The end of the NFL lock-out is old news, and after a flurry of free-agency and trade action, the league seems to be settling down and settling in for the upcoming season. With a shortened offseason, now more than ever, teams will rely on proven veterans and coaching staffs to bring the players up to speed, and get all of the gears in the machine working in sync. So without further ado, here is the TPD’s official 2011-2012 NFL season final regular season standings, along with a couple of other noteworthy predictions.
Green Bay (12-4)
New York (7-9)
New Orleans (12-4)
Tampa Bay (9-7)
St. Louis (9-7)
San Francisco (7-9)
New England (12-4)
New York (12-4)
Kansas City (9-7)
San Diego (7-9)
Sleeper/Surprise Teams: No real sleepers in the NFC this season, but we have jumped on the Lions bandwagon. The defensive line put together in Detroit is enough to put pressure on even the top tier offensive lines in the league, but injury issues with rookie Nick Fairley could weaken it just a tad. The real key to Detroit’s success will be keeping Stafford healthy, which we understand isn’t a ground breaking statement, but nevertheless, is extremely true.
In the AFC, we really like the Titans and Raiders to be highly competitive squads this season. The Titans biggest move of adding quarterback Matt Hasselback provides them with a proven veteran to keep defenses honest and allow Chris Johnson to return to elite fantasy back status, as long as his contract hold out comes to an end soon. Tennessee will also hit their peak at the right time, as we predict Indy to finally fall back down to earth. Peyton Manning is behind on his rehab, and a neck injury for a quarterback who depends on making quick reads will be detrimental to their offense, the Colts only saving grace. Oakland was impressive last year, and barring an improvement on last year by either Kansas City or San Diego, the Raiders will be an interesting team in the otherwise weak AFC West.
Fantasy Sleepers by Position
QB: Believe it or not, we like Jason Campbell, but with one major stipulation; that Darren McFadden continues his climb towards elite running back status. Campbell will have the luxury of handing off the McFadden, and another year of development with Darius Hayward-Bay. Another QB we like is Hasselbeck, who will be throwing to Nate Washington and Kenny Britt. Again, like Campbell, Hasselbeck will need a solid season from his running back, Chris Johnson, in order to keep defenses honest. We’re putting out a fair warning on both Peyton Manning and Phillip Rivers, both are QB’s we’re unsure of.
RB: Green Bay running backs Ryan Grant and James Starks could turn the passing juggernaut that was the Packers last season into an unstoppable force. Green Bay knows it can throw the ball with Rodgers and the gang, and the return of Jermichael Finley at tight end will keep the opposing linebackers honest, so look for Grant and Starks to play a bigger role this season. Who we don’t like so much? We don’t see either former Dolphin backs doing much, as Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams both went to teams with established starters, and we don’t see too much for Darren Sproles in New Orleans either. Sproles seems a bit too much like Reggie Bush for our liking, and we all know how that ended up.
WR: Percy Harvin and Michael Jenkins. Minnesota went out and picked up veteran signal caller Donovan McNabb, who comes into the fortunate situation of having one of the top backs in the league lining up behind him. This should allow McNabb to have a bit more free reign to make some plays, and both Jenkins and Harvin will be looked upon to do so. Bernard Berrian is also apart of that receiving core in Minnesota, but he’s more of a one trick pony. Also look for Steve Breaston to become a nice complimentary receiver to Dwayne Bowe in Kansas City.
TE: Todd Heap, who is not necessarily a sleeper, but could play a big role in the Cardinal offense. New quarterback Kevin Kolb running the show, he’ll have one of the most dynamic downfield weapons in Larry Fitzgerald at his disposal, but little running game behind him. Look for Kolb to use Heap as a safety release, and a good second option in the passing game behind Fitzgerald after the departure of Steve Breaston.
D/ST: The usual suspects again sit at the top of the board amongst defense and spec. teams units, as the Ravens, Steelers, Jets, and Eagles all look to be big time point producers. The Lions are slowly creeping into this level, but they’re still largely unproven. We like the idea of Tennessee and New England providing solid defensive seasons.
K: Honestly, we could care less, just be wary of taking Adam Vinateri. Vinateri could find himself on an offense that has an injured quarterback unable to turn his head more than five degrees, a bunch of injury prone wide-outs and a running attack that relies on the oft injured Joseph Addai and Donald Brown. With that combination, they’ll be lucky to make it into field goal range, or you could look at it with the perspective that he may be their top scorer.
And as an apology for such a long absence between posts, we’re going to allow this piece to be a bit more interactive, and ask our readers to post who they feel will be the top performing rookie this season, as far as fantasy football goes. Please feel free to comment below with your selection.