Thursday, August 23, 2012

2012 NFL Preview: Will New England Patriots Recover from Super Loss?

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-Digger's Weekly-

Deja vu? The New England Patriots (13-3) did it again in Super Bowl XLVI. Another brilliant late fourth quarter touchdown drive by the New York Giants stunned the Patriots and turned a victory into a bitter 21-17 defeat. In 2007, New York stunned the Pats by way of a miracle finish to end their perfect season attempt, 17-14. Has New England healed? Can they repeat as AFC Champs?

It all begins and ends with QB Tom Brady. Brady had a spectacular regular season finishing with 5,235 yards & 39 TD. 17 TD passes went to All Pro TE & fantasy stud Rod Gronkowski. WR Wes Welker snagged 122 receptions & 1,569 yards. Make no mistake, Patriots are pass first offense. All teams know it. Very few can defend. Now, add WR Brandon Lloyd into the mix for 2012. One of these days New England will spend a few bucks to sign a featured runningback. This team would be unstoppable with a bruising back. Just think, the Pats success has been accomplished without a bonified featured back. Rise or fall on Tom Brady's right arm.

Defense is a deceiving. New England displayed a bend but don't break style of play in recent years. It's hard for teams to keep up with a talented offense which almost seems to score at will during regular season action. Defenses always look better with an early 14-0 cushion. Guess what? Patriots made some key additions via draft. Coach Bill Belichik is a drafting guru. He picked up Syracuse DE Chandler Jones and Alabama LB Dont'e Hightower in the first round. If they mature quickly - then this defense just got a whole lot better in a hurry.

Projection: Very few coaches, if any, design better game plans week to week than Belichik. AFC East will be decided early. Patriots cruise to 12 wins if Brady remains healthy.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

2012 NFL Preview: Doomsday in Dallas

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-Digger's Weekly-

Doomsday's will be every Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday for the Dallas Cowboys in 2012 action. Dallas fans can always hope for the best - smart one's already preparing for the worst.

Dallas was 7-4 last season before losing 4 of their final 5 games including two to divisional rival and eventual Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. I hope New York players sent thank you notes to Dallas - maybe even kick in some championship gear/merchandise in apppreciation. 2012 says all signs point to Dallas continuing where they left off - losing.

The Cowboys offensive line is dreadful. It will be very hard for these guys to create running lanes for DeMarco Murray and protection for QB Tony Romo. Believe it or not, Romo still hasn't developed into Dallas' team leader after 6 years as starting quarterback! They have key weapons with Romo, Murray and speedsters Dez Bryant and Miles Austin. Big loss during pre-season action is TE Jason Witten. Witten is supposed to be ready to go by their regular season opener - just not at 100%. Losing Witten for any extended time or playing less than 100% will hurt. Romo's offense lacks rythm & consistency. It's hard to do with defenders racing thru one of the leagues worst offensive lines. Stat-wise, Romo's great for fantasy football coaches. As a player, it might be time for a blockbuster trade. Fans patience has worn thin and he probably won't be missed after another lackluster season.

Defense has strengths and weaknesses. Top draft pick in Big D is LSU's cornerback Morris Claiborne. This unit is the key if the 'Boys are to have any success this season. It won't be pretty. A maturing group will get better - it's just not their time yet. 3-4 scheme isn't doing this team any favors either. I'm not a fan of 3-4 defenses as running games can roam wild and passers get all day to pick apart secondaries. Not a good mixture. Defense must set up offense with short field opportunities. If pre-season offensive struggles carry over into regular season action then defense will be gassed early and often.

Projection: A tough season to be a Cowboys fan. Perhaps Texas Rangers playoff success can mask over the coming football season. Doom & gloom. Crystal ball says 6 wins if they're lucky.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

2012 NFL Preview: NY Giants - Repeat or Retreat?

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-Digger's Daily-

Super Bowl XLVI Champion New York Giants will attempt to do something never done before in New York football history - repeat as Super Bowl champions.

2011 was a wild ride for the Giants and their fans. New York began the year winning 6 of 8 before a sudden four game slide had many wondering if they would - or could - win again. Win they did. Talk about getting hot at the right time. The Giants lost only one more game the rest of the way by playing opportune football to win the NFC East with a modest 9-7 record.

When playoff time rolled around all eyes were focused on 15-1 Green Bay, 13-3 New Orleans & 13-3 San Francisco. The Giants clicked. Their defense was on fire. Eli Manning near flawless and a cast of wide receivers making one crutial catch after another. New York crushed Atlanta 24-2 in Wild Card action. They thumped a beleaguered Packers squad 37-20 in Divisionals. Went toe to toe with hard hitting 49ers, winning on an overtime FG (20-17). Not many gave them a shot against any playoff opponent - especially against 13-3 New England in SB XLVI. Did the Giants worry? Not a chance, at least not publicly, especially after knocking off a previously undefeated Patriots team for Super Bowl glory back in 2007. Guess what? The Giants did it again with late game heroics on their way to a 21-17 victory.

So what's in store for 2012? Repeat or retreat? I'm betting this years Giants squad wins at least 8 of 10 before their week 11 bye. This is a healthy squad heading into the new season unless pre-season knocks out key performers. Eli Manning is back and loaded with weapons on offense. Undrafted WR Victor Cruz quickly established himself as a premier receiver and fan favorite. LSU WR Ruben Randall is expected to line up opposite Hakeem Nicks affording Cruz the chance to remain slot receiver. Offensive line is back to full strength. Tight End has always been a key position for Giants football. Giants TE's are key to their attack from run blocking to making key possession plays over the middle. Martellus Bennett (via Dallas) is the new kid on the block... and block he'd better to remain a starter.

Defense is a solid as they come. Their bend but don't break style stymies opponents in the red zone. Giants tenacious pass rush gives opposing QB's the jitters. The 2012 Giants will be greatly improved over the '11 squad if they're hungry for another title run and remain committed to head coach Tom Coughlin's game plan.

Projection: Super Bowl Champs remain contenders for another title. Every team is gunning for the champs so no game will be easy. The usual suspects - Green Bay, San Francisco, Dallas, Philadelphia and New Orleans all hoping to dethrone New York's finest. Biggest question mark is health of offensive line. Running game suffered inconsistencies due to front line injuries and lack of depth. Ball control is crucial for success this season. NFC East champs, 13-3 or 12-4.