Maiocco: 2011 Super Bowl, MVP predictions

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Maiocco: 2011 Super Bowl, MVP predictions

Sep. 5, 2011MAIOCCO ARCHIVE
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Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.com

AFC

East
1) New England Patriots
2) New York Jets (Wild card)
3) Buffalo Bills
4) Miami Dolphins

North
1) Pittsburgh Steelers
2) Baltimore Ravens (Wild card)
3) Cleveland Browns
4) Cincinnati Bengals
South
1) Houston Texans
2) Jacksonville Jaguars
3) Tennessee Titans
4) Indianapolis Colts

West
1) San Diego Chargers
2) Oakland Raiders
3) Kansas City Chiefs
4) Denver Broncos

Wildcard round
Steelers over Jets, Chargers over Ravens

Divisional round
Texans over Chargers, Patriots over Steelers

AFC Championship Game
Texans over Patriots

NFC

East
1) Dallas Cowboys
2) Philadelphia Eagles (Wild card)
3) New York Giants
4) Washington Redskins

North
1) Green Bay Packers
2) Detroit Lions
3) Chicago Bears
4) Minnesota Vikings

South
1) Atlanta Falcons
2) New Orleans Saints (Wild card)
3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4) Carolina Panthers

West
1) St. Louis Rams
2) Arizona Cardinals
3) San Francisco 49ers
4) Seattle Seahawks

Wildcard round
Saints over Cowboys, Eagles over Rams

Divisional round
Saints over Packeers, Falcons over Eagles
NFC Championship Game
Saints over Falcons

Super Bowl XLII
Saints over Texans

Regular Season Awards

MVP: Houston Quarterback Matt Schaub
The Texans are set up to experience success for the first time in their history, and the quarterback will lead the way. Schaub threw 24 touchdowns and 12 interception last season, and his production is going way up this season. Houston is not lacking for talent around Schaub, either. Andre Johnson is one of the top two receivers in the game. Running back Arian Foster, when he gets healthy, is a dual threat out, and Owen Daniels will be one of the top pass-catching tight ends in the league.

Offensive player of the year: Green Bay Quarterback Aaron Rodgers
Generally, the MVP and the offensive player of the year are the same person. Just consider this as a chance to hedge my bet. The Chico native entered the conversation as one of the top five quarterbacks in the league last season while leading the Packers to the Super Bowl title. And he is still getting better.
Defensive player of the year: Dallas Linebacker DeMarcus Ware
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has one of the game's great players, and he's going to use him at every position in the Cowboys' front seven to generate heat on the quarterback. And that's something Ware knows how to do. He has 80 sacks in six NFL seasons, including 46.5 in the past three years. He'll single-handedly neutralize Philadelphia's Michael Vick and bring a division title to the Cowboys.

Offensive rookie of the year: New Orleans Running Back Mark Ingram
He'll begin the season sharing time with Pierre Thomas, but Ingram will gradually get more and more action as a major part of the offense. Ingram will take the heat off quarterback Drew Brees, as the Saints will feature a well-rounded offense. And he'll be money in short-yardage situations. Go ahead and ring him up for 16 touchdowns and a little more hardware to go along with his Heisman Trophy of a couple years ago.

Defensive rookie of the year: Houston Defensive End J.J. Watt
At 6-5, 290, he's a great fit for Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme. His adjustment has been remarkable smooth, as he quickly nailed down a starting job. He probably won't be a double-digit sack artist, but the push he provides will open things up for his teammates. The Texans' pass defense will improve dramatically, and Watt be a rock against the run.Comeback player of the year: Minnesota Quarterback Donovan McNabb
Yes, McNabb is still in the NFL. And while the Vikings are going to fall on some hard times, McNabb will post solid numbers and rebound from an embarrassing one-year fiasco in Washington under Mike Shanahan. McNabb's play will make it difficult for rookie quarterback Christian Ponder to get onto the field.

Coach of the year: Houston Texans' Gary Kubiak
Move over Colts, there's the makings of a new dynasty in the AFC South. Kubiak has himself an MVP candidate at quarterback (Schaub), an outstanding wide receiver (Johnson) who's not a diva, and a league rushing leader (Foster) who did not hold out for a new contract. In other words, he's done a great job of keeping this team focused on winning games and getting to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

Harbaugh takes blame for 'premature celebration' during 2011 incident

Harbaugh takes blame for 'premature celebration' during 2011 incident

It was Jim Harbaugh's first season as head coach of the 49ers.

The 4-1 49ers were in Detroit and scored 10 points in the final 5:29 to beat the Lions 25-19.

An excited Harbaugh got a little too agressive during his postgame handshake with Lions coach Jim Schwartz. The two had words for each other and had to be separated.

Six years later, Harbaugh took the blame for what happened and said that he and Schwartz have patched things up.

"I went in too hard on that, too aggressive on the handshake. I've since changed that. Not doing that anymore. Can't blame him. I went in too hard. And you respect him for taking exception. We've talked, and we're good. We're back to friends. There is a protocol in a postgame handshake. I've been there as the winner. I've been there as loser. You just, 'Hey, nice game,' then go celebrate. Premature celebration there, in the wrong," Harbaugh said Tuesday on Barstool Sports' Pardon My Take podcast.

Harbaugh sounds like he's learned his lesson from that incident with Schwartz.

"The postgame handshake isn't the place for anything. If you're bitter, than change the I to an E. Don't get bitter, get better. Nothing's really changing at the postgame handshake. Just professionally shake hands and go on your way," Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh moved on from the 49ers to coach the Michigan Wolverines. Schwartz coached the Lions through the 2013 season and currently serves as the defensive coordinator for the Eagles.

 

49ers head coach Shanahan: Lynch going in the right direction

49ers head coach Shanahan: Lynch going in the right direction

SANTA CLARA -- General manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan sat down with 49ers pass-rusher Aaron Lynch shortly after assuming their new roles to give him an outline of what was expected.

Aaron Lynch entered the NFL in 2014 as a fifth-round draft pick despite having the talent worthy of a much-earlier selection. There were concerns about his commitment and character.

Lynch showed plenty of promise in his first two seasons. He tied for the club lead both seasons with six and 6.5 sacks, respectively. Last year, Lynch reported to the offseason program 30 pounds overweight. He was suspended four games for violating the league’s policy of substances of abuse. Then, he missed considerable time with an ankle injury. In seven games, Lynch recorded just 1.5 sacks.

John Lynch and Shanahan told Aaron Lynch his past transgressions would not be held against him, but he had to work hard and prove himself. As Lynch enters the final year of his original four-year contract, his spot on the 49ers' 53-man roster is anything but a certainty.

“Basically, everybody on this team, no matter what has happened before you came into the league or when you’ve been in the league, they’re not holding that against you and it’s a new clean slate,” Lynch said. “So I need to do everything I can to make sure I have a clean slate with them.”

Lynch is currently working with the second unit at the “Leo” position on the 49ers’ defensive line, behind Arik Armstead.

“’Leo’ is a lot of damn fun, so, yeah, I like it a lot,” Lynch said. “You get to set the edge and go get the quarterback.”

Lynch said he is in better physical condition than he was a year ago at this time. He said his target playing weight is in the 260-270 range. He said he is currently in the 280s.

“I came in heavy, but I’ve been working my (butt) off to get down to where my coach wants me to get down to, and where I feel I would be best to give everything I can for my team and do what I can for my team,” Lynch said.

While the 49ers did not witness any improvement in Lynch's commitment at the beginning of the offseason, things seem to be turning around. Shanahan said Lynch has missed only one day of the team's voluntary offseason program -- an excused absence to deal with a situation concerning his wife.

“There’s no doubt Aaron’s going in the right direction for us," Shanahan said. "He came in in the offseason, we challenged him hard with just the way we worked and stuff. He hasn’t shied away from any of it. He’s jumped in on all of our stuff.

"So he’s gotten better each day. He’s gotten more in shape each day and I’m seeing it on the field each day.”