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2011 NFL Thrills and Chills, Part I (NFC)
 
By Glenn Guzzo
 
            Here’s a brief summary of the highlights and lowlights of Strat-O-Matic’s new football ratings:
 
Offense:
Oh Yeah! WR Fitzgerald’s big-time catches with big-time yards; this could be his best card yet … Beanie Wells’ Long Gain on #3 and +71 on #12 for ER Wrong
 
Oh No! The ORT and RG turns the OL ugly
 
Defense:
Oh Yeah! 6s for DLE Campbell and SS Wilson; solid outside pass rush
 
Oh No! Gimme Shelter! The Long Pass 0 Men is a nuclear disaster. There is no alignment possible that will discourage offenses from throwing against these D cards.
 
Special Teams:
Oh Yeah! Patrick Peterson’s PR TD on #4. Excellent punting
 
Oh No! +9, +17, LG punt coverage
 
 
ATLANTA
Offense:
Oh Yeah! Michael Turner’s OT Wrong: Long Gain on #3, +81 and +53 … ORT Clabo (7,6) leads pass-block unit with two 7s, four 5s … WR Julio Jones’ explosive yardage           
 
Oh No! Almost all of Turner’s yards are on big plays; he has heavy losses Right and Wrong
 
Defense:
Oh Yeah! 6s for MLB Lofton, LCB Grimes
 
Oh No! About that LP 0 Men card – move your free safety and be accused of arson … DRE Abraham needs more pass-rush help than he will get
 
Special Teams:
Oh Yeah! +1, +2, +3 punt coverage and strong placekicking
 
Oh No! Blocked punt and unexciting kick returns
 
 
CAROLINA
Offense:
Oh Yeah! The run game is deep with HBs Stewart and Williams, QB Newton and blockers Kalil and Gross. Stewart is a threat on all runs, and Newton is a passing threat … WR Steve Smith is a terror with LGs in every column … C Kalil is 7,6 and LT Gross is 5,6
 
Oh No! Newton’s Must Run is better than his passing when guessed Right
 
Defense:
Oh Yeah! Charles Johnson’s (1*)12 pass rush is the only highlight
 
Oh No! Poor vs. the run and Average to Poor vs. the pass looks plain Poor with two 0s in the secondary. How do you like Short Gains on both #7 and #8 for LB 0 Men? Thought so. The End Run is scarier.            
 
Special Teams:
Oh Yeah! Kealoha Pilares’ KR TD … 17 Touchback chances … Jason Baker’s punting (still 42 yd at #9)
 
Oh No! The Panther kickers better be good, because the coverage is terrible
 
 
CHICAGO
Offense:
Oh Yeah! HB Forte gets steady yards and big runs inside and out, doesn’t fumble and is a legit pass-receiver, Flat and Short
 
Oh No! The OL is no help: three 0s and two 4s for run blocking; two 2s and two 3s for pass blocking … All but Forte have iffy hands; only Hester has a LG … If you sit Forte and QB Cutler when they really missed games, this offense plays only for FGs
 
Defense:
Oh Yeah! Excellent run D creates fumbles and limits yards … 6s at RE, LLB, MLB and three 5s
 
Oh No! What passes for an Average pass D would have been Very Poor in other years
 
Special Teams:
Oh Yeah! Devin Hester is back! (PR TD on roll #4 and a 95-yd. KR) … K Gould’s FG is 2-7 from 50-57 yards … 20 touchback chances … Strong punting and superb coverage
 
Oh No! The problems are minor: -2 in net penalties, a 13-yd punt at #12
 
 
DALLAS
Offense:
Oh Yeah! Awesome: QB Romo’s best card works at any distance … Rookie HB Murray has 16 chances of Short Gain or better on End Run Wrong (including Long Gain) and 12 Off Tackle (including +91) … TE Witten and three good WRs will keep the D guessing
 
Oh No! Rookie RT Tyron Smith (5,5) is the best on a rebuilt OL with two 0 run-blockers
 
Defense:
Oh Yeah! Doesn’t get better than ROLB Ware: a 6 with (12*)12 pass rush … NT Ratliff (6)
 
Oh No! A 0 (FS) and three 4s in the secondary
 
Special Teams:
Oh Yeah! Solid kick coverage and placekicking
Oh No! -5 net penalties, a blocked punt, only 13 touchbacks and pedestrian returners
 
 
DETROIT
Offense:
Oh Yeah! Stafford is as good SP and LP Right as some other QBs are Wrong … WR Calvin Johnson’s +51 play chances or better: 4 FP, 7 SP, 13 LP … Left side of OL has a pair of 7,5 blockers … HB Kevin Smith’s revival in the Wrong columns
 
Oh No! The run game won’t get the tough yards Right
 
Defense:
Oh Yeah! MLB Tulloch (6) and strong pass-rushing DE’s … The Good run D is mostly in the fumbles and DL ratings
 
Oh No! The Poor pass D has zero blank chances on SP 0 Men and only 5 chances with 4 Men
 
Special Teams:
Oh Yeah! Jason Hanson still kicks: 2-6, 11, 12 FG up to 54 yards and 17 touchbacks …Graham’s punting is strong, too
 
Oh No! Poor returners will put Lions at disadvantage every game … Long Gain on punt coverage … 15 penalty chances will bring back too many big plays
 
 
GREEN BAY
Offense:
Oh Yeah! QB Rodgers and big-play WRs Jennings, Nelson and Jones will force the D to guess Pass all day against this quick-strike offense
 
Oh No! The runners won’t discourage those Pass calls
 
Defense:
Oh Yeah! Good to Excellent run D creates fumbles … A 6 (Woodson) and a 5 at CB will have to save a pass D that won’t deter anyone from throwing
 
Oh No! Absurd DL pass rush (0, 2, 2) hurts an already-atrocious pass D
 
Special Teams:
Oh Yeah! Cobb’s TDs on PR and KR … +6 penalty advantage … Excellent punting
 
Oh No! Poor punt coverage (+17, +10, LG)
 
 
MINNESOTA
Offense:
Oh Yeah! Three fine runners: Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart and dangerous HB-WR Percy Harvin, who has 17 chances for Short Gain or better OT Wrong and 18 ER Wrong
 
Oh No! Rookie QB Ponder is an INT waiting to happen, Right or Wrong … and only Harvin is a receiving threat
 
Defense:
Oh Yeah! RE Jared Allen is a beast: a 6 with (9*)12 pass rush … Good run D boasts another 6 in RT Kevin Williams and three 5s at LB.
 
Oh No! Pass every play on this team and enjoy pinball. The Very Poor pass D has three 0s in the secondary, doesn’t pick ‘em, nor defend ‘em. Even the Flat Pass has no blanks
 
Special Teams:
Oh Yeah! Kluwe’s awesome punting (still 41 yds at #10)

Oh No! 
Long Gains on both kickoff and punt coverage … only 8 touchbacks
 
 
NEW ORLEANS
Offense:
Oh Yeah! QB Brees can demoralize any D, Right or Wrong … HB Sproles has 17 chances Short Gain or better OT Wrong and 18 ER Wrong … They have big help from three 7,6 OL at RG, LG and LT … Catch-and-yardage hog TE Graham and four WRs have LGs.
 
Oh No! Worrying about anything else is just greedy
 
Defense:
Oh Yeah! Good to Excellent run D causes fumbles … No 0s (but no 6s)

Oh No!
 Very Poor pass D has 0 blanks on SP 3 Men and only 3 on LP 0 Men (with Long Gains everywhere else) … DE Will Smith’s 7 is only pass-rush better than 3 among starters
 
Special Teams:
Oh Yeah! Sproles’ PR TD and 92-yd KR … 23 touchbacks … +3 penalty advantage … superb punt coverage
 
Oh No! Blocked punt … Long Gain on KO coverage
 

NEW YORK GIANTS
Offense:
Oh Yeah! Only Green Bay has a better deep-passing game … The most fearsome big-play WR in the set, Victor Cruz scores from everywhere, Right or Wrong, with +68, +68, +72, +72, +74, +99 and 26 LG chances, meaning big-play WRs Nicks and Manningham will be single-teamed. HB Jacobs can go deep, too.
 
Oh No! The big runs just aren’t there and the run blocking has gone to seed with no 6s and 5s only at RG and BB … Manning’s INTs Right a concern with such little run game
 
Defense:
Oh Yeah! Jason Pierre-Paul: a 6 with (4*)12 pass rush … SS Phillips is a 6, too
 
Oh No! Nothing else to be proud about for a franchise usually proud of its D
 
Special Teams:
Oh Yeah! Very strong kicking game, especially Weatherford’s punting (still 41 yds at #10) … +3 penalty advantage
 
Oh No! Gutless punt returns and boring kickoff returns
 
 
PHILADELPHIA
Offense:
Oh Yeah!  QB Vick runs wild with 20 chances of Short Gain or better on ER Wrong and +53, +25, +24 and +11 on Must Run … TD-making HB McCoy has 18 chances of +20 or better Wrong and 13 chances of Short Gain or better Right … LT Jason Peters (7,6)
                       
Oh No! Vick’s passing inconsistency in a division with Romo and Manning                       
 
Defense:
Oh Yeah! Better than average pass completions, four 5s on the DL with sack-happy DE’s Babin at (7*)12 and Cole at (1*)12 … A 6 (Samuel) and a 5 at CB.           
 
Oh No! Few takeaways … Two 0s and a 4 at LB           
 
Special Teams:
Oh Yeah! Elite punt coverage … K Henery is good 2-9, 12 from 49 yards           
 
Oh No! Blocked punt, poor kick returners           
 

ST. LOUIS
Offense:
Oh Yeah! Versatile runner Steven Jackson has everything but the long breakaways           

Oh No!
 RG Harvey Dahl (5,5) is the only OL who can block … Call the receivers the Swiss cheese unit for all the blanks in the Wrong columns 
 
Defense:
Oh Yeah! The pass D cards are the best in the NFC, despite low INTs, and DE Chris Long’s (1*)12 leads a            decent pass rush
 
Oh No! The five 0s at all the primary pass coverage positions (two OLB, two CB, SS) ... The run D desperately needs LB help
 
Special Teams:
Oh Yeah! #2 PR Nick Miller’s TD
 
Oh No! Blocked punt and a Long Gain on punt coverage
 
 
SAN FRANCISCO
Offense:
Oh Yeah! No RB fumbles and QB Alex Smith’s low INTs … LT Joe Staley (5,6) and 5 run blockers at LG, C
 
Oh No! Worthless RG Adam Snyder (0,0) … Skill players are sound, but nothing special
 
Defense:
Oh Yeah! Supreme run D … Five 6s (both ILBs), four 5s and super-sub rookie OLB Aldon Smith’s (5*)12 pass rush … the DL and secondary are all 6s and 5s (Justin Smith is a 6 at both DE and DT)
 
Oh No! Only four blank chances on SP 3 Men and three on LP 0 Men forces a tough choice for coaches
 
Special Teams:
Oh Yeah! Ted Ginn Jr.’s KR and PR TDs … K David Akers: FG 2-7, 12 up to 55 yards, perfect PATs, 17 touchbacks
 
Oh No! Blocked punt is all that spoils Andy Lee’s awesome punting (still 50 yds at #9 and 42 yds at #11)
 

SEATTLE
Offense:
Oh Yeah! Beast Mode: Marshawn Lynch has Short Gains on #10 Right and Wrong across the card … WR Sidney Rice gets deep with the best of them
 
Oh No! QB Jackson is deadly on FP, but can kill his own team throwing downfield …Weak OL has no 5s or better for run or pass block
 
Defense:
Oh Yeah! Average to Good vs. both run and pass … FS Earl Thomas (6) and six 5s, including three on the DL
 
Oh No! DE Clemons is the only DL who can pass rush (11) and he’s a base 0
 
Special Teams:
Oh Yeah! P Jon Ryan (still 41 yds at #10)
 
Oh No! -5 penalty disadvantage and 17 total Seattle penalty chances … Long Gains on both kickoff and punt coverage
 
 
TAMPA BAY
Offense:
Oh Yeah! LT Donald Penn, RG Davin Joseph (both 7,6) … QB Freeman’s FP Wrong has no blanks and 13 chances for +10 or better
 
Oh No! RT Jeremy Trueblood (2,0) spoils strong pass-blocking OL … Bucs should lead in turnovers with Freeman’s INTs Right and the worst fumbling RBs in the NFL (automatic Right)
 
Defense:
Oh Yeah! No love for this group, with no 6s, two 5s and no pass-rush studs
 
Oh No! Ole! Poor run D is worst in NFC with Short Gains at #s 7 and 8 on LB and ER and at #s 4 and 7 OT … Twin 0s at DT add insult
 
Special Teams:
Oh Yeah! K Connor Barth: 2-10 through 49 yards and 23 touchbacks will give the D the help it needs … P Michael Koenen (still 40 yds at #10)
 
Oh No! -6 penalty disadvantage is worst in NFC … Long Gain on kickoff coverage
 
 
WASHINGTON
Offense:
Oh Yeah! LT Trent Williams’ 7 pass block … 56-carry HB Royster’s chances of Short Gain or better Wrong: 15 LB, 17 OT, 18 ER
 
Oh No! Run block: two 0s and four 4s from TE to LT … QB Rex Grossman is more Dog than Wonder … Not enough big plays from these skill players
 
Defense:
Oh Yeah! The Good run D forces fumbles … Outside pass rush: LOLB Kerrigan (1*)12 and ROLB Orakpo (3*)12 with 7s at DE
 
Oh No! Lot of yards on these D cards
 
Special Teams:
Oh Yeah! +4 penalty advantage … very good kickoff and punt coverage … P Sav Rocca (still 42 yds at #9)
 
Oh No! K Graham Gano can kick long (18 touchbacks and FG 2-6, 12 to 59 yds), but is only 2-7, 11, 12 unless Redskins get inside the 13 yd-line