Sunday Notes: Jets Bring Home Snoopy Trophy, Trim Roster

A Quick Recap of This Week in JetNation:

 

Jets Starters Look Sharp, Bring Home the Snoopy Trophy

 

After struggling in their two first preseason games, the Jets starters came to play Saturday night against the Giants. Both the offensive and defensive starters looked in sync as the Jets ended the first half with a 21-7 lead. After the half, Bryce Petty and the backups took over. The Jets would go on to win the game 28-18. Ryan Fitzpatrick ended the night going 9 for 14 with 127 yards passing and two touchdowns. The game against the Giants was likely the last time any of the starters will see the field until week one of the regular season. Fitzpatrick finished the preseason with impressive numbers on paper: 24 for 36, 261 yards, two touchdowns with no interceptions, and a 106.4 passer rating.

 

The starting defense made significant strides against the Giants as well, never allowing a play for over 19 yards the entire first half. The defense looked much more cohesive than the previous two games, with vast improvements in tackling and communication. The Jets were still a little loose when it came to penalties, committing eight for 50 yards, but it’s still an improvement over last week’s 17 penalties for 125 yards.

 

This was by far the best game of the preseason for the Jets, and there were plenty of highlight moments. Players who made impact plays, and had a solid game include: Eric Decker (with the exception of a muffed punt), Walter Powell, Antonio Cromartie, Trevor Reilly, Leger Douzable, and Zac Stacy. The play of the game was Antonio Cromartie’s pick-6, Cromartie needed the boost after having a shaky training camp and preseason. Other big plays were Eric Decker’s 18-yard touchdown reception from Fitzpatrick, Walter Powell’s 54-yard punt return for a touchdown, and Zac Stacy’s 24-yard screen pass reception for a touchdown.

 

Jets Trim Roster from 90 to 78

 

The Jets announced their first round of cuts Sunday, releasing 12 players. The deadline for a 75-man roster is September 1st which means the Jets will still need to release three more players before this coming Tuesday. The first round of cuts included: Saalim Hakim (WR), T.J. Graham (WR), Jonathan Rumph (WR), Austin Hill (WR), DeVeir Posey (WR), Javier Arenas (CB), Keith Lewis (CB), Curtis Brown (CB), Matt LaCosse (TE), Dalton Freeman (OL), James Brewer (OL), and Bryan Johnson (LB).

 

One of the surprises from the first round of cuts has to be wide receiver DeVeir Posey, he came on the last two preseason games with a touchdown reception against the Falcons and four receptions for 39 yards against the Giants. Another surprise cut is cornerback Javier Arenas who was never really given a shot to get a roster spot by the Jets. Arenas is a well traveled veteran who could have provided some more depth for the cornerback position.

 

Nearly half of the Jets cuts came at the wide receiver position. That leaves three players at the position who are still battling it out to make the 53-man roster. Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Devin Smith, Jeremy Kerley, and Quincy Enunwa all seem to be locks to make the roster. Kerley has seen significantly less playing time so far this season, but recently signed a contract extension and Quincy Enunwa looks to be the front-runner for the slot position. Most likely there will be one more spot left for a wide receiver on the 53-man roster and Chris Owusu, Walter Powell, and Shaq Evans will have to fight for that sixth spot.

Other Notes

 

Leonard Williams gave Jets fans a scare Saturday night after suffering a knee injury and heading to the locker room with trainers. Williams walked off without a limp, implying the injury wasn’t too serious. It was confirmed Sunday after an MRI that Williams didn’t suffer any ligament damage, and only sustained a muscle strain. His availability for week one of the regular season is still in question, but hasn’t been ruled out either. If he’s healthy, Williams will start at defensive end for Sheldon Richardson while he serves a four game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

 

After the game Muhammad Wilkerson said “I’m fine, I just need reps, that’s all.” Wilkerson recorded 3 total tackles, and half of a sack in his only preseason game. This is a positive sign for the Jets after Wilkerson missed nearly a month of training camp and the first two preseason games with a nagging hamstring injury. If Leonard Williams is healthy by week one the Jets will have a Wilkerson-Harrison-Williams trio starting on the defensive line, not too bad considering defensive end Sheldon Richardson will be out.

 

Walter Powell is making a case to take the final wide receiver position on the 53-man roster as a kick/punt returner. He’s had an impressive punt and kick return so far in the preseason. Powell had his 54-yard touchdown punt return against the Giants, as well as a 48-yard kick return against the Lions. He did fairly well against the Falcons too, returning four kicks for 81 yards.

 

The Jets will have to cut three more players before the 75-man roster deadline on Tuesday. The final 53-man roster deadline is September 5th, giving the Jets a short time to make their decisions on the final cuts. The Eagles will come to MetLife Stadium for the fourth and final preseason game, giving Todd Bowles one more game to evaluate his roster and make some tough decisions. The game against the Eagles is on Thursday, and the Jets will need to make the move to a 53-man roster by Saturday.

 

 

Monday Notes: Jets Notch First Preseason Win, Wilkerson Returns

A Quick Recap of Last Week in JetNation:

 

Starters Struggle Again, but Backups Saved the Day

 

On Friday night the Jets pulled out a 30-22 win against the Falcons. The starters struggled once again on both offense and defense. The starting defense played two drives against the Falcons starting offense. The Falcons opening drive started with a 60-yard completion to fullback Collin Mooney, and ended with a 4-yard touchdown run by Terron Ward. The Falcons second drive began on the Jets four yard line due to a 59-yard punt return by Devin Hester. The Falcons made short work of the Jets starting defense again, cashing in on a touchdown pass to Leonard Hankerson.

 

The starting offense didn’t perform much better as they were scoreless for their first five possessions, they scored on their sixth and final drive with a 33-yard touchdown rush by Chris Ivory. The scoring drive came against Atlanta’s backups. Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn’t exactly exciting while leading the offense, but he showed his intelligence by being smart with the football. Ryan completed 13 of 19 passes for 118 yards. Although the starting offense wasn’t exactly potent, they didn’t turn the ball over which is certainly a step in the right direction.

 

While the starters struggled, the backups maintained control of the last two and a half quarters, showing that the Jets have great depth at most positions. Leonard Williams sparked the team with a safety of quarterback T.J. Yates, and finished the game with five total tackles and one and a half sacks. Bowles acknowledged Williams’ big night, “He had two big plays… You saw the big plays, but I gotta look at the film to see how he did on every other play. But he did make two big plays and kind of turned on the light for everybody.” The Jets responded to the Falcons first 14 points with 30 unanswered points of their own. The Falcons rallied late in the game, but came up eight points short.

 

This was a good game for certain players fighting to make the team, a number of players improved their stock against the Falcons. Players who stood out include: Leonard Williams, Jamari Lattimore, Bryce Petty, Jason Babin, Rontez Miles, and Bilal Powell. It’s tough to pick only one play for the play of the game, but Leonard Williams’ safety has to be the choice due to the huge impact it had on the game. Other big plays were Jamari Lattimore’s interception for a TD, Rontez Miles’ fumble recovery returned for a TD, and Bryce Petty’s TD toss to DeVier Posey.

 

Muhammad Wilkerson Finally Returned to the Practice Field

 

After three weeks on the sidelines, Muhammad Wilkerson finally returned to practice on Sunday. Wilkerson has been out due to hamstring issues or “tightness.” Some have speculated that Wilkerson was staying out of practice due to the slow pace of his contract negotiations with the Jets. Those who know Wilkerson though, know that he puts the team first and wants to be on the field with his teammates.

 

Wilkerson worked exclusively with the backups during his first day back at practice, but moved around well and didn’t have any issues. When Wilkerson was asked about his return to the practice field he said “I need practice reps to get in the flow with my teammates… I haven’t been out there in weeks, the guys are installing and I haven’t been out there. I need to catch up a little bit.”

 

If all goes well, Jets fans can expect to see Wilkerson make his preseason debut against the Giants this Saturday. Wilkerson could see the field for a good amount of time with the starters expected to play for at least the first half. Todd Bowles expressed optimism about Wilkerson playing Saturday “He’s feeling a lot better… He’s moving pretty good, we’re bringing him along slowly, but he’ll practice this week. Pending any setbacks, he’ll play this weekend.” Wilkerson, who’s contract expires at the end of the season, has said he will table any contact negotiations if an agreement isn’t reached before the beginning of the regular season.

 

Other Notes

 

The Jets committed 17 penalties during the game against the Falcons, and Todd Bowles took notice. During the Jets practice at Hofstra University Todd Bowles told the officials to “call anything, even if the wind blows.” Needless to say, there were a lot of penalties called. Bowles is trying to clean up the mistakes before the last preseason game with the starters. There was a huge difference in the number of penalties between week one and week two. Week one the Jets committed three penalties, they jumped to 17 in week two.

 

The Jets signed quarterback Matt Flynn, who won’t see any playing time Saturday against the Giants. Flynn is recovering from a hamstring injury. The best case scenario for Flynn is to see a good chunk of starting time in the Jets final preseason game against the Eagles. The Jets also claimed tight end Arthur Lynch off of waivers, and waived punter Jacob Schum. The Jets signed another tight end on Monday in Matt LaCosse, and waived injured defensive lineman Davon Walls.

 

The injuries continue to mount for the Jets, there were a few during the game against the Falcons and a couple during Sunday’s practice at Hofstra. Both linebackers Calvin Pace (strained groin) and Lorenzo Mauldin (sprained knee) were injured within 24 hours of each other. Other players still recovering from injuries include: Ben Ijalana (sprained MCL), Jace Amaro (sprained shoulder), Devin Smith (broken ribs), Jeremy Kerley (concussion), Geno Smith (broken jaw), Erin Henderson (sprained MCL), Dee Milliner (wrist), Matt Flynn (hamstring), Stevan Ridley (knee), Ronald Talley (strained groin), Kevin Vickerson (hamstring), James Brewer (back), Curtis Brown (hamstring), Shaq Evans (sprained back),  Durell Eskridge (concussion), Daryl Richardson (concussion), and Dashaun Phillips (ribs). Clearly the injuries are mounting for the Jets, who hope to see some of their players return soon. Calvin Pryor is still out due to a death in the family as well.

 

On a positive note, Chris Owusu made a return to practice wearing a red jersey and made some nice catches. Obviously, Muhammad Wilkerson also made a return to practice. The Jets were hurting for Wilkerson to return after taking some hits on the defensive line. The Jets will hope to get some of their players back in the near future to test their depth throughout the last two preseason games. The Jets will need to trim their roster from 90 players to 75 on September 1st.

 

 

 

 

 

Jets and Brewer Reportedly Reach Agreement

By Glenn Naughton

 

Brian Costello of the New York Post is reporting that the Jets and free agent G/T James Brewer have come to terms on a one-year contract.

The former New York Giants fourth round selection was expected to meet with the Jets today and apparently both sides were happy with what transpired.

Brewer, a college tackle at the University of Indiana has played sparingly since being selected in the 2011 draft and stepped in at both guard positions as well as right tackle last season.

His most extensive playing time in 2014 came at right tackle against the Jacksonville Jaguars in week 13.  Brewer didn’t allow a sack but did surrender five QB hurries against the Jags.

The big O-lineman is the latest addition by general manager Mike Maccagnan to what is fast becoming a crowded offensive line.  Having recently imported guard James Carpenter from Seattle and re-signing veteran Willie Colon, the Jets have Oday Aboushi, Dakota Dozier and Brian Winters as holdovers from last season.  Dozier, Winters and Aboushi were all offensive tackles in college which could mean a position change for one or more of gang green’s current guards in the future.

 

 

 

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.