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Hopefully the powers that be get their acts together so we can have a 2011 season. Personally, I wouldn't mind a lockout if they lock out because the players refuse to play an 18-game schedule. That would be a disaster. Outside of the owners, I don't think anybody wants to see that. The NFL wants to work on protecting its players, so how exactly does adding two more games reflect that?
Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez appeared on Jim Rome Is Burning and made an excellent point. He has played 14 seasons in the NFL. Had he played with an 18-game season, that adds 28 games. That is nearly an additional two NFL seasons. This is coming from a guy that has enjoyed no serious injuries in his career, missing only two games!
The NFL has got to take a closer look at what it is asking for. What exactly is wrong with the way things are right now? Maybe rookie salaries have gotten out of control, but other than that, can't we just all get along?
1. Green Bay Packers (5): You might be hard pressed to find a tougher road to win a Super Bowl. Fifteen players on IR, including six opening day starters, and while I haven't researched it, I can't imagine very many teams have won their final six "elimination games" to win it all. The Packers needed wins in Week 16 and 17 just to make the playoffs and then had to win four straight playoff games, the first three on the road.
Assuming there is a season next year, this team has to be the favorite. They add Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley to the mix on offense and Nick Barnett and Brandon Chillar on defense, tot to mention other key contributors Morgan Burnett, Derrick Martin, Brad Jones and Mark Tauscher.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (17): Considering how the Steelers' season began, what they accomplished in 2010 was nothing short of incredible. Ben Roethlisberger missed the first four games, but Pittsburgh managed to go 3-1 in his absence. In the end, they came up just a bit short. They were simply outplayed in the final game. The absence of rookie Maurkice Pouncey really didn't hurt the Steelers too much. In the end, Pittsburgh can only blame itself, as it turned the ball over three times, leading to three Green Bay touchdowns.
3. New York Jets (7): Very few teams were in the media more than the Jets this year. For the second straight year they made it to the AFC Championship Game and lost. The defense is undoubtedly strong, but the offense is where the question marks are. Is Mark Sanchez really the answer? Will Braylon Edwards be back, and if so, will he ever regain his form from 2007 in Cleveland? Will LaDainian Tomlinson give it another shot?
Despite finishing the season ranked third, this is a fairly streaky team that probably isn't the third best team in the NFL; then again, it's hard to argue with back-to-back AFC Championship Games.
4. Chicago Bears (23): Only the Chiefs made a bigger jump in the rankings from the beginning of the season to the end. People weren't sure what to think of the Bears at the beginning of the season, but they got off to a hot start, and people began to jump on the bandwagon, especially with that great defense. In the end, the division rival Packers were just too much for the Bears. Jay Cutler and his knee injury will be questioned all offseason and possibly for much of Cutler's career.
5. Baltimore Ravens (3): The Ravens were arguably one play away from reaching the Super Bowl. If Joe Flacco holds on to the ball late in the fourth quarter in the second meeting against the Steelers, the Ravens probably hold on to win the game. They also win the division and have home field against Pittsburgh in the playoffs. That one play will resonate with Ravens fans for a long time (not to mention a punt return for a TD nullified by penalty and Anquan Boldin dropping a sure TD pass on fourth down).
6. New England Patriots (8): Bill Belichick won his third Coach of the Year award, and though he did a great job, it's hard to argue he did a better coaching job than, say, Mike McCarthy, Raheem Morris, Todd Haley or Steve Spagnuolo. Even with a bunch of mediocre talent around him, Tom Brady led the Patriots to the best record in the NFL. Not only that, but the Patriots are loaded with picks in the April draft and would appear to be a serious contender next season (whenever that may be).
7. Atlanta Falcons (11): The Falcons had an incredible season, going 13-3 and earning the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC. Unfortunately for Atlanta, they ran into the wrong team during the playoffs and got embarrassed at home by the Packers. Atlanta's offense is in good shape, but their defense has some issues to address if it wants to take the next step.
8. New Orleans Saints (1): The Saints had a solid season, but it ended in major disappointment with a loss to the 7-9 Seahawks in the playoffs. Despite winning three more games during the season (in a far tougher division) than Seattle, the Saints were forced to go on the road for their playoff game. Give Seattle credit--they played extremely well and deserved to win the game--but there is no way Seattle wins that game if it is played in New Orleans.
9. Philadelphia Eagles (15): The Eagles were a wild card at the beginning of the season. Nobody really knew what to expect with Kevin Kolb under center. However, that experiment was short-lived, as Kolb got hurt in Week 1 and Michael Vick took over. Vick had an MVP-type season and gave Philly fans reason to forget about the ugly departure of Donovan McNabb. It looks like the Eagles will place the franchise tag on Vick. It's a good move, but he has to be smarter on the field, or he simply isn't going to last through a 16-game (or, God forbid, 18-game) season.
10. Kansas City Chiefs (30): The Chiefs won four games in 2009 and were not expected to do much better in 2010. However, with Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones, the Chiefs led the NFL in rushing and had one of the best wideouts in the league in Dwayne Bowe. Along with a solid defense and an MVP-like season from Matt Cassel (27 TDs, seven INTs), the Chiefs won the division. They were embarrassed in the first round of the playoffs by a tougher, more experienced Baltimore team, but the Chiefs should be proud of their season. There is little doubt they are headed in the right direction.
11. Indianapolis Colts (2): There are three guarantees in life: Death, taxes and the Colts winning 12 games. For the first time in a long time, the Colts failed to win 12 games. Nonetheless, they found a way to win their final four games to go 10-6 and win the division. However, they were upset in the first round by the Jets, denying them a second straight trip to the Super Bowl. The Colts were hammered worse than most teams in 2010 by the injury bug. However, the defense was a liability, and the lack of a running game put even more pressure on Peyton Manning than usual.
12. New York Giants (14): The Giants' season came down to one game. In fact, it came down to the final play of that game. In fact, if the Giants punter simply punts out of bounds, the Giants probably reach the playoffs. Instead, he punts it to DeSean Jackson, who returns the punt for a TD as time expires. Let's not put all the blame on the punter. The defense gave up four touchdowns in the final seven minutes of the game. In the end, it just wasn't meant to be for the Giants.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (31): Despite the Bucs nearly making the playoffs, I am still not sold on them. Yes, they are the youngest team in the NFL, by a lot. Yes, they have a confident coach and quarterback. Yes, they played in the toughest division in the league and still nearly pulled out a playoff spot. I understand all of that.
However, of their 10 wins, only one came against a team with a winning record. That came in Week 17 against the Saints, a team that had nothing to play for. Five of their six losses came against playoff teams. Once this team can start playing with, and beating, the big boys, they will be a legitimate contender.
14. Oakland Raiders (24): The Raiders finished the year at 8-8, their best record in years. Nonetheless, the team fired head coach Tom Cable. The Raiders had a very good defense and one of the best running games in the NFL. If they can ever get consistent (and by consistent, I mean consistently good, not consistently poor or mediocre) play out of their quarterback, they would be a playoff team. Time will tell if they spend another draft pick on a quarterback.
15. Jacksonville Jaguars (22): The Jags were a pleasant surprise in 2010, nearly making the playoffs. Outside of Maurice Jones-Drew, they just do not have many playmakers on either side of the ball. With the Texans and Titans still struggling and the Colts looking human again, the Jags have a legitimate shot at dethroning the Colts next season if they can make a few personnel changes.
16. San Diego Chargers (10): As usual, the Chargers struggled mightily at the beginning of the season. As usual, the Chargers began to pick it up and play their best football down the stretch. But this time, they were unable to continue their good football through the end of the season, and it cost them. With Philip Rivers running the show, they will continue to be a contender every year if they can keep their offensive weapons on the field. The Chargers also finished the season with one of the strangest statistical oddities you will ever see. They led the league in total offense and defense but failed to make the playoffs.
17. Dallas Cowboys (4): Needless to say, the Cowboys' season did not go as hoped. With one of the most talented offenses in the league and a reliable defense, it looked like Dallas might be the first team to ever play a Super Bowl in its own stadium. However, it was not to be. Dallas struggled mightily out of the gate, firing its head coach halfway through the season. A season-ending injury to Tony Romo did not help things.
However, Dallas ended the season 5-3. Two of those losses were 30-27, while the other came on Christmas Day in which their kicker missed an extra point. With Romo back next year, I like the Cowboys to make a huge turnaround and be one of the best teams in the NFC.
18. Houston Texans (16): I will never pick Houston to win the division. I will never pick Houston to win the division. I will never pick Houston to win the division. Three straight years I've predicted a division championship for Houston, and three straight years they've let me down. They started 3-1 this season, and I thought I finally got it right. Then, to steal a line from Bart Scott, their defense couldn't stop a nosebleed, and they went on to lose nine of their last 12 games. This team is truly talented on offense; they just need an average defense, and they will be a scary team.
19. Seattle Seahawks (26): I guess you would have to call Pete Carroll's first season as Seahawks head coach successful, even though his record (including playoffs) was 8-10. I still have major issues with a 7-9 team in the playoffs. I understand a division winner should be rewarded. Therefore, I have no problem with them being allowed to make the playoffs. But hosting a playoff game? The Saints, Packers, Giants and Bucs all won 10 or more games, yet none hosted a playoff game, and two of them didn't even reach the playoffs. Something has to change.
20. St. Louis Rams (32): The only reason the Rams didn't finish ahead of the Seahawks is because Seattle won the division. However, I believe the Rams are the better team, and once they get some weapons around Sam Bradford, they will be division winners for many years to come.
21. Detroit Lions (29): The Lions ended the season as one of the hottest teams in football, winning their final four straight. It was another tough season for Matthew Stafford, but if he can ever put together an entire season, this team will surprise a lot of people. They have a lot of talent on offense, and their defense is beginning to play better. They are no longer an automatic win on anybody's schedule.
22. Miami Dolphins (13): I had fairly high expectations for the Dolphins this year, but for whatever reason things just didn't work out for them. Playing in a division with the Pats and Jets did not help matters. This is a quarterback league, and Miami is in need of a more talented player at that position.
23. Minnesota Vikings (6): Hard to believe that just over a year ago the Vikings were this close to playing in the Super Bowl. They were unable to overcome the injuries and the extremely erratic play of Brett Favre. There is no denying the talent on that team on both sides of the ball. Despite the mobility Joe Webb showed, I am not convinced he is the answer. If he is, don't expect this team to be a contender for at least a couple of seasons.
24. San Francisco 49ers (12): Perhaps the 49ers were the most disappointing team of the season. What with playing in a woeful division, the 49ers should have won at least 10 games and maybe 12 or 13. That's how talented they are. If they couldn't get up to play for Mike Singletary, I'm afraid they won't be able to play for anyone. I still see them as the favorites to win the division next year, but if St. Louis (and maybe even Seattle) continues to make improvements like this past season, it will be a tough test.
25. Cleveland Browns (28): The final standings aren't an accurate measure of the Browns' season. They played in a lot of close games and blew out the New England Patriots. Trading Brady Quinn for Peyton Hillis was a dynamic move, and Colt McCoy showed he is a capable NFL QB. Get some talent around him at the wide receiver position and improve the defense in a few places, and the Browns will be a competitive team.
26. Washington Redskins (25): It was a season of turmoil in Washington, whether it be Albert Haynesworth needing 10 days to pass a test or McNabb's benching in the final two minutes of a close game for Rex Grossman. A season that started with high hopes, and a win over the Cowboys, ended miserably.
The Redskins have some decent talent, but they will need a proven quarterback and some talent at the wide receiver position. However, even that may not be enough, as I expect the NFC East to be the NFL's toughest division in 2011.
27. Tennessee Titans (19): The Titans' season started off great, going 4-2. They then lost seven straight. At the midway point of the season, they traded for Randy Moss, a move I thought would put them over the edge to win the division. In eight games, Moss caught six catches for 80 yards. Total. Moss was completely and totally irrelevant, and it would be shocking if we saw him back in Tennessee next season.
However, the Titans are looking to trade Vince Young, and it is highly unlikely they want Kerry Collins as their starter, so depending on who they bring in, maybe Moss would be motivated. If not, his career may be finished.
28. Arizona Cardinals (18): I put the Cardinals at No. 18 in the preseason rankings, but don't be fooled; I wanted to put them at No. 32. I did not see them winning more than three games, and if it wasn't for a garbage win over the Cowboys or the game in which the Raiders missed three FGs, they would have won only three games. One of those games was against the Saints in which they didn't even score an offensive touchdown!
The Cardinals are a mess right now. None of the quarterbacks on their roster are the answer. They need to get someone fast, or even the great demeanor of Larry Fitzgerald is going to be asking to get out.
29. Cincinnati Bengals (9): No team took a bigger fall in the rankings then the Bengals. How do you win a tough division one year (and sweep the division at that) and then add a Hall of Fame wide receiver to the mix (even a prima donna like T.O.) and completely tank? It makes no sense to me.
Carson Palmer is asking to be traded, and I don't blame him--except who is going to want a quarterback that had two dominant receivers but finished 13th overall in passing? Sure, he had nearly 4,000 yards and 26 TDs, but he also threw 20 interceptions and had a passer rating of 82. The Bengals could be back to their old, disastrous ways.
30. Denver Broncos (21): Denver started the 2009 season 6-0. In their next 26 games, the Broncos won just six. That was enough to get Josh McDaniels fired, and quite frankly it had to happen. First he traded Cutler (reached the NFC Championship Game), and then he traded away arguably one of the five most talented receivers in the game away, Brandon Marshall. Finally, he traded Hillis for Quinn. If you follow football at all, you know how that trade turned out.
Even in a fairly weak division, it may be a while until the Broncos are relevant again. However, with John Elway now in the front office and John Fox the new head coach, if they have a good draft, they might just find themselves in a division race as soon as next season.
31. Buffalo Bills (27): The Bills had a rough season, but despite losing their first eight games, they played hard every week. They won four of six at one point (all against losing teams) and came very close to beating the Pats, Ravens, Chiefs and Bears. Ryan Fitzpatrick deserves another shot to lead that team next year, but he's got to get a little bit more talent around him, and he's got to get consistency out of the running game. Even with that, it will still be tough for the Bills to be a playoff contender in that division.
32. Carolina Panthers (20): The Panthers thought they got a steal when they took Jimmy Clausen in the second round with the 48th overall pick. However, things did not go well. Clausen played in eight games, starting five of them, throwing for 887 yards with just two touchdowns and five interceptions.
It appears as if the Panthers might spend their No. 1 overall pick this year on another quarterback. However, I think they would be much better suited looking at a different position. Clausen only played in half their games, and he had absolutely no running game to help him out, his offensive line was a mess and he had better wide receivers and tight ends at Notre Dame than he does in Carolina. Carolina is in rebuilding mode, but I think they need to give Clausen another opportunity.
Indeed, it was another incredible season in the NFL. Now it's just time to hope that it all begins again in about five or six months.