Posts Tagged ‘NFL blog’

Willie Parker churning out more yards after contact

Welcome to the third installment of my NFL blog series. If you haven’t read parts one and two, feel free to check them out. I know that I am supposed to have some sort of professional journalistic type of intro to my blog so that you guys can get all excited and lathered up about reading further. But I had a pretty crazy or should I say alcohol induced weekend. So F@*$ an intro, this is my intro.

AFC North

The AFC North has been a two team division for years now. The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens are the two best teams in this division who routinely duke it out between each other for the division crown.

Every now and then the Cincinnati Bengals will get their act together and make the division interesting or sometimes pull off a miracle to win the division title like they did last year.

Then you have the mistake by the lake Cleveland Browns who sit on the sideline picking their nose wishing they could compete in this division. Hopefully Mike Holmgren can make the Browns team competitive once again because as of now they aren’t nor have they been in awhile.

(Note: If you click on the red colored team name, a link will take you to a web page that will show you strength of schedule etc.)

Chad Johnson

Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals are that team that are basically made up of a bunch of almost good, talented players, bad draft picks, high draft picks who didn’t pan out, and former first round picks who other teams cut. They do have talent, but not the kind that produces winning season’s year in and year out. This includes Chad Johnson (Ocho Cinco).

I have said many times that Ocho Cinco is hands down the most overrated wide out in the game. He is maybe a top ten wide out but if he is in the top ten he is at number ten. He is more effective with his mouth and antics than he is on the field. I have never heard a coach say that they have to find a way to slow down Chad Johnson. Statements like that don’t get used when referring to Chad.

Chad isn’t the only one on this team that I am critical of. I am very critical of Marvin Lewis who in my eyes shouldn’t be a head coach in the NFL. He is doing just enough just to get by and it seems as if he players do the same.

Marvin Lewis became the head coach for the Bengals after being considered one of the best if not the best defensive coordinators in the NFL when he was at Baltimore. But when you look at the Bengals, they have never had a great defense like Baltimore had when Marvin was in Baltimore.

Typically good coordinators that become head coaches will have whatever side of the ball that they are an expert in be really good. Last year Cincinnati had a pretty good defense, but it wasn’t really good. One has to wonder if Marvin benefitted from the talent that was in Baltimore, or if he can really coach defense or coach at all.

Even though Marvin’s coaching is somewhat questionable. On offense the Bengals have at times had really good offenses. Getting Cedric Benson last year really added another dimension to their offense that gave them balance on the offensive side of the ball and should do the same in 2011.

The addition of rookie tight end Jermaine Gresham and wide out Jordan Shipley will give Carson Palmer what he has needed for years, two guys who can work the middle of the field and exploit a defense.

Free agent signee Antonio Bryant was also brought in to give Carson and Chad some help and will be a great addition to the offense.

These acquisitions at wide out and tight end are important due to the fact that after the death of Chris Henry last year, the Bengals offense struggled. Chris Henry, not Ocho Cinco was the guy that routinely stretched the field for the Bengals and had the speed and the size to get behind defensive backs. Whether he lined up outside or in the slot, he was the key to Cincinnati’s passing game.

From the defensive side of the ball the Bengals should improve on what they built last year under Mike Zimmer. But once again we are talking about the Bengals here. Injuries on the defensive line hurt this defense late in the year and teams were able to take advantage of that.

Defensive draft picks Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins and Roddrick Muckelroy add depth and talent to the defensive line and linebacker corps. All three guys are versatile defenders and will allow Zimmerman to get more creative with his scheme to put more pressure on the QB and stop the run.

At season’s end, I see 9-7 at best with 8-8 being the most likely scenario. With the Bengals having to face the Saints, Colts, Patriots, Jets and then the Steelers and Ravens twice this year, I don’t see the playoffs in the Bengals future for 2011.

Troy Palamalu and the Steeler defense may have to carry this team during Ben's suspension

Pittsburgh Steelers – The Steelers are one of those “you can’t tell by what’s on paper” teams like the New England Patriots. Right now as you look at their roster, you wonder how are they going to consistently generate offense.

Besides Hines Ward, Rashard Mendenhall and Heath Miller, they have a bunch of unproven guys on offense, and a offensive line didn’t look too good last year. Along with that, wide out Limas Sweed is out for the year with a season ending injury.

Mike Tomlin addressed the offense during the offseason by drafting all-world center Maurkice Pouncey along with a very talented, speedster wide out in Emmanuel Sanders and running back Jonathan Dwyer who people compare to Barry Foster. But will that be enough for Pittsburgh?

We all know about the Ben Roethlisberger situation and the fact that the Steelers will have to play four to six games without him. So the question is can Byron Leftwhich or Dennis Dixon play well against the Falcons, Titans, Bucs, Ravens and Browns until Ben gets back with the talent that they have on offense?

Defensively they look to be just as strong if not better than last year. Pittsburgh has and always will be known for their defense and during the first four or six games of the season. They may have to carry this team with Ben being out.

When you look at Pittsburgh’s 21st ranked season schedule, the Steelers should be in the playoff hunt as usual. Besides games against the Ravens, Saints, Patriots and Jets, the rest of their schedule is very soft.

Look for an 11-5 or 10-6 record for the Steelers this year.

Mike Holmgren watching Colt McCoy during passing drills

Cleveland Browns – If you are a Cleveland Brown fan, you may just want to scroll on down and read about the Baltimore Ravens because I am having a hard time finding anything nice or optimistic to say about the Browns season this year. This franchise needs more than Mike Holmgren taking over the front office. They need talent and a new head coach because I dont think Eric Mangini is the answer.

I think Mike Holmgren coming in to run things in Cleveland is very good for that franchise. They have not had any direction since their inception of the new Browns a few years back. I also think that in order for Cleveland to really progress, they need to find a new head coach or Mike may need to get back on the sidelines again.

Offensively they are a wreck but should be a lot better than last year. They are going to be running a west coast offense. When Bill Walsh created the west coast offense while in Cincy, he did it because they had no talent at any of the skill positions and Paul Brown needed to find a way to move the ball. So the Browns shouldn’t be as pedestrian as they have become known as of late.

I love all of their draft picks on the offensive side of the ball that Holmgren made. Colt McCoy and Carlton Mitchell are going to be very productive, franchise type players for Cleveland. I don’t know how Colt lasted until the third round or how Carlton lasted until the sixth round.

One tidbit to remember, Joe Montana who had the same skill set as Colt McCoy was also drafted in the 3rd round and was coached by none other than Mike Holmgren. I am not calling Colt the next Joe Montana, just saying that these guys are very similar in skill set and where they were drafted.

The running game needs help, and I don’t see any coming or on that roster as of now.

On defense, Magini is supposedly a defensive genius or good at coaching defense, but since he has left New England. He hasn’t done squat. Mangini needs to find a way to generate some sort of pass rush which would help that weak secondary a little bit. To his defense, he hasn’t had much talent on defense; I am assuming that’s why Holmgren didn’t fire him.

Mike spent four picks on defense by drafting CB – Joe Haden, FS – T.J. Ward, SS – Larry Asante and DE – Clifton Geathers. Although I felt that he was drafted a little higher than what he should have been, Joe Haden is a really good cover corner who will upgrade the secondary. T.J. Ward was a little bit of a reach too if you talk to some scouts. There were better free safeties on the board when Cleveland picked Ward.

The new kids on defense and offense will be a great asset to the team, although the young kids won’t turn this team around over night and I don’t expect to see anything that will make this team a competitive one during the 2011 season. I see a 3-13 or 2-14. Not much winning will be going on in Cleveland this year.

Baltimore will be stiff arming the competition this year

Baltimore Ravens – If there is one word that you could use to describe the Baltimore Ravens off season, it would be “Sick.” If the San Diego Chargers don’t go to Super Bowl XLV as the AFC representative, the Baltimore Ravens will. The one problem that has plagued this team for years going back to their Super year was their inability to move the ball at key times during a game. That won’t be a problem in 2011.

Joe Flacco has shown what he can do when healthy and when he has weapons at his disposal as he did during the first half of the season in 2010. With that in mind, John Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome went out during the offseason and resigned wide out Derrick Mason, signed free agent wide out Donte Stallworth and traded for disgruntled, pro bowl wide out Anquan Boldin from the Arizona Cardnials. This gives Flacco and the Ravens a very impressive trio of wide outs to go along with Ray Rice and Todd Heap. Then they added depth and versatility to the tight end position through the draft by drafting Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta.

That’s a lot of quality offensive talent acquired by one team.

We already know about the defense. The two former Miami Hurricanes of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed along with the rest of the defense will be ready to play come any given Sunday or Monday night. In conjunction with that, the defense got even stronger this offseason with the drafting of DT – Terrance Cody, OLB/DE – Sergio Kindle and DT – Art Jones.

Baltimore can now have Terrance Cody line up next to Haloti Ngata, which will make it next to impossible for teams to run on them and will keep blockers off of Ray Lewis and allow him to roam free and make tackles. Sergio Kindle gives them another off the edge rusher who will be able to rush the quarterback from anywhere that he lines up. So while Ray is roaming free making plays, Baltimore will have several guys on the field that can blitz and get to the QB at will. It’s almost not even fair.

One major concern for Baltimore’s defense is their secondary. On a regular basis teams exploited holes and corners that couldn’t cover in the Ravens secondary. If they can fix that, then they are almost a lock to be in the super bowl.

I would have to say that Baltimore should finish with a 12-4 record or no worse than 11-5. Tough games against, the Saints, Patriots, Jets and Texans and of course two games with the Steelers make this year’s Super Bowl run a little difficult but do able.

Next blog, the NFC North

Should we go ahead and engrave this for the Dallas Cowboys?

I had planned on having this blog entry of my 9 part NFL blog series posted yesterday, but the job that pays the bills (oil & gas industry) has been killing me lately. Usually the day job doesn’t affect my blogging since I write my blogs in my head and then type them late at night. But this week I have been too mentally whipped to type anything after work.

By now you have most likely read part one of my NFL blog series that was about the AFC East. If you haven’t, please go and check it out. It’s worth the read even if you’re not a fan of any of the teams in the AFC East. Today I am going to stay with the east coast theme and discuss and analyze the NFC East.

NFC East

Historically this division has been known as the best division in football and as the most physical division in the football. Over the years the NFC East has had its fair share of up and down years while teams within the division were going through transitional periods. But two things that remained during those down years was a division that featured four teams that were extremely physical and really good on defense. Ex; 2010 Washington Redskins

In 2011 expect to see the NFC East uphold that moniker as the “best division in football” as well as “the most physical division in football.” The Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and the Washington Redskins are four teams that no one will want to see on their schedule in 2011.

(Note: If you click on the red colored team name, a link will take you to a web page that will show you strength of schedule etc.)

Fellow Houstonian Kevin Kolb doing a interview with Skoal in his jaw

Philadelphia Eagles – As we speak, Philly fan is still applauding or complaining about the Donovan McNabb trade and sitting around wondering if Kevin Kolb is ready to be the starting QB. Some are wondering as to how good the Eagles will be this year with the team going through a transition phase.

Don’t worry Philly fan, your Eagles won’t be great, but they won’t be 1-15 bad either. Oh yeah, and to answer the Kevin Kolb question, he is ready.

Trading Donovan McNabb was a smart move by Philly. McNabb is good but not great and I think he is a better fit in Mike Shanahan’s version of the west coast offense than he was in Andy’s. In addition to that, Kevin Kolb is ready to be the starter in Philly and will allow Andy Reid to run his offense properly. Over the past few years, Reid has gone away from the west coast offense to fit Donovan’s ability which wasn’t suited for Andy’s west coast offense.

If you watch game film, when Kolb was in at quarterback, the offense became more efficient and ran more like a west coast offense rather than a Air Coryell offense with elements of the west coast offense sprinkled in, which is what Philly’s offense had become with Donovan in at quarterback.

The transition from McNabb to Kolb should be reminiscent of when Green Bay went from Brett Favre to Aaron Rogers last year. Green Bay’s offense went to good and effective to efficient and explosive.

Speaking of transition, Andy Reid and the GM have done a great job of remaking this roster on the fly in just two years. A lot of people in Philly weren’t too happy about the Eagles draft strategy back in April, but there was a method to Andy Reid’s madness and his draft class this year was great.

Philly picked up a lot of quality players in this year’s draft and guys who will make that team even better than it was in years past. Charles Scott is a guy on the offensive side of the ball who I think will drastically improve their running game. Scott is a type of running back that Philly hasn’t had since Andy has been there.

Charles is a big, bruising, punishing one cut running back that will bring a physical style of running game that the Eagles have never had but have needed. Wide out Riley Cooper from the University of Florida will also be a great addition to that offense and gives Andy a big wide out to play in either the slot or on the outside like Ed Mc Cafferey did in San Francisco and in Denver.

Defensively the Eagles should be better than what they were over the past two years. In the draft they were able to get guys who will bolster up their defensive line as well as improve their pass rush. Brandon Graham is the blue chip stud in their draft class who will be an extremely productive player on defense and wreck havoc on opposing offenses.

At year’s end, I am looking for Philly to finish the year at 9-7 if things go right, or 6-10 if things get bad or they lose some close games due to the fact that they are a young team having to learn how to win.

Tough games against the Packers, Vikings, Texans, Forty-Niners, along with playing the Cowboys twice equates to the 9th toughest schedule in the league.

Donovan McNabb getting comfortable in Shanahan's Offense

Washington Redskins Daniel Snyder finally got tired of losing and decided to stop getting involved in football operations. So he got rid of Vinny Cerrato who was his puppet, and he went out and hired two guys to take over football operations and make the Redskins a winner.

One of those guys was Mike Shanahan who had been unemployed for the past year after getting fired in Denver. The other guy was Bruce Allen who is the son of Redskin great George Allen. Bruce was appointed as GM of the Redskins and is the first guy to be named GM since Snyder has owned the team.

Shanahan and Allen have brought in years of experience on how to run a football team the right way. Unlike Snyder, they don’t believe in running the team like a fantasy football team. As soon as free agency hit, Washington’s new philosophy on how to operate during the offseason was put into effect by not going after big name free agents as they had done in the past, and they cleaned house of dead weight players. This was because Mike and Bruce were running things, not Snyder.

Thanks to Snyder and Vinny Cerrato this team has major issues, but majority of the issues are on the offensive side of the ball. Somehow Snyder and Cerrato were able to get good players on the defensive side of the ball as well as coaches.

Mike is known as an offensive genius and his fingerprints will be all over this team. Offensively the Redskins will be a much better team than what they have been in a long time. To help improve the Redskins offense, Shanahan went and stole his son Kyle Shanahan from my Texans to become the offensive coordinator in Washington.

If you don’t know how good Kyle is, pull up Houston’s stats over the past four years. The kid knows offense and helped make Houston a top five team offensively every year. Not to mention he made Matt Schaub the top quarterback in the league last year statistically and Pro Bowl MVP.

Getting Donovan McNabb from Philly was a great move and one that will make the Redskins a really good team for a long time. McNabb’s mobility is perfect for what the Shanahan’s love to do on offense with the various bootlegs they like to run. Along with his mobility, his veteran leadership will help solidify that ball club immensely.

They have some questions at the wide out position, but the west coast offense isn’t based on how great your wide outs and running backs are. It’s an offense that focuses more on execution and timing. Plus Donovan is used to not having wide outs. But he does have several running backs to either hand off or throw to now. (Larry Johnson, Clinton Portis, Willie Parker)

Washington’s running game should be better with Portis, Johnson and Parker splitting time in the backfield and with Mike’s commitment to running the ball.

Over the past five years the Redskins have had a top ten defense while running a 4-3 defense. This year the Redskins are switching to a 3-4 defense. They don’t have all of the pieces to run that defense properly, but they have talent and like Green Bay last year who went through the same switch. Talent will be able to cover up for deficiencies in certain areas. If Albert Haynesworth gets with the program, this defense can be dominating up front.

Overall I think the Redskins will be a more competitive team and may also compete for a wildcard spot along with the Eagles. I see them either ending the season with a 9-7 or an 8-8 record.

The week 12 game against the Houston Texans should be a very interesting game to watch. The teacher Mike Shanahan will be going up against his pupil/former player in Gary Kubiak, and Rick Dennison while Kubiak and Dennison will be going up against their former teacher Mike Shanahan, and pupil Kyle Shanahan. To make a long story short, these two teams will know everything that each other will be doing before they do it.

Eli Manning saw too much of this last year

New York Giants – I must admit that out of all of the teams that I get bored writing about, the New York Giants are at the top of my list. Sorry Giants fans. Fact is, the Giants are and always will be a non flashy team with not anything that makes you clamor for news about them. They have even become back page news in their own city now.

Watching Giants games can be boring at times and could possibly cure someone of insomnia, especially last year. In 2010 the Giants offense was inconsistent at best. Whether it was through the air or on the ground, New York was pedestrian at times. Brandon Jacobs looked slow and wasn’t as effective as he had been in previous years. When Brandon wasn’t struggling to be effective, the offensive line and Eli Manning was.

The loss of Plaxico Burress seriously affected the Giants passing game last year and you could tell that Eli missed his go to guy. Eli, unlike his brother Peyton and a few others, doesn’t have the ability to make others around him better. He needs to be surrounded by good players to make him better. Hopefully New York’s young, talented group of wide outs will be much better than what they were last year and give Eli some help.

On defense, the Giants need to figure what they are going to do to stop teams from running the ball on them all day long like teams did last year. Their defensive tackles are just plain bad at stopping the run. They simply couldn’t hold up at the point of attack at all last year.

To make matters worse, their defensive leader, middle linebacker Antonio Pierce was released and they didn’t really find a good, proven replacement for him yet. In the NFL, if you don’t have good defensive tackles and a good middle linebacker, you can’t stop anyone from running on you.

New York did address the defensive tackle position by drafting Linval Joseph to help shore up their run defense, but you can’t expect a second round pick rookie to be the answer to a poor run defense.

Despite their issues on both sides of the ball, they will be a much better team than what they were last year. I don’t expect them to improve much defensively, but we will see what happens. There are surprises every year.

I see 10-6 with 8-8 being the worst possible scenario with Tom Coughlin being on the hot seat at the end of the year. Games against the Packers and Vikings could be ugly for the Giants.

Dez Bryant is focused on proving 31 other teams wrong

Dallas Cowboys – Last year I and many called the Dallas Cowboys one of the most complete teams in the NFL. In all three phases of the game, the Cowboys are solid and are in most cases, better than their competition.

Well, one of the most complete teams in football got better this offseason. The only thing that can stop the Cowboys from reaching the Super Bowl is their inability to put together a complete season. It seems like every season they start the season off fast, get into a funk for about four games, then finish the season well. That needs to be fixed or they will be watching the Super Bowl in Dallas this year and not playing in it.

If Wade Phillips can get his team to put together a complete season, I don’t see but maybe two other teams competing with them in the NFC to go to Super bowl XLV. Dallas should become the first team in NFL history to play in a home Super Bowl.

Whether it’s with the running game or the passing game, Dallas can hurt a team in many ways. I don’t need to bore you with mentioning the names of the three headed monster rushing attack that Dallas has. Nor do I need to talk about how much more explosive they will become with the addition of Dez Bryant to go along with Miles Austin, Jason Witten and a inspired to improve (thanks to Dez Bryant being drafted) Roy Williams. Some things in life should just be left unsaid.

All that needs to be pointed out is that if you are a defensive coordinator not on the Cowboys coaching staff, you have a serious situation on your hands come Sunday. Dallas just simply has a lot of weapons for Tony Romo to use to put points on the board.

With Wade Phillips calling the plays on defense, you can expect to see the dominating defense that Dallas displayed in the second half of the season last year. Their one weakness on the defense last year was the secondary. That won’t be much of a weakness this year.

Even though the Cowboys have the third toughest schedule in the league, I see them going 14-2 at best or 12-4 at worst. They have several tough games this year starting off with a game in week two against the in state rival Houston Texans. Games at Lambeau Field and in Minnesota in weeks 6 and 9 aren’t going to be cake walks either but will be great games. Then a rematch of last year’s Saints/Cowboys game in week 12 will be one not to miss if you’re a football fan.

September 9th can’t some soon enough folks, until then. I will see you guys on Sunday with part three. The AFC North is on deck.