Date Posted: September 15, 2011
Print Edition: September 14, 2011
Although the defending Superbowl champions, the Green Bay Packers, kicked off the start of the NFL season with a 42-34 win over the New Orleans Saints, most football fans don’t recognize the start of the season until the Sunday of week one. During the summer many teams who missed out on the opportunity to play in the postseason last year have acquired key components toward a better shot at the Superbowl this season. On the flip side, some teams who were fortunate enough to be playing last January may not make it back there. Many things have changed since the end of last season.
Most notably is that Peyton Manning, quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, will likely miss the season due to a back surgery he underwent in the offseason. The Colts have been a top contender for the championship in each of his thirteen seasons in Indianapolis. Look for the Houston Texans to knock the Colts off their throne in the AFC South division.
The Philadelphia Eagles, self-proclaimed as “The Dream Team” by recently acquired back up QB Vince Young, had a busy offseason of acquiring skilled players. Most importantly, the Eagles rewarded QB Michael Vick with a $100 million contract extension. The highly entertaining and prolific offence under head coach Andy Reid should look no different than last season as all the starters are returning, including star receiver DeSean Jackson. The Eagles defence, and more specifically, their secondary, is what will make the difference in winning ball games. With the acquisitions of CB Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique-Rodgers Cromartie, who are both top five players for their position in the league, the Eagles secondary on paper looks to be the toughest to play against. When you add in the fact that they also brought in DE Jason Babin, it’s hard not to feel sorry for the offensive co-ordinators who have to develop game plans to tackle this defence.
The New England Patriots out of the AFC East division hope to make a strong push for the Superbowl. The team out of Foxboro, Massachusetts have kept their core intact, which went 14-2 last season and brought in former Pro-Bowl DT Albert Haynesworth and WR Chad Ochocinco. Head coach Bill Belichick is hoping that Ochocinco will draw double coverage, much like Randy Moss did in ’07, and thereby allow Wes Welker and Deion Branch much more space to catch underneath routes and get yards after catch. Albert Haynesworth, formerly one of the best defensive tackles in the league, has had two rough seasons in Washington where he clashed regularly with head coach Mike Shanahan. Belichick plans to utilize Haynesworth in short yardage and running downs, as he and fellow Pro-Bowl DT Vince Wilfork can hopefully clog up the line of scrimmage, creating a nightmare for any running back in the league.
The NFC South division will be an interesting one to keep an eye on all season as The Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers all won games by double digits. The front-runner to win the division looks to be the Falcons, who drafted highly sought after WR Julio Jones to give their young QB Matt Ryan another reliable target next to WR Roddy White. Although the Saints drafted Heisman Trophy winner RB Mark Ingram out of Alabama, their defence doesn’t match up to that of the Falcons, or the “Tampa 2” defence of the Buccaneers. The Packers also exposed the holes in the Saints defence on route to scoring 42 points on them.
The NFC West division, easily the least entertaining in the league, will likely once again come down to the last game of the season to determine the division winner. The St. Louis Rams saw great potential in last year’s first overall pick, QB Sam Bradford, to keep him as their starter along with RB Steven Jackson. The Cardinals acquired QB Kevin Kolb with a steep price tag, but they will at least have a legitimate starting QB able to win games for them. Unfortunately, the offensive line won’t be able to protect him long enough. The Seahawks brought in QB Tavaris Jackson and WR Sidney Rice from the Vikings, the only question is whether the defence can stop opposing teams from running up the score.
Predictions: AFC East: New England. AFC West: San Diego. AFC North: Baltimore. AFC South: Houston. NFC East: Philadelphia. NFC West: Arizona. NFC North: Green Bay. NFC South: Atlanta.