The 2010 NFL football season is less than two weeks away, and it is time to sit down for a detailed preview of the upcoming season and my NFL predictions, including an analysis of the Superbowl contenders and a summary of major offseason and preseason news. Following that is a preview and analysis of two key games in the first week of the regular season.
Contenders for the 2010 Superbowl
New Orleans Saints – The Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints enter the 2010-2011 season eager to prove last year was no fluke. It was a difficult off-season for New Orleans with the Reggie Bush revelations and a scandal with some coaches allegedly stealing the painkiller Vicodin from the medicine locker, but that should not be too much of a distraction for the best offense in the NFL, especially given how strong they have looked in the first couple of preseason games. If the Saints defense can also bring their game up a notch, then a repeat is definitely within reach.
Dallas Cowboys – The Cowboys enter the season with high hopes, especially given that this year’s Super Bowl is scheduled to be played at the new $1.2 billion Cowboys Stadium, but it will not be easy to get there. With the retirement of Flozell Adams there are questions about the offensive line, and while there were not many other changes in the off-season, there was not much help for an aging defense either. The first couple of games of the season will be very important for Dallas who cannot afford to play catch up this year. The Cowboys offense under Tony Romo has all the tools to be productive this year, although they have gotten off to a bit of a slow start in the preseason and will be without wide receiver Dez Bryant (who was injured in training camp) for the first couple of games.
Indianapolis Colts – The Colts are looking forward to a chance to redeem themselves after last year’s disappointing loss in the Superbowl. And the Colts are contenders to be back in Super Bowl 45 as they return almost all of last year’s team except for a couple of linebackers and second-string offensive linemen, and will benefit from the return of wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez and safety Bob Sanders who were injured all of last season. Peyton Manning and a strong offensive line means Indy will score points. And if they find a real running game then there will be no stopping them as there is no defense in the NFL that can stop Peyton Manning when he has all of his options. Expect to see improvement in Indy’s defense as all 11 starters are returning from the AFC championship team, and has they have added a big-time pass rusher in Jerry Hughes, and will get 2007 NFL defensive player of the year Bob Sanders back full time.
Minnesota Vikings – Despite all the talk of retirement Brett Favre did return to the Vikings, and given the versatility and talent of his supporting cast on offense another double-digit regular season record is to be expected. Minnesota did not make any significant trades in the off-season, but they did draft some solid second- and third-stringers. Expect Brett Favre to air it out to Sidney Rice and the rest of the receiving corps after setting up opposing defenses with plenty of Adrian Peterson and their strong running game. The defense is a potential question mark, but if they can play up the level of last year, Favre and the offense should be able to put up enough points to win 11 or 12 games and get them into the playoffs.
NFL 2010 Week 1 Key Games
Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints – This is the first game of the 2010 NFL season, kicking off in the evening of September 9th, and it looks to be an offensive showcase with two of the NFL’s best offenses on display. The sportsbooks have put the over-under line at 49, and even that could be a little conservative unless we see a few turnovers. They have also made the Saints a 4.5 point favorite to win and that seems about right to me, as the Vikings defense is going to have to bring their A-game if they are going to slow down Drew Brees and company.
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins – This traditional NFL East rivalry is the inaugural Sunday night game of 2010 NFL:season, and fans can look forward to plenty of hard hits in what is likely to be a smash-mouth football game. Washington is expected to be a much-improved team this year (and has looked very strong on defense in the preseason), and the fact the the bookies only have the Cowboys favored by 3.5 reflects this. However, the Cowboys have had the Redskins number recently in this rivalry, winning four out of the last five, and I have to lean with Dallas given the difference in their offenses. But the Redskins do bring in new QB Donovan McNabb to jump-start the offense, and he has had a few big wins against the ‘Boys in his career at Philly. so do not count Washington out in this one.