Tag Archives: Michael Turner

NFL Week 3 Predictions

Photo courtesy of indyposted.com. On this day 10 years ago, Tom Brady (pictured above) came in to replace an injured Drew Bledsoe. And the rest is history.

By Josh Kramer

Every team is done with an eighth of their games at this point and I can safely say that the first two weeks have been anything but predictable.  The Bills, the Redskins, and the Lions are all 2 and 0 (who saw that coming outside of Rex Grossman?).  Little known Harvard-gunslinger Ryan Fitzpatrick is gaining traction around the country, while Cam Newton is living up to all the hype and more.  Plus the Colts may be the worst team in the NFL.  Lastly, on this day ten years ago, little-known Tom Brady subbed in for an injured Drew Bledsoe. Talk about a crazy scenario.  I know that I for one am extremely excited to see what Week 3 has in store.

As has become the tradition, we are once again having “TheSportsKraze Pick’em Challenge.”

The participants this season are as follows:

TheSportsKraze (TSK) (defending champion)-Josh Kramer-Founder/Editor-In-Chief of “TheSportsKraze” and former ESPN intern.

CV3-Chad Vordenberge-An elite high school wide receiver and a very successful business owner.

CB-Craig Baker-A former collegiate baseball player and current special education teacher.

DC-David Clark-A dedicated sports fan who was coached by TheSportsKraze on his fraternity flag football team.  After playing for TheSportsKraze, he has developed a slow but steady motivation to show his coach who the real pick’em champion is.

After Week 2, here is the scoreboard.

CB-21

TSK-23

CV3-22

DC-22

Week 3 Slate: Continue reading

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“NFL Divisional Playoff Preview: Jets, Ravens, Packers, Bears Look For Revenge”

Wesley is a sports expert and journalist out of Philadelphia that writes for Bleacher Report.  You can check out all of his work at  http://bleacherreport.com/users/88810-wesley-kaminsky or follow his twitter @Wesley_Kaminsky

The common theme of the divisional playoffs this weekend is revenge. Every game this weekend features rematches from earlier this season, but will the results be different this time around?

Here are some questions to consider heading into the weekends games.

Can the Jets keep it close in New England?

Which defense plays better, the Steelers or Ravens?

Will the Seahawks win in Chicago for the second time this season?

Can the Packers win in Atlanta? Continue reading

“NFL Week 17 Predictions”

Aaron Rodgers (pictured on the right) looks to lead the Packers in a "must win" game against the rival Bears while Brett Favre (pictured on the left) appears to be entering his final Sunday as an NFL Quarterback.

We have reached the culmination of regular season play in the NFL.  It is very hard to believe, but we have reached Week 17.  Closing time baby.  What a year it has been.  Full of many highs and many lows.  There have been plenty of disappointments.  Just ask Dallas, Minnesota, and Cincinnati.  There have been many surprises.  See St. Louis, Kansas City, and Philadelphia.  And there have been the usual suspects (Patriots).

Still many questions linger though. Will Tom Brady win the MVP?  Who will represent the NFC West in the playoffs?  We will find all of that out and more come Sunday.

Lets take a look at the Pick’em scoreboard.

TheSportsKraze:   136            CV3: 141

Can I catch CV3 during this final week? I will have to make up some serious ground come Sunday.

TheSportsKraze Picks:

Bengals at Ravens:  A good old-fashioned AFC North tussle.  Sadly this game has lost a lot of its luster due to the Bengals vastly underachieving this season and due to the lack of the TOcho-Show suiting up for this game.  Though Cincinnati has looked very good these past two weeks, it will not be enough against a Raven’s team looking to win the AFC North outright.  Baltimore’s balance on both sides of the ball will prove too much for the Bengals and send Cincinnati home with their 12th loss of the season.  Ravens by 3 at home in a tight one.

Panthers at Falcons:  This game is an interesting matchup.  It pits the NFL’s worst team versus perhaps the best team in all of football.  Not to mention the Falcons are an outstanding when in their friendly confines of the Georgia Dome.  You better believe that the Falcons would love to clinch that number 1 seed in the NFC.  No resting the big guns on this day.  Atlanta, led by their offensive stars Matty “Ice” Ryan, Roddy “talk too much” White, and Michael Turner will provide loss number 14 for a horrible Carolina team.  Falcons by 9 at home.

Steelers at Browns:  One of the NFL’s best rivalries adds another chapter come Sunday.  Though Cleveland has shown some improvement this year and a very strong rushing attack, it will not be enough against a Steeler’s team that is superior in every facet of the game.  Not to mention Pittsburgh knows how to win ball games.  Look for Pittsburgh to win this game with ease behind their tenacious defense. Steelers by 9 on the road.

Vikings at Lions:  So Brett finally received his big punishment.  A whopping $50,000.  This is equivalent to 4.5 minutes of game playing time for mighty #4.  What a joke.  At least it appears his career will be over finally after Sunday.  It has been a horrible year in Minnesota and they have really underachieved, but at least they can begin looking towards next season after a game with their long time foe, Detroit.  The Lions on the other hand have been a pleasant surprise, and have won 3 consecutive games.  Well expect that number to move to 4 on Sunday. Detroit will win a close one by 3 due to their outstanding passing attack featuring the one and only Calvin Johnson.

Raiders at Chiefs: Kansas City has already clinched the AFC West.  A shocker for sure.  But definitely a very strong team that can run the ball as well as anybody.  I fully expect KC to come ready to play, but I also expect the Raiders to be on their “A” game.  Oakland is looking to end the year on a high note and end up 500 for the season.  This will be a game won on the ground. The Chiefs have already won the division and are not really playing for much.  Oakland is looking to end on a high note.  Raiders by 1 on the road in a great game.

Dolphins at Patriots:  It is Miami’s lucky day.  New England has clinched home field throughout and will most likely sit the majority of their starters.  Miami on the other hand is looking to bounce back from embarrassing losses to the Bills and the Lions.  Sadly for Miami, the Patriots are just too good.  Even their 2nd and 3rd stringers.  There is a winning mentality in Foxborough.  Do not expect the Pats to drop a game at home any time soon.  Patriots by 7 at home.

Buccaneers at Saints:  This is one of those games that has a whole lot of meaning.  Tampa is fighting for their playoff lives while the Saints are riding high after knocking off the dirty birds in ATL.  Now the defending champs could gain home field throughout the playoffs.  You better believe that Brees and company will be ready to roll.  It will be a season sweep over the Buccaneers, who earlier this season proclaimed themselves as the “NFC’s Best Team.”  Too bad they will not even make the playoffs. Saints by 7 at home.

Jets at Bills:  The Jets have already clinched a Wild Card and probably will rest a good deal of starters, but that will not stop them from taking care of business in Buffalo.  The Bills are one of the worst teams in the NFL, and showed that last week in getting absolutely pounded by NE.  Buffalo is the worst in the League at stopping the run and the Jets are one of the League’s best rushing squads.  Jets by 6 on the road.

Chargers at Broncos:  Two teams that have been eliminated from playoff contention.  I will admit that I was highly disappointed in San Diego.  They are a team that I, along with many expected to win the AFC West for a 5th straight year.  It didn’t happen.  Now they are looking to end the year above 500.  I guess good stats do not always correlate to a successful season.  San Diego all year has been in the top 2 in the League in both overall offense and defense.  It didn’t matter.  In this game though, stats won’t matter yet again. But San Diego will win this one just based on their raw talent.  Chargers by 9 on the road.

Bears at Packers:  This may be the matchup of the Week.  Green Bay is holding on for their playoff lives, while Chicago is looking to gain home field in the playoffs.  These are two very good teams that are still playing for something.  The difference is Green Bay is playing for more.  Expect the Cheeseheads to come out smoking like they did last game against New York and shred a very strong Bears defense.  Rodgers and the Packers will avenge a tough Week 3 loss to their rivals by 3 in front of a raucous home crowd.

Titans at Colts:  Indianapolis will most likely need to win this game to maintain their playoff hopes.  Peyton doesn’t know how to miss out on the playoffs.  Not to mention they are playing in front of a home crowd.  Chris Johnson and the Titans have looked tough at times this season, but their inconsistency has been far too much to overcome. Not to mention that Tennessee has sported one of the worst secondaries in the NFL all year. Indy by 10 at home.

Cowboys at Eagles:  In the preseason, I picked the Cowboys to win the NFC East and the Eagles to finish in the cellar.  I was wrong.  Since the departure of Wade Phillips, Dallas has played inspired football.  Philadelphia blew a major opportunity at home field advantage on Tuesday.  This week it appears that Vick will not be playing.  No Vick equals no victory.  Plus the Eagles are not really playing for anything.  Cowboys by 3 on the road.

Cardinals at 49ers:  The NFC West has been absolutely horrible.  Both of these teams have underachieved.  Take your pick of the two bottom dwellers in the NFL’s worst division.  I will take San Fran in the post Mike Singletary era by 6 at home.

Giants at Redskins:  A good old-fashioned NFC East battle.  Washington’s season may be over, but you better believe that they would love nothing more than to spoil any hope that their rival has at making the playoffs.  Sadly for Washington though, they have struggled defensively all year.  Not to mention they never developed an effective rushing attack.  Expect New York to come to play.  Giants by 10 on the road.

Jaguars at Texans:  Many thought that the AFC South would be a 2 team race between the Colts and the Texans.  Many were wrong.  Jacksonville is the team battling Peyton and Co.  Jacksonville has a very strong rushing attack and has had a solid year where they have vastly exceeded expectations.  But I will state that Houston, despite its less than flattering record is still a very dangerous team. Sorry Jacksonville, the pressure got to you.  The Jaguars will lose this one, ending any playoff hopes that they were clinging to.  Houston by 7 at home.

Rams at Seahawks:  This is the NFC West Championship game.  Talk about some excitement in Seattle. Who will get to represent the NFL’s worst division in this year’s playoffs?  It has been an uphill battle all year for this abysmal division. The battle for the divisional crown will come to an end on this day though.  I am taking the rookie Sam Bradford to lead his Rams to the playoffs.  Who picked STL preseason?  Rams by 3 on the road.

CV3 Picks:

Bengals over Ravens by 3

Falcons over Panther by 10

Steelers over Browns by 6

Vikings over Lions by 6

Chiefs over Raiders by 1 (Stay undefeated at home)

Patriots over Dolphins by 21

Saints over Buccaneers by 10

Jets over Bills by 8

Broncos over Chargers by 5

Packers over Bears by 3

Colts over Titans by 17

Eagles over Cowboys by 3

49ers over Cardinals by 10

Giants over Redskins by 7

Jaguars over Texans by 6

Rams over Seahawks by 10

So there you have it.  It has been a wild year in the NFL as we head into the final Sunday.  You better believe that a crazy playoffs is forthcoming.  Lets hope that the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) gets settled in time so that we get to enjoy all of this yet again next year.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“NFL Week 2 Predictions”

It appears Michael Vick (pictured above), may be starting his first game since 2006 on Sunday. Does he still have the amazing athleticism that once made him the real "Human Highlight Reel?"

One week of the 17 week grind that is the NFL Regular Season has been completed.  Now we enter Week 2.  There is a little bit less mysteriousness to each squad.  There is a bit more familiarity and film to see what lays ahead.  But still, there are a ton of question marks.  A ton of teams looking to prove that Week 1 was a fluke, or for those teams that played well, that Week 1 was not a fluke.  Once again I go head to head with CV3 on picks.

Week 1 Results:  TheSportsKraze: 8             CV3:  9

TheSportsKraze Picks:

Steelers at Titans:  The Steelers proved me wrong last week.  But this week they are on the road with their young 3rd string quarterback in Dennis Dixon.  Not to mention they go up against the most dangerous running back in the NFL Chris Johnson.  Look for this to be a very competitive game, but expect CJ to be the game’s determining factor.  Titans by 3.

Dolphins at Vikings:  You think that Brett Favre and the Vikings like losing?  Now the Dolphins are a solid team, but you have to like Minnesota in their home opener.  The Vikings are a great all around team, that even though they played pretty awful in their opener, they were still in a position to beat the defending champs on the road.  Chad Henne, the former Wolverine, will struggle on the road against the outstanding pass rush of the very tough Viking’s defensive line.  Brandon Marshall, will have to make a couple of highlight reel plays to keep the boys from Miami in the game.  Though I think this game will be competitive most of the way, I got the Vikings by 10 at home.

Cardinals at Falcons:  Arizona is flying high after a big week one win at St. Louis.  Well not really.  They struggled against one of football’s worst teams and looked out of sorts for much of the game.  Other than a great 2nd quarter, and the phenomenal play of Steve Breaston, this team did not look like a team ready to make the playoffs for a 3rd consecutive year.  The Falcons on the other hand, nearly came away with a victory in Pittsburgh on Sunday.  And though their offense only mustered up 9 points, they were going against a whole different animal in the Steeler’s defense.  Look for Matt Ryan to connect with Roddy White early and often, and look for Michael Turner to have a big day on the ground.  I got the Falcons running away with this one by 13.

Ravens at Bengals:  This may be the marquee matchup of the weekend.  Two major AFC contenders and divisional rivals going head to head.  The Ravens surprised many with a major Monday Night win in New York.  While the Bengals shot their load in a bad loss to the New England Patriots.  This is a whole new week.  And expect to see a different Bengals defense, plus more of the offense you witnessed in the 2nd half of last week’s contest.  In the Marvin Lewis/Carson Palmer era, the Bengals are 9 and 5 against the Edgar Allen Poe Bad Boy Ravens.  I will state this though.  If the Bengals play like they did in the first half of last week’s game even for a quarter, the Ravens will throw the knockout punch early.  But I expect Mike Zimmer’s defense to play big time smash mouth defense, and Palmer’s offense to have a big day.  I got the Bengals by 3 in a nail biter.

Chiefs at Browns:  Can you say Jamaal Charles?  Teams have a history of big days on the ground versus the Browns over the years.  Well this game will be no different.  And though the Browns sport the best return man in football, Josh Cribbs, the Chiefs are not too shabby themselves with rookie Dexter McCluster.  The Chiefs were a team that I said would surprise people this year and sneak their way to a pretty solid season. They definitely turned some heads last week with a major upset victory over San Diego.  Look for the Chiefs to be 2 and 0 at the end of Sunday.  I got KC by 9 over Cleveland.

Bears at Cowboys:  Da Bears verse America’s team.  No big deal right?  Wrong.  Both of these teams have a lot to prove after weak performances in Week 1.  The Bears escaped against the Lions on a very controversial call.  I will state that I thought it was a completed pass to Calvin Johnson.  And the Cowboys helped the Redskins shock the world.  By beating themselves.  This week will be different.  Jerry Jones, will not let another team full of big time talent, choke away the season already.  Look for the Cowboys to come out with a vengeance and expect Miles Austin to have another big day.  Cowboys by 13 running away with this one.

Eagles at Lions:  Michael Vick to start again?  I feel like it is 2006 all over again.  Talk about a time warp.  Well both of these teams surprised many with their Week 1 performances.  Though the Lions have weapons with guys like Calvin Johnson and Jahvid Best.  Without their former number 1 draft pick, quarterback Matt Stafford (injured), the Tryin Lions will not get to taste victory for the first time this season.  I got Michael Vick leading the Eagles to a 3 point victory in Detroit.

Bills at Packers:  Buffalo heads to Cheesehead Country.  Well it will not be a pleasant visit.  This is the game that I feel could end up with the most lopsided outcome of this week’s batch of contests.  The Bills are one of the worst teams in football in my eyes, while the Packers are perhaps the most well-rounded.  Look for Aaron Rodgers to make up for last week’s 2 interceptions with a 4 TD performance.  Green Bay get excited, as your boys begin the year 2 and 0.  I got Green Bay by 17. 

Buccaneers at Panthers:  Neither of these teams looked great in their openers.  Tampa escaped against a weak Cleveland team, while the Panthers were torched by the G Men.  This game will be close from the start, with two teams that are towards the bottom tier of the League.  At least we may get to see former Notre Dame big shot, Jimmy Clausen, start his first game in the NFL.  Believe me, it won’t matter.  Buccaneers by 6 in a matchup of two bottom feeders.

Seahawks at Broncos:  Seattle may have pulled off the biggest surprise of Week 1.  They absolutely killed the hot pick in the NFC West, the 49ers, relentlessly.  Matt Hassleback demonstrated great management skills at the QB position, while defensive back, Marcus Trufant, led the D to an outstanding performance.  The Broncos on the other hand, surprised many including myself, with a tough loss to the Jaguars.  2 key turnovers killed them last week, and could once again hurt them this week.  Kyle Orton threw for nearly 300 yards, going to Brandon Lloyd and Eddie Royals with a great frequency.  Well the Seattle defense is much tougher than Jacksonville’s, or at least they looked like it last week.  I got the Seahawks continuing to surprise and moving to 2 and 0 with a 6 point victory in Denver.

Rams at Raiders:  This is a matchup that I could never tune into unless forced.  Two of the worst teams in the NFL going head to head.  There is really nothing appealing about this one in any way unless you are a Rams or Raiders fan.  I think the difference in this one will be Jason Campbell’s mediocre, yet steady play at quarterback.  I got the Raiders by 3 at home in a game that I do not recommend watching unless you are a fan of either squad.

Texans at Redskins:  Arian Foster, the story of Week 1, takes the Texan’s show to Washington.  The way Houston was able to run the ball last week, and the passing attack we know they posses could cause major problems for Washington (or anybody for that matter).  Though Washington pulled off perhaps the 2nd biggest upset of Week 1 over America’s team, the Texans destroyed a very tough Colts team.  Look for Matt Schaub, Arian Foster, and Andre Johnson to stay hot in this one.  Texans by 10 in D.C.

Patriots at Jets:  This is a great matchup.  The AFC East favorites locking horns already?  Can the Jets recover from last week’s embarrassing offensive performance on Monday Night?  Can the Patriots continue to play outstanding?  My brain is telling me to pick the Pats in this one, but I got the Jets.  Sanchez must wake up to give his team a chance though.  The Jets tenacious defense will force Randy Moss onto Revis Island, and the Jets will win this thriller by 1 point.

Jaguars at Chargers: Both of these teams surprised in Week 1.  The Jaguars surprised with a win, while the Chargers surprised with a loss.  Well, do not expect San Diego to fall to 0 and 2.  Especially since they are at home in this game.  Norv Turner has led this team to the playoffs every year he has been with them for a reason.  They have a tradition of starting slow, having started under 500 through their first 5 games for 3 straight years.  But they will take care of business this week.  I got SD by 7 at home.

Giants at Colts:  I feel bad for the G Men coming off a big time performance last week.  They are now facing an angry Colt’s team.  And you know what that means?  An angry and motivated Peyton Manning.  Not what you want to hear as an opponent.  Though the Giants are a very good team, good luck in going into Lucas Oil and knocking off Peyton’s Colts coming off of a loss.  I got the Colts by 10 in this one.

Saints at 49ers:  Two popular picks to bring home their respective divisions.  Though I believe the 49ers are much better than what they showed last week, they are playing the defending champs on Prime Time now.  Drew Brees, fresh off his debut appearance on the hit television show “Entourage” thrives on the big stage.  Sorry San Fran.  An 0 and 2 start will not be the end to your season in a weak NFC West by any means.  Saints by 9 in this one.

CV3’s Picks:

FALCONS over Cardinals by 6- Look for the Falcons offense to have a much better week after facing off with the Steelers. Both teams are playing at a similar level but the home field advantage and Falcon D should be enough to edge the Falcons over the Cardinals.

EAGLES  over Lions by 14- No Stafford, no win.

PACKERS over Bills by 10- Packers will roll at home with their offense, even without Ryan Grant. Look for the back-up Brandon Jackson to have a good day. Packers will be one of the teams with an early season winning streak.

Browns over Chiefs by 3- The Chiefs didn’t produce a whole lot when you look at the stats last week. The Browns can match the Chiefs on special teams and defense so I think the Browns have the edge if Delhomme plays. If not it is up in the air with two similar teams.

Cowboys over Bears by 10- The Boys should be embarrassed by their performance against the Skins last week. Jerry Jones will not let that happen in Jerry World. Look for the Cowboys to gel on offense and win a shootout against Jay Cutler and Mike Martz. 

Vikings over Dolphins by 6- Vikings are hungry for the W after a repeat loss to the Saints. They are playing at home and they will most likely stick to the run, as opposed to last week. AP should have a decent day with at least 2 TD’s in this one.

Titans over Steelers by 3- The Steeler’s D will not allow Chris Johnson to run all over them. I believe he will get to 100 yards but it will take about 25 carries. This should be another low scoring one with a good Steeler’s D and a stagnant Steeler’s offense. Unless for some reason DD comes alive the Titans offense will prevail.

Broncos over Seahawks by 8- The Broncos will have a good offensive showing in this one. Last week the Seahawks shut down a poor offense that has trouble throwing the ball. This week Orton will pick through their D with a lot of short “West-Coast” style passes. The Seahawks are on the rise but will take a loss in this one.

Panthers over Buccos by 6- I don’t believe either team will be close to the playoffs but I give the advantage to the Panthers in this one solely on the home field advantage. Last week the home teams won 75% of the games.

Raiders over Rams by 1- These two are pretty evenly matched but again I give it to the home team. I think Bradford will show flashes of a future star but he will fall short again in this one. The Raiders offense should get a boost if Michael Bush is able to play this week. He is a big bruiser that will open up the game for McFadden. Plus if the Raiders are going to win a few games this season you would think St. Louis would one of the few they will beat.

Patriots over Jets by 10- This one will not be very close. The Jets coaching staff showed that Mark Sanchez clearly isn’t ready for the big time game yet. They had no confidence in him and limited him to the short game. The short game is what the Patriots are best at. The Jets D has taken a big hit looking Jenkins and I don’t think they will be able to hang with the Patriot’s high-flying offense that resembles 2007 already.

Jags over Chargers by 3- Last week the Chargers showed that something is clearly off in their organization. I doubt it is a quick fix. The Jags just saw the mighty Colts go down and have some extra motivation now that they realize the Colts can be beat. Unless Rivers can rally his team, the Chargers will struggle again.

Texans over Redskins by 9- WOW… This Texans team is scary! I wouldn’t want to play ‘em.

Colts over Giants by 7- Big brother will show why he is still big brother in this one. Peyton is at home and they are angry. He will not miss a beat in this one. Look for a three or four touchdown performance by him in this one. Little Eli will have to wait another year before he gets to take down big bro.

Saints over 49ers by a lot- Hmm… the tough 49er’s D was not so tough against the Seahawks. I think we know what will happen in this one. The defending champs will show why they are the defending champs.

Bengals over Ravens by 5- I do not have much faith in Bratkowski but if he comes out flat (not using the no huddle) then he should be fired. He should have been gone a while ago but Mr. Brown won’t let that happen. If he cannot recognize how effective that offense was last week (in the no huddle) then he deserves no spot in the NFL. Everyone knows what the Raven’s D is capable of but their offense is not very productive. The Bengals are angry and ready to react (not think) on defense. Playing at home against a division rival, I’m taking the Bengals in this one.

Can I begin to catch up to CV3 this week?  Feel free to post your picks in the comments and see how you stack up.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“NFC South Preview”

Can Matt Ryan lead the Falcons past the defending Super Bowl Champion Saints?

 The NFC South had a banner year last season producing their first Super Bowl Champion since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took it home behind a stellar game by Dexter Jackson in the 2002-2003 season.  Jon Gruden was at the top of the coaching realm at that time.  Now he is one of the best analysts that ESPN has to offer.  But how about those Saints?  What a heartfelt story and exciting team to watch.  It was a very well deserved victory for the team and the entire city of New Orleans. 

NFC South:  Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers, Saints 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4th place):  Things have not been the greatest in Tampa Bay for the past couple of years.  This franchise has not made the playoffs since 2007, and that does not appear to be changing this year.  They have both an abysmal offense and defense these days, that really struggles at defending the pass.  First of all the problem for this team starts at quarterback.  The 22-year-old, Josh Freeman, has a world of potential, but no business starting in the NFL yet.  This is not a League that young guys can typically make an instant impact in such as the NBA.  The running back combo of this team in Cadillac Williams and Derrick Ward is mediocre at best.  It is hard to run a ball on a team that will have such an anemic passing game.  Which leads me to how much the loss of Antonio Bryant will hurt.  The Bucs were towards the bottom of the League in the passing game last year, think what it will be like this year with Kellen Winslow as your only real receiving threat (he is a Tight End).  On the defensive side of the ball, things get even worse.  The only names you will recognize are guys like Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib.  You recognize Ronde, because he once was great, and Aqib because of his run ins with the law.  Plus Ronde looks to be all but retired, and may actually be retired before the season starts.  So there you have it, not much hope for Tampa Bay in 2010. 

Carolina Panthers (3rd place):  Next you have a Carolina Panther’s team that is coming off of a very disappointing 3rd place finish.  Well expect the same this year.  The one thing this team has going for them is a very strong defense.  Jon Beason is rapidly becoming one of the best linebackers in the League.  He is another great NFL linebacker out of none other than the U (Miami University).  Chris Gamble is a gamer in the secondary and can come up with some big time plays.  But the loss of Julius Peppers will sting.  Regardless if the guy was overpaid, he still contributed big time and really was a guy that offensive lines keyed in on freeing up others on the Panther’s defense to run rampant.  Can the Panther’s secondary still do well without a Julius Pepper’s attack coming at opposing QB’s?  We will find out.  Offensively, there is a brand new look with the sad departure of Jake Delhomme.  It will be interesting to see how Matt Moore does with the pressure of being the starter and having a guy like Jimmy Clausen breathing down his throat.  At least there is a great 2 headed monster at running back in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.  Oh yeah, they also have a guy named Steve Smith to throw to.  But the loss of Muhsin Muhammad will hurt and somebody will have to step up as the number 2 receiver.  All in all, this Panther’s team has a lot of question marks.  But expect the rushing attack to be solid and do not be surprised to see this team win between 6 and 8 games. 

Atlanta Falcons (2nd place):  Atlanta will boast a solid offensive attack again this year led by their fearless quarterback Matt Ryan.  Ryan is getting close to entering his prime and continues to develop into a very strong NFL quarterback.  This team has targets for him to throw to such as Roddy White, Michael Jenkins, and the future hall of famer, Tony Gonzalez.  But make no mistake, this is still one of the NFL’s few run first teams.  Between having a healthy Michael Turner, Jason Snelling, and the explosive Jerious Norwood, opponents should fear the rushing attack of Atlanta.  Also word on the street is that Michael Turner has had a fantastic off-season and has a big time year forthcoming.  On the other side of the ball, you may not have heard of many of these guys if you are not from Atlanta, but they are tough.  Led by linebacker Curtis Lofton and safety Erik Coleman, this defense is very solid.  They work very well as a collaborative unit and this year should be no different.  The only question is can this team improve in stopping the pass?  If they are able to improve as a secondary unit, they could challenge the pass happy Saints for the divisional crown.  Expect this team to come up just short of a Wild Card spot, but to have a very solid season. 

New Orleans Saints (1st place):  I know it has been a trap in recent history to pick the defending Super Bowl Champs to make any noise the next season.  I know the past couple of years the defending champs have faltered in even making it back to the playoffs, but this team looks too good not to at least make the postseason.  They are led by possibly the game’s best quarterback in Drew Brees.  They have an outstanding receiving corps in Colston, Henderson, Meachem, and Shockey.  Also they have probably the best receiving running back in the League in Reggie Bush.  This team can hurt you in so many ways offensively.  And with the way Drew Brees spreads the ball around, it does not really matter who you put around him or what defenses you throw at him.  Brees will put up points.  Also this team has the best run/pass balance in the League.  They are old-fashioned, and though they appear pass happy at times, they are able to do this due to an established rushing attack.  Though the loss of Mike Bell will hurt, expect Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush to carry the load just fine and really compliment each other well.  Then on the defensive side of the ball, can Darren Sharper repeat his amazing performance of a year ago?  Or at least half of the performance?  For a Super Bowl Champion, the Saints did not have a great defense.  They really lived and died on the bend and not break motto.  But who cares.  If you are putting up points the way this team does, all the defense has to do is hold opponents under 30 (sometimes 35).  Jonathan Vilma, Darren Sharper, and Roman Harper just have to ensure that this defense does not totally collapse.  Due to the amazing scoring ability of the offense, they predominantly have to defend against the pass as teams try to catch up.  Is the defense up to the challenge? 

So the NFC South looks to be very good as usual.  I see the Saints repeating as champions and the Falcons having a great season, but just missing a Wild Card spot in the playoffs.  The Saints will break the recent streak of defending Super Bowl Champions not making the playoffs. 

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze. 

-TheSportsKraze