Hey just wondering what your thoughts are on the Darrelle Revis holdout?
-Andy in Seattle, WA
Hey Andy, well first off let me remind you that I ranked Revis as the #2 player in the NFL just a few months ago. He's not only the Jets' best player, he's the key to their blitz-heavy defense. Without him, that secondary would be exposed and the entire Jets' season is sunk - I really think he's the difference between a 5-11 season and a potential 10-6 season. But fortunately for New York, I think they'll come to a deal in the next week or two and he'll be set to dominate by week 1.
Could you please tell me your thoughts on the NFC East? Everyone likes the Cowboys, but I'm not sold on Romo. I think he's kind of queer.
Mike B. in Ada, MI
Well Mike, I like the Cowboys as well, but I'm not as enamored with their offense as I am with their defense, especially the front 7.
As for the rest of the division, I see a completely open race for the Wildcard which will probably come down to one or two interdivisional games. The Eagles have the weakest defense in the bunch, but the Redskins' offense doesn't inspire a whole lot of confidence in me right now. I think the Giants are the most balanced on both sides of the ball; they've got studs on both lines and the addition of Antrel Rolle at safety could be a difference maker.
I think you are cool. What do you think about the Dolphins for this season?
Jose in San Juan, PR
Jose, hey nice to have some international readers! I've always believed that Puerto Rico should join the nation and we should dump Hawaii. Anyway, I'm very charmed by Bill Parcells and the team he's assembled in Miami. Brandon Marshall should be a shot of life into that passing offense and Hartline and Bess should have solid seasons in the slots. I really like Chad Henne. And defensively, Karlos Dansby should help a lot in the middle and the CBs are strong. They've got definite potential to win the division.
David, is there any chance the Chargers don't win the AFC West??
-Kevin in Pasadena, CA
Actually Kev, there is.
I'm serious. It's hard to make a case for any of the three other teams, but guess what - it's also pretty hard to make a case for San Diego.
Before the Vincent Jackson drama and the McNeill holdout, I liked the Chargers for 11 wins. But losing V-Jack drops them two games and McNeill another 2. They look like a 7-9 team to me. Don't forget, their defense was dreadful in 2009 and 2008, and they still don't have anyone who can rush the passer. With VJ sitting out for an estimated 8 to 10 games, Antonio Gates is going to be the most double-covered tight end in NFL history, and Malcolm Floyd is really going to have to step up as the Bolts' #1 receiver. I don't quite see that happening. A player to watch is Legedu Naanee, 4th year pro out of Boise State. He could usurp the top receiver role for Floyd in a hurry and might keep the Chargers afloat offensively. I'm not a complete believer in Ryan Matthews winning Rookie of the Year like I was 6 months ago; losing McNeill is catastrophic. He's one of the game's best left tackles.
So that all begs the question, Kevin, who could win the AFC West?
Denver, who will be without the services of their THREE best players from an 8-8 campaign in 2009? Absolutely not...
Kansas City? With the addition of rookie stud Eric Berry at safety and Jamaal Charles running behind a somewhat improved offensive line? Maybe ... But I just don't trust Matt Cassel, or that defensive line. I think KC is building in the right direction though.What about Oakland, led by new QB Jason Campbell and a revamped defense. Maybe.. just maybe. Hear me out.
Oakland has the best player in the division with Nnamdi Asomugha. They've got the best pass rusher in the division (now that Dumervil is out) with Seymour. Sure, they don't have an offensive line or much of an offense period. But this year I truly believe in the Oakland defense, especially with rookie Rolando McClain who will have a HUGE impact. And I also believe in Jason Campbell.
Look at the Raiders' schedule:
Week 1- @ Tenneesee (winnable)
Week 2- vs. St. Louis (very winnable)
Week 3- @ Arizona (winnable)
Week 4- vs. Houston (not likely)
Week 5- vs. San Diego (maybe)
Week 6- @ San Fran (probably not)
Week 7- @ Denver (very winnable)
Week 8- vs. Seattle (very winnable)
Week 9- vs. KC (very winnable)
Week 10- BYE
That's a possible 6-3 or 5-4 start to the season. Jason Campbell could start to get comfortable as he doesn't face a quality defense until week 6. The Raiders young receivers (Schilens, Murphy, and DHB) could start to look pretty good. Tight end Zach Miller is a stud. Watch out football fans. Oakland could be for real.
So, what would it take for them to beat San Diego for the AFC West, Kevin? My guess is 9-7 would do it. And I think they'll come pretty close to that.
Any love for Jacksonville? Or are you going to continue to ignore them?
Roger in Jacksonville, FL
Okay, I'll admit, I forgot Jacksonville was in the NFL until I saw this email from Roger. It's just that they're SO mediocre. I don't hate them; I don't think they'll win any less than 6 games against a quite easy schedule. But I just don't see them keeping pace with Indy and making the AFC South interesting.
But just for the sake of being Devil's advocate ...
(isn't it interesting that you can say "I'm being Devil's advocate' and that's totally fine, but you could never say "I advocate for the King of Evil" ?)
...let's take a closer look at the forgotten Jags.
Aside from Maurice Jones-Drew in the backfield, it's tough to get excited about the offense. The O-line lacks any Pro Bowl talent. The receivers are okay, but Mike Sims-Walker will face double coverage until young Mike Thomas proves he can play. The quarterback is fairly accurate on short passes but doesn't throw a good deep ball, and at 32 years old Garrard can't be expected to keep running with the ball 75 times a year.
And on defense, it's hard not to question the #10 draft pick on Tyson Alualu when the Jags had obvious needs in the secondary and for a pass rusher. I''ll admit, I'm tempted to jump on the Jaguar bangwagon because of the additions of Aaron Kampman and Kirk Morrison to the defense, but I just don't trust the rest of the unit. Jacksonville had one of the worst defenses against the pass last season and didn't do anything to help the secondary. Unless adding Kampman as a pass rusher is the key and the Jags' management knows something I don't. Which is entirely possible.
The whole season really comes down to 4 games for the Jags: the 2 against Houston and the 2 against Tennessee. If they sweep those 4 games, they'll be in the playoffs.
Are you still sticking to your Baltimore prediction now that they've become the 'chic' team to pick?
Javier in Denver, CO
Yes, I absolutely am, and I'll tell you why. Not because of how good the Ravens are. That's obvious. But because I picked them to win the Super Bowl about two months before it became the hip thing to do.
You, loyal readers of this blog, know how much I hate to be in the majority when it comes to sports opinions. I like to root for underdogs and I live to find the sleepers. Whenever a team becomes the trendy pick (like the Jets did in March), I go the other way. But with Baltimore, I picked them because of their impenetrable front 7, their underrated secondary, the imperative addition of Anquan Boldin, the emergence of Rice and Flacco as NFL stars, and because I love their coach. I did NOT pick them because everyone else picked them. I picked them first. So go suck a lemon.
Who are 5 fantasy football sleepers I should know about but I've never heard of?
Nick O in Middleville, MI
Nick, I'm pretty sure there are a lot of fantasy players you haven't heard of, but I'll try to make this answer helpful to my entire audience. Here you go:
1. Montario Hardesty - rookie RB for Cleveland, could start behind excellent O-line
2. Devin Aromashadu - wide receiver for Chicago who could put up big numbers
3. Arian Foster - might start at running back for Houston
4. Demaryius Thomas - receiver who will probably lead Denver in catches
5. Lynell Hamilton - Saints RB who will replace Pierre Thomas when he gets hurt
If you had to set the Vegas odds for offensive Rookie of the Year, what would your top 15 rankings be?
Julia in Ashville, NC
Excellent question. As follows:
1. Dez Bryant 5/1
2. Ryan Matthews 8/1
3. Sam Bradford 8/1
4. Montario Hardesty 8/1
5. Ben Tate 10/1
6. CJ Spiller 10/1
7. Demaryius Thomas 12/1
8. Jahvid Best 12/1
9. Dexter McCluster 14/1
10. Golden Tate 15/1
11. Arrelious Benn 16/1
12. Tim Tebow 16/1
13. Jordan Shipley 18/1
14. Jimmy Claussen 20/1
15. Toby Gerhart 20/1
I have a question for you.
Which team is the most clearest favorite to win their division?
Bill in Des Moine, IA
A thought-provoking question indeed. A few months ago the easy answer was San Diego, but no longer. I could say New Orleans, but seeing as how I picked Atlanta to beat them I probably shouldn't. It's probably a toss-up between Indy winning the AFC South and the 49ers winning the NFC West. For different reasons.
Indy will win the AFC South by about three games if Indy plays the way Indy played last year. Basically, if Manning stays healthy, and the defense at least holds opponents under 25 points per game.
In the NFC West, I just can't see anyone except San Fransisco winning the division or winning more than 7 games for that matter. I may be putting too much faith in Alex Smith and his career QB rating of 69.2, but who else in that division can compete?
I guess there is a chance that Matt Leinart won't completely suck...
But I doubt it.
Which player is being picked in the second round of every fantasy draft, but will produce like an sixth rounder?
Jason B, Grand Rapids MI
Well Jason ... the easy answer is Cedric Benson. But another easy answer is Larry Fitzgerald. And yet another is Ryan Matthews. And another, possibly, is Rashard Mendenhall.
Is there any possible chance that Jay Cutler totally proves you wrong, and the Bears win 10 games?
Aaron in Chicago, IL
No, and yes.
Yes, there is a chance that Chicago wins 10 games. They could dsweep Detroit, go 2-2 in the NFC East games, beat the Bills, Seahawks and Jets, split with the Packers and sweep the Vikings if Favre retires. It is possible. But in order to do that, it will be a defensive effort, and it will be led not by Brian Urlacher, but by Julius Peppers.
If Peppers plays like his freakish 2008 self and racks up 15 sacks, the entire Bears' defense will be fixed. Last year they gave up 23.4 points per game. They can drop that down to 19 points, and be on the verge on 10-6.
But as for the first question - will Jay Cutler prove me wrong and actually have a good season in Mike Martz's crazy offense - the answer remains a steadfast "no."
I listened to a six-minute interview with Cutler on Chicago radio earlier today, and he promised that he will continue to throw interceptions but that those interceptions will not be his fault. He said and I quote "Sometimes the receivers won't be in the right position, and the ball will be picked." Even in interviews, he's blaming other players. For things that haven't even happened yet. Pre-blaming. He's taking it to a new low.
Isn't it possible that some of the 26 INTs he threw last year were simply bad passes? Maybe the receiver was in the right spot, but he threw it to the wrong spot. Is that at all possible? Not in Cutler's mind. He's the only quarterback in NFL history who doesn't believe he's ever made a bad throw. And ironically, he's thrown some of the worst.
So while Martz's pass-heavy offense promises to move the chains and light up the scoreboard, it also promises a lot of turnovers and sacks and plenty of three-and-outs. Chicago's defense might allow only 19 points a game, but scoring 20 will be hard with the incurably horrible Cutler at the helm.
I can only name about 10 players in the entire NFL and yet I play fantasy football, and I won my league two years ago. How mad does that make you?
-Jim M, Grand Rapids, MI
That's all for now folks. Until next time, this has been my imaginary readers' mailbag.