2008 NFL Preview - NFC

Bleacher ReportCorrespondent ISeptember 7, 2008

Here's the NFC.

NFC East (predicted order of finish and records)

Dallas Cowboys (13-3) - The Cowboys are one of the NFL’s best teams despite recent playoff disappointment, and should be considered the favorite to win this division. They have upgraded their roster on both sides of the ball, including the addition of playmakers to complement Owens and Witten. Tony Romo should have another great season, but now it’s just a matter of whether this group can overcome recent trends and make playoff noise.

New York Giants (10-6) - The defending Super Bowl champs will not surrender their crown easily. After their improbable playoff run, expectations to live up to will be huge for New York, but if GM Jerry Reese can keep upgrading talent, and Eli Manning plays like he did during the postseason, the Giants will be able to overcome the losses of Umenyiora and Strahan en route to another playoff appearance where they’ve proven to be dangerous.

Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) - The depth of the NFC East continues with the Eagles, and though playing in this tough division may hinder them, they have come up big in seasons with low expectations. Though Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook could still use more help on offense, the acquisition of Asante Samuel gives them a shutdown cover guy on what is an already progressing defense. The Eagles may a possible NFC sleeper in 2008.

Washington Redskins (6-10) - Jim Zorn may win eventually in the nation’s capital, but his first year as head coach is sure to be a struggle. Jason Campbell isn’t quite ready to handle this new offense, and even though Clinton Portis will be a productive back, the rest of this team, more specifically their defense is a question mark. Even after a playoff appearance last year, the division is far too tough for all four teams to have winning seasons.

NFC North (predicted order of finish and records)

Minnesota Vikings (11-5) - The Vikings have become the trendy pick to win this division, and even if their passing game is a big uncertainty, second year back Adrian Peterson is only getting better, evolving into an MVP candidate in only his sophomore campaign. Their defense is tremendous, really putting this team over the top. With no holes at any level, Brad Childress’ lockdown defensive unit will lead the Vikings to the playoffs for sure.

Green Bay Packers (8-8) - The Packers move into a new era without Brett Favre as Aaron Rodgers finally gets his chance at consistent playing time, and that may require a transition period for Green Bay. Mike McCarthy will try to recreate last year’s prowess on the shoulders of Ryan Grant and the Packers’ great defense, but the change under center might be a bit too much to ask for in the first year of the Rodgers era in Green Bay.

Chicago Bears (7-9) - 2008 will not be the bounce back year for that Lovie Smith and Co. is looking for. Only one season removed from a Super Bowl appearance, the Bears’ offense is next to nothing with a rookie running back and Kyle Orton as their starting quarterback. Their skilled but aging defense can only take them so far, and if even they possess the game’s best linebacker in Urlacher, this Bear squad won’t win more than seven this year.

Detroit Lions (5-11) - Losing year after year has become the norm for the Lions under Rod Marinelli. The fade at the end of last season is surely a sign of things to come for the laughingstock of the NFC. Even if this division didn’t improve tremendously, the talent on the field for the Lions didn’t improve either, and it will show on the field. This franchise cannot seem to take any steps in the right direction.

NFC South (predicted order of finish and records)

New Orleans Saints (11-5) - The additions on defense (Vilma, Ellis) will improve that side of the ball tremendously. Drew Brees directs an explosive passing game as well as any quarterback in the NFL, and if Reggie Bush can progress and live up to some of the hype that’s been placed on him, the Saints will put up big offensive numbers yet again, leading New Orleans back to the top of the NFC South, and like in 2006, back to the NFC Championship Game.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8) – Mediocrity strikes another NFC playoff team from last year, as the offense has become a very unclear picture. Jeff Garcia led the Bucs to the postseason unexpectedly, but his arsenal is diminished in terms of backs and receivers. Their defense, under veteran coordinator Monte Kiffin will be the stronghold for Tampa Bay, but this team is getting old quickly, which should prevent the postseason this year.

Carolina Panthers (7-9) - An excellent draft by the Panthers improves their offense nicely, but Delhomme coming off injury is scary for a Panther team who has no bona fide NFL running back, and lack of depth at wide receiver. Their defense, which was one of the most dominant in the game just several years ago is no longer scary, and though there is uncertainty at the top of the NFC South, the Panthers should be on the outside looking in for 2008.

Atlanta Falcons (3-13) - There isn’t much to say about such a dismantled franchise. The Michael Vick saga has forced their hand with Matt Ryan, and though he may be a great quarterback one day, rookie quarterbacks don’t usually do big things. Michael Turner, acquired from San Diego, will wish he was back in a winning environment when he sees this roster. The defense doesn’t have many recognizable faces. A long season is in store for Atlanta.

NFC West (predicted order of finish and records)

St. Louis Rams (10-6) - A team that proved to be a huge disappointment last season should be able to turn it around just one season later. They won’t be as plagued by injury as much as they were last season, and at full strength have a very respectable offensive unit that features Bulger and Jackson. The defense is legitimized by rookie Chris Long, who could be an All-Pro very soon. Things are looking up for this usually inconsistent franchise.

Seattle Seahawks (8-8) - Mike Holmgren’s last season won’t result in a playoff appearance for this watered-down version of the 2005 NFC Champs. They probably are good enough to win this weak, transient division, but without Shaun Alexander to carry the offensive load they are no longer among the NFC’s elite. Yes, they have been one of the winningest teams in the conference the past few years, but this isn’t the same Seahawk squad.

Arizona Cardinals (6-10) - The quarterback controversy will linger with the Cardinals this season, as neither Warner nor Leinart is the answer for Arizona. They have sufficient offense weapons, but the defense is always very shaky for Ken Whisenhunt’s squad. One year, the Cardinals will get it right with the young talent and high draft picks that come with every losing season, but it doesn’t appear as if 2008 is that year.

San Francisco 49ers (4-12) - The 49ers have brought in Mike Martz to stabilize their offense. Ironically, they don’t have a starting quarterback. Frank Gore can only take the Niners so far with the running attack, but this is another team with a shortage of offensive weapons, and a lack of defensive talent. The 49ers looked to be heading in the right direction after increasing their win total win seven in 2006, but they appear to back in the doldrums.

NFC’s Top 10 Offensive Players

1) Adrian Peterson, RB - Minnesota
2) Steven Jackson, RB - St. Louis
3) Tony Romo, QB - Dallas
4) Brian Westbrook, RB - Philadelphia
5) Drew Brees, QB - New Orleans
6) Terrell Owens, WR - Dallas
7) Chris Samuels, T - Washington
8) Jason Witten, TE - Dallas
9) Shawn Andrews, G - Philadelphia
10) Steve Hutchinson, G - Minnesota

NFC’s Top 10 Defensive Players

1) Brian Urlacher, LB - Chicago
2) Jason Taylor, DE - Washington
3) DeMarcus Ware, LB - Dallas
4) Kevin Williams, DT - Minnesota
5) Brian Dawkins, FS - Philadelphia
6) Patrick Kerney, DE - Seattle
7) Patrick Willis, LB - San Francisco
8) Asante Samuel, CB - Philadelphia
9) Lofa Tatupu, LB - Seattle
10) Jared Allen, DE - Minnesota