With the NFL's Week One on the horizon, I started looking for SI's NFL Preview 2011 issue (see sample cover here), and there it was, on the rack at my Kroger yesterday morning as Mrs. Hans and I completed our weekly shopping trip.
This is another one of my favorite football rituals (go here for my Lindy's Lovefest from earlier this summer) - getting this issue on Labor Day weekend and spending the next few days poring over it (see what I did there, Jeff Duncan and Doug Tatum?) as the season draws ever closer.
I scooped that bad boy up right away, before the last 21 copies of it could be taken right out from under me, and I am excited to bring you my coverage of it, focusing mainly on the Saints-related aspects.
More after the jump.
First of all, you must know that it was a bit difficult to stomach that hated rival Atlanta Falcons LB Curtis Lofton made the cover in this region. I was kind of surprised by this, as we usually don't get southern representation up here, and figured we'd get Green Bay's stud Clay Matthews, or maybe James Harrison of the Steelers, but it was Lofton, nonetheless. Plus the entire photo has this red sheen/tint to it, so the field looks like the bastard child of the Boise State eyesore - ugh.
Once I literally and figuratively got past that (the cover), I flipped right to the NFL Preview section to see what was what.
This year's emphasis is on the state of defenses, and there are two feature articles: one by Peter King that analyzes the new attacking defenses of the NFL that utilize a variety of fronts and looks to disguise the pressure that they will bring or not bring on the quarterback on any given play, and the second is a piece by Tim Layden about textbook tackling technique being a lost art.
King's article prominently spotlights a sit-down session the MMQB auteur had with our own Sean Payton during training camp, so that was kinda fun to read.
I found both these stories to be decently interesting and informative.
Next, it's on to the Scouting Reports, which begin with King's regular season record and playoff predictions.
He has the Saints winning the division at 10-6, and finishing with the #2 record in the NFC, earning a first-round bye. After defeating the Eagles 23-17 in the divisional round, King thinks the Falcons (who finished 2nd in the NFC South with a 10-6 record) will beat the Saints 26-17 in the NFCCG, and then go on to SB XLVI, where they will top the Chargers, 24-20.
I'd sure hate to see the Saints lose at home to Atlanta for the NFC Championship, but I do like winning the division and getting a bye. Just note that his predictions are worth as much as mine are right now - NOTHING.
His coverage of the Saints "in detail" gives a positive spin to the team rebounding from the painful loss to Seattle. He points to the team's acquisition of Darren Sproles (who gets featured in the "Spotlight" text box), INGRAMANIA!!!, and a healthy Pierre Thomas as reasons to believe the running game can return to 2009 form.
King also sees a formidable defense strengthened further by the presence of new veterans Shaun Rogers (who is mistakenly listed as Shaun Moore in the projected starting lineup sidebar - ha!) and Aubrayo Franklin (it still takes me multiple attempts to get that first name spelled correctly), as well as the addition of DE Cameron Jordan.
Given that this issue was "in press" last week, and is only current through King's visit with the team in Oxnard (where epiphanies abound!), the projected starting lineup contains a couple of other mistakes in addition to what I wrote above, namely including Alex Brown (that chump was cut) and Garrett Hartley (GAAA!!!) as starters, and there is no mention of Will Smith's suspension in the article. I'm not sure how these new wrinkles might have effected his outlook on the team, and we'll just have to live with that.
So, there you have it. The regular season can now begin.
Feel free to fire away at PK and Sports Illustrated (and even me) in the comment section. I'll be sure to join you!