The lockout is old news and the Saints and Packers square off Thursday. The only thing missing from this anticipation of the NFL season is Brett Favre overkill…for now.
Packers Set To Defend Title-The Green Bay Packers begin their title defense against New Orleans with the dreaded Super Bowl hangover tossed around. Unlike the many winners before them, Green Bay looks equipped to dominate for the immediate future and make a run at a dynasty. Aaron Rodgers has made all Cheeseheads forget bout his predecessor/alleged sextor, letting his play speak for itself. With a loaded receiving core, a healthy Ryan Grant in the backfield, and a defense which remains intact, look for more of the same from the Packers.
Eagles Do Their Best Heat Impression-There was no championship-esque celebration in the offseason or guarantees of 5, 6, 7 titles, but the Philadelphia Eagles were reeling in big names much like the Miami Heat. Nnamdi Asomugha, Domingue Rodgers-Cromartie, and Asante Samuel give the Eagles the best cornerback trio in football. Jason Babin shores up the defensive line. The linebacker group is weak in comparison, but with the Eagles likely leading most of their games, teams will be forced to pass against the aforementioned three-headed monster with a solid defensive line. The offense got deeper as well with Ronnie Brown backing up LeSean McCoy.
New Cardinal Set To Spread Wings-It was discussed before the lockout began, and it happened once the lockout ended. Traded for Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2012 2nd-round pick, Arizona is banking on Kevin Kolb to be more Kurt Warner and less like Derek Anderson. The Cardinals locked up Kolb for 6 years, $65 million, with $22 million guaranteed. Now Kolb has impressed when he’s played, but the guy’s only made 7 starts in his career. Whether Kolb ends up working out for the Cardinals only time will tell, but they’re probably relieved that Anderson is no longer starting. The numbers may be easy to top, but will he be as serious about the game?
Who Wants the NFC West?-In all seriousness, a 7-9 team made the playoffs for the first time in NFL history. You could’ve discovered that all four teams were doing their due diligence in hopes of a high draft pick. All these teams seem to be undergoing makeovers. The Cardinals have a new quarterback, St. Louis looks to build off Sam Bradford’s solid rookie season, Rookie Head Coach Jim Harbaugh throws Alex Smith one last bone to provide pedestrian results under center (though he could be secretly plotting for Andrew Luck, hmm), and Pete Carroll’s balance-of-power-changing move was, Tarvaris Jackson?Not so sure about that one Petey, but Sidney Rice is a nice addition to the receiving core.
All in all, let’s hope this isn’t another race to 8 wins.
AFC South Up For Grabs-A division which Peyton Manning has routinely put in his back pocket now looks to be up for grabs. The Colts quarterback’s streak of 227 consecutive games comes to an end due to a slow recovery from neck surgery. Somewhere Favre is basking in the glory of his streak remaining intact while sporting his wrangler jeans on a tractor in the heart of Mississippi.
Manning’s return remains a question mark, leaving the Houston Texans in the driver’s seat. With last year’s 9-7 season being their first ever above .500, Houston looks primed to make a postseason appearance. The offense remains intact with Matt Schaub at the helm, with Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, and Arian Foster at his disposal. Although if Foster gets a hold of his teammates future scans, it may put them at a disadvantage (I hear he posts them on twitter). The offense is the same, but the defense looks to be viable with the addition of Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips. Prized acquisition Jonathan Joseph should help the secondary, but it will be up to Phillips to turn this defense around.
Lions Ready to Roar?-The laughingstock of the NFL for the last several years, non-sextors aside, the Detroit Lions bandwagon looks to be filling up rapidly. Franchise Quarterback Matthew Stafford has shown flashes in his two seasons. Only thing is, he’s only played 13 of 32 games due to injury. If Stafford can prove to be healthy, watch out for the Lions offense to be a top-10 unit this season. That with arguably the nastiest defensive line in football has people thinking relevant December football for these guys, and dare I say it, playoffs? The rest of the defense may be shaky, but when you put pressure on the quarterback, it makes the job a lot easier on everyone else.
Hey Everybody, It’s the New Kid-Two rookie quarterbacks will be thrown into the fire from the get go. Andy Dalton of the Cincinnati Bengals and Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers will have even less to work off than most rookie quarterbacks because of the lack of offseason workouts with teammates. Neither one is ready to take the reins, but Carolina needs to sell tickets, and frankly, if you’ve seen Jimmy Claussen play, you know Carolina is no better. So Newton might as well take his lumps and earn the experience. Dalton was supposed to sit and learn the ropes, but then Carson Palmer decided he didn’t want to play for a halfway house, err, the Bengals anymore. Palmer will play for anyone else, but Owner Mike Brown won’t budge, feeling that Palmer should, “honor his contract.” Funny coming from an owner who will never hesitate to rid themselves of a bad deal.
State of AFC West Address-The Chargers, perennial favorites, say this year’s different, that they won’t struggle out of the gate. If they can live up to their promise, this division is theirs for the taking. Kansas City was a nice story, but they seem more like a bubble team. Don’t be fooled by Denver starting Kyle Orton, the playoffs take a backseat as the Broncos try to decide what exactly should Tim Tebow be doing. Among options such as tight end and full back also include team pastor. And nobody really ever knows what Al Davis is doing with the Raiders.
Big Names, New Places-Donovan McNabb is a Viking, Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth are both Patriots, and Reggie Bush is a Dolphin. Aging Pro Bowl players, expect all to make impacts with their new teams, showing to all that a fresh start was in order, especially McNabb.
Coaching Debuts-6 teams will be with new coaches, only 1 (John Fox, Denver) is not coaching their first-ever NFL game. None of these teams are expected to do much in the standings, but Raiders Head Coach Hue Jackson has to be aware of the looney bin that also serves as his boss. Talk about job security.
My regular season picks last season left much to be desired, only nailing 7 out of 12 playoff teams, but I did pencil Green Bay for the Super Bowl, thus credibility is restored.
Wild Card: Dallas, New Orleans
Wild Card: New England, Pittsburgh
Super Bowl XLVI- Atlanta vs. New York