Before each NFL season all the big sports publications and websites predict what how they think the season will go. I almost always find at least one of their predictions crazy. So, I thought I would throw my hat in the ring this year and give my own predictions for the NFC.
I am not going to predict every game and I am not going to guess win-loss records. I think that is where a lot of the crazier predictions stem from; trying to account for each game of the season. Instead, I am simply going to present what I think the final NFC division standings will be and what teams will make it to the playoffs.
1. Dallas Cowboys
2. Washington Redskins
3. New York Giants
4. Philadelphia Eagles
On paper, the Cowboys have the most talent in the division. With the Giants likely declining this season, they are in prime position to take the division. Even though they lost Terrell Owens this offseason, the offense can still be a top-15 unit. They also made a few moves to improve their already impressive defense.
In Washington, the number 4 defense just got a whole lot better with the addition of Albert Haynesworth at defensive tackle and Brian Orakpo at outside linebacker. Second year wideouts Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas started to show their potential this preseason. If they can prove they are not draft busts and the offensive line can stay healthy this could be the year the 'Skins offense finally clicks.
This season the Giants began their decline. Without Plaxico Burress to throw to, Eli Manning will not be as successful. The Giants also lost Derrick Ward to the Buccaneers. That makes their running game weaker as well. With the improvements in D.C. and Dallas, the Giants have been surpassed talent-wise.
The Eagles will not be able to compete with the rest of the NFC East. The other teams in the division are simply more talented. For the Eagles to be successful, both Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook must stay healthy. Giving both players' history, that is unlikely.
1. New Orleans Saints
2. Atlanta Falcons
3. Carolina Panthers
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Drew Brees led the best offense in the league last year. This year he gets Running Back Reggie Bush and Wide Receiver Marques Colston back from injury. Even though the Saints have a tough schedule, their offense will be too much to take. Defense may win championships but a prolific offense will get you to the playoffs.
The Falcons exceeded expectations last year but this year they play a tougher schedule. Their inexperience is likely to show more.
The Panthers have all the potential with Jake Delhomme at QB, Steve Smith at wideout, and the dynamic running back tandem of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Julius Peppers and Chris Gamble are both top performers who could lead the defense to a strong season performance. However, Carolina can never seem to put it all together.
Tampa is in a rebuilding year with a new coach and new quarterback. Their defense is aging and not as fearsome as it once was.
1. Minnesota Vikings
3. Chicago Bears
4. Detroit Lions
The reasoning for this is simple. Minnesota won this division last year. This year Minnesota has the second easiest schedule in the league and Brett Favre has been added at QB. Favre makes the Vikings receivers better instantly. Adrian Peterson is the best running back in the league and Favre’s presence takes a lot of pressure off of him.
The Packers will finish behind the Vikings this year and be in the playoff hunt. Aaron Rodgers is proving to quite a capable quarterback, throwing for over 4,000 yards last year. He has two dangerous threats in Greg Jennings and Donald Driver. If Rodgers continues to progress so will the Packers.
There has been a lot of noise about Jay Cutler coming to quarterback the Bears, but that ultimately does not solve the team’s problems. They did nearly nothing to improve their below average defense and there are no true receiving threats on the team.
The Lions had the worst season in NFL history last season. This year they have rookie QB and number of new defensive players. They almost have to improve this year, it would hard for them to get any worse. But they will not have improved enough to compete in this division.
1. Arizona Cardinals
2. San Francisco 49ers
3. Seattle Seahawks
4. St. Louis Rams
The Arizona Cardinals had a quite a playoff run last year and proved that they are one of the best teams in the league. The defense may not be great but Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, and Anquan Boldin will win the games for them. No one other team in the division is very good at all.
The 49ers will improve again this season. They still have an average defense , but the offense has some more potential this year. Shaun Hill finished out the season at QB last year and surprised everyone with his performance. This year Michael Crabtree joins Isaac Bruce and Josh Morgan at wideout. If the trio of receivers can develop a nice chemistry with Hill they could have a surprisingly adept passing game. Frank Gore is a beast when healthy, if he can stay healthy injuries the Niners will have a formidable running game as well.
Many are predicting a drastic turnaround from the Seattle Seahawks but I do not see that happening. Matt Hasselback is not the quarterback he used to be healthy receivers or not. Julius Jones may be improvement over last year's running game but he does not compare to Shaun Alexander in his heyday. T.J. Houshmandzadeh is a nice pickup but now he’s paired with Nate Burleson not Chad Ochocinco. It remains to be seen what he can do as the number one receiving threat. They did make a few big moves to improve their awful defense but it is not going to make a significant jump. In short, this team is not as good as the Seahawks that used to dominate NFC West and the rest of the division has gotten better.
The St. Louis Rams are in a bit of rebuilding year with new head coach Steve Spagnuolo. They will not be improving much on last year's dismal record however. Quarterback Marc Bulger and running back Steven Jackson are not as dynamic as they once were. The Rams did not do enough in the offseason to immediately improve their terrible defense.
1. Dallas Cowboys
2. Minnesota Vikings
3. Arizona Cardinals
4. New Orleans Saints
5. Washington Redskins
6. Green Bay Packers