Jun 212013

Darrelle Revis13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Head Coach: Greg Schiano
2012 Record: 7-9
2012 Offense: 389 points scored, 13th in points, 9th in yards (10th passing, 15th rushing)
2012 Defense: 394 points allowed, 23rd in points, 29th in yards (32nd passing, 1st rushing)

Key Additions
CB Darrelle Revis, S Dashon Goldson, WR Kevin Ogletree, DT Derek Landri, LB Jonathan Casillas, T Gabe Carimi, RB Brian Leonard, RB Jeff Demps, TE Tom Crabtree, TE Zach Miller, DT Andre Neblett, CB Michael Adams, CB Jonathan Banks, QB Mike Glennon, T Akeem Spence, DE William Gholston

Key Losses
S Ronde Barber, TE Dallas Clark, G Derek Hardman, DT Michael Bennett, DT Corey Irvin, DT Roy Miller, CB EJ Biggers, DB Brandon McDonald, T Jeremy Trueblood, WR Arrelious Benn, RB LeGarrette Blount, LB Quincy Black, RB DJ Ware

Why 2013 will be better
Lavonte David and Mason Foster lead a talented front seven on defense. With the best run defense and the worst passing defense in the league last season, it wasn’t hard to figure out where the Bucs would spend their energies in the off-season. Enter Revis and Goldson, who immediately improve a porous secondary by a lot, and who will serve as anchors for Eric Wright and Mark Barron. Adding Banks brings in depth with a ball-hawking corner. Suddenly a defensive liability looks much improved as long as Revis is healthy, and the Bucs defense promises to be one of the better units in the league. On offense, the line was riddled with injuries in 2012, yet still performed as a top ten offense. With a healthy and deep offensive line, Josh Freeman should have plenty of time to find favorite weapons Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. Adding Ogletree is a solid move. Doug Martin had a fantastic rookie season, rushing for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns, as well as catching 49 passes out of the backfield.

Why 2013 will be worse
Freeman has been a model of inconsistency so far in his NFL career, and this is a make or break season for him in Tampa. Glennon is arguably one of the best quarterbacks from a thin quarterback draft, but isn’t ready to take the team over just yet. So the Bucs will live and die this season on a signal-caller who is 11-20 as a starter over the past two seasons with 43 touchdown passes and 39 interceptions. With Dallas Clark gone, the Bucs are thin at tight end, where Luke Stocker is the best choice among few options. Otherwise, the Bucs have a deep roster and appear ready to compete.

If we can assume that Josh Freeman simply serves as a neutral force, the Bucs appear prepared to challenge the Falcons and Saints in the NFC South. However, quarterback play is a significant predictor of team success, and the Bucs could go in either direction as a result. They ended 2012 losing five of their last six games, but have dramatically improved their pass defense, assuming Revis returns to a level close to what he played at with the Jets. If the offensive line stays healthy, this team should be in the hunt for a playoff spot. Their window appears to be anywhere from seven to ten wins, but I’ll set the over/under at nine.

Jan 042013

Rat's Awards ImageAlthough we nominated six players for this award in 2012, there were clearly only two possible winners. Peyton Manning returned to Pro Bowl form in 2012 after missing 2011, while Adrian Peterson bounced back from a torn ACL and MCL that shortened his 2011 season to lead the league in rushing and fall a mere nine yards short of the NFL rushing record for a single season, held by Eric Dickerson.


Our nominees in this category included Manning, Peterson, Sam Bradford, Josh Freeman, Andre Johnson and Reggie Wayne.

3rd Place – Andre Johnson. Houston Texans

Johnson played in only 7 games due to injury last season, catching 33 passes for 492 yards and two touchdowns. In 2012 he stormed back into form, catching 112 passes for 1,598 yards and four touchdowns. It was Johnson’s best statistical season since 2008, and Johnson played a key role in the fast start that the Houston Texans got out to as they once again took the AFC South. Johnson became only the second player in NFL history with three seasons of at least 100 catches and 1,500 yards.

2nd Place – Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

Last season was Peterson’s career low point as he missed four games due to injury and rushed for only 970 yards. While a torn ACL and MCL is an injury that often takes players more than a full season to recover from, Peterson shattered all expectations by posting a career high 2,097 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, falling just nine yards shy of Dickerson’s record and exceeding his own best season by 337 yards. Peterson also caught 40 passes for 217 yards and one touchdown. He served as the main source of offense for the resurgent Vikings, whose own quarterback was a model of inconsistency throughout the season.

Peyton ManningWINNER – Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

Taking six out of seven first place votes, Manning is our runaway winner for this award. He missed all of 2011 due to neck surgeries, and his return to form was anything but a given when he switched to the Denver Broncos in the off-season. Manning threw for 4,659 yards and 37 touchdowns (against 11 interceptions) while leading the Broncos to a 13-3 record and the first seed in the AFC playoffs. Manning’s stats for 2012 were eerily similar to his numbers in 2009 and 2010, save that he actually threw fewer interceptions this season. His 105.8 passer rating is his best since the 2005 season. The 36 year old wonder not only made Broncos’ fans forget all about Tim Tebow, he has them legitimately thinking about a Super Bowl title.


Dec 202012

christmas-treeMy goodness, Widows. We are nearing the end of the road on this year’s regular NFL season. I am sure that your fan is eagerly awaiting the most exciting day of the year. The day that fills a football fan’s home with sounds of cheer and delightful smells of food from the kitchen. The day when friends and families gather to celebrate that which is truly important…FOOTBALL! Oh, wait…did you think that I meant Christmas? Sorry, Widows. I meant the Superbowl.

Just so all of you know that I have not been truly converted from Widow to Fan, I turn to one of my tried and not-so-true methods of choosing my teams for this week. Quarterbacks. In particular, which one that I would rather see in my stocking this year if Santa were giving me a cute Quarterback for Christmas. To be short, sweet and to the point so that I can get back to wrapping presents and baking cookies- I appreciate the ability to see nice looking young men when I watch the games and if you can’t be grateful during the holiday season, when can you?

This week, due to the way the holiday falls, we have no Monday night game. In fact, no more Monday night football until next fall. (pausing for any shouts of joy…). Instead we have a Saturday matchup between the Falcons and the Lions. I find Matt Ryan more aesthetically pleasing, so I choose a Falcons win.

Here’s the rest. Happy Holidays to all three of my readers!

Week 16 Widow’s Picks

Falcons over Lions (see above)

Packers over Titans (Locker is cute. Rodgers is cuter)

Panthers over Raiders (I love a Cam Newton smile)

Dolphins over Bills (Ryan Tannehill…and his wife is gorgeous too)

Bengals over Steelers (I usually don’t go for red heads like Andy Dalton, but I can’t wrap my head around finding Ben Roethlisberger the slightest bit attractive and I certainly don’t want to wake up Christmas day and find him under my tree.)

Patriots over Jaguars (Probably not a surprise, but I NEED Tom to come through for me this week and show us that is a far more than a pretty face.)

Colts over Chiefs (Two nice looking quarterbacks, chosen by likelihood of actual winner)

Cowboys over Saints (Tony Romo over Drew Brees)

Redskins over Eagles (I am a big RG III fan)

Buccaneers over Rams (Freeman over Bradford)

Ravens over Giants (I don’t find Eli attractive. At all.)

Texans over Vikings (Matt Schaub over Christian Ponder. I just prefer his looks)

Browns over Broncos (Sorry Manning…See comment above re: Eli…)

Cardinals over Bears (I like the Cardinals’ new guy)

Seahawks over 49ers (Tough call. Colin Kaepernik is a cutie. In the end, I opted for less ink.)

Chargers over Jets (I had to change this one 6 times during the season due to the Jets quarterback crisis.)

Nov 212012

This week’s power rankings show some stability at the top of the rankings, with the exception of the Bears taking a dive after getting pounded by the 49ers on Monday night. We expect that even the most fervent Bear’s fan would recognize that Jay Cutler would have made little difference on Monday and, given the performance of the Bears’ offensive line, he might well have left the field on a stretcher. The bottom of our rankings saw some shifting, thanks to a gutsy Jacksonville performance  against Houston, another poor performance by the Chiefs, and another lousy outing by the Raiders. As always, feel free to heckle or agree below.

Week 11 Power Rankings

1. Houston Texans (9-1, U) – That may have been a little close for comfort on Sunday, but the Texans gritty comeback win keeps them atop our rankings this week

2. San Francisco 49ers (7-2-1, +1) – Up one spot after dominating the Bears on Monday night; the Niners appear to have a keeper in Colin Kaepernick

3. Atlanta Falcons (9-1, -1) – They overcame six turnovers to win against the Cardinals, but that was not their most impressive outing of the season

4. New England Patriots (7-3, U) – It’s amazing what a fine line it is between a close game and a 35 point blowout; handling the loss of Gronk will determine their playoff seeding

5. Baltimore Ravens (8-2, U) – We’re not sure that anyone should be overly impressed with beating a Ben-less Steelers squad

6. Green Bay Packers (7-3, U) – Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have to have gaudy statistics to lead the Packers to a win; this team could be dangerous in the playoffs

7. Denver Broncos (7-3, +1) – Speaking of dangerous in the playoffs, watch out for this team

8. New York Giants (6-4, +1) – Does the players-only meeting signal a turning of the corner, or is this team lacking the magic?

9. Chicago Bears (7-3, -2) – They were the worst one loss team in the league, then the worst two loss team; are they now the worst three loss team in the league as well?

10. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4, U) – Barely hanging on in our top ten after a dismal outing against the Ravens; is Plax the answer?

11. Seattle Seahawks (6-4, U) – Winning on the road at Miami would help separate Seattle from pretenders

12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-4, +2) – Doug Martin is doing wonders to revitalize Josh Freeman’s young career

13. New Orleans Saints (5-5, +2) – Can the Saints’ defense stop enough teams to make their way to the playoffs? The 49ers promise a stiff challenge on both sides of the ball this Sunday

14. Minnesota Vikings (6-4, -1) – They might be visiting Chicago at just the right time to steal a win

15. Indianapolis Colts (6-4, -3) – After allowing 59 points to the Patriots and executing poorly in all three phases of the game, a visit from the Bills might be just what the doctor ordered

16. Cincinnati Bengals (5-5, +3) – Contests against the Chiefs and the Raiders promise to get the Bengals back into the hunt

17. Dallas Cowboys (5-5, +1)– If the Cowboys were playing anyone but the Browns, they lose that game

18. Detroit Lions (4-6, -2) – At the beginning of the season I thought their lack of discipline on defense would set them back, but a lack of consistency on offense isn’t helping either

19. Arizona Cardinals (4-6, -2) – Linebacker Daryl Washington thinks they can win six straight; try one in a row to start

20. Washington Redskins (4-6, +1) – Impressive win over the Eagles has the Redskins hopeful they can stay out of the NFC East’s basement

21. San Diego Chargers (4-6, -1) – Norv Turner is changing his resume paper from powder blue to more of an earth tone; he’s also leaving off the past several seasons as Head Coach of the Chargers

22. Buffalo Bills (4-6, +4) – Our big mover of the week after a good showing against the Dolphins

23. Tennessee Titans (4-6, +2) – There is still time for Jake Locker and the Titans to make it an interesting wildcard race

24. St. Louis Rams (3-6-1, -2) – After a good showing against the 49ers, they didn’t show at all against the Jets

25. Miami Dolphins (4-6, -2) – Miami fans need to come to terms with the fact that their team is more than just a quarterback away

26. New York Jets (4-6, +1) – Once again, the Jets do just enough to convince their fans that all might be ok, at least for one week

27. Cleveland Browns (2-8, +1) – Fat Jesus is right; Pat Shurmer needs to be fired

28. Philadelphia Eagles (3-7, -4) – Speaking of coaches that need to be fired…

29. Carolina Panthers (2-8, U) – And speaking of teams that are more than just a quarterback away…

30. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9, +2) – Another moral victory helps a team escape from our basement

31. Oakland Raiders (3-7, -1) – Is Al Davis still running this team? Is it too soon to ask?

32. Kansas City Chiefs (1-9, -1) – Let speculation begin that Romeo Crennel will be the Patriots’ defensive coordinator next season

Week 11 Recap

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Nov 212012

It was a wild week in the NFL in Week 11, as three teams blew double digit leads to drop games late or in overtime. The Patriots and Broncos both stayed on a roll, and both lost a key player for several games. Meanwhile, the 49ers and Bears offered contrasting views of teams operating with backup quarterbacks, and the Bengals gained in the playoff race while the Lions continued to find a way to lose.

Here’s the Week 11 recap:

Nov 122012

So we are back to reality with our vote totals this week. Or we just asked the wrong question. Either way, an overwhelming majority or those responding think that the Dallas Cowboys are not going to make the playoffs this season. Of course there’s no telling if yesterday’s win over the Eagles would have any of our poll-takers changing their minds. Either way, here are the results from last week.


Poll #13: Will the Dallas Cowboys make the playoffs this season?

No (80%, 20 Votes)
Yes (20%, 5 Votes)
Total Voters: 25

This week we take a look at those players who have fought back from injury or sub-par performances in 2011. Peyton Manning is an obvious candidate, as is Adrian Peterson, but we have cobbled together a list of six players for our readers to entertain. Now have at it and cast your vote!

Poll #14: Who gets your vote for NFL Comeback Player of the Year so far in 2012?

Sam Bradford, St. Louis
Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay
Andre Johnson, Houston
Carson Palmer, Oakland
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota
Peyton Manning, Denver

Week 8 Recap

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Oct 292012

Another Sunday, another wild slate of games in the NFL. The theme of this week’s outcome is job security, or in some cases the lack of job security for key coaches and players. There’s still half a season left to play, but some themes are beginning to take shape.

Here are your results from Week 8:

  • The Buccaneers whip the Vikings 36-17 and show that they may not yet be a serious playoff threat, but are a dangerous team to play; Doug Martin has a huge game with 135 yards rushing while Josh Freeman is effective in throwing for 262 yards and three touchdowns
  • Da Bears edge the Panthers 23-22 with late rally in ugly win on a game-winning field goal by Robbie Gould; Ron Rivera edges closer to the door depite a game effort from Carolina
  • Yes, it was played in the slop, but Norv Turner’s job security hangs by a thread after the Browns upset the Chargers 7-6; Trent Richardson runs for 122 yards in a solid outing
  • Matthew Stafford finally looks like Matthew Stafford for a week as the Lions edge the Seahawks 28-24 behind 352 yards and three touchdown passes by the Lions’ quarterback; Jim Schwartz moves off of the hot seat while Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch look good in last minute loss
  • The Packers struggle against the Jaguars’ defense but emerge with a 24-15 win; Blaine Gabbert outduels Aaron Rodgers but Rodgers earns the win
  • The Dolphins help edge Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez closer to finding a new color with a convincing 30-9 win; Reggie Bush wins the war of words and the game; perhaps the Jets should be apologizing to their fans
  • Andy Reid and Michael Vick updating their resumes after Matt Ryan and Julio Jones team up to whip the Eagles 30-17; Falcons now 7-0
  • Ben Roethlisberger, Jonathan Dwyer, and swarming Steelers defense halt RG3 and the Redskins 27-12
  • Patriots light up the Rams 45-7 as Brady is sharp and Ridley surpasses 100 rushing yards again; defense improved as both teams head into bye week
  • Andrew Luck and Vick Ballard connect for beautiful game winning touchdown in overtime as the Colts beat the Titans 19-13; so much for thinking that Matt Hasselbeck would claim the starting job back from Jake Locker
  • Raiders top the Chiefs 26-16; Brady Quinn’s reign lasts twelve and a half minutes while Darren McFadden rushes for 112 yards
  • Giants win a wild one as the Cowboys commit six turnovers in a 29-24 loss; Jason Garrett and Tony Romo now 3-4 and will no doubt evoke some reactions from Jerry this week
  • Broncos crush Saints 34-14 behind big performances from Peyton Manning, Willis McGahee, and DeMaryius Thomas; worst defense in the league just gets worse for the Saints
  • still to come: San Francisco – Arizona
Oct 032012

It is a breath of fresh air that this week we find ourselves talking about the play on the field, rather than the poor officiating. The early season upsets, for the most part, are starting to wear off as we begin to get a handle on who the power players are that will be fighting for post-season spots. Sure there are some surprises (such as Minnesota and Arizona), but we also have the normal constants in the NFL universe battling for supremacy.

Here are our Week Four Power Rankings:

1. Houston Texans (4-0, +1) – The Texans grab the top spot after a blowout win over the Titans

2. Atlanta Falcons (4-0, -1) – The Falcons slip to #2 after needing a last minute comeback to overcome the Panthers, but Matt Ryan and the Falcons are for real

3. San Francisco 49ers (3-1, +3) – They made the Jets look hideous on Sunday, though to be fair the Jets were already doing a good job of that themselves

4. Baltimore Ravens (3-1, U) – Two close wins over the Patriots and Browns have the Ravens battling the Bengals for control of the AFC North; Flacco not looking elite, but may be looking good enough

5. Arizona Cardinals (4-0, -2) – Yes, they are still undefeated, but they struggled against a poor Dolphins team

6. New England Patriots (2-2, +1) – They won by 24 points and still gave Bill Belichick plenty to scream about this week

7. Philadelphia Eagles (3-1, +4) – The Eagles have scored six touchdowns in four games; this castle is built on sand

8. New York Giants (2-2, -3) – To be honest, Eli did enough to steal a win from the Eagles; he needs to talk to his receivers about hugging cornerbacks downfield

9. Green Bay Packers (2-2, -1) – The Packers defense can thank Garrett Hartley for pulling them out of the fire

10. Chicago Bears (3-1, +3) – What do you know… the good Jay Cutler showed up this week

11. Cincinnati Bengals (3-1, -1) – Dalton, Green, and an improving defense are off to a fast start; could be a two team race with the Ravens

12. Minnesota Vikings (3-1, +7) – Vikes can thank a meltdown by the Lions’ special teams, but the truth is this team looks better than many people thought it would

13. Denver Broncos (2-2, +4) – Manning looks great against the Raiders; will their defense be able to stop the Patriots?

14. San Diego Chargers (3-1, +6) – Rivers looks better, and defense forces six turnovers to help Chargers rebound from blowout loss in Week Three

15. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2, -1) – Early bye week helps team get healthy in time for the Eagles to invade

16. Dallas Cowboys (2-2, -4) – The Ghost Rat says that the Dallas Cowboys will never win a Super Bowl with Tony Romo at the helm; of course his performance against the Bears doesn’t exactly make this prediction look like a stretch

17. Washington Redskins (2-2, +4) – Redskins look they will play a lot of close games this year; they may or may not make the playoffs but will be the team no one wants to play

18. Seattle Seahawks (2-2, -9) – Similar to the Redskins; an 8-8 bound team that can surprise people

19. St. Louis Rams (2-2, +4) – We don’t think the winning will continue at this pace, but the Rams are no longer at the bottom of the pyramid

20. Buffalo Bills (2-2, -5) – There’s a new book out; “How to go from upstart to roadkill in 30 minutes“, by the Buffalo Bills

21. Detroit Lions (1-3, -3) – They get a bye this week, but the losing may not be over

22. Carolina Panthers (1-3, +4) – A game effort against the Falcons, and Cam seems to be waking his team up; beating the Seahawks would be a good step in the right direction

23. New York Jets (2-2, -7) – Why is Mark Sanchez a starting quarterback in the National Football League? Anyone? Bueller?

24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3, -2) – Freeman is playing well, but they need a rushing attack

25. Miami Dolphins (1-3, +3) – They almost pulled off the upset against the Cardinals, but starting Tannehill over Moore dooms this to be another lost year for the Fins

26. Indianapolis Colts (1-2, +5) – We wish you a speedy recovery, Chuck Pagano

27. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3, -2) – They looked awful against the Bengals; destined to be at the bottom of our rankings this season

28. New Orleans Saints (0-4, +2) – Bad teams find a way to lose games; New Orleans is a bad team

29. Oakland Raiders (1-3, -5) – They just teased us a little with that win over the Steelers…

30. Tennessee Titans (1-3, -3) – Back to Matt Hasselbeck for now, but it won’t matter

31. Kansas City Chiefs (1-3. -2) – By all accounts Romeo Crennel is a great person and a good coach; but none of it seems to be helping the hapless Chiefs

32. Cleveland Browns (0-4, U) – When Jimmy Haslam is approved as the new owner later this month, look for the heads to start rolling quickly

Aug 102012

Welcome, patient readers! As I’m sure you’re painfully aware, it’s been two long months since the first installment of this series (The Snowball Report: 2012 AFC). As they say, “Poop happens.” Also, “It’s better to sue than jockey.”

Yeah, don’t ask me. Ask this guy.

Anyway, in case you’ve forgotten, the point here is to identify that one team from each division which shouldn’t bother coming out of the tunnel in 2012, because they haven’t got a snowball’s chance in Hell of making the post-season. Frankly, the AFC edition of this was much easier than the NFC — there’s only one division on this side of the aisle where the choice is obvious. I’m speaking, naturally, of the…

NFC West

2011 Results: 49ers (13-3); Cardinals (8-8); Seahawks (7-9); Rams (2-14)

2012 Offseason Grades[1]: 49ers (A-); Cardinals (C-); Seahawks (B-); Rams (A-)

Do we really need to spend a lot of time, here? In certain corners of the internet, the 49ers are the favorites to win the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, the Cardinals and Seahawks, while not locks for a playoff berth, can enter the 2012 season with high hopes — assuming the Seahawks resolve their QB situation quickly, and Kevin Kolb gets over his little snit. (Aww… your team thought about going after Peyton Manning? Who didn’t? Get over yourself.)

So, that leaves the poor Rams. Seriously… in 2002, coming off two Super Bowls in the previous three years, a wunderkind under center, and an offensive genius stalking the sidelines, who woulda thunk St. Louis would have a grand total of one playoff win in the next 10 years? It’s sad, really.

There is hope for the future. Jeff Fisher is awesome (as part of the ’85 Bears, he couldn’t be otherwise) and there’s still reason to think Sam Bradford could soon be among the top ten (twenty?) in the league. Nevertheless, don’t talk to me about playoffs. The NFC West Snowball is the St. Louis Rams.

NFC South

2011 Results: Saints (13-3); Falcons (10-6); Panthers (6-10); Buccaneers (4-12)

2012 Offseason Grades: Saints (D-); Falcons (C+); Panthers (B); Buccaneeers (A)

For me, the story in this division is clear: can the Falcons get over the hump and knock the Saints off the top? Smart money says not yet, but it will be interesting to watch.

I’m thinking neither Carolina nor Tampa have much to look forward to this year — to get a wild card berth, they’ll have to get past either the Falcons or Saints AND hope every other contending team in the NFC slips on the soap while showering. Ain’t gonna happen. But there can be only one snowball…

The Bucs have a young team, with a leaner, meaner Josh Freeman under center and a new head coach. It’s a volatile situation, which means the upside could be huge (unlikely as that may be). On the other hand, USA Today’s summary of the Panthers’ offseason begins with the words, “If the doctors and trainers come through…” Not exactly a vote of confidence. The NFC South Snowball is the Carolina Panthers.

NFC East

2011 Results: Giants (9-7); Eagles (8-8); Cowboys (8-8); Redskins (5-11)

2012 Offseason Grades: Giants (A); Eagles (B+); Cowboys (A-); Redskins (B)

Let’s see. Giants win the Super Bowl, then spend the next six months getting better. The Eagles have shored up their defense. The Redskins bet the farm on RG3 (man, I’m already sick of THAT acronym) while picking up a number of better-than-average free agents.

That leaves the Cowboys. “America’s Team”. Jerry Jones’ plaything. The raison d’etre for the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. Whatever.

Fact is, they’re the NFC version of the Raiders. Flashy owner who loves to play head coach/GM (someone buy the man a copy of Madden ’13 already) and loads of grade-B talent, yet never able to really gel and make the dynamite go boom. In my opinion, they’d be better off promoting Kyle Orton to starter right now — it’s gonna happen by week 6 anyway. I don’t see them making the playoffs. On the other hand, there are others with more obstacles to overcome. The NFC East Snowball is the Washington Redskins.

NFC North

2011 Results: Packers (15-1); Lions (10-6); Bears (8-8); Vikings (3-13)

2012 Offseason Grades: Packers (B+); Lions (B-); Bears (B); Vikings (B)

And so we come to the hardest pick of all.

I can create a realistic scenario in which any of these teams (except maybe the Vikings) could win the division. And the Vikings, despite their poor 2011 record, are worthy of wild card consideration. Christian Ponder showed flashes of, if not brilliance, then at least competence, and the addition of Jerome Simpson should help considerably.

There’s really no reason to talk about the Packers (ever), and the Lions are no fluke. But it’s the Bears who give me the most excitement coming into 2012. They were in pretty good position in late November; 7-3 and tied for second in the division with three consecutive games looming against the weak AFC West. Unfortunately, Cutler’s injury on an interception return in the win against the Chargers (along with loss of Matt Forte) spelled doom. Assuming Cutler is back to pre-injury form, and there’s no reason to think he’s not, the addition of Brandon Marshall means the Pack and Lions should be looking over their shoulders all season.

Thus, by default (although I’m not as confident in this as I am with some others), the NFC North Snowball is the Minnesota Vikings.

[1] As before, I’m using grades assigned by USA Today. Because reasons.

May 222012


Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Head Coach: Greg Schiano

Projected Starting Quarterback: Josh Freeman

2011 Record:  4 wins, 12 losses (4th in NFC South)

No postseason appearance

21st in Total Offense, 30th in Total Defense

2002-2011 10 year record: 74 wins, 86 losses (T-20th in NFL)

3 win, 2 losses in postseason

1-0 in Super Bowl appearances

1-0 All-time in Super Bowl