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Can The Texans Finally Take The Bull By The Horns?

Published: July 15, 2009

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The Houston Texans are a team that has been on the verge of a break-out season, but one or two little things have always prevented them from taking the next step. Last season, the Texans lost two big games with the biggest being the loss to the Raiders in week 16, and not too long ago the Texans went 10-6 with David Carr at the helm but the AFC was too good that year for the Texans to make the playoffs.

This past season did not feature a playoff appearance, but it held great possibilities for the future in a surprisingly big year for the third round pick out of West Virginia, running back Steve Slaton. Slaton led all rookie rushers last season with over 1,200 yards rushing. The Texans might have finished 8-8 last season, but this year they should contend with teams like the Titans and Colts.

The Good

Even though Schaub missed five games last season, he still threw for over 3,000 yards and with 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. With a full season this year, he will be able to prove he’s worth the money, worth the second round pick Houston gave to Atlanta for Schaub, and he will make the Texan’s offense even more potent than it already is.

Running back Steve Slaton was a monster last year and, behind fullback Vonta Leach, could get into the 1400-1600 yard range this season.

The offensive line might not be the most known group of guys, but they put up the same starting five the entire season and that is great for continuity and the protection of Matt Schaub. They also assisted in Slaton’s remarkable year and his 1200+ rushing yards. This is still a relatively young group with only guard Chester Pitts having more than 5 years in the NFL. If they can keep up their health, they can become a top five offensive line.

The Texan defense might be the most underrated defense in the NFL. The line was OK last year, but this year it should be more than good with defensive tackle Amobi Okoye having another year of experience (remember, the guy just reached the legal age to drink about a year ago) and Mario Williams is still around. This guy has become an elite pass-rusher and proves to everyone that the Texans were genius in not drafting Reggie Bush. Add a motivated tackle in Shaun Cody and defensive end Antonio Smith and the Texans have a very solid line. The linebacker core should be the force of the defense. DeMeco Ryans is the General and he just received some great recruits in Cato June and first round pick Brian Cushing. This force will be what allows the defense to control Peyton Manning and handle other top offenses in the league. As for the secondary, it will be better simply because there is so much competition, especially for the strong safety position that will put only the very best on the field.

Now, the best of the best, cream of the crop, receiver core. The clear strength of the Texans that is led by, who some consider, the best receiver in the league, Andre Johnson. The guy is an absolute monster with crazy agility. He led the league in yards and catches and will only improve his numbers with a healthy Schaub. He is also accompanied by receiver Kevin Walter, who had almost 900 yards last year even though Johnson led the league in receiving yards. And no one can forget the now Pro Bowl tight end Owen Daniels who has established himself as a top 5 tight end. His hands are like glue. He will try and repeat his big year and prove he belongs with the elite tight ends in the league.


Matt Schaub needs to stay healthy, so his offense will be able to hang with Peyton’s and Brady’s.


As good as the Texans could be, it will be crucial that the Texans show their abilities so they do not get overshadowed by the Titans and Colts. This team could’ve been to the playoffs a couple times already, but their division which holds Peyton, the Titans, and even the Jaguars who are tough against the division has just been too tough. The division has become so competitive that it has become a crap-shoot as to who will win the division, but a 2-4 record in the division like last year will not get it done for the Texans.


Matt Schaub is a low-end No. 1 quarterback because if he’s healthy, he can be a top 5 quarterback, but he has to stay healthy. He is available in the mid-to-late rounds so do not waste a early pick on him.

Steve Slaton is now on everyone’s radar as a top fantasy back. He is not a first round pick yet, but if he is available in the second round then draft him. He goes up against teams like San Francisco and the Rams, so the monster point games will be there.

Andre Johnson is a late first round pick to early second. The guy put up almost 1600 yards without Schaub there all the time.

Kevin Walter had a big year last year, and now that Daniels is on the radar and Johnson will see more double teams he is a solid No.3 receiver.

Owen Daniels is a No. 1 tight end, but if Gonzalez, Gates, or Witten are still there go with them.

The sleeper pick is the Texan defense. With the additions to the linebacker core and Mario Williams only improving with time, they could definitely open a few eyes.

Third place



Jacksonville Jaguars Hope to Earn Their Spots Back

Published: July 14, 2009

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For some reason, ever since wide receiver Jimmy Smith retired the Jacksonville Jaguars have been on a downhill slide. They had a good year a couple years ago, but last year they went back to their slump.

The team’s problems did not occur just on the field, but also off the field. It started in September when offensive tackle Richard Collier was shot some 14 times while waiting outside an apartment.

Collier survived luckily, but on one of his legs had to be amputated ending his dreams in the NFL. The other off-the-field issue, which occurred after the season, was with wide receiver Matt Jones.

Jones had some issues with gun and drug violence and was put into a six-month rehab program. This was the last straw for the former first round pick as the Jaguars released Jones within a month afterwards.

As for the season itself, the Jags just could not put it together. Quarterback David Garrard was nowhere near the previous season’s form where he threw 18 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. It also did not help that he could get no production from a wide receiving core that averages 6’4 in height.

Then, the offensive line was patch-work as three of five starting offensive lineman were out for the season by the end of week two. The defense was pretty steady, but not as dominant as it once was.

The Good

Running back Maurice Jones-Drew was the highlight of last year and, now that Fred Taylor is in New England, he will be the feature back in a depleted Jags offense. Jones-Drew is only 5’6″, but never doubt his physicality or toughness, just ask Shawn Merriman.

What was a menace last year should have different results for the offensive line. The Jags signed veteran tackle Tra Thomas from Philadelphia, and drafted their tackles of the future in first round pick Eugene Monroe and second round pick Eben Britton.

These plus the return of a healthy center in Brad Meester and guard Vincent Manuwai should open bigger holes for Mighty Might Jones-Drew.

The Bad

Quarterback David Garrard was horrid last year as he threw only 15 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He will need to throw much better this year as his job depends on it, but with a lack of a receiving core Garrard will face a huge challenge production wise.

The linebacker core is weakened now that Mike Peterson is gone, so the team will be looking to youngsters like Clint Ingram and Tim Shaw to step up.

The secondary under performed last season as safety Reggie Nelson and cornerback Rashean Mathis had disappointing years, but with newly added safety Sean Considine the secondary should regain most of its dominance.

Kicker Josh Scobee only made 19 field goals last season, but with an improved offense he should get more opportunities.

The Ugly

The defensive line a few years ago was one of the most revered in all of football with big boys Marcus Stroud and John Henderson up the middle and defensive end Paul Spicer rushing from the outside. Now, only big John Henderson remains and last season he was virtually nonexistent.

Also, the Jags’ top two picks in 2008 in defensive ends Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves combined for a whole 6 sacks which will not due in a division with Peyton Manning. These two ends will need to prove their worth this upcoming season if the defensive line wants to ever see the backfield of their opponents.

Now for one of the ugliest situations in all of football, the wide receiver core. A few years ago, the Jags built a core after my own heart; receiver Matt Jones 6’6, receiver Reggie Williams 6’4, receiver Earnest Wilford 6’2, tight end Mercedes Lewis 6’6.

Unfortunately, they all underachieved and earned the title of overrated as they were all first round picks. All three receivers are now no longer with the Jags, and Mercedes Lewis is following in their footsteps.

The Jags now must rely on all new starters at receiver featuring Torry Holt and hope Lewis proves to a 6’6″ monster. With all new people at receiver and a lack of chemistry with Garrard, the Jags could be in for a long year with the passing game.


Maurice Jones-Drew is a top five back that should be taken if Peterson and Turner are no longer available. He’s 5’6″, but every inch is packed with power and his value is higher now that he’s the main and only back the Jags have.

Torry Holt is no longer the All-Pro receiver he used to be, but with limited options for Garrard he should get the majority of passes so should be considered a No. 3 receiver with a big upside.

Sleeper pick is Mercedes Lewis. He’s 6’6″ and one of two options that Garrard will be comfortable throwing to. Plus, reports out of Jacksonville say Lewis looks like he is geared to prove he’s a top 10 tight end.


Fourth place

The Pittsburgh Steelers are the True Dynasty

Published: July 8, 2009

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In the beginning of last season, it looked like the Pittsburgh Steelers had angered the football gods. The Steelers had the hardest schedule in the NFL, the Patriots had the easiest, and the offensive line contained four new starters. Well, Tom Brady was injured on the first series of the year against the Chiefs, the line struggled at times but performed in the big moments of the each game, and the Steelers handled their schedule with a 12-4 record. Then, thanks to Mewelde Moore and the defense, the Steelers rolled through the playoffs coming out the other end as Super Bowl Champions and a NFL best sixth-franchise Lombardi trophy.

The Good

Bare with me, there is a lot.

The Steelers have 20 starters from last season’s Super Bowl team returning. This is virtually unheard of because a major reason why it is so hard to repeat in the NFL is free agency and championship teams usually have trouble staying intact.

Ben Roethlisberger may not set the record for passing yards, and he may not throw 50 touchdowns in a season, but he proved that when the game is on the line on the ultimate stage there is no one better in the NFL. “Big Ben” will be rewarded with his entire offense returning and the easiest schedule in the NFL.

The most unappreciated part of the Steelers is the receiving core. Ben would not have two championship rings today if it weren’t for Hines Ward in 2005 and Santonio Holmes last season. These two aren’t statistical monsters, but Hines Ward’s sportsmanship and toughness is unmatched and Holmes is a surprising speed-demon. The silent member that joins these two is tight end Heath Miller who might be the best blocker on the team and has been Ben’s safety net since he was drafted.

Kicker Jeff Reed has been a consistent member of this team since drafted in the 1950’s (just kidding) and has been the leg for many years.

Last but not least, the part of the team most known and has earned names in the past like “The Iron Curtain,” is the Steelers defense. Troy Polamalu is the General and controls the secondary as the hammer that has put fear in many receivers’ minds. Casey Hampton, Aaron Smith, and the first round pick in 2009 Ziggy Hood will once again dominate any offensive line and stop the run game of a team before it ever has a chance to start

Then, the heart of the defense, the part that can lose a Jerry Porter or a Larry Foote and still lead the NFL in sacks, this is the linebacker core. Led by James Farrior and the newly emerged James Harrison, this group never seems to age and has dominated the league for years. Former first round pick Lawrence Timmons will fill in for Larry Foote and once again, I expect this group to command the defense and lead it to the No. 1 rated defense in the NFL.

The Bad

The offensive line struggled all year with four new starters. It clearly showed its “greenness” as it allowed a little more than three sacks a game, but that’s what happens when a player of Allen Fanaca’s caliber is no longer present. The line came on strong in the playoffs, especially in the Super Bowl, so Ben should be seeing a little less sky and a lot more scores.

The Ugly

The Steelers have not been able to keep their running backs healthy. In 2005, the running backs were the key to the Steelers’ success with the speed of Willie Parker and the mammoth power of Jerome Bettis. Now, Willie Parker cannot make it half-way through the season, and first round pick Rashard Mendenhall did not impress by joining Parker on the injured reserve. Luckily, the Steelers had Mewelde Moore step up, but he is not an every down back.


“Big Ben” has a very generous schedule and can be a No. 1 quarterback, but do not waste a high pick as he can be had in the later rounds of your draft.

Neither Parker or Mendenhall are top backs unless healthy, so Parker I would draft as a No. 2 and Mendenhall as No. 3 or No. 4 back.

Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes are each No. 2 wide receivers who are very durable, but I would pick Ward over Holmes if given a choice between the two.

Heath Miller had a less than stellar year, but he will be another Steeler who benefits from an easy-going schedule. He is not the best option for a No. 1 tight end, but he can put up the numbers this year so do not be afraid to take him in the later rounds.

Jeff Reed is a top 10 kicker that is available in the last round 99.9 percent of the time, so build your team then top it off with a solid, consistent kicker.

The Pittsburgh defense is the best in the NFL. It will lead the league in sacks, and will be up there in turnovers. You will have to go at least one round earlier to draft this defense than you would normally.

The sleeper is wide receiver Limas Sweed. Depending on how his training camp goes, he will be the No. 3 receiver on the team, but he is 6’4″. At this size, he will win most one-on-one battles and could put up better numbers than the former Steeler Nate Washington.


First place