Another NFL season is upon us and we know what you want to do. You want to watch all the Sunday pre-game shows, officially make pizza and wings a food group and most of all you want everyone to know that you’re the smartest person in the room. How do you do that? By making predictions that come true.
Welcome aboard to the first annual TSL NFL Football Preview. We'll start with the NFC and follow-up with the AFC later this week.
Get your money up, bruh. You’re about to double it.
We Don’t Believe You, You Need More People
Rams—New Head Coach Jeff Fisher will try to right the ship but it’s going to take a minute. A long minute. You know its going to be rough when the two biggest free agent pick-ups are former Giants and Eagles receiver Steve Smith and hotheaded corner Cortland Finnegan, who, even now, still can’t cover Andre Johnson .
Cardinals—At some point you can’t blame the quarterbacks for their ineptitude. The offensive line is feeble (they gave up 54 sacks last year) and neither Kevin Kolb nor John Skelton has a track record of great moments to rely on. If you’re a Cards fan, you have to wonder what exactly GM Rod Graves has to say about this since Kurt Warner’s not walking through that door. They’ve been reduced to basically flipping a coin to name their starting quarterback.The announcement did just come on Friday, and I’m always suspicious about holiday weekend announcements. They always seem sketchy. Overall the roster has a couple of pieces (Larry Fitzgerald of course, but also CB Patrick Petersen and DL Darnell Dockett), but the QB spot is such a detriment that it invalidates everything else.
Vikings--“Say A, say A, you know you gotta do this err’ day-day/you’ll work them long days and Monday nights to get a pay-day/ Finally back, but you won’t get shade or a vacay/You all we got, so I see 30 carrries a day-day/Ponder might hate but so what, nobody else can even play-play/ and if he’s still hatin, I’ll send him back to Tallahas-say-hey”---what I assume Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier will leave on Adrian Petersen’s voicemail on the morning of September 9th.
Redskins—The fact that Robert Griffin III will be playing his home games in Maryland's PG County, will guarantee one thing: that those Washington Redskin jerseys with the number 10 on the back will be ubiquitous on every single HBCU campus. Other than that, it’s baby-step time in "the urrea".
Buccaneers— Tampa Bay is arguably the worst team in the conference and will struggle to get even three or four wins. Head Coach Greg Schiano will bring his Rutgers University playbook with him but it’s a steep hill. It would also be nice to ask QB Josh Freeman what he did with the real Josh Freeman. No way the dude last year is the same guy who threw 25 TDs in 2010. Maybe they should ask the chair that Clint Eastwood was talking to, I mean, it’s still in town right?
The Jury Is Still Out
Seahawks--“He is so prepared, he does not seem like a first-year quarterback” is what Seattle Head Coach Pete Carroll said about QB Russell Wilson after he handed him the starting job. A welcome side effect of his emergence is how he put the “black QB” era on its deathbed. Once a defining subject in pro and college football, Wilson put it on a heart monitor, complete with attached wires and blinking lights. Wilson was a third-round pick, is undersized at 5’11 and came into camp at a disadvantage after Seattle basically gift-wrapped the starter job for former Packer back-up Matt Flynn. Even with all that against him, Wilson owned the preseason, with 5 touchdowns to Flynn’s 1 and snagged that starting gig like it was his birthright. He proved to be smarter, more accurate and a better leader, too. At some point we’ll get into the historic ramifications in more detail, but right now let’s give Wilson a shout-out for getting the ball rolling. In two years, we won’t have to discuss this anymore.
Lions--Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford and Ndamukong Suh. Even somebody who’s not a Detroit fan, someone without a dog in the fight, could effectively argue that they have the best young foundational talent in the League. We all know that Johnson and Suh will start challenging for MVP awards any day now, but did you realize that Stafford threw for over 5,000 yards and 41 touchdowns last season ? I know the secondary is shaky and they’ve been unlucky with running back health, but man, this is a team creeping on a scary-ass come-up.
Panthers—On the strength of that GQ cover, I’m going to go ahead and say that Cam Newton is the biggest name ever to rep the city of Charlotte. He’s not from there, (see for yourself, the list of famous Charlotteans is tremendously random. I knew about K-Ci and Jo-Jo, but Brooklyn Decker?), but as a name to promote the city, it’s not close. He’s going to own this town, if he doesn’t already. Newton threw for 4,051 yards in his rookie campaign, and that was without a real training camp. The sophomore slump is always a concern, but you shouldn’t bet against him. If you do, don’t do it from that joint account you have with your wife. Newton is a strictly, "make bets from your personal account" kind of dude.
You Don’t Trust Me…You Know Why…We’re Not Supposed To Trust Anyone In Our Profession Anyway
Eagles--Yes, they had a Terry Crews caliber draft and acquiring former Texans Pro-Bowler DeMeco Ryans fills what was a canyon-sized gulf at middle linebacker. Still, its shocking to see how many smart people are picking the Eagles for the Super Bowl . To that I say, "yeah I see the Kool-Aid, but I’m gargling it. After that, i'm spitting it back out." Excellent roster, no doubt, but it doesn’t matter right now. What matters is replacing what the team lost from injured left tackle Jason Peters and if Mike Vick is healthy at the end of the season. This makes the most important person in the Eagles organization Head Team Physician Dr. Peter De Luca. He and his medical staff have to find a way to keep Vick on the field, otherwise this thing will go down in flames.
Falcons--I told my man Lang, the biggest Falcon fan I know, that the nickname Matty Ice died last year in that horrendous playoff performance against the Giants. From now on he’s just Matthew Thomas Ryan. He has to start from scratch and rebuild his rep from the bottom up. People use to refer to him as the next Peyton but now he’s not even a top 10 QB. If he wants that nickname back, he’s going to have to fight for it.
Cowboys--DeMarcus Ware is arguably the best defender in the game and nose tackle Jay Ratliff is a dream shatterer in the middle of the line. That’s not what matters in Dallas, however. If they’re going to realize their potential, it will be due to their skill players. Will Jason Witten and Miles Austin get back to full power early enough for it to matter? Will Dez Bryant put hands on his mother again? Inquiring minds want to know. On the upside, their corners are prestigious--free agent signee Brandon Carr and rook Morris Claiborne will challenge as the best duo in the game.
Bears--Chicago was in good shape for a postseason slot last year before Jay Cutler’s thumb injury ended the party early. For me though, the biggest memory from 2011 was the injury to WR Johnny Knox (check the 2:43 mark). In the pantheon of all-time NFL unwatchable moments, this is inarguably in the top 5. The way his back just folded up ... he’s lucky to still be alive. He’ll miss the season, but Chicago seemingly anticipated that and reloaded their WR position. Trading for Brandon Marshall and drafting SEC stud Alshon Jeffery (183 receptions, 3,042 receiving yards and 23 TDs in three seasons at South Carolina) gives them a tremendous passing attack. Plus, RB Matt Forte got his paper. This is my sleeper pick to win 10 games and maybe more.
Of Monsters and Men
Niners—Keep shrugging shoulders all you want, acting like Alex Smith has to repeat last year’s performance for San Francisco to have another run. He doesn’t have to be Channing Tatum — merely, Taylor Kitsch. He threw for a little over 3,000 yards with 17 TDs and five picks. He might throw eight or nine interceptions this season but the overall talent level of this team can absorb his pedestrian ways. They had a feverish off-season (bringing in former Giants Brandon Jacobs and Mario Manningham, a refurbished Randy Moss, and former Oregon Duck star LaMicheal James) and that defense is still fade-proof. Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith, Navarro Bowman and that’s just the famous guys. Ask me and I’ll tell you--this is now the best defensive squad in the League.
Packers—Still can’t believe they tricked-off that playoff game against the Giants. Green Bay came in too cocky and got blasted in their own building, (which is understandable since they were dumping on dudes like Tyson in the 80s) so the questions is, will they apply the lesson they learned? They have a new offensive coordinator but that’s not going to stop them from putting up monopoly money passing numbers. They led the NFL in scoring last year at 35 points per and reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers put up 46 TDs and only six picks. Crazy thing is, their D last year was borderline horrible (they gave up a league worst 6585 yards), the running game was average at best and they still high-stepped to 15 wins. No way the defense isn’t better, ditto for the run game. They won’t lose more than 3 games this season. Postseason included.
Saints—How to describe New Orleans’ off-season? Well, just imagine that the Saints are Gotham City and Bane is NFL commish Roger Goodell. Except, Bruce Wayne doesn’t return from some Third World dungeon to save the day. Head Coach Sean Payton’s yearlong ban has to effect the play calling, especially in late-game scenarios. Not to mention, the overall stress from such a negative spotlight, will take a toll as the season grinds on. With that said, they’re still winning the NFC South. Why? Drew Brees is nasty, that’s why.
Giants—Prognosticators keep talking about a New York let down, citing last year’s regular season mark of 9-7 as proof that they got hot at the right time en route to Super Bowl XLVI. Some of these experts are forgetting a couple of major points (and for the record, the last time they won the Super Bowl they followed up with a 12-4 campaign)--Eli didn’t even have a great year last season (16 picks) and they had a surplus of injuries too. Plus, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and the just getting started Jason Pierre-Paul, give the G-Men the best pass rush in the game.