First Week – NFL Power Rankings

As the weeks go on throughout the football season, I’ll be bringing you a Top 10 Power Rankings. After the long wait for Kickoff Weekend, the games didn’t disappoint by any means. Week 2 is slated full of teams out to prove that they were for real and/or they just needed a little bit more time to settle into the 2013 season.

1. Denver Broncos – Peyton looked like Peyton with a good 1st half and a stellar 2nd half. Denver seems ready to roll on Defense when Von Miller returns from suspension.

2. San Francisco 49ers – Kaepernick silenced many critics, including myself, coming out strong vs. Green Bay. The team will have their hands   full against a tough Seattle team in Week 2.

3. Chicago Bears – Chicago’s Defense picked up right where it left off in 2012. The Bears will prepare for division-rival Minnesota this week.

4. Houston Texans – Matt Schaub and the Defense got rolling in the second half last week. Playing Tennessee will be an interesting watching this week as the Titans beat Pittsburgh last week and ranked 1st in Total Defense.

5. Seattle Seahawks – Seattle didn’t look as impressive as you’d think. Wilson did throw for career numbers, but didn’t play up to his usual standard of play. They’ll be ready for the 12th man and San Francisco in Week 2.

6. New England Patriots – New England seems not be as solid at Running Back as many thought, but the Wide Receivers are stepping up in the typical “next man up” Patriot way. They’ll have another game they’re expected to win in Week 2 against Geno Smith and the Jets.

7. New Orleans Saints – New Orleans finally got their leader back on the sidelines and it showed. They looked up to their old tricks against Atlanta. It’ll be interesting to see their Offense match up against Tampa Bay’s Secondary this week.

8. Atlanta Falcons – Atlanta’s Offense was firing but missed a healthy Roddy White against the Saints. The Rams come to the A Town this week. It’ll be a great game to watch!

9. Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals played strong against Chicago, but Andy Dalton threw 2 costly interceptions. Next week they’ll have division-rival Pittsburgh. The Steelers lost to a very questionable team last week. The Bengals “should” have no problems in this game.

10. Green Bay Packers – The Offense is what you’d expect, but the team is lacking good secondary talent and missed Casey Hayward. They’ll play a Redskins team at home this week that struggled Offensively in Week 1.


NFL 32 Team Preview: Green Bay Packers

As we begin entering the final previews for the 32 NFL Team breakdowns, today we’ll be talking about the Green Bay Packers. The Packers are a team that you consider when thinking of teams representing the NFC in the Super Bowl. Mike McCarthy was hired in 2006 by the organization to bring the Lombardi Trophy home. He did exactly that in 2010 and has only not made the Playoffs in 2 seasons. Last season, McCarthy led the Packers to 13th in Total Offense and 11th in Total Defense. Expectations are high for the franchise, internally as well as externally, in 2013. Anything less than a Super Bowl victory would be a let down for fans and players.

Offense: Aaron Rodgers is one of the most recognized names in the NFL. He is the leader of the Offense for Green Bay and mainly responsible for their 9th ranked Passing attack in 2012. Rodgers season wasn’t as spectacular as his 2011 MVP performance, but it was as close to it as he threw for 4,295 yards, 38 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Arguably the best Quarterback in the league, Aaron Rodgers is very effective with his arm and his feet. He wasn’t slick enough on his feet though last year because he got sacked a total of 51 times. The Offensive Line for the Packers has a Pro Bowler in Guard Josh Sitton. He and T.J. Lang are the two players who will be the starting for the team at Guard. They, along with Center Evan Dietrich-Smith, will have the main duties of success for the running game and anchoring of the Offensive Line. The starting Tackles for the Pack begin with Left Tackle Bryan Bulaga. He only played 9 games last season, at Right Tackle, and is the one that’s responsible for the Quarterbacks blind side. That job used to fall on Marshall Newhouse, but since the team selected Bulaga with the 23rd pick in the draft, they’ve been grooming him to take over on the left side. Newhouse will be the team’s starting Right Tackle. Newhouse has allowed 21.5 sacks in the last 2 seasons alone, so there will need to be some kind of improvement in his game this season in order for him not to be a liability on the field. Derek Sherrod has a great opportunity to win the Right Tackle position during Training Camp. He was taken with the 31st overall pick in the 2011 Draft. The group of guys that will be playing every Sunday will need to gel together better than they did last year, due to the amount of times they allowed opponents to hit their Quarterback. Notably, Green Bay planned for the future by drafting Tackle David Bakhtiari along with Guard J.C. Tretter in the 4th round this year, in hopes that they’ll be molded into starters after a few years. The Packers needed to improve their 20th ranking in rushing, so they drafted 2 big time players in the Draft. Eddie Lacy was a superstar at Alabama and was chosen in the 2nd round, which some saw as a steal. Johnathan Franklin was also a big time player for his school (UCLA) and is considered to be good as a passing option. Lacy should go into the season as the starter and both will almost certainly share the same amount of time, as well as carries, until someone steps up and solidifies themselves as the starter. Looking at the Tight End position, Jermichael Finley is one of Rodgers’ favorite targets to get the football too. Catching 116 balls for 1,434 yards the last 2 seasons, Finley will assuredly be Aaron Rodgers’ main security blanket. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb head the Wide Receivers for the Packers.  Nelson is going into his 6th season in the league. Over the past 5 years he’s caught a total of 28 touchdowns passes. Cobb blew onto the scene last season, becoming the most targeted receiver on team, and catching 8 touchdowns on 80 receptions. He led the team with 974 yards and in plays over 20+ yards with 17. James Jones has been with the Packers the last 6 years and had his best season yet in 2012 when he caught 14 touchdowns. They, as well as Jarrett Boykin notably, will be in charge of making plays. Green Bay’s Offense is one of the most dangerous in the league and one that many opponents won’t be successful in handling during 2013. They should put up big numbers with a number of highlight plays.

Defense: Clay Matthews is the face of the Defense and one of the most well known names throughout the game. The Linebacker has accrued 42.5 sacks in his 4-year career, 13 last season. He’s considered one of the best pass rushers in the game and has been selected to every Pro Bowl since joining the league. He and Nick Perry will fill the positions of Outside Linebacker. Middle Linebacker, A.J. Hawk, has been with the Packers since being selected 5th overall in 2006. Hawk led the team in tackles for loss with 6 last season, on his way to having 120 total tackles and 3 sacks. Brad Jones will be joining him at the position.  He racked up 77 total tackles, 2 sacks and a forced fumble in 2012. Key for the Linebackers are the men up front on the Defensive Line. Datone Jones was selected 26th overall in the Draft and will be a starter at Defensive End. Jones, one of the better pass rushers during the Senior Bowl, seemed to give every Offensive Lineman some kind of trouble during drills throughout the week. He will be joined with B.J. Raji at the end position. Raji had a disappointing 2012 season, not even registering a sack, and will be looking to rebound in the coming campaign with a Pro Bowl caliber-type performance. Ryan Pickett is a 33-year-old player whose job will be to anchor the 3/4 Defense. He’s a run stuffing type of talent who, at 340, should have no problems living up to his duties. Green Bay’s Defensive Backfield group has plenty of talented players at both Safety and Cornerback. Casey Hayward, Sam Shields and Tramon Williams are the players whose duties will be to cover the Wide Receivers. Hayward had an impressive rookie season, intercepting 6 passes and deflecting a team high 21 balls. Sam Shields intercepted 3 passes and deflected 10 balls, along with a sack, in 2012. Williams deflected 16 passes and picked off 2 of them. This group of Cornerbacks is one of the best the NFL has. They drafted another player during the 2013 Draft in Micah Hyde out of Iowa. The Safety position lost one of its more known players in Charles Woodson during the Offseason. Now the Free Safety job will belong to Morgan Burnett, who actually led the team in tackles last season with 123 total. Burnett also had 2 sacks, 2 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles. He shouldn’t have any problems filling the shoes of the Hall of Famer who vacated the position. The Strong Safety spot will go to 3rd year player, M.D. Jennings. Jennings had over 50 tackles for the Pack last season. He had 1 interception that went for the only defensive touchdown the team had all season. The weakest part of the Defense might be the line, which the team tried to address during the Offseason. The Defense for the Packers should bode similar results, as they had the previous season, in 2013 and will be key for the franchise going down the stretch.

End Result: I foresee the Green Bay Packers going 13-3.

NFL 32 Team Preview: Denver Broncos

The Denver Broncos will be the topic of discussion as we begin winding-down our NFL 32 Team Previews. John Fox has had his team at the top of their division and in the Playoffs since being hired in 2011, which is exactly why they hired him. Fox led Denver to the best record in the Conference last season. Many think they’re the team that will be representing the AFC in this year’s Super Bowl. A career record of 94-82 (6-5 in Playoffs), John Fox lost a Super Bowl in 2003 with Carolina and would love to get some redemption.

Offense: The addition of Peyton Manning really helped Denver reach the 4th best Total Offense in the league. Manning had arguably the second best year of his career last season with 4,659 yards passing, 37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Peyton is critical to the Offense playing well in 2013. The Offensive Line is going to have to protect him well, and Left Tackle Ryan Clady did that exceptionally for the Broncos last season. He only allowed 1 sack all year, earning a trip to his 3rd Pro Bowl. Clady reached a deal with the team to stay for another 5 years in the Offseason. At Left Guard beside Clady is another Pro Bowl player, Zane Beadles. Louis Vasquez was signed during Free Agency to play Right Guard. He’s a solid addition who is very rarely penalized and provides great help up front. Right Tackle will belong to Orlando Franklin who has started every game for the team since being drafted in 2011. The anchor at Center will be Dan Koppen. Dan filled in for an injury in 2012 and should do the same this year for J.D. Walton. Expecting another surgery on his ankle, Walton is considered to miss the upcoming season. Denver’s running game, ranked 16th, got a huge addition in the Draft with the selection of Montee Ball. He might not start out the season as the main back but, over time, he should become the top option. Ball rarely fumbles and is an excellent duel threat out of the backfield. The job to lose belongs to Ronnie Hillman as he enters his 2nd year as a pro. He’ll need to improve at his pass protection if he wants to keep the label as starter. Knowshon Moreno is a player who really needs to sneak in here and have an excellent season, salvaging what’s been a disastrous start to an NFL career. The two main targets at Tight End for the Broncos will be Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme. Dreessen had one of his best seasons during his first year with the Broncos, catching 5 touchdowns. Reunited with Peyton Manning was Tamme who quickly again became one of his preferred 3rd down targets. The players who will see the most attention throughout the season are Wide Receivers Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker. Welker was brought over in Free Agency. Five out of the last six years, Welker has caught over 100 passes in a season. Manning loves to get rid of the football quickly, so Welker should be a great addition. Demaryius Thomas is looking to prove that last season wasn’t a fluke, when he totaled 94 passes, 1,434 yards (29 plays for 20 yards or more), and 10 touchdowns so that he can solidify himself as one of the most dangerous players in the game at his position. Eric Decker has come a long way since Minnesota University, catching 85 passes with 13 touchdowns in 2012. This trio of receivers is going to be a pain for Defensive Backs to contain on GameDay. Trindon Holliday is a notable who usually just returns kicks, but is speedy enough to make plays with the ball in his hands on Offense. Denver has one of the best Offenses in the league. They shouldn’t have any problem dominating teams going through the 2013 season.

Defense: Von Miller is the face of this side of the ball, which ranked 2nd in the NFL. Miller had 18.5 sacks, with 6 forced fumbles last season, giving him 30 since being drafted in 2011. Von was also responsible for 14 tackles for loss as well, which was a team high. The other starting Outside Linebacker for the squad is Wesley Woodyard. He led the team in tackles last season with 117 total, 5.5 sacks and 3 interceptions, only starting 14 games. Nate Irving is going into his first full season as a starter at Middle Linebacker. A 3-year pro out of North Carolina State, Irving will be called upon to take over. Shaun Phillips is a notable Linebacker who came over from rival San Diego and registered 69.5 sacks over his 9 years there. Defensive End Derek Wolfe played very well for the Broncos, racking up 6 sacks in his rookie year. The franchise expects the same, if not better, production out of him this coming season. Robert Ayers plays at the other End spot but never lived up to being selected 18th overall by the team in 2009. A first round pick from this season, Defensive Tackle, Sylvester Williams out of North Carolina, is looking to be a disruptive force immediately. There were questions if he had the wherewithal to dominate consistently in the league. He’s stepping into a great situation so, hopefully, he’ll live up to expectations. Kevin Vickerson put up 2 sacks last season and will get the nod as the other starting Defensive Tackle. Champ Bailey, the most well known member of the Secondary, is going into his 15th year as one of the best Cornerbacks the game has to offer. Some speculate this might be his last before retiring. Champ has intercepted 52 passes in his career and would love to complete his resume by holding up the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was brought over during Free Agency to head up the other starting Cornerback spot. Rodgers-Cromartie is looking to build off of 3 interceptions from last season with the Eagles and establish himself as one of the better players at his position once again. Tied for the team lead in passes deflected was Tony Carter and Chris Harris with 12. They’ll be battling for playing time as the reserves, and are great depth for teams who are deep at Wide Receiver. Quentin Jammer was notably signed during the Offseason as well. The Free Safety job is a competition between Rahim Moore (who some fans still feel is responsible for losing against the Ravens in the Playoffs) and Mike Adams. Adams deflected 11 passes with 80 total tackles in 2012. Strong Safety is a job that looks to belong to Quinton Carter who missed most of last season due to a knee injury. Denver has one of the better pass rushes in the league. With the pressure they put on the Quarterback, the Secondary should make a lot of plays throughout next season.

End Result: I think Denver wins the Division going 11-5.

NFL 32 Team Preview: Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons are the next team scheduled to talk about on our NFL 32 Team Preview. The Dirty Birds went 13-3 last season, in a tie with Denver for the best record in the NFL. Some questioned the hiring of Mike Smith in 2008, but he’s gone 57-28 with the team including 1 Playoff win. Atlanta is one of the heavy favorites to go to the Super Bowl in New York. They need to take advantage of their window and win the Falcons its first Title in franchise history. Mike Smith, being the Defensive minded coach that he is, needs to lead the Defense to a better ranking than 24th overall in 2013.

Offense: Atlanta placed 8th in Total Offense last season, ranking 6th in passing and 29th in the run. The key piece to the Birds’ Offense is Quarterback Matt Ryan. With 16 fourth quarter comebacks and 23 game winning drives in his career, Ryan might arguably be one of the most clutch quarterbacks the NFL has to offer. Matt had a career year passing last season with 4,719 yards, 32 touchdowns and a 68.6% completion percentage (tied for 1st with Peyton Manning). His two main targets, Julio Jones and Roddy White, are considered the best receiving tandem in the league. They both totaled 35 plays for 20 yards or more for the franchise last season. White has more than 80 catches and over 1,150 yards each season since 2007, with a total of 49 touchdowns. Roddy is a four-time Pro Bowler, who was already one of the best in the game when the organization chose Julio Jones with the 6th overall pick in 2011. He has had over 2,000 yards and 18 touchdowns during his 2-year career. Harry Douglas, Drew Davis and Tim Toone will be responsible for filling in during the advanced receiver sets. They’ll have plenty of chances to make plays with Defensive Backs focusing on the other main threats on field. Notably, Martel Moore was signed as an un-drafted free agent who played big for Northern Illinois in his college career. He has a great opportunity to see playing time with a solid performance during Training Camp. Another main threat that members of the Secondary have to account for is Tight End Tony Gonzalez. Gonzalez returned this season, for a 17th year only, only due to the fact that he believes they’ll be contenders for the Super Bowl. Gonzalez had his best showing as a Falcon with 93 catches, 930 yards and 8 touchdowns. If White/Jones/Gonzalez can put up combined numbers of 3,509 yards and 25 touchdowns again this coming season, Atlanta shouldn’t have much problem being the force they’re expected to be through the air. On the ground the Birds’ needed improvement badly, so they made it a point to go after Steven Jackson during Free Agency. For the eighth season, Jackson went over 1,000 yards in 2012, scoring 4 times. Jackson is going to bring an element that will make the Falcons scary on Offense if he can stay healthy. He’s only started 16 games 3 times in his 9-year career.  Jackson, if healthy throughout the 2013/2014 season, will be one of the more talked about x-factors on Atlanta. Backing him up will be Jacquizz Rodgers, who is a speedy passing catcher out of the backfield. Blocking upfront for the runners and signal-callers is Sam Baker, Peter Konz, Justin Blalock, Garrett Reynolds, and Mike Johnson. Baker (Left Tackle) and Johnson (Right Tackle) are going be personally responsible for keeping Ryan on his feet. Opening holes for the running game will be Blalock and Reynolds at Guard, with Konz at Center. Konz started 10 games for the team in his rookie year of 2012. Blalock was solid for the team last season while Reynolds’ season was shortened by a back injury. Atlanta has everything they need on Offense to be number 1 ranked by the end of the 2013 campaign. Defensive Coordinators are going to have trouble defending the run in receiver sets of 3 or greater if Steven Jackson is playing as he’s expected too.

Defense: Atlanta’s defense played better than it’s 20th rank against the rush and 23rd versus the pass. They were one of the top teams in turnovers with plenty of interceptions in the Secondary. The franchise has a great pair of Safetys in Thomas DeCoud and William Moore. With 156 tackles between them, DeCoud picked off 6 passes while Moore had 4. They both were selected to the Pro Bowl in 2012 and have a good probability of returning after 2013. Cornerback begins with Asante Samuel who, tied for 34th All-Time with 50 interceptions, took away 5 passes (one for the only Defensive score of the season) in his first year as a Falcon last season. He also led the team in pass deflections with 19. Desmond Trufant (22nd) and Robert Alford (60th) were selected early in the 2o13 Draft. Trufant should start right away; Alford should see significant playing time throughout the season. Trufant intercepted 6 passes over his 4-year career at Washington, while Alford intercepted 9 over the past two seasons playing at the smaller school of Southeastern Louisiana. Another Cornerback, Robert McCain, was claimed off waivers in 2011 and he deflected 10 passes last season. The Defensive Line got a pass rushing threat when they signed Osi Umenyiora off the Free Agent market. Having 75 sacks in his career, Umenyiora will be a pleasant addition to the line. Kroy Biermann, who registered 4 sacks in 2012, and Umenyiora should be moved around between End in a 4/3 and OLB in a 3/4 depending on the look that the Defense is giving. Jonathan Babineaux led the team in tackles for loss and will be at End and Tackle depending on the scheme being played. He has trouble playing the run so, with it being a contract year for him, he’s going to need to bring his best effort in this next season. Peria Jerry and Corey Peters are players who should see playing time as well along the line. At Linebacker, Stephen Nicholas was Atlanta’s main tackler in last year with 97 total tackles, 2 sacks, an interception and forced fumble. Almost mirroring those numbers was Sean Witherspoon with 95 total tackles, 3 sacks, an interception and forced fumble. Atlanta will need both of these players to be on top of their game throughout the entire season to help stop the running game. Linebacker Akeem Dent started 13 games for the franchise last season. He’ll be looked upon to be a full time starter for the first time in his career this coming year. The whole key for this Defense is to be able to bend but not break. They have plenty of ball-hawks in the Secondary to have turnovers in 2013, and will need their pass rushers to put pressure on Quarterbacks to create opportunities. If the Falcons can hold teams to under 20 points a game, they’ll win a lot of games.

End Result: It seems a little low, but when ranking how Atlanta would finish, I came to the conclusion of 10-6. I think their division will be a very difficult one to play in next season, as 3 out of the 4 teams have a legitimate chance to make the Playoffs.

NFL 32 Team Preview: Houston Texans

The next team up on our NFL 32 Team Preview segment is the Houston Texans. They’ve played only 4 Playoff games in their 11-year existence, all 4 in the last two seasons. Houston won the 2011 and ’12 Wild Card rounds of Playoffs but lost in both Divisional rounds to the eventual AFC Champion. They’re one of the favorites to be a Super Bowl contender this season under Head Coach Gary Kubiak. Kubiak holds a record of 61-55 since being hired by the franchise in 2006. Some feel that if he doesn’t get the team to take a step forward in one of the next few seasons, it could cost him his job.

Offense: One of the more high-caliber Offenses in the league, Houston ranked 7th last season (8th in rushing and 11th in passing). Matt Schaub is the one who will be responsible for calling the plays in the huddle. Schaub consistently puts up over 4,000 yards passing when he plays full seasons and often throws in the mid 60’s percentage wise in his completions. Schaub is steadily one of the better Quarterbacks in the NFL year after year but fans have concerns about him being the one who will lead them to the Promised Land. This upcoming campaign is going to be huge for Schaub in proving “he is who we think he is”, to steal a line from Dennis Green. Matt isn’t the only face of Houston’s franchise, as Arian Foster is arguably one of the best Running Backs in the game. Foster has played 4 seasons with the Texans, running for 4,521 yards and 44 touchdowns over that span. His running style isn’t his only forte, as he’s very reliable in the passing game. He’s come a long way since coming to the team un-drafted, which is what Ray Graham will be trying to do in 2013. Graham was a playmaker at the University of Pittsburgh that fought back from a torn ACL in 2011, and ran for over 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. He’s a wild card but has all the abilities a Running Back needs to shine in the league. Ben Tate was thought to be a force backing up Foster when drafted in 2010. He’s fought injuries throughout his career and will be nice compliment, if healthy, to Arian during the season. Opening up the holes for these runners will be an Offensive Line led by Chris Myers and Duane Brown. They’re 2 of the best at their positions and both should see returns to Hawaii after the end of the season for the Pro Bowl. Myers holds down the job as Center, as Brown handles the duties at Left Tackle. There are concerns over the consistency at the Right Tackle. The job should go to Derek Newton who started 14 games for the team in 2012. If he can’t play at a high level, the team took Brennan Williams in the 3rd round of the Draft. Williams could win the starting job during camp if he provides impeccable play throughout August. Wade Smith is a Pro Bowler as well who starts at Left Guard. He and Brandon Brooks should get the nods as starters. The Wide Receiving crew for the Houston Texans is full of explosive talent. Andre Johnson has been one of the top players at his position in the NFL for quite some time now. Johnson had 23 plays for 20 yards or more last year and was responsible for 79 first downs. He has totaled 818 catches, 11,254 yards, and 56 touchdowns in his career. He’s been the go-to-guy for Schaub for years now and should be a top producer at his position again. To try and have another major threat, the Texans drafted DeAndre Hopkins 27th overall. Hopkins scored 18 touchdowns for Clemson last year and was a consistent asset for the team during his time there. If he can make some big plays during his rookie year, it’ll take a lot of attention off Andre Johnson and make the Houston’s passing game a lot more dangerous. They’ll need their other wideouts (Lestar Jean, DeVier Posey, and Keshawn Martin) to take advantage of the opportunities they are given and make a name for themselves. The starting Tight End position has belonged to Owen Daniels since 2006. He had one of his better years receiving last season, while bringing in a team and career-high 6 touchdown passes. He’ll be backed up by Garrett Graham who started 9 games for the Texans last year while hauling in 3 scores. Houston has everything they need to be one of the top Offenses in the league next season. If they’re healthy, Schaub should lead the team to a record similar to their 2012 performance.

Defense: Ranking 7th in Total Defense, the franchise was 7th versus the run and 16th against the pass in 2012. J.J. Watt was a big reason for it’s success and is arguably the best Defensive Linemen in the NFL. Playing at End and Tackle, Watt tied for the team high is pass deflections with 16, led in tackles for loss with 23, led in forced fumbles with 4, and led the team in sacks with 20.5. He’s one of the most effective and disruptive players the game has to offer. Antonio Smith will play at the other Defensive End position and he racked up a career-high 7 sacks last year. Earl Mitchell is the team’s anchor at Nose Tackle. He started 3 games last year and will be looking to put up good numbers in his first season as a full time starter completed. The Linebackers for the organization begin with Middle Linebacker Brian Cushing who is coming off a torn ACL. Cushing is the heart of this corps and will need to stay healthy while having his typical 100+ total tackle season with 4 sacks or more. Starting 11 games for the team over the last 3 years, Darryl Sharpton should be the other starting Middle Linebacker for the Texans. Starting at Outside Linebacker will be Brooks Reed and Whitney Mercilus. Reed had will be looking to rebound after a poor 2012, as Mercilus will be trying to build off a strong rookie campaign where, only starting 4 games, he brought the Quarterback down 6 times. The team drafted Sam Montgomery in the 3rd round to play at OLB. I personally think that after he builds up his strength, he’d be a perfect fit as a Defensive End. Notably, Trevardo Williams was taken in the 4th round and led his conference in sacks during his senior season with 11.5. The Defensive Backfield for the Texans got a lot better with the signing of Ed Reed during the Offseason. Reed, 10th All-Time in interceptions, is looking to help take the organization to the Super Bowl for the first time. Coming off winning one in 2012 with the Ravens, Ed will bring supreme playmaking ability and knowledge to a Defense that ranked 14th in interceptions last season. There is some concern that Reed might not be ready for the beginning of the coming year. If that were true, D.J. Swearinger could be seeing time ASAP. A 2nd round pick in 2013, some felt Swearinger was a steal in the Draft. He’s battled injuries in college, but brings a hard-hitting presence that will be needed when called upon. In 2012, Danieal Manning, who will be moving to Strong Safety, picked off 2 passes in his 7th year. It’ll be interesting to see if Swearinger’s play will be good enough to demand time over Manning when Reed is on the field. Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph make up the starting Cornerback tandem in Houston. Jackson led the team in passes taken away with 4, setting a career high, in his 3rd year as a pro. Joseph is going into his 3rd year with the team and looking to rebound from an injury filled 2012. Throughout his 8 years in the league, he’s only started 16 games twice. Brice McCain, responsible for the Slot Receivers, has played decent in his 4 years with the team. McCain is someone the team is looking to have one of his strongest seasons yet. The Houston Texans will have their moments on Defense in 2013, but in the end should hold up pretty well. One thing they should see a lot more of is turnovers, with the presence of a ball hawk at Safety, to go along with a nice group of pass rushers.

End Result: I have the Texans at 10-6. My prediction involves the team having some struggles in the beginning of the year but finishing the season as one of the hotter teams.

NFL 32 Team Preview: Washington Redskins

We’ll be hashing over the Washington Redskins in today’s 32 NFL Team preview. The burgundy and gold have come a long way. Winning the NFC East last year, the Redskins hosted their first home Playoff game since 1999. Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen seem to have done just what they promised. They’ve got the Skins’ back on top, but now have to keep them there. Shanahan needs to have a winning season in 2013 to turn his 21-27 overall record with the team into a positive one. Washington’s goal will be holding more home Playoff games this upcoming season.

Offense: An Offense that struggled in 2011 was reborn with the addition of a Quarterback in the 2012 Draft. Robert Griffin III led the Skins’ with 3,200 passing yards, 815 rushing yards, 20 passing/7 rushing touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. He only lost 2 but he needs to shore up putting on the ball on the ground as he fumbled 12 times in his rookie year. Griffin possesses arm strength and accuracy that’s rarely seen in a player at his position who’s considered a running threat. If RGIII has another season where he carries the team on his back with big numbers, he’s going to be considered one of the best in the game. Notably, Washington has Kirk Cousins at back up. If Robert Griffin isn’t available to play the first few weeks due to his knee injury, Kirk will fill in fine as he proved last year. The team has a solid pair of Tight Ends in Fred Davis and Logan Paulsen. Davis, coming off an Achilles injury, really seemed like he was beginning to build a rapport with RGIII until the injury. Paulsen stepped in and was a key 3rd down guy that caught a majority of his targets. Jordan Reed was taken in the 3rd round of the Draft and, though a project player, a lot of fans have faith that he’s going to be a force in the passing game. The Skins’ have a lot of talent on their hands at his position. Pierre Garçon missed time and was never 100% healthy in 2012, but still managed to lead the team in receiving (44 catches, 663 yards, and 4 touchdowns). He and Santana Moss are the key complement players in the passing game. Both tied for most plays over 20 yards receiving (10) and first downs (26). Moss ended last season with 8 touchdowns. Josh Morgan, Leonard Hankerson, and Aldrick Robinson will pretty much round out the rest of the positions. Morgan is a reliable Receiver who does great in run blocking. Robinson snuck past Defensive Backs a few times for big plays last season, and will be looking to have more of those in this coming year. Leonard Hankerson was big for Washington in the middle on slants and posts. Making sure Robert Griffin has time to throw is the responsibility of the Offensive Line. Left Tackle Trent Williams is quietly one of the better players at his position in the league. He’s only allowed 8.5 sacks the past 2 seasons, playing against some of the best pass rushers in the NFL, many who reside in the NFC East. Tyler Polumbus will be the team’s starter at Right Tackle. Will Montgomery, Center, played solid for someone who many fans had concerns about handling the position going into last year. Chris Chester and Kory Lichtensteiger will be the franchises Guards. Josh LeRibeus played solid when called upon at the end of the season. So if Chester or Lichtensteiger have an issue, he should have no problem taking over. Alfred Morris is the Running Back they’ll be opening lanes for. Morris ran for 1,613 yards in his rookie campaign, along with scoring 13 touchdowns. Nobody expected him to have numbers this big, being a 6th round pick, so I’m curious to see how 2013 is going to go for him. Notably, Roy Helu and Chris Thompson will be fighting to back Alfred up. Helu was a nice pick up for the Redskins in 2011, setting the team record for catches in a game, but missed almost all of 2012 due to injury. Thompson was always a home run threat at Florida State and was chosen in the 4th round of the draft. He’s a long shot, coming off season-ending back and ACL injuries in 2011 and ’12, but could prove to be an explosive player. The Redskins offense, 5th overall in 2012 (1st in rushing, 20th in passing), all falls on to the shoulders of its Quarterback. They’re a solid group, but he takes them to another level and will need to be healthy throughout 2013 for success.

Defense: Defensively the Skins’ ranked 28th in the league last year (5th versus the run and 30th against the pass). The leader of the Defense is 16-year vet, Middle Linebacker, London Fletcher. Fletcher led the Redskins in tackling (139 total) and interceptions (5) last year, also registering 3 sacks. London’s presence alone brings certain inspiration to Washington, who will be starting beside Perry Riley. Perry had good stats for his first full year as a starter with 3.5 sacks and 129 total tackles. Brian Orakpo forms a solid pairing with Ryan Kerrigan at Outside Linebacker. Orakpo put up 28.5 sacks over 3 years before being injured in the second game of 2012 and missing the rest of the year. Kerrigan has totaled 16 sacks for the Redskins since being drafted in 2011. They should have the most significant amount of pressure on Quarterback’s than anyone else on the team. Rob Jackson is a notable here as he was a force while replacing Orakpo during his injury. He led the team in tackles for loss with 5 and had 4 interceptions with 4.5 sacks. The Skins’ Defensive Line is responsible for their stellar play against the run last season. Stephen Bowen and Adam Carriker should be the team’s starting D-End’s. In 2012, Carriker suffered a season-ending knee injury and missed a majority of the season. He still might not be ready to play when the season starts and, if so, Jarvis Jenkins would take his spot. Bowen has made the most of his opportunities to be a starter in Washington since being signed in 2011. Another player they signed that same year Barry Cofield, one of the better Nose Tackles in the game, is good at putting stress on pass throwers. Second-String is Chris Baker who comes in at times to spell Cofield, mainly during rushing situations. The Secondary of the Redskins needed a lot of help during the Offseason. The team did just that, making a lot of moves on limited funds. Phillip Thomas was drafted along with Bacarri Rambo to compete for a starting Safety position. Thomas led the NCAA in interceptions with 8 in 2012 and is the favorite to win the position. Rambo has a playmaker for Georgia that will be a nice player to have if Brandon Meriweather cannot make it through the season. Meriweather missed all but one half of football in 2012. In that game, his strong performance had fans envisioning what he would have looked like with the team all season if healthy. The depth at Cornerback got younger and deeper when the team selected David Amerson 51st overall. Amerson led the NCAA in interceptions with 13 in 2011, but had some coverage problems at NC State in 2012. He should be a perfect fit with Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall. Hall tied for the lead on the Redskins in tackles for loss (5), led in pass deflections (14), intercepted 4 passes and had a sack in 2012. Wilson forced 3 fumbles while picking off 2 passes last year. The remaining members of the Cornerback group are E.J. Biggers, Chase Minnifield, and Richard Crawford. Biggers was signed to the team during Free Agency from Tampa. Minnifield came to the team as an injured rookie last season and is trying to see playing time in 2013. Crawford made a big difference in the return game and seemed to feel more comfortable as the season ended. He’ll be the player that I’ll have my eye on early. The Defense for the Redskins is going to get a big boost with Orakpo and Carriker coming back. Their Secondary is young and will have some growing pains, but the team should be noticeably better against the pass. Quarterback stress by the D-Line will be the key to how effective they’ll be in 2013.

End Result: This season is only going to go as well as Robert Griffin does. If he and key members on the team stay healthy, I predict the Redskins will be 12-4 . Now Washington, being last alphabetically, was finished before I had the chance to tag them with the 11-5 record I had in mind. Either way, I had them taking a step forward after 2012.

NFL 32 Team Preview: Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers is next up to discuss on our 32 NFL Team breakdown. The Steelers Head Coach, Mike Tomlin, has been with the team 8 years now. He holds an impressive 68-36 record, taking the team to 2 Super Bowls but only winning one. He finished with the worst record of his career in 2012 (8-8) and will be looking to rebound, with a trip to the Playoffs.

Offense: Ben Roethlisberger is the face of the franchise in Pittsburgh. He almost holds every major passing record in Steelers history and, with 22 more touchdowns in 2013, he’ll be the franchise leader in that department as well. Having multiple injuries slow him up last season, Big Ben still managed to throw for 3,265 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions. Pittsburgh, in the emergency that Ben happens to miss time due to injury (missed 3 in 2012), got a lot younger in the Depth Chart at back up. They signed Bruce Gradkowski during Free Agency, and Drafted Landry Jones in the 4th round of the Draft. I’ve always been a huge fan of Landry Jones; arguably the greatest Quarterback in Oklahoma Sooners history. I felt that, going into the Draft, places such as the Giants, Steelers, and Cowboys were ideal spots for Jones to land. He’ll have a chance to become accustomed to the play style and learn the offense well while sitting. Who’s running the football for the team next year is undetermined. Pittsburgh picked Le’Veon Bell with the 48th selection in the Draft, and he has the best opportunity to become the starter. Bell is a big man with very nice footwork. He needs to work on his pass protection however if he expects to be an every down back. Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman had their opportunities to prove they could handle the duties last year, but the team ranked 26th in the run. Dwyer was playing well during the 2nd quarter of the season but his play seemed to decline during the rest of the season. Opening holes for the Running Back will be a very talented Offensive Line. Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert will be the team’s starting Tackles next season, but which side each is playing isn’t solidified. Adams was stabbed during a car jacking in the Offseason, but should be fine by the time Training Camp rolls around. Roman Foster will be returning to starting Right Guard, while David DeCastro will try to make it through his 2013 season. A rookie in 2012, DeCastro missed a lot of time due to injures and will be a welcome presence this upcoming season. Maurkice Pouncey is arguably the best Center in the NFL. Pouncey is the anchor of the line and has made the Pro Bowl in each of his 3 NFL seasons. The main receiving options for the Steelers will consist of Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown. They combined for 6 touchdowns for the team (21 plays for 20+ yards) during the 2012 campaign. Markus Wheaton, Jerricho Cotchery, and Plaxico Burress will be looked at to win their 1 on 1 coverages with those main threats on the field. Burress is on his last leg as an NFL receiver. This could possibly be his last season in the league. Cotchery is a 10-year vet who had one of his worst seasons statistically in 2012. Wheaton was drafted out of Oregon State and should have plenty of big plays for the team as their main slot receiver. He was a consistent player in college, so Pittsburgh is hoping they get the same results out of him. Heath Miller reinvigorated himself last season, setting career highs in yards (816) and touchdowns (8). If the Tight End continues to play that well in his 9th year with the franchise, he’ll be the usual security blanket for Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh ranked 21st overall last year in Total Offense, mainly due to their lack of a running game and Quarterback missing games due to injury. If Bell can run for 1,000 yards in his rookie year, it’ll make things a lot easier on Big Ben in the passing game, and the Steelers will be a dangerous team to play against.

Defense: Doing what they’re known to do best, the Steelers’ Defense led the NFL last year (1st against pass and 2nd versus run). Lawrence Timmons was a big reason for the team’s success, registering 106 total tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 3 interceptions (team leading), and 6 sacks (tied for team lead). He should be a Pro Bowl candidate this season at Middle Linebacker, starting along side Larry Foote. Foote led the team in tackles with 113 total in his 11th year, also recording 4 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. Lamarr Woodley is the team’s top pass rushing specialist, but hasn’t be able to play a full 16 games the past two seasons. He needs to return to his 10 sacks or more standard of play in the upcoming year. The combination of Woodley and Timmons, playing at the top of their games, is a major difference maker. Joining Woodley at Outside Linebacker will be either Jason Worilds or rookie Jarvis Jones. Jones was regarded one of the top picks in the draft at one point, so he was a steal for the Steelers at 17. In the past 2 seasons at Georgia, Jones had 28 sacks and 5 forced fumbles. Worilds brought the Quarterback down 5 times last year and, going into his 4th year, should be the starter for the team. It’ll be interesting to watch how that plays out because Worilds will have to play solid not to have fans grumble over when a 1st round pick will be ready to start. The duo at Secondary of Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark have been a force, when healthy together, for many years. Troy has had a rough last 2 seasons. Injuries have plagued him and if he doesn’t prove that he can be healthy enough to play the position, rookie Shamarko Thomas will be waiting in the shadows. Ryan Clark is going into his 12th season. Every year that has passed, he’s gotten statistically better at tackling, and totaled 102 over 2012. The starting Cornerbacks for Pittsburgh, Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen, only combined for 3 interceptions in 2012. They’ll need to double those numbers, at least, with the stress that the Steelers put on the passer. Terry Hawthorne was acquired during the Draft, helping out with William Gay and Curtis Brown, to fill in during other advanced receiver sets during games. Hawthorne intercepted 5 passes in his 4 years at Illinois. After leaving in 2012, William Gay signed back with the Steelers during the Offseason. Going into his 3rd year as a player, Brown is still looking for his first career interception. Steve McLendon will be the starter for the first time in his 4-year career. He’ll get the nod at Nose Tackle and should be an interesting person to watch as the season goes on. If by any chance he can’t hold up, Alameda Ta’amu is a large individual who the Steelers selected in the 4th round in 2012. The probable Defensive ends are Ziggy Hood and Brett Keisel. Some would like Cameron Heyward to win one of those positions with strong play in Training Camp, but there are a lot of questions surrounding his consistency. Hood has started 80 games in a row for the organization. Ziggy is very stout out End who is a force against the run and can put some pressure on the Quarterback. Keisel has been a fan favorite for quite some time now and had 8.5 sacks in 2012. The Defense will be just as big an impact as they were in the previous year if they can have all their key players firing on all cylinders.

End Result: I think Pittsburgh makes a Playoff run – going 12-4 in 2013.

NFL 32 Team Preview: New Orleans Saints

The Saints of New Orleans will be the team we’re discussing today on our NFL 32 Team Preview. New Orleans is coming off its first losing season since 2007. The team couldn’t be happier to have Head Coach Sean Payton returning next year. The NFC South is one of the hardest divisions in the NFL and, with a career record of 67-37, Payton is as important to this team as any player on the field. New Orleans should be in topics of appearing in the Super Bowl throughout the entire 2013 season.

Offense: New Orleans Offense didn’t struggle as bad as some would think without Sean Payton in 2012. They were the league’s best passing team thanks to Quarterback Drew Brees. Drew threw for more touchdowns (43) than any other player at his position, as well as accomplished passing for over 5,000 yards for the 3rd time in his career. Brees has throw 89 touchdowns in the last 2 seasons alone, and is the player that dictates this Offense. The team envisioned having a better running game at this point when they drafted Mark Ingram in the 2011 NFL Draft. This will be a make-or-break year for the Running Back with the Saints. He’s only carried the football 278 times total, putting up 5 touchdowns in each of his NFL seasons. Ingram hasn’t played horrible by any means. He just hasn’t lived up to the hype surrounding him when he arrived in New Orleans. Darren Sproles is one of Brees’s favorites, targeting him on 104 passes last year. The Running Back has been a game changer since signing in 2011, combining for 2,224 total yards and 17 touchdowns in the Offense. Notably Pierre Thomas gets time at this position as well. I think that the team needs to focus on Ingram in 2013 though, with Sproles being the main 3rd down guy. Jimmy Graham is one of the best Tight Ends in the league and is another one of Bree’s favorite targets (135 in 2012). Graham was considered to be very raw with little experience when going into the 2010 Draft. Since that time, Graham has caught 215 passes for 2,648 yards and 25 touchdowns. Benjamin Watson will be backing up Graham going into his 10th season. Marques Colston has quietly been one of the best receivers since joining the league as a 7th round pick in 2006. He’s had over 1,000 yards receiving 6 out of his 7 years playing, totaling 58 touchdowns. Colston was number 1 on the Saints in plays that went for 20 yards or more with 15 last year. Lance Moore, who has been with the team for quite some time now, had his most productive year with the team last season with 1,041 yards on 65 receptions. Chris Givens and Courtney Roby will see more time on the field in 2013, but will be competing with Kenny Stills for the 3,4,5 spots on the depth chart. Stills is a play making Wide Receiver out of Oklahoma who had 204 catches, 2,594 yards, and 24 touchdowns in his 3 years. If Stills can build a rapport with Brees, he could have a big rookie season stat wise. The Guards for New Orleans are one of the better duos in the game. Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs will be responsible for the interior of the line. Tackle, both right and left, are a bit of a concern for the team going into the new season. Charles Brown will get the opportunity at left but has missed a lot of time due to injuries during his career. The Saints did draft Terron Armstead in the 3rd round of the Draft, so should Brown not hold up, he’s is the second option. Right Tackle should be Training Camp battle between Zach Strief and Jason Smith. In 2009, Jason Smith went 2nd overall and was thought to be the sure thing of the Draft. Today, Smith is fighting to stay in the league. If he is healthy and can play, he’d be a solid plus for the Saints line. I don’t think he’s going to be a factor for the team at all though. Center will be Brian de la Puente, who started all 16 games for the team in 2012. Things are set up to be business as usual in the Big Easy this coming season. The only thing that will stop this team is Brees getting injured or being sacked 50 times.

Defense: What was lack thereof, the Defense for the Saints was the worst in the league and posted 31st against both the run and pass. Trying to shore things up in the Secondary, the team selected Kenny Vaccaro with the 15th pick in the Draft. He’s good in coverage but has had some concerns with his tackling going through the Draft process. There are a couple of scenarios that could happen during Training Camp; either Vaccaro starts at Free Safety, which would move Malcolm Jenkins back to corner, and have Roman Harper as the starting Strong Safety. Or, Jenkins would be the starting Free with Vaccaro as the starting Strong. I believe the 1st scenario will take place because it makes more sense for the team’s layout. Harper had 115 total tackles last season (leading the Saints in solo tackles with 88) with 2 interceptions. In 2011, Roman registered 7.5 sacks, which is very productive for a player at his position. Jenkins was New Orleans’ 1st overall pick in 2009 and started his career at Cornerback. Jenkins is coming off of a hamstring injury, but should be ready by the time camp comes around. Keenan Lewis was signed in the Offseason to a 5-year $26 million dollar deal. He should start along side whoever wins the Jabari Greer/Patrick Robinson competition. Robinson is the favorite, in my opinion, intercepting 7 passes in the past few seasons. Going into his 4th NFL season, he needs to solidify his coverage skills and take a step forward to being a consistent corner. Greer is a 10-year vet who, over the past 6 seasons, has 12 interceptions. The Defensive Back situation is going to be the most interesting part of Training Camp, as to who steps up and plays where. The Middle Linebackers for the Saints would be David Hawthorne and Curtis Lofton if I had a say. Lofton led the team in tackles (123 total) and tackles for loss with 6. Lofton will most certainly be one of the starters along side either Jonathan Vilma or Hawthorne. Vilma’s presence alone energizes the team but he’s going into his 10th NFL season. Hawthorne is a few years younger and has over 100 tackles 3 out of the last 4 years. Notably, New Orleans signed un-drafted rookie Kevin Reddick, who many though would go in the 2nd-4th round, but dropped mainly due to his pass coverage liabilities. I think Reddick has the tools to be a star. Victor Butler was signed via Free Agency to rush the Quarterback from the Outside Linebacker position. Butler only started two games in his 4-year career, and has registered 11 sacks. However, Butler injured his ACL a few weeks ago and will be replaced by either Martez Wilson or Junior Galette. Chase Thomas is a notable un-drafted signee who, in his Stanford career, brought the Quarterback down 27.5 times. The question will be if Will Smith starts at Linebacker or End. Smith had 6 sacks for the team in 2o12 and, with the newer 3/4 Defense, will start at one of those positions. If he starts at Defensive End, Martez Wilson and Junior Galette will battle for the starting OLB. Both are young players who only have 3 total starts combined. If Smith doesn’t start at Defensive End, then Akiem Hicks most likely will. Hicks, who was a rookie last season, hasn’t seen a lot of time but is a big 6’5 324 pound body. The real showcase End for the Saints is Cameron Jordan. Cam had a break out season last year with 8 sacks and will be looking to build off of that in 2013. John Jenkins, 6’3 359 pounds from Georgia, was drafted in the 3rd round to anchor the Defensive Line. If Jenkins is conditioned enough to play the position throughout the season, then Brodrick Bunkley would be backing him up. Bunkley is a little undersized to be a Nose Tackle, so I could see him interchanging at End some as well. The Defense has players who should produce better for New Orleans after a disappointing 2012. If they can rank in the Top 15, and you know their Offense should be in the Top 5, then New Orleans will win a whole bunch of games this upcoming season.

End Result: If they stay healthy throughout the season, I predict the Saints will have the NFL’s best record at 14-2.

NFL 32 Team Preview: Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills will be the next team we feature on the NFL 32 Team overviews. Buffalo hasn’t been to the Playoffs since 1999 and have only one season where they’ve finished with more wins than losses. The Bills have seen 4 head coaches and one interim alternate through the position. Doug Marrone has been hired as the Head Coach for 2013. He’ll be responsible for seeing the franchise return to being a more popular topic of conversation again. In his 4 years as Syracuse’s Head Coach (2009-2012), he held a record of 25-25; before Syracuse, he was a part of the Jets, Titans, and Saints. Doug Marrone is more known for his coaching on the Offensive side of the football, where he’ll help a Bills team that ranked 19th in Total Offense.

Offense: A fluid rushing game that placed 6th in the NFL in 2012, the Bills have a dangerous set of 2 Running Backs in Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. Both are duel threats out of the backfield, which can hit a home run at any time, and should be a huge impact for Buffalo next season. Jackson has had leg injuries that have cut his last 2 seasons short — Spiller combined for 1,703 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2012. C.J. ran for 54 first downs and had 12 rushes for 20 yards or more. During the Offseason, the Bills added many players at Wide Receiver in hopes the 25th ranked passing offense would be more explosive. Stevie Johnson has been a pillar of consistency lately and registered his 3rd 1,000 yard receiving season in a row. Johnson tied for the team lead in touchdowns (6), while leading the Bills in yards (1,046) and plays over 20 yards (12). Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin were selected in the 2013 Draft. Woods put up 32 touchdowns in three years at USC. He’ll bring great route running and reliability in key moments to Buffalo. Goodwin is a speedster from the University of Texas who looked much like Mike Wallace on deep routes during Senior Bowl week. Marquise should be an instant deep threat for whomever is throwing the football. T.J. Graham is another notable Receiver for the franchise in 2013, along with un-drafted free agent Da’Rick Rogers. Graham caught 4 touchdowns for the Bills Mafia in his rookie campaign. Rogers was an extremely talented pass catcher in 2011 for Tennessee but, after failed drug tests and character concerns, was kicked off the team and finished 2012 with Tennessee Tech. If he can prove to have his immaturity issues behind him, Rogers could turn out to be the most productive un-drafted rookie. Eric Wood is the most talented Offensive Linemen for the Bills. He’s the starting Center and is going into his 5th season with the team. With the departure of Andy Levitre, Wood is going to have to be the solid anchor of this line. Cordy Glenn (Left Tackle) will pair with Chris Hairston (Right Tackle) to form Buffalo’s starting Tackle duo. Glenn was drafted by the Bills in 2012 and played fairly well in his rookie year. Chris Hairston is the favorite to win Right Tackle but will be in competition with 8-year veteran Erik Pears. Hairston, a 4th round pick in 2011, has started 15 games for the team since ’11. Sam Young, Colin Brown, and Doug Legursky will be fighting for starting Left Guard. Kraig Urbik is expected to be the Right Guard starter but, with the addition of Legursky, could be in competition for his spot as well. Tight End Scott Chandler has been an effective security blanket for the Bills scoring 6 touchdowns in each of the last two seasons. He’s recovering from an ACL injury but, if 100% when the season starts, will be key for the player who wins the Quarterback competition. E.J. Manuel was taken in the 1st round of the Draft to compete for the job with Kevin Kolb. Manuel was the most talented player at his position in the Draft and will become a player that Buffalo fans will gush over quickly. He’s very mobile with a strong arm that will struggle at times with accuracy. Kevin Kolb has never been able to start a full 16 game season due to injuries, and is facing his possible last stop in the NFL with the Bills. Never throwing for over 2,000 yards in a season, Kolb has 28 touchdowns with 25 interceptions over his 6 years. Kolb has a big arm but I feel E.J. is going to win this battle in camp. His mobility, with the weakness of the Offensive Line, is going to be a factor throughout the season. The Receivers and Backs are such talented playmakers with the ball in their hands that, as long as Manuel doesn’t turn the ball over, Buffalo could score a ton of points this upcoming season.

Defense: 22nd overall last year, the Bills struggled against the run (ranking 30th) but played the pass very nicely (ranking 10th). Mario Williams was brought in to put stress on signal-callers, which is just what he did in 2012 with 10.5 sacks. He’ll be one of the cornerstone pieces at Defensive end in Buffalo’s 3/4 scheme switch, making Kyle Williams the other. Williams led the team with 6 tackles for loss last season and put up 5 sacks. He’s a solid player who is a bit overlooked with the other talent that surrounds him on the line. Marcell Dareus, 3rd overall pick in 2011, has registered 5.5 sacks in each year in the NFL and will anchoring the line at Nose Tackle. Dareus did a good job of swatting passes last year, deflecting 6 passes. This group of players is extraordinarily talented and will be the biggest factor in the Defense’s success next season. Kiko Alonso, who was chosen with the 46 overall pick in the Draft, should get the start at Middle Linebacker. He’ll be accompanied by Nigel Bradham who started 11 games for the Bills in his 2012 rookie campaign. Combining for 57 tackles, he and Alonso will be very intriguing to watch this year. The speedy Manny Lawson was signed during Free Agency, and Jerry Hughes was traded for from the Colts to be the starting Outside Linebackers. Hughes, picked in the 1st round of 2010, had a career high 4 sacks last year. Lawson hasn’t been a full time starter since leaving San Francisco in 2010 and played with Cincinnati the last few seasons. Mark Anderson is a notable player at this position; he only played 5 games with the team last year due to knee issues. He’s always been fairly good at putting pressure on the Quarterback when healthy. The Secondary for Buffalo has a few big time players. Jairus Byrd has intercepted 18 passes since entering the league in 2009. The team was worried about losing him to Free Agency, since he was thought of as one of the best available, so they placed the franchise tag on him for this season. One of the best Free Safetys in the NFL, Byrd is key to this Defense. Strong Safety will be a competition between Duke Williams, Da’Norris Searcy, and Jonathan Meeks. Meeks and Williams were both middle-round Draft choices in 2013. Searcy played for the organization the last two years but has only started 3 games. Stephon Gilmore quietly had an impressive rookie season for the Bills with 61 total tackles, 3 forced fumbles, an interception, and 16 pass deflections. He can prove to be one of the better Cornerback’s in the game with the same stats and a few more interceptions in year two. Leodis McKelvin was the Bills 11th overall pick in 2008, but hasn’t played up to the expectations with only 6 career interceptions. They’ll combine to be the starting Cornerbacks with Crezdon Butler, Justin Rogers, and Ron Brooks vying for playing time as the backups. As long as Buffalo can put a ton of pressure on the Quarterback in 2013, they’ll be just fine. Their new duo of Middle Linebackers is going to have to be solid versus the running game as well.

End Result: I had the Bills 5-11 when grading out all of the teams in June. After all of New England’s troubles during the Offseason, if the Offense gets rolling with Manuel (assuming he’s the starter), they could win more games than 5.