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National Football League
Draft King Analysis

September 27, 2011
Lou Pickney,

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We're three weeks into the 2011 NFL season, which allows for some early analysis and looks toward what the future might hold.

First off, the lockout seems to have had only the most minimal of an impact on fans in the 2011 season. Only one preseason game was lost, and after a painfully long process, the NFL and NFLPA hammered out a new deal. And, ultimately, people are hooked on the NFL, all across the United States and beyond. I keep thinking of a line from Big Tim in Requiem For A Dream: "Oh, I know, but it's a real nice taste. I'll see you Sunday." And, no, I don't know who the NFL equivalent would be to Uncle Hank (NSFW) shouting "Ass to ass!" in Requiem.

Buffalo has been an early surprise team, going to 3-0 on Sunday with a remarkable rally from down 21-0 to the Patriots. Tom Brady throwing four interceptions is a *big* deal, not as much for him (at least one was a deflected pass) but more a sign of how the Bills have some playmakers on their defense.

Buffalo's secondary hasn't been the same since 27-year-old CB Nate Clements left via free agency in 2007, signing an eight-year, $80,000,000 contract with San Francisco including a guaranteed $22 million, and it's still a liability for them, but there is no doubting the moxie of Ryan Fitzpatrick and the skill of Fred Jackson as a surprise breakout RB who isn't receiving nearly the attention he deserves.

Give it time with Jackson - if the Bills keep winning, he will earn more attention. His story is a testament to the value of persistence. Jackson's path to the NFL was unique: growing up playing high school ball in the greater Dallas area, attending Division III Coe College, going undrafted in the 2003 NFL Draft, playing for the Sioux City Bandits (indoor football) in 2004 and 2005, and then with the NFL Europe's Rhein Fire in 2006.

After his time in Rhein, fellow Coe alumnus Marv Levy invited Jackson to come to training camp with the Buffalo Bills. Jackson stuck with the team but didn't start until 2007. Ultimately he outlasted former first round pick RB Marshawn Lynch to outright earn the starting RB spot in Buffalo. Even when the Bills used the #9 overall pick on Clemson RB C.J. Spiller, Jackson kept plugging away. He started 13-of-16 games last year, and he has started all three games thus far in 2011.

The feel-good story won't continue forever for Jackson; he's already on the wrong side of 30 in a position where youth is king. But as long as Jackson keeps putting up the kind of numbers like he has so far (6.4 ypc, 3 TDs after three weeks) the Bills will keep him in there as their primary running back, even after giving Spiller $20.8 million guaranteed (according to in 2009.

There are more and more stories showing up online praising the Bills for their 3-0 start, enough so to almost put the whammy on them. Buffalo faces a tough schedule due to playing in the very strong AFC East, and while their comeback wins have been exciting, the reality is that Buffalo's defense needs to improve. It has to really sting for Bills fans to have been out of the postseason for so long and for their last appearance ending with them on the losing end in one of the most memorable games of the past two decades, the "Music City Miracle" playoff game in January 2000.

As for the less successful 2011 teams, I've been amused by the growing Twitter "#Suck4Luck" or "#SuckForLuck" trend where some Kansas City Chiefs fans are trying to look at the bright side of their season falling apart (with injuries ending Eric Berry's season in week one and Jamaal Charles in week two). Kansas City radio host Nick Wright first tipped me to the phenomenon in this post on Twitter. It quickly has become my favorite internet meme since the fantastic Jose Baez Deal With It .gif made by the brilliant LSUfreek.

The problem for the Chiefs relative to Andrew Luck is that they signed Matt Cassel to a six-year, $63 million contract with $28M guaranteed in 2009 shortly after trading their 2009 second-rounder to New England for him and now-retired LB Mike Vrabel. Remember that Cassel took over in week one of 2008 when Tom Brady was injured and out for the year and lead the Patriots to an 11-5 record that, incredibly, didn't get them into the playoffs.

Despite the fluke of missing the playoffs after going 11-5, what Cassel showed in New England proved to be enough to convince the Chiefs to trade for him and pay him franchise-type money. That move began to look like a smart move last year... until Charlie Weis announced he would be an assistant coach at the University of Florida in 2011. Cassel hasn't been the same since, and if the Chiefs do end up with the worst record in the NFL this year with Cassel running the show for the most part, it would be most interesting to see what Kansas City would do.


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