This offseason has been an eventful one to say the least in the NFL. There were more trades made than any that I could remember in recent years and the names weren’t small by any means.
Super Bowl MVP’s, consistent Pro Bowlers, consistent QB’s and franchise legends all changed hands at one point or another this offseason. We saw a guy get traded within his own division to a rival, and that rival turned around and traded their QB to one of the most poorly run franchises in the game, which allowed them to release their bust of No. 1 draft pick… and that was the beginning.
Transactions moved into intriguing, the Seahawks felt more comfortable in trusting a wide receiver that hasn’t played competitive football in three years over an established Pro Bowler who just so happened to sign a 40 million dollar deal last year (and made 20 million dollars for one year of service as it turns out, I really should’ve played football.). The Bengals signed a receiver for 28 million but cut him two months later because of his poor injury plagued performance and will take their chances with one of the biggest cancers in the NFL. Then there are all of the Jets expensive moves.
It’s all backlash or one last gasp if you will before the CBA expires this year. It is an uncapped year and everyone is going crazy with deals. Cap hits don’t matter this year, if you want to drop a guy even though he hasn’t had a chance to live up to his deal? Do it. There might not be football next year so what is there to lose?
That’s why the Eagles traded Donovan McNabb to the Eagles within their division, that’s why the Jets acquired everyone accept Jerry Rice it seems this season. That’s why this year has more of a Madden football game feel to it. It’s like GM’s woke up turned on an XBOX and said screw it. Let’s see if this works.
It’s also lead to a lot of hype throughout the league. The Seahawks have expectations with their new head coach (USC escapee Pete Carroll), The Ravens are the trendy Super Bowl pick as are the Cowboys due to the Super Bowl being held in their stadium, and even the Redskins are a trendy pick to win the NFC East just because they traded for McNabb. Oh yeah then there’s the usual stories, discontent in San Diego where A.J. Smith seems to the only GM trying to save money and it looks like it’s going to hurt him in the long run? Is this the year Houston finally takes the next step? Are the Saints ready to repeat? Is this it for the Patriots? Oh and a certain quarterback in Minnesota who is back… again.
The league is constantly full of hype and bloated expectations and this one might be the worst year ever. Teams are being awarded trophies due to hype and possibility. It’s almost hard to decipher what should be believed or not. Fortunately I’m not big on believing what anyone says, ever. Here are your NFL teams, hype factor and reality.
NEW YORK JETS 11-5
Hype factor 10 out of 10: Paper Super Bowl Champions due to acquiring Super Bowl MVP Santanio Holmes, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Antonio Cromartie. Add in an appearance on HBO’s Hard Knocks and there in full hype mode.
Reality Check: There quarterback is in his second year, there starting running back is in his first season and Mark Sanchez’s number one receiver is Braylon Edwards (no comment). Also Cromartie’s production has declined since his ten pick season a few years ago. Also Rex Ryan’s mouth might be the ultimate downfall of this team.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 10-6
Hype, 6: nothing big coming out of Boston except contract disputes and wondering if Wes Welker can come back at full strength from a torn ACL
Reality: Tom Brady said he hates the Jets, like really hates them. Also this Rob Gronkowski pick for Arizona might have a bigger impact than Holmes.
MIAMI DOLPHINS 9-7
Hype, 7: It’s pretty much a maybe team. Maybe they can hang with the Jets, Maybe Brandon Marshall is the big threat on offense, maybe the defense is intact and Vontae Davis can turn into Darrelle Revis 2.0.
Reality: Maybe Henne’s ready to be the man, maybe the defense can stop the Pats and Jets from scoring; maybe they can make the playoffs… maybe.
BUFFALO BILLS 3-13
Hype, 1: correction, C.J. Spiller hype, 10. Rest of team, -9.
Reality: no offensive line, no receivers, no consistent defense. (With the second pick in the 2011 NFL Draft the Buffalo Bills select Jake Locker, QB, Washington.)
CINCINATTI BENGALS 12-4
Hype, 9: T.O. and Ocho. Carson Palmer actually signed off on this and I still don’t know why.
Reality: They had a top ten defense last year and Jonathan Joseph has turned into a top flight cornerback. Plus Antwan Odom returns this year and the defense should be the catalyst for a big year. However, as much hype that there is on the offense it lies in the hands of Carson Palmer. His performance, more than anyone else’s, will decide the fate of this team. If he plays like pre-injury Palmer? Super Bowl. If he plays like last year? Wildcard.
BALTIMORE RAVENS 9-7
Hype, 8: building two consecutive successful runs, they’ve add Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmanzadeh to make for a potent offense. They are the favorites to make it out of the AFC North and into the Super Bowl.
Reality: ED Reed is out for six games; the secondary had problems against potent passing games last year and will struggle again this year. Playoffs? Yes. Super Bowl? No.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS 7-9
Hype, 4: Big Ben will be back in week 5 and Troy Polamalu is fully recovered from injuries last year.
Reality: they’re putting all of their in Mike Wallace to be the man at wide receiver this year. Also the defense started out fast last year and faded late. Interesting to see if they can reverse that trend.
CLEVELAND BROWNS 6-10
Hype, 2: mike Holmgren is turning the team around slowly but surely.
Reality: there about 3 years away from any major discussion.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 12-4
Hype, 3: It’s Indy. They don’t have hype, they just play.
Reality: They’re the best team in the AFC still. However, how healthy will they be come the playoffs?
HOUSTON TEXANS 10-6
Hype, 5: this is their playoff year. No seriously, this is it.
Reality: I’m serious they make the turn this year. Matt Schaub is a dark horse MVP candidate and Andre Johnson is locked up and properly paid. Plus they now have a pass rusher to help Mario Williams.
(Which reminds me, we really need to collectively send Charlie Casserly a card and gift basket stating how wrong we were to clown him about choosing Williams over Reggie Bush and Vince Young? Both Young and Bush have become decent role players but nothing like the game changers we thought they would be. Williams is among the league leaders in sacks in the last three years and anchors a really good front 7 in Houston. Meanwhile Young is just starting to get a grip on the Titans starting job and Bush has been hampered by injuries and other offenses (ah hem, USC scandal), Casserly should be walking around with and “I told you so!” t-shirt on… well if Houston didn’t fire him.)
TENNESSEE TITANS 8-8
Hype, 8: Chris Johnson wants to run for 2500 yards, people feel that Vince Young will take off this year and that they can contend with Indy.
Reality: no, no, no. Vince Young’s receivers have to be great in order to give Johnson running room because everyone will stack the line against them this year. Also the defense is rebuilding after releasing Kyle Vandenbosch and Keith Bullock.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 2-14
Hype, 0: to match their attendance.
Reality: this team is Maurice Jones-Drew and that’s it. (with the first pick in the 2011 NFL the Jacksonville Jaguars select RYAN MALLETT, QB, ARKANSAS.)
OAKLAND RAIDERS 9-7
Hype, 3: Jason Campbell brings them stability behind center (finally).
Reality: they don’t have refined receivers, but the Raiders are going to shock people, they might actually be good. They’ve settled on Michael Bush at running back and Zach Miller should have a big year. Also, did you realize that the Raiders had the number seven pass defense in the league last year and were third in the NFL with 49 sacks? Hmmmmm….
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 8-8
Hype, 4: They’ve won the division by default the last three years.
Reality: there are so many unhappy people in San Diego you think that they are the Raiders. Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill are holding out, Shawne Merriman reluctantly signed a one-year and their placing their offense hopes on rookie runner Ryan Matthews and an aging Antonio Gates. Norv Turner your clock starts… NOW!
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 6-10
Hype, 2: The combination of Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones? Yes. Matt Cassel? No.
Reality: the offense will be decent… the defense? Third worst in the league last year and still needs work.
(By the way they drafted every big name SEC defensive player in the last few years (Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson) and they’ve been absolute failures. What does this mean about the dominance of the powerful SEC talent pool? I mean these guys are bums, so is Jay Cutler and Percy Harvin is having more headaches than Lindsay Lohan’s publicist. Was the SEC really all it was cracked up to be or did they blind us with a lot of substance like speed and strength to cover up the fact that these guys really can’t play football? And does this make you wonder about how Eric Berry and Javier Arenas will do there?)
DENVER BRONCOS 5-11
Hype, 10: TEBOW-MANIA!!!!
Reality: TEBOW’S GONNA BE A BUM!!! You can’t teach a guy a throwing motion in two weeks and think it’s going to stick when Jared Allen is trying to rip his head off. Also Tebow learned a valuable lesson in his first preseason game about how different this league is and why he won’t succeed. Late in the 4th quarter against Cincinnati he took off for the end zone like he did in Florida and thought he would just run over a third string linebacker and score. Unfortunately he forgot to realize that NFL linebackers are NCAA defensive ends and got floored. Now if you notice when he runs out of the pocket (if he does) he’s bracing himself for the apocalypse. The Broncos made a huge mistake taking Tebow and they are going to realize that the hype machine and sainthood of the Church of Tebow is nice to sell jerseys because he’s a nice guy, but it won’t win them games in the future. (Josh McDaniels, you’re on the clock.)
NEW YORK GIANTS 11-5
Hype, 0: because the other team in New York is getting all of it.
Reality: injuries killed them last year and they still beat this year’s favorites, the Cowboys twice, now they’re healthy. Eli Manning is coming off of his best season and Keith Bullock fills their void in the middle. Also, you think that defense still isn’t furious about their poor showing last year?
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 10-6
Hype, 2: No one believes in Kevin Kolb.
Reality: Kevin Kolb is going to shine. Also they have the best running back in the NFC East in LeSean McCoy (that is if Andy Reid will run the ball) and the best one-two receiving punch in Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson. Oh and Trent Cole and company on defense, don’t think I forgot about that.
DALLAS COWBOYS 9-7
Hype, 9: It’s the Cowboys of course they’re hyped up.
Reality: Do you trust the following? Tony Romo for a full season? Any of their backs staying healthy? Miles Austin to replicate his year last year? Roy Williams, at all? Anyone on that overrated secondary making plays? Exactly.
WASHINGTON REDKINS 7-9
Hype, 9: McNabb Mania has taken D.C. my storm.
Reality: no protection, no run game, an aging Santana Moss and a defense transitioning to a 3-4 without 3-4 players. Oh, we forgot about all of that.
GREEN BAY PACKERS 13-3
Hype, 6: Aaron Rodgers for MVP part 2, if his line can hold up.
Reality: Ryan Grant, RUN HARD AND GOOD THINGS WILL HAPPEN. They are the best team in the NFC due to equal parts of playmakers on offense and defense.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS 10-6
Hype, 10: you know why.
Reality: even the Viking are sick of you know who. While the defense will be great as always not having a healthy Sidney Rice or Percy Harvin hurts the offense.
(Side fact: who leads the NFL in fumbles lost in the last three seasons? Adrian Peterson. As explosive a runner that he is, do you think he’ll lose carries late games because of that fact? Hmmmm…)
CHICAGO BEARS 7-9
Hype, 4: Julius Peppers helps, but he can’t catch passes, not that Jay Cutler would complete them.
Reality: say good-bye to Lovie Smith after this year. It’s a wrap for him, and the Bears should consider the same for Cutler if he throws 20 more interceptions.
DETROIT LIONS 5-11
Hype, 0: long way to go, but getting better.
Reality: Matt Stafford is already getting better, and Ndamukong Suh is adding some much needed toughness to this team. Don’t believe me? Ask Jake Delhomme’s neck.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 14-2
Hype, 9: I mean they are the Super Bowl champs.
Reality: their toughest games are all on the road, Dallas, Baltimore and Cincinnati. Two of those teams can’t defend the pass. Drew Brees has about 30 receivers… plus they play in the NFC South… you do the math.
ATLANTA FALCONS 9-7
Hype, 2: Michael Turner is healthy and Matt Ryan should bounce back from an iffy second year.
Reality: The NFC East and North will have two teams each in the playoffs. The Falcons don’t have what it takes to get a wildcard.
CAROLINA PANTHERS 5-11
Hype, 0: unless you count the John Fox lame duck coach watch.
Reality: Smash, Dash and little else.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 3-13
Hype, 0: there really is no reason to watch them, at all.
Reality: no seriously I have nothing to say about them… at all.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 9-7
Hype, 5: When Vernon Davis is calling out guys for not playing hard, you know a change is coming.
Reality: is Alex Smith finally ready to lead San Francisco? I think so, as long as he gets Frank Gore 20-25 touches a game, limits his mistakes and lets Patrick Willis and the defense run shop like they’re supposed to.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 6-10
Hype, 6: Pete Carroll’s great escape takes him to a team with age, health and depth issues.
Reality: they’re in rebuild mode, don’t expect much.
ARIZONA CARDINALS 6-10
Hype, 3: They’re going to miss Kurt Warner…
Reality: … and Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle. If I were Ken Whisenhunt I would give the offense a steady diet of Beanie Wells to keep the defense off the field. That and don’t place any trust in Derek Anderson… AT ALL!!!
ST. LOUIS RAMS 3-13
Hype, 0: Poor Steve Spagnuolo.
Reality: Poor Sam Bradford.
Hopefully if all is right in the world, then the Super Bowl will be The Green Bay Packers versus the Cincinnati Bengals with Cincinnati winning it all, but who knows. The way this year is shaping up it could be a crapshoot for the title. Just don’t believe the hype.
AFC EAST- New York Jets
AFC NORTH- Cincinnati Bengals
AFC SOUTH- Indianapolis Colts
AFC WEST- Oakland Raiders
WILDCARD- Houston Texans, New England Patriots
NFC EAST- New York Giants
NFC NORTH- Green Bay Packers
NFC SOUTH- New Orleans Saints
NFC WEST- San Francisco 49ers
WILDCARDS- Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME- Cincinnati vs. Indianapolis
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME- Green Bay vs. New Orleans
MVP- Aaron Rodgers
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR- Chris Johnson
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR- Patrick Willis
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR- Jason Campbell
COACH OF THE YEAR- Mike Singletary
OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR- Jahvid Best
DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR- Rolando McClain