Michael Strahan's 2012 NFC Season Preview
"This is a guest post by Michael Strahan, Co-Founder of 12Society. Visit www.12Society.com to learn more."
Are you ready for some football?
Rhetorical question. I know, we’re still a couple months away from kickoff, but being a fan of the NFL is truly a year-long affair.
But what should you expect this season?
Well, you don’t have to wait to find out.
Here is Part I of my NFL 2012 season preview—fully fleshed out, inside info on every team you love and every team you love to hate.
Let’s start with the NFC because, well, that’s where the champs reside.
And what better place to start than Eli Manning’s crew in New York, because even though the season will end in the Superdome, you gotta believe it will go through the Meadowlands.
New York Giants
"Will there be a Super Bowl hangover?" is the question.
If Tom Coughlin can manage to make his team feel that it needs another championship as bad as the last one, then the Giants have a great shot of picking up back-to-back Lombardi Trophies.
The hard part is going to be doing it with the toughest schedule in one of the toughest divisions in the league.
Last year, the Eagles got hot at the end of the season and showed why they were called the Dream Team.
If Michael Vick stays healthy and other egos in the locker room stay in check, this team can embarrass any team in the league with its skill and talent.
The Eagles are aggressive both offensively and defensively but have to get off to a confident and fast start. If they do that, they will give the rest of the league more than they can handle.
Always the bridesmaid but never the bride.
The talent is there for the Cowboys, but now they need the attitude to back it up.
Late-game collapses should be a thing of the past, and I feel like the Cowboys will have the year they've been waiting on for the last decade.
The arrival of Robert Griffin III has brought great interest to the season for the Redskins.
He will make the Redskins an immediate threat to the rest of the NFL.
They won't win the division this year, and there will be growing pains, but they will win some they shouldn't and lose the ones they should.
Green Bay Packers
Can you say "chip on their shoulders"?
That has to be the feeling of the Packers and QB Aaron Rodgers after an early exit from the playoffs. The Packers have a high-octane offense and a defense that has to play better at times and has shown it can.
When all cylinders are firing, this is the hardest matchup for any team in the league, and with the added frustration of last season I feel the Packers will be the team to beat for the Lombardi this season.
With prime-time players on offense and defense, this has to be the year the Lions show more bite than growl.
They are aggressive offensively and defensively (sometimes too aggressive) but have to show that they can handle the pressure of being considered a front-runner and play as such.
I don't think they're ready to handle the pressure in the division like the Packers, and that will keep them one notch below the class team of the NFC North.
This team was looking like the best in the league for a stretch of time last season before injuries set in.
With playoff experience on both sides of the ball and the addition of Brandon Marshall as a legit receiving threat (something the Bears haven't had in years), plus the return game of Devin Hester, I wouldn't put it past the Bears to have one more push left in them that can surprise us all.
Christian Ponder has given new hope to the Viking franchise after the Donovan McNabb experiment fell flat.
The return of a healthy Adrian Peterson is the biggest concern for this team that relies heavily on his legs to carry them late in the games when opposing defenses are tired.
With a young QB at the helm, the Vikings need Peterson back at full speed and also a defense that creates turnovers and opportunities for the offense, which is what Jared Allen did last season.
This team is a little late to the party in this division, and this won't be the year they catch up.
New Orleans Saints
Bounty Gate...two words that say it all.
The Saints have been dismantled mentally and physically this offseason with the suspension of head coach Sean Payton for the season, which makes it hard to put a pulse on the team.
We all know how valuable Drew Brees is, but how important is Payton? We will only know once the real games begin.
The Saints can be unstoppable offensively, but I think this offseason may be too much to overcome even for an always motivated and driven Drew Brees.
They have talent galore but need the attitude to go to the next level: the NFC South's version of the Dallas Cowboys.
This team can take it all the way but has to show up in the big games and find the toughness needed to squeeze out the hard games on the road and especially in the playoffs. This isn't a do-or-die year for the Falcons, but it's getting to the point of proving you're worth all the attention you've gotten over the last few years.
Top QB, top RB, top TE, top WR...with all that talent, you should compete and win the division.
With the Saints' woes, this should be the year of the Falcon.
Cam Newton surprised just about everyone by having the greatest rookie season by a QB in NFL history, and I don't see him dropping off in his sophomore season.
The Panthers suffered injuries on their defense, which hurt them throughout the season, but they were always competitive and, in most cases, leading games until the home stretch, where they couldn't keep the lead.
This season, that can change, and the Panthers can compete for the division if they have the confidence in themselves to finish games as strong as they start them.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Greg Schiano did a great job at Rutgers, and I'm sure he will do a nice job in Tampa, but he will have some growing pains as a head coach in the NFL.
The Buccaneers aren't far removed from surprising us all with the comeback wins from Josh Freeman, but everyone else in the division is more established. For this season, the Buccaneers will take some lumps until the growing pains are over.
I expect them to compete, but the wins may be few and far between.
San Francisco 49ers
Jim Harbaugh has given his team confidence through belief.
He didn't care about previous coaches, attitudes or past team records when he took over the job.
He let the players know he believed in them, and now they're playing football with the attitude that no individual is more important than the team. That's the reason for the success of the 49ers and the reason they will be as successful this season.
With the toughest defense in the league and an offense that protects the ball and has big-play ability, especially with the addition of Mario Manningham and Randy Moss, the 49ers are again the class of the NFC West and are a definite contender for the Super Bowl.
Pete Carroll's team has shown flashes, but I don't think they have the manpower to compete in the NFC West.
A strong Marshawn Lynch has been the one consistent thing about this team, but the QB position and the rest of the offense needs more playmakers.
Outside of the 49ers, the rest of the division is so weak that it may make the Seahawks appear better than they really are.
When Kurt Warner retired, it seems like the hopes of the Cardinals retired with him.
The Cardinals have tried to bring in QBs to fill the void but have yet to find the guy that's needed to right the ship.
Kevin Kolb hasn't become what they were expecting, and this is his year to show that he's the man, or they may go in another direction.
The team has some strong defensive players with Darnell Dockett, Calais Campbell and young Patrick Peterson, and of course on offense there's Larry Fitzgerald, but even with all those great players, they don't have the leader under center to make a difference.
Another tough year to be a Cardinal fan.
St. Louis Rams
With Jeff Fisher taking over, the Rams will have experience on their side in the coaching ranks but still won't have enough talented players to compete in the division.
Steven Jackson is a bull at running back, and Sam Bradford looks like a top-tier QB, but he needs WRs to throw to that pose a deep threat.
The Rams will always be competitive but won't win many games this season.
That’s what to look for in the NFC. Check back soon for the rest of the league!
See http://blog.12society.com for continuing sports coverage!