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Deke Bellavia

Join Deke and the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert for live, local talk about the Saints, LSU, Pelicans and much more on "Sports Talk!" 

Weekdays 4-8pm

Twitter: @dekebigchief
Email: bigchief@wwl.com


Bobby: Saints linebackers look better than they did a year ago

Saints camp got kicked up a notch today at the Greenbrier.

Former Saints great and current color analyst Deuce McAllister knows a thing or two about what it means to be in a padded practice at the pro level. Practice began with some individual drill work before the first team session of nine on seven took place. "It's some smack talking, physical play, and the intensity level increases whenever you put the pads on," Deuce said.

Notable plays today included LB Dannell Ellebre shooting the gap as he got by OG Senio Kelemete on two occasions. LB Craig Robertson was active again and was in on a couple of stops.

The biggest thump came from safety Kenny Vaccaro, who came racing up from his position and laid the wood to rookie RB Sione Houma. Saints LB Coach Joe Vitt was his usual vocal self but was not real pleased towards the end of the drill when rookie LB Dillion Lee could not get lined up right. Vitt was screaming to get a new LB in there and sent Lee to the sidelines. The team then took a short break followed by special teams work, and then on one end of the field the linemen went one on one and the other end of the field was pass offense versus pass defense.

DE Cam Jordan looked sharp as he did not lose a rep; fellow pass rusher Kasim Edebali lost his first rep but the won his last four with ease. Personally I think Edebali has the best first step coming up out of his stance when pass rushing. Kasim simply looks like a good pass rusher.

On the first play of team drills, QB Drew Brees found a streaking WR Brandin Cooks, hit Cooks about 30 yards down field and then Cooks outran the rest of the Saints defense for a big score.

Big offensive plays is something that the Saints want to try and limit this season after allowing a league worst 45 TD passes in 2015. But overall the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert says the defense had a little bit of an edge. "I think the defense has looked pretty good the last few days. I thought the offense made some nice plays in the passing game and the first day of pads was overall good."

Bobby gave kudos to TE Colby Fleener, who once again had several grabs against the first team Saints defense and so far it looks like the TE position will not miss a beat this season.

Bobby was also pleased with the LB play of Craig Robertson and Kasim Edibali. "I think our linebackers have been upgraded. This group looks better than we did a year ago," Hebert said.
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Deke: When it comes to Saints D, it's all about the DTs!

In the history of football at any level, when it comes to defense you don't have to look any further than a team's defensive line. Regardless of how much the game has changed over the years when it comes to winning titles the teams left standing get the best and most consistent play from the big guys in the trenches.

The Saints are coming off a season in which their defense was among the league's worst, and if the Black and Gold are going to turn things around like they claim they can, they will have to get better production from their interior defensive line.

Every defense that is good has a pretty good interior defensive line. The Saints look like they have a group that can be the best in the Sean Payton era. Timing could be in the Saints favor and be a big factor. It is a contract year for both Nick Fairley and John Jenkins - both are playing the final year of their contact and in order to get shown the money, then they both need to come up big.

That money payday being on the line for both John and Nick to mean is only a positive for the Saints. Rookie DT Sheldon Rankins should come in and make a big impact. When it comes to the impact that Sheldon can make I'll say this, if Rankins can have a season similar to the way last season's defensive rookies Stephone Anthony Hau'oli Kikaha had, then I know this Saints defense will be better.

Folks when you are bad as the Saints were on defense last season, it's not going to take much for this unit to improve. But again it all points towards what the interior D-Line does. Lawrence Virgil has proven to be more than serviceable and Tyeler Davidson has shown signs but is yet to be a consistent player.

I feel like Fairley can become a much better player, likewise for Jenkins and Rankins stands to be one of the top incoming rookies defensively this season. If the Saints can just get consistent contributions from their interior D-Line look for the 2016 Saints defense to look different from the last two versions. And that folks, is only a good thing!

Current interior defensive linemen on the Saints roster

78 Lawrence Virgil

90 Nick Fairley

92 John Jenkins

96 Tyeler Davidson

96 Ashaad Mabry

99 Sheldon Rankins
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Resident pros Bobby and Deuce are ready to see Saints in pads

For the last 10 years, being able to talk to two former Saints greats each day has been something that has been very unique, to say the least. And anytime you can ask football questions to two former pros, well, what else needs to be said?

After two days of practice, Deuce McAllister likes what he sees so far. "I think you've got to be pleased. Right now they are in the installation phase as the coaches are trying to install the things they want to work on. Offense came up with some nice plays but I thought the defense had an edge today."

Deuce said he likes how the Saints have practiced the first two days of camp, and tomorrow will be a different day as the Black and Gold wear full pads for the first time. "When the pads come on things get real. The intensity level amps up and there is more of a sense of excitement on the field," McAllister said.

Bobby Hebert has been pleased with the defense so far and he's eager to see how both the offense and defense look in full pads. "So far so good I think. Now it's time to really get a feel for how this team is going to be when the put on the pads."
The Cajun Cannon and Deuce have both been pleased with what they've seen out of safety Jairus Byrd. "You can tell by the way he moves on the field he's an established veteran that knows how to survey the field and be in the right position," Hebert said.

Veteran Defensive Lineman Nick Fairley had a huge day, making three notable plays. Fairley tipped a pass, broke up an attempted screen and he came up with a sack. "This is a big year for Nick. He's in a contract year so he wants to show he's worth a nice contract," Deuce said.

Without question the play of the day came when rookie Wide Receiver Michael Thomas made a spectacular catch. Thomas made a one handed grab from back-up quarterback Luke McCown. "I thought it was going to be overthrown and Thomas made a hell of a catch," Deuce said.

Fellow Wide Receiver Brandin Cooks also made a nice grab at practice this morning. Cooks went down the left sideline being covered by Delvin Breaux. Breaux actually thought he had an interception but credit Cooks for going up and snagging the football.

"That was a nice catch and Brandin went up and came down with it," Bobby said.
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Deke: Saints need to win now - all on their defense

After back to back 7-9 seasons and a retooled roster that has been taking shape in each of the last few off seasons, the New Orleans Saints enter the 2016 NFL season with several question marks.

Even though the Saints have many questions to answer, holes to fill, and playmakers to find, New Orleans needs to win - now! How the Saints get into the playoffs is irrelevant, but what is near-mandatory is that they are one of the six post season teams in the NFC this January.

Now if you go by the old" what have you done for me lately," then one would have to figure that the Saints will have to get in with a Wild Card. After all, since the reigning three-peat NFC South Champion Carolina Panthers are loaded once again, it looks like the crown of the South is safely secured in Charlotte.

But folks, the Saints are a team that is a "win now" club. Let's be real, Drew Brees is an aging QB. Yes, he has played well, been healthy and looks to once again be in great shape. But there is only one person that has never lost in the world of sports and that is Father Time. And that old fellow catches up with everyone sooner or later.

To have a sure-fire future Hall of Fame QB wasted on 7-9 seasons is unacceptable. I know I know many will point out how close the Saints were in a several games last season, particularly against the Panthers in two divisional games in which we would all agree the Saints were in position to win in both of those meetings. But they did not.

What the Saints are facing is strictly a look in the mirror and a view of what is staring back at them. Say what? What I mean is that the Saints have to look no further than themselves to fix things and become a playoff team again.

The offense is OK, special teams are not bad and the Black and Gold have the highest paid coach in the land. But with all of that said, this is a team that has simply been hindered by a defense that is not poor, not bad, but flat out terrible.
Forget how bad the Saints defense was in 2014... in 2015 the Saints allowed 26 or more points scored on them in 11 of 16 regular season games. New Orleans was 31st in total defense, 31st in run defense and 31st in pass defense. The good news is there is only one place to go to get worse and 30 places ahead to get better.

When it comes to setting records, the last four seasons the Black and Gold defense has pretty much carved their own niche as the worst statistical defense in that time period. And can you imagine if the Saints did not have the league's 2nd best offense?

And here's what so upsetting - it's not like the Saints D has to be the newer version of the '85 Bears! Hell man, we are talking about just holding the other team to 24 points and the win total should be closer to 10-11 than 7-9.

The coaches, GM and players are all saying the right things, but is this the year the Saints defense can just play complimentary football? Get off the field more on third down, be better in red zone defense, and for goodness sakes when the ball is on the ground, pick it up and when it hits your hands, pick it off!

I hate to sound like a broken record, but y'all, this Saints team is just an average - heck, maybe even a little below average - defense away from returning to the post season. And fans should expect that to happen now.

The NFL is all about close games. With over 70% of games decided by 7 points or less, we could easily take out each of the 32 teams in the NFL and look at their schedules, and it will all come down to which teams win those close games. The Saints held their opponents in the teens just twice last seaso,n and to ask that this defense keeps, on average, the opposing team in the teens is a much taller task than it sounds.

With that said, I surely hope we are not sitting here a decade from now looking back and realizing that the Saints were a team that was a decent defense away from being in that number each post season.

We ultimately will not know what happens until the regular season plays out in early January. But regardless if you're a fan, a hater, or someone that just casually watches football, the 2016 New Orleans Saints need to win now!
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Deuce and Bobby say day one of Saints camp "overall, pretty good!"

The first day of Saints Training Camp 2016 is in the books, and our resident pros and I all agree that is was a typical day one. "I thought it was a crisp practice," said Deuce McAllister. "I was excited to see the defense create and come up with some turnovers as they got their hands on a couple of balls. That's a positive."

The Cajun Cannon was also pleased with the way the Saints caused some turnovers. "I saw Vonn Bell get in there and make a play and that's a good sign. I think being able to come up with turnovers on the first day is a good sign. And now the defense needs to keep making plays like that throughout the camp."

For the first time in three years since he signed with the Saints, safety Jairus Byrd practiced with the team on the first day! "He was in on some reps, and that lets me know that he's further along health wise now than he has been in some time," said McAllister.

Deuce also pointed out that second year offensive lineman Andrus Peat was at Left Tackle today due to the absence of Terron Armstead. Armstead is currently on the PUP list. Deuce said overall he thinks today was a good practice and he expects things to ramp up soon.

"Once they get the pads on, things will ramp up and the intensity level increases. And when it comes to the guys trying to make the team that are considered a long shot, they have to have make impressionable plays each day in order to hang around this camp."

The Cajun Cannon gave today's nod to the Saints defense. "I thought that the defense did good on all levels. They did a god job in coverage against Drew Brees and I was pleased with the velocity in which the defense played today."

Notes of interest

New Saints LB Craig Robertson picked off a pass from Drew Brees and marched into the end zone. Robertson was acquired by the Saints this off season and last year played with the Browns. Starting Saints CB Keenan Lewis did not participate in practice today, as he was working out on the side during various exercises.

West Virginia Mountaineer Head Coach Dana Holgorsen was at practice today. Holgorsen enters his fifth season with the Mountaineers with a 36-28 record. He has led WVU to bowl games in three of his four seasons with the Mountaineers.

Up next, the Saints get back to work tomorrow with a practice scheduled from 8:30 to 11:20 CST.

Get more awesome Saints coverage and analysis from Deuce, Bobby and Deke on SportsTalk, weekdays from 4 to 8pm!
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Deke: Three Heisman hopefuls are way ahead of the pack in 2016

We are still in pre-season mode, and like many of you, I can't wait for the season to get here. As we look forward to the beginning of the 2016 college football season, I think there are three players currently in the lead for the Heisman Trophy. Before the third game of the season there will be twice if not three times as many players on the radar, but right now, I feel like these three are way out in front of the pack.

To make my three player race even more interesting, each of the three come from a different part of the country, making a voting breakdown similar to projecting what's going to happen in the presidential election this fall. In no particular order..

Senior Christian McCaffery - Running Back, Stanford
We start on the West Coast with Stanford superstar Christian McCaffery, who finished second in the voting last season and has returned for his final season with the Cardinal. Simply put, McCaffery is the best overall player in college football. The athleticism he possess is second to none, he has football smarts that rival any player in the nation, and the explosion aspect of his game is something that even the greatest of the greats envy. Folks, I'm telling you, if you have not seen this dude play, you should!

Looking at McCaffery's 2015 statistics only tells part of the story. Last year he had 337 carries for 2,019 yards and 8 TDs, 45 catches for 645 yards and 5 TDs, and got his shine on as well on special teams; McCaffery had 37 kickoff returns for 1,070 yards and 1 TD, and he had 15 punt returns for 130 yards and a score.

Looking ahead to the Stanford schedule this season, McCaffery has a chance to really jump out to a big early lead if he has some nice showings. The first six games of the season feature the season opener against Big XII opponent Kansas State. And then the gauntlet arrives. USC, UCLA, Pac-12 favorite Washington, Washington State and Notre Dame all line up one after the other. And with similar numbers in those games like he had a year ago, McCaffery could have enough great games under his belt to coast to - at the very least - another invite to New York.

If the season unfolds like the experts expect, then the Cardinal schedule does not have any wow factor on the back end. But good showings against the Oregons and a big game in the conference title game, should Stanford make it there, will be more than enough to make McCaffery a legit favorite to win the Heisman.

Junior Leonard Fournette - Running Back, LSU
He's as complete as a player at the position as we've seen. He's a physical specimen that is as put together as a brick house. And the way he runs reminds me of a little Jim, a little Earl, some Gayle and Csonka. There's not much not to like about LSU's Leonard Fournette.

The front runner for the first two months of the season in 2015, Fournette looked as if he were going to run away with the Heisman Trophy last season. But a tough November that saw the talented RB face some stern defenses, and his team going a dismal 1-3 in their final four games, was far too much for Leonard to overcome.

That negative ending can be quickly flipped into a positive, as the Tigers have a November schedule that gives Fournette the best stretch of meaningful games of any player in the land. I believe that Leonard can win the Heisman without reaching the two thousand yard mark. You see as important as stats are for Leonard, the WOW factor means more than big pretty numbers. The memorable runs that he had against Auburn last season are glaring examples of how this weekly highlight producer can make a seven yard run into a SportsCenter top five play of the week!

In 2015 Fournette had 300 carries for 1,953 yards and 22 TDs and showed his versatility by adding 19 catches for 253 yards and a TD. And although many don't factor in the overall game Leonard has, including him being an very good blocking RB, trust me - the voters will hear plenty of times how Fournette is possibly the most complete running back to come out of college since Adrian Peterson, and one of the best ever to hail from the college ranks.

Playing in the SEC is an advantage as well as a disadvantage. Because the league is so deep, people tend to lean on the fact that players are going against the best all of the time - and on the other hand going against the best all the time means more of a chance that one of those other teams could play an outstanding game against LSU and Fournette, like Bama, Ole Miss and Arkansas did a season ago in which that three week span saw the Tigers' star RB go from first in the Heisman chase to the end of the leaderboard.

I think it all comes down to November for Fournette and his shot at the Heisman. He has already proven he can start fast, build a big lead and turn heads from coast to coast. But fans and voters alike want to see how Fournette does against Alabama this season. And if Leonard does well then LSU could very well have their second Heisman winner in school history.

Junior Deshaun Watson - Quarterback, Clemson
In 2015, Watson had about as good of a year as one can have, and the young man left a mighty nice taste in the mouth of Heisman voters at the end of last season. 333-of-491 (67.8 percent) for 4,104 yards, 35 TDs, and 13 INTs/ Rushing- 207 attempts, 1,105 yards 12 TDs. Even though his team lost 45-40 in the 2016 title game, Watson went off, and he did so against the best defense that features the best players that is coached by the best staff that has the best head coach in all of college football.

Now the possible #1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft will try to have a similar season as a Junior as he did in 2015 as a rising Sophomore. Watson ended last season with an incredible outing against Alabama in the National Title Game. The then-Sophomore QB completed 30-of-47 passes for 405 yards with 4 TD's and one interception. Watson added 73 yards rushing to bring his game total to 478 yards of total offense. And the way Watson gained his yards was the real story.

Watson showed poise and proved to play beyond his years against the best defense in the land that featured a bevy of veteran players. Watson used his athletic skills to avoid pressure and escape sacks and he made several professional style throws that were key in the game against the Tide.

Watson begins the 2016 season with as good of a shot as any player to capture the Heisman Trophy. He certainly ended the season better than the other two mentioned players that I have featured in this piece.
When comparing the schedules that each of these three Heisman hopefuls will face this season, there is no doubt that Clemson's schedule is the weakest, meaning that the eyeball schedule test will not tip in favor of Mr. Watson. But I don't think that will factor into Watson's chances this season. A opening road game at Auburn ended with a nice numbers performance would get Watson off to a good start, and other notable games look like dates with Louisville, Georgia Tech and South Carolina. But the biggest and most hyped game Watson has this season comes in October when the Tigers head to South Florida to take on Florida State.

Big games with big numbers are just what they are, big games with big numbers. But with the nation watching in a game that could very well feature two perfect teams when they meet, Watson will have a stage that is set for him to do his thing. It might be the one that everyone remembers most and one that we look back on and possibly say "that's when Deshaun won the Heisman."

Photos via USA Today
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Deke: The NFC South is one of the best divisions in the NFL

Carolina, Atlanta, New Orleans and Tampa Bay are the four teams that make up the NFC South, when it comes to which NFL division is the best, it's hard to go against those four, and there is proof to back up that statement.

From a success standpoint, and looking at the competitive aspect, the South has been going strong since their division was first formed back in 2002. Carolina leads the way with five NFC South Division Titles, with the Saints, Bucs and Falcons are earning three titles each.

And up until the 2014 season no team had ever repeated as divisional champ. The 2014 Carolina Panthers became the first team in the NFC South to win back to back titles. The Panthers made it three straight South Crowns by going an impressive 15-1 last season.

Going into the 2016 season, just about every national analyst as well as every major pre-season publication has the Carolina Panthers winning the NFC South for a record fourth straight season. The rest of the division is about even.
Last season the Panthers went 5-1 in the NFC South while Atlanta was 1-5 with their lone win against Carolina. New Orleans and Tampa Bay were both 3-3 within the division. I think that the Panthers are the clear cut favorite again this season. After Carolina I think that New Orleans, Tampa and Atlanta are all pretty even.

Did you know?

The NFC South has seen all four teams play in at least one Super Bowl, with New Orleans and Tampa Bay being the only two teams from the division to win one.

The NFC South was formed prior to the 2002 season. The Saints and Falcons came over from the NFC West, and Tampa Bay moved to the South after being in the NFC Central, and Carolina was an expansion team.

The NFC South is the only division in the NFL that has seen all four of its members to the conference title game.
Before the 2014 season the NFC South had never had a repeat divisional champ. But that feat was eclipsed when the Carolina Panthers won the Division in 2013, 2014 and made it three straight with an impressive 15-1 record to capture their third straight South Title.

The NFC South became the second division in five years to have a champion with a losing record, as the Carolina Panthers won the division with a 7–8–1 record.

The Tampa Bay Bucs have played in three different divisions since 1976. In '76 the Bucs went 0-14 as a member of the AFC West. From 1977 through 2001 Tampa was a member of the NFC West. And when the NFC went to four divisions within each conference Tampa moved to the NFC South.
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Deke: Steve Korte and Scott Shanle break down Saints needs before camp

As the sands through the hour glass continue to dwindle down, training camp is getting closer and closer. I was able to talk to several analysts and former Saints players the last couple of weeks and ask them what they feel like are key issues facing the Black and Gold.

Scott Shanle, former Saints linebacker and member of the Super Bowl team, told me that leadership and the ability to find the right 53 players during camp is very important. "Coach always told us the most important thing is to find the right 53 players. I feel like in the years we had the most success, we had the right mix of players," Shanle said.

Scott went on to tell me that winning the Super Bowl is the ultimate goal every season once camp begins. "Sean Payton is a coach that will always have winning the Super Bowl as the team's goal each season. Coach will look to find the right mix of veteran players that are still hungry to win a title. And I know it's all about winning with Sean Payton."

Shanle said he remembers every training camp he was a part of like it was yesterday, and player relationships on and off the field are crucial to building trust and chemistry within the team. "It's important for players to get an idea of how guys are off the field... accountability, developing relationships, feeling that each player never wants to let another player down is something that is built during training camps."

So are the Saints better going into the 2016 season? "I think you automatically see a better defense than we did last year. The front line is better, they have some good linebackers that features good young players and proven veterans. And the defensive backfield looks a lot better. Coach Dennis Allen had the defense playing better at the end of the season and I think that improvement will continue."

Scott says that winning the Super Bowl is always the goal, but also knows the Saints have a long way to go. "I definitely think the Saints will be better, much improved this season. And now is the time to start those improvements."

Steve Korte was a member of the 1980's Saints teams that were some of the best in franchise history. I spoke with Steve mostly about the Saints offensive line. "They need to improve from last season. We ran the ball pretty well. But the offense was on the field too much and had to outscore the opposing team too many times."

Steve likes the make-up of the Saints interior offensive line. "Terron Armstead is a great player. He has improved each season, he's a huge athletic guy who has tremendous strength. And the players that go against Armstead don't have a good shot at beating him."

Steve said that center Max Unger was a huge pick-up for the Saints and that Unger is one of the best in the NFL. Steve thinks the Saints offensive guard play has to improve and second year player Andrus Peat needs to make some big strides in getting better this season.

"The coaches want to make him fit on the front five. He has the physical tools, he's got good feet. I think Peat has to play more angry, and he needs to have more of an attitude on the field. He has a lot of expectations on him being a first round pick two years ago."

When breaking down the Saints rushing offensive, Korte says it all starts with the first game of the season. "As the O-Line goes so does the team. If you can control the line of scrimmage it really opens things up for the entire team. I think the Saints have a good core of running backs. Now the line needs to play with an edge and just focus on improving from week to week throughout the season."

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Deke: Six NFL teams that could surprise us in 2016

I've given you all my Top 10 pre-season poll of what I think are the top teams in the NFL entering training camp, now it's time to take a peek at a handful of teams that I think are prime to become surprises that could make a run this season.

Buffalo Bills – Word in upstate NY is that Rex Ryan is in playoffs-or-bust mode. Buffalo was close last season with an 8-8 record and the Bills were 4-2 in the division. Buffalo swept the Dolphins and the Jets and hung tough with the Pats. Adding three more solid defenders with their first three picks in the draft loads up a Bills defense that is already one of the best units in the league.

Baltimore Ravens – I don't think that a John Harbaugh-coached team will be bad for long. Plus QB Joe Flacco is still among the elite signal callers in the NFL. The Purple Birds do play in the toughest division in the NFL, but I think they will rise up this year and make a run at the post season.

Oakland Raiders – QB Derrick Carr is improving and may be the best QB among those that have been in the league for a few years. The Raiders defense is nasty and their ability to stretch the field with a few speedy WR's gives the Silver and Black Nation more than hope for this band of Raiders to get back to the post season for the first time since January 2003.

Dallas Cowboys – Love them or hate them, the Cowboys were not as bad as their record indicated last season. QB Tony Romo is worth a handful of wins by himself and the addition of a very good draft class gives the Cowboys the edge in the NFC East this season.

New Orleans Saints – A poor defense has kept the Saints from being a playoff team in each of the last two seasons. New Orleans believes they are close to returning among the ranks of the best teams in the NFL. QB Drew Brees on offense is a sure thing. But outside of #9, the Saints have plenty of questions that need to be answered quickly if they are playing in January. Again the first four games of the season will be the signal if this Saints team is going to be one to keep an eye on or not!

Atlanta Falcons - QB Matt Ryan is very good, and remember - this is a Falcons team that came out smoking with a hot 5-0 start. But the Dirty Birds fell off a cliff, going a horrible 3-8 their last 11 games to wrap up with an 8-8 mark. Atlanta has tools on offense, the addition of Center Alex Mack is huge, and the Falcons defense is closer to being decent than bad!
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Deke: Top ten NFL teams, pre-season edition

OK the start of training camp is near, and all 32 teams have the same goal - win the Super Bowl! But as most of us really know, not all 32 teams have the same shot at getting there - you will notice that my list does not feature any teams from the NFC East or AFC South. Hey, it's just my opinion.

Here are my top 10 teams as the NFL opens training camp across the league.

1. Seattle Seahawks – The most ferocious defense in the league added more defensive power this off-season and QB Russell Wilson is still the best overall QB when it comes to running, passing and making the right decisions.

2. Carolina Panthers – The Cats from Charlotte are loaded on defense, better on offense, and Cam is maturing and continuing to improve his game. The clear-cut favorite in the NFC South, and I think a serious Super Bowl contender.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers – The Steelers were oh-so-close last year as they went toe-to-toe with SB champ Denver. The Steelers are now led by their potent offense. And their defense is getting better too!

4. Arizona Cardinals – Of course this team is not much at all without the services of veteran QB Carson Palmer. But if the Red Birds from the desert can keep their signal caller healthy and their defense continues to be one of the best in the NFL, then I have no doubt this team will still be standing come mid-January 2017.

5. New England Patriots – Even missing Tom Pretty for the first four weeks does nothing to change my mind that the Pats are the class of the AFC East, and still one of the best in the league overall.

6. Minnesota Vikings – This team has all the right tools. Vikings are salty on defense, sound on defense and very good on special teams. I like what QB Teddy Bridgewater is doing on offense, and just to be able to hand the ball to AP. Putting a few $$$ on the Vikings to make it to the Super Bowl would be a wise move!

7. Green Bay Packers – With one of the best QBs in the game today it's hard not to consider the boys from Cheese Head land as a top 10 team. But the Packers need to up their play on defense if they are to make it to the Super Bowl.

8. New York Jets – Upping the ante to keep DT Wilkerson and adding the most productive RB in the league the last 8 seasons in Matt Forte, these Jets are looking super legit to me. I think this team has everything it needs to be among the elite teams in the NFL this season.

9. Cincinnati Bengals – Same ole same ole with the Bengals - they're as good as anyone in the regular season, but they've proven that they can't win in January. Is this the year?

10. Kansas City Chiefs & Denver Broncos – The Chiefs are arguably one of the most complete teams in the NFL. K.C. is led by a solid defense and a good ground game. And QB Alex Smith wins a lot of games. The defending champs are as complete as most teams, but now the question of QB surfaces. But honestly, Peyton did not play all that great last season and still won the Super Bowl!
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