Like most of you guys, I'm really excited about the upcoming NFL season; not just for the Falcons, but for all 32 teams.
With the way it seems like the Colts, Patriots and Chargers in the AFC maybe on the verge of their autumn years of success (and in the NFC the loss of Warner for the Cardinals, the Eagles seemingly rebuilding - possible question marks with the Giants and Vikings), and other teams finally seem to be getting the idea of how to match up with them by learning how to draft and free agency (see the Oakland Raiders) to rise above their decade long playoff drought. We may finally see a very competitive NFL season.
Let's start with us: The NFC South. We know about the Defending Champs the Saints, getting most of their key players back and that's always good to continue the tradition of success, and how our team is building through the
draft. One might not think beyond the Falcons and Saints, but I always like to give teams the benefit of the doubt.
The Panthers I think could quietly have a very good season. Remember they had injuries on the defensive side of the ball and that was still their strength. They've build some more pieces on each side and ditched turnover proned Delhomme and can only get better (remember they finished 8-8 with a tougher schedule). And I posted earlier this year about the Buccaneers being a team to look out for because of that NFCsouth anomaly. http://www.thefalcoholic.com/2010/4/18/1429392/the-nfc-south-anomaly-should-we And there is legitimate reason for that. They played better defense in the latter part of the year and drafted two good DT's and actually have a decent secondary. Raheem Morris under his second season with the system in place, there may be rhythm on both sides of the ball. Two of the Bucs two wins were against playoff teams (Packers and New Orleans - although you could say both of those opponents weren't at their best that day), and took us to the wire in our place (Wikipedia says the Bucs will wear Creamsicle Orange when they play us on December 5th). Granted, I think even the Bucs can give us a handful in at least one of our matchups so we can't take them or Carolina lightly.
Now let's look at the Division we play the AFC North and why I named this article Divisional Mirror Images.
The Steelers and the Saints were the last two teams to win the Superbowl, and always remain relevant each year. You may also remember another fanpost I made earlier this year about the Steelers. http://www.thefalcoholic.com/2010/4/21/1435164/big-ben-suspended-for-our-game They finished 9-7 last year, but looked awful at one point. But it wasn't because of Roethlisberger (well maybe against the Browns), it was their defense. Polamalu was injured throughout the season, and could likely come back healthlier than ever this season (likely has about two strong years left before he starts to decline - unless he's Ronde Barber and could be). Again, I don't think a change of QB changes the Steelers Offense, and they will still put up points. Leftwich did well playing for the Steelers, and we saw Dennis Dixon in his first regular season debut in 2008 against a good Ravens Defense in Baltimore play well enough to win, and Charlie Batch can play well enough to score as well. I know you are thinking, Steelers don't have a running game with the O-Line problems and lost Santonio Holmes, but I can see other guys stepping up. Maybe there will be a bit of decline and we will be the best team to feast off of that before they rediscover that rhythm. [Look for the Steelers to be at full strength in week 8]
The Ravens are our arch Rival, being Birds, and Ryan's Darker haired twin. They've made a louder noise in draft with Sergio Kindle and other DT's; free agency Boldin and Stallworth and seems elite to take the division from Pittsburgh QB and offense/defense issues and the team that swept them last year that almost no one is talking about. [Can't wait until Week 10!]
....The Bengals. But many of us are talking about them beating us on October 24th. (Actually the Packers scare me more that the Ravens and Bengals to give us our annual home loss). The Bengals Swept the Division as we know but the wheels fell off as injuries on the defensive side of the ball finally caught up with them. If they can stay healthly and use their offensive draft picks to help open up the offense and gain rhythm, they can only get better. Like the Panthers, I think they will quietly have a good season with solid to finesse defense, and ball control offense. Nothing fancy, just the facts. [Should be a good sweet game of fresh defense week 3]
And there is the Cleveland Browns. A Team like the Buccaneers that no one wants to give a chance or thinks will make some noise. But they seems to have had a good draft this year too (also I think the Lions did too and in free agency), focusing on Defense and other key positions the Browns needed. They did finish winning four straight games, and Mike Holmgren seems to know what he's doing. He made the Seahawks relevant for a moment and groomed on Brett Favor...I mean Farve, and the Packers were a solid team for a long time. So the Browns have reason for hope. [Week 1 is always a weird week for football with weird results but it should be fun too]
Oh no my friends, I've just begun. That was just one Division. How about the NFC North versus the AFC East. Two more division that are facing each other in which I think will each have three strong teams, and one's trying to find themselves.
Packers Vikings Dolphins vs Jets Patriots and Bears. The Packers look dangerous on Offense and could get much better on defense, as the Jets will have a killer defense and an offense that could be on the rise. I will look forward to seeing that Week 8 matchup.
Brady and Farve, two old Vets, SB experienced and knows how to play hurt and have moxie. Moss faces his former team and the Patroits look for revenge against Farve when he last faced them in 2008 as a Jet. Vikings Defense could put Brady on his back a lot but we'll see again on Week 8. Happy Halloween!
The Bears and Dolphins have also made big splashes getting Peppers and Marshall to shore up a weakness each team has have. Mike Martz verses Dan Henning (the same guy that burned us in that 10-3 loss to the Panthers in the Georgia Dome in 2006). Will Cutler be Turnover Prone? Or will Chad Henne (no relation to Dan Henning) be able to open it up for that Miami Wildcat Offense? [We'll have to see week 11 on NFLN]
The Lions have been dismal since 2000, but last year something seemed different about them since Jim Scharwtz took over, and yes they only won two games, but I can see that they are actually starting to do things right for a change with the heart of gold Matt Stafford from Georgia, and good solid draft picks and some free agents from that stout Titans defense of 2007-8. I see the Lions with a dynamic offense and an improved defense under their second year system. I can't say the same for the Buffalo Bills, in fact you might say they will likely have the #1 overall pick in the 2011 or 20?? draft (depending on the labor agreement). But I can say these two will face each other in Buffalo, the Bills did have the lead in defensive interceptions despite a ton of injuries, and have Spiller, and another Georgia (Tech) guy as their coach. [Interesting matchup on Week 10]
Now I could go on about how the NFC East facing the AFC South, there is a lot of question marks in each division for some teams. Like...are the Eagles rebuilding or is that just what they want us to think? Are the Redskins that much better with Shanahan? Can the Titans Defense get back to form since losing three plus key players and going with new guys? Can the Jaguars Compete with their new draft/free agency picks on defense? Are the Giants back to where they used to be on Defense. Can the Cowboys repeat Success with most of their guys coming back (how do you explain them getting swept by the third place Giants - another article I posted on Falcoholic)? http://www.thefalcoholic.com/2010/5/4/1457832/the-2009-nfc-east-anomaly-the Can the Texans finally make it to the playoffs and beat Indy? How much more does Indy have to get back to the big dance before Manning is just another Brett Farve/Atlanta Braves of the 90's?
The Battle of the two Wests AFC and NFC, is more like who's going to take advantage of a fallen/falling empire? (Chargers/Cardinals) [Week 4]. For years we've looked at the historic Niners to do it, but can't seem to turn that corner on offense. The Raiders like the Lions couldn't seem to either through the draft and lost who their QB should be but like the Niners had good defense. [Week 6] The Battle of Missouri Rams and Cheifs have tried so hard but came up lame with both teams combined winning under 10 games in two seasons with abysmal offenses and defenses that can make plays as well as they give it up too. [Week 15]. The Seahawks and Broncos both look to be very interesting in the way their coach my get creative and crafty drawing up gadget plays. Pete Carroll was a college coach and Josh McDaniels looks like a college guy with Tim Tebow. [I see another fun matchup full of uncertain suprises Week 2]
So my friends don't you see? Mirror Images are always a possibility of parity in 2010. As these 32 teams meet their evil twin team in pigskin matrimony, we shall enjoy a season full of HARMony.
Oh by the way...on an off note, the Falcons face a number of 3-4 defenses this season. We've had mixed results with the ones we've already faced. Do you think facing 3-4 defense such as BAL, PIT, CLE, GB, SF, ARI (to some extent) STL, SEA will affect how we win and lose some of our games?