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The Worst of 2009
The worst team in the league will be… the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs have spent a small fortune on one-year wonder Matt Cassel who will have to prove his success wasn’t driven by the Pro Bowl caliber supporting staff around him. KC traded away Tony Gonzalez, their top threat, and will have to find someone to play opposite Bowe. Big questions loom at running back and the offensive line. The front seven should be an area of strength with proven players in the linebacking corps and potential stars in Dorsey and Jackson on the defensive line.
The Lions have improved their stock enough to move into second worst in the league for 2009. They added QB Matt Stafford as the #1 overall pick. Stafford will be supported by TB Kevin Smith, and WRs Calvin and Bryant Johnson, Dennis Northcutt and Derrick Williams, and TE Brandon Pettigrew. With targets at his disposal, Stafford should find success if the OL holds up. The trio of Peterson-Sims-Follett at linebacker provides experience with potential. The defensive line and backfield are still weaknesses but have improved in the off-season.
The Cleveland Browns will be marred with QB controversy and a short leash with the other guy always a bad play away. Even after the Quinn-Anderson situation, the Browns lack a true go-to back, and Braylon Edwards is their only consistent receiver now that Cribbs is causing issues and Stallworth had his run-in with the law. The Browns have a slew of talented linebackers in guys like Jackson, Wimbley, Barton, Ruud, and Williams but are weak at DB and along the Defensive Line.
The Rams are slowly improving but will be weak once again in 2009. Their strengths are the defensive line with Carriker, Long, and Little leading the way. However their LB corps and DB field are too weak to compete against pass happy teams like the Seahawks and Cardinals in the NFC West. The Rams OL is slowly improving but is still too weak to open holes for Jackson or protect Bulger. The Rams are also lacking a big play WR that’s a sure bet, instead relying on young talent like Burton and Avery.
The Best of 2009
The NFC Runner-Up… The Eagles will come up short once again. Even with McNabb playing better football they won’t make the Super Bowl. However, this is an improvement over last season. Westbrook will spend multiple games on the trainers’ table, driving McCoy to prove he’s capable of stepping in to start in the league right away. WR Jeremy Maclin won’t be a polished enough receiver to make the difference on offense, although he will be a huge boost to special teams. Defensively, the Eagles will hope Samuel, Hobbs, and Macho Harris can shut down the likes of Roy Williams, Santana Moss, and Nicks in the NFC East.
The AFC Runner-Up… The Steelers will be the losers of the AFC Championship Game in 2009. Big Ben’s under-publicized legal issues will prove to be a distraction for the Steelers and young coach Mike Tomlin. While Parker and Mendenhall will start off healthy this season, Hines Ward is rapidly aging and can’t be relied upon as Ben’s top target anymore. The OL will need to improve as well. The defense will be strong as always even without Larry Foote. The Steelers bring in Asante Samuel clone Joe Burnett to improve the defensive backfield.
Super Losers: The New York Giants will lose a re-match of the greatest Super Bowl finish of all-time from 2007. The Giants have the most well rounded team in the NFC. While Burress is off the team, they did draft WR Hakeem Nicks and TE Travis Beckum, and are expecting more from veterans Manningham, Moss, Boss, and Smith. The running game will be intact with Jacobs and Bradshaw returning to pound the ball at teams late in the game and the season. Eli Manning will have to prove he can be an elite QB for an entire season, and I think this is the year he comes into his own. The defensive line should be improved and the offensive line returns as well.
Super Bowl Champions: Tom Brady will be back and looking to pick up where he left off from 2007’s undefeated regular season. He truly showed how valuable he was when the Pats missed the playoffs without him in ’08. The combination of Brady-Maroney-Moss will remind fans of the Cowboys of the early to mid-90’s once again. The defense has worked on getting younger adding talent like Safety Pat Chung, LB Tyrone McKenzie, CB Darius Butler, and NT Ron Brace. The new faces add depth to the already talented Patriots roster that has Pro Bowlers scattered throughout.
Awards for 2009
AFC Offensive MVP: Tom Brady AFC Defensive MVP: Ed Reed AFC Rookie of the Year: Knowshon Moreno
NFC Offensive MVP: Adrian Peterson NFC Defensive MVP: Asante Samuel NFC Rookie of the Year: Brandon Pettigrew
Top 5 Prospects for 2010 QB Sam Bradford Oklahoma FS Eric Berry Tennessee DT Gerald McCoy Oklahoma OT Russell Okung Oklahoma State WR Arrelious Benn Illinois