Monday Notes: Jets Hit Season Low, Hurt Playoff Chances

A Quick Recap of Last Week in JetNation:

 

Jets Fall to Texans in Ugly Fashion, Hurt Their Playoff Aspirations

 

After an ugly game against the Texans the Jets fall to 5-5 on the season. It has been a 180 degree turnaround from the first five games of the season compared to the last five. After starting 4-1, the Jets have gone 1-4 in their last five.The first quarter of the game was a very slow defensive battle with Houston dominating the time of possession. The Texans ate up over 10 minuets of clock in two possessions, scoring on their second. The Jets only had one possession the first quarter and failed to get any points. In the second quarter the Jets forced a fumble on defense with a strip sack from Marcus Williams and were able to capitalize with a field goal making it 3-3. Then after a punting drive from both sides, DeAndre Hopkins had a 61-yard touchdown reception over Darrelle Revis making it 10-3. Then after two punting drives to start the second half, the Jets made it 10-10 after Chris Ivory’s fumble was reversed. Eric Decker drew a 44-yard pass interference call on the following play, setting up Brandon Marshall’s 21-yard touchdown reception from Ryan Fitzpatrick. After their touchdown the Jets allowed a touchdown pass on a trick play with wide receiver Cecil Shorts throwing to a wide open Alfred Blue making it 17-10. On the Texans’ next position they would score another touchdown on a 20-yard pass to DeAndre Hopkins making it 24-10. After four more punting drives between each side, the Jets closed the gap with a 73-yard drive and a six-yard touchdown rush by Fitzpatrick. That’s where the comeback story ends. With four minuets and 20 seconds left, Fitzpatrick squandered any chance the Jets had at a comeback with back-to-back interceptions.

While there were a couple of moments of relief this was a very difficult game to watch. Both the defense and offense struggled to find any sort of rhythm. While the offense had to face the likes of J.J. Watt, Vince Wilfork, Jadeveon Clowney, Jonathan Joseph, etc. it was somewhat of a head-scratcher to see the defense get dismantled by third-string quarterback T.J. Yates. It’s hard to find them again this week, but the impact players of the game were: Bilal Powell, Eric Decker, Brandon Marshall, Damon Harrison, Marcus Williams, and Leonard Williams. Bilal Powell was the real standout of the game, making some clutch plays coming off his injury. The plays of the game were: Marcus Williams’ strip sack and recovery, Brandon Marshall’s 21-yard touchdown grab, Fitzpatrick’s 6-yard touchdown rush, Ivory’s 23-yard rush, and Bilal Powell’s 25-yard reception.

 

How the Mighty Have Fallen

 

It was an overall bad performance in every aspect. Every player in green and white made mistakes at some point in the game, leaving room for improvement in just about every area. The most alarming takeaway from the Texans game though was how badly Darrelle Revis got burned by wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins on multiple occasions. Jets fans are aware of the struggles that come with cornerback Antonio Cromartie’s play style, but this was possibly one of Revis’ worst games of his career. Against Revis, Hopkins had four receptions for 98 yards, over half of them coming from his 61-yard touchdown reception after he left Revis in the dust. On one of the first plays of the game, Hopkins had around five yards of separation from Revis on what would have been a 69-yard touchdown pass, but T.J. Yates overthrew him. Revis left the game with a concussion during the third quarter. It’s too early to say Revis isn’t an elite cornerback anymore, but it seems his age may be catching up to him.

 

Other Notes

 

Quincy Enunwa made his return after serving his four game suspension for a domestic violence incident. He wasn’t exactly spectacular in his return, but he made a couple of solid catches and a nice block. Enunwa had two receptions on four targets for 22 yards. Due to his body size being somewhere in between a wide receiver and tight end, Enunwa likely won’t be going down field for any fade routes but will be asked to block on some plays. If he continues to develop Enunwa could earn himself the number three or four spot on the depth chart.

Both Darrelle Revis and Nick Mangold suffered injuries in the game against the Texans. Revis left with a concussion in the third, and Nick Mangold left early in the game with deep lacerations on his snapping hand. Revis could return next week, but it’s possible he could also miss a week with his concussion. As for Mangold, he is battling through multiple injuries. Mangold suffered a neck injury earlier in the season, and also has a hand injury separate from the lacerations he suffered on Sunday. The extent of the lacerations isn’t known, but Mangold did have to receive stitches for the wound. To lose two of their star players for next week’s game would be a huge blow for the Jets.

Devin Smith is becoming more of a liability than anything so far for the Jets. Last week Smith had a costly fumble that was recovered for a touchdown, which could be viewed as a game costing touchdown seeing as the score was 22-17. This week Smith didn’t turn the ball over, but he had two huge drops that could have helped his team score points. The biggest one should have been a 46-yard touchdown reception. Smith was targeted four times, and had zero receptions. Bowles expressed his frustration after the game with Smith and other rookies saying “Rookies have to stop being rookies. They need to grow up. They get paid like everybody else and they have to start acting like they’re not in college anymore.” If Smith doesn’t make some serious changes he could find himself on the bench in favor of Kenbrell Thompkins and Jeremy Kerley.

Sitting at 5-5, the Jets are a far cry from where they were when they started the season. Instead of ridding high with a 4-1 record, they are scrambling for answers as they look to claw their way back into the playoff race. The margin for error is significantly smaller now than it was last week. With the 4-6 Dolphins coming to town, the word “desperation game” is an understatement for this match up. If the Jets can snag a win they can begin an effort to turn the season around, if they lose their playoff hopes become very bleak.

 

Inactives Report: Cromartie and Pryor Active, Richardson Out

Sheldon Richardson will miss his fifth game of the season after missing practice all week due to a hamstring injury. Richardson missed the first four games of the season due to a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. Knowing Richardson would likely sit out today, the Jets signed defensive end Mike Catapano from the practice squad. Richardson’s absence means the Jets will likely stick to their base 3-4 defense more than the past few games where they employed a 4-3 front to incorporate all of their starters.

Other inactives include: Dion Bailey, Dee Milliner, Bryce Petty, Kenbrell Thompkins, Ben Ijalana, and Dakota Dozier

With the return of Antonio Cromartie and Calvin Pryor the secondary is back to full strength. This makes backup Dion Bailey and Dee Milliner dispensable. Milliner was recently activated from the short term IR list, and only practiced on Friday due to an illness. It wasn’t likely that he’d be active today. Bailey is also nursing an injury, and wasn’t expected to play.

Bryce Petty will sit again today, continuing his redshirt rookie season. With Ryan Fitzpatrick coming off surgery, all eyes will be on his left hand thumb. The only way Petty would be active for a game this season is a worst case scenario for the Jets in which Fitzpatrick re-injures his hand. If that were the case, Geno Smith would likely take over with Petty as his backup. It’s highly unlikely Petty will see any time on the field this season.

Wide receiver Quincy Enunwa will make his return today after serving a four game suspension for a domestic violence incident. This makes Kenbrell Thompkins the odd man out. Thompkins has done a good job in the backup role while Enunwa served his suspension. Thompkins has caught 11 passes with 15 targets for 88 yards. Enunwa hasn’t been as efficient when it comes to catches with 8 receptions on 17 targets for 94 yards.

Ben Ijalana and Dakota Dozier will be inactive again this week. It’s a similar situation between Petty, Ijalana, and Dozier. They won’t see any time on the field this season unless they’re pressed into action due to injuries. Dozier had to step in for center Nick Mangold earlier in the season, but likely won’t be on the field during a game for the remainder of the season.

After dropping three of their last four games, and taking their only win in ugly fashion the Jets could really use a statement game against the Texans. While the defense will be licking their chops facing a third-string quarterback, the offense will have their hands full with the likes of J.J. Watt, Vince Wilfork, and Jadeveon Clowney. This is a pivotal game for the Jets’ playoff hopes as they could move to 6-4 or drop to 5-5.

Wilkerson Will Get Long-Term Deal

admin-ajax.phpThere has been much confusion over New York Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson’s contract status and the potential structure of a long-term deal.

Wilkerson is currently under contract with the Jets until 2014 and will receive a salary of $1.21 million in that year.  The Jets hold a team option to add a year on at the end of the 2013 season which would put Wilkerson under contract through 2015.

Former sports agent and National Football Post columnist Joel Corry explains that NFL teams will have some flexibility when looking at extensions for 2011 first round draft picks.

“The question for players like J.J. Watt and A.J. Green isn’t if they get a long-term deal but when,” Corry said. “Since teams can control 2011 first round picks through 2015, than use the franchise tag if necessary after that year, the organization has leverage in deciding when to begin contract negotiations.”

The Jets could easily keep Wilkerson through the 2017 season by adding a year onto his current contract than franchising him in 2016 and 2017.  This would cost the team approximately $33 million over the 2015-17 seasons but a player of Wilkerson’s abilities is certainly worth $11 million per year.

Having Wilkerson play under options and tenders is not preferred by either the team or the player, so a long-term deal makes sense.  The Jets along with Wilkerson’s representatives know the salary parameters it would take to keep him on the team through 2017.  This provides both sides with a starting point to begin negotiations.

The question is do the Jets increase Wilkerson’s salary for 2014 and lock him up long-term or wait until sometime in the future?  Wilkerson might have to give up some salary in later years to get more then he is currently scheduled to receive but the security of a multi-year contract would seem worth a sacrifice. 

Having the ability to restrict a player usually allows both sides to work out a deal since Wilkerson knows he will not be hitting unrestricted free agency anytime soon and doesn’t want to play under one-year contracts.  From the Jets stand point they know the team can keep Wilkerson if negotiations breakdown and revisit contract negotiations in the future.

The bottom line is Muhammad Wilkerson will be a Jet for the long run and it is simply a matter of time and negotiations before he is under contract for years to come. 

Houston Texans to Watch

The New York Jets take on the Houston Texans on Monday night and here is our full Jets game preview.  Everyone knows that the Texans are off to a 4 and 0 start, led by QB Matt Schaub.  Here are a few Houston players to keep your eye on during the game:

1. #23 RB Arian Foster– Foster is Houston’s biggest weapon. He’s rushed for 380 yards (3.7 average) this year and has caught 9 balls for 44 yards. He is an explosive running back that can make something out of nothing. His excellent field vision and awareness make it tough to get a good hit on him. Foster’s ability to cut back against the grain makes him an extremely dangerous opponent this week. The Jets will need to sure up their interior defensive line if they have any chance to stop Foster.

2. #99 DE J.J. Watt– J.J. “Swat” as he is now known around the league, leads all defensive ends in batted passes with 5. He has a high motor and a knack for getting to the quarterback. He already has 7.5 sacks on the season. With Sanchez being short in stature and having a low release, Watt can have a field day batting down passes this week. The Jets need to know where he is lined up on all plays to make sure this doesn’t happen. It’s hard to say who he will be lined up against because the Texans have so many pass rushing weapons, they may move Watt all over the line until he finds a weak spot to exploit.

3. #83 WR Kevin Walter– Andre Johnson is Andre Johnson. He’s going to get his catches, even with Cromartie on him. The guy that poses the biggest threat to the Jets, especially on third down is Kevin Walter. Walter only has 9 receptions on the year so far but he averages over 14 yards per catch. He will most likely be lined up against Kyle Wilson, which could make Walters, Matt Schaub’s go-to receiver this Monday night. Wilson was beat badly against the 49ers but most were incomplete. Schaub is a better quarterback than Alex Smith and he won’t miss those opportunities. Watch for Walters to have a Welker-like night on Monday night. If the Jets can hold him down, as well as, Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels, the defense will at least have the team in a position to win this ball game.

JetNation NFL Power Rankings – Part Three

(Part 1 Link)       (Part 2 Link)

10) Baltimore Ravens

Offense:  The Ravens came a stripped pass away from making the Super Bowl.  Feature RB Ray Rice had 1,364 yards rushing last season and 704 yards receiving.  The Ravens have franchised Rice and he is hoping to get a long term contract with the team.  The Ravens lost starting LG Ben Grubbs to the Saints but replaced him with veteran OG Bobbie Williams.  They also drafted Iowa State OL Kelechi Osemele (#60).  LT Bryant McKinnie has struggled with weight issues, surrendered 8.5 sacks last season and will turn 33 in September.  QB Joe Flacco, may think he is the best QB in the league, but puts up average numbers (3,610 YDS, 57.6 Comp%, 20 TD, 12 INT).  Flacco will be throwing to promising second year WR Torrey Smith (50 REC, 841 YDS) and veteran Anquan Boldin (57 REC, 887 YRDS) but he is turning 32 this season.  They did pick up WR/PR Jacoby Jones and have TEs Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta over 900 yards receiving last season.

Defense:  The Ravens strength is the defense which ranked 3rd (288.9 YDS) last season.  They also has 49 sacks on the year but have lost DE/OLB Terrell Suggs (70 TCKL, 14 SCKS, 7 FF) for probably the entire season with an Achilles tear. They hope rookie DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw (#35) can step in for Suggs.

Analysis:  The Ravens would be ranked higher if not for losing Suggs he is a playmaker and will be missed.  ILB Ray Lewis and FS Ed Reed aren’t getting any younger and while they have played at a high level they have to drop off at some point.  The Ravens o-line is in transition and the receiving core is not very deep.  They were able to beat Pittsburgh twice last season and win the division wonder if there good enough to do it again?  The Ravens are a playoff caliber team with a top 5 defense but may struggle to repeat as division champs.

9) New Orleans Saints

Offense:  How did San Diego ever let Darren Sproles go to the Saints, like their offense wasn’t potent enough, 1st (467.1 YDS, Per).  Sproles had almost 2,700 all-purpose yards and Drew Brees threw for an amazing 5,476 yards last year.  The Saints did lose WR Robert Meachem (40 REC, 620 YRDS) but still have stud TE Jimmy Graham (99 REC, 1,310 YRS, 13TD) drafted WR Nick Toon, former Jets WR Al Toon’s son, and Brees can make almost any WR look above average.  Brees is looking for a long term contract with the Saints as he was given the exclusive-franchise tag.  They also picked up LG Ben Grubbs to replace departed All-Pro Carl Nicks as the line and Brees’s quick release only gave up 24 sacks last season.

Defense:  The Saints had 33 sacks and were 30th (259.8 YRS, per) against the pass.  This is not surprising since most teams were so far behind they had to abandon the run.  The Saints added some veterans to the defense this off-season: DT Brodrick Bunkley, LB Curtis Lofton and LB David Hawthorne.  These pick-ups will help as LB Jonathan Vilma has been suspended for the entire season and DE Will Smith was given a four games suspension for the bounty-gate scandal.

Analysis:  Bounty-gate is bound to take a toll on the Saints season as they have lost their head coach Sean Payton for the entire year.  Their offense will still be top notch given Brees is a coach on the field and new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is proven.  The Saints talented wise are still the best team in the NFC South but they will be/have been challenged on and off the field.  They have a difficult enough schedule and usually don’t play as well on the road thus winning the division is not a given.

8) Pittsburgh Steelers

Offense:  Job one, keep QB Ben Roethlisberger (4,077 YRDS) healthy.  New offensive coordinator Todd Haley will implement a higher percentage of running plays to do just that.  This will be more difficult as the Steeler’s best RB Rashard Mendenhall will miss most of the season with an ACL injury.  They will look for Isaac’ Redman to fill-in until Mendenhall can return.  The Steelers used their first two draft choices on offensive linemen: #24 OG David DeCastro and #56 OT Mike Adams.  They are hoping both will start this season and improve on the 42 sacks allowed in 2011.

Defense:  They are old and slow yet ranked 1st in yards and points allowed.  They only had 35 sacks last season with James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley each having 9.  NT Casey Hampton is coming off a torn ACL and may not be ready for opening day so the Steelers drafted DT Alameda Ta’amu (#109) in case Hampton is not ready.

Analysis:  The Ravens will miss Terrell Suggs but the Steelers won’t.  His injury just made winning the AFC North easier.  Roethlisberger has plenty of weapons on offense and if the o-line additions workout the unit will be set for a long time.  Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is one of the best in the NFL and the Steelers defense, while not dynamic, just seem to get the job done.  If they split with Baltimore the Steelers will win the AFC North.

7) San Francisco 49ers

Offense:  Head coach Jim Harbaugh got the most out of former bust label QB Alex Smith (90.7 QBR).  Harbaugh put Smith into positions to succeed by running the ball (8th, 127.8 YRS, per) effectively and having Smith manage the game as he only threw 5 interceptions last season.  The line did give up 44 sacks as RT Anthony Davis allowed 9.5.  The 49ers let RG Adam Snyder sign with the Cardinals and it appears they will look to third year OL Alex Boone to take his place, although Boone has never started an NFL game.  They did add to their skill positions with WRs Mario Manningham and unretired Randy Moss as well as RB Brandon Jacobs.  They also drafted change of pace RB LaMichael James (#61).

Defense:  The 49ers were ranked 4th in yards(308.2) and 2nd points allowed (14.3).  They have excellent LBs lead by Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman (143 TCKLS).  They were 1st against stopping the run (77.2 YRS, per) and were an impressive plus 28 in turnovers.

Analysis:  The 49ers are the best team in the NFC West no doubt but even with a strong defense wonder if they overachieved some last season and can duplicate that plus 28 turnover ratio.  Alex Smith is a game manager but his line has some question marks and feature RB Frank Gore is 29 and had 282 carries last season, wonder if he’ll wear down some.  13-3 seems unlikely given some very difficult match-ups this season but they will win the NFC West.

6) Detroit Lions

Offense:  QB Matthew Stafford finally was able to stay healthy and proved why he was the #1 overall pick in 2009 with 5,038 yards passing and 41 touchdowns.  The Lions will be looking to get more out of their running game 29th (95.2 YRS) as second year RB Mikel Leshoure should be back from an Achilles injury that cost him his rookie season and Jahvid Best (4.6 YRS per carry) only played six games due to a concussion but is expected to return.  The Lions WR core is excellent led by Calvin “Megatron” Johnson (96 REC, 1,681 YRS) and TE Brandon Pettigrew (83 REC, 777 YRS).  The offensive line gave up a respectable 36 sacks last season considering the amount of passing they did but LT Jeff Backus gave up 8.5 sacks and will be 35 this season.  The Lions use their first draft pick #23 on OT Riley Reiff who could start at RT or play LT if necessary.

Defense:  The Lions have a talented defense especially on the line.  If they can keep from being arrested, see Nick Fairley, too often maybe the team can improve on their 41 sacks from last season.  The Lions are hoping third year CB Aaron Berry can replace the departed Eric Wright but Berry was recently arrested as well on DUI charges.  They also drafted DBs Dwight Bentley (#85) and Chris Greenwood (#148) to help their secondary.  The Lions defense ranked 23rd (367.6 YRS, per) in 2011.

Analysis:  The Lions have a talented team, their offense should be top notch and more balanced.  The defense needs to stay focused and stop hanging around with law enforcement, in a bad way.  The Lions defense had a rough time slowing the best offenses in the league as the Packers and Saints (twice) put up big numbers.  If the Lions want to compete for a championship their defense will have to step-up against the better offenses.  The Lions have the Packers and Bears in their very difficult division and it will be hard to beat out the Packers for the NFC North title but they should obtain a playoff berth again.

5) Houston Texans

Offense:  The Texans had one of the best offensive lines last season as they led the league in rushing (153 YDS, per).  RBs Arian Foster and Ben Tate had over 2,100 yards rushing combined.  The only problem is they have to replace the entire right side of the line as RG Mike Brisiel signed with Oakland and RT Eric Winston was released “failed physical” although it was a salary cap move, later signed with the Chiefs.  They hope OG Andre Caldwell, OT Rashad Butler or rookie OG Brandon Brooks (#76) can replace the lost linemen.  QB Matt Shaub should be back after a Lisfanc fracture ended his season after 10 games.  He will have All-Pro WR Andre Johnson to throw to as long as he is on the field since he only played 7 games last season.  The Texans don’t have much at WR after Johnson, they drafted WR Devier Posey (#68) and Keshawn Martin (#121).  They’ll be looking for more than 39 receptions 492 yards from veteran Kevin Walter and they hope second year receiver Lestar Jean can contribute.  TE Owen Daniels led the team with 54 receptions for 677 yards.

Defense:  The Texans are just loaded on defense even after losing DE/OLB Mario Williams, who only played 5 games and they never missed him, and trading LB DeMeco Ryans.  They drafted DE/OLB Whitney Mercilus (#26) to replace the departed Williams while second year DE J.J. Watt (68 TCKLS, 5.5 sacks) looks to improve on an impressive rookie year.  The Texans defense was 2nd (285.7 YDS, per) last season and there is no reason to think they won’t be at least as good.

Analysis:  The Texans do have some questions on the o-line and at WR depth but the offense was 10th in points scored (23.8) last season and will be formidable.  Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ defense should be excellent as they have playmakers all over the field.  The AFC South is weak with Tennessee being the only team with a chance to be above .500.  The Texans will win the AFC South and be in the hunt for the #1 or 2 seed in the AFC.

4) New England Patriots

Offense:  The #2 ranked offense (428 YRS, per) from 2011 goes out and gets WR Brandon Lloyd who had almost 1,000 receiving after spending most of the season with the Rams and their terrible offense.  Lloyd knows offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel’s system since he played for him at Denver while McDaniels was the head coach.  The Pats picked-up WRs Jabar Gaffney and Donte’ Stallworth also adding RB Joseph Addai to replace departed BenJarvus Green-Ellis.  They are also looking for big things out of second year RB Stevan Ridley.  They did lose LT Matt Light to retirement but have OTs Nate Solder or Sebastian Vollmer as a replacement.  The pass heavy Patriots line only gave up 32 sacks last season.

Defense:  Their defense was 31st (411.1 YDS) per game, 31st in passing yards (293.9) but only 15th in points (21.4) last season.  The Pats went hard after defenders in the draft picking DE/OLB Chandler Jones (#21) and ILB Dont’a Hightower (#25), six of their seven picks were used on defense.  They also picked up DL Jonathan Fanene, DE/OLB Trevor Scott, CB Will Allen, former Jets DB Marquice Cole along with safety Steve Gregory.  Second year CB Ras-I Dowling is returning from a hip injury that cost him most of his rookie season.  The Pats lost DE Mark Anderson and his ten sacks and DL Andre Carter (10 sacks) remains a free agent, reports say Carter is seeking a long term deal from the Patriots, but he is still recovering from a season ending injury.

Analysis:  The AFC champion Patriots are primed for another run at the Super Bowl as they may have the best offense in the league.  They will have to improve on a poor pass defense and might need to carry the offense, for once, during the tough post-season stretch.  The Patriots will win the AFC East the only question is will they get a post-season bye week?

3) Philadelphia Eagles

Offense: The Eagles finished 4th (399.1 YRS) in total offense in 2011.  They have signed WR DeSean Jackson (58 REC, 961YRDS) to a long term contract, so maybe he’ll try harder now.  They also locked up RB LeSean McCoy, 1,309 yards rushing, 315 yards receiving last season.  They did lose LT Jason Peters to an Achilles injury but replaced him with former Bill’s LT Demetress Bell.  TE Brent Celek had a solid year (62 REC, 811YRS).

Defense:  The Eagles had 50 sacks last season but were 16th against the run (112.6 YDS, per).  They used their first three draft picks on defensive players: DT Fletcher Cox (#12), LB Mychal Kendricks (#46) and DE Vinny Curry (#59).  They also acquired MLB Demeco Ryans from Houston since he didn’t fit the Texans 3-4 defense but Ryans excelled in the 4-3.

Analysis:  The “Dream Team” turned into a nightmare fast last season but Philly seemed to get it going down the stretch.  Maybe the new additions needed sometime to gel and the lack of off-season preparation hurt them.  They can move the ball on offense and can get to the QB on defense so why didn’t they make the playoffs last season?  A minus 14 turnover ratio doomed the Eagles as they gave the ball up to often especially in the red-zone.  They have a difficult schedule and play in the division with the champion Giants and improved Cowboys but they have enough talent to challenge for a championship if they can hold onto the ball.

2) Green Bay Packers

Offense: QB Aarron Rogers and his 4,643 yards passing and 45 touchdowns led the Packers to the #1 scoring offense in the league, 35 points per game average.  The Packers gave up a surprisingly high 41 sacks given Rogers abilities.  LT Marshal Newhouse allowed 11.5 sacks alone and will likely start at LT again as the Packers released former LT Chad Clifton and second year OT Derek Sherrod is still recovering from a broken leg.  The Packers also lost center Scott Wells but replaced him with veteran, long time Colt, Jeff Saturday (age 37).

Defense:  As good as the offense was the defense was bad.  The Packers ranked 32nd (411.6 YDS) and only had 29 sacks in 2011.  They spent their first six draft choices on defensive players and are hoping DE/OLB Nick Perry (#28) can be a pass rushing threat taking blockers away from DE/OLB Clay Mathews who only had 6 sacks last season as teams focused on him after 13.5 sacks in 2010.

Analysis:  The Packers were an impressive plus 24 in turnover ratio as they had 31 interceptions to their opponents 8.  The offense is elite and with Rogers at QB they will have limited turnovers as he had a 45-6 TD-to-INT ratio.  The defense usually plays with a lead so don’t expect them not to give up yards but will need to improve the pass rush and overall performance if they want to win the Super Bowl again.  The Lions and Bears are tough competition in the NFC North but Green Bay is just too good and will be entering the post-season with a week-off.

1) New York Giants

Offense:  Where would the Giants be without QB Eli Manning (4,933 YDS, 61% COPM, 29TD), well they wouldn’t be Super Bowl Champs.  Manning carried the Giants offense as they ranked last in rushing yards per game (89.2).  The Giants used their first draft selection on RB David Wilson (#32) hoping he and RB Ahmad Bradshaw (659 YRS), who was missed time to injury last season, can carry the running game.  They did lose longtime RB Brandon Jacobs and WR Mario Manningham to the 49ers. WR Hakeem Nicks (76 REC, 1,192 YRS) is dealing with a broken foot luckily the Giants drafted WR Rueben Randle (#63) and are hoping second year receiver Jerrel Jernigan can replace Manningham and fill-in until Nicks is full healthy.  They also lost TE Jake Ballard (38 REC, 604 YDS) but picked up TE Martellus Bennett from the Cowboys.  The o-line only gave up 28 sacks last season, thanks in part to Manning, and they will look to replace former RT Kareem McKenzie and want to keep LT Will Beatty healthy for the season.  Second year OT James Brewer is in the mix to replace McKenzie.

Defense:  The Giants had 48 sacks in 2011 led by Jason Pierre-Paul’s 16.5.  The Giants fought injuries all season last year but got healthy when the playoffs began.  They have an excellent d-line with depth and they are hoping second year DT Marvin Austin can contribute as an injury prevented seeing any action last season.  They picked-up often injured LB Keith Rivers in a trade with the Bengals but he was the #9 overall pick in 2008 and could be a real steal if healthy.  They will need to improve on the 27th defensive ranking (376.4 YRS, per) if they want to repeat as champs and will need to remain healthy to do so.

Analysis:  On paper the Giants (9-7, 2011) are not the number one team but you don’t play games on paper.  The saying is “To be the champs you have to beat the champs” and since the Giants have the Lombardi Trophy they are ranked first until someone proves why they should not be.  Nine victories will probably not win the NFC East this season but the Giants will battle for the division’s top spot and could make a run at another championship.