Most teams have exited training camps and are a few days away from the most important of the preseason games, where we'll see some starters play well into the 3rd quarter. Keep an eye around the league this week because this will be the best barometer of a team's success to date. And look back to this post when your making your preseason prognostications, as some in-depth analysis is sure to follow...
This is written from the perspective of a Chiefs fan, just in case you are curious, but I will be supporting the Lions this year because of my boys Ndamukong and Vanden Bosch. Hang in there Lions fans, things are getting brighter.
Chicago Bears- People have finally cooled off on Jay Cutler and his emo haircut. Maybe it's the 24-29 career record as a starter. Or maybe it was the 26 interceptions he threw last year. 26! Or maybe it's the fact that his QB rating has gone down every year he's been in the league. Or maybe it was the fact that I tried to hit on his little sister's former best friend in Colorado this summer, while she informed me that it was in fact Josh McDaniels' infatuation with Matt Cassel that ultimately sent him packing from Denver (I think that's something to be proud of). Anyhow, Mike Martz joins him this year, which most assume to be a good thing. But, Martz's offense relies on route development, which is dependent on good protection from the line, which is not a strength of the Bears. They did bring in Julius Peppers, who even agreed to terms on trying his hardest for three games this year.
Detroit Lions- Should still be some growing pains for Matthew Stafford (is he living in biblical times? who still goes by Matthew?). But, the man I'm interested in seeing, or beast I should say, is the undisputed Heisman winner,Ndamukong Suh. Combined with fellow Husker, Kyle Vanden Bosch (making them my second favorite team for the year), there is at least somewhat of a chance that he is ndominant right from the get go (currently the Vegas favorite to win Defensive Rookie of the Year!). Pretty good nucleus of skill positions in Calvin Johnson, Jahvid Best, Kevin Smith, Tony Scheffler, and Brandon Pettigrew might finally lead them out of the cellar of the NFC.
Green Bay Packers- Finally, Aaron Rodgers can live Favre-free up in Green Bay. Oh, he's still there. I think it'll prove significant if they can win one of their brawls with the Vikings this year, with so much weight was placed on those games, it seemed to take the wind out of their sails last year. Rodgers can join the elite company of quarterbacks in the league by leading the Packers to the playoffs once again, and do so with similar stats to the tune of last year's 30-7 TD/Int ratio. Rodgers is the key, and the key to Rodgers might be the improvement of the line, as everything else stays the same up in Cheese Country.
Minnesota Vikings- Brett Favre returns but will the magic? There was definitely something going on last year. In the midst of all the hoopla, it's easy to forget just how good Favre was last year. Funny how that can be easy to forget, yet I've learned Favre's pooping schedule in its entirety from watching ESPN (he's a morning guy). Expectations should be big enough this year to satisfy even Visanthe Shiancoe's lady friends. I say there is still a small chance of a team-wide backlash against Favre if they start slow, which is very possible with six of the first seven against the likes of NO, Mia, NYJ, Dal, GB, and NE (all to be played without number one wideout, Sidney Dean Rice--who gets the reference there??).
Atlanta Falcons- The Dirty Birds would appear on my short list of possible surprise teams for the upcoming season. Matt Ryan could be looking at a breakout year, after a somewhat mediocre sophomore season. The third year is a popular time for good quarterbacks to breakout. Peyton Manning led the league in yards and touchdowns his third year. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Donovan McNabb all had things figured out by season number three. I predict they overtake the Saints for supremacy of the ever-changing NFC South division.
Carolina Panthers- A possible candidate for the first draft pick come next April (although last time I said that about the Panthas, Rodney Peete led them to a 3-0 start). But the laundry list reads like this: Breaking in a new Quarterback (Matt Moore), no more Julius Peppers, Steve Smith breaking his arm playing flag football (he told me he didn't play…jerk), and Jonathan Stewart has been hurt most of training camp. At least they drafted Dirkness favorite, Eric Norwood, in the 4th round. John Fox has done a lot with a little before, so not all hope is lost in Panthaland.
New Orleans Saints- Just don't seem good enough to repeat. Will have to deal with the more, more, more syndrome (coined by Evil Empire's Sports Guy) after winning the championship (more money, more touches, more competition). Drew Brees, who quietly set an NFL record for completion percentage last season, can cement his name atop the best quarterbacks by proving consistent this year. Repetitive success is a major factor. Peyton and Brady are both on the decline (or should be atleast), and the title is up for grabs this year. For whatever reason I wasn't that into the Super Bowl last year, leading me to completely overlook the significance of a surprise onside kick to start the second half. That may be the ballsiest move in NFL history.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers- All of my credibility for projecting Quarterback success in the NFL is on the line with Josh Freeman (thought he'd be terrible), so here's one towards him falling flat on his fro. People said he had a semi-successful freshman season, but dude still had 18 INT's on top of 9 fumbles in 10 games. It's hard to imagine the Bucs making any noise this year, but they could be setting themselves up for the future with a nice foundation of young talent.
Arizona Cardinals- Lost a bevy of talent (Boldin, Dansby, Rolle) from a team that depended on one player (Kurt Warner-also gone) to give them any hope in the playoffs (worked four times) after coasting to easy division titles. So, tell Matt Leinart to hop out of the hot tub, put down the bong and the Cheetos (puffs of course), and email his ball dancing teacher, cause he actually gets to play this year. It's been hard for Art Leinmatt to stay motivated since his pay was cut in half going from USC to the Cards. In actuality, I theorize that he became complacent during that senior year at USC, living a celebrity's life in L.A. while taking only one class. No matter who drafted him, he was downgrading in lifestyle. I thought he was such a can't-miss prospect that I jumped up and cheered when the Raiderspassed on him back in 2006.
St. Louis Rams- Way too many questions surrounding Samuel Jacob Bradford for me to believe in him. Is his shoulder all the way repaired? Is he injury prone? Can he adjust from the spread to a conventional offense? Why does he seem Indian with his helmet off and Asian with it on? What happens on Sam Bradford Day (seriously-January 13th) in Oklahoma City? I want to see Bradford fail because Suh should've been the unquestioned pick at numero uno. Keep a sliver of sight on 7th round draft pick, George Selvie, who I love coming out of South Florida.
San Francisco 49ers- Love everything about the 49ers this season except for Baby Hands, Alex Smith. They can always turn to the Revolving Door, David Carr, though. Keep your oculars planted on Patrick Willis, my pick for 2010 Defensive Player of the Year, as well as Ahmad Brooks, who had 5 sacks in the final five games last season. Throw in Michael Crabtree (could emerge hardcore), Frank Gore (love in fantasy), the suddenly realized potential of Vernon Davis, the young stable of first round offensive linemen, and even the late signing of Brian Westbrook, and the Niners are really heading places if they can just find a Quarterback. I put Mike Singletary in the top five head coaches in the NFL already.
Seattle Seahawks- The incredibly unwatchable Seabags grew interesting with the addition of Pete Carroll, who is still paying players, just doing it legally now. They curiously targeted former Charger backup Quarterback, Charlie Whitehurst (who I can only imagine looks like Charlie from Always Sunny in Philadelphia), giving up quite a bit in a trade to acquire him. Whitehurt's career stats are as follows: 2 rushes, 13 yards, 1 TD. That's it, that's the list. Zero career pass attempts. The price must've been too high on John David's Booty.
For your NFC East Preview....click the link here....
And for my previous preview of the AFC.....