South Carolina man's brother died after eating cocaine that was hidden in his brother's butt. They were pulled over and arrested for having drugs in the car. Cops didn't know the man also had some stashed in his backside. They placed the suspects in the backseat of the squad car. One guy grabbed to cocaine he had stashed in his back-side and convinced his brother to swallow the evidence. The brother did it, but he died a short time later. His brother had already bonded out of jail and cops are now looking for him on involuntary manslaughter charges.
Swami interviews NIKKI SIXX OF THE CRUE about his book "The Heroin Diaries" and his project Sixx A.M.!!!
Peyton's in town, and that could either huge one way or the other for the Broncos. Are the Raiders ready to turn it around without Al Davis? Did the Chargers miss their window? Are the Chiefs 2010'2 version, or 2011's? Here's my AFC West preview:
There's a lot to like about this Chiefs team. Jamaal Charles was a big surprise in 2010, then came the big injury last year. If he's recovered completely, that will go a long way in determining the Chiefs 2012 campaign. Matt Cassel is not going to prove he's an "elite" quarterback, but he does an adequate enough job that he's at least not going to lose you a lot of games either. Dwayne Bowe is still the #1 receiver, but the Chiefs drafted Devon Wylie and hope Jonathon Baldwin or Rodney Hudson step up. Tony Moeaki is a great tight end, and he, like Charles, is coming back from a season-ending injury last year. Dontari Poe was drafted #1 at defensive tackle, and that will bolster a front seven that still needs work, but is improving. All last year's defense lost was Brandon Carr at corner. A lot of key players are returning from big injuries last year, but if recoveries go well, the Chiefs will recover significantly as a team.
No Al Davis for the first time ever. I think that will be more significant than you think with this year's Raiders. It's all on Darren McFadden. If he can stay on the field, the Raiders have a chance to improve on back-to-back 8-8 seasons and even make a play-off run. If he can't, the offensive production will be spotty and another season hovering at or around .500 is probably. Carson Palmer looked decent last year when he took over, but does he still have the goods to be considered a top flight quarterback? Are his receivers better than second tier, with Darrius Heyward-Bey and Donnarius Moore as his main targets? Once again, it's all on McFadden. The offense will live and die with him this year. Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour make a great defensive line that can get at the quarterback, but if they don't, the secondary may be a problem. There were some key free agent losses on the defensive side of the ball, and how fast the replacements come along will dictate how much damage this team can do. There's not much depth on this team, so if starters don't stay healthy, the team will take a dive quick.
Do you get the feeling the window has closed for the current version of the Chargers? They did finish last season 4-1, that's the good news. They did go on a six-game skid before that though. Phillip Rivers took a step backwards last year, but he's still got Antonio Gates over the middle. Malcom Floyd is the main receiving target, and Vincent Jackson is gone. Adding Eddie Royal and Robert Meachem could be interesting to watch, but it looks more to me like a corp of #2s. Ryan Mathews is the featured runningback, but his durability is a major concern. He's been overrated so far in his young career. Last year's defense allowed opponents to convert 3rd downs nearly 50 percent of the time. There's a very obvious lack of serious playmakers on D, but they did attempt to shore up that deficiency by drafting defense with the first three picks in this year's draft. All three will get a shot to earn starting spots right away. I would be concerned if none of them develop into quality players early. They'll get tested by high-powered offenses right away, with Atlanta and New Orleans on the schedule, and then the first look at Peyton Manning as a division opponent right after the trip to New Orleans.
I'm stating the obvious here, but every time Peyton Manning takes a big hit, the city of Denver will hold their collective breath and pray. Manning's neck is going to be on everyone's mind, mostly defenses of their opponents. Assuming all is well with the neck, I think a major return is in order this year for him. Willis McGahee will be interesting to watch, because if he plays as well as he did last year, the Broncos have some firepower. He's getting up there in years, but he surprised last year. Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas are poised to be household names. The Broncos offensive line is ready to protect, and seeing as how they wont have to wonder where their quarterback is every time the ball is snapped like they did with Tim Tebow, they'll know exactly where Manning is, being that he's such a pocket passer. The Broncos defense is solid. Losing DJ Williams to a six-game suspension to start the season will hurt though. We should find out a lot about this year's Broncos right off the bat, because they'll take on the Steelers opening night.
2. KANSAS CITY
3. SAN DIEGO
Can the Ravens milk one more year out of their aging defensive stars? How will all the new faces play in Pittsburgh? Was Cincinnati for real last year? When will the Browns finally turn the corner? Here's my AFC North preview:
It's Brandon Weeden's world from the get-go in Cleveland this year. Colt McCoy could be trade bait, so the 28-year old Oklahoma State quarterback gets the nod as, once again, a new era dawns in Cleveland. Alabama runningback Trent Richardson was the team's first pick this year, and they may finally have the dynamic rushing threat they've been looking for for nearly 12 years. Weeden doesn't have a lot of targets, but the team is hoping Greg Little will emerge as the #1 threat. Weeden has looked impressive this pre-season, and if the other two step up, the Browns might have a legit set of triplets developing. The Browns defense actually ranked 10th in the league last season, and if they can at least maintain last year's performance on that side of the ball, expect improvement. However, here's the first six games on the Browns schedule: Philadelphia, at Cincinnati, Buffalo, at Baltimore, at the Giants, and then Cincinnati at home again. That's a pretty rough run for a young team to start the season. We'll find out a lot about them early. Seven wins might be a stretch, but expect improvement.
Ben Roethlisberger has some deadly targets in Mike Wallace, Jerricho Cotchery, Emmanuel Sanders and the reliable Heath Miller. The question for the offense is, will Isaac Redman be a decent option at runningback all season? Rashard Mendenhall won't be back immediately, and the Steelers hope Redman can do a more than adequate job until Mendenhall can at least split carries with him later on. A new offensive coordinator might make things interesting as the Steelers may be pass heavy in 2012. Defensively, they're not the unit they used to be. However, NEVER count out the Steeler D. If Lamar Woodley and James Harrison can stay on the field at the same time, expect the usual shutdown stuff from them. Pittsburgh did do one thing well this offseason: they drafted offensive line with their first two picks. Keeping Ben upright and healthy will be the key this season, as always.
If the Bengals make the play-offs this season, it'll be the first time in 30 years the team has made back-to-back play-off appearances. They definitely have the tools to battle both Baltimore and Pittsburgh for a division title......but....it's Cincinnati. We've come to expect that with every step forward, there will be two or three backwards. Andy Dalton needs to prove he can avoid the dreaded sophomore slump, and he's got one of the most exciting young receivers in the league with AJ Green to do it with. BenJarvis Green-Ellis comes over from New England and should take over the runningback duties from the departed Cedric Benson. Green-Ellis wasn't an every down back with the Pats, so if he can remain durable as the #1 guy, the Bengals offense could be strong. If he can't, there will be problems. Cincy's front seven on defense was solid last year, but they can be thrown on. Adding an aging Terrance Newman to the secondary isn't the answer. The Bengals will be an interesting team to watch this year, because if a few things break right, they might surprise.
All the talk this pre-season is that quarterback Joe Flacco has turned the corner, and may finally be ready to prove he's an elite quarterback. If that's true, look out. Having Ray Rice behind you to shoulder some of the load couldn't suck either. Rice has been one of the most productive runningbacks in the NFL the last few seasons. Torrey Smith became an inconsistent but legitmate deep threat last season, and that gives the Ravens something they haven't had in a long time, a solid passing game. On defense, it's still all about Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. If those two can get another year out of their tired bones, the Ravens will contend again. Too bad Terrell Suggs will probably miss most if not all of this year with a torn Achilles. That's going to be a big loss for the D. This team has made the play-offs five straight seasons, they're well coached, and they've got some serious veteran leadership. In the end, that will be the difference, especially if Flacco is as improved as the experts seem to think he is this season.
TOMORROW: AFC SOUTH
Did the Patriots make the necessary changes to take the whole thing this year? Is Buffalo finally ready to contend? Are the Jets all hype? Another Dolphins rebuilding era? Here's my AFC East preview:
Nobody's arguing the Jets defense is stout. They've got tons of talent, but don't be deceived by their yardage totals, where they ranked fifth best in the league for yards allowed. They were also 26th in the league for points allowed. They drafted Quinton Coples in the first round to shore up the defensive line at end, but that was all they drafted on defense. With the line upgraded somewhat, Bart Scott and Calvin Pace should both improve at linebacker this year, and Jim Leonhard returns at safety, where they also added LaRon Landry from Washington. The Jets will hope to keep Mark Sanchez' passing attempts low by going back to the ground game. Shonn Greene will be the featured back, but Joe McKnight will back him up instead of LaDanian Tomlinson. Santonio Holmes is still the main target, although tight end Dustin Keller is capable as well. Look for the Jets to utilize the wildcat, and see if Tim Tebow can contribute to an offense that certainly needs the help. The problem is: how many teams have you seen go to the Wildcat and have a lot of success? This could be the year the Jets finally realize Sanchez isn't the answer, and it could be a painful lesson for them too. Another ugly factor for Ganggreen: opening schedule includes New England, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Houston. A slow start could derail the season early.
13-3 despite a defense that wasn't stellar last year was quite an accomplishment. But, could yet another fall to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl despite being possibly the NFL's best regular season team affect them mentally this year? Don't bet on it. Bell Belichick is the best at motivating a team, and he's got a big job this year after the Super Bowl letdown. Face it, making the play-offs is routine for this team. The good news: on paper, this is one of the NFL's easiest schedules. Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker return as Tom Brady's main targets, and look to Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen or even Joseph Addai to share the runningback duties until one of them proves to be the main guy. Offensively, they're right on target to pick up where they left off last year. The team drafted defense with their first six picks in this year's draft, and knowing Belichick, he expects several of them to start. Chandler James at end, Donta Hightower at linebacker, and Tavon Wilson at safety could all earn starting jobs quickly. A youth movement on defense might be just what the doctor ordered, but how fast this group matures is key. If the defense improves appreciably, the Patriots are an even bigger threat than last year.
The Bills had a nice first half last season, but the second half exposed the team for what it was: a team with big needs on defense. They addressed those needs nicely, signing defensive end Mario Williams from Houston, and drafting Stephon Gilmore at corner from South Carolina. They also re-signed several key players in Stevie Johnson, Scott Chandler, and Kraig Urbick. Fred Jackson was clutch at runningback before he was injured. If Jackson returns healthy, Ryan Fitzpatrick has a young and talented receiving corp to air it out when the defenses are keying on Jackson. The Bills were nearly a .500 team last season, and if they can avoid the injury bug this year, there's no reason not to expect this team to take the next step.
Reggie Bush came out this offseason and said he wants to be one of the top rushers in the NFL this season. Let's hope he makes good on his wish, because the Dolphins don't have a whole lot else going on offensively. They'll test rookie Ryan Tannehill at quarterback, but Matt Moore, who proved competent last season, is waiting in the wings if Tannehill gets off to a rough start. Brandon Marshall is gone, and that leaves Tannehill with Davonne Bess and Brian Hartline as his main options at receiver, which doesn't exactly strike fear into the hearts of opposing secondaries. On the defensive side, at least that unit kept the team in games most of last season, only to have the game blown by an inept offense. There were some key losses on that side of the ball, including Will Allen and Yeremiah Bell in the secondary, and Jason Taylor finally retired too. New coach Joe Philbin has his work cut out for him, so don't expect them to crawl out of the basement this season. If the team can't turn it around in the next few years, expect GM Jeff Ireland to be shown the door.
1. New England
3. New York Jets
TOMORROW: AFC NORTH
Were the Niners are one-year fluke? Are the Seahawks really that improved? Do the Cardinals have their quarterback or not? Can Fischer turn the Rams around? Here's my NFC West preview for 2012.
The Rams quickly went from one of the NFL's oldest teams to one of the youngest. Former Titans coach Jeff Fischer takes over, and there's no denying he's got a great track record. What's he inheriting? Will Sam Bradford be the quarterback of 2010, a great rookie campaign, or will he be the guy we saw last year? He's got to learn another offense this season, and the learning curve may be steep. Steven Jackson has some miles on him now, and if he can't stay healthy, the running game will suffer greatly. That means a pretty pedestrian receiving corp is going to have to find a playmaker. They drafted Brandon Quick, they've got a decent slot option in Danny Amendola, and if Steve Smith can become the guy he was with the Giants in 2009, there's hope. The O-Line got some good upgrades too. The front seven only returns Jake Long and James Laurinitis, so a cast of new guys will be expected to step up quickly. Fischer will turn this thing around in St. Louis, but don't expect a whole lot in Season 1.
What's not to like about this team after a surprising run to the NFC Championship game last season? Coach Jim Harbaugh made a huge splash his rookie season, so where to go now? No denying the Niners defense is among the very best in the league. Patrick Willis is as good as there is at linebacker, and Justin Smith on the line and NaVorro Bowman are solid too. Carlos Rogers played well in the secondary, This defense is built to win a Super Bowl. Additions on offense were made to the receiving corp, which already boasts a killer tight end in Vernon Davis. Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham is on board, and we'll see if Randy Moss has anything left after a year off. They also drafted AJ Jenkins in the first round. Matching a 13-3 season like last year isn't likely, because their schedule is as tough as a team gets this year. They also came from behind in the fourth quarter to win five games last year. There was some luck involved in last year's run, but if Alex Smith can keep the mistakes down, another division title looks good. How far they go in the play-offs will depend on if anyone emerges as a real receiving threat.
There has been a lot of talk this pre-season about how the Seahawks could surprise. Think about this: if the team still wasn't searching for some answers, would it have taken a chance on Terrell Owens? Seattle grabbed Green Bay back-up Matt Flynn in the offseason, but drafted Russell Davis after that. It looks like Davis has earned the starting spot going into the regular season. There will be some growing pains, so Seattle fans hope it can rain Skittles for Marshawn Lynch again. The offensive line hasn't been able to stay healthy for the last couple of seasons, and that spells big problems for Davis and Lynch if they don't. The Seahawks secondary is solid, but there are no big play linebackers, and the front line has only one adequate pass rusher, and that's Chris Claiborne. Pete Carroll has made some interesting moves for this team, but there are still enough holes to be filled that I don't see them as the legit threat that many do this pre-season.
Cardinals fans know what's coming.....the fate of this team rests squarely on the shoulders of Kevin Kolb......or John Skelton. Whichever guy ends up earning the job can rest easy knowing that this team is either going to be as good, or as bad, as they are. What good does Larry Fitzgerald do you when you can't get him the ball? There's not a lot of help for Fitzgerald in the receiving corp, but if Kolb can get it going with Fitz, another could emerge. Beanie Wells is a decent runner if he's healthy. Defensively, I like what they have. They were actually one of the NFL's top ranked defenses in the second half of last season. Darnell Dockett, Calais Campbell and Daryl Washington are all names to watch out for, as all three are Pro Bowl caliber players. The defense can be that solid this year, and the team could still be in danger of a third straight losing season if the offense can't improve. If they can get some quarterback play, they're good enough to make a wildcard. If they don't get that play, the Kolb era will end quickly, and it may spell the end for Ken Whisenhunt too.
1. SAN FRANCISCO
4. ST. LOUIS
NEXT UP: (Tuesday the 4th) AFC EAST
Are the Bears over the hill? Will the real Lions please step forward? Can the D rebound in Titletown? Is A.P. ready to return? Here's my NFC North preview.
The burning question in Minnesota this season is Adrian Peterson's injury. There's no doubt that A.P.'s health will directly determine what the Vikings are able to do this season. If he returns to form, the Vikings may be able to eek out 4 or 5 wins. If not, it's going to be an especially long season up North. Christian Ponder gets the nod as starting quarterback, and in addition to Percy Harvin, the team added Jerome Simpson from Cincinnati to team with Michael Jenkins as well. Not exactly the deadliest receiving corp in the league, but capable of making a few plays. There's still some playmakers on defense, but having to stop the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Calvin Johnson and an upgraded Bears offense could be a task a little over the heads of this unit. The North is going to be a TOUGH division this season, and the Vikings aren't probably ready to threaten any of their division rivals right now.
15-1, and a first round exit? Really? How did that happen exactly? You can probably pin last year's early departure on the defense, and Dom Capers' squad is going to have to step it up this season or all the offensive acrobatics could be for nothing..again. The team only lost Nick Collins at safety, and they drafted D with picks 2, 3, and 4. Clay Matthews only got six sacks last year, and no defense in NFL history gave up as many passing yards as Green Bay did. Charles Woodson may be finally showing his age too. Aaron Rodgers should have another big year, however. And with the addition of Cedric Benson at runningback, the team may take some pressure off the passing game for the first time in a couple of seasons. Obviously, with back-up Matt Flynn gone to Seattle, Rodgers' health is a major concern. If he goes down, it's all over. Then again, if the defense doesn't play like they did in 2010, it may not matter how well Rodgers plays. If those two things happen, the Pack have to be a favorite for a Super Bowl return.
Adding Brandon Marshall at receiver was a nice move for Chicago. Jay Cutler has a legitimate deep threat, and a guy he's already used to throwing to from their days together in Denver. Matt Forte returns from major injury, but Michael Bush comes from Oakland to take some of the load off of him. The offensive line has been very offensive the last few years, allowing 105 sacks. That has to obviously improve. On defense, can the team milk one more big year from Brain Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman and Julius Peppers? If these aging vets can pull another big effort out of themselves, this team could be a serious threat come December. The team definitely benefits from a fairly mild December schedule. If Marshall plays like he's capable of, the Bears could add a new dimension to their offense, and that may make the difference. The Bears also did another smart thing...and that's providing Cutler with a competent back-up in Jason Campbell. The right moves were made in the offseason, and now the organization has to hope and pray the old guys can summon a huge effort for them one more time.
No one will deny that Calvin Johnson is probably the league's best receiver right now. Add to that the fact that Matt Stafford has overcome early career injuries, and you've got as big a downfield threat as there is in the league. My problem with the Lions: do you really think Kevin Smith or Jahvid Best are a decent enough rushing attack to take the pressure off the passing game? After Johnson, the only legit weapon on the Lions offense is maybe Brandon Pettigrew. Still, they can score points and move the ball. Should a running game suddenly emerge, look out. The Lions front four on defense has been as good as advertised. Big losses to Green Bay and New Orleans last January, where the secondary gave up 900 total yards in the losses, exposed the team's weak link: passing defense. The team didn't really do anything to address that in free agency or the draft, and facing Rodgers and Cutler twice a year with that secondary will prove to be the fatal flaw. They're still on the rise, but probably not ready for a division title yet.
2. Green Bay
TOMORROW: NFC WEST.