The NFL Report
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THE NFL REPORT
WE PUMP UP THE VOLUME WITH OUR FINAL JUNE/JULY TEAM-BY-TEAM CAPSULES AS WE BRING YOU THE RAIDERS, TEXANS, PACKERS & LIONS (WITH AN EYE ON THE UPCOMING PRESEASON THAT BEGINS AUGUST 5TH)
By Jim Hurley:
How's this for NFL parity?
In the past five football seasons - that's 2007-thru-2011 - there have been only four NFL teams that have failed to make the playoffs at least once during this time span ... know who they are?
If you happened to say the Buffalo Bills, the Cleveland Browns, the Oakland Raiders and the St. Louis Rams than go ahead and take a bow!
It just so happens that last year there were four teams that snapped lengthy playoff droughts:
The Denver Broncos busted up a five-year playoff dry run
The Detroit Lions snapped a 12-year non-post-season streak
The Houston Texans made their first-ever playoff appearance after first joining the NFL world back in 2002
And the San Francisco 49ers made it back to the post-season for the first time since the '02 campaign. Now, that's a long time between sips of merlot!
So, let's see if any of the four teams that have gone playoff-less for a while - the Bills, Browns, Raiders and Rams - can snap out of their funk this year in the league where they play for pay!
Hey, we'll get to the final four teams of our Jim Sez NFL Team-by-Team Capsules in just a moment but first this key reminder:
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NFL TEAM-BY-TEAM CAPSULES
Our Jim Sez NFL Team-by-Team Capsules wrap up with four teams today:
OAKLAND - Read between the lines of last year's 8-8 SU (straight-up) season for the Raiders and you'll discover that the silver-and-black ranked a dismal 27th in rush defense (allowed 136.1 yards rushing per game) and 27th in pass defense (254.1 ypg) and then toss into the mix the fact Oakland set an NFL single-season record with 163 penalties for a whopping 1,358 yards (or 13.5 football fields!) and so now you know one reason why "players coach" Hue Jackson was canned.
If new head coach Dennis Allen - the former Denver Broncos' defensive coordinator - wants to establish anything in this training camp it's to make the Raiders accountable for their errors but we've gotta ask whether or not that will make Oakland shy away from taking borderline hits or simply get a tad gun-shy when it comes to physical play?
Keep in mind that the numero uno key for this year's Raiders club is the play of QB Carson Palmer who last year came aboard a few games into the 2011 season and promptly finished with a less-than-impressive 13 TDs and 16 INTs while otherwise completing nearly 61 percent of his passes.
Stay tuned this upcoming preseason to see if Palmer establishes a special rapport with any Oakland wide-out as privately the Raiders are saying they hope WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (64 receptions last year for 975 yards with only 4 TDs) comes closer to 100 catches this time around.
HOUSTON - As stated earlier in this Jim Sez column, the Texans last year snapped a nine-year playoff drought and even rewarded their backers with a pair of post-season pointspread covers against Cincinnati and Baltimore but does that necessarily mean Gary Kubiak's club will take the "next step"?
Last year's 10-win team did go 8-4 against fellow AFC opponents and it's worth noting that Houston will play five consecutive AFC foes right out of the 2012 regular-season starting gate (that's Miami, at Jacksonville, at Denver, Tennessee and a Monday Nighter on October 8th at the New York Jets) and no doubt this AFC South squad is banking on their top two draft picks - both from the Big 10 - to lend a helping hand as DE Whitney Mercilus (Illinois) and WR DeVier Posey (Ohio State) are expected to add major depth to already-stocked positions.
Without a doubt, QB Matt Schaub (2,479 yards passing with 15 TDs and 6 INTs in 2011) - now entering his sixth season in the league - must stay in one piece but do keep in mind that this year's Texans' depth chart could have former University of Houston mega-star QB Case Keenum at third-string behind expected backup T.J. Yates.
GREEN BAY - It's safe to say that this was a really long off-season for the Packers following their amazing 15-1 regular season but that rather short-and-not-so-sweet playoff stay: The painful 37-20 home loss to the 8 ½-point underdog New York Giants in last year's NFC Divisional Playoff round tilt had its fair share of culprits (see dropped passes, overthrown balls, bad tackling, etc.) but one guy who won't escape the team's wrath if he doesn't pick it up is veteran ILB A.J. Hawk.
In fact, in a recent web site article about Hawk, it was revealed that the team's inside linebackers coach Winston Moss called out Hawk for not making more impact plays a year ago - in fact, Moss termed Hawk's overall play in 2011 as "quiet" and that's never good for a linebacker! - and so stay tuned to see if Hawk plays with more reckless abandon this year.
One other GB Packers-related note: They have a seven-game stretch in the middle of this 2012 season in which they will play five road games including key stops in Houston, Detroit and the New York Giants - and whether or not the Pack can hold off all comers for the NFC North crown could well depend on winning two-of-three games here against the above-listed opponents.
DETROIT - Lost amidst all the hoopla surrounding last year's Lions was the fact this club failed to cover six of its final seven games a year ago en route to a rather shaky 7-9-1 ATS (against the spread) campaign plus don't forget that the Motowners ranked 29th in rushing offense (95.2 ypg) and 23rd in rushing defense (128.1 ypg) and those areas could well get exploited in this 2012 season.
The Lions - who are slated for prime-time national TV viewing at least four times this year - may be an entertaining and feisty bunch but they knew this past off-season that getting gritty along an aging offensive line was key and so a salute goes out for grabbing Iowa OT Riley Reiff with the 23rd overall pick in this past April's NFL Draft.
And did you realize that the Lions drafted three players off the Oklahoma Sooners roster including WR Ryan Broyles with pick No. 54 along with OLB Ronnell Lewis and OLB Travis Lewis - hey, maybe these guys will get lots of preseason minutes considering that the Lions had six different players get arrested this past off-season with the latest being CB Aaron Berry who was nabbed for allegedly driving under the influence.
NOTE: Get more NFL News & Notes plus College Football and Major-League Baseball too all this week/weekend long in our Jim Sez columns.
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