Posts Tagged ‘Patriots’

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

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Rex has his Jets poised to make a run for the top spot

Football season is around the corner and I vowed that I wouldn’t write my division and team ranking blogs until training camp. Well yesterday a conversation amongst a couple of people on twitter about the Miami Dolphins motivated me to start this nine part series today.

I am not trying to prove a point or anything. I think my knowledge of the game of football whether its college or pro speaks for itself. Anyone who knows me personally or has been following me on twitter for awhile can attest to this. Bottom line, I am rarely wrong when it comes to football.

You may not like what I have to say or may think I am borderline clueless at times with my Skip Bayless like comments. But like Skip, usually what I say comes true or almost does.

I am a realist and the truth hurts sometimes. Unlike most people, I am able to analyze the game of football without rose colored glasses on. I am a Texans and Patriots fan, but I will criticize everything and anything they do also. I favor no one when it comes to the truth.

So let’s get into day one/blog entry number one of my nine part NFL division and team rankings blogs. Parts one through eight is going to be divisional analysis with the ninth entry being team rankings. Today we will begin with the AFC East.

AFC East

This division has never really been a strong division. For the exception of last year, it’s been the New England Patriots and everyone else. From time to time, the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins or Buffalo Bills will have a decent year and challenge New England or maybe win the division. But it isn’t the norm.

Things should be a lot different with New England aging and the Jets and Dolphins getting better. New England will still be New England, but the Jets have shown that they can beat New England and Miami can give them a run for their money too. Buffalo isn’t even ready to compete with themselves yet so no need to think about them competing with the previous three that I just mentioned.

(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.)

Tom Brady

New England Patriots – The Patriots are a aging dynasty that is in the midst of retooling, not rebuilding. New England had one of the best drafts in this year’s draft and was able to address lots of needs both of the defensive and offensive side of the ball.

Offensively the Patriots will be ok as they always have been. Will they be as explosive as they were in 2007? No, but they will be just as effective as they were last year and should be a little better with Brady having a full season under his belt after missing a year to knee surgery.

Most of New England’s offensive issues last year came from Tom Brady who wasn’t comfortable playing with his surgically repaired knee. Brady wasn’t stepping into his throws most of the time and wasn’t comfortable with “trash” around his legs while in the pocket. Another major issue in New England last year was that the new players were not learning or buying into the system (Joey Galloway).

Wes Welker is another big concern for the Patriots offense. Question still remains as to how he will bounce back after the season ending knee injury that he suffered against the Texans in the last game of the season. If he returns and is the Wes Welker that we all know, then all is good in Boston.

Defensively New England should be better but I am not going to put my name on that prediction. Last year the defense was atrocious and lost a lot of games for the Pats. Bill Belichick fired Dan Pees who was the defensive coordinator over the last couple of years in New England. Bill went ahead and announced that he was taking over the play calling for the defense this year and no defensive coordinator would be named.

With the genius calling the plays on defense, and with the new players that they acquired on defense during the offseason. This year’s defense should be much better than last year’s defense. I will admit though, I am taking a wait and see approach to that prediction. One thing that New England must do if they don’t do anything else is improve their run defense. They were fourth in the NFL in giving up the most yards per carry to opposing teams.

In the end I see the Patriots finishing 12-4 if all things go well. Or 10-6 if they don’t get their defensive issues fixed and their running game and Wes Welker don’t play well in the first half of the year. Games against the Vikings, Packers and Ravens are games that can go either way and can give New England problems if their secondary isn’t on point.

Mark Sanchez

New York Jets – I have gone on record as saying that I am not completely sold on the Jets being what everyone is saying they are, a championship contending team. They made some really nice moves during the offseason and then made some questionable ones. Releasing Alan Faneca and trading Leon Washington could come back to haunt them.

Offensively everything relies on the maturation process of Mark Sanchez. In this being his second year, he needs to be able to take that next step that rookie QBs have to take in order to become a legit NFL quarterback and take his team to that next level as a Super Bowl contender. He was way too inconsistent last year and hurt his team more than he helped which is typical of rookie quarterbacks.

The addition of Santonio Holmes and LaDanian Tomlinson should give Mark the weapons he needs to help turn the Jets offense into an efficient and formidable one, but it all comes back down to Mark being smart with the football.

The Jets have already become known as a defensive team in just one year. The defense is the strength of this team and most likely will always be. They were the number one ranked defense last year, and I expect them to be even better.

Having Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis on the corners with that pass rush isn’t something that teams in the AFC are too excited about having to face. First round pick Kyle Wilson was a great draft day selection that allows Rex to have a good speedy, physical cover corner on a team’s slot receiver (Wes Welker).

Rex Ryan loves having really good cover corners because it allows him to do so much with his scheme. When Rex was in Baltimore, he was always begging Ozzie Newsome to draft certain corners for him to have on defense. Ozzie declined 95% of the time. Well now Rex has his corners, three really good ones. That Jets defense is going to be scary good.

New York should either finish 13-3 or 11-5. 9-7 if Mark plays inconsistent like he did last year. Vikings, Texans and Packers are games that the Jets may struggle in. Offensively these teams can put it on ya.

Ronnie Brown

Miami Dolphins – Miami is one of those teams that you look at and you ask yourself how are they able to do what they do with what they have. They don’t have one or two guys on their entire roster that is ranked in the top ten in any position except for maybe Brandon Marshall now. The Fins have question marks up and down their roster that is littered with “B” level talent and unproven players.

Unless you are a Browns, Bills, Chiefs, or Seahawks and maybe a Raiders fan, you’re not really worried about the Dolphins beating your team are you? They just don’t have it all together yet to really make you scared. I have to admit that I don’t even watch the game when Houston or New England plays Miami. The Dolphins haven’t handled any one of those two teams yet so I have no worries.

Losing Jason Taylor and Joey Porter will hurt immediately. Jared Odrick and Koa Misi aren’t ready to step in and produce at that level yet. Second round pick Koa Misi who is a DE, is being converted into an outside linebacker. It takes three to four years for DEs to make that transition to outside linebacker. So don’t expect Miami to have a great pass rush this year. Karlos Dansby helps but he can’t do it by himself, and Channin Crowder benefitted from Jason Taylor and Joey Porter being there.

Miami brought in Brandon Marshall to add some punch to their offense and to give Chad Henne a big time target at wide out to throw to. Marshall is a great addition to that almost anemic offense, but he isnt the overall answer. There are two major issues with Miami’s offense; one is that as talented as Chad Henne is, he needs time to develop. Expecting him to go from where he was last year to good over night won’t happen. Brandon Marshall helps, but a QB and a wide out need time to get on the same page.

Brandon Marshall is an extremely talented wide out, but he may not get properly used in Miami until they change their offensive philosophy. Think about it, in Denver he played in Mike Shanahan’s west coast offense. Then he played in Josh McDaniel’s pass happy version of the Erhardt-Perkins offense. Miami tries to run the run oriented version of the Erhardt-Perkins offense that has about 80% of the “wildcat” mixed in. The old saying of “don’t count your chickens before they hatch” applies to the Marshall in Miami experiment.

The second issue with Miami offensively is their offense as a whole. They can’t consistently move the ball without running the “wildcat”. I have no problem with the “wildcat”. It has a place in this league and I think more teams should use it more (Dallas, Houston). It’s when you have to rely on the “wildcat” to consistently move the ball because your passing game is inept is when I have an issue with the “wildcat”. Like one of the Dolphins players said on a NFL films clip, “The wildcat! That’s our whole playbook now!”

On the defensive side of the ball their secondary is bad and they have no pass rush. They did address both areas in the draft and should be better overall defensively. I like the Dansby free agent signing and the draft picks of Koa Misi and Jared Odrick. Those three guys along with the DBs and defensive lineman they drafted should significantly improve this defense. I just don’t expect great things from them until two years from now.

Miami has a pretty tough schedule and as I was tweeting yesterday. I was having a hard time finding more than five games that they would win. At best I have them going 7-9 with some lucky breaks, and 6-10 as the most likely scenario. Three games that are hard to call are the Tennessee, Oakland and the Detroit game.

I can’t see Tennessee being a bad team again and Oakland is going to be a good team. Not playoff good, but a team that goes 8-8 and will not be an easy win for some teams. Detroit is a team that has made a lot of great offseason moves over the past two years. Everyone including myself loves what Detroit has done. Check the roster and game film from all sixteen games last year and you will see what I mean. The Lions may not be an easy win if at all a win for Miami.

I don’t think that Miami is a bad team; I just think that their talent level and many question marks on both sides of the ball don’t put them in a favorable position for this year. Especially with them playing in a tough AFC division and conference.

Trent Edwards and Fred Jackson

Buffalo Bills – Where do I start with this team? Will we see paper bags back on Bills fans heads at games this year? This team is bad and is going through a rebuilding year/phase with a new head coach in Chan Gailey who shouldn’t have even gotten the job. Brian Billick or Leslie Frasier would have been much better choices than a retread in Gailey.

Talent wise they don’t have much if any except for C.J. Spiller who will be an amazing player, but may have a hard time his first two years being effective with the lack of offensive line help and overall talent on offense.

Offensively they have questions everywhere except at running back. Trent Edwards hasn’t officially been given the job yet in Buffalo, but the other quarterbacks on the team aren’t anything to be hopeful about anyway.

Buffalo will struggle worst than what they did last year offensively. I don’t see where or how they will be able to generate offense with the players that they currently have. If you’re a defensive coordinator, you put eight or nine guys in the box a double Lee Evans and tell the equipment guys to start packing up stuff and for the bus drivers to keep the busses running.

Defense is something that may go from bad to worse as they are transitioning from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense. There isn’t much talent on this Bills defense that was one of the worst teams on run defense last year. Gailey didn’t do too good of a job drafting defensive players that will fit his 3-4 scheme in this year’s draft. That’s not good news when you are transitioning from a 4-3 to a 3-4 and you already don’t have talent on that side of the ball.

I don’t see Buffalo winning more than one or two games this year unless they catch a team slipping. I expect a 2-14 season at best or 1-15 if things really get bad. But then again things are already bad in Buffalo.