Welcome to the 2 Man Weave's second annual NFL Mega-Preview. Below you will you find team by team analysis, playoff and Super Bowl predictions as well as our picks for MVP, COY, ROY and Comeback POY. With the Manning neck drama, draft day trades, pre-season rookie hype and an ungodly amount of holdouts, we're all long overdue for some Sunday Fundays. So grab some beer, pick up your wings, and most importantly, GET READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL.
2. Bills- Team owner Ralph Wilson finally decided to open his wallet for the first time this century, bringing in former #1 overall pick and master of the sack, Mario Williams, to a defense that gave up the third most points in the league a season ago. The Bills also added DE Mark Anderson to round out a much improved front four, to go along with Marcell Darius and Kyle Williams. On the offensive side on the ball, this team will only go as far as Fred Jackson's rehabilitated, 31 year old legs will take them. If Jackson can regain his '11 form which saw him rush for over 100 yards in 60% of his games played, there's no reason why this team can't contend for a wild card spot in the AFC.
3. Jets- The Jets head into this season with a brewing quarterback controversy that will undoubtedly lead to the team crashing and burning by Halloween. This is year four of the Sanchez/Rex era and it's safe to say their best days are long behind them. USC has a more NFL ready receiving corps than this rag tag group of guys, and I wouldn't be surprised if Santonio Holmes beats Mark to a bloody pulp on midfield after getting overthrown for the 300th time. Their best bet is to ground and pound with Tebow and Shonn Green, but even if they do decide to go that route their ceiling will still be 7-9.
4. Dolphins- After getting off to a putrid 0-7 start in '11, the Fins bounced back nicely, finishing up a respectable 6-10. Which is why it was so surprising to see them trade away two of their best players (Marshall and Davis) for future picks and place all their eggs in the Ryan Tannehill basket. They would have been much better off drafting a stud lineman or pass rusher, then bottoming out one more year with Matt Moore, and making a play for Matt Barkley or Logan Thomas in the '13 draft. Also, I was checking out the Nike Town on 5th Ave the other day, which also doubles as the mecca for NFL shopping. Each team had a minimum of two, but in most cases three, jerseys available for purchase of their franchises stars. But not Miami, all they had was Reggie Bush. He was an afterthought in New Orleans, but in Miami he's their entire team. That can't be a good sign.
1. Ravens- Baltimore had a +112 point differential in '11, good for fifth best in the league, and was a Billy Cundiff field goal away from sending the AFC title game into overtime. Ray Rice is coming off a monster season that saw him set career highs in rushing yards, rushing TDs, receiving yards and receiving TDs, and you can expect more of the same this time around. The main concerns on this team are some of their star players ages (Ray Lewis is 37 and Ed Reed will be 34 in a week) and the fact that last year's Defensive POY Terrell Suggs could potentially miss the entire season after suffering a torn ACL while allegedly playing basketball in the offseason. Courtney Upshaw will have the near impossible task of replacing him at linebacker.
2. Steelers- After an off-season filled with injuries and holdouts, things are finally starting to look up for the Steel Curtain. Rashard Mendenhall could be back sooner than expected (not sure if that's necessarily a good thing) and Mike Wallace has returned to practice and should be ready to roll week one in Denver. Antonio Brown and Emanuel Sanders do a great job of stretching the field for Big Ben, and the defense didn't lose anyone of note so you can count on another solid outing from them. You can also bank on Troy Palamalu missing serious time with an injury.
3. Bengals- Cincy snuck into the playoffs a season ago despite failing to beat a team with a winning a record, and finishing in the lower third of the league in yards and first downs. Although a year's worth of experience and practice should go a long way in helping the development of quarterback Andy Dalton, a return trip to the post season is by no means a guarantee. The Law Firm has never had to carry the ball 250+ times in a season, so his effectiveness as a work horse remains to be seen. Plus, playing against the Steelers and Ravens four times a year is no easy task.
4. Browns- Anytime you head into a season with a rookie quarterback who hit his physical peak two years ago and a rookie running back coming off a preseason knee surgery you can't feel too confident about your chances of winning. Add that to the fact that, well, they're the Browns, and you can pretty much pencil them in for another 4-12 season (if they're lucky). The three other teams in this division all made the playoffs last year and the reason that happened was because they were all able to beat up on Cleveland twice. This is a team that traded their first, fourth, fifth and seventh round picks to move up one spot for a chance to draft Trent Richardson, someone who plays running back, one of the more dispensable positions in football. For example, Arian Foster went undrafted a few seasons ago. There was no need to make this trade, especially because the Vikings were the ones on the clock. If someone else (possibly Tampa) was willing to overpay for the pick, they should have let them! There's a reason the Browns were able to land Richardson, and it's because every other team in the league was smart enough to NOT make that trade.
1. Texans- With the other three teams in this division all starting either second year or rookie quarterbacks, there's no reason why Houston shouldn't start their own mini AFC South dynasty like the one Indy enjoyed with Peyton. The Texans lost DeMeco Ryans, Mario Williams and Jason Allen on the defensive side of the ball, but their star studded offense and weak division should be enough to reach 11 wins. Houston finished second in the league in rushing a year ago, but with a healthy Arian Foster from the get go, look for them to reclaim their spot at the top of the rushing throne this season.
2. Titans- Kenny Britt's rather generous one game suspension from the ginger hammer means we'll be seeing one of the ten best receivers back on the field sooner than later, but none of that will matter unless CJ2K can prove that last year's poor outing was a fluke and not a sign of what's to come. Tennessee let Cortland Finnegan walk this summer, which is a shame because watching Andre Johnson and him get in dick swinging contests was one of the few enjoyable moments this division provided us with the past few seasons.
3. Colts- If Andrew Luck ends up being half as good as he's being hyped up to be then tanking away the entire '11 season may have been the best decision any team has ever made. The good news for the Colts is that after winning just two games last year, they have nowhere to go but up. The bad news is they will be relying heavily on Reggie Wayne, who may or may not need a walker, Austin Collie who Drew Magary said is a missed high five away from donating his brain to science, and Donald Brown, who has never carried the ball more than 135 times in a season despite having minimal competition. Look for Luck to put up inflated, come from behind numbers, and make the Pro Bowl team as an alternate after Manning gets hurt and Brady preps for the Super Bowl.
4. Jaguars- The Shaguar's somehow managed to win five games last season, despite only throwing 12 touchdown passes. They drastically upgraded their receiving corp this off season, drafting habitual drunk driver, Justin Blackmon, and signing (possible) one year wonder Laurent Robinson away from Dallas. But all of this means nothing because at the end of the day, Yo Gabbert Gabbert will still be the one calling, and failing to execute, the plays. MJD's laughable holdout proved for nought, and he will return to the field in a limited role come week one. Shad Khan's refusal to give in to his star running back's request may be the only win this franchise sees all season.
1. Broncos- Every team in this division finished 8-8 last year, sans the Chiefs (7-9) so it goes without saying that this is the most balanced and competitive of the bunch from top to bottom. What puts the Broncos at the forefront of this western frontier is the debut of four time MVP Peyton Manning in the orange and white. With a capable receiving group led by Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, Manning should have no trouble getting his groove back. Look for them to take to the air no less than 35 times per game en route to Peyton's inevitable "Comeback Player of the Year" award victory.
2. Raiders- This will be DA RAIDAHS first full season since late owner Al Davis passed, and things are finally starting to look up for the bad boys of the bay area. If Run DMC can manage to string sixteen consecutive games together without shattering his fibula this team might actually compete for a wild card spot. I like how these guys have one player whose nickname is DHB, and one player whose been arrested for slipping a girl GHB.
3. Chargers- This team still employs Norv Turner and Phillip Rivers so by default they will continue to define the term mediocrity. After seeing what happened to Michael Turner and Darren Sprolles in their post-Chargers careers, I wouldn't be surprised if Mike Tolbert steals every single one of Cam Newton's goal line carries, finishing up with double digit rushing touchdowns in Carolina. Other than that this team is still extremely injury prone and will undoubtedly lose upwards of four games late in the fourth quarter.
4. Chiefs- K.C. brought in Peyton Hillis to replicate the role Thomas Jones held two seasons ago. Dwayne Bowe ended his holdout so that means a trip back to the fantasy waiver wire for Jon Baldwin. They were 27th in YPG a year ago, but the return of Jamaal Charles should spark a decent turn around in that department. Random fact about a Chiefs player- safety Eric Berry made the most of his time on the IR by writing two screen plays and penning over 200 poems.
1. Giants- The reigning Super Bowl champs are reloaded, but will find themselves in the unfamiliar position of being the hunted, not the hunters, this fall. In Big Blue's two most recent championship seasons they were able to keep a low profile, then turn it on when they needed to in December and January. This year they will be facing the best their opponents have to offer on a weekly basis. If they do falter this season it will be because of the secondary. With Prince Amukamera's inability to tie his shoelaces without missing a game, the decision to let Aaron Ross walk may come back to haunt them.
2. Cowboys- With the emergence of Demarco Murray (5.5 YPC as a rook), the Cowboys find themselves with a capable back for the first time since Marion the Barbarian in '08, which is a scary thought considering this team has a potent passing game. Kevin Ogletree burst onto the league's radar in Wednesday's win over the Giants, scoring twice to go along with eight catches and 114 yards. A max deal from the Jags is right around the corner! Tony Romo also looked stellar, and if their defense continues to play at a high level this season could end with a trip to the Super Bowl. Or if you're Dez Bryant, jail.
3. Eagles- The Dream Team comparisons may be over, but that doesn't mean we can't laugh about it one more time for old times' sake. Okay, you done? Good. The birds are back and should be much improved despite downgrading Jason Peters for Demetress Bell on the offensive line. DeMeco Ryans is a tackle machine at linebacker, and Nnamdi Asomugha's return to the outside should mean trouble for the likes of Hakeem Nicks, Miles Austin and Victor Cruz. The running game has become their bread and butter, so don't be surprised if Shady McCoy ends up leading the league in that department this season, surpassing the 1,600 yard mark with ease.
4. Redskins- Washington gave up everything and the kitchen sink for a chance to draft Heisman winner Robert Griffin III. He has all the tools to be an elite quarterback at the next level, but trying to escape from guys like JPP, Demarcus Ware and Trent Cole 6x a year may hinder his development. Also, am I the only one who gets pissed off by Mike Shanahan's inability to commit to a single running back? Hightower was supposed to carry the majority of the work load in '11, now he's unemployed. I know he was able to get away with that in Denver, but the capitol ain't the Mile High city. Pick a back and stick with him. It's not fair to us fantasy owners.
1. Packers- Green Bay tied Indy's '04 mark for most passing touchdowns in a season with 51, and after bringing everyone back, look for that record to fall again this season. Aaron Rodgers is a straight up marksmen, and with the ultra reliable Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings hauling in his passes, you can expect to see the Frozen Tundra playing host to multiple playoff games come January.
2. Bears- The Bears were the Texans of the NFC in '11, losing multiple keys pieces along the way on a team that otherwise could have contended for a title. There's not much of a difference between Chicago and Detroit, but defense is what sets them apart. Look for Matt Forte and Michael Bush to thunder and lightning their way to a combined 2,400 yards in the Windy City.
3. Lions- The second greatest show on turf (the Saints still hold this title) made the playoffs for the first time in twelve years, but don't count on a repeat trip just yet. Detroit was the league's 4th worst rushing team and with Mikel Leshoure suspended, Kevin Smith hobbling around and Jahvid Best in a perma-coma, it looks like they may drop to dead last in that department in '12. With all their off the field (and on the field) issues, the Lions are essentially just the mid-2000's Bengals with a better passing game. Also, the Madden curse is real and there's no way Calvin makes it through this season unscathed.
4. Vikings- FREE JOE WEBB! FREE JOE WEBB! FREE JOE WEBB!
I know they drafted Ponder a solid round higher than he should have gone, but for the love of all things football why hasn't Joe Webb gotten a shot to at least compete for this starting gig? Let's face it- this team isn't going anywhere. At the very least they could be exciting with Webb under center. From the small sample size of snaps we saw him take in '10 it was evident that he poses a duel pass-run threat most quarterbacks lack. Oh yeah, AP/AD's rushing yards have decreased four seasons in a row, plus he's coming off both ACL and MCL surgeries, so uh, good luck with that.
1. Falcons- Atlanta had the fourth best offense last year, averaging more than 25 point per game. However, it was their defense, and ungodly fourth down play calling, which ultimately led to their premature demise. This time around they've added Lofa Tatupu, Asante Samuel and Chris Hope in an effort to slow down the rest of the division's high flying offenses. Honestly, the Falcons and Saints are pretty much the exact same team, but due to the karma of Bountygate, the Falcs get the nod for the top spot in the South.
2- Saints- With head coach Sean Payton suspended for the entire year, this team is sure to suffer some mishaps, especially in the early goings. Which is why it's a good thing for N'awleans that Drew Brees is essentially an extension of the coach on the field, and could complete a forty yard fade route to Jimmy Graham in the dark. Look for the Saints to put up their usual out of this world numbers on offense and finish up with a double digit win total and wild card berth.
3- Panthers- "CAM GOES HAM" is the reigning rookie of the year's mantra heading into his sophomore campaign. Newton shattered the record for most rushing TD's in a season with 14 and he also led the league in YPC with 5.6 a pop. If Brandon LaFell can break out as a worthy compliment to Steve Smith in the receiving corp, Cam's passing numbers could see an increase as well. The return of Jon Beason and Ron Edwards on the defensive side of the ball should go a long way in helping the conference's third worst unit. Carolina is a year away from contending for a division title, and once they do, they'll never look back.
4. Buccaneers- Tampa was this year's big spenders in the free agent market, splurging for the likes of Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks, Eric Wright and the decaying corpse of Dallas Clark. First year Coach Greg Schiano inherits a team that quite literally rolled over and died on last year's coach Raheem Morris, but if he can earn the respect of the locker room early there's no reason why this team can't play .500 ball. Also, Doug Martin's great hands and quick feet will provide a unique versatility to both their rushing and passing attacks, something Lagarrette Blount failed to do a season ago.
1. 49ers- Last year I picked San Fran to finish last in this division. Needless to say, I won't be making that same mistake again. Harbaugh's boys are back and better than ever with a defense foaming at the mouth to feast on their division's horrific group of inexperienced quarterbacks. If they lose any of their six match-ups to Sam Bradford, Russell Wilson or Joshvin Skolb it will be an utter disgrace. Alex Smith is the only thing holding this team back from a Super Bowl victory, and if his teammates play the way they're capable of, even Smith's incompetence won't be enough to derail this potential juggernaut.
2. Seahawks- SKITTLES! And Russell Wilson! All of a sudden the 'Hawks are relevant again, and the buzz surrounding Pete Carroll's team is everywhere. Wilson wooed fans in the preseason with both his feet and arm strength, and single handedly sent Matt Flynn's ass back to the bench. Their defense has become the "sexy" fantasy unit of choice this season and if they can limit turnovers there's no reason why Seattle shouldn't be able to turn the NFC West into a two team horse race.
3. Rams- The Rams traded down twice on draft day (RGIII/Morris Claiborne picks) and although I'm sure their fans would have rather gone with the big name talent, stock piling picks is the best way for this team to drag their asses out of the cellar. Sam Bradford threw 6 TD's in 10 games last year and Steven Jackson was on his last legs three seasons ago. Hopefully Jeff Fisher will manage to turn this teams losing culture around eventually, but for now the present looks bleak. At least Isaiah Pead has been able to provide fantasy owners with witty team name puns. It's sad, but that's about all the Rams have got going for them.
4. Cardinals- It's hard to not feel bad for Larry Fitzgerald. Regardless of who wins the quarterback battle between Josh Skelton and Kevin Kolb (a 2nd rd pick AND Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie #LOL), we, the fans, will all walk away as the losers. Arizona should start a "Blow for Barkley" campaign, and shelf Patrick Peterson and Fitty in hopes of landing the first pick in the '13 draft. I would have included Ryan Williams and Beanie Wells on my list of players they should shut down, but I'm 100% positive they'll injure themselves by week 4 anyway.
Wild Cards- Bills, Steelers, Cowboys, Saints
Super Bowl- Pats over Niners, 31-13
MVP- Tom Brady
ROY- Andrew Luck
Coach of the Year- Jim Harbough
Comeback Player of the Year- Peyton Manning
Dan Chiavetta is the Editor in Chief of the 2 Man Weave