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Muscle Sport Magazine

2011 NFL Preview – It Will Be Pats Over Saints in SB XLVI

Following a tumultuous offseason that threatened the start of the schedule with a prolonged lockout, it is certainly a relief to be writing an actual NFL preview. The preseason was actually welcomed for a change, but that was a mere tease to the football senses in preparation for the games that count.

The free agent flurry following the signing of the new CBA changed the landscape of the playoff picture – on paper, at least. Now we get to see who will actually fit in with their new clubs and who will be a bust. The haves and have-nots are all on equal footing heading into Week 1 and at least some of the questions will be answered in the months to follow.

So without further delay, let’s spell it out for you – the only way we know how.

AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE

AFC EAST

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS – The class of the conference has had their difficulties in the last few postseasons, but that will change come January. Bill Belichick picked up two veterans in Chad Johnson (we refuse to call him Ochocinco) and Albert Hayensworth that have a lot to prove. Who better than Belichick to squeeze everything out of them? Tom Brady is the best QB in the league and gets ring number 3.

12-4, division winner, Super Bowl champions

NEW YORK JETS – Rex Ryan’s bunch has been able to win road playoff games, but expecting Mark Sanchez to do it again and then some may be too much. This team needs a home playoff game to advance any further than they have the past two seasons, but have a big hurdle in the Pats to overcome. Sure, they beat them last January, but it’s not only a head-to-head issue.

10-6, Wild Card entry

MIAMI DOLPHINS – The quarterback carousel continues for the Fins, as it has since Dan marino retired. Chad Henne is not the answer and Reggie Bush’s exciting play will only mask the losing so much.

7-9

BUFFALO BILLS – Tyler Thigpen will eventually take Ryan Fitzpatrick’s job but is it really going to make much of a difference?

4-12

AFC NORTH

BALTIMORE RAVENS – The bruising Ravens will go at it tooth and nail with the Steelers again, but this time they will get passed them in the playoffs. Ray Rice is on the verge of stardom and that defense will lead the way again. Lee Evans was a good pick-up from the Bills and should be an improvement over TJ ‘Who’s-your-momma.’

12-4, division winner

PITTSBURGH STEELERS – An unexpected Super Bowl run nearly resulted in a third championship in six years for Pittsburgh, who made one too many mistakes against the Pack. They won’t have to deal with losing Big Ben for the first four games this time around, but an offseason marred with some controversy surrounding Rashad Mendenhall’s tweets and James Harrison’s opinions will have enough of a ripple effect to make them take a small step back.

11-5, Wild Card entry

CLEVELAND BROWNS – A team on the rise, the Brownies seemed to have found a franchise QB in Colt McCoy and a truck of a back in Peyton Hillis. A tough division will take its toll on them, though. Four games against the Steelers and Ravens will hurt their overall record.

7-9

CINCINNATI BENGALS – A rookie starting QB, a shaky head coach and not much talent spell disaster.

3-13

AFC SOUTH

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS – Peyton Manning’s health will dictate whether the Horseshoes are contenders or pretenders. But either way, they will finish on top of a weak division. Kerry Collins is good enough to win with for a short period of time, but not once the playoffs begin.

10-6, division winner

HOUSTON TEXANS – Is this finally their year? No.

9-7

 TENNESSEE TITANS – A rebuilding year, but one with a proven veteran QB who has a bunch of wins under his belt.

7-9

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS – Those last minute wins have ran out.

6-10

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AFC WEST

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS – Phillip Rivers needs to have a deep playoff run to be considered a big time QB and he finally delivers. The Bolts need to prove that last season was a fluke and come out of the box strong.

10-6, division winner

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS – Will the real Chiefs please stand up? Are they the strong team that won the West, or a club that overachieved and came crashing down in the playoffs? We say the latter.

9-7

DENVER BRONCOS – Kyle Orton is not a flashy QB, but he can be more than pedestrian if given half the chance.

7-9

OAKLAND RAIDERS – When they went 8-8 a year ago, the Silver & Black seemed to be moving up. But they lost some key players in the offseason and will again finish out of the money.

7-9

NATIONAL FOOTBALL CONFERENCE

NFC EAST

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES – They have put together a hell of team but now must prove it on the field. Michael Vick is a dangerous weapon and they have added enough to an already talented team to come out on top in what used to be the NFL’s toughest division.

12-4, division winner

NEW YORK GIANTS – The G-Men have blown two potential playoff spots in a row and have enough question marks heading into the season to not disappoint this time around. With a thin receiving corps, they won’t be in the mix that late.

10-6

DALLAS COWBOYS – America’s Team is improving and will do better with a full year of Jason Garrett.

9-7

WASHINGTON REDSKINS – Mike Shanahan got his way. The ‘Skins dumped Donovan McNabb and Albert Haynesworth. They would have sucked either way.

6-10

NFC NORTH

GREEN BAY PACKERS – The Pack snuck into the postseason and went all the way. Aaron Rodgers put himself into that ‘elite QB’ conversation by getting a ring and will have another big year. It just won’t end with confetti.

11-5, division winner

MINNESOTA VIKINGS – Can they rebound after a miserable 2010 with Donovan McNabb at the helm? Enough to sneak in as the last Wild Card team in the conference.

10-6, Wild Card entry

CHICAGO BEARS – The year ended dreadfully for the them and Jay Cutler had to redeem himself by actually having a legitimate knee injury. They will be a competitive team, but miss out on the playoffs.

9-7

DETROIT LIONS – Yes, they are getting better. But these things take time, you know.

7-9

NFC SOUTH

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS – Drew Brees is the difference maker and the loss of Reggie Bush will not be that big of a deal. They will recover from that ridiculous playoff loss to the Seahawks and be a contender again. A return to the Big Game is certainly possible, but not another surprise win there.

11-5, division winner, NFC representative in the Super Bowl

ATLANTA FALCONS – Losing at home to the Packers in the playoffs didn’t look so bad once Green Bay won the Super Bowl, did it? But you still have to consider how bad the Falcons looked that night. They will take a step back but still make it to the ‘second season’ because of the talent they possess.

10-6, Wild Card entry

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS – They won’t sneak up on anyone this year and that will be their downfall. Josh Freeman looks like a player and will be tough to beat one day – just not today.

8-8

CAROLINA PANTHERS – Cam Newton starting will make them a team to watch. But get used to the losing.

4-12

NFC WEST

ST. LOUIS RAMS – A team that made some big strides a year ago makes another and wins the league’s most pitiful division by default. Sam Bradford had a good rookie season and will again be the focal point of this team’s success.

9-7, division winner

ARIZONA CARDINALS – They will find out the hard way that Kevin Kolb is not the second coming of Kurt Warner.

7-9

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS – A Cinderella story last season when they won the division with a sub-.500 mark and knocked off the defending Super Bowl champs in the playoffs. Too bad Pete Carroll won’t be smiling like that this year with Tavaris Jackson at QB.

6-10

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS – You know things are bad when Alex Smith wins the starting QB job again.

4-12

Photo by Bill Menzel

 

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