What a year it has been in the NFL. It seems so distant now, but six months ago we were panicking about the NFL lockout. Fans were on pins and needles hoping that NFL owners and players would reach an agreement so that America could have its favorite sport. Fortunately, for fans, sports bars, chicken farms and pizza companies, a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was reached and not one down of professional football was missed.
The lockout ended just around the time training camps usually start. Teams rushed to sign rookie contracts, get players to practice and bolster their rosters with free agents. The Philadelphia Eagles shocked everyone by signing four pro-bowl defensive players. Nnamdi Asomugha (cornerback), Jason Babin (defensive end), Cullen Jenkins (defensive tackle), and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (cornerback) all became Eagles within three days of each other.
The Eagles offense led by Michael Vick was fast and exciting in 2010. They put up points and made it to the playoffs. The defense on the other hand needed some help. Especially against teams that pass a lot. With some impressive additions to the secondary and Vick healthy, I thought that Philadelphia would make the playoffs and end up representing the NFC in Super Bowl XLVI. You know, defense wins championships.
Sticking with the fact that defense wins championships, I picked the New York Jets to win the AFC and play in the Super Bowl. With 10 starters returning on defense and cornerback Darrelle Revis not holding out this year, I was sure that this would be the year for the Jets.
Neither the Eagles nor the Jets made the playoffs. Both teams finished the season at .500, winning only half of their games. It was disappointing to see Philadelphia come in third in the NFC East, but there is reason to be hopeful. In December, the defense started to look like the strong unit that I expected to see all season. Unfortunately, for the Jets things are gloom. Their young quarterback, Mark Sanchez, really struggled. He was finished the season fourth in interceptions (18) thrown this season.
The road to Indy for Super Bowl XLVI gets tough this weekend when the NFL playoffs start. Here are the contenders.
No. 1 New England Patriots (13 – 3)
No. 2 Baltimore Ravens (12 – 4)
No. 3 Houston Texans (10 – 6)
No. 4 Denver Broncos (8 – 8)
No. 5 Pittsburgh Steelers (12 – 4)
No. 6 Cincinnati Bengals (9-7)
No. 1 Green Bay Packers (15 – 1)
No. 2 San Francisco 49ers (13 – 3)
No. 3 New Orleans Saints (13 – 3)
No. 4 New York Giants (9 – 7)
No. 5 Atlanta Falcons (10 – 6)
No. 6 Detroit Lions (10 – 6)
The teams to beat are the Patriots and the Packers. The Patriots are first in the AFC without a deep threat wide receiver. Tom Brady has been manhandling defenses using two tight ends. You have to be scared of the Packers because of their depth. Anything can happen during the playoffs. Green Bay’s backup quarterback, Matt Flynn, put up 480 yards and 6 touchdown passes in the team’s final game of the season.
The other team that you have to watch is the San Francisco 49ers. Jim Harbaugh has done a great job coaching this team. They are prepared and run the ball well, which will help them use the clock during the playoffs. If anyone can sneak passed the Packers, it will be the 49ers.
Heels & Helmets