Thursday, November 28, 2013

Lust for Lions: Ezekiel "Ziggy Pop" Ansah emerges as a potential elite defensive end


After starting less than half of a season in college at BYU, the Lions drafted Ezekiel Ansah on potential after a strong week of practice and his dominant performance at the Senior Bowl.

Don't let Ezekiel Ansah's looks fool you...dude's a beast on the field.

So far, he's shown enough to earn the label as Detroit's new "Ziggy Pop."

Lust for Lions: Ezekiel Ansah, Detroit's new "Ziggy Pop!"
-A half sack in his first game?
Not bad.

-A sack and a forced fumble called back due to an unrelated penalty in his second game? 
That was bad luck.

-Seven tackles, two sacks and a tackle for a loss in his third game? 
Bad ass!

-Disappearing from the stat line in games four through eleven?
That was just bad.

-Four sacks in games eleven and twelve?
Now that was badly needed.

While he doesn't have much in the way of formal football training or coaching, what Ziggy Ansah does have is size, speed and an incredible knack for finding the football.

And after twelve regular season games, it looks like it's safe to say that Detroit has found a keeper with the #8 overall pick of the 2013 draft, which is big news for the Lions as they try to sure up their defense for 2014 through the draft.

The Lions, like any team, could still use another pass rusher. Fortunately, Ansah's development as an elite pass rusher can free up their first round pick to address other pressing needs, such as a lock down corner.

Not only would someone like Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard improve the Lions pass coverage, but he's someone who's demonstrated the ability to blitz from the slot, which is a skill-set that Detroit has sorely lacked. 

And if Ansah is the answer at defensive end that can afford them that luxury, the Lions just might be able to add a little more pop to their defense.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Decepticonned! Mathew Stafford's spike, Megatron help the Lions shock the Cowboys



Just when I thought that the curse of Bobby Carpenter had doomed the Lions to their second home defeat in two games with Sean Lee picking off two Mathew Stafford passes and nearly returning one of them for a touchdown, something happened.

I still don't know what it was, but something definitely happened. In fact, I heard myself asking out loud in disbelief, "How the Hell did THAT just happen?"

While Calvin Johnson had 329 receiving yards and one touchdown (nearly three), set the record for the most receiving yards in NFL history for a non-overtime game, he still arguably had his worst game as a Lion with a fumble and a dropped pass that deflected into the hands of a defender for a key interception.

video

The Lions had four turnovers, making them only the second team out of 55 in NFL history to overcome a minus four takeaway deficit.

The Lions slumping defensive line only managed to sack Tony Romo one time even though he holds on to the ball longer than an Ohio State fan holds on to a bitchin' pair of jean shorts from his college days at Northern Ohio University in "beautiful" Ada, Ohio.

But Mathew Stafford still had 50 seconds left on the clock to cover 80 yards to overcome a six point deficit and salvage the Lions day, and possibly their season.

Conceding defeat and attempting to get a jump on traffic, many of their fans had already left Ford Field. Included amongst those who did was Detroit Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva.

Sadly, that was the first time in a long time that Charlie managed to get out of his seat in what turned out to be a Detroit victory.

However, after completing two key long passes to Kris Durham and Calvin Johnson, Stafford improbably had the Lions at the 1-yard line with just under 20 seconds left in the game.

And somewhere between Megatron's final reception and the next snap, Stafford made the improbable decision to go "Sarah Palin."

As he instructed his teammates to line up to spike the ball and kill the clock, Stafford went rogue and ran a QB sneak that even his teammates didn't know was coming.

video

Along with Megatron's record breaking day, Mathew Stafford's "Decepticon" fake spike helped the Lions stun the Cowboys.

Fortunately it worked, as the Dallas defense was caught flat footed as Dez Bryant, Tony Romo and Jason Witten debated about who had the lowest Wonderlic score on the Cowboy sideline.

video

Meanwhile, Megatron ended any debate as to who the best receiver in the NFL is. But unlike Dez Bryant, he didn't even want to talk about it.

video


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Know the Rules, Schwartz!


Just before their infamous handshake in 2011, Jim Schwartz screamed "Know the rules, Harbaugh!" after 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh received a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for challenging a Brandon Pettigrew touchdown catch, which of course was not challengeable since all scoring plays are automatically reviewed.

Jim Schwartz has had his own problems when it comes to knowing the NFL Rules.

Earlier that season Schwartz was heard yelling, "Hey, learn the fucking rules!" at the officials when they conferred about whether Minnesota should be granted another possession after the Lions kicked a game winning field goal in overtime in light of the NFL's newly implemented rule which granted the receiving team an extra possession if the receiving team only kicked a field goal on their first drive.


Apparently Karma's a bitch.

On Thanksgiving day 2012 the entire nation watched the Lions lose to the Houston Texans 34-31 in overtime, largely because Schwartz prevented an automatic booth replay on a 81-yard Justin Forsett TD run after he was clearly tackled on his own 25-yard line because he improperly threw a challenge flag.



Then on Sunday, Schwartz failed to challenge an illegal forward lateral following a blocked field goal attempt that gave the Cincinnati Bengals an extra 15-yards, helping them score a touchdown just prior to the end of the first half.

After the game, Schwartz indicated that he wanted to challenge the lateral, but was told by an official that he could not because "that didn't matter on a blocked kick," so he decided not to...You know, because you should definitely ask the official who already botched the call his opinion about getting it corrected.

Schwartz justified his decision not to challenge the play by saying he didn't want to risk a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for throwing the flag on a play that was not challengeable. Here's the deal. The refs were wrong, and it's Schwartz's job to know the rules and use his challenges when the refs screw up.

Clearly the official was making reference to a forward batted fumble recovery on a return, while Schwartz was talking about the lateral. Had Schwartz been more confident in his understanding of the rules, he would have gone through with the challenge and possibly save the Lions four (if they held the Bengals to a FG) or even seven points in what turned out to be a three point loss.

video

Quite frankly, Schwartz arrogance about "knowing the rules" when botching them himself makes him look like an ass...Kind of like the guy on the Internet who calls somebody's post out thinking that he's the Grammar Police while making a spelling mistake of his own at the same time.

Worse yet, Schwartz has now cost the Lions two games over the course of two years in the process...And people in Philadelphia thought that Andy Reid was bad at managing his challenge flags.

Let's just hope that karma doesn't extend incomplete passes as well as the Lions try to hold Dez Bryant and the Dallas Cowboys in check.

 

And for those of you who can't read lips he said, "INCOMPLETE YOU MOTHER FUCKER!"

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Pro-Bowling for Lions


Even after a disappointing loss to the Cincinnati Bengals dropped the Detroit Lions to 4-3, they are still in position to not only make the playoffs, but to send one of their largest contingencies to the NFL Pro Bowl.

Helped by three of their newest additions (Reggie Bush, Larry Warford and Glover Quin), as well as the return of a key player from injury (Louis Delmas), the Lions could be in position to send up to seven players to Honolulu to get back in touch with their roots.

I know, I know...The NFL has revised the Pro Bowl this year, where players will be voted upon regardless of conference, with two fantasy football champions joining the "fun" to help draft the actual teams school yard style.

First of all, if your the most popular sport in America and your looking to Gary Bettman and the NHL for ways to improve your All-Star game, you've got more problems than can be solved with all of Ndamukong Suh's fine money for an entire season.

Secondly, I'm ignoring these format changes and pretending that the Pro Bowl is going to be played as it always has...In Hawaii, with actual soccer players kicking off the ball, and halves, not quarters, that end with two minute warnings and teams alternating possessions.

Did I mention that Roger Goodell can suck it? Anyway, here's a look at how the 2013 Detroit Lions might fare in a traditional Pro Bowl selection process.  

Quarterback - This is the year Mathew Stafford should not only finally make the Pro Bowl, but cement himself as one of the league's top quarterbacks. With three active roster spots, Drew Brees is a lock, while Tony Romo looks like the next best bet as of right now, but there's no telling if and when he'll suffer a melt down. That leaves Stafford fighting for the final active spot with Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, and right now Stafford is having the better season. At the very least Stafford should be a Pro Bowl alternative.

Receivers - Now that Titus Young is out of the league, Calvin Johnson is the best receiver in football.


In Nike's new "Calvin and Johnson" ad campaign, Sean Combs gets all of the notoriety, while Calvin Johnson does all of the work...At least Puff Daddy finally found a replacement for Biggie Smalls.

Running Back - With only three active roster spots, Reggie Bush is likely on the bubble. Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch look to return to Honolulu, while Bush, Matt Forte and Frank Gore are all fighting for the third and final spot. If he can stay healthy, Bush should be squarely in the mix.

Offensive Line - Don't look now, but Larry Warford might be positioning himself for Pro Bowl appearance as a rookie third round draft pick, If he wasn't already under consideration as an alternate or as the final reserve behind Mike Iupati and Jahri Evans before this week, his strong performance against Geno Atkins and Cincinnati's stout defensive line should grab some attention.

Defensive Line - Ndamukong Suh is the best interior defensive lineman in football. His statistics don't reflect the 3 interceptions that he caused by forcing opposing quarterbacks to throw the ball up for grabs for fear of having their body parts mailed to the NFL league offices c/o Roger Goodell and Merton Hanks. Unfortunately, the rest of the Lions ultra talented defensive line has underperformed, and what should have been at least two Pro Bowl players from their over-hyped line will likely be limited to only Suh.

Linebackers - DeAndre Levy's transformation from a liability to a play maker is one of the better success stories for the Lions this year. With Clay Mathews and DeMarcus Ware injured, and Aldon Smith trying to figure out whether he'll be spending his offseason in rehab or Federal prison, Levy deserves to be a Pro Bowl starter this year.    

Defensive Backs - Chris Houston is adequate, but hardly Pro Bowl material as evidenced by his rough game trying to cover Bengal receiver A.J. Green. With two interceptions and a fumble recovery already, Glover Quin deserves strong consideration at strong safety, while Louis Delmas is probably on the bubble to be a Pro Bowl alternate at the free safety position.

Special Teams - Sam Martin kicked his way out of Pro Bowl contention by shanking his final punt of the game against Cincinnati. Quite simply, you cannot go to the Pro Bowl as a soccer player when you are almost single handedly responsible for your team losing a game, no matter how big of a weapon you had been the rest of the season.

PREDICTION

-Starters (3): Calvin Johnson, Ndamukong Suh, DeAndre Levy
-Reserves (2): Larry Warford, Glover Quin
-Alternates (2): Mathew Stafford, Reggie Bush

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Lions need a run stuffing DE to replace Jason Jones



After a win at home against the Chicago Bears, the Lions are the feel good story of the NFC North as they stand in first place at 3-1.

And while the Lions have been relatively injury free, we shouldn't discount the loss of DE Jason Jones for the rest of the season.

More of a true end in a 3-4 defense, Jones would not seem to be a fit in most 4-3 defenses, where he would be viewed on paper as either a rush DT or a base DE, depending on the situation or scheme.

However, in Detroit, Jones was a perfect fit for the Lions 4-3 defense as a base or boundary DE, something that the Lions were sorely lacking last season as they were constantly exploited against the run due to their aggressive defensive tackles and undersized defensive ends.

While Jones showed the ability to get to the passer in the pre-season, his real value with the Lions was in sealing off the edge and stopping the run, and through the first two weeks of the season, that's exactly what he did, at least until he was lost for the season due to injury. 

After the season injury to Jones, the Lions moved Willie Young moved to starter at RDE. And while Young has shown the ability to rush the QB on passing downs, he's proven to be a liability on running downs.

video


And while the Lions got away with Young's mistakes against Chicago, his inability to play the run is going to be an ongoing issue unless Detroit can find a base end to spell Young in non passing situations.

Perhaps former Lions DE Lawrence Jackson, who was cut by Minnesota after being lured away from Detroit as a free agent, is the answer.

But to date, the Lions have shown little interest in Lo-Jax, even though he graded out higher than any of their other defensive ends against the run last season. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

These are not your "Same Old Lions"



A week ago former NFL head coach and current NBC analyst Tony Dungy referred to Detroit as the "same old Lions" following their road loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

Not that he needed any more reasons to be critical of one of our local franchises, but Drew Sharp jumped all over that shit, as did just about every other local newspaper and sports talk radio show in the greater mitten area.

Piling on, Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News even implied that the Lions were behind the times at quarterback, noting how he believed that RG3 "represents the future of the QB position while Stafford represents the past."

Well, one week later the Lions are coming off of their first win over the Redskins in Washington, D.C. in 75 years as they head into a showdown for first place in the NFC North at home against the Chicago Bears.

Guess what people, these are not your same old Detroit Lions.

Want to bitch about Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan's boring and predictable play calling? Maybe you didn't notice, but the Lions are regularly mixing in the read option.

video

Keep your eyes on the receivers. They're actually running pass routes and don't start blocking until they see that Joique Bell has been handed the ball after Stafford reads the defense.

No, Mathew Stafford may not be the most mobile quarterback, or even a running threat at all, but that hasn't stopped Peyton Manning from running the read option as a form of play action to keep defenses honest.

video

How about the Lions secondary, where their most recent street free agent, Rashean Mathis, almost gave up a 57-yard touchdown pass to Redskins WR Aldrick Robinson?

Well, the key word was "almost," because despite getting beat, Mathis still managed to catch up to Robinson as he was trying to catch the ball in the endzone. That was just enough to jar the ball loose, and the catch was overturned on instant replay.

If all that wasn't enough, the Lions not only successfully converted a key 4th and 1 late in the 4th quarter, but they did so by running to the left side of their offensive line, between center and left tackle.

And while that center was Dominic Raiola, the left tackle was not Jeff Backus...So no, these are not your "same old Lions" by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I think there might even be more "new Lions" to come.  



Tuesday, September 17, 2013

C'MON MAN! Cris Carter Disses Ndamukong Suh.






With Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh starting off the 2013 season embroiled in controversy for a personal foul against Minnesota Vikings center John Sullivan, there was no shortage of opinions from the wanna be talking heads in the NFL media.

Sage Rosenfels, a former backup quarterback for the Vikings, Dolphins, Texans, Giants and Redskins (although I’m not sure any of those teams would actually claim him as theirs), took to Twitter and said, “Detroit is a classic example of big bullies who think they are better than everyone else, but have low self esteem. #Posers.”

Look! Up in the sky! It's not a bird, nor a plane! It's Sage Rosenfels...sigh.

Bart Scott, who once took issue with the Lions play as “too dirty” when he was a linebacker for the New York Jets, used his new position as an analyst at CBS to rip the entire Lions organization as being dirty from the bottom up.

“They’re teaching them how to be fake tough guys. You’re a tough guy between the whistles. All the other stuff — pushing and shoving afterward — that’s being taught to them.”

My favorite opinion, however, was that of former Minnesota Viking and current ESPN analyst, Cris Carter.

Carter is no stranger to making uneducated comments pertaining to the Lions, having been forced to backtrack from his opinion prior to the 2011 season where he claimed that Calvin Johnson was not one of the top five wide receivers in the NFL, listing him behind DeSean Jackson and Greg Jennings, amongst others.

In regards to Suh’s hit on Sullivan Carter said, “Ndamukong Suh has been fined four times that we did know about. In those games guys, he had no sacks and only four tackles. In the Minnesota game this past weekend he played 46 snaps and did not make a tackle, but on the interception he goes after a guy’s knee…Frustration.”



Carter’s attempt to make it seem as if Suh is acting like a thug as a result of having been bottled up by Carter’s former team couldn’t be further from the truth.

In fact, it was Suh's fierce pressure on Vikings QB Christan Ponder that caused Ponder to recklessly throw the ball up for grabs in the first place, allowing Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy to make an easy interception (which would have been returned for a touchdown had it not been for Suh's illegal block).

Suh also blew up a Vikings double team that gave fellow defensive lineman Nick Fairley an unabated path to sacking Ponder on a stunt. 


Regardless of his stat line, Suh was regarded as having one of his most dominant games as a Lion against the Vikings in week 1.

Once again, Carter’s opinion in regards to Suh’s play was a sloppy attempt to gain attention, devoid of fact, and a flat out indication that he doesn’t even watch the games that he’s being paid to comment on. 


Or as Cris Carter himself would say on ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown, "C'mon Man!"


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Is the Detroit Lions 2013 Red Zone Offense on the Verge of Something Special?



In overcoming the ghosts of seasons' past, the Lions just might have treated their fans to something we didn't see coming...An unstoppable red zone offense, or at least a red zone offense that can only be stopped by the Lions themselves.

Sure, Lions fans had to relive the nightmare of Calvin Johnson failing to "complete the process" from when they were cheated out of an opening day win against the Bears in 2010




We even withstood a swift kick to the gnards when Adrian Peterson took the Vikings first offensive snap of the season 78-yards for a touchdown, reminiscent of Matt Ryan converting his first ever NFL pass into a 62-yard touchdown on opening day in 2008. 

 

And even after leaving between 28-31 points on the field attributable to a dropped FG snap, dropped passes, a dropped interception that would have gone for a touchdown, a needless penalty that negated another potential interception return for a touchdown, and Brandon Pettigrew's best efforts to turn Ford Field into a bowling alley (and that was just in the first half!), the Lions finally teased us with a reason for some optimism...Their red zone offense. 

The Lions already have the game's most fearsome receiver in Calvin Johnson, who combines size, speed and strength in a way that the  NFL has never seen before. 

In fact, last year teams even began covering him in the red zone in ways that had never been seen before, such as putting "gunner" coverage on him to prevent him from getting off of the goal line, or bracketing him with a safety over top and a linebacker underneath of a cornerback playing man coverage.

 

Of course, the Lions front office remedied that coverage problem this offseason by signing Reggie Bush, who can make teams pay underneath either as a running or receiving threat out of the backfield when they double or triple cover Megatron.

Like Megatron (and unlike Mikel Leshoure last season), Bush is an offensive weapon that defensive coordinators must account for on every single play. That alone takes away the opposition's ability to bracket Johnson with a linebacker as they did for much of last season. 

Look for the Lions to play plenty of "21" personnel (2 TE's and 1 RB) in the red zone this season, with hybrid TE Tony Scheffler proving to be too big for safeties to cover, and too fast for linebackers.

But the most pleasant surprise of the Lions week 1 victory over the Vikings was the way they utilized undrafted free agent rookie TE Joseph Fauria. 

Standing 6'8 and having exceptional hands, Fauria is an absolute nightmare of a match-up for opposing defenses in the red zone, especially when he will most likely be faced with single coverage given the attention that they will have to pay to Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush. 

That much was evident when Fauria scored on an all but uncontested 1-yard TD over Vikings cornerback Chris Cook, who was unable to muster much opposition at all to the lob pass that Mathew Stafford threw to his new towering and isolated target.

Throw Ryan Broyles in the mix, and the Lions have the makings for an unstoppable red zone personnel grouping this season.

While Broyles did not play in week one as a precaution from his his offseason knee surgery, once he returns Broyles will be the perfect compliment given his stellar route running and propensity to find seams in zone defenses, which is what NFL teams predominantly play in the red zone.

On paper, this looks good...Maybe even too good. Now all that's left is for the Lions to execute and stop stopping themselves.

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-game-highlights/0ap2000000240986/GameDay-Vikings-vs-Lions-highlights

Thursday, September 5, 2013

2013 NFL Predictions - Because Jacksonville can still sign Tim Tebow and relocate to London


The 2013 NFL season is finally upon us. This season already promises to be better than the last if for no other reason than NBC finally got rid of that God awful theme song by Faith Hill for Sunday Night Football, replacing her with...Well, a crappier knockoff version of Faith Hill. 

Okay, NBC still sucks, but at least they don't have a pre-game show with some of the most forced unlikable personalities in all of football, and yes, I'm talking about you Boomer Esiason, Shannon Sharpe, Dan Marino and anyone else that CBS thinks would be a good idea to bring into their studio. 

The important thing is that we can all go to the sports bar where we can watch the games without any volume, which is slightly more exiting than listening to Joe Buck and Troy Aikman call a game for Fox. 

In any event, here are my predictions for the 2013 NFL season!

NFC
East
1. Washington: 10-6
Yes, I have questions about RG3's knee, but even if he is slightly less mobile this year, I still thought we was one of the best pocket passers that I ever saw coming out of college, and he did nothing last year to change my opinion. Where the Pigskins stand to gain the most is on defense with stud DE's Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan returning from injury.  

By the way, isn't it time for the Redskins to change their team name to one that isn't a racial slur? If the team would just change their name from the Redskins to the Pigskins, it would not only become less offensive, but they could continue to call themselves "The Skins." Throw in a hog related logo pay homage to their fans from their glory years in the 80's and early 90's and to generate merchandise sales, and I think we have a perfect solution. 

2. Dallas: 10-6
The Cowboys have greatly improved their offensive line by drafting C Jason Ferguson and luring G Brian Waters out of retirement...That is, assuming he has anything left in the tank. Tony Romo looks to be as in sync with his offense as at any point in his career, and Dez Bryant is destined to break out as a superstar. If Monte Kiffin's new defense can gel despite not having the ideal personnel for the front of his new 4-3 defense, Dallas could be the NFC's surprise team this year.

3. New York Giants: 9-7
This team is built more for the playoffs than the regular season...They just need to make sure they find a way to make it to the post season with what looks to be an aging and beat up offensive line. 

4. Philadelphia: 6-10
Chip Kelly's run first hurry up offense is an ideal fit for Michael Vick. The problem is that the quarterback for Chip Kelly's run first hurry up offense is Michael Vick. With a revamped offensive line, the Eagles should be able to run the ball with a deep corps of running backs, which should be their focus on offense to cut down on Vick's propensity to fumble or throw a "Vick six" to opposing defenses when he tries to do too much.

North
1. Green Bay: 11-5
Last year's top two draft picks Nick Perry and Jerel Worthy should return from injuries this year to provide much needed support rushing the passer at OLB and DE for Clay Mathews. Even with huge question at LT with Bryan Bulaga lost for the season, rookie running back Eddie Lacy should take some pressure off of all world QB Aaron Rogers and the offensive line. 

2. Detroit: 9-7
There was no important free agent signing this offseason than Detroit inking Reggie Bush. Even with Calvin Johnson facing man coverage while being bracketed by a linebacker and a safety on nearly every play, and facing gunner coverage from defenses in the red zone, Detroit's running backs couldn't take advantage of seeing the least number defenders in the box all season than any other team. Not only will Bush pull defenders away from Calvin Johnson, but he'll give Mathew Stafford a safety valve who can make big plays as a receiver out of the backfield that he hasn't had since Jahvid Best was forced to retire due to concussions. 

Throw in one of the best defensive lines in football and a secondary that hopes to upgrade to mediocre after drafting Darius Slay, as well as the return of Louis Delmas and the signing of Glover Quinn at S, and the Lions look to be in the mix to make the playoffs again. 




3. Chicago: 8-8
Marc Trestman brings his experience coaching in the CFL to Chicago, which may not be a bad thing considering that Jay Cutler throwing the ball on third down doesn't always work out so well. Actually, I'm not quite sure why Lovie Smith was fired, as the Bears problems on offense had more to do with talent than scheme, and their defense was one of the better ones in the NFL when it came to making big plays last season. 


In addition to his CFL background, new Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman also has a law degree...I'm sure that will go along way with his locker room cred.

4. Minnesota: 5-11
Despite a plethora of high draft picks and free agent signings, I'm not sure that the Vikings will have anywhere close to the record they had last season. Even if Cordarelle Patterson is ready to replace Percy Harvin, I'm not convinced that Christian Ponder is a starting caliber NFL QB. On defense the Vikings have issues with their back seven, and that's not a good problem to have in the NFC North.

South
1. Atlanta: 11-5
While Atlanta really aired the ball out last season, look for them to balance things out this year with addition of RB Steven Jackson, especially in the red zone. Osi Umenyiora should be a nice replacement for John Abraham, although I am concerned about the depth in Atlanta's secondary, especially with New Orleans poised for a comeback year.

2. New Orleans: 10-6
Sean Peyton returns, which should bring stability back to the Saints offense. I'm also really liking the addition of rookie WR Kenny Stills, who should team up with veteran Marques Colston and the under appreciated Lance Moore to give Drew Brees one of the leagues best trios of WR's, not to mention TE super-stud Jimmy Graham. The big question is whether the Saints defense can produce, as they lack impact players at nearly every position except for safety.




 There's nothing better in football right now than Drew Brees and his pre-game chants.

3. Tampa Bay: 8-8 
The Buccaneers have been very aggressive in the offseason the last two years, but have very little to show for it on the field. Darrelle Revis should be a nice addition to the Buc's secondary in a pass happy division. On offense, Josh Freeman faces a make or break season with a full stable of receivers, a premier running back and what looks to be a strong and healthy offensive line for the first time in his career.

4. Carolina: 6-10
Why the Panthers have kept their backfield intact when they continue to get ten cents on the dollar return from DeAngelo Williams, Mike Tolbert and Jonathan Stewart is beyond me. One of these days the franchise might even use some of that money to find a quality receiver to play opposite of Steve Smith before he retires or gets a lifetime suspension for bludgeoning an opposing player (or maybe even a teammate) to death. 

West
1. San Francisco: 12-4
Can the 49ers overcome the loss of WR Michael Crabtree for the season? With Alex Smith? No. With Colin Kaepernick and the league's best defense? Yes. Amazingly, the 49ers not only dumped Smith, who was a disappointment as the #1 overall draft pick, but they somehow conned the Chiefs into giving them a First Round pick for him. That's the best trade in the NFL since the Lions fleeced the Cowboys out of a first round pick for Roy Williams. 

2. Seattle: 10-6
Seattle has a huge home field advantage plus the good fortune to play in a weak division. With Percy Harvin sidelined for eat least most of the season, the burden will be on Golden Tate to emerge and Sidney Rice to return to his former self to give Russell Wilson serviceable targets, because I'm thinking that Mike Williams has pretty much run out of chances. Fortunately, a strong defense and strong running game should make the Seahawks contenders even if their receivers don't pan out.

3. St. Louis: 7-9 
I love the Rams secondary, I like their defensive line, but I don't like their offensive line or receivers. I think by the end of the season Sam Bradford and the Rams will start to show some progress under new coach Jeff Fisher, but I'm thinking that a slow start to the season will be too much to overcome. 

4. Arizona: 6-10 
I'd like to say the Cardinals underrated defense will keep them in games, but Carson Palmer's propensity to throw the ball to the wrong team. While Carson Palmer may not help the Cardinals win many more games than they did last season, at least he'll help Larry Fitzgerald's fantasy stats.

NFC Wildcards: New Orleans and Seattle

NFC Conference Championship: Green Bay over San Francisco

                                                    AFC


East
1. New England: 11-5 
The Patriots may have one of their worst teams talent wise in years, but their record wont suffer much, if any, by virtue of being in the worst division in football. But at least Tom Brady is a man's man from Boston. 

Wait for it....



2. Miami: 7-9
A rookie campaign from Ryan Tannehill that failed to excite anyone gives Miami the second best quarterback situation in the AFC East...By far. In desperate need of a deep threat for their vertical passing game, the Dolphins overspent on WR Mike Wallace, who seems to be having a tough time getting adjusted to his new surroundings. Miami's defense does have a chance to be good, but it looks like they have too many other problems to overcome.

3. Buffalo: 6-10
The Bills took a big step in the right direction last offseason...Buddy Nix resigned as their GM. While E.J. Manuel seems like he could be the long term answer at QB for Bills, his missed time during the pre-season damaged any chances they had at being competitive this season, although I do look for them to finally turn the corner next year. 

4. New York Jets: 8-8
I've tried to be a Rex Ryan supporter, but bringing Marc Sanchez in to play the 4th quarter of a pre-season was one of the dumbest coaching decisions since Bobby Ross unsuccessfully had the Lions attempt a 2 point conversion while trailing by 4 points with 5:26 left in a game, only to lose when Detroit got the ball back and drove down the field, but was forced to score a touchdown instead of what would have been an easy game tying field goal. Fortunately for Rex Ryan, Sanchez got hurt before he could reclaim the Jets starting QB job. 


What's creepier than Rex Ryan's foot fetish video with his wife? How about the tattoo he got on his arm of his wife butt ass naked aside from a Marc Sanchez jersey!
The only tattoo creepier than Sexy Rexy's is this tat of a naked Native American riding a corn dog.

North
1. Cincinnati:10-6
The Bengals may not be great, but they're solid across the board, starting with a top notch defense. If Mohamed Sanu can step up as a playmaker opposite A.J. Green, this team could go from just making the playoffs, to contending  for a Super Bowl.   

2. Baltimore: 10-6
After winning the Super Bowl, the Ravens defense lost future Hall of Famers in Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. However, Elvis Dumervil will team with Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata to give the Ravens solid posts on the edges and interior of their defense, which may even wind up being better than they were last season. Ray Rice's demise is also highly exaggerated, and the Ravens will be right back in the mix to win the AFC again this season.

3. Pittsburgh: 9-7
The Steelers are aging rapidly on defense, while attempting to rebuild their running game and offensive line. While Ben Roethlisberger and the passing game can keep Pittsburgh competitive, the Steelers sorely need rookie RB Le'Veon Bell to return from a foot strain and establish a power running game.

4. Cleveland: 7-9
I look for TE Jordan Cameron to have a breakout season, as well as Josh Gordon at WR, at least once he returns from suspension. All in all, I like what the Browns are doing on defense, and if Barkevious Mingo doesn't die he could develop into a pretty nice outside pass rusher. With so many young pieces seemingly in place, the Browns badly need Brandon Weeden to step up his game this season, or else the franchise will be set back another 2-3 years as they go back to the well looking for yet another quarterback to develop. 

South

1. Houston: 11-5
With the Texans finally finding an outside receiver to compliment Andre Johnson in DeAndre Hopkins, Matt Schaub may be able to make defenses pay for stacking the line against Arian Foster if he can stop bitching about getting hit by Ndamukong Suh. 

I am a bit concerned that Andre Johnson has bulked up so much that he looks and plays more like a slot tight end, but if he can resemble his old self for just one year they might have something special in Houston this season, as their defense has the talent to help the Texans get to a Super Bowl. 

2. Indianapolis: 9-7 
The Colts had an emotional season last year where the team really rallied together. With Bruce Arians moving on from Colts offensive coordinator to head coach of the Cardinals, I expect a mild regression this year for Andrew Luck, but that doesn't mean that they won't find themselves in the playoff hunt.

3. Tennessee: 7-9
With Chris Johnson in camp and in shape all pre-season, the Titans should see their running game re-emerge, especially with the addition of guard Chance Warmack. If so, that would make things much easier on Jake Locker at QB. However, questions still remain at defensive end and in the secondary.  

4. Jacksonville: 4-12
Bad news, Blaine Gabbert is still the Jags quarterback. Good news, the Jaguars can still sign Tim Tebow and relocate to London.

West
1. Denver: 10-6
Peyton Manning has regained much of the arm strength that was lacking last season after spinal surgery, which is scary considering that the Broncos are giving him two extra targets in slot receiver Wes Welker and Julius Thomas, who has the athleticism and potential to become a big play TE. 

Unfortunately, Denver's front office was too busy getting arrested for DUI's to properly document re-signing key DE Elvis Dumervil with the league office, which caused him to become a free agent and served as a huge blow to the Broncos Super Bowl chances.
  
2. Kansas City: 8-8
Andy Reid called Alex Smith the best quarterback in football. Sadly, it appears that heroin addiction runs in his family. While Dwayne Bowe is promising a born again break-out season, I'm skeptical that Smith has the arm strength to get him the ball down field where he excels.




3. San Diego: 6-10 
While Antonio Gates is healthier and in better shape than he's been in years, Danario Alexander's season ending knee injury derailed any chance of Phil Rivers re-establishing himself as one of the NFL's top QB's. 

Fortunately, the Chargers are going to feature Ryan Mathews at RB this year to take the pressure off of the passing game. What was that you ask? That was the sound of Rivers saying, "Oh fuck!"

4. Oakland: 2-14
With no offensive line, no receivers, and a featured running back who can't stay healthy and runs like he's wearing speed skates, the Raiders might have one of the worst teams if NFL history. If Terrell Pryor can work some magic with his legs while mixing in some read option, the Raiders might overachieve and win a game or two.

AFC Wildcards: Baltimore and Pittsburgh

AFC Conference Championship:  Houston over New England

Super Bowl Prediction: Green Bay 31 - Houston 17