2011 NFL Week 2 Point Spreads & Preview

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick throws a pass during the first half of their NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams in St. Louis, Missouri September 11, 2011. REUTERS/Sarah Conard (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Eagles (1-0) @ Falcons (0-1), 8:20PM ET
Outside of Chargers-Patriots or maybe Bears-Saints, there isn’t a juicer matchup on the schedule this week. The Falcons should be embarrassed by the way they performed last week in Chicago but they have zero time to wallow in self pity because Michael Vick and the Eagles come storming into the Georgia Dome this weekend. Andy Reid has had major ownage on the Falcons over the years, as Philly is 9-2-1 against the spread in its last 12 games against Atlanta, which includes a 4-1-1 ATS mark on the road. With defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux set to miss over a month with a knee injury, the Falcons’ defense is in major trouble. An 0-2 start for the defending NFC South champions is a big-time reality.

Chargers (1-0) @ Patriots (1-0), 4:15PM ET
Two teams picked by many to win their respective divisions will square off in New England on Sunday when the Pats host the Chargers at 4:15PM ET. These two teams met in San Diego last October and despite dominating the first half, the Bolts fell to the Pats, 23-20. The underdog is 6-2 against the spread in the last eight meetings between these two teams, while the under is 4-1 in the last five meetings. That said, the over is 4-1 in the last five meetings in New England and after watching Tom Brady dissect the Dolphins on Monday night, it’s hard to envision a low-scoring game this Sunday at Foxboro.

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Sixteen Questions for 16 NFL Playoff Contenders

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning watches his team play the San Diego Chargers from the sidelines during the fourth quarter of their NFL game in Indianapolis November 28, 2010. REUTERS/Brent Smith (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

After tonight there are no more predictions, no more projections and no more speculation. After tonight, the NFL season will have begun and it’s time to put the pre–season prognosticating to rest and let teams settle things on the field.

But for one last time before the games start counting for real, let’s examine what could potentially trip up contenders in both conferences. Below are 16 postseason contenders for the 2011 NFL season, along with 16 questions that revolve around concerns that that team has heading into the new year.

Patriots: What about the last line of defense?
The Patriots did a fantastic job this offseason addressing their need for more pass-rushers. But Bill Belichick may have created another weakness by leaving himself awfully thin at safety with the release of veterans Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders. Granted, Meriweather was less than impressive a year ago and Sanders has been injury prone throughout the years. For Meriweather, he often took bad angles to the ball last season and was caught out of position numerous times throughout the year. But in releasing both he and Sanders, Belichick is putting a lot of faith in Patrick Chung and 2010 rookie free agent Sergio Brown to man both safety positions. If Chung and Brown stay healthy and hold their own, then Belichick will once again look like a genius in his personnel decisions. If they falter, it doesn’t appear as though Belichick has left himself with a plan B.

Jets: Can Sanchez step up in the regular season?
If Mark Sanchez played as well in the regular season as he has in the postseason then maybe the Jets wouldn’t have to win playoff games on the road every year. Sanchez did take a step forward in his development last year but his consistency week-to-week remains an issue. This is a Jets team that could contend for a Super Bowl berth but not if Sanchez doesn’t continue to raise the level of his play. The goal for Rex Ryan and his team shouldn’t be the Super Bowl: it should be supplanting the Patriots in the AFC East first. Then they can set their sights a little higher.

Colts: How long will Peyton be out?
There’s no bigger question that needs to be answered for the Colts. With Manning they’ll once again be favored to win the AFC South. Without him they’ll probably sink to the bottom of the division. Kerry Collins may be able to keep this team afloat for a game or two, but without Manning the Colts will inevitably fall over a 16-game season. Hopefully for Indy’s sake Manning will return in a few weeks and more importantly, he’ll be close to 100-percent healthy. But there are reports that he’ll be out “a while” and if so, the next team on this list will have its shot to win the AFC South crown.

Texans: Is the defense really fixed?
Regular readers know that I fully believe this is the Texans’ year. I love the hiring of Wade Phillips, who has a long history of turning teams around in his first year as either head coach or defensive coordinator. This team also went a long way in shoring up a weakness with the signing of free agent cornerback Jonathan Joseph. But question still remain on that side of the ball. Is Mario Williams a linebacker? Can Kareem Jackson make strides in his second year? Will the safety position be a spot opponents can exploit? Arian Foster’s hamstring is a concern, as is whether or not Matt Schaub is the right man to get this team over the hump. But if the defense hasn’t been fixed then it won’t matter how much Foster or Schaub contribute because the Texans will fall short of expectations once again.

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Chargers to use the franchise tag on Vincent Jackson?

Fans hoping that their favorite team had a shot at acquiring free agent Vincent Jackson this offseason may have to wait another year. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Jackson expects the Chargers to use their franchise tag on him in 2011.

Jackson, according to someone familiar with the player’s thinking, expects the tag and plans to play for the more than $10 million it would guarantee him.

That is, if the franchise tag is part of a new CBA.

The NFL Players Association says teams have no right to a franchise tag since the current Collective Bargaining Agreement will expire March 3. The NFL says the franchise tag is included in the CBA under which the league is operating.

I have to side with the NFLPA on this one. If the current CBA deal is set to expire March 3, then how is it fair that teams can use their franchise tags for the 2011 season when the current contract applied to the 2010 season? I get that the NFL wants to keep things business as usual because it believes that a new deal will eventually be worked out. But how about the league just work on getting a new deal in place before worrying about whether or not teams can use their franchise tags. If the owners and NFLPA agree to a new CBA deal, then everything can go back to normal and all of this becomes a moot point.

Getting back to Jackson, his situation comes down to money. He sat out most of last season because the Chargers were only willing to pay him for one year at $3.2 million. If he’s tagged for the 2011 season, he’ll make roughly $10 million for one year and then the Chargers can let him walk in 2012 while accepting a future compensatory draft pick.

NFL Week 17 MVP power rankings

Well, I’m pretty sure the announcement for NFL MVP comes down this weekend, so let me begin by saying that I was not influenced by anything that I read when making these picks…..

1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots—Brady, who is going to run away with this award, played about half a game last Sunday, and still threw for 199 yards with 2 TDs and 0 picks. He hasn’t thrown an interception since like early October.

2. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles—Vick did Brady a favor by not being in the lineup against Dallas in Week 17, but he and his coach know what’s more important, and that is for him and some nagging injuries, resting up for the Packers.

3. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints—He wound up third in yards (4620) and tied for second in TDs (33) but uncharacteristically threw for 22 interceptions.

4. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts—4700 yards, 33 TDs, 17 picks. But most impressive is the way Peyton led his team to the postseason when things looked bleak.

5. Matt Cassel/Jamaal Charles/Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs—Cassel had a dreadful game in Week 17, but we stand by the fact that this was a trio that helped a young KC team win their division and a 4-seed.

6. Arian Foster, Houston Texans—Not only did he lead the league in rushing (1616 yards), but Foster added a whopping 66 receptions for 604 more yards—giving him 2220 yards from scrimmage and 18 TDs.

7. Matt Ryan/Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons—Well, at 13-3, someone had to be good for them to get there, especially with all of those come from behind wins.

8. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers—Finished with 3922/28/11 in 15 games, but what counts is leading his team to the postseason berth they deserve.

9. Clay Matthews, Green Bay Packers—If they could do last year’s draft over again, do you think Matthews would still be picked at #26?

10. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers—You know, he led the NFL in passing yards (4710) and had 30 TDs with 13 interceptions. He didn’t have Antonio Gates for a while, and he had Vincent Jackson for maybe two games. That’s why we can’t discount Rivers’ numbers.

11. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Bucs—We had to add one more. This kid is going to be a star. Oh wait, he already is. Freeman started every game and wound up with 3451 passing yards with 25 touchdown passes and just 6 interceptions. By comparison, Eli Manning had more than FOUR times as many picks.

Chiefs win the AFC West as Chargers fail to show up in Cincinnati

For those that were waiting for the Chiefs to collapse and for the Chargers to pull the AFC West crown out of their rear ends, your wait is over.

It ain’t happening.

The Chargers choked in Cincinnati on Sunday, losing to the Bengals, 34-20. And actually, choked isn’t the right word. Choked means that they had an opportunity to win and blew it in the end. But seeing as how the Bengals led the entire game and generally pounded San Diego for four quarters, “choked” doesn’t describe the Chargers.

San Diego fans probably knew that their team’s demise was forthcoming. The Chargers got off to another slow start and even though they started smacking teams in November, their loss to the Raiders a couple of weeks ago and their defeat on Sunday inevitably did them in. Their win over the Brodie Croyle-led Chiefs must seem like years ago.

Maybe if Vincent Jackson had played the entire season, things would have been different. Maybe if Antonio Gates had been healthy, things would have been different. Maybe…

It doesn’t matter. The Chargers are done and the Chiefs are your 2010 AFC West division champions. Who saw that coming in preseason?

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