Boston Bruins Season Preview

Boston Bruins Season Preview


Acquisitions
RW Nathan Horton, acquired in trade with Panthers
C Gregory Campbell, acquired in trade with Panthers

Departures
D Dennis Wideman, traded to Panthers
C Vladimir Sabotka, traded to Blues
RW Miroslav Satan, released to free agency
C Steve Begin, not re-signed

The Bruins were among one of the NHL’s biggest disappointments in the regular season and one of the biggest surprises in the playoffs. After shocking the Sabres in the first round, they were eliminated by the Flyers in one of the biggest playoff collapses in NHL history. With that behind them, the Bruins look to fix their mistakes and GM Peter Chiarelli helped address some of their problems by trading for a goal scorer in Nathan Horton. This may not be enough, though since the injury bug has already hit the B’s and the season hasn’t even started. The Bruins managed to get into the post-season with a couple players missing but just getting there isn’t going to be enough for Boston this year.

Boston’s biggest trouble last year was scoring goals. They averaged a league worst 2.39 goals per game last season and their powerplay was only 16.6% effective. Marco Sturm was the only player on the team to reach 20 goals and he’s beginning the year on injured reserve. Also beginning the year on the IR is Marc Savard after suffering post-concussion syndrome and he could be out for the entire season. That spells a lot of trouble for a team that already has trouble producing offense. They will receive some help in the form of Nathan Horton who gives the Bruins just what they needed; a pure goal scorer. He has scored 20 or more goals every year since entering the NHL and will be surrounded by more talent this time so he could have a career year on this team. Also stepping up is going to be rookie Tyler Seguin who was pretty much guaranteed a roster spot after the Savard injury. Seguin is capable of playing both wing and center so the Bruins have a lot of options with him. It’s unsure of which line he will play on, though. The two are looking like a lot better options than Miroslav Satan to give this team an offensive spark.

These two are nice additons but there were a lot of forwards who underachieved last year, the most notable ones being Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Michael Ryder. Krejci’s season was especially disappointing since it was after the Bruins extended his contract and he saw his point total decrease by 21. Lucic battled injuries all season while Ryder looked lost most of the time. These three will be counted on to do a lot more for the B’s in 2010. More will be expected out of Blake Wheeler, too but he had a solid season last year despite his point total decreasing from his rookie year. Two forwards that have remained consistent in their roles are Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi. Both will have to take roles as the leaders of the team this year, too. Recchi is 42 and was brought back for another season. He is still a very capable player and contributes well on the powerplay.

There’s been some change with the bottom-six of the Bruins, but it’s constructed similarly to the unit they had last year. Steve Begin is out as the fourth line center and Gregory Campbell is in. Campbell is a better defensive player than Begin which makes him a slight upgrade. They also have two very good enforcers in Brian McGrattan and Shawn Thornton. There’s plenty of younger players who are looking to make the lineup as well. One of which being Jordan Caron who has been impressing the Bruins staff in training camp. If he keeps it up, he might see a significant amount of time with this team due to the Strum injury. Same can be said for Brad Marchand.

On defense, the only significant loss was Dennis Wideman and Bruins fans had no problem watching him leave after his terrible season last year. No one was brought in to replace him but they did re-sign Dennis Seidenberg who should be effective if he can stay healthy for the whole year. Aside from that, it’s mostly the same as last year. The Bruins defensive corps was one of the most solid in the league last year even with Wideman’s blunders so I have to think it will be even better.  They need to see a better version of Zdeno Chara, though. He looked like he lost a step last season after he won the Norris Trophy the previous year. The rest of the defense looks mostly the same as last year. I’m expecting Matt Hunwick to improve a lot, though. You can also expect rookie Matt Bartowski to see some time in Boston sometime later in the year.

Goaltending is another big strength for the Bruins with Tuukka Rask coming off a stellar rookie season. The starting job is clearly his to start the year but Tim Thomas will be getting some spot starts to give Rask a breather. Thomas, a former Veznia Trophy winner, lost the job to Rask after playing horrible last year. He is hoping to reclaim his starting job but the chances of that happening are highly unlikely.

The Bruins look like a better team than last year on almost all stages and I have to think expectations are very high in Beantown. Their offense is upgraded, but the injuries to Savard and Sturm might cause them to get to a slow start. Bergeron will have to step up as the #1 center but his job is easier now that he’s playing with Horton on his wing. If Rask can avoid a sophomore slump then I think the Bruins will be in great shape going into this season.

Micheal Nylander acquired by Florida?

That’s what I’m hearing. If this gets his salary off the Capitals hands, then I would be thrilled. His cap hit is gone but that ridiculous contract is still on the books. The word is that Florida has claimed him to play for their AHL squad, the Rochester Amerks. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in Florida if he can get his shit together. He was a PPG player before he tore his rotator cuff but man, has he fallen off after that. Best of luck to Nylander in Rochester/Florida.

Trent Edwards claimed by the Jaguars

Former third-round pick Trent Edwards was released by the Buffalo Bills yesterday after being benched and outplayed by back-up Ryan Fitzpatrick. This is the second time in two years that Edwards has lost his job as the Bills starter and they finally decided to cut their losses with him. It’s somewhat of a surprising move but he apparently had a lot of issues with other players on the team. It’s better to just release him rather than have him cause more problems in the locker room. The fans were definitely tired of him. His inability to throw deep passes even earned him the name “Captain Checkdown.” Fitzpatrick isn’t going to win the Bills a lot of games, but he takes a lot more risks than Edwards and is willing to do what he can to at least try to win. The Bills offense looks noticeably better with him under center than Trent Edwards.

Today, Edwards was claimed by the Jacksonville Jaguars. It looked like they were going to have a QB controversy between David Garrard and Luke McCown going into the season but that ended after McCown tore his ACL. This was supposed to be Garrard’s year to prove himself and he’s responded by playing some of the worst football of his career. Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver even said at the beginning of the year that making the playoffs would be “unacceptable” and he would make some big changes to the coaching staff and the roster if they failed to do so. From the looks of things, the Jags are going to have a new QB and a new coach by the end of the year if this keeps up.

Why would the Jaguars want Trent Edwards, though? He is not an improvement over Garrard and the Jaguars aren’t going to be any better with him at the helm. However, could this move possibly make Garrard play better? He has been playing with no one looking over his shoulder the past two weeks and looked awful in those two games. Maybe the Jaguars wanted to send a message to Garrard saying “Look, we went out and got a QB with starter experience and we can put him in if you keep playing like trash.”

That’s a possibility, but It’s really up to Garrard to turn their season around. The defense isn’t stopping anything and Maurice Jones-Drew has been struggling out of the gate. It’s up to Garrard to get the passing game going again and maybe the Jaguars claiming Edwards could be a wake-up call. Edwards isn’t going to save the Jaguars season. He’s just going to be more of the same. They need Garrard to start making a difference for this team, and fast.

Week 3 column

After three weeks of football there are only three undefeated teams left; the Steelers, Chiefs and the Bears. I didn’t see any of those teams getting off to this good of a start at all. The Steelers sitting at the top of the pack isn’t unusual but them taking it to the Bucs with their fourth string QB was sort of surprising. Key word, “sort of.” Charlie Batch had a few really nice throws but Mendenhall and the defense did most of the work. That and the Bucs defense was missing their best safety, Tanard Jackson due to suspension. Cody Grim was getting abused on those deep routes and he even literally handed Mike Wallace a TD. That’s why I don’t believe in the Bucs. They were finally put up against a good team and got pulverized.

The Bears edged out a win over the Packers a couple hours ago. I was pretty surprised since the Packers are my pick to win the NFC but games like that will happened. Green Bay needs to get a running back because Brandon Jackson wasn’t getting the job done tonight and John Kuhn isn’t an every down back. That and a plethora of penalties contributed to an ugly loss for Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers can’t carry them on his shoulders all season like he did tonight. More about the Bears, though. They’ve been very impressive the last two weeks but they got pretty lucky tonight. Green Bay handed them a few opportunities with the 18 penalties and poor special teams play. Jay Cutler had a huge mulligan on that last pass interference call that led to the game winning field goal. Speaking of which, I think Cutler has looked a lot better than last year but he had a handful of bad throws today. The first pick was airmailed to Derrick Martin and that second one, which was negated, was terribly underthrown. It’s good their offense took advantage of Green Bay’s mistakes, though. That’s the sign of a good team and now they’ve got a slight edge on them in the division.

Kansas City is the most shocking of the unbeaten teams and they had a very convincing victory over the 49ers yesterday. I really like this Chiefs team because they’ve been winning in entertaining fashion. Their win over the Chargers was fun to watch and they put on a show against the Niners by completely dominating them in all stages. Both Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles had solid games and are going to contribute well to this offense. I still think they should use Charles A LOT more than Jones, though. That “flea flicker” TD pass to Dwayne Bowe was cool to see and so was that one handed grab by Tony Moeaki. Dexter McCluster is also pretty fun to watch with his agility. The big surprise was Matt Cassell’s performance, 16-27 250 yds 3 TD, INT. That’s best I’ve seen him play in a Chiefs uniform for awhile. It was against a tough 49ers defense, too.

I have to give credit to the Chiefs defense, too. Crennell must be doing something right because they’ve only allowed 34 points all year and held Frank Gore to only 43 yards on 15 carries today. They also sacked Alex Smith 5 times, Tamba Hali having 3 of them. Brandon Flowers recorded his second pic of the year as well. This coupled with the Chargers, Broncos and Raiders losing means the Chiefs have a 2 game lead on the rest of the division. I think it’s kind of early to jump on their bandwagon but this was the first game that I was really impressed with them and I think they deserve a lot of credit for it. I expected them to improve but I saw them being a 5-6 win team at best. How much longer are Cassel’s receivers going to bail him out? Moeaki wouldn’t have to make that ridiculous catch if Cassel didn’t overthrow him. Can their special teams keep playing on this level? That remains to be seen but it’s good to see the Chiefs winning again.

Oh, and speaking of bandwagons, I’m still sticking with the Dolphins in the AFC East even if the Jets are really coming together. Henne had a good game and Brandon Marshall made Antonio Cromartie look silly on multiple occasions. Unfortunately, Braylon Edwards torched Will Allen on his long TD catch and Dustin Keller was all over their linebackers. Why the Phins kept putting linebackers on him was beyond me. Sanchez looked great, though. I’ll give them that. He looks a lot better now that the Jets have opened up their playbook a little more and let him actually throw deep. The Jets defense still gave up a ton of yards but it was without Darrelle Revis. Why Henning didn’t run the ball more is beyond me and when the only times he did run were from the stupid trick plays. The Jets saw those coming from a mile away and stopped them in their tracks. Meanwhile, Miami’s defense didn’t have an answer for Brad Smith and that combined with a blocked punt sealed the Dolphins fate. I still think they can take that division but the Jets are looking like the team everyone was hyping this preaseason.

Best Team Performance: Cowboys

Dallas needed this win the most and they go it. They exploited a weak Texans passing defense and were able to hold their offense to only 13 points. I think the most shocking thing I saw out of this game was that Roy Williams was actually making himself useful. 5 catches, 117 yards and 2 TDs! Did him and Miles Austin switch uniforms or something?

Top 5 Offensive Players of the Week

1. Peyton Manning 27-34 325 yds 3 TD

Well, it’s Peyton Manning doing what he does best.

2. Anquan Boldin 8 rec 142 yds 3TD

Boldin and Flacco were abusing Eric Wright of the Browns all game long. He had to bail Flacco out of a lot of messes, which is was the main reason he was brought to Baltimore. I had a feeling the Ravens would have a stat-padding game like this against the Browns.

3. Adrian Paterson 23 carries 160 yds, 2 TDs

So…why did it take the Vikings two weeks to find out that it’s AP who wins games for them?

4. Austin Collie 12 rec. 171 yds 2 TD

Another corner who got smoked this week was Perrish Cox of the Broncos. Austin Collie stepped in as the #2 receiver for the Colts with Pierre Garcon out and he did a fantastic job at it. An interesting note is that Collie now leads the NFL in receptions.

5. Tony Romo 23-30 284 yds 2 TD

Romo was the man on Sunday and he needed to be if the Cowboys wanted to win the game. That might silent his doubters for at least a week.

Honorable Mentions; Kyle Orton, Rashard Mendenhall, Mike Vick, Tom Brady, Brandon Lloyd, Tony Gonzalez, Lance Moore, Peyton Hillis, Antonio Gates, Philip Rivers

Defensive Player of the Week: Earl Thomas

Two huge interceptions against the Chargers on Sunday, one of which sealed the game for the Seahawks. This is definitely helping prove his  contract value. Also getting a shoutout from the Seabags is Leon Washington for his two kickoff returns. No special teams player of the week category and I wanted to fit him in, haha.

Honorable Mentions: Demarcus Ware, Trent Cole, Tamba Hali

Worst Team Performance: Jaguars

Taking nothing away from the Eagles, but the Jags defense looked like they were playing a scrimmage against them. They were constantly letting Vick connect on long passes and doing a piss poor job in both coverage and tackling. It was some of the laziest defensive play I have ever seen in awhile. Their offense is wasn’t much better.No wonder no one shows up to their games.

Worst offensive performance: David Garrard

Sorry to keep picking on the Jags but he was abysmal. When a team has to sign Keith Null as an “insurance” policy then you know your starting QB sucks. This was supposed to be Garrard’s “make or break” year and it’s looking like he’ll be a backup somewhere else if he keeps playing like this. Only one pick this week but a 13/30, 105 yds, 1 INT line isn’t good at all.

Honorable Mentions: Lions running game, Jonathan Stewart, Carson Palmer

Worst Defensive Performance: Eric Wright

Why the Browns didn’t put Joe Haden instead of him is beyond me. Covering Boldin isn’t an easy task but Wright was getting embarrassed.

Surprise of the Week: Chiefs and Bears are 3-0

see above

Honorable Mentions: Rams beating Redskins, Bills putting up a fight, Seahawks upset Chargers

Idiot of the week: Dan Henning

He really needs to cut down on the cute trick plays for awhile, they’re becoming way too predictable now. Ricky Williams should have had more carries and I think Ronnie Brown only ran up the middle or from the “Wildcat.” That and almost every time he calls a WR reverse, it fails. His playcalling might be what ruins Miami’s chances at winning the AFC East.

Game of the week: Falcons-Saints

What a fun game to watch between two of the league’s best offenses. Great back-and-forth action throughout the entire game and lots of huge plays. Big games for Tony Gonzalez, Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Lance Moore and Drew Brees. Then there was the horribly missed field goal from Garrett Hartley who could be looking for a new job soon. Kicking isn’t the best career choice to get into. I knew the Falcons would give the Saints a run for their money this year and winning a game IN New Orleans is huge for them.

Honorable Mentions: Chargers-Seahawks, Bills-Patriots, Broncos-Colts, Jets-Dolphins

Worst game of the week: Bengals-Panthers

Nothing like watching two horrible offenses battle each other in the rain while one team is actually trying to win and the other looks like they’re trying to screw up as much as possible. You can figure out who I’m talking about there. Carson Palmer really needs to start playing better because he is lucky he only had 2 INTs yesterday. He underthrew so many balls it’s not even funny and the Bengals only won because the Panthers are playing like the worst team in the league right now. Their offense makes the Gritz Blitz’s look amazing.

Panthers fall to 0-3

Another week and another loss for the Carolina Panthers. This was loads more frustrating than the last two. Why? Because the Bengals constantly gave us chances to get back into the game and we squandered our opportunites away with turnovers and penalties. Almost the same thing that happened last week only our defense played a lot better. This offense needs to start putting more points on the board, though. Only 7 points in the last two games is not going to cut it.

As I said earlier, Carolina had multiple opportunities to take control of this game and they kept shooting themselves in the foot. The defense was creating turnovers, holding the Bengals and the offense kept turning the ball over and not converting in the red zone. They even had a chance to take the lead when they were down 13-7 but that was ended by a Jonathan Stewart fumble.

Jimmy Clausen had a pretty rough first half. He fumbled a snap inside the red zone, threw a pick in the end zone and still has yet to throw an NFL TD pass. Things started to come together in the 2nd half when he started to settle in a bit and he had a few good drives. He was spreading the ball around and had some nice completions. The problem is he couldn’t turn any of those drives in to points. That’s partially his fault but the Bengals were covering our receivers well. The fumbles/penalties were not his fault, though. Overall, I think he had an average performance despite an awful first half.

Here’s what frustrated me the most; penalties and turnovers. This killed just about all of our drives. The bad field conditions led to fumbles for both teams and three of ours ended up being recovered by the Bengals. Two of which came in Cincinnati territory taking potential points off the board. This drove me livid while watching the game because this keeps happening to us this year. There was also that pick Clausen threw but it was mostly a good play by Leon Hall.

The offensive line still looks bad, too. It wasn’t just Schwartz and Bernedeau, either. The whole unit played poorly from what I saw. Clausen had to scramble to avoid pressure and ended up being sacked once. The running game didn’t get much going either aside from a few big runs by DeAngelo Williams. I am convinced that Stewart still isn’t at 100% because we’re still not playing him that much and he looked kind of sluggish today.

For things I did like, our defense played a pretty good game, in my opinion. Granted, a lot of it had to do with the bad field conditions and Carson Palmer’s awful throws but we had two INT’s and held 85 and 81 to only 4 catches a piece. I know this isn’t a Bengals blog but Palmer was awful today. Not that we were much better but most of his passes were underthrown, off-mark and he’s lucky that we only had 2 picks. There were more passes going off our defenders hands than the Bengals receivers. In fact, the Bengals are lucky that our offense played like crap or we may have actually won. Oh, Captain Munnerlyn also had an INT. I’m surprised too.

Charles Godfrey was the best player on defense, in my opinion. He played decent in coverage, had 11 tackles, and one pick on a horribly underthrown pass. I definitely want to see more games like this from him. I also think we did a good job of rushing the passer. We only recorded one sack but it looked like there were more people getting into the backfield than the last two games. Palmer was under a lot of pressure and threw a lot of quick passes. Too bad we didn’t have an answer for Jordan Shipley, Jermaine Gresham and Cedric Benson. Yeah, Cedric Benson had his first TD reception of his career. Didn’t know he never had one before.

The receivers weren’t necessarily bad either. I liked what I saw from David Gettis and he could prove to be the receiver that steps up as the #2 if he can keep it up. He ran a lot of short routes but Clausen threw to him quite a bit. Brandon LaFell had a big 44 yard catch in the 4th quarter. Now if we can get more plays like that from him then I would be ecstatic. Unfortunately, that was his only catch of the game. Steve Smith was blanketed by Leon Hall for most of the game but he had a few nice catches. Definitely could have done more but he had a rookie QB throwing him the ball.

All in all, it’s a disappointing loss for Carolina and this offense needs to turn these drives into points. We aren’t going to beat the Saints next week by scoring only 7 points.  We’re just beating ourselves at this point and it’s discouraging to watch them every week when they do this. The playcalling could have been better but you have to put some blame on the players for not executing. That’s what’s happening now.

Week 3 NFL Picks

I was only 8-8 last week and it was mostly because I played it safe on a lot of picks. That brings up the question on whether I should be more risky this week or play it safe again. There’s a lot of evenly matched games this week so it’s kind of tough to do either. Here goes nothing:

Tennessee Titans vs New York Giants

I’m a huge believer in the Steelers defense so I think that the Titans were simply overmatched by them. The Giants D isn’t an easy task either but Chris Johnson will have an easier time against them. Can Vince Young help lead the team to win, though? Who knows? He might not even need to be that much of a factor if the Titans defense can stop Eli and company. That’s why I’m taking the Titans.

Pick: Titans

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Carolina Panthers

Jimmy Clausen doesn’t exactly have an easy task on his hand against the Bengals D which picked off Joe Flacco 4 times last week. They have a strong group of corners and a line that can create a lot of pressure so it could be a long day. Carson Palmer could be the X factor. He hasn’t been good at all these first two weeks but he was up against tough defenses. If the Panthers pass rush struggles continue then Palmer could have a 200+ yard game. That’s looking very possible.

Pick: Bengals

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I know there’s a lot of people on the Bucs bandwagon but they played two awful teams to get to 2-0. Freeman’s scrambling is pretty impressive, though and his arm has looked good. We’re going to learn a lot about him and this Bucs team as they face a strong Steeler defense. The Steelers still need to figure out this whole “offense” thing, though. It’s weird to pick a team with Charlie Batch as their QB to win but I’m gonna do it anyway.

Pick: Steelers

Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots

I feel bad for constantly picking on the Bills every week but they really don’t stand a chance here.

Pick:  Pats

Cleveland Browns vs. Baltimore Ravens

I think this is where we find out if the Ravens are real or not. Their offense struggled against winning teams last year too but they blew out cellar dwelling teams like the Browns, too. I still think the Ravens win even if they turn it over a couple times. That defense still hasn’t allowed a touchdown yet and the Browns usually that scores a lot of points anyway.

Pick: Ravens

San Francisco 49ers vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Never thought the 0-2 team in this contest would be the Niners…. I’m still going to take them anyway. They impressed me on Monday night with how they handled the Saints offense, for the most part at least. Alex Smith played pretty well and their defense stopped the Saints offense multiple times in tight situations (until the end). The 49ers will get their first win of the year against the Chiefs. Mainly because Matt Cassel is still terrible and will have a ton of trouble against this defense.

Pick: 49ers

Dallas Cowboys vs. Houston Texans

The Cowboys need to win this. You can’t start the year 0-3 with the expectations they’ve had. This is going to be a difficult one for them, though. The Texans have displayed poor pass defense and are going up against one of the best QB’s in the league. Yes, Romo is in that class. Still, they gave up 400+ yards in their first two games and still won. Dallas will need to find a way to stop Matt Schaub. They have the front 7 to halt Arian Foster but stopping Schaub is a lot harder. I’m going to say Dallas wins this in a shootout with Neil Rackers missing a big field goal.

Pick: Cowboys

Detroit Lions vs. Minnesota Vikings

Which of these teams will get off the shnai? Common sense says the Vikings but the Lions have looked like a better team this year. For what it’s worth, the Vikings defense has played well this year so I don’t think Jahvid Best will go crazy against them. The Lions defense is still pretty bad as a whole so I think the Vikings have the edge.

Pick: Vikings

Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints

I said at the beginning of the year that the Falcons would give the Saints a run for their money in the NFC South. That new Atlanta secondary is going to have their hands full against Brees though. It’s time to see if Dunta Robinson is worth all of that money he got this 0ff-season. The Saints have struggled in their two wins but I’m expecting them to come out at full steam against Atlanta. If the Falcons running backs can get things going then I think they have a chance in this game. I’m going with the upset and saying Atlanta wins.

Pick: Falcons

Washington Redskins vs. St. Louis Rams

It’s amazing what a new coaching staff and a proven QB can do for a team that was so bad last year. Redskins are going to want to score early and fast to put this game away early.

Pick: Redskins

Philadelphia Eagles vs Jacksonville Jaguars

Reid made Vick the starter this year because that’s the best chance he has to save his job. He picked a good time to put him in because the Lions have no pass coverage and the Jags have no pass rush.  Eagles fans will be celebrating now but once they start playing real defenses then things will come crashing down.

Pick: Eagles

Indianapolis Colts vs. Denver Broncos

I can see the Broncos getting an upset but I’m going to take the Colts in this game. It will be pretty close but in the end of the day, I have to go with the team that has Peyton Manning, not Kyle Orton.

Pick: Colts

Oakland Raiders vs. Arizona Cardinals

Both teams have two things in common; they’ve beaten the Rams and they’ve been decimated by stronger offenses.  The Cardinals are getting Beanie Wells back which should help them go back to their “run-first” philosophy that Wisenhunt wants to employ. They have the receivers to be a passing offense but Derek Anderson can not get the ball to them. Meanwhile, the Raiders had strong outings from Darren McFadden and Darrius Heyward-Bey last week but they’re starting Bruce Gradkowski at QB and he’s been…well not bad. This could be a high scoring game. Getting Wells back should give the Cards a boost and I think they win.

Pick: Cardinals

San Diego Chargers vs. Seattle Seahawks

If San Diego doesn’t turn the ball over then they win this one easy. Only chance the Seahawks have to win is if they force a few fumbles or pick off Rivers, which I don’t think will happen.

Pick: Chargers

New York Jets vs Miami Dolphins

We’ve got two teams with a strong running game, okay passing game and tough defenses. No Darrelle Revis could spell trouble for the Jets though if Antonio Cromartie is the one left covering Brandon Marshall. I’m expecting bigger games out of Brian Hartline and Davone Bess than Marshall today because Kyle Wilson will be covering one of them. Meanwhile, Sanchez looked pretty good last week against the Pats but the Dolphins have better corners than them so it could be harder for him to connect on the long routes. If Schottenheimer lets him throw them that is. I’m still very high on the Dolphins so I’m taking them.

Pick: Dolphins

Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears

Well this is going to be a tough test for Jay Culter. He’s looked very impressive these first two weeks and I think he will have another big game again. However, I don’t think it’s going to be enough to keep up with the Packers passing attack. The Bears offensive line will have their hands full with Clay Matthews, too.

Pick: Packers

Panthers-Bengals preview

The Panthers now sit at 0-2 going into Week 3 as they prepare to take on the Cincinnati Bengals. These teams actually have a lot in common when you think about it, especially their defenses. When I look at both teams defenses, I see a lot of solid, effective players but not one stand out. They all work well as a single unit. The difference is that the Bengals defense has played a lot better than the Panthers. Another thing they have in common is that both have a lot of weapons on offense and neither have delivered. The difference you ask? Carolina is starting a rookie QB with a shaky o-line and questionable receivers while the Bengals have more proven targets. Still, both offenses haven’t been unleashed yet this could determine if this game will be a blowout or not.

Matchups:

Jimmy Clausen vs. Bengals defense

The Bengals defense dominated Joe Flacco last week. They were in his face the whole time and forced him to throw 4 awful interceptions. The front four did their jobs. They got into the backfield, made Flacco panic and he made terrible throws as a result. I saw a lot of blitzes, too. DE Michael Johnson was in Flacco’s grill multiple times last week. Defensive Coordinator Mike Zimmer is going to go with the same strategy against Clausen and have the Bengals defense get into his head like they did to Flacco last week. Clausen gets rid of the ball quicker than Flacco, though. He’s good at delivering quick, accurate passes which will work in his benefit. Going up against the Bengals should be a good test to see how much “poise” and confidence he has.

DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart vs. Keith Rivers/Ray Maualuga

It’s obvious that the Panthers are going to try to establish the run first since they have the backs to do it. The problem is that neither have gotten the wheels clicking. The O-line is partially to blame for this but they are going to have a breakout game sooner or later. They’ll have another tough test against a solid Bengals LB corps. Maualuga is their “Jon Beason” in a way. He never gives up on a play and is usually good at sniffing out running backs. Rivers is a good run stuffer as well and he is expected to return after missing last week. One other guy Double Trouble should look out for is DE Robert Geathers who did a pretty good job at stopping Ray Rice last week. That brings us to the next matchup

Geoff Schwartz and Mackenzy Bernadeau vs. Robert Geathers and Tank Johnson

This is where we really wish we had Jeff Otah… Neither Schwartz nor Bernadeau have been good in his place and our running game has definitely suffered because of it. I maintain confidence in Ryan Kalil and Jordan Gross in stopping Antwan Odom but these two really need to pick it up. Odom is going to be double covered by Gross and Wharton which opens the door for Tank and Geathers to reak havok.

Panthers tight ends vs. Bengals secondary

Look,  everyone knows that Steve Smith is our best WR and he is likely going to be double covered by the Bengals. The Bengals also have one of the best corner tandems in the league, which is going to make things even harder for us. They blanketed almost every receiver Flacco tried to throw to last week and look to do the same to our receivers. This is where I want to see Dante Rosario, Jeff King and Gary Barnidge get involved with the passing game. Rosario is capable of making plays on both long and short routes and he has a chance to get open if he gets a good matchup against this defense.
Carson Palmer vs. Panthers pass rush

Carson Palmer hasn’t been great this season and he had a very mediocre outing against the Ravens last week. Many are saying that this is the year that Palmer “needs” to prove that he’s still a good QB given the weapons around him. I give him the benefit of the doubt for the first two weeks since he was up against two of the best front 7’s in the league. He’s got an easier task on his hand against the Carolina Panthers front 4, which hasn’t done much so far. Charles Johnson and Everette Brown need to find their pre-season form if they want to stop Palmer at all. Now, they did get into the backfield against the Bucs yesterday but they couldn’t finish their tackles and Freeman was able to avoid the pressure. Palmer won’t be able to do that as well so hopefully the Panthers pass rush can get to him. I’m expecting us to dial up a few blitzes from the linebackers and safeties as well. The pass rush needs all the help they can get.

Terrell Owens/Chad Ochocinco vs. Richard Marshall/Chris Gamble

In all fairness, the Panthers pass coverage wasn’t that bad. Tackling, QB containment were another story. The new dynamic duo in Cinci have been decent so far but fans have been expecting more and this could be their chance to have a huge game. Panthers have had a vulnerable pass defense this season and it needs to get better. Giving up big plays kind of comes with the territory of playing in a Tampa 2 defense but I would like to see the pass defense improve. A lot.

Jermaine Gresham/Jordan Shipley vs. Captain Munnerlyn

This is a very favorable matchup for the Bengals. Munnerlyn has been absolutely terrible at the nickelback position and this creates a big chance for both Shipley and Gresham to have a breakout game. I would not be surprised to see us put Beason or Anderson in coverage against Gresham, though. That seems like the best thing to do here. That or rely on Sherrod Martin and Charles Godfrey to disrupt the passing game as much as possible.

Cedric Benson vs. Panthers rush defense

The rush defense has been one positive thing for this defense. While it hasn’t been great, it’s been solid. Benson is apparently “frustrated” with the Bengals offense thus far and rightfully so. He did get his fair share of carries against the Ravens last week though and was shut down for the most part. I’m not sure he will have that much success against our linebackers but we shall see.

What I Want From This Game:

Jonathan Stewart to get more involved

He needs to be getting more than 5-8 touches a game. He getting more explosive with each year and it seems dumb to let him sit on the bench. The only explanation I can think of is if he still has that lingering pre-season injury. Then by all means let him rest.

Defense to get more than one sack

Preferably from the defensive line. That doesn’t seem like too much to ask for but after watching the footage of Freeman running away from all of our linemen it might be…

Jimmy Clausen not to turn the ball over

Well…I don’t want him to throw an INT that’s his fault if you know what I mean. No passes into double coverage or trying to force passes. That sounds fine. There’s always a chance that the ball will go off one of our receivers hands and into the hands of Jonathan Joseph.

Armanti Edwards to play

It’s time to see what he can do. We might as well suit him up for this game and get him involved in a few plays.

Greg Hardy to get more snaps and be involved with blitz packages.

Every time I see him he’s always making some kind of play. Let’s use him more.

No more weak-ass arm tackles from the secondary

Seriously.  See Tampa’s second TD to see what I mean.

The offensive line to have some unity.

I have a feeling that I’ll be asking this question until Otah gets back.

Prediction:

I really hate to pick against my own team but I don’t see us winning unless the Bengals defense has a performance like they did against the Patriots.

Bengals 19, Panthers 14