You all know my disdain for preseason polls. They're based on perception, buzz and what you did the previous year. Thus the polls, the lifeblood of the BCS which of course determines the national title game, are skewed. For example, Georgia, Ohio State and yes even Notre Dame had no business being ranked. I've always felt it takes a few weeks to really get a feel for how each team looks. So here's the first Wisconsin Sports Weekend Top 25 of 2011:
As always, protection Carolina defensive end Charles Johnson racked up 11 1/2 sacks last year and in Week One he and fellow end Greg Hardy each notched a sack. The Panthers know the only way to disrupt the Packers offense is to get to Aaron Rodgers. The emphasis will be on the play of Chad Clifton and Bryan Bulaga.
All week the buzz around the NFL has been about Cam Newton's smashing debut performance against the Arizona Cardinals. Newton was 24-37 for 422 yards and two touchdowns. Even more impressive was how poised Newton appeared. He certainly didn't look like a guy playing in his first NFL game. Don't expect a repeat of those numbers but Newton has the athleticism to cause problems for the Packers so here's a few things to look for on Sunday:
I'm always looking for the hidden trends and stats in the NFL like the first to score trend or the unofficial record that Ricky Proehl holds for catching not one but two fourth quarter game-tying Super Bowl touchdowns.
Finley At His Finest Last we saw of the Saints they were giving up two red zone touchdowns to Seattle tight end John Carlson. Look for the Packers to test the Saints linebackers by getting Jermichael Finley and company on a mismatch. Indeed, the New Orleans secondary will be challenged throughout the night but if Aaron Rodgers gets his choice of targets it could be a big night for the tight end.
After an NFC East title in 2009 the pieces were in place for the Dallas Cowboys to make a run at Super Bowl XLV. But the pressure proved to be too great. The Cowboys were unable to overcome a pair of tough early season losses then Dallas lost Tony Romo to a season-ending injury. After Romo's injury the season spiraled out of control, leading to the midyear firing of coach Wade Phillips.
The final roster cuts are out and that signals the end of the preseason. As a lifetime member of Generation X I feel compelled to pay homage to a certain 20 year anniversary that just passed, thus I present not quite Ten observations of the preseason:
Last Chance Wide receiver and tight end have been two positions of strength this summer and the question is how many players will the Packers keep at each position? My best guess is five tight ends and five receivers. The obvious players to watch here are Tori Gurley and Chastin West.
Both the Jeff Fisher and Vince Young eras are over in Tennessee. There appeared to be hope for both after an 8-2 finish to the 2009 season but 2010 offered a complete reversal with the Titans ending the year 2-8.
After going 8-8 in 2009 the San Francisco 49ers were the vogue pick to break out in 2010 but an 0-5 start put the Niners in a hole they were unable to climb out of. Before year's end coach Mike Singletary was fired and San Fran ended the year 6-10.
Get ready for a flurry of activity of the next seven days with two rounds of roster cuts, the end of the NFL preseason, the start of college football and of course the three games series between the Brewers and Cardinals at Miller Park.
Not Quite Ready For Primetime Week 3 is the dress rehearsal week so look for the starters to play through the first half. Even though almost all of the starting spots are locked up there will be plenty of looks for the guys who may not start but will be expected to contribute. It will be interesting to see how much playing time is doled out at tight end and safety.
Since re-joining the league in 1999 success has been elusive for the Cleveland Browns, who haven't made the playoffs since 2002. However, the pieces are slowly falling into place and the Browns have a window of hope in 2011.