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Preseason Thoughts as the Season Approaches

August 28th, 2011

This has been a very unique exhibition season for NFL fans like myself.  It is compelling unlike others because just a few months ago we didn’t know if there would even be a 2011 season.  After watching several games this preseason, I came away with a few observations…

I have really been impressed by what I have seen from the St. Louis Rams so far.  The offense has looked confident and efficient under new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ leadership.  Steven Jackson took advantage of his first opportunity of decent playing time, gaining 72 yards on 15 carries against the Chiefs.  Sam Bradford has been solid this preseason, going 24-43 for 278 yards with 4 TD’s through the 1st 3 games.  Rookie Lance Kendricks has emerged as a valuable target for Bradford, scoring 2 TD’s so far this preseason.  The defense is already in regular season form allowing only 12 ppg.  1st round draft pick Robert Quinn has showed signs of promise, recording a sack and a blocked field goal against the Chiefs.  With the division up for grabs, I believe the Rams will be the 2011 NFC West champs.  With major personnel changes for the Seattle Seahawks, and Arizona Cardinals, I believe the Rams will take the next step, and clinch the division to reach the playoffs for the 1st time since 2004.

While I believe the Rams will improve on their 2010 season, I think the opposite will be true for the Chicago Bears.  They surprised everyone with an 11-5 record, advancing all the way to the NFC championship game.  So far this preseason the offensive line has looked horrendous, causing the Bear’s rushing attack to struggle.  Jay Culter has also struggled as a result.  The offense has only managed a mere 2 touchdowns total through 2 games, and has averaged 11.5 ppg.  The defense, usually a strong point for the Bears, was lit up by the New York Giants last week, surrendering 41 points.  Offseason pickups Roy Williams and Marion Barber III have failed to live up to expectations.  Williams, a former Pro Bowl receiver, has yet to catch a pass this exhibition season and Barber has yet to find the endzone.  Lack of consistent playmakers on offense, poor offensive line play, and the improvement of every other team in the NFC North will cause the Bears to digress and miss the playoffs in 2011.

The Pittsburg Steelers, coming off a devastating Super Bowl loss to the Green Bay Packers, look primed for another deep playoff run.  Led by former Super Bowl MVP Ben Roethlisberger and one of the league’s top defenses, Pittsburg will retain their status as one of the elite teams in the NFL.  Known primarily for their stingy defense, it’s the offense that has stood out during the preseason.  Averaging 29 ppg over the last 2 games, the Steelers have had no difficulty scoring.  2nd year receiver Antonio Brown has continued to blossom, catching 4 passes for 137 yards for 2 TD’s against the Falcons.  While Pittsburg seems ready for the regular season on both sides of the ball, the team was dealt a huge blow, as backup QB Byron Leftwitch broke his left arm and likely will be out for the season.  The previous week, the Steelers shutdown a potent Eagles offense, forcing Michael Vick into 3 interceptions.  Big Ben played a proficient game, going 8 for 12 tossing 2 TD’s.

The highly anticipated 2011 NFL season will not disappoint.  Now that the lockout is finally over, everyone will be tuned in to what is sure to be an interesting year with plenty of storylines… Will Peyton Manning’s neck be healed in time to lead the Colts at the start of the season?  Can Mike Vick lead the “Dream Team” to a Super Bowl title?  Can Aaron Rodgers and the Packers repeat?  Will Randy Moss or Terrell Owens find a team this season? Only time will tell… Is it September 8th yet?

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