The Redskins finished at the bottom of the NFC East last season. The defense was pretty bad in 2006, but it should be improved this year with the additions of London Fletcher-Baker and rookie Dallas Sartz at LB, and rookie LaRon Landry at safety. The ground attack should be strong, with Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts at RB, but the passing game is a big question mark.
PICK: The Dolphins defense should be able to contain the Redskins running game just enough to win. MIAMI BY 1.
Tennessee (8-8) at Jacksonville (8-8) - 1:00 PM
The Titans started off the 2006 season by losing their first five games. With seven games left in the season, they were 2-7. Then, out of nowhere, they won six games in a row (three of those games against teams that eventually made the playoffs, including the Super Bowl-winning Colts). On the cusp of one of the most incredible mid-season turnarounds in NFL history, finishing with a winning record, and possibly even earning Wild Card playoff spot, they... got whipped by the Patriots in Week 17. Oh well. But it was a fun ride while it lasted. QB Vince Young won the Rookie of the Year award for his efforts last season, and it was much-deserved. Unfortunately for him, he also won the cover of Madden NFL, so expect a serious, season-ending injury by Week Three. And without Young, this team all-around stinks.
The Jacksonville Jaguars also finished at .500 last season. Of course, they scored almost 50 more points and gave up 126 fewer points than the Titans, but they still ended up with the same record. They were not helped by a three-game losing streak at the end of the season. The defense was outstanding in 2006, and there is no reason to believe that it won't be again this year. The running game should be superior, although there is always the possibility of Fred Taylor suffering a serious injury (and that's just while he's dressing for practice). The air attack is definitely this team's weak spot. Overall, I would be surprised if they don't make a serious playoff run in 2007.
PICK: A team with almost nothing going for it except a (cursed, and therefore doomed) quarterback, versus a team with just about everything except a decent quarterback. Ironic, dontcha think? JAGUARS BY 12.
Chicago (13-3) at San Diego (14-2) - 4:15 PM
The Chicago Bears had the best defense in the NFC last season, by a mile. And that defense took them all the way to Super Bowl XLI, where they met their Kryptonite: A team that wasn't in the NFC. Think that's too simplistic? Just take a look at the stats. The Bears were 13-3 during the regular season. That breaks down to 2-2 vs. the AFC, and 11-1 vs. the NFC (and that single loss was in a meaningless game in Week 17 after they had already clinched home field advantage). If you include the playoffs, the Bears were 13-1 vs. the NFC and 2-3 vs. the AFC. In other words, the Miami Dolphins could have disguised themselves as the Indianapolis Colts and the Bears still would have struggled in the Super Bowl. (In fact, the Dolphins actually beat the Bears during the regular season.) My point is this: The Bears were far-and-away the best team in the NFC last season, and they probably are again this season. But any superiority they enjoy while playing in the NFC will be moot come February (if they even make it that far again, which is questionable considering Rex Grossman is still their starting QB).