Saturday, August 1, 2009

AFC South Predictions

Today we take a look at the AFC South

1. Indianapolis Colts 12-4

The Indianapolis Colts remain pretty unchanged on the field minus Marvin Harrison. A move which surprised a lot of people but needed to be done. In 2007 and 2008 combined Harrison played in only 20 games and totaled 80 receptions for 883 yards. In 2006 alone he had 95 catches for 1,366 yards so his production is clearly dropping. The biggest change to the Colts however is the remodeled coaching staff. The Colts were forced to find a new offensive coordinator after long time coach Tom Moore retired this offseason. Moore has been the only coordinator Peyton Manning has ever played for in the NFL and many believe Moore has been a big part of Peyton's success. I do not however believe Clyde Christensen stepping in as the new offensive coordinator will have as large of an effect as some people may think. One thing about Peyton is that he calls his own plays. Moore would send in a set of 3 to 4 plays and Peyton would choose which one to run. Plus we all know Peyton is great at reading defenses and calling audibles. So even with a new OC, their primary signal caller remains the same. We do however have to take into account Tony Dungy has retired and this will be the first season under new head coach Jim Caldwell. Caldwell has been with the team since 2002 and many people on the team are fond of him so the transition should be easy. To top it all off let's not forget that this is a team that has not won less than 10 games since 2001. Looks like another division title for the Colts.

2. Tennessee Titans 11-5
The Tennessee Titans finished last season with the best record in the NFL at 13-3. I do not believe they will be able to repeat that performance. The fact remains that Kerry Collins is very reliable at the quarterback position but is not exactly a game changer. The Titans will still have a good team and post a good record however not quite as good as last years. Plus this is a team that lost Albert Haynesworth on the defensive line who had a monstrous season last year. The Titans will still have success in the running game and play good defense. Running back Chris Johnson seems to be a star in the making rushing for 1,228 yards last year in his rookie campaign. I expect decreased performances from the d-line and the qb positions which is why I believe they deserve a 2 game knock compared to last years record.

3. Houston Texans 9-7
The Texans have in my opinion the best WR in the NFL right now and his name is Andre Johnson. And if you disagree let's look at some facts: Last year Johnson led the NFL regular season in both receptions and yards with 115 receptions for 1,575 yards. And johnson did all this with Matt Schaub as his quarterback (and some Sage Rosenfels). The Schaub to Johnson combination will return strong this year to give the Texans a winning season. Look also for increased performance from 2nd year running back and former West Virginia star Steve Slaton who posted 1,282 yards rushing in his rookie year. The Texans offense finished 3rd in the NFL in yards per game last year yet ranked only 17th in points and are looking to improve on that mark this season. Their defense has been steadily improving since the controversial Mario Williams over Reggie Bush pick which all of a sudden looks genius as Williams had 12 sacks last year. Demeco Ryans has been playing great and promises to be an anchor of the defense in his 4th season. Also this team added hard nosed USC linebacker Brian Cushing in the draft with the 15th overall pick. If this defense can step up a bit more and Johnson can continue to play at a high level we may see an even higher win total here.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars 6-10
The Jaguars last season were a disappointing team as many expected more out of them. I believe a big part of that comes from the expectation that the Jaguars would have a very strong running game with Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones Drew. However neither managed to rush for over 1,000 yards and now Fred Taylor is no longer with the team. The Jags lost tackle Khalif Barnes in free agency but were able to pick up a very good tackle prospect in Eugene Monroe through the draft. The team also added long time Rams receiver Torry Holt signing him to a 3 year deal with hopes that he will become a main target for David Garrard. Overall I think how the season goes for the Jaguars is heavily dependent on the way Garrard plays. If he can manage to take more pressure off of Maurice Jones Drew which I believe he can this team may win more games. They must also improve their defense especially the pass defense which allowed 224.1 yards per game and ranked 24th in the league. Overall they will be decent, but not to much better than last year.

Friday, July 31, 2009

AFC West Predictions

1. San Diego Chargers 11-5
This years Chargers team has not made to many big changes from last year. They will however be returning their all-star linebacker Shawne Merriman. Merriman is the leader of that defense and having lost him last year for pretty much the entire season was a big blow to this team. Yet with that injury they were still able to make the playoffs and beat the Colts in Wild Card week before losing to the Steelers the next week. Their offense finished 2nd in the NFL in points per game and look for this defense with the addition of Merriman to improve their 31st overall pass defense from last year by strongly improving the pass rush. Also, it has been reported several times that Ladanian Tomlinson who many thought has been losing a step of 2 showed up this offseason in the bast shape of his life and reports are saying he looks like the LT of old. LT and Darren Sproles should make for a dangerous backfield. With the weakness in this division, the Chargers are pretty much a lock for a playoff spot.

2. Oakland Raiders 7-9
This team could really go either way this year. 7-9 may be a little bit on the higher side of where I think they will be at the end of the year but if they can start winning some of their close games like they have not been in the past then the Raiders could end up in 2nd in the AFC West at 7-9. The scales however could just as easily tip the other way if the Raiders do not find a way to improve on their 31st ranked rush yards allowed per game statistic. This problem has plagued this team over the past few years however Tommy Kelly played surprisingly well up front last year and with a new D-Coordinator things could positively change. Do not look for very much production from their top 2 draft picks this year as  Darrius Heyward-Bey I don't think will develop the hands necessary to catch balls in traffic and Mike Mitchell adjusts to reading pro offenses. The Raiders will however continue to have a strong running game with Justin Fargas, Darren Mcfadden, and Michael Bush. That being said I think the Raiders finish 2nd in the AFC West behind San Diego.

3. Denver Broncos 5-11
This is a team that over the offseason imploded like nobody would believe. First, they fire their long time and super bowl winning head coach Mike Shanahan to bring in Patriots ex offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Then with pro bowl quarterback with a tremendous arm already on the team (Jay Cutler), McDaniels tries to break the bank to bring in Matt Cassel from New England. This turned out to be very bad for McDaniels as Jay Cutler got upset and demanded a trade. I'm not saying that Cutler was right in demanding a trade or that McDaniels was wrong by not putting up with Cutler trying to run the team, I do however think that all around it was a terrible move on the part of McDaniels because they already had a pro-bowl proven QB and now you want to trade for somebody who didn't even make the playoffs with receivers Randy Moss and Wes Welker and one of the best O-lines in the game. It just doesn't make sense. And the worst part about this whole situation is they have no defense to fall back on because last year they had one of the worst defenses in the entire NFL. It could be a long season for Broncos fans.

4. Kansas City Chiefs 3-13
The Chiefs are in rebuilding mode and as we know for teams in the NFL that process usually takes a few years. They did however draft smart and heavily defensively with hopes to strengthen their defense first. This team did however add Matt Cassel who I do not think will be the savior in KC but is a good looking prospect for their future. The Chiefs brought in Todd Haley the ex Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator from last season, and we all know the success their offense had. So look for the Chiefs to try to throw the ball downfield with some success this year but overall this roster is just to young to make a big impact this year but they are certainly doing good things for the future of Chiefs football.