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The Best of the NFL

   by Jim Feist - 08/31/2010

The pro football season kicks off next week when the Vikings travel to the Saints in a rematch of the NFL Championship thriller. Here is a look at some of the best of the NFL, and remember that the AFC has won 9 of the last 13 Super Bowls. Ravens (10-8 SU, 9-8-1 ATS in 2009): This is still a talented team with a monster defense that is capable of beating anyone. The offense has QB Joe Flacco (3,613 yards, 21 TDs, 12 picks) and adds a terrific weapon in WR Anquan Boldin. The ground attack is solid behind Ray Rice (1,339 yards, 5.3 ypc) and Willis McGahee (544 yards, 5.0 ypc). The Ravens' defense allowed 93 yards rushing per game (No. 5), and the pass ‘D' was No. 8, anchored by Haloti Ngata and MLB Ray Lewis and they add mammoth Alabama NT Terrence Cody through the draft. Coach John Harbaugh is 23-13-1 ATS in the NFL. NY Jets (11-8 SU/ATS): The Jets are the team everyone's talking about, from a TV show on HBO, to the bombast of sexy Rexy Ryan and the influx of talent (and characters), this will be a fascinating team to watch. On the plus side, they had the No. 1 defense in the NFL, the top ground attack and add pieces like WR Santonio Holmes, CB Antonio Cromartie, DE Jason Taylor and RB LaDainian Tomlinson. On the cautious side, QB Mark Sanchez left school early and is only in his second year, off a poor rookie campaign with 12 TDs and 20 interceptions. This team was only 9-7 in the regular season before catching fire in the playoffs, with blowout losses to the Patriots (31-14) and Colts (30-17). Remember Eric Mangini had a great first year coaching the Jets (“Mangenius”), and it was all downhill after that. Colts (16-3 SU, 12-7 ATS): Indy always shows nothing in the preseason, then comes out like gangbusters when the games mean something. Indy finished 9th in total offense, 18th in total defense and made it to the Super Bowl. They won a string of close games because of the golden right arm of Peyton Manning (33 TDs and 16 picks), the league's only four-time MVP. The Colts still need to bulk up at defensive tackle, giving up 126.5 yards rushing per game, 24th overall. This defense is predicated on speed, led by 2007 defensive MVP safety Bob Sanders, age 29. The Colts have been an exceptional road team, and last year went a sizzling 7-1 SU/ATS away from home. Cowboys (12-6 SU, 10-8 ATS): Who wouldn't want all the talent on this team? 30-year old QB Tony Romo cut down his turnovers last year with 4,483 yards, 26 TDs and 9 picks. The ground game was 7th overall, averaging 131.4 yards. They have a strong one-two punch with workhorse 27-year old RB Marion Barber (932 yards, 4.4 ypc) and Felix Jones. The wide receiver corps is loaded and adds Dez Bryant (Oklahoma State), who we didn't get to see in preseason. Anthony Spencer and Demarcus Ware (11 sacks) lead a dynamite defense that gets after quarterbacks. So when are they going to win a big playoff game? That's the question Jerry Jones must be wondering about underachieving Coach Wade Phillips. NY Giants (8-8 SU/ATS): The Giants won the title during the 2007 season and were the dominant team in 2008 before getting upset in the playoffs, so last season's 8-8 campaign was a surprise. QB Eli Manning (4,021 yards, 27 TDs, 14 picks) had a strong campaign but had to throw it often because the defense allowed a ton of points. They hope to get back to a more balanced offense. The defense got rid of coordinator Bill Sheridan, so Coach Tom Coughlin made a move fast, bringing in defensive coordinator Perry Fewell for 2010. Fewell is a fiery motivator, cajoling, shouting with an in-your-face style that is all about aggressive guidance and he says his 2010 defense will attack. There is plenty of talent for this team to return to the postseason. Vikings (13-5 SU, 11-6-1 ATS): While the defense ranked 6th overall, the offense ranked fifth, including 8th in passing. Coach Brad Childress seemed to have a battle at times with QB Brett Favre over control of the offense. Childress prefers a controlled, West Coast style, while Favre loves to mix it up and take shots down field. Favre appeared to win down the stretch, as the Vikings were more aggressive, scoring 30, 44, 34 and 28 in their last four games. The Vikings were 9-0 at home last season. Think they would have preferred to play the Saints there than in New Orleans? Saints (17-2 SU, 10-9 ATS): The rules changes the NFL made over the last six years was designed to help offenses, so it's not a surprise that a pair of dynamite QBs and offensive teams met in the Super Bowl. The defending champion Saints are again loaded on offense, led by QB Drew Brees. He has so many weapons to work with and the defense improved enough under Greg Robinson with his aggressive, attacking style. They are the NFC favorites in Las Vegas, but will carry the bulls-eye burden of defending champs.

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