Posts Tagged ‘NFL’

Miracles at Mile High

December 14, 2011

The three-step drop, a quick release and big yardage through the air all come to mind when thinking of the prototypical NFL quarterback. If you’re a Tim Tebow follower these are misconceptions.

After appearing in less than a season’s worth of games, Tim Tebow has built himself sort of a cult following, no pun intended. In true Tebow fashion, he has attracted these followers in an unconventional way. Tebow is a rare “good guy” in football and simply wins games.

The Tebow legend grew from high school and while playing at the University of Florida, where he won the Heisman Trophy in 2008 and led his team to two BCS National Championships (07’ and 09’). However, all the renown from college couldn’t earn Tebow the respect of pro scouts. Considered to be one of the best college players ever, Tebow didn’t garner the attention of other QB prospects.

…And with the 25th pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos were willing to take a chance on Tebow. “NFL defenders will have a field day against Tim Tebow, he’ll be a bust.” Tebow and Denver heard it all and are now proving the naysayers wrong.

Tim Tebow is 7-1 as a starting QB and the Broncos’ 8-5 record is good enough for 1st in the AFC West. The Broncos’ success however cannot be wholly attributed to Tebow. Elvis Dumerville and Von Miller, who is 7th in the NFL with 11.5 sacks, provide a consistent pass rush for the secondary with the timeless Brian Dawkins and Champ Bailey, in their 16th and 13th seasons, respectively. On the ground, Willis McGahee is approaching another 1,000 yard season.

Head Coach John Fox is also due credit. He put Tebow in for the struggling Kyle Orton in week 5 against San Diego. Tebow’s 16-point comeback against the Chargers would come up short, but would be a sign of things to come. After a week 6 bye, Tebow was named Denver’s starting QB. With Tebow at the helm, Denver is the only NFL team running a read-option—and it’s working. Since week 7, Tebow is 7-1 as a starter and has 5 fourth quarter comebacks in this current six-game win streak. The team, fans and team execs are buying into Tebow and rallying around him.

Now that Tebow is winning do the Jaguars regret not taking him with the 10th pick in the 2010 draft? Has he played up to being worth that 10th pick? Tebow, a Florida product, would’ve injected much needed life into the dying Jaguars franchise, which is always at the top of the list of teams to move to LA. Would embracing Tebow on offense work the same in Jacksonville? Could they run a read option? The offense would benefit from having the NFL’s leading rusher in Maurice Jones-Drew (1,222 yds, 7 TDs).

That’s all too hypothetical for now but back to reality. At 8-5 Denver leads the AFC West and is on track to win the division for the first time since 2005. With a solid defense, the NFL’s top ranked rushing offense and the unassailable Tim Tebow spearheading the offense, who’s to say Denver isn’t capable of a playoff run?

Either way you look at him, he gives every game his all. Even if you’re not a fan, he is good for the NFL. He’s a rare good character guy who is bringing new fans and stirring up interest for the NFL. The league likes this and so do fans that enjoy seeing the game evolve. He inspires those around him and his team doesn’t care if they’re winning in a non-traditional way. To sum it up, the Broncos keep games close and Tebow wins in crunch time. Along the way, the Broncos and Tebow will continue to silence critics…like Darrelle Revis.

Tebow and the Broncos in the playoffs are only a fantasy for now. In the meantime, many questions will arise: will opposing teams figure out Denver’s read option, is Tebow a long term solution and could the Broncos really bring the Lombardi trophy back to Denver? But with Tebow, as the University of Florida, Denver Broncos and coach John Fox have shown, it doesn’t hurt to have a little faith.

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NFL Midseason Report

November 7, 2011

Half the NFL season is over, so it is the perfect time to take a look back at our preseason picks and judge how we did. There is no trick journalism here…we’re just that good. Alright fine, our picks weren’t that great, but sports are about unpredictability. And that’s our defense. Let’s see who we picked and how they turned out.

NFC

Contenders

Atlanta

At 4-3 the Falcons look pretty good, but not as good as we’d thought. The run defense is continuing where it left off last year, currently ranked 7th allowing 98.4 yds/ game. After a king’s ransom for Julio Jones, the offense hasn’t seem to hit its stride with Matt Ryan having a pedestrian 9 TDs to 8 INTs. Normally unstoppable at home, Atlanta looked questionable after blowing an early lead and eventually losing 25-14 to GB, their first loss in 23 games after having the lead at halftime.

Green Bay

The Super Bowl Champs haven’t lost a game since week 15 against the Patriots 31-27 when backup QB Matt Flynn was put in the game after an injury to Aaron Rodgers. Flynn played surprisingly well and the Flynn-led Pack almost pulled off the win. But that was last year. Aaron Rodgers is playing out of his mind, shredding any opposing defense that’s put in front of him. Rodgers has a 125.7 passer rating (1st), 20 TDs (1st), 2372 yards passing (3nd) and just 3 INTs. The Packers defense however has not looked as dominant as it was last year. Charles Woodson with his 5 INTs and the rest of the defense have held it together by forcing turnovers when it matters most.

Philadelphia Eagles

The “dream team” started the season off with some troubles. After beating the lowly Rams (1-6), Philly dropped their next four. In defense of the Eagles, they did lose to solid teams though. The Giants (4-3), New York (5-2), San Francisco (5-2) and Buffalo (5-2) are all above .500. But that isn’t how the “dream team” was supposed to play. Philly turned it on then, and they won their last two games, both over division opponents. With those wins in the books, the most recent over Dallas very convincing, Philly seems like they’re back on the right track. They have a huge game coming up against the Chicago Bears on Monday night. If they can win that one, they’ll be back at .500. And looking ahead, Philly has games against the Cardinals, Seahawks and Miami. Those should all be easy wins. They do have to face the Jets and Patriots though, which are always tough games. The Eagles have so much talent, it shouldn’t be this hard. Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Asante Samuel should be more valuable than sub-.500 shouldn’t they? PBSB has faith the Eagles will keep building and finish much better than they started. McCoy is second in the league in rushing yards (754), so feed that guy the ball. The biggest indicators on the Eagles results will be their rushing defense and whether Vick can hold onto the ball. He already has eight picks, more than he had all of last year.

How they’ll finish: 10-6

New Orleans Saints

Who are the real New Orleans Saints? The guys who beat the Colts 61-7 (we know the Colts are basically a middle school team, but still, 61 is a whole lot of points) or the team that just lost to the Rams last week? Even after giving St. Louis their first win, the Saints are 5-3. One loss to the undefeated Super Bowl champs and another to division rival Tampa Bay are losses News Orleans can live with.

They need to focus on their ground game. They spent a pick on Mark Ingram, paid Darren Sproles in free agency and kept Pierre Thomas. Use all three of those guys and get the play-action going for Drew Brees. Between those three back, they should be averaging more than 117 yards per game. But remember, the run is meant to set up the pass. They have to keep giving Brees opportunities to sling it. He’s already thrown for 2,746 yards (first in the league by nearly 400 yards) and 19 TDs (second in the league). Also, who would have thought Jimmy Graham was going to have 713 yards receiving mid-way through the season. New Orleans upcoming schedule is split. They have games against Tampa, Atlanta twice, the Giants and Detroit. But on the other hand, they play Tennessee, Minnesota and Carolina.

How they’ll finish: 11-5

Pretenders

Minnesota Vikings

So it only took the Vikings until week 7 to bench Donovan McNabb for Christian Ponder. As predicted, the NFC North is super competitive this year; Green Bay is undefeated, the Lions now look like a playoff-caliber team and the Bears 4-3 record is deceiving (see Matt Forte). It’s going to be a long year for Minnesota, unfortunately not long enough to get Andrew Luck, but pbsb thinks that they’ll be ok with Ponder under center. Ponder didn’t look terrible in his debut and the Vikings still have the best back in the NFL in Adrian Peterson.

Dallas Cowboys

Dallas is too up-and-down to trust. They’ve blown huge leads. Tony Romo isn’t dependable. They blew  fourth quarter leads against the Jets and blowing a 24-point third quarter lead against Detroit. Surprisingly enough, Dallas gave the 49ers their only loss. So which team are the true Cowboys. We think they’re the ones that blow leads. There always seems like a lack of focus in Dallas, so until that changes, PBSB isn’t backing the ‘boys.

How they’ll finish: 8-8

Surprise

Detroit Lions

Detroit’s 6-2 record is somewhat misleading. They’re getting wins, but they aren’t really quality wins. Who have they beaten that are a true contender? They topped Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Minnesota, Dallas (we already talked about the Cowboys problems), Chicago and the Denver Broncos Tebows.

Calvin Johnson…is that a complete sentence yet? Because it should be. Megatron has 804 receiving yards (third in the league) and has eleven TDs, which puts him on pace to tie the NFL record for TDs in a season (Jerry Rice will truly always hold the record; he scored 22 in just 12 games during the shortened 1987 season). The Lions are ranked sixth in the league against the pass. Can that continue that when they face Green Bay twice, New Orleans and San Diego?  Detroit has the best turnover differential in the league at +13. That becomes more valuable when every possession is more important.

How they’ll finish: 11-5

AFC

Contenders

Kansas City Chiefs

This pick looked really bad for a while. When they lost 41-7 to the Bills, it was before everyone knew the Bills were actually pretty good. Then they fell to the Lions and San Diego, both respectable teams. In our defense, the people we thought would be most important for Kansas City’s success, Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry, got injured in the first two games of the season. And that’s when PBSB went into a minor depression. Then the skies opened, and Kansas City turned it on. They’ve won four in a row, albeit not over the greatest teams (Minnesota, Indy, Oakland and San Diego). But wins are wins, especially when they make us look better. The Chiefs up-coming games: Miami, Denver, Oakland and Denver again. That seems like a pretty easy schedule. That’s probably because we didn’t include their tough games. New England, Pittsburgh, Chicago, the Jets and Green Bay. It won’t be easy for Kansas City the rest of the way, but they’ve found ways to win thus far, PBSB has faith it will keep going.

How they’ll finish: We have no idea…9-7?? Too up-and-down

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers have one solid win…Last week against the Pats. That’s really it. Seattle, Indy, Jacksonville, Tennessee, and Arizona aren’t really impressive victories. But when it gets colder, the Steelers get better. They are already first in opposing pass yards, and eighth in opposing rush yards. They are also eighth in passing yards behind Ben “the motorcycle riding, sexual harassing” Roethisberger. Pittsburgh will always live and die by their defense, and that defense is still strong enough to get them deep into the playoffs.

How they’ll finish: 12-4

New England

At 5-2 the Patriots seem to be right about where we thought they’d be at this point in the season give or take a Brady Ugg endorsement or a Vince Wilfork INT.  While Tom Brady continues to be NFL’s poster child, the Pats D isn’t where we thought it would be. They rank dead last against the pass and Albert Haynesworth isn’t having the rebirth we thought he would’ve, recording only 2 tackles at this point in the season. But a well deserved shout out goes to Kyle Arrington and his 4 INTs, good enough for 3nd in the NFL. Also, where is Ochocinco? He’s yet to reach the end zone and only has 9 receptions.

New York Jets

The Jets stand at 4-3 good enough for 3rd in the AFC East. Already having to play second fiddle to the Patriots in the division was bad enough before the Bills started to wake up. The offense has yet to get its act together ranking near the bottom of the league in rushing yds (28th), passing yds (22th) and total yds (29th). Post-Jail Plaxico hasn’t exactly been the spark for the offense that we thought he would’ve, although he did have the 3 TD on 5-reception performance against San Diego. Plax isn’t completely to blame for the offense’s woes. We blame Mark Sanchez.

Pretenders

Indianapolis Colts

It’s safe so say we told you so. Manning is donezo for the year and we see what the Colts are like without their fearless leader. We thought that they’d be bad, but come on. They’ve yet to win a game and their remaining schedule doesn’t get any easier with games against New England, Baltimore and Atlanta. How fortunate would the Colts be to land Luck? They got Manning with a #1 pick. But would Manning be a mentor to Luck or take the Favre approach to things? Anyway, the Colts look horrendous and are bound for a high draft pick.

San Diego Chargers

Oh San Diego, how you tease us. So much talent you’ve had over the past few years, but you still can’t seem to bring it all together. Back-to-back losses against the Jets and Chiefs put them back in second place in the AFC West. The Chargers have the interception leader, Eric Weddle with five. They are sixth in passing yards and fourth in passing yards against. Stopping the pass and being able to pass is huge, especially when you play in beautiful San Diego, but they will do something stupid and blow games. The Chargers are -5 in turnover differential. As much as PBSB loves San Diego for its weather, we think the Chargers will be spending their January on the beach…lucky guys.

How they’ll finish: 8-8

Surprise

Houston

Matt Schaub's wife...We approve. "He's necking with the cheerleader"

Injuries to Mario Williams and the still nicknameless Andre Johnson haven’t slowed down the Texans who at 5-3 are 1st in the wide-open AFC South. The offense is moving the ball with Arian Foster on the ground averaging 140 yards a game and Matt Schaub is 10th in the league with 264.8 yards a game. The sans Mario Williams defense is quietly near the top of many defensive categories including rushing yds 97.4 (6th) and passing 198.4 yds allowed (5th). With a solid defense, a consistent run game and a reliable QB look for the Texans to make a playoff run.

New Surprises

Miami Dolphins

We don’t think the Dolphins were the Super Bowl pick for many people this year, but 0-7? The Dolphins are at the front of the pack in the Suck 4 Luck campaign and Coach Tony Sporano recently put his house up for sale. Not much going Miami’s way this season.

Buffalo Bills

If we told you the Bills weren’t terrible you’d believe us right? Well they are actually are pretty good this year. They already beat the Pats and the Eagles. With two games against Miami, games against Tennessee and Denver, the Bills could actually win the AFC East. They had to be at the bottom of this division at the beginning of the season. We wish we were betting men. And we also wish we predicted the Bills would be good, but we just assume they will always be awful. Congratulations Buffalo. Enjoy it until you miss a big field goal.

Rivalry Renewed: The Greatest Sports Rivalry

September 25, 2011

We here at PBSB love the rivalry aspect of athletics. Rivalries tend to evoke different levels of emotion from all those participating, from the players on the field to the rest of us losers off the field.  This Sunday will bring us another chapter in the quintessential rivalry that is the Chicago Bears vs. the Green Bay Packers.

Just two dudes dressing up to watch other men tackle each other.

Two of the oldest teams in American sports, they’ve been going at it (sorry I had to, for those who clicked the link) since 1921 (Chicago leads the series 92-84, with 6 ties).  The division rivals have been both champions and chumps at some point in their histories, but mainly champions. The two teams have combined for 22 NFL Championships. And yes at PBSB we count ALL titles, the teams earned them (except when it comes to the Eagles, they still haven’t won anything). And for you traditionalists, the Chicago Bears had won one (1985) Super Bowl and Green Bay four (1966, 1967, 1996 and 2010). Most recently, they played for the NFC Title last season. Green Bay would go on to win the game and the Super Bowl. Even if one team is having a stellar year and the other is not, the game is always hard fought. Fans are in for a real treat with the greatest rivalry in sports. Don’t give us the Yankees-Red Sox, they play about 60 times per season, and that isn’t a rivalry at that point, it’s like an intra-squad scrimmage. The next best rivalry is UConn-Tennessee in women’s basketball…just kidding it is probably Duke-UNC. But back to the upcoming game: This Sunday is sure to be another good one. Here’s how they match up:

Sweetness was just too perfect of a word to fit across a headband headband.

After posting his first winning season since high school, Jay Cutler leads a revamped Bears offense. The front office seems to believe in Cutler and decided to give him some more weapons on offense, always nice for a QB who always seems to be drawing criticism even when he doesn’t rightly deserve it, in Marion Barber III and Longhorn Roy Williams (basically Chicago signed all of the Cowboys back-ups for each skill position…except Jon Kitna, Dallas wasn’t giving him up). This is all part of the never ending effort in Chicago to bring the offense up to par with the defense—the effort that has failed since Walter Payton retired.The thing is though, Chicago’s defense is so good that they really don’t need an offense that badly, they’d just appreciate it if the offense didn’t blow the game. The defense is led by linebacker-extraordinaire Brian Urlacher and dual threat athlete Julius Peppers. The secondary took a hit losing Daniel Manning and they are still reeling in the loss of Mike Brown. They did however pick up another former U standout in Brandon Meriweather. Although this Chicago secondary isn’t filled with household names like Charles Woodson, they always tend to be a solid unit. The front seven can be considered one of the league’s best with Urlacher, Peppers, and Lance Briggs. Almost as consistent as the defensive play of the Bears is their special teams. And if there ever was a man worthy of the “special teams ace” title, that man is the U’s own Devin Hester. Some of the things Hester can do are not possible in mere mortals. Add in Robbie Gould and the Bears may have the best special teams both ways.

Green Bay on the other hand has one of the top quarterbacks in the league, and the championship belt owner. The Packers managed to win the title last year even though they were faced with a bunch of injuries. Stud tight end Jermichael Finley went down after only two games. The same goes for starting running back Ryan Grant, who went down in the same game. John Kuhn is the best small college fullback in the league…a possibly small group (we don’t research) but still something to be proud of. But seriously he is actually one of the best fullbacks in the league. Jordy Nelson might not be the flashiest receiver but he gets the job done, Donald Driver is older than the coaches but can still ball and Greg Jennings is a top five receiver in the league. So they have a great quarterback, great receivers and backs—the exact combo you need to score points and win games. On the defensive side of the ball, Clay Matthews is the best football playing Fabio look-alike.

Locks of hair.

Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams pair up to be the best cornerback tandem in the league. And they only get better with that front seven we just talked about. The loss of Nick Collins will hurt, but the Pack has more than enough talent to cover for his vacancy. And Green Bay could have just as good of a special teams returner as Chicago does. Packers’ rookie Randall Cobb is tied for the longest return touchdown (in which he could only be tackled by his own teammate in the endzone).

Q&A:

  1. With the new targets of Roy Williams and rookie Dane Sanzenbacher, will Jay Cutler be the third straight QB to throw for 400+ yards against this Packers secondary, which just lost Pro Bowler Nick “The Pick” Collins?

Let’s look back to the first two games of the season for Chicago. Jay Culter has thrown for 556 yards in the two previous games this season. That isn’t very good. Especially when you consider that Matt Forte has only ran the ball 26 times (for 117 yards). As we stated above, the Bears offense isn’t their strong suit, but it takes just one play for Chicago to gain a bunch of yards. Forte had a 56 yard reception against Atlanta, Devin Hester caught a screen pass and turned it into a 53 yarder. Johnny Knox has 30 and 25 yarders. The Bears can move the ball in big chunks, which will be the key for Jay getting 400 yards. The Packers’ defense won’t give Chicago many chances so they’ll have to make the ones they do get count.

2. How does the GB special teams unit plan to contain the always dangerous, Devin Hester?

Well, Green Bay gets help from the new 35-yard line kickoff…which is the dumbest rule since my parents made me go to bed at 8:30 (it’s not safer because returners are now taking more risks coming out of the endzone. If you want safe, start at the 20 yard line. But they won’t do that because they they’ll lose guaranteed commercial breaks). Anyway, Hester hasn’t been great returning this year, but he is always due for a TD, and an amazing one at that. He has two punt returns for 10 yards and 5 kick returns for 100 yards (29 long). That isn’t anything special. The best way for the Pack to contain Devin is to keep it away from him. Kick it out of the endzone on kickoffs and directionally punt it so he can’t get a good return. That is easier said than done, right Matt Dodge?

3. The loss of Cullen Jenkins in the offseason to the “dream team” was a big hit to the defensive line. Now with the heir apparent to his starting role, Mike Neal down with an injury, how will GB stop the CHI run game?

This may not be a problem for the Packers. The Bears have run the ball only 39 times in the two games, less than 20 per contest. Mike Martz normally has a great offensive game plan, but he will have to mix it up to keep the Packers defense guessing. But perhaps the fact that they threw the ball 77 times will work in the running games favor. Another thing working in the favor of Green Bay, and possibly a reason Martz has been less willing to run, is Chicago’s horrid offensive line. Their line sucks…I’ll say it—especially when Gabe Carimi and Lance Louis are out (that’s the right side of their o-line).

4. Will the Bears offensive line, which has allowed a league high in sacks, be able to slow down Green Bay’s rushing defense, one of the best in the league?

My initial thought is no. As stated above, the Bears are missing the starting right side of their line—a line that wasn’t great to begin with. Olin Kreutz left after being with the team from their inception in 1919. He was a big loss, as he kept people in the right position and was a coach on the field. Now it is Jay Cutler coaching from his back. B.J. Raji is a like two men in the middle of that line, and when you add the secondary into the equation it is probably going to be a long day for Cutler.  I fully expect Clay Matthews to have eight sacks by the end of this game, and Kristin Cavallari’s phone number.

NFL Season Preview

September 8, 2011

For our first post on the ProBono Sports Blog, we decided to write a season preview for the upcoming NFL season. Instead of covering every single team (BORING) we decided to pick four contenders, two pretenders and one surprise team from each conference.

So without further ado, and in alphabetical order, our NFL picks…and the greatest thing you’ve ever read (until we decide to post something else).

NFC

Contenders

 -Atlanta Falcons

It's ok, Brent Grimes understands that you can't find Shippensburg on a map.

The skies the limit for the loaded offense led by Matt Ryan that was the #1 NFC seed last year. Another year of experience under his belt and new weapon Julio Jones give Matt Ryan the chance for huge numbers. Mike Turner running the ball ain’t too shabby either, rushing for 1371 yards, third best in the league. But as the Packers proved once again, defense wins championships! Ranking 1st last year in rushing yards allowed and third in overall yards per game, ATL and first-time pro bowler and small school prospect Brent Grimes look like a Super Bowl worthy D.

 Green Bay Packers

BELT

They’re the champs until someone else hoists the Lombardi trophy in Indy later this year. The Packers got to showcase their deep, young roster last season when they were plagued by injury. Returning starters TE Jermichael Finley, RB Ryan Grant, a new draft class and a healthy Packers roster are tough to beat. Dom Caper’s Defense led by Clay Matthews and Heisman Winner Charles Woodson paired with Aaron Rodgers and all his weapons give GB scary good balance.

 -New Orleans Saints

PBSB exclusive: Big dudes are key on the line.

They lost Reggie Bush, but really that isn’t much of a loss, considering Bush was about 12% as productive as he was in college (that’s probably because he was getting paid better in college). The Saints offensive line is amazingly good, especially the interior. They signed Olin Kreutz to place between Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans. Nicks and Evans are arguably the top two guards in the league and they’re protecting the same guy. And that guy, Drew Brees, happens to be one of the best quarterbacks in the league as well. Last year the Saints had the third most passing yards and allowed the fourth fewest yards through the air. That’s a pretty deadly combination. Their running game should also improve. We already touched on the offensive line, and behind those guys are three solid running backs in Pierre Thomas, new addition Darren Sproles and rookie Mark Ingram. The only thing that scares me about the Saints is the possibility to repeat this.

 -Philadelphia Eagles

It was almost impossible to find a picture of Vick that didn't have a dog photoshopped into it. And one that he wasn't white.

The Eagles added a bunch of players this offseason, and a lot of them are really good players. But it all comes down to quarterback in the NFL. And it will be interesting to see if Michael Vick can build on the good season he had last year. It seems to me that defenses start to figure out rushing quarterbacks quickly. Vick had a good year, but defenses will be more keyed on his tendencies now, and if he isn’t more accurate he will put up some Jay Cutler-interception numbers. But Vick does have some great weapons in “the Deux Seans” (LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson). They also have some of the best cornerbacks in the league, so barring injuries in their secondary it will be tough to move the ball through the air against them.  And in the “no one but me cares department” the Eagles let go of Stewart “Boy Band” Bradley, which cannot help their chances to win or their chances with the ladies (his eyes pierce my soul).

 Pretenders

 -Dallas Cowboys

Romo's history with women is better than any stat he can put up. Bonus: Jessica Simpson near her peak!

Remember last year when the Cowboys were supposed to be the most talented team in the league and an easy pick to at least make the playoffs? Well that didn’t happen. Granted Tony Romo did get injured, but they still had John Kitna as their back-up…OK so maybe I found the reason they missed the playoffs.

Tony Romo does have some weapons on offense to go to. If Dez Bryant breaks out in year two the same way he did in my fantasy franchise in Madden, he’ll be really scary. But in all seriousness the Cowboys always seem to have a lot of talent, but never seem to be able to put it together and make something happen. And when they do, Tony Romo can’t catch a snap and hold the ball for a kick (That’s probably where John Kitna excels). It also doesn’t help that they’re in a tough division. Until the Cowboys show that they can do something with the excess of talent they have, I’m not a believer.

 -Minnesota Vikings

Donovan is still nimble...maybe.

Could the addition of Donovan McNabb bring the Vikings back to their days as crème of the NFC? I don’t think so. McNabb’s comeback will fall short, similar to their last veteran QB seeking additional glory and a ring. This move is safe, MIN desperately needs QB help, but the division is too tough right now to try to make gradual improvements. GB and CHI just played for the NFC title and the Lions are a team on the rise, cutting out MIN’s work for them. The good news for MIN: Brad Childress is no longer coaching your team and you still have the RB elite in Adrian Peterson.

 Surprise

 -Detroit Lions

There is no hiding Mr. Stafford; you are fragile.

Detroit really should have won two more games last year. Both times they faced Chicago, Detroit was on the losing end of a bad call, which ended up costing them the game. One of those bad calls came against Ndamukong Suh, who is an absolute freak. What makes him scarier is that he doesn’t seem to care about being penalized. The question will be whether or not Suh will get enough sacks to make up for his personal foul penalties that he seems to love committing. And with Suh in the middle, Detroit shouldn’t have the same issues against Chicago this year, or any other team as they should run right through the opponent’s offensive line. It’s a shame Nick Fairley got injured because Suh and Fairley would have been fun to watch tearing through O-lines. The biggest factor will be whether Matt Stafford can finally stay healthy. He only made it through three games last year and ten games his rookie season. Stafford to Calvin Johnson could be a winning combination for years to come, if Stafford can stay on the field enough to make that happen.

 AFC

Contenders

 -New England Patriots

Griffin adds great depth to the O-line.

Can the Pats do any wrong? (Ok, well other than the whole “Spy Gate” thing) Anyway, the rich get richer. Last year, Tom Brady proved his studliness once again. By the end of the season, he made Danny Woodhead a household name. You’re welcome. But now with a marquee target again at his disposal in Chad Ochocinco, Brady seems destined for another prolific season. The other big off season addition, Albert Haynesworth, gives the Pats crazy depth on the D-Line of their new 4-3. But will these  two additions, who left their former teams on bad terms, shape up for Bill Belichick a la Corey Dillon and Randy Moss?

-New York Jets

PBSB hears that real estate is at a premium on Revis Island

Rex Ryan, Bart Scott and co. can’t wait to get another shot at bringing the Lombardi trophy back to New York…or New Jersey…either way. The Jet defense is stout with Revis Island and an imposing front seven. The defense never seemed to be the problem with the Jets. Now in his fourth year, Mark Sanchez looks to move into the upper echelon of QBs by bringing the Jets O up to par with their D. Adding Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason to an offense with the backfield of LT and Shonn Grenne could make this transition easier for the “Sanchize” or just simply make Sanchez not waste this nickname.

 -Kansas City Chiefs

Berry isn't afraid to crotch-punch someone.

The Chiefs were the number one rushing team in the league last year, with 164 yards per game. That was thanks to Jamaal Charles, who had a breakout season. Their weakness was passing though. Perhaps Matt Cassell wasn’t what some thought he was when he filled in well for Tom Brady in New England. Or maybe it is because the Chiefs only have one receiver. Who is Jerheme Urban? Well he is the 30 year old guy with 87 career receptions who is starting across from Dwayne Bowe as the Chiefs’ number two receiver, according to ESPN. On the defensive side of the ball the Chiefs have some great players. Brandon Flowers is a top ten cornerback, Tamba Hali is scary coming off the edge (14.5 sacks last year) and Eric Berry is my hero. Berry is the most promising young safety in the league and led the Chiefs with four interceptions last year. He reminds me of the greatest safety ever, Mike Brown. What’s that, you don’t know who Mike Brown is? Well catch up. The Chiefs could really be something if their passing game could improve to give Jamaal Charles some space, which they should be able to do.

 -Pittsburgh Steelers  

Girls cannot resist Big Ben. No matter how many reasons he gives them.

When Ben Roethlisberger isn’t sexually harassing women, he’s winning football games. And a lot of the time, he’s winning big football games. And when Troy Polamalu isn’t doing Head & Shoulders commercials or sitting on the sidelines injured, he is making plays. If Polamalu and Roethlisberger are healthy, Pittsburgh may be the scariest team in the league. Any play, whether the Steelers are on offense or defense, could turn into a touchdown for them. They get at the opponent’s quarterback and force mistakes. In the 14 games Polamalu played last year, he had 7 interceptions and overall the Steelers had 21 picks for the year. Pittsburgh threw only nine interceptions the whole season. And it’s not just Polamalu on the defensive side of the ball. They have one of the best linebacking crews in the league, which was a big factor in allowing just 61.4 yards on the ground per game, tops in that category. A team that holds on to the ball, stops the run and forces turnovers is hard to beat.

 Pretenders

 -Indianapolis Colts

Manning's big head hurts.

Is the health of Peyton Manning a concern? This is a Manning that we have never before seen. The so-efficient-he’s-robotic QB is rarely seen battered and not 100%. And the rise of young QBs like Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco take away attention from Manning. If Manning does start the season, it will be his 209th, keeping him as the closest active QB capable of surpassing Brett Favre’s 297 consecutive starts record. With Manning on the field, he always gives the Colts a chance to win, but his supporting staff will have to overachieve a lot this year. Could this be one of the rare years that the Colts, dare I say it, don’t win the AFC South? They’ve won 7 of 9 years, with TEN winning in 02 & 08. Manning and only Manning can keep this team competitive and seeking to play for a Super Bowl on their home turf (the Super Bowl is in Indy this year). In fact, according to nfl.com, only five Super Bowl hosts have even made it to the postseason, failing to advance past the league championship game.

  -San Diego Chargers

Eyes up here!

The Chargers are led by Phillip Rivers, the ultimate fantasy football quarterback. He puts up amazing numbers, but those numbers don’t always translate to the win column. More than 4,700 yards is great, but if it doesn’t help the team win, does it really matter that much? It’s not all Phillip Rivers’ fault though. He put up those yards while his number one receiver was holding out for the first eleven games last season. Where would Tom Brady be without Randy Mos…Oh, actually nevermind. But anyway on the defensive side of the ball San Diego added Bob Sanders, who is a game changers when he’s healthy, but the last time he played a full season was also the last time Lindsay Lohan was sober (P.S. the answer is never). Much like the Cowboys, until San Diego shows that they can win games and not just put up sexy stats, I do not trust them.

 Surprise

 -Houston Texans

Andre Johnson is too good to have no nickname

This team has grown up in a tough division, but has put together a competitive team because of this. The Texans need to become the team they want to be–an offense with Andre Johnson paired with a playmaking defense. An emerging defense led by now LB Mario Williams added much needed depth to its secondary with former CHI standout Daniel Manning and CB Jonathan Joseph. Not much needs to be done on the offensive side of the ball as long as they have someone to lob it up to Andre Johnson. Not to mention they have the 2010 league leader in rushing Arian Foster (1,616 yds 16 tds). This team has the potential to win the division and possibly a playoff run. They’ve been sharks swimming in the waters of the AFC and now do they smell Manning blood?

And with that we advise you to tune into the NFL season opener tonight…unless you’re reading this late, in which case you are behind the curve.