Saturday, September 5, 2009

'09 NFL Predictions - NFC North

1) Minnesota
(2008 record: 10-6, 1st place
Offense –
A year later than anticipated, Brett Favre is wearing the purple and playing for his long-time rival. The nearly 40 year old gunslinger apparently hasn’t won over the entire lockerroom yet, but I’m wondering just what Sage Rosenfels and Tarvaris Jackson have done to earn such loyalty. Yes, I know Jackson has been a part of the team since ’06, but the former 2nd round pick has shown absolutely zero promise of being a franchise guy in his 3 NFL seasons. Whether or not the Vikings succeed will be up to Brett Favre. If he wants to show up and just sling it out there to Bernard Berrian, they’re going to waste a lot of talent, lose a lot of games, and miss out on that brief window of opportunity. But if Brett comes in, plays within the offense, and uses his weapons as intended, there’s not much keeping them from repeating as division champs. They’ll have to keep an eye on his arm because he’s not 25 and that biceps injury could pop back up……….It’s a good thing the Bucs didn’t need a RB in ’07 because that Adrian Peterson kid has been a huge disappointment. Who needs a RB with Pro Bowls in his first two seasons? Gaines Adams rules! Anyways, back on point. Can that dude run for 2K this year? He’s going to need about 400 carries to do that, and is that likely with Favre at QB? Expect another tremendous year by the best in the game. This guy is a pleasure to watch. Backing him up yet again is probably the best backup RB in the game. Chester Taylor, a very reliable and complete back, is a perfect compliment as well as a suitable fill-in. He’s entering the last year of his deal, so it will be interesting to see if that has any impact on how he’s used………..At receiver the Vikings are still a player or two from being a solid stable. Bernard Berrian is their #1, but he’s too sporadic for a guy who’s getting most of a team’s targets. I do expect his target/completion ratio to go up this year with Favre instead of Jackson throwing it deep. Berrian’s a good bet to score double digit TDs for the first time in his career, and a new career high in receptions (72) is well within reach. Sidney Rice was a potential sleeper coming out of South Carolina as the 7th receiver taken in the ’07 draft, but he suffered through the entire ’08 season with a knee injury. He’s apparently healthy now and should have no problem topping his career high in catches (31). Bobby Wade is a reliable veteran who would have a roster spot on most teams in the league. The guy to watch is 1st round pick Percy Harvin. The former Gator could be the most electric player in the league if he stays healthy and is ideally utilized. I wasn’t for the Bucs drafting Harvin because I saw him as too much of a risk. I won’t call him injury prone, but his health history can’t be ignored. He’s also got a couple off field issues for what that’s worth, but he’s an extremely hard worker who is well liked by his teammates. He could have a huge year and be the best rookie in the league if things go well in Minnesota. The better he does, the better Peterson will do. Visanthe Shiancoe is an underrated TE who reached the endzone 7 times last year. It will be tough for him to replicate that number, but he’s certainly going to continue being a part of the offense……….The offensive line took a hit this offseason, but they’ve still got the best LG in the business, Steve Hutchinson, the Pro Bowler who’s had six straight trips to Hawaii without missing a single game during those six season. He’s the complete package and one of the best run blocking linemen in the game. Gone is Pro Bowl center Matt Birk who left for Baltimore. In his place is former Notre Dame product John Sullivan. There’s a big drop off in strength and experience, and that won’t help things. LT Bryant McKinnie is no longer considered one of the elite in the game, but that’s not saying he’s washed up. He’s just not a shutdown guy anymore. I really like what they did at the RT position. The former Sooner, Phil Loadhold, is going to be a pretty nice bargain as the 54th pick in the draft. He slides in immediately as a starter on the right side and gives the Vikings a dominant drive blocker who, when he’s on, will manhandle whoever is in front of him. Pre-draft, I had the Vikings, Browns, and 49ers as my top destinations for Loadholt. Really nice upgrade. Anthony Herrera at RG is a developing, aggressive blocker who started all 16 games for the first time in his career. The right side looks nice. I think Sullivan could be a decent weakness, but still, this offense has a chance to be extremely explosive, especially when you consider who’ll they’ll be blocking for most of the time.

Defense –
Three of their front four defenders made the Pro Bowl last year, so you know they’re doing something right in Minnesota. Pat and Kevin Williams are the core of this defense and the main reason why the Vikings led the NFL in ’08 with 76.9 rushing yards allowed per game and why Minnesota has been the best against the run three years in a row. It appears their legal issues won’t interfere with this season, so there’s no reason to expect anything but another year of watching those two shut down opposing run games each and every week. The third Pro Bowler in this group is second year Viking, Jared Allen. The boisterous pass rusher has wreaked havoc on the league the last two years, totaling 31 sacks during that time. Expect another season of the same. Ray Edwards returns at left end as a very capable run stopper in his own right. Brian Robinson is an undersized pass rusher who will contribute on 3rd down……….It’s pretty scary to think that the Vikings were that good on defense last year, and MLB EJ Henderson missed all but 4 games due to a really bad left foot injury. It’s even scarier to think how good they’ll be this year with him back in the middle. On the strong side resides Chad Greenway, a fundamentally sound hustler who led the Vikings in tackles last year. Underrated Ben Leber mans the WLB position, and in his 7 year NFL career, he’s been a part of the #1 rush defense four times. EJ’s brother Erin backs up Leber……….Antonie Winfield is one of if not the best run supporting corners in the game. He’s never going to lead the league in interceptions, but his ability to play the ball and negate big gains is an asset. Opposite him is pretty much a poor man’s Winfield, Cedric Griffin. He’s not a great cover guy, but he’s solid against the run. Third rounder Asher Allen is an athletic and raw cover guy who has really good straight line speed. With some coaching, he could be pretty dangerous. With Darren Sharper leaving for the Saints, Tyrell Johnson takes over at SS giving the Vikings another tremendous run supporter. The second year man from Arkansas State could (I think will) have a huge year and make more than his share of highlight plays in the Minnesota secondary. Alongside him is Madieu Williams, a FS who excels in coverage and gives the Vikings a skill they sorely need back there.

I liked this team without Favre, and while adding the flip flopper doesn’t have me raising projections significantly, the dude is better than Tarvaris Jackson. They’ve added more pieces to the puzzle this year and look to make a big run at a trip to the Super Bowl. The Eagles and Giants look tough, but with a dominant RB and defense like the Vikings have, there’s no reason they can’t compete with and defeat any of those teams.

2) Green Bay
(2008 record: 6-10, 3rd place)
Offense –
Did the Packers miss Brett Favre last year? In his first year as starter, Aaron Rodgers threw for over 4,000 yards (4th in football), 28 touchdowns (also 4th), and had the 6th best QB rating in the league. He got off to such a hot start that the Packers rewarded him with a 6 year $65 million deal in October. Of his 13 INTs, 6 of them game in two games (@ Tampa and @ New Orleans). Rodgers’ consistent mechanics, strong pocket presence, and leadership are exactly what the Packers needed to kick off a new era in Green Bay, and based on my expectations of continued growth/development, the guy belongs in discussions for top 5 QBs in the league with Brady, Manning, Brees, and Rivers. Backing him up are two ’08 draft picks, Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn. He hasn’t been getting the reps, but I’m disappointed in the lack of progress Brohm made in his first season. He’s poised, mobile, can make every throw, and is extremely intelligent. I’m still a big supporter. Matt Flynn is a gamer whose mechanics can’t compare to Brohm’s, yet it was Flynn who spent ’08 as Rodgers’ backup……….After a promising ’08 where he ran at over 5.1 yards per carry, Ryan Grant fizzled in the lead role, failing to average 4 yards a tote. Additionally, in over 100 more carries, Grant scored half as many touchdowns as he did in ’07 (4 vs. 8). A holdout and hamstring injury contributed to his uninspiring season, but the Packers are going to need more from a guy they signed to a $20 million deal last August. His backup, Brandon Jackson, has struggled to give Grant much competition in his two seasons as a Packer, but he’s their best receiver out of the backfield. DeShawn Wynn is their biggest back, and he’s competing with undrafted rookie, Tyrell Sutton, for a job in the backfield. Sutton, a very poor man’s Brian Westbrook, might have the edge as a small, tough running, shifty playmaker……….Like Rodgers, Greg Jennings really stepped up his game in ’08, catching 80 passes and finishing 6th in receiving yards and 8th in receiving TDs. Jennings is a quick, sharp route runner who I expect to catch double digit TDs and make the Pro Bowl. Starting opposite him is the ageless Donald Driver. The reliable veteran caught at least 5 passes in half of the Packers’ games last year. His production will likely slip as Jennings gets more attention and the other receiver are worked as well, but there aren’t many more consistent weapons in the game. Second year man Jordy Nelson and James Jones round out the receiving options. Nelson, who caught 33 passes as a rookie, reminds me of a young Donald Driver, minus a little speed. He’s very consistent with his routes and plays within himself. Jones suffered through a knee injury and looks to bounce back from a disappointing 20 catch effort in ’08. TE Donald Lee caught nearly half of his passes in 4 games and wasn’t a huge focus of the passing game. He’ll have to hold off second year man Jermichael Finley, a very athletic pass catching TE who has had a tremendous offseason. He brings more to the table than Lee and will likely be the bigger weapon in the passing game at this position………..The line is easily the biggest offensive concern for the Packers. LT Chad Clifton enters the last year of his contract, is 33, and has never been a really impressive run blocker. He’s even worse at it in their ZBS. When healthy though, he’s a technician who does a fine job protecting Rodgers’ backside. Aside from Clifton, they’re pretty young up front. Allen Barbre starts at the other tackle position, replacing veteran Mark Tauscher who went down late in ’08 with a torn ACL. Barbre could be overwhelmed as a pass blocker. The Packers also drafted TJ Lang and Jamon Meredith this offseason to try and re-stock the tackle position. Jason Spitz takes over at center after spending the last 3 years at both center and guard. Last year’s starter, Scott Wells, will now play the role of backup. Spitz is the stronger player of the two. He’s flanked at guard by Darren Colledge and Josh Sitton. Colledge is a hard working, versatile technician who still might be Clifton’s eventual replacement at LT, and Sitton is an underrated second year player who should open some eyes. Sitton is a really strong run blocker, and combining him with Spitz could give them quite a push in the middle of the line.

Defense –
In addition to playing a new scheme, the Packers are going to be starting more than a couple new faces on defense. The biggest acquisition was monstrous BJ Raji, the dominant run stuffer who is nearly impossible to move on the inside. He’ll take over one of the DE spots, likely the one currently occupied by the disappointing Johnny Jolly, a guy I don’t like in this defense. Cullen Jenkins starts at the other DE position, and I really like the combination of he and Raji on the outside of the front line. The Packers hope he’s fully recovered from a torn pectoral muscle that cost him 12 games last year. The Packers would love to get Justin Harrell involved if he could stay healthy for a couple of minutes. Anchoring the middle is veteran Ryan Pickett, a NT who does what all strong nosemen do; stop the run. I wouldn’t be surprised if Raji gets some looks in the middle, especially on passing downs, with reserve DL Michael Montgomery stepping into Raji’s end position……….Aaron Kampman, the Packers’ leader in sacks, tries to adjust to the shift from a 4-3 end to a 3-4 OLB. Word is he’s not happy about the transition, and entering the final season of his contract, Kampman has a chance to play his way out of Green Bay. Under Dom Capers, he’s got an opportunity to be a really active blitzer and be involved all over this defense. Having Kevin Greene, one of the game’s best 3-4 OLBs, as the new LB coach should help too. Veteran Brady Poppinga is the current starter at the other OLB spot, and like every other year, he’s going to have to compete to keep his job. If everyone in the league busted their asses as hard as he does, the game would be truly amazing. That said, I can’t see him holding onto the job long with rookie Clay Matthews breathing down his neck. Matthews has been slowed recently by a hamstring injury, and that appears to be the only thing holding him back from starting. I think he’s a perfect fit for this defense and will bring the burst, versatility, and instincts that made him such a high valued prospect. Jeremy Thompson, the 2nd year player from Wake Forest, will be a big part of the LB picture as well. Inside, the Packers field two productive, active veterans in AJ Hawk and Nick Barnett. Hawk is already entering his 4th NFL season and will probably put up the highest tackle total of his career. I’m interested to see how they use Hawk as a pass rusher in the Jack position since he’s shown that ability while playing on the outside. Barnett is returning from a torn ACL and is a little slow getting going this preseason. The veteran is the leader of the defense and has been the Packers’ best tackler in 4 of his 5 healthy seasons. He’ll be helped out by Brandon Chillar……….Another guy who could get more than his share of blitzes is corner Charles Woodson. The 11 year vet is probably better off in this new scheme where he can rely more on his experience and mental strengths rather than physical ones. Nothing against the All Pro, but he’s 32 not 22. Al Harris may not have as smooth a transition on the other side. He’s been more of an in-your-face corner throughout his career and will have to focus more on assignment in this new scheme. It sounds like it would automatically be easier to play zone rather than man coverage, but it just goes to show how important the mental aspect of this game is. I think they’re in trouble should either Woodson or Harris miss time. I’m really not a fan of Tramon Williams, Patrick Lee, or Will Blackmon. Their new secondary coach is Darren Perry, and being a Cowher guy, he’s going to bring some stuff to this defense. Combine his history, with this secondary scheme and the skills of the starting safeties, and there’s a lot to get excited about. Last year Atari Bigby lost all his momentum from a breakout ’07 due to an ankle injury. He only played in 7 games and was horribly ineffective when he was in there. He’s a big lift at SS if he’s healthy, and Capers will have him up close to the action allowing him to make use of his aggressiveness. Nick Collins enters ’08 in the last year of his deal, and I think he’s going to really earn himself some money by having the ability to play center field in this defense.

I think the Packers are going to be in a battle with the Vikings for the division title all year long, and it should be a joy to watch. I’m very excited to see if Rogers and Jennings continue their ascent to the league elite; if Raji and Matthews can be key contributors early on; and if Kampman, Bigby and Collins really thrive in this new defense. There’s a lot to be excited about in cheese country, but they may fall short of a playoff appearance.

3) Chicago
(2008 record: 9-7, 2nd place)
Offense –
Jay Cutler wanted nothing to do with new head coach Josh McDaniels, and he barked so loud about it that Denver shipped him off to Chicago to for three draft picks and Kyle Orton. We’ll get a true assessment of just how good Cutler is now that he’s not throwing to Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, Brandon Stokley, and Tony Scheffler. I think it’s going to take a little time for this group to really get together, and their early season schedule won’t help (@GB, PIT, @SEA, DET, @ATL, @CIN). Last year Cutler was 3rd in the league in passing yards, but he needs to be completing more of his passes. Cutler does shut it down mentally at times and has shown that he can be gotten to. I still love the guy’s arm and even though he’s surrounded by weaker weapons and a more porous offensive line, , he’s got enough talent to get 3,500 yards out of this offense……….While he’s not quite getting un upgrade at receiver, the same can’t be said for his backfield mate Matt Forte. The 44th pick in last year’s draft started all 16 games last year for the Bears breaking their rookie rushing record and finishing 3rd in the league in total yards from scrimmage. Forte displayed the strength to consistently run inside, catch everything thrown his way (63 receptions), and be more than adequate pass blocker as a rookie. All that with the mess that was the Bears QB situation. While I expect him to get noticeably less carries than the 316 he got in ’08, having Cutler to keep defenses honest should allow him more big play opportunities. Kevin Jones just tore ligaments in his ankle, so he’s out for the year. Speedy Garrett Wolfe and the other Adrian Peterson round out the backfield……….When Cutler does drop back to pass, he’s not going to like a lot of what he sees. Devin Hester is apparently their #1 receiver, and while the guy has great speed and elusiveness, you can’t tell me he should be the leading receiver on an NFL team. His routes are still sloppy, and calling his hands inconsistent would be quite an understatement. Yes, I expect them to throw his way often, so his targets and (hopefully) catches will be up. I just think his lack of disciplined route running and body positioning will keep him from being a consistent threat and making that jump to a “serious” WR. Cutler does have his former Vandy teammate, Earl Bennett, in the starting lineup. They’ve got the chemistry thing going. Cutler completed 79 passes to Bennett, and the two combined for 9 TD which was Bennett’s TD peak at Vandy. He’s not a burner, but he’s a solid possession receiver who’ll get a boost from his familiarity with Cutler. I liked Juaquin Iglesias out of Oklahoma. He’s a lot like Bennett IMO, but a better route runner at this stage in his career. Like Bennett, he’s not going to beat many NFL corners deep, but his hands are really consistent and he’ll do the dirty stuff. With guys like Rashied Davis, Brandon Rideau, and Devin Aromashodu in the mix, Iglesias should get a chance to play early. All that said, their best receiver lines up at TE. Behind Matt Schaub, Olsen is my top breakout candidate for the ’09 season. He’s a real mismatch in the passing game and reminds me of a slightly slighter Jason Witten. He may not get into Witten’s 80 catch territory, but 70 is certainly in reach. Cutler will look his way early and often. Desmond Clark is still around and does most of the blocking at the TE position. He’s no slouch himself in the passing game……….The Bears upgraded the tackle position this offseason by bringing in future Hall of Famer Orlando Pace to replace John St. Clair at LT. Yes, he’s on the downside of his career and isn’t a great run blocker anymore, but at 32/33 years of age, Pace allowed only 2 sacks last season. He’s a fine blindside protector for Cutler and a significant upgrade to St. Clair. His acquisition shifts former 1st rounder Chris Williams to RT where he’ll replace the retired John Tait. Williams missed a lot of ’08 with a back injury, and he’s not a great fit on the right side. He’s not as aggressive as you’d like most of your RTs to be, and I have my doubts that his finesse-type play will translate well against the physical LEs in the league. Competing with him is Kevin Schaffer, the veteran who was released by the Browns this offseason. Frank Omiyale came over from Carolina and was being counted on to start at RT before Shaffer and Pace signings. He was kicked over to LG where he beat out Josh Beekman for the starting job. Beekman’s weakness is in the run game, but he’s makes a quite above average backup at guard and center. The other guard spot is occupied by veteran Robert Garza, probably the weak link of the OL. He’s not a great help in pass protection, but it doesn’t look like he’s getting much of a push from former Buc Dan Buenning. In the middle is 10 year starter Olin Kreutz. Yes he’s 33 and on the wrong side of his career peak, but he didn’t allow a sack in all of ’08 and has only missed one start in 8 years.

Defense –
The Bears field a solid, yet declining threesome at DE. On one side is Adewale Ogunleye, a 32 year old contract year player coming off the lowest sack total since his rookie season. Opposite him is steady Alex Brown. In a fairly meaningless stat, Brown leads the NFL in INTs by a defensive lineman over the past 3 years. He’s a reliable 5-6 sacks every year. Rounding out the trio is Mark Anderson, the fourth year player from Alabama struggling to find the promise he showed in his rookie season. After totaling 12 sacks in ’06, Anderson has combined for half that total over the last two seasons. He’s got to get it together this year if he wants to cash in on a new deal next offseason. I like Brown, but I think the play of the three as a group has clearly peaked. New defensive line coach Rod Marinelli gets a toy to work with this year in Henry Melton. The Bears’ 4th round pick from Texas is very raw but has speed and explosiveness that Marinelli can work with. Continuing with the former Buccaneer DL coach, anchoring the interior of the Bears DL is Tommie Harris, a player many compare to Warren Sapp. Well, Harris will need to improve upon an ’08 season that saw his performance suffer due to a knee injury and off field personal issue. Still, he’s only 26 and a year removed from three consecutive Pro Bowls. I’m not panicking, just watching a little closer now. Thanks to the draft, they do have a capable backup in Jarron Gilbert, the freakishly explosive and athletic defensive lineman from San Jose State. Don’t try this at home. Poor year or not from Harris, Gilbert is going to get some chances to chase the passer. An uninspiring pair will share time next to Harris. Last year’s 3rd rounder Marcus Harrison had a disappointing rookie season battling conditioning issues and ineffectiveness. It’s disconcerting that he hasn’t been able to take the job outright from Anthony Adams. The two will rotate at the nose……….Like Harris, MLB Brian Urlacher needs to improve upon his ’08 performance, arguably the worst of his career. The big plays were non-existent and he seemed like a much different player at times. Hopefully he has a resurgence because he’s one of the more exciting players in the league to watch. Next to him is Lance Briggs, the WLB who made his 4th straight Pro Bowl and had a career high 3 interceptions in ’08. That last Hawaiian invite may have been a lot on reputation because he wasn’t terribly spectacular last year either. Has this defense peaked? Pisa
Tinoisamoa comes over from St. Louis to play the SLB, a position manned by another uninspiring pair of Bear defenders, Nick Roach and Hunter Hillenmeyer. Tinoisamoa is undersized SAM and won’t be a huge upgrade over Roach and Hillenmeyer. Don’t like the fit……….Top corner Charles Tillman is coming off shoulder and more importantly back surgeries this offseason, and he’s spent nearly all of the preseason on the PUP list. His counterpart, Zachary Bowman played in a whopping one game last season before heading to IR with a biceps injury and has missed much of the preseason due to a hamstring issue. Yet he’s slated to be the starter at RC. Nathan Vasher, Corey Graham, Trumaine McBride, and 4th round pick DJ Moore add depth. That’s a lackluster group. Daniel Manning replaces Mike Brown at FS and is dealing with his own hamstring problem this preseason. I figured Kevin Payne would start at SS, but Oregon State rookie Al Afalava might play his way into it. Craig Steltz has disappeared. Yeah, safety isn’t looking any better than corner.

I see them getting behind in the standings early and playing catch up with the Vikings and Packers all year. Will they be better offensively? Yes, but I’m really not liking this defense. Forget the reputation, there are way too many questions on that side of the ball.

4) Detroit Lions
(2008 record: 0-16, worst record in NFL history)
Offense –
The Motor City boys had one for the history books last year. I don’t think they could go 0-16 again if they tried. I’m not his biggest fan, but the Lions at least attempted a step in the right direction by drafting Georgia QB Matthew Stafford first overall back in April. The strong armed passer never missed a start in college due to injury, and he’s making a case to start from the get-go. The competition between Stafford and Daunte Culpepper seems neck and neck with both of them having fairly strong preseasons. Do you throw the rookie out there figuring it can’t get worse than 0-16? What if he really does flop? Do you pull the plug on year one and risk setting him back or losing him altogether? Culpepper couldn’t see 2004 with a telescope, but he’s still fairly functional. Kevin O’Connell was added upon his release by the Patriots, so he’s battling Drew Stanton for a roster spot……….Probably the brightest spot on the team of shame was 3rd round pick Kevin Smith. The rookie from UCF burst onto the scene and totaled over 1,500 yards from scrimmage. Dare I project an improvement in ’09? There’s no reason for him not to run for 1,000-1,200 yards in a healthy 16 games, even on this team. Longtime Seahawk Maurice Morris is an upgrade at backup over Rudi Johnson……….You’ve got to be impressed with anyone who can catch nearly 80 passes and score 12 TDs on a winless team. There were literally no other options in the passing game, yet Calvin Johnson performed as one of the best receivers in the league. He’s already amongst the elite talent-wise, but to do that well when everyone watching the game knows they’re throwing it to you really says something. Shaun McDonald and Mike Furrey are replaced by Bryant Johnson and Keary Colbert. Can you say lateral move? Dennis Northcutt was brought in as well, but I doubt we’re going to be seeing his jerseys flying off the racks. Rookie Derrick Williams, I guy I had hopes for, has been a pretty big disappointment this preseason. That’s saying something considering the guys I just named. Adding Brandon Pettigrew with the 20th overall selection was a wise selection. He’s a TE who is a real mismatch in the receiving game, and he can block too (go figure). Pettigrew will need some work, but his reliable hands should provide fellow rookie Stafford with a nice safety valve to rely on in the early going……….The Lions may have found their QB of the future, but they still don’t have anyone to keep the defense from throwing him around like a rag doll. Their line sucked last year, and it blows in ’09. I’ll try to get through this as quickly as possible. Jeff Backus still starts at LT despite the fact that he’s needed to move to guard for about 3 seasons. He’s probably the worst blindside protector in the game. Bravo! On the other side is Gosder Cherilus, a nice run blocker who probably won’t ever be much better skill-wise than he is right now. Jon Jansen and Ephraim Salaam were wheeled in this offseason in an attempt to provide depth. LG Daniel Looper was brought in from Tennessee, but he shouldn’t be starting. Same can be said for RG Stephen Peterman who returns at RG. Dominic Raiola, center, is their best lineman. He’s really aggressive in pass protection for a center and is more than adequate in the run game.

Defense –
Former Buc Dewayne White is still Detroit’s best pass rusher, and while that’s not saying much, his 13 sacks total in two years as a Lion isn’t awful. Jared DeVries was set to start on the opposite side, but he became the 527th player to tear his Achilles this preseason. Jason Hunter takes his place, and as hard as it is for me to speak ill of a Mountaineer, he really isn’t an NFL starter. Cliff Avril’s a pass rushing end who’ll need to be consistent in that area this season. Uh, the defensive tackles. Let’s see. They traded their best (Cory Redding) to Seattle, leaving behind a bunch of junk. Should 36 year old Grady Jackson still be wearing a helmet on Sundays? Chartric Darby gonna get it done? Who the hell is Landon Cohen? And Shaun Smith comes over from Cleveland. WOOHOO! Big Sammie Lee Hill, the 330 pound 4th round lineman from Stillman, penetrates and makes plays behind the line, but he was inconsistent in college..........Ernie Sims should be the best player on this defense. The change in scheme will allow him to focus more on making plays than sticking to a certain assignment; less contained. Julian Peterson was brought over from Seattle in the redding trade and has likely played his best football. Still, he’s a sizeable upgrade over former Buc Ryan Nece. Larry Foote was brought in to replace Paris Lenon at MLB, and he shouldn’t be an NFL starter……….Can you believe this team only intercepted 4 passes all season long? I’d be willing to bet someone else’s paycheck that I could walk onto an NFL team right now and pick off at least one damn pass in 16 games. Phillip Buchanon, who apparently wasn’t needed in Tampa, was brough in to replace Leigh Bodden who escaped Alcatraz for the Patriots. Anthony Henry will man the other side, but he’s seen better days. Eric King is the nickelback, and he’s been nothing but a backup in his 4 NFL seasons. Second round pick Louis Delmas will take over at FS, but apparently that time isn’t now. He’s sitting behind NFL nomad Marquand Manuel. Former Buc Kalvin Pearson starts at SS.

I think they’re a safe bet to win at last one game, but this team still really sucks. They play the Rams and Browns at home this year, so they’ve got a shot at two wins.

Division Awards
MVP – Adrian Peterson
Offensive POY – Aaron Rodgers (Peterson is the man in this division, but I’ve got to give him something.)
Defensive POY – Jared Allen
Rookie of the Year – Clay Matthews
Offensive Breakout Player – Greg Olsen
Defensive Breakout Player – Ernie Sims (not a ton of choices in this division; he’ll take his play up a notch)

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