Correct me if I’m wrong, but the postseason has shown me that the good teams from last year are going to be better, and the bad teams are going to be worse. Everyone knows that preseason standings are useless, but that doesn’t mean the games themselves are. The first half is the most telling sample of your team’s first string (starters), and the second half illustrates your depth.
In a regular season game, you might need some decent depth on defense, but on offense, a normal team limits their substitutions. If your o-line is in shape and not winded, they stay in for a whole drive; if your RB is consistent and in shape, he stays in for at least 75% percent of the game’s carries; and if you’re regularly looking to your backup QB and WRs, then you have serious issues offensively, and it will show on the scoreboard.
So, for the sake of not stating the obvious, I am not going to talk about the teams who finished in the top or bottom three in their conference last season.
Winners: 1) Houston Texans 2) Denver Broncos 3) Carolina Panthers
1) The Houston Texans are moving in the right direction. Last year they finished with a 10-6 record, winning the AFC South Division, and ranked second in the NFL in total defense. Wade Phillips has the Texans defense looking as good as ever. As the newest team in the NFL (starting in 2002), the Texans struggled through their formative years, but have since come along well. As of late, they’ve been able to add key components to an otherwise sterile offense: QB Matt Schaub and WR Andre Johnson (despite his injury) have solidified their air assault and RB Arian Foster remains one of the elite ball carriers in the league. Look for them to repeat their division title and advance further in the playoffs.
Key players - Matt Schaub, Arian Foster, Brian Cushing
2) Anytime your QB goes down with an injury and your team goes from being 10-6 to 2-14, he IS your team. I am talking of course about the Indianapolis Colts losing Peyton Manning to injury last season. Now that he is with the Denver Broncos, a team that managed to win their division last season with Tim Tebow at the helm, Manning will only bolster his career numbers. He loses Reggie Wayne, but gains Demaryius Thomas, an arguably better athlete. The defense in Denver has always been solid, and Willis McGahee has great run blockers to secure the ground game.
Key players - Peyton Manning, Von Miller, Tracy Porter
3) Now, I won’t go as far to say the Carolina Panthers are going to take the NFL by storm, but they will certainly turn some heads. With the recent debacle in New Orleans, the omnipresent problems in Tampa, and the impressive insurgence of QB Cam Newton, the Panthers have a real chance at winning the NFC South this season. Their only obstacle appears to be QB Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons; but an aging RB Michael Turner and the loss of WR Eric Weems might open the door for the upcoming Panthers. In addition, their defense will be dramatically improved from last year thanks to players coming back from injury like LB Thomas Davis, DT Ron Edwards, and LB Jon Beason, and exciting draft picks like LB Luke Kuechly).
Key players: Cam Newton, Jon Beason, Mike Tolbert
Losers: 1) Arizona Cardinals 2) Kansas City Chiefs 3) New York Jets
1) The Arizona Cardinals‘ QB job is as sad as they get. When your choices are Kevin Kolb or John Skelton, there’s not much light at the end of the tunnel. It’s quite sad to know that the league’s best WR, Larry Fitzgerald, has these two BUMS to throw passes to him. Arizona has always been infamous for having shoddy defenses, and that’s not going to change this season (they lost LB Joey Porter and DB Richard Marshall). As if this weren’t enough, recent news of season-ending surgery on LT Levi Brown has just surfaced. Sadder still is that Brown was widely considered one of the worst LT in the league…and now he has to be replaced. If he was your best option at the position, God only knows who will replace him!
Key problems: defensive inconsistency (especially against the run), no starting quarterback, no offensive line depth
2) How bad did the Kansas City Chiefs look in their second preseason game compared to their opener? As meltdowns go, it couldn’t have gone any worse. The St. Louis Rams’ QB Sam Bradford absolutely carved up the Chiefs’ defense, scoring two touchdowns on 11 plays. Their suspect defense failed to stop the run as well, essentially letting RB Stephen Jackson run down their throats. Head coach and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel should take full responsibility for all this. Inconsistency is a sign of a bad team, and Kansas City has a lot of it. Although QB Matt Cassel is one of the NFL’s best stories in recent memory, he can’t make up for the horrendous play of his teammates and has limited options downfield. In addition, the Chiefs are in the AFC West, where Broncos’ Peyton Manning and Chargers’ Phillip Rivers will inflict major damage on suspect defenses.
Key problems: no depth in secondary, inconsistent tackling, a coach who sports a 26-41 lifetime record
3) Despite rumors, I am convinced that the New York Jets’ QB Matt Sanchez will start every game this season. Sorry to those living in la-la-land, but teammate Tim Tebow is not an NFL QB. He might improve the teams’ morale, but not their record. The fact is that whoever starts for the Jets is headed for a losing season. Head coach Rex Ryan has no offensive threats whatsoever and a once-dominating defense is losing the war with father time. Sanchez maintains that “there’s no reason to hit the panic button right now,” but if I’m in the Jets’ front office, I’m hitting the shit out of it. I wouldn’t be able to sit still, knowing my team may not be able to score an offensive touchdown in the preseason.
Key problems: limited offensive options, shaky offensive line, aging defensive core
- G.J. Vitale