Tag Archives: nfl

Bounty Hunting: Just How Prevalent is it in the NFL?

Okay, so it’s not exactly Star Wars bounty hunting made famous by Boba Fett. It’s probably not even close. But are the New Orleans Saints being made the bad poster boys of a long heralded NFL tradition that most likely spans into plenty of corners of the National Football League? By some indications, that would appear to be the case.

In case you’re not aware of what’s being discussed (I’m sure the Star Wars picture doesn’t help), in an investigation spanning two years, the NFL released a report implicating 22 to 27 players of the New Orleans Saints in a “pay per hit” scandal on Friday. It’s a system that supposedly thrived under now former Saints Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams. Saints defensive players (and even Williams) would throw money into a pool and particular players would be rewarded the cash after carrying out successful game plays including interceptions, fumbles, sacks and so on. Not bad, right? A little extra motivation and plus it makes things fun.

Here’s where it went too far and where the bounty factor comes into play: Players would also receive cash for successfully knocking opponents out of the game. Ouch right?

In a brutally tough league, it should be apparent that the goal of knocking players out of games is a common factor. Remember just this past season when Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall said he’d intentionally target Tony Romo’s already mangled ribs in an upcoming divisional match between the Cowboys and Redskins?

But doing it for cash? That’s probably news to many and sounds quite ugly. But the standard practice of performance based pay amongst players appears common throughout the NFL. Former Saints safety Darren Sharper recently admitted such practices were in place when he first entered the league with the Green Bay Packers in the late 1990’s. “It’s something that’s happened since the beginning of time,” Sharper stated when recently being interviewed by the NFL Network (You can watch the full interview here here).

However, Sharper adamantly denied there was ever any intent to purposely hurt opponents. He even pointed towards the absurdity of the idea, stating that potential league fines would far outweigh any payment a player would receive for a knock out hit.

Sharper explained it this way, “No one put a bounty in for hurting guys. It was all about if you make a first interception in this game or if you get a sack, you know, the guys in the locker room would say okay, we’ll put a couple hundred dollars here, a couple hundred dollars there to pay that guy for making a good play during the game.”

Despite Sharper’s denial, Williams himself admitted to breaking the rules although he didn’t specifically refer to the idea of injuring other players (Williams now serves as Defensive Coordinator for the St. Louis Rams). Williams also said he knew the practice was wrong while participating in it.

“I want to express my sincere regret and apology to the NFL, Mr. Benson, and the New Orleans Saints fans for my participation in the ‘pay for performance’ program while I was with the Saints. It was a terrible mistake, and we knew it was wrong while we were doing it. Instead of getting caught up in it, I should have stopped it. I take full responsibility for my role. I am truly sorry. I have learned a hard lesson and I guarantee that I will never participate in or allow this kind of activity to happen again.” -Former Saints/Current Rams Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams

In the NFL, It Appears to be Common

Meanwhile, player reaction to the practice’s revelation could be described as “unsurprised” to say the least. “I’m not pissed. It’s football,” stated former Vikings Quarterback Brett Favre when discussing the scandal with Peter King of Sports Illustrated. Favre continued, “I don’t think anything less of those guys. Said or unsaid, guys do it anyway. If they can drill you and get you out, they will.” You’ll remember that Favre famously faced the Saints in the 2009 NFC Championship game and received a pretty bad ankle injury (although he stayed in the game).

Here’s a look at some other player reactions via Twitter:

“This ‘bounty’ program happens all around the league…not surprising.” -Former Patriots Offensive Lineman Damien Woody

“Why is this a big deal now? Bounties been going on forever. A “Bounty” left me with a torn PCL and LCL in my knee …” -Buffalo Bills linebacker Shawn Merriman

“Roger Goodell says  bounty program involved payments for injuring opposing players. Who was the rat that told” -Former Eagles Cornerback Mark McMillian

“Not a big deal to me, no different than incentives n a contract” -Patriots wide receiver Chad Ochocinco

However, there were those who came down harder on the scandal:

“No place in NFL for bounties. Physical play is an attribute but malicious intent should be removed.” -Jay Feely, Arizona Cardinals placekicker

“Bonuses given to Saints players if they injured opponents and knocked them out of the game. Any coach associated with this should be fired.” -Former Bengals QB Boomer Esiason

Does bounty hunting in the NFL Equate to Cheating?

If you’re thinking that the Saints Lombardi trophy from the 2009 should be revoked, think again: As bad as the bounty issue is, it doesn’t necessarily equate to cheating. Bounty or no bounty, game plans stay the same and players will continue to make hard hits (it’s the nature of the game).

Let’s recall the 2007 incident involving the New England Patriots popularly dubbed “Spygate.” In it, Patriots staff members were found guilty of taping signals by Jets defensive coaches. The incident led to hefty fines from the NFL and the Patriots’ loss of a first round draft pick. How does it differ from the Bounty scandal? Physical injuries weren’t an issue (obviously). However, stealing the Jets’ game plan was. Let’s be clear: Theft of a game plan is cheating. However, hard hits? Not so much. In the end, the Patriots were punished accordingly (as the Saints will be as well).

You can expect the NFL’s punishment upon the Saints to be even harsher. Perhaps even heavier fines, suspensions and the loss of draft choices. Since assuming his post as NFL commissioner in 2006, Roger Goodell has made player safety his top priority.

Let’s be clear: physical injuries in the NFL can ruin careers and effect players’ lives in the longterm. It’s an issue that should be addressed with the utmost seriousness. However, the idea of hard hits is ingrained in the NFL’s culture amongst both players, coaches and fans.  The NFL itself has long glorified hard hits in media produced through NFL Films. Roger Goodell’s challenge is to change the NFL’s culture. It’s quite a big task indeed.

Is making the Saints the bad poster boys of a widespread NFL practice fair? Probably not, but they’re the ones who happened to get caught. Aside from the Saints, other teams that could be implicated in the scandal include the Redskins, Bills and Jaguars (also where Gregg Williams previously served).

What effect if any has the bounty issue had on the Saint’s defensive play over the past three seasons? Did implementing a bounty actually help improve the D-Line? Well within the past couple seasons, the Saints’ defense could be described as anything but “hard hitting,” despite a prolific offense.

Are the Saints doomed in 2012?

Let’s again recall the Patriots in the aftermath of hefty penalties from Spygate: Winning 15 regular season games straight, 2 playoff victories (despite an embarrassing defeat in Super Bowl XLII).

If you happen to be a Saints fan, here’s your best hope: As awkward as it may sound, the organization has a chance to shape up and use adversity from the issue to motivate them for next year. After recently franchising quarterback Drew Brees, the organization should focus on finally getting him a longterm deal, accept whatever penalties it may receive and move on from the past.


Reflections on NFL Free Agency Thus Far..

Note: Article will likely be updated as more news occurs.

(WookiePost) – With the NFL lockout having dragged on as long as it did, it’s no real surprise that a shortened free agency has hit with a bang, producing a plethora of trades, signing, and releases. Here’s an analysis of some of the biggest moves so far..

Ochocinco to Patriots: As expected, the New England Patriots signed a veteran wide receiver. Albeit a flashy one, the move gives Tom Brady another target to throw to. Last year, Chad had a pretty lackluster season compared to his previous 6 Pro-Bowl caliber ones. However, with the move, Ochocinco gets his wish to compete on a championship-caliber team. The Patriots had tried to bring in Torry Holt last year, but things didn’t work out when Holt became injured before the regular season began.

(Two of the largest moves in free agency involve two former Eagles quarters).

Kevin Kolb Goes to Arizona: Larry Fitzgerald has his quarterback in Kevin Kolb. The former Eagles quarter just signed a 5 year/63 million dollar deal with the Arizona Cardinals. Kolb started for the Eagles last season but lost his spot after Michael Vick played exceptionally well after Kolb became injured in during the Eagle’s first game. However, when Vick got injured, Kolb filled back in at the quarterback position, playing well at times. That wasn’t enough though, Vick later reclaimed the starting QB spot and continued to play great football, Vick earning his 4th trip to the Pro Bowl and winning the prestigious Comeback Player of the Year award.

The Arizona Cardinals were a bad, bad football team last year, earning a 5-11 record without a solid quarterback. It’s really no surprise the Cardinals sunk so low after two playoff seasons (one in which they made the Super Bowl). Their team’s leader Kurt Warner had retired and Matt Leinart wasn’t working out. Kolb must now fill Warner’s shoes, and those are big shoes (Warner is a 2 time league MVP and future hall of famer). Meanwhile, Kolb has a pretty solid, actually scratch that, VERY, VERY solid wide receiver to throw to in Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald put up good numbers last year despite the Cardinal’s lack of strength at the quarterback position.

McNabb to the Vikings – After an injury plagued season for former Vikings QB Brett Favre, the Vikings drafted Florida State QB Christian Ponder. However, like lots of teams do, the Vikings quickly sought a veteran QB to mentor the rookie. The Redskins have shipped McNabb to the Vikings. McNabb didn’t have the greatest year with the Redskins last year, but don’t give McNabb all the blame, it’s not like the Redskins gave him much to work with.

Look for Donovan to start, and keeping starting as long as he plays well or until he is injured, eventually paving the way for rookie Christian Ponder to become the team’s future.

Tavaris Jackson to Seattle – In what sounds like a boneheaded move, the Seattle Seahawks have signed former Vikings QB Tavaris Jackson, and it’s expected that Jackson will become Seattle’s starting QB after they traded Matt Hasselback to the Tennessee Titans. Jackson over Hasselback? Common Man! Perhaps the Seahawks are planning another QB signing (if they’re smart, which doesn’t sound like they are). They also have Charlie Whitehurst on their roster (another unproven veteran). Earlier reports involving a Matt Leinart/Pete Carroll reunion turned out to be false. Despite sounding negative, this is great news for Jackson, who will get a great opportunity to try to prove himself once again.

Sydney Rice to Seattle – Former Vikings wideout Sydney Rice prospered during the 2009 season with Brett Favre as his QB, posting 1312 yards, 8 TD’s, and making the Pro Bowl. However, he was injured during most of last year (following hip surgery. The fact is that Brett Favre at QB went a long way towards helping Rice improve at his position. It’ll be interesting to see if Rice can put up large numbers in 2011, especially with Tavaris Jackson possibly being his QB (yet again..). If you were a wide receiver, who’d you rather play with, McNabb or Tavaris Jackson? (just something to think about). Perhaps the Vikings should have tried harder to keep the free agent Rice.

Albert Haynesworth to the Pats – This is a trade that really, really makes since and here’s why: The Patriots have proven success taking in somewhat troubled players (think Randy moss, even though that didn’t work long term). The entire Patriot teams’ mentality is far to strong to be hindered by any of Haynesworth’s possible antics. In New England, the defensive tackle will have the opportunity to resurrect his career and play for a serious contender. Besides, the Patriots got a pretty good deal on this one.

Reggie Bush to Miami – The Saints have sent running back Reggie Bush to South Beach, where (like LeBron) he’ll have a chance to display his talent. Reggie Bush never really lived up to the hype in New Orleans. However, he was injured quite a bit. That’s not to say he isn’t a great player. He had some amazing games with the Saints (when he was healthy), especially as a return player, plus he’s already got the pressure of winning a Super Bowl off his back. Reggie Bush will now have a chance to become a more prominent player in Miami. The Dolphins’ backfield (maybe not for too long) features aging running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams (also a former Saint).

Where Will Plaxico Go? It’s with the Jets!– It’s been reported that former Giants Super Bowl hero wide receiver Plaxico Burress will likely sign with one of two of his former teams, either the New York Football Giants or the Steelers. Honestly, it doesn’t make too much sense for the Giants to sign him, the Giants already have Smith, Nicks, Manningham (3 great wideouts). So, right now, i’d give the Steelers the upper-hand as being more likely to receive Plaxico’s services. However, if one of those teams don’t get him, i’d throw St. Louis and Chicago into the mix. UPDATE: Plexico is returning to NYC. However, this time not with the Giants, he’s with the Jets. With the move, the Jets aren’t expected to keep wide receiver Braylon Edwards. The move gives Jets QB Mark Sanchez a new deep threat along with Santonio Holmes.

Hasselback to Tennessee – Former Seahawks QB Matt Hasselback has been shipped to the Tennessee Titans. It’s a similar move to the McNabb/Vikings trade, yet I’d suspect Hasselback has less a chance to become and remain a starter than McNabb. I’d expect Jake Locker to get some starts at least by mid season.

Leinart Re-signs with Texans – Perhaps it sounds like Matt’s content being a backup in the league. Once highly touted and for a short time the Cardinal’s starter, the former Cardinals QB was eventually replaced by Kurt Warner, who lead the Cardinals to the playoffs twice (one of which was to the Super Bowl. After Warner retired, Leinart didn’t really work out for the Cardinals, so he signed with the Texans last season. With Matt Schaub playing great football as the Texan’s starter, it’s unlikely that Leinart will see action, yet again (unless there’s an injury).

Jets Re-sign Santonio Holmes – This is a move that makes sense for the Jets. However, it’s interesting to see what the Jets will do with Braylon Edwards. Holmes started out last season suspended, but returned to put up respectable numbers. Look for the former Super Bowl MVP to put up larger numbers next year.

Vince Young Goes to Philly – The Eagles just picked up former Titans QB Vince Young who will settle into a role as Vick’s backup. The news makes sense for the Eagles, who were desperately in need of a reliable backup following Kevin Kolb’s trade to Arizona. It’s more important for the Eagles to have a more solid backup QB than other teams, considering Vick’s play-style leaves him prone to possible injuries. The move will also give to QB a chance to learn under a solid system lead by head coach Andy Reid.

Cowboys Release Roy Williams, he signs with Chicago – In a not so surprising move, the Dallas Cowboys have released wideout Roy Williams. The once highly touted Williams never really worked out in Dallas (who received him from a trade with Detroit in 2009). Perhaps the Cowboys should have kept T.O. after all (whose put up decent numbers under hard circumstances with two different teams). Meanwhile, the Cowboys will try to make the young Dez Bryant into an elite NFL receiver. UPDATE: Williams has now signed with Chicago, a team that way in desperate need of a decent target for Cutler. However, even with Williams, Chicago still lacks depth at the position. Williams never really lived up to the hype following his 2006 pro-bowl season with the Detroit Lions.

Cowboys Release Marion Barber, he signs with Chicago – Barber had a lackluster year with the Cowboys in 2010. However, it’s important to note that the entire Cowboys team struggled in 2010. Felix Jones is now the go to guy in the backfield for Dallas. It shouldn’t take too long for Barber to find another team though. As far the Cowboys, it will be interesting to see watch QB Tony Romo (who spend majority of last season injured). UPDATE: Marion Barber has signed a deal with the Chicago Bears. He’s the second Cowboy (the other is Roy Williams) to go to Chicago. In Chicago, Barber will backup Matt Forte, who rushed for 1,069 yards and 6 TD’s last season.

Eagles Sign Nnamdi Asomugha – All the sudden, the Eagles find themselves loaded at the cornerback position with Asomugha, the newly traded Domique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eagles veteran Asante Samuel. Will the Eagles keep Samuel? Asomugha going to Philadelphia came as a bit of a surprise. The Jets and Cowboys were at one point thought to be the main suitors.

There’s still lots of news to be made in NFL free agency. In the mean time, start planning your fantasy football teams!

A Tribute to 20 of the Greatest New Orleans Saints

While many great people have been involved with the Saints organization since its inception, there are some coaches and players in the franchise’s history that just seem extraordinary.  Here’s a countdown tribute to the top 20 greatest New Orleans Saints.  (thus far..)

1.)Drew Brees (QB 2006-Present)

Since signing with the team before the start of the 2006 NFL season, quarterback Drew Brees has not only put up some exceptional statistics, but has lead his team to the playoffs twice and on the second time, won the Super Bowl, a first in Saints franchise history.  During his tenure in New Orleans, Brees has been named to the Pro Bowl 3x and Super Bowl MVP.  Before playing for the Saints, Brees played for the San Diego Chargers.  After becoming a free agent after the 2005 season, Brees visited with both the Dolphins and the Saints.  Nick Saban, who was Dolphins head coach at the time didn’t trust that Brees could come back from arthroscopic surgery which lead Brees to ultimately sign with the Saints.  The rest is history..

2.)Rickey Jackson (LB 1981-1993)

Rickey Jackson is the only player for the Saints to have been named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame thus far.  As a linebacker, Jackson made up part of the Saints famed Dome Patrol during the late 80s/early 90s.  After his tenure with the Saints, Jackson went on to play with the 49ers, earning a Super Bowl Ring in 1995.

3.)Sean Payton (Head Coach 2006-Present)

Head Coach Sean Payton is known for his gutsy calls and as an offensive guru.  During his first season with the team in 2006, Payton lead the Saints to the NFC Championship and 3 seasons later to winning the team’s first Super Bowl.

4.)Deuce McAllister (RB 2001-2009)

Deuce McAllister was drafted out of Ole Miss by the Saints in the first round of the 2001 draft.  During his 8 seasons with the team he rushed for over 6,000 yards and made 2 Pro Bowl appearances.  He holds the franchise record for most career rushing yards and touchdowns.

5.)Joe Horn (WR 2000-2006)

During his time in New Orleans, wide receiver Joe Horn became known for his flashy celebration antics, thus giving way to the nickname “Hollywood”.  Before his tenure with the Saints, Horn played 4 seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs.  In his 7 seasons with the team Horn was a highly productive receiver, having 4 Pro Bowl appearances.  Horn also spent one season playing for divisional rival Atlanta before retiring with the Saints in 2010.

6.)Archie Manning (QB 1971-1982)

Although today he’s probably known best as the father of super star Super Bowl MVP’s Peyton and Eli Manning, Quarterback Archie Manning was known as a super star during his time with the Saints.  Despite poor protection on the field, Manning managed to lead the league in pass attempts and completions in 1972.  In 1978 he was named NFC Player of the Year and also made 2 Pro Bowls with the team.

7.)Morten Andersen (K 1982-1994)

In Saint’s history, kicker Morten Andersen is the Saints leading scorer with 1,318 points over 13 seasons with the team.  A 6-time pro bowler, with the Saints, Andersen holds many distinctive league records.

8.)Bobby Hebert (QB 1985-1992)

A Louisiana native, Bobby Hebert became known as the “cajun-cannon” during his time as a quarterback.  Hebert lead the Saints to their first playoff appearance in 1991 and another in 1992.  In 1999 Hebert was inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame.

9.)Jim Mora (Head Coach 1986-1996)

Before Mora’s arrival as Saints Head Coach in 1986, the Saints were known as a strictly losing team.  Mora brought the attitude of winning to the Saints.  During his time as head coach Mora brought the Saints to the playoffs 4 times.  Despite all these times being losing efforts, Mora became the winningest head coach in Saints history.

10.)Marques Colston (WR 2006-Present)

Marques Colston was drafted in the 7th round of the NFL draft but quickly became one of quarterback Drew Brees’ favorite targets in 2006.  He’s helped lead the Saints receiving corps over the past 4 seasons and holds the NFL record for most receptions in a player’s first 2 years.

11.)Dalton Hilliard (WR 1986-1993)

Hilliard played college football at LSU and became one of the most productive Saints running backs during the late 80’s/early 90’s.  In 1989 he rushed for 1,262 yards and 18 touchdowns, thus earning his only Pro Bowl appearance.

12.)Willie Roaf (Tackle 1993-2001)

Linebacker Willie Roaf has the distinction of being the most awarded linebacker in Saints history, having made the pro bowl 7x during his time with the Saints.  He was named to the NFL’s all decade team in the 1990’s and 2000’s.  He played with the Kansas City Chiefs before retiring in 2005.

13.)Eric Martin (WR 1985-1993)

During his time with the Saints from 1985 to 1993, Eric Martin became one of the best regarded receivers in Saints history with most receptions, touchdowns, and receiving yards.  Martin was selected to the Pro Bowl once and also played for the Kansas City Chiefs before retiring in 1994.

14.)Sam Mills (LB 1986-1994)

As a linebacker for the Saints during the late 80s/early 90’s, Sam Mills formed an integral part of the Saint’s defense known as the “Dome Patrol”.  He earned 4 Pro Bowl appearances during his tenure with the Saints.

15.)Vaughan Johnson (LB 1986-1993)

Like Sam Mills, linebacker Vaughaun Johnson also formed an integral part of the Saint’s “Dome Patrol”.  he was named to the Pro Bowl 4x.

16.)Pat Swilling (LB 1986-1992)

A consistent Pro Bowler with the Saints, Pat Swilling earned the distinction as NFL defensive player of the year in 1991.  He was yet another member of the Saint’s “Dome Patrol”.  Swilling later entered into politics, becoming a delegate in the Louisiana House of Representatives.

17.)Will Smith (DE 2004-Present)

Throughout the 2000’s, defensive end Will Smith has become an important leader of the Saints defense.  In 2001 Smith had a career high 13 sacks.  Smith was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2006.

18.)Michael Lewis (WR/PR 2001-2006)

Shortly before his time with the Saints, Michael Lewis worked as a Budweiser truck driver.  Although he never played college football, Lewis dabbled with semi-professional leagues before finally signing with the Saints in 2001.  He quickly made a name for himself as a return specialist and was named to a Pro Bowl for his special teams skills in 2002.

19.)Reggie Bush (RB 2006-Present)

Reggie Bush is probably regarded as the most well-known draft pick of the New Orleans Saints due to his prolific play at running back during his college tenure at USC.  Bush has become known for large breakout plays on the outside and as reliable receiver as well as being a running back.  One of Bush’s biggest games came as New Orleans faced the Cardinals in the playoffs of the 2009 season.  Bush registered 85 yard of rushing, a touchdown, and an 83 yard punt return for another touchdown.

20.)John Carney (K 2001-2006, 2009)

John Carney was known as a reliable placekicker during his tenure with the Saints.  After a 2 season absence, Carney returned to the Saints active roster in time for the 2009 season.  Although later replaced by Garrett Hartley in time for the Saint’s first Super Bowl Appearance, Carney stayed with the team as a kicking coach to the young Hartley and is credited with much of Hartley’s growth as a kicker through the Saint’s playoff games and Super Bowl appearance.

Ranking the top 3 NFL teams in the AFC going into the 2010 season

Mean in green- Cornerback Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets became known as a shutdown corner throughout the NFL last year

I’ll preface this by saying it’s somewhat harder to rank the AFC teams than it is the NFC.  There’s no real favorites besides the Indianapolis Colts.  The second best team throughout the regular season in the AFC last year appeared to be the Chargers who did all that work only to be beat by the Jets in their first game of the postseason.  While only a few years ago the AFC seemed the most dominant conference in the NFL with teams like the Patriots, Steelers, Colts, and Chargers leading the way, perhaps tables have turned and the best teams in the NFL now belong in the National Football Conference.

1.)Indianapolis Colts– The clear leaders throughout the AFC last year were the Colts.  Manning lead his team and took apart opposing teams’ defenses like a surgeon with a scalpel.  Despite being named NFL mvp for the third time in his career, the honor probably should have gone to Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints.  Nobody will be surprised to see Indianapolis make another run at the playoffs next year.  The team almost made it through the regular season last year with a perfect record, only to lose a couple of games at the end when resting starters.  The Colts could be helped by an improvement on defense.  Getting a guy like Bob Sanders back in good condition would be great.  Despite getting to the super bowl and only two losses in the regular season, the Colts would also be helped by a better run attack, which last year ranked last in the NFL.  However, the game has become more pass happy in recent years and Manning and crew still have one of the most potent offenses around with players like Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon.

2.)San Diego Chargers– The second choice was a tough one and it was hard to watch the Chargers fall to the Jets in their first game of the post season last year.  Phillip Rivers is still one of the best quarterbacks in the league.  Sure, Tomlinson is gone but his productivity had been decreasing the last couple years anyways.  The Chargers played amazingly throughout the regular season last year and i’d look for a repeat again in 2010, they just need to stay focused when it matters the most and that’s the postseason.

3.)New York Jets-The Jets went 9-7 in the regular season last year but really shined when it came to the playoffs.  The highly ranked defense will return next years with Darrelle Revis leading the way.  The one thing the Jets need to focus on in the preseason is getting more consistency out of second year quarterback Mark Sanchez.  Losing Thomas Jones was a bad move but bringing in LT might have helped but Thomas Jones had a far more productive year last year than LT did.  LT will have to prove he still has it in him and i’m sure he’s looking forward to answering any critics with a thunderous YES.  It shouldn’t be surprising to see the Jets make another run at the Super Bowl next year.

Ranking the top 3 NFL teams in the NFC going into the 2010 season

1.)New Orleans Saints– Drew Brees made the cover of this year’s Madden NFL but for a guy like him, I doubt even the prospect of the Madden curse will get in the way of his determination to lead his team back to another super bowl.  Since joining the Saints in 2006, Brees has been a pass happy guy who hasn’t been afraid to spread the ball around.  While New Orlean’s offense has been top ranked since he joined the team, their defense hasn’t always stepped up when needed.  That changed in 2010 when the Saints defense began to specialize more so in taking the ball away from the other team’s offense.  Getting safety Darren Sharper back for the new season was a big plus.  The Super Bowl defending champions will need to focus on getting better play out of Reggie Bush and keeping their defense doing what they do the best, taking the ball away from the other team’s offense.  This is a team that is truly centered around Brees, a guy without a favorite target, a guy who spreads the ball around and I’d look for them to easily win the NFC south next year.

2.)Minnesota Vikings– Despite all the diva talk, it’s still more fun to watch Brett Favre play than any other quarterback in the NFL -besides Drew Brees.  Assuming Favre returns, the Vikings are almost certain to return to the playoffs.  While Favre had off-season surgery on his ankle all signs point to him returning so far…but with Favre you never know.  While Favre watch continues, the Vikings will continue to concentrate on improving their run assault, with Adrian Peterson leading the way.  Although towards the end of the year last year Peterson’s play began to slide i’d still expect another big season from him.  Sure, there were a few low points in the season- like the game against the Panthers.  However, their defense is also still among the best with Jared Allen leading the way.  The guy got a lot of sacks last year and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him play like that again in 2010.  And some of the best for last, i’d expect another big year for wideouts Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice…that is, if Favre returns.  The first game of the 2010 season will be a rematch in the super dome of last season’s NFC championship game between the Vikes and Saints.

3.)Dallas Cowboys–  Besides the Vikings, Dallas is still one of the most well balanced teams in the NFL.  Last year, they got a lot of pressure off their shoulders-finally winning a playoff game for the first time in a long, long time(1996 to be exact), but just winning 1 playoff game isn’t necessarily enough to say you’re a definite super bowl contender the next year around.  Sure, last year they beat the eventual Super Bowl Champion Saints, but by that point in the season- the Saints were pretty banged up.  The Cowboys did a great job staying healthy last year and still have a great running game with Marion Barber and Felix Jones in the back field.  Romo is now a proven winner and has come a long way since his playoff gaffe in 2006.  With the addition of Dez Bryant at wide receiver and the Romo-Witten connection still intact-i’d look at another year of high ranked offense from Dallas.  That’s not to mention their feisty defense, lead by Demarcus Ware.  However, the last playoff game loss to Minnesota was a large embarrassment and the Cowboys will need to stay focused, especially in December when most is on the line.