Friday, August 31, 2012

2012 NFL PREVIEW - Jacksonville Jaguars

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

2011 Record: 5-11-0 (3rd in AFC South) 

HEAD COACH: Mike Mularkey

Key Additions: QB Chade Henne; WR Laurent Robinson; CB Aaron Ross

Key Losses: CB Drew Coleman; WR Kasim Osgood

Offense: Blaine Gabbert enters his second season and will be starting quarterback in Week One this season. Gabbert took over early last year and finished with 2,214 yards passing and twelve touchdowns and eleven interceptions. Chad Henne comes over from Miami and will be the backup.
The Jaguars need to get Maurice Jones-Drew, the NFL's leading rusher in 2011, into the picture. Jones-Drew has been a holdout this summer after going for 1,606 yards and eight touchdowns with a 4.7 ypc average last season.
If the Jags have to go without Jones-Drew, then Rashad Jennings is their guy after missing last year with a knee injury. Jennings ran for over 400 yards in 2010 and is a good compliment to MJD. Greg Jones is once again the fullback.
The wide receivers will have a new kid in town as Justin Blackmon, the team's top draft pick (number five overall) arrives from Oklahoma State to help improve the passing game. The other starter with Blackmon will be free agent Laurent Robinson, who had a big year for Dallas last year, grabbing 54 passes for 858 yards (15.9 ypc average) and eleven touchdowns.
The Jags' leading receiver from 2011, Mike Thomas is back after making 44 catches for 415 yards and one touchdown. Along with Thomas, Jacksonville also has tight end Mercedes Lewis (39 receptions for 460 yards), Chastin West (13, 163, two TD) and reserve tight end Zach Miller.
The offensive line will have Brad Meester at center. The guards are Will Rackley and Uche Nwaneri and the tackles are Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton. Adding depth up front will be Guy Whimper, John Estes, Jason Spitz, Daniel Baldridge and Cameron Bradfield.
Jacksonville struggled to score points last year, compiling just 243 for the entire season while finishing dead last in offense, averaging a paltry 259 yards per game. The passing game was also 32nd in the NFL, gaining just 136 yards per game. The running game was 12th overall, gaining 123 yards per game.

Defense: The Jags' defense was very strong last year, giving up just over 20 points a game while ranking among the top ten against both the run and the pass.
Jacksonville only allowed 313 yards per game, which was sixth overall. The run defense allowed 104 yards (ninth in NFL) and the pass defense finished eighth, giving up 209 yards per game. Jacksonville totaled 31 quarterback sacks and 17 interceptions last season.
Jacksonville's 4-3 defensive scheme will have Jeremy Mincey (eight QB sacks) and rookie Andre Branch (Clemson) at the end positions. The tackles are Terrance Knighton and Tyson Alualu. D'Anthony Smith, Austen Lane, C.J. Mosley, Corvey Irvin and John Chick will be the backups.
Linebacking is a strength for this team, with Paul Posluszny in the middle. The outside backers are Daryl Smith and Clint Session. Other linebackers include Russell Allen, Kyle Bosworth and Brandon Marshall, a rookie from Nevada.
The secondary will have Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox at the corners with Dawan Landry and Dwight Lowery at the safety spots.
Aaron Ross is with the team via free agency to add depth along with William Middleton, Courtney Greene, Mike Harris, Chris Prosinski and Kevin Rutland.

OUTLOOK: The season begins with a big question mark as the team starts without holdout running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who is the main cog in the offense.
Without MJD, the pressure is on reserve runner Rashad Jennings and second year QB Blaine Gabbert to make the offense go forward. Gabbert should improve in his second season, and better pass protection would help, as the Jags allowed 44 sacks a year ago.
With two decent receivers to throw to, Gabbert should see better numbers in 2012 as Blackmon and Robinson will present downfield threats that weren't consistently there last season.
Defensively, this team should be sound once again, which Head Coach Mike Mularkey would like to see, along with big improvements on offense.
Playing in the AFC South, one of the league's weaker divisions, the Jags know they are not too far from being competitive again. Continued good play on defense and improvement from the offense will go a long way to ensuring that success.
The call for this season is likely a 6-10 record (possibly worse if MJD sits out all year), which should be enough to avoid the basement again, while the Jaguars build for a better future.

TEAM SCHEDULE:
Week 1- at Minnesota
Week 2- vs. Houston
Week 3- at Indianpolis
Week 4- vs. Cincinnati
Week 5- vs. Chicago
Week 6- BYE
Week 7- at Oakland
Week 8- at Green Bay
Week 9- vs. Detroit
Week 10- vs. Indianapolis
Week 11- at Houston
Week 12- vs. Tennessee
Week 13- at Buffalo
Week 14- vs. NY Jets
Week 15- at Miami
Week 16- vs. New England
Week 17- at Tennessee


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Another Republican Con Job


2012 NFL PREVIEW - Indianapolis Colts

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

2011 Record: 2-14-0 (4th in AFC South) 

HEAD COACH: Chuck Pagano

Key Additions: QB Andrew Luck; CB Vontae Davis; WR Donnie Avery; OL Winston Justice; OL Samson Satele; DL Cory Redding; DB Tom Zbikowski

Key Losses: QB Peyton Manning; WR Pierre Garcon; RB Joseph Addai; OL Jeff Saturday; LB Gary Brackett; TE Dallas Clark

Offense: The Colts are going in a new direction and top draft pick Andrew Luck is their quarterback after a strong collegiate career at Stanford. Also in camp is Drew Stanton and Chandler Harnish.
The running game will have Donald Brown (645 yards, 4.8 ypc average and five touchdowns) and Delone Carter, who rushed for 377 yards and scored twice. Others in the picture include rookie Vick Ballard (Mississippi State), Mewelde Moore and Deji Karim. The fullback is Ryan Mahaffey.
At wide receiver, Indianapolis still has Reggie Wayne, who led the team with 75 receptions for 960 yards and four touchdowns along with Austin Collie, who grabbed 54 passes for 514 yards and a touchdown.
Donnie Avery comes over from Tennessee this season and has had some decent seasons when he played with the St. Louis Rams. Rookies T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazil are also in the mix. The tight ends will be Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, both rookies who were taken in the first three rounds of the draft.
The line has Samson Satele at center this season with Joe Reitz and Mike McGlynn at guard. The tackles will be Anthony Castonzo and Winston Justice. Backups are Jeff Linkenbach, Seth Olsen, Jake Kirkpatrick, Mike Tepper and rookie Justin Anderson.
The Colts definitely missed QB Peyton Manning last year and it showed as the team finished 30th overall (287 yards per game) and 26th in rushing (100 yards a game) and 27th in passing, where they averaged 187 yards per game.

Defense: Like the offense, the Colts suffered through a miserable 2011 season, allowing 371 yards per game and finishing 25th in the league on defense, including 29th against the run, where they allowed 144 yards a game. The pass defense finished 15th overall, allowing 227 yards per game.
For the 2012 season, Indy will play the 3-4 defense and shift Dwight Freeney (8 1/2 QB sacks) and Robert Mathis (9 1/2 sacks) to outside linebackers in the scheme.
Kavell Conner and Pat Angerer are the inside linebackers and the line up front will feature nose tackle Antonio Johnson. The ends will be Drake Nevis and Cory Redding.
Backing up among the front seven will be Fili Moala, Brandon McKinney, Ricardo Mathews, Josh Chapman, Jerry Hughes, A.J. Edds, Mario Harvey and Scott Lutrus.
The secondary has safeties Antoine Bethea and Tom Zbikowski. The cornerbacks will be Justin King and Jerraud Powers (two interceptions with one TD return of a pick) with newcomer Vontae Davis, acquired in a recent trade with Miami, ready to go as well.
Adding depth to the defensive backfield is David Caldwell, Kevin Thomas and Jermale Hines.
The Colts totaled just 29 quarterback sacks and eight interceptions last season.

OUTLOOK: Revamping an entire organization is never easy and the Colts are sure to go through the growing pains as the 2012 season goes along.
Luck should be a decent quarterback and who knows, he may turn out to be the face of the franchise for years to come. The offense will have to improve and if the running game can compliment the passing attack, which still has two quality veterans playing for the team, the Colts may be better than some people might think.
The defense will have a new look that is more accustomed to the style new Head Coach Chuck Pagano likes to play. Mathis and Freeney are relentless pass rushers and should continue to provide the team with a positive in that area.
This team should do better than the 2011 version and Luck may very well be the best rookie in the NFL this season.
The Colts should finish 4-12 this year, which would be double the amount of wins they had last year. The future could be a bright one as the team rebuilds completely and looks forward to better days ahead.

TEAM SCHEDULE:
Week 1- at Chicago
Week 2- vs. Minnesota
Week 3- vs. Jacksonville
Week 4- BYE
Week 5- vs. Green Bay
Week 6- at NY Jets
Week 7- vs. Cleveland
Week 8- at Tennessee
Week 9- vs. Miami
Week 10- at Jacksonville
Week 11- at New England
Week 12- vs. Buffalo
Week 13- at Detroit
Week 14- vs. Tennessee
Week 15- at Houston
Week 16- at Kansas City
Week 17- vs. Houston













Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Paul Ryan Hits It Out of the Park? More Like a Foul Ball

Remember when Sarah Palin made her debut in 2008 at the Republican National Convention and the entire national media fawned all over her and said she "hit it out of the park tonight?"
How did that turn out for the GOP?
Well, here it is four years later and Paul Ryan gave his speech as the Republican VP nominee and they all are saying the same thing again.
Problem is, all Ryan did was spew vitriol against President Barack Obama.  

Check the facts and all you see are lies, lies, lies in the Ryan speech.   
Obama was not even President of the United States when the GM Plant in Janesville, Wisconsin closed it's doors in December of 2008. George W. Bush was still in the White House when that happened.

Another Ryan lie is about Medicare.

The Paul Ryan Medicare Plan puts senior citizens (TODAY'S SENIOR CITIZENS) out on the curb regarding Medicare as you know it. He will turn it into a voucher system and even his potential boss, Mitt Romney, won't entirely embrace the Paul Ryan Medicare plan.
This nit wit from Wisconsin did nothing to bring the country together with his speech tonight.
In fact, while wasting my time watching this liefest called a speech at the RNC, one thought kept ringing loud and clear in my mind.
YOU LIE!
Yes, where was Joe "You Lie" Wilson tonight when America needed him most to protest the Ryan liefest.
How does the media (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox "News", CNN, etc.) NOT FACT CHECK this clown from Janesville, Wisconsin who (God forbid) could be one heartbeat away from the presidency if  Romney actually wins this November.
Same thoughts four years ago when Sarah Palin adorned that stage at the RNC and droned on and on about Obama and Biden and how bad they would be for America.
Well, my fellow Americans,  I have some real news for you... don't expect better things for the 99 percent of Americans with Romney and Ryan.
Do YOU really trust Romney and Ryan?
Seriously... Do YOU really trust those two liars?
We will see come November.

2012 NFL PREVIEW - Houston Texans

HOUSTON TEXANS

2011 Record: 10-6-0 (1st in AFC South) 

HEAD COACH: Gary Kubiak

Key Additions: WR Bryant Johnson; P Donnie Jones

Key Losses: LB/DE Mario Williams; CB Jason Allen; TE Joel Dreesen; OL Eric Winston, OL Mike Brisiel; LB DeMeco Ryans

Offense: The Texans rely heavily on the running game and have two solid running backs in Arian Foster (1,224 yards for a 4.4 ypc average and ten touchdowns) and Ben Tate, who ran for 942 yards (5.4 ypc average) and scored four touchdowns. In addition, Foster is also a good target out of the backfield, catching 53 passes for 617 yards and two touchdowns last year.
The quarterback will be Matt Schaub, who is coming off an injury plagued season that saw him throw for 2,479 yards with 15 TD and just six interceptions. Backup QB T.J. Yates filled in admirably last year, playing in six games while helping to lead the Texans to the playoffs while passing for 949 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions.
The top wide receiver is Andre Johnson, who was injured for a good portion of last season. Johnson played in only seven regular season games and caught 33 passes for 492 yards (14.9 ypc average) and two touchdowns.
Other wideouts include Kevin Walter (39, 474, three TD), Bryant Johnson and rookies Keyshawn Martin (Michigan State) and DeVier Posey, who played at Ohio State. The tight end is Owen Daniels, who made 54 receptions for 677 yards and three touchdowns. Garrett Graham is the backup tight end.
The offensive line has center Chris Myers and tackles Rashad Butler and Duane Brown. The guards are Wade Smith and Antoine Caldwell. In reserve are Derek Newton, Thomas Austin, Andrew Gardner and rookie draft picks Brandon Brooks (Miami, Ohio) and Ben Jones (Georgia).
The Texans rushing attack finished second in the NFL last season, averaging 153 yards per game while the passing game was 18th (219 yards per game). Overall, Houston ranked 13th on offense, averaging 372 yards per game.

Defense: Superstar Mario Williams left for free agency and signed with the Buffalo Bills, leaving the Texans with a big void to fill on their defensive front.
The Texans use the 3-4 look and have nose tackle Shaun Cody along with ends J.J. Watt (5 1/2 QB sacks) and Antonio Smith, who registered 6 1/2 sacks.
The linebacking unit is tremendous and features pass rushers Connor Barwin (11 1/2 sacks) and Brooks Reed (six sacks) on the outside. The inside linebackers are Brian Cushing (four sacks and two interceptions) and Darryl Sharpton.
Backups for the front seven of the defense will be linebacker Whitney Mercilus, the team's top rookie draft pick from Illinois. Also in the fold are Tim Jamison, Earl Mitchell, Tim Dobbins, Bradie James, Jesse Nading and rookie Jared Crick.
The secondary has cornerbacks Jonathan Joseph (four INT) and Kareem Jackson. The safeties include Danieal Manning (two INT) and Glover Quin.
Backing up in the defensive backfield are Brice McCain, Quintin Demps (two picks), Brandon Harris, Troy Nolan, Shiloh Keo and Sherrick McManis.
Houston's defense finished second overall in 2011, giving up just 286 yards a game, including only 96 yards rushing per game (4th in NFL) and 190 yards passing allowed, which was third in the league. The Texans totaled 17 interceptions and 44 sacks last year and allowed the fourth fewest points in football, giving up 278 last year, which was just 17 points per game.

OUTLOOK: As the 2012 season rolls around, the Texans are the overwhelming favorite to repeat as AFC South division champions.
Head Coach Gary Kubiak has a team that can make a run to the Super Bowl if everything falls into place this season.
Quarterback Matt Schaub was enjoying a good season before suffering a season ending injury that took the air out of the offensive sails.
The running tandem of Foster and Tate is one of the league's best as both runners could top 1,000 yards rushing this season. Add in a healthy season from wide receiver Andre Johnson and the team has tremendous potential to light up the scoreboard.
The defense should be solid once again in spite of losing Williams, who was hurt last season, to the Bills via free agency. This defense gets after opposing quarterbacks with relentless pressure that allows the defensive backs to blanket opposing wide receivers.
As long as the team stays relatively healthy, they could do some damage come playoff time. Schaub still has to show he can do it in crunch time because it was backup QB T.J. Yates taking the snaps during the team's playoff games.
With only Tennessee looming as a serious challenge in the division, look for the Texans to make it two in a row for the division title and get back to the playoffs with an 11-5 record this year. How far they go in the playoffs will rest with Schaub being healthy and the defense continuing to play solid.

TEAM SCHEDULE:
Week 1- vs. Miami
Week 2- at Jacksonville
Week 3- at Denver
Week 4- vs. Tennessee
Week 5- at NY Jets
Week 6- vs. Green Bay
Week 7- vs. Baltimore
Week 8- BYE
Week 9- vs. Buffalo
Week 10- at Chicago
Week 11- vs. Jacksonville
Week 12- at Detroit
Week 13- at Tennessee
Week 14- at New England
Week 15- vs. Indianapolis
Week 16- vs. Minnesota
Week 17- at Indianapolis

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The 2012 RNC

Here's your GOP at their convention in 2012 ...


















2012 NFL PREVIEW - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

2011 Record: 4-12-0 (4th in NFC South) 

HEAD COACH: Greg Schiano

Key Additions: WR Vincent Jackson; TE Dallas Clark; OL Carl Nicks; DL Amobi Okoye; QB Dan Orlovsky; CB Eric Wright

Key Losses: OL Jeff Faine; QB Josh Johnson; LB Geno Hayes; DB Tanard Jackson; DL Tim Crowder

Offense: After a breakout season in 2010, quarterback Josh Freeman took a big step backward in 2011, passing for 3,592 yards while throwing 22 interceptions with just 16 touchdowns. Freeman did run for 238 yards and scored four rushing touchdowns while being sacked 32 times.
The backup this season looks to be free agent Dan Orlovsky, who passed for 1,201 yards with six TD and four picks with Indianapolis last season.
The running game will need a boost after finishing 30th overall, averaging just 91 yards per game. The Bucs leading rusher a year ago was LeGarrette Blount, who rushed for 781 yards and five touchdowns while averaging 4.2 yards per carry.
Blount could be sharing the load with rookie pick Doug Martin (Boise State) this season while others in the fold include Michael Smith, a rookie from Utah State, Robert Hughes, Mossis Madu and fullbacks Erik Lorig and Drake Dunsmore.
The wide receivers this season will include a huge free agent signing in Vincent Jackson, who comes over from the San Diego Chargers after catching 60 passes for 1,109 yards (18.4 ypc average) and nine touchdowns. Jackson provides the team with a big target who has big play abilities.
Mike Williams is the other wideout and caught 65 passes last season for 771 yards and three touchdowns.
Other wide receivers include Arrelious Benn (30, 441, three TD), Preston Parker (40, 554, three TD), Jordan Shipley and Sammie Stoughter.
The tight end position has Dallas Clark (34, 352, two TD) and Luke Stocker, who made twelve receptions last season.
The line has center Jeremy Zuttah, guards Carl Nicks and Ted Larsen, who is replacing the injured Davin Joseph. The tackles are Donald Penn and Jeremy Trueblood. Others include Derek Hardman, Demar Dotson, Ted Larsen and Jamon Meredith.
Tampa Bay finished 27th in scoring last year, totaling just 287 points. The offense was 21st overall, averaging 319 yards per game. The Bucs finished 16th in passing, getting 228 yards per game.

Defense: This unit was a disaster last season, allowing the most points in the NFL (494), which was 31 points per game allowed.
The run defense was last, giving up 156 yards per game. The pass defense finished 21st overall, allowing 238 yards a game to contribute to a 30th ranked defense, which allowed 394 yards per game.
Ouch!
The Bucs will employ the 4-3 defense and will have Gerald McCoy and Roy Miller at the tackles. The ends are Michael Bennett, who had four QB sacks, and Adrian Clayborn (7 1/2 sacks). Also available on the D line is Frank Okam, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Amobi Okoye, George Johnson and Gary Gibson.
At linebacker, Tampa Bay will have Mason Foster in the middle along with outside linebackers Quincy Black and rookie Lavonte David (Nebraska). Dekoda Watson, Adam Hayward and rookie Najee Goode (West Virginia) will be ready to go as well.
The secondary will have veteran Ronde Barber moving over to play safety this season and he will team with Mark Barron (top rookie pick from Alabama) in the safety spots. The corners will be Eric Wright and Aqib Talib. Barber picked off three passes last season and Talib had two interceptions, taking back both for touchdowns.
Larry Asante, Ahmad Black, E.J. Biggers, Cody Grimm, Myron Lewis and Keith Tandy will be on hand to provide depth in the secondary.

OUTLOOK: Improving the defense and cutting down on the turnovers will be the key challenges for new Head Coach Greg Schiano, who takes over for Raheem Morris, who was fired when the Bucs collapsed down the stretch last season, losing ten straight games to finish the year at 4-12.
Tampa Bay finished dead last with a minus-16 in the turnover category and must improve in that area. Freeman has to minimize the mistakes he made a year ago and the running game must do better to relieve the pressure on the fourth year quarterback.
Stopping the run will be priority number one for the defense and getting better pressure on opposing quarterbacks would help too. Tampa Bay had just 23 sacks last year to go with 14 interceptions.
Playing in one of the league's better divisions (NFC South) is a challenge and the Bucs have to be up to it against New Orleans, Atlanta  and Carolina.
The team fell off from a 10-win season two years ago to the basement in the division last year, so what will be in store for the 2012 season?
Figure on a 5-11 finish this year for the Buccaneers as they rebuild for the future.
They are not as bad as a year ago and probably not as good as their record two years ago. The schedule is pretty tough, but as long as they play better defense and limit the mistakes on offense, the Bucs should improve.

TEAM SCHEDULE:
Week 1- vs. Carolina
Week 2- at NY Giants
Week 3- at Dallas
Week 4- vs. Washington
Week 5- BYE
Week 6- vs. Kansas City
Week 7- vs. New Orleans
Week 8- at Minnesota
Week 9- at Oakland
Week 10- vs. San Diego
Week 11- at Carolina
Week 12- vs. Atlanta
Week 13- at Denver
Week 14- vs. Philadelphia
Week 15- at New Orleans
Week 16- vs. St. Louis
Week 17- at Atlanta

Monday, August 27, 2012

2012 NFL PREVIEW - New Orleans Saints

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

2011 Record: 13-3-0 (1st in NFC South) 

HEAD COACH: Joe Vitt (interim Head Coach while Sean Payton serves season-long suspension)

Key Additions: DL Brodrick Bunkley; LB David Hawthorne; LB Curtis Lofton; LB Chris Chamberlain; OL Ben Grubbs

Key Losses: WR Robert Meacham; CB Tracy Porter; LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar; DL Shaun Rogers; OL Carl Nicks

Offense: What more needs to be said about the Saints offense after the record setting year they had in 2011?
Quarterback Drew Brees broke the all-time NFL record for passing yardage in a single season as well as the completion percentage by throwing for 5,476 yards and completing 71.2 percent of his passes to go with 46 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions. Brees' backup will be Chase Daniel.
The number of weapons for Brees to choose from is awesome as wide receivers include Marques Colston (80 catches for 1,143 yards and eight touchdowns), Devery Henderson (32, 503, two TD), Lance Moore (52, 627, eight TD) and tight end Jimmy Graham, who led the team with 99 receptions for 1,310 yards and eleven touchdowns. Rookie pick Nick Toon (Wisconsin) may get a chance to contribute as well.
The running backs are also relied upon in a big way in the passing game with Darren Sproles (86 receptions for 710 yards and seven touchdowns) and Pierre Thomas (50, 425, one TD) providing consistent targets for Brees.
Speaking of running backs, the Saints have a quartet of runners in Thomas, who ran for 562 yards with a 5.1 ypc average and five touchdowns. Sproles led the team with 603 yards and had a 6.9 ypc with two touchdowns in addition to taking a punt return back for a score and finishing in the top five in kickoff returns. In fact, Sproles set the NFL record last season with 2,969 all-purpose yards.
In addition to those guys, New Orleans features Mark Ingram (474 rush yards and five TD) and Chris Ivory, who ran for 374 yards and one touchdown in limited action.
The line provides decent pass protection (only 24 QB sacks allowed) while opening the holes for the backs in the explosive offense. The center is Brian de la Puente and the guards are Ben Grubbs and Jahri Evans. The tackles will be Jermon Bushrod and Charles Brown. In reserve are Eric Olsen, Matt Tennant, Zach Strief and rookies Andrew Tiller and Marcel Jones.
The Saints led the league in offense in 2011, piling up a record 7,474 yards while averaging 467 yards per game. The passing game was first with 334 yards per game and the running game finished sixth overall, gaining 133 yards per game. New Orleans scored 547 points, which was second in the league.

Defense: Improvement is needed here as the team simply gave up too much yardage last year, especially against the pass.
The Saints allowed 369 yards a game, ranking 24th in the NFL, including giving up 260 yards through the air, which was 30th overall. The run defense was respectable, allowing 109 yards, which put the Saints at 12th in the league. Better pressure on opposing quarterbacks is also needed as the team had only 33 quarterback sacks a year ago.
New Orleans uses the 4-3 scheme and has ends Cameron Jordan and Turk McBride. The tackles are Sedrick Ellis and free agent Brodrick Bunkley. Also on hand is Junior Galette (4 1/2 QB sacks), Remi Ayodele, Greg Romeus, pass rush specialist Will Smith (6 1/2 sacks), Mitch King, Tom Johnson and rookie Akiem Hicks.
The linebacking unit was made over as starter Jonathan Vilma was suspended by the league for the entire season in the "bounty gate" scandal that rocked the team in the off-season.
The Saints signed three new linebackers for 2012, with two of them lining up as starters.
Outside linebacker Scott Shanle, who is a holdover, will be joined by free agent David Hawthorne on the outside while Curtis Lofton, another free agent signee, will play the middle spot.
Chris Chamberlain was also inked to a deal and will be on hand along with Jonathan Casillas and Martez Wilson at linebacker.
The secondary has Roman Harper (7 1/2 sacks) and Malcolm Jenkins as the safeties with Jabari Greer and Patrick Robinson playing cornerback. Robinson made four of the team's nine interceptions last season.
Reserves include Jonathon Amaya, Isa Abdul-Quddus, Johnny Patrick and rookie Corey White.

OUTLOOK:  There is no doubt the team will continue score at will (or so it seems) with Brees and company. The Saints topped 30 or more points ten times last season, including 40-plus points six times, with a 62-point effort against Indianapolis during a blowout win.
Stopping the opposition better will be important in 2012, evidenced the Saints couldn't do it when it counted most... in the playoffs.
Also in the mix will be the "bounty gate" scandal as a key defensive player (Vilma) and Head Coach Sean Payton are both suspended for the entire season by the league.
Whether that will be a big distraction or not remains to be seen because the Saints offense is a machine and did not miss a beat when it was called by an assistant coach for a time last year when Payton was up in the coach's booth due to a knee injury he suffered from a collision during a game.
As long as Brees is healthy and the weapons remain intact, the Saints are always going to be in the game.
Barring any major injuries to key players, count on the Saints making it back to the playoffs following an 11-5 season with the offense scoring 30-plus a game once again.
Once the playoffs start, the defense has to show they can do their part if the Saints want to get back to the Super Bowl, which is a possibility this season.

TEAM SCHEDULE:
Week 1- vs. Washington
Week 2- at Carolina
Week 3- vs. Kansas City
Week 4- at Green Bay
Week 5- vs. San Diego
Week 6- BYE
Week 7- at Tampa Bay
Week 8- at Denver
Week 9- vs. Philadelphia
Week 10- vs. Atlanta
Week 11- at Oakland
Week 12- vs. San Francisco
Week 13- at Atlanta
Week 14- at NY Giants
Week 15- vs. Tampa Bay
Week 16- at Dallas
Week 17- vs. Carolina

Sunday, August 26, 2012

2012 NFL PREVIEW - Carolina Panthers

CAROLINA PANTHERS

2011 Record: 6-10-0 (3rd in NFC South) 

HEAD COACH: Ron Rivera

Key Additions: RB Mike Tolbert; DB Haruki Nakamura; OL Bruce Campbell; LB Kenny Onatolu; OL Mike Pollak

Key Losses: LB Dan Connor; OL Geoff Schwartz; OL Travelle Wharton; WR Legedu Naanee; OL Jeff Otah

Offense: The Panthers offense begins and ends with second year quarterback Cam Newton, who had a monster rookie season by passing for 4,051 yards to go with 21 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Newton's pass yardage set an NFL rookie record as did his 14 rushing touchdowns for quarterbacks. Newton also ran for 706 yards, averaging 5.6 yards per carry.
Wow!
Backing up Newton will be Derek Anderson and Jimmy Clausen.
The running backs will be DeAngelo Williams (836 yards rushing, with a 5.4 ypc average and seven touchdowns) and Jonathan Stewart, who had 761 yards and also averaged 5.4 yards per carry to go with four rushing touchdowns.
The fullback is Mike Tolbert, who put together some good seasons with San Diego, as he rushed for 490 yards with eight touchdowns and also caught 54 passes for 433 yards and two TD last year.
Newton will have more options in the backfield with Tolbert aboard in 2012 as both (Tolbert) and Stewart are good receivers out of the backfield. Stewart caught 47 passes last season, including one for a score.
The wide receivers are led by Steve Smith, who enjoyed a big season, hauling in 79 receptions for 1,394 yards (17.6 ypc average) and seven touchdowns. Brandon LaFell (36, 613, three TD) will be the other starter. The tight end is Greg Olsen, who made 45 catches for 540 yards and five touchdowns.
The Panthers saw Legedu Naanee leave via free agency and will have David Gettis, Kealoha Pilares, Armanti Edwards and rookie Joe Adams in reserve.
The offensive line features tackles Jordan Gross and Byron Bell along with center Ryan Kalil. The guards will be Geoff Hangartner and rookie Amini Silatolu. Also available up front are Garry Williams, Bryant Browning, Jeff Byers, Mike Pollak and Bruce Campbell.
Carolina finished seventh overall on offense (390 yards per game) last season, including third in the league rushing the football, where they gained 150 yards per game. The passing attack was 13th in the NFL, averaging 239 yards per game. The Panthers also tied for fifth in scoring, totaling 406 points.

Defense: This is where the team has to improve in 2012, as the Panthers ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in total defense, including both run and pass defense.
Employing the 4-3 set, Carolina will have Ron Edwards and Terrell McClain at tackles with Greg Hardy (four QB sacks) and Charles Johnson, who led the team with nine sacks, at the ends. 
Rookie Frank Alexander (Oklahoma), Sione Fua, Andre Neblett, Antwan Applewhite, Tom Keiser (four sacks) and Ogemdi Nwagbuo will spell the starters.
The linebackers are Thomas Davis and Jon Beason outside while first round draft pick Luke Kuechly (Boston College) will be the man in the middle.
Other linebackers in the fold include James Anderson, Kenny Onatolu, Kion Wilson, Jason Phillips and Jordan Senn.
The secondary has cornerbacks Chris Gamble (three interceptions) and Captain Munnerlyn while the safeties will be free agent signee Haruki Nakamura and Charles Godfrey, who made two picks last year.
Sherrod Martin (three INT), Brandon Hogan, Darius Butler, Jordan Pugh and rookies Josh Norman and D.J. Campbell, along with veterans Reggie Smith and R.J. Stanford will be ready to play when needed.
Carolina allowed 429 points last season, which ranked 27th in the NFL in that category. In addition, the Panthers gave up 378 yards a game (28th in NFL) while yielding 131 yards on the ground (25th) and 247 yards passing per game, which was 24th in the league.

OUTLOOK: The fun and gun offense the Panthers displayed with Rookie of the Year Cam Newton at quarterback should continue once again in 2012, but Head Coach Ron Rivera (who helped build a solid defense in San Diego as the D coordinator) would like to see the defense step up to match what the offense does.
While piling up points and yardage makes for an exciting football game, the bottom line in the NFL is wins and losses and if the Panthers want to get to the next level with Atlanta and New Orleans in the NFC South, they must get better on defense.
The schedule is brutal this season, so the team will be pressed to improve on last year's record. The Panthers were 2-4 in division games last season, sweeping Tampa Bay but were swept by the Falcons and Saints.
The key may be turnovers as they were a plus-one last year when they had ten fumble recoveries and 14 interceptions to go with 31 QB sacks.
Improvement in those areas would do wonders as it would give Newton and company even more opportunities to score.
As long as the defense can improve while the offense keeps humming along and Newton does not experience the "sophomore slump," the Panthers could move up this season.
Another 6-10 finish may be coming this year as the team will definitely be tested with the schedule they play, which includes going against three playoff teams from 2011 in their first five games.
But with Newton at the offensive controls, the Panthers can never be counted out. No matter the outcome this season, it should be another exciting ride for Carolina fans.

TEAM SCHEDULE:
Week 1- at Tampa Bay
Week 2- vs. New Orleans
Week 3- vs. NY Giants
Week 4- at Atlanta
Week 5- vs. Seattle
Week 6- BYE
Week 7- vs. Dallas
Week 8- at Chicago
Week 9- at Washington
Week 10- vs. Denver
Week 11- vs. Tampa Bay
Week 12- at Philadelphia
Week 13- at Kansas City
Week 14- vs. Atlanta
Week 15- at San Diego
Week 16- vs. Oakland
Week 17- at New Orleans




Saturday, August 25, 2012

2012 NFL PREVIEW - Atlanta Falcons

ATLANTA FALCONS

2011 Record: 10-6-0 (2nd in NFC South) 

HEAD COACH: Mike Smith

Key Additions: CB Asante Samuel; OL Vince Manuwai

Key Losses: CB Kelvin Hayden; DB James Sanders; WR/KR Eric Weems; LB Curtis Lofton; RB Ovie Mughelli

Offense: After making the playoffs for the third time in his first four seasons as Falcons' quarterback, Matt Ryan (4,177 yards passing with 29 TD passes and just 12 interceptions in 2011) is ready to take the next step.
Ryan has shown the ability to guide the team throughout the regular season, but has yet to win a playoff game. He did post some impressive numbers last season and is undoubtedly becoming one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. Backing up Ryan is veteran Chris Redman.
Michael Turner continues to roll along and he amassed 1,340 rushing yards to lead the NFC in 2011, averaging 4.5 yards per carry with eleven touchdowns. The backups are Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers, who gained 205 yards and scored a touchdown. The new fullback looks to be Bradie Ewing, a rookie from Wisconsin after longtime starter Ovie Mughelli was not retained and signed with St. Louis.
The wide receivers are both solid with Roddy White (100 catches to lead NFC for 1,296 yards and eight TD) and Julio Jones, who made 54 receptions for 959 yards (17.8 ypc average) and eight touchdowns, set as the starters once again. Starting tight end Tony Gonzalez is a future Hall-of-Famer who was his usual spectacular self a year ago with 80 catches for 875 yards and seven touchdowns.
Harry Douglas is a capable backup wide receiver who had 39 grabs for 498 yards and one touchdown. Kerry Meier and a host of rookie free agents will compete for the remaining wideout spots this season.
The offensive line may be getting revamped for the 2012 season as a pair of rookies were taken by the Falcons in the draft.
The center is veteran Todd McClure along with tackles Sam Baker and Tyson Clabo. The guards look to be Justin Blalock at one spot with either rookie Peter Konz, a second round pick from Wisconsin or Garrett Reynolds manning the other guard slot.
Lamar Holmes was the other rookie selected (third round) and along with Will Svitek, Joe Hawley and  Vince Manuwai, will backup on the line.
Atlanta scored 402 points last year (seventh in NFL) and finished tenth overall in offense, gaining 377 yards per game. The passing game was eighth (262 yards) while the running game averaged 115 yards a game, which was 17th in the league.
 
Defense: Playing up front in the Falcons' 4-3 defense will be tackles Jonatahn Babineaux and Peria Jerry while John Abraham (9 1/2 QB sacks) and Ray Edwards (3 1/2 sacks) are the ends.
Corey Peters, Kroy Biermann, Vance Walker, Lawrence Sidbury and Cliff Matthews will be ready in reserve.
The linebackers will have Akeem Dent in the middle and Sean Weatherspoon (four sacks) and Stephen Nicholas on the outside. Backing up at linebacker is Spencer Adkins, Robert James and three rookie free agents.
The safeties are Thomas DeCoud (four interceptions) and William Moore (two picks) while Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson (two INT) will play cornerback. Veteran journeyman DB Asante Samuel comes over as a free agent to add some depth to the secondary. Samuel picked off three passes with the Eagles a year ago, including one for a touchdown return.
Also available in the secondary will be Dominique Franks, Shann Schillinger, Chris Owens and rookie Charles Mitchell.
The Falcons had a solid run defense in 2011, finishing sixth in the NFL (97 yards allowed) and 12th overall on defense, giving up 334 yards per game. The pass defense was 20th in the NFL, allowing 237 yards per game while picking off 19 passes and accumulating 33 QB sacks.

OUTLOOK: The Falcons are one of those teams that always seem to be on the cusp of great things ... until the playoffs arrive and then ... poof!
Head Coach Mike Smith would like to see that change in 2012 and it will ride on the arm of QB Matt Ryan, who always puts up good numbers for 16 games and then seems to struggle in the post-season.
The team has a good offense with Ryan and a good trio of receivers in White, Jones and tight end Tony Gonzalez along with Michael Turner, the NFC's leading rusher in 2011.
The defense is good against the run and did intercept the 19 passes a year ago although the Falcons did get torched by big pass plays quite a bit last year. Adding veteran Asante Samuel in the secondary should help in that area.
So, why the problems when the playoffs start?
The Falcons have yet to answer that one, as they have lost three times in their playoff openers in recent years.
They should once again contend in the NFC South, where the New Orleans Saints and up and coming Carolina will be waiting. Winning their division games will be critical for another playoff appearance in 2012.
The schedule for Atlanta is unique this year as there are no multiple weeks at home or on the road.
The division could be called a toss up between the Falcons and Saints this season and 9-7 could be just enough to win the NFC South, what with all the off-season problems for New Orleans and the fact the Falcons and Saints usually split the two games each season, just not last year.
If the Falcons are to make the playoffs for the third straight year, it will ride on Ryan and company and the secondary doing a more consistent job this season.

TEAM SCHEDULE:
Week 1- at Kansas City
Week 2- vs. Denver
Week 3- at San Diego
Week 4- vs. Carolina
Week 5- at Washington
Week 6- vs. Oakland
Week 7- BYE
Week 8- at Philadelphia
Week 9- vs. Dallas
Week 10- at New Orleans
Week 11- vs. Arizona
Week 12- at Tampa Bay
Week 13- vs. New Orleans
Week 14- at Carolina
Week 15- vs. NY Giants
Week 16- at Detroit
Week 17- vs. Tampa Bay

Friday, August 24, 2012

2012 NFL PREVIEW - Pittsburgh Steelers

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

2011 Record: 12-4-0 (2nd in AFC North) 

HEAD COACH: Mike Tomlin

Key Additions: TE Leonard Pope

Key Losses: LB James Farrior; CB William Gay; OL Chris Kemoeatu; OL Jamon Meredith; WR Hines Ward; DL Aaron Smith

Offense: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is back after putting up some impressive numbers in 2011, including 4,077 yards passing with 21 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Veterans Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich are the backups.
The running game will look to Isaac Redman once again while Rashard Mendenhall comes back from a serious knee injury he suffered late last season. 
Redman ran for 479 yards with a 4.4 ypc average and three touchdowns while Mendenhall had 928 yards rushing with nine touchdowns. Jonathan Dwyer is also available in the running game. David Johnson is the fullback.
The Steelers would like to see wide receiver Mike Wallace end his holdout and get into practice before the regular season opener in two weeks. Wallace is a big play threat who led Pittsburgh last season with 72 receptions for 1,198 yards (16.6 ypc average) and eight touchdowns.
Along with Wallace is a book end big play receiver in Antonio Brown, who made 69 catches for 1,108 yards (a 16.1 ypc average) and two touchdowns. Jerricho Cotchery caught 16 passes and scored twice last year while Emmanuel Sanders had 22 receptions for 288 yards and two touchdowns.
Tight End Heath Miller had another steady season, grabbing 51 passes for 631 yards and two scores. The Steelers signed free agent Leonard Pope, who had 24 catches for 247 yards and  one touchdown with Kansas City, to back up Miller at tight end.
The line has Maurkice Pouncey at center along with guards Doug Legursky and rookie David DeCastro. The tackles will be Willie Colon and Marcus Gilbert. In reserve is Chris Scott, Mike Adams, Ramon Foster, Jonathan Scott and Kelvin Beachum.
The Steelers were 12th in the NFL offensively a year ago, gaining 372 yards per game. The passing game averaged 253 yards a game, which was tenth overall. The running game was 14th with an average of 119 yards per game.

Defense:  The Steelers' defense led the NFL in scoring defense in 2011, allowing 227 points during the regular season. While giving up only 14 points a game, the Steelers were also the league's best overall defense, allowing just 272 yards per game.
The pass defense was also number one in the NFL, giving up 172 yards a game and the run defense (8th in NFL) gave up 100 yards per game.
Using the 3-4 defense, the Steelers will look to Casey Hampton at nose tackle along with defensive ends Ziggy Hood and Brett Keisel.
Gone is veteran starter Aaron Smith, who retired in the off season, leaving the team with reserves Cameron Heyward, Steve McLendon, Corbin Bryant and rookie Alameda Ta'amu up front.
The linebackers are getting a little older, but still are some of the best in the business as LaMarr Woodley (nine QB sacks) and James Harrison (nine sacks) man the outside spots. The inside linebackers are Larry Foote and Lawrence Timmons.
Foot is replacing longtime starter James Farrior, who was released during the off-season.
Jason Worilds, Stevenson Sylvester, Chris Carter, Mortty Ivy and rookie Sean Spence will spell the starters.
The secondary has Troy Polamalu at safety along with Ryan Clark. The corners are Ike Taylor and Keenan Lewis.  Backing up will be Will Allen, Cortez Allen, Damon Cromartie-Smith, Curtis Brown and Ryan Mundy.

OUTLOOK: The last time we saw the Steelers, they were being stunned by Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos in overtime in the Wild Card round of the playoffs last January.
That loss left a bad taste in the team's collective mouths and Head Coach Mike Tomlin will not tolerate his team losing that way with all the veteran presence on the roster.
The Steelers look to be solid enough to bounce right back and get to their third Super Bowl in five years this season, so don't look for them to linger in last season's disappointment as the 2012 season begins.
They play a strong schedule this year, and it will not be easy for them in the AFC playoff race either. The Ravens and Bengals are teams battling them in the AFC North for the division crown and they will have to cut down on the mistakes of a year ago (minus-13 on the turnover charts) if they want to go further in the post-season. The defense forced just 15 turnovers (four fumbles and eleven interceptions) last year and that has to improve.
Mendenhall getting back to full strength at running back would be huge and with Roethlisberger and the trio of speedy wide receivers doing their thing, the offense should be a strong suit, looking to improve on last season's scoring average of just over 21 points per game.
As long as the Steelers continue to play the kind of defense they normally do, they are going to be contenders in the AFC. That shouldn't change in 2012 as the team looks to get back to the playoffs once again.
Figure on a 11-5 finish this year and a possible run to the Super Bowl once again. This team has shown the ability to bounce back after a letdown season and should be right there once January rolls around. Another Super Bowl title is a possibility.

TEAM SCHEDULE:
Week 1- at Denver
Week 2- vs. NY Jets
Week 3- at Oakland
Week 4- BYE
Week 5- vs. Philadelphia
Week 6- at Tennessee
Week 7- at Cincinnati
Week 8- vs. Washington
Week 9- at NY Giants
Week 10- vs. Kansas City
Week 11- vs. Baltimore
Week 12- at Cleveland
Week 13- at Baltimore
Week 14- vs. San Diego
Week 15- at Dallas
Week 16- vs. Cincinnati
Week 17- vs. Cleveland

Thursday, August 23, 2012

2012 NFL PREVIEW - Cleveland Browns

CLEVELAND BROWNS

2011 Record: 4-12-0 (4th in AFC North) 

HEAD COACH: Pat Shurmur

Key Additions: DE Frostee Rucker; DE Juqua Parker

Key Losses:  RB Peyton Hillis; DB Mike Adams; OL Artis Hicks; OL Tony Pashos; DE Jayme Mitchell

Offense: The Browns are going with a pair of rookies this season at quarterback and running back with Brandon Weeden  being named the starting QB while Trent Richardson, the number-three overall pick in the 2012 Draft from Alabama, will be the starting halfback.
Weeden played at Oklahoma State and put up some eye-popping numbers during his collegiate playing days. Backing up Weeden will be Colt McCoy (2,733 yards passing in 2011 with 14 TD passes and 11 interceptions) and veteran Seneca Wallace.
Richardson has battled some nagging injuries in camp and will lead the ground game this year after Peyton Hillis left for Kansas City via free agency. Richardson combines power and speed and helped propel the Crimson Tide to the National Championship last year.
Behind Richardson is Montario Hardesty (266 yards rushing), Chris Ogbannaya (334 yards and one TD)  and Brandon Jackson, who was injured last year. The fullback is Owen Marecic.
The wide receivers include holdover Mohamed Massaquoi (31 catches for 384 yards and two TD) and Greg Little, who made 61 receptions for 709 yards and two touchdowns.
Also available for Cleveland is Jordan Norwood (23, 268, one TD), Josh Cribbs (41, 518 and four touchdowns) and rookie Travis Benjamin (Miami, FL). The tight end is Benjamin Watson, who made 37 catches for 410 yards and a pair of touchdowns. 
Cribbs also had a big year retuning kicks as he placed in the top five in the AFC in both kickoff and punt returns, including a punt return for a touchdown.
The offensive line is anchored by All-Pro tackle Joe Thomas, along with rookie tackle Mitchell Schwartz. The center is Alex Mack and the guards are Jason Pinkston and Shawn Lauvao. In reserve are Ryan Miller (rookie from Colorado), John Greco and Oniel Cousins.
The Browns were 29th in offense last year, averaging 289 yards per game. The passing game was 24th, getting 193 yards a game while the running attack was a dismal 31st in the NFL, gaining just 96 yards per game.

Defense: Running the 4-3 defense in 2012, the Browns will have Jabaal Sheard (8 1/2 quarterback sacks) and free agent Frostee Rucker at the ends with Phillip Taylor (four sacks) and Ahtyba Rubin (five sacks) at tackle. John Hughes, another rookie for the Browns, is in reserve up front as well as free agent Juqua Parker. Also in the fold is Brian Schaefering, Marcus Benard, Brian Sanford and Scott Paxson.
The linebackers include middle man D'Qwell Jackson along with outside linebackers Scott Fujita, who is facing a three-game suspension to start the regular season, and  Kaluka Maiava, who is filling the void left by Chris Gocong, who is injured and out for the season.
Emmanuel Acho, James-Michael Johnson, Benjamin Jacobs, Quinton Spears and Brian Smith are ready to step up in 2012 at linebacker.
The safeties are T.J. Ward and Eric Hagg with Joe Haden and Sheldon Brown at the corners.
Usama Young, Dimitri Patterson, Buster Skrine, James Dockery and Ray Ventrone will make contributions as well for this unit, which helped the Browns finish number-two in the NFL against the pass last season, allowing just 185 passing yards per game. Last season's interception leader, Mike Adams left for free agency; so someone will have to step up this year to improve on the nine interceptions the team made a year ago.
The run defense was 30th overall, giving up 147 yards a game. The Browns were tenth in total defense, giving up 332 yards per game while getting 32 quarterback sacks.

OUTLOOK: The Browns played well defensively a year ago and Head Coach Pat Shurmur knows the offense must get in gear and help the team try to achieve it's first winning season since 2007.
There are questions with the offense as the two rookies taking over at quarterback and halfback will undoubtedly have some growing pains as they adjust to the NFL.
Veterans Massaqoui, Cribbs, Watson and Little will have to provide the spark along with the new blood as the team makes the adjustments necessary to get a consistent offense. The line play will be critical for a rookie back as well as improving in pass protection for the other rookie. The Browns gave up 39 QB sacks last year.
The run defense has to be better, where the AFC North division rivals Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers and their solid running games are waiting.
If the new guys on offense can adjust quickly (as Cincinnati enjoyed from two key rookies in 2011) and the run defense gets better, the Browns should be an improved team. But that will not come easy.
Figure on a repeat 4-12 record this season for the Browns as they go forward and build for the future with a good foundation.

TEAM SCHEDULE:
Week 1- vs. Philadelphia
Week 2- at Cincinnati
Week 3- vs. Buffalo
Week 4- at Baltimore
Week 5- at NY Giants
Week 6- vs. Cincinnati
Week 7- at Indianapolis
Week 8- vs. San Diego
Week 9- vs. Baltimore
Week 10- BYE
Week 11- at Dallas
Week 12- vs. Pittsburgh
Week 13- at Oakland
Week 14- vs. Kansas City
Week 15- vs. Washington
Week 16- at Denver
Week 17- at Pittsburgh

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

2012 NFL PREVIEW - Cincinnati Bengals

CINCINNATI BENGALS

2011 Record: 9-7-0 (3rd in AFC North) 

HEAD COACH: Marvin Lewis

Key Additions: RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis; CB Jason Allen; DL Jamaal Anderson; OL Jacob Bell; OL Travelle Wharton; CB Terence Newman

Key Losses: RB Cedric Benson; WR Andre Caldwell; DB Chris Crocker; WR Jordan Shipley; OL Nate Livings; DL Jonathan Fanene; DL Frostee Rucker

Offense: After a superb rookie season in which he threw for 3,398 yards and 20 touchdowns with 13 interceptions while helping lead the team to the NFL playoffs, quarterback Andy Dalton is ready to lead the Bengals again in 2012. Veteran Bruce Gradkowski will backup Dalton once again.
The running game features former New England running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis (667 yards rushing with eleven TD) this season after Cedric Benson wasn't resigned and wound up in Green Bay. Also in the fold this year is Bernard Scott, who had 380 yards on the ground with three touchdowns. Brian Leonard and rookie Dan Herron (Ohio State) are on hand as well. The fullback is Chris Pressley.
Wide Receiver A.J. Green is back after a great rookie season in which he caught 65 passes for 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns. Following the recent release of Jordan Shipley, the Bengals have a number of wideouts vying for the number-two receiver slot.
Rookies Mohamed Sanu (Rutgers) and Marv Jones (California) are available as well as Andrew Hawkins (23 receptions for 263 yards) and Brandon Tate. The tight ends are Jermaine Gresham (56, 596, six TD), Colin Cochart (five grabs for 44 yards and one score), Donald Lee and rookie Orson Charles.
The offensive line will have center Kyle Cook, guards Travelle Wharton and rookie Kevin Zeitler (Wisconsin) along with tackles Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith. Clint Boling, Otis Hudson, Anthony Collins, Jacob Bell and Dennis Roland are the reserves.
The Bengals finished 20th on offense (320 yards per game) last season while also finishing 20th in passing with 209 yards a game. The running game was 19th overall, gaining 109 yards per game.

Defense: This was a strong point for the team last season, finishing seventh in the NFL, allowing 316 yards a game, with 105 yards coming on the ground (tenth overall) and allowing 211 yards passing per game, which was ninth in the league. Cincinnati totaled 45 quarterback sacks last season as well.
The front line of the 4-3 defense include tackles Domata Peko and Geno Atkins (71/2 QB sacks) along with ends Robert Geathers and Michael Johnson, who had six sacks a year ago. Others up front include Carlos Dunlap, Pat Sims, Derrick Harvey and rookies Devon Still (Penn State) and Brandon Thompson (Clemson).
Outside Linebackers Thomas Howard and Manny Lawson team with  middle backer Rey Maualuga. Backing up will be Dan Skuta, Vincent Rey, Roddrick Muckelroy and Dontay Moch.
The defensive backs include cornerbacks Nate Clements (two interceptions) and Leon Hall (two picks) along with safeties Taylor Mays and Reggie Nelson, who made four interceptions to lead the team. Rookie Dre Kirkpatrick (Alabama) will see a lot of action in pre-season along with reserves Jason Allen, Jeromy Miles and Terence Newman.

OUTLOOK: Head Coach Marvin Lewis will be looking for the steady play from QB Andy Dalton once again this season after a surprise rookie season a year ago.
Dalton simply doesn't make many mistakes and along with fellow rookie (wideout) A.J. Green, helped provide the team with a big play threat as the season went along.
Green-Ellis will be looked upon as the primary running back with Benson gone and he showed flashes of brilliance while with the New England Patriots the past three years.
The team has a solid defense that gets pressure on opposing quarterbacks and can stuff the run as well. The secondary only had ten interceptions last season and with some additions of a top rookie pick and some veterans as well, the Bengals will be looking to force more turnovers this year.
Playing in the AFC North, Cincinnati knows they have to be ready when they go against Pittsburgh and Baltimore. How well they fare in the head-to-head games will determine their chances of winning the division.
A wild card spot would be the best this team can hope for once again as far as the playoffs are concerned.
Look for an 8-8 season this year with a stronger schedule looming and the fact that opposing  teams now know about Dalton and Green. Anything better than .500 in 2012 would have to be considered a good season from the Bengals.

TEAM SCHEDULE:
Week 1- at Baltimore
Week 2- vs. Cleveland
Week 3- at Washington
Week 4- at Jacksonville
Week 5- vs. Miami
Week 6- at Cleveland
Week 7- vs. Pittsburgh
Week 8- BYE
Week 9- vs. Denver
Week 10- vs. NY Giants
Week 11- at Kansas City
Week 12- vs. Oakland
Week 13- at San Diego
Week 14- vs. Dallas
Week 15- at Philadelphia
Week 16- at Pittsburgh
Week 17- vs. Baltimore

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

2012 NFL PREVIEW - Baltimore Ravens

BALTIMORE RAVENS

2011 Record: 12-4-0 (1st in AFC North) 

HEAD COACH: John Harbaugh

Key Additions: DB Sean Considine; CB Corey Graham; WR Jacoby Jones; QB Curtis Painter; TE Billy Bajema

Key Losses: CB Chris Carr; WR Lee Evans; DL Cory Redding; LB Jarret Johnson; OL Ben Grubbs; DB Tom Zbikowski; DB Haruki Nakamura; RB Ricky Williams

Offense: Quarterback Joe Flacco returns as the starter after leading the Ravens to a fourth consecutive playoff appearance. Flacco put up decent numbers a year ago, passing for 3,610 yards with 20 touchdowns and twelve interceptions. Backing up is Tyrod Taylor and Curtis Painter.
Ray Rice is the main cog in the Ravens' offense as he rushed for 1,364 yards (4.7 ypc average)  and twelve touchdowns last season. He also had 76 receptions for 704 yards and three more touchdowns.
Along with Rice is rookie Bernard Pierce (Temple) and Anthony Allen to fill in as Ricky Williams retired following the 2011 campaign. The fullback is Vonta Leach.
At wide receiver is Anquan Boldin (57 catches for 887 yards and three TD) and Torrey Smith, a burner who had 50 receptions for 841 yards and seven touchdowns. Also in the mix is free agent Jacoby Jones (31, 512, two TD with Houston in 2011), Tandon Doss, David Reed and LaQuan Williams.
The tight ends are Ed Dickson (54, 528, five TD) and Dennis Pitta, who had 40 grabs for 405 yards and three touchdowns.
The offensive line is made up of guards Jah Reid and Marshal Yanda, center Matt Birk and tackles Michael Oher and Bryant McKinnie.  In reserve are Kelechi Osemele, Gino Gradkowski, Justin Boren and Ramon Harewood.
The Ravens' running game was tenth overall a year ago, averaging 125 yards a game while the passing ranked 19th with 214 yards per game. Overall, the Ravens finished 15th in the NFL by averaging 339 yards per game. The offense also scored 30 or more points four times last season while averaging just under 24 points a game.

Defense: This unit continues to shine year in and year out even though some of the key players are getting older.
Middle linebacker Ray Lewis is entering his 17th season in 2012 and along with veterans like Ed Reed (safety) continues to lead the defense to greatness.
The Ravens were among the league leaders in all major categories on defense in 2011, getting 48 quarterback sacks while finishing third in scoring defense with 266 points allowed.
The pass defense was fourth overall, giving up 196 yards a game while the run defense finished second in the NFL, allowing just 96 yards per game. Overall, the Ravens were third in yards allowed with 292 yards per game.
Up front in the 3-4 defense is nose tackle Terrence Cody along with defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and defensive end Pernell McPhee.
The linebackers are solid with Lewis in the middle along with Paul Kruger, Jameel McClain and rookie Courtney Upshaw, who was a defensive force while helping lead Alabama to a collegiate national championship.
If there is a familiar name missing from that group it's because linebacker Terrell Suggs, the NFL Defensive Player of the Year for 201l, may be out possibly all season due to a serious Achilles injury in the off-season. Suggs registered 14 quarterback sacks to lead the AFC last season. In addition, he also made two interceptions.
Other linebackers in the fold are Brendon Ayanbadejo, Albert McClellan, Dannell Ellerbe, Sergio Kindle and Chavis Williams.
The secondary, which is among the best in the NFL, has the veteran Ed Reed (three interceptions) at safety along with Bernard Pollard. The corners are Ledarius Webb (five picks) and Cary Williams. Free agent Corey Graham is available when needed as well as Jimmy Smith (two INT), Emanuel Cook, Sean Considine and Chykie Brown.

OUTLOOK: This team came very close to getting to the Super Bowl last year, but for a missed 32-yard field goal late in the 23-20 AFC Championship Game loss at New England.
Head Coach John Harbaugh has been there as the Ravens have made the playoffs the past four years, only to fall short each time, including twice in the AFC title game.
So, if the Ravens are going to take the next step and get to the Super Bowl, then Joe Flacco must continue to improve the offense along with the defense doing what they do best during the regular season. The special teams must contribute as well when the post-season arrives.
The proverbial "window of opportunity" stays open only so long in the NFL and the Ravens know this is their time and if all goes well, this team should make another deep playoff run in 2012.
The arch rival Pittsburgh Steelers always present a challenge in the AFC North and will do so once again this season.
Baltimore is a solid team all around with good, veteran leadership and an All-Pro running back in Ray Rice to help Flacco lead the offense. So, another playoff appearance following an 11-5 season looks to be in order this year.
How far the Ravens go from there is all up to them and they know it's Super Bowl or bust this season. Maybe, just maybe they finally get to the big game this year.

TEAM SCHEDULE:
Week 1- vs. Cincinnati
Week 2- at Philadelphia
Week 3- vs. New England
Week 4- vs. Cleveland
Week 5- at Kansas City
Week 6- vs. Dallas
Week 7- at Houston
Week 8- BYE
Week 9- at Cleveland
Week 10- vs. Oakland
Week 11- at Pittsburgh
Week 12- at San Diego
Week 13- vs. Pittsburgh
Week 14- at Washington
Week 15- vs. Denver
Week 16- vs. NY Giants
Week 17- at Cincinnati

Monday, August 20, 2012

2012 NFL PREVIEW - Minnesota Vikings

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

2011 Record: 3-13-0 (4th in NFC North) 
HEAD COACH: Leslie Frazier

Key Additions:  WR Jerome Simpson; TE John Carlson; CB Zack Bowman

Key Losses: CB Cedric Griffin; TE Visanthe Shiancoe; DL Remi Ayodele; LB E.J. Henderson; TE Jim Kleinsasser; OL Anthony Herrera; PK Ryan Longwell

Offense: Christian Ponder will be the quarterback after taking over last season and throwing for 1,853 yards with 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. The backups include Joe Webb (376 yards passing with three TD and two INT) and journeyman Sage Rosenfels.
The running game was ranked 4th in the NFL last year (145 yards per game) and would get a huge boost from the healthy return of Adrian Peterson, who suffered a bad knee injury late last season after gaining 970 yards (4.7 ypc average) and scoring 12 touchdowns. The Vikings have been cautious with AP in training camp so far this year.
Other running backs in the mix include Toby Gerhart (531 yards for  a 4.9 ypc average and one score) and Percy Harvin, who ran for 345 yards (6.6 ypc) and also caught 87 passes for 967 yards and six touchdowns and also took the opening kickoff of the season back for a touchdown. Overall, Harvin scored nine touchdowns in 2011.
The Vikings also have free agent wide receiver Jerome Simpson (50 receptions, 725 yards and four TD with Cincinnati) and Michael Jenkins (38, 466, three TD) at wide out.
 Kyle Rudolph (26, 249, three TD), Devin Aromashodu (26, 468, one TD) and John Carlson, who will team with Rudolph and rookie Rhett Ellison (USC) as the tight ends, are also available targets in the passing game. Greg Childs and Jarius Wright (both rookies from Arkansas) will get looks in pre-season as well.
The offensive line is anchored by center John Sullivan along with tackles Phil Loadholt and rookie Matt Kalil (USC), who was the fourth overall pick in the NFL Draft. The guards are Charlie Johnson and Geoff Schwartz. In reserve up front are DeMarcus Love, Joe Berger, Brandon Fusco, Pat Brown and Chris DeGeare.
The passing game must improve after finishing 28th in the league, averaging just 185 yards per game. Overall on offense, Minnesota was 18th, averaging 330 yards per game.

Defense: Jared Allen is the man on the Vikings defense.
The nine year veteran Defensive End had a league high 22 quarterback sacks a year ago as the Vikings tied with Philadelphia for the league lead with 50 QB sacks.
Along with Allen at defensive end is Brian Robison, who had eight sacks. The tackles in the 4-3 set include Kevin Williams (five sacks) and Letroy Guion.
 Everson Griffen (four sacks) is also available at end while Fred Evans, Christian Ballard and D'Aundre Reed will spell the other starters up front.
Linebackers include middle man Jasper Brinkley, along with outside backers Erin Henderson and Chad Greenway. Ready to step up are Larry Dean, Tyrone McKenzie, Marvin Mitchell and rookie Audie Cole.
The secondary was much maligned a year ago and has Harrison Smith (rookie from Notre Dame) at safety along with Jamarca Sanford for the 2012 season. The corners are Chris Cook and Antoine Winfield.
 Reserves in the defensive backfield include Chris Carr, Zack Bowman, Eric Frampton, Mistral Raymond and rookies Josh Robinson and Robert Blanton. The Vikings only intercepted eight passes all of last season.
The Vikings were 21st in the league on defense in 2011, giving up 358 yards a game. The run defense fared batter than the pass defense, giving up 107 yards per game (11th in NFL) while the Vikings D gave up 251 yards through the air, which was 26th overall.

OUTLOOK: The Vikings are a team in transition under second year Head Coach Leslie Frazier and will do good to win more than three games this season.
The secondary has to improve as the Vikes play against Green Bay, Detroit and Chicago twice a year (NFC North) and will see a lot of passes in those games. The fact the defensive front gets pressure (50 sacks in 2011) should allow the defensive backs to do their job better, so there is no excuse for only eight interceptions all season while giving up 251 yards per game.
In addition, only Tampa Bay yielded more scoring to the opposition as teams lit up the Vikings for 449 points (28 points a game) last season.
Getting back a healthy Peterson would be big for the offense and in particular the young quarterback Christian Ponder, who was sacked numerous times after taking over as the starter in mid-season. Minnesota allowed 49 QB takedowns a year ago. Peterson is a force at running back and will carry the load if he is ready to go.
A somewhat soft schedule for the first half of the season might help the team's confidence if they can manage some more wins because the second half of the schedule is loaded with tough opponents, including four games against the Packers and Bears as well as Houston and Detroit, both playoff teams last season.
A 4-12 finish is the most likely outcome for the team in 2012, which would be a slight improvement from last year. Anything above that would be icing on the cake as the Vikings look to build for better days in the future.

TEAM SCHEDULE:
Week 1- vs. Jacksonville
Week 2- at Indianapolis
Week 3- vs. San Francisco
Week 4- at Detroit
Week 5- vs. Tennessee
Week 6- at Washington
Week 7- vs. Arizona
Week 8- vs. Tampa Bay
Week 9- at Seattle
Week 10- vs. Detroit
Week 11- BYE
Week 12- at Chicago
Week 13- at Green Bay
Week 14- vs. Chicago
Week 15- at St. Louis
Week 16- at Houston
Week 17- vs. Green Bay

Sunday, August 19, 2012

2012 NFL PREVIEW - Green Bay Packers

GREEN BAY PACKERS

2011 Record: 15-1-0 (1st in NFC North) 

HEAD COACH: Mike McCarthy

Key Additions: OL Jeff Saturday; RB Cedric Benson; DL Anthony Hargrove; DL Daniel Muir

Key Losses: OL Chad Clifton; QB Matt Flynn; DB Nick Collins; DB Charlie Peprah; OL Scott Wells; DB Patrick Lee

Offense: The Green Bay Packers can score... and score... and ...you get the idea.
Quarterback and 2011 NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers threw 45 touchdown passes with just six interceptions and amassed 4,643 yards passing in a huge season. Rodgers is a QB who can also run when needed, as he totaled 257 yards on the ground and scored three times. Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman are vying for the backup spot.
The passing game has a plethora or wide receivers for Rodgers to throw to, including Jordy Nelson (68 catches for 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns) and Greg Jennings, who made 67 receptions for 949 yards and nine touchdowns despite missing the final three regular season games with injuries.
Also in the mix is veteran Donald Driver, who had 37 grabs for 445 yards and six touchdowns. James Jones (38, 635, seven TD) and second year man Randal Cobb (25, 375, one TD) who also returns kicks, are the other wideouts in the aerial attack. Cobb returned both a kickoff and punt for touchdowns last season.
The tight ends include Jermichael Finley (55, 767, eight TD), Andrew Quarless and Tim Crabtree. Finley is an All-Pro who provides a big target for Rodgers to throw to and has the size and agility to make the big plays.
The running game will have a different look in 2012 as Ryan Grant (holdout) may soon be gone to another team after free agent Cedric Benson (1,067 yards for a 3.9 ypc average and six TD with Cincinnati) signed with the team. Benson will play along with James Starks, who gained 578 yards (4.3 ypc) and had one touchdown to go with 29 pass receptions. Alex Green will also be on hand to spell the duo. The fullback is John Kuhn.
The offensive line went through some revamping during the off-season as veteran center Jeff Saturday was brought in from the Indianapolis Colts' house cleaning to replace free agent Scott Wells. The guards are T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton. Marshall Newhouse and Bryan Bulaga are the tackles.
Providing depth up front on the line, which allowed 41 QB sacks, is Evan Dietrich-Smith, Derek Sherrod, Ray Dominguez, Herb Taylor, Sampson Genus and rookie Andrew Datko.
The team averaged 35 points per game last year, scoring 560 points to lead the league and also finished third overall in both total yardage (405 yards per game) and passing with 308 yards per game. The rushing game had 97 yards a game, which was 29th in the NFL.

Defense: This was a definite sore spot a year ago as the defense fell from being a top flight unit in 2010 to the bottom of the NFL last season.
The Packers allowed 412 yards per game while setting a record as the worst pass defense in NFL history, giving up 300 yards per game.
Ouch!
The run defense was somewhat better, ranking 14th while allowing 112 yards per game.
To help shore up this problem, the team drafted six rookies to help out, including top pick Nick Perry (USC), who will be counted on to step in at outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme.
Along with Perry is All-Pro Clay Matthews (six QB sacks and three interceptions, one for a TD) at the other outside linebacker position. The inside backers are A.J. Hawk and D.J. Smith.
Backups include Desmond Bishop (five sacks), Terrell Manning, Jamari Lattimore, Vic So'oto and Robert Francois.
Up front are B.J. Raji at nose tackle with Ryan Pickett and either C.J. Wilson or rookie Jerel Worthy (Michigan State) at the ends. Daniel Muir, Anthony Hargrove, Jarius Wynn, and rookie Mike Daniels will provide depth.
The secondary, which did help produce a league high 31 interceptions, includes Tramon Williams (four interceptions) at Jarrett Bush at the corners. Veteran Charles Woodson (seven picks) makes the move from cornerback to safety this season and will team with Morgan Burnett (three picks) in that spot.
Backing up in the secondary is rookie Casey Hayward (Vanderbilt), M.D. Jennings, Sam Shields (four INT), Anthony Levine, Davon House and Jerron McMillian.

OUTLOOK: There is no reason to doubt the Packers ability to make it back to the Super Bowl after the playoff debacle against the New York Giants last January.
Whenever you have Aaron Rodgers leading the offense, you are always in the game.
The Packers problems on defense must be resolved as they gave up too many big plays a year ago, especially in the playoff loss.
They must get more pressure on opposing passers this season, as they totaled just 29 sacks a year ago. On the plus side, the Packers were second in the NFL with a plus-24 in the turnover category.
The fact they allowed so much pass yardage is a bit misleading because so many teams they played were coming from behind and throwing the ball a lot more often than normal.
However, Green Bay must realize they cannot just try to outscore every team they play because it bit them when it counted most.
The running game needs to improve as well and the team will be relying on Starks and Benson to provide the spark in that area.
If the Packers get better overall defensively and the running game produces more often, the sky is the limit because the Packers are a team that can win it all.
A 12-4 finish  should be enough to win the NFC North and once the playoffs start, Green Bay will be a favorite to return to the Super Bowl. Anything short of that goal would be considered a disappointment.

TEAM SCHEDULE:
Week 1- vs. San Francisco
Week 2- vs. Chicago
Week 3- at Seattle
Week 4- vs. New Orleans
Week 5- at Indianapolis
Week 6- at Houston
Week 7- at St. Louis
Week 8- vs. Jacksonville
Week 9- vs. Arizona
Week 10- BYE
Week 11- at Detroit
Week 12- at NY Giants
Week 13- vs. Minnesota
Week 14- vs. Detroit
Week 15- at Chicago
Week 16- vs. Tennessee
Week 17- at Minnesota

Saturday, August 18, 2012

2012 NFL PREVIEW - Detroit Lions

DETROIT LIONS

2011 Record: 10-6-0 (2nd in NFC North) 

HEAD COACH: Jim Schwartz

Key Additions: DL Everette Brown; CB Jacob Lacey

Key Losses: QB Drew Stanton; LB Bobby Carpenter; CB Eric Wright

Offense:  What else can you say about quarterback Matthew Stafford after the numbers he put up in 2011?
The fourth year QB finally stayed healthy all season and threw for a team record 5,038 yards with 41 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions.
His primary targets heading into this season once again will be wide receiver Calvin Johnson (96 receptions, 1,681 yards, 17.5 ypc average and 16 touchdowns) and tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who made 83 catches for 777 yards and five touchdowns.
Nate Burleson (73, 757, three TD), Titus Young (48, 607, six TD) and tight end Tony Scheffler (26, 347, six TD) are also valuable targets in the pass happy offense the Lions run.
The running game is a different story as veteran Kevin Smith (72 carries for 356 yards, four TD) seems to be the starter by default after Jahvid Best appears to be slow in recovering from another injury plagued season in which he ran for 390 yards on 84 carries with a pair of touchdowns in only six games.
Mikel Leshoure didn't play at all last year when he was injured in pre-season and also has been slow in recovery. The Lions also have Keiland Williams (58, 195, two TD) and Stefan Logan on hand to provide depth.
The line consists of center Dominic Raiola, tackles Gosder Cherilus and veteran Jeff Backus, along with guards Rob Sims and Stephen Peterman. The team's top draft pick in 2012, Reilly Reiff, is getting a long look in camp and will ready to step in where needed at either a guard or tackle position.
Also in the mix is Dan Gerberry, Dylan Gandy, Jason Fox and Corey Hillard.
Detroit finished last season scoring 474 points (29.8 points a game), which was fourth in the league while 396 yards per game, which ranked fifth overall. The passing game was fourth in the NFL, averaging 301 yards per game. The running attack was a dismal 29th overall, gaining only 95 yards per game.

Defense:  Getting defensive end Cliff Avril back in time for the season was big for the Lions as he and Ndomukong Suh, along with Corey Williams and DE Kyle Vanden Bosch form a tremendous defensive front line that can stuff the run as well as get after opposing quarterbacks.
Avril amassed eleven QB sacks last season with Suh getting four as well. Vanden Bosch, a 12-year veteran, had eight sacks as well to help the Lions accumulate 41 total sacks. Lawrence Jackson (4 1/2 sacks) is in reserve at defensive end along with DT Nick Fairley and Sammie Hill and Willie Young.
The linebackers are Justin Durant and DeAndre Levy on the outside with Stephen Tulloch (three sacks and two interceptions) in the middle. Doug Hogue, Ashlee Palmer and rookie Tahir Whitehead (Temple) will be the backups.
The secondary has Chris Houston (five interceptions with two taken  back for scores) and Aaron Berry at cornerback along with safeties Amari Spievey (three INT) and Louis Delmas.
In reserve are Alphonso Smith (three picks, one taken back for TD), rookie Dwight Bentley, Erik Coleman and Jacob Lacey.
Detroit's defense finished 23rd in the NFL last season, giving up 368 yards per game. The pass defense allowed 240 yards a game (22nd) and the Lions finished 23rd against the run, giving up 128 yards per game.

OUTLOOK: After a roller coaster ride 2011 season, the Lions are looking to return to the playoffs while battling the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears in the NFC North.
Head Coach Jim Schwartz is a fiery type who wears his emotions on his sleeve and the team reflects that, especially on defense.
The Lions have an attacking style defense that can get burned by big plays (they were blown out in the first round of the NFC Playoffs, 45-28 against New Orleans) but they also were a plus-11 in the turnover category as a result of the ball hawking secondary that had 21 interceptions. In addition, the Lions defense scored six touchdowns.
Expect the team to score a lot of points again this year with Stafford and Johnson in the house. The passing attack is one of the best in the NFL and if the running game can get some consistency, it will only enhance the offense.
This team will not sneak up on anybody this year as they did in 2011 when they overcame huge deficits (including twice overcoming 20-plus point deficits) to win.
A 9-7 finish is likely with a tougher schedule looming and some questions surrounding the running game. But that may be just enough to get the Lions back to the playoffs.

TEAM SCHEDULE:
Week 1- vs. St. Louis
Week 2- at San Francisco
Week 3- at Tennessee
Week 4- vs. Minnesota
Week 5- BYE
Week 6- at Philadelphia
Week 7- at Chicago
Week 8- vs. Seattle
Week 9- at Jacksonville
Week 10- at Minnesota
Week 11- vs. Green Bay
Week 12- vs. Houston
Week 13- vs. Indianapolis
Week 14- at Green Bay
Week 15- at Arizonaa
Week 16- vs. Atlanta
Week 17- vs. Chicago

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Romney/Ryan Plan for the Middle Class


2012 NFL PREVIEW - Chicago Bears

CHICAGO BEARS

2011 Record: 8-8-0 (3rd in NFC North) 

HEAD COACH: Lovie Smith

Key Additions: WR Brandon Marshall; RB Michael Bush; QB Jason Campbell; WR/KR Eric Weems; CB Kelvin Hayden; DL Brian Price

Key Losses:  CB Corey Graham; SL Anthony Adams; CB Zack Bowman; DB Brandon Meriweather; OL Frank Omiyale

Offense: Three big names for the Chicago Bears offense in the upcoming season are Jay Cutler, Matt Forte' and Brandon Marshall.
Cutler is the starting quarterback and missed six games a year ago after passing for 2,319 yards with 13 touchdowns and only seven interceptions.
Forte' was injured a few weeks later and also missed the remainder of the season after going for 997 yards (4.9 ypc average) and scoring three touchdowns. In addition, Forte' caught 52 passes for 490 yards and a touchdown.
Marshall comes over from Miami after making 81 receptions for 1,214 yards (15.0 ypc average) and six touchdowns.
Cutler and Marshall were teammates in Denver prior to a trade that brought the quarterback to Chicago three years ago.
The rest of the offense includes backup quarterbacks Jason Campbell (1,170 passing yards with six TD and four INT with Oakland in 2011) and Josh McCown. The running game will also feature Michael Bush, who comes over from Oakland and rushed for 977 yards and seven touchdowns while filling in for the injured Darren McFadden. Also available in the backfield is Kalil Bell (337 yards rushing last year) along with fullback/H-backs Tyler Clutts and rookie Evan Rodriguez, who also plays tight end.
At wide receiver along with Marshall is Earl Bennett (out last season with injuries), Devin Hester (26, 369, one TD), Eric Weems and rookie Alshon Jeffery, who might be a starter with Marshall.
The tight end is Kellen Davis, who had 18 grabs for 206 yards with five touchdowns, in limited chances. Matt Spaeth is also available at tight end.
Up front on the line, where better pass protection (49 QB sacks allowed last year) is a must, is center Roberto Garza, guards Chris Williams and Lance Louis and tackles J'Marcus Webb and Gabe Carimi, who had a lost rookie season due to knee problems. Also in the mix is James Brown, Edwin Williams, Chris Spencer, Levi Horn and Chilo Rachal.
In 2011, the Bears finished 24th on offense (314 yards per game), tenth in rushing with 126 yards per game and averaged 188 passing yards a game, which was 26th overall.
 The team was averaging 27 points per game when Cutler went down for the season with the broken thumb and wound up scoring 353 total points for the season.

Defense:  The Bears were 17th overall on defense last season, giving up 350 yards per game, with 254 pass yards allowed (28th in NFL) while giving up 96 yards rushing, which was fifth overall.
The 4-3 defense they employ has Julius Peppers (11 QB sacks) and either rookie Shea McClellin (Boise State) or Israel Idonije (five sacks) at the ends. The tackles are Henry Melton (seven sacks) and either Brian Price or Matt Toeaina. Corey Wooton, Stephen Paea, Chauncey Davis and Thaddeus Gibson are ready when needed.
The linebacking unit is set with veterans Lance Briggs, Nick Roach and possibly Brian Urlacher, who is going through a slow recovery from a knee injury suffered in the last regular season game. Others looking to help out include Geno Hayes, J.T. Thomas, Jonathan Williams and Dom DeCicco.
The secondary, which was torched often last year, has Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings at the corners with Major Wright and Chris Conte at safety. Tillman had three interceptions with two returned for scores last season. The Bears picked off 20 passes in 2011.
Others in reserve include D.J. Moore (four picks with one TD return), veteran free agent signee Kelvin Hayden, rookie Brandon Hardin (Oregon State),  Jonathan Wilhite, Craig Steltz and Anthony Walters.

OUTLOOK:  With Cutler and Forte' back in the fold and some added depth at their respective positions with Campbell (QB) and Bush, the offense should be ready to hum along this season.
Throw in the All-Pro Marshall at wide receiver to go with some of the other weapons (including Devin Hester at kick returning) and this team might put up a lot of points.
After allowing 254 passing yards a game last season, the Bears know they have to improve in that area, especially going against the pass-happy attacks of Green Bay and Detroit in the NFC North.
 Head Coach Lovie Smith is a defensive minded coach and he wants to see better things from the defense in 2012, which managed just 33 sacks last season while giving up too many big plays.
Urlacher's health is a concern as well as he is not quite ready to go with the season opener looming, but they  do feel good with the personnel they have on defense, especially with the drafting of McClellin for the defensive line.
The Bears should contend in the division with the Packers and Lions and there just might be three teams coming out of the NFC North this year for the playoffs.
An 11-5 finish should get this team back to the playoffs and they might be able to challenge the mighty (and hated) Packers for the division crown. How far they go in the playoffs will rest on the defense and the play of Cutler, who has to stay healthy this year.

TEAM SCHEDULE:
Week 1- vs. Indianapolis
Week 2- at Green Bay
Week 3- vs. St. Louis
Week 4- at Dallas
Week 5- at Jacksonville
Week 6- BYE
Week 7- vs. Detroit
Week 8- vs. Carolina
Week 9- at Tennessee
Week 10- vs. Houston
Week 11- at San Francisco
Week 12- vs. Minnesota
Week 13- vs. Seattle
Week 14- at Minnesota
Week 15- vs. Green Bay
Week 16- at Arizona
Week 17- at Detroit