Yes, last year Arizona Cardinals fans basked in the glory as their team made an improbable run to the Super Bowl. As the representative for the NFC they fell just short to the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-23 in a game for the ages.
However, it's a new year and in a what have you done for me lately league, the NFC is once again wide open. One particular division in the conference, known as the NFC East, has four teams top to bottom that could possibly end up being that last team standing come Super Bowl Sunday.
The New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, and Washington Redskins make up a division that is second to none in the NFL. All four teams have a strong history of tradition and every year they come in with the same mindset of getting to the Super Bowl.
With that being said it is impossible for each team in the division to make the playoffs with the current format, so someone will be left out in the cold.
Looking at the Washington Redskins, their whole key to a run to the playoffs this season is major improvement in the offense. Second year head coach Jim Zorn found out that running a team and orchestrating the offense isn't the easiest thing in the world.
He will need quarterback Jason Campbell to quiet the naysayers, (most of whom came within the organization) and the offensive line to improve on their dismal performance last year. It also wouldn't hurt to see their new and improved (and also quite pricey) defensive line actually generate a pass rush this season.
Albert Haynesworth isn't going to be a sack machine, but others around him should have more freedom to roam with all the attention the big guy in the middle will receive. Furthermore, the Redskins need to step it up within the division if they are to make a push for the playoffs.
A combined record of 7-11 the last three seasons versus division rivals is just not cutting it!
Next, the Dallas Cowboys are trying a different approach this season in their efforts to get back to the playoffs. No longer are big names with big egos lingering around the locker room. Team cancers such as Terrell Owens, Pac-Man Jones, and Tank Johnson are gone!
Apparently its a new era and new approach for owner Jerry Jones, as he has weeded out guys that have hurt team chemistry in the past. This team is now officially quarterback Tony Romo's team.
Yes, he is loved in Dallas, but for him to cement his name with former Cowboy greats like Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach he has to win a title.
Romo has a lot on his shoulders this year, but the defense once again looks to be strong led by all-pro DeMarcus Ware. Ware and company should give opposing offenses a difficult time this season, thus lessening the burden on Romo.
Moving on to the New York Giants. Two years ago, the Giants shocked the world winning the Super Bowl and ruining the dream season of the New England Patriots. They would like nothing better than to duplicate that effort again this season.
Last year was no slouch either going 12-4, but it ended with a first round playoff defeat at the hands of the rival Philadelphia Eagles. Despite accumulating a solid record, the Giants season was marred by injuries and off-the-field issues. Most notably, flamboyant wide receiver Plaxico Burress.
His embarrassing situation of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, ended up being the last dance between him and the Giants. He was released and the Giants have moved on, hoping they did enough in the off-season to solidify the wide receiver position.
Quarterback Eli Manning thrived with Burress, utilizing his 6'5" frame to their advantage, as the "jump ball" was a mainstay in the Giants playbook. Manning will have to quickly adjust to life after Burress, and the G-Men will have to continue to ride the horse known as Brandon Jacobs.
On the other side of the ball, the defense should continue to thrive with the same unit returning and they get a boost with sack artist Osi Umenyiora back in the fold.
Rounding out the division is the NFC runner-up Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles snuck in the playoffs last season and were one step away from playing in the Super Bowl, coming up a bit short to the Arizona Cardinals 32-25.
Eleven year pro Donovan McNabb is back for another go-round at quarterback, but you have to wonder how much more the 32 year old has left in the tank. Also running back Brian Westbrook is a year older, and his fragile 5'10" frame has taken some abuse over the years.
When healthy he is one of the best at his position, but nagging injuries have limited his play the past couple of seasons. The defense doesn't have the big names of years past, but this unit plays hard and with reckless abandon for aggressive-minded defensive coordinator Jim Johnson.
If they continue to create takeaways and McNabb continues to visit the fountain of youth then the Eagles have as good a shot as anyone in the NFL to raise the trophy on that final Sunday of the season.
As with every division in the NFL, rivalries are created, and everyone has the same two words in mind at the start of the season. Super Bowl! However, only two teams get to that destination and only one team remains standing.
It's very realistic to believe that any of these four teams from the NFC East could be playing in that final game of the 2009 season. That's how strong this division is overall. If you love solid, smash mouth football, stay tuned the NFC East is going to be one wild ride this year!