Posted on: August 1, 2010 10:09 am

The X Factors in the NFC

I will discuss what the 'X' factors are for each team in the NFC to have a successful season. Obviously, success is different for each team as I think just being competitive in each game will be a success for some teams. Playoffs are not in the cards for every team even though they are all 0-0 right now. I will have in-depth predictions before the season starts.  


Dallas Cowboys- Jason Garrett- Garrett is probably the most overrated offensive coordinator in the NFL. His offense is often predictable (Ray Lewis said the Cowboys were the easiest team he has ever game planned against) and with all the weapons the Cowboys have had the past three years, they have only won one playoff game. The Cowboys couldn't even muster a touchdown, or even move the ball after the first quarter, in the embarrassing loss to Vikings last year. If that horrible offensive output didn't put Garrett on the hot seat this year, I'm not sure what would. This year, the talk is about how good the wide receivers are on the Cowboys and it will be up to Garrett to utilize those weapons. 

Philadelphia Eagles- LeSean McCoy- The biggest mistake the Eagles could make this year is putting too much pressure on Kevin Kolb. He already inherited a lot of pressure after the Eagles traded their franchise QB Donovan McNabb to division rival Redskins. Taking away that pressure will mean McCoy running well. McCoy has high expectations for him as the Eagles do not have depth at RB. He never broke 100 yards in a game last year and he will have to break the 100 yard mark several times this season if the Eagles want to succeed. His 4.1 average per carry will have to improve as well. Just like Kolb, McCoy is replacing a fan favorite, Brian Westbrook, who was a major reason for the Eagles success the last seven years.

 New York Giants-Defensive line- The G-men had one of the strangest seasons last year in which they started off 5-0 and finished their 8-8 season losing their last two games by a combined 85-16 score.  Eli Manning had his best year in the NFL last year and Steve Smith emerged as a legit number one receiver.  The biggest problem was their bread and butter that won them a super bowl three years ago, defensive line, had a bad year.  Can’t put all the blame on the defensive line last year, but if the Giants want to go back to their winning ways, it will start with the defensive line.

Washington Redskins- Devin Thomas / Malcom Kelly- Last year, the Redskins bored everyone to death with their offense, but the Redskins have some excitement this year bringing in Mike Shanahan as the new coach and trading for Donovan McNabb. McNabb has solid TEs in Fred Davis and Chris Cooley, but they’re lacking a second receiver to compliment the aging Santana Moss. In 2008, the Redskins believed they drafted possibly two possession receivers to compliment the short Moss (6’2” Thomas and 6’4” Kelly), but both have been disappointments. Davis worked out as he was a second rounder as well. For the ‘Skins to be successful in 2010, one of the two, perhaps both will have to step up and start producing.


Chicago Bears- Mike Martz- Martz has a lot of work to do. His first priority is to instill confidence in his QB, Jay Cutler, who had his worst year after publicly demanding a trade out of Denver. Cutler has to improve his attitude and become a better leader because the Bears success depends on him. The Bears were 1-9 last year when Cutler’s TD-INT ratio was equal or in favor of the INTs. That means they were 6-0 when Cutler threw more TDs than INTs. Martz’s second priority is finding the rookie phenom, Matt Forte, who had a bad sophomore slump. If Forte can go back to his ways as a rookie, that can only help Cutler out. Finally, Martz has to get production from his WRs. The WRs didn’t help Cutler’s QB rating last year as they dropped a lot of balls and some of those drops resulted in INTs. They have the speed, but somebody has to step up and be a go to guy that Cutler can depend on.

Detroit Lions- Matthew Stafford- There are a lot of problems with the Lions, who infinitely improved with two wins last year (yeah, that was a cheap shot), but winning more games will start with Stafford. Stafford will have to manage the game better because turning the ball over won’t help a bad defense that already gives up a lot points. He has an elite receiver in Calvin Johnson to depend on and hopefully the newly acquired Nate Burleson will help as well. The Lions drafted Jahvid Best last year who will compete with Kevin Smith who a down year last year and may not be ready by the start of the season after tearing his ACL at the end of last year.  Stafford will have to make quick decisions as the offensive line will probably still be a problem.

Green Bay Packers- Dom Capers- the Packers have an explosive offense and improved throughout the season last year after Aaron Rodgers stopped holding on to the ball, but the Packers defense was inconsistent and at times, looked like a red carpet leading to the end zone. Capers installed his 3-4 defense last year so he needs to get the defense more consistent this season. Capers will have to find a replacement for Johnny Jolly who had a solid season last year, but was recently busted for an amazing amount of codeine.

Minnesota Vikings- Adrian Peterson- Yes, I’m going to beat a dead horse, but that dead horse will be beaten until it’s proven to be gone. That dead horse is Peterson’s fumbling issues. Peterson has to become the leader of the Vikings and a leader has to have the coach’s confidence. Right now, Coach Childress will cringe every time Peterson’s number is called in close games and nobody can blame him. I don’t consider Brett Favre a leader because Favre doesn’t attend OTAs and may not attend a full camp again. People claim his absence is okay with everybody, but that isn’t true with all his teammates. Everybody thought that was the case for the Packers and Jets and as soon as Favre and it wasn’t. Peterson has to be the leader on the field and the locker room as he is the Vikings future.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Defensive line- The Buccaneers continue to struggle on offense and this doesn’t look like it’s going to be any different. That means, once again, the defense will have to pick up the slack. The defense attempted to use something different from their famous Tampa-2 defense, but it didn’t work out at all. Coach Raheem Morris is bringing it back and that means he has to find the right players on the defensive line to put pressure on the QB. The Bucs drafted DT Gerald McCoy who will have a lot of pressure as a rookie as he will have to lead the line made up of unknowns. DE Stylez White led the team in sacks last year with only 6.5 sacks. That total will have to increase to make the Tampa-2 effective enough to win games.

Atlanta Falcons- Michael Turner- the Falcons had two consecutive winning seasons for the first time in franchise history after last season, but that didn’t mean much without a playoff berth. After having a monster season in 2008, RB Michael Turner couldn’t get himself out of the training room last season and the Falcons were ineffective and sophomore QB Matt Ryan struggled. The Falcons need Turner to keep the pressure off of Ryan and that will mean staying healthy. The Falcons will have to manage Turner's carries (over 370 carries two seasons ago) better so they do not over use him.

Carolina Panthers- Matt Moore- the Panthers finished the season strong last year, 4-1 in their last five, after benching QB Jake Delhomme in favor of Moore. In those five games, Moore finished with a 98.5 QB rating throwing 8 TDs to 2 INTs. The Panthers have two great RBs, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, who both finished with over 1,100 yards rushing, the first time a team has done that in the NFL. It will be up to Matt Moore to manage the game and hopefully he can build off of last season’s success. It will be a tougher job if WR Steve Smith isn’t ready by the start of the season. 

New Orleans Saints- Darren Sharper- the Super Bowl champs won’t have any worries on offense as long as Drew Brees is there, but there were some concerns with the defense last year. The defense made huge plays throughout the season and during Saints playoff run last year, including the pick six in the super bowl that put the game out of reach, and a huge part of those big plays was defensive leader, SS Darren Sharper. Sharper had micro-fracture knee surgery this past offseason and his health will be the key factor the Saints defense.


San Francisco 49ers- Alex Smith- Alex Smith has to prove this year he was worth the first overall pick. This is a make or break season for Smith. He is in his sixth season and he has some very good talent around him with second year wide out Michael Crabtree, TE Vernon Davis who has the potential to be the best TE in the league and RB Frank Gore who can reel off 200 yards in any given game. The 49ers success will be in the hands of Smith. In past seasons, the 49ers have started multiple QBs, not because of injuries, but because of no production. If Smith can play consistently and manage the game, the 49ers can live up to their high expectations. They are the favorite to win the NFC West by many.

Arizona Cardinals- Matt Leinart- the Cardinals have lost their starting QB, Kurt Warner, to retirement, and now it’s time for Leinart to show what he is worth. Leinart will have higher expectations than other first time starters because he has been in the league for a while. He will probably be compared to Tony Romo’s first year as Romo didn’t start until mid-season of his fifth year. Leinart has had a few starts prior to this season with little to no success and that will have to change for the Cardinals to have success this year.

St. Louis Rams- Offensive line- Let’s be honest, the Rams don’t have much hope this year. They can, however, do some things that will be stepping stones to success in future seasons. One of those things is going to be protecting rookie first pick, Sam Bradford. Coach Spagnuolo will have to make sure he keeps Bradford out of obvious passing downs. Bradford had shoulder issues in college and missed most of last year’s college season. Bradford also has added pressure with a league record deal. Part of taking that pressure off will be feeding the beast in the backfield, RB Steven Jackson. Jackson had an outstanding year last year, considering his circumstances. The best thing for the Rams this year will be getting Bradford experience and building his confidence up. If Bradford shows progression this year, the season will be a success.

Seattle Seahawks- Matt Hasselbeck- in Hasselbeck’s best NFL season, the Seahawks went to the super bowl and lost. Since that 2005 season, Hasselbeck has completed only one full season and the Seahawks have not been competitive. The Seahawks are giving Coach Pete Carroll a second chance after he failed in New England years ago. Carroll had great success as USC head coach, but he left the school in probation for rules violations so his motive for joining the Seahawks is in question after Carroll repeatedly turned down NFL offers throughout the year. Carroll has shown no loyalty to his ex-USC players as he has cut a few of his former players. He will have to create an offense that will keep Hasselbeck healthy and that may be a tough task as there aren’t too many weapons on offense that will scare the defenses in the league. Hasselbeck will have to manage the game better than he has in the past and stay healthy for success in Seattle.
Posted on: July 2, 2010 10:35 am
Edited on: July 2, 2010 11:12 pm

The Future of "King" James

The nickname "King" is very premature for LeBron James since a king is the ruler of the land, and to be "king" in the NBA, you must have at least one piece of jewelery on your hand, and James hasn't accomplished that. Lebron has a huge decision to make if he wants to live up to his nickname and I will discuss what are some of his best and worst options.
Cleveland- Staying in Cleveland won't hurt Lebron James at all. They can offer him the most money, salary wise, and he can build his legacy there and be the "King" of Cleveland. He needs to win a title in Cleveland to etch his legacy in stone in the NBA. If he plays his entire career in Cleveland and doesn't win a title, well, we have been watching a more talented Karl Malone. Cleveland doesn't seem to have the roster that compliments Lebron and looks to be that roster who can win a lot of games, but will always fall short of any title. If Lebron stays in Clevenland, I expect it will be tied to a deal to get Chris Bosh on the roster.

Chicago- Chicago, in my opinion, is a lose-lose situation for James. The Bulls probably have the best roster to win a title, but even with a title and even multiple titles, Chicago will always be Jordan's city and Lebron can only be "Prince" there. Even worse for James would be not winning a title in Chicago. His legacy would be tarnished forever. He would be the guy who quit on Cleveland that couldn't win in Jordan's town. He would be making a big mistake joining Chicago.

New Jersey/Brooklyn- I think the Nets are the best option for James. Just imagine all the hype leading up to the move to Brooklyn. The owner is a multi-billionaire who can make James an international superhero. The Nets don't have the best roster, but they do have some young talent that James would make better. James' legacy could be huge because he will the guy that put Brooklyn back on the map in the NBA. He would feel the Heat from Knicks fans, but he would eventually make them love Brooklyn. To top it all off, New York will get him the most money off the court than any other place. Lebron would initially be called selfish because many people would see this move as the least likely winning situation, but winning will silence the critics. Bringing a title to Brooklyn would promote "King" James to "Lord" James.

New York- The Knicks would be very similar to the Nets, but I think they're below the Nets. The Knicks don't have the ownership and don't have Jay Z, a New York legend who is a partial owner of the Nets as well. A partnership with Jay Z will be huge. Who will promote Lebron form the Knicks? Spike Lee? A has been director, not going to work out.

Miami- Unlike many sports writers, I think teaming up with Dwayne Wade would work out well. However, James would not be the main guy in Miami as it is still Wade's city, but I think he can be looked at in the same manner as Wade. Wade would still be the leader of the team and James can just be James. James would finally have a teammate who can take over a game, something Cleveland has lacked his whole career.

Los Angeles- Not the Lakers, the Clippers. James could make a name for himself by winning with the Clippers, but let's be realistic, the Lakers have won so much in L.A. that the Clippers will always be an afterthought of the Lakers. Lebron can build a legacy with the Clippers, but it will be extremely difficult to just get up to the status of so many legends of the Lakers.

Dallas- Signing with the Mavericks wouldn't be a bad option either as the Mavs have a great owner who is willing to do anything for a title. The Mavs wouldn't be as lucrative off the court though. It will also be tough for James to make Dallas a basketball city competing against one of the most historic franchises in sports history, the Dallas Cowboys. James could still make Dallas a formiddable force in the NBA and build a legacy in Dallas. My brother came up with another great point for Dallas and that is the connection between Mark Cuban and Jerry Jones. Just imagine how many key games would fill 80,000 seats or more in Dallas.

If I had to make a prediction on where Lebron James will go, I'd have to go with Cleveland. Right now, I'd say my percentage chances are Cleveland is 40%, Brooklyn is 20%, Chicago, New York and Miami 10%, and Dallas and Los Angeles are 5%. No matter what other city Lebron chooses, he will have to do a lot for people to forget he gave up, quit on Cleveland. It would be different if he won a title and moved on, but he didn't win a title. Another interesting thing will be how many years he puts in his contract wherever he goes. Some people may think that Lebron's legacy isn't important in his decision, but I think it is and will be one of the primary factors in his decision. I will obviously be wrong if he signs with Chicago because James will never be bigger than Jordan there, but I think Chicago has already been ruled out by James because he is concerned with his legacy in the NBA.
Posted on: June 23, 2010 12:12 am

Let Me Put the MJ vs Kobe Argument to Rest

If you're a sports enthusiast like me, you are probably sick and tired of hearing all the sports radio talk comparing Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. It feels like I'm driving down the road and seeing a bunch of sports radio hosts holding "please help me" signs. We're enering into a dry area of sports talk and it's quite obvious they're desperate for a controversial topic which isn't even controversial at all. Michael Jordan is the best player of all time (well, for all the old timers, I'll put it as he's the best guard of all time) and there is no question about it. After reading this, I'm certain you will agree with me.
The biggest argument Bryant supporters have is that he is creeping up on Jordan's title total and that is it. It's also a lame argument because if we want to compare the Bulls best player during their championship run to the Lakers best player their first three, well, Kobe isn't even in the argument. We would be comparing Jordan to Shaquille O'Neal. People want to compare Jordan's partner in crime, Scottie Pippen, to Kobe's partner in crime, Shaquille O'Neal, when in fact, it was the other way around. Kobe was "Robin" to O'Neal who was "Batman". Really, we should be comparing Jordan to O'Neal as to who was the better player for their team for the first three titles for each team. O'Neal did a good job matching Jordan with three title MVP's. Bryant had zero. So did Scottie Pippen.
If we want to blindly include the first three titles into the equation and pretend Bryant was the primary player, than the argument turns to another point. When Scottie Pippen didn't have Jordan, he didn't win any titles at all. He had one deep run with the Blazers, but besides that didn't do much at all. He played six seasons post-Jordan and almost two seasons without Jordan in between the Bulls two three-peats. The Bulls only played ten playoff games and even though Pippen had higher than average season totals, his playoff totals dropped dramatically. He couldn't handle the pressure without Jordan and his self-benching during the final seconds of a playoff game exemplified the fact that Pippen wasn't good enough to lead the Bulls anywhere. O'Neal went to Miami and won a title with Dwayne Wade.
Let's put the titles to the side for now and discuss the raw data, the statistics. Michael Jordan in every important stat kept in basketball is better than Kobe Bryant and he was always the Bulls focal point while Bryant had one of the best centers to ever play the game as the focal point for the Lakers. Michael Jordan was 50% shooter as a guard and as the main player on his team. That is a truly amazing number that nobody appreciates enough. Kobe Bryant can make his next 1,500 shots in a row and still would not have a better shooting percentage than Michael Jordan. Yes, Jordan wasn't the greatest three point shooter ever, but he didn't have to because his presence allowed his teammates to get open shots. According to stats, Jordan was also a better passer and team player since he averaged more assists per game tha Kobe. Yes, it's a small margin, but yet another better stat as well.
Who pounded the boards better? Oh, that would be Jordan too. Again, a slight margin, but still better. Turnovers can win games and Jordan was not only better at stealing the ball, but also turned over the ball less. Remember, Jordan was the Bulls focal point his entire career while Bryant was a second option for the majority of his first seven years of his career.
People want to agrue that Kobe was a young kid his first two years so they shouldn't really count. With that, we would have to discount Jordan of his final two years with the Washington Wizards and even without the Jordan discount, his numbers are still better. That also opens up the LeBron James argument as James without any doubt started his career with far less talent than Bryant ever did and put up phenomenal numbers.
Let's talk playoffs now. Let me put it in a different perspective for you. Bryant has played 19 MORE playoff games than Jordan (198-179) and he has 125 less rebounds, 67 less assists, 98 less steals, and all the while Jordan outscores Bryant by almost eight points per game.
Those were all statistical differences which were close in comparison to the intangible differences that Jordan humiliates Bryant in. Jordan was the best leader I've ever seen on the basketball court. I was never at any practice, but there many reports of Jordan being harsh on his teammates when he thought they weren't practicing hard enough. There were reports that he slapped his teammates. Mike Greenberg form "Mike & Mike" on ESPN in the morning can attest to this. Jordan's demand for excellence can probably attribute to the fact that no player left the Bulls and put up better numbers than he did with Jordan. I can't say Bryant doesn't do this, but I can say with the media being more and more involved with sports teams, no report even close to Jordan types have been reported since his retirement.
People can question Jordan's first retirement, but no other player in any sport in Jordan's stature had to endure what he did with his father's horrific murder. It was very sad to see Jordan retire, but I couldn't blame him. Jordan reached the pinnacle of his life while his father was alive so what was there to accomplish after his death? I could only imagine the pride Jordan's father had for him. It is the ultimate dream of any father to see his son be the best and Jordan did just that three years in a row. He didn't quit, he took a break to reflect on life. People respected his decision and rightfully so. When Jordan realized that basketball (and sports in general) was the ultimate release from the pain inside, he proved again he was the best player in the best league on the planet. Bryant, on the other hand, essentially quit on his team. He asked to be traded publicly. Something a true leader would never do, speak out to the media about team issues. Name a time when Jordan ever did that. Again, Bryant quit, and was never traded because the team never traded him. It wasn't because he had second thoughts, it was because they wouldn't trade him.
This past NBA season/NBA Finals, could be easily compared to the baseball movie "Mr. Destiny" for Kobe Bryant. If the Lakers lost to the Celtics, which went to a very close game seven, Bryant would have been one of the biggest choke artists of all time. He had a John Starks like performance in game seven. In all honesty, an inexcusable performance. Remember, Jordan never went to a game seven.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com