Three Is The Loneliest Number
November 9, 2009, 10:21 PM
Filed under: NFL

Kris Brown

Kris Brown after missing a 42-yard field goal to tie the game.

(This column also appears for The Sun Newspapers and can be seen at HCN Online.)

By Jerry Coon

I really do hate that Texans’ kicker Kris Brown is getting criticism for this loss, but I will get to that in a minute.

Let’s stop kidding ourselves with these “moral victories.” We aren’t playing for the YMCA. This is the NFL. The truth of the matter is this team honestly COULD be 8-1 right now, as sickening as that is to think about.

They had a goal line opportunity against Jacksonville to send it into overtime. A goal line opportunity against Arizona to send it into overtime. And now, a field goal opportunity to send it into overtime.

All opportunities missed.

That’s three of your four losses right there. The fourth loss coming at the beginning of the season in a blow-out against the the New York Jets.

And if all of these things fall into place, and of course if the Texans pulled it out in overtime on each occasion, we would be talking about a completely different scenario.

However, the reality is that your inconsistent Texans keep underachieving. Before the haunting 42-yard miss, there were a variety of mistakes.

Running back Ryan Moats’ fumble as he was inching his way into the end zone could have been the difference. The 13 penalties for 103 yards could have been a reason as well.

Then, there was the chance to tie. Before the first half ended, Brown nailed an almost improbable 56-yard field goal to give the Texans some momentum going into the locker room. After coming back by allowing the Colts to only score once in the second half, the Texans had two chances to make something happen. One drive ended with Matt Schaub’s deflected pass being intercepted. The next ended with Brown missing what should have been an automatic 42-yard field goal.

It’s very easy to get onto a kicker. Their only job is to kick. So when a miss loses the game for a team, heavy criticism will follow.

We can’t get onto Brown for this, however, because truth be told he is one of the best there is. Brown has had 11 game-winning field goals, eight coming with the Texans. He has connected on 78.6 percent of his career field goal attempts.

So sweeping all of that under the rug, look at the big picture: The Texans are still contending for a playoff spot.

If you look at Texans’ final seven games after the bye week, the Texans should be favored to win four of them. The remaining three games are against the undefeated Colts, the 6-2 Patriots and at the 3-5 Miami Dolphins. If one victory can be pulled out of those three games, and the Texans win the games they are favored to win, is a 10-6 record good enough to make the postseason?

I said at the beginning of the season that it would be and I still feel that way, even after a 42-yard field goal miss made me want to lick a rusty razor.

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2009-10 NFL Season Predictions
September 10, 2009, 9:18 PM
Filed under: NFL

Here is how I see things panning out this season. After each NFL week ends, I will post a Power Rankings with analysis. For now, I will give you short summaries for each team.

AFC WEST

San Diego Chargers  (2008 Rec: 8-8. This season: 12-4): It took them until week 16 to lock up the division last season, but with Denver dismantling, the Chargers have no competition. LT, Merriman and Cromartie return from injuries, and I see Rivers having a ridiculous season.

Oakland Raiders  (2008 Rec: 5-11. This season: 5-11): Oakland will look improved, but not by much. This team might actually do better than this if they realize they have Jeff Garcia on the bench. However, if Russell stays at QB, I don’t give them a shot.

Denver Broncos  (2008 Rec: 8-8. This season: 3-13): They are going to pay for letting Shanahan go. I can understand the dislike for Cutler, but I feel like it is going to take this team a while to climb back up. Not to mention they have one of the worst defenses in the NFL, and Kyle Orton at QB.

Kansas City Chiefs  (2008 Rec: 2-14. This season: 2-14): I wasn’t really generous here, but go back and look at their schedule — @Ravens, Eagles, Giants, Cowboys, Chargers twice, Steelers. The Chiefs only highlight will be wearing those Dallas Texans uniforms.

AFC NORTH

Pittsburgh Steelers  (2008 Rec: 12-4. This season: 12-4): The defending Super Bowl Champions will grab this division. The last time the Steelers won the big one, they went 8-8 the next season. I wouldn’t worry about that happening again.

Baltimore Ravens  (2008 Rec: 11-5. This season: 10-6): Flacco looked promising in the preseason, Mason is back, and it’s always a good problem to have when you are struggling to pick a starter out of three capable backs. The defense won’t look as good as it has in past years, but nonetheless, the Ravens will be in the postseason.

Cincinnati Bengals  (2008 Rec: 4-12. This season: 6-10): Have you tried playing with the Bengals on Madden ’10? The offensive line is about as productive as Amy Winehouse’s press agent. Unfortunately, that’s how the offensive line will produce in reality. On a positive note, look for Palmer and Ochocinco to reunite their long-lost connection.

Cleveland Browns  (2008 Rec: 4-12. This season: 4-12): No defense. Subpar offense. Mangini not showing confidence in ONE quarterback. Jamal Lewis is 67-years-old. I can go on if you want me to.

AFC EAST

New England Patriots  (2008 Record: 11-5. This season: 13-3): The Patriots were still a legitimate team last season without Brady. This season, this team will be hard to beat. I still am confused as to how people are doubting Brady will be the same. He threw 50 TD’s two seasons ago…are you serious?

Miami Dolphins  (2008 Rec: 11-5. This season: 7-9): In my opinion, the Dolphins had a fluke year last season. What do I mean? I mean, it won’t happen again. Brady has returned, the AFC is deeper, and Miami isn’t going to the playoffs.

New York Jets (2008 Rec: 9-7. This season: 7-9): The Jets are in the middle of a big switch. Rookie QB, new head coach and new defensive players. The defense alone will win the Jets some games. If Sanchez keeps the confidence he had in the preseason, the Jets might even make a splash. They could very well do what the Falcons did last year with the same blueprint.

Buffalo Bills  (2008 Rec: 7-9. This season: 6-10): Buffalo added Terrell Owens to the mix, but a key wide receiver wasn’t the main hole to fill. Trent Edwards is going to have to use his arm to make plays with Owens and Evans, and he hasn’t proven he can do that yet. Throw in that the division is pretty tough, and the Bills fans are waiting for next season. Again.

AFC SOUTH

Indianapolis Colts  (2008 Rec: 12-4. This season: 12-4): It pained me to write this, but I think the Colts still have this division. I think it will be a three-team race all season long between the Colts, Texans and Titans, but tiebreaker goes to Manning. New coach makes me question their chances to go all the way, but this is a start.

Houston Texans  (2008 Rec: 8-8. This season: 10-6): This is the year. I have said it a million times. This will be the season the Texans make the playoffs. One of the best offenses in the NFL paired with a soft schedule. The defense looks shaky, but if the front line can calm down opposing running backs, they should make it through.

Tennessee Titans  (2008 Rec: 13-3. This season: 9-7): Kerry Collins has never had back-to-back winning seasons as a starter. He is also older than Bob Barker. Add that to Haynesworth leaving and a difficult division, and the Titans are sitting at home at season’s end.

Jacksonville Jaguars (2008 Rec: 5-11. This season: 5-11): The Jags didn’t do anything in the offseason to make this team greater than last season besides signing Tory Holt. Also, Jacksonville has blacked out all of the Jags’ games due to no sell-outs. How do you think this season will end for them? Does anyone even care?

NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals  (2008 Rec: 9-7. This season: 10-6): I think the Cardinals can go one-game better than last year. However, if Warner gets hurt, and we have to rely on Nick Lachey’s BFF to lead the way, switch the Cardinals and Seahawks around.

Seattle Seahawks  (2008 Rec: 4-12. This season: 9-7): Adding Houshmandzadeh (I didn’t even Google the spelling!) will help the pass attack. This team was plagued by injuries last season, so a healthy team will definitely look better. I still don’t think they have the pieces for the playoffs, though.

San Francisco 49ers (2008 Rec: 7-9. This season: 7-9): I really like this team. Decent defense, good running game, and a strong coach. I just think they need something more than Shaun Hill to get the job done. It would also help if Crabtree would stop being a diva and sign the contract already.

St. Louis Rams  (2008 Rec: 2-14. This season: 3-13): The team doesn’t look much different. New coach in Spagnuolo and a healthy Bulger makes them better than last season, but not by much. Still a team rebuilding.

NFC NORTH

Minnesota Vikings  (2008 Rec: 10-6. This season: 12-4): This team’s needs after last season: a quarterback. And they might have addressed it. Have you ever heard of this guy, Brett Favre? I hear he is pretty good. Way under the radar, though. Never gets publicity.

Chicago Bears (2008 Rec: 9-7. This season: 11-5): Cutler is definitely an upgrade from Orton. If Hester can get the receiving down, and the defense stays o top of their game, this team could really be a darkhorse favorite in the NFC.

Green Bay Packers (2008 Rec: 6-10. This season: 9-7): I really do like Green Bay. Rodgers and the rest of the offense is pretty solid, and the defense is pretty legit as well. This is the one team I want to do better than I think they will.

Detroit Lions (2008 Rec: 0-16. This season: 3-13): I mean, ONE win makes this a more successful season than last…so…what can I really say here? Go Calvin Johnson!

NFC EAST

New York Giants  (2008 Rec: 12-4. This season: 13-3): Plaxico might be gone, but that also emerges some young star receivers. Domenik Hixon, Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks should provide plenty of options for Eli Manning on offense. In one of the toughest divisions in the league, the Giants will emerge on top.

Philadelphia Eagles  (2008 Rec: 9-7. This season: 12-4): The Eagles and Giants will definitely go back and forth all season to grab the division reign. McNabb now has Jeremy Maclin added to his receiving corps, and the Eagles have arguably the best defense in the NFL. Ink them in for the playoffs.

Washington Redskins (2008 Rec: 8-8. This season: 9-7): I take back what I said earlier because I want also the Redskins to be better than I predict. Haynesworth added to the defense is definitely a plus. Also, Malcolm Kelly has overtaken the No. 2 receiver slot and looks to be a big target for Campbell.

Dallas Cowboys  (2008 Rec: 9-7. This season: 7-9): Begin hazing me, but I don’t think the Cowboys have the talent this season. The receivers are mediocre, and the defense is depleted. Not to mention, Wade Phillips is a puppet. Begin the Mike Shanahan sweepstakes! I would like to send a congrats to Cowboys’ fans on the oversized, obstacle of a television screen.

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons  (2008 Rec: 11-5. This season: 10-6): This division is one of the hardest to figure out. I really like the Falcons, and I like what they did last season. I like the addition of Tony Gonzales, and I think Turner will duplicate last season. The defense on this team is the scare, but I think they will manage just fine. However, it’s going to be a fight to the finish with the Panthers and Saints.

Carolina Panthers  (2008 Rec: 12-4. This season: 10-6): The Panthers are another team that will compete til Week 16 for a playoff berth. Sadly, I have them just missing, but it really is a toss-up. DeAngelo Williams is due for a big season, and this team will definitely compete.

New Orleans Saints  (2008 Rec: 8-8. This season: 8-8): I think the Saints will get the short-end of the stick on this. This isn’t a team I WANT to do better than I predict, but a team that probably WILL do better than I predict. The offense is deadly with Brees and his slew of weapons. Every game within the division could be a shoot-out with the explosive offenses involved…with the exception of the next team.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers  (2008 Rec: 9-7. This season: 4-12): I just don’t see Leftwich doing what Garcia did last season. The team is trying to rebuild, and I am thinking we will see Josh Freeman around Week 8, when they have dropped out of any race.

Now we have the playoffs. Here are what I think the teams will be, possible matchups, and my winners. Get ready everyone, NFL football is upon us.

Wild Card Round Playoffs

Indianapolis over Houston

San Diego over Baltimore

Chicago over Arizona

Philadelphia over Atlanta

Divisional Round Playoffs

San Diego over Pittsburgh

New England over Indianapolis

Philadelphia over Minnesota

New York Giants over Chicago Bears

Championship Round

San Diego over New England

Philadelphia over New York Giants

Super Bowl

Philadelphia over San Diego



The New Favre-orite
August 18, 2009, 6:29 PM
Filed under: NFL

 

Now that the Vikings have Brett Favre at quarterback, they become legitimate contenders in the NFC.

Now that the Vikings have Brett Favre at quarterback, they become legitimate contenders in the NFC.

By Jerry Coon

After months of hearing about this story until your ears bled, we have finally reached an official decision: Brett Favre is a a member of the Minnesota Vikings.

The contract of roughly $10 million to $12 million dollars is minor details. I don’t even think the main reason, for Favre, was because he was dying to play football.

As big of a competitor as Favre is, did you really think he would let the bad taste in his mouth from last year be his revenge on Green Bay? Favre in a Jets jersey finished 9-7, and failed to make the playoffs.

Just listen to him speak about the Packers. Forget that he played in Green Bay for 16 seasons. For Favre, that was thrown out the window the minute they told him they were headed in a different direction. Favre was in disbelief. How could a franchise that he has put his blood, sweat and tears into quit believing in him?

Now Favre has a team that has invested everything into him. Head Coach Brad Childress had so little faith in his quarterback corps, that he picked up Favre and drove him to the Vikings’ practice facility himself.

And if you take a look at this team, you will see the most complete team in the NFL…

  • The Vikings already have the best running back in the NFL in Adrian Peterson. Defenses will have to load the box to stop him, leaving Favre free for playaction plays to launch it down the field. Speaking of…
  • Favre’s receivers include Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice and rookie Percy Harvin. A group that becomes even more deadly with No. 4 behind center.
  • The Vikings’ defense is one of the best in the league. They can keep the other team from putting points on the board, while Favre keeps racking them up.
  • Last but not least, let’s not forget that the offense run by the Vikings is the same offense Brett Favre engineered as a Packer for 16 seasons.

So now…congratulations Green Bay. You get to play Brett Favre twice a year. You get to watch the Vikings reign over the NFC North. You get to see the quarterback you gave up on lead his team to the Super Bowl. Get ready for November 1, because Favre is coming to town, and he is bringing a new army with him.



Coon’s Top 10: Reasons The Houston Texans Will Make The Playoffs
August 14, 2009, 8:42 PM
Filed under: NFL

By Jerry Coon

If time will let me, I am going to try to have a weekly Top 10. This one is self-explanatory. The Houston Texans finished each of the last two season with a record of 8-8. I guarantee this will be the year they jump the hurdle into the postseason, and become a legitimate contender in the NFL.

10. The Schaub. Quarterback Matt Schaub missed four games last season due to injury, and still finished the season with 3,043 yards and 15 touchdowns. How gaudy would his numbers be in a full season of play? Schaub already started his workout routine in February, preparing in advance for the upcoming year. This season, if Schaub stays on the field, he has the number one wide receiver in the NFL on his side in Andre Johnson, a Pro Bowl tight end in Owen Daniels, and may other weapons. Dare I say he could be in the running for MVP at season’s end?

9. The Best Receiver In The Game. Now I understand that you can make a case for Larry Fitzgerald. However, I will make the case for the softspoken, and previously mentioned, Andre Johnson. Johnson finished the 2008-09 campaign with 115 receptions (first in NFL), 1,575 yards (first in NFL). This year, he has a more gelled offense, and with a healthy quarterback, the sky is the limit for Johnson.

Andre Johnson doesn't have to say a word. His numbers speak for themselves.

Andre Johnson doesn't have to say a word. His numbers speak for themself.

Sidenote: Why isn’t a bigger fuss being made about “the quiet” receivers in the NFL? We pay so much attention to the egomaniac that is Terrell Owens, the never quiet Chad Johnson and any other loud-mouth wideout, that we don’t see the greatest hands in the game under the spotlight. Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson are two perfect examples of this. Neither open their mouth, they just get on the field and play the game.

As reported by Jason Cole: At 6-foot-2, 228 pounds, he is built more like a linebacker, but he doesn’t show it off.

“We were lifting one time and ‘Dre has about 30 pounds of muscle on me,” said [David] Anderson, who is all of 5-10, 194 pounds and often goes unrecognized as a football player. “His body is ridiculous. But we’re doing the incline press and we’re both doing the same weight, like about 185 pounds. I’m kind of looking at him like I can’t believe I’m lifting the same amount as him.

“He starts joking about how his muscles are just ‘air’ muscles, just pumped up with a lot of air … so I laugh and go on to the next thing. I turn around and he’s thrown another 90 pounds on the press after I left. It was like he didn’t want to embarrass me.”

8. Steve Slaton. As a rookie, the 5’9, 201 lb. third-round pick excelled way beyond any expectations. Slaton ran for 1,282 yards and nine touchdowns, taking over a position that has been nonexistant for the Texans in previous years. This season, if Slaton can match or exceed last year’s numbers, we might be talking about this:

7. The Best Offense In The NFL. Before you think I have lost my mine, shut up and let me learn you. Last season, the Texans had the third ranked offense in the NFL. THIRD. That includes Schaub being injured. That includes not getting into a groove until around Week 6. That includes playing against defenses that included Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Tennessee twice. If Schaub, Johnson and Slaton play the way that has been previously explained…just imagine what might happened.

6. The Schedule. The cycle of the schedule gave the Texans the NFC West and the AFC East this season. That Texans have the Rams, 49ers, Seahawks, Jets, Bills, Raiders and Bengals on the schedule. Those seem like W’s, barring a meltdown. You factor that in, and hope to go 3-3 within the division, and I am predicting a 10-6 record. Which will get them into the postseason.

5. The Defensive Line. What could the Texans do in order to prevent double teams on Mario Williams? How about grab another beast of a defensive end to takeover the other side of the line? Add tackles Travis Johnson and Amobe Okoye, and that front line could very well be one of the best. Furthermore,

4. Mario Williams. WITH the double teams, triple teams, and kitchen sinks they threw at the 6’6, 288 lb. defensive end, Williams still finished with 12 sacks and four forced fumbles in 2008. Now that some holes have been filled, and it is likely Super Mario can break free even more, I predict a Defensive Player of the Year nomination.

3. Cleaning House. After last season, head coach Gary Kubiak fired just about everyone he could in order to revamp his staff. Kubiak moved Frank Bush from senior defensive assistant to defensive coordinator. With that move, you are going to see a new style to the Texans defense that hasn’t been a factor before: blitzing.

2. Filling Holes. The draft helped the Texans get this done. Linebacker Brian Cushing gives a great pass rusher to the defense. Later rounds provided picks that filled out the secondary. Rookie cornerback Glover Quinn and second-year saftey Dominique Barber have been making noise in training camp. If this weakness can make adjustments and improve, the rest shouldn’t be a problem.

1. It’s Time. I mean come on, let’s get serious for a minute. Ever since Houston’s beloved child known as the Oilers left for Tennessee, Houston has foamed at the mouth for this feeling to return. In 2002, everyone knew it was going to take a while for this experiment to pay off. Now we sit, at lucky number year seven, waiting for the leap. Waiting for playoff football to return to a playoff football city. We were spoiled watching Warren Moon and crew enter the playoffs year after year (although they never made it to the big game). Now, the Texans sit with a perfect chance. A much improved team in a division of teams depleting around them. A superstar on offense, a capable quarterback, and a monster on the defensive line. There aren’t anymore excuses you can make for them. There can no longer be the phrase, “well maybe next year.”

This isn’t an expansion team anymore. This is a legitimate football team that now has high expectations. They have to come out of the preseason ready to dominate. Play with the confidence that it’s fanbase has hopefully instilled in them. Become the new kings of the AFC South. Jump from a “sleeper” to a “powerhouse.”

Bring playoff football back to Houston, Texas.



The “Luv Ya” Blues
August 7, 2009, 8:57 AM
Filed under: NFL

By Jerry Coon

I can respect that the NFL wants to go back to its roots and wear jerseys from the AFL in their 50th anniversary celebration. However, I am definitely having trouble with a certain team joining in on this aforementioned celebration.

The announcement that the Tennessee Titans will sport the 1960 Houston Oilers uniforms this upcoming season made my head spin. I have accepted the fact that the Oilers aren’t Houston’s team anymore. I have come to terms that the Texans are the team to support now. What I can’t wrap my mind around is how this city has lost all of its history to Bud Adams.

When we think of Warren Moon, we think of Houston, not Nashville.

When we think of Warren Moon, we think of Houston, not Nashville.

 This was, for me, my childhood. This was, for many, their everything. Houstonians blood ran light blue. And yet, we have to forfeit our entire history to a city that doesn’t know anything before 1997. 

I can’t say that the Texans should wear the throwbacks…or maybe I am. Doesn’t it make more sense that Houston gets to keep the history of a team that called the Astrodome home for 36 years? The jerseys of legends like Moon, Campbell, Matthews and Munchak shouldn’t be seen when you are sitting at LP Field in Nashville. They should be waiving around in Reliant Stadium.

For those that remember the days of Jack Pardee and Haywood Jeffires, how excited would you get if the Texans had a “Luv Ya Blue” day? Can you imagine Andre Johnson taking the field spawning the same number you watched Curtis Duncan wear 15 years ago?

I know it doesn’t really make more sense to give the Texans (seven years exsistence) the history of the oil derricks. But it doesn’t seem fair for people that drive by the Astrodome everyday to have to watch a team from Nashville embrace their past.

To make it even more confusing, let’s look at the Titans’ schedule for Week 3. If the Jets choose to wear their AFL throwbacks, being the old New York Titans’ jerseys, the earth might implode. Not to mention the Kansas City Chiefs are going to wear the old Dallas Texans jerseys. I can see it now: Arrowhead Stadium filled with fans watching their team sport a helmet with the state of Texas on the side.

You can call me and every Houstonian behind me bitter if you want. You can say we need to let go of the past. But when the past brought us so many good memories, minus the very day we all died a little inside (*cough* 1993 in Buffalo *cough*), we deserve to keep them.

And when Titans’ quarterback Vince Young (Houston native) isn’t acting like an idiot with his ridiculous promises to the media, I know he will agree.

In the meantime, I will go dig up my Ernest Givins jersey. I will go unpack my Ray Childress Starting Lineup figure. And I will chant this until I die:



Drafting Sleepers
August 4, 2009, 12:15 AM
Filed under: Fantasy Football

By Jerry Coon

Since everyone has started up their drafts, and I have approximately 17 different teams, I will give you some sleepers to look for in your preparation.

Quarterbacks:

Carson Palmer (Bengals): Let’s look at Palmer prior to last season (when he only played four games). The three seasons prior, Palmer played all 16 games, and averaged around 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns. Losing Houshmanzadeh hurt, but adding Laveraneus Coles eases the blow. With a positive attitude from Chad Johnson (I refuse to call him Ochocinco) and finally having an established first-string running back (Cedric Benson), Palmer could have the offense back in the highlight reel.

Trent Edwards (Bills): Last year’s stats were decent (2,699 yards, 11 touchdowns, 10 interceptions). This season, they added a little help at wide receiver. And by a little help, I mean one of the top five receivers in the NFL with Terrell Owens. Making Owens the new number one pushes Lee Evans to the two slot, giving Edwards many options on offense.

Kyle Orton (Broncos): Orton finds himself in a new jersey for the 09-10 season, and with many more weapons than he had in Chicago. Throwing for 2,972 yards and 18 touchdowns a year ago for the Bears, Orton now inherits the starting role for Denver. And instead of looking out to throw to unproven receivers, Orton now has Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, Jabar Gaffney and Brandon Stokley to rely on.

Philip Rivers (Chargers): Okay Rivers isn’t so much a “sleeper,” but he is definitely undervalued. Many quarterbacks are being positioned before Rivers, who threw for 4,009 yards and 34 touchdowns last season. This year, Rivers has Chris Chambers for a full season, paired with Vincent Jackson and a healthy Ladanian Tomlinson. This offense could be explosive, and Rivers deserves to be considered higher than he is going for.

Matt Schaub (Texans): Before you call me a homer, allow my explanation…Schaub only played 11 games last season and still threw for 3,043 yards and 11 touchdowns. It is understandable that there is a paranoia against Schaub because of his ability to get injured. However, with Houston’s targets (Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter, Owen Daniels) and Steve Slaton in the backfield, Schaub could very well be a top three quarterback in the league this season.

Running Backs:

Ryan Grant (Packers): Grant was under the radar last season, even though he still rushed for 1,203 yards. Not to mention Grant was bothered by his hamstring all year long. Now that Rodgers has settled in, the offense can stay more consistent, and Grant could have a pretty nice year.

Pierre Thomas (Saints): Deuce McAllister-gone. Reggie Bush-not what they thought he would be. Sean Payton is looking for his premiere back, and Thomas has everything he needs to become just that. Thomas came around full force in the second half of last season, rushing for 625 yards and nine touchdowns. Now, Thomas can take over the reign and be a great asset for the Saints and fantasy owners.

Rashard Mendenhall (Steelers): Not only will he get the goal-line looks, but with Willie “handle with care” Parker in front of him, he could be getting many more touches than that. Mendenhall is the one “back-up” running back that everyone should take a chance on early because of the potential he brings.

Donald Brown (Colts): Joseph Addai is still the number one option in Indy, but Brown is looking like he will get considerable playing time this season. Especially if Addai goes out, as he has each of the last two seasons.

Corell Buckhalter (Broncos): Buckhalter never truly got his shot in Philadelphia, always playing second fiddle to Brian Westbrook.  This season, he still looks to split time with rookie Knowshon Moreno, but should get most of the touches. The only thing to ponder is if the departure of Shanahan leads to the downfall of the Broncos’ always famous running game.

Wide Receivers:

Devin Hester (Bears): I did state before that the Bears lack a number one receiver, however, if anyone is going to make the leap, it would be Hester. Now having Jay Cutler behind center, Hester’s speed could make him a favorite target, especially with the talk that he has become a tremendous route runner.

Donnie Avery (Rams): I don’t know what Marc Bulger did to deserve the karma of the last two seasons, but I feel like things should turn around. Cutting ties with an unhappy Torry Holt make Avery the new ace receiver in St. Louis. Avery started 12 games last season and had 674 yards and three touchdowns. Now that everyone is healthy, Avery’s quickness could help him explode on a team trying to redeem themselves.

Domenik Hixon (Giants): No Plax, no problem? Eli Manning needs a new favorite, and Hixon should be able to suffice. Sinorice Moss and rookie Hakeem Nicks provide help at the receiver position, but Hixon will be the one getting the looks primarily.

Miles Austin (Cowboys): I see a trend with these receivers now. Star receiver leaves, someone needs to step up and takeover the throne. Although Dallas still has Roy Williams to do that, Austin will slip into the second slot, and become a nice target for Tony Romo.

Lee Evans (Bills): Evans is definitely a legitimate primary receiver, but now doesn’t have to be with T.O. coming into Buffalo. Evans is one to demand a double team, and that isn’t something defenses will be able to do with Owens on the other end. If Edwards takes the leap I expect, Evans could have a ridiculous season.

Defenses:

New York Jets: The Jets already had 41 sacks last season. Now you add a few newcomers from the Ravens (including new coach and former Ravens’ Defensive Coordinator, Rex Ryan) and you could have a tough defense to score on.

San Diego Chargers: Two years ago, the Chargers had the best fantasy defense in the league. Now you add the return of Shawne Merriman and Antonio Cromartie, and include four defensive draft picks, and you have a team that could return to the top.

Green Bay Packers: Adding Clay Matthews to the linebacker corps of Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk is a good start. Then, adding Dom Capers as the defensive coordinator, which switches the defense to a 3-4 makes things interesting.

Houston Texans: With Antonio Smith taking over at the other end, it will be difficult for offensive lines to double Mario Williams. Brian Cushing and Cato June were added to the linebacker corps and the secondary concerns were addressed in the draft. Not neccesarily a top choice for a team defense, but keep an eye on them.

Washington Redskins: Albert Haynesworth. Brian Orakpo. The sacks should pile up. The Redskins team defense last year was fantastic, however, not a big fantasy point scorer. Things might change with the additions made and a second year of adjusting to each other.