Thursday, September 29, 2011

In Case You Missed It...

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-Digger's Daily-

In case you missed it... you missed a crazy day of games 162 in Major League Baseball. Mind numbing chokes by Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves players. It's a safe bet all Sox and Braves players, coaches, owners and fans are still cringing.

Boston's well documented history is filled with disappointments of the highest degree. One out from winning a World Series, selling Babe Ruth, failure after failure against hated rival New York Yankees and the list goes on. Curses? Chokes? Call it what you will. The era of failure was supposed to have ended during the steroid/human growth hormone era when the Red Sox rallied back from a 3 games to 0 - 2 outs in the 9th inning deficit - against New York back in 2004 on their way to a World Series championship. Remember? Well, the steroid era is over... and so too is Boston's short lived magic.

2011 featured a retooled Red Sox roster built to win. A star studded lineup and pitching staff ready to take aim at World Series glory. Boston had a 9 game lead in wild card standings in late August. Then came September. Boston lost 20 or their final 27 games. Last night's Game 162 was most devastating. They entered the day tied with Tampa for the American League's final playoff spot. Halfway through the evening Boston found themselves leading Baltimore 3-2 while Tampa was getting mauled by the Yankees 7-0 after 7 innings. Red Sox season soon to be vindicated by arch rival Yankees beating the Rays. Then the rains came to Baltimore. Before action resumed, Tampa had tied the Yankees in their last at bat. Moments later, Tampa won in 12 on a walk off home run by star 3B Evan Longoria (his 2nd of the game). Seconds later, Boston star closer Jonathan Papelbon gave up 3 hits and the Red Sox lost 4-3. Just like that - poof - Boston's season ended on a familiar note - a tragic defeat.

September 28 was remembered as a big day in Boston Red Sox history. It's the day Ted Williams went 6 for 8 in a double header marking baseball's last .400 hitter. Teddy Ballgame finished with a .406 batting average. He could have taken the day off (see below) but didn't. This crafty war veteran refused to finish with a .400 average by default. He went out there like a man and went for it. Williams was determined to hit .400 by earning it - not by sitting on his keester.

Well - now Teddy Ballgame has to share September 28 with the 2011 choke artist Red Sox!!!
Be careful what you wish for! And, how you shoot off your mouth. Boston players and fans publicly voiced how they'd never root for the Yankees even if it cost their team a shot at post-season play. Should we offer them a little salt for words now eaten? Yankees dropped 3 straight to the Rays as Boston was humiliated by Baltimore!

One of baseball's most coveted free agents after last season was Carl Crawford who eventually signed a 7 year $142million contract with Boston. His defense during the final week of the season was horrendous including failing to catch Baltimore's game winning hit last night. His hitting this season was terrible too. Boston's loss wasn't all Carl's fault. It was a total team collapse - especially by their tired and over worked bullpen.
It isn't often a home town batting champion gets booed when leaving the field of play. That's exactly what happened to NL batting champ Jose Reyes. The Mets oft injured free agent to be star bunted for a single to raise his abbreviated season average to .337 before requesting to be taken out of the game to preserve the title. Reyes was showered with disbelieving New York jeers at CitiField. Not quite Ted Williams-esque style of playing. New York's entire organization was ridiculed all season long from front office/ownership woes to their 3rd consecutive losing season and fourth place finish. Reyes, instead of playing out the game like a man, walked off the field like a spoiled child no longer wanting to play. This may be his last season in a Mets uniform. Die-hard fans deserved better from a player spending as much time in a trainers room as he does at shortstop.
Atlanta Braves were eliminated from playoff contention losing 8 of 10 including their final five games. The Braves seemed like a lock to win the Wild Card before their season unraveled. Not often does a Braves team fall to pieces. This one did. Another team effort in a losing cause. 18 September losses will be hard to swallow for players and fans. Atlanta was swept away by the Phillies at home by failing to record 3 9th inning outs guarding a 3-2 lead. Perhaps the Braves vs Red Sox choker series is in order?
MVP's and Cy Young candidate break down & predictions coming soon. AL Cy Young is a lock for Justin Verlander of Detroit (24-5, 2.40 - 0.92 WHIP). NL Cy Young might be a lock to for Clayton Kershaw of Dodgers (21-5, 2.28 - 0.98 WHIP). Plenty of discussion surrounding AL & NL MVP's. Check back soon for complete synopsis.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

2011 Football Power Rankings

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-Digger's Daily-

Four weeks of NCAA games in the books. Undefeated teams are working their way up ranking charts setting the stage for fan grumblings when updated rankings go public. 2011 collegiate season is keeping fans on the edge of their seats. Time for another edition of All World All Sports rankings.

NCAA Top 20 (4 weeks completed)
1 - Oklahoma
2 - LSU
3 - Alabama
4 - Boise State
5 - Wisconsin
6 - Oklahoma State
7 - Nebraska
8 - Stanford
9 - Virginia Tech
10- Oregon
11- South Carolina
12- Clemson
13- Florida
14- South Florida
15- Texas
16- Michigan
17- Georgia Tech
18- Baylor
19- Texas A&M
20- Arkansas
(official college rankings)

Hopefully everyone's watching NFL action this season. Wow! Spectacular plays by unsuspecting players and teams. There's quite a power struggle in the league this year. Buffalo is red hot. Detroit no longer laughingstocks. Is Oakland for real after knocking off the Jets? Make sure to get in on this weekend's action.

NFL Power Rankings (3 weeks completed)
1 - Green Bay Packers
2 - Buffalo Bills
3 - New Orleans Saints
4 - Pittsburgh Steelers
5 - New England Patriots
6 - Baltimore Ravens
7 - Houston Texans
8 - Detroit Lions
9 - San Diego Chargers
10- Oakland Raiders
11- New York Jets
12- Tennessee Titans
13- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
14- New York Giants
15- Cleveland Browns

Friday, September 23, 2011

Yanks Fake out Red Sox in Crawford Sweepstakes!

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-Digger's Daily-

Chalk one up in New York Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman's win column. ESPN reports Cashman intentionally attempted driving up the price of coveted free agent Carl Crawford.
When it comes to Yankees vs Red Sox rivalry - the war goes far beyond game results. Remember Babe Ruth being sold by Boston to New York? Curse of the Bambino covered generations of players and fans. Only during the steroid era did the curse end. Not even the immortal Babe Ruth's ghost was strong enough to overpower steroids/HGH. No, I'm not suggesting Boston won because their players used HGH. Only stating coincidences - nearly the entire league was juicing.

If Cashman's story rings true then the ploy worked to perfection. When it comes to signing the top players New York and Boston often start bidding wars. I'm sure Boston takes credit for driving up a few prices too. In the win now generation - Cashman's move is looking sweeter due to Boston's late season failures and a sub-par season from their star free agent.

Crawford was one of the biggest free agent names heading into 2011. Nearly every team wanted his services. One of baseball's top outfielders. A true five tool player. Everyone thought - probably Crawford too - adding his bat to an already monster lineup would provide huge dividends. Crawford's talent is a welcomed addition to any team. It hasn't worked out as expected. Perhaps Carl was trying to prove his worth - $141,000,000 7 year contract? We've witnessed many players struggling to adjust in new surroundings.

Cashman recently let the cat out of the bag...
"I actually had dinner with the agent to pretend that we were actually involved and drive the price up," Cashman said. "The outfield wasn't an area of need, but everybody kept writing Crawford, Crawford, Crawford, Crawford. And I was like, 'I feel like we've got Carl Crawford in Brett Gardner, except he costs more than $100 million less, with less experience.' "
Perfect timing as Boston - one time AL East division leaders - are free falling. Their one time 9 game wild card lead now stands at 2. Crawford's former team Tampa Bay and Los Angeles Angels are coming on strong. Boston plays a 3 game set beginning tonight in rain soaked New York. Yanks have a chance to knock out the Sox. Yankees are 2011 AL East Champions. Boston is clinging onto a slim two game Wild Card lead. Maybe Cashman's words rejuvenate an under performing arch rival setting the stage for another epic post-season battle?

This weekend's series figures to be an all out war between two intense rivals filled with plenty of hatred and bench clearing brawl experiences.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Red Sox Nation Loyal to a Fault?

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-Digger's Daily-

A proud Boston Red Sox Nation is in a state of disbelief. On August 31, Boston beat their most hated rivals (New York Yankees) 9-5 to close out the month leading the AL East. Boston's 83-52 record was best in American League baseball. They held a 1.5 game lead over 2nd place Yankees - and 9 games ahead of Tampa Bay. August success quickly transformed into September misery. Fan cheers slowly became thundering boo's as the Red Sox lost 15 of 20 September games heading into tonight's action vs Baltimore.

Boston had a shot at redeeming their season when they went head to head against Tampa Bay for 7 games in an 9 game stretch. It wasn't to be as Tampa bested Boston in 6 of 7. Red Sox schedule still looked promising when all else was bleak. Baltimore was coming to Fenway for four while Tampa Bay traveled to New York. A couple of Red Sox victories coupled with Rays losses could help widen their slim Wild Card lead.
Could it be Boston fans would be scoreboard watching and cheering Yankees victories over Tampa Bay?

Not a chance!

Red Sox Nation wants nothing to do with rooting for the Yankees even if it helps their beloved Boston team. Not now. Not ever. No chance. No how. It doesn't matter Tampa plays New York 7 times over the season's final 9 days. Sox fans want absolutely nothing to do with rooting for Yankees victories to help out their team. Does this qualify as fan loyalty or fan foolishness? It's loyalty - perhaps to a fault.

Boston needs all the help they can get. It isn't coming from winning. Boston's bullpen no longer gets out hitters in key situations. Fielding is iffy at best. Batters producing runs. Just not enough to offset weakening pitching. Baltimore's won 2 of 3 so far (last game of 4 game series tonight). Yanks just took their 2nd game over Tampa this afternoon. There's still no love for the hated Yankees - even when Yankees victories help Boston maintain a slim Wild Card lead.

It gets worse for Boston fans. Red Sox take their losing ways a few miles south to the Big Apple for a three game set beginning Friday night. Yankees just clinched a playoff birth today. Yanks manager Girardi would love to rest tired starters. Don't bet on it happening against Boston when playoff baseball is on the line for two division rivals. Yanks will throw the kitchen sink at a chance to knock Boston out of post-season action.

This is baseball. End of season pennant fever. It doesn't get any better than this - unless you reside in Boston.

I have to tip my hat to Red Sox fans for not wanting to root for New York under any circumstances. It's all about Boston Red Sox players winning without help. I get it - never root for your arch rivals. Simply put - either Boston wins & they're in - or lose and go home. It really doesn't matter if hated New York wins or loses.

Boston controls their own destiny. Nobody knows this better than Red Sox players. Get ready for a fantastic final week of MLB 2011.

NFL 2011 Predictions: Week 3

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-Digger's Daily-

I hope you didn't miss any of last weekend's NFL action. Another week of exciting games. Dallas stunned San Francisco in overtime. Take notice of undefeated Buffalo! Their explosive offense shocked once confident Oakland 38-35 in the games closing seconds after trailing 21-3! Rookie Panthers QB Cam Newton fired for another 400+ yard game. Michael Vick was beating is former team - Atlanta Falcons - before getting knocked out by his own teammate on a clean sack. His status for this week is currently unknown. Judging by how particularly careful teams are about concussions these days - I'm betting Vick is out vs division rival Giants. Detroit put up 48 points against Kansas City. The list goes on.

Week 3 will not disappoint. Most match-ups - at least on paper - promise greater thrillers. It's a moment of truth for a few teams. New England visits Buffalo. Giants @ Eagles. Texans @ Saints. Green Bay @ Chicago. Washington @ Dallas. All qualify as game of the week battles in my book.
Speaking of my book - week two predictions netted 10 correct picks marking a season record of 19-13 (59.4%). Not great but getting better. A couple of bounces and injuries ruined what would have been 12 correct. Time to load up again...

Week 3 (home team in CAPS)
SAINTS 34 Texans 27
Giants 24 EAGLES 21 (without Vick, EAGLES 31-24 with Vick)
PANTHERS 33 Jaguars 17
Patriots 45 BILLS 35
BROWNS 27 Dolphins 16
BENGALS 20 49ers 17
TITANS 30 Broncos 14
Lions 28 VIKINGS 24
Ravens 20 RAMS 13
Jets 26 RAIDERS 24
CHARGERS 34 Chiefs 10
Cardinals 23 SEAHAWKS 7
Falcons 24 BUCS 23
Packers 31 BEARS 20
Steelers 38 COLTS 6

Redskins 30 COWBOYS 23

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

2011 Football Power Rankings

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-Digger's Daily-

2011 NCAA Power Rankings (Week 3)
1 - Oklahoma
2 - LSU
3 - Alabama
4 - Boise State
5 - Wisconsin
6 - Oklahoma State
7 - Texas A&M
8 - Nebraska
9 - Stanford
10- Virginia Tech
11- Oregon
12- South Carolina
13- West Virginia
14- Arkansas
15- Florida
16- South Florida
17- Texas
18- Clemson
19- Michigan
20- Georgia Tech

NFL Power Rankings (thru 2 weeks)
1 - Green Bay Packers
2 - New England Patriots
3 - New York Jets
4 - Houston Texans
5 - New Orleans Saints
6 - Baltimore Ravens
7 - Atlanta Falcons
8 - Pittsburgh Steelers
9 - Philadelphia Eagles
10- Detroit Lions
11- San Diego Chargers
12- Washington Redskins
13- Buffalo Bills
14- Chicago Bears
15- Tennessee Titans

Friday, September 16, 2011

NFL 2011 Predictions: Week 2

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-Digger's Daily-

What a great opening week in NFL action. Thrilling games - a few duds too. Carolina's rookie QB Cam Newton enjoyed a fine debut passing for more than 400 yards. Patriots star QB Brady eclipsed 500 yards. Ravens beat up and outplayed Pittsburgh 35-7. Dallas found another new way to lose an opener after Romo fumbled away a certain game clinching scoring drive - and later threw an easy interception - as the Jets kept their 9-11 promise to New Yorkers in a come from behind victory.

Week 2 offers another round of great match-ups. I went 9-7 last week. Not a great way to begin the year. Looking to improve this week. Call your bookies. Game of the week - San Diego Chargers @ New England Patriots.

Sunday (home in CAPS)
LIONS 24 Chiefs 23
Raiders 30 BILLS 20
SAINTS 26 Bears 10
VIKINGS 23 Bucs 20
Ravens 27 TITANS 3
Browns 27 COLTS 23
JETS 31 Jaguars 17
STEELERS 23 Seahawks 10
REDSKINS 17 Cardinals 16
Packers 42 PANTHERS 21
49ERS 20 Cowboys 17
PATRIOTS 40 Chargers 34
Texans 33 Dolphins 26
BRONCOS 28 Bengals 24
Eagles 31 FALCONS 20

Rams 30 GIANTS 27

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tuesday Night Quickie - Selig Denies Mets 9-11 Hat Tribute

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-Digger's Daily-

How many New York Mets and Yankees fans remember our baseball players wearing hats saluting New York Police and Fire Departments after the attacks of September 11, 2001? Mets and Yankees players wore all sorts of NYFD/FDNY logo's on their New York hats paying tribute to lives lost and the American spirit when baseball resumed games following 9-11-01.

Sunday night, September 11, 2011 - New York Mets players had planned wearing similar style hats just as they did 10 years ago as their tribute to our fallen heroes. Major League Baseball's Commissioners Office - Bud Selig - took exception and wrote the Mets telling them to ditch their effort. MLB wanted a uniform tribute from stadium to stadium. No exceptions! MLB went the extra mile of ordering officials to confiscate Mets players hats before the game. Can you believe it?

Bud Selig - the baseball commissioner who stood silently idle when major leaguers took steroids, human growth hormones, drugs finally takes a stand. Against Mets players simply trying to show their support of victims during an emotional weekend. Where are Selig's priorities? Selig, the former Milwaukee Brewers owner turned Commissioner, has caught plenty of grief in my previous entries. His decision Sunday goes beyond being profoundly and morally wrong.

The story gets better (worse). Selig is now angry Mets players spoke out by publicly announcing what MLB (specifically the Commissioner's Office) did to squash Mets efforts.
Selig phoned the Mets Sunday "irate that the club had gone public with the news that his office had prevented players from wearing the caps of Sept. 11 first responders for that night's game at Citi Field" - the New York Post reported.
Selig now feels the Mets threw the league under a bus. Nonsense. It was the commissioner throwing a Mets tribute under the bus in the name of conformity. Selig wanted each and every player, coach, manager, dugout personnel wearing the same exact hat containing a predetermined Commissioner's Office approved remembrance logo. Hogwash Commissioner - with all due respect - you blew it again. Why deny ONE team their special tribute in the home city of where attacks took place, where thousand's of lives were lost- just for conformity? Then, in childish fashion, lash out like a little brat?

Don't worry baseball fans. Selig's tenure will soon end. He's been a complete disaster from start to finish.

2011 Football Power Rankings

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-Digger's Daily-

2011 Football Power Rankings (Week 2)
NCAA Football has featured two weeks of sensational contests. University of Michigan stunned Notre Dame in the closing seconds 35-31. Ranked #1 in AP polls - for a record 100 times - Oklahoma Sooners! Quite an accomplishment when considering the long history of college football featuring dynasty type systems over the years.

Speaking of rankings - it's time for All World All Sports - NCAA Top 20 Rankings (thru two weeks).
1 - Oklahoma
2 - LSU
3 - Alabama
4 - Boise State
5 - Florida State
6 - Wisconsin
7 - Oklahoma State
8 - Texas A&M
9 - Nebraska
10- Stanford
11- Virginia Tech
12- Oregon
13- South Carolina
14- Michigan State
15- Ohio State
16- West Virginia
17- Arkansas
18- Florida
19- South Florida
20- Auburn

Opening weekend of NFL action took on many emotions. Sunday's games were played September 11 - a day the USA will never forget. Remembrance ceremonies across the country were on display honoring those who perished 10 years earlier. NFL stadiums hosted various dedications and moments of silence remembering lives lost.

Emotional festivities quickly turned into bone crunching regular season football action. And, action there was throughout the league culminating with two exciting Monday Night Football games. There was no shortage of special teams action either. Kickoff and punt returners electrified crowds. Jets special teams punt block turned touchdown stunned Dallas. Rookie Carolina QB Cam Newton began his career with a 422 yard passing effort during a 27-21 loss to Arizona. Tom Brady connected with Wesley Welker for a 99 yard pass play touchdown as New England romped over Miami.

Buckle up. The 2011 football season is young. Week 1 set highlight reels ablaze.

NFL Power Rankings
1 - Green Bay Packers
2 - New England Patriots
3 - New York Jets
4 - Philadelphia Eagles
5 - New Orleans Saints
6 - Houston Texans
7 - Baltimore Ravens
8 - San Diego Chargers
9 - Chicago Bears
10- Pittsburgh Steelers
11- Atlanta Falcons
12- Oakland Raiders
13- San Francisco 49ers
14- Detroit Lions
15- Carolina Panthers
Stay tuned - tremendous match-ups in both NCAA and NFL action coming up later this week!

Friday, September 9, 2011

NFL 2011 Preview: AFC West

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-Digger's Daily-

Kansas City was one of a few surprise teams in 2010. Can they improve on last year's success? When will San Diego learn to win early season games? One of football's most talented teams on paper often begins slowly (began 2-5 in '10). Oakland and Denver trying for returns to respectability.

1 - Kansas City Chiefs
Offense: KC is defending AFC West champion. Chiefs came out of nowhere. Offense is talented. QB Matt Cassel is solid. RB's Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones create a tough backfield tandem each capable of 100 yard performances. Bowe is their star WR. Don't be surprised if KC repeats as West champ.
Defense: Young, smart, fast and maturing at nearly all positions. Young group getting better - quickly.
Prediction: Repeat West champs. 10-11 wins. Well balanced team.

2 - San Diego Chargers
Offense: Talented but often out of synch. Phillip Rivers misses LaDainian Tomlinson. If he doesn't then he should. RB Ryan Matthews was largely ineffective as a rookie before getting injured. Solid receiving corps, one of NFL's best TE, solid line. Sproles will be sorely missed as third down receiving back and special teams player.
Defense: Not a prime time defense gives up too many late drives. No matter these guys finished near the top of all statistical categories - they still lost 5 of their first 7.
Prediction: Every year prognosticators write glowing reviews and saying these guys have Super potential. Problems is Chargers sputter. Maybe they finally get it rolling after under performing years. 9-11 wins.

3 - Oakland Raiders
Offense: QB Jason Campbell came alive for the first time in career late last season after disappointing for years in Washington. Speedy WR's need to stretch the field - and catch the pigskin. RB McFadden is a threat to score every time he catches the ball - as long as his linemen stay out of his way! Campbell must not return to Washington ways or this team is in trouble.
Defense: Getting better but still making stupid penalties in key situations. Expect more improvement again in '10. When's the last time anybody said improvement while talking Raiders football.
Prediction: Raiders could become 2011 Cinderella team. Not many expecting big things. Chargers prone to slow beginnings. Chiefs can be beaten. .500 season as of now. Don't be surprised if these guys walk away with division crown.

4 - Denver Broncos
Offense: Kyle Orton vs Tim Tebow in pre-season. Orton is opening day QB. He's a nice fantasy QB building up yards based on playing form behind. In real life - it's a headache watching missed 3rd down passes. Really not a fan of anyone on this offense. Often injured, receivers give up on routes, RB's can't pound the ball, suspect play calling. These guys are a long way from Shanahan football.
Defense: One of league's worst - not showing any early signs of improvement. Another team changing formations. 3-4 is out in favor of 4-3. Build a wall instead.
Prediction: Repeat 4-12 season might be a stretch.

NFL 2011 Preview: AFC South

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-Digger's Daily-

Look out folks. There's a new sheriff in the AFC South. The road has been cleared for Houston Texans football. Indianapolis Colts front office confirmed Thursday - future Hall of Fame QB Peyton Manning had another neck operation. Texas on the rise. AFC South is Houston's to win or lose.

1 - Houston Texans
Offense: Explosive. QB Matt Schaub - league leading RB Arian Foster - star WR Andre Johnson - productive TE Owen Daniels. Offensive line improvement will go a long way in '11. This team can turn it on. Consistency has been past problem - not this year.
Defense: Exploded. "Don't mess with Texas" didn't apply to this defense last year. They allowed the most yards in NFL action. 4-3 is out. 3-4 is in to bring about a better pass rush? Good luck. New defensive look including cornerbacks & safety offers hope. Expect an improvement over 2010 - they'll need to be strong before playoff football begins.
Prediction: No less than 11 wins unless defensive unit becomes useless.

2 - Tennessee Titans
Offense: Long time coach Jeff Fisher is out and will be missed. In steps Coach Munchak and his prisoners take all no-nonsense philosophy. Chris Johnson recently stopped holding out and is back ready for live action. New QB is veteran Matt Hasselbeck. Matt's taken plenty of heat in recent years. I believe Tennessee is the perfect fit. Watch out. Titans will surprise all who think they're doomed to cellar dwellers in 2011. No way. This bunch has the ability to become a strong ball control unit.
Defense: Usually a solid squad looked lost in 2010 giving up big play after big play. Munchak will whip these guys into shape.
Prediction: Not as bad as most are predicting. .500 season well within reach. If D comes back to life and Hasselback's efficient?? Perhaps 10 wins or more if teams take Titans for granted. Tennessee is the anything can happen team for 2011.

3 - Indianapolis Colts
Offense: Peyton Manning is out (neck surgery) - probably for the season. Kerry Collins recently dusted off his retired spikes to sign with Indy as Peyton's fill in. Good news for Colts fans, they're already loaded with weapons and KC is a skilled veteran. Many question surround how coaches instruct Collins to run the offense? No huddle formations? Or will they play straight up? Smart play calling keeps Colts winning. Injuries have creamed Colts players in recent seasons. Staying healthy is key.
Defense: Undecided. Many key defenders returning from 2010 injuries. Are they sound enough to endure a full season in 2011? Too many question marks. When healthy, this group is ready to play. Quick and aggressive.
Prediction: I don't see it. Team enters season on a low note learning of Manning's latest surgery. Too many questions. Colts season remains in limbo heading in. No need to panic - just keep a careful watch. 8-8.

4 - Jacksonville Jaguars
Offense: In a desperate attempt to save his head coaching job, Jack Del Rio axed QB David Garrard in the last week of camp shocking everyone. Luke McCown is opening day starting QB. When Del Rio breaks the class in search of another panic button - rookie Blaine Gabbert will get the nod. 2011 will be ugly for Jags players. RB Maurice Jones-Drew figures to be one of the few bright sports on offense provided his gimpy knee hold up.
Defense: It's tough to rank a defense which didn't play any last year. They stunk it up. Jaguars were last in the NFL in yards per play and yards passing per play. It might not matter how the offense performs because this defense won't stop anyone.
Prediction: 8-8 in 2010. 4-12 coming up.

Next up - AFC West

Thursday, September 8, 2011

NFL 2011 Preview : AFC North

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-Digger's Daily-

Does Pittsburgh have enough gas left in their aging tanks to make another Super Bowl run. They've played in two of three past Super Bowl games. Baltimore remains hot on the trail. Tennessee and Cleveland ready to make a run at winning seasons.

1 - Pittsburgh Steelers
Offense: Steelers big 3 are ready to rumble. QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Rashard Mendenhall and WR Mike Wallace return to anchor the offense. Big Ben roaming out of pocket protection to deliver strikes is essential in offsetting a vulnerable front line. Pittsburgh's offense rises to the occasion in late game situations.
Defense: Heart and sole of Pittsburgh Steelers football is defense. Rising star LB Lawrence Timmons' name will be called often. James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley put fear into quarterbacks. Troy Polamalu was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2010. Tough, rugged bunch takes a back seat to no one.
Prediction: Don't turn your back on these guys. 12 - 14 wins.

2 - Baltimore Ravens
Offense: Running game wasn't sharp in 2010. Offensive line didn't open many lanes - when they did, Ray Rice didn't capitalize. Flacco is a big steady QB searching for speed and down-field play calls for WR's. Lee Evans & Andquan Boldin will get their shots. Offensive line is biggest question mark. They fail to dominate in short yard plays and give up drive ending sacks. Yet, this team won 12 games. Defense affords great field position for offense. If line takes hold - Baltimore can beat out Pittsburgh.
Defense: Superb. Ravens, Jets, Steelers represent top 3 AFC defenses. Front seven is as good as they get. Ravens set up offense with great field position time and time again. Expect no different in 2011. Question is, can they stop Pittsburgh from late game winning drives?
Prediction: Tied Steelers with 12 wins last year (lost tie-breakers). They'll fight Pittsburgh to the finish. 12-14 wins.

3 - Cleveland Browns
Offense: All eyes on Madden '12 cover boy & Cleveland fan favorite Peyton Hollis wondering if he can reproduce golden moments from one season ago? QB Colt McCoy will receive great protection in a west coast attack. Weakness is lack of top notch WR's. However, west coast short routes gives these guys plenty of opportunities to make plays. Cleveland's future looks bright. How quickly their future arrives is anyone's guess?
Defense: Finally, a team switching out of 3-4 to 4-3. Cleveland's new formation will do wonders for a defense terrible against the run in '10. Browns sporting two front line rookies - Phil Taylor (DT) and Jabaal Sheard (RE). Rooks usually make plenty of mistakes but Browns coaching staff is confident. Line needs to clog running lanes because linebackers aren't quick enough to chase anyone down.
Prediction: McCoy's performance determines all. Win some, lose some. 6-8 wins.

4 - Cincinnati Bengals
Offense: Playing in Cincinnati is enough to drive any player nuts. After 7 tumultuous seasons, QB Carson Palmer quit. Not long ago, the Bengals were considered a rising franchise. It all came crashing down largely due to conflicting personalities disrupting team chemistry and field performance. Head cases from owners to coaches to players. RB Cedric Benson and talented offensive line only highlights on a team destined to struggle scoring points. It won't be pretty for a team coming off a 4 win season.
Defense: Get used to being on the field because your offense won't give you a chance to catch your breath! Loss of key position players doesn't bode well. Coaching staff needs creative game planning. Bengals lack bite. Teams will score 30+.
Prediction: Four wins is a good over/under total. I'm thinking 2.

Next up - AFC South

NFL 2011 Preview: AFC East

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-Digger's Daily-

AFC is features the highest percentage of NFL top teams. All eyes focused on old rivals New York vs New England. Jets edged hated rival Patriots in Division Playoffs after splitting season series. Get ready for rugged hard-nosed action in 2011.

1 - New York Jets
Offense: Loaded. Is a quickly maturing QB Mark Sanchez ready to become team leader? The time is ripe for New York Jets dynasty. A young talented team in all areas offensively and defensively. Will they translate their talent into victories and championships? Sanchez has big weapons in WR's Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress. RB tandem of Shonn Greene & LaDainian Tomlinson are sure to grind out yards. Offensive line is one of NFL's top units and getting stronger. Jets looking like an offensive juggernaut set to fly. Defense will set up short fields all season long.
Defense: Smart, aggressive, depth & hard hitting. Only injuries can knock these guys off course from dominating nearly every single game.
Prediction: Rex Ryan's team is fired up heading into 2011. They fell short in AFC Championship Game vs Pittsburgh. 14 wins a distinct possibility. We'll play it safe and say 13-3.

2 - New England Patriots
Offense: Bill Belichick & coordinator Bill O'Brien represent the best prepared coaches in the game. Flawless game plans give QB Tom Brady every opportunity for excellence. Running game always seems to be an early season question mark. Yet, this staff seems to find the right back at the right time to execute plays. WR is a bit thin heading into '11. Ochocinco is Brady's new target. Another player with an attitude who cries when QB's throw to others. Brady is an expert and true professional. Jets defense will give him fits. He'll pick apart most others.
Defense: Improved with a happy Albert Haynesworth who gave and received plenty of grief in Washington. Front seven in 4-3 scheme are tough. Secondary will be tested.
Prediction: Never count out a Belichick team. Is it just me? New Englands defense might outclass their offense? 11 or 12 wins for this group.

3 - Miami Dolphins
Offense: Oft-injured and controversial Reggie Bush is starting RB. It's only a matter of time before he succumbs to injury. Chad Henne scars nobody at QB except teammates. WR's are steady good hands type even though they don't flash game breaking speed. It's a mixed bag sure to have mixed results from week to week. It'll be tough for Miami to score touchdowns vs Patriots & Jets.
Defense: This crew will be worn out early in games if offense can't control play clock. They could be playing most of the year with their backs against the wall. Another 3-4 scheme without dominating pass rushers or run stoppers. Things will get ugly quickly as Miami opens vs New England.
Prediction: Once promising Dolphins take a step backwards. 5 wins.

4 - Buffalo Bills
Offense: There's some talent here. Unfortunately, moving the ball remains a problem. Perhaps Buffalo can get things going in 2011. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick will look for stand out WR Steve Johnson. RB Fred Jackson is itching for carries but will have a hard time finding holes.
Defense: Surprising stat. Bills defense ranked 9th overall in total yards allowed 2010. 3rd (AFC) in passing yards allowed - dead last in NFL surrendering 169.4 yards/game. More of the same in 2011? It's up to Buffalo's offense to keep these guys off of the field.
Prediction: 5 wins.

Up next - AFC North

NFL 2011 Preview: NFC West

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-Digger's Daily-

Plenty of new faces on NFC West teams heading into 2011 action. New coaching staff in San Francisco. New signal callers in Arizona and Seattle. Perhaps only one team remains somewhat intact and improving in football's weakest division - St. Louis Rams.

1 - St. Louis Rams
Offense: QB Sam Bradford leads the charge. Bradford finally has legitimate WR targets - Mike Sims-Walker, Danario Alexander, Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson and rookie Lance Kendricks. Offensive line healthy. Excellent depth behind oft-injured starting RB Steven Jackson (Cadillac Williams, Jurious Norwood). Plenty of weapons. If they're able to get in synch then this group will score in bunches vs weak West defenses.
Defense: Not great but improving nonetheless. Big things expected from pass rushers on the line. Rams drafted North Carolina's Robert Quinn to spice up a sack line featuring James Hall & Chris Long. LB's and DB's remain a concern. Rams need to improve on interceptions (3rd worst) and takeaways. If the defense clicks, then this team will impress. Don't expect too much too soon.
Prediction: Will dominate West. Question remains how well they're able to cope with other divisional opponents? 10 wins.

2 - Arizona Cardinals
Offense: It's only a two man offense for now. Newly acquired QB Kevin Kolb to stud WR Larry Fitzgerald is all they have on paper. Todd Heap at TE will get a few looks as well. RB is a huge question mark with Beanie Wells as full time starter and lack of depth really hurts this squad at all positions. Ball control will be difficult to achieve. Arizona's porous defense will put their offense in catch-up mode more often than not.
Defense: 31st ranked in 2010 changes their point of attack from 4-3 to 3-4. Cards must be nuts. 3-4 is only as good as the men up front and Cards front line is not good. They also lack defensive play-makers. It's going to be a long year for new defensive coordinator Ray Horton.
Prediction: Can any team other than Rams win more than 6 games? Doubtful.

3 - San Francisco 49ers
Offense: New coaches all around. Same old under performing players starting with QB Alex Smith. Can't put all the blame on Smith. Horrific offensive line doesn't give play-makers a chance to run routes or find open lanes. All they've been good for is opening lanes for free shots at oft-injured quarterbacks. Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker and Michael Crabtree present Smith fine targets if he survives daily game day beatings.
Defense: Took a beating in off season losing a few key players. Carlos Rogers and Donte Whitner were signed to help an anemic secondary. SF hopes rookie pass rusher Aldon Smith lives up to his hype. 49ers D was hit or miss in 2010. Expect more of the same in 2011.
Prediction: Lucky to win 6.

4 - Seattle Seahawks
Offense: Tavaris Jackson is their new gunslinger. His signing has been ripped by local prognosticators who love tearing apart their QB's. Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett don't scare anyone rushing out of the backfield - especially behind a terrible offensive line. These guys will have a very difficult time moving the ball.
Defense: A new look younger and faster unit will spend far more time on the field then their counterparts. This was a team giving up points by the bunches in 2010. Not expecting much to change in 2011.
Prediction: NFC West cellar dwellers.

Up next - AFC East

NFL 2011 Predictions: Week 1

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-Digger's Daily-

Today's the day! NFL 2011 begins tonight in Green Bay. NFL's first game - Thursday @ 8:30 - featuring 2009 Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints vs 2010 Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers. This game will certainly entertain. President Obama couldn't have picked a worse time for a live national address to our nation. I'm betting NFL viewers outnumber Obama viewers at least 4:1.

Sunday is an emotional day for our nation. Most teams will be playing their season openers on September 11. Ten years earlier on this date the biggest terrorist even on our soil took place. Remembrance events are scheduled in various cities and stadiums across our great land. September 11 is a time to reflect of loved ones lost. It also reminds us war has been declared upon America by individuals seeking to destroy our very existence. Every host stadium will hold moments of silence - before giving way to roaring opening day home crowds.

2010 was a mixed bag for picking winners and losers. All World All Sports began the year slowly before turning it up a notch to finish up correctly picking 67.5% winners. We're taking dead aim at 75% in 2011.

Week 1 (home in CAPS)

PACKERS 33 Saints 30

Falcons 27 - BEARS 23
BROWNS 30 - Bengals 10
CHIEFS 27 - Bills 3
Eagles 23 - RAMS 20
BUCS 24 - Lions 16
Titans 31 - JAGS 20
Steelers 17 - RAVENS 16
TEXANS 43 - Colts 6
Giants 28 - REDSKINS 26
49ERS 20 - Seahawks 17
CHARGERS 24 - Vikings 14
Panthers 17 - CARDINALS 14
JETS 41 - Cowboys 7

Patriots 35 - Dolphins 10
Raiders 24 - BRONCOS 23

2011 Football Power Rankings

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-Digger's Daily-

Ready - Set - Go! The 2011 football season kicked off with NCAA games this past weekend. NFL opens up Thursday night when New Orleans goes to battle versus Green Bay.

All World All Sports tackles football power rankings again in 2011. Our unique formula relies on strength of schedule, on field performance, opponent strength, injuries, depth, coaching staffs and a few other contributing factors.

Week 1
1 - Oklahoma
2 - LSU
3 - Alabama
4 - Boise State
5 - Florida State
6 - Wisconsin
7 - Texas A&M
8 - Oklahoma State
9 - Nebraska
10- Stamford
11- Virginia Tech
12- Oregon
13- South Carolina
14- Michigan State
15- Ohio State
16- Missippi State
17- West Virginia
18- Arkansas
18- Florida
20- Missouri

1 - Green Bay (by default - AWAS always ranks current champs #1 in before first game played)
2 - New York Jets
3 - New England Patriots
4 - New Orleans Saints
5 - Atlanta Falcons
6 - Pittsburgh Steelers
7 - Philadelphia Eagles
8 - San Diego Chargers
9 - Houston Texans
10- Baltimore Ravens
11- Chicago Bears
12- Tennessee Titans
13- Kansas City Chiefs
14- New York Giants
15- Washington Redskins
16- Indianapolis Colts (low due to Manning's uncertain status)
17- Seattle Seahawks
18- San Francisco 49ers
19- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
20- Oakland Raiders

Grab a seat. NFL opening kickoff Thursday - NBC - 8:30 pm - Lambeau Field - 2009 Champion New Orleans Saints vs 2010 Champion Green Bay Packers.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

NFL 2011 Fantasy Rankings: Wide Receivers

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-Digger's Daily-

Picking up where we left off last week. Let's turn our attention back to fantasy football drafts. Tonight's installment - ranking top NFL Wide Receivers.

All World All Sports Top 20
1 - Andre Johnson (HOU) Is Andre ready to crack 2000 yards? Probably not - he'll come close. 1800 yards, 15 TD.
2 - Greg Jennings (GB) Get ready for a tremendous season. Might end up as top fantasy scorer.
3 - Roddy White (ATL) Could become Atlanta's TD machine.
4 - Larry Fitzgerald (ARI) Extremely fun to watch. Big time fantasy scorer in recent seasons. Only 3 100 yd games in '10.
5 - Calvin Johnson (DET) Strong 1st half in '10. Fizzled late.
6 - Vincent Jackson (SD) Troubles in distant rear view mirror. Get ready for a big season.
7 - DeSean Jackson (PHI) Speedster gives opposing defenses fits.
8 - Mike Wallace (PIT) 7 100 yard games in 2010.
9 - Mike Williams (TB) Freeman's go to TD WR.
10- Hakeem Nicks (NYG) Is 2011 Nicks breakout season?
11- Dwayne Bowe (KC) 5 100 yard games, 5 multiple TD games. Grab him if you can.
12- Brandon Lloyd (DEN) Great fantasy 1st half until double teams & QB change slowed him down.
13- Santonio Holmes (NYJ) Will be Sanchez go to guy.
14- Wes Welker (NE) When in doubt, select one of Brady's favorite targets.
15- Jeremy Maclin (PHI) Yep, another Philly speedster. Grab them while you can.
16- Dez Bryant (DAL) Pure speed. Good fantasy #2 WR. Don't waste a 1st round pick on him. Huge potential, too many issues in Dallas.
17- Marques Colston (NO) Talented. Unfortunately for fantasy coaches - Brees spreads the ball to everyone.
18- Steve Johnson (BUF) Buffalo's main (only) threat.
19- Plaxico Burress (NYJ) Look out - Plaxico's back with something to prove.
20- Brandon Marshall (MIA) Miami's STILL searching for Dan Marino's replacement.

NFL 2011 Preview: NFC South

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-Digger's Daily-

2010 - Atlanta dethroned New Orleans. Tampa Bay came out of nowhere to win 10. Carolina was an embarrassment winning only two games. It'll be Atlanta vs New Orleans in 2011 with Tampa not living up to new expectations.

1 - New Orleans Saints
Offense: Big time firepower led by Drew Brees. Running game is always questionable in New Orleans pass first attack. Rookie RB Mark Ingram might change their plan if he's able to run vs NFL defenses. Darren Sproles is a speedy back and kick returner. Plenty of deep threats at WR. 400+ points well within reach.
Defense: Ball hawks get a boost with new NFL kickoff rules. Speedy defense was #4 overall last season but struggled big time vs run oriented attacks. New faces on D line and LB will certainly help correct short comings.
Prediction: 2011 version of Saints could be better than Super Bowl winning squad. 12-14 wins.

2 - Atlanta Falcons
Offense: Efficient and getting better. Threats at all positions creates one of NFL's most balanced attacks. RB Turner has scored 39 TD's in past 3 seasons. Wideouts need to make big possession plays to keep drives moving.
Defense: Young CB's getting better - it's their make or break season. Pass rush is key to helping secondary. If the D line steps up then Atlanta is a Super threat.
Prediction: Fun team to watch. 2011 could be their year. At least 11 wins.

3 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Offense: NFL's surprise unit in 2010. Can they duplicate/improve in 2011? Perhaps. 2nd year QB Freeman's 25-6 TD-INT ratio was superb. RB Blount needs to have a big season & Freeman hopes to keep blossoming.
Defense: Very young unit played well enough in 2010. They future is bright. Inexperience will set them back a step in 2011.
Prediction: Hard to imagine a 10 win repeat performance. Expecting a .500 season.

4 - Carolina Panthers
Offense: Cam Newton (Auburn) is the new man in town. Carolina's offense has been terrible in recent seasons. Newton has all the tools to quickly turn this franchise into a powerhouse. Question - can he perform vs NFL defenses? Time will tell - sooner than later. Decent offensive line, good RB's, talented ball catchers will all contribute if Newton is a quick study.
Defense: Don't get too down on this bunch. They've been plagued by recent inept offenses putting them in near impossible defensive positions - short fields and spending more time defending than offense attacking.
Prediction: Anything more than 5 wins is a positive first step.

NFC South will become one of NFL's most exciting divisions in years to come

2011 NFL Preview: NFC North

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-Digger's Daily-

Green Bay Packers enter 2011 as reigning champions. Repeating is always a difficult task in the NFL. Green Bay has what it takes. Or do they? Time will tell. Here's how the NFC North shakes out in 2011.

1 - Green Bay Packers
Offense: All systems go. Aaron Rodgers has plenty of targets. Offensive line solid. Play calling excellent. All key ingredients. Only question mark is keeping running backs healthy.
Defense: 2010 was a bounce back season for Green Bay's defense. They're a solid bunch who figure capitalize immensely thanks in large part to new kickoff rules. Good luck attempting 80 yard drives on every possession vs these guys.
Prediction: North winners - 12 wins.

2 - Chicago Bears
Offense: Offensive line hasn't improved much for the Bears who ranked near the bottom in 2010 (30th). Jay Cutler will be on the run again in '11. Chicago managed to win the North last year in spite of many shortcomings. Cutler needs to stop throwing drive ending interceptions. Sometimes tossing the ball out of bounds is a better ball possession formula.
Defense: 2010 bend but don't break style saved the day and directly led to Chicago winning the division. Bears strength is point of attack setting the stage for linebackers & secondary to make big plays. They'll have to do it again or it will be a long season.
Prediction: 9 wins is within reach. If offensive line surprises - then Bears will challenge Green Bay. It's a longshot.

3 - Detroit Lions
Offense: Lions remain inconsistent. Big plays or big busts. Either way, this franchise is moving in the right direction - finally! Key to success is offensive line and decision making by QB Stafford. Lack of cohesiveness has been a theme for many years in Motor City. Will 2011 be the year these guys make it happen?
Defense: Front four is solid. Linebackers good vs run. Secondary - not good. They allowed opposing QB's to complete at a rate of 64$ in 2010. It's hard to stay in games without disrupting passing attacks. Expect improvement in all areas.
Prediction: 6 wins is a no brainer. Anything more is a sign Detroit is truly on the rise.

4 - Minnesota Vikings
Offense: Guess who isn't um-retiring? The Favre experiment has finally ended. One great season, one pathetic season. Adrian Pederson is the offense. Fumbling has always been an issue as highlighted in 2009 NFC Championship Game. He's great when no one touches him - keeps coaching staff wincing when surrounded by tacklers. Speedy receivers and talented TE. Problem for 2011 - QB.
Defense: Once thought one step from becoming elite unit of NFL. They're showing signs of cracking. Still solid, but slowing vs run & pass rush. These guys will be on the field for long stretches if offense fails to chew up clock again. Expect a burnt out unit when 4th quarter rolls around.
Prediction: It could be ugly. 6 wins might be a stretch.

Next up NFC South.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

2011 NFL Preview: NFC East

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-Digger's Daily-

Here we go. NFL 2011 season is ready to go. Teams are making last minute roster adjustments. Odds makers gearing up for a big opening weekend of betting. Players chomping at the bit to play for real after a long pre-season filled with decimating injuries.

How will the final standings read after all is said and done once the 16 game schedule concludes? One thing is for certain - once again - NFL 2011 will be action packed from opening kickoff to the final whistle.
All World All Sports goes division by division previewing/predicting how the NFL will shake out in 2011. Let's begin with the NFC.

NFC East
1 - Philadelphia Eagles
Offense: Speed. Team speed. How will defenses contain Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek, Steve Smith, Jason Avant and Riley Cooper. Out of their backfield is LeSean McCoy and Ronnie Brown. Vick's decision making may very well determine if the Eagles score the most points during the regular season. Offense is primed to average well over 30 points/game if they're able to protect the pigskin.
Defense: Eagles usually known for their D but suffered a bit by lapses in 2010. Juan Castillo is Philly's new DC. Eagles added plenty of new faces & depth for '11. Question marks surrounding all phases of defense from front line, linebackers and cornerbacks. Andy Reid is one of NFL's best. I'm believing his D will step it up a notch. However, with Philly's quick strike offense - will D be worn out by end of 3rd quarter?
Prediction: 12-4 NFC East division winners

2 - New York Giants
Offense: Eli Manning single handily wrecked the Giants season as the NFL leader in turnovers. Time after time he coughed up the ball in situations dictating throwing the ball out of bounds or taking a sack. Banged up offensive line & wide receivers didn't help matters either. Inconsistency was the Giants theme in '10. What's up for 2011? More of the same or football smarts?
Defense: Training camp took a painful toll on New York's secondary. Opponents will try exploiting this make-shift group early and often until they prove worthy of stopping opposing offenses. Good luck. Giants pass rushers will have to save the day - Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, Mathias Kiwanuka and eventually Osi Umenyiora will rattle a few cages as NFL's top pass rushing unit.
Prediction: Don't get your hopes up this year Giants fans. 9 wins max.

3 - Washington Redskins
Offense: Shanahan recently named Rex Grossman starting QB. Gross often gets grilled by media types because he's not a prototypical QB. All Rex needs to do is play efficient football - something he's quite capable of doing regularly if teammates chip in. Key to offense is Skins running game. Shanahan produced 11 1,000+ yard rushers in 12 Denver seasons. Something tells me a secured offensive line is ready to go. Hightower is their featured back and he's ready for a breakout season.
Defense: Shanahan's sticking with 3-4 system. I'm no fan of the 3-4 as it opens up the D to many potential mistakes vs big opposing offensive lines. Skins D ranked 31st in '10 - will be tested often in '11.
Prediction: 7 win season is definitely attainable. If Rex & Co. can score - if D can sufficiently derail opposing attacks - Washingtom may become the cinderella story of 2011. Don't bet on it - don't be surprised if it happens either.

4 - Dallas Cowboys
Offense: Whoa, 2011 could turn ugly quickly. Only one good bit of news for Dallas heading into regular season opener - Tony Romo is back. Plenty of bad news beginning with a terrible make-shift offensive line featuring two rookies. Romo will be running for his life. Runningbacks soon to be challenged looking for running lanes vs formidale NFC East defensive linemen.
Defense: No NFC team surrendered more points in 2010. Dallas picked up an all star coordinator - Rob Ryan of the famously defensive minded Ryan clan (father - Buddy, brother - Rex). Don't expect miracles in 2011 as personnel is probably division's worst. Ryan will blitz from every direction out of necessity with a weak in all areas D. 2011 could bet ugly early, often and every game. Dallas is a long way off from thinking about playoff football.
Prediction: Jason Garrett is not head coach material. Will Dallas Cowboys head coach revolving door continue? 4-12 season says most definitely!
Up next - NFC North.