Well the best time of the year is here, NFL Football is back! Here is my 3rd annual BrandonOnSports NFL Season Preview. I will give you my opinion on each team by division, predict who makes the playoffs, my conference championship game teams, winners and Super Bowl winner as well. Be sure to listen to Sports Trap Radio Saturdays 10am-12pm on ueradiolive.com as Daniel Trawick, and myself discuss all things sports related, in the rawest form.
* Indicates playoff team
*New England 11-5
N.Y. Jets 7-9
Division Outlook: Clearly the Patriots are the cream of the crop in this division again this year. Tom Brady leads the Patriots high powered passing attack, and the addition of WR Brandon Lloyd just adds another dimension to their offense. Their defense was putrid, ranked 31st in the league against the pass and they hope the addition of 1st round draft pick, outside linebacker/defensive end Chandler Jones improves the pass rush.
The Buffalo Bills started out well last season with a 5-2 record in their first seven games, but after the season ending knee injury to running back Fred Jackson, they finished the season 1-8 over the last nine. The total collapse was part due to the loss of Jackson, but quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s play during that span of the season was awful. He turned the ball over too often, not giving his team a chance to win. Fred Jackson’s return this season should give them the run-pass balance that they lost and this team will put up big time points.
Defensively the Bills were good at forcing teams to turn the ball over, but the defense was in the bottom ten in the league in yards allowed and third worst in points allowed(27.1). They are hoping the additions of Mario Williams and Mark Anderson at defensive end, along with first round draft pick Stephen Gilmore will be an instant upgrade to their poor defense. I like the Bills to go 9-7 and get a Wild Card playoff spot.
The Jets as it looks right now don’t have enough offensively to score points consistently in this league. Their refusal to address the team’s needs at wide receiver and offensive line has left Quarterback Mark Sanchez little to work with. The say they are going back to the “Ground and Pound” style of play that got them to two AFC Championship games, but we all know you need to be able to pass the ball to score points in this league. Rookie WR Stephen Hill so far has been what I thought he was, a combine guy who runs fast but can’t catch herpes in a whore house.
Defensively, this is a championship caliber unit. The addition of safeties Yeremiah Bell and Laron Landry are instant upgrades, allowing the Jets to be even more diverse with what they can do scheme wise defensively. If the Jets can put at least 21-24points a game, they could be a dangerous team, but I don’t see that and they miss the playoffs.
The Miami Dolphins are in full rebuilding mode and have no shot of doing any damage this season. Rookie coach, rookie QB, no legit weapons offensively at the receiver and tight end positions, and they traded away one of their starting cornerbacks. Ryan Tannehill was a reach pick to me that early in the draft, I think he has talent, but I also watched him throw away games in the 2nd half plenty last year at Texas A&M. Don’t expect much from the Dolphins, they will win 3-4 games at the most.
Division Outlook: The North division is one of the tougher divisions to predict, being as though three teams made the playoffs last season, and all four of the teams finished in the top ten in the NFL in points allowed.
This year I like the Steelers to win the division. They had a bad taste in their mouths after that overtime loss to the Broncos in the playoffs last season and I expect them to bounce back big time. Ben Roethlisberger has a new offense to work with now with the addition of Todd Haley as the offensive coordinator and big time weapons at wide receiver as well. Mike Wallace finally reported to camp and he is the league’s best deep threat, complimenting Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders well. I do have some concerns with Rashard Mendenhall coming off of a torn ACL and rookie guard David DeCastro’s knee injury.
Defensively this team is still solid, look for them to try to force more turnovers then they did last season. The return all 11 starters from last season, but starting safety Ryan Clark will miss the opener vs Denver due to health reasons that don’t allow him to play there.
The Ravens were a Lee Evans dropped pass and a Billy Cundiff missed field goal away from a Super Bowl berth. Joe Flacco really showed me something in that AFC Championship game. Look for the Ravens to open up the offense a bit more and give Flacco the chance to beat teams with his arm downfield, taking some of the load off of running back Ray Rice.
Ray Lewis is a year older, lost weight during the offseason to better deal with the wide open passing style that’s popular in today’s NFL and Safety Ed Reed is a year older as well. Nature tells you sooner or later the slow down, but is it this year? Terrell Sugg’s Achilles injury is the biggest blow to the entire team though. His ability impact the game vs the pass and run might make him the best defensive player in all of football. Rookie OLB Courtney Upshaw has some big shoes to fill this year, along with second year DE/OLB Albert McClellan as the Ravens rush end off of the right side. Haloti Ngata really needs to step it up and have a defensive player of the year type season.
The Bengals were a surprise team for me last year. I wasn’t sold on Andy Dalton as a pro prospect at QB, but last year he really showed me something. His arm is more stronger and accurate then I thought and his leadership and decision making ability was good for a rookie quarterback. A.J. Green was advertised during his rookie year, giving the Bengals a legit number one receiver and a future all-pro. Tight End Jermaine Gresham is big, fast and has great hands. If he can stay healthy he would make the Bengals offense much better.
Defensively, they bring back the same unit that was one of the league’s best. great against the run and pass. But because of their tough schedule, I believe they take a step back and slightly miss the playoffs.
The Browns will be lucky to win a game in their division, and lucky to win 3-4 overall. They decided to draft Quarterback Brandon Weeden in the first round, which was a reach in my opinion and he didn’t impress me during the preseason. Colt McCoy was kept on board as the backup and don’t be surprised if he takes over as the starter before the season is out. In Trent Richardson, Josh Gordon, and Greg Little, they have some young talent, but they are still unproven.
When healthy their defensive unit is pretty damn good, but the losses of defensive tackle Phil Taylor, outside linebacker Chris Gocong, and the pending suspension of cornerback Joe Haden is going to hurt them.
Division Outlook: The Houston Texans were set for a deep playoff run before the injury to Quarterback Matt Schaub late in the season. Andre Johnson played in only seven regular season games, but returned for the playoffs and played well. This year, the arguably the best QB-RB-WR trio in the league, is all healthy going into the season, and this is the Texans are ready to win it all.
They have a championship caliber defense, last year they finished in the top five in all major defensive statistical categories. Even without Mario Williams for the majority of the season, they were an elite group, led by defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and his vaunted 3-4 defense.
The Tennessee Titans start and new era of football this year as 2nd year head coach Mike Munchak named quarterback Jake Locker the starter for the 2012 season. Locker has looked good in some spots, he had all the physical tools, but there are still some accuracy concerns if you ask me. Chris Johnson is bound for a bounce back 2012, as he was in camp, in shape and looked like the old CJ2K. The Titans are really going to lean on him this year as they are going to need a good run-pass balance the help Jake Locker adjust to being a full time starter. Rookie wideout Kendall Wright looked good during the preseason and will get an early chance to shine with Kenny Britt suspended for week one and coming off of a knee injury.
I watched this defensive unit closely during the preseason and liked what I saw, especially from middle linebacker Colin McCarthy. He played exceptionally well against the run, and surprisingly good vs the pass. This unit might not have a list of household names, but the is pretty much the same unit that gave up 19.8 ppg last season. I like the Titans to be 9-7 again this year and just miss a playoff spot.
Last season the Jacksonville Jaguars won 6 games relying heavily on the legs of Maurice Jones-Drew and a defense who spent plenty of time on the field, but allowed only 313 yards per game, with teams scoring only 20 per game. The situation at quarterback was dismal, rookie 1st round draft pick Blaine Gabbert had a horrible rookie season, and not having any viable threats in the passing game didn’t help either. The additions of first round draft pick Justin Blackmon and free agent Laurent Robinson are big time upgrades, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Gabbert really is as a pro prospect. Don’t expect much from the Jags…I give them 5 wins at the most.
Talk about a complete face lift….the Colts 2011 season isn’t even worth mentioning on this site. Peyton Manning miss all of 2011 recovering from a neck surgery, leaving the Colts with the worst team in football. Without Manning, every team flaw was exposed and multiplied and they won two games. But they also won the Andrew Luck sweepstakes and from what we I’ve seen during the preseason, they have a bright future ahead of them. He’s calm, poised, knows where to go with the ball and is learning from his mistakes on the fly. This might be a tough season for him, as it is for most rookies, but he has a high ceiling and sky is the ceiling for this guy.
Defensively is a big adjustment for the Colts as well. They have made the switch to a 3-4 base defense and Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are having a hard time adjusting to the new scheme. I give this team five wins this year.
Kansas City 8-8
San Diego 8-8
Division Outlook: The Denver Broncos were smart enough to realize that Tim Tebow isn’t a starting quarterback in this league and were able to sign future hall of fame quarterback Peyton Manning. Going into the preseason, the questions were there: Is his arm strength back, Can he take a hit, can he learn a whole new offense? Well he answered yes to all of those questions in my book after I watched him shred the 49ers starting defense for 17 points in three drive in the 1st quarter of preseason game three. His presence just makes everyone around him better, Thomas and Decker are on deck for breakout seasons, they have size and talent, now they have a QB that can get them the ball. The Broncos now have the best QB in the division and that, along with an improved defense under new defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio wins them the division.
The Chiefs fell victim last season to injuries to their best players. Jaamal Charles, Eric Berry, and Tony Moeaki all lost their seasons to knee injuries. Starting quarterback Matt Cassell also missed the last 7 games of the season and the team finished 7-9. On paper, with all their offensive weapons healthy, this offense could be one of the NFL’s best, depending on the play Of Cassell. They need him healthy and need him to take care of the ball.
The Chiefs defensively were better then I thought when looking at the numbers. They finished 11th in the league in yards allowed and in points allowed. The problem was run defense, they gave up over 132 yards per game. They drafted NFL combine star Dontari Poe in the first round out of Memphis and they hope he can play the nose guard in that 3-4 defense and improve the run defense. Eric Berry’s return allows Romeo Crennel to be more creative and aggressive with his front seven, and don’t forget he is a great tackler and a force against the run as well.
The Chiefs have a tough schedule this season, but I gave them one more game then last season. They go 8-8 this year.
The Chargers were a 8-8 team last season and I have no idea how head coach Norv Turner survived and is back another year to lead this team. I actually picked the Chargers to win the Super Bowl and Phillip Rivers as league MVP, and obviously that didn’t happen. Phillip Rivers turned the ball over 20+ times last season, ending key drives and leaving his defense out to dry to often. Tight End Antonio Gates was never 100% last season and his production showed. This year they finish with the same record and Norv Turner finally gets the ax.
The Oakland Raiders were the best team in the division last season before injuries to Darren Mcfadden and starting quarterback Jason Campbell killed them. To try to save their season, they traded 2 first round picks and a 2nd to the Bengals for Carson Palmer. Well it didn’t pay dividends, as the finished the season 8-8 after starting 4-2. Having a healthy McFadden back is key, but I don’t trust Palmer, and I don’t think their wide receivers are good enough.
Defensively they finished in the bottom of the league in a majority of all defensive categories, with Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour inside at Defensive tackle, you would think they would be great against the run and push the pocket against the pass, but they didn’t. They must have a better season if the Radiers have any chance of winning the division, which I think they finish last at 7-9.
AFC Championship Game
Texans at home over the Steelers
The Texans have the best overall team in the NFL in my opinion, barring any injuries the make a trip the the big game.
* Indicates Playoff Team
Conference Outlook: I could honestly make a legit case for the Giants, Eagles, or Cowboys to win this division, and for two, possibly all three of them getting in the playoffs. But this season I believe the Giants and Eagles finished at the top and the winner decided by a tiebreaker.
The New York Giants got it together defensively at the end of the season, heading into the playoffs and helped Eli Manning carry this team to a Super Bowl victory. Wide receiver Victor Cruz was a pleasant surprise, catching 82 passes for 1536 yards and 9 TD’s, his play at the slot allowed Hakeem Nicks and the departed Mario Manningham to excel outside. Last season the Giants were one of the worst teams in the league at running the ball and will need to be more successful this year in order to take some pressure off of the O-line and Manning. They drafted running back David Wilson with the last pick in the first round, and hopes he and Ahmad Bradshaw gives them a potent duo in the backfield.
Defensively they return the vicious group of lineman, led by Jason Pierre-Paul , who was amazing in 2011. They added strong side outside linebacker Keith Rivers in free agency and during the preseason, he looked real good against the run and pass. They lost cornerback Terrell Thomas to a knee injury for the 2nd season in a row and 2nd year corner Prince Amukamara is hurt again with a high ankle sprain, leaving the secondary underhanded going into the season.
The Philadelphia Eagles are coming off an disappointing 8-8 season, in which they on paper looked like a sure playoff team to most. This season they are the favorite in a lot of people’s eyes again, but games have to be played. Quarterback Mike Vick played 12 plays in two preseason games and left both games with injuries. Their was no sample of good cohesion by the starting offense because Vick wasn’t out there playing. Demetress Bell was signed by the Eagles to replace All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters, who’s out for the season with a Achilles tendon that was torn 2x and he couldn’t beat out King Dunlap for the starting job, so honestly that is a major concern.
But if Vick can play a full season, and he has really improved when it comes to reading blitzes and getting rid of the ball, this Eagles offense will be back to it’s big play self. Look for big seasons from Jeremy Maclin(contract year) and DeSean Jackson, especially since Jackson is paid and has no reason to not give it his all. They gave Shady McCoy a contract extension during the offseason as well, so he has nothing but football to worry about.
Defensively I’m impressed with the D-Line against the pass, but because of the scheme(Wide 9) I have some concerns with the defense’s overall play vs. the run. I loved what I saw from rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks during the preseason, he is the best linebacker the Eagles have on the roster. Demeco Ryans hasn’t shown much during the preseason, looks a bit slower then he did before the Achllies injury and the Birds have given the Sam linebacker job to Akeen Jordan after realizing that Brian Rolle can’t start in this league.
I know Asante Samuel mad some big plays during his time here in Philly, but his departure from the Eagles was addition by subtraction as he didn’t fit Eagles style of play. He is a zone corner and the Eagles with Nnamdi, DRC and Boykin will be a man coverage unit. There is still question marks at the Safety position, is Nate Allen 100% and ready to go this season full tilt and the Eagles tried to give the starting strong safety job to 2nd year player Jaiquwan Jarrett, but he has made his fair share of mental mistakes and the job is currently Kurt Coleman’s. Don’t be surprised if offense’s attack the Eagles with the running game and in the middle of the field passing the ball with tight ends and running backs.
The Dallas Cowboys have great weapons offensively with Bryant, Austin, and Witten as receiving targets for quarterback Tony Romo, and 2nd year running back Demarco Murray toting the rock. This year Tyron Smith has made the move from right to left tackle and the middle of their O-line has looked a bit shaky during the preseason. The Cowboys season lays in the hands of Tony Romo, can he get the job done in the playoffs when it counts?
The Cowboys have looked solid during the preseason, the additions of cornerbacks Brandon Carr(free agency) and Morris Claiborne(NFL Draft), changes the way defensive coordinator Rob Ryan can call the game. No need for a bunch of exotic zone blitz calls now, he has corners who can cover man to man very well to go along with the pass rush from DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. I think the Cowboys have a chance to make the playoffs, but just miss out this season.
The Washington Redskins went out and made the moves in order to get their franchise quarterback, Robert Griffin III , the Heisman trophy winner from Baylor University. They also added wide receiver Pierre Garcon, to go along with Josh Morgan, Santana Moss and Fred Davis at tight end. If you know head coach Mike Shanahan, you know he is going to run the ball, with a medley of running backs and allow RGIII to throw off of play action. Because of the weapons around Griffin and the good defense, he might win the most games of the five rookie QB’s starting week one this season.
The Redskins finally have the pieces in order to properly run the 3-4 base defense. After drafting OLB/DE Ryan Kerrigan in the 2011 draft to pair up with Brian Orapko, it gave them the prototypical rush backers for the defense. But the emergence of Nose Tackle Barry Cofield has been key, with no legit player at that Nose Tackle position, you really can’t run this defense effectively. Deangelo Hall is solid at corner, so expect teams to test Josh Wilson plenty this season. Brandon Merriweather and Madieu Williams were signed to take over the safety spots, but Merriweather is injured right now ans Reed Doughty will start in his spot week 1.
I have the Redskins winning seven games this season, making a big improvement this year.
Division Outlook: The 49ers are clearly the best team in the divison and barring any key injuries, they run away with the title and secure a bye and a home playoff game in the divisional round. They return all 11 starters from probably the best defense in the NFL in 2011, led by the best linebacker in all of football, Patrick Willis. He and Navarro Bowman are the best set of inside linebackers the NFL has right now and they set the tone for this defensive unit. This a championship caliber defense and I expect the same play from last season, if not better.
The 49ers added more fire power for Alex Smith to work with this season. They signed WR’s Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, and drafted speedster A.J. Jenkins in the first round out of Illinois. Randy Moss’s presence on the field should open up things underneath for Michael Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis, while keeping teams from stacking eight in the box against the run. Alex Smith took humungous steps during the playoffs last season, led his team down the field for game winning drives and should have been playing the Super Bowl, if he can continue to get better, make some plays downfield, and not turn the ball over, the 49ers will win the NFC and play for the Super Bowl.
The Cardinals have issues at the Quarterback position. The Eagles got away with grand larceny when they traded that bum Kevin Kolb to Arizona for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2nd round pick. They then invest money into a guy who simply can’t play and have to rely on a quarterback from a small school like John Skelton. Yes Skelton went 7-2 as a starter last season and the Cards seemed to play a bit better with him at QB, but he still needs to improve his decision making and completion percentage. If Arizona could have a good running game with Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams, it would make thing much easier for Skelton to get the ball in the hands of franchise wide out Larry Fitzgerald. I watched all of the film from the Cardinals starters during the preseason and the O-line really has trouble in pass protection, which will be the downfall of this team.
Defensively I was surprised with the play of this unit of players. I already knew Darnell Docket and Calais Campbell were studs upfront, but the play of the linebackers, especially Daryl Washington and Stewart Bradley has looked great. Adrian Wilson is still flying around at the line of scrimmage making plays vs the run and covering tight ends in the pass game and Patrick Peterson should be better as a cover corner this year. The defense is going to help the Arizona win more games then people think. I see them at 7-9.
The Seattle Seahawks signed former Packers quarterback Matt Flynn to a long term deal, thinking he was their future, little did they and everyone else know that rookie third round draft pick Russell Wilson would be him out for the starting job this year. With the Seahawks limited weapons, Wilson’s ability to extend plays with his feet will be key. Yes they will struggle this season, but Pete Carroll sees some upside with Wilson. They will lean on Marshawn Lynch and rookie running back Robert Turbin heavily to take pressure off of Wilson.
Most probably haven’t noticed, but the Seahawks had one of the top ten defenses in all of the league in 2011. They finished 9th in yards allowed per game(332.2) and 7th in points allowed per game(19.7). Their young defensive backfield is one of the league’s best, Earl Thomas is on his way to being a star, leading this group. Lookout for their pass rush package on 3rd and longs with Chris Clemons, rookie Bruce Irwin, Jason Jones, and Jaye Howard.
The St. Louis Rams have no shot to compete right now, for one they need Sam Bradford to stay healthy and as of right now, he hasn’t proved that he can. Teams are going to load the box in order to stop running back Steven Jackson weekly, so Bradford will need to be able to make teams pay, but the Rams have no deep threat. It’s going to be a few years before this team will be a competitor in the NFC.
Division Outlook: The NFC North is the best division in all of football in my opinion, a team that is really good will end up missing the playoffs most likely because of it won’t be enough spots to go around.
I have the Green Bay Packers slightly edging out the Bears for the division title. The Packers finished the regular season 15-1 last season, securing home field advantage in the playoffs, earned a first round bye, but lost their opening playoff game to the eventual Super Bowl champs, the New York Giants.
The Packers were a offensive machine last year, Aaron Rodgers had 45 touchdown passes and only 6 INT’s on the season, they did this without having a running back run for a 100 yards individually all year. If the Packers are going to make it to the NFC Championship game and the Super Bowl, their defense is going to have to be much better then it was last year. They gave up way too many yards, didn’t force enough turnovers and the pass rush was downright putrid. I have them making the NFC Championship game this year, but losing to the 49ers.
The Chicago Bears were on a roll(7-3) last season when quarterback Jay Cutler went down with the broken right thumb injuryand Matt Forte injured his knee. Even though the Packers were undefeated at the time, you could argue that the Bears were the best team in the NFL then. The offense was playing great, Cutler passing the ball and Forte running it, and the defense was really good. Caleb Hanie and Josh McCown finished the season at QB and the Bears went 1-5 down the stretch. I expect the Bears to bounce back big time this season, fight for the division title and possibly make a run to the NFC title game. The addition of Brandon Marshall makes them that much better and even though linebacker Brian Urlacher is having knee trouble and said it won’t ever be the same, the defense is still good enough for them to be a legit title contender.
The Detroit Lions offense last season was something similar to a Arena Football League team. Matthew Stafford had twice as many passing attempts as the entire team did rushing attempts. It’s obvious they can throw the ball, score points in bunches, but they need to be able to run the ball, stop the run, and not give up the big plays in the passing game like the did last season. The Lions were also one of the more penalized teams last season as well, bad penalties on both sides of the ball took away big plays and extended to oppositions drives. I see a season similar to last year’s the Lions just missing he playoffs with a 9-7 record.
The Vikings thought going into 2011 believing that they had a shot at being a playoff team with the addition of Donavan McNabb at quarterback, but after six games they found out what the Eagles, Redskins and I knew….McNabb was done and couldn’t play anymore. He was 1-5 in the six games he started and was granted his release after he was benched for the rookie Christian Ponder. To makes matter worse, franchise running back Adrian Peterson tore multiple ligaments in his knee in week 10 and was lost for the season. I want to see if tight end Kyle Rudolph can develop into a legit threat for Ponder to go to in the middle of the field and on third downs.
The Vikings are really going to struggle to compete this year, I don’t think they have enough weapons for Ponder to pass to, and not having a healthy Peterson doesn’t help. Defensively the Vikings were second in sacks, mostly due to Jared Allen having a big season, but they gave up 28.1 ppg, 2nd worst in the NFL. The back seven is nothing to brag about, the Vikings are really a long way from competing in my opinion.
Division Outlook: I think the Falcons with all their weapons offensively, have the best team in the division and will win it. Roddy White and Julio Jones on the outside, combined with Harry Douglas and Tony Gonzalez working the middle of the field, and Micheal Turner at running back gives Matt Ryan all he needs at quarterback to be successful. I know this team has had growing pains and hard times in the playoffs, but this could be there year that they grow and make it happen.
Defensively, they were great against the run, allowing only 97 yards per game, but was in the bottom third in the league vs the pass. The addition of Asante Samuel is big because he fits right into their cover 2 & 3 zone scheme. The Falcons signed defensive end Ray Edward to a big deal going into the 2011 season and needs him to step it up, 3.5 sacks in a 16 game season isn’t getting it done.
The Saints take a step back this season, and it’s partly due to not having Sean Payton around, who is the best play caller in the league, but more because the defense isn’t good enough and gives up too many points. They will have a hard time generating a pass rush, which is the reason why they gave up big plays defensively. Don’t get me wrong, barring any freak injuries the Saints will put up points, but they have plenty of offensive juggernauts on their schedule and they won’t be able to win every shootout.
The favorite surprise team this off season is the Carolina Panthers, yes I love Cam Newton, been a fan of his since scouting him in high school, but I’m not quite sold on this team as a whole. Who is going to step up and be the #2 receiver opposite Steve Smith? Brandon Lafell? Louis Murphy? Armanti Edwards? I have the slightest clue, honestly. The running back duo of Jonathan Stewart and Deangelo Williams have to do a better job this season, especially to take the load off of Newton as a runner. Cam is a big guy, but you don’t want your franchise guy taking extra hits.
Defensively they were horrible last season, and they drafted linebacker Luke Kuechly with their first round pick. Thomas Davis when healthy was a damn good player, but he’s coming off another knee surgery and can’t be depended on as a starter. Jon Beason is coming off an torn Achilles tendon and it is yet to be seen it he is back to his usual form, or if he ever will. Defensive end Charles Johnson is a good push rusher, but he could use some help from the opposite end since he his frequently double teamed.
I give the Panthers six wins for the 2012 season.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers shocked the sporting world and myself when they decided to hire former Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano has their head coach. Two years ago this was a 10-6 team who just missed the playoffs, but last year it was a complete disaster. They only won four games, taking a major step back and the result was Raheem Morris getting fired.
I think the Bucs has one of the best offseasons in the NFL. They went out and signed players offensively to help out Josh Freeman this season. Vincent Jackson, Dallas Clark, and Carl Nicks were all signed via free agency and they also drafted running back Doug Martin from Boise St as well. Nicks paired with Davin Joseph would have given the Bucs one of the best guard tandems in the league, but Joseph was lost for the season with a knee injury.
Last season the defensive unit was terrible. But I love the drafting of safety Mark Barron from Alabama and Lavonte David, outside linebacker from Nebraska. Both are effective against the run and pass, great tacklers and playmakers. Ronde Barber has made the switch from corner to free safety, and it’s looked good so far. He has always been a sound tackler, great blitz ability from the corner spot, and has good ball skills. He is the veteran leader of this team and the personnel deparment has made the beginning steps in order to turn this thing around.
I like the Bucs to win 5 games this season.
NFC Championship Game
49ers on the road over the Packers
The 49ers return all starters from the 2011 defense that was the best in the league, they have added more weapons on offense and quarterback Alex Smith showed me something during the playoffs. They make the next step to the Super Bowl.
Houston Texans over the San Francisco 49ers
These are the two best teams in the NFL in my eyes and I think this is going to be the matchup for all the marbles in February. It will be a defensive battle, but I think the Texans have more offense and the ability to make that one play to win it all.