NFC Preview: How 'Bout Them Cowboys!
Exclusive from NFCEastJournal.com
It's about time for the Dallas Cowboys to finally take hold of this conference and shake it like a rag doll. We thought that would happen last season, but like 2006, the season ended with a Tony Romo miscue.
The pressure to win may have been too much last year, something that appeared to be forced by owner Jerry Jones, and the team was too tight against the Giants in the playoffs.
No other team is more ready to win than the Cowboys, but can they overcome their past failures? Most likely they will. The NFC, after the Cowboys, does not have a sure-fire contender for the Super Bowl.
Green Bay lost Brett Favre, the Giants are dealing with injuries and turnover, and the Seahawks are beginning to show wear and tear. That leaves us with some possible new threats: Minnesota, Detroit, and Philadelphia.
As stated, the Cowboys are the class of the conference. They are a better team coming out of camp this year than they were last year. The only fear will be the possible unpreparedness come the postseason.
Wade Phillips is not a very good head coach, hence the increased role of coordinators Jason Garrett and Brian Stewart; both of whom are very capable and both will be head coaches in the NFL very soon.
Barring another bizarre postseason meltdown, this team should be in Tampa come February. Record: 14-2.
The Eagles were 8-8 in 2007, but they were missing a load of key players, most notably QB Donovan McNabb. Love him or loathe him Philly fans, this guy is a gamer and gives you an excellent chance to qualify for—and advance in—the NFC playoffs. Record: 11-5.
The Giants lost a lot of faces on the defense that rattled Tony Romo, Brett Favre, and Tom Brady, respectively, on their way to a Super Bowl championship. That alone will probably keep them from repeating, but it is not as dire a situation as many think.
The team still has enough depth on defense to compete, as well as a quality running game and the unstoppable Eli-to-Plaxico hook-up. Record: 10-6.
Washington comes in with a new coach and a new approach. Sorry Dan Snyder, this is not the division and not the season for a rookie head coach. The 'Skins' defense is also suspect. They will be competitive, but in no way will make a move in this division. Record: 7-9.
The Minnesota Vikings made a bit a noise in the NFC until the last two weeks of 2007. This year, they will hammer teams with a killer defense and the best running game in the league. Record: 12-4.
The Detroit Lions haven't made the playoffs since 1999. That streak may continue for at least another season. The Lions will have to win 10 games to get a wild card, something I don't see happening. Record: 9-7.
The Packers will begin the post-Favre era with an 8-8 season. Aaron Rodgers has too much pressure on him. The other question is whether Ryan Grant can do it again. I like this team because of its defense, but I have to see it to believe it on 2008.
The Bears have gone from NFC Champs to chumps in a matter of one season. Kyle Orton? No running game? This is the Black and Blue division, guys. They are going backwards. Record: 5-11.
The Saints are back and ready to light it up. Their defense is better, too. With Drew Brees getting a new weapon in Jeremy Shockey, and rookie Sedrick Ellis and ex-Jet Jonathan Vilma in the middle of their defense, the Saints will walk away with this very average division. Record: 11-5.
The Bucs made the playoffs last season, but let's face it, Jon Gruden's bunch is not going anywhere. The defense is aging, and the offense doesn't scare anyone. Record: 8-8.
The Carolina Panthers could surprise, but I'll play it safe and say they won't. Sure, they won't be a pushover, but will someone please tell me the direction this franchise is going? Is there a plan? Record: 7-9.
The Atlanta Falcons embark on a new era in their history. Unfortunately for them, they will start with 4-12 record. It will be another two or three seasons before we see them contend again.
Until the other three teams pull their heads out of their butts, the Seattle Seahawks will rule this division. They are not a great team by any stretch, either. They will win this division through attrition. Record: 9-7.
The Cardinals have too much talent to write off. The problem with this team is that they don't have a history of success. That shouldn't matter, I know, but it will. The coach has flip-flopped QBs Matt Leinart and Kurt Warner in a dangerous game to appease the club's clueless management.
Warner is clearly the better option, but he's fragile and may not make it through an entire season. Record: 8-8.
The 49ers were the "sexy" pick of many pundits last season because they drafted well and signed some quality free-agents. No one saw how bad their offense would be. Frank Gore managed 1,102 yards, considering he had little assistance form his O-line. The QB situation is ridiculous. How long will J.T. O'Sullivan last. A better question: How long will Mike Nolan last? Record: 7-9.
The Rams are in NFL limbo. This club is so lost right now, it really didn't matter if Steven Jackson shows up or not. That's sad. Record: 4-12.
First round byes: Dallas, Minnesota
Other divisional winners: New Orleans, Seattle
Wild cards: Philadelphia, NY Giants
Conference champion: Dallas
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