There's plenty to be on the watch for in the NFC. Taking the info and opinions provided by AthlonSports, Lindy's, and CBS Sports magazines (combined with my own research and opinions of course), I'll provide you with what to look for in the upcoming season.
Predicted standings, award winners, free-agent signing recap, coaching outlooks, schedule previews, and right now, playoff previews.
WILD CARD ROUND: Giants over Bears. Saints over Falcons.
DIVISIONAL ROUND: Eagles over Giants. Saints over Cardinals.
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP: Eagles over Saints
SUPER BOWL: Eagles vs. (available after AFC preview!!!)
END OF THE SEASON STANDINGS
- Philadelphia Eagles—If McNabb can stay healthy, the Eagles have a legit chance at the Super Bowl once again.
- Arizona Cardinals—Arizona turned some heads last season, making it all the way to the big one. They aren't a fluke. Watch out. But they have to figure out how to run the ball before claiming the Lombardi Trophy.
- New York Giants—Eli Manning has done a good job so far, and they have some nice additions to the team. A fair schedule should land them a spot in the playoffs.
- New Orleans Saints—Drew Brees is the best quarterback in the NFC, if not the NFL. Period. With weapons like Marques Colston, Reggie Bush, and others, they could go far in the playoffs.
- Atlanta Falcons—The Falcons don't have a tough schedule ahead of them. With Michael Turner, Matt Ryan, and Tony Gonzalez, they're putting the Vick incident behind them.
- Chicago Bears—Jay Cutler could greatly improve the Bears, possibly being their first Pro-Bowl quarterback since Jim McMahon. A definite playoff contender if Cutler performs up to par.
- Carolina Panthers—Whatever nickname they decide on, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are trouble for any defender guarding them. Fox hasn't been very consistent, and with a tough schedule I see them just missing the playoffs.
- Green Bay Packers—Aaron Rodgers is coming into his own. He's off to a great start as a starter in Green Bay, and with Greg Jennings and Ryan Grant at his side, they should have a winning season.
- Dallas Cowboys—While Dallas won the Super Bowl last time they got a new stadium, it doesn't appear they'll be doing the same this year. They lost a lot of players, and need to improve as a team before becoming a serious contender.
- Seattle Seahawks—Hasslecrap and Co. aren't close to being in the playoffs. While they have some wideout weapons, Matt needs to stay healthy, and nearly the defense backfield has some room to improve.
- Minnesota Vikings—Figure out the quarterback problems. Fast. They have absolutely no chance until it is. Adrian Peterson can't win 16 games singlehandedly.
- Washington Redskins—They appear to have talent on paper. How is it they always underperform? Portis needs to stay injury free, the O-Line isn't getting any younger. Albert Haynesworth and DeAngelo Hall lead the defense which still struggles. Lots of work to do before looking at a playoff shot.
- San Francisco 49ers—They've had seven offensive coordinators in seven years. Alex Smith is a bust, he sucks. Maybe Mike Singletary can moon his team to victory...maybe, but not likely.
- Detroit Lions—The new staff looks promising. This may just be me being a Lions fan, but Jim Schwartz is showing a lot of discipline at camp, something the past few coaches have been lacking. With the new tight end, and the talent at wide receiver, not to mention the stellar look at defense, the Lions might win four games.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers—Another team with a quarterback issue. Leftwhich and McCown don't look very promising, the defense is almost made up entirely of no-names...yeah, no hope for the new staff this year.
- St. Louis Rams—The "Greatest Show On Turf" is a very, very, very distant memory for Rams fans as they sit on the bottom of the NFC, and possibly the NFL. Other than Marc Bulger and running threat Steven Jackson they have nothing. I wouldn't want to be Steve Spagnuolo right now.
NFC TROPHY WINNERS
Offensive Player Of The Year: Larry Fitzgerald—A key part of the success in Arizona.
Runner-up: Drew Brees, Adrian Peterson
Defensive Player Of The Year:DeMarcus Ware—He's gotten better every year, and isn't stopping any time soon.
Runner-up: Adrian Wilson, Patrick Willis
Comeback Player Of The Year: Osi Umenyiora—He missed the whole last season. He's still a beast, don't forget it.
There is no close runner up...
Offensive Rookie Of The Year:Beanie Wells—He'll rejuvenate the running game, giving Kurt Warner more options then passing to Larry Fitzgerald.
Runner-up: Michael Crabtree, Brandon Pettigrew
Defensive Rookie Of The Year: Peria Jerry—He'll be key in stopping the run for Atlanta.
Runner-up: James Laurinaitis, B.J. Raji
Coach Of The Year: Andy Reid—Winning his second Super Bowl would be quite the impressive achievement. Even getting there would make him Coach of The Year for the NFC.
Runner-up: Whoever wins the NFC Championship will be Coach Of The Year, so the runner-up would be Sean Payton.
On The Hot Seat: John Fox, Panthers—Carolina has a lot of talent. If Fox doesn't utilize it, he'll be canned for sure.
Wade Phillips is also on the Hot Seat. Jerry Jones gave him another shot. It better work, or someone else'll be leading the Cowboys next year.
Easiest Debut: Jim Schwartz, Lions—It won't take much to improve. There's nowhere to go but up. Whatever saying you prefer, only one win makes Schwartz Coach of The Year in Detroit.
Hardest Debut: Raheem Morris, Bucs. Jon Gruden will be a tough act to follow. He's the only coach ever to bring Tampa Bay to a Super Bowl. His team doesn't look good at all. Even Detroit could have a chance at beating them. Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves...
Key Addition: Scott Linehan, Lions. While he was a poor head coach in St. Louis, no one can doubt his offensive coaching ability.
FREE AGENCY RECAP
Best Signing: T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR, Seahawks—T.J. has a nose for the end zone and quite the ability to rack up the yards. He'll surely help out the situation in Seattle.
Best Re-Signing: Kurt Warner, QB, Cardinals—Past his prime? HA! He's still a key part of Arizona's offense. It also says a lot about Matt Leinart doesn't it?
Most Desperate Signing: Byron Leftwich, QB, Bucs. When you look at Luke McCown as a starter, and Leftwich comes along, he starts to look pretty good.
Riskiest Signing: Albert Haynesworth, DT, Redskins. While he's no doubt an excellent play maker, it's hard to imagine him being worth $100 million. Especially considering he rarely stays healthy all year.
Best Overhaul: New Orleans Saints—Signing defensive end Paul Spicer, safety Darren Sharper, and cornerback Jabari Greer will definitely improve their defense all the more.
Toughest Schedule: Carolina Panthers—Half their games are against last year's playoff teams. And their opponents' win percentage averaged out is an NFC high .594. This could be the only thing stopping the Panthers from a playoff birth.
Easiest Schedule: Chicago Bears. This too could be the only reason the Bears beat out the Panthers for a playoff birth. Playing teams like Seattle, the Bengals, Browns, 49ers, Rams, and the Lions twice—there is no "tough stretch", and should be in the playoffs.
Hardest Run: Other than the Lions, who all 16 games are facing teams that finished teams better then them last year: Green Bay.
In December they play both teams in Super Bowl XLIII, they travel to Chicago, and play the Ravens. Oh dear.
Easiest Run: Arizona Cardinals. They should easily win their last five games. Three being at home against Minnesota, St. Louis, and Green Bay.
They're also on the road against the 49ers, and Detroit. Yeah, a definite shoe-in for at least a five game winning streak heading into the playoffs.
There you have it, the NFC at a glance—a preview for the 09-10 NFL season. It looks to be a great one, with some excellent surprises, new coaches, and a few draft picks to keep our eyes on.
The AFC preview will be coming in a few days!
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