Well it’s over now. No more football for a while. I have to decide what to do on my Sundays for the next few months. But I have it easy compared to the 32 teams of the NFL. Going team by team, here’s what to look for next season.
New York Giants:
First off congratulations to the Giants for winning the Super Bowl. Simply put when it mattered most they came through. However it doesn’t mean that this team is perfect. The O-Line is shaky and the secondary will need some work too. But they do have upside as well. Chase Blackburn is a future star at middle linebacker and Victor Cruz emerged as a scary deep threat. It’s very difficult to repeat but the Giants will be tough to beat next season.
One question. Why is Andy Reid still the head coach of this team? Does he have incriminating photos of Jeffrey Lurie? I’m sorry but the Eagles have had all the talent in the world yet Reid can’t win the big one. (Yet he can eat the big one but that’s another story) I’m starting to believe that Lurie is the biggest problem in Philly and he’ll have to realize very soon that he won’t win with Reid as his coach.
The biggest problem the Cowboys have is Jerry Jones. The man’s ego is out of control and it’s hurting the team he loves. First off his stadium is too big and there is no atmosphere in that building whatsoever. Secondly Jones is NOT a football guy so he must do the right thing and fire himself as GM. Thirdly, Tony Romo won’t win you a Super Bowl so start anew at quarterback. (The Cowboys have made overtures on moving up in the draft so they can select Robert Griffin III.) Finally the secondary couldn’t cover a fire hydrant let alone a wide receiver. In other words, lots of work needs to be done in Big D.
What is it with owners in the NFC East? As much as the Cowboys and Eagles have yahoos as owners, no one is a bigger douchebag than Daniel Snyder. He still thinks this is fantasy football but the fantasy is more like a nightmare. If the Redskins go into next season with Rex Grossman has their quarterback, they are doomed! I don’t have much optimism in the Redskins turning it around next year.
Green Bay Packers:
The Packers were stunned by the Giants in the playoffs and were exposed in that game for having a lousy defence. Now Green Bay is still an excellent team and will contend next year for the Super Bowl, but they have to shore up that defence. The secondary was horrid. The front four wasn’t much better. Don’t be surprised if the Packers either make a big move in the draft or free agency to address the defence.
A team on the rise. Matthew Stafford finally stayed healthy and looked like a first overall draft pick. Calvin Johnson is simply not human. And the Lions have cap space. Now the big thing is, they must learn to control their emotions. The Lions lost their cool on too many occasions which cost them dearly. Discipline will be a key issue next season. Also look for the Lions to address the secondary and O-Line this offseason.
Simply put, if the Bears don’t sign Matt Forte they are in big trouble. Forte is the best running back the Bears have had since Walter Payton. (I hear he was pretty good back in the day) However a contract dispute threatens Forte’s tenure in the Windy City. With an aging defence and a fragile quarterback, Forte is the main guy in Chicago and the Bears have to re-sign him.
This doesn’t look good. Adrian Peterson may miss the entire 2012 season after destroying his knee and his career is in jeopardy. The Vikings may draft a running back (Trent Richardson) to replace Peterson but they’ll miss #28. Christian Ponder showed potential at quarterback and Jared Allen led the NFL in sacks. After that there isn’t much in Minny. Rebuild time.
New Orleans Saints:
The Saints are close. Very close. The offence is a high-powered juggernaut. The defence needs work but they do have pieces. With the Super Bowl in New Orleans next season, the Saints will be extra motivated to reach the big dance. Don’t forget the Saints were 8-0 at home last season so if they do get home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, they’ll become the favourites to hoist the Lombardi trophy.
I like this team, but there seems to be something missing. I would love to have Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Roddy White and Curtis Lofton on my team. But there seems to be an intangible missing in Dixie. Mike Smith has done a great coaching job but he can’t win in the playoffs. The key for the Falcons is not to panic, but the window is closing so they better do it soon.
Another team on the rise. The Panthers have found their quarterback in the future in Cam Newton. Now they need to surround him with more talent. With Steve Smith winding down a fabulous career, look for the Panthers to go after a receiver in the offseason. (Justin Blackmon would look great in a Panthers jersey.) Carolina are in tough in this division but patience and smart personnel moves could see them take a run in the not so distant future.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
When the Bucs picked up Albert Haynesworth on waivers in October, their season went down the drain in a hurry. The moral of the story, Albert Haynesworth is the biggest cancer this side of Terrell Owens. The Bucs have a lot of question marks and they look a little confused. I would still give Josh Freeman a shot but I would put him on a short leash. The defence needs a major overhaul and fast. They are young though so there is still hope. But it won’t be easy next season.
San Francisco 49ers:
The 49ers were the surprise team in the NFL in 2011, and were oh so close in making an appearance in the Super Bowl. No doubt, Jim Harbaugh is the coach of the year and the defence led by Patrick Willis is vicious! However the biggest hole in the 49ers offence is no big play receiver. Granted no one will ever replace Jerry Rice but the 49ers do need a big play threat for Alex Smith to throw too. I’m not 100% certain the 49ers will be as successful next season but this is a team to watch for in 2012.
During Super Bowl week, it was reported that Peyton Manning was having lunch with star receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Now whether that was just friends getting together or 2 great football players discussing the possibility of playing together, we’re not sure yet. But you could make the argument that the Cardinals were a quarterback away from giving the 49ers are serious run in the NFC West. Yes there are other concerns in the desert but I do like this team. Patrick Peterson is a future superstar in this league and Ken Wisenhunt is a bright coach. Keep an eye out for them in 2012.
I’m just not sold on Tavaris Jackson. Granted I don’t think he was terrible last season but I don’t think you can win with him. The Seahawks aren’t quite sure what their next move is but you would have to think drafting a quarterback is top priority. One player to watch for next year is middle linebacker K.J. Wright who looks like a stud at middle linebacker.
St. Louis Rams:
Can Jeff Fisher turn the fortunes of the moribund Rams? Well first off a healthy Sam Bradford would help. After that though, the Rams need serious work. There are rumours the Rams are shopping the second overall pick in the draft for some immediate help. On the other hand Justin Blackmon would look good in a Rams uniform and Bradford needs a target to throw to. This will take a while but Fisher does have a proven track record.
New England Patriots:
Is this the end of the Patriots dynasty? I don’t think so now. But the window is definitely closing. How long will Tom Brady play? How long will Bill Belicheck coach? Can the Patriots muster up one more Super Bowl triumph? Well in order to do that, the defence especially the secondary will need some personnel changes. Also the O-Line will need an upgrade. And finally the Patriots must get some form of a running game going. Granted the AFC East isn’t that strong but the Patriots window is closing fast. 2012 may be their last chance.
New York Jets:
First and foremost, Rex Ryan needs to learn to shut up. Yes he’s a great quote and the media love him for that. But my feeling is the players are tired of Ryan’s guarantees and big mouth. There comes a point when it is time to walk the walk and keep your mouth shut. Ryan isn’t the only problem. Mark Sanchez has to decide whether he wants to be an NFL quarterback or a GQ model. The choice is his.
The Dolphins got off to a horrible start but finished strong to gain some respect back. But this has been a theme for the Dolphins the last few seasons and to me they look like they are just spinning their tires. The big rumour out of South Florida is that Peyton Manning is interested in joining the Dolphins next season. While Manning would certainly improve the Dolphins the rest of the offence needs work especially at receiver. The defence is solid and only needs a little tinkering. Still, the Dolphins have teased us before. Not sold on them.
The Bills are the opposite of the Dolphins. They started off strong but collapsed down the stretch. Many people at the start of the season had Ryan Fitzpatrick in the Pro Bowl but by the end of the season, some Bills fans wanted someone else behind centre. The bigger issue in Buffalo though is a defence that is too soft in most areas. If the defence isn’t stronger, it will be another long season along the shores of Lake Erie.
The Ravens learned one very valuable lesson in 2011, never trust a kicker! The Ravens season was tragically ended on a missed field goal which broke the hearts of all Ravens fans. That being said, the Ravens should still contend in 2o12. Ray Lewis may play forever, Ed Reed desperately wants a ring and Terrell Suggs is a force at outside linebacker. Can Joe Flacco lead the offence to glory? He did play well in the AFC title game and showed a lot of moxie in the process. The Ravens will have to be better on the road in 2012 if they want to make it to the Super Bowl next year.
I think this is a team on the decline. With Ben Roethlisberger’s ankle needing surgery and the core of the defence not getting any younger, the Steelers could be headed for a downward turn. Granted that has been said before and the Steelers are known to prove their critics wrong. But I need to see some younger blood on the defensive side of the ball. Troy Polamlau is on the last legs of a hall of fame career and he can’t play forever. Same goes for James Harrison. It will be an interesting off-season in the Steel City.
This team was a major surprise team in the AFC in 2011. Led by the rookie passing combination of Andy Dalton to A.J. Green, the Bengals made the playoffs and are looking for bigger and better things in 2012. They do need another receiver to compliment Green and the running game needs work as well. If Dalton and Green continue to progress, the Bengals could be fun to watch in 2012.
The most irrelevant franchise in the NFL. Since returning to the league in 1999, the Browns have made one playoff appearance while being dull and uninspiring. They have an owner who is nowhere to be found, a GM who doesn’t have a clue and a running back who is gutless. Peyton Hillis is the complete opposite of Jim Brown when it comes to toughness and with the Browns being stuck in a division with 3 playoff teams, expect more dull uninspiring football in Cleveland.
I’ll say it. If this team could have stayed healthy, they could have represented the AFC in the Super Bowl. I really like the direction of the Texans. Arian Foster is an absolute stud at running back. Andre Johnson is one of the best receivers in football. J.J. Watt is a force on defence. Now can Matt Schaub and Mario Williams return fully healthy for next season? I would like to see the Texans get another receiver as well and tinker with their O-Line but this team if healthy could be the leading candidate to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
The most inconsistent team in the NFL. One week the Titans look unbeatable, the next week they look totally lost. The Titans need work on their secondary, and O-Line. But most importantly, they need a quarterback to lead them in the future. Sorry but Matt Hasselbeck looks finished to me. It would also help if Chris Johnson can return to 2009 form. I don’t trust this team right now and I’m not sure I’ll trust this team come September.
New owner. New coach. New city? Not quite yet but the long-term viability of Jacksonville as an NFL city is a concern. It will be a distraction for the Jags next season and it will cause uncertainty amongst the players. I’m not quite sold on Blaine Gabbert at quarterback but he is young with room to improve. Maurice Jones-Drew is an outstanding running back and the Jags will rely on him again in 2012. This team can be summed up by a Doors lyric, “The future’s uncertain, and the end is always near.”
Two words. Andrew Luck. Yes there is very little doubt the Colts will select Andrew Luck with the firs pick in the draft. The question is will he be the starting quarterback? Or will he backup Peyton Manning? This will be a major decision for the Colts as they decide both Luck and Manning’s future. The Colts do need work in other areas. An aging O-Line needs fresh blood. A running back is in order. And a new coach. Firing Jim Caldwell is a good move but hiring the right guy will be vital for the Colts. This will be the most important off-season in Colts history.
Tim Tebow. Tim Tebow. Tim Tebow. OK now that I got that Skip Bayless moment out-of-the-way, let’s continue. Yes Tebow will be the focal point of the offence but he’ll need to be more accurate in the passing game and he’ll need to read coverages better. An upgrade at receiver would be useful for Denver. The defence is young and hungry. If Tebow can progress at quarterback, Denver’s upswing may continue.
Al Davis may have passed away but there still is turmoil in Oakland. Make no mistake, Davis was a legendary figure and should be celebrated for his many accomplishments. However his final years were filled with chaos and confusion. The silver and black are continuing that recent trend by firing Hue Jackson after only one season. I thought Jackson did a good job in Oakland but management thought otherwise. Carson Palmer will have a full training camp to learn the Raiders offence and he does have Darren McFadden to hand the ball too. But the defence took a step back last year and will need to be better in 2012. You never know with the Raiders.
San Diego Chargers:
The most shocking story for the Chargers is that Norv Turner is returning to coach the Chargers in 2012. Even more shocking is that Norv Turner has a job in the NFL period. Despite being pre-season Super Bowl favourites, the Chargers missed the playoffs and many fans in Southern California were calling for Norv’s head. But Turner survived and will be back in 2012. Philip Rivers did put up some great numbers, but also threw 20 picks and he needs to take better care of the football. The defence doesn’t need a major overhaul but some upgrading along the front four and linebacker spots are needed. Turner is the question mark though. I’m not sold that he’s the guy to lead the Chargers to the promised land.
Kansas City Chiefs:
The Chiefs biggest move came just before the end of the season when they sacked head coach Todd Haley and replaced him with Romeo Crennel. The Chiefs responded by beating the Packers and Broncos late in the season and playing hard for their new coach. The Chiefs do have some pieces but need work on defence especially the front four. This team did win the division in 2010 so it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that they can do it again.
Enjoy the summer football fans. And remember only 7 months until the season starts.
You can follow me on Twitter @jstar1973