Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Your 2010 Canon Review Pro Football Preview End of Season Review

2010 was quite possibly the wildest and wackiest season the NFL has ever had. Well, except for the 1987 season where teams put out replacement players due to the strike, but that's another story. This season had all sorts of unexpected occurrences, from the collapse of the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings, to a team with a losing record, the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks, winning their division and becoming the first losing team to ever make the postseason. This season saw the redemption of Michael Vick, the reestablishment of Tom Brady as the NFL's best quarterback, and saw Donovan McNabb get traded to the Redskins, sign a multi-million dollar contract extension the same night his team gets crushed by his former team, the Eagles, and eventually sees coach Mike Shanahan bench McNabb for the immortal Rex Grossman. Also, 2010 was (hopefully) the final season of Brett Favre, who proved two things, that even he can't play at a high level forever, and that it's not a good idea to send pictures of your junk to female team employees. We also saw the saga of Randy Moss, who in a matter of weeks managed to complain about his current team (the Patriots) not offering him a contract extension, get traded to the Vikings, come back to play the Patriots and then praise the Patriots organization during his entire post-game press conference, complain about the team's catering to such an extent that the Vikings cut him, and sign with the Titans where he does absolutely nothing (6 catches for 80 yards).. Those events are only the tip of the iceberg in a crazy season that will probably be followed by the craziest offeseaon in recent memory, as the owners and players union try to work out a new collective bargaining agreement which has been greatly complicated due to commissioner Roger Goodell's insistence to extend the regular season to 18 games, among other factors, and if an agreement is not reached, well we could be without pro football next year. But that's next year, instead it's time for me to take a look back at my picks at the beginning of this season and see just how good, or bad, I was able to prognosticate the 2010 NFL season. If you want, you can take a look at my original picks here, and my midseason review here.

AFC East (* - Wild Card)

Predictions:                              Current Record:

1. New England Patriots          1. New England Patriots (14-2)
2. Miami Dolphins*                 2. New York Jets* (11-5)
3. New York Jets                     3. Miami Dolphins (7-9)
4. Buffalo Bills                         4. Buffalo Bills (4-12)

Although I was correct about New England, I'd be lying if I said I expected the Patriots to dominate to the extent that they have this season. QB Tom Brady has the Patriots offense firing on all cylinders, and unheralded players such as RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis and TE Rob Gronkowski have developed into dangerous offensive players. After finishing the season on an eight game winning streak, the Patriots are the odds on favorite to win the Super Bowl. I was wrong about the Jets, as the team that I thought was overrated proved me wrong and won 11 games to earn a spot in the playoffs. A Super Bowl appearance seems unlikely for New York, but Rex Ryan and his boys are hungry, and will be looking to snack on their playoff foes. The Dolphins has a solid defense, but their offense wasn't so good, as they scored the third fewest points in the NFL this year. At midseason, some people, including me, were afraid that the Bills would go the entire season without a win. But those fears were unfounded, as the Bills went 4-4 in the second half, and were a dropped pass away from beating the playoff bound Steelers. Maybe next year will be the year that the Bills get out of the cellar in back into playoff contention. After all, if the Raiders, Chiefs, and Bucs can drastically improve, then why not the Bills.

AFC North

1. Baltimore Ravens               1. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
2. Pittsburgh Steelers*            2. Baltimore Ravens* (12-4)
3. Cincinnati Bengals               3. Cleveland Browns (5-11)
4. Cleveland Browns                4. Cincinnati Bengals (4-12)

Well, I had the top two teams making the playoffs, but just in the wrong order. The Steelers, despite missing QB Ben Roethlisberger for the first four games of the season, cruised to a 12-4 record and a first round bye, thanks in large part due to their top ranked defense and running game. Meanwhile, the Ravens also went 12-4 behind their third ranked defense, but could have gone 15-1 had they been able to close out games against Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and New England. To be fair, those teams had the three best records in the NFL, so the Ravens have at least proven they can hang with anybody in the league. Here's hoping for a third matchup between the Ravens and Steelers in the playoffs. I didn't think too highly of the Bengals at the beginning of the season, but I didn't think they would sink from 11 wins to 4 this year. It might be time to make massive changes in Cincinnati this offseason. The Browns were what we thought they were, although to their credit, they are only one of two teams to beat the Patriots this year. That wasn't enough to save coach Eric Mangini's job, but at least the Browns showed some glimmers of hope this season.

AFC South

1. Indianapolis Colts                1. Indianapolis Colts (10-6)
2. Tennessee Titans                 2. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8)
3. Jacksonville Jaguars           3. Tennessee Titans (6-10)
4. Houston Texans                   4. Houston Texans (6-10)

The Colts may have been banged up this year, but QB Peyton Manning and his crew survived enough injuries to put up a ten win season and win another division title. Of course, it helped that the other three teams had issues of their own. The Jaguars went 8-8 after a three game losing streak at the end of the season. In week 15, the Jaguars could have clinched the division with a win against the Colts, but fell, and then injuries to players such as RB Maurice Jones-Drew did the Jags in in the next two games. The Titans started the season 5-2 and had signed Randy Moss to gear up for the stretch run. After that, the Titans won one game as QB Vince Young and coach Jeff Fisher had a falling out, and the team collapsed along with the Young-Fisher relationship. The Texans had the league's leading rusher in Arian Foster, but once again found new and exciting ways to lose close games. In spite of this and other problems, the Texans are bringing back head coach Gary Kubiak. Well, it's not something I would do, but maybe the sixth year is the charm for Kubiak, assuming that there is any football next season.
AFC West:

1. San Diego Chargers            1. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)
2. Denver Broncos                  2. San Diego Chargers (9-7)
3. Oakland Raiders                 3. Oakland Raiders (8-8)
4. Kansas City Chiefs             4. Denver Broncos (4-12)

Well, I was quite wrong about the Kansas City Chiefs, who won most of the games they were supposed to win to win the division. Well, it wasn't quite that simple, as RB Jamaal Charles, WR Dwayne Bowe, and OLB Tamba Hali put together great seasons for Kansas City on their way to the division crown. The Chargers had the second highest scoring team, a defense that allowed the fewest yards in the league, and still find themselves out of the playoffs, thanks in large part to some horrendous play on special teams and key players missing time due to injuries and holdouts, like TE Antonio Gates and WR Vincent Jackson. I did have the Raiders third, although to be honest I thought they would be 6-10 instead of 8-8. Somehow, the Raiders went 6-0 against AFC West opponents and became the only team in NFL history to go undefeated in their division and miss the playoffs. The Broncos weren't so good this year, and so coach Josh McDaniels was shown the door before the end of the year. But kudos to WR Brandon Lloyd, who came back from obscurity to lead the NFL in receiving yards this year with 1,448.

NFC East:

1. Dallas Cowboys                   1. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
2. New York Giants                 2. New York Giants (10-6)
3. Washington Redskins         3. Washington Redskins (6-10)
4. Philadelphia Eagles             4. Dallas Cowboys (6-10) 

The Cowboys let everybody down in the first half of the season, but did show signs of life with a 5-3 finish under interim coach Jason Garrett. Nevertheless, 2010 was a disappointment for Jerry Jones and the Cowboys. 2010 was also disappointing for the Giants, particularly their 4th quarter collapse against the Eagles and their 45-17 shellacking by Green Bay late in the season. As it turns out, I had the Giants pretty much exactly where they finished, but the Giants had a team talented enough to do much more. The Eagles found their quarterback, although it wasn't Kevin Kolb, but Michael Vick, who put together his best season and became the player everybody hoped he would after being drafted number one in 2001. As for the Redskins, it seems to happen every year, but once again their big name acquisition, in this case QB Donovan McNabb, disappoints and is unable to make the Redskins a winning team again. After over a decade of big name players underachieving in Washington, you would think that Daniel Snyder and company would try something else, but I'm sure they'll go out and get Steve Smith or somebody like that next year and repeat the cycle all over again.
NFC North:

1. Green Bay Packers             1. Chicago Bears (11-5)
2. Minnesota Vikings*            2. Green Bay Packers* (10-6)
3. Chicago Bears                     3. Detroit Lions (6-10)
4. Detroit Lions                       4. Minnesota Vikings (6-10) 

At the beginning of the season, I felt that the Bears were too risky of a team to pick for the playoffs, as I figured that they would struggle on offense and finish 8-8 or something similar. Instead, the Bears won some close games, QB Jay Cutler and company improved enough on offense and now the Bears are the number two seed in the division. At least my choice for NFC Champions, the Packers, bailed me out and made the playoffs after wins against the Giants and the Bears in the season's final two weeks. However, despite their 10-6 record, only the Patriots had a bigger point differential then the Packers, who scored 148 more points then they allowed, so they could be a darkhorse in the postseason. The 2010 Minnesota Vikings season was so wacky and chaotic that there will probably be multiple books written about it. Their quarterback was involved in a sex scandal, they cut an All-Pro wide receiver three weeks after trading for him, they fired their coach after multiple reports leaked out about how little his team respected him, the roof on their stadium collapsed, and to top it all off, they won the NFL's first Tuesday game in 64 years behind a third-string quarterback. Other than that, it was business as usual for the Vikings, who at least got another strong season out of RB Adrian Peterson. The Lions were 6-10, losing six games by five points or less, and finishing the season with a four game winning streak that will probably make them the chic sleeper pick in the next football season, whenever that will be. Seriously, if QB Matthew Stafford stays healthy and the Lions get a consistent running game, then the Lions might see postseason play for the first time this century.

NFC South:

1. Atlanta Falcons                  1. Atlanta Falcons (13-3)
2. New Orleans Saints*         2. New Orleans Saints* (11-5)
3. Carolina Panthers              3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-6)
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers    4. Carolina Panthers (2-14) 

Hey, I was right about the top two teams in this division, as the Falcons were able to stay healthy this season and win 13 games behind a mistake-free offense powered by QB Matt Ryan, RB Michael Turner, and WR Roddy White. The Saints weren't quite as dominant as they were in 2009, but were still one of the best teams in the league, and QB Drew Brees, despite his higher interception total, is able to lead his team to victory in even the toughest circumstances, as we saw last Monday night in Atlanta. Tampa Bay won one game against a winning team this year (Sunday against the Saints) but nevertheless, it was quite a comeback season for the Bucs, who found their quarterback of the future in Josh Freeman (25 TDs, 6 INTs). The Panthers had the worst offense in the NFL, as their two 1,000 yard running backs from 2009, DeAngelo Williams and Johnathan Stewart, missed time due to injuries. Not to mention the issues Carolina had at quarterback, which were so bad that the Panthers were not able to use their best offensive player, WR Steve Smith, effectively. The Panthers were so inept that no offensive player scored more than three touchdowns. Predictably, the Panthers decided to fire their entire coaching staff, and will probably get rid of a lot of players as well.
NFC West:

1. Arizona Cardinals                1. Seattle Seahawks (7-9)
2. San Francisco 49ers            2. St. Louis Rams (7-9)
3. St. Louis Rams                    3. San Francisco 49ers (6-10)
4. Seattle Seahawks                4. Arizona Cardinals (5-11) 

The worst division in the history of football, bar none. The Seahawks, to their credit, exceeded expectations by winning seven games and the division, which isn't too bad considering that most people felt they would be the worst team in football in 2010. The 49ers were a popular pick to win the division this year, but poor quarterback play and disputes with coach Mike Singletary did them in, and ultimately led to Singletary being fired last week. I felt that despite the loss of Kurt Warner, the Cardinals would be fine with QB Derek Anderson leading the way. Whoops. The Rams were the favorites to win the division as of Sunday Night behind a strong rookie season from QB Sam Bradford. But the Rams couldn't win against Seattle last night. If it makes them feel any better, at least the Rams made me look bad by finishing second instead of third, although not quite as bad as the Cardinals made me look.

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

Well, My NFC Championship Game pick can't happen, as the Packers will have to play the Falcons in round two if they survive against the Eagles this week. I am surprised that all four of my 'final four' picks made the playoffs, so that's something. Since the Ravens and Packers are still alive, I'm going to keep my picks and go down with the ship, even if the Patriots and Steelers are probably better choices in the AFC, and the Falcons, Saints, and Eagles are better candidates to win the Super Bowl out of the NFC. Then again, the Ravens nearly beat the Patriots and have beaten the Steelers, while the Packers nearly beat the Falcons and beat the Eagles, so it wouldn't be too surprising if Baltimore and Green Bay were to make it through to postseason into the Super Bowl.

Preseason Picks:

1. QB Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (312 completions in 475 attempts, 3,922 yards, 28 TD passes, 11 interceptions, 101.2 QB Rating)
2. QB Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts (450-649, 4700, 33-17, 91.9)
3. QB Tom Brady, New England Patriots (324-492, 3900, 36-4)
Dark Horse: QB Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons (357-571, 3705, 28-9, 91.0)

Midseason Favorites:
1. Manning
2. Brady
3. QB Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers (357-541, 4710, 30-13, 101.8)
4. OLB Clay Matthews, Green Bay Packers (13.5 Sacks, 1 INT, 1 TD) 

At the end of the season, Brady is the obvious choice for MVP, as he led the league in touchdown passes, quarterback rating, and set a record for most consecutive passes without an interception (335) while leading the Patriots to a league best 14-2 record. With all due respect to Manning, Rodgers, and Eagles QB Michael Vick (233-372, 3018, 21-6, 100.2, 676 rushing yards, 9 rushing TDs), it's really not even close. Ryan and Rivers also had solid seasons, but each player is a notch below Brady and Vick as well. 

NFL Most Outstanding Offensive Player:

Preseason Picks:

1. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings (283 attempts, 1298 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns, 36 catches)
2. Aaron Rodgers
3. Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans  (316, 1364, 11, 44 catches)
Dark Horse: Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals (90 catches, 1137 yards, 6 TDs)

Midseason Favorites:
1. Rivers
2. Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans (327, 1616, 16, 66 catches)
3. Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons (115, 1389, 11)
4. Peterson 

Peterson was good once again this year, but his team's poor performance doesn't help him any here. Same for Johnson, while Fitzgerald had no chance at this award due mainly to the poor play of his quarterbacks. Once again, despite strong seasons from Foster, White, Vick, and Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles (230, 1467, 5, 45 catches), this is basically Brady's award here as well, as no other player in the NFL had a better season on offense than Tom Brady.

NFL Most Outstanding Defensive Player:

Preseason Favorites:

1. DeMarcus Ware, OLB, Dallas Cowboys (15.5 sacks, 2 fumble recovery, 1 TD)
2.Troy Polamalu, S, Pittsburgh Steelers (7 INTs, 49 tackles, 1 TD)
3. Patrick Willis, ILB, San Francisco 49ers (101 tackles, 6 sack)
Dark Horse: Darrelle Revis, CB, New York Jets (2 fumble recoveries)

Midseason Favorites:

1. Matthews
2. Haloti Ngata, DT, Baltimore Ravens (5.5 sacks, 47 tackles)
3. Tamba Hali, OLB, Kansas City Chiefs (14.5 sacks)
4. Aqib Talib, CB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6 Ints, 1TDs)

Ware led the NFL in sacks, but normally players on losing teams don't win the Defensive POY award unless they are clearly dominant over the field. Matthews somewhat slumped in the second half (3 sacks in the final eight games), while Willis played well, but like Ware, played for a losing team. Revis was nowhere near the impact player he was in 2009. In my estimation, there are five main contenders for the award, Matthews, Ngata, Hali, Polamalu, and the Ravens S Ed Reed (8 INT in 10 games). Each player is probably deserving of the award, but if it were up to me, I'd give it to Polamalu, as his return from an injury filled 2009 season made all the difference for the Steelers. Without Polamalu, the Steelers defense is not nearly as good as it is with him, and in my opinion, no other player on defense has a bigger impact on his team's performance than Troy Polamalu. But, we'll see who wins the award at the end of the day.

NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year:

Preseason Picks:

1. Ryan Matthews, RB, San Diego Chargers (158 carries, 678 yards, 7 touchdowns)
2. Jahvid Best, RB, Detroit Lions (171, 555, 4, 58 catches, 487 yards)
3. Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams (354-590, 3512, 18-15, 76.5 rating)
Dark Horse: Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys (45 catches, 561 yards, 6 TDs, 2 punt return TDs)

Midseason Favorites:

1. Bradford
2. Bryant
3. Mike Williams, WR, (65 catches, 964 yards, 11 TDs)
4. Maurkice Pouncey, C, Steelers 

Williams might have a strong case for the award, and Pouncey is the only offensive rookie to make the Pro Bowl, but Bradford had quite a rookie season for the Rams, setting a rookie record for most completions in the seasons and making the Rams passing game succeed despite losing his top two receivers to injury early in the year. Matthews and Best had their moments, while Bryant proved to be a top-notch playmaker before suffering an injury of his own, but Bradford is the clear favorite here.
NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year:

Preseason Picks:

1. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions (10 sacks, 48 tackles)
2. Eric Berry, S, Kansas City Chiefs (4 INTs, 72 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 TD)
3. Rolando McClain, ILB, Oakland Raiders (59 tackles, 0.5 sack, 1 INT)
Dark Horse: Derrick Morgan, DE, Tennessee Titans (1.5 sacks)

Midseason Favorites:
1. Suh
2. Berry
3. Earl Thomas, S, Seattle Seahawks (5 INTs, 60 tackles)
4. Koa Misi, OLB, Miami Dolphins (4.5 sacks, 29 tackles)

This is another award that will not be a close vote, as Suh was everything the Lions hoped for and then some, giving the team a disruptive force in the middle of the line, and you could make the case that he is the best defensive tackle in the NFL right now (I'd say Ngata is the only one better than Suh, but still). Patriots CB Devin McCourty (7 INT), like Suh, will be going to the Pro Bowl, while both Thomas and Berry proved to be playmakers from the safety position for their respective teams. But I would be shocked beyond belief if Suh did not win this award. 

Coach Most Likely to be Fired: 

1. John Fox, Panthers
2. Lovie Smith, Bears
3. Jack Del Rio, Jaguars
Dark Horse: Andy Reid, Eagles 

Of the four listed here, only one, John Fox, ended up being fired. Smith and Reid led their teams to division championships, so I'm pretty sure that they're safe, while it looks like the Jaguars will bring Jack Del Rio back for another season. As of this writing, there are six teams (Dallas, Minnesota, Denver, San Francisco, Carolina, and Cleveland) that fired their coaches, but there are whispers that Oakland's Tom Cable, Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis, and Tennessee's Jeff Fisher might also be on the chopping block.

Well, thanks for reading this rather long post, and if you have any comments about this or previous posts, or ideas for future reviews or posts, than share them either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at KtheC2001@gmail.com.  

1 comment:

  1. Thought you might enjoy this review of the Vikings now that their miserable 2010 season has ended: Top 5 Reasons for the Horrible 2010 Vikings Season (http://www.tchuddle.com/?p=118#more-118).

    Thanks for you post. Keep up the good content.

    -TC Huddle