picking them because I have to. I’m not picking them because I
think they’re one of the best in the NFL.
good… and the best of this division… so make no mistake of my
thoughts in general terms. I’m not saying the Eagles are a bad
team. It’s just that if I’m assembling my list of the best, I’m
starting with New England and Baltimore… Green Bay and New Orleans…
and then I’d have a second tier with Atlanta and New York (Jets).
Philadelphia is in on the cusp of that second tier… a cusp they
occupy with San Diego and Pittsburgh and other clubs I expect
to see in the playoffs, but I’m just convinced are capable of
making a noise once there. Good but not solid… not necessarily
able to overcome a problem if their best doesn’t play its best.
season starts off with a blessing… the NFC West as one of the
divisions scheduled against them. St. Louis… San Francisco… Arizona…
Seattle… nice to have that going for you. And while the AFC East
does them no favors (New England and New York (Jets)), it isn’t
a bad thing when you can score points and your opponents likely
can’t (as of right now, my thoughts of Miami and Buffalo being
inconsistent offensively). And while they need to play Atlanta,
I don’t think Chicago is a bad thing.
before they’ve even had to play a division game, I think we have
at least 6 wins locked up (Miami, Buffalo, Chicago, and pick any
three of the NFC West you want (which allows for one stumble).
5-5 in the remaining contests shouldn’t be impossible.
where it gets tough though…
Eagles do not have a great defensive line. Oh it looks good enough,
but with a deep set of corners and safeties, teams are going to
look to run against them. Plus… let’s use New England and Atlanta
here… teams with decent offensive lines will get their quarterback
time even with good coverage. (I mark this one as a loss for the
Jets… with Sanchez not accurate enough to win it.)
a mixed bag all around though. I like adding Ronnie Brown… though
he does have an injury history, and his career shows him declining
since 2007, and he’s never delivered for a full year as the top
guy getting handed the ball all the time. (He won’t be asked to
carry the full load here… so it works.) They obviously have a
deep set of corners.
the scary thing… I see a lot of fast defenses lining up against
the Eagles this year. And for what I think is a weak defensive
line… I don’t see a dominant offensive line either. Be very skeptical
of the people predicting huge things for Philly. Good things…
if injury-free… are likely. Huge, great, amazing things… not so
2006… that’s five straight seasons… the Tom Coughlin led Giants
managed to include at least one stretch of 5 or more wins. Ready
for how New York starts 2011?
Washington… St. Louis… at Philadelphia… at Arizona… Seattle… Buffalo…
Miami following a bye week.
are set up for a monster start to the year for New York, and I
honestly believe that Philly game will determine if it’s six straight
with winning streaks.
problem is… well…
New England… at San Francisco (which shouldn’t be tough, but involves
great travel following a difficult game with the Patriots, and
in turn is followed by…)… Philadelphia… at New Orleans… Green
toss in two games against Dallas with a game against New York
(Jets) as three of the four to finish the year, and I think you
can understand why a huge start might be met by an equally huge
Manning has never been one of my favorite quarterbacks, but I
cannot deny that when I see him play, he doesn’t appear scared
of big moments. Whatever the circumstances, he did win against
the Patriots in the Super Bowl… and I have seen him look good
late in games. (Hmm… New York seems to have a bookend of quarterbacks
right now. Very similar.)
trouble is, there really isn’t much around him on offense that
you can rely on… and the defense is about to name an ambulance
as a starter to cover for all the injuries.
four… hosting the Detroit Lions.
will tell the story for Dallas.
start with the Jets… but then they get the 49ers. The Patriots
are on their schedule… but St. Louis comes to visit the next week.
Seattle and Buffalo visit them in back-to-back weeks.
point being, I don’t see a single stretch of difficult games until
we get to December, when they’ll return from a trip to Arizona
to face New York (Giants), Tampa, Philly and New York (Giants).
That’s when it finally gets tough for them. That’s when you look
at a schedule, see a game you mentally mark as a loss and the
opponent coming in next could be tougher.
if they manage to beat Detroit… and have a 3-1 record going in
to their early bye week… they could be ok. But if they come out
of that fourth game with a losing record… Dallas is in big, big
not a supporter of Tony Romo… but Jason Witten will bail him out
of plenty of jams, and Miles Austin seems to be the equivalent
of Maurice Jones-Drew (a one-man, back-breaking, all-alone giving
the team 3 or 4 wins they shouldn’t get just because he’s there
and there is no other way to explain it player).
there’s that game… Detroit. I don’t see Dallas 3-0 when they host
the Lions. They will lose at least one game. And if they are 2-2
(or, shudder, worse) by the bye week, then that stretch of New
England, St. Louis and Philadelphia should destroy them and their
hopes for 2011. Because they will not make up ground late in the
year, and that middle-stretch will not be kind to a slow start.
Grossman as the starter, and two huge divisional games in the
first three. The sound you hear is me taking a deep breath through
clenched-teeth while trying to figure out how to not see a lousy
season ahead for Washington.
what seems like a nice break for Philadelphia, Dallas and New
York… a slate featuring the NFC West… looks like a nightmare for
Washington. Where the Eagles could sweep all four of those games,
the Redskins might not win any. And sure… they get Carolina as
an opponent thanks to their 2010 results… but I don’t see Minnesota
as an equal blessing, and they are on the schedule for the same
reason the Panthers are.
do like Jim Haslett as a defensive coordinator… so I expect that
the Redskins will be tough defensively.
Hightower could have a huge season for the Redskins. (Oh yeah,
remember what I said about the Eagles having troubles against
good running backs? Keep that in mind. They play each other twice.)
just don’t see where the Redskins will be able to get any momentum
going. Heck… two of their eight home games involve hosting the
Jets and Patriots in back-to-back weeks… so not only will they
likely get pounded there, it means they travel to play the Bills
and Dolphins. (The point being, some losses seem destined, and
it’s never nice to lose a home game where you might have a shot
to something that could be a lost cause before it even begins.)
the Packers can shake off some early-season travels, there is
nothing not to like about them. They have a mid-season bye week,
and then five of their last nine are at home, including three
of the last four and one late-season road trip being a Thanksgiving
puddle-jump over to Detroit that precedes a decent break after
a Thursday game. So… get the travel done early and then settle
in for the winter.
roster not only won the Super Bowl last season… it won it with
several players unable to play because they were injured. In other
words, the team that comes out of training camp should be better
and deeper than the team that won a title.
let’s mention Aaron Rodgers… because with a title in his pocket,
he never has to worry about comparisons to Favre again. That’s
done. Rodgers was a good quarterback with Favre on his back… I
like the idea of him playing with that weight removed.
what’s not to like?
how about New Orleans to start? The very first game of the year
could quite easily be a tie-breaker for the top seed, or maybe
even for a bye week seed in the postseason.
you know how I loved their second half? Well… it comes with a
price. St. Louis and New Orleans are two of the three home games
they have starting out the year. The four road games before their
bye week include division rivals Chicago and Minnesota, along
with a trip to Atlanta. Now… about the only games that would seem
to be trouble in that mix are New Orleans and Atlanta. But: (1)
no division game in the NFL ever goes easy, and, (2) there are
some fast, punishing, hard-hitting, top half of the league defenses
on that list. And the reward for being the champion is a schedule
that has start times all over the clock.
something insane happening, the Packers will have a lot of room
for error in navigating this year. They should comfortably win
this division. While facing good teams in it, the deep divisions
in the NFC are the South and East, so they shouldn’t get destroyed
in the six division games. And, their conference rotation to the
AFC gives them the West… in 2011, probably the third strongest,
and arguably the weakest, of the four AFC divisions.
to be happy with on a slow, steady course to the playoffs.
done this to me before. I look over the schedule… get happy about
the draft… and start thinking big things.
though, if they can keep Mr. Matthew Stafford on the field, this
could be a big year for the Lions.
Suh leads a defense that is quickly becoming a punishing unit
to face. Calvin Johnson is a force at receiver. And they are beginning
to build some better than average talent at skill positions.
elephant in the room… Stafford… injuries… I hate mentioning it,
but I have to. He was injured… if I recall correctly… twice in
2009, his first year as a starter. He played in ten games, contributing
at least one touchdown (either by completion or his own legs)
in every one of those games. But… knee injury cost him a couple
of games in the first half of the season, and injured reserve
in the second half of the year. In 2010… opening game… shoulder
injury and out for almost two months. A couple of weeks later,
he injured the same shoulder and had season-ending surgery.
like Stafford. A lot. Games I’ve seen of him don’t show obvious
brilliance or high skills… he doesn’t look amazing or striking.
What he does do is compete… hard… and appears to get everyone
around him excited. He seems to be a very gifted leader, and one
that can get the job done. Albeit… when he’s on the field.
there you go… the Lions go as far as Stafford plays. He gets in
15 or 16 games, and Detroit could be threatening for a wild card
spot in December. If he’s missing time be week four or five, they’ll
have trouble reaching 8 wins.
have a close friend that loves all things Chicago. Big Bears fan.
So… I get no satisfaction from delivering some bad news. See…
I’m not sold on them for a strong year. They could be very good.
10-win, playoff bound good. And… well…
you’re a fan of the Bears, you’ll be very happy to hear that Roy
Williams had no troubles this year getting a rookie to carry his
shoulder pads off the field during training camp.
the good news.
may be very uneasy though if you noticed his ability to catch
passes. You know… since he’s dropping them on the practice field
and in preseason games in a way that suggests several bonus clauses
of his contract might give him an extra hundred thousand dollars
for every ball thrown to him that touches his hands first and
hits the ground second. Yes, it’s pretty bad.
may be very uneasy though if you noticed that Detroit actually
is putting together a football team. With real talent and everything.
may be very uneasy though if you heard that apparently Roy Williams
is telling people he’s not completely in shape yet. (I’m sure
he’s planning to round into form soon though. Like… maybe by next
may be very uneasy though if you noticed the Jay Cutler is still
the top quarterback… and, umm, maybe that wouldn’t be so bad on
the surface if we didn’t also see that you noticed the offensive
line still resembles a wet paper bag.
again… those rookies are carrying equipment after workouts. Three
cheers, sunshine and a round of lemonade for everyone.
get to the big things… the Bears have a miserable schedule. They
start out facing Atlanta, New Orleans and Green Bay. Tampa and
San Diego are part of their schedule, and the division is no picnic…
with Detroit on the rise and Minnesota capable of being in any
money has them 0-3 to start… that’s the safe money. Anything better
than that is fantastic for them, but they likely will be under
.500 and chasing even for the whole year.
on. I just want to get this straight. A Donovan McNabb with something
to prove is the main ingredient for an improved Minnesota team?
the press release we need to buy into here?
I’m not going to say a word about Leslie Frazier. I think he’ll
be ok. And Adrian Peterson? Great player… we won’t even think
about questioning his durability. There are many things to like
here and talent to be found. No opposing team is going to be happy
preparing to play the Vikings, and every opposing team will be
sore after playing the Vikings.
check out their wide receivers. One of the biggest problems in
2010 was Sidney Rice being injured and Percy Harvin battling migraines.
That’s a large part of what led to the whole Randy Moss fiasco.
So in 2011 Rice is gone (say hello Seattle) and Harvin is back.
Well sure, I feel secure about that. What could go wrong there?
(Note: not saying I would have kept Rice. Just saying Harvin doesn’t
inspire confidence. Actually…)
has the potential to be a force when he plays. But let’s be honest…
his history of illness, and not just the migraines, suggests there
could be games when he is unable to play without any advance notice.
More to the point, there almost definitely will be major chunks
of practice that he misses. And, the new rules could truly limit
his ability to change a game while returning kicks.
not buying the press release.