- Baltimore Ravens, 12-4. This is a good team. The secondary is a bit shaky and Ed Reed’s possible extended absence will not help. But overall, this team has improved since last year when it was already good. The addition of Anquan Boldin was big. Derrick Mason has been quietly amassing decent season after decent season for the Ravens over the last several years, and having a legit threat opposite him now will suddenly make this passing game quite good. Add in a rejuvenated/healthy TE Todd Heap and there is another good option. QB Joe Flacco has improved as well and to this day, in my opinion, has the best form of any QB throwing the deep ball (he may not complete all these deep passes, but they sure look good). But the guy I think we’ll all be talking about at the end of the year is Ray Rice. This guy is a monster. He is strong, has a low center of gravity coupled with huge legs and importantly, mentally he is very focused on being a great RB. I think at the end of this year, Rice will be the #1 RB in the NFL in terms of total yards gained (remember, he’s a great receiver out of the backfield too – 78 catches last year). Yes, better than Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson and MJD.
- Pittsburgh Steelers, 10-6. Pitt at 10-6? What? Without Big Ben for 4 games? After missing the playoffs in 2009? After losing Santonio Holmes? Yes. Something happened last year that caused Pitt to get lost – to lose its identity. Troy Polamalu got hurt. It’s that simple. Polamalu is the soul of that team. Not Ben, not the defense as a whole, not Hines Ward, just Troy. He is a fantastic player whose mere presence on the field changes games. He is an intelligent player with great game sense. With Polamalu back at full strength and the eventual return of Big Ben, this team will resume its quality play. Also, I’m looking for Rashard Mendenhall to take off a bit this year (if he doesn’t get hurt). He may end up as a top 5 rusher as he will have lots of touches. I expect a couple monster games from him. And, it’s no small factor that Dick LeBeau is still running the defense in Pitt. I expect the D to be very tough to deal with especially at home. And remember, last year, Pitt managed to get to 9-7, so it’s not like they were nearly as bad as the Pitt fan-base made them out to be.
- Cleveland Browns, 8-8. What? The Cleve ahead of Cincy? I am one of few probably, who think the Mangini/Holmgren duo might end up working out. Here’s why. Eric Mangini burst onto the scene a few years ago and had some initial success. While I’m not sure I would call his initial success a fluke (he was 10-6 in his 1st season with the NYJ, playoff team), I do think it was unfortunate for Mangini because it brought the immediate weight of expectations. Now, he’s regarded as a mediocre coach (at best) and the Cleve is playing with zero expectations. And most importantly I believe Mangini, if he’s open to it, will benefit greatly from the guidance of Mike Holmgren. Mangini is still a young coach and he hasn’t had the opportunity before to work closely with a very respected NFL mind. I do believe that between Mangini/Holmgren, there is a lot of football knowledge going on. I feel about the Cleve the way I feel about Miami – with guys like Holmgren and Parcells at the helm, it’s just hard to imagine either of these teams in a state of total failure. Delhomme isn’t great but if he plays even decently, there are some weapons on offense (Cribbs, Jerome Harrison could be good, Massaquoi, TE Evan Moore – former Packer who has looked good so far, Joe Thomas helping on the line). Ok, that list isn’t that great and it’s possible the Cleve totally sucks and Mangini gets fired after 4 weeks because he can’t get along with Holmgren – but I just have a feeling they won’t be terrible this year.
- Cincinnati Bengals, 6-10. I don’t think Marvin Lewis should last past this year. He may, because the Bengals front office is weird, but he shouldn’t. Yes, the Bengals got to the playoffs last year, yes they have a legit running threat with Benson, yes they have a decent WR group now with TO in the mix, and they have 2 potential big-time talents at TE in Chase Coffman (son of Paul Coffman) and Jermaine Gresham. Ok, maybe the offense will be good. And, of course, the defense has 2 CBs who are in the discussion at least of best CB tandem in the NFL. But I don’t see it this year for Cincy. I’m fighting logic I realize by projecting the Cleve to finish ahead of Cincy, the NFC North division winners from 2009. But Cincy’s home playoff loss last year to the Jets was one of the least inspiring efforts I’ve seen in years. The Jets played well to be sure, but to fold like Cincy did at home in such a big game told me all I need to know. Cincy is one major injury (Palmer, Benson, one of their CBs) away from 3-13.
Archive for the ‘NFL’ Category
- NE Patriots, 11-5 – Why? Not sure. They have some older players, they shouldn’t be that good and Belichick continues to be weird. But they always have older players, they always end up being good anymore and Belichick’s weirdness is often smart weirdness (like going for 4th downs). Borrowing from soccer’s apparent claim on the word “mercurial”, Belichick’s mercurialness hasn’t faded a bit and I can’t help but think he will mercurially help the Patriots achieve success once again. In particular, the Brady/Moss/Welker trio will remain brutally difficult to defend and some may be surprised when the Laurence Maroney/Fred Taylor duo ends up being shockingly productive. Watch out for the Pats this year.
- Miami Dolphins, 9-7 – Most will be shocked that I’ve put the Jets in at least 3rd place in this division. But the Dolphins have been quietly solid since coach Tony Sporano has taken over. He’s a good coach who goes about things quietly, yet effectively. They have a young group but they also have players who can just plain get the job done. The signing of Brandon Marshall was huge. Huge. This guy is good and his presence will immediately help the passing game – especially the other WRs like Davone Bess, Brian Hartline and Greg Camarillo. And I don’t see why Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown will slow down at all. Now that there is a greater threat in the passing game (especially with the emergence of Chad Henne over the last few games of last season – 4 300 yard games in a row), it stands to reason that an already potent running game could be even better. This team could be quite good.
- NY Jets, 8-8 – What? The Jets not winning the division? AW not buying the puffery surrounding Fat Ryan? Does AW predict this because of the Revis controversy? How could someone dare not believe in the Jets after their surprising ascent last year? Joey, have you ever been to a Turkish prison? A potential Revis holdout will hurt, yes, but it won’t ruin them. What will ruin them is a few setbacks. I’m envisioning a team having a seriously difficult time bouncing back from a few crucial setbacks. Rex Ryan is a coach who is so full of himself (and hot air), that I really doubt the “you should believe in yourself because I’m making you believe in yourself” approach will work this year. When he settles down some, it’s possible the Jets will settle down and be good again…in a few years. But not this year. The Jets won’t be bad and may contend for the playoffs because they do have talent. But they don’t have THAT much talent and I think people will be surprised by how good the Pats and the Dolphins are this year.
- Buffalo, 4-12 – Whenever there’s even the potential that someone like Brian Brohm, the slow-motion Brian Brohm, could start at QB, your team is hurting. Buff has some offensive talent (though both Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch have recently been slowed by injuries), but overall, they mostly suck. Too bad. I like the Buff and their fans and root for the team, but I just don’t think they’ll be bringing much this year at all. And hiring Chan Gailey was questionable.
Marshawn Lynch is a bit of a tool. He ran someone over with his SUV and then offered a pathetic denial (though the pedestrian he hit was apparently enormously drunk at the time). He’s also had several other foolish run-ins with the law in his short career. Concerning yes. Would he be a gamble? Yes. But many times, when a guy gets into trouble early in his career he eventually figures out what he’s throwing away – and this can lead to a pretty nice career. Marshawn Lynch was a strong Heisman candidate in college and a pretty good RB on a very crappy team for two years in Buffalo before his stupid off-the-field issues got him suspended for the beginning of 2009, opening the door for RB Fred Jackson. Jackson is now the man there mostly because he’s really good and because he has performed really well – not necessarily because Lynch totally sucks now. And, in the 2010 draft, Buffalo picked up RB CJ Spiller – a guy many figure will see the field plenty this year because he also has freakish skills (4.37 40 etc). Lynch is considered by many to be the #3 back in Buffalo at the moment.
Outside of depth at RB, Buffalo is a very bad team. Very bad. They have holes…everywhere. Given their desperation for…anyone, I think we could offer up a package for Lynch and they would jump at the chance to get rid of him. Give up Brandon Jackson plus a veteran or two like Donald Lee or AJ Hawk – or even swap dreads for dreads with Bigby. Or, the best option may be to give up a draft pick or something – maybe a 4th rounder. (I should add that whatever we do, we should also try to throw in Poppinga so I don’t feel compelled to write disparagingly about the guy anymore.)
Once in the fold in GB, I think Lynch would shape up attitude-wise because I think Rodgers already commands that kind of respect from the players around him. And, if I’m not mistaken, Rodgers and Lynch played together for 1 year at Cal – so there would be some familiarity already. Lynch could provide a nice style contrast from Grant. Lynch runs with some speed, he’s got some shake to him, he’s very powerful and he has decent hands for screens. My guess is that if something like this actually came about, Lynch would see this change as a fresh start and he’d help the Pack have a very effective 1-2 punch (maybe even a 1-2-3 punch considering the positive reviews so far for RB James Starks). He badly wants out of Buffalo and Buffalo badly wants to get at least something in return for the guy. I say let’s look into it.
I know these are highlights from 2008, but still, gives you a good sense for his ability.
Interesting article here in USAToday on Bo Jackson and what he’s doing now. Seems to be a guy who has his life together pretty nicely. I like his mindset and approach to public life. He was a freakish athlete I wish fans could have enjoyed for longer.
Check out this interesting article by John Lopez from si.com. I think he came up with this 26-27-60 rule himself – impressively thought out I have to say. The general idea is that QBs who have a 26 or higher on the Wonderlic, 27 college starts or more and a completion percentage of at least 60%, will succeed in the NFL. His examples of successful QBs who have met those numbers are compelling: Manning, Matt Ryan, Brees, Romo, Schaub, Rivers. (Check out Ryan Fitzpatrick’s Wonderlic score of 48…wow.) At the same time his list of those who did not have all 3 of these qualifiers was also compelling: Ryan Leaf, Joey Harrington, Akili Smith, Tim Couch, David Carr, JaMarcus Russell (among others). A few notable exceptions are Brett Favre (22 on Wonderlic) and Donovan McNabb (14 on Wonderlic) – and he doesn’t mention him, but our own Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers I believe falls short in the games started category – he started 22 games in college as far as I can tell. I believe he had a 35 on the Wonderlic and his completion percentage was 63.8%. So, technically, like Favre and McNabb, Rodgers would actually belong in Lopez’s loser category.
Not a perfect theory, but still not bad.
I’ve been thinking about this topic for a while now. The very basic thought that first sparked deeper thinking on this topic arose from this hypothetical scenario: if I were an NFL player and I was told to run extra wind sprints because I ran the wrong route or something, would I harbor any extra resentment if I were told to do this by a super fat coach? Answer: yes.
Well, I decided to study this notion a bit further. I have put together a statistical study so sophisticated that MIT just offered me an honorary PhD in math. Margin for error, zero.
NFL coaches in this study are each assigned to one of 4 weight categories: fit, normal, overweight and massively fat. The success rating is determined by using a 10 point scale. Added weight (pun intended) is given to those coaches who have led their teams deep into the playoffs (except for Brad Childress because he’s a tool).
Here is a rundown of present NFL coaches, their weight, and their success rating:
- Mike McCarthy – overweight; 7
- Brad Childress – normal; 6
- Jim Schwartz – fit; 3
- Lovie Smith – overweight; 6
- Mike Shanahan – fit; 7
- Andy Reid – massively fat; 8
- Tom Coughlin – normal; 8
- Wade Phillips – overweight; 7
- Sean Payton – fit; 9
- John Fox – overweight; 6
- Mike Smith – overweight; 8
- Raheem Morris – fit, 3
- Pete Carroll – fit; 7 (likely rating after a few NFL years – he will be good)
- Ken Whisenhunt – fit; 9
- Mike Singletary – fit; 6
- Steve Spagnuolo – fit; 3
- Tom Cable – overweight; 4
- Josh McDaniels – fit; 6
- Todd Haley – fit; 3
- Norv Turner – normal; 7
- Mike Tomlin – fit; 9
- John Harbaugh – fit; 8
- Marvin Lewis – normal; 6
- Eric Mangini – overweight; 5
- Bill Behlicheck – overweight, 9
- Tony Sparano – overweight, 6
- Rex Ryan – massively fat, 8
- Chan Gailey – overweight, 5
- Jim Caldwell – overweight, 8
- Jeff Fisher – normal, 7
- Jack Del Rio – normal, 6
- Gary Kubiak, normal 5
Results of this scientific, incredibly accurate study?
- 12 fit coaches – average skill level of 6.083
- 7 normal coaches – average skill level of 6.429
- 11 overweight coaches – average skill level of 6.4545
- 2 massively fat coaches – average skill level of 8
So, the best coaches overall are massively fat, followed by overweight, then normal and the worst coaches are fit. Perhaps the extra resentment some players may feel when yelled at by fatter coaches is somehow channeled into a focused anger that is then taken out on the field during games, leading to higher quality play.
Adam Schein of Fox Sports, who is not liked by Brother Steve and who seems no more an “expert” on NFL matters as you and me, has gone on record picking the Pack to go to the Super Bowl this year. I figured it was a matter of time before we started hearing this sort of thing, but I was a bit surprised to hear it this early on. (Go here to watch the video – story #6.)
Schein points to the emergence of Finley, Rodgers’ fantasticness, Grant’s solidness, year #2 of Capers’ system – all valid. But when he makes his argument, he seems to place a special emphasis on his interview with Mike McCarthy in which McCarthy said the offseason program has been as good this past year as any. I know that’s important, but I’m not sure it is the anchor reason the Pack may be a Super Bowl contender.
Anyway, for some reason, I am not ready to make such far-reaching prognostications just yet. While I think the team will be good, I feel like I need to survey other teams and the camps/preseason etc before making such predictions.
Check out this MMQB article written by Houston right tackle Eric Winston (for Peter King). Fantastic. I like the way this guy thinks. Not sure I agree with all of the ideas he expresses, but I like that he thinks a bit differently and is willing to put his thoughts out there.
One particular statement I happen to support for some strange reason, is his belief that the Bears will be good this year. While I haven’t quite put together my pre-pre-season picks, one thing I’m pretty sure of is that the Bears will be very good this year (and that the Vikings will be shaky).
Read here from ESPN – the NYG/NYJ will be hosting the 2014 Super Bowl in what sounds like a financially-motivated-one-time-exception for the NFL. Apparently there is not a plan to change the rule that the Super Bowl must be played either in a dome or in a location where temperatures remain above 50 degrees that time of year. 2014 is an exception will be an exception.
I bet Brother Steve is hoping that this will eventually lead to a rule change – Steve wrote just a couple years ago on this very topic both for Packergeeks here and for the Wall Street Journal (find the WSJ link within the Packergeeks post). I have to say, not sure they’d be a better party than a Super Bowl at Lambeau – especially if the Packers were playing in it!
Tony Romo’s Cowboyness has always presented some problems for me. I’ve never liked the Cowboys, their image, what they think they stand for etc. But I’ve always liked Tony Romo. Sure, I feel this way mostly because he grew up in Wisconsin, but I kind of think he’s the kind of player I might have liked had he not grown up here. (The story about him changing a woman’s tire late at night after a difficult game makes him a difficult guy to dislike.)
Some people have been critical of his off-season pursuits in competitive golf. Cowboy fans like to talk about how he’s not dedicated enough to football because he devotes considerable time to golf in the off-season. Well, for those who don’t know yet, Tony Romo has just made it through the regional round of US Open qualifying for the the US Open golf tournament that will be held this June at Pebble Beach. He shot a 69 and had to win a playoff to make it through. Next step is sectional qualifying – a more difficult round to be sure, but if he makes it through, he’ll have qualified for one of the PGA Tour’s 4 major tournaments. If he can accomplish this, it would be a big freakin’ deal.
I disagree with those who claim that Romo’s golf pursuits interfere with his football career – they will probably help his football career and here’s why. Romo is an incredibly good QB I believe. He has good instincts, can make all the throws and he has a strong drive to win. His only concerning weakness in my estimation is his mental strength. He has struggled in big games and at big moments – this is well-documented. But if there is one sport that can strengthen one’s mental approach to sport in general, it’s golf. Especially, being successful in golf. Golf is one of the hardest sports to play well which helps explain why we see so many professional athletes from other sports drawn to it. Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, John Smoltz, Ryan Longwell, Jerry Rice – top level athletes from other sports can’t get enough. You’d think we’d read more about these guys being great at golf because of the mental strength they’ve built up from years of dominating other sports. But golf is unique in that very few pros from other sports are good enough to ever play golf professionally. Michael Jordan has essentially been given a good reputation as a quality golfer, but the truth is, he’s just not that good. Face to face against a golf pro, he’d get waxed – and he’d get crushed by Romo too.
I think this adventure will prove to be good for Romo and I’d bet he ends up having a great year on the football field too. Good luck Tony.