August 30, 2011
Unlike the AFC, NFC has been wide open over the last few years. Six different NFL teams have played in the last three conference title games. Can the Cowboys, Redskins, Lions, Vikings, Falcons or 49ers make it 11 teams in 11 years? I think so.
Traditionally, Daniel Snyder and the Redskins win the offseason with big-name free agent signings and then the games begin and someone else wins the division. But this year, it has been the Eagles grabbing all the headlines and bringing in high profile players. Question: What do you get when you take an NFL team that went 10-6 last season and add Cullen Jenkins, Jason Babin, Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rogers-Cromarti, Ronnie Brown, Vince Young, and Steve Smith? Answer: The NFC East champs. Washington still needs to figure who is going to play quarterback. Dallas and New York will be in the playoff hunt, but Philly has too much talent.
Division winner: Philadelphia
This ought to be one of the most compelling divisions in football. Green Bay is the defending Super Bowl champion and returns several players who were out with injury last year. The Bears won the division last year and hosted the NFC title game. How will they rally around Jay Cutler after his knee injury in the NFC title game? Detroit seems poised to make a playoff run if they stay healthy and Minnesota has Donovan McNabb as its new quarterback. Chicago visits Minnesota and Detroit will be in Green Bay in the last week of the season. Expect those games to be meaningful.
Division winner: Green Bay
I expect the South to be the most competitive division with three teams battling for the division crown all season long. Carolina should be better than the 2-14 team of last year, but the Panthers are another year or two away. The Falcons and Saints remain made the playoffs last year and have Super Bowl aspirations. Tampa Bay won 10 games and should be even better with another year of experience for a young NFL team. One or two of these teams is going to have its playoff hopes dashed in the last week of the season.
Division winner: Atlanta
Year after year, the West is thought of as the weakest division in the league. However, no other division has had three teams in the Super Bowl in the last decade. Once again, nobody expects much from the West, so watch out for a surprise team to make a run come playoff time. It would be nice if the team that wins this division at least has a winning record this year though. Who will it be? When in doubt, go with the team that has the best quarterback. Kevin Kolb could prove to be that man, but until he gets a full season under his belt I’m going with Sam Bradford.
Division winner: St. Louis
Wild Card winners: Dallas, New Orleans
NFC champion: Atlanta
August 15, 2011
When the final buzzer sounded on the 2010-11 NBA season, basketball fans across the globe celebrated wildly as the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Miami Heat in six games. Sure there was a contingent out there (particularly in Miami) that felt differently, but the majority of NBA fans were happy to see the underdog Mavericks win the title.
The Philadelphia Eagles aren’t quite as hated, though – mostly because football is not nearly the individualized sport that basketball is. In basketball, much of the game is broken down to one-on-one matchups and football is more of a team sport. That fact makes it far easier for a single player to dominate a game. However, there are some parallels that can be drawn between the Heat and the Eagles.
Chief amongst them is the fact that both franchises have a polarizing figure leading the way. Miami has Lebron James and Philadelphia now leans on quarterback Michael Vick. Vick became a controversial figure after being jailed for his involvement in a dogfighting ring and while he’s slowly making his way back into the good graces of fans, there is still a large segment of the population that simply won’t root for him. James, of course, did not end up in jail, but his television special in which he announced he was going to the Miami Heat made him unpopular over the past season.
The main reason the Eagles may be hated on a Heat-esqe level is because of the large amount of stars they’ve added since last season. Things officially kicked off when they traded backup quarterback Kevin Kolb to the Arizona Cardinals for cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Rodgers-Cromartie is a player that can help the Eagles’ secondary right away and in trading Kolb, they let go of a player who likely wouldn’t have seen much time on the field (barring an injury to Michael Vick, of course). Another splash was made when they signed free agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha – perhaps the top defensive player on the market. The Eagles then followed that up with several more signings, highlighted by the pickups of 1,000-yard rusher Ronnie Brown and 1,000-yard receiver Steve Smith. Brown will backup Lesean McCoy and Smith will be the No. 2 receiver behind Desean Jackson, but both could play integral roles on this year’s team.
Another wildcard in the offseason was the acquisition of quarterback Vince Young. Young, once considered one of the brightest young quarterbacks in the NFL, certainly isn’t expected to start. But should the scrambling Vick become injured, he gives Philadelphia an experienced backup who will have plenty of weapons at his disposal should he need to step in and play. Young has struggled over the past few seasons playing for the Tennessee Titans, but he didn’t have the talent around him that he does now. Even if Vick doesn’t get hurt over the course of the season, Young could also play a part in some trick plays that would utilize a bit of his extreme athleticism.
There’s also the fact that Philly fans are, well, Philly fans. They have a strong reputation for being a bit too hard-nosed and are often the derision of other sports fans. This is, after all, the fanbase that once booed Santa Claus. Santa Claus!
Really, when you think about it, the Eagles aren’t so much Miami Heat as they are New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox. They didn’t round up three of the best players in the league, but they did manage to secure about a half dozen key pickups this offseason that will greatly strengthen the team at various positions. Either way, though, the Eagles will face lots of opposition from fans outside of Philadelphia.
August 9, 2011
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.
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.
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.
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.
August 1, 2011
At long last (okay, it wasn’t that long), the NFL Lockout is over. With operations just now getting underway, there’s not much time to lose. Teams are signing players at a moment’s notice and the season will be here before you know it. In only about a week’s time, we’ve seen enough developments to fill up several months of normal offseason activity. Here are the top ten … so far.
10. 49ers Hold Steady with Alex Smith – San Francisco was expected to bring back the underachieving Smith and they did just that by re-signing him. To be honest, I don’t understand this move as Smith has progressed at a pace slow enough to make a snail envious over the past five years. But new head coach Jim Harbaugh was determined to give him another shot so the 49ers will again operate with him under center. Smith does know the offense, but knowing and executing in the NFL are two entirely different things.
9. Cam Newton Signs with Panthers – Sure, Newton was expected to sign, but already? With so little time before camp, Newton didn’t have much leverage if he didn’t want to risk alienating fans. The No. 1 overall pick is off to a fine start by reportedly signing the four-year $22 million deal shortly after the lockout’s end.
8. Reggie Bush Dealt to Miami – As if Ricky Williams’ fate weren’t sealed already with the drafting of rookie Daniel Thomas, adding Bush to the roster all but assured he is finished in Miami. The Dolphins picked up the all-purpose back who should complement Ronnie Brown far better than Williams (Note to self: Do not draft Ricky Williams in fantasy football for the third consecutive season).
7. Seahawks Add Sidney Rice – The Seahawks’ passing game left much to be desired last year – and that’s part of the reason Matt Hasselbeck is no longer with the team. But without a 1,000-yard receiver in 2010, Seattle needed to upgrade its wideouts. They not only will be better with the addition of Rice, but also got younger with the 24-year old.
6. Chad Ochocinco Joins Tom Brady in New England – Johnson, er, Ochocinco, comes with a bit of baggage, but the Patriots had success with another so-called misfit in Randy Moss. Who’s to say history won’t repeat itself? New England needed to replace Moss and Ochocinco is plenty capable of a few more big seasons – especially with future Hall of Famer Brady at the helm.
5. Santonio Holmes stays put in New York – Holmes was the Jets’ biggest priority this offseason and they got him re-signed. They may have missed out on Nnamdi Asomugha, but signing Santonio gives quarterback Mark Sanchez the deep threat he needs to succeed in the Big Apple.
4. Brett Favre is at it. Again – I really shouldn’t be surprised by this anymore, but, well, call me surprised. Favre had more drama last season than Erica Kane in a Sweeps Week episode of All My Children, and after the disastrous year on and off the field that he endured, I figured there was no way he’d be back in the NFL. But with rumors popping up that Favre could be willing to serve as a backup to Michael Vick in Philadelphia, the Twitter universe exploded. In all seriousness, I don’t expect Favre to make good on this. Common sense, for once, has to win out. Right? Right?!?
3. Donovan McNabb Traded to Vikings – Despite a subpar season last year in the Nation’s capital, McNabb will get another shot at starting as the Vikings’ projected first-team quarterback. How much he has left in the NFL tank is anybody’s guess, but playing in a dome out of the elements eight times a year should help the aging star.
2. Kevin Kolb Traded to Cardinals – The Eagles insisted on a high draft pick in exchange for its backup quarterback and got one in a second-rounder from Arizona. In addition, Philly also secured the talents of cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Both teams come out winners in this deal and Kolb should help the Cardinals compete immediately in the mind-numbingly awful NFC West.
1. Nnamdi Asomugha Signs with Eagles – Raise your hand if you saw this signing coming. Asomugha was virtually assured of not being a Raider, but Philadelphia wasn’t one of the NFL teams generally discussed as a viable option. But with his addition, the Eagles have instantaneously improved their chances of winning the conference.