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2011 NFL Preview

As I sat down and looked at the NFL schedule and picked all the games for a preseason projection I noticed two things, first, there are a lot of extremely good teams, and second, there are a lot of extremely bad teams.

Usually the NFL is incredibly competitive and there may one or two elite teams during the season and one or two horrible teams during the season but as it was said all offseason, the lockout is really going to benefit the good team. I’m not saying that some of these teams I gave poor records have little to no talent on it, but think of it this way – the teams that were already good last season didn’t chance much in the offseason, they simple added a few supplementary pieces while the bad teams last year made a lots of changes, whether it was to the core of their personnel or to their staff. The lockout cut down on the time teams had to grow together so those teams that you would like to think improved with new coaches or new players might struggle a bit because they’re still very early in their time together and may not have gelled yet.

Like I said, to do this NFL preview I sat down with the schedule and marked off “W” and “L” by each team for their games, below is the team’s listed in order of projected record by division with a short explanation.

AFC East

New England Patriots – 14-2

I remember last season when many people were saying the Patriots dynasty was over when the got blown out by the Ravens in the first round of the playoffs two years ago. I didn’t at all buy into it because the team still had two people: Bill Belicheck and Tom Brady. With those two guys in New England it’s hard to pick against the Patriots, especially with the lockout situation. The offense is going to be spot on once again while the defense, which was a bit spotty last season, is a much more experience group that should be improved.

New York Jets – 13-3

13-3 for a while card team? Like I said, there are some really good teams and some really bad teams in my view this season and the Jets are one of the good ones. It’s a young team building together behind one of the best offensive lines in the game and they do, to an extent, have a schedule that really favors them.

Buffalo Bills – 4-12

I’ve always enjoyed watching Ryan Fitzpatrick, even before last season, and I really think Fred Jackson is a tough, hard-nosed, downhill runner that is going to have a breakout season but when the Bills got rid of Lee Evans they really made their team significantly worse. They have speed at Receiver but Stevie Johnson was able to breakout last season because Evans demanded all of the coverage. Now he’ll be the focus on offense and I’m not sure he’s good enough to break that double-team. Defensive, the group is young but I do think first round draft pick Marcel Darius is going to be a wrecking force in this league.

Miami Dolphins – 2-14

I’m going against my idea that stability will lead to success after the lockout but the Miami Dolphins might be the exception. I wouldn’t necessarily say that Chad Henne is a bad quarterback that will cost his team games by throwing interceptions but he is incredibly ineffective and their were time last season that it seemed like it wouldn’t have made any sort of difference if they didn’t even put a quarterback on the field. Miami does have a playoff caliber defense but offensively there just aren’t many weapons for the ineffective QB. Brandon Marshall can only do so much as a wide receiver but in terms of the running game they added Reggie Bush, who should be better in Miami, but he doesn’t seem like a good fit facing the tough AFC East defenses.

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers – 14-2

It pains me to say it but the Steelers are a good team with the pieces to be incredibly successful again this season. When you get to the Super Bowl and do nothing but get players to improve the wholes you had, you’re going to be good again.

Baltimore Ravens – 14-2

Again, it seems crazy that a wild card team can have this great of a record but Baltimore has a great shot to be that successful. Their schedule is very easy so if they don’t make the playoffs it will be very disappointing. The addition of Lee Evans is going to add a new dimension to the offense that the Ravens never had in the passing game but they are going to get back to running the ball. By signing Bryant McKinnie the Ravens get to solidify a bunch of positions on the offensive line, moving Michael Oher to right tackle, where he is much more effective, and allowing Marshal Yanda to stay at right guard, where he is also much more effective. Adding powerful fullback Vonta Leach will only help improve it as well. Defensively, the Ravens are going to be that bullying type team that will blitz the passer and punish opposing offenses. The secondary was an issue last season but with the addition of Jimmy Smith, return of Domonique Foxworth, and emergence of Cary Williams the Ravens should be much better back their.

Cleveland Browns – 8-8

Cleveland might be the only team implementing a new system that should see a significant boost this season. What Pat Shurmur has done this preseason with the Browns has been special and with the west coast offense in place they’re going to get a lot out of Colt McCoy. With Peyton Hills helping him out, and improving defense, and just plain experience (they were the youngest team in the NFL last season) they should be competitive.

Cincinnati Bengals – 1-15

In the end I think the Cincinnati Bengals are a better team by getting rid of Chad Ochocinco and saying goodbye to Carson Palmer but there just doesn’t seem to be much of anything their right now. Andy Dalton doesn’t have too many weapons, Cedric Benson is a very inconsistent running back, the line is worrisome, and the defense is going through some changes.

AFC South

Houston Texans – 11-5

Just a few days ago I didn’t think the Texans could finally get into the playoffs but with Peyton Manning out for a while, the Jaguars cutting David Garrard, and the Titans going through a coaching change while getting a new quarterback, it seems like it’s their division to lose. Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, and Arian Foster make for a very explosive offense and the additions of J.J. Watt and Jonathan Joseph to the defense should finally make it a respectable unit. The only question mark is that the defense is switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4.

Indianapolis Colts – 7-9

I don’t think Kerry Collins is that bad but the supporting cast in Indianapolis is not that good and it’s going to show without Peyton Manning. If Manning were to only be out for a few weeks I still think they would be the team to beat in the AFC South but with him out, potentially for the entire season, they’re going to really struggled with that first-place schedule.

Tennessee Titans – 5-11

Like Kerry Collins, I don’t think Matt Hasselbeck is a bad quarterback and he had a much better supporting cast than he had in Seattle last season. Chris Johnson is on board now and Kenny Britt has the potential to be and incredibly wide receiver. While Hasselbeck is new, the system shouldn’t change too much for the rest of the players from what they’ve had with Jeff Fisher.

Jacksonville Jaguars – 2-14

Believe it or not I had the Jaguars winning the division before David Garrard got cut but now I can’t see them doing too well. The defense is going to be better in Jack Del Rio’s 11th season but with an average at best offensive line, few receivers, and Luke McCown or Blaine Gabbert at quarterback there is going to be a lot of pressure on Maurice Jones-Drew.

AFC West

San Diego Chargers – 11-5

It seems nearly impossible to think that the team with both the top-ranked offense and top-ranked defense in 2010 missed the playoffs but that’s what happened last year with the Chargers. The reason was because Vincent Jackson sat out for most of the season and there wasn’t a strong running game. With Jackson on the field the entire season the Chargers have one of the league’s elite wide receivers and with more experience at running back with Mike Tolbert and Ryan Matthews they should have a more balanced offense.

Oakland Raiders – 8-8

The Raiders were a real surprise team last season and while losing Nnamdi Asomugha is really going to hurt them but they should be able to keep the same record with Hue Jackson running the show now. Jason Campbell still hasn’t had the same system back-to-back years in his career but he fits what Jackson does and Darren McFadden should remain a very explosive weapon.

Kansas City Chiefs – 6-10

The Chiefs seems to come out of nowhere last year but they had a nice offensive line, a composed quarterback, a great running game, solid wide receivers, and a strong defense, so it shouldn’t have been a huge surprise. But don’t expect them to stay at the top this season. By finishing in first place in the AFC West and getting to the playoffs the Chiefs have a very, very tough schedule that might be too much for what is still a young team.

Denver Broncos – 3-13

John Fox is going to make the Broncos better and the decision to stick with Kyle Orton was definitely the best move but the lockout is going to hurt them. Fox runs a complex system that is going to take time for them to learn and the shortened offseason they’re going to need some more time before they show the improvement.

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles – 13-3

The Philadelphia Eagles hands down had the best offseason, getting Nnamdi Asomugha, Domonique Rogers-Cromartie, Cullen Jenkins, Jason Babin, and others. But remember, this was a team with Andy Reid running the show that won the division last year with Michael Vick missing some games. I would say the improvements they made in the offseason are worth three more wins.

New York Giants – 11-5

Injuries have left the Giants in a sticky spot coming into the season but they have plenty of pieces to do well. Last season the Giants were one play and a few injuries away from winning that division. We all know the punt to DeSean Jackson that likely ended their season but needing one win at the end of the season Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith went down, depleting their receiving corp. If they stay healthy that strong running game and further improvement from Nicks and Mario Manningham could get them back into the playoffs.

Dallas Cowboys – 9-7

When Tony Romo went down the Cowboys season was pretty much over but remember one thing, they were horrible with him in the lineup. This year, however, with Romo back and it being Jason Garrett’s team they should do better but are probably just outside of being a playoff team.

Washington Redskins – 6-10

Tim Hightower has looked like a 1,500 yard running back this preseason and with Mike Shanahan’s zone blocking scheme that helped Ruben Droughns and Mike Anderson eclipse 1,000 yards in a season Hightower could be a breakout player. That being said, though, there are serious questions at QB with Rex Grossman and John Beck. Right now it’s Grossman’s team and while he’s not a terrible quarterback, he’s certainly not a good one.

NFC North

Green Bay Packers – 13-3

After barely making it into the playoffs the Green Bay Packers went on a remarkable run to win the Super Bowl, and that was with an injury depleted team. With Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley back in the fold, among others, the Packers could be a serious contender to repeat as champions.

Chicago Bears – 8-8

While I don’t see the Chicago Bears dropping off as much as some do, I think their first place schedule is going to ware on them. Jay Cutler is not a bad quarterback and Matt Forte is a very underrated player while the defense is still championship quality but the offensive line and receiving corp. won’t give anybody much help.

Minnesota Vikings – 7-9

Before I completely write Donovan McNabb off and say he’s no longer got it I want to give him a few games. Minnesota has a strong team with a dominating power running back and a strong defense but we all saw how secondaries swarmed Percy Harvin last year when he didn’t have a good receiver opposite of him and they might be headed for the same fate.

Detroit Lions – 7-9

If Matthew Stafford can stay healthy the whole season the Detroit Lions can have a very good passing game with Calvin Johnson and Brandon Pettigrew in the mix but with questions still up front, injuries destroying their backfield, and an average at best defense the Lions might still be a year away from being the darling team that many are saying they will be.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons – 13-3

Expect Michael Turner to start regressing but expect Matt Ryan and Roddy White to continue improving at an incredible rate. While Julio Jones don’t have an Pro-Bowl type season or anything, his addition is going to work wonders for that offense, giving another weapon for defenses to focus on opposite of White.

New Orleans Saints – 13-3

Drew Brees is Drew Brees and Sean Payton is Sean Payton. Those two combined will make for an incredible offense once again while Greg Williams continues to improve that defensive unit, which finished second in the NFC last year. By adding Mark Ingram, getting Pierre Thomas back from injury, and signing Darren Sproles, the backfield is going to be vastly improved in the bayou.

Tamp Bay Buccaneers – 10-6

I believe Josh Freeman can have an MVP-like season but the team around him is still very young. Mike Williams and LeGarrett Blount should help Freeman lead the Bucs to another winning season but the defense needs to improve a bit more before they surpass the Falcons or Saints.

Carolina Panthers – 2-14

While saying they’ll be 2-14, I think they’ll be a better team than their record, just a victim of a tough schedule and having the lockout cut their time to learn Ron Rivera’s new system. Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams should be a dominating 1-2 punch again and Cam Newton might surprise a few people.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals – 9-7

Kevin Kolb is already at least the second-best quarterback in that division and now Larry Fitzgerald can have somebody to help show how great he is. Beanie Wells could be due for a breakout season as well with emphasis needing to be put on the passing game. Defensively, though, they will be hurt by the loss of Adrian Wilson.

Seattle Seahawks – 5-10

Tarvaris Jackson isn’t horrible, he’s just not great and with few weapons on that offense (Sidney Rice hasn’t looked good at all in preseason) he’ll likely struggle. Defensively, the loss of Lofa Tatupu is really, really going to hurt.

St. Louis Rams – 4-12

By finishing in second place the Rams got a much tougher schedule, also making it tough is that they’re playing the AFC North. Steve Jackson is at the point where a drop off is expected, though, he does have a much better receiving corp. this season.

San Francisco 49ers – 2-14

Any time a team has to try out Dante Culpepper for quarterback it’s not a good sign. Jim Harbaugh is a good coach but with so many questions at quarterback, an injury-plagued running back, and a new system with a shortened offseason, the 49ers might be worse in 2011.

AFC East

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Corey Johns

Editor in Chief
You could say Corey was born to become a sports journalist. His father won a national championship coaching college soccer. His mother is a baseball fanatic who hasn't missed seeing an Orioles game since 1983 (literally, sometimes it's annoying). His great uncle was a big-time boxing promoter and his maternal grandfather was once a department head at the Baltimore Sun. Basically, sports and journalism run through his blood. He played just about every little league sports there was when he was a kid and was a multi-sport athlete in high school; even playing in the first-ever high school sanction Rugby game in the country. Eventually he retired from sports as an undefeated Maryland state Rugby champion as a high school senior. Perhaps lack of athletic talent has more to do with the retirement, but he will tell you that it more had to do with a great desire to jump right into media. Upon his graduation from University of Maryland, Baltimore County as a triple communications major, Corey started the So Much Sports network and has continued to grow his websites and continues to work to make them premier sports media outlets.
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  1. […] 2011 NFL Preview : So Much Sports Now he'll be the focus on offense and I'm not sure he's good enough to break that double-team. Defensive, the …. The Philadelphia Eagles hands down had the best offseason, getting Nnamdi Asomugha, Domonique Rogers-Cromartie, Cullen Jenkins, Jason Babin, and others. But remember … We all know the punt to DeSean Jackson that likely ended their season but needing one win at the end of the season Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith went down, depleting their receiving corp. … — Sun, 11 Sep 2011 08:24:35 -0700 […]