Welcome to the first installment of the NFL Cream Of The Crop. Each week, myself and fellow We Got This Covered writer, Lester Wiltfong will take a look at who we think are the best and worst NFL teams of the week.
We will alternate each week starting with me looking at the top three and Lester picking the bottom three.
So, as we head into the first week of the 2012 NFL season, here’s my top three teams:
1. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
I will go out on a limb and predict that the Patriots will win the Super bowl this season. I think Tom Brady and company will avenge their loss to the Giants in last year’s finale and take the Lombardi trophy back to New England.
Tom Brady must still be considered one of the league’s best quarterbacks and head coach Bill Belichick is also one of the best in the business. With these two still pulling in the same direction, you just have the feeling that the Pats will always find a way to win. There is no doubting that New England has a great offense, and I think they’ll be even stronger this year with running back Stevan Ridley seeing his stock steadily rising.
In Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots have arguably the best tight end in the league, who should have another strong season. Wes Welker, a favourite target of Brady should also have a strong outing.
Granted, their defense wasn’t always great last year, but will they really need to rely on it as much as other teams? I don’t think so. Not with an offense as good as theirs. I can easily see them winning up to 14 games this year, which firmly sees them as the cream of the crop.
2. NEW YORK GIANTS
The reigning Super Bowl champions have every chance of repeating last year’s success. Yes, they play in a tough NFC East division, but quarterback Eli Manning proved that his name belongs in the same discussions as Brady, Brees and Rodgers.
Rookie running back David Wilson is a fast rusher who has averaged 4.7 yards per carry this preseason. He will complement Ahmad Bradshaw well, and may outperform him. Either way, his presence provides the Giants with a potent running back combination. New York also have two of the best receivers in the league with Hakeem Nicks and Julio Cruz.
Defensively, the Giants are strong and have one of the most feared pass rushes in the entire league. Look for defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul to improve on last year’s 16 sacks. He’s the stuff of nightmares for quarterbacks.
All in all, things are looking positive for the ‘good’ New York team. Their schedule isn’t too tough, and I have them as favorites to win their division and head deep into the playoffs.
3. SAN FRANCISCO 49ers
It’s all about quarterback Alex Smith this year, as the 49ers hope to prove that last year’s 13-3 record can be repeated. Smith is often viewed as somewhat of a ‘game manager’, but with the addition of wide receivers Mario Manningham and veteran Randy Moss, it seems the coaches will be giving him every chance to take some risks down the field.
San Francisco have possibly the best defense in football with a linebacking crew that can stop any run attack in its tracks. Running back Frank Gore rushed for 1,211 yards last year on his way to eight touchdowns. He rarely misses a game, proving he is one of the most durable backs in the league. They play in a weak NFC West, with perhaps only the Seattle Seahawks capable of offering much in the way of competition. Like the Giants, the 49ers should easily win their division and I wouldn’t be surprised if they face the Patriots in this year’s Super bowl.
So that’s it as we look ahead to week one of the NFL regular season. These teams are currently the cream of the crop.
Do take the time to read Lester Wiltfong’s ‘Bottom Of The Barrel’ though to see who he thinks are the league’s worst performers and check back next week to see us sitting on the other side of the fence.