Monthly Archives: August 2012

By returning to the stone age, the NFC West has returned to respectability.

After a historically humiliating 2010 campaign that saw the 7-9 Seahawks win the division and breach the playoffs, the NFC West rebounded dramatically in 2011 with much thanks to San Francisco’s surprise 13-3 run. The quartet improved from its composite 25-39 mark in 2010 to 30-34.

Epitomizing an apparent NFC West mentality, the one team that’s actually invested a first-rounder at quarterback in recent memory was the team dragging the division down. As I detailed for Sporting News prior to the 2012 NFL Draft, each Super Bowl champion of the past eight years has been built around a quarterback selected within the first 32 picks.

Below are counter-intuitive results in today’s pass-happy, QB-centric league.

NFC West Team: 2010 record—2011 record, 2011 pass offense ranking, opening day starting quarterback

San Francisco: 6-10—13-3, 29th in pass offense in 2011, Alex Smith battled for playing time with Troy Smith the previous year.

Arizona: 5-12—8-8, 17th, Kevin Kolb traded from Philly’s bench. Skelton would fill in erratically and through extreme fortune go 5-2 as starter, and had started the previous season as a backup to frickin’ Derek Anderson,

Seattle: 7-9—7-9, 22nd, Tarvaris Jackson a Minnesota backup the previous year coming off a season-ending injury..

St. Louis: 7-9—2-14, 30th, Sam Bradford a star first-round quarterback on the rise after winning Offensive Rookie of the Year.

….Bradford would go on to miss games with injury in 2011 while getting knocked out of others, and could very well have a bright future if healthy. Still, the most ostensibly secure team at quarterback entering the 2011 year — and I would say that remains the case now — finished a distant last.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks maintained the same record as in 2010 despite going from Matt Hasselbeck (in his 10th season starting for Seattle) to Jackson (in his first season starting for Seattle) at quarterback. Arguably going rom the franchise’s best quarterback ever to a maligned career backup. Yet the exact same record.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, saw a three-win jump despite attempting to band-aid their quarterback woes with a trade that brought in another unproven backup, while the unheralded understudy already on roster ended up starting nearly half the season.

Then there’s San Francisco, which improved by seven wins by basically instituting a game manager at quarterback — or at least that’s best way to describe the role Smith played. This inspires memories of those few futile attempts downfield in last year’s NFC title stalemate.

This is the same league where the Redskins paid a veritable fortune for their quarterback of the future, Drew Brees and his QB-guru coach are credited with saving a franchise, and Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning neutralized pitiful offense lines to win Super Bowls.

So could the recipe for success to some degree be shifting away from the aerial focus that’s seen the Steelers, Packers and Giants win recent Super Bowls, back toward a more hard-nosed, ground-pound-and-punt style from the days of old?

No, it’s just a strange NFC West thing.

If you look at those other offenses lurking around the bottom in pass offense rank, you see only one 2011 playoff team ranked lower than 20 — that being the anomaly named the 2011 Denver Broncos. Meanwhile, each of the teams with top-5 pass offenses reached the postseason and the entire top 10 finished at least .500.

Somehow, the NFC West pulled out of its plummet by crashing through a black hole — a time-vortex where teams win by leaning heavily on hard-nosed runners like Marshawn Lynch, three-down O-line wrecking balls like Calais Campbell, calling it conservative like Jim Harbaugh and bootlegging like Alex Smith.

You think that deep down, these guys wish they could chuck it around like Eli Manning, knife across linebackers like Darren Sproles or go for the jugular like Mike McCarthy. The NFC West’s top three is also likely pleased with its composite 10-win improvement — even Seattle holding at seven wins was surprising to many — and the seemingly obsolete path they took.

NFC West Team: 2011 record, scoring defense rank, giveaway rank, pass attempt rank

San Francisco: 13-3, 2nd SD rank, 1st G rank, 31st PA rank

Arizona: 8-8, 17th (Misleadingly low as the defense really hit another gear Week 9, halting a streak of five straight allowing 30-plus points before never giving up more than 23 in any game thereafter, ending the season on a 7-2 run), 28th, 15th

Seattle: 7-9, 7th, 13th, 25th

St. Louis: 2-14, 26th, 30th, 16th

Arizona’s No. 15 league rank in pass attempts is relatively low considering the typical distribution under Ken Whisenhunt along with Ryan Williams not playing a snap and Beanie Wells being his injury-prone self.

The giveaway ranks for San Francisco, Arizona and Seattle average out to 14th and ostensibly does not support my argument, but think of it this way: a composite giveaway ranking of 14th when the starting quarterbacks involved our Alex Smith, Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst.

So yeah, the retro-style helped….But how much longer it can help is another question.

Seattle signed prized free agent quarterback Matt Flynn and drafted Russell Wilson in the third round, though once again bucking early-round-or-bust quarterback logic. Still, couple this with the sense of desperation betrayed by signing Braylon Edwards and Terrell Owens, and it’s clear Pete Carroll wants to ignite this pass offense.

The Niners have drafted a Sproles look-alike in LaMichael James while loading up on deep threats in Randy Moss, A.J. Jenkins and Mario Manningham. The Cardinals, while getting a major backfield boost in a returning Ryan Williams, drafted receiver Michael Floyd in the first round to fill the barren wasteland opposite Larry Fitzgerald.

There’s definitely an acknowledgment of the need to “get with the 21st century” by these teams while the bottom-dwelling Rams reverse direction by bringing in the conservative stylings of Jeff Fischer and Brian Schottenheimer. Not that they necessarily aren’t “with it” but certainly more “I love the ’90s” than most head coach-offensive coordinator combos.

One thing that’s sure is the round-robin between the 49ers, Seahawks and Cardinals will appear to be played in the 1970s. Three of the most packed stables of young defensive talent have already slugged it to low-scoring affairs: 1-to-2 offensive touchdowns per team being the norm in their 2011 battles. A brutal day in the trenches, particularly for those on offense.

Considering how terrible each of these offensive lines figure to be (there’s actually a starting position battle between Jason Smith vs. Barry Richardson!) and the terror lurking in the front sevens — a mix of rising stars, quality vets and the league’s best in Patrick Willis, Novorro Bowman, Justin Smith, Ray McDonald, Aldon Smith (49ers), Darnell Dockett, Calais Cambpell, Daryl Washington (Cardinals), Jason Jones, Brandon Mebane, Alan Branch, Chris Clemons, Red Bryant (Seahawks) along with potential in the Rams’ young core of Chris Long, Robert Quinn, James Laurinaitis and Michael Brockers — it is hard to imagine a highly potent offense bursting from the ground here any time soon.

There will be punts.


Once I saw the Steven Jackson “free tip,” this being the Steven Jackson that has only missed two games over the past three seasons as unquestioned starting back, I just assumed this was written in 20 minutes and didn’t read.

The truth is that with so much in-depth NFL preview coverage everywhere it’s really hard to get into Deadspin’s, be it the fantasy football analysis or the “Why your team sucks” series. The over-the-top, screaming disparagement akin to Sam Kinison on paper works hilariously when it comes to “The Hater’s Guide To The 2012 London Summer Olympics” but falls somewhere between not funny and not insightful thus far with much of the Deadspin NFL preview coverage.

I say this with a mix of understanding — Deadspin’s wheelhouse is ripping sports and sports media to shreds in a real-time, written “The Daily Show”-ish manner — and the utmost respect — I read Deadpsin all the time for the aforementioned reason.

The 2012 preview coverage just seems lost in an abyss between trying to do a bit and trying to advertise actual NFL coverage. It’s just not working for me; After about three Why Your Team Sucks I stopped seeing the point when I can swing by a zillion other sites to prepare for the coming season and get that NFL intravenous going, and even more sites — along with countless other Deadspin articles — where I can have a good laugh.

Not that there is zero merit to the work — the jaded fan excerpts section from Why Your Teams Sucks provides a pretty nice angle and can be worthwhile at times.

Fan excerpt from the Ravens edition (the last “Team Sucks” I read):

“I cannot tell you how un-shocked I will be when Jacoby Jones drops a pass that ends our season.”

Below are myths for each AFC team that I’ve seen or heard multiple times this offseason from companies that earn revenue for sharing NFL analysis. I will not name names because I’m just not all jacked up to call people out right now.

Some of these are understandable and quite debatable. Some are embarrassing. Some are just annoying but prevalent.

(In quotations is the myth, sometimes followed by my clarifying take when I feel is necessary.)

Patriots: “Brandon Lloyd will dilute Gronk’s fantasy value.”

Bills: “The defensive line is much improved but that doesn’t make this defense one of the league’s best.” There’s nothing more critical for a 4-3 defense that to be absolutely filthy from end to end, and the Bills have that. The LB corps is underrated, they’re excellent at safety and Stephon Gilmore should be able to step in and provide an immediate boost at cornerback. Expect them to be among the AFC’s best defenses.

Jets: “Jets are better off running a lot of wildcat.” No, just no.

Dolphins: “Ryan Tannehill shouldn’t be thrown to the wolves already given the barren state of talent on offense; It would be harmful to his development.”

Steelers: “Isaac Redman’s a decent RB-2 in fantasy.”

Ravens: “Ray Rice is not a relatively elusive running back.”

Browns: “Trading up to No. 3 to draft a running back is an acceptable decision in 2012.”

Bengals: “The Bengals running game remains just as lack luster with BenJarvus Green-Ellis as it did with Cedric Benson.”

Texans: “Matt Schaub better watch his back for T.J. Yates.” Yeah, this actually happened.

Colts: “Andrew Luck’s sensational preseason debut is reason to take the over on Colts’ season win total (line was at 5.5).”

Jaguars: “Blaine Gabbert had a terrible rookie year therefore he is definitely a bust.”

Titans: “Matt Hasselbeck is just too old to be a quality starter.” Had best QB rating in red-zone last year, and is either a quality starter or the league’s best back-up option.

Broncos: “Peyton Manning’s O-line should be much better than it was in Indy.” I’d go with “marginal.

Chargers: “Philip Rivers is regressing.” He barely had a chance to breathe behind that terrible line last year, and actually threw some extremely impressive performances after they plugged Jared Gaither in there at left tackle. Look for the old Rivers this year.

Raiders: “Greg Knapp’s RB committee comments diminish Darren McFadden’s fantasy value.” Even if McFadden’s per-game carries are significantly cut — which I’m still skeptical about — wouldn’t that increase the chances of McFadden not missing significant time like usual?

Chiefs: “Dontari Poe could very well be another D-line first-round bust like Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey.” Neither Jackson nor Dorsey are busts, and actually both providing starting stalwarts on run D at starting end for the Chiefs

Check out NFC offseason myths here.

How good really was the Denver Broncos defense last year, and how does that carry into 2012? Let’s put Von Miller and crew under a harsher light.

Peyton Manning’s two-interception stat line from Saturday betrays how much the returning legend will reinvigorate this offense. While there are legitimate concerns about his rusty arm and fused vertebrae, they actually draw attention away from the Denver Broncos’ bigger question mark.

Outside of an excellent set of bookend pass rushers with Elvis Dumervil and Miller, the Broncos defense provides myriad reasons for concern.

Brodrick Bunkley’s departure leaves a massive interior void and it’s hard to count on major instant contributions from rookie Derek Wolfe. Miller’s only entering his prime and figures to have full use of both hands this season, but future Hall of Famer Champ Bailey’s a mere mortal turning 34 and D.J. Williams will miss the first six games.

Denver’s 2011 defense was seared into the national consciousness by Miller’s mid-season reign of terror over veteran NFL right tackles and an ability to keep the score low during a Tim Tebow-quarterbacked six-game win streak.

But lost amongst this are lurking variables that point to a 2012 regression — and I’m not just referring to Denver’s impromptu run-heavy offense that reduced field-shortening turnovers and produced the game-shortening effect of limited snaps.

Denver finished 20th in total defense, 24th in points allowed, 19th in sacks and 28th in interceptions last season. The Broncos also lose defensive coordinator Dennis Allen to Oakland, who thought enough of the job Allen did with this defense to make him head coach.

What also likely disappears in 2012 is the incredibly fortunate quality of the opposing offenses Denver faces, with the coming schedule featuring the Steelers, Falcons, Texans, Patriots, Saints, Panthers and then division foe San Diego twice and other units with considerable potential. During that 2011 stretch where TV producers from ESPN and CBS fell in love with the Broncos, America got to view low-scoring slug-it-out string of games where Miller absolutely shined. The NFL Network Thursday night humiliation of Wayne Hunter and the Jets also comes to mind.

Miller should still be very good next year and was totally deserving of his 2011 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award, but let’s put that marauder’s run from Week 10 through Week 14 (minus Week 13 as Miller did not play) under a harsher light, where Miller compiled six of his 11.5 sacks in just four games and Denver’s defense allowed one touchdown in each contest.

Week: Opposing Team and total points, QB, starting RT (blocking Miller’s side), Miller QB sacks/hits/hurries (via Pro Football Focus).

Week 10: Chiefs 10, Matt Cassel, Barry Richardson, 1/2/3

Week 11: Jets 13, Mark Sanchez, Wayne Hunter, 2/2/3

Week 12: Chargers 13, Philip Rivers, Jeromey Clary, 1/2/5

Week 13: Invalidated as Miller DNP

Week 14: Bears 10, Caleb Hanie, Lance Louis, 1/1/2

Wow, I’ve just named arguably the four worst right tackles and three of the worst quarterbacks that were allowed to start last year. Then of course Rivers had the down year, which would’ve been a downright poor year if San Diego had not later plugged in Jared Gaither at left tackle, letting Rivers at least take a breath before having to release.

So this provides reasons for skepticism about Miller matching his peak rookie season production and also provides further indictment on the Denver defense as a whole, with Miller’s Week 13 DNP seeing them allow 32 points to an Adrian Peterson-less Minnesota offense.

There’s no certainty that Peyton Manning will create short field via turnovers less or even give it up fewer times — in 2011 Tebow had 1.1 turnovers per start on six picks and six fumbles lost for the season, while 2010 Manning had 1.1 turnovers per start on 16 picks and one fumble lost — but it’s safe to bet on Manning’s offense being far more up-tempo, pass-heavy, higher scoring and thus yielding more total snaps in each game.

The fantasy slant is that the Broncos Team Defense and IDP guys not named Dumervil or Miller aren’t all that appealing within the top 20 picks at their position.

It should also not shock anyone if Manning merely replicates last year’s 8-8 regular season, but those offense-inclined could find the Broncos much more fun to watch — partly because that defense has regression written all over it.

An updated version of my rough draft that turned into “Seven Get Back Up” in USA Today‘s NFL Preview mag. This was written in May and updated after the Hall of Fame game.

There is perhaps no more transformative force in the NFL than an injury to the starting quarterback.

When the signal caller sits down just as a contender begins surging, such as Jay Cutler and Matt Schaub did last year, it leaves behind the painful twinge of “what if?”

Two vertebrae in Peyton Manning’s neck transformed two franchises a thousand miles apart. After guiding the Colts to nine consecutive playoff berths, Manning watched the 2011 Colts drop to last in the NFL before joining the Broncos this offseason.

Injury can cloud whether a quarterback is the missing key or a misguided move. Matt Cassel and Kevin Kolb likely will return to take the helm, but they both must work quickly to justify the trades that brought them in. And then there’s that “winner” John Skelton to make Kolb’s return to the starting role more difficult.

Sometimes a fallen starting quarterback is spared the misery and brutality of a lost season. While it’s the most important position in the NFL, some teams can’t be saved only by strong quarterback play.

Seven of 2012’s probable starting quarterbacks spent the end of 2011 on the mend from major injuries. Here’s a look at the drop-off each man’s team suffered and at each quarterback’s current outlook, starting with the man who played to the finish.

Ben Roethlisberger

While he only missed one game, a high-ankle sprain robbed Roethlisberger of the mobility on which the Steelers depend.

Roethlisberger has made a career of extending plays by rolling, wriggling, and wrenching away from pressure, which usually broke into the backfield quite quickly for the Steelers. But once his leg folded awkwardly on Dec. 8 against the Browns, his team never quite looked the same.

The Steelers stumbled into a wild-card upset one month later. The 241-pound behemoth quarterback—typically a pass rusher’s greatest chore—looked like he was dragging a bear trap as Denver doubled its season sack average, taking down Roethlisberger five times.

Roethlisberger has proven as tough as any during his NFL career, playing while breaking his nose and reportedly winning a Super Bowl with broken ribs. However, the high-ankle sprain proved far more limiting to his physical capacity. Pittsburgh averaged eight points in Roethlisberger’s two starts before the shocking first-round playoff exit.

Now, a healthy Roethlisberger could rejoin the AFC’s most dangerous young receiving combo in Antonio Brown and, if he signs, Mike Wallace. Protection should also improve with the Steelers finally investing in the offensive line by snagging the draft’s top guard in David DeCastro and second-round tackle Mike Adams.

Sam Bradford

After topping 3,500 yards on his way to Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2010, Bradford would probably like to forget his sophomore follow-up. Expected to contend for the NFC West title, St. Louis instead struggled out of the gate before Bradford suffered a high-ankle sprain in Week 6. As a result, he was in and out of the starting lineup.

The Rams’ 1-9 record last year with Bradford as starter can’t be pinned on him; he was getting battered behind a porous line and suffered the worst drop rate among quarterbacks who took at least half of their team’s dropbacks.

Perhaps new head coach Jeff Fisher can right the ship, though he comes from a defensive background. To catalyze Bradford’s development, he brought in two Brians: Schottenheimer and Quick.

Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has been a hot name in head coaching searches. But last year he presided over a Jets offense that finished 25th in the league.

The Rams drafted wide receiver Brian Quick at the top of Round 2, but had been projected to take the top receiver on the board, Justin Blackmon, at pick No. 6. Instead, the Rams traded down and went defense in the first round before taking Quick and running back Isaiah Pead in the second round.

What started so well in 2010 followed with a 2-14 season and a battered franchise quarterback. Bradford will experience his third offensive coordinator in three years as the Rams’ new management tries to avoid Jason Campbell-ing their young signal caller.

Matt Cassel

Cassel transitioned from Tom Brady’s backup with the Patriots to starter for a division champion instantly. Following his efficient 2010 campaign, the Chiefs quarterback struggled to open up the offense or protect the ball before a season-ending hand surgery in Week 11.

This led to Kansas City’s entrance into the Peyton Manning sweepstakes this offseason along with a private workout with 2012 first-rounder Ryan Tannehill. It now appears the Chiefs are set for at least one more year of Cassel.

This figures to run more smoothly with the recovered ACLs of running back Jamaal Charles and tight end Tony Moeaki. Since trading for Cassel the Chiefs are 10-6 in games when Charles has at least 10 touches and Cassel is playing at quarterback; 7-10 in other games.” (Lost the one game Cassel missed in 2010 and went 7-9 in 2011 with Charles injured at beginning of Week 1.).

Cassel will try to regain his 2010 regular-season form (he threw 27 touchdowns and only seven interceptions) while leaning on the ground game with Charles, Peyton Hillis, and Dexter McCluster. The addition of arguably the league’s best right tackle in Eric Winston upgrades an offensive line that was consistently demolished last year at right tackle.

Jay Cutler

The argument could be made that, around the time he broke his thumb trying to prevent a touchdown on an interception return against the Chargers in Week 11, Cutler’s play had elevated him to a perch on the tier below the league’s elite quarterbacks.

His numbers don’t do him justice but with underrated mobility, improved decision-making, and the best arm in football, Cutler truly made a leap as the Bears ascended to 7-3.

The Cutler-less Bears lost five out of six and missed the playoffs.
Losing Matt Forte also contributed to the season-ending slide, though it’s impossible to ignore how much Cutler opened up that offense during the Bears’ five-game winning streak after a 2-3 start.

Since arriving in the Windy City, Cutler’s dealt with terrible pass protection—he’s been sacked 110 times in 41 games—peculiar play-calling and a dearth of receiving talent. The moves the Bears made this offseason—offensive coordinator Mike Martz resigning, drafting wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and tight end Evan Rodriguez, and trading for Brandon Marshall—give a healthy Cutler the chance to go all Luke Skywalker in “Return of the Jedi” on the NFL.

The Bears welcome back 2011 top pick Gabe Carimi, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 2, at right tackle. This would move Lance Louis back to his natural spot at guard.  The best hope is that offensive line coach-turned-coordinator Mike Tice sets up this unit for success.

Kevin Kolb

Aug. 6 Update: (Yes, he was terrible during his first few plays before getting injured in the Hall of Fame game. I just believe the Cardinals are definitely not a playoff team if John Skelton is the starter, but has a slight chance if Kevin Kolb is the starter and remains healthy. Have been producing my “Team Kolb” t-shirts now awhile now.)

The enigma acquired from Philly must prove his keep. In games where he took a majority of snaps last season, Kolb finished 2-6. Due to Kolb’s injuries, John Skelton stepped in and went 6-2 in the other games. Even Coach Ken Whisenhunt acknowledges there’s a quarterback competition.

However, the Cardinals defense allowed 30-plus points four times during Kolb starts, and zero times for Skelton. Also, Kolb’s quarterback rating was higher (81.1 to 68.9). The improvement of the defense and a shocking 228-yard rushing performance from Beanie Wells accounted for the record reversal more than Skelton’s 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions did.

The two are embroiled in a position battle with Kolb having recovered from a concussion that ended his season after nine games, the second major instance of his career. There were questions about Kolb’s pocket poise when he came to Arizona, and he did not change that perception last season.

The Cardinals also struggled mightily in pass protection, particularly on the right side. Bobby Massie’s drop to them in Round 4 could shore that up instantly. Drafting Senio Kelemete further shows Arizona’s determination to bolster its offensive line and they also added ex-Niner starting guard Adam Snyder, though his play last season left much to be desired.

The Cardinals also addressed the under-producing wide receiver spot opposite Larry Fitzgerald by taking Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd in the first round, and second-year tight end Rob Housler could emerge.

While no longer in the friendly confines of Andy Reid’s offense, Kolb should be stepping into a much less difficult role than last season. But it’s now or never for Kolb with the Cards.

Peyton Manning

Tim Tebow stood behind center for most of a season in which the Broncos finished 31st in passing offense. He will be replaced by a man who ranks close to the top in nearly every career and single-season passing category. How drastically this aerial attack improves will depend on how Manning holds up post-spinal fusion.

After a 2-14 sans-Manning campaign the Colts moved on with Andrew Luck, but that reflects far less on what’s left in Manning’s tank than the several teams that courted him this offseason. He will sport a solid pair of tight ends in former Colts comrade Jacob Tamme and ex-Texan Joel Dreessen, along with promising young receiver Eric Decker and postseason hero Demauryius Thomas.

The Denver Broncos reached the playoffs for the first time since 2005 under Tebow — behind rather poor protection and without proven weapons — yet jettisoned him the moment Manning said “yes.” The 36-year-old quarterback is reportedly four neck surgeries removed from his last playoff win, which leaves wonder if he’s one hit away from the end of his career.

One thing is certain: John Elway and the Broncos are A-OK with the risk-reward involved with this future Hall of Famer.

But gone are the days of taking snaps from and feeding signals to keen stalwart Jeff Saturday; his current options at center our J.D. Walton — probably the league’s worst starting center last season — and fourth-round rookie Philip Blake.

Matt Schaub

The Texans had won four consecutive games by an average of 22.5 points and led the AFC when they lost Schaub for the season to a Lisfranc injury. Schaub wasn’t lighting the world on fire but, with Arian Foster and an effective zone-blocking scheme, he didn’t need to. His efficient 2.5-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and 248 yards per game provided ample support.

Then backup Matt Leinart was lost for the season in his first game as starter.

T.J. Yates performed admirably for a rookie fifth-round draft pick—but often looked like just that. Yates went 2-3 as starter to finish the regular season and helped Houston reach the divisional round, though that was almost completely the running game and defense’s doing. In seven starts, Yates threw for more than 200 yards only twice. Schaub had managed that in 18 of his previous 21 starts.

When Schaub left in Week 11, the ability to threaten defenses in the pass game left with him. The veteran quarterback’s presence coupled with a healthy Andre Johnson restores Houston as Super Bowl contenders.

While the foot injury Schaub incurred can be career threatening, the quarterback says he expects to enter training camp at 100 percent. He’ll take snaps behind a new-look offensive line that thrived with continuity in recent years.

Eric Winston will be missed after playing right tackle among the league’s best last year, and right guard Mike Brisiel also left via free agency. Houston did finally shake up the underwhelming receiver crop outside Johnson by drafting DeVier Posey with its second-round pick.

Paired with my article in the magazine is a great piece by Greg Cosell evaluating the NFL’s best quarterbacks. If I didn’t get you lunging for a copy of the 2012 NFL Preview, perhaps these names will.

(Photo found on Fan Saloon)

Below are myths for each NFC team that I’ve seen or heard multiple times this offseason from companies that earn revenue for sharing NFL analysis. I will not name names because I’m just not all jacked up to call people out right now.

Some of these are understandable and quite debatable. Some are embarrassing. Some are just annoying but prevalent.

(In quotations is the myth, sometimes followed by my clarifying take.)

Cowboys: “Tony Romo is better than Eli Manning because he threw more touchdowns and fewer interceptions last season.”

‘Skins: “Kirk Cousins was a good draft pick because having two good quarterbacks is better than one.”

Eagles: “The kinks at linebacker have been fixed.” DeMeco Ryans hasn’t been the same since that Achilles tear, Mychal Kendrick is a rookie and Brian Rolle enters years two. I’d say that’s still a pretty big question mark.

Giants: “Who in the NFL is this season’s Victor Cruz?” Kind of asinine to assume someone will come completely out of the blue in-season at the receiving position and have the impact Victor Cruz did on a Super Bowl champ. Not saying Cruz is as good, but that’s like asking “Who’s this season’s Kurt Warner?” Chances extremely high that no proper analogy will emerge.

Bears: “Jay Cutler is an erratic quarterback.”

Packers: “Matt Flynn’s late-season performance diminishes Aaron Rodgers’ body of work.”

Vikings: “Minnesota is the worst team in the league.” Too many good players, close in too many games last year to take that distinction from the Browns and Colts — and can argue a few others in there.

Lions: “Stafford has no one good to throw to besides Megatron.”

Saints: “They’re fine without Sean Payton; Drew Brees is a coach on the field!”


Panthers: “Jon Beason returning will make this one of the league’s best linebacker units.”

Bucs: “The addition of Carl Nicks along with having multiple Pro Bowlers makes this a good O-line.”

Seahawks: “Seattle has nothing at receiver, unless T.O. or Braylon Edwards pans out.” Doug Baldwin should be pretty good, there’s evidence Golden Tate could still emerge as a solid option and Sydney Rice if healthy (yeah, I know, BUT) provides a crucial deep threat to this mix.

49ers: “The 49ers won’t have a great turnover differential or field position ranking like last season because that shouldn’t happen two years in a row #REGRESSIONALWAYS.” I think chances are that they will rank among the top five in turnover differential along with offensive and defensive starting field position. They have the league’s best punter and an incredibly rare blend of skill, continuity and players entering their prime on defense. So Jim Harbaugh can afford to continue staying super-conservative will Alex Smith.

Rams: “Steven Jackson is a beat-up, breaking-down rent-a-car.” Guy’s in his 20s, and still looked good (and stayed healthy) last year. I give him at least one more good year, maybe even two.

Cards: “John Skelton is just a winner. Tebow-esque.”