Chen views the upcoming season like this:
New Orleans Saints (1st in 2011, Predicted Record in 2012: 10-6)
I just think Sean Payton’s absence and this whole Bountygate scandal affects a team’s psyche more than you think. If anyone can make it work, it’s Drew Brees. The last time we saw a quarterback get doubted under considerable pressure of an ethics scandal was Tom Brady’s 50 touchdown season in 2007.
But there’s turmoil in New Orleans, as opposed to the loading of arms in New England in 2007. They’ve lost their leader on defense, Jonathan Vilma. Carl Nicks, perhaps the best guard in the league, bolted for Tampa. And Robert Meachem’s stretching ability on offense will be missed.
This could blow up in my face and the Saints could not miss a beat in 2012. But the Bountygate scandal stands to affect this team’s stability.
Atlanta Falcons (2nd in 2011, Predicted Record in 2012: 13-3)
It’s their time. I think Matt Ryan is ready to take a big step with Julio Jones healthy and in the fold. Roddy White and Jones will form the best receiving duo in the league, and tight end Tony Gonzalez always seems to forget how old he is.
On defense, they added Asante Samuel to play one of the primary corner slots. The Falcons were in the bottom half of the league in passing yards allowed per game because they couldn’t get enough cover guys out there. Now they have a solid nickel package to throw at Drew Brees.
I’m a little concerned about them not drafting a big back to replace Michael Turner. Maybe Turner has some tread left on his tires, and maybe Jacquizz Rodgers can be a Darren Sproles-type for Matt Ryan. But with the Saints’ uncertainty, the Panther’s youth, and the Bucs being unproven, I like the Falcons to run away with the NFC South in 2012.
MORE BOUNTY TALK
Saints interim coach Joe Vitt has submitted his own affidavit backing linebacker Jon Vilma request for a temporary restrain order, following Vilma and Saints trainer Scottie Patton's.
Does Vilma have a chance to prevail with the TRO? What’s really going on here?
According to PFT, “At the hearing on July 26, Vilma will argue that he’ll suffer “irreparable harm” if his suspension is permitted to proceed and if he later wins a reversal of his suspension in court. Vikings defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams prevailed on that point in the StarCaps case, even though they ultimately lost on the merits of their lawsuit attacking four-game suspensions for violation of the league’s steroids policy.”
And so, like the Williamses, Vilma could obtain a postponement of his suspension, even if in the end the court system upholds Goodell’s decision.
Here’s one writer’s take from RT sports:
Vitt also used the forum to deny the existence of the bounty system, the one which he was suspended six games for his role in by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
We are overlooking that on June 18 at the appeals hearing, NFLPA attorney Jeffrey Kessler made the argument to Goodell that "the players involved simply followed what their supervisors directed them to do."
Scott Fujita and Vilma have been spewing venom about how they were innocent., and that Goodell was abusing his power, the league had no evidence and it was an unfair process.
The fact is that the procedures now in place and the power rests in Goodell's lap are clearly defined in the very same CBA that was agreed to and signed by De Smith and the NFLPA Executive Commitee, and then ratified and approved by the NFL players just last year.
"While I anxiously await being able to provide substantive and truthful testimony and information about the allegations made by Mr. Goodell regarding the so-called, but non-existent Bounty Program, and to refute that the Saints ever had a bounty on an opposing player and set out to injure anyone. I will restrict my affidavit here to issues that I have been informed are relevant to Mr. Vilma's Motion to Restrain Temporarily the Suspension," the affidavit said, according to The Times-Picayune.
The players were just following orders from their superiors;.
That's good strong language, but it does ignore that Vilma was in decline last season. according to Patton. The only surgery previously reported was the November scope to "clean out floating particles" in the knee. On Jan. 25 Vilma underwent osteoarticular transfer system (OATS) to extract cartilage from one part of the knee and place it in the wright-bearing section where cartilage was lost.
After struggling to run this offseason, Vilma traveled to Dusseldorf, Germany in early July for experimental high level platelet-rich plasma therapy. Vilma testified via affidavit that he was able to run again "immediately" after the third procedure.
This news suggests the signing of Curtis Lofton was more about Vilma's knee than his standing with the league office.
SOME hither: Missouri WR T.J. Mole stole the show at Tuesdays SEC Media Day at Hoover, Ala. by entertaining his new-found friends with jokes about entering the SEC. Moe on the SEC being better than the Big 12: "The girls are prettier, the air is fresher and the toilet paper is thicker." On the SEC being different: "I wouldn't be surprised if everybody here is strapped with a gun."...NFL Films guru Greg Cosell: "I love Mark Ingram, more than when he came out. He can be a true foundation back, but the Saints don't run that kind of offense. The only thing holding Ingram back Is Sean Payton."..Sounds like old Howard...
Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne worked as the two passing-down LBs inn the Saints nickle package at the OTAs. Middle LB Lofton and weak-side starter Hawthorne will be every-down LBs with Strongside LB Scott Shanle exiting in nickel sets. It's particularly notable for Lofton because he was considered weak in coverage in Atlanta. The Saints like him plenty in that role, and he should lead the team in tackles this season...