Sunday, August 30, 2009

InClement Weather: Fantasy Football Speak [Part III of III]

Preseason musings can be found HERE.
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Most of us, who write for or read this blog, are fantasy football "players". In fact, many of us have been at it for over a decade now (some even longer). On top of that, many of us have multiple leagues we interact with yearly.

With that in mind, I'm going to continue - after a week long (wedding-related) delay - serving up my final post, in series of 3 fantasy football-related posts.

1) First up, we looked at the first 3 rounds of our draft HERE.
2) Previously HERE, we checked out 10 "Make or Break" Selections found in our draft, which include players VERY likely to impact yours as well.
3) NOW, I'm targeting 10 guys I was surprised to see drop on our overall draft board. Perhaps you can let us know if you've seen anything similar in your own draft(s).

As for the league parameters, in case you still don't they is.

A) 10-teams.
B) 18-round ladder draft. [Ex: 1 to 10, 10 to 1, 1 to 10, 10 to 1, and so on.]
C) Starters include 2 QBs, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, 1 TE, 1 K, & 1 DEF. 8 reserve sports.

D) Max of 1 1/2 mins/pick for the first 5 rounds, max of 1 min/pick for rounds 6 through 11, and max of 45 seconds (that's right!) for rounds 12 through 18.
Note: No keepers or holdovers either. Not in this league, at least. 2-Starting QB Rules
E) If a backup becomes a starter and you have 4 starting QBs, you must drop/trade one w/i 24 hours.
F) If you have 3 starters on your roster, you may NOT pick up a 4th starter with the intention of working a trade. Picking up a starting QB when you already have 3 can only be done if you are dropping one of your 3 current starters.
G) This also works for defenses and kickers. Yes, we once had an owner with 3 kickers, potentially tabbing another. Lowball, but savvy.

Draft Lottery Bonuses
H) Separate pick'em and survivor leagues give each winner an extra ping pong ball (which I literally draw 5 minutes before the draft).

Note: Remember there are NO keepers in this league.

Andre Johnson at #29

Nearly a consensus #2 wideout, the position dropped and AJ lasted almost into the 4th round. [Wide Receivers taken prior: Larry Fitzgerald, Randy Moss, & Greg Jennings]

Pierre Thomas at #45

The Kool-Aid on Thomas wasn't be sipped by this league. In fact, the autodraft helped Thomas potentially avoid the 50s or lower.

Braylon Edwards at #56

The guy netted early 2nd round talk last year; however, this season was a completely different story. In fact, Edwards was passed up by nearly 20 other wideouts.

Willie Parker at #72

He slipped last season and ended up missing 5 games. As for this season, Parker wasn't valued as a starter for most teams in need of a reliable #2 RB.

Ryan Grant at #90

Perhaps the biggest fall. I wanted no part of him personally, although netting a top 35 prospect isn't bad for the end of the 9th round.

Julius Jones at #108

With Maurice Morris out in Detroit now (good luck Mo), Jones seems the only option outside of the 20s. TJ Duckett has never appeared to be an every down back. Should this guy improve with a healthier Hasselbeck and rejuvinated Seahawk team? Well???

Owen Daniels at #140

Potential top 5 talent and now a backup tight end (already drafted Witten) is pretty surprising for this up-and-comer.

Jamal Lewis at #150

How the once-mighty have continued to fall.

Willis McGahee at #169

Even more shocking might be:
A) Ray Rice going #54 overall, in the 9th round.
B) Le'Ron MClain going undrafted. Wow.

Michael Vick at #170

It had to happen eventually. This was mere days after him signing with the Iggles. This was the last pick in the 2nd to last round (17th).
Question is: how many owners planned on making him their final pick? I know of at least 3 others (of the other 9).


You'll see it in your draft too. Question is: which 10 might surprise or shock you the most? So help ME out and react and share!!!!
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Saturday, August 29, 2009

InClement Weather: Preseason Musings

If you disagree or want to add a comment, show the stones and DO IT!!! Tweet tweet.
Oh yeah, check out the new poll!!!

1) Don't get too hyped on the Saints and their rather spectacular preseason thus far. It's still the defense you've come to know and give up big time points to rather mediocre opponents.

Kudos to Brees though on chillin' with Carlton Banks.
Credit: TheEverAstoundingAndAmazingGoogleImageSearch

2) Tom Brady won't be missing any time due to this shoulder "issue/injury". However, he might have some durability issues by week 10 this season that could be quite alarming. Good thing he avoids Haynesworth for the rest of the season.

3) Laurence Maroney s-s-s-sucks. Big time. Sammy Morris is the most talented back on that roster.

4) Mark Sanchez nor Matthew Stafford needs to be compared to Joe Flacco, in terms of team success this season. Both are better overall QBs than Flacco though. ESPN has OVERrated the Delaware product a little too much as of late.

5) I can't describe how much better Gruden is in the booth than Kornheiser. Memo to Tony, stick to PTI and far far away from the commentator's booth.

6) Tony Dungy is going to be missed BIG time. Jim Caldwell won't be the head coach in Indy in 2-3 seasons. In fact, Indianapolis will struggle to eclipse 9 wins with Caldwell at the helm.

7) LaDanian Tomlinson has one season to cement his status as an all-time great at running back. Good luck, LT.

8) Lito Sheppard better be ready for a LOOOOOONG season opposite Darrelle Revis. He's going to hate dealing with a lot of talented #2 options (Welker, Galloway, Evans, etc.).

9) I don't like Jared Allen and I never will. I just wanted to let that be known.

10) Anyone who thinks Minnesota, especially in that locker room, is better off with Tarvaris an idiot. Sage might be a (slightly) different story. This team is wasting Adrian Peterson in his prime as the top back in the NFL.

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Oh yeah, check out the new poll!!!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

InClement Weather: Fantasy Football Speak [Part II of III]

Most of us, who would write for or read this blog, are fantasy football "players". In fact, many of us have been at it for over a decade now (some even longer). On top of that, many of us have multiple leagues we interact with yearly.

With that in mind, I'm going to continue - after a week long (wedding-related) delay - serving up a series of fantasy football-related posts.

1) First up, we looked at the first 3 rounds of our draft HERE.
2) Today, we're checking out 10 "Make or Break" Selections found in our draft, which are likely to impact yours as well.

3) As for later in the week, I'll target 10 guys I was surprised to see drop on our overall draft board. Perhaps you can let us know if you've seen anything similar in your own draft(s).

As for the league they is.

A) 10-teams.
B) 18-round ladder draft. [Ex: 1 to 10, 10 to 1, 1 to 10, 10 to 1, and so on.]
C) Starters include 2 QBs, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, 1 TE, 1 K, & 1 DEF. 8 reserve sports.

D) Max of 1 1/2 mins/pick for the first 5 rounds, max of 1 min/pick for rounds 6 through 11, and max of 45 seconds (that's right!) for rounds 12 through 18.
Note: No keepers or holdovers either. Not in this league, at least.

2-Starting QB Rules
E) If a backup becomes a starter and you have 4 starting QBs, you must drop/trade one w/i 24 hours.
F) If you have 3 starters on your roster, you may NOT pick up a 4th starter with the intention of working a trade. Picking up a starting QB when you already have 3 can only be done if you are dropping one of your 3 current starters.
G) This also works for defenses and kickers. Yes, we once had an owner with 3 kickers, potentially tabbing another. Lowball, but savvy.

Draft Lottery Bonuses
H) Separate pick'em and survivor leagues give each winner an extra ping pong ball (which I literally draw 5 minutes before the draft).

Note: To be fair, I'll stick with rounds 6 through 12 (it was an 18 round draft)

6th Round Selection = Roy Williams [WR, Dallas]

Mighty big shoes - and an ego - to fill.

The new #1 wideout in Big D (Witten remains Romo's #1 target), has a lot of pressure on him this season. I drafted him, partially due to already selecting Romo, on the basis of everything he showed - outside of 2009's campaign with Dallas (19 catches in 10 games), at a great risk/reward.

7th Round Selection = Larry Johnson [RB, Kansas City]

Memo to LJ: Chill with women, don't spit alcohol in their face.

Depth at the position was a factor; however, it was a risk for the owner (Patterson) this early who already selected Westbrook, Turner, and McFadden. Depth is key, but being able to trade that depth is even more vital. Question is: can LJ (aka "Alcohol Spitta") be package in a deal if he starts off well? You tell me.

8th Round Selection = Greg Olsen [TE, Chicago]

Olsen owners beware of Desmond Clark stealing redzone targets. Beware!!!

The tight end position can often decide close games. Enter a young, emerging tight end who appears to be the early favorite target of his new quarterback. Meanwhile, Desmond Clark is holding on to snaps with a tight clutch and often 0 point performances from the position can lead to a big fat L.

9th Round Selection = Joseph Addai [RB, Indianapolis]

Donald Brown is a popular name on draft board, often even before Addai. Mistake!!!

So much for the top 5, first round, or even the top 5 rounds. Addai is often being passed up for Donald Brown. Nevertheless, the 9th round has a lot of value for a potential 3rd or even 4th running back. Especially one in an offense that seems well-equipped to offer redzone touches.

10th Round Selection = Knowshon Moreno [RB, Denver]

McDaniels (not pictured) may need this one to hit more than any fantasy owner.

Simply put, there's (at least) three factors at play:
A) The Denver tradition of RB by Committee
B) The tweaked ankle in the preseason opener
C) Rookie RBs in general

11th Round Selection = Sage Rosenfels [QB, Minnesota]

Who is the Viking backup?

Is he the backup? Is Tavaris? Will either potentially see snaps if Favre struggles BIG TIME? Nightmarish situation to say the least.

12th Round Selection = Michael Crabtree [WR, San Francisco]

The 49ers' season, whether Singletary wants to admit or not, depends heavily on his availability.

Will he sign? Will he play? Will he be more annoying than Vernon Davis (unlikely!)???

Friday, August 21, 2009

NFL SWOT Analysis: AFC West

Denver Broncos

Strengths – The Broncos once again have an athletic offensive line lacking big names. However, this is an ideal fit for Josh McDaniels’s offense. As a rookie, LT Ryan Clady proved to be one of the best pass blockers in the game. Center Casey Weigman was a pro bowler. At TE, the team has Daniel Graham who was successful in his days in New England in the same offense. Tony Scheffler may not be as athletic as Ben Watson, but isn’t far, and boasts better hands. Look to them to be a strength in the offensive attack. On Defense, if either Robert Ayers or Jarvis Moss step up, the LB crew could bring this defense to the level that can help the team survive in the playoffs.

Weaknesses – Many will disagree, but I think settling on Kyle Orton was a mistake. Sure, he won some games in Chicago, but this is an offense that’s built on padding a QB’s stats. If Orton’s numbers don’t shine, he’s gotta go. Could people be laughing at the Broncos for passing on Jason Campbell in a very easy trade? The defensive line is made up from a bunch of junk from other teams. Ronald Fields may be the best of the bunch, and that’s not saying much. All three starters look like stop-gaps that will be replaced at some point.

Opportunities – Correll Buckhalter, if healthy, can show why Andy Reid kept giving him so many chances after so many season ending injuries. Eddie Royal steps into the WR1 role with Brandon Marshall’s situation in flux. Brandon Stokely must return to form from when he was a 1000 yard receiver. If not, Orton doesn’t have many long options. Alphonso Smith is a mature rookie who will be needed at CB. The starters are either past their prime or getting there quickly.

Threats – The Brandon Marshall situation could have an effect in the locker room and on the field. Players could be torn on whether he should stay or go. One thing remains clear: If he leaves, there will be some huge shoes to fill on offense, as he is an elite receiver on the field. One of the things the team has lacked (and still does) is an offensive leader. The team could use someone like that to keep teammates like Marshall in line.

Passing/Receiving the Torch – Dawkins (the older player in this case) taking the Defensive Captain/Leadership role from Champ Bailey. Honestly, while Bailey has heart, he’s never been a defensive captain type. Dawkins brings a lot to the table for this team.

Position Battle – OLB opposite Elvis Dumervil: Five candidates. Mario Haggan is penciled in as the starter for now. However Darrell Reid, Robert Ayers, Jarvis Moss and Tim Crowder will all vie for the spot.

Rookie Contributor – CB Alphonso Smith could wind up starting over Andre Goodman, depending on what happens in the preseason. OLB Robert Ayers is in the mix for the starting OLB spot. Both Darcel McBath and David Bruton could see time at SS.

Kansas City Chiefs

Strengths – This is a young team. Give them a season to pull it all together, and they can surprise. The DBs are a very young crew. They did an admirable job last year with their top 3 CBs being rookies (Brandon Flowers, Brandon Carr, Maurice Leggett), and both Ss in their second year (Jarrad Page and Bernard Pollard). This group could end up leading this defense for the next half-decade. The O-Line is a tough group. Larry Johnson has every opportunity to return to All-Pro form. Adding Mike Goff at RG solidified the weakest link on the line and forms a great run-blocking tandem on the right side with Damion McIntosh.

Weaknesses – At this point, the backup D-Line looks better than the starters. Tank Tyler and Tyson Jackson need to step up and claim their starting spots. Glenn Dorsey just needs to show up in some way…any way…to give the team some hope that he might one day pan out. Beyond Dwayne Bowe, the WRs on this team are weak. When the team is counting on Ashley Lelie, Bobby Engram, Amani Toomer and Devard Darling to step up, there is trouble.

Opportunities – The quartet of LBs have two leaders that the team can learn a lot from. Mike Vrabel has lived in the 3-4 defense, and Zach Thomas (whether he can get on the field or not) can teach youngsters about heart. With both of those players placed around him, Derrick Johnson takes on a playmaker role that could have him putting up great numbers. On offense, Brad Cottam must show that he can take the starting TE spot. He has a lot of untapped potential that would ease the loss of Gonzalez, even if it’s only eased a little.

Threats – With Dwayne Bowe given extra bench time, how soon before he formally asks for a trade? Apparently the Jets are interested. The team doesn’t have the receiving corps to make up for that loss. Todd Haley also has to remember that he doesn’t have Fitz, Boldin and Breaston anymore.

Passing/Receiving the Torch – Matt Cassel from Larry Johnson as the new big-money under-achiever.

Position Battle – QB: Matt Cassel vs. Brodie Croyle. Apparently Croyle is putting the heat on Cassel. I’ve liked Croyle since he came into the league. Too bad Cassel has the contract.

Rookie Contributor – Tyson Jackson should eventually unseat Alphonso Boone at the left DE spot.

Oakland Raiders

Strengths – Hello!!! Hello-hello-hello. Echo!!1 Echo-echo-echo. Anything? Ok...I’m exaggerating a little, but why is it that every season, I’m saying that this team is in need of a makeover? So…strengths. The trio of RBs (Justin Fargas, Darren McFadden and Michael Bush) is the kind you could see on a championship club. They could all be starters, and they could also all fill roles. On defense, Nnamdi Asomugha, Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard are the kind of players you can build a defense around.

Weaknesses – Where do I start? Heck…where else do you start? The Front Office (specifically Al Davis). This is one of the biggest jokes in the league. Daniel Snyder and Vinny Cerrato should send oversized gift baskets to these folks every year, just for being able to say, “At least we’re not THAT bad.” A lot can be blamed on the coaching staff too, but the front office chose them too. On the field there are many weaknesses, highlighted by a defensive line that’s not only embarrassing on the field, but on paper as well. Tommy Kelly must step up and prove he deserves his huge contract.

Opportunities – Chaz Schilens steps in as the #1 WR and is ready to show that even though you’ve probably never heard of him, he can put up some numbers. I was high on Jon Alston coming out of Stanford in 2006. he never got a fair shot in St. Louis, but now he’ll have the first crack at the starting strong-side LB role. Samson Satele should have a chip on his shoulder to prove Bill Parcels wrong in his assessment that Satele cannot block the bigger DTs in the NFL.

Threats – What threats? At this point there is nowhere for this franchise to go but up. Or, maybe they’ve hit rock bottom, and have broken out the jackhammers and shovels. This team brings deeper meeting to the word “Suckitude”

Passing/Receiving the Torch – Justin Fargas is penciled in as the starter, however it looks like McFadden is ready to take on the Lion’s Share of the load. Michael Bush is in line to receive more carries as well. Fargas could lose a lot of time. Maybe that’s why the team quietly had him on the trading block. He’s a good RB, and teams like the Bengals could really use him.

Position Battle – QB: JaMarcus Russell vs. Jeff Garcia. It’s the Fat kid with no friends versus the pencil-necked geek. No matter who you pick, you’re probably ending up with a loser.

Rookie Contributor – WR Darrius Heyward-Bey is slated to start. Maybe being thrown to the wolves isn’t such a bad thing. He has all the tools to be great. WR Louis Murphy has the tools to be a #1 WR, but he needs the coaching and maturity to put it all together. He could be a steal in the 2009 draft.

San Diego Chargers

Strengths – The passing game for this team is elite. Phillip Rivers led the NFL in passing TDs last year. Vincent Jackson came into his own along with Malcolm Floyd. Chris Chambers is still good for a big catch here and there. If Antonio Gates can get back on track, this offense will be tough to stop. The left side of the offensive line is built to open holes for the running game. They are just good enough in pass blocking to keep Rivers off his back. Marcus McNeill leads the charge next to Kris Deilman. Over the last two seasons, Quentin Jammer has been fulfilling his draft day potential. With Antonio Cromartie healthy and Antoine Cason rounding out the trio, this team has one of the better sets of CBs in the league.

Weaknesses – The defensive line leaves a little to be desired. Ryon Bingham fills in for Igor Olshansky, who may be a bigger loss to the D-0Line than most would realize. Jamal Williams is up there in years and there isn’t another true NT on the roster that can spell him. Luis Castillo needs to decide if he’s an elite player or an average one. He follows up a great game with one where he disappears. The right side of the offensive line could give defenses an opportunity to attack. Many viewed this area as an area of need going into free agency, and the club didn’t do much to address it outside of the draft. Kynan Forney and Jeromey Clary could end up having a long year.

Opportunities – LaDanian Tomlinson looks to be ready to go, and some experts claim that he isn’t washed up yet. Look for LT to come out of the gates firing and to turn some heads, especially working with a change of pace back like Darren Sproles. At safety, Eric Weddle and Clinton hart started to gel last season and could prove to be a decent no-name tandem.

Threats – Can Norv Turner prove that he is over his inconsistency issues and keep this team at the top of the AFC West? On the field, Shawne Merriman’s knee is a big question mark. There was talk of the issue being a career threat. If Merriman gets back to 2007 form, Shaun Phillips will regain his form on the other side.

Passing/Receiving the Torch
– Marcus McNeill from Mike Goff as the leader of the offensive line. Goff was the cagy veteran that led this group. It’s now McNiell’s show to run, as he’s the man now.

Position Battle – WR2: Chris Chambers vs. Malcolm Floyd. Floyd made some huge catches last year, and seemed to surpass Chambers. However, Chambers is a solid target, and could fight Floyd off for another year. At ILB: Tim Dobbins vs. Kevin Burnett. Dobbins won’t be giving up the spot, until newly signed Burnett is comfortable with the system.

Rookie Contributor – Barring injuries, there may not be a rookie contributor. Closest thing would be Louis Vasquez at guard, if Fornay falters.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

NFL SWOT Analysis: NFC West

Arizona Cardinals

Strengths – Kurt Warner had his renaissance throwing the ball to Fitz, Boldin and Breaston last year. That passing attack is mostly responsible for their near Super Bowl championship. The rest of the team came together just well enough to allow the passing game to accomplish that near-feat. The 3-4 defense is a great fit for the personnel on the team. Specifically, the defense plays to the strengths of DEs Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell. The DBs came into their own last year. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie-Solomon-Smith-Barney-Booz-Allen-Hamilton made the transition from a small school rookie to a #1 CB without much of a learning curve. With the addition of Bryant McFadden, the DBs are potentially stronger.

Weaknesses – I will probably get a lot of grief for this, but the offensive line is not as good as what we saw in the playoffs. They came together, but I won’t be surprised one bit when they “shine” as the weakness of this team. Mike Gandy is the only lineman that I would have confidence in at this point, and somehow, he was the only one who’s play suffered during the playoffs. Also, as great as the passing attack is, the team lacks a safety valve receiver, and lost both Edgerrin James and J.J. Arrington, their best receivers out of the backfield. There was some hope for Ben Patrick, but his suspension for the early part of the season undermined that progress.

Opportunities – With Beanie Wells nursing an ankle, Tim Hightower gets a gift shot at reclaiming the starting RB role that he failed to impress in late last season. On defense, Alan Branch and Gabe Watson have the size to man the NT position, yet neither has stepped up. Bryan Robinson is not the answer, and at his size should not be standing in either players’ way from claiming the starting NT job.

Threats – Will there be high expectations for a team that barely won the worst division in football (maybe the worst we’ve seen in decades)? This is a mediocre team that got hot in the playoffs. Also, will Boldin’s unhappiness show? This team needs Boldin, as he takes full advantage of the coverage Fitz draws.

Passing/Receiving the Torch
– Going out on a limb with this one. Adrian Wilson may be slowly getting ready to share the torch to Antrel Rolle, who made the conversion from CB to FS, and did better than expected. If Rolle continues to rise, Wilson and his contract could potentially come to the forefront.

Position Battle – RB: Beanie Wells vs. Tim Hightower. Both should share time, but the battle will be over who gets more balls handed to them. Hightower came out of the gate on fire last season when working inside the red zone. If Beanie Wells can dominate between the 20s, The cards may have a potent weapon where they lacked one last year.

Rookie Contributors
– Beanie Wells will probably get most of the spotlight as a rookie, however don’t sleep on Cory Brown. He is an unheralded rookie out of UConn. He could surprise and get a lot more playing time than most would think.

St. Louis Rams

Strengths – The upgrades on the O-Line should go a long way towards patching things up. Jason Brown will be originating line calls and leading this line for the next few years, at least. Jason Smith was my highest rated OT in the draft, and will be eased in at RT. Despite how bad this team was, it is not short of offensive leaders. Marc Bulger, Steven Jackson and Jason Brown must take this team over, and help those around them excel.

Weaknesses – How does this team expect to stop any receiver with the set of CBs they have? Ronald Bartell is up and down (luckily, he stepped up last year), and Tye Hill gets out-played on most weeks. The Rams have a foursome of highly drafted CB talent. Can they step up? The LB corps is one of the weakest in the league. The team needs James Laurinaitis to step up. The WRs are not ideal. Someone must emerge from that group. Actually 2-3 must emerge for this team to get out of the hole it has dug for itself.

Opportunities – While the outlook for this team is bleak, they are in the weakest division in the league. If a couple of players pick up the slack and the veterans can perform to their standards, this team has a slim chance to surprise. Alex Barron was an athletic lineman, much in the mold of what teams are looking for today at LT. However, he was stuck on the right side with Orlando Pace there. Could Barron realize his full potential on the left side.

Threats – Have the holdovers on the team bought into the “Loser Mentality”? If so, it may be time to clean house completely. The team also needs to send a message to Richie Incognito, for him to tone down his behavior. This was the knock on him in college and it’s haunting him in the NFL. He nearly cost the team their first win, because he lets his temper get out of hand. How long will the team tolerate his behavior? Will it take losing a game because of him? This is the wrong kind of influence to have around young players.

Passing/Receiving the Torch – Looks like the torch may go from the Lions to the Rams as the worst team in 2009. However, San Fran may beat the Rams to the punch.

Position Battle – On a team like this, there should be a lot of open battles. The one that catches my eye is at WR. While Laurent Robinson, Donnie Avery and Keenan Burton are the top 3 WRs on the team, they will battle to see which of those three spots they will occupy. Avery should be the clear cut #1 though.

Rookie Contributors – Jason Smith is behind Adam Goldberg for now at RT, but should see the starting role at some point this season. Laurinaitis could see time at MLB, moving Chris Draft to the strong side. DT Dorell Scott could be a dark horse. The team could use a run stopper up front.

San Francisco 49ers

Strengths – Frank Gore has been outspoken and is finally taking on a leadership role with this club. He may be the only bright spot on offense. On defense, you have Patrick Willis as the type of leader you build an entire defense around. Mike Singletary has his prodigy/protégé. The D-Line may be somewhat of a no-name crew, but they actually have the right pieces to fit their style of the 3-4 defense. In the D-Backfield, they might finally have some decent depth.

Weaknesses – The overall theme of this team is under-achievers. Regardless of who the QB is (Shaun Hill, Alex Smith, Damon Huard, Gio Carmazzi), there is a lot of doubt whether he will be able to lead the team anywhere. Regardless of the QB, he will not have a great set of targets to work with. To make matters worse on offense, Vernon Davis is the biggest tease in football. He was one of the fastest and strongest players coming into the league, and has done nothing but disappoint. While the O-Line is led by an over-achieving center in Eric Heitman, the rest of the line was highly touted coming into the league, and has also disappointed.

Opportunities – This is Mike Singletary’s chance to show that he can whip an under-achieving team into shape. He could build a legacy off of this situation. Those who knew and remember him as a player have no doubt that he has the brass to do it. One player that could use that brass is Manny Lawson. He has all the tools to be a great pass rusher in the 3-4, but still has not lived up to his potential. He’s in the final two years of his tiny rookie contract, and might want to make a case for a renegotiation for the uncapped year. Delanie Walker could prove that he’s the better TE for this offense than Vernon Davis.

Threats – The amount of under-achievers on this team is way too high, and could be cancerous to the team. If they continue on this path, it may be time to do some major house cleaning.

Passing/Receiving the TorchTarell Brown is the closest to receiving a torch. He may start getting some sparks from Nate Clements as the #1 CB. He is the type of over-achiever that this team needs.

Position Battle – It’s a 5-man race (when Crabtree decides to join the fray it will be 6). Josh Morgan and Isaac Bruce are penciled in as starters. Brandon Jones is dealing with an injury. Jason Hill is the home run threat who has some length. He has the most potential (outside of Crabtree). Arnaz Battle was once a starter, and hopes to regain that form again.

Rookie Contributor – Michael Crabtree is an idiot. Mark my words, he will lose more money in the long run by holding out of valuable time than he will make by holding out. Grade-A IDIOT. The real rookie gem on this squad might be Glen Coffee. He should win the RB2 role behind Gore, and is poised to surprise. There is a Dark Dark Horse in Ricky Jean-Francois. He played the same 3-4 DE position at LSU, and seems to be fitting in here.

Seattle Seahawks

Strengths – The front seven is probably the brightest spot on this team. The LB corps are every LB coach’s dream. Lofa Tatupu leads the defense from the middle. Leroy Hill played so well last year, the team felt it could move high-priced Julian Peterson, to make room for Aaron Curry. The three together could be dominant. The D-Line has mostly quality no-name talent. If they can tie up the blockers, the LBs can play freely and cause many problems for offenses. Young DEs Lawrence Jackson and Darryl Tapp need to step up for this to be an elite front seven.

Weaknesses – Can this team really survive with Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett as the feature backs? The middle of the O-Line hasn’t looked good and only makes it tougher on the running game. The CBs must step up this year. Kelly Jennings is in danger of being cut or traded for next to nothing if he doesn’t turn things around. Marcus Trufant and Ken Lucas team up again, but they were probably a better tandem when they were younger. The young talent at CB is not the kind that you put out there as a starter. Josh Wilson is too small to be an every down CB.

Opportunities – The surprise this team might have up its sleeve is the passing game. After putting 47 WRs on IR last year, theyhave a healthy bunch with the additions of T.J. HoushamazillaWhosYoMamaHoushmandzadeh and rookie Deon Butler. John Carlson could be a pro-bowl caliber TE, though it doesn’t help that Tony Gonzalez is in the NFC now.

Threats – Does Matt Hasselbeck have it anymore? I quietly had them in the QB derby on draft day, knowing they could take Sanchez and put him in the perfect situation to sit for a year behind Hasselbeck for at least the start of this season.

Passing/Receiving the Torch – Walter Jones might be passing the LT torch to Sean Locklear soon. If Jones gets hurt or falters, Locklear will take the position and not give it back. This will also open the door at RT for Ray Willis.

Position BattleWR3: Deion vs. Deon. Branch vs. Butler. Look for the veteran to have the early lead, but the rookie will push.

Rookie Contributor – Aaron Curry is the obvious stud rookie on this team. In many eyes, he was the class of the 2009 draft. He should do a lot for this club. Penn State burner, WR Deon Butler, is hard to keep up with on the field and has a little Bobby Engram to him. Utility lineman Max Unger could find his way into the RG mix with Mansfield Wrotto when Ray Willis moves to RT.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

InClement Weather: Fantasy Football Speak [Part I of III]

Most of us, who would write for or read this blog, are fantasy football "players". In fact, many of us have been at it for over a decade now (some even longer). On top of that, many of us have multiple leagues we interact with yearly.

With that in mind, I'm going to serve up a series of 3 posts this upcoming week. Some might be surprised to hear that, as I'm leaving for Las Vegas to get married Monday and enjoy a week-long honeymoon in the City of Sin.

Don't worry, it won't be one of "those" Las Vegas trips.

Don't worry, I've already written all three posts and will sneak the other two in at later dates, in-between Armin's finishing touches on the SWOTs (is that correct?).

First up, let's look at some basics of the league (commonly known as NOVA Fantasy Football).
Since it's near impossible to find a magazine or reputable website which has mock drafts with 2 starting quarterback parameters, this is a rare treat. So enjoy it!!!

A) 10-teams.
B) 18-round ladder draft. [Ex: 1 to 10, 10 to 1, 1 to 10, 10 to 1, and so on.]
C) Starters include 2 QBs, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, 1 TE, 1 K, & 1 DEF. 8 reserve sports.

D) Max of 1 1/2 mins/pick for the first 5 rounds, max of 1 min/pick for rounds 6 through 11, and max of 45 seconds (that's right!) for rounds 12 through 18.
Note: No keepers or holdovers either. Not in this league, at least.

2-Starting QB Rules
E) If a backup becomes a starter and you have 4 starting QBs, you must drop/trade one w/i 24 hours.
F) If you have 3 starters on your roster, you may NOT pick up a 4th starter with the intention of working a trade. Picking up a starting QB when you already have 3 can only be done if you are dropping one of your 3 current starters.
G) This also works for defenses and kickers. Yes, we once had an owner with 3 kickers, potentially tabbing another. Lowball, but savvy.

Draft Lottery Bonuses
H) Separate pick'em and survivor leagues give each winner an extra ping pong ball (which I literally draw 5 minutes before the draft).

Enough talk, let's look at the first three rounds (with a few brief observations):

He might not have gotten the Madden cover, but Peterson was an easy selection for #1 overall.

Round #1:
1) Adrian Peterson
2) Tom Brady
3) DeAngelo Williams
4) LaDanian Tomlinson
5) Drew Brees
6) Matt Forte
7) Michael Turner
8) Maurice Jones-Drew
9) Peyton Manning
10) Steven Jackson

Comments: A-Pete was a lock for #1 (despite a near-trade between slots #1 and #2), Brady was taken #2 by the same owner (Pay) last year, Williams surprised a few at #3, I've never owned LT so took the risk for the potential reward at #4, Brees at #5 proves the value of QBs in 2-starting QB leagues, Forte seemed perfect for the 6-slot, Turner slid a bit to 7 (more than a few question his reaction to a season of 350+ carries), MJD has been ranked top 3 on a ton of sites (Yahoo! especially), Manning goes to a familiar owner, and Action Jackson is someone I was afraid to even mention.

How many of you had Matt Ryan going in the second round? One of our league members did. Surprised?

Round #2:
1) Matt Ryan
2) Chris Johnson
3) Aaron Rogers
4) Brian Westbrook
5) Phillip Rivers
6) Frank Gore
7) Brandon Jacobs
8) Larry Fitzgerald
9) Randy Moss
10) Kurt Warner

Comments: Ryan at #11 overall was shocking (it was a huge Falcons fan), CJ at #12 was a fallback after Jackson went already, Rogers before Rivers might be due to it being a Packers fan, Westbrook at #14 depends on that ankle, Rivers at #15 was the second-half fantasy MVP last season, Gore quietly went under the radar (again), Jacobs returns to a happy owner (me!), Fitzgerald last longer than expected and is the first wideout taken, Moss follows at #19 to combo with Tom Brady (uh oh), and Kurt Warner is drafted at least 100 spots (or more) earlier this year.

Two Texans went in Round 3. I suppose this mock-cover ruins the surprise on one of them. But can YOU name the other? Can YOU!?!?

Round #3:
1) Greg Jennings
2) Marion Barber
3) Steve Slaton
4) Tony Romo
5) Clinton Portis
6) Donovan McNabb
7) Carson Palmer
8) Ronnie Brown
9) Andre Johnson
10) Calvin Johnson

Comments: Jennings is the 3rd overall receiver taken (surprising?), Barber in the 3rd round surprised many, Slaton has incredible upside at #23, Romo was a borderline grab over McNabb, Portis returns to a Redskin owner (Goings), McNabb is one of the last rock solid QBs left, Palmer may be the ultimate "make or break" QB this fantasy season, Ronnie Brown is in a contract year and the Wildcat offense is intriguing to say the least, Andre Johnson at #29 almost seems criminal, and #30 is Calvin Johnson (who is a Lion, but an absolute beast nonetheless).

So there you have it. Feel free to post some comments of your own.

Next post I'll be taking a look at 10 make-or-break middle round selections (one per team) who may have a lot to say with fantasy success or suckitude.
After that, I'll finish up the series with 10 surprising drops for players. This means I'll target 10 guys who I expected to go much earlier than they did. Much much earlier in some cases.

Until then...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

InClement Weather: What (Good) Money Can Buy

Fresh off of some actual writing last week, I’ve decided to close out this week with a little more. Lucky you, right?

Instead of comparing contracts (both good and bad), I’ve decided to analyze four current NFL players, in contract years, that may garner quite a bit of interest next offseason (assuming they don’t re-up beforehand).

Let’s see if you can identify the player in question.

If not, highlight the box after their position to find out who they are. Cheater.

Player #1: The Quarterback [Chad Pennington]

In 2008, he led his team – in his first season with the team – to an 11-5 mark. He remained healthy throughout the season and had 19 TDs to only 7 INTs. He is incredibly accurate, highly rated, and had, by far, his worst game of the season in a playoff home opener. So there’s that. In the game, he was sacked 3 times, threw 4 picks, and had a fumble as well (with only 1 touchdown pass).

He’s 33, entering his 10th season, and you have a young 2nd-round pick waiting in the wings. But is he someone that excites you, your team, and your fans? Not yet, at least. Oddly enough, he was named the “starter in waiting” early last season, which just happened to coincide with the end of this current quarterback’s contract.

Given your current starter’s knowledge of your division, poise in the pocket, and incredibly successful ’09 campaign…are you willing to severe ties after this season, regardless of its outcome??? Note: The schedule is BRUTAL.

I'm not talking Jason Campbell, but that is an intriguing tale to say the very least.

Other QBs of note: Washington’s Jason Campbell, New York’s Kellen Clemens, Denver’s Kyle Orton, and Phillip Rivers of San Diego.

Player #2: The Running Back [Willie Parker]

Entering his 6th season, at age 28, he’s close to the dreaded “30-year old running back” label. Nevertheless, in his six seasons – all in one uniform – he’s provided plenty of fireworks.

Following three straight 1,000-yard campaigns from ’05 to ‘07, he struggled to stay on the field in ’08, missing 5 games in the regular season. His ypc dipped below 4 yards for the first time in his career and his reception total was an anemic 3 catches for 13 yards…total.

Meanwhile, you selected an RB in the first round in ’08, who promptly hurt himself before any significant playing time. You found talent in the free agency scrap heap, both in the passing game and on the goalline, and weathered the storm of injuries to the backfield to quite a bit of success. In fact, you more than weathered them.

An opening round playoff performance reminded you how great this guy can be (146 yards and 2 TDs); however, the “Super-performance” of 19 carries for only 53 yards was a little lacking to say the least. Question is: do you stray away from “company policy” and open up the checkbook for a running back entering his 30s? Hmmmmm.

I'm not talking Len Dale, but his physique is looking SHARP!


Other RBs of note: Tennessee’s LenDale "Tequila" White, New York’s Leon Washington, New Orleans’ Pierre Thomas, Daren Sproles of San Diego, Miami’s Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown, Baltimore’s Le’Ron McClain, and Jerious Norwood of Atlanta.

Player #3: The Wide Receiver [Kevin Walter]

You may already have arguably the best wide receiver in football on your roster and locked up for the future. Your quarterback situation is stable, but only when he’s healthy. Which hasn’t been too often the past two seasons. You have an up-and-coming running back and an offense that has the ability to put up points on the board in bunches. So how important is your #2 target? Hint: VERY!

Back-to-back seasons of 60+ catches and 800+ yards were definitely boosted by 8 TD receptions in ’08. 15 ypc and playmaking ability downfield from your #2 only strengthen the impact of your stud #1 and your emerging offense. Why rock the boat?

But are you willing to match an offer, potentially $3-4 million above market value, from another team seeking a #1? Are you willing to offer a contract to someone without a 1,000 yard season in the hopes that he’s on the verge? Someone still without double digit TDs in a season? Especially when the potential free agent market is quite enticing (see below).

If you are another team, do you believe this guy is capable of being your top receiver?

At 6’3 and 215 lbs., it’s a very intriguing option for all parties interested. But is this guy a #2 or might be much more?

White signed his deal during the "rough draft" stages of this article. He wasn't going to be the focus anyways.
The numbers in that contract do matter.
A lot.
Credit: The

Other WRs of note: Chris Chambers of San Diego, Mark Clayton of Baltimore, Cleveland’s Braylon Edwards, San Diego’s Vincent Jackson, Denver’s Brandon Marshall, TO of Buffalo, Roddy White of Atlanta (just signed a 6-year, $50-million extension), and Domenik Hixon of New York.

Player #4: The Cornerback [Carlos Rogers]

The position has seen plenty of turnover, inconsistency, and injuries as of late on your roster. A familiar face (or mouth) has returned, seemingly at a discounted price. Meanwhile, you’re now staring at a former top 10 selection who has been quite good and, at other times, borderline benchable. He will command plenty of interest on his name alone; however, is he someone worth opening the pocket book for?

Entering his sixth season, is this guy close to becoming the shutdown All Pro corner you expected when you drafted him so highly? Is he someone who you can automatically ask to lock up with the top talent on the other side of the ball? Is he someone the opposition gameplans away from? It doesn’t appear that way. Or is this someone who was drafted, has performed reasonably well, but isn’t worthy of an expensive extension? Tough call when it’s sometimes the heart versus the head.

Nope, not talking about a certain Bears CB.
But I'm sorry, but how do you spell Daniel like Danieal???


Other CBs of note: Nick Harper of Tennessee, Danieal Manning of Chicago, Buffalo’s Terrence McGee, Baltimore’s Fabian Washington, and Ellis Hobbs of Philadelphia.

There’s plenty more to say and ponder. But for now, these four will do.

Monday, August 10, 2009

NFL SWOT Analysis: AFC South

Houston Texans

Strengths – The offense is better than advertised. The key is the role players that surround the four star players (Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, Steve Slaton, Owen Daniels). Kevin Walters and Andre Davis play the "big target and home run threat" roles that keeps defenses honest on Johnson. Behind Slaton, Chris Brown and Ryan Moats will do the same in a "Thunder and Lightening" role coming off the bench. Schaub and Daniels have Aikman-Novacek potential that kills defenses on third down. On defense, the front seven is loaded with young talent. Mario Williams leads the charge with Amobi Okoye and Antonio Smith helping on the D-Line with defensive captain DeMeco Ryans playing the sideline-to-sideline MLB role.

Weaknesses – The DBs are still weak, and will continue to be the bane of this defense. Dunta Robinson should be back to his form before his near career-threatening injury. However, Jacques Reeves is out indefinitely with a broken leg. Deltha O'Neal was brought out of involuntary retirement, but is far from an answer. Center Chris Myers is out indefinitely with a high ankle sprain (a worse injury than it sounds). While he is not a well known player, he ma be the most important cog of the zone-blocking scheme.

Opportunities – This is a no-name offensive line that is ready to make a name for themselves. If Myers can come back from his injury soon, and the guards step up, we could have a very strong team that could unseat the Titans for the division. At CB, Fred Bennett and Antuan Molden will team up to man the CB spot opposite Robinson. Bennett has more experience, but Molden has loads of potential. If Molden realizes that potential, he will take the starting spot and not let it go.

Threats – How different is Antonio Smith from Anthony Weaver? Both are probably better suited to be 3-4 DEs. The 4-3 didn't work out so well for Weaver, but Smith brings a lot of promise. Both Dunta Robinson and Owen Daniels are in stalemates with the front office on contract situations. Hopefully this doesn't undermine their production. They will both be playing for contracts, so this may be a good thing for the Texans this season.

Passing/Receiving the Torch – Duane Brown from Tony Boselli, fulfilling the promise that Boselli was supposed to bring to spark this franchise. Brown played great last season, and should build on that.

Position Battle – WLB: Zach Diles vs. Xavier Adibi. If Adibi can realize his potential, he could be special. Whoever wins the spot can rest assured the spotlight won't be on them with Ryans and Brian Cushing manning the other LB spots. Don't be surprised if Cato June works his way into this mix. At DT, Frank Okam could unseat Travis Johnson, who never reached his potential.

Rookie Contributor – Strong-side LB Brian Cushing should be the day one starter. He fills a huge hole that this team has had for a few years. Antoine Caldwell could get time early on in place of Chris Myers if he can fend off Chris White. Utility player Connor Barwin might get some pass rushing opportunities, as well as some time on offense as a blocking back or TE.

Indianapolis Colts

Strengths – Peyton Manning. You have to start with that name. The reigning MVP led an ailing team to a 12-4 record. With targets like Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark still playing at a high level, Manning shouldn’t have much of a problem approaching last year’s numbers. The offensive line, led by Tony Ugoh and Jeff Saturday, is back and healthy with depth that received valuable experience last year. On defense, a strong DE corps start with a fleet duo, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, who terrorize opposing backfields. The DBs can be great if they stay healthy. Kelvin Hayden and Marlin Jackson form a good combination of CBs that can cover many kinds of receivers, and former defensive player of the year Bob Sanders teams up with Antoine Bethea at safety.

Weaknesses – RB Joseph Addai took a step back last year. Hopefully Donald Brown can provide a breath of fresh air. If Brown can considerably ease the load, Addai could get back to form. The game of musical chairs at OLB has led to inconsistency. Two players must emerge as the full time starters to build continuity and camaraderie with their counterparts.

Opportunities – Pierre Garcon and Roy Hall both have opportunities as the WR3 and WR4. Both boast a lot of untapped potential in different ways. Garcon is a home-run threat. Hall can create space and make catches in the middle. If neither step up, look for BYU’s Austin Collie to get some looks.

Threats – The D-Line is light and athletic. However, they can be easily overpowered. They drafted a DT in the 2nd round, but Fili Maola is more of what they already had. Why not draft a run-stopping DT, when that was a weakness for the team last year.

Passing/Receiving the Torch – Anthony Gonzalez from the departed Marvin Harrison as Manning’s new #3 target (behind Wayne and Clark). If Manning can utilize Gonzalez’s lightning speed to his advantage, DBs better get ready to give some cushion.

Position Battle – Both OLBs: Philip Wheeler and Clint Session are the front-runners, however Freddy Keiaho and Tyjuan Hagler could make things interesting.

Rookie Contributor – RB Donald Brown, who could end up becoming the work-horse back of this team.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Strengths – Maurice Jones-Drew and Greg Jones are a couple of bright spots. Having them in the backfield together poses a dual threat to defenses as MJD can flat out outrun you, while Greg Jones can just flatten you. Rashean Mathis will shut down his share of #1 WRs. He won’t see many balls thrown his way. The defensive front seven is an underrated bunch with a healthy share of spotlight and role players, helping them fly low enough under the radar that they can be a surprise.

Weaknesses – This team does not look good. This was once a promising young team that was headed in the right direction. Now they are caught in a downward spiral. The WRs are a joke, regardless of Torry Holt’s arrival. David Garrard may not be good enough to cope.

Opportunities – With Fred Taylor gone, MJD has the ball all to himself (for now). If he can prove to be durable and the backups can spell him from time to time, he could put up gargantuan numbers.

Threats – Through the draft and free agency the team added depth to the offensive line, however several of the starters are coming off major injuries. If the injuries mount on the line again, stick a fork in this team. If MJD isn’t able to handle the entire load and the running game suffers, the passing game will suffer even more.

Passing/Receiving the Torch – The Head Coaching job from Jack Del Rio to an interim coach, if the team continues on this downward spiral.

Position Battle – DE: Reggie Hayward vs. Derrick Harvey. As much as the coaching staff likes Hayward, Harvey must work his way onto the field.

Rookie Contributor – RB Rashad Jennings. He was one of my steals of the draft. Don’t be surprised if he’s the RB2. He’s a big back with speed, he just played on a small level. CB Derek Cox and WRs Mike Thomas and Jarett Dillard could get some looks early.

Tennessee Titans

Strengths – Tennessee has one of the most potent running attacks in the league. Chris Johnson will have high expectations after his superb rookie year. A now svelte LenDale White is ready to prove that he deserves his share of the carries. They run behind the best set of bookend OTs in the game in Michael Roos and David Stewart. On Defense, the Titans have a great second-level defense led by OLBs Keith Bullock and David Thornton. Cortland Finnegan came into his own last season as one of the top CBs in the league. Michael Griffin and Chris hope team up to form one of the best safety tandems in the league.

Weaknesses – While the team tried to upgrade its WRs, they still need to prove they can produce on the field. This has been one of the weakest bunch of WRs in the league since Derrick Mason left the team. The defense lacks a true edge rusher. Jevon Kearse is not that guy. Vanden Bosch gets in the backfield based on his non-stop motor, but is in it alone. Could Jason Jones move outside?

Opportunities – With Albert Haynesworth in Washington, the task at DT falls on the shoulders of Tony Brown, Jason Jones and newcomer Jovan Haye. Keep an eye on Haye. He is a sleeper, and could be the top DT on this club at season’s end. Sen’Derrick Marks could get some time based on his size and run-stopping ability. Rookie WR Kenny Britt needs to mature early and get on the field. The team could use his playmaking ability.

Threats – Vince Young is a head-case living in a fantasy world. How long before he becomes the kind of distraction that negatively affects the team?

Passing/Receiving the Torch – Not many ready to pass. Eventually, Kevin Mawae will have to pass his torch to Leroy Harris.

Position Battle – QB2: Vince Young vs. Patrick Ramsey. After last night’s preseason game, Ramsey is in the lead. The team will give Young every opportunity, but at what point to you give up on him?

Rookie Contributor
– Possibly WR Kenny Britt. Possibly DT Sen’Derrick Marks. However, keep an eye on Jared Cook at TE. He has the talent and athletic ability to be something special in the league.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

NFL SWOT Analysis: NFC South

Atlanta Falcons

Strengths – This is a great offense that came into its own last year once they settled their QB and coaching situation. Matt Ryan and Roddy White formed an elite QB-WR combination. Michael Jenkins finally showed that he can be a decent #2 WR. Michael Turner played like an MVP while his backup, Jerious Norwood became one of the most underrated RB2’s in the league. The young offensive line gelled under Todd McClure’s leadership. Add to all of that, the arrival of Tony Gonzalez, and this offense has all the pieces to be a top 3 offense. Gonzalez should be a huge help to Matt Ryan avoiding a sophomore slump.

Weaknesses – Most, if not all, of the questions reside on the defensive side of the ball. This team boasts some of the weakest CBs in the league. Chris Houston has to step up and fulfill his vast potential. He can’t play like he has Deion’s coverage reputation, without building that reputation first. The defensive line was abused last year and they chose to address that with a sub-300 pound DT. Losing Michael Boley was a blow which was not fully addressed with the Mike Peterson signing.

Opportunities – Trey Lewis could end up with a lot of playing time as he is the only DT on the club who is worthy of getting playing time and also has some true run-stopping girth. He seemed to take a slight step backwards last season, but if he can return to the promise he showed as a rookie, he could be a lifeline for the D-Line.

Threats – Michael Turner cannot expect to last long if he carries as much of a load as he did last season. A large chunk of his running style is the kind that shortens a RBs career. Outside of Jonathan Abraham, the front seven lacks the speed on the outside positions to contain a spread offense. At the same time it has the lack of size in the middle to stop the power running games. With the loss of Harry Douglas as the WR3, will the Falcons get production out of newly signed Robert Ferguson and Marty Booker.

Passing/Receiving the Torch – Eventually, this season, John Abraham will pass his aura as the defensive leader to Curtis Lofton, as long as Lofton can keep from having lapses. This may be early, but it's as close a thing to a potential torch-passing they have.

Position Battle - CB: Chris Houston vs. Chevis Jackson. Houston should win it hands down, but Jackson will make a push. Brent Grimes might be in the mix too.

Rookie ContributorDT Peria Jerry will probably start from Day 1. He needs to prove he can take a beating. He runs about 299 pounds and will play alongside Jonathan Babineaux who is even lighter. Before William Moore got hurt (which might take him out of the early part of the season), he had a chance to push Coleman and DeCoud.

Carolina Panthers

StrengthsDeAngelo Williams was a pleasant surprise last season. He looked dominant at times. Teaming him up in a “Lightening/Thunder” combination with Jonathan Stewart is a lethal combo for any defense. Stewart had flashes last season showing he could be a starting back. Teams with RB situations like this tend to thrive late into the year. To give them a boost, the Panthers have a strong O-Line made for run blocking. The group is made up of a nice mix of veterans and youngsters. LT Jordan Gross will lead the way again, with C Ryan Kalil and RT Jeff Otah ready to take a step up the ladder this year.

Weaknesses – The Defensive line was already lacking a decent bookend for Julius Peppers, but received the next biggest blow to losing Peppers for the year. They lost Ma’ake Kemoeatu to an achilles tear. Kemoeatu was an unsung cog of the line last year, tying up extra blockers. Now the team must turn to Nick Hayden and rookie Corey Irvin to fill in. Adding a veteran DT could be a solution.

OpportunitiesDamione Lewis has a shot to prove why he was worthy of a 1st round pick years ago by the Rams. He may have a long year ahead of him, but the coaches will know his true value in the absence of Kemoeatu. Charles Godfrey is in his second year as the starting FS, and can take this opportunity to take the reigns on the DB calls. As a former CB, his coverage skills can provide the extra support for when Chris Harris wants to roam near the line.

Threats – Jake Delhomme’s targets outside of Steve Smith are not impressive. If Delhomme falters early, due to a lack of good targets, will the fans start chanting Josh McCown’s name? Losing Geoff Hangartner and Frank Omiyale to free agency leaves the team with very little depth on the offensive line. One injury can put that line in a bad place. Jon Beason could be the biggest loser in the Kemoeatu injury. He may have to deal with blockers that were previously tied up by the big guy.

Passing/Receiving the Torch – Not many changing hands here. Closest would be Richard Marshall finally stepping into a full time starting role, now that Ken Lucas is elsewhere. This was somewhat in effect last year, but will be interesting to see if he takes a step up or down this year.

Position Battle – DE: Tyler Brayton vs. Charles Johnson (maybe vs. Everette Brown). The left DE spot should be wide open for these two to compete. Everette Brown is entrenched behind Peppers, but if he’s the best pass rusher of the three, he needs to be out there on passing downs opposite Peppers.

Rookie ContributorDT Corey Irvin looks to be part of the DT rotation now. With the lack of O-Line depth, Duke Robinson could see some snaps. However, there is a Dark Horse. RB Mike Goodson has the coaches intrigued, and could get a few carries. You can’t keep that kind of talent off the field.

New Orleans Saints

Strengths – This was one of the best offenses in the league last season. There is no reason to think it won’t continue that this season. Drew Brees could have the MVP award in his sights. He proved last year that he has no problem posting huge numbers while spreading the ball around. The offensive line lacks big names, but plays well together and keeps Brees off his back.

Weaknesses – The defense has been a weakness of this team for years. They are almost like a 6-pack. They have all the pieces in place, but lack that little plastic thingy that holds it all together. There is very little depth in the front seven. This came to light with last year’s absences. They can only really afford one injury at DE.

Opportunities – Could the passing attack get even better with a healthy Colston around all year? Sedrick Ellis had some flashes of brilliance last season. Could he become the stud DT that this defense has desperately been missing? Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams likes to bring the rush from multiple areas of the defense. The current set of DBs possess some physical attributes that makes them great candidates to rush off the edge. Will they put this defense over the top?

Threats – Will Reggie Bush’s knees become an issue? Pierre Thomas is the starting RB, and an underrated one at that. But, Bush is the home-run threat that keeps defenses honest, allowing the offense to open up.

Passing/Receiving the Torch – Darren Sharper, from VACANT, as the QB of the defense. Sharper could prove to be one of those missing cogs that this defense needs to put it over the top. If Sharper doesn’t show his age, this is within reach. If he does, look for Malcolm Jenkins to proceed to take the torch from Sharper.

Position Battle – CB: Randall Gay vs. Jason David vs. Jabari Greer. Gay should have the spot locked up, but Gregg Williams apparently really likes Jabari Greer. Jason David is in the mix, but still has a lot to prove, as he never really fulfilled the potential the team thought it was bringing in.

Rookie Contributor – Malcolm Jenkins and SS Chip Vaughn are the rookies with any chance of getting playing time. They may end up only getting spot duty and special teams work, but both are an injury (or poor play) away from starting.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Strengths – Can someone tell me where this offensive line came from? LT Donald Penn came out of nowhere and proved to be a good pass blocker. RT Jeremy Trueblood plays with heart (and sometimes too much, leading to on field fights). RG Davin Joseph is a stud. Jeff Faine has proven to be a great addition. At LG, Arron Sears’s career may be in jeopardy, but Jeremy Zuttah deserved a shot at a starting job anyway. The team might have a bunch of no-namers now, but the talent of this defense is still at LB. The LB corps run deep and boast a lot of speed. They will be led by Angelo Crowell and Barrett Ruud.

Weaknesses – This D-Line does not resemble a Monte Kiffin D-Line. The talent is lacking in a big way, especially at defensive end. Outside of Antonio Bryant, the WRs need to step it up, because they haven’t proven anything, and need to give the rookie QB some nice targets. Dexter Jackson has been talked up this off-season, but that’s about it. Can Michael Clayton ever regain rookie form?

OpportunitiesAqib Talib looked great on the field last season (ahem…ON the field). He could put himself into position to take on #1 WRs this year. Tanard Jackson and Sabby Piscitelli boast a lot of potential going into their third years with the club. We could see them manning the middle of the D-Backfield for years.

Threats – Are the RBs as good as their hype? Ward looked great in New York, but was playing for a contract. He also doesn’t have Jacobs, and almost more importantly, Bradshaw to team up with. Earnest Graham is decent, and had a good year two years ago, but which Graham will show up this year. Cadillac Williams is a wild card, but cannot be counted on. Kellen Winslow could be a great addition for Josh Freeman to use as a safety valve, or he can continue to be a head-case. Apparently, one Bucs coach has made a comment about the latter.

Passing/Receiving the Torch – Weak-side LB Jermaine Phillips moves over from safety to take the torch from departed defensive leader Derrick Brooks. This is the playmaking position of the defense. The front-seven is schemed in a way to open this position up to make a lot of plays.

Position Battle – QB: Josh Freeman vs. Byron Leftwich. The strong-armed (almost Flacco-ish) rookie versus Roethlisburger’s capable fill-in.

Rookie Contributor – Obviously Freeman, if he lands the starting gig. However, don’t rule out DT Roy Miller and DE Kyle Moore. There will be plenty off opportunity for playing time on that D-Line.