Well, someone's gotta win the NFC, right? That's the rules. Playoff teams will be selected and there are no ties in the playoffs, so no matter what, come February one of these teams will be in the Super Bowl getting its ears boxed by the Patriots (see my AFC preview). Odds were snagged from Bodog.com around mid-August.
Arizona Cardinals 45/1
Ken Whisenhunt was the one everyone expected to take over the Steelers. A long time assistant to Bill Cowher and generally admired by the players, he was leapfrogged by an outsider, Mike Tomlin, and left feeling severely dissed. His consolation prize was the helm of the Cardinals, which would be like giving the loser on Jeopardy a steaming pile of turds as a parting gift.
Matt Leinart clearly has talent and will show it even more this year, which means it's a matter of time before he asks to get traded.
Atlanta Falcons 60/1
Joey Harrington gets a third chance, and he's probably exactly the person the Falcons need. Harrington is the anti-Vick in virtually every way possible. You can diss Harrington's skills, but you can't diss the man's behavior and attitude. For most football players, the high school image you have of them is abusing the nerdy kids. Harrington probably dropped in on the AV club now and then to tell them what a great job they were doing. He never talks out of school. Never has a bad word about his teammates. And he survived all those years with the Lions, so adversity is no challenge to him. Even though those who think he could succeed in the right environment now only consists of his friends and immediate family, he is just the guy to hold the Falcons together through the upcoming P.R. controversies, fan abandonment, and hopeless games — and that will be most of their games this year. In the future, if the Falcons turn things around, they'll have Harrington to thank for hanging on through these dark days.
By the way, Football Outsiders has two stats they use to evaluate individual players. One is DVOA, which we have discussed before, the other is DPAR, Defense Adjusted Points Above Replacement, which is a essentially a measure of how well a player did compared to what a could be expected from a replacement player. In 2006, Joey Harrington outperformed Michael Vick in both measures.