2010 NFL Season Preview Part 4: AFC North

Carson Palmer

1. Cincinnati Bengals- (11-5)- This is a team that is loaded with talent all over the field.  Carson Palmer may not of had the best numbers since he was injured in that playoff game several years ago, but this year look for him to jump back up into the top 10 of NFL quarterbacks.  With T.O. and Jordan Shipley pairing up with Chad Ochocinco and also Jermaine Gresham, Palmer will have a lot of opportunities to put up big passing numbers.  The Bengals also have a great running attack with Cedric Benson, who has finally found a home in Cincinnati, and Bernard Scott is a very good backup running back.  Cincy also may have the best secondary, after the Jets, with corners Jonathan Joseph, Leon Hall, and safety Chris Crocker.  Safety Roy Williams and corner Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones have also rededicated themselves to getting into shape and look to be at the top of their games once again.

Ray Rice

2. Baltimore Ravens- (10-6)- For the first time in the history of the Baltimore Ravens offense will have to lead this team to victory.  Flacco has some great weapons around him with the additions of T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Anquan Boldin, and the return of Todd Heap, Derrick Mason and Ray Rice.  On the defensive side while their line is great, but Ray Lewis is starting show some age and their secondary this year is a mess. Domonique Foxworth is injured and the loss of Ed Reed is devastating.  In the past two season we have seen how thee Colts defense has faltered without Bob Sanders, and the Steelers struggled without Troy Polamalu, now the Ravens are without one of the greatest safeties in league history.  If the secondary can hold it together then this is a real super bowl contender.

Troy Polamalu

3. Pittsburgh Steelers- (8-8)- The Steelers are a very interesting team they bring in Larry Foote, Will Allen, and Bryant McFadden to a very good defense that could be great in 2010, but the best addition will be having a healthy Troy Polamalu.  The one thing about the Steelers is that I dislike their offense.  With no Roethlisberger for the first four games, the Steelers will go 1-3 in those opening games, and they have lost some real fire power on offense.  Santonio Holmes and Willie Parker are gone and I am not a big fan of what they have left.  This is a team that could win the AFC West with some ease, but in the AFC North they are a third place team.

Josh Cribbs

4. Cleveland Browns- (3-13)- When your best player is an left tackle (Joe Thomas) and your best scoring option is your kick and punt returner (Josh Cribbs), you do not have a good team… and the Browns are a bad team.  The Browns will most likely be the worst team in the NFL this year.  They will have a few bright spots on this team, I personally am a big fan of WR Mohamed Massaquoi, RB Jerome Harrison, and OLB Matt Roth, but outside of these guys this team is mostly trash.  Jake Delhomme has not been a good starting quarterback outside of the one year he lead the Panther to the super bowl, and if he doesn’t do the job the Browns are left with Seneca Wallace (an ok backup but not an NFL starting quarterback), and Colt McCoy (who has been very unimpressive in the preseason).  The Browns added CB Sheldon Brown, LB Chris Gocong, and LB Scott Fuijta to their defense, however none of which are really game changers who will dramatically change the NFL’s second worst defense, and look foe first round pick CB Joe Haden from Florida to be the next in a long line of Cleveland Browns first round busts.

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2010 NFL Season Preview Part 2: NFC West

Patrick Willis

1) San Francisco 49ers-(10-6)-  I am not a big fan of Alex Smith, nor am I usually a fan of a team who is going to be starting two rookie offensive linemen, but in this division I can make a special case for the 49ers.  Alex Smith is due some credit for having a solid second half to the 2009 season, but it may have more to do with the talent around him rather than his improvement.  Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, and Vernon Davis is a great trio of playmakers that many teams would love to have on their team.  Add to that trio Brian Westbrook to back up Gore at running back, who will not be asked to carry the load for once in the running game, and may actually be used more in passing game than in the running attack.  This team could have a real dangerous offense if Ted Ginn Jr. or Josh Morgan can evolve into a solid second option at wide receiver.  Where this team will separate itself from the rest of the pack in the NFC West is on defense where linebackers Manny Lawson and Patrick Willis maybe the leaders on a top 10 defense this year.  By the way if this team gets off to a slow start and Alex Smith becomes the scapegoat, look for him to be quickly replaced by Nate Davis who has impressed a lot of people in the preseason this year.

Larry Fitzgerald

2) Arizona Cardinals-(6-10)- It is pretty easy to project that the Cardinals are going to take a fall in 2010.  No team has lost more talent in one offseason than the Arizona Cardinals have, and they have not done a great job in replacing what they have lost.  Neither Matt Leinart or Derek Anderson will be able to replace Kurt Warner well, and the combination of Early Doucet and Steve Breaston cannot make up for the loss of Anquan Boldon.  Never mind the fact that they are looking to have Kerry Rhodes, Joey Porter, and Jay Feely step in for Antrel Rolle, Karlos Dansby, and Neil Rackers (its a downgrade across the board).  In a different division the Cardinals may go from first to worst, but the Rams are still years away from winning and Seattle is a team that truly does not know what it is doing this year.  The Cardinals could have two break out stars this year in running back Bennie Wells (who will get the majority of the carries on a team looking to be more balanced on offense), and defensive end Calais Campbell (who had seven sacks last year and is ready to take his career to the next level).  The major question that Cardinals fans have is who will be their quarterback and the answer is looking like Derek Anderson.  Anderson can make more of the big plays than Leinart, but he will also throw the pick that will break your back.  Leinart does not have a strong arm, and if he wants to stay in the NFL he is going to need to play like Chad Pennington and Kyle Orton, game managers who are accurate and while they may not throw the deep ball they are also not going to throw the ball to the other team as well.  However it is looking like Leinart may have to save his career on another team as  his relationship with coach Ken Whisenhunt has quickly disintegrated.

Matt Hasselbeck

3) Seattle Seahawks-(6-10)- The problem with Seattle is that it is trying to continue to win despite the fact that it should be in a rebuilding mode.  This is a team that could be at .500 this season if Matt Hasselbeck plays up to his previous Pro Bowl level, but I think that ship has passed.  While I think he is better than Charlie Whithurst, who new coach Pete Carroll brought in to challenge Hasselbeck for the starting position, Hasselbeck is not the guy he once was.  Last year he threw for 3,029 yard, 17 touchdowns, and 17 INTs in 14 games, these are not great numbers for a starting quarterback in the NFL.  And while TE John Carlson is a solid TE and T.J. Houshmandzadh should have a bounce back year if he can stay healthy, the Seahawks pass catching core get pretty thin beyond them.  Nate Burleson is gone, Deion Branch is recovering from a knee injury again, and rookie Golden Tate is being out performed so far by one time bust of a draft pick Mike Williams.  Also Seattle has nothing but small running back.  Justin Forsett has shown promise in 2009, and Leon Washington is going to be looking to make a comeback this year, but who is going to be getting those tough 1 or 2 yards up the middle on third and short? On defense Seattle has a great linebacking core in Leroy Hill, Lofa Tatupu, and Aaron Curry, they also have an average secondary and no real pass rushers.  Pete Carroll may have gotten out of USC before the sanctions got their, but he may wish he was back at USC by the end of this year.

Steven Jackson

4) St. Louis Rams-(2-14)- This is not a good team.  It is just that simple, they are going to lose double digit games again this year.  I know that many people are going to want to see number one pick Sam Bradford play this year, but if they can get A.J. Feeley back from his thumb injury then I would have Bradford sit out a year like the Bengals did with Carson Palmer and the Dolphins did with Chad Henne.  I know that guys like Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, and Mark Sanchez have done well in their first seasons, but those guy had two things on their side; 1) a good running game (which the Rams have with Steven Jackson) and 2) a good offensive line (which the Rams are lacking).  Without a line to block for Bradford I would not put him in until I had to, or I would put him in mop up duty.  The last thing the Rams want is the next David Carr, a guy with skills, but who just got beaten to hell in his first several seasons.  Also the Rams can look at a guy like Trent Edwards in Buffalo, a guy who showed promise until taking one hard hit to the head and he has not played the same since.  The one player that I would keep an eye on is Marty Gilyard.  The Rams lack a go to receiver and while Donnie Avery and Laurent Robinson are nice players, they would be 3rd and 4th wide receivers on most other teams, and I expect by next year Gilyard will be the top receiver on the Rams.

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2010 NFL Season Preview Part 3: NFC North

Aaron Rodgers

1. Green Bay Packers- (13-3) – The Green Bay Packers are loaded on offense with Aaron Rodgers and his plethora of weapons. The Packers easily four deep at wide receiver with Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones and Jordy Nelson, and Jermichael Finley and Donald Lee are both great pass catching tight ends who can spread the field.  The one question that most people have about the Packers offense is with their offensive line after last year watching the Vikings sack Aaron Rodgers on just about every other play, but the line did come together in the second half of the season which led to the Packers winning 7 of their last 8 games before the playoffs.  The other thing that most people probably don’t know is that the Packers were number one in defense in the NFC in interceptions, rushing yards, and total defense.  This is a team that really is poised to make a run at the Super Bowl.

Adrian Peterson

2. Minnesota Vikings- (10-6) – This was a team that was one Brett Favre pick away from the Super Bowl last year, and that is as close as they are going to come.  Yes the Vikings are a good football team, but they are not going to be as good this year as they were last year.  Even if this team was at full strength, Brett Favre had possibly his best year ever last year and it was going to be very hard to repeat that performance.  Now Favre is going to be having to start the year on an ankle that is not fully healed and will most likely just bother him more as the season goes along, Sidney Rice is going to be out for a significant amount of time because he waited to long to have hip surgery, and without Chester Taylor this team really lacks a good pass catching running back (i know Peterson has tried to improve on this but neither him or rookie Toby Gerhart are great pass catchers).  As much as Brett loves to pass the ball, if the Vikings want to play for a chance to go to the Super Bowl than they are going to have to rely on Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart and the running game.  The other thing going against the Vikings this year is a much tougher schedule.  This year instead of St. Louis, Seattle, Cleveland, and Carolina they have to play the N.Y. Jets, New England, Dallas, and New Orleans.  The Vikings may return to the playoffs, but they are not going to be playing in the Super Bowl in any time soon.

Brian Urlacher

3. Chicago Bears-(6-10) – Yes Mike Martz is the new offensive coordinator and Jay Cutler is the big arm quarterback who is the perfect QB for his system, and Matt Forte and Chester Taylor are both running backs that can come out of the backfield to catch the ball but I am still not sold on this team.  First off Jay Cutler, who I do like as a QB, needs to prove that he can stop throwing the ball to the other team and that he can finally get a team that he is quarterbacking over a .500 record.  Also this team lacks a solid proven wide receiver.  Between Earl Bennett, Devin Hester, Johnny Knox, Devin Aromashodu they are all going in fantasy drafts and sure they may put up good numbers based on the fact that they will pass the ball a lot, but the best pass catcher on the team is Greg Olson but the Martz offense rarely uses the tight end.  The defense will be improved this year with a healthy Brian Urlacher and free agent Julius Peppers, but they are not going to be a dominant enough to carry this team if the offense turns the ball over as much as they did last year.

Calvin Johnson

4. Detroit Lions- (5-11) – I know it is not going to happen this year, but it is only a matter of time till this team will make a big jump and flirt with the playoffs.  Matthew Stafford may have struggled at times last year but he showed quite a few flashes of what he could be, and most people agree that he will have a good NFL career (baring injuries).  This offseason the Lions management has brought in a lot of talent to surround and support Stafford.  They added veterans TE Tony Scheffler and WR Nate Burleson to pair with Calvin Johnson, and then added RB Javid Best and OT Jason Fox in the draft as well to take pressure off of Stafford.  The Lions should also improve on the other side of the ball with three new d-linemen who should be able stop the run and do a great job of rushing the opposing quarterbacks, which they will need in the division that they are in.  Jared DeVries is the only returning player, and he will team up with Corey Williams, Kyle Vanden Bosch, and first round pick Ndamukong Suh.  Last year I promised that the Lions would beat the Browns (and I was correct), and this year I will guarantee that the Detroit Lions will beat the Vikings once this year.

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NFL 2010 Season Preview Part 1- AFC WEST

Philip RIvers

1) SAN DIEGO CHARGERS-(11-5)- While the Chargers should be able to win the division, however it will not be easy.  The Chargers are falling back down a bit while teams like Kansas City and Oakland are on the rise.  The Chargers have lost some talent on defense with Jamal Williams and Antonio Cromartie, and Shawn Merriman has not been the same player since being injured two years ago.  The other player that the Chargers could be out for the season is Vincent Jackson, who is in the middle of the contract dispute.  However, unlike Cromartie and Williams, the Chagers should be able to replace Jackson using a combination of Malcom Flyod, Craig Davis, Legedu Naanee and Antonio Gates.  As good a receiver as Vincent Jackson is he is not an elite receiver like Randy Moss or Andre Johnson, and Philip Rivers is a good enough quarterback that he can raise the play of the other wide receivers on the team.  The other question I have of this team is about its running game and Ryan Mathews.  Mathews was a very good power runner in college, and while he should be able to rush for over 1,000 yards I strongly doubt that he will be a top 10 back in the NFL.  Overall the Chargers are a good team but for the first time in several years the are not a Super Bowl caliber team this year.

Jamaal Charles

2) KANSAS CITY CHIEFS-(9-7) This team might as well be known as New England Patriots West.  First they go out and add Head Coach Todd Haley, GM Scott Pioli, and QB Matt Cassel, and this year they add Romeo Crennel and Charlie Wies to be their defensive and offense coordinators.  While Crennel  and Weis may both have flopped as head coaches no one can doubt the jobs that they did as coordinators when they are both in New England.  Weis may have the most success in 2010 as the Chiefs went out and added Thomas Jones (1,400 rushing yards in 2009), a decent fourth wide out in Jereme Urban, and also drafted Dexter McCluster who if he can catch balls in stride will be almost impossible for defenders to catch up to.  Adding these players to Dwayne Bowe, Chris Chambers and Jamaal Charles (who almost ran for 1,000 yards in just the last 8 games of 2009), the Chiefs could put up some big offensive numbers on people this year.  However, the defense will still hold this team back from really challenging the Chargers for the AFC West crown.  In 2009 the Chiefs were ranked 30th in the NFL in total defense, and just did not do enough to improve for this year.  While the NFL may be moving more and more towards an offense based league, the Chiefs will be lucky if their defense can improve to 20th best in 2010 and that is just not good enough to be a playoff team.

Nnamdi Asomugha

3) OAKLAND RAIDERS-(6-10)- A lot of people are very high on the Raiders, but as I look over their lineup I see a lot of guys on this roster who have a lot to prove in the NFL before you can really say this team is ready to take the next step.  Nnamdi Asomugha is a very good player, Richard Seymor still has a good year or two left in him, and Jason Campbell and Zach Miller is going to be a nice pass catch combo, but what can you really say about the rest of the players?  Darren McFadden needs to prove he can stay healthy and is worthy of being a top pick?  Can any of the Oakland wide outs step up and be a number one receiver?  Can their defense be consistent and make stops when they need to?  I really have no idea to the answer of some of these questions, so while Oakland may be improved from where they have been the past few seasons, this is not a team ready to compete for  playoff spot.

Champ Bailey

4) DENVER BRONCOS-(5-11)- While some teams on this leagues maybe worse than the Broncos, I really dislike the direction that this team is going.  In the last two season the Broncos have lost their three best playmakers on offense (QB Jay Cutler, WR Brandon Marshall, and TE Tony Scheffler) and then Elvis Dumervil, the leader of the defense, will be out with an injury suffered in training camp for the majority of the season.  While I do like some of the veteran players this defense has as individuals, the additions of Jarvis Green and Jamal Williams are not enough to fix a defense that gave up 27 points in 7 of their last 10 games on 2009.  If the defense lets up that many points than the Broncos are going to be in serious trouble, as they are not going to be able to come from behind often as Kyle Orton is a good game manager, but he is not a big play quarterback.  I should mention Tim Tebow at some point, he may be used at points of this season in a wildcat or “wild horse” offense, but I have serious doubt as to whether or not he can be a starter in the NFL.

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College Football Preview Part 8: BCS

Conference Championship Games:

  • ACC- Miami over FSU
  • Big 12- Nebraska over Oklahoma
  • SEC- Alabama over Florida

BCS Games:

  • Rose Bowl- Ohio State over Oregon (1/1/11)
  • Fiesta Bowl- Oklahoma over TCU (1/1/11)
  • Orange Bowl- Florida over Miami (1/3/11)
  • Sugar Bowl- Alabama over Pittsburgh (1/4/11)
  • BCS Championship- Nebraska over Wisconsin (1/10/11)

Heisman Trophy Winner: QB Ryan Mallet, Arkansas

Top 20 Games:

  • Boise State vs. Virginia Tech, Sept. 6
  • Penn St. at Alabama, Sept 11
  • FSU at Oklahoma, Sept 11
  • Miami at Ohio St, Sept 11
  • Miami at Pittsburgh, Sept 23
  • Alabama at Arkansas, Sept 25
  • Washington at Stanford, Sept 25
  • Texas at Oklahoma, Oct. 2
  • FSU at Miami, Oct. 9
  • Texas at Nebraska, Oct. 16
  • Ohio St. at Wisconsin, Oct. 16
  • Florida at Alabama, Oct. 16
  • Ole Miss at Arkansas, Oct. 23
  • Wisconsin at Iowa, Oct 23
  • Oregon at USC, Oct.30
  • UConn at Pittsburgh, Nov. 11
  • Ohio St. at Iowa, Nov. 20
  • Virginia Tech at Miami, Nov. 20
  • Florida at FSU, Nov 27
  • Oregon at Oregon St., Dec. 4
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