NFL Preseason Picks: Arizona Cardinals

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NFC EAST: New York Giants 10-6, Washington Redskins 9-7, Dallas Cowboys 8-8, Philadelphia Eagles 6-10

NFC SOUTH: Atlanta Falcons 13-3, New Orleans Saints 11-5, Carolina Panthers 7-9, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 5-11

NFC WEST: Seattle Seahawks 12-4, St. Louis Rams 7-9

ARIZONA CARDINALS

The Arizona Cardinals have been very disappointing as of late. It seems like a millennia since that fateful 2007 meeting in the Super Bowl when the Steelers defeated the Kurt Warner-led Cardinals in the final minutes. Ever since, the Cardinals have been on a downward wind. They added Carson Palmer to the lineup this offseason, a mighty upgrade from the hapless efforts of Kevin Kolb. In 2012, they placed 4th in the NFC West with a record of 5-11, and hope to improve on that with some new personnel.

Adding Carson Palmer to the offense legitimizes threats like the deadly Larry Fitzgerald and has the ability to bring lesser names into the spotlight like Michael Floyd, a young player from Notre Dame oozing with potential. Rashard Mendenhall has been adequate in the running game, and will help Palmer get the ball downfield with his pass blocking ability. He could potentially take pressure off Palmer by making the offense a little more multi-dimensional. This offense had trouble getting going behind the arm of Kolb and Skelton for most of the season. In fact, the Cardinals actually went through four quarterbacks in the sixteen-game stretch.

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Patrick Peterson and the tepid Arizona secondary may benefit quickly and greatly from Mathieu’s big-play capability.

The defense of Arizona was so-so in 2012, ranking mid-table for all major categories. They added college sensation Tyrann Mathieu to the secondary in the draft. If Mathieu performs to the extent that he is capable of, which has been the case as of late, he will turn a lot of heads in 2013. Don’t expect the defense to make headlines however; they still have a lot of core pieces that need to fit in.

Prediction:

The Cardinals are unimpressive. They will be unimpressive for a while until they figure out some kinks in the personnel. I think that they take a step back and post a record of 4-12. This is because they are working with a new quarterback, and even though he is an upgrade from the previous cluster of lackluster shot callers, he will still need time to acclimate himself into the offense. The defense will probably be the only positive to this team, and even that could use some more tweaking. The Arizona Cardinals will be a lower-tier team in 2013, and will probably settle for such. 

NFL Preseason Picks: St. Louis Rams

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NFC EAST: New York Giants 10-6, Washington Redskins 9-7, Dallas Cowboys 8-8, Philadelphia Eagles 6-10

NFC SOUTH: Atlanta Falcons 13-3, New Orleans Saints 11-5, Carolina Panthers 7-9, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 5-11

NFC WEST: Seattle Seahawks 12-4

ST. LOUIS RAMS

Today we gaze upon St. Louis, where the Rams are working out some long-standing kinks in the preseason to get ready for their 2013 campaign. Last year, St. Louis looked like they were still experiencing some growing pains as they finished off the season at a record of 7-8-1. With a pretty good-looking draft, and the upside of young quarterback Sam Bradford, the once-Greatest Show on Turf hopes to improve on its misfortunes from 2012.

The Rams made waves in the NFL when they drafted Tavon Austin out of West Virginia in April. Austin has incredible speed, quickness and a natural big-playmaking ability. He will be a valuable weapon for Bradford as he tries to make that leap into the upper echelons of NFL signal callers. However, it seems as though Bradford can never catch a break: injuries, coaching changes and lack of surrounding talent has kept him at bay. But now with the addition of Austin, he may finally have his go-to guy. The loss of Steven Jackson is tremendous for this team. With Jackson on the field, the steady running game set the foundation for a dynamic offense. Not taking anything away from new lead man Daryl Richardson, but not many players can fill the shoes of Steven Jackson. It will be interesting to see what Jeff Fisher has up his sleeve to ignite the rebuilt Rams offense.

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A weakened run game and depleted secondary puts more pressure on Laurinaitis and the front seven.

The Rams defense was exceptional in 2012, tied for first with sacks and a strong linebacking core and secondary to boot. Expect a bit of a fall off the throne in 2013, as the Rams lost both of their starting safeties. A solid defense is the perfect preset for a solid team, and the Rams are fortunate enough to have that. In an era where points are abundant, the teams that achieve greatness are the ones that are competent on defense.

Prediction:

I see the Rams staying mediocre in 2013 and posting a record of 7-9, not much of a deviation from 2012. The Rams are a team still in the rebuilding phase. Gone are the days of Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and Torry Holt. They must ditch that old persona and find a new identity. There is no shame in trying to leave one’s past behind, especially when you are trying to reach that steeple once again. Look for St. Louis to be a very good team in 2015. But this season, look for the Rams to be just another one in the herd.

NFL Preseason Preview: Seattle Seahawks

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NFC EAST: New York Giants 10-6, Washington Redskins 9-7, Dallas Cowboys 8-8, Philadelphia Eagles 6-10

NFC SOUTH: Atlanta Falcons 13-3, New Orleans Saints 11-5, Carolina Panthers 7-9, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 5-11

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Kicking off the NFC West will be the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks took the league by complete surprise in 2012 by drafting and then starting rookie Russell Wilson. Many doubted the Wisconsin alumni’s true NFL potential, as he was labeled too short and wasn’t favored to run a pro-style offense. However, Wilson took the supposed reigns from then-newly signed Matt Flynn. Seattle, led by the fiery offense of Pete Carroll and the shutdown defensive stratagem of Gus Bradely, was able to clinch a playoff berth. Many now look for the Seahawks to be the main challenger of the powerhouse that is Jim Harbaugh’s San Francisco 49ers. But with a new defensive coordinator — and some new faces — will Seattle be able to trounce Kaepernick and the reigning NFC champions?

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Lynch’s presence keeps the box stacked and forces the secondary to eye him, which will give Wilson a lot more fun with his new receiving options.

Sidney Rice and Golden Tate will always be home run threats when it comes to a play-action deep pass. Don’t expect that to change much with the return of Marshawn Lynch at running back. When Lynch is able to keep the defense, especially the safeties, focused between the tackles, it allows for Wilson to go deep to either Tate or Rice. And if the addition of Percy Harvin works out well for Seattle, they will be scary in the air. Another dynamic that is added to this offense is Russell Wilson’s knack to wriggle free from pocket pressure. Broken plays are a great opportunity to gain huge yardage if executed correctly. Wilson is the kind of player that can turn broken plays into a touchdown.

The Seahawks made great strides this offseason when they acquired Antoine Winfield to reinforce the secondary. This defense was fun to watch last season and should continue that trend, and maybe claim throne as the top defense in 2013. They have all the pieces: a strong line, a sturdy line backing core, and a secondary overflowing with talent. There are not too many problems with the starting eleven, and the depth is present to have consistency.

Prediction:

This may seem odd to some, but I see the Seahawks winning the West with a record of 12-4. They should split games with San Fransicso, but sweep Arizona and St. Louis. I think that the league will figure out that Kaepernick isn’t as proficient as the average quarterback in the pocket — when withheld in that area. Seattle’s defense should be able to hold him at bay as far as scrambling goes and the offense should be able to do just enough to overpower the ‘Niners. Seattle should make waves in the NFL in 2013, and expect to see them lingering in January.

NFL Preseason Picks: Philadelphia Eagles

JIMMY’S PICKS

Redskins 9-7

Dallas Cowboys 8-8

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Oh, the Philadelphia Eagles. What a long, strange offseason it has been. With the climatic firing of Andy Reid and the acquisition of Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, the Eagles seemingly made a step in the right direction going into the 2013 football season. With his read-option/ spread offense that is paced to run about 85 plays a game, Kelly could quite possibly revolutionize the way that professional football is played on the offensive side of the ball. However, a somewhat mediocre quarterback battle paired with mounting injuries has kept the birds flightless for the time being. And one can’t forget the enormous elephant named Riley Cooper that still dwells in the locker room in wake of the team’s latest distraction – as if it hasn’t been covered enough.

A faster offense means less rest for defenders. Trent Cole and Demeco Ryans need to step up this season.

A faster offense means less rest for defenders. Trent Cole and Demeco Ryans need to step up this season.

The Eagles offense is a mess, simply put. Many an Eagle fan will sing praise for what Chip Kelly is bringing to the league; the speed and hastiness of his offense, they believe, is going to dominate opponents. But, in order to have a dominant offense, one must first have a quarterback. It’s understood that other teams are also in quarterback disputes this offseason, but none of those teams had posted a record over .500 last season. With mounting injuries and an air of uncertainty about who goes where, it’s really difficult to see the Eagles making that step into a serious threat on the offensive side of the ball. Their receivers are dropping like flies and they have made little to no improvement on a complete dilapidation of an offensive line. Sure, when this offense gets going it will provide the promised flash and spectacle that the fans are wishing to see, but it should not be expected this season.

In 2010, the Eagles appeared to make all of the right choices on the defensive side of the ball. They retained Justin Babin, and formulated a secondary that seemed daunting to even the sharpest of quarterbacks. Going into 2013, defense seems like a sore subject for Philly, who needs to get a grip on its defense if it is ever going to keep up with its division rivals. Getting Patrick Chung will definitely help them in coverage, but he can only help so much. Linebackers DeMeco Ryans and Trent Cole absolutely have to step up and become a dominant duo in order for their defense to work this season.

Prediction:

It’s hard to see the Eagles having too much more success than they had last season. With controversy, distraction, and a new coaching staff, Philadelphia is going to have to overcome a lot of obstacles just in the preseason in order to have momentum going into September. My prediction for the Eagles is going to be, what I believe to be a very generous estimate, 6-10. The offense is brand new, meaning that there are going to be growing pains that last until the middle of the season at the earliest. Their defense is a giant question mark also, and was very hot-and-cold last year to say the least. Who knows: maybe Chip Kelly and the boys will completely shock the world and go on a trailblazing run. Oh wait, this isn’t college — this is the NFL. Things are much more predictable. And as far as rebuilding goes, this year does not bode well for the birds.

NFL Preseason Picks: Dallas Cowboys

JIMMY’S PICKS

Washington Redskins: 9-7

DALLAS COWBOYS

America’s team is gearing up for a 2013 season with the weight of the world on their shoulders – yet again. Last season — similar to the past twenty — failed to amount to anything as the Cowboys were left with the patented Tony Romo ‘aw shucks’ face at the end of the year. Last year, Dallas was a decently balanced team until the injury of breakout rusher DeMarco Murray left them in relative disarray. Their campaign never found an honest groove as they broke even for the year at 8-8.

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Romo will only be able to go as far as role players such as Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray take him.

The Cowboys have been prone to air it out when the going gets tough, which often results in the many, many Tony Romo turnovers. A lot of fans just define Romo as a pick-off machine, whilst not looking into the real detail of the situation. Romo has been and will always be expected to carry the Dallas offense. Not that he has much to show for it, but he is their main event when they have the ball. Because of this fact, he must evidently feel pressured to make the clutch plays when the time comes. That killer instinct has evaded him.

The Cowboys need to establish a prominent running attack if they are to have any chance in the playoffs, let alone the NFC East. Players like Dez Bryant and Murray need to pick up the slack and produce in the numbers that they are expected. When Murray is healthy, he is a horse between the tackles. Bryant still needs to make adjustments to his game to reach the level of a league renowned superstar. Don’t forget about, that pesky back surgery that Romo just had. If he’s out, the Cowboys are out.

The Dallas defense that was so strong in 2011 took a bit of a nose dive in last season that hit rock bottom when the front office fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Look for the Cowboys to make some advances in their defense this season with their move to a 4-3. The beauty of a 4-3 defense is that, with the right personnel, there are a fair number of players in the box that can stop the run — while still being able to limit an opponent’s passing options. Because this is one of the most basic defenses in the NFL, coaches have plays upon plays that they can use to pick apart a 4-3, most notably a spread offense that takes the linebackers out of their comfort zone. The corners and safeties need to pick up the slack in order for a 4-3 – especially a debuting one — to have any chance of working.t has evaded him. The Cowboys need to establish a prominent running attack if they are to have any chance in the playoffs, let alone the NFC East. Players like Dez Bryant and Murray need to pick up the slack and produce in the numbers that they are expected. When Murray is healthy, he is a horse between the tackles. Bryant still needs to make adjustments to his game to reach the level of a league renowned superstar. Don’t forget about that pesky back surgery that Romo had this offseason. If he’s out, the Cowboys are out.

Prediction:

It’s difficult to see Dallas crossing the threshold this year. A fair prediction would be another disappointing 8-8 kind of season for the ‘Boys. They just have too many questions on the offensive and defensive side of the ball to be considered as legitimate contenders in a playoff run. They need to establish a feverish rushing attack between the tackles so that Romo can keep defensive lineman out of his face – as well as passes headed towards his actual teammates. However, that hasn’t happened in the past six years, so don’t anticipate any big surprises. The defense is currently in override-mode, meaning that they will still be pulling out kinks by Week Four. Expect Jerry Jones to start writing good-bye letters by December.

NFL Preseason Picks: Washington Redskins

JIMMY’S PRESEASON PICKS

Last night’s Hall of Fame Game inspired more than just a slew of sixth-string receivers: it’s time to brush off the offseason dust and take a deepened look into what teams are the best and worst going into the NFL season. Some have made excellent strides regarding personnel and strategic coordination, while others have continued on their hapless tirade of mediocrity. With that being said, the first stop will be within the NFC East: a division jam-packed with contention and drama almost every single year.

Washington Redskins

With the knee of Robert Griffin III still on the mend, the Redskins are hoping to continue the fervor that led them to a division title last year, while remaining cautious about the health of their young quarterback. A Washingotn team without RGIII is similar to a Corvette with no wheels. With great precaution needed with any knee injury, Redskins fans need to accept that they will see less of the huge runs from Griffin and hope for more of the huge passes. From wide receiver to running back, this team is absolutely jam-packed with talent and ready to take that next step to a deep playoff run. Does Shanahan revert back to a pro-style offense, abandoning the much riskier read-option, or should he go with a spread to further mix things up? The beauty of the Redskins personnel is that they have the ability to run many, many different plays from scrimmage.Image

The defense is a completely different animal. The Redskins were one of the most passed-on teams in 2013, and don’t expect to see that number fluctuate much. Their secondary seemed amateur at times and wonderful at others. One of their trademark performances from last year can be seen when they were leading the Giants by three with 1:13 left in their Week 7 matchup. Any intelligent safety would know that this is a time to play off the linebackers and drop into a very deep zone, especially with Victor Cruz on the other side of the line of scrimmage. Instead, this happened.

The Redskins are on the cusp of doing something truly great in this league. They could very well be Super Bowl contenders next year if Griffin is able to stay healthy – but health would require a lot more ducking and sliding and a lot less spinning and jumping. He is the heart and soul of this football team and without him they are just another 7-9, middle-grade club. Perhaps they could rely on more of a run-and-gun type approach with less of the spectacle and more of the grind. With a running back like Alfred Morris, this is entirely possible. The defense needs to gain some form of momentum going down the stretch if they are ever going to keep up with the current trend of carpet-bomb passing that is going on in the league today.

PREDICITION:

The defense will be the Achilles heel of this team, holding them to a 9-7 record. There are just too many holes in the game plan of Mike Shanahan for this team to make a serious playoff run, and until RGIII figures out how to protect himself, there’s reason to fear that another — more serious — injury is imminent.