Predicting the 2011 NFL Regular Season
By: Cian Fahey | Published Tuesday, November 1, 2011, 7:15 PM | Updated Tuesday, November 1, 2011, 7:15 PM
NFL MVP: Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers got off to a great start in the Packers season opening victory over the New Orleans Saints. The amazing thing about the offense around the reigning Super Bowl MVP is that he has more firepower than he had last season. Randall Cobb exploded on his debut while Jermichael Finley proved last night that he is 100% healthy once again. Ryan Grant's return will give the offense overall more balance which should take pressure off of Rodgers and make teams more hesitant to blitz him.
Rodgers could lead the league in every quarterback statistic this year and in my mind should snatch the MVP award from the clutches of Tom Brady, Philip Rivers etc.NFL Defensive Player of the Year: Troy Polamalu.
Polamalu won the award last year but really didn't deserve to. His teammate James Harrison was more consistent as Polamalu unusually struggled in coverage at times and missed tackles. Of course he was battling injuries throughout the season and figures to be 100% fit entering this year.
Presuming he stays that way there is no bigger influence for any team in the league than Polamalu. On that defense he will always have chances to make plays and knowing Polamalu, he will always take them. It should be another huge year for the Steelers defense and Polamalu's popularity will see him win this award with ease.NFL Comeback Player of the Year: Jermichael Finley.
Finley should have a huge year after faltering early last season to a torn ACL. Despite playing on an offense that specializes in sharing the football Finley should see more targets than anyone else on the team. He will be a huge touchdown target for Aaron Rodgers in the endzone also as he creates such difficult matchup problems for defenders.NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year: Greg Little.
Greg Little could be in for a big year with the Cleveland Browns as Pat Shurmur looks to take advantage of the talented North Carolina prospect in his West Coast offense. It would be intriguing to see Little win the award as I can't remember the last time a second round pick won it. He has simply fallen in the perfect position to put up a lot of yards and make an impression.NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year: Von Miller.
Von Miller has been incredible in the preseason. He is relentless in chasing down the passer with his speed or exploding through tackles with his leverage. Miller will have a big year for the Broncos as he and Elvis Dumervil terrorize opposing tackles week in and week out. With a threat like Dumervil across from him, he won't face many double teams all season.NFC South Winner: New Orleans Saints.
The Saints will eventually come out on top of the toughest division in football on the back of a big Drew Brees season. The Saints made some great moves in the off-season but must get Will Smith back from suspension to prevent their secondary from being lit up as it was on opening night in Green Bay.NFC North Winner: Green Bay Packers.
Whether the Packers can repeat as Super Bowl champions or not will be determined but they definitely can't repeat as division champions. That's only because they didn't win the division last year. This year they should prove too powerful for the Bears while outclassing the Lions and Vikings.NFC West Winner: St. Louis Rams.
The only team in the division with a settled quarterback situation wins the worst division in football. The Rams have a very good all around team and must overcome a tough early schedule but should see Sam Bradford's strides in his second year carry them to the playoffs.NFC East Winner: Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles win a close division but won't be as impressive as everyone expects them to be after the hectic off-season in Pennsylvania. There are a few kinks to be worked out on the offense while the defense really isn't as good as advertised because of its linebackers and safeties.NFC Wildcards: Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons.
The Lions with a healthy Matthew Stafford will be able to challenge any team in the NFC after the improvements to their defense this off-season. Even without Mikel Leshoure all season and Nick Fairley for the first half, they can still beat out the Chicago Bears in the North.
The Falcons will just slip by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because of the contrasting strength of the team's defenses. Josh Freeman should have another huge year but the Falcons will just fall short for the second season in a row.AFC South: Houston Texans.
The Texans won't have it as easy as they expect with Peyton Manning presumably missing most of the season. The Jacksonville Jaguars won't threaten anyone with Luke McCown under center but the Tennessee Titans should push them to the wire for the South crown.AFC North Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers should have an easier run in the North than they have had in recent years. The Baltimore Ravens have released a lot of veterans and look like taking a step backwards while the Cleveland Browns should be better but not able to compete just yet. The Bengals are in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes.AFC West Winner: San Diego Chargers.
The return of Marcus McNeil and Vincent Jackson for the whole season will propel the offense to the top of the league while Bob Sanders could be a major surprise on defense. The Kansas City Chiefs should be better than last year and make it a two horse race in the West.AFC East: New England Patriots.
It shouldn't be as simple as everyone in New England is hoping but the Patriots will eventually come out on top. The Jets have taken a step back this off-season but the Miami Dolphins should be better. The Bills will be hoping to spoil someone else's party.AFC Wildcards: Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins.
The Chiefs stellar defense should be improved this year while the offense has enough new weapons to overcome the loss of Charlie Weiss. Matt Cassel could be the difference between being one and done again and going all the way to Indianapolis.
Putting my eggs in Chad Henne's basket is obviously a risk but I love the defense in Miami. It should be a top three group and if Daniel Thomas can eventually become a bell cow after Larry Johnson carries them early, then the Dolphins can surpass the Jets in the AFC East.