Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Canon Review 2010 NFL Preview

Tomorrow marks the start of another NFL season. Which more than likely means that Sundays in the near future will not be full of activity at The Canon Review. But I digress. The 2010 NFL season may be the last NFL season you will ever see, or at least the last season you see with a 16 game schedule. With the CBA expiring next year and the players union and the owners at odds with each other, it's possible that the 2011 season may be delayed. Also, NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell is making a hard push for an 18 game schedule, and so far during his career, whatever Goddell wants, Goddell gets. So this more than likely be the last season of the NFL as you know it. So the question is, who's going to win the Super Bowl? For that and more, read on.

Season Predictions: (* = Wild Card)

AFC East:
1. New England Patriots
2. Miami Dolphins*
3. New York Jets
4. Buffalo Bills

Everybody seems to be high on the Jets' chances, but if you recall, the Patriots actually won this division last year. Tom Brady is now two years removed from his reconstructive knee surgery, and he should be more mobile than he was last year. Wes Welker is coming off a major knee injury himself, but Brady still has a lot of quality targets to throw to such as WRs Randy Moss and Julian Edelmen. Defensively, the secondary is a little young and the defensive line will miss Ty Warren, who will miss the 2010 season due to injury. However, Brandon Spikes will team up with Jerod Mayo to give the Patriots two top inside linebackers, and Bill Belicheck is still among the best defensive coaches in the game, so he should have the Patriots defense ready to play. The Dolphins have a superior running game led by RBs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, and WR Brandon Marshall gives emerging QB Chad Henne an elite receiver to throw to. Defensively, the Dolphins will need someone, whether it is rookie DE Jerrid Odrick or OLB Cameron Wake or somebody else to provide a pass rush, but the Dolphins did sign this year's top defensive free agent in ILB Carlos Dansby. I look for Marshall and Dansby to help lead the Dolphins to a wild-card spot. The Jets will be stout on defense, led by All-pro CB Darrelle Revis, but I don't like their offense very much. For all the hype around him, QB Mark Sanchez did not play that well last year, and he will be without his top receiver Santonio Holmes for the first four games of the season. Also, it remains to be seen if RB Shonn Greene can handle the load of being the team's number one running back. The Bills have three good running backs in rookie C.J. Spiller, Marshawn Lynch, and Fred Jackson. The problem is, the Bills forgot to build a decent offensive line to block for them, and their quarterback situation is still a mess. Defensively, the Bills have some decent players, but rushing the quarterback will be a problem. The Bills will contend for the top pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

AFC North
1. Baltimore Ravens
2. Pittsburgh Steelers*
3. Cincinnati Bengals
4. Cleveland Browns

The Baltimore Ravens have a loaded squad this year. With the addition of Anquan Boldin, the Ravens have finally added an elite receiver to team up with WR Derrick Mason. Added to that is a strong running game led by all-purpose threat Ray Rice and a solid offensive line. If QB Joe Flacco continues his improvement, the Ravens may very well be the team to beat in 2010. The Steelers will be without star QB Ben Roethlisberger for the first four games of the season, but their strong defense gets back S Troy Polamalu and DE Aaron Smith back from injury, so the Steelers should be able to hold the fort until Roethlisberger gets back. I expect the Steelers to continue to be one of the toughest teams to play in the NFL. The Bengals won the division last year, and added big-name WR Terrell Owens. But Owens and WR Chad Ochocinco has clearly lost a step, and the Bengals were huge beneficiaries of a light schedule last year, so even though they have a talented defense led by LB Ray Maualuga, expect the Bengals to take a step back this year. The Browns, quite frankly, do not have enough talent to be a threat in the AFC North, although RB Jerome Harrison could become one of the top backs in the NFL running behind a talented offensive line.

AFC South
1. Indianapolis Colts
2. Tennessee Titans
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
4. Houston Texans

Another season with Peyton Manning as the Indianapolis quarterback should, and will mean another division title for the Colts. Yes, they are a little beat up along the offensive line, but Manning and co. should keep on trucking, and the talented defense gets back S Bob Sanders from injury, although it remains to be seen just how long Sanders will remain healthy. The Titans ended the season on an 8-2 run, and RB Chris Johnson ran for over 2,000 yards last season. If I felt better about the Titans' defense, I would have picked them to grab a wild card spot, but I feel that there are too many holes, particularly in the front seven. The Jaguars always play hard and have talented players, such as RB Maurice Jones-Drew and CB Rashean Mathis on both sides of the ball, but the Jags have got to find some way to rush the quarterback. Maybe free agent DE Aaron Kampman will give the team a boost in that area. There are some people that feel that this might be the Texans' year to make their first appearance in the postseason, and QB Matt Schaub and WR Andre Johnson are two big reasons why, as both are superb players. However, as I look at their defense, I wonder just how they expect to stop anybody, especially with OLB Brian Cushing missing the first four games due to suspension. Expect the Texans to be on the wrong end of a lot of high-scoring shootouts.

AFC West
1. San Diego Chargers
2. Denver Broncos
3. Oakland Raiders
4. Kansas City Chiefs

The Chargers are probably the only halfway-decent team in this division. They have a great passing game led by QB Philip Rivers, and rookie RB Ryan Mathews should provide a boost to the running game. Defensively, they have a few issues, but less issues than any other team in this division. Denver will definitely miss OLB Elvis Dumerveil as he misses the season due to injury, and they failed to replace WR Brandon Marshall adequately, so unless journeymen WRs Jabar Gaffney and Brandon Lloyd suddenly improve, Denver could struggle to score some points. On defense, their secondary is talented but older than dirt, and the Broncos' front seven is a little light on talent. The Raiders are picked by some experts to be a surprise team this year, and QB Jason Campbell is a definite improvement over JaMarcus Russell. But Campbell has no one to throw to except for TE Zach Miller. Defensively, CB Nnamdi Asomugha is a world-class player, and rookie LB Ronaldo McLain will help this defense, although it's still just an average group at best. The Chiefs have a strong running attack with RBs Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles, but I still have my doubts about QB Matt Cassel and head coach Todd Haley, and their defense, even with star rookie S Eric Berry, still looks as if it's going to suck.

NFC East
1. Dallas Cowboys
2. New York Giants
3. Washington Redskins
4. Philadelphia Eagles

Originally, I had the Cowboys as my NFC representative for the Super Bowl, but after taking a closer look at their roster, I had to adjust my choice. Nevertheless, the defending division champs should be strong again this year, as QB Tony Romo has a whole bunch of weapons in his arsenal, and if the offensive line holds up, Romo could have another big year. Defensively, OLB DeMarcus Ware is one of the best players in the game, and OLB Anthony Spencer may be the breakout star of 2010. The Giants have a solid offense led by QB Eli Manning and WR Steve Smith, but their offensive line has seemingly aged ten years over the last year. The Giants' defense fell apart last year, and other than DE Justin Tuck, their defense lacks impact players. The Redskins made a big splash in hiring coach Mike Shanahan and trading for QB Donovan McNabb, and all that will get this mediocre squad is an 8-8 finish. The Eagles traded McNabb and are relying on Kevin Kolb to carry the load, but I have my doubts about whether he can or not. It would help if their offensive and defensive lines were a little more talented.

NFC North
1. Green Bay Packers
2. Minnesota Vikings*
3. Chicago Bears
4. Detriot Lions

The Packers are loaded on offense, as QB Aaron Rodgers has a lot of talented players such as WRs Greg Jennings and Donald Driver and TE JerMichael Finley to spread the ball around to. Defensively, the team has had another year to adjust to coordinator Dom Capers' 3-4 scheme, and NT B.J. Raji and OLB Clay Matthews are two talented players who should improve in their second year in the league. The Vikings have QB Brett Favre back for another season, but health issues have left his receiving corps mighty thin, but the Vikings are still a top defensive team and Favre has elite RB Adrian Peterson behind him to carry the offensive load. The Bears, in my mind, could go either way. On one hand, the defense has added DE Julius Peppers and gets ILB Brian Urlacher back from injury. On the other hand, the defense was awful last year and the offense, particularly QB Jay Cutler, was inconsistent at best. If new offensive coordinator Mike Martz can help Cutler harness his talent, and a wideout on the Bears steps up, they could be a strong team. I just don't see it though. The Lions have some talented players in WR Calvin Johnson and DT Ndamukong Suh, and are headed in the right direction, but they are probably a year away from becoming a contender.

NFC South
1. Atlanta Falcons
2. New Orleans Saints*
3. Carolina Panthers
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Falcons finished 9-7 last year despite the injuries of a lot of key players. Now, those players, such as RB Michael Turner, are back, and CB Dunta Robinson and rookie OLB Sean Witherspoon should help the defense. If DE John Abraham can return to his 2008 form, the Falcons could have a top defense to go with a high powered offense led by QB Matt Ryan and WR Roddy White. The Saints are looking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, but their defense has a few holes in it and will miss veteran S Darren Sharper as he recovers from injury. Their offense, led by QB Drew Brees, should be as potent as last year, and the Saints may not repeat as champs, but they will be in the postseason. The Panthers lost DE Julius Peppers to free agency and are breaking in a new quarterback in Matt Moore. The youngest team in the NFL has a solid running game with backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, but the team en masse might be too inexperienced to compete this year. The Buccaneers are still in rebuilding mode, and while the recent trend in the NFC South is for last year's worst team to finish first the next year, the Bucs simply don't have the team to perform that feat this year.

NFC West
1. Arizona Cardinals
2. San Francisco 49ers
3. St. Louis Rams
4. Seattle Seahawks

This division could very well feature four of the worst ten teams in the NFL. Arizona has issues at QB now that Kurt Warner has retired and the team waived what was to be his replacement in Matt Leinart. San Francisco also has issues at quarterback, as Alex Smith has yet to prove he can be at least an average quarterback. The Rams have RB Steven Jackson and some decent young players, but they're still a year away. The Seahawks are blowing up the team, and don't expect Pete Carroll's bunch to compete this year. Ultimately, I went with Arizona because they have the best coach in the division in Ken Whisenhunt, the best player in Larry Fitzgerald, and enough talented players on both sides of the ball so that new QB Derek Anderson won't have to carry the whole load. Don't be surprised if the team that wins this division finishes with a losing record, as that's how bad the NFC West is this year.

AFC Championship Game: Ravens over Colts
NFC Championship Game: Packers over Falcons
Super Bowl: Ravens over Packers

In the AFC, I look for a playoff rematch, as the Ravens and Colts look to be the two best teams in the conferences. This time, the Ravens will be the victor, as their offseason improvements to the offense will give them the edge, provided that S Ed Reed is back and healthy by then, which I'm saying he will be. In the NFC, the Falcons are hungry and talented enough to make a Super Bowl run, but the Packers seem to have the most talented team in the conference and perhaps the league, and QB Aaron Rodgers will cement his status as one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks this year. In the Super Bowl, look for the Ravens, with their fearsome defense and potent offense, to win it all in Dallas.

1. QB Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
2. QB Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts
3. QB Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Dark Horse: QB Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

It's a quarterback's league these days, as seven of the past nine years have seen a quarterback take the MVP award. Peyton Manning has four of them himself, and is a perennial contender for the award. Tom Brady also is a former MVP winner who still looks as if he's in the prime of his career. It would also be a mistake to discount the New Orelans Saints' QB Drew Brees, and if the Falcons have a big year, Matt Ryan might get some MVP votes his way. But, as I stated before, I think Rodgers will become an elite quarterback this year, so much so that he will be this year's most valuable player.

NFL Most Outstanding Offensive Player
1. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings
2. Aaron Rodgers
3. Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans
Dark Horse: Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals

Yes, there is a difference between the MVP and the Most Outstanding Offensive Player, after all, Johnson was last year's recipient, and looks to be a favorite this year. All of the quarterbacks mentioned as MVP candidates will be contenders for this award as well, and Larry Fitzgerald may have to prove that he's the best receiver in football in order to keep the Cardinals afloat. However, I'm going to go with Peterson. Last year, Peterson took a back seat to Brett Favre, but with the injuries to the Vikings' receiving corps and Favre's health in question, the Vikings will have to turn to Peterson to carry the load, and Adrian Peterson has proven in the past that he's more than capable. Don't be surprised if Peterson turns in a 1,800 yard plus season with over 15 touchdowns.

NFL Most Outstanding Defensive Player
1. DeMarcus Ware, OLB, Dallas Cowboys
2.Troy Polamalu, S, Pittsburgh Steelers
3. Patrick Willis, ILB, San Francisco 49ers
Dark Horse: Darrelle Revis, CB, New York Jets

Willis is a tackling machine who gets lost in the shuffle because he plays for a poor team. But make no mistake, he's a star. Revis and Polamalu are impact players in the defensive backfield for their respective teams. Revis is able to lock up any receiver, even stars like the Patriots' Randy Moss, while Polamalu does a little bit of everything for the Steelers. Ware is the best pass rusher in the game, with a 20-sack season already on the resume. It wouldn't surprise me if he had another 20 sack season this year.

NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year
1. Ryan Matthews, RB, San Diego Chargers
2. Jahvid Best, RB, Detroit Lions
3. Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams
Dark Horse: Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys

Matthews has been promised 250 carries by San Diego coach Norv Turner, and Matthews has the skill to make those carries go for a lot of yardage. Don't be surprised if Matthews puts up 1,200 yards this season. Best is a speedy back who should get plenty of opportunities in Detroit, while Bradford is a talented quarterback who might take a beating in St. Louis, but should put up at least a decent season. Bryant is a talented wideout who may replace the underachieving Roy Williams in the lineup early in the season, as he's too much of an impact player to keep on the bench for long.

NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year
1. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions
2. Eric Berry, S, Kansas City Chiefs
3. Rolando McClain, ILB, Oakland Raiders
Dark Horse: Derrick Morgan, DE, Tennessee Titans

Suh might be the best defensive tackle prospect to enter the league since Warren Sapp entered in 1995. He's big, bad, quick, and should make an immediate impact on the Lions' defense. Berry is a defensive playmaker who could become the next Troy Polamalu, without all of the hair. McClain was the leader of last year's Alabama Crimson Tide defense, who won the national title, and steps right into the Raiders lineup from day one. Morgan has been nicked up with injuries, but the All-American from Georgia Tech is one of the quickest linemen in the league, and if he's able to get on the field and learn the Titans' scheme, he could make a huge impact right away.

Coach Most Likely to lose his Job
1. John Fox, Panthers
2. Lovie Smith, Bears
3. Jack Del Rio, Jaguars
Dark Horse: Andy Reid, Eagles

For whatever reason, Fox and the Panthers seem to be at an impasse, as Fox is in the last year of his contract and the Panthers have shown little interest in bringing him back next year. Unless the Panthers have a huge year this season, I expect Fox to leave one way or another, and he'll probably find a new coaching job not long after leaving Carolina. Smith has led the Bears to a Super Bowl in 2006, but the Bears have done little since then and patience is running thin. Del Rio will begin his eighth season as the Jaguars' head coach, but interest in the team is at an all-time low, and the Jaguars have had losing seasons the last two years, so a third one could mean curtains for Del Rio. The Eagles made a huge change by trading Donovan McNabb, and they may be looking to make another change if they have a disappointing year. Patience is running thin amongst the Eagles' fan base with Andy Reid, and if the Eagles struggle early, the calls for his head could be defining in Philadelphia.

Well, that's the 2010 Canon Review Football Preview. Hopefully I'll get a few things right. If you have any thoughts about the upcoming NFL season, or want to submit an idea for a future review, than feel free to do so either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at

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