The NFL season is fast approaching, and as always, there are questions that need to be answered before the season starts.
This year, there are so many questions for both conferences that I decided to make them into my favorite kind of test: a true/false exam.
We'll start off with my questions (or rather, statements) for the NFC.
If this were any other team, I would say fact, but the Rams have way too many problems to be solved with just one draft.
They have almost no offensive line to speak of, and any defense worth its salt will be embarrassed not to sack Bradford at least five times.
On top of that, they have almost no options in the running game, so they can't exactly give Bradford a rest. They have Steven Jackson, but he can only go so far.
They'll need to make some more big changes before they can even think about getting back to .500. Unless they make a trade for a big-time superstar, there's no way they can even get third place in the NFC West (and maybe not even then, either).
Now don't get me wrong—the Saints are still a great team, but there are at least three other teams that can dethrone the World Champions: the Vikings, the Cowboys, and the Giants.
Now, the Giants are kind of the black sheep of this group since their team fell apart midseason, but their defense is really good.
They also have some really good depth, drafting some solid rookies such as Jason Pierre-Paul and Phillip Dillard.
It's kind of a stretch, but if Eli Manning finally puts together a full season of good play, they might be able to come back and make their way into the Super Bowl.
The Vikings will definitely come to seek revenge for their overtime loss in the Superdome. If Brett Favre comes back (see the next question), they are solid at almost every position. They even got stronger by drafting running back Toby Gerhart from Stanford.
If everybody stays healthy, the Vikings will definitely contend for the NFC Championship and even the Lombardi Trophy.
The Cowboys have become more solid in their receiving corps, drafting Dez Bryant out of Oklahoma State. The only thing keeping them out of the Super Bowl is their running game, which only consists of Felix Jones, Marion Barber, and Tashard Choice.
If they make a trade for a Emmitt Smith-like player (possibly Ronnie Brown from the Dolphins, which would take a lot that they might not be able to afford), they may be able to dethrone the Saints.
Fact, without question.
Brett Favre will not stop until he has won another Super Bowl. He has the tools to do it but would most likely need to recover quickly from ankle surgery.
He is coming off one of the best seasons of his career, and one of the best players ever to strap on a helmet should be able to go out on top with a Super Bowl victory.
With all of the protection he has around him to keep him on his feet and healthy, it should be almost a foregone conclusion that he will come back and lead the Vikings to one of the biggest seasons in their history.
Most people are saying that Aaron Rodgers, who replaced Brett Favre in Green Bay, is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. However, one quarterback does not a Super Bowl-winning team make.
The Packers need a little bit of work on the offensive line so that Rodgers gets some protection. Otherwise, the Packers look pretty healthy on both their offense and defense.
However, the Vikings (see previous question) are light years ahead of the NFC North. The Pack may be able to capture the Wild Card, but not the NFC North.
The Redskins have had an absolutely terrible four years under quarterback Jason Campbell, but when they sent him off to Oakland, fans immediately had hope they would be able to get some stability at quarterback.
They got exactly that when they got Donovan McNabb.
They have most of the weapons to be a playoff contender, and with the possible addition of Brian Westbrook, the Redskins can only go up from their 4-12 record last year.
If McNabb stays healthy, they should be able to contend with the Giants and Cowboys for the NFC East title.
The Cardinals really don't have leadership at quarterback since Kurt Warner retired in the offseason. Matt Leinart really doesn't have much starting experience, and past that, they don't really have anything there.
The only thing I like about the Cardinals is their receiving corps. They did pick up Joey Porter from the Dolphins, but he's getting close to past his prime.
This will definitely be a rebuilding year for the Cardinals, and I believe a new NFC West champion will be crowned this year (see question 10).
No one is even close to the Saints in the NFC South. The only one even close to them is the Falcons, who seem like the only other team in the division that has any stability at quarterback.
Matt Ryan is good, but they did nothing to create a contingency plan should he get injured.
The Panthers need at least a year to rebuild, but with Jimmy Clausen, their big draft pick, they should be able to contend in another two or three years.
And the Buccaneers...well, the less said about the Buccaneers, the better. They're getting better, but need a lot of help. It'll be a couple years before they contend for a playoff spot, much less the NFC South.
So, the Saints will win the NFC South almost by default.
Originally, I would have said fact here, but then I took a second look at the Lions’ schedule.
To even get to five, the Lions would have to pull off some pretty amazing upsets. They have Green Bay in Week Four, which is already tough enough without it being a division game. Then, between Week Nine and Week 14, they have four games with teams that made the playoffs (New York Jets, Dallas, New England, and Green Bay).
Factor in two games with Chicago (which, depending on how good they are this year, could prove to be tough) and Minnesota (who will be tough this year), plus a tough matchup with Miami (in Week 16, where they might be gunning for a playoff spot), plus a date with the Giants, who will be looking to avenge their meltdown last year, and the Lions will be lucky to make five games.
Four games seems like a more accurate prediction, at least until they rebuild a little bit more.
There is no way Kevin Kolb starts this season for the Eagles. In three games this past season, Kolb only averaged an 88 quarterback rating, 148 yards passing, four touchdowns, and three interceptions.
Compare that to Michael Vick, who appeared in about 10 more games but was a bigger threat to scramble and still pass efficiently.
When you also consider the fact that they also have two rookies at the position, if you were Andy Reid, you would probably go with the player that had more game experience.
So, essentially, Vick wins this contest by default.
You have to go way back to when Jeff Garcia was quarterback, throwing to Terrell Owens, to find the last time the 49ers made the playoffs. However, I like the 49ers’ chances to make it there again.
Overall, the Niners have to play five teams that made the playoffs last year: New Orleans (Week Two), Philadelphia (Week Four), Arizona (twice, Week 11 and 17), and San Diego (Week 15).
Between that, they only play teams that didn’t place higher than second (Denver in Week Eight and Atlanta in Week Four), and none of them finished better than 9-7 (Atlanta was the best with just that record).
Otherwise, the 49ers’ schedule is filled with insanely horrible teams.
Most likely, the 49ers will win the NFC West and make the playoffs for the first time since the mid-‘90s.
So there you have it: what’s fact and what’s fiction in the National Football Conference. Join us again soon when we’ll take a look at the AFC!