Cincinnati Bengals: What I Know- Mike Zimmer’s 11-man firing squad is deep, ridiculously deep. 2nd unit could start, not miss a beat. Acquisition of Reggie Nelson will pay dividends, change of scenery breeds new life to former 1st round pick from Florida. Hybrid pass rusher Michael Johnson and rookie DT Geno Atkins (Georgia) both will make presence felt during 3rd down passing situations, not that one of the NFL’s top corner back tandems (Leon Hall, Jonathan Joseph) need further assistance. Antwan Odom is going to more than make up for lost time.
What I Don’t Know- How good is this D? Better than Baltimore? If I had to answer, yes. Pittsburgh? Right now, close, but if I had to decide, no. Rivers-Maualuga combo, will they make the biggest noise or will the big boys up front? It’s a matter of how good, or even, how great. Anxious to find out: Will Carson Palmer return to MVP form of 2005? The former Southern Cal Heisman Trophy winner puzzles me beyond words.
Pittsburgh Steelers: What I Know- Dick LeBeau’s troops can be more impressive than past two Super Bowl winning defenses. Easily best group of LB’s in NFL, it’s not even fair. Some sort of record will be broke on D. They will set tempo to season, so much, we don’t even realize who’s under center, whether it be Dixon, Batch, or even Big Ben. It won’t matter with how good they’ll be performing. Troy Polamalu or LaMarr Woodley will win NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. Mike Wallace is AFC version of DeSean Jackson. He has his wheels, only difference, the SEC boy is tougher. Mike Tomlin is completely under valued. He’s easily among the Top 5.
What I Don’t Know- Will Rashard Mendenhall be known for his results or his potential by season’s end? Antwaan Randle El, any trick play magic left? Say the run game is non-existent, how much will they miss Santonio Holmes in 3 WR sets?
Baltimore Ravens: What I Know- Ed Reed will be truly, clearly missed. Ed Reed will be a non-factor in 2010. Ray Rice can trump 2009’s success, he’s an MVP candidate. Ed Dickson will make this team unbelievably hard to defend at times in the red zone. So many options down near goal line. Can’t deny Ray Lewis. Still a DPOY threat. Joe Flacco is under more pressure than Carson Palmer and Big Ben. Week 2 showdown at Cincinnati will say more about team than Monday Night Football opener against New York Jets. Secondary will make it tough for team to finish ahead of Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.
What I Don’t Know- How will T.J. Houshmandzadeh figure into the equation? Instant production? Does the team need him? Why didn’t they hold on to Mark Clayton instead? Clayton can spread the field, stretch out defenses, can T.J. do that? Can he line up inside as slot receiver? Derrick Mason, shouldn’t he be on the receiving end of more props, kudos, and dap? When I think Mason, I think Donald Driver and Hines Ward. Whether or not to believe Terrell Suggs will regain top form because he’s in better shape. Is Josh Wilson a question mark or more of an answer? Immediate impact? Will talented Ladarius Webb speedily recover from torn ACL? He’s their best corner, what’s that saying? How much will they miss him? Will shoddy defensive backfield overcome his absence early on?
Cleveland Browns: What I Do Know- No more than four wins. Don’t put much stock into how they finished ’09. Jake Delhomme’s career is over. Seneca Wallace will provide excitement, start him sooner rather than later. Peyton Hillis is exactly what this team lacks. They need more Peyton Hillises. Versatile. Rough. Mean streak. Intense. Professional. 3-4 defense lacks outside pass rushers. No game changers off the edge. Secondary looks improved. Joe Haden is an All-Pro caliber athlete. Need more athletes. Mike Holmgren, the Head Coach, to be continued…
What I Don’t Know- Why Mangini is still the man. Why was he in the first place? Josh Cribbs’ effect on special teams, will it prolong? On offense, is he viable enough to make some sort of a wave? Why Colt McCoy is on the team. Which Pac-10 QB they prefer more: Jake Locker or Andrew Luck? Arkansas Razorbacks’ Ryan Mallett? T.J. Ward- was he over drafted or is he the answer at strong safety? Why sign Scott Fujita at OLB when you can develop Marcus Benard. Wouldn’t you want to go young and fast at this position? Banking on Matt Roth way too much. Shaun Rogers, still on the team? How long it will take for this team to compete in the AFC North.
Minnesota Vikings: What I Do Know- We will be talking about Adrian Peterson like we were talking about Chris Johnson last season. Front four will atone for secondary’s mistakes, all its injuries and early season deficiencies. Jared Allen gets more cred than Kevin Williams because of his vibrant personality. E.J. Henderson made quite a speedy recovery, just his presence alone will ignite defense more than some people think. Leslie Fraizer is as good as gone, head coach in 2010. Brett Favre should be the offensive coordinator, he’s running the show, not Brad Childress. Percy Harvin and Greg Camarillo will do more than adequate job replacing Sidney Rice. This will soon become Adrian Peterson’s team. They have Green Bay’s number.
What I Don’t Know- If Chester Taylor will be brought up every time when “All Day” takes a breather. Once a game? Twice? Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin both close to completely healthy in November and December? They need Chris Cook to return fast. How much does Lito Sheppard have left in the tank? Why do people quickly dismiss them as NFC representatives? Bernard Berrian as a deep threat like he was in Chicago. If the D loses anything if Jasper Brinkley takes over for E.J. Henderson.
Green Bay Packers: What I Do Know- They are not this year’s version of the ’09-10 Saints. Tougher division. Rodgers isn’t on Brees’ level. NFC has upgraded. Donald Driver is on my football team any day of the week. He’s tough as nails, excellent shape, and durable as all get out. As good as it gets as a true football player. Throwback. They don’t come any more rugged than him, what a great story, inspiration for athletes. I can watch him play all the time. Clay Matthews willing the ball free from Adrian en route to six on MNF in the first match-up in October was one of the best plays I saw live. Remarkable strength, ability from the former USC standout. Charles Woodson. Impressive. He earned the NFL’s DPOY award. What a play maker. Oh, and Jermichael Finley can no longer be filed under the unnoticed section, he is extremely well-known by everyone, and for good reason.
What I Don’t Know- Do they have what it takes to overtake Minnesota? Why so many people are over hyping them? Every expert and analyst seems to have them representing the NFC. If rookie strong safety Morgan Burnett is prepared to start right away. I like him and defensive lineman Mike Neal from their draft, but I don’t know what to think of nose tackle B.J. Raji, last year’s 1st round selection. Is he going to perform? Haynesworth-esque skill, Haynesworth-like attitude/character? They played extensively without Al Harris in ’09, will it be any different? Much has been expected from first round inside line backers A.J. Hawk and Nick Barnett, but are they able to step it up a notch or two in order for the defense to excel? Why let go of Spencer Havner? Hopefully he doesn’t do significantly well in his new digs. Never good when a division rival scoops up one of your former players.
Detroit Lions: What I Do Know- Stafford-Best-Johnson. Next Big Trio. They will be underestimated, yet, they will excite. Best has outstanding vision. Points will not be an issue. Will be most improved NFC team. Defense is still a few players away. This is the team I’m most looking forward to watching. Louis Delmas is a Pro-Bowler. Jim Schwartz, right man for the job. Nice mix of vets via Free Agency and youngsters via Draft. Nate Burleson and Tony Scheffler will be noticed more often that not, good pick-ups. Taking a chance on Alphonso Smith for basically nothing, nice coup. Team needs big-time help at DB, right away. Kyle Vanden Bosch is a warrior on the defensive line. DeAndre Levy-Julian Peterson are looking for a third ‘backer to run with ’em. Cliff Avril, double-digit sacks. Playoffs next year. Ford Field will be home to an abundance of shootouts, not blowouts. Spencer Havner was a brilliant pick-up. Good move few people will see (I just found out). You better believe he has October 3rd and December 12th pinpointed on his calendar.
What I Don’t Know- If the defense can keep pace with offense. Do they enough depth to sustain fight going deep into games? I was wrong on Stafford early on, his play, demeanor, and mentality have changed my mind. Especially his rocket launcher for an arm. 20 picks? 25 picks? 30? Could he possibly be the next Jay Cutler? Ndamukong Suh, is going to be a player, but how much of a force will he be? Corey Williams was a bust in Cleveland, is he ready to snap out of it? How in the world the corner backs are in the state they are in now is mind-boggling. I mean, they’re working out Nathan Vasher, that’s how bad it has gotten. Startling. If Calvin Johnson is going to be in the discussion as the #1 wideout, it’ll be soon, yet how soon? Why did Jahvid Best fall so late?
Chicago Bears: What I Do Know- Julius Peppers is the top athlete in the game today. He can be scary good. However, I don’t think he’s a big enough band-aid to cover up for the Bears holes in the secondary. New head coach/GM next season. Jay Cutler’s job is safe no matter what. Matt Forte will resemble more his rookie self, sophomore slump was an aberration. Chester Taylor will help out immensely. Excellent addition. Charles Tillman is the best at stripping the football, Chris Harris is good too. Major Wright should start at free safety. I rather have Lance Briggs instead of Brian Urlacher. A rejuvenated Tommie Harris would do wonders. WR is not a problem, its actually a strength. OL is the biggest weakness, by far. DB is next. I don’t see more than six wins. Devin Hester needs to return more kicks, see less action on offense.
What I Don’t Know- Why isn’t Jay Cutler utilized more in shotgun? Why is offensive line always forgotten on draft day, yet the defensive line is always remembered? I can’t figure out why Hester is so often criticized. It’s going to take time, he has developed nicely, and will start to show his potent potential this year. I think everyone has gotten carried away and has overblown his situation. Why Jay Cutler is looked down upon. He did the most with what he could do last season, he’s the ultimate competitor. Why Greg Olsen is still on this roster, he’s so overvalued. Team would be better of with a draft pick. How the team’s defense can look so good every year the first two or three games, then fade away rapidly. More aggressiveness should be exhibited. Will Jay Cutler execute in the red zone? If he does, could this team all of a sudden go from a 5-6 win team to an 8-9 win club?