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NFL DRAFT – DAY TWO –  

This report resets the table for day two of the draft.  We’ll go pick by pick, with early impressions from day one, coupled with looks for day two of the draft.

Round One and Two Quick Thoughts:

  • Cleveland panicked, TWICE.  They traded four for one to go up one spot, and took QB Weeden too early at #22 with some nice talent left on the board.  Still, Richardson is a potential star as a rookie and Weeden is mature enough to unseat McCoy with better arm strength.
  • The position which went ignored early was definitely OL.  A rather low four OL were selected, with the 2nd OL coming off very late at #23.
  • Surprises in round one included Weeden, but bigger shocks were Irvin at #15 and Jenkins at #30.  Not surprisingly, Seattle and SF, two very unpredictable draft teams were the culprits.
  • Last year we listed 12 players up in this spot that would be high target picks.  All were gone by pick #55.  Normally our short list does not get taken that fast.  On our short list this year (those we like, by position) are WR Randle, TE Fleener, OG Glenn, OG Silatolu, DE Curry, DT Still, LB Upshaw, and for those craving CB, UCF CB Josh Robinson.  Curry may dip a bit.
  • Other players expected to go high might include: Troubled CB Jenkins, fast WR Hill, project DT Worthy, good LB David, top rated OC Konz, decent DL Reyes, and Clemson DT Branch.
  • Round two positional runs will include WR and OL.  Day two positional runs will also include CB and DL.

BONUS ADDITION:

Right at press time we have decided to add a column entitled “Experts Say”.  Four respected sources have offered up round two mocks.  We have added their thoughts to the bottom of each pick in round two, below.  Our analysis was completed PRIOR to compiling this information.  Feel free to have this report handy while viewing round two to see how everything plays out!

33: St. Louis

Round one impression: Jeff Fisher likes to do two things.  1st, he likes to stockpile picks, and so trading out of #6 was not a surprise.  2nd, he loves depth along the DL.  Brockers (14) is raw but can stop the run, something the Rams have not done well of late.

Round two look: The Rams may get calls for this pick, but with 33, 39 and 45 need to stay and pick.  They can solidify the OL right now, or look at draft dropper Upshaw as having some value.

 “Experts Say”: WR Hill (2X), WR Randle, OG/OT Glenn.  All three have talent but WR could be available later in the round.

THE PICK:

34: Indy

Round one impression: Drafting QB Luck (1) was easy.  Now let’s see what they do.

Round two look: Luck would love to see Stanford teammate TE Fleener here, but it’s time to get bigger on defense.  DL Branch, Still, Worthy, Reyes or NT Ta’amu are all on our radar screen.

“Experts Say”: TE Fleener.  All four “experts” agree!  The need is there, but what about DL?

THE PICK:

35: Baltimore

Round one impression: Traded down from #29, picking up this pick plus #98 in the early 4th round.  We “warned” readers about their trade out of the 1st round tendency.

Round two look: A recurring theme in this round might be all the talent left along the OL, the remaining possibilities along the DL, and the next wave of risky CB’s.  OG Silatolu would fit here.

 “Experts Say”: OC Konz (3X), OT Martin.  Konz was linked to them at #29.  He’s the favorite.

THE PICK:

36: Denver

Round one impression: AWFUL!  Denver traded down twice, so far adding 36 and 101 for pick 25.  Denver’s trade with Tampa (31, 126 for 36, 101) represented negative value!

Round two look: So far they have yet to miss on a DT, as none were selected between picks 25 and 32.  They missed DE’s Perry and Mercilus.  They need multiple bodies along the DL.

 “Experts Say”: DT Reyes (3X), DT Worthy.  Denver has to make DT an immediate priority.

THE PICK:

37: Cleveland

Round one impression: We love Richardson (4), and think Weeden (22) may unseat McCoy, although that’s not a given.  What we dislike is giving so much (118, 139, 211) to move up one spot, and not using #22 on a different player.  With little competition for QB this early, we would have stayed at #4, using picks to move up from #37 to get Weeden, as we could have easily outbid Tampa to get to #31.

Round two look: They could go WR (our choice, they need multiple picks here), but OG and RT need some help as well and nice talent remains at each spot.

 “Experts Say”: WR Randle (2X), OT Martin, OG/OT Glenn.  These picks again make sense.

THE PICK:

38: Jacksonville

Round one impression: We noted that the Jags have trouble moving down and find it far easier to move up.  Trading 7, 101, 228 to get WR Claiborne (5) was acceptable value, and fills a strong need.

Round two look: They have three choices: OL, sack help, or DB.  We think for this team adding someone who can get to opposing QB’s makes the most sense, although there may still be OL value.

 “Experts Say”: DE Branch (2X), CB Robinson, OLB/DE Upshaw: The target areas make sense, but the Jags are not that predictable after the 1st round.

THE PICK:

39: St. Louis

Round one impression: See Pick #33, above.

Round two look: This round must see them get an OG, with one of the other picks for an OLB.  LB David might be an excellent look here.

“Experts Say”: OG/OT Glenn (2X), CB Jenkins, WR Hill.  These players all have talent.

THE PICK:

40: Carolina

Round one impression: No one had LB Kuechly (9) going here!  OLB is a need and Kuechly can play there but may be best suited for ILB.  We’re disappointed they didn’t try to trade down a bit, recouping their lost 3rd round pick.

Round two look: The Panthers next pick at 104 so trading down should be an option.  There are many needs still left to be filled, so the most important thing is to get a highly rated player!

 “Experts Say”: DT Still, DT Worthy, CB Trumaine Johnson, WR Jeffrey.  We could live with any of the four, but for THIS team, talented but raw CB Johnson may be too much of a reach.

THE PICK:

41: Buffalo

Round one impression: It became evident that the Bills wanted Kalil but not Reiff (short arms).  Gilmore (10) was nearly as high a need and the supply and demand at CB was such that Buffalo needed to act early.

Round two look: They still need to select either OL or OLB before looking at the deep WR crop.

 “Experts Say”: OT Martin (2X), WR Quick, OT Adams.  Quick is no different than a dozen other WR’s at this point.  We rate Adams and Martin about the same.

THE PICK:

42: Miami

Round one impression: There really was no choice.  The city cried out for QB.  Hopefully Tannehill (8) can live up to expectations while at the same time not being forced to start as a rookie.

Round two look: We’d look either at WR or OL.  Maybe LSU WR Randle will still be on the board.

 “Experts Say”: OT Massie (2X), WR Jeffrey, DE Branch.  Can Miami take any of these players and fix work ethic flaws?  All four of these picks have that as an issue.  Maybe they need to go safer here.

THE PICK:

43: Seattle

Round one impression: What was that!  Seattle traded down from #12, acquiring picks 15, 114, and 172 and that was fine, but OLB/DE Irvin was selected way too early!  He started six games in college, and has much to learn.  He can be a situational pass rusher as a rookie, but also could have been drafted at #25.  In fact, the over-under on his draft pick selection was a whopping 54 ½.  Our Intel said he was going between 27 and 35, and we appreciate the $$$.

Round two look: Who knows?  They probably trade UP given the extra picks they have, but who for?  Could the target at least be a bit higher rated, with some value?

 “Experts Say”: DT Worthy, OLB David, OLB Brown, LB Wagner.  Guessing what this draft team will do is not going to be easy.

THE PICK:

44: Kansas City

Round one impression: KC badly needed a NT and Poe (11) clearly is the NT mold of the draft.  Primed to make this workout warrior’s draft rating go down if he was selected by most teams, we probably elevate him because of the fit here.  Can his production improve?

Round two look: When should they look for a QB?  Maybe they wait now until the 2013 draft as we are not that high on the rest of this crop.  We’d go pass rusher or CB with this pick.

“Experts Say”: ILB Kendricks (2X), OG Silatolu, TE Allen.  Like we said in the opener, we write our full report BEFORE looking at the new mocks.  Silatolu and even Allen would help, but the needs we show run deeper then the positions given by the panel of experts.

THE PICK:

45: St. Louis

Round one impression: See pick #33, above.

Round two look: Have they addressed OG and OLB?  If so, then DT, CB or WR can be the pick here.

“Experts Say”: RB Lamar Miller (2X), OLB David, CB Fleming.  OLB David is the best fit.  We have too many CB’s rated ahead of Fleming to consider him in the 2nd round.

THE PICK:

46: Philadelphia

Round one impression: Philly coveted Cox for a week and feels good about only having to trade up three spots to get him (12).  The cost of 15, 114, and 172 was decent only because they kept picks 46, 51, and 88.

Round two look: With picks 46 and 51 the Eagles need to address OLB and OT.  Maybe they will trade back, but for us, we look at OT/OG Glenn, OT Adams, LB’s Brown, Lewis and Spence, at least for starters.  LB David can be included, but we suspect a few of these guys will be gone by #46.

 “Experts Say”: DE Curry (2X), OLB David, QB Cousins.  We’d pass on Cousins for this team.  The other two, or our players listed above would be solid fits.

THE PICK:

47: New York Jets

Round one impression: The Jets surprised us a bit by not trading up.  DE Coples (16) is another that we might raise in the rankings since he could thrive in a Rex Ryan system.

Round two look: Three top needs remain: WR, run blocking OL and a front seven run stopper.  There should be a few options in at least two of these areas.

“Experts Say”: WR Hill, WR Jeffrey, OG Silatolu, OLB/DE Upshaw.  This would be a big fall for Upshaw.  Silatolu would be a nice fit.  Jeffrey is highly rated by us, but may not thrive on this team.

THE PICK:

48: New England

Round one impression: SHOCK!  We knew the Pats would trade, but going up twice is amazing.  Perhaps they have found some of our printed articles?  They traded 27, 31, 93, and 126 for picks 21 and 25.  DE Jones is a solid player and less of a risk than other DL in this draft, but also has less of a ceiling.  LB Hightower, available after Pittsburgh went in a different direction is a great fit!

Round two look: Would you believe that this pick and pick #62 later in this round is all the Pats have left?  Some teams aren’t even drafting until picks 89 and 95.  OL and CB are areas they need to address, but now we think they have to find some trade partners to acquire a couple more picks, unless they can get a draft dropper at either position when on the clock.

“Experts Say”: CB Hayward (2X), CB Trumaine Johnson, OG Silatolu.  All players fit our need board.  They might be able to trade down for CB, but OL is going to lose talent.

THE PICK: 

49: San Diego

Round one impression: The hope is DE/OLB Ingram (18) is what English never became and is even better than that.  Ingram has experience but in all his time at South Carolina only started one season.

Round two look: It’s win now or else for GM Smith, so can we expect a trade UP?  The LT need is a big one.  Should WR Randle fall to this spot that would be a nice option.

“Experts Say”: OC Konz, OT Schwartz, NT Ta’Amu, CB Boykin.  As stated above, we don’t expect SD to stay at #49.  I’d like to see them move up for someone stronger along the OL or at CB.

THE PICK:

50: Chicago

Round one impression: The old draft team was “famous” for botching the 1st round, with seven of nine such selections busts!  The new draft team is off to an auspicious start, as DE/OLB McClellin (19) was selected at least 10-15 spots too high.  Some teams are not good at manipulating the draft board.

Round two look: The Bears could have had a stud OL and now must hope that one falls to them.  DB is an almost equal area of need but there is more risk involved here and we’re not sure this draft team can handle that risk.

“Experts Say”: WR Randle, WR Streeter, WR Jeffrey, CB Jenkins.  We’re not on the same page as the draft experts.  As it is, we’re pretty scared about what the Bears might end up with.

THE PICK:

51: Philly

Round one impression: See pick 46, above.

Round two look: See pick 46, above.

“Experts Say”: CB Jenkins, CB Trumaine Johnson, CB Josh Robinson, RB Pierce.  Except for Pierce, these picks are all very talented.  They don’t fit our primary need areas but Jenkins and Robinson have clear value for us at #51 for this team in particular.

THE PICK:

52: Tennessee

Round one impression: WR Wright (20) is a fine player but WR was not one of our immediate need areas for the Titans.  Perhaps they coveted CB Kirkpatrick but he was chosen at #17.

Round two look: The new draft team has several needs to fill.  Hopefully going with the best value will net them a solid player.  CB, LB and OG are three possibilities, but where they go is anyone’s guess.

“Experts Say”: DT Still (3X), CB Josh Robinson.  DT Still has value at #52.  CB Robinson fits a need and we like him, possibly as the best of the next tier of CB’s.

THE PICK:

53: Cincy

Round one impression: It sure seemed clear to me.  Cincy needed to address OL, CB and WR with picks 17 and 21.  OL was wide open.  WR was deep.  At CB, only Kirkpatrick was left on the board as a legit 1st round guy and if the Bengals waited until pick 21 they might miss him.  At +6.61 to 1, they took Kirkpatrick and boy is it fun to know what this team likes to do each and every draft year!  Cincy did get its OG next, but not before trading pick 21 for picks 27 and 93.  RG Zeitler is strong and can run block, but did Cincy make a mistake by not taking stud OG DeCastro?  Only time will tell.

Round two look: We “suspect” this is where Cincy gets its WR.  We’d like to see them look long and hard at RB and also for a draft dropping DL, with WR best filled a bit later in the draft?

“Experts Say”: OLB/DE Upshaw (2X), OLB Zach Brown, DE Curry.  Can Upshaw really last this long?  I think this is for a WR.  We liked Jenkins here but he’s in SF.  What about Oklahoma’s Broyles, who could use this year to rebound from injury but after that he’s a solid #2 prospect.

THE PICK:

54: Detroit

Round one impression: CHICKENS!  The Lions love to move up on draft day but couldn’t get ahead of Cincy to take CB Kirkpatrick.  Considering Seattle reached at 15 for their player, a trade with the Seahawks seemed possible.  Luckily for the Lions, OT Reiff (23) fell like all the OL in this draft.  Detroit’s #2 need was for OT.

Round two look: We’re waiting?  The two CB’s that strike our fancy here are CB Robinson or Montana’s Johnson.  Robinson is super fast and physical but a zone CB.  Johnson is borderline slow and raw but with upside.  Sorry Detroit, but it’s all developmental CB’s now with the top choices gone.

“Experts Say”: DT Branch, CB Boykin, OT Adams, OG Osemele.  Another OL?  One would think the Lions have multiple needs.  Please find a 2nd tier CB!

THE PICK:

55: Atlanta

Round one impression: No pick.  Traded their #1 pick last year to move up for WR Julio Jones.

Round two look: Atlanta needs someone along their OL that can help them pick up 3rd and short.  Adding a pass rusher is another option.

“Experts Say”: OG Osemele (2X), OT Massie, TE Allen.  OG Osemele is versatile enough to play OT.

THE PICK:

56: Pittsburgh

Round one impression: How about WOW!  If anyone has been reading the pre-draft materials then it’s already known how we feel about OG DeCastro.  This was the best pick in the 1st round!  Destined to get LB Hightower, even Pittsburgh changed gears once DeCastro (24) was available.  Great job!

Round two look: Pittsburgh took two CB’s in last years draft but we were not crazy about either one of them.  Unfortunately, there’s not much to choose from right now other than potential help.  This pick can go in many logical directions.  They include: DL, because of age; LB, due to recent cuts; WR, with the anticipation that Wallace is gone after this upcoming season, or RB, with major uncertainty here.

“Experts Say”: OLB R. Lewis, OT Adams, OT Massie, DT Thompson.  We suspect the pick could be for a front seven defensive player.  That’s not bad, but what about a rated RB?

THE PICK:

57: Denver

Round one impression:  See pick 36, above.

Round two look: Denver is looking at RB, but the pick really should be for another DL or a LB.

“Experts Say”: RB Lamar Miller, CB Trumaine Johnson, DT Thompson, QB Osweiler.  Denver needs too much help now to go after a QB in this QB weak draft.  Sorry, but adding multiple DL is our preferred drafting strategy for this team.

THE PICK:

58: Houston

Round one impression: Right away we described DE Mercilus (26) as “another toy for Wade Phillips to play with”.  The NCAA sack leader last year may thrive in Houston’s scheme.  As we said in our Intel report, Houston was looking at him as another Aldon Smith.  We still preferred WR Randle.

Round two look: They probably look DT, WR or right side OL where they lost multiple players.  OL and WR could be adequately filled with this pick and pick #76 if they choose the right players.

“Experts Say”: OT Adams, OT Sanders, OT Schwartz, WR Streeter.  Adams would represent value at this pick.  The other OT’s can be passed on at this spot.  WR Streeter is fast, but raw and should have stayed in school.  For THIS team we want a more polished WR.  Givens or Criner have possibilities.

THE PICK:

59: Green Bay

Round one impression: DE Perry (28) is not a surprise, but trading up was preferred, as Green Bay does not need 12 picks.

Round two look: We’re not sure Perry fills the run D need.  OL and RB are needs, but CB and safety represent more immediate needs.  CB would be our 1st look.

“Experts Say”: DE/DT Wolfe (2X), DL Reyes, RB L. James.  The “experts” say an interchangeable DL is the fit.  Reyes is better at stopping the run as opposed to Wolfe.  If we’re the GM this HAS to be the 1st of a couple of move ups to get more impact.  Please don’t stay with 12 picks.

THE PICK:

60: Baltimore

Round one impression: See pick 35, above.

Round two look: In addition to OL, Baltimore would be wise to target LB.  Other needs include DL depth and a decently rated DB.  LB’s tend to slip in the draft so OL at #35 and stud LB here can work.

“Experts Say”: ILB Kendricks (2X), Safety Janzen Jackson, WR Sanu.  Jackson is interesting but not our preferred look.  Sanu could actually be a great underneath complement to the speedy Smith and solid Boldin.  Getting a LB such as Kendricks best fits their needs.

THE PICK:

61: San Francisco

Round one impression: We said it in the preview!  As expected, the draft day team DID confuse the “experts”.  We like WR Jenkins (30), but not in the top 50!  Mel (sell out) Kiper noted that no one had Jenkins in the 1st round, but that he was a consideration at the top of the 2nd.  Thanks for lying!

Round two look: Like many teams, OL and DB are the need areas.  Can SF stay away from lower rated talent (last year four ratings of NR and just two players rated in single digits at any position)?

“Experts Say”: OG Osemele, OG Brooks, OG Silatolu, CB Hosley.  The experts hit our need areas just fine.  Silatolu was mocked a few times to SF at #30, so it’s doubtful he’s here now.  Let’s see what curveball SF throws here (do they trade up?).

THE PICK:

62: New England

Round one impression: See pick 48, above.

Round two look: As said earlier, New England has a pair of needs, but as of this writing, no more picks after this.  Closing up shop this early would be perhaps the biggest draft surprise of all.

“Experts Say”: Safety Taylor, CB Josh Robinson, OC Taylor, LB Zach Brown.  All four players have talent, and Josh Robinson would be a mini steal here.  Our Intel does show them taking a keen interest in the LSU Safety (Taylor).  This is a good draft if the Pats add a rated OL and DB somewhere in this draft (after a couple of trade downs?).

THE PICK:

63: New York Giants

Round one impression: We correctly pegged the NYG to go for RB help, but was mildly surprised they took RB Wilson (32) after coveted RB Martin (no matter what they say now) was gone, thanks to Tampa’s trade into #31.  Wilson is more of a risk-reward pick.  Coughlin won’t like the fumble issue.

Round two look: Probably this is for the best player available on their draft board, no matter the position.  There are no glaring needs, although they could draft DL in anticipation of Osi’s leaving.

“Experts Say”: TE Allen (2X), WR Sanu, CB Fleming.  The Giants resisted the urge to go TE at #32 and could do so here with the 2nd best TE on the board.  That would not be our preference however.  We would not lock into any of the players listed by the experts for this team.

THE PICK:

Below is the list of teams currently without picks in round two.  They will be listed in draft order using the same recap and evaluation process as the teams above.  NOTE: Our final report this draft season will be to send this document out one more time, AFTER round two (probably Saturday or Sunday).  We will at that time fill in the names of who each team selected, and our initial impressions.  Enjoy!

66: Minnesota

Round one impression: Minny “stole” three picks from Cleveland (118, 139, 211) just to go down to #4 and select OT Kahil, they guy they wanted all along.  They traded 35 and 98 to go up to #29 and draft the 2nd rated safety on most boards, versatile Harrison Smith.  Considering that the next rated Safety is not likely to come off the board until the 3rd round, Minny played the supply and demand game very well.

Pick 66 look: DT, LB, #2 WR or CB are all in play.

THE PICK:

68: Tampa

Round one impression: Just like Minny, Tampa traded back just a bit in the 1st round and traded up at the end of the 1st round.  Thought to covet Claiborne, the Bucs wanted Barron (7) instead.  Both are solid, but we felt CB was the bigger need.  Tampa really wanted Richardson, or at least some RB to hopefully replace Blount, who doesn’t seem to fit the new staff’s style.  RB Martin (31) was chosen ahead of the NYG in the hope that he can develop into an every down back.

Pick 68 look: LB is the clear leader in need.  We’d look OLB 1st and CB 2nd.

THE PICK:

69: Washington

Round one impression: Washington outbid Cleveland for RG III (2).

Pick 69 look: The Redskins have six picks left, starting here and continuing with picks 102 and 109 next.  The biggest two needs have been well documented by us and read OL and DB.

THE PICK:

80: Arizona

Round one impression: Larry Fitzgerald wanted WR Floyd (13) if he fell to them.  The Cardinals said they would take him if that was the case, but still used almost all their time before making the pick.  Arizona may now be four receivers deep.

Pick 80 look: Our top needs would be OL and OLB/LB.  We’re down in the bottom half of round #3 but typically, rated talent in these areas can be found in the 3rd round.

THE PICK:

81: Dallas

Round one impression: Dallas, like many other teams in this draft saw an opportunity to get a top rated player at a position of need.  Trading 14 and 45 to get CB Claiborne (6) was fair, and along with free agent signee Carr, makes the Cowboys much better in the secondary.

Pick 81 look: OG, DE and Safety are the primary areas of need right now.  DE is tough to fill this late, and the safety class is weak, so OG looks like the best option, at least at this pre-round two writing.

THE PICK:

89: New Orleans

Round one impression: No picks at all thus far, with the trade of the 1st round pick for RB Ingram last year, and the forfeiting of the 2nd round pick this year.

Pick 89 look: Luckily the Saints have no critical major needs, with OLB, CB and another WR on our short list of early needs.  Getting a decently rated OLB (Spence perhaps) is possible in late round three.

THE PICK:

95: Oakland:

Round one impression: No picks at all thus far, with the trade of the 1st round pick for QB Palmer, the trade of the 2nd round pick for extremely raw RB Jones, and utilization of the regular 3rd round pick for the selection of QB Pryor in the supplemental draft.  Yet another QB (Campbell) cost them their 4th round pick.  This pick is compensatory from the NFL and comes after round three is completed.

Pick 95 look: TE, OG, and RB for the offense, and a DL run stopper, OLB and at least one starting CB for the defense.  Free agency has not helped much from an impact standpoint.  Good luck!

THE PICK:

That’s it!  We’ll send out the report a 2nd time with our round two impressions.  Enjoy the rest of the draft!

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The 2012 NFL Schedules came out on April 17th.  This report takes a quick look at what each team’s schedule looks like.  Some interesting games will be noted, along with comments about the pace of the schedule, trap games, etc.   We go in alpha order.  This is part two – Part one, showcasing the first 16 teams was posted earlier today.

NOTE: Pre-draft Power ratings have been assigned.  Schedule difficulty has NOT been determined.  Sometime in May-June, after the draft has long been completed we will assign Post-draft Power ratings.  At that time we will compute the schedule difficulty for each team, obviously based on the opponents each team will face and their Power #’s, which are not based on the win-loss record of a year ago.  The post-draft ratings and schedule difficulty will remain in place until after week #3 of the pre-season.  At that time we will finalize our opening 2012 seasonal Power #’s and schedule difficulty.

MIAMI :

A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2012 SEASON: Miami and their new staff have an interesting schedule.  They open at Houston and then host Oakland and their new staff.  Next they host the NYJ.  Ex-HC Sparano is now the Jet’s OC and he brings Tebow and the Wildcat formation back with him.  Games at Arizona and Cincy won’t be easy although this team clearly has defensive talent.  Hosting STL before the bye should be interesting as it brings Jeff Fisher to town.  He turned down the coaching offer!  The game after the bye at the NYJ is favorable, with the Jets off a game at New England.  Miami’s prime time game is 11/15 at Buffalo.  December is not easy, but Miami may get to face ex-QB Henne when the Jags visit on 12/16.  Under “normal” circumstances this would be a team on the rise in our eyes.  They have a + point ratio and a -9 fumble ratio that could be corrected.  They actually closed ’11 with a Power # of 26.5, and had 28 potential.  For now we have them at 25, but will be curious to see how the draft goes and what August looks like.  Maybe they can have some hidden +’s, but will the new staff be ready to go?

MINNESOTA:

A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2012 SEASON: The ’12 schedule gives Minny a shot at a confidence building 2-0 start with games vs., Jacksonville and their new coach and at Indy and their new coach.  Week three sees Minny and LB coach Singletary hosting his former SF team.  That could be highly interesting.  Games 5-10 are before the bye and read Tennessee, at Washington, Arizona, Tampa (SNF), at Seattle and hosting Detroit.  If Peterson is healthy and if Ponder can improve perhaps Minny makes a little bit of noise with this schedule.  Remember, the Vikings open ’12 with a + point ratio.  Games 11-16 are far tougher, with road games vs. Chicago, GB, STL and Houston and home games vs. Chicago and GB.  What we don’t like is the defensive coaching staff and that awful pass D%.  The Power # could rise, but for now we have it at 20.

NEW ENGLAND:

A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2012 SEASON: By record the Pats have the NFL’s easiest schedule.  They open with three of four on the road (Tennessee, Baltimore in playoff revenge and Buffalo) so a fast start is not a guarantee.  They play just three teams who had winning records in ’11.  After Baltimore, it’s not until games 13 and 14 (Houston, at SF) that the Pats face winning teams.  Game #8 is in London vs. STL and is technically a road game for New England, giving them just seven true road games.  WR Manningham helped win the Super Bowl for the NYG and the Pats will see him and fellow ex-NYG Jacobs when they host SF.  New England’s only “trap” game may be the week after that when they travel to Jacksonville.  No team on their schedule will have a bye week prior to facing the Pats!  We will start New England with the 2nd highest Power # (31) and could move it up if they actually stick around in the early part of the NFL draft and take highly rated players instead of trading back as usual.

NEW ORLEANS:

A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2012 SEASON: New Orleans will be challenged in ’12 thanks to coach and probable player suspensions but the schedule they were given is somewhat generous!  Games 1-3 are vs. Washington and a potential rookie QB, at Carolina and home to KC.  They play on SNF 10/7 vs. San Diego, meaning it’s Brees vs. Rivers, with ex-Charger Sproles also in the mix.  Games 7-13 are a bit trickier then people might think, and that is where New Orleans will either make or miss the playoffs.  It starts at Tampa and at Denver, with Denver having an enormous situational plus.  It continues with great road team Philly coming to town on MNF, followed by rival Atlanta with the Saints having one less day of preparation time.  The Saints must avoid a letdown heading to Oakland before facing a determined SF team, and later traveling to Atlanta and to the NYG.  Games 14-16 are easier but will it matter?  Will the upgrade at DC and team personnel trump all the turmoil?  We start the Saints at a Power # of 30, of course pending who will be suspended in the opening week and month of the season.

NYG:             

A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2012 SEASON: According to those who compute schedule strength just by won-loss records from the previous year, the NYG are the 1st Super Bowl winning team to come back the next year with the NFL’s toughest schedule.  Once we do our post-draft Power #’s we will see where they are on our list, but suffice to say that games vs. the AFC Central and the NFC South will be challenging.  Don’t forget that SF’s 1st place schedule also means revenge games for Green Bay and SF.  Still, games 1-5 are not bad, with the opener vs. Dallas, a Thursday game at Carolina, and extra time to prepare for the road affair at Philly.  When they visit SF the Giants will meet up with former teammates Jacobs and Manningham.  When they travel to Cincinnati on 11/11 they will bring ex-Bengal Keith Rivers with them.  The bye week is late, but at least when they host revenge-minded Green Bay they will have the extra time and the Packers will be off a road game at Detroit.  Perhaps the savvy Gaints survive all this, but the December slate is not conducive to a fast finish.  It reads at Washington on MNF, a short week before hosting New Orleans, at revenge-minded Atlanta, at Baltimore and home to Philly.  The Giants are a solid team that finished with a Power # of 28 after the ’11 regular season.  We’ll move it up now to 29.

NYJ:

A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2012 SEASON: The Jets had a + point ratio going for them in ’10, but the double digit turnover ratio angle was a negative last year.  There are no angles to report now, but the pre-bye schedule (weeks 1-8) could be a killer!  We’ll know early what Mark Sanchez’s confidence level will be after facing four of the top six point defenses from a year ago, back-to-back-to back-to back!  OUCH!  This happens in games 2-5, at Pittsburgh, at Miami, home to SF and home to Houston.  Week #7 is at New England and week #8 is home to Miami.  The Jets are awful past and present as a HF and Miami will be off a bye.  The schedule lightens up after the bye but still features five road games (two are back-to-back) and tough home games vs. New England on SNF and San Diego, also on SNF.  Do the Jets need to be a better team to mange this schedule?  The answer seems to be yes.  Our starting Power # is 27, but given the early schedule we may not keep it there come opening day.

OAKLAND:

A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2012 SEASON: Oakland once again opens the season by playing in the nightcap of the opening week MNF doubleheader.  Last year they snapped a string of eight opening day losses.  The staff is new and must come out ready to roll not only playing SD, but with the short week going to Miami, the host of veteran Pittsburgh and the trip to Denver.  These games will not be easy so having the bye after the 4th game is a good chance for the new staff to regroup.  Games at Atlanta, KC and Baltimore will be tough, and the game hosting a probably fully stocked New Orleans team in week 11 will be tough as well.  Traveling to Cincy will be pressure packed and full of emotion for former Cincy QB Palmer and former Oakland HC Jackson.  Oakland gets three home games in a row after that but must be careful not to have an immediate letdown.  The final two games are at Carolina and SD.  With a – point ratio and a new staff once again we don’t have high expectations for ’12.  Oakland is barely participating in this draft as it is.  After ending ’11 with a Power # of 24.5 we start them now at 23.

PHILLY:

A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2012 SEASON: Philly continues to have a knack for winning the tough games and letting down in easier games.  This year their mantra should be to strive for greater consistency.  They have situational plusses opening at Cleveland, but situational minuses next, hosting Baltimore.  The last time they visited Arizona they were upset in the NFC Championship game.  Andy Reid is 13-0 SU off a bye and they face Atlanta this year in that scenario.  New Orleans is a solid team but the Eagles are amazing as a road dog, and 10-5 ATS as a MNF road dog.  Maybe that translates into a SU win.  They are strong at home on MNF and face Carolina at home week 12.  An interesting December game is hosting Cincy on a Thursday night.  Cincy is 7-3-1 SU in the series.  You ask about the tie?  That was the game QB McNabb found out NFL games can end in a tie!  Closing games are in Division vs. Washington and at the NYG.  Expectations should be high for the Eagles in ’12, with player continuity, a + point ratio, and an easy opportunity to erase a -14 turnover ratio.  The Power # starts at 30.

PITTSBURGH:

A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2012 SEASON: Pittsburgh has a tough 1st six games, four of which are on the road.  They have trouble in road openers but do have overtime playoff revenge at Denver.  They struggle as a road favorite in October and must play at Cincy and Tennessee, both in prime time!  The battle vs. Philly is always tough.  This is an older team that has to play 13 games in a row beginning 10/7, so watch for late fatigue.  Games 8-12 are highly interesting.  They go to the NYG, face KC on MNF with former HC Haley now the Steeler’s OC, face Baltimore with one less day of focus, and have a trap game at Cleveland right between Baltimore games.  December continues tough with a host of SD and a trip to Dallas, but the closing games are home to Cincy and Cleveland.  We’ll start Pittsburgh with a Power # of 29, watching the OC transition and the new faces on defense.

SAN DIEGO:

A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2012 SEASON: San Diego’s schedule is fair and at 1st glance, nicely paced.  They open at Oakland on MNF, and then host Tennessee, a team they’ve easily handled the last twenty years.  QB Rivers likes revenge games and he gets them week four at KC and week six at Denver.  Between those games the Chargers must travel to New Orleans and face old teammates Brees and Sproles.  Games 6-9 after the bye are manageable, with SD taking a trip to Tampa where Vincent Jackson now resides.  A three game stretch vs. physical Baltimore, home to Cincy and at Pittsburgh won’t be easy, and in fact SD has lost their last 14 regular season games at Pittsburgh.  SD closes at the physical NYJ and home to Oakland.  We’re used to setting Power #’s here around 30 but SD has regressed from that level.  Still, as the only AFC West team heading into the ’12 season without a – point ratio we are going to give them the top Divisional #, right now at 27.

ST LOUIS:

A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2012 SEASON: The Rams have started awfully slow lately but Jeff Fisher gets a September schedule that offers some hope.  Games 1-6 are at Detroit, Washington (new QB), at Chicago, Seattle, Arizona, and at Miami (new staff).  QB Bradford is healthy and in year #3 so maybe they can get to at least 3-3.  Unfortunately, the Rams wanted so badly to play in London that they gave up a home game this year and will return to London in the future.  The 2nd half of the schedule is tougher.  Games 9-12 include a pair with SF along with a trip to play the Jets.  Games 13-16 feature three road games,  STL finished LAST with a Power # of 14.5 (circled, with Bradford out) in ’11.  We have them 27th as of now, with a pre-draft Power # of 21.

SAN FRANCISCO:            

A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2012 SEASON: SF’s schedule has its good and bad points.  The good is that after playing at the NYJ on 9/30 the 49ers have just one more road game before 11/25.  Most of these five home games have situational plusses, and all except the revenge game vs. the NYG are against non-playoff teams from ’11.  The road game is also winnable, at Arizona.  The bad is playing a tough 1st four games, playing four of five road games between weeks 11-15, and the overall schedule difficulty increase.  Games 1-4 are at GB, home to Harbaugh’s head coaching “friend” in Detroit, at Minny, where Mike Singletary now resides as LB coach, and at the NYJ.  Games 11-15 include a pair of back-to-back road trips.  The 1st pair starts at New Orleans in an emotional game and then they need to regroup at STL.  The 2nd pair sees them on the east coast at NE and then back on the west coast at Seattle.  Playing the AFC East, NFC North, New Orleans and the NYG makes this a tougher task than in ’11.  SF also has five prime time games.  The Power # is currently set at 29, still clearly higher than their Divisional foes.

SEATTLE:               

A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2012 SEASON: Seattle’s schedule isn’t bad, but the 1st half of the schedule is definitely tougher than the 2nd half.  Not one of these games is a guaranteed win, so Seattle better be ready at QB, WR and with special team play.  They host GB on MNF, meaning ex-Packer Flynn may be facing his old teammates.  The short week may hurt them, traveling to STL off this emotional game.  They are 0-2 at improved Carolina and after that play in succession New England, at SF and at Detroit.  This almost looks like a 2-6 start!  Three of the 1st four games after the week 11 bye are on the road, but maybe only the game at Chicago will be a cold weather affair since the Buffalo game is in Toronto and they have a closeable roof.  Should Seattle still be in the wildcard and/or Divisional race, getting home games vs. SF and STL to close out the season is a good thing.  Again, like most teams with QB uncertainty, the Power # is a bit lower.  23 is our #, and the early schedule will test it.

TAMPA BAY:

A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2012 SEASON: Tampa has a new coach, and being from the college ranks we tend to feel a greater adjustment time may be necessary.  The team looks improved and certainly underachieved in ’11 so the potential for improvement is there.  The September schedule is not an easy one for a new staff, with games 2-4 at the NYG, at Dallas, and vs. their former coach Morris, now on the staff at Washington.  New coaches need an earlier bye week, so the week five bye is a good thing.  The rest of the schedule is fairly manageable.  The roughest stretch starts 11/18 at Carolina, but even that game has been winnable in the past.  Games after that include Atlanta, at Denver in possibly their only cold weather game, home to Philly and at New Orleans.  We’re setting a Power # of just 19 thus far, but so much needs to be deciphered before the real games start.  Plusses include free agency gains and a shot to fix a -16 turnover ratio, especially with a HC who had a string of + turnover ratios in college.  Minuses include a – point ratio (so they were even worse than their 4-12 record), and an adjustment time for the new staff, especially with a somewhat tricky early schedule.

TENNESSEEE

A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2012 SEASON: Tennessee has one of the toughest opening schedules for ’12.  They host three playoff teams (New England, Detroit, and Pittsburgh) and travel to four sites (SD, Houston, Minny and Buffalo) where they may just go about 1-3.  If they come away 3-4 after this the Titans could easily make a playoff push.  They will still have five Divisional games left, have a bye between their only back-to-back road games, and face just one team (at GB) that realistically would factor in the loss column.  Indy and Jacksonville have new staffs and the Titans play four games vs. these opponents as part of their final nine games.  There’s hope, IF they can get through the early schedule.  The Titans are an incomplete team but maybe with more upside at QB as compared to Power rated teams in the 23 range.  We are looking at 25 (average) as a start.

WASHINGTON:     

A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2012 SEASON: How will Mike Shanahan handle his young QB and RB’s this year?  Washington must play three of its first four games on the road, with game #4 at Tampa, where current DB coach Morris was the head guy last year.  Their 1st Divisional game is not until week seven, at the NYG.  The Giants won’t take the Redskins lightly after going 0-2 vs. Washington.  Both were double digit losses!  The bye is late, at week 10.  Whatever the record is, the schedule-maker has done Washington a small favor, scheduling five of their six Divisional games in weeks 10-16.  This means the Redskins should stay motivated all season long.  The team looks improved and even with a new QB has a chance to make inroads toward fixing their -14 turnover ratio, but winning the close games requires strong 4thquarter coaching adjustments plus clutch field goal kicking and this team suffers in both areas.  The Power # is the Power # is set at 23, with any adjustments to be made after August.

The 2012 NFL Schedules came out on April 17th.  This report takes a quick look at what each team’s schedule looks like.  Some interesting games will be noted, along with comments about the pace of the schedule, trap games, etc.   We go in alpha order.  This is part one – Part two will showcase the final 16 teams, and will be available later today.

NOTE: Pre-draft Power ratings have been assigned.  Schedule difficulty has NOT been determined.  Sometime in May-June, after the draft has long been completed we will assign Post-draft Power ratings.  At that time we will compute the schedule difficulty for each team, obviously based on the opponents each team will face and their Power #’s, which are not based on the win-loss record of a year ago.  The post-draft ratings and schedule difficulty will remain in place until after week #3 of the pre-season.  At that time we will finalize our opening 2012 seasonal Power #’s and schedule difficulty.

ARIZONA:

A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2012 SEASON: Arizona plays the AFC East and NFC Central this season.  They open hosting Seattle and may need to win this one (6-16 SU in home openers) with games at NE and vs. Philly next.  Former Eagle QB Kolb missed the win vs. Philly last year.  Minny and Arizona have played six times in the last seven years.  Arizona has had a poor record in that stadium.  Games 7-16 are difficult.  The bye is in week 10, but the Cards might have to fight to be 5-4 by this time.  Arizona has a tentative Power # of 23 for now, typical of teams with some talent but with QB inconsistency (league average 25.3).  Reducing their -13 turnover ratio would go a long way to making that Power rating stand up or even improving.

ATLANTA;

A FIRST LOOK PRE-DRAFT AT THE 2012 SEASON: Atlanta’s unique schedule features alternating road and home games!  They open with at KC, with TE Gonzalez visiting his old home.  They host Peyton Manning and Denver on MNF and then have to travel to SD with a short week.  They have some tough games following the week seven bye, and must avoid a letdown vs. a well rested Arizona team week 11.  They have 24-2 playoff revenge hosting the NYG on 12/16.  We show Atlanta with a solid 29 Power #.  To move into the more elite group the Falcons need to have a strong defensive draft and play better on the pass D.

BALTIMORE:

A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2012 SEASON: Baltimore has been a playoff fixture for years and the NFL knows that.  The Ravens play three of their 1st four games in prime time, two in Division and one being AFC Championship revenge vs. New England.  Games five and six interest us because they have to avoid a letdown at KC and then host a Dallas team with two weeks of rest.  Add in game #7, with Houston hosting Baltimore with playoff revenge as well and one can see ’12 may be a bit tricky.  There’s very little time between games vs. Pittsburgh, the most physical rivalry in the NFL.  The sandwich west coast game at SD and the beltway game at Washington could represent additional letdown situations.  Baltimore hosts the Manning brothers weeks 15 and 16 before closing at Cincy, just like they did in ’11.  At 1st glance, this schedule is not good.  We have the Ravens starting at a Power # of 30, pre-draft.  All ratings are finalized in early September.  This one could actually go down, especially considering the fact that DC Pees is not one of our favorites!

BUFFALO:

A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2011 SEASON: Buffalo started fast in ’11 before fading.  A good start in ’12 might be sustainable thanks to what looks like a winnable slate of December games, beginning with three straight at home vs. non-playoff teams Jacksonville, STL and Seattle.  Overall, Buffalo plays five of their final seven at home and all seven games are vs. teams who did not make the ’11 playoffs!  Mario Williams and Buffalo travel to face his old Houston team 11/4.  Buffalo looks improved but if still error prone at QB then even the “easy” games won’t be automatic wins.  We have them with a Power # of 24.

CAROLINA:            

A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2011 SEASON: Year two for Ron Rivera and Cam Newton begins with the Panthers playing Divisional opponents three times in September.  Going 2-1 in these games and at least 3-2 before the bye would propel them to serious playoff contender.  They’ll host Dallas right after the bye and the Cowboys will be off an intense game at Baltimore.  Ron Rivera was a DC for a number of years in Chicago.  His Carolina team lost at Chicago 34-29 last year.  Conversely, ex-Panther HC Fox brings Denver into Carolina on 11/11.  Not everyone was sad to see Fox gone.  Carolina plays one MNF game, at Philly.  They will have a short week before staying on the road to face KC.  December features games with Divisional playoff teams Atlanta and New Orleans, but also finds Rivera returning to SD where he was a (successful) DC just prior to obtaining this job.  Carolina is the trendy team to pick as much improved, and with a + point ratio they may deliver.  We have them with a Power # of 25 but might consider moving that # up if the draft produces some ready to go talent.  Hopefully their special team play will improve.

CHICAGO:              

A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2012 SEASON: The biggest challenge to Chicago’s ’12 schedule is dealing with a NFL high three MNF games.  Their overall record on MNF is dismal, but comes in around 50% the past decade.  Chicago is 16-3 SU in home openers and gets a brand new Indy team to open the season.  A key game is 10/7 at Jacksonville.  This is a winnable game but comes with a short week and is the 2nd of back-to-back road games.  Their other MNF road game is at dangerous SF.  This game is followed by a host of Minnesota, who will have two weeks to prepare.  Chicago must handle these challenges if they want to return to the playoffs.  They close on the road at Arizona and Detroit and have to hope they don’t need a sweep to make a playoff entrance.  The team appears a bit better (and healthier) as of now so our current Power # is 26.

CINCINNATI:

A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2012 SEASON: Cincy seldom makes the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.  If they want to make the playoffs in ’12 a fast start is imperative.  Games 2-6 are hosting Cleveland, at Washington, at Jacksonville, hosting Miami and at Cleveland.  These four teams combined to go 20-44 in ’11!  Games 7-9 are all at home, with a bye week thrown in.  Cincy faces the AFC West four times in weeks 9-13.  The schedule is not easy in the middle but all these home games helps to put them on at least equal footing.  LB Rivers and Cincy host the NYG week 10.  CB Newman and Cincy host Dallas week 14.  These affairs pale in comparison to the return of Carson Palmer (and Oakland) on 11/25.  Palmer himself vowed that he would “never set foot” in Paul Brown stadium again.  Adding to the drama is Oakland’s old HC, Hue Jackson is with Cincy now.  That should be fun.  Cincy’s final five games are the toughest, beginning with a possible letdown trip to SD week #13, before closing December hosting Dallas, at Philly and Pittsburgh and hosting Baltimore.  Cincy closed ’11 with a Power # of 24 and that is where we open ’12, although the Bengals, with choices 17 and 21 could see that # move up before September.

CLEVELAND:        

A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2012 SEASON: Those in the media say that Cleveland has the toughest ’12 schedule of all the non-playoff teams from a year ago, based on record.  We base our schedule difficulty on each opponent’s Power #, and will tabulate that closer to the start of the ’12 season.  Cleveland does have to face tough Divisional rivals and face the NFC East, but also gets a break in facing the AFC West.  This will be the 13th time in the past 14 years that the Browns open the season at home.  Unfortunately, they are 1-11 in those games.  They finish playing rivals Cincy and Baltimore before their week 10 bye.  They travel to Dallas off the bye, hoping to catch the Cowboys napping after playing at Philly the week before.  RB Hillis, HC Crennel and OC Daball all used to be with Cleveland.  They return to Cleveland 12/9 as part of the KC Chiefs.  Cleveland closes at Denver and at Pittsburgh.  Local writers can’t find many wins for the Browns.  We have them currently with a Power # of 20.

DALLAS:                 

A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2012 SEASON: At 1st glance the schedule is not unreasonable but Dallas does have to beware of some letdown situations.  NFL 2012 begins on a Wednesday, with the Cowboys traveling to the Super Bowl champion NYG.  Had Dallas won once vs. the NYG last year these Giants would not have even made the playoffs!  They have plenty of time before heading to Seattle week two.  When last there, Tony Romo was seen fumbling a snap that led to a playoff loss.  They play at Baltimore after the bye week, and are 0-3 lifetime vs. the Ravens.  They stay on the road to face Cam Newton and Carolina, and the Panthers will be off a bye week.  Playing at Atlanta and at Philly after hosting the NYG won’t be easy.  Playing Cleveland with the Browns off a bye week could result in an upset with a letdown clearly possible.  The December schedule is tricky (Philly, at Cincy, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, at Washington).  Dallas lost five games they led in the 4th quarter last year.  That must stop.  We list them with a Power # of 28, about 10th or 11th thus far in the pecking order.

DENVER:                

A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2012 SEASON: Denver enters ’12 with a – point ratio, meaning they were more like 6-10 and not 8-8.  Couple that with a 1st place schedule and games vs. the tough NFC South and AFC Central and this could be a disaster.  Honestly, if Peyton Manning was NOT here this would be last place material!  The good news is a likely fix of the fumble ratio (saving them points) and a decent DC (Del Rio).  Pittsburgh has playoff revenge on SNF in the opener.  Denver has a pair of MNF games and must reverse their poor track record in these games.  They have excellent trends off a bye week and may need to grab that 10/28 win vs. New Orleans to offset the schedule bump.  HC John Fox returns to Carolina week 10.  December looks manageable but these Broncos have to again reverse poor records in their last road game and last home game.  This is by far the toughest team to set a Power # on!  Setting them at an average # of 25 makes them the BEST in the AFC West, but their schedule is likely the toughest of the group.  We’ll certainly need to use the preseason to make a full team assessment.

DETROIT:               

A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2012 SEASON: The Lions have an interesting schedule path in ’12.  They have a quartet of back-to-back road games and have a total of just three home games before Thanksgiving.  Is this team solid enough (especially on defense) to handle any of the back end road games?  Game #2 is at SF, where “coaches hand shake gate” takes center stage.  That could lead to a letdown at Tennessee.  They travel to Chicago right after playing at Philly and the Bears will be off a bye week.  On the plus side, the week eight game hosting Seattle could be a chance for the Lions to gain revenge vs. new Seahawk QB Flynn, who torched them for 480 yards last year.  The Lions stay home weeks 11-13, and hope to gain their 1st Turkey Day win since ’03 when they host Houston.  The 4th and last set of back-to-back road games is at GB, followed by at Arizona.  That’s hard, especially since the Lions are not that good historically after playing the rival Packers.  They’ll be happy if the week 17 game hosing Chicago is for a playoff berth (good last home game history).  We are looking at a solid 28 Power # opening.  What has us worried is the schedule, the pass D%, and the +11 turnover ratio which is probably going to be hard to replicate.

GREEN BAY:         

A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2012 SEASON: GB is one of just two teams to play three consecutive road games in ’12.  Those games are in October and are at Indy, Houston and STL.  The bye comes after hosting Jacksonville and Arizona, meaning GB has a nice stretch of winnable games.  Considering that games 1-4 are vs. SF (13-1 SU last 14), vs. Chicago, at Flynn and Seattle, and vs. New Orleans (with Haley, Vitt and probably a few suspended players not there), it sure seems like the Packers will get off to a roaring start.  Five of their final seven games are inside the Division, with a week 12 game at the NYG showing playoff revenge, but also finding the NYG off a bye week.  Can the Packers continue to produce double digit + turnover ratios?  We’re giving them a tentative Power # of 33 (#1 in the NFL), but might lower it before the season starts

HOUSTON:              

A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2012 SEASON: Will Houston be able to handle the prime time bump in the schedule?  They’ll be in the spotlight five times, but just once at home!  They draw the AFC East and NFC Central, plus 1st place Baltimore this season.  September is manageable.  October starts on MNF at the NYJ, followed by three straight at home, but a short week to host GB.  They play Buffalo the week following the bye, a game which ex-Texan Mario Williams called “judgment day”.  They, like GB have three straight on the road, but at least the 1st one is on Thanksgiving, giving them extra time before moving on to Tennessee and New England.  If Houston proves they can handle all of this then there is good news at the end of the year, with games 14-16 vs. Indy twice, and Minnesota.  They have the + point ratio which indicates value, but the roster is weaker.  For now we are at a conservative Power # of 27, but perhaps that # will rise before the season starts.

INDY (22, 53, 87):

A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2012 SEASON: Each team now has at least one prime time game thanks to the expanded Thursday night schedule.  The Colts will be at Jacksonville week 10 on Thursday night, but unfortunately it will be in a slightly negative situational spot.  Indy’s September schedule is fair, featuring games vs. 3 non-playoff teams.  That is a hopeful sign for any new staff, as is the early bye week so that adjustments can be made.  All Sunday games kick off at 1:00 PM!  This is the 10th straight season and 13th game in 10 years that Indy will play New England.  We’ll be interested to see how the new management drafts and if the new staff can coach.  The roster purge is amazing.  Indy starts out with our lowest Power #, 16.

JACKSONVILLE:

A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2012 SEASON: Like the Colts, this new coaching staff gets a chance to win some early games.  Games before the (nice) early bye week are at Minny, Houston, at Indy, Cincy and Chicago.  Game six is at Oakland, but these Jags have two weeks to prepare while the Raiders will have had an east coast road game (Atlanta).  Compared to the double whammy of ’11 (- point ratio, difficult schedule) this gives QB Gabbert a shot at improvement, OR, it gives Chad Henne a shot to get some wins.  We applaud the NFL for perhaps the fairest schedule rollout we’ve seen, both in rhythm and with respect to most of the new coaches.  Speaking of Henne, will he be the starter when the Jags go to Miami week 15?  December is their toughest month, but perhaps early success can translate into late season opportunity.  The Power # starts at just 19 however.

KANSAS CITY:

A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2012 SEASON: Interim HC Crennel got the full time job, but unlike Indy and Jacksonville this early schedule is not conducive to winning early.  Weeks 1-5 are hosting Atlanta, at Buffalo, at New Orleans, hosting SD and hosting Baltimore.  A win in any of these games (Berry a score to settle vs. Bills, Saints with suspensions, SD September issues) is possible, but the likelihood of about 2-3 to start is far more probable than a 3-2 start.  KC’s job is to avoid September disaster.  On week 10 they travel to Pittsburgh for a MNF game vs. old HC now Pitt OC Haley.  Games 10-12 are all at home, against Cincy, Denver and Carolina.  These games could go either way!  The final four games are vs. teams 8-8 or worse, but three of the four are on the road.  KC was hit with key injuries EARLY in ’11 but they must overcome a – point ratio and have a very conservative HC in Crennel.  Teams with KC’s Power # (23) have QB inconsistency.  Cassell is a marginal NFL starter.

Today we are adding two team previews to the bog nation.  The Indianapolis Colts are on the clock. They are on the clock because of their dismal 2011 performance.  This draft gives them the opportunity to rebuild the franchise and return to its glory days.  Unfortunately, part of the reason they do have the #1 draft choice is how poorly they have drafted.

The reader will find a little bit of everything in this draft preview.  The other team which will be previewed today is the Washington Redskins, who own pick #2 of this draft.  I will randomly add other team previews as the days go by, HOWEVER, if any reader of this blog wants to see a preview for a specific team, just LET ME KNOW and I will gladly make it available.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.  As always, your comments, questions and/or disagreements are welcome!

Additional Note: This preview includes ratings used for the 2011 draft.  A short explanation of these ratings is as follows:

Numerical: The rank of the player for that position.  If there are TWO numbers, the first number is the rank for the general position (OL for example) and the 2nd number the rank for the specific position (OT).

* rating: A rating just below those at the position

NR: Not ranked, meaning I do not think that player is draft worthy.

INDY (22, 53, 87):     2011 RECORD 2-14  2010 RECORD 10-6  2009 RECORD 14-2  2008 RECORD 12-4   

TEAM OVERVIEW: In the ‘10 NFL Season Preview (September ’10) we said the following: “Peyton willed them to an NFL record # of comeback wins.  Indy is 89-23 the past 7 years including 39-9 the past 3 years.  We do not fully know how good a coach Caldwell is, but we could find out in ’10.  Matching the regular season magic of ’09 is easier said than done.”  In ’10, HC Caldwell showed his true “value” when Indy had the Jets beat in the playoffs until Caldwell’s blunder at the end of that game.  It was not the 1st mistake he has made.  Once again we asked, “How long can Peyton bail them out?”  We got that answer in ’11, when Peyton was unable to play.  Caldwell was overmatched as a HC and years of just terrible drafts for the DL and LB group reduced Indy to a team without impact.  The draft team consistently ignored the D and when they did make a move it was for smaller DL and anything but a cover CB.  The stats below will highlight just how poor Indy played on D, not just in ’11 but for over a decade!  Polian and his draft team are gone and the team will rebuild now without one of the greatest QB’s ever to play the game.  Indy enters the ’11 draft knowing they will get a possible elite QB but still must fix the rest of the team.  Does Indy even know how lucky it has been to have an elite QB and still win despite an always bottom tier defense?  We’ll soon find out.

KEY STATS: The pass D% reached a new level of incompetence, even by Colt standards!  Indy’s 11 year average prior to ’11 was 65%, with NO YEARS BELOW 60%.  Congratulations on hitting 71.2% in ’11!  There was just one occasion when Indy was below 60+++%.  They allowed 14-24.  That is actually impossible!  The run D was 4.3-144, and has been 4.2 or worse now 13 of the past 14 years.  Yes, they have Freeney and Mathis but Indy had just 29 sacks in ’11 despite 19 from these 2 guys!  The 4 year total is just 121, probably far lower than most fans would have guessed.  As usual, the 3rd down D was awful.  The team was -12 in turnovers, 30th in total offense, and the QB rating for opposing teams was 103.9 (31st).  Indy’s soft cover scheme produced just 8 picks, making for a total of 17 the past 2 years.  WOW!  Not surprisingly, time of possession was last at -7:33.  Wait, there’s more!  Indy scored 19 points in the 1st quarter.  They averaged 3.4 per punt return.  They allowed a league worst 30.7 on kick returns despite not allowing a KR TD!  Indy’s run O improved to 4.2/99.5.  We had to say something nice!  Spread-wise, the dog is now 24-2 when Indy and NE meet.  The NFL’s best RF was of course never a RF in ’11 and 0-1 in their only HF role.  Most of their long term trends were not active in ’11, but after going 4-1, they are now 12-3 as a DD dog.

TOP STRENGTH AND WEAKNESS PRIOR TO THE DRAFT: This section of the report never changes!  Once again, Peyton Manning is about the best there ever has been.  He wins despite the defensive #’s.  Oh well!  Now we have to change this and find a strength!  Freeney and Mathis are good pass rushers.  As for the top weakness, get in line!  Pass D% however, is clearly the worst area, and no team (not even the Lions) has taken bad pass D to this level for this long a time.

A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2012 SEASON:  2012 schedules are not yet available.  Here is what was said in the report a year ago.

2011: Indy’s ’10 schedule was fair, and graded out easier than Tennessee’s, and much easier than Houston’s!  This schedule looks a bit more difficult than usual.  Indy has five prime time games.  They host Pittsburgh on SNF 9/25.  That is followed by a trip to Tampa on MNF.  Indy has three straight on the road beginning in mid-October, with the 2nd game a Super Bowl rematch at New Orleans!  Indy has no prime time games or road games in November!  December starts tough with a SNF game at NE followed by a tough road outing at Baltimore.  Indy’s last prime time game is on TNF vs. Houston.  They close the season at the Jags.  Indy’s Power # closed at just 28.5 in ’10.  That # was accurate.

FREE AGENCY ANALYSIS AND STAFF NOTES: Old time fans remember when the Baltimore Colts became the Indy Colts.  Indy had a brand new team.  We write this on 3/22 and 19 players who were on the ’11 roster, including 10 projected starters are now gone!  The ’12 Indy Colts might as well be brand new!  Notable offensive losses (in addition to Manning) are WR’s Garcon and Gonzalez, OL Saturday, Pollak and Diem, TE’s Clark and Tamme, and RB Addai.  Of the 5 additions (WR Avery, OL Justice, Satele and McGlynn, QB Stanton), maybe only 1-2 even start!  Yes, the offense is worse!  The D lost 4, but with the new scheme and hopefully bigger players and better drafts, they won’t be missed much.  3 were starters (LB Brackett, DB’s Lacey and Bullitt), at least in September.  Back up NT McKinney and SS Zibrikowski are the only additions.  WOW!  New HC Pagano will move to a 3-4 base and away from their high school cover 2 scheme.  The new OC is Bruce Arians.  The new DC is Greg Manusky.  UPDATE: The 20th Colt to leave is LB Wheeler, signed by Oakland on 3/30.  21 Colts are gone as of 4/3.  WR Blair White became the 22nd Colt to lose his job (4/13).

2011 DRAFT REVIEW: As last years draft ratings demonstrated, we liked Indy’s pair of OL selections.  What we did NOT like is Indy using just 2 picks for the defense, the last of which came way too late in the draft.  Is it any wonder why Indy has been so bad for so long on defense?  Clearly, having QB Manning masked some awful draft day decisions along with awful DC schemes.  DT Nevis was the typical small bodied DL coveted by this “astute’ draft team.

1-22              OT  Castonzo          3-3

12 starts in 12 GP and played well as the team’s future and present LT

2-49              OT  Ijalana               4-4

As written last year, he’s got major upside.  OG/OT ability but was hurt early in year.

3-87              DT  Nevis              21-10

19 tackles in 5 GP before going on IR.  That’s better than we expected but line was thin.

4-119            RB  Carter                 4

Strong, low to ground inside RB ran 377-3.7 but fumbled too much as a rookie

6-246            CB  Rucker             NR

Big CB who gives cushion.  We warned, “Won’t help pass D%”.  37 tackles.

2010 DRAFT REVISITED: LB/DT Hughes was a typical Indy undersized draftee, but he is clearly underachieving with 15 2nd year tackles and 1 sack.  We really liked LB Angerer and he led Indy with 148 tackles.  CB Thomas was described by us as a CB who loves to give a cushion.  He had 33 tackles.  4th round NR OG McClendon was cut.  TE Ethridge caught 9.  NR DT Matthews had 19 tackles.  LB Conner (7-240, ACE rated) had 104 tackles!  NR CB Fisher was cut.

2012 DRAFT NEEDS: Indy could get by without drafting OT, but ALL remaining positions are in play, starting at QB.  Defensively, they need massive bulk at DT, run and pass help at LB (2 starters for sure), and maybe 3 new secondary starters, including a pair of new CB’s.  They need at least 1 interior OL starter and a WR, plus the return game needs a new face.

RECENT DRAFT HISTORY AND TENDENCIES FOR 2012: Until ‘06 we saw plenty of D grades.  ‘06 yielded a C+ with Addai, Jennings and Bethea.  We rated ‘07 a B, with major depth added.  The ’08 grade was C+.  The ’09 grade was a B.  The last 2 drafts are average.  Ex-GM Polian didn’t move much in the draft, and prior to ’10 former HC Dungy never wanted to sacrifice a draft pick.  The only direction they liked to move is down and Indy did not mind moving out of round 1.  As we’ve noted often, Indy will move up on day #2 if they have a particular person targeted.  We hit that right on once again in ’11.  Speaking of ex-GM Polian, it is down IN PRINT that his work in round #1 on draft day was called pathetic.   5 recent examples bear this out.  The new draft team is unlikely to trade up knowing multiple holes need to be filled.  Now, can they fill them properly?  NOTE: Keep in mind that Owner Irsay is crazy!  Can we stop the “tweeting”, PLEASE!

DRAFT PICK OVERVIEW: Picks in 1st 3 rounds: 1, 34, 64.  Indy has 10 picks in this draft and will have the 1st pick in rounds one through five.  They traded pick 172 (opening pick in round #6) to Philly for OT Justice, but were awarded three compensatory picks coming in rounds 5-7.  The Colts will have both the 1st and last pick in the ’12 draft.

ROUND ONE PREVIEW: This pick will be used on QB Luck no matter what half-crazed Owner Jim Irsay tweets!

REST OF THE DRAFT: Jim Irsay is the best example of why twitter should be outlawed!  Seriously, an owner is tweeting about the Peyton Manning contract status, about RG III, about QB Tannehill and who knows what else!  We thought rehab was over and done with!  Meanwhile, Indy has a super critical draft to attend to.  DT’s go fast, so getting a massive DT to bulk this team up may need to come as early as pick #34.  Drafting heavier along the DL is a must.  Drafting to make the pass D% more relevant is just as critical.  The new draft team has to hit consistently in the draft to start the rebuilding process.