Cousins. However, the schedule is t-o-u-g-h. Away games at Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Nebraska along with a home game versus Wisconsin will be grueling. A split of those contests would be amazing, but it is just as possible that they lose all four and make me look like a fool.



13         Arkansas

The Razorbacks do have to replace QB Ryan Mallett, so I’m a little nervous about putting them in this spot. But when I look at the schedule I see 8 wins, and that’s without any upsets. If the Hogs can pull off a surprise or two against the likes of ‘Bama, Auburn, Texas A&M, or South Carolina this pick is golden.



14         Mississippi St.

It doesn’t seem like all that long ago the Bulldogs were at the bottom of the SEC barrel, but they are coming off of a 9 win season and an impressive mauling of Michigan in the Gator Bowl. It’s kind of the same deal as Arkansas – 8 wins looks to be a lock, but an upset or two in games against ‘Bama, LSU, Auburn, and South Carolina would solidify a top 20 ranking.



15         Northwestern

In case anyone missed it, Northwestern was a bowl team last year. I say they keep the momentum going in 2011. Somewhere ESPN’s Mike Greenberg & Michael Wilbon are smiling.

16         West Virginia

Someone’s got to win the overlooked, disrespected Big East, and the consensus is that Coach Holgersen’s high powered “Eer Raid” offense will lead the Mountaineers to the crown. Yours truly is calling an upset over LSU on September 24th, which would give WVU a legit shot at an undefeated season. Sadly, even if that comes to fruition they still might be outside the championship picture looking in at a 1 or even 2 loss SEC/Big 10/Pac 10 team getting a shot at the national title.



17         Air Force

I really like watching the service academies play football. You know these guys are a lot more special than the average student athlete, and they all play a unique style that is just plain fun to see. Playing in the same conference as Boise & TCU makes a tough road for the Falcons, but I think they upset one of those two adversaries this season. Defeating Notre Dame on October 8th would be the cherry on top, although I don’t look for that to happen.



18         TCU

This might seem like a low ranking for a team coming off of an undefeated season, one that many felt deserved a chance to play for the national championship. But whereas power conference teams often reload instead of rebuild, replacing a starting QB is a little bigger bump in the road for the little guys. My vibes are telling me that the Horned Frogs will still be good, but won’t be anywhere near the BCS hunt this season.



19         Missouri

The Tigers schedule is brutal, with conference games at Oklahoma and at Texas A&M, plus an out-of-conference battle at Arizona St. They also have to replace a starting QB who is now in the NFL. Still, 8 or 9 wins would be plenty good enough for a solid top 20 finish.

20         Boise St.

I think we may be nearing the end of Boise’s 15 minutes of glory. I just don’t think we’ll see them in the top 10 mix anymore, even if they win 10+ games. The Mountain West…especially once TCU bolts for the Big East…just isn’t worthy of much esteem.



21         Nebraska

The Cornhuskers move to The Big 10 (which now has 12 teams) this season, so some might logically believe there would be a period of adjustment. However, I don’t believe there will be much of a dropoff, if any. As a matter of fact, I think they’ll blow thru the conference with relative ease save for a game at Wisconsin and maybe a couple of tough home games versus Northwestern & Michigan State.

22         Houston

I look for the Cougars to rebound from a disappointing 5-7 in 2011 and run roughshod over Conference USA. The season opener against UCLA looks a bit daunting, but it’s at home and the Bruins were only 4-8 themselves last season.



23         Arizona St.

The Pac 10 has suddenly become one of the deeper conferences in the country, with atleast half of its teams receiving preseason Top 25 buzz, depending upon where one looks. The Sun Devils have a 6ft.8 junior QB that opposing defenses should have difficulty bringing down.

24         LSU

Your traditional polls all have the Bayou Bengals firmly ensconced as a top 5 team, but as previously mentioned I’m not a follower. I’m predicting losses to out-of-conference foes West Virginia & Oregon and atleast two fellow SEC teams. The subpar two headed QB monster of Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee will finally blow up in the faces of the folks in Baton Rouge.



25         Notre Dame

It honestly causes me physical pain and emotional distress to put the hated Fighting Irish in my rankings. But the fact is that Notre Dame won’t stay down forever (no matter how much I fervently wish they would), and Brian Kelly is the best head coach to come to South Bend since Lou Holtz left in 1996. They will probably win atleast 9 games with relative ease.