BBC BLOGS - Neil Reynolds
Main | Next »

Long live Autumn Sundays

Neil Reynolds | 11:26 UK time, Tuesday, 8 September 2009

What a challenge. My first blog and the editor asks me to predict the line-up for this season's Super Bowl in Miami on 7 February.

Would somebody pass me a list of the 32 NFL teams and a pin?

OK, it's not quite that tough but this is one of the most open races I can remember since I began covering the NFL in 1991. I'll get to the predictions shortly but first, a little bit about myself and the BBC coverage this year.

I have written about the sport on both sides of the Atlantic, spent six years in PR with the NFL and have followed the last two seasons from the Sky Sports studio.

This season, I'll be the resident NFL expert on the all-new BBC 5 live sports extra Sunday night show, where we will be commentating live on a featured game every week of the season. This new programme will form part of the expanded BBC coverage of the NFL this season.

Along with the live Sunday night show and the usual active 606 community, the BBC Sport website will carry embedded video (UK only), including the Top 10 Plays of The Week and individual player highlights. Unfortunately, there won't be any videos of myself despite my glorious playing career!

I played tight end in the British League with the Medway Mustangs, Invicta Eagles and Kent Exiles. While it was not very organised in the 1990s, it was a lot of fun. I still chuckle at the memory of our American quarterback at the Mustangs, Pablo Ortiz, who never quite bonded with the team.

Pablo was one of those who liked to heave the football 80 yards. It didn't matter to him that us receivers couldn't get within 30 yards of his passes... not his problem.

Well, Pablo finally pushed one of our players too far and was last seen being chased by a team-mate with the first down marker. We never saw Pablo again.

Back to the NFL, I can see at least a dozen contenders who have a shot at reaching the title game. That's part of the attraction with the NFL - there is no "big four" stomping over the rest of the league.

There is always the potential for a Cinderella season. Last year it was Miami, who recorded the biggest turnaround in NFL history with 11 wins and five losses one year after going 1-15.

It's tough to count out Pittsburgh as reigning champions, the last time New England had Tom Brady in the line-up for an entire year they came within 35 seconds of an undefeated season and New Orleans possess a prolific attack.

Eli Manning, quartback for the New York Giants
Eli Manning is looking to add another Super Bowl to his resume

But I'm going for the San Diego Chargers and New York Giants. The Chargers reached the second round of the playoffs with a squad decimated by injuries last season. If they stay healthy, quarterback Philip Rivers and running back LaDainian Tomlinson can be deadly. And they're stronger on defence now linebacker Shawne Merriman has returned from injury.

The Giants run powerfully, boast an efficient quarterback on an upward curve in Eli Manning and a defensive pass rush that will put the frighteners on the toughest quarterbacks in the game. That's a pretty good recipe for success and could be enough to see New York crowned champions for the second time in three years.

Of course, I'll probably be completely wrong so don't take my word as gospel... yet. I'm looking forward to some good debate over the forthcoming season.

You can catch Neil on BBC 5 live sports extra every Sunday night at 2100 BST. This week's featured game is the Arizona Cardinals at the San Francisco 49ers. Full schedule.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    The Giants? That's an interesting Superbowl pick- and not one I would have considered! I accept the Chargers idea (though they may struggle without Merriman if he is charged for his misdemeanor), although I'm not convinced, but I honestly cannot see the Giants being strong enough, particularly in the passing game, to compete in the NFC.

  • Comment number 2.

    Hi Neil. What do you think of the Dolphins this year? Do you expect them to go 11-5 again? Or better?

    Personally I think they can go one better this year.

  • Comment number 3.

    Having Brady fit is all well and good, but he needs a defensive line that isn't as easy to get through than a knife through hot butter.

    How many times was he sacked in Super Bowl XLII??

    He also will never be as good as he was in 03/04 again due to injury I feel.

  • Comment number 4.

    Neil - couldn't agree more about it being an incredibly open season.

    I put money on the AFC champions and the NFC champions every year and last came up trumps with Pittsburgh and a near miss with the Eagles - but who would've picked Arizona at the start of the season (or half way through the season for that matter). For the record I've gone for San Diego and Philadelphia (again) this year, but who knows?

    I would be interested to see whether there is any hope of the roots of recovery for my beloved Detroit. I don't follow them as closely as I would like because they're never featured on Sky or anywhere else. I just know they are terrible... is there any cause for enthusiasm for the season ahead? Could we possibly do a Miami, or are we doomed for another miserable year? It cannot get any worse. Get Barry out of retirement I say!

  • Comment number 5.

    Great blog Neil. I thought you were great on the Super Bowl coverage this year.

    Do you really think the Giants will be competitive without a recognised first choice Wide Receiver?

  • Comment number 6.

    Good to have Neil on the BBC after his work with Sky. Neil, do you have a Twitter stream? Would be good to get your views during the early games on a Sunday evening as well?

  • Comment number 7.

    I can't see the Giants going to the Superbowl, Manning has had his best years.
    I'd go with the Colts and Panthers, but I agree, it will be an open race this time around.

  • Comment number 8.

    I like the Giants for several reasons... they are strong on both lines, which is a key in the NFL, they have a quarterback who when on form can be good enough to win it all in Eli Manning, and they have a very strong running attack with Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw.

    I know they do not have a premium No.1 WR at the moment but you can get by without a truly elite receiver in the NFL. If you were to ask me, I would build a team strong in the trenches, with a strong running game and an efficient quarterback. Receiver would be further down my list of priorities.

    Beardyman... I do think the Dolphins will be a better team in 2009 - I like the way Tony Sparano and Bill Parcells are strengthening this squad. But the Dolphins face the likes of Atlanta, Indianapolis, San Diego, New Orleans, Carolina and Pittsburgh outside of their usual division rivals. That is a tough line-up when you add in two games against the New England Patriots.

    I think we could see a situation where Miami plays better and is a stronger team across the board, but they regress in terms of wins. But I don't predict Miami making as big a backward step as some critics have suggested. I think this is a team still good enough to win 10 games and make the playoffs. I do think it might be another year before they are genuine Super Bowl contenders, however.

  • Comment number 9.

    I will certainly be tweeting throughout those busy NFL Sundays this season... and will weigh in with my opinions during the week as well. You can follow me at http://twitter.com/neilreynoldsnfl

  • Comment number 10.

    Delighted the BBC will have extended NFL coverage this season!

    Hopefully the Steelers can go all the way again, although I would love to see another team come from nowhere to compete, like Arizona did last year.

  • Comment number 11.

    Hi Neil,
    Any hope for the Bengals this year? Surely one of the most talented QB's in Palmer and with him back in the team it can't be as bad as last year. Looking forward to seeing Chad Ochocinco!!

  • Comment number 12.

    Good to see the NFL coverage looks to be going from strength to strength, I'm looking forward to Tim Love's column getting up up and running too.
    I'd love to read some more anecdotes on the British League days, who were the best punters you played with ?
    Also, what chance of the NFL ever turning to the '3 down' system commonplace in Canada for example ?
    For me that would help make the game far more attractive to the outside world...

  • Comment number 13.

    Neil
    Good blog, will be following all season from the comfort of my student digs!

  • Comment number 14.

    Common BBC get that Monday Night TV coverage deal sealed already!

  • Comment number 15.

    Killsybabes - thanks for the kind words.

    I wouldn't worry too much about the lack of a No.1 WR... you can win with a series of wideouts making plays in the NFL, although I admit having a Larry Fitzgerald on your roster doesn't hurt.

    Last year the easy answer would be that the Giants went 10-1 with Plaxico Burress in the line-up and 2-4 including a playoff loss at home to the Eagles after he shot himself in the leg.

    But the truth is that the Giants still threw the ball pretty well when Burress was sidelined. And their points per game only went down from 27.5 points per game to 23.8... and they faced some much tougher defenses down the stretch. Their running game didn't really miss a beat, even with the extra attention being focused on the likes of Brandon Jacobs.

    The problem in NY last year was that the front 7 got tired in the season run-in and then Manning was not very accurate in the playoffs. If he can work on his accuracy and get back to that Super Bowl season level, the Giants have taken care of the defensive line and added more power and fresh legs in the form of Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard through free agency. And London's own Osi Umenyiora is also back from torn knee ligaments to chase down opposing quarterbacks so the pass rush will be in good shape.

    Physical football teams tend to fare well in the playoffs and that leads me to think the Giants have enough to win it all, even without a star wideout.

  • Comment number 16.

    Eli Manning is the most overrated QB in the NFL, he looked pretty average even with Plaxico Burress, the best rushing attack in the league and one of the best defences. Defences can put 8 men in the box and focus on the run, if they had a half decent QB then i'd support this choice, and this is why i think the Vikings will reach the superbowl.

    With the best Running Back in the league with Adrien Peterson, a top 5 defence and now Brett Favre...got to be superbowl bound.

    As for the AFC, look no further than the Patriots, Brady is back and has looked back to his best, hooking up with Randy Moss for a few TDs already. The rushing attack will be even better with Fred Taylor and the defence is getting younger with an improved secondary.

    Think Patriots beat Chargers (again) in AFC championship game.
    and Vikings beat Eagles in NFC championship game

  • Comment number 17.

    Good blog Neil, look forward to the updates !

    It should be straightforward enough identifying the play off teams in AFC and I'd say San Diego are the biggest shoo in of all 8 divisions.
    But I think they'll need a 14-2 and #1 seed to make superbowl.
    If they find themselves with a road trip to the Pats/Steelers I think they'll come up short.
    The record of the West Coast sides going East last year was appaling.
    Is no-one giving Tennessee or Baltimore a squeek ? If not, why ?
    Giants have every chance but that's a tough division to win from. Watch out for the Pack in NFC, I like what's going on there

  • Comment number 18.

    Neil,

    Any thoughts on the Chicago Bears this year?

    I think they have a good chance this year of progressing to at least the play offs with a half decent QB.

  • Comment number 19.

    @ #1 "MTR"

    I think the strength and depth of the Giants (barring maybe WR positions) makes them a clear fave as their running game can compete against any other team in the NFL. Currently they are 9th in Rush yds avg but that will increase over time.

    btw I'm an Eagles fan so I hate the Giants. With a passion actually...

  • Comment number 20.

    I didn't mean to sound as confrontational in my response as I did :-s

    I agree with how you would build your team, but I'd be concerned about the loss of Ward, and how useful he was as a receiving threat. My concern with the Giants would be their offensive line. It's been THE premier OL in the league for a few years now, but the guys will surely begin to age soon, and I'm not sure they have the depth in their ranks to adequately replace any starter who is laid low with injury (I'm a Jaguars fan- that defined our season in 2008).

    Look forward to more of this, as it really is interesting to read your thoughts.

  • Comment number 21.

    Grizzly-the-legend... I took a long, hard look at Baltimore before opting for the Chargers in the AFC. But I do think the Ravens will win the AFC North and reach the AFC Championship Game.

    Strong defense and I really expect big things from Joe Flacco this season in his second year. I met with him during the summer in Baltimore and he seemed more assured and more of a leader than he was as a rookie. He has come out of his shell a lot more.

    He was a really nice guy as well... kind of made me want to root for him a little bit this season.

  • Comment number 22.

    Fab news about live NFL on the radio on Sunday nights. When 5live Sports Xtra was launched I wrote to the controller and suggested the station carry live games on Sundays but she rebuffed me saying that it was outside the station's mandate!
    Well I'm glad things can change!
    PS anyone else spend their teenage Sunday nights with a radio under the pillow a listening to live NFL games on the American Forces Network?

  • Comment number 23.

    Reading a lot of the American build up –especially from NFL journalism legend Peter King – I will be very intrigued to see the Packers in action.

    Anyone who hasn’t been able to catch much of the pre-season, Green Bay have simply been destroying everyone they have played thus far. In fact, I think they have only punted twice in their 4 pre-season games.

    Yes, it’s just pre-season, but they have been putting 30 points, past first team defences, in single halves of games. It’s been scary.

    Most US pundits have stated that this is no fluke, and that they are really that good offensively. So much so, that many pundits are tipping GB for 13-14 wins, and Aaron Rodgers has come from nowhere to basically be the MVP favourite this season.

    Peter King for one has him as his pick for league MVP. And expects scary numbers from Green Bay on that side of the ball.

    Have you bought into this Neil? Or is it pre season hype?

  • Comment number 24.

    "Grizzly-the-legend... I took a long, hard look at Baltimore before opting for the Chargers in the AFC. But I do think the Ravens will win the AFC North and reach the AFC Championship Game"

    Neil, what do you think about Ray Rice in 2009? From the articles I read, many expect him to have a huge breakout season this year.

    Although he will share carries, he's been scary in pre season, and many see him as the unquestioned number 1 rusher in the Ravens defence.

    Peter King, Sports Illustrated, thinks 1'300 yards, and over 60 receptions. That would be quite a break out!

  • Comment number 25.

    "With the best Running Back in the league with Adrien Peterson, a top 5 defence and now Brett Favre...got to be superbowl bound"

    Peterson is a running beast, but until he starts getting into the 50-60 receptions club, he's not the best running back in the league.

    Guys like Drew-Jones, Ray Rice - multi skilled backs, could break out and be that guy for me

  • Comment number 26.

    Neil, glad to see you at the Beeb, and look forward to reading your blog.

    Two lines of thought at this stage of the season that I have found surprising - (1) Miami seem severely under-rated. My Pats look several players short of a solid defence, and the Bills and Jets are in various forms of disarray... you got any sense of why Miami aren't considered a legitimate play-off contender? (2) Green Bay are highly fancied. Why? Minnesota is already a scary proposition, and if Cutler settles in Chicago, that's another very scary proposition. Yet Green Bay look barely changed from last year's fragile outfit. You got any ideas?

    But for the Superbowl this year... Baltimore-Atlanta

  • Comment number 27.

    Any hope for the Jets this year Neil?

    Was going for Sanchez a good call?

  • Comment number 28.

    A few thoughts, before I pop off. Appreciate your opinions:

    1: Aaron Rodgers will break out, and join the likes of Manning, Brees and Brady as the league's leading Quarterbacks. Green Bay's offence looks scary. If he stays fit, he could win the MVP award. I'm thinking 4'500 yards, and 40 touchdowns. Seriously.

    2: Teams that could go from last to first. Prime candidates, Green Bay. I'd be surprised if they didn't win their division - winning 12-13 games.

    3: I think, if fit, Brees will break Marino's single season record. The offence is even stronger this year, and his targets are even better. A super fit Colston and Shockey. Meachem may also break through as a really top target. Looked very hot in pre season.

    4: Peterson is a running freak, but I don't buy this thing that he's head and shoulders the best rusher in the league.

    You know, Mo Jo Drew and Steven Jackson - they're making 50-60 receptions a year, are great blockers, as well as rushing at 4.5 yards per carry. Until AP can break into the 50+ receptions a year group, and improve his blocking I don't buy that he's the best. He's only making 20 receptions a season.

    I feel, Mo Jo could break through as the league's top running back this year. If he runs for 1'300+ and makes 60 receptions, he moves ahead of AP.

    5: My fantasy tip. Ray Rice. He could have a huge season, if you look at his pre season.

    Totally the number 1 guy there now. Ahead of McGahee. Great rusher. Amazing hands.

    Seriously, I'm predicting 1'300 yards and 70 receptions for Ray. And a move into the elite group of receivers.



  • Comment number 29.

    "(2) Green Bay are highly fancied. Why? "

    They've destroyed very good teams in pre season. I think they put 38 points past the jets first team defence in a single half, a few weeks ago.

    In short, everyone they have faced, they've beaten by at least 20 points.

    They look very dominant on offence.

  • Comment number 30.

    One last question Neil,

    What has happened to broadcasting legend Ian Allen? Ex NYG O line, who appeared on the cable coverage?

    The guy is brilliant. I loved his prediction, during half time, that the NFL would be played by computers and robots within 50 years. Genius!

    I heard he was last season, as a part owner of a britball team? Is this true? And can you get him involved in the beeb coverage please!

  • Comment number 31.

    Good to hear that the beeb are going to knock it up a notch this season. Steelers have to go in as favourites as they've returned pretty much every one and we all know: the be the man you gotta beat the man!

  • Comment number 32.

    What do you think of the Titans chances this year? They've added to the run game and pass game, and do you think Van Der Bosch can plug the gap of the monster Haynesworth?! I'm sure if Johnston had stayed healthy last playoffs we'd have beaten the Ravens - they couldn't live with him!

  • Comment number 33.

    "In short, everyone they have faced, they've beaten by at least 20 points."

    Week 1: GB 17 Cleveland 0
    Week 2: GB 31 Bills 21
    Week 3: GB 44 Arizona 37
    Week 4: GB 13 Titans 27

    Here's the deal, I don't place too much stock in pre-season, the main issue for me is that whereas the Vikings and the Bears look stronger than last year, the Pack look virtually unchanged.

    Offensively last year they did okay, although the running game was modest. Defensively they weren't that good. And I can't see what they've done to improve their chances.

  • Comment number 34.

    wow San Diego LT isnt what he was and Sproles is a decent change of pace, Rivers and the receiving core are very strong, but they play Steelers, Ravens, Giants, Titans and Cowboys a lot of those games are road games too

    Giants as long as the receivers step up should make the playoffs SB might be a reach

    my tips are from the NFC Vikings or Saints and from the AFC Ravens or Steelers

  • Comment number 35.

    @ Mike_Naylor

    As a Packers fan I hope you're right but I think you're being a tad optimistic.

    I agree Rodgers is establishing himself as an elite qb and his numbers last season were already excellent. Our passing game will be our strength again this year no doubt.

    But in order to make an impact it is the weak points of our game that we must improve. We need to rediscover a functional running game. Hopefully Ryan Grant will benefit from having a full training camp but I'm not convinced that he will again see the success he enjoyed in his breakout season.

    More importantly how we deal with switch to the 3-4 defence will determine whether we're capable of reaching the playoffs. Hopefully it will help us be more effective defending the run and getting more pressure on opposition qbs. Allied with our strength at corner back and safety then we might start to get a better balance both sides of the field which was what we missed last year.

    That said, I expect the vikings to win the NFC north. Having Favre will help Peterson plus they have in my mind the best defence in the NFC.

  • Comment number 36.

    Oh also should have said welcome Neil. Enjoyed your blog and look forward to hearing more from you as the season progresses.

    Will Tim Love also be contributing this season?

  • Comment number 37.

    surely with the form shown in preseason by nate davis. do you reckon he could be a strter at some point with the niners this year neil?

  • Comment number 38.

    Don't agree with the idea that Vikings will challenge, Brett Favre has had 2 chances to retire and has ultimately made the wrong choice both times. A wonderful career but now just not up to it, just see how he couldn't take jets to post season last year. Can see the same happening to Vikings, and they won't make SB on a running game alone.

    Loving the optimism about the Giants, but as a Giants fan I just feel we don't look as strong offensively as the past couple of years. Need Hixon to prove himself as a number 1 reciever, although I am confident of Smith doing a good job in the slot once again. Relying on Nicks building on a good season and Eli keeping a cool head to have any chance of a good passing game.

    Saying that, with Tuck and Osi our pash rush looks immense once again, slightly worried about Secondary and Linebackers, and so I just don't think we will make SB this year. I expect play-offs, maybe we'll get luck like 2 years ago, but main aim should be building for next season, where we should be a real force with one or two further acquisitions.

    Finally, any chance of more live tv coverage other than Wembley and SB, as Five have cancelled coverage and I have no Sky so it would be good to have more chances to watch NFL.

  • Comment number 39.

    Backofdanet- check out 606 this Friday!

  • Comment number 40.

    You've got to think about the packers this year when you mention Super Bowl. Solid improved offence with Rodgers 2nd year as starter, Jennings as one of the best WR in the league with the experience steady hands of driver on the other side with a solid O-Line and good young WRs. Defence has to improve this year from last I admit but with Harris & Woodson at CB and Collins FS thats good enough anywhere. Improved LB core and going to more adaptable 3-4 defense I thinking good things this year. Beat the Vikings with Farve & win division would be great, championship brillinat. Super Bowl....! Very much do-able.

  • Comment number 41.

    Pre-season is absolutely no indication of how a team will perform in the regular season!! Case in point last seasons 4-0 Lions who didn't exactly maintain that form in the regular season. Rosters haven't been cut, coaches don't concern theirselves with schemes for individual teams and main starters don't play a great deal of downs. The games are just elaborate training sessions.
    The joy of the NFL is that you can try and pick an eventual winner but you are very likely to be wrong. No offense Nick but no chance the Giants win the Superbowl. Eli Manning just plain ain't good enough!!
    Even though I will no doubt be wrong, my pick for the 2 teams playing in the superbowl is The Vikings vs The Patriots. I expect Brady to show once again why he is perhaps the best QB of all time (my fantasy team certainly hopes so) and a playmaking QB is exactly what the Vikings needed to become an elite side. Sure Favre is passed his best but he is still good enough that defence's won't be able to fill the box which will give Peterson the chance to dominate and run the Vikings all the way to superbowl glory.

  • Comment number 42.

    Giants, really? Even though no one would have predicted the cards last year, i think they had higher potential than the giants do now, though umenyiora is a big return for them.

    I just hope the packers beat the vikings twice...then win the division...then win the nfc...then the superbowl!

  • Comment number 43.

    I'm a Rams fan so my hopes for this season have gone the way of Adam Carriker's shoulder (fallen to pieces with a knife due to be stuck in it sometime this week and hoping for a return for the 2010 season). I'm looking at this year just trying to see some hope for the future - if Steven Jackson can carry the load without injury, the offensive line can step up a bit (adding Jasons Smith & Brown should help), Donnie Avery can emerge as a good receiver and Chris Long can show what he's capable of then I think the Rams have a good shot at improving to ...oh, I don't know, about 5-11 (all 5 wins would be against fellow division teams!).

    As for the Superbowl, the only thing I can see standing in the way of the Chargers getting there is Norv Turner coaching them. I'm thinking Chargers V Saints as the Superbowl I'd like to see, but probably Patriots V Eagles as the most likely one.

  • Comment number 44.

    Hi Neil/Tim Love.

    Just wondered what you thought of my Eagles this coming season? Now Tim try not to baulk at the idea of commenting on the amazing Eagles as I am sure you feel frustrated at being in our shadow for 20 odd years but waddayagannado?

    Also what do you guys make of the virtual "swap" of Vet TE Curtis for rookie TE Smith?

  • Comment number 45.

    Just thought I would weigh in with responses to some of your questions and thoughts.

    On the Chicago Bears... What a great move to trade for Jay Cutler and I think Matt Forte will continue to shine at RB. They don't have a premier wideout but as I mentioned before, that can be overcome. And they do have a good TE in Greg Olsen and Forte catches passes well out of the backfield. Add in a good defense and decent special teams and Chicago will be competitive... I just fancy Minnesota and particularly Green Bay more in the NFC North and feel the Bears might get squeezed out.

    On Ray Rice... There is no doubt this is one of the more athletic running backs in the NFL. Explosive and quick to hit the hole, he will play a key role in Baltimore this term. I saw him at mini-camp in June... the Ravens players were trying to slam dunk the ball over the goalposts... Rice was the smallest guy on the field and was dunking it with ease. It was only a group of guys messing about, but it was very impressive.

    On the Packers... Yes, I have bought into the Packers and have predicted they will make the playoffs this season. I think last year they were one of the best 6-10 teams in recent NFL history and they lost seven games by less than one score. Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Grant, Greg Jennings, Donald Driver... that is one impressive offense, and the defense should improve with the return of DT Cullen Jenkins and the move to a 3-4 system.

    On Adrian Peterson... I think Peterson is the most talented back in the game today. I just wish he would hold onto the football a little better - 9 fumbles in 2008. That's way too many for an elite back. When he puts it all together, and if he can stay healthy, Peterson has all the tools to be one of the very best ever.

    On Mark Sanchez... It was a good move to draft Sanchez and he will be good in time. I just don't see enough offensive weapons around him, and that is key for a rookie quarterback. The Jets will be fun to watch though, given that their head coach Rex Ryan is a quote machine!

  • Comment number 46.

    Hi Neil, it's great that the BBC have finally picked up on the growing popularity of the NFL and got a dedicated blog where people who know what they are talking about can discuss all things NFL.

    I am a loyal Baltimore fan and obviously think that we can go one better than last season and make to the 'bowl. I love what coach Harbaugh has done with both the lines and if the Joe Flacco i've seen in pre season shows up week one vs. Kansas City, that it will make it all the easier for Ray Rice to have this breakout season that so many are expecting. I still think Ray Rice needs one more season as the no.1 guy before he become truly elite, but im willing to be proved wrong!

    Also, i look through the NFC and don't really see any teams that scare me like some of them do in the AFC. I think it could be pretty tough to pick the NFC superbowl team... but if forced to i'm plugging for Eagles, especially if the defense maintains it's aggresion despite the passing of the late Jim Johnson (a sad day for the NFL).

    In the AFC, i think the Patriots are being shockingly over looked in favour of the Chargers, which will suit them just fine as Tom Brady orchestrates another 40 TD season. With all the recent allegations surrounding Shawn Merriman, I think the Chargers walk their division, but lose to the Colts in their playoff game. But marks my words, the Patriots are more than happy to fly under the radar

    Special mention for the Houston Texans, who will pushed into third by Indy and Tennesse, but will play some of the best football in the league offensively. That team is not far from being serious contenders. I haven't chekced the schedule but if they are playing New Orleans... what a spectacle!

    supersps

  • Comment number 47.

    it's not just the fact that the giants dont have a no.1 wideout ,its debateable whewther they have much passing game left at all now. with the other nfc east teams all having very good defenses its not even assured they'll get into the plasyoffs as they could suffer in the tie breakers. (this could be the same for all the teams in the nfc east as its THAT close) the problem for new york is that they wont simply be able to run all over everyone all season and cant rely on getting the kind of start that they got last year. youre also assuming that the Osi is ok and knee ligaments have a nasty habit of being a bit dodgy for a while after they come back-next year he'll be fine but he'll still have to be careful this...when he isnt falling out with his defensive coordinator. if the giants D holds then their running game will keep them in it but they simply dont have the game to chase-that will be their downfall.
    not that i'm offering anyone else up for the nfc because its just too tight. the past few years have shown that the nfc race doesnt show any real favorites and the playoffs have had a habit recently of offering us some real dark horses-lets not forget that the year new york won the superbowl they came in as wild cards having lost twice to dallas and arizona came in last year as "the worst playoff team ever" to nearly winning the lot. but i guess your job is to stick your neck out at this time of year and we'll then spend the rest of the year poking fun at you!
    at least the 7 months of hell is almost over...cant wait!
    GO COWBOYS!

  • Comment number 48.

    I agree that Peterson is certainly one of the most talented RBs in the league, and that he certainly fumbles too often. Something that spots me from labelling him as the best, however, is the low number of touchdowns he scored last year. With 10 TDs on the ground, he ranked tied 8th in the league, alongside rookies Tim Hightower, Le'Ron McLain and Jonathan Stewart (Chris Johnson, Steve Slaton and Matt Forte also scored the same, or more TDs if you include receiving TDs).

    To me, the best back in the league last year was DeAngelo Williams. 3rd in yardage, 1st in TDs, and with the best YPC of any starting RB in the league (Leon Washington, Kevin Faulk and Derrick Ward being the only 3 players in the top 50 to beat him). I don't see how you could argue that.

    This year, with Joe Flacco opening up the passing game a bit more, I would expect Peterson to get a lot more space to run in, and hopefully this will show in the number of TDs he is able to score.

  • Comment number 49.

    @ #48

    I take then MTR you think the Ravens may well be good enough for a SB appearance?

  • Comment number 50.

    I can't see the Giants/Chargers myself, the Giants have no receivers to speak of and those they have will take time to build a tandem with Eli, although Giants don't have to play well in a Superbowl winning year, they scraped through to the playoffs in 07 and the rest is history. As for the Chargers LT is not the player he once was, plus you have Merriman's off the field problems in the perss at present, could cause disruption to the team.

    I'm going out on a limb and looking for a Superstar Superbowl with the Patriots offensive fireworks overcoming the Cowboys. I can't see it happening, its a case of my heart ruling my head on that, but I can dream!

  • Comment number 51.

    Neil/Tim - any chance you can give us your predictions of division winners and wildcards ?

  • Comment number 52.

    @48

    Im a fool- I meant Favre, not Flacco.

    @49

    I absolutely think the Ravens have a chance at the Superbowl, as all AFCCG competitors should have, but being in a division with the Steelers means they'll be the second favourite in my book. The Steelers have one of the most dominating defenses of all time, having not really lost any players they couldn't afford to lose, and are playing a much easier schedule than last year.

  • Comment number 53.

    This is my full breakdown for the playoffs...

    AFC East: New England
    AFC North: Baltimore Ravens
    AFC South: Tennessee Titans
    AFC West: San Diego Chargers

    AFC Wild Cards: Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins

    NFC East: New York Giants
    NFC North: Green Bay Packers
    NFC South: New Orleans Saints
    NFC West: Arizona Cardinals

    NFC Wild Cards: Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles

    AFC Championship Game: San Diego over Baltimore
    NFC Championship Game: New York Giants over New Orleans

    Super Bowl: New York Giants over San Diego Chargers

  • Comment number 54.

    "Week 1: GB 17 Cleveland 0
    Week 2: GB 31 Bills 21
    Week 3: GB 44 Arizona 37
    Week 4: GB 13 Titans 27"

    You should see the breakdown, between first team performance and second team.

    The games were only close, because the 2nd team isn't up to it. The first team, first halfs, weren't even close.

    I think GB were 30 points up against Arizona, at half time, for example.

    As for your comments on defence - many American pundits think GB have made huge strides forward on the D, this season

  • Comment number 55.

    "As a Packers fan I hope you're right but I think you're being a tad optimistic.

    I agree Rodgers is establishing himself as an elite qb and his numbers last season were already excellent. Our passing game will be our strength again this year no doubt.

    But in order to make an impact it is the weak points of our game that we must improve. We need to rediscover a functional running game. Hopefully Ryan Grant will benefit from having a full training camp but I'm not convinced that he will again see the success he enjoyed in his breakout season.

    More importantly how we deal with switch to the 3-4 defence will determine whether we're capable of reaching the playoffs. Hopefully it will help us be more effective defending the run and getting more pressure on opposition qbs. Allied with our strength at corner back and safety then we might start to get a better balance both sides of the field which was what we missed last year.

    That said, I expect the vikings to win the NFC north. Having Favre will help Peterson plus they have in my mind the best defence in the NFC"

    The optimism is only based on US coverage, and punditry.

    If you have a look at ESPN, and Sports Illustrated, most of their pundits have Green Bay winning that division.

    And a heck of a lot of them have Aaron Rodgers as a serious MVP candidate.

    Hell of a turn around I know. They are either talking rubbish, or they've seen something in it all.

  • Comment number 56.

    "On Adrian Peterson... I think Peterson is the most talented back in the game today. I just wish he would hold onto the football a little better - 9 fumbles in 2008. That's way too many for an elite back. When he puts it all together, and if he can stay healthy, Peterson has all the tools to be one of the very best ever."

    Don't get me wrong, Peterson will probably go down as GOAT, when he retires, but I think he's just a pure rusher. He's not that great, all round.

    He reminds me of Erik Dickerson. Erik was a rushing freak, who racked up huge numbers in his peak in the league.

    Like AP, he wasn't great at catching the ball, and had pretty average receiving figures. And wasn't that great a blocker.

    Don't get me wrong, being like AD isn't a bad thing. HOF player and all that.

    But AP really for me, needs to improve his route running, catching, and blocking, to be thought of as say a Barry Sanders or LT sort of level.

    As in, AP had 20 receptions in his first season. 21 in his second. A player of his talent should be catching the ball way more.

    You know, LT will probably retire with 750 career receptions, or something like that. Peterson has 41 thus far!

    Again, I think a few guys could challenge AP for being the best back in the league this season.

    Mo Jo Drew averages about 50 receptions a season (twice as much as Peterson). If he can rack up 1'500 yards, I'd rate him better

  • Comment number 57.

    PS. Have you noticed how many great running backs retire without a ring?

    In my opinion, as a position, they price themselves out of Superbowls.

    Star Quarterbacks are deeemed worthy of long time, big money. Running backs, not so.

    As soon as they start asking for too much, they are shipped out.

    In my opinion, barring guys like Barry Sanders, a succesfull rusher is a lot more line, than it is running back talent.

    I think half the guys in the league could put up big numbers with the Minnesota line, as an example.

    Just look how many backup guys came in last season, and got great YOC averages

  • Comment number 58.

    10 years in the british league?
    surely you are forgetting that windy day in march 1988 when the combined talents of reynolds, denton and hill were no match for my aerial attack, (27a 6c don't you know). mote park had never seen such a dismal display of stuttering offense. still, you did run for 157 yards and 4 touchdowns i suppose...

  • Comment number 59.

    @ #52 Ha! clearly I didn't read your paragrah re: "Flacco"....

  • Comment number 60.

    @57 The best example of how it's the line rather than the RB can be found in Mike Shanahan's Denver team, who could have a nobody off the street come in and suddenly become a 1000-yard rusher.

    I think guys like LT, MJD and the likes of Derrick Ward and Brian Westbrook (and of course the trend-setter, Marshall Faulk) are the most exciting kind of backs, as they can impact the game in so many different ways.

  • Comment number 61.

    Arthuradd... What is sadder? The fact that we were running around that park thinking, as teenagers, we were the second coming of Dan Marino and Eric Dickerson... or the fact that you kept stats?

    I think we all know the answer to that one!

  • Comment number 62.

    haha dissed!

  • Comment number 63.

    Chargers V Eagles in SuperBowl. Go Hull City!

    www.nationalfootballreport.com

  • Comment number 64.

    you want sad? i've still got footage of that day on video. marino/dickerson? i was sure i was going to be the next jay schroeder...somehow it didn't happen. (cue tongues in cheeks).
    anyway, nice to hear from you neil after all these years.
    so, this season, the redskins: wild card chase...or wild goose chase?
    i don't see us catching the giants from week one onwards.

  • Comment number 65.

    As a new British resident to Californ.I.A, here's my twopence, 2 weeks in:

    AFC East: Jets
    AFC North: Steelers
    AFC South: Titans
    AFC West: Chargers

    AFC Wild Cards: Patriots, and the Colts

    NFC East: Giants
    NFC North: Vikings
    NFC South: Saints
    NFC West: 49ers
    NFC Wild Cards: Cardinals, and Atlanta.

    I daren't adventure further... Ok. Giants to win the Superbowl.

 

BBC iD

Sign in

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.