The NFC will be better than the AFC this year. Check my AFC preview here. The Super Bowl winner will come from this conference. Let’s take a look at some picks that are sure to win somebody some dough in Vegas.
1. Redskins (10-6)—This division will be tight but I give the Skins an edge. Jason Campbell is in desperation mode, and so is his coach Jim Zorn. The addition of Albert Haynesworth is huge (literally). Combine Haynesworth with rookie DT Brian Orakpo, and the defensive line will offset the Giants for best in the division. The most desperate team in this division plays like it. They should get off to a great start with the Rams, Lions, and Bucs after opening night against the Giants.
2. Eagles (10-6)—Donovan McNabb and company will be business as usual on offense, but I’m concerned with the loss of defensive leader Brian Dawkins. He was a difference maker that will be missed. Add the Mike Vick distractions and rust, and the Eagles are a borderline playoff team.
3. Giants (8-8)—Looks like a down year in New York. The loss of Derrick Ward damages the running game big time. Brandon Jacobs is always banged up and needs lots of rest during games. Not so much this year. The receivers are mediocre at best, and Eli will struggle to live up to his new reputation of highest-paid QB. If only Burress didn’t… eh I wont go there.
4. Cowboys (7-9)—Tony Romo will actually miss T.O. in week five after he watches Roy Williams drop yet another pass for a TD. The depth at receiver is terrible and one injury will spell disaster. They released three legit starters in the other Roy Williams, Greg Ellis, and Tank Johnson. The new stadium’s novelty will wear off quickly for the Cowboys.
1. Packers (12-4)—Aaron Rodgers is going to have a huge year. Greg Jennings and Donald Driver are one of the best receiving combo’s in the league. Ryan Grant is healthy again and should have plenty of 100-yard games behind a rock solid o-line. This is the year THEY stick it to Favre, not vice versa.
2. Bears (10-6)—While I don’t think Jay Cutler is the savior, he is a vast upgrade over Kyle Orton. The D looks to be back up to their standards and will be in the top tier in the league. Matt Forte will have another fantastic season. Biggest concern is the lack of quality receivers for Cutler.
3. Vikings (9-7)—Is it a good idea to put your entire franchises hopes on a 40 year old that looks like a grandpa in HD? The Vikes will start off hot with a very favorable schedule. But just like last year, Favre’s team will fall apart again in the second half. His consecutive game streak will end at some point this season.
4. Lions (3-13)—A three-win improvement is usually a good thing for most NFL teams, unless of course they go winless the previous year. Matt Stafford will struggle early and often. The D still stinks, and even the head coach Jim Schwartz admits he is looking to 2010.
1. Saints (11-5)—This is the year the D actually becomes respectable. New D coordinator Gregg Williams has plenty of surprises up his sleeve to improve the wretched 08’ version. The offense is one of the best in the league. Drew Brees is an all-pro QB with plenty of weapons. Marques Colston, Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush are all huge threats to opposing teams. Looking good in Nawlans.
2. Falcons (9-7)—Matt Ryan had a season any rookie QB would dream of. This year he comes back down to earth. Tony Gonzalez was a great pick-up and should compliment Roddy White well. But Michael Turner has the curse of 370 carries looming over him and I think he doesn’t stay healthy. Not to mention that all Turner’s biggest games were against the dregs of the league.
3. Panthers (7-9)—After last year’s colossal melt down, I can’t trust Jake Delhomme. He is too up-and-down to think he can lead the Panthers back to the play-offs. Part of the reason for their success last year was the two headed running attack of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. But Stewart is already banged up and the injury prone Williams will have to carry the majority of the load.
4. Buccaneers (3-13)—A rookie head coach fires the offensive coordinator he hired one week before the season? This team has disaster written all over it. Byron Leftwich is a solid back up, not a starter. The D is old and is without mainstay Derrick Brooks. Expect a long year in Tampa Bay.
1. Seattle (10-6)- Matt Hasselback and T.J. Housmandzadeh spring hope in Seattle. Running back is an issue but being in this division is not. After a ridiculous amount of injuries last year, I think the football Gods owe the Seahawks one.
2. Arizona (8-8)- Remember this team was only 9-7 last year. I can’t trust Kurt Warner to stay upright for 16 games again and that will spell disaster. Matt Leinhart is simply not smart enough with the X’s and O’s to be a quality QB in the NFL. Could be a long and painful season for the best receiving tandem in the league: Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.
3. St. Louis (6-10)- Not a lot of excitement coming from Rams camp. Marc Bulger is back, until his next injury, but who is he going to throw to? Tory Holt is a Jaguar now. Second overall pick Jason Smith will be great on the O-line. This could mean Steven Jackson has another big year. Too many ifs to be considered anything but mediocre.
4. San Francisco (4-12)- Thanks Mike Crabtree. The biggest need of the 49ers was receiver and they picked a great one. But a guy that has never played a down thinks he is better than the slotting system. So now the 49ers are stuck with the Shaun Hill to an ancient Isaac Bruce combo. Patrick Willis is one of the best linebackers in the game but needs more help. Take the under on 49er games this year.
(3) Seahawks over (6) Eagles, (5) Bears over (4) Redskins
(2) Saints over (3) Seahawks, (1) Packers over (5) Bears
(1) Packers over (2) Saints
(1) Packers over (3) Ravens 24-17