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Monday, August 29, 2011

Preseason Polaroid - NFC

The NFL preseason is a lot like a Polaroid picture very shortly after the photo is snapped. You can get a very sketchy view of the whole picture. The view gets slightly clearer after a few seconds. Then it gets slightly clearer a few seconds later.

Preseason is similar. It often offers early indicators of what we might expect to see in the regular season. Week 3 of the preseason, traditionally a dress rehearsal for the regular season for first 2 to 3 quarters of play, is similar to the time after the Polaroid photo is shot, the outline of many of the objects pictured is recognizable, and the colors just need to be added to the outlines.

Through three weeks of exhibition play, the following really stand out to me, heading toward the regular season, by division, listed in order of expected finish:

Shake your Polaroid, girl! 1


New Orleans Saints – Drew Brees is still “Drew Brees” and the Saints offense looks like it, yet again, is going to run up a lot of points this season. Do not rule out a return to the Super Bowl.

Atlanta Falcons – The addition of wide receiver Julio Jones and another year of development for quarterback Matt Ryan have the Falcons in position to be a scoring machine. I am not so sure about the defense.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – This team looks like it is building upon a much improved 10-6 season from 2010. The upshot of the improvement, however, is heightened expectations and enormous pressure to reach the playoffs, in a division with two other teams with playoff expectations.

Carolina Panthers – They won’t be very good but I don’t expect them to be very bad, either. Quarterback Cam Newton is going to experience major growing pains in his first year. So did Peyton Manning. The question will be, “How much will he learn from those growing pains?”

Get used to that position, kid! 2


Green Bay Packers – Aaron Rodgers looks great, except for the handlebar mustache. The Packers are the defending champs and they will need to be knocked out, not beaten by decision, for a challenger to hoist the Lombardi.

Detroit Lions – This long time lovable loser is everyone’s sexy pick in 2011 and why not? When a monster like defensive tackle Ndomukong Suh is blowing up the middle of the line, they will always have a chance to win in any close game. I won’t even mention rookie and fellow DT Nick Fairley’s potential.

Chicago Bears – I am not sure how sold I am on Jay Cutler, but this season will give him ample opportunity to sell me.

Minnesota Vikings – This team is the wildest card in the NFC. This, for the most part, is the same core team that was unbeaten in regulation of the NFC Championship Game two seasons ago. Two key components are different, though. Wide receiver Sidney Rice is gone. And there is a new quarterback in Donovan McNabb.

McNabb has looked good in the preseason, but is a huge question mark. McNabb had the worst season of his career last year, prompting some to speculate that he may be in deep decline. On the other hand, that season was with the Washington Redskins, which deeply discounts the deterioration of McNabb’s game we observed.

Dude, seriously? 3


Philadelphia Eagles – The “Dream Team” is expected to be the beast in the East. If preseason is any indication, however, Mike Vick is going to need much better protection than his line has offered so far. Vick is elusive, not bulletproof.

Dallas Cowboys – This team is as talented as it has been for the last five years. I expect more of what we saw from the Cowboys after Wade Phillips was fired, which was a competitive team capable of winning each week, than what we saw before the coaching change, which was a woeful underachiever.

New York Giants – I expect the Giants to be competitive, but it has always had trouble winning in December since Eli Manning arrived. I also saw no impact signings in offseason free agency, though I saw two significant defections in tight end Kevin Boss and wide receiver Steve Smith. That is not forward progress.

Washington Redskins – After this club’s treatment of Donovan McNabb last year, I am going to kick back and enjoy watching the Redskins go down in a ball of flames.

This is going to get really old, really soon for Vick and Eagles fans. 4


Arizona Cardinals – This team is the clear front runner in this division, with the trade for quarterback Kevin Kolb. Being in the NFC West, however, that is neither a bold statement nor a ringing endorsement.

St. Louis Rams – Sam Bradford can expect a sophomore hangover now that his opponents will have gathered a year of intelligence on him. This team will not be easy to beat, but they were a 7-9 team last year that did not make any major offseason acquisitions.

Seattle Seahawks – Tarvaris Jackson is the quarterback on a team that won the division but had a losing record last year. Nuff said.

San Francisco 49ers – Alex Smith must have very compromising photos of someone very high up in the 49ers organization.

Why not? It works for Alex Smith. 5
 Tomorrow: Preseason Polaroid – AFC

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