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Preseason Prognostications Part 2: The NFC

John PhythyonContributor ISeptember 11, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 29:  Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants looks to throw a pass against the New York Jets on August 29, 2009 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Yesterday, I made my predictions on who’s going to represent the AFC in the playoffs. Today, we’ll look at the NFC.

First, a brief reminder of the rules. I only pick playoffs teams, not Super Bowl winners.

I pick eight teams—six I think are in and two dark horses. If one of the dark horses makes it, that counts as me being right. Regardless, I’ll own up to my picks in January.

Picking the NFC has been really difficult the last few years. The conference runs as a very large pack for most of the season. An elite team or two emerges by November, and the Lions are usually out of things before Thanksgiving.

But there’s a ton of teams with only six or seven wins that seem to be in it with only a game or two to go. I wish I could pick more dark horses in this conference.

Oh, well. Here’s my best guess. 

Playoff Teams (in no particular order)
New York Giants
New Orleans Saints
Chicago Bears
Seattle Seahawks
Philadelphia Eagles
Carolina Panthers 

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Dark Horses
Arizona Cardinals
Green Bay Packers

New York Giants

The Giants’ defense remains solid, Eli Manning is reliable, and Brandon Jacobs is a terror from the backfield. That should add up to a fine curtain call for the Meadowlands. It won’t be easy—the NFC East is not a nice place to play—but look for the Giants to have a little more grit than the competition.

New Orleans Saints

What do you get when you cross one of the most prolific passers in the NFL with a quality defense? A division championship. Who dat can beat dem Saints?

Chicago Bears

Chicago finally has a quarterback. It’s questionable whether he has anyone to throw to, and the Bears’ defense fell off last season, finishing 30th against the run. Still, Jay Cutler’s a guy who can make a difference in a tight game. Expect him to.

Seattle Seahawks

Matt Hasselbeck is back. T.J. Houshmandzadeh has come to town. There’s a solid stable of running backs and a reputable defense. Jim Mora has all the makings of a successful recipe here, but how well can he fill Mike Holmgren’s shoes? Well enough.

Philadelphia Eagles

I don’t know why I keep picking these guys, since they let me down more often than not, but there’s just something about the Eagles. They scratch and claw and find a way to win enough games to be in the thick of things in the final week. My bet is they do it again.

Carolina Panthers

This is another team that lets me down when I pick them, but there’s just so much to like, starting with Jake Delhomme and Steve Smith. The Panthers should be able to bully enough teams out of the way that they end up playing in January.

Arizona Cardinals

A Super Bowl hangover. A quarterback as old as the franchise. A malcontent wide receiver. This just doesn’t look like a playoff team to me. But they’re in the weakest division in the conference, and maybe they can overcome all that.

The Cardinals are very talented on paper. If they put the distractions behind them and focus on football, they can make a run at another conference championship. Maybe.

Green Bay Packers

The Packers are switching to a Dom Capers 3-4 defense. That’s usually a good thing, but can they make the transition in a single year?

Aaron Rodgers has plenty of weapons on offense, but is he a Pro-Bowl caliber quarterback? The Packers should make things exciting this season. If they score enough points, they might just make the playoffs.

Tomorrow: The 16 that didn’t make the cut.

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