Every year the NFL is full of surprises. Few if any predicted that the Cardinals would make the superbowl, and few if any people had the Falcons finishing 11-5. But these two NFC teams came out of nowhere to contend, and now it is my job to predict who this year's surprises will be and what teams who were successful last year will be this year's disappointments.
I think that the Eagles, Bears, Packers, Saints and Seahawks will exceed expectations while I think that the Redskins, Cowboys, Vikings, Panthers, Buccaneers and Cardinals will disappoint their fans.
4.) Dallas Cowboys (6-10)
Tony Romo is a great QB, and Marion Barber is a solid RB and there is definite depth behind him, but I don't like this receiving corps at all and outside of the finesse outside linebackers, there isn't much they have to stop anybody. I think they'll lose all 6 of their division games.
3.) Washington Redskins (9-7)
Clinton Portis is a great RB, but he tires out as the season progresses, and the passing game just isn't working. On the defensive side, this team is solid from top to bottom.
2.) New York Giants (11-5)
This is a solid team, but I think the passing game will lose them a few games.
WINNER: Philadelphia Eagles (12-4)
I don't agree with Reid calling Jason Peters the best tackle in football, but he is a major upgrade and McNabb arguably has the best weapons surrounding him that he has had in his career—as Desean Jackson is ready to become a pro bowler and Jeremy Maclin will be a burner. It's now or never for Philly, and I think everyone on the roster gets that.
4.) Detroit Lions (1-15)
Even with a solid draft, they didn't do nearly enough on defense. There are modest improvements but I still don't see them stopping anyone. I think they catch a team by surprise sometime during the winter, but there will be talk of another 0-16 campaign following them through the first half of the season.
The defense outside of Ernie Simms is awful. The offensive line is terrible, and that won't make things easy for Kevin Smith who is a REAL talent at running back. Expect all pro Calvin Johnson to demand a trade by year's end.
3.) Minnesota Vikings (8-8)
I love the defense and the running game, but I still don't trust the quarterback play. The offensive line, though still strong, doesn't figure to be as good as the past couple of seasons.
2.) Green Bay Packers (9-7)
The Packers are always a strong bounce back team, and I don't think this year will be any different. Aaron Rodgers is solid at QB, and even though I don't trust Ryan Grant as my franchise QB, I think the defense will be much better this season. B.J. Raji will play a big part in this turn around, and I expect to see A.J. Hawk in the pro bowl with this new scheme.
WINNER: Chicago Bears (11-5)
They gave up a ton to get Jay Cutler, sure, but I think he is a true leader and even though he doesn't have many weapons, I think he'll still be put up close to 4,000 yards and come through in the clutch.
Matt Forte isn't as great as he was considered as his 3.9 YPC indicates, but he'll be huge in the passing game and I like the draft selection of Iglesias. The defense is always strong, and there is very little standing in the way of Chicago making a return to the playoffs.
4.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-10)
This team still has a lot of needs left in this rebuilding process, and though I think they'll play competetive football, I just don't see them having much of a shot in this division.
3.) Carolina Panthers (7-9)
There are still a lot of questions. Will Jake Delhomme's confidence be back? Can DeAngelo Williams recreate his 20 TD campaign? Does Julius Peppers become a distraction? I am a firm believer that all 3 of those questions won't be answered the way the Panthers are hoping. As John Fox's job is somewhat secure after last season, the same pressure to win now just isn't there.
2.) Atlanta Falcons (8-8)
I expect this to be a high flying offense with a lot of flaws on defense. I don't think you can trust John Abraham to stay healthy, even with playing limited time for another full season.
WINNER: New Orleans Saints (10-6)
I absolutely love the selection of Malcom Jenkins over Beanie Wells. This secondary looks to be much improved, and there is no reason to assume they won't be a playoff team this season.
4.) San Francisco 49ers (6-10)
Too many questions with the quarterback situation, and I don't see Frank Gore staying healthy. Crabtree won't be a star till year two.
3.) St. Louis Rams (7-9)
The Jason Smith pick will pay off, and this offense will be much improved. Look for a bounce back year from Marc Bulger.
2.) Arizona Cardinals (8-8)
Kurt Warner will struggle to recreate last year's success, and Beanie Wells' big rookie campaign won't be enough to vault them back into the playoffs.
WINNER: Seattle Seahawks (9-7)
They just squeeze in over the Cardinals. I think Hasselbeck will have a big year, and the defense will make tremendous strides.
NFC MVP: Drew Brees
Offensive Player: Brian Westbrook
Defensive Player: A.J. Hawk
Offensive Rookie: Chris "Beanie" Wells
Defensive Rookie: Malcom Jenkins
(3) New Orleans Saints defeat (6) Green Bay Packers
(5) New York Giants upset (4) Seattle Seahawks
(1) Philadelphia Eagles defeat (5) New York Giants
(3) New Orleans Saints upset (2) Chicago Bears
(1) Philadelphia Eagles defeat (3) New Orleans Saints