August 23, 2011

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AFC Preview

By: Joe Williams

New England, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh. That’s really all you need to know about the AFC. One of those teams has been to 11 of the last 16 Super Bowls and 9 of the last 10. So will one of them be playing in Indianapolis on Feb. 5 or will the run of dominance come to an end or will a team like Baltimore or the Jets break through?

AFC EAST

This appears to be a two horse race. The Patriots are the two-time defending division champions, but the Jets have been to the last two AFC title games. Both teams have added big name players who come with baggage. For New England, it is Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth. The Jets have added Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason. The team that gets the most out of these new players will likely finish the season on top in the division. Buffalo and Miami have made some interesting moves as well but are still not in the league of the Jets or Patriots.

Division winner: New England

AFC NORTH

The Steelers and Ravens both won more games last year than the Bengals and Browns combined. That could happen again. Colt McCoy and the Browns seem to be headed in the right direction. Carson Palmer and the Bengals do not. The lockout gives an advantage to teams that have stability at quarterback and coaching positions. Pittsburgh and Baltimore are two of the most stable franchises in the NFL. The Steelers are the defending AFC champs. The Ravens have several veterans looking for one more shot at a ring. They meet in week 1.

Division winner: Baltimore

AFC SOUTH

2011 is an important year in the South. Just once in the last eight seasons has someone other than Indianapolis finished the season at the top of the South. If the Colts are going to stay at the top, it is going to be on the strength of Peyton Manning’s neck. If he is able to go another season without missing a game, the Colts have a great shot to keep their thrown. It’s now or never for Gary Kubiak and the Texans. Every year we think this is the year they take that giant leap forward. Every year they disappoint. But now Wade Phillips is on board to fix the defense. If he can, the Texans will be playing in January. The Titans and Jaguars both appear to be transitioning to their newly drafted quarterbacks of the future.

Division winner: Houston

AFC WEST

Kansas City was the surprise division winner in 2010. That might be enough to get San Diego to play the first month of the season as if the games actually count. The Chargers continually start terribly and finish strong. The Chiefs finally made them pay. Philip Rivers and company will have a battle on their hands for the West crown. Kansas City has plenty of young talent and should be tough for years to come. The Raiders improved to .500 but won’t be much better. The Broncos are still trying to dig out of the hole Josh McDaniels left them in.

Division winner: Kansas City

Wild Card winners: New York Jets, Indianapolis

AFC champion: Baltimore

August 9, 2011

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Players I Want On My Fantasy Team

By: Joe Williams

With the first NFL preseason game just a few days away, millions of people are getting ready for their fantasy football drafts. And millions more are wondering what is wrong with those people. People wonder what is wrong with me all the time. But when you bring home that fantasy football championship and the year-long bragging rights over your buddies that comes with it…it’s worth it.

It’s pretty obvious that you’d like to have Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson and Andre Johnson on your fantasy team. You might get one or two of the best players in the NFL but how you fill out the rest of the roster is more important in your effort to build a winning team. Here are a few NFL players I will be looking to have on my fantasy team.

Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis

Last year Bradford finished the year with the 20th most fantasy points for NFL quarterbacks. He will play better in 2011. He’s going to have better weapons around him than he did last year. He’s also going to have Josh McDaniels. McDaniels left the Broncos in a bad way with several controversial decisions that he made, but he also helped Kyle Orton put up some big fantasy football numbers. He will do the same for Bradford.

Knowshon Moreno, RB, Denver

If you drafted Moreno in the last couple seasons, you might think his name is Knowshow Moreno because he has been disappointing. The departure of McDaniels is almost as good for Moreno and it is for Bradford. John Fox is taking over in Denver and he likes to run the ball. A lot. The Broncos made a play for DeAngelo Williams but ended up settling for Willis McGahee. Another plus for Moreno. His touches will go up and so will his production.

Chad Ochocinco, WR, New England

He was a great player in Cincinnati but was known mostly for his crazy and entertaining antics on and off the field. He was stuck on a team that was going nowhere and wanted out of town. He finally gets his wish with a trade to play with Tom Brady and the Patriots. Sound familiar? Randy Moss was in a similar situation in Oakland before going to New England and putting up some of the best receiving numbers ever. Ochocinco may not score 23 TD’s like Moss did in his first year with Brady throwing to him, but he will get more than the four he scored last season.

Owen Daniels, TE, Houston

I’m giving him one more shot. I keep drafting him and he keeps getting hurt. Every season I think he’s going to put up big numbers. Just like everyone thinks the Texans are going to make that jump to a contender. If they don’t come through this season, I’m off the bandwagon. But if you don’t get one of the big-name tight ends, Daniels has the potential to put up some big numbers in the explosive Houston offense.

Daniel Thomas, RB, Miami

Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are out. Reggie Bush and Thomas are in. Bush is the big name addition in Miami but he has never been the able to handle the workload of a starting running back. Thomas will get plenty of carries and more importantly, look for him to get the ball in the red zone.

July 19, 2011

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8 Very Improbable NFL Playoff Teams

By: Joe Williams

It is looking like the NFL lockout is finally about to end. Now we can get back to the hope and excitement a new season brings. Unless, of course, you are a fan of a perennial cellar dweller. In every sport there are the haves and the have-nots. Even in the NFL, the league most designed to have parity, some teams have no shot to make the playoffs. Here’s a team from each division that no matter what happens in free agency or by trade in the next few weeks, will be unlikey to play in the NFL playoffs. If you are a fan of these teams you may want to begin planning your 2012 draft party.

Buffalo Bills - AFC EAST

This team has two major problems. The Patriots and the Jets. With two of the top teams in the league in their division, Buffalo is likely to lose at least three of those games. They would have to go at least 9-4 through the rest of the schedule to have any kind of chance. The NFL playoffs are not going to happen for a team without an obvious franchise quarterback.

Cincinnati Bengals – AFC NORTH

If you look up dysfunctional in the dictionary, you will see a picture of the Bengals. Their quarterback says he would rather retire than play on this team. The top wide receiver is feuding with the head coach. The running back just got arrested. Does this sound like a team ready to make an NFL playoff run?

 

Tennessee Titans – AFC SOUTH

The Titans are moving on from Vince Young and Jeff Fisher. They got their quarterback of the future in the draft and a new head coach. Tennessee could be on the rebound, but with lockout shortened preseason preparations, a team with a new coach and new quarterback is at a major disadvantage.

 Denver Broncos – AFC WEST

Here’s another team hurt by the lockout because they have a new head coach. John Fox has turned around a bad team before but this job is going to take more than one season. His biggest task is going to be figuring out what to do at quarterback. Do they stick with Kyle Orton? Do they look to the future and hope that the one smart move Josh McDaniels made was drafting Tim Tebow? Or do they put Brady Quinn behind center and play for the top pick in the draft? 

Washington Redskins – NFC EAST

Mike Shanahan has been one of the top coaches in the league, but many are starting to wonder what he is doing in Washington. Why trade for McNabb to play quarterback and continually pull him out for Rex Grossman? Now it looks like he’s going with John Beck. If they were in one of the West divisions, I’d give this team a shot. But they are in the toughest division in football.

Minnesota Vikings – NFC NORTH

If I had been writing this every year for the last decade, this would be the first time I would have said anyone other than Detroit. The Vikings have gone backwards since being one stupid Brett Favre play away from the Super Bowl. They have a quarterback of the future, but this division looks much tougher than just a year ago.

Carolina Panthers - NFC SOUTH

Teams don’t go from the number one pick in the draft to the NFL playoffs. Especially with a rookie head coach. They could have used more training camp to get Cam Newton going in their system. They have a bright future if he proves he was worthy of being the top pick in the draft. That bright future isn’t 2011.

San Fransisco 49ers – NFC WEST

This division is a real crapshoot but I’ve got to pick someone. They have a rookie head coach. Do we know who is going to play quarterback? There are questions to be answered but if any team on this list is going to make me look bad, it’s the 49ers.

May 3, 2011

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NFL Draft Winners and Losers

By: Joe Williams

The NFL Draft is now a couple days old. Now is as good a time as any to decide who did well and who didn’t. Teams have not been able to sign free agents because of the lockout so there is still opportunity for rosters to be upgraded, but nobody knows when that will happen. I’m sure the teams that didn’t fill needs in the draft have a free agency or trade plan set but my deadline won’t wait for the legal stuff to be sorted out.

WINNERS

Washington– Does anybody know who is going to play quarterback for the Redskins? They need a quarterback. They had the opportunity to get one and opted to trade down. Instead of making a panic move for a quarterback they didn’t want, Washington rebuilt its defensive line and added talented receiver.

Detroit – Adding Nick Fairley to Ndamukong Suhshould give the Lions one of the top defensive lines in the league. Wide receiver Titus Young and running back Mikel Leshoure will reinforce an offense already full of weapons.

Cincinnati – The Bengals have a mess on their hands with the Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco situations. Picking A.J. Green and Andy Dalton is a good sign for Bengal fans that Cincinnati is looking to the future. The offense has a lot of weapons for Dalton if he can earn the job.

ClevelandColt McCoy probably would have been thrilled to get Julio Jones with the sixth pick. The Browns did even better by trading the pick to Atlanta and getting five picks in return. They will have two picks in the first round next year and added a couple solid players to the defensive line.

Houston – The Texans can score. Now they may be able to stop the other team. Wade Phillips was hired to fix the defense and he just got 3-5 new starters.

Peyton Manning – I could say Indianapolis, but let’s face it – Manning is the Colts. Now he has an improved offensive line to protect him with Castonzo and Ijalana on board.

Denver– After the Josh McDaniels era, the bar was set pretty low for Elwayand company. They couldn’t trade Kyle Orton so they won’t be forced to play Tim Tebow and the draft was all about defense. Von Miller is as good as there is in this class and Moore and Franklin could be starters as well.

TIME WILL TELL

CarolinaCam Newton. The Panthers are in his hands now. If he is as great as he could be, Carolina is on the way back to respectability.

Atlanta – The Falcons pretty much gave up their whole draft for Julio Jones. If he becomes a big-time weapon for Matt Ryan, Atlanta will contend for a Super Bowl.

LOSERS

Chicago– The Bears agreed to a trade with Baltimore and somehow screwed it up. They still got the offensive lineman they needed to keep Cutler off the ground and kept the fourth round pick, but when everyone is ripping you for a trade debacle, you are not winning.

Minnesota – The Vikings shocked everyone by taking quarterback Christian Ponder with the 12th pick. Five years down the road, it may prove to be a great pick, but taking Ponder that high has people scratching their heads.

Oakland– The Raiders didn’t have a first round pick and used most of their picks on speedy players who probably were picked too early.

Roger Goodell – When you are the commissioner and you are booed by the fans, it is not a good sign. He wants the lockout to be resolved more than anybody.

Undrafted free agents – Normally teams would have signed a bunch of these players by now. They can’t even talk to them at this point.