Across the pond football

UK based NFL Blog – Opinions and Articles on American Football


Leave a comment

ATPF Preview Conference Championships

 

So here we are, the conference Championships, for every player this is the big one, they are on the cusp of the Superbowl and the game they have dreamed of for so long. Of course this is hardly alien territory to the likes of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Bill Belichick or indeed any member of the 49ers who of course lost the big game itself a year ago.

New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos

Tom Brady versus Peyton Manning for the AFC title. It’s a script we’ve all read before but this time Manning is clad in orange not blue. In his second year in Denver Manning has had one of the greatest years in NFL history, breaking virtually every single season passing record along the way. Of course Brady’s historic 16-0 season of 2007 saw play of a similar calibre and the two best quarterbacks of this century will once again do battle here, maybe for the final time.

Image

Brady took a backseat as the Patriots pummelled the Colts on the ground last week. It was a win that will have inspired confidence in New England considering the Colts were one of just three teams to beat the Broncos in the regular season, of course New England were one of the trio too, downing the Broncos in overtime nearly two months ago. LeGarrette Blount led the way as the Patriots scored six rushing touchdowns against the Colts and ran for 234 yards total. The Patriots lack of a superstar receiver minus Rob Gronkowski was easily overcome with Blount in particular’s big day but if the Broncos can tighten up against the run it will be interesting to see how Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman fare against a secondary that gives up too many big plays. The Patriots defense scooped up four interceptions from Andrew Luck last week and the unit tries to mix up coverages and give opposition signal callers a variety of different looks to cause confusion. Manning will enjoy such a battle and his excellence at changing plays at the line of scrimmage could tie the Patriots in knots. The defense of New England has to have some success up front to give them a chance here. If they can attack running back Knowshon Moreno at the line of scrimmage and get some pressures on Manning they should be able to force a few punts but if Manning has time and a viable check down run game to audible to the Broncos dominant offense could be unstoppable.

Image

Denver’s offense is not just about Manning, the arsenal of offensive weapons at his disposal is what terrifies opponents. Demaryius Thomas is their number one; he is the big bodied dynamic deep threat. Eric Decker runs fantastic routes, catches well and is a danger with the ball in his hands. Wes Welker faces up to his old team here and remains the premier slot receiver in the game, his ability to find a small crease in the center of the field to get open is unparalleled. Julius Thomas has been the surprise of the year; the tight end is a real threat in the red zone and his combination of size and wide receiver speed causes matchup nightmares. Running back Knowshon Moreno is also having a career year, the former first round pick is a tough inside runner who excels near the goal line. The Broncos defense has been up and down throughout the year but seems to have a knack for making big plays just when they need them. They held the Chargers top five offense to just 17 points last week but couldn’t cope with Keenan Allen. Star pass rusher Von Miller’s season ending injury could yet haunt the Broncos and in this game they could really do with him. New England do a great job of keeping Tom Brady upright so minus the superb Miller it will be interesting to see if and how they pressure him.

Both defenses are flawed here so this one will come down to which defense can make a stand every now and then because we suspect the majority of drives will result in points. Expect the Broncos to priorities stopping the Patriots running game after last week and try to turn this into a shootout. If that becomes the case Manning’s superior weapons will be key and for that reason we expect Denver, the AFC’s best team to indeed win the AFC.

ATPF PredictionBroncos 38 Patriots 27

San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks

These two NFC West powerhouses hate each other and on the field blood is always spilled when they do battle. The two teams are very similar and that’s what makes their contests so fascinating. They both won their home clash against each other with Seattle beating San Francisco surprisingly easily here early in the season.

Image

The Seahawks only lost once at home this season and their 13-3 record was the best in the NFC. They built their success around the league’s number one ranked defense and the unit gave up just one touchdown in two meetings with the 49ers. The Seahawks are dominant and deep upfront with giant Red Bryant playing over the strong side tackle and speedy pass rushers Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett all rotating in to get after quarterbacks. Cornerback Richard Sherman has gained virtual shutdown status, his physical style and ability to intercept passes strikes fear into opposing quarterbacks. Playmaking strong safety Kam Chancellor and center field hawk Earl Thomas are easily the best duo in the league and round out a fantastic defense. Seattle’s offense isn’t far behind, sophomore quarterback Russell Wilson has climbed to the top of an extraordinary quarterback draft class of 2012 with his brilliant play this season. Wilson is as dangerous with his legs as he is with his arm but even when he sets off he keeps his eyes downfield looking to throw rather carry the ball and his accuracy on the move is as good as anyone in the league. As good as Wilson is veteran running back Marshawn Lynch remains the bread and butter of the offense. Lynch is a relentless battering ram who has a knack of making people miss and is as tough to tackle as anyone in the league. Lynch’s inside running opens up lanes for Wilson to scramble to the edge and make plays. The Seahawks look like missing playmaker Percy Harvin again but he has barely been sighted all year and that hasn’t stopped them.

Image

San Francisco are in their third straight NFC Championship under head coach Jim Harbaugh and after making the Superbowl at the second attempt they only have eyes on winning the Lombardi Trophy this time around. Like their rivals defense is the strength of the team and after a slow start they ended up as the fifth best unit in the league. A week ago against the Panthers two interceptions of Cam Newton were vital in a game that was considerably closer than the final score suggested. Linebacker Patrick Willis and safety Donte Whitner were the two interceptors and both are top drawer defenders. Willis’s partnership with Navorro Bowman is the heart of this unit with both undoubtedly in the top five inside linebackers in the league and as a unit the two can take over a game at times. Upfront the relentless power of defensive end Justin Smith sets the tone and defensive end/linebacker Aldon Smith is one of the most physically gifted pass rushers in the league.  Continuing the similarities between the two teams the 49ers offense revolves around their power running game. Veteran Frank Gore has been a fine player for the 49ers for a long time and he sets the tone. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick may be the most explosive runner at his position in the league and his speed off the edge makes him a big play threat every time he tucks it and runs. The 49ers passing offense languished near the bottom of the rankings all year but Kaepernick’s favourite target Michael Crabtree’s return has given them a jolt. Hardnosed veteran Anquan Boldin and lightning fast tight end Vernon Davis combine with Crabtree to give Kaepernick a strong arsenal of weapons.

These two know each other so well and such games tend to come down to turnovers. Who will make the crucial error when it matters, who will make the big play that swings the game in his teams favour? We can’t split the two on paper but they reckon home field advantage is worth three points and at deafening CenturyLink Field it may be worth a little more so we are going to give Seattle the edge.

ATPF PredictionSeahawks 17  49ers 13

 

Advertisements


Leave a comment

ATPF Preview Divisional Round

Image

Wildcard weekend proved to be a thriller. The Colts started the ball rolling with a 28 point comeback against the Chiefs in which they had plenty of luck and plenty from Luck. The Saints then got over their road woes to beat the Eagles. Andy Dalton’s postseason struggles returned and he was pretty abysmal as the Chargers made light of the cold weather to beat the Bengals and the weekend concluded with the 49ers continuing their recent dominance over the Packers in a game that was tense and close throughout.

New Orleans Saints @ Seattle Seahawks

When these two NFC powerhouses met earlier in the season in the same stadium the Seahawks completely dominated proceedings winning by 27 points. What was most surprising that day was the way Seattle’s defense completely stifled the Saints offense with Drew Brees averaging less than 5 yards per pass attempt. Seattle meanwhile moved the ball with consummate ease with Russell Wilson averaging over 10 yards per attempt as the turnover free Seahawks racked up over 400 yards against Rob Ryan’s defense which has been excellent on the whole this year.

The Saints were only 3-5 on the road in the regular season but did manage to win in Philadelphia last week. They will need two more road wins if they are to be NFC Champions which looks a tall order. The Seahawks were 7-1 at home and there are few louder or more hostile stadiums around than Centurylink field. The Seahawks defense was the best in the NFL during the regular season and the unit is ultra disciplined yet able to make big plays as well. Their offense led by the relentless running of Marshawn Lynch and dual threat of quarterback Wilson can beat you in a variety of ways and they will hope to make big plays when Ryan takes his big gambles. The Saints need their defense to get pressures, hits and sacks on Wilson and to limit Lynch’s effectiveness to have a chance. Their offense is almost certain of a bolder showing and they will hope that Mark Ingram can be productive as he was last week to take a Seahawk out of coverage.

It was a surprise to everyone that the first meeting was so one sided but we expect the Saints to make a game of it here although we still think Seattle will prove too strong.

ATPF PredictionThe Seahawks advance to the NFC Championship with a 27- 24 win.

Indianapolis Colts @ New England Patriots

The Colts were dead and buried when they fell 28 points behind against the Chiefs last week but Andrew Luck suddenly found his rhythm and led his team to a thrilling comeback. Luck has been a little more reserved than we expected in his sophomore year but he threw for 443 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions in a true gun slinging performance. T.Y. Hilton is one of the more underrated receivers in the league and despite the lack of a viable receiver opposite him he had 224 yards receiving and two (including the game winner) touchdowns.

The Patriots have had plenty of problems this year and have been decimated by injuries so to get a first round bye was remarkable and it should have helped heal a few of the stricken. Unfortunately though it won’t heal Rob Gronkowski, their superstar tight end who is one of the most feared weapons in the league and it won’t heal Vince Wilfork their man mountain nose tackle who has been sorely missed since his season ending injury. Tom Brady minus Gronkowki for most of the year and with both Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez gone has not put up nearly the numbers of years past and there is no getting away from the fact that his receiving corps is substandard.

Both teams are pass first teams here and both have average defenses but both groups are capable of making big plays. It should be quite close but Luck seems to be the man with the Midas touch and he and main man Hilton can be crucial. Tom Brady’s legacy was set long ago but he has struggled in the playoffs in the last few years and he looks short of targets here so we favour a road win for Indianapolis.

ATPF PredictionThe Colts take another major scalp as they beat the Patriots 31- 27.

San Francisco 49ers @ Carolina Panthers

These two teams met in week ten when the Panthers won 10-9 in San Francisco. There may be a few more points scored here but expect defenses to dominate again. The hosts Carolina led by brilliant young linebacker Luke Kuechly won twelve of their last thirteen games and only once in that stretch allowed over twenty points. San Francisco were just as stingy, allowing over twenty just once in their last thirteen games and they have two superstar linebackers in Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman as well as superstar pass rusher Aldon Smith and consistently dominant lineman Justin Smith.

Both teams will look to lean heavily on their run games with San Francisco sure to offer a heavy dose of bruising Frank Gore and plenty of read option looks to try and get the speedy Colin Kaepernick to the edge where he is so dangerous. Carolina aren’t too dissimilar with veterans DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert all effective runners and Cam Newton an even bigger danger on quarterback keepers. The difference maker for this game in our view is San Francisco’s receivers. Michael Crabtree is back and has been lauded by his head coach for his catching ability while Anquan Boldin is as tough as they come and has bucket loads of playoff experience including one winning and one losing Superbowl appearance. Vernon Davis remains one of the fastest tight ends in football and he will be a real threat running the seams between these two receivers. Carolina still have veteran Steve Smith and tight end Greg Olsen has had a nice season but there is little doubt San Francisco is stronger in this area and we think it will be key in a game where points will be at a premium and touchdowns like gold dust.

ATPF PredictionThe 49ers make a third straight NFC Championship, we think the score will be something like 17-13.

San Diego Chargers @ Denver Broncos

The Chargers seem to have the football gods smiling on them of late but make no mistake they are playing some good football as well. A whole catalogue of events got them into the playoffs at Pittsburgh’s expense two weeks ago and they rode a catalogue of Andy Dalton errors to victory at Cincinnati’s expense last week. Their next game may on the face of it a daunting one but the Chargers were the lone team to beat Denver in this stadium this year so they won’t be overawed.

The Broncos have been the most entertaining team in the NFL this season with their league best offense scoring over thirty points in thirteen of their sixteen games. Crucially they managed just twenty in that shock defeat to the Chargers which was all the more surprising given the Chargers defense is pretty average and their secondary short on top level talent apart from safety Eric Weddle. Denver’s orchestra of offense has been led sublimely by veteran Peyton Manning who has had a career year. Receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker both had 1000 yards season for the second straight year and both Wes Welker and Julius Thomas would have gotten really close but for injuries. Running back Knowshon Moreno has had a fine year also as an every down back whose rugged style is perfect as a change of pace to the much feared passing game.

The Chargers offense ended the year a top five unit also with Philip Rivers enjoying a remarkable career renaissance under new head coach Mike McCoy, formerly of the Broncos of course. McCoy is an expert in teaching quarterbacks and has again excelled with Rivers. Veteran tight end Antonio Gates, breakout rookie Keenan Allen and journeyman Eddie Royal have been among Rivers favourite targets and talented running back Ryan Mathews has finally stayed healthy. The Chargers defense will have its work cut out; Manning and co won’t fall for the same tricks as in their last meeting so it will be interesting to see the Chargers defensive game plan. When the Broncos won these two teams first clash in San Diego the Chargers too often had to settle for field goals rather than touchdowns. They must find the end zone on drives here because the Broncos defense is significantly weakened by the loss of explosive edge rusher Von Miller.

The Chargers have performed admirably to get this far but we expect a different Broncos team to the slightly complacent one they beat a month ago. It’s hard to see the Chargers secondary coping with all the talent at Manning’s disposal although both offense should have plenty of success.

ATPF PredictionThe Broncos offensive juggernaut leads them into the AFC Championship; our score prediction is 41-31.

 


1 Comment

ATPF Preview Wildcard Round

Image

What a crazy week to finish the season. The Steelers mustn’t be able to comprehend how the Chargers ‘won’ their game against the Chiefs backups. The Bears must also be hurting, they had their winner takes all game in their grasp, Julius Peppers had Aaron Rodgers in his grasp, Rodgers escaped, Green Bay escaped and piled more misery on their deadly rivals. There was a familiar theme even minus Tony Romo in Dallas as for the third straight year the Cowboys lost a winner takes all NFC East clash; all three teams have beaten them in the three year skid. The coaching carousel is in full swing too, Gary Kubiak’s position was untenable, Mike Shanahan and Greg Schiano had lost their locker rooms and both Leslie Frazier and particularly Jim Schwartz had failed to meet expectations relevant to the talent level on their rosters. I do feel most for one year head coach Rob Chudzinski, fired by the Browns. Chudzinski inherited a woeful roster and organisation which knows only how to lose, admittedly they fell apart once the season was lost but if Michael Lombardi thinks anyone is making this team competitive in one season he is very much mistaken.

Anyway to look back, we went 13-3 in our condensed week 17 preview, our best week of the year. In our first season we went 151-87 on predictions; we have had plenty of fun and a few headaches along the way but turned out reasonable numbers. Onto the playoffs now and the stakes are raised, we are excited about the next month but hope it doesn’t go too quick.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Indianapolis Colts

A fortnight ago the Colts beat the Chiefs 23-7 in this stadium so will certainly enter this game with confidence. They have been giant killers in an 11-5 AFC South winning season, San Francisco, Denver and indeed Kansas City were all favoured but all beaten by the Colts. The Colts are not without their flaws but they certainly have the winning knack. Their defense ranked 20th in yards allowed but eighth in scoring, allowing just 21 points per game and the 27 turnovers forced by the unit were vital. Offensively the Colts haven’t been ultra dynamic, Trent Richardson has disappointed on the whole but showed a few signs down the stretch and the loss of Reggie Wayne has put a lot on the shoulders of T.Y. Hilton who has had a solid sophomore year. Andrew Luck hasn’t yet reached the pantheons of the likes of Manning, Brees or Rodgers but is smart, accurate and more athletic than many realise.

The success of the Chiefs, 2012’s worst team has been surprising but not completely shocking. They have a lot of talent; we already knew that and in Andy Reid brought in a highly respected, experienced and successful coach. Reid has got the best out of a team that past managements got the least out of. Kansas City have been led by Jamaal Charles, their superstar running back who was deprived of a 2000 yards from scrimmage season by being rested for the final game and had nineteen total touchdowns. Quarterback Alex Smith’s accurate short and intermediate passing has been an ideal fit for Andy Reid’s west coast offense and Smith has had arguably the best year of his career. Kansas’ defense is laden with stars and boasts one of the league’s most feared pass rushes and most talented secondaries. Few teams in fact can boast the talent that K.C. can on defense with playmakers throughout the starting eleven.

In the first meeting Kansas uncharacteristically committed four turnovers, couldn’t complete on third down and lost the time of possession battle by almost seventeen minutes. They are a team built to not turn it over, not get in third and long situations and to control the clock so the game went all wrong. Andy Reid will want to shut down the Colts run game here first and foremost and allow Jamaal Charles to both control the clock and make big plays. The Colts will hope to do a better job on Charles than in the last meeting but he can make plays in so many ways. Kansas defense is entirely reliant on pressure but they couldn’t get at Luck nearly enough last time and when their blitz doesn’t get home they can be vulnerable.

ATPF PredictionThe Colts finished the season strongly including a verdict over the Chiefs. Kansas City are more solid as an all round team but the Colts were able to exploit all of their weaknesses last time out. Reid will want to correct many of these issues but the Colts won comfortably that day so have to get the edge. It will be closer however this time; we predict the Colts win by a score of 27-20.

New Orleans Saints @Philadelphia Eagles

All credit to Chip Kelly who took the Eagles from worst to first in the NFC East behind one of the league’s most feared offenses. The Eagles finished the season 7-1 to power past the Cowboys and will enter the playoffs with great confidence. Their offense went from explosive but self destructive under Michael Vick to just flat out explosive under Nick Foles. LeSean McCoy led the league in rushing and DeSean Jackon came back to his best as the dynamic deep threat that terrified defensive coordinators in his first couple of years in the league and a word must be said about the offensive line which paved the way for McCoy’s great season at a tempo which is hardly comfortable to men weighing around 300 lbs. The Eagles have languished in the bottom five of the defensive rankings all year yet they have allowed over 22 points just once in their last 12 games.

The Saints finished the season with an 11-5 record but lost the NFC South to the shock success story of the Carolina Panthers. The Saints are imperious at home but won just three of their eight road games this season and none of those were convincing. Defeats to the substandard Jets and Rams on the road, a crucial loss to the Panthers and a whipping in Seattle further backup the view that this team needs the comforts of home to be at their best. Their best is however arguably better than the Eagles best so there is hope if they can find their best form. The Saints always prolific offense ranked fourth in the league and Drew Brees’ pass attack was good for second best overall. The biggest difference for New Orleans this year was their fourth ranked defense which was second best in the league against the pass. Rob Ryan’s defense uses many different formations, sub-packages, coverages and blitzes and he will hope to disguise his plays from the relatively inexperienced but usually unflappable Nick Foles; it will be an interesting battle.

Offenses grab the headlines in these two cities but don’t be fooled, the Saints defense is the best we have seen for years and I include their Superbowl year in that and the Eagles are way better than the stats suggest too. The Eagles have great momentum, are at home and will find conditions much more to their liking than their opponents. The Saints are a very experienced postseason team and can go toe to toe with anyone but their away form just doesn’t add up to the same as their home form.

ATPF PredictionThis game won’t be an offensive shootout like some are suggesting but nor will it be dull. The Eagles were brilliant in the snow against Detroit a month ago so minus 6 celsius (21 Fahrenheit) temperatures shouldn’t be an issue. The Eagles have enough in their favour to upset the better side here and we see something like Philadelphia 34 New Orleans 28.

San Diego Chargers @ Cincinnati Bengals

As we spoke of earlier San Diego winning their decisive week 17 game wasn’t far short of miraculous. I have heard a few cynical whispers but the Chiefs did not want their AFC West rivals in the playoffs so such talk is ridiculous. The Chargers have been behind the eight ball all year as their West rivals Denver and Kansas City blazed such a trail yet beating both in their own backyards gave them hope and their win last week saw them in against the odds. They look the most flawed team in the playoffs but their schedule has been brutal so a 9-7 finish was no mean feat and they have one major thing in their favour here. That is quarterback Philip Rivers who has led them to a top five ranking in total offense and in passing. Defensively the Chargers are in stage one of a major revamp and there are some obvious holes particularly in their secondary.

The Bengals at last won the NFC North from perennial Lombardi trophy contenders Pittsburgh and current holders of the trophy Baltimore. In their third straight year in the playoffs they need to win at least one postseason game and with a home game in the cold against the Southern Californians they will fancy their chances. Few teams are as strong on both sides of the ball as Cincinnati; their defense has been strong for a few years now and despite some big name injuries they ended the season as the third ranked unit in the league. Their offense is full of talent too; superstar receiver A.J. Green is among the league’s elite and Marvin Jones has emerged as a valid number two. Tight ends Jermaine Gresham and rookie Tyler Eifert are both good pass catchers and running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard form an effective one-two. The lone issue on this team is quarterback Andy Dalton. Dalton enters his third straight postseason needing a win and needing to prove that he is capable at this level. Dalton passed for a seventh best in the league 4296 yards and a third best in the league 33 touchdowns but his 20 interceptions is the most of any quarterback to make the playoffs. If Dalton can hold it together and use his weapons the Bengals will be tough to beat.

The Chargers need Phil Rivers to be at his best as he has been for much of the year here against a very stout defense capable of constant pressure from just their four man rush. The Chargers will also hope that Dalton errs as he has in the last two postseasons.

ATPF PredictionThe Bengals shouldn’t struggle against the Chargers defense and should score plenty of points. San Diego will score points also despite the Bengals defensive strength but we can’t see them matching their rivals on the scoreboard. Our prediction is Cincinnati 34 San Diego 24.

San Francisco 49ers @ Green Bay Packers

There is history here and it favours the 49ers but the Packers will be ready for Colin Kaepernick this year but minus Clay Matthews they may still struggle to contain him. The bitter weather of Lambeau Field may have been a problem to 49ers teams of the past but strangely the blue collar 49ers ought to be more suited by it than the dynamic Green Bay Packers. San Francisco are a run first, ground and pound offense and veteran Frank Gore sets the tone. The Niners ended the year with the third ranked ground game in the league but they will need more from their passing attack. Michael Crabtree stepped up on their run to the Superbowl last year and they will need more of the same from him having missed the majority of the year. The 49ers ended the year ranked fifth in total defense and haven’t given up thirty points once this season.

The Packers scored 28 against that stingy defense in week one but it wasn’t enough. Their offense has struggled on the most part this season with Aaron Rodgers missing more than half of the season but we all know how dangerous they can be with him at full speed. He was slow to get going on his return last week but typically made a brilliant game winning throw inside the final minute. Randall Cobb is back also and caught two touchdowns against Chicago, Cobb, speedy James Jones and Rodgers favourite target Jordy Nelson are a formidable trio especially when you consider that the Packers have run the football the best that they have since their Superbowl campaign of three years ago. Their defense is one of the weaker units in the playoffs and injuries to their front seven will certainly give Dom Capers some headaches when you think back to the way Kaepernick consistently got to the edge in the playoffs last year and then picked up huge chunks of yardage en route to a quarterback rushing record.

The Packers are a team everyone will fear now but perhaps less so San Francisco who have such a fine recent record against them. The Packers must pick their poison with San Francisco’s multi faceted offense but the matchups seem to largely favour the 49ers.

ATPF PredictionThe Aaron Rodgers factor will be big here but the 49ers are a more talented all round team so they again hold the edge in this matchup. It was 34-28 last time and a similar score is likely. We are going to say 30-28 this time.

 


Leave a comment

ATPF Preview Week 8

Image

So another week goes into the history books and as we approach the halfway point just Kansas City, they who drafted first back in April, remain unbeaten. Andy Reid and his staff have turned water into wine and not only have the Chiefs improved in every position; they have gotten a winning mentality. An average performance this past Sunday left them vulnerable but ultimately they outlasted the Texans, would the Chiefs have held on in such a game last year?

Kansas City’s AFC West rivals Denver finally blinked, Peyton Manning and the gang were beaten in his old stomping ground of Indianapolis and the Colts are a team capable of beating anyone it seems, particularly at home. Potentially big for the Colts however was the loss of veteran receiver Reggie Wayne for the season but they weren’t alone in losing a star player this week. Injuries grabbed the headlines throughout the States, some of the biggest included St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford tearing his ACL and being out for the season, Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin has a shoulder injury that has his season in jeopardy, Chicago lost their offensive and defensive captains, quarterback Jay Cutler and linebacker Lance Briggs will both miss a month or more. Houston linebacker Brian Cushing got another season ending injury, pro bowl contender Leon Hall is also done in Cincinnati while Green Bay seemingly have to lose someone each week, this time its tight end Jermichael Finley whose neck injury could see him out until December.

At ATPF we went 10-5 again, for the third time in four weeks, that elusive eleventh winner continues to get away. We were happy with predicting a Steelers win correctly for the second week running, getting the Giants to finally win correct, happy with getting the margins almost spot on in Atlanta and San Diego wins but most delighted by the Jets overtime win by three against New England, an upset predicted pretty perfectly as the Jets defense grew in stature. This week there are just thirteen games with six teams on bye, ten wins would be very acceptable.

Carolina Panthers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

One of just two winless teams, Tampa Bay have ten games to decide whether rookie Mike Glennon is their future or whether May’s NFL draft, rich in quarterback talent is the way to address the position. Carolina are just about still afloat at 3-3, they surely can’t catch the Saints in the NFC South but a win here will put them firmly in contention for a wild card spot.

The factor that will give the Buccaneers hope here is the inconsistency of Carolina and more particularly their offense. The Panthers have scored more than thirty in all three wins but twice registered single figures in defeats. What isn’t in doubt is the Panthers defense, they have created fourteen turnovers and allowed the third fewest yards in the league, with the second worst offense in the league rolling into town excitement will be high for the defensive starters. Cam Newton is still an enigma at quarterback, big, athletic and with a huge arm, he threatens to one day become a superstar but his production, particularly passing wise doesn’t match his talent yet lack of receivers can be partially blamed beyond Steve Smith of course.

Tampa lost games by three, two and one in the first four weeks and could easily have been at 3-1, 2-2 or at least 1-3 but instead they lost them all and with confidence shattered, hope and their starting quarterback gone they are wondering where that first win will come from. Mike Glennon’s audition for the starting quarterback job hasn’t gone well so far, he averages just over 5 yards per pass attempt and hasn’t been able to consistently use receiver Vincent Jackson’s height and vertical ability, with Doug Martin gone Glennon is all alone against this very talented defense. The Buccaneers defense, so heavily invested in this past spring hasn’t been bad; they are thirteenth in yards allowed and have offset the eleven offensive turnovers of the team. Several times they setup the offense to go and win games and every time they have failed.

If the Mr Hyde version of the Panthers turn up we could have a game here but if Dr Jekyll is operating it could be miserable for the Bucs. The Panthers defense looks sure to create turnovers here and if Newton and co look after the ball they should see some good field positions and run up enough points to win.

ATPF PredictionIt may not be pretty but Carolina should get the job done, ten is the approx margin.

Cleveland Browns @ Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs defense led by the league’s best pass rushing duo Tamba Hali and Justin Houston and here supercharged by the ear drum bursting Arrowhead faithful will be licking their lips at the Browns and their struggling quarterback Brandon Weeden. At least the Browns defense can be relied upon and for all the Chiefs might their offense is not in the league of Denver for example.

Kansas’ offense has allowed their defense to flourish by staying balanced, not turning the ball over and having very few three and outs, running back Jamaal Charles would be an MVP candidate if Peyton Manning wasn’t having one of the all time great years by a quarterback. Defensively it’s hard to think of any team with as much wall to wall talent as the Chiefs who can boast seven players likely to make the pro bowl and at least ten more that have the talent to start in more than half of the league’s teams. Throw in a reliable kicker, pro-bowl punter and one of the league’s most dangerous returners and you have a heck of a football team.

The Browns strength is their defense. They have allowed the seventh fewest yards, only two places behind the Chiefs but Kansas have thirty five sacks and have forced nineteen turnovers, the Browns have just twenty sacks and nine turnovers, and this is a solid, disciplined defense rather than the highlight reel that their rivals boast. The Browns rank 26th in offensive yards and quarterback Brandon Weeden has just five touchdown passes to six interceptions. Willis McGahee is the leading rusher but the veteran lacks speed or quickness as illustrated by his paltry 2.9 yards per carry average.

Outside of Ohio nobody could envisage a Browns win here, their offense has two options it seems. Keep it safe and punt a lot or try and make things happen and risk the Chiefs feasting on turnovers, neither will cut it. Kansas know exactly what it takes to win such games and will just steadily pull away from their rivals.

ATPF PredictionChiefs defense leads them to a near twenty point victory.

New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles

Who is the second best team in the NFC East? Believe it or not it still could be the 1-6 Giants and if they win here they will still have some faint hope of catching the Cowboys who aren’t likely to be much better than .500 by the end of year. The Eagles slipped a game back on the Cowboys last week when they were beaten comprehensively by their bitter rivals at home.

The Eagles defense actually played one of their best games a week ago, holding the Cowboys to just a field goal in the first half but their offense minus Michael Vick was predictable and struggled until Matt Barkley came in and threw three exclamation point fourth quarter interceptions including his first two career throws. With Nick Foles leaving that game with concussion Barkley is the only fully healthy quarterback on the Eagles roster but Vick looks likely to return, whether he is willing to risk trying to make plays with his legs considering his hamstring strain however has to be questioned. Running back Shady McCoy is the heartbeat of the offense but teams are keying in on that and his numbers haven’t been as big the last couple of games.

The Giants finally worked out that suicidal turnovers had to stop on Monday night and without them they comprehensively beat the Vikings. Perry Fewells’ defense awoke from their two year slumber also in Monday Night’s win, shutting down MVP Adrian Peterson and forcing turnovers from Josh Freeman, the latter isn’t so hard to do. Chip Kelly’s fast paced offense hasn’t exactly taken the league by storm as the read-option did a year ago but with Vick at the helm it is certainly more effective. An interesting side note is that the Giants love to rotate their pass rushers heavily but with the Eagles no huddle they won’t have that luxury and I wonder whether Philadelphia will run at them plenty to try and wear them down. With Hakeem Nicks, Reuben Randle and Victor Cruz, Eli Manning has three talented receivers to target against this leaky secondary and at last the Giants got some production from the running back position on Monday Night; journeyman Peyton Hillis’ physical running kept Minnesota honest.

Are the Giants back or did they just beat a bad team at home? Probably a bit of both, they are too talented to be 1-6 but too flawed to go on a winning run. Philadelphia at home need this to stay competitive, defeat would derail them and potentially start another late season collapse. If the Giants stay turnover free again they have a real chance but on the road in a raucous Lincoln Financial Field there nightmares could return and the Eagles high powered offense gives them the edge.

ATPF PredictionScoring aplenty here but the Eagles at home are too strong, win by seven.

San Francisco 49ers @ Jacksonville Jaguars

The 49ers reaction to a 1-2 start has been to win four straight, here they take the extremely long journey across America and the Atlantic to face a Jaguars team hoping Wembley can do for them what it did for Minnesota. Problems for Jacksonville on that score however, they don’t have Adrian Peterson, San Francisco have a huge following in the UK and are vastly superior to them in all phases and oh yes, the Jags are the league’s worst team.

San Francisco have been strong defensively ever since John Harbaugh and his staff added discipline to the talented but poorly coached group they inherited from Mike Singletary. The offensive explosion that Colin Kaepernick sparked when he came in at quarterback last year took them to the Superbowl and within touching distance of the Lombardi trophy. This year the offense was slow to get going but everything is starting to work again, Frank Gore and the rushing attack are back to their relentless best, Vernon Davis is hitting form and Michael Crabtree is close to returning.

Jacksonville are back to Chad Henne at quarterback, he is marginally better than Blaine Gabbert but it is a 100% certainty that the Jags will be drafting a quarterback in May, luckily for them it’s a talented class and they may have the pick of them. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew is another on borrowed time, he has been mentioned in trade rumours but it’s hard to see anyone picking up his salary on current post-injury form. Receiver Justin Blackmon, an enormous talent is the lone bright spot in North Florida, he has had off the field issues but the Jags have to do whatever it takes to keep him on the straight and narrow. The Jags are almost as poor defensively as they are offensively; they are giving up nearly 400 yards per game.

The Jags may sneak a win somewhere but this won’t be it, a Wembley beat-down looks likely with the 49ers ruthless defense, bludgeoning rushing attack and vastly superior quarterback all likely to win their battles.

ATPF PredictionSan Francisco win by twenty in a one sided affair.

Dallas Cowboys @ Detroit Lions

Two similar teams match up here with the 4-3 pair both looking to enhance their playoff claims. The similarities are everywhere, both have risk taking gun slingers at quarterback, both of which are having huge but largely unnoticed seasons and both have elite receivers. Both have leaky defenses yet both have pro bowl talent in certain areas.

Looking at the hosts first, they lost a wild one at home against the Bengals a week ago. What surprised me was not the fact that the Lions bagged 24 against an ultra talented defense but that they conceded 27 to a stuttering although improving offense. Throughout Matthew Stafford’s time as starting quarterback the Lions have always got in plenty of shootouts and still do. Stafford’s huge arm and receiver Calvin Johnson’s unmatched blend of speed, height and catching ability allow them to score against anyone but defensively, despite a terrific front four they are still too easy to attack with the secondary particularly frail.

The Cowboys were like imposters a week ago, a team in reverse if you like. The dynamic offense, woeful defense that we saw in a 51-48 loss against Denver was replaced with a stifling defense, slow to get going offense in a 17-3 win in Philadelphia. The Cowboys have been noticeably more conservative on the road, their three road games have seen 102 points totalled, at AT&T four games have seen 250 scored. With starting running back DeMarco Murray still injured and their opponents so free scoring however that strategy could be tested here, Tony Romo clearly doesn’t want to pull the trigger as much away from home but his hand may be forced. DeMarcus Ware looks likely to return after missing his first career game but a bigger issue for the Lions line could be Jason Hatcher who is having a pro bowl calibre year, the Cowboys linebackers are talented but will have their work cut out with Reggie Bush and as ever stopping Johnson is an unenviable task.

This should be an exciting match but the Lions have a few key factors in their favour. First of all the health of the Cowboys front four continues to be a worry although the band of journeymen and misfits are playing pretty well. Secondly can the Cowboys run the ball against such a talented pair of tackles with Joseph Randle at tailback? Then there’s the ever present questions playing Detroit, how do you stop Johnson or Bush, let alone both? It looks like a game where Romo will find himself having to do it all, in such games he has the knack for playing admirably only to falter when it matters most.

ATPF PredictionDetroit win a high scorer by a touchdown.

Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots

As we pointed out a week ago the Patriots remain beatable but the Dolphins are really struggling after a bright start and both teams know that a New England win virtually eliminates Miami from the AFC East race.

Injuries and offseason losses have decimated Tom Brady’s receiving corps but make no mistake he is not playing his best football right now. He has one touchdown in his last three games and that was on the final play of the game in week six. Comparing Brady’s performances with a band of backups to Matt Ryan in a similar situation in Atlanta and Ryan has vastly outperformed his more esteemed rival. Nevertheless New England have all-pro tight end Rob Gronkowski back, Danny Amendola is in contention and in Julian Edelman, Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson the Patriots have a trio of unheralded receivers who have done good jobs filling in. Running back Stevan Ridley had a highly productive 2012 and is back to his best after injury so the New England offense could find another gear soon. Their defense has carried the team at times but with key injuries, none more so than Vince Wilfork they struggled against a modest Jets team, their biggest problem was that they couldn’t get off the field.

Miami won their first three but have lost their last three and getting back to winning ways is imperative. Defeats to the Saints and Ravens were one thing but losing to Buffalo last Sunday was another. The Dolphins offense is struggling; Ryan Tannehill has started to turn the ball over and takes too many sacks and big money acquisition Mike Wallace disappears for whole quarters and halfs. Their defense hasn’t held a team to under twenty since week one and despite a great matchup couldn’t take advantage last week.

The Patriots at home are still tough to beat and Bill Belichick rarely loses back to back games. One play separates the Patriots from losing their last three so they are certainly not in top form but play a team who are struggling on both sides of the ball here and have a great chance to regain the winning thread.

ATPF PredictionPatriots win by seven to ten here.

Buffalo Bills @ New Orleans Saints

The Saints return from their bye week no doubt still sore from the way they threw away their unbeaten record in New England. Nevertheless they are in complete control of the NFC South and still in a strong position to clinch a playoff bye. The Bills upset AFC East rivals Miami a week ago and keep getting upset wins just when you think they are on the verge of sinking. At 3-4 the playoffs look out of reach but a .500 season would give them something to build on.

The Saints incredible offensive machine is old news but this season’s transformation has been down to the defense under new co-ordinator Rob Ryan. Ryan’s unit have made big stands time and time again and twice looked to have finished the Patriots off in week six only for the offense to both times give them another chance. That deciding play has been hyper-analysed and the culprits castigated but if you give any team let alone the Patriots enough chances they will score eventually. The offense need to be better if they get a similar situation again but head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees are extremely diligent, mistakes in New Orleans are rarely repeated.

Buffalo’s starting rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel has missed the last two games but little known backup Thad Lewis has done a decent job in his place. Lewis took the talented Bengals to overtime in week six before guiding his team well in last week’s win; crucially he has just one pick in two games. The strength of the Bills offensively is their talented tandem of running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson but both are injury prone and have missed time already this season yet both have chances to play on Sunday, the Bills really need them. The Bills have found a star in rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso but he is one of few bright spots on a defense that has given up almost 2000 yards passing and 15 passing touchdowns already. The Bills corners are particularly vulnerable and in the Superdome against the Saints spread offense they could be ripe for Drew Brees picking.

This looks a terrible matchup for Buffalo; their weak secondary could be torn apart by the Saints and if they are forced to pass more than they like Rob Ryan’s hybrid blitz packages will get more and more exotic and could wreak havoc.

ATPF PredictionSaints are near unbeatable in the Superdome, they win this by double figures.

New York Jets @ Cincinnati Bengals

The Jets at 4-3 are bang in contention for a playoff spot and Rex Ryan’s job may depend upon it. Cincinnati knew that just making the playoffs for the third straight year wasn’t enough this year and at 5-2 they are starting to look the powerhouse that they have threatened to be, the postseason will define their year.

The Bengals inexplicably lost to the Browns in week three but have beaten Green Bay, New England and a week ago Detroit on the road so they are very much legitimate contenders in the AFC. Their much vaunted defense lost top cornerback Leon Hall last week, a big loss but not one likely to hurt them too much against the run first offense of the Jets. The Bengals dominating front four will want to shut down the Jets running game and take their chances on rookie quarterback Geno Smith who has made some stunning plays but also some backbreaking ones already this year. Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton was the fall guy for the team’s two losses but he played maybe his best game this year a week ago and in A.J. Green, Giovani Bernard, Tyler Eifert, Jermaine Gresham and Mohammed Sanu he has plenty of playmakers around him. Dalton needs to sometimes just put the ball in the hands of his skill players rather than trying to be Aaron Rodgers.

The Jets best teams under Ryan have played great defense and the 2013 unit have given up the fourth fewest yards in the league, like the Bengals the strength of the unit is an outstanding defensive line, defensive ends Muhammed Wilkerson and rookie Sheldon Richardson are both having pro bowl years. The offense has little talent and is short on playmakers but has relied on a physical running game and their talented rookie passer to get their yards and the defense gives them plenty of good field positions.

Arguably the best two defensive lines face off in what promises to be a physical encounter. Both teams may find running the football difficult here so Cincinnati’s far more talented receivers can be the difference.

ATPF PredictionBengals win a low scorer by around a touchdown.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Oakland Raiders

The Steelers have responded admirably to heading into their bye at 0-4 with two wins, you judge a team by how they respond to adversity, hats off to Mike Tomlin and his staff. Oakland had their bye last week and like the Steelers sit at 2-4, in a division with two major contenders for the Superbowl and a third still not out of wildcard contention things are tough for the rebuilding Raiders but despite this they are playing better fundamental football and have a nice find in quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

The Steelers are short on weapons in the passing game but rookie running back Le’Veon Bell has sparked the offense into life since belatedly making his NFL debut after injury. The offensive line has bore the brunt of the criticism in Pittsburgh although the way Ben Roethlisberger keeps plays alive gives them a tough job, nevertheless Roethlisberger is capable of making plays that others simply can’t and he always gives Pittsburgh a shot. The Steelers defense was humiliated at Wembley but the unit have fought back and have a chance to strangle their opposition here if they can keep Terrelle Pryor in the pocket.

Oakland were supposed to be all about running back Darren McFadden but the oft injured star has barely had an impact at all this year, he is healthy again after the bye and his career in silver and black may depend on the next nine games. Terrelle Pryor’s emergence has offset McFadden’s struggles and the sophomore can only get better if the Raiders find legitimate weapons for him in the 2014 draft. The Raiders with nine new starters on defense rank 12th in yards allowed, a tremendous achievement especially considering they have already faced the likes of Denver, Kansas City and Indianapolis on the road. They should get plenty of pressure on Ben Roethlisberger especially with the passionate Black Hole roaring them on.

Traditionally the Steelers shutdown their opponent’s best weapon as first priority, their inability to stop Adrian Peterson at Wembley was surprising but Terrelle Pryor is not in that class as a playmaker and here he will likely be bulls-eyed by Dick LeBeau. If they stop Pryor it’s hard to see how the Raiders are moving the ball consistently and the Steelers with Bell and Roethlisberger can have enough success to put up two or three touchdowns and win again.

ATPF Prediction Pittsburgh’s renaissance continues, they grind out a narrow victory.

Washington Redskins @ Denver Broncos

The Broncos winning run ended in an emotional game in Indianapolis, 6-1 is still a fine start but not enough to lead the AFC West. The Redskins are trying to stay in the NFC East race, it’s a poor division but if they slip to 2-5 here they could find themselves three wins off the pace against Dallas who already have a tiebreaker over them.

Turnovers have crept in to Peyton Manning’s game in the last three games and the rest of the offense has been fumbling the ball too much all season. Manning will no doubt quickly snap his run but the rest of the team really need to take more care when in possession. The offense of Denver has been exceptional but the defense has been poor and looks unlikely to ever bail the offense out if called upon. Collectively the unit needs to realise that to win a championship you have to be good on both sides of the ball, sitting back admiring your offense does not cut it in January.

Washington have been hamstrung by Robert Griffin’s lack of usual explosiveness so far but he is definitely showing signs that it is coming back and he can have success in the air also against the Broncos open gate of a secondary. Running back Alfred Morris while not repeating last year’s numbers has already shown he is not a one year wonder. The biggest problem for the Redskins has been their defense, they are near the bottom of most statistics and have allowed 7.8 yards per pass attempt, that bodes very badly given the quartet of potential 1000 yard receivers they will be faced with here.

Defense is a foreign language to these two teams, both quarterbacks will have fantasy owners drooling and both teams bruising runners will expect to find the end zone. Peyton Manning’s arsenal of weapons is vastly superior to Griffin’s and that combined with home field advantage gives the Broncos the advantage.

ATPF PredictionBroncos win but their defense or lack of makes this close, in-fact the Redskins could get within a touchdown.

Atlanta Falcons @ Arizona Cardinals

The injury plagued Falcons just about kept their head above water with a win last week, Matt Ryan is having the most under-appreciated season in the NFL, he is playing flawlessly often with little or no support. Arizona on the contrary are struggling to overcome the turnovers which quarterback Carson Palmer continually commits.

Matt Ryan has lost Julio Jones for the year and has barely seen either Roddy White or Steven Jackson this season either. The Falcons are unfortunate in that all three are historically sound and rarely injured. Despite this Matt Ryan has made plays to Tony Gonzalez and Harry Douglas and has thirteen touchdowns to just three interceptions. The Falcons defense has had its share of injuries also but has still played short of expectations, they have allowed 366 yards per game and managed just five turnovers, lack of pass rush has been critical and John Abraham’s departure was a real head scratcher.

Arizona have lost to the two powerhouses of the brutal NFC West in the last two weeks but at 3-4 are still a capable team. They rank mid table defensively but have forced fifteen turnovers and in corner Patrick Peterson and linebacker Daryl Washington they have two all pro talents to build around. The Cardinals running game has been almost non-existent and pressurised to make plays Carson Palmer has thrown thirteen interceptions, he gets respite from a defense low on playmakers here but the Falcons will still get chances.

The Cardinals have overachieved thus far, contrary to their rivals here. The Cardinals can’t be written off because they found Seattle and San Francisco too good, they are a useful team at home and if Pat Peterson shuts down Harry Douglas and Washington shuts Gonzalez down its hard to see where the Falcons are throwing the football unless Roddy White returns. If Carson Palmer can look after the ball he can pick up yardage and guide the Cardinals to success.

ATPF PredictionIn a close game homefield advantage helps Arizona to the victory.

Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings

The Packers have won three straight and are now at 4-2, half a game ahead of the 4-3 Bears and Lions and three ahead of their rivals here in the race for the NFC North. Green Bay’s hugely talented roster has had more than its fair share of injuries but the same could be said of them during their Superbowl year three season ago, the Packers have that next man up mentality where everyone is ready to step into the team when called upon. Minnesota hoped a win at Wembley could revive their season; instead they were slammed by Carolina who had only one previous win and beaten at the Meadowlands by the previous winless Giants last Monday.

The Vikings quarterback carousel continues, after an uninspiring debut Josh Freeman is likely out here with a head injury so in comes Matt Cassel who was at the helm for that lone victory, he may be the best of a bad bunch but Freeman for now is atop the depth chart. Running back Adrian Peterson has struggled since a big game at Wembley and he will continue to face nine man fronts until somebody proves they can hurt teams deep in the passing game. The Vikings defense, an aging roster expected to be enthused by two first round draft picks has been woeful, only one team has given up more than the 420 yards per game Minnesota has so far.

The Packers are all about Aaron Rodgers, the former league and Superbowl MVP is capable of beating teams on his own, his arm strength, accuracy and ability to throw on the move are unmatched and he is again having a terrific season. Rodgers receivers have been hit hard by injury, playmaker Randall Cobb, deep threat James Jones and now big tight end Jermichael Finley have all been suffering but Rodgers has rumbled on regardless. Green Bay’s defense has played better than it often did last year, the only issue there is lack of turnovers but the fact that Rodgers throws so few interceptions means that they still don’t lose many turnover battles.

This game may be in the Metrodome but there is little to fear for Mike McCarthy’s team. The Packers are starting to take command of the NFC North and should take another step here. With the Bears hit hard by injuries last week and Detroit having a tough game on Sunday they could be in a very strong position come Monday. Adrian Peterson should have some success but not nearly as much as Aaron Rodgers should and this could be very one sided if Green Bay score early.

ATPF PredictionPackers are far too good, win by two scores.

Seattle Seahawks @ St. Louis Rams

The Seahawks have just one blemish on their record and remain the favourites for the NFC, they aren’t the irresistible force at home that they are at CenturyLink Field but are still more than a match for most and when Percy Harvin returns he may take them to the next level offensively. St. Louis’ disappointing season went to new levels on Sunday when starting quarterback Sam Bradford tore his anterior cruciate ligaments, ending his season, he may not even make the start of next season such is the severity of the injury.

The Rams at 3-4 would be behind the eight ball with Bradford, with either Kellen Clemens or Brady Quinn they are completely snookered with no escape. It’s hard to say what they will want to achieve with the remainder of their season but certainly beating their divisional rivals would cheer everyone up. No jobs or at least many high up in St. Louis look in danger but some seats could be warm next year.

The Seahawks are marching on relentlessly and few teams can boast their abilities on both sides of the ball. They are tenth overall offensively and second in rushing, halfback Marshawn ‘beast mode’ Lynch is a relentless battering ram and quarterback Russell Wilson is composed and accurate from the pocket and a threat on the perimeter to break big runs of his own, the addition of multi talented playmaker Percy Harvin anytime now could take them even further. The Seahawks defense are strong contenders for the title league’s best although they currently rank second in yards allowed. Having one shutdown corner is a major asset, having two is just unfair.  Where the Rams get yards against this unit is anyone’s guess, special teams may be their best chance.

The Seahawks haven’t routed teams on the road as they have at home but this could be different, they are vastly superior on both sides of the ball to their opponents and their ruthless defense may fancy a feasting frenzy at the Rams expense.

ATPF PredictionRams don’t score a touchdown in a heavy twenty plus point defeat.


1 Comment

ATPF Preview Week 2

With the first week out of the way teams have already been anointed with the titles not given out until December and January. Fans have given up on their entire season and or regimes, general manager’s are already looking at head coaches, head coaches are looking at quarterbacks and we already can vote all 32 teams in power rankings and read experts describing why certain teams and players are failures. All of this tells us that the NFL is back!

Across the pond football gave out our pre season opinions and after one week we haven’t jumped off or onto too many bandwagons but we are looking ahead to week two with the information provided to us a week ago still fresh in the memory bank. Below is our prediction for each game

New York Jets @ New England Patriots

In the legendary words of Herm Edwards ‘they are who we thought they were’. The Patriots are indeed who we thought they were. They are still a tough team to beat but they have lost some firepower and struggled to a late victory against the Bills. It was the sort of game where knowing how to win carried the Pats to success against a team who is trying to learn what that requires.

The Jets meanwhile rode rookie Geno Smith’s 300 yard debut and let their stingy defense grind Josh Freeman and the Bucs into submission. Ultimately a Nick Folk field goal with 15 seconds remaining gave the Jets the 1 point win. When the Jets were successful and able to give the Patriots a run for their money under coach Rex Ryan they played hard, physical defense, ran the ball well and won the close ones, running the ball still needs more commitment but otherwise the Jets practised what Rex Ryan preaches in that week one win.

Looking ahead to week two and everyone has the Patriots cruising to success, Vegas gives the Jets a 12 point start. Don’t be fooled however, this will be a close one. The Jets need to run the ball better; they need to give Geno Smith a chance on third down to put points up but this Patriots defense is still susceptible against the pass, particularly the play action pass. Rex Ryan will have his team right up for this and expect the defense to get in Tom Brady’s face.

ATPF Prediction- Patriots win by less than a touchdown

Carolina Panthers @ Buffalo Bills

The Panthers were desperate offensively in their season opener but the Seahawks may have the league’s strongest defense so things should get easier here. The Bills had the Patriots on the ropes but a heartbreaking late field goal saw excitement turn to the usual despair in upstate New York.

Carolina may have only put up seven points but their defense gave reason for hope. CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson are meant to be a dynamic duo out of the backfield but were stifled by the Patriots. The Panthers are excellent in the front seven and will hope to again frustrate the duo. Rookie EJ Manuel will then be pressured to make things happen but the Panthers will take their chances with the developmental prospect. Cam Newton should have some joy against the Bills if his line can protect him and more rushing production should help him and the team further.

ATPF PredictionPanthers win this one by around a score

Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens

The Superbowl Champion Ravens came down to earth with a bump in Denver but a tougher game this season they won’t have. As it turned out all four teams lost in the AFC North, a very rare occurrence but a bonus for the Ravens. The Browns meanwhile hung with Miami for a while until Brandon Weeden self destructed, his days as the starter look numbered.

The Ravens are still well coached, disciplined and above average in talent, the Browns have none of those attributes and a one sided game should occur. The Browns are unlikely to score many more than their 10 points in week one and the Champs should get back on track here,

ATPF PredictionThe Ravens take this one by at least 10

Dallas Cowboys @ Kansas City Chiefs

A pair of teams who got a W to kick off go head to head here. Andy Reid’s debut saw the Chiefs pummel a woeful Jacksonville side while Dallas won on the back of six Giants turnovers.

Key to this one could be Kansas’ excellent pass rushing duo Justin Houston and Tamba Hali teamed with the raucous Arrowhead faithful. Dallas’ offensive line was better than advertised in the opener but a year ago in a similar early season game the Cowboys were overwhelmed by crowd and pass rush in Seattle, a repeat is very much on the cards here. The Cowboys defense will struggle to match such opportunism as their opening win against an Alex Smith led offense which will concentrate on short passing and a heavy dose of electric rusher Jamaal Charles.

ATPF PredictionThe Chiefs get to 2-0 and win this one by between 3 and 7 points.

Miami Dolphins @ Indianapolis Colts

Both of this duo made the most of very friendly starts to the schedule with wins and both will fancy doubling up. The Colts got a bright start but then were under the cosh against the Raiders and had to come back under Andrew Luck in the fourth quarter while Miami only shook off the Browns in the fourth quarter.

Ryan Tannehill will be keen to show he is ascending closer to an excellent group of quarterbacks drafted last year, led by his rival here Andrew Luck. He received virtually nothing from his run game in the opener and if the Colts can stifle the rushing attack they will fully expect Andrew Luck to guide them to victory.

ATPF PredictionColts win this one comfortably

Minnesota Vikings @ Chicago Bears

A pleasant surprise last year, the Vikings lost an important divisional game to the Lions in week one. The Bears got a huge win over the talented Bengals meanwhile. Adrian Peterson still ran wild for the Vikings but he can’t do it alone, with Christian Ponder having a nightmare the Vikings came off the tracks in the second half and without a playmaker like Percy Harvin he could struggle this year.

The Bears are perennially excellent defensively and will be a match for Peterson; he will certainly be their main focus. If the Bears heavily revamped line can keep Jay Cutler upright he should again be able to lean heavily on star man Brandon Marshall and put up plenty of points for the Bears.

ATPF Prediction- Bears build more momentum with a comfortable win

San Diego Chargers @ Philadelphia Eagles

The Chargers blew a huge lead to the Texans in week one while the Eagles got a crucial win against NFC East rivals Washington. Chip Kelly’s high speed offense crucially got more out of running back LeSean McCoy, his best weapon and he will look to him again here. Phillip Rivers had less than 220 yards passing but four touchdowns, crucial to the Chargers inability to put the game away was their lack of success on the ground, a recurring theme since LaDainian Tomlinson’s departure.

The Eagles forced three turnovers from the usually careful RG3 in that opening win and Phil Rivers has a penchant for turning it over so that could be decisive here. With the Chargers secondary heavily rebuilt this offseason they could struggle with the tempo and diversity of the Eagles offense.

ATPF PredictionEagles put up some big numbers en route to victory

St. Louis Rams @ Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons couldn’t punch the ball in on their final drive to beat the Saints in week one but the Rams came from the dead to beat the Cardinals in a thriller. The gulf in class between the two’s respective opponents in those matches however is huge so expect a different story here.

The Falcons lost Roddy White to injury but former Ram Steven Jackson had an impressive debut and will be up for this. Jared Cook had a huge debut for the Rams but the Falcons will be ready for him. Key to this game will be quarterback Matt Ryan who is virtually unbeatable at home and should have success against a defense who impressed last year but struggled against the less talented Cardinals last week.

ATPF PredictionFalcons too strong for the Rams and win by around a touchdown

Houston Texans @ Tennessee Titans

The Texans performed a miracle comeback against the Chargers whilst the Titans revamped defense overwhelmed the Steelers offense in a week one win. The Titans know this is a big one for them, losing at home to the superior Texans would already put them behind the 8 ball. Houston meanwhile want to right last year’s wrong and get a bye in the playoffs so winning has to be a habit.

The defenses of these teams will be key but Houston’s more potent offense will put points up and they have a way where somebody always beats you. If it’s not superstar runner Arian Foster or superstar receiver Andre Johnson its quarterback Matt Schaub and tight end Owen Daniels as we saw last week. The Titans and quarterback Jake Locker don’t have such diverse talent and if running back Chris Johnson doesn’t come up big the Texans will fancy their chances, patience could be key in a likely defensive battle.

ATPF PredictionTexans win by around a score on the road here

Washington Redskins@ Green Bay Packers

The Packers were left with little doubt that the 49ers remain the team to beat in the NFC as they again found them too strong in week one. The Redskins meanwhile found the new look Eagles a tougher foe as a rusty RG3 took time to get going.

Green Bay needs to keep pace with the Bears and Lions so a home win here is essential. The Redskins ground teams out with battering ram Alfred Morris last year and used the magic of their quarterback to provide the x-factor. With Morris struggling in week one and RG3 still short of full pace the Pack will fancy limiting the Redskins offense and their potent Aaron Rodgers led passing attack should do the rest against an average defense.

ATPF PredictionThe Redskins can’t keep pace here and lose by at least ten

Detroit Lions @ Arizona Cardinals

The Lions offense came up big in an opening win over Minnesota while the Cardinals blew what could be a rare chance to win in week one.

The high powered Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush trio could wreak havoc on a rebuilding Cardinals defense missing star linebacker Daryl Washington. Carson Palmer showed himself to still be capable against a Rams defense at least as strong as the Lions so points are likely in this match.

ATPF PredictionThe Lions could put up big points here and win by upwards of a touchdown

New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

A crushing, narrow defeat for the Bucs and a joyous goal line stand for the Saints sees the two meet in complete opposite moods here. Josh Freeman’s woes against a strong Jets defense and the Saints ability to make a stand on defense under Rob Ryan were the back page headlines but things may be a little different here.

With the Falcons so dominant in the NFC South of late the Saints looked like they had spent an entire nine months preparing for them and with a deafening Superbowl behind them they got the win. The offense is always potent but can they keep the ball rolling defensively in an equally important road game here? Tampa are dominant against the run and if Darrelle Revis can keep one target quiet they can hold the Saints juggernaut to reasonable totals. The Bucs meanwhile will look to star runner Doug Martin to earn them the time of possession battle and will expect Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams to cause the Saints secondary fits.

ATPF PredictionThe Bucs have to win this one and narrowly, they do

Denver Broncos @ New York Giants

The Broncos looked unstoppable in week one, annihilating the superbowl champions Baltimore, the Giants outplayed the Cowboys but six turnovers can’t be overcome. The Manning sons face off here with younger brother Eli needing a home win badly, Peyton meanwhile will look to guide his team to beating both of the last two Superbowl winners in as many weeks.

An offensive cast which looked deadly was all that and more in week one as Peyton Manning threw seven touchdown passes. The juggernaut rolls into the big apple against a defense no longer the force of old and it’s tough to envisage the Giants making many stands. New York’s offense put up huge numbers themselves against the Cowboys with three receivers having 100 yards and Victor Cruz scoring three touchdowns. This promises to be a pass fest between two high powered offenses but Denver’s defense are a solid unit even without Von Miller whereas the Giants have plenty to prove on that side of the ball.

ATPF PredictionDenver win an aerial dogfight by around a touchdown

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Oakland Raiders

Both minnows were beaten in week one but the Raiders showed some life, the Jags however were dire. With an extremely long journey out west things may not get much better for them here.

Quarterback Blaine Gabbert was injured for Jacksonville, journeyman Chad Henne steps in, little difference there. Terrelle Pryor has taken the start in Oakland, the dual threat had a nice game in week one and teamed with star rusher Darren McFadden could give the Raiders a dangerous run game. A defense likely to be spurred on by the ever passionate Black Hole can again pour misery on probably the worst offense in football.

ATPF PredictionRaiders win, yes you read correctly, infact they win comfortably

San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks

The niners proved their worth with a repeat victory over the Green Bay Packers in week one, Seattle got in a battle with Carolina but they won it. One of the most eagerly anticipated rivalries of the season will be hugely affected by the two head to head clashes.

San Francisco had almost 500 yards of offense and 40 minutes possession in that opener. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is emerging into an absolute superstar, the dual threat quarterback had almost 200 yards rushing against the Pack in the playoffs and 400 yards against them passing in week one, pick your poison with him. Seattle’s defense is amongst the league’s toughest, no way will Kaepernick get close to either of those stats nor will receiver Anquan Boldin match the 200 yard debut he had last week against dominant corners Richard Sherman or Brandon Browner, Sherman v Boldin will be unmissable. The Seahawks offense struggled in week one and without Percy Harvin and possibly Sidney Rice the focal point will again be Marshawn Lynch, he couldn’t get going in the opener and the 49ers will no doubt make stopping him their first priority. The twelfth man of Seattle is always important but the talent of San Francisco’s offense makes them favourite nevertheless.

ATPF PredictionThe 49ers wear down Seattle’s defense en route to a hard fought victory

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals

Both teams lost their openers but Baltimore’s defeat softened the blow. The Steelers were awful offensively against Tennessee, the Bengals lost a topsy turvy battle with the Bears. On that form there is little doubt that Cincinnati, at home, should be favourites here.

Two picks from Andy Dalton in that defeat did little to quieten his detractors and the Steelers at least in Ben Roethlisberger have the better quarterback. The Bengals gave up 24 points to Chicago but their defense is still among the league’s best and considering the way the Steelers struggled against Tennessee, one of the league’s worst defenses a year ago this could again be a long night for Roethlisberger and co.

ATPF PredictionThe Steelers make this a game but the Bengals outlast them


Leave a comment

ATPF Division Preview- NFC West

San Francisco 49ers– Head Coach Jim Harbaugh has made one of the finest starts by a head coach in history, two years in he has 24 regular season wins and has been to two NFC Championships and a Superbowl. All this after inheriting a 6-10 team. The 49ers as a result are many people’s Favourites for the NFC but history is against them. It has been twenty years since a Superbowl loser returned to the showpiece the next year, statistics aside however this team has all the attributes of a championship team.

The offense went from good to great when second year quarterback Colin Kaepernick took the reins in week 11, when Harbaugh left Kaepernick in as the starter after Alex Smith returned he was roundly criticised. A whole humble pie later and he was dubbed a genius for the move as Kaepernick put in two incredible performances en route to the Superbowl. Teams may be more aware of his diverse skill set after those successes but whether they can stop him remains to be seen. The tall wiry Kaepernick is the fastest quarterback since Michael Vick and he also possesses a huge arm and is surrounded with talent. Ninth year battering ram Frank Gore is as good and as punishing as ever but he will split carries with the speedy LaMichael James and big bodied Anthony Dixon. Tight end Vernon Davis, a leader on the field had a disappointing 2012 by his standards and was slow to find chemistry with Kaepernick but a full offseason together should remedy that and Davis can have a bounce back year. Star receiver Michael Crabtree tore his Achilles tendon in OTAs but may return late in the season, Anquan Boldin comes over from Superbowl champions Baltimore and softens the blow, Boldin is a hardnosed, extremely physical receiver but lacks speed. Opposite him the 49ers swapped second year pro AJ Jenkins for Jonathan Baldwin with the Chiefs, Baldwin is a prime breakout candidate now. Mario Manningham also starts the season ailing so early on depth at wide receiver is very limited. The 49ers offensive line is dominant in the running game, guard Mike Iupati in particular is capable of overwhelming numerous defenders on single plays and all five linemen return. With the running ability of Kaepernick and his stable of running backs this team will be top five in rushing. A lack of targets will hurt until Crabtree returns but this unit should still rack up plenty of yards and a top 10 finish isn’t beyond them.

San Francisco’s defense starts and finishes with the best linebacking group in football. Captain and tackling machine Patrick Willis has long been considered the best inside linebacker in football but was outplayed by colleague Navarro Bowman last year, both made the pro bowl. Outside linebacker Aldon Smith had 19.5 sacks in his sophomore year, second most in the league. Smith possesses power, quickness and outstanding speed and is expected to further enhance his claims as the new king of the position. Ahmad Brooks completed the quartet; he hasn’t Smith’s ability but is a relentless, physical presence on the strong side. Upfront Glenn Dorsey, a former first round pick of the Chiefs replaces Isaac Sopoaga inside but the key to this unit is end Justin Smith. Although he enters his thirteenth year Justin Smith is still one of the best linemen in football, his relentless power drives offensive linemen into submission and his teamwork with namesake Aldon is close to unstoppable. Opposite Smith, Ray McDonald starts with Will Tukuafu, Demarcus Dobbs and rookie Cornellius Carradine fighting for snaps. One pro bowler who the 49ers couldn’t retain was safety Dashon Goldson but they drafted rookie Eric Reid in the first round to compensate and he teams with strong safety Donte Whitner who went to the pro bowl in 2012, Whitner is another excellent run defender. Both backups at safety are good enough to start but while corner is the weakness of this defense it would be the strength of other teams. Tarell Brown was the team’s best cornerback last year and starts again, Carlos Rogers was torched a couple of times in the playoffs so Nnamdi Asomugha, once considered the best corner in the league comes in after a nightmare spell in Philadelphia to challenge for the start. It’s hard to envisage anyone running on this defense and the Smith tandem will ensure they are again a force rushing the passer. This unit was third in total yardage and second in points allowed last year but faces a raft of teams capable of putting up big numbers in both columns this year.

Image

49ers linebacker Aldon Smith

2013 Predicted wins13-14

Playoff PredictionTo go one better than last year the 49ers will need Michael Crabtree back and at full strength by January, all the pieces are there once he returns and this team is right near the top of the NFC pecking order.

 

Seattle Seahawks- Pete Carroll’s second spell in the NFL has been more successful than the first and the inspirational head coach believes he has a championship calibre team now, the Seahawks look one of the most talented all round teams in the NFC but unfortunately for them must overcome the mighty 49ers to win the division. Carroll’s bold decision to start rookie Russell Wilson last year paid huge dividends and Wilson was one of many mobile quarterbacks to profit from the read option scheme. Wilson is now the face of the franchise and huge things are expected of him going forward. The Seahawks are building their own hype as major contenders and in doing so have put expectations sky high this year, they simply must win at least one playoff game.

Wilson’s success was based on his passing accuracy and the danger he presents when he leaves the pocket. Written off due to his size, Wilson quickly proved that doesn’t matter once you’re outside the pocket and his ability to remain accurate on the move or tuck it and run for sizable gains turned the Seahawks offense into a dynamic unit. Running back Marshawn Lynch has found home, he coined the term ‘beast mode’ a few years ago and in a career year was in such throughout 2012, his violent running style causes mayhem once he gets to the second level and in rookie Christine Michael the Seahawks added a like for like player to continue the pounding on defenses. Percy Harvin became the highest paid player in Seattle as he transferred from the Vikings but starts the season injured and is likely to be out for around half the season. That is a blow but Sidney Rice and controversial Golden Tate both played well enough last year though neither has nearly Harvin’s explosiveness. Former raider Zach Miller isn’t a big part of the offense but will still hope for improved numbers in 2013. The line came good with better health last year and is now considered one of the league’s most solid units. Former first rounder Russell Okung at left tackle and Max Unger at center went to the pro bowl, Okung is a huge talent with his running ability extremely rare for a man of his size. Right tackle Bruno Giacomini must cut down his penalties and left guard James Carpenter struggles to stay healthy but both are talented and sophomore J.R. Sweezy will likely complete the starting group. Harvin’s injury hurts a team that needs to win a lot of games to keep pace but with Wilson and Lynch healthy this offense will be better than the 17th overall of a year ago.

Image

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson

The defense is continually adding players to improve the unit and looks as daunting an opponent as the 49ers defense after another offseason emphasising improving weaknesses in an uncompromising manner. The secondary of the Seahawks is the league’s scariest, cornerback Richard Sherman is on the verge of being the next great shutdown corner in the NFL. He routinely nullified the opposition’s best receiver last year whilst reeling in eight picks and twice finding the endzone, he talks a lot of trash but backs it up. Brandon Browner took time to become a quality corner but is now one of the league’s best himself and the fact that the starters are 6 foot 3 and 6 4 respectively helps nullify the size advantage many receivers boast over their defensive cover in modern football. Fifteen year veteran Antoine Winfield joined to man the slot and safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas return; they are both elite game changers. Free safety Thomas has quickly become the best in the game, his speed, range, instincts and ball skills serve notice to opposing quarterbacks thinking about taking a deep shot at the Seahawks. Chancellor meanwhile is a brutal hitter who quickly puts receivers off the idea of trying to come inside to make catches. Second round pick Bobby Wagner had an incredible season and quickly became the dominant linebacker the Seahawks needed, his instincts belie his age and he looks set to be a very good player for a very long time. Speed is the name of the game for K.J. Wright and Malcolm Smith who sandwich Wagner. Upfront the Seahawks spent big to get better and look to have succeeded. Cliff Avril is a consistent presence in opposing backfields and joins massive Red Bryant, and pass rushing specialists Michael Bennett and Bruce Irvin in a deep rotation expected to hugely improve a previously middle of the road pass rush. Tackle Brandon Mebane will start but rookies Jordan Hill and Jesse Williams will push free agent signee Tony McDaniel a journeyman signed from Miami. A defense which ranked fourth overall last year looks improved upfront and is as youthful as it is talented in the secondary, this could well be the best defense in football.

2013 Predicted wins10-11

Playoff PredictionThe Seahawks will win the majority of their games to make the playoffs but they could easily do so as division runners up. A road playoff schedule could see them travelling thousands of miles so the two games with San Francisco are vital and will be unmissable.

St Louis Rams The Rams rebounded from 2011s aberration to win seven games in this most brutal of divisions. They are making steady progress under Jeff Fisher but competing in this division will be extremely difficult. Sam Bradford stayed healthy last year and if he can do again this offense can start to make progress. The Rams defense is underrated, it may not match San Francisco or Seattle’s much vaunted units but under Fisher has become a physical, well drilled unit. Next step for the Rams is climbing a rung closer to their divisional rivals ahead of becoming contenders in the future.

The Rams offense looks like a copycat version of New England’s scheme. Brian Schottenheimer is planning lots of up tempo, no huddle plays for Sam Bradford and the Rams have a pair of dangerous tight ends like the Patriots did until Aaron Hernandez went crazy and Rob Gronkowski became injury prone. New signing Jared Cook is a Hernandez style player, a pure receiver who can line up in the slot, out wide or in the backfield; he is more a tall wide receiver than a tight end with his blazing speed. Third year pro Lance Kendricks came on last year and should again improve, he is a more traditional style tight end. A pair of second year receivers, big possession receiver Brian Quick and deep threat Chris Given are joined by rookie Tavon Austin who like Jared Cook can be moved around and is an electrifying playmaker in the Percy Harvin mould. Long time standout Steven Jackson departs after carrying this offense for most of his tenure, Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson will form a committee to replace his consistent production. Upfront former number one overall pick and regular pro bowler Jake Long arrived via trade to finally give Bradford a quality blind side protector. Rodger Saffold swings to the right side where he could excel and former Packer Scott Wells is a consistent veteran center on a line finally looking capable of protecting its highly paid quarterback. An offense filled with speed will look to edge into the top 20 under Sam Bradford, getting production from unproven running backs will be vital to progression.

Image

Rams rookie Tavon Austin

The Rams were tied for most quarterback sacks last year, starting defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn tallied 20 sacks and their chief backup Will Hayes had seven. Former Dolphin Kendall Langford and second year man Michael Brockers start inside, Brockers is a very powerful player who could easily have a breakout campaign in 2013. Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis has long been the Rams most reliable defender and he continues to be, rookie Alec Ogletree is an intriguing prospect at outside backer. The former Bulldog has rare size and athleticism for his position and the Rams are counting on him becoming a sideline to sideline playmaker. Jo-Lonn Dunbar completes the starting group; he was a find last tear in free agency and showed a real nose for the ball. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins slid into the second round last year due to a host of red flags but he had four picks and four touchdowns as a rookie and has a young Asante Samuel about him. Physical presence Cortland Finnegan followed Jeff Fisher to St Louis and remains a solid corner also. Rookie T.J. McDonald is the latest Trojan safety to make it to the NFL and steps in as starting free safety. Fourth year pro Darian Stewart battled injuries last year but now healthy can retake his role as strong safety. This defense is built around the rush that the two former first round ends Quinn and Long provide. Alec Ogletree could take the linebacking corps to the next level but depth is the lingering concern throughout a defense that should again be in the top half of most statistics at season end.

2013 Predicted wins6-7

Playoff PredictionThe Rams need to become consistent before they can entertain a playoff run. To compete in the NFC West right now you have to be a Superbowl contender.

 

Arizona Cardinals The Cardinals have been a mess ever since Kurt Warner retired after the 2008 Superbowl. Ken Whisenhunt was regarded as a top coach back then but his inability to stop the decline in Phoenix saw his tenure halted after a 5-11 2012 season. In comes Bruce Arians who was interim head coach in Indianapolis when Chuck Pagano was ill to steady the ship during one of the heaviest rebuilds in the NFL. The Cardinals could be in for some real whippings from their elite neighbours this year.

Quarterbacking this team has been a poisoned chalice ever since Warner departed. They have tried rookies, free agents, backups, the lot, each has resulted in failure. To steady the ship comes Carson Palmer, a veteran who will at least be an upgrade over the four players who started games under center a year ago. Arians likes a vertical, stretch the field offense, so Palmer will use his strong arm regularly. The Cardinals signed running back Rashard Mendenhall from Pittsburgh, he and injury prone Ryan Williams will split carries but both have to prove they can stay on the field. Larry Fitzgerald has stuck with the organisation through thick and thin and thinner. He remains a top drawer receiver but constant double teams and woeful quarterbacks have hurt his numbers in recent years. Michael Floyd who they drafted in the first round a year ago was raw but should improve in his second season and provide a second viable target for Palmer. The depth at receiver is thin and journeyman tight end Jeff King is unlikely to achieve much from the tight end so it’s all on Fitzgerald and Floyd to produce. Drafting highly talented guard Jonathan Cooper in the first round was meant to help a woeful defensive line but he is on IR and will miss his rookie season. Left tackle Levi Brown is back healthy again at least, he is the Cardinals best lineman but with Cooper down the remainder of this woeful unit return, Palmer isn’t the most mobile and you have to fear for him. The NFL’s worst offense a year ago and only Palmer looks a significant upgrade, a bottom 5 ranking for the second year running looks likely.

Image

Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald

The Cardinals defense kept fighting until it finally drowned under the weight of the offense in a 58-0 annihilation in Seattle. There is talent on this side of the ball, Former first round pick Dan Campbell is flanked by two above average ends upfront in the 3-4 scheme new coordinator Todd Bowles favours. Arizona’s best player is linebacker Daryl Washington but he misses the first four games through suspension, three of which are on the road. Rookie Kevin Minter and free agent signing Jaspar Brinkley will audition for one job when Washington returns. Outside linebackers Sam Acho and O’Brien Schofield are average talents but with so much overhaul get another chance with age at least on their side. The athleticism of corner Patrick Peterson is unmatched and he reminds you of Deion Sanders with the ball in his hands. Long time San Diego Charger and talented but frail Jerraud Powers were signed to fight for the second and third spots. Free safety Yeremiah Bell enters his eleventh season in the league but will be replaced soon by talented but troubled rookie Tyrann Matthieu if the latter can stay out of trouble. Rashad Johnson is a decent starter at free safety to complete the unit. This unit is strong upfront and deep at corner, when Washington returns they will look quite strong but could be 0-4 by then. Finishing in the top 10 however looks beyond them given their schedule.

2013 Predicted wins2-3

Playoff PredictionMore chance of them winning the FA cup