Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Raiders/49ers Move to 2-1

Although they're each doing it in completely different styles, Jim Harbough and Hue Jackson have to be pleased with the way the season has started for their two football teams as each the 49ers and Raiders moved to 2-1 over the weekend.

The 49ers are doing it behind some inspired defensive play, and the occasional clutch throw from Alex Smith, but they've gone 2-1 and have yet to get Frank Gore going, which only bodes well for when he does. Gore has been battling a bum ankle for a couple weeks know and it's showing in his running as he's lacking burst and explosiveness that normally are the staple of his running style. It was hard to watch him on Sunday vs. the Bengals, then see Kendal Hunter come in and provide a noticeable difference. A lot of football people, especially fantasy football, believe Frank Gore is on the downhill side of his career already, but I don't believe that to be the case. Number 21 is still a top-10 back when he's healthy, but he's obviously not, and the 49ers O-line has struggled a bit in run blocking. Luckily though, the 49ers do have a guy like Hunter who showed his value with a big TD run vs. the Bengals Sunday, and should be given at least 30-40% of Gore's workload until his health improves. Hopefully he'll be ready for a bit match-up next week vs. Philly, but even if he is, I think Alex Smith is going to have to win this game for San Fran as they're most certainly going to have to at least double their 13-point output to even have a shot vs. Vick and LeSean McCoy.

While the Niners have been conservative in their offensive approach so far, the Raiders have been dynamic. The reason why they've been so dynamic is because of a very real, early season MVP candidate in Darren McFadden. Run DMC has built upon his solid 2010 campaign and is doing to opposing defenses what Arian Foster did last year, tearing them up on both the ground and through the air. In a game against an AFC favorite in the New York Jets, all the Raiders did was put up 34 points vs. the daunted defense and win the game by a convincing 10-points. Jason Campbell has been strong so far through 3 weeks, but it really wasn't about him on Sunday as D Mac went for 179 yards and 2 scores on just 19 carries, making a super bowl caliber defense look desperately over-matched in the process. This win really opened my eyes to the Raiders, and now have me believing this team has a more than legit shot at winning a declining AFC West. The Broncos and Chiefs are essential non-factors, but the Raiders will have a tough challenge in getting by the San Diego Cheifs, a team that's been a thorn in their side for the better part of this century. I do think that the Raiders finally have a dynamic enough offense, with McFadden established and Denarius Moore looking like one of the better rookie receivers in football, and their run defense is playing at a very high level. Between Moore and McFadden, the Raiders have themselves an explosive, young 1-2 punch offensively. They're still giving up too many big passing plays, but that's about the only area in which this team hasn't shined early in 2011.

We'll have much more on the upcoming games this Sunday inlcluding the Raiders and 49ers Previews, and a little Stanford/Cal football as well.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

NFL Sunday Preview: Week 3

The first two weeks of the NFL season have flown right by and here we are, just 24 short hours away from kickoff in week three. Like we do each weekend here at the BASJ, we'll preview a little bit of the 49ers and Raiders games as well as check out a few other top games this weekend.

First off, as always, we start with the 49ers, who are coming off an embarrassing home performance a week ago in which they were torched by a punctured and wounded Tony Romo in a game they were really controlling up until the 4th quarter. The big decision that the media was focused on all week was Harbough's decision to keep the 3 points on David Akers 50 yard field goal, rather than the 1st-and-10 in Dallas territory. That move right there showed you how little faith Harbough has in his offense, and that was in a game in which Alex Smith was throwing the ball pretty well. Smith had 2 TD's through the air and finished with a QB rating of 99 despite throwing for just 179 yards. The problem for the 49ers vs. Dallas was their lack of pass defense, and their inability to get a running game established. Surprisingly, that's now 2 weeks in a row now that Frank Gore has yet to get going, as he hasn't even hit 100 yards for the season after two weeks. The 49ers face a much less daunting task the Tony Romo-led Cowboy's offense, but Andy Dalton and A.J. Green showed you last week that they too are a competent passing duo and will likely look to expose the 49ers pass defense again. So, the two big keys to the game for the 49ers in order to win this contest, which is very doable even with it being in Cinci, are to stop Dalton and the passing attack, and keep their own offense on the field by getting Frank Gore going and over the 100-yard mark for the 1st time in 2011. I see this one coming down to the final minutes of regulation. Prediction: Bengals 21, 49ers 17

The Raiders are coming off a week that saw their offense break out in all facets, but also saw their defense break down when the game was on the line. The Raiders were in line to start the year 2-0 with a late lead in Buffalo last week, but Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson showed why they are two of the most underrated skill players in all the NFL with their late comeback victory. The Raiders offense actually looks like it's going to be a pretty good one, and probably the best this team has had since the days of Rich Gannon, but they need to get that defense right. They looked good against Denver in week one, but were shredded by Buffalo in week 2, in both the passing game and rushing attack. This week, they get another tough test in the New York Jets, who, believe it or not, probably don't have quite as good an offense as the Bills, but their defense is one of the best in the NFL. Darren McFadden has looked like a top-3 back in the first two weeks, but this week will be the real measuring stick for him and the Raider offense. With it being a home game, that should help the Silver and Black a bit. I want to see them pressure Sanchez and rattle him early. Make New York try and run the football, which they've failed to do so far. If the Raiders execute on D like they did in week 1 with last weeks offense, they'll be tough to beat, but that's a tough assumption to make. Prediction: Jets 27, Raiders 23.

Other Game To Watch: Houston vs. New Orleans- The Saints have been bitten a little by the injury bug, and have yet to get their running game really going, but that hasn't stopped Drew Brees from continuing his brilliance. Houston also has been dealing with a key injury to their starting tailback and 2010 rushing champ, Arian Foster, who once again will likely be sidelined or limited by his hamstring problem. Still, these two teams are amongst the top in their respective leagues, and there's an outside chance we're getting a Super Bowl preview here. I'll go with the home team, because I think these teams are very evenly matched, but I'm really liking the way Houston's defense is taking shape, and they appear to be a much better unit than NO's bunch. This game has premium match-up written all over it and I'm surprised it wasn't scheduled as one of Week 3's night affairs. Prediction: Saints 31, Texans 27.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

NFL Sunday Preview

Well, both teams in the bay area had a good week 1, and each will try and build off that and get win number 2 this week. Again, the Raiders will be on the road, but they'll have a much easier task at hand than what the 49ers will have in their host at Candlestick.

The Raiders ran wild vs. the Broncos on Monday night, and although the Bills look like a much stronger defense than Denver's, I think the game plan for Hue Jackson's squad will be much of the same. A lot of Darren McFadden, and some Jason Campbell basic passes when they need them. They're pretty evenly matched with Buffalo, so it should be a very good game to watch and if they can execute a little more through the air offensively this week, they should be in pretty good shape. That is, or course, if their defense is up for the task again. The D-line got tremendous pressure on Kyle Orton in week one and will have to do so again in week 2 because Ryan Fitzpatrick has the ability to pick them apart if they don't. The Raiders have to keep their eye on bay area native and play-making wideout Stevie Johnson (pictured making that tremendous TD grab in week 1), but can't lose track of tight-end Scott Chandler like the Chiefs did or else they'll get burned. I don't think the Bills are quite as good as their 41-7 opening win over KC, but they are a lot better than people realize and have an underrated, all-around back in Fred Jackson that will take up a lot of the defense's attention as well. With Buffalo being at home, and coming of the huge win and Oakland coming off a short week and a little banged up, I still give the edge slightly to Buffalo, but again, if Run DMC gets going early and opens up the passing game a bit, then the Raiders should be able to make it a tight ballgame.

Prediction: Bills 27, Raiders 23

For most of the 49ers/Cowboys preview, we did a whole post here, but still have some points to make and reinforce. Like, stop, at least contain Tony Romo. That's going to really be the whole key to the game for San Francisco. They have a real brand new secondary and will really be put to the test this week in going up against Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Jason Whitten, who the 49ers should stick Donte Whitner(pictured) on and hopefully he holds him in check like he did Zach Miller last weekend. Felix Jones is also a play-maker out of the backfield in the passing game. The 49ers should really keep an extra DB on the field at all times and force the Cowboys to try and run the football. If the Niners can do that, then they'll have a shot. They're also going to need to cause a turnover or two, and again, they will have to hold onto the ball on offense, cause if they lose the turnover battle, or even if they match-up in turnovers with Dallas, it won't be good news. They have to win that area, and that's something they can actually do. They need to press Tony Romo like New York did late in Monday Night's game. Romo was picking the Jets' highly-praised secondary apart for 3 quarters, but then they got some pressure on him and he made some bad decisions, playing on the road. The 49ers crowd has to be loud and help this defense, and of course, offensively, give them a lot of Gore and a little bit of Alex, but come out shooting early to keep the Cowboys honest and from piling 8 in the box. Still see the 49ers losing by at least 7.

Prediction: Cowboys 24, 49ers 17

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Other games to watch: Besides the Niners and Raiders games, a few other games I'll be watching pretty closely will be the Vicks 2nd trip back to Atlanta, but first since becoming a starter in Philly and one of the best QB's in football, better than his days in Atlanta even. That should be an interesting one that I see going Philly's way, unless Atlanta rattles up Vick and rams Michael Turner right through Philly's undersized defensive front: Eagles 24, Falcons 21.

Also, I think the real game of the week will be the San Diego/New England projected shootout. I had San Diego picked as my pre-season favorite in the AFC. I just think it's Phil Rivers' time and with Vincent Jackson back, Gates in his prime, Ryan Mathews ready to break out and Mike Tolbert there in case he doesn't, they really have it all offensively. Their big question coming in is defense, and they're D won't get a tougher task this year than what they're about to face Sunday in Foxboro. Tom Brady took the commanding early season MVP-lead with a 517 yard performance vs. the Dolphins and looks primed for another big season. The Patriots have some questions on defense though, and if they gave up 412 yards to Chad Henne, they could give up 500+ to Rivers unless they tighten up. Still don't know why they cut Brandon Meriweather, one of the leaders of that defense and a young player still in his mid-20's. This game should see 60+ points scored, and I'll stick by my pre-season favorites, even though they're on the road and weren't as impressive as the Pats in their win over the Vikings: Chargers 38, Patriots, 31

Thursday, September 15, 2011

49ers Need To Open Up Offense Vs. Dallas

The 49ers were able to win last Sunday with a very conservative offensive approach. They totaled under 300 yards of offense and failed to get either their passing game nor their running game in good rhythm.

Take away those returns by Ted Ginn and you have yourself a completely different ballgame. Now, some people are saying the 49ers didn't really open up the playbook Sunday cause they didn't need to and didn't want to expose any packages they may use in this upcoming match-up vs. Dallas. I think a wise move for them would be to come out gunning at Dallas early. I remember way beck when Jerry Rice and Steve Young were playing together and on the first play from scrimmage in a huge game in Dallas (believe regular season in mid-90's) when Young hit Rice on that quick slant and Rice took it to the house right down the middle of the field. It set the tone for the afternoon and the 49ers rolled into big D and whooped 'em all around their own house. That's the kind of strike I'd like to see them make early on in this game to show Dallas they can keep up with them offensively. I know Smith is a far cry from Young, and he has no Jerry Rice on this roster, but I'd really like to see them take some shots down field early in the game to Braylon or Vernon and back the defense off Alex Smith a little. I think Dallas will be totally preparing for Frank Gore and will make Alex Smith beat them, and Smith will be relied on much more heavily in week 2.

This 49er defense can make some stops and should do OK vs. Dallas, though their secondary could get picked apart a bit if Tony Romo is on his game. I expect them to give up the yards and probably a few touchdowns, so the 49ers offense has to enter this game with the mindset that they need to score 21-28 points to even have a shot in this one, and they can't rely on 14 of those coming from Ted Ginn kick returns. They'll need the defense to rush Romo into some bad decisions, which is when he can be exposed and throw picks. If you put the heat on him, and get into his head, he seems to come apart, especially late in games. Now this is a tough week for me because I have Romo on one of my fantasy teams and he's going up against the 49ers, so it's going to be a tough one to watch. If the 49ers want to have any hope of containing this offense though, they need to game plan for 4 players in particular besides Romo: DE DeMarcus Ware and WR's Dez Bryant and Miles Austin and TE Jason Whitten could all pose problems for the 49ers in their weakest spots of their team. They're offensive line is still growing, and had trouble opening up holes for Frank Gore against a sub-par Seattle D-Line, so they'll have their hands full with a hawk like Ware on the other side. He alone could change the pace of a game and I can definitely see 3-4 sacks by him alone if the 49ers are not prepared. As far as Bryant and Austin go, they're just two of the best receivers in the game period and Whitten is like the Cowboys version of Vernon Davis, do they have an aerial attack.

We'll have a little more on this game and a Raiders preview when we do our previews this weekend, but however you slice it, this is a huge game for the 49ers, and it's a huge game for Dallas. The 49ers get a real test, kind of like their first "real" game of the year, and an excellent measuring stick in Dallas. And the Cowboys are desperate to keep from falling to 0-2 and head towards another disappointing year. The one positive the 49ers have going for them is it's a home game, cause in Dallas, they'd really little chance! To betting tips on this or any other game this weekend, check out 11th hour review and results!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Raiders Take Down Broncos in Denver, Again

Well, let's just say the Raiders have the Broncos number in the mile-high city, cause they just can't seem to lose there lately, and Darren McFaden may think about joining the Broncos if he ever becomes a FA, because he absolutely tears it up in the high altitude setting!

The Raiders offense was Conservative, and the way they played really reminded me of the way the 49ers played their game against the Seahawks on Sunday. They tried some trickery early with Jacoby Ford, and it cost them, then Hue Jackson went into complete conservative mode. Jason Campbell wasn't explosive, but effective, going 13-22 for 105 yards and a score. He didn't turn the ball over and played just as good as he had to to get the job done, much like Alex Smith did the day before. Really, the only difference between the 49ers and the Raiders games was that the 49ers got their big plays on special teams, and the Raiders made most of theirs on defense. That Chris Johnson had one heckuva a game keeping up with Brandon Loyd, and keeping Kyle Orton's favorite target in check. He came up with some big tackles and a big deflection on 3rd down late in the game that helped seal it up for the Silver and Black. Add in a couple Janikowski field goals, and you have yourself a victory. The 63-yarder by Janikowski was just ridiculous, and he's by far the only kicker in the NFL I look forward to watching kick (also sailed all kickoffs into the stands kicking from the 35)!

Offensively, it was all about Run DMC, as he once again ended up with another huge game in Denver. DMac ran the ball 22 times for 150 yards and also caught a pass, as he and Michael Bush were able to run down Denver's throat's to work the clock and seal the game. Defensively, it was all about the pressure the Raiders kept on Orton all night, as they sacked him over 5 times and hurried him into bad throws many more times than that. Next week, the Raiders have a little tougher challenge, but not much, by way of the Buffalo Bills, but they certainly have a more explosive offense than Denver, and the Raiders are going to have to keep up with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Stevie Johnson and the rest of the underrated Buffalo offense. And if you want to wager on that particular game, check out 11th hour SMS sports picks.

Monday, September 12, 2011

49ers Define A Conservitive Win Sunday

Well, it certainly wasn't a big blowout, or offensive showing either on the ground or through the air, but the 49ers offene did do something it had trouble doing in 2010, and that's holding on to the football.


The 49ers didn't turn the ball over a single time as they used a consevitive approach in week one vs. a much lesser Seattle Seahawk team. The 49ers showed us a few things this weekend, but there are still many question marks surrounding the team, even after the 31-17 win at Candlestick on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Smith threw for just 124 yards and had a few nice rushes, including a touchdown on a QB-keeper sweep in the first half, but it really was all about the special teams and the defense, mainly Teddy Ginn and Carlos Rogers. Ginn returned 2 kicks (one punt, one kickoff) for TD's and kept the 49ers in good field position on every return he had. He was a force, and showed that he should probably have some sort of role in this offense as well, something we here at the Journal have been asking for since he signed with San Francisco. Nobody in their recieving corps has that kind of speed to stretch a field so why not use him more a wideout? He certainly made a case for a bigger role in week one. Rogers made a few nice deflections, including a TD-saver, swatting the ball out of Ben Obamanu's hands at the last second on a third-and-goal for Seattle. He showed already he's 2 times the cover-man Clements was for SF.


As far as the running game, which Harbough promosied a heavy dose of, he did deliver, but the 49ers, for some reason, couldn't open up many holes for their star running back. Frank Gore finished with under 50 yards rushing on 24 carries and never really got into a rythem. He had a few nice runs, but was stuffed a few times, including on the goal line where he's normally a beast. Still though, the 49ers were effecient on offense, getting key first downs when they needed. Harbough had them playing fundamental football. They didn't look like the reckless Niners of old making stupid penalties or turnovers, so even though they weren't explosive on offense, they put up 31 points. It's like they just wanted to get the lead and keep it, it didn't matter if they were scoring or not, as long as they had the lead and Seattle wasn't moving the ball, they were happy with not putting up big offnsive numbers. But next week in Dallas, it's going to be a whole new ballgame, cause this offense will need to open up a bit in order to keep up with the Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Whitten, Miles Austin and that Cowboy offense.


Player of the Week: Ted Ginn Jr.- 2 kick ret. for TD's

Saturday, September 10, 2011

NFL Playoff and Super Bowl Prediction

Just in time for kickoff on Sunday, here are BASJ's NFL Picks for this 2011 NFL season. With the akward, strike shortened training camp, teams who gelled well at the end of last year and stayed in-tact should be ahead of the curve. A few teams like that who I don't have on this list but would be next on my playoff tree are the Lions, Bears, Bucs, Giants Chiefs and of course, the Manning-less Colts (If he comes back for 2nd half and plays well, they'll be OK). But here's who I have as my picks at this point:



NFC Playoffs


Bye: Green Bay, Philadelphia


Wild Card Round:


Atlanta 27 - St. Louis 20


Dallas 37 - New Orleans 29


NFC Divisional Round


Philadelphia Eagles 31 - Dallas Cowboys 17


Green Bay Packers 24 - Atlanta Falcons 20



NFC Championship



Philadelphia Eagles 26 - Green Bay Packers 21


I love the Eagles as long as they stay healthy this year. It's a given Vick will probably miss a few games just because of the style he plays, but if he plays 14+ games and McCoy and those recievers stay healthy, they're tough to stop. Then on defense, they're stacked all around. Green Bay should give them a nice run but I don't think Rogers will pass as freely vs. them as Green Bay would like and they don't have that dependent running game yet. It's a close call though. I also like Dallas this year too... They're my wild-card to take the NFC Championship!





AFC Playoffs


Bye: Pittsuburgh, New England


Wild Card Round:


San Diego Chargers 28 - Baltimore Ravens 16


Houston Texans 27 - New York Jets 24



Divisional Round:


Pittsburgh Steelers 31 - Houston Texans 20


San Diego Chargers 38- New England Patriots 35



AFC Championship:


San Diego Chargers 21 - Pittsburgh Steelers 17

I really like San Deigo this year with a hungry Vince Jackson and Ryan Mathews. Their defense holds the key though, they need to improve in order to hold off elite teams like the Steelers and Patriots and I think they can, plus everyone is picking Pittsburgh and I want to go a different route. For the Super Bowl though, I have to go with the team I think will just be too tough to stop this year:


SUPER BOWL PREDICTION:


Philadelpia Eagles 27 - San Diego Chargers 17


Again, as long as that core stays healthy, with Asomugha covering guys with the rest of that secondary and pass rush, they'll be virtually impossible to pass against. So teams will have to beat them on the ground first and they're pretty good there too. If Vick or McCoy go down though, so do the Eagles chances. And if you feel like you know who's going to win the big game this year, put your money where your mouth is at 2nd half betting picks!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

2011 NFL Awards Predictions


NFL Awards


NFL MVP: Micahel Vick, QB Eagles- The guy got his feet wet in this offense last season and look what happened. Now they're even better and Vick could easily throw for 25 TDs and rush for 10+ and that would certainly be something from the QB position. His weapons don't end and he's got two solid backs that can catch out of the backfield, so he's going to be at his best! Runners Up: Ray Rice, Tony Romo, Drew Brees


Offensive POY: Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore- This dude can do it all and is just getting better. I'm one of the ones that are hoping for 2,000 yards from him (#1 fantasy pick), and he should tack on 10+ total TD's. Some are worried Ricky Williams will steal some thunder inside the 5, but Rice, to me, is turning into the 2nd coming of Marshal Faulk. Runner Up: Calvin Johnson, Arian Foster, Andre Johnson


Defensive POY: DeMarcus Ware, LB, Dallas- A lot of experts are sleeping on Dallas after '10, but they have a healthy Romo and the nastiest pass rusher in he game right no in Ware. With improved unit around him, 20 sacks and 80 tackles with a pick or 2 is a possibility. The dude can do it all! Runners up: Ed Reed, LaMarr Woodly, Patrick Willis


Offensive ROY: Mark Ingram, RB, Saints- Ingram is starting off splitting carries with Pierre Thomas, but Ingram should carry the heavy load and be a main target in the best offense in football. If he doesn't amass 1,200 total yards and 8+ TD's I'd be surprised. He'll have to earn both his carries and this award though, cause he faces some tough competition. Runnners Up: Julio Jones, A.J. Green, Cam Newton


Defensive ROY: Von Miller, LB, Broncos- Not only is this guy the best rookie linebacker, he's probably going to be in the top-15 in the league before the years done. 2nd coming of Patrick Willis a lot of people believe, and many think he's the premiere MLB in football. Runners Up: Patrick Peterson, Aldon Smith, J.J. Watt

Comeback POY: DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers- There are a lot of people you could go with here, but I give Williams the edge over V-Jax because Jackson decided not to play most of last year. He played very well when he did return too. Williams should again be 1,000+ rush yards and 6-8 TD's while being relied on heavily by rookie Cam Newton! Runners Up: Vincent Jackson, Reggie Bush



Coach of the Year: Jason Garrett, Cowboys- I hate to pick the Cowboys for anything being a 49ers guy, but I foresee big things for the Cowboys this year for some reason, and I think Garrett will get a ton of credit for the huge turnaround if that's indeed the case. Runner Up: Steve Spagnuolo-Rams, Jim Shwartz-Lions


We also encourage you to check out Docs sports 411 Betting System!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

2011 NFC West Preview

Finally, we've ended up in the NFC West, arguably the worst division in the NFL heading into the season, but they do have a few teams who could surprise.
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St. Louis Rams, 1st Place


Offense:

QB: Sam Bradford
RB: Steven Jackson
WR: Danny Amendola, Mike Sims-Walker, Brandon Gibson
TE: Lance Kendricks
OL: Roger Saffold, Jason Brown, Jacob Bell

Defense:

DL: DE Chris Long, DT Fred Robbins, DE James Hall
LB: James Laurinatis, Ben Leber
CB: Bradly Fletcher, Ron Bartell
S: Quintin Mikkel, Craig Dahl

As long as St. Louis' defense holds up and their offense keeps growing, it's going to be tough for any NFC West team to handle them. They have an underrated receiving group and a hungry Steven Jackson running behind an improved line. Their success will ultimately rely on Bradford's growth. If he becomes the Matt Ryan/Joe Flacco type, like I think he can, the Rams have themselves a QB for the next decade, and a good one. Defense is a little thin, but everyone else in this division has major holes bigger than the Rams' defense.
Record: 10-6

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San Francisco 49ers, 2nd Place

Offense:
QB: Alex Smith
RB: Frank Gore
WR: Michael Crabtree, Braylon Edwards, Josh Morgan
TE: Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker
OL: Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati, Joe Staley

Defense:
DL: Justin Smith, Issac Sopogoa
LB: Patrick Willis, LB Ahmad Brooks, LB Aldon Smith
CB: Carlos Rogers, Shawtae Spencer
S: Donte Whittner, Dashon Goldson, Madeiu Williams

The 49ers would be such a better team if they had a full training camp to work with, and a chance to evaluate outside quarterbacks. I still think you put Donovan McNabb or even Vinny Young behind center with this team, and you have the division favorite. Smith has looked horrid this preseason, but I expect better in-season, and I expect Gore to turn it on and the Wideouts to perform. Their defense is a top-5 NFL defense but doesn't get noticed because their offense isn't up to par. If Smith shows up on fire though, this could be their division for the taking! They'd help themselves out by grabbing either David Garrard or Trent Edwards (both just cut) as Smith's backup, or replacement if he proves this preseason hasn't been another "learning period". (More in-depth Niners Preview to come Saturday)
Record: 8-8
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Arizona Cardinals, 3rd Place


Offense:
QB: Kevin Kolb
RB: Beanie Wells
WR: Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, Early Doucet
TE: Todd Heap
OL: Levi Brown, Rex Handlot

Defense:
DL: Darnell Dockett, Calais Campbell,
LB: Parris Lennon, Joey Porter
CB: Patrick Peterson (R)
S: Adrian Wilson

The only thing keeping the Cardinals out of the cellar is the excellent connection I'm expecting out of Fitz and Kolb. It should be like another Warner back there in AZ, but their running back depth is thin after losing rookie Ryan Williams, that was a huge hit for this offense. Defensively, they're one of the weaker teams in the league and will ultimately keep them from competing or even being .500. I'm also not at all sold on Beanie Wells as a featured back!
Record: 7-9
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Seattle Seahawks, 4th Place

Offense:
QB: Tavaris Jackson
RB: Marshawn Lynch
WR: Sidney Rice, Mike Williams
TE: Zach Miller
OL: Russell Okung, Robert Gallary

Defense:
DL: Chris Clemons, Brandon Mebane, Alan Branch
LB: Aaron Curry, David Hawthorne
CB: Marcus Trufant
S: Earl Thomas

The Seahawks have the makings of a ridiculously dynamic offensive attach. They have a power/agile back in Lynch, a nifty 3rd down guy in Forsett, and a bunch of big, fast receiving targets, including newcomers Rice and Miller. It's just too bad they didn't pick a better quarterback. You would have put Kevin Kolb or Orton or even kept Hasselbeck here, this team would be playoff contenders, immediately. Look what they did last season. This division is that sorry!
Record: 5-11_________________________________


New QB on Market? The 49ers could have another option for their lack of quarterback depth, as the Jaguars released their starter David Garrard (career 86 QB rate; 90.2 in '10). Now, Garrard has his limitation, but there isn't an NFL person around that would say he'd rather have Alex Smith leading his team than Garrard. If I were Baalke, I would thank my lucky stars someone of this quality became available and swoop him up before anyone else does. If Alex stinks it up to start the year, boom, you have your answer without having to rush Kaepernick into the mix. Again, I haven never been a huge Garrard fan, but his 2010 numbers show he certainly still has something left in those legs and arm. He or Trent Edwards, who played well despite being surrounded by a horrible team in Buffalo, then never really has gotten another opportunity, in my mind, would be superior to Alex Smith. I have a hard time understanding why the 49ers' brass doesn't see it that way.

Monday, September 5, 2011

2011 NFC South Preview

We've been burning through our NFL previews the last few days, doing about 2 per day, trying to cram everything in before kickoff on Thursday. After the NFC South here, we'll do an extended preview for the NFC West, then do our Awards/Playoff Predictions on Wednesday, so still plenty of football prep here at BASJ!

Atlanta Falcons, 1st Place

Offense: QB Matt Ryan, RB Michael Turner, WR Roddy White, WR Julio Jones, TE Tony Gonzalez, RT Tyson Clabo

Defense: DE John Abraham, DE Ray Edwards, DT Jonathan Babineaux, LB Curtis Lofton, CB Brent Grimes, SS William Moore, CB Dunta Robinson

Call me crazy, but I just see Atlanta as a more well rouded squad than New Orleans. Don't get me wrong, NO can pass with anyone in the league, but their running situation is still un-proven and their defense is nothing special. Atlanta, on the other hand, has a rock solid defense, and an offensive unit you dream about if your a football coach. Smart, good quarterback, power/quick running back, multiple recieving threats including a premium pro-bowler and Tony Gonzalez (who should be better in year 2 with Ryan). I just like that team on that turf in ATL as long as they keep their key guys healthy.
Record: 11-5
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New Orleans Saints, 2nd Place *Wild Card*

Offense: QB Drew Brees, RB Mark Ingram, RB Pierre Thomas, WR Marques Colston, WR Lance Moore, TE Jimmy Graham, LT Jermon Bushrod, C Olin Kruetz

Defense: DT Sedrick Ellis, DE Will Smith, LB Jonathan Vilma, CB Jabari Greer, SS Roman Harper

There's no disputing the Saint passing game. They're dominant and 2nd to none in all the NFL. It's when they need to run the football and stop teams on defense is what I'm worried about with them. I think Ingram will be a fine back, but it won't happen overnight. There have been just a few rookie backs over the last 5 years to standout offensively. Both their backs also have injury histories and both are battling nagging issues already in September! I Saints will be in the playoffs, and will be a dangerous team because of their scoring power, but they are flawed.
Record: 10-6
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 3rd Place

Offense
: QB Josh Freeman, RB LeGarrette Blount, WR Mike Williams, TE Kellen Winslow, RT Jeremy Trueblood

Defense
: DT Gerald McCoy, DE Da'Quan Bowers (R), LB Geno Hayes, CB Aqib Talib, CB Ronde Barber

The Bucs are another up and coming team in the NFC, it's just too bad their in the South with Atlanta and the Saints. Still though, with the young stud QB Josh Freeman behind center and throwing to the impressive Mike Williams and Kellen Winslow and pounding Blount down defenses throats (no pun intended), this offense will be good. Defensively, they're still in rebuild mode but are just a few years away. They're starting 3 rooks on d, but all 3 should have bright futures and it should payoff down the line. As is though, their still good enough to flirt with a playoff spot and keep things interesting into December.
Record: 8-8

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Carolina Panthers, 4th Place

Offense: QB Cam Newton, RB DeAngelo Williams, WR Steve Smith, LT Jordan Gross, C Ryan Kalil

Defense
: DE Charles Johnson, LB Jon Beason, LB James Anderson, SS Charles Goodfrey, CB Chris Gamble

The Panthers could challenge to be one of the worst teams in the league. They seemed married to the idea of using Newton no matter what, and I'm not so sure that's the best idea, then again, they have little options. Maybe let Newton watch for a few weeks from the sideline and let Derek Anderson start things off or something, cause I'd hate to see Newton get roughed up early on and never recover. I've seen it way too often. Their running game and O-Line should be a strength, but teams will put 8 in the box until the Panthers prove they can pass the ball.
Record: 2-14

2011 NFC North Preview

This is another division that is very tightly knit. The reigning Super Bowl champs stand supreme, but they have a young, up-and-coming team on their heals and some solid, veteran led squads also hungry for playoff football:

Green Bay Packers, 1st Place


Offense
: QB Aaron Rogers, RB Ryan Grant, RB James Starks, WR Gregg Jennings, TE Jermichael Finely, RT Bryan Balugam

Defense: NT B.J. Raji, LB Clay Mathews, LB A.J. Hawk, LB Desmond Bishop, CB Charles Woodson, FS Nick Collins, CB Tramon Williams

The reigning champs are another one of those balanced teams that can beat you in a number of ways. The number one way though is with Aaron Rogers and his weapons, Jennings, Driver and Finley, among others. Then we get to their defense, that's just as strong as it was for last years super bowl run, though another huge year out of Charles Woodsen may not be in the cards. Still, they have enough talent on both sides to make the playoffs and should win this division so long as Rogers is healthy.
Record: 12-4



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Detroit Lions, 2nd Place

Offense: QB Matthew Stafford, RB Jahvid Best, WR Calvin Johnson, TE Brandon Pettigrew, WR Nate Burleson, LT Jeff Backus

Defense: DT Ndamukong Suh, DE Cliff Avril, DE Kyle Vanden Bosch, LB Stephen Tuloch, CB Eric Wright

The Lions have an offense built to keep up with anyone. As long as Stafford stays healthy, he'll utilize the heck out of his excellent targets like Johnson, Best, Burleson and Pettigrew. The one area they need to solidify and figure out is their running game. Best is a game-breaker and they want him carrying at least 12-15 times per week, but he's not an everydown guy and will break down. They drafted a big back to compliment him, then he got hurt, so I wouldn't put it past the Lions to be searching for a bigger-sized power-back (Chester Taylor just got swooped up but Larry Johnson may not be a bad option).
Record: 10-6


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Minnesotta Vikings, 3rd Place

Offense: QB Donovan McNabb, RB Adrian Peterson, WR Percy Harvin, TE Kyle Rudolph, TE Visanthe Shiancoe, LG Steve Hutchinson

Defense: DT Kevin Williams, DE Jared Allen, LB E.J. Henderson, LB Chad Greenway, CB Antoine Winfield

A lot of people are counting the Vikes out this year because of all the turnover, but I'll tell you this; Donovan McNabb is hungry, and he has more than a few weapons at his disposal. He's got two very good tight-ends and a couple solid wideouts, but the focus on the offense run through Peterson and AP is the ultimate back who could go for 1,300 yards/12 TD's in his sleep and should have his most prolific receiving year with McNabb behind center. Their defense is solid, not great, but strong enough to win if their offense puts up points.
Record: 8-8


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Chicago Bears, 4th Place

Offense: QB Jay Cutler, RB Matt Forte, WR Roy Williams, WR Johnny Knox, T Gabe Carimi (R)

Defense: DE Julius Peppers, LB Lance Briggs, LB Brian Urlacher, FS Chris Harris, CB Charles Tillman

Plenty of people like the Bears as high as 2 in this division behind Green Bay, but I think they have too many holes, and I just don't think Jay Cutler is a winner. I like Matt Forte, and maybe with Chester Taylor gone, they'll let him run the ball 275+ times and get 1,200 yards. He's a beast in the passing game too. Their recieving corps is a mess though. They demoted Knox, who was their top guy last season, for the Williams, who they're hoping regains his 2007 form when he dominated under Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz's offense. Unless their receiving steps up in a big way and Cutler finds some clutch bone in his body, this team again is all about their defense.
Record: 7-9

Sunday, September 4, 2011

2011 NFC East Preview

Finally onto the NFC. No offense Raider fans, but we all know this blog caters to the 49ers and isn't a 49ers only blog because I want the freedom to talk about other happenings in the sports world. But, on with the show, as pound through our NFC Previews and finish off with the award and playoff predictions.

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Philladelphia Eagles, 1st Place

Offense:
QB Michael Vick, RB LeShawn McCoy, RB Ronnie Brown, WR DeSean Jackson, WR Jeremy Maclin, LT Jason Peters

Defense: DE Trent Cole, LB Casey Mathews (R), CB Asante Samuel, CB Nhamdi Asomugha, SS Nate Allen, DE Juqua Parker

The Eagles do have some chinks in their armor and are a very fragile bunch, but if all stay realitively healthy, they could have a tremendous season and should be Super Bowl contenders. It's a tough NFC East though this year, and they need Vick to keep it up and McCoy to step it up in order for that offense to be elite. You know your good when you have a guy like Brown as a backup/goal line guy! Defensively, you'll have to beat them with the run, cause their ends will pressure you and they have the best secondary in the NFC (maybe NFL), after adding the big guy this summer, then Rogers-Cromartie through the Kolb deal with Arizona. You just won't be able to pass on them and they'll be too tough to stop offensively.
Record: 13-3

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2nd Place, Dallas Cowboys *Wild Card*

Offense: QB Tony Romo, RB Felix Jones, WR Miles Austin, WR Dez Bryant, TE Jason Whitten, LT Doug Free

Defense: LB Anthony Spencer, LB Bradie James, LB Keith Brooking, LB DeMarcus Ware, CB Terrence Newman, FS Gerald Sensabaugh

If it weren't for the Cowboys young and un-polished O-line, they'd be an elite team, but if that line gels, lookout. They have talented youngsters, but some journerman as well, but as long as Tony Romo does his thing and Felix Jones takes off, the Cowboys offense will be at full strength. The defense, especially the front-7, is as good as it's been in a while, as they sport the 2nd best LB crew in all the NFL to only Pittsburgh. They also have a healthy Newman at CB, but other than that, their secondary is hit or miss.
Record: 10-6

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3rd Place, New York Giants

Offense: QB Eli Manning, RB Ahmad Bradshaw, RB Brandon Jacobs, WR Hakeem Nicks, WR Mario Manningham, RT Kareem McKenzie, LT Will Beaty

Defense: DE Justin Tuck, DE Osi Umenyiora, LB Mathias Kiwanuka, CB Corey Webster, FS Antrel Rolle

The Giants have a power-built rushing attach, but for some reason want Manning to throw the ball 50 times a week, and he makes too many mistakes to do that. He's a very good QB when he can work off the run, but to ask him to throw 75% of the time is too much. They say they'll mix Jacobs in a lot more this year and he looks good, plus that line is as tough as ever. I think the Giants are in for a nice year on offense, defensively is another story though. They need some guys to step up and play well and rebound from off-years.
Record: 9-7

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Washington Redskins, 4th Place
Offense: QB Jon Beck, RB Tim Hightower, WR Santana Moss, TE Chris Cooley, RT Jamall Brown

Defense: LB Ryan Kerrigan (R), LB London Fletcher, LB Rocky Mcintosh, LB Brian Orakpo, CB DeAngelo Hall, SS LaWan LaRon Landry, CB Josh Wilson (R)

The 'Skins D is defnitely on the up-and-up. They too are stocked with their 3-4 set with top linebackers built for the scheme and have some play-makers in their secondary, although they also give up the big play too often. Overall, you put their D with a good offense and I think you'd have something. I know Hall gets the wrap for his antics, but he makes plays and I expect huge things out of rookie Josh Wilson. Still a ways away though with their overturn at QB and RB.
Record: 4-12

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Six QB's the 49ers Should Look At

With the 49ers in dire need of a QB, the time is now for them to strike if they are going to add anyone before the start of the regular season, being that teams just simplified their rosters to 53 today.

Now, don't get me wrong, the list of potential names of guys who got axed certainly aren't exciting and some aren't even proven NFL QB's, but given the 49ers situation, I think any of the following guys would not only be worth a shot, but could succeed with Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and Braylon Edwards.

Of course, everyone has heard the Josh Johnson rumor, so there's no need to mention his name, and we've also mentioned the Raiders backups, Trent Edwards and Kyle Boller, who each would likely pose better options than Alex Smith right now. Guess what, Edwards was the odd man out after the Raiders took Pryor, and he should be atop the 49ers list after Josh McCown failed miserably to do anything. They also still need their O-Line to take shape, but I'm not nearly as worried about that as I am the am the QB situation. The NFC West is pretty thin and the 49ers really are just one decent QB away from really becoming a player in the race. Here are some other team's back-ups that could be out of a roster spot in a week or so, or may be plucked away with a late round draft choice and provide a starter, a challenger, or insurance for Alex Smith and actually give this team a chance to win:

Trent Edwards, FA
- He has to become the 49ers immediate #1 target. He's an ideal fit for the west coast offense, plus he's a Stanford guy and knows Harbough. I just see this as too good a fit. If Smith doesn't cut it after 1/4 of the season, you go to Edwards and see what he can do with the 49ers offensive talent. He's a smart guy, and doesn't make too many bad decisions back there like Alex does, but he doesn't quite have the athletic ability and mobility Alex does. Looked to be getting better as starter in Buffalo before they tore the team out from around him and the line went to garbage. I honestly think the 49ers would be a better team with Edwards and knows the WC offense.

Brodie Croyle, FA - He's nowhere near as exciting or as good as Edwards, but he posses a plausible backup and one that would give the team someone better than Colin Kaepernick after Smith. Croyle's never really gotten a shot, but has played well in spurts, and could be one opportunity away from making it big.

Seneca Wallace, Cleveland - Onto possible trade targets, Wallce would be #1. He's always been frowned upon because his sub-6 foot height, but he more than makes up for that with athleticism and play-making ability. All respect to Matt Hasselbeck, I though Wallace was their better QB the last few years he was in Seattle. He's a career backup with an 64 rating and 29/16 TD/INT ratio, who can throw on the move. I'd love to see him be a starter somewhere, but it's doubtful Cleveland lets him go as he's their insurance for McCoy.

Brady Quinn, Denver - Quinn's another guy who's never had any talent around him. He got thrown into the fire in Cleveland with a horrid team and was bad, then never got another look since. He's looked good in training camps and preseason games, but didn't throw a pass last season. With Orton and Tebow in Denver, he could be expendable, but likely has a ceiling as a backup QB.

Josh Johnson, Tampa Bay - OK, everyone has heard his name mentioned this summer, problem is, the Bucs won't get rid of him. Even though Josh Freeman is a potential pro-bowl talent about to enter his prime, the Bucs want Johnson as insurance. Know, if the 49ers saw Johnson as a potential QB of the future and don't believe in Kap, which I do not, they may be willing to give up a 3rd rounder and a young player to get the young QB.

Drew Stanton, Det - Stanton is the wild card, possessing all the talent in the world, a lot like Smith, just never putting it all together. Unlike Smith though, he hasn't had chance after chance fall onto his lap. I was hoping he'd get chopped at the deadline, but even with Shaun Hill entrenched as the #2, Detroit cannot trust Matt Stafford to stay on the field so Stanton wouldn't be cheap.

2011 AFC West Preview

San Diego Chargers, 1st Place

Offense: QB Phil Rivers, RB Ryan Mathews, RB Mitch Tolbert, WR Vincent Jackson, TE Antonio Gates, G Kris Dielman

Defense: NT Antonio Garay, LB Shaun Phillips, LB Takeo Spikes, CB Quentin Jammer, SS Bob Sanders, FS Eric Weddle

The Chargers once again have the most well-rounded team in the AFC West, and it would be a huge dissapointment if they failed to win the division. Rivers is an elite QB, and has both of his favorite targets, Jackson and Gates, back full-time this year. A big key to their success rests on the shoulders of running back Ryan Mathews, who could make the Chargers Super Bowl contenders if he ascends like everyone expects and becomes that 1,100 yard, 8-10 TD back. With Mike Tolbert though too, they can spread the load and keep Mathews fresh. Defensively, the Chargers have a top-notch secondary, but I'm a little worried about their young front-7.
Record: 12-4

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Kansas City Chiefs, 2nd Place

Offense:
QB Matt Cassell, RB Jamal Charles, RB Thomas Jones, WR Dwayne Bowe, G Jon Asamoah

Defense:
LB Derek Johnson, LB Tamba Hali, NT Kelly Gregg, CB Brandon Flowers, FS Eric Berry

I liked the Chiefs at the start of camp, but Cassell has had a less than stellar preseason as he's failed to synch up with WR's Steve Breaston and Jonthan Baldwin, and the O-Line has underperformed. They have the talent on both sides of the ball to actually overtake the Chargers, but they need their guys to mature into the players they can be. If their young, highly talented ends, Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey, can get to the QB, their defense could be a force with those 'backers and DB's.
Record: 9-7

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Oakland Raiders, 3rd Place

Offense: QB Jason Campbell, RB Darren McFadden, RB Michael Bush, WR Jacoby Ford, C Stefen Wisniewski (R)

Defense:
DT Richard Seymour, DT Tommy Kelly, LB Kamerion Wimbley, SS Tyvon Branch, FS Michael Huff, CB Stanford Routt

I really expect the Raiders and Broncos to finish with near identical records, they're that alike. Now that Campbell has had a year in Oakland to get acclimated, I expect better results, as long as he can stay on the field that is. I expect him to use Jacoby Ford like he did Santana Moss in Washington and Ford to be Oakland's #1 WR. Denarious Moore has also gained headlines this summer, and I expect him to take the #2 spot with Heyward-Bey in the slot in 3-WR sets. This is likely it for Bey (probably cut if Chaz and Murphy were healthy), who could be axed in-season if he doesn't show results. McFadden and Bush are the best two-man combo in the NFL in my opinion, so hopefully the improved aerial game opens up some more holes for them. Also, this defense is improving, despite the loss of Asomugha. Routt and Branch are Pro-Bowl caliber players in the secondary still and Huff is still a ball-hawk. Their D-Line pressures the QB well, and they have the sack machine in Wimbley at OLB. The Raiders are still a ways away; they need an offensive line that will hold up all season, and a wideout or two to really step up this year without Zach Miller gone. If those two things happen, this squad could be right on KC's heels.
Record: 7-9

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Denver Broncos, 3rd Place

Offense: QB Kyle Orton, RB Knowshon Moreno, RB Willis McGahee, WR Brandon Loyd, LT Ryan Clady

Defense:
DE Elvis Dumervil, LB D.J. Williams, LB Von Miller (R), CB Champ Baily, FS Brian Dawkins

The Broncos do have a lot of talent themselves, though they've got some issues going on inside their organization and are likely longing for the days of Mike Shanahon right about now. They picked the right guy as their starting QB, and should stick with him. Tebow is a nice wildcat option, but I don't see him as an NFL starter, and I think Denver is just now realizing it. Moreno is an average NFL running back, and Brandon Loyd will have a very hard time repeating last seasons breakout and needs Eddie Royal to help take some coverage off him. Where the Broncos are looking better and moving forward is on the defensive side. They have sack master Dumervil back and have teamed D.J. Williams with #2 overall pick Von Miller at linebacker. They also still have Champ Baily shutting down wideouts, though he has lost a step. If the defense grows together and the offensive line plays well and gets Moreno going, they could overtake the Raiders easy.
Record: 6-10
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And that concludes the AFC Preview portion. Wild Card teams are marked, and (R) stands for rookie if you didn't notice. We'll jump right into the NFC next, but we also have a 49ers post to mix in before we do so check out for that Sunday!

AFC South Preview

Houston Texans, 1st Place

Offense: QB Matt Schaub, RB Arian Foster, WR Andre Johnson, TE Owen Daniels, RT Eric Winston

Defense: LB/DE Mario Williams, LB Brian Cushing, NT Shaun Cody, DE J.J. Watt (R), CB Jonathan Joseph, FS Daniel Manning

The 3rd ranked offense from a year ago remains in-tact and even more cohesive. Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub are becoming a pair for the ages and Arian Foster has emerged as a top-3 NFL rusher. Their offense shouldn't have any problems so long as their O-Line holds up. Defensively, they added a few pieces to help them contain the Colts. Jon Joseph is a premiere cornerback and Watt and Williams could combine for 20 sacks. Again though, this team has a terrific 1st team on both sides, but depth is very much an issue. I also would like to see the explosive Jacoby Jones overtake the #2 WR spot from Kevin Walter.
Record: 11-5


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Indianapolis Colts, 2nd Place

Offense: QB Peyton Manning*, RB Joseph Addai, WR Reggie Wayne, WR Austin Collie, TE Dallas Clark, C Jeff Saturday

Defense: DE Robert Mathis, DE Dwight Freeney, DT Tommie Harris, FS Antoine Bethea, LB Gary Brackett

The Colts are a team heading in the opposite direction as the Texans right now. They're getting older and breaking down a bit. Manning could miss up to 2-3 games, and probably won't be 100% for quite sometime. I've never been a big fan of their running game, and Dallas Clark, Mannings #2 target is having injury issues of his own after missing the majority of '10. The defense will get after the passer, but will struggle again against the run and in pass coverage.
*Manning will miss at least the first half of the year.
Record: 9-7


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Tennessee Titans, 3rd Place

Offense: QB Matt Hasselbeck, RB Chris Johnson, WR Kenny Britt, TE Jared Cook, RG Jake Scott

Defense
: LB Will Witherspoon, LB Barrett Rudd, LB Akeem Ayers (R), SS Chris Hope, CB Cortland Finnegan

I like Tennessee a lot more than many football experts. I think Hasselbeck will be a fine veteran leader there to hold them over until Jake Locker's ready (and Locker looks like the real deal). He's got some decent weapons in Britt and Cook and a QB's best friend in a horse like Chris Johnson. So long as their O-Line doesn't crumble in front of them, they should have an average to above average offense. Their defense could also go either way. They have a star linebacking crew and nice secondary, but their front four are a little weak.
Record: 7-9


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Jacksonville Jaguars, 4th Place

Offense: QB David Garrard, RB Maurice Jones-Drew, WR Mike Thomas, TE Mercedes Lewis

Defense: DE Aaron Kampman, LB Paul Posluszny, FS Dawan Landry, CB Derek Cox

The Jags really should just let Blaine Gabbart take over QB for them cause they're just prolonging the inevitable by trotting Garrard back there. They aren't winning anything with David Garrard and Could be building a nice little offensive unit if they could find a QB and a tall receiver. Of all the teams that could use one of the free agent diva WR's Moss or Owens, it would be Jacksonville.
Record: 5-11

Friday, September 2, 2011

AFC North Preview

Pittsburgh Steelers, 1st Place

Offensive Players: QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Rashard Mendenhall, WR Mike Wallace, WR Heinz Ward, C Maurkice Pouncey, T Jonathan Scott

Defensive Players: LB LaMarr Woodley, LB James Farrior, LB Lawrence Timmons, LB James Harrison, CB Bryant McFadden, S Troy Polamalu

The Steelers are becoming like the Yankees of the NFL, there going to be there every year, it's just a matter of will they win the whole thing or not. This year, they have as good a shot as anyone I think, with a hungry, healthy Big Ben ready to go off for 4500 yards with his never ending weapons (now Antonio Brown is standing out too). They have as good a workhourse RB as there is in the game, even though he won't catch passes, Mendenhall will hold onto the ball and pound forward for consistent yardage. They have a great defense, solid lines on both sides and a healthy secondary. Look out AFC!
Record: 14-2


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Baltimore Ravens, 2nd Place *(Wild Card)*

Offense: QB Joe Flacco, RB Ray Rice, WR Anquan Boldin, T Michael Oher
Defense: NT Haloti Ngata, LB Ray Lewis, LB Terrell Suggs, CB Dominque Foxworth, CB Jimmy Smith (R), S Ed Reed

The Ravens again have a stout defense, but like the Steelers, they're starting to age a bit on that side of the ball. Ngata is a brilliant DT and Lewis and Suggs can still move around well and hit you hard. I expect a huge year out of Suggs. Offensively, this team is driven by Rice and Flacco, and Rice is primed for a huge year. A 2000 total yard season is just about what's in store for Rice if all things go well (I'm hoping they are for my fantasy teams' sake). The problem with the offense right now is that Flacco's having a hard time learning the new look receiving corps minus two of his favorite targets in Todd Heap and Derrick Mason.
Record: 10-6

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Cincinatti Bengals, 3rd Place

Offense: QB Andy Dalton, RB Cedric Benson, WR A.J. Green, TE Jermaine Gresham, T Andre Smith

Defense: DE Carlos Dunlap, LB Manny Lawson, LB Ray Maualuga, CB Nate Clements, CB Leon Hall

This is were a lot of people have the Browns finishing, but even with rookie Andy Dalton and a sketch O-Line, I really like Green and Gresham and think Benson will be running for a big contract. Defensively, they have some very nice pieces, though they're still a work in progress. Dunlap is coming off a 10-sack season and Lawson and Clements are each hoping on improving on below-par years with San Francisco. I think this team could surprise a bit though for sure.
Record: 5-11

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Cleveland Browns, 4th Place

Offense: QB Colt McCoy, RB Peyton Hillis, TE Kellen Winslow, LT Joe Thomas

Defense: LB D'Qwell Jackson, DT Ahtyba Rubin, S T.J. Ward, CB Joe Haden (R), CB Sheldon Brown

I like the Browns young secondary, and there's no questioning their running game led by the bulldozing Peyton Hillis. My questions with this team lie squarely on their passing attach, which I don't believe they have. I've yet to be impressed by Colt McCoy, granted he's still got a year or 2 before I consider him a bust. He'll be OK and won't really lose a game for you, but he's not a guy who's going to lead a team deep into the playoffs. He doesn't have many receiving options either, outside of Winslow. Masaquoi is labeled the #1 wideout, but has been ridiculously inconsistent, and Brian Robiskie has never lived up to his hype coming out of Ohio State. If McCoy does catch fire, and one of their wideouts steps up to support Winslow and Hillis, they'll be looking a lot better.
Record: 4-12

Thursday, September 1, 2011

NFL Previews: AFC East Preview

With the calendar turning September, and the 2011 NFL season getting set to kick-off, I figured now would be a good time to start our NFL Divisional Previews/Predictions. Since we don't have time to go through and list off each starting position player and what not, we'll just name order in which we think the teams will finish, why they'll do so, as well as the key players on each respective team.

We'll be starting in the AFC East and finishing in the NFC West, so here we go:

AFC East

New England Patriots - 1st Place

Key Starters: QB Tom Brady, RB Benjarvus Green-Ellis, WR Chad Ochocinco, WR Wes Welker, TE Aaron Hernandez, G Logan Mankins, WR/RB Danny Woodard

Defensive: DE Shaun Ellis, NT Vince Wilfork, DE Albert Haynesworth, LB Jerod Mayo, CB Devin McCourty, SS Brandon Merriweather, CB Leigh Bodden

Offensively, I actually am expecting more out of the Pats than a lot of people. I think #85 will find his niche like Randy Moss did and just make guys like Welker and Deon Branch that much better. If they gave Hernandez starter's minutes, the guy would be a top-5 tight end, not doubt. The running game is a little questionable, but bowling ball Ellis and utility man Woodward are nice compliments to each other. The Pas have put together a very nice defense (I'm hoping so for my fantasy team's sake as well), as they have a tough front with Ellis, Wilfork and Haynesworth and interception machines McCourty and Bodden at corner. The big question for their secondary will be the health of Bodden who had 5 picks and 60 tackles in '09, but missed last season.
Prediction: 13-3
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New York Jets - 2nd Place
*Wild Card*

Key Starters: QB Mark Sanchez, RB Shonn Green, RB LaDanian Tomlinson, LT D'Brickshaw Ferguson, C Nick Mangold, WR Santonio Holmes, WR Plaxico Burress.

Defense: Darrelle Revis CB, Antonion Cromartie CB, Calvin Pace LB, David Harris LB, Bart Scott

The Jets lost a big part of their defensive front when they let Shaun Ellis slip into the hands of the Patriots, but Rex Ryan believes in rookie Muhhamed Wilkerson. Still though, this team revolves around that defense and it hurts them to loose a key cog like Ellis. What they have done, however, is improve the passing game by bringing in the mercurial, talented Plaxico Burress to give Sanchez a nice big red-zone target. They also still have LT sharing the load with Green running behind a brick wall of an offensive line, so they'll be just fine, even if they are just an ordinary passing team again.
Prediction: 11-5
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Miami Dolphins - 3rd Place

Key Offensive Players: QB Chad Henne, RB Reggie Bush, RB Daniel Thomas, WR Brandon Marshall, WR Davone Bess, C Mike Pouncey (R)

Defense: LB Kevin Barnett, LB Karlos Dansby, LB Cameron Wake, CB Vontae Davis, SS Yeremiah Bell, S Chris Clemmons

Miami really will rise or fall with the play of quarterback Chad Henne. They tried to get Kolb, they shot for Kyle Orton, a few different times, and missed, and figured they'd be better off with Henne again for a year. They've surrounded him with the same cast of characters from a year ago, but the running game should be more dynamic. Reggie Bush will give the young QB an outlet when he's under pressure and both Bush and rookie Thomas should be upgrades to their predecessors. The real question for Miami lies up front on both sides of the line, where they really could go either way. They should be a fun team to watch with all their different sorts of weapons though. On defense, Cameron Wake is a force and should carry the front 7.
Prediction: 7-9
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Buffalo Bills - 4th Place

Key Offensive Players
: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, WR Stevie Johnson, RB Fred Jackson, RB C.J. Spiller, WR Roscoe Parish

Defensive Players: DE Marcell Dareus (R), NT Kyle Williams, LB Shawn Merriman, CB Terrence McGee, FS Jarius Byrd

A lot of football insiders like the Dolphins to improve in this division and finish 3rd, but I really like the direction Buffalo is headed. If they could move to LA and get some fan support and actually attract some talent, but for now, they have to stick with who they draft and they're making out great. Stevie Johnson developed into one of the top receivers in the game last year, and Spiller looks just itching to bust out himself. Fitzpatrick isn't the prototypical QB, but is effeceint, accurate and has a big strong arm. Defensively, Byrd fell off a bit after his 9 interception season in '09, but I expect him to be a big-time playmaker. I also think Merriman is ready for a career re-juvenation in Buffalo. He's only 27 and certianly isn't washed up. Look for a monster year from the dude. Weeks of
Prediction: 5-11

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NEWS: FRANK GORE SIGNS NEW DEAL W/49ERS- details below!

Gore Gets 3 Years/$21 Million, Finally!

Weeks of contract negotiation and figure trading between Trent Baalke and the agent for Frank Gore finally closed session Wednesday. The 49ers inked their star back to a very reasonable 3-year, $21 million deal with $13.5 guaranteed, finally paying the lead back top dollar.

The deal is roughly half (total wise) of what DeAngelo Willams got from Carolina, which was said to be Gore's sticking point, but gives Gore a little more annually though lacks the years. After looking at Williams' deal and now Chris Johnson's $53.5 Million deal for 4 years and Frank Gore is starting to look like a steal. I'm a bit surprised he settled for what he did, luckily for Baalke, it came the day before Johnson's $13M/Season deal was announced. This is such a win for the 49ers and also for Gore as he can now focus on football. Players always say their contract situation doesn't effect their play, but that's hardly the case, especially in Gore's position where he was being grossly underpaid by league standards for his production at running back. After the huge deal the media was making of it, I was sure Gore was seeking $40-50 million, so again, what a huge win for SF. Even though both DeAngelo and Johnson are probably worth every penny they'll get (though Williams was overpaid, flat out), and are star players, the difference between them, and Gore is very slim.With Frank's new deal, the 49ers get him for his prime years right through the time he turns 30 which is supposedly the dreaded age for highly used rushers like Gore. This also is the final cog in locking up the 49ers core offensive skill players as now Vernon Davis Michael Crabtree and Gore are all locked up until 2014. Now if only they can find that quarterback!

Speaking of which, in their preseason finale, which I normally chalk up to just a scrimmage of 3rd teamers with, Alex Smith got some time in there to start the game and did well, granted he was going up against mostly 2nd team Texan defenders. Smith was a conservative 8-10 with 45 yards but led the 49ers on a scoring drive in which Anthony Dixon punched it in from a yard out. After Smith departed though, Colin Kaepernick has looked as bad as he has since he's arrived in San Francisco. He went 3 of 7 with 2 interceptions and a sack and just looked flat out dreadful out there. Still not sure what exactly Jim Harbough and Co. saw in this kid but he was coming out of a funky system, has a funky delivery, and looks way too rushed out there. I've heard many of football people and insiders say they see something in this kid, but from my point of view, the kid doesn't even look like he belongs on the depth chart. I haven't seen him practice a lick, but I've seen him in games vs. other teams back ups and 3rd teamers and he's yet to impress me the slightest. I would give you the "he's young and he's still going up against NFL guys for the first time" speal, but again, he's facing rookies and guys in the same boat as him tonight and he's stinking the place up! Josh McCown has immediately stepped in and had success, completing his first 3 throws for 55 yards.

Next: Speaking of the 49ers Quarterback situation, we'll have a 49ers QB special along with final preseason thoughts mixed in with our upcoming AFC/NFC divisional previews, so stay tuned here at BASJ as we get you prepped and ready for Kickoff '11 which takes place just 1 week from today as we should have at least one or 2 posts up per day!