NFL Preview- Division Winners

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Division Predictions

Looking at each game and projecting wins and losses accordingly, here's how the season could shake down. It's rebuilding years in San Diego, Oakland, New York and Jacksonville. The NFC West is not as dominant as some think and the NFC South lays claim to some wildcard spots. The NFC has double the playoff-caliber teams as the AFC and that makes it tough on some teams in the conference. 

AFC WEST:  BRONCOS (13-3), CHIEFS (11-5), CHARGERS (3-13), RAIDERS (2-14)

This is the easiest division to predict. I could be very wrong about the Chiefs, I haven’t seen what I wanted to in the preseason, but looking at their early schedule, their first 9 games are fairly winnable. You get a team like that, coming off such tumult on a run and they’re likely to be very impressive. I think the Chargers are going to have a VERY tough year. Obviously. I had to work really hard to find 2 winnable games for the Raiders.

AFC EAST: DOLPHINS (9-7)/PATRIOTS (9-7), BILLS (7-9), JETS (3-13)

Both Dolphins and Pats finish with winning records. I give the Dolphins a nod because they took some chances in the offseason, adding Grimes and Ellerbe and Wallace that I think make this team much better. The Patriots had the polar opposite offseason. I wanted to be more optimistic about the Bills, but with no preseason for Manuel, I can’t trust them. The Jets’ season will make the Chargers season look entertaining. 

AFC NORTH:  BENGALS (12-4), STEELERS (7-9), RAVENS (7-9) BROWNS (6-10)

Love this Bengals team. Offensively, defensively, this team is “Most Likely To Be Overhyped” and that’s ok. They’re also fun to watch and have a schedule that helps them procure the most wins since 1988. Can’t help but think the Ravens and Steelers both take steps back. Mostly because they face off the NFC North with 4 solid teams. Wanted to be more optimistic about the Browns, so a 1-win improvement is all I could see given the schedule.

AFC SOUTH: TEXANS (12-4), COLTS (10-6), TITANS (5-11), JAGS (3-13)

Nothing shocking here. Texans continue to take the AFC by storm, Colts have another playoff season under Luck and the Titans offseason acquisitions prove meaningless until they get a quarterback. The Jags season will make the Jets season look fun.

AFC WILDCARDS: COLTS, CHIEFS

NFC WEST:  NINERS, (14-2), CARDINALS, (8-8), SEAHAWKS (7-9), RAMS (5-11)

THIS is where people are going to think I’m nuts. And feel free, but Pete Carroll’s first 2 seasons the team went 7-9. One of those years that was good enough to make the playoffs. True, he didn’t have Russell Wilson those years, but this year he’s without Gus Bradley, the guy who coached up that D to the top scoring D in the league.  Take away the blowouts over Arizona, Buffalo and San Francisco in weeks 14-16 (Seahawks scored 58, 50 and 42) in which the defense collected massive stats and the offense averaged 20.1 points per game week 1-13, and 17. Good enough for 24th in the league. Just ahead of the Browns and Raiders. Point is, losing Gus Bradley is a big deal. Couple that with the Hawks east coast swings and the improvement of the rest of the NFC and they miss the playoffs. Niners run the NFC, secure the top seed. I could be wrong about the Rams, but I don’t think Brian Schottenheimer is the guy for that set of offensive talent.

NFC EAST:  COWBOYS (11-5), GIANTS (8-8), REDSKINS (8-8), EAGLES (4-12)

This is the Cowboys’ division to lose. Redskins take a step back and Eagles don’t quite have enough on defense to keep pace in the NFL.

NFC NORTH: BEARS (10-6), LIONS (9-7), PACKERS (8-8), VIKINGS (7-9)

Picking the Bears to win the division. Packers have a tough season behind one of the NFL’s flimsiest offensive lines but they could be in the playoff hunt come season end. Lions look tough on paper. But same story, different year. Hoping they put it together this year.

NFC SOUTH: FALCONS (11-5), SAINTS (10-6), BUCS (10-6), PANTHERS (7-9)

Love the Falcons chances this year adding Steven Jackson. Saints are once again a beast on offense, but can’t stay healthy on defense. No pass rush= Drew Brees throwing 48 TDs over the season and the team losing games 38-35.

NFC WILDCARDS: SAINTS, BUCS, LIONS, CARDINALS, GIANTS, REDSKINS, PACKERS

You might be asking yourself, “Why does she have 6 teams as potential Wildcard teams?” It’s because I’m accounting for a win/loss differential of 2 in my projections and pointing out the fact that the NFC has about double the playoff quality teams as the AFC, so the end of the season could once again see a good 10-6 team miss the playoffs.

Season’s here Thursday!!! Who are YOUR division winners? Drop your thoughts at @Julie_Buehler on twitter, or leave comments here…

 

Countdown To 2013 NFL Season

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Dates to add to your calendar: Your mom's birthday (helping you out on that one).

July 23rd: 2013 NFL Fact And Record Book released.

August 4th: Hall of Fame game between the Cowboy and Dolphins.

September 5th: The season kicks off with a show down of the Welker-heavy, Dumervil-light Broncos versus the defending world champions (who wouldn't have that title had Frank Gore gotten one more goal line carry...)

Between then and now I'll be releasing analysis for each team, division by division, culminating with my prognostications of who wins each conference, which player is MVP, DPOY and ROY. 

July 8-12 NFC South. The Bucs are an incredibly intriguing team as they were #1 in rush D and #32 in pass D. The fact they added Dashon Goldson would have been enough to conclude they'd improve their woeful pass D, but by adding Darrell Revis as well, this team is poised to be one of the hottest teams in the NFC. Also heating up the division is the Falcons rebounding from NFC title game loss, the Saints getting their whole coaching staff back AND Luke Kuechly leading the Panthers into a new season (can't always focus on the QB you know...) So the NFC South will kick off our look at each division in style! 

July 15-19 AFC South: The Colts were the best story in sports last year. Read that again. Considering some vast upheaval of the past decade's most consistent franchise, the unlikely heroes of rookie starters and their coach's victorious battle with cancer, there's not a close second. But how they build off an 11-5 season will heavily hinge on the key pieces they've added in the offseason. Given the Colts remarkable success, the Texans franchise-best season was in some ways an afterthought, thankfully, much the like the entire efforts of the Titans and Jaguars. And seeing how THIS division has the largest combined NEGATIVE point differential (-275) of any division in football by at least 100 points, you can understand why I'll want to get this division out of the way early.  

July 22-26 NFC East: Formerly the darling division in the NFC, now pondering the effects of a rookie head coach in Philly, a Giants team that didn't make the playoffs, a Cowboys team that once again failed to make the playoffs (cue silent giggle), and a Redskins team that was led by an charming quarterback, but failed by a faulty secondary. This division is turning into what used to be the NFC West.

July 29-Aug 2 AFC East: Time to head into the first preseason game where we'll be elated to see guys we've never heard of make jaw-dropping plays against guys we'll never hear of again. But this is also when we'll look at the AFC East. Considering the offseason the Pats had, and their unceremonious defeat in the AFC title game, one might conclude this 2013 season will FINALLY mark the end of the Patriots dynasty. But I'll tell you why that's patently false. The Butt Fumble will live forever, but the Jets would love to move on from 2012, did ANY offseason moves improve the team? I can't wait to see what the Dolphins do with Tannehill and Wallace and we'll see it first hand in Canton. And of course, there's a new regime in Buffalo. One day they have to get it right. Right?  

Aug 5-9 AFC North: First full week of preseason action and we'll dive into the division who's representative did pretty well in the postseason. The Ravens saved their best of the playoffs, but can they refill the tank for a repeat? The Browns have a new regime, some shiny new pass rushers and talented youth. Will they go from last to first? The Bengals are on Hard Knocks, and their defense is one of the most underrated in the NFL, will this be the year they move into the front seat of the division? And the Steelers. Feels like forever since they were vying for Super Bowls, we'll look at this rebuilding process. 

Aug 12-16 NFC North: This division boasts the highest combined point differential of any division in football (+161). So you can understand how the Lions could go winless against their own division (correct, atrocious secondary). But can we understand how losing Cliff Avril and adding Israel Idonije will prevent that this year? The Bears have a new front office, head coach but the same "genius" quarterback. Can they get to the playoffs? The Vikings have the best player in the league, a new dynamic receiver and a division to lay claim to. But only if the Packers somehow realize they aren't the Packers in 2013. True, Aaron Rodgers was sacked a lot. And yes, he'll miss his receivers, but how Green Bay scored such good, young backs in the draft seemed like larcony to me. But we'll hash that out in this week.

Aug 19-23 AFC West: Welp, the Broncos won as many games as the rest of the division combined. Math is math folks. And as tough as you might think it would be to surpass the 2012 offseason moves (you know, adding that Manning fellow), Denver managed to one-up themselves in offseason acquisitional-drama. (Yes, made-up word, but it fit so nicely.) So will adding Welker and going Office Space on a fax machine get the team to the Super Bowl? The Chiefs suffered through a (-24) turnover margin, so they added Andy Reid and a quarterback that helped tie an NFL record for fewest turnovers in a season. His name is Alex Smith. You may have heard of him. This week, we'll also talk about the totally unfaked, REAL, and new Chargers' front office and check out that roster with curious delight. And, yes, we might need some rubber gloves and Pine-sol, but we'll check out the stink that is the Raiders' roster as well. (Then silently weep.)

Aug 26-30 NFC West: Saving the best for last, we'll examine the one division that has sent each team to the Super Bowl since the turn of the century. Sure, they all lost on their trips, and while that fact has my therapy bill soaring past my student loans, it doesn't diminish the fact that all four teams have stout defensive lines, intriguing offenses and fascinating head coaches. Can the Cardinals get a running game or will be Carson Palmer be running for his life behind that offensive line? What will become of the embarrassment of riches in Seattle, I'm not talking about Paul Allen's estate, but that revamped defensive line. Just how many ankles will Tavon Austin be responsible for breaking? And how will the Niners respond to losing the Super Bowl? Considering the last team to lose a Super Bowl and return to win it was the New York Giants, and 7 years separated their 2000 loss and their 2007 win, it could be a long stretch for the Niners. But history was meant to be re-written, right? 

THEN.... FINAL COUNTDOWN!!!! Sept 2-5th... I'll examine the teams that will make the playoffs, MVP candidates, Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, conference champs and fantasy prognostications. We'll also hold our Team 1010 Fantasy Draft in the final days before the season begins. 

This year's league will be a "Man Of Steel" themed league. The Kryptonite reference is taken. My team is "Watt's Your Krypotonite".  I trust your creative juices can flow from there. 

Listen every day to "Jules From The Gridiron" on "Buehler's Day Off" for the latest! Here's to a remarkable 2013 season and bringing home the Fantasy Championship!

Jules From The Gridiron 4-9-13

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JULES FROM THE GRIDIRON 4-9-13

The Oakland Raiders are turning into the New Orleans Saints Lite (minus the quarterback, receiving corp, tight end, defensive line, or Super Bowl ring, but close huh…) thanks to the latest free agent acquisition from Tuesday. Oakland signed safety Usama Young, entering his 7th year in the league, he spent the last two seasons in Cleveland, but won a Super Bowl ring with the Saints in 2009, having spent the first 4 years in the NFL as a reserve for Payton and family. He is reunited in Oakland with Tracy Porter, a key to the Saints Super Bowl win as another piece to a puzzle Reggie McKenzie is busily putting together…

The Raiders are building their roster 1 1-year deal at a time, thanks largely in part to a serious issue with dead cap money. They added former 1st rounder Mike Jenkins with a 1-year deal and resigned Andre Carter (started 12 games in 2012 for the team) through the 2013 season.

It’s hard for me to ignore the Raiders are smartly adding pieces that could offer some production on the field and more importantly, leadership in the locker room.

From Matt Flynn, Tracy Porter, Michael Jenkins, now Young… none of the names jump off a page, but with leadership and solidarity, it’s amazing what a TEAM of football players can accomplish. I’m not saying the Raiders are a playoff team, or even close, but when you look at the process of rebuilding a team, and laying a foundation for franchise culture, it’s clear that McKenzie is willing to napalm the past and start with clean slate. This year is difficult because of the finances, but 2014, the Raiders will be significant players in free agency, and see some true results of the new regime.

That’s the first and likely LAST time I start Jules From the Gridiron with Raiders news—especially given the incredible news about the 49ers…

For the first time since 1979, the Niners led the league -not only in being the greatest team and the beat behind my heart (that’s been since 1981)-- but also in merchandising. They are the only team outside the Eastern Time Zone in the top 5. Also rounding out that list is some team that replaced the Colts in Baltimore (I might still be hurting about the game in New Orleans this past February), Giants, Redskins, Steelers and Patriots.

And setting a new ALL-TIME record in jersey sales is the man with the most famous 3 letters in sports… RG3 – ok, so there’s a number in there too… How about another famous 3 letters? Like, ACL? More specifically: his.  There’s still questions about his return despite Dr. James Andrews saying his recovery has been ‘super human’- he’s saying he’s not coming back until he’s ready. Can’t argue with the man after seeing that sad playoff game against Seattle. Redskins fans are still hurting over that, I’m sure.

Also on the list of jersey sales- Tim Tebow beat out Russell Wilson, but JJ Watt represents for the Texans and coming in second behind RG3 is PFM- Manning, the elder son. Eli comes in 9th.

Here’s the list- thanks to NFL.com

Top-selling NFL player jerseys

Rank

Player

1

Robert Griffin III

2

Peyton Manning

3

Ray Lewis

4

Colin Kaepernick

5

Tom Brady

6

Andrew Luck

7

Aaron Rodgers

8

Victor Cruz

9

Eli Manning

10

Patrick Willis

11

Rob Gronkowski

12

J.J. Watt

13

Tim Tebow

14

Russell Wilson

15

Marshawn Lynch

Bad news for Charger fans is good news for Cowboy fans. Free agent right tackle Eric Winston is done talking with San Diego, for now, anyway. The Cowboys were also in the mix and while it’d be good to have Winston, a workhorse and great locker room guy, in San Diego, I think Cowboy fans would love a reason to let Doug Free find a job selling cars and let Winston be their right tackle.

Ever busted a leg? Think throwing a band-aid on that thing would help at all? Well, Doug Marrone isn’t thinking the Bills signing Kevin Kolb is much of a help either. Good backup? Yes. Franchise guy that shifts draft priority? Not a chance. "I do not think it really is going to change the philosophy on the draft," Marrone said, via the team's official site. "I think that when the position comes, whatever is best for our team to get better, I think we will go ahead and choose that player -- whoever it may be.” Smart call coach.

Ok, I’m off to scoop free ice cream for EVERYONE at Ben and Jerry’s to help raise money for Guide Dogs of the Desert and eat the extra stuff. And by extra stuff, I mean, everything I can get my hands on.

 

 

NFL Draft By Team and Number of Picks

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Took some time to break down the draft order based on team and draft position... found some interesting facts while combing through the 254 picks... 

The 49ers lead the NFL with 14 picks this year while the Ravens are second with 12. The Patriots, Saints and Panthers are last with 5 picks but should the Steelers pass on matching offer for Emmanuel Sanders and the Pats give up their 3rd rounder to Pittsburgh, the formerly pick-covetous Patriots will have the fewest selections in the NFL. 

While the Niners and Ravens have the most picks, it's interesting to note the Niners have 7 picks in the first four rounds while the Ravens have seven of their 12 in the final 3 rounds.

Minnesota, Miami and Atlanta all have 11 picks. Pretty impressive haul for the Dolphins as 8 of those selections come in the first 5 rounds. Seattle and Cincinnati each have 10.

19 of the 32 teams have between 6-8 picks to add to their team and that could swing the pendulum significantly based on what some of the richer teams offer in terms of trade.

Anyway, here's the chart- hope you enjoy the colors. Find your team and imagine the possibilities!!!

NFC WEST

1ST

2ND

3RD

4TH

5TH

6TH

7TH

TOTAL

SF

31

34, 61

74, 93

128, 131C

157, 164

180

227, 237, 246C, 252C

14

SEA

TO MINN

56

87

123

138, 158

194

220, 231, 241C, 242C

10

ST. L

16, 22

46

78

113

149

184

222

8

AZ

7

38

69

103

140

174, 176

0

7

AFC WEST

1ST

2ND

3RD

4TH

5TH

6TH

7TH

TOTAL

DEN

28

58

90

125

161

0

234

6

SD

11

45

76

110

145

179

221

7

OAK

3

TO CINCI

66

100

0

172, 205

209, 219

7

KC

1

TO SF

63, 96C

99

134

170, 204

207

8

NFC NORTH

1ST

2ND

3RD

4TH

5TH

6TH

7TH

TOTAL

GB

26

55

88

122

159

193

232

7

CHI

20

50

TO MIAMI

117

153, 167C

188

0

6

DET

5

36

65

132C

137

171

211, 245C

8

MINN

23, 25

52

83

102, 120

155

189

213, 214, 229

11

AFC NORTH

1ST

2ND

3RD

4TH

5TH

6TH

7TH

TOTAL

PITT

17

48

79

115

150

186, 206C

223

8

CLE

6

0

68

104

139

173, 175

0

6

CINCI

21

37, 53

84

118

156

190, 197

240C, 251C

10

BALT

32

62

94

129, 130C

165, 168C

199, 200, 203C

238, 247C

12

NFC SOUTH

1ST

2ND

3RD

4TH

5TH

6TH

7TH

TOTAL

TB

13

43

73

112, 126

147

181, 196

0

8

CAR

14

44

TO SF

108

148

182

0

5

NO

15

0 FORFEIT

75

109

144

183

0

5

ATL

30

60

92

127, 133C

163

198

236, 243C, 244C, 249C

11

AFC SOUTH

1ST

2ND

3RD

4TH

5TH

6TH

7TH

TOTAL

INDY

24

TO MIAMI

86

121

TO SF

192

230, 254C

6

TENN

10

30

70, 97C

107

142

202C

216, 248C

9

JAX

2

33

64

98

135

169

208

7

HOU

27

57

89, 95C

124

160

195, 201C

233

9

NFC EAST

1ST

2ND

3RD

4TH

5TH

6TH

7TH

TOTAL

DAL

18

47

80

114

151

185

TO MIAMI

6

PHILLY

4

35

67

101

136

TO CLE

210, 212, 218, 239C

9

WA

TO STL

51

85

119

154, 162

191

228

7

NYG

19

49

81

116

152

187

225, 253C

8

AFC EAST

1ST

2ND

3RD

4TH

5TH

6TH

7TH

TOTAL

NE

29

59

91

TO TB

TO WA

TO CINCI

226, 235

5

MIA

12

42, 54

77, 82

111

146, 166C

TO SF

217, 224, 250C

11

NYJ

9

39

72

106

141

178

215

7

BUFF

8

41

71

105

143

177

0

6

 

 

                6

 

Jules From The Gridiron 4-8-13

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Jules From The Gridiron 4-7-13

Championship Edition! 

From the “Who’s Got The Concussion Now” department: Joe Flacco is set to play Johnny Unitas in an upcoming film called “Unitas We Stand” … Joe Unitas, Johnny’s son, who I met while in New Orleans for the Super Bowl, said the Baltimore ties are what were so important, plus, he said in a phone interview with SI.com, “I think it's great that Joe just won the Super Bowl with the Ravens and was Most Valuable Player in the game. A lot of the way Joe plays and his demeanor reminds me a lot of my dad. He's not a rah-rah guy. He throws a touchdown and maybe there's a little fist pump. He understands his job is all about winning and he does a phenomenal job leading the offense and the team and obviously they've developed a lot of trust after becoming a champion. He's an awesome teammate and great leader of the team."

Fair enough. And not that any actor now-a-days can accurately depict Unitas’s toughness, his determination, his talent and wrap it up into the garbage-man-next-door persona, but Flacco just got paid a $120million+ contract. There’s something very wrong about the guy who got a record NFL deal playing the great Unitas. Just it.

From the “Captain Obvious Breaking News Department”:  Raiders waive former 1st round pick Rolando “Big Body” McClain…. Ok, I gave him the “Big Body” nickname. Never really stuck because he never played up to it. The former Crimson Tide standout was too busy complaining about the organization on social media and getting arrested to play football. This year will be tough for the Silver and Black, but 2014 will be far brighter as their dead cap money comes off the books and they can spend again.

WHEN WILL THE HURTING STOP???

Because Detroit fans aren’t tired enough of having their hearts ripped out and trampled, certainly by the Lions, then the Tigers, and once again, the Lions are priming for some metaphorical puppy punting, as they signed former 49er David Akers, who nearly lost his job to Billy Cundiff who was axed from the Ravens after costing them a chance in the Super Bowl. After 21 years, Jason Hanson retired, and the Lions were looking for a new way to become a punchline. Enters Akers. Now- it should be stated that Akers led the NFL in points in back-to-back years (’10-’11), becoming the first player since Marshall Faulk did it 2000-2001. And we should give him credit for leading the NFC for 4 straight years, and he did lay new ink in history with his best season debuting for the Niners in 2011, but this is the guy who couldn’t convert a field goal to beat the Rams.

Revis can’t go to his Island… If Revis holds out, apparently it’ll cost him $3 million. And sports fans everywhere breathe a heavy sigh of relief knowing there won’t be a Revis holdout this off season.

 A clause in Revis’ contract requires him to participate in voluntary workouts in order to receive bonus money, according to ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini.

From the report: When Revis renegotiated his contract in 2010, following his second holdout in three years, he agreed to a clause that requires his attendance in all offseason activities — even non-mandatory workouts, sources said.

If Revis doesn’t participate in approximately 80 percent of the workouts, he will forfeit not only a $1 million workout bonus, but two other bonuses — a $1 million roster bonus (triggered March 17, but payable at a later date) and a $1 million reporting bonus at the start of training camp.

They’re tied together, providing significant financial motivation to attend. It was the Jets’ way of making sure Revis stays on his best behavior, an aspect of his four-year, $46 million contract that was kept relatively quiet — until now.

So he might be on the trade block, but he’s still got to show up at camp.

Ever wonder what’s on Steve Spurrier’s mind? Well, apparently, if you just ask him, he’ll tell you EXACTLY what’s on his mind: He wasn’t happy that the USC Trojans garnered more national media than his USC Gamecocks, and was talking with a beat reporter about the injustice…

Josh Kendall of The State tweeted Spurrier’s comments:

Josh Kendall@JoshatTheState

Steve Spurrier: “I noticed both USCs had their pro timing day today. One of them finished No. 7 in the country, the other was not (1/4)

in the Top 25, yet ESPN decided to go out to the one in California which did not finish in the Top 25 and televise their day live. (2/4)

It’s interesting that (ESPN) doesn’t come around here on signing day, they don’t come around here on pro timing day, and yet (3/4)

they want us to play all these Thursday night games. Maybe we need to consider playing on that new network, FoxSports 1" (4/4)

I always appreciate a coach going to bat for his guys… and Spurrier makes a great point here. Lattimore got a standing ovation from the media at his pro day… Barkley barely received a golf clap.

It might come as a shock, but the hard-living Rob Gronkowski might be out for a while longer due to an infection. According to multiple sources familiar with the situation, Gronkowski has been battling an infection in the area around where a second metal plate was installed to repair his broken left forearm and his readiness for the season is in jeopardy. This sounds knarly and likely is. Now that Gronk might be down and we know Wes Welker is out, you just have to wonder how Tom Brady is responding to all this.

Tomorrow’s Jules From the Gridiron: recapping today’s remarkable charity auction of Hugh McElhenney’s Hall of Fame jacket!!

 

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