With one game in the books I need to get my thoughts on the upcoming season down. I'll start with the bounty scandal. This is so messy and just needs to go away. With the panel overturning Roger Goodell's suspension it puts things in flux. Sure the players are cleared to play but with the NFL looking to revisit suspensions soon I'm not sure how everyone can play with a clear head. I do believe the players deserve some type of penalty just not as severe as the ones they got. I'm really hoping the NFL can get it right this time so everyone can just move on.
ATLANTA FALCONS: This could be the year. I know Matt Ryan and the Falcons have caught much flack for not winning a playoff game the past three years. Still they are 32 and 16 in that time frame. This team is good and the offense brings back all the stars with Ryan, Michael Turner, Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez leading the way. Rumor has it the offense will open up the passing game this year and I also expect second year running back Jacquizz Rogers to get the ball more. I think he can be good as a receiver and also help keep Turner fresh. Cornerback Asante Samuel was a huge addition in the off season. Hopefully it will help put pressure on the opposing team's passing game and allow the team to improve on the 18th in the NFL standings for points given up per game. Atlanta makes the playoffs and I think they are a 50-50 bet to win the NFC South.
BUFFALO BILLS: Buffalo's acquisition of Mario is huge. I think he could be good for one extra win this year. Otherwise I'm not real sure what to expect. Running back Fred Jackson is coming off an injury and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick battled injuries last year which many attribute to his swoon in the second half of the year. Stevie Johnson is a solid number one receiver and David Nelson will do fine on the other side but I'm not sure that'll be enough. The offensive line still needs help and that is always a recipe for disaster. The defense was 30th in points allowed in 2011. I think it begins and ends there. Not sure Williams is enough to make everything good. Buffalo will need the secondary to step up or no matter what the offense does they'll always be playing from behind. Don't be surprised if Buffalo gets 8 eight wins but I will say I think the Jets will falter again this year so they should be able to get four wins out of the division alone.
ST LOUIS RAMS: I'm only typing about the Rams because they are the local team and I hear and talk about them quite a bit. Bringing in Steve Fisher as coach was a great move. Still they have a long ways to go. I am befuddled because they have a quarterback in Sam Bradford with whom they believe is the long term answer but for some reason they won't get him anyone to throw to. Everyone knows they are a run first team but I'm not sure anyone will respect the pass until they get a receiver who can make a defense pay.
RANDOM: The Patriots should win their division but at some point you'd think the offensive line troubles and bad defensive draft picks will catch up to them. Maybe this is the year...Houston must be licking their lips. They are poised for a big year if everyone stays healthy and should win all six games against their division foes...I was shocked to see Cincy let Cedric Benson walk but think they made a great pickup with BenJarvus Green-Ellis. I think he can put up some major yards if he gets the carries a normal back would get, something he didn't have the luxury of in New England...The AFC West could be the best division going this year. Oakland has Carson Palmer with a training camp under his belt, Peyton is in Denver, the Chiefs could be a huge surprise if Matt Cassel plays up to expectations, and the Chargers still have Phillip Rivers so I'll never count them out...
NFC - Division Winners: Philly, Green Bay, Atlanta, San Francisco
Wild Cards: New Orleans, Detroit
AFC - Division Winners: New England, Baltimore, Houston, Denver
Wild Cards: Kansas City, Pittsburgh
Super Bowl: Green Bay vs Baltimore
Green Bay wins! I think Green Bay is the best team all around. Their defense is better than the 19th ranked D they had last year and their offense is stacked. Baltimore will give them a good test but I don't think it will be that close.