Here's part two of my "Early NFL Predictions" slide show series. The NFC is has a lot of good teams that can make the postseason. The Rams and Lions are probably the only two teams in the NFC that really have no shot at the postseason.
The NFC, just like the AFC, is filled with great quarterbacks (Brees, McNabb, Romo, Manning) and has great offenses(Cardinals, Saints, Falcons, Cowboys). They also have many teams that have a great running game(Vikings, Giants, Falcons, Panthers).
There are tons of questions that will be answer in the NFC this season. Could Romo and the Cowboys succeed and make the postseason with T.O.? Can the Giants continue to be an elite team without Plaxico Burress?
Are the Eagles the favorite to win the NFC? Can Cardinals repeat last season success? How will JayCulter fare in Chicago? Can Matt Ryan and the Falcons shocked the world again and make it to the Super Bowl?
Will the Seahawks bounce back from a disappointing season? Will the Packers be the surprise team in the NFC?
For my AFC predictions,click here.
1) Philadelphia Eagles: 12-4, win the division, get the No. 1 seed in the NFC
Donovan McNabb is expected to have a big year. He has all the weapons he needs on offense. The additions of Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy, and Cornelius Ingram should help their offense a lot.
Jason Peters should improve the offensive line and give more protection for McNabb. And even though the Eagles lost Brian Dawkins, their defense should still be among the best in the league.
2) New York Giants: 10-6, win a wild card spot, get the No. 5 seed in the NFC
The Giants' defense was among the best last season without Osi Umenyiora. Imagine how good it will be when he comes back. As usual, defense will be a strength for the Giants like it was in 2007.
If only I could remember what happen that season....oh yeah, they won the Super Bowl. Offensively, the Giants may struggle a bit this season. Although I think Eli Manning is a very good quarterback, he not a great quarterback. And he has an average wide receiver corps around him. Hakeem Nicks is their best receiver, and he's a rookie.
Their running game should still be among the best in the NFL but they will clearly miss Derrick Ward. The Giants should make the postseason, but they will struggle to find their way back to the Super Bowl.
3) Dallas Cowboys: 9-7
I know, I know, the Cowboys got rid of their biggest distraction in Terrell Owens and they may be a better team for it, but I think we will see more of the Dallas Cowboys we saw last season than two years ago.
Romo will once again prove to be a top five quarterback in the first 12 games of the season and turn into an average quarterback in the final four games in the season, and the Cowboys will miss the playoffs. It won't be all Romo's fault. Roy Williams will prove to the world that he's not a true No. 1 wide receiver.
Although the Cowboys will have Felix Jones and Marion Jones in their backfield, Jason Garrett will once again defer to Romo carry the offense. At least having Jason Witten out there will help their offense.
Defensively, they're among the best in the league but every team in this division is great on defense. Offense is what's going to win this division and in the winter months, the Cowboys' offense is average at best.
4) Washington Redskins: 8-8
The Redskins are the most unpredictable team in this division. You don't know what you are going to get from them from week to week. They have great talent and they could be a playoff team if they weren't in the NFC East but for now, they are at the bottom at the NFC East and that doesn't seem to change.
Their idea of improving their team was signing Albert Haynesworth, who played great last season but he was in a contract year and the years before Albert didn't play nearly as good as last season. The Redskins overpaid to get him to help a defense was already superb last season.
Their big problem was offense, yet they failws to address that, and Hayneworth won't improve the Redskins' defense that much that I can consider moving them up. Jason Campbell is too inconsistent. Portis has to carry this offense by himself, and he isn't that great of a running back that he can do it on his own.
Then again, I could be wrong. Like I said, the Redskins are unpredictable.
1) Minnesota Vikings: 12-4, win the division, get the No. 2 seed in the NFC
For those people who are wondering, Brett Favre is not a Viking. So this prediction is with Tavaris Jackson or Sage Rosefels as the quarterbacks.
Now, I know most people have the Chicago Bears winning this division, or possibly Packers surprising everyone and winning it. The Vikings are the best at stopping the run and one of the best in the NFL rushing the passer. I personally believe they have the best defense in the NFC, which is led by Jared Allen and Pat Williams.
Offensively, they have arguably the best running back in the NFL today in Adrian Peterson, and one of the best backup running back in the NFL today in Chester Taylor. They have two game-changing playmakers at the receiver position in Percy Harvin and Bernard Berrian.
Whoever starts at quarterback between Tavaris Jackson and Sage Rosefels, will indeed have a breakout season. Last season, both quarterbacks showed me that given the chance, they can be above-average quarterback in this league.
2) Chicago Bears: 9-7
We will see how good a quarterback Jay Culter is, because he not surrounded by the same weapons he had in Denver here in Chicago. Plus, he's in a tougher division where you must win the division to make the postseason.
The Bears' defense isn't what it was a few years ago. So this team will go as far their offense takes them. Matt Forte should have another great year, Gregg Olsen should also have a great year, and Devin Hester could evolve into Chicago's top receiver. I think they will barely miss the postseason, because I don't think Culter can carry his team like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, or Ben Roethlisberger. He would need to play at their level for the Bears' to make into the postseason.
3) Green Bay Packers: 7-9
I know many people predict the Packers to win at least nine games, but I feel that they be will the Saints' of last season. They will need to outscore their opponent every night in order to win. They have the receiver corps to do it in Donald Driver and Greg Jennings, and the quarterback to do it in Aaron Rodgers. Ryan Grant would need to be more consistent for this offense to be balanced.
Defensively, the Packers are improved, but they are still average at best.
4) Detroit Lions: 2-14
Detroit fans, it's OK. You don't have to endure another season without the Lions getting a win. With Calvin Johnson and Kevin Smith leading the way, the Lions should win a game or two. But don't get too happy, knowing the Lions they are bound to mess up a sure thing so they choose Matthew Stafford as their starting quarterback, go 0-16, and make Stafford become the next David Carr.
So while your writing you're fan letters to Lions, remember to add that Daunte Culpepper should at least start the season as the Lions' quarterback.
1) Atlanta Falcons: 11-5, win the division, get the No. 3 seed in the NFC
May be a surprise to many people that I have the Atlanta Falcons winning this division. They have an average defense that would allow at least 20 points a game.
I have the Falcons winning this division solely on their offense. They have a Pro Bowl caliber receiver in Roddy White, a very good young receiver in Michael Jenkins, and possibly the best running back in this division in Michael Turner.
These playmakers helped Ryan have a successful rookie campaign, but they won't prevent him from going through a sophomore slump next season. But the addition of Tony Gonazlez can. He should be Ryan's safety blanket when Ryan gets in trouble.
2) Carolina Panthers: 10-6, win a wild card spot, get the No. 6 seed in the NFC
The Panthers have best 1-2 running back combo in the NFL in Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. They have a top five wide receiver in Steve Smith. They have one of the better defenses in the NFL.
They have all the pieces to be the favorite to win this division next season and have the talent to possibly win a Super Bowl ring. Only one problem. They have Jake Delhomme as their quarterback. Now before you get ready to criticize me for saying that Delhomme can't lead a team to a division title when he did it last season, hear me out first.
Delhomme has never been a great quarterback. Good but not great. He's one of my favorite quarterbacks in the NFL. But last season, Delhomme would look like the good quarterback he is half the time, and probably the worst starting quarterback half the time.
Plus, for years Jake Delhomme has been one of the best postseason quarterbacks. But last year, in a home playoff game where his team is highly favored over the Cardinals, he goes and turnover the ball five times. Don't get me wrong, he's still an above-average quarterback, but his inconsistent play plus being in the same division as the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints could cost the Panthers' the division title and a playoff spot.
3) New Orleans Saints: 9-7
Drew Brees almost broke Dan Marino's single-season record for passing yards without his top three targets for half of the season in Reggie Bush, Marques Colston, and Jeremy Shockey. His defense failed him throughout the season, yet the Saints still finished 8-8 in the toughest division in the NFL. Personally, I felt that Drew Brees should have finished second in MVP voting behind Peyton Manning.
This offseason, the Saints have improved their defense with the addition of Malcolm Jenkins. Now, their defense should still be average at best. Offensively, the Saints should be one of the best offense in the NFL. They have Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush running the ball. Their running game won't be great but it's good enough to compliment their passing game.
Brees has Lance Moore, Marques Colston, and Jeremy Shockey as his top targets plus Reggie Bush. I would be surprised this is not at least the best passing offense in the NFL. But I think that the Saints aren't good enough to make the postseason in this division with the Falcons and Panthers.
We saw last season that Brees can't carry a team to the postseason alone in this division and I don't see the running game and the defense helping him out. But don't count out the Saints. If they can sneak in the postseason, they can make a Super Bowl run.
4) Tampa Bay Buccancers: 4-12
Now, I know this is no surprise to anyone that I have the Buccaneers last in this division. The surprise may be their record. I think they will struggle to win games in their division. I'm not sold on Bryon Leftwich and Luke McCown at quarterback.
I like that they got Derrick Ward but I don't think he can carry an offense like a LT or Peterson can, and he would need to do that for this team to succeed in 2009.
Defensively, you will see more of the defense you saw in the last four games last season (0-4) than the defense you saw in the first 12 games (9-3). They lost Derrick Brooks, who although was getting older was still a Pro Bowl outside linebacker, even though he was getting older.
It's obvious that the Bucs are in rebuilding mold. Hopefully, Josh Freeman will get some playing time this season after the Bucs realized that they will miss the postseason.
1) Arizona Cardinals: 10-6, win the division, get the No. 4 seed in the NFC
The Cardinals shocked everyone when they got to the Super Bowl last season, and we saw the reemergence of Kurt Warner. He proved that he's still an elite quarterback in the NFL.
We saw the best receiver duo in NFL put big numbers in Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. Their defense was solid all year long. Their main problem was their running game. This offseason, they drafted Chris Wells so he can be their starting running back. Their hoping Wells will have a big impact on their team like Chris Johnson, Matt Forte, and Steve Slaton had on their teams.
I don't he'll have that kind of impact on the Cardinals offense this season but he will improve their running game. Their passing game will still be among the best in the league and defense will still be solid. But they are playing in a much stronger division this season than they played last year.
2) Seattle Seahawks: 8-8
The Seahawks won NFC West for five straight years before last season. In 2007, they were the fourth-best team in the NFC behind the 13-3 Cowboys and Packers and 10-6 Giants. Matt Hasselback had his best statiscally season and made the Pro Bowl.
Coming in to 2008, many believe they would compete with the Cowboys and Giants for the NFC Crown. But in 2008, they suffered through many injuries. Matt Hasselback miss half of the season, his receivers were out most of the season and all of a sudden, the defense seem to forget how to play defense. The 2008 Seattle Seahawks finished 4-12.
In 2009, they have a healthy Matt Hasselback. His receiver corps is healthy and better with the addition of T.J Houshmandzadeh, the Seahawks defense should be better with the addition of Aaron Curry, who I believe will make the biggest impact than any other rookie this season. I think we will see the team of 2007, but I think that the the division has gotten tougher since then and they may fall short of the postseason.
But I'mn ot counting out the Seahawks. They can surprise everyone and win this division.
3) San Francisco 49ers: 6-10
Now I know a lot of people got excited last season when Mike Singletary became the head coach of the 49ers and they began winning some games. Personally, I believe that this team started to play to their potential when Singletary became coach. Plus, they stole Michael Crabtree with the 10th pick in the draft. I still don't know why the Raiders didn't take him. Then again, they are the Raiders.
I feel that Crabtree will help the passing game and that this team is heading in the right direction. But I don't think they are as good as the Cardinals and the Seahawks, so I believe this team has a lot to work before they can become a playoff-caliber team. But like I said many times in this slide show, I wouldn't be surprised if they make a push for the postseason.
4) St. Louis Rams: 2-14
I won't lie to you. I like the Rams. I feel that they have many players on this team that are underrated by the public. After their two game winning streak against the Cowboys and Redskins last season, I was actually hoping that they will win their division because they were 2-4 and the Cardinals was 4-2.
But that was before they went on to lose their next 10 games. It's sad for be to say this but the Rams are the worst team in the NFL. And that's including the Detroit Lions. I still think that Bulger is a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback even though they haven't shown it the past two seasons. Their offensive line should be better with addition of Jason Smith. They still have a top-five running back in Steven Jackson, but their passing offense may be worst without Torry Holt.
Defensively, they will struggle to stop anyone in this division because the Cardinals' and Seahawks' passing game will continue to be impressive and they have no answer for Frank Gore. Once again, the Rams will be at the bottom of the NFC West.
5) Giants at 4) Cardinals
Now I know this an interesting matchup. The last two NFC Champions playing in the Wild Card Round. Warner was once a Giant and was their starting quarterback until Eli was ready. This matchup will be decided who wins the battle of the Cardinals' passing game vs the Giants D—Line.
If the Giants can pressure Warner and force him to make some mistakes, I believe that the Giants will win.
6) Panthers at 3) Falcons
This is another game which will be decided by a match-up within the game. The Falcons' offense vs. the Panters' defense. I think that the Falcons will prevail because they have too many weapons on offense for the Panthers to handle. They can beat through the air or on the ground.
5) Giants at 1) Eagles
Yes, a rematch of last year's divisional playoff game between the Giants and Eagles. The only difference is that the Giants is on the road and the Eagles is at home. The Giants have the defense to shut down the Eagles offense for most of the game. Plus, they are one of the best road teams in the NFL.
The Giants and Eagles' defenses are pretty much equal, so this game will be decided on which offense can perform the best. I don't think the Giants' offense can outscore the Eagles in a low-scoring game.
3) Falcons at 2) Vikings
This is where the Vikings could use Favre—in the postseason. But until Favre says he's a Viking, I will not include him in the outcome of this matchup. I feel that Matt Ryan will have one of those great games in where we say that he may be the next Peyton Manning or Tom Brady.
Everything is set for the Falcons to lose this game. The Vikings has a great defense that can stop the run and the pass and they have the best running attack in the NFL. I believe that Turner will be a non-factor in this game. Ryan will have the confidence that he can lead a team to victory after playing with Tony Gonalzez for a season.
3) Falcons at 1) Eagles
This prediction has more to do with the Eagles than the Falcons. The Falcons will play like they have all season long. They won't have a terrible game or an amazing game. Even though I believe that the Eagles is the best team in the NFC, I don't think they will ever get over the hump.
I don't think McNabb has what it takes to lead his team to the Super Bowl, and they will falter like they did last season.
Most Valuable Player: Donovan McNabb
Offensive Player of the Year: Drew Brees
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Michael Crabtree
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Aaron Curry
(Other Awards is on my AFC Prediction Slide show)
Starter: Donovan McNabb
Reserves: Drew Brees, Matt Ryan (or Aaron Rodgers)
NFC Running Backs
Starter: Adrian Peterson
Reserves: Matt Forte, Michael Turner
NFC Wide Receivers
Starters: Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson
Reserves: Steve Smith, Roddy White
NFC Tight Ends
Starter: Jason Witten
Reserve: Tony Gonzalez