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.

Donald Penn: Raiders players trust McKenzie will add right pieces

Donald Penn: Raiders players trust McKenzie will add right pieces

The Raiders were pretty darn good last season. A 12-4 record proved that point. There was plenty of talent on a team with a penchant for high-wire acts in victory that masked the fact there were holes on the roster.

They need to be filled for the Raiders to improve in 2017, and new players will be imported through free agency and the draft.

Left tackle Donald Penn is excited to see who gets added, but said there’s no doubt talent is coming to Oakland. He speaks for Raiders players, who have faith that general manager Reggie McKenzie will make the right moves.

“Things that Reggie has done in past drafts have been great, and we’re looking forward to seeing what he brings back towards us,” Penn said recently during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network. “We can’t wait to get back out there healthy. We’re ready to hit the football world with a storm.”

While new guys are coming, a few might head out. The Raiders have several unrestricted free agents. Penn wants to keep his guys around – he mentioned running back Latavius Murray by name -- though he has some ideas for McKenzie’s checklist.

The Raiders don’t need much with most key players under contract – the Raiders should be less active in free agency over past offseasons – but a few key components could put this team over the top.

“If we stick to Reggie’s plan, we’ll be great,” Penn said. “I know he’s going to have a great draft, add a couple little pieces here and there – maybe somebody in the secondary to help out a little bit.

"On offense, you could always use a weapon. Maybe we get another receiver to take (pressure off Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper), but we have a good nucleus right now.”

Raiders LT Donald Penn: QB Derek Carr 'almost 100 percent'

Raiders LT Donald Penn: QB Derek Carr 'almost 100 percent'

Derek Carr is on the mend. The Raiders franchise quarterback had surgery to repair his fibula shortly after he broke it in a Week 16 victory over Indianapolis, and is recovering well during the offseason.

Carr insisted on intense rehab this winter in an attempt – however unlikely it may have been – to return should the Raiders have played in the Super Bowl. It slowed to a normal pace after the Raiders' loss at Houston in the postseason’s opening round, but those in contact with him say he’s making strides.

Left tackle Donald Penn was recently in contact with Carr, and provided an update on Monday during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network.

“I texted Derek (a few) days ago checking in,” Penn said, “and he said he’s almost 100 percent.”

Surgically-repaired broken filbulas take significant time to heal, and the Raiders plan to be conservative with their MVP candidate during the offseason. Derek Carr’s brother and NFL Network analyst David Carr, who was on set with Penn on Monday, said Derek could be back for offseason work.

“He’s doing good,” David Carr said. “He’s walking around already, stretching it out. You can’t do a lot for the bone, right? But he’s going to be back. He’s going to get a whole full offseason in. That’s going to be the best part.”