Gutierrez: Predicting the 2011 NFL season

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Gutierrez: Predicting the 2011 NFL season

Sep. 5, 2011

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Paul Gutierrez
CSNCalifornia.com

With the season less than week away, it's time to make predictions for the 2011 season. Without further ado...

AFC

East
1) New England Patriots
2) New York Jets (Wild card)
3) MIami Dolphins
4) Buffalo Bills
North
1) Baltimore Ravens
2) Pittsburgh Steelers (Wild card)
3) Cleveland Browns
4) Cincinnati Bengals

South
1) Houston Texans
2) Indianapolis Colts
3) Tennessee Titans
4) Jacksonville Jaguars

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

AFC Wildcard round
Jets over Ravens, Steelers over Texans

AFC Divisional round
Patriots over Jets, Chargers over Steelers
AFC Championship Game
Chargers over Patriots

NFC

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

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

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

West
1) St. Louis Rams
2) Arizona Cardinals
3) Seattle Seahawks
4) San Francisco 49ers
Wildcard round
Saints over Lions, Cowboys over Rams

Divisional round
Eagles over Cowboys, Packers over Saints

NFC Championship Game
Packers over Eagles
Super Bowl XLVI
Chargers over Packers

MVP: Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Michael Vick
Let's be clear on one thing: this is not an endorsement, merely a prediction of the artist formerly known as Ron Mexico continuing his rags-to-riches-to-rags-to-riches ride. The only player in the history of the NFL to score a pair of 100 million contracts is at the helm of the latest Dream Team. He will either continue his ascent, or suffer a breathtaking fall. The media loves a good redemption story, even if it's hard for many to swallow. Still.

Offensive player of the year : San Diego Chargers Quarterback Philip Rivers
This is the year Rivers finally joins that pantheon of current QB greats and is mentioned in the same breath as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. Rivers might even steal a few MVP votes along the way as he embarks on a 5,000-yard passing season. Finally, Rivers should take San Diego where not even Dan Fouts could - atop a stage holding the Lombardy Trophy. And yes, we realize Norv Turner is still the Chargers coach.

Defensive player of the year Detroit Lions Defensive Tackle Ndamukong Suh
And for his encore, Suh, the 2010 NFL defensive rookie of the year and All-Pro with 10 sacks, will lead a Motown revival that ends with a trip to the playoffs. You know he's not only feared but respected in the trenches when he's already being accused of dirty play. He's that mean, that nasty and, yes, that good. He's a game-changer who also intercepted a pass as a rookie and will only get better.

Offensive rookie of the year: Bengals Quarterback Andy Dalton
Oh how I wanted to go with Atlanta receiver Julio Jones here, what with his sliding into a high-powered offense that propelled the Falcons to the NFC's top seed last year. But Dalton will be a starting NFL quarterback from Day 1, and that carries a lot of weight. And he'll pile on a lot of stats, relatively speaking. At least, if he survives playing for one of the more woeful squads in the league in the Bengals.

Defensive rookie of the year: 49ers Linebacker Aldon Smith
The sexy pick is Denver linebacker Von Miller, the No 2 pick of the draft. But Smith will be playing in more meaningful games, albeit in a much worse division. Still, Smith was a frenetic presence this preseason for the 49ers in wracking up 19 tackles, tied for second-most on the team, and getting a team-high 3 12 sacks. Smith, the seventh overall pick of he draft, should continue that production.

Comeback player of the year: Green Bay Packers Tight End Jermichael Finley
A right knee injury ended Finley's 2010 season after just five games. And still, the Packers went on to win the Super Bowl. With Finley back, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has a dependable security blanket back at his sideand in the flat, and underneath. Finley figures to benefit from Rodgers' rise to prominence, and the proof will be in the numbers Finley puts up as a pass-catching tight end for the defending champs.

Coach of the year: Detroit Lions' Jim Schwartz
Quick, name the head coach of the Lions. And no, it's no longer Wayne Fontes. To steal a line from the Mel Brooks cult classic "Spaceballs," May the Schwartz be with you. Lions fans will be singing the third-year Lions coach praises this fall and winter as he leads Detroit, with a big help from his ferocious defensive line and an opportunistic offense, to its first playoff berth since 1999.

Penn still haunted by only sack allowed in 2016; 'That play sticks with me'

Penn still haunted by only sack allowed in 2016; 'That play sticks with me'

Editor's Note: The above video is from Dec. 24, 2016.

Donald Penn was nothing short of awesome last season. The veteran Raiders left tackle proved impenetrable, allowing just one sack and 27 quarterback pressures in 676 pass-blocking snaps.

He ranked high among the NFL’s best left tackles at 33, engulfed a career renaissance that began after joining the Raiders three years ago. Penn made the Pro Bowl. He was a vital piece of a 12-4 team that helped the Raiders reach the playoffs.

He hasn’t reveled much in that. Penn’s driven by opportunities missed, and one mishap that haunts him still.

Penn locked horns with Indianapolis linebacker Trent Cole off the left edge during a Week 16 contest against the Colts, and slipped as he was tracking his man away from the pocket. Penn’s feet got tangled and the big man fell. Cole remained upright, darted in and sacked quarterback Derek Carr.

It was Penn’s only sack allowed all season. And Carr got hurt. He suffered a broken fibula that ended his season and realistic hopes of a Raiders playoff run.

Nearly five months have passed since that fluke play. Carr is healthy and a full participant in the Raiders offseason program. The Raiders offensive line might be better after allowing a league-low 18 sacks last season.

There’s plenty to be excited about as the Raiders enter OTAs and a mandatory minicamp. Penn can’t help but lament that isolated incident when Carr went down.

“You have to be an athlete. You try not to think about it too much,” Penn said Tuesday. “You wish you could go back and get it back. I’ve taken that same set I don’t know how many times, on the same field and never just slipped out of nowhere. I’m not going to put it on myself. I should have been able to do something better. You know me, I’m never going to blame the slip for happening. I should have blocked him and held on to him and taken him down with me. That play sticks with me.”

That isn’t all bad. It fuels Penn to continue growing as a player, even at 34 coming off an excellent Pro Bowl season.

“I’m going to try to do what I can do better and make sure it never happens again,” Penn said. “I’ve never gotten a quarterback hurt in my life since I’ve been playing. That was a first. That’s something I take pride in. I’m going to try my hardest to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

Penn wants a different ending to this season. Last year the Raiders lost the AFC West crown and a shot to win the team’s first playoff game. Penn suffered a knee injury the following week that kept him from playing in the postseason.

The goal is to realize vast potential now that the Raiders offense is back healthy again.

“I’m all about karma and stuff like that,” Penn said. “Maybe (God is) trying to tell us that this is our year. We have to put in the work to get it. I know D.C. is happy, I’m dang sure happy to get him back. We’re growing and masterminding this offense trying to make it as explosive as possible.”

 

Raiders OTA observations: Conley, rookies must earn their stripes

Raiders OTA observations: Conley, rookies must earn their stripes

ALAMEDA – Rookies have been immersed in the Raiders system most of this month, but still have a lot to learn before training camp begins this summer.

There’s significant work ahead this spring during OTAs and mid-June’s mandatory minicamp, and young players will do so from the second and third teams. Even the highly touted ones.

First-round draft pick Gareon Conley played slot cornerback with the second unit and outside cornerback on the third during Tuesday’s OTA open to the media. It’s a position the slick, speedy cover man will vacate posthaste, but the Raiders prefer rookies earn their stripes.

“All of our young guys are going to earn their way,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “We have a good football team. We’re going to let them earn their way. We’ll let them compete. We’re early in the competition, so we’ll just go through the offseason and continue to get (Conley) involved and get him reps. These guys will ascend and take their positions as they earn it. We’re really happy with the way he’s started.”

The Raiders didn’t feature a single rookie on their first units Tuesday. Second-round safety Obi Melifonwu, fourth-round offensive tackle David Sharpe and middle linebacker Marquel Lee were featured on the second unit.

Here are some other observations from Tuesday’s OTA sessions.

-- Del Rio said Marshall Newhouse had the inside track to be the team’s starting right tackle. The versatile veteran worked there with the first team, joining a front five otherwise intact from a season ago.

-- Second-year pro Connor Cook, who switched from No. 8 to No. 18 this offseason, ran the second offensive unit. E.J. Manuel worked with the third team.

-- Inside linebacker Ben Heeney worked on a side field with a trainer during Tuesday’s practice, as he continues to rehab from surgery to repair an ankle broken early last season. Jelani Jenkins also did side work after practicing on Monday.

Cory James and Tyrell Adams worked with the first unit at inside linebacker.

-- Veteran running back Marshawn Lynch was limited to individual drills for a second straight day as the Raiders ease him back into football activity.

-- Offensive lineman Austin Howard is working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery, and only practice during individual drills.

-- Cornerback Sean Smith had offseason surgery, but was a full participant in Tuesday’s session.

-- Third-round defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes remains away from the Raiders complex due to an NFL rule preventing players from schools still in session to work with their teams. He won’t re-join the squad until training camp. Undrafted rookie Nicholas Morrow is in a similar spot, but will return next week.

-- Edge rusher Shilique Calhoun played last season at 250 pounds, but looks decidedly bigger now. He told the team website he’s up to 270 pounds.