Tag Archives: NFL Preview

SBM Exclusive Feature: The Ex-Kicker’s Round Table On NFL Contenders and Pretenders in 2013

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With the NFL season fast approaching, it is once again time to break out our resident crew of NFL experts. In case you have forgotten, Sports Blog Movement retained five ex-NFL kickers to serve as a “McLaughlin Group” style discussion pane. The reason why we picked kickers is actually quite simple.

First of all, many kickers never made any real money during their careers, and as you will notice as you read the biographies of our newly-assembled panel, with the exception of Uwe von Schamann, they didn’t make a lot of money afterward. This means kickers are to football players what bloggers are to the main-stream media. What better kindred spirits could we have?

With that being said, allow us to re-familiarize you with our panel, then you can take in their takes on who will be the winners and the losers in the NFL in 2013.

Ex-Kicker: Ali Haji-Shiekh

For those of you who may not know, and we’re guessing that’s all of you, Ali Haji-Shiekh was a placekicker for the University of Michigan in the early 80′s, then went on to a rather short and mediocre NFL career.  Now, he’s the main man on the floor buffer at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, and he’s a little bit bitter about it.  Despite that, has some unique perspectives, so  including him on the panel was a no-brainer.  In fact, his caustioc wit and short temper is exactly why we made him the moderator 

Ex-Kicker: Rick Danmeier

Somehow, Danmeier made the journey from the University of Sioux Falls to a five-year stint with the Minnesota Vikings. One of the last straight-on kickers in the NFL, retirement saw Danmeier return to South Dakota and the isolation of his wheat farm.

Ex-Kicker: Donald Igwebuike

After immigrating from Nigeria, Igwebuike split the uprights for Clemson. His NFL days were spent mostly in more fruity colors with Tampa Bay. Now, his foot finds itself on the gas pedal of a Washington, D.C. taxi, and he’s clearly taken to the weight room in an attempt to over-compensate.

Ex-Kicker: Efren Herrera

America never seemed to suit Herrera.  After a career kicking for UCLA, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Seattle Seahawks, Herrera returned home and became a 19th-century Mexican warlord.

Ex-Kicker: Uwe von Schamann

After his five seasons with the Miami Dolphins, von Schamann returned to his college stomping grounds in Oklahoma, amassing bazillions of dollars in the oil business and spending his time plotting world domination. Dropping a kid from the recently de-Reiched Germany of the  into the “Yee-Haw” environment of Oklahoma of the 1970′s could only have the alkali-metal-tossed-into-the-fish-tank effect need to exemplify the “Adolf Eichmann-meets- J.R. Ewing”-type calculating evil of von Schamann.

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Sports Blog Movement NFL Preview: AFC South

sbm-nfl-crystal-ballThe AFC south was a one car race for over a decade. For 10 years the Indianapolis Colts dominated the division in record breaking fashion, posting more wins and division titles than any other team in NFL history over a ten year time period. Even more than their nemesis from the East, the Patriots. It was more lopsided than Tony Stewart on the Indianapolis speedway racing against a few dozen Asian women in Volkswagens.

The Jaguars were kinda-sorta good for a few years, if you consider good as getting into the playoffs as a wildcard team twice in the last 13 seasons. The Tennessee Titans won a Division title in the middle of the Colts epic run and then disappeared into anonymity faster than the 5th Kardashian sister. Both teams were little more than a temporary nuisance to the Colts. Neither team sustained any momentum and went back to being Indy’s doormat.

Then 2011 happened. Manning’s neck turned into a bent slinky and suddenly the Colts went into the wall in turn three. They finished the race only because the league forced them to actually play all 16 games. Someone had to take over the division, and the Houston Texans decided it was as good a time as any to start being competitive after 10 years in existence.

But the Colts went to the pits, drafted Andrew Luck, and got right back into the race.

2013 like any other year in the AFC south since it’s inception: there is one very good team, a borderline playoff team and two of the worst teams in the entire NFL. Barring some unexpected bad luck the results of this year’s race should surprise no one. Continue reading

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Sports Blog Movement NFL Preview: The Rookies

sbm-nfl-crystal-ballThe NFL Draft is one of the biggest off-season spectacles in sports, and it is also the primary route for College Seniors/Juniors/RS Sophomores to enter the National Football League. For the fans of the NFL, the Draft marks the beginning of the off-season and a rapid increase in hope. This hope puts a lot of pressure onto the recently drafted rookies, and some of them flame out…while others end up succeeding.

The goal of this post is to take a look at what rookies I think will be succeeding in 2013, the rookie I think will surprise us most down the road, and the rookie who I think will completely flame out over the long hall. So, buckle up everyone…it is going to be an interesting ride.

Top Five Rookies That Are Going to Succeed in 2013:

1) WR Tavon Austin (St. Louis): The Rams felt like QB Sam Bradford needed a speed threat out at wide receiver, and they went out and got it in Tavon Austin. While he was at West Virginia, Austin was one of the most explosive receivers on the Mountaineers roster. He posted an incredible career average of 11.9 yards per catch, with 29 receiving touchdowns while in college…and the Rams hope that he will continue to produce at the NFL level; and I think he will.  Continue reading

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Sports Blog Movement NFL Preview: NFC West

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Welcome back friends! It’s time to take a look at the NFC West.

Two years ago, this was easily the worst division in football. If you don’t recall, the Seattle Seahawks won the NFC West in 2011 with a whopping 7-9 record. Oh how things have changed. Nowadays, the West features two of the best teams in the NFL. Even the bad teams in the division aren’t all that bad. The Rams are on the rise and the Cardinals finally have a functional (albeit washed-up) Quarterback. There won’t be any 13+ win teams here, simply because each divisional match-up will be a god damn blood bath. You won’t be seeing any (6-0) divisional records in the NFC West. Meaning that this division will be fun to watch.

1. Seattle Seahawks (12-4)

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Additions: WR Percy Harvin (MIN), RB Christine Michael (Draft), QB Tarvaris Jackson (BUF), QB Lady Quinn (KC), DE Cliff Avril (DET), Antoine Winifield (MIN)

Losses: QB Matt Flynn, RB/KR Leon Washington

Offensively, Russel Wilson has plenty to work with. Even with the injury to Percy Harvin; the remaining receivers Sidney Rice, Zach Miller and Golden Tate are still dangerous targets. Beast-Mode will continue to do his thang and the Offensive Line will continue to be dominant (They gave up the 5th least amount of QB hits last season).

PED’s or not, the Seahawks defense is easily in the top-5. The addition of Cliff Avril will help make up for the injured Chris Clemons at Defensive End. The Linebacker core is solid. K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner combined for almost 250 tackles last season. The defensive backfield is THE best in the league. Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman are All-pro caliber. Earl Thomas is just about to enter his prime at 24 years old. Brandon Browner is solid on the corner. Not to mention, Antoine Winifield is set to play the Nickle back. I don’t know of another defensive backfield with more physicality. The Seahawks are poised to make a run deep into the playoffs. I think it’s fair to say that if they can survive their own division, this team is a lock for an NFC Championship appearance.

2. San Francisco 49ers (11-5)

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Additions: WR Anquan Boldin (BAL), RB Marcus Lattimore (Draft), QB Colt McCoy (CLE)

Losses: QB Alex Smith, WR Ted Ginn Jr.

Fresh off a Super Bowl loss, the 49ers look slightly worse off than they did at the beginning of last season. Two things are going to happen offensively: First, Colin Kaepernick will struggle to move the ball through the air due to his lack of weapons. He still has Vernon Davis and the addition of Anquan Boldin will help, but only a little. The loss of Michael Crabtree for the foreseeable future will put this offense in a huge hole. The second thing that will happen offensively is that teams will adjust to the Read-Option offense that made the 49er’s offense so successful last season. Defenses always adjust. Just as they did with the Wildcat offense, defenses will be on a mission to discover a way to shut down the Pistol. It will be up to Colin Kaepernick to adjust to the adjustment, so to speak. When defenses take away Kaepernick’s ability to run, how will he respond? That is the single biggest question facing the 49ers this season.

On the other side of the ball, the 49ers won’t have to change much. Their front seven is the best in football, bar none. Everyone knows about the great linebackers in Aldon Smith, NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis. However, the real key to that defense is a guy that no one talks about. I’m my opinion, he’s the best 3-4 defensive end in the league. I’m talking of course, about Justin Smith. He doesn’t show up on the stat sheet but Smith’s unique ability to occupy blockers is crucial to that defense. He’s the biggest reason that Aldon Smith got freed up enough to record 19.5 sacks last season. In fact, Aldon Smith recorded his 19.5 sacks in the first 13 games of the season. With three games to go, Justin Smith went down with an injury. Sure enough, Aldon Smith’s sack totals in the final three games were 0.0, 0.0 and 0.0.

Okay Jon Gruden, enough Justin Smith boners. The 49ers will struggle a bit in the beginning of the season until Michael Crabtree returns. Once #15 gets back into the line-up, the 49ers should be in position to fight for a wildcard berth. 

3. St. Louis Rams (8-8)

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Additions: WR Tavon Austin (Draft), RB Zac Stacy (Draft), T Jake Long (MIA), TE Jarred Cook (TEN), OLB Alec Ogletree (Draft)

Losses: RB Steven Jackson, WR Danny Amendola

The Rams are going to beat a lot of good teams this year. They’re not a great team yet, but they’re a dangerous. I equate them to Northwestern in the Big10. The “Cardiac Cats” always seems to sneak up on ranked teams like Michigan or Wisconsin and take them down to the wire or even beat them. We saw it last year when they went (1-0-1) against the eventual NFC Champion 49ers. This team could go 10-6 easily if they were in another division.

Offensively, Sam Bradford will have to improve this year. He turned the ball over a little too much last season with 13 INT’s and 4 fumbles and his completion percentage was below average at under 60%. I don’t think the Rams will lose much going from an aging Steven Jackson to a young Daryl Richardson. Richardson averaged 4.8 yards/carry to Jackson’s 4.1 last season and frankly, it was just time to move on. The Rams have a nice little receiving core with Tavon Austin, Austin Pettis, Chris Givens and Brian Quick. The addition of Jake Long should improve an already improving offensive line that went from last in the NFL in sacks given up in 2011 to 14th in 2012.

Defensively, the Rams have solid pieces. Chris Long will be strong off the edge and they have a young linebacking core with the addition of Alec Ogletree who should develop into a serviceable pro. Their two corners are solid. Cortland Finnegan is a fucking asshole but I’d still love to have him on my team. Janoris Jenkins is a stud and will be a Pro-Bowler this year. Keep an eye on rookie Safety T.J. McDonald; he’ll surprise people this year.

This simply isn’t the year for the Rams. Unfortunately, with so much young talent in their division, it doesn’t look like that year is coming anytime soon.

4. Arizona Cardinals (7-9)

Seattle Seahawks v Arizona Cardinals

Additions: QB Carson Palmer (OAK), G Jonathan Cooper (Draft), RB Rashard Mendenhall (PIT), DE John Abraham (ATL)

Losses: QB John Skelton, QB Kevin Kolb, RB Beanie Wells, WR Early Doucet

It’s possible that I’m being too generous here by giving the Cardinals seven wins. It’s not that I think that Carson Palmer will suddenly turn this team around single-handedly. I do, however think that Larry Fitzgerald is about to go OFF this year. It’s been three years of frustration for Fitz. It’s been three damn years of interchangeable Bumblefuck McShitHead’s throwing him bounce-passes. NO MORE! Now he has a somewhat functional Quarterback and he’s about to ruin your life.

As far as how the rest of the roster is constructed, well, it’s a team. That’s more than the Oakland Raiders can say. It’s not a great team but it’s good enough to win six or seven games. Rashard Mendenhall is WAY past his prime but he’ll get most of the carries unless Ryan Williams can get his head out of his ass. The Receiving core is very top-heavy with Michael Floyd along with the aforementioned Fitzgerald. The Tight ends suck and the offensive line is still shit.

Defensively, the Cards are a little better. The front seven is strong with Darnell Dockett and Karlos Dansby. Patrick Peterson will be a borderline Pro-Bowler this year. The suspension of Daryl Washington for the first four games will hurt their pass rush. Overall, there’s not much to say about this team. They’re certainly not good enough to make a run into the playoffs. Yet their not bad enough for me to make fun of. Just another Arizona Cardinals season for ya’: Perpetual mediocrity.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed my input on our NFL Preview here at Sports Blog Movement. Let’s hope you’re as excited for the start of the season as I am! HUCK IT, CHUCK IT, FOOTBALL!!!!!!

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Sports Blog Movement NFL Preview: AFC West

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What’s up kids? I’m here to talk to you about the AFC West!

This might just be the worst division in the NFL.  Take away the Denver Broncos and you’re left with a fat sack of bad. It wasn’t always so. The Chargers were once a perennial 10+ win team. Believe it or not, of the four teams, the Raiders have the most divisional championships. The Chiefs use to be… well on second thought, the Chiefs were always terrible. This division is sure to be a train wreck. One that you’ll get to witness mid-afternoons on CBS (because you know, these teams are too cool to start their games at 12 PM Central Time like everyone else.)

1. Denver Broncos (13-3)

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Additions: WR Wes Welker (NE), RB Monte Ball (Draft), C Dan Koppen (NE)

Losses: RB Willis Mcgahee, OLB Elvis Dumervil

Let’s face it, the Broncos have Peyton Manning. Ergo, the Broncos will win a lot of games. Their biggest strength lies in their passing game. Manning has a ridiculous amount of weapons at his disposal in Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker. Their Running Back situation is in flux but it won’t really matter. No team in their right mind will load the box against Peyton Manning. A one-legged Chimpanzee could play Running Back for the Broncos and end up with a 700 yard season.

Defensively, the loss of Von Miller for the first six games will certainly hurt. Without Miller who had 18.5 sacks last season, the next best pass rusher on the team is Derek Wolfe with a meager 6.0 sacks. Elvis Dumervil is also gone, so for the first part of the season, the Broncos will have trouble generating a pass rush. However, the defensive backfield is as solid as ever. Champ Bailey and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie make up one of the best Corner Back tandems in the league. Rahim Moore and Mike Adams are both solid NFL Safeties. The defense should be able to do enough to help Manning. This team will look unstoppable during the regular season. Just think where this team would be now if they would’ve kept Tim Tebow. Eat your heart out Skip Bayless.

2. Kansas City Chiefs (9-7)

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Additions: T Eric Fisher (Draft), QB Alex Smith (SF), WR Donnie Avery (IND), TE Anthony Fasano (MIA), Head Coach Andy Reid (PHI)

Losses: RB Peyton Hillis, WR Steve Breaston, QB Matt Cassel, QB Brady Quinn, TE Kevin Boss

Hey! What do ya know! The Chiefs have… a QUARTERBACK! They finally got the memo from HR. I mean, it’s probably important to have a Quarterback, but I don’t know, that could just be logic talking. Wow 9-7! That’s a big deal for the Chiefs! Alex Smith will be a GOD in Kansas City. He’s not even that good, but shit! You can’t get much worse than Lady Quinn. The offense has a decent amount of weapons with Dwane Bowe, Dexter McCluster and Jamaal Charles. They’ll end up somewhere in the middle of the pack offensively.

The real key to the Chiefs’ success this year will be their defense. The Chiefs’ D is stacked with young talent. Tyson Jackson and Dontari Poe are two up-and-coming Defensive Linemen. Derrick Johnson is still doing his thing at 97 years old. Tamba Hali is the best pass-rushing Outside Linebacker that no one talks about. Justin Houston will be a stud Linebacker someday. On the back end, you have a young Eric Berry at Safety who is blooming into a superstar. Cornerbacks Brandon Flowers and Dunta Robinson are two borderline Pro-Bowl players. Overall, Andy Reid and the gang will surprise a lot of people this year. Two years from now, they’ll probably go 2-14 again. But for now, WOO HOO!

3. San Diego Chargers (6-10)

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Additions: T DJ Flunker (Draft), WR Keenan Allen (Draft), RB Danny Woodhead (NE), WR Eddie Royal (DEN)

Losses: TE Dante Rosario, LB Shaun Phillips

I feel bad for Phillip Rivers. I really do. “Okay Phil, here’s the plan: We’re gonna take away all your receiving weapons and give you no running game. Sound good? You’ll still be able to put up those big numbers right?” Now sure, Rivers has made his fair share of mistakes as well. But come on dude! Give him something to work with. Malcolm Floyd? Really? All defenses have to do is quadruple-team Antonio Gates and Rivers is screwed. There haven’t been any changes over the off-season that make me think 2013 will be any different from last year. Ryan Matthews is still fumbly and injured. The Offensive Line (which gave up the forth most sacks last year) is still a mess. The Charger’s number two receiver is Vincent Brown. Yeah… Vincent Brown. Good luck with that, Phillip.

Defensively, no one really scares me. Shaun Phillips (last year’s sack leader) is gone. Kendall Reyes and Cam Johnson (Who? and Who?) are set to start on the Defensive Line along side the above-average Corey Liuget. Manti Te’o is there. So there’s that. Derek Cox and Eric Weddle are the only two Defensive Backs worth noting. The aging Dwight Freeney was brought in to provide what ever pass rush he has left in those old bones. Overall, I’m unimpressed. The Chargers will toil away in mediocrity, beating playoff teams and getting blown out by shit teams. They’ll look playoff bound one week and the next week they’ll have six turnovers and look like they’ve never seen a football before. When it’s all said and done, they’ll finish under .500 and it’ll be back to the drawing board.

4. Oakland Raiders (1-15)

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Additions: QB Matt Flynn (SEA), WR/KR Josh Cribbs (CLE), QB Tyler Wilson (Draft), RB Rashad Jennings (JAX), LB Nick Roach (CHI)

Losses: QB Carson Palmer, WR Darius Heyward-Bey, TE Brandon Meyers, RB Mike Goodson

Do the Oakland Raiders know they’re a football team? Seriously? This has to be the sorriest excuse for a roster that I’ve ever seen. Matt Flynn? That’s your answer? Flynn could maybe be as good as Matt Cassel was in Kansas City. That means his best-case scenario is playing like shit for a couple years, getting injured and then listening to the fans cheer as he gets carted off the field. Denarius Moore and Rod Streator are his biggest weapons… Jesus. Darren McFadden will get injured like always. Once Matt Flynn gets benched, his back up is Terrelle Pryor. So that should be fun.

On the defensive side, I’ve heard of like three players. Charles Woodson will start at Free Safety since he’s too old and slow to play Corner Back anymore. Tyvon Branch is a decent Strong Safety. Tracey Porter and Mike Jenkins will start at Corner Back. Their most notable Linebacker is Nick Roach. Sio Moore and Kevin Burnett are the other two Linebackers. Lamarr Houston, Vance Walker, Pat Sims and Jason Walker make up the Defensive Line. See what I mean? Like what the fuck?

This is going to be a shit show. No. Worse than that. This is going to be an unmitigated three-day County Fair and Music Festival of shit– a shit Carnival. A shit Extravaganza. A shit Circus! Come one, come all! Pack up the cooler and cram the kids into the SUV. Don’t be the guy that misses out on all the fun and excitement! 

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Sports Blog Movement NFL Preview: NFC South

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When people in the South talk about football, it usually revolves around the college game. After all, the SEC is widely regarded as the best conference in the NCAA, when it comes to the college game. However, in the last five seasons, the South has risen in the professional game, particularly the NFC South division. Teams such as Atlanta and New Orleans have become powerhouse clubs, (the Saints winning the Super Bowl in 2009 as an example) while Carolina and Tampa Bay are young teams on the rise. Here’s a closer look on how the NFC South could shape up in 2013.

1. New Orleans Saints (12-4)

Drew Brees

Additions: Keenan Lewis, CB (FA, Pittsburgh) Benjamin Watson, TE (FA, Cleveland) Luke McCown, QB (FA, Atlanta) Jim Leonhard, S (FA, Denver)

Subtractions:  Jermon Bushrod, T (FA, Chicago) Devrey Henderson, WR (FA, Washington)

The biggest boost for the Saints this season, is the return of head coach Sean Payton. The man who guided the Saints to the Super Bowl title in 2009, returns after a one year suspension, for his role in the Bountygate scandal. We all know that Payton is an offensive guru, but he also brings a sense of stability and leadership that the Saints sorely missed last season. No one felt Payton’s absence more than Drew Brees. The Saints quarterback, who is entering his 12th season, still put up gaudy numbers last season, completing 62.9% of his pass attempts for 5,177 and 43 touchdowns. However, Brees also had 19 passes picked off, which was the second highest of his career. Brees needs to cut down the interceptions, and many believe Payton’s schemes and play-calling will ease the burden off of the quarterback. The loss of Devrey Henderson will hurt the Saints passing game, but the pick up of tight end Benjamin Watson from Cleveland, could be a benefit on third down situations. The defense was and still is a work in progress. The Saints hired the uncivilized Rob Ryan as their new defensive coordinator, replacing the dismissed Steve Spagnuolo. Ryan is a blitz-happy maniac who won’t pull any punches, just like his father Buddy, and brother Rex. However, the defensive personnel for the Saints is still in need of an upgrade. That being said, the rules that are preventing defenses of using excessive force should be a benefit to the Saints high-powered offense. This team will need to outscore their opponents and it says here that they will most of the time.

2. Atlanta Falcons (11-5)

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Additions: Stephen Jackson, RB (FA, St. Louis) Osi Umenyiora, DE (FA, New York Giants)

Subtractions: Michael Turner, RB (Released) John Abraham, DE (Released, Arizona) Dunta Robinson, CB (Released, Kansas City)

The Atlanta Falcons motto is “Rise Up.” During the regular season, the Falcons have done just that, going 36-12 over the last three seasons combined. However, the playoffs tell a different tale. Atlanta has choked worse than Greg Norman on the back-nine at Augusta, going 1-3 in the postseason during that span. The main culprit for the Falcons woes has been a pass rush that is weaker than a 1983 Ford Escort. The Falcons ranked 28th in sacks last season, and their lack of pressure on the opposing quarterback, left them vulnerable in other areas of the defense. This was exposed during the playoffs as Atlanta blew a 20 point fourth quarter lead against Seattle, (although they did win at the end) then followed that up by blowing a 17 point lead against San Francisco in the NFC Championship game, a game the Falcons lost 28-24. This prompted a change in Dixie. Oft-injured defensive end John Abraham was released, and in came  defensive end, Osi Umenyiora from the New York Giants. Umenyiora does bring a championship pedigree, as his two Super Bowl rings suggest. But he will need to show more consistency than he did last season in the Meadowlands. His six sacks were the lowest of his career since his rookie season, and he looked lost and disinterested throughout the season. The Falcons are hoping a change of scenery will revitalize Umenyiora’s career. The offense remains the strength of the team. Matt Ryan enjoyed an outstanding 2012 season, in which he completed 68.6% of his pass attempts for 4,719 yards, 32 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Ryan should be aided by the addition of running back Stephen Jackson, who came over from St. Louis via free agency. Jackson desperately wants to play for a winner, and feels that Atlanta is close to the Super Bowl. Roddy White and Julio Jones might be the best receiver tandem in the NFL, while the offensive line is solid. The Falcons have all the tools. But the psychological effect of past playoff failures still looms over the franchise. With an improved New Orleans team on the prowl, Atlanta will be in tough to repeat as division champions.

3. Carolina Panthers (6-10)

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Additions: Ted Ginn Jr. WR (FA, San Francisco) Drayton Florence, CB (FA, Detroit) D.J. Moore, CB (FA, Chicago) Mike Mitchell, S (FA, Oakland) Chase Blackburn, LB (FA, New York Giants) Domenik Hixon, WR (FA, New York Giants)

Subtractions: Chris Gamble, CB (Retired) Louis Murphy, WR (FA, New York Giants) Gary Barnidge, TE (FA, Cleveland) Mike Pollak, C (FA, Cincinnati) Antwan Applewhite, DE (FA, Miami) Ron Edwards, DE (Released) Andre Neblett, DT (FA, Tampa Bay) James Anderson, LB (FA, Chicago) Jason Phillips, LB (FA, Philadelphia)

The Panthers will go as far as Cam Newton can take them. There is no denying Newton’s talent and potential. However, putting your team’s hopes on Newton is akin to putting your retirement plan on the blackjack table at Caesar’s Palace. There is no high risk/high reward player in the NFL than the Panthers quarterback. The former Auburn star did put up decent numbers last season, completing 57.7% of his pass attempts for 3,869 yards, 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. But his attitude was called for questioning during the 2012 season. Many thought it was that Newton wasn’t called upon to run with the football as much as his rookie season, especially near the goal line. His 8 rushing touchdowns were six fewer than in 2011. Newton did play better in the second half of the season, and the Panthers are hoping that trend continues into 2013. Newton does have talent surrounding him, with DeAngelo Williams carrying the load at running back and Steve Smith as the number one receiver. Smith, though is 34 years old, and one wonders how long can the future Hall Of Fame wideout can last. The defense has a budding superstar in middle linebacker Luke Kuechly and are hoping that the additions of Chase Blackburn and Drayton Florence, can further stabilize the defense. Carolina’s biggest problem is the division itself. New Orleans and Atlanta are formidable foes and it will be difficult for Carolina to overtake them.

4. Tampa Bay (4-12)

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Additions: Dashon Goldson, S (FA, San Francisco) Darrelle Revis, CB (Trade, New York Jets) Brian Leonard, RB (FA, Cincinnati) Derek Landri, DT (FA, Philadelphia) Peyton Hillis, RB (FA, Kansas City) Rian Lindell, K (FA, Buffalo)

Subtractions: LeGarrette Blount, RB (Trade, New England) Eric Wright, CB (Released) Arrelious Benn, WR (Trade, Philadelphia) Dan Orlovsky, QB (Released) Ronde Barber, CB (Retired) Dallas Clark, TE (FA, Baltimore) Jeremy Trueblood, T (FA, Washington) Michael Bennett, DE (FA, Seattle)

When Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl in 2002, they were led by a ferocious defense. Last year, the Bucs defense was a ferocious as a teddy bear. The Bucs ranked 23rd in points allowed and were 29th in yards allowed. Their pass defense was atrocious, as the Bucs were dead last in defending the pass, giving up an average of 297.3 yards through the air. The Goodyear Blimp provided better aerial coverage than the Bucs in 2012. Cue the changes. The Bucs are hoping Dashon Goldson and Darrelle Revis can upgrade the secondary. The hard-hitting Goldson comes over from San Francisco via free agency in hopes to provide some physicality to the secondary. Revis was acquired from the New York Jets in hopes to shut down the opponents top receivers. The Bucs could also do with a better pass rush as well. Tampa were 29th in the NFL, with a mere 26 sacks. To make matters worse, their sack leader, Michael Bennett bolted to Seattle in the offseason. It is time for former first round pick Gerald McCoy to become the dominant defensive player, the Bucs were expecting the 2010 third overall pick to be. The Bucs offense was solid last season, thanks to productive seasons from quarterback Josh Freeman and running back Doug Martin. Freeman completed 54.8% of his passes for 4,065 yards, 27 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Martin rushed for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns, and was hidden gem on the Bucs roster. Vincent Jackson is a big receiver who provides a sizeable target for Freeman to throw to. However, none of that will matter, unless the Bucs pass defense improves immeasurably. With pass-happy teams like Atlanta and New Orleans dominating the division, the Buccaneers could be in for a long season.

You can follow me on Twitter @jstar1973

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Sports Blog Movement NFL Preview NFC North

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The NFC North, otherwise known as the “Black and Blue Division,” has a long history of tough, hard-nosed football. It has a short history of domination by one team. The Green Bay Packers have finished atop of the division three out of the last five seasons. Last season, the Packers rolled to the division title with a 11-5 record. How dominant are the Packers? In 2010, they didn’t win the division, but won a Super Bowl title, defeating the arch-rival Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship game. Here’s a look at how the division should shape up in 2013.

1. Green Bay Packers. 11-5

Aaron Rodgers

Additions: Vince Young QB (FA, Buffalo) Eddie Lacy RB (Draft, Alabama) Datone Jones DE (Draft, UCLA)

Subtractions: Jeff Saturday C (Released) Charles Woodson CB, (Released, Signed with Oakland) Greg Jennings WR, (FA, Signed with Minnesota)

The Packers didn’t make that many changes in the offseason, which is a good and bad thing. The positive is that quarterback Aaron Rodgers still leads a high-powered offense, that can score more often than Hugh Hefner in 1975. The negative is that a suspect defense remains intact, despite being exposed by San Francisco in the playoffs last season. The Packers averaged 27 points per game last season, so they know where the end zone is. The problem, especially come playoff time is, keeping the opposition out of their end zone. The Packers conceded 45 points to the 49ers in last year’s playoff loss. The year before against the New York Giants, the Packers gave up 37 points. Green Bay has been fortunate that the rest of the division has yet to step up, so winning the division isn’t the hard part. The question in the land of dairy and milk is, can the Packers get over the hump like they did in 2010? Or is another playoff disaster looming? Head coach Mike McCarthy better figure it out soon, or he could be on the unemployment line faster than Edward Snowden when he returns to the United States.

2. Chicago Bears 9-7

Jay Cutler

Additions: Martellus Bennett TE, (FA, New York Giants) Jermon Bushrod T, (FA, New Orleans) Steve Maneri TE, (FA, Kansas City) Kyle Long G, (Draft, Oregon) Leonard Pope TE, (FA, Pittsburgh) Trent Edwards QB, (FA, Philadelphia)

Subtractions: Brian Urlacher LB, (retired) Israel Idonije DE (FA, Detroit) Johnny Knox WR/KR, (Released) Kellen Davis TE, (Released) Matt Spaeth TE, (Released)

After a 7-1 start and a playoff berth all but locked up, the Chicago Bears struggled down the stretch and missed the playoffs, despite a 10-6 record. It was enough to cost head coach Lovie Smith his job, and a new ear was ushered in. Marc Trestman takes over the head coaching position, after five very successful seasons with the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes, in which Trestman won two Grey Cups, and four first place finishes. Trestman does have NFL experience, as he was the offensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders, when they went to the Super Bowl, during the 2002 season. (Yes people, the Raiders actually appeared in a Super Bowl. Now get your jaws off the floor.) Trestman is known to be a quarterback guru, and his mission in the Windy City is to turn Jay Cutler into a winner. Cutler has shown signs of brilliance, but has shown more signs of flat-out ugliness, as his 14 interceptions will attest. The defense won’t have Brian Urlacher anymore, as he decided to hang up his cleats, and join FOX television as a studio analyst. It will be up to the likes of Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers and Charles Tillman, to carry on the tradition of a hard-hitting defense that Bears fans crave for. The Bears know how to beat weaker foes, but they must improve on their 2-6 record against playoff bound opponents. If Chicago can’t defeat teams that are ahead of them, it won’t matter if Mike Ditka or Dick Jauron is manning the sidelines.

3. Detroit Lions 7-9

Calvin Johnson

Additions: Reggie Bush RB, (FA, Miami) Israel Idonije DE, (FA, Chicago) Jason Jones DE, (FA, Seattle) David Akers K, (FA, San Francisco) Glover Quin S, (FA, Houston) Ziggy Ansah DE, (Draft, BYU) Rashean Mathis CB, (FA, Jacksonville)

Subtractions: Titus Young WR, (Released) Kyle Vanden Bosch DE, (Released) Stephen Peterman G, (Released, New York Jets) Jason Hansen K, (Retired) Brian Robiskie WR, (Released) Jahvid Best RB, (Released) Jacob Lacey CB, (Released) Lawrence Jackson DE, (Released, Minnesota) Drayton Florence CB, (FA, Carolina)

There is no doubt that the Detroit Lions have talent. However, is the talent being used properly? Or is the talent being guided properly? Head coach Jim Schwartz is on the hot seat and he must make the playoffs, or he will be gone out of Detroit faster than the Edsel. The problem is Schwartz is as intelligent as a Kardashian so expect the Lions to not live up to their potential. Too bad. Calvin Johnson is the best wide receiver in the NFL, and is being wasted on the Lions. Megatron broke the NFL record for most receiving yards in a season. (1,964 yards) Reggie Bush should help the offense, but Matthew Stafford needs to cut down his interceptions. His 17 picks were damaging to the Lions and he drastically needs to reduce that number by half. The defense should be improved, thanks to the additions of Israel Idonije and first round pick Ziggy Ansah. But as long as Schwartz continues to be the dumb ass we all love to hate, the Lions will spend another year in mediocrity.

4. Minnesota Vikings 5-11

Adrian Peterson

Additions: Greg Jennings WR, (FA, Green Bay) Matt Cassel QB, (FA, Kansas City) Sharrif Floyd DT, (Draft, Florida) Desmond Bishop LB, (FA, Green Bay) Seth Olsen G, (FA, Indianapolis) Lawrence Jackson DE, (FA, Detroit)

Subtractions: Percy Harvin WR, (Trade, Seattle) Antoine Winfield CB, (Released, Seattle) Michael Jenkins WR, (Released) Chris Kluwe P, (Released, Oakland)

The Minnesota Vikings are Adrian Peterson, and not much else. OK that isn’t entirely true but pretty damn close. Peterson was amazing in 2012, rushing for 2,097 yards, just eight yards short of the all-time single season record. This, after coming off reconstructive knee surgery! So yes, Adrian Peterson is a great football player. But what else do the Vikings have? Christian Ponder? I don’t trust him to take care of my pet goldfish, let alone lead an NFL offense. (I don’t have a pet goldfish but if I did, I wouldn’t trust Ponder to feed it every day.) The receivers? Greg Jennings will help, but he will realize very soon that Ponder is not Aaron Rodgers. Jerome Simpson is OK, but he won’t make anyone in the Twin Cities think he’s the next Cris Carter. Or Randy Moss. Or Anthony Carter. The Vikings are so desperate at receiver, they’re trying former quarterback Joe Webb as a wideout. Granted, Webb couldn’t throw a football, so maybe he can catch one. The defense is OK, but getting old. How long can Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Chad Greenway last before their aging bodies finally give way? The Vikings were very lucky to make the playoffs last season. Don’t expect a repeat in 2013.

You can follow me on Twitter @jstar1973

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