Football is Back!!

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Hard to believe there almost wasn’t a season this year..

But you just knew… You just knew! That the owners and players would get their acts together. There was too much to lose, too much passion for the game, money lost, fan support, and overall popularity of the game itself, riding on this, not to have a season..

And after with a year like 2010, you have to come back and try to top it… this year, and years to come…

So both sides kissed and made up, and got a new CBA in place that should last us this time…

Now about that 2010 season…

Last year was crazy!!! Talk about ups and downs, season ending injuries, teams rising up, teams regressing, drama, hard hits, and a new champion crowned! Green Bay went just 10-6 last year, yet they climbed the hill, got hot when it counted, and won all their playoff games (all on the road) including Super Bowl XLV against Pittsburgh! Early on, they are the likely favorites to repeat, but no team has repeated as SB champions since the New England Patriots did it. The previous SB champs New Orleans Saints still have something to prove after getting upset by the Seattle Seahawks (7-9 in 2010) , in which they believe they can take back the Lombardi trophy (they’ll get their first shot against the defending champs Thursday (Sept. 8 ) at Lambeau field! With all that said, my team the Cowboys had high hopes, but thats all that was left, after their dream of playing for the title in their own stadium fell by the way side after QB Tony Romo suffered a season ending injury and the team finished 6-10.

Now for the offseason…

what offseason, the lockout ended just in time for training camps to open for a quick 2 minute drill type offseason, not to mention Free Agency was a frenzy! Moves being made just about everywhere, Teams trading players like their trade cards you find at the local sports shop! Teams cutting old players, getting rid of dead weight, opening up room for free agents and draft picks. No team made more noise in the off season than the Philadelphia Eagles. A number of acquisitions highlighted by the signing of CB Nnamdi Asomugha to add to an already stacked defense, also adding CB Dominique Rogers-Cromartie… Fans and even some players and NFL personnel and media have already anointed the Eagles as the ‘Dream Team’.. eh in my opinion they will have to prove it, with Michael Vick getting a HUGE contract extension, along with one of his top targets in WR DeSean Jackson, they may just live up to it… more on the predictions in a moment…

other teams making big moves in the offseason included the New England Patriots with the acquisition of WR Chad Ochocinco and DT Albert Hanesworth. The Houston Texans adding two DB’s Jonathan Joseph and Daniel Manning. Former New Orleans RB Reggie Bush now in Miami (a wild card move in my opinion) opens the door for rookie RB Mark Ingram out of Alabama. Baltimore signed RB Rickie Williams to run along side Ray Rice, Minnesota gave up on the Brett Favre fantasy, and signed Donovan McNabb, Seattle released QB Matt Hassleback, who now is in Tennesee handing the ball off to new contract RB Chris Johnson, he used to get handoffs from QB Vince Young who was released, but now backs up Vick in Philadelphia, where the old back up QB Kevin Kolb is now starting in Arizona tossing passes to the very expensive and valuable talented hands of WR Larry Fitzgerald, and the list goes on and on.

Not all teams made additions to their roster, some made subtractions. One team in particular the Dallas Cowboys cut just about half of their starting offensive line from last year, and releasing RB Marion Barber and WR Roy Williams who both now play for the Chicago Bears, while the Cowboys didn’t make a splash in Free Agency, hiring Defense Coordinator Rob Ryan looks to be the move of the offseason from the team, as well as looking at young talent from the draft including RB DeMarco Murray out of Oklahoma.

..and with a blink of an eye, the preseason came and went… and now its time for the season to begin… and without further a due, here are my 2011 NFL predictions…

By Division starting in the AFC South, already some interesting news stories coming out. Peyton Manning now expected to miss at least 2-3 months  for the Colts because he’s recovering from a second neck surgery, and Jacksonville releasing QB David Garrard, turning things over to Luke McCown. This division used to belong to Indianapolis, but they’ll get off to a slow start because of Manning not being healthy. Jacksonville personally made a dumb move in releasing Garrard, and because of that, they’ve taken a step back, Chris Johnson and Matt Hassleback in Tennessee will make a nice duo, but i believe Houston will take this division. Their defense looks good, but has to prove themselves under new coordinator Wade Phillips, and they have one of the more talented offenses in the league, and are balanced.

Division winner: Houston

Projections: Houston- 11-5, Tennessee 8-8, Indianapolis 7-9, Jacksonville 6-10

In the AFC North, the great rivalry of Baltimore and Pittsburgh really is the bright note in this division. Pittsburgh has held the upper hand, but every time they meet up, its definitely one to watch! QB Joe Flacco’s new target WR Lee Evans gives him a deep threat, and can also hand it off to RB Ricky Williams on third and short, good compliment to RB Ray Rice. Pittsburgh did not make alot of major personnel changes, and to be honest, they don’t have to. Big Ben still has his weapons at WR Hines Ward, and Mike Wallace to name a few, and in the backfield RB Rashard Mendenhall. Don’t forget about a ball hawk defense including Troy Polamalu. The division comes down to those two teams, I’m not a Steelers fan in the least, but i believe this could be Baltimore’s year to take the division. Things have completely fallen apart with Cincinnati  rookie QB and WR tandem Andy Dalton and A.J. Green will be their only highlight, and Cleveland could play spoiler late, pulling for 2nd year QB Colt McCoy out of Texas.

Division winner: Baltimore

Projections: Baltimore: 12-4, Pittsburgh 11-5, Cleveland 6-10, Cincinnati 4-12

The AFC East is home to a team that does nothing but win, another team that boasts about winning, and then two teams that wish they could win a game. New England is the team that does nothing but win, and with additions of Ochocinco and Haynesworth to an already stacked roster pretty much gives them a division title and at least a shot of winning the AFC. The New York Jets, however, has won the division the last two years, and has had a shot at playing for the Super Bowl each year, QB Mark Sanchez now has another WR in Plaxico Burress, while on the other side of the field, they still have one of the top corner backs in the league in Darrell Revis (Also known as Revis Island) so that could very well boast their chances of repeating as division champs, It will definitely come down to the head to head matchups against New England. Miami’s biggest move was Reggie Bush,but don’t look for that to make or break their season. Buffalo, umm.. shout out to yall, I hear the weather is nice up there! Haha. I’m kidding, Buffalo could take spoiler route, the young fiesty teams with not much play for are always dangerous. Be careful if you play a game late in the year up there.

Division winner: New England

Projections: New England 13-3, N.Y. Jets 12-4, Miami 6-10, Buffalo 4-12

The AFC West has two of my sleeper teams. San Diego and Oakland. San Diego used to cruise with the division title in head, but took a step back last year and finished 9-7. Oakland has a good mix of veteran and young players on defense, and QB Jason Campbell looks ready to redeem himself from the collapse in Washington a few years back, and channel back his college days at Auburn. Kansas City was the bread winner in this division last year finishing 10-6, however i feel they regressed, lost some coaching staff personnel. But this year there’s no real clear cut favorite in the division, Denver wants to regain postseason form, and turn to QB Kyle Orton, and not star stud QB Tim Tebow, this one will be a three team race for sure, or maybe all four. But the wild card in the AFC is tough to get, each division is two deep in playoff contention teams.

Division winner: San Diego

Projections: San Diego 10-6, Oakland 9-7, Denver 9-7, Kansas City 8-8

Moving to the NFC, and starting in the North, home to the world champs Green Bay Packers, i personally automatically give the division to them before the jump. QB Aaron Rodgers is rapidly becoming one of the best QB in the league, and has a real good supporting cast. No major offseason moves, yet keeping all of the core from last year’s championship team, the Packers are keeping a humble, yet hungry team! I say hungry, because although they are the champs nobody got a major contract extension or pay raise (that! keeps an athlete humble and hungry to win it again, just saying)  However, I picked Detroit in the NFC as one of the sleeper teams, (the other being Tampa Bay), i like QB Matt Stafford and WR Calvin Johnson, if all can stay healthy. Plus their defense looks scary with DT Ndamukong Suh manning the front 4. Them, and Minnesota are the two teams to challenge Green Bay the most, Chicago really doesn’t impress me, despite they did go 11-5 last year . Could be an interesting race for 2nd place in the division and wild card.

Division winner: Green Bay

Projections: Green Bay 12-4, Minnesota 9-7, Chicago 9-7, Detroit 8-8

In the NFC South, this division also has, yes you guessed it, another two team race, between Atlanta and New Orleans. Atlanta was one game away from the Super Bowl, while the Saints were upset by Seattle in the first round. The division comes down to these two yet again. I like both Atlanta and New Orleans’ offenses. Tampa Bay is my sleeper in this division with up and coming QB Josh Freeman and a young team in both offense and defense, with a few veterans in the right place. Carolina is the team that’s up and coming, and 1st overall pick in the draft, Rookie QB Cam Newton will be special in his first year. They’ll improve from last years win total of 2.

Division winner: Atlanta

Projections: Atlanta 12-4, New Orleans11-5, Tampa Bay 9-7, Carolina 5-11

In the NFC West, the division winner Seattle Seahawks finished with a sub .500 record, I don’t expect that to happen again, mainly in part because i don’t expect Seattle to win the division. Not with QB Tarvaris Jackson starting. Sorry. San Francisco will have a better season even with QB Alex Smith, and new Head Coach Jim Harbaugh will get an opportunity to coach against his college rival Pete Carroll (Stanford vs. USC). Arizona has a slight advantage in the division, partly because I like their offense now with QB Kevin Kolb tossing the rock. St. Louis is a sleeper, they’re starting to come up, led by QB Sam Bradford, their defense has some questions to answer though.

Division winner: Arizona

Projections: Arizona 10-6, St. Louis 8-8, San Francisco 7-9, Seattle 5-11

And finally there is the NFC East, one of the toughest divisions if not the hardest. Where to begin, I’ve mentioned all the moves the Philadelphia Eagles made to their roster, or the lack there of for the Cowboys. The Giants, is actually the team in the division kind of slipping under the radar, outside of the contract disputes with DE Osi Umenyiora, not much noise has been made, and that could be scary. New York has thrived under the radar, and could so again. The pressure is on Philadelphia to proved their ‘dream team’ is more than just a dream, and has a high chance of making it a reality. A similar pressure is on the team that plays in Dallas, my team, America’s team, the Cowboys! A lot of talent, a change in the defensive coaching staff, and a QB that puts up a lot of stats, but still yet to prove himself in the playoffs. Is this the year Dallas returns to football glory? And what about that other team, Washington? Yea, QB Rex Grossman has already beat me to the punch with his predictions. One day in practice, he promised they would win the division…… I thought you had to win more games than your other opponents in the division to do that…. Yeah..

Division winner: A close one, i want it to be Dallas so bad, but looks like the early on favorite is Philadelphia..

Projections: Philadelphia 12-4, Dallas 11-5, N.Y. Giants 10-6, Washington 4-12

AFC Champion: New England, but don’t be surprised if Pittsburgh or Baltimore has something to say about it.

NFC Champion: Philadelphia, or Atlanta, or Green Bay. But the fan in me says Dallas!

Super Bowl matchup: New England vs. Green Bay…

But anything can happen. the 2010 season was a testament to that!

The season starts tomorrow night.. Are you ready for some football???

courtesy google images, NFL.com

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