Tag Archives: Dallas Clark

NFL Preview Part Two: AFC South

Houston Texans

Strengths: Very solid passing attack, with Matt Schaub distributing to stud Andre Johnson and reliable options Kevin Walter, TE Owen Daniels and Andre’ Davis. At this point in there careers, is anybody going to argue that the Texans should have drafted Reggie Bush over Mario Williams and his 14 sacks last year? MLB DeMeco Ryans is the heart of the defense, and Morlon Greenwood is solid. Second year DT Amobi Okoye has a ton of potential.

Weaknesses: The running attack averaged 99.1 yards per game last year, 22nd in the NFL. The running back situation is still murky at this point, with Ahman Green and Steve Slaton the two likely to receive the most carries. The O-line was a question all of last year, and though first round pick Duane Brown has looked good so far, he’s just a youngster. Defensively, can they stop the pass? It doesn’t look like anyone on this unit will be able to generate a pass rush other than Mario Williams. That doesn’t bode well for the secondary, especially with Dunta Robinson out for at least six games. Fred Bennett and Jacques Reeves aren’t exactly striking fear into the hearts of WR’s far and wide. They haven’t exactly been stout against the run, either – they need Okoye and Travis Johnson to suck up blockers so Ryans and Greenwood can roam unblocked.

The question marks: Who will step up at RB, and can somebody please help Super Mario? The zone running scheme seems to fit Slaton’s skill set, but the question with him is the same you ask of Green: can he stay healthy? And as for that rush – they brought in Roosevelt Colvin, likely for third down situations, but he has less than impressed. (Editor’s note: Whoops, he just got cut. Uh oh). Anybody seen Luigi? (Editor’s note: Maybe they could get some mushrooms to make them bigger from Jameel Cook).

Fantasy forecast: I have Andre Johnson ranked as my 5th best receiver. Pray for health. Matt Schaub is an excellent number two, and could put up good enough numbers to be your starter by the end of the year. Keep an eye on Walter, Daniels and Davis – all were viable options at different times last season. The running backs should be selected later and scoured for on the waiver wire – somebody is going to claim starter status.

Overview: It is hard to imagine the Texans being much better the 8-8 mark they posted last year. They’ll score points, especially if they stay healthy, but the defense has a lot of question marks. If the defensive line can improve its play, establish a pass rush and keep blockers off of the LB’s, they should slow opposing offenses just enough for the Houston offense to win games. But if the D falters, they may find themselves as the 4th best team in this division again.

Indianapolis Colts

Strengths: Yeah, they’re good. On offense, they attack you with Peyton Manning, Joseph Addai, Reggie Wayne, and Dallas Clark, plus a reliable offensive line. Bob Sanders leads a unit that finished second in passing defense and third in total defense last year. All of that without having Dwight Freeney in the lineup for 7 games. If they can generate more of a pass rush this year (28 sacks last year was tied for 26th in the NFL), they’ll be even more dangerous.

Weaknesses: They weren’t stellar against the run last year (15th in yards allowed, 10 TD’s), but it certainly isn’t a glaring weakness. The health of Manning, Harrison, Sanders and Freeney is not guaranteed. The offensive line depth will be truly tested due to the departure of Jake Scott and the injury to Jeff Saturday (Editor’s note: Boy, he’s reaching).

The question marks: It’s all about staying healthy. They cannot afford injuries to Manning, Freeney or Sanders, all of whom have either recently been injured (Mr. Manning), are coming off a season in which they were injured (Mr. Freeney), or an offseason in which they had surgery (Mr. Sanders). If one of them goes down, they’re in trouble.

Fantasy forecast: I have Peyton Manning ranked as my 3rd QB, Addai as my 3rd RB, Reggie Wayne as my 4th WR, and Dallas Clark as a top 5 TE. Harrison is a mid-round pick, and Gonzalez should go late. Their D is not a bad option. Colts are always pretty safe fantasy bets.

Overview: I mean, the Colts are consistent. Peyton Manning runs the offense so efficiently, and they have such talented skill position players, its hard to imagine that they won’t be a top team again in 2008. The best way to attack them is to find creative ways to put pressure on Manning and to run the ball, chewing up clock. Or, you could just outscore them. Good luck with that. I consider them to be one of the four legitimate Superbowl contenders in the AFC.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Strengths: Their running game is top notch, and was the second best in the NFL last year. Expect Fred Taylor, Maurice Jones-Drew and the solid offense line to keep jugging. David Garrard had a break-out season last year, and if he stays healthy, should improve. He threw 18 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions last year! That’s game management, people,  and he’s an above average scrambler to boot (Editor’s note: Ugggghhhh). Their defense will miss Marcus Stroud, but new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and excellent secondary depth should go a long way to keeping their defense effective. If they can pressure the QB and accumulate turnovers, the running game can grind it out and eat clock. That is, in a nutshell (Editor’s note: Did you ever wonder what kind of nut people have in mind when they use that phrase? I’ll say pistachio, but only because they’re underrated), their recipe for success.

Weaknesses: They will miss Marcus Stroud, though its not their biggest concern. That would be the wide receivers, where they’re hoping (Editor’s note: Um, I think “praying” would be more appropriate) that additions Jerry Porter (Raiders) and Troy Williamson (Editor’s note: I believe South Carolina was the last place he actually showed up) can bolster a fairly weak corps, though Williamson is looking like a possible cut. The jury is still out on whether or not Reggie Williams and Matt Jones can become consistent players. If the receivers struggle to get open, Garrard will be forced to do to much on his own, which is how QB’s end up on the sideline.

The question marks: The WR’s and the defensive line. We’ve gone over the WR’s already, but the defensive line? Isn’t that one of the strength of this team? It will be, if Rob Meier can adequately replace Marcus Stroud and rookies Derrick Harvey (Editor’s note: Yes, he finally signed) and Quentin Groves can contribute to the Jaguars pass rush. If Meier can’t keep blockers off of the linebackers and get penetration in the gaps, the run defense will suffer. And if the young guys can’t help generate front four pressure, Peyton Manning will do his thing against them. Again.

Fantasy forecast: Maurice Jones-Drew is a top 25 fantasy player. Fred Taylor will probably stay in your fantasy starting lineup all year. Garrard is worth a second QB pick for now, though he may quickly ascend to starter status. Be cautious selecting their receivers; they’re all bench guys for now. Not a bad defense pick.

Overview: They want the Colts and the division title. Bad. The running game is excellent, and they’re going to control clock. The defense may end up being a 3-4 by season’s end, which will mean QB’s are going to have to get used to brand new blitz schemes. Their secondary is solid, and Rashean Mathis is a very, very good corner. I think they are one of the four Superbowl contenders in the AFC (Editor’s note: He doesn’t want to reveal it here, but I do: this is the year they catch the Colts. Just a gut feeling).

Tennessee Titans

Strengths: Vince Young’s legs. Their running game was very good last year (5th best in the league) and will get better with the addition of Jake Scott and burner Chris Johnson, who has seemed to impress everyone so far. Albert Haynesworth is a beast in the middle, Kyle Vanden Bosch had 12 sacks last season, and they have a very good stable of LB’s led by Keith Bullock and David Thornton. They are stingy against the run and picked off opposing QB’s 22 times last year. Their defense will keep them close all year long.

Weaknesses: Vince Young’s arm. 8 TD’s to 17 INT’s is brutal. Alge Crumpler should help, but the receiving corps is probably this team’s weakest unit. And can they score in the red zone?

The question marks: It’s Vince Young. Without a doubt, the entire season hinges on the arm of number 10. He doesn’t have to carry the load of this team, but can he at least be more accurate with his throws and make better decisions? If he can manage the game and mix in big runs, the Titans, though not flashy, will have an effective offense. Though don’t expect his WR’s to make his life easy.

Fantasy forecast: Yeah, right. This is not a team conducive to fantasy football points. LenDale White isn’t a bad third to fourth option in your running back stable. Chris Johnson is worth stockpiling – he has big play potential. Alge Crumpler will probably be VY’s favorite target, so don’t be afraid of using him as a first TE if you’re up at the end of a TE run. Their defense will keep the games lower scoring and get some turnovers, so they aren’t a terrible option.

Overview: Boy, its really hard to predict this flashy but inconsistent team. (Editor’s note: Riiiiiiight). Defensively, they’ll be stout. Haynesworth is a stud, maybe the best DT is football. I don’t think anybody would say he has to step it up. (Editor’s note: Uggggghhhhh. That wasn’t even good. The Pundit really stuck his foot on his mouth with that one. Sorry, couldn’t resist). Offensively, they’ll run the ball well and pass it poorly. Really, the question is how poorly? Because if it’s better than last year, they’ll probably be in the playoff hunt again this year. If it doesn’t improve at all, they’ll finish 4th in the AFC’s deepest division.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under NFL

NFL Preview Part One: The AFC West

For the next 8 days, I’ll be doing an overview of each team, highlighting their strengths, weaknesses, question marks and their fantasy outlook. On day 9, I’ll offer a full prediction for the upcoming season, including each team’s record, playoff predictions and the Superbowl champ.

Denver Broncos

Strengths: Their offense should produce, though not having Brandon Marshall early (suspended for at least 2 games Actual Editor’s note: only suspended for one, first game back will be without pay) will hurt. All indications are that Jay Cutler is primed for a big year. They’ll run the ball well, even if Andre Hall somehow ends up as their starter by year’s end. The secondary is solid, and Champ Bailey is arguably the best corner in football. D.J. Williams is a stud at LB.

Weaknesses: Basically, the defensive line. They gave up 142.6 rushing yards per game last year, 3rd worst in the league. The only real bright spot was Elvis Dumervil, who posted 12.5 sacks. Can recently added DT Dewayne Robertson (Jets) shore up the middle? Will anybody on this unit step up? If the defense can’t get stops and get off the field, the offense, which is expected to be solid, will suffer.

The question marks: The offensive and defensive lines. Can the O-line protect Cutler? Can the D-line stop anybody’s running attack and generate a pass rush?

Fantasy Forecast: He may be out for two one week, but Brandon Marshall is worth keeping in your back pocket. Keep your eye on the R situation, and work the waiver wire. My money says Selvin Young won’t be the only guy getting significant carries this season. Tony Scheffler may surprise you. As for Mr. Cutler – take him as your second QB, and see what he does. Don’t bother with their defense.

Overview: The Broncos are a tough call. They’ve got solid players at key positions: Champ Baily and Dre’ Bly at corner, D.J. Williams at LB, Brandon Marshall when he returns at WR, Jay Cutler (if he’s ready to explode as being predicted) at QB. They always run the ball well, and expect Cutler to spread the ball around a bit better than last year (Marshall led the team with 102 catches, and Scheffler was next with 49). But can the defense, and specifically, the D-line, step up? I don’t think so, and it will be their Achilles heel all season long. Their schedule before their bye in week 8 is absolutely brutal, with games against San Diego (week 2), New Orleans (week 3), Tampa Bay (week 5), Jacksonville (week 6) and New England (week 7). If they can start the season at 4-3 or better, they may have a shot for one of the wildcards.

Kansas City Chiefs

Strengths: Um, I’ll list them individually. Larry Johnson (if he can get any sort of blocking), Tony Gonzalez (if Brodie Croyle can get the ball to him), Dwayne Bowe has a lot of potential, Glenn Dorsey is going to be a beast, and all indications are that Derrick Johnson is primed for a break-out year. Their overall linebacking corps (Johnson, Donnie Edwards, Demorrio Williams, Napolean Harris, Pat Thomas) is solid.

Weaknesses: (Editor’s note: The Pundit just took a deep breath, as though this may take a while). Is Brodie Croyle really the long-term solution for this team at QB? Because it’s doubtful he’s a short term fix. After Gonzalez and Bowe, I’m not sure who he’ll throw to. The offensive line will likely struggle to get a push in the running game, even with the addition of rookie Branden Albert. Doesn’t help that LJ has probably lost a step anyway. Losing Jared Allen (Vikings) will significantly hurt their pass rush, unless Tamba Hali can have a career year. Their secondary is suspect. They should be stout against the run, unless Glenn Dorsey is a bust (Editor’s note: Highly doubtful). They are very young, and as excited as Herm Edwards is pretending to be about that, they will lose games due to mental mistakes. They are still forming their identity – not a formula for success.

The question marks: Brodie Croyle and the pass rush. Croyle is a gigantic, enormous, monumental, colassal, gargantuan (Editor’s note: He’ll keep going unless I stop him) question mark. If he comes out and manages the game well, occasionally connecting with Bowe for big plays, he may be able to keep the defense off-balance. Doubtful, though. If the D can’t generate a pass rush, it doesn’t matter how they defend the run: their secondary simply isn’t good enough to cover for extended periods of time. No pass rush = a long season for Chiefs fans.

Fantasy forecast: Obviously, Larry Johnson will be a guy taken in the top two rounds. Which I think may be a bit high, but he’ll get his touches. Tony Gonzalez will be a top five TE. Dwayne Bowe has Greg Jennings break-out potential, if Croyle cooperates, of course.

Overview: This team will struggle. When the question marks on your offense are the quarterback and the offensive line, you won’t strike fear in the hearts of many defenses. Their own defense will probably appear to overachieve, given the mediocrity of their offense, but will most likely get picked apart by solid passing attacks. Their youth and inexperience will plague them in close games. They will very likely have another top ten pick in next year’s draft, if not top five.

Oakland Raiders

Strengths: Solid defensively, with an excellent secondary bolstered by the offseason additions of DeAngelo Hall (Falcons) and Gibril Wilson (Giants). Very good core of running backs, with Justin Fargas, Darren McFadden and Michael Bush. TE Zach Miller showing promise, quickly becoming a favorite target of JaMarcus Russell.

Weaknesses: Pretty much their entire passing attack. The offensive line is better at blocking for the run, and has a few serious question marks of its own. The receiving group is thin after a season ending injury to Drew Carter. Russell is still developing at the QB position.

The question marks: JaMarcus Russell and Tommy Kelly. If Russell can competently manage the offense, and minimalize his mistakes, the Raiders may be able to replicate the Vikings offense of last year and beat teams on the ground. Can Tommy Kelly improve his play and improve a defense that allowed 145.9 rushing yards per game, second worst in the NFL? If he does (and early indications are that he is), along with the rest of the front seven, this will be a defense to be reckoned with.

Fantasy forecast: McFadden and Fargas are both worth owning. I don’t trust Javon Walker, but Ronald Curry could be a sleeper. Avoid Russell. Keep an eye on Zach Miller and their defense – each could become viable options down the line.

Overview: They have one of the best secondaries in the NFL. Darren McFadden could be a star, and Justin Fargas is darn good insurance if he isn’t. If the Raiders can improve their run defense, create turnovers, control the clock and wear down defenses with their run game, they will surprise people (Editor’s note: Oh, is that all?). I believe the key for their season is the development of JaMarcus Russell – if he can make just enough throws to keep the defense off-balance, their running attack (6th in the NFL last year) will do the rest. But if he’s throwing picks, and keeping the D out on the field, they don’t stand a chance. They don’t have a terribly difficult schedule – I project them as a middle of the road team that could hover around the .500 mark.

San Diego Chargers

Strengths: Their entire defense, basically. They led the NFL in turnovers last year with 48, and they shouldn’t regress much from that. Quentin Jammer and Antonio Cromartie make up one of the best cornerback pairs in football. Jamal Williams and Luis Castillo are excellent run-stuffers. Their linebackers get constant pressure on the quarterback, led by a guy you may have heard of named Shawne Merriman. Right, their defense is good. Oh, they also have this pretty good running back named LaDainian Tomlinson, i.e. the best running back in the NFL. The offensive line is steady. Antonio Gates, when healthy, is an impossible mismatch for defenses. The Chargers, on paper, are very, very good.

Weaknesses: Shawne Merriman’s knee ligaments. The potential that Antonio Gates is not 100 percent healthy. The wide receivers, though really I’m nitpicking, because Chris Chambers has now had a full training camp to get acclimated with Philip Rivers, and Vincent Jackson showed marked improvement in the second half of the season last year. Oh, wait, I’ve got one – Norv Turner. Yeah, Norv Turner. And the nice weather, because maybe instead of practicing, they’d rather be enjoying the weather. Or something like that.

The question marks: Philip Rivers and Shawne Merriman. Their offense will always be most effective when LT has the ball, but an efficient passing attack could make them almost indefensible. A big year for Rivers and this team is Superbowl bound; a mediocre one, and a brief playoff visit is likely. Then, there’s Mr. Merriman and his knee. Merriman at 75 percent is still a better option than a lot of OLB’s out there, and that’s assuming that he won’t play at a higher level than that. He may, but I don’t know if he lasts the season. If he doesn’t, the defense will not only lose effectiveness, but swagger as well. They are talented enough across the board to survive without him, but he makes them special.

Fantasy forecast: If you had the first overall pick, and you didn’t select LaDainian Tomlinson, you’re an idiot. (Editor’s note: Easy there, Pun). Antonio Gates is in the top tier of tight ends along with Jason Witten, Dallas Clark, Kellen Winslow, Jr. and Tony Gonzalez. The defense should be one of the first ones of the board, if not the first. Their receivers could be late round steals.

Overview: They should be very, very good. But, I predicted them to win the Superbowl last year, and though they didn’t accomplish that, they at least made the AFC Championship game. Expect them to better last season ‘s dismal 1-3 start, and remain steady throughout the year. In my mind, they are one of four legitimate Superbowl contenders in the AFC.

Be sure to check in tomorrow for the AFC South.

Leave a comment

Filed under NFL, Uncategorized