NFL Roundtable: Season preview | Football | CBC Sports

NFLNFL Roundtable: Season preview

Posted: Friday, August 31, 2012 | 10:59 AM

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All eyes will be on new Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18), who missed all of last season recovering from neck surgeries. (Jack Dempsey/Associated Press) All eyes will be on new Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18), who missed all of last season recovering from neck surgeries. (Jack Dempsey/Associated Press)

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In's NFL preview chatter, our guys discuss Peyton Manning's chances for success in Denver, the fallout from Bountygate, coaches on the hot seat, and Andrew Luck vs. RG3.
In's NFL preview chatter, our guys discuss Peyton Manning's chances for success in Denver, the fallout from Bountygate, coaches on the hot seat, and Andrew Luck vs. RG3.

Follow our panelists on Twitter @tcare66 @JasonD79 @JesseCampigotto @iorfida.

All eyes will be on Peyton Manning - and his new team - as he returns for the first time since his neck surgeries forced him to miss all of last season. So can Manning recapture his old Pro Bowl form in Denver?

Tony Care: The big question for me is whether Manning can endure a year of hits. He's taken two big shots in pre-season and has come out ok. I believe Manning will have a very good year but expectations should be tempered. The biggest fallacy in Denver is that he's coming to town to take complete control of the offence. In fact, Manning will stay true to offensive coordinator Mike McCoy's game plan - one which should feature a solid running game. Don't get me wrong, Manning will have a major input, but he's not going to undermine McCoy. That's not his style.

Jason Davidson: It all depends if Peyton is 100 per cent healthy, and from the looks of his performances in pre-season, he seems to be hovering right around that mark. If he can develop some chemistry with Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas the way he did with Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne in Indy, fans in the Mile High City will have plenty to cheer about. Yes, Peyton is in the later stages of his career at 36, but this is the only four-time MVP in NFL history we're talking about. In addition, with offensive coordinator Mike McCoy having been a quarterback himself, this can only help on the communication level.

Chris Iorfida: If he's healthy, there's no reason to believe Peyton can't be in the upper half or even top 10 of NFL quarterbacks, even with a season missed. People are twisting themselves in knots over outdoor-game record or altitude ... greatness trumps that kind of stuff. One of the dumbest things I've heard in the off-season: Demaryius Thomas isn't a Manning-type receiver. Exactly which WR couldn't gel with Manning in Indy or wasn't the better for the experience? Hank Baskett? There may be some bumps in a really tough first half of the schedule, but four of their last six games are vs. division foes. They'll be in the mix.

Jesse Campigotto: Sure, but it's not going to be easy. Denver has one of the toughest schedules in the league. Check out this interdivisional road slate: Atlanta, New England, Cincy, Carolina and Baltimore. The home games aren't much better: Pittsburgh, Houston, New Orleans, Tampa and Cleveland. Yeah, the Broncos' AFC West rivals - San Diego, K.C. and Oakland - are mediocre, but there's not a St. Louis-esque gimme in the bunch. Throw in a shaky Broncos defence and a move outside his domed comfort zone in Indy, and Manning is going to be tested like never before in his great career.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell crippled the New Orleans Saints with a bevy of suspensions at the conclusion of "Bountygate." Head coach Sean Payton took the brunt of the punishment after he was suspended for the entire season. With all that was levied, can the Saints still contend for a Super Bowl?

Jesse Campigotto: With Drew Brees at the helm of that much offensive talent, you're never out of the running. But the Saints are going to miss Sean Payton, who's one of the top three coaches in the league (along with Bill Belichick and Jim Harbaugh) and the best at overseeing an offence. The NFC South figures to be tougher too, with the Saints up against perennial contender Atlanta, ascendant Carolina, and a Tampa team that will almost certainly improve on its 4-12 record simply by not quitting on its coach with 10 games left in the season.

Chris Iorfida: Well, the Saints are Super Bowl contenders in the theoretical sense, they'll be one of the league's double-digit win teams, but unless that defence gets significantly better, they won't be in the real sense. I do like the hiring of Steve Spagnuolo, but they only had five or six draft picks to work with. They don't have to be great on D, as New England showed last year. The Saints picked up some capable veterans on D, but a couple, like talented Curtis Lofton, are injured. But the first six games seem tailor made for the Saints to ride out the Will Smith suspension. Offensively, Drew Brees has a chip on his shoulder over Bountygate, Jimmy Graham is a beast, and you can bet Darren Sproles is eyeing Oct. 7 vs. San Diego.

Tony Care: I didn't think the Saints were going to be major players before Bountygate. Look, Drew Brees can have all the records, Sean Peyton is one of the best coaches in the NFL, but the Saints still have a below-standard defence - a unit ranked 24th overall last year. Remember the NFC divisional playoff game in San Francisco? You know, the game where Alex Smith ripped up the Saints in the fourth quarter. And that was with suspended linebacker Jonathan Vilma in the lineup. I haven't seen anything that suggests things will be different this year.

Jason Davidson: Coaches don't win championships, players do. With all due respect to Payton, who was at the helm when the Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV, the team should do fine with interim head coach Joe Vitt. Remember, Peyton brought Vitt along in 2006 to provide some added experience. Vitt was considered for the New York Jets job after Herman Edwards left for the Kansas City Chiefs, a position that eventually went to Eric Mangini. Unfortunately for Vitt, he was also suspended in Bountygate but for only the first six games. Offensive line coach Aaron Kromer will hold the fort until Vitt's return. Losing linebacker Jonathan Vilma is tough but they will be fine, especially with Drew Brees and his abundance of passing options.

Every year brings a group of NFL coaches who will be on the hot seat. This campaign will be no exception.  Of the usual handful, who will be the likeliest candidate to be fired first?

Jason Davidson: If the San Diego Chargers can't find their way early on, Norv Turner will be getting a pink slip. Turner is still employed by the Bolts because they played well in the final weeks of the 2011 season to finish 8-8, the same record as the AFC West champion Denver Broncos. Thanks to the divisional tiebreaker, the Broncos advanced to the playoffs. Turner and the Chargers were the mark of inconsistency last season, starting out 4-1 only to drop six straight games from there. A lacklustre start in 2012 could very well lead to Turner looking for work elsewhere. Patience has been wearing thin in San Diego for quite some time now.

Chris Iorfida: The likes of Lovie Smith, Ken Whisenhunt and Jason Garrett would seem to be on the hot seat if their respective teams falter early. But when I look at how the first half of the schedule plays out for these two teams - Marvin Lewis and Norv Turner should be on the block if their teams aren't .500.

Jesse Campigotto: Norv Turner is already on rocky ground. A lot of San Diego fans wanted him fired after a year in which the Chargers missed the playoffs as one of the pre-season Super Bowl favourites, and they may get their wish soon as the team's lengthy run of regular-season success could be over. But let me throw a hypothetical scenario at you: Say the Jets implode under the weight of the Tebow circus, the defence has an off year, and their outspoken coach makes a few ill-advised comments out of frustration, leading to dozens of stories in the New York papers about how he's "lost the locker room." Rex Ryan is fired, and management decides they want a different brash, charismatic, heavy-set leader who's comfortable working in New Jersey. Please welcome the new coach of your New York Jets... Governor Chris Christie!

Tony Care: Norv Turner (San Diego) and Jason Garrett (Dallas) will be popular choices but I'm going with second-year coach Pat Shurmur in Cleveland. I'm not buying into the notion that Shurmur will be given time to see the development of rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden. The Browns' first six games include: Philadelphia, @Cincinnati, Buffalo, @Baltimore, @New York Giants, and Cincinnati. I could easily see an 0-6 start, and with owner Jimmy Haslam coming on board, you can bet president Mike Holmgren will feel the heat to make a change.

Rookies Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III will be linked forever after being selected 1-2, respectively, in this past draft. Both have given fans in Indianapolis and Washington hope that the QB position in those cities will be set for the next decade. But who will have the better first year?

Chris Iorfida: It's a tough call because I do think Washington's defence will give their offence a chance to succeed better than Indy's but I just think Luck will rack up enough passing yards to offset what Griffin can do with his feet. Indy kept Reggie Wayne, hired Bruce Arians and drafted a few pass catching options for the Stanford alum.

Jesse Campigotto: Griffin is fun to watch, but I think Luck will have the better rookie season and career. I wonder if RG3 might have trouble staying healthy in the NFL. He's listed at 6-foot-2, 217 pounds, which makes him skinnier than another super-athletic QB known for injury problems: Michael Vick, who's 6-0, 215. Luck is a more thickly built 6-4, 235 and doesn't like to run nearly as much as those guys, so I think he has a better chance to stay on the field in the pros.

Tony Care: Let me first say that Luck, with apologies to Cam Newton, is the best rookie quarterback to enter in the league in quite some time. He has it all: size, accuracy, intelligence, and in my mind he'll become a multiple-time Super Bowl winning QB. Having said that, RG3 gets a slight edge this year. While Luck only has veteran receiver Reggie Wayne as a proven option, Griffin can look to dependable pass catchers like Santana Moss, Pierre Garcon and Fred Davis. Granted they're not the best trio in the league, but they do supply Griffin with more depth. The Redskins also have the better defence, which will give the athletic Griffin more opportunities to score.

Jason Davidson: I'm going to have to go with Andrew Luck here. Right now, he is the best quarterback in the AFC South and has yet to take his first regular-season snap. Look, the Colts are in full rebuild mode and there is no way that they will contend for a post-season spot in 2012 but this is a great opportunity for Luck to adapt to the NFL game. He didn't look too bad in pre-season and he seems to be the kind of player who will mature quickly, like his predecessor Peyton Manning. Luck will make mistakes but that's all part of the process. And yes, I am well aware that RG3 and the Redskins beat Indy 30-17 on Aug. 25th but I don't put too much stock into a pre-season result. No one should. On that note, would be great to see these two go head-to-head in a more meaningful game down the road somewhere. By then, RG3 might look like the better pick in hindsight but, who knows.

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